Presidency Claims First Lady Is Not Sick

The Presidency has responded to media report alleging that the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan is sick again and has been flown abroad for medical treatment.

In a statement released by her Special Assistant (Media), Ayo Osinlu, the First Lady travelled to Dubai from where she proceeded to Paris, France, to participate in the 1st Green Women Conference, which took place on March 17, 2013 where she received the 2013 Global Women Leaders’ Award for Peace, not for medical treatment as speculated.

The statement stated further that the first lady travelled to Italy, “from there proceeded to Germany with her holidaying children to see her mother, Mama Sisi, who is currently receiving medical attention and for the children to spend quality time with their grandmother.

“It is unfortunate that again, some media houses have allowed themselves to be used by dedicated mischief makers against the basic tenet of professional journalism, which regards truth as sacred.

“It is notable that Her Excellency has a history of visiting the hospital in Germany even before she became the First Lady, thus making her medical trips routine.

“It is also instructive to state that medical experts have recommended that every human being should undergo medical check-up every six months, even if not suffering ill health.

“Therefore, hospital visitations of our leaders should not become leading media issues or attract disrespectful comments, just as the current circumstances of former President Mandela and other African leaders in similar situations, and even those who died, have not attracted negative comments from their people”.

Media reports had suggested the first lady was ill, again, and travelled abroad for treatment.

The denial by Mrs. Jonathan’s aides may, however, not impress many Nigerians as the presidency had made similar claims last year when the first lady travelled abroad for several weeks.

Despite the repeated denials by the presidency, Mrs. Jonathan later confirmed her illness and treatment for several weeks at a German hospital saying she nearly died.

Nigeria’s Oil Economy Has Been Mismanaged For Decades — Ezekwesili

Former minister of education and co-founder of Transparency International, Obiageli Ezekwesili has said that the oil economy has been mismanaged by the government of Nigeria over a decade now.

Ezekwesili however accused the federal government of squandering over the $67 billion foreign reserve  which she claimed was left in the foreign reserve account while she was a serving minister.

She volunteered to prove the mismanagement of the funds but was turned down when she requested for a democratic accountability forum.

She further said that her believe in good governance, transparency and accountability still stands and her accountability credentials has not been questioned internationally.

According to Ezekwesili Nigeria never put to good use its oil resources during the five major oil booms that the country had as this can be seen by the level of development in the country compared to the progress that other oil producing countries have made over time, citing Singapore as an example. She said Nigeria’s income per capital is $1500, while that of Singapore stands at $50, 0000 presently.

Meanwhile, in a swift reaction, Senior Special Adviser to President Jonathan; Doyin Okupe has reacted to the comments made by Ezekwesili on Sunrise Daily saying the problem the FG has with Ezekwesili is that she misled Nigerians on the issue of foreign reserve, that the Obasanjo regime did not leave $67m in Oil Reserve.

Okupe said it is wrong for Ezekwesili to say oil reserve money was squandered by the present administration and with her recent statement in which cleared her points, the administration has been vindicated.

We Have Serious Leadership Crisis In Nigeria — Ezekwesili

A former minister of education and co-founder of Transparency International, Dr Obiageli Ezekwesili said Nigeria has serious leadership crisis and warned if the fight against corruption is to be won then the present leadership has to turn to ways of setting good examples.

The former minister, before berating the leadership problem of the nation, reacted to the level of insecurity that has gone beyond anything that is tolerable while making reference to the recent blast which took place in Kano on Monday at a motor park.

The former minister who was a guest on Sunrise Daily said the “elders” of the land should put away differences and join heads together to find a lasting solution to the incessant killings by the terrorist group Boko Haram.

Speaking on the level of the fight waged against corruption in the country presently as against what was obtainable while in government as a minister, she responded saying, before any analysis can be done on Nigeria as regards fight against corruption, three major factors (tripods as she called it) have to be put in place as these factors will actually ascertain whether there’s been progress made against the cancer-like corruption and they are: credible leadership, prevention of corruption and deterrence from corruption.

On credible leadership Ezekwesili said Nigeria has serious leadership crisis and if the fight against corruption is to be won then the present leadership has to turn to ways of setting good examples.

On prevention of corruption, Ezekwesili took NEITI as an example standing as an agent used in wielding war against corruption amongst several other agencies created for this purpose and she gave kudos to the Federal Government for the creation of these agencies to prevent corruption but she was quick to ask “if theses agencies really have the powers needed to fight the cancerous corruption? Were they properly empowered to stop corruption?”. Citing NEITI as an example, she explained that the agency would have been able to block the recent scandals that had rocked the oil and gas sector if these agencies were properly empowered.

Watch rest of the interview for more details.

Pipeline Vandalization Will Soon Be History — Haruna

 The Managing Director of the Pipelines and Products Marketing Company, Mr Haruna Momoh has given assurance that the agency is set to bring to an end the incessant vandalism of NNPC pipeline at Arepo, Ogun state.

Speaking today on our breakfast programme, Sunrise, Mr Momoh disclosed that currently security agents are on ground manning the facility, and a lasting solution to the problem of vandalism will be found in three months’ time.

Watch interview for more details.

FG To Review Trade Policy

The Federal Government has announced plans to review the nation’s trade policy in order to develop trade as an alternative source of revenue and reduce the nation’s over dependence on oil.

Speaking in Abuja at an enlarged national focal point meeting, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Trade and Investment, Mr Dauda Kigbu says the last trade policy which was put in place eleven years ago is overdue for review.

He said the new trade policy to be put in place will serve as a basis for rapid, equitable and sustainable growth that will broaden the nation’s product base, encourage non-oil exports and proper use of trade defence mechanisms.

FG Approves Payment Of PHCN Staff

Efforts to clear the huddles hampering the successful privatization of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) appears to be yielding fruit, as the Federal Government has approved the immediate payment of the agreed entitlements of the staff of the PHCN.

Briefing state house correspondents after the Federal Executive Council meeting in Abuja, the Minister of Labour; Emeka Wogu enjoined the labour union in the power sector to work closely with the government to ensure steady power supply to Nigerians.

The disagreement between the ministry of power and the electricity workers over the payment of entitlements had slowed the privatization process due to threats of industrial action by the workers.

NWC Decision Not A Good Signal For Growth — Ogun PDP Faction

The faction of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Ogun State Chapter, believed to be receiving the blessing of the former President, Olusegun Obasanjo has said that the decision of the National Working Committee (NWC) which removed the national auditor of the party, Mr Bode Mustapha and former governor Segun Oni may further destroy the party.

The factional secretary of the party, Dapo Adeyemi said this while reacting to the press statement issued by the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh which removed Bode Mustapha as the National Auditor based on court ruling.

The factional secretary of the party, said the news came to him and others through verbal report and that the state chapter is yet to be informed officially, but he quickly added that if that is the position of the national body, it is not a good signal to the growth of the party.

Adeyemi said ironically, the national working committee of the party had not contributed a penny to the success and administration of the party, since inception.

However, the Buruji Kashamu faction of the party while reacting to this development said, the party is now following the rule of law; a process they said has eluded the party in recent times.

The factional chairman, Adebayo Dayo expressed his position when contacted on phone by our correspondent that, the faction is ready to regain the party’s lost glory.

It will be recalled that two factions of the party have continued to lay claim to the leadership of the party in the state and this has divided the party along with groups and personal interests.

Amaechi Promises To Establish 10,000-Hectare Farm Project in Oyigbo LGA

Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi says he is ready to establish a massive farm project of about 10,000-hectares in Oyigbo Local Government Area of the state, if the council and the people of the area will provide land for the scheme.

He was speaking during a town hall meeting with the people of Oyigbo Local Government Area at the Oyigbo Council headquarters in Afam yesterday.

Governor Amaechi who promised to give them an agricultural project that will employ people in that area said, that would be the first step to solving economic crisis, especially now that crime is providing the people as source of livelihood.

shortly after being welcomed by the people of Oyigbo local government area led by its chairman and counsellors, chief, elders, men and women also the youths, Governor Amaechi soon took over the stage as he enumerate the achievements of his administration in Oyigbo.

He used the opportunity to emphasize that education at the primary and secondary school level were free and directed that school principals found to have collected any form of fees from pupils and students be suspended.

Later at the interactive session, participants who came forward to ask questions praised Governor Amaechi for his people-oriented projects in the state.

Welcoming the governor to his council in an address, the Chairman of Oyigbo Local Government Area, Felix Nwaeke,  noted that Governor Amaechi’s policies has had positive impact on all Rivers people of Oyigbo Local Government Area.

Nwaeke also used the occasion to listed some of his achievements in Oyigbo Local

The town hall meeting is a regular interactive forum between the state governor and the people of the 23 local government councils in the state as it gives the people of the state irrespective of class to participate, an opportunity to ask governor Amaechi questions on his governance in the state.

F.G. Approves N500m For FCT Transporters As Palliative

The Federal Government has approved N500m grant from the Subsidy Re-Investment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P) as palliative to existing registered transport operators in the nation’s capital.

The Minister of FCT, Senator Bala Mohammed also announced that restriction of mini-bus in the nation’s capital will resume in three weeks.

The FCDA had earlier restricted unlicensed commercial transport operators in the nation’s capital as part of a new policy to decongest the city centre of vehicular traffic.

The minister also announced that 10,000 mini-bus conductors will be employed and paid regular salaries to avert issues of mass unemployment and insecurity.

Many residents, mini-bus drivers and commuters have waited with anxiety for about four weeks for the final decision on the enforcement of restriction of operations of mini buses to feeder routes in the Federal Capital Territory since it was last suspended.

In the next two years according to the authorities of the Federal Capital Territory, all commercial vehicles including taxis should be of international standard through several collaborations with the private sector.

Also an integrated e-ticketing system is underway to ensure complete success of the high capacity bus operation in the FCT.

Heads of various transport associations, Nigeria Labour Congress and Civil Society Organisations already have given full endorsement of the policy. What remains to be seen is how efficient the FCT would handle the new policy to avert suffering of the ordinary resident of the nation’s capital.

Committee Will Work With Executive On Privatised Assets– Sen. Olugbenga

The Senate Committee on Privatisation is looking at ways it can work with the executive arm of government to make sure that all the privatised enterprises are taken through international standards best practiced.

This is the information conveyed by Senator Olugbenga Obadara;  the Chairman Senate Committee on Privatisation, while he was guest on Business programme Business Morning live from the Abuja studios.

The Federal Government has come under so much pressure when it comes to the way the disposition of government’s assets which in the view of some Nigerians would be better managed by entrepreneurs or the private sector.

The senator said the senate committee on privatisation is making sure that due diligence are being taken and rules be adhered to thoroughly, as this will make sure the nation is not short-changed in anyway.

Watch complete interview for more details.

FG approves N189.7m for explosives detection devices

The Federal Government has approved the sum of N189.7m for the supply of radiation and explosives detection devices to be used by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).

After the weekly meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), the minister of transport, Senator Idris Umar revealed that the devices will be used to measure the level of radiation of containers and other enclosed general goods to monitor radio-active material in the ports.

The council also approved the purchase of fully air-condition coaches for the Lagos-Kano rail routes adding that government hopes to open the route before Christmas .


Punish those indicted in Ribadu’s report or face legal action, group tells FG

Civil society group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has called on the Federal Government to “publish the report of the Mallam Nuhu Ribadu led Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force and punish those indicted or face legal action.”

The organization in a public statement dated 11 November 2012 and signed by its Executive Director Adetokunbo Mumuni said that, “Rather than emphasising the fundamental principles highlighted and using the Ribadu report as a framework for further concrete action to combat impunity for corruption in the oil sector, the government has embarked on a widespread public campaign to rubbish the report of a task force that it voluntarily commissioned. This is hugely disappointing, and in fact has embarrassed our country in the comity of nations.”

According to the organization, “No report anywhere in the world is perfect but the way the government has conducted itself in this case suggests that it is not politically committed to honouring the country’s international anti-corruption obligations and commitments, including under the UN Convention against Corruption and the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party.”

“The way and extent to which the government has gone to discredit the outcome of the enquiry by its own task force, however tentative the conclusions of the report may be, suggests that this government has something to hide,” the organization also stated.

“To combat systemic corruption and the root causes of impunity of perpetrators, we urge the government to urgently and publicly commit to the full and effective implementation of the Ribadu report and other similar reports. Verifying and reconciling some of the facts established by the report is good but must never be used as an excuse to dump it. Otherwise, it would be a case of using technicality to undermine the need for justice and accountability for the economic crimes well documented by the report,” the organization also said.

“If this government fails to publish the Ribadu report and allow the citizens to see for themselves the information the report contains, our citizens will be absolutely justified to conclude that the government’s constant resort to setting up committees and task forces to supposedly uncover the truth about corruption allegations is nothing more than a public relation exercise,” the organization further stated.

According to the organization, “Instead of keeping Nigerians in the dark on the recommendations of the report and information about those indicted, the government needs to speak out urgently if it is to demonstrate that it is truly committed to the fight against not just corruption involving the ‘small fry’ but also corruption involving the ‘big fish’ at the highest level of government.”

The organization also said that, “While the government has strenuously faulted the report in terms of the process allegedly followed, it has not been forthcoming with information as to exactly which aspects of the substantive conclusions it disagrees with it. Does the government disagree with the fact that Shell is yet to pay into the Federation Account a total of N137.572 billion ($946.878 million) made from gas sales from the Bonga oil field? Or that the Federation Account has been short-changed of revenues to the tune of $29 billion over a 10 year period?”

“Unfortunately, the government’s reaction to the Ribadu report illustrates the chronic failure or lack of enthusiasm and commitment by the government to implement recommendations of reports of countless commissions and task forces concerning allegations of corruption at the highest level of government,” the organization also stated.

According to the organization, “A public commitment to implement the report will send a powerful message that this government will not tolerate corruption at the highest level of government, and will represent an important step forward in the government’s fight against corruption and corporate secrecy and impunity. This public commitment backed up with a strong political will is key to breaking the cycle of corruption that blights the lives of millions of people across the country.”

“If the government refuses to take this path, SERAP will consider appropriate legal actions nationally and internationally to ensure strict enforcement of Nigeria’s international anticorruption and human rights obligations and commitments by compelling the government to explain to the Nigerian people the recommendations contained in the Ribadu report and other similar reports (such as the KPMG report and the reports on the $180 million Halliburton bribe scandal), and what the government’s plans are to effectively implement these reports,” the organization further stated.

It would be recalled that the Ribadu committee, set up in February, after nationwide protests over the attempted removal of fuel subsidies, was asked to verify the government’s income from oil and gas, and make recommendations to the government. Apart from the Ribadu report, the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative reports, the first covering the period 1999 to 2004, the second 2005, and the third 2006 to 2008, and the House of Representatives Ad hoc Committee on fuel subsidy, also revealed how oil revenues had been stolen at both upstream and downstream ends of the oil trade.  NEITI, for instance, disclosed that the Federal Government earned a total of $269 billion from the oil sector within the period 1999-2008, which had little impact on the welfare of the citizens.

A new report by the Financial Times alleges that over 180,000 barrels of stolen Nigerian crude are sold daily in the international black market. Apart from the N86.6 billion fleeced by NNPC executives through fraudulent foreign exchange rate conversion, the Ribadu panel detailed losses to the nation of N16 trillion through questionable deficits and theft; N178 billion worth of refined fuel through pipeline vandalism; $5 billion short-payment by the NNPC, and $3.02 billion in unpaid royalties among other sordid details. NEITI had earlier revealed how NNPC officials and their collaborators fraudulently misused the 445,000 bpd allocated for domestic refining for corrupt enrichment and how laws and global best practices are flagrantly flouted by the corporation.