Friday, 19 January 2018

The Federal Government has accused a former Senate President, David Mark, of illegally acquiring his then official residence as his private property.

In September this year, the government, through the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property, which is chaired by Chief Okoi Obono-Obla, gave the former Senate President a 21-day notice to quit the mansion.

The notice to quit, however, asked Mark to “show cause” why the Federal Government should not “enforce the recovery of the property for public good.”

But Mark had quickly filed a suit before the Federal High Court in Abuja to quash all steps taken by the panel to evict him and recover the house from him.

The case has not been heard.

The PUNCH, on Monday, obtained from court sources, copies of documents, including exhibits, filed by the former Senate President in his suit challenging the recovery process.

The Senate President’s official residence is sited on 1.6 hectares of land at 1 Musa Usman Street, (also known as No. 1 Chuba Okadigbo Street), Apo Legislative Quarters, Gudu, Abuja.

According to title documents, the property comprises eight structures, made up of the main house, ADC/chief security detail’s house, guest chalet, security/generator house, boys quarters, security post, driver/servants’ quarters and chapel.

The eight structures are said to be properly spaced and linked with well-paved drive and walkways and further done with lawns.

Mark, the senator, currently representing Benue South in the National Assembly, is accused of illegally acquiring the property with the approval of former President Goodluck Jonathan despite that such property was excluded from the monetisation policy of the Federal Government.

Copies of correspondences and other documents, leading to the purchase and eventual handover of the property to Mark in April, 2011, showed that the serving senator purchased the property at a “reserved price” of N673,200,000.

Meanwhile, in his letter, dated October 28, 2010, seeking the then President Jonathan’s approval for the sale of the property, the then Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mr. Bala Mohammed, had indicated that the open market value of the property was N748,000,000.

In addition, the then minister specifically stated that the Federal Executive Council had, in 2004, mandated the Federal Capital Territory Administration to sell all Federal Government’s “non-essential housing units in Abuja under specific rules and guidelines.”

Exempted from this arrangement are the official residences of the Senate President, the Deputy Senate President, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Deputy Speaker.

He stated that the exemption was “expressly contained in the Federal Government of Nigeria’s Official Gazette No. 82, Vol. 92 of August 15, 2005.”

In justifying the request for the then President’s approval for the sale, the former minister noted that all the houses in Apo Legislative Quarters, with the exception of the official residences of the four principal officers of the National Assembly, had been sold to the legislators occupying them at the time or the general public, under the Federal Government’s monetisation arrangement.

The former minister however stated that sale of other houses in the Apo Legislative Quarters had “altered the general security provision for the area and extension, the security of the leading principal officers of the National Assembly.”

The letter added, “This lapse in the general security provision of the area led the National Assembly to unofficially rent residential accommodation for its leading principal officers in more secure areas within the city.”

It also stated that due to the security concerns, the four houses of the leading principal officers “will no longer have the status of ‘essential properties’,” hence the FCTA “has made provision in the budget to construct residential accommodation for the leading principal officers of the National Assembly where the general security is befitting the status of the officers.”

The then minister had stated that the Senate President’s residence had an open market value of N748,000,000; the Speaker’s N670,000,000; the Deputy Senate President’s N458,000,000; and the Deputy Speaker’s N348,500,000.

What appeared on the then minister’s letter as Jonathan’s hand-written approval of the request dated November 15, 2010, read, “Para 6 and 8 approved. Also see if this could be gazetted.

“N/B: Ensure that the new residences are ready early next year.”

By a letter, with reference number PRES/83/FCTA/18 and dated November 18, 2010, Jonathan conveyed his approval to the then minister’s request for the sale of the Senate President’s official residence.

The letter, addressed to the FCT minister and titled, ‘Re: Sale of Residential Houses Occupied by Leading Principal Officers of the National Assembly’, was signed by the then President’s Senior Special Assistant (Admin), Matt Aikhionbare.

The letter read in part, “I am directed to forward Reference A to you and to convey to you, Mr. President’s approval of paragraphs 6 and 8 and further directive on page 2 in line with the earlier approval of 27/06/2010.”

But by a letter with reference number SPIP/INV/2017/VOL.1/17 and dated September 5, 2017, the Obono-Obla-led Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property insisted that Mark acquired the “national monument” in clear breach of the monetisation policy of the Federal Government.

The letter, signed by Obono-Obla and titled ‘Investigation activities: Notice to recover public property in your care’, and addressed to Mark, stated in part, “The extant Monetisation Policy of the Federal Government, as enunciated and still being implemented, excludes all Principal Officers of the National Assembly and hence places the responsibility on the Federal Government to provide accommodation for them, same which you allegedly illegally appropriated.”

The letter asked Mark “to take steps within the next 21 days to vacate the said property or show cause why the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria should not enforce the recovery of the said property for public good.”

It added, “You are further being notified pursuant to the Recovery Property (Special Provisions) Act, 1983, to complete and return within 30 days the attached Form B (Declaration of Assets Form) to the office of the undersigned.”

But Mark, through his lawyer, Ken Ikonne, filed the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1037/2017 before the Federal High Court in Abuja, insisting that he legally acquired the property through a “walk-in bid” at the behest of the FCTA.

He also contended that the recovery process initiated by the Federal Government was unconstitutional.

The Attorney General of the Federation and Obono-Obla are joined as respondents to the suit.

Among his prayers, Mark sought “a declaration that the unilateral declaration by the defendants that the plaintiff’s acquisition” of the property “is illegal and the order compelling the plaintiff to vacate the aforesaid property” without affording him “a hearing,” amounted to a denial of his “fundamental rights to fair hearing and property, and are therefore unconstitutional and void.”

He also sought a declaration that “the service by the defendants on the plaintiff of the Notice to Declare His Assets (Form A) and the Assets Declaration Form B is unconstitutional and thus void.”

He sought “an order quashing” the defendants’ declaration of his acquisition of the aforesaid property as illegal, and another order “quashing the order of the defendants” compelling him to vacate the aforesaid property.”

He also applied for an order of the court “quashing the Notice to Declare Assets Form A and the Assets Declaration Form B” served on him and “a perpetual injunction restraining the defendants, jointly and severally” or through any agent “from evicting the plaintiff from the said property, or recovering same from him.”

Mark said he was occupying the said property in 2010 when the FCTA, “citing security concerns”, decided to construct new official residences for the leadership of the National Assembly, including the President of the Senate, in a more secure and conducive environment.”

According to the former Senate President, the FCTA had insisted that the reserve price of N673,200,000.00 reflected the open market value of the property.

He added that the valuers of the FCT that inspected and carried out a valuation of the property had put the “replacement cost” of the property at N492,700,000.

He said he duly accepted the offer on April 21, 2011 and paid the “agreed purchase price to the Ad hoc Committee on Sale of FGN Houses” on April 27, 2011.

He said the house now served as his family home in Abuja.

But he said surprisingly he was on October 9, 2017 served a letter of investigation activities dated September 5, 2017, by the Okono-Obla-led panel.

He stated in his suit that, “the defendants (AGF and Obono-Obla)  unilaterally, and without affording me any hearing at all, and without any order of any court, declared my acquisition of the said property illegal, and ordered me to vacate the said property failing which the defendants would enforce the recovery of the property against me.”

EFCC grills Benue senator for seven hours, seizes passport

Meanwhile, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, on Monday, interrogated the immediate past Senate President, David Mark, for seven hours, The PUNCH has learnt.

Impeccable sources within the EFCC told one of our correspondents that Mark’s passport was also seized before he was allowed to go on an administrative bail.

The PUNCH learnt that Mark, who served as Senate President from 2007 to 2015, arrived at the Abuja office of the EFCC around 12noon and was released at 7pm.

The source added, “The former Senate President arrived around 12pm and spent seven hours responding to several questions from detectives.

“He was released at 7pm on the condition that he must submit his passport to the commission which he did.

“Senator Mark is expected to return soon to answer more questions”

The former Senate President is expected to account for over N5.4bn slush cash and campaign funds allegedly traced to him.

He was alleged to have received over N500m from the government of former President Goodluck Jonathan during the build-up to the 2015 presidential election.

The money is alleged to have been part of the $2.1bn meant for arms procurement.

The Senator, who has been representing Benue-South Senatorial District since 1999, is also accused of sharing N2.9bn to his colleagues while presiding over the upper legislative chamber.

The former Senate President has, however, denied all the allegations levelled against him.

In a statement on Sunday, Mark said, “To set the records straight, Senator Mark was invited by the EFCC via a letter addressed to the National Assembly to answer questions on the 2015 presidential election campaign funds as it concerned Benue State.

“As a law-abiding citizen, Senator Mark honoured the invitation.

“Curiously, they also alleged that the PDP paid over N2bn into the National Assembly’s account which he, as then President of the Senate, allegedly shared among the 109 senators, including PDP, Action Congress of Nigeria and All Nigerian Peoples Party (members) in 2010.

“Again, to the best of his knowledge, Senator Mark is not aware of such transactions. This simply did not make sense to any right thinking member of society.

“Senator Mark wondered why anybody would think that PDP will pay money into National Assembly account. He, however, clarified all the issues raised before returning home.”

The Senator representing Niger East Senatorial District, Senator David Umaru has tackle the Niger state Governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sanitation Bello over his frequent trips abroad while the economy and security of the state is deteriorating.

He described the reasons given by the governor for his trips as unreasonable saying he is always in pursuit of ‘phantom agreements and MOUs’. 

In a press statement titled, “When Silence is No Longer Golden… A Must Read for All APC Wailers”, the Senator asked, ‘Why Should I Keep Quiet? ‘

He said that he have been told to shut up but he cannot keep quiet as the past and recent developments in the state do not seem pleasant enough to afford the luxury of such passive disposition.

He alledged that billions of naira accrue to the state monthly is being squandered with reckless profligacy stating that the leadership has demonstrated its incapacity to use the resources to bring relief to the suffering of the people.

Umaru also said that the APC administration in the state has virtually nothing tangible to show for the billions of bailout funds, budget support funds and Paris club refunds that had accrued to the stat stating there has not been any visible development projects in the state tied to the funds collected.

“Why should I keep quiet when the state of affairs in Niger State has in recent times become worrisome to the extent that some of us involved directly or indirectly in governance under the ruling APC can no longer pretend that all is well. My concern over the plummeting political and socio-economic condition in the state has become more desperate for the obvious fact that I had played a leading role in the campaign that gave power to our party in the 2015 election.

“How can I keep quiet when it is a known fact that I went to every nook and cranny, particularly in Niger East Senatorial District, soliciting for votes based on the conviction that if voted into office our government would bring succour to our suffering people in line with its slogan of change but unfortunately, two years after our victory, that conviction is fast fading and becoming a mirage as our people continue to wallow in hardship occasioned by lack of basic and essential amenities as a result of the administration’s failure to direct available huge financial resources to the benefit and development of the state.

“Why should I keep quiet when as much as one would have wanted to stay aloof and maintain “dignified” silence, past and recent developments in our beloved state do not seem pleasant enough to afford the luxury of such passive disposition. Available records have shown that billions of naira accrue to the state monthly but same is squandered with reckless profligacy. The Leadership has demonstrated its incapacity to use our resources to bring relief to our suffering people.

“The Leadership continues to exhibit serious inadequacy, lack of honesty, lack of accountability, lack of transparency and prudence in the management of the huge amounts coming from federal allocations and special interventions by the Presidency to the state over the years. In essence, this APC administration has virtually nothing tangible to show for the billions of bailout funds, budget support funds and Paris club refunds that had accrued to the state. I am also aware that Mr. Governor has within the year or so approached the state House of Assembly twice or thereabout for legislative approvals to access more funds running into billions of naira but there has not been any visible development project(s) in the state tied to these funds.

“I am told to shut up but I cannot keep quiet while under our watch billions of naira meant for payment of pensioners is alleged to be heartlessly diverted? Why should I not speak out when the government I campaigned to install has continued to be insensitive to the plight of our pensioners through dubious manipulation of pension reform matters thereby jeopardising the already impoverished state of our retirees.”

Senator Umaru further stated that that the inattention of the governor to security have led to the increase in crimes in local government areas across the state.

“Again, why should I keep quiet when the security situation in the state has degenerated to the level that several villages have been sacked by criminals and kidnappers while the government remains clueless and insensitive to the plight of the affected communities in complete abdication of it’s constitutional responsibility of protecting lives and property of its citizens.

“As I speak to you Tsohon Kabulu, Bakin Nyanyi, Rigogo, Fwapeyi among other Communities in Munya LGA have been dislodged by the criminals who have killed 4 persons and kidnapped 10 others. Why shouldn’t I speak out when the Governor is preoccupied with undertaking trips abroad in pursuit of phantom agreements, MOUs rather than being around to attend to the serious security challenges rocking the state.

“There are several other similar security issues on which the government inaction is evident and they include the Fulani herders/farmers clashes in many parts of the state where scores of people are being killed; The Ebota village incident in Mokwa LGA where over 23 villagers were mercilessly massacred by Fulani assailants and this is still fresh in our memories; the wanton and senseless murder of a woman in Pandogari, Rafi LGA; the Lambata/Izom cattle market clashes and serious kidnappings, armed robbery and rape incidents in Gurara LGA; the Kaffin-Koro communal clashes, and the Kidnappings, rape, armed robbery in Ishau, Paikoro LGA, the Suleja church attacks etc. All these are begging for government attention.

“In the light of the security challenges confronting us, I cannot keep quiet. I urge the State Government to deploy the huge security votes at its disposal to provide logistics and support to the security agencies in the state to enhance the performance of their duties.

“Finally, let it be known that I speak out because the resources accruing to our State is our commonwealth and does not belong to any one family and their friends. I will not keep quiet for the sake of our suffering jobless young people, women and children and our future generation. “

The Gambia has become the latest country to deny that it is selling a Siberian businessman land for his plan to revive the Russian monarchy.

The Gambia "has not signed any memorandum of understanding with the Romanov Empire represented by Arch Chancellor Prince Anton Bakov," the Gambian president's website says

Mr Bakov told reporters back home that The Gambia had agreed to let him build artificial islands on its Bijol islets as a base for his Romanov Empire micro-state, in return for $60m (£44.8m) and use of the proposed hi-tech "smart city" of Saint Nicholas, the Argumenty i Fakty website reports.

But the Gambian government says it did not agree to Mr Bakov's proposal during his visit last month.

Government lawyers rejected the plans on the grounds that the Romanov Empire is "not a real state... and does not have the authority to enter into an international treaty," the president's website says.

Planned Romanov Empire islands in GambiaImage copyrightROMANOV EMPIRE WEBSITE
Saint Nicholas, Africa's proposed first 'smart city'

They also raised concerns about the environmental and financial implications of the artificial islands project.

Mr Bakov, a former MP, created the Romanov Empire micro-nation in 2011 for "people unhappy with President Vladimir Putin's regime". It is nominally led by "Nicholas III", a German aristocrat with a Romanov grandmother, but has little support among Russia's traditional monarchists.

Mr Bakov has tried and failed to persuade a series of other countries - most recently Kiribati in the Pacific Ocean - to let him use their islands as a territorial base for his Empire.

But this latest rebuff seems unlikely to dampen his enthusiasm for restoring Russia's imperial glory in exile. "I never put all my eggs in one basket," he told reporters in his home city of Yekaterinburg.

Russian businessman and claimant to the Russian throne Prince Karl Emich of LeiningenImage copyrightANTON BAKOV/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
Mr Bakov (left) discusses imperial projects with "Emperor Nicholas III" (right)

The UN has warned of a rise in trafficking of the synthetic opioid tramadol across West Africa, as one official revealed it is being found in the pockets of suicide bombers.

Seizures of the drug have skyrocketed since 2013, from 300kg (660lb) to more than three tonnes a year, the UN's Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said.

In September, three million pills in UN-logoed boxes were found in Niger.

The opioid is known to be popular with Islamist militants Boko Haram.

The pills - which can be legally prescribed as painkillers - are thought to be used to calm the would-be attackers, with the Guardian previously reporting the terrorist group stuff it into dates which they then feed to children before sending them to their deaths.

Some 600,000 pills bound for the group were seized on the Nigeria-Cameroon border in August.

Pierre Lapaque, the UNODC's West and Central Africa representative, warned the situation could not be allowed to "get any further out of control", as it continues to undermine global security.

"Tramadol is regularly found in the pockets of suspects arrested for terrorism in the Sahel, or who have committed suicidal attack," Mr Lapaque said.

"This raises the question of who provides the tablets to fighters from Boko Haram and al-Qaeda, including young boys and girls, preparing to commit suicide bombings."

The UNODC says the abuse of the drug - usually smuggled from Asia through the Gulf by criminal gangs - is escalating into a major health crisis in the Sahel, particularly in northern Mali and Niger, with sub-Saharan Africa's young population potentially providing traffickers with an even larger market.

One woman in northern Mali told the agency she regularly saw children little older than 10 walking around "after taking or being given pills in their tea in order to help reduce their feeling of hunger".

People taking the drug illegally are thought use a dose up to five times higher than usual medical prescriptions, the UNODC added.

The Court of Appeal in Abuja has reversed Senate President Bukola Saraki’s acquittal of false assets declaration charges.

The appellate court, in a unanimous judgment by a three-man panel, led by Justice Tinuade Akomolafe Wilson, ordered Saraki to return to the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) for the continuation of his trial.

The court held that the prosecution led direct and credible evidence to establish a prima facie case against Saraki in three of the 18 counts contained in the charge for which he was tried.

The counts on which Saraki is to enter defence are 4, 5 and 6 in relation to his alleged failure to declare some houses he acquired in Ikoyi, Lagos.

In Count 4, Saraki is alleged to have falsified his Assets Declaration at the end of his tenure as Kwara State Governor in 2011 and on assumption of office as a senator in 2011 when he declared that he acquired No. 17A, McDonald, Ikoyi, Lagos.

The prosecution contended that the defendant falsely declared that he had acquired No 17A, McDonald, Ikoyi on 6th September 2006 from the proceeds of sale of rice and sugar.

In Count 5, he is also alleged to have falsified his Assets Declaration at the end of his tenure as Governor of Kwara State in 2011 and on assumption of office as a senator in 2011 when he declared that he acquired No. 17B, McDonald, Ikoyi Lagos.

The prosecution contended that the defendant falsely declared to have acquired No. 17A, McDonald, Ikoyi on 6th September 2006 from proceeds of sale of rice and sugar.

In Count 6, Saraki is accused of making a false declaration in the Assets Declaration Form at the end of tenure as governor in 2007 and on assumption of office as executive governor in 2007 when he failed to declare his outstanding loan liabilities of N315,054,355.92 out of the loan of N380,000,000 obtained from Guaranty Trust Bank Plc.

The CCT  on June 14, upheld Saraki’s no-case submission, discharged and acquitted him, a decision the Federal Government appealed.

The Appeal Court, in its judgment yesterday, resolved four out of the five issues identified for determination in favour of the appellant.

The court said the tribunal was wrong to have held that Saraki was not invited to make a statement in the course of investigating the allegations against him.

It said the Senate President made a statement in the course of investigation, which was tendered and admitted by the tribunal as Exhibit 46.

The appellate court also faulted the CCT’s decision that the joint investigation team constituted by the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate the allegations against Saraki was unknown to law.

It said there was no law forbidding the CCB from collaborating with other investigating agencies of government to effectively discharge its mandate.

The court also faulted the tribunal for holding that the prosecution failed to prove its case by not tendering the original copies of Saraki’s assets declaration forms and his statement.

It said the certified true copies (CTC) of the forms and statement were sufficient under the law to be admitted as exhibits in favour of the prosecution.

On whether the tribunal was right to have upheld Saraki’s no-case submission, the appellate court resolved the issue against Saraki.

After a thorough analysis of the evidence led by the prosecution, the appellate court said the prosecution led credible and direct evidence in respect of three counts – 4, 5 and 6 – of the 18-count amended charge, to warrant his being called upon to enter his defence.

The court said the prosecution was unable to discharge the burden of proof placed on him by the law in relation to counts 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18.

It said some of the prosecution’s witnesses gave both oral and documentary hearsay evidence that are inadmissible in law. It also said the prosecution failed to call witnesses in relation to the 15 counts.

For instance, the court noted that the prosecution, though accused Saraki of earning double salaries from the Kwara State Government and as a senator, it failed to call witnesses from the Kwara State Government and the National Assembly in support of the allegation.

The court ordered that the case be remitted back to CCT for Saraki to enter his defence.

Other members of the panel – Justices Tenimu Y. Hassan and M. Mustapha – agreed with the lead judgment by Justice Akomlafe-Wilson.

A two-man panel of the CCT, headed by Danladi Umar, on June 14, 2017, upheld the no-case submission filed by Saraki after the prosecution, led by Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), closed its case after calling four witnesses and tendering 48 documentary exhibits.

In upholding the no-case submission, the tribunal dismissed the amended 18 counts preferred against Saraki on the grounds that the prosecution, was unable to establish any prima facie case against the Senate President.

Umar, in his lead ruling, exonerated Saraki, holding that failure of the prosecution to obtain his  statement and make it part of the proof of evidence was fatal to the case.

He adjudged as “absurd” that neither Saraki’s statement nor the report of the investigation said to have been carried out was produced before the tribunal.

He agreed with the defence team, led by Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN),  that the prosecution’s evidence had been manifestly discredited during cross-examination by the defence.

He added that the evidence adduced by the prosecution, led by Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), was “so unreliable that no reasonable tribunal could convict” based on it.

The tribunal chairman specifically noted that the third prosecution witness, Mr. Samuel Madojemu, who is Head, Intelligence Unit of the Code of Conduct Bureau, only gave hearsay evidence on the information the witness purportedly received from the EFCC.

But the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, through  Jacobs, on June 20, filed a 17-ground notice of appeal against the CCT’s judgment.

The Federal Government faulted all the grounds on which the CCT predicated Saraki’s acquittal, describing the entire judgment as unreasonable and unconstitutional.

Jacobs subsequently filed an appellant’s brief on July 28, formulating five issues for determination.

Saraki, through his lead counsel Agabi, also filed his respondent’s brief on August 22.

While adopting his appellant’s brief on November 22, Jacobs urged the court to grant the Federal Government’s appeal and hold that the judgment of the CCT was perverse. He also reiterated that the CCT erred by adjudging the oral evidence of the prosecution’s third witness, Madojemu, the Head, Intelligence Unit of the CCB, as hearsay.

I’ve been vindicated, says Senate President 

Senate President Bukola Saraki yesterday described the Court of Appeal verdict as a vindication for him.

In a statement by his media adviser Yusuph Olaniyonu, Saraki expressed the belief that upholding a no-case-submission with regards to 15 of the 18-count charge confirmed his innocence.

“At least, today’s judgment has confirmed the position of the Tribunal that the prosecution’s case was entirely based on hearsay, not on any concrete evidence.

“The verdict of the Court of Appeal, just like that of the Tribunal before it, aligned with our position that the preposterous claims made during trial by the prosecution concerning operation of foreign accounts, making anticipatory declarations, collecting double salaries, owning assets beyond his income and failure to declare assets owned by companies in which the Senate President owns interests, among others, have fallen like a pack of cards and lack any basis.

“On the remaining three counts, which really touch on two issues, referred back to the Tribunal for the Senate President’s defence, it should be noted that the Appellate Court only gave a summary of its decision today promising to provide the parties with Certified True Copies of the judgment soon. As soon as it makes the details of the judgment available, our lawyers will review the grounds of the decision and take appropriate action.

“We remain convinced about the innocence of the Senate President on the three ( or two) counts because we believe the decision of the Court of Appeal is not consistent with the submissions made by both parties at the Tribunal. Thus, it is our view that that aspect of the judgment will not stand”.

Saraki added that his confidence and faith in the nation’s judiciary and its ability to dispense justice to all manners of people remained unshaken.

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has described the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) as the enemy of Nigeria, saying it would take a united and coherent Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to sack the APC government in 2019.

Atiku stated this in a congratulatory message to the newly elected national chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus and other officials elected at the just concluded national convention of the party.

The statement, released by his media office on Sunday said the immediate challenge before the newly elected national officers of the PDP was to run an all-inclusive administration where the various interests within the party can find accommodation.

He added that Nigerians are looking up to the PDP for unity in the party, “because it takes a united and coherent PDP to sack the APC government in 2019″.

The statement said, “Our great party, the PDP, is, again, at the threshold of an historical moment. Just as we mobilised to put an end to prolonged military rule in 1999, the people of Nigeria at this moment look up to us to rescue the country from the mis-government of the APC.

“Arising from our elective congress, there should be no victor and no vanquished. Our paramount attention should be focused at sacking a government that deceived the people of Nigeria into power by promising our youths three million jobs annually, only to deliver three million job losses annually; a government that is repeatedly living in denial of its commitment to restructuring. We must be united to take power back to where it belongs: the Nigerian people.

“As members of the PDP, we must take pride in being able to hold a national convention and in so doing live up to the bill of being a truly democratic political party. Our major opponent has not been able to achieve this feat and I join millions of our party members to congratulate the Ahmed Makarfi-led national caretaker committee.

“I understand that there are complaints and grievances from many of the co-contestants in the congress. I am aware that the PDP has a mechanism for addressing such complaints and it is important that such avenues of redress are made available for members to explore without let or hindrance. Meantime, I call on all our leaders and members to rally the new executive for the sake of our party, Nigeria and the good of our people”.

Borussia Dortmund sacked Peter Bosz as head coach on Sunday and replaced him with Austrian Peter Stoeger, who was only fired by Bundesliga bottom side Cologne last weekend.

Dutchman Bosz, 54, was released after just 167 days in charge as Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at home to Werder Bremen left Dortmund winless in their last eight league games following a miserable run of results.

Bosz was dismissed just hours after the Bremen defeat, when poor defending again led to another dreadful team display.

However, it means a quick turn-around for Stoeger, who has precious little time to prepare for the next Bundesliga game at Mainz on Tuesday.

He has just three matches remaining before the winter break with the Mainz match followed by a league game at home to Hoffenheim next Saturday and a plum German cup third-round clash at Bayern Munich on December 20.

“We will train together today and tomorrow and the first thing will be to talk about the current problems,” said Stoeger at Sunday’s press conference.

“We want to bring some more empathy back into the group.”

– ‘Exceptional opportunity’ –
Stoeger says he has gone from one great club to another after having become a cult figure in Cologne by steering them to the Europa League this season — their first appearance in Europe for 25 years.

“I have come from a really great club and to be able to work in Dortmund is something special, it’s an exceptional opportunity, for my staff and I,” he said.

“You only get a chance like this once in your life.”

Stoeger, who steered Cologne to fifth in the Bundesliga last season before a disastrous winless start to 2017/18, flew straight from Vienna to Germany after hearing from Dortmund’s CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke on Saturday night.

The call caught Stoeger by surprise, coming just as he had arrived in the Austrian capital to visit family before heading back to the airport.

“I wasn’t planning on this, but the call changed everything,” he said.

“Now we have to see if we can make everyone happy.”

PDP governors-backed Uche Secundus has emerged the new national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) following an overwhelming defeat of two other opponents at the Eagle Square venue of the party’s convention on Saturday.

The former deputy national chairman of the party garnered 2000 votes, with a former Minister of Education, Prof. Adeniran coming a distant second with 230, while media mogul Raymond Dokpesi brought up the rear, with a miserly 66 votes.

Secondus, in the early hours of Sunday, was declared the new chairman with an overwhelming defeat of Prof. Tunde Adeniran and Chief Raymond Dokpesi.

Intense scheming and horse trading characterized the weekend’s event, as nine aspirants earlier cleared for the election, withdrew before the commencement of voting. These include; Chief Olabode George, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, Jimi Agbaje and Senator Rashidi Ladoja.

Chairman of the Electoral Sub-Committee of the convention and former Governor of Benue, Gabriel Suswan, announced the results and said that the election for chairmanship position was keenly contested by four candidates.

“In this contest, nine gentlemen indicated their interests to contest, but here, four of them sent letters of withdrawal and so four were left.

“The other ones we were told have withdrawn but there was no letter to that effect.

“The four gentlemen that contested were Uche Secondus, Chief Raymond Dokpesi, Founder of Daar Communications; Prof. Tunde Adeniran, former Education Minister and Prof. Taoheed Adedoja, former Minister of Sports and Special Duties.

“Secondus scored 2,000 votes; Dokpesi, 66; Adeniran, 230 while Adedoja scored no vote,” Suswan said.

Other elected officers were Sen. Babayo Garmawa, Deputy National Chairman (North); Mr Yemi Akinwunmi, Deputy National Chairman (South); Sen. Umar Tsauri, National Secretary and Mr Agbo Emmanuel, Deputy National Secretary.

Retired Col. Austin Akinbundu is new National Organising Secretary, Yakubu Hassan, Deputy National Organizing Secretary; Mr Kola Ologbondiyan, National Publicity Secretary and Diran Odeyemi, Deputy National Publicity Secretary.

Mr Abdullahi Maibasira emerged National Financial Secretary, Irona Gerald, Deputy National Financial Secretary; Aribisala Adewale, National Treasurer; Wada Masu, Deputy National Treasurer; Adamu Mustapha, National Auditor and Arong Divine, Deputy National Auditor.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Mariya Umar was elected National Women Leader, Umoru Hadiza, Deputy National Women Leader, and Emmanuel Enoidem, National Youth Leader.

The Chairman of the Convention Planning Committee and Governor of Delta, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, commended the Election Sub-Committee for “job well done”.

He also commended all the candidates and delegates who participated in elections and party leaders and members for cooperation that ensured the success of the convention.

Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP ) chieftain and senator representing Ogun East senatorial zone at the National Assembly, Buruji Kashamu has been suspended by the National Caretaker Committee of the party.

The decision which was taken at 3am Saturday morning  is said to be for a month.

The National convention of the party is expected to start Saturday morning , with the election of a new National chairman and other officers as the major highlight.

The 2019 Presidential election is only 423 days away, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced Friday.

According to the time table released by the commission, Nigerians are expected to elect the president on February 16, 2019.

Also scheduled for the same day is the election into the Senate and the House of Representatives.

News of the election dates was broken by INEC chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, at an induction retreat for Resident Electoral Commissioners in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.

The Governorship, State Assembly and Area Council elections in the Federal Capital Territory will follow on 2nd March 2019,” Yakubu said.

The implementation of the 2019 Election Project Plan is to begin on   January 1, 2018.

He said an additional 3,630,529 voters were registered in the recent continuous registration.

“This is an important development in our efforts to ensure that electoral services offered to Nigerians are better, more frequent and easier to access than ever before,” he said.

This exercise will continue until 60 days to the 2019 General Elections, as a provided by the Electoral act.

The INEC Chairman said the commission was “working assiduously to ensure 100% performance of the Card Readers. That is why there is an ongoing pilot to upgrade it by enhancing its features including new superior processors.”

He added: “At the same time, the Commission is exploring ways of improving the integrity of the collation and results transmission processes and has begun to deploy the electronic result collation and transmission platform on a pilot basis.

“Our ultimate aim, learning from the pilot and consequential improvement of the supporting infrastructure, is to deploy the system for all forthcoming off-season elections and, ultimately, the 2019 General Elections. The Commission is working to ensure that this goal is achieved.”

The commission said it has conducted 175 elections across the country in the last two years.

These include 79 Court-ordered re-run elections, 73 end of tenure elections and 23 bye-elections.

Yakubu said that even where electoral tribunals overturned two of the elections conducted, the commission was never asked to do a fresh election.

He also noted that to the credit of the commission, outcomes of most recent elections were not challenged in court.

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