The senator representing Abia South and Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe in this interview with newsmen in Lagos spoke on the contentious section 84(12) of the Electoral Act and why the Senate turned down President Muhammadu Buhari’s request to delete the section. He also spoke on the chances of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to win the presidential election in 2023.
What is your take on the new Electoral Act?
I can say that it is a good piece of legislation. It was meant to cure some of the problems that were in the previous Act, all this while. And the basic thing that we have in the Electoral Act today, is the fact that it will make rigging almost impossible.
There are two things that were done in that electoral act. First is the direct transmission of results in each polling unit. Even if you have problems in a polling unit, the cumulative of all the polling booths will give you a nearly accurate figure. And also, there is a provision in the Act that if you, by any means forced a Returning Officer to announce result that the Commission does not have, that set of result will not be processed.
The other thing about the Electoral Act, which is good, is the very famous one, which everyone saw when the Senate rejected the President Muhammadu Buhari’s amendment, which is section 84(12). What that section does is that it codified what was already supposed to be the norm of our society.
Usually, if you want to run for election, norm used to be that you would resign. You won’t sit in office and at the same time utilise your office to run and manipulate state resources in running for election.
But there is an aspect of that legislation, which people talk about, which I do not think is in the law. I have heard it said that, if you have not resigned by now, you might not be eligible to contest, that you ought to have resigned. No law is made to be retroactive, so section 84(12) doesn’t say that you ought to have resigned by now.
What is actually in the law is that if you are going to be a delegate for the purpose of primaries or you are going to be an aspirant or a contestant for the purpose of primaries, leading to an election that you will have to resign.
The stipulation as to time is what is in the civil service rules because you are a public officer and you are subjected to the same civil service rules, which is 30 days before any contest. So it is actually 30 days before primaries or 30 days before congress if you are going to be a delegate, it is not three months.
Now the parties haven’t set their dates, when the parties set their dates, I believe the 30 days will now kick-start from the date the parties put for their elections. That is what is in 84(12). The President in his wisdom has said that it conflicted with the Constitution, where that particular part of the Constitution was gotten wasn’t mentioned, so we didn’t know exactly what he meant.
As far as we know, we think that if you are in office and you still want to be in that office and also run or contest for an election, what you are doing is that you are shortchanging the country because your office will suffer. And of course, when you are running for office what it means is that you are going to neglect your official duties, and you swore an oath to fulfill your duty towards the public and towards Nigeria, so you cannot balance the two at the same time. It is not going to be in the interest of the country.
The interest of the country should come first, so when we got that communication from the President, we said some people must have misadvised him to write that letter. For example, I run the NNPC and I now want to be President and then I now want to come and contest for primaries while I am still running NNPC, something is going to suffer and what is going to suffer actually is my job for the people of Nigeria in NNPC. We should not allow that.
We just didn’t think that these are things that we ought to codify, but we have found that because it wasn’t codified people were taking advantage of it and staying in their offices and utilising the office to run elections and of course, to the detriment of their duties. That was why we declined to put an assent to it.
Why do you want to become the governor of Abia State?
My reason is simple, Abia State deserves the best possible material to lead it and I think I am the best person at this time to lead the state. This is the 21st century, this is also a transition year and this is also a year that so many things are happening both in Nigeria and all over the world. And what Abia needs now is a man that has integrity. Abia needs a man that has credibility, a man that has the capacity to do the job and Abia needs somebody, who at all times the people can go to sleep and say they know that Abia is in very good hands.
I am putting myself forward for Abia people to be the governor for all, not the governor of North, South, East or West, but the governor for every Abia person. And I think that with the pedigree I have and with what I have done for the people of Abia and indeed, the people of Nigeria, all the oppressed people in this country, they know that I put them first in everything, that I will do a great job for them.
But given that this will be your fourth or 5th attempt, do you think people will give you their votes this time?
I think that what is important is the adage that says, “If you try and it doesn’t work then you try again”. It doesn’t matter how many times I have made attempts, I think that this is the right time and Abia people know and I have their support and their encouragement.
I have had consultations with all persons in Abia, all manner of people; I have had with the leadership, I have had with the led, market women, with the youths, I have had with the political leaders, I have had with academia, I have had with all. And every point I have met with them, Abians asked for one thing: leadership that puts them first and I intend to do that.
APC is trying to get a foothold of the Southeast, what are the chances of PDP for the Presidency and to retain power in Abia State?
I don’t think APC has had a foothold of the Southeast, what APC has done, just like they have done elsewhere is to poach the leadership that is already there from PDP and when they poach them, they give them a lot of bogus promises, which they never kept, so at all times PDP will always win the Southeast, we have no problem about that.
It is obvious that APC has nothing to offer the Southeast and we repeat not just the Southeast, APC has nothing to offer the country.
What will they offer you? Is it fuel that is at N600 per litre and something? You can’t fly, diesel is at almost N800.
And ofcourse the worst, which is that we are in the middle of rising oil prices at the international market, yet we are still crying that Nigeria is not benefitting from the rising oil prices. This has never happened. At least everybody can say that when there is rising oil prices, we can no longer borrow, we can pay our debts, we can reduce the deficit but none of that is happening, we are not saving and we are doing nothing.
We should ask ourselves one question and that question is this? What manner of economic management does the APC do that has led us to this type of Nigeria where nothing, literally nothing is working and the country is grinding to a halt?
When we asked this question, we were told that the real problem is that we are paying subsidy. Two things we can take from here; this same APC said that there was nothing like subsidy. This same President Buhari said subsidy was a scam, yet subsidy has risen under this government three times or four times more than subsidy under President Jonathan’s PDP government that they persecuted so much.
We should ask ourselves another question: How did the consumption of PMS, rise under APC from the 28 million to 30 million liters a day under Kachukwu as Minister to about 100 million liters a day under the present leadership of APC.
Something is definitely wrong, how can within three to four years you tell us that the consumption of Petroleum in Nigeria has quadrupled, how could that be?
So what we see is something that is inexplicable, the United States has energy department that has the consumption rate of all fuel you use all over the world. If you check their figures, the whole of West Africa doesn’t take up to 35 million of liters a day, the whole of West Africa and you tell me that Nigeria takes over 100 million liters a day and we are paying subsidy on this phantom figures. So there are things we cannot explain.
We all know that APC has nothing to offer an average man in the Southeast, who finds it very difficult to do business, who finds it very difficult to move about, even if he is an importer he has to come to Lagos and the cost of moving his goods to Abia is costlier than what he used to bring it from Europe to Lagos, so how would anybody survive in this kind of condition?
And now after everything they told us that if they remove PDP from power, they will now give us electricity. I think that was what Fashola said then, now they are telling us that electricity has fallen because it is dry season and that the water level has fallen. The same thing they complained about under PDP, so you can see that these people came to power on the basis of an issue of propaganda, misinformation, lies and everything, they can no longer sustain it.
So there is nothing for Nigerians to look forward to other than to bring PDP back so that we can restore the country the same way we restored it from 1999 to 2015.
What is your take on Igbo’s quest for the presidency; will your party consider the region for its presidential ticket?
Yes, we are clamouring for a President from our zone because we think that every other part of Nigeria has had a shot at the presidency. But beyond that we think that we have credible, competent and very qualified persons within the PDP from the Southeast who can lead Nigeria and take it out of the problem that it has today.
And we are also encouraging them that they should come out and contest, they should talk to people from every part of Nigeria because to take the cliché, power is not served ala carte. I am sure that we have many credible people from the Southeast that can bring back Nigeria from the brinks and PDP looks good to win the presidency in 2023.
‘I just sit and hope’: A Sierra Leonean mother’s refugee story
Standing in the drizzle outside the Tunis office of the International Organization for Migration, Saffiatu Mansaray is staring down at her swollen stomach.
On the other side of the alley, her husband works alongside other undocumented people, building a plastic-covered wooden shelter for refugees whose stay in Tunis is continuing with no end in sight.
The couple have come to Tunisia from Sierra Leone and are hoping to get to Europe. But the longer they remain stuck here, the more anxious Saffiatu, 32, is growing about her pregnancy.
“I am seven months gone,” she says, one hand resting protectively on her belly. “I have been here since February.”
Before embarking on a journey she knew could be lethal, she left two children in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, with an aunt. The memory is still fresh in her mind.
Saffiatu and her husband have found other difficulties in Tunisia. They were living in the port city of Sfax until a couple of months ago when the police came for them. She’s not sure when that was exactly.
“The police catch us and take us to the desert,” she says. “They will come again.”
That was the second time Saffiatu found herself on the Tunisian-Algerian border after crossing from Sierra Leone, which she left with her husband in November.
This time, she, her husband and the others who were herded onto a bus by the Tunisian security services in Sfax found themselves alone and vulnerable to gangs of “bad boys” she says operate in the forest near Tunisia’s northern border with Algeria. These gangs prey on refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, stealing their phones and any money or valuables they have with them.
“We walked back by foot [from the Algerian border]. Some people die. Some people get sick,” she says with a passive shrug. She describes how the group was later intercepted on their journey by the police before being returned to the border. “I got sick,” she says. “I had pains all over, under my stomach. This was three weeks ago. It was cold.”
Saffiatu’s parents still live in Freetown. Her father, who is 70, is too frail to work in construction any longer. Saffiatu says she would like to send money back, but with no work available to her or her husband in Tunis and a baby on the way, there is none to spare. “I sit over there and beg. Every day I beg. I will tell them, ‘Mon ami, ca va?’ [‘How are you, my friend?’] Some people give me one dinar, some two dinars [33 or 65 United States cents]. So for the day, I survive.”
On the other side of the alley, a rough shelter is beginning to take shape. The wood has been salvaged from construction sites and repurposed pallets and is being wrapped in thick black plastic that those living in the cold alley have pooled their meagre resources to buy.
“If God grants me the wish, I will continue to Europe. There is no work for any of us here,” Saffiatu says. “Up until now, I see no doctor, no nurse, nothing. I just sit and hope.”
This article is the first of a five-part series of portraits of refugees from different countries, with diverse backgrounds, bound by shared fears and hopes as they enter 2024.
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA
How Nigerian Embassy In Chad Donates Relief Materials To Baga Sola Refugee Camp To Mark 63rd Independence Anniversary
The Embassy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the Republic of Chad, has donated relief materials worth millions of naira to Dar Salam Refugee Camp Baga-Sola, Republic of Chad, to mark the occasion of Nigeria’s 63rd Independence Anniversary.
The Ambassador of Nigeria to the Republic of Chad, Ambassador Lami Sauda Remawa-Ahmed and the Nigerian delegation, visited Dar Salam refugee camp Baga-Sola to make the donations on Thursday 5th October 2023.
According to the Ambassador, the Nigerian government will continue to work with and support the government of Chad in all its efforts towards hosting refugees displaced by insecurity in the Lake Chad, including providing relief materials, making them self-reliant and restoring their dignity by ensuring their return home.
“I am most delighted to have this opportunity to visit the Dar Salam Refugee Camp in Baga-Sola and address you on the severe humanitarian challenge we are collectively facing, with respect to the displacement of our people living in the Lake Chad Region, due to insurgency and widespread terrorist activities in the region. The refugee issue is a global challenge requiring a multipronged approach to resolve.
“We come to you in the spirit of Nigeria’s 63rd Independence anniversary, with a message of hope. We, the Nigerian Embassy in N’djamena, Chad are reaching out to you this day as part of the activities marking Nigeria’s liberation from colonial rule some 63 years ago on the 1st of October 1960,” she said.
“Let me leave you with some words of encouragement from the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, His Excellency President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, on the occasion of Nigeria’s 63rd Independence. The President acknowledges the hardships many Nigerians face and has reaffirmed his concerns for the plight of the poor masses. Mr. President stated, and I quote, “To endure, our home must be constructed on safe and pleasant ground. This new administration has instituted some reforms which may be painful, but is what greatness and the future require as we must now carry the costs of reaching a future Nigeria where the abundance and fruits of the nation are fairly shared among all.” He reiterated his vow to Nigerians, to “serve the people with all conscientiousness as one who will not erect our national home on a foundation of mud. A Nigeria where hunger, poverty and hardship are pushed into the shadows of an ever fading past”. Ambassador Remawa-Ahmed conveyed President Tinubu’s reaffirmation of according the highest priority to the safety and security of Nigerians, and his acknowledgment and commendation of the sacrifices of the military forces.
“The Nigerian Government is working tirelessly in collaboration with the Republic of Chad, other neighboring countries, UNHCR, CNARR and other regional and national agencies, to improve your quality of life and facilitate your resettlement back home.
“Today, we come with a little token to assist in addressing some of your basic needs, which include food items and essential supplies. It is hoped that these relief materials will provide you with some immediate succor while all hands remain on deck to reach a lasting solution to the challenge at hand.”
The Ambassador commended the government of Chad for accommodating a large number of refugees of different nationalities within the Chadian territory.
She said: “Chad, is currently hosting about 1.1 million forcibly displaced persons in its territory. This act shows the Chadian Government’s magnanimity in its policy of accepting and catering for refugees from neighboring countries despite the huge financial, logistic and social strain this large number of refugees pose to the Country.”
Amongst the refugees accommodated in Chad, are about 14,000 Nigerians displaced from their local communities due to insecurity in the Northeastern part of the country. These Nigerian refugees and a host of others from different neighbouring countries have over the years, been accommodated and catered for by the Chadian government and people.”
“The Federal Republic of Nigeria most sincerely appreciates the Government of Chad and our Chadian brothers and sisters, for their good neighborliness and unwavering support to Nigeria as we work hand in hand to address this menace of insurgency and insecurity, as well as the resulting humanitarian challenge of displaced persons.”
Remawa-Ahmed extolled the efforts of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Chadian National Commission for the Reception and Reintegration of Refugees and Returnees (CNARR). Both organizations are dedicated to saving lives, protecting the rights of the defenseless, and building a better future for those forced to flee their homes due to conflict and persecution.
She stressed that the efforts of the organizations in Chad to support refugees fleeing violence in neighboring countries are remarkable.
“We appreciate your efforts and reiterate the willingness of the Nigerian government to work with you to ameliorate the suffering of these refugees and find a lasting solution to their plight with a view to their relocation and resettlement to their communities of origin.”
Speaking further at the outreach, the Ambassador acknowledged the efforts of the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) under the leadership of the Executive Secretary, Ambassador Mamman Nuhu, and the MNJTF, for their tireless efforts in addressing the security and socio-economic challenges of the region. The LCBC, which comprises 6 countries: Cameroon, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Central African Republic and Libya, is mandated to manage the waters of the Lake Chad and other transboundary water resources, in a sustainable and equitable way, as well as promote regional integration and safeguarding peace and security in the Lake Chad Basin.
“Every good team is only as good as its leadership. Suffice to say that today’s humanitarian outreach is possible because of the overwhelming support of the Force Commander Multi-National Joint Task Force – Major General Ibrahim Sallau Ali. I want to extend my unreserved appreciation and gratitude for your admirable leadership of the MNJTF and your generosity and support in making this event possible. Your support has been key in enabling us provide some succor to our fellow brothers and sisters most in need of our assistance.”
The soft-spoken Ambassador also appreciated the donors of the relief materials.
“I wish to recognize and appreciate our donors who contributed generously to providing these relief materials today. Marketing Concepts International (MCI) – Nigeria, Homes and Gardens – Nigeria, the Defense section and my beloved officers and staff of the Embassy of Nigeria in N’Djamena, Chad, my personal assistant, family members and friends” she concluded.
Reacting to the relief materials, several Nigerians in the Dar es Salam Refugee Camp, praised the Nigerian delegation and government for the honour of the visit, the humanitarian assistance and the message of hope, while pleading to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for more effort to return them to their homes in Nigeria.
MNJTF – Force Commander, Major General Ali, commended the Ambassador and her staff for the impactful initiative.
“We are very happy with her for this gesture because it is also going to assist us in our operations in trying to ensure that we bring an end to terrorism and insurgency in the Lake Chad region. The initiative may not solve all their problems, but it will certainly show our displaced brothers and sisters that the authorities in Nigeria are very concerned about them. It will also renew their hope, as Her Excellency has promised to take their message back home to Nigeria for sustained and lasting solutions to terrorism, insurgency and the Refugee crisis.”
Nigerians Hail Traditional Ruler Over Empowerment In Chad
His Royal Majesty Eze Prince Nnamdi Uhuaba has been commended for his humanitarian exercise among Nigerians in the Republic of Chad.
As a Nigerian, he has promoted peace and co-existence beyond his domains in the neighboring Republic of Chad.
Prince Nnamdi Uhuaba, who hails from Abia state, was chosen by the members of the Igbo Community meeting and crowned as the Eze Igbo Gburu Gburu in Chad and Eze Aha-Mba 1 of the Igbo Community in Chad, by the Sultan of N’Djamena Chad, His Majesty Muhamad Muhamad Kachallah Kasser, who is an official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Speaking in the press, Chief Collins Onuoha, the spokesperson of the Igbo Community in Chad, expressed his appreciation for the humane actions of the traditional ruler. He stated that the ruler’s efforts have brought unity among the Nigerians in his community, Chadians, and other immigrants residing in the country.
According to Onuoha, HRM has been a great help to Nigerians living in Chad. He has formed cordial relationships with the Chadian authorities to ensure that Nigerians are not harassed. As a result, Nigerians are able to work and conduct their businesses without any hindrance. His installation as the ruler has been widely praised by Nigerians residing in the country.
“He’s a person who cares about the happiness of everyone around him irrespective of their background. He responds to issues that matter and is loved by his community, especially the Chadians. The government has commended him for his empowering gestures and he was crowned by the Sultan to the joy of everyone in Chad. Mention his name to any Hausa or Yoruba person in the market, and they will tell you more about him.”
Usman Malik, a Nigerian business merchant in Chad, believes he deserves recognition from the Nigerian government for his representation of Nigerians as traditional ruler.
“He’s greatly admired for his non-tribalistic approach and efforts towards peace and stability. He’s also known for his philanthropic acts in providing aid and putting smiles on people’s faces.”
Part of his humanitarians gestures were during the embattled COVID-19 that took millions of lives and the recent flood that ravage lives and properties.