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2023: Olu of Warri counsels Delta PDP on picking gov candidate

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The Olu of Warri Kingdom, His Majesty, Ogiame Atuwatse III, has cautioned the Delta Central Senatorial District (DC-23) lobby group within the ruling Peoples Democratic Party in the State to guard against sentiments and corruption in their ongoing bid to select a credible governorship candidate ahead of the 2023 general elections.

Giving the advice while playing host to members of the lobby group led by its national chairman, Ighoyota Amori, at the royal palace in Warri, the monarch expressed delight at the group’s show of unity and prayed that when the time comes, they will match that show of unity with commitment.

The visiting team comprised, among others, DC-23 leaders and members, including the Deputy National Chairman Olorogun Solomon Ighrakpata; National Secretary, Dr. Chris Oharisi; Assistant National Organising Secretary, Christian Onogba; and Assistant National Publicity Secretary, Sunday Apah.

Ogiame Atuwatse III told the visitors that his sincere prayer was for God to guide the group in the process of selecting the candidate for the 2023 governorship election.

“I pray for all of you that will participate in that process to ensure that it produces the best, because Delta State deserves the best.

“It is our prayer that when that decision time comes, you will close your eyes against any sentiment that will corrupt that process and you will all speak with one voice.

“I am highly impressed with your show of unity today and I pray that when the time comes, you will match that show of unity with more commitments, if not surpass it.

“On our part as a nation, we will also meet and come up with our collective decision and resolution to complement and contribute to the development of Delta State,” the monarch averred.

The group’s leader, Amori, had explained the objectives of the DC-23 lobby group, noting that its nature and role was not different from that of the G-3 of the Delta South Senatorial District that was formed to drive the process of electing the immediate past governor of the state, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan.

Constitutional crisis looms, INEC worries over South-East elections

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THE Independent National Electoral Commission says it is “deeply concerned” about the situation in the South-East especially as it concerns threats to disrupt the elections in the zone.

INEC also explained that there could be constitutional crisis if it (commission) was unable to conduct general elections in the region.

It said it was clear that election would not be organised under chaotic conditions.

The Chief Press Secretary to the commission’s chairman, Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi, disclosed this in an interview with our correspondent on Friday.

The proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra had threatened that no election would hold in the entire South-East zone (Imo, Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi and Abia states) till it achieved its agitation for secession from the Nigerian state.

Simon Ekpa, a self-acclaimed disciple of Nnamdi Kanu, IPOB leader, had also said the governorship election in Anambra State slated for November 6, 2021, would not hold.

Ekpa, in a tweet on his Twitter page, said a no-election order would be activated by members of IPOB.

Oyekanmi, however, said INEC had been engaging with security agencies on the platform of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security.

He said the commission and the security agencies had been discussing and comparing notes on the security situation across the country generally.

As regards the South-East and particularly Anambra State, he expressed the hope that through collaboration, the security situation in the region would be brought under control.

Oyekanmi said, “The commission is deeply concerned about the security situation in the South-East. It is an established fact that INEC cannot carry out electoral activities under chaotic conditions.

“God forbid that INEC is unable to conduct such elections at the appointed time because this will lead to a constitutional crisis. The constitution did not envisage that such elections will not hold.

“With regard to the Anambra governorship election scheduled for November 6, we are aware of the various efforts by the security agencies on the one hand, and all the men and women of goodwill in the region on the other, to calm things down.”

Wike berates NASS over President’s fresh loan request

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RIVERS State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has expressed sadness that 61 years after independence, Nigeria is still grappling with leadership challenges.

The governor said as a result of this leadership failure, Nigeria needed God now more than at any other point in its history.

Wike said this during the Interdenominational Church Service organised to commemorate Nigeria’s 61st independence anniversary at St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Port Harcourt, on Sunday.

The governor noted that there was hardly anything for Nigerians to celebrate as the country marks its 61st Independence anniversary, “because its leadership continues to entrench hatred, mediocrity, and promote ethnicity and religion.”

His remarks were contained in a statement titled, ‘Nigeria suffering from leadership failure’ signed by his Media aide, Kelvin Ebiri.

The governor noted that perhaps the only thing Nigerians could boast of celebrating is the existence of the name Nigeria.

Wike said, “We cannot do the right things. Other countries are talking about how their elections will be transparent, we are talking about how we will rig the election in 2023.

“Simple thing; transmit election results electronically to show transparency, that really, the person you’re declaring won the election but we are afraid.

“Where is the legislature? A legislature that you’ll close your eyes, anything they bring, about borrowing, you say borrow. A legislature that cannot say that ‘this money we are borrowing, where is it? Where are you applying? You have no confidence to ask questions.”

Congresses: PDP extends deadline for forms submission

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THE Peoples Democratic Party has granted a nine-day extension for the submission of already completed nominated forms for state congresses.

This was contained in a statement titled, ‘PDP Extends Submission Deadline for Already Completed Nomination Forms for State Congresses,’ signed by the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Kola Ologbondiyan, in Abuja, on Sunday.

It read in part, “The National Working Committee of the PDP has extended the submission deadline for already completed nomination forms for State congresses from the earlier announced date of Friday, September 23, 2021, to a new date of Friday, October 1, 2021.

“For the avoidance of doubt, the affected states are Adamawa, Borno, Ebonyi, Kebbi, Kwara, Lagos, and Oyo. The decision of the NWC is pursuant to its powers under the Constitution of the PDP 2017 (as amended).

“All critical stakeholders and members in states where state congresses forms have not been concluded are hereby guided accordingly.”

Fashola, Akpabio disown groups promoting ministers’ 2023 campaigns

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The Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, has distances himself from political support groups campaigning for him, urging Nigerians to disregard them.

A press statement titled, ‘2023 Elections: Fashola distances self from the antics of unsolicited support groups,’ by the Special Adviser to the Minister on Communications, Hakeem Bello, on Sunday, said this.

The statement reads partly, “The Media Office of the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, has urged well-meaning people to disregard the invitation of some Groups, operating under The Nigeria Project 2023, purportedly to the inauguration of a Support Group for the Minister and the Governor of Borno State over the 2023 elections.”

It added, “The social media was awash at the weekend with a poster from the Group allegedly presenting the Honorable Minister and the Governor of Borno State, Prof. Babagana Zulum as Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates respectively of an unnamed political party.”

According to the statement, no individual or group had contacted the Minister for or on behalf of The Nigeria Project 2023, while adding that the individual and groups cited as promoters of The Nigeria Project 2023 were unknown to the All Progressives Congress and the Minister.

The statement further said that the minister “urges members of the public to be wary of the antics of unsolicited individuals and Support Groups whose real intentions remain questionable.”

Also, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, has cautioned individuals and groups campaigning and urging him to contest for any public office in 2023, saying “their activities are capable of causing undue distractions in the polity.”

A statement by Akpabio’s Chief Press Secretary, Mr Jackson Udom, on Sunday and titled, ‘Calls for political office in 2023,’ reads partly, “The attention of the minister has been drawn to calls by individuals and groups that he contests for any political office in 2023.

“The minister realises that in a democracy, as hard as one may try, you cannot suppress whatever opinions others have of you, whether about leadership or governance.

“The minister already has a mandate and that is steering the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, which is his main preoccupation today and to join hands with President Muhammadu Buhari to achieve his agenda for the people of the Niger Delta Region in particular and Nigeria in general.

“It is very obvious that he is not yet done with that national assignment, to now start something afresh.”

It added, “We totally object to the insinuations that he has any link to the group of volunteers, many of whom he has never met in life. It is also unfair to the minister that, given his experience in politics and governance, he would start a campaign before it becomes legally permissible to do so.”

Insecurity, a product of Buhari, APC’s campaign lies – Lamido

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A former Governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido, has blamed the growing insecurity, especially in the northern part of Nigeria on the failure of the regime led by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), and the ruling All Progressives Congresses, to fulfil their campaign promises.

According to Lamido, Buhari and the APC allegedly lied to raise the hopes of Nigerian youths and take power from the Peoples Democratic Party.

He said failure to meet their aspirations is a major cause of restiveness in the country.

Lamido spoke while featuring on Sunday Politics, a current affairs programme on Channels Television.

He said, “What is the root causes of the security problems in Nigeria? Why are our own children – children who are under 25 – taking arms against their own kits and kin, going to villages to harass them, take over their livestock, burn their houses and even rape their women? What is the problem? This cannot alone be moral decadence? What has gone wrong?”

The ex-governor partly added, “Above everything else, it is about leadership. Leadership is very important. On the issue of Zamfara, why is the state becoming the hub of terrorism in Nigeria. Why?”

Responding to a question on the similarities between the terrorists in the North-East and bandits in the North-West, Lamido stated that crime was crime no matter the location or those involved.

He added, “The issue is that the government must be held accountable and I don’t want to sound too political, it is a matter of life. Attaining political power, the process must be very credible; it must be very transparent. A leader should be able to say, ‘I want to be in government because I will do this, this and that.’ When you ignore this and begin to tell lies and malign and blackmail others…

“When it was their time to get power in Nigeria in 2014 (ahead of the 2015 elections) and (they came up with) their ‘Change’ mantra … They knew they were telling lies. But for then, it was about getting the power. If they get the power, then they begin to ask, ‘what do we do?’ So, the process and the platform must be very honest; it must be very credible.

“It is this character of telling lies to the young generation. When you raise their hopes in trying to get government, and you are in government, by the time you fail to fulfil their needs, of course, there will be problems. So, these are simply the political consequences if telling lies in campaigns.”

Obiano once said Ojukwu no longer relevant to APGA – Bianca

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Ambassador Bianca Ojukwu, the widow of the late leader of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, has  explained why she boycotted the party’s campaign inauguration on Saturday in Awka, Anambra State.

She said she had to stay away from the party’s campaign inauguration because Obiano once described Ojukwu   as a “dead man who was no longer relevant” to the party.

She described as an irony of opportunism for APGA to resuscitate her husband’s name for the purpose of winning the November 6 poll.

She said, “This is  the height of opportunism and hypocrisy. Is Ojukwu not the same man Obiano once described as a dead man who was no longer relevant to the party?

“Why should I permit him to keep trampling on the legacy of my late husband who put his heart and soul into this party?

“Ojukwu should not be like a light switch to be turned on for party campaign, and turned off once the election is won.

“It is most unfortunate that Obiano decided to remove the picture of Ojukwu on APGA uniforms  and replace same with his picture, just to drive home his statement that he would no longer tie the fate and fortunes of APGA to the memory of a dead man, obviously in reference to my husband.”

She regretted that the Senator Victor Umeh-led peace and reconciliation committee put up to pacify aggrieved APGA members had been discarded by the governor and the party leadership.

She described APGA as presently constituted as a field of sorrow, but, however, optimism that the party had  a good chance of producing  the next governor of Anambra State based on past glory.

2023 Presidency: Only God knows what the future holds for me, says Fayemi

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Ekiti State Governor and Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Kayode Fayemi, says only God knows what his political future holds in the 2023 general elections.

Fayemi made this known on Sunday when he spoke on THISDAY Live, an interview programme on Arise Television monitored by The PUNCH.

Fayemi’s presidential campaign posters had gone viral in August 2020 and had sparked public debate on various social media platforms regarding the possibility of his candidacy in the 2023 presidential election.

The sponsor of the posters and Chairman of Ikere Council area of Ekiti State, Femi Ayodele, had said he did the posters, with the campaign message, ‘Support His Excellency Dr John Kayode Fayemi for President 2023’ “to show my unalloyed and uncompromising loyalty to Governor Fayemi” to dispel speculations that he was working against him.

But the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Yinka Oyebode, had said that his principal did not know anything about the posters.

“The sponsor is merely expressing a personal opinion,” he had said.

Ayodele was later directed to “step aside” by the Ekiti State House of Assembly over alleged unauthorised viral campaign poster seeking support for Fayemi’s presidential ambition.

But when asked on Sunday whether he would be running for President in 2023, Fayemi said, “I have a job to do; I want to finish well as governor of Ekiti State, I want to do more to put Ekiti on the pedestal of growth and development in the period that is left for me in office.

“What the future holds, God’s knows, but we will cross that bridge when we get there. For now, my primary responsibility is Ekiti State.”

The governor also predicted victory for his party, the All Progressives Congress, in 2023.

He said, “Contentions are always going to happen. APC is a big party with different tendencies and there will be contentions for and against. We are very confident that this party will produce the next government in this country in 2023 but before we get there, we are more focused on the country now. The party is more interested in the stability and security of Nigeria. What is happening internally is something we will resolve internally.”

With the 2023 elections fast approaching, there have been political posturings and permutations as to the next presidential candidate of the APC and opposition Peoples Democratic Party.

The 17 Southern Governors including Fayemi had also demanded that the next President should emerge from Southern Nigeria after the eight-year regime of the incumbent, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), who is from Katsina State, North-West Nigeria.

The PUNCH recently reported that Salihu Yakasai, a former Special Adviser on Media to Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, listed APC chieftains who have the ability to win the next presidential election to include APC National Leader, Bola Tinubu; Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo; as well as Fayemi.

Fayemi was first Ekiti State governor from October 2010 to October 2014. He was later appointed Minister of Solid Minerals Development by Buhari and was in office between November 2015 and May 2018 before he was re-elected as the governor of Ekiti State in October 2018. The 56-year-old is expected to hand over power in October 2022 to a democratically elected successor.

Power shift to South not negotiable, say Afenifere, PANDEF

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THE apex socio-cultural group of the Yoruba people, Afenifere, and the Pan Niger Delta Forum have maintained that the rotation of the Nigerian presidency between the North and the South was not negotiable.

Both groups explained that it was necessary for the position of the President to shift to the South in 2023 for the sake of decency, justice and equity.

Speaking in a separate interview with The PUNCH on Sunday, the Secretary General of Afenifere, Sola Ebiseni, said the issue of rotational presidency between the North and South was a national consensus.

He added that there was a resolution at the 2014 National Conference on power shift.

Ebiseni said, “The political culture since 1999 at the return to democratic rule is that the office of the President of Nigeria is rotated between the North and South. With that trend, it is clear, for the sake of equity in the Nigerian federation that the next president of Nigeria should come from the southern region of the country.

“For those who claim that because (Umaru) Yar’Adua could not complete his eight-year term, and that is the reason the North did not have an extra four years, the argument does not stand in the face of logic, morality and equity without bearing in mind the unaccounted 39 years that the North had occupied the leadership of Nigeria almost exclusively.

“We have expressed our support for the declaration of the southern governors that the next President of Nigeria should come from the South. As a result of that declaration, every governor from the South should be gentlemanly enough to abide by that declaration. There was also a resolution at the 2014 National Conference that the presidency of Nigeria should be rotated between the North and the South. It is a national consensus.”

Also, the spokesman for PANDEF, Ken Robinson, said those saying the North possessed the voting strength to remain in power beyond 2023 were not sincere and working against justice, fairness and equity.

“It is human nature; man is a selfish being, and if you allow the northerners, they would want to rule for 30 years. They know the benefits they have appropriated to themselves in the nepotistic Buhari administration.

“It for us, the people of southern Nigeria to stand firm and remain resolute to say that after eight years of a northern presidency, fairness, justice and equity demands that it should come down to the South. The attitude of the southern Nigeria should be that this (power shift) is non-negotiable.

“As we have always insisted, the numbers they are touting (as their voting strength) do not exist. If they do, why are they not being reflected in school enrolments, in the internally generated revenues of their states, the VAT collections in the northern states, electricity consumption in the states?

 “The solidarity being demonstrated by the southern governors shows that there is a reawakening. What they have been thriving on is the disunity of the South,” he said.

Northern govs meet on VAT today, SANs berate Malami

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The Northern Governors’ Forum will on Monday (today) hold an emergency meeting to discuss issues relating to the Value Added Tax, The PUNCH has learnt.

It was further gathered that the planned meeting, which would be hosted by the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasiru  El-Rufai,  would be presided over by the Chairman of the forum and Governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong.

The Coordinator of the Northern Governors Forum Secretariat and  Secretary to the Plateau State Government, Professor Danladi Atu, confirmed the planned meeting in an interview with  The PUNCH in Jos on Sunday.

Atu said this as some senior lawyers took on the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, over his recent statement that no state had the power to lay claim to the collection of VAT in the country.

The Federal High Court sitting in Port  Harcourt had in a judgment last month held that Rivers State had the power to collect VAT within its jurisdiction.

But the Federal Inland Revenue Service headed for the Court of Appeal to challenge the judgment. At the appeal court, Lagos State filed an application that it should be joined with Rivers State as a co-defendant in the appeal filed by the FIRS.

The appeal court ordered parties in the suit to maintain status quo pending the determination of the appeal.

Malami, in an interview with Channels Television on Friday, said  collection of VAT in the country was on the exclusive legislative list, adding that only the National Assembly had the power to make laws on VAT.

He stated, “As you rightly know, the issue of the Value Added Tax is an issue on the exclusive legislative list. And the implication of being on exclusive legislative list matter is that only the National Assembly can legislate on it. The question that you may perhaps wish to address your mind on is whether there exists any national legislation that has conferred the power on the state to collect VAT. And my answer is ‘no’.

SANs carpet AGF

But Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, and Ifedayo Adedipe, SAN on Sunday faulted Malami.

Ozekhome said contrary to Malami’s claim, VAT is in the residual list and is strictly within the purview of state governments.

He said, “He (Malami) is dead wrong. There is nowhere VAT is reflected as a matter within the exclusive or concurrent list in the constitution of Nigeria.

“If anything, it is residual and is strictly within the purview of state government in our federal set-up.

“As of today, there is a judicial pronouncement on it by the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, to the effect that only states can collect and administer VAT.

“That remains the legal position today. Until that judgment is probably set aside, that remains the law of the land. The mere statement the Attorney General cannot alter this truism.”

On his part, Adedipe warned that VAT is a serious constitutional issue and should not be politicised.

He said, “Is this in the 1999 constitution or a new one? Which number or section? Let him state it. It is not enough to say it.

“I am not aware that VAT is on any exclusive list of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“Second, he is a defendant in the case, he should come to the court to come and put this across. It is not something he should give a press statement or side comments about. It is a very serious constitutional issue and therefore should not be politicised. Since we are before the appellate court, let us leave it there.”

Meanwhile,  the Coordinator of the Northern Governors’ Forum Secretariat, Atu said told The PUNCH on Sunday that the forum would take a position on VAT at Monday’s meeting.

 He stated. “The northern governors will be meeting in Kaduna on Monday and I’m sure one of the items on the agenda is about the issue of VAT.”

Asked whether the northern governors  would be going to   court to join the  FIRS   in the suit against Rivers and Lagos states over the  VAT collection, the forum’s coordinator said, “You will get to know the position of the northern governors on the issue because I’m sure  their resolution will be made public after their meeting on Monday “

Apart from Lagos and Rivers states, Ogun State has also started the process of passing a bill on VAT in its House of Assembly.

While some stakeholders including the 17 southern governors supported the position of Lagos and Rivers states that states should collect VAT,  some northern governors, including El-Rufai opposed it.

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