Sunday, 29 March 2009

Nigeria's Electoral Reform White Paper; Ruling Party's Recommendations.

The Electoral reform white paper recently released by the Federal Executive Council(FEC) of Nigeria are the recommendations of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party(PDP), chidi opara reports have learnt authoritatively.

"When the Uwais committee was concluding their assignment, we discovered from what they were to submit that the panel had been hijacked by the opposition, so we decided to find a way out", a PDP national officer from the South-East whispered to us in Enugu.

The way out was the inauguration of the Aaondokaa committee immediately after the presentation of the Uwais committee report, to have a second look at the report and make final recommendations. These recommendations were instrumental to the white paper.

The Aaondokaa committee chidi opara reports' investigations revealed was at the instance of the PDP. We learnt that the Presidency when the Uwais committee appeared not ready for a compromise, approached Mr. Tony Anenih, a former chairman of the party's Board of Trustees(BOT), a man widely known as "Mr. fix it", who had a close relationship with the President's influential late elder brother, the late rtd. Major-general Shehu Yar'Adua, to "do something about the impending Uwais embarassment".
Anenih in turn approached the PDP national Chairman, Mr. Vincent Ogbulafor. A caucus meeting we learnt further was held at a guest house in the Wuse area 1 part of Abuja, in which the immediate past President, rtd. General Olusegun Obasanjo sent a female representative. The caucus meeting resolved to set up a secret committee of three to articulate the Party's position on the electoral reform. It was also resolved that the President should be advised to raise a committee to be headed by the chief law officer of the nation as a smokescreen. "It was the recommendations of this secret committee that the Attorney-general's committee worked with", our PDP insider further revealed.

We sighted a document with the names and signatures of Nnamdi Uba, Ebenezer Babatope and Gbemisola Saraki appended on it, with recommendations similar to those on the white paper. A strategically placed staffer at the PDP national secretariat confirmed the authenticity of the document to us.

chidi opara reports can now also reveal that a hefty financial war chest is being assembled by the Presidency from several sources for use in lobbying legislators in both the federal and state parliaments to incorporate the content of the white paper into the electoral law.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Nigerian South-eastern City To Witness Presentation Of Poetry Book

In few days from today, Owerri, the capital city of Imo State in south-eastern Nigeria will witness another literary event, when a poet, Chioma Shedrach Enwerem will present her book titled "As The Sun Rises" to the reading public.

Information available to chidi opara reports indicated that the presentation of the eighty-seven-page book published by Liu House Of Excellence in Owerri will help to re-invigorate the literary scene in the city which produced notable female writers like Catherine Acholonu, Charity Ada Onwu and others.

Unconfirmed information has it that the presentation of the collection of poems whose author is a member of Association Of Nigerian Authors(ANA), will also provide a platform for the feuding members of ANA Imo State chapter to bury the hatchet.

A review by Chuks Oluigbo, made available to chidi opara reports, described the book as "a pageant of beautiful and engaging poems that deal with a wide variety of topical issues as well as recurrent existential human problems". The reviewer postulates that the poet "does so artistically and beautifully in a style of her own". Oluigbo further revealed that "the collection illuminates the creative vision associated with good poetry and distills issues concerning the polity with a keen sense of observation and a unique poetic diction".

The disinterest in literary endervours by youths in the present day Nigeria have been a source of worry in literary circles. We learnt that despite the institution of various literay prizes by business outfits and non governmental organizations(NGOs), the problem remains.

It will be noted that the Nigerian born internationally acclaimed novelist, Professor Chinua Achebe, whose entry into the literary world with the novel "Things Fall Apart" decades ago helped shaped the style of creative writing in Africa, had at the last Ahiajoku lecture in Owerri, bemoaned the lack of interest in literary endervours amongst the present day Nigerian youths.

Contacts close to the author and her publishers informed chidi opara reports in Owerri that arrangements for a hitch free book presentation have been concluded.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Appeal Court Set To Deliever Judgement In Nigeria's Heartland State Governorship Case

The Court of Appeal siting in Portharcourt, Rivers State will today deliever judgement in an appeal filed by Mr. Ifeanyi Ararume, a former Senator and governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) in Imo State, also known as Nigeria's heartland state in the April 2007 governorship election, against the governor of the state, Dr. Ikedi Ohakim, who contested under the banner of Progressive Peoples' Alliance(PPA).

The Imo State governorship election petition tribunal had earlier dismissed Mr. Ararume's petition and consequently upheld the election of Dr. Ohakim.

Information at the disposal of chidi opara reports indicated that as at 7.00pm yesterday, the Ararume and Ohakim groups had booked every available major and minor hotel accomodation in the Rivers State capital. A contact in the Ararume group revealed to one of our network members that, "we came with seven full buses, three more will come tomorrow". Another contact in the Ohakim group informed us that, "our members were here since morning, waiting to paint the town red when the judgement is finally pronounced in our favour tomorrow".

A well placed security contact in Portharcourt on enquiry assured us that, "there is no cause for worry, we are already on top of the situation".

Mr. Ararume's quest for governorship started in 2005 when as a Senator, he warmed himself into the minds of most members of the topmost hierachy of his party, so much that when the time came for nomination, he had no serious contender, but some influential elements in his party led by the then President had an agenda to deny him the ticket. He subsequently fought this at the courts and emerged victorious. This victory was rendered hollow when the PDP in Imo State, at the instance of its national leadership allegedly entered into agreement with the PPA candidate to help him win the election, in return for some undisclosed patronages. Dr. Ohakim subsequently won the election which the Ararume group claimed was rigged.

chidi opara reports noticed upbeat moods in both camps with each claiming victory in the impending judgement. Our network members infiltrated units of Ararume and Ohakim groups carousing at drinking parlours in Rumuola and Elelenwo areas respectively.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Investigate the scams at the Nigerian Embassy in US(News Release By Afenifere Renewal Group)

Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG) has been slow to wade into the crisis rocking the Embassy in the United State which has led to the recall of the Ambassador, Brig-Gen. Oluwole Rotimi (Rtd).

We had been reticent because of the ethnic colouration given to the feud between Chief Ojo Maduekwe, the Foreign Affairs Minister and the now recalled Ambassador.

For one, we considered highly undiplomatic and unfortunate the now regretted reference to the Biafran Army as "rag tag" by the Ambassador in a fit of anger while at the same time we could not see any dignity in the Minister’s insistence to gatecrash into the Obama inauguration with the hijack of the card meant for the Ambassador who was the duly invited.

We would ordinarily have ignored this matter but for the emerging underpinning acts of corruption at the embassy being covered up with charges of insubordination and tribal remarks.

Allegations have come out to the effect that the real issues in the crisis at the embassy had to do with the sales of about 3 properties belonging to the embassy in 2007 for about $20 million on which the State of Maryland refunded $1.5 sale tax after petition by the embassy. Rather than paying the money to the embassy the attorney who handled the sale, Ephraim Emeka Ugwuonye pocketed the money.

Ambassador Oluwole Rotimi was said to have reopened this issue when he resumed and contacted the former Ambassador, Chief George Obiozor who spoke with the attorney. Mr. Ugwuonye now wrote to the embassy to say he was not going to refund the money because the Federal Government was owning him on another transaction.

His response piqued Rotimi who took the matter before the Foreign Affairs Minister in January 2009 with no action taken until February when the Ambassador was recalled on the pages of newspapers.

There have also been other sordid details of this scam. One is that one of the properties on Connecticut Avenue was a large building bought as residence for the Ambassador. When it was time to sell, the embassy broke it into two plots, sold one with the building and the other as a plot of land. Both were sold for $3.1m but only the $1.6m for the sale of the building reflected in the embassy records. But the entire record of $3.1m is in the public record and the realtor’s record.

Quite disturbing also is the fact that while the embassy decided to retain a lawyer for the transaction who was paid $700,000 in addition to a realtor whose duty it is to represent buyers and sellers.

We had thought that the Federal Government which overzealously recalled Rotimi without due process would also have taken interest in these corruption charges.

Alas, the Yar’Adua regime has treated this fraud like those of the ex-Governors who are now the guardian angels of the Villa.

We frown at this irresponsible attitude to corruption. We call for the immediate probe of these serious allegations and bringing all culprits to book.

To deal with the complaint against Ambassador Rotimi, who may have paid dearly for his closeness to the inglorious Otta General while ignoring serious issues of graft is a foreign blow to the Anti-Corruption Revolution (ANCOR) launched by President Yar’Adua last December and the Re-brand Nigeria unveiled on his behalf by his Vice, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan yesterday.

‘Yinka Odumakin

National Publicity Secretary

Afenifere Renewal Group

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Nigerian Petroleum Products Marketing Mafia In Imminient Showdown With Civil Society Groups Over Total Removal Of Subsidy

The total removal of subsidy on petroleum products, also known as deregulation of downstream sector of Petroleum industry, announced last week by the administration of Mr. Umaru Yar'Adua is about to ignite a showdown between civil society groups and the petroleum products marketing mafia.

The mafia is made up of influential individuals and organizations in the business of importation and distribution of petroleum products, they, in a bid to protect their business interest are known to have sabotaged complete repairs of local refineries.

The global Economic recession which caused continued downward slide of price of petroleum, which is the mainstay of Nigeria's economy, necesitated the inauguration of a Presidential Steering Committee on the global financial crisis. The committee recommended total removal of subsidy on petroleum products, which the Presidency accepted. This total removal of subsidy, according to federal government officials, is to fetch the Government over seven hundred billion naira this fiscal year.

Despite official reasons adduced by the Yar'Adua Administration, investigations by chidi opara reports also revealed that the deregulation and consequent removal of subsidy was also instigated by the major petroleum products marketers. "They want to be able to completely control the prices of petroleum products, you know that they financed the elections of almost everybody in power now", an independent petroleum products marketer based in Enugu informed chidi opara reports, on condition of annoynmity.

Civil society groups under the aegis of United Action For Democracy(UAD), had given the federal government a twenty-one-day ultimatum to rescind this decision or face a showdown with its affiliate groups namely; National Union Of Petroleum And Natural Gas Workers(NUPENG), Petroleum And Natural Gas Senior Staff Association Of Nigeria(PENGASSAN), Nigerian Labour Congress(NLC)and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria(TUC).

Dependable Presidency contacts informed chidi opara reports that the Presidency is in a dilemma over this situation. We learnt that the influence of these major marketers who have constituted themselves into a powerful cartel with a mafia like mode of operation, in the Presidency is pervasive. "You are looking at a cabal who almost single handedly financed, at the request of the former President, the election of Mr. President and are still helping him to stay in power", a middle level State Security Service(SSS) Operative whispered to one of our network members in Abuja.

The President's dilemma we learnt further, heightened since a group within the Federal Executive Council(FEC)started reminding him of the crippling effects of the 1994 showdown between the Administration of late Sani Abacha and civil society groups.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Nigeria's Election Umpire Plots To Retain Position

Faced with stiff opposition from various aggrieved interests especially in his home state, Imo State, Chairman of Nigeria's Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC), Professor Maurice Iwu is plotting to retain his position.

First in the series of the plot, chidi opara reports learnt from contacts very close to the election umpire is to educate Nigerians, most of whom are ignorant of the provision of the law setting up INEC, on the process for the removal of the INEC chief. This segment was what Professor Iwu acted out recently when he rightly stated publicly that only the Senate, Nigeria's upper Parliament can remove him from that position. The law that established INEC provides that the chairman can only be removed if the Senate in a two third majority passes a motion to that effect.

We learnt that prior to this pronouncement, the INEC chairman's foot soldiers had infiltrated the Senate where the carrot and stick approach was employed to secure a vote of confidence for the INEC chieftain. The carrot, according to a well placed national assembly contact was in form of a huge sum provided by the governments of Imo and Abia States through a two term Senator from one of the states in south-eastern Nigeria(name withheld for legal reasons), the stick, our contact further revealed was a threat to furnish the news media with details of the irregularities in the election of most of the Senators. "They were blackmailed and also paid for that vote of confidence", our contact concluded. The House Of Representatatives, Nigeria's lower parliament, though not given constitutional role in the matter, seem to be concuring with the Senate. Discreet checks at the lower Parliament revealed that most members would go with the Senators. We have however, so far, not seen evidence of blackmail or money exchanging hands regarding the position of members of the lower Parliament.

Opposition from Professor Iwu's state, comes mainly from the Owerri axis. The people of Owerri, in whose homeland the capital city is situated have been nursing the ambition to have one of their own occupy the seat of government in the State. Nobody from the Owerri axis have so far ruled the State since its creation in 1976.

This ambition was nearly realised in the 2007 governorship election when Mr. Martin Agbaso, from Emekuku, who contested on the platform of All Progressives Grand Alliance(APGA),was approaching victory before the election was cancelled. Mr. Agbaso who believed that the INEC chief cancelled the election and ordered a re-run to give his kinsman, the present governor an edge, have aside from a legal battle to have the election annulled, assembled an array of anti-Iwu elements, amongst whom is the Publisher of a fairly popular national news magazine, to orchestrate the removal of the election umpire.

chidi opara reports can now reveal that the INEC chieftain is presently organizing a counter force from his Mbano axis to counter "the Agbaso threat".

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Group To Picket Venue Of Lecture By Nigeria's Immediate Past President

The continued efforts by Nigeria's immediate past President, Rtd. General Olusegun Obasanjo to showcase himself as a foremost contemporary Nigerian Statesman since he left office in May 2007 may hit the rocks if a group known as Liberty Forum makes good its threat to picket the venue of a lecture to be delievered by the erstwhile President on March 18th, 2009 at the prestigious London School Of Economics(LSE).

The Liberty Forum, facilitated by a Nigerian born doctoral student in the United Kingdom(UK) and former Secretary-general of Oodua Peoples' Congress(OPC), Mr. Kayode Ogundamisi, in an e-mail sent to chidi opara reports, explained that the protest will be peaceful and within the confines of the laws of UK. The group further urged Nigerians and friends of Nigeria in UK to join in the protest whose main aim is to show the World that rtd. General Olusegun Obasanjo does not deserve the tag of Statesman, going by his anti-people policies while in government between 1999 and 2007.

The former President's quest for Statesmanship started in 1980,after he, as Military President in 1979 handed over power to an elected President and subsequently, hit the international circuit as a favoured United Nations(UN) and Organization Of African Unity(OAU), now African Union(AU) negotiator in many troubled countries.

Investigations by chidi opara reports revealed that the ex President's Public relations handlers, following intensive lobby recently in London succeeded in securing for Obasanjo invitation to deliever the lecture at LSE, where many world opinion leaders were trained.

We also learnt that delievering a lecture at the world renowned institution raises the esteem of an invitee notches higher in influential international circuits.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Nigeria's Major Oil State Governor Responds To Militants' Threat

The Governor of Rivers State, a Major oil producing State in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria has given reasons why the region needs more troops and military weapons.

The Governor in obvious response to the threat of violence issued recently by the Movement For The Emancipation Of Niger Delta(MEND), informed Nigeria's Minister Of Defence, Dr. Shettima Mustapha, who recently paid him a courtesy call in his office in Portharcourt, that the current security situation in the region call for more deployment of troops and military equipments.

The Governor's office in a news release titled "WHY WE NEED MORE TROOPS AND GUNBOATS IN THE NIGER DELTA", made available to chidi opara reports, stated that:

"Rivers State Governor, Rt. Hon.. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi has given reasons why the state is asking for the deployment of more troops and gunboats for patrol of the coastal axis of the State.

Speaking while receiving the Minister of Defence at a courtesy call in Government House Port Harcourt, Governor Amaechi explained that, it is to assist in securing the coastal communities of the state so that projects earmarked for those areas can go on uninterrupted.

He cited the instance of the multi-billion Trans Kalabari highway, which he said, that in spite of the fact that contractors has been paid 40% of the cost of the job, that the project is stalled as a result of the activities of the so-called militants.

Governor Amaechi urged the military to rise to their constitutional responsibilities by stamping out criminal activities from the Niger Delta and reminded them that their oath as military personnel places on them the responsibility to protect lives and property of Nigeria .

The governor maintained that there is no reason why the situation in the Niger Delta, which he described as precarious, should continue, noting, “We must get up now and try to eliminate crime from the region”, he said.

The State Chief Executive asserted that those who carry guns in the Niger Delta are declaring war against the country in the name of the struggle for the Niger Delta, stressing that such struggle, does not require carrying of arms.

Making reference to the recent shooting of a helicopter in a neighbouring state, Governor Amaechi said it is an issue that should not be taken lightly, as it poses serious threat to the economy of the nation.

According to him, the level of crime in the country, particularly in the Niger Delta is beginning to make the country a laughing stock before the International Community, because it shows the inability of the authorities to protect lives and property of the people.

Governor Amaechi therefore solicited for an increase in military presence in Rivers State and other troubled areas, especially the coastal communities where the militants have relocated, adding that the appeal became necessary to enable government implement its developmental projects for the coastal areas.

Earlier, the Minister of Defence, Dr Shettima Mustapha, said he and his team were in the state to access the security situation, and lauded Governor Chibuike Amaechi for his immense support to the JTF and other military operations in the state.

Dr Shettima Mustapha said available reports indicate that the Rivers State Government was taking positive steps to ensure security of lives and property, as there are evidence of things the government was doing that have actually affected positively on peace and tranquility in the state."

Ag. Chief Press Secretary to the Governor