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  • Nubi Achebo
    Saturday August 17, 2002 Co-operation and Integration in Africa Minister Dr. Abimbola Ogunkelu (left); Council Chairman, Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (IBN)
    Message 1 of 289 , Aug 17, 2002

      Saturday August 17, 2002

      Co-operation and Integration in Africa Minister Dr. Abimbola Ogunkelu (left); Council Chairman, Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (IBN) Mr. Okechukwu Unegbu and President, Nigeria chapter of the West African Bankers Association (WABA) Mr. Daniel O. Abass at WABA's 2002 conference in Lagos...yesterday
      PHOTO: SEGUN OGUNFEYINTIMI

       

      PDP To Reps: Obey Party Or Quit

      �Cancels Meeting With Na'Abba, Others

      �Says Impeachment Move Is Treason Against Party

      FROM MOHAMMED ABUBAKAR (ABUJA)

      THE leadership of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday jettisoned its soft stance on Tuesday's resolution by the House of Representatives, dominated by its members, that President Olusegun Obasanjo should resign within two weeks or be impeached.

      The executive, which views the resolution as a "treason against party" had on Thursday met with the lower legislative assembly's Speaker Ghali Umar Na'Abba, and some other members of the assembly. It however, cancelled the follow-up meeting billed for yesterday, which was to comprise an enlarged body of the party leadership.

      The party's National Chairman Chief Audu Ogbeh, found offensive, a statement credited to Na'Abba after Thursday's meeting that the peace moves notwithstanding, the House would not go back on its decision.

      He said the PDP leadership had therefore resolved to assert party supremacy over any member. Its decision: All PDP members in the lower house must attend a meeting next Thursday at the party secretariat in Abuja, where the impeachment resolution would be rested and "any member who wishes to remain in the PDP will have to indicate this on that occasion and abide by the party directives."

      The Guardian learnt that about 200 representatives who were billed to meet with the PDP executive and other leaders had gathered at the Lower Chamber's Hearing Room One as early as 10 a.m.

      After waiting for more than an hour, the party executive sent its legal adviser Yohanna Madaki and Charles Igoh to ask the legislators to move to the party secretariat.

      Apparently in anger, the legislators dispersed rather than go to the secretariat. Later, the party's National Secretary Vincent Ogbulafor arrived at the assembly, ostensibly to address the legislators, but he met an empty audience.

      But at a press conference, Ogbeh said the comment attributed to the Speaker could not be condoned by the party.

      Text of his statement reads:

      "You will recall that the National Working Committee (NWC) met with the Speaker and some Hon. Members of the House of Representatives for several hours yesterday in a bid to restore harmony between members and the president.

      "The discussions were frank and, by and large serious. The party made its position clear and recognised the constitutional responsibility of the legislature to oversee executive performance and conduct and re-affirmed its resolve not to attempt to checkmate that role or diminish it.

      "But the party made it clear that the method used in this motion of impeachment, the secrecy, surprise and target smell of treason against the party. If there was any reason to issue an ultimatum, the PDP members should have issued it to the party and waited for the party's reaction before proceeding to threaten impeachment."

      Ogbeh said further that at the end of Thursday's meeting, the parties agreed to meet again at the National Assembly complex "as part of our resolve to do everything to bring sanity and peace into the polity."

      He added: "we, party officials were willing as we have always been, to go to any length to bring about peace, and we said so to the media at the end of the meeting.

      "To our shock, however, we were to learn later that, in spite of our efforts, appeals and willingness to bend for the sake of peace, the Hon. Speaker declared to the world that there was no going back and impeachment continues.

      "Therefore, we resolved not to go to the National Assembly and instead, asked them to come to the party headquarters. This is because all party members must recognise that there is a limit. We will not allow any persons or group to pose as superior to the party, which put them in power. That position must be known to all and sundry as long as they remain members of the PDP.

      "We are, by this notice, inviting all our PDP members in the House of Representatives to come for a meeting at the party headquarters on Thursday, August 22 at 2 p.m unfailingly.

      "At that meeting this issue of impeachment will be laid to rest, and whoever wishes to continue to remain in the PDP will have to indicate this on that occasion and abide by the party directives," he said.

       

      Gunmen Kill Kwara PDP Chief, Orderly

      FROM ABIODUN FAGBEMI (ILORIN)

      POLITICAL intolerance reared its ugly head again on Thursday in Kogi State where the chairman of Kwara State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Ahman Ahmed Fatigi, was cut down in a hail of assassins' bullets.

      Fatigi, accounting to the Treasurer of the party, Mr. Baale Adesina, was ambushed by some unknown gunmen at Ayetoro, in Ijumu local council area of Kogi State, on his way to Abuja.

      Horrified Adesina told journalists, at a press briefing yesterday in Ilorin that it was not only Patigi that lost his life in the dastardly act. His police orderly whose name was not disclosed, was also gunned down by the assailants.

      The deceased party chief also had in his car a friend, and his driver during the attack.

      According to Adesina, the attackers "crossed the road with their Peugeot 505 car and after succeeding in halting Patigi's car, fired at the car. He and his orderly were killed in the process.

      "The other occupant identified as the late party stalwart's friend was shot in the thigh, but managed to get away from the scene of the attack," Adesina added.

      The unidentified friend of late Patigi later escaped to Abuja, from where he broke the sad news on phone to the family of the late PDP leader.

      Patigi was elected the chairman of the party on November 3 last year. Until his death, he was said to be doctorate degree student of the University of Abuja.

      The late politician who was aged 40, was from the royal family of Patigi in Kwara state. He was the first child of his aged mother.

      As if he had had a premonition about his death, Patigi was said to have visited the PDP secretariat, at Nupe Road Ilorin, on Wednesday where he posted a notice on the party's information board.

      The notice read: "I do the very best I know how, the very best I can. And I mean to keep on doing so until the end. If the end brings me out right, what is said against me won't amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference".

      Already, all the flags at the state headquarters of the PDP are being flown at half mast, even as members of the party were thrown into grief.

      Although the assassination took place outside Kwara State, the state Commissioner of Police, Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar, has promised adequate co-operation with his Kogi State counterpart, with a view to ensuring prompt arrest of the culprits.

      The post of chairman of PDP in Kwara State appears to be jinxed, in view of the fate that had befallen its occupiers.

      Patigi's predecessors Alhaji Babatunde Kasum, sometime last year lost his life in a motor accident along the Kogi/Abuja road on his way to Abuja for an official assignment.

      Already, Patigi's death has elicited some reactions from some stalwarts of the party in the state.Two governorship aspirants, Mr. Gbenga Oluwepo and Alhaji Lasisi Jimoh, described the sudden death as tragic.

      According to Olawepo, "the late chairman had good visions for the party. It is sad to note that he's no more".

      For Jimoh, "it was such a horrible tragedy that one doesn't know what to say. We are shattered. It is complete destabilisation coming so close to the elections. It is an irreparable loss.

      We don't suspect anybody. We don't want to think along that line. It will further complicate the problem at hand," he added.

      For Chief Omogbenle Odeyemi, the former chairman of the PDP in Kwara, who recently decamped to All Nigerian People's Party (ANPP), crave for honour could not be divorced from tragic happenings in the party in the state.

      Adeyemi noted: "People are desperate and madly looking for power. So those who love their lives should stay clear of these catalogue of woes."

      Adeyemi had, during his brief tenure, escaped death in three consecutive motor accidents along Kabba/Abuja Road and Ilorin/Lagos highway.

      An ambulance had been sent to Kogi State to bring the remains of the decease politician to Ilorin.

       

      Reps Allege Arrest Of Member

      IN the thick of the dust raised by the two-week ultimatum to President Olusegun Obasanjo to resign, the leadership of the House of Representatives yesterday claimed that one of its members, Mr. Iheanacho Obiorah, had been arrested by the men of the State Security Services (SSS).

      According to the Chairman of the House Committee on Information, Mr. Farouk Lawan, Obiora representing Ikwuano South of Abia State was picked up at his Apo quarters on Thursday's night.

      Addressing journalists at the National Assembly Complex yesterday's afternoon, Lawan lamented: "The nation today has reverted to the dark days of military dictatorship when the opposition voice against the government were clamped down and put in detention.

      He said that as at the time he was speaking, no reasons for the arrest or where he was detained had been disclosed."The Federal House of Representatives was not in any away opposed to the present government, rather an arm of it which is carrying out its constitutional roles of checking the excesses of the executive."

      He said the lawmakers would not be intimidated in anyway and would not close its hands while allowing the executive to take the country back to the era of military dictatorship.

      Farouk also announced that the meeting with the expanded forum of the PDP leadership scheduled for the National Assembly yesterday was cancelled. He explained that the national secretary of the party, Mr. Vincent Ogbulafor, called the leadership of the House early in the day to call off the meeting.

      Iheanacho is noted for his advocacy to members to divorce themselves from all party sentiments when considering national issues.

      As chairman, House Committee on NDDC, he moved the motion which upturned President Obasanjo's veto of the NDDC bill.

      The first motion which considered the State of the Nation resolutions this year was moved by Iheanacho. Subsequently, the resolution of the House includes the on-going investigation of the National Treasury by the Hon. Mao. Ohuabuwai ad hoc committee.

      Before now, Iheanacho had presided over the ad hoc committee set up by the lawmakers to investigate the purchase of official quarters for ministers and other special aides to the President. One of the fundings of the panel alleged inflation of the costs of the houses for the ministers by the executives.

      Also in the report, the committee recommended that the former FCT Minister. Alhaji Ibrahim Bunu, and those connected with the purchase be brought to book.

      The deputy Leader of the House however told journalists that the House leadership would visit the headquarters of the SSS in search of their colleague.

      Officials of the SSS yesterday declined comments on whether the lawmaker was in their custody or not.

       

      Impeachment Plot Will Fail, Says Adamu
      FROM MADU ONUORAH, ABUJA

      MOVES by the House of Representatives to compel President Olusegun Obasanjo to resign or be removed drew yesterday flak from the Nasarawa State Governor Abdullahi Adamu.

      Adamu, who is also the Chairman of the Governors' Forum in Abuja, said the resolution, passed by the legislators on Tuesday should rightly be seen as not just an attack on President Obasanjo but an affront on the fledgling democratic dispensation.

      Giving an assurance that the bid, which he described as malevolent, would not succeed, the governor said the effect of the resolution was already suffocating the polity.

      To the governor, it is actually a deliberate plot against the re-election bid of President Obasanjo. He urged all Nigerians to appeal to the House of Representatives' members to tread with caution as their action was making the country a laughing stock in the comity of nations.

      The resolution he said was only a means of giving a dog a bad name to hang it, as President Obasanjo had done nothing to warrant any such threat."They want to create the impression that the polity is not stable.

      "I believe that as elected members, they owe this country a duty. This is an issue that is fundamental to the survival of democracy. The president's office is the office on which the entire dispensation and democratic institutions rotate. And if for any reason we take steps to weaken the Presidency, weaken his image and embarrass it, or do what will put the reputation of the institution into disrepute, I think that is the greatest disservice we can do this country."

      "I concede the right of the House of Representative or National Assembly if the need should arise. But at this point in time, we have not seen anything that is so fundamental to their taking this action. This resolution does not do the polity any good. It is embarrassing to the nation. We believe in due process. We believe that as democrats, we can be a little more tolerant of one another. We can be more accommodating of our faults. We can open up avenues of dialogue. We can open up avenues of consultation.

      The governor spoke further: " Here, we are talking of the economy being too bad. The president is the chief executive, he is the father of the nation. But his office alone cannot create the atmosphere to deliver good governance to the nation. Every arm of government has a role to play. I believe this type of action has a great potential to portray Nigeria in very, very negative light.

      He continued: "It is too expensive a joke.: "How many months do we have to election? Less than one year. Why would anybody want at this stage to create such a monumental dislocation just months to the election. The whole thing is to make the world say that this (President Obasanjo) is not a sellable candidate for the forthcoming elections. It is a wrong way of going about our democracy. There must be a rethink. The mere talk of impeachment is sufficient an action capable of shocking the system. And every patriot would not want this."

      The governor added: "This attitude of intolerance must stop. It is bad for this nation when the National Assembly threatens the Presidency with impeachment always. There are people who are bent on destabilising the democracy. It is even more painful to see that legislators who rose to power on the platform of the ruling party are working against the party. It is shameful and something is wrong."

       

      BPE To Name Core Investor In NITEL Soon
      FROM LEVI ANYIKWA, ABUJA

      FRESH moves by the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) to get a core investor for the Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL) may have advanced.

      In fact, the bureau will announce the name of a new investor for the national telecoms carrier as soon as it has confirmed that the firm actually has the money to pay.

      The Director-General of BPE, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, hinted during a lecture for law students on the privatisation programme at the main auditorium of the Nigerian Law School, Bwari, Abuja, yesterday that the BPE was talking with a foreign firm over NITEL.

      Ostensibly, the talks may have been responsible for the delay in the initial public offer which was planned after the failure of Investors International of London Limited (IILL) to meet its financial obligation over the sale of NITEL.

      Following IILL's inability to pay the outstanding $1.185 billion out of $1.317 billion it bidded for NITEL, the government withheld the 10 per cent deposit which amounted to $131.7 million (about N10 billion).

      The N10 billion was reportedly raised from the First Bank of Nigeria Plc. as an investment facility. Already, the shareholders of the bank who met in Abuja at the end of July pleaded with the Federal Government to either refund the money or convert it to equity in the much-awaited initial public offer.

      According to El-Rufai, the breaking of the monopoly of NITEL had created about 200,000 jobs which are formally and informally engaged in the delivery of telecommunication services. "The coming of MTN and ECONET has created double the number of jobs created by NITEL in 12 years," he said.

      To him, privatisation is meant to break the monopolies of public enterprises to make them more competitive so as to deliver goods and services in the desired quantity and quality and to bring down the prices.

      According to him, it is also meant to re-distribute wealth to make the low-income earners partake in big business and to benefit therefrom.

      He said when the high-income earners bought these enterprises, they would be compelled to make them work and the entire economy would be stimulated.

      He said that the government wanted to put in place an electricity subsidy for the low-income earners while ensuring that the high-income earners paid their bills.

       

      Ultimatum: Labour Leader Warns Against Military Intervention
      FROM HENDRIX OLOMOGBE, ASABA

      THE Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Delta State branch Mr. Malachy Oviezorie yesterday warned that the attempt by the House of Representatives to impeach President Olusegun Obasanjo is an invitation to the military kill the nation's budding democracy.

      Oviezorie, who spoke in Asaba during a meeting of the Nigeria Civil Service Union (NCSU) condemned the impeachment move as anti-democratic, adding that Nigeria "may as well kiss goodbye to democracy" if the legislators make good their threat to start impeachment proceedings.

      The labour leader emphasised that the threat will not take the country anywhere, but will only revert it to the "bad old days of military dictatorship."

      The activist explained that he is not an apostle of Obasanjo's government, considering the "careless manner" he has been treating the Niger Delta people, especially on resource control issue and as a democrat he would campaign against his re-election.

      Oviezorie advised the lawmakers to exercise patient, since the elections are around the corner.

      "They have a very good opportunity of campaigning against Obasanjo if they felt the man has not performed well, and has been violating the constitution. They should behave as democrats and test their popularity at the polls.

      According to him, since the legislation have constituencies, they should have campaigned against the president's re-election. "That is the beauty of democracy," he added. Going down memory lane, the Delta labour leader recalled that during the ill-fated Second Republic of President Shehu Shagari, anti-democratic forces conspired to derail the nation's second experiment with democracy.

      "If Nigerians had been patient with the Shagari government the military could not have toppled the government. It was quite unfortunate Nigerians openly welcomed the military who sacked Shagari and took us on a rough ride. At the end of the day, we were worse off. We are still suffering from the over 15 years of military misrule," he remarked.

      According to the Oviezorie, Nigeria should rise and say no to anti-democratic forces who were bent on scuttling the nation third attempt at democratic government.

      He advised Nigerians to learn from history and to learn to be patient. "It is the only way out of the logjam into which the legislators have taken us."

       

      British Envoy Hopeful On Success Of Nigeria Polls

      FOR the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Philip Thomas, though the forthcoming local, state and federal elections constitute a crucial test for the country, they will be successful.

      The envoy disclosed this in Calabar while addressing the Cross River State House of Assembly during a visit to the state.

      Thomas noted that since independence, Nigeria had always had difficulties transmitting from one civilian government to another, adding that "the British government is confident that this time the transition would be smooth".

      He wished Nigeria a fruitful and peaceful elections next year, adding that " Nigeria matters a lot in the 21st century. You are the power house of Africa, a global voice from Africa".

      Speaking when he paid a courtesy visit on the state governor, Mr. Donald Duke, Thomas said his visit was to see how the British government could work with states in Nigeria for economic, political and social reforms.

      He described Duke as "a representative of a new generation of Nigerian politicians who are young, dynamic and qualified."

      He urged the people of Cross Rivers State to be proud of the governor, adding that "Duke as the governor of Cross River is a response to the realities of the day".

      Responding, Duke informed the envoy of the state government's focus on agriculture and tourism, and solicited co-operation to develop the sectors.

      Meanwhile, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Chief Onyia has said that Nigeria relations with the Republic of Guinea has become a model worthy of emulation.

      Onyia said this in Abuja when he hosted the out-going Ambassador of Guinea to Nigeria, Mr. Mamady Traore to a farewell luncheon.

      Onyia noted that Nigeria and Guinea had continued to give reciprocal support to each other in several international programmes for a especially at the ECOWAS, the African Union and at the United Nations.

      This, he said, was in the spirit of true friendship and co-operation. Praising the out-going ambassador, the Minister said he contributed significantly in ensuring the relative success of Nigeria's mediation role in the restoration of confidence and good neighbourliness in the Mano River Region.

      He also noted that Traore gave the necessary diplomatic guidance and support, as Nigeria and Guinea continued to concert in the elaboration and implementation of the integration agenda of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)."

      Traore in his brief remarks praised Nigeria's role in conflict resolution in West Africa and in the Mano River Region.

      He also commended Nigeria's progress in democracy since 1999 and enjoined the Federal Government to ensure peaceful elections in 2003 to ensure political stability in the country.

      Traore said Guinean Soldiers had been trained in Nigeria, adding that Guinea and Nigeria had signed several agreements.

       

      Delay In Voters Registration, Council Polls Worries PDP

      FEARING that the controversy trailing the political situation will rock the national ship, the People Democratic Party (PDP) has bared its mind on two issues which predominate the confusion: voter's registration and council election.

      In a terse letter to the chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Dr. Abel Guobadia, PDP National Chairman Chief Audu Ogbeh, stated that the party deemed it a necessity to write on "these important and urgent national issues."

      According to the letter, which was faxed to The Guardian last night, PDP is "deeply distressed" about the delays and certain pronouncements by INEC, "the most disquieting of which is the latest, which suggests that we should look towards early 2003 for the local government election."

      Ogbeh declared: "Our party is unhappy and vehemently opposed to these positions and urges INEC to proceed without any further delay to do its duty to the Nation and make life easier for us all."

      The PDP Chief observed that what INEC was proposing to carry out is not a revision but a fresh computerised exercise, adding: "We commend this initiative and would like to support it.

      The party, however, pointed out that in the light of the urgency of the situation, the continued delay of the registration and election was not acceptable to it.

      According to the party, these delays predispose the nation to the risk of further postponement of other elections next year.

      "Such a development would be tragic and disastrous for our nascent democracy and our great party would not want to be held responsible for it," the letter warned.

       

      Chevron Disowns Ilaje Women Protesters

      Current occupation of Chevron Nigeria Limited's Production Platform at Ewan, in Ondo State, are not from the oil firm's host community, according to its General Manager-Government and Public Affairs, Mr. Sola Omole.

      The Ewan Production Platform, is located at eight kilometres offshore the western.

      The invaders, men and women numbering about 30, arrived at the location in 12 speedboats about 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, August 14.

      Chevron and its host communities in the Ilaje area of Ondo State, where the Ewan facility is located, last week signed major agreements that addressed core concerns of the communities regarding employment, economic empowerment and the development of infrastructure.

      None of these communities is involved in the on-going occupation of the Ewan platform, Omole added.

      He said the company had evacuated all its regular and contract employees from the facility before the occupation occurred.

       

      Police IG, others honour Akparanta
      By Emmanuel Badejo

      TRIBUTES poured in for the late Defence and Police Affairs Correspondent of The Guardian, Mr. Ben Akparanta during a service of songs for him at his residence in Lagos on Thursday.

      Speaking on behalf of the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Tafa Balogun, the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Young Arebamen said that memories of Akparanta would for a long time remain fresh in the minds of those who came across him in any way.

      Arabamen said Akparanta died pursuing the cause "he believed in. On our own, we have promised to be with the family even after the burial and I believe Ben's name will be in the long book of history." He pleaded with he family to grant the Police access to the widow and the baby as soon as they ended the burial rites.

      The Oba-elect of Bariga, Shomolu, Mr. Akanbi Gbolahan Thimson spoke about his relationship with Akparanta. He said that their closeness nearly made him to violate his traditional rule by rushing to the hospital to verify whether it was true that Ben had died.

      His words: "When I was told about his death, I did not know when I rushed to the hospital. On getting there, I was told he had been taken to the mortuary. On getting there I was turned back by an attendant who reminded that as a Yoruba Oba, I was not suppose to be there."

      The already gloomy atmosphere became depressing when Mary, wife of the late Akparanta was ushered into her seat. She was pale. With tear filled-eyes some sympathisers reached out for Akparanta's eight-month old baby (Gbolahan) whe he was brought to the arena

      The Secretary to the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Lagos State Chapter, Mr. Oliseh Igbaneke said the death of Akparanta was a great challenge to all Crime reporters.

      The NUJ scribe added that the vacuum created by Bishop's death was a wide one which might not be easily filled immediately. He urged his colleagues to rise to the challenge.

      Mr. Biyi Adegboroye who spoke on behalf of the committee of friends said Akparanta occupied a special place in their hearts. He said "Ben happened to be somebody who occupied a special place in our hearts. We felt very sad when the news of his death reached us. The best we can do is to make sure that we are close to the family he left behind."

      To the Editor of The Guardian On Sunday, Mr. Fred Ohwahwa, Akparanta was the IG" at Rutam House, the corporate headquarters of The Guardian. Ohwahwa said that the late Crime correspondent had fought a good fight and that he had lived a worthwhile life.

      Said he: "Ben was our own I.G, our own Bishop. I think Ben fought a good fight. We should at this time remember and face the fact that life is not how long but how well we live it."

      Mr. Ohwahwa said the late Akparanta was always available and ready to help out in problems whenever he could do so. He added that he was one of the best crime reporters Nigeria ever produced.

      Mr. David Obi who spoke on the doggedness of his late friend said the late Akparanta was an institution to many of his colleagues who cover the crime beat.

      Obi recalled an occasion when crime reporters were to attend a press briefing at the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) office and Akparanta who on his way to the event had an accident and consequently was rushed to an hospital sneaked out of the hospital soaked in blood, got to the venue of the programme, wrote the story and went back to the hospital where the medical officers were already looking for him.

      Akparanta will be buried today in Rivers State.

       

      Odili Wants Speedy Job By Revenue Commission
      FROM KELVIN EBIRI, PORT HARCOURT

      RIVERS State Governor, Peter Odili, has deplored the slow pace at which the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission is going about its work to fashion out an equitable formula for the nation.

      Governor Odili who spoke when a delegation of the commission led by one of its commissioners Alhaji Yakubu Mohammed visited him at the government House, Port Harcourt, yesterday, warned that the delay would worsen the confused situation in the country, which is not good for development.

      Odili noted that since April when the Supreme Court ruling was delivered, the nation has continued to argue on one issue or another.

      He said: "It is hardly commendable that three years into the present administration, we are still working with the old formula which provides for not less than 13 per cent to be allocated for derivation, which has not even been fully implemented."

      The governor appealed to the commission to ensure that the anomaly was brought to an end since its continued use, he said, is not in the interest of the oil-producing communities.

      Governor Odili noted that the constitution must be respected also in the provision for primary education and ecological funds.

      He pointed out that although the Federal Government has no business with primary education, it should stimulate the sector by increasing the funds to states.

      The governor argued that ecological problems could arise in the states, which had not been budgeted for.

      To take care of such emergencies, Odili suggested sharing of responsibilities and empowerment of states to enable them quickly respond to such issues.

      He cautioned against any attempt at transforming the Federal Capital Territory Abuja into a state, pointing out that it is not one.

      "We look forward to a new revenue allocation formula that respect natural law and justice, and ensures equity for the people of Nigeria," he added.

      The leader of the team said they were in Rivers to have an interactive session with the government officials so as to find a workable revenue allocation formula for the country.

       

      Court Orders Parties In Alleged INEC Scam To Stay Action
      BY EMMANUEL ONWUBUKO (ABUJA)

      JUSTICE Mohammed Nasiru Oniyangi of the Abuja High Court yesterday restrained the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Tafa Balogun, the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Kanu Godwin Agabi (SAN), and Inter-Continental Trust Bank Limited from tampering with the N25 million allegedly used to bribe officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

      INEC was two weeks ago, rocked by an alleged N395 million contract scam, which led to the resignation of the Commissioner in-charge of Legal Department, Mrs. Mary Obegolu.

      She was alleged to have endorsed the agreement for the computerisation of voters' register.

      The embattled INEC commissioner was hauled into police detention at the Force Headquarters allegedly on the orders of the inspector-general of Police in connection with the scam.

      The payment of N258,467,852.8 (4.5 per cent) to Technical Consultants, and N136,835,922.10 (2.2 per cent) to KDIO Consultants which handled legal drafting for the project had sparked off the controversy.

      Mrs. Obegolu, who has since regained her freedom on the orders of an Abuja High Court, has instituted a legal action against her colleagues in INEC and proprietors of KDIO, Kayode Adetokunbo, Damien Dodo, Tayo Oyetibo and Ikwueto, who veted the legal draft for the computerisation contract.

      The suit also objects to the decision of the police to take over the money.

      Justice Oniyangi yesterday granted the injunction at the instance of Mabuzatfi Ventures Nigeria Limited, the plaintiff, through their lawyer, Amobi Nzelu.

      Justice Oniyangi ordered that:

      � the money (N25 million) should be kept in the custody of the Inter-Continental Trust Bank Plc, pending the determination of the motion on notice; and

      � the money should not be credited to the Account No 0161726010, which is the Current Account of the applicant, but in a separate and secure mode which the bank considers safe in the circumstance, pending the determination of the motion on notice.

      The trial judge adjourned hearing in the matter to August 21.

       

      How To Douse Political Tension, By Researcher
      BY FRANCIS OBINOR

      ONE of the ways of solving the confusion in the polity and assuaging the bruised feelings of the citizens, is for the president to shelve further foreign trips and be seen to tackle seriously, the multifarious national problems.

      In an interview with The Guardian yesterday, a senior researcher at the Nigeria's Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Dr. Ogaba Oche, propounded this thesis, just as he pointed out that the resolution by the House of Representatives that Obasanjo should resign within two weeks or be impeached, has shown that there is "little consensus" between the executive and the legislature on fundamental issues affecting Nigerians and the country.

      He noted that the statement by the Information Minister, Professor Jerry Gana, that the Representatives' resolution could give an impression to the outside world that the country is not yet stable, sounded defensive.

      "There is no doubt about it, it will definitely affect the image of the country. Prof. Gana is merely speaking from the perspective of the executive and not from that of the House.

      "What is happening has shown that these two major institutions have failed to reach a consensus on fundamental issues affecting the country."

      Oche noted that political observers in and outside the country would justify the resolution, going by what has happened in the past 39 months.

      He blamed both the executive and the legislature for the current situation, adding that both of them cannot be exonerated from what has befallen the country.

      Oche also accused the president of "overating his personality as a success" by his many trips abroad.

      He urged an immediate solution to the impasse, in the interest of Nigerians and the country.

      "I believe three radical solutions can be applied to solve the problems facing the country. First, the president should sit at home and re-orientate himself with issues at home. Second, he should mend fences with the legislators and third, look at the issue of security. But unfortunately, they are looking at how they can come back for a second term," Oche said.

      He noted that the country's foreign policy in the past 39 months has failed in its objectives as key issues affecting the country from the outside view still persist.

      "The country's foreign policy has failed: there are no new investments, some countries have even snubbed the president, there are no debt reductions and even respect for Nigerians and our government."

      Oche noted that because of the country's insecurity and events on the political scene, the United States has issued a travel advisory to its citizens wishing to visit Nigeria.

      "What we should know is that foreign governments observe Nigeria through their diplomats here. There is a serious indictment on the government.

      He explained that many foreign governments, especially the United States, after the enthronement of democracy, were expecting moves from the Nigerian government to positively affect the lives of its citizens and the African continent which turned out to be pipe dream.

       

      Rep Faults Move To Remove Obasanjo
      THOSE who moved the motion calling on the President to resign or risk impeachment are mischievous and did not act in good faith, a member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Onadeko Onamusi stated yesterday.

      Dissociating himself from the impeachment move, the representative in a statement yesterday, observed that the resolution calling for President Olusegun Obasanjo's resignation is a "threat, and a move to truncate our nascent democracy."

      He pointed out that rather than the steps they had taken, the movers of the motion should have consulted with their parties, especially members of the Peoples' Democratic Party (PDP), to call the president to order.

      The lawmaker declared: "Impeachment is not an easy thing. The House of Representatives by this action would realise in due course that the negative effects of this motion is greater than the momentary publicity and threat to the president.

      He lamented that the opinion leaders in the House had closed their ears to good counsel, because they were bent on "discrediting the president and truncating the democracy."

      Onamusi, however, urged his colleagues to exercise caution so as to avoid doing damage to the political system.

      According to the lawmaker, if the president is not doing the right thing, there are other ways of addressing the matter, considering the country's "perculiar circumstances."

      Alluding to a seemingly hidden agendum by the motion movers, the legislator pointed out that although his colleagues knew that impeachment is impossible in the circumstances, they went ahead, all the same," if only to smear the name of the president and prevent him from contesting for a second term."

      He, however, urged President Obasanjo to "listen to advice and defend the constitution," adding that the "sycophants" around the president should give sincere advice to him in the interest of all Nigerians.

      According to him, Sections 85(6) and 88(1),(2) of the Constitution is clear as to who should direct the auditor-general to audit the various arms of the government and the ministries.

      The National Assembly is constitutionally empowered to give such directives to the auditor-general of the federation, and not the executive. The purpose of this provision is simply because the executive cannot spend money and at the same time call on the auditor-general to audit their accounts," he stated.

       

      Group Highlights Dangers Of Legislators' Ultimatum To President
      FROM KELVIN EBIRI, PORT HARCOURT

      CONCERNED citizens have continued to highlight the implications of the order to resign or face impeachment given to the president by the House of Representatives.

      One such concerned party was the Movement for Emancipation of the Middle Belt (MEMB), whose Chairman, Mr. Sabestine Hon yesterday in Port Harcourt, Rivers State warned the legislators that, that action portends danger to the nation's political system.

      He pointed out that the economic ills listed by the lawmakers though true, have their genesis outside the present administration.

      According to Hon, the dwindling earnings is the major factor causing the economic problems. He urged the National Assembly in the interest of collective responsibility, to join hands with the executive to find a way out of the quagmire, rather than apportioning blames.

      Hon expressed concern over what he deemed as a high level of conspiracy to scuttle the nascent democracy, accusing the House of Representatives of "executing the Arewa agenda, rather than a nationalistic one."

      He stated: "The so-called core north has opposed this regime from day one for reasons best known to it. Now, it appears it has penetrated the National Assembly."

      He said though the president's handling of national crises has been less than satisfactory, impeaching him now, would be ill-timed and against national interest and the success of democracy.

      According to him, aggrieved individuals like him should wait till 2003 to decide the fate of Obasanjo, should he insist on running.

      Hon said since the House was yet to purge itself, it does not seem to have a moral justification to threaten to impeach the president.

      "The House of Representatives should immediately withdraw proceedings on the matter and take no further step to toy with our collective existence," Hon warned.

       

      Govt Moves To Strengthen Local Manpower For Oil Sector
      FROM OGHOGHO OBAYUWANA, ABUJA

      THE government's dream of having the oil sector dominated by Nigerians may soon come to reality.

      This is sequel to the inauguration of a N60 million Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF), aimed at production of indigenous manpower that would play key roles in the exploration and exploitation of the nation's oil resources.

      At the event, held in Abuja at the weekend, Special Adviser to the President on Petroleum Matters, Dr. Rilwanu Lukman said he was "delighted that there is now light at the end of the tunnel."

      While inaugurating a 10-man board of trustees for the fund, Lukman lamented that even though the petroleum sector has for decades remained the back-bone of the country's economy, Nigerians have not been really in charge.

      He said: "In spite of the importance of this sector to the life of our nation, there seems to be a nimbus cloud suffocating the possibility of having indigenous qualified manpower with the right skills, to exploit and manage the petroleum industry."

      He noted further that the Federal Government had been gravely worried by the fact that oil explorations and exploitation had been going on now in Nigeria for more than four decades, with foreigners at the driving seat.

      Dr. Lukman disclosed that government "in its wisdom", decided to create PTDF "as a strategic organ with the responsibility of accelerating the human capacity building and technology transfer in the nations' petroleum sector.

      He said an endowment fund has been established in six universities including the Petroleum Training (Technology) Institute (PTI), Effurun, to produce middle level manpower in the oil and gas industry for Nigeria as well as the West Africa sub-region.

      The College of Petroleum Studies in Kaduna is also expected to benefit from the endowment fund. The institution is expected to become a first class centre for senior level manpower for the oil and gas industry.

      The PTDF national board of trustees has Mallam Yusuf Hamsat Abubakar as the executive secretary and vice-chancellors of the six universities as members.

      They are Prof. Nimi Briggs (, University of Port Harcourt), Prof. Abubakar Mustapha (University of Maiduguri), Prof Gimi Mbanefo (University of Nigeria, Nsuka), Prof. Bello Mahdi (Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria), Prof. Ayodele Falase (University of Ibadan) and Prof. Aminu Kikaih (Dan Fodio, University, Sokoto).

      The three other members are Mr. Uko Nwafor, Mallam Isa Babalo as well as a representative of the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR).

       

      Giant Killers Meet In Dakar

      Senegal's Jeanne D'Arc will fancy their chances of another victory in the Champions League today as they host DR Congo champions TP Mazembe.

      The Sengalese are riding high after a 2-1 away victory over defending champions Al Ahly of Egypt in the first round.

      Jeanne D'Arc took full advantage of some lacklustre defending by the title holders in Cairo to come away with three points.

      Mazembe though also had success in the first round against a more fancied North African outfit.

      Three-time champions Raja Casablanca travelled to Lumbumbashi to take on the best DR Congo had to offer and returned to Morocco embarrased by a 2-0 defeat.

      But the Congolese have not travelled well in the past having lost in Tunisia, South Africa and Nigeria at this stage in the competition last season.

      Jeanne D'Arc's success in Cairo was achieved despite the loss of midfielders Ousmane Ndoye and Abdoulaye Faye to French clubs, although Burkina Faso playmaker Kalidou Yameogo has returned from a spell in Russia.

      So odds are likely to fall narrowly in Jeanne D'Arc's favour on Saturday as they continues to ride the wave of success, started by their World Cup squad in Korea and Japan.

      But Mazembe currently top Group A on goal difference and will not give that up without a fight.

       

      Abuja 2003: Volunteer Forms Seller Arrested
      BY IBE OJO

      A syndicate which is allegedly selling the volunteer forms of Abuja '2003 All Africa Game may have been smashed following the arrest yesterday of a man in his early 30s at Iyana Ipaja, Lagos.

      The man, Odudele Shola Ghenga, who is said to be the brain behind the deal, was arrested by four security officers while selling the forms. Bundle of unsold forms were allegedly found in his office, located at Iyana Ipaja. The office's signpost reads Inter-Continental School of Aviation.

      Volunteers forms for Abuja are free, according to COJA, organisers of Abuja '2003 All Africa Games.

      But a banner at Ikotun, allegedly placed by Inter-Continental school of Aviation advises members of the public to go to the address at Iyana Ipaja to get the volunteers' forms at N250.

      Apparently trying to stop members of the public from being coned any further, COJA on Thursday reiterated that Abuja '2003 forms were not for sale.

      In a release signed by Fan Ndubuoke, COJA stated, that it has become necessary to inform the public because of the operations of some unscrupulous organisations which now extort money from unsuspecting members of the public.

      Three of the organisations, according to COJA, have been identified in parts of Lagos and Abuja.

      The statement further added that no organisation or person has been authorised to collect money on its behalf in respect of the volunteer forms.

      It also warned that "any attempt to transact business with the illegal organisation, will be at the risk of those who patronise them."

      Over 7,000 volunteers will be engaged for the Abuja '2003 which will run from October 4-18 next year.

       

      Kano Govt Wants Eagles In Kano

      KANO government on Thursday said that it was in support of the planned camping of the Super Eagles, in the state in preparation for next month's African Nations Cup qualifier against Angola in Luanda.

      Reacting to reports credited to the sole administrator of Pillar FC, Alhaji Kabiru Baita and chairman of the club's supporters, Ahmed Ayuba, that the Eagles were not welcome in the state, the Commissioner for Information and Sports, Alhaji Nura Dankadi said that Kano had no problem with the Federal Government.

      Dankadi said that although "the NFA had not officially communicated to the state government its intention of using Kano as camp for the Eagles ahead of the encounter, the state will welcome everything that will bring progress to it and the nation in general."

      According to reports, the two officials of the Kano-based Pillars FC, said that the Eagles would not be welcome to Sani Abacha Stadium, Kano.

       

      Fireworks In Canada As FIFA Women's World Championship Begin
      BY HARRY AWURUMIBE

      BARELY six weeks after the FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan 2002, the best of women soccer will kick off today in Canada as 12 countries including Nigeria gather for the first ever FIFA U-19 Women's World Championship. It will end on September 1. Participating in the global soccer fiesta are Australia, Brazil Denmark, England, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Chinese Taipei, United States of America and host, Canada.

      The countries have been divided into three groups: Canada, Denmark, Nigeria and Japan are in Group A with centre in Edmonton.

      Germany, France, Mexico and Brazil will campaign in Group B based in Vancouver while Group C has USA, England, Chinese Tipei and Australia with centre in Victoria.

      No fewer than 216 players, 12 centre referees, 12 assistant referees and numerous field officials will be involved in the championship which is already attracting media attention across the world. Many football fans in Canada and billions of others in the world will follow the proceedings on television for the next two and a half weeks.

      Although Nigeria its pitched against tough football playing nations like Denmark, Japan and Canada, keen followers of women's football in the country believe that the Falconets will qualify for the quarter-final stage.

      The optimism is based on the fact that Nigeria parades quality players, although most of them have not been exposed to top flight competition like the present one in Canada.

      But Canada will not like to play the second fiddle to any country in Group A. With home support, the Canadian girls are going to be unstoppable.

      This group looks good to produce three qualifiers as Denmark and Japan are not in Canada to admire the beautiful cities that are abound there.

      Another equally though group is the one based in Vancouver were Germany, France, Mexico and Brazil. Both Germany and Brazil have the pedigree to lead the pack if the achievements of their elite teams in the previous FIFA Women's World Cup finals are anything to rely upon.

      German team defeated Brazil's squad in the third place match of the Sydney 2000 Olympics held in Australia.

      France and Mexico may, however, spring some surprises, a situation which may see all the four teams battling for survival and in the processing producing three quarter finalists like Group A.

      Perhaps, the easiest group on paper is Group C featuring World Champions, USA, England, Chinese Taipei and Australia. The Aussies like the other three are no threat to USA.

      The Yankees are to women's football what Brazil is to male soccer at the world stage. Two times World Cup winners and one Olympics gold medal are good credentials for the Americans to showcase.

      In all, it promises to be a big party in Canada even as top officials of World Cup football governing body FIFA are already in town to witness the epoch making event which is the brain child of FIFA President, Joseph Sepp Blatter who many years ago said that "the future is feminine". Let the music begin.

       

      I Am Not Bothered By Any Threat - Akume

      'Governance is full of excitement and challenges. It is about making life meaningful to the people. You find yourself in a position where you have to manage the resources of the people in a meaningful and realistic manner. I want to say that, by and large, it has been exciting. I am working with the people, helping to solve some of their problems. We are, however, constrained because of inadequate resources.'

      'I want to be careful about this. If you look at the result of previous elections and our primaries, you will know who is in control in the state. So, I am not bothered by any threat. If you want to be governor, come over and we fight it out. I am not saying I will be there forever. If it is the will of God, I will leave and if God wants me to be there, nobody can stop me.'

      'It is true that President Obasanjo has problem with the people of Benue State because of the invasion. I have told the President that there is this unresolved impression the people have about him, and that he has to clear it. I told him that he should not allow those with sinister motives to deceive him. We cannot play God. Everybody goes wrong. Whenever you go wrong, you must be able to give soothing words.'

      The Benue State Governor, Mr. George Akume, is a man of few words. Since he assumed duties as governor, he has spoken with the media a few times. But in Lagos at the weekend, to attend Pastor David Younge's crusade, Akume opened up to SNR. STAFF REPORTER, IDOWU AJANAKU, on how God has been guarding him to run the affairs of the state since May 29, 1999. Excepts:

      With your tight schedule, you still find time to attend a crusade in Lagos. Can we say your devotion to God is responsible for your modest achievements in Benue State?

      Anybody who fails to worship God is a fool. The position in which I find myself today, is through the grace of God. I have always devoted my life to God and I will continue to do so. The fact that Nigeria is still existing today, considering what the nation has gone through, shows that God loves the nation.

      When we assumed office in 1999, we committed this government into the hands of God and He has not failed us. The modest achievement in our state, despite the poor financial position, is to the glory of God. Although Benue State is not an oil-producing state, we have not borrowed a single kobo. Besides, we have been paying our workers. So, don't you think God deserves to be praised?

      How has it been at the helm of affairs in Benue State in the last three and half years?

      Governance is full of excitement and challenges. It is about making life meaningful to the people. You find yourself in a position where you have to manage the resources of the people in a meaningful and realistic manner. =I want to say that, by and large, it has been exciting. I am working with the people, helping to solve some of their problems. We are, however, constrained because of inadequate resources.

      But Mr. President said revenue allocation to states since democratic rule has increased tremendously?

      That is not true, with due respect to Mr. President. It is true that he has tried to block some loopholes and that has brought about marginal increase in the resources accruing to states. The basic fact is that in 1999, when we took over, my wage bill was N148 million. This was essentially because the past military government in Benue State did not start the implementation of Gen. Abdulsalami's minimum wage.

      When we started the implementation, the wage bill jerked from N148 million to N276 million and we had to grapple with this problem. We inherited outstanding payments to public servants to the tune of over N886 million in terms of their salaries and allowances. I spread the thing out for a period of time and, by the end of 1999, I leveled up. By 2002, what did we find? A new minimum wage, which came on stream without consultation with the governors. It almost affected our wage bill. We pay over N500 million as salary.

      When you talk of more resources coming, you should pay cognizance of the balance sheet, what we take in and what we pay out. Remember that we are talking about a democratic government with a House of Assembly and the complement staff; we are talking about the Executive Governor, the Deputy Governor, and the complement of staff as provided for in the constitution. So, we have more expenses now than what used to happen under the military.

      Therefore, it is not correct to say that more resources are coming to state governments. We have made this point clear. Remember that when President Shagari came up with a new minimum wage, he also adjusted the revenue allocation to ensure that states had more funds, to enable them pay salaries and execute programmes. That is what we have been saying. This has not been the case under the present arrangement.

      But the states should generate revenue to complement what the Federal Government is giving to them. Is that not enough?

      This is not really the problem of Benue State. It is the problem of states that do not have oil. And, within the contest of states that don't have oil, you must look at their programmes in terms of age of the state. For example, Oyo, Lagos, Kaduna, Enugu, Edo and a host of other states are older than Benue State.

      Lagos State started as a capital city with full infrastructure provided by the government. Therefore, Lagos is in a better position to generate more revenue than Benue State. Enugu, Oyo, and Edo states also had that privilege. They were the original capital states and, therefore, have a minimum infrastructure on the ground. Industries followed, attracting many people to these places. So, these states are in a better position to generate more funds than Benue State.

      Having said that, let me also quickly add that the whole country is in a problem. We have to go back to agriculture. We were doing well without oil. Today, oil is no longer able to meet the challenges of the development of this country. So, we must go back to the basics. In Benue State, that is one of the cardinal things we are trying to do. We are now giving more attention to agriculture. But, remember that agriculture is capital intensive.

      In spite of the fact that the assistance is not forthcoming, we are not just sitting down. We have gone back to the development of our key agricultural products, such as beniseed, soya beans, and yam. That is why we have decided to reactivate the Taraku Mills. It is a veritable market for farmers in Benue State. Because of the closure of Taraku Mills in the past, farmers were not sure of where to sell their products. But with the Taraku Mills coming on stream, we are positive that in the next few months, there will be a positive development in Benue State.

      Secondly, we are looking at something bigger than that. We are looking at the possibility of processing yam tubers into yam flour, and cassava into starch for local and international consumption. The market is immense. We have received encouraging reports from America and Western Europe. So, we are gearing up towards a major take-off of agriculture in Benue State. It is all embracing. It includes fishing, poultry and so on.

      But frankly, we are handicap. That is why we have decided to go to the capital market to source for funds. We are also going to discuss with some of our foreign partners. We would have started well in that area, but for the September 11, 2002 bombing in the United States of America. Before that, we had received very encouraging offers. So, I want to say that, in spite of all these problems that I have enumerated, what we are getting today on a monthly basis by way of locally generated revenue is 100 per cent more than what we inherited when we took over in 1999.

      However, Federal Government needs to intervene in a major way in the agricultural sector, in the interest of this country's economy. Other countries have done it and have continued to do it. There is no way we can take off meaningfully without the intervention of the Federal Government. That is how it is done all over the world. So, Nigeria cannot be an exception.

      So, how much is the state generating internally now?

      When we took over it was N9 million in a month. But now, we are generating between N60 and N70 million. But that is not even enough. Our target is N150.

      With this marginal internal revenue, how do you intend to generate money to prosecute your programmes?

      We are aiming at N4 billion and we have made contact with some security houses. We have gone a long way. Two weeks ago, we had a group from Lagos, comprising the lead companies handling the projects. We don't envisage any problem as regards repayment.

      Let's go into politics. What is the cause of the disagreement between you and the former chairman of PDP, Chief Barnabas Gemade?

      First, I'll like to say that politics is a game at a higher level. Wherever you have an organisation as large as a political party, you will definitely have some frictions here and there. If you have a large family, there is no way you can avoid occasional misunderstandings. But these should not be so strong as to destroy the foundation of either the organisation or the family.

      I want to look at your question within that context. You have a government and some people want to believe that this government must take directives from them, which is unacceptable. The issue is, if you want to rule you must subject yourself to the people. I went through that crucible and I want to say with utmost modesty that we don't have a real problem in Benue State. Agreed there are some people who, for obvious reasons, have decided to leave the PDP (People's Democratic Party), but they are marginally relevant to us.

      You don't have to force people to remain in the same political camp with you. If they choose to leave, they are free to do so. What has happened in the real sense is that a few people who feel they cannot control me have decided to vacate, which is okay as far as I'm concerned. It happens in every democracy.

      In Britain, the Labour Party, at a point lost some of its members who called themselves Liberal Democrats. That did not in any way affect the success of the party in that country. Here too, we are on a solid ground. So, it doesn't bother me that certain people are leaving the party. If a senator never made any contributions on the floor of the senate when his people were directly invaded by the military, never moved any motions condemning the action of the military, and says he wants to be governor, let him come and contest. We are in a democracy.

      I believe I'm better positioned than these people because I've travelled the road and I've known the corners, the dangerous bends and others. They haven't got that advantage. Some believe that if they cannot make it in the senate, they could make it in the state. I've heard so many stories, but I'm not bothered at all because in the final analysis, the people's verdict is supreme and I believe it will also be the verdict of history.

      So, we have no problem. Chief (Barnabas) Gemade has declared his intention to contest the presidential election. I'll say good luck to him. But I don't know whether he is in PDP because a little band of supporters he controls has moved to UNPP on his directives. I don't know where he really belongs.

      Remember that this is Nigeria. In Britain, a very strong Labour man was suspended from the party for attending the function of another party. In Nigerian politics, one leg could be here, while another could be there and, where you think is safe, you eventually join one leg with the other. That is our brand of politics.

      But the truth is that PDP is in control of Benue State. By the grace of God, it will continue to control the state. We are very solid. During our primaries, the turnout was massive. It was as if we were holding an election. During my local government tour, the turnout was massive. These are some of the parameters through which you measure your party's strength.

      That is why sometimes they talk of coalition against the governor. The existence of coalition means you believe that you cannot do it alone. So you depend on your access to the media. But the truth is that, at the fullness of time, the people will determine. Benue is firmly under the control of PDP.

      There is a group called the Benue Proactive Coalition. Recently, they placed a caveat emptor in a newspaper against your government and, before now, there were several publications in the same directions. How potent do you consider their fight against your government?

      Really, when I spoke about coalition, I was not referring to the group that calls itself Proactive Coalition because most of them can't define the word proactive and I'm not mincing words. You need to know most of the people who call themselves proactive. A majority of them are illiterates and I'm not kidding. Some of them were

      (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
        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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