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[naija-news] The Guardian news. Jan 12th, 2004

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  • Henry Umeana
    THE GUARDIAN Igwe of Achalla, Alex Ezeoba Nwokedi (left), Monsignor Pedro Martins (sitting), Secretary of 1948/53 set of St. Gregory s College, Lagos, Chief
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 12, 2004
      THE GUARDIAN
       
      Igwe of Achalla, Alex Ezeoba Nwokedi (left), Monsignor Pedro Martins (sitting), Secretary of 1948/53 set of St. Gregory's College, Lagos, Chief Francis Ozomah and President, Prof. Frank Okoisor, at a thanksgiving service to mark the Golden Jubilee of the class at the Holy Child Chapel, Lagos...at the weekend.
      PHOTO: GBENGA FAKOREDE
       
      MAN petitions govt over sales tax
      By Ade Ogidan, Asst. Business Editor

      A FRESH battle over the imposition of sales tax on manufacturers may have just begun, two months after a Lagos high court okayed its introduction.

      Specifically, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), has despatched a memorandum to the Justice Minister and Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Akinlolu Olujinmi, seeking Federal Government's official clarification and position on the judgement, ahead of a planned appeal against the verdict.

      The MAN and 16 other stakeholders had sued Lagos State government over the introduction of sales tax on the grounds of its alleged unconstitutionality and double taxation profile, given the existence of Value Added Tax (VAT), among other reasons.

      But Justice O.M. Falase, sitting at a Lagos High Court, declared that the said sales tax law, as introduced by the defendant, was constitutional and legal and within the competence of Lagos State government to introduce, "to the extent that it does not purport to legislate on inter state commerce or trade."

      Besides, the judge ruled that VAT, being on the exclusive legislative list, could only be collected for inter-state transactions and the introduction of sales tax can therefore not be dubbed double taxation, since "two taxes" imposed on "the taxing activities of the state and the Federal Government are separate and distinct."

      But MAN, in the memorandum to the Justice Minister said the judgment raked up serious constitutional issues, which require "very urgent intervention of the Federation Government."

      In the letter signed by its director-general, Mr. Olawale Akinpelu, MAN averred that with the judgment, "VAT can only be levied on inter-state commerce and trade and not on intra-state commerce and trade."

      Consequently, "our members require clear statement from the Federal Government on this issue in order not to place them in jeopardy of paying both sales tax and VAT on the same product.

      "Furthermore, we require clarification on how our members who are manufacturers and who distribute their manufactured products nationally can achieve a clear-cut separation between intra-state trade and commerce vis-�-vis inter-state trade and commerce", it added.

      "A further implication of this judgement is that all the remaining 35 states of the federation could enact similar tax laws and manufacturers will be confronted with the daunting task of having to unravel the quantity of the products sold in each of the 26 states for purpose of paying the appropriate sales tax to each of the state governments with the consequence of having 'no more VAT left to pay to the Federal Board of Inland Revenue (FBIR)'", they stressed.

      The memorandum added: "Should this judgement stand, our members will require also a guidance from you and the FBIR, the modalities to be used for eliminating input VAT from products that will only be for intra-state trade and commerce, since without output VAT, there cannot be input VAT."

      The statement affirmed that the manufacturers' lawyer, Mr. Tunji Abayomi, would file an appeal against the judgment "in the interest of our members and it is appropriate at this stage to place your office, the FBIR and the Presidency on notice in view of the national significance of this judgment."

      MAN had, in its original suit against Lagos State government, sought:

        • A declaration that the sales tax (Schedule Amendment) order 2000 and the sales tax law cap. 175 laws of Lagos State of Nigeria 1994 are inconsistent with, in contravention of and ultra vires the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999; the taxes and levies (approved list for collection) Decree No. 21 of 1998; and the VAT Decree 102 of 1993 and therefore illegal, invalid, void and of no effect whatsoever;

        • A declaration that the Lagos State government has no power, right or jurisdiction to impose any duty levy or tax howsoever called on any person manufacturing in or bringing any goods or services into Lagos State;

        • An order nullifying and setting aside both Sales Tax (Schedule Amendment) Order 2000 and the sale tax law cap. 175 laws of Lagos State of Nigeria 1994;

        • An order of injunction restraining the respondents, their servants, an/or agents from causing to be taken, any action or steps under the said sales tax (Schedule Amendment) Order 2000 and or the Sales Tax Law Cap 175 Laws of Lagos State of Nigeria 1994.

        Alternatively to relief three, an order of injunction restraining the respondents whether by themselves, servants, agents or howsoever from giving effect to or implementing Sections 34, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11 and 12 of the Sales Tax Law Cap. 175 laws of Lagos State of Nigeria 1994 and the whole of the Sales Tax (Schedule Amendment) Order 2000;

        In support of the summons, the plaintiffs filed an affidavit of 24 paragraphs deposed to by one Jide Mike, the Acting Director General of MAN.

        The defendants filed a counter-affidavit of 11 paragraphs deposed to by one Mrs. Victoria Oluyemi Mojisola Alonge, a civil servant in the Ministry of Justice. The parties filed written submissions, which were adopted, in open court.

        Drama, anxiety as Nigeria hosts anti-HIV concert, boxing match
        From Mathias Okwe, Abuja

        IT was drama and anxiety at the weekend in Abuja as attention was once again focused on the dreaded Acquired Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) with a musical concert and boxing championship.

        The event, tagged: "Battle of Hope" was organised by Vice President Atiku Abubakar's wife, Titi, and her advocacy group, the Women Trafficking and Child Labour Eradication Foundation (WOTCLEF).

        Vice President Abubakar graced the occasion, while his wife wore a pair of red boxing gloves to signify war against the disease.

        Also at present were ministers and wives of Benue and Nasarawa States governors.

        A star attraction at the event, the world female heavyweight boxing champion Laila Ali was, however, absent. Laila, is the daughter of world boxing legend, Mohammed Ali.

        The American pop music star, DMX, also a major attraction, slumped while performing at the event.

        Laila was conspicuously absent at the much-advertised bout billed to hold between her and the Caribbean Super light heavy weight champion, Gwendolyn O'niel.

        When it was time for the fight, the organisers apologised on her behalf, saying she was not available.

        O'niel who was already kitted, was invited alongside her manager to the ring for introduction and brief remarks, prompting her to boast that Ali could not honour the arranged bout because she was afraid of humiliation by her.

        O'niel's manager, who spoke briefly said: "Laila Ali has run away, but she won't run forever, we will get her."

        With the star fight not holding, the organisers presented two amateur bouts involving Delta State's Mama Agha and Lagos State's Yetunde Alimi. The other was between Edo State's Edith Ogoke and Dupe Akinola from Ondo.

        By unanimous decisions Agha and Ogieke, both national sports festival gold medallists, were declared winners of their various bouts.

        In an interview with The Guardian, the Chief Executive of Capital Events Managers Ltd, Mr. Ebere Young linked Laila's absence to possible security reports on Nigeria given. He cited the United State's warning to its nationals about travels to Nigeria.

        He added that she might have considered the risk not necessary since the bout was not a titled one.

        DMX slumped at exactly 4a.m. while performing at the main bowl of the Abuja National Stadium.

        He was one of the over 10 musicians invited to perform at the event.

        Other top musical stars invited for the concert include another American music sensation, Ashanti; a Germany based Nigerian, Chiboy; Baba 2010; and Ghetto Soldier, Daddy Showkey.

        The others are Eedris Abdulkarim (Mr Lecturer), Kenny St. brown and a group of Abuja-based artistes, which included Six Foot Plus and Tar Uko.

        DMX, who was invited on to the stage at 3.15 a.m., about 20 minutes after his compatriot and arch rival, Ashanti, had performed, wormed his way into the fans hearts as he dashed on to the stage in a Nigerian attire.

        As soon as he appeared on stage, fans mostly between seven and 25, jumped out of their seats and headed for the location, taking over the lush green stadium from mid-field down to the left side section, dancing and hailing their hero.

        DMX reacted generously, firstly by pulling his T-shirt and throwing it to the crowd and then there was a stampede for the shirt.

        Policemen and soldiers stepped in and drove away the fans.

        The American was dissatisfied. He watched sadly as his fans were being forced back and pleaded that they be left alone.

        "No violence! No violence! Leave them, I love them. We are all one, we are brothers'" he screamed.

        But the security men would not budge. DMX became emotional. He jumped twice from the stage to interact with the fans. Twice, the security men forced him back to the stage, and cordoned the stage off.

        In a fit of anger, DMX removed everything in his pocket, and threw it to the crowd. They scrambled the more for it. He enjoyed it.

        Not contented, and apparently exhausted, the pop star threw up the microphone he was using to them. Someone grabbed it and was not willing to return it.

        DMX went for the spare microphone and, as he resumed to rap, suddenly collapsed on the stage.

        He was hurriedly taken away to by the security men through the back stage.

        The incident brought the concert to an abrupt end.

        Presidency wades into row over Internet domain name
        By Sonny Aragba-Akpore, Asst. Communications Editor

        ARESOLUTION of the row over the local hosting of Nigeria's domain name may be underway following the intervention of the Presidency.

        The Guardian learnt that the contending parties have been prevailed upon by the Presidency to endorse the Nigeria Internet Group (NIG) to host the event, but with an enlarged membership to include all government regulatory agencies, recognised professional associations and Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

        Also to be included are government establishments, the military, the police as well as other security agencies. The rest are educational institutions and research institutes, commercial organisations, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), interested individuals and students.

        Contenders to the hosting rights are the NIG, backed by the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology; the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC); licence for Domain Name Management; and the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA).

        Other contenders include Mrs. Ibukun Odusote in her capacity as the pioneer Person of Contact (POC) to Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and Internet Assigned Number and Addresses (IANA) for Nigeria.

        Odusote has the backing of the Nigeria Computer Society (NCS), the Computer Professional Registration Council of Nigeria (CPN), Information Technology Association of Nigeria (ITAN), Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON), among others. Mr. Deji Oguntonade of First Atlantic Bank was also present.

        The NIG was pitted against the others over the right to host the Internet community.

        On December 8, 2003, Science and Technology Minister, Prof. Turner Isoun, wrote to the ICANN asking it to re-delegate Nigeria's Country Code Top Level Domain (ccTLD) to NIG since there was disagreements over the issue back home in Nigeria by the Internet community and stakeholders.

        In response, NCS and Odusote wrote protest letters to ICANN CEO, Dr. Paul Twomey, on December 19 and another petition to President Olusegun Obasanjo on December 19.

        Based on the representations of all parties, The Guardian learnt that the Presidency may have stepped in to douse the tension occasioned by the protests.

        Although the NCS protest was predicated on claim that the second stakeholders' meeting held on November 4, 2003 was not representative enough, officials of NIG, the Ministry of Science and Technology and NITDA have denied this.

        An attendance list made available to The Guardian for the November 4, 2003 meeting had 21 persons in attendance. They included Isoun, Director General, NITDA, Prof. Gabriel Ajayi, Director of Licensing at NCC, Malam Abdul Rahaman Ado, another senior official of NCC, Ms. Funlola Akiode, Director of IT at the National Universities Commission (NUC), Dr. D.C. Onyekwelu, top official of communication ministry, Mr. O.O. Majekodunmi and Mr. Yomi Bolarinwa of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC).

        There were also Prof. Olumide Ajose of Council of Registered Engineers of Nigeria (COREN), Titi Omo-Ettu, representing the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) and Mrs. Ibukun Odusote.

        The list also has former Communications Minister and Chairman, Board of Trustees, (NIG), Mr. Olawale Ige, NIG President; Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem, Toyin Ogunseinde (NIG), Gbenga Sesan representing youths across the country, Dr. E. O. Denemu of the Science and Technology Ministry, Fidelis Oyi (NIG) and Sunny Imudia, President (ISPAN).

        There were also Mrs. Annie Davies of Development Network Devnet and NGO and two officials of NITDA, Vincent Olatunji and Basil Udotai.

        The NIG and TITDA are said to have made their representatives to the President on the allegations levelled against them by NCS.

        The Guardian learnt that besides the Science and Technology Minister, NITDA and NCC, ISPAN, NSE, the NUC, among others, have all endorsed the NIG to host the ccTLD.

        In endorsing NIG, the NSE said: "The membership of the NIG should be enlarged to embrace all segments of the country which constitute the Internet community and it be assigned the function of administration of the .ng TLD.

        The NCS had made similar representation on August 18, 2003 but specifically said instead of NIG, the country's local host should be Nigeria National Information Centre (NgNIC) to embrace all stakeholders and members of the Internet community.

        The Guardian learnt that a meeting, at the instance of Science and Technology Minister, and the Chairman, Senate Committee of 1T, Prof. Iya Abubakar, holds later this week to fine-tune the situation on the advice of the Presidency.

        NBA probes Ngige's forgery charges against Achukwu's lawyer
        From Emmanuel Onwubiko (Abuja)

        THE national leadership of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has begun a probe of the lawyers who obtained a court order for the removal of the Anambra State Governor, Dr. Chris Nwabueze Ngige.

        This is sequel to a petition by the state government, accusing the lawyers of forgery of the date the court's summons on the defendants were served.

        Justice Stanley Nnaji of an Enugu High Court had on January 2, 2004, ordered that Governor Ngige should vacate his office for, among others, failing to obey the summons.

        The suit, for the enforcement of fundamental human rights, was filed by a suspended member of the Anambra State House of Assembly, Mr. Nelson Achukwu, on the allegation that he was manhandled by Ngige's aides during a caucus meeting of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Enugu State.

        He had cited as defendants, the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Tafa Balogun, one Mr. Uduako Mmiri, Ngige, sued as Governor of Anambra State and Chief Udechukwu Nnoruka Udechukwu (SAN), the State Attorney-General as respondents.

        The suspended member secured the services of Messrs Tagbo Ike and Oyibo Chukwu as counsel who obtained the order from Justice Nnaji.

        Ngige, through the Anambra State Attorney-General, in a petition to the NBA President, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), alleged forgery of the proof of service of the processes filed by the applicant before the Enugu High Court.

        The Anambra State government said that a writ of court order and motion on notice of the matter was dropped at the office of the Anambra State Ministry of Justice on 29th December 2003 and not 24th December 2003 as claimed by a copy of the judgment, made available to The Guardian stated:

        "I, C. I. Osakwe, Chief Bailiff of High Court, Awka, made oath and said that on December 24th, 2003 at 1 p.m. O' clock, I served upon the Attorney-General of Anambra State, a writ of court order and motion on notice, a true copy whereof which is hereunto annexed issued out by this court at High Court, Enugu, upon 2nd and 3rd respondents upon the complaint of the applicant by delivering same personally to the 2nd and 3rd respondents through the 4th respondent."

        In the petition, both the Anambra State Attorney-General and the Chief Bailiff denied the date of the service, which was 29th December 2003 instead of 24th December 2003 as claimed by the applicant's lawyers.

        Speaking with The Guardian yesterday, Olanipekun confirmed that the association was in receipt of the petition and affirmed that it would be treated within 14 days by its disciplinary committee.

        Olanipekun (SAN) said: "We have received a petition alleging forgery of the proof of service regarding the matter before Justice Nnaji which resulted in the order asking for the removal of Governor Ngige. We will send the petition to our disciplinary committee headed by Chief Bamidele Aiku (SAN) and we expect that within 14 days, the petition would have been sufficiently treated. We will expedite action on the petition because of the grave implication it will have and because the court order threatens the existence of Nigeria."

        The reliefs sought included:

          • A declaration that the bodily harm/injuries inflicted on the applicant by second respondent (Mr. Uduako Mmiri) and two other unidentified henchmen and a mobile policeman on the orders of the 3rd respondent constitute infraction of the applicant's right to dignity of his person as guaranteed under Section 34 of Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1990; and

          • A declaration that the 3rd respondent, Ngige, is not entitled to meet with or assemble with or share fellowship having ceased to be Governor of Anambra State vide his letter of registration of July 9th 2003.

            Iraqi top cleric demands early polls

            FOR Iraq's most reverred Shi'ite leader, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the only condition he would back the United States (U.S.) roadmap for handing back power to Iraqis is if democratic elections are held within months.

            Officials from the U.S.-appointed Governing Council went to the Shi'ite Moslem city of Najaf yesterday to meet al-Sistani and try to persuade him to support the U.S. plan.

            Under the plan, regional caucuses will select a transitional Iraqi assembly by the end of May, and the assembly will select an interim government that will take over sovereignty by the end of June. Full elections and a constitution will follow in 2005.

            But Sistani wants the transitional assembly to be directly elected, and is not backing down from his stance. If he does not back the U.S. roadmap, many of Iraq's majority Shi'ites may well refuse to accept the process.

            "The ideal mechanism for this is elections which a number of experts confirm can be held within coming months with an acceptable degree of credibility and transparency," Sistani's office quoted him as telling the Governing Council delegation.

            "If the transitional assembly is formed by a mechanism that doesn't have the necessary legitimacy then it wouldn't be possible for the government to perform a useful function...New problems will arise as a result of this that will only worsen the tensions in the political and security situation," he added.

            That has prompted violent protests by Arabs and Turkmens in Kirkuk, and has alarmed neighbouring Turkey.

            Governing Council member Ahmad Chalabi said yesterday that at a meeting this month of Kurdish leaders and the Council, it was decided to preserve the status quo for now.

            "We affirmed the right of the Kurdish people to self determination and the Kurdish leadership affirmed their choice under this right to remain in Iraq in a federal state," he said.

            The controversy has sparked clashes in Northern Iraq. In the city of Mosul, an official from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) said two mortar rounds hit the roof of the party's headquarters Sunday, and two hit nearby houses.

            In Kirkuk, a bomb exploded near the main PUK offices, but police said they did not know if the target was the PUK or a nearby mosque. Shortly afterward, a rocket-propelled grenade was fired at another PUK office. There were however no casualties.

            In mainly Shi'ite southern Iraq, which has generally been much more peaceful than the Sunni heartland around Baghdad, demonstrators gathered in Amara yesterday to demand compensation after at least five Iraqis were killed when police and British troops opened fire during violent protests on Saturday.

            Iraqi police believed they were shot at during Saturday's protest and returned fire. British troops opened fire when grenades were hurled at them, Britain's Defense Ministry said.

            "One, maybe two, (of the dead) were possibly killed by British troops," British army spokesman Major Tim Smith told Reuters in Amara yesterday. "Those troops were firing in self-defense. It was quite clear that a number of objects were thrown at the British troops, possibly grenades. I can assure everybody that they only fired in self-defense."

            Most members of the Governing Council insist that Iraq's precarious security situation makes full elections impossible for now. Also, no reliable census has been held for years.

            Some have suggested that the United Nations (UN) conduct an independent study of whether early elections are feasible. The Governing Council is in discussions with the world body, which pulled international staff out of Iraq after two suicide bomb attacks, about its role in overseeing the political transition.

            The political roadmap has also been beset by controversy over the amount of autonomy and territory given to the country's Kurds, who have run a self-governing zone in northern Iraq since it was wrested from Saddam Hussein after the 1991 Gulf War.

            Iraq's new constitution will ensure a federal structure for the country, but many Kurds are pushing for control over a wider swathe of territory including the strategic oil hub of Kirkuk.

          Shagari's grandson, others win Sokoto council polls
          From Eric Meya, Sokoto

          IT was all jubilation at the weekend for the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), as all its 23 chairmanship candidates, including Alhaji Nasiru Habibu, the grandson of the Second Republic President, Alhaji Shehu Shagari won in the council polls in Sokoto State.

          Habibu, who was a member of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) recently decamped to the ANPP.

          The Sokoto State government at the weekend held council polls in the state contrary to the March 2004 date slated for the polls by most of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) dominated states.

          Habibu polled 30,630 votes to defeat his only opponent, Alhaji Ahmed Sarkin Pawa of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) who secured 767 votes.

          In the results announced by the Sokoto State Independent Electoral Commission Chairman, Alhaji Usman Abdullahi Gada, the ANPP also made a clean sweep of all the councillorship seats at stake.

          According to Gada, the ANPP won all the councillorship seats in 11 councils unopposed, while its candidates in the other 12 councils won in the contested seats.

          In all, the ANPP candidate for Gada Council, Alhaji Garba Muhammad who polled 55,134 votes to beat his only opponent, Alhaji Umar Sadiq of the PDP (1,436 votes), had the highest scores among all chairmanship candidates in the state.

          The ANPP chairmanship candidate for Tureta, Alhaji Sani Yahaya, who scored 10,040 votes to beat Mode Usman of the PDP who scored 210 votes, on the other hand recorded the least number of votes among the winning chairmanship candidates.

          Despite the boycott announced by the PDP, votes were recorded against the names of its candidates in some councils.

          The SIEC chairman said that the candidates in those councils were fully in the race because the commission did not receive any withdrawal notice from them either in writing or orally.

          Dikko in Ogun, condemns money politics
          By Bayo Ohu, Asst. News Editor

          FROM former transport minister in the Second Republic, Alhaji Umaru Dikko, came an advice at the weekend for politicians to avoid money politics, which he warned was inimical to true democracy.

          Dikko, who was virtually mobbed by politicians who were surprised by his presence at a funeral ceremony in Ode-Remo, Ogun State, lamented the use of money to influence voters, claiming that in his own time, it was not so.

          "In our time in the Second Republic, we do not use money to buy voters. What we spent money on was to pay for materials, logistic and various services rendered to our party by the people," he said.

          In a chat with The Guardian, Dikko declared that he was still in active politics and would remain in politics till his death.

          "Anyone who cares about his fatherland must remain a permanent participant in the nation's political affairs," he added.

          Dikko was in Ode-Remo, Ogun State to attend the funeral and thanksgiving ceremony of Madam Grace Ololade Oduga on the invitation of his friend, Mr. Wale Oyedele, an executive director at the Kaduna office of Leadway Assurance Company Limited.

          Several other prominent Nigerians, including former civilian governor of Old Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, former Education Minister, Senator Ahmadu Ali, National Electricity Power Authority (NEPA) Managing Director, Mr. Joseph Makoju and Commandant, National War College, Abuja, Rear Admiral Amos Adedeji, were also in attendance.

          Dikko, who had arrived Ode-Remo since Friday for the wake-keeping of the deceased, but did not attend the funeral service at the Methodist Church, visited Sagamu where he was believed to have met and held discussions with old political associates.

          Immediately he settled down at the reception venue, politicians and uninvited residents from Sagamu and Ode-Remo who got to know of his presence flocked the place to greet him, while others milled around to have a glimpse of the politician.

          Most of the guests who admitted they were seeing Dikko for the first time ever, said they were astonished that he could come all the way from Kaduna to attend a funeral in Ogun State.

          Other notable personalities at the ceremony include former deputy governor of Oyo State, Chief Iyiola Oladokun, former General Officer Commanding 2nd Mechanised Division of the Nigerian Army, Ibadan, Maj.-Gen., Mohammed Jega, Managing Director, Leadway Assurance, Mr. Oye Hassan Odukale, and former finance minister, Dr. Onaolapo Soleye.

          Airline to compensate stranded U.S.-based Nigerian passengers
          By Tunji Oketunbi, Asst. Aviation Editor

          HUNDREDS of passengers, mostly Nigerians, who could not make either the one leg or two-way trips from the United States (U.S.) to Lagos after buying the tickets of World Airways during the Yuletide are to be compensated by the airline's management.

          The Nigerian partners of the airline, Ritetime World Airways, which disclosed this at the weekend, also promised to write on behalf of the passengers to their employers and schools in the U.S. on their inability to report promptly for work and studies.

          Ritetime World Airways Chairman, Dr. Peter Obafemi, said the compensation package would include 50 per cent rebate to the passengers on future tickets purchase.

          Those who flew back to the U.S. through other airlines bearing all the expenses would be given return tickets for the one-way tickets of World Airways in their possession.

          Obafemi, who said the airline regretted the inconveniences caused the passengers, attributed the development to contractual disputes between Ritetime Travel Services and World Airways.

          He said: "We got here due to contractual dispute. World Airway said we owe them $2 million but our record shows that we only need to pay them $1.3 million. Because of the passengers, we are paying the $2m to get them to resume flight."

          The airline chief added that alternative arrangements had been made with Ghana Airways to get the passengers back to the U.S., adding that 80 passengers were brought to Nigeria from New York on the same airline at the weekend.

          A D747 aircraft with about 450 passengers' capacity will be airlifting them to New York tomorrow.

          "We are not happy with this situation, but we have been airlifting passengers out of New York. We apologised to them for the experience but they should bear with us while we find a lasting solution to the problem.

          "We are making sure that before we go on World Airways, we have a better arrangement in place in terms of departure, bringing of passengers' luggage on time and according Nigerians their due dignity.

          "We have successfully operated for six months. The only reason for this crisis is that the owners of the machine (aircraft) will not bring it. What we are saying is let us reconcile our accounts with World Airways.

          "They are coming up with this problem probably because they want to do it on their own, soil Nigerians and take over the business.

          "With what we have experienced now, we will not go back into the same mistake," Obafemi stated.

          He said that the stranded passengers in Lagos were all lodged in hotels located near the airport, saying that the luggage arrived late because of wrong loading, especially of excess luggage into the aircraft, instead of giving priority to those within the passengers' given allowance.

          "RiteTime complained to the World Airways. Unfortunately, we had no control over that situation. Our job stops at the counter," he explained.

          Obafemi, therefore, urged public understanding, as the airline, which introduced flight on the New York-Lagos route to bring succour to Nigerians, addresses every hitch in its operations.

          "We had a lot of problems to get into the sky on this route, especially in securing approval from the Federal Ministry of Aviation. The ministry is assisting us very well now. The conspiracy must be from within the World Airways itself.

          "Some people were envious of what we have done so far and probably trying to do it themselves," he said.

          Why North opposes resource control campaign, by Makarfi
          By Pius Odiaka (Lagos) and Aniekan Bassey (Uyo)

          TO carry the North along in the campaign for resource control by South-South governors, their northern counterparts have called for a redefinition of the issues and change of name, if the perceived misunderstanding generated by the appellation is to end.

          But the northern governors' stand was being outlined by the Kaduna State helmsman, Ahmed Makarfi, just as the Speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Nelson Effiong, has assured that the South-South governors have not abandoned the struggle for resource control, but had merely suspended it, to allow for a peaceful and amicable settlement of the issues involved among the interested parties, including the Federal Government.

          Makarfi spoke in response to a presentation by his Akwa Ibom State counterpart, Governor Victor Attah, during a public lecture on "Resource Control: a Misunderstood Phenomenon" organised by the Northern Youths Consultative Forum at the weekend.

          Makarfi noted that the opposition to the campaign for resource control by the North stemmed from the wrong name given to it, and advised the proponents to consider names like "resource management participation."

          This, he said, would engender better understanding of the intention of the campaigners.

          "If you use the wrong word (control), no matter what your explanation, there is bound to be opposition," Makarfi said, adding that "the North would not oppose the idea of participation in the management and sharing of resources" by hosts or oil producing communities anywhere in the country.

          He maintained that the problem was that of language, as nobody is saying that people should not participate in the exploitation and management of resources that are produced in their domain.

          Attah had explained that the campaign for resource control by oil-producing states was misunderstood.

          "Sometimes, I wonder if the misunderstanding about resource control is genuine or if it is deliberate and therefore contrived," Attah stated.

          He recalled that in 1954 during the discussions for regional self-government, the North placed as a condition for agreement, that each region must control its resources and contributes towards the maintenance of common services by the central government.

          Governor Attah further stated that the East had to accept the arrangement in the spirit of compromise and in the interest of the unity and stability of the country, because the West had earlier held the same position.

          "That position held until the military ventured into politics and oil became the major foreign exchange earner for Nigeria," Attah noted.

          "Then the regions abandoned all the other resources which they had so efficiently controlled and the military unitarised oil, which became the essential and almost the only resource."

          Governor Attah maintained that the issue of resource control would only be fully appreciated under the practice of federalism.

          "Resource control is, therefore, rooted in the desire by some Nigerian patriots to promote the practice of "True Federalism" as the most efficient means of unbinding all sections of Nigeria from the shackles that have weighed them down since the first military misrule, thus making it possible for us to harness our vast economic potentials towards rapid development and progress of our nation," the governor reiterated.

          Also speaking in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, during a stocktaking session of the activities of the House last year, Effiong said it was untrue that the struggle for resource control championed by the state governor, Obong Victor Attah, was dead.

          The speaker, who was reacting specifically to outcome of the recent South-South Speakers Conference, which was silent on the struggle for resource control, explained that it was deliberate move to allow what he regard as "positive internal workings" reached after a cease-fire on the struggle to come to fruition.

          Over the past four years, Governor Attah has championed the struggle for resource control and the abrogation of on-shore/offshore oil dichotomy.

          "In the course of the struggle, a bill was sent to the National Assembly for the abrogation of the on-shore/off-shore dichotomy," Effiong said, adding that the internal mechanism to the passing of the bill is on course.

          The speaker also remarked that there has been remarkable improvement in the finances of the Akwa Ibom State government from the Federation Account as a result of that struggle, "as the President has accepted that our oil though offshore but processed on onshore, therefore, does not require any dichotomy."

          "And we now say since there has been some level of improvement on certain aspects of the struggles, we should exercise some patience and sheath our swords for the time being, to see if all demands would come to fruition," the speaker said.

          Resettlement of Nigerians from Cameroun may cost N10b
          From Jane Ezereonwu, Abuja

          THE Federal Government's efforts to resettle displaced Nigerians in the disputed border towns between Nigeria and Cameroun may cost about N10 billion.

          A top official of the presidential resettlement committee disclosed to The Guardian that the exercise would be rounded off by June this year.

          According to him, the number of Nigerians to be affected by the exercise is about 20,000. They are mainly fishermen and farmers.

          He said: "It is estimated that it will cost between N5 to N10 billion but we are not going to give them cash because some of them may collect it and still go back to the other side".

          "What we are doing now is to register them, and we also have mobile clinics which would be converted to hospitals. We hope to also build schools for them", he added.

          The official disclosed that this month, a little over 8,000 of the resettled individuals had been registered, adding that between 1960 and 2004, an area of 30,000 hectares had been lost to the ocean, leaving just about 3,000.

          He added: "Of the 33 communities affected by the boundary dispute, Nigeria took 18 of them and gave 15 back to Cameroun. We are not forcing them, it is a voluntary decision for them to take on which side to belong to."

          Though he noted that the task was an arduous one, he said Nigerian security officials were already on the ground, stressing: "But we need more of them there to help do the job of getting the people back into the country."

          On November 15, 2002, the United Nations established a mixed commission to look at the ways of resolving the border crisis between Cameroun and Nigeria.

          Cleric urges govt to stop fuel importation
          By Paul Oloko

          THE Secretary-General of Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), Bishop Joseph Ojo last weekend, called on Nigerian leaders to stop the importation of fuel in order to alleviate poverty.

          Ojo, who made the statement during the consecration of Pastor Michael Olusegun Ojo as a Bishop of the Communion Churches World-wide at Festac Town, Lagos said oil that is produced in the country is being sold back to Nigerians, forcing hardship on the poor masses.

          His words: "The government should stop importing oil. They should stop selling our oil to us. One day, God will deal with those Nigerians causing hardship with our oil. We need to pray for the country," he said.

          The presiding Bishop of Communion Church, David Benenoch said it is not easy to lead especially a country with over 100 million population.

          "It is difficult to lead: Nigeria is the most difficult nation to lead. We need to pray for the government of this country," he urged.

          Pastor Michael Olusegun Ojo of the Communion Church, Kirikiri Road, Olodi, Apapa, who was elevated to the office of Bishop of Lagos jurisdiction at the age of 37, to oversee 16 churches of the federation, said honour is not taken but given, but can also be withdrawn at anytime.

          In an interview with The Guardian, Ojo said there is hope for Nigerians, pointing out that "with all that Nigeria is going through and the country is still here, then there is somebody who is still holding this country".

          His message: "God is interested in this country. The leaders should fear God. Nothing is permanent in life. Today you are in position, you can not remain there forever. One day, you are going to leave. And when you leave, you start to regret, if you don't do the right thing now."

          As to why there are many churches, too many crimes, the young bishop said: "Just as there are many drugs, so also are sicknesses all over".

          According to Ojo, churches are coming and rising up to heal the ills of the society. "If not for the church today, the situation would have been worse. So many people have been brought from one place or the other. The church has done a lot. The hope for Nigeria is with the church", he said.

          Kalu canvasses end to Anambra crisis, faults fuel tax

          ...Dariye urges peace
          From Tunji Oketunbi, Adeyemi Adepetun (Lagos) and Isa Abdusalami (Jos)

          GOVERNOR Orji Uzor Kalu of Abia State yesterday called on President Olusegun Obasanjo to intervene in the Anambra State crisis, just as he opposed the introduction of fuel tax.

          Also, the Plateau State Governor, Joshua Dariye, has appealed to the various parties in the Anambra State crisis to sheathe their swords and work toward an amicable solution to the impasse.

          Kalu, who spoke to journalists at the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Lagos yesterday, kicked against Justice Stanley Nnaji's verdict purporting to remove Governor Chris Ngige from office.

          He described the ruling as having the potency of truncating the nation's nascent democracy.

          Saddened by the controversial ruling, Kalu called for the prosecution of the judge. He said the verdict could snowball into a national calamity.

          He called on the President to intervene in the matter at once to avert any danger.

          "I don't feel comfortable that our President is keeping quiet. Anything can happen. If the country starts burning, the fire will engulf everybody", the governor said.

          While calling for concerted action by Nigerians to preserve the nation's democracy, Kalu reaffirmed that President Obasanjo must rise up to the challenge and call everyone to order.

          "Keeping quiet for now is very dangerous. The constitution is very clear on who should and how a governor can be removed. Ngige is an elected governor. Until they found another process to remove him, he should be accorded due respect", he said.

          Commenting on the fuel tax, Kalu urged President Obasanjo to halt it and the implementation of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank's prescriptions, noting that the fuel tax was unconstitutional and ill-timed.

          According to Dariye in a telephone interview, dialogue remained that best way out of the standoff and stalemate created by conflicting court orders on the status of Dr. Chris Ngige as the governor of the Anambra State.

          The governor regretted that the crisis had continued to drag despite series of efforts to resolve it, pointing out that unless the parties were committed to genuine resolution, peace would always elude them.

          Urging those concerned to embrace dialogue in the interest of the people of Anambra State, Dariye noted that the people have been suffering as a result of the crisis.

          His words: "The greatest victims of the impasse are the people of Anambra State. If the people are the purpose for which government exists and if serving them is why we seek political offices, then their interest should be uppermost in our minds."

          Firm opens estate in Lekki-Peninsula

          LEKKI Peninsula in Lagos State will soon play host to an ultra-modern housing estate of 870 semi-detached and fully-detached bungalows.

          The 50-hectare estate named "Mayfair Gardens" is being built by H.F.P. Engineering Nigeria Ltd for medium-income earners and upper middle class.

          Speaking to journalists after an inspection tour of the project site, the company's Deputy Managing Director, Mr. Dele Martins, disclosed that HFP pioneered housing development in the Lekki-Epe Expressway to prove that with the desired will nothing was insurmountable.

          The company had built its first estate, Victoria Garden City (VGC) on a swamp.

          The new estate is an improvement on the VGC because it will be provided with all necessary amenities, including a communication system. Upon taking possession of his house, an occupier would be allocated a telephone number.

          The estate would also have a police station and a fire-fighting service.

          Martins said his company had made buying homes easy because it had negotiated with some reputable banks to advance loans to credible medium-income earners employed in established organisation for long-term mortgage.

          But in the circumstance, the buyer must pay 25 per cent of the cost before allocation. He said his company was determined to solve homelessness in Nigeria.

          Martins disclosed that his company built the Danny Estate, Dolphin at Ebute-Metta and Aso Gardens in Abuja.

          N1 billion debt stalls handover of ECOWAS building
          From Jide Olatunji, Abuja

          AN alleged N1 billion debt owed Julius Berger Nigeria Limited may be standing in the way of Nigeria's promise to provide a headquarters building for the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) parliament.

          Indications to this effect emerged last week when some officials and lawmakers of the parliament were denied access to a newly-refurbished office by officials of the construction company.

          The Federal Government, represented by its Foreign Affairs Minister, Ambassador Oluyemi Adeniji, and Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Professor Ali Nouhoum Diallo, had, three weeks ago, signed an agreement in which Nigeria promised to provide a headquarters building for the parliament and grant diplomatic immunity to all its officials.

          The building situated within the old National Assembly Complex was recently refurbished by Julius Berger Nigeria Limited and hosted the committee meetings of last December's Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).

          The parliament has been operating from a small apartment adjourning the old National Assembly Complex, with the understanding that the renovated complex would be handed over to it at the end of CHOGM.

          Some of the officials of the parliament who spoke with The Guardian said they could not confirm why they were still being denied access to the building in spite of the agreement with the Nigerian Government.

          Efforts by the leadership of the parliament to seek the assistance of the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, the ministry responsible for the allocation of buildings to national and international institutions in Abuja, were said to have yielded nothing positive.

          However, sources within the ministry stated that the delay in handing over the building to the institution might not be unconnected with the Federal Government's indebtedness to Julius Berger. The debt was estimated at about N1 billion.

          The Speaker of the ECOWAS parliament told The Guardian that the current situation has in no small measures impeded the organisation's expansion and growth.

          He also said that the activities of the organisation might continue to suffer if its accommodation demands were further delayed.

          The tasks and challenges before the National Assembly in 2004
          By Clifford Ndujihe (Lagos) and Azimazi Momoh Jimoh (Abuja)

          AS the National Assembly resumes from its 31-day recess tomorrow, the contentious N1.50 fuel tax, the Anambra State crisis, the 2004 Budget and the pension reforms bill will form the bulk of the immediate tasks that it would be confronted with.

          The legislators, who will be returning from the recess embarked on December 18, 2003, would also proffer answers to the nagging questions of constitution amendment and re-constituting committees in the Senate.

          Some legislators in separate chats have given insights into how they would attend to the tasks before the legislature, which they described as "urgent issues" on resumption.

          For example, Senate President Adolphus Wabara said that the Senate would look into the fuel tax matter and see the rationale behind it. "The petroleum tax," he said, "is an executive position. We will dialogue with the executive to find out what really gave rise to such a tax." He said that the leadership of the National Assembly would engage the executive in a dialogue to resolve the issue.

          Lagos State Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu had said that state governors would go to court if the policy were implemented. The leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) said it would embark on a nation wide industrial action on January 20 if the Federal Government insisted on carrying on with the policy

          Alhaji Lawan Farouk, Chairman House Committee on Finance, said that the lawmakers would scrutinise the President's request to impose the tax.

          "While we agree that the toll gates have not achieved their set objectives, introducing tax on petroleum would have a negative impact on the masses. We would examine an alternative way of funding the projects that the tax is meant to achieve," he said.

          Hon. Ahmed Njidda Gella (PDP, Mubi North/Mubi South/Maiha, Adamawa) hopes that the National Assembly would be more vibrant this year. He noted that from 1999 to date, none of the budgets had surpassed 30 per cent implementation. To ensure that the people benefit from the budget, he said the National Assembly, especially the House of Representatives would ensure to make the 2004 budget a test case. The implementation, he assured, would be pursued to the "letter or heads will roll."

          His words: "This National Assembly has oversight functions. The only problem right now is that many of us are new and do not have the details of the 2003 budget. With the 2004 budget coming before us, we are going to address this squarely. The President promised that the budget would be implemented letter by letter. If he does that, we will be on his side. However, if he falters, we will have no option than to revert to what the constitution of the land says, that is to force him to do it, or he will be impeached.

          "We hope that Mr. President will change with total implementation of the 2004 budget. President Obasanjo had shortcomings from the last administration. There were impeachment proceedings against him, despite these, he was again voted into power. It is too early to start blaming the National Assembly. I can speak authoritatively for the House of Representatives but not for the Senate. I am also sure that senators have their image to protect. For the House of Representatives, we are only waiting for the 2004 budget and we have resolved to protect our leadership. We have confidence in our leader but where he fails to go along with his colleagues, we may be left with no option but to remove him."

          Gella identified constitution amendment as another task that will engage the attention of the legislators when they resume.

          "We have set up a sub-committee in conjunction with the Senate. The House of Representatives and the Senate have selected credible members, committee leaders, and legal practitioners to go round the entire constitution. We are not limiting it to any section contrary to speculations that we are interested in specific areas. We are taking a holistic approach to the matter," the lawmaker said.

          The pension reforms bill constitutes a challenge to the National Assembly. How the matter is resolved would go a long way in determining whether or not the year would be crisis-ridden. The issue is facing hot debates currently.

          The leadership of the NLC has declared its readiness to oppose the bill with all the energy it can muster.

          Senate Leader, Dalhatu Tafida, said the ad-hoc committee on pension reforms bill would submit its report for consideration when the House resumes this month.

          The bill for an act to repeal the pensions act of 1990 and to establish a contributory pension scheme for employees in the public and private sectors emanated from the executive. It was sent to the Senate on September 23, 2003. It has gone through first reading (October 14) and second reading (November 6). It was referred to the dissolved Senate Committee on Establishment and Public Service, headed by Senator Felix Ibru.

          Speaking on the issue, Senator Ibru who also chairs the ad-hoc committee, constituted on December 9, 2003, said his committee had held a series of meetings to source input from the organised private sector and other stakeholders.

          "Our primary objective is to ensure that in the course of implementing this scheme, the ordinary citizen can heave a sigh of relief," he said.

          He urged the public to "be patient, bearing in mind that laws for good governance should find a place of comfort within the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria."

          The National Assembly is also expected to improve on the achievements it recorded in 2003. Wabara is seven months old on the throne as President of the Senate and chairman of the National Assembly.

          With 10 persons at the helm of affairs as principal officers, the upper chamber witnessed a series of activities, which attracted various commentaries from the public and the senators themselves.

          Following the crisis of the re-election of the man, who later became the number one in the Senate, the bribery allegation and the uproar that greeted the dissolution of the 43 committees, the Upper House needed to do more to achieve a hitch-free session.

          In his assessment of the Senate's performance so far, Senate majority leader, Tafida, the man who runs the business of the Senate and manages its legislative schedule, expressed optimism that the members of the Upper Chamber would do better than their predecessors.

          His words: "The Senate is moving smoothly and quietly without rancour. The executive is happy with our performance and we are reasonably happy with the approach of the executive. I can say that this Senate is doing well despite the initial problems of settlement and accommodation, which delayed the Senate's business. Forty-four bills were introduced into the Senate; 39 bills passed through first reading while 21 bills passed through second reading. In all, six bills were passed into law. They are the Universal Basic Education (UBE) bill; the Act Authentication and Amendment Bill, the 2003 Supplementary Appropriation bill, Economic and Financial Crimes bill, Money Laundering Prohibition bill and African Union Treaty (Ratification and Jurisdiction) Bill."

          The Senate majority leader added that a total of 35 motions were considered and adopted while 41 ministerial appointments were confirmed in addition to the 71 ambassadorial nominees that were confirmed.

          Tafida, however, deplored the seating arrangement in the Senate whereby minority party members sit on a separate corner of the chamber while the senators from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) sit on the other corner.

          "The sitting arrangement issue is being sorted out by the leadership. We may not have any need to divide at all because we had always done everything together, irrespective of political party affiliation. We do not marginalise any senator. What an All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) senator gets is what a PDP senator gets," said Tafida.

          He dismissed speculations that the 43 committees were dissolved because the leadership wanted to settle scores with "disloyal senators."

          However, some senators do not seem to agree with the submissions of the Senate leader as regards to the performance of the Upper House in the last seven months.

          Senator Lawal Shuaibu (ANPP, Zamfara State), the immediate past chairman, Senate Committee on Drugs, Narcotics, and Financial Crimes, was of the view that the Senate did not meet the expectations of Nigerians in its performance so far.

          His words: "We are yet to meet up with the expectations of Nigerians. The last Senate was more vibrant. The factor of checks and balances, which is the pillar of any democracy, was more visibly demonstrated by the last Senate. People now call us rubber stamps and I do not know how to defend myself. We have not done anything compared to the last Senate.

          "What have we done to bring stability to Nigeria? Now, there is still no security in the country. I challenge the Senate leader to come out and explain his position that this Senate is doing better than the last one to Nigerians. We need to be more transparent."

          In his own assessment, Senator Farouk Bello (Kebbi) believed that the best had not been achieved by this Senate so far.

          "Frankly speaking, it has not been the best, we could have done much better. This Senate dissolved its standing and special committees several weeks ago. And because of that, the Upper Chamber had not been able to play the roles expected of it in a lot of things that have happened in this country within this period as the highest lawmaking body in the land. For instance, the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), which took place in Nigeria recently, had afforded Nigeria an opportunity to host other parliamentarians.

          "Each of the over 50 heads of government which participated in that meeting came with their parliamentarians and senators. What is expected is that there would be group discussions, which would afford Nigeria an opportunity to tap experiences from senators from advanced democracies of the world. That will enhance our own legislative processes and procedure, and our ability to make good laws for this country. At that time, all our standing and special committees were dissolved. Therefore, we missed the opportunity.

          "The absence of Senate committees to wade into a lot of economic issues, which cropped up recently in the areas of devaluation of the naira and the deregulation of the downstream sector of the petroleum sector, further worsened the performance and image of the Senate," he said.

          Bello also expressed regret over what he called the predominant role of the executive arm of government over the other arms without any check from the Upper Chamber. "It is like the executive arm is now holding other arms under very tight conditions of servitude. People now wonder what is happening to the National Assembly, which is supposed to check the executive. What happened to the revenue allocation bill was unfortunate. You will recall that halfway into Senate's discussion of the bill, the President requested that it should be returned to him and it was returned. That is not how it ought to be done."

          He continued: "The National Assembly would have gone ahead and approve the new allocation formula as requested by the Revenue Allocation and Fiscal Commission and pass it over to the President for his assent. Here too, I believe the Senate would have played a better role if we have the standing and special committees in place. What I am saying in essence is that the oversight functions of the Senate have suffered serious set backs because of the non-existence of these committees. Just look at how the 2004 budget proposals were arrived at and presented to the National Assembly by the President. The Senate special and standing committees should have worked with the various ministries before arriving at that proposal so that the eventual deliberations on the appropriation bill would be made easy."

          However, Senator Abubakar Sodangi (Nassarawa) had a slightly different opinion about the Senate performance so far. He praised the Senate leadership for having the courage to dissolve the previous 43 committees, noting that it was an exercise done to instil more productivity in the Upper House.

          "I believe the dissolution of the committees was done to usher in a new regime in the Senate. A regime of vibrancy in the whole set up, where committees as engine rooms of the Senate would perform more creditably. Moreover, let me assure you that nothing is shaking in the Senate because of that. We must get everything right this time around. To achieve that, the Senate as the supreme legislative body in this country need to reposition itself. The dissolution and subsequent reconstitution of the committees is just the right step in this direction."

          Also passing comments on the performance of the Senate so far, Senator Joshua Adagba (Benue), noted that the Upper House needed to improve on its performance, especially in its oversight functions.

          "It is one of the reasons why the committees were dissolved. The Senate leadership believed that some committees were not doing well in their oversight functions as well as processing bills for Senate's consideration and approval.

          "Again, the complaints of marginalisation needed to be taken care of. Many new senators wanted more involvement as far as the running of the affairs of the Senate was concerned, especially at committee levels. To strike a good balance for the good working of this house, the Senate leadership must do what is right to carry everybody along."

          He continued: "What is more, this Senate need to wake up and encourage its members to sponsor bills so that we will not be witnessing a Senate sitting to consider and pass only bills submitted to it by the executive arm of government. So far, the six bills passed by the Senate were all from the executive. This completely negates the principle envisaged by the founding fathers of parliamentary democracy in which laws that govern the country are expected to emanate from the parliament."

          Perhaps this "inadequacy" was what prompted Wabara in his New Year message to assure Nigerians of better deals from the National Assembly in 2004.

          "From this year, the National Assembly will through legislation, ensure a stable economic and political environment. The National Assembly will insist on only bills that would help the economy grow and diversify, increase productivity, develop infrastructure and alleviate poverty.

          "The Senate would strive to achieve prompt passage of bills, especially appropriation bills, give preference to development driven and pro-people laws. It would also maintain good working relationship with other arms of the Federal Government, lay more emphasis on oversight functions, instil participatory approach to lawmaking and continuous dialogue with all stakeholders in the society."

          We are yet to meet up with the expectations of Nigerians. The last Senate was more vibrant. The factor of checks and balances, which is the pillar of any democracy, was more visibly demonstrated by the last Senate. People now call us rubber stamps and I do not know how to defend myself. We have not done anything compared to the last Senate

          I can say that this Senate is doing well despite the initial problems of settlement and accommodation, which delayed the Senate's business. Forty-four bills were introduced into the Senate; 39 bills passed through first reading while 21 bills passed through second reading. In all, six bills were passed into law. They are the Universal Basic Education (UBE) bill, the Act Authentication and Amendment Bill, the 2003 Supplementary Appropriation bill, Economic and Financial Crimes bill, Money Laundering Prohibition bill and African Union Treaty (Ratification and Jurisdiction) Bill

          Anambra crisis: The other casualties
          From John-Abba Ogbodo, Abuja

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