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Traditional Rulers Task Buhari To Establish Varsity Of Medical Sciences In Ogun

14 February 2019 - 11:07am


Oba Adedotun Aremu, President of the Ogun State Traditional Council of Obas and the Alake of Egbaland, has tasked President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently give his consent to the establishment of a University of Medicine and Medical Sciences as being proposed by the Federal Medical Centre, Abeokuta.

The Alake's request was contained in an address delivered at a meeting of the Obas with President Buhari during the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential campaign rally in Ogun State.

He had argued that the establishment of the proposed University of Medicine and Medical Sciences was urgently needed in view of the millions of prospective medical students, who were being denied university admission on a yearly basis.

Oba Gbadebo disclosed that Senator Ibikunle Amosun, Governor of Ogun State, had donated 170 hectares of land worth over ₦5billion as a permanent site for the proposed project. He thanked the President for making funds available for the payment of compensation to the villagers, whose lands were acquired for the project.

While addressing the gathering, the Alake said: “The developers and partners within and outside the country have signified their interest in the early actualisation of the project".

Responding to the request, Buhari promised to look into the matter as presented by the Council.

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PREVIEW: Has Incumbent Buhari Done Enough To Earn Another Four Years?

14 February 2019 - 8:39am

Muhammadu Buhari was born on December 17, 1942 in Daura, Katsina State. His father was Hardo Adamu and his mother Zulaihat. He is the 23rd child of his father.

MILITARY CAREER

Buhari enrolled in the Nigerian Military Training College in 1962 (NMTC). NMTC would later be upgraded to an officer commissioning unit of the Nigerian Army and renamed Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA). He served as commander of the Secondary Infantry Battalion and appointed brigade major, second Sector, First Infantry Division from April 1967 to July 1967.

He participated in the Nigerian Civil War that last for almost three years (1967-1970)

Buhari Served as Governor of the North-Eastern State from 1975 to 1976. In March 1976, Head of State, General Olusegun Obasanjo appointed Buhari as the Federal Commissioner (position now called Minister) for Petroleum and Natural Resources. When the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation was created in 1977 Buhari was also made its Chairman, a position he held until 1978.  It is on record that during his tenure as Commissioner, $2.8 billion allegedly went missing from the accounts of the NNPC in Midlands banks in the United Kingdom. In December 1983 he led a coup that ousted the democratically elected President Shehu Shagari from office. Barely two years after, his regime was ended through coup by Ibrahim Babangida

POLITICAL ANTECEDENTS

With the return of Nigeria to civilian rule in 1999, Buhari contested for the presidency in 2007 on the platform of All Nigerians Peoples Party (ANPP) and came second with 12,710,022 as against the winner Umaru Yar’Adua’s 24,456,140 votes. He founded the Congress for Progress Change (CPC) in the build-up to the 2011 elections and he contested on the platform of the party again for the President. He was defeated again, this time by Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

He re-contested in 2015 for the same post on the platform of a coalition party called All Progressives Party (APC) and he won. His victory made him the first candidate in the history of the country to defeat an incumbent President.

STRENGTHS

The North-West is his stronghold. Though Buhari is an influential politician with cult following in the North, his influence is strongest in the Nort-West. Buhari is from Daura Katsina State, which is in the north-west geopolitical zone. He always banks on the votes from this region. Even in the past when he lost to other contenders, Buhari polled massive votes from this region. Official figures from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) show that the region has the highest number of registered voters for the 2019 general election. The North-West has 20,158,100 registered voters, making up 24% of the total number of registered voters, which is 84,004,084. Buhari will be hoping to win a considerable number of votes from here again. Kano, which falls in the north-west region, alone has 5.5 million registered voters.

There is the Lagos State/ Tinubu factor. Buhari’s running mate, Yemi Osinbajo is from the South-West. He was donated to the Buhari administration by his political godfather Bola Tinubu, who calls the shots in Lagos and is a staunch loyalist of the sitting President; he will do anything to ‘mop up’ the chunk of the 6.6 million expected votes from the state. Lagos, according to the numbers released by INEC, has the highest number of registered voters in the country.

There is also the Akpabio factor in the South-South. Godswil Akpabio, the former Governor of Akwa-Ibom State who recently defected to the APC, will want to prove a point to his new party and teach his former party, especially sitting Governor Udom Gabriel Emmanuel, some lessons in politics. He will do anything to win Akwa-Ibom State for Buhari. He also has an ally in Adams Oshimohole; together they will face Nyesom Wike of Rivers and others from the region.

The Trader Moni is another. It was tagged as Federal Government Empowerment Scheme for petty traders and artisans, but it is believed in some quarters to be a vote-buying ploy that might I truth sway some of these petty traders to vote for the APC.

WEAKNESSES

The explosion of the integrity myth. Buhari rode to power in 2015 on the wave of a decent personality and impregnable integrity. Recent decisions taken by him at the helm of affairs have shown otherwise, thus putting the lie to Buhari’s 2015 selling point. Many will claim to have known him for who he truly is, but he may lose a massive number of votes for some the decisions he has taken in office.

Vote drought in the North-East. Buhari, who used garner a considerable number of votes from the North, might find it very hard to win in the northeast this time for two reasons. First their son, the Waziri of Adamawa, Atiku Abubakar, is also vying for the same post they used to support him for. Second, the menace of insurgency ravaging the region and which he promised to put an end too is still as disturbing as before.

The North-Central could revolt with their votes. With the incessant clash between farmers and cattle herders, Benue and some other states in the North-Central have become abattoirs of sorts, with the President showing little or no readiness to find lasting solution to the problem. Some will even say he has been tacitly supporting the herdsmen. This is also the region of David Mark, Bukola Saraki and Samuel Ortom. Winning in the zone will be a herculean task for the sitting President.

Selective anti-corruption war. Buhari has been fighting corruption by attacking the opposition. A villain becomes a saint regardless of the evidence against him once he defects to the ruling party. This method of fighting corruption has incurred the resentment of not a few number of the electorate and they may pass their vote of no confidence on him by voting him out of power come February 16.

Age and health status. Buhari is now over 76 years of age and every evidence shows that he is going senile. From forgetting the day he was sworn in as President to calling a governorship candidate a presidential and later ‘governortorial’ candidate, even slipping occasionally, the President has shown beyond doubt that he is not physically fit to retain the office. Don’t forget that Mr. President had once spent a total 172 days outside the shores of the country seeking medical recourse for an unknown ailment. Many believe the President is senile and needs some rest and they may vote against him.

Clannishness and nepotism. Most of the appointments made so far by the President have not been based on merit but on ethnic and other primordial considerations. Most of these appointments have gone to northerners. Votes from other zones may show their disenchantment with him by voting him out.

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Zabe App Hits 3,000 Downloads As Nigerians Gear Up For Elections

14 February 2019 - 8:33am


As Nigerians gear up for the 2019 elections, the Centre for Civic, Citizen’s Welfare and Community Development (CCWD) and Civic Media Lab have developed an election monitoring mobile application named Zabe.

The app, according to the organisations, seeks to democratise the elections observation process.

Over 3,000 Nigerians will be volunteering to monitor the process in their own polling booths to give a much wider perception of the overall performance of the election.

Zabe.ng is an election monitoring app that provides a fast and better method of collating results. Citizen observers are expected to crowd-source the app with credible information on incidents, events, and results around them as they go about the election process.

According to Khalil Halilu, Chairman of the Centre for Civic, Citizen’s Welfare and Community Development, while responding to a tweet chat with SaharaReporters, results collated on the app will only be parallel to the one by INEC, but it does not confirm winners or losers as it relies on citizens.

“Our aim is to ensure that results declared at Polling Units are fairly represented at the last collation point. We will put systems to ensure that it doesn’t happen and if it does, then we need to check where the gaps are coming from and ask for accountability,” he said.

While informing the public on how to join the network, Halilu said: “Simply download the app from Playstore and IOS, sign up and then ensure you are on the lookout to report incidents in your area and also post credible results from your polling booth. The app also offers an offline reporting function, which allows you to input information when you are out of a network coverage area and then uploads when there is access to network.”

The app is a collaboration effort between CCWD, an NGO with a bias for civic tools and technology, in line with SDGs and Civic Media Lab, which was set up with support from MacArthur Foundation to develop civic tools that would deepen democratic participation.

The lab is currently building a community of a 10,000 citizen election observers’ network across the country, who will help provide information on the app.

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BREAKING: INEC 'Making Moves' To Put Rivers APC Back On The Ballot

14 February 2019 - 7:36am


The Rivers State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) insists its candidates will be represented on the ballot for the National Assembly, governorship and state House of Assembly elections.

The party noted that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was "making moves" to recognise its candidates, and called on the commission to speed up the implementation of the court ruling on the matter.

This was contained in a statement issued on Thursday by Senibo Chris Finebone, Rivers APC Publicity Secretary, at a press conference held at the state party secretariat in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.

The party urged its members to participate actively in the elections scheduled for February 16, 2019, and that of March 2, 2019.

The statement read: “After a meeting of the State Working Committee of our party in the State today in which we meticulously deliberated on the recent court rulings of various courts especially the decision of the Court of Appeal sitting in Port Harcourt yesterday to further re-affirm two earlier orders that stayed the execution of the judgments of the lower court, our conclusion is that the APC and its candidates will now, most certainly, be on the ballot this Saturday. No order or judgement given since, including orders given by the Supreme Court on both jurisdiction and representation have said otherwise.

“We opted not to rely on a media circus to convey our right to be included. Unlike the many news reports that were suggesting we were dead and buried, we have since seen the orders and the Supreme Court judgement on the stay of execution which proves beyond reasonable doubt that INEC has an obligation to relist APC or risk being sanctioned for excluding us and disobeying a subsisting court order.

“We hail once again both decisions of the stay of execution, taken by the Court of Appeal recently and their reaffirmation of both yesterday. These decisions mean that nothing is stopping INEC from placing APC on the ballot. We welcome the moves by INEC to put us back on the ballot, as the alternative would have confirmed once and for all, the genuine fear that they are working for the PDP.

“We wish to state advisedly that obedience to the rule of law is the best antidote to anarchy. In the circumstances, we urge INEC to speedily implement the rule of law and return our great party to its rightful place. We are only demanding a right to compete.

“I want to once again hail the decision of the Supreme Court to refuse moves by Senator Magnus Abe and his lawyers to appeal the stays of execution. Nobody is in any doubt now that the Supreme Court’s throwing out of their appeal against our stays of execution, speaks volumes. In summary, it means that the stays still subsist. That is the clear position of the law. The stay orders, the details of the Supreme Court judgement and our formal letter to INEC are hereby attached for your perusal.

“We have passed the stage of worrying if we will be on the ballot. We must now prepare to punish those who have been trying to keep us out of the elections with our votes. With these same votes, we must give Mr. President our full support. He stood by our leader because our leader had always stood by him and if you want to keep getting what you are getting, you have to keep doing what you are doing.” Everybody must come out and vote APC to deny PDP any sight of government and help our President secure his second term in office.”

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DOSSIER: Owned By Amaechi's Friend — Everything You Need To Know About HSLI, The Israeli Company Hired To Jam The Networks During Elections

14 February 2019 - 6:53am


  
On Monday, October 30, 2017, Nigeria's Federal Minister of Transportation Rotimi Amaechi stunned his audience at an event to mark the World Maritime Day, as he unveiled an extensive deal at an estimated value of $195 million with an Israeli company, in which he did not name (later it was revealed that the company's name is HSLI Systems and Technology Ltd.). 

Amaechi revealed that as a result of the deal, the unnamed company would gain complete control over Nigeria's waterways for a period of three years. Meanwhile, the Israeli company would provide training services to the Nigerian security forces; and at the end of the three-year contract, the Nigerians will regain full control of the waterways from the unnamed company. The agreement also consists of a supply of three helicopters, three aircraft, three big battle-ready ships, 12 vessels, and 20 amphibious cars to secure Nigerian waters.  

Amaechi explained that the project would obviate the necessity for safekeeping and escort of ships and vessels crossing Nigeria’s waterways. It should be taken into consideration that Minister Amaechi is a partner and a confidant of the President, assisting him in obtaining the President's approval for the deal. The contract was finally approved and signed by the Federal Executive Council on October 2017. 

The statement given by Amaechi at the International World Maritime Day event soon faced strong resentment from a long list of organizations and a wave of opposition that reached the door of the House of Representatives. This led the lower chamber to begin investigating the matter. Many clauses of the agreement remain vague, including elementary information such as the identity of the implementing company (HLSI), the exact equipment to be supplied, and how the Navy, which is responsible for securing Nigeria’s waterways in general, is aware of the agreement’s full implications.  

In May 2017, public pressure had obligated President Muhammadu Buhari to announce the complete annulment of the deal, and the initiation of an investigation led by the NSA and the DIA. Three months later the contract was reinstated. The Director-General of NIMASA, Dakuku Peterside, explained that the contract was initially stalled as a result of investigation on the status of the firm. According to Peterside, the firm had since been given clean bill of health to proceed with the contract after the conclusion of the investigation. 

The scandalous deal did not stop Buhari from appointing Minister Amaechi as his re-election campaign’s Director-General. Amaechi was also the Director-General of the BuhariOsinbajo Presidential Campaign Committee between 2014 and 2015. The appointment immediately raised suspicion that the payment in advance given to HLSI was truly intended to finance Buhari’s 2019 election campaign. Suspicions intensified as soon as the President announced he would not use government funds for his re-election campaign at the closure of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting for January 2019. 
 
The company behind the scandalous deal was identified as HSLI Systems and Technology Ltd., owned by Israeli-based Mitrelli Group and part of Mitrelli’s security branch. Until 2012 Mitrelli was known as the LR Group, a company established in 1985 by three Israeli Air Force pilots. The three became billionaires due to a lengthy list of deals in Angola and other countries around the world. The LR group is shrouded in mystery and its work ethics have frequently raised question marks. In 2012, the LR Group partners drifted apart and the business was divided among them. One of LR's original founder, Eytan Stibbe (50%) and the former manager of LR operations in Angola Haim Taib (50%) founded Mitrelli Group. Taib is Mitrelli's General Manager. The Chairman of HLSI Systems & Technology LTD is Nasiru Haladu Danu. The Manager of HLSI Systems & Technology Ltd is Mickey Har Gaash.    

Nasiru Danu is also a close friend of Amaechi and the founding members of APC; all were present at his wedding in December 2017. Nasiru Danu is also the Director of Logistics of the Buhari campaign organisation for the 2019 presidential election!   

Minister Amaechi contracted Israeli company LR Group during his tenure as the Governor of Rivers State. On March 2012, Amaechi and the Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Rivers State Sustainable Development Agency (RSSDA) initiated a Public Private Partnership (PPP) with the LR Group (today they are called Mitrelli) to develop a $140 million 3000-hectare farm settlement in Etche.     

On December 2014, the All Progressives Congress (APC) named Amaechi as the Director-General of the APC Presidential Campaign Organization, an organization responsible for Buhari’s 2015 presidential election. After the 2015 presidential elections accusations were made against Amaechi that he diverted funds originally designated to the LR Group Etche farm deal into funding Buhari’s election campaign.  

In August 2015, reports in Nigerian media were awash with Amaechi’s ownership of several foreign accounts. In one of the reports, it was alleged that “the sum of over 757 million U.S. dollars was stacked by Amaechi in a foreign U.S. Bancorp/Minnesota account. In October 2015, a Judicial Commission of Inquiry, set up to investigate the sale of state assets in Rivers State under Amaechi, demanded the immediate prosecution of Amaechi and all his cronies involved in the illegal sale of state assets. According to the panel report, Amaechi misappropriated over N97 billion in the sale of the state’s valued assets.  

in April 2016, Fani-Kayode, former Minister of Aviation, was quoted in an article that the former Governor of the Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola and his counterpart Amaechi had allegedly funded Buhari’s 2015 campaign. According to SIGNAL, an online medium, new findings revealed that Amaechi had allegedly acquired and diverted more than N40billion, originally of state funds, towards 2015 presidential campaign.  

Additional source in an interview to SIGNAL said that "the N6 billion largesse Amaechi donated to Buhari just for the primaries alone is what was partly spent settling over 8,000 APC delegates. Buhari outspent Atiku, Kwankwaso and the other aspirants. Delegates were settled in hard currency before and on the grounds of the primaries. Another source who pleaded anonymity, said: "Amaechi was the one spending most of the money for media, for the US consultant David Axelrod and most of the private jets and vehicles used by APC during the campaign were provided by him. That’s why he became known even within his party’s circles as the ‘ATM.’"    
 
MITERELLI $195 MILLION WATERWAYS SECURITY DEAL 

The waterways security deal led by Amaechi and approved by NIMASA was signed off by the Federal Executive Council in December 2017 after receiving approval from the President.   
The deal’s contractor, HLSI Security Systems and Technologies, was supposed to be paid $195million (about N60billion) to procure security equipment and train Nigerian security personnel to tackle criminalities on the national waterways. The Guardian later reported that the contract consisted of three helicopters, three aircraft, three big battle-ready ships, 12 vessels, and 20 amphibious cars to secure Nigerian waters.     

Amaechi, who disclosed the deal at an event to mark World Maritime Day in Lagos, did not reveal the name of the Israeli firm involved in the deal. The contract was planned to commence in December 2018 and run for three consecutive years.  
                                                           
During this period of time the Israeli firm will train and instruct the Nigerian security forces personnel. After the expiration of the contract the operation will be handed over to the Nigerian force. Amaechi had explained that the project would obviate the need for security and escort of ships, cruisers and vessels crossing Nigeria’s waterways and added that the Israelis had assured him that after the training of the security operatives, harassment and attacks on Nigeria’s waterways would cease and that the firm would be held accountable if such attacks persisted after the Nigerian personnel training had taken place. In October 2017, Amaechi said that the Israeli company was “yet to launch because they are still buying the equipment”.  

Shortly after the contract was granted, critics began raising questions regarding the Nigerian administration’s decision to hire a foreign firm to secure Nigerian waterways, claiming it could undermine Nigeria’s sovereignty and national security. Amaechi accused some government officials, and “people making money from water” of sabotaging the government’s effort in restoring peace to Nigerian national waters. The President approved a contract of $195 million and there are people in the system sabotaging that contract. The contract is to restore security in the nation’s water.”   

Some civil society organizations (abbreviated as CSOs) have petitioned the Speaker of the House of Representatives regarding the deal. The petition, signed by 10 CSOs and dated November 14, 2017, was presented to the House of Representatives. It was entitled the ‘Petition on the Ceding of Nigerian Coastal Waterways to HLSI Security Firms and Technologies and Commercialization of the Nigerian Navy to Shorefac Consortium Ltd. (Shorefac Consortium will be technically dedicated to the maintenance of Naval vessels while also acting as a commercial partner to the Navy). They claimed that this is an aberration to Nigeria’s sovereignty to national security’. They appealed to the Speaker of the House of Representatives to investigate the $195 million contract, particularly the procurement process leading to the selection of the HSLI company. 

On December 8, 2017, the Nigerian House of Representatives demanded a halt to a contract. The Federal Government Chairman, Committee of the House Committee on Public Petitions, Mr. Uzoma Abonta (PDP, Abia) made the official demand. The lawmaker said the public hearing would enable the House of Representatives to have an overview of the matter and the benefits Nigeria would gain from this deal. According to him, relevant invitations had been sent to different parties, including the Navy, NIMASA, Federal Ministry of Transportation, Ministry of Defence, and other stakeholders to appear before the committee.  Amaechi, and the Director General of NIMASA, Mr. Dakuku Peterside, were present at the hearing. The hearing could not go ahead as planned due to the fact that the Nigerian Navy, whose statutory duties centered on securing Nigerian waterways, was not originally invited.   

The Committee discovered that the Navy had not received an invitation and was not prepared to respond to questions, as the deal was hurriedly brokered by the Minister without the involvement of the Navy. There had been indications that the Nigerian Navy was deeply insulted for being sidelined and its statutory duties made to look irrelevant as far as the surreptitious security deal was concerned.19 

On March 2018, the House Committee on Public Petitions, which investigated the scandalous contract, revealed that the contract would violate appropriation laws because it was not based on the actual budget and recommended outright termination. The lawmakers said that HLSI was not a registered company in Israel and that Amaechi failed to supply them with documents even after they had conducted eight different hearings on the matter.  

On January 2018, a Don at the Federal College of Fisheries and Marine Technology in Lagos and the leadership of the Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN) have mutually disagreed over the viability of the signed $195 million maritime security contract between the Nigerian government and the Israeli firm HLSI Security Firms and Technology Inc. 
The President of SOAN, Engr. Greg Ogbeifun, stated that the maritime security contract signed with HSLI goes against the nation's local content policy. “It is very dicey for a nation to mortgage her sovereignty, particularly in the area of security, to a foreign nation…the Navy, we all know, is in charge of policing our waters. So, if the Navy had been the one bringing in the Israeli partner, then our local content policy would have been respected… But the Navy didn’t bring in the foreign partner, to me the entire process is faulty,” he said.

On January 11, 2018 the House of Representatives criticized the management of Nigeria’s Maritime and Safety Agency (NIMASA) for awarding the contract to an Israeli firm, insisting that the project is a breach of the country’s internal security. The House of Representatives noted that the contract was not only a security breach but also defies the local content law, which promulgates patronizing of Nigerian goods and services.  

On January 31, 2018, a session convened at the National Assembly in Abuja investigating the deal was stalled after lawmakers could not lay their hands on the contract papers. The House of Representatives directed Amaechi and other stakeholders to produce the documents on the $195million waterways security contract within 72 hours. Expressing frustration of the committee, Nkem-Abonta stated: “We have been demanding these documents and we have received no responses. This is about the 8th hearing on this issue. If the contractual documents and agreements cannot be produced within the next 72 hours, we will be forced to close this matter and make our recommendations to the House.”  
                                                           
DEAL TERMINATION, MAY 2018  

In May 2018, Buhari terminated the $195 million ‘Israeli’ security contract. 

Amaechi had long been considered as one of President Buhari’s biggest loyalists in his cabinet, and is publicly considered crucial to the President’s re-election efforts. “The Minister carried us along in the contract,” a senior naval officer said under anonymity. “He was able to get the president to sign the contract, but it seemed the president felt deceived after learning that so many things were wrong with it.”   

In a memo written by the Chief of Staff to the president, Abba Kyari, Buhari said he was directing the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, to terminate the contract. Meanwhile, the President had also ordered the National Security Adviser (NSA) and the Nigerian Intelligence Agency (NIA) to investigate how the contractor obtained security clearance for the job without an end-user certificate. 

The President had also ordered that the contractor would supply items equivalent to the $50million upfront payment given by the Nigerians to HSLI. It was not clear whether it will be possible for Nigeria to recover any amount of money of the advance payment given to HSLi.    
 
THREE MONTHS LATER, THE CONTRACT WAS REINSTATED 

Three months after the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, directed the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, to terminate the HSLi /Mitrelli contract, the contract was reinstated. 

The Director-General of NIMASA, Dakuku Peterside, explained that the contract was initially stalled as a result of investigation on the status of the firm. According to Peterside, the firm had since been given clean bill of health to proceed with the contract after the conclusion of the investigation. 

He said, “At some point, there were issues raised about the status of the firm and indeed the President directed that further investigations be made on the status and record of the firm.”  
The contractor HSLi, Amaechi and NIMASA were eager to show some progress in the project in light of the overwhelming criticism; they started surveillance training for some security agencies to jointly rid the waters of criminality. The surveillance training was to equip the officers of the Nigerian Army, Navy, Air Force, Police, the Department of State Services (DSS), and NIMASA on the C4I Integrated Surveillance Systems operation. The system is expected to aid the coordinated view of the entire Nigerian maritime domain.  

The Director General, NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, at the graduation ceremony held at the Nigerian Maritime Resource Development Centre (NMRDC), in Lagos, yesterday, restated the government's determination to ensure that Nigeria's territorial waters were free of piracy, and all forms of maritime crime to facilitate economic development.      
 
The LR group Ltd., currently based in Herzliya, Israel, was founded in 1985 by Roy Ben Yami, Ami Lustig and Eytan Stibbe. The company specializes in arms trade, and the development, production, and initiation of various projects in the sectors of renewable energy, agriculture, communications, infrastructure and healthcare.  LR Group operates, inter alia, in developing countries in large-scale regional agricultural development projects, cooperating with local population and governmental officials.  
                                                           
Stibbe, Lustig and Ben-Yami met during their military service in the F-16 squadron of the Israeli Air Force. At the beginning, the three dealt with consulting companies in the Israeli Defense Industry. Ami Lustig became a special advisor to Rafael for the development and marketing of air-to-air missiles. 

The first deal by LR was for the Portuguese Ministry of Finance, which was looking for entity that would establish a maritime police force to protect against infiltrations and smuggling. After their success in Portugal, the LR group was given a business opportunity in Angola. During the civil war in the country, the Angolan President ordered the purchase of huge quantities of weapons around the world. The LR Group bet on the President's victory in the civil war.  

Initially, they won a tender for renovation of the Luanda Airport, of the Luanda airport and a contract to install communication systems in the field control tower, track lighting and air control systems. Following this project, the company won a tender for the construction and renovation of five additional airports in all the country's districts. Later on, Congo also ordered from LR a total renovation of its international airport. 

Some of the contracts signed between LR and the Angolan government included financing from funds yielded off the sale of oil produced in the country and goods such as cocoa and coffee beans.  LR's next deal was the acquisition of a Boeing 707 for the Angolan president and its renovation with IAI. The contract was worth $ 14 million. Despite the success of the deal, it led to the cessation of joint activity with IAI for a certain period of time. IAI received reports that LR were buying most of the equipment for Angola in the former Eastern bloc countries. 

Meanwhile, LR intensified its ties in Angola and supplied equipment not only to the Coast Guard and the national air force, but also to the ground forces. The Israeli military industry, which was in crisis at the time, understood that it was worthwhile for them to cooperate with LR, and consequently cooperated in a variety of deals with LR in Angola. At the same time LR received additional projects in the sector of airports renovation.  

In addition to cooperating with the military industries in Israel, LR continued to cooperate with the Eastern European countries. Initially, LR acquired two Russian-made Sukhoi 27 fighter jets. The successful Sukhoi deal led the Angolan president to deepen his work with LR. LR opened an office in Kiev, which employed many veterans of the Ukrainian security and government, including associates to the then Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma. Among other things, LR mediated between the Ukrainian radar industry and the Angolan authorities. 

In 2000, Russian-made radar systems were sold to Ethiopia, and two years later the Ukrainian press revealed suspicions that one of the systems sold to Ethiopia had found its way into the hands of Iraqi tyrant Saddam Hussein, and behind the sale to Iraq was President Kuchma and his LR associates.  After a long investigation it was decided that there was no way to locate the radar in Iraq, and that there was no proof that Kuchma or LR were involved in transferring it to Iraq. 

In an indictment filed in 1999 in Romania against Shimon Naor, a former sales agent for Israeli defense industries, it was alleged that LR, for which he also worked, had sheltered arms sales to African countries that had been embargoed, such as Nigeria and Eritrea. According to the indictment, weapons that came to Ukraine from Iran and Central Europe were loaded onto an airplane leased by LR, which operated in the Ukraine, backed-up by the authorities.LR representatives denied any connection to the transaction and any involvement in the arms trade to the embargo countries.  

In 2004, LR was linked to another weapons transfer from Bulgaria to a rebel fighting zone in Congo. The deal was later annulled due to the French government's intervention in the fighting and its strong request from Israel to instruct Israeli companies to stop assisting the Ivorian authorities. LR associates deny any involvement in the deal.  The company also entered the medical field in Ukraine, where it established with a local partner an advanced oncology hospital in a project estimated at $ 70 million.  

As of 2016, an international criminal investigation is being conducted regarding the activity of Cellcom Liberia, in which allegedly invited an Israeli-British hacker named Daniel Kaye (30) to carry out a long-range cyber-attack against a competitor in order to disrupt its services. The attack was out of control until, in November 2016, the Liberian government thought the attack was directed against the Liberian state. The hacker testified in his investigation in Germany that the attack was ordered by the CEO of Cellcom Liberia. The controlling shareholder of Cellcom Liberia from its establishment in 2004 until mid-2016 was the LR Group. In January 2019 the hacker Daniel Kaye admitted attacking an African phone company - inadvertently crashing Liberia's internet - in 2016. He was sentenced for 32 months. Judge Alexander Milne QC said Kaye had committed a "cynical" financial crime. Kaye wept as he was taken down. The National Crime Agency says Kaye is perhaps the most significant cyber criminal yet caught in the UK.           

In the early 2000s, the company expanded its businesses into civil sectors such as agriculture, medicine, construction, infrastructure and cellular communications, and established a number of projects in cooperation with the World Bank in Africa and third world countries.     Eytan Stibbe retired a few years ago from the partnership, and founded  the Miterelli company with Haim Taib. 
 
MITRELLI 

Eytan Stibbe founded Mitrelli six years ago (2012) with Haim Taib, after ending his long-term partnership with Roy Ben-Yami and Ami Lusting in the LR group. Mitrelli operates in infrastructure projects in various countries, mainly in Angola.  

In recent years, Mitrelli built several projects in the sectors of agriculture, water treatment, energy projects, and more. Mitrelli has more than 3,000 employees worldwide and has an annual revenue estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars.    Stibbe, is currently also known as the founding partner of the Vital Fund. 

Following an examination in the Israeli Registrar of Companies, it was discovered that the Mitrelli Group is owned by the two following firms; NOIT CONSULTING AND PROJECTS (2007) LTD and S.B. HOLDINGS LTD. Further investigation revealed that NOIT CONSULTING AND PROJECTS (2007) LTD is owned by Iris and Haim Taib and was formerly called MITRELLI GROUP (ISRAEL) LTD.

Correspondingly, it was discovered that S.T.B. HOLDINGS LTD is owned by Eytan and Ora Stibbe. In recent years Stibbe has been trying to keep his name out of the arms industry and chooses to promote his philanthropic business, the Vital Fund. 
                                                           
HLSI 

After the Angolan civil war ended in 2002, the need for armaments decreased significantly and the LR group began to engage in other sectors including agriculture, satellites, infrastructure, etc. In order to distance LR’s security activity from the civilian activity, a subsidiary under the name of LRD INTERNATIONAL LIMITED (D = DEFENSE), was established by the LR Group. According to the Panama Papers, LRD INTERNATIONAL LIMITED changed its name in 2016 to HLS International Ltd. According to the documents, the company is registered in Seychelles. In addition, the company has its HQ in Cyprus. The company is owned by a number of other companies.
 
Same story another country – HLSI in Haiti. Israeli-HLSI taking over the discredited and downsized UN Troops’ Role in Haiti. The unelected Martelly team just, on October 23, 2015 signed a massive border “surveillance” agreement for land, air and sea with an Israeli company identified as HLSI. The Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the Haitian government, represented by Laleau Wilson, the defacto Minister of Economy and the HLSI Israeli firm, represented by its Vice-President Eva Peled. Ms. Peled is a former lieutenant in the Israeli air force and is the CEO of Geomine and Vice President of Mitrelli Group.   
                                                           
According to data found in the Nigerian Registrar of Companies, the company is registered under the name of HLSI Systems & Technology LTD as of July 4, 2017. Based on the abovementioned findings, HLSI Systems & Technology LTD is a subsidiary of HLS International Ltd., Seychelles. It is possible that the company under the name of HLSI Systems & Technology LTD was registered in Nigeria especially for executing the $ 195 million waterways security deal. The fact that the company was registered in 2017 corresponds to the time negotiations on the contract with the Nigeria were taking place. The chairman of HLSI Systems & Technology LTD is Mr. Nasiru Danu. The Manager of HLSI Systems & Technology Ltd. Is Mickey Har Gaash.   According to our sources, Israeli citizen Pini Moria is the CEO of the Nigerian-based company HLSI Systems & Technology LTD. 
   
A name that came up as a representative of HLSI in Nigeria was Eva Peled. Eva Peled appears in LinkedIn as the Vice-President at Mitrelli from February 2011 to the present day, concurrently serving as CEO of GEOMINE (a company that specializes in the development of mining technology), and since December 2017 serves as vice president of the Israel-Ivory Coast Chamber of Commerce.

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BREAKING: Two Arrested In Kano With 14 Bags Of Fake Ballot Papers

14 February 2019 - 6:47am


Breaking bannner

Two persons have been arrested in Kano State by the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) for being in possession of fake specimen ballot papers.

Confirming the arrest, DSP Abdullahi Haruna, the state Police Public Relations Officer, said the suspects were carrying 14 bags of the specimen ballot papers at the time of their arrest.

According to Haruna, they were arrested on Wednesday by some policemen attached to the Metro Area Command.

The suspects were said to have confessed to have come from Jigawa State, and claimed that the materials were for sensitisation and orientation.

Haruna added that investigations were still ongoing and that the case had been transferred to the state Criminal Investigation Department (CID).

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Ekiti Government Shuts Down Radio Station

14 February 2019 - 6:23am


Kayode Fayemi

People’s FM, a radio station in Ekiti State, has been shut down by the Ministry of Housing, Physical Planning and Urban Development.

A seal-up notice addressed to the developer of the radio station ordered the radio to suspend activities at the premises located at Ado-Ekiti.

According to the notice signed by the Director of Urban and Regional Planning, the suspension is as a result of the inability of the station to produce the approved plan or permit for erecting the building on the site.

A seal-up notice dated February 14, 2019, issued to the station read: “It has been discovered during a recent inspection by the inspectorate staff of the Ministry of Housing, Physical Planning and Urban Development that a Radio Station (People FM) has been erected by you at Fajuyi Area, Besides Fire Service Office in Ado-Ekiti.

“As you are unable the produce the approved plan/permit on the site for this erection or bring the same to government for certification, you are hereby ordered to suspend the use of the building premises until you submit your approved plan for clearance in this office.”

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JUST IN: Niger Delta Avengers Adopt Atiku, Describe Buhari's Govt As 'Worst Evil'

14 February 2019 - 5:40am


The Niger Delta Avengers group has adopted Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as its preferred choice for the 2019 polls.

A statement issued on Thursday by the group’s spokesperson, Brigadier General Mudoch Agbinibo, ridiculed the report that some ex-militants had endorsed the reelection bid of President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC), noting that those who participated in that endorsement are “failures that abandoned the genuine struggle for the emancipation of the Niger Delta”.

According to the group, part of the reasons for endorsing Atiku’s candidature is his promise to restructure the country.

The statement read: “The High Command of the Niger Delta Avengers were not surprised at the Premium Times online reportage of Tuesday 13th February, 2019, that Boyloaf, Tompolo, Shoot-at-Sight, Tom Ateke and Farah Dagogo are set to endorse the re-election bid of President Muhammadu Buhari, the common enemy of the Niger Delta people and sane minded Nigerians.

“It was expected from these five failures that abandoned the genuine struggle for the emancipation of the Niger Delta through which many gallant believers of the struggle laid their lives under their various commands, they owe allegiance to their newly-found romance with the government of the wicked Nigerian State under APC, government of President Muhammadu Buhari, that has continued to service them with multi-billion Naira contracts, making them abandon the oath they swore to our forefathers to free our generation from the oppressive Nigerian structure.

“It can only be re-evaluated that the old generation of Niger Delta agitators can only be likened to bounty hunters who have successfully achieved their aim, hence, relaxe to enjoy the benefits from the bounty that has been delivered to them by the wicked Nigerian Government. 

“It is only Niger Deltans with bizarre thoughts with the experienced persecution, hunger, bombardment, intimidation, marginalization, criminality and other prevailing vile actions under the APC Government of President Muhammadu Buhari that can canvass for or vote for the worst evil that has ever befallen the Niger Delta; how much more an endorsement by people that were once supported to represent the very fibre of the struggle for the emancipation of the Niger Delta.

“However, such dubious connivance only vindicates our position over the years that, Tompolo, Boyloaf and the rest of them are no longer in tune with the new struggle because of the patronage they enjoy from the Buhari-led government as it were in the times of Goodluck Jonathan.”

Tompolo has, however, denied endorsing Buhari for second term.

Stating their exact position on the preferred candidate, the statement continued: “The High Command of the Niger Delta Avengers is hereby committed to ‘An Iron Clad’ strategy to make sure there are free and fair elections. All of us and sane-minded Nigerians have it as a duty to change this evil regime of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and President Muhammadu Buhari. All over the world, it is the number of people who showed up to vote in a secure and peaceful atmosphere that determine outcomes of elections.

“The High Command of the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) make it bold to say that the upcoming elections on the 16th of February, 2019, will make or mar the continuous criminal exploitation and exploration of our natural resources that engenders the underdevelopment of the Niger Delta.

“We are adopting Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, as the sole candidate to be voted for by all the people of the Niger Delta as a result of his political ideology which is in tandem with our agitation for equitable and fair principles of federalism. 

“The High Command is convinced that when elected come February 16th, 2019, the government of Alhaji (Dr.) Atiku Abubakar will not only restructure Nigeria, but will reverse the inimical ownership rights to natural resources, alongside promises that fall within the basis upon which we declared ‘Operations Red Economy’ against the evil government of Nigeria.

“We use this medium to advise Alhaji Atiku Abubakar that when elected into office, the cardinal demands of restructuring of Nigeria should kickstart within six (6) months to forestall further agitation from the Niger Delta.”

The group quoted a media report, stating that “According to the Premium Times Report, ‘the endorsement of Mr Buhari by the ‘big five’ ex-militant leaders, according to our source, follows his ‘government’s efforts on Niger Delta’s environmental and development concerns, including Ogoni cleanup and infrastructure’.”

They, however, added that “It is stomach aching that ‘the big five’ as they were termed by Premium Times are better addressed as the ‘Failed Five’ and betrayers of the genuine struggle for the agitation of the Niger Delta by all Niger Deltans, as there is no single truth in their claims for endorsing the common enemy of the Niger Deltans and the Nigerian masses.”

They urged foreign nationals and multinational companies to withdraw their personnel from the Niger Delta during the period of elections, as a result of the heavy presence of military personnel in the region.

“As a warning and closing note, we want to resound it to members of the international community, multinational corporations and subsidiary operatives to withdraw their workforce and services from the Niger Delta within the period of these elections, so as not to be casualties in the ongoing securitization and provocation in the Niger Delta by the Nigerian Military command.

“We have painstakingly taken up details of sources of these unwarranted activities against defenceless law-abiding citizens of the Niger Delta. We say to these dubious elements, referred to as ‘Big Five or the Failed Five’, ‘you cannot eat your cake and have it’. We are in charge of the struggle now and our strike teams are active and gallantly waiting to receive instructions from the High Command to cripple the Nigerian economy again, if Buhari is rigged back to office. This time, it will be a perpetual recession for Nigeria as we shall not relent until oil stops to flow in the pipes that braces our feet in our land.”

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BREAKING: Buhari To Address The Nation At 7pm

14 February 2019 - 5:05am


President Muhammadu Buhari will address the nation at 7pm today.

A statement by Garba Shehu, the president’s spokesman, noted that all television, radio stations and other electronic media outlets can hook up to the network services of the NTA and Radio Nigeria for the broadcast.

There will be a repeat broadcast at 9pm.

The President's scheduled address is coming less than 72 hours before the presidential and National Assembly elections slated for February 16, 2019.

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How To Become a Nigerian Third Force President - Taking Lessons From El Salvador By Israel Oladipupo Ogunseye​

14 February 2019 - 5:04am


Salvadorans have just elected Nayib Bukele as it's President in the just concluded National elections and it's shaping conversations in Nigeria because Mr Bukele was representing the third force in the elections.

It's an interesting scenario because the 2019 elections have been arguments for and against third force candidates. While those for them believe that it can happen anytime and 2019 is the year for the third group, those against have tons of reasons why they feel it's not their time in 2019. While some think that they stand a better chance forming a coalition to challenge the incumbent All Progressives Congress (APC) and the roaring opposition, the Peoples Democractic Party (PDP), some also think that it's a little too late for any third force to pull a victory due to the lack of political structures across the country. 

Owing to these arguments, let's take some lessons from Salvador where a third force candidate just won an election after the two main parties have ruled the country in different tenures for 30 years.

Lesson 1; Build a Structure Before Gunning for the Presidency 

Nayib Bukele may be 37 years of age, he is not new to the Salvadoran political system. He's been a Mayor of two different Municipals namely, Nuevo Cuscatlán and San Salvador - this is in equivalent of being the Governor of two different states in Nigeria. He started with Neuvo Cuscatlán where he won with 2754 votes while gaining 89,164 votes to win the Mayor of Salvador elections. 

If a third force candidate would emerge as the President of Nigeria, he or she would need to build structures first. Contest for a House of Reps seat and win it. Contest for a Gubernatorial seat and win it and build a structure from there.

Lesson 2; He Joined a Major Political Party and Cut Out From It

Often at times, advocates of Nigerian third force feel that part of being an advocate is to demonize both major parties, a third force candidate should not have anything to do with them. Bukele's case is quite different though as he won his two Mayor seats on the platform of the governing Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front, or F.M.L.N. He won elections on this party's platform! 

After vying for offices on this party's platform twice, left to become the third force and won the election. Like the first lesson from his story, you need to build a structure with the existing Political structure. The singular reason why it appears as though the third force isn't strong is that there isn't any existing structure for the third force candidates really in terms of the party and not just the candidate.

Even in Nigeria, every successful attempt at a third force victory have been offshoots of the main ruling parties at different points and times. 
Democracy is in two folds and you need a good candidate and a good party to achieve electoral victory anywhere in the world. 

Lesson 3; Be Financially equipped

While Nayib Bukele's electoral financial books may not have been made open as at the time of writing this piece, it is widely reported in Salvador how much he has spent in seeing himself and his party become victorious in the elections. The world over, election financing isn't a strange topic and neither is it alien to elections. 

Israel Oladipupo Ogunseye, a political strategist writes from Lagos.

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BREAKING: IGP Deploys Four Commissioners Of Police To Ogun For Elections

14 February 2019 - 4:39am


The Inspector General of Police (IGP) has deployed four Police Commissioners to supervise elections in Ogun State.

News of the deployment was disclosed on Thursday.

The Police Commissioners deployed are Gbenga Adeyanju (Ogun Central), Fimihan Adeoye (Ogun West), Yemi Agunbiade (Ogun East) and Ahmed Iliyasu, who will be in charge of the state.​

The presence of the Commissioners of Police in Ogun State may not be unconnected to the incident at the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential rally held on Monday. At the rally, APC leaders were pelted with various objects during the endorsement of Dapo Abiodun as the governorship candidate of the party in Ogun.

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Will Valentine’s Day Affect Outcome Of 2019 Election? By Seun Bisuga

14 February 2019 - 4:37am


For young adults, Valentine’s Day is more drama than a love affair. It throws up all sorts of stories, from cheating to doubling dating, to trying to fix up all your boyfriends or girlfriends into your small calendar and it sure throws up a lot of suspicion.

Please don’t get me started on the gifts. When we were in the university, the gifts were the talking point. The ladies that got roses and perfumes will gloat and flaunt it, but for those who only got a card, an excuse must be made up for their boyfriends.

The day starts on a high for some people and ends on a low but there are others who have little expectation for day but end up having the time of life. The love affair aside, how exactly could Valentine’s Day after the general election in Nigeria.

Valentine’s Day often ends with a lot of heartbreaks and tales of cheating, so what does this mean for a potential voter? If a potential voter is caught up in the web of this craze, it surely could lead to voter apathy.

Let us say 10 or maybe 20 or it could go up to 100,000, given that, the young population in Nigeria accounts for over 50 per cent of our 200,000,000 population. If a high percentage of  young people are heartbroken later today, what are the chances that they will be emotionally ready to vote on 16 February.

I do accept that some heal faster than others, but you must agree that there are many ladies, even guys who might require weeks to heal. At this point, they don’t care what is going on around them, and they certainly won’t care about the election.

Let’s assume that these 100,000 people caught up in Valentine’s Day craze are all eligible to vote, what are the chances that they will want to stand on a long queue to get accredited and to vote?

This automatically means that political parties will lose voters. What is Voter Apathy? Voter apathy or lack of interest is often cited as a cause of low turnout among eligible voters.

With our Presidential election coming up two days after Valentine’s Day, we must agree that it might influence the voting pattern of some young voters. Personally, I’m not a big fan of Valentine’s Day but I must confess that I have seen friendships end because of this day.

Then there are those who will do anything for love. They probably live and work in Abuja and the love of their life is in Lagos, or Anambra, or Port Harcourt or anywhere else in the country, if they decide to travel to be with their loved ones, this would mean that they can’t vote where they are registered, unless they have carefully planned this love migration affair in advance.

The urge for a dinner tonight or tomorrow could lead to lose of votes, either due to last minute change in plans, venue or the after effects inerbriation some of which could lead to accidents, injuries or fatalities.

Then I have friends who have flown their wives to Dubai, to show their affection and love. How dare you judge them, when LOVE conquers all, they don’t have to take a pass from INEC or the government to express their love but their decision could have an impact on the outcome of the election.

It’s difficult to blame INEC for picking 16 February because it would have been more damaging if it had chosen a Premier League weekend instead. Football fans would rather watch those matches than vote, they would rather argue about Manchester City and Liverpool than queue for accreditation.

Whatever impact Valentine’s Day have got on this election, let’s hope it is minimal and measurable going into future elections.   
 

Seun Bisuga is a journalist, PR and social media analyst    

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Nigerians Bash CNN Over 'Old Men' Piece On Buhari, Atiku

14 February 2019 - 4:35am


Nigerians have taken to social media to berate the article entitled: ‘The Old Men Vying to Lead Africa's Youngest Population’, published by CNN on Wednesday.

The article is on Satuday's presidential election, with major focus on President Muhammadu Buhari seeking reelection on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Interestingly — unless the piece has been edited — the article doesn’t focus much on the seeming consequences of the age bracket of Buhari and Atiku, and the effect on the ‘Africa’s Youngest Population’ part, as the headline reads.

However, the publication makes reference to the fact that “regardless of who the electorate picks — and there are 70 more candidates to choose from — the outcome will dramatically shape the fortunes of Nigeria's more than 190 million people".

The feature article has generated much buzz on social media, with some persons asking CNN to “look in the mirror” — Donald Trump, President of the United States of America, is in his 70s.

Meet Muhammadu Buhari and Atiku Abubakar: the old men vying to lead Nigeria, Africa's youngest youth population https://t.co/LjcFtMOVS4

— CNN Africa (@CNNAfrica) February 13, 2019

Professor Remi Sonaiya, who once contested for Nigeria’s number one seat, in a tweet via her handle @oluremisonaiya, said: “While we must make room for young people to attain leadership positions, we know that the REAL issue in leadership isn't about age. There's room for both young and old, male and female. And @CNNAfrica, maybe you should first have looked in the mirror...”

@Idomaboy147 wrote: “It is irresponsible for a media organisation like CNN to come up with such an irresponsible title. We need not remind you that your HQ is in a country that has a 74-year-old man as president. Truly, you are gradually becoming a disgrace to journalism.”

@tochizkc wrote: “As a Nigerian youth I take exception to this insulting tweet, we as a nation accord your country the respect it deserves and it isn't too much to demand same from you. This is shameful and irresponsible.”

@FadaunsiAdeniyi wrote: “I never knew Donald Trump belongs to the generation of "very young people" in America,” while @Olaolu9ja tweeted: “I find this tweet very offensive and distasteful. Please pull this down, Trump isn't in his thirties too.”

@Sbdsng wrote: “American president is equally an old man, German president is equally old, same as Theresa May of UK. Let's dwell more on other things but age.”

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Buhari v. Atiku: The Inconvenient Truth By Azu Ishiekwene

14 February 2019 - 4:18am


If you walk by sight you cannot help approaching Saturday’s presidential election with a heavy heart. The candidates of the two major parties, Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), have been presented in the worst light possible. 

One foreign newspaper said Nigerians have to choose between a former dictator and an alleged kleptocrat.  One other foreign paper, “International Guardian”, was not so diplomatic. It said, “without a doubt, this race might boil down to a choice between Buhari, a timid, nepotic but stingy rightist who would sit down on the national wealth without a clue about how to invest, and a lavish an irresponsible spender called Atiku, who could share the national treasury with the wolves that currently surround his candidacy.”

The local news menu is not very different, only fouled up a bit more by the sour taste of partisanship. But as I prepare to vote on Saturday, I choose to have my omelette sunny side up, and here’s why. 

Whatever may be the shortcomings of Buhari and Atiku, their parties believe they are the best candidates they can produce at this time. Buhari was pressed into the race by APC kingmakers who not only regard him as the party’s best bet to retain the centre, but also as their own insurance to keep the spoils, get re-election or both. 

Atiku’s candidacy, on the other hand, is a child of a convenient marriage between a few influential PDP old soldiers feed up with Buhari’s obtuseness and an extremely wealthy business class used to easy money and unhappy with Buhari’s old school economics.

Neither candidate is easy to warm up to. But that appears to be a modern-day problem with politics, the post-modern variety that produced the fantastically ineffectual Theresa May in the UK, the bombastic Donald Trump in the US, and the reprobate Rodrigo Roa Duterte in the Philippines. 

On Saturday, we’ll have to choose from what we have or sit on our blistered backsides for another four years. Things are far from perfect but this time, more than ever before, public scrutiny has been reasonably robust in putting the candidates to the test. 

For me, that’s part of the sunny side up. In the five national election cycles in 20 years, no set of candidates has been dragged across more public debating floors, questioned and inspected as closely as have candidates Buhari and Atiku, especially. 

The two – and other distant runners – have been forced to appear at live debates or townhalls organized by different groups and when they failed to show up, their empty stands have been mocked as evidence of disdain, incompetence or both. 

The candidates have been forced to reconnect with different parts of the country, however superficially, and in a few instances, compelled to confront, face-to-face, situations that they had been shielded from in their comfort bubble.

Smaller parties that were shut out of the debates have protested or gone to court for redress, insisting, quite rightly, on fairness and greater transparency. 

The fact-checkers have been tracking the exaggerations and outright lies, holding candidates to higher standards and forcing voters to take notice. Twenty years ago, when candidate Olusegun Obasanjo of the PDP was requested to debate Olu Falae of the AD-APP, the latter turned up only to debate an empty stand. 

Even if the organiser’s fantasy had been realised and the debate had taken place, the country had no single mobile telephone line at the time for the sort of community and instant engagement now possible.

Thanks to the ubiquity of technology also, we can joke about Buhari’s awkward moments during his Kadaria interview or wince at the audacity of the audience member who pulled out his phone and aimed a devastatingly ugly reference from Obasanjo’s book at Atiku during a live interview.

Those who insist that the cup is half empty must also remind themselves of how the outliers may have set off a momentum that would change politics as it was. It’s not the first time that a host of smaller parties will seek to wrest power from the more established parties. 

But I cannot remember any other time when over 90 parties, comprising mostly determined young people, from Omoyele Sowore to Tope Fasua and from Fela Durotoye to Oby Ezekwesili, Kingsley Moghalu and Datti Ahmed, would mount a sustained challenge to the status quo at great personal cost and with very limited resources. 

The significant number of young people – 51 per cent – registered to vote in Saturday’s election is not only a reflection of the growing frustration with geriatric politics, it is a result of the rallying cry of the new crop of young politicians.

If they do not despair – and there’s no reason why they should – what they have started will impact our politics more in four years than have the last 20 years of alternating between indifference and moaning. Donald Duke even challenged the nonsense that zoning in a party’s constitution is superior to a citizen’s constitutional right to contest. And he won.

Can the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), be trusted to do its job? I believe it can. No matter what you read on social media, INEC is not playing origami with the ballot; it appears far more prepared for the vote than it has been credited. Politicians know this, that’s why they have been inventing new ways to cheat or doing their best to discredit the commission. 

From the time in 2015 when 80 election results were nullified by the courts we have moved to the point where only three court-ordered cancellations occurred out of 178 conducted as at February last year. 

INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, has done more since then, regardless of the multiple social media executions he has suffered. Apart from prosecuting over 100 staff of the commission for various electoral offences, he has scrapped the “incident form”, which the commission’s field staff routinely used to fraudulently bypass the card reader. 

But we can’t leave the job to INEC alone. Better voter awareness and more widespread use of technology will also help greater citizen vigilance.

We don’t need to approach the polling booth with a heavy heart. Apart from Buhari and Atiku, there are over 70 other candidates on the ballot, presenting one of the most delightfully confusing crises of choice for voters in recent times.

My prediction is unchanged. Don’t let the surfeit of scientific, non-scientific and pseudo-scientific forecasts from home and abroad compound your misery. In an article widely published in the first week of January, I predicted, among other things, that Atiku will lose and gave reasons: my reasons stand. 

When all is said and done, when the name-calling, slander, and scaremongering are over, and the voter is alone in the booth, face-to-face with the ballot paper, it will all come down to this central question: which candidate, given what I know, can I trust to have my back for another four years?

Atiku will not lose on Saturday. He already lost in 2006 when he fell out spectacularly with Obasanjo and suffered a Humpty Dumpty’s fall. The sum of the ongoing feverish endorsements and lobbying, the extravagant claims of momentum and the fantasy electoral maps would be insufficient to stitch his candidacy together forever again. He’s done.

Atiku would lose marginally, not because voters are overdosed on Buhari love, but because when trust is at stake – man-to-man – Buhari is the lesser of two evils. This is the inconvenient truth.

 

Ishiekwene is the Managing Director/Editor-In-Chief of The Interview and member of the board of the Global Editors Network

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BREAKING: Police, Soldiers Tear-Gas Protesting APC Members At Rivers INEC Office

14 February 2019 - 3:13am


The Port City News

Members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) are currently protesting at the headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Rivers State.

The protest is premised on the recent ruling by the Supreme Court over the stay of execution issued to INEC on fielding candidates for elective positions in Rivers State.

However, policemen and soldiers have fired teargas to disperse the crowd.

There is heavy presence of security operatives in the area, as the protesters are insisting that elections will not hold in Rivers if the APC candidates do not contest in the elections.

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Islamic State Claims Attack On Shettima’s Convoy

14 February 2019 - 2:19am


Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack on the convoy of Kassim Shettima, Governor of Borno State, which occurred on Tuesday.

Shettima's convoy was travelling from Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, to Gamboru-Ngala, when the insurgents struck, dividing his convoy into two and raining gunshots on the one behind. The incident occurred between Dikwa and Ngala highway, and a security source told SaharaReporters that the Governor was billed to campaign at Gombomru town before the incident happened. See Also Breaking News BREAKING: Boko Haram Opens Fire On Borno Governor's Convoy 0 Comments 4 Days Ago

According to Reuters, IS claimed responsibility for the attack via a statement on its Amaq news agency, giving the figure of casualties as 42.

However, there has been no official confirmation of the actual number of people killed in the attack.

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BREAKING: Citing 'Personal Reasons', Another Judge Disqualifies Self In Paul Usoro’s Trial

14 February 2019 - 1:52am


Justice Chuka Obiozor of a Federal High Court in Lagos has recused himself from trying the N1.8billion criminal charge preferred against Paul Usoro, the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).

In December 2018, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had filed a 10-count charge against Usoro, over allegations relating to converting to personal use, concealing the source of, disguising the origin of and retaining in his account sums of money to the tune of billions of Naira belonging to the Akwa Ibom State government. See Also Exclusive DETAILS: EFCC’s 10-Count Corruption Charge Against NBA President Usoro 0 Comments 2 Months Ago

However, at the resumed sitting on Thursday, the NBA President could not be arraigned as the judge claimed he could not handle the trial for personal reasons.

He said: "For personal reasons, I hereby disqualify myself from handling the case. I hereby return this file back to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court for reassignment."

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BREAKING: Policemen Cordon Off INEC Office In Rivers

14 February 2019 - 1:22am


Breaking News

Breaking News Sahara Reporters Media

Policemen have blocked the entrance of the headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Rivers State.

Aside preventing entry into the commission’s state headquarters, a road block has also been mounted near the office.

It is not yet clear why security operatives are present at the Rivers headquarters.

However, there are reports that the All Progressives Congress (APC) plans to protest the Supreme Court judgment barring INEC from fielding candidates for elective positions in the state.

More to follow...

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Help Us Send A Psychiatrist To Evaluate Amaechi, Wike Begs Buhari

14 February 2019 - 1:00am


Nyesom Wike, Governor of Rivers State, has appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to send a psychiatrist to "review the situation" of Rotimi Amaechi, the Minister of Transportation.

Addressing non-indigenes of Rivers State at a campaign rally in Port Harcourt on Wednesday, the Governor also expressed disappointment that the President would sit by and allow Amaechi threaten violence during a campaign rally.

He, however, denied having a hand in the crisis affecting the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State, and debunked the claim that he negotiated a second term as governor with the President.

He said: “If I am their problem, why should I be negotiating with the President? It is utter rubbish. It is totally untrue. The President should help us bring a psychiatrist to review the situation of the Minister of Transportation.

“I plead with the president to do us this favour because our son is gone. We want to bring him back.

“I was so disappointed that Mr. President was seated and the Director General of his campaign was threatening violence, singing war songs. Today, they signed a peace accord. What will be the meaning of the Peace Accord when Mr. President sat down and listened to his Director General threatening deaths and violence?

“I have no problem with Amaechi’s threat of violence, but can he bring his son to lead the war? I challenge Amaechi; he has a grown-up son, who should lead the violence. His son can lead the war and then we will know that Amaechi is serious."

He urged Buhari to caution Amaechi, just as he called on the international community to hold Amaechi, the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of 6 Division of the Nigerian Army and the Mobile Police Commander of Unit 48 responsible if there is violence in state.

On the allegation that he was behind the APC crisis in the state, Wike said: "I did not take APC to court. I never went to court against the APC. The matter is between APC and APC. How then did I cause the problem of the APC?”

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AGF Malami Orders INEC To Postpone Elections In Zamfara

14 February 2019 - 12:52am


AGF Abubakar Malami

Abubakar Malami, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), has directed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to postpone elections in Zamfara State.

He premised his decision on the need to ensure that candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC) participate in the 2019 elections.
 
According to Malami, the directive is as a result of the judgment of the state High Court in suit No ZMS/GS/52/2018 between Sanusi Liman Dan-Alhaji and 37 others Vs APC and 144 others; and Appeal No: CA/S/23/2019.

A letter dated February 13, 2019, and addressed to Professor Mahmood Yakubu, the INEC Chairman, read: “My office received a petition from the firm of M.A. Mahmud (SAN) & Co. in respect of the above subject matter (copy attached for ease of reference) requesting that the subsisting judgment in Suit No. ZMS/GS/52/2018 – Sanusi Liman Dan-Alhaji & 37 ORS V. APC & 144 ORS be upheld and respected by INEC, as the Court of Appeal has upheld the Appeal No. CA/S/23/2019, thus effectively annulling the grounds upon which the purported cancellation of the APC primaries in Zamfara State by INEC was based.

“You may wish to recall that the Zamfara State High Court upheld the Zamfara APC primaries in the suit mentioned in the first paragraph above, held on October 3 and 7, 2018 for the governorship and the national and state legislative houses.

“You may further wish to recall that in Suit No.FHC/ABJ/CS/1279/2018- APC V. INEC & 5 ORS, the Federal High Court held that the nullification of the said Zamfara APC primaries by INEC was lawful. However, this decision has been upturned in Appeal No CA/S/23/2019. Copy is also attached for ease of reference.

“In the circumstance and in consideration of the provisions of Sections 38 and 39 of the Electoral Act, 2010, the law allows INEC the latitude and discretion to extend the time within which a political party may duly field a candidate for an election where unforeseen circumstances constrained such a party from doing so within the stipulated time frame.

“In this particular instance, the constraining circumstances that led to the delay in fielding candidates were caused by INEC’s refusal to comply with the Zamfara State High Court judgment in the aforementioned suit to uphold the primaries as held. Moreover, INEC cannot foreclose the right of a political party to participate in elections without recourse to the Act. By the doctrine and principle of judicial precedence, the Appeal supersedes the Federal High Court’s Position in Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/1279/2018 –APC V. INEC & 5 ORS.

“In view of the fact, now that the Court of Appeal has upheld the Primaries as valid, the APC in Zamfara State will need a little time to catch up with its contemporaries in the election. Granting them this concession is not necessarily a favour, but a right that inures to all contestants under similar circumstances.

“Consequent on the above, INEC is invited to comply with the judgment of the Court of Appeal by admitting the results of the APC Zamfara State primaries and to also comply with the provisions of S.38 of the Electoral Act, which empowers INEC to postpone the election for the governorship, National Assembly and House of Assembly elections."

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