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Israeli airstrikes crush apartments in Gaza refugee camp, as ground troops battle Hamas militants

A barrage of Israeli airstrikes leveled apartment buildings in a refugee camp near Gaza City on Tuesday, with rescuers clawing through the destruction to pull men, women and children from the rubble. Israel said the strike, which targeted a senior Hamas military leader, destroyed a militant command center and an underground tunnel network.

The toll from the attack in the Jabaliya camp was not immediately known. The director of the nearby hospital where casualties were taken, Atef Al-Kahlot, said hundreds of people were wounded or killed, but he did not provide exact figures.

The Israeli military said dozens of militants were killed, including a key Hamas commander for northern Gaza.

Israel aggressively defended the attack, with military spokesman Jonathan Conricus saying the targeted commander had also been a key planner of the bloody Oct. 7 rampage that started the war, and that the apartment buildings collapsed only because the vast underground Hamas complex had been destroyed.

Neither side’s account could be independently confirmed.

The strike underlined the anticipated surge in casualties on both sides as Israeli troops battling Hamas militants advance deeper into the northern Gaza Strip toward dense, residential neighborhoods. Israel has vowed to crush Hamas’ ability to govern Gaza or threaten Israel following the Oct. 7 assault, which ignited the war. Hamas, an Islamic militant group, openly calls for the destruction of Israel.

Israel said two of its soldiers were killed in fighting in northern Gaza, the first military deaths it reported since the ground offensive into the tiny Mediterranean territory accelerated late last week.

Several hundred thousand Palestinians remain in northern Gaza in the path of the ground assault. They have crowded into homes or are packed by the thousands into hospitals that are already overwhelmed with patients and running low on supplies.

In the Jabaliya refugee camp — a densely built-up area of small streets on Gaza City’s outskirts — dozens of rescuers searched for survivors amid a series of obliterated buildings and others that had partially collapsed.

Young men carried the limp forms of two children from the upper floors of the crumbling frame of one damaged apartment building, while helping down another child and woman. It was unclear whether the children were alive or dead. Gray dust, apparently left by pulverized concrete, seemed to coat nearly everything.

The Israeli military said it carried out a wide-scale strike in Jabaliya on Hamas infrastructure “that had taken over civilian buildings.”

Daniel Hagari said an underground Hamas installation beneath a targeted building collapsed, toppling other nearby buildings. Conricus later said the main strike had hit between buildings.

“We don’t intend for the ground to collapse,” he told reporters. “But the issue is that Hamas built their tunnels there and that they’re running their operations from there.”

He said the commander killed in the strike, Ibrahim Biari, played an important role in the Oct. 7 attack and had been involved in anti-Israeli attacks going back decades.

Also on Tuesday, the Israeli military said ground troops took control of a Hamas military stronghold in west Jabaliya, killing 50 militants.

Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem denied the military’s claim, saying it was trying to justify “its heinous crime” against civilians.

Hagari repeated calls for civilians to evacuate northern Gaza to the south. The military says it targets Hamas fighters and infrastructure and that the militants endanger civilians by operating among them. The military has also repeatedly emphasized it will strike Hamas wherever it finds it.

Some 800,000 Palestinians have reportedly fled to the south, but many have not, in part because they say nowhere is safe as Israeli airstrikes in the south have continued to cause civilian deaths. The window to flee may be closing, as Israeli forces reached Gaza’s main north-south highway this week.

More than 8,500 Palestinians have been killed in the war, mostly women and minors, the Gaza Health Ministry said Tuesday, without providing a breakdown between civilians and fighters. The figure is without precedent in decades of Israeli-Palestinian violence.

Over 1,400 people have died on the Israeli side, mainly civilians killed during Hamas’ initial attack, also an unprecedented figure. Palestinian militants also abducted around 240 people during their incursion and have continued firing rockets into Israel.

A day after Israel’s first successful rescue of a Hamas captive, the spokesman of the militant group’s armed wing said they plan to release some non-Israeli hostages in coming days. Hamas has previously released four hostages, and has said it would let the others go in return for thousands of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, which has dismissed the offer.

More than half of Gaza’s 2.3 million Palestinians have fled their homes, with hundreds of thousands sheltering in packed U.N.-run schools-turned-shelters or at hospitals.

The war has also threatened to ignite fighting on other fronts. Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group have traded fire daily along the border, and Israel and the U.S. have struck targets in Syria linked to Iran, which supports Hamas, Hezbollah and other armed groups in the region.

Some 200,000 people have been evacuated from Israeli towns near Gaza and the northern border with Lebanon.

The military said it shot down what appeared to be a drone near the southernmost city of Eilat and intercepted a missile over the Red Sea on Tuesday, neither of which entered Israeli airspace.

Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen later claimed they fired ballistic missiles and drones at Israel, saying it was their third such operation and threatening more. Earlier this month, a U.S. Navy destroyer in the Red Sea intercepted missiles and drones launched toward Israel by the Houthis, who control much of northern Yemen.

In the occupied West Bank, where Israeli-Palestinian violence has also surged, the army demolished the family home of Saleh al-Arouri, a senior Hamas official exiled over a decade ago. An official in the village of Aroura said the home had been vacant for 15 years.

Israeli forces reportedly have advanced north and east of Gaza City. South of the city, Israeli troops were also trying to cut off the territory’s main highway and the parallel road along the Mediterranean coast, according to Dawood Shehab, a spokesperson for Islamic Jihad, a smaller militant group allied with Hamas.

Zaki Abdel-Hay, a Palestinian living a few minutes’ walk from the road south of Gaza City, said people are afraid to use it. “People are very scared. The Israeli tanks are still close,” he said over the phone, adding that “constant artillery fire” could be heard near the road.

The Israeli military said it struck some 300 militant targets over the past day, including compounds inside tunnels, and that troops had engaged in several battles with militants armed with antitank missiles and machine guns.

Gaza’s humanitarian crisis continued to worsen.

The World Health Organization said two hospitals were damaged and an ambulance destroyed in Gaza over the last two days. It said all 13 hospitals operating in the north have received Israeli evacuation orders in recent days. Medics have refused such orders, saying it would be a death sentence for patients on life support.

Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital, the largest in the territory, is on the verge of running out of fuel, the Health Ministry said.

There has been no central electricity in Gaza for weeks, and Israel has barred the entry of fuel needed to power generators for hospitals and homes, saying it wants to prevent it from falling into Hamas’ hands.

It has allowed a limited amount of food, water, medicine and other supplies to enter from Egypt, though far less than what is needed, relief groups say. A convoy of 59 aid trucks entered through the Rafah Crossing with Egypt on Tuesday — the largest yet — bringing the total that have entered since Oct. 22 to 216, according to Wael Abu Omar, Hamas’ spokesperson for the crossing.

The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, known as UNRWA, says 64 of its staff have been killed since the start of the war.

 

AP

Wednesday, 01 November 2023 04:35

What to know after Day 615 of Russia-Ukraine war

WESTERN PERSPECTIVE

Don't expect instant success, Ukraine's Zelenskiy warns as he rallies his troops

Ukraine's attacks on the Russian Navy in the Black Sea have crippled Moscow's war efforts, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Tuesday, seeking to rally his troops even as the outside world expects instant successes.

Despite Kyiv's gruelling months-long offensive, the vast frontline in Ukraine's east and south has moved little in the past year, spurring criticism and impatience among some of Ukraine's Western allies.

"We live in a world that gets used to success too quickly. When the full-scale invasion began, many people around the world did not believe that Ukraine would survive," Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address. "Glory to all those who do not retreat, who do not burn out, who believe in Ukraine just as they did on February 24, and who has been fighting unwaveringly."

The war, which Russia launched on Feb. 24, 2022, is now in its 20th month and has no end in sight. Russian forces have geared up for fresh attacks in different sections of the front and are suffering heavy losses.

Zelenskiy said his troops have succeeded in diminishing Moscow's military strength in the Black Sea, which he said with greater support from Kyiv's allies could lead to Ukraine's ultimate victory over Russia.

The Black Sea has become a crucial theatre in the war. Ukraine's increased air and sea drone attacks on Russian military targets there have damaged ship and naval repair yards in the port of Sevastopol, and struck other targets.

Moscow uses its fleet in the Black Sea to launch long-range strikes on Ukraine. But for President Vladimir Putin, the waters - which connect to the Mediterranean Sea - are also an important springboard for projecting power into the Middle East, Europe and the West.

"When we ensure even more security to the Black Sea, Russia will lose any ability to dominate in this area and expand its malign influence to other countries," Zelenskiy said.

The full extent of the damage that Ukraine has done in recent months to the Russian Black Sea Fleet remains unclear. The Russian defence ministry's laconic statements mostly claim success in destroying the weapons, with little evidence.

"Ukraine's success in the battle for the Black Sea will go down in history books, although it's not being discussed much today," Zelenskiy said.

STRUGGLE AT THE FRONTLINE

At the frontline, however, there has been a struggle.

Zelenskiy said a meeting with senior commanders had considered sectors engulfed by the fiercest fighting in the east and northeast, including the key areas of Avdiivka and Kupiansk, where Russia has been on the offensive in recent weeks.

Vitaliy Barabash, head of the military administration in Avdiivka, said the shattered eastern city was bracing for a new wave of the attacks it had been withstanding since mid-October.

"The enemy is bringing in forces and equipment. Our boys are preparing for a new wave," Barabash told national television.

Avdiivka, with its vast coking plant, was briefly captured in 2014 when Russian-backed separatists seized chunks of land in the east, but Ukrainian forces have since put up fortifications.

Ukraine's ground forces said on Tuesday that Russian forces were also focused on Kupiansk - a city in the northeast overrun by Russia in the early days of the invasion, but recaptured by Ukrainian forces last year.

Russia' Tuesday accounts of the fighting said Moscow's forces had conducted successful attacks near the town of Bakhmut - a largely destroyed town captured by Russian forces in May.

Reuters could not verify accounts of fighting from either side.

** Russia will succeed in Ukraine unless US support continues-Pentagon chief

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Tuesday that Russia would be successful in Ukraine unless the United States kept up its support for Kyiv.

Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken testified to the Senate Appropriations Committee on President Joe Biden's request for $106 billion to fund ambitious plans for Ukraine, Israel and U.S. border security.

"I can guarantee that without our support (Russian President Vladimir) Putin will be successful," Austin said during the hearing.

"If we pull the rug out from under them now, Putin will only get stronger and he will be successful in doing what he wants to do."

Arguing that supporting U.S. partners is vital to national security, Biden requested $61.4 billion for Ukraine, about half of which would be spent in the United States to replenish weapons stocks drained by previous support.

Congress has already approved $113 billion for Ukraine since Russia invaded in February 2022. The White House has said it has less than $5.5 billion in funds to continue transferring weapons from U.S. stockpiles to Ukrainian forces fighting Russia.

The path forward for Biden's latest funding plan looks uncertain. Democrats solidly back Biden's strategy of combining Ukraine aid with support for Israel, as do many Republicans in both the Senate and House of Representatives.

But Republicans who lead the House of Representatives object to combining the two issues, joined by some party members in the Senate.

Austin said the Biden administration wanted Ukraine to continue operations through the winter, but Kyiv could not do that if they were forced to pause because of a lack of U.S. support.

Kyiv military officials said on Monday that Russia has bulked up its forces around the devastated city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine and has switched its troops from defence to offence, but Ukraine has been preparing to repel the attacks.

 

RUSSIAN PERSPECTIVE

Russian forces wipe out Ukrainian UAV, naval drone production sites in past day

Russian forces destroyed Ukrainian army sites producing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and naval drones over the past day in the special military operation in Ukraine, Russia’s Defense Ministry reported on Tuesday.

"Near the settlement of Malodolinskoye in the Odessa Region, the sites for the production of unmanned aerial vehicles and naval drones were destroyed," the ministry said in a statement.

Russian forces destroy two Leopard tanks, repel five Ukrainian attacks in Kupyansk area

Russian forces repulsed five Ukrainian army attacks and destroyed two Leopard tanks in the Kupyansk area over the past day, the ministry reported.

"In the Kupyansk direction, units of the western battlegroup supported by aircraft, artillery and heavy flamethrower fires repulsed in their active operations five attacks by assault groups of the Ukrainian army’s 54th mechanized brigade near the settlement of Sinkovka in the Kharkov Region," the ministry said.

The Ukrainian army’s losses in the Kupyansk area over the past 24 hours totaled as many as 60 personnel, four tanks, including two German-made Leopard tanks, three armored combat vehicles, two motor vehicles and two Gvozdika motorized artillery systems, the ministry specified.

 

Reuters/Tass

A recent report that the Federal government has approached the World Bank for a fresh loan of $400m for a conditional cash transfer for supposedly 15 million households is raising serious concerns among many Nigerians. The new $400m loan will bring to $1.2bn the amount that the Federal Government is borrowing from the World Bank for its cash transfer programme aimed at cushioning the harsh impact of removing fuel subsidies and floating the Naira, having earlier secured a loan of $800m for the same purpose. The government claims that the Conditional Cash Transfer scheme, part of its National Social Investment Programme, will “transform the lives of millions of Nigerians living in extreme poverty, upgrade their standards of living and improve the economy”. The Government said it would commence the payment of N25,000 monthly to the said 15 million households for three months, from October to December 2023. It further claims that the scheme, now rechristened “the Renewed Hope Conditional Cash Transfer for 15 million households”, will get to 62 million Nigerians.

There are several issues raised by the scheme – from its design to the likelihood of its effective implementation down to its broader implications for the Nigerian economy. Some of the areas of concern include:

One, is the scheme, as currently designed, capable of achieving the objectives attributed to it? It should be recalled that the government claims that under the ‘Renewed Hope Conditional Cash Transfer for 15 million households’, N25,000 would be transferred to the beneficiaries on a monthly basis for three months, which amounts to N75,000 for each of the beneficiaries. Minister of Humanitarian Affairs Betta Edu was quoted by The Punch of 21 October 2023 as saying “the conditional cash transfer was a proven way to alleviate poverty, as it would give households the financial support to start micro and small enterprises, provide basic health care and food, keep their children in school and attend to the immediate needs of the households.”

A cynic might justifiably ask: Did the Buhari government not tell us the same thing, in even more elegant language? For instance then Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was quoted inJanuary 2021, nearly three years ago, as declaring in the following words, with respect to the Buhari government’s version of the scheme: “Following the successful activation of the Economic Sustainability Plan’s (ESP) Cash Transfer scheme aimed at delivering financial support to at least 1 million urban-based households using technology, the Buhari administration’s vision of reducing extreme poverty by lifting at least 20 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next two years is now within reach.” Despite the scheme, figures from the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics showed that the number of people living in multidimensional poverty had ballooned to 133 million by 2022. In essence, even if there is any proven impact assessment of the previous programmes which suggests the need for its continuation, the fact that more Nigerians have fallen into the multidimensional poverty bracket despite the programme, would negate the conclusion of any of such reports – if they exist.

Two, it is important to underline that the scheme promises more than it can deliver. The scheme, a mere N25,000 per month over three months, does not  just promise to lift people out of poverty but also that it would give the beneficiaries “the financial support to start micro and small enterprises, provide basic health care and food, keep their children in school and attend to the immediate needs of the households.” Haba, Minister!

In addition to this unrealistic objective, the scheme does not even get to up to half of those which the government’s own figures describe as being in multidimensional poverty. For instance while the NBS’ figures as published in November 2022 said 63 per cent of Nigerians (or 133 million people) suffered from multidimensional poverty, the government claims that the 15 million household it is targeting covers 62 million Nigerians. This raises the question of what happens to the remaining 71 million Nigerians that were regarded as being in the multidimensional poverty bracket as at November 2022 – not to talk of the additional millions that must have slipped into that bracket since the removal of fuel subsidy and flotation of the Naira by the Tinubu government.

Three, there is equally a related question of what happens to the beneficiaries after the three months duration of the scheme have elapsed. Is the government suggesting that within three months it would have stabilized the economy enough that there would no longer be a need for this extra financial support or that the beneficiaries, from supposed savings from the cash transfers, would have been able to set up viable micro businesses that would sustain them? I feel that the conditional cash transfer scheme would actually increase rather than attenuate the misery of the recipients. For instance, let us assume that prior to the cash transfer the recipients were able to feed only once a day but that with the cash transfer, they would be able to eat twice a day or would start adding a piece of meat to their meals. My belief is that when the transfer is stopped and they have to revert to eating once a day or without meat, their sense of deprivation would actually increase and they would feel worse off than if they had not benefitted from any cash transfer at all. In essence, the conditional cash transfer is very unlikely to achieve its ascribed goal of alleviating poverty or even effectively cushioning the harsh effects of the current economic hardship exacerbated by the removal of fuel subsidy and flotation of the Naira.

Four, given the Nigerian factor and despite all the talks about improving the efficiency of delivery of the cashtransfer and the debate about the authenticity or otherwise of the social cash register, chances are that many politicians and government agencies will see the huge sum borrowed for the scheme as just another opportunity for primitive accumulation. For many politicians, their ability to get their minions and constituents as beneficiaries of the scheme will count as part of their achievements. This means that administrators of this fund are likely to be an important locus of the struggle for state capture by politicians and other people of influence in the country.

Five, following from the above, is a question of the economic logic of borrowing for consumption. It is trite that when we borrow for consumption rather than for productive ventures, we will struggle to find means of repayment. I feel it is right for the government to continue the conversation started under the Buhari government on how to reduce the number of people in the extreme poverty bracket. I feel however that a better option is to start developing a social security programme especially giventhe weakening of our extended family system that in the past performed that function. The government can decide to start this with a known demographic (say people caring for the aged or terminally sick individuals who have no relatives to care for them) and then gradually add more demographics as it learns from practices and mistakes. But this should not be funded from borrowed funds.

Borrowing $1.2 billion to fund the so-called cash transfer is, in my opinion, money just flushed down the drain. The money would have been better utilised if it is used to train, support and mentor about 100 young people from each of the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital, with each getting about N2m to help them take off effectively. Even if only 56 per cent of beneficiaries succeed and go on to employ other staff, it would still be considered a success. It iscertainly easier to monitor 100 beneficiaries of a scheme than to search for 15 million (mythical?) households that the government claims will benefit from its cash transfer scheme.

Six, is that the Conditional Cash Transfer scheme seems to be an opportunity for the Tinubu government to uncritically continue with the brand of economics practised by the Buhari government which was hinged on binging on debt and ingratiating itself to the Bretton Woods institutions (the IMF and the World Bank). For instance, the World Bank is Nigeria’s biggest multilateral creditor, with the country owing about $14.51 billion as of 30 June. The Debt Management Office recently said the country’s total public debt was N87.38tn at the end of the second quarter of this year, representing an increase of 75.29 per cent or N37.53tn compared to N49.85tn recorded at the end of March 2023. A major issue with this huge accumulation of debt is its sustainability and the country’s ability to repay. In its 2022 Debt Sustainability Analysis Report, the Debt Management Office (DMO) warned that the Federal Government’s projected revenue of N10tn for 2023 could not support fresh borrowings. Despite this warning, the Tinubu government seems intent on continuing with the Buhari government’s debt binge.

My feeling therefore is that the logic used to justify the conditional cash transfer scheme is at best derived from motor park economics.

With all the layoffs going around, it should be easier than ever to scoop up the right talent, at least in theory. Yet after talking to several founders and high-level executives over the last few days, it's clear to me that finding and recruiting the best people is still one of the biggest challenges companies are facing this year. 

The hiring market is brutal right now. Here are three steps you need to follow to recruit the best talent before others do:

1. Find Something You Admire and Look for Talent

Given everything that's going on in the world, recruiters must redirect their hiring approach. Instead of searching for talents that fit a certain expectation, look for the result you need and trace back the talent behind it.

For example, let's assume you're looking for a social media marketer. Instead of skimming through job boards and Slack channels, create a list of recent social media campaigns that made you go, "I wish we had something like this for our socials".

Apart from personal experience, you can also look for case studies of remarkable social media campaigns and try to find the people behind them. Go on LinkedIn, research the company and try to find the social media marketer who made it happen. 

You can rinse and repeat the same process for a marketer. Research the best marketing campaigns that caught your eye and look for the people on LinkedIn.

Similarly, if your company needs a developer, ask team members about their favorite apps and the products they use every day. Make a list of relevant products and search for the developers behind these products.

2. Reach Out to Recruits With a Personalized Pitch

Finding the right talent is just step one. You also need a super personalized pitch to get their attention. 

The first thing I do is check if there's a mutual connection who can introduce me. Intros are great in general. They help you raise funds, meet co-founders, and get talent referrals from industry experts. I like to use LinkedIn to keep it informal and organic.

But if there's no mutual connection, I try to find the talent's contact info, which is super easy once you know where to look. 

I find that in most cases LinkedIn or Twitter profiles have contact info listed in the bio or at the top, but it's important to remember that many people remove their personal information from public domains. This is often to protect their identity and stay safe, so don't take it as a bad sign.

If you cannot find their contact information on their social media profile, you can try finding their portfolio or personal website. A lot of designers, developers, writers and marketers have side projects going on and keep an updated portfolio online, so you can reach out to them via website forms. 

If you cannot find their contact information on social media or their personal website, try checking out some other resources to help.

But here's what I suggest before you do that – research. When you're skimming through multiple social media profiles to find an email address, you're bound to come across some information you can use as an icebreaker.

It can be a professional achievement, a recent comment thread they were part of or even a hobby. Find jumping points that show you're not an automated bot and actually made efforts to get to know the talent behind the work. 

This is how you personalize your pitch and this is how you stand out in a sea of sameness. 

3. Screen and Filter During an Interview

Let's assume you've got the candidate's attention and all that's left now is the interview. Screening talent is a duel that can tilt in any direction. Employers look to filter candidates and candidates search for employer red flags, such as a long-winded hiring process and vain statements such as "we're a family."

What you should do is look for potential over aptitude. You're unlikely to find natural talents for each role, but skills can be learned over time. One of my favorite anecdotes is Sebastián Ramírez's misfortune of coming across a job that required four years of experience in FastAPI.

Ramírez couldn't apply because FastAPI was created only 1.5 years before that – and by Ramírez himself. If the employer had been more open to potential instead of rigid skills, they would have attracted great minds. 

To evaluate a candidate's potential, you need to create a list of tasks you want them to do. It could be tasks they've done before or tasks they might have to do in the new position. For example, if you're onboarding a writer, you can ask about their experience with these:

  1. Reviewing email drips and pop-up optimizations
  2. Creating lead magnets and content upgrades
  3. Reviewing and updating social media posts
  4. Updating older articles
  5. Repurposing and distributing content
  6. Writing guest posts

Next, you can set up specific tasks to gauge how they'd perform on a day-to-day basis. It could be creating a mock landing page, writing a welcome email sequence or editing a content piece bombarded with negative feedback. Remember to keep it as a test and not stretch it to a day's worth of work.

Maintain control of the conversation in the interview and jot down everything – you may think you'll remember everything, but trust me, you won't. Despite your best efforts, an interview can shift either way. Candidates will take away how you made them feel, so remember to ask follow-up questions and connect with them on a personal level.

Final Word

Gen Z and millennial employees are firm when prioritizing work-life balance and most recruiters fail to meet them halfway.

If you want the best talent for your business, trace back the results you want, look for potential and create a human connection. It's simple, but difficult to pull off. If you can do that, you have the edge over your competitors.

 

Inc

 

Business and other activities in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, were crippled yesterday, following a massive demonstration by youths in the state who were protesting an alleged plot by the Rivers State House of Assembly to impeach Governor Siminalayi Fubara.

The protest followed an incident, where Fubara narrowly escaped being shot as he tried to access the House of Assembly complex, on Moscow Road, Port Harcourt, after a reported explosion at the complex, carried out by suspected political thugs on Sunday evening.

Many observers believe what is unfolding in Rivers State is simply a case of the governor trying to take control of his own political future after an unyielding strangulating grip on power by his predecessor.

Elder statesman, Edwin Clark, the leadership of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Rivers State, former Governor of the State, Rufus Ada-George, and the Ijaw National Congress (INC), all called for peace.

Clark called on President Bola Tinubu to caution Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and immediate past governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, and heads of security agencies over the political crisis brewing in the oil-rich state.

The leadership of PDP in Rivers State sued for caution.

The crisis rocking the state might not be unconnected with an alleged rift between the governor and his predecessor, Wike.

Our correspondent observed that while Fubara and his entourage were driving along Moscow Road, en route to the Assembly complex, they were stopped by police operatives on duty, who barricaded the road. The governor came down from his official vehicle to walk towards the complex, but the security men started splashing water on him, including teargas, to deny him access to the area.

But due to Fubara’s insistence on accessing the complex, he was able to go round the building and noted the level of damage, which he condemned.

Before the governor visited the Assembly complex, lawmakers, led by the Speaker, Martins Amaewhule, had already sat and agreed to remove the Majority Leader, Edison Ehie, and suspended other members loyal to the governor.

The lawmakers started the session about 7am in the Auditorium of House complex and immediately commenced plenary where about 24 of them signed the impeachment notice on the governor.

They further adjourned the Assembly sine die, pending when the damage at the hallowed chamber would be fixed.

Addressing youths in front of the Assembly complex, Fubara described as unfortunate the attempt by some persons to forcefully take over control of the Assembly. He condemned the burning of sections of such an important public institution built with taxpayers’ money.

The governor said, “The truth is that, everybody who knows me know that I am a peaceful person. I can never ever, even if I am aware that there is a plot to impeach me for whatever reason, be part of such destruction.

“I am worried that a facility like this that we used taxpayers’ money to build will be destroyed for selfish reasons just to please somebody. From what I have seen, even the security is compromised because they were shooting at me directly. The DC operations was shooting at me.”

Fubara described as null and void any illegal legislative actions taken by some members who held what he termed a purported plenary session, saying, “Let it be on record, whoever masterminded the attack at the Assembly is trying to divert attention.”

Fubara commended the youths for standing up to protect the interest of the state. He said he was not scared of impeachment but such action had to be properly explained and justified.

He said, “If Siminalayi Fubara is impeached, I won’t be the first, neither will I be the last. But what is important is that any attempt that is not justified will be resisted. Let them come out and tell Rivers people the offence that I have committed to warrant impeachment.

“But my happiness this morning is that the people of Rivers State, represented by every one of you here, is with us. I can go home and sleep. Let me assure Rivers people that we will continue to defend them, protect you people and ensure that they will enjoy the dividends of democracy.”

Rivers State Youth Council Chairman, Chijioke Ihunwo, vowed that they would resist any move to remove the governor, insisting that Fubara has within a short time in office proven to be the man of the people who has the interest of the state at heart

Ihunwo said, “We will give our 100 per cent support to Governor Fubara. By tomorrow, we are going to occupy the streets of Port Harcourt and we are saying no to ‘God Fatherism’, no to traitors, no to those who want to cart away the money that belongs to Rivers people. That is why the youth will occupy the streets, because we have a governor that has a passion for Rivers people.”

The Commissioner for Information and Communication, Joseph Johnson, who spoke with journalists during the protest, said, “I am a lawyer, we live in the principle of verifiable and cogent reasons. So they must tell Rivers people what the governor has done. The governor has urged the police and other security agencies to unravel the mystery behind the sudden explosion at the Assembly building.

“It is a fight for Rivers people and Fubara. Rivers people gave him that mandate and it is Rivers people that should decide. Power is not in any man’s hand, it is in the hands of God. So, power must shift and it has shifted.”

But the member representing Ahoada East constituency in the Rivers State House of Assembly, Ehie, announced that he had been elected new Speaker of the 10th Assembly.

Briefing journalists in Port Harcourt, Ehie, who was removed by 24 members of the Assembly earlier yesterday as Majority Leader, said his emergence as the new speaker came after 26 members of the Assembly elected him during plenary following the suspension of some key officers of the Assembly.

Ehie, a strong ally of Fubara, promised to discharge his duty without fear or favour, and be just to all and sundry. He promised to give fair hearing to suspended members of the Assembly through the Committee on Petition.

He stated, “As you can see, the house just rose from plenary and with all humility I must thank my colleagues, 26 Assembly members, who have just elected me as the new speaker of the 10th Rivers State House of Assembly.

“My commitment to Rivers people is that I will be fair, I will be just to all and sundry, and I will ensure that the rule of law gets its course. I will not betray Rivers people, I will not betray my constituents. I will also ensure that independence of the Rivers State House of Assembly is adhered to with mutual respect to the judiciary and the executive arms of government.

“Everything due my colleagues as honourable members constitutionally will be given to them. The members that have been suspended, as has been published, will also be given fair hearing.

“The Committee on Information will publish their names and the house has urged the Committee on Petitions to give them fair hearing.”

Ehie, also announced the adjournment of the Assembly sine dine following a circular served by the Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN) to commence an indefinite nationwide strike.

Reactions Trail Impeachment Plot

The leadership of PDP in Rivers called for caution in the crisis rocking the state.

A statement signed by the state party chairman, Desmond Akawor, called on both the legislative and executive arms of government in the state to exercise restraint in the ongoing impasse between them.

PDP said it was confident that the situation would be handled amicably.

The statement read, “The party is consulting with elders of the party and other notable personalities in the state with a view to resolving the situation at stake. It expressed optimism that the conflict, which is a family affair, would be resolved amicably at the end of the day.”

The PDP leadership called on youths in the state to exercise caution and resist any temptation to use the situation to embark on wanton destruction of state property. PDP said the youth should rather continue to maintain the existing peace and tranquillity in the state. It called on the people of the state to remain calm and await the peaceful resolution of the situation.

Some elders of the state said last night that the crisis was being resolved, stressing, “There is no cause for alarm.”

Former governor of the state, Rufus Ada-George, condemned the crisis rocking the Assembly, which led to the setting ablaze of the hallowed chamber in the early hours of today.

Ada-George, in a statement made available to journalists, sued for peace, and advised those he described as the dramatis personae in the crisis to seek a quick resolution. He said the crisis, if not checked with the urgency it deserved, had the capacity to precipitate violence of unimaginable magnitude.

An elder statesman and former publicity secretary of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Anabs Sara-Igbe, described the situation as a mutiny against the state and the people.

Sara-Igbe said, “What happened today is mutiny against the people of Rivers State. So I strongly, whole heartedly, condemned what happened in Rivers State.

“It goes to show that somebody somewhere wants to show power, it goes to show somebody wants to continue to run the state.

“A situation where somebody is a governor and you don’t have any power to appoint any member of your cabinet and someone will be telling the governor what he will collect from the revenue is a mutiny.”

Sara-Igbe alleged that Wike was suppressing the incumbent governor in the governance of the state.

He stated, “Rivers State belongs to all of us and it does not belong to one man. You have looted enough and you are not satisfied after you left. You want to control Abuja, you want to control Rivers State and the governor is till loyal, but you don’t want to give him little space.

“You want to cut-off his neck. He has gone beyond his boundaries and so the Rivers people should get up.

“Rivers people voted for Sim Fubara as governor of the state and they didn’t vote for Wike as governor of the state. Wike was brought by Goodluck Jonathan and his wife, they made him governor, they did not dictate for him.

“They did not force him to be bringing Rivers money to them, so why should he ask somebody, because he assisted him.

“I have severally advised former governors not to do wrong to avoid the law of karma and it will come when you do not expect. I think the karma wants to start by his own fault, not that the governor wants to pay him back but by his own natural fault he is inviting the karma upon himself.

“I think Mr. Governor should take steps. He has constitutional powers, he should takeover government. He should not rely on Wike or anybody because they are not trustworthy.”

Sara-Igbe advised Fubara to call an emergency security meeting, stressing, “For them to be looking at the governor and splash him hot water, is a disgrace to Rivers people. And for you to point gun at the governor, you have pointed gun at Rivers people.”

Reacting, also, a chieftain of All Progressives Congress (APC), Eze Chukwuemeka Eze, urged the people of Rivers State to rally around Fubara and save the state “from a very unprincipled emperor.”

In a statement made available to journalists in Port Harcourt, Eze cautioned Wike to refrain from “his indulgence targeted against efforts to resist his boundless sense of entitlement and overlordship over the public and private lives and concerns of others, especially those who hold public office in trust for the people.

“The attempt to commence impeachment process against Rivers State Governor just because he wants to revive most of Amaechi’s vision, like the Songhai and the Greater Port Harcourt, all aimed at making Rivers State not only self-sufficient, and empowering most youths in Rivers State is sad and unfortunate.”

As at the time of filing this report, the PDP stakeholders in the state were in a closed-door meeting with Fubara. It was learnt that their visit was to broker peace between Wike and the governor.

Meanwhile, Clark cautioned Wike and heads of security agencies over the political crisis brewing in the oil-rich Rivers State.

Clark, who spoke with journalists in Abuja, said, “I have been greatly disturbed by the reported developments in Rivers State in the last 24 hours. I have been reliably informed that there is a plot to unlawfully remove the governor of Rivers State, Fubara, who has spent only about five months in office

“I understand the sad episode is being orchestrated by the immediate past governor of Rivers State and the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Wike.

“I have been told that the intention is to remove the governor, force his deputy, Ngozi Odu to resign, and install the Speaker of the House of Assembly, another Ikwerre person, as the governor of the state.

“Let me warn strongly, we won’t allow that to happen!”

The National Leader of the South-south geopolitical zone, who is also the founder of the Pan Niger Delta Forum, urged Tinubu to call Wike and the security agencies in Rivers State to order, to avert crisis in the state.

Clark said, “Last night, the hallowed chambers of the Rivers State House of Assembly was burnt, in what apparently is part of the plot to destabilise the state.

“The governor was tear-gassed and was even threatened with being shot at when he visited the Assembly complex after the incident, to assess the level of damage.

“We are not in a barbaric state where people can do whatever they like; we are in a democracy and the tenets of constitutional democracy must be upheld by all.

“Rivers people have suffered enough political crises, the state should not be allowed to degenerate again into its dark past, and the Niger Delta region, by extension. The consequences would be dire for the stability of the region and the national economy.

“What has Fubara done wrong? Refusing to be further ‘remote controlled’?

“Wike was Governor for eight years, nobody hassled him. He governed Rivers State like an emperor, he did not show any iota of respect and regard to anyone, not even those who imposed him on Rivers people in 2015.

“Tinubu must act fast and avert the unfolding crisis in Rivers State in the interest of his administration, the nation’s democracy, and the country at large.”

Former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, also condemned attempts by some political actors to plunge Rivers State into another round of violence, which she described as “unnecessary and avoidable”,

Semenitari called for immediate stop to the crisis, saying the Rivers State has had too many political crises, and at no time was the state the ultimate beneficiary.

She said, “This state has had too many political crises and has at no time been the ultimate winner. At each time, the economy and the people suffered. We cannot continue to whine in this sad cesspool while other states move up the political and economic ladder.”

Condemning attempts to impeach Fubara, Semenitari frowned upon both the motive and its execution. She noted that it was outrageous that only six months into the administration anyone would consider the impeachment of the governor.

“This goes against the grain of all that is noble,” Semenitari said. She added, “The Nigerian constitution is clear on this fact, which is that a sub-nation in the Nigerian federation should have only one elected governor who shall serve a four-year tenure, renewable, though, for another four. Why then does anyone want to render the outcome of the elections still born?”

The former NDDC Chief Executive Officer also said, “Our law enforcement agencies should always draw the line between loyalty to Nigerian taxpayers and political actors. It was bizarre to see Nigeria Police personnel let loose their water cannon and teargas canisters on the Rivers State governor. I condemn it in very clear terms.”

Many stakeholders, including traditional rulers and ex-militant leaders from the Niger Delta, described the development in Rivers State as an evil machination.

A group, Citizens for the Sustainable Development of the Niger Delta (CSDND), condemned the purported suspension of the Majority Leader of the state Assembly, the impeachment notice against Fubura, and the alleged tear gas attack by some policemen on the state governor while on his way to assess the fire outbreak at the state Assembly complex on Sunday night.

In a statement made by its National Coordinator, James Okpara, CSDND said it was also too early for political actors to engage in show of strength and ego clash that will throw the state into chaos.

According to the group, it would be a shame for a governor, who had just spent only five months in office, to be confronted with this magnitude of coup d’état against.

CSDND, in the statement, argued that despite the fact that the emergence of Fubara, an ijaw, was welcomed by the majority of the stakeholders from the region, “The evil plot to destabilise the state House of Assembly and the executive arm in a battle for control is evil and should be widely condemned.”

It added, “The suspected dynamite explosion at the state House of Assembly complex in Port Harcourt, suspension of the Majority Leader, and impeachment notice against Governor Fubura is an indication that those behind the attack are desperate and are enemies of the Rivers people.”

In a similar vein, Ijaw National Congress (INC) called on Tinubu to prevail on Wike to discontinue his alleged plan to “unlawfully impeach” the duly elected governor of River State.

INC, in a statement signed by its president, Benjamin Ogele Okaba, also called on all Ijaw sons, daughters and friends to rally their support to the governor of River State, saying injustice to one Ijaw man is injustice to over 40 million Ijaw people across the world.

The statement added that the development could lead to unwarranted state of insecurity and instability that could throw the entire Niger Delta and the Nigerian economy into serious crises.

The statement titled, “A clarion call by the INC on the president and Commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces to prevail on the Federal Capital Territory Minister to discontinue his dastardly act in Rivers State,” said Fubara had done nothing wrong to warrant his removal.

The statement read, “Following reports of ongoing activities in Rivers State, the jaw National Congress wish to state as follows:

“The attention of the Ijaw National Congress has been drawn to a grand plot masterminded by the immediate past governor of River State, now the FCT Minister, Wike, to unlawfully impeach the duly elected Governor of River State, Fubara, who is barely five months in office as Governor of River State.

“The INC considers this development very worrisome and capable of generating an unwarranted state of insecurity and instability that can throw the entire Niger Delta and the Nigerian economy into serious crises.

“From reports gathered, Governor Fubara has done nothing wrong to warrant his removal except for the fact that he has decided not to remain a stooge to the immediate past governor.

“The INC, therefore, condemns in its entirety this barbaric, selfish, nepotistic and unconstitutional act capable of derailing the process of democratic consolidation in Nigeria.

“Wike should be advised to concentrate on his responsibilities as Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, and stop interfering and arm swinging the political machinery in Rivers State to advance his personal and selfish desires.

“The INC is hereby calling on Mr. President, Tinubu, to call his FCT minister to order.”

In his reaction to the development, Magnus Abe said in as much as he had chosen to remain silent on the political issues in Rivers State, “I say clearly and unequivocally that the burning of the hallowed chambers of the Rivers State House of Assembly complex, which not only serves as a democratic institution, but a sacred asset of the state, is highly condemnable.”

Abe added, “As seen in trending videos in the media space, the direct gun shots and tear-gassing on the person of the governor of Rivers State, Fubara, who is the chief security officer of the state, was wrong. This is beyond politics, and I publicly condemn it.

“I believe that in the interest of the state, the Nigerian police needs to have a deeper conversation with the governor who is the current chief security officer and the only Rivers man that currently enjoys constitutional immunity.

“There can be only one governor at a time, so whatever our political differences, we must look for ways to resolve them without jeopardising the peace and security of our fellow citizens. The politics of it all is absolutely of no interest to me at the moment.”

 

Thisday

Federal executive council (FEC) has approved the submission of a supplementary budget of over N2.17 trillion to the national assembly.

The council gave the approval on Monday at its weekly meeting presided over by President Bola Tinubu.

At its last meeting, FEC had proposed the sum of N26 trillion for the 2024 budget, which will be submitted to the national assembly before December 31.

Atiku Bagudu, minister of budget and economic planning, said the council had approved the 2024-2025 medium-term expenditure framework (MTEF) and fiscal strategy papers (FSP) at the FEC held last Monday in Abuja.

The national assembly’s approval of the supplementary budget will increase the country’s total budget to N28.17 trillion.

Speaking to State House correspondents on Monday, Bagudu said the supplementary budget breakdown includes; N605 billion to be allocated to security and national defence to improve security; and N200 billion for supply of agricultural production.

Also, N210 billion has been earmarked for federal government workers for the approved wage awards meant to cover September to December and N400 billion has been budgeted for cash transfer to vulnerable and poor Nigerians between October and November.

Bagudu said: “In negotiation with the Nigeria Labour Congress, the federal government agreed to pay N35,000 each to about 1.5 million employees of the federal government and that amounts from September, October, November and December 2023.”

Commenting on the cash transfer, Bagudu said the federal government secured “$800m loan from the World Bank to pay cash transfers of N25,000 to 15 million households. The $800 million is for two months, October and November”.

Upon approval, the federal capital territory (FCT ) will receive N100 billion and N18 billion will be allocated to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct the governorship elections in Kogi, Imo and Bayelsa states in November.

The supplementary budget includes N5.5 billion for student loans and N200 billion set aside for capital supplementation.

 

The Cable

PRESS RELEASE

Someone asked me what I would do if I lost my election petition appeal at the Supreme Court. In response, I said that as long as Nigeria wins, the struggle would have been worth the while. By that, I meant that the bigger loss would not be mine but Nigeria’s if the Supreme Court legitimizes illegality, including forgery, identity theft, and perjury.

If the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, implies by its judgment that crime is good and should be rewarded, then Nigeria has lost and the country is doomed irrespective of who occupies the Presidential seat. If the Supreme Court decides that the Electoral umpire, INEC, can tell the public one thing and then do something else in order to reach a corruptly predetermined outcome, then there is really no hope for the country’s democracy and electoral politics.

Obviously, the consequences of those decisions for the country will not end at the expiration of the current government. They will last for decades. I am absolutely sure that history will vindicate me. We now know what the Supreme Court has decided.

At critical points in my political life, I always ignored the easy but ignoble path and chosen the difficult but dignified path, the path of truth, of morality, of democracy and rule of law.

I always chose freedom over servitude, whatever the personal discomforts my choice entails. When I joined politics, the critical challenge was easing the military out of power so that civilian democratic governance could be restored in Nigeria. It later became a very defining struggle, and, as one of the leaders of that struggle, I was targeted for elimination.

In one incident, nine policemen guarding my home in Kaduna were murdered in an attempt to assassinate me. I was also forced into exile for nine (9) months. In addition, my interest in a logistics company that I co-owned was confiscated and given to friends of the military government. As Vice President in the civilian government that succeeded the military, I, again at great personal cost, chose to oppose the extension of the tenure of the government beyond the two four-year terms enshrined in our constitution.

In response to the official backlash against me, I instituted several cases in the courts, which led to seven landmark decisions that helped to deepen our democracy and rule of law. At the current historic moment, the easier option for me would have been to fold up and retreat after the mandate banditry perpetrated by the APC and INEC.

But I went to the Nigerian courts to seek redress. I even went to an American court to help with unravelling what our state institutions charged with such responsibilities were unwilling or unable to do, including unravelling the qualifying academic records of the person sworn in as our President and by implication, hopefully who he really is.

I offered that evidence procured with the assistance of the American Court to our Supreme Court to help it to do justice in this case. I give this background to underscore that what we are currently dealing with is bigger than one or two presidential elections and is certainly bigger than Atiku Abubakar. It is not about me; it is about our country, Nigeria. It is about the kind of society we want to leave for the next generation and what kind of example we want to set for our children and their children.

It is about the reputation of Nigeria and Nigerians in the eyes of the world. We showed incontrovertible evidence that Bola A. Tinubu was not qualified to contest the Presidential Election because he forged the qualifying academic certificate, which he submitted to INEC. In fact, a simple check of Tinubu’s past records in its possession would have shown INEC that Tinubu broke the law and should not have been allowed to contest the election.

We showed irrefutable evidence of gross irregularities, violence, and manipulations during the elections. We showed incontrovertible evidence that INEC violated the Electoral Act and deliberately sabotaged its own publicly announced processes and procedures in order to illegally declare Tinubu elected. The position of the Supreme Court, even though final, leaves so much unanswered.

Even the rebuke by retired Justice Musa Dattijo Muhammad is a confirmation from within the apex court that all is not well with the Supreme Court. The court and indeed the judiciary must never lend itself to politicization as it is currently the norm with nearly every institution in Nigeria. By the way, the strong rebuke of the apex court by the revered Justice, who had meritoriously served for more than four decades, should not be swept under the carpet.

The alarm raised by Justice Muhammad and recently, former INEC Chairman, Attahiru Jega, offer Nigerians an explanation into why the electoral and judicial system have become the lost hope of the common man.

Judges are no longer appointed based on merit but are products of the interplay of politics and nepotism. Worse still, the appointment of electoral officials has also been hijacked by the ruling party as seen in the latest nomination of Resident Electoral Commissioners where card carrying members of the ruling party and aides to politicians in the APC are being appointed into INEC. When two critical institutions like the court and the electoral commission are trapped in an evil web of political machination, it becomes next to impossible for democracy to thrive.

As a stakeholder in the presidential election of February 25, I, along with other well-meaning Nigerians have done my bit in ensuring that our democratic process enjoys the privilege of full disclosure of the character deficiencies of the current political leadership. I also believe that even if the Supreme Court believes otherwise, the purpose of technology in our electoral system is to enhance transparency and not merely as a viewing centre. We have to move with the world and not be stuck in time.

Implications of PEPC and Supreme Court judgments

I leave Nigerians and the world to decide what to make of the Supreme Court’s unfortunate decision. But here’s my take. The judgments of the PEPC and the Supreme Court have very far-reaching grave implications, including the following:

One is the erosion of trust in the electoral system and our democracy. Nigerians witnessed as the National Assembly changed the electoral law to improve transparency in the process. Of particular importance was the introduction of modern technology to help eliminate the recurring incidents of electoral manipulation, particularly during the collation of results. Nigerians and the world also witnessed as the leadership of the INEC, especially its Chairman and National Commissioner for Voter Education reassured Nigerians on national television multiple times that the use of that technology would be mandatory.

Yet that same INEC undermined the use of that technology during the elections and collation process and declared as winner someone who clearly did not win the Presidential election. They then went further to take sides in the courts in a dogfight to defend their illegality. Who would convince the millions of Nigerians to vote in future elections after they suffered endlessly on queues to register to vote, to collect PVCs and to vote, based on INEC’s assurances only to see their votes stolen and given to someone they did not vote for?

When people lose trust and confidence in elections, democracy is practically on life support. And by affirming and legitimizing the continued lack of transparency in our electoral system the courts are continuing to usurp the rights of voters to elect their leaders. The other grave implication is that contestants in Nigeria’s elections should do whatever is necessary to be declared the winner. That includes identity theft, impersonation, forging of educational and other documents, perjury, and violence.

And, as they do so, they should ignore whatever the law says and whatever assurances from the leadership of the electoral umpire about what the law says and what they would do in compliance. And they would do so knowing that our courts would approve of their behaviour or at best pretend not to take any notice of it. The third is that if you are robbed of victory, do not bother going to court for redress because your glaring evidence of the robbery will be ignored in favour of the mandate bandit.

Also, your lawyers, however distinguished and accomplished, may be ridiculed by the judges who may also go out of their way to make even a stronger case for the so-called “winner” than even their own lawyers were able to do. These are clearly self-help strategies and actions bereft of the law and constitutionalism. Only lawlessness and anarchy will result from such, with violence, destruction and implosion and loss of our country likely to follow.

I believe that we still have a small window to prevent these from happening. I still believe that we can rescue this country from the strange imposters that have seized it illegally and are holding it by the jugular. Let me caution that the leaders of those African countries that have completely collapsed into chaos never came together one day and agreed to collapse their countries. Rather their countries collapsed because of the incremental and compounding individual and collective utterances and actions of those leaders.

Nigerians know more about the person sitting in office as their President and how he got there, and the dangers that it portends for them and the country. It is for them, especially the younger generation whose futures are to be shaped by that man, to decide what they want to do with the knowledge.

Now, let me give a historical perspective to the constitutional evolution that gave birth to the 1999 Constitution. In the build up to the current democratic dispensation, agitation was rife amongst members of the political class and a large number of civil society bodies to envision a constitution that would operate a democracy in a functional order after the nasty military regimes. These agitations and necessities of the circumstance of that time led to the convocation of the 1995 Constitutional Conference, which I was privileged to be a part of, alongside other prominent political actors.

The Constitutional Conference was expected to create the frameworks upon which a new constitution would be built in order to make the dreams of a democratic society. A number of far-reaching reforms and recommendations were made, which drew from our past experiences and aimed at safeguarding the new constitution from the mistakes of the past.

One such headline recommendation was the concept of rotational presidency anchored on the principle of 6 years single term among the 6 geopolitical blocks. Even the notional idea of delineating the country along geo-political blocks was a creation of the 1995 conference. Another thematic recommendation at the conference was that the Federal Capital Territory should be given the democratic opportunity to elect for itself a mayor who shall emerge from popular franchise. These two recommendations were part of the landmark reforms that were submitted to the military government that convoked the Constitutional Conference.

However, and rather disappointingly, the government that midwifed the current democratic dispensation and enacted what is now known as the 1999 Constitution, expunged these two recommendations from what eventually became the body of legislation to govern our fledgling democracy.

As for me and my party this phase of our work is done. However, I am not going away. For as long as I breathe I will continue to struggle, with other Nigerians, to deepen our democracy and rule of law and for the kind of political and economic restructuring the country needs to reach its true potential. That struggle should now be led by the younger generation of Nigerians who have even more at stake than my generation.

So, let me make a few proposals that I believe will help. We can urgently make constitutional amendments that will prevent any court or tribunal from hiding behind technicalities and legal sophistry to affirm electoral heists and undermine the will of the people. Our democracy must mean something; it must be substantive. Above all, it must be expressed through free, fair and transparent elections that respect the will of the people.

Firstly, we must make electronic voting and collation of results mandatory. This is the 21st century and countries less advanced than Nigeria are doing so already. It is only bold initiatives that transform societies.

Secondly, we must provide that all litigation arising from a disputed election must be concluded before the inauguration of a winner. This was the case in 1979. The current time frame between elections and inauguration of winners is inadequate to dispense with election litigations.

What we have currently is akin to asking thieves to keep their loot and use the same to defend themselves while the case of their robbery is being decided. It only encourages mandate banditry rather than discourages it.

Thirdly, in order to ensure popular mandate and real representation, we must move to require a candidate for President to earn 50% +1 of the valid votes cast, failing which a run-off between the top two candidates will be held. Most countries that elect their presidents use this Two-Round System (with slight variations) rather than our current First-Past-the-Post system.

Examples include France, Finland, Austria, Bulgaria, Portugal, Poland, Turkey and Russia, Argentina, Brazil, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Namibia, Mozambique, Madagascar and even Liberia where a run-off is expected to hold in the coming days.

Fourthly, in order to reduce the desperation of incumbents and distractions from governing and also to promote equity and national unity, we need to move to a single six-year term for President to be rotated among the six geo-political zones. This will prevent the ganging up of two or more geo-political zones to alternate the presidency among themselves to the exclusion of other zones.

@inecnigeria should be mandated to verify the credentials submitted to it by candidates and their parties and where it is unable to do so – perhaps because the institutions involved did not respond in time - it must publicly state so and have it on record.

A situation where a candidate submits contradictory credentials to INEC in different election cycles and the electoral umpire accepts them without question points to gross negligence, at best, or collusion to break the law by the leadership of the INEC, at worst. The submission of contradictory qualifying documents by a candidate as well as those found to be forged or falsified should disqualify a candidate even if the falsification or forgery is discovered after the person had been sworn into office.

The burden of proving that a document submitted to INEC is forged should not be on the opposing candidates in the election. It is never the responsibility of an applicant for a job to prove that the person who eventually got the job did so with forged documents.

In addition to these proposed constitutional amendments, the Electoral Act should be amended to provide that, except where they explicitly violate the Constitution and other laws, the rules and procedures laid down by the electoral umpire and made public for the benefit of the contestants and the voters will be treated as sacrosanct by the courts in deciding on election disputes.

A referee cannot be allowed to set the rules for the game only to change or ignore them when one side has scored a goal or is about to win the match. We must restore confidence in our electoral system which the current leadership of INEC has completely eroded and undermined. Also, we need well-thought out provisions in the legislation and regulations to reform the judiciary, including the introduction of an automated case assignment system; transparency in the appointment of judges; a practice directory that stresses that the goal of judges in election cases should be to discover and affirm voters’ choice rather than disregarding voters’ choice for the sake of technicalities.

There should also be publicly available annual evaluation of the performance of judges using agreed criteria. By improving the transparency of the electoral process and reducing the incentives to cheat, in addition to transparency in the appointment of judges and other judicial reforms, the number of election petitions as well as corruption in the judiciary will be significantly reduced. More importantly, we would have succeeded in taking away the right to elect leaders from the courts and return it to the voters to whom it truly belongs.

Gentlemen of the Press, I thank you profoundly for listening. May God bless you, and may God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

** Being text of a World Press Conference on the Presidential Election Petition Judgement by Atiku Abubakar, former Vice President of Nigeria (1999-2007) and Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the 2023 Election, at the PDP Headquarters in Abuja on Monday, 30th October, 2023.

All Progressives Congress (APC) says Nigeria is greater than the “unrealised” presidential ambition of Atiku Abubakar, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in the February 25 election.

The ruling party was reacting to a press conference by Abubakar on Monday organised to react to the ruling of the supreme court that upheld the election of President Bola Tinubu.

Following his defeat at the supreme court, the former vice-president said the judiciary has become the lost hope of the common man.

In a statement on Monday, Felix Morka, APC spokesperson, said Abubakar should accept defeat as a statesman.

“It is delusional for Atiku, and his degenerate PDP, to have expected the courts to rely on their bogus, flimsy, unverifiable, uncorroborated, illogical and hearsay evidence to upturn an election that was conducted in substantial compliance with the Constitution and electoral laws of our land,” the statement reads.

“Thankfully, it does not lie in Atiku’s mouth to declare what constitutes ‘incontrovertible evidence’.

“That is the constitutional duty of the courts and which they have discharged honorably and creditably.

“For a serial election loser whose life ambition is to rule the country, we understand how pained and utterly distraught Atiku must be.

“However, to continue to deny and disrespect the collective will of Nigerians, disparage the judiciary, incite rage and call our democratic institutions into question is beyond the pale.

“Atiku, you are right that this is not and cannot be all about you. Yes, it is about Nigeria. Nigeria is greater than your unrealized ambition to be president. Nigeria must move and has moved on.”

Morka said Abubakar missed an opportunity during his press conference to redeem himself as a stateman.

 

The Cable

Members of the Paliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN) has embarked on a nationwide strike over delay in granting financial autonomy to state assemblies.

On Monday, the Sokoto, Nasarawa, Katsina, Abia, Anambra and Jigawa chapters of the association shut down the houses of assembly in their respective states.

The union had given state governments a 21-day ultimatum and further extended it to one week.

In May 2020, former President Muhammadu Buhari signed an executive order granting financial autonomy to the legislature and judiciary across the 36 states of the country.

However, the former president suspended the gazetting of the order after a pushback from governors.

In the 2022 constitution amendment, some of the bills that scaled through included financial autonomy for state legislature and judiciary.

The bills were subsequently signed into law by Buhari in March.

Speaking with journalists, Abubakar Yusuf, chairman of the Sokoto chapter, said the strike was an extension of their ongoing struggle that began in 2020.

“As you may recall, we took similar action in 2020. Following interventions from various sectors, we reached an agreement promising full financial autonomy for the legislative arm of government,” Yusuf said.

“However, former President Muhammadu Buhari signed an executive order to secure the financial autonomy of the legislature and the judiciary.

“After resolving the legal complexities, the order was reaffirmed and the former president initiated a committee for its full implementation.

“This progress has stalled following transition of government.”

Yusuf added that the association had patiently awaited progress on the government promises and gave it a 21-day ultimatum to address their concerns.

“Regrettably, no action was taken. Consequently, today, we have taken the step of indefinitely locking all state assemblies, including the national assembly, until our demands for full implementation are met,” he said.

‘NO AUTONOMY, NO LEGISLATOR, NO WORK’

In Nasarawa, Suleiman Oshafu, chairman of the union, said the strike is total and urged the governors to do the needful by implementing financial autonomy for state houses of assembly.

“As financial autonomy will promote accountability, transparency and good governance in the country,” Oshafu said.

“What we want from the government is that all state legislature must be granted financial autonomy.”

He urged members of the association to stay at home until further directive from the national leadership of the association.

In Abia, Sunday Kalu, the chairman, said the union has decided to embark on indefinite strike until their demands are met.

“In Abia, we have not gotten the administrative autonomy which is paramount,” he said

“We are calling on the state government to do the needful by constituting the assembly commission and then the financial autonomy.”

ANAMBRA ASSEMBLY IN BAD SHAPE’

The PASAN chapter in Anambra expressed concern over “the poor working condition” in the state assembly.

“Some states including Anambra have failed to implement section 121 of the constitution 5th alteration which granted full financial autonomy to the house of assembly,” Abraham Okoye, the chairman, said.

“In Anambra, the former Governor, Dr Willie Obiano signed a law granting the legislature and the judiciary autonomy to manage their funds. In August 2022, the assembly also passed a resolution calling for the full implementation of the law.

“Till now, the present governor is yet to implement the law. PASAN and our counterpart in the Judiciary have written several letters to this effect to no avail.

“The executive should allow the legislature to breathe and function optimally. That is our prayer.

“PASAN Anambra seems to be the worst in the country. The state assembly is in bad shape, nothing is working.”

 

The Cable

Constitutional lawyer and pioneer Secretary-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Ben Nwabueze, has passed on at the age of 94.

On behalf of the family, Eni Nwabueze said burial arrangements for the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) would be announced in due course.

“With great sadness, we announce the passing on of our patriarch, Ben Nwabueze, pioneer Secretary-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo and Oduah Afo-na-Isagba of Atani, Anambra State, who died in his Lagos apartment about 4.00p.m. on Sunday, October 29, 2023, aged 94. He lived an exemplary life of consequence,” the statement read.

Anambra Commissioner for Information, Paul Nwosu, also confirmed the news.

Nwabueze was born in Atani, in the Ogbaru Local Government Area of Anambra State. The President-General of Atani Town Union, Arinze Nzeli, also confirmed the death in a statement, yesterday.

To honour the former Minister of Education, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, will observe four traditional market days.

Nwabueze, fondly referred to as the “Professor of Professors,” was born on December 22, 1931, in Atani, Ogbaru Local Council of Anambra.

In a statement, yesterday, the Chidi Ibe-led Ohanaeze noted: “As we mourn the loss of this extraordinary scholar and statesman, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, together with the entire Igbo-speaking states, including Anioma in Delta State and Ikwerre in Rivers State, will observe four traditional market days of mourning to honour Nwabueze. We implore all Igbo sons and daughters, both at home and in the Diaspora, to join us in this solemn period of reflection and remembrance.”The organisation appealed to President Bola Tinubu to immortalise the don by naming one of the newly-approved federal universities after him.

 

The Guardian


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