Winds against APC’s change

apc vs pdpgrasp

The ongoing turmoil within the ruling All Progressives Congress drags Nigeria down a familiar path, writes JOHN ALECHENU

When supposed strange bedfellows came together in 1998 to form the Peoples Democratic Party – which went on to rule Nigeria for 16 years until its stranglehold was broken in 2015 – only a few people envisaged that the sharing of power on the altar of political patronage would cost the party its prized jewel, the Presidency.

Gone were the days when a PDP ticket could guarantee the bearer election victory with or without campaigns. Politicians fought, maimed and in some cases, killed to obtain the party’s tickets in order to gain access to power and wealth.

A number of the All Progressives Congress members are sure to dismiss the ongoing threat to the party’s existence occasioned by the National Assembly leadership crisis, as a storm in a tea cup. They cannot, however, discountenance the gathering ominous dark clouds of danger that lie ahead.

Some commentators are of the view that the APC had yet to come to terms with the reality that the electoral campaigns were over and Nigerians are waiting for governance to begin.

It is instructive to recall the birth and the journey of the APC so far. Tired of losing elections as opposition political parties, three leading parties, which included the All Nigeria Peoples Party, the Action Congress of Nigeria, the Congress for Progressive Change and a faction of the All Progressive Grand Alliance, set aside their differences and came together to begin a journey which culminated in the APC. After initial hiccups, the party and its leaders proved sceptics wrong by putting together a very formidable opposition. The party went on to, not only decimate the population of the then ruling PDP by winning over five sitting governors and several members of the National Assembly, it also swept the general election.

This did not happen by chance. Careful planning and sacrifice by the various power blocs ensured that the party not only got registered but that its message of change from the unsavory past became the song on the lips of a cross-section of Nigerians.

It is also worthy of note that the chairmen of the three political parties that merged to form the APC: Chief Ogbonnaya Onu of the ANPP, Chief Bisi Akande of the ACN and Prince Tony Momoh of the CPC, as well as other members of their respective executives, had to give up their positions for the new arrangement to come to fruition. The merger did not happen without seemingly endless meetings and financial commitments made by some wealthy leaders of the party.

The boost given to the party by the entry of a former Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar, and five sitting governors of the PDP cannot be overemphasised. The five governors who took the plunge were Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano), Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers), Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara) and Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto). Senators, especially ex-governors, who were members of the PDP, equally grabbed the opportunity to rise up and be counted.

While the party celebrated its growing popularity, it appeared little prepared to accommodate the monstrous political interests which had started to build nests within its structure. With the elections won, reality has now set in.

It’s now three months after the APC won the historic 2015 general election. Many now question whether the party has been able to transit from being an opposition party to a ruling party. Others even argue that the APC faced serious challenges of disintegration sooner than anyone envisaged.

Political commentators are of the view that the party is grappling with its first real test. Its level of cohesion is being tested from within as some of its members decided to call the bluff of the party leadership in pursuit of their individual political objectives.

After two months of unending nocturnal meetings, party leaders failed to agree on a sharing formula aimed at giving the various interests a sense of belonging.

For instance, there are those who are quick to point out that while the defunt ACN, ANPP and CPC blocs may have been taken care of, the “New PDP” bloc made up of former PDP governors, senators and their followers were left out in the power game.

Those in this school of thought point to the fact that the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari takes care of the CPC interest while the emergence of Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo for what it is worth, represents the interest of the ACN. In the same vein, some are of the view that Chief John Odigie-Oyegun’s emergence as the national chairman of the party gives members of the defunct ANPP a sense of belonging.

The uneven pattern in the sharing of leadership positions in the party informed why at some point, the party leaders mandated its National Working Committee to work out the modalities for a zoning arrangement in order to reduce the mounting tension. Twice, the committee zoned the positions. Twice, it failed to submit its findings and recommendations to the National Executive Committee – which is the party’s highest decision making body, for ratification.

Powerful interests, who were convinced their interests would not be protected if the recommendations sail through, ensured that the NWC’s recommendation never made it to the NEC.

Unable to contain his discontentment, a former Governor of Kano State, Rabiu Kwankwaso, went public. He held several press interviews, advising the party to adopt a zoning formula acceptable to all. Unknown to many, he was speaking the minds of most of his colleagues who joined the party from the PDP.

The party’s National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and the former National Chairman of the defunct ACN, Chief Bisi Akande, at different times, announced that the party would not zone offices because it was alien to the APC constitution.

They had also argued that what the nation required were men and women of character who were the best in their chosen fields to move the nation forward. However, not every leader of the party shares their idealism in this direction. One of such party leaders is elder statesman and Second Republic Minister of Communications, Chief Audu Ogbeh.

Ogbeh, who is also a founding member of the APC, explained that for a developing nation like Nigeria, zoning is an indispensable component of democracy. “This whole business of ‘no zoning’ is a political fallacy that can’t work in Nigeria,” he had said. Ogbeh pointed out quite correctly that issues of leadership in Nigeria, nay Africa, are not issues to be glossed over.

The announcement by President Buhari that he was prepared to work with whosoever emerged as a leader in the National Assembly was well received, especially by the members of the new PDP power bloc within the APC. They saw the elections into leadership positions in the National Assembly as their chance to strike.

Against permutations by other power blocs, especially the ACN which has a firm grip of the NWC, some elements of the new PDP reached out to their friends in the PDP for help. The rest, as they say, is history.

On the surface, it may appear that the various power blocs are simply jostling for positions. However, party watchers are quick to point out that beneath the surface, two prominent power blocs, one led by Tinubu, and the other led by Atiku, are setting the stage for 2019.

Although both leaders of the party have denied this, it is becoming an open secret that the battle for the soul of the party ahead of 2019 has started in earnest. Allegations by Chief Akande, a close associate of Tinubu, that what happened in the National Assembly is a “northern conspiracy” against the Yoruba gives credence to the insinuations ahead of 2019.

Akande also hinted what some have interpreted to mean a growing lack of confidence in the party’s leadership to arrest an imminent drift. Akande, in a letter made public on Sunday, said, “It is my opinion that President Buhari and the APC governors should now see the APC as a rocking platform that may not be strong enough to carry them to political victory in 2019.”

A lone voice, the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr. Timi Frank, had earlier called for the resignation of Odigie-Oyegun over the impasse.

Odigie-Oyegun, on his part, succinctly captured what is playing out. He said in an interview, “It (the crisis) is an unfortunate thing and I think it has arisen because of the clash within major interest groups in the party and that has given rise to gross disloyalty and an unacceptable level of indiscipline and disrespect to the party.”

Odigie-Oyegun is, however, optimistic that the situation has not got to the point of despair because the month-long recess declared by both chambers of the National Assembly has provided a window of opportunity to mend fences.

Nigerians are waiting and watching to see whether sanity will be restored within the party that promised a change from the old ways of the PDP.

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I won’t delay confirmation of Buhari’s ministerial nominees – Saraki

Senate President, Bukola Saraki

Senate President, Bukola Saraki,  on Tuesday, assured Nigerians that the Upper Chamber, will not delay the confirmation of ministerial nominees once the list has been forwarded to his office by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Saraki stated this when he received in his office,  the French Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Denys Gaver, who paid him a courtesy visit.

He explained that the fact that the senate suspended plenary, will not disturb treatment of any communication from the president.

He said, “The suspension of plenary cannot disturb serious government business because we will resume plenary when there is any urgent matter of national importance.”

“Though the Senate is currently on break but  we are working and we are ready to reconvene any time to attend to any national assignment, including the confirmation of President Muhammadu Buhari’s ministerial nominees.”

He also pledged that the National Assembly would constantly cooperate with the executive arm of government to accomplish the programmes of the administration.

The senate president said bills from the executive arm of government would be treated with dispatch, as part of efforts to support the president to effect  the positive change expected from his administration by Nigerians.

The senate president told the French delegation that the Senate had started work already  by  setting up an 18-member committee to formulate a realistic and progressive Legislative Agenda,  for the 8th Senate.

He explained that the agenda would address issues like poverty alleviation, law enforcement, national security, commercial disputes, eradication of corruption and investments in the Petroleum sector.

Saraki also pledged that the National Assembly will partner with the French National Assembly in the area of capacity building for legislators,  and strengthen the bilateral relations between the two countries.

He added that the bilateral relationship would also ensure that more French investments flow into Nigeria.

He specifically solicited the co-operation of the French government in tackling the security problems in the North-eastern part of Nigeria, particularly as Nigeria shares borders with French-speaking countries.

The French envoy, who described the leadership tussle at the National Assembly as part of democracy, solicited for cooperation between the National Assembly and the President Buhari-led executive arm of government.

Gaver,  said the expectation of the international community on Nigeria is high.

He also called for cooperation between the private sector in Nigeria and its counterpart in France.

“On security, Gaver said France is encouraging her former colonies in West Africa to cooperate with Nigeria in the onslaught against the Boko Haram insurgency.

Aregbesola, debtor governors chose not to pay – Monye

By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor

Lagos—Professor Sylvester Monye, who served as special adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on monitoring and evaluation has distanced the Jonathan administration from the failures of the Osun State government to pay salaries, saying Governor Rauf Aregbesola chose not to pay.


Speaking on a live Channels Television interview monitored in Lagos yesterday, Monye said Governor Aregbesola, like other governors was advised by the Jonathan administration to prioritise salary payments but chose not to in preference of payment of contractors and other services.

He said: “When the prices of crude started falling, the then minister of finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, called a meeting of commissioners of finance to advice that salaries should be made first line charge, that is, if you do not pay salaries first before you embark on any activity, you will have difficulties because revenue is coming down. That was also communicated to the governors: prioritise salary.”

“Therefore, no state governor has any business talking of non payment of salaries because they have continued to receive money from the Federation Account.”

Asked on the allegations raised by Aregbesola against the Jonathan government of running the economy aground, he said: “Jonathan administration was holding his money? Or he couldn’t pay because he couldn’t prioritise salaries? It was his decision not to pay salaries.”

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Community protests, accuses Lagos of selling recreation ground


Residents of the Amuwo Odofin Low-cost Housing Estate have accused the Lagos State Building and Investment Company of selling a piece of land reportedly earmarked for recreation.

The residents, who protested on Saturday against the decision, said the land served as a playing ground for children and a venue for public functions in the community. They added that they were recently told by LBIC to stay away from the land.

The community alleged that LBIC had made a similar move in 2001 when a woman claimed the agency sold the land to her. It was learnt that some residents petitioned the state government, which stopped the move then.

PUNCH Metro gathered that four residents – J.A. Akinbohun, D.O. Ojelabi, S.A. Elegbede and one Olatunji ─ had, in a suit no ID/674/01, sued the woman, Lagos State Ministry of Youth, Ministry of Lands, LBIC and the Attorney General of the state in respect of the land.

But the LBIC said the land was allocated to it by the Ministry of Lands and Housing. It said the ownership of the land had been transferred to the woman, Mrs. Mopelola Igbalajobi, after obtaining a sub-lease, adding that she had won the case at the court.

The protesters on Saturday carried placards with inscriptions such as, “The land is not for sale, beware of 419” and “Government should probe LBIC and Ministry of Lands over illegal occupation of playing ground,” among others.

The protesters forced workers on the land to abruptly stop work.

A resident, Alhaja Ganiat Ajayi-Bembe, said the agency had yet to justify the sale of the land.

“We went to the LBIC office and they told us that the land had been sold, but they refused to tell us who sold it. This is a piece of land provided by the government for recreational activities. There is something fishy, which LBIC needs to explain.”

A community leader, Dominic Ojelabi, said, the property was sold without the consent of the government. He added that they stopped pursuing the case in the court when counsels for the defendants did not show up.

He said, “That land has been earmarked for recreation. We are not fighting anybody. But why is it that somebody will come from nowhere and sell the land without the knowledge of the government? That is what we are fighting for. That is where our children play and we use it for any function in the community.

“Our lawyer advised us in 2004 to drop the case when the counsel for the woman and other defendants did not come to court. The judgement they said the woman got is suspicious.”

Another protester, Wasiu Iyiola, a mechanic, said, “Last year, a group came and said they wanted a police station here. Many people kicked against it on the grounds that it is a recreation ground.”

Another resident, Mashood Akinsanya, said the portion was among the parcels of land tagged as open spaces by the state government.

The Estate Head of the LBIC, Mr. Tosin Olugbile, said the land was not a playing ground. He said the woman had proposed to build a medical centre on the land.

He said, “That place is not a recreational ground. The woman is a medical practitioner and a resident in the estate and she has been using her flat as a clinic. Since she is helping the community, there is a need to take her out of the flat.

“She forwarded an application to the Ministry of Lands and the ministry sent the application to us, being the one vested with certificate of occupancy of all low-cost housing estates. So, we looked into it and gave the land to her.

“But the residents refused to let her take the possession of the land. They took her to court and she won. That the structure was once demolished is immaterial. The fact remains that the woman owns the land.”

The LBIC secretary, who did not want his name in print, showed a copy of the judgement to our correspondent.

It indicated that Justice D.O. Oluwayemi of a Federal High Court in Lagos, had ruled in favour of Igbalajobi on the grounds that the claimants had not pursued their claim diligently.

The judgement dated February 4, 2014, read in part, “That this suit is hereby dismissed in favour of first defendant (Mrs. Mopelola Igbalajobi).

“The writ and the amended statement of claim are defective and the claimants have not pursued their claim diligently.”

The spokesperson for Lagos State Lands Bureau, Mr. Kayode Sutton, promised to verify the status of the land and get back to our correspondent. He had, however, yet to do so as of press time.

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Buhari promises improved power supply

Electricity poles, cables and transformer — Where is the power supply

President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday promised that his administration would give the highest possible priority to the rapid improvement of power supply across the country.

According to a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, the President spoke while granting audience to officials of CGGC, the Chinese construction company working on the Mambilla Power Project.

Adesina quoted the President as saying that it was quite regrettable that power generation in the country had failed to keep pace with national needs over the years.

To salvage the situation, Buhari said his administration would ensure that the Mambilla project and other unfinished hydro-power projects in the country were completed expeditiously in order to boost electricity supply in the country.

He was quoted as saying, “I am very much interested in Mambilla and other hydro-power projects, not only for the improvement of power, but also for irrigation, as both power and irrigation projects will help to improve the lives of Nigerians.

“I am going to ask for details of the Mambilla hydro-power project and others. Very soon, we will get together and redefine the project agreements for faster results.”

The Managing Director, CGGC, Mr. Zhang Heng, who led his company’s delegation, was also reported to have told the President that work on the Mambilla project was being delayed by the failure of previous administrations to provide the counterpart funding specified in the agreement with the Chinese government.

The CGGC delegation was accompanied to the Presidential Villa by Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State.

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Oil barons didn’t sponsor us, Saraki, Dogara reply Akande

Senate President, Bukola Saraki

The Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, on Monday described as baseless a claim by the former All Progressives Congress Interim National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, that their elections on June 9 were sponsored by oil barons.

Saraki and Dogara stated this in separate statements by their aides in Abuja on Monday.

Akande, in a widely publicised statement on Sunday, had alleged that oil barons who never liked President Muhammadu Buhari`s anti-corruption stance, sponsored the elections of Saraki and Dogara in a bid to stifle the new government.

Akande also alleged that some splinter groups within the APC were aligning with old and new Peoples Democratic Party forces to launch a platform for the 2019 polls.

Dogara, in a statement in Abuja by his Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Turaki Hassan, challenged Akande to name the oil barons.

The speaker said he expected Akande, an elder statesman, to play his fatherly role at a period of disputes within the APC’s family by seeking ways to reconcile the factions, rather than attacking his person.

Dogara said that the allegations existed only in Akande’s “imagination”, adding that he won his election based on the support of his colleagues, his competence and capacity to preside over the House as the Speaker.

The speaker recalled that the first investigative motion passed by the House after his election was to probe the alleged crude oil swap contracts awarded by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.

He noted that it did not make sense for him to back the probe of the same oil sector’s stakeholders Akande alleged to have sponsored his election.

Part of the statement read, “It is baseless and lacking in substance and merit and can best be described as figment of Chief Akande`s imagination.

“We challenge Chief Akande to name the so-called oil barons whom he alleged sponsored the election of the speaker.

“In case Chief Akande does not know, the first investigative motion adopted by the 8th House of Representatives under the leadership of the Speaker was to investigate the allegation of fraud in the oil-swap contract awarded by the NNPC.

“A resolution for investigation into the allegation was passed to constitute an ad-hoc committee to investigate the NNPC as well as its subsidiary, Pipelines and Products Marketing Company, over the swap contracts.

“How then can the House, under the leadership of Mr. Speaker, order investigation into activities of those who allegedly sponsored its election?”

The speaker claimed that his anti-corruption stance was not in doubt as the Legislative Agenda of the 8th House of Representatives adequately captured it.

“Mr. Speaker has on different occasions reiterated his resolve to compliment President Buhari`s anti-corruption stance and insists that the present crop of leaders don’t have any excuse to give to Nigerians on the change promised them before and during the election that brought the APC into power”, he said.

Also, the Special Assistant to the Senate President on Print Media, Chuks Okocha, described the allegations as mischievous and totally false.

Okocha, in a statement in Abuja on Monday, said Akande’s claim gave a negative and dirty impression that the emergence of the senate president was aimed at sabotaging the anti-corruption posture of Buhari’s government and the ‘Change agenda’ of the APC.

He said, “Ordinarily, we would have ignored the report, but for the sole reason that some undiscerning readers might mistake the fiction for the facts.

“We also wish to state unequivocally that it was wrong and mischievous for the statement by Chief Akande to link what happened on the floor of both chambers to some unnamed oil barons.

“We dare say that the entire story was the figment of the imagination of the author.”

Okocha added that Saraki, as the chairman of an ad hoc committee in the 7th Senate, exposed the fraud and mismanagement in the oil sector.

He said, “Until Saraki raised his motion on the floor of the Senate, no one was in the picture of the rot in the sector or took any action.”

“Senator Saraki will be the last person the oil baron will want to see as Senate President. No doubt, we make bold to state that Saraki is the last person to be so sponsored by the oil barons or cabals.

“In that position, Saraki did not only lead his colleagues in exposing the rot in the scheme, but made very strong recommendations on how the system could be reformed and made corruption- free.”

Okocha said that it was on records that after Saraki’s motion on the floor of the Senate, the House of Representatives followed it up with the oil subsidy probe.

He recalled that the ministers of Finance and Petroleum were summoned and, at least, over N500bn was saved.

Okocha said, “During the Senate hearing on the missing $20bn, for those who attended the public hearing, Senator Saraki led the onslaught of difficult questions to the Minister of Finance, Minister of Petroleum and other federal agencies, despite being in the ruling party then.

“To this effect, Senator Saraki refused to sign the final copy of the committee’s report but rather, put forward a minority report with a press statement that followed suit.”

He added that Saraki opposed the inclusion of kerosene subsidy in the 2015 budget, adding that the senate president rejected the Petroleum Swap deal by the NNPC.

Okocha stated, “Let it be known, therefore, that the Senate Presidency of Dr. Bukola Saraki would not in any way be a stumbling block against President Buhari’s posture against anti- corruption.

“Rather, the 8th Senate under him as the president would give all necessary legislative support to the administration to fight and reduce corruption as his previous actions and bold steps taken against the so called oil barons indicate that Saraki is committed to anti-corruption.”

He said that Saraki was elected unopposed as the Senate President, adding that it was a lie that his election was sponsored by oil barons.

“Senator Bukola Saraki is determined and focused to achieve for the Senate targeted legislative agenda and he is committed to support President Buhari to deliver on his promises to the people of Nigeria,” Okocha said.

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Aso Rock conducts audit of security personnel

Aso Villa

Authorities of the Presidential Villa, Abuja have ordered a comprehensive audit of security personnel and forces deployed in the seat of power.

The audit may have been necessitated by the ongoing inter-agency rivalry in the Villa.

According to a memo signed by the Aide-De-Camp to the President, Lt. Col. Lawal Abubakar, the exercise was needed for “accountability and deployment.”

The memo dated June 25, 2015 was titled, “Request for strength returns of security personnel and forces deployed within the Presidential Villa, Abuja.”

Abubakar requested that the required information should be forwarded to his office latest by Monday (yesterday).

The memo read, “The need for proper accountability by all security forces and personnel deployed within the Presidential Villa cannot be over-emphasised.

“This has made it imperative to collate an updated nominal roll for all security forces and personnel deployed within the Presidential Villa performing physical security duties for proper accountability and deployment.

“Based on this, and in the spirit of enhancing general security within the Presidential Villa, you are requested to submit a comprehensive nominal roll of security personnel and security forces in your department and offices to office of the ADC for further necessary action.”

Meanwhile, officials of the Department of State Services who were removed from their beats and locations inside the Presidential Villa have yet to return to their duty posts on Monday.

That was despite an order by the Chief Security Officer to the President, Mr. Abdulrahman Mani, that they should disregard a directive by the ADC removing them from spots where they could perform “close protection roles” for the President.

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APC insists on Ekweremadu’s removal

Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu

The battle for the control of the National Assembly may be long drawn as the leadership of the All Progressives Congress on Monday insisted on removing the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, of the minority Peoples Democratic Party.

One of our correspondents learnt on Monday that the ruling APC was still miffed that Ekweremadu emerged as the deputy senate president and had vowed never to allow “a senator from a minority party take over the duties statutorily assigned for the majority party.”

A leader of the APC, who spoke on condition of anonymity, explained that Ekweremadu as deputy senate president would hamper the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.

The APC leader said, “As deputy senate leader, Ekweremadu is automatically the Chairman, Senate Committee on Constitution Amendment. This is a sensitive position that, statutorily, should not be held by the minority.

“Ekweremadu and his PDP co-travellers will hamper the policies of the Buhari government. By the virtue of Senate rules, a member of the minority is not supposed to be the deputy senate leader; so, he is occupying the post illegally.

“We know the body language of some of these elements to anti-corruption. Nigerians know the stance of Buhari on corruption and insecurity. These elements occupying positions in the National Assembly must be removed. Otherwise, this administration is dead on arrival.”

He said the President was in support of the candidacy of Senator Ahmed Lawan for the senate presidency and had told Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, to support APC’s candidates for the principal posts.

“The President has refused to see Saraki and Dogara since they emerged as senate president and speaker respectively. Both Saraki and Dogara have done everything possible to see the President but he has shunned them because he is not happy about their conduct. You can see that the President has seen the Lawan group; this shows where his support lies,” the source added.

Meanwhile, barring any last minute changes, the National Executive Committee meeting of the APC will now hold on Friday.

National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, confirmed this to one of our correspondents in a text message on Monday.

In response to an inquiry from The PUNCH as to whether the party’s NEC would meet in Abuja on Tuesday, Odigie-Oyegun replied, “Necessarily on Friday.”

The PUNCH had earlier learnt that some party leaders at various levels had impressed it upon the party hierarchy to convene the high level meeting in order to find an amicable solution to the crisis threatening the party’s survival.

Members of the 48-member NEC are due to arrive in Abuja on Thursday, our correspondent learnt.

A national caucus meeting said to have been scheduled to hold on Monday was cancelled.

One of our correspondents, who visited both the party’s national secretariat and the residence of Odigie-Oyegun, reported that there was no sign that any meeting would hold at either of the venues as of 8.05pm on Monday.

The APC has been in crisis since the inauguration of the National Assembly on June 9 following the emergence of Bukola Saraki and Dogara as Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives respectively.

The party had announced Senator Ahmed Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila as its sole candidates for the two positions.

Matters were made worse when the Senate President ignored a party directive that the remaining four leadership positions in both chambers of the National Assembly should be conceded to those who “lost out” during the inauguration.

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Buhari urges govs to pay outstanding salaries


President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday urged state governors who owe salaries to, as a matter of urgency, explore ways of liquidating all unpaid salaries which he said have brought untold hardship to thousands of families.

He also encouraged them to restrict themselves to projects that would meet immediate needs of the people, taking account of available resources.

Buhari made the submission while inaugurating the National Economic Council led by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

The council which has the 36 state governors and the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria as members is saddled with the responsibility of advising the President on economic affairs of the country.

The President said since the task of ensuring growth, job creation and equity, “is enormous, leaders must kick-start the process by cultivating a culture of prudent management of resources at all levels of government.”

This, he said, would entail looking inwards to secure sustainable ways of increasing Internally Generated Revenue and harnessing growth potential of each state to supplement the Federation Account allocation to states.

He said, “The states are also encouraged to embark on projects that will meet immediate needs of the people taking account of available resources.

“I therefore urge council members to consider, as a matter of urgency, exploring efficient means of gradually liquidating all unpaid salaries of members of staff, which have brought untold hardship to thousands of families.

“I would like also, as a former governor myself to remind us of the need for neighbouring states to cooperate closely on projects such as interstate and feeder roads, soil erosion, desertification and other developmental programmes.

“Our country is one and we who have the responsibility to run it must lead by example. As far as it is possible, there should be distance between politics and development programmes.”

Buhari said on its part, the Federal Government under his leadership would abide by the provisions of Sections 80 and 162 of the 1999 Constitution and ensure more accountability, transparency and integrity in the distribution of the Federation Account.

He promised Nigerians that all revenue generating agencies such as the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation; Nigeria Customs Services; Federal Inland Revenue Services; Nigeria Ports Authority; Central Bank of Nigeria; Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency and Liquefied Natural Gas would comply with stipulated financial regulations and administrative instructions in their remittances into the Consolidated Revenue Fund.

On insurgency, in parts of the country, the President said the Nigerian Armed Forces had shown renewed commitment and made steady progress in the fight against Boko Haram.

He added that Nigeria, under the auspices of the Lake Chad Basin Commission and the Republic of Benin, was collaborating with the Republics of Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Benin to consolidate cross-border and international efforts at eradicating insurgency.

He said he expected the NEC to be his administration’s veritable source of articulating people-centred policies and programmes capable of driving further, the expected growth and development of the country as well as providing environment required for progress.

Buhari recalled that in his inaugural speech, he stated that the primary objective of his administration was to tackle insecurity, youth unemployment, through the revival of agriculture, solid minerals mining, as well as small and medium size businesses.

He said he also highlighted pervasive corruption; fuel and power shortages; public service reforms; and the need to allow every tier of government to exercise its constitutional responsibilities.

“We are fully committed to embarking on sustainable visionary initiatives and programmes that will restructure and transform our national economy.

“We are also committed to ensuring collaboration and facilitation of the international efforts to combat threats of cross-border terrorism, sea piracy, refugees, Internally Displaced Persons, financial crimes, cyber crimes, climate change; the spread of communicable diseases; and other challenges of the 21st Century.

“I urge you all to ensure that we surmount these enormous challenges facing us as a country by working to support economic policies, which the government will soon unveil to grow our economy and finance our external promises.

“I am pleased to note that the council meetings have, over the years, been very constructive and productive, and the key outcomes as well as recommendations translated into government policies at the federal and state levels.

“This has not only facilitated national economic planning, but also lead to overall political harmony. It is also reassuring to note that steps have been taken in the past to strengthen the effectiveness of the council in its role as prime adviser on developments in the economy.”

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Okonjo-Iweala spent $2.1bn without approval, says FG

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

The National Economic Council, chaired by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, on Monday accused a former Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy under ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, of spending $2.1bn from the Excess Crude Account without authorisation.

“We looked at the numbers for the Excess Crude Account. The last time the former Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, reported to the council, and it is in the minutes, she reported by November 2014 that we had $4.1 bn.

“Today, the Accountant-General Office reported we have $2.0bn. Which means the honourable minister spent $2.1bn without authority of the NEC and that money was not distributed to states, it was not paid to the three tiers of government,” Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomhole told State House correspondents after the NEC’s 58th meeting in Abuja.

The ‘unauthorised’ spending, according to the economic council, is among the several anomalies discovered in the management of the nation’s economy between 2012 and May 2015.

Within the period, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation was said to have earned a total of N8.1 tn but remitted only N4.3tn.

Consequently, the Federal Government has constituted Oshiomhole, Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai; Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel; and Gombe State Governor, Ibrahim Dankwambo, into a panel to probe the NNPC and the ECA between 2012 and May, 2015.

Oshiomhole, el-Rufai, Emmanuel and the Zamfara State Governor, Abdulazeez Yari, jointly briefed journalists at the end of the meeting.

Yari told the journalists, through the Director of Funds, Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, Mr. M.K. Dikwa, that council members received the report of the ECA and unremitted funds by the NNPC.

He said, “On that line, a four-man committee consisting of the governors of Edo, Gombe, Kaduna and Akwa Ibom states was constituted to go through the books of the NNPC and Excess Crude as well as the Federation Account.

”The four-man committee will check the books of the NNPC, most especially the issue of excess crude and what is not remitted into the Federation Account.

“The Federal Government, in conjunction with the Central Bank of Nigeria, will look inwards to see how to support and how much they will give to states, especially on the issue of outstanding salaries owed by the states and even the Federal Government.”

Shedding new light on what transpired at the NEC meeting, Oshiomhole said the NNPC and the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation were compelled for the first time to provide information on the total sales of Nigeria’s crude from 2012 to May 2015.

The Edo governor said, “We are talking about transparency; we are talking about change. And what we saw from those numbers, which I believe that Nigerians are entitled to know, is that whereas the NNPC claimed to have earned N8.1tn, what NNPC paid into the Federation Account from 2012 to May 2015 was N4.3tn.

“What it means is that the NNPC withheld and spent N3.8 tn.

“The major revelation here is that the entire federation, that is the Federal Government, the states and all the 774 local governments, the amount the NNPC paid into the Federation Account for distribution to these three tiers of government came to N4.3 tn and the NNPC alone took and spent N3.8tn.

“This means that the cost of running the NNPC is much more than the cost of running the Federal Government. That tells you how much is missing, what is mismanaged and what is stolen. There are huge figures.”

Oshiomhole said the only lawful way decreed by the Constitution was that if the NNPC needed to spend money, it needed to prepare its budget like every other business enterprise, get it scrutinised by the executive and then forward same to the National Assembly for appropriation.

He added, “If the Federal Government cannot spend without appropriation, why should any agency spend without appropriation.

“This is what the Constitution provided for and this is what President Muhammadu Buhari has promised to do; henceforth all money must go to the Federation Account.

“If you were doing that, you would not have a situation where the NNPC alone will spend N3.8trn and remit to the federal, states and local governments N4.3trn, which means NNPC is taking about 47 per cent and that explains all the leakages you are talking about.”

El-Rufai recalled that he was part of the decision to put in place the ECA during the tenure of former President Olusegun Obasanjo between 2004 and 2005 as an administrative arrangement to save for a rainy day.

He said the account was set up in order to be accountable such that every state and local government would know what they had in the account though they could not spend it.

He said, “The Excess Crude Account is 52 per cent owned by the Federal Government and 48 per cent owned by the states and the local governments.

“So the decision of the NEC is to set up this committee of four to look at the operations of the Excess Crude Account and make recommendations to council on its future.

“The other thing the committee will do is to look at the operations of the Federation Account, particularly the shortfall and again come back to council with very clear recommendations as to what to do.

“We have not been given a time frame but as you can imagine state governments are under pressure, many of our state governments are unable to pay salaries on time without recourse to borrowing, so this is very important to us.

“This is an all-governors’ committee; we wear the shoes and we know where they pinch. So we are going to do this as quickly as possible.

“The next meeting of the council is on July 23; we hope to complete our work and be in a position to report to council on that day. So within the next one month, we will be done by God’s grace.”

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