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  • Nubi Achebo
    Wednesday, March 28, 2001 President accuses oil firms of malpractices From Alifa Daniel (Abuja) and Chido Okafor (Warri) PRESIDENT Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday
    Message 1 of 289 , Mar 28, 2001
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      Wednesday, March 28, 2001
      President accuses oil firms of malpractices


      From Alifa Daniel (Abuja) and Chido Okafor (Warri)

      PRESIDENT Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday expressed dissapointment with
      foreign oil companies operating in Nigeria, accusing them of underhand
      dealings that have cost the country a huge loss in revenue.

      Speaking against the backdrop of the cry over the neglect of oil
      producing communities, the president who was receiving the President of
      the Parliament of Equitorial Guinea, Dr. Solomon Nguema Owono, said the
      oil companies have been unfair to Nigeria.

      Dr. Owono who had earlier complained that foreign oil firms in
      Equitorial Guinea were short-changing the country, requested Nigeria�s
      assistance to effectively deal with the firms because of its technical
      expertise.

      But President Obasanjo said that despite Nigeria�s advantage in such
      matters, it had suffered the same fate in the hands of the oil
      companies.

      In spite of Nigeria�s comparative technical advantage and its own
      professionals operating in oil fields, the president said the foreign
      firms were still able to cheat the country.

      He did not elaborate on the tricks being employed by the foreign firms
      to short-change the country but stressed the need for solidarity among
      oil producing countries in Africa, in order to counter the antics of
      the foreign firms.

      The oil firms were accused of under-paying the royalties due to
      government and also doing less for the welfare of their host
      communities in the Niger Delta region.

      �We need solidarity. There is a lot we can do together as brothers,�
      the president said, adding that concerted efforts by both Nigeria and
      Equitorial Guinea could deal with the problem.

      Such co-operation between both countries in the past, he added, had led
      to the amicable settlement of areas of dispute, especially in marine
      and offshore sectors.

      He assured that Nigeria will continue to assist its neighbours and
      other Africans with its resources. �God wants us to serve a purpose
      even beyond our borders,� he said.

      The president called for a closer co-operation between Nigeria and
      Equitorial Guinea, adding that it was gratifying that the two countries
      were able to amicably resolve the problem of their previously undefined
      maritime borders. He said that Nigeria would continue to use its
      God-given resources to better the lot of its people and work for the
      general interest of all African countries.

      Dr. Nguema Owono commended the president for improving the lot of
      Nigerians and giving the country a good image in the comity of nations.

      The parliamentarian who led the four-man delegation thanked the
      president for his efforts in putting together the bilateral agreements
      with his country.

      He commended Obasanjo�s administration for its role in bringing peace
      and stability to Africa.

      He also praised the president for working peacefully to resolve the
      maritime boundary between his country and Nigeria and; for ensuring the
      sustenance of democracy in the country.

      Meanwhile, the Deputy Governor of Delta State, Chief Benjamin Elue, has
      blamed the backwardness of oil producing communities in the Niger
      Delta, on the exploitative tendencies of the oil companies.

      Addressing members of the International Association for Impact
      Assessment. (IAIA) in Asaba at the weekend, Elue said that oil
      companies operating in the state had not taken the issue of impact
      assessment seriously.

      �As you go around, you would notice that oil companies do not take the
      issue of impact assessment seriously. They degrade the soil, make money
      and walk away,� he declared.

      He said the oil companies had also failed to provide the rural
      communities with social amenities like potable water, electricity,
      roads and community-based projects, explaining that the aggression in
      the Niger Delta was because people had woken up to the fact that they
      were being exploited.

      According to him, the oil communities should be made to benefit from a
      proportion of what is being taken out of their soil.

      Elue appealed to IAIA, in co-operation with oil prospecting companies,
      to take impact assessment seriously while planning their operations in
      Nigeria, in order not to destroy the country�s aqualife navigational
      waters.

      In his address earlier, the international co-founder of IAIA, Prof.
      Charles Wole, said the association planned to teach the people the
      management of community development through seminars and workshops.

      In a related development, the delay in the full take-off of the Niger
      Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has been blamed on the failure of
      oil firms to pay up their share of the commission�s fund � that is
      three per cent of their yearly revenue.

      NDDC managing director, Mr. Godwin Omene, who told The Guardian at a
      recent international workshop on sustainable development of the Niger
      Delta communities, therefore, urged the firms to pay up to enable the
      commission swing into action.

      Although he said the commission had taken off, he, however, disclosed
      that it is not yet �fully settled�; pointing to some teething problems
      as impediments.

      �For a new start, you have to settle down and as a new commission, you
      have to try and carry everybody along,� Omene said.

      Asked if the Federal Government had paid its own share of the
      development fund to the NDDC, Omene said the commission was in the
      process of receiving the funds.

      Omene, who said there were no other hindrances for the commission apart
      from finances, said abandoned OMPADEC projects would be reviewed and
      completed if the communities where they were located deemed them
      essential.

      �When you have a project which was abandoned, you have to know why it
      was abandoned. You don�t just abandon the projects; also, you don�t
      throw them away. If the communities feel such projects are vital, then
      we take them up�.

      He said his priorities would be to reach the people and to see to the
      needs of the people as soon as funds were made available to the
      commission.

      Omene disclosed that the commission was having a fresh start and that
      meant not inheriting any staff of the OMPADEC, saying it would recruit
      its staff according to needs and that, no stone would be left unturned
      to ensure that the commission impacts positively on the lives of the
      Niger Deltans.

      He added that work on the commission�s new logo and the various
      prototype logos would be presented to the public for final selection
      and approval.

      Stakeholders at the workshop listed various areas in the region which
      needed urgent attention, if the region is to benefit from its enormous
      reserve of oil.

      The workshop was organised by Shell Petroleum Development Company, as a
      way of assessing its performance in the Niger Delta.

      The stakeholders advised Shell to stop gas flaring earlier than 2008
      which is being proposed by the firm, suggesting that bottled gas would
      help phase out the use of fire woods and by so doing improve the
      environment; that Shell should invest more in the area of research in
      order to put in place a natural resources management that is
      productive.

      The participants expressed the urgent need for the expansion of
      infrastructure in the region � this, they noted, is government�s
      responsibility.

      After much debate on the issue of compensation, Shell and other oil
      firms were advised to pay market rates of devastated tools, trees among
      others, in a timely manner; that there is the need for transparency of
      claims and payments and establishment of trust funds for disbursement.

      On community development, Shell was urged to expand the micro-credit
      and business development activities. Shell�s current education
      activities were considered to be appropriate, the firm was, however,
      urged to expand in the area of computer education and the need to be
      more involved in the local government level on the issue of education.
      The involvement of youths in agricultural programme was appraised by
      stakeholders, who said such programme would benefit from greater
      integration with academic research institutions.

      The stakeholders felt that Shell should be involved in the national
      programme to �Role Back Malaria� (RBM) and should implement its
      HIV/AIDS strategic plan.

      There was tremendous support for the Women In Development (WID)
      programme, the firms were advised to expand into other areas such as
      attention for widows, training for more female teachers and give
      attention to harmful traditional practices; that the firm should
      initiate training in the management and maintenance of water
      infrastructure. They also suggested that a long-term water resource
      development scheme is needed for the Delta.

      Reviewing Shell�s performance, the stakeholders gave the firm a mild
      pat on the back for the improvements recorded in vital areas;
      particularly in relation to the more effective involvement of
      communities and the greater partnership with other parties interested
      in the development of the Niger Delta, including government
      institutions, donor agencies and other oil companies.

      The participants expressed their expectation of greater involvement of
      the local government areas in the areas of health and education, and
      their anticipation of the Niger Delta Development Commission�s (NDDC)
      action in planning and co-ordinating the fare development of the
      region.
      -------------------------

      Our resolution by the governors, by the governors


      IN its continuous search for a healthy corporate entity and a Nigeria
      of the collective dreams of the third summit of the southern governors,
      after due consideration of all the issue before it, at its third
      meeting in Benin City, Edo State, on Tuesday, March 27, 2001, resolved
      as follows:

      �The adoption of the welcome address of the chairman of the summit, His
      Excellency, Chief Lucky Nosakhare Igbinedion;

      �The summit reviewed the series of difficulties and obstacles placed in
      the way of state governments in the sharing of the Federation Account
      at successive Federation Account and allocation committee meetings
      since the inception of our current democratic government.

      �In order to put a stop to rules of the thumb, the southern governors�
      summit resolved to go to court for the enforcement henceforth of
      section 162, sub-section (1) of the constitution which says:

      �The federation shall maintain a special account to be called the
      �Federation Account� into which shall be paid all revenues collected by
      the government of the federation, except the proceeds from the personal
      income tax of the personnel of the armed forces of the federation, the
      Nigeria Police Force, the ministry or department of government charged
      with responsibility for foreign affairs and the residents of the
      Federal Capital Territory, Abuja�.

      �The summit adopted the quest for true fiscal federalism based on the
      principles of national interest, need and most importantly derivation;

      � The summit adopted the definition of �resource control� as the
      practice of true federalism and natural law in which the federating
      units express their rights to primarily control the natural resources
      within their borders and make agreed contributions towards the
      maintenance of common services of the sovereign nation state to which
      they belong. In the case of Nigeria, the federating units are the 36
      states, and the sovereign nation is the Federal Republic of Nigeria;

      �The summit, therefore, opposed the dichotomy between onshore and
      offshore:

      �That beyond the basic requirements of Federal Government, every state
      in the federation should be entitled to keep all the wealth that
      accrues to it by natural endowment or the industry of its people;

      �The summit requested for a monthly publication of the figures of total
      revenue that accrues to the nation from all sources;

      �The summit declared its displeasure with the Federal Government for
      going to court over resource control, noting that this step would make
      a purely political matter a legal one with dire consequences for all;

      �We stand stoutly by section 197 of the constitution which established
      certain state executive bodies in which state Independent Electoral
      Commission is clearly mentioned in section 197 (b);

      �The summit called on the Independent National Electoral Commission
      (INEC) to remain focussed and committed to its task of properly
      grounding the young democracy of the nation;

      �That all Nigerians, including the Federal Government, North, South,
      West and the East should see themselves as stakeholders in the affairs
      of the nation so that together we can resolve the development problems
      confronting the nation, including scarcity of petroleum products, poor
      electricity supply, etc;

      �The need for a proper definition of the federalist nature of the
      Nigerian nation both nationally and functionally, with justice in all
      its ramifications as the bedrock of our nationhood for the stability
      and continued corporate existence of Nigeria was stressed.

      �On the deregulation of the oil sector, the summit called on Mr.
      President to carry out wide and far-reaching consultations on the issue
      and to fully educate the generality of the masses on what the Federal
      Government means by deregulation;

      �The Federal Government�s decision to award contracts for UBE
      classrooms, apart from being against the spirit of the 1999
      Constitution of Nigeria, undermines the integrity and the competence of
      the state authorities who have constitutional responsibilities for
      local governments and, at the same time, who have closer knowledge of
      the local geographical terrain and material and labour costs of the
      villages in which these schools are situated. If the Federal Government
      is interested in assisting in the development of basic education in
      Nigeria, it can grant-aid the state governments with joint supervision
      of its implementation.
      ----------------------------

      Elizabeth Kafaru, renowned herbal practitioner, dies at 57

      By Onajomo Orere, Ben Ukwuoma, Nnamdi Iyama, Fabian Odun and Chukuma
      Muanya

      TRADITIONAL medical practice on Monday lost yet another vocal exponent,
      with the death of Chief death of Chief Elizabeth Obareme Kafaru (Nee
      Kingy) on Sunday, March 25. She was aged 57.

      Author and columnist on herbal care in The Guardian, Mrs Kafaru
      succumbed to cancer, just as Prof. Folayele Awosika another giant in
      the herbal practice, died on March 1, in London.

      According to the natural medicine practitioner-in-charge of Eliz Kafaru
      Herbal House, Mr. Godwin Ihesie, Mrs. Kafaru died at a private hospital
      in Dopemu, a Lagos suburb.

      Kafaru�s passing on is perplexing because there are many testimonies to
      her curing many patients of breast cancer and other forms of cancer
      using herbs. She had survived corion carcinoma in 1975 after doctors at
      the University College Hospital (UCH) Ibadan had given up on her, an
      act that stirred her spirit to explore traditional herbal practice.

      Mrs. Kafaru, a native of Ovbor, Ughelli North Local Council, Delta
      State, was a secretary in her early life until her sickness in 1975.
      She was one-time secretary to the late Professor Ambrose Alli at the
      University of Benin, Sir Higo Aigboje, Chairman of Heinemann Publishers
      Nigeria Limited, Ibadan and late Chief Adeyemi Lawanson, who brought
      the Grail Movement to Nigeria.

      Mrs. Kafaru stirred the hornet�s nest when from nowhere, she began the
      herbal practice columns in The Guardian in 1989, taking on headlong,
      orthodox medical practitioners who denied the efficacy of traditional
      herbal practice.

      She was also to confront the processed foods industry by advocating
      abstinence from such �junk foods� as she called them, as pastries,
      meatpie, and other fast foods, and the beverage industry by enjoining
      people to stop taking soft drinks.

      As she matured in her writings in The Guardian she came out forcefully
      to advocate the use and drinking of urine for multi-purpose cure. She
      granted interviews to print and electronic media in which she defended
      her famous �UT� (urine therapy, prescriptions.

      In her Elikaf Herbal Home, a modern herbal clinic in Ikeja, Lagos she
      had over 4,000 registered patients; equalling figures recorded only by
      a general hospitals in the country.

      Mrs. Kafaru was consulted from far and wide. She travelled round the
      country attending scientific seminars in which she advocated her
      healing art to the consternation of orthodox medical practitioners.

      Even among her peers in the traditional care sector, she was initially
      despised for �exposing� trade secrets because she was fond of
      disclosing her herbal prescriptions � giving the native, English and
      scientific names of plants and herbs used, in her write-ups and
      television discussions.

      She had also given lectures and attended scientific conferences in the
      United States, Britain, Austria, Germany, France, South Africa, Kenya,
      Ghana and several other countries.

      Straightforward and without pretensions, Dr. Kafaru was awarded a
      doctoral degree (Ph.D) in natural medicine after defending her
      desertation with Staton University, Tampa, Florida, United States of
      America on November 20, 1999.

      Earlier, on October 30, of same year, she was given the traditional
      title of Yeye �Baale Isegun of Ona-Ara, Ibadanland. She has also been a
      Rotarian since 1998.

      Survived by seven children � five males and two females- she first
      married Dr. Okparavero of Sapele, Delta State with whom she had two
      children, before she re-married to Engineer Kafaru, an Ijebu-man for
      whom she had five children.

      Mrs. Kafaru had been featured in Cable News Network (CNN) programme and
      interviewed by Time Magazine and other foreign newspapers, journals and
      radio stations.

      One of her dreams was to have a comprehensive health farm where
      patients could relax, eat honey, take herbs and fruits and generally
      re-invigorate away from the maddening stress of urban life in Nigeria.

      She supported research efforts of medical schools in Nigeria that
      offered practical pharmacognosis, especially those that actively
      encouraged natural medical practice.

      Dr Paul Ojeih, comparative medicine practitioner who practises very
      close to Mrs. Kafaru�s clinic at Ogba told The Guardian on phone: �It
      is a big loss. She has been one of the people that stuck out her neck
      to propagate natural medicine in the country�but she was able to
      withstand the storm.��

      Mrs Chinyere Ogbonna an alternative medicine practitioner described her
      death as a great blow to nature cure.

      �I saw her on the 18th of February during a seminar at Country Club,
      she did not look ill. I am short of words. Her death is indeed
      devastating,� Mrs. Ogbonna said.

      Breakfast for Mrs. Kafaru whose day began at 4 a.m., consisted mainly
      of fruits and herbal tea, while for lunch, her favourite dish is amala
      with vegetable soup. She often skipped dinner and when she decided to
      eat, usually before 8 pm, it was mostly light food with lots of water.

      The seeds of Mrs. Kafaru�s interest and knowledge of herbs and their
      applications started when, as a little girl, she lived with her
      maternal grandparents. She had watched as the couple used leaves, barks
      and roots to cure diseases, theirs and some of their neighbours�.

      In an interview a few years ago, Mrs. Kafaru said: �My father died when
      I was only seven years old. And I had to live with my maternal
      grandparents. Staying with my grandfather had a strong influence on my
      life. He was a herbal healer. I got to know about herbs from him. I
      can�t say I went out of my way to learn anything about herbs. In
      between acquiring education I picked up one or two things.�

      As a teenager, she had suffered health problems which continued through
      her first marriage, leading her to an orthodox medical practitioner, a
      gynaecologist.

      If those early seeds were sown at her grandparents�, the water which
      added her blossoming into the widely read, widely sought and widely
      respected �Nature Doctor� might have been showered on her when in 1976
      she accepted a copy of the book, ��Back to Eden� by Jethro Kloss from
      the late Chief Adeyemi Lawson, when she was his personal secretary.

      Her writing prior to 1994 were published as a book, significantly with
      the same title as her first article in The Guardian, Immense Help from
      Nature�s workshop.

      Mr. Ihesie revealed that the battle for her life had been on for
      sometime now but became more intense early this year and she had to be
      admitted into an orthodox hospital.

      Said he: �In our practice here, we believe in both alternative and
      orthodox medicine. However, we give more emphasis to the former but
      where the need arises, orthodox option can be employed.�

      Mrs. Kafaru, according to him, was admitted about two months ago when
      the attention of orthodox medicine became inevitable early in the year.

      On the continuity of her work at the herbal home, Mr. Ihesie, who has
      been working with Mrs. Kafaru for seven years said that her wish was
      for the work to continue.

      Referring to her works as an author, Mr. Ihesie said that she was at
      the verge of launching her new book, �You and your Health�� before
      death came calling while, �Immense Help from Nature�s Workship�� was up
      for revision-works which he said will still be executed in due time.

      At the Ogba residence of the Kafaru�s, a source said noticing his
      wife�s moodiness last Thursday, Mr. Kafaru had asked for serious
      prayers.�

      The eldest daughter Elizabeth Okparavero, who spoke to The Guardian,
      said that although preliminary family meetings had been held, funeral
      arrangements were yet to be concluded.

      She said that a larger representation of the family was expected in due
      course to put finishing touches to the arrangement.

      According to her, the eldest son who is outside the country is expected
      home soon.

      Last night, the management of The Guardian, described the passage of
      Mrs. Kafaru as a �huge loss to us and our readers��.

      A statement said: ��Mrs. Kafaru pioneered discussion in the press of
      herbal remedies, and brought her depth of knowledge and experience to
      bear on her articles. Not surprisingly, she gave succour to many in our
      society who followed her weekly columns faithfully and with
      expectation. An amiable woman, she was a delight to have as a
      columnist. We will miss her sovely.��

      ----------------------

      Southern Governors may go to court over federation account

      From Akpo Esajere, Mike Osunde and Hendrix Oliomogbe (Benin City)

      THE judiciary may soon begin to hear arguments in yet another epochal
      suit between the Federal Government and the second tier as governors of
      the 17 southern states yesterday signalled their intention to seek
      legal interpretation of the principles for sharing revenue from the.

      A suit seeking judicial verdict on resource control at the instance of
      the Federal Government, is already before the Supreme Court.

      Rising from their third summit in Benin City, Edo State yesterday, they
      resolved, according to their spokesman and host governor, Chief Lucky
      Nosakhare Igbinedion, that a situation in which revenue sharing from
      the Federation Account was subjected to �the rules of the thumb� was no
      longer acceptable.

      Consequently, they will proceed to the court for the interpretation of
      Section 162(1) of the constitution which provides thus:

      �The federation shall maintain a special account to be called the
      Federation Account into which shall be paid all revenues collected by
      the government of the Federation, except the proceeds from the personal
      income tax of the personnel of the Armed Forces of the Federation, the
      Nigeria Police Force, the ministry or department of government charged
      with responsibility of foreign affairs and the residents of the Federal
      Capital Territory, Abuja�.

      The talks which kept the governors clossetted in the banquet hall of
      the Edo State Government House for about four and a half hours, were
      predictably held against the background of the Federal Government
      resort to the Supreme Court to seek judicial verdict over the resource
      control campaign by states of the South.

      This was clearly conveyed in the opening address of Governor Igbinedion
      who remarked that there was �lack of understanding of our patriotic
      motives� adding: �The mind-set which informed the Federal Government�s
      law suit at the Supreme Court is representative of those who genuinely
      do not comprehend the underguirding for our clamour for a truly
      federalist state.�

      After the host governor and chairman, Igbinedion had read their
      communiqu� to a full house of commissioners, other government
      officials, security agents and reporters, Chief Segun Osoba of Ogun
      State announced an embargo on the communique resulting in an argument
      between him and some reporters.

      Although, he had embargoed the communique till 11.00 a.m. and later
      9.00 a.m. today, citing the need for wide publicity and the need to
      ensure that every media house, had the opportunity to report it,
      reporters called his attention to journalists of especially the
      electronic media, particularly the international media, who had already
      departed to report the resolutions.

      Except the Bayelsa State Governor, Chief Dieprieye Alamiesiegha who was
      represented by his deputy, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, all other governors
      were in attendance.

      The governors who had been treated to a cultural might on Monday
      visited the Benin Monarch, Omo N�Oba N�Edo Uku Akpolokpolo Erediauwa
      yesterday morning before kicking off the talks at 12.07 p.m. They rose
      at 4. 35 p.m.

      Chief Igbinedion�s speech which was adopted as in the two previous
      summits, captured the Federal Government�s resort to legal
      interpretation of ownership of resources as a round-about way of
      introducing the vexacious issue of on-shore/off-shore dichotomy.

      He said it was an attempt to reduce legitimate demands of the states to
      academic arguments and legalistic gymnastics, capable of postponing the
      inevitable collective destiny of the citizenry.

      Addressing the opening session of the two-day summit at the Festival
      Hall of Government House, Benin yesterday, Igbinedion admonished: �The
      issues at stake should not be misunderstood to be ones that concern
      only the Southern States.�

      �Every patriotic Nigerian,� he insisted, �should see this as an affront
      on our collective psyche. It is not a matter of where you are located
      geographically or politically at this point in time, rather it is a
      matter of where you are located psychologically in this struggle
      between the forces of arrested development and those who are determined
      to be pioneers on our nation�s new frontiers�.

      Igbinedion, obviously happy to be playing host, knowing the antecedents
      of the then Bendel state of which the present Edo state was part, and
      its successful challenge of the injustice of the revenue allocation
      formula at the Supreme Court in 1981, said it was not an accident of
      history that the state was again hosting a meeting aimed at effecting a
      true federal structure for the country, 20 years after.

      He was however unhappy at the vehemence of opposition by those whom he
      said were doing so �either out of genuine lack of understanding of our
      motives, or out of sectional sentiments and a selfish desire to
      continue to flourish without fully exerting themselves and at the
      expense of others.�

      He declared: �The division is clear. It is between the comfortable and
      the concerned, between those who believe that we should continue to
      acquire and just coast along, and those who believe that we must move
      this nation forward towards and beyond the new frontiers of the 21st
      century�.

      Commending his colleagues for the initiative to steer what he called
      the path of equity, justice and progress, essential ingredients for
      true greatness, Igbinedion said �only unrepentant apostles of unitarism
      can justifiably oppose our resolve to correct the obvious aberration.�

      By advocating the principles of resource control, Igbinedion said the
      Southern Governors were only standing up for the obvious in a
      capitalist society like Nigeria, and found solace in the words of the
      late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, ,whom he quoted as saying� �in capitalist
      society, whether it is a federation or not, it is untenable and
      dishonest in the extreme, to insist on sharing another person�s or
      another state�s wealth on any basis other than that which the rules of
      the capitalist game allows�.

      The stand of the Southern Governors, Igbinedion pointed out, is
      predicated on a desire to see the Federal Government grow from its
      present point where it epitomises that old definition of a baby as an
      alimentary canal with a huge appetite on one end and no sense of
      responsibility on the other, adding that what the southern states were
      preaching fiscal responsibility.

      Therefore, despite their faith in the judicial process, the stark
      realities facing the country and which must be confronted now,
      Igbinedion emphasised is that �a reduction of our legitimate demands to
      academic arguments and legalistic gymnastics can only further postpone
      our inevitable rendezvous with our collective destiny as a people�.

      Igbinedion was caustic in his condemnation of those asking for the
      deregulation of the number of political parties, saying although the
      constitution guarantees the right of every Nigerian to belong to any
      political party, it was uncomfortable when those in the vanguard of the
      clamour claim to be the true progressives.

      According to the Edo State Governor, from their antecedents, it was
      clear that their only claim to being progressive was that they had been
      left out of the mainstream by failures in the political calculuses.

      Urging the Independent National Electoral Commission to remain focused
      on its task of properly guiding the nascent democratic experience, the
      governor said this was the time for all hands to be on deck towards the
      consolidation and strengthening of �our incipient democracy� instead of
      clamouring heatedly for the immediate registration of new political
      parties.

      On calls for a state police, Igbinedion again sympathised with the
      rationale behind the demand, insisting that despite the frustrations
      which the ineffectiveness of the present Nigeria Police Force, had
      created, �the nascence of our democratic dispensation and the great
      potential for abuse of state Police Forces�notwithstanding, he was
      convinced that it was yet worth its trial.

      A modernised, properly equipped and well-funded central police force,
      he believed, can more than adequately cope with issues of internal
      security in the country.

      While urging all Nigerians to rise above �primordial loyalties and
      focus on national ideal�, Igbinedion called on northern governors who
      like their southern counterparts, meet regularly, not to see the
      meeting of the Governors of Southern States as a threat.

      Instead they should consider �us fellow stakeholders in the enterprise
      of jumpstarting Nigeria�s march away from the chaotic directionlessness
      that has stalled our progress these past 40 years.�

      �We must work together and find common solutions to our common
      problems� and �disagree without being evidently disagreeable�, he said,
      concluding by saying: �Let us resolve this day that the flicker of
      emancipation that was ignited in Lagos in October 2000, fanned in Enugu
      in January 2001 into a flame, will blaze a glorious trail to our
      nation�s promised land today, here in the ancient city of Benin�.

      ----------------------

      Govt returns UBE bill to National Assembly


      A DRAFT bill on the Universal Basic Education (UBE) has been sent by
      the Executive to the National Assembly for ratification.

      The action indicates that all the tiers of government - federal, states
      and Councils - have reached a consensus on how the programme for which
      about N7 billion is being spent on construction of extra 1548
      classrooms nationwide is to be executed.

      The bill which seeks to establish the UBE commission, was withdrawn
      from the assembly last July to enable all stakeholders make input.

      On January 24, the reviewed draft bill which had input from local and
      state governments, was sent to the Federal Ministry of Justice after
      approval by the National Council on UBE, chaired by Vice-President
      Atiku Abubakar.

      At the opening of the rights technical working session and exhibition
      on UBE, in Abuja yesterday National Co-ordinator of the programme Pat
      Obanya described the bill as a success story, considering the level of
      political and community negotiations that went into packaging it.

      He expressed the hope that the bill would become law soon.

      Obanya said since the UBE process began, government had taken steps to
      ensure its success through the provision of infrastructure and
      registration of pupils.

      The co-ordinator described the UBE as a wholistic programme, planned to
      address the education needs of all Nigerians, adding that it could be
      executed through so many commissions, including the Nomadic Education
      Commission.

      Obanya said the UBE had revived the interests of many international
      organisations, including the World Bank, UNICEF and UNESCO, in
      Nigeria's Primary Education.

      He stressed that Nigeria required huge investments in education through
      the public and private sectors.

      The UBE which was launched in September 1999, aims at providing free
      and compulsory formal education to Nigerians in their first nine years.

      Since the launch by President Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigerians have
      criticised the slow pace of its implementation, but officials hinged
      the delay on the need for proper planning to ensure success.
      -----------------------

      Senator Augie dies in auto crash

      From Abiodun Adeniyi, Abuja

      THE cold hands of death entered the Senate yesterday snatching away a
      notable senator, Adamu Baba Augie (Kebbi North). He was 61 years old.

      Augie, of the All Peoples Party (APP), died in the early hours of
      yesterday in a ghastly motor accident at Yankaru on the Funtua/Gusau
      road. He was on his way to his native home, Argungu, Sokoto State, for
      a condolence visit.

      The story of the death which spread into the National Assembly complex
      hours after the incident, was, according to Senate spokesman, Dr.
      Jonathan Zwingina, a "destabiliser".

      Zwingina, while briefing journalists said the Senate President, Chief
      Anyim Pius Anyim had raised an emergency delegation to pay a condolence
      visit to the family. Another delegation led by Deputy Senate President
      Ibrahim Mantu, was at Aso Rock Villa yesterday to brief President
      Olusegun Obasanjo on Augie�s death.

      The president was said to have expressed shock at the �great loss� and
      wished Augie�s family the fortitude to bear the loss. A federal
      delegation is expected at Augie�s burial in Argungun today to condole
      with his family and Kebbi State Governor, Alhaji Adamu Aliero.

      Zwingina described Augie as "an accomplished broadcaster, a
      distinguished statesman and a fine gentleman, who at the time of his
      death had just concluded an assignment in his capacity as Chairman of
      Senate Committee on Navy".

      Zwingina stressed: �The Senate will miss his maturity and
      resourcefulness. The Senate mourn him. Nigeria will miss him. We pray
      God to grant his family the fortitude to bear the loss. The senate will
      sit briefly, observe some minutes silence, before we adjourn to visit
      his place on condolence. Aircraft have already been provided for this."

      The senators, thereafter sat with the Senate Leader, Mohammed Liman
      (Katsina), moving a motion for the adjournment of the House in honour
      of their departed colleague. The motion was seconded by Maaji Maina
      Lawan (Borno).

      Augie was born on April 16, 1940, in Argungu, Sokoto State. He attended
      Argungu Primary School; Government College, Sokoto; School of
      Journalism and Television, Reeding, England; ABC Training School,
      Sydney, Australia; Syracuse University, New York, USA; and was also at
      the Nigeria Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru, Jos.

      His journalism career saw him in different places at different times.
      Some of these include Director of News, Radio and Television, Kaduna,
      1975 - 1976; General Manager, Sokoto Television, 1976 - 1977; Managing
      Director, Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), 1977 - 1985;
      Editor-in-Chief, Hotline magazine, 1986-1988; Chairman, Sokoto State
      Broadcasting Corporation; Chairman, Theme Ventures Limited; Member,
      Constituent Assembly, 1988-89; First Secretary, Broadcasting
      Organisation of Nigeria, 1973-75; Leader, Nigerian Delegation,
      Broadcasting of Non-Aligned Countries.

      Augie was elected senator February 1999. He was in fact a leader of the
      group in the upper house before the February 2000 senate
      committee/party position reshufflements.

      Senators departed in groups yesterday for his native home aboard two
      jets. They were expected back yesterday, according to Chief Anyim.

      Reacting to Augie's death, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) National
      Chairman, Chief Barnabas Gemade, condoled with the Senate and Chief
      Anyim.

      A statement by Mr. Osedebamen Isibor, Special Assistant (Media) to
      Gemade, said the PDP chairman who received the news of Augie's demise
      yesterday afternoon described him as "one lawmaker that had experience,
      maturity and the interest of the nation at heart."

      Describing his loss as a great one to the people of Kebbi State and
      members of the National Assembly, Gemade said that Augie distinguished
      himself in the practice of politics without bitterness and bad blood,
      adding: "Little wonder his philanthropic disposition endeared him to
      all.

      "That death came calling on the distinguished senator when it did, is
      regrettable, and the PDP certainly, as well as my family will really
      miss him and his services to the nation."

      Gemade also called on all road users to be more careful "especially, as
      all of us, motorists and commuters, still have a lot of positive
      contributions to make to the country and our nascent democracy."
      -----------------------

      Govt restates commitment to anti-corruption crusade

      From John-Abba Ogbodo,

      Abuja

      FEDERAL Government has again reiterated its determination to completely
      eliminate corruption in the country.

      Vice President Atiku Abubakar, at a two-day conference on security
      documents organised by the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting
      Company Limited in Abuja yesterday explained that the emphasis placed
      on the crusade by government led to a recent retreat in Plateau State.

      The forum, Abubakar stressed, was a soul-searching exercise for top
      government functionaries.

      He, therefore, called on all corporate organisations and well-meaning
      individuals to close ranks with government to ensure the success of the
      campaign.

      The crusade, the vice-president also noted, could not be won by
      government alone but rather required the collective efforts of all
      stakeholders.

      �It would require the collective determination and efforts of every
      Nigerian to make it succeed. I wish to call on all corporate
      organisations and well-meaning Nigerians to rise up to the challenge in
      the fight against corruption in this country�, he admonished.

      Government, Abubakar stressed, was concerned with the negative image
      which corruption had foisted on the nation, pointing out that
      everything humanly possible would be done to reverse the situation.

      �Government is fully aware of the negative publicity corrupt practices
      have earned the country in the international arena. We will not rest
      until we completely reverse the trend�, he reiterated.

      The vice-president praised the Printing and Minting Company for the
      initiative and assured that every step taken towards eliminating
      fraudulent activities would be encouraged by government.

      He called on other organisations to emulate the company.

      Earlier, the chairman of the board of the company Abubakar Rimi
      expressed the determination of the company to remain atop of its
      counterparts in Africa.

      He disclosed that the Printing and Minting Company�s factory in Abuja
      would soon be commissioned.
      ------------------------

      Nigeria reaffirms support for Annan

      NIGERIA yesterday reaffirmed its support for United Nations (UN)
      Secretary-General Kofi Annan's intention to seek a second term of
      office.

      In a statement by Foreign Affairs Ministry, the government said it is
      backing Annan because he "has brought his remarkable skills, dignity
      and wealth of experience into the running of the international body."

      According to the statement which described the Ghanaian-born diplomat
      as an "erudite and distinguished African statesman," Nigeria received
      his (Annan) decision for re-election with deep satisfaction.

      It said: "The government recalls with pride the significant and
      momentuous landmarks recorded in the UN under his able and dynamic
      leadership."

      According to the statement, the management and financial reforms that
      had taken place in the UN since Annan came into office, the increasing
      peace-keeping and peace-making role of the organisation and the
      successful millennium summit remained significant achievements of the
      world body.

      "The Federal Government of Nigeria, therefore, firmly affirms its
      unflinching support to the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, for his
      second term in office, and also urges the international community
      particularly the five permanent members of the UN Security Council to
      lend their full weight behind his re-election," the government urged.

      Annan on March 22, announced his intention to seek a second five-year
      term as head of the world body, after "careful thought and close
      consultation with my family."

      "If the (UN) member states decide to offer me a second term as
      secretary-general, I shall be deeply honoured to accept," he said.

      Annan, a 63-year-old career diplomat succeeded Egypt's Boutros
      Boutros-Ghali as the seventh UN Secretary-General on January 1, 1997.
      His term expires on December 31, 2001.

      The African group of 53 nations in the UN have all voiced support for
      Annan to run again, at a news conference two weeks ago.

      Traditionally, the UN Secretary-General's job rotates every 10 years
      among the groups of Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America. But no
      other regional group has so far fielded its candidate for the next
      term.
      ------------------------

      The Story of Chikwe and the lawmakersFOR the Representatives, invoking
      the powers of sub-poena against any member of the executive arm was
      least expected in these times of mutual understanding and respect
      between both arms. Yet, they were constrained to do so in the pursuit
      of their oversight powers of exposing corruption, inefficiency or waste
      in the administration of public fund appropriated by it.

      Last week, Minister of Aviation Mrs Kema Chikwe had to be sub-poenaed
      on the orders of the Speaker of the House, Alhaji Ghali Umar Na'Abba
      over the controversial radar contract allegedly inflated by the
      erstwhile chairman of the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA),
      Chief Rochas Okorocha. Remarkably, she will go down in the history of
      this democratic dispensation as the first member of President Olusegun
      Obasanjo's cabinet to be so compelled to appear before an open hearing
      of the House Committee on Aviation which is investigating the matter.

      "It is unfortunate that the House leadership had to sub-poena her.
      Public fund is involved so also is the integrity of a Nigerian and as
      representatives of our people, we must not shirk our responsibilities
      to get to the root of a matter like this," said Chairman of the House
      Committee on Information, Chijioke Edoga while rationalising Na'Abba's
      decision to journalists.

      Chikwe had to be sub-poenaed for ignoring three separate letters,
      inviting her to testify before the Alhaji Auwal Tukur-led committee
      seeking to establish the veracity of the allegation that Chief Okorocha
      interfered with contract procedure as well as inflated the cost of
      radar equipment from $14 million to $15 million.

      Expectedly, she complied with the House's order and did put up a
      spirited fight to remove the legislative noose around her neck at the
      committee's proceeding which could best be described as melo-dramatic.
      Between the Representatives and Chikwe, interrogations and responses
      were heavily charged, laced with temper, bickering and at other
      occasions, the usage of uncomplimentary language.

      But at the end of the day, the minister agreed to co-operate with the
      legislators to get to the root of the contract controversy. To start
      with, she agreed to turn-in documents relating to the procedure of
      award of contract in one of the parastatals under her- the Federal
      Aviation Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) before the hearing resumes on
      Thursday this week.

      Before then, she had disclosed that the radar contract in question has
      not been awarded even as she absolved herself of any blame in either
      partaking or alleging that Okorocha interfered or inflated the cost of
      the radar equipment from $14 to $15 million.

      "Well, I repeat that the accusation or allegation of interference and
      inflation were not made by the Honourable Minister of Aviation, she
      told the lawmakers in response to a question as to whether Okorocha can
      be accused of inflating a contract yet to be awarded, adding that "you
      will agree with me that as far as this NAMA contract is concerned, no
      contract has been awarded and it is wrong to say that such a contract
      that is yet to come into existence has been inflated." But she
      maintained that the said contract could still be inflated considering
      that the statement "interference" and "inflation" are two twin words
      which deserve critical observation.

      On why she ignored previous invitations, the minister said one of the
      dates of the hearing she was to appear coincided with a Senate
      appointment she was equally obliged to honour. However, she explained
      that her inability to respond to the committee's invitation was because
      she thought what was demanded of her were the contract documents.

      Reminded by Tukur that what was actually needed were facts regarding
      the contract procedures, she said: "Okay, I will forward this as long
      as it is within my jurisdiction..."

      That was the only time an agreement was secured from Chikwe by the
      lawmakers. Throughout the first half of the four hours proceedings of
      the committee, questions directed at her were either cleverly parried
      or avoided outrightly. Not even the 10 minutes recess embarked upon by
      the lawmakers to allow for a refocus produced any impact on the
      minister who insisted to the hearing of all that "Mr. Chairman, I am
      focused."

      Midway into the proceeding, Na'Abba had to send the Deputy House Leader
      Chief Mao Ohuabunwa to placate the minister. "I have been sent by the
      Speaker to ask for your co-operation. My colleagues are not hostile to
      you. We are only interested in digging out the facts. We will protect
      you as a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). If there is
      anything you will like to discuss to members hearing exclusively, we
      can always avail you the opportunity," Ohuabunwa said.

      Before Chikwe agreed to tender FAAN's procedural documents on contract,
      Tukur had sternly warned that the order of a sub-poena should not be
      taken for granted since the committee is determined to extract all
      details from her to unearth the truth over the radar issue.

      Also, Representative Akunnia Okeke who alongside Chidi Duru spearheaded
      the drilling of Chikwe during the four hour long proceeding intoned
      further: "What you do here today will tell us the propriety of
      appointing women of your calibre into government in future."

      Before compelling Chikwe to appear last week, the committee in
      accordance with the provisions of sections 88 and 89 of the 1999
      Constitution as well as Section 4 and 6 of the Legislative Powers Act
      of 1953 had summoned both Okorocha, Information and National
      Orientation Minister, Prof. Jerry Gana and members of the NAMA board.

      Though, Gana is yet to appear on the understanding of the lawmakers,
      Okorocha in his submission to the committee said he couldn't have
      interfered with a contract yet to be ratified by the Federal Executive
      Council (FEC).

      The NAMA board which was inaugurated on December 18 by Chikwe according
      to Okorocha never discussed the issue of radar purchase adding that
      what was discussed on the two separate occasions members of the board
      met was essentially the welfare of the staff of NAMA and the operations
      of the agency.

      "This is a matter that concerns my integrity and reputation as a
      politician. As the bastion of democracy and the hope of all, the House
      should unearth the truth as to whether I actually inflated or
      interfered in any way the contract for the radar equipment. I beseech
      you to be fair and just in the way you handle this matter," Okorocha
      told the House last month.

      As the committee reconvenes on Thursday, the lawmakers are set to
      unravel how a contract yet to be awarded by FEC can be inflated by
      Okorocha if only Chikwe lives up to her promise to turn in details of
      contract procedure in her ministry.,

      Interestingly, the minister declined to comment on whether or not
      Okorocha had a hand in the companies that bidded for the radar project.

      In his closing remarks last week, Tukur restated the committee's
      resolve to unravel the truth of the matter, adding that the open
      investigation which is not aimed at questioning the president's power
      to sack or leave whoever he wishes should be considered as one of the
      good sides of a democratic governance.
      ----------------------

      The Story of Chikwe and the lawmakersFOR the Representatives, invoking
      the powers of sub-poena against any member of the executive arm was
      least expected in these times of mutual understanding and respect
      between both arms. Yet, they were constrained to do so in the pursuit
      of their oversight powers of exposing corruption, inefficiency or waste
      in the administration of public fund appropriated by it.

      Last week, Minister of Aviation Mrs Kema Chikwe had to be sub-poenaed
      on the orders of the Speaker of the House, Alhaji Ghali Umar Na'Abba
      over the controversial radar contract allegedly inflated by the
      erstwhile chairman of the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA),
      Chief Rochas Okorocha. Remarkably, she will go down in the history of
      this democratic dispensation as the first member of President Olusegun
      Obasanjo's cabinet to be so compelled to appear before an open hearing
      of the House Committee on Aviation which is investigating the matter.

      "It is unfortunate that the House leadership had to sub-poena her.
      Public fund is involved so also is the integrity of a Nigerian and as
      representatives of our people, we must not shirk our responsibilities
      to get to the root of a matter like this," said Chairman of the House
      Committee on Information, Chijioke Edoga while rationalising Na'Abba's
      decision to journalists.

      Chikwe had to be sub-poenaed for ignoring three separate letters,
      inviting her to testify before the Alhaji Auwal Tukur-led committee
      seeking to establish the veracity of the allegation that Chief Okorocha
      interfered with contract procedure as well as inflated the cost of
      radar equipment from $14 million to $15 million.

      Expectedly, she complied with the House's order and did put up a
      spirited fight to remove the legislative noose around her neck at the
      committee's proceeding which could best be described as melo-dramatic.
      Between the Representatives and Chikwe, interrogations and responses
      were heavily charged, laced with temper, bickering and at other
      occasions, the usage of uncomplimentary language.

      But at the end of the day, the minister agreed to co-operate with the
      legislators to get to the root of the contract controversy. To start
      with, she agreed to turn-in documents relating to the procedure of
      award of contract in one of the parastatals under her- the Federal
      Aviation Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) before the hearing resumes on
      Thursday this week.

      Before then, she had disclosed that the radar contract in question has
      not been awarded even as she absolved herself of any blame in either
      partaking or alleging that Okorocha interfered or inflated the cost of
      the radar equipment from $14 to $15 million.

      "Well, I repeat that the accusation or allegation of interference and
      inflation were not made by the Honourable Minister of Aviation, she
      told the lawmakers in response to a question as to whether Okorocha can
      be accused of inflating a contract yet to be awarded, adding that "you
      will agree with me that as far as this NAMA contract is concerned, no
      contract has been awarded and it is wrong to say that such a contract
      that is yet to come into existence has been inflated." But she
      maintained that the said contract could still be inflated considering
      that the statement "interference" and "inflation" are two twin words
      which deserve critical observation.

      On why she ignored previous invitations, the minister said one of the
      dates of the hearing she was to appear coincided with a Senate
      appointment she was equally obliged to honour. However, she explained
      that her inability to respond to the committee's invitation was because
      she thought what was demanded of her were the contract documents.

      Reminded by Tukur that what was actually needed were facts regarding
      the contract procedures, she said: "Okay, I will forward this as long
      as it is within my jurisdiction..."

      That was the only time an agreement was secured from Chikwe by the
      lawmakers. Throughout the first half of the four hours proceedings of
      the committee, questions directed at her were either cleverly parried
      or avoided outrightly. Not even the 10 minutes recess embarked upon by
      the lawmakers to allow for a refocus produced any impact on the
      minister who insisted to the hearing of all that "Mr. Chairman, I am
      focused."

      Midway into the proceeding, Na'Abba had to send the Deputy House Leader
      Chief Mao Ohuabunwa to placate the minister. "I have been sent by the
      Speaker to ask for your co-operation. My colleagues are not hostile to
      you. We are only interested in digging out the facts. We will protect
      you as a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). If there is
      anything you will like to discuss to members hearing exclusively, we
      can always avail you the opportunity," Ohuabunwa said.

      Before Chikwe agreed to tender FAAN's procedural documents on contract,
      Tukur had sternly warned that the order of a sub-poena should not be
      taken for granted since the committee is determined to extract all
      details from her to unearth the truth over the radar issue.

      Also, Representative Akunnia Okeke who alongside Chidi Duru spearheaded
      the drilling of Chikwe during the four hour long proceeding intoned
      further: "What you do here today will tell us the propriety of
      appointing women of your calibre into government in future."

      Before compelling Chikwe to appear last week, the committee in
      accordance with the provisions of sections 88 and 89 of the 1999
      Constitution as well as Section 4 and 6 of the Legislative Powers Act
      of 1953 had summoned both Okorocha, Information and National
      Orientation Minister, Prof. Jerry Gana and members of the NAMA board.

      Though, Gana is yet to appear on the understanding of the lawmakers,
      Okorocha in his submission to the committee said he couldn't have
      interfered with a contract yet to be ratified by the Federal Executive
      Council (FEC).

      The NAMA board which was inaugurated on December 18 by Chikwe according
      to Okorocha never discussed the issue of radar purchase adding that
      what was discussed on the two separate occasions members of the board
      met was essentially the welfare of the staff of NAMA and the operations
      of the agency.

      "This is a matter that concerns my integrity and reputation as a
      politician. As the bastion of democracy and the hope of all, the House
      should unearth the truth as to whether I actually inflated or
      interfered in any way the contract for the radar equipment. I beseech
      you to be fair and just in the way you handle this matter," Okorocha
      told the House last month.

      As the committee reconvenes on Thursday, the lawmakers are set to
      unravel how a contract yet to be awarded by FEC can be inflated by
      Okorocha if only Chikwe lives up to her promise to turn in details of
      contract procedure in her ministry.,

      Interestingly, the minister declined to comment on whether or not
      Okorocha had a hand in the companies that bidded for the radar project.

      In his closing remarks last week, Tukur restated the committee's
      resolve to unravel the truth of the matter, adding that the open
      investigation which is not aimed at questioning the president's power
      to sack or leave whoever he wishes should be considered as one of the
      good sides of a democratic governance.
      -----------------------

      Govt halts insurance sector reforms committee

      By Ayo Ashaolu,

      Finance Correspondent

      THE Federal Government has suspended the activities of the Insurance
      Sector Reform Implementation Committee (IRIC).

      The committee was set up last year by Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar,
      to provide the modalities for the smooth privatisation of NICON and
      Nigerian Reinsurance Corporations.

      The committee was also mandated to formulate sector reforms proposals
      to create conditions for the sustainable development of the insurance
      sector.

      Although no official reason has been given for this development,
      feelers from the industry have it that the move became necessary in
      view of the delay in the process of privatising the two corporations.

      An insurance chieftain informed The Guardian that since the committee
      was set up to ensure that the two corporations were privatised and the
      government was now adopting unnecessary delays, then the need for such
      committee may have become irrelevant.

      A source also disclosed that the development might have been taken in
      view of the stand of members of the committee on the privatisation of
      the corporations which is not in line with the thinking of the
      government.

      While the government insists on the total divestments of the
      corporations before privatisation, the committee insisted that such
      step was wrong.

      Apart from this, the alleged plans by the committee to present a
      position paper on the re-advertisement for expression of interest in
      NICON and Nigeria Reinsurance Corporation by the National Council on
      Privatisation (NCP) may also be responsible for the action.

      The source said the position of the committee on divestment of NICON
      shares before privatisation was hinged on the fact that no serious
      investors will invest his money on the corporation if such decision was
      taken.

      The committee was alleged to have maintained that it is not proper to
      take such decision because the strength of any organisation lies on its
      investment.

      "If government should go ahead and divest all the investments belonging
      to NICON what will be left out of NICON?

      "So, the committee is strongly against this move and this could be one
      of the reasons for government action," he said.

      Apart from advising the National Council on Privatisation (NCP) on
      policies and programme to promote competition, efficiency and
      transparency in the restructuring and privatisation within the
      insurance sector, the committee is also charged with the responsibility
      of co-ordinating all insurance sector activities.

      Other terms of reference of the committee include the:

      formulation of proposals of council, for reducing government
      expenditure, and attracting increased private financing and investment
      in the insurance sector;
      advise council on steps to be taken, while undertaking the reform of
      the insurance sector, to improve the efficiency, quality and
      availability of products diversification of insurance services;
      oversee the activities of various government agencies, parastatals,
      operators in the sector and consultants to council leading to the
      restructuring, and ultimate privatisation of NICON and Nigeria Re; and
      provide information briefs and guidelines to all appointed consultants
      of council on the execution of their assignment.
      ---------------------

      National gas policy underway, says lawmaker

      NIGERIA is to have a national gas policy to speed up the process of
      converting the country's "wasting" natural gas to productive and
      commercial use, the chairman of the House of Representatives committee
      on gas resources, Prince Nicholas Ukachukwu, said in Abuja.

      Ukachukwu said that his committee had already commenced discussions
      with NNPC, its joint venture partners in the oil industry, the Ministry
      of Petroleum Resources, and other relevant government agencies toward
      formulating a policy to make gas a major source of industrial input and
      foreign exchange earner.

      He said that the policy would also ensure the harmonisation of the
      provisions of existing laws and other regulations in the gas industry.

      He observed that the current situation in which there were many laws
      and regulations for the gas industry, was undesirable for its growth
      and development, noting that without a well-defined regulatory
      framework, the sector would not attract the desired level of
      investments.

      According to Ukachukwu, "the lack of a comprehensive national policy is
      hindering prospective investors from different countries, who will want
      to be guided by a policy before staking their funds. So, the need to
      have the new policy is both imperative and relevant to the national
      economy."

      The Chairman said his committee was working with the oil companies, to
      know their plans to end gas flaring in the country, saying "some of the
      oil companies have plan to stop flaring by 2004, while others say it
      has to be 2008, so we are discussing with them, to reach a common
      ground on the issue."

      It is understood that Nigeria produces about 2.5 billion standard cubic
      feet per day (BSCED) of associated gas, from its oil fields in the
      Niger Delta, and flares about 1.75 BSCED of it everyday.

      -------------------

      Ajaokuta Steel has Gulped $4.14 billion, says Agagu

      THE Ajaokuta steel project has so far gulped $4.14 billion, the
      Minister of Power and Steel, Dr. Segun Agagu, has said.

      Agagu, quoting reports of a technical audit/evaluation of the plant at
      a press briefing in Abuja, said that a further $460 million was
      required to complete the first phase of the plant for the production of
      1.3 million tonnes of steel per annum.

      The minister, who declared government's commitment towards completing
      the project in 24 months, said that President Olusegun Obasanjo had
      approved a negotiation with Tyahzpromexport, the Russian handlers of
      the project, on the term of agreement of the first phase.

      Dr. Agagu said that as part of efforts to rescucitate the project, a
      joint venture agreement for the operation of the repair shops complex,
      had been negotiated and would be signed next week.

      He said that when in operation, the repair shops would carry out
      manufacture and repair of equipment in cement and oil companies, as
      well as in NEPA.

      The minister said that a galvanising plant would also be installed in
      the complex to produce components for the erection of steel
      pylon/towers such as those used in electricity transmission lines and
      telecommunications masts.

      Dr. Agagu added that the reactivation of the light section mill of the
      project has started, saying that it was expected to be completed in May
      and to begin operations with imported billets provided by steel
      merchants.

      He said that the Ajaokuta steel project required a special attention
      because it had the capacity to produce 400 metric tonnes of steel in a
      year as against a total of 190 metric tonnes which the Jos, Delta and
      Katsina steel, rolling mills could produce

      On the Delta steel projects, Agagu said that the plant was being
      reactivated at a cost of $100 million, saying that the project was
      being handled as a joint venture between the Federal Government and
      Messrs. Coest Alpine Industrial Services of Austria with both
      contributing $45 million and $55 million respectively.

      The minister who assured that some of Nigerian steel rolling mills
      would begin production from next month, announced that the Katsina
      Steel Rolling Mill would soon receive some billets to begin operation.

      Dr. Agagu promised that the steel projects would be made "fully
      functional" before government would sell them
      -----------------------

      3,000 workers may lose job in Oyo

      From Opeyemi Isinde, Ibadan

      IN its bid to purge the statecivil service, the Oyo State Government is
      set to sack not fewer than 3,000workers presently in the employment of
      the state public service.

      It was reliably gathered that the retrenchment letters of theaffected
      workers are already at the state civil service commission.

      The letters, according to our source, will be distributed to
      theaffected workers with immediate effect as from today.

      According to the source, the criteria to be used by thegovernment in
      effecting the exercise are those who have had one or more queriesin
      their file.

      " All those found to have been indicted of mal-practises orcorrupt
      practises are going to be affected in the retrenchment exercise,�
      oursource hinted.

      Also to be affected in the exercise is a principal aide of thewife
      of the state governor, Alhaja Sanat Adesina, who was suspended for
      allegedfraud of N300,000.

      The Guardian furthergathered that the exercise is set to cut across
      the ministries, parastatals,government agencies and over-aged workers.

      Due to the current development, workers in the state civilservice,
      were observed in groups discussing the issue, as they did not knowthose
      to be affected.

      This has thus instilled fear in the rank and file of the statepublic
      service.

      Last week, workers in the state civil service in the
      variousministries and parastatals were called to the state secretariat
      to present theircertificates for screening.

      Justifying the imminent retrenchment exercise, it would berecalled
      that the state governor, Alhaji Lam Adesina, had earlier re-stated
      hiscommitment to re-organise and re-engineer the state civil service
      for betterperformance.


      -----------------------

      NITEL chief solicits co-operation

      THEChairman,<br/><br/>(Message over 64 KB, truncated)
    • Nubi Achebo
      Govt, Labour talks end in deadlock * Police stop rally in Benue, gov faults fuel price increase From Collins Olayinka (Abuja), Simon Nwakaudu (Makurdi),
      Message 289 of 289 , Sep 7, 2005
      • 0 Attachment
        Govt, Labour talks end in deadlock

        * Police stop rally in Benue, gov faults fuel
        price increase

        From Collins Olayinka (Abuja), Simon Nwakaudu
        (Makurdi), Anietie Akpan (Calabar) and Auwal
        Ahmed (Gombe)

        THE Federal Government and Nigeria Labour
        Congress (NLC) attempt at finding amicable
        solution to the present stalemate over the
        increase in the prices of petroleum products
        yesterday hit the rocks as both parties failed to
        agreed on all issues raised.

        Speaking with journalists after the parley, NLC
        President, Adams Oshiomhole, said: "Nothing has
        changed, there is nothing positive."

        Asked what the thrust of the parley was,
        Oshiomhole stressed further: "They asked us to
        come and we tried to discuss the issue of the
        price increase and the consequences of the hike
        and the team admitted not having mandate to
        discuss on these issues. Therefore one can say
        there are no positive indications yet."

        Oshiomhole was however quick to add that the
        phased protest rally scheduled to hold across the
        country will go on.

        His words: "Yes, we were persuaded to shelve our
        proposed rally. But we told them that the protest
        rallies have to go on because they are not
        something we are doing out of fun. But in all we
        expect the government to respond quickly because
        this time, there is no ultimatum."

        The NLC also disclosed that no time has been
        fixed for reconvening.

        Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr. Hassan
        Lawal described the meeting as successful. "The
        meeting was okay. It was calm and peaceful. We
        have adjourned and we shall be resuming soonest.
        The NLC group wants to go and make consultations
        and we are also going to make more consultations,
        especially on issues raised by the NLC. They have
        intimated us on their intention to hold rallies.
        Nobody is against rallies as long as they are
        peaceful and I want to assure that government
        will not in any way interfere with that. But we
        believe it is better to sit, dialogue and
        understand all the issues concerned."

        The Minister of Information and National
        Orientation, Mr. Frank Nweke Jnr., on his own
        part remarked: "It was successful because we
        basically engaged in dialogue and that is
        consistent with the constitution. No meaningful
        development can take place in an atmosphere of
        disharmony or confusion. So, for the fact that it
        is Nigerians that manage Labour issues is very
        consistent with the constitution and democracy.
        We believe that their attitude is worth
        commendation. We want them to continue in that
        part."

        The minister also said that it would be wrong to
        describe the meeting as failure. According to
        him, the meeting indeed recorded some
        achievements. "It would be wrong to say that
        there is no meeting points. What happened was
        that we've met for four hours and there was some
        fatigue. That is why we decided to adjourn to
        later reconvene." He however failed to give a
        definite time when both parties are expected to
        reconvene.

        A statement from the office of the Secretary to
        the Government of the Federation, Chief Ufot
        Ekaette, said: "The SGF said he has no mandate to
        reverse the increase in the price of petroleum
        products."

        The statement however added that Ekaette assured
        that the Federal Government would address the
        problems occasioned by the increase with a view
        to cushioning the hardship.

        "Chief Ekaette however gave an assurance that the
        Federal Government would address problems that
        have arisen from the increase in prices of
        petroleum products so as to lessen the burden
        being experienced by Nigerians."

        The statement also said that Oshiomhole denied
        serving any letter of a nation-wide strike on the
        Federal Government but instead, the NLC and its
        allies have decided on series of public
        demonstrations across major state capitals in the
        country scheduled to begin on September 14.

        "Comrade Oshiomhole told the meeting that the NLC
        had not served notice for strike action but what
        the NLC has proposed is a public demonstration
        against the

        price increase scheduled for next Wednesday,
        September 14."

        Also in attendance at the meeting was Ekaette who
        led the delegation, Minister of State for Water
        Resources, Bashir Awoterebo; Minister of State
        for Agriculture and Rural Development, Otunba
        Bamidele Dada; the Economic Adviser to the
        President, Prof. Ode Ojowu and National
        Co-ordinator of the National Poverty Eradication
        Programme, Dr. Magnus Kpakol.

        Other stakeholders present were the Chairman of
        Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency
        (PPPRA), Chief Rasheed Gbadamosi; its Secretary,
        Dr. Oluwole

        Oluleye; the Group Managing Director of the
        Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC),
        Dr. Funso Kupolokun and the Permanent Secretary
        of Labour and Productivity, Dr. Tieiebi
        Koripamo-Agary.

        Meanwhile, an attempt yesterday by the Benue
        State Council of the NLC to hold an anti-fuel
        price increase rally was thwarted by the police.

        Major streets of Makurdi, the state capital and
        the Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB) Square,
        venue of the aborted rally, were taken over by
        armed anti-riot policemen.

        Also yesterday, the Cross River State governor,
        Mr. Donald Duke, faulted the latest fuel price
        increase, declaring that something is
        fundamentally wrong with the managers of the
        country's petroleum industry.

        Anti-riot policemen numbering over 200 stopped
        the protesters from entering the IBB Square.

        Those who attempted gaining entrance into the
        square were forcibly sent back by the security
        personnel.

        Across the state capital, anti-riot policemen
        positioned themselves at strategic points to
        ensure that the workers did not hold the rally at
        another venue.

        The state NLC chairman, Mr. Boga Abuul, at a
        press conference on Monday, announced that the
        rally would be used to sensitise people on the
        need to support any action to be embarked upon by
        Labour.

        He said that the Benue NLC was waiting for
        directives from the National Secretariat of the
        NLC on what to do to force the Federal Government
        to beat down the N65 per litre of petrol price.

        In a statement justifying its action, the state
        Police Command Public Relations Officer, Mr.
        Adesanya Jinadu, said: "The state NLC is hereby
        advised to immediately call off the protest rally
        and resort to constructive engagement with the
        stakeholders rather than adopting a method that
        will bring about lawlessness and anarchy in the
        society."

        He warned that the police would take all
        necessary measures to ensure that lives and
        property were protected.

        Attempts to speak with the NLC chairman on the
        botched rally proved abortive as aides said that
        he had gone into hiding to avoid police arrest.

        Meanwhile, the price increase has affected
        transport fares across the state. Intra and
        inter-city fares have increased by 50 per cent.

        Governor Duke has also decried the increase in
        the pump prices of petroleum products, saying the
        managers of the petroleum industry should be held
        responsible for the citizens' woes.

        Duke wondered why for six years now in the life
        of the present administration, no single refinery
        had been built in the country.

        The governor, who spoke in Calabar at a monthly
        press briefing, noted that "the pump price
        increase is one of those unfortunate issues in
        our economic life. It is shameful that we have
        not solved the problem of our refineries and
        until we stop the importation of products, which
        are marketed at international prices, we will
        continue to have this problem."

        He added: "There is something fundamentally wrong
        somewhere with those managing the petroleum
        industry. Common economic sense tells us that a
        good chunk of it (crude oil) should be refined
        locally. Primarily, Nigeria is a producer of the
        product."

        The problem the country is facing, he stated, is
        not the shortage of crude but a shortage of
        refineries.

        In a related development, the North-Eastern
        States Legislators' Forum (NESLEF) has condemned
        the increase.

        The forum at its fifth meeting in Gombe, called
        on the National Assembly to take appropriate
        measures to reverse the new prices of N65 to N50
        per litre.

        According to the group, the Federal Government's
        argument is not convincing enough to justify the
        continuous increase in the prices of petroleum
        products considering the revenue the country is
        realising from the sale of oil in the
        international market.

        It advised the Federal Government to reactivate
        the existing refineries to guard against further
        increase.

        The legislators also alleged the marginalisation
        of the sub-region in the cassava production
        programme of the Federal Government, adding that
        the zone was very qualified for the scheme.

        They added that the region's cassava was the best
        in the country and therefore needed to be
        encouraged to improve on the production.
        -----------

        Cholera in Niger threatens Nigeria, says WHO
        By Chukwuma Muanya

        FEARS that cholera now ravaging some communities
        in Niger Republic may spread to Nigeria have been
        raised by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

        The United Nation's (UN) health agency said that
        its apprehension was heightened by a fresh
        outbreak of cholera in Niger districts right at
        the border with Nigeria.

        Seventeen new cases of the disease have been
        reported in Niger's southern Tahoua region since
        August 19, WHO spokeswoman, Christine McNab,
        said. Twelve of the cases clustered in the
        district of Konni included four deaths.

        "It's a very high case fatality rate," McNab told
        journalists.

        Five other cases were found in the past three
        days in the nearby district of Madaoua, she
        added.

        The new cases come on top of 108 others,
        including 11 deaths, reported elsewhere in the
        same region since last month. The newly affected
        districts are right by the border with Nigeria.

        "We are concerned about this because cholera,
        while it can be treated easily, often kills those
        who aren't treated," McNab said.

        "We are concerned also because it is so close to
        the border with Nigeria...and we don't want to
        see that spread further or spread across
        borders."

        Cases of cholera were reported in Nigeria last
        year, according to WHO.

        The agency said it was planning a mission to the
        newly affected districts. Authorities in Niger
        had intervened to treat wells and water supplies
        and distribute medicine.

        McNab however told Agence French Presse (AFP)
        that no link had yet been established between the
        cholera outbreak and the food crisis in Niger,
        although malnourished people will be weakened and
        more vulnerable to infection.

        Officials of the Federal Ministry of Health said
        last Friday that a recent cholera outbreak in
        Kano had killed 30 people. A source from the
        ministry said medical teams were working to
        prevent the bacterial infection of the intestine
        from spreading.

        Romo Adamu, a top health official, said hundreds
        of cholera infections had been reported, with 30
        dead so far.

        The ministry recorded a total of 1,616 cases and
        76 deaths from October 15 to November 23, 2004
        and Edo State recorded 300 cases and 50 deaths
        from September 16 to November 18, 2004.

        In Kano, 20 local councils were affected with the
        case fatality rate highest among those less than
        two years and over 60 years of age.

        The possibility of a major cholera epidemic in
        Nigeria was yesterday corroborated by a public
        health physician at the College of Medicine,
        University of Lagos (CMUL) and the Lagos
        University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Dr. Adebayo
        T. Onajole. He said: "Cholera is endemic in the
        whole of Nigeria. It occurs at low levels most of
        the time. When it is in epidemic proportion, it
        is always as a result of a breakdown in social
        services within that environment. It is not
        limited to occurring between September and
        November.

        The physician added: "It is always present all
        the time. It is not unexpected in Kano because of
        the way of life and lack of proper social
        services like potable water supply, efficient
        sewage disposal system and poor food hygiene
        processes. It is spread by contamination of water
        or food from somebody who has it. Most of the
        time, it is by faecal contamination of water and
        food. These predispose them to cholera spread,"
        he said.

        Onajole said that cholera outbreak or even
        epidemic is possible in Lagos. "This is because
        the level of hygiene and waste disposal is poor.
        Drinking water pipelines pass through the drains.
        In most markets in Lagos, food items are exposed
        beside gutters and toilets. Nobody is enforcing
        food hygiene. It is not only cholera that can
        thrive in these situation but other diseases.
        Cholera has a shot incubation period and can kill
        within 48 hours."

        WHO said that "the current wave of cholera
        outbreaks started several weeks ago in West
        Africa. So far, 31,259 cases and 517 deaths have
        been reported in eight countries. Seasonal
        factors such as the rainy season, along with
        population movements in the area contribute to
        this unusually high incidence of cholera."

        Cholera, according to Onajole, is a severe
        bacterial infection of the intestine caused by
        Vibrio cholerae, when infected food is eaten or
        contaminated water taken. Symtoms of cholera, he
        said, include diarrhoea and vomiting, leading to
        death.
        ---------------

        First Bank, Ecobank unite for pan-Africa services
        By Enitar Ugwu

        FIRST Bank of Nigeria Plc and Ecobank
        International Incorporation (EII), the parent
        company of the Ecobank Group, are set to give
        birth to a pan-African banking institution.

        A statement jointly signed by Ecobank Group Chief
        Executive Officer, Mr. Arnold Ekpe, and First
        Bank Managing Director, Mr. Jacob Ajekigbe, said
        that the agreement on the proposed combination
        "will cover issues such as shareholding
        structure, strategy, integration, management,
        governance, valuation, due diligence, and such
        other steps or actions that may be necessary in
        realising the objectives of the parties."

        It said that both banks believe that the
        combination would enhance shareholders' value by
        eliminating duplication and reducing operating
        costs through shared services. It continued: "It
        is also anticipated that a combination of both
        institutions will have the resources to
        considerably grow revenues by expanding into new
        countries and market segments."

        The bank chiefs explained that the discussions
        would also take into consideration the Memorandum
        of Understanding (MoU) of Ecobank's Nigerian
        subsidiary with two other local banks, namely
        Chartered Bank and Regent Bank, subject to the
        approval of all parties.

        When the deal is completed, the emerging group
        will have total assets of over $5.5 billion and
        over 470 branches and offices in 13 West and
        Central African countries. There will be a
        subsidiary in the United Kingdom (UK) and a
        representative in South Africa.

        Already, Ecobank has over 110 branches in 13
        countries in West and Central Africa and Nigeria.

        First Bank, on the other hand, has over 360
        branches spread across Nigeria, a subsidiary in
        the UK and a representative office in South
        Africa, as well as 10 local subsidiaries and
        associate companies.

        Reacting to the development, Chief Philip Asiodu,
        chairman of the Ecobank Group, noted that "this
        combination marks the second phase of the
        evolution of Ecobank into a leading pan-African
        bank. In the first phase, Ecobank ushered in the
        era of indigenous regional banking in Africa and
        has grown over the past few years into a U.S.$2
        billion banking group, with shareholders from
        over 15 countries in Africa and beyond. Our
        shareholders include Francophone, Anglophone and
        Lusophone nationals and institutions."

        To his First Bank counterpart, Alhaji Umaru
        Mutallab, "the combination with Ecobank gives
        added meaning to the concept of globalisation and
        Nigeria's increasing integration into the global
        economy. By providing a platform that leverages
        First Bank's strong domestic competencies and
        Ecobank's unique and impressive transnational
        coverage, we are creating a sub-regional
        presence, with the financial wherewithal, the
        technological endowment, and the transaction
        know-how to intermediate the financing needs that
        will drive our continent's economic development."

        ------------------

        Minister restates ban on importation of barytes,
        bentonite

        EVEN if future discoveries are not made, the
        Federal Government says that Nigeria has
        sufficient quantities of barytes to meet its
        local needs.

        Consequently, the government has declared that
        the ban on the importation of barytes and
        bentonite will remain in force. Further steps, it
        says, will be taken to increase local production
        and utilisation of the two solid minerals.

        The two minerals are extensively used by oil
        companies in exploration activities and
        maintenance of their wells.

        The Minister of Solid Minerals, Mrs. Obiageli
        Ezekwesili, who restated the government's
        position on the ban of the two commodities in
        Abuja yesterday, said that all provisional
        concessions for barytes and bentonite importation
        would be reviewed.

        She spoke at a roundtable discussion on
        production and utilisation of barytes and
        bentonite. According to her, the ban on the two
        commodities would be maintained with a view to
        boosting domestic production.

        The meeting sought to consider why, despite
        proven reserves of the commodities they have
        remained unutilised in oil drilling activities in
        the country.

        Ezewesili said: "This administration is convinced
        that high-grade barytes and bentonite are not
        only available in commercial quantities in
        Nigeria but are also being mined by such private
        operators like the Nigerian Barytes Mining and
        Processing Company Limited (NBMPC), a subsidiary
        of the Nigerian Mining Corporation (NMC), Jos in
        Plateau State."

        Citing efforts made since 1999 by the Federal
        Government to increase local production of the
        two items, Ezekwesili observed that such efforts
        had resulted in the discovery of barytes reserves
        in Edo, Nassarawa, Zamfara, Cross River, Taraba,
        and Benue states.

        The minister put the yearly market demand of
        barytes at 130,000 tonnes, and assured that
        domestic

        production can conveniently service all local
        needs for more than five years, even without
        additional discoveries.

        She, therefore, called upon all stakeholders,
        especially drilling companies, to support
        government's efforts to diversify the Nigerian
        economy and break away from its present
        mono-economy status.

        Ezekwesili said the intensity of exploration
        activities and the exploitation of high-grade
        barytes had been largely unsuccessful due to:

        * pricing of Nigerian barytes by mud-drilling
        companies operating at below prevailing
        international market rates;

        * deliberate rejection of barytes at Port
        Harcourt and Warri (Delta State) to frustrate the
        vendors;

        * under-valuation of the specific gravity of
        Nigerian barytes; and

        * under-weighing at the supply depots of the
        mud drilling companies.
        ------------------




        Atiku's family releases list of items with FBI

        A COMPREHENSIVE list of the items taken from the
        United States home of Vice President Atiku
        Abubakar by some officials of the American
        Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) has
        emerged.

        The Vice President's family, in a statement
        yesterday, said that it released the list to put
        the records straight. Some media houses (The
        Guardian not included) had reported that huge
        sums were taken by the FBI operatives from the
        home during a search on August 3.

        The family said that the statement followed "many
        enquiries on the items removed from the house"
        during the raid.

        The statement added: "In order to reassure the
        public, the family has decided to make public the
        information contained on the document containing
        the report of the search which was jointly signed
        by the FBI officials and a representative of the
        family. But at the time of the raid, the family
        had already returned to Nigeria."

        The FBI document is entitled: Receipt for
        property Received/ Returned / Released / Seized.
        According to the Vice President's family, the FBI
        document was signed by the investigators' team
        leader, special agent Mark Stanley of the
        Northern Virginia Resident Agency but operating
        out of the Washington Field Office. The other
        signatories are Patrick Fallon and Michael James
        Lasut of the Washington Field Office, who were
        accompanied by police officer J.P. Cissel of the
        Montgomery county, Maryland Department of police.

        The statement listed the seized documents as
        including "one envelope with house sketch, an
        employee schedule information and employee
        contact information, a green "Standard diary" and
        a 2005 Appointment Book."

        The list also includes a "possible list of camera
        locations, software and operation manual for DVR,
        a kalatel digital recorder, a multiplexer and a
        Manila envelope with William Jefferson's return
        address".

        The family said that "the special agents
        concluded that the FBI of the U.S. Department of
        Justice, at the time of conducting a search,
        'certify that the above represents all that was
        obtained by special agents of the Federal Bureau
        of Investigation, U.S. Department of Justice' ".

        The Vice President's family lawyers, who made the
        information available, according to the
        statement, "deplored the attempt by some
        newspapers to sensationalise the issue through
        the fabrication of falsehood."

        The FBI search was a part of investigations into
        the conduct of Jefferson, an American
        Congressman, who is being probed over some
        suspected under-the-table deals with some African
        leaders. Jefferson visited Vice President
        Abubakar's U.S. home two days before the search.
        The Congressman has been linked to an American
        firm's offer to do business with the Nigerian
        Telecommunications Limited (NITEL).

        Also being investigated by the FBI in connection
        with a similar alleged deal is Ghana's Vice
        President, Alhaji Aliu Mahama.
        ----------------

        Customs stops import concessions, targets N230b
        revenue

        ALL concessions on importation of raw materials
        have been cancelled, the Nigerian Customs Service
        (NCS) disclosed yesterday. Henceforth, only
        President Olusegun Obasanjo can approve the
        granting of duty exemptions or wavers.

        The Comptroller-General of the Customs Services,
        Jacob Gyang also disclosed in Abuja yesterday
        that government lost about N27 billion through
        such concessions last year. He added that with
        the cancellation, the NCS would likely meet the
        N230 billion revenue target set for it this year
        by the government.

        "These adjustments will open more windows of
        opportunity for better collection and there is
        every likelihood that the revenue target for this
        year will be met," he stressed.

        Gyang disclosed that the NCS has already
        collected N111.8 billion as revenue in the first
        six months of this year.

        He said the revenue target for last year was N120
        billion, while N118 billion was collected. On the
        problem of smuggling, he said the activities of
        the agency were yielding positive results as the
        incidence of smuggling had fallen "drastically."

        With regards to textiles, he said the NCS had
        seized about 167 containers of contraband
        imported into the country and that between 80 and
        90 per cent of these containers were loaded with
        textiles.

        He frowned at the suggestion that such seized
        materials should be sold through public auction
        or be distributed to the needy, instead of being
        burnt.

        Justifying the policy of government to destroy
        the goods, the Comptroller-General stated that
        such imports were avenues of laundering drug
        trade proceeds.

        He therefore wondered why proceeds from such
        illegal business should be legitimised by
        distributing them to Nigerians.

        "We are not burning our money because the foreign
        exchange used to import them was not sourced
        legally and so the government is not losing any
        revenue in this respect.

        "Secondly, we have a character problem in
        Nigeria. If we say we should distribute the
        materials to the needy, what is the guarantee
        that it will get to the people targeted.

        "Before you know it, people assigned to execute
        such tasks will corner them and become textile
        merchants themselves.

        "Until we can sort out this character problem we
        can not run like other societies," he said. The
        only imports being disposed by public auction, he
        said, were refrigerators, deep freezers and
        vehicles among others, because burning would
        compound the existing environmental problems.

        --------------

        New Owu's monarch, Dosumu, for coronation on
        October 3
        From Charles Coffie Gyamfi, Abeokuta

        THE stage is now set for the coronation and
        installation of Oba Olusanya Adeboyega Dosumu,
        Amororo II as the Olowu of Owu. The event is
        slated for Monday, October 3, 2005 in Owu,
        Abeokuta, Ogun State.

        Dosumu, whose selection as the Owu monarch was
        trailed with controversy, will on that day ascend
        the throne as the traditional ruler of President
        Olusegun Obasanjo's hometown.

        He was picked from six contestants, all from the
        Amororo Ruling House, to succeed Oba Adisa
        Odeleye, an architect who died about two years
        ago.

        In a statement yesterday in Abeokuta, the
        chairman of the Coronation Publicity Committee,
        Mrs. Seyi Aderinokun Olusanya explained that the
        week-long activities to mark the occasion would
        be unfolded soon.

        She said that President Olusegun Obasanjo, who is
        also the Balogun of Owu would be chief host of
        the event, which is expected to draw several
        eminent Nigerians.

        At his Ipebi solitary confinement yesterday, the
        Olowu-elect told journalists that contrary to
        media reports, President Obasanjo did not
        influence his selection as the new monarch.

        He explained that he was favoured for the throne
        because among all the contestants, he was the
        only "direct" descendant of a past Owu monarch.

        According to him, the Owu Chieftaincy Declaration
        states that it is only when there is no direct
        descendant of a past Oba that those from the
        maternal side of a former monarch can be
        considered.

        He insisted that all his rivals were from the
        maternal sides of past Owu rulers.

        Dosumu, who said that the media had not been fair
        to him in their reports on the tussle for the Owu
        throne, explained that he kept quiet until now
        because of his belief that God would chose the
        right person.

        "I used to pray one prayer during the crisis. My
        prayer was: God, please yourself, if you don't
        want me there (throne), I must not be there," he
        said.

        On his plans for his people, Dosumu said he would
        promote peace, love and unity in the community.
        --------------

        Edo summons security meeting over robberies
        From Mike Osunde, Benin

        AGAINST the backdrop of the rising crime wave in
        Edo State, the state government has summoned a
        security meeting to hold today in Benin-City.

        The meeting is coming in the wake of calls by
        banks for the return of the recently recalled
        joint military-police operations set up last year
        when robbers terrorised the state.

        The joint operation was disbanded recently to
        allow Police take up its responsibilities,
        following the mass transfer of officers from the
        state.

        Government House sources said yesterday that all
        divisional police officers in the state, bank
        managers and other stakeholders have been invited
        to the parley slated for Government House.

        At a meeting the bankers held with the state
        Police Commissioner, Muktar Abbass, they called
        for the return of the joint military-police
        patrols. They argued that their presence helped
        to stem the tide of robberies since December last
        year.

        The Police have had to foil two bank robberies in
        the last three weeks.

        Addressing journalists after meeting with the
        bank managers, Abbass said the Police were on the
        trail of the robbers and were making conscious
        efforts to frustrate what he called their
        "enterprise" by beefing up security in bank
        premises.

        At the briefing, Abbass said a number of arrests
        including university students involved in robbery
        operations have been made.

        Meanwhile, a seminar on security and its
        challenges to the Nigerian society will preced
        the episcopal meeting of the Catholic Bishops
        Conference which opens in Benin, next week.

        The seminar, organised by the Catholic
        Secretariat of Nigeria, is apparently in response
        to the growing security problems which the host
        Bishop, Dr. Patrick Ebosele Ekpu, said has become
        pervasive nationwide.

        Ekpu, the Archbishop of Benin Diocese, told The
        Guardian that security was one of the cardinal
        responsibilities of the government to the
        citizenry.

        According to Ekpu, if a government fails to
        secure its citizens, it is failing in one of its
        major responsibilities for being a government.
        --------------------

        Nigeria to become major LNG exporter, says
        Obasanjo

        PRESIDENT Olusegun Obasanjo has assured that
        Nigeria would become a major exporter of
        Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) in the next three to
        four years.

        Speaking at a lecture titled: "Nigeria and the
        African Union" on Monday in Mexico City, Obasanjo
        said that everything was being done to make the
        country able to take the lead in the global LNG
        market.

        He said that part of his discussions with the
        Mexican president, Mr. Vincente Fox included the
        need for Mexico to purchase LNG directly from
        Nigeria instead of securing it from a third
        party.

        He said that both countries had agreed to work
        closely for the enhancement of their economic
        progress, adding that trade missions from both
        countries would exchange visits before the end of
        the year.

        Obasanjo said that both countries had agreed to
        set up a joint commission that would work
        actively for their mutual benefits and called for
        greater collaboration between developing nations.

        He added that what Africa needed from the
        developed world was access to their market,
        stressing that the next WTO meeting in Doha and
        Hong Kong should "truly work for the growth of
        both developing and developed economies."

        Meanwhile, President Obasanjo has said that he
        had found that women in his administration are
        more loyal than men. Speaking at an interactive
        session with members of Mexico's National
        Assembly, Obasanjo said that at least 30 per cent
        of his ministers were women.

        He told the lawmakers who spoke of efforts by
        their parliament to address discrimination
        against women that though Nigeria was also facing
        similar problems, there were no disparities in
        salaries of men and women.

        Obasanjo said however, that the country was
        battling a serious problem of male chauvinism
        "and that is my quarrel with them (men)."

        "They believe that men should be on top," he
        said, pointing out that one of the most effective
        ways of addressing discrimination against women
        was to give the girl child equal opportunities in
        education.

        He said that his party, the PDP, also practised
        an affirmative action in favour of women,
        allowing at least 15 per cent of political
        offices for women.

        ------------

        Ngige, Obi feud splits Igbo confab in U.S.
        From Gordi Udeaja,
        Los Angeles, USA

        BUT for the prompt intervention of the
        President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Joe
        Irukwu on Saturday, September 3, 2005, the
        special awards session of the World Igbo
        Convention (WIC) in Los Angeles, United States,
        would have been disrupted.

        Reason: Members reacted differently to the
        recognition of Mr. Peter Obi, recently declared
        winner of the Anambra State 2003 governorship
        election.

        The chairman of the California Chapter of the
        WIC, Dr. Kalu Kalu Diogu, had invited Obi to the
        high table as the governor-elect of the state.

        This was after Chief Ozo Ughamadu, the Deputy
        Speaker of the State House of Assembly, who said
        he was representing Ngige and the state
        government at the convention had been called and
        assigned a seat at the high table.

        While some held that Obi's recognition was in
        order, going by the rule of law, some disagreed
        on the premise that Ngige was still the state
        governor.

        And pacifying the dissenting factions, Irukwu
        explained that it had been the policy of Ohanaeze
        Ndigbo and by extension all Igbo groups to abide
        by the rule of law. In this regard, he said that
        Obi was only recognised based on the election
        petitions tribunal verdict which declared hin the
        state governor-elect, but that while the appeal
        was pending, Ngige remained the substantive state
        governor and ought to be so recognised.

        It was learnt that both Ngige and Obi were
        formally invited to attend the convention and
        that Obi was not invited as the state governor.

        Addressing the meeting, Governor Orji Uzor Kalu
        of Abia State lamented that 35 years after the
        civil war, the Igbo in Nigeria were still being
        treated as second class citizens in a nation
        their sons risked their lives to create.

        "Ndigbo today are an endangered species in
        Nigeria, we are neglected in distribution of
        wealth. Ndigbo are treated with scorn," he said.

        He said there were enormous oil reserves in
        Anambra and Abia states and nobody was doing
        anything to explore them.

        "Everything Igbo is being destroyed or sabotaged
        across the country. Businesses which I founded
        long before I became governor have been closed
        down by the Federal Government. My sin is that I
        spoke the truth and refused to be used against
        our people," he said.

        Kalu said that the neglect and poverty that were
        visible in Igboland did not seem to worry some
        Igbo sons and daughters in positions of authority
        at the federal level. His address was entitled
        "Posterity will judge us."

        He said: "I have opted for the path of honour to
        stand by our people no matter the odds. I will
        continue to fight for social justice and equality
        in Nigeria, my crusade for a better deal for our
        people is borne out of a deep and sincere belief.
        Some people say Ndigbo are not capable of leading
        the country and allude to the constant changes in
        the leadership of the Senate as a defence. I
        therefore, urge the WIC and this gathering to
        tell ourselves the truth and redefine our
        destiny, as we cannot continue to live in this
        way."

        Stressing that this was the only way the Igbo
        could liberate themselves, he urged the gathering
        to support him as Chief Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu,
        Chief Christian Onoh and many other Igbo leaders
        had openly done and identify with his
        presidential aspirations for the 2007 polls.

        Champion Newspapers publisher, Chief Emmanuel
        Iwuanyanwu, however, recommended that the
        Presidency should rotate among the six Nigerian
        geo-political zones, alternating between the
        North and the South.
        ----------------

        Ohanaeze cancels Igbo day in Delta
        From Chido Okafor, Warri

        FOLLOWING the protracted leadership tussle
        between two factions of Ohanaeze Ndigbo in Delta
        State, the socio-political organisation has
        cancelled its arrangements for the celebration of
        Igbo Day in the state.

        An Igbo leader, Chief Augustin Asimole, said
        yesterday in Warri that the yearly ceremony would
        not hold because there was no leadership to
        organise it. "It is clear that he who's house is
        on fire does not chase rats," he stated.

        Ohanaeze Nigbo in Delta had been without an
        accepted leadership since last year.

        The problem began when the Olu of Warri, at the
        Warri Township during the last Igbo Day,
        installed Sir Peter Chukwu who was then President
        of Ohanaeze Ndigbo in the Delta Central and South
        Senotarial districts, as the Eze-Igbo of Warri.

        But his installation was severely challenged by
        another faction of Ohanaeze Ndigbo in the area
        led by Chief C.C. Anichebe. He was supported by
        some affluent Igbo businessmen in Warri, who
        accused Chukwu of being too ambitious following
        his crowning as Eze-Igbo in Warri.

        The Anichebe faction soon obtained a court
        injunction restraining Chukwu from parading
        himself as Eze-Igbo of Warri. The faction later
        pronounced Anichebe as the new President of
        Ohanaeze in the districts, resulting in the
        closure of the Ohanaeze secretariat in Warri.

        While in search of legitimacy, the faction
        invited the national secretary of Ohanaeze
        Ndigbo, Chief Joe Achuzie to Warri. Achuzie and
        Anichebe supporters visited all the kings in the
        area.

        Asimole said the installation of Chukwu as Eze-
        Igbo of Warri was a collective decision of the
        coalition for his contribution to the
        popularisation of the pan-Igbo group in Delta
        State.
        ----------------

        Bayelsa govt alleges plot to humiliate
        Alamieyeseigha
        From Kelvin Ebiri (Port Harcourt) and Willie Etim
        (Yenagoa)

        BAYELSA State government officials raised an
        alarm yesterday that a plot to bring down
        Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha may be afoot
        following the questioning of three of his aides
        on Monday by the Economic and Financial Crimes
        Commission (EFCC).

        The three (names withheld) who were detained in
        Port Harcourt on Monday, but have since been
        released, were accused of money laundering in the
        United States, as reported by the Federal Bureau
        of Investigations (FBI).

        A government official, who spoke to The Guardian
        on the condition of anonymity, expressed concern
        that the EFCC investigation might have been
        politically motivated. He explained that the
        government would wait for the outcome of the
        investigation.

        The Acting Chief Press Secretary to the State
        Governor, Preye Wariowe, confirmed the arrest of
        the men and that they were interrogated for
        alleged diversion of public funds through
        purchases and award of contracts. On purchases,
        the EFCC, according to him, was said to be
        interested in a new boat - Sunseeker - bought by
        the government, which is the official boat of the
        governor and contract for the governor and his
        deputy's lodges.

        On the state government's reaction, Wariowe noted
        that the EFCC has visited several states across
        the federation since its inception to interrogate
        government officials over allegations of
        corruption.

        In all these places, EFCC personnel spoke with
        the people there or invited them to the
        commission's offices in Abuja. There were no
        middle stops.

        "We are at a loss why the questioning of our
        state officials did not take place in Yenagoa but
        in Port Harcourt. We hope there are no political
        undertones to this strange investigation; it
        would appear to us that the target of this EFCC
        onslaught is His Excellency, Chief DSP
        Alamieyeseigha. But then, hard evidence would be
        needed to move against him, so it becomes easy to
        go after his aides," he said

        Wariowe explained that of late, several
        high-ranking government officials, including
        President Olusegun Obasanjo, the Chief Justice of
        the Federation, Justice Mohammed Uwais and other
        government officials have come under EFCC
        searchlight.

        According to him, it is rather amazing that the
        EFCC should be bothered by the purchase of a boat
        for official use by the governor even when other
        governors have acquired more expensive machines
        for transportation.

        As to the contracts for the building of the
        Governor's Lodge and the Deputy Governor's Lodge,
        the press aide said these were projects that
        began in 1999 and wondered at the reason behind
        the investigation. He further asserted that the
        motive for the continued detention of the three
        government officials was to paralyse the state.

        "We wish to state that the reason behind the
        setting up of the EFCC is noble. The Government
        of Bayelsa State supports it. All Nigerians must
        support the EFCC to carry out their duties
        diligently and effectively. However, where the
        EFCC is turning out to be a vehicle for the
        persecution and demonisation of citizens, then
        our democracy is in danger" he added.
        ----------------

        Why we want fresh polls in Anambra, by INEC

        IF the Independent National Electoral Commission
        (INEC) had its way, it would hold a fresh
        governorship election in Anambra State.

        According to the INEC chairman, Prof. Maurice
        Iwu, the commission is challenging the election
        tribunal's decision and is asking for a fresh
        election.

        Iwu told House of Representatives Commission on
        Electoral Matters yesterday in Abuja that since
        the court ruled that INEC never conducted
        elections in 90 out of 213 wards in the state,
        "it makes sense to conduct a fresh elections".

        He argued that the commission being the only body
        responsible for conducting elections in the
        country was convinced that elections were
        conducted in the state.

        "I think the onus now is on the court to now say,
        based on the available facts before it, that we
        conducted or we didn't conduct elections in those
        wards," he said.

        He added: "Now that the court ruled that INEC did
        not conduct electione in 90 wards, I think they
        should cancel the elections."
        ------------------

        Rights group raises alarm on extra-judicial
        killings
        By Kayode Falade

        NO fewer than 2,987 people fell victim of
        extra-judicial killings in the country in 2004.

        This was the finding of a human rights group, the
        Legal Defences and Assistance Project (LEDAP).

        The group's national co-ordinator, Mr. Chino
        Obiagwu, made the revelation yesterday in Lagos
        at the presentation of a report, "Impunity in
        Nigeria: Reports of Extra Judicial, Arbitrary and
        Summary Executions in Nigeria 2004."

        Alarmed by the development, the group has warned
        that if unchecked, it portends a grave threat to
        the growth of the nation's democracy.

        It also pointed out that if allowed to continue
        unabated, it could undermine the economic
        development of the country.

        Obiagwu told reporters that what proved most
        worrisome in this development is the impunity in
        which law enforcement agents and other agents of
        the state carry on with this act.

        He also lamented that as most of these killings
        were unreported, the figure must have been more.

        The organisation was further piqued that "out of
        the total death arising from extra judicial and
        summary killings, none has been resolved or
        perpetrators prosecuted to finality."

        According to LEDAP, this shows a 100 per cent
        rate of impunity.

        "In the corresponding period in 2003, LEDAP
        recorded 117 cases resulting in 756 deaths out of
        which only 16 were resolved. It shows that the
        increase in the number of cases resolved shows
        that the accountability capacity of the Nigerian
        state, with respect to the right to life and
        human security, is increasingly declining at an
        alarming rate," the national co-ordinator
        explained.

        Obiagwu also observed that "impunity is a
        situation where violation of human rights and
        other crimes go unpunished."

        To curb this problem, the group called for the
        complete overhauling of the nation's police
        force.

        It stated that it was this step coupled with the
        provision of adequate communication and other
        facilities that could effectively fight crimes
        and control violence in the country.

        "The leadership of the Nigerian Police Force
        should also take concrete steps to prosecute to
        finality policeman that engage in extra judicial
        executions in order to send the proper message
        that the authorities are not condoning the
        killings," Obiagwu said in his address.

        The LEDAP also raised alarm on the unchecked
        influx of small arms into the country and the
        circulation in high number of such.

        The 109-page project report documented not only
        the extra judicial killings in 2004, but the
        summary executions too.

        It also held that an average of five people were
        killed extra judicially in the country in the
        year under probe.

        While fielding questions from reporters, Obiagwu
        pointed out that the police have no right to
        parade suspects and display their photographs or
        images in both the print and electronic media.

        He described this as an infringement on the
        fundamental human rights of the paraded persons,
        stressing that a suspect is adjudged innocent
        until convicted by a court of law.

        He further lamented that most of the paraded
        suspects were never brought to trial in a
        properly constituted court of law.

        Obiagwu alleged that these suspects mostly end up
        as victims of extra judicial killings.

        The LEDAP national co-ordinator also decried the
        situation where the police and other law
        enforcement agents do not implement any judgment
        against them.

        He disclosed that about 150 judgments have been
        made against the police in the last 10 years, but
        regretted that none has been implemented.

        He, however, called on the press to help
        sensitise the citizens on their rights, the
        ignorance of which he said, has been aiding the
        impunity of extra judicial killing in the
        country.

        Obiagwu also blamed militia group, vigilance
        group, cults and other groups for summary
        killings. The excesses of these groups,
        especially the militia, he said, should be curbed
        to allow growth of the country's economy and
        democracy.
        -----------------

        Suspected arsonists burn Ado-Ekiti council
        chief's office
        From Ifedayo Sayo, Ado-Ekiti

        AGAIN, crisis erupted in Ekiti State yesterday as
        suspected arsonists broke into the office of the
        Ado-Ekiti Council Chairman, Mr. Taye Fasubaa and
        set it ablaze. The incident occurred in the early
        hours of yesterday. The council boss had in the
        past one and half years been in the eye of the
        storm in the political crisis in the state.

        Fasubaa attributed the incident to the handiwork
        of his political foes who were envious of his
        "soaring popularity in the state."

        He said there was a link between the attempted
        attack on his life a year ago and the latest
        incident, saying he was convinced that the
        arsonist attack was politically motivated.

        Fasubaa said the arsonists arrived at the council
        secretariat complex around 11.00pm on Monday
        night and scaled the fence of the complex to gain
        entrance into the premises.

        They later gained access to the office of the
        chairman through the window after breaking the
        louvres and cutting the burglary proof.

        The arsonists, Fasubaa further explained brought
        along with them petrol and matches with which
        they set the office ablaze and escaped through
        the window.

        Affected by the fire incident were office
        equipment, tables and chairs, the ceiling,
        electronic gadgets and tiles kept in the office.

        However, he said vital documents kept in office
        were not affected by the fire, saying the
        arsonists were only in the office to send warning
        signal to him.

        Fasubaa said he had reported the incident to the
        police who were yet to effect any arrest,
        pointing out that he learnt of the arsonists'
        attack through the security men attached to the
        secretariat complex.

        He stressed that initially, he thought the whole
        secretariat was on fire only to get to the office
        and saw that his was the only one affected.

        Fasubaa, who claimed to have contacted the fire
        brigade service on the attack, said he was sure
        that the perpetrators could be linked to those
        who wanted to assassinate him about a year ago.

        While conducting reporters round the scene, he
        said: "You can see it is a sabotage. They broke
        the louvres and bend the burglary proof to gain
        entrance before they set the office ablaze. I
        know that they are envious of my achievements in
        office.

        But they will always fail as they did before."
        ------------------

        Nurses oppose fuel price increase
        From Okumephuna Chukwunwike, Abuja

        MORE criticisms have continued to trail the
        recent fuel price increase in the country as the
        National Association of Nigeria Nurses and
        Midwives has opposed the action.

        The Association in a statement signed by its
        Acting General Secretary, Sam Bolawole and made
        available to The Guardian yesterday said that the
        increase was unexpected and quite agonising in
        view of the prevailing economic reality in the
        country.

        "The increase will further compound the already
        chaotic and unbearable living conditions of the
        good people of Nigeria. In view of the above, the
        association is calling on the Federal Government
        to revert to the old rates," they added.

        Describing itself as a humanitarian profession
        that covers everywhere in the country in terms of
        health care delivery service, the association
        also urged the Federal Government to avert the
        impending unpleasant health hazard and economic
        problems the citizens will face if the price was
        not reviewed.

        It, however, warned that they might be forced to
        join other industrial unions in the planned
        nation wide strike.

        "We will be compelled to take this unpleasant
        action if our pleading to revert to the old price
        is not considered favourably. Similarly, the
        association is calling on the traditional rulers,
        religious groups, students, non-governmental
        organisations and well meaning Nigerians to
        prevail on the President to reverse to the former
        price", the statement added.
        ----------------

        Soludo presents 2005 human debt report

        CENTRAL Bank governor, Prof. Charles Soludo will
        tomorrow present the global Human Development
        Report 2005 to some diplomats, development
        partners, civil society representatives and
        senior government officials at the UN House in
        Abuja.

        A statement yesterday by the UN Communications
        Specialist, Mr. Waziri Adio, said the report,
        entitled: "International cooperation at a
        crossroads: Aid, trade and security in an unequal
        world," will be launched in Nigeria a day after
        its global launch in New York, where Finance
        Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is featuring as
        the lead discussant.

        Published yearly since 1990 by the United Nations
        Development Programme (UNDP), the Human
        Development Report has become an authoritative
        and invaluable resource to researchers, advocates
        and policy makers across the globe.

        It provides cutting-edge analyses and insights on
        issues that affect human development and features
        the Human Development Index.
        -------------


        Kidnappers demand N1.5m ransom
        By Alex Olise and Odita Sunday

        KIDNAPPERS struck again in Lagos yesterday. They
        are now demanding a N1.5 million ransom on their
        captor, 15-year-old Jennifer Okhudigbe. This
        happened barely 24 hours after officers of the
        Lagos State Police Command rescued two children
        from the hands of a female kidnapper.

        The incident according to the Deputy Commissioner
        of Police (DCP), State Criminal Investigation
        Department (SCID) Panti, Mr. Olayinka Balogun,
        was reported by the parents of the 15-year-old
        girl.

        Security report available to the police, he
        disclosed showed that the kidnappers are now in a
        hideout at the Kuramo Beach, Victoria Island,
        Lagos.

        The hoodlums had in addition to their demand for
        the sum, instructed the victim's father to come
        over to their hideout with a sophisticated hand
        set with one of the Global System for
        communication (GSM) Lines.

        Crack detectives of the State Criminal
        Investigation Department were seen yesterday
        marshalling out plan on how to rescue the victim
        and apprehend the suspects.

        The Okhudigbes reside in one of the buildings
        located at Ademola Sanya Street, off Aileyun
        Road, Ejigbo.

        The victim's father, Mr. Ofemu Jonathan Okhudigbe
        looked worried yesterday when he visited the
        police to ascertain the fate of his daughter.

        The Guardian had raised an alarm on Monday that
        between six and seven persons are reported
        missing under mysterious circumstances on a
        weekly basis within the metropolis."

        Two weeks ago, a boy was kidnapped by two men at
        Isolo area of Lagos demanding a ransom of N2
        million.

        This was after the boy's father had parted with a
        Toyota Camry car and N150,000.

        The kidnappers were subsequently apprehended
        after being lured into a plot hatched by the
        police in collaboration with the victim's father.

        The kidnappers had been invited to come for the
        ransom at the father's resident. On their
        arrival, a team of detectives swooped on them and
        got them arrested. The kid was also rescued
        unhurt.

        The suspects were later discovered to be the
        victim's uncles.

        On interrogation, they confessed to the crime
        claiming they needed the money to embark on a
        business trip abroad.

        At the Oshodi area of the metropolis on Monday, a
        team of policemen on routine patrol had accosted
        a woman driving a Toyota Carina II salon car with
        two kids, aged two and six months sweating and
        crying profusely. This attracted the officers'
        attention and they later arrested the woman. She
        is now undergoing interrogation.
        -------------------

        Monarch urges peace in Ekiti, pledges support for
        govt
        From Ifedayo Sayo, Ado Ekiti

        FOLLOWING the clash on Monday between the police
        and some of his subjects, the Ogoga of Ikere, Oba
        Adegboye Akayejo, has urged the indigenes of the
        town to shun any act of violence in the interest
        of the community.

        The appeal came on the heels of the protest by
        the people over ongoing plans to impeach the
        Deputy Governor, Mr. Abiodun Aluko, by the State
        House of Assembly.

        The Ogoga was with a member of the ruling Peoples
        Democratic Party (PDP) Board of Trustees, Chief
        Dayo Okondo and other notable indigenes of the
        town who spoke during the visit of the Acting
        Governor, Mr. Taiwo Olatunbosun, to Ikere.

        They all harped on the need for the people of the
        town to be law-abiding, assuring that the present
        political situation in the state would soon be
        over.

        Oba Akayejo restated his support for the State
        Governor, Mr. Ayo Fayose. He noted that several
        benefits had accrued to the town from the Fayose
        administration, particularly the newly
        constructed Ikere-Ise-Emure Road,
        Ikere-Igbara-Odo Road, the oil depot still under
        construction, a poultry project as well as the
        appointment of Ikere indigenes into top positions
        in government.

        Okondo dismissed insinuations that the state was
        on fire, noting that people were already going
        about their normal businesses.

        The Deputy Speaker of the State House of Assembly
        and Acting Governor, Olatunbosun, appreciated the
        support of the Ikere people to the Fayose
        administration, stressing that "Ikere will always
        occupy a pride of place in the heart of the state
        government."

        He denied speculations of attempts by the
        government to deprive Ikere people of their
        rights and called on the indigenes of the town to
        continue to support the state government. He
        pledged that the post of deputy governor would
        remain in Ikere.

        Olatunbosun said that those spreading rumours
        that the post of deputy governor would be moved
        out of Ikere were only trying to cause
        disaffection with the government, saying they
        were enemies of progress.

        Hundreds of indigenes had staged a protest in the
        town calling on the state assembly to halt the
        move to remove the deputy governor, saying that
        Aluko had been a loyal subordinate to Fayose.
        -----------------

        Obasanjo restates vow to fight corruption

        PRESIDENT Olusegun Obasanjo on Monday restated
        that his administration was now more than ever
        determined to crush all corrupt public officers,
        no matter their positions.

        He spoke in Abuja at the opening of a two-day
        International Conference on Public Audit and
        Accountability Reforms organised by the Office of
        the Auditor-General of the Federation in
        collaboration with the World Bank.

        Represented by the Minister of Special Duties,
        Col. Musa Mohammed, President Obasanjo said: "Our
        avowed zero-tolerance for the scourge of
        corruption derives from our conviction that
        countering corruption and promoting public
        integrity are critical to economic rebirth and
        sustained development. If we must properly ground
        our democracy, if we must engender religious
        commitment to transparency and accountability,
        and make government responsive to the needs of
        our people, then we must make a conscious vow to
        permanently turn our backs on our decadent,
        wasteful, and corruption-driven past."

        According to the President, the audit process has
        a crucial role to play in driving forward the
        administration's economic and political
        regeneration efforts.

        He added: "An independent, efficient, effective
        and innovative Auditor-General's Office is one
        which fosters strong financial management based
        on reliable, sufficient and timely reporting. It
        is your responsibility to ensure full disclosure
        of deviations and effective internal controls
        systems in order to compel respect for the tenets
        of transparency and accountability."

        Also at the ceremony, Senate President Ken
        Nnamani observed that audit has got to be taken
        seriously because the country was sick and tired
        of financial mismanagement by elected executives.

        Represented by Senator Daniel Saror, Nnamani
        said: "There is this hue and cry of poverty in
        the midst of plenty because of mismanagement of
        public funds by those in the executive positions.
        It is almost getting to a point where those
        involved in this act should have their hands
        chopped off because of the dangerous trend."

        He welcomed the concern of the international
        community for the reform programme in the country
        and assured that the National Assembly would do
        all possible to entrench a reign of new laws in
        audit administration.
        -------------------

        Benue seeks truce with Tsav
        From Simeon Nwakaudu, Makurdi

        WORRIED by the continued face-off between it and
        the former Lagos State Police Commissioner,
        Abubakar Tsav, the Benue State government has
        called for a ceasefire. However, Tsav said he
        would continue to point out the defects of the
        Governor George Akume-led administration to
        ensure better governance.

        The state Information Commissioner, Mr. Cletus
        Akwaya, in a constituency briefing at Vandeikya
        Council where Tsav hails from, called on the
        former police chief's kinsmen to prevail on him
        to stop writing petitions against Akume. He noted
        that Tsav's action had deprived the people of
        development.

        Akwaya regretted that despite several entreaties,
        Tsav had turned his back on reconciliatory moves.
        He pointed out that the former police boss
        preferred to write destructive petitions against
        government officials with no proof of such
        allegations.

        The commissioner insisted that Akume has
        performed creditably, stressing that what the
        governor needs new is valuable support and not
        unnecessary criticisms.

        He therefore, urged Tsav to retrace his steps and
        end his criticism of Akume in the interest of
        Vandeikya people.

        However, in response to the state government's
        overtures for peace, Tsav said that he would
        cease petitioning officials of the state
        government when they put an end to alleged
        massive looting of the state's treasury.

        Tsav said: "To convince me against petition
        writing, let my younger brother Akwaya, tell his
        boss to complete all the projects he started
        since 1999 including those abandoned by Dr.
        Iyorchia Ayu. Then I can be part of commissioning
        and therefore stop criticising Akume."

        He added that he could not be bought over by the
        state government, saying: "Honesty can influence
        my conscience. I have nothing against Akume. If
        my son is made governor today and he fails to
        perform, I will criticise him."

        Tsav insisted that his criticism of poor
        performance should not be an excuse for the
        governor to deny Vandeikya of developmental
        projects.

        According to him, even the governor's immediate
        constituency has not benefited from any
        government project.

        Tsav has been an avowed critic of the Akume
        administration over alleged non-performance.
        --------------

        Ali attributes strife in PDP to struggle for
        power
        From John-Abba Ogbodo, Abuja

        THE National Chairman of the ruling Peoples
        Democratic Party (PDP), Ahmadu Ali, yesterday
        identified a fierce struggle for power among
        members as the cause of the crisis rocking the
        party.

        Ali stated this during a solidarity visit to him
        by a coalition of youth associations in the
        country under the aegis "Democratic Crusaders"
        even as members of the National Working Committee
        (NWC) did not attend the meeting.

        Ali, who reflected on the crisis rocking the
        party, particularly the feud between President
        Olusegun Obasanjo and Vice President Atiku
        Abubakar, lamented that struggle for power among
        PDP chieftains is the party's problem.

        "We have our internal problems and that involve
        the way of politics because people are jostling
        for positions and none of these people wants to
        leave it. They are all willing to remain there.
        Those who had left are coming in their
        thousands," Ali said.

        The national chairman, however, said that despite
        the internal wrangling, the PDP is waxing
        stronger and remains the party to beat in the
        country. "The party is strong. The party is well,
        the party is hale and hearty. The party de
        kampe," he assured.

        Ali advised the youths to be cautious about
        becoming politicians. He said: "I advise you to
        play politics as a hobby. Don't go there to earn
        a living. It is dangerous to start life with
        politics. Have a permanent job, politics should
        not be your main job. It should be an addition.
        It is like wine. When you drink it, it gets into
        your head."

        The national chairman also warned the youths
        against thuggery and advised them not to sell
        their votes during elections.

        The National President of the group, Amidu Anaja,
        said the solidarity visit was informed by the
        recent attempt by some people to demonise Ali on
        account of board appointments, arguing that there
        was no clause in the party's constitution that
        forbids the chairman from having his own nominees
        on the board.

        Anaja urged the chairman not to be distracted by
        "the campaign of calumny, stressing that most of
        the people complaining have no electoral values.

        "We, the entire youths crusading for the good and
        sustenance of democracy in Nigeria urge you to
        remain focused on the good work you started with
        PDP and disregard the machinations of detractors,
        arm chair critics and the Pharisees whose main
        stock in trade is pull him down and searching for
        the specks in the eyes of others."

        The group's leader continued: "In any case, what
        is the big deal having two family members out of
        22 members you are entitled to put on boards in
        your official capacity as the national chairman.
        Since there is no clause in the party's
        constitution restraining you from doing so. Are
        they not bonafide Nigerians working hard for the
        success of the party?"

        But most of the party's NWC, including the
        National Secretary, Chief Ojo Maduekwe and the
        Deputy National Chairman, South, Chief Bode
        George, were absent at the occasion although they
        were in their offices at the national secretariat
        where the event took place. Both Maduekwe and
        George came into the premises almost the same
        time and did not bother to even look at the
        conference hall where the visit took place.
        -------------------

        Breaking the resource control logjam
        By Fred Okpohworho

        THE National Political Reform Conference ended
        recently without an agreement on the percentage
        that should be allocated to the states on the
        basis of derivation. The oil producing states
        ("OPS") of the Niger Delta demanded that the
        percentage be raised from the present 13 per cent
        to at least 25 per cent while most of the non-oil
        producing states ("NOPS") as epitomised by the
        northern states resisted any increase in the
        percentage allocation but grudgingly accepted an
        increase to 17 per cent. The inability of the
        Conference to reach a consensus on this issue led
        the South-South delegates to boycott the last
        sessions of the conference.

        This has led many commentators to conclude that
        the Conference was a failure. It is heartening
        however, that the President has kept the issues
        raised and discussed at the Conference alive.
        While presenting the report of the Conference to
        the National Assembly, the President signalled
        that the issues raised were still subject to
        debate and discussion. It appears, from comments
        emanating from many members of the National
        Assembly, that the legislators intend to subject
        the recommendations of the Conference to intense
        scrutiny and debate before adopting, modifying,
        or rejecting any of them. This is an attempt to
        contribute to that debate and discourse.

        This commentary is not intended to be a wholesale
        appraisal of the success or otherwise of the
        Conference but is intended to suggest ways out of
        what has come to be known as the resource control
        logjam. It may be well to mention however, that
        the fact that the Conference provided a forum to
        put such fundamental national issues like
        resource control on the front burner of national
        discourse is, in itself, a great achievement and
        underscores the wisdom of Mr. President in
        setting up the conference in the first instance.

        I identify with the position of Olorogun Senator
        Felix Ibru as expressed in The Guardian of August
        15, 2005, that the issue should be addressed
        through dialogue and in the spirit of
        brotherliness. Hence, while the OPS are justified
        in their demand for a 100 per cent control of
        their resources, they must also try to understand
        and appreciate the fears of the NOPS. It is my
        opinion that the NOPS understand the position of
        the OPS and see justification for the anger but
        worry about the possible impact an increase in
        the derivation percentage will have on their
        states. In the understanding of the NOPS, an
        increase in the allocation to the OPS on the
        basis of derivation will result in a net decrease
        in the overall allocation to their states. In
        effect a win for the OPS is seen as a loss to the
        NOPS. We must therefore look for solutions that
        will address the problems driving the agitation
        for greater resource control by the OPS that will
        not necessarily be seen by the NOPS as a loss to
        them. We must think outside the box to find
        creative solutions that will at least appear to
        all as a win.

        In navigating our way out of this logjam, I will
        recommend a multifaceted approach. This approach
        will consist of a basket of solutions which, if
        applied holistically or in part, may address all
        the issues and satisfy the interests involved in
        the dispute. What this means is that an enhanced
        revenue allocation formula should be seen as one
        means of placating and compensating the OPS but
        not the only solution. Thankfully, many of the
        solutions proffered can be implemented via
        legislation by the National Assembly, at least in
        the short term, while permanent fixes can be
        addressed through constitutional amendments in
        the long term.

        As for revenue allocation itself, I will urge
        that we consider a graduated revenue allocation
        formula. I suggest that the 17 pert cent
        recommended by the Conference be applied to any
        receipts from petroleum exports up to the amount
        of $30 per barrel and 33 per cent for any
        receipts above $30 per barrel. This way, all the
        states are assured of enough revenue for their
        development in the event that oil prices f<br/><br/>(Message over 64 KB, truncated)
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