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Our Reporter: Christian Agadibe

Mike Ezuruonye has written his name in the annals of Nigerian movie history. The handsome, fair complexioned actor, who also is a brand ambassador of Airtel, has won several awards. In a recent encounter, the father of one reveals his thorny journey to stardom and the secrets of his acting prowess. Enjoy.

Congratulations on your latest award. To what can you really attribute those awards?

I have won quite a lot of awards but the last one from Nollywood Movie Awards (NMA) is one I’m very passionate about, being that the movie that won me the award was my first language movie. I’ve been mystified because a lot of people don’t actually know where I come from or my origin so to speak. I’m a proper Lagos boy. I was born and raised in Lagos; all my life I’ve been in Lagos, which means I speak Yoruba fluently. Being the first language movie with a very strong message, I believe I did my best and the award came. And like I said it is very close to my heart.

You have an avalanche of awards coming your way. Which of them do you cherish most?

Every one of them; I tell people that the award for me is the plaque, but the real awards are in the minds of the people, in their smiles. When the people look at me and say: ‘you did a good job’ or ‘you really represented that movie’ or ‘you wore the persona of that character you played’. That’s the real award for me, the satisfaction of the end consumer, who is the viewer of my craft.

People see you as a successful actor, what actually defines a successful actor?

First of all, love for the art, love for the craft; passion, vision, perseverance, hard work, never believing you know all, and at the end of the day, God. To me, He is always the first and the last. If you also have self-esteem and self-believe; trust me your talent will definitely find you.

How was your growing up?

(Laughs) It was fun. I don’t like talking about that, but I want to believe that I was born by parents who could afford certain amenities. And of course, they were disciplinarians. They also taught me self-belief.  My dad always says: ‘always believe in yourself, always put your head up anywhere you are to answer your name’. And that has always driven me because even as an upcoming actor I was never scared; I respected my seniors, I respected the established stars and I always had a good thing about that.

You appear to be a two-sided coin in movies. When you act the role of a downtrodden, you play it very well, also when you play the role of a prince or king, it’s as if you were born with a silver spoon. What is the secret behind it?

It is the same thing with most actors. An actor is someone who is able to disengage himself and then wear any character that he is given, wear it so that there is totally no void or no space. Just wear it and wear it proudly so that the persona of the character is also imbibed by you. And you just flow in it, glide and glow in it. And that is the true actor.

What challenges did you face when you came into the industry? How did you struggle to take your place in an industry where you had people like Ramsey Nouah and the rest?

I have said it many times, there is nothing like taking anybody’s position. In science, we were taught that one star in the sky is bigger than the whole earth; so it is in Nollywood, so it is in the African art. You have so much space; all you have to do is pitch your own tent. You cannot take away those icons. You cannot take away Ramsey Nouah out of the movie industry. You cannot have Nollywood without a Ramsey, you cannot have the African movie industry without a Rita Dominic, you cannot know about Nollywood without having a Joke Silva or Olu Jacobs or an Nkem Owoh. All these people are iconic, you cannot take their place – it’s just not possible. It is like a farmyard, just come and pitch your own tent so that people will now know that it is you, and you’re an icon for what you represent.

As an upcomer, who really influenced you in the industry?

Ramsey (Nouah).

Why Ramsey?

I always loved his grasp; I loved his act. On the other side when I watch Nkem Owoh, I look at the comic side of him; he is a down-to-earth person. So, I really loved those two people, and of course, Uncle Olu Jacobs.

Have you played a role that later after watching the movie you feel a need for improvement?

When I watch my movie, I watch out not just for the story because I love the story anyway, I watch out for the mistakes, I watch out for how I can bring out the best in me. Because anywhere I go, I always carry a mirror to impersonate whatever character I have to play. I try to play with my mirror, and of course, I look at what suits the character I’m playing next. Now, I have given out a little secret and a secret to upcoming actors as well. Always have a mirror that you can work with.

Generally looking at Nollywood, what do you have to say about the industry?

It’s one industry that has gone beyond Nigeria; it’s gone into the Diaspora, including the Caribbean. Nollywood has rebranded this country; it’s the best possible export of this country. It’s a window through which Africa is being seen now. So, Nollywood is the best representation of the African art, being and wellness. If you want to know the true representation of you as an African, here in Africa or in the Diaspora, you have to tangle with Nollywood.

What are the challenges you face as an actor whose face is known globally?

The merits outweigh the demerits. The challenges are that you longer have a life; everybody wants to know you. It’s left to you to now find your inner self, your inner being, to find those who know you properly and be yourself. For me, I always don’t put the pressure of how popular I am on me. I always tell myself – that I should be a good representation for my craft, for my family, and of course because of the allegiance I owe people, I have to represent them well. I’m a regular guy and the only difference is that I’m on TV so, that doesn’t put pressure on me.

Apart from what we see on the screen, who is Mike Ezuruonye?

Mike Ezuruonye is a regular guy who eats the basic things you get from the everyday market. He is a regular guy who doesn’t go out too much, his best companions remain his way back friends – people who knew him when he was nothing. He is somebody who loves and always wants to tangle with the commandment of ‘love your neighbour as yourself’. I have respect for everybody. I’m somebody who builds a lot of goodwill.

What is your greatest challenge?

The greatest challenge to me is always trying to achieve the best. I’m never satisfied. I’m not the one who’ll say ‘I’ve arrived’ once I get to a particular pedestal I set another target for myself.

Which film has given you the spotlight?

Every film I have done. There are no little roles; there are little actors, so every film is always big for me. And before I get on any movie set, I never presume I know too much. That has always been my drive.

What is the most striking thing that a fan has done to you? 

Funny enough, it wasn’t even in Africa. It was in the US, and the woman is from Trinidad and Tobago. As organized as the place was, she got a shirt and put it on the ground and said to me, ‘please Mike, just touch the shirt for me and I promise I’m going keep it, I’m not washing it’. That was so deep for me.

What advice do you have for upcoming actors who look up to you?

If you look up to me, try and toe my line. Which is: have love for the art; don’t go for the money first. Work hard, when you work hard your talent will find you, people will now push you up to where the money is. I used to tell my colleagues that our generation is taking Nollywood to where it will be, but trust me, the upcomers – years and decades after – will reap what we’re sowing now. So, my advice is just to have love for the art, work hard, persevere, pray hard and you will get there.

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Former number one citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Aremu Mathew Obasanjo (GCFR) opens up on the issues of governance.

Excepts.

Have you ever failed in your life before sir?

There is no human being on earth, no matter how long your string of success may be, who will not have certain areas where he or she must have thought he or she has not done well as expected. I contested for Secretary General of the United Nations and did not win. I don’t know what then failure is if not such. Then my international friends thought that if you wanted to change the world, the UN must be one of the instruments to bring about a new international order. I was with them in a group that we call interaction council of former heads of government, and one day they just said to me, look, we are here discussing annually about what we can do to change the world, shouldn’t we get one of us to take on this assignment of Secretary General of the United Nations? And they said to me, ‘we consider you appropriate for the position.’

Initially, I refused, but they insisted and went further to write to people including my own head of government then. The long and short of it was that the attempt was made, but I did not succeed.

Before the voting, one of the veto powers in the UN saw the Nigerian permanent representative and said: “Oh, you Nigerians are funny a lot, isn’t you?”

The Nigerian permanent representative asked him what he meant? He said it was in respect to the Secretary General of the UN. The Nigerian permanent secretary replied that we were serious about it. The man told us that although the office is the office of a Secretary General, they wanted the Secretary not the General (laughter). It was then I knew what my fate would be. I got two veto votes even when one was enough. So, that made me a distinguished failure.

When you were the President, you took the bull by the horn and most people yelled due to the pain. Did you feel any element of fear then?

Well, it depends on what you mean by elements of fear. Any human beings who does not fear God…

Apart from God, sir…

The fear of God must be in any human being and I have the fear of God and respect for human beings too. I worship my God and I fear God. Having said that, I believe no matter the high position you are holding, whether public or private, diplomatic or whatever, that you must be guided by certain principles. After all, when you are managing human affairs, you will want to do the greatest amount of good to the greatest amount of people even when you cannot please every single person.

I know that if you try to please everybody, then you will not please yourself. You will not please anybody and you will, in fact, not please God. But what are the things that are really important that you want to do? Already, you have identified those things, but you consult and consult. Should you study the situation? You do. Should you push? You push. Do you appeal? You appeal. Just do all that you believe should be done to achieve what you want to achieve.

You mentioned some of the things, but let me take one or two. Take the Land Use Act. The amount of problems we have before Act about land for development and the case of same piece of land being sold to three of four people by the same person. That cannot help development. That is number one.

Number two: if you look at history where revolutions have taken place in the world, land has always been one of the triggers. Again, we have different land tenure systems. How can you have one country with different land tenure systems? Then we were one country with different land tenure systems and it doesn’t look right.

For these three reasons among others, I believed that we needed a Land Use Act to make it easier for land to be made available for development, which will also harmonise the land tenure system of policy in the country and possibly get us away from possible revolution which cause could be land. We saw it as something that needed to be done and we went ahead and did it.

Two people or two groups of people who felt that they had been badly hit by it, the lawyers and the traditional rulers, started a fight. Today, for the fact that that Act has been in our statute for more than 30 years now is an indication that it is for the good of the nation.

That was something that needed to be done, but maybe people lacked the courage, understanding or the ability to do it. We did it and it has been in use till now. Though there is no law that should be cast in concrete, well if there is need for minor adjustments to make it serve better than when it was put in place over 30 years ago, that will be good.

Many believe that agriculture is key to our advancement, how would you react to that?

Do not forget that before the advent of colonialism, what we had was agriculture and trading. They looked at certain aspects of our agricultural products like groundnut, palm oil, rubber, cocoa and others. They made us grow them to sufficient quantity to feed their metropolitan industry at home and they called it cash crops.

Now as if producing maize and cassava cannot fetch you catch, they put research in these areas. The colonial masters groomed us on how to grow our agriculture to commercial quantity- cash crops as they call it. But after the Second World War, and shortly after our independence, oil became a significant factor in our economy and then we all developed an oil mentality. That there is nothing important in our lives, business or economy other than oil. We think and act oil. And in the process, we forgot agriculture.

I must say that even when I was a military head of state, you will remember what we call OFN (Operation Feed the Nation). Then, we looked at what we can do at the governmental level. We had something that they call ADP (Agricultural Development Programme), which was supported by the World Bank. By the time I left government in 1979, we were very self-sufficient in poultry, rice and others, but the government that succeeded us decided that things must be made easier. So, how do you make things easier? You import rice. And if you remember, the government that succeeded us actually established a presidential task force for the importation of rice, not for the production of rice, which I believe is nonsensical, just to put it mildly. Then they came with the importation of poultry, which destroyed our poultry industry.

For food security, we need three things: availability (production), distribution and affordability. I think that rather than abolish subsistence farming, it should be allowed to remain, while we encourage commercial farming until the small-scale farmers find an alternative means of livelihood. We should move the small scale farmers who are up now down and move the commercial farmers who are below upward, and not to eliminate the small scale farmers like that.

What do make of the National security situation and the way to restore a lasting peace in the country?

When you talk of lasting peace, I take it that you are talking of relative peace in the sense that you don’t have car bomb blasts and all that. For me, I don’t want the peace of the graveyard, which is not good enough. Wherever you have human interaction, there should be a little bit of friction.

Is that a soldier’s perspective?

No, it is the principles of human interactions…

I agree with you, because even in the family there are traces of friction.

Wherever you have relationship, there must be such. I grew up in a family house where we were about 14 eating from the same plate. If you were lucky to get your hand four times into the Eba plate before it finishes, you must count yourself very lucky. But then, some will say why do you step on my toes, why do you cross your legs and it touched me and so on. It is the same, and I think that is good for communal life.

People tend to see religion as a cause of conflict, but I do not. I was happy that when our religious leaders- Christian and Muslim- looked at the Jos issue, they came categorically to say that it is not caused by religion. Now what do you find? You will find both social and economic issues.

Where you have a group that are called settlers and then one that you can call natives, if the settlers tend to step on the economy of the natives, something will spark off that can either be traced to religion or politics.

Now the nomadic farmer carry their cattle’s all around the place, while the crop farmers are static, watching over their crop and when the nomadic farmers come they trample on everything and when that happens the crop farmer doesn’t fold his hands; so conflict ensue. The nomadic farmers by virtue of tribe and tradition are mainly Muslims, while the crop farmer by virtue of tradition and history are mainly Christians, but those who want to give us bad names will call them enemies.

What then is the solution?

I believe that we must hasting development.

In other words, poverty has a hand in it?

Well, the sole part of it, I think is due to our underdevelopment, because if the nomadic farmers have a settled place where they will have grass lands and water for their cattle, they won’t be roaming about. What can we do to make that happen? We must do something to make that happen.

Then who is a settler, and who is a native? Now it depends on how far back you want to go. We can all be settlers in Nigeria, or we can all be natives

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Those who follow the lives of the rich and famous are now talking about the love triangle, which has as main players, immediate past Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria (MBGN), Anne Banner, singing sensation, Flavour Nabaina, and a largely unknown Onyinye. Anne, like another equally gorgeous damsel, Big Brother Africa winner, Dillish Mathews, has been linked with the handsome musician.

While Dilish played coy by saying that she only agreed to be in the hunky artiste’s Ikwokirikwo video, both the ex-beauty queen and Onyinye tweeted that they were the inspiration for Flavour’s love songs.

The reactions to the tweets from Anne who is gradually stepping into acting and the mystery lady have been varied. Suffice it to say that a former Delta Soap model, who has a child for the ‘Ada Ada’ singer, is not involved in this public contest for who inspires the artiste most.

 

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The Esama of Benin, Sir Gabriel Igbinedion must be one of the happiest grandfathers in the land. Only weeks back, he witnessed the wedding of his pretty granddaughter, Benita, who is the daughter of Peter, his son. Even as the high society is still talking about the classy Lagos wedding, the Igbinedion family hosted the traditional marriage of yet another of his grandchildren.

On Monday, Ehi, the brilliant daughter of former Edo State governor, Chief Lucky Igbinedion began her journey into matrimony with fellow doctor, Femi Oni. The father of the groom, a former director with the Central Bank of Nigeria, High Chief Sam Oni led his family and a coterie of friends to the palatial Abuja home of the Esama of Benin. At the imposing mansion known as ‘The Signature House’, the Igbinedions showed uncommon solidarity as they hosted their in-laws, ensuring that everything went according to plan. The Igbinedion brothers, Peter, Fred, Bright and Mike, who was the Master of Ceremony at the event, were all on hand to support the father of the bride, whom they described as their role model.

Though, a brief ceremony, it was also one that saw the rich Benin culture blend beautifully with the much-admired Yoruba tradition. At the end of proceedings, the Esama formally welcomed the bridegroom into his family, with the advice that he treats his wife with love and care. “Now, you can come into the Igbenedion house through the front door,” he said. It was a private event, yet a number of dignitaries graced the occasion. They included former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Alfa Belgore, former Kogi State governor, Prince Abubakar Audu, Pacesetters Academy founder, Chief Lucky Imusuagbon, High Chief Peter Ojemen, former Minister of Information, Dr. Walter Ofonagoro, and Director General of the National Council for Arts and Culture, Mrs. Dayo Keshi.

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Bridge Head Market in Onitsha, Anambra State, a commercial city, has been thrown into crisis following the emergence of two parallel groups laying claims to the leadership of the market association.

Trouble started when a group started imposing levy and collecting money from traders in the market.

The chairman Bridge Head Market Traders Association, Chief Ambrose O. Osakwe, said there was an agreement with the state government following the appointment of a caretaker committee “to reconcile the various factions under the umbrella market association, and prepare grounds for an election before the expiration of our tenure. It was also to ensure the collection/payment and remittance of all government revenues into the designated accounts of Anambra State in the banks. But a group has been causing confusion everywhere in the market.

“This group is being sponsored by those who don’t want peace for Governor Willie Obiano. Government appointed me and my committee members when the tenure of the previous caretaker committee expired on July 1, 2014. The government through the Commissioner for Trade and Commerce, Ifeatu Onejeme, appointed us on July 18, 2014. When our tenure expired on October 17, 2014, government renewed our tenure to January 17, 2015 when the election will take place.”

Osakwe informed that trouble began when another faction who according him, hid under the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the association to operate. He said the group also fixed another date for election of the union as government has stipulated the date of the election on January 17, 2015.

According to the appointment letter, Onejeme stated that the appointment was due to the inability of the various mini-unions to conduct elections into the main umbrella body of the association. He said the committee “shall be in office for further three months as election comes up on January 17, 2015.

“The state government, acting through this ministry, reserves the sole right to terminate the tenure of office if this committee is found wanting in the discharge of its responsibilities and to extend its tenure should exigencies so demand.”

When contacted, president of Anambra State Market and Traders Association (ASMATA), Chief Okwudili Ezenwankwo, accused the group of working against the union. He recalled that he had severally warned him (Ozigbo) to steer clear from the activities of the association, adding that any interested groups or persons should wait till January 17, 2015:

“Ambrose Osakwe is the authentic caretaker committee chairman for now, pending when the union will conduct election on January 17, 2015. It is only after the election that the new chairman will emerge. The market is not owned by any individual or groups, but a government institution.”

He warned that traders making payment to such mischievous group are doing that at their own risk as government will not be answerable to such loss.

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Our Reporter: JOE APU

The leadership of the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF on Wednesday apologised to the federal government of Nigeria and Nigerians in general for the failure of the Super Eagles failure to qualify for the final of the AFCON 2015 holding in Equatorial Guinea in January.

In a communique made available to the Daily Sunsports by NFF’s Assistant Director (Communications), Ademola Olajire,   at the end of the executive committee meeting held at the Venus Hotel & Suites in Uyo, Wednesday night stated that NFA Chairman, Amaju Pinnick, apologised not qualifying for the 30th Africa Cup of Nations finals in Equatorial Guinea. The Board resolved collectively to accept full responsibility for the mishap and called for patience and understanding of Nigerians while it pursued the cause of building a sustainable football culture for the country, and also work hard at engineering a resurgence of the National Teams through well –thought programmes and processes.

The Super Eagles, who are the reigning African champions played 2-2 draw with visiting South Africa in a must win match on Wednesday.

The inability of the Super Eagles to qualify meant that they would not be able to defend the title they won in 2013.

“The NFA takes full responsibility for what has happened. It is a tragedy for us to come so near and yet fail to reach the finals.

“We made so much effort and sacrifice in Congo to achieve the victory we needed there on Saturday and really had no business bungling it here,” it stated.

It stated that NFA’s desire was to build a sustainable football culture in the country, but expressed regrets that nothing had changed.

“This, though is a disappointment, but for us, we gave it our best shot and supported the team fully,” Pinnick was quoted as saying to NAN. He, however, expressed optimism that Wednesday’s failure could turn out to be blessing in disguise.

“All things work together for good for those that love God. “This has happened but we believe it will work together for us to toil hard and achieve a renaissance that will take Nigeria football to much higher heights than it has ever been.

“I use this opportunity to thank the Akwa Ibom State Government for all the support they gave the team and the assistance they offered the NFA.

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Our Reporter: AYODELE OJO

Nigeria and Villarreal striker, Ike Uche has called on the leadership of the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF not to disband the Super Eagles owing to the team’s inability to qualify for the AFCON 2015 holding in Equatorial Guinea.

Uche’s plea is coming on the heels of disenchantment by the teeming followers of the Super Eagles who got heartbroken Wednesday night following the 2-2 draw against South Africa at the Akwa Ibom International Stadium.

He said rather than disband the team, the NFF should look at ways of strengthening the team and organising international friendly matches that would see the team active despite not qualifying for the AFCON 2015.

“The game is over and our target eluded us and we’re saddened by the fact that we won’t be in Equatorial Guinea. It’s really sad that we failed but like many would expect the team to be disbanded, I want to plead with the NFF not to do so. We still have some experienced players that are still useful to the team. Of course there is also the need to bring in some players,” he said. Speaking on the match aboard Discovery Airlines which flew the team to and from the match in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, Uche said the team simply had a bad day.

“Nothing was working for us and we played badly too despite fighting back from 2-0 down to equalise 2-2. The South Africans came out fighting and from the way they played, it was obvious they were here for a win. We didn’t expect them to play the way they did haven already qualified for the AFCON 2015. The Bafana Bafana boys were very mobile on the pitch and gave us a tough time.”

He admitted that the Eagles had the opportunity of putting the game beyond the South Africans in the first 20 minutes of the game but did not convert the chances until it was too late.

On his long absence from the team before re-joining for the last two games against Congo Brazaville and South Africa, the Spain based striker said he gives glory to God for making a return to the team and thanked Nigerians for the confidence they have in him.

“I can’t say anything about my absence from the team but I’m glad to be back. I thank God, the coach and Nigerians generally. I came to play for my country and will be willing and ready anyday to serve my fatherland.”

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Head coach of the Super Eagles, Stephen Keshi has admitted his team took the Bafana Bafana of South Africa for granted.

Keshi told fifa.com that it was sad that his boys took the South Africans for granted believing they had nothing to for.

The out-of-contract coach put the blame squarely on the shoulders of his players for taking South Africa too lightly in a match they needed to win to qualify for the tournament finals, to be held in Equatorial Guinea.

“Maybe we took South Africa for granted and we paid dearly for this,” said the coach, who was only reinstated to his post last month after being sacked by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF).

The Super Eagles finished a disappointing third in Group A on eight points despite a 2-2 draw against South Africa on Wednesday night in the southern town of Uyo. The failure to qualify mirrored the disappointment when Nigeria failed to qualify for the 2012 tournament hosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.

The scorer of Nigeria’s two goals, Sone Aluko, said the whole team was devastated. “I am disappointed, everybody is disappointed,” said the Hull City forward. “We did not get the result we wanted and we now have to pick ourselves up as a team.”

The NFF said in a statement that they would shoulder the blame but believed the country would bounce back from the setback. “The NFF takes full responsibility for what has happened,” said the body’s president, Amaju Pinnick. “It is a tragedy for us to come so near and yet fail to reach the finals.

“We made so much effort and sacrifice in Congo to achieve the victory we needed there on Saturday and really had no business bungling it here. This is a disappointment but for us, we gave it our best shot and supported the team fully. This is a dark moment but we will emerge into sunshine shortly.”

Former Nigeria skipper Segun Odegbami said he was shocked and that South Africa, who had a poor head-to-head record against Nigeria, must now be taken a lot more seriously. “We have always taken South Africa for granted, believing we can have them for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but they have now shown us that this is an end of era,” he said.

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The line with its decision to improve the quality of coaching, match –reading and ultimately improve the fortunes of the National Teams, the NFF has approved a 2-week intensive training program for about 17 members of the football family.

Decision to this effect was as a result of the adoption of a proposal by the NFF President, Amaju Pinnick, to sponsor 17 persons on a two –week, intensive training programme in the United Kingdom.

Former Super Eagles captains, Austin jay jay Okocha, Nwankwo Kanu top the list which also include coaches Sam John Obuh, Isa Ladan Bosso, Shaibu Amodu, Salisu Yusuf, Paul Aigbogun, Kelechi Emeteole and David Ngodigha.

Others are Edema Fuludu, Yisa Sofoluwe, Garba Lawal, Dahiru Sadi, Siji Lagunju, Ann Chiejine, Florence Omagbemi and Garba Musa.

On October 16, 2014, the NFF had sacked Stephen Keshi as national team coach. The NFF had proposed to send Keshi and his backroom staff on courses anywhere in the world but this was aborted by the presidential order which reinstated Keshi.

Meanwhile, the executive committee has set up a technical study group which will be focused on getting talented Nigerian players into the developmental Leagues for the purpose of creating a pool of future Super Eagles’ players.

The group which headed by former Super Eagles captain, Austin Okocha is to work hard at getting more Nigeria –born footballers in Europe to commit to representing fatherland. Members of the group are Benedict Akwuegbu, Celestine Babayaro, Michael Obiku, Darlington Omodiagbe, Finidi George, Taribo West, Tijani Babangida, Kashimawo Laloko, Henry Nwosu, Peter Rufai, Dominic Iorfa, Nwankwo Kanu, Dahiru Sadi, Gbenga Ogunbote, Mutiu Adepoju, Florence Omagbemi, Mercy Akide-Udoh, Ann Chiejine, Eucharia Uche, Salisu Yusuf, Alloy Agu and Benedict Iroha.

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•Senate shifts debate till Tuesday

Senators yesterday could not carry out their duties following the invasion of the National Assembly complex by policemen.

Senators were seen in groups in their chamber discussing the ugly incident.

It took some time to bring order to the Chambers.

Senator Olusola Adeyeye, (Osun Central) was particularly disturbed by the unsavory incident.

The Senate President read the prayer around 11.48am for commencement of plenary.

Before Senate Leader Victor Ndoma-Egba, could announce the first business of the day, Mark cut him short.

He announced the shutting down of the National Assembly.

He noted that there would not be any business in the National Assembly until Tuesday.

Mark said: “Because of the ugly incident that happened here in the National Assembly this morning, I have decided to shut down the National Assembly until Tuesday next week – both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

“It is unfortunate. We will invite the Inspector General (of Police) here on Tuesday also.

“You will recall that we had asked the Service Chiefs to be here. They were all here this morning but I have spoken to them and have told them to be here on Tuesday.

“So there will be no business in the National Assembly today and the place remains shut until Tuesday. “

Some Senators took to the floor to protest the police invasion.

Adeyeye said the import of tear gassing Senators and House members should not be glossed over.

He noted that when lawmakers are tear-gassed, it is those they represent that are actually being tear-gassed.

Adeyeye cautioned that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) should not allow the country to collapse on its head describing the incident as shameful and despicable.

In a statement entitled “Police Invasion: Mark condemns the Use of teargas on lawmakers, staff” Chief Press Secretary to the Senate President, Paul Mumeh, said that the Senate President and Chairman of the National Assembly, David Mark, condemned the use of teargas on Senators and members of the House of Representatives by the police.

Mumeh said that Mark described the action as “barbaric.”

It said that Mark also ordered the immediate suspension of plenary session in both chambers of the National Assembly.

“This followed the invasion of the National Assembly by security operatives who thoroughly tear gassed Senators, members of the House of Representatives, staff and journalists this morning.

“An embarrassed Senator Mark, who  had rushed out to the House of Representatives’ Chamber  ostensibly to address the situation on hearing the development, was thoroughly tear gassed along with his colleagues while returning to his office after conferring with the Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal and his deputy Emeka Ihedioha.

“After a brief meeting with principal officers of the National Assembly Mark said “After due consultation with my colleagues in both chambers of National Assembly on this ugly development, we have therefore agreed that today’s session be suspended forthwith.”

It said that Mark “condemned the application of maximum force on parliamentarians and civil servants who were in their respective offices to do their duties.”

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The All Progressives Congress (APC) has accused President Goodluck Jonathan of sabotaging his own Administration’s war against Boko Haram on the altar of personal vindictiveness and political desperation, an action that is unbecoming of a self-respecting national leader.

In a statement issued yesterday in Abuja by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said just because he was so desperate to oust House of Representatives Speaker Aminu Tambuwal, President Jonathan ensured that the House could not meet as scheduled to consider his request for an extension of the State of Emergency in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states.

‘’For a President who has severally stated his Administration’s commitment to the battle against the insurgency in the Northeast, is it not a cruel irony that he allowed his personal ego and political desperation to override his sense of propriety, by moving to have Rt. Hon. Tambuwal removed instead of having the House of Representatives sit to consider his request?

‘’Does anyone need any more evidence that the President’s sole preoccupation is how to win the 2015 elections, rather than the fate of the hundreds of Nigerians who are daily being killed and maimed at the epicentre of the insurgency? Had he been genuinely committed to the fight against the insurgents, would the President not have allowed the House to sit to consider his request? How does he feel now that the entire National Assembly has been shut down because of his capricious action?’’.

APC said because of his meddlesomeness in the affairs of another arm of government, and also his blatant disregard for a court order that the status quo be maintained on the defection of the Speaker to the APC, the President suffered yesterday a moral and political defeat that will hunt him for a long time to come.

‘’The plot was simple: The Presidency decided to use the reconvening of the House as an opportunity to remove the Speaker. While Deputy Speaker Emeka Ihedioha was accorded a presidential ride into the premises of the National Assembly, House Speaker Tambuwal was barred from entry by the hordes of security agents who had been deployed solely for that purpose.

‘’Their plan was to ensure that with Tambuwal locked out, Ihedioha would preside over the reconvened House and the Speaker will then be removed. The consideration of the request to extend the State of Emergency was not important to the Presidency. The fate of the Nigerians who are suffering from the insurgency, which has displaced 1.5 million people, does not bother the Presidency. All it wanted is to remove Tambuwal.

‘’However, the plan failed as members of the House overpowered the security personnel   and the Speaker was led on foot into the Chambers, even as a rain of teargas fell on them. In the end, the President himself sabotaged his Administration’s tepid war on terror, and he got himself a birthday gift he didn’t bargain for: A humiliating political defeat that played out on national television. This is a clear reminder that there is always a limit to impunity!,’’ the party said.

APC said because it was clear that history is not a forte of this presidency, it (the Presidency) needs to be reminded that the kind of crisis it is willfully instigating in the National Assembly helped to truncate the First Republic in the early 1960s.

The party said the crisis instigated yesterday by the Jonathan Administration at the National Assembly showed the prescience of the ‘’APC’s Salvation Rally’’ in Abuja a day earlier to protest the runaway impunity, corruption, poor governance, anti-democratic tendencies and win-elections-at-all-costs disposition of the Administration.

‘’We have said it before and we will restate it: It’s Jonathan first, Jonathan second, Jonathan third, Jonathan always for this President. If not, why will he be more interested in playing politics with the lives and blood of our sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters who are suffering untold hardships in the hands of Boko Haram, especially in the Northeast?

‘’Because of his ambition to be re-elected at all costs, President Jonathan is ready to throw Nigeria into crisis. He is ready to bring Nigeria down. He has presided over an unprecedented assault on democratic institutions. He has presided over the desecration of national institutions, especially the police.

‘’Is it right for the police to be trampling on the constitution? Is it right for the Inspector-General of Police, apparently acting under orders from the President, to deploy the police to prevent the Speaker from entering the House? Why on earth would you not allow the Speaker of the House, who is still seen as such by the law, to enter the House? What would have happened if the Speaker had refused to reconvene the House? Wouldn’t Nigerians have said he is putting his personal interest above national interest?’’ it queried.

APC said surely, Nigeria is in clear and present danger from the inordinate ambition of President Jonathan to run for a second term, and called on all men and women of goodwill to speak out before a desperate President brings the country down on all Nigerians.

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Lawmakers open impeachment battle against President

Police, SSS teargas Tambuwal, others

It was like a scene from an action-packed movie.

Lawmakers removed their shoes and climbed the iron fence to make their way inside the chamber. Teargas fumes choked the environment, drawing tears from the lawmakers’ eyes. Many were shouting and screaming. Chaos.

That was the scene yesterday at the National Assembly complex in Abuja where the police and other security agents battled unsuccessfully to stop House of Representatives Speaker Aminu Tambuwal from entering the chamber.

In anger, the lawmakers launched an impeachment battle against President Goodluck Jonathan.

By evening, no fewer than 130 of them —there are 360 members in the House— had signed a register to back the Jonathan-must-go move.

Policemen allegedly acting on the instructions of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Anyim Pius Anyim, and the National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki, locked the gates to the National Assembly (NASS). There were no comments from Anyim and Col. Dasuki yesterday.

Efforts by the Speaker to enter the complex was resisted by security forces, mainly the police, led by Acting Police Commissioner Wilson Inalegwu.

The policemen were in combat gears, fully armed. With them were hooded Department of State Service (DSS) personnel.

Signs of a chaotic day came as early as 7.00am when  early callers were confronted by a new set of armed security personnel.

No vehicle was spared from being checked as drivers were made to alight from their cars to open their booths. Cars with tainted screens were asked to wind down the windows to ascertain the identity of the  occupiers of the back seat.

Construction trucks were not spared as policemen climbed inside the drivers’ cabins to check any for any hidden unapproved  objects or persons.

A Supreme Court Judge who used the road to access the Supreme Court complex could not hide his anger when he retorted after his driver was asked to wind down the passenger side’s windscreen.

“Why are you people disturbing everybody, aren’t you aware that people have work to go to? I am going to Supreme Court,” he shouted angrily at the police officer.

The policeman replied: “Sorry for the inconvenience sir. The NSA is aware of why we are here.”

At about 10.35am,  Aminu Tambuwal arrived at the first entrance to the NASS in his official vehicle, with the House of Repesenatives’ crest and the Coat of Arms accompanied by a convoy of about 50 cars.

The security men at the first gate made no attempt to stop him.

At the second and final gate, the convoy was stopped for checking.

After passing the second gate, the Speaker’s car could not pass the final gate as it was firmly locked. His convoy could not even go through the second gate.

The Speaker alighted from his car to talk to the police officers on the other side of the gate.

The Speaker called out to their leader, the FCT Acting CP, Inalegwu, who said he was on the telephone.

Likewise, none of the policemen, mostly of junior ranks, responded to his introduction as the Speaker of the House.

At a point, some of the lawmakers who accompanied the Speaker, began banging on the gate, pulling it and threatening to force their ways in.

The Speaker stepped away to make some calls.

The pulling of the gate continued but the security men did not bulge, saying they had an order from the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) to lock the gate.

At this point, caution took over as some lawmakers continued to talk with the policemen and by a stroke of luck, the gate was partially opened on the order of the FCT Acting CP.

The Speaker and some lawmakers were  pushed in before the gate was shut again.

The lawmakers began to scale the tall gate. One after the other, they scalde the gate, saying nothing will stop them from performing their duty.

On arriving at the scene, just minutes after the Speaker had gone in, the Minority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, joined his compatriots in scaling the gate.

The oldest member of the House, Hasan  El Badawi, made for the 10 feet tall gate, climbed it and jumped into the complex -  to the admiration of his colleagues and others.

Other lawmakers who accompanied the Speaker include Deputy Minority Leader, Suleiman Kawu, Solomon Adeola, Mohammed Zakari, Samuel Adejare and Biodun Akinlade, among many others.

The security men made no attempt to stop the lawmakers until they got to the entrance of the Parliament building (White House).

Meanwhile, lawmakers within the National Assembly had received phone calls that the Speaker was prevented from entering the complex.

In anger, scores of lawmakers raced out of the White House in the direction of the main gate. But they met the Speaker at the arcade being led in by other lawmakers.

That was when the police started targeting him with shots of tear gas.

Before Tambuwal was muscled  into the chamber by his colleagues, teargas canisters were shot at him three times at the entrance of the White House and twice inside the lobby.

His colleagues rushed him into the Chamber and locked the door.

For hours, the lobby was filled with teargas fumes. Lawmakers and others were coughing and clutching their noses with handkerchiefs. The fumes permeated offices and committee rooms in the White House.

Senate President David Mark also got a dose of the security meltdown as he  was locked out for over 30 minutes. He entered the complex through the back gate.

An angry Mark flayed the Divisional Police Officer in the National Assembly, who on allegedly said the SGF gave the order for the lockdown of the legislature.

However, on gaining access, Mark got a raw deal when he made to see the Speaker on the Representatives’ wing.

He was ruffled up by the crowd milling around the Speaker. He was  pushed and shoved by the crowd who claimed that he had foreknowledge of the attack on the Speaker but die nothing to stop it.

After conferring with the Speaker, Mark returned to his office. He was seen off by Deputy Speaker Emeka Ihedioha.

Afterwards, the House went into plenary to consider the only item on the order paper the President’s request for extension of emergency rule in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States.

The matter was debated behind closed doors.

On emerging from the plenary, the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker and a host of other Representatives made for the office of the Senate President.

The Senate President’s office, the Speaker and his team were denied entrance and, after a while, a warning boomed from the public address system, asking those around the entrance to return to their offices.

The Deputy Speaker left, leaving the Speaker. After a while, the Speaker left. to be joined at the Senate car park  by Ihedioha and over a hundred other members.

The crowd swelled by the moment and the Speaker left in a motorcade of over 70 cars, with the convoy lined on the side by lawmakers, well-wishers and staff of the National Assembly.

The Speaker drove out of the complex at about 1.17pm.

The House condemned the action of the police but promised that it will defend its territory (the National Assembly complex) with all its might.

Spokesman Zakari Mohammed told journalists at the end of the special plenary that the action of the police was capable of undermining the country’s democracy.

He said: “We are not criminals, we were sent here by Nigerians that elected us. How can the President give an assignment to the Speaker and at the same time lock him out and tear gassed?

“Though we see this drama as one of the hazards of democracy, but we have sworn to defend the constitution and our democracy.

“We refused to be cowered. The National Assembly is not a State Assembly where all kinds of illegalities are perpetrated and there won’t be any response.

“We condemn the police action in all its entirely, we cannot turn this country into a banana republic; what is important to us is we must continue to uphold the constitution and  continue to do what is constitutionally right.

“The National Assembly is our territory and we will defend it and resist all attempt to stop,us from doing our work.”

 

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APC-PDP

23 Adamawa Lawmakers To Dump PDP For APC

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Another crisis is looming in Adamawa State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as 23 out of the 25 lawmakers of the State House of Assembly are set to dump the party following what they described as decisions taken by the party that are inimical to their interests and genuine wishes of the Adamawa electorate.

The decision of the lawmakers to dump the party was sequel to a high level meeting convened by the lawmakers in Abuja penultimate week where they made their avowal to dump the party as it does not mean well for them.

Sources close to the Assembly said the lawmakers are set to dump the party for the All Progressives Congress (APC) as it promises to accommodate them and provide them with better deal.

A source at the House of Assembly disclosed that the lawmakers have started considering the decision following the recent dissolution of the state exco of the party by the National Working Committee of the party which indicated that the party will not fulfil its promise of allowing each lawmaker to run for the political office of his choice made to them in the build up to the impeachment of former Governor Murtala Nyako.

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Coaches Manu Garba and Emmanuel Amuneke will soon have their hands full in late November and the second week of December when they resume camp for competitions championships billed for 2015.

The U-20 National Team, Flying Eagles tutored by Garba Manu will on 24th November resume camping for a screening exercise, ahead of the 19th African Youth Championship taking place in Senegal, from 8th – 22nd March, 2015 while coach Amuneke’s team will resume camping December 14, 2014 in Abuja ahead of the 11th African U-17 Championship taking place in Niger Republic, 15th February – 1st March, 2015.

This decision was taken by the NFF executivew committee on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the executive committee set up an eight –man panel to look into proposals for the amendment of the NFF Statutes. One of the proposals is to allow the South –East zone to produce one more regular member for the present NFF Executive Committee. It is presently being represented by only one regular Member (Felix Anyansi-Agwu) as against two each from other zones.  Chairman of the panel is Barr. Seyi Akinwunmi, with Ibrahim Musa Gusau, Oswald Atuake, Olaleye Adepoju, Mohammed Nasir Saidu, Ephraim Chukwuemeka, Yusuf Ahmed Fresh and Chidi Ofo Okenwa serving as members.

Secretary is Joshua Onoja.

Similarly, the Committee also set up a three –man panel to look into the case of the Boards of the Nigeria National League, Nigeria Women League and Nigeria Nationwide League, with a view to determining when elections into these Boards should actually take place. Chairman of the panel is Barr. Chris Green while members are Otunba Sunday Dele Ajayi and Alh. Babagana Kalli.

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My fellow Americans, tonight, I’d like to talk with you about immigration.

For more than 200 years, our tradition of welcoming immigrants from around the world has given us a tremendous advantage over other nations. It’s kept us youthful, dynamic, and entrepreneurial. It has shaped our character as a people with limitless possibilities – people not trapped by our past, but able to remake ourselves as we choose.

President Barack Obama But today, our immigration system is broken, and everybody knows it.

Families who enter our country the right way and play by the rules watch others flout the rules. Business owners who offer their workers good wages and benefits see the competition exploit undocumented immigrants by paying them far less. All of us take offense to anyone who reaps the rewards of living in America without taking on the responsibilities of living in America. And undocumented immigrants who desperately want to embrace those responsibilities see little option but to remain in the shadows, or risk their families being torn apart.

It’s been this way for decades. And for decades, we haven’t done much about it.

When I took office, I committed to fixing this broken immigration system. And I began by doing what I could to secure our borders. Today, we have more agents and technology deployed to secure our southern border than at any time in our history. And over the past six years, illegal border crossings have been cut by more than half. Although this summer, there was a brief spike in unaccompanied children being apprehended at our border, the number of such children is now actually lower than it’s been in nearly two years. Overall, the number of people trying to cross our border illegally is at its lowest level since the 1970s. Those are the facts.

Meanwhile, I worked with Congress on a comprehensive fix, and last year, 68 Democrats, Republicans, and Independents came together to pass a bipartisan bill in the Senate. It wasn’t perfect. It was a compromise, but it reflected common sense. It would have doubled the number of border patrol agents, while giving undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship if they paid a fine, started paying their taxes, and went to the back of the line. And independent experts said that it would help grow our economy and shrink our deficits.

Had the House of Representatives allowed that kind of a bill a simple yes-or-no vote, it would have passed with support from both parties, and today it would be the law. But for a year and a half now, Republican leaders in the House have refused to allow that simple vote.

Now, I continue to believe that the best way to solve this problem is by working together to pass that kind of common sense law. But until that happens, there are actions I have the legal authority to take as President – the same kinds of actions taken by Democratic and Republican Presidents before me – that will help make our immigration system more fair and more just.

Tonight, I am announcing those actions.

First, we’ll build on our progress at the border with additional resources for our law enforcement personnel so that they can stem the flow of illegal crossings, and speed the return of those who do cross over.

Second, I will make it easier and faster for high-skilled immigrants, graduates, and entrepreneurs to stay and contribute to our economy, as so many business leaders have proposed.

Third, we’ll take steps to deal responsibly with the millions of undocumented immigrants who already live in our country.

I want to say more about this third issue, because it generates the most passion and controversy. Even as we are a nation of immigrants, we are also a nation of laws. Undocumented workers broke our immigration laws, and I believe that they must be held accountable – especially those who may be dangerous. That’s why, over the past six years, deportations of criminals are up 80 percent. And that’s why we’re going to keep focusing enforcement resources on actual threats to our security. Felons, not families. Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a mother who’s working hard to provide for her kids. We’ll prioritize, just like law enforcement does every day.

But even as we focus on deporting criminals, the fact is, millions of immigrants – in every state, of every race and nationality – will still live here illegally. And let’s be honest – tracking down, rounding up, and deporting millions of people isn’t realistic. Anyone who suggests otherwise isn’t being straight with you. It’s also not who we are as Americans. After all, most of these immigrants have been here a long time. They work hard, often in tough, low-paying jobs. They support their families. They worship at our churches. Many of their kids are American-born or spent most of their lives here, and their hopes, dreams, and patriotism are just like ours.

As my predecessor, President Bush, once put it: “They are a part of American life.”

Now here’s the thing: we expect people who live in this country to play by the rules. We expect that those who cut the line will not be unfairly rewarded. So we’re going to offer the following deal: If you’ve been in America for more than five years; if you have children who are American citizens or legal residents; if you register, pass a criminal background check, and you’re willing to pay your fair share of taxes – you’ll be able to apply to stay in this country temporarily, without fear of deportation. You can come out of the shadows and get right with the law.

That’s what this deal is. Now let’s be clear about what it isn’t. This deal does not apply to anyone who has come to this country recently. It does not apply to anyone who might come to America illegally in the future. It does not grant citizenship, or the right to stay here permanently, or offer the same benefits that citizens receive – only Congress can do that. All we’re saying is we’re not going to deport you.

I know some of the critics of this action call it amnesty. Well, it’s not. Amnesty is the immigration system we have today – millions of people who live here without paying their taxes or playing by the rules, while politicians use the issue to scare people and whip up votes at election time.

That’s the real amnesty – leaving this broken system the way it is. Mass amnesty would be unfair. Mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary to our character. What I’m describing is accountability – a commonsense, middle ground approach: If you meet the criteria, you can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. If you’re a criminal, you’ll be deported. If you plan to enter the U.S. illegally, your chances of getting caught and sent back just went up.

The actions I’m taking are not only lawful, they’re the kinds of actions taken by every single Republican President and every single Democratic President for the past half century. And to those Members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill. I want to work with both parties to pass a more permanent legislative solution. And the day I sign that bill into law, the actions I take will no longer be necessary. Meanwhile, don’t let a disagreement over a single issue be a dealbreaker on every issue. That’s not how our democracy works, and Congress certainly shouldn’t shut down our government again just because we disagree on this. Americans are tired of gridlock. What our country needs from us right now is a common purpose – a higher purpose.

Most Americans support the types of reforms I’ve talked about tonight. But I understand the disagreements held by many of you at home. Millions of us, myself included, go back generations in this country, with ancestors who put in the painstaking work to become citizens. So we don’t like the notion that anyone might get a free pass to American citizenship. I know that some worry immigration will change the very fabric of who we are, or take our jobs, or stick it to middle-class families at a time when they already feel like they’ve gotten the raw end of the deal for over a decade. I hear these concerns. But that’s not what these steps would do. Our history and the facts show that immigrants are a net plus for our economy and our society. And I believe it’s important that all of us have this debate without impugning each other’s character.

Because for all the back-and-forth of Washington, we have to remember that this debate is about something bigger. It’s about who we are as a country, and who we want to be for future generations.

Are we a nation that tolerates the hypocrisy of a system where workers who pick our fruit and make our beds never have a chance to get right with the law? Or are we a nation that gives them a chance to make amends, take responsibility, and give their kids a better future?

Are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms? Or are we a nation that values families, and works to keep them together?

Are we a nation that educates the world’s best and brightest in our universities, only to send them home to create businesses in countries that compete against us? Or are we a nation that encourages them to stay and create jobs, businesses, and industries right here in America?

That’s what this debate is all about. We need more than politics as usual when it comes to immigration; we need reasoned, thoughtful, compassionate debate that focuses on our hopes, not our fears.

I know the politics of this issue are tough. But let me tell you why I have come to feel so strongly about it. Over the past few years, I have seen the determination of immigrant fathers who worked two or three jobs, without taking a dime from the government, and at risk at any moment of losing it all, just to build a better life for their kids. I’ve seen the heartbreak and anxiety of children whose mothers might be taken away from them just because they didn’t have the right papers. I’ve seen the courage of students who, except for the circumstances of their birth, are as American as Malia or Sasha; students who bravely come out as undocumented in hopes they could make a difference in a country they love. These people – our neighbors, our classmates, our friends – they did not come here in search of a free ride or an easy life. They came to work, and study, and serve in our military, and above all, contribute to America’s success.

Tomorrow, I’ll travel to Las Vegas and meet with some of these students, including a young woman named Astrid Silva. Astrid was brought to America when she was four years old. Her only possessions were a cross, her doll, and the frilly dress she had on. When she started school, she didn’t speak any English. She caught up to the other kids by reading newspapers and watching PBS, and became a good student. Her father worked in landscaping. Her mother cleaned other people’s homes. They wouldn’t let Astrid apply to a technology magnet school for fear the paperwork would out her as an undocumented immigrant – so she applied behind their back and got in. Still, she mostly lived in the shadows – until her grandmother, who visited every year from Mexico, passed away, and she couldn’t travel to the funeral without risk of being found out and deported. It was around that time she decided to begin advocating for herself and others like her, and today, Astrid Silva is a college student working on her third degree.

Are we a nation that kicks out a striving, hopeful immigrant like Astrid – or are we a nation that finds a way to welcome her in?

Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger – we were strangers once, too.

My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too. And whether our forebears were strangers who crossed the Atlantic, or the Pacific, or the Rio Grande, we are here only because this country welcomed them in, and taught them that to be an American is about something more than what we look like, or what our last names are, or how we worship. What makes us Americans is our shared commitment to an ideal – that all of us are created equal, and all of us have the chance to make of our lives what we will.

That’s the country our parents and grandparents and generations before them built for us. That’s the tradition we must uphold. That’s the legacy we must leave for those who are yet to come.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless this country we love.

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Our Reporter: Kerry A. Dolan with Abram Brown and Luisa Kroll

For the first time in the four years that FORBES has been tracking Africa’s richest, Nigeria beats South Africa. At the top yet again cement tycoon Aliko Dangote of Nigeria is joined on the list of Africa’s 50 Richest by 12 other countrymen.  In comparison South Africa claims 11 spots, down from 14 a year ago. Nigeria is showing its strength, having earned commendations for its efforts to snuff out Ebola in the country, which Dangote helped fund and despite a recent drop in oil prices.

Three new billionaires that joined the list include Orji Uzor Kalu of Nigeria, Tony Elumelu of Nigeria and King Mohammed VI of Morocco.  Three billionaires on last year’s list are no longer members of the 10-figure club: Vimal Shah of Kenya is off the list, replaced by his father Bhimji Depar Shah at a lower net worth. Abdulsamad Rabiu of Nigeria dropped below $1 billion due to ceased operations at his floating cement terminal in Nigeria. And South African mining mogul Desmond Sacco dropped to a net worth of $680 million, down from $1.4 billion last year, because of a sharp decline in the share price of his mining firm Assore Group. The net result: the number of billionaires on the list stayed steady with 2013 at 27.

Africa’s 50 richest are, as a whole, wealthier than a year ago. Their combined net worth of $110.7 billion is 6.7 per cent more than in November 2013. The minimum net worth needed to join this elite group rose to $510 million, up from $400 million a year ago.

Behind Aliko Dangote at number one with a fortune of $21.6 billion, comes South African luxury goods magnate Johann Rupert, number two for the second year in a row, worth an estimated $7.3 billion. His Compagnie Financiere Richemont has a stable of luxury brands including Cartier, Montblanc and fashion house Azzedine Alaia.

Six newcomers join the list of richest Africans, including the above mentioned new billionaires, as well as Ali Wakrim of Morocco and Ahmed Ezz of Egypt. Mohamed Bensalah of Morocco rejoins the list after dropping off in 2013. Seven members of the 2013 list fell off: Vimal Shah of Kenya (as mentioned earlier, his father Bhimji replaced him), Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, Raymond Ackerman of South Africa, Sani Bello of Nigeria, Adrian Gore of South Africa, Shafik Gabr of Egypt, and Alami Lazraq of Morocco.

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Our Reporter: AMECHI OGBONNA

Group Managing Director and Chief Executive, Access Bank Plc, Herbert Wigwe, has expressed optimism in the ability of local banks, pension funds and private equity firms to bail the nation out of its huge infrastructure if adequately explored.

Speaking at the closing ceremony of the recently concluded African Summit of the Institute of International Finance (IIF) held in Lagos, Wigwe assured that local banks, private equity firms and pension fund administrators have extensive financial  capacity to pool resources that will help the country wriggle out of its perenial infrastructure quagmire.

But he argued that for the country to mobilise funds from such new frontiers,  managers of the economy would need to do a lot of work through adoption of appropriate policy framework that will encourage collaboration from such institutions.

With this huge infrastructure gaps, Wigwe said the country requires such intervention to finance the agriculture value chain to make Nigeria self-reliant in food production and mobilise resources for other critical sectors like transportation and power where Nigerians are still looking forward to see changes after the recent privatisation.

The Access Bank helmsman who regretted that Nigerian insurance industry has remained low in capital formation in contrast to its peers in other economies, noted there was urgent need for more capital injection in such sectors as transportation and power in particular.

While describing the hosting of the conference in Nigeria as very symbolic considering the country’s size in Africa’s economy, Wigwe, who noted that what was critical at the forum was the realisation that Nigeria and Africa as a whole need a lot more capital, said the summit has enabled Nigerian stakeholders to realise that infrastructure funding gaps can be met with appropriate policy mix.

On how Nigerian corporates can attract more global capital into the economy, he said this can be facilitated by strengthening their governance practices as well as having the willingness to give competitive returns to global investors coming to the country.

Meanwhile, IIF  Deputy Director, Africa and Middle East, David Hedley, has attributed the persistent pressure on the naira following recent drop in price of crude oil on the inability of the Federal Government to build up its fiscal buffers to make the economy more resilient to external shocks.

Hedley regretted that over the years, successive Nigerian governments only spent on servicing existing infrastructure rather than building new structure the economy needs to create wealth for the people and to stand firm in times of crises.

To overcome the challenge, he enjoined the Jonathan administration to pass the Petroleum Industry Bill  (PIB)  to allow fresh investment flow into the nation’s oil and gas sector.

About six Nigerian banks, including Access Bank and Zenith Bank, have already subscribed to membership of the IIF, which is an association of global financial institutions located in about 75 countries of the world.

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The Nigerian Statistical Association (NSA), has called on the Federal Government to review existing laws relating to crude oil sales data collation process and those relating to transactions in the Free Trade Zones.

The association said this will enable the country get reliable statistical data on all trade transactions on export commodities for effective planning and economic development.

Making the call recently in a lecture delivered to mark the African Statistics Day in Abuja, President of the NSA, Dr. Muhammed Tumala, said current laws were inhibiting open data production and denying the country the opportunity of knowing the actual volume and values of transactions on key sectors of the economy.

Tumala, who spoke on the topic, “Open Data for Accountability and Inclusiveness: Prospects and Challenges for Nigeria”, noted that even though the Statistics Act 2007 established the Nigerian Statistical System with coordination by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), translating the provisions of the Act to national economic advantage remains a challenge as other systems and processes for open data are still lacking.

For instance, he explained that while demographic data is still being produced and managed outside the coordination of NBS, data production also remained too scanty in terms of functional and sectional coverage thereby making it difficult for planners and data users to have access to a comprehensive data on most sectors of the economy.

On the need to review the FTZs and other export trade laws, particularly those relating to crude oil lifting, the NSA President noted that exclusion of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) from assessing the oil lifting transactions and those of entities operating in the FTZs continued to raise questions about the validity of statistical figures on such trade being bandied by the government.

He said: “The importance of data in policy making cannot be overemphasised and all open data says is that such data should now be available to everyone that would either want to undertake research or carry out business decisions or design policies. That is what open data is saying.

“It is for citizens to insist on accountability and if they are to be accountable there is no other way of expressing accountability other than using data. It is for the media to also educate both the public on the need to use facts to hold public officers responsible for their actions.

“Such laws and policies on the FTZs and those that inhibit effective statistical data collation on all facets of our national life should be reviewed and amended. For instance, the exclusion of oil trade from the responsibility and activity of the Nigeria customs is one of such laws. There is no country in the world that does that.

“By doing that, you are unable to capture your trade data in that sector and unfortunately for Nigeria, over 90 per cent of our external trade is based on that sector. You can imagine that when over 90 per cent of your trade data is questionable then your entire data is questionable,” the NSA President added.

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Our Reporter: DENNIS MERNYI, ABUJA

Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) may review upward the electricity tariff with effect from December 1, 2014.

The sudden ‎development may be the result of the gas price increase to $3.30 as against the regulatory authorities’ assumption of $2.30.

Vice Chairman of NERC, Muhammad Lawal Bello, while speaking during a presentation in Abuja, Thursday at the review of basic assumptions for semi-annual review of Multi Year Tariff Order (MYTO2) revealed a $1.00 difference from the assumption and the actual price of gas.

He noted that though tariff review is a very sensitive issue to the consumers, the way to go is to pay what is due to ensure improvement in the sector.

“From what I have seen in the initial report, not much has changed. The tariff review is a sensitive issue to the consumer who considers paying higher and not seeing improvement in electricity supply as inappropriate. But there is a general consensus that the way to go is paying what is due so that power will begin to improve,” he said.

Based on the changes in some assumption parameters, such as inflation rate, exchange rate, gas price and generation capacity, there may be an upward adjustment to the tariff.

NERC has also declared that the sector is challenged with what will be the direction of such variables as inflation, foreign exchange rate in 2015, and whether generation companies and their gas suppliers guarantee increased generation under the new gas price.

Also speaking, Mr. Roland Achor, Tariff and Rates, NERC, noted that the actual price at the moment is $3.30 as against the assumption of $2.30 by NERC in the MYTO methodology assumptions, adding that gas price has been regulated since the adoption of the MYTO in 2008 and the regulated prices are applied in the 2012-2016 price regime.

According him, the regulated gas price for 2014 is $1.80/mmbtu. However, the Ministry of Petroleum and NERC have agreed to a gas price of $2.50/mmbtu and transportation cost of $.80 effective December 2014.

Also, there is the gas price assumption of $2.30 by NERC, which actual price has risen to $3.30 resulting in a difference of $1.00, which is expected to impact on the final aggregate technical commercial and collection losses (ATCC & C) review which takes effect December 1, 2014.

MYTO methodology is done based general assumptions to Disco retail tariff such as inputs to the tariff, forecast of load, capacity, fuel costs, investment, levels of losses, customer numbers, and M costs and other economic and technical data, which are all correlated to arrive at the retail tariff to the consumers.

He said the inflation rate received from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) shows a figure of 8.3 per cent as at September  30, 2014 but the inflation rate at the last minor review was 7.8 per cent even though MYTO 2 has an assumption of 13 per cent inflation rate, stressing that the effective inflation rate is now pegged at 8.3 per cent.

He explained that effective exchange rate is now N156.29 to $1.00 over the next six months, adding that the retail tariff will be based on generation of 3,675MW throughout the period from December 1, 2014 to May 31, 2015, though the gross capacity was estimated to be 5,556MW.

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