Wild Wild East

Kidnappers make N750m monthly in Southeast, says CD

By Odogwu Emeka Odogwu, Nnewi and Osagie Otabor

The Campaign for Democracy (CD) yesterday alleged that kidnapping has become a big business in the Southeast, with abductors making an average of N750 million monthly.

It said abduction had increased in the region after a lull. The rights group urged governors to intervene.

The CD said the situation had made the region unsafe for industrialists and businessmen.

Chairman of CD in the Southeast Dede Ujoh A. Uzoh, in a statement, said:

“It is very depressing that notwithstanding the huge amount of money the governors of the five Southeast states collect each month, they as the chief security officers, are unable to contain the upsurge of kidnapping.

“An average of five persons are kidnapped per month in each state of the zone and they pay between N30 million and N20 million each.

“This amounts to about N150 million per month from wealthy individuals in a state, thus, totalling N750 million per month from the five states.

“There has been this massive exodus of industrialists, businessmen and women from the zone due to activities of kidnappers,’’ it said.

The statement added that the recent escalation of kidnapping is more rampant in major cities of Onitsha, Aba, Owerri, Awka, Umuahia, Enugu and Abakaliki.

“These are the cities where wealthiest people and their families live and carry out their businesses.

“This is making business and human security to collapse and the wealthy not free to move around within the zone due to fear of being kidnapped,’’ it said.

The statement urged governors to help stop the present exodus of the wealthy people; which, if not checked within some months, the economy of the zone would crumble,’’ it said.

The statement also called on mobile phone service providers to assist the police and other law enforcement agencies to track kidnappers as they use mobile phones to network their operations.

“Efforts should be made to energise the Southeast Economic Summit to revive the moribund industries in the zone; taking a cue from the South-South.

“The revival of industries has become paramount so that workplaces would be created to contain youths that would likely join these bad eggs perpetrating these heinous crime,” the CD said.

Source: The Nation, 9th December 2012.

 

S’East govs, others meet over state creation

FROM LAWRENCE NJOKU, ENUGU

South East Leaders

AN effort to harmonise various state creation agitations in the South-East began on Monday as its governors met in Enugu with political leaders and interests groups in the zone over the issue.

The South-East is currently faced with about seven state demands spreading across the zone. At present, the zone has five states.

The demands, which dominated the zonal public hearing on constitutional review, recently include Adada, Equity, Orashi, Etiti, Orimili, Njaba, Aba and Anim state.

At the meeting on Monday held at the Government Lodge were Governors Peter Obi (Anambra), Rochas Okorocha (Imo), Martin Elechi (Ebonyi) and Acting Governor of Enugu State, Sunday Onyebuchi. Theordore Orji (Abia) was absent.

Former Governor Achike Udenwa of Imo State, Senator Ayogu Eze, erstwhile Presidents-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Justice Eze Ozobu (rtd) and Dr. Dozie Ikedife, one-time Information Minister, Nnia Nwodo and traditional rulers among others.

Although Obi who presided over the meeting refused to give details of their deliberations, it was however learnt that the agitators agreed to abide by whatever decision the governors would reach on the issue.

“It was a preliminary meeting just to hear what state agitators are presenting. What we achieved was that the agitators agreed to abide by whatever decision our governors will take on the issue. There will be more meetings and negotiations,” the source said.

Okorocha, who however spoke to journalists, said that the meeting looked at the possibility of uniting the zone for a common goal and cause in Nigeria.

He said that for the first time, the Igbo people had agreed to speak with one voice, stressing that the desire of the governors would be to sustain and maintain the cordiality in the interest of the zone.

Okorocha said that the state creation matter would be “concluded as soon as possible” and assured that the zone was on the same page in that regard.

“What we will ensure is that at the end of the day, the nation will be happy with our decision and the rest of Ndigbo will also be happy with us on the issue,” he added.

Source: The Guardian, 27th November 2012.

 

Southeast leaders fail to agree on sixth state

Posted by: Chris Oji, Enugu

A  meeting of Southeast political leaders yesterday in Enugu failed to reach a consensus on the demand for a sixth state for the region as part of the amendment to the Constitution.

The issue of additional state for the zone dominated proceedings of the meeting during the southeast zonal public hearing on the review of the 1999 constitution held in Enugu.

Though, most of the leaders declined to speak after the meeting, a source said the issue of which state to be created in the zone was inconclusive leading to the meeting ending without a resolution.

It was gathered that at least six different groups from the zone were clamoring for state such as Njaba, Orashi, Etiti, Adada, Akowa, Orlu and Aba among others.

The situation is giving leaders of the zone a serious concern because they find it extremely difficult to harmonise the various interests on the issue.

Anambra state Governor Peter Obi spoke tersely to the media after the meeting.

He said: “We held a special meeting today and the meeting is continuous. We will come back for negotiation, by the time the meeting is over, we will let you know, thank you”

The meeting was attended by Governors Rochas Okorocha (Imo), Martins Elechi (Ebonyi), Obi, Senator Ayogu Eze, former Minister of information, Chief Nnia Nwodo, former Çhief Judge of Enugu state, now a traditional ruler, Igwe Eze Ozobu, Acting Governor of Enugu state Sunday Onyebuchi, ex- Imo state Governor, Achike Udenwa , among others.

Source: The Nation, 27th November 2012.

 

Jonathan orders repair of S/East roads, says PDP chief

FROM ABIODUN FAGBEMI, (ILORIN), GORDI UDEAJAH, (UMUAHIA) AND LEMMY UGHEBE, (ABUJA)

President Goodluck Jonathan

PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan has directed that all federal roads, particularly those in the South East, including Abia State be made motorable before Christmas, a directive the Ministry and Minister of Works have accepted to implement.

Meanwhile, a group – Road Infrastructure Monitor (RIM) has called on the Federal Government to urgently dualise the Okene – Abuja, Onitsha – Owerri and Benin – Ore – Shagamu expressways in order to ease traffic congestion and reduce accidents on these roads.

In a related development, Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara State has implored the Federal Government to reimburse the state the balance of the N12 billion it had spent on federal roads in the last nine years, just as he called for the repair of all federal roads in the state.

South East Road

Chairman of the Abia State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Emma Nwaka, who made the president’s directive known to The Guardian at the weekend, also called on the PDP-controlled Federal Government to create a special fund for the sustained maintenance of the roads in Aba.

He said that considering the status of Aba as a commercial and industrial city and its contributions to the nation’s economy, it should get the Federal Government’s attention.

Reacting to a national newspaper report blaming the non-repair of Aba roads on Governor Theodore Orji, the state party chairman said: “Governor Orji has demonstrated that he has the political will to tackle problems previous administrations ran away from, including Aba roads.”

Nwaka commended the Chief of Army Staff, Lt .General Azubuike Ihejirika, who, through the Army Engineers Corps, on the directive of the president, recently intervened on a section of the Enugu-Port Harcourt expressway.

In a statement made available to journalists in Abuja by RIM’s Project Director, Johnbull Uagbor Adaghe, the group observed that, “these roads are key to economic activities for all parts of the country and therefore in dire need of urgent dualisation”.

“We call on the minister to redouble his effort with a view to ensuring the dualisation of Okene - Abuja, Onitsha - Owerri and Benin - Ore - Shagamu expressways”, Adaghe stated.               The governor, who made the call in Erin-Ile, Oyun Council of the state during the 15th Erin-Ile Day celebration at the weekend, however assured the people that despite the unpaid sum, “as a responsive administration, we have recently commenced an intervention on Ajasse-Ipo-Erin-Ile road to make it motorable while continuously seeking intervention by the Federal Government under whose purview the road is supposed to be rehabilitated and maintained”.

Source: The Guardian, 4th November 2012.

 

State creation: Why S/East demands equity – Ben Obi

BY CLIFFORD NDUJIHE

Sen. Obi (Vanguard)

AT a time that many observers are saying that most states of the country are not economically viable, Special Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on Inter-Party Affairs, Senator Ben Obi, has stressed the need to create more states in the South-East geo-political zone, to address a lingering inequity and disequilibrium in the polity.

Responding to a question on why the South-East was asking for an additional state, Obi, who spoke weekend at an award ceremony organised by the Association of Anambra State Development Unions (AASDU) for distinguished Anambra citizens in Apapa, Lagos, said: “South-East is not asking for an additional state.

The South-East demands! “You see, that is the mistake; when you are talking about an additional state, it is a different matter. The South-East has to be brought into equity, into fairness in this country. Until you do that, the issue of extra state is a disequilibrium in the system. You should balance it first and then you can now talk about extra state here and other. That is the truth.”

Among the six geo-political zones, the South-East with five states is the least. The remaining five have a minimum of six states. The North-West has seven states. The North-Central has six states and if the Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) is included, it would be seven.

Igbos and 2015

Asked the preparedness of the Igbo for the 2015 presidential election, the former lawmaker, who made case for independent candidacy in the on-going constitution amendment, said: “For me, 2015 is two and half years away. Those who want to run should go about making their arrangements, but it is a long time and it is starting early in the day. The answer is go and get your structures, when your structures are built, when you get to the bridge you can cross the bridge. It is not a moon tale outing. It is a serious issue.”

On Boko Haram’s readiness for dialogue with the Federal Government, the 2007 vice presidential candidate of the Action Congress, said as much the negotiation is welcome, government could not negotiate with preconditions like releasing all Boko Haram members being held in detention

“We have been calling for dialogue. In a situation where you have uprising there is need to jaw -jaw. I think if they are truly and seriously interested in dialogue, we should engage them in dialogue.

You don’t place conditions before security agencies. If a man is a criminal and has been arrested for criminality you don’t tell people to release them, it is not their duty. You go to court and let the court release them. But they want to engage in dialogue, yes they should be engaged in dialogue not with any precondition,” he said.

Other Anambra citizens honoured with awards alongside Obi included Professor Peter Chigozie Nwilo, Dr Joseph Odumodu, Dr Ekwenze Anadili, Hon Uche Ekwunife, Chief Paul Odenigbo, Mr Godwin Ezeemo, Mr Donatus Agupusi, Engr Augustine Emelobe, Chief Daniel Chukwudozie, Emeka Oranugo, Mr Eberechukwu Nwosu, Dr Mike Ezeagu, Mr John Nwosu, Peter Obih, James Ezeifeoma and Chief Sebastin Umeobi.

Speaking at the event, the Guest Speaker, Professor Ray Okafor, a statistician, tied the problems of the country to inaccurate data, arguing that government policies were based on rough estimates and projections.

To address the problem, he canvassed statistical federalism where every state government would have a statistical agency because “there is a lot of data to be collected from the wards up to the state level. Here is no state government that has an agency in the mould of the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS and that is sad.”

Earlier, Lagos AASDU Chairman, Chief E.I Anyadike, said the award was for people, who had been successful in selected areas and were therefore “role models through their businesses, career or community service or philanthropy.”

On his part, the Chairman of the ceremony, Dr Obiora Chukwuka, urged Anambra indigenes to pay more attention to education because “the best you are doing today can be better with more touch of education.”
Source: Vanguard, 7th November 2012.

 

South East Lawmakers - Brains, Brawns or Moneybags?

BY OKECHI MOLOKWU

OPINION

Awka — In May 2006, at the heat of the Third Term, a serving Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, told his colleagues that "My constituents, my family and I support tenure elongation of four more years for the President and my governor." But that was not the issue.

The wahala was that in summing up his contribution, Senator Christopher Nshi, a renowned rice farmer representing Ebonyi State told his embarrassed colleagues and certainly a bewildered world in a live broadcast debate: "Mr. President (of the Senate, that is), I am finished".

Thinking he did not capture Senator Nshi's comment correctly or maybe giving him the opportunity to redeem himself and the Senate by extension, the Senate President had asked him if he was really sure he was finished. For the second consecutive time, Senator Nshi confirmed to an already laughing and rolling Senate that "I am finished".

And indeed, by way of prophesy occasioned by very poor command of grammar, Senator Nshi's political career was finished from that day. Such was the drama of the absurd staged by a Senator of South East extraction, a region that has continued to produce top flyers in every sphere of human endeavour both in Nigeria and all over the world.

It was no doubt the national embarrassments such as Senator Nshi's that Reuben Abati had, while concluding his post-mortem of the first week of the Third Term Debate, written in his Guardian Newspaper column of May 12, 2006:

"If anything has been gained, however, in the last week, the Third Term debates in the National Assembly have shown the quality if men and women in the legislature. Parliament is traditionally a place for the display of reason and elocution. How on earth did we vote for these characters who lack debating skill, these men who can hardly express themselves? It was as such remarkable that Senator Ike Ekweremadu, ever unwavering in saying in the open what most public office holders would prefer to murmur in their bedrooms or beer palours stirred the hornet's nest on the quality of leadership from the community level to federal level over time.

Speaking at the 2nd Zik Annual Lecture Series entitled "The Leadership Ideology of the Great Zik of Africa and the Challenges of Leadership in Nigeria" in Awka, recently, he was reported to have lamented that despite being among the most educationally advanced parts of Nigeria, the South East still sends intellectually poor and less than its first-eleven to the National Assembly. On the decay of leadership and the imperatives of reviving knowledgeable leadership which Zik was a renowned icon, Ekweremadu was reported to have stated that "The world is moving at a neck-breaking speed; new schools of thoughts and technological evolutions are consistently and drastically changing the way we do things, while also availing leaders of unlimited opportunities and myriads of options to take their countries to greater heights, and Nigeria cannot be an exception; modern leaders must be indeed be knowledgeable enough to discern the direction the global society is moving, the opportunities that lie ahead, and galvanise their societies to blaze the trail and not trail the blaze leaders".

It could also be recalled that Ekweremadu's Committee on Constitution Review had during the last constitution amendment exercise tried to raise the educational qualification benchmarks set by the constitution for the President, Vice President, Governor, Deputy Governor as well as Federal and State legislators from Senior Secondary School Certificate/equivalent to tertiary education in line with the emerging modern day realities. It was passed by the Senate, but died in the lower chamber.

Meanwhile, whereas the South East cannot be said to be the only guilty geopolitical zone in churning out less than qualified leaders, it is obvious Ekweremadu was particularly peeved that even if you pardon some other parts if they send just anybody, certainly not the South East. As our fathers taught us, you do not go to a market of birds and return home with just any bird, let alone the vulture. Not when you have the eagle, the sparrow and other birds of glory and strength. Yes, what has happened to leadership recruitment in the South East should give every Igbo son and daughter a cause to worry.

For instance, we have witnessed in this country where a "Senator" Alhponsus Igbeke, a man we the people of Anambra know his story like broad daylight, displaced Senator Joy Emodi, an experienced politician, educationist, lawyer, a member of the 1994/1995 Constitution Conference, and in fact, the First Igbo female Senator.

We also saw at a time even in Enugu State, when taxi drivers and stark illiterates were sent to represent Enugu in the 2005 National Political Reform Conference. You begin to wonder what had happened to retired Supreme Court juggernauts like Justice Nnaemeka Agu or the Aniagolus or the Onos Nwangwos at the time.

One can continue naming names. However, my intent is not to disparage anybody, but to re-echo Ekweremadu's wake up call on Ndigbo. As Ndigbo often say, 'Abada nwere onye o na-ekwesi".

That is, wrappers look better on some waists than others. While the masses of the people will clap for Ekweremadu for speaking up as the highest political office holder of South East extraction, some members of the political class might as well call for his head. But the truth is that, like the native malaria concoction, truth might be bitter. But in the end, it does a lot of good to the system. Let us listen to our son. It is a wake-up call. Ndigbo, unu mukwa anya e?

Okechi Molokwu writes from UNIZIK, Awka
Source: Vanguard, 28th October 2012.

 

Ekwueme: South-east Should Produce Jonathan’s Successor

Dr Alex Ekwueme (The Nation)
Alex Ekwueme,

Dr. Alex Ekwueme, the Second Republic vice president, was the first chairman of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party’s Board of Trustees. He is one of the greatest minds of the contemporary political era in Nigeria and his interventions have shaped debates at critical junctures in the country’s life. Ekwueme, an architect by profession who established the first indigenous architectural firm in Nigeria, bares his mind to Christopher Isiguzo, in Enugu, on some of the most salient issues in Nigerian politics at the moment. Excerpts:

During the constitutional conference that ushered in the present republic, you made the famous suggestion for power sharing based on the six geopolitical zones, which has become well accepted as necessary for national stability. Are you satisfied with the practise of the geopolitical power sharing arrangement so far?

Well, at the constitutional conference, before we started, I was assigned by the organisers to chair the committee on the national economy which was committee number seven. But I declined and said I would not like to serve as chairman in that committee but rather would like to serve as an ordinary floor member in another committee, committee number one, which was a committee on the structure and framework of the constitution. The reason I took the decision was because I believed that unless you got the structure and framework right, the economy will not be right. So I served in that committee, like I said, as a floor member and it was in that committee that I tried to convince my colleagues that the 30-state structure which we had at the time before the present 36 states will not make for development and that it was too many and too weak in relation to the federal government, which under the military had too much concentration of power. The military governors were appointees of the military head of state; they were merely acting as agents, whereas in a democratic setting, especially in a federal set up, the states have their own powers and will be supreme in areas assigned to them. Similarly, the federal government will be supreme in areas assigned to it and in some areas. Both the states and the federal government would enjoy concurrent powers.

But this was the structure that Nigeria started with…
So I explained that in the First Republic we had only three regions at independence and there was opportunity for rapid economic development. For instance, in the East, there were initial teething challenges but within a short time, during the government of Zik and Okpara, they were able to transform Eastern Nigeria; agriculture was developed and at that time we found eggs in abundance so that there would not be malnutrition. We had farm settlements, there was, indeed, industrial development: Niger Steel there, Asbestos sheeting here in Enugu, in Umuahia, Golden Guinea breweries and ceramics factory; in Calabar, we had a cement factory while in Port-Harcourt we had a whole new industrial estate in Trans-Amadi. All these things were happening even in the West, too, and in the North. There was growth. The economy was witnessing rapid growth to the extent of recording growth rate of 11 per cent, which was one of the highest in the world. This was achieved because the units were sufficiently large and focused for economic development.

Were there problems associated with the First Republic federal structure?
We had problems with that structure, if you must remember. First, the North was bigger than the East and West put together, which was a tool for instability. Secondly, within each region, we had the majority groups and minority groups. In the North, Hausa/Fulani was the majority group, and there was a conglomeration of minority groups: Kanuri, Tiv, Gwari, Nupe, Idoma, and so on. In the West, we had the same problem, the Yoruba was the majority ethnic group and then there were others, including Edo, Ijaw, Urhobo, Itshekiri, Esan, and so on. In the East here, we had the Igbo as the majority ethnic group, but we still had the minority ethnic groups: Ijaw, Efik, Ibibio, among others, and there was this friction between minority and majority ethnic groups, resulting in the forming of the United Middle Belt Congress in the North, and in the West, it was resolved by creating the Mid-West region. These were the major challenges.
But the fact still remained that there was a rapid economic development.

How did your proposed new federal structure deal with the observed drawbacks of the First Republic structure?
I suggested that we should go back to that setup but cure the pitfalls or rather shortcomings that occurred within it. I also advanced reasons why we should have parity between the North and the South by having three regions in the North and three in the South: North-east, North-west and North-central; and South-east, South-west and South-south. That way, we addressed the balance between the two, North and South, and also balance between the majority and minority groupings. The majority regions had North-west, mostly Hausa/Fulani; South-west, mostly Yoruba; and South-east, mostly Igbo. Then for the minority regions, there was North-east, made up of Kanuri, which is the biggest group there, and other groups, and North-central, mostly the minorities: Tiv, Idoma, Nupe, Igala, Gwari, and so on, but again with some Hausa/Fulani; and then in the South-south, mostly the minorities: Edo, Ijaw, Efik, Ibibio, Ogoja, Ekoi group and some sprinkling of Igbo in Rivers and Delta, and sprinkling also of Yoruba in Edo.

So if we had this structure with parity between the North and South, with three zones each; parity between majority and minority groups, with three each, I felt we would have the advantage of the structure of the First Republic without having its disadvantages. That’s why I proposed this six regional structure.
However, most of my members in committee number one did not find it acceptable. In fact, so many opposed it to the extent that I became the object of some violent attacks. So I decided to prepare a minority report in our committee and I was able to get eight members of the committee out of 29 to endorse this minority report with me and when I came to the floor of the conference to present my report, there was a lot of booing and shouting and so on. But eventually, I managed to present it.

So how do you feel now that your minority report seems to present the most acceptable political template for the country?
Surprisingly, it was this minority report that Abacha and the committee set up accepted and it was in the draft 1995 Constitution, which Abacha would have promulgated on October 1, 1998, that you will find the six zonal structure spelt out as part of the constitutional provision for Nigeria and power sharing in the country based on this structure; and power sharing within the states based on senatorial district structure.

That’s the origin of that, but whether I’m satisfied how they’ve been applied so far, the answer is yes and no. In some areas, it’s been applied haphazardly, while in others, it’s been applied rigorously. But there are provisions in the constitution where states are the basis for allocation of resources and positions, and so on, and you can just throw that away. And the state’s structure has, of course, created imbalance in some areas. When we first moved from regions to states, it was on 27 May, 1967, when Gowon decreed the 12 states structure. You will recall that there were six states in the old North, as it was at independence; three in the old West, as it was at independence; and three in the old East, as it was at independence. So there was parity between North and South and in the South, there was parity between East and West. Thereafter, the various military regimes in the country, and all of whom were from the North, distorted this balance and now we have 19 states in the North and 17 in the South. And some people are now saying that that is the normal thing and that any attempt to redress it and go back to parity between North and South by using the geopolitical zones as units for allocation of positions will meet with strong resistance. I think it was the latest outburst and I think it was from the governor of Kano State. Suddenly, he forgot the structure of states when states were first created in the country; when they were first used as the federating units and nobody complained at that time. So that’s why I said yes and no. In some cases, the six zonal structure is applied rigorously and everybody feels a sense of belonging, which was the original idea of that suggestion, in other cases where it is ignored, some areas feel disadvantaged.

The Kano State governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso, thinks the agitation for geopolitical parity by means of an additional state in the South-east is misplaced, saying if states should be created at all they ought to be from his state considering the population figures. What do you think?

I think we must go back to the political conference which was held under President Olusegun Obasanjo and there it was agreed without any contradiction by all the delegates unanimously that an additional state should be created in the South-east zone. I don’t think the governor of Kano State now was a member of that political conference but it was a conference of all Nigerians which, of course, the North was fully represented and they looked at the problem and felt that based on equity it should be the case. When we talk about population figures, we simply raise issues that would ultimately not be helpful to our stability as a nation. For instance, when we had 12 states, the North-eastern State with headquarters in Maiduguri and the East-central State with headquarters in Enugu had a combined population of the South-eastern State and Mid-western State and later Bendel State.

They all had identical populations. What used to be North-eastern State is now six states but East-central State that it then had identical population with is still kept at five states: the three states that used to be part of it are now the South-south and they have become six states. The South-eastern State has become Cross River and Akwa-Ibom; Rivers State has become Rivers and Bayelsa; and Bendel State has become Edo and Delta. They have become six states and the South-east still has five states. And it was this thinking that must have informed the unanimous decision of the political conference that the South-east deserved an additional state as of right without regard to states being created in line with the normal constitutional provision on state creation; it was something that ought to be done as a necessary balancing act before we proceed to do other things. So, I’m surprised that my good friend, Kwankwaso, is not aware of this development.

Has population actually been the major criteria for state creation in Nigeria?
If he is talking about population being the yardstick for state creation, then we go back to the regions at independence. The stated population of the North was more that the population of the East and West put together and yet there was only one region in the North and two in the South and later, an additional region was created, the Mid-western region still from the South, making it three regions from the South and only one in the North. It simply follows that these population figures have never been the main criteria for creation of regions or states and if we follow that to a logical conclusion, the population of Lagos State, to all independent observers, is well in excess of the population of Kano and if they had been about the same some years back, after Jigawa State was created out of Kano, it would be surprising that the population figures are still about the same. Of course, Lagos State went and did its own census where they came out to say they have about five million people more than Kano State. But if we look at the last census figures, which made Kano slightly more than Lagos, then if Kwankwaso is asking for three states in Kano, it would be equally justified if Lagos decides to ask for three more states as well and that would reduce the entire situation to rather absurd proportions. I think we should be careful how we bandy figures; we should try to work with facts and figures that should enhance our unity of purpose and togetherness rather than bring up figures that tend to bring up more division among us.

What is your opinion on the present clamour for the emergence of a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction by 2015?
Well, the facts are so incontrovertible. From October 1, 1960, when we had our independence, every geopolitical zone of Nigeria has had the opportunity of presenting a chief executive, whether civilian or military head of government of Nigeria, for at least one year. The South-east has had the opportunity for barely six months: from January 16, 1966 to July 29, 1966 when the short tenure of General Aguiyi Ironsi was terminated.

From October 1, 1960 to January 15, 1966, the head of government was Tafawa Balewa from Bauchi in North-east zone. After Ironsi’s six months, we had Gowon who ruled for nine years, he was from North-central, followed by Murtala Mohammed from North-west and he stayed for seven months. After him, it was Obasanjo in military regalia; then back to North-west again with President Shagari from Sokoto State and with power taken over by Buhari also from North-west followed by IBB from North-central, Niger State, who was there for eight years; followed by Shonekan from Ogun State, South-west for 82 days and back to Abacha from North-west, and he served for five years when he passed on. He was followed by Abdulsalam Abubakar from Niger State in North-central also and then back to Obasanjo from the South-west, again, and this time in civilian regalia. After him, came North-west again, Yar’Adua, who stayed for about three years and then for the first time to the South-south in form of President Goodluck Jonathan, first as Acting President and then as President for the remainder of the term of Yar’Adua and now President in his own right.

But from the above calculation, every geopolitical zone has had the opportunity of leading the country.
It’s clear that every region has had a shot at the topmost position in the country. By the time Jonathan finishes his first term, the South-south, which had never had the opportunity until Jonathan came, would have had five years plus, North-central would have had 18 years, North-east, five years and three months, South-west, about 12 years, North-west, about 10 years, while South-east has had it for only six months plus few days. So, if we are thinking in terms of equity, and out of the assumption that every geopolitical zone is capable of producing a president who will not be a president for that zone but a president of the entire country and would serve the interest of all Nigerians, which I hope anybody who becomes president from any of the regions would want to do, if we act on that formula, then, the South-east would be justified in their quest to be given the first chance as president at the next dispensation.

Is the “next dispensation” here referring to 2015?
Well, I am choosing my words carefully.

What is your present call for the restructuring of the country really intended to achieve? Do you support the call for true federalism and, of course, the ancillary calls for fiscal federalism, devolution of powers, and state police?

As you know, I can claim to be the promoter of restructuring in Nigeria because I’ve put it in black and white that I support the six regional structure and I support devolution of powers to these regions as was the case in the First Republic so that the regions will have sufficient resources and capabilities to be able to promote and encourage economic development as was the case in the First Republic. True federalism on its part is a system of government where you have a national setup and subordinate or federating units each with its assigned functions; each completely empowered to carry out those functions within its domain. As long as you have that, then there is federalism. It becomes false federalism when in the military setup the central government takes all the decision while the federating units become appendages and people at that level become representatives of the head of the central government and answerable to him.
Fiscal federalism is simply the arrangement of finances on the basis of agreement between the constituents of the nation with a view to ensuring rapid development of all parts of the country; not relegating some areas while other areas have more than enough to manage their affairs. Even in some advanced federations, you have a system of transfers where money is moved from one government to another to ensure that there is reasonably even development in the country. You recall that at independence, we had so many revenue allocation commissions.
On state police, it’s a matter of the state which we have found ourselves.

But people have expressed fears about possible abuse of state police.
The nearest that I can remember that comes to it is during the First Republic, when we had local government police which was, of course, managed by the regions. We had them in the West and in the North. We didn’t have them in the East but I can recall right away the abuses which we had at the time. We were exposed to so many abuses. I recall that even during elections when candidates came up to contest election on the platform of a political party that is opposed to the party in power, you suddenly saw such candidates arrested by local government police and charged to a local court and put away while election is going on. My late friend, Abubakar Rimi, was a victim of such abuse when he wanted to contest election, I think in Samala constituency of Kano State, against Alhaji Inuwa Wada. Rimi was quietly put away; I don’t know whether he knew when the election was conducted. So if we haven’t got to a stage where we can be sure that the government in power will not use the instrumentality of the local police under its control to prevent freedom of expression or freedom of action by people who are opposed to the government, then I will say it would not be wise or rather good for us to be subjected to high-handed action by police authorities. We’ll come to a stage when the political operators will understand that politics is not a matter of life and death and then allow free of expression to reign and allow the opposition to have free of expression and campaign on issues and if they defeat the government, it would be acknowledged without unnecessary bloodletting. When we come to that stage, then it may be wise and useful to have a state police.

You mobilised a group of 34 eminent Nigerians that stood up against the Abacha dictatorship and that culminated in the present PDP. Looking back, do you have any regret regarding what the party has become today compared to the party you helped to found?
I certainly do have regrets. Those of us who came together to form the party, we had our unity of purpose; we had a strong philosophical and almost spiritual attachment to the ideals which informed our forming the party. Our primary purpose was not just to form a party which would be a political party but a mass movement of all Nigerians, one that would serve the interest of the populace to such an extent that the public will not contemplate of looking at any other party. Something like the ANC of South Africa or, perhaps, even more. Our primary concern was to give service to the people of Nigeria and to run the country in such a way that there would never be a contemplation for any further military intervention in the country because if such happens, there will be a mass uprising against it. That’s what informed the formation of the party.

Unfortunately, then came people who were not party to the formation of the party or who had no moral or philosophical attachment to the reasons for forming the party, some of who joined the party because it was so popular, as shown in the result of the first election on December 5, 1998 – the local government election – which made it clear that PDP was by far the most popular party in Nigeria. People who came without having the spirit of the party but wanted to use it purely as a vehicle for attainment of power and no more, and having used that vehicle to attain power, they then decided in order to hang on to this power to appropriate the party itself and then take over the party and in the process make the party to lose its original, fundamental democratic norms. So the party became subservient to the executive and lost its original ideals. We have not recovered from that unfortunate takeover of the party by individuals who just wanted to use it as a vehicle for attaining power and, so, I cannot say I’m happy with the way the party is presently operating.

So how can the original ideals of PDP, particularly the issue of internal democracy, be restored?
If you are familiar with reconciliation reports that are prepared at the instance of President YarÁdua, in fact, in his first month in office as president, he invited me and said he was not happy with the way things were going in the party and that so many people weren’t happy with the party. He said it was important that we reconcile all those that may have been aggrieved or forced out of the party one way or the other with a view to bringing them back to the fold. He asked me whether I was prepared to carry out the assignment and I told him, yes, since it came from the president after a deep thought on the state of the party. And if you go through the report thereafter, you would discover that so much emphasis was laid on the need for internal democracy because we felt once you don’t have it, there is no party. That call has been sounded repeatedly. Even when Bamanga Tukur took over as national chairman, he still emphasised that he would bring back internal democracy. Unfortunately, there are many people in all parts of the country who are afraid of internal democracy in the party; afraid that they would lose their stronghold on the party at the states, local governments and ward levels. If we throw things open, they would lose their emerging strength as party stalwarts or kingmakers as the case may be.

You were detained for six years (1983-89) for alleged corruption by the military regime that terminated the Second Republic, but at the end, the tribunal absolved you of the charges, adding, “Dr. Ekwueme left office poorer than he was when he entered it and to ask more from him was to set a standard which even saints could not meet.” What is your take on the current standards within the political leadership in the country with regard to corruption?

First, it’s not quite correct to say I was detained for six years; I was first detained under military guard, then eventually transferred to Kiri-kiri maximum prison, from there to Ikoyi medium security prisons, and from there, house arrest for two years with 24 hours military guard. After that, I was released and sent to my home, Oko, in Anambra State. My detention somehow ceased at that time, but I was restricted, I could not leave my local government. After sometime, my area of restriction was relaxed, but I could not leave my state and later, could not leave my country but, eventually, after six years, I effectively regained my freedom. So, I was under different forms of detention and restrictions for the six-year period.

It’s a sad thing that the military that accused us, politicians, of corruption, when they took over in 1983, they only used us as excuse to grab power but by contrast, our government compared to theirs was a saintly one. At least there were procedures. I couldn’t recall anytime within the four years plus that I was the vice president that contracts were awarded without competitive bidding and without being properly analysed before being submitted to the various tenders’ boards, depending on the quantum of work and the amount to be spent on the job. All our contracts passed through various stages of intense scrutiny.

I don’t like to draw comparisons because I think it’s for those of you outside to draw these analogies or comparisons, but certainly it’s not very comforting to see the type of things that have been reported in the last few years, whether in terms of expenditure of police funds, pension funds or in terms of sums, mind boggling sums mentioned as provided for corrupt purposes. These are frightening situations and it’s important to clamp down very strongly and firmly on most of these indices of corruption in the system if we must progress as a nation.

Fifty-two years after independence, three civilian-to-civilian transitions and one civilian-to-civilian handover since 1999, all by one party, PDP, would you say Nigeria has made good progress on the democratic learning curve?

No, I don’t think so. But, first, as you know, from January 15, 1966 to September 30, 1979, it was 13 years and eight and half months of military interregnum. And then, from Jan 1, 1984 to May 29, 1999, discounting the days of Shonekan’s administration – anyway it is still within the military because there was no election that ushered him in – that’s a period of 15 years and half. If you add that to 17 years of the first military era, you are talking of 32 years out of 52 years of independence. So what progress do you think we would have made on the democratic angle within a period of 20 years? Military interruptions have really been the main reason why we are not where we should be by this time of our nationhood. I’m sure that if the military didn’t come by December 31, 1983, by now we would have been well entrenched in our democratic practice and, perhaps, we would have been the pacesetters for the rest of the continent.

But having said that, I think within 20 years that we have had our democracy or the 13 years we have had continuous democracy, we should have made more progress. But we have not made the progress we should have for several reasons, which I cannot enumerate here. The fact remains that we have not accepted 100 per cent that the sole purpose of seeking for political office is to render service and not for selfish reasons. Once we have that as our driving force for seeking political office, you will see a dramatic change in our democratic life as a nation. One cannot give what he doesn’t have and if you are not sufficiently motivated and altruistic in your quest for public service, then you cannot impact positively on the populace as expected

It is being widely insinuated that President Jonathan is nursing the intention to seek a second term in office. What is your take on this?
Constitutionally, I have no doubt at all that the president is qualified to seek for a second term if he so desires. He has no bar ceiling his second term, but it would be on what he thinks is in the best interest of the country. The most important thing is that seeking for political office should be based on one’s desire to deliver service above oneself, as we say in Rotary. For him to contemplate whether his second term will be for the good of Nigerians or whether it would reduce the chance of Nigeria’s growth stability and development is entirely his decision to take and I can’t take it for him and I can’t influence him in any way. But if he decides to seek my advice, I will give it to him privately; it’s not for me to put it before the public.

As the nation marks 52 years of independence, what is your message to Nigerians?
We should all work hard and try and make Nigeria worthy of the endowment which God in His infinite mercy has provided for us. I’ve said this severally, my wish for Nigerians this time is for us to be transformed from a mere geographical expression, as Awolowo put it in his book, The Path to Freedom, to a nation where people see themselves as a nation. We are not near there yet, we are still very far away because it would take more hard work for us to get there. But I urge Nigerians to work hard. Chapter 2 of our constitution provides that national integration should be encouraged. We have to work for national integration; once we have that, we are going to start behaving more and more like a nation, which, for instance, our neighbour, Ghana, has attained. Ghana is a nation today far more than Nigeria.
So, my prayer and wish and what I urge my fellow Nigerians is that we should all work together to ensure that we transform Nigeria from a mere geographical entity to a nation of which all of us and our children and our children’s children will be proud.
Source: This Day, 7th October 2012.

 

2015: South-east Will Present Presidential Candidate, Says Ngige

Dr Chris Ngige 10
Former governor of Anambra State, Senator Chris Ngige

By Chuks Okocha

Former governor of Anambra State, Senator Chris Ngige, at the weekend, said the South-east geo-political zone will present a presidential candidate for the 2015 presidential elections with or without the support of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Ngige, who spoke at the 2012 Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Ohanaeze Ndigbo awards and gala night, said though he was elected as a senator on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), he remained a founding member of the PDP, where zoning was enshrined in the party.

Ngige lamented that the PDP, under the present arrangement had jettisoned zoning, which was one of the fundamental objectives of the party’s constitution.

He said: “The South-east zone is the only zone that is yet to govern Nigeria in an executive capacity since Independence in 1960.”

Ngige said though late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, was the principal architect of Independence in 1960, “as we celebrate what can be described as Nigeria’s 52 anniversary as a nation, we should ask whether we gave able to create for our people a happy, equitable and prosperous nation where no man oppressed even with our diversities and collectively.”

“As leaders, we have not. Come 2015, the South-east will step out to ask Nigerians to give her an opportunity to offer Nigerians a qualitative and visionary leadership that will restore her lost glory as a nation. With the PDP or without the PDP,” he stated.

Ngige was one of the recipients, who received the FCT Ohanaeze Ndigbo Excellence Awards, while Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha; the wives of governors of Rivers and Cross River States, Mrs. Judith Rotimi Amaechi and Mrs. Obioma Liyel Imoke, respectively were also given awards.

Chairman of Ohanaeze in FCT, Mr. Nwabueze Obi, described Ngige as the liberator and emancipator of Anambra State and the Igbo race.

He said during the Apo six incident, Ngige was the only South-east governor who rose up to demand for a thorough investigation and prosecution of those who allegedly killed six Igbo ‘boys’.

Ngige, who spoke on behalf of the award recipients, told journalists that the National Assembly, which he belonged to was making efforts to ensure that alternative routes were created to the South-east to avert the recent happenings in Lokoja, Kogi State where floods had taken over the road.

Other personalities, who also received award of excellence, were the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, and the chairman of Dome Entertainment, Chief Obiora Okonkwo.
Source: ThisDay, 2nd October 2012.

 

2015: South-east Didn’t Endorse Jonathan

The  purported endorsement of President Goodluck Jonathan for the 2015 elections by the South-east during his recent visit to the region has been described as “an unrehearsed mischief by elements whose integrity is worth just a penny in the developmental politics of the zone presently.”

Speaking against the purported endorsement, a group, Committee  21 stated that: “It beats common sense how a routine honour extended to the president to commission the enterprise of dynamic Igbo industrialists and re-commission a serially commissioned but never functional Onitsha Port, became a benchmark to decorate the president with unsolicited  endorsement for 2015.”

In a release by the Special Assistant to the president of the group, Mr. Collins Steve Ugwu, it noted that “the embarrassment to our president by peddlers of this fraud would have been mitigated if indeed our august visitor had come to commission the abandoned Enugu-Onitsha road, the death trap Enugu-Port Harcourt road, the hyped Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, or even the  mausoleum for Nigerian’s most fervent nationalist and  first president, few metres away from the venue of this inelegant theater.”

The group urged the President to ignore the charade of the professional endorsement tradesmen, by working hard to deliver on the promises made to the trusting South-east people while their 2011 proven support to him endure.

Urging all South-easterners to remain unperturbed in their commitment  to keep a date with history in 2015, the group emphasised that: “It will be a tragedy if those who shoot before they aim, and genuflect to sell their heirloom are once more allowed the attention of pretending to speak for the Igbo nation because enough should really be enough.”
Source: This Day, 14th September 2012.

 

South East govs begin work against socio-economic crimes

FROM LEO SOBECHI, ABAKALIK

The recent meeting of South East Governors’ Forum (SEGF) in Enugu not only raised the stakes for the fight against criminality in the zone, it also raised concerns about the ability of the five governors to gel on any positive venture.

In fact, shortly after the meeting, analysts and stakeholders evinced mixed reactions regarding the setting up of a committee by the Forum to proffer suggestions and strategies that would arrest the increasing wave of armed robbery, kidnapping and other high scale anti-social activities.

That notwithstanding, the skepticism surrounding the governors sincerity and determination to tackle insecurity is no doubt, the obvious inability of the helmsmen, a majority of whom are of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to strike a cord on the socio-economic integration of the zone.

Before now, many stakeholders from the zone had complained aloud about the governors perceived indifference to critical issues bedeviling the geopolitical zone, especially youth unemployment and crisis in the education system.

For instance, when members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, (ASUU) embarked on a protracted strike over the non-implementation of the new salary structure endorsed by the Federal Government, the governors disposition was supercilious. It took the intervention of well-meaning individuals, especially the clergy to call their bluff. To date, many still point to that ignoble and unnecessary stand off as a classic example of how disconnected, the governors are from the people.

Even during the two economic summits organised by the South Eastern Nigeria Economic Commission, (SEENEC) at Owerri and Enugu respectively, some businessmen pointedly said that apart from the former Imo State governor Ikedi Ohakim, who attended the opening ceremony in Owerri, governors from the zone care less for such concourse.

So bad was the situation that when a prominent industrialist and Managing Director of Juhel Nigeria Limited, Dr. Ifeanyi Eric Okoye, was abducted by hoodlums, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, (MAN) called for emergency rule in the zone. In a press conference he addressed at the Press Centre, Enugu; Chairman of Anambra/Ebonyi/Enugu chapter of MAN, Dr. Chike Obidigbo, frowned at the attitude of the governors saying that lack of employment opportunities for the teeming army of unemployed graduates was responsible for most social misdemeanours in the zone.

Obidigbo thumbed down the governors for not doing enough to encourage manufacturers to expand and create jobs in the area while also expressing dismay that none of the governors had taken time to attend seminars and conferences, where enlightened discussions are held in search for answers to the myriad socio-economic problems afflicting the people.

Not that alone, either on account of their different political inclinations or aspirations, the SEGF was blighted by crass indifference and absenteeism that reduced the meetings to “a conference of Peter Obi and two others”.

In fact, at a time the Abia State Governor, Theodore Orji was keeping aloof when it came to relating with his colleagues on account of the scathing remarks they made shortly after the state purged its civil service of staff, who were not indigenous to the states.

Later, the All Progressives Grand Alliance’s (APGA’s) political supremacy and mischief making between Governor Rochas Okorocha and the Forum’s Chairman, Obi; made the newest governor in the zone a nominal figure on the roll.  It was therefore against this chequered and intriguing background that the four of the five governors congregated in Enugu recently.

At the meeting held at the Lion Building, Enugu Government House; the South East governors took what many considered a far reaching decision by setting up a rainbow committee involving personnel of different security agencies and civil society to take on head-long, the upsurge in criminal activities in the zone.

That meeting was the first time in recent memory that virtually all governors from the zone were in attendance.  The only absentee was the vacationing Martin Elechi of Ebonyi, who was represented by his deputy, David Nweze Umahi.

The meeting, which dwelt immensely on the security situation in the geopolitical zone, also had in attendance, the Assistant Inspector General Police in charge of Zone 9 (Umuahia), Mr. Solomon Olusegun, all police commissioners of the South East states, commandants of Immigration Services, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) and National Security and Civil Defense Corps.

But reacting to the governors’ concerns for the security situation, especially setting up of a joint security committee to fashion out strategy to combat varying shades of crimes in the zone, a security expert and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of A-Zee Intel Network Limited, a security/intelligence consulting firm, Mr. Bonaventure Maduafokwa, dismissed the whole exercise as a political gimmick accusing the governors of insincerity in addressing security challenges in the zone.

Maduafokwa also repudiated attempts by the governors to separate the crimes perpetrated in South East from the monumental unemployment level saying “If they had allowed the uninterrupted flow of the fiscal allocation to the local councils, the councils would function properly and be able to deal with some of the middle level employment. They have stifled local councils and hindered them from functioning by hijacking their resources,” he stated.

Maduafokwa argued that the local councils would have set up structures to deal with insecurity at the grassroots level if they were allowed free access to their resources. “But a situation where Governor Peter Obi, who is the chairman of the Forum has refused to conduct council elections for the past eight years, the security thread of the state is destroyed. And if the councils are in crisis the entire state including the capital will be. So he created this problem with one hand and pretends to be solving it with the other. The same thing applies to other states of the South East”.

“In Enugu, they spend so much money to build roads, but they don’t think about security in the councils. Initially you did not see people building anything on the road and adding cubicles or containers; now such structures are commonplace. All manner of people cluster around the containers in the guise of trying to buy one thing or the other and criminals hide in such places to kidnap their victims. So the moment all the governors hands-off the local councils and allow credible elections to hold, these things would be reduced”.

Insisting that the governors’ commitment were not deep and genuine enough, Maduafokwa, lamented that the governors have not accommodated inputs from stakeholders in the fight against criminality neither have they taken cognizance of the “balloon syndrome” given rise to by the activities of the Joint Task Force (JTF) in the Niger Delta was partly responsible for the circulation of lethal weapons in the zone.

“Because of the balloon syndrome effect, which originated from the JTF’s battle against militants in the Niger Delta, most of the militants that refused to surrender their weapons, moved them away from the embattled zone to parts of the South East. That explains why the type of arms recovered from the kidnap kingpin in Oraifite recently included rocket launchers. Those things are from the Niger Delta and not from our people. Nobody imported such things here from outside. The governors would not say they do not know these exist”.

The security expert disclosed that Obi got a report on that when some concerned Anambra indigenes in Abuja including former governor Chukwuemeka Ezeife and Senator Emma Anosike, raised a committee that contacted his security firm to assist.

He said, “We studied the situation and did a very serious report including the names of the kidnappers and high profile robbers in Anambra State. The government has not done anything about this report till date.”

Maduafokwa said instead of setting up committees to move round in circles, the governors should fund the transfer of all policemen that have stayed three to five years in the zone adding that the military authorities should also flush out squatters in army barracks since according to him, “some criminals find a safe haven in military barracks, where police cannot easily reach them.”

He enjoined the governors to also look into the free trafficking and use of narcotics in the South East if they were genuinely concerned about addressing insecurity and criminality in the zone.

Contrary to the hard knocks dealt the governors by Maduafokwa, Chairman of MAN, Anambra/Ebonyi/Enugu chapter, Dr. Obidigbo said the setting up of a joint security committee was a welcome development though long over due.

He stressed the need for collaborative efforts among the governors saying that insecurity has become a serious issue in the zone and “It has come to a stage that if nothing is done, socio-economic development in the zone would die entirely.”

Like Obidigbo, former governor of Anambra State, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife says the governors deserve a pat on the back and “I salute them and praise their ingenuity. They have begun to do what I believe they should be doing. It is a courageous step they have taken and I encourage them. As they continue, other stakeholders will join. Please do not criticise them, you are also part of the solution”.

The newfound bonding between governors in the zone does not convince a civil society activist, Sam Mbah. This is why he insists that the fight against crime appears superficial and defies rationality.

Though he noted that security was critical to development and the general well being of the citizenry, Mbah, a lawyer said he was yet to see seriousness on the part of the governors to battle kidnapping and sundry prevalent crimes.

According to him, “That serious social consciousness demonstrated by some South West governors is not evident among their South East counterparts. I think that if the issue is not nipped in the bud, whatever is left of the South East economy will evaporate in the next few years. Concerted efforts should be made immediately with sincerity of purpose because I see what they are doing as a publicity stunt intended to copy what the northern governors have done. I cannot find a carefully articulated plan to fight the menace of kidnapping”.

Mbah, who is the executive director of Tropical Watch, noted that appointing a General officer Commanding (GOC) to head the joint security committee, without involving the police and local vigilante was not enough to stem the ugly tide even as he urged that factors that provide favourable climate for kidnapping should be evaluated.

He said: “In my humble view, cultism gives impetus to kidnapping and our universities have become breeding grounds. What have the governors done to checkmate that? I have not seen concerted efforts at fighting crime and insecurity among the governors”.

Addressing the media on the outcome of their deliberations, Governor Obi, who chairs the SEGF said the joint security committee headed by the GOC 82 Division of the Nigerian Army, Major General Oluwaseun Oshinowo would draw up possible solutions to the alarming increase in crime rate within the zone. 

Obi disclosed that the committee, which has two weeks to turn in its findings, is also expected to make recommendations to the Forum on the best ways to tackle anti-social crimes like kidnapping, armed robbery and other threats to security in the zone.

While describing the meeting as a special one, he noted that it was more of a joint security council meeting of all the states in the zone adding that he and his colleagues remain committed to dismantling of all forms of criminality within the South East.

His words: “The committee is going to come out with what is required to fight every form of criminality in the South East, especially kidnapping and we will provide them with whatever they need to tackle these crimes headlong. We want to take the South East back to the safe haven it used to be”.

For his part, Okorocha said it was fallacious to rationalise the rising level of criminality using unemployment. While declaring that “what is not good is not good”, he stressed that criminals should not be assisted to hide under the guise of unemployment to commit atrocities.

He added: “We have decided to have this joint security council meeting so as to define our borders to ensure that when you chase the criminals from one state, they don’t run to another state to have a safe haven. We have also decided to set aside reasonable reward for informants that give us information on the hideout of kidnappers and armed robbers wherever they are found.”

Source: The Guardian, 14th September 2012.

 

S’East Govs, Others Move to Check Insecurity

South East Govs, Others Move to Check Insecurity

FROM JOHN-ABBA OGBODO (ABUJA), ANIETIE AKPAN (CALABAR) , LAWRENCE NJOKU (ENUGU) AND NJADVARA MUSA (DAMATURU)

  • Boko Haram, workers defy Gaidam’s appeal for truce, return to work
     
  •  Mark tasks armed forces on territorial integrity

THE governors and other leaders of the South-East region of the country yesterday decided to protect the zone from the ravaging insecurity in some parts of the country.

This came as the appeal of Yobe Governor Ibrahim Gaidam for ceasefire failed to make Boko Haram to stop attacks and workers to resume work in the state.

At the end of a one-day meeting, the governors and security chiefs of the South-East set up a joint security committee to tackle insecurity in the zone.

The committee, which shall also submit a report on how the joint security could work within two weeks, has the General Officer Commanding the 82 Division of the Nigeria Army, Enugu, Maj.-Gen. Olayinka Oshinowo, as the chairman.

The Chairman of South-East Governors’ Forum, Peter Obi, who read the one-paragraph statement after over a four-hour meeting, said the committee would tackle all forms of insecurity in the zone, including armed robbery and kidnapping.

“They would tackle all forms of insecurity for us to take the South-East to a safe haven. They have two weeks to submit the report”, Obi said.

Also at the meeting were Governors Rochas Okorocha (Imo), Theodore Orji (Abia) and Sullivan Chime (Enugu). Deputy Governors David Umahi (Ebonyi), Sunday Onyebuchi (Enugu), Martin Agboso (Imo), Gen. Oshinowo and Enugu Commissioner of Police, Musa Daura, were also there.

Okorocha who elaborated on the meeting in an interview, said the joint security committee had become necessary following the realisation that when criminals were chased out from one state they move into another state.

He said: “With this there will be a flushing out of all crimes in the South-East. We have also decided to institute a reward for any informant that supplies information on the criminals and their hiding places.”

He disagreed that unemployment was the root cause of insecurity in the zone, stressing: “We cannot continue to hide under the guise of unemployment to perpetrate crimes, what is not good is not good.”

“If the amount of time and energy spent by young men in crimes is committed to the farm, they will do well. These criminals are not really the poor people because when they ask for ransom in millions and the money is paid, why would they not use it to establish business ventures? It is not unemployment”, he said.

Stressing that government was making concerted efforts to provide employment, he advocated a return to agriculture, which he said was the only solution to curbing unemployment in the country.

Okorocha added that the Adapalm in Imo State had over 4,000 youths in its employment.

Governor Gaidam expected Boko Haram and heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) along with over 16,000 civil servants in   the state to accept his appeal so that the Federal Government could have enough time to dialogue with Boko Haram.

Relatedly, the Executive Secretary of Islamic Peace and Security Council of Ghana, Alhaji Khuzaima Mohammed Osman has blamed the mass media in Nigeria for exaggerating Nigeria’s security and other socio-political challenges.

At the world headquarters of the Brotherhood of the Cross and Star in Calabar, Cross River State, where an inter-religious seminar was held at the weekend, Osman expressed shock that Nigerians of different religious inclinations could sit together commonly to discuss thorny issues of religion whereas the picture of the country in the media “is that of perpetual religious crises where Muslims and Christians were endlessly slaughtering themselves.”

At the weekend also, the President of the Senate, David Mark, has tasked the armed forces on the need to protect the nation’s territorial integrity.

According to a statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Paul Mumeh, Mark who spoke after accepting an honorary doctorate degree in Political Science by his alma mater, the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna, at the weekend, also tasked the military leadership to double efforts in the training of personnel, upgrade of   equipment, institutions, and improve research and development in tandem with global standards.

Gaidam’s appeal was made on Saturday last week in a statewide broadcast to the people on how to end the Boko Haram insurgency, and measures taken on compensating and re-settling victims affected by incessant attacks, killings and floods.

In the broadcast, Gaidam said: “Civil servants and other employed groups need to realize that with the gradual restoration of normalcy, they are under duty to resume their normal duty and those who have unnecessarily relocated elsewhere have to come back.  In this regard, heads of MDAs have to ensure that all civil servants report to duty as usual.

“As for leadership and members of Boko Haram sect, my appeal to them is that, it is time for them to listen to the numerous calls coming from many well-meaning individuals and groups as well as the prayers and cries of the thousands of the direct victims and perhaps millions of the indirect victims of these conflicts, the majority of whom are the common man.  We are appealing to them to put a stop to this conflict and come to the negotiation table in order to restore peace and normalcy in our state and indeed the country as a whole.”

Despite this appeal, gunmen suspected to be members of Boko Harm torched the office complexes of the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Yobe Pilgrims Welfare Commission, Government Secondary School, Damaturu, and attacked a mass transit bus of Yobe Line Transport Corporation (TLTC), 13 Global System of Mobile Communication (GSM) firms’ masts and the house of the mother-in-law of Gaidam last week.

Six days after the governor’s appeal to heads of MDAs, the IBB Secretariat Complex that houses over 10 ministries and parastatals in Damaturu, is deserted, as only a few vehicles and bicycles belonging to some security guards and messengers were sighted at the parking lots last Friday.

At the Ministry of Information, Homes Affairs and Culture office, none of the heads of MDAs was at their duty posts.
Source: The Guardian, 10th September 2012.

 

S’East Governors Deepen Interest in Enugu Disco

South East Governors 10

21 Aug 2012

Chika Amanze-Nwachuku

Fresh facts have emerged that the five states in the South-east geopolitical zone teamed up to acquire the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC), one of the 17 firms created out of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), listed for privatisation to change the abysmal electricity infrastructure in the zone.

THISDAY gathered that South-eastern Governors, led by Peter Obi of Anambra were concerned that years of erratic power supply in the zone had crippled commercial activities in the industrial cities of Aba in Abia State as well as Nnewi and Onitsha, both in Anambra State.

The zone, believed to be among the areas in the country that have the worst electricity facilities, had in recent years been experiencing de-industrialisation, a development, which prompted the five states to float the Eastern Electric Nigeria Limited (EENL) Consortium, one of the firms that submitted bids for the Enugu Disco.

A source privy to the deal noted that though the South-eastern governments were a minority group in the consortium because of the ownership restrictions imposed by the Federal Government on state governments in the acquisition of PHCN distribution

companies in their domain, the power project was actually initiated by Obi, who is chairman of the South-east Governors’ Forum.
Obi had vide a letter dated July 20, 2012, reaffirmed the states’ membership of EENL and their continued interest in the acquisition of the Enugu Disco.

The letter with reference no- SEGF/S/GOVS/INT/1/017, titled: “Partnership with Eastern Electrics Nigeria Limited” obtained by THISDAY read: “We, the five Southeastern state governments, wish to reaffirm our membership of the EENL Consortium and the continued interest in the proposed acquisition of the Enugu Disco. Kindly note that due to the limitations imposed by the federal government, we intend to maximise the investment opportunity in the Enugu Disco, in line with the terms and conditions, originally agreed to between us and EENL. We therefore request continued update from the consortium regarding the privatisation generally and the EENL’s acquisition strategy for the Enugu Disco”.

The source said contrary to impression that the deal was “one-man show”, the South-eastern governors were behind the EENL.
He clarified: “The five state governments are actually initiators of the consortium, but they are a minority group in the consortium because of the ownership restrictions imposed by the federal government on all state governments in the acquisition of PHCN distribution companies in their areas”.

He explained that the governors had approached the founder of Diamond Bank, Pascal Dozie to lead the electricity project because of his excellent standing in the business community and his prominent role in the development of their zone.

“It was Dozie who brought on board people like Chairman of Nestoil and director of Julius Berger Plc, Dr Ernest Azudalu, also a minority stakeholder in the consortium. The group then hired Aba Power Project as the leading consultant because of its rich experience in the South-east as the developer of the integrated electricity project in Aba, which will be commissioned in October. Aba Power Project is now a minority stakeholder in the consortium”, the source said.

He added: “ Like his brother governors in the forum, Obi believes that that the ongoing privatisation of PHCN assets offers the people the best opportunity to change the abysmal electricity infrastructure in the zone”.

According to him, in mobilising his colleagues in other states for the project, Obi had asked them to learn from the establishment of Orient Petroleum plc in Anambra State under the leadership of erstwhile governor Chinwoke Mbadinuju.

“The Anambra state government created and promoted the petroleum firm, which will start crude oil production next year and refining of petroleum products the year after, but it is a private sector company, which has on the board prominent persons like former Vice President Alex Ekwueme, former United Nations Ambassador Arthur Mbanefo and ex Commonwealth Secretary General Emeka Anyaoku, who is the chairman”, he stressed.

 

Defence Ministry alerts on undetonated bombs in S’East, others

FROM LAWRENCE NJOKU, ENUGU

Bomb

ABOUT 50,000 unexploded explosive remnants, said to have been abandoned during the Nigeria Civil War, are currently scattered across 12 states of the South-East, South-South and North-Central, Defence Ministry said yesterday.

Residents of the affected areas have, therefore, been warned to exercise care while carrying out their activities in view of the harmful effect of the objects should they explode.

Addressing reporters in Enugu after removing three unexploded bombs at a construction site in Udi Council of the state, Field Administrator of the Nigerian Mine Action Centre, a department of the Federal Ministry of Defence, Dr. Emeka Uhegbu, said the unexploded bombs could kill innocent persons if detonated.

Uhegbu said the three bombs, which looked like rocket launchers, were found at the construction site while the labourers were trying to dig the place preparatory for the foundation.

He noted that after alerting the anti-bomb unit of the Enugu State Police Command, the ministry was informed, leading to its removal by their officials.

Uhegbu noted that had the labourers made the mistake of hitting a hard object on the explosives, it had the capacity of killing thousands of people around the area.

“We have our zonal office in Owerri with the responsibility of removing the explosive remnant of the Civil War in 12 states. We have continued to remove some of these unexploded explosives since 2009. Not long ago, we equally removed bombs in Enugu and detonated them at the Ugwu-Onyeama area in the presence of Governor Sullivan Chime represented by his deputy, the then Minister of Defence, the police, soldiers and other security operatives.

“Today, we removed three from a construction site close to 9th Mile in Udi. We are not supposed to move about with it, but we decided to come here to show it to newsmen and use the opportunity to ask our people to be vigilant because these objects are scattered across the states”.

Uhegbu urged residents of the affected states who mistakenly run into these objects in their farms, places of work, construction sites, and churches to immediately report to the nearest police station in order to facilitate its removal.

On how some of the objects can be located apart from using scanners and locators, the Field Administrator said with military history, it would be easy to locate the conventional weapons, but they solely relied on local guides to trace where the ones designed by the Biafran soldiers were buried.

Source: The Guardian, 23rd August 2012.

 

South-east govs meet in Enugu, defer proposed economic integration

By PETRUS OBI, Enugu

The South-east Governor’s Forum met in Enugu yesterday but failed to reach an agreement on the proposed economic integration of the zone. All the governors attended the meeting, which lasted over four hours. The chairman of the forum and Anambra State governor, Peter Obi told newsmen that the meeting centred on two issues including the proposed economic integration of the zone and the security challenges in the country. 

The controversy trailing the reinstatement of council chairmen in Imo State as ordered by the Court of Appeal was also believed to have featured prominently at the meeting. The governors were said to have told Governor Rochas Okorocha that he was under obligation to allow the chairmen to resume office while he finds way of reaching to them in the interest of peace and progress of the third tier government in Imo State. 

It was, however, not clear if Okorocha accepted the appeal or not but Daily Sun gathered that mid-way into the meeting, the National President of Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON), Chief Nwabueze Okafor joined the meeting. It was also gathered that the forum appealed to Governors Okorocha of Imo State and his Abia State counterpart Theodore Orji to find ways of resolving their lingering feud, as that would go a long way in uniting the zone. 

On the proposed economic integration of the South-east, it was gathered that one of the governors expressed his opposition to the proposal on the basis that the states were not on the same economic footing.

The opinion was said to have made the forum to adjourn to another date when the issue would have been properly dissected. All the governors of Abia, Imo, Ebonyi, Enugu and Anambra attended the meeting. 
Source: Sun, 22nd July 2012.

 

South-East’s Drug Depot

By Odimegwu Onwumere

When we were telling Nigerians that there were insanities going on in the Governor Theodore Orji-led Abia State, some naira-fed discordant views were that we were bent on running Orji government down. The latter can be seen is untrue following the issue hereafter.

The insanities have been further exposed. Some national newspapers of Thursday, June 28, 2012, had it that the only business Abia State has skyrocketed in more than any state in the South-East recently is the illicit drugs dealings and consumption. The disclosure was through Mrs. Florence Ezeonye, the Abia State Commander of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) on the occasion of this year’s International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Drug Trafficking.

This remark has elicited pertinent benefits; it has further helped in telling the world the critics’ claims that Orji-led Abia State is run like drugs induced. There is absolutely misrule in all angles of governance. Leaders with clear eyes do not exhibit stone-heartedness against their people. Abia State is suffering from robbers of good governance. The state has made the state to go down. Do we blame the consumers of the illicit drugs? They could have found solace in the drugs on noticing that the state they live in is run by a man who does not care for/about them, except for his family and buddies.

We are not surprised with the information that Abia State is drugs depot, the highest in the South-East, because Orji has been re-orientating the people, without him knowing, to tow that direction with his body language and mis-governance. If he was ruling well, the people would engage in meaningful ideas. Therefore, Ndi’Igbo have to frown at Orji because of this. It is actually the period to trade blames on Orji. He is not delivering in the leadership position. This is the time to throw away the quick aura should his boot lickers come up tomorrow to refute the fact by Ezeonye. It is very sad that Orji’s leadership ineptitude has betrayed the rest of us with the messy drugs info.

Against this backdrop, yours truly would always ask: What eye do the people of other regions watch us with? Do they see us as a people that involve in anything bad? Do they see us as 419ners, drug dealers, kidnappers, money launderers, and ritual killers? Is the problem we have in ala-Igbo not with us? These and many more are the questions every Igbo person should be asking. Abia State was once revered, but Orji has brought it to disrepute. Go to Aba, for instance, and cry. Investigations should as a result be carried out on this issue to ascertain the cause of the dreary incident of the people in Abia State involved in illicit drugs dealings. This investigation must be thorough, but to ensure that such an incident never repeats itself, Orji should go. Our hearts and prayers are with our sons and daughters, who have turned drug users, which in earnest is not unconnected with the mis-governance in the Orji-led Abia State most of us have been crying against.

Odimegwu Onwumere, Poet/Author, Media/Writing Consultant and Motivator, Founder of PoetAgainst Child Abuse (PACA), Rivers State.
Mobile: +2348032552855. Email:apoet_25@yahoo.com
Website:
www.odimegwuonwumere.com

 

Education: S-East govs storm Abuja, say FG neglect zone

BY FAVOUR NNABUGWU
14th June 2012

ABUJA – GOVERNORS from the South East zone yesterday stormed the Ministry of Education to complain over lack of access to education by people of the region even as the Federal Government promised to launch a campaign on access to education in Enugu next week.

Led by Peter Obi of Anambra State and accompanied by Sullivan Chime of Enugu, Martins Elechi of Ebonyi, the governors said they had come to discuss on how best the people of the zone could have unhindered access to education.

Peter Obi who spoke on behalf of others, said the South East governors had deliberation with the Federal Government, explaining that their presence at the Ministry of Education was a proof to the seriousness the zone attached to education.

He said, “we had a fruitful deliberation. For us as a zone, our coming to see the Minister of Education, Prof Ruqquayat Rufa’I goes to show the seriousness with which we attach to education.

“We the governors of the South East zone have decided to take education very seriously and we felt we need to discuss some aspects of what we intend to do with the minister as well as what the Federal Government is trying to do in education. We are committed to education.”

While responding to the governors, education minister said the ministry had agreed on a date to launch a campaign of access to education in that zone.

She stated, “We agreed that we are going to have a major campaign on access to education in the South East zone particular in Enugu on the 19th of this month. Then we will identify areas of interest to the South East zone after which we will take care of South South and South West zones. It is a rare opportunity to have governors of a particular zone to organise to visit us. It is the first time to have more than one governor visit us since l became Minister of education”

”We feel highly delighted to receive the South East Governors in our midst. And we are happier that we discussed issues on education. You will recall that since our campaign on access to education in Adamawa in 2010, we have been working towards improving access to education particularly at the basic education level centred around the almajiri at that time and girl child education, we concentrated on almajiri because of the large number of almajiris that were roaming the streets particularly in the Northern part of the country.

“That is not to say we are unaware that we do have situation where either the students are not interested in schooling for one reason or the other or they are more interested in trade and in some cases, we had the issue of school drop-outs at a particular level”

”A few months ago, we had discussions after our launching in Sokoto in terms of having Mr President to launch and handover the almajiri model school to Sokoto state government after which we had a meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan whose concern was how to ensure that we extend and take care of all other part of the country in terms of ensuring intervention for out of school children”

 


Boko Haram: S’East govs meet behind closed doors
From PETRUS OBI, Enugu

Governors of the five South-east states met for over three hours yesterday at the Enugu Government House to review the current state of insecurity in the country especially as it concerns the activities of the Boko Haram Islamist sect.

At the meeting attended by Governors of Abia, Theodore Orji; Anambra, Peter Obi; Ebonyi, Martin Elechi; Enugu, Sullivan Chime and the Deputy Governor of Imo State, Jude Agbaso, no communiqué was issued as they decided to keep mute over their discussions.

However, the Chairman of the Governors’ Forum and Anambra State Governor, Mr. Peter Obi simply said the meeting centered on security.“We only discussed the issue of security and as you well know, security issues are not discussed in the public.”

While no reason was given for the quick exit of the Imo deputy governor, who left the meeting much earlier, close sources revealed that the governors discussed several issues including the statement credited to the National Security Adviser, General Owoye Azazi to the effect that the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was behind the spate of bombings in the country.

Other issues our source revealed included the lingering face-off between Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State and his Abia State counterpart, Theodore Orji in the aftermath of the reported cold reception accorded Orji during the funeral requiem mass organized for the late Biafran warlord, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu at Aba, Abia State.
Source: Sun, 30th April 2012.

 

South-East politicians intensify moves for Igbo presidency

From Nkechi Onyedika

THERE are political moves by the South-East zone to ensure that somebody from the area becomes the country’s president in 2015.

Political bigwigs from the zone, including First Republic Aviation Minister, Chief Mbazulike Amaechi, and former Governor of Anambra State, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife, among others, met behind closed-doors at the weekend to evolve strategies that would enable it actualise this objective.

The Guardian gathered that the major agenda of the meeting was the issue of Igbo presidency and how to get Ndigbo united on the project.

To this end, the zone is finalising arrangements to start an Igbo Corporate campaign that would take it to all the zones and groups in the country to let them know why the Igbo should be allowed to produce the next president and solicit their support towards actualising this course.

Ezeife told The Guardian that equity, justice and fairness demand that the South-East zone produce the president by 2015 or whenever Jonathan completes his tenure.

He observed that the only way to destabilise the country is to deny the Igbo their turn of producing the next president of the country.

He said: “Injustice creates problems, and if you tell a people that they do not count and annoy them beyond boundary, they would react. If you deny the South-East their turn, the reaction would be enormous and even the elite may not control it”.

According to him, by 2015, five out of the six geo-political zones must have produced the president and only the South-East has not.

He went on: “This is an argument that is very straight. Any way you look at it, it is the turn of the South-East to produce the next president. Let the South-East take its turn after which we can now say no more rotation or zoning. Let it now be on merit.

“In the South-East, we inherited egalitarianism from our grandparents and that social system has mobility in it.”

He contended that no other part of Nigeria has demonstrated vested interest in Nigeria than the South-East, dismissing insinuations that the Igbo, if allowed to occupy the number one position, would break up the country.

He added: “Since after the civil war, the Igbo are the only people who voted for one Nigeria and embraced it in its totality. That is why they have their investment all over the country. Do you think that after all these huge investments the Igbo have made, they will think of dividing the country? It is a propaganda that other zones are using against the Igbo. The Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) is not different from the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) and other forces fighting against injustice.”
Source: The Guardian, 24th April 2012.

 

Towards Integration In The South East

BY DEBO OLADIMEJI

Engr. Chris Okoye, the Chairman, Steering Committee of SENEC (South East Nigeria Economic Commission), spoke to DEBO OLADIMEJI on what gave birth to SENEC, the challenges and prospects of regional integration in the South East, vis-à-vis the way out of the energy crisis in the country, after SENEC inaugural meeting in Enugu.

What led to the SENEC inaugural meeting?

The primary purpose is to ensure that every action that we put in place for South East Nigeria Economic Commission SENEC is properly guided by very professional legal minds. Things must be done in such a way that it will not be contrary to the rule of law. We had set up the sub-SENEC committee that is going to provide the necessary professional appraisal of what we do. Looking at our governance system, and to make sure that we create an institution that can outlive itself.

Are you borrowing a leaf from the South West?

SENEC’s initiative started as far back as 2006. It started in a cluster workshop which I chaired.

I have been nursing the idea personally before it was reflected in the paper that I presented in a cluster workshop in 2006 in Enugu. The conclusion at that meeting was that SENEC was going to be an important vehicle to drive that cluster concept in the South East.

Against that background, the research work started in January 2007 to work out how to create a platform for economic revolution in South East. It was completed in December, 2007. Our model is unique. It is public, private community partnership model, driven by the private sector.

Of course, South West has always been talking about regional integration anyway, but what they did now was to actualise that concept. I must also say that the South-South few years ago also kicked off with her own concept of regional integration. Professor Pat Utomi was part of our committee when we started SENEC. And he was also invited by the South South governors to start their own regional integration. The North is also talking about regional integration.

A lot of people have played a role in bringing about the details of the programme we are now implementing. A research work was conducted after the cluster workshop.  That research work involved a lot of people. African Institute for Applied Economics (AIAE) in Enugu provided a platform that enabled us to do that study.

When do you expect SENEC to be on board?

Four governors in the South East had signed into the Memorandum of Understanding of SENEC. Remember that SENEC is about public private community partnership, that is the model that we are trying to put in place, and we have also said that the structure of SENEC is going to be driven by the private sector.

But we do believe that it is important that the public sector must play a very significant role at this stage of the growth of SENEC, until we can come to the point that SENEC has stabilized.

We are hoping of course that very soon, we are going to prevail on the government to provide temporary office for SENEC in Enugu. As soon as that is done, I am sure the building blocks will now commence.

In the meantime, what are your plans?

There is no doubt that we have been able to mobilise funding through the private sector. AIAT has also played a role in the research work. Some of our people in the Diaspora are also making effort. Their efforts may not necessarily be in cash.

SENEC is gradually becoming a people’s movement and people will contribute to building up its institution. We are going to begin to offer a number of services that will hopefully bring money into the confers of SENEC in terms of consultancy services, brokerage services and so on.

Any link between the crisis in parts of the country and this idea of regional integration?

We saw this vision many years ago. But it is also a reaction to what is happening in the country. There is a state of uncertainty and insecurity in Nigeria right now. You find it difficult to make people to invest in an environment that is not secure. What is happening in the North, has obviously more or less inflamed the need to quickly bring about  regional integration, because of the fact that people are looking for secure places to put their investment.

And that is normal, even foreigners will not go to any country where you have crisis brewing and so on. I think it is important that we recognise that security of lives and property is fundamental for economic activities or even any social activity.

What are the challenges ahead?

The major challenge is the need to bring our people to work together as a team. When we work as a team, we tend to do much. If you look at what happened in the Eastern Region before the war, there was a tendency for the eastern region to work as a team.

Another problem is how to make the people to see the benefits derivable from working together.

I do know that there is the need for SENEC institution, to carry out a very rigorous, sustainable awareness programme to sensitize everybody about the benefits of SENEC. There is also the fear of people losing out on whatever they may have been benefiting from the system before SENEC.

Politics must not be an impediment to economic growth. These challenges are not insurmountable, provided the people can begin to see that SENEC is about the pursuit of common goal, pursuit of things that are basically common to all the states.

Which of the states in the South East is yet to be part of SENEC?

Ebonyi State is yet to sign to the memorandum of understanding. They have said that while they accept the concept of SENEC, they needed to be given time to see how the whole thing will evolve before they could actually join. I do not see anything wrong about that. After all, when the European Union (EU) was set up everybody did not join at the same time. But people are now begging to join the EU, and you have to go through a rigorous process to become a member of the EU now. By the time the benefits start to trickle in every state in the South West will be proud to be a member of SENEC.

What are the areas of regional integration that you are looking at?

SENEC will be looking at economic and social development projects. Agriculture is one of the key areas that SENEC will be looking at, because we have a lot of untapped potentials in the South East. We are going to be looking at the entire value chains -— that is the production of agricultural items from the farms, to the factories and to the market.

The first cashew nuts industry in the South East axis is now lying fallow, we are going to revive it. Then we have also the cassava chain. You also have the vegetable oil and a number of other chains.

We must begin to run a productive economy. There are so many things that are being imported to Nigeria today, which we must begin to look at producing them here.

The South East has the best limestone in the whole of Africa, the Nkalagu Cement Factory, was the best in Africa, but because of all kinds of problems, it has been lying fallow. There are a lot that can be done in the areas of sports. You know that sport is a big business. We can easily cultivate football players here and export them.

We are also looking at the art sector, how to build writers and other auxiliary services that will support the growth of industries.

For example, as an investor, the question that you will ask yourselves is “Is it better to invest in South Africa than to invest in Nigeria? There is no sentiment about it.

We have to also begin to look at the issue of justice system, the issue of taxes and so on and so forth. There is a gamut things that we are going to look at.

When people come into an area to invest, they want to know whether you have good schools, housing, arts and culture. They need competent staff and artisans like mechanics, electricians etc. We have to begin to train people in skills acquisition to make the idea of SENEC a reality.
Source: The Guardian, 14th April 2012.

 

Why PMS Sells Above N100 in South south, South east

Minister of Petroleum, Mrs Dizeani Allison Madueke

By Ejiofor Alike
 
Filling stations outside Abuja and Lagos, especially in the South-south and South-east sell Premium Motor spirit (PMS) between N100 and N140, instead of the N97 pump price because of rising costs of the products at the depots in Calabar and Port Harcourt, THISDAY has learnt.

Investigations revealed that while the depots in Lagos sold at an ex-depot price of N88 per litre as approved by the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), the depots in Port Harcourt and Calabar sell  PMS above N88 per litre.

It was learnt that most of the depots in Calabar and Port Harcourt sell PMS at N97 per litre to the retailers, instead of the official ex-depot price of N88.00.

An official of one of the depots in Port Harcourt, who spoke to THISDAY recently, blamed the high cost of fuel at Calabar and Port Harcourt depots on demurrage, extortion and other extra charges incurred by the marketers and other independent importers, which are not captured in the PPPRA template.

He disclosed that PMS could be only be made available at Port Harcourt depots at a minimum price of N97, as against N88 recommended by PPPRA.

He noted that the high cost of demurrage and extra charges incurred by marketers that use Port Harcourt and Calabar depots are not captured in the pricing template of the PPPRA.

However, the Corporate Affairs Manager of Masters Energy, Mr Emmanuel Iheanacho, whose company has large depot in Port Harcourt, explained to THISDAY that PMS was sold at approved ex-depot price by his company. 
Iheanacho attributed the long queues of trucks that were always witnessed at the company’s depot to selling at normal price, adding that marketers will always load their products at depots where they can record marginal profit and good service.

He denied knowledge of selling of products above N97 per litre in other depots and reiterated the commitment of Masters Energy as a patriotic corporate organisation not to exploit dealers to make profit.

“Our business and compliance with rules and regulations made our contribution to the Nigerian economy resulted in the recognition of the company with a National Productivity award by the Federal Government in 2011,” he said.

During a recent presentation of Productivity Award to Masters Energy, the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chief Emeka Wogu, who represented the President Goodluck Jonathan said the award was a wake-up call for the company.

“Productivity is the most important determinant of real economic growth, social progress and improved standard of living,” he said.

He said that at both the individual and corporate levels, the National Productivity Award was a thoughtful incentive scheme designed to positively affect productivity.
Source: ThisDay, 20th March 2012.

 

Southeast and regional development

By Gabriel Amalu 

The South East Development Agenda (SEDA), I guess, must be in the works as I write this. It has to be. But if such a propellant is not already afoot, then the political and intellectual leaders of the Southeast with all due respect must make haste; as the bell tolls unceasingly for a re-ordered Nigeria. Indeed, if for any reason any of the six geo-political zones is yet to set in motion plans for regional economic integration and productivity, then such a region must be suffering from political delirium. For emphasis the rent racketeering economy, falsely represented over the years as a national economy has run its life span. The mask has since been removed, and the un-initiated are now in the secluded masking arena.

So unless the changes come fast, the recent prognosis for civil servants in Niger State to be trained to bear arms to defend themselves may become applicable to every government official and the so called middle class. Now as you drive by in a snarling traffic, young men bang at your side glass in broad daylight demanding that you hand the loot over to them. When they finish with one offender they leisure around for the next culprit, as they examine ‘their receipts’. From their disposition they have no doubt that these seemingly well to do ‘ruffians’ must have contributed to their quandary, and they have no qualms stealing and scaring the day light out of their lives. With the people coming to terms that what passes as governance is substantially bare faced stealing; mobbing the barricaders is now seen as legitimate.

The South West in my view is showing the way for the necessary economic interrelatedness within their zone. The recent forum involving their legislative, executive and technocratic leadership, whereat the legislative and political correctness and methodology for a regional economy was discussed is a necessary ground work for that inevitable road to Nigeria’s future. To hope and plan otherwise may result in the Southeast allowing their people to be taken unawares as in 1966/67. Then Ndigbo as presently had invested heavily across Nigeria, with their greatest gift to Nigeria, the great Zik of Africa eventually spread thin in his effort at propagating and living out his nationalism. Taking a cue from their leader, the people easily turned victims when at short notice the tribal fuse imploded.

Presently, the Southeast state Governor’s forum under the leadership of Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State appears to have a good relationship. If they have not succeeded as much as they should, the forum has at least been very energetic in their support for President Jonathan’s presidency. While such support may serve some political interests, what is of paramount importance is for them to create opportunities to build regional economic scenarios for the future. That can be done if they prod and support political and intellectual examination of quality plans, policies and schemes for economic corporation. Scenarios for common source of power and energy, inter state road, water and railway transportation, agriculture and agro allied industries, common legal process, inter state policing and security, commerce and industrialisation among others should be devoted serious energies.

The Southeast political and intellectual leadership I pray would appreciate this new surge in regionalism across Nigeria. This is the case from the Northeast, to Northwest, to North-Central, to Southeast, to Southsouth, and Southwest. What may be different is the approach to venting it. While the regional Risorgimento in Nigeria has created violence in some zones, there is a state of helplessness in others; while yet others are working round the clock to set the pace. Those clamoring and arguing otherwise are those who are temporarily benefitting from the status quo, and are foolishly living a lie that it would last forever. The unending violence across the land interestingly is, however, pushing for a clearer thinking.

Last week, I received an unverified and unverifiable mail (because of the opacity in the oil industry) on the ownership of the oil wells in Nigeria, worth billions of dollars. The mail, which claimed to have been a product of enormous research, showed that the top northern military and political leadership obviously has a disproportionate share of the oil wealth of the country. The trust of the article was that though the northern elites through military fiat owned much of the national oil and allied wealth, the region remains the poorer compared to the southern part of Nigeria. I have also subsequently seen articles arguing that President Jonathan must review the ownership structure of the oil wells, otherwise there would be a problem.

Of course the Southsouth’s stand-by enforcer called MEND has re-started their military insurgency to draw attention to their quest for more resources. One newspaper article even said that the 13 per cent derivation means 87 per cent deprivation, in answer to the clamour for a review of the revenue sharing formula by the Northern Governors and the House of Representatives caucus. In the core North, the Boko Haram is furthering their argument for regional authority with their AK 47 rifles and other incendiary materials. The Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, a trained Islamic scholar is also advancing his regional interest, as he argues that the revenue formula is skewed against the North, and is a major cause of the militancy in the region.

As the struggle for the sharing of the legendry national cake hots up among the regions, there is the need to spare some thoughts on the expansion of regional wealth base. Notably the atomisation of Nigeria’s federating units started as a war strategy in 1967 has served its purpose; and it is time for functional federating units to enable a resurgent national economy.
Source, Daily Champion, 21st March 2012.

 

Restructuring: Autonomy for Regions Is A Better Option — Southeast Leaders

By CHIJIOKE IREMEKA of the Guardian
SUNDAY, 18 MARCH 2012 00:00 

As the geo-political zones attempt to forge regional economies to withstand failings of the federal government, a cross section of senior citizens of the South East bare their minds on issues of sovereign national conference; reviving the economy of the old Eastern Region and the future of the federation. CHIJIOKE IREMEKA got the views of Alex Ekwueme, former Vice President, Emeka Anyaoku former Commonwealth Secretary General, Justice Chukwudifu Oputa, retired Justice of the Supreme Court, John Nwodo Jnr, former Minister of Information, Victor Umeh, national chairman of APGA, HRH Michael Charles Chukwudike, chairman, Science Training and Vocational Schools Board and retired Permanent Secretary, Nkanu Local Council, Enugu, Pete Edochie, Hollywood actor, and Gabriel Amalu, lawyer.

‘Regional Governments Will Transform Nigeria’

 DR. ALEX EKWUEME, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT

 On sovereign national conference

I don’t believe in the word sovereign. Nigeria is a sovereign state already. It’s a word that was borrowed from the French colonies that were always fond of sovereign.

Also, I do not believe that national conference will split Nigeria, rather, unattended needs and demands of masses would lead to breakup of Nigeria, should anything like that happen.

Nigeria may break if we don’t have national conference. Already, there is Boko Haram and other groups threatening the peace of the country. They are the ones fast breaking the country by calling the all northerners to return to their respective states, demanding that non indigenes living in the north should go too.

The danger of not organising a conference is dire. The young people should work hard and not seeking short cut to ill-gotten wealth. They should change their psyche and make Nigeria a great nation that God has made it to be.

On agitation for regional government

Well, this is not new to me. I called for it as far back as 1991 and those calling for it 20 years later did not appreciate the fact that I started it long before they did.

I submitted my report at the conference as back as 1994/5, stating the need for us to go back to the regional structure, outlining the six geo-political zones, which Nigerians have now accepted.

If fully embraced, this will give birth to regional structures, which allows for competition. It will also foster development in the country.

Political economy of the old Eastern Region

Then Eastern Nigeria was the poorest of the three regions because proceed from cocoa and groundnut was greater than palm oil and kernel, which was economic mainstay of the Eastern Nigeria.

Notwithstanding that Eastern Nigeria was the least endowed, the leadership of then Governor, Michael Okpara embarked on industrial commercial agricultural development to bridge this gap.

He built farm settlement, groundnut plantation, cocoa plantation, Trans-Amadi industrial estate, which were fully developed and many others.

He set-up Calabar cement factory, modern ceramics Umuahia, golden breweries and so many other companies. Agriculture was developed to a point, where everybody was able to afford eggs.

Egg was very cheap that the poorest person in the region was able to afford egg for breakfast. These were the advantages of competition.

Unfortunately, when the regional government was abolished and the military came into power with their unitary form of government, which existed only in name, the structure was already over-centralised and the Federal Government began to wield enormous powers in all aspects of our lives.

These enormous powers make states less viable. The state today couldn’t do those things that Okpara, Awolowo and Sarduana did for their people in the First Republic, but if we go back to regional form of government, we will have no problems developing.

Though there were defects in the then regional form of government, especially as it concerned balance between the North and others, yet the return to regional government, having tackled the major defects will transform Nigeria.

First, one of the regions was wealthier, bigger in area and assumed population than two others put together.

Secondly, within each region, there was majority and minority group. In the west, the majority group was the Yoruba and minority was the Mid-west.

In the North, Hausa and Fulani formed the majority group, while the Middle Belt was the minority. In the East, the majority group was the Igbos, while Afikpo, Calabar and Rivers formed the minority groups. These were the problems facing Eastern region then.

It was on this note that I tried to cure the defects by proposing a ‘Six Regional Structure,’ to include three regions in the North – Northeast, Northwest and North central.

Also, I proposed three regions in the South, which comprised, Southeast, Southwest and South-south in order that there would be parity and balance between the North and the South and also between the majority groups and minority groups in all regions.

So, if the First Republic problem of imbalance between the minority and majority is cured, going by proposed six geo-political zones in Nigeria, return to regional government will bring about progress and development.

Now, it’s up to Nigerians to decide if this would be. And I think Nigerians are waking up and that is why people have started calling for national conference to discuss issues that bother on return to regional government and other matters of import.

The arguments are overwhelming and unattainable. I’m sure that if we hold a conference, where people consider general interest of the country dispassionately, rather than interest of their group, regional government and development of Nigeria would come to fruition.

When I proposed it in 1994/5, some groups resisted it and wanted to shout me down because they had their own parochial interest. They wanted to uphold unitary power and sovereignty over all Nigeria.

Nigerians should think Nigeria, rather than individual and group interest. This is why I always said that Nigeria is not a nation. We are a country, but a country like Ghana is a nation.

If you see an average Ghanaian on the street, he speaks of Ghana as a nation, but an average Nigerian does not see Nigeria as a nation. We have to work hard to enthrone Nigerianess.

We Must Devolve Powers To Regions For Efficiency And Better Unity Of Purpose’

VICTOR UMEH, NATIONAL

CHAIRMAN APGA

 On clamour for regional government

WITH reference to Aburi Accord, Ojukwu advocated for a con-federal system of government, where the regions will be autonomous, while maintaining a weak centre called Nigeria.

In this system, we will all be Nigerians but the regions will be stronger. If we had followed that option, Nigeria would have been better by now. The passion with which leaders will pursue development will be higher.

Today, we have one Nigeria but anyone who gets to the centre wants to carry everything alone. If we have devolved power down to the regions, people will be more patriotic in handling the affairs of their regions.

When we do that, it would foster more development. Let me say that those who are talking about preserving the current Nigerian system of government do not love Nigeria.

They want to protect their large empire for selfish reasons. The empire called Nigeria is a dysfunctional large empire. We need to devolve power to the regions for more efficiency and better unity of purpose.

Sovereign national conference

Well, sovereign national conference is the word that people are quarrelling with. Nigeria is already a sovereign nation. All we need to do is to devolve power to the lower unit, while we remain a united country.

Some Nigerians are afraid that sovereign national conference would lead to break up, but that is not true. We are asking for national dialogue. If they don’t want to go by that name ‘sovereign’, let there be a national conference, where pockets of agitations in the country would be addressed.

There is much to be achieved through the national conference, addressing injustices that some regions are confronted with. In the Southeast, we have our own problems that we want the country to address.

We have 95 local governments, while other others have at least, 123 local governments. We have five States and other zones have six states, while the Northwest has seven.

And when you say that the basis of sharing Nigerian revenues is LGA and states, you can appreciate how unjust the country has been to Igbo people. So, it is national conference that will handle these issues.

If the country is sincere, we should create additional local governments and one more state in the Southeast to bring it at par with the rest of other five zones. That is the way to govern a country on the basis of equity and justice.

On political economy of the old Eastern region

You can see that the economy of the regions is getting weaker and weaker by the day. Before the country’s civil war, the regions had prosperous economies that were developed basically on the revenue generated from agriculture and other minor services.

Today, we have different angles to it. All the industries that were established before the break-up of Nigeria have all gone. In the old Eastern region, we had Inkalagu Cement Factory, Presidential Hotel, Niger Steel, Aba Glass Factory, industries manufacturing ceramics in Umuahia and others in Port Harcourt.

These industries have gone and no new ones are being built. No state government in the Southeast has established one industry to provide jobs for the masses and contribute to the development of Nigerian economy.

Everybody depends on the statutory allocation and once they have shared it, they dispersed to their various states and as soon as the money finishes, they owe their workers’ salary because they are not productive.

States will be more viable if we return to regional arrangement. By this, the regions will begin to build industries and establish farm settlements to grow their economy.

‘Return To Regional Government Will Do Us Much Good’

 EMEKA ANYAOKU, FORMER SECRETARY GENERAL, COMMONWEALTH

 On the old Eastern region

IF the olden Eastern region had continued, it have would fostered a lot of development in the country. Development will continue to be faster if the old Eastern region had continued to exist with greater autonomy.

The leaders in the First Republic had high sense of commitment to duties. The level of corruption that is plaguing Nigeria today was not there then.

The regional structure allowed for development of business, like Presidential hotels, Enugu and Port Harcourt to make the state more viable. Also, there was also the establishment of cement industry at Nkalagu.

These are no more. Return to regional government will do us much good.

On sovereign national conference

It will be nice if we come together to discuss and find solution to issues threatening the existence of our unity. It will not break the country, but could be the way to address our differences.

 ‘We Are A Federation In

Name, Not In Practice’

 JUSTICE CHUKWUDIFU OPUTA, RETIRED JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT

 On sovereign national conference

YES, we need to sit down, discus and come up with the way forward for Nigeria. There are pockets of violence everywhere and we need to tackle these issues.

Return to regional government

If there is the truth in it, Nigeria is a federation. In such federation, states are supreme and give some of their powers and resources to the federal government, not the other way round.

We are called federation in name but not in practice, rather, we are a unitary state, where the power comes from top.

We have devolution of powers, but we need more of it, so that states will be better put to manage resources and support the federal. Just as in the case of Imo State, where oil is produced, but the federal government owns the oil, the resources in the state should be owned by the state.

Then, the federal will now play an important role of bonding regions together, while the regions will give to the federal enough revenue to function well.

Economy of the old Eastern region

You can’t compare yesterday and today. If yesterday was better than today, then we are going backward. But if today is better than yesterday, then we are progressing.

If we are progressing today, then we should be better than yesterday. But I would say that the economy of the old Eastern region was better than what we have now.

Corruption has eating deep into our system. We need to recount and consider the ideal philosophies of the First Republic leaders for us to move forward.

 ‘Nigeria Has Never Been Homogeneous, We Need To Dialogue’

 HRH MICHAEL CHARLES CHUKWUDIKE

 On sovereign national conference

THIS call is of absolute importance to the country. People should realise that a lot of issues need to be addressed, so, let’s talk about it in order we would have clear ideas of how the country would be run. It’s very important.

On return to regional government

For the problems of this country to be solved, we have to understand that Nigeria has never been a homogeneous country. We have Hausas, Yoruba, Igbos, Ijaw and others.

This shows that confederalism is a solution to the problem of Nigeria, so that each region will be able to move at its own pace, while maintaining a weak centre. Then, Igbos with their palm oil, palm kernel and others will return to make a living out of that.

In the First Republic, each of the regions developed at its own rate. Each region looked inwards and Eastern Nigeria looked inwards to emulate what other regions were doing to improve their economy.

It was the progressive government at that time that opened the people’s eyes to develop those businesses. Okpara built the presidential hotel, Enugu without having an elevated house in his own town.

Nowadays, there is so much deceit. The days of campaigns are gone. Nobody campaigns again. The people in the villages do not know what is going on in the country. We need to go back, so that, whatever we are doing, people will be carried along.

Those days, Zik used to go to the streets of Calabar and other places to sell his manifestoes. This doesn’t happen again. We need to go back to our First Republic style.

All along, I think we have been deceiving ourselves. My advice is that we should realise, at all times that the problems lie not in our star, but in ourselves. We need to see ourselves as people ready to speak the truth, who should come together and believe in the ability of an Igbo man, respect one another and come back to reorganise and find the true leaders, whether they are born by the rich or the poor, but they are blessed with intelligence and wisdom.

‘You Can’t Have Any Form Of Peace If You Return To Regional Government’

 PETE EDOCHIE, NOLLYWOOD ACTOR AND

IGBO CUSTODIAN

On return to regional government

I may not advocate that in a hurry, because it’s going to complicate a lot of things. I believe there is a need for us to get together to discuss and redefine the terms of our association.

But I don’t think that the call for return to regional government will be the best thing for Nigeria at this point in our development.

If our leaders are obsessed with the good of the common man, we may have no need for these national conferences, but unfortunately, Nigerians are being robbed blind by the people that have been elected by them, so to speak. This is where the problem lies.

In 1967, Ojukwu said instead of getting fixated with political union that is not workable, let’s pull apart. He was advocating a weak centre and confederal system. 45 years after, Nigerians have started clamouring for a national conference. Ojukwu called for it 45 years ago.

On creating more states for regional balancing

Right now, most of these states are producing nothing and at the end of the month they will rush down to Abuja for allocation. This is not the way at all.

In the days of Okpara, you had Igbariam agricultural settlement, where palm nuts and trees were grown in abundance. There are parts of Abakaliki and Anambra basin among other Igboland, where rice is grown.

We can grow most of these in abundance if the governments are obsessed with growing the states. Then, we can establish fishery, piggery etc., but the government is not interested in them because the country has crude oil, and therefore, we have to be stealing from oil.

Israel for example, has no oil and is even a desert country, but you can grow anything in Israel. They have to use their brain. We are not using ours. So, it’s not the question of creating more states, but the viability of the states are what matters.

If we decide to return to regions, what about those who would control the regions? Return to region will intensify the clamour for ethnicity.

Today, we are not working as hard as we used to. The last time I interviewed Zik at 90, he said, “In our own time, we always believe in eating the interest but the politicians of today, eat both the principal and the interest and at the end of the day, nothing is left.” And I agree with him.

Our leaders should endeavour to be selfless. We don’t have selfless leaders.

‘Our Unity Must Be Based On Mutual Respect And Love’

JOHN NWODO, FORMER MINISTER AND PDP CHIEFTAIN

 On return to regional government

I am all for constitutional conference. No matter what it is called, at which Nigerians would have the opportunity to write their constitution.

The current constitution, which brought about the present class of leaders is written by the military and was written by appointed people and not the elected people.

It went through all sorts of adumbrations and corrections by the supreme military council and armed forces ruling council.

I’m for the retention of Federal Republic of Nigeria. Our size is a great advantage to us; if we can find unity it will be a greater asset for us. But unity is not commanded, it is not willed, it’s developed out of mutual respect and love for one another.

We must start from the discussion on basis of co-existence. In the process of this discussion, we will certainly come to an agreement on how to co-exist. The current system is expensive and remote from the people. It does not engender unity nor breed a political culture.

Those of us who belong to the leadership class in this generation owe our country a big explanation. With greatest reluctance, I say we are a failure. In the days of Zik, Awolowo, Okpara, Saduana, the very rudiments for good governance were there. There was accountability. Zik faced a commission of enquiry as a Premier. Awolowo did the same and it’s not possible to find a head of government face an enquiry. It doesn’t happen anymore.

Things were not done without regards to the general orders. The basis of governance was there. Every region had definite policy that they were pursuing. Awolowo pursed free education in the West and Okpara pursued agricultural policies, while Sarduana focused on agriculture and education for the North.

I know a number of First Republic politicians, who retired from government, who did not have an account in the bank. Today, you just need to be a legislator for two years and you are stupendously rich. Something is wrong with the income policies.

What job does a legislator do, that is more important than a consultant at the teaching hospitals?  What job does a legislator do, that is more important than the job of a judge in the High court? Our income policy must promote productivity.

GABRIEL AMALU, LAWYER

On sovereign national conference

THERE is a need for it. We need to sit down to talk, think and agree on terms of our co-existence in this country. I’m for it and we need to dialogue.

This national dialogue will comprise all the tribes and agitating groups, all stakeholders, heads of governments and departments in the country to settle our differences once and for all.

We have to come together and find a lasting solution to our problems. There are a lot of ills going on in the country. Let’s not allow these ills to get to war situation; else, the six million people that died during the Biafran civil war would have died in vain.

If Nigeria refuses to come together and discuss the basis of her continuous existence to appease the spirit of innocent Nigerians that were slaughtered during the war, then the issues that led to the war will continue to haunt Nigeria until it gets back to the drawing table.

On return to regional government

Except we returned to regional government, the states will continue to be unviable. States have to be made viable and we need to restructure, to encourage productivity in the states.

There should be devolution of power to states to develop their regions. This will also foster competition, which will be for the good of the states.

Every state Governor should be seen as a manger, who knows what to do to develop or tap the resources found in his state for the development of the state and creation of jobs for the masses.

In the old Eastern Region, we saw a number of establishments embarked upon by the Governor of the Region, Michael Okpara in his bid to develop the region. The resources were not enough, but he thought out a number of things that helped the state.

Most of those investments had collapsed because the current generation of leadership could not think of what to do to better the lot of the people.

They even lack the skills to do so because most of them came from less serious political tutelage and basic education. The current system we practice does not allow for professionalism and craftsmanship among the governors.

They can’t think of anything that will improve their skills to be able to master their jobs because there is no form of challenge that they are being confronted with, regarding how to raise funds to develop their states.

Since there is monthly allocation for them at Abuja, they have zero contribution to revenue generation. They only share money, but don’t work to create wealth and means of acquiring it.

The constitution has to be structured, to give more powers to states, because our constitution doesn’t encourage productivity. With this, the country will move forward. We must return to regional government, in order to stop waste.

 

Southeast Bids Ojukwu Exciting Bye

Ojukwu 0

By Our Reporter 

The remains of Dim Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu went on a whistle-stop tour of three state capitals in the Southeast yesterday, sending the region where he once presided into a frenzy.

Thousands turned out to wave a final bye to Ojukwu in the commercial city of Aba (Abia State), Abakaliki (Ebonyi State) and Enugu (Enugu State). Shops were shut.

The late Ikemba Nnewi had specifically requested that his remains be taken to Aba. Although he hailed from Nnewi, Anambra State, where his body will be buried on Friday (not Thursday as we erroneously reported yesterday), Ojukwu lived in Enugu since his return from exile in Cote d’Ivoire in 1982. 

Military pall bearers took charge of the remains at the capitals.

The body left Owerri, where it passed the night after being flown in from Abuja on Monday evening, for Aba in the morning.

From Aba, the body was taken to Abakaliki where more than 30,000 people gathered at the Ebonyi capital’s township stadium from 8.00a.m to receive it. But the body did not arrive until 3.10p.m. It was received by a team led by Governor Martins Elechi.

The three-day burial programme slated for Enugu will continue today. Deputy Governor Sunday Onyebuchi yesterday received the body at the Akanu Ibiam Airport.

A mass was held at the Government House last night. Another will hold today. 

President Goodluck Jonathan is expected to attend tomorrow’s burial service and tributes day at the Okpara Square.

Source, The Nation, 29th February 2012.

 

 

S’East to benefit from planned refineries, says Ben Obi

FROM CHUKS COLLINS, AWKA

MORE light has been shed on government’s plans to establish three new refineries in Kogi, Lagos and Bayelsa States, with assurance that more parts/zones in the country would benefit, including the South East geopolitical zone, soon.

This was disclosed in Awka yesterday by   President Goodluck Jonathan’s aide on Inter-Party Relations, Chief Ben Obi.

Speaking on the proposed new refineries and the removal of petroleum subsidy, Obi urged Nigerians to see government’s programmes on their merit rather than from sectional, zonal or other divisive perspectives.

The new refineries, he said “were to be wholly private sector-driven, and the one for Bayelsa was to be sited at Oloibiri, the location where the first oil well was discovered in Nigeria.

He said Kogi plays a very central role geographically in the nation’s affairs, same as Lagos in terms of commerce and industry too.

He therefore called for calm and understanding, assuring that the project which is coming in phases would in the next phase be extended to other zones in the country especially the South East.

Obi who condemned the recent spate of bombings in parts of the country, admitted that it was worrisome, but added that there would be a change in terms of security in the coming year.

“You can see that most of the suspects behind the recent bombings have been apprehended. Our security agencies are working round-the-clock to tackle the challenge, bring the situation under total control and keep citizens safe. The various arms of government have carried out a progressive training and retraining of all security officers.

On the subsidy issue, Obi appealed to Nigerians to give Jonathan a chance, because he has given his word of honour on it.

“In the past such packages come without any working document of all issues involved or what and where to channel the proceeds and why, but the present administration has put the whole cards on the table for all to see,” he said.
Source: The Guardian, 28th December 2011.

 

Why Projects in South-east are Abandoned –Ngige 

From GEOFFREY ANYANWU, Awka

Ngige22

For over 12 months , the South-east geo-political zone has been hit hard by untold hardship and uncountable losses of lives due to the death traps on the federal roads in the zone . The Federal Government has been paying only lip service to rehabilitation of roads in the region.

Year after year, all federal roads in the South-east, especially the ever-busy Enugu-Onitsha, Enugu-Port Harcourt expressways appear in the budget of the Federation, yet no reasonable work is done on the roads, ditto other federal projects, including the Second Niger Bridge which purported construction was commissioned by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

However, the disenchantment of the people of the South-east and their threat seem to have touched their representatives at the National Assembly who now are said to be working together to ensure that the zone is treated with respect and given infrastructure like other zones.

One of the moving forces in this new spirit in the National Assembly is Deputy Chairman, Senate Committee on Power and Mine and former Governor of Anambra State, Senator Chris Ngige, who in this interview withDaily Sun revealed what the South-east caucus of the National Assembly is doing to ameliorate the situation.
Dr Ngige spoke on the roads and why the jobs were not being executed; the second Niger Bridge which he said was commissioned for construction without design, the taking away of the South-east slot in the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court to another zone and other burning issues.

South-east roads
Alor in Idemili South is my place of origin. If anything happens to anybody, you run to your province and from your province to your place of birth; that’s what Gaddafi did. He had to run from Tripoli to his birth place and he said he should be buried with his forefathers. So, the custom is the same everywhere. So, there we are in that Senate as senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, legislating for the whole country, for the betterment of the whole people, and we then place our eyes to the peculiarities of our zone.

It is not true that nobody has said anything about the South-east roads. Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu had to go to the Minister of Works. Senator Andy Uba visited there too. I did not visit there, but when the man was being screened, I knew he was going to go to Ministry of Works, having looked at his CV and if you watched our screening, I asked him questions that concern roads and contract management in Nigeria, because you will be thinking about the roads and blaming everybody. Yes, it is true that they gave poor quality contractors our roads, but a contractor like Setraco is not a poor quality contractor. 

He worked for me in Anambra State here. He did the road from Igboukwu through Ezinifite, Uga, Amesi, Umuchu, Umunze, Ogbunka, and Owere-Ezukalla into Isuochi. The road is seven years old, it’s carrying traffic, and it’s a good road. He also did for me Awka-Etiti, Nnewi, Utu, Ukpo, Osumoghu, Iseke. The roads are there shining, no crack, no single crack. I paid these contractors as at when due and they were happy working for me.

On Port Harcourt-Aba-Umuahia-Enugu expressway, we have been on that road for nearly seven years now or more. If you probe on why they have not been delivering, you will discover that government has not fulfilled their own part of the bargain of the contract; they have not been paying for continuity of those contracts.

If you go to Enugu- Onitsha expressway which they gave to CCC and one other contractor which they divided into parts, the contractors are not wonderful, but if you give them excuse to hide under non-payment, they will readily do so. Nigercat did so many roads for me in Onitsha, including Oguta Road which was in a very dilapidated state, Port-Harcourt Road and I went on supervision. I followed them up with serious supervision because I couldn’t trust them. I couldn’t trust their words because they tendered and bided the lowest. Even CCC did Mili John from Oba, Ojoto, to Umoji road. The road is still shining till today. So, everything depends on managers of contracts. I do not say that the contractors are blame-free, they are also to be blamed because I can see poor quality jobs being done on this Enugu- Onitsha expressway. If I’m their client, I will not take the job. I will come and condemn them and excavate them and they will re-do a large portion of them.

South-east caucus decision
So, we have decided as South-east caucus that we will make sure that there is good appropriation for this project in the 2012 budget. The former money that was there was project fund that were gathered by the senators themselves and pushed into this project. As we speak now this year, only the first quarter capital was released. They just released the second quarter the other day; and third and fourth are going to follow. No problem let them be released. Now that they are released, we domicile them in these ministries and that’s what is introduced into the budget as roll-over so that the money will not expire. Once there is a roll-over, it will not expire and we shall appropriate something for 2012 and with that we shall have enough funds. We shall do oversight.

We have agreed in the South-east caucus that even those of us that are not in the committee on Works, we will go on the roads that are in our areas, and I can tell you that I will head the team that will be inspecting federal roads in Anambra so that the people will better sit up. So, there will be sharing of functions, but on a global basis. 

The committee is representing the interest of the Senate. So, this is what we have agreed to do; appropriate the funds, do serious oversight in terms of supervision of these contractors and the Ministry that is giving down the job and we have the capacity to do so because providentially, I won’t say its tactically, the committee for Works in the Senate is headed by Ayogu Eze, a Senator from Enugu State of the South-east. The committee on Works, House of Representatives is headed by Hon. Ozomgbachi from Enugu State. The committee on FERMA is also headed by another lawmaker from Enugu State. So, we will have no excuse not to oversight these people or not to do a correct appropriation.

South-east slot in Supreme Court
If you also watched the deliberations in the Senate, I’ve also complained about the taking away of one slot of the Supreme Court position zoned to the South-east and given to one of our sisters married to River State, Justice Odili. She is my family friend, she is an erudite judge, very intelligent, but the truth of the matter is that she is married to a man from River State and she started her career as a magistrate from River State’s lower bench and moved to be judge in River State and moved to the Court of Appeal on River State’s slot. So, to now move her to Supreme Court with a slot of the South-east is even a disrespect to her, it’s a slight to her, for them to do that.

I raised it on the floor of the Senate when we were confirming Justice Oloruyi Ola and the Senate President on the chair informed me that in the Sixth Senate, screening was done and it was marginally raised, but that from the papers before them, the appointing authority which is the NJC, the president nominated her based on the slot of the South-east and I said it’s unacceptable to me and I will raise it at the appropriate time for that error to be rectified, so that South-east will get another slot. We can’t be short-changed like that.  

Second Niger Bridge
We are doing what we are supposed to do. The road from Port Harcourt to Enugu is now our first line priority. The one from Enugu to Bridgehead, both of them rank higher and we are also doing something about Second Niger Bridge. It is now that it has been discovered, the anomalies, the untruth that have enveloped that particular project, and as we speak now, some foreign investors are coming to partner with us to make that bridge a reality. If we don’t do it that way, that bridge will not be built because as I speak to you, there is no engineering design.

Whatever has been paraded before you before was just a smoke screen, an effigy of lies and deceit that was told to you earlier on by the Federal Government, especially those who went and said they are commissioning it in 2007. You know those; Obasanjo was there, Andy Uba was there, Peter Obi was there, James Ibori was there, Uduaghan was there, outgoing and incoming. They were all there and they did that. But we are all alive and that is the good thing about life. So, there is nothing there as we speak. So, a new study has been commissioned for designs for that bridge and with God supporting us, we are hopeful that the designs will be ready in the next 15 months. 

It was commissioned about two months ago, so we expect the designs back not in 15 months, but 18 to 24 months. It is taking that time because we have now included rail into the design. There was no rail in the former ones they were doing. We need a rail so that when the rail line comes down from Lagos; that is the West-East rail that will go to Port Harcourt through Benin- Asaba, Onitsha- Owerri- Aba, then to Port Harcourt. We want that rail design synchronized into the bridge. With that, it’s a new development, a new kettle of fish altogether. So, we had to start the design all over again.
Source: Sun, 16th November 2011.

 

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