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Gov poll: INEC resumes voter registration in Edo, Ondo

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In preparation for the governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states, the Independent National Electoral Commission is set to resume Continuous Voter Registration.

The INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, unveiled plans to commence the CVR from May 27 to June 5, 2024, during the second regular quarterly consultative meeting with political parties in Abuja, on Monday.

Yakubu also notified party leaders about vacancies in the national and state Houses of Assemblies due to the death or resignation of members in three states and one federal constituency nationwide.

At the meeting, the INEC chairman noted that registered voters could transfer their registration from other states across the federation to Edo and Ondo states.

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He also said individuals already registered would have the flexibility to relocate their voting credentials within the confines of the two states.

The Edo State governorship election would be held on September 21, 2024, while the Ondo governorship poll would be held on November 16, 2024.

Yakubu said, “As the elections in the two states approach, the commission has decided to resume the Continuous Voter Registration in the two states, to enable eligible citizens who are not registered voters to do so.

“Similarly, registered voters also have the opportunity to transfer their registration from other states of the federation to Edo and Ondo states or from one location to another within the two states.

“Let me reiterate that the CVR is only open to new registrants and those who seek to transfer their registration. Persons who are registered as voters should not attempt to register again as double or multiple registration is illegal.

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“Lost or damaged voters’ cards will be replaced during the exercise but this does not require fresh registration.”

Announcing the dates, he said the CVR in Edo and Ondo states would be held simultaneously from Monday, May 27, to Wednesday, June 5, from 9 am to 3 pm daily, including at the weekend.

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Yakubu highlighted the integration of uncollected Permanent Voters’ Cards into the registration process and the establishment of 397 walk-in registration centres to enhance accessibility.

He also noted that to address time constraints ahead of the elections, registration would be held at the ward level and state headquarters, to ensure a more efficient and inclusive process for voters.

Yakubu said, “Taking into consideration the limited time to the governorship elections, the commission has decided to conduct the registration at ward level and our state headquarters, instead of our local government offices and a few designated centres as was the case in the past.

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“This means that there will be 192 ward registration centres in Edo State and 203 centres in Ondo State, in addition to our state offices in Benin City and Akure, making a total of 397 walk-in registration centres in the two states.

“There will be no online pre-registration option in the two states because of time constraints. Each centre will be managed by two officials drawn from our regular staff and the National Youth Service Corps.”

He added that the commission would commence the training of at least 794 officials for the exercise.

“The locations of the registration centres as well as other relevant information have been compiled in a detailed 28-page document, which will be uploaded to our website and social media platforms for public information shortly,” he added.

The INEC chairman then appealed to political parties and other stakeholders “to join in mobilising prospective registrants for the exercise, particularly on the need to register early and not wait until the deadline approaches when the registration centres are inundated by eleventh-hour registrants.”

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He further appealed to political parties in Edo State to adhere strictly to the timeline for the upload of the list of polling and collation agents to the dedicated portal, while urging political parties in Ondo State to nominate their candidate within the specified period.

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He said, “As we inch closer to Election Day in Edo State, it is also imperative to remind political parties of the need to adhere strictly to the timeline for the upload of the list of polling and collation agents to the dedicated portal.

“Doing so will enable the commission to produce and deliver the identity cards in good time for the expected 76,823 Polling Unit agents and 3,587 ward, local government, and state collation agents for the 17 political parties participating in the election.

“Turning to Ondo State, political parties have just concluded their primaries. Eighteen political parties conducted primaries monitored by the commission. I wish to remind you that parties have one week until the deadline for the nomination of candidates, which is 6:00 pm on May 20, 2024, when the portal automatically shuts down.

“I urge you to adhere strictly to the deadline. Political parties have been given 23 days (over three weeks) from the end of primaries to prepare and submit the list of only two candidates (governorship candidate and running mate) to the commission. There will be no extension of time.”

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Speaking on the existing vacancies in National and State Assemblies, Yakuba said the commission would announce the dates for by-elections in the Khana 2 State Constituency of Rivers State, the Bagwai/Shanono State Constituency of Kano State, the Zaria Kewaye State Constituency of Kaduna State and the Garki/Babura Federal Constituency of Jigawa State.

“I would also like to inform party leaders about the existence of vacancies in National and State Assemblies caused by either the death or resignation of honourable members in three states and one federal constituency across the country.

“As soon as preparations are concluded, the commission will announce the dates for by-elections in Khana 2 State Constituency of Rivers State, the Bagwai/Shanono State constituency of Kano State, the Zaria Kewaye State Constituency of Kaduna State, and the Garki/Babura Federal Constituency of Jigawa State,” he said.

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Meanwhile, the National Chairman of the Inter-Party Advisory Council, Yusuf Dantalle, has stressed the importance of politicians adhering to democratic principles and ethics.

Dantalle, speaking at the meeting, urged political parties to reassess the high expression of interest and nomination fees.

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“We condemn in strong terms politics of bitterness, do-or-die, and divisiveness that have tendencies of undermining our emerging democracy.

“More importantly, political parties must adhere strictly to their constitutions in conducting congresses, primaries, and conventions.

“The high expression of interest and nomination fees charged by some political parties should be reviewed despite being internal affairs of the parties.

“IPAC will continue to engage party leaders on this among others to curb the imposition of candidates and boost internal democracy as we strive to make Nigeria better,” he said.

He called for a massive mobilisation of voters in the two states to register and actively participate in the upcoming polls.

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“As the umbrella body of all registered political parties in Nigeria, IPAC will spearhead this crucial exercise in collaboration with INEC.

“In previous elections, the council would move to various states, sensitise and mobilise the people on upcoming polls, call for non-violent elections, and urge them to shun vote-buying and selling, etc., with the limited funds at its disposal.

“With the lowest voter turnout in the 2023 general election, so much needs to be done. It is on record that the 2003 general election had the highest voter turnout because INEC released funds in 2002 to political parties to engage in voter education, sensitisation and mobilisation to register and participate in the elections,” he said.

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Wike, Fubara faceoff can destabilise Niger Delta – Jonathan

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Former President Goodluck Jonathan, on Monday, warned that the political crisis in Rivers State if not checked had the potential of destabilising not only the Niger Delta, but affecting other parts of the country.

Jonathan called on the Rivers State Governor, Siminalayi Fubara, and his predecessor and estranged political godfather, Nyesom Wike to sheathe their swords, put the past behind them and work together in the interest of the people of the state and the development of the land.

The former President stated this while performing the flag-off of the construction of the multi-billion naira Trans-Kalabari Road project at Nkpor-Aker Road Roundabout, Rumuolumeni community in the Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State on Monday.

Jonathan, who commended the efforts of some leaders who had intervened in the festering political crisis in Rivers State, also asked Wike and Fubara to cease fire so that the crisis would not snowball into a bigger regional and national challenge with greater consequences.

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Fubara and Wike had been at loggerheads since last October with members of the state House of Assembly loyal to Wike attempting to impeach Fubara.

Last week, Fubara alleged that Wike left huge debt behind, stating that he would set up a panel to probe Wike’s administration.

Wading in on Monday, Jonathan harped on the need for outgoing governors and incoming ones to work together in the collective interest of the citizenry of their states.

He said, “In this case of Rivers, Minister Nyesom Wike and Governor Siminalayi Fubara must work together for the development of the land and the people of Rivers State. The tension will not help us.

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“Rivers State is very critical in this country. Rivers State is the heart of the Niger Delta. If Rivers State is destabilised, the whole Niger Delta will be destabilised, and it will not end within the Niger Delta alone because I am from this part of the country, and I know how the system works. We don’t want any crisis in Rivers State.”

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The former President added, “Leaders must know that nobody takes 100 per cent. You must learn the principle of give and take. So, our political actors must work together if you love Rivers people.

“And, I join the leaders of Rivers State and well-meaning Nigerians who have been calling for a truce, who have been calling for a ceasefire, to also re-emphasise that there is a need for a ceasefire. Let us do things that will rather project this state positively.

“There is this common saying that when two elephants fight, the grass suffers. Both the governor and the minister are young people, very young people but they are powerful, and if you continue to fight, Rivers people will suffer. We don’t want Rivers people to suffer.

“So, we are calling on them to embrace each other. One hand does not clap. It takes two hands to clap. So, we want them to work together for the collective interest of the Rivers people.

“Whatever has happened, has passed. Let us move to a new phase for the interest of the State, for the interest of the Niger Delta, and indeed, the interest of the country.”

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Jonathan commended Fubara for his vision, commitment and courage to take up the construction of the multi-billion naira Trans-Kalabari Road project, which has numerous benefits of making movement easy, enhancing response time to security issues, promoting integration and economic growth.

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He stated, “When I was asked to come and flag off this project, I felt that it is only a person who has vision, and the commitment to develop his people that can do this.

“Your Excellency, let me commend you for your vision and the courage to start this project. In fact, it is not going to be a tea party. If you must develop a nation, region or state, there are critical elements that count. These are good road networks, airport, rail and water transport systems as well as security.”

Jonathan said that by providing these enablers, development would thrive in the state, and thanked the governor for daring to dream big and venture into projects that previous administrations had avoided.

In his speech, Fubara pledged his administration’s determination to deliver the Trans-Kalabari Road project to stimulate socio-economic activities in benefiting rural communities for the overall development of the State.

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The governor, therefore, advised the people to buy into the project and ensure that they ward off any form of sabotage that may delay or frustrate the timely completion of the project.

Fubara stated, “When we went for the campaign in the three local government areas of Kalabari Kingdom, we promised you that if you give us your votes and we succeed, we will embark on the Trans-Kalabari Road.
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“And that is what we have come to do today. We are a government, when we make promises, we keep our promises.

“I understand the cost. I understand the difficult terrain and I also understand that somebody has to take this step. If it is not done by me, then another person can also do it. But within our time, it is proper for us to make a statement to our people.

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“I don’t want to talk about politics on this project. I want us to look at the facts. It is a difficult terrain, it is going to be expensive, but we are equal to the task.”

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Fubara said his administration would not borrow money to fund the project.

He said, “We have saved and we are using our savings to pay off the cost, which we have already done the 30 per cent initial advance payment. So, the contractor has no reason to delay, but to start off the project immediately.”

While calling on the people to stand up against possible sabotage, Fubara said, “This road will bring development to our people. This road will bring economic advancement to our people. So, we need your buy-in. Your buy-in is not just standing here with us today, but giving all the necessary support.

“You need to also cooperate with the contractor, your leaders and chiefs so that there will be no sabotage. Let me also say it clearly, for those of you who are planning to sabotage it, it is your business. If we don’t do it in our own time, I wonder when you are going to get it.

“So, you need to buy-in into this project. The advantage of this project is making life easy for our people.”

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2027: FG, presidency dismiss Atiku, Obi’s planned alliance

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The Federal Government has dismissed the planned alliance between former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and former Governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi.

According to the Presidency, President Bola Tinubu is not bothered about the planned alliance, noting that the President was not losing sleep over alliance plots by Atiku and Obi.

Atiku had contested the presidency in 2023 on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party but lost. Obi also contested as a presidential candidate on the platform of the Labour Party and came third in the election.

Last week, Obi held a private meeting with Atiku and some other PDP leaders in Abuja. Obi also met separately with former Jigawa State Governor Sule Lamido and former Senate President Bukola Saraki, sparking speculations about a possible coalition for the 2027 general elections.

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However, in an interview on Friday, Atiku stated that if the PDP decided in 2027 that it was the South-East’s turn to field the presidential candidate and selected Obi, he would readily offer his support.

“I have said repeatedly, and I even said it before the 2023 general elections, that if the PDP decides to zone the presidential ticket to the South, or South-East specifically, I won’t contest it. As long as it’s the decision of the party, I will abide by it. I contested the 2023 presidential ticket, because it was thrown open to all members of the party.

“If the party decides that it’s the turn of the South-East, and Peter Obi is chosen, I won’t hesitate to support him,” Atiku declared in a recent interview with BBC Hausa Service.

He added that a merger between the PDP and LP was possible. Atiku stressed that party members would decide their fate in the 2027 general elections. The former Vice President mentioned that his recent meeting with Obi might indicate a possible alliance leading up to the 2027 general elections.

Responding to questions about the meeting with Obi, Atiku said, “It was just a normal friendly meeting that we often have, particularly among us in the opposition parties. Such meetings are healthy for Nigeria’s democracy and in the country’s interest.”

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On whether it would bring about a merger, he said, “Yes, it’s very much possible. We can merge to achieve a common goal. So, it’s possible, and nothing can stop it if we wish to achieve that.”

Atiku, who denied that the choice of presidential candidate might frustrate the merger discussion, said, “That is not true. That challenge will not arise. I can tell you that the choice of who will fly the flag of the party won’t be an issue.”

On why he was still in active politics, Atiku said, “We can’t keep quiet and watch things go wrong. People are suffering, and we are committed to making Nigeria a better place.

“I am still in active politics in Nigeria; at least, as long as God permits.

“My age doesn’t stop the young ones from trying their luck. Everybody, irrespective of age, is allowed to aspire to be anything in society, politically or otherwise.”

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Regarding his 2027 presidential ambition, the former Vice President said, “That would depend on the decision of my party. I can’t make any categorical statement on that. It is the duty of the party to decide on the way to go in the next election.”

Tinubu unbothered – FG

Reacting to the planned alliance, the Minister of Information, Mohammed Idris, said the Federal Government was not worried about the planned merger or alliance. According to him, anybody could decide to collaborate and meet.

He stated that the question, for him, was what happened after the talk and numerous meetings. The minister stressed that Tinubu’s works would speak for him in the next election cycle in 2027.

“The government is not thinking about them at all. We are focused on delivering on the mandate handed over to President Bola Tinubu. With the good works the government is doing, he is already the toast of Nigerians.

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“So, they will continue to support him. Just a few days ago, the Federal Government inaugurated three critical gas infrastructure projects in Imo and Delta states to drive the country’s gas sector. The projects are the ANOH-OB3 CTMS gas pipeline and ANOH gas processing plant in Assa, Ohaji/Egbema in Imo State.

“The President also inaugurated the expansion of the AHL gas processing plant 2 gas project in Kwale, Delta State. The social security programme is ongoing. The Compressed Natural Gas project is there as well. Dry farming initiatives have taken root, and so many other projects that will benefit Nigerians are either ongoing or in the pipeline.

“Tell me, how will the meeting of those two men be an issue? No, we are not worried at all. The government of President Tinubu is focused and not disturbed,” he said.

Atiku, Obi sore losers – Presidency

Also reacting, a senior presidential aide, Bayo Onanuga, speaking on Saturday, said President Tinubu and his administration were not bothered by the politicking going on by Atiku and ‘his gang of desperadoes’.

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He said, “We are only surprised that they are plotting just one year after an election they lost. They are still behaving like sore losers.

“We are not bothered by the games they are playing, as they are revealing their mindset. They are mere politicians who only think about the next election.

“President Tinubu is a true statesman who is concerned about fulfilling his promises to Nigerians.

“At the moment, he is very busy resetting the economy of our country for the better, laying the foundation that ought to have been laid decades ago.”

APC won’t lose sleep over PDP-LP alliance

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The Deputy National Organising Secretary of the APC, Nze Chidi Duru, welcomed the idea of a rumoured merger, saying it will help to further deepen the concept of democracy in the country.

Duru, however, expressed reservations that the duo’s dream could become a reality.

He said, “It is good for democracy. It will give Nigerians more options to choose from. For me, I am up for anything that will deepen democracy, other than the usual ones we have been having.

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“However, I doubt if such an arrangement could come to fruition.”

Also speaking, the National Publicity Director of the APC, Bala Ibrahim, said the ruling party was not losing sleep over Atiku and Obi’s ‘unholy alliance’.

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He said, “In a democracy, meetings between politicians are not forbidden. As long as their meetings are not designed to derail democracy, there is nothing wrong with that. Obi’s meeting with Atiku and others is nothing to make the APC lose its sleep. You talked about the party being under pressure. How? These are parties that are increasingly losing grip and support. They are probably in a panic situation.

“Now, they want to sit and look at what to do to increase their support base ahead of 2027. But, that is too long a time to go. We don’t talk about crossing the bridge until we get there. By that time, if they feel like coming out to merge, that will even be better for democracy. But, whatever they resolve by 2027, we are going to beat them hands down.”

Experts weigh in

Also commenting on the development, the President, National Political Scientists Association, Professor Hassan Salisu of the University of Ilorin, said while a possible alliance could not be entirely ruled out between the two men, the internal crisis and divisions gripping the PDP and LP may frustrate their efforts to wrest power from the ruling APC in 2027.

“The PDP, as it is currently constituted, is factionalised. Getting to a level where a consensus will be reached might be a bit difficult. And, given the fact that Obi is in another party, how are we sure the structure of the PDP will agree that Obi should fly the party’s ticket in the next presidential election?

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“Will all Atiku’s supporters be in a position to back Obi? Will all the ‘Obidients’ align themselves with Obi’s move to the PDP? What will be the reaction of the other factions in the PDP? What will be the position of Wike’s group in the PDP? What of the Northern elements in the party? The red flags are quite much.

“I think the assumption is that Atiku is in total control of the party, but the reality on the ground suggests that this may not be the situation. What I am saying essentially is that there are so many ‘ifs’. These are issues that one cannot answer categorically. Perhaps, we will say it is an unfolding event. Let’s wait and see. But, for analytical purposes, there are so many obstacles on the way for Obi to emerge as PDP’s presidential candidate,” Professor Salisu stated.

Also reacting, Professor of Political Institutions and Comparative Politics at the Department of Political Science, Usman Dan Fodiyo University, Sokoto, Yahaya Baba, described Atiku and Obi’s meeting as an indication of a strong alliance that would greatly shape the 2027 presidential election.

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He said, “The meeting is an indication that what happened in the build-up to the 2015 presidential election is likely going to happen soon. This is because the two leading political figures in the country, who came second and third in the last election, are now talking to themselves. They were allies before now. But, because of the crisis in the PDP, Obi decamped and joined the LP. The votes he and Atiku polled in the last election are significant. So, if they are discussing and forming an alliance, we are likely going to see a very big political force like what happened with the APC in 2014.”

Sharing his thoughts on the APC’s position on the alliance and its possible impact ahead of the 2027 presidential poll, he said, “They (APC) can say that naturally. But, remember that in 2011 and 2014, both Muhammadu Buhari and President Bola Tinubu were losers as the Action Congress of Nigeria, All Nigeria Peoples Party, and Congress for Progressive Change all failed. But, when they came together, they were a very strong force. So, what APC is saying is just to demonise and rubbish a likely strong move that is coming from the two political figures.”

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In a similar vein, another political analyst, Jackson Omenazu, said the alignment of the PDP and LP will pose a serious threat to the ruling APC ahead of the 2027 poll.

He said, “We should expect some political marriages in the polity come 2027. There will be alignment and realignment. If Peter Obi goes back to the PDP, or if the Labour Party has an agreement and aligns with the PDP and both parties zone their presidential tickets to the South East, it will be a welcome development. This is because if the PDP zones their ticket to that side as Atiku Abubakar said, he has no choice but to support it. After all, the party’s decision is supreme.

“That will be the best thing to happen to the PDP if they field from the South-East. The amalgamation of the PDP and Labour Party will cause a serious political storm in the polity if it is actualised. We need a very strong and viable opposition in the country, because opposition is the opium of any democracy. So, there is an absolute need for opposition. Such a political marriage and understanding is not a bad one.”

Omenazu, who is also the Chancellor of the International Society for Social Justice and Human Rights, added that the Igbos should be given an equal chance to rule Nigeria, noting that such representation was part of the national restructuring the people were clamouring for.

“No matter how we structure this country, the Igbos have the right to the presidency. They should be allowed to do their best. More essentially, there is a need for restructuring. That is the best way we can authoritatively run this country like a united nation,” he added.

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North-East govs fault FG for neglecting region in capital project allocation

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The North-East Governors’ Forum on Saturday raised concerns that the region has been neglected.

The governors lamented the Federal Government’s absence, saying it is overwhelming.

This was disclosed during the forum’s 10th meeting which was held in Bauchi State.

In a communique signed by the NEGF Chairman, Prof Babagana Zulum, which was obtained by our correspondent on Saturday, the Forum urged the Federal Government to prioritise the region to enhance its development.

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The communique partly read, “Forum reiterates its concern over the seeming neglect of the North-East in the allocation of Federal Government capital projects.

“It noted with dismay that despite its cry for attention on the state of infrastructure in the region which has been consistently echoed in all its communiques over the years, especially the poor road and railway infrastructure along the economic corridors that link the North-East subregion to the rest of the country, nothing serious seems to be happening.

“The roads from Enugu to Maiduguri is in a deplorable state and the railway from Enugu up to Maiduguri has been destroyed. This is a major route for regional trade and very important for integration, peace-building and improving national unity. The region is also not included in the National Infrastructure Plan for the transition from PMS to Compressed Gas.

“The Forum is calling on the Federal Government to look into the situation and consider the reconstruction of these basic infrastructure along the Enugu-Maiduguri Economic Corridor and inclusion of NE in all National Development Plans and initiatives.”

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While decrying the blackout across the region, the NEGF lambasted the Transmission Company of Nigeria on its poor handling of repairs, adding that it would wait till the agreed May 27 to see full restoration of power.

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It added, “Forum notes with dismay, the blackout experienced by the region over the last one month and the nonchalant attitude exhibited by the TCN in addressing this issue of National importance for the security and development of the country.

“The forum is watching keenly the commitment made by TCN to restore power to all the states of the region by the 27th of May 2024; accordingly, the Forum urged the Federal Government to direct TCN to take immediate action. The Forum has resolved in the short term, to set up a solar power plant that can generate a minimum of 10 Megawatts per state.”

The governors expressed dismay over a single transmission line to a region with over 35 million population, adding “Forum notes with deep concern that the Northeast, is the only region in Nigeria that has one transmission line supplying six states with a land mass of nearly 300,000 square kilometres and a population of over 35 million.

“This has made the region the most vulnerable and most disadvantaged for industrial development and economic growth with over 70% of its population below 35 years of age. Forum therefore calls on the Minister of Power and indeed the Federal Government as a matter of urgency to implement the extension of the 330KV transmission line from Makurdi – Gassol – Jalingo linking to Adamawa – Gombe – Bauchi and the extension of the 330KV line from Kano- Bauchi- Yobe, linking to Borno.”

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It urged the Federal Government to maximise the use of the existing hydroelectric dams to boost power supply.

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“Forum resolved to maximise the existing hydropower generated in Kashimbilla and Dadin Kowa dam which the region has not been benefitting from because the Ministry of Power has failed to extend the 330KV line of Makurdi – Gassol- Jalingo line,” the communique added.

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