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Ganduje absent as APC inaugurates Ondo gov screening panel

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The ruling All Progressives Congress has sworn in a seven-man committee to oversee the screening of the 16 governorship aspirants who bought the N50m nomination forms to participate in the April 20 primary election in Ondo State.

The inauguration, which took place on Friday at the national headquarters of the APC in Abuja, had some members of the National Working Committee in attendance.

The party’s National Chairman, Dr Abdullahi Ganduje and the National Secretary, Ajibola Basiru, were, however, absent at the oath-taking event administered by the Deputy National Organising Secretary of the APC, Nze Chidi Duru.

The screening committee is headed by a former Deputy Governor of Gombe State, Joshua Lidani, while a former member of the House of Representatives, Bimbo Daramola, was sworn in as his Secretary.

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Other members of the committee include Pastor Jones Erue, Chief Second Bakor, Magaret Duru, Prof. Chukwudi Ledirick and Abdul Balogun.

All the officials were asked to take the oath together along with another five-man Screening Appeal Committee which has the senator representing Kogi Central, Oseni Yakubu, as the chairman.

Other members of the appeal committee include Emmanuel Ekeh, Pious Idele and Ibrahim Magaji Dosara.

Addressing journalists after the oath-taking ceremony, Duru explained that the screening of aspirants before every primary election is in line with the Constitution of the party.

He said, “You are chosen to partake in the exercise of the 16 aspirants who purchased the forms from Ondo State. We believe you will conduct it with due diligence, discipline and, also course, fairness that the work demands. Unfortunately, I don’t envy you because it was meant to be a two-day exercise. But an additional day was added to the Eid-el-Fitr holiday. So we had to compress the two days into one, which means that you will work round the clock to complete the exercise within the timeframe that we projected.

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“We are also looking to basket each aspirant into certain categories to enable the work to be flawless and reasonably organised. It is also important to stress that the work of the Appeal Committee starts immediately after the screening concludes their own. We at the secretariat will also help the midwife with most of the things you require and hand them over to the Appeal Committee. Then you can go on with the clearance. The work is intertwined.

“If there is any request or support you need, we will be more willing to render such support. All the files of the aspirants will be made available for you to look at and scrutinise to make your point. I am happy to tell you that the committee at this point stands inaugurated and I wish you the very best of luck.”

Ganduje and Basiru were also absent from the oath-taking of a seven-man committee to oversee the screening of the 12 governorship aspirants who bought the N50m nomination forms to participate in the February 17 primary election in Edo State which took place in February.

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Politics

My opponents are defeated – Fubara

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The Rivers State Governor, Siminalayi Fubara, declared on Thursday that his battles were over as he had defeated his opponents, who are not sleeping with their two eyes open.

He said he had turned the tide against his opponents, noting that he was still in office about to mark his first anniversary, contrary to the plan by his detractors.

Fubara spoke on Thursday amid the ranging feud between him and his predecessor and estranged political godfather, Nyesom Wike.

Last October, Fubara survived an impeachment plot by members of the Rivers State House of Assembly loyal to Wike.

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As of Wednesday, nine members of his cabinet loyal to Wike had tendered their resignation and exited.

Addressing the national and state leadership of the Ijaw Youth Council on Thursday at the Government House in Port Harcourt, Fubara said he appreciated their support and the assurance that they were with him but said, “there is nothing to call on you for because we have already defeated them.”

The IYC leadership was on a solidarity walk to the Government House in Port Harcourt, to celebrate the Isaac Adaka Boro Day.

The solidarity walk was part of activities to celebrate the heroic exploits of the late Major Isaac Adaka Boro, 56 years after his death, which is observed on May 16, every year.

Boro, it will be recalled, formed the Niger Delta Volunteer Force, an armed militia with members consisting mainly of his fellow Ijaw ethnic group who declared the Niger Delta Republic on February 23, 1966, and fought with federal forces for 12 days before they were defeated.

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After he was granted amnesty, he enlisted and was commissioned as a Major in the Nigerian Army, fought on the side of the Federal Government during the civil war but was killed under mysterious circumstances in active service in 1968 at Ogu (near Okrika) in Rivers State on May 9, 1968.

Speaking with the Ijaw youths, Fubara acknowledged the assurances of brotherly support from the council and urged the Ijaw Nation to key into the ongoing celebration of the liberation the state now enjoyed.

“I am happy that you’ve told me this morning that when I call on you, you will respond. But there is nothing to call on you for because we have already defeated them.

“By the special grace of God, what they thought that they would have done to us while we were celebrating our one year in office, they are the ones sleeping with their two eyes open. It shows that we have the Ijaw blood. And what is that blood: it is the blood of action; less talk, more action,” Fubara said.

Fubara noted that Boro genuinely stood for equity, justice, and fair play, and pursued his course to ensure liberation for the Ijaw people and their clans.

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He described every genuine Rivers man as a liberator, adding that he was delighted to receive them on such auspicious day to re-enact the common purpose of liberation that they shared.

“Because he (Isaac Boro) stood for that unique thing, even after his death, we still celebrate him because he was a liberator.

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“Every Rivers man, it doesn’t matter whether you are Ijaw or upland, the most important thing is that every genuine Rivers man must be a liberator.

“And I’m happy that you have come here today. I have also received you because we have one common purpose: to liberate our dear state. We are not going back on that.”

The governor thanked the crowd for their assurances of being available to respond to his call and stand by him and appealed to Ijaw youths to conduct themselves peacefully as they celebrate Major Isaac Adaka Boro Day.

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He stressed that it should be done in the same spirit that had enveloped the state now, celebrating victory over his political detractors.

In his speech, the National President of IYC, Mr Jonathan Lokpobiri, described the day as historic, because Ijaw people were meeting with their governor on Major Isaac Adaka Boro Day of Memorial.

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Senate moves against govs on LG autonomy

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The Senate, yesterday, accused state governors of misappropriating funds allocated to local government councils in Nigeria. It claimed that the council chairmen were usually compelled to sign off cheques by governors, who in turn, allocate peanuts to them.

This is coming as the Senate called on President Bola Tinubu to immediately stop allocation of funds to caretaker committee-led local government areas.

“Local governments are dead in Nigeria. Governors misappropriate local governments’ funds. They force these local government chairmen to sign off cheques and they give them meagre amounts as running costs. There are some governors who are different and we thank them for doing that,” Deputy Senate President, Jibrin Barau, who presided during yesterday’s plenary said.

In the resolutions reached by the Senate, it urged President Tinubu to champion the cause of full autonomy for local governments.

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“The challenges we face, including the persistent security threats, rural urban migration, decaying infrastructure, and widespread unemployment, demand bold action, and we believe that empowering local governments holds the key to unlocking a brighter future for all Nigerians.

“Convene a national dialogue involving governors, state legislators, local government officials, civil society organisations, and community leaders to discuss the roadmap towards achieving full local government autonomy.

“Use his leadership and influence to persuade the federating units and all critical stakeholders in the constitutional alteration processes and administrative bottlenecks to embrace the vision of full local government autonomy.

“Also champion changes to the constitution that enshrine and guarantee genuine independence for local governments, granting them control over their resources, decision making authority, and the power to chart their development paths.

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“Urge the federal agencies to fully comply with the existing legal provisions that empower local governments, ensuring timely release of allocated funds directly to their bank accounts, and streamlining administrative processes.

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“Call on the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces to resuscitate local government system in Nigeria.”

In the motion sponsored by Suleiman Kawu, (NNPP, Kano South), lawmakers argued that if key national challenges must be addressed, the local government institution must be revived.

Former Abia State governor, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, recalled how in the past, councillors could award small contracts, but lamented the current dearth of governance at the grassroots.

In the lead debate, Kalu said: “In the tapestry of Nigeria’s governance system, local governments are meant to be threads weaving development close to the ground.

“Envisioned as the closest tier of administration to the people, they hold the potential to address local needs directly, and shape communities from inside out.

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“But, the story of Nigeria’s local government system is one of promise and paradox, woven with threads of hope and frustration.

“However, the dream of achieving the objectives of the local government system encountered harsh realities. Successive governments often eroded local autonomy, limiting their financial resources and control over decision-making. Corruption scandals and mismanagement tarnished the image of some local governments, fuelling public cynicism. Uneven development across the country also meant limited resources were only sometimes distributed fairly, leaving some communities feeling neglected.

“Some governors play a crucial role in frustrating local government autonomy in Nigeria via constitutional alteration process. With limited financial and operational autonomy, local governments might struggle to effectively address local security concerns, like community policing initiatives, intelligence gathering, and infrastructure maintenance.”

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Fubara tackles Wike over Rivers heavy debt

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The Rivers State Governor, Siminalayi Fubara, on Tuesday, stated that his administration inherited a huge debt burden on projects embarked upon by the immediate-past administration of Nyesom Wike.

Fubara said several contractors, who handled different projects for Wike’s administration were coming for their balance payment running into billions.

The disclosure opened a new vista in the crisis between the governor and his predecessor and estranged godfather,Wike.

The immediate-past governor, it will be recalled, was dubbed “Mr Projects” as he embarked on a lot of projects, including the construction of 12 flyovers and invited dignitaries, including President Bola Tinubu, to have them inaugurated before he handed over to his successor.

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Wike, at the time, also claimed that he had paid for the projects and, on many occasions, thanked former President Muhammadu Buhari for paying the arrears of the 13 per cent allocation to the Niger Delta states owed them since 1999.

The revelation of huge debts by Fubara, who was the state’s Accountant-General during Wike’s tenure, came a day he declared his intention to probe Wike’s eight-year administration.

Speaking on Monday during the swearing-in of Dagogo Iboroma as the new Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Fubara disclosed plans to set up a judicial panel of inquiry to investigate how the affairs of governance were conducted in the state before he assumed office.

Further to his Monday stance, Fubara, during the inauguration of the reconstructed 10.89km Aleto-Ogale-Ebubu-Eteo Road in the Eleme Local Government Area of the state, on Tuesday, lamented that the contractors had been coming to demand their balance payment.

At the ceremony was the Abia State Governor, Dr Alex Otti, as the special guest.

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Fubara stated, “This is to let the world know that if there is one problem this administration has, it is the huge debt burden. For most of the projects that are being inaugurated, the contractors are coming for their balance-payment and it is running into billions.

“I have said that I don’t want to talk. I didn’t want to talk because I was part of that system. But, when you keep pushing me to talk, I will say it so that the people will know the true situation of things and be properly informed.”

In a statement issued by the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Nelson Chukwudi, and sent to newsmen, the governor stressed how baffling the debts were, with the public impression of a clean balance sheet maintained with contractors.

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Fubara, however, expressed delight over the commencement of the celebration of his administration’s first anniversary with the inauguration of a road project in Eleme, where he lived when he started his working life.

The governor said the road was awarded on August 14, 2023 to China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation at the cost of N6.7bn.

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“I am happy to be here and to join the good people of Rivers State to start this wonderful celebration of our first anniversary in the face of all the troubles. It shows that we are still focused, not minding the level of distractions.

“This road was awarded to CCECC as a contractor. It was awarded on the 14th day of August, 2023. I believe that the 14th of August was within my tenure. I am not saying ‘I’, but it was this administration that awarded it.

“This project was awarded at the cost of N6.7bn, and I can say boldly that no kobo is remaining. We’ve paid the contractor its complete sum. Our gathering here is to tell our people that their problem is our problem,” the governor said.

Fubara described the road as a bypass to be used by motorists to avoid the deplorable sections of the East-West Road now under reconstruction.

He said embarking on the road project was to lend support to the Federal Government in its efforts to give hope to Nigerians and make life better for the people.

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Fubara said: “What we are doing today, is it not helping the Federal Government? Is it not a show that this government has the interest of the people at heart and still supporting and doing everything to make the Federal Government succeed?

“So, when people come out and say some funny things, I laugh. Why are we doing this? When this administration came on board, Mr President christened his mantra ‘Renewed Hope’ to give Nigerians hope.

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“What we are doing today in this state is giving our people hope, to complement what Mr President is doing at the national level. It is not about social media. We are talking about action, genuine actions that make a positive impact in the lives of our people.”

Fubara alluded to an unnamed person who, he said, insinuated that on the assumption of office, he started a fight against the Federal Government and wondered about the veracity of such an allegation.

“We are talking about the Federal Government that is giving us support, and we appreciate the support. But there is a rat in the house that is eating the bags of garri. So, you can imagine such a situation,” he said.

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Explaining further, the governor alleged that someone was stoking the crisis to distract both the state and federal governments from delivering the promises to give the people hope and leave lasting legacies, impactful policies and programmes for posterity.

Fubara thanked the people of Eleme for their support during the period of the execution of the project, as, according to him, the contractor never complained of any challenges from the communities.

The governor explained the rationale behind the invitation extended to Governor Otti to inaugurate the project, as he described him as a pragmatic man.

Fubara said, “I invited him (Otti) because he is not an artificial integrity man. He is an action-integrity man. He is not like the one who would gather people to talk because they just want to talk.

“He is a man who came into office in the face of difficulties and challenges, just like we are here, but he is making an impact in the lives of Abians.

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“So, I will continue to identify with good governance. I will continue to identify with the people who want to make an impact in the lives of the people. Our government, as we promised you on day one, is the people first.”

Performing the inauguration of the project, Otti congratulated Fubara on the stride and for remembering to execute a road project in the Eleme community where he once lived.

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Otti stated, “I have always said that leadership is about service. Anytime leadership departs from service, then you are getting it wrong.

“Service should be service to the people, not service to self or a few interests. Anytime you are serving a few people rather than the majority, you need to go and look at yourself again.

“So, for me, it’s all about good governance. Clearly, Governor Fubara came prepared, and I don’t believe that any distraction is enough to take his focus away from improving the welfare and interest of the people.

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“I can assure you, Rivers people, that the dividend of democracy that you are seeing now is still a dress rehearsal. It is early in the morning, and I am sure that in no distant future, you will be seeing more.”

Otti charged the people of Eleme and Rivers State to continue to support Fubara to do even more.

He said, “No matter how the dice is flipped, power belongs to God. No human can arrogate to himself the capacity to give power, except you have the capacity to give life. Of course, you can take life, but you cannot give it.”

A former Nigerian Ambassador to The Netherlands, Orji Ngofa, acknowledged that the project, popularly known as the Old Bori Road, had collapsed as a result of the heavy vehicular traffic taken off the East-West Road.

Ngofa thanked Fubara for reconstructing the entire stretch of the road, adding that it would improve the well-being of the people, while also serving the transportation and economic needs of all users of the road.

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At the ceremony, the Oneh-Eh Eleme, Chief Philip Obele, conferred on Fubara the traditional title of Emere Ajuri Oneh of Eleme (meaning King of Peace of Eleme Kingdom).

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