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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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JUNE 12 : Security and Welfare of Nigerians remain my Priority – President Buhari on Democracy Day

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President Buhari says he remains resolute to keep Nigeria as one indivisible entity. He added that he is committed to defending Nigeria’s corporate existence as a nation.

The president stated this during his nationwide broadcast on Saturday June 12 to mark the 2021 Democracy Day.

The President said the security and welfare of Nigerians are  his top priority.

Full Text:

Fellow Nigerians,

I join you all today to commemorate and celebrate our Democracy Day. It is a celebration of freedom and a victory for one people, one country and one Nigeria.

As with all democracies we will always be going through improvement processes in our desire to reach the goal of a mature democracy, a strong, evolved and integrated nation-state to be reckoned with globally.

In the last two years we have witnessed and overcome a good number of testy challenges that would have destroyed other nations especially relating to our collective security.

The indefatigable CAN DO Spirit of the Nigerian has sustained us and would keep pushing us to put these challenges behind us.

Unfortunately some of these challenges came in the shape of violent outrages leading to the loss of lives of many of our dear compatriots and the destruction of some of our infrastructure, including those devoted to improving our democratic processes.

Once again, I want to render my sincere and heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of our gallant servicemen and women who lost their lives in the line of duty and as a sacrifice to keep Nigeria safe.

I extend the same condolence to the families and friends of our countrymen, women and children who were unfortunate victims of such senseless arsons, kidnappings and murders.

I also share the pains of families and direct victims of ransom-seeking, kidnapped victims who went through unimaginable trauma in the course of their forced imprisonment.

Let me assure my fellow citizens that every incident, however minor gives me great worry and concern and I immediately order security agencies to swiftly but safely rescue victims and bring perpetrators to justice.
Fellow Nigerians,

When you elected me as your President in 2015, you did so knowing that I will put an end to the growing insecurity, especially the insurgency in the North East, but the unintended consequences of our scattering them in the North East pushed them further in-country which is what we are now facing and dealing with.

We will, by the Grace of God put an end to these challenges too.

Unfortunately, like in most conflict situations, some Nigerian criminals are taking undue advantage of a difficult situation and profiteering therefrom with the misguided belief that adherence to the democratic norms handicaps this Administration from frontally and decisively tackling them.

We are already addressing these obstacles and we will soon bring some of these culprits to justice.

We are, at the same time addressing the twin underlying drivers of insecurity namely poverty and youth unemployment.

Interventions led by the government and the Central Bank of Nigeria driving economic growth over the past 6 years are targeted mostly to the agricultural, services, infrastructure, power and health care sectors of the economy.

In the Agricultural sector, for instance, the Anchor Borrowers Programme resulted in sharp decline in the nation’s major food import bill from $2.23billion in 2014 to US$0.59billion by the end of 2018.

Rice import bill alone dropped from $1 billion to $18.5 million annually.

This initiative supported local production of rice, maize, cotton and cassava. The government financed 2.5 million small-holder farmers cultivating about 3.2 million hectares of farmland all over the country and created 10 million direct and indirect jobs.

Several other initiatives, namely AgriBusiness/Small and Medium Enterprise Investment Scheme, the Non-oil Export stimulation Facility, the Targeted Credit Facilities operated across the 774 Local Governments.

In the manufacturing sector the CBN – BOI N200 billion facility financed the establishment and operations of 60 new industrial hubs across the country, creating an estimated 890,000 direct and indirect jobs.

The CBN’s N50 billion Textile Sector intervention Facility increased capacity utilization of ginneries from 30% to nearly 90%.

The Economic Sustainability Plan – our rebound plan for the COVID-19 pandemic developed in 2020 is currently being executed. The plan is primarily focused on the non-oil sector, which has recorded phenomenal growth contributing over 90% to the GDP growth in Q1 2021.

Though marginal we have recorded GDP growth over two quarters; Q2 2020 and Q1 2021. This is evidence of a successful execution of the ESP by the Federal Government.

My vision of pulling 100 million poor Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years has been put into action and can be seen in the National Social Investment Programme, a first in Africa and one of the largest in the world where over 32.6m beneficiaries are taking part. We now have a National Social register of poor and vulnerable households, identified across 708 local government areas, 8,723 wards and 86,610 communities in the 36 States and the FCT.

Our conditional cash transfer program has benefited over 1.6 million poor and vulnerable households comprising more than 8 million individuals. This provides a monthly stipend of N10,000 per household.

I have also recently approved the National Poverty Reduction with Growth Strategy Plan that augments existing plans to further reduce poverty in Nigeria.

As at the end of 2020, the Development Bank of Nigeria had disbursed 324 billion Naira in loans to more than 136,000 MSMEs, through 40 participating Financial Institutions. I am to note that 57% of these beneficiaries are women while 27% are the youth.

We are able to do all these and still accelerate our infrastructure development through sensible and transparent borrowing, improved capital inflow, improving and increasing revenue through capturing more tax bases and prudent management of investment proceeds in the Sovereign Wealth Fund.

Fellow Nigerians, our infrastructure revolution continues with key projects attaining critical milestones under the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund; The Second Niger Bridge, The Lagos- Ibadan Expressway and the Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano Expressway.

I have also approved the establishment of Infraco Plc, a world-class infrastructure development vehicle wholly focused on Nigeria with a capital structure of N15 trillion.

The rail system is not left out as the Itakpe-Warri standard gauge rail was completed and commissioned 33 years after construction began. The Lagos-Ibadan double track railway line which I have just commissioned has commenced operations.

We are focused on ensuring that our infrastructure drive is key to economic growth and one that can be felt by every Nigerian. Building critical infrastructure in our ports is also opening up opportunities for the Nigerian economy.

My approval for 4 new seaports using a Public-Private-Partnership approach is hinged on growing the Nigerian economy. These four sea ports; Lekki Deep Sea Port, Bonny Deep Sea Port, Ibom Deep Sea Port and Warri Deep Sea port will create massive job opportunities and foreign investment inflows.

We have worked at deepening our Eastern ports leading to success like having three container ships berth at Calabar port, a first in 11 years. Similarly, on October 30 2019, an LPG tanker operated by NLNG berthed in Port Harcourt, the first time an LPG ship is berthing at any of the Eastern Ports.

As we invest in these new assets, we have also made strides in ensuring that they are secured and protected. In this regard I am also pleased to note the launch of the NIMASA Deep Blue project – which is an Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure that I recently commissioned. This initiative is designed to add to the layer of security we have to safeguard our maritime sector.

Dear Nigerians, I will be the first to admit that in spite of our efforts and achievements which are there for all to see, there is still much more to be done and we are doing our best in the face of scarce resources and galloping population growth rate that consistently outstrips our capacity to provide jobs for our populace. Our over-all economic target of lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years is our goal notwithstanding COVID-19.

In the last two years we lifted 10.5 million people out of poverty – farmers, small-scale traders, artisans, market women and the like.

I am very convinced that this 100 million target can be met and this informed the development of a National poverty Reduction with Growth Strategy. The specific details of this accelerated strategy will be unveiled shortly.
39. In the last one year, Nigeria and the whole world faced COVID-19 for which no one was fully prepared.

Our response to the pandemic involved making hard choices in balancing livelihoods and public health concerns. You are all living witnesses to how successful this has been due to a number of pro-active measures put in place. Our response to COVID-19 is globally acclaimed.

We were able to ensure that the various lockdown measures did not impact too negatively on the ability of ordinary Nigerians to continue sustaining their livelihoods.

During the pandemic, we disbursed N5,000 to 1 million Nigerians using a Rapid Response Register and advanced N20,000 to 750,000 beneficiaries of the Conditional Cash Transfer Progamme and provided 1.37 million Nigerians with palliatives from CACOVID.

At the same time the Federal Government released 109,000 metric tonnes of food reserve stocks and 70,000 metric tonnes of grains to the poor and vulnerable in all 36 states of the federation.

In addition, Government reduced interest rates from 9% to 5% for struggling businesses and extended credit facilities to 548,345 beneficiaries.

Fellow Nigerians,When this administration decided to change our Democracy Day from 29th May to June 12th in my first tenure, it was not only to honour the sacrifices of the men and women of our country who fought for the return to democracy but also to demonstrate our commitment to satisfy the aspirations of the people and creating an environment for democracy to be an accepted way of life.

As your President, I remain committed to providing an enabling environment for a free, fair and credible electoral system under my tenure.

However, you need to play your part by getting involved at any level you can supporting a democratic system that works for all and not for a section or a select few and demand accountability from your elected leaders.

My commitment to bequeathing a sustainable democratic culture remains resolute, my pursuit of a fair society remains unshaken and my desire to see that Nigeria remains a country for each and every one of us has never been stronger.

In responding to the challenges that this period imposes on us, Government also recognises the need to acknowledge notions of marginalisation and agitations for constitutional amendments among various segments of our population.

While this government is not averse to constitutional reform as part of our nation building process, everyone must understand that the primary responsibility for constitutional amendments lies with the National Assembly.

This body which, as I said, is the arm of government responsible for constitutional changes has concluded the preliminary stages of amending and improving our constitution in a way that the majority of Nigerians will be happy with.

Government is, however, willing to play a critical role in the constitutional amendment process without usurping the powers of the National Assembly in this regard.

As a nation we have come very far from where we started and we are getting incrementally closer to where we ought to be.

 

Overcoming the present challenges is but one of a necessary process that we have to undergo as a nation so that we can come out stronger. The day I joined the Nigerian Army I was prepared to lay down my life for Nigeria.

As your President I remain ever committed to upholding and defending Nigeria’s Corporate existence.

In adhering to the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy notably section 14(2)(b) I shall do all within my power to ensure that the Security and welfare of the people remain the primary purpose of government.

I have, throughout my tenure, provided the security agencies with all they require relative to available resources and will be providing more as the dynamics unfold to put an end to our security problems.

My strong belief in the Nigerian spirit gives me comfort that we are facing these challenges with renewed commitment to keep our country one.

I thank you for your patience and attention and more importantly your resolve to join hands in making Nigeria the country of our dream.

Happy Democracy Day! God Bless us All, God Bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

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Wike is a Beacon of Democracy in Nigeria – NUJ

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The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) has described Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike of Rivers State as an exhibit of pride to democracy in Nigeria.

NUJ also noted that Governor Wike has redefined governance through demonstration of democracy in action with his service to Rivers people.

National and State Executives including members of NUJ made the assertion in Port Harcourt during inspection tour led by the Rivers State Commissioner of Information and Communications, Paulinus Nsirim of both completed and ongoing projects being undertaken by Governor Wike in the State.

National President of the NUJ, Chris Isiguzor said the 1999 constitution bestows on the media the responsibility to hold government accountable to the people.

Isiguzor posited that having placed the projects side by side with the expectations of the populace, it is obvious that governor Wike’s investment in critical infrastructure will remain as lifelong empowerment tools for the people.

“We were at the Mother and Child Hospital. We took time to look at the facilities there. That can easily be said to be first of its kind in the country.

“At the much talked about the Real Madrid Football Academy where you are going to train the young ones, and they have good facilities. At the moment, they have also offered admission to 140 pupils.

“That’s also to catch them young and I want to believe that by the time this kind of resources continuously invested in sports development, Nigeria, it’s just a matter of time, will gain its pride of place in sporting world.”

On her part, the National President of Nigeria Women journalists (NAWOJ) Ladi Bala said the projects she had seen are entirely unique, unprecedented and very uncommon in the country.

According to Bala, the Emmanuel Chinwenwo Aguma Judges Quarters stands as first of its kind in Nigeria with its serene ambiance that will translate into enhancing the productivity of Judges of Rivers origin.

“I believe that democracy is at work in Rivers State and, for Rivers people, I want to congratulate them and to say, this is the true reflection of what democracy should be across board.

“I want to call on other governors across the country to borrow a leave from what the governor of Rivers State is doing. Wike is working and we are very proud of what we have seen here.”

In his reaction, the National Internal Auditor of NUJ, Muhammad Tukur stated that governor Wike is a committed leader with the vision of uplifting the standard of his people.

Tukur, who expressed gratitude to Governor Wike for his support to the NUJ National Conference in Port Harcourt, which confirms his commitment to the welfare of the people.

On his part, chairman of Oyo State Council of the NUJ, Ismail Ademola Babalola asserted that the Mother and Child Hospital and the real Madrid Football Academy are part of projects Governor Wike is using to secure a productive future of youths of the state because they meet global standard.

Also speaking the Vice Chairman of NUJ North Central Zone, Chief Wilson Bako commended the quality of the various Roads and Flyover Bridges constructed in the Port Harcourt metropolis to make the city a tourists attraction.

In same vein, the Vice Chairman of NUJ in Jigawa State, Larai Musa said she has confirmed all that the news media had carried about Governor Wike and his project mantra and asserted that it is leaders like him that are needed at the national level.

Ikechukwu Ordu of the Enugu State Council of the NUJ noted that the need for other political leaders to emulate Governor Wike in providing dividend of democracy to Rivers people and changing the fortune of his state.

Also from the Enugu State Council of the NUJ, Ugochukwu Chukwudieke said she is completely overwhelmed by what Governor Wike has done in providing the Okoro-Nu-Odo Flyover Bridge, Rumuogba Flyover bridge, Rumuola Flyover Bridge, and Rebisi flyover Bridge delivered within one year.

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Mali Crisis : GEJ, PMB Meet Behind Closed Doors im Aso Rock

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President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday met former President Goodluck Jonathan behind closed doors at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The Personal Assistant on New media to the President, Bashir Ahmed, made this known in a tweet via his Twitter account.

He tweeted, “@MBuhari received former President @GEJonathan today.

“The former leader was at the State House, Abuja, to brief the President over the new political crisis in Mali.

“An ECOWAS delegation led by GEJ was in Bamako, the capital of Mali on Tuesday, for mediation. ”Jonathan was appointed last year by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) as a special envoy to lead the sub-regional body’s mediation mission in Mali.

The former President is expected to facilitate dialogue with all principal stakeholders in the West African country.

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