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      Thisday .   PDP: No Pressure on VP to Resign •AC: No smoke without fire •Militants’ umbrella body kicks From Chuks Okocha in Abuja and Ahamefula Ogbu
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 29, 2009





      PDP: No Pressure on VP to Resign

      •AC: No smoke without fire •Militants’ umbrella body kicks
      From Chuks Okocha in Abuja and Ahamefula Ogbu in Port Harcourt, 11.30.2009

      Ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has said it is not aware of any pressure being mounted on Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan to resign on the account of the health of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.

      Reports over the weekend claimed that a certain mafia group was mounting pressure on the VP to resign to prevent him from succeeding Yar’Adua, but the Office of Vice-President has already denied the claim.

      It had been alleged that in order to retain power in the North, Jonathan had been forced to sign an undated resignation letter which would be activated in the event that the position of president becomes vacant.

      It was further alleged that the Senate President would then act as president pending the conduct of a fresh election within the three months stipulated in the constitution – and a Northerner would be expected to emerge as next president.

      But in an interview with THISDAY, the National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Prof. Ahmed Alkali, described the allegation as the handiwork of rumour mongers who have nothing to contribute towards the growth of Nigeria.

      According to the spokesman of PDP, "Who are those mounting the pressure? What are their identities? For what reason or reasons are they mounting the pressure?”

      "I want to let Nigerians know that PDP as the party that produced the President and the Vice-President is not aware of such pressures and want Nigerians to discountenance such rumours. At best, it belongs to the refuse bins."

      But the Action Congress (AC) said the health of President Yar'Adua and the succession debate it has generated have brought to the fore the need to urgently review the 1999 Constitution to remove the in-built confusion in its current state.

      Also, the umbrella body of militants in the Niger Delta, the Joint Revolutionary Council (JRC), has warned Jonathan against succumbing to pressure and resigning his office as such “would break the country”.

      In a statement issued yesterday by the AC National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party also said it was deeply concerned by the media report that unnamed forces were putting pressure on Jonathan to resign, so he would not assume the presidency as stipulated by the Constitution, in case his boss is unable to complete his tenure.

      “Despite the rush to deny the veracity of the story by the office of the Vice-President, we know there is no smoke without fire and we are concerned that some dark forces can be plotting to thwart the Constitution for whatever reasons.

      “We demand to know the identity of this dark mafia. We want to know who these people are, who wants to continue to run this country on the basis of a cabal. We ask the VP to show courage and tell Nigerians if indeed he is under pressure to resign, instead of rushing to deny the story,” AC said.

      It said apart from the executive arm of government, the only other arms known in law are the legislative and the judicial arms, wondering whether any one of the three arms is behind the alleged pressure on the VP.

      The party acknowledged, however, that the issue of succession in the presidency is not as clear cut as it may seem, and that the provision for the VP to assume the office of his boss if for whatever reasons - in case the President is unable to continue in office - is not automatic

      “This is because, according to the Constitution, the process for determining whether or not the President is capable of discharging the functions of his office can only be started by the members of the Executive Council, who are all appointees and presumed loyalists of the president.

      ''As things stand, does anyone really expect that members of this council can indeed elevate national interest above their parochial views and personal interests to declare that the president is no longer able to perform his statutory functions, even if he is not?

      “Even if the council defies this characterisation and makes the declaration, does anyone honestly think the PDP-controlled National Assembly will set up a medical panel that will be courageous enough to certify that the President can no longer function in his official capacity? The truth is that Chapter Six of the 1999 Constitution, which deals with this issue, is skewed against any orderly succession.

      “This is why well-meaning Nigerians are calling for the review of this and other aspects of the Constitution that was loaded with booby traps by its authors, perhaps because of their personal interests at the time the Constitution was made,” AC said.

      Meanwhile, the umbrella body of militants have threatened that forcing the VP to resign would make the Ijaw people of the Niger Delta resort to actions that may usher in anarchy and possible secession from Nigeria.

      According to a statement by its spokesperson, Cynthia Whyte, the resignation of Jonathan owing to pressure from what it termed “Northern oligarchy” would reduce Ijaw presence in the centre and, subsequently, their progressive engagement with the Nigerian state.

      The council, which comprises the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), the Reformed Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force and the Martyrs Brigade, said any attempt to undermine the ability and capability of Jonathan to continue in service with Yar’Adua would be resisted.

      “On behalf of the Joint Revolutionary Council comprising the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, the Reformed Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force and The Martyrs Brigade, we wish to warn the Vice President of the Nigerian state Sir Goodluck Jonathan from resigning from the position of Vice President in response to purported pressures being mounted on him by Northern cabals.

      “The resignation of Vice President Goodluck Jonathan may lead to grave anarchy and possible secession of the Ijaw and Niger Delta territory from the Nigerian state.

      “We wish to remind all men of goodwill that our decision to increase progressive engagement with the Nigerian state is much strengthened by the sincere involvement of Vice President Goodluck Jonathan.

      “We therefore condemn any attempt to undermine him or question his ability and capacity for service to his President Yar’Adua.

      “For too long, dubious northern cabals have continued to exploit the ignorance of Southern politics to sow divisions and create anarchy. That time is over,” JRC said.



      FG Revenue, Expenditure to Rise in 2011, 2012

      •Senate continues debate on 2010 budget Wednesday
      From Sufuyan Ojeifo in Abuja, 11.30.2009

      Barring any further serious dislocations in the global economy which could affect domestic financial system, the revenue of the Federal Government will hit the N7.59 trillion-mark by the 2012 fiscal year while the aggregate expenditure will hover around N4.65 trillion.

      These are government’s projections for the 2011 and 2012 fiscal years as contained in the 2010-2012 Fiscal Framework, which has been sent to the National Assembly as an addendum to the 2010 budget proposal submitted to the Federal Legislature last Tues-day.

      The profile indicates a steady growth in revenue with the federally collectible revenue for 2009 standing at N5.305 trillion; 2010 and 2011 projected at N6.211 trillion and N6.716 trillion respectively.

      Conversely, aggregate expenditure, which is currently N3.101 trillion (2009 budget figure) is also growing and is already projected at N4.079 trillion for the 2010 fiscal year. It will hit N4.374 trillion in 2011 and N4.650 trillion in 2012.

      The government’s retained revenues for 2009 is N2.265 trillion while it is projected to stand at N2.517 trillion (2010); N2.749 trillion (2011) andN3.136 trillion (2012).

      The growth in the sizes of the revenue is projected to increase the sizes of expenditure over the next three fiscal years, but the levels of deficit are projected to fluctuate within the same period.

      For instance, while the fiscal deficit in the 2010 budget is projected at N1.562 trillion, 2011 and 2012 deficits are projected at N1.624 trillion and N1.514 trillion.

      The deficit is to be financed from the sale of government property, privatization proceeds; federal Government’s share of proposed ECA of 2010 (US$1.266 billion), 2011(US$1.055 billion) and 2012 (US$0.844 billion); International Bond ($500 million); e-payment transfer and RTGS transfer; refund of loan to states; transfer of interest by DMO (interest earned by DMO); transfer from CBN Abuja Branch account to Account (interest on special account) and domestic borrowing.

      The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – that is, the total value of all goods and services produced within a country in a year, minus net income from investments in other countries – is projected at N32.6 trillion, N37.8 trillion and N43.8 trillion for 2010, 2011 and 2012 respectively.

      The financial horizon appears brighter for the three tiers of government in 2011 and 2012 in terms of what they are projected to receive via distribution of the net receipt on Federation Account.

      The net receipts on the Federation Account for 2011 and 2012 are projected at N3.251 trillion and N3.817 trillion out of which in 2011, the Federal Government, State Government and Local Government are expected to receive N2.049 trillion, N1.128 trillion and N870 billion respectively.

      In 2012, the Federal, State and Local Governments are expected to receive N2.397 trillion, N1.320 trillion and N1.018 trillion respectively.

      Oil revenue with emphasis on crude oil sales, royalties, oil and gas petroleum profit tax as well as non-oil revenue will increase in 2011 and 2012.

      Crude oil sales are projected to fetch N2.739 trillion in 2011 and NN2.954 trillion in 2012; royalties are to fetch N487.69 billion in 2011 and N601.44 billion in 2012; Oil and Gas Petroleum Profit Tax is to fetch N1.031 trillion in 2011 and N1. 238 trillion in 2012, while Oil Petroleum Profit Tax is to fetch N960.46 billion in 2011 and N1.146 trillion in 2012.

      While the total oil and gas revenue is projected to fetch N4.715 trillion in 2011, N5.335 trillion is expected to be raked into the government coffers in 2012.

      The total non-oil revenue for 2011 is projected at N1.881 trillion as against N2.113 trillion for 2012 while total oil and gas revenue (less of government’s contribution to cost of production, National Domestic Gas Development, Crude Oil Pre-Export Inspection Agency Expenses and 13% derivation) for distribution by FAAC is projected at N3.251 trillion and N3.817 trillion for 2011 and 2012 respectively.

      Meanwhile, Senate will Wednesday continue with the second reading (debate on the general principles) of the 2010 N4.079 trillion on resumption from the Eid-el-Kabir holiday.

      Sixteen senators contributed to the debate on Wednesday, last week. A majority of them harped on effective implementation of the budget.

      While some of them knocked government for the huge recurrent expenditure, others said that government should have emphasized more on capital spending, saying that with effective implementation, that (capital expenditure) would bolster infrastructure development.

      The Upper House had committed to undertake a through consideration of the 2010 budget, indicating that the vital document may not be passed until about February or March next year.

      Senate President, Senator David Mark had said last Wednesday, when the Senate passed the N353.6 billion 2009 Supplementary budget, that the passage had extended the life of the 2009 budget to March next year.

      He had explained that the passage would give the Upper House ample time to thoroughly consider the 2010 budget before it is passed for harmonization with the House of Representatives.



      Govt Offers Tax Holiday to New Mining Firms


      The Federal Government has approved a three-year tax holiday for new mining companies as part of incentives to attract investments to the sector, the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) has reported.

      The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, made this known yesterday in Beijing at an investment forum.

      She said the tax holiday was to enable the companies stabilise for a period of three years before "they start paying tax, beginning with the accumulated three year tax".

      The minister, who described the Nigerian solid minerals sector as a virgin territory, listed other new investment friendly legislations and policies to include the reduction of company tax from 35 per cent to 30 per cent and capital gain tax from 20 per cent to 10 per cent.

      Other incentives are exemption from payment of import duty in respect of mining-related plant, machinery and equipment as well as remittance of foreign capital in the event of sale or liquidation of mining operations.

      Alison-Madueke also said that the government had put in place institutional and policy changes to reposition the sector, noting the change from "Owner-Operator to Administrative-Regulator" and the strengthening of the ministry’s agencies to carry out their mandate.

      She also said the ministry, in collaboration with other agencies, was developing a one-stop shop "as a strong response to investors complaints on bureaucratic delays".

      The minister said under the plan, issues such as environmental impact assessment, taxation, work permit and immigration would be addressed uniformly.

      In his remarks, Mr Craig Bond, the Chief Executive Officer of Standard Bank, the organisers of the forum, said the bank would collaborate with its sister company, Nigeria ’s Stanbic IBTC Bank, to offer project finance and technical skills to businessmen willing to invest in Nigeria .

      "Through Stanbic IBTC Nigeria, we will offer project finance and technical skills, while Standard Bank will provide the majority of capital needed for the big projects as Chinese investors come into Nigeria," he said.

      Bond said that the bank would also offer assistance to indigenous mining groups, noting that "mining is a capital intensive venture".

      He said Chinese businessmen were keen on investing in Nigeria but thought that the country was mainly a mono-product economy with over dependence on oil.

      "The minister’s visit has assured them of the huge potentialities that abound in the solid minerals sector," he added.

      The Miners Association of Nigeria recently said illegal mining had declined by 30 per cent compared to previous years.

      National President of the Association, Mr Sunday Ekosin, said the development followed a renewed commitment by the association and the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development to integrate illegal miners into the main stream.

      Ekosin, who said the move had to "a large extent" successfully led to formalising illegal mining operations, noted that it would be a herculean task to completely eradicate it.

      According to him, the solid minerals industry is experiencing a "hard time" as it is fast on the decline and contributing poorly to the nation's GDP.

      The Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) and the World Bank had in 2004 negotiated $120 million assistance for the development of the solid minerals sector in the country.

      The project, which began implementation during the president Olusegun Obasanjo administration, was targeted at increasing government's long-term institutional and technical capacity to manage Nigeria’s mineral resources in a sustainable way.

      It was also aimed at establishing a basis for poverty reduction and rural economic renewal in selected areas of the country via the development on non-farm income generating opportunities through small-scale and artisan mining and diversification away from oil sources of income.

      Known as Sustainable Management of Mineral Resources Project, the credit is to be repaid for over 35 years including a 10-year grace period with no interest charged. It will however attract a service charge of 0.75 per cent on the principal balance not withdrawn and a commitment charge of 0.35 percent.

      The project was also to enable mining companies have access to credit by working with banks to mitigate risk on lending to miners.

      There was also be matching grants and advisory services provided for the miners.

      The project helped to assist government in drafting a new Minerals Act to replace the 1999 Minerals Act, assisted in facilitating the establishment of a Mining Cadastre (Registry) for easy issuance of mining permits in a transparent manner and also produced basic and reliable geological map with complete information on the solid mineral potentials that cover the entire country.

      The project which was however slowed down wFG Offers 3 years Tax Holiday to New Firms in Mining Sector

      The Federal Government has approved a three-year tax holiday for new mining companies as part of incentives to attract investments to the sector.

      The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, made this known yesterday in Beijing at an investment forum.

      She said the tax holiday was to enable the companies stabilise for a period of three years before ``they start paying tax, beginning with the accumulated three year tax’’.

      The minister, who described the Nigerian solid minerals sector as a virgin territory, listed other new investment friendly legislations and policies to include the reduction of company tax from 35 per cent to 30 per cent and capital gain tax from 20 per cent to 10 per cent.

      Other incentives are exemption from payment of import duty in respect of mining-related plant, machinery and equipment as well as remittance of foreign capital in the event of sale or liquidation of mining operations.

      Alison-Madueke also said that the government had put in place institutional and policy changes to reposition the sector, noting the change from ``Owner-Operator to Administrative-Regulator’’ and the strengthening of the ministry’s agencies to carry out their mandate.

      She also said that the ministry, in collaboration with other agencies, was developing a one-stop shop ``as a strong response to investors complaints on bureaucratic delays’’.

      The minister said under the plan, issues like environmental impact assessment, taxation, work permit and immigration would be addressed uniformly.

      In his remarks, Mr Craig Bond, the Chief Executive Officer of Standard Bank, the organisers of the forum, said the bank would collaborate with its sister company, Nigeria ’s Stanbic IBTC Bank, to offer project finance and technical skills to businessmen willing to invest in Nigeria .



      House Probes NITEL, MTEL Privatisation

      From Onwuka Nzeshi in Abuja, 11.30.2009

      The House of Represen-tatives Committee on Privatisation has commenced investigations into the repeated but unsuccessful sale of the Nigeria Telecommunications Limited (NITEL) and its mobile subsidiary, Mobile Telecommun-ications Limited (MTEL).

      NITEL operated as a monopoly until the liberalisation of telecommunications sector and the entry of private investors.

      The House Committee’s investigation is directed towards guiding the proposed sale of the firms even as the Federal Government has reportedly earmarked N70 billion to settle outstanding staff liabilities in both companies.

      The Committee, it was learnt, embarked on the investigations to forestall another failure in the privatisation of the firms.

      There have been three unsuccessful attempts to sell NITEL and MTEL to private investors. Apart from the aborted deal with International Investments London Limited (IILL), Orascom Telecom of Egypt made frantic efforts to acquire the firms while Pentascope was later recruited to manage it for a while before the management contract also ran sour.

      The last on the list was the purchase of 55 per cent of NITEL/MTEL by Transnational Corporation (Transcorp), a wholly indigenous conglomerate.

      Chairman, House Committee on Privatisation, Hon. Abbas Braimah, had at a recent interaction with the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) sought relevant information on the proposed sale of the firm “with a view to ensuring that the pitfalls of the past were avoided”.

      In a preliminary report billed to be submitted to the House soon, the Committee lamented that even the current efforts to privatise NITEL /MTEL “is not as orderly as it should have been” and expressed fear that the image of the country would be badly dented if current efforts to sell the two organizations failed.

      According to the report, the actual debts of NITEL/MTEL have not been determined; up till now, it has not been possible to conduct physical due diligence because staff are not available in relevant offices, on account of non payment of salaries. The report also said the current value of NITEL/MTEL has not been determined while the status of the liquidation of the staff pension fund was still unknown.

      It said that it was apparent from the submission of BPE to the committee that government was still undecided on whether to sell NITEL/MTEL as a unit or separately.

      The report advised that “every effort must be made to ensure the successful privatisation of NITEL/MTEL this time around, because NITEL/MTEL is currently in a very bad operational state. Workers are being owed over 15 month’s salaries. There are huge outstanding liabilities that are mounting daily since little or no revenue is being earned to resolve them according to the BPE”



      Enugu Airport Closed for Repairs

      •Minister flags off N4bn upgrade today
      By Chinedu Eze, 11.30.2009

      The Minister of Aviation, Mr. Babatunde Omotoba, will today flag off the rehabilitation and upgrade of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, Enugu State.

      The airport, which was closed temporarily on Saturday for repairs, will be closed to traffic by January next year and airlines that operate to the airport will start using Sam Mbakwe Airport, Owerri, Imo State, as an alternative.

      THISDAY learnt that the runway, which is 2,400 meters long, will be extended by 600 metres to make it 3000 meters or three kilometres and the width would be extended from the existing 45 metres to 60 metres.

      When completed, it is expected that the runway would be wide enough to accommodate wide-body aircraft.

      It is also expected that with its new status as an international airport, the airport would in future be designated for international operations.

      The General Manager, Public Affairs of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Mr. Akin Olukunle, told THISDAY that the runway rehabilitation and extension contract was awarded to PW Limited and it is expected to be completed in 12 months from the day work starts on the project.

      The cost of the project, which is N4.13 billion, was approved by Federal Executive Council (FEC) and would include extension and asphalting and marking of the runway.

      According to him, this is part of the restructuring programme being embarked by the Ministry of Aviation and FAAN for the total rehabilitation of airport facilities in the country.

      Last year, the Yar’Adua Administration upgraded the Enugu airport to international status in tandem with the new policy of having at least one international airport in every geopolitical zone of the country.

      It is expected that chieftains of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would accompany the Ministry to the flag off ceremony as the South-East caucus of the party will be holding a meeting in Enugu same day.

      THISDAY also learnt that work started on the Enugu airport on Saturday and the runway was closed to traffic from morning till 4.00 pm.

      FAAN assured users that the airport would not be closed until after the new year because of the influx of traffic to the airport during the Yuletide, when airlines would increase their frequency to the South Eastern city.

      Aviation expert, Chris Aligbe, commended the effort and said the upgrade of the airport was overdue because Enugu is the fourth busiest airport in the country, which deserves more attention than it is getting from the concerned agencies.

      He also suggested that the international flights should be designated to international airlines because the airport is situated in the business hub of South-East.



      PENGASSAN Petitions Minister over Proposed Sack

      By Linda Eroke, 11.30.2009

      The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) has petitioned the Minister of Petroleum Resources over the proposed retrenchment of over 70 per cent Nigerian employees by management of Conocophillips Nigeria Limited.
      The union, in a petition letter made available to THISDAY, said the company has concluded plans to issue letters of termination to employees in the coming weeks, adding that the management has refused to negotiate the appropriate terminal benefits due to staff under the circumstance.
      The letter, dated November 24, 2009 and signed by the General Secretary of PENGASSAN, Bayo Olowoshile, explained that the management of ConocoPhillips had earlier this year informed the union that they had reached a decision to disengage as many as 70 per cent of national employees under the guise that the positions had become severed by the company’s sudden business decision.
      The union, however said it made it clear to management at a meeting that the company’s declaration of redundancy goes beyond the three criteria in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and circumstances namely; merger or acquisition of the company, excess manpower and reduction in the company’s activities.
      The union lamented that rather than management of Conocophilips responding appropriately, the company had systematically transferred the jobs of national employees to their counterparts in Houston, Norway and the United Kingdom (particularly to exterminate unionised workers).

      Given the scenario, the union said it is left with no other option than to seek the urgent intervention of the petroleum ministry to bring the management of ConocoPhillips to order by restraining the company from carrying out its planned retrenchment exercise.
      The letter reads in part: “Sir, what we have noted in the last few months is that the ConocoPhillips Nigeria is disenchanted as a result of the Petroleum Industry Bill, National Contents Development policy and other positive direction being taking by the government to optimise the socio-economic benefits of our hydrocarbon potential and is taking far reaching anti-labour decisions in response.
      “Since the company’s intrigue against our members has taken this dimension, we demanded for Special Severance for the fact that: Management decision goes beyond the ‘redundancy’ anticipation of the CBA, we will not force the willing worker on the unwilling employer; severance package is the general rule applied under this circumstance in our sector; good examples are Exxon Mobil, Texaco and Addax Petroleum to mention a few.
      “It may be pertinent to state that in spite of decades of benefits that ConocoPhillips reaped from Nigeria, the company has chosen to operate with a handful of national employees with weakened career plan and outsourced labour. Hence, jobs being performed by Nigerians are now being circumvented to foreigners.
      “Until the merger (of Conoco and Phillips in 2002) the entire workforces of Phillips Oil Company Nigeria Ltd (POCNL) were contract staff of many years standing. Historically, the company pride itself in embracing casualization for which labour is unduly exploited. Unless the authorities lived up, it is this direction that the company is blatantly heading once again. The Union has made repeated efforts dialoguing with Management but all to no avail.
      “The company is bent on issuing letters of termination to the employees in the coming weeks and has refused to negotiate the appropriate terminal benefits due to its staff under the special circumstance.
      Worst still, Management has shown disdain and disrespect for the citizens of this country and even boasted that the Union can write as many letters to the Ministry of Labor, DPR and other Government agencies as it pleases because they are sure that we will not get any audience or reprieve.
      Based on the forgoing, we crave your urgent intervention to bring the management of ConocoPhillips to order restraining them through your instrumentality, and invite both labour and Management to DPR to make their case”.



      Group Wants NDDC Probed

      From James Sowole in Akure, 11.30.2009

      A group, ‘New Niger Delta Forum’ at the weekend, called on the Federal Government to constitute a probe into the activities of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in the last nine years over alleged discrepancies discovered in the award and execution of contracts by the commission.
      Specifically, the group in a statement signed by its President, Samuel Cookey, Secretary, Daniel Akpan-Ibia, Provost, Prefa Jonathan, and the Publicity Secretary, Adebambo Sedara, demanded the release of the report of the presidential committee on NDDC which was prepared last year.
      It added that the call for the probe of the commission in the last nine years was predicated on the alleged move by some groups to “kill” the report of the Professor Lawrence Ekpebu led committee’s report on NDDC.
      “This call is further informed by the revelations from the Nigerian Extractive Industries Initiatives (NEITI) that certain funds remitted to the NDDC in the past nine years do not reflect in the books of the NDDC”, said the group.
      The demand of the group came as a response to the activities of some people who were accused of working against the new Managing Director, Mr Chibuzor Ugwuoha, a plot capable of destabilising the commission.
      The group, which described those working against Ugwuoha as those who have soiled their hands while serving in the executive capacity at the commission, condemned the false report that the managing director spent N200 million to renovate his office.
      NDF also condemned the issue of ethnic sentiment brought by those behind the campaign of calumny against the NDDC chief, saying it was capable of jeopardising the developmental interest of the region. “In our reckoning, the reason for this campaign of calumny is not in the collective interest of the people of the Niger-Delta, it is rather aimed at pre-empting some inquests into how the commission had been run in the last nine years since it was created.
      “To this end, we hereby alert that the destructive media campaign against the MD and those with similar ideas like his is to be capped up with a planned protest to be stage-managed by hired thugs and urchins, calling for the removal of the MD of NDDC”, the group said.



      Robbers Kill Student in Benin

      From Adibe Emenyonu in Benin, 11.30.2009

      A fifteen year-old senior secondary school student in Benin, Edo State was at the weekend murdered by a gang of armed robbers who invaded her family home along Country Home Motel Road, off Sapele road, Benin.
      The girl whose name was given as Vivian Ogu was allegedly taken away by the robbers after robbing the family of cash, handsets, jewelries and other valuables and inflicting various degrees of injuries on some members of the family, including the father of the deceased, Mr. Peter Ogu.
      It was also learnt that the robbers who took Vivian and her elder sister into a bush not far from the family house made an attempt to rape her but following her resistance she was shot dead while the sister escaped.
      Vivian’s family was said to have organised a search party which eventually found her corpse in a pool of blood in the bush the following morning after which they invited the police to the scene.
      Narrating his ordeal to newsmen, the father of the deceased, Peter Ogu ‘said the robbers came to his residence at about 8pm and after robbing the entire family of money, handsets, jewelries and other valuables took two of his daughters away to an unknown destination.
      Ogu, who was carrying plaster on his head as a result of the injuries inflicted on him by the robbers, said all pleas by members of the family to the hoodlums to leave Vivian and her sister fell on deaf ears only for the family to find her lifeless body in a nearby bush the following morning.



      ‘Restriction of ETF Funding to Varsities ‘ll Boost Rating’

      From Sufuyan Ojeifo in Abuja, 11.30.2009

      The Senator Joy Emodi-led Senate Committee on Education has said the move by the Senate to refocus the funding by the Education Tax Fund (ETF) to only the nation’s universities would bolster their rating among their counterparts in other parts of the world.
      Emodi, who spoke weekend in Abuja, following the submission of an action plan for the repositioning of the nation’s education system by the Technical Committee headed by Professor Olu Aina, said the move was informed by the multiple funding sources currently available to primary and secondary schools.
      Emodi said, “We want to remove it from an omnibus funding agency. You know primary and secondary schools have multiple sources of funding including state governments, local governments, MDG, UBEC, UNDP and other donor agencies, but for the universities after what they get from the government the only other source is ETF.”
      Those present at the submission of the Action Plan were two members of the Senate Committee on Education, namely: Senators Tawar Wada and Effiong Bob.
      The Aina-led Committee had, in its submission, recommended the institution of a Scholarship Commission to better handle issues relating to scholarships in the country.
      Meanwhile, a bill to amend the ETF Act is in the Senate and when passed it would refocus the annually distributed grants worth billions of naira to the education sector from taxes paid by companies operating in the country to the universities.

      Emodi explained weekend that, “With the primary and secondary schools competing with the universities, the ETF intervention makes no impact at all for the universities.“So it is better for us to channel the ETF funding to the universities especially for research. We can’t get to anywhere without proper research and the universities need a lot of money to do that and organize libraries.’’She also observed the need to bolster the scholarship system in the country, stressing that Committee appreciated the recommendation by the Technical Committee, seeking the detachment of the Federal Scholarship Board as an appendage from the Ministry of Education.According to her, “I don’t see why it should be an appendage of the ministry; it should be a full Commission of its own so that it will be able to monitor the scholarships. There will be proper administration of the scholarships if they administer it through a Commission. The Bill (ETF Amendment Bill) has passed through the first reading.’’



      Bayelsa: Gov, Deputy on War Path

      From Segun James in Yenagoa, 11.30.2009

      The seeming crisis of confidence between Governor Timipre Sylva and his deputy, Peremobowei Ebebi over the control of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state brewed into the open yesterday as latter disclosed that all is not well between him and the Governor.
      “Things have never been alright between us; we are only trying to cover up”, Ebebi said. He added that he would not throw in the towel.
      His disclosure came after a bloody confrontation between his supporters and those of the governor in Ekeremor on Saturday, which left at least one person dead and over 30 others wounded from gunshots and machete attack during the PDP local government primaries in Ekeremor. Ebebi is from Ekeremor.
      But following the action of the deputy governorís supporters, thousands of youths took to the streets of Yenagoa yesterday evening in protest against Ebebi. The protesters were led by the Central Zone Chairman of the Ijaw Youth Council, Jonathan Lokpobiri.
      However, Ebebi described the protesters as paid agents, blaming the Commissioner for Youths and Conflict Resolution, and the Chairman, Ekeremor Local Government Transition Monitoring Committee, (TMC), Bekes Etifa, and Ben Eyorodokumor respectively for the incident.
      This was however countered by Lokpobiri, who claimed to be from Ekeremor like the Deputy Governor, saying that the days of violent confrontation to settle political scores were over.
      ìWe went to Ekeremor and conducted the election peacefully but unknown to us, Ebebi and two members of Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Aaron Alokpa and Dein Benadoumene led youths to ambush our convoy and pounced on us.
      He ordered the policemen and soldiers in his convoy to beat us. The Ekeremor, TMC Chairman was beaten into a state of coma. We have to escape with our dear lives and brought the injured chairman to the Government House clinic, where he is currently receiving medical attention.
      “Nobody is above the law. This is democracy and we must be able to exercise our right. If the Bayelsa State Government fails to address this issue, we the youths will take the law into our hands,î he said.
      But Ebebi who opened up to newsmen for the first time denied this, saying that the ìCommissioner for Youths and Conflict Resolution, Bekes Etifa, Ekeremor; TMC Chairman, Ben Eyorodokumor came with some military personnel to disrupt the PDP primaries election in the area. They destroyed the Public Address System and challenged the crowd but we left them alone, knowing their mission.
      “However, on our way back to Yenagoa, they blocked my convoy in Patani, Delta State and disagreement ensued. During this period, one of their vehicles skidded off the road and some of its occupants sustained injuries. I queried the rationale behind the whole incident but nobody answered. Instead, the supporters started to exchange blows. Their police escort fired tear gas canister at me. One of them was arrested and handed over to the police,î he said.
      On the frosty relationship between him and his boss, Ebebi said: “I don’t know the cause. My office has been a three bed room apartment. There is no light. All the electronics are no longer functioning. They said I wanted to contest election, which is basically a rumour. They have stopped funding my office, so that they can expose me to attack, so that my security personnel can become disgruntled,” he alleged.
      But in a rare action, which signalled that all is indeed not well between the two, Governor Timipre Sylva publicly received the protesters at the gate of the Government House.
      Said he: “Iím happy that you (protesting youths) did not take the laws into your hands. This shows that the new Bayelsa youths have decided to follow due process and the rule of law. Information has reached me from security agents about what happened and the circumstances surrounding it.
      “All I can say now is that it is a sad development. I have been to the hospital to see where TMC chairman is lying critically injured. It is sad and also also act unbecoming of a Deputy Governor,” he said.
      ìI donít believe that he can do it. I need to see him and find out whether truly his men perpetrated the act. Since yesterday (Saturday), Iíve not seen him. I need to see him. You know how this system works. We are going to investigate the matter. Government is not going to take it lightly. As you rightly said, this is democracy, and nobody is above the law and anybody found guilty in this dastardly act will be made to face the law,î he Threatened.



      IMO: Nigeria Wins Re-Election to Governing Council

      By John Iwori, 11.30.2009

      Nigeria’s quest to retain her coveted seat in the Category C, Governing Council of the global maritime watchdog, International Maritime Organisation (IMO) was at the weekend realised as she won with a clear 121votes of the member nations of the world body.
      With the 121 votes out of the 169 votes cast in her kitty, Nigeria clinched the 8th position and became the second African county, which joined the prestigious IMO council. This is the first time Nigeria is winning the seat for two consecutive terms.
      The country broke the jinx of getting elected into the United Nations organ and losing it in the next biennial conference as it was the case in the past.
      The Governing Council of IMO, which is divided into three categories--A, B, and C is the decision and policy making arm of the global maritime watchdog.
      Nigeria became victorious at the keenly contested election in the category C of the council membership after long manoeuvres by delegates to the 26th session of the UN organ General Assembly which started last Monday at IMO Headquarters, Lancaster House, London, United Kingdom.
      Minister of Transport, Alaji Ibrahim Isa Bio led Nigerian delegation to the Assembly. This year election was a remarkable difference from a similar election in 2007.
      Though she won the 2007 election, Nigeria was placed 19th position. She won with 87 votes.
      No fewer than 26 member states of the 169 member states of the world maritime regulatory organisation competed for the 20 vacant seats.
      However, only Kuwait, United Arab Emirate (UAE), Marshal Island, and Cook Island won. Islamic Republic of Iran and Pakistan were not voted for.
      The election of member nations, including Nigeria was hinged on their special interest in maritime transport and navigation.
      Their election was also hinged on the need to ensure geographical representation at the council.
      Bio who spoke on the floor of the IMO Assembly shortly before the election persuaded delegates on the need to cast their votes for Nigeria.

      He enumerated the various efforts Nigeria have made in conjunction with other maritime nations to improve maritime transport and navigation by ensuring safe and secure navigation in clean oceans.
      Bio contended that Nigeria remains a significant maritime player in the West and Central African sub regions, even as he added that in partnership with her neighbours, she has continue to ensure that issues that are core to IMO such as safety of life at sea, maritime security, maritime environment protection, issues of human element† in shipping ,Green House Gas† emission, piracy and armed robbery against ships on international voyage and a handful of others were coordinated and implemented in an effective manner.
      ìThe confidence you reposed in our country in the past two years through our election into category C of the council, your choice has not been misplaced. Rather, we have accepted the call to duty and that is why we have come back to enlist your support to enable us conclude on all ongoing efforts in order concretise our contribution to the invaluable activities of IMO and to promote maritime development worldwide.
      Apart Nigeria and 19 others that were elected into category C of the Governing Council, 20 other countries were also elected into category A and B depending on their interest in either providing shipping services worldwide or their special interest in international sea borne trade
      Meanwhile, reactions have continued to trail Nigeriaís successful re-election into the Governing Council of IMO.
      Many stakeholders in the maritime industry told our correspondent in Lagos that Nigeriaís victory in London was a well deserved one.
      Described Nigeriaís victory as well deserved, Bio said the re-election was a sign of greater good things to come for Nigeria.
      He said the re-election was due to dint of hard work and the consistent performance and contributions of Nigeriaís representation at the IMO since the last election.
      The Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Mr. Temisaren Omatseye said Nigeriaís profile at the IMO rose tremendously because of Nigeriaís preparation for the Council election.
      According to him, Nigeriaís re-election was well prepared and planned and was bolstered by the encouragement of President Umaru Musa Yaríardua who instructed the Minister of Transport in a memo that ëyou must ensure that we do not loseí. That directive was kept to the letter by the Minister of Transport and his delegation. There was some scepticism in certain quarters in Nigeria prior to the election. However this excellent performance by Nigeria has proven the sceptics very wrong.



      LAMATA Explains Problems with World Bank Projects

      By Gboyega Akinsanmi, 11.30.2009

      Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA)

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