True Federalism: Southern governors must work together – Ambode

Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State says southern governors must come together to resolve issues of common interest. Ambode spoke while welcoming his colleagues from the southern part of the country who stormed Lagos on Monday for their meeting under the aegis of the Southern Governors Forum. Extracts from his address:
We will recall that the maiden gathering of this forum was held in 2001 at the Akodo Beach Resort, Ibeju Lekki, here in Lagos. The initiative to set up the SGF was received with mixed feelings at the time. There were those who read partisan political moves into the idea. Others saw it as essentially sectional and potentially divisive while some dismissed the SGF as another superfluous talk shop of doubtful utility. However, the convener of the inaugural edition of the forum and my illustrious predecessor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, gave a robust articulation of the necessity for the forum in his address to participants, which remains relevant and pertinent even today. On that occasion he said, “We are of course aware that our northern brothers have met regularly and publicly articulated common positions of interest in the polity. While some have condemned such meetings, I believe very strongly that such fora should indeed be actively encouraged and supported. Our democracy and federal system can only be strengthened when various groups and component parts of the country are free to discuss and pursue their perceived common aspirations within the framework of the law. There are unquestionably issues of common interest to us as governors of states in the southern region of Nigeria. This does not mean that there are no matters which the South-West, the South-East, or the South-South, respectively, may feel constrained to pursue separately at other fora”. From its modest beginning in 2001, the SGF held at least nine meetings over the following four years with the last one taking place again in Lagos on Friday, 25th  February, 2005. During this period, the forum became a significant voice on matters of critical import both to the south and to Nigeria as a whole. Perhaps, we need to quickly remind ourselves some of the landmark achievements obtained through the pressure exerted by this forum in the past. The first was its collective advocacy for the special allocation to oil producing states in the federation account which resulted in the current formula of 13% accruing for Derivation in allocating revenues from the Federation Account. Another major victory won towards strengthening the country’s practice of true federalism was the declaration by the Supreme Court in 2002 that the then prevalent practice of the federal government deducting monies from the Federation Account as a first line charge for the funding of Joint Venture Contracts, NNPC priority projects, servicing of Federal Government’s external debt, the judiciary and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and other federal obligations were illegal and unconstitutional. The Supreme Court in that case abolished the special funds created by the Federal Government to enable it draw funds from the Federation Account to pay for matters that fell within its exclusive responsibility before sharing whatever was left with the states and local governments. Despite these successes, there is still a lot to be done. There is certainly a lot to be done about true federalism; an issue that requires urgent, meticulous and proactive attention by this forum. o less disturbing is the failure to undertake the periodic review of the revenue allocation formula as provided for by the constitution to reflect evolving realities. This is another critical matter that ought to engage this forum in order to enhance the viability of the states and local governments as well as their capacity to fulfill their developmental roles in the polity. All too often, states are disparaged for always carrying begging bowls to Abuja in quest of hand-outs from the federal government. This is a function of our present national constitution that burdens the federal government with activities and responsibilities that rightly fall within the province of the states. The productivity and revenue-generating capacities of most of the states are thus stifled thus turning them into no better than street beggar states incapable of even meeting routine obligations of paying workers’ salaries and pensions without federal support. Lagos State has fought and won several legal battles since 1999 that has systematically strengthened her autonomy and enhanced her fiscal viability. Over the years, the state has won legal control over the management of its environment, control of urban and physical planning, regulation of overhead masts, registration and regulation of hotels and restaurants and control of her inland waterways. And these victories do not belong to Lagos alone, but to all other states in the federation and which they must explore significantly. I believe that If Lagos has been able to achieve so much fighting singly, the SGF can accomplish much more by thinking, planning, strategizing and acting together. This resuscitation of the SGF is coming at a most appropriate time. As we are aware, the Senate and House of Representatives are currently harmonizing their differences on the proposed amendments to the 1999 constitution before they are transmitted to the state Houses of Assembly for approval. It is important for this forum to comprehensively look at the proposed amendments with a view to working with our respective Houses of Assembly to ensure a coordinated response on our part that will strengthen the practice of democracy, federalism, constitutionalism and the rule of law. In our deliberations, particularly on the pressing need for greater devolution of powers, responsibilities and resources from the centre to the states, our preoccupation must not be with having a weak centre and strong states or vice versa. Rather, in the words of the Indian politician and statesman, Bhupesh Gupta, on the floor of the Indian parliament on May 9th, 1969, “Therefore, we want a centre which will function on the basis of democratic principles and safeguard the unity and integrity of the nation as a whole; whereas at the same time we must have the states enjoying a wide range of powers, economic, political and otherwise, in order that out of this arrangement there develops a symphony of centre-state relations to the common good of the people of the country. There is no contradiction between having a democratic and viable centre and having at the same time, strong, democratic states”.

S-East Govs, Igbo leaders task FG on deplorable roads, airport

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ENUGU- South east Governors together with Igbo leadership have charged the federal government to expedite action on all the federal roads in the south east region whose situations have further worsened. The Igbo leaders also approved for a regional economic summit with support from the United Kingdom Department for International Development, DFID, slated to take place between 11 to 13 November 2017. Arising from a meeting in Enugu, Sunday, the South East leaders frowned at the deplorable state ‎of Akanu Ibiam International Airport, particularly the runway, the terminal buildings and the cargo shelter. It equally approved the visit of Brenthurst foundation of South Africa to the south east for an economic mission scheduled between‎ 6- 11 November. Those who were in the meeting included Governors of Enugu State Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, Ebonyi state David Umuahi and Abia state, Okezie Ikpeazu. Imo and Anambra states were represented by their Deputy governors, Eze Madumere and Nkem Okeke, respectively. Also in the meeting were the Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, other members of the National Assembly from the zone, President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo, Speakers of the five state Houses of Assembly in the zone. Former Minister for power, Professor Barth Nnaji and some other Igbo leaders equally attended the meeting. They said that “Further to o‎ur meeting with Mr. President earlier in the month on the deplorable state of infrastructure in the South east especially federal roads such as Enugu-9th mile- Onitsha road, Enugu- Port Harcourt road, Aba-Ikot Ekpene road, Okigwe-Owerri road and 9thmile-Makurdi Express road. “The meeting called on the federal government to take urgent steps in repairing the roads especially at this dry season. “Equally of importance is the the deplorable state of Akanu Ibiam International Airport especially the run‎way, terminal buildings and cargo shelter. We request that urgent steps be taken to address the problems at the airport.” The meeting expressed satisfaction at the willingness and readiness of Anambra people to come out en-mass and participate on the November 18 governorship election and urged the ‎Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to ensure that the election takes place as scheduled.

 

Re-inventing Port Harcourt as a shipping hub (The Guardian)

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In the light of weakening global oil prices coupled with Nigerian Government’s new mantra of diversification, there is an urgent need for the Federal Government and all relevant stakeholders in the shipping industry to give adequate attention to Port Harcourt seaports to ensure they are brought back to their original status as a bustling shipping hub as envisioned by the founding fathers.

Port Harcourt was originally created as a port city and shipping hub to export coal and agriculture products in 1912. However when crude oil was eventually discovered in 1956 it changed everything. The city moved from export of non oil products to a major industrial center with a number of large industrial firms particularly businesses related to the oil and gas industry. Everything in the city directly or indirectly now has a bearing on oil and the city has abandoned the ideals of the founding fathers who positioned it as a shipping and commercial hub beyond crude oil.

Port Harcourt and indeed the old Rivers State is paying the price and feeling the pinch brought about by the weakening oil prices. The Port Harcourt Chamber of Commerce is seriously engaging a whole lot of stakeholders to see how we can get the city back to what it was originally created for; to be a shipping hub for agricultural and non oil exports, while still providing a base for the nation’s oil and gas industry.

Port Harcourt port was about the second largest port in the country, however now the port is now underutilised and is facing huge facility challenges. We agree we have the Onne port managed by Intels, which is acclaimed one of the biggest oil and gas free zones in the world, but the Onne port is strictly focused on oil and gas related cargo and their charges are astronomically high. Even non oil cargo are charged as if they are oil related and this is not good for business in this era of economic diversification.

Another challenge is the persistence inaction on the part of the port regulators concerning disparity in rates charges between the Lagos ports and the eastern ports. What we don’t understand is why the cargo passing through Port Harcourt ports will cost more than Lagos? This high rate is taking businesses away from Port Harcourt. Most business cargo is now going through Lagos and they are killing the ports in the east. However, one sure thing is that the swamp oil field and land cannot be taken from where it is, which is Port Harcourt and Niger Delta, hence there is a need to expedite action to ensure that seaports in the state are functional to facilitate import and export of other commodities beyond crude oil.

Port Harcourt Chamber of Commerce has been doing a lot to remedy the situation, we are engaging government and other stakeholders to see how we can change the situation and ensure we stop businesses from continuously moving out of the city. This call and more efforts have become necessary becaus virtually all the importers from Onitsha, Aba, Port Harcourt and environs now pass their goods through Lagos and this shouldn’t be so. The Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, and Nigeria Shippers Council, NSC, as regulators should bring down their prices so that the likes of Intels Limited will follow suit. They must acknowledge that payments for non-oil cargo should not be tagged along like an oil cargo. So basically the chamber is engaging across board from the various levels of government, Ministry of Transport, Agencies and Intels Limited to see how we can work closely to revive the Port Harcourt ports.

 There has been a lot of presentation to us by the Nigerian Export Promotion Council, NEPC, we are interfacing with the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission, NIPC, and we have sustained engagement with the, NSC. Furthermore, we are setting the tone to engage the NPA one of the critical regulators to say that something need to be done to make the old Port Harcourt port fully functional again while Onne with world class facility needs a review on its rates to accommodate non oil cargo because what we have in place now as rates are astronomically high.

 So in all we are saying, Port Harcourt need to go back to shipping which is the ideals of the founding fathers ; we must take a cue from Singapore and Mauritius. These countries had nothing but they were able to identify their potential in shipping, and today, they are among the best and sustaining their economy with that.

We can solve the problems by first getting the old Port Harcourt port back on stream; how? by dredging and further expanding the ports, which in turn will open up the channels to accommodate and allow various size of vessels to come in. We must as matter of priority review our stifling policies to create healthy competition, engage the various stakeholders to work on reviewing charges to reflect realities and create soft landings to encourage businesses.

“While oil and gas related cargo is unavoidable in Port Harcourt businesses, we must as a matter of main concern ensure we also encourage the non oil related cargo to increase shipping activities; when you do that there is a value chain in oil servicing, shipping servicing and others services which ultimately will trickle down to the least businesses,” he was quoted as saying.Membere- Otaji is the President, Port Harcourt Chamber of Commerce

Stemming from the fact that Port Harcourt is acclaimed to be an oil and gas enclave, the global fall in oil prices drastically affected the city, oil businesses came down, contractors were not longer getting jobs, people were being laid off from job and the effect is massive unemployment and hardship which consequently leads to the usual socio-economic issues we are abreast with that spirals to other problems.

So basically if we strive to take Port Harcourt back to the idea envisioned by the founding fathers, we stand to gain a lot as there will be in-country trading, for example Dangote Limited and others are exploring coal and other solid minerals in Kogi and other state to power his cement factory and we will need marine haulage in-country that will contribute to stimulating the economy.

We must take advantage of our natural potentials to better our economic life; look at Mississipi in the US, a River that span across so many cities and states, and has been instrumental to stimulating those economies – we should be able to replicate this. We must take advantage of our stretch of coastal lines, intensify effort on our non oil export, agriculture, industrial fishing and agro allied products and explore the value chain on petroleum in the form of petrochemicals and fertilizer plants..

While security remains a critical issue not only in Port Harcourt but the Niger Delta as whole, strong concerted efforts from the major stakeholders especially the oil companies and strong political will on the part of the national government will ameliorate the issue.

Only recently the Somalian pirates made that shipping lane impassable but today, that is history because of strong efforts from key stakeholders, Also government should put in place a medium to long term development plan for the oil producing Niger delta beyond the stop gap Amnesty Programme and NDDC.

From the time of the pre-independence Willinks Commission report, stop gaps have never provided permanent solutions. Since every business in Nigeria cannot gravitate in Lagos, a so called ‘safe haven with good infrastructure’, efforts should be made to develop other cities like Port Harcourt, Kano, Jos, Enugu, Ibadan, Warri etc. to become excellent economic centres. Anything else will be likened to playing out the ostrich game.

This post was first published on the The Guardian

 

PORT HARCOURT POLO CLUB: A place of leisure and entertainment

Port Harcourt Polo Club is a place of leisure and entertainment for members and spectators. It is a place for horse riding and the game of polo. In the culture and spirit of Port Harcourt, Port Harcourt Polo Club hosts its club’s tournament annually. Do you want to join and enjoy this equestrian sports, visit Port Harcourt Polo Club at Tombia Street, New GRA Phase 2, Port Harcourt.Polo is a ball sport game played on horses. You can simply enjoy this game by just getting a horse and a whole string of polo ponies. Ensure you have the right skills to avoid injuries. For more information on the game, mount, player, field, equipments, handicaps and duties of the spectator, visit poloclubph.org.

At the beginning of every year, Port Harcourt city bubbles with glamorous, king of sports, and sports for the kings festival, where many of the teams participate in a contest. Various dignitaries gather to watch and enjoy this game. Among them are captains of industries and top government officials. Port Harcourt Polo Tournament 2016 witnessed the Father of Polo in Nigeria, the Emir of Katsina, His Highness, Alhaji Abdulmumini Kabir Usman CFR, Minister of State for Aviation, Hon Senator Hadi Sirika, King of Brass, King Alfred Diete-Spiff, First Military Governor of old Rivers State, Port Harcourt Polo Club President Ibiwari Boma Pepple and many more dignitaries.

Governor Wike releases $1m for 28 Rivers overseas students

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Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, has announced the release of $1 million for 28 final year Rivers State Sustainable Development Agency (RSSDA) overseas students.

Governor Wike had also dispelled rumours that the state government had abandoned Rivers students studying abroad, saying that his administration placed priority on their education.

Speaking through his Commissioner for Finance, Dr. Fred Kpakol, the governor disclosed that the interest of the 28 final year students is in the concern of the government.

He noted that the incumbent government was not responsible for their admissions, but his administration found it necessary that the education sector should be taken very seriously.

“We incurred a lot of debts because the previous government, even while it took the students to foreign universities, could not pay their fees. And most of the students became very frustrated.

“And as students of Rivers State and government is giving service to all and sundry, the governor felt it was necessary to look into their plights and foster a solution to that.

The governor noted that most of the students studying abroad could naturally study in Nigeria because some of the courses they were studying abroad available in Nigerian universities.

 

2019 Presidency: Nothing can stop me from contesting, not even PDP – Fayose boasts

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Ayodele Fayose, Governor of Ekiti State, has vowed that the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, cannot stop him from contesting the 2019 Presidential election.

Speaking during a meeting of South West governors in Lagos, Fayose said the constitution of the country far outweighed that of the party.

According to Fayose, “I am not on my own, I have most Nigerians behind me. Rather, the PDP is on their own.

“I have been well groomed. I am mature and firebrand enough to face challenges of tomorrow. Things don’t happen by accident. When the party (PDP) almost fell apart, how many of them did we see at the time. How many of them spoke at the time.

“If they zoned it to the North, so because I am not a northerner, then I don’t have a right, the Constitution does not allow me to contest? Forget that.

“What are you saying? Have you not seen in this country where a zone has two key offices? We know where the Speaker is from. During Tambuwal Speakership, the post was zoned to the southwest but because we lost it, a zone got the two top appointments in the land.

“It is the Presidency that orders things. When I become President in 2019, I will reorder those things.

“Nothing can stop me from contesting. Even if they pick the party’s chairman from my family: even if they pick my son as party chairman, I will contest.”

Jeff Bezos gains $7 Billion overnight to become World’s Richest Man

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American technology and retail entrepreneur, investor, computer scientist & philanthropist Jeff Bezos is now the richest man in the world after amassing nearly $7billion overnight as at Friday morning

According to calculations by CNBC & Bloomberg Billionaires Index, the Amazon chief’s wealth shot up to more than $90 billion due to Amazon’s share price surging.

This helped Bezos move past Bill Gates to become the world’s richest man. Gates also added to his fortune with $550 million but his earnings was not enough to stay ahead of Bezos.

This could still change however if Microsoft‘s shares continue to rise and Amazon’s shares drop.

 

 

El-Rufai, IGP ordered to pay Audu Maikori N40m over “improper” arrest

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Chocolate City Group’s President Audu Maikori has been awarded the sum of N40 million by the Federal High Court in Abuja.

Maikori had filed a violation of human rights suit against Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna, demanding N10 billion damages for his arrest and detention between February 17 and 18, 2017 and again between March 10 and 13, 2017.

Maikori was arrested for posting “inciting” tweets alleging the killing of some Southern Kaduna students by Fulani herdsmen.

The tweets turned out to be false and Maikori who expressed regret, apologised for them, saying he obtained the information from his driver.

According to Punch, the judge presiding over the case Justice John Tsoho, ordered that the 4 respondents, the Inspector-General of Police, the Commissioner of Police in Kaduna State, the Governor of Kaduna State and the Attorney-General of Kaduna State, pay Maikori N40 million for damages.

The judge also asked that the respondents pay the sum of N1,430 the cost of instituting the suit.

Justice Tsoho also ruled that the judgement should not interfere with the ongoing trial of Maikori in Kaduna State.

He declared that Maikori’s arrest was unlawful, describing it as “improper, irregular and wrongful.”

 

“The key to the unity and progress of Nigeria is in the church” – Osinbajo

The vice president Yemi Osinbajo has encouraged Christian leaders in the country to pay no mind to what they have described as “Islamic Agenda.”

Osinbajo spoke in Lagos at a conference tagged “Towards a Better Nigeria,” organized by Nigerian pastors.

According to Punch, the vice president addressed the Federal Government’s N100bn Sukuk (Islamic bond), which has been criticized by Christian leaders in the country as a plan to Islamise Nigeria.

He described the Sukuk as an Islamic concept which allows people access to credit, and has been used in the US, UK, China, and South Africa. He said:

The Sukuk is an Islamic concept, which enables people to have access to credit. It is essentially like a bond. The US, UK, China, South Africa have all used the Sukuk. Once there is money in the market, let us not get sentimental. The most important thing is for us to use those monies well.

Some people say there are some hidden things in this arrangement and that one day somebody is going to take us over. Where? How will that happen? These are straightforward financial systems used all over the world. I don’t think it presents any real problem. It is a very progressive financial system.

Nigeria became a member of the Islamic Development Bank in 2005 and the first person to sit as director of the bank was Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. The second person to sit as a director is the current Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun, and both of them are Christians. So, when people talk about Islamic agenda, sometimes I am lost.

The person who brought us into the bank is not a Fulani or Northerner, the person was a Christian, so why are we complaining? Nigeria is the fourth largest shareholder in the Islamic Bank. This wasn’t Buhari’s making. We must have facts before saying things. But above all, we must ask ourselves if being a member of the bank profits us or not.

For me, I have no problem with this. We can use what we get there to develop our society. This is the most important for me.

He said a part of the problem with Nigeria is the failure of Christian leaders to take their “rightful place.” He said:

Part of the problem is the failure of Christian leadership to take its rightful place. We focus our minds on something we call the Islamic agenda. We look for it everywhere as if we are looking for demons.

But where is the Christian agenda. Are we not entitled to one? We are too divided as Christians to have an agenda. The key to the unity and progress of Nigeria is in the church.

Osinbajo also addressed the issue of corruption in the country. He described the Nigerian elite as “selfish,” and “unprepared to make the sacrifices.” He said:

We must deal with corruption decisively. It is created by leadership elite that includes not just politicians but also religious leaders and people in the private sector. We must also deal with tribalism, religion and other parochial tendencies. It is difficult to find national leaders today. Many Nigerians speak from a tribal perspective.

There is no nation on the face of the earth that would survive under the weight of corruption that our country had gone through. Nigeria’s elite, regardless of political, religious or ethnic differences, think alike. They are driven largely by the same motive.

They are selfish, unprepared to make the sacrifices either in service or self-restraint that leaders of successive societies make. High-level corruption knows no religion, ethnicity or other considerations.

Corrupt elements in our society are united; they fight for each other and are prepared to go down together. They are actually one tribe, indivisible despite their diversity.

We have to address the issue of corruption pointedly. The system is corrupt. Corruption is generally the rule in our society. This is a time to build. We can become Africa’s most productive nation in the very near future.