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Why I declined assent to Electoral Amendment Bill – Buhari

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The 2021 Electoral Act Bill has hit the rock.

President Muhammadu Buhari, who declined assent to the bill, hinged his refusal on political, moral and constitutional factors.

In his letter to the national Assembly, the President explained that he reject the bill, following consultations and advice from relevant ministries, department and agencies.

The letter will be read to senators and House of Representatives members today at plenary session where the reasons adduced by the President will be debated.

The reasons President Buhari induced high cost of conducting direct primaries, the security challenge of monitoring the shadow polls, violation of citizens’ rights, marginalization of political parties, likely litigation and manipulation of the exercise.

The President reasoned that it would be better to allow each political party to determine its mode of choosing standard bearer for elections.

There was disquiet among stakeholders, including elder statesmen, legislators, former governors, lawyers, and other notable politicians.

However, some senators confided that the Upper Chamber is not likely to veto the President, following his refusal to assent to the bill.

Also, sources close to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said the agency will deploy the 2010 Electoral Act for the 2023 general elections.

The retention of the direct primary clause in the proposal bill, which was passed by the National Assembly and transmitted to the President, has been a bone of contention between the Federal legislators and governors.

While the legislators pushed for a constitutional backing for direct primary, the governors had stormed the Aso Villa, Abuja, urging President Buhari to decline assent.

The federal lawmakers argued that the direct primary will foster a popular participation and internal democracy in the political parties.

But, the governors objected, saying that parties should be at liberty to select any mode as stipulated by their constitution.

The bill was transmitted to the President on November 19, 2021. The 30 days provided by the Constitution for signing or rejection of the bill expired yesterday.

There was confusion over Buhari’s letter to the National Assembly on the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2021.

Senators and members of the House of Representatives were in the dark as they had no access to the letter.

It was learnt that the letter may be delivered by hand today to Senate President Ahmad Lawan and the House of Representatives Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila.

It was gathered that the letter was kept under wraps to avoid leakage before the next legislative day.

According to a source, who spoke in confidence, a veto by the President will not hinder INEC from conducting 2023 elections.

The top source said: “There is no doubt that the new Electoral Bill is vital to 2023 poll. INEC has been callingfor the speedy passage of the bill into law.

“So, in essence, our plans for 2023 poll are intact. We cannot be distracted by the politics over the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.”

On April 29, the INEC chairman said the 2023 general elections were exactly one year, nine months, two weeks and six days or 660 days from today.

“By the principle established by the Commission, the 2023 General Election will hold on Saturday 18th February 2023 which is exactly one year, nine months, two weeks and six days or 660 days from today,” he said.

As at press time, the President’s letter to the National Assembly was kept under wraps.

It was learnt that the letter will be delivered today by hand to the Senate President and House Speaker.

A ranking Senator said: “When we asked sone of our principal officers, they said they have not seen the President’s letter.

“We later got to know that it will be delivered by hand before plenary on Tuesday to prevent leakage.

“We don’t know why we are experiencing a hide and seek over a presidential letter in a democracy.”

A member of the House of Representatives said: “No one has seen the letter. It is frustrating but I hope we will stamp our feet to prove a point that we are all equal in the National Assembly.”

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How secret police, DSS blocked British envoy from meeting Nnamdi Kanu during court sitting

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Operatives of the Department of State Services on Wednesday blocked a British diplomat from speaking with the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu.

Eno Agodo, British Vice Consul, Lagos State, had attended Kanu’s trial before Justice Binta Nyako at the Federal High Court, Abuja on Wednesday where the pro-Biafran agitator appeared on a 15-count amended charge bordering on treasonable felony and terrorism.

At the close of proceedings in the suit at the Federal High Court in Abuja, on Wednesday, Agodo first sought the permission of Ifeanyi Ejiofor, Kanu’s lead counsel to speak with his client, which was granted.

But as the British envoy gained access to the dock where Kanu, who holds dual citizenship in Nigeria and the United Kingdom, was speaking with family members, she was intercepted by the Director of Legal Services of the secret police and operatives who had formed a wall around the IPOB leader.

Thereafter, journalists tried to speak with Agodo on what transpired, but she declined.

A political counsellor at the British High Commission, Jonathan, Bacon had written a letter dated January 11, 2022 and addressed to the trial judge, Nyako, where he sought permission for Agodo to attend Kanu’s trial from January 18 to 20, 2022.

In the letter entitled, “Nnamdi Kanu Trial-Access for British Consular Official to Attend Federal High Court, 18th to 20th January, 2022”, the British High Commission, specifically requested that Agodo attended the IPOB leader’s trial as an “observer.”

Early this month how Kanu, through his lawyer, Ejiofor petitioned British government, the United States and the United Nations to grace his appearance in court.

Kanu after he fled Nigeria in 2017 lived in the United Kingdom, following invasion of his home in by Nigerian soldiers in 2017.

This stalled his trial in Nigeria for years until he was rearrested, reportedly in Kenya, and brought back to Nigeria, in June last year.

While abroad, Kanu continued reaching out to his Nigerian followers through social media channels as violence linked to the Eastern Security Network (ESN), the armed wing of IPOB, escalated in the South-east.

During the period, the UK government also resisted calls from the Nigerian government to declare IPOB a terrorist organisation as it was done in Nigeria in 2017.

Blocking the American lawyer from having access to Kanu on Wednesday highlights what appears to be government’s desperation to cut him off from having any contact with foreigners or their agents.

A similar scenario played out during Kanu’s trial on Tuesday, when Mike Ozekhome, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), who led the IPOB leader’s defence team, made frantic but unsuccessful efforts to get Bruce Fein, a United States lawyer, to attend the court session.

Fein, a counsel to the secessionist group in the U.S, has not been able to have an audience with Kanu, as he claimed several attempts to visit the IPOB leader at the SSS detention facility in Abuja had been resisted.

“I have not been able to meet with my client, Mr Kanu since I arrived Nigeria,” Fein said in an interview last December.

“Officials of the State Security Service wouldn’t let me meet Kanu,” Fein added, saying, the action of the spy agency is a “gross violation” of Kanu’s fundamental rights.

The American constitutional counsel had received similar treatment during previous proceedings in the case.

While it could not be ascertained if Agodo’s presence in court was in response to Kanu’s request, the American embassy had no representative at the proceedings last Tuesday and Wednesday

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Prepare for uprising worse than #EndSARS if you hike fuel price, Abdulsalami warns Buhari

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Nigeria’s former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd), has warned that the soaring hardship in the country might result into another nationwide conflagration, worse than the 2020 #EndSARS protests against police brutality.

He cautioned the Federal Government against increasing pump price of fuel, saying a rise in petrol price now will push more Nigerians deeper into poverty.

Abdusalami, who ruled Nigeria between 1998 and 1999, said this, yesterday, at the 19th Daily Trust Dialogue with the theme: ‘2023: The Politics, Economy and Security.’

While noting that the past three months had seen an improvement in economic growth rates and inflation, Abdulsalami, however, said the impact of these numbers on the lives and wellbeing of the ordinary Nigerian is suspect.

He said unemployment and underemployment remain at record levels, adding that over 80 million Nigerians are still caught up in needless poverty.

He said: “All of these tend to have negative effects on security. In fact, Nigeria now faces a food security crisis that is compounded by COVID-19 pandemic and banditry in many states in northern Nigeria.

“These have disrupted the fragile value chains across the country and negatively impacted the ability of Nigerians to produce, process and distribute food. The result is a continuing rise in prices of food items beyond the reach of many families.

“On top of all these, fuel prices are expected to rise significantly in the coming months as announced last November. When this happens, as the government has planned, it will push many millions deeper into poverty.

“Young people and women are the demographic groups most affected by the country’s dire economic outlook. For example, estimates by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) shows that while the national unemployment rate stood at 33 per cent by the end of 2020, unemployment for young people between ages 15 and 34 years was 10 per cent higher at 42.5 per cent.

“If not carefully managed, the frustrations of these groups could easily boil over into a national conflagration worse than what we saw months ago during the #EndSARS protests. However, these are not doomsday predictions, but a warning to which all stakeholders must pay heed.”

On insecurity, Abdulsalami, who is also the Chairman of the National Peace Committee (NPC), stated that the situation has overstretched the country’s security forces and has led to the death of thousands.

He noted that major cause of insecurity is the proliferation of all calibre of weapons in Nigeria in particular, and in the West Africa sub-region generally.

Quoting the Global Conflict Tracker report compiled by the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations, Abdulsalami said some 350,000 persons have been killed and three million displaced directly or indirectly in the conflict in the Northeast since 2009.

As the 2023 election draws closer, the former military leader urged all politicians to watch their words and deeds carefully, and avoid saying or doing things that will further heat up the polity.

He said: “I have not seen this country in serious challenges of its existence as seen at this time. I have witnessed the Nigerian Civil War and not even that was so much a threat to our existence like we are witnessing today.

“And of course all attention is focused on the political class. The solutions to all the problems that have been highlighted particularly security and economy are problems the politicians are expected to solve.”

FORMER Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, said the country needs a capable leader who will address the problems facing the nation.

Also speaking at the Daily Trust dialogue, he said: “What is important now is to identify a competent leader that can get us out of these crises.

“We have the capacity to pull this country out of her present predicament. We must do the needful and most importantly, I believe a leadership that will prioritise education is desirable.”

IN his remarks, Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, urged Nigerians to be part of politics and governance, as the institutions are too important to be left for politicians alone.

“We learnt in military training that war is too important to be left to the soldiers alone. Therefore, national development is too important to be left to the politicians alone,” he said.

Abubakar, who is also President of the Nigeria Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), stressed that dialogue remains the best option to resolve issues.

He said: “What wars cannot resolve, dialogue can resolve it. I am an advocate of dialogue and I cannot be tired of dialogue. Without security, you can’t develop, you can’t even worship God. We cannot get tired and we must not get tired of talking peace.”

Speaking, spokesman of the Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF), Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, said the situation in the country has shown Nigerians that the country does not need an ethnic president in 2023.

While expressing concerns over the tension in the polity in the buildup to the general elections, Baba-Ahmed said 90 per cent of Nigerian governors have no business being anywhere near power.

According to him, most of the governors don’t have the preparation, background, and competencies to govern.

“One of the worst things you can do is to create huge additional anger around the cost of living, the cost of fuel, cost of prices, pushing the citizen into more depression and you want to have elections just a few months after”, he stated.

While calling for restructuring of the country, he added: “What we really need to do is put the federal system on the table and ask what is wrong?

“What is it that makes it impossible to reduce the powers or to regulate the powers of governance, restructure the country but this is a word that is anathema to a lot of people in power today.”

For Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State, Nigerians must look into the possibility of selecting good leaders rather than the elections itself.

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17 killed, 59 injured by explosion in western Ghana

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At least 17 people were killed and 59 injured Thursday in a devastating explosion in a western Ghana town after a truck carrying explosives collided with a motorcycle, the government said.

The blast left a huge crater and reduced dozens of buildings to dust-covered piles of wood and metal in Apiate, near the city of Bogoso some 300 kilometres (180 miles) west of the mineral-rich West African country’s capital Accra.

Footage showed locals rushing towards a raging fire and rising plumes of black smoke to inspect the damage, while rescue workers waded through the rubble for survivors caught in the devastation.

“A total of 17 people have unfortunately been confirmed dead, and 59 injured people have been rescued,” Information Minister Kojo Oppong Nkrumah said in a statement released overnight.

The minister said initial signs point to “an accident involving a truck transporting explosive materials for a mining company, a motorcycle and a third vehicle” which took place near an electrical transformer.

Out of 59 people injured, 42 are receiving treatment in hospitals or health centres and “some are in critical condition”, Nkrumah added.

Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo called it a “truly sad, unfortunate and tragic incident”.

The government said those in critical condition would be moved to hospitals in Accra and police asked surrounding villages to open their schools and churches to accommodate any additional casualties.

A team of police and army explosion experts were deployed to “avoid a second explosion” and put in place security measures after the blast, the government said in a press release.

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