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Polls 19 To 16 To Retain NGF Chairman
AGAINST all odds, Rivers State Governor Chibuike Amaechi Friday in Abuja defeated Plateau State Governor Jonah Jang to win a second term as Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF). Amaechi polled 19 votes to Jang’s 16.
All the 36 governors, except Yobe State Governor Ibrahim Gaidam, were in attendance for the election conducted by the Director general of the NGF, Asishana Bayo Okauru at the Rivers state Governor’s Lodge.
Ondo State Governor Olusegun Mimiko, who was earlier picked to run for the vice chairmanship position against Zamfara State Governor Abdulaziz Yari, stepped down when it became obvious that the trend would be repeated, thus Yari was chosen for the post.
The election, it was gathered, was by open-secret balloting, whereby each voter (governor) was handed a paper on which to write the name of his choice and drop in a box.
Some of the governors, disappointed by the outcome, were said to have left the venue immediately, while Amaechi’s supporters went into a celebration mood.
As a prelude to the NGF election, the Nigeria Northern Governors Forum (NNGF) had held a meeting at the Niger State Governor’s Lodge in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), presided over by its Chairman and Governor of Niger State, Dr. Mua’zu Babangida Aliyu, where sources said Katsina State Governor Ibrahim Shema refused to step down for his Bauchi State counterpart, Alhaji Isa Yuguda, who also refused to support; hence Plateau State Governor Jonah Jang was unanimously picked as consensus candidate.
The Guardian learnt that Jang was later presented to, and endorsed for the post by, PDP governors at the Akwa Ibom State Governor’s Lodge.
Akwa Ibom State Governor Godswill Akpabio was all over town coordinating and mobilising some of his colleagues to support Jang’s candidature.
The contention for the position had led to a simmering rift between the Presidency and Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and Governor of Rivers State, Chibuike Amaechi, finally snowballed into an election yesterday, the first in its short history, with …emerging as the new Chairman.
Amaechi has been having a running battle with the Presidency for some time.
Last month, aviation agencies prevented the aircraft of the governor from leaving Akure Airport in Ondo State shortly he and his aides returned from the burial of the late deputy governor of Ekiti State, Mrs. Olufunmilayo Olayinka, in Ado-Ekiti.
Officials at the different aviation agencies initially gave conflicting reasons for the grounding of the aircraft, which was released a few hours later.
The House of Representatives committee set up to investigate the circumstances surrounding the grounding of the aircraft was reported to have indicted the Ministry of Aviation, the National Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and the management of Caverton Helicopters over the issue.
Although the report is yet to be formally presented to the lower legislative chamber, its content showed that officials of Caverton were pressured into denying their relationship with the Rivers State government and NCAA.
The is said to have indicted the aviation ministry for unprofessionally denying knowledge of the ownership of the aircraft.
The committee indicted Caverton for falsifying the documents it presented to the aviation authorities, claiming that this action was responsible for the grounding of the aircraft.
It further recommended prosecution of all those found culpable by the office of the Attorney General of the Federation.
The committee lamented that the aviation ministry and its departments ignored calls to submit a list of all private jets and owners and documentations for examination and comparison of their treatment with the Rivers State case.
It described the attitude as an attempt to conceal the fact that many of the aircraft in operation are running on expired permits or licences, as this would in turn invalidate the case against the Rivers State government.
The move to oust Amaechi as NGF chairman took a new dimension with the formation of the PDP Governors Forum, headed by Akwa Ibom State Governor Godswill Akpabio, who is believed to have coordinated the onslaught.
The Presidency was alleged to have influenced the stalling of the election of a new NGF chairman two months ago until it is able to get enough governors on its side to support its candidate and stop Amaechi’s re-election.
It was speculated to have initially backed the candidature of Katsina State Governor Ibrahim Shema, but settled for his Bauchi State counterpart, Isa Yuguda, when it could not get the support of most of the governors, especially those of the opposition parties, majority of who at that time wanted Amaechi to return for a second term, more so as its efforts to make the PDP Governors Forum adopt Shema as the consensus candidate of the PDP governors failed.
To actualise this dream, the Presidency is said to have mobilised its staunch allies, including Akpabio, Gabriel Suswam (Benue) and Seriake Dickson (Bayelsa) to drum up support for its candidate.
With this, Amaechi was left to slug it out with Shema, who later stepped down for Yuguda, in yesterday’s election.
Most of the governors, particularly those in the opposition, save a few, were opposed to what they saw as the Presidency’s interference in who heads the Forum.
As a result, many of them vowed to resist any attempt by the Presidency to foist anyone on them; hence a handful of them were favourably disposed to Amaechi’s bid.
Birth Of PDP Governors’ Forum (PDP-GF)
THE move to see Amaechi off as NGF chairman led to the formation of the PDP Governors’ Forum (PDP-GF).
It started when the President summoned the PDP governors to a meeting on the night of Sunday, February 24 at House 7 of the Presidential Villa.
It was obvious the President had an ace up his sleeves during what was thought to be a routine parley between the President and governors elected on PDP’s platform.
Ostensibly sensing that he might be humiliated, Amaechi was said to have excused himself.
It was gathered that attempts by Niger State Governor Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu to underscore the needlessness of the new association, since it was the party that set up the NGF in the first place, was shot down by proponents.
Some governors were allegedly shown video recordings of Amaechi’s alleged threats to unseat the President.
At the end, around midnight, PDP National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, presented Akpabio to journalists as the new PDP-GF chairman, in what was seen as a move to first clip Amaechi’s wings from within.
Akpabio later denied any plot to unseat Amaechi as NGF chairman, saying: “The new Forum will not lead to a crack in the larger forum. We will work together to promote our interests.”
He stated that he was elected to enable the party re-strategise in view of the formation of the All Progressive Congress (APC) by the opposition political parties.
He added: “Part of the resolution is that we should have continued interaction of the party, the NWC and leadership of the Board of Trustees and build a synergy with the NGF.”
That done, Amaechi was to be ousted at the next meeting of the NGF, which was scheduled for Monday, February 25—if his opponents were able to muster a simple majority (19) to do so.
But that was not to be, as the meeting ended in a deadlock, forcing the NGF, and indeed Amaechi’s opponents, to shift the election to Friday.
A communiqué read by Amaechi said: “We, the governors of the 36 states, at our third meeting of the year held today (Monday, February 25, 2013) at the Rivers State Governor’s Lodge, Abuja, deliberated over a number of issues and resolved as follows:
“Members reviewed the affairs of the Forum in the past 21 months detailing activities, achievements and challenges experienced during the period.
“After exhaustive deliberation of the issues regarding filling vacant positions, the Forum resolved that election in this regard be postponed until May, when the chairman’s initial two-year tenure will expire.”
Thus, the expected showdown turned out to be an anti-climax, and observers wondered why, given that 19 out of 22 PDP governors attended the meeting of the PDP-GF a day earlier and created the impression that they were going to play along.
Before then, the PDP-GF was said to have penciled down, and mobilising support for, Shema as Amaechi’s replacement.
But even some PDP governors were said to have insisted on having an election to choose his successor.
In spite of all the scheming and horse-trading, the anti-Amaechi camp could still not gather enough support to oust him.
The outcome did not amount to a victory for his opponents. If anything, many analysts saw this as a defeat of some sorts.
A source said Amaechi knew it was all politics and had taken it in his strides.
On this matter, nothing had been sacrosanct, and nothing was permanent, except interest, whether personal or collective.
AMAECHI’S fall out of favour with the Presidency, headed by a fellow Niger Delta man from a neighbouring state, was not unexpected, but it took a while in coming.
Perhaps the first indication of an impending move to curtail his influence as NGF chairman and his alleged vice presidential ambition in 2015 was from the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Elder Godsday Orubebe.
Orubebe had said then: “I am particularly piqued by the disrespectful behaviour of Amaechi to the person and office of President Goodluck Jonathan, which will no longer be tolerated.
“Amaechi should mind the business of governing Rivers State, whose capital city, Port Harcourt, has degenerated since the governor took over.”
He spoke in response to Amaechi’s revelation that South-South state governments wanted the federal government to hand over the construction of the East-West road to them to ensure prompt action on the major road linking all the states in the zone.
A visibly angry Orubebe added: “The man has forgotten that it was by the grace of God that he became the governor of Rivers.
“Today, he sees himself as the governor of governors and begins to feel that he is even bigger than the President.
“He must have respect for the Presidency; he must have respect for the President. It is unfortunate that people from the South-South, even governors, particularly Amaechi, have no respect for the President.
“I think this is the right time we should let him know, and I have decided to speak, because this is the time to speak.”
That perhaps set the ball rolling for what has been unfolding since then.
Also recall that Ijaw leader, Chief Edwin Clark, frontally condemned the NGF, especially for holding different view with Jonathan on some national issues, which many at that time suspected to be aimed at Amaechi.
Amaechi’s ‘sins’ are numerous, and include his alleged insubordination and disrespect for Jonathan, as alleged by Orubebe; his cold war with the President and Dickson over boundary demarcation and location of the Soku oil wells between Rivers and Bayelsa, for which he at a point accused the Presidency of ceding the contentious oil wells he claimed belong to Rivers to Bayelsa.
This forced the President to issue a statement absolving himself of any complicity in the dispute, just as Amaechi refuted allegations that he was undermining the South-South agenda to retain the Presidency in 2015.
Other allegations leveled against Amaechi are allegedly instigating the NGF against the Presidency regarding the Excess Crude Account and Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF), and his perceived sponsorship of crisis within the PDP NWC aimed at hijacking the party’s structure ahead of the next general elections.
Amaechi was also said to have supported former Bayelsa State governor, Timipre Sylva against Dickson, the anointed candidate of the President, at the heat of the contest for the party’s governorship primary.
In addition, the NGF, and by extension Amaechi, was fingered in the recent frosty relationship between Tukur and some members of the National Working Committee (NWC), which culminated in the ouster of Tukur’s Deputy, Sam Jaja, who was Amaechi’s nominee, as well as the state chairman of the party loyal to him.
It would be recalled that Amaechi, shortly before the 2011 elections, had a brush with the wife of the President, Dame Patience Jonathan, over his planned demolition of the Okrika waterfront in Port Harcourt.
The outcome of yesterday does not in any way mean an end to Amaechi’s problems. If anything, it can only spur his political adversaries to move on and probably diminish him, politically, forever.
Thus, ahead still lie many more battles for Amaechi, and whether he survives them, only time will tell.
NIGERIA Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC), said Friday, that it is capable of fulfilling its statutory mandate as a financial net player to operate the deposit insurance scheme in Nigeria and to cushion the effect of financial losses of depositors of bank accounts, if lawyers will desist from unnecessary court actions, which frustrate these efforts.
The managing director and chief executive officer of the corporation, Alhaji Umaru Ibrahim, said this at a one-day sensitisation seminar organised for the corporation’s external solicitors in Lagos with the theme, “Challenges to Deposit Insurance Law and Practice in Nigeria.”
Ibrahim, who was represented by the corporation’s executive director, corporate services, Honourable, Lola Abiola Edewor, said that apart from excessive litigations by lawyers, the corporation also faces the problem of execution of court judgments against its assets as the liquidator of failed banks based on the misunderstanding of its role as a liquidator.
He added that another problem is the lack of proper understanding of the distinction in the legal status of NDIC as a liquidator and deposit insurer by legal practitioners, courts and the general public, noting that the difficulty on the part of the corporation in recovering debts owed to failed banks due to inability to trace the debtors and lack of collateral, are other related challenges facing the organisation.
According to him, the seminar is to put the problems on the front burner so that lawyers who defend their cases in courts will become aware and better equipped with information regarding the operations of the corporation.
“We recognise that the corporation cannot achieve much in addressing the legal challenges without the full understanding by our solicitors of the issues involved. This seminar is one of the steps being taken by the corporation to sensitise lawyers handling cases for the corporation, and an avenue to put heads together to enable the organisation to address the challenges and realise its mandate,” he stated.
Among those who delivered papers at the seminar included Dr. Koyinsola Ajayi (SAN), the director of legal services of NDIC, Mr. Alheri B. Nyako, the assistant director (legal) of NDIC, Mr. Azubuike Anyadiegwu, his colleague, Mr. Taribo Belema and Mr. A. B. Mahmud.
A NEW approach to fixing federal roads across the country “before the cracks turned to ditches,” to reduce the cost of maintenance and reduce carnage, has been devised by the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA), according to authorities of the agency.
The new approach, as disclosed by the agency’s Managing Director, Engr. Gabriel Amuchi, involved setting up of inspection teams to monitor the state of the roads and the establishment of a quick action squad that repairs spots that have been identified to be failing.
The FERMA boss, who spoke through the agency’s Secretary and Legal Adviser, Mrs. Stella Anukam, disclosed this at the palace of the Aro of Akure, Chief Adeyemi Adedipe during a courtesy visit Friday, added that the squad has enough financial, personnel and material support to carry out immediate repairs before the identified bad spots deteriorate further.
Anukam, who was in Ondo State as the leader of a team of officials of the agency on inspection tour of on-going rehabilitation works in the three states of Ondo, Delta and Edo, said the management of the agency had discovered that lack of immediate action in road repairs, was the major cause of the bad states of roads in the country.
According to her, “FERMA started the quick intervention programme because we discovered that if these roads have been fixed at the initial notice of failure, a lot of money and energy that are dissipated at the failed stage would be saved. Prevention, as they say, is better than cure.
“The surveillance teams that have been put together cover the whole of the country and they bring progress reports on the states of the roads to the management regularly. That is why we have been able to prevent new failures to a large extent in the last few months.”
In his address to the team, Adedipe, who was described by Anukam as one of the major stakeholders in FERMA, by virtue of his being a former member of the agency’s board, tasked governments at all levels to show more assistance to the body to ensure smooth maintenance of roads across the country.
He said that, “Government should also pay more attention and commitment to giving the roads to concessionaire who will be saddled with building and maintaining the roads, but not to the detriment of Nigerians by way of cut-throat toll fees. This will reduce the burden of road maintenance on the neck of government.”
Adedipe also urged stakeholders to start the immediate implementation of the FERMA Amendment Act 2000, which stipulates that five percent of oil subsidy should go to the agency, 40 percent of which will be retained in Abuja, while 60 percent will be given to states with parallel agencies saying, “With this, the problem of paucity of funds would be solved.”
THE supply and distribution of potable water to the 2.8 million residents of Maiduguri metropolis in Borno State, has dropped to 40 million litres a day due to rehabilitation and maintenance of water works at the Kirkasama and Dalaram Water Treatment Plant (DWTP) plants.
Residents of the city need about 70 million litres to meet the daily water requirement, the state Commissioner of Water Resources, Alhaji Mai Sheriff disclosed at a press conference on Thursday to commemorate Democracy Day and second year in office of Governor Kashim Shettima at the Water House complex, Maiduguri.
Sheriff said that despite the challenges facing the Water Resources personnel and directors to meet the water requirements of residents, the “Water C Project” near the stadium has reached 65 percent completion to supply seven million litres of potable water a day.
Sheriff also assured the people that the completion of Water C Project, along with the renovations works on the Maiduguri Water Treatment Plant at Dalori and Kirkasama Water Works project will collectively increase the daily water supply to 70 million litres.
He, however, lamented that following security challenges, the Water Resources Ministry suffered the loss of one of its directors to the Boko Haram gunmen and the kidnap and eventual rescue of General Manager of Water Board, Alhaji Baba Gujbawu, in addition to displacements of five other directors from their respective residences this year.
THE African Union (AU) Executive Council has finally given Nigeria the nod to jostle for the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) non-permanent member seat.
Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, is one of the 75 current and former heads of state including 15,000 other invited guests streaming into the Ethiopian capital for the 21st Ordinary session of the AU.
But there is more work to be done in the aftermath of the AU endorsement of Nigeria’s candidacy of the UNSC.
Before the elections proper in October in New York, where she would need two-third of votes by members to secure the seat, Nigeria has to move swiftly to lobby other regional groupings for support. The African group has the highest number of countries (54).
The other regional groupings include Asia-Pacific group (53), Eastern European Group (23), Latin America and Caribbean Group (GRULAC), (33), and Western European and other Group (WEOG) (28) + One observer member state.
Speaking to the Nigerian media at the end of a series of meetings, Foreign Affairs minister, Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru, noted that AU’s endorsement was unanimous, stressing that, “Usually once you have got your regional endorsement, the journey is easier. What the countries will ask for is reciprocal support. The UNSC is the highest legislative body in the world.”
Asked about the possible hurdles ahead, especially as Nigeria exited the seat not too long ago, even producing the Council’s president (Professor Joy Ogwu) in July 2010, the minister said, “I do not foresee any region to be problematic. Nigeria has been there before. This will be the first time we will go there in quick succession. Work begins because even countries that want to go in five or 10 years time are already campaigning.”
Meanwhile, the AU Commission chairperson, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has vowed to take the agenda of the AU further to include “socio-economic development: the fight against poverty, the empowering of women and investment by the private sector.”
Addressing the World Economic Forum in Cape Town earlier this month, Dlamini-Zuma spoke on the importance of agriculture and the role of the private sector in “ensuring a prosperous and peaceful continent.”
Since taking up the position of chairperson in October last year, she has consistently stressed the role of women in lifting Africa out of poverty, calling on women to make sure their voices were heard in defining what the AU is now calling its Agenda 2063 – a strategy for Africa over the next 50 years.