[ Masterweb Reports: Ismail Mudashir reports ] - The Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, has advocated an upward review of minimum wage from N18,000 to N50,000. Delivering the 4th National Public Service Lecture of the University of Ibadan Alumni Association, he said, “when a man who earns N18,000, cannot buy a bag of rice, how then can such a person take care of his family? Does it make sense to him if you tell him not to find alternative means of catering to the needs of his family?
“Is it not also possible to abolish the Security Vote and replace it with Contingency Vote so that it can be appropriated and accounted for,” he said.
He also called for the decentralisation of the war against corruption if it must be won.
He urged the 36 states government to set up anti-corruption agencies, so as to complement the efforts of the federal anti-corruption agencies in the fight against corruption.
“Similarly, a Code of Conduct Bureau should be established in the states with a Code of Conduct Tribunal to handle cases of civil servants and local government councils.
*Photo Caption - Ike Ekweremadu
[ Masterweb Reports: Hameed Oyegbade reports ] - A passenger train derailed in Osogbo, capital of Osun State on Saturday and some of the coaches somersaulted on the track and grounded the movement of other trains traveling to Northern parts of the country.
The accident occurred shortly after the ill-fated train left the Osogbo railway station as some of the coaches plunged into the roadside near the Nelson Mandela Freedom Park where fun seekers usually sit for recreation.
The Police Public Relations Officer for Osun State Police Command, SP Folasade Odoro told Daily Trust that policemen were deployed to the scene to ensure safety of lives and to prevent hoodlums from looting properties or harassing the passengers.
The timely deployment of the policemen to the scene led to the arrest of a bus conductor while the driver of the bus escaped arrest after looting from the scene of the accident.
A white bus with registration number EDO XN 408 BEN in which the driver and his conductor parked the items that they looted from the train was impounded by the police.
Officials of the Nigeria Railway Corporation in Osogbo declined comments on the train mishap, saying that the matter was beyond them and that the NRC regional station in Ibadan, Oyo State has been notified and that top regional officers of NRC in Ibadan were on their way to Osogbo for necessary actions.
Meanwhile, other trains en route the North have become stranded as there was no way they could pass because of the incident while some other trains traveling to Lagos from Kwara state axis could not continue their journey at the time of filing this reports.
*Photo Caption - Derailed train
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*Photo Caption - As seen.
[ Masterweb Reports: Isiaka Wakili reports ] - President Muhammadu Buhari has reassured Nigerians that though he is still resting, there is no cause for worry over his health condition. President Buhari gave the assurance Saturday in a telephone conversation with his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina.
Adesina, in a statement in his twitter handle, @FemAdesina, said the president thanked him for holding out against mischief makers.
"Spoke with PMB a short while ago. Glad to hear his voice. Told me he was resting, but no cause for worry. Said I should greet my family.
"Thanks for holding out against mischief makers, PMB tells me during a phone call today. Said he would call again soon. Gave him best wishes," Adesina wrote.
This is the first time the presidential spokesman has spoken with his boss since the latter embarked on vacation in the United Kingdom on January 19.
Buhari later extended his 10-day vacation in order to complete and receive results of a series of tests recommended by his doctors.
The Presidency had on Tuesday disclosed that during Buhari's normal annual checkups, tests showed he needed a longer period of rest, necessitating him staying longer than originally planned.
*Photo Caption - President Muhammadu Buhari
[ Masterweb Reports: Andrew Agbese reports ] - The gunmen who abducted German archaeologist, Prof. Peter Breunij and his associate, Johannes Buringer in Jenjela village near Kaduna on Wednesday, have contacted the colleagues of the professor and have demanded N60 million as ransom on the two men.
A source at Jenjela village, Kagarko local government of Kaduna State, who prefers not to be named, said the abductors called the line of the camp supervisor around 11:00 am and demanded for N30 million as payment on each of the two men with them.
The source said the male voice, who spoke on behalf of the abductors warned associates of the professor against involving the police and other security agencies in the bid to rescue the professor and his associate and advised them to source for the money as soon as they can.
"Obviously they were not worried about the involvement of the police and other security agencies whose men arrived the village Thursday and were asking questions," he said.
Prof. Breunij, 65 and his aide who is in his early 20s, were abducted on Wednesday while working on an excavation of relics of Nok culture at Jenjela community in Kagarko local government of Kaduna State.
*Photo Caption - Prof. Peter Breunij
[ Masterweb Reports: Levinus Nwabughiogu reports ] - President Muhammadu Buhari’s lawyer, Kola Awodein, SAN, has admitted that he gave the sum of N500,000 to Justice Niyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, currently standing trial for alleged corruption.
He however said it was a personal gift to the Judge on the occasion of his daughter’s High Society wedding solemnization, saying it was according judicial customs and traditions.
He added that it was utterly ridiculous to say that he gave the money at the instance of the president Buhari during his no certificate saga as the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC.
In a statement routed through the Presidency and signed by the Special Adviser to Buhari on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina on Wednesday, Awodein said that “Nigerians know that President Buhari challenged the elections of 2003, 2007, and 2011, up to the Supreme Court, and not once was he named as trying to compromise any Judge, though some of them were his schoolmates, or contemporary, at one time or the other.”
He said “It is in keeping with the President’s time-tested reputation as a man of truth and integrity. Any attempt to sully that reputation is bound to fail, inexorably.
The statement below reads in full:
“I am constrained to make in absolute good faith, in good conscience and in the interest of justice and fair play the following very short statement on account of the distorted news story currently being peddled as affecting the person of Mr. President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and my good and very noble self.
“The very simple and plain facts are as follows:
“I have known as a friend and for well over 35 years Mr. Justice Niyi Ademola, a notorious fact known to majority of lawyers who have practiced especially in Lagos for over that same period more or less and also to so many other professionals of other disciplines and other prominent and not so prominent Nigerians.
“It is a fact that the sum of money mentioned was personally paid by me as a friend to Mr. Justice Ademola as a personal gift, as our custom well recognizes and demands, on the occasion of his daughter’s High Society wedding solemnized at the Cathedral Church of Christ, Marina, Lagos, on the 9th of May 2015, which I attended in person.
“I was fully convinced then, as I remain today, that I could do no less as a friend of longstanding to fairly reasonably support him on that memorable occasion of his daughter’s wedding.
“Anyone and everyone who knows me would readily and unquestionably testify that I am and have always been a man of impeccable integrity on and off the Courts and that such a record speaks always loudly for itself.
“I would conclude by stating categorically and without any equivocation that any link whatsoever with Mr. President, or any court case or cases, of my personal gift from my personal resources delivered to Justice Niyi Ademola by myself on that occasion or any suggestion whatsoever that it was anything but such a gift or that it ever came from Mr. President or at his instance or that I was acting, under any circumstances, on his behalf is most malicious, utterly ridiculous and in very, very poor and revolting taste and most undeserving of any further comments.”
*Photo Caption - Naira notes.
[ Masterweb Reports: Austin Oyibode reports ] - Leaders of pro-Biafran organizations across the world met over the weekend to adopt the United Progressive Party (UPP) as Biafra's national party in Nigeria. The groups in a meeting in Enugu, where they were hosted by the UPP, led by its national chairman, Chief Chekwas Okorie, vowed to take over the leadership of the old Biafran region, starting with Anambra.
It also announced the formation of its political movement in Nigeria, the Movement of Biafrans in Nigeria (MOBIN).
"Since Nigeria has resolved to deny us the right to self-determination, we have also resolved that they can no more continue to decide who runs our ancestral nation of Biafra.
“Today, we resolve to take over our territory through political means. We are calling on pro-Biafrans today to join us and run for political positions.
“It's our home and we shall win. Never again shall security forces kill our children in our homes because a stooge of the Nigerian state is the governor.
“Never again shall our people be subject to underdevelopment and lack of jobs and remain helpless. We shall vote in our own politicians and hold them responsible for quality governance in our land,” said Rita Anigboogu, the Coordinator-General of MOBIN.
Chekwas Okorie, chairman of the UPP also said the relationship between his party and MOBIN, which is the mobilization group of pro-Biafran activists has been fully cemented.
"This is the only political party, of all the parties registered under the Nigerian law that has a manifesto, a political ideology expressed in its document registered with INEC that is a social contract with the Nigerian people.
“The party has made as its cardinal programme self-determination of the ethnic nationalities in Nigeria through federalism, resource control and devolution of power.
“That also includes state police, community policing, referendum at any given time, that any section may wish to express its willingness to remain or exit from Nigeria.
“The government of UPP will build into the Nigerian constitution the provision for referendum, that is an exit clause as it is today in the constitution of Ethiopia.
“That has made Ethiopia more stable today than it was years ago when they were fighting each other. UPP is the only political party that has taken a decision to appropriate all the 660 recommendations of the 2014 national conference, all reached by national consensus, not by anyone side neglecting the other.
“UPP has a programme, it is like an expo that cannot be copied by any other party. It's a UPP brand, and that brand is self-determination of any nationality inclusive of the fact of all those who may have been arrested, detained or even sentenced to prison terms.
“Only on account of their political beliefs will be granted freedom with compensation, if UPP takes the government of Nigeria in 2019,” Okorie said.
London-based Barrister Emeka Emekesiri, solicitor for the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), told journalists that "today is actually the day we came to cement the relationship between the UPP and MOBIN, in which case MOBIN has become the mobilization agency for UPP, so the programme is that MOBIN will mobilize the entire old Eastern region and parts of the North Central and make them to vote Biafran candidates into power.
“Our mission is clear-we want Biafrans to take charge of the whole political space of Biafra land. MOBIN is now officially the mobilization agency for UPP.
“We have adopted UPP as the national party for all Biafrans. We will mobilize our pro Biafran groups across the world to move into the UPP, and begin to prepare to take over the whole Biafra nation.”
Engineer Anthony Aniebue, Administrator of the customary government of the IPOB revealed: "We cemented our relationship of working together with the UPP, in making sure that we enthrone Biafranism in all Biafra land, that we take over Biafran political environment through political process, that from the Biafran angle we have what we call the Movement of Biafrans in Nigeria.
“We are Biafrans by indigenous identity, but we are still Nigerians struggling for our freedom. Between now and the shortest possible time when we hope to restore Biafran nation and country, we are still Nigerians.
“Within that time, we want to make sure that we have Biafran people representing Biafra, Biafrans in thoughts, Biafrans in action, Biafrans in deed.
“What we have come here to do is to have a working relationship with United Progressive Party, a party that has identified itself with the Biafran project-of self-determination, of emancipation and the freedom of Biafran people living in Nigeria.
“That political platform which we have endorsed today, with which we have a working relationship is the UPP.
“From henceforth, what we want to project are all Biafrans that want to pursue their political ambitions. We want to offer them MOBIN, we want to offer them UPP, and upon UPP we will take over Biafra land politically".
He continued: "We know that as people agitate for freedom, in whichever way you try to actualize it, that even if you are in the forest fighting a war, or leading a violent campaign, that at certain points in time, there must be a round table discussion.
“That roundtable is what we call political solution. That political solution is what we are embarking on today, and we want to use it to stop the slaughtering of our fellow Biafrans on the streets.
“From the time of cessation of hostilities in 1970 till date, Biafra has lost not less than 3 to 4 million Biafrans that the Nigerian people have killed. It cannot happen if the Biafrans are in charge of our governance.
"What we are doing today is to take over our governance, take over the political administration of Biafra land so that our children can no longer be killed.
“Where a governor comes out and says he is the Chief Security Officer, yet he is in the office while his citizens are killed and he will say nothing.
“Is he really a CSO of that state? So what we are doing is to ensure that henceforth, no one is killed on the streets of Biafra anymore,” he stated.
*Photo Caption - UPP Founder, Chief Chekwas Okorie
[ Masterweb Reports: Hamza Idris reports ] - Shortly after the 2015 general elections, almost everyone in the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) angrily went his way following a debilitating defeat, paving the way for a likely a one-party state with the new ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) receiving a horde of defectors. However, in the past few weeks, many in the PDP have gone for reconciliation and realignment ahead of 2019. What do all these mean?
Many reports had in recent time chronicled the re-emergence of many PDP leaders, including those that somehow earlier ‘retired’ from politics, coming together again and talking tough, expressing optimism on the party’s chances in the 2019 general elections.
APC stalwarts have equally proved difficult to intimidate as many of them are becoming increasingly confident that any future election would be a walk over for them.
Between the two extremes, political pundits hold that while the PDP must have a magic wand to endear itself to the electorate, the APC must also do a lot to have a semblance of the Tsunami-like embrace they received from Nigerians in 2015.
But clearly, unfolding events have already suggested that the power tussle ahead of 2019 elections have begun.
“No, whether we like it or not, PDP remains a factor in today’s political calculation and will remain same till 2019,” said Umar Sanda, the secretary of the party’s youth wing in Borno State.
“Look, we know there’re issues here and there but nobody, I mean nobody, can wish away the influence and dominance of the PDP and as we approach the 2019 drawing board, the recent realignment we’re witnessing is not accidental, it would have been disingenuous if our power brokers started making noise after the 2015 elections but now is the time,” Sanda said.
Since he left office in 2015, former president Goodluck Jonathan had only softly spoken on some national and international issues but not on the resounding defeat of the PDP until last week when he granted audience to members of the Prof. Jerry Gana-led Strategy Review and Inter-Party Affairs Committee of the party, at his residence in Abuja.
Expectedly, what Jonathan said during the meeting, after he had been “AWOL” as far as party politics is concerned, carried weight and reverberated across the land, thus reopening the floodgate of opinions from across the divide.
“The PDP will bounce back in 2019,” Jonathan said, adding, “current efforts at reforming the party are a clear sign, the PDP will win in 2019,” he said.
“Yes, we lost the presidential election but that doesn’t diminish us. Every other party still knows that PDP is a leading party. Losing the presidency is something temporary. We should be able to get that position back as long as we are able to get our acts together. I am happy that you people are working towards that,” he added.
However, the chairman of the National Unity Party, Chief Perry Opara, countered him.
“Jonathan woke-up from his political slumber very late in the day. When he lost the election in April 2015, leaders of the PDP went to him severally to re-organize the party but he could not do that until he left office. Even after leaving office he could not do anything for the PDP. Two years after, he has realized his mistakes to re-organize the PDP when things have gone bad. No way. It is late,” Opara said.
Besides Jonathan, the committee had presented the report to the erstwhile national chairman of the party, Alh. Bamanga Tukur, a former Board of Trustees chairman (BoT), Chief Tony Anenih, a former vice president of Nigeria, Chief Alex Ekwueme and a host of others with all of them talking tough.
Before then, the 115-man committee which was inaugurated in November 2016 by the Sen. Ahmed Makarfi-led Caretaker Committee of the PDP, and given 90 days to complete its assignment, had presented the report at a forum in Abuja when many missing faces resurfaced.
Among those at the event were former governors Babangida Aliyu (Niger), Ramalan Yero (Kaduna), Sule Lamido (Jigawa) and Idris Wada (Kogi).
Also, a former minster and one time Central Bank Governor, Malam Adamu Ciroma, a former Senate president, Adolphus Wabara, a former deputy senate president, Ibrahim Mantu, a former deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha, a former Minister of Education, Prof. Tunde Adeniran, a former Minister of Aviation, Fidelia Njeze, Amb. Aminu Wali and a host of others graced the occasion.
From their utterances and body language, all pointed to the fact that the PDP is still strong but would need to do a lot of home work to dislodge the ruling APC.
When the committee visited him, Chief Anenih, who declared last year that he had retired from active politics, was careful in his choice of words.
“I will still show more than a passing interest in issues affecting the nation,” he said.
He added that he would no longer be available for night political meetings but would not be hesitant to offer advice to the PDP if the party leaders decide to tap from his wealth of experience.
“PDP is where it is today because of selfishness on the part of its leaders, a vast majority of who want to be either presidential candidate or national chairman of the party,” he said.
Anenih, popularly known as “Mr Fix It”, also said the PDP should allow President Muhammadu Buhari complete his tenure before thinking of who to bring next- a statement described by analysts as “hanging” on the grounds that it’s not clear whether the PDP chieftain is referring to the end of Buhari’s first tenure in 2019 or second term in 2023.
This is indeed a contentious issue because, though the party had since zoned the presidential ticket to the North, many of its chieftains, including Makarfi, Sheriff, Lamido, ex-governor Ibrahim Shekarau of Kano among others are all reportedly interested in taking over the Presidential Villa.
Also, serving PDP governors in the South such as Nyesom Wike of Rivers and Ayo Fayose of Ekiti among others are all allegedly manipulating their way to get the vice presidential ticket at a time when some power brokers, precisely from the South-west, are sitting on the fence, carefully watching the unfolding events before taking a position.
Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, who also announced his retirement from politics, said he was upbeat on PDPs chances in the political equation.
“The PDP is not owned by any individual, in every home, village, local government, state and centre, there is no way you will not find a member of the PDP. It is accepted. Don’t relent. PDP is the party to keep faith in democracy and with Nigerians because the constitution recognises this when it said ‘we the people’, the PDP has that belief,” he said.
“Some people are jumping the boat. It is just like those who say we want to go and they take the barges through Libya to Europe because they have a promise of better future. It is not true. PDP is the party not just for the zone but it is global,’’ Tukur said.
Ex-vice president Ekwueme was sober when the Prof. Gana’s report traveled all the way to Enugu to present him the report.
“The story of the PDP makes me to weep sometimes. When our founding fathers said the party would be in charge for 60 years or more, some thought they were just bragging, the PDP was packaged to be a mass movement of all Nigerians just like the ANC of South Africa,” he said.
Interestingly, the Sen. Ali Modu Sheriff faction of the PDP, which has not been part of the Prof. Gana’s reconciliation move, was favoured in yesterday’s judgment by the Appeal Court in Port-Harcourt, an entirely new development that must be handled with caution.
For now, if the Makarfi-led caretaker committee, with all the support they have, refuses to recognize Sheriff as national chairman ahead of its yet to be scheduled convention, it means the title of the cover page of the Gana’s committee report must be changed with a new name- but absolutely not the PDP.
The National Legal Adviser of Sheriff faction, Barr. Bashir Maidugu, said, “To tell you the truth, when you’re talking of reconciliation, it means you’re talking to an aggrieved person with a view to addressing injustice that might has occurred as a result of some acts or omissions.
“Anybody who thinks of reconciling the PDP without talking to the aggrieved people is only going on a wild goose chase and therefore wasting his time,” he said.
Maidugu said the approach by the Prof. Gana committee would not deliver a legitimate child in 2019.
The PDP broke into two factions in May 2016 at the heat of its convention in Port Harcourt and never had peace since then.
The national secretary of the APC, Alhaji Mai Mala Buni, said the PDP would never recover amidst blame game, lamentation and a heap of credibility deficit.
“Why do you want us to keep glorifying the PDP with comments? Is not true, they will never recover; the major obstacle of the PDP is the performance of the present administration. Also, lack of internal democracy at all levels in the PDP. Any party that lacks internal democracy cannot have unity among its members,” Mai Mala said.
Indeed, the political space in the country will remain very interesting in the coming weeks and months as 2019 approaches.
*Photo Caption - PDP logo
[ Masterweb Reports: Yahaya Ibrahim reports ] - A prosecution witness in the ongoing trial of Major General Emmanuel Atewe, a former commander of the joint task force in the Niger Delta, on Friday narrated how funds for the task force was diverted.
The witness, Nkem Ahidjo, told a Federal High Court in Lagos that N35 million of the N8.5 billion allegedly diverted was paid to the Living Faith Church, popularly known as Winners' Chapel.
The Army General was charged alongside Patrick Akpobolokemi, a former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
Other defendants in the charged are two staff of the agency Kime Engonzu and Josephine Otuaga.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had slammed an amended 22 count charge bordering on fraud on the defendants.
At the resumption of trial on Friday, the witness who was led in evidence by EFCC prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo, introduced himself as an Abuja-based businessman, who dealt in Stationary, printing and general contracts.
He also said that he is a registered contractor with the National Assembly, the National Population Commission and the Independent National Electoral Commission, to which he made supplies.
Ahidjo, claimed to have known Atewe from Villa Church in Abuja, where he said they both worshiped, when the accused was still a Guard Commander.
"He invited me to Bayelsa and told me that the Federal Government gave JTF a grant for security and building of barracks and if I have any company account into which money could be paid. Since I knew him very well, I provided the companies account," the witness told the court.
Ahidjo said that on his second visit to Atewe in Bayelsa, he was told that three payments were about to be made into his accounts and as soon as they were made he should acknowledge the payments and await further instructions.
According to the witness, upon Atewe's return to Abuja, he invited him to his office, where he introduced, Engozu, (third accused), as the person that would take delivery of the money from him.
Ahidjo said that owing to the volume of the monies, Engozu advised him to change the money from naira to dollar before delivery.
He said that each time he received the money, he would call the BDC operator, who would change the money and then, he would pay him the naira equivalent and take the dollars.
According to him, he received a total of about N5 billion within the period, out of which about N4.1bn were converted to dollars and delivered to Engozu, who in turn issued a receipt for each payment based on Atewe's instruction.
Ahidjo explained that out of the remaining amount, he was instructed by the army general to transfer N35 million to Winners' Chapel; N103 million to INP Ltd; N170 million to First Investment Ltd; N99 million to Lord Fem Ltd; N88 million to Ocean Gas and N297 million to Cisco Nobot.
After the testimony, trial judge, Justice Ayokunle Faji adjourned to March 21, for continuation of the matter.
*Photo Caption - As seen.
[ Masterweb Reports ] - The Federal Executive Council (FEC) has approved a new National Health Policy aimed at promoting the health of Nigerians to accelerate socio-economic development in the country.
The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, made this known when he briefed State House correspondents on the outcome of the FEC meeting, which was presided by the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.
He said that the policy, which was initially approved by the National Council on Health, was extensively deliberated by the council before the final approval.
According to him, the policy is the third health policy in the history of Nigeria.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that the first national health policy was in 1988, while the second policy was produced in 2004.
“This new policy will provide directions necessary to support the achievements of significant progress in terms of improving the performance of the national health system.
“It also lays emphasis on primary healthcare as the bedrock of our national health system in addition to the provision of financial risk protection to all Nigerians particularly the poor and vulnerable population.
“This administration is reputed for being pro-poor and we are quiet committed to alleviating the problem of the poor Nigerians, the vulnerable the unemployed and the disadvantaged,’’ he said.
The minister also explained that before arriving at the new health policy, his ministry constituted a technical working, chaired by former minister of health, Prof. Eyitayo Lambo, “to look into the country’s context, the challenges, what went wrong in the past and how we can reposition the health sector’’.
According to the minister, the policy captures the essentials of ensuring the reduction of maternal and child mortality, wider immunisation coverage and better control and prevention of public health emergencies.
He expressed optimism that the policy when fully implemented Nigerians would be proud of the nation’s health system.
Adewole announced that his ministry would be signing an MoU with the European Union who would be intervening in the nation’s health facilities in the 774 local government areas of the federation.
On the recent claimed discovery of medical cure for HIV/AIDS by a professor of veterinary medicine and clinical virology, Adewole said his ministry was awaiting the final report from the Director-General of the Nigerian Institute for Medical Research.
NAN recalls that Prof. Maduike Ezeibe of Veterinary Medicine and Clinical Virology Department, Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umuahia, Abia, was reported to have developed a drug that eliminated the deadly virus in some patients.
Ezeibe claimed that the drug, which was produced with “Aluminium Magnesium Silicate”, had the clinical ability to “reach all cells’’ and make HIV “a conquered organism”.
He said the drug was successfully tested on 10 persons living with HIV.
The minister, however, dismissed the claim, saying that these activities were carried out without a valid ethical approval.
“On the issue of the HIV, we are yet to get the final report from the Director-General of the Nigerian Institute for Medical Research.
“But what is clear is that those activities were carried out without a valid ethical approval.
“As you may be aware, nobody is entitled to conduct any experiment or research on human being without an ethnical approval,” he explained. (NAN)
*Photo Caption - As seen.