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[NAIJA-NEWS] - THE PUNCH

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  • Henry Umeana
    THE PUNCH Olurin will remain in office, says FG By Our correspondents Published: Friday, 27 Apr 2007 The Federal Government on Thursday said that the
    Message 1 of 130 , Apr 26, 2007
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      THE PUNCH
       
      Olurin will remain in office, says FG
      By Our correspondents
      Published: Friday, 27 Apr 2007

      The Federal Government on Thursday said that the Administrator of Ekiti State, Brig.-Gen. Adetunji Olurin, would remain in office until there was a contrary instruction from President Olusegun Obasanjo.

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      Rtd. Major General Tunji Olurin

      The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Bayo Ojo (SAN), made the clarification at a news conference in Abuja on the controversy surrounding the termination of emergency rule on Tuesday by the National Assembly.

      He said Olurin was not appointed by members of the National Assembly and would not take instructions from them.

      He said the National Assembly had the right to reject the request for the extension of the emergency rule in Ekiti State.

      He, however, added that the resolution rejecting the request must be sent to the President.

      He said, “Right now as I am talking to you, the Executive has not received any resolution from the National Assembly rejecting the President‘s request for a fresh declaration of a state of emergency in Ekiti.

      “It is erroneous to say that Olurin is undermining the National Assembly. He is not. The National Assembly did not appoint him. It is the President that appointed him.

      “Therefore, Olurin will remain there until the President has received the resolution from the National Assembly.”

      Ojo said though the six months covered by the initial declaration of a state of emergency had lapsed, Olurin’s continued stay in office was legal because there should be no vacuum.

      He said, “His (Olurin’s) staying there is not illegal but to wait for further communications from the President.”

      He said after receiving the resolution of the National Assembly, the President would then write to Olurin.

      Ojo said, “As at this time I am talking to you, the resolution from the National Assembly has not got to the Executive.

      “We do not act by what the radio, television or newspapers say.

      “We have enjoyed a good rapport with the lawmakers. It is the press that is fanning the embers of discord between the Executive and the lawmakers.”

      He said the Federal Government decided to impose a fresh state of emergency on Ekiti State without consultation with the National Assembly because the lawmakers were not in session.

      He explained that the new declaration was informed by the violence that greeted the general election in the state.

      Besides, he said that there was a potential constitutional crisis that could erupt in the state and that the decision of the President was to forestall such a crisis.

      He said, “The way thing is done is that the National Assembly will forward its resolution to the Executive who will in turn write to the administrator.

      “We have no quarrel with the position the National Assembly has taken, we are only insisting on due process.”

      On the looming crisis in the state if any of the warring factions is asked to take over as suggested by the Senate, Ojo said, “When we get to the bridge, we will cross it. We are not there yet.”

      Also speaking on Thursday, the Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Florence Ita-Giwa, defended the continued stay of Olurin in office.

      She said the legislative procedures required for the termination of the emergency rule were yet to be concluded.

      She said contrary to reports, Olurin was not defying the National Assembly.

      Ita-Giwa explained that the procedures required both chambers of the National Assembly to meet the day after their separate decisions to formally ratify and confirm their votes and proceedings.

      She added, “Due legislative procedures also required that thereafter, the Clerk of the National Assembly would formally serve Mr. President with the decision of the two chambers via the Office of the Special Adviser on NASS to the President.

      “To the best of our knowledge, neither of these has yet been done.

      “Mr. President is still awaiting the conclusion of these procedures and would act as appropriate, as soon as he is formerly served.”

      But the Senate on Thursday insisted that Olurin must comply with its resolution.

      The spokesman for the Senate, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, told one of our correspondents on the telephone that the Senate had expected the administrator to comply with the resolution.

      He, however, said the administrator could remain in office until he received the resolution passed by the National Assembly.

      Ndoma-Egba said this while reacting to the comments made by Ojo.

      He said, “The Senate has not been able to pass the resolution to Mr. President until the votes and proceedings of the Senate have been approved. That will be on the next legislative day, which is next Tuesday. It means that the man can continue to be there until he formally receives the resolution.”

      He said the Senate would be guided by the 1999 Constitution and its Standing Rules in all matters.

      To avert a major crisis, the Peoples Democratic Party in Ekiti State on Thursday called an emergency meeting of its Central Working Committee.

      The meeting was also attended by members of the House of Assembly and the contenders for the seat of the former governor, Mr. Ayodele Fayose.

      At the meeting, it was unanimously agreed that the parties concerned should await the resolution of the National Assembly.

      Speaking to journalists after the meeting, the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Mr. Friday Aderemi, said, “Without a copy of the resolution of the National Assembly, there is nothing that could be done.”

      Aderemi presided over the meeting.

      The PDP Chairman, Mr. Ropo Adesanya, said since the President communicated his decision on the appointment of Olurin to the National Assembly in writing, the National Assembly should also write the President on its decision.

      He said that the President would thereafter instruct the administrator on what to do and that such a decision would be binding on all the parties.

      He advised the people not to take the law into their hands.

      But the House of Representatives said the decision of Olurin not to vacate office was an insult to Nigerians.

      The Chairman, House Committee on Media and Publicity, Mrs. Abike Dabiri, who spoke on the telephone with one of our correspondent, said the House had dispatched its resolution to the government immediately.

      The Action Congress, in a statement in Abuja by the paty’s National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said Olurin’s stay in office would endanger the sanctity of the constitution and mark the beginning of a dark era for Nigeria.

      The AC said, “Since the National Assembly has said the President cannot extend the state of emergency in Ekiti, it is not for Olurin to be arguing with the Assembly over who has the power to remove him from office.

      “This action of Olurin is nothing short of constitutional despotism, which has now made all discerning citizens of this great country to become worried and concerned.”

      It urged Olurin to vacate the office immediately and hand over to the Speaker of the State House of Assembly as directed by the National Assembly.

      But Fayose, on Thursday, said that he was not part of the succession crisis looming in the state.

      Fayose, who has been in hiding since October 15 2006, said he would not want to be drawn into the debate on Olurin’s successor.

      Speaking through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Idowu Adelusi, in Ado Ekiti, Fayose urged Ekiti people to be wary of attempts by some people to create the impression that peace had not returned to the state.

      Fayose said the people should not give room for the imposition of a fresh emergency rule on Ekiti State.

       
       
      Presidential poll: We’ll contest the results, ANPP vows
      By JAMES OJO, Abuja
      Friday, April 27, 2007

      •Buhari
      Photo: Sun News Publishing

      All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) on Thursday vowed to challenge the results of the April 21, presidential, which the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared was won by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Alhaji Umar Yar’Adua.

      The ANPP chairman and vice presidential candidate, Chief Edwin Ume-Ezeoke, said the party was already gathering facts and evidence to contest the victory awarded to Yar’Adua at the tribunal.

      The ANPP position, announced at a briefing at the party’s headquarters in Abuja, ran counter to the stance of its presidential candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari, not to go to court over the poll’s outcome. Buhari was awarded 6, 605, 279, to come a distant second position to Yar’Adua’ s 24,638,063.

      The development also came amid a plea by the coalition of opposition parties seeking cancellation of the general elections to their members and Nigerians to pray for the deliverance of the country "from those who stole the people’s mandate." The opposition parties made the plea in a press statement issued on the platform of a group named Nigerians United for Democracy (NUD) and signed by their spokesman, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.

      At the ANPP briefing, the ANPP vice presidential candidate, Ume-Ezeoke stressed that the party would employ every legitimate means to win back the mandate the people gave it at the polls.
      According to him, the party was ready to fight for the cancellation of the April 21 elections because local monitors, international observers and the media saw that what happened was not elections.

      "There was a display of aristocratic democracy where a few cabal hijacked the inalienable right of the Nigerian citizen by deciding on their behalf, who should represent them at every level of government. The PDP, in close collaboration with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the security forces, decided to manufacture results and announced these results in total disregard to the objective choice and electoral expressions of the people," he alleged.

      Chief Ume-Ezeoke, who wore a sober look throughout the press briefing, described the event of April 14 and 21, 2007 as the worst psychological torture that any government has ever exposed Nigerians to in the name of elections since the birth of the nation.
      "We shall pursue our call for the cancellation of the elections through the election tribunals and will not stop until we have explored all judicial and constitutional avenues to ensure that the rights of the Nigerian citizens is respected and protected," he vowed.

      The ANPP chairman told party members who have put in for elections in area where polls are to be repeated tomorrow by INEC to come and vote, even though the party has lost confidence in INEC as an umpire.
      Ume-Ezeoke warned that any government formed on the basis of the April 21 elections would not be recognized by ANPP, urging the international community to emulate Germany by not giving legitimacy to any government based on the presidential elections won by the PDP.

      He demanded the immediate release of members of the party arrested by security agents on election day, adding that the party was ready to stand as surety for them.
      On its part, the coalition of opposition parties urged all Muslims to pray in mosques across the country today, while Christians should follow suit in churches on Sunday.
      "They should pray for the repose of the souls of all those who died while trying to defend their mandate, which was brazenly stolen by the PDP federal government in collusion with INEC and the security agencies," the coalition said.

      Said NUD: "They should also pray for peace to reign in our land and for God to deliver Nigeria from the hands of evil people, who are bent on pushing the nation into an avoidable crisis just to satisfy their personal wishes.
      "We believe that much as we will try our best efforts to ensure the cancellation of the last sham elections and the holding of fresh polls, it will eventually require God’s intervention to resolve this matter."
      The coalition said the prayers would mark the first stage of its programme to ensure that what all have now acknowledged as the most fraudulent elections in the history of the country do not stand.

      "We will announce other planned activities at the appropriate time, suffice it to say that whatever we have planned will not endanger the lives of Nigerians but will be very emphatic in rejecting the outcome of the manipulated polls," it said.
      NUD said it remained unshaken in its resolve to ensure that those who have willfully robbed Nigerians their votes and plunged the nation into a needless crisis will not rest until the elections had been cancelled.

       

      Nigeria’s Ballots Scandal Dominate S/African Media

      04.27.2007

      South African newspapers led by the Mail and the Guardian, yesterday carried damning reports about how South African companies were asked by Nigerian authorities at the eleventh hour to print ballot papers that often did not reach polling stations back in Nigeria in time.
      The  reports quoted a local printer  who declined a request four days ahead of the poll to print the bulk of the presidential ballots, as there was not enough time to do a proper job. Three other local companies printed the ballots, but did not add time-consuming security features.
      The presidential election, held in tandem with federal legislative elections last Saturday, was won overwhelmingly by Umaru Yar'Adua, the ruling-party candidate and hand-chosen successor of outgoing President Olusegun Obasanjo.
      The reports said the last-minute printing rush in South Africa flowed from the Independent National Electoral Commission,s (INEC) initial barring of Vice President Atiku Abubakar the Action Congress (AC) candidate and his clearance on Monday last week, five days before the elections by the Supreme Court.
      According to the stories, local printer Lithotech, whose South African division supplied 100-million ballot papers for the Nigerian state elections a week before the presidential and federal elections, "confirmed this week that it was invited on Tuesday last week to reprint 40-million presidential ballot papers to include Abubakar's name. Nigeria has 61-million registered voters."
      Lithotech group development market manager Ben Sachs reportedly said the company "declined the offer to print within the short time-frame as air-freight availability and production time (were) not sufficient and the requirement could not be met". He said Lithotech "would never entertain accepting a contract where the risk of non-compliance as required in this instance is so high".

      The Mail and Guardian hinted that three other printers -- Media24-owned Paarl Printers; Formeset, which handles large South African government orders; and Ren-form, which has ballot supply experience -- were then asked by Nigerian authorities to supply the entire requirement, to be delivered to Nigeria by no later than Friday, the day before the elections.
      The reports claimed the ballots were printed without counterfoils and serial numbers -- features usually included to establish an audit trail.
      Paarl Print MD Mike Ehret confirmed the print order came on Tuesday. "Sure, we were under a lot of pressure, but it was a professional experience."
      Ren-form manager Jean-Pierre du Sart said his company started printing on Tuesday evening and delivered locally Thursday evening. He said Ren-form had provided a "packing list" and labelled pallets to help establish an audit trail, but that serial numbers would have taken too long. "If we had put on serial numbers, I don't think the election would have taken place."  Du Sart added that "it must have been a logistical nightmare to distribute ballots to even the most remote areas in Nigeria

       
      By-elections hold in 27 states on Saturday
      By Musikilu Mojeed and Olalekan Adetayo
      Published: Friday, 27 Apr 2007

      The Independent National Electoral Commission on Thursday said that by-elections would take place in 27 states of the federation on Saturday.

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      Sam Adeko.

      INEC Chairman, Prof. Maurice Iwu (left) and the Resident Electoral Commission, FCT, Alhaji Kabiru Ahmed, during the election in Abuja on Saturday.

      INEC‘s Commissioner in charge of Publicity, Mr. Phillip Umeadi Jr., said this while briefing the media in Abuja on preparations for the elections.

      He also denied claims that tons of ballot papers meant for last week‘s presidential election were left in South Africa to starve some states.

      The states where the by-elections will hold include Abia, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Bauchi, Benue, Borno, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo and Ekiti.

      Others are Enugu, Imo, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Lagos, Ondo, Oyo, Plateau, Sokoto, Taraba and Zamfara states.

      The by-election in Imo State is for the governorship and some seats in the State House of Assembly.

      The elections in the other 26 states are into the Houses of Assembly and the National Assembly.

      The April 14 governorship election in Imo State was cancelled following some irregularities.

      The by-elections in other states became necessary as a result of the omission of the names and party logos of some candidates from the ballot papers.

      Umeadi, who said all was set for the elections, urged Nigerians to come out en masse to vote.

      He said the embattled Senator Ifeanyi Araraume remained the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party for Imo State despite consistent request by the party that Chief Charles Ugwuh should replace him.

      Umeadi said INEC had to adhere to an order of the Supreme Court, which affirmed Araraume as the rightful candidate of the party for the governorship election.

      He said, “It is not true that we left ballot papers in South Africa. If we want to starve any state of ballot papers, we do not need to leave the items in South Africa when we know it will become public knowledge.

      ”We have a large store here so we would simply have left it in our store. But we have no such intention. We brought back all the ballot papers we printed. They all arrived in Nigeria on Friday and we distributed them all.”

      The Lagos State Police Command has, however, announced a nine-hour restriction on movement in the state during the National Assembly by-elections on Saturday.

      The restriction which starts at 8am and ends at 5pm is however applicable to vehicular movements only.

      A statement by the command’s spokesman, Mr. Olubode Ojajuni, a superintendent of police, on Thursday said the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Bashir Azeez, ordered the restriction in order to ensure a hitch-free election in the state.

      The statement reads, “The state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Bashir Azeez, has ordered restriction of vehicles on Saturday, April 28, 2007 during the National Assembly elections in Lagos State.

      “Those who may wish to move with vehicles from one point to another are advised to do so before 8 am. Lagosians are advised not to transverse with vehicles during the restriction period, which is from 8am to 5pm.

      “The CP emphasises that the restriction is purely for vehicles and not for people as individuals are allowed to move within their localities freely.

      “He appeals to Lagosians to obey this order to ensure a free and fair election on that day. The CP also thanks residents of Lagos for their maturity, understanding and cooperation during previous elections and hopes that same gesture will be demonstrated this weekend.”

      A by-election will hold in two senatorial districts in the state, Lagos West and Central as well as seven federal constituencies.

       
      The Guardian Web Poll
      Do you believe that the conduct of the April 14 and 21 polls in Nigeria was sufficiently credible to produce legitimate new office holders? [1865 votes total]

      Believe (400) 21%
      Don't believe (1371) 74%
      Don't know (94) 5%
       
      I regret failure to fix electricity problem – Obasanjo
      By Sun News Publishing
      Friday, April 27, 2007
      •Obasanjo
      Photo: Sun News Publishing

       

      President Olusegun Obasanjo says he did his best in his eight years rule, while also rejecting foreign and domestic criticism of the just concluded general elections.

      Speaking with AFP, President Obasanjo said: "The day I meet God I'll tell him: not everything was perfect but I did my best."
      He gave assurance that he would leave on May 29 as planned.
      "I will go back to my farm. Afterall I did it in 1979," he said, referring to the time when, as Nigeria's military leader, he handed power over to a civilian administration.

      Amid calls for the annulment of the elections’ results and the opposition’s planned nationwide protest, Obasanjo said he had no problem with protests, provided they were peaceful.
      "If you want to demonstrate, demonstration is part of democracy, provided it does not lead to disorderliness," he said.

      Obasanjo, who admitted a few days earlier, in a national address that the elections were far from perfect, waved aside the criticism trailing the polls, especially coming from international observers.
      "Some of them came with their own prejudices," he said of the bevy of foreign condemnations of the elections.

      He said delays in getting ballots to voters were beyond the government's control.
      "The outcome of the election, to me, is a true reflection of the situation," he said, adding: "This country is united from the North to the South."

      Obasanjo said his greatest achievement in the past eight years was having "given hope back to Nigerians" and having got some of his compatriots living in exile since the seventies to return home after refusing to come back under military leaders, Gen. Sani Abacha and Ibrahim Babangida.
      He said his greatest regret was not having tackled the country’s chronic electricity shortage problem.
      "If I have another opportunity and I know what I know now, I would handle electricity generation much earlier than I did," he said.

       
      How INEC messed up presidential polls – Falana
      By RAZAQ BAMIDELE
      Friday, April 27, 2007

      •Mr Femi Falana
      Photo: Sun News Publishing

      Lagos lawyer and social critic, Mr Femi Falana, on Thursday alleged that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) messed up the presidential/National Assembly elections of April 21, describing the INEC boss, Prof. Maurice Iwu’s claim of pre-election preparations as “far from the truth.”

      Reacting in a release to a statement credited to Iwu that “all the ballot papers ordered for the presidential/National Assembly elections were received before the polls,” Falana disclosed that contract to print the papers were awarded to three South-African companies, revealing further that the papers never arrived Nigeria until the night of Friday, April 20 less than 12 hours to the commencement of the poll slated for Saturday April 21.

      In 8-point release, Falana declared that:
      “On Tuesday, April 17, the opposition political parties demanded for the postponement of the presidential/National assembly elections to enable INEC to make adequate arrangements for the polls.
      “In dismissing the call, the INEC claimed that all necessary arrangements had been put in place to ensure a successful election.

      “On that same day, April 17, Lithotech, the South African company that had supplied the 100 million ballot papers for the governorship/House of Assembly elections declined the request to print the ballot papers for the presidential/National Assembly election within a 48-hour deadline.
      In the evening of that same day, the contract for the supply of 40 million ballot papers for the presidential/National Assembly elections was awarded to three South African firms – Paarl Printers, Formeset and Ren-Form.

      Although INEC registered 61 million voters, it awarded contract for the supply of 40 million ballot papers.
      According to the terms of the contract, the 40 million ballot papers were to be delivered on Friday, April 20.
      One of the terms of the contract was that the ballot papers were to be printed without serial numbers and counterfoils.

      Four consignments of the ballot papers were flown to Nigeria on Friday night of April 20 aboard four cargo flights- South African Norse Air and European based MK Airlines.
      In the light of the foregoing, it is crystal clear that the INEC deliberately decided to disenfranchise several million-registered voters only for Professor Iwu to turn round to claim that the charade was 80% successful.”

       
      Yar’Adua pledges to tackle Niger Delta crisis
      By Musikilu Mojeed, Abuja
      Published: Friday, 27 Apr 2007

      The president-elect, Alhaji Umar Yar’Adua, on Thursday said he would tackle the intractable Niger Delta crisis headlong after his inauguration on May 29.

      Speaking in Abuja when a delegation of leaders from the South-South geo-political zone visited him, Yar‘Adua said he would collaborate with all major stakeholders in the volatile region to find a lasting solution to the grievances of the people of the area.

      He said he would in the days ahead summon a meeting of governors, leaders of thought, major oil companies and other stakeholders in the Niger Delta.

      He said the parley would deliberate on how best to implement a master plan for the development of the oil-rich region that had been drawn up by the Niger Delta Development Commission.

      ”During the meeting, we will study the master plan that has been produced by the NDDC and agree on a blueprint for the overall development of the Niger Delta.

      ”We will study the master plan before we are sworn-in. And in the first week after our swearing-in, we will begin to tackle the Niger Delta problems holistically,” he said.

      Describing the South-South as ”very strategic to Nigeria‘s development,” Yar‘Adua said, “if government must succeed in its bid to secure the country, it must first secure the Niger Delta region.”

      He assured that his administration would draw up and implement ”a solid plan, well thought-out and properly costed.”

      He argued that the Niger Delta problem had dragged on for too long and that it was time the country “addresses it holistically and put it behind us.”

      The president-elect said, ”For me, I have given my pledge that the Niger Delta is a strategic part of this nation and will be treated as such.

      “We will take a concrete move to ensure the security of that region because the security of that region is strategic to the security of Nigeria.

      “Our government will embark on widespread consultation that will address all the grievances of the people of the region.

      “We urge all Nigerians to be committed to the implementation of our blueprint for the Niger Delta.”

      Earlier, leader of the delegation, Chief Edwin Clark, said the South-South Peoples Assembly would soon forward a proposal for the development of the region to Yar‘Adua and the vice-president-elect.

      He described Yar‘Adua‘s success at the election as a victory for the South-South, saying he had already reached out to militants in the area to stop further hostage-taking and other criminal activities.

      ”We will do our best to ensure that there is peace in the Niger Delta during your reign,” Clark assured.

      Also on the delegation were a former Director-General of the State Security Service, Chief Albert Horsefall, a former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chief Chibudom Nwuche, a former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga (rtd.), Secretary to the Bayelsa State Government, Dr. Godknows Igali, and a former Minister of Aviation, Chief Alabo Graham Douglas, among others.

       
      Notes on Nigeria's Elections (4)
      By Reuben Abati

      In my part of the world, we have a saying that the kingmaker is the first that the king kills. But it is only an unwise kingmaker that will allow the king he has made to kill him. As soon as the king is on the throne, you run - Olusegun Obasanjo, Financial Times, April 17, 2007

      PLEASE read the quote from President Olusegun Obasanjo above. There are many Nigerians who are hoping and praying that the President will run, according to his own word, after his exit from power on May 29. He is not expected to run in a physical sense, and become a fugitive, but there are so many people who would rather have him keep himself away and out of the governance process. They are aggrieved that the elections of April 14 and April 21 2007 did not reflect the wishes of the Nigerian people; the majority however is willing to accept the blackmail that has been thrown onto their laps and move on with their lives.

      That the elections were ridiculous was obvious enough, hence the universal consensus that this was not democracy but a kangaroo process. An international observer group even announced that by African standards, the elections were a sham; its monitors had never seen anything like that before anywhere else in the world. President Obasanjo's response is that it would be improper to compare elections in the Western world to the same process in a developing country. He forgot that Ghanaians next door conducted elections two years ago which were considered free and fair by international standards.

      And what point was the President making about elections in a developing country? Did he by any chance mean that the theft of ballot boxes, the stuffing of ballot boxes, under-age voting, election violence should be accommodated because people in developing countries are sub-human, or not good enough to experience true democracy? His statement in this regard is a reflection of the compromises: of standards, quality and morality that Nigerians have had to live with in eight years.

      The President should be reminded that whereas it took Nigeria's Electoral Commission about 48 hours to announce the results of Presidential elections, it took France which had its own Presidential elections on Sunday, April 22, only a few hours to inform the French nation about the results. The French Presidential race had been reduced by popular choice to a run-off between Nicolas Sarkozy (Union for a Popular Movement) and Ms Segolene Royal (Socialist Party). Nobody burnt tyres, or wielded machetes on the streets of Paris. Ballot boxes were not stolen, and in the French process, nobody tried to impose his or her will on the people; democracy did not become a threat to the future destiny of the nation.

      In the ongoing 2007 elections in Nigeria, the votes should have been a referendum on the ruling party and President Obasanjo, but they weren't because both President and the PDP insisted that their will must prevail. President Obasanjo wanted the PDP back in power as the dominant political party. He has achieved that dream, and moved the country nearer the character of a one-party state. He told Nigerians that he will be succeeded by Governor Umar Musa Yar'Adua as President. He has now had his way. He has told the CNN that Nigerians will appreciate him after May 29. He may not count on that. His government's conduct of the 2007 elections is perhaps the biggest offence that will be held against him in the same manner in which General Ibrahim Babangida is yet to live down his abortion of the Presidential elections of June 1993. He says Nigeria's democracy is "very healthy, well and kicking". Is it?

      It is a coup that has been carried out against the Nigerian people. Some of the more recent revelations are sordid and mind-boggling. In Ondo State, the PDP was declared winner of a Senatorial election in which it had no candidate! Where did the figures spring from?

      In Osun state thumb-printed ballot papers favouring the PDP, are said to be littering the bush days after the elections. In the Presidential election results, Yar'Adua of the PDP was awarded 24.6 million votes, followed by Buahri, 6.6, and Atiku Abubakar, 2.6 million, 22 other Presidential candidates all managed a total of about three million votes bringing the grand total to about 35.3 million votes in the Presidential election. Where did INEC get 35.3 million votes from? This was an election in which voting never took place in many parts of the country, voter apathy kept many at home and in other places, voting did not start until 7 pm.

      There have been reports that ballot papers for the Presidential elections are still lying in the warehouse of the printers in South Africa, and that INEC deliberately refused to collect them in order to create an artificial scarcity of materials during elections. INEC has said it took delivery of all the ballot papers it ordered printed. Who is lying then: the freight company which reportedly brought this to public attention or INEC? INEC had earlier said that it printed 61 million ballot papers for the Presidential election. If it can account for 35 .3 47477 million votes, then where are the remaining 25.652523 ballot papers? Could they be the ones left behind in a South African warehouse? Again, here is another justification for a post-election probe of INEC and its operations. The South African authorities should also investigate how their country has become a launch pad for electoral fraud in other African countries.

      The last word on the elections is that they make short-shrift of the Obasanjo government's avowed commitment to transparency and accountability. In its twilight hours, the government is being accused of running a fraudulent and flawed electoral process. Civil society groups, many of which had observers on the field are angry. They have vowed to register their protest on May Day, and later call out the Nigerian people to embark on the equivalent of the Rose Revolution in Georgia in 2003, and the Orange Revolution in Ukraine in 2004/2005. The planned civil society protest will be useful, and the more robust that it is, the more significant it could be. But there are two issues. One, the civil society coalition is not as united as it seems. The opposition political parties in Nigeria lost the opportunity for solidarity and self-assertion even before the elections. The results of the Presidential elections made them look like non-starters. They lack a rallying, central figure.

      Some of the groups may succeed in making the right statements and gestures on May Day or subsequently, but a national protest will be near-impossible. In many of the states, civil society leaders have been trooping to the homes and offices of the newly elected leaders to pay homage, and these include even members of the progressive camp. What we may well get (I hope not) is the NGO-nization of the fall-outs of the 2007 elections. Two, it may be difficult to mobilise the people, the long suffering people of Nigeria who have taken the outcomes of the electoral process with accustomed cynicism. That is why life appears to have continued as if no crime requiring citizen action, has been committed. Some rescheduled elections will take place tomorrow, I doubt if many of our compatriots will bother to participate in them.

      Eight years of sustained abuse and dispossession have made the Nigerian at home so cynical, he or she is ready to rationalise anything and live with it. He is tired of hitting his head against the wall of official insensitivity and getting clobbered always. As dim as the situation in the country appears to be, there are in fact Nigerians who are already trying to rationalise it all. They say that the PDP would have won the elections anyway, it is just that the PDP rigged in a desperate manner. So? This argument is not proven. They also argue that whatever may be the flaws of the electoral process, one thing at least has been achieved: President Obasanjo will leave on May 29.

      To get Obasanjo out of Aso Villa, some Nigerians are willing to accept anything at all. The President should be concerned that he has evoked this kind of feeling among the people. When those who hold this view are reminded that Yar'Adua is Obasanjo's anointed President, they insist that Yar'Adua will soon end up as his own man or that it is difficult for the President of a country like Nigeria to take directives from a Godfather. "Don't worry, Yar'Adua will Ngigerize Obasanjo", one fellow boasted. All of a sudden Ngige has become a reference point. But can Obasanjo be caged, and forced to "run"? He calls Yar'Adua, now the President-elect, Umoru whereas the man's name is Umar. A friend has opined that the first Presidential act by Yar'Adua should be a special order that President Obasanjo should get his name right: Umar not Umoru.

      In a country with a different kind of moral order, there should by now be a general outrage against the 2007 election results. But the people have travelled through that path before and they have seen how in the long term, the people's voice again gets muzzled. And this is why there is such a triumph of cynicism. Yar'Adua is already receiving congratulatory messages. Ethnic associations are trooping to his office to pay homage. There have been reports of a big scramble for Ministerial positions, under the umbrella of a necessary sharing of the spoils of electoral victory according to each man's contributions.

      Some newspapers are in fact already prescribing economic and foreign policy agenda for Yar'Adua. And the man is also beginning to play the part. In the states, a similar drama is going on. Out-going Governors are planning a meeting with newly elected Governors. The jostling for political appointments and contracts has started. No matter how challenging a situation may be, the average Nigerian has a way of finding an opportunity. On the question of propriety, standards and morality, it is a sharply divided country.

      There has been much talk about the election petition tribunals too. The mess that the state has created, we expect the tribunals to clear them up. Even President Obasanjo has said that he expects the tribunals to treat all the cases before May 29. He obviously was speaking tongue-in-cheek, because he had the opportunity long before now to lobby for a review of the Electoral Act to this effect but he did nothing. The wheel of justice grinds slowly, in the matter of election petitions, where much will depend on the furnishing of evidence, the tribunals may be handicapped by the process, and by the doctrine of necessity. But must we give up? No. Let those who have a voice continue to speak up.

       
      AC wants INEC scrapped
      By Agency Reporter
      Published: Friday, 27 Apr 2007

      The Action Congress in Rivers State on Thursday called for the scrapping of the Prof. Maurice Iwu-led Independent National Electoral Commission and sought the creation of another body to conduct election in the country.

      The party said in a statement in response to the just-concluded election that it was not surprised over the failure of the election since Iwu was imposed on Nigerians by the ruling party for the execution of an evil agenda.

      In the statement signed by the Media Consultant to the governorship candidate of the AC in the state, Chief Eze Eze, the party said that the election could not have been free and fair with Iwu on the saddle.

      Eze said, ”We knew that the INEC boss and his lieutenants were too subservient to the Presidency and the hawks that hijacked the PDP to be trusted and taken very seriously in the conduct of widely acceptable, free and fair poll in the country.

      ”Right from the composition and inauguration of the electoral body by Mr. President, we had on several occasions, alerted Nigerians that no matter how sincere and honest Iwu might sound, he would not be able to deliver as long as he took directives from the Presidency.

      ”The degree of electoral irregularities that characterised the 2007 general poll has no doubt rubbished and dwarfed whatever legacy President Olusegun Obasanjo ever hoped to leave for Nigerians.

      ”What happened recently in the name of an election was horrible, demeaning and a fatal blow on the country‘s emerging democracy. But we are confident that these unpatriotic moves and undemocratic acts geared toward making Nigeria into a one-party state will fail.”

      The party lauded international observers and others for speaking out against the injustice done to Nigerians by the INEC and the ruling party in the name of conducting election.

      It said it would never accept the result and the products of the so-called election

       
      Cleric seeks release of Brume, Odibo over polls' violence
      From Chido Okafor, Warri

      THE continued detention of Senator Fred Brume, Mr. Richard Odibo and several other persons in Abuja in connection with the April 14 election violence, which resulted in the burning of the houses of some Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) stalwarts in Delta State, has continued to attract condemnation from concerned Delta citizens.

      The latest plea for the release of Brume and Odibo who allegedly worked for the governorship candidate of the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP), Chief Great Ogboru, before the election, was made yesterday by the founder of the Church of the Anointing, Rev. Francis Waive.

      Brume and Odibo were arrested a day after Governor James Ibori vowed to deal with persons linked to the burning of houses of PDP chieftains in the state on April 14.

      Said Waive: "It is known to all in the state that Brume is opposed to the PDP governorship ticket. That he has legally and publicly done so is also an open secret.

      "That his life had been threatened several times for his stance and his name rubbish by political jobbers are public knowledge. But that this man of class, character, brains, fame and authority is been held responsible for an act that everyone, including his tormentors know he is incapable of doing is incredible to say the least".

      Waive urged Ibori to remember the inputs of Brume in making him governor in 1999, especially the meeting at Gen. David Ejoor's house, where Brume strongly canvassed support for Ibori. "Remember how he took you round when nobody knew you or your father's name. Remember all the Grassoot Democratic Movement (GDM) days before some people created the gulf and the rest is now history. Remember there is also a tomorrow."

      The cleric urged all aggrieved persons to exercise restrain and pursue them within the provisions of the law in order for democracy to take its root in Delta State.

      "We are told we are in the learning stage. I believe that one day we shall get it right. I also appeal to Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, who I am assured by all and sundry to be a fine gentleman to begin on a good note by ensuring that nobody suffers unjustly in this matter."

       
      Delta police declare Ogboru wanted
      From Sunny Ogefere, Asaba

      THE police command in Delta State has declared Chief Great Ogboru, the governorship candidate of Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) in the April 14 elections, wanted.

      A statement issued yesterday in Asaba by the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Miss Olabisi Okuwobi, an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), said that Ogboru was declared wanted in connection with allege electoral violence and offences.

      Part of the statement reads: "The Nigeria Police Force has declared one Chief Great Ovedje Ogboru wanted in connection with cases of murder, arson, malicious damage and electoral offence recorded in Abraka area of Delta State on the14th of April, 2007, the day of the gubernatorial and House of Assembly elections."

      The force requested members of the public who know the whereabouts of Ogboru to inform the state commissioner of police or any nearest police station.

      Ogboru, however, dismissed allegation linking him with the arson and killing that took place in Abraka, claiming that it was a ploy to incarcerate him and prevent him from proving before the elections petition tribunal, that no governorship polls took place on April 14, 2007.

      "I am shocked that any person would want to associate me with the arson or any killing that took place in Abraka on the 14th of April 2007. Throughout the 14th and to a large extent the 15th of April, I was indoors", he was reportedly quoted as saying.

      On the day of the governorship elections, about three building were torched in Abraka, including that of a serving commissioner in Governor James Ibori's administration.

      Besides, three persons, including a pregnant woman, were allegedly shot and set ablaze in one of the buildings.

      Prior to the elections, the Director of the State Security Service (SSS), Mr Godwin Igbinovia, along with officials from the police, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), compelled the political parties and their governorship candidates to sign undertaking, taking vicarious responsibility for acts of violence and thuggery perpetrated by their members and supporters.

       
      DAILY SUN EDITORIAL

      The assault on Abia INEC Commissioner
      By Sun News Publishing

      Friday, April 27, 2007

      Nigerians were shocked to read in the newspapers, last week, the news of the beating up of the Independent Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) for Abia State, Prince Solomon Soyebi, by thugs and a mobile policeman believed to be working for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) gubernatorial candidate in the state, Chief Onyema Ugochukwu.

      The reports indicate that Ugochukwu, who lost the Abia governorship ticket to the Peoples Progressive Alliance (PPA) candidate, Chief Theodore A. Orji, set the stage for the assault when he unleashed a slap on Soyebi and called him a fool. The ensuing fracas, which transpired as the two disembarked from an Aero Contractors flight at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, in Abuja, saw the political thugs beating up Soyebi and accusing him of having rigged the Abia gubernatorial elections in favour of the PPA candidate.

      Appeals to the thugs to stop beating Soyebi by the former Senate President, Chief Evan Enwerem, were reported to have been rebuffed especially as the PDP National Secretary, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, who had also disembarked from the same flight alongside Ugochukwu, Enwerem and Soyebi, bolstered the attackers, calling Soyebi “a foolish man” for whom the PDP “did everything” and “offered everything” yet he let the party lose the Abia gubernatorial ticket, thereby cutting him off from his village in the state.

      Air Force personnel had to be called in to rescue the INEC Chief from the thugs who, reports say, appear bent on killing him. Following this unfortunate development, Soyebi was redeployed to Lagos State.

      We are scandalized by this resort to physical assault on an INEC Commissioner by an aggrieved gubernatorial candidate, simply because he insisted on doing his job the way it should be done. The descent to jungle tactics by the PDP candidate in Abia is unbelievable, and unbecoming of a person who aspires to hold the high public office of governor.

      We consider it bad enough that a public officer is assaulted for doing his job. It is sacrilegious that such mindless battering was instigated and spurred on by supposed chieftains of a political party, who should know better. The attack on Soyebi is one incident which suggests that those who advocate psychiatric tests for aspiring leaders in Nigeria may have a point, after all.

      We condemn and strongly object to the unjust attack on Soyebi. This attack is indefensible under the democracy we operate. It is unfortunate that an aspiring governor could so freely give reign to his emotions to the extent of engaging in public affray. We expect persons who aspire to lead us to be mature and have faith in the courts to address their grievances and give them justice.

      They need to develop a temperament that is suitable for leadership and learn to restrain themselves even in the face of grave provocation. They must be able to keep their emotions and temper under check as nothing positive can be gained from a resort to lawlessness

      This assault should be condemned by all right thinking persons, and remedied, otherwise public officers all over the country will become sitting targets for attacks from persons who are aggrieved over one issue or the other. Such brazen actions cannot be allowed in a civilized society and appropriate sanctions must be visited on persons who choose to take the laws into their own hands as has happened in this case, to serve as a deterrent to others. We advise Prince Solomon Soyebi to seek redress in court for his public humiliation.


      VANGUARD EDITORIAL
       
      National Assembly Stirs

      Posted to the Web: Friday, April 27, 2007

      EMERGENCY rules have been contentious in Nigeria right from the first declaration in Plateau State in July 2003. In that instant, there was breakdown of law and order in Plateau State and Governor Joshua Chibi Dariye was not in a position to do much about it.

      Yet the position of the law was tested. Relying on Section 305 of the Constitution, the President declared emergency rule, appointed an administrator who was already in office in Jos before the President informed the National Assembly.

      The situation in Plateau, coupled with the fact that the National Assembly still had a going relationship with the Executive, made the National Assembly ignore the infraction. A renewal of the tenure of the administrator in Plateau was out of the question as Dariye resumed after six months.

      Wednesday’s decision from both houses refusing to extend the tenure of the administrator in Ekiti State, clearly marks the chasm that has existed in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, since the demise of the President’s third term ambition.

       Most of the legislators have been punished for their role in denying the President his ambition of ruling Nigeria for another term. There could have been more malice than consideration for the common good in reaching the decision. However, the message was directed at the President. He must learn at this late hour that his powers are not limitless.

      When the emergency rule was passed last year, it was a tough decision that  finally flew on the wings of the various illegalities that had been committed in Ekiti State, which left nobody democratically qualified to replace impeached Governor Ayodele Fayose. His deputy was impeached, the Chief Judge was illegally replaced and the Speaker of the State House of Assembly was improperly elected. The National Assembly had no option than to approve emergency rule.

      The issue, this time, was more about consulting with aggrieved legislators, who like most Nigerians, have been alienated from the affairs of the country. This alienation was not without the active encouragement of the legislators, which ceded their powers to the President.

      Except for the abrogated third term ambition of the President, the National Assembly has spent the last eight years pandering to the inexhaustible wishes of a President who considered him imperial.

      We would have wished to see the National Assembly act as decisively as it did now on other pressing national issues – electricity, water, housing, roads, education, health, rule of law, among others – where the President ignored the country and carried on for eight years.

      Had the National Assembly been as proactive, the country would have had a better transition, devoid of the credibility burdens the government that would step in on May 29 would bear.

      One more lesson for President Obasanjo as he retires to his farm, he needed to have consulted more in his patriotic zeal to run a country that it turns out he made minimal efforts to consider the wishes of the people.

      Supreme Court decides on Dariye
    • Henry Umeana
      Step aside, Reps tell Speaker By Chiawo Nwankwo and Victor Sam Published: Tuesday, 4 Sep 2007 Tension heightened in Abuja on Monday as 50 lawmakers and the
      Message 130 of 130 , Sep 3, 2007
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        Hon. Speaker, House of Representative, Patricia Etteh
         
         
        Step aside, Reps tell Speaker
        By Chiawo Nwankwo and Victor Sam
        Published: Tuesday, 4 Sep 2007

        Tension heightened in Abuja on Monday as 50 lawmakers and the leadership of the House of Representatives disagreed on whether or not the embattled Speaker, Mrs. Patricia Etteh, should preside over Tuesday’s (today’s) plenary session.

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        Hon. Speaker, House of Representative, Patricia Etteh

        While the lawmakers, led by Alhaji Farouk Lawan, said Etteh and her deputy, Alhaji Babangida Nguroje, should step aside in view of their alleged roles in the N628m contract scandal, the leadership of the House said the demand was uncalled for.

        The 50 legislators, drawn mainly from the Integrity Group and New Agenda Forum, said the two principal officers of the House ought to step aside for a panel to investigate the allegations against them.

        They said at a news conference in Abuja, that the contract scandal had placed the House at a crossroads and questioned its integrity.

        Lawan, who read a three-page statement by the legislators, applauded President Umaru Yar’Adua’s statement on Sunday that the scandal in the House be investigated and its findings made public.

        The statement was their response to the clean bill of health given to the Speaker by the management of the National Assembly.

        The National Assembly management, which claimed that due process was followed in the award of the contracts, put the total sum at N579m.

        The statement of the 50 lawmakers reads in part, “We are 24 hours away from the first day of sitting after the summer recess (six weeks vacation).

        “Let us reiterate that the House cannot conduct any legislative business under a cloud of controversy of this nature and as such, we wish to reiterate the need for the Speaker and her deputy to step aside pending the completion of the investigation by a panel set up by a Speaker pro tempore under the House rule.”

        In the statement, the group argued that a precedent was set in the Senate in 2001 in a case that involved a former President of the Senate, Dr. Chuba Okadigbo.

        On the Assembly’s management position, the group considered it an ‘afterthought.’

        According to the lawmakers, the Assembly management resorted to ‘semantics’ by substituting the word ‘renovation’ with ‘upgrade’.

        They also accused the management of reducing the contract sum from N628m to N579m by removing the N49m earlier budgeted for the purchase of two Mercedes Benz cars.

        They said the documents, in respect of the cars, were already in the public domain.

        Due process, they maintained, was not followed in the contract awards.

        The lawmakers added, “This play on words and semantics only exacerbates and further insults the intelligence of Nigerians and those of us who are calling for a probe.

        “We are at a loss as to the difference between upgrade and renovation. If indeed what the management is trying to say is that the contract involved much more than renovation and that the ‘upgrade’ meant reconstruction, one wonders why you need to reconstruct particularly the deputy’s house which was brand new.

        “Under normal construction contracts, there is a retention clause which calls on the contractor to correct any defect or problem discovered after handover. Was the contractor ever recalled?”

        They argued that pasting the tender notices on the notice board of the Assembly ran foul of the Public Procurement Bill and Due Process Bill that should guide a contract of this magnitude.

        The lawmakers said that it was in a bid to justify the huge cost of the contract that reception block, a radio room, a power house, lockup garages and security posts were listed as components of the homes of the Speaker and her deputy.

        They said the biggest “spin by the management of the National Assembly is its assertion that the renovation was covered in the 2007 Appropriation Act.”

        To further counter the Assembly’s argument, the lawmakers raised a poser: “Why then did they have to ask the Federal Capital Development Authority as far back as June to renovate the houses?”

        They said whether the contract was N628m or N579m, legal issues and due process remained the question.

        “The staggering quantum of money involved was and remains a moral question. Both are at par in terms of seriousness and gravity,” the legislators maintained.

        Lawan, who answered questions on the numerical strength of the members of the group opposed to Etteh, enjoined journalists to wait till Tuesday (today).

        He described the crisis in the House as a battle between lawmakers who wanted things done correctly, and those on the Speaker’s side.

        Lawan said, “We must act in a way that must clear this particular matter. We must redeem the image of the House of Representatives and we must continue to maintain the ethical and moral standards of this House as an institution.”

        He also admitted that the Speaker had personally reached out to some members of the House and groups.

        Lawan, however, said there was no friction between the members and the House leadership.

        “Yes, the Hon. Speaker has been trying to reach out to some members of the House. Some of us were visited by the Speaker and some received all kinds of messages through various emissaries,” he claimed.

        Some of those at the news conference were Mr. John Halims, Dr. Ahmed Salik, Mrs. Mercy Isei, Tergu Tsegba, and Chuma Nzeribe.

        Others were Habeeb Fashinro, Femi Gbajabiamila, Independence Ogunewe, Lynda Ikpeazu, Ngidda Gella, Patrick Obahiaagbon and Mrs. Binta Garba.

        Nzeribe, who chairs the House Committee on Works, was believed to have been in Etteh’s camp, just as Ogunewe.

        But in a swift reaction, the leadership of the House said Etteh could not step aside since she had not been found guilty.

        Although it admitted at a press conference addressed by Mr. Ita Enang that there was a provision for the Speaker to step aside in the House rule, it said that Etteh was still in charge.

        Enang, who is the chairman of the House Committee on Business and Rules, however, said that a Speaker could only step aside after an issue had been raised.

        He said, “You don’t ask somebody to step aside if the person has not been found guilty or if an issue has not arisen on the floor. Madam Etteh is still the Speaker of the House of Representatives.”

        At the briefing by Enang were the Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Eziuche Ubani, and his counterpart in charge of Information, Mr. Dino Melaye.

        On Sunday night, the South-South caucus in the House advised the Speaker to step down for proper investigation.

        The caucus, which is led by Mr. Andrew Uchendu, said after its meeting in Abuja that the allegations against Etteh were grave and impinged on the integrity of the House.

        The meeting was attended by 26 out of its 55 members.

        Meanwhile, some youths under the aegis of Coalition of Youths Against Corruption in Nigeria, on Monday, protested against Etterh’s continued stay as Speaker.

        The youths, numbering over 100, stormed the complex of the National Assembly as early as 10am with placards and leaves, calling for the resignation of Etteh and Nguroje.

        They sang and danced at the entrance of the complex before they were forced out by a combined team of riot policemen and other security men attached to the Assembly.

        Some of the placards read, “Etteh must be jailed,” “Save Nigerians, probe Etteh,” “We are against corruption,” and “No more corruption at high places.”

        The National Coordinator of CYACN, Mr. Bello Godspower, who spoke exclusively with our correspondents, said the group was appalled at the magnitude of the allegation and was at the NASS to demonstrate openly on the matter.

        He said that attempts by the management of the National Assembly to stop investigation into the matter was seen by the group as a “disservice to the nation.”

        Godspower said, “Whatever the National Assembly officials are trying to tell us is not acceptable to us. We are here to show our annoyance. We are here to tell them that this matter would not be covered up in anyway.

        “By Mrs. Etteh’s silence, she has already admitted guilt. But, we want an independent probe into the scam. But, before then, she cannot continue to remain as the Speaker of the lower House.”

         
        How renovation was done during my tenure –Nnamani
        By Adelani Adepegba and Victor Sam
        Published: Tuesday, 4 Sep 2007

        The immediate past president of the Senate, Chief Ken Nnamani, on Monday explained that renovation, including the furnishing of the official residence of the Senate President was handled by the Federal Capital Development Authority during his tenure.

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        Former Senate president, Chief Ken Nnamani

        The Senate, he added, was not involved in the renovation, because the building belonged to the FCDA. He added that there was no budget for the exercise.

        Nnamani, who in a telephone interview with our correspondent, stated that the renovation was so spectacular that his successor, David Mark, just moved into the residence without any complaint.

        Commenting on the allegation that the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mrs. Patricia Etteh, spent N628m to renovate her official quarters, the former Senate President said that there were certain basic questions that should first be asked which would bring the truth to light.

        He said, “The first (question) is on the issue of ownership of the house. Was it owned by the FCDA or was there a special arrangement between the House of Representatives and the FCDA on the renovation? Who authorised the renovation? Was due process followed and was the renovation in the budget?

        ”During my tenure, the Senate President’s mansion and Speaker’s mansion were properties of the FCDA and it was responsible for the renovation and the Senate didn‘t participate in the negotiation of the contract for renovation. But then, the entitlement for accommodation was not monetised and because of that, a tenant could not renovate someone‘s house because it didn‘t make you the owner of the house: renovation is the responsibility of the landlord.”

        Nnamani said he agreed with President Yar’Adua’s position that the due process should be followed in the probe of the matter.

        He added that the lower house should turn the searchlight on itself.

        He cautioned the lawmakers not to be carried away by anger or allow temper to becloud the issue at stake, stressing that temper does not resolve issues.

        On Etteh’s silence since the controversy came up, Nnamani said it was her “prerogative to speak or not to speak,” adding that she should however be given the chance to defend herself on the allegations against her.

        Meanwhile, the Transition Monitoring Group on Monday said the leadership and members of the House of Representatives would have a moral burden on their shoulders if they chose to treat allegations of corruption against the Speaker with levity.

        The group stated this in a press statement signed by its national coordinator, Mr. Mabel Ade, on Monday in Abuja.

        The group said the allegations should never be swept under the carpet as the usual “PDP Family Affair,” as many Nigerians were watching.

        It also condemned the setting up of the Electoral Reform Panel by President Umaru Yar’Adua, saying doing so without the review of the constitution would be an effort in vain.

         
         ANPP To Withdraw Petition Against Yar’Adua
        It’s a game plan – Buhari
         All Nigeria Peoples Party, the principal opposition political party in the country, said yesterday that it is considering withdrawing the petition filed against the April 21 election of President Umaru Yar’Adua, citing monitoring criticisms by other petitioners as reason.

        The party’s counsel, Chief Chimezie Ikeazor (SAN), gave the indication at the resumed hearing of the petition before the presidential election tribunal in Abuja yesterday.

        But counsel to Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), the ANPP presidential flagbearer, Chief Mike Ahamba (SAN), in a swift reaction said that Buhari had withdrawn his petition and filed a separate one.

        His words: "It is a game plan. We have known it from the beginning that this is how it will end and that is why we did not want to join our petition with theirs. If we had gone under their canopy, this would have been the end of our petition, too."

        Explaining why the ANPP is seriously considering withdrawing the petition against President Yar’Adua, Chief Ikeazor (SAN), said: "We have found ourselves in the most embarrassing position, as we are being called all sorts of names by the Action Congress (AC) and even our presidential candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari.

        "The documents filed by the duo before this court really go beyond the legal issue but castigated us for joining Yar’Adua’s government of national unity. Based on this development, we are withdrawing the application we filed for the consolidation of all petitions against Yar’Adua.

        "We are not immoral people. We believe that what we have done is the right thing, and we should not be persecuted for it. I am going to consult with my client for a withdrawal of the petition in its entirety. And as for me, I am done with this matter."

        The presidential election tribunal presided over by Justice James Ogebe, however, directed the counsel to file a formal application to the effect and adjourned sitting till September 11, 2007.

        Buhari and the AC had opposed the ANPP’s application for the consolidation of all petitions against Yar’Adua. They had in their separate submissions argued that ANPP has no moral justification to file and sustain a petition against a government it is participating in.

        "Consolidating of ANPP’s petition with others will create a wrong impression of the approval of the situation in which the party is petitioning against a government of which it is a member. This is very embarrassing, lacking in principle and legally contradictory," Chief Ahamba said in the motion.

        The Chief Edwin Ume-Ezeoke-led National Working Committee (NWC) of ANPP had negotiated and accepted two ministerial slots and four special adviser and special assistant positions from the Yar’Adua government as a prerequisite for joining its Government of National Unity.

         
         Electoral Reform: INEC Can Be Independent – Uwais
        Set to conduct public hearing 

        The chairman of the 22-man Electoral Reform Panel and former chief justice of the federation, Justice Muhammadu Lawal Uwais, has said that it is possible to have an independent electoral commission for the country, if only the will is there.

        Speaking on an NTA network programme monitored in Abuja yesterday, Uwais said an independent electoral commission can only be possible if the judiciary itself is independent.

        According to him, "You can have a truly independent national electoral commission if only the judiciary is allowed to be independent of the executive."

        He said many things went wrong in the last April general elections starting from the voting process, but that his committee is ready and willing to identify the lapses, so as to correct the mistakes.

        "Many things are wrong with the electoral process, starting from voting. We were made to vote in the open," he added

        Justice Uwais revealed that the committee will conduct a public hearing on the last elections so as to receive and rely on the memoranda to be presented. The task of the committee is tasking, and that its success will depend largely on the resources and time made available to it, he said.

        "We are equal to the challenge," he added.

        Uwais, however, did not specify when the public hearing will commence and its mode of operation.

        It could be recalled that President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua last week inaugurated the panel, headed by Uwais, to suggest ways to reform the controversial electoral process.

         
        THE GUARDIAN EDITORIAL
        Reforming the electoral process

        PRESIDENT Umaru Musa Yar'Adua has inaugurated a 22-person panel to activate the process for electoral reforms in Nigeria. He wants a review of the entire electoral process and recommendations for Nigerians to achieve an electoral structure with the "highest internationally acceptable quality and standard".

        The panel has a full year to render its report. We consider the tenure of the panel rather too long. The timing of its introduction is also inauspicious. Election petition tribunals are still sitting, the obvious fear is that the work of the electoral panel may indirectly be prejudicial to the outcomes of the tribunals, the details of which could have provided useful material for consideration by the panel.

        The good news, however, is that the panel is made up of eminent Nigerians led by a former Chief Justice of the Federation. Its members are drawn from various backgrounds - law, civil society, labour, academia, the Police, the army, religious groups, electoral chiefs and the media.

        It could be said that by getting to this induction stage for the electoral reform panelists, it does appear this President sets so much store by his inauguration day address where he publicly conceded that the April elections of which he is a major beneficiary were flawed. Not only did he depart from the trend of announcement by his own party activists then, now it is also notable that he is living up to his campaign pledge early enough in the day.

        Perhaps in the belief that the inclusion of card-carrying politicians may contaminate the rest of the panel, no card-carrying politician was nominated to take part in the assignment. The panel and other Nigerians may miss the partisan politicians' field experience. Interestingly, though, there is the view that the politicians were kept out of the panel because they are the cause of our very difficult experience with electioneering over the years. We agree that this is true.

        The Nigeria Police and security services are somewhat represented on the panel. There can be no doubt that the security agencies were also part of the problem with the country's electoral process. The Nigerian people will expect from the panel a dispassionate review of the country's electoral process and a honest definition of the truth about our experiment with democracy.

        One question that should be addressed quickly is this: Where does the legitimacy of the Yar'Adua administration rest that confers on it the rectitude to oversee electoral reforms? In addition, can President Yar'Adua mount a moral high horse on the issue of electoral reform? Without much ado, we hold that the administration is only a convenient arrangement by Nigerian power brokers, within the political parties and outside of it. The administration is, let it be restated, waiting on the plethora of electoral tribunal judges to pass judgments that may go either way in furthering the Yar'Adua administration or call for fresh elections. To that extent, the creation of an electoral reform panel by an administration that has serious questions to answer about the process that brought it to power is to say the least, contemptuous.

        But Nigeria must not have a vacuum - that will be dangerous for the polity. So, we affirm that we live with the initiative to begin the conversations on electoral reform in the firm belief that the aspirations are worthy and of enormous importance, and that the panelists will act in utmost good faith.

        Virtually every Nigerian of voting age holds very fresh, but unsavoury, memories of the April 2007 general elections. Widespread disenfranchising of Nigerians took place in broad day light and in so many constituencies that the results put out by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) were simply unacceptable or plain, fraudulent. In a sense, the electoral reform is a direct response to the disaster of the 2007 elections, which in itself, was a geometric and diabolic escalation of electoral frauds in Nigeria.

        We call on the panel to tackle her mandate with vigour and eschew the temptation to turn sanctimonious and talk down on the people as participants in the process or conveniently forget that the Nigerian people are the victims of electoral mismanagement. This panel must listen to Nigerians in order to reformulate the strategies and tactics that will stave off the abuse of the electoral process.

        First, in the light of previous and the current painful performance by the leading lights of the Electoral Commission, we need to be creative in the recruitment and appointment of senior and junior electoral officers. The current holders of the offices have failed to convey for a fact that this particular Commission is an impartial arbiter. More shamefully, the crass abuse of the sensibilities of both Nigerians and her friends as well as the conduct and utterances of electoral chiefs in the past months give concern about INEC's accountability on one hand, and the integrity of the recruitment process for key responsibility areas therein.

        We challenge this electoral reform panel to create a ventilated template that will receive and sieve applicants for the Electoral Commission and ensure a public vetting of all, who, either voluntarily put themselves up for the assignments or are nominated by the Executive branch or, for that matter, any group of Nigerians. The first rule would be, never again should Nigerians allow the Executive, all by itself, to enthrone a candidate as chairman or member of the electoral commission at any level of governance.

        Let it be reiterated that independence and autonomy, in word and deeds, of the Electoral Commissions at both the State and Federal levels is the sine qua non for the chance to deepen democracy in this country. Our attempts in the last many years have ran aground between the antics of despotic leadership and the naivet? of the Nigerian people entrusting their fate without a means of recourse to institutions. And to the chagrin of everyone, election year after another, the votes of Nigerians hardly were counted in declaring winners or losers of electoral contests. The work of this panel should focus therefore not just on INEC alone, but the general environment of politics in Nigeria, including the political system and the need to enforce sanctions to discourage brigandage during elections.

        The laundry list for this panel should also include all the questions and issues in respect of: the place of Independent candidates, Enfranchising Nigerians in the Diaspora, the paramount need to conclude electoral tribunal contentions before any candidate is sworn into any office, the place of the Executive in control of coercive forces and their deployment rules at election times, the funding of election campaigns through state treasuries, ceilings on and public declarations of campaign fund contributions, the issue of proportional representation, the mode and timing of elections and so on.

        Let this panel work hard to complete its assignment without fear or favour. We believe that it does not need all of one year for this. But the task of reforming the electoral process is not that of the panel alone. We earnestly look forward to both legislative and constitutional changes that will make the votes of Nigerians count, and the political will to avoid the same old Nigerian way of doing things. That is all the test democracy prescribes.

         

        N300bn PEF Scam: Martins Denies Allegation

        By Yemi Akinsuyi, 09.04.2007

        Co-ordinator, Police Equi-pment Foundation (PEF), Chief Kenny Martins, has denied the allegation published in a newspaper over the weekend that the organisation raised N300 billion and mismanaged it in the last two years.
        Addressing a press conference in his office in Abuja, Martins described the allegation as the handiwork of cheap blackmailers who wanted to give the organisation bad name for selfish reasons.
        “Since the beginning of this organisation we have generated less than N10 billion of which we have spent four billion naira for the purchase of 800 vehicles, N1.2 billion earmarked fro housing project, N1 billion for procurement of helicopter for the police and N1 billion for body armoury. This organisation is owing now and they have not been able to finance their project for lack of fund. Where did we get the N300 billion they are accusing us of mismanaging. It beats my imagination that people can make baseless allegation against people for no just cause,” he said.
        Martins said the organisation has not received money from any international donour, governor, oil companies, and others as alleged.
        He stated that they have been able to achieve some measure of success through the assistance and collaboration of some commercial banks in Nigeria that partner with them in financing some of these projects based on memorandum of understanding (MOU) that they would offset the loan in instalments.
        “For one and half years, we have been battling with some cabals who have no other job than blackmailing because they have means of doing this and they see it as a means of livelihood. Their decision to rubbish the image of this organisation is because of our refusal accede to their selfish request of giving them the sum of N200 million,” he said.
        He said before the publication, a well-knonw lawyer had come to his office to negotiate for settlement for a case that was already in court against his client.
        The PEF boss stressed that the lawyer’s was dragged to court for his unrelenting efforts in blackmailing the management of Police Equipment Foundation and he lost the case in court and the court refused to grant his lawyer an interlocutory injunction. Martins alleged that the lawyer and his collaborators, as well as a crime journalist demanded the sum of N200 million as “settlement” from the management which they refused to oblige.
        He stated further that before now, the lawyer had written petitions against the organisation to the President, Sultan of Sokoto, Federal Executive members, and Inspector General of Police, alleging corrupt practises against the management of the organisation.
        “We will not bow to the lawyer’s blackmail. If he is a professional blackmailer, he should not tamper with Police Foundation because we have nothing to hide. Everything we have done here is above the board. We have done our internal auditing and circulated to those who should know about it, our Board of Trustee members. We do not have any skeleton in our cupboard and we never have any because our major concern is to improve the security of lives and properties in Nigeria,” Martins said.

         

        As House of Representatives Resumes Today... Etteh: The Daggers Are Drawn

        From Stanley Nkwazema and Chuks Okocha in Abuja, 09.04.2007

        Ahead of today’s stormy session of the House of Representatives as it reconvenes from its recess, it was a battle of wits last night in Abuja between the lawmakers rooting for House Speaker, Mrs. Patricia Olub-unmi Etteh, and those angling for her removal over the controversial N529 million renovation contract.
        The House, speaking through Chairman Rules and Business Committee Hon. Ita Enang and his Media and Publicity Committee counterpart, Eziuche Ubani, said Etteh could not be stampeded out of office as Speaker until a thorough investigation of the allegations of wrongdoing in the renovation  contract was done.
        But members of the Integrity Group spearheaded by Hon. Farouk Lawan from Kano State, however, renewed the call for the Speaker to step aside over the allegation.
        There were speculations that the group was working on getting the Speaker to step aside using a simple majority vote rather than opting for outright impeachment which requires two-third majority.
        In the Order paper for today’s proceedings issued by the National Assembly, however, the controversial renovation contract was not listed as an item for discussion.
        A copy of the paper made available to THISDAY last night only contained the official remarks from the Speaker on the House’s resumption and presentation of four Executive Bills and motions.
        The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), however, said yesterday that due process should be followed in handling the alleged contract scam against the House Speaker.
        President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua had during a media chat on the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) on Sunday called for proper investigation and Etteh given fair hearing before anybody could pass judgement on the controversial contract.
        Etteh has come under attack for approving the N529 contract for the renovation of her official residence and that of her deputy, Nguroje.
        Briefing the media last night, Enang and Ubani said Etteh had to be found guilty by a competent committee first before she could be asked to step aside as Speaker.
        “You don’t ask somebody to step aside when the issue has not been raised on the floor of the House. She is still the Speaker of the House of Representatives until proved otherwise. According to the standing Order of the House, there is a provision for stepping aside and we have to follow it,” they said.
        But the Integrity group, the umbrella body of the House members calling for the removal of Etteh and her deputy, Babangida Nguroje, over the renovation contract insisted that though the Speaker and her deputy were covered by a presumption of innocence under the constitution, they needed to step aside to give room for an unfettered investigation of the allegation.
        Hon. Farouk Lawan, the arrowhead of the group, who led other members of the group which included Halims Agoda and Mercy Almona Isei to a news briefing last night said, “the House cannot conduct any meaningful and legitimate business under a cloud of controversy of this nature and as such, we wish to reiterate the need for the Speaker and her deputy to step aside pending the completion of the investigation by a panel set up by Speaker pro tempore under the House Rules.”
        Lawan said a precedent had already been set in the case of late Dr. Chuba Okadigbo who in 2001 stepped aside as Senate President in order for the contract allegation against him to be probed.
        “We believe this to be the right approach as the Speaker under the rules of natural justice cannot be a judge in her own case. Justice must not only be done, it must be seen to have been done,” he said.
        The group was scheduled to regroup last night at Protea Hotels Apo Abuja to map out the final strategies on how to get Etteh to step aside.
        Lawan said though the National Assembly management had finally released a defence of the contract through a document dated September 2, 2007, “the management has elected to describe the contract in question as an upgrade and not a renovation. This play on words and semantics only exacerbates and further insults the intelligence of Nigerians and those of us who are calling for a probe.”
        In the executive bills listed in the order paper, the House is expected to discuss the N76 Billion Supplementary Appropriation Bill 2007 at its first reading.
        There is also the Competition Anti Trust Bill 2007 being presented by Honourable CID Maduabum, the Energy Commission of Nigeria, an amendment bill, which Honourable Fancy Arole from Lagos State will present.
        The last on the list is the Federal Character Commission Amendment bill being handled by Hon. Bassey Etim. 
        On the House’s resumption, Ubani said, “We must thank God that there has been no casualty, we are resuming and almost everybody has returned to Abuja waiting for today’s business.
        “The Speaker is expected to speak tomorrow (today), the National Assembly has spoken, there is a lot of business to be done. Something has happened but we have to figure out how we can move the country forward,” he said.
        But THISDAY’s investigations revealed that the plan to move against Etteh has been sealed.
        Hon. Patrick Obahiagbon representing Oredo Federal Constituency of Edo state has been penciled down to lead the debate on the need for the Speaker to step aside.
        Agoda who was at the House Hearing Room 1, where the Integrity Group spoke with newsmen, with 50 other antagonists of Etteh confirmed that Obahiagbon was chosen for the job for strategic reasons.
        On whether attempts have been made to resolve the issue without recourse to any investigation, Lawan said the Speaker had made attempts to reach the group.
        “We were visited by all sorts of emissaries from Etteh. It is not an individual matter. But no amount of blackmail and intimidation can stop us. We are at crossroads in the House.
        “Allegations have been raised and we must have to conduct an independent investigation not because of Etteh but because of the integrity of the House.”
        Lawan told THISDAY that there was a need for a thorough investigation into the allegation.
        “Let me tell you that from the Clerk to the least person who was part of the deal will not be spared during the course of our investigation. We will get the entire details and apportion blames wherever.
        “That due process was followed at every stage as claimed by the management is precisely why we are calling for an investigation. “We as legislators do not consider the mere pasting of tender notices on the notice board of the National Assembly as meeting due process and public procurement rules and standards, particularly for a contract of such magnitude.”
        Also yesterday the Chairman of Women Affairs Committee of the House, Hon. Beni Lar, reiterated the confidence of the female caucus in Etteh’s leadership.
        Lar who last night led some non-governmental organization to the House said, “it is in the best interest of our nascent democracy  to avoid raising unnecessary media attention aimed at distracting our Speaker as she performs a role which is crucial to the stability of our fragile nation, Nigeria.”
        PDP Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Bayo Alao, told newsmen in Abuja that the allegation against Etteh remained a rumour.
        “The whole thing is still a rumour but as far as we are concerned, there must be fair hearing.
         “We as a party cannot take any position now because the issues being raised are allegations. We will stay and watch for the members to come back from their recess to discuss the issue,” Alao said.
        Also, the National Assembly Security officials yesterday met at the Hearing Room 1 of the House of Representatives to on how to ensure effective security as the national Assembly reconvenes from the summer recess,
        The meeting, which included the Police, Federal Road Safety Commission officials, the Sergeant -At- Arms and the State Security Service met for several hours to rehearse on how to ward off miscreants the resumption.
        THISDAY also confirmed that the over 300 police men at the assembly complex and those attached to the legislative quarters at Apo Village were given clothing materials to make their new uniforms by the officers.
        However, the security officials at the First Gate prevented placard-carrying youths from getting past the gate of the assembly yesterday.
        The youths who came in ten buses wanted to get to the White House which houses the two chambers of the National Assembly but were sent back by the mobile police men at the First Gate.
        Meanwhile, the Forum for Democratic Ethos and Norms, an umbrella body of former presiding officers of state Houses of Assembly said yesterday that “there are veritable processes recommended for the resolution of areas of disag reement in the House of Representatives.
        “This could come in form of matter of urgent public importance or a motion on the floor of the House rather than taking it through the media to the public domain as the very first approach.
        The system the group said “is in itself a breach of parliamentary ethics and privileges of the House and is capable of engendering a rush to judgement on the part of the public without having the opportunity to consider all sides of the issues.”
        The forum, in a statement signed by Friday Itulah, George Daika, Stanley Ohajuruka, Peter Linus Umoh and Bassey Ewa  however resolved that the House should institute an investigative committee in line with the guiding rules to look into all the issues concerning the controversial contract award.
        “In the interim, all parties involved should sheath their swords and wait for the outcome of the investigative  committees for the sake of our nascent democracy, as it will not be in the interest of Nigerians for the National Assembly to be in crisis.’’

         

        ...Speaker Moves to Reshuffle C’ttee Chairmen

        By Philip Ogunmade, 09.04.2007

        The embattled Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mrs. Patricia Olubunmi Etteh, last night offered the olive branch to those opposed to her as she resolved to take another look at the composition of chairmanship of the 66 standing committees of the House.
        House sources told THISDAY that Etteh was set to reshuffle the committee chairmanship.
        Under the new deal, some committee chairmanship given to the South-west will go to other zones.
        The committee chairmanship is alleged to be lopsided in favour of the South-west and is said to be the main issue in contention and not the controversial N529 renovation contract over which Etteh is being hounded.
        Some House members believed to be close to the Speaker became aggrieved because they were not allocated chairmanship of committees they desired.
        THISDAY learnt that under the new plan, the committees on Niger Delta and Appropriation given to lawmakers from the South-west will change hands. A legislator from the South-south may emerge the chairman of the Niger Delta Committee while Appropriation Committee may also go to another lawmaker from another zone apart from South-west to chair.
        Etteh was said to have given the plum committees to legislators from the South-west in order to seal any plan by such members to angle for the Speakership zoned to the zone by the Peoples Demo-cratic Party (PDP).
        But as the crisis broke out in the House, some of the legislators from the zone were said to be positioning themselves for the plum office, a development that left Etteh flustered.
        There were allegations that there was an unseen hand in the compilation of the House committees which Etteh announced early last moth before proceeding to the United States.
        Most of the lawmakers that are up in arms against Etteh like Hon. Farouk Lawan, Halims Agoda, Mercy Alumona-Isei are known allies of the Speaker.
        They had all been elected into the House since 1999. Lawan was the one who nominated Etteh for the Speakership in June this year.

         
        THISDAY EDITORIAL

        The Etteh Contract Scandal

        09.03.2007

        It is not for nothing that there is often a degree of distrust between political leaders and the led, especially when the conduct of political leaders violates public propriety at the expense of the people. That is why there is a general feeling that many who seek political office are driven more by the lure of the perks and privileges of office than the desire to serve the society.
        The recent hoopla over the N628million-contract scandal involving the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mrs Patricia Olubunmi Etteh can safely be located in this realm. The sum, according to her accusers, is meant for the renovation of her official residence and that of her deputy, Alhaji Babaginda Nguroje. Her supporters, however, argue that the sum involved is not more than N280 million.
        Whatever the amount, it remains an assault to the sensibilities of most Nigerians who find it difficult to reconcile the sum involved and the purpose it was meant for.  In a country where the level of poverty and lack are remarkably high, spending the whopping sum of N628 million to renovate an apartment vacated less than three months ago, smacks of insensitivity to public plight. It is an indiscreet way to utilize public funds.
        It is inexplicable that the sum N628 million will be expended in renovating an apartment, when building such an apartment, even in Abuja, should, most likely, cost less.
        There was also the contention that the award of the contract did not follow Due Process, given that there was no open tender  before the contract was awarded. Was the contract surreptitiously awarded to predetermined contractors?
        Even if all the processes were duly followed, the impropriety of the action will still stick out like a sore thumb. In other words even if Etteh satisfied all legal and procedural requirements, fiscal prudence demands her disapproval of the mind-boggling expenditure for mere renovation.  Public service also entails the willingness to make sacrifice while serving. Spending so much of public fund to renovate an elected officer's abode runs counter to this principle.
         Indeed, what is in a renovation to cost so much as alleged? A breakdown of the items indicates that there will be installation of security gadgets among many other such curious items. Were there no such gadgets during the tenure of Alhaji Bello Masari? Or did Masari's exit from the residence invalidate the security equipment?
        In a country where millions of people are yet homeless, or live in sub-human habitats, the obscene luxury of spending N628 million, or even a third of that amount to renovate a single individual's home is out of sync with social reality we daily face as a people.
        In times past, the National Assembly had been enmeshed in similar crises as a result of contract award which led to leadership changes. It is against this backdrop that we believe that the federal lawmakers should limit themselves strictly to the business of  legislation and leave the award and execution of contracts to the executive arm of government, the organ  constitutionally empowered and better equipped to do so. To do otherwise violates the spirit and letter of the constitution.
        On its part, the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA), may have inadvertently encouraged what has now become a scandal when it claimed that it had no resources to renovate the official quarter of  the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Did the FCDA not know that after May 29, 2007, the official quarters of elected public officers will need to be renovated? Why were the funds for renovation not budgeted for  or provided ahead of time?
        We therefore call on the members of House of Representatives to dispassionately examine the entire contract saga in order to unearth all the breaches. It will amount to gross disservice to the nation if any political party or body under the guise of  intervening  cause the matter to be swept  under the  carpet. This will not only compromise the anti-corruption crusade of the Yar'Adua administration but also create the impression that some people are sacred and untouchable.

         
        Fawehinmi heads to Appeal Court over Obasanjo's library
        By Ibe Uwaleke,
        Snr. Judicial Correspondent

        LAGOS lawyer and human rights activist, Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN) has headed to the Court of Appeal, Abuja to challenge the legality of former President Olusegun Obasanjo's N7 billion library project.

        Fawehinmi had filed an action at the Federal High Court, Abuja after the library project was launched in Abeokuta, Ogun State on May 14, 2005. But the court dismissed the suit, which it declared lacked competence.

        Dissatisfied by the verdict, Fawehinmi has gone to the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division to file an application for departure from the rules of court to compile and file his 450- page record of appeal.

        He is praying the appellate court to compel Obasanjo to surrender and forfeit to the country through the court, the presidential library, which he alleged was acquired through corruption and abuse of power. According to Fawehinmi, the library project was executed in flagrant violation of section 15(5) of the 1999 Constitution and the Code of Conduct for public officers.

        The appellant is asking for an order granting a departure from the rules of the court by allowing him to compile the record of appeal in the case.

        In a six-paragraph affidavit sworn to by one Clement Onwuenwunor, a lawyer in Fawehinmi's chambers, he averred that the appeal is against the judgment delivered by the Federal High Court, Abuja.

        No date has been fixed for the hearing of the appeal.

         
         Presidential Election: Tribunal Dismisses Ojukwu/Nwankwo Petition
         The presidential election petition tribunal yesterday dismiss the petition of the presidential candidate of the All progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Emeka Odumegwu and that of the peoples mandate party (PMP), Arthur Nwankwo challenging the election of President Umar Musa Yar'Adua over the April 21, 2007 poll.

        Tribunal chairman Justice James Ogebe ruling on preliminary objection brought by Yar'Adua dismiss the two petitions on the grounds that they were incompetent and did not comply with the provisions of the electoral Act, 2006.

        In a unanimous decision read by Justice Ogebe, the Tribunal ruled that Ojukwu in his petition failed to provide the tribunal with necessary facts to substantiate his claims that elections took place in only two percent of the five states he cited in his petition.

        Ogebe ruled that Ojukwu cited only five states of Imo, Enugu, Abia, Anambra and Ebonyi out of the 36 states of the federation.

        In his words, "five states cannot be used as a yardstick to prove that there was no elections in 98 per cent of the federation, the petition failed to make mention of any state of the federation or the 774 local government councils including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT)."

        Furthermore, he said the petition, as presently constituted is challenging the election in the five states mentioned, it is therefore incompetent and is therefore struck out.

        On Nwankwo, the tribunal held that the petitioner failed to mention any of the 36 states of the federation, the federal Capital Territory and the 774 local government areas in the country, where the alleged irregularities occurred during the election.

        "No state of the federation was pinpointed as evidence with clear facts adduced to back the claim."

        Kabiru Turaki (SAN), counsel to President Yar'Adua had urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition on the grounds that petition lacked merit and that the tribunal lacks the jurisdiction to entertain the matter.

        The presidential candidate of APGA and PMP had goner to the tribunal seeking for the nullification of the presidential election of April 21, 2007 where Yar'Adua was declared winner.

         

        Igbo leaders at U.S. congress, review scorecard
        From Gordi Udeajah,
        Detroit Michigan, USA

        EMINENT Igbo, who converged in Detroit, Michigan in the United States (USA) for the 13th World Igbo Congress (WIC), have resolved to mobilise resources for the development of the region.

        Three governors, who attended the forum, assured that they would leave their states better than they met them.

        The leaders also agreed to, among others, work for the immediate reconciliation of Ohanaeze Ndigbo factions and the release of the detained leader of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafran (MASSOB), Chief Ralph Uwazuruike.

        The pledge for good governance came from Abia State Governor, Theodore Orji, Ikedia Ohakim of Imo State and his Anambra State counterpart, Peter Obi.

        In their separate addresses, the governors urged Igbo not to abandon themselves in the face of their marginalisation in Nigeria.

        Governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu State sent a representative. Orji assured Ndigbo that the new governors in the South-East have no other ambition than good governance, adding that no single political party has majority control of the states in the new dispensation unlike in the immediate past where the (PDP) held sway. "No political party can dictate our direction, God destined it to be so, we discuss freely, we do not have vaulting ambitions other than to govern, we are new governors devoid of ambition other than rendering service to our people."

        He said that any true Igboman will shudder at the position of the race in Nigeria. Orji added that he does not believe that there was anything past Igbo heroes did that their successors cannot do, pointing out that all that was required was the re-awakening of the giants within in the present generation.

        He appealed to Igbo in the Diaspora to think-home and contribute their quota to the region's development. He said: "Why don't you assist us by identifying areas your expertise can be of use to us as a state and your people in general while we on our part will gladly provide you with the enabling environment to deliver."

        The governor said that he had directed that modalities be worked out for the setting up of an Igbo In Diaspora Liaison Office that will fast track contact with those that will wish to return home.

        According to him, it was no longer enough to criticise the situation at home when one had not made any attempt to assist while government is incapable of providing everything to the people.

        In his address, tagged: "Ima Onwe-(The Way To The Future") Ohakim listed six things that must be embarked upon to re-package Igbo as an acceptable brand within and outside Nigeria. These are as internal rehabilitation of displaced Igbo, security within the Nigerian state, economic partnership of Igbo states for massive job creation, systematic rejection of men of less integrity at the polls, re-orientation and citizenship education and cultural revival.

        On his vision for his state, Ohakim told the participants that he would knit together the components of the states, promote unity and work with experts to induce capital formation, disseminate the creative genius of the people to transform Imo into a greater oriental power.

        Obi's address focused on business and investment opportunities that abound in the region.

        He said that he had nothing personal against both Dr Chris Ngige and Andy Uba, former governors of the state, who were removed from office by the courts for him to serve his full mandate. He said that contrary to impressions in some quarters, he never sued Ngige or Uba but the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for declaring false election results in the case of Ngige and conducting an election when it was not due for Uba. He said the duo had come to understand and appreciate that he (Obi) did the right thing.

        But President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Dr. Dozie Ikedife, decried the poor attendance of the convention. He urged the organisers to take the matter serious or stop inviting people to the convention.

        WIC Chairman, Chibuzor Onwuchekwe renewed the convention's call for the release of Uwazurike, saying "Igbo in the Diaspora will never sleep until he is freed.

        In his four-page address, Onwuchekwe decried the time as trying one for Ndigbo such that it requires reviewing the conference agenda. "In the view of the WIC, our people have been manoeurved out of key positions in the Nigerian polity and if we do not find practical solutions to reverse this ugly trend now, we may even find ourselves in worse position than we are today, eight years from now."

        WIC, he said, traces the genesis of the Igbo problem in the past administration in Nigeria to elected officials at both the federal and state levels.

        He said such people more or less represented themselves as individuals and not Ndigbo people, stressing that "Igbo can no longer stand and watch our kinsmen ride on the back and collective goodwill in pursuit of personal gains and agenda, collective Igbo interests must not be substituted for individualism.

        He said the convention would consider for adoption the selection of a coordinator for Ohanaeze, who should be an attorney, based in Nigeria and familiar with Igbo issues, politics, and leadership

        • a direct link between Ohanaeze and WIC, empanelling a committee to take stock on the Igbo situation in Nigeria and devise means to reposition Ndigbo in the polity.

        • rejection of factions in Ohanaeze which a mechanism put in place during the convention to harmonise Ohanaeze into one leadership not later than 90 days after the meeting.

          The keynote speaker, Zik Chuka Obi, who described the theme of the convention "Ka anyi Dozie Ala Igbo (Introspective development of Igboland) as apt, pointed out that the revival of the political and economic sectors of the race, should be a challenge to all Igbo and sought to know if the will-power to do so by both WIC and Ohanaeze was in place.

          To this, he expressed reservation, hinging it on past resolutions taken at WIC that were never enforced.

          He asked: "How effective have WIC and Ohanaeze been piloting the Igbo affairs that the race suddenly now becomes Nigeria's largest minority tribe. Igbo in public positions must be made to account for what they did for the region. Why should federal roads in Igboland be in their poorest state when an Igbo son was the chairman of the Federal Road Emergency Management Agency (FERMA), or when another Igbo son was said to be the closest aide to the immediate past president? Why did contracts for Federal roads repair in the zone be abandoned like the approved second Niger Bridge and census figures for the zone released last? We must demand answers these from our sons."

          Obi also charged WIC and Ohanaeze in conjunction with the state governors, to do something to improve the sorry plight of former Biafran war veterans at Oji River, seek amendment to the 1999 Constitution to enable more states, local councils be created and revenue allocation based on equality of states and not on the number of councils.

         

        Energy crisis: FG, General Electric meet

        By Ihuoma Chiedozie
        Published: Tuesday, 4 Sep 2007

        As part of his plans to address the country’s power crisis, President Umaru Yar’Adua on Monday met with a team from the General Electric Corporation of the United States.

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        President Umaru Yar’Adua

        The GE team was led by its President and Chief Executive Officer for the Middle-East and Africa, Mr. Nabil Hababyeb.

        At the meeting, Yar’Adua said that urgent development of Nigeria’s power and transport infrastructure was ‘very critical and central’ to his administration’s plans for rapid economic development.

        He said the Federal Government was interested in productive partnership with willing investors, especially in the power sector.

        Yar’Adua told the delegation that the government would welcome fresh, innovative and workable inputs to its emerging roadmap for establishing efficient power and transport sectors.

        He said the sect

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