INTERVIEW: 2019:Gov. Emmanuel has done enough to guarantee second term- Ephraim Inyang-Eyen.

Mr. Ephraim Inyang-Eyen, Akwa Ibom state commissioner for works in this interview with Tony Okoh shed more lights on some agitating issues surrounding the activities of the state Government among others.

EXCERPTS.

Question:

Information has it that billions of Naira spent by the last administration on federal roads in the state has been refunded, how much came in?

Ephraim:

Let me take it from this angle, if we are currently doing 40 road projects in Akwa Ibom State and Federal Government has refunded one kobo to us, we would be doing 80 new roads. Federal Government is owing Akwa Ibom State about 140 billion Naira from genuine approvals and when we met over the matter they agreed after verifications to pay the first tranche of 70 billion naira pending the completion of other ongoing jobs, but as we speak now not a dime have been refunded. We are still hopeful as the state Government keep getting assurances from Abuja that the money will be paid. The Governor was able to do so much because of prudent management of resources, for instance before now so much funds have been wasted through payment of compensations but presently we have eliminated the middle men and compensations money goes directly to the beneficiaries.

Again through prudent management, funds earmarked for compensations of properties are now reviewed to the barest acceptable level leaving more funds for the actual road constructions. The secret of the ongoing massive road construction is the prudent and transparent management of funds at our disposal. The Governor is so keen on doing more for the people that rumour of abandoned projects been peddled by critics is unfounded. we are doing massive 45 internal roads in Uyo alone. some are at stone base level, while others are completed.

Inyang Eyen, Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for works

Question

Talking of abandoned projects, the two major roads always on peoples’ mind are the Uyo – Ikot Ekpene road and Enwang – Etebi road started by the immediate past administration, what is their fate?.

Ephraim:

It was not just that two we, we inherited Eket – Ibeno road leading to ExxonMobil QIT which we have finished and nobody is talking about it anymore. It was a 20km of dualized road. The only snag there was that the ExxonMobil said they contributed 8 billion on the road construction which I debunked. The 8 billion naira was the palliatives meant to be paid to the core communities of Ibeno, Esit Eket, Onna and Eket communities for oil spills from their platform. Eket – Etinan road was also inherited at almost zero points but if you take a ride through it, you will enjoy yourself. Now to your question, Etebi – Enwang was not abandoned but not funded for a season. There was a contractor and technical partner involved in the project making it difficult to know who to hold responsible but we have resolved the issues, now we have one line of communication. God helping us that road will be commissioned soon without the bridge because the bridge which is 1.1km will take more time to be completed, however, Work is ongoing at the road project site now. It gets me amazed when people say that Uyo – Ikot Ekpene road has been abandoned when Emmanuel’s administration came on board, the job was still ongoing, the problem was that the contractors could not bring down buildings on the right of way because monies early earmarked for compensation have been exhausted. We were not in a hurry to jump into the issue because compensation is a delicate thing. We have to take time to verify who was paid and who was not paid. However, we have started paying compensation along the road again and work has since resume even as we are talking payment of compensation is ongoing there. If people have said that the work was not going at maximum speed, I would have agreed but that it was abandoned was absolutely false.

Question:

You talked about eliminating middlemen in the payment of compensation, why did you do that and how are you handling the outcome of that decision?

Ephraim:

When the Governor sent me to this ministry, he made it clear that everything surrounding compensation must be made open and transparent and every loophole sealed. Before now, the valuer was the one who pays and we stopped that. Again, the issues of compensation was transferred from Ministry of Lands to Ministry of Works so that once we pay we take the right of way. So we got valuers which we call consultants and ask them to go and value and send the report to us, then we in the Ministry will go for verification filming and documentation. We take time to see if what they did is in the tandem with best practices because if you value a bungalow for 20 million and one story building for 15 million, we will question your professional integrity. Then we will send the valuers report to a new consultant, the payment consultant who will go round and ensure that all the recorded codes on properties are genuine before payments are made directly to property owners under video and still camera coverage. The beneficiary and about five people will sign to authenticate the process. The five people include the beneficiary, his witness, consultant contractors etc.

Using this more transparent process, we eliminated middlemen who strived to truncate what we are doing but failed not even their petitions and blackmails could stop us. The process have made those advised to take us to court to see no justifiable reason to do so. What this new system had succeeded in doing is to ensure that if one person is entitled to 1 naira for his property he gets his money directly without a third party and that too save more money for the Government. It is not business as usual here.

Question:

As the administration began payments of compensation along the new dualized Uyo – Etinan and Etinan – Ndonuyo roads for structures, we observed sudden Emergence of over 200 shrines, graveyards, and tombstones along the said roads, where compensations paid too for them?

Ephraim:

In fact, even most buildings we saw along Etinan – Ndonuyo and Uyo – Etinan roads emerged too overnight because the buildings were without foundations, some are mere block work without doors and windows and many without roofs. What we did was to demolish all. Along Awa – Ukat – Asom in Mkpat Enin Local Government Area, we have over 1000 tombstones and shrines along there and we were asked to pay one million each, we wiped all of them out without paying a dime. We don’t pay compensation for such things.

People who buried their dead along the right of way, more than 20 years ago asked us to pay for the tombstones, we don’t pay for such things. We only pay for genuine buildings. The entire land within the state belongs to Government. If for instance you bought a land for 100 million naira and have a structure of 4 million naira on it, when Government needs the land for overriding public interest, we pay for the cost of the structure, the land reverts to Government. The money belongs to Akwa Ibom people and must be prudently managed and accounted for. For all we are doing, we do to justify our conscience because God is watching and people are watching too.

Inyang eyen

Question:

Talking about the impact made on the lives of the citizens by the Government through your ministry, can we know them?

Ephraim:

Well in Uyo, the state capital, about 45 roads are ongoing we are doing massive road networks in the city in such a way that you don’t need to come to the major roads to get to your destination. We are also remodeling Oro nation, over 8 roads have been done in the first instance called emergency intervention. When the Governor commissioned the first set of roads, he ordered for a second intervention with an additional 8 roads and massive erosion, intervention in the area. We hope to commission the second phase during the third anniversary of the Governor’s administration.

Again, we are intervening in a major ravine in Oron which is threatening major households within the vicinity. Go to Eket city today and see from Atabong road up to the post office, you will see the remodeling beauty of the city. The phase two will go up to marina area of the Eket. The problem here is that the job is not as fast as I wanted because there when people received their compensations to vacate their buildings, they still foot-drag slowing the pace of work. They make us look like bad people who came to take away their properties. Today eight major roads are under construction in Eket and we have added additional 8 roads, making it 16 roads going on in Eket. People will ask what of Ikot Ekpene, we all know that the area benefitted immensely from the immediate past administration. So what we are trying to do is raise the status of other Senatorial Headquarters too, like Eket, Oron, and Uyo. So rather than concentrating on Ikot Ekpene, we move into other areas under the district like Ini, Ikono, Obot Akara, Oruk Anam council areas etc, to give those communities a sense of belonging too.

Questions:

Do you think that Governor Emmanuel has done enough to deserve a second term?

Ephraim:

Yes! Akwa Ibom people will massively vote Governor Udom Emmanuel for many reasons, Emmanuel has tried to reach out to communities yearning for development over the years. For example, Ini Local Government Area has not had a road since 1999 but the Government has not just given them a good road, but one that links the state through Obotme to Arochukwu in Abia State over 14.7km with a bridge. Today you can drive from Akwa Ibom to Arochukwu in Abia State very comfortably courtesy of Governor Emmanuel. Now go to Obot Akara Local Government Area which was neglected, Emmanuel has taken dividends of democracy to them too. When the former Deputy Governor Engr Ekpeyong appealed to the Governor that their roads are impassable with children unable to go to schools again, he responded with a 6.41km of roads with 2 bridges linking the area to Enwere Azu in Abia State. You can now access our neighboring states through there.

Inyang eyen making a point during the interview

The truth is that many communities crying for neglect before now are smiling with good road networks. Mkpat Enin Local Government Area has also benefitted immensely. Akwa Ibom people will vote Governor Emmanuel because development have spread to every nook and cranny of the state. People get projects because they truly need them and not out of political consideration. In Oruk Anam council area, four new roads are ongoing. In Akwa State University Obio Akpa campus, the 5.1km road is under construction and the entire community has been linked up. People want good road network and they have been given that by the Governor. Economics 101 states that for you to have industries, you need good road network for accessibility to the source of road materials and to evacuate goods. we have dualized roads from Airport road to Okopedi in Okobo council area, from there we got CCECC firm to break through a thick forest to do another 15km road to Uya- Oro, the terminal port of the East-West road. From Uyo, we are talking a dualized road from Ikot Oku Ikono to Etinan, to the right there is a dualized road that is going to Ndonuyo to East-West road, and to the left, through Etinan Institute there is another dualized road that empties you to remodeled Eket town. We are about to award Abak – Ekparakwa – Eket road. These will give people many options into the state without any hassles. If you are a voter and a Governor in two and half years achieved all these in one sector, then you will agree with me that the Governor has genuine vision for the state. My Governor should be the best Governor in road infrastructure in Nigeria.

Question:

How about the durability of the roads?

Ephraim:

100%! I will say, we know that a Federal government agency has been doing road below our expected standards and I confronted them and advised them to raise the standards. Therefore, I will not do what I have earlier protested against. The roads we do will last between 20 – 25 years minimum. They are done very well. The major reasons roads don’t last in these tropical rain forest belt is because of lack of side drainages.

Under Governor Emmanuel, even the roads in rural areas have drains on both sides of the roads. After every rainfall, there should be a process of the rainwater going through the drain channels to outfall drains for water to discharge.

We are doing quality jobs and that is why we can confront any agency doing jobs below expectation here.

One good thing today is that when Emmanuel goes for campaign in every community to scout for votes, he will have projects to show the people in each community. He is a promise keeper.

I hope you people are aware that the ring road two is under construction and will help access from Udo Udoma to Abak road to further ease traffic and that work will soon commence on ring road three which will take people off Airport road straight to Nwaniba and Le Meridien Hotel, you wouldn’t need to come into the main city anymore. There is every hope that ring road four will also come on stream soon.

Question:

And you are doing most of these roads with local contractors…?

Ephraim:

Yes! I am proud to say it because I have come to realize that materials like red earth, stone base, asphalt and equipment used for road constructions are the same. Anybody can bring in a white skin man if he so desires. I came and saw that indigenous contractors were discriminated against and the Governor said we should use them and prove a point. He started with smaller jobs and many jobs given to them were done very well. All they want is, give them the job, the resources and a free hand to work. For the indigenous contractors in Akwa Ibom, they have performed very well because the Governor gave them the enabling environment to do their job.

The truth is that all the machines used in construction are globally standardized equipment, while other materials used are sourced from our communities here. In fact, between 95-98% of the entire workforce of the so-called foreign multi-national firms are our people. Go to the big construction firms, white men are the project manager and the rest of the people on the project are our people. So this idea of discriminating against the indigenous contractors does not go well with me. About 12 of the roads we recently commissioned were all done by the indigenous contractors. One good thing about them is that they are committed to the state project. Sometimes they do raise money on their own when we don’t have funds immediately, to commence work on some of these projects. It is on record that notwithstanding all the foreign construction firms who have benefited from here, none has done corporate social responsibility projects for the people. But one of the indigenous contractors, Hensek Engineering Services headed by Engr. Uwem Okoko, who did the 4.6km Nung Ukim road, chose over 200 youths after working in their community for empowerment with various sums of money. He gave the community a Town Hall, borehole projects, and generators. Today, the community is more like a city than a rural area. The first CRS done by a construction firm here is done by indigenous contractor. Thus I will personally want to patronize them, to discourage capital flight and have them re-invest their profits into our communities to help Government develop the state.

Inyang eyen

Question:

You said good roads attracts industrialization and you have done that across the state, but the Governor’s country home is the major beneficiary of most of the new industries coming to the state why?

Ephraim:

First and foremost, I want to tell you that Onna council area where the Governor hails from so far have the least of the newly constructed roads across the state.

The bulk of the new roads closest to onna council area which criss- cross the Governor’s community is in the neighboring Mkpat Enin Local Government Area. You see one of the things we need to understand in life sometimes is that if a person is violent, he may not be confronted, but will be avoided.

There is this mistake in our communities that when they see strangers, they will start to make unnecessary demands. If an investor comes around and find good road networks in different local government areas, what he considers next is conducive environment, where he can do his business without interference, secondly, do they have elders and stakeholders who can talk and the youths listen?. Onna is one community that has given investors free hand to do their businesses without hassles and have shown great hospitality and understanding to them. Governor Emmanuel has no hand in their choice of where to cite their investment. If automobile plant cited at Itu council area is up and working, is it in Onna or the ceramics industries which is almost at the stage of revival starts, is it in his hometown? How about the Peacock paints factory abandoned for years which the Governor reactivated, which is in Etinan. The Governor should be encouraged to go look for more investors. The truth remains that a private investor will always look for where his investment is secured. Anyone with the fear of youth uprising without elders to curtail their actions will unlikely go to that community.

I urge other communities to put their acts together and benefit from these private investors.

Let me tell you something, the Governor knowing very well that someday the crude oil we depend on may dry up and leave us stranded, took time and find a global market for coconut with willing investment partners. He went to a disputed empty land between Ikot Abasi – Eastern Obolo and Mkpat Enin council areas which laid follow for decades to set up a coconut plantation and refinery which will be a better alternative to our dependency on oil, but the communities have given so much trouble to the investors. Nobody will want to lose his staff to violence because of investment, it is very unfortunate. If a community is unwilling to receive development in peace, the alternative is to take it elsewhere. The Governor is a complete Akwa Ibom man. He is an Ibibio man married to an Annang woman, so he can never discriminate against his in-laws. The same applies to me too. Uyo is the state capital, and he will not abandon it to go and develop his own hometown in Onna. We should deemphasize on things that divide us and speak more on things that unite us as one people because there is power in spoken language. One good thing is that we have one common language which we speak and understand, there is every reason to unite and develop the state. Anybody working in the contrary will fail.

UyO-Ikot Ekpene Highway Remains Gov. Emmanuel’s Priority- Inyang-eyen

Akparawa Ephraim Inyang-eyen, Commissioner for Works, Akwa Ibom State in this interview threw more light on the issues surrounding the delay in completion of Uyo-Ikot Ekpene highway which has raised some concerns in the state recently among other salient issues in this interview with a select journalist in Uyo. Tony Okoh reports.

Question: let us know some of the projects done by Governor through your ministry since coming on board in 2015.

Ephraim: Alright let’s take it in two dimensions, one, the roads we started, finished and people are using, the roads we started that are ongoing, the roads we met and took them on that is now ongoing. There are also the ones we are doing on interventions using direct labour. For instance, to restore the beauty of Uyo as State Capital, We are intervening on 44 roads within Uyo metropolis up to Ibesikpo Asutan. By the time we finish, you can drive into any part of the city without coming into major roads like Abak road, Udo Udoma, and others. Some of the streets are ones people classified as abandoned but today they are wearing good looks. We are also remodeling Oron town to make it a befitting city and Eket town is also witnessing total remodeling and presently we are intervening in 16 roads across the city to restore the beauty of Eket metropolis. Governor Emmanuel’s Administration has a lot to showcase. In 2015 we initiated and completed the 3.5km road in Ibiono Local Government, Ikot Udom, that particular road which led to the palace of the paramount ruler received Government Intervention when the Governor visited him and could not access the palace owing to poor road, today it is a grade one road.

Inyang-eyen

In Nisit Atai Council Area, we have a road connecting the Airport and back to Ibesikpo Asutan. 3.6km started and completed. In Nung Ukim in Ikono Local Government Area, 4.61km road transverse about six villages in Nung ukim and former school of Arts and Science now College of Technology, completed and about to be commissioned. Mkpo Ukat road which was impassable and leads to the beach where you have high-quality sands which is 5km was started and completed by this administration. In Mkpat Enin council area, another 5km of road which transverses the village of the former deputy governor, Lady Valerie Ebe was started and completed by this administration. In Oron, we called it emergency intervention. One Oro with five Local Government Areas was in a sorry state. The people of Oro sent S.O.S. to the Governor and when I visited there what I saw was pathetic. We immediately intervened in over six major roads in Oron and when they were to be commissioned, the people went ecstatic in celebration. I remember the governor telling me that what we did was not enough and we returned for emergency intervene two in Oro nation, which is now ongoing. We are doing 8 roads in Oron metropolis and taking care of the rampaging flood there through good drainage systems. By the time emergency intervention two is completed, we would have done 14 roads and equally solved the problem of flood within Oron town. I will say that during the third anniversary of Governor Emmanuel in office when we will commission emergency intervention 2 in Oron, the city will pride itself as a cosmopolitan city. In Eket, there was this major job, the Eket-Ibeno road leading the Quo Iboe terminal of ExxonMobil started by the last administration, which little was done about 10%, but the incumbent administration raised funds completed that road even after commissioning, we discovered that a part of the road has massive clay deposit and if left in that condition may collapse soon. We decided to break it down and did a bridge across where we have those massive clay deposits. The job is ongoing to ensure that the road stands a test of time. In Obot Akara Local Government, which has not received much from any administration since the creation of the state, we did a 6.41km which opened up Akwa Ibom north axis to Abia State. That road has created unfettered access to both states by road users. Abia people mostly commend Governor Emmanuel for opening that road.

The two bridges along that road are almost completed too. We went to Ini Local Government Area there was minimal government presence, we took up a road that was cross many communities to Obotme and then to Arochukwu. Today, the people of Arochukwu through that road use our International Airport during the last Christmas, out of excitement the people gave out a title to the Governor, but since the Governor doesn’t take titles, a member of the state executive was asked to represent the Governor. The very first time I went through that road, I couldn’t move beyond a certain point in Ini, Akwa Ibom State, but last week, I drove by road through Ini to Arochukwu in Abia State. The major bridge there is equally under construction and by May this year, that road will equally be delivered for commissioning by the Governor. In Uyo the state capital, we discovered that majority of the adjourning and linking roads and streets were in a deplorable state.

These link roads to other major roads make life comfortable if in good shape, so we immediately intervened in all these roads within Uyo and I can assure tourist and visitors that when they are in the city, they will not be in a hurry to leave.

Good roads network and electricity makes life meaningful and Akwa Ibom have embraced both in abundance. We are doing  44 roads within Uyo to Ibesikpo Asutan Local Government Area. We are presently doing internal roads in college of Education Afahansit to enable them have full accreditation. Apart from all the access roads, we are equally doing the fencing and other access roads there. In Akwa Ibom State University Obio Akpa, all the internal roads and access roads are under construction. In a particular Akpa Ube road in Uyo, I discovered during my tour that people built toilet soakaways on the road and when I demanded to know why such was cited on a road, the people said they never thought a road will pass through there in their lifetime and they pleaded that the road projects continue and destroyed their septic tanks. The same applies to those who erected fences on the same road but in unison, they agreed to do away with them to have the road because it will not only beautify the town but will deflood the area. Shelter Afrique estate, Atlantic Fm road and so many others are almost completed.

At Ewet Housing Extension, Akwa Ibom Government through the Ministry of Works is doing a direct labour job in the area with 19 roads.

By the time we are done with the roads it will no longer be called extension but Ewet Housing like their more beautiful neighbors. It was called extension because there are no access roads there. There is a particular road I like mentioning all the time and that is the Youth Avenue just 400 meters road. Starting from Oron road and linked up Shelter Afrique Estate, On 17th of October 2017, the Governor attended the thanksgiving service of the Accountant General and by the end of the service, the church elders pleaded with the Governor to do the road for them and the Governor directed the works ministry to move in immediately. However, few days later while we are drawing up plans for the road, I was alerted that there were some vehicles on the road trying to stay construction and when I arrived there, they told me they were sent from NDDC to do the road but I asked for the drawing, design and award letter for the road and they said they have none of them. I called for Assistant Director Operations representing NDDC in Akwa Ibom and he told me they have no knowledge of the award and I asked them to bring the design and do the job but they never returned. If you go to the Youth Avenue today it is such a beautiful road.

Inyang-eyen

Question: But it was alleged that you use force to drive away the contractor you met on ground while clearing the site.

 That was the road I was accused of using my security details to chase the NDDC contractors away but that was not true because I came down alone from my vehicle and interacted with them. I only asked them to go and get their design for the road and they left and never returned to the site. However, with our design ready and funds released by the governor, the road is 100% completed today.

We will take delivery of more in due course, the last administration did wonderfully well for Ikot Ekpene axis and Governor Emmanuel is doing well for Uyo, Eket and Oron axis to open up the state. Then with the four major cites intact, then the state will be the cynosure of all eyes.

Again the Udom Emmanuel’s administration is doing five dualise roads across the state. We are equally doing the major ring road two and three. Ring road two is 3.5km and the ring road three is 7.5km awarded to the same contractor Qumecs, but when we saw that his speed is not quite good, we took the ring road three and asked him to continue with ring road two.

The ring road three will be handed over to a contractor with more equipment and resources.

In six months’ time, we will have the roads in top shape. What this show is that this administration has the capacity to manage the state resources well. Remember that in 2016 we slipped into economic recession up till 2017 when oil price nosedived to between 35 to 40 dollars. But the Governor was able to achieve all these milestones.

Inyang-eyen

Now talking about the 5 major dualised roads, if you go to the road linking the Airport to Okopedi, then from Okopedi through the thick forest CCECC is breaking through there to Uya Uro in Oron, on completion of that road, you can access the East-West road without coming into the city. In Uyo through Ikot Oku Ikono, Julius Berger is construction 30km dualised road to Etinan roundabout and from Etinan roundabout by the right, Weschino is building 29km Etinan Ndon Uyo highway with 2 cable bridges. The cable bridges will be the first of its kind in this part of the world. By the third anniversary of Governor Emmanuel’s administration, the road will be ready except the bridges. Eket-Etinan highway road was inherited at zero points but will be completed soon.

Question: few weeks ago, there was so much tension in the state over alleged abandonment of uyo-ikot ekepene highway started by the Akpabio’s administration, what is the position now?

Ephraim: There was no time Governor Emmanuel abandoned the Uyo – Ikot Ekpene highway. The contractor firm handling it the Julius Berger has always been paid. The snag there is that the money allotted for compensation on that road has long been exhausted and many buildings are still standing in the way awaiting compensation. The money was exhausted before the coming of this administration.

Question: Was the money stolen?

Ephraim: No, I didn’t say stolen, if there was a provision of N10 that N10 was considered fully paid out while the Houses that were supposed to be paid for, so many are still left standing yet to be paid for. So this administration has the responsibility to now create means of raising more funds to pay the remaining of property owners. It took a while because you cannot review a project based on compensation. Compensation is a delicate thing that when you effect a payment and pull down a structure nobody remembers what was standing there. If you go to Ikpe Annang roundabout, there was a big two-story building standing there before which about 141 million Naira was paid, we took it down but when I passed that road a few days ago, I could not spot where the building was standing.

This administration is not willing to review a project based on compensation. In Uyo – Ikot Ekpene high way, we have a lot to do not on issues of construction but of issues boarding on compensation. If you look at the contract, Bill one is on the issue of compensation, Bill two road clearing Bill three is road construction Bill 4 is for the Bridges. Now we still have money for bill two to five, but there is no money for Bill one to pay for compensation. Go from kilometer 22 to 25 where you have Four Point by Sheraton Hotel, it is congested with houses and we will still need about 4 – 5 Billion Naira to pay out for compensation. In the Bill made available to us, there was no such money in the Bill and if you pay money to the contractor, you cannot make a request for any money for compensation. That was what was causing the delay in the completion of the road and not that Governor Emmanuel will want to abandon a road project which so much of money have been spent on and which will open up the state to neighboring states. If the Federal Government had released monies Akwa Ibom Government had spent on Federal roads in the state, that road will not have stopped at Four Point by Sheraton but will be extended to Aba in Abia State to ease movement of people and goods.

Anyone going with the story that the road has been abandoned by the Governor is never fair to him. He has never contemplated it. Our utmost concern is how to raise money for compensation without adjusting the cost of the work upward. That is the only problem on Uyo – Ikot Ekpene road.

The commissioner on projection inspection

Question: Are you considering probe of what transpired before now on the issues of compensation along that road?

Ephraim: Probing what? Compensations had been paid and buildings pulled down, are you going to raise back the buildings to see the ones that are undervalued or overvalued? It will be an effort in futility. This government is a continuation of the last government and probing it is probing ourselves. So we are not going there. We are thinking deeply if we can adjust something in Bill two of three and take out some money from the same contract and return and pay compensation on those properties. Let me tell you probe of the past administration will be a big distraction and that is never been contemplated by this government.

The Governor is determined to remain focused and get the job done within the limits of the available resources. That road remains a top priority of the Governor. The Uyo – Ikot Ekpene highway is not any subject of controversy, the allotment of funds for compensation have been exhausted and properties are still standing there, so we need more funds to be able to pay compensations and break down those properties. Don’t get me wrong, what we are saying is that to review Bill one is very difficult because if you review Bill 2, 3 and 4, it will incur additional cost. We are looking for an ingenious way of doing it without exceeding the actual value of the contract. What we intend to do is that there will be a flyover at certain point and we said that it is not necessary for now. We have a better alternative to handle the challenges at that point and money for that could be channeled into paying for compensation. I also pray like others for oil price to go up, so that we have more money to put in projects across the state and make the state attractive to tourists from all over the world.

The snag, in a nutshell, is our inability to have value from the project figures we inherited to have money to pay for compensations. However, the road is ongoing just like several others.

 I want to let you know that a Local Government, Udung Uko is receiving their first Asphalted 9km road since its creation in 1996 under Governor Emmanuel’s administration.

Question: Etebi- enwang road is also said to have been abandoned, another project inherited from Akpabio’s administration why?

Ephraim: Etebi-Enwang road in Mbo council area is ongoing, it has not been abandoned. I have given the contractor a mandate that by the time we visit again, I want to see the completion of the columns on the bridge, they have put in 16 so far, but they needed about 96 columns. I have told him to finish the road while the bridge is ongoing. I can assure you that every road in this state whether started by previous administration or incumbent will be completed because the resources were Akwa Ibom money. I want to ask if these roads going on in the hinder lands are not abandoned, is it our showpiece and gateway Uyo – Ikot Ekpene road that will be abandoned?. In fact, if we have money after the first phase then we will take on Ikot Ekpene – Aba, which is about 20km in the next phase.

The completion of that road will allow Aba traders just like the people of Arochukwu to start using our Airport. With such influx of people, the entire state will be opened up and our Airport will be fully busy with its attendant positive effects on the economy of the state.

We Akwa Ibom people should give kudos to Governor Emmanuel and encourage him to do more. By the time the present network of roads are completed. Industrialization will take off fully in every part of the state.

A section of the Ongoing road project

Question: Your ministry has been accused encouraging capital flight by not utilizing the services of indigenous contractors on roads construction.

Ephraim: No. it should be the order way round, my ministry have been accused of overusing the indigenous contractors.

Before I got here, I learnt the indigenous contractors were not considered good enough for road projects, but I said if Asphalt, stone base, red earth are the same with the machinery used for road construction the same as what foreign firms use, then i insisted on using the indigenous contractors. But I charged them to live up to expectation, allow them the resources and they are doing very good jobs. Almost all the roads we have commissioned over twelve (12) of them were done by the indigenous contractors. For instance, in Obot Akara Council Area, the road project there is done by Seyan, an indigenous firm several signature roads across the state were done by indigenous contractors like Benest, Henserk and others. Given the right environment and resources, our indigenous contractors can compete favorably with their foreign counterparts. When the Governor confronted me with the NUJ road which had been in the budget for years and gave me six months to fix the road, I contracted an indigenous contractor who raised resources and fixed the road, it was after commissioning of the road that we paid Benest Engineering services for the job. No foreign contractor will do that for you. So if I have my way, I will give the bulk of jobs to indigenous contractors, allow them the resources, give them enabling environment because they too have a stake in the state. The state also belongs to them, the foreign firms yes have years of experience can also do a good job but will only do so when they have the money handy; so there is a big difference.

Again I know Akwa Ibom people are happy with what we are doing with our indigenous contractors. Of course, the profits they made from the job are reinvested back in the State. For instance, Hensek Integrated Services upon completion of Nung Ukim road empowered many people in the community, gave them boreholes and a town hall among other things.

People like Benest Engineering Services do spend his entire profit from jobs on his people. If you ask me, I will appeal that the Governor hand over at least 60% of jobs to indigenous firms because I know they will do well and anytime there is an issue, they listen and make amends without arguments or quarrel. From my personal observation on their performances, I score our indigenous contractors A1 or A plus, in fact, A Star. Kudos to all of them.

I want to say that virtually every part of the state have had good roads coverage. The few remaining ones will soon be attended to in few week’s time. The Udom Emmanuel’s government has succeeded in ensuring that dividends of democracy trickled down to every community in the state.

Question: How about the allegation of contractors, collecting money from people to get them compensation for their property.

Ephraim: That is complete falsehood or people talking out of ignorance. Here contractors don’t pay compensation. We have consultants saddled with that job. What we do is that before the compensation on any project, we video the road to authenticate the property on ground to ensure no additional property is added once job commences. We have issues where people quickly go and erect structures once they get information of proposed road project and they lose out at the end because I demolished such properties without compensation. It happed along Etinan-Ndon Uyo road and we took all of them down without paying a dime. So there is no way the contractors are involved here to take money from anybody. Look even after the affected properties have been profiled and documented, I go with the consultants to review the properties to ensure no discrepancies in the records. We must be able to defend what we are doing at all times.

Question: People say that your ministry is taking up more projects than it can handle.

Ephraim: That is not true because the Governor believes that if there are no adequate road networks across the length and breadth of the state, industrialization will not be well seated. It is his conviction that in his first term, he settles the infrastructural needs of the state, and during the second term which Akwa Ibom people had guaranteed him, he will highly concentrate on industrialization. In Economics 101, they said one of the things that attract industrialization includes good road network among others.

INTERVIEW: We’ll forget Biafra on one condition- IPOB

For some years now, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) has been on the forefront in the struggle for the creation of a sovereign state.

With the absence of Nnamdi Kanu, its leader, during the time of Operation Python Dance, as well as the branding of the group as a terrorist organization, many believe the end is near for the group.

But in an interview with TheCable, Emma Powerful, spokesman of IPOB, said contrary to such belief, the group is more formidable now than it has ever been.

He also spoke on a variety of issues including what has become of IPOB in Kanu’s absence, if the group would accept an option to dialogue with the federal government, the newly launched Hausa radio service as well as what a sovereign state of Biafra will look like.

Question: Some people find it difficult to believe that IPOB leaders do not know where Nnamdi Kanu is, can you convince us that you do not know Kanu’s whereabouts?

Powerful: Those that find it difficult to believe that the leadership of IPOB does not know where our leader Mazi Nnamdi Kanu is are the same people that feign ignorance of the fact that the army invaded his residence. They are the same people that failed to hear Defence Minister General Mansur Dan Ali confirm on Channels TV during an interview that Nigerian government sent soldiers to invade the home of our leader and to capture him. Every right-thinking person knows the army went to kill Mazi Nnamdi Kanu on the 14th of September 2017 because there can never be any other plausible explanation as to why the army will truncate an ongoing judicial process by doing the work of the police. The question all right-thinking people should ask the attorney-general of the federation (AGF) is this; is it the duty of the army to be running round in armoured tanks looking for the enemies of Buhari to arrest? Nigerian Army, for those who might still be feigning ignorance of the fact, does not have the constitutional right to arrest anybody. Whenever soldiers arrest and molest people, as they normally do in Nigeria, they are breaking the law. That is what the Abdulsalami Abubakar 1999 Constitution says. But in Nigeria, law enforcement agencies and even the law courts don’t know what the constitution says. They are ignorant of their own laws. Those that invaded our leader’s residence went there to kill him his family and parents, or else they would have waited for him to appear in court on the 17th of October 2017. Buratai and his army are in the best position to answer any question regarding the whereabouts of our leader, especially at this time everybody, including non-Biafrans, are missing his inspirational leadership.

Question: Since the Python Dance operation, not much has been heard of the group regarding the Biafra agitation, does this mean the government has succeeded in weakening IPOB?

Powerful: Where did this patently false impression come from that IPOB has been weakened? Weakened in what way? If the media fails to carry to our news to your audience, then the “misleading” narrative peddled by Lai Mohammed and Nnia Nwodo that IPOB has been weakened, may be sustained in the minds of the gullible. But the truth remains that IPOB is more formidable now than ever. Despite the draconian and brutal crackdown on us, we have continued to hold rallies and protests. New IPOB family units are springing up all over the world. We successfully rallied in Onitsha before the successful boycott of Anambra governorship election. We also rallied in Aba on January 20, 2018 in remembrance of those killed last year during President Trump’s inauguration rally in Igweocha. Indiscriminate arrest, illegal detention and harassment of IPOB members have continued unabated. We stopped the treacherous Ohaneze Ndigbo leadership led by Nnia Nwodo in Lagos and also at Enugu during the ‘Handshake across the Niger’ event. Nobody born of a woman can weaken IPOB.

Question: Can you tell us the main idea behind the launch of Hausa radio service, do you think the government will let the station fly?

Powerful: Hausa Service of Radio Nigeria, mind you not Radio Biafra, was launched in response to the failed attempt by the Department of State Service (DSS) to infiltrate and destroy IPOB from within. The Nigerian government created a parallel radio station which we have since renamed Radio Buhari International to reflect its true ownership. They proceeded to launch another radio on a shortwave frequency with our sacred name. Both stations are based in the US. They named a non-existent person the leader of the great IPOB and claimed our leader and founder Mazi Nnamdi Kanu has been replaced by this nonentity. It was at this point we decided late last year to launch a Hausa language service to take our unique enlightenment to oppressed ethnic minorities in the north because no enlightened society can swallow such junk. There is quality information deficit across the north which this Hausa radio service run by IPOB will address.

Question: While some of your followers and members have welcomed the launch of a Hausa radio service, some Nigerians see it as a coy to gain the sympathy of the north. Why the choice of Hausa when there are other languages around the south-east? Why not any language from the south-south?

Powerful: We chose the Hausa language because the majority of those at the receiving end of the falsehood propagated by the cabals in the north are their fellow core northerners. Educating the down-trodden masses of the north to understand the evil being committed in their name is important the most important assignment today. We are convinced that mass illiteracy and lack of access to unbiased information is the reason why a majority of Hausa Fulani people live in abject poverty and ignorance while their ruling class loot and accumulate all the wealth accruing to them.

Question: IPOB failed in its bid to stop last year’s governorship election in Anambra, what are your plans for the 2019 general election?

Powerful: Who told you IPOB failed in our bid to stop the elections in Anambra state? We successfully boycotted the elections as a prelude to what the world will witness come 2019. Less than 1% of eligible voters bothered to turn up to vote. That was the reason INEC spent days doing their best to bump up the figures to a respectable level. This, they succeeded in doing because the Abuja anointed politicians don’t want the world to know that power has slipped from them back into the hands of the masses. They don’t want the world to know how potent IPOB is but we know that they know. We have variously challenged INEC to publish the original result sheets collated from polling stations around the state to prove that less than 1% voted but to no avail. Go around Anambra state today and hear people testify that elections were totally boycotted. Where INEC got the figures they announced, only them can say. Election rigging, manipulation of results and inflation of voter figures is nothing new in Nigeria. They are panicking already because we have demonstrated that our people listen to IPOB and no other. 2019 will be a year to remember because, in so far as Biafraland is concerned, there will be no voting.

Question: Is IPOB willing to come to the negotiation table if the federal government invites it for dialogue?

Powerful: The answer is no, because Nigeria is not yet civilised enough to understand what dialogue means, neither are they known for keeping to the terms of any agreement reached. Name one agreement Nigeria entered into that ran its course. They think we are for settlement, how mistaken they are. We would only consider meeting them through a third party or mediator. History tells us that all conflicts end up on the conference table. Bearing this in mind, we would be willing to discuss with civilised sensible parties on how best to speedily facilitate the peaceful dissolution of Nigeria. Nigeria’s condition is a condition that is clearly unsustainable. The best way to go is referendum.

Question: Will an Igbo presidency in 2019 make IPOB back down on its quest for a sovereign state of Biafra?

Powerful: Nothing can make IPOB back down from this divine quest to restore the lost sovereignty of Biafra. Only the will of the people clearly expressed during a referendum. We hear Nnia Nwodo, Ohaneze Ndigbo, Igbo governors and Abuja based errand boys, we ignorantly refer to as politicians or elite, tell us south-east and south-south do not want Biafra, which is a lie. There is only one way to establish the truth and settle this matter once and for all time. That is referendum. If we lose in a referendum, we stop the agitation for Biafra same day. The will of the people is what must prevail under this and every circumstance.

Question: Many of those who do not support your ideology have expressed dissatisfaction over what they describe as your violent approach — something very different from the method Odumegwu Ojukwu adopted while on the struggle for Biafra. What do you have to say?

Powerful: It is very sad and unfortunate that people don’t know the meaning of the phrase ‘violent approach’ as you put it. Violence doesn’t need dressing up in convoluted grammar because a situation is either violent or it is not. Those people peddling the myth that IPOB preach violence are the same Abuja rent boys and slaves. They will do and say anything to please their masters in order to hold on to political power and privilege. The same way Britain imposed unwanted corrupt men as warrant chiefs across Biafraland during the colonial era to their purpose is exactly the template the north adopted in the aftermath of the civil war to dominate, control and subjugate Igbo land and the rest of Biafraland. Have you heard of any emir, sultan, governor or politician from the north condemn herdsmen who are actively killing people on a daily basis? You know the answer to that? Only in Igbo land will a washed out politician beholden to Abuja for his dear life, rise to the position of a leader. No other society will accept such anomaly. IPOB is not violent and we don’t intend to pick up arms anytime soon, when we do, the world will know.

Question. You have other groups also agitating for Biafra, among which MASSOB is also included. Why can’t pro-Biafra agitators come under one umbrella and form a major front?

Powerful: This is another misconception I must correct now. All genuine groups agitating for Biafra restoration came together, when our leader was released from illegal detention early last year, to declare unanimously that he is the undisputed leader and arrowhead of the new agitation for Biafra restoration. IPOB cannot stop DSS or Lai Mohammed’s ministry of information from setting up a new Biafra group on a daily basis if they so choose. There is biting hunger and poverty in the land, so there will be regular supply of hungry people willing to accept pittance, for sake of preservation, to answer a pro-Biafra group. Groups come and go but IPOB remains. In as much this dispensation of our agitation for a sovereign Biafra is concerned, there is only one leader, Nnamdi Kanu and one organisation, IPOB, that resonates around the world. We remain without doubt the most organised and most potent freedom fighting outfit on this earth bar none.

Question; If Biafra comes to fruition today, how does IPOB want it run? Will it be a democratic nation? What is the IPOB idea of a sovereign state of Biafra?

Powerful: Biafra will be an open transparent society where laws protecting individual rights and freedoms will form the bedrock or foundation upon which the nation rests. Every political process will be democratised, from the election of the president, prime minister, members of parliament to district judges and police chiefs. There will be no siren escort for political office holders because all men will be genuinely equal before the law. It will become a criminal offence for any law enforcement officer to arrest a citizen without valid reason that can stand up to scrutiny on a court of law. Nobody will be prosecuted or persecuted for anything they say. There will be absolute freedom of speech. If the prime minister feels hurt by what is written against her or him, they should head to the courts and bring a libel suit, rather than telling the police chief or IG to arrest the person. The police in Biafra will not be routinely armed and on no account must the army be mobilised to do police work. Any army officer seen on the street with his uniform will be arrested, court-martialed and dismissed unless the country is at war. Basically, Biafra will be the complete opposite of Nigeria.

Originally published by  TheCable

INTERVIEW:  What we told Buhari on Benue killings, Miyetti Allah, anti-grazing law – Ortom

Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom on Monday met with President Muhammadu Buhari with a delegation of prominent leaders from to brief the President on the ongoing crisis between farmers and Fulani Herdsmen that has lead to the death of over seventy individuals.

Mr. Ortom also said the visit was to appreciate the president for his efforts to resolve the crisis and to also make a “strong appeal to Mr. President to arrest those people that perpetrated this act, the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore.”

Governor Ortom also revealed other details of the discussion the delegation had with President Buhari.

The full details of the interview with the governor…

Ortom: As you can see I’m here with the entire leadership of Benue State, members of the National Assembly, the Tor Tiv, Ochi Idoma and the leadership of Benue State House of Assembly and other very distinguished sons and daughters of Benue State.

You are aware of the challenge we had since the 1st of January up to this moment. Several people were killed, more than 60,000 people displaced; we are still counting.

We thought it was wise as the father of the land and as the president of our country that there is need to meet with him to interface with him.

At a personal level, I spoke to the president on phone on the 1st of January when this incident occurred and he responded promptly. And I followed it up with a visit and he directed the relocation of IGP to Benue State in addition to sending additional troop from the military.

So, the situation as at today is relatively calm although there are pockets of issues. For the past five days, we have witnessed two killings compared to what was happening before. Other places are relatively calm, the security men and the IGP and the Benue State Government have been working day and night to ensure that we bring the situation under control and stop the killings.

There are still security issues from one town to the other. Like some few days ago we had an uproar in Makurdi Local Government, headquarters of Benue State where some hoodlums wanted to take advantage. That is one of the things we have discovered; in trying to create confusion so that they can go in there and loot.

We have made it known that for us in Benue State, there is no room for anyone taking laws into his hands. It is expected (that) even when you are offended or someone violates the law, the best thing to do is to report, by that we will be able to mete our sanctions on such people. But when you take laws into your hands, you are inviting anarchy and we will not accept this.

So we are here to appreciate Mr. President for providing security. Yesterday (Sunday) we also received relief materials based on his directives to NEMA and is being shared among the five IDP camps that we have in Benue State.

But beyond that, we made a strong appeal to Mr. President to arrest those people that perpetrated this act, the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, because they are not above the law. They made inciting statements against our people and they came and perpetrated this act. And until this time I speak to you, they are still issuing out threats and it is not just anti-grazing law, it is occupation because the manner with which they come and invade the man and take over the land it is something. I am not sure we are willing to join issues with anyone. We are law abiding citizens, we are not going to let our people go out of control.

We believe in the leadership of Mr. President because he is disciplined and is an upright man and we believe he will be able to sanction these people. And he did assure us that there is no room for impunity, the law of the land must take its cause. So those perpetrators, the IG was in the meeting, he directed the IG to arrest those who perpetrated this act and prosecute according to the law, and assured us that he would do everything possible to ensure that Benue State live peacefully and there is no further killings. So basically that is why we came to see Mr. President.

Q: On the letter written to the president, did you get any response?

Ortom: Like I said, the president renewed his directive to the IG in our presence that those who are perpetrating this should be arrested and prosecuted. And I believe that enough attention was given to my letter. I was told that it was being processed and I hope by now it’s been processed and that action will be taken now that the entire delegation from Benue State is here and Mr. President is directing the IG that something will be done about this matter because we cannot allow lawlessness and we cannot allow impunity. When people violate the law and they are not sanctioned, it becomes a problem. People should be investigated and I believe that these people will be arrested because there is enough evidence against them.

Q: Did the issue of arming militia groups come up in the meeting?

Ortom: It is not true. I see that as distraction completely from the main issue that we are talking about. These people were not even arrested in Benue State. If we are being killed in the magnitude that we saw and we had weapons of what I saw in the media, I know that five AK 47s can sack a whole community. So if we had such weapons and I as governor my local government had been attacked and people killed, property destroyed and so on, so will I go and sponsor militia in Taraba State? Then you should go back to history; from 2015 when I took over, I organised an amnesty programme which saw the disarmament of over‎ 800 youth and more than 700 weapons were turned in which were destroyed in the presence of security men and the UN and the committee on small weapons and light arms from the presidency. So it is not true, it is false. It is meant to turn facts away from the reality that is happening on ground.

Q: Are there plans to have vigilante groups?

Ortom: We are in the process of doing that, but we have livestock guards in place. That is what the provision of the open grazing and establishment of ranching stipulates, that we should have livestock guards and we are considering having that in place.

Q: This meeting is intended to find solutions to the problem. We will like to know some of the specific proposals to find and an end to this problem? And is there any proposal to bring the leadership of you and the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, together, to find lasting solution to the problem?

Ortom: Let me correct an impression, this meeting was at the instance of Benue stakeholders and not Mr. President calling us to a meeting. As the father of the land, we felt that let us interface with him, not just coming from the governor but from the stakeholders. And also to send the message that I am just not on my own when people try to accuse me of promulgating a law which they don’t believe in. This is a law that originated from the people and all the stakeholders as you see them, we are solidly behind this law. Because for us we feel that that is the best way to end this farmer, herdsmen clashes.

The law is a win win, it provides security for the herdsmen and the farmers. And as far as we are concerned the implementation of the law is going on smoothly.

As I talk to you, several people have been arrested and arraigned before the court of law, both from the herdsmen and also from the natives. It may interest you to know that three of our youths who went and rustled cattle, killed some and killed a Fulani man were arrested by the police. They were detained and arraigned and are now remanded in prison custody in Makurdi.

We have also arrested more than 18 herdsmen who violated the law and they were arraigned before the court of law. So as far as we are concerned, the law is being implemented without any hitch. These killers that came from the 1st of January, about eight of them have been arrested and are going to be prosecuted. And that is what Mr. President said that he is not going to protect any criminal and we are happy about this. So that is where we are.

As for the solution to the problem, we are open to suggestion from the federal government to find how we can find a lasting solution. The minister of agriculture happens to be a son of the soil. There are many options that are put on the table.

Like I told you the last time I came here, I did not understand what colonies meant. Today, I was privileged to meet him and he did explain to me that a colony is many ranches out in one place, restricted in one place. So for us in Benue State there is no 10,000 hectares, they are looking for 5,000 hectares we have no 10 hectares to allow it for that kind of a thing to take place. So people are free. Other states have the land but we in Benue State we don’t have and that was what led to us enacting this law.

Q: What was the message from Benue people to Mr. President before you left for this meeting?

Ortom: We need assurance from Mr. President, we are part of his constituency in the country. As you know, ‎Nigeria is a federation and Benue State is part of the federating unit. There is division of labour, there are specific responsibilities given to each of the tiers of government as enshrined in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. So we don’t have powers over the security of this country except the federal government, it is expected that the federal government will support us to enforce our laws and the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. And so, as the father of the land, we needed to communicate this to him. We have not committed any offence; rather we are looking for a solution to a problem that has become an epidemic to Nigeria and we need a solution.

For us, we have seen that even before the law killings were taking place even more than what we are witnessing today, that we are looking for ways of getting out of it and today we have found a way and that is the law which seeks to protect all. We are not sending anyone away from Benue State. The herdsmen, whether you are Igbo, Fulani, Hausa, Idoma, Tiv, anywhere you come from you are free to follow the law, obtain a permit and then do the ranch and you are protected.

Benue State will protect you from cattle rustlers when you do this and a farmer will also go to the farm without being intimidated or harassed by any herdsman. So for us, we wanted him to know our feelings as our Mr. President and that we have communicated and he has given us assurance that he is armed to ensure that the oath which he swore to protect lives and properties, he will do it and Benue State cannot be an exception.

INTERVIEW: I advised Ortom against anti-grazing law – Gov, Lalong

Ebun Francis || The Governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong, has said he advised his Benue State counterpart, Samuel Ortom, against implementing the anti-grazing law in Benue state.

Lalong made the disclosure in an interview with State House correspondents after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday.

According to the governor, Plateau state used to face similar challenge as Benue but his administration’s decision to embrace ranching has led to peace in Plateau State.

The full interview…

Q: What did you discuss with the President?

A: I just returned from my vacation and I felt I should come and see Mr. President especially as my state celebrated Christmas and new year peacefully, to wish him happy new year and brief him on the happenings in the state in the last one year. With the support I am getting from Mr. President, we are having relative peace. So I came to brief him, especially when you see insecurity in neighbouring states so that if there are areas of improvement, we will also do the improvement so that we don’t have cases like we are seeing.

Q: So what’s the secret to the relative peace you are enjoying in the state?

A: I have said it a number of times, it is a matter of accommodating interests; you take everybody as your own. In Plateau state, I did that because when I came, I inherited a protracted crisis in the state. And so my first priority was how to handle this crisis and ensure we have peace in Plateau State. Within three months, we were able to achieve peace in Plateau State. Most of the lingering crisis was between farmers and herdsmen in Plateau. But today in most parts of the state, you will see beautiful relationship between herdsmen and farmers.

At the end of last year, something small happened. But I’m not saying it was between herdsmen and farmers. It was as a result of criminal activities, and so we focused on fishing out those criminals. Most of the crisis that happened was not on the farm, it was just pockets of people; Christians and Muslims killing one another, and so we addressed those issues, we are handling them.

Let me also say that Plateau was one of those that embraced ranching. I had a lot of opposition initially when I said Plateau was keying into ranching. Some states said they don’t have land but I said whether I have land or not, we have to provide land for ranching, because what I see as solution to the conflicts. In Plateau, we have gone far, we have donated land voluntarily, many people donated land for ranching.

Last year, I sent a 12-man team to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, they spent almost a week there to study and the team was headed by former Vice Chancellor of University of Jos, Professor Onazi. We went round all the communities in Plateau, it took three months and Plateau people, including the Fulanis, accepted that we must embrace ranching.

Ranching as a concept is a policy and there are states realizing the importance of the policy. I cannot wake up like some people said last year that I should go and do anti-grazing law. And I asked: anti-grazing law for what? We are talking about ranching, we are talking about development of livestock business and I cannot use the word anti to start driving people who are interested. It is for those who are interested to come and get involved in it.

Secondly, I can’t implement anti-grazing law. There are levels of implementation which will require government intervention, provision of ranchers. And thirdly, when you are talking of ranching, it is a component of agriculture business, you will also require subsidy. Subsidy must come from federal and state governments. And by the time we develop it and put every structure on ground, then we can bring laws to regulate the implementation. So I don’t want to jump one step before the other.

Q: So why did you not advise your colleagues about this?

A: To be honest with you, I did. I told the Governor of Benue when he was doing the law; I said look, why don’t you tread softly, just be careful, take other steps before you start implementation. But you see, states are different, his own concepts are different and for us on the Plateau is different. I said I will not do the law before implementation. I have not developed the ranching areas, so I cannot go and say I will put a law, to stop who? If I stop the people, what is the alternative?

So I said do consultations, allow the people to understand and buy into the concepts.

Q: You are talking about ranching and the federal government is now talking about colonies, what does that mean?

A: For me, anytime I hear anything about agriculture, I don’t jump into conclusions, I go and study it. Yesterday (Wednesday), I was at the federal ministry with my agricultural team, commissioner and others, we spent almost five hours because I said they must convince me and explain to me what colony is. So that when I go back, just like I did with ranching, I will go and tell my people that this is the concept. When I had the briefing with them, I was convinced about colony.

They said the difference between colony and ranches is that one is bigger than the other. You get a very big field, you get investors, demarcate the area, somebody will ranch bees, somebody will ranch goats, somebody will ranch cattle, but government will develop the place, put grasses, water and anybody who is coming in must pay. And you cannot go and force any land, is voluntary land that government has. For me in Plateau, we have two large areas already, that is the concept and my eyes is already going back.

So, they are saying they are going to visit the place as part of the solution to farmers/herdsmen clashes in my state.

When Plateau wanted anti-grazing law and I asked against who? and they said against a particular tribe. And I said, tell me who in Plateau who is not into open grazing? Seventeen local governments we are all into open grazing. Is either you are grazing cattle, goat, sheep, or even chicken because the law will protect and restrict the movement of all these animals, these are general livestock. If you are talking of this thing, we will take a holistic approach in preparing for implementation. And when you do that, with a lot of consultation like we are done in Plateau… when I got back, I heard the Fulanis were moving from state to state sensitizing their people on the need to embrace ranching.

Q: But people say providing colony is a way of pampering the herdsmen?

A: Let me tell you, nobody said ranching is only for Fulani herdsmen. Like I said, in Plateau, I said ranching is everybody’s business. Many youths, thousands of graduates have registered, ready to go into that business. It is everybody’s business. We must help the federal government to find ways of addressing issues because agriculture is not just agriculture now, it is now a means of diversification. And if you have to diversify, it is serious business for everyone, it is not for a tribe.

So I said if we have to encourage people to go into ranching, I will not use the word anti.

Q: What is your comments regarding the coming local government elections in your state?

A: I want to assure that sometimes when you see conflicts or problems in an election, it is when there is no primaries, when people engage themselves in carnivals.

In Plateau, when you go and ask of the best primaries, they will tell you it was the last primaries organised by the APC. So, if we had good primaries, definitely you can be rest assured that you are looking forward to the best of local government elections.

Q: What was the President’s response after your meeting?

A: He was very happy. Of course, the president is always happy when he hears that, number one, your state is peaceful; and two, that you are paying salaries up to date. For me, salary is no longer an issue. Last December, I started paying gratuity. So, I came to tell him that through his efforts, you can see what bailout is doing to compliment the efforts of what some state governors are doing, so that we don’t start condemning governors anyhow.

In my state, I inherited 11 months arrears and eight months of pensions; and today I have cleared them. I am now into payment of arrears of gratuity and development projects. Let me not forget, part of the visit was to ask for a shift of date in the president’s visit to the state from January to February, and he has agreed. And he said I will come anytime you want me to come.

Bombing and destruction of pipelines will not solve the Niger Delta problem- Eno Francis

High Chief Ambassador Francis .T. Eno, National President core-oil producing communities, traditional supreme youth leader and Obong Mkparawa of Eket, is one of the respected voices in Niger Delta. In this interview with Tony Okoh, he spoke on some raging national issues.

Excerpts…

QUESTION:
How would you describe President Mohammed Buhari’s two years plus in power?
Francis: There is hope for Nigerians with the incumbent administration. What mattered most is for Nigerians to continue their solidarity and prayers for the president. This is irrespective of ethnicity or religion. The success of president Buhari’s administration is that of Nigerians.
Nigeria is the biggest economy in Africa and Nigerians must strive to sustain this position by working hard. At this stage, we should not be mindful of the political party one belongs but what we can contribute to make our Nation great. We must collectively pray together most especially now. I see light at the end of the dark tunnel.
QUESTION:
Some Nigerians are calling for the cabinet rejig at the National level to bring in more experts to work with the president. What is your take?
Francis: People have their opinions and views on any issue. Just like we know that it took Mr. President sometime to assemble the people working presently with him, I think he is in a better position to know when to reshuffle his cabinet because he took time to look at the antecedents of those serving under him now. The issue of any changes in the cabinet at the moment is purely his prerogative and the buck stops at his table. What I think is that rather than rhetorics, Nigerians should pray to God always to guide the President to make sound decisions at all time s for the benefit of the Nation.
QUESTION:
Some Nigerian still believe that the Anti-corruption war of Mr. President is one-sided. Do you share this position?
Francis: I stand for a corrupt free society. If we can achieve a corrupt free society, Nigerian will be a great Nation and we will achieve so much as a people within a shortest possible time. But my humble suggestion is that the Anti-corruption war should be taken beyond ex-Governors and Ministers, to the Local Government level. The Agencies should beam its searchlight on Ex council chairmen and commissioners in the last sixteen years and possibly bring them to give account of their stewardship. If you take time to look at the impunity going on at the local government level, you will cry for Nigeria. At the local level, you find people who stayed less than three years in government and start living in opulence with mansion worth millions of naira. Some of them entered government without any known business before and under few years, they own mansion in major cities across the world. We have politicians who operated at the local level and enriched themselves beyond well-known business men of many years standing. We need to overhaul the entire process. Let the Ant-corruption war start at the grassroots then to the state and federal level and positive change will come. When loopholes for dubious accumulation of wealth are sealed the rush for positions at that level will drastically reduce. People see government as an avenue to grab cheap money and that nation must be stopped. A situation where people who have never achieved anything in life suddenly join government and in few years become billionaire is a dangerous trend for any society desirous of development and progress. It’s a worrisome trend here. While I commend president Buhari for the job well done so far, I think the Anti-corruption war should start with the last 17 year of our democracy.
QUESTION:
You are a stakeholder in Akwa Ibom State project are you satisfied with the performance of the state governor in the last two years?
Francis: I am very happy with the performance so far posted by deacon Udom Gabriel Emmanuel’s administration, I worked assiduously to ensure the governor came on board and he has not disappointed us. He has laid a very good foundation for the industrialization of the state. In the three senatorial districts of the state so much is going on from the electric meter industry to coconut industry to the car plant among others. industrialization is a process, not an event. Akwa Ibom people need to encourage their governor to do more. He is building industrial parks across several council areas in the state. We are lucky to have a sound economic manager as a Governor at the stage of our statehood. He has shown that he is capable to move the state to the next level and Akwa Ibom people are happy for his extra ordinary performance.

High Chief Francis Eno

QUESTION: How would you rate the new NDDC board after one year in office, do you see them alleviating the plight of the people of the Niger Delta.
Francis: On NDDC board, we have square pegs on square holes. Mr. Nsima Ekere is an accomplished businessman and a compassionate fellow who will address the problems of the under development in the region. The same with the chairman of the board Senator Victor Ndoma Egba and other members of the board.
I must appreciate President Mohammadu Buhari for painstakingly choosing people of impeccable character and integrity to the board. Obong Nsima Ekere will turn around the fortunes of the region using NDDC. His wealth of experience as an outstanding entrepreneur, technocrat and businessman will enable him leave a footprint in the sands of time. The Board Chairman, Senator Victor Ndoma Egba also has great antecedents and he is a goal getter, a humble politician, and team player. His combination with Nsima Ekere will put smiles on the faces of the people of the region in years ahead.
We youth leaders in the Niger Delta will partner the NDDC to train our teeming youths in ICT, Telecommunication Development and other forms of Skill Acquisition programmes to support total peace and normalcy in the Niger Delta.

QUESTION:
You have been in the vanguard of ensuring peace in Eket Nation through community policing efforts, why this zeal?.
Francis: As a traditional youth leader, one of my mandates is to ensure peaceful co-existence among my people and to guarantee peace in a region like ours that is occasionally restive we must ensure adequate and total security in our communities. I have worked over the years with the police force and have come to appreciate their patriotism and love for our country. Starting from the Inspector General Alhaji Mohammed kpotun Idris a core professional officer through the D.I.G’s and A.I.G’s, to our police commissioner in Akwa Ibom. I can say that Nigerian is blessed with intelligent and pro-active police officers the same applies to the rank and files.
If you go through records you will appreciate the fact that my state Akwa Ibom once produced an Inspector General of Police in the person of late Etim Inyang who passed on recently. He brought a lot of reforms to the force. After him, we have not been lucky to have another I.G but we have lots of distinguished officers who have excelled in the force. The incumbent Inspector General kpotun Idris is such a patriotic fellow, cultured, disciplined, hardworking and intelligent police officer with great potentials. I appealed Nigerians to encourage people like that to continue to lift professionalism in the force. He listens and cares. You can see his prompt action on SARS matter demanded by Nigerians
Until you get closer to our police force then you will understand that the force has some of the most intelligent and committed officers in the world. We need to encourage and appreciate what they are doing for us to have peace and security in our communities.
QUESTION:
You are a respected traditional youth leader in the Niger Delta region, what are your people doing to help curb restiveness in your region.
Francis: Though the problem in the Niger Delta region is a complex one, there is hope for permanent and realistic solutions if the government desires to address the challenges. First Niger Delta region produces the resources which the Nation enjoys but the region and her people lives in abject poverty. The problem of Niger Delta did not start with the incumbent administration, the degradation of her environment had been ongoing for decades but we must look for solutions. As a youth leader, I have been networking with several other youth leaders to preach peace in the region. We must encourage dialogue to address the problems. Violence will only worsen the already bad situation. Bombing and blowing up of pipelines will only destroy further our already bad ecosystem. When the nation is talking about returning to Agriculture which land will the Niger Delta people cultivate? We must begin to reason positively and embrace the dialogue offered by the President. We must embrace dialogue to move the region out of her present predicament. We are appealing to the youths to drop their Arms and get better empowerment package. Government must sincerely and genuinely resolve the Niger Delta crisis through massive development of the region, empowerment of the indigenes and restoration of the already battered environment. We as youth leaders will complement government efforts by appealing to our brothers to see reasons why we must work with government to protect not just our future but that of our coming generation.
.
QUESTION: what is your parting words of advice for youths of the Niger Delta particularly Akwa Ibom youths.

Francis: Our youths must understand that peace is the language the world is longing for not violence. They should always be patient and use dialogue and negotiations to get results of whatever they sought for. Our youths must show respect and reverence to our leaders be it political, traditional or religious leaders. Akwa Ibom state, in particular, has been blessed by great leaders, most recently is senator Godswill Akpabio the Senate minority leader. A man like Akpabio should be celebrated daily by our people rather than vilifying him. He changed completely the psyche of an average Akwa Ibom man and completely eradicated the houseboy syndrome from our lives. His eight years in Akwa Ibom state sojourn is a story for another day. I weep whenever I see people who should be celebrating his heroic acts spending energy to run him down. Senator Godswill Akpabio is God’s special gift for Akwa Ibom people and Nigerians.

VIDEO: Maina Breaks Silence, Begs Buhari For Chance To Prove Innocence

Abdulrasheed Maina, the embattled former chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms, has finally broken silence on the allegations of corruption levelled against him.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with Channels Television which aired during News At 10 on Monday, Mr Maina insisted that he was innocent of the allegations preferred against him.

He, however, appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to give him an opportunity to prove his innocence, claiming that the President was being deceived by the people who surround him.

“Thank God our President stands for the truth, the unfortunate thing is that some people around him whom he has given trust are lying to him; this one I can attest to and I can give you instances, I can give you documentary evidence,” Maina said.

“I’m appealing to you Mr President, there are so many things people are not telling you; when I get to that public hearing I will tell you some things that nobody ever told you Mr President because I never had the opportunity to sit down with you.”

 

Maina who denied any involvement in pension fraud, however, said his team recovered about N282billion cash for the government and that his life was in danger.

He said he was ready to prove to the President that he was innocent of the allegations against him by recovering N1trillion in three months if given the opportunity.

“I recovered money for the last administration and I recovered money for this administration. Most people may not understand this but let me explain this to Nigerians because I want the truth to be told and I want Nigerians to understand the truth and know what is going on in Nigeria.

“Listen, I am not afraid of anybody, I am saying the truth. People portray themselves as if they are saints around the President; it’s a lie, they are not. We recovered as a team, N282billion cash. Aside from the N282bn, we were able to bring information and caught 43 pension suspects.

“They have threatened me, they have threatened my lawyer, they have threatened my brother, sister; they have threatened us all that I will be killed.

“Mr President, I will give you information and documents that will fetch you over N3trillion now in Nigeria, give me nine months. Within the first three months, I will show you N1trillion just like I showed you N1trillion in this 2017,” he said.

Source Channels Television

INTERVIEW: Maina implicated people in the executive, legislature & civil service-AGF

Abubakar Malami, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the federation, has in recent times been criticised by the Nigerian public for his infamous role in the reinstatement of the fugitive former chairman of the Presidential task force on pension reforms, Abdulrasheed Maina to the federal civil service.  Malami spoke at length on this issue and others in this interview with Channels Television.

Read full interview below;

Now it appears the anti-corruption posture of the Federal Government is carrying a big stain on the controversial reinstatement of Mr. Maina, could you set the records straight?

Well, the truth of the matter about pension is a serious issue in Nigeria that has a ticket history. I believe you are rightly informed that there exist 12 pending court cases that are related to the pension fund fraud, and I equally believe you are aware that investigations have been ongoing overtime and serious recoveries involving about 270 or more assets involving house and automobiles were recovered over it; and then, I think about N14bn over time.

And then, the investigation also reveals that there are existing over 66 accounts that were used in pension fraud associated transactions, and then, I equally believe you are aware that there is a very strong allegation that about 217,000 ghost pensioners exist within the system. And you are equally aware that high-profile individuals – inclusive political office holders, senior civil servants, the military, the police – are equally alleged to be part of the syndicate relating to pension. So, I think the background of the existence of these investigations, coupled with the fact that there were series of attempts to assassinate investigative journalists and then major investigators of the pension fraud, were equally arising from coordinated media attack forced out of the system.

It seems that we have a justice system that is driving too slow in the firm promise to stamp out corruption and recover stolen funds

It depends on the perspective to which you are looking at it. But one thing I can tell you is that the fight against corruption is gathering serious momentum, is never slowing down. It depends on the perspective at which you look at it.

How come your administration, two years after, you have not been able to conclude the case of the controversial pension fraud?

Well, if you are talking about prosecution, I think it is one single element among multiple factors in the fight against corruption. Let us look, for example, the case of prevention and preventive measures taken by the government – (Treasury Single Account (TSA) is there and has succeeded in plunging the existing loopholes in the act of corruption. If you look at the Whistle-Blowing Policy that has been put in place, it has succeeded in identifying the existing corrupt practices and addressing them. If you are looking at a lot of other policies relating to legislation, that are put in place and placed before the National Assembly for passage, they are equally part of the processes that have to do with checkmating corruption as a process.

Abdulrasheed Maina

Let me bring you back to the issue of Abdulrasheed Maina; it is being alleged that you sent four letters relating to Maina’s reinstatement. Did you order for the reinstatement of Abdulrasheed Maina?

As at October 5, 2017, an issue relating to the reinstatement of Abdulrasheed Maina was an issue that was in the process in the Office of the Attorney General, relating to a request that was made by his lawyers sometime back in April. Arriving at a decision like this, some legal processes come into play: the first process was a judgement presented by his lawyer on account of which he had sought the intervention of the Attorney General for his reinstatement and in the first process, thereafter, was a request from the Office of the Public Service of the Federation seeking information to certain enquiries that were met and, thereafter, there was equally a factor relating to a pending court case in the National Industrial Court in respect of which you equally have to factor in mind before arriving at a decision. As at October 2017, the truth of the matter is, it was a process that was not concluded in the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation.

Now it is being reported that what you call the FCFC was concerning the court order and warrant of arrest. But what the public is saying is that Abdulrasheed Maina was not removed from office based on the warrant of arrest but because he absconded from work.

The correspondence that exchanged hands over time in relating to addressing Maina were mostly inquisitive as the Office of the Attorney General, seeking clarification on certain issues. In arriving at a decision in one way or the other, you require a lot of information and the information has to deal with the processes and the antecedents leading to the judgements if any, orders if any, pending suits if any – it is in the combination of these that you now analyse and arrive at a decision. That is why I told you earlier that it is a process that was ongoing, that has not been concluded as at October 5, 2017.

Now, if I may ask, what is your relationship with Abdulrasheed Maina?

Well, the truth of the matter is that I do not have any relationship whatsoever with Abdulrasheed Maina. The first time ever in life that I came across Abdulrasheed Maina was in January 2016, and that was during a treat in UAE in which I formed part of the entourage of Mr. President. Abdulrasheed Maina was in exile so to speak and he made several attempts through the protocol and associated security officers of the President to meet with Mr. President. He couldn’t penetrate, he was not accorded the audience. Some people within suggested he could approach the Attorney General because he was part of that entourage. They gave him my number and he made several attempts to talk to me, but no way. The controversy generated back home; I had to seek the opinion of the security agencies as to whether to grant him audience or not and it was suggested to me that it is good, information is vital, I should grant him an audience, even against the background of the Office of the Attorney General relating to prosecution and associated things.

So I had course to meet with Abdulrasheed Maina for the first time then in January 2016, in company with the National Security Adviser (retired Major General Babagana Moguno) where Abdulrasheed Maina now gave us a very heavy rundown of the prevailing fraud within the pension scheme and offered to assist the Federal Government in plunging the loopholes, making information available that could be useful to the Federal Government and then associated vital information. So that was the first time ever in life that I came in contact with Abdulrasheed Maina.

Now in clear terms, did you reinstate Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina?”

Well, the reinstatement of Mr Maina in the absence of a judgement of a court, for example, you should naturally be a function of the Federal Civil Service Commission because as an employee of the Federal Civil Service, it is the responsibility particularly if you have a recourse to Section 158 of the Constitution and in exercising that discretion, the constitution is clear. The Federal Civil Service is not bound by any directive of any person or organ of government. So constitutionally, if you are talking of the reinstatement of Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina, it is a function of the Federal Civil Service Commission.

Who reinstated Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina?

When it borders on constitutional issues, as I stated rightly, the function is exclusively that of the Federal Civil Service Commission. But then, if issues arise particularly as it relates to the judgments of the court and others, the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation has a responsibility to seek for clarification, to seek for certain information from any agency of government for the purpose of interviewing when the need judiciously arises for surveying.

Now the President has also been dragged into this and legal experts are saying that he has no constitutional powers to disengage Maina from service but he should concentrate on the role of his aides in reinstating Mr. Maina; what do you have to say about this?

Well, generally issues that border on establishment, issues that border on executive powers are issues that you have to analyse within the context of the constitutional provisions and associated legislation if any. So to the extent, whether Mr. President reserves the power to take positions or not, I think is something that you have from the perspective of what constitutes the powers of the executive.

People are saying that since you are fully aware that the EFCC has placed Mr. Maina on a watchlist, you never confined with the EFCC in all the processes of the prayer for his reinstatement.

Maybe one other issue that you need to factor into consideration is that Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina as a person has instituted multiple actions in court and among the actions instituted by him is an action against the Immigration, EFCC, and Inspector-General of Police to the effect that he should be taken out of the watchlist and an order was granted accordingly. In compliance with the court order, these agencies of government do not require any sanction from the Office of the Attorney General and then perhaps on their own, they unilaterally lifted him out of the watchlist. And then, perhaps Mr. Maina came into Nigeria on his own arising from the court orders that were granted. So the Office of the Attorney General felt no wrong whatsoever in bringing Mr. Maina back into the country.

Is the government considering absorbing Maina into the civil service as a reward to the vital information he is providing on the pension fraud?

The government has not taken any position, has not given any commitment to Maina in return for the information that he has provided and then for you, it is equally important to put across for the notice of the public that absorbing Maina in the event that he is absorbed back into the system does not grant him any immunity from criminal prosecution or investigation when the need for such arises. It may interest you to know that about two months back, arising from the Whistle-Blowing Policy, a law firm by the name ‘Sheriff and Co.’ filed an application in the Office of the Attorney General seeking to recover a certain amount of money, I think about N283m from an account associated with Maina and then, that instruction was accorded and that money was recovered. The law firm was eventually paid the recovery fees arising from the recoveries made.

Now, $2bn at stake. What is the truth about this pension fraud?

It will be pre-emptive for the investigation that is ongoing and then secondly of the processes relating to the planned prosecution of the high-profile members of the pension syndicate for me to start naming them because it will undermine the possibility of prosecution. But one thing I want to put across to the public is that the list of those involved cuts across almost all spheres. As members of the executive, within the executive circle, you have people that are involved. Within the legislative circle, people are involved and among all the civil service as well.

Is the government keen in unravelling these people involved in the pension fraud and also considering bringing the syndicate to book?

The process is ongoing and I will tell you in all sincerity that it was that process that now generated into those things relating to your statement. Perhaps maybe the syndicate have been trying to use the issue of Maina to overshadow what the government is trying to do in terms of investigation and prosecution of members of the syndicate.

Mr. Maina was in exile for a long while and people are wondering, why did you clear him and prevented his arrest?

I want to assure you that the Office of the Attorney General has not cleared Maina. And then in terms of giving protection to him against arrest, the Office of the Attorney General does not have any instrument of authority at its disposal in providing protection to any individual. But one thing I can assure you is that no immunity is conferred on Maina and then the Office of the Attorney General, even as at October has taken steps to make recoveries against certain companies and individuals who are allegedly directly connected with Maina.

Does that suggest in any way there might be institutional compromisers in relation to the investigation and also the prosecution of the pension scam?

You cannot rule out compromisers generally but one thing I want to bring to your attention, for example, is as, at 2013 and 2014, Maina had course to go to court severally and obtained a lot of judgements and orders at that time. Those judgments and orders were against institutions like the EFCC, Immigration, National Assembly, Inspector General of Police. From 2013 when such judgments and orders started coming Maina’s way, there wasn’t any attempt by any agency to appeal against those judgements offered in an application for stay of execution. After the time in 2015, when this government came into office, from 2013 after he started going to court till 2015, there was nothing established on record of any attempt to challenge the orders and judgments that were being obtained by Maina.

Now there has been a widespread allegation that the Federal Government has bluntly disobeyed court orders.

Well, the conclusion as to compliance or obedience to court orders is not a conclusion one can readily reach without fathoming the processes associated with compliance of court order in mind. If an order is made, you appeal against the order. For example, you file an application for a stay of execution of an order, it will be pre-emptive for you to jump into conclusion that there exists disobedience to the court order.

Are you bringing in institutional bottlenecks to advert obeying court orders?

No, when rights exist, I think entitlement to exercise it equally comes into play. You have a constitutional right of appeal against judgments and orders and then you are entitled as a matter of fact to exercise such rights when you feel you are not fairly treated or when you feel there is a need to appeal against those orders. That is one aspect of it, but then again, when there is multiplicity of investigation, that naturally comes into play. You are, for example, charged with fraud, and then along the line, the cases of murder emanate that calls for investigation around your person. The fact that you are granted bail over the charge of fraud does not prevent the institution or establishment from taking further investigative steps over murder and that does not automatically entitle you to comply with the order relating to fraud when you know there exists a pending serious investigation that has to be carried out for the purpose of establishing a case.

You are a member of the three-man probe panel that investigated the former SGF and the former NIA boss. But the public is worried that even up to this moment, the details of that report have not been made public.

This government has demonstrated serious political will of transparency in doing things. And that is the more reason why you have the freedom of information take place, freedom of information which entitles you to information on request. So the bottom line is, is there a request for information? Is there denial? My answer is clearly no. There is no request that has been denied and then, the members of the public are entitled to know. And then, if they are indeed interested in knowing, they have to comply with the requirements of the freedom of information. It is not something that you are obliged as a matter of obligation, as a matter of duty to make public in the absence of demand, against the background of the Freedom of Information Act.

The Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee against corruption, Professor Itse Sagay, said that the anti-corruption team needs to go back to the drawing box to search and scan the constitution on how to deal with the terming scourge of corruption; is this not an indictment?

Well, the process of going back to the drawing box for the purpose of the enhancement of the efficiency of any system, I think cannot be adjudged as an indictment but I think that calls for a greater action with a view to achieving greater results. So I do not look at it as an indictment, but I look at it as perhaps maybe the need for taking further steps in terms of enhancing the system as it exists, by way of bringing new ideas, additional consideration, that can now reinvigorate the process.

It is time to take account of stewardship. It is sad to note that the whistle-blower of the $15bn Ikoyi stashed fund is yet to be paid.

The starting point now, as it is, for example, is the whistle-blower signing an agreement which we call the Whistle-Blower Engagement Agreement of the Federal Government which is done in the Office of the Attorney General. When the agreement is signed and then the agencies move into action, when eventually recoveries are made, they are usually lodged in the Federal Government’s Recovery Account in the Central Bank of Nigeria. Often such lodgements, there has to be a request for the payment of the fee from a whistle-blower, and then you will now attach the request. You will equally attach the whistle-blower agreement that has been signed and forward same to the Central Bank and seek confirmation from the Central Bank on the lodgement of that amount of money. The Central Bank will now confirm to you the existence of such amount of money and then, armed with the copy of the agreement, the copy of the letter of request and then a report from the Central Bank that lodgement has indeed been effected. The Office of the Attorney General now processes the request for payment to the Ministry of Finance which now has the final mandate to process the payment.

Why Jonathan could not accuse me of corruption – Amaechi

Rotimi Amaechi, Nigeria’s minister of transport said that former President Goodluck Jonathan Could not accuse him of corruption because the former President and his aides knew that he was not corrupt even as he (Amaechi) called out them out over the monumental corruption that was the hallmark of Jonathan’s administration.

Amaechi in an interview with PT spoke on a wide range of issues…

PT: What are the challenges you have faced in this ministry?

Amaechi: Money has been the basic challenge. The contracts that you need to deliver on a railway are in tonnes of naira. Take for example the approval by the president that we should do a railway from Abuja to Lokoja to join Itakpe to Warri as well as a sea port in Warri; that project was put at $3.1 billion, which is nearly N1 trillion. Where will you get the money from?

PT: When you say that money is your problem, what are you doing with the private sector?

Amaechi: I don’t know why people engage in this debate without looking at the realities. Everywhere in the world when it comes to real operation, people get involved. Like we are having a real operation investment in the narrow gauge in which GE is bringing about two million dollars to revive the old narrow gauge and run them by themselves.

But when it comes to real construction, it is usually the government because they are in trillions. How many persons can raise that? The contract from Lagos to Kano is $8.3 billion, the contract from Lagos to Calabar is $11.1 billion dollars. At N300 per dollar, that is N3.3 trillion.

PT: You have just explained that one of the reasons why government takes charge of real construction is because of the requirement for huge sums of money. Yet you had stated that the River Niger dredging costs this government only N100 million. Were you referring to maintenance dredging there or capital dredging?

Amaechi: Maintenance dredging. But what is capital dredging? It’s the same 2.5-meter draft. The work has been slow because the dredgers were rented out. Next year I have told them to include it in their budget to buy a very big dredger, so you don’t need to award the contract. What will a contractor do other than to use a dredger to desilt the river; which you can do if you have your staff?

PT: So, what you are saying is that because dredgers are not adequately available, the contract was outsourced?

Amaechi: I said NIWA is handling the contract. Nobody will do it for you at N100 million now. The only way you can do it at N100 million is that you are paying the staff their regular salary and you are buying diesel to fuel the dredger and the dredger belongs to NIWA.

PT: Recently when you announced that with the improvement in patronage of trains, the Kaduna Abuja rail now generates N30 million monthly; you added that the operational cost is N56 million per month. Does that mean the rail is being run at a monthly deficit of N26 million?

Amaechi: Of course. Because you are subsidising. Where will you run a rail transport for N1,000 and then the business coach is N1, 500? The passengers themselves are the people begging that we should increase the cost of transportation and we are hoping that by October when we receive more coaches, we will increase the price. I don’t know how much we will increase it to. But we will increase the price so that even if we do not pay the entire cost of operation, we can at least reduce the loss.

We expect about 10 to 17 more coaches by October. I think by the time the new coaches and locomotives arrive, we will be doing 130 kilometres per hour. The current speed is 80 kilometres and the train has a capacity of 150 kilometres per hour.

PT: We understand that some people are already taking advantage of the scarcity to extort money from unsuspecting passengers by purchasing these tickets for the normal price of N1, 000 and selling at high prices as N3000. What do you intend to do about this?

Amaechi:  There is nothing you can do about it. Ordinarily, what law is the man breaking? The man is trading. He buys a ticket and he offers you at N3000. If you don’t want to buy, you don’t want to buy.

The man is not creating scarcity, the scarcity is because government is not able to bring in more coaches. So, the solution to it is go and bring in more coaches, the man won’t have a business. As soon as we bring in more coaches and have between 10 to 17 coaches; there will be too many space for the man not to have that market. We currently have only four coaches. These four coaches can only take 120 passengers. So, if you have about 800 passengers, that means there is a deficit of about 600 and something. So, some passengers will pay more if they must go to Kaduna.

PT: Having completed the Kaduna Abuja rail, would you consider it part of your achievements, given the fact that it was not originally your project?

Amaechi: That will be very unfair. For instance, why is the Itakpe-Warri not running? It was awarded 30 years ago. Now, we are focusing on it and if N100 billion is required to complete it and we bring that; then they say, ‘no it’s not your project’. You see, that’s why politicians don’t complete projects if it is abandoned, because you will go and say; ‘it’s not your projects. It’s like what I told my supporters in Rivers State; that it doesn’t matter if Wike completes a project I started and takes the glory. We did not believe in the principle of commissioning projects. He believes in the principle of commissioning projects, then let him go ahead. We believe you are employed by the people, your salary is paid by the people; and then you do your job and call the people to come and dance with you because you have done your job?

Let us consider the Kaduna-Abuja rail that you talked about. It is part of the Lagos-Kano. It was close to 90 per cent completed. But key is that there were some things that we needed to address: we had to deal with the obstacles. One of them is that the Catholic Church needed land and compensation for their land and the buildings we were going to demolish. We paid the compensation. Personally, I went to the Minister for FCT and got the approval for a Certificate of Occupancy and handed it over to them and we got government to fence their land for them and they vacated. So, you cannot say it is not our project. We are not laying credit. What matters is that business is running.

The Itakpe-Warri rail was awarded in 1987, and up till today, it has not been completed. About 50 kilometres have been vandalised – from Itakpe to Lokoja. Now, we are awarding a fresh contract to CCECC to enable us rebuild from Itakpe to Lokoja. Hopefully, cabinet should be able to discuss it once we send a memo.

PT: Among the various allegations against you by Rivers State governor Nyesom Wike, he accused you of admitting to have taken $39 billion for the construction of a specialist hospital in your state, which was never built. Would you comment on that?

Amaechi: That is not completely correct. To the extent that we paid, yes! That is correct. Our contribution to that project was three billion. So, we had given them that money, which they utilised. I arrested the man and handed him over to the police, because if he knew from day one that he wanted me to award him contract, then he should have said so. I would have looked for the money. I would use the public procurement process. But he came behind and said, ‘bring 10 per cent, we will bring 90 per cent’. And that excited me as a governor and I brought the N10 per cent he promised and then he came to me and said; ‘I have done this; I have done that’; they do not have money, and that is what we disagreed on. So how does that constitute corruption? They had finished the foundation, 18 floors.

I am not too happy that it is now that Nigerians will say I am so corrupt. Why did Goodluck not prosecute me or even accuse me then? When I was accusing him and shouting corruption. Don’t forget I was the first person to shout that $49 billion was missing from NNPC. Sanusi wrote the letter but kept quiet. I stumbled upon it and went public.  The CBN Governor wrote in September and then I saw it the next year. A lot of people tried to compromise me and I refused.

]

When I spoke up about oil subsidy; do you think I was not tempted? Under Obasanjo, oil subsidy was N300 billion, under Yar’Adua oil subsidy was N300 billion. Under Jonathan’s first six month in office, oil subsidy rose from N300 billion to N1.7trillion! You think they did not invite me, that nobody spoke to me? You think nothing happened behind? I will write my book. Nobody accused me of corruption all that time. Then, suddenly one young man comes up and says, ‘Oh! He is corrupt! Two years after leaving office, they have not prosecuted Amaechi; I have no immunity.

PT: Are you sure you were not prosecuted because you were a governor at the time? That’s considering your question that the Goodluck Jonathan administration never prosecuted you.

PT: Can you tell us about the recently reported practitioner’s operating fee for ports officials that was introduced by this administration?But why did they not even accuse me? I was not prosecuting him, I was accusing him. They know; Goodluck Jonathan knows that I don’t like money, if they want to be honest.

Amaechi: It was there by law. The only thing that happened is that when I came, these people were collecting the money that the law says government should collect and give them a percentage. When I came in, I told them that we should implement the law. They refused. They took me to court. You don’t come and threaten me. The only person that can threaten me now and I will kneel down is my wife. Not men. Let him pull out, other people will come in. The law says you will pay x y z first, then government will split it with you. But first, you will pay that money to government.

PT: Given the economic recession and its effects on the masses, coupled with the controversies that have trailed the president’s medical vacation especially in recent times, would you say that the ruling party still has nothing to worry about in the next election?

Amaechi: I am not the party’s chairman.

PT: But as a member of his party, would you say that the cabinet is not bothered, for example about the president’s health and other related issues?
Shouldn’t we be thankful about where we are now? Have you checked our rating in Transparency International’s list of corrupt countries? Is anybody chasing you out of the roads now because somebody important is passing? We are not high-profile ministers. The challenges were fait accompli. Apparently, we were going to go into recession. Now, we are walking out of this recession. A lot of indicators show that we are. The only problem we have is the cost of food production. We were importing about 3 million tonnes of rice, now we are saying let’s produce at home.
A What should bother us should be the President’s health. He has left everything in order. Once we know that he is alive and is recuperating, that calls for celebration.

Give it the next 10 years and the price of rice will go down.

Source PT

At no time was CRK removed but some people prefer hearsay- Adamu Adamu

Adamu Adamu, minister of education — who trained as an accountant and also journalist, earning degrees from ABU, Zaria, and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, New York, US — has come under intense focus recently because of burning issues under his watch. The most notable are the alleged removal of CRK from school curriculum and the deaths of students at the Queen’s College, Lagos. He speaks on the issues in this interview with TheCable


TheCable: We know the issue of the alleged removal of Christian Religious Knowledge (CRK) from the curriculum is being laid to rest, but what really happened? Was there a miscommunication?

Adamu: No. There was no miscommunication. Actually, this thing happened exactly last year. They got the report, assumed prepared in 2014, but even that report of 2014 did not cancel any subject. Only that they grouped subjects together. IRK, CRK and then what they called national values and so on. But when I came, I made it clear at the last meeting of National Council of Education; I said social studies must be disarticulated because I believe history is so important. So, it must be studied separately and that was approved by the council. Then I said okay they should be disarticulated… even though that is not the right word. Let’s say complete separation so that people will see if there are Christians whose children are learning CRK, and if there are Muslims, IRK is there…‎ and they applauded and I said they’re compulsory, they applauded. And I hope we can even make it compulsory up to the end of senior secondary school. It was very unfortunate that when people look at social media or when they hear hearsay, people who could just call me or someone in the ministry of education but they decided to believe it, there is nothing I can do about that.

TheCable: What is your ministry doing to address the frequent closure of universities?

Adamu: You know, the most important cause of school closure used to be the unions. Since I became ‎the minister, I think we see eye to eye with the unions. I think what they wanted was assurance that there are people here who are sincere in what they are doing. The three or four incidents that happened, I think they are local and the ministry was not in a position to have prevented them or to have even anticipated them. But immediately we hear of any problem, we jump into action and bring the situation under control.

TheCable: From what we hear it appears the ministry is overwhelmed with the budgetary requirement to keep the schools going?

Adamu: Certainly. You know that the releases we get‎ are not sufficient. That is why in some of the institutions we find out that there are problems with the lecturers because they don’t receive their salaries on time. Even if they do on time, it is not in full. I think there is a problem, but the budget office and the ministry of finance, I think, are looking into it.

TheCable: Are you considering a situation where there are no fees?

Adamu: You know if it is possible, I will even‎ want a complete take-off of fees so that people will get free education. But the reality is that this will not be possible now. It will take time and I really don’t know when this will be possible. But certainly, I want education to be free- absolutely free.

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“It was very unfortunate that when people look at social media or when they hear hearsay, people who could just call me or someone in the ministry of education but they decided to believe it”

TheCable: Has the ministry investigated the Queen’s College deaths?

Adamu: Yes, it has. The investigation was done by this ministry in conjunction with the ministry of ‎health. And what they discovered… the problem came about because of overstretched facilities and some infections going into the water system of the college.

TheCable: Were there recommendations?

Adamu: The recommendations ‎were to make sure that these things are addressed and eliminated; to clean up the water system and especially the storage facilities. And to ensure hygienic environment, let’s say in the kitchen and in the clinic and so on…  so as to ensure that the infection is eliminated.

TheCable: Was there any recommendation on the leadership of the school concerning the things that went bad?

Adamu: There was no recommendation on the leadership. It is left to the ministry to take action on those responsible. But the investigation that was done actually earlier is about the cause of the thing not blame-apportioning. I think the ministry is now going to do that.

TheCable: We understand the principal was transferred to another school…

Adamu: No, it has got nothing to do with this. It was just a general transfer of principals‎ and I think it was in order that the coincidence came… because if she was around she would have probably interfered with the investigation. She was moved simply because all principals were moved.

TheCable: We would like to know if any attempt has been made to investigate her.

Adamu: Investigation is going on now and investigation is also going on an earlier ‎incident when a teacher (Olaseni Osifala) was accused of sexual harassment. We sent a team, and the team went there and came back with a report that virtually ignored the man because they couldn’t even identify the man who made the charge. You know that this is a no case. But later on one of the leading members of the alumni association came here and she told me this is the problem. And those who are involved didn’t want to face the camera because of the embarrassment that will follow admission of something like that. Now, they have three students who are ready even to be interviewed on television. So, I have set up a committee that will be going to the school to investigate anew in the light of the new evidence that is available.

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“The overheads that we are getting are just not sufficient for what is required on all the school campuses”

TheCable: Do you regularly audit the accounts of the school?

Adamu: Yes, we do. I think there is quarterly ‎auditing and annual auditing.

TheCable: And nothing untoward has been discovered in the last two or three years?

Adamu: Not to my knowledge.

TheCable: Are you aware of the different fees students are asked to pay by school authorities?

Adamu: Yes, the ministry is aware‎. It’s a whole schedule. I think depending on which class. JSS 1 and 2, I think they have the same but I can’t remember the exact figure now.

TheCable: What fees were approved by the ministry for unity schools like Queen’s College?

Adamu: I think there is a flat amount of N15,000. If any school is collecting anything outside that from parents, that will be in breach of the directives of the ministry.  Immediately ‎we get it, we will investigate it. And if you know any, please tell me.

TheCable: What kind of reports were you getting on Queen’s College every year?

Adamu: I think there are two types of reports- academic one, which is very good and always getting better, and there is the situational analysis – I think one of the reports was showing that there is problem with the infrastructure.

TheCable: Was anything done in this regard?

Adamu: Of course, the ministry has already given them the appropriation and they are to do whatever that is required to do from that money.

TheCable: Do you suspect things were not done right?

Adamu: Even though it has taken many years ‎without repairs… so probably it is not 100 percent certain that the money has been misappropriated but it is not impossible.

TheCable: Will you look into that?

Adamu: Certainly. We are going to look into that, and everything.

TheCable: So Nigerians are assured that what happened at Queen’s College will not happen again?

Adamu: It will never happen. But probably I should add‎ that the ministry and the institutions under the ministry, the overheads that we are getting are just not sufficient for what is required on all the school campuses. So, within that limit, I think things will get better.

Source Thecable