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JUST IN: Blind protesters storm Govt House, demand to see Okorocha



More than 200 blind persons under the aegis of the Nigeria Association of the Blind (NAB), Imo State chapter Monday blocked the entry gates of the Imo State Government House, Owerri, in protest.

The protesters who tried to force themselves into the premises of the government house but were resisted by the security men on duty, said
they wanted to see Governor Rochas Okorocha, over alleged neglect and abandonment. Over the non-payment of their ‘welfare packages, annual subventions and unfulfilled promises by the governor’.

The Association’s chairman, Mr. Kalu Christopher, who spoke to newsmen said that the protest was to demand the fulfilment of the promises
made to the association by the governor on the 4th of December 2013.

“We brought a litany of our problems for solution and the governor promised to solve some of them and some of the promises he made
included the establishment of the Special School for the Blind in the state.

“In spite of the fact that Imo State has been boasting of being the educationally most advanced state, no blind person in Imo State has
access to education except those who can afford to travel all the way to Ebonyi and Enugu States in search of primary and secondary
education because there is none in Imo State

“We met the governor in 2013 and he promised that the school for the blind would take off in September 2014. But in November that year when we led a protest to him about the non-availability of the school, do you know what the governor told us? He said to us, ‘had it been you came earlier, you would have seen a truck carrying gravel to the new school site’.

“But since that 2014 till today, we have not seen the truck nor the gravel and not even the school site has been shown to us. It is only
in Imo State that a leader in that high position can openly lie without minding the effect”, Kalu lamented.

He continued “Again, our colleagues in secondary and tertiary schools have allowances they receive annually which is called bursary
allowance. But since this government came on board, Governor Okorocha paid only two years and has since stopped that payment claiming that he is giving Imo State free education.

“On the annual subvention that is paid to the association, this government stopped it in the past seven years, that has amounted to over N7m. If actually he considers us as part of Imo State, our needs should be taken care of.”

The chairman added that part of what led to their demonstration was that the governor promised to employ some of them who are qualified in the civil service. “But, this government employed over 3000 workers into the state civil service last year but none of our members was
deemed fit to be employed despite the heights we have gone to gain qualifications”.

He said the United Nations convention upgraded employment that should be given to the blind from two to 10 percent, but lamented that the Imo State government doesn’t care about them.

The group also alleged that the government had ‘grossly marginalised’ members of the association in employment, empowerment opportunities and official programmes.

They stated however that despite the ill-treatment meted to them, they would not want to toe the line of violence, but keep finding ways to
dialogue with government towards enhancing their welfare as bonafide citizens.

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Why I Support Restructuring – Dogara  



Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara, has expressed support for auditing and restructuring the existing federal system to give a sense of belonging to all Nigerians
He said that for true federalism to be achieved in Nigeria, a unique system of federalism that best suits Nigerian people and the local circumstances in the country must be created, in addition to having leaders who are visionary, selfless, prudent, intelligent and indefatigable and having integrity and honour.
He said these while speaking on the topic, “Reforming the Nigerian Federation: Which Way Forward”, at the 3rd annual Political Summit organised by the Save Democracy Africa in Abuja.

The Speaker noted that “The talk of Nigeria’s successor genuine federalism can no longer hold waters giving the state of internal insurgencies, divisiveness, ethnic and religious schism witnessed in several parts of Nigeria. Efforts at wishing away the problem associated with Nigerian federation have only resulted in several tribal, ethnic and religious movements that have even metamorphosed into terrorist syndicates.
“One can, therefore, no longer fold his arms but engage some of the issues that have confronted us as a nation and threatened the Nigerian federation. This forum provides one of the opportunities for such interrogation. Accordingly, I commend the organisers for bringing this issue to the front burner once again.
“That Nigeria could survive despite predictions to the contrary by the World Powers not only portrays a ray of hope but also demonstrate that Nigerian Federation has come to stay.
“It is therefore incumbent on us to fashion out our own type of federalism that is best suited to our people and to local circumstances. There should be genuine efforts to build the nation. Therefore ethnic, religious and sectional agenda should take back place. The essence of federalism is to foster unity and development. This has, however, not been achieved.
Consequently, the recruitment processes of our elective office holders are being re-visited in the Electoral Amendment Bill to ensure that the system is able to recruit the best at all strata of leadership. We need leaders who are visionary, selfless, prudent, intelligent and indefatigable and having integrity and honour.”

He added that the current National Assembly has shown enough determination to ensure that the Federation of Nigeria is managed effectively for the good of every citizen in its several initiatives to address imbalances.
 He also added that to take Nigeria to its pride of place, a reorientation of Nigerians to address the political and economic malaise they face must be addressed, along with every other possible measure to take Nigeria to where it rightly belongs among the comity of Nations given her huge and rich minerals and agricultural resources, and population.
Hon Dogara stated, “There should be massive awareness to change the mindsets of the rulers and the ruled. This is where there is the need for proper education and awareness for both the rulers and the ruled. I challenge our tertiary institutions to break the disconnect between them and the political institutions and industries not only to fashion out the appropriate curriculum to drive this new orientation to confront our political and economic malaise but also to lead cutting-edge research in providing correct local solutions to our diverse of problems.”
He also identified the pedestals upon which Nigerian Federation has thrived over the years as multi-party system that allows wider participation in the political process, equity distributive principles of revenue from the Federation Account, states creation, special intervention programme to address specific problems where there are genuine cases of imbalance, marginalisation and injustice such as NDDC and NEDC,  growing synergy and improved communication between the National Assembly and the Executive, the judiciary, practice of federal character in the composition and conduct of public institutions at state and federal levels.
The speaker also identified some emerging issues in Nigeria’s federation political gerrymandering, corruption and nepotism, state creation and boundary delimitation, electoral boundary manipulation that discriminates against voters on account of tribe, language, religion, or related status.
“The same is also true of boundary adjustments, state creation and Local Governments in Nigeria. The minority tribes have complained of being short-changed. The issue of fiscal federalism and resource control. The allocation of revenue in Nigeria is presently heated as there are always allegations and counter-allegations of manipulations against the federal government by states. There are also allegations of zero allocation to local governments by states despite very clear constitutional provisions. In addition, there has been complaint of total neglect of the states that generate the revenue as such the derivative formula has been very contentious.

There is over concentration of powers and responsibilities on the federal government. There are several responsibilities that can better be handled by the states. The power sharing between the Federal Government and the states will have to be revisited and the issue of the autonomy of local governments in Nigeria which state Houses of Assembly keep voting against,” he further stated.

Hon Dogara, therefore, stressed the need to fashion out our own type of federalism that is best suited to our people and to local circumstances, with genuine efforts to build the nation, the need for proper education and awareness for both the rulers and the ruled, awareness and re-orientation on the issue of political gerrymandering, and vesting the responsibility of delaminating constituencies to the Boundary Commission as is the case in several countries like Britain.
He added, “The issue of resource control must be properly addressed. The communities where those resources are found should be adequately compensated. The Host Community Bill initiated by the House of Representatives on the Oil and Gas industry will be a test case. The call for resource control may by implication have a semblance of territorial devolution.”

The speaker noted that since assumption of the 8th House of Representatives, they have engaged the executive (mostly ministers and heads of parastatals) in several sectoral debates at plenary and have enacted cutting edge legislations in emerging, reviewed over 300 laws with the hope of bringing them in tune with modern realities and has been guided by the need to adjust our political, social and economic system to meet local circumstances and engraft the existing laws to conform.

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UTME: 110 blind candidates sit exam in Lagos, hail JAMB over welfare



The about 110 visually-impaired candidates, who sat the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME), in Lagos today, have commended the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) for what they described as an improved conduct of the examination.

The candidates, who sat for the examination at the Distance Learning Institute of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Akoka, are part of about 340 candidates who are billed to take part in the examination in five centres across the country’s six geopolitical zones.

Some of them, who spoke to New Telegraph in Lagos, also hailed JAMB for the provision of welfare packages including hotel accommodation and feeding.

The examination, which was conducted by the Equal Opportunity Group created by JAMB and headed by the former Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Peter Okebukola, also had in attendance in Lagos, Emeritus Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Nini Briggs.

According to Okebukola, the dictation method was adopted for the candidates to carry all the candidates along, and pending the time adequate provision of braille machines are provided and candidates are well trained to handle them.

He said; “What the Equal Opportunity Group is saddled to do is to conduct UTME for visually-impaired candidates and those in prisons. Those in prisons concluded theirs on Saturday but the blind candidates are scheduled to sit their exams between Monday and Tuesday.

“This examination is holding simultaneously across five centres in each zone, and the candidates are catered for with the provision of accommodation and feeding.”

Meanwhile, the Executive Director of the Bethesda Home for the Blind, Lagos, Mrs. Chioma Ohakpe, also commended the examination body for the improvement but also called on JAMB to fast-track efforts towards providing the CBT facilities for the candidates like their sighted counterparts.

One of the candidates, Adebisi Oluwashina of the Government Special School for the Blind, Ikere-Ekiti, said he was sure of good results, saying the dictation option was far better than expected.

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National news

Yahaya Bello gave herdsmen blank cheque to operate in Kogi – Faleke



A federal lawmaker and running mate to late Abubakar Audu in the 2015 governorship election in Kogi state, James Faleke, has accused Yahaya Bello, the Kogi state governor, of giving herdsmen a “blank cheque to operate in Kogi”.

Suspected herdsmen had invaded three communities in the state, killing 25.

The attacks, which occurred in Oganienugwu and Ikende communities in Dekina local government area and Abejukolo in Omala local government, happened after Bello said Kogi had land to accommodate herdsmen.

In a statement, Faleke described the killings as the “height of wickedness”.

He called on the state government to “accept responsibility for its failure”, and call the attention of the Miyetti Allah breeders association to the situation.

“The news came to us as a shock. That is wickedness of the highest order. What can we ever equate with human lives? How did we come to this sorry pass as a people?” Faleke asked.

“We are calling on the state government led by Governor Yahaya Bello who gave the Fulani herdsmen a blank cheque to operate in Kogi state in the first place to urgently move to draw the attention of the leadership of the herdsmen, the Miyetti Allah, to this wicked assault on the people of Kogi, while also rallying the various security organizations to action.

“We find it difficult to believe the statement credited to the state government after the attack which said ‘the attack was politically motivated’ instead the government should be bold enough to accept responsibility for its failure.

“We note that we have lived with Fulanis in our various communities since times past and had never had cause to fight them. We are therefore appealing to the original peaceful Fulanis living in our midst to be more accommodating and volunteer information to security agencies on invaders and criminals parading themselves as Fulanis.”

The group asked who would appear before the judicial panel set up by the government when the perpetrators were yet to be identified.

“How can the state government set up a judicial panel when investigations are still ongoing to unravel and arrest perpetrators of the henious crime?” he asked.

“So, who and who would appear before the panel? We sincerely hope this is not another opportunity for the witch hunt of perceived political enemies.

“We are aware that the government bought over 300 GSM handsets to some of its political informants to give information to it on anybody or group discussing or found to be speaking ill against government in all the 21 local governments.

“We advise that those informants be used to help track the movement of the herdsmen and not the peaceful Kogites.

” We hereby call for support for the displaced members of these communities. Public-spirited individuals, government and international agencies are urged to come to the aid of these people.”

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