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Vote of no confidence in Ohakim

Vote of no confidence in Ohakim

A pressure group in
Imo state, the League of Okigwe Professionals (LOP), have advised
President Goodluck Jonathan not to appoint the outgoing governor of Imo
State, Ikedi Ohakim as a minister in his cabinet.

In Owerri at the
weekend, the group said after Mr Ohakim’s defeat in the recent
governorship election as a result of perceived non-performance and
greed, the governor should leave public office for a while.

Leaders of the
group include three religious leaders, Jerome Nwokere from Okigwe Local
Government Area (LGA), George Anyanwu from Ihitte-Uboma LGA and Jones
Umunna from Onuimo LGA. Others are Ohams Jonas, Odika Iwu and Charles
Ala.

“It is curious that
Ohakim is scheming to be a minister after he had wasted the opportunity
given to him by Imo people to write his name in gold,” the group said.

They also said that
having failed to perform as a governor, there was no basis for Ohakim
to aspire to higher service at the federal level.

“It was unfortunate
that the governor, who allegedly pushed for the sack of the Interior
Minister, Emmanuel Iheanacho for losing his senatorial zone, now wants
to be rewarded by Jonathan and the PDP for losing the entire Imo
State.”

The group also said
it was also “an irony of fate” that Mr Ohakim was now seeking for a
position from Mr Jonathan, whom they said he wanted to supplant as
vice-president during the administration of the late President Umaru
Musa Yar’Adua.

“When everybody in
Nigeria was clamouring for the then Vice President Jonathan to be made
acting president to move the country forward, Ohakim hired touts and
urchins to demonstrate in support of then ailing President Yar A’dua,”
they said.

They also recalled
that in spite of pleas from the president’s wife, Patience Jonathan,
for the governor to allow legislators including Chris Anyanwu to
return, he denied them Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) tickets.

The group also
blamed the defeat of the PDP in the Imo governorship election on acts
of arrogance, non-performance and betrayal of trust allegedly
perpetrated by Mr Ohakim.

“Rather than
continue to put Okigwe zone to shame, Ohakim should take a sabbatical
so that his many sins would be forgotten by Imo people with the passage
of time,” the group said.

They warned that
Okigwe and indeed Imo people will be forced to go on a protest “if Mr
President appoints Ohakim as a federal board member not to talk of a
minister”.

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Rights group chides police over missing ‘informant’

Rights group chides police over missing ‘informant’

A leading human rights group has raised alarm over the
whereabouts of Aliyu Tasheku, suspected to have been an informant to the State
Security Service and whom the Nigeria Police have detained since October last
year.

In a worldwide alert, Amnesty International, an international
human rights organisation, said Mr. Tasheku, who was transferred on May 4, 2011
from the police Force Criminal Investigations Department in Area 10, Garki,
Abuja to Maiduguri, Borno State, is being held in “incommunicado detention”, a
sign that “he may be at risk of extrajudicial execution”.

“On 12 May human rights defenders enquiring about Aliyu Tasheku
were told by police at GRA police station [in Maiduguri] that he was no longer
there,” read a petition from the organisation.

“The police refused to disclose his whereabouts, saying only
that he had been “taken to an unknown place.

“Aliyu Tasheku is being denied access to anyone outside his
place of detention, including his lawyers, doctor, family or friends.”

The organisation is also asking the Inspector General of Police,
Hafiz Ringim, to respect the ruling of a Chief Magistrate Court given in Abuja
on March 28, 2011, which ordered Mr. Tasheku’s release.

Police might

It is now eight months since Mr. Tasheku has being locked up.
This is despite Binta Mohammed, presiding over Chief Magistrate Court one in
Abuja, summoning Mr. Ringim to appear before the court to explain why he should
not be committed to prison for disobeying the court’s order.

The Police boss, along with two other junior police officers,
Ezekiel Rimans and Bala Inusa of the Police legal department, ignored several
prior notices and neither released Mr. Tasheku on bail nor did they remand him
in Prison custody as the court ordered.

But a look at Police contempt for the judiciary shows that Mr.
Ringim is only towing the line of others who have gone before him.

In the past 12 years since the return to civil rule in 1999, the
Nigeria Police has had six Inspectors General of Police who have, on several
occasions, disobeyed court orders and detained Nigerians for endless months.

Reports of numerous cases of contempt of court have trailed
Nigeria’s number one law enforcement agency. From Musiliu Smith (1999-2002),
Mustafa Balogun (2002-2005), Sunday Ehindero (2005-2007), Mike Okiro
(2007-2009), Ogbonna Onovo (2009-2010), to the current Inspector General of
Police, Hafiz Ringim, Nigeria is yet to produce an exemplary officer after the
heart of the judiciary.

The worst of the lot

Undoubtedly, the police head with the worst record to is Ogbonna
Onovo, Nigeria’s 14th indigenous police boss and the one with the shortest stay
in office.

Mr. Onovo, at different times within his 14 months in office,
had multiple petitions written against him over his disregard for the
judiciary.

Arguably the most celebrated case is that of Olukayode Adeniyi,
an Abuja High Court judge, who on August 30, 2010 ordered the immediate arrest
and committal to prison of Mr. Onovo for severally disobeying the court’s order
to release Onyebuchi Eze, a police corporal who, with two other suspects,
Austin Duru and Kenneth Chikure, had been in police detention for several
months on allegations of kidnapping and armed robbery in Anambra State.

Mr. Onovo’s travails culminated in his appointment being
terminated by President Goodluck Jonathan a week later, on September 8, 2010.

But Mr. Onovo just lived up to the pattern of abuse of his
predecessor. In at least two separate instances, Mr. Okiro had disobeyed orders
given by Suleiman Belgore, an Abuja High Court judge; and David Ochimana of a
Chief Magistrate Court in Abuja.

On April 17, 2008, Mr Belgore had ordered Mr. Okiro to release
N50m and other property seized from Kogi businessman, Isah Manfred. The order
was ignored even after the Attorney General of the Federation, Michael
Aondoakaa, in a letter dated April 28, asked Mr. Okiro to obey the court. Four months
later in August, Mr. Belgore summoned the erring IG to answer why he should not
be committed to prison for his flagrant disobedience.

Similarly, at the Magistrate Court on October 9, 2008, Mike
Ozekhome, counsel to Kenny Martins and Ibrahim Dumuje, both of the Police
Equipment Foundation, had asked Mr. Ochimana to commit Mr. Okiro to prison for
repeatedly disobeying the court’s order mandating the police to allow his
clients access to the organisation’s vehicles parked at the National Stadium in
Abuja.

Mr. Okiro however got away with his antics under late President
Umar Yar’Adua who appointed him and kept him till he attained the compulsory
retiring age of 60 years.

Before Mr. Okiro, there was Sunday Ehindero, who though a lawyer
by training, also paved the way for the judiciary to be looked down upon.

Mr. Ehindero had refused to obey an August 10, 2005 order of a
Federal High Court judge, Abimbola Ogie, asking the Police to enforce the
receivership of Pacers Multi Dynamics Ltd, a subsidiary of Sanderson Venture
located in Ikeja, Lagos, in favour of Universal Trust Bank which was owed over
N1 Billion.

Two months later, on October 20, Mr. Ehindero is reported to
have stated the police would no longer obey court orders to enforce
receivership of companies.

Also on May 30, 2006, Mr. Ehindero was summoned before Stephen
Adah of the Federal High Court in Abuja to defend himself on why he should not
be committed to prison for disobeying the court order given a month earlier to
allow Al-Mustapha Jokolo, the deposed Emir of Gwandu in Kebbi State who was
banished to Nassarawa State, receive medical attention at the national hospital
as well as to produce him before the court.

Mr. Ehindero’s end as IG was however better than that of his
predecessor, Mustafa Balogun, the ex-convict IG who was found guilty of
embezzling billions of Naira in Police funds.

On March 21, 2002 a London based construction company, Aspen
Bridges Limited, had prayed a Federal High Court in Abuja to commit Mr. Balogun
and the Attorney General of the Federation, Kanu Agabi, to prison for refusing
to obey a Lagos State High Court judgment ordering the IG, the AGF and the
Police Service Commission to pay the company about N576.7 million arising from
the construction of over 300 police housing units across the country.

Smith led the way

But leading the fold of contemptuous Inspectors General since
the inception of democracy is Musiliu Smith. He set the pace for others after
him to flout court orders.

In late July 2001, legal icon Rotimi Williams on behalf of 26
Toll operators asked Justice Abubakar Jega of a Federal High Court in Lagos to
commit Mr. Smith, and Minister of Works and Housing, Tony Anenih, to prison for
refusing to obey the court’s January 22, 2001 order restricting them from
seizing 15 toll plazas across the country belonging to private operators who
had won contracts to manage them.

Mr. Jega, who chided the continued contempt of the court by the
agents of government, had said then: “a government which came through the rule
of law, under a democracy should not be seen as the one to undermine it.

“It is also the duty of the court to intervene where it appeared
might is used to defeat right.”

Sadly though, 12 years on, the head of the country’s
constitutionally empowered law enforcement agency has still not got it right,
as the present Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ringim is showing Nigerians.

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Oyo ACN warns Alao-Akala government against looting

Oyo ACN warns Alao-Akala government against looting

Yet again, the Oyo State governor, Adebayo Alao-Akala, and his
aides have been warned against embarking on last-minute looting of the state’s
treasury.

The Oyo State chapter of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN),
whose candidate won the last governorship election in the state, issued the
latest caution in a statement signed by its secretary, Wasiu Olatunbosun.

The party’s statement followed an earlier one raised by Yanju
Adegbite, spokesperson for Abiola Ajimobi, the Oyo State governor-elect.

Though the government had on several occasions assured the
incoming administration of the safety of the treasury, circumstances
surrounding the allegation of threat to life raised by Babalola Owolabi, the
state commissioner for health, gives seeming credence to the suspicion.

After surviving an attack two weeks ago, Mr Owolabi accused some
unnamed colleagues in the state cabinet of plotting to kill him. Among reasons
adduced for the alleged attempt on his life were his alleged uncomplimentary
comments on the governor’s role in the unimpressive performance of the party at
the last election, as well as his refusal to allow some of his fellow
commissioners to use his ministry to embark on last-minute treasury looting.

“It is to the knowledge of the public that the outgoing
administration of Governor Alao-Akala will go down in the history of Oyo State
as the most corrupt ever, but events in the last few days have indicated that
there is a grand plan to completely ground the state and ensure that the
incoming administration does not succeed,” the ACN said.

“Our party has been inundated with various reports of illegal
withdrawals from state bank accounts, diversion of fertiliser stock, conversion
of public properties to private assets, increased sponsorship of foreign trips
for political office holders and ‘cooperating’ career officers, among other
illegal activities capable of milking the state dry at all costs.”

Wild goose chase

The party warned top civil servants in the state as well as
senior managers of banks in charge of the state’s accounts to “steer clear of
any questionable order and/or arrangement aimed at stealing public funds
further as culprits and their accomplices shall be made to face the full wrath
of the law sooner than expected.”

But Dotun Oyelade, Governor Alao-Akala’s spokesperson, described
the allegation as frivolous and baseless. “Why is the party fretting over
‘illegal’ withdrawal of funds while it conveniently keeps quiet over various
monies being paid into government accounts each day? This government will run
and perform its duties till May 28,” he said.

“On the issue of fertilisers, the ACN again dwelled on half
information. Government attention was drawn to a fertiliser purchase that was
unpaid. The swift intervention of the government now ensured that a balance of
N8 million will be paid into government coffers by Wednesday and 248 bags
returned to government warehouse. No government property has been personalised
and the incoming administration needs not get too excited until it gets to
power two weeks from now, after which it will be at liberty to go on a wild
goose chase.”

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Bauchi governor promises end to communal clashes

Bauchi governor promises end to communal clashes

Bauchi State
Governor, Isa Yuguda, has vowed that his administration would ensure
that peace returned to the state, saying anyone causing disunity would
not be spared no matter how highly placed they may be.

Mr Yuguda made the
promise while speaking at the Government House during the submission of
a draft white paper and report of the committee on the review of the
reports of Babalakin, Shehu Awak and Bala Umar commissions and
committees on the Tafawa Balewa civil disturbances.

“Government will
immediately study the report and implement all the recommendations
therein with little or no amendments whatsoever,” he said.

“However, where we
need to adjust we will not hesitate to do so, but with your inputs. All
we are after is that peace must return to that area. We have had enough
bloodletting and wanton destruction of lives and properties.” He added
that government would ensure that a peace dialogue was held in the area
to heal all wounds and foster the spirit of forgiveness and oneness.

He described the
last post-election violence, which claimed many innocent lives,
including those of ten youth corps members who were in the state on
national assignment, as regrettable. He said his administration would
not allow any breach of peace in the state again.

“We will focus on
effective security and protection of lives and properties of the people
of the state so as to be able to provide more democratic dividends for
them,” he said.

The chairperson of
the committee, Ibrahim Sabo, disclosed that his committee was able to
engage all the feuding communities in a three-day interactive session,
which he said helped tremendously in closing up the numerous grounds of
disagreement between them.

He said the session
was facilitated by Muhammad Nurayn Ashafa and James Movel Wuye of the
of the Interfaith Mediation Centre in Kaduna, after which a Memorandum
of Understanding (MOU) on cementing a wide range of peace commitments
between the various peoples of the area was signed by 60 individuals
invited to the sessions.

He also advised the
governor to retain the services of Messrs Ashafa and Wuye, and to also
bring the various peoples of the troubled Tafawa Balewa and Bogoro
local councils together to a public peace declaration on the basis of
the MOU.

He also encouraged
the governor to remain resolute even in the face of sabotage and the
willful actions of detractors to challenge his will to restore peace to
the areas.

“The laudable
initiative of the government that led to the formation of the committee
to review past reports on the lingering crises is highly commendable,”
he said.

The governor, last February, constituted the committee to recommend
to government the best way to solve the problem afflicting the
communities.

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New research park for Africa next year

New research park for Africa next year

Research Park for Africa, a facility to help countries tackle
pests and diseases, established by the International Institute of Tropical
Agriculture will open for operations in June next year, the institute’s
Director-General has said.

Peter Hartmann said this at the fifth reunion with former IITA
staff in Bali, Indonesia. Mr. Hartmann noted that Innovation Africa TM
(Research Park for Africa) was created last year to help capture more
scientific synergy.

“The physical facilities should be ready by June 2012,” Mr.
Hartmann said. “We are building a coalition of three centres to serve Africa’s
crop needs.”

The research park is one of the few things the Ibadan-based IITA
is doing to diversify its support base.

“We are working on a Pan-African wide instrument to help nations
tackle biological threats (pests and diseases), he added.

“We are producing more commercial products. We have just
released AflaSafe against Aflatoxins. The Gates Foundation is helping us seek
firms to produce it commercially. We are clustering IITA scientists in fewer
locations (hubs), so we can support them better. In short, we are investing in
IITA’s future,” he explained.

Very stable institute

According to the latest Impact by the Science Council of
Assessment of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research
(CGIAR), about 70 per cent of the impact by the (CGIAR) in Africa is said to
come from research outputs by the IITA.

The 2007 assessment, which is still the latest, notes that the
value of the impact/benefit was greater than the total CGIAR investment in
African since 1971.

“That is something to be really proud of,” Mr. Hartmann said.

He added that 60 per cent of the maize grown in West and Central
Africa today comes from IITA varieties. The director general also noted that
IITA had remained a very stable institute.

“It goes for nothing sexy and does not play the latest fashion
game. It does the basic, steadily and consistently. That is its force. This
works,” he said.

Mr Hartmann added that the success being recorded by the
institute was a result of the commitment and foundation laid by its former
staff. He said the present management never reinvented the wheel.

“We did not have to undo anything. We just had to build on what
you all had built. So it was enjoyable,” he said.

Members of the alumni group expressed gratitude to Mr Hartmann’s
presence and efforts in keeping the flag flying at IITA.

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Controversy trails time limit for election petition cases

Controversy trails time limit for election petition cases

The 2011 general
elections have come and gone, the exercise was adjudged by many as the
freest and fairest poll in the history of Nigeria’s democracy. However,
some candidates and political parties felt cheated and claimed that the
elections were marred with a lot of irregularities and have gone before
the election petition tribunals to challenge some of the results at the
poll.

The Chief Justice
of Nigeria (CJN), Aloysius Katsina-Alu, in conformity with the 2010
Electoral Act as amended recently constituted 210 judicial officers
selected as chairmen and members of the election tribunals for the 36
states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory.

The CJN had said
“In Nigeria, allegations of corruption have in recent past, placed the
role of Election Tribunal in jeopardy. Election petitions, just like
the ordinary day-to-day civil cases, are intended to be dealt with by
tribunals consistently fair, without bias or impartiality.” Mr
Katsina-Alu asked the judicial officers to bear in mind that when
election petition tribunals fail in their duties, the consequences will
be murder, arson, and grievous bodily harm.

With the time for
the filing of petitions by political parties now over, all is now set
for the election petition tribunals to begin work.

The Congress for
Progressive Change (CPC) filed a petition at the presidential election
tribunal to challenge the result of the April presidential election,
alleging irregularities and noncompliance with the 2010 Electoral Act.

The party is
contesting the result of the election in about 20 states of the
federation, cutting across the six geopolitical zones. The CPC
presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, told journalists shortly
after casting his vote in Daura, Katsina State that thumb-printed
ballot papers were used in several states.

The national
chairperson of the CPC, Tony Momoh, said the party was challenging the
results of the 2011 presidential election that returned President
Goodluck Jonathan to show the world that the election was fundamentally
flawed.

Speaking after the
party filed its petition at the presidential election tribunal, Mr
Momoh noted that the party was asking the tribunal to cancel results in
over 20 states of the federation, mostly in the South-South, Southeast,
and some parts of the North and the Southwest.

According to the
result announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission
(INEC), Mr Jonathan polled a total of 22,495,187 votes to defeat CPC’s
Muhammadu Buhari, who got 12,214,853. Nuhu Ribadu of the Action
congress of Nigeria (ACN) got 2,790,151 votes while Ibrahim Shekarau
got 917,012 votes. The total valid votes were 38,209,978.

Section 134 of the
Electoral Act 2010 as amended stipulates that “an election tribunal
shall deliver its judgment on a case within 180 days (six months) from
the date of the filing of the petition.” It also stipulates that the
petitions be filed within 21 days after the elections. “An appeal from
a decision of an election tribunal or court shall be heard and disposed
of within 60 days (two months) from the date of the delivery of
judgment of the tribunal.”

Wasting time

Though the CPC has
filed its petition challenging the result of the election, the
Presidential Election Petition panel is yet to be inaugurated 30 days
after the presidential election was held, even though the party met the
condition of the Electoral Act which stipulates that the petitions be
filed within 21 days after the elections. With the delay in the
inauguration of the panel, many are wondering if the Presidential
Election Tribunal will meet the provisions of the act which says “an
election tribunal shall deliver its judgment on a case within 180 days
(six months) from the date of the filing of the petition.” The CPC had
filed an application before the Presidential Election Tribunal sitting
at the Court of Appeal, Abuja seeking to compel the Independent
National Electoral Commission (INEC) and all its Resident Electoral
Commissioners to release certain documents and materials to be used for
its petition. Joined as defendants in the suit are the Independent
National Electoral Commission (INEC), Chief National Electoral
Commissioner (Attahiru Jega), Goodluck Jonathan, Namadi Sambo, Peoples
Democratic Party (PDP) and the Resident Electoral Commissioners for the
36 states including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

When asked for his
comment on whether there would be enough time to dispose of the cases
before swearing in of the elected officials, Kayode Ajulo, an FCT
senatorial candidate for the Labour Party and a lawyer, said there is
controversy over the period to conclude the election petition cases at
the Election Petition Tribunals. He said the 2010 Electoral Act as
amended says all election petitions must be filed not later than 30
days from the date of return (from the day the result of election was
declared).

According to him,
the period for the filing of cases is too short considering the
electoral guidelines that require front-loading of evidence to be
relied upon. “With the new electoral guidelines that require front
loading of evidence, the time for filing and determination of the
petition is to short, considering that you need time to gather your
evidence from the party agents who were on the field. And considering
also that some people will want to hide some evidence especially INEC,
it will take some time before you will be able to get documents from
the commission, so I believe the time stipulated by the Electoral Act
is too short.”

Mr Adegboye
Awomolo, one of the leading counsel to INEC, said the confusion over
the issue of duration is caused by the fact that there are many pirated
copies of the Electoral Act in the market; that unless one sees the
gazetted copy one cannot say which one is correct.

Controversy over
duration In his own response a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mike
Ozekhome, said section 142 of the act says “Without prejudice to the
provisions of section 294(1) of the Constitution of the Federal
Republic of Nigeria, an election petition and appeal arising therefrom
under this Act shall be giving accelerated hearing and shall have
precedence over all other cases or matters before the Tribunal or
Court.” According to him, with that section it is expected that the
tribunals will round off within a reasonable period of time and that
even if there was any delay it would be minimal.

The national legal
adviser of the CPC, Abubakar Malami, said recently that based on
lessons learned from past election tribunal cases, the party would use
scientific means to prove its case at the tribunal. “This case will
therefore depend mainly on the authentication and verification of the
fingerprints on the disputed ballot papers cast.”

“To the CPC, this
use of the Forensic/Biometric system based on INEC’s capturing of all
the 10 fingers of every voter is a novel idea that can help solve
forever the challenges of multiple voting and outright concoction of
results; two critical issues in our electoral malpractices,” Mr Malami
said.

“Our present case
in the tribunal is thus aimed at establishing the truth and preventing
future elections malpractices in our country’s democratic experiment,”
he added.

Explaining the
legal backing for this, Mr Ozekhome said section 151(1) of the Act
gives power to the tribunal for “An order for inspection of a polling
document or an inspection of a document or any other packet in the
custody of the chief National Electoral Commissioner or any other
officer of the commission may be made by the election tribunal or the
court if it is satisfied that the inspection is required for the
purpose of instituting, maintaining or defending an election petition.”

He submitted that
given the time that would be spent on inspection of electoral
materials, the tribunal may not be able to deliver its judgment on a
case within 180 days (six months) from the date of the filing of the
petition.

In the light of
this limitation, it remains to be seen whether the parties aggrieved
over the outcome of the general elections and which have piled up
evidence to prove their cases, would see justice done at the end of the
day.

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‘Government must build pillars of economic growth’

‘Government must build pillars of economic growth’

Vice President of the World Bank, Oby Ezekwesili, speaks to our reporter in Cape Town, South Africa. Excerpts below.

Economic competitiveness in Africa

Looking at the many
indicators of economic competitiveness, one will see a whole range of
things that have to do with the quality of the country’s macro-economic
and sectoral policies and institutions, as well as governance and
regulatory systems, particularly the cost of doing business in one’s
neighbourhood.

In all these,
Nigeria still has a huge agenda to accomplish and the areas of specific
focus are numerous. Therefore, the earlier the government starts to
tackle these obstacles and constraints to business, the better for the
country.

Productivity does
not just happen without those obstacles being tackled. When one looks
at the progress recorded so far in the information, communication and
technology as well as the telecommunications sectors, for example, it
was because there were important policies and regulatory systems put in
place by the government for the private sector to see the signals and
move in to invest.

However, in the
energy sector, the situation is in the opposite direction. Even with an
important piece of legislation, really operationalizing the Energy
Sector Reform Act has not happened, because the Petroleum Industry Bill
(PIB) is still pending before the National Assembly for approval. So,
that gap is there. Therefore, private capital will not go into that
sector until the confidence about trustworthy and credible regulatory
systems as well as the legal framework is in place.

Gaps in useful skills

If one looks at the
issues about the human capacity, the skills and entrepreneurship
matters a lot for productivity. Nigeria is struggling with skills
adequacy, particularly the quality and their relevance to areas of
need, because of the poor state of her education system. The issue of
infrastructure deficit in general is huge, and the government needs to
address this as urgently as possible. For a nation like Nigeria, the
4,000 mega watts (MW) of electricity currently being generated and
distributed is just inadequate to power the economy and drive
productivity in key sectors.

Looking at the
important sectors like agriculture, which accounts for some 45 percent
of the gross national product (GDP), enough focus is not given to
ensure that all obstacles to its growth are removed. But, one thing
that one knows for a fact is that institutions, policies and good
quality, effective and efficient public investments are the key things
needed to facilitate the process of economic growth in any country.
Priority for the economy The government must pursue an all-inclusive
growth of the country’s economy.

This is essentially
saying that government should not desire the growth to only affect a
small section of the population, but everybody.

When one looks at
most economies in Africa with natural resource endowments, the tendency
is for them to allow that sector to be the only game in town.

In the case of
Nigeria, petroleum has been the dominant natural resource, and
government tends to focus all its attention to this sector, to the
neglect of the other key sectors. But, government needs a change
towards diversifying the structure of the economy. For so long, the
continent, and Nigeria in particular, has talked about diversification,
but this does not just happen.

There are certain
important policies and measures that the government needs to take to
bring it on. In the agriculture sector, for instance, which is still
the mainstay of more than 60 percent of the country’s population, what
quality of policies does the government have? Or what kind of framework
for investment is in place? What kind of institutions are there to
enable the regulatory underpinnings of a functional agriculture sector?
By the way, the agriculture sector in Africa, based on the World Bank’s
analysis, is the most viable private sector, and government needs to
see it as such, because it is business.

Right now, what
countries are learning is that, if one follows the World Bank
Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), which
looks at agriculture from four principle pillars, namely markets and
infrastructure, land and water management, food security and
vulnerability as well as technology and research, one would ensure that
the quality of investments, institutions and policies that enable the
interaction between the farmers and the private sector, whether in
terms of the commercial agriculture investment and the role of the
government as well as the systems that allow these interactions to
function in a coherent manner to support agricultural expansion and
productivity as well as improvement in the yield from agriculture.

If government wants
to address the joblessness situation in the continent, and Nigeria in
particular, the agricultural sector is where focus needs to be on, to
remove all the bottlenecks and constraints to operators in that sector.

One cannot use
platitudes to do it. It must be through concrete and specific
strategies. Nigerians in Diaspora and infrastructure development The
World Bank is currently working on the possibility of establishing
Diaspora bonds as a response to resource gaps in dealing with the
challenges of infrastructural development. Africa has a need to spend
some $93billion annually on this. But, currently about $45billion is
being spent, leaving an additional need for about $48billion. When one
looks at the sources of domestic revenue mobilization by governments in
Africa, it is probably hitting the limits of what they can have.

So, it requires the private sector to come in as a part of the combination to tackle the infrastructure deficit.

But, as part of
that private sector initiative, there is a huge population of citizens
of the continent that are in other territories of the world, who are
remitting an average of $23billion into the continent. Therefore, they
represent a very important growth population to target, to see how much
more can be raised to help address these development finance gaps that
the continent has.

The bank is still
looking at how that process could be facilitated through countries
floating those kinds of bonds for their own citizens abroad to
subscribe.

The technicalities
of how the process will work are still being worked out, to identify
the incentives that would underpin the attractiveness of those kinds of
bond instruments. But, the theoretical construct is that these
remittances happen, though, sadly, right now they go towards
consumption, and that there is some space for determining how much of
the money spent can be redirected into the process of building some
medium to long term funds required for investment in the continent’s
development process.

The countries that
have done that are those that have moved ahead, namely Kenya, Zambia,
Liberia, and Sierra Leone, where the policy environment towards their
Diaspora is very strong.

These countries are
providing the capacity and training their Diaspora get exposed to that
is fundamentally global class, which makes a big difference to the
quality of governance. The World Bank hopes to partner with the African
Development Bank (ADB) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC).

Since 2007, it was
discovered that the Diaspora was an important development community
that was missing in the World Bank’s engagement and relationship with
Africa. But, over the last few years, the bank’s relationship with the
Diaspora has grown significantly.

World Bank and women in Africa

The bank’s 2012
flagship report, The World Development Report (WDR), is going to be on
gender, focusing on the many levels of the optimal and productive use
of women in economic policy development to bring about growth.

The report will be
looking at the issues that have to do with access to quality education,
training and finance as well as related kinds of issues. It will also
look at the involvement of women in the whole policy arena in decision
making as well as the impact of education to health outcomes.

What we see is that
when women are educated, they tend to delay decisions on certain issues
till such a time they can make the right choices, particularly the
decision on when to get married. So, they are not like people who do
not have any choice. And that is important, because then it will enable
the woman to make the right choices concerning her children’s education
and their health needs.

All these work
together to improve the possibilities of accomplishments of the
families, and by extension, the society. Therefore, the woman is a
major factor in economic development, which is why it is normally said
that investing in women is smart economics. It is not something one
does on the basis of sentiments, because 50 percent of the population
is women.

If one does not invest in women and get them to the point where they
are participants in the economic growth strategy, to enable them
deliver at their best, one is basically operating at less than optimum.

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Mark set for record senate presidency re-election

Mark set for record senate presidency re-election

Some senators-elect
from the north central region of the country converged Friday on the
senate press centre to address journalists on their preferred choice of
senate president for the next senate session.

It turned out that
they want David Mark, the incumbent senate president representing Benue
South senatorial district, to lead the seventh senate. This declaration
of support is coming after the ceding of the post to the zone by the
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

According to the
senators-elect, Mr Mark has led the national assembly successfully. “He
was able to introduce the ‘doctrine of necessity’ to resolve a near
political crisis that almost tore Nigeria (apart) last year through his
doggedness and commitment to ensuring that Nigeria moves forward,” said
one of them, Zainab Kure (PDP – Niger South).

The endorsement of
the incumbent senate president to lead the next senate by
senators-elect from his region was the climax of a series of public
endorsements and antics by the incumbent senate president to ensure his
re-election into office, which would be a record.

Mr Mark has had his
sight set on leading the next senate from way back as the last quarter
of 2010; he has carefully orchestrated his manoeuvres ever since.

His first
endorsement came late last year when he supposedly entered into an
agreement with the president for mutual support to reclaim their
respective offices. The frequency of endorsements has surged since he
secured re-election to be a member of the next senate.

Mr Mark is also
said to have won the favour of his party for the job following a recent
power-sharing deal which doled out the senate presidency to the north
central region of the country.

Open campaign

On June 6, when the
seventh session will convene for the first time to elect its leaders,
only the 109 senators-elect will be voting to decide who leads the
seventh senate. But the heated campaign for who holds the prestigious
office in the senate has gone beyond the senators-elect themselves to
the general public. Mr Mark is clearly ahead of other contenders in
popularity rating as well as a recently popularised merit-based
requirement for the next senate president. He is also the favourite
amongst his peers, the returning 39 senators to the next senate. He is
however not relenting on his campaign and acquiring endorsements from
all over.

Groups ranging from
Idoma professors from his district, to former colleagues at the senate,
have all supported his bid at various points. They have avoided public
support for his rivals, Bukola Saraki and Danjuma Goje, outgoing
governors of Kwara and Gombe State, respectively, both of whom have had
to carry out their campaigns through lobbyists.

National Assembly
workers were stunned at the close of work on Thursday to find pamphlets
stuck to their cars titled, “Eight Basic Reasons Why Sen. David Mark
Should Return as President of the Seventh Senate.” Most workers were
agreed it was a new twist in the campaign for the position of senate
president.

Mr Mark is being
praised especially for the stability of the senate under his reign.
Suleiman Adokwe, a re-elected senator (PDP – Nasarawa South), said on
Friday that “since we no longer experience frequent changes in the
leadership of the senate, it means we have found the formula.”

Unnecessary rule-tweaking

The efforts of the
senate president to make his way back to the most prestigious office
will come to a head on Tuesday this week when the senate intends to
adopt an amendment to the standing rules in a way that will place other
rivals at a disadvantage.

The proposed rule
will replace Rule 97[1][f] of the current standing order of the senate.
The new rule introduces a ranking system through which senators can
aspire for prestigious offices in the senate. It ranks experienced
lawmakers before first-timers without legislative experience, placing
the latter as last and least eligible to aspire to high offices in the
senate.

At the top of the
rank are senators returning, and based on the number of times
re-elected; this is where the sitting senate president belongs. They
are followed by senators who had been members of the House of
Representatives.

Third on the
ranking are senators who have been members of a State House of assembly
or any legislative house. The least in the ranking system are senators
getting elected for the first time – where Messrs Goje and Saraki both
belong.

Analysts are of the
opinion that tweaking the rules to favour the incumbent is unnecessary
at this point, considering the senate president’s virtues.

However, the senate
president is not leaving anything to chance. He has also reached out to
opposition lawmakers who will be members of the seventh senate.

A “Door 2 Door for
Mark 2011” campaign organisation was recently co-opted into the
re-election efforts. Its members undertook the pamphlet placement
campaign on Thursday on the premises of the national assembly.

This week, all the
elected lawmakers will be retreating to the central points in their
respective geopolitical zones; the campaigns are bound to continue at
these places. An official of the senate, who did not want his name
mentioned, said the incumbent “will leave no stone unturned” in his
quest.

Ayogu Eze, the senate spokesperson and a strong promoter of the
incumbent’s second term bid, on Thursday belittled every other
contestant eyeing the post as he declared Mr Mark the clear favourite
for the office, saying, “There is no contest for the senate president’s
office.”

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Amaechi okays special account for oil revenue

Amaechi okays special account for oil revenue

The governor of
Rivers State, Chibuike Amaechi, has said that he supports the lodgment
of revenue accruals from the disputed oil wells between Rivers and Akwa
Ibom into an escrow account.

In a statement
given in Port Harcourt on Thursday, the governor stated he hoped that
revenue accruable to the state would be paid beginning in June. The
Supreme Court recently gave a judgment returning 86 oil wells belonging
to the state, which were previously ceded to Akwa Ibom. In the
statement signed by the acting chief press secretary to the governor,
Blessing Wikina, the governor said lodging the money into an escrow
account would not at all mean denial as the judgment was explicit on
what should be done.

Final judgment

“The Revenue
Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission will have no reason not
to commence payment to the state in line with the judgment of the
Supreme Court on the 86 oil wells from June this year.

“What happened is
that last month, we asked them to put it in an escrow account and they
refused, saying that they had not gotten a copy of the judgment, and
then the federal government finally got a copy of it and served them.

“They have no
reason this month to pay Akwa Ibom, they have to put it in an escrow
account, before the end of the month they should round up, by the grace
of God. So I hope that by June, we will be able to receive this month’s
money, and that of June,” he said.

The governor
expressed the hope that the committee set up by the commission to look
into the judgment of the Supreme Court would do a good job.

NAN

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Electoral body in Cross River presents certificates of return

Electoral body in Cross River presents certificates of return

Politicians in
Cross River State who won election into the National Assembly and the
state House of Assembly were yesterday presented with certificates of
return at an elaborate ceremony organised by the Independent National
Elelctoral Commission (INEC) in Mangel Hotel in Calabar.

Re-elected senate
deputy leader, Victor Ndoma Egba led 35 others to receive their
certificates of return. Each of the legislators-elect had in two
personal aides and supporters who made the venue come alive with their
praise singing.

Those to join him
at the Senate who also got their certificates were: Ben Ayade (Cross
River North) and Bassey Edet Otu (Cross River South). Those for the
House of Representatives include: Francis Busam Adah, Rose Oko, Chris
Ettah, John Owan Enoh, Bassey Ewah, Daniel Asuquo, Nkoyo Toyo and
Essien Ayi.

All the 25 members
elected into the Cross River State House of Assembly also got their
certificates. The certificates were handed over by Thelma Iremiren,
INEC national commissioner who represented the chairman of the
commission, Attahiru Jega. On hand to assist her was a legal adviser
from the commission and the state resident electoral commissioner, Mike
Igini.

Mr Igini in his
speech commended the people of Cross River State. “Although there were
problems in isolated places, these problems arose from overzealous
supporters than from key political actors themselves, and thus on that
note, I must commend the political groups in Cross River State for the
maturity they showed in electioneering. It goes to show that a
competitive political process need not necessarily be adversarial.” Mr
Igini said

Mistakes as lessons

Mr Igini advised
them to make their tenure memorable by doing those things that will
impact positively on the lives of the people, stressing that whatever
he did before and during the elections was to ensure transparency and
also “to ensure that the trust which the public reposes on us as public
servants is not betrayed.”

He acknowledged
that the exercise had its imperfections but promised to use “the useful
lessons learned to improve on these imperfections well in time for the
next elections. We also hope that the public and other stakeholders
will learn from the lessons of these elections to develop the process
for the benefit of Nigeria and Nigerians.

“As for those who
flouted the electoral laws during the registration and voting process,
I can assure the general public that unlike previously, the full weight
of the judiciary will be brought down on them, and the lessons they
will learn from the consequences of their misdeeds will form useful
touchstones for strengthening an enduring political culture in
Nigeria,” he said.

The Senate deputy
leader elected for a third term and who spoke on behalf of others,
commended INEC for conducting free and fair elections to the admiration
of the international community. He stressed that the success of the
exercise will make Nigeria stand tall in the comity of nations.

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