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Covid-19 palliatives: Group wants Ebonyi govt Probed by anti-corruption agencies

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A diaspora group, Association of Ebonyi State Indigenes in Diaspora (AESID) has called for caution in the spending of resources by the Ebonyi state government, even as it called on anti-graft agencies to monitor closely the sharing of another Covid-19 palliative in the state.

The group specifically called on the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and other relevant agencies to come to the rescue of the state.

In a statement signed Tuesday by its President (Worldwide) Ambassador Paschal Oluchukwu, the association expressed disappointment on the way the current administration in Ebonyi continued to manage what it described as scarce resources in the state.

The group claimed it has information that the state government is about to spend another N4 billion as ‘Second phase palliative’ to cushion the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“AESID therefore call on the relevant anti-graft agencies whose mandates include monitoring and forestalling of financial crimes to beam its light very brightly on the Ebonyi state government to uncover, expose this obvious plot to swindle the poor State of its scarce resources in the guise of palliatives. The Ebonyi State government should be brought to book to also account for the various sums ordinarily meant for the development of the State which has officially been reported to the anti-graft agencies as having been diverted.

“We at AESID are quite disturbed about the way and manner the Ebonyi state government has continued to mismanage the scare resources of our poor state without any scintilla of accountability. We hold this view because the Umahi-led administration to the best of our knowledge is yet to give any account of an earlier approval of N4bn it made in July this year which it had christened ‘palliatives for Ebonyians.’

“Of course, we still recall the hues and cries of the Ebonyi poor masses over the extremely bizarre food items which included few sachets of noodles shared to just a hand-few of particularly party loyalists in the guise of palliatives after a very protracted period by the government. As a non-interest group whose mandate remains to continue to hold state actors accountable, AESID is calling on the Ebonyi state government to halt the proposed plan to lavish another whooping N4bn under the façade of COVID-19 palliatives.

“Rather, the government should first of all account for its management of the earlier sum approved and released as palliatives. It should show accountability by detailing the masses with how same was expended. We say so because of our vehement suspicion that the COVID-19 has since its outbreak in the country become for Governor Umahi and indeed some other Nigerian leaders a huge business and the most unsuspecting means to loot and divert lean resources accruing to the States they govern.

“Otherwise, how can Ebonyi state that never recorded more COVID-19 cases than states like Lagos claim to have now proposed to spend over N8bn? What kind of palliatives would take away over N4bn from the coffers of a government with lean allocation like that of our dear Ebonyi state? There is actually nothing less to suspect except to conclude that this is not just another hoax but another masterfully-designed plot by the Governor Umahi administration to siphon Ebonyi’s poor treasury!

Again we may wish to ask: Why is Umahi focusing only on projects and contracts that would enrich only him and his family without paying attention to genuine human empowerment programmes for our state which is rated as the poverty capital of Southern Nigeria?

“Why has he allowed rural roads that are completely impassable for local farmers to concentrate on mere cosmetics and artificial monuments that add no reasonable value to the lives and economic well-being of the average Ebonyian?

“What achievements can the Umahi administration truly boast of in the critical Education and Health sectors in Ebonyi state? What about attracting firms interested in operating in the State that can offer the teeming unemployed population job opportunities? This platform therefore urge the Ebonyi State government to reverse itself and not tow this path of ignominy by wasting resources in the guise of palliatives.”

The group, however assured the people of Ebonyi “that we shall continue to do all within the ambits of the law, the principles of fairness, equity and natural justice to protect and defend their interests at all times even as they pass through this difficult era of deceptions, lies and vicious propaganda.”

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Senate: Natasha Akpoti-Uduaghan Promises Vibrant Representation, as She Addresses Mammoth Crowd at Okene

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* Natasha has distinguished herself as a worthy daughter of Ebiraland – Yahaya Karaku.

Ahead of the February 25, 2023 general elections, the senatorial candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Kogi Central, Barr. Natasha Akpoti-Uduaghan, has promised to be the voice of her people and speak for them when she gets to the red chamber of the 10th National Assembly.

She stated this on Sunday when her campaign train berthed at Okene local government area in continuation of her Ward-to-Ward campaign.

Natasha noted that the people of Kogi Central senatorial district have suffered for too long and charged the people to express their pains through the ballot on February 25, 2023.

“We’ve suffered for too long, and we’ve been in darkness for too long, we can’t continue like this. I and every other PDP candidate are here to serve you and ensure this suffering and pains are over.

“We have a simple message of hope and possibility to share, we are all connected to your suffering and pains.

“When you send me to the Senate, I will be the most vibrant senator, I will ensure I fight for everything that concerns you.

“I am aware our women are entangled with Lapo loan, I will ensure I fight for soft loans for you to improve your businesses.

Natasha addressing supporters at Okene

“I will fight to ensure Ajaokuta is revived so that we will have jobs and our state will become the commercial hub of the North like it was in the 70s, we will fight to bring back the lost glory of Ebiraland”, she said.

The campaign train of the PDP senatorial candidate first stopped at Okene I and subsequently proceeded to Okene II where thousands of residents trooped out to welcome her and reiterated their resolve to vote for her.

Party stalwarts, others candidates of the party and community stakeholders were in attendance to welcome the PDP senatorial candidate to Okene local government area.

Speaking on the need to support the candidature of Barr. Natasha Akpoti-Uduaghan, the former Chairman of Okene local government, Alhaji Yahaya Karaku, said the PDP senatorial candidate has distinguished herself as a worthy daughter of Ebiraland who deserves to be supported.

He disclosed that he decided to dump APC and defected to PDP because he wanted to be in a party where he will have a stake, and support Barr. Natasha Akpoti-Uduaghan to actualize her vision for the good people of Ebiraland.

He called on the people of Ebiraland to embrace peace irrespective of party affiliations, adding that all the candidates are of the same blood and political differences should not cause enmity.

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Resign Now Or Risk Being Embleme Of Extreme Perfidy, Olusunle Advises Keyamo

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Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo has been advised to resign immediately or risk being known as the poster boy of extreme perfidy.

Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the Presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Atiku Abubakar, Dr Tunde Olusunle who gave the advice in a statement in Abuja at the weekend, said what was left of Keyamo’s credibility was being effectively eroded by “his desperate moves to please his new master by launching puerile tirades at the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar.”

Olusunle

“This same man who told the world that a current APC chieftain killed late Chief Bola Ige, is now busy dining with the same man as they both prosecute the propaganda-laced presidential campaign of their party, the All Progressives Congress, (APC). This same man who went beyond concerns about someone’s involvement with narcotics trade in the United States and told the world that the man had dubious certificates, is now parroting the same man’s new-found saintly attributes.”

The Atiku aide noted that the pecuniary benefits Keyamo is receiving from his newfound principal, had palpably impacted his allegiance to the service of fatherland as a minister.

According to him, it is sad that rather than for the Minister confront the fact of his inability to impact Nigerian lives in the ministerial office where he had been in the past three and half years, he had busy wasting executive time by launching tirades at the presidential candidate of the PDP and the party.

He noted that President Muhammadu Buhari was clairvoyant about Keyamo’s overzealousness when he reassigned him within days of naming him Minister of State for the Ministry of the Niger Delta, to his present schedule.

Olusunle further alleged that Keyamo was abusing the platform of public office to harass, terrorise and intimidate other people unnecessarily, adding that Keyamo’s “busybody meddlesomeness is a product of the almost zero schedule he operates in his ministry.”

Olusunle implored Buhari to sack Keyamo immediately, especially since he had demonstrated that he had merely been occupying space in the name of being a member of the federal executive council, (FEC).

He wondered: “Can Keyamo tell Nigerians honestly and truthfully, how much value he has added to governance and administration over the past seven and half years of his service except cruising around in a convoy of government sport utility vans and posing a public nuisance with the ever-blaring sirens of his entourage?”

According to Dr Olusunle: “At the offset of the current electioneering season, President Muhammadu Buhari expressly advised his ministers and aides to concentrate on their jobs as his administration winds down. But while other ministers largely complied by remaining at their desks, Keyamo now uses every opportunity to hunt for cheap publicity by stirring needless controversies and barking at PDP from an ill-informed position.

Keyamo, Olusunle noted, is operating in a very curious “amphibious” capacity, where he is both a public officer and a private attorney. Said Olusunle: “Keyamo swore to the oaths of office and allegiance to the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He cannot be a minister of the Federal Republic and a private attorney, concurrently.”

Olusunle alluded to Keyamo’s suit requesting the disengagement of Atiku from his ticket, as most hilarious.

According to him: “Keyamo’s laughable suit against Atiku was conveyed through his private law firm, “Festus Keyamo Chambers.” To this extent, he has been operating a private practice, in juxtaposition with his responsibilities as a minister, which is against public service rules. “His attention has been split between his practice therefore, which presupposes that he has been undercutting Nigerian taxpayers from whose taxes Keyamo is paid.”

Atiku’s media adviser observed that Keyamo seems to be the singular errant attorney in the Buhari governance structure, wondering why he is hopping around in his presumed role as spokesperson for the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, (APC). Said he: “Keyamo is not the only attorney, nay SAN in the Buhari presidency. Babatunde Raji Fashola, Abubakar Malami are senior to Keyamo in the higher echelons of the Nigerian bar. They are focused on their work, actually writing their handover notes ahead of May 29, 2023. Lai Mohammed the official spokesperson of the Federal Government, is a seasoned attorney as well. They are all busy on their desks except Keyamo.”

Olusunle admonished Keyamo to stop clutching at the straws of public office, resign and concentrate on his present endeavours as Tinubu’s mouthpiece: “Keyamo should resign his job forthwith to enable him focus on the APC presidential project. He should request for office space at the APC headquarters from the chairman of the party, Adamu Abdullahi.”

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We’re Committed to Free, Fair and Credible Elections – INEC Chairman

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By Emmanuel Oloniruha

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says it’s leaving no stone unturned in its quest to ensure hitch-free and credible 2023 general election.

INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu said this when he addressed the press at Chatham House, London, on Tuesday.

Yakubu said that INEC was satisfied with the level of its of preparations for the election, saying that 11 out of 14 activities scheduled for the election had been accomplished.

He, however, said that in spite of extensive preparations, there were still some outstanding issues and challenges of concern, some of which were beyond INEC.

Yakubu said that one of the problems had to do with the current security challenges in the country and the possible impact on the election.

He said security challenges in many African countries remained source of concern for election managers.

“For many years, Nigeria has been grappling with its own insecurity in the North-East, the long-standing Boko Haram insurgency has continued, albeit with attacks now more intermittent than regular.

“In the North-West and the North-Central, banditry, terrorism and the herder-farmer conflicts remain major challenges.

“In the South-South, the threat of renewed insurgency by groups demanding more share of petroleum revenue to the Niger Delta continues to simmer.

“In the South-West, although an earlier surge by a group demanding independence for the region has considerably dissipated, recent violent attacks on places of worship, rise in the activities of violent cults and kidnapping groups, as well as a history of violence involving groups seeking to control markets and motor parks remain strong,” he said.

Yakubu added: “In the South-East, the lingering agitation for separatism championed by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) pose a major security threat.

“Not only have violent attacks by a number of armed groups increased, the long-standing weekly lockdown of the five States in that geo-political zone, continue to disrupt social and economic activities”.

He said that violence and threat of violence were major challenges to organising credible election in 2023.

He said that violence could make deployments for elections difficult, particularly where some of the attacks targeted at the electoral process and participants.

Yakubu, however, said the commission had been working with security agencies and other stakeholders to establish mechanisms to understand, track and mitigate security challenges.

“We are working collaboratively in the context of the Inter-agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES).

“We also have the Election Violence Mitigation and Advocacy Tool (EVMAT), which is a research and diagnostic tool for predicting and mitigating election violence prior to elections.

“In addition, there is the Election Risk Management Tool (ERM), which tracks and reports general risks to elections.

“In all, we feel assured by the actions we have taken and our collaboration with the security agencies. The 2023 general election will proceed as planned. There is no plan to postpone the election,” he said.

The INEC boss said that another challenge was the fate of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) and rising attacks on INEC facilities, materials and staff.

He said that although INEC had revised its policy on IDPs voting, it was difficult to identify IDPs in some states as they lived in host communities or extended family members or in communities where they were not registered voters.

“As a result, it is very difficult for the Commission to provide necessary electoral services to such IDPs. However, those in camps within Nigeria will be catered for in line with the commission’s policy,” he said.

Yakubu said that between 2019 and 2022 INEC experienced 50 attacks on its facilities, mostly in the form of arson and vandalisation.

He said that the 2022 attacks constituted the deepest concerns for INEC.

‘’This is so not only because they are increasingly happening closer to the general election, but also because some of them seem to be coordinated,” he said.

He said that the implication of the attacks was that those facilities must be rebuilt and several election materials must be replaced.

“Further, the commission and security agencies must have to increase the number of their personnel to these facilities.

“Nevertheless, the commission is determined to continue its preparations for the general election in spite of these attacks.

“So far, all the destroyed facilities will be rebuilt, or alternatives found, and the materials lost are being replaced.

“However, the commission has repeatedly called for more concerted efforts to control the attacks,” he said.

He listed other challenges to include campaign violence, fake news and disinformation, campaign finance and vote buying as well as litigations.

Yakubu said that in spite of the challenges, INEC had promised Nigerians and friends of Nigeria that the 2023 general election would be free, fair, credible and inclusive.

“We have left no stone unturned in preparing for it, in spite of several challenges.

“But all elections, especially those involving the type of extensive national deployment like we do in Nigeria, will naturally come with challenges.

“We have worked closely with stakeholders and development partners to confront these challenges and we are satisfied with our preparations so far.

“Our commission does not take the pledge that we have repeatedly made to Nigerians lightly. We are leaving no stone unturned in our preparations,” he said.

Yakubu renewed INEC’s commitment to serving Nigerians only as an independent body.

“We cherish the institutional independence and integrity of the commission.

“With the enthusiasm of Nigerians, the goodwill of stakeholders and partners, and the commitment of the Commission, we believe that the 2023 general election will be among the best conducted in Nigeria,” he said.

He acknowledged that there were enormous expectations, both within Nigeria and outside, on the conduct and management of the election.

Yakubu said that those expectations placed a great responsibility on INEC, a responsibility that was not taken lightly.

“We appreciate that there are challenges and concerns. But we also realise that there is enormous goodwill and support, both in Nigeria and beyond,” he said.(NAN)

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