Sunday, 19 November 2017

Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga withdrew Tuesday from a re-run of the presidential election, saying electoral officials had failed to make necessary reforms.

“After deliberating on our position in respect of the upcoming election… we believe that all will be best served by (the party) vacating its presidential candidature in the election scheduled for 26 October 2017,” Odinga said.

Kenya’s Supreme Court last month annulled the August presidential poll, won by President Uhuru Kenyatta, due to widespread irregularities in the counting process.

Since then Odinga and his National Super Alliance (NASA) have vowed not to take part in the re-run unless a series of reforms were made to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

“We have come to the conclusion that there is no intention on the part of the IEBC to undertake any changes to its operations and personnel… All indications are that the election scheduled for 26 October will be worse than the previous one,” said Odinga.

Published in Headliners

My earliest recollection of Liberia was the 1990 capture, torture and execution of its first native president Samuel Doe by rebel leader Prince Yormie Johnson. The grotesque episode; which was captured on video, showed Johnson presiding over the torture of Doe as he was maimed one extremity at a time. Prince Johnson later fled to Nigeria where he lived in exile until after the second civil war. Charles Taylor who led the rebel forces against Doe and succeeded him as president was also granted asylum in Nigeria following his resignation in 2003. Beyond accepting their exiled warlords as part of negotiated armistice, Nigeria has been a close ally and played a significant role in bringing peace and stability to Liberia and the greater Mano River Basin when the international community was slow to respond.

As Liberians head to the polls today to decide who will succeed President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, there is tremendous excitement and hope for renewed energy and new possibilities. There is also understandably some concern among Liberians and the global community given the violent history of Liberia, so it is incumbent on all stakeholders, particularly those who have invested blood and treasure to pay close attention to these elections and see to it that the elections and the transition go as smoothly as possible.

The Contenders
After a decade as Africa’s first elected female head of state, President Sirleaf, who shepherded the country through post-conflict recovery and the devastating Ebola crisis is termed-out and will relinquish the presidency. Liberians are spoilt for choice, and with 20 candidates running to replace her; the elections are likely to go to a runoff like the two before it.

The frontrunner is the incumbent Vice President Joseph Boakai (UP), who is saddled with the task of defending the current administration’s record, which President Sirleaf concedes, didn’t do enough to combat corruption or address reconciliation. He is up against some perennial heavy hitters as well as some fresh faces. His primary challenger is former FIFA World Footballer of the year and sitting Liberian Senator George Weah (CDC) who narrowly lost in a run-off with Sirleaf in 2005 after securing the most votes in the first round of voting. He ran as vice president in 2011 and stayed active in the political arena, eventually winning one of the most coveted senate seats in the country in a 2014 by-election, representing the most populous county in the country – Montserrado. He is certainly better prepared, and more experienced, and is expected to mount a formidable opposition.

Complicating things is his choice for running mate – Jewel Howard-Taylor, the ex-wife of incarcerated former president Charles Taylor. This has fueled concerns that Taylor who is serving a 50-year sentence for war crimes, is influencing the campaign. Oh, there’s also reformed warlord turned Senator Prince Yormie Johnson (MDR); who is hoping to expand his support base beyond his home county and improve on his 2011 showing where he placed an impressive third.

The sleeper candidate is Liberty Party’s Counsellor Charles Brumskine, who is running as the anti-corruption candidate, and is hoping that like President Muhammadu Buhari in Nigeria the fourth time is the charm. The 66-year-old former leader of the Senate fondly known as the “integrity general” is running on a platform he has dubbed the 4 Rs: Reconciliation, Reform, Recovery, and Rebuilding. Once the frontrunner in the 2005 elections, he is hoping his name recognition will propel him into the run off, where it is widely assumed the opposition will unite against the incumbent.

The dark-horse candidate is Alternative National Congress’ (ANC) candidate Alexander Cummings, who despite only recently moving back to the country has worked his way into the conversation thanks to his “talk and do” reputation and an appetite for change. The ex-Coca Cola Executive who has no political experience is relying heavily on his business bonafides, and his own funds to propel him to the coveted spot in the run off, although most polls deem that rather ambitious.

In a field of very impressive candidates, notable is Liberia Restoration Party’s (LRP) Macdella Cooper, who is the only hope of following Africa’s first female president with another, and is running as the hope and reform candidate. However, things shake out, the second round of voting will be critical, as coalitions are likely to determine the ultimate outcome.

The Stakes
Today’s elections will mark the first time in 73 years that political power will be handed over peacefully, and democratically, from one elected leader to another. As President Sirleaf said in her final speech to the UN General Assembly last month, at stake in these elections is the “irreversible course that Liberia has embarked upon to consolidate its young, post-conflict democracy”. It all comes against the backdrop of her two terms in office, which have been punctuated, by peace and stability, initial economic growth which reached 8.7% in 2013, then the corruption and nepotism allegations, persistent unemployment, the poor handling of the Ebola crisis and the ensuing economic decline, the Liberian resilience and the continued recovery.

While Vice President Boakai has tried to make the elections about building on the foundation his predecessor laid, the opposition has made it a referendum on what they characterize as her failed policies. Using her own admission of areas where her administration fell short as an indictment on him and a reason to change course.

Counsellor Brumskine is more generous in his assessment of what these elections are about. He asserts that today’s elections are both about the future of Liberia and the transition from vicious conflict to stability and development. He gives President Sirleaf some credit for repositioning Liberia within the community of nations given the fact that she inherited a pariah state. But highlights the fact that despite Liberia being a resource rich, youthful dynamic and vibrant country, 8 out of 10 of its citizens still live in poverty (on less than $1.25 per day). He blames these problems on successive generations of leaders who have failed to transform the country’s endowments into a peaceful and prosperous life for most of its people. After an election season marked by candidates jostling for moral purity, asserting authority on the economy, and promising everything but the kitchen sink, todays elections comes down to the need for continued peace and stability and the economy. A victory for VP Boakai would mean the country’s appetite for peace and stability weighed more heavily while a strong showing or surprise win for Mr. Cummings would send a strong message of frustration with the status quo.

 

Why Nigeria should care
Although it seems like an eternity ago, Liberia is only one administration removed from the most recent civil war that decimated its population and infrastructure. Today’s elections will be the first true test of its fragile democracy — one the World community led by Nigeria spent blood and treasure to secure. As the de-facto leader of the ECOWAS region, it is incumbent upon Nigerians to pay close attention and help ensure that the elections and the transition are free and fair because as history has shown, instability in Liberia has the potential to exacerbate the regional and global refugee problem and contribute to instability in neighboring countries.

Published in Headliners

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) on Monday dismissed as untrue claims by the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, that he was never involved in the award of major crude oil contracts in the country.

NNPC said in a statement the minister was expressly consulted by its Group Managing Director (GMD), Dr. Maikanti Baru,  and his recommendations taken into consideration in the crude oil contracting process.

It also described Kachikwu’s instance that major contracts were never reviewed or discussed with him as “mostly unfortunate.”

NNPC stressed that all it required to award a contract in the oil and gas sector was the approval of the Tenders Board and not the minister’s endorsement.

The state oil company’s response followed the report of alleged lack of adherence to due process in the award of contracts by Kachikwu in his August 30 letter to President Muhammadu Buhari.

The minister had claimed that several major contracts were never reviewed or discussed with him and the NNPC Board.

The President had since ordered Baru and the entire management team of the Corporation to respond expeditiously to the allegations.

The statement reads: “It is important to note from the outset that the law and the rules do not require a review or discussion with the Minister of State or the NNPC Board on contractual matters. What is required is the processing and approval of contracts by the NNPC Tenders Board, the President in his executive capacity or as Minister of Petroleum, or the Federal Executive Council (FEC), as the case may be. There are therefore situations where all that is required is the approval of the NNPC Tenders Board, while in other cases, based on the threshold, the award must be submitted for presidential approval. Likewise, in some instances it is FEC approval that is required.

“It should be noted that for both the Crude Term Contract and the Direct Sale and Direct Purchase (DSDP) agreements, there are no specific values attached to each transaction to warrant the values of $10billion and $5billion respectively placed on them in the claim of Dr. Kachikwu. It is therefore inappropriate to attach arbitrary values to the shortlists with the aim of classifying the transactions as contracts above NNPC Tenders Board limit. They are merely the shortlisting of prospective off-takers of crude oil and suppliers of petroleum products under agreed terms. These transactions were not required to be presented as contracts to the Board of NNPC and, of course, the monetary value of any crude oil eventually lifted by any of the companies goes straight into the federation account and not to the company.

“Furthermore, contrary to the assertion of Dr. Kachikwu that he was never involved in the 2017/2018 contracting process for the Crude Oil Term Contracts, Dr. Kachikwu was in fact expressly consulted by the GMD and his recommendations were taken into account in following through the laid down procedure. Thus, for him to turn around and claim that ‘these major contracts were never reviewed or discussed with me’ is most unfortunate to say the least.”

Published in Business and Economy
Saturday, 07 October 2017 23:09

Nigeria qualifies for 2018 World Cup

Super Eagles of Nigeria on Saturday qualified for next year’s FIFA World Cup in Russia.

The three-time African champions defeated hard fighting Chipolopolo of Zambia 1-0 inside the magnificent Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo, Akwa Ibom.

Arsenal youngster, Alex Iwobi, was the hero for Nigeria, scoring the decisive goal in the 73rd minute of the encounter.

Russia 2018 will be Nigeria’s sixth appearance in FIFA’s premier soccer tournament.

Published in Headliners
Friday, 06 October 2017 22:57

Osinbajo meets NNPC GMD in Aso Rock

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Friday met briefly with the Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr. Maikanti Baru, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Baru did not speak with journalists after the meeting.

From the Vice President’s office, he went to the State House mosque for his Juma’at prayers.

President Muhammadu Buhari also observed the prayer at the mosque.

Published in Headliners
Friday, 06 October 2017 18:48

Kachikwu keeps mum after meeting Buhari

Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, on Friday kept mum after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari behind closed doors at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The minister who arrived the Presidential Villa around 11.40am for the meeting, left at about 12.50pm.

Kachikwu simply said “no comment” when State House correspondents approached him.

Published in Headliners
Thursday, 05 October 2017 12:39

Gunmen kill UNIBEN professor

Amidst increasing concerns over the level insecurity in the Edo State, a senior staff of the University of Benin, Edo State, Prof. Paul Otasowie, has been killed by gunmen.

It was learnt Otasowie was shot dead by the armed men in front of his residence on Ekehuan road in Oredo Local Government Area of the state on Wednesday evening.

There was, however, speculation that the professor in the Department of Electrical and Electronics Engineering was either assassinated or gunned down by suspected armed robbers.

According to another version of the incident, the deceased, who was a former director of the university’s Industrial Training and Student Industrial Work Experience Scheme, was allegedly shot during an attempted kidnap.

It was gathered that the news of his death left the university community in a state of mourning.

The Public Relations Officer of the institution, Mr. Michael Osasuyi, confirmed the incident to The PUNCH on Thursday.

Osasuyi stated, “We lost him (Otasowie) yesterday. We are trying to gather the right information now (because) we are getting different versions.

“The first version said that it was an assassination (while) the second version said that it was armed robbery, that he was inside a car and they shot him.”

He described the death of the professor as a huge loss to the university community, adding the deceased was a hardworking and dedicated staff.

Osasuyi said, “For now, the university cannot ascertain what has transpired. But we are sending delegates now to the house to meet with the family.

“We commiserate with the family and it is a big blow to the university. He was one of the persons who have ensured that work is done and done well.”

He, however, noted that the institution was concerned about the level of insecurity in the state.

“The vice-chancellor, Prof. Orunmwense is saddened with this development. We just wish that this insecurity in Edo State is looked into. Just recently, (Joseph) Osayomore was kidnapped.

“The level of insecurity now is becoming something else. The vice-chancellor commiserates with the family and the school is mourning,” the spokesman added.

Published in Headliners

Tens of thousands of opposition supporters in Togo have marched in the capital, Lome in what they call the next phase of their campaign to force out President Faure Gnassingbe.

There were also big numbers of protesters in the second largest city of Sokode and the northern town of Bafilo, where youths blockaded a major highway connecting the north and south of the country.

Organisers had billed today's march as a "final warning" to the regime.

More rallies are expected on Thursday, described by organisers as a "march of anger", AFP news agency reports.

The main opposition leader, Jean-Pierre Fabre, said that they were going to maintain pressure on the government.

Protesters carried placards demanding the restoration of the 1992 constitution, which limited the number of presidential terms to two. Mr Gnassingbe is serving his third term in office.

He succeeded his father, meaning the same family has ruled Togo for 50 years.

At least four people have been killed and hundreds injured during weeks of anti-government protests in Togo.

Abdou Razak (C) of Togo demonstrates with others against President Faure Gnassingbé in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza outside the UN in New York on September19, 2017
AFP
Togolese in the diaspora have also joined in the protests
Published in News & Stories

Zimbabwe's Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko has publicly reprimanded the country's other Vice-President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, accusing him of trying to "destabilise" the country.

It follows Mr Mnangagwa's claim that he was poisoned.

The governing Zanu-PF has been battling to contain tensions within the party between rival groups wanting to succeed President Robert Mugabe, 93.

Mr Mnangagwa and First Lady Grace Mugabe are seen as the frontrunners.

In a press statement, Mr Mphoko accused his counterpart of lying about being poisoned in August.

Mr Mphoki is currently the acting president as Mr Mugabe is out of the country.

Mr Mnangagwa fell ill in August at a political rally led by President Mugabe and had to be airlifted to South Africa.

Over the weekend, Mr Mnangagwa said someone had tried to poison his food. His supporters suggested a rival group within Zanu-PF was responsible and appeared to blame ice cream from Mrs Mugabe's dairy firm.

Vice-President Mphoko says doctors had confirmed to the president that stale food and not poison was to blame.

He said the latest claims show an agenda to "undermine the authority" of the president and fuel tensions within the party.

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, 93, has been urged by his wife to name his successor in order to end divisions over who the next leader will be.AFP

Last month, First Lady Grace Mugabe told a rally that both she and the president had been having sleepless nights because of accusations that it was ice cream from her dairy business that had been laced with poison.

Zanu-PF appears split into two sides, and despite President Mugabe's attempts to halt the infighting, it only seems to be getting worse.

On one side are Mrs Mugabe, Mr Mphoko and Defence Minister Sidney Sekeramayi, known as Generation 40, or G40.

On the other are Mr Mnangagwa and his supporters, who include many government ministers and army generals. They are known as Lacoste, from his nickname ngwena, or crocodile.

It is not clear whether President Mugabe approved this statement directly. But as acting president, it is likely that Mr Mphoko would have made him aware of his intention.


 
Published in Business and Economy

The war of words between Senator Isa Hamma Misau (Bauchi Central) and Inspector General of Police Ibrahim Idris deepened yesterday, with the Senate opening a probe into the senator’s allegations against the police chief.

The lawmakers constituted a special panel to investigate the police boss for alleged misappropriation of funds, illegal promotion and posting of senior officers and bribery.

Misau also brought up an allegation of infidelity against the IG.

The panel is also empowered to investigate claims that the IG put an officer in the family way and secretly wedded her in Kaduna.

Senate President Bukola Saraki named Senate Deputy Chief Whip Francis Alimikhena (Edo North) as the chairman of the special panel.

Other members are: Senators Nelson Effiong, Binta Garba, Obinna Ogba, Faseyi Duro, Abdulaziz Nyako and Suleiman Hukunyi.

The special panel is to probe the corruption allegation against the police boss. The Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions is to investigate claims of professional misconduct made by Misau against the IGP.

The committee is to submit its findings and report in two weeks.

Saraki said: “We have listened to our colleague and we cannot ignore the allegations. We have a duty to fight corruption. These matters are weighty and we have to investigate the allegations. We will set up an ad-hoc committee to investigate these allegations and report back to the Senate

“The ad-hoc committee we will set up will deal with all the allegations about misappropriation of funds made against the IGP. We will refer the other issues about personal misconduct against the IGP to the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions to for investigations. “

The row between Misau, a former police officer and the IGP blew open in August, when the Bauchi lawmaker, in an interview, claimed that police officers paid bribes to get favourable postings and promotions.

The police dismissed the claim as the ranting of a disgruntled deserter.

The IG, through Force spokesman Jimoh Moshood, said Misau’s claims were unfounded.

Moshood added that Misau was only out to discredit the institution of the police.

The police image maker added that Misau deserted the Force and that he would  soon be declared wanted so that he would be made to respond to a disciplinary committee set up to investigate him.

The police claimed: “Misau dubiously absconded and deserted the police on September 24, 2010, when he was redeployed to Niger State Command, consequent upon which he was queried, in line with the Public Service Rules.

“The police also alleged that Misau had previously faced disciplinary investigation when he refused to proceed on Junior Command Course (JCC) 49/2008 at Staff College, Jos, between January 15, 2009, and June 19, 2009.”

Rising on Order 45 on the floor of the Senate yesterday, Misau told his colleagues that the police boss was yet to respond to all the allegations he made against him.

Misau said that rather than address the issues he raised, the police authority was busy dealing with trivialities, including insulting him and his father.

He added another dimension to his claims when he told his colleagues that the police boss hurriedly married an officer after he put in the family way.

The officer, Misau said, was already four months pregnant when the IGP hurriedly arranged a marriage ceremony in Kaduna State.

He said that the officer used to serve in the office of the IGP.

Misau claimed that the expectant officer was promoted despite her lack of qualifications.

The Bauchi lawmaker noted that the marriage between the police boss and the officer contravened the code of ethics of the police.

Misau said: “During the recess, a lot of things happened between me and the office of the IGP. I am a retired police officer and served for 10 years and my father was in the police too and served for 34 years. In fact, my father joined the police even before I was born.

“So when I speak about the police, I know what I am saying. When I speak about the police, I speak on authority. I was concerned about what was happening in the police in terms of bribery which led the IG to be scared.

“I called three serving officers and they confirmed to me that people pay much more than N500,000 to get promotion. Even the revenue the police is generating we know. Police is not supposed to generate money. Meanwhile companies pay money to police to provide security for them. This is an open secret. It is obvious that even people with questionable character have police backing with siren all over the place.

“One police officer is supposed to be for 400 people, but in Nigeria, it is one police officer to 800 people and an oil marketer, for instance, will have over 30 policemen, thereby depleting the few police we have while the ordinary citizens are left without adequate protection.

“Another thing I found out is that there is illegal diversion of funds by the IGP. Under the 2016 budget, there is a place where IG ought to buy Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC), but he bought luxury cars without virement.”

On his claims that the IGP put an officer in the family way, Misau said: “I am aware that the IGP has impregnated a female officer in his office. Because he wanted to save his face, he hurriedly went ahead and married the woman. The wedding ceremony was held in Kaduna State.

“The female officer was already four months pregnant. This is against the rules of the Police Service Commission. You cannot marry another police officer while you are still serving. But the IGP has flouted that law.”

Published in News & Stories
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