Reports
All Reports will go here. Reports are unconfirmed news stories.

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After losing her fourth child during delivery at the house of her regular traditional birth attendant (TBA), 42 year–old Kemi Ariyo contracted spiritualists to get to the root of her problems. “I was widely accused to be a witch as a result of the demise of my babies,” Kemi said. “So I approached the spiritualists who pray for pregnant women and see to the delivery of their babies”.

The delivery of the fourth happened in a thatched roof house with three spiritualists around her in her native Ode Ugbo, a riverine community of Ondo State. But in spite of their weekly prayers and their presence during the delivery,  the baby was lost to still birth .
Ariyo’s case may be extreme but generally indicative of the problems that women in rural Nigeria face. Almost on a daily basis, women in her situation consult spiritualists who charge between 15000 naira and 25000 ($48 -$79 ) per delivery – who claim to be praying and fasting and would consistently administer local herbal concoctions (Agbo) to these women between the period of pregnancy and delivery.
According to the National Demographic Health Survey, 2008, Ondo state had a maternal mortality ratio of 742 per 100,000 live births with worse indices at the facility level. Nigeria records one of the world’s highest rates of maternal deaths, with the country being the largest contributor of maternal deaths globally and second largest of under – five deaths with India being the first.
Most families especially those in rural communities – characteristically uneducated and economically disadvantaged – are at the mercies of spiritualists, and unskilled traditional birth attendants that they consult to deliver their babies. “We trust the outcome will be divine, we never trusted government hospitals” explains 60 year- old Taye Idowu in Yoruba.
One day however, Madam Taye, a former traditional birth attendant now maternal health evangelist approached Mrs Ariyo and appealed to her to stop patronizing spiritualists, “I told her that the unskilled birth attendants are the reasons she has been childless” she said.
Taye is part of a corp of maternal health evangelists, mostly reformed traditional birth healers under the Ondo state government’s ‘Agbebiye’ programme – an incentive based referral programme. The TBAs are encouraged to refer their ‘patients’ to the orthodox clinics and earn money. She and others in the 18 local governments of Ondo State are part of the Agbebiye Initiative – a community – based approach and a primary health care model aimed to further improve community ownership to reduce maternal health to zero.
When questioned how she succeeded in persuading the health care providers to stop tending to Ariyo, she explains that she simply reiterated the birth techniques and the dangers she was now aware of. “We were all together in the same community, and I was part of the trade – we use broken bottles to cut the umbilical cord immediately the women deliver their babies, some get home and die from infection. We did not know it was bad.”
I paid a visit to a Comprehensive Health facility Centre in Oba’ile – Ondo South where a 34 year- old trader, Aderoju Fumilayo strapped her new-born baby who was obviously dazed with the heat and noise to her back. As she waited within the premises while women gathered for antenatal care to be attended to, she narrated her experience birthing three of her four kids. She compared those births by the traditional birth attendants to what is obtainable at the health Centre.
“I was normally asked to give them kerosene, Omo, Dettol, Detergent, and 10,000 naira as payment and conduct my babies naming ceremony there before they deliver my babies – I lie on a bench (typically made of wood) sometimes on the bare floor to deliver my babies”, she said.
Standing beside Funmilayo at the health Centre is a 65 – year –old, Olayiwola Fagoroyo, observing as a middle age nurse attends to Funmi. I am told she’s an “Agbabiye Vanguard” – she moves around with the women she refers to this health Centre’ making sure they go for antenatal, deliver the babies at the referred health Centre’s, and ensure the children are properly immunized to prevent mortality.
Dr. Dayo Adeyanju, the state Health Commissioner explained that ‘Abiye’ (safe motherhood program is a prelude to “Agbebiye” a word in Yoruba that means “Safe Birth Attendant” which could also mean “Safe Pregnancy Delivery”, and conducted in partnership with Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs).
“The Programme strives to ensure Universal Health Coverage for comprehensive sexual, reproductive, maternal and newborn health care” he said. “The traditional birth attendants refer their clients to the health facilities for a cash reward and training on vocational skills acquisition (soap making, hat and bead making, catering services and tie and dye making”.
For the commissioner, the incentive provided by government was the major driver in a country like Nigeria that ranks amongst the 10 worst countries in sub-Saharan Africa to birth a child – according to Save the Children Mothers’ index.
But for Madam Kikelomo, a former traditional midwife now registered with government in downtown Akure, “we’ve seen that traditional birth attendant methods are harmful to our women which is why we had to enroll in the “Agbebiye program” – reducing the number of women and children dying during child birth”.
With two dedicated Mother and Child Hospitals, the Ondo State Government has been able to reduce Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) by 84.9 per cent. From 745 per 1000,000 live births in 2009 the indices have drastically reduced to 112 per 100,000 live births in 2016 – a feat which made the state a recipient of a 400 million dollars grant from the World Bank.
“The women are treated free, from natural births and those that undergo caesarian operation, it is also done at no cost – that has helped us to scale – up the numbers”, the Chief Medical Director, Dr Adesina Akintan of the Referral centre (mother and child hospital) Oke’ Aro in Akure tells me. “Our objective is to make sure no woman dies during pregnancy or trying to birth a child”.
Another expectant mother, Mrs Oluwakemi Fagbe at the referral centre in Oba’ile, within Akure Municipality, tells me, “- They have specialists in this place and that is why I am here, Pregnant women from neighboring states also visit this place to deliver because it is free, they even provide free blood donation for our children from age zero to 5 years.”
Outgoing governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo, a medical doctor, boasts of meeting the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) targets “between 2010 and 2016, we were able to crash maternal mortality by over 75% since we came on board and of course that can be linked to the Abiye and Agbebiye scheme we introduced”.
“We created an incentive scheme, with every referral by the Traditional birth attendants to access healthcare by expectant women, they are given a coupon, which is N2000 each per referral – with that method, they convinced most of their clients to orthodox hospitals for proper care” said the governor.
For Mrs Ariyo and Mrs Fagbe the knowledge gained by attending antenatal will be passed on to their children as they were all birthed at home through the risky and life threatening traditional birth attendants methods.
A state government document explaining the concept of Agbebiye initiative claims that among those referred by traditional birth attendants, there was no single maternal death with 99% neonatal survival – and facility utilization increased by 20.4% in the primary health care facilities and there was a reduction in the facility utilization of the apex tertiary hospital.
Whether the Abiye programme can be sustained, as fiscal allocations to states continue to decline is a question that time will answer.
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Mercy Abang is a Freelance Journalist – Media Fixer with Sunday Times of London, BBC, Aljazeera and a former Stringer with the Associated Press – She tweets at @abangmercy..

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Chief of Army Staff, Lt General Tukur Buratai

The Nigerian Army seems to be struggling to douse the tension the recent arrest of Premium Times journalists has stirred. The Publisher of Premium Times, Dapo Olorunyomi and the paper’s judicial correspondent Evelyn Okakwu, were on Thursday January 19 arrested by the Nigerian Police at the instance of Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff, Lt General Tukur Buratai.

In a recent statement issued by its spokesperson, Sani Usman, the army on one hand accused Premium Times of “fraudulently obtaining and disclosure of military information,” and on the other hand claimed the media platform “falsely and unjustifiably accused the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Yusufu Buratai, of false declaration of assets, owning mansions and estates in Dubai and further stated that he was being investigated by Code of Conduct Bureau for false declaration of assets in their publication of 12th December 2015.” The latter, the army insists, borders on libel for which the Buratai, will seek redress in court.

If, as Sani Usman initially alleged, Premium Times obtained military information and disclosed same, can it then be said the information the newspaper obtained and disclosed was about the false asset declaration, owning of mansions and estates in Dubai and being under investigation by the Code of Conducts Bureau which the army mentioned? If these are the information, should the media organisation then be accused of publishing libellous material since libel, essentially, is false publication?

The Army spokesperson was equally reported as having said the arrest of the two Premium Times journalists was not at the instance of the Army as an institution but that of Mr. Buratai, a lieutenant general, raising the question of why a man about to sue for libel will resort to seeking the arrest of people he could have simply sued. And again, that the spokesperson of the Army was the one issuing statements on the matter, instead of Mr Buratai’s personal aide or himself discussing it questions the assertion that Buratai, and not the army as an institution, is the one pursuing the case.

 

 

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Center: President Donald Trump places hands across shoulders of former President Barack Obama

The presidential inauguration of Donald J. Trump mirrored the traditions of inaugurations past—the giant flags in front of the soaring Capitol Dome, the bipartisan pageant of shivering politicians, the rhetorical tributes to America’s peaceful transfers of power. Republican Senator Roy Blunt quoted Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln about national unity, reminding the crowd the event was “not a celebration of victory, but a celebration of democracy.” And the Trump supporters who had been so raucous during his rallies generally respected these ceremonial norms of civility, mostly refraining from booing Barack Obama and even Hillary Clinton.

But Trump was Trump, even though he had just become President Trump. He is no ordinary politician, and his inaugural address—a pugilistic, nationalistic, campaign-style screed that made America sound like an unbearable dystopia—was a harsh reminder, if one were needed, that this was no ordinary transfer of power.

 

Historical hinge points are not always discernible in real time, but America’s dizzying leap from Obama to Trump—from the first black president to the leader of the movement that questioned his citizenship, from a globalist who pushed an opening with Asia to a populist who echoes the angry rhetoric of ethno-nationalists in Europe—is an obvious one. It’s an abrupt shift not only from a Democratic technocrat who pursued progressive policies to a Republican billionaire who has vowed to undo them, but from no-drama to melodrama, from cerebral and methodical to impulsive and chaotic, from the pedantic intellectual who loathes cable news and quoted V.S. Naipaul in an exit interview with the New York Times book critic to the brand-savvy entrepreneur and reality-TV host who incessantly watches cable news and does not seem to read books at all. It’s also a shift from the optimistic hope of “Yes We Can!” to the bombastic darkness of “I Alone Can Fix It.” And while recent U.S. presidential politics has tended to lurch across the ideological spectrum every eight years—from Bill Clinton to George W. Bush to Obama—this inauguration did not feel like an ordinary lurch.

From the moment Trump began to speak—and a cold drizzle began to leak from the sky—he provided reminders that he and Obama do not just have different philosophies, temperaments and bases of support. Their differences go beyond Trump’s desire to repeal Obama’s health care and Wall Street reforms. and climate actions, or his efforts to replace Obama’s diverse and progressive Cabinet with an almost all-white Cabinet dominated by billionaires and movement conservatives. Trump and Obama may both be alpha males and change agents with daddy issues and a love of golf, but really, they inhabit different realities.

Trump did mouth a few of the traditional pieties expected of new presidents, thanking Obama for his “magnificent” assistance during the transition, calling his oath of office “an oath of allegiance to all Americans.” But he went on to describe America as a hellscape where the Washington establishment has declared war on the public, creating a land of lost jobs, struggling families, “mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities,” “rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation,” “an education system that is flush with cash but leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge.”

“And the crime!” he continued. “And the gangs! And the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential. This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.”

Obama has gone to great lengths to point out that in fact, by just about every statistical measure, America is much better off than it was eight years ago. Jobs were being lost in droves when he took office, nearly 800,000 a month, but nearly 16 million have been gained since the end of the Great Recession, cutting the jobless rate in half. Trump’s complaint that “we’ve made other countries rich while the wealth, strength and confidence of our country has dissipated” is backward; the U.S. recovery has far outpaced Europe and most of the world. Some factories are indeed rusting, but U.S. manufacturing output is at an all-time high. So is the high school graduation rate of our young and beautiful students. Home values are soaring in inner cities. And the American carnage that Trump vowed to stop has been declining since the end of the crack epidemic in the early 1990s; overall, crime is near a 45-year low. Obama may not have succeeded in publicizing these facts, but they’re still facts.

That said, the Trump phenomenon has never been about facts. It has been about cultural resentment, about calling out enemies, about never backing down, about showing the world who’s boss. He has never apologized for calling Mexicans rapists or for slandering a Mexican-American judge; for tweeting fake statistics suggesting that black crime was out of control or for calling for the death penalty for black teenagers wrongly accused of a Central Park rape; for fat-shaming a beauty queen or for getting caught on tape bragging about grabbing genitalia. That’s not how he rolls. Some observers thought his new responsibilities might rein him in a bit, but during his transition he continued to lash out at critics, celebrities and even the civil rights hero John Lewis. He remained defiant today, repeating his disgust for “politicians who are all talk and no action”—the same insult he lobbed at Lewis.

One thing to remember about Trump’s flagrant defiance of institutional norms is that it has worked for him. Whether or not he’s correct that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue without losing any votes, it’s certainly true that his supporters on the Mall today saw his political incorrectness as a feature rather than a bug. “He’s not the most polished guy we’ve ever had, but he says it like it is, and for a lot of us that’s a breath of fresh air,” says Gerald Turner, who owns an asphalt business in Knoxville. Turner suggested that Trump’s unorthodox style could even help him unite the country in a way that Bush and Obama couldn’t: “I know the press doesn’t think that, but the press has been wrong a few times, hasn’t it?”

Obama in many ways defined himself in opposition to his predecessors. He campaigned as an ideological anti-Bush, attacking upper-end tax cuts and the Iraq war, and he tried to avoid what he saw as Bush’s recklessness, incuriosity and messianic streak in the White House. He had much more in common with Clinton politically, but as president he also tried to avoid what he saw as Clinton’s unprincipled and undisciplined approach to policy. But now he has turned over the Oval Office to a man he believes shares all those faults, just worse, without any of the redeeming qualities of Clinton and Bush.

One of those qualities was a genuine belief in political norms and institutions, a belief that animates the pageantry of American inaugurations. Obama, Clinton and Bush all had chummy smiles plastered across their faces today, even though they all had to be experiencing various degrees of pain. But Trump simply doesn’t share that faith in norms; he rose to power by shattering norms, and he did it again today. For example, the phrase “America First” has been verboten in U.S. politics ever since it was co-opted by anti-Semitic isolationists during World War II. But Trump has revived it, defying the critics, and he emphatically deployed it again today, calling for a new American patriotism grounded in a shared distaste for American elites.

It’s hard to square his rhetoric about finally paying attention to ordinary Americans who have been ignored with his hires of Goldman Sachs alumni or his calls for more high-end tax cuts, but there has always been a Rorschach quality to his speeches. People hear what they want to hear. Trump’s critics hear a demagogue, a strongman, a con artist, while many of his supporters hear a cultural warrior who will take on disloyal Muslims, illegal Mexicans, rabble-rousing Black Lives Matter activists, and restore law and order to a country that has lost its values. One byproduct of Trump’s slippery relationship with even insignificant facts—he claimed yesterday that no president had ever held an inaugural concert at the Lincoln Memorial, when Obama and Bush both did—is that some Americans continue to believe he means well no matter what he says.

Travis Oliger, a Republican county chairman in Durango, Colorado, says he understands why many Democrats are frightened about the future under Trump. “I felt the same feelings eight years ago—the uncertainty, the fear for the country,” Oliger said. But he’s confident that everything will turn out OK. “I don’t think he’s going to keep talking like this to foreign leaders,” Oliger said. “He’s a businessman, and I’m pretty sure he knows what he’s doing.” Oliger even believes that Trump can unite the country; at heart, he said, people have more in common than they realize.

“You know, things turned out better than I thought they would under Obama,” Oliger said. “What I’d say to the left is: It might not be as bad you expect.”

Inaugurations, after all, are about hope, even when the new president appeals to fear. They’re about unity and continuity—not of policy, but of democracy. But the policy starts now; in fact, it started this afternoon, when Trump canceled an Obama move that would have cut mortgage fees for low-income homeowners. Inaugurations, like campaigns, are about talk, but governing gets judged by results.

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An investigation by The Nation Newspaper says Nigerian participants in the popular Ponzi scheme, MMM, are losing patience with it, a week after resumption of service and promise to begin payment.

Although there was evidence yesterday that some participants had been paid ,thousands of others whose applications were yet to be attended to have been  venting their anger on the brains behind the scheme for the frustration in accessing their funds.

They rage, curse and threaten unrestrained  on the MMM Help platform after unsuccessful attempts to get response to their many inquiries on the status of their investment.

Typical of the threat message is this seen yesterday on the MMM website: “Hello Mavrodi. You can’t eat my money and go like that. See, let me tell you Mavrodi: my father is a native doctor. I give you two weeks to pay my money or my father will kill you in that Russia. I’m ready to kill anybody including my guider and referral. Make una  no play with me ooo…If you like joke with me.”

One Hayat Mohammed  said: “I really need help. I provided help of 50,000, now I made a request to get help. The request was processed, but I’ve not being matched with another participant who will pay me. They won’t even pick my calls. So my money is lost, isn’t it? Last time I checked, this was supposed to be a platform where we would be able to tender our problems for solutions. I guess they don’t care anymore since participants have grown in population.”

Harrison Ita Etim posted: “I am still in the same shit too till today!”

Owhotemu Maryjane said: “What is really going on with MMM? If it’s gone you should let us the participants know. And why is that when someone wants to GH it will show or create error? You guys had a month to sort this out during the so-called break! So what then is this so called withdrawal limit that you are now talking about?”

From Santos Maemi came this: “To all Nigerians, please wake up. This is totally a scam. Don’t be blind!!!” while Christopher Chinedu said: “If I knew that this would  happen, I shouldn’t have become a participant. Let’s admit we have lost our money. That is business I guess, lose or gain. Somebody has been matched with different people, four, to be precise and they have not paid him now, many days and months after. Hmmm so who is going to pay who? I think I have cried enough, it’s time for me to clean my eyes now and forget my N700,000. This is not my end.”

A cross section of participants interviewed in Ado Ekiti fear that their money is gone.

Tope Aladeniyi, who said he was to be paid a day before the scheme was shut down in December, said  he learnt some people received little payments, but he was yet to be matched for payment.

“At the moment, I have not been matched, and last year we were told that once  the scheme resumed on January 14, they would  be the ones to release those who were ready to be matched, even if you were due for payment,” Aladeniyi said.

Another participant, Sola Abidakun, who provided help in November and asked for help on January 13, said he was matched with four persons but only two paid.

“I was only paid N4000 and N10,000, leaving two failed transactions waiting to be rematched,” he said.

A top guider of the scheme, Bode Wilson, while explaining the reason for delayed payment, said that the number of people requesting for payment was higher than the number providing help.

“They have started matching people, but there will be delay in payment, especially for those that pledged huge amount of money. There should be enough money in the system before everybody can get paid. However, I’m sure we will all get paid”, Wilson said.

A lawyer, Femi Oyeniyi, warned that participants in the scheme may not be able to recover any money lost in the scheme because of the anonymity the business is shrouded with.

Oyeniyi said: “I doubt who do you sue, you don’t see the person you are doing business with, you can only sue the person you see and it is only the person you see physically that you can do business with.”

A broadcaster,Carol Oladeinde, said: “I have a relation who did the MMM thing and was benefitting from it before they went off. I do not think that we should condemn the financial scheme (MMM) because a lot of people have benefited from it. I am into another networking stuff. I am a member of another one and it is working.

“Yes, I will continue with mine because I know what I am benefiting from it. I can’t go anywhere to borrow money so if I am involved in a financial scheme where I see someone give me indirect loan and even increase my opportunity to get more, why won’t I continue?

Martins Okafor, a participant  investor in Awka still believes in the scheme.

He told the newspaper that those who have not received any payment were those who have not been matched  for payments, especially those invested shortly before the break.

Another investor, Miss Blessing Nwankwo, was also optimistic that her investment would not be lost

She said she was willing to forfeit  N10,000 of  the N20,000 she invested, adding that she had no regrets whatsoever.

Mrs. Chiamaka Udu, a participant in Port Harcourt, said: “ We thank God that we are able to be alive to see today.

“The  last time when you came to my house to talk to me, I told you I was going to die, but I think there is hope. What is happening now is that those of us with big funds are not being paid now. They told us that we should wait; that after providing help for those with small amount they will consider us.”

Mr. Geoffrey Nnamdi said: “My brother, I ‘m yet to understand these people. Though they are paying some, when I clicked help they rejected my request, saying I should wait but I need this money.

Another customer, Mr. Davies Onyema reacted this way, “Please, I don’t want to say anything, I almost committed suicide last time. I was very happy when I heard the news of their coming back. I have entered forty days of praying and fasting over my condition with MMM. How can they return and tell me that they are not going to provide help to me, so when are they going to provide help?”

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Donald Trump, incoming American President

Donald Trump will be inaugurated today as the 45th President of the United States, amid uncertainty about his capacity to lead the country that has emerged the only remaining global superpower.

Trump surprisingly won the presidential election in November 2016, against the predictions of most pundits, pollsters and even prophets. He ran a campaign driven by racism, sexism, misogyny and ignorance. He declared he would ban Muslims, who number at least one billion globally, from entering the United States “until the country figures what is going on”. He mocked the Muslim parents of a dead America soldier who fought for the country in Iraq. He also mocked a disabled journalist with gesticulations that demonstrated how the journalist walked.

Trump’s signature campaign promise was to ‘build a wall’ along the Mexican border and force Mexico to pay for it.

Trump broke every rule of conventional politics which required great level of decency from candidates to have a chance of acceptance. He won the election just weeks after he was heard on tape boasting about grabbing women by the genitals, even against their consent, just because he is a celebrity.

His opponent in the election, Hillary, wife of former president Bill Clinton, had during the campaign alerted Americans to Trump’s non-suitability for office. But the few voters who pushed Trump over the finish line counted Hillary’s many years of experience in public service as a liability, and a core element that would inhibit change in the country. Trump won the electoral college votes narrowly, but lost the popular vote massively. In the United States, it is the electoral college that determines who becomes president.

Trump has accused China of rigging international trade and manipulating its currency, insisting he would correct the anomaly. He also said America will not back any NATO country that does not pay its fair share of the alliance’s financial commitment. His core foreign policy, if he has any, is strictly isolationist in a globalized world.

And to the shock of both Republican and Democratic (the two main political parties in the United States) foreign policy veterans, Trump is in bed with Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, a state hostile to America. Trump has called him ‘smart’ countless times, to the discomfort of the American establishment.

And in the days leading up to the inauguration, reports have indicated that Russia helped to influence Trump’s victory. Operatives of the Russian state are alleged to have been behind the hacking of emails of John Podesta, Chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Those emails embarrassed the campaign as they were released daily. They contained information that portrayed the former First Lady as being two-faced and corrupt. The emails also caused huge disaffection within Hillary’s party, as they suggested the party establishment conspired to rig Bernie Sanders, Hillary’s opponent in the party primaries, out of the party’s ticket.

Trump had initially dismissed the reports or Russia as witch-hunt by opponents, those he defeated in the election. Then, last week, in his first press conference since after winning the election, he agreed that the country probably hacked the emails.

As he takes the reins today, in focus will be his relationship with the rest of the world, as well as the minorities in the United State

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President Muhammadu Buhari

The greed of the Nigerian ruling class is not unique to any political party. It permeates party boundaries. It manifested in Edo State on Wednesday when the State House of Assembly hurriedly amended an existing law in the state to create legal backing for Adams Oshiomhole, immediate past governor of the state, to be given a N200m retirement mansion. The law also prescribes N100m mansion for Oshiomhole’s deputy.

If accented to by Oshiomhole’s godson and successor, Godwin Obaseki, the former governor who ruled the state for 8 years and controlled the multi-billion-naira security votes, will be given a N200m mansion from the state coffers at a time minimum wage is N18,000 in an 18.3% inflation economy.

Oshiomole attempted being clever by half. In trying to make it appear like he had no hand in the plot, his rubber-stamp state legislature waited for him to hand over before amending the law. But their impatience betrayed them. They did not even allow it to get to one week. Not even five days. It is not difficult to know who planned it.

But let’s be fair to him, Oshiomole’s greed didn’t carry the impunity those of his forebears carried. Bola Tinubu, the godfather of Oshiomole’s party APC, personally signed his own pension into law in 2007. The law provided for 2 mansions for a former governor (for life) in Abuja and Lagos, none of which, according to property experts, should cost less than N500m. The pension package signed into law by Tinubu included 6 brand new cars replaceable every 3 years, furniture allowance, pension, security detail, medical allowance for self and family. Officially, motor vehicles are depreciated in four years, but Tinubu’s, even though the number is outrageous and should stretch the depreciation period much longer, was instead contracted.

Rotimi Amaechi (APC) of Rivers State signed his own into law also. It included a mansion in any part of the country, 3 new cars replaceable every four years, furniture allowance, house maintenance allowance, etc.

Godswill Akpabio’s was as outrageous as anyone could imagine. Akpabio is of the PDP. His included a 5-bedroom mansion in Abuja and Akwa Ibom, a N100m medical allowance, brand new cars replaceable every four years, furniture allowance that is 300% of a governor’s salary, gratuity, domestic staff allowance not exceeding N5m per year, etc.

Akpabio’s raised so much dust and embarrassed his party that the President at the time, Goodluck Jonathan, had to call him to order, according to a report by Premium Times. Akpabio backpedalled after the president’s concern, and agreed to expunge only the outrageous sum of N100m for medical allowance.

The tale of governors’ greed is the same in Kwara, Kano, Zamfara, Sokoto, Gombe and many other states. It’s also possible that some of the states whose own laws weren’t mentioned passed them secretly.  

Oshiomhole’s is the latest and the first under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari under whom Nigeria is facing its worst recession in decades.

Both men are also in the same political party. It is yet to be seen whether the President will feel embarrassed enough to call Oshiomhole and his successor to order, just like Jonathan did Akpabio, or watch Oshiomhole get away with the outrageous pension law that makes mockery of the suffering Edo residents go through.

 

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Explaining America's complicated way of choosing president

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump

Americans will troop to the polls today to choose who succeeds outgoing Barack Obama as the next president of the world’s only standing super-power.

The choice is between Donald Trump, a billionaire businessman representing conservative Republican Party and Hillary Clinton, candidate of ruling Democratic Party. Hillary is the wife of a former President Bill Clinton. She was a Senator representing New York for 8 years.

The race tightened in the last 11 days, following an unprecedented intervention by the head of Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) who suddenly announced a review of a trove of emails connected to Hillary while she served as Secretary of State under Barack Obama. The email scandal had bogged Hillary throughout the period of her campaign and in July, the FBI announced that it was not going to recommend prosecution for the former First Lady’s handling of emails. James Comey, the FBI Director, said no reasonable prosecutor would bring charges against Hillary, based on the evidence seen.

Then, while investigating an entirely different matter that involved a former Congressman Anthony Weiner, FBI agents ran into over 650,000 emails from and to Hillary in Weiner’s laptop. Weiner was the husband of Hillary’s closest aide Huma Abedin. They are now separated after he was discovered to be sexting a minor, a crime over which the FBI has investigative jurisdiction.

The announcement of an investigation into the past of a major party candidate was against age-long policy and tradition of the FBI which strives to not act in ways that will influence the outcome of elections in America.  Comey’s action therefore was seen as inexplicable by many analysts.

The American election system is markedly different from many in the world. It is not as straightforward as what obtains in many other presidential-system democracies. American Presidents are chosen indirectly, not directly as happens in Nigeria and other countries. The voters cast their ballot for a set of electors – 538 in number – who in turn pick the president. One of this system is that each state’s electors will be equal in number to the legislators (Senate and House of Representatives members) representing that state in the country’s capital, Washington D.C.

The second rule is that whichever party that wins in any state, even if with a single vote difference, has carried the whole of the electors (called electoral votes) in that state. Electors are therefore bound by convention – not necessarily law – to vote for the party which carried a state. Because it is taken for granted that electors will vote the candidate who wins each state, the second stage of the American presidential election, which is for electors to vote, is not observed by many people, since on the night of the general election, results show who won the majority of the electoral college votes. Casting of votes by electors is therefore a mere ceremonial exercise .

The winner of the American presidency must take majority of the electoral college votes which is 270 (538 divided by 2 is 269. So, majority here begins with just one vote above 269. That is 270).

 The winner of today’s election will be the candidate who wins enough electoral college votes to score 270. Once one person gets up to 270, it is impossible for the other to score same votes, since only 268 votes will be left.

Hillary Clinton is favoured to win the race narrowly due to a favourable electoral college map. But a late surge in support for Donald Trump puts victory within his reach also, especially if he is able to flip a core democratic-voting state.

If Hillary wins, she would have made history as the first woman to preside over the United States of America, the greatest country in the world. She also would have made history as the first spouse of a former president to rule America. The history will equally be shared by the Democratic Party which gave America its first black president in Barack Obama. The party would have delivered to the United States two firsts following each other.

But today’s election is arguably the most important in the history of America and the world as one of the candidates, Donald Trump, is seen as majorly temperamentally unfit to lead the United States. In the course of the campaign, he has made statements that jolted even his supporters, insulting minorities and the disabled. He has repeatedly maintained that he would deport immigrants and ban all Muslims from entering the United States. He equally said he would compel NATO members to make financial contributions before America will protect them in case of attacks. NATO is the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, an international and intergovernmental defence alliance that was formed in 1949. NATO members are protected by Article 5 which holds that an attack on one member is an attack on all members. The article was invoked for the first time after the September 9, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon – all in the United States.

Such isolationist foreign policy of Trump’s is keeping world leaders on edge as Americans make the decision of who calls the shots in the next four years.  

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Members of National Assembly have cried out about how unlucrative law-making has become under the current administration, with some hinting at not bothering to seek a return if situation of their finances fails to improve.

It is not as though there was a drop in their legitimate earnings which rank among the highest in the world. This year, budget for National Assembly was N115b. There are only 360 House of Representative members and 109 Senators. But the budget includes their aides as well as staff of the National Assembly Service Commission and National Assembly Legislative Institute, two civil service organisations under the National Assembly. The commissions’ staff strength is unclear, yet an annual budget of N115b for just an arm of government alone is outrageous.

Yet the legislators are groaning. Their jumbo allowances are not enough, they claim, because, according to them, they spent so much money campaigning for the positions they now occupy.

The complaints stem from the realization that, under Buhari’s administration, filthy practices of the past that helped lawmakers corner huge sums of money outside of their legitimate earnings, mostly through padding of budgets of agencies under the executive, have become unfeasible.

Senator James Manager, (PDP, Delta State), lamented during the screening of a candidate nominated to become INEC National Commissioner, about how Senators spend so much and yet are unable to recoup their expenses.

He told the candidate, Professor Okechukwu Ibeano, the story of a former Senatorial candidate who committed suicide after losing election, implying that the man was broke because of the volume of expenses he incurred during his campaign.  Manager said; “A man who contested for one of three senatorial districts of Lagos in 2011 drove to his bank six months after the election. On his way back, he asked his driver to stop, he walked for few minutes and jumped into the lagoon.

“We are in trouble, Professor, please how do we resolve this?”

Another legislator, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on INEC, Senator Abubakar Kyari (APC, Borno North), justifying why politicians spend so much money trying to win elections, said the amount stipulated in the Electoral Act for campaign spending was not realistic. “We have 120,000 polling units   across the country and if a Presidential candidate pays N10, 000 to each agent at each of the polling units, he will spend N1.2billion just for agents on election day.”

Nigeria’s electoral laws limit campaign spending for Senate at N40 million and House of Representatives at N20 million. Violating the Act attracts a fine of N600, 000 or six months imprisonment or both, in the case of Senate, and a fine of N500, 000 or five months imprisonment or both, for the House of Representatives. Some legislators told Daily Trust in confidence, that they can no longer ask Ministries, Agencies and Departments of the Federal Government for bribe money since both the agencies and the legislators themselves are afraid of Buhari’s anti-corruption drive.

A lawmaker told the newspaper: “We are afraid to ask them (MDAs) now and they too are afraid to bring anything. Like now that we’re approaching the end of the year, MDAs would bring a lot of things to us, but last year was totally different, and I’m sure this year too will be the same.”

Below is more report from the paper:

A senator who is into transportation business also expressed dismay. He said: “I should have concentrated on my business than coming here because now I don’t have enough time for my business, yet I’m not making anything here.”

Another lawmaker said: “Seriously, this is not what I expected. In fact, I can tell you that I was better off as a businessman than a legislator.

“The story was different before I came here, at least so I was told. Our predecessors enjoyed their stay at the National Assembly, but our own case is different.”

Some of the lawmakers said if things continued like this up to 2019, they might not seek re-election “because the business of legislature appears to be unprofitable.”

A former lawmaker, who spoke to Daily Trust on condition of anonymity, said:  “It will not be fair to say every lawmaker comes to the National Assembly to make money. But it is true that many come with that thinking that it is a goldmine. It will certainly be good to make public office unattractive so that only the best and those ready to serve will stand in election.”

He however said that the get-rich-in-office syndrome was not limited to the lawmakers alone. “Even among the executive many see their position as a key to riches and easy money. So we need to get our priorities right,” he added.

Speaking at a seminar titled “The role of the legislature in the fight against corruption in Nigeria,” organized by the anti-corruption committees of the Senate and House of Representatives in Abuja, Kenya’s former anti-corruption chief, Prof Patrick Lumumba, said if a politician was willing to spend N1billion for a N30m job, then it should be clear he was not going there to serve but to make money

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Judges arrested by DSS

Many people agree that the judiciary is corrupt. But there’s also been attempts in the past, albeit weak, by the National Judicial Council, NJC, to sanction some of the erring judges. The NJC is the body saddled with the responsibility of sanctioning judges who behave outside of the prescribed code of conduct for judicial officers. There’s been intense debate lately however, in the wake of the raid of judges’ homes by the DSS, whether crimes like receiving payment in form of bribes to deliver favourable judgements for litigants falls outside of judicial code of conduct which NJC is expected to handle.

In a recent letter addressing the arrest of judges by the DSS, Chief Justice of Nigeria Mahmoud Mohammed said since the year 2000 when NJC held its first inaugural meeting, the body has received 1,808 petitions from the public, out of which 82 judicial officers were reprimanded for misconduct, 38 recommended to the President or governor for compulsory retirement while another 12 were recommended to the President or governor for dismissal.

The decision on whom to recommend action to depends on the court where the indicted judge operates from. Recommendation of action on judges serving in Federal Courts is made to the President while the recommendation goes to state governors if the judge concerned is serving in a state court.

Constitutionally, the job of the NJC is completed at the point it recommends the nature of sanction to be meted out on an erring judge to the president or governor. It is expected that the president or governor should immediately implement the recommendation.

But in a recent press release, the CJN expressed frustration at the refusal, or reluctance of these heads of the executive arm of government to implement recommendations of the NJC, yet, in the case of President Muhammadu Buhari, turns around to accuse the NJC of shielding corrupt judges.

The NJC specifically said it was unhappy with the executive arm’s delay in acting on its recommendation of the retirement or dismissal of erring judicial officers.

In a letter written to civil society organization Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) on October 26, CJN Mahmud Muhammed said: “The failure on the part of the executive arm of government to act upon recommendations by the NJC cannot be blamed upon the NJC.”

He reiterated that the Constitution empowers the NJC only to recommend to the President and the governors the removal from office of judicial officers and to exercise disciplinary control over such judicial officers, which in effect is the extent of its power to discipline.

The CJN added that it was not within the powers of the NJC to implement its recommendation of retirement or dismissal, but that the most it could do is to suspend an erring judicial officer until its recommendations are accepted by the Executive.

An investigation by The Nation revealed that the President and some governors are yet to act on some specific recommendations involving judicial officers, such as Justice Musa Ibrahim Anka (Zamfara High Court), Justice Mohammed Yunusa (Federal High Court), Justice Olamide Oloyede (Osun State High Court) and Justice I. E. Umezulike (Chief Judge of Enugu State) and Kabiru Auta (Kano State High Court).

Below is part of the report:

/In 2011, the NJC directed that Justice Anka be sacked, having been found guilty of gross misconduct (bribery and corruption). It found that the judge received bribe from Zubairu Abdulmalik to deliver judgment in his favour.

Justice Anka, before then had been on suspension by the NJC since July 2010, following a petition written against him by Zamfara State DSS, alleging that he received bribe from one Zubairu Abdulmalik in order to deliver judgment in his favour.

The NJC, in July, recommended to President Muhammadu Buhari that Justice Yunusa be compulsorily retired for granting interim orders and perpet­ual injunctions, restrain­ing Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), In­spector General of Police (IGP), Independent Corrupt Practices and related of­fences Commission (ICPC) and EFCC from arresting, in­vestigating and prosecuting some persons accused of corruption in some cases.

Also in July, the NJC  recommended to the Osun State Governor, the compulsory retirement from office of Justice Olamide Oloyede for failing “to conduct herself in such a manner as to preserve the dignity of her office and impartiality and independence of the judiciary.

The NJC, in a statement on July 18, 2016, said Justice Oloyedee “derailed when she wrote a petition against the Osun State Governor and his Deputy to members of the State House of Assembly and circulated same to 36 persons and organisations”.

The petition was said to have contained political statements, unsubstantiated allegations and accusations aimed at deriding, demeaning and undermining the Government of Osun State.

On the case of Justice Auta, the NJC, in a statement on September 30, 2016,  recommended to the Kano State Governor, Alhaji Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, that the judge be dismissed and be handed over to the police for prosecution following its findings on the allegations levelled against him by Alhaji Kabiru Yakassai.

Yakassai had petitioned the NJC, claiming that he paid N125, 000.000.00  into an account approved by the Judge.

The NJC also recommended that Justice Auta be handed over to the Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Zone 1, Kano, for prosecution

Also in September, the NJC recommended Justice Umezulike to the Governor of Enugu State, Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, for compulsory retirement.

The council confirmed the allegations levelled against him by Barrister Peter Eze.

It was alleged that Justice Umezulike failed to deliver judgement in suit No E/13/2008: Ajogwu V Nigerian Bottling Company Limited in which final addresses were adopted on 23rd October, 2014.

The judgement was however delivered on 9th March, 2015, about 126 days after addresses had been adopted, contrary to constitutional provisions that judgement should be delivered within 90 days.

It was learnt that neither the President nor the governors have written the NJC in relation to its recommendations on the judges.

 

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Former Abia State Governor Orji Uzor Kalu

The man who governed Abia state from 1999 to 2007, Orji Uzor Kalu, has energized peddlers of the narrative that Igbos do not understand the game of politics. Kalu said Igbos are better traders than politicians.

In an interview he granted Azu Ishiekwene’s The Interview Magazine, Kalu compared the Igbo politician with his Yoruba counterpart, and concluded that the Yoruba politician was more disciplined.

Kalu cited as example the relationship between Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his successor Babatunde Raji Fashola, comparing same to Kalu’s own relationship with his successor Theodore Orji, and concluding that Fashola hasn’t left Tinubu because of Fashola’s discipline.

Azubuike Ishiekewene quoted Kalu as saying: “Let me tell you, there were more problems between (Bola) Tinubu and (Babatunde) Fashola than there were between me and Theodore Orji. But it is the discipline of the Yoruba that kept them at bay.

“The Igbo have no discipline in terms of politics. They are very good traders; they’re good in anything they do, but they don’t understand politics.”

Kalu was also quoted as saying he had a conversation with president Muhammadu Buhari who wondered why all the former high-profile political officer holders from the South-East region did not do anything for the region. Kalu blamed the not-doing-anything-for-the-region on selfishness of the Igbo politician.

The report was silent on whether Kalu included himself among the selfish Igbo politicians, because, the content of Kalu’s interview became known just one day after the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) rearraigned the former governor for allegations of N3.2billion fraud which the EFCC said he committed while he was governor. Kalu was first arraigned in 2007, immediately after he left office. Between that time and now, he employed every legal tactic to frustrate the case. It was this year, 9 years later, that the Supreme Court ruled that Kalu should stand trial. If development of the South East region has been hampered by the selfishness of leaders from that part, N3.2b that was not deployed in developmental efforts in Abia state, where Kalu governed, would have further worsened the situation.

Tinubu and Kalu both belong to the class of 1999 of the elite club of Nigerian governors. But a comparison of both men reveals a Kalu with strings of moves that question his judgements and political sagacity.

While he was governor, Bola Tinubu appointed Fashola his Chief of Staff. Same with Orji Kalu who appointed Theodore Orji his Chief of Staff. Analysts think Fashola is a deep intellectual who is rarely given to noise and flippancy, unlike Theodore Orji who is seen as given to hubris and not operating on the same intellectual wavelength as the former Lagos state governor. Insiders to both the Tinubu and Kalu administrations reveal two very different personalities. Fashola was said to have debated almost every policy proposal with Tinubu the governor; while Theodore Orji never disagreed with Kalu on almost anything throughout the eight years he served him.

As both men neared the end of their terms in office, Tinubu made Fashola governor of Lagos state, while Orji Kalu made Theodore Orji governor of Abia state. But while Fashola campaigned alongside his godfather as a free man, T.A. Orji was in Kirikiri Maximum Prison Lagos, over corruption related trial, when Orji Kalu bulldozed every opposition in the state to impose him as his successor. The corruption case for which T.A. Orji was in prison also had Kalu as its principal suspect. He was not arrested then because he still enjoyed immunity as a sitting governor. Theodore Orji was ferried straight from Kirikiri into Abia state on May 29, 2007 for inauguration.

Six months to the run-up to the 2007 general elections, the powerful Orji Uzor Kalu had floated a political party, the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) and with it won two governorship seats, many state assembly seats, three Federal House of Representatives seats and one Senate seat. At the same time, Bola Tinubu’s political party, Action Congress (AC), had only one governor, Babatunde Fashola. That the AC expanded from one state to 5 states and eventually morphed into APC – Nigeria’s current ruling party – hints at Tinubu’s capacity for human management. As Tinubu’s party was expanding, Orji Uzor Kalu’s was shrinking as he riled up his governors with his signature overbearing influence. He lost the governors to PDP. Both Imo state PPA governor Ikedi Ohakim and Abia state PPA governor T.A. Orji decamped and left the party for Kalu. Both governors cited unwillingness to allow them the free hand to operate as reason for dumping PPA.

In Lagos, Bola Tinubu allowed Fashola handle governance while he shielded him from politics. Orji Uzor Kalu neither allowed his successors govern nor politic.

Kalu’s reference to the political misfortune of the Igbo might be about national politics where the narrative has been that Igbos have not produced president because they do not know how to play politics. That argument is majorly faulty, because Igbos fought the Biafran Civil war in a failed attempt at secession. No discussion of being entrusted with the presidency will be complete without a mention of that war and its political consequences for the Igbo.

But even if that line of argument is to be followed, then Orji Kalu who supports the view would have to explain the role he played in the 2003 PDP convention when former Vice President Alex Ekwueme, viewed as the most qualified candidate for the presidency at the time, lost to Olusegun Obasanjo in the party primary. Orji Kalu was said to be a key architect of Ekwueme’s loss. He was the governor who insisted on delegates from each PDP-controlled state being monitored closely on the convention ground by their governors, to ensure they voted exactly whom the governor instructed them to vote. In playing that role scuttling Ekwueme’s ambition, Kalu was said to be positioning himself for the presidency in 2007.

The former governor’s argument that Igbos do not understand politics is debatable in a society where votes are majorly not known to count. Past experiences show that security agents connive with politicians to rig elections in favour of candidates the godfathers consider pliable enough for ease of control. At both national and subnational levels, the powerful godfathers are those who have ruled before or their economic allies who became wealthy though state patronage.

Kalu is ruing the opportunities he missed. But rather than credit Tinubu for doing what Kalu failed to do, he credits Fashola for doing what Theodore Orji and Ikedi Ohakim failed to do. Yet it is doubtful that a Fashola will let himself emasculated by a Kalu for too long.

But this argument of any ethnic group being politically superior or less should be reserved for when votes start counting in the country, not now that collation of results are still shrouded in secrecy and the Nigerian people faced with zero chance of recovering stolen mandates from a Supreme court that rebuffs the transparency that technology brings to the election process.