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APCThe All Progressives Congress (APC) has welcomed the statement by the Presidency and the PDP that they are not behind the campaign for the February general elections to be shifted.

In a statement issued in Ilorin on Saturday by its National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, the APC said that both the Presidency and the Peoples Democratic Party must now “back up their words with action by cutting off the funding for the surreptitious campaign” immediately.

The party said that it believed the Presidency and the PDP wisely backed away from the election-shift campaign having seen that the idea has been rejected by Nigerians.

However, it called on all Nigerians, as well as local and international observers who have started arriving for the elections, to closely monitor developments as the elections approach, because “the Presidency and the PDP have proven time and again that their words are not their bond.

“Election is a process, not a one-day affair. That is why we are delighted that some foreign observers have already arrived for the Feb. 14th and 28th polls.

“Now they must pay a very close attention to the preparations for the elections, the relentless campaign to shift the polls, including through the use of pseudo analysts and the sponsorship of a rash of court cases seeking to stop the presidential candidate of the APC, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, at all cost.

“We know their last joker is the court, amid the unpleasant rumours that a pliable Judge has been procured with millions of dollars to disqualify our candidate. But we strongly believe that the judiciary

will do all that is possible to keep its integrity intact and not be a party to desperate efforts to scuttle the elections and trigger a constitutional crisis,” the APC said.

The party also called on local and international observers to take note of the threats of violence emanating from a section of the country ahead of the elections.

“The ex-militants from the Niger Delta have openly threatened the very existence of the country if President Goodluck Jonathan fails to win the forthcoming presidential election.

“The implication is that, as far as they are concerned, the votes of the people do not count and elections are won by fiat. This is a recipe for violence and disaster,” it said.

The APC said that even though the Presidency and the PDP have belatedly distanced themselves from the threats, “their disclaimer is as tepid as it is unreliable, since they are the unseen hands behind the threats” anyway.

“This is why we are calling for vigilance from all stakeholders in the next few days before the Feb. 14th and 28th elections.

“We must not allow desperate politicians to plunge our nation into chaos. Elections are not war, but a celebration of democracy. There will always be winners and losers, hence no one should threaten others if he or she loses,” the party said.

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JonathanThe Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) says its Presidential flagbearer, President Goodluck Jonathan will beat the APC candidate, retired Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, fair and square in the north, come February 14, 2015.

The party also said with President Jonathan’s soaring popularity among the voting population across the country, it would win more than two-third of the total votes cast as well as the required 25 percent in all the states of the federation.

PDP National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh, in a statement on Saturday, said that President Jonathan would beat Buhari in the north not only because the PDP controls 12 out of the 19 states of the region but also because the citizens are pleased with the numerous development projects he executed in the region.

The party said that the various projects and appointments in the north have placed President Jonathan ahead of Buhari especially following the fact that the APC presidential candidate never executed any in the region when he was Head of State and has so far failed to articulate an acceptable blue-print for development.

“Indeed, Nigerians in the north are eager to re-elect President Goodluck Jonathan come February 14, 2015. Voters in the region appreciate the direct positive impact of the numerous development projects executed by the Jonathan administration in all sectors of life.

“They appreciate the fact that recognizing that agriculture is the mainstay of the northern economy, President Jonathan ensured that out of the 2.7 million direct farm jobs achieved by his administration, over 2 million are in the north.

“They appreciate the fact that President Jonathan established the e-wallet system, which eliminated the corruption in the distribution of fertilizer and other farm-puts, making the products directly accessible to millions of farmers in the region thereby boosting their productivity. They appreciate the fact that silos are brimming and food pyramids are returning in the north.

“In education, President Jonathan’s imprint in the north remains indelible. Today, the once relegated Almajiri boys can now go to school following the establishment of the Almajiri System of Education, the first of its kind, with over 150 special schools already built, while others are nearing completion, a noble idea, General Buhari never thought of when he was head of state.

“Also, out of the 14 new universities established by President Jonathan, 9 are located in the northern states thereby ensuring that all states of the region have a federal university. This is in addition to the establishment of new secondary schools and training of teachers for quality education in the region.

“Furthermore our citizens in the north are happy with President Jonathan for his efforts in tackling desertification in the region especially with the establishment of more than 80km of 15–row Green Belt in addition to the Presidential Initiative on Afforestation in Kano and 10 other Northern States,” the statement read.

The party also recalled the increased attention to the health need of the area especially the interventions towards polio eradication and treatment of VVF among others.

Noting that President Jonathan has repositioned the region for prosperity, the party pointed out that the north stands to benefit immensely from the revitalization of the railways, especially the rehabilitation of the Minna-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano narrow gauge, the Markurdi-Lafia-Kuru-Bauchi-Gombe-Ashaka-Maiduguri line and the branch line from Kafanchan to Kaduna, which are expected to increase productivity in the region.

The party also noted that roads in the region have received serious attention under Jonathan, citing the decades-long intractable Kano-Maiduguri highway, the longest stretch in the country, which they said was being successfully tackled in addition to the Abuja-Lokoja road.

The PDP also said that the dredging of the River Niger from Lokoja to Baro in Niger State have also contributed in placing the north on a sure path to economic prosperity.

It cited the acceleration of work on the Geregu power station, the 700MW Zungeru Hydro-Power, the ‎3,050MW Mambilla Hydro-Power among others in addition to various dam projects including the Kashimbila Multipurpose Dam, which they said was being built to contain flood from Lake Nyos in Cameroon.

The PDP insisted that Nigerians in the north are mindful of the fact that their collective interest and aspiration are better protected under Jonathan hence the support and eagerness to re-elect him come February 14, 2015.

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iraq2Islamic State insurgents on Saturday seized a small crude oil station near the northern Iraqi city Kirkuk where 15 employees were working, and explosions in and around the capital Baghdad killed at least nine people.

Two officials from the state-run North Oil Co confirmed the militants seized a crude oil separation unit in Khabbaz and said 15 oil workers were missing after the company lost contact with them.

“We received a call from one of the workers saying dozens of Daesh fighters were surrounding the facility and asking workers to leave the premises. We lost contact and now the workers might be taken hostage,” an engineer from the North Oil Co told Reuters, using a derogatory acronym for Islamic State.

The radical jihadist movement seized at least four small oilfields when it overran large areas of northern Iraq last summer, and began selling crude oil and gasoline to finance their operations.

Islamic State insurgents attacked regional Kurdish forces southwest of Kirkuk on Friday, seizing some areas including parts of the Khabbaz oilfields.

Kurdish peshmerga forces sought to push back Islamic State in further fighting near Khabbaz on Saturday, Kurdish military sources said.

Khabbaz is a small oilfield 20 km (12 miles) southwest of Kirkuk with a maximum production capacity of 15,000 barrels per day. It was producing around 10,000 bpd before the attack.

Further south in Baghdad, two bombs in a central neighborhood and a farming district south of the capital killed at least seven civilians on Saturday, medics and police said.

Two soldiers were killed when a bomb exploded close to an army patrol near Taji, a predominantly Sunni Muslim rural district north of Baghdad.

At least 24 others were wounded in the explosions.

In Falluja in the western province of Anbar, hospital sources said five people, including two children, were killed during Iraqi army shelling of Islamic State positions. They said at least 44 others were wounded, including 19 civilians.

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Kaduna Voters Desert Jonathan, Sambo At Presidential Rally

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In what appears to be a strong message for President Goodluck Jonathan and Vice President Namadi Sambo on the likely outcome of February 14 presidential poll, voters in Kaduna State on Saturday deserted the President, his vice and supporters at the venue of the presidential rally, Ahmadu Bello Stadium, which was practically empty.

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UkraineA new round of peace talks got under way involving Ukraine and separatists on Saturday, even as fighting between Kiev government forces and the Russian-backed rebels raged in Ukraine’s east, claiming civilian and military lives.

The main members of the so-called ‘contact group’ — Ukrainian former president Leonid Kuchma, a Russian diplomat and an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe official – met at a state residence in the Belarussian capital Minsk, where they were joined by two separatist officials.

The sides have held only one inconclusive meeting since agreeing a ceasefire last September as part of a 12-point blueprint for peace. Much-violated from the start, that truce collapsed completely with a new rebel advance last week.

Both sides have accused each other of deadly artillery and mortar strikes on civilian targets in the past two weeks, including on a cultural center in the main regional city of Donetsk on Friday which killed at least five people waiting for humanitarian hand-outs.

The September Minsk peace plan also called for tighter control of the joint Russia-Ukraine border, through which Kiev says Moscow is funneling fighters and equipment, and the freeing of prisoners held by the sides.

Much has changed on the ground, however, since September.

The separatists have set up self-proclaimed ‘people’s republics’ while their forces, which Kiev says are supported by 9,000 Russian regular troops, have seized more than 500 square km (193 square miles) of territory beyond that agreed in the Minsk talks and threaten to seize control of the east’s two main regions entirely.

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UNUnited Nations support for a planned military operation against Rwandan rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo could be in doubt because Congo named a general accused of rights abuses to head the offensive, diplomats and officials said on Friday.

General Bruno Mandevu was appointed on Sunday to head a Congolese army (FARDC) operation against the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), which had been jointly planned with the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo (MONUSCO).

Western diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Mandevu had been placed by MONUSCO on a so-called red list over accusations of 121 rights violations, including summary executions and rapes.

“If, because of the past record of units or their commanders, there are substantial grounds to believe there is a real risk that they commit grave human rights violations, support to those units will be withheld unless adequate mitigating measures can be put in place,” a senior MONUSCO official told Reuters.

“In this particular case, this process has brought to light some concerns that have been brought to the attention of the DRC government. Discussions are underway at the highest level to address them,” the official said.

During a U.N.-backed offensive against the FDLR in 2009, Congolese soldiers were accused by rights groups of massacring hundreds of civilians and committing wide-ranging abuses. The Congolese army denied the scale of the alleged abuses.

The FARDC and the Congolese government were not immediately available for comment.

A U.N. peacekeeping official in New York said that under the United Nations human rights due diligence policy, the world body has to “ensure that its support to non-U.N. security forces will not contribute to grave human rights violations.”

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OPECOPEC’s oil supply has risen this month due to more Angolan exports and steady to higher output in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf producers, a sign key members are standing firm in refusing to prop up prices.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries at a November meeting decided to focus on market share rather than cutting output, despite concerns from members such as Iran and Venezuela about falling oil revenue.

Supply from OPEC has averaged 30.37 million barrels per day (bpd) in January, up from a revised 30.24 million bpd in December, according to the survey based on shipping data and information from sources at oil companies, OPEC and consultants.

At the Nov. 27 meeting, OPEC retained its output target of 30 million bpd, sending oil prices to a four-year low close to $71 a barrel. Crude since fell to a near six-year low of $45.19 on Jan. 13 and was trading above $49 on Friday.

OPEC Secretary General Abdulla al-Badri, speaking in London on Monday, defended the no-cut strategy and said prices may have reached a floor, despite oversupply. Other OPEC delegates have since echoed this message.

“Prices are stabilizing,” said a delegate from a Gulf producer. “But the world economy is not very strong and stocks are too high.”

The largest boost this month has come from Angola, which pumped 1.80 million bpd and exported about 57 cargoes, up 160,000 bpd from December. Output would have been higher without some cargo delays, including of new crude Sangos.

OPEC’s other West African producer, Nigeria, also managed to boost exports, the survey showed, although the increase was restrained by outages of the Forcados and Nembe Creek pipelines.
Smaller increases have come from Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

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Kaduna PDP Presidential Rally Witnesses Unprecedented Crowd

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Against speculations that ‎the Kaduna Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential rally will witness a low turnout, the Ahmadu Bello Stadium, venue of the campaign is presently filled to capacity.

Although the venue is manned by heavilly armed security men, it is heavilly branded with pictures of Goodluck/ Sambo‎ and Governor Muhktar Ramalan Yero, just as supporters are dressed in branded T-shirts and face caps with various inscriptions.

Most of the Kaduna-based personalities are already seated, awaiting other personalities may come in company of the presidential candidate.

So far, there is no reported incident of violence as security operatives have ensured that those coming in are subjected to thorough search.

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AjimobiThe Governor of Oyo state, Abiola Ajimobi says his administration has been able to bring peace, stability and tranquility to Oyo state adding that he strongly believes he would be given a second chance.

Governor. Ajimobi who wants to run for a second term in office said his government is the only one that has assisted and supported traders, market women amongst others.

He made this known while speaking as a guest on Channels Television’s Sunrise, the Governor explained that Ibadan, Oyo state capital was regarded as one of the dirtiest cities in Nigeria, so his govt. decided that traders trading on the road should be removed, for safety commercial and environment reasons.

Governor Ajimobi recounting his achievement for the state, said his administration has so far created an alternative for traders who were trading on the main road such as modern markets with facilities, toilets, water and money to trade…”As at today my govt has disbursed N356Million with no interest to traders and market men, women”.

He further noted that other government never gave alternatives from 2003-2007 people were removed from certain areas without given alternatives, 2007-20011 people were also removed from the streets, “it is only my government that has provided alternatives”.

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Former Flying Eagles coach, John Obuh, has hailed the Flying Eagles after the team emerged champions of the 2015 super six tournament.

The Flying Eagles defeated Nigerian champions, Kano Pillars, former African champions, Enyimba, and CAF Confederations Cup contenders, Dolphins and Warri Wolves in the opening four games to secure an unassailable 12 points.

Friday’s 4-1 victory over Federations Cup runners-up, Dolphins, and the Dream Team’s 1-1 draw against Enyimba meant the Flying Eagles lifted the tournament trophy with a game to spare.

And Obuh, who was coach of the team in 2011 and 2013, believes the team has done well and deserves a huge commendation.

“We have to congratulate the boys because they have done well and they deserve our commendation. The Flying Eagles outplayed all the teams in this tournament and defeated all of them in the process.

“I’m very happy for the team and excited as well because I think we have a very good team that is looking likely to win the U-20 World Cup for the first time for Nigeria.

“The coaches have done well in assembling these boys because the way they play shows purpose and direction and hopefully they will do well at the Africa Youth Championship in Senegal,” Obuh told sl10.ng.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel has ruled out cancelling any of Greece’s debt, saying banks and creditors have already made substantial cuts.

But Mrs. Merkel told the Hamburger Abendblatt newspaper she still wanted Greece to stay in the eurozone.

Greece’s left-wing Syriza party won last weekend’s election with a pledge to have half the debt written off, the BBC reports.

Its finance minister said the “troika” of global institutions overseeing Greek debt was a “rotten committee.”

The troika – the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund – had agreed a €240billion (£179billion; $270billion) bailout with the previous Greek government.

But new Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, has refused to work with the troika to renegotiate the bailout terms and has already begun to roll back the austerity measures the creditors had demanded of the previous government.

Meanwhile, European Union economic and financial affairs commissioner, Pierre Moscovici, told the BBC that Greece had to honour its previous commitments, although he said he wanted Greece to remain in the eurozone.

Mrs. Merkel told the Hamburger Abendblatt: “I do not envisage fresh debt cancellation.”

She said: “There has already been voluntary debt forgiveness by private creditors. Banks have already slashed billions from Greece’s debt.”

Greece still has a debt of €315billion – about 175 per cent of gross domestic product – despite some creditors writing down debts in a renegotiation in 2012.

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Manchester City has reached an agreement with Malaga for Flying Eagles midfielder, Chidiebere Nwakali, to spend the next two and a half years on loan in Spain, allnigeriasoccer.com reports.

The 18 – year – old is yet to make his international debut for the Super Eagles, and City is aware that he’s not eligible for a work permit by the Home Office.

Thus, in his best interest, the teenager has been farmed out on loan to Malaga to increase his chances of playing first team football.

The product of Shuttle Sports Academy, Lagos has penned a deal that will keep him at the Estadio Ciudad de Málaga until June 30, 2017.

Nwakali will miss the African Youth Championship due to commitments with his new team.

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A court in Niger Republic on Friday threw out charges against members of the political and social elite accused of trafficking newborn babies – a case dismissed by the opposition as a plot to discredit its members.

Police started arresting 20 people, including the wives of several senior politicians, in June and said they wanted to question Hama Amadou, the main challenger to President Mahamadou Issoufou. Amadou fled the West African country, protesting his innocence.

Political tensions have risen in Niger since 2013 when Hama, once part of Issoufou’s coalition, fell out with the president, Reuters reports.

According to the prosecution, around 30 children were born to women in neighbouring Nigeria for the sole purpose of being sold to wealthy couples in Niger.

The accused, including Hama’s wife, were charged with “supposition of a child” – the act of falsely claiming parenthood of a child.

But a criminal court ruled on Friday it did not have the jurisdiction to try the case.

In their decision, the judges accepted the defence position that the state needed to first establish the parentage of the allegedly trafficked children in a civil court before criminal charges could be brought.

“The criminal case collapsed like a house of cards. There are no longer any criminal proceedings against anyone and my clients are free,” Mossi Boubacar, a lawyer for Hama’s family said. “Hama Amadou can return to the country.”

Assistant state prosecutor, Samna Chaibou, told Reuters his team had appealed against the ruling “so the case will immediately go before the court of appeal.”

It was not immediately clear if an arrest warrant against Hama, issued after his flight, had been lifted. He was also stripped of his position as parliament speaker.

Issoufou’s government has accused Hama and his party, MODEN, of trying to destabilise the uranium-exporting nation.

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Oshiomhole’s Commissioner Defects To PDP

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Mr Dennis Idahosa, Commissioner for Investment and Public/Private Partnership in Edo, on Friday, defected to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Idahosa joined the PDP along with some leaders of the APC in Ovia South West Local Government Area of the State.

Idahosa, who was received into the PDP by the state Chairman, Mr Dan Orbih, said his defection was a prelude to his resignation as commissioner, which he said would follow soon.

He explained that he left the APC because of incessant abuse of President Goodluck Jonathan and Edo elders by Gov. Adams Oshiomhole.

The commissioner noted that he would immediately join forces with PDP in the state to galvanise support for the re-election of President Jonathan.

“The reason I am joining PDP is that I don’t agree with the way Oshiomhole abuses our elders and President Jonathan. I stand to support President Jonathan for the presidency.”

Idahosa said more serving commissioners in Oshiomhole’s cabinet have expressed willingness to join the PDP.

He noted that the PDP would harness the failures of Oshiomhole’s administration to the benefit of the party.

Idahosa appealed for tolerance among PDP supporters in the state, urging them to take the messages of political tolerance to every parts of the state. (NAN)

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Robert Mugabe

Mugabe Emerges AU Chairman

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Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe, took over the post of African Union chairman on Friday, replacing Mauritania’s president Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz.

Mugabe, Africa’s oldest president, aged 90, shook hands with Abel Aziz in front of fellow leaders to applause at the AU summit in the Ethiopian capital.

“By electing me to preside over this august body, with full knowledge of the onerous responsibility that lies ahead, I humbly accept your collective decision,” he said.

Mugabe, a former liberation war hero who is Africa’s third-longest serving leader, is viewed with deep respect by many on the continent.

But he is also subject to travel bans from both the United States and European Union in protest of political violence and intimidation by his government.

Mugabe, a former guerrilla leader who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence in 1980, is accused of crushing opponents to ensure his ZANU-PF party won every election for more than three decades.

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In this report Chibuzo Ukaibe looks at the update on permanent voters’ cards (PVCs) distributed so far by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the matters arising.

The pulses of Nigerians are high as they wonder whether the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) can win the race against time with the distribution of the permanent voters’ cards (PVCs).

Although the electoral commission has said it is ready, if need be, to continue the distribution of the PVCs until election eve, the calls from some quarters for the postponement of the election because the backlog of PVCs to be distributed and collected before the February 14 and 28 elections isn’t waning.

This is more so because INEC has ruled out the use of temporary voters card (meaning that only those with PVCs can vote), sparking much tension, in the face of the possibility that a huge number of eligible voters would be disenfranchised in one of the tightest electoral contests in the nation’s history.

But as the momentum builds, INEC has released an update on how far the distribution process of the PVCs has gone, perhaps as a measure to douse those fears and concerns and show that it’s on course.

According to its latest data, the electoral body declared that 42,779,339 PVCs have been distributed so far, out of the 68 million cards billed to be distributed to eligible voters.

However, while 26million PVCs are yet to be collected, the percentage of collected PVCs is now 62.15 per cent.

In addition, the commission declared that 145,000 smart cards have been distributed so far. The commission further disclosed that the number of polling unit is 119, 973.

In the state by state breakdown by the commission, Abia State has distributed 1,020,997 (73 per cent); Adamawa: 1,239,820 (79 per cent); Akwa Ibom: 1,328,714 (79.05 per cent); Anambra: 1,222, 002 (62.25 per cent).

Others are Bauchi: 1,745,441 (84.97 per cent); Bayelsa 386,125 (63.26); Benue: 1,132,187 (56.18); Borno: 999, 470 (56.18); Cross River: 776,977 (66.09)

Others are Delta: 1,422,595 (62.52); Ebonyi 714,351 (66.50); Edo: 1,046,960 (58.63); Ekiti: 492, 869 (67.33); Enugu 738,933(51.70); FCT: 459,913 (52.18); Gombe: 873,698 (78); Imo: 682,046- (37.24).

Jigawa: 1,460,620 (79.76); Kaduna: 2,976,628 (87.36); Kano: 2, 612,400 (52.50); Katsina: 2,245,303 (79.40); Kebbi: 1,232,357 (83.8); Kogi: 773,197 (57.24) ; Kwara: 711,920 (62.33).

Lagos: 2,267,039 (38.39); Nasarawa: 850,619 (66.45); Niger: 1,250,379 (62.07); Ogun: 666,752 (36.4); Ondo: 824,715- (54.09)

Osun: 995,562 (70.75); Oyo: 1,156,593 (47.88); Plateau: 1,141,260 (57.01); Rivers: 1,253,606 (49.40); Sokoto: 1,211,717 (75.17); Taraba:1,079,383 (80.51); Yobe: 740,336 (67.31); Zamfara: 1,045,855 (69.92).

Last week, the commission declared that it has taken delivery of four million additional cards which were moved to the field.

But earlier this month, the commission disclosed that based on a documentation it did in August 2014, 38 million cards were distributed leaving a total of 15 million uncollected.

This was however before the voters’ register was reviewed from 70,383,427 to the current state.

According to that data released by INEC, out of the 54,341610 PVCs printed, only 38,774391 were distributed, which is 71.35 per cent of the PVCs printed.

Going state by state, Lagos State with four million PVCs, only 53.98 per cent or 2,159,091 voters have received their PVCs, leaving behind 1,840,909 eligible voters without the PVCs.

Also in Rivers State, with a registered 1,956,983 voters, only 1,253,606 or 64.06 per cent have been distributed, leaving behind 703,377 voters without the PVCs.

Another state seriously affected by the poor distribution of the PVCs is Imo State, where 1,252,307 PVCs were received but only 682,046 (54.46 per cent) voters have received their PVCs, leaving behind 570,261 eligible voters without the PVCs.

In Kano State, 3,198,859 PVCs were received but only 59.64 per cent were distributed, with 427,674 PVCs yet to be distributed.

Also in Anambra State, a total number of 1,665,342 PVCs were received but only 862,747 were successfully distributed or 51.81 per cent with 802,595 PVCs are yet to be collected by the eligible voters in the state. In Oyo State, 1,985,370 PVCs were received with 1,141,405 or 57.49 per cent distributed and 843,965 as at press times yet to be distributed.

The distribution of the PVCs in Jigawa State was partly successful as out of 1,551,831 PVCs distributed, 1,460,620 or 94.12 per cent were distributed, leaving behind only 91,211 voters yet to collect their PVCs.

The modest, yet significant, increase in collection of the PVCs, was largely due to the directive of President Goodluck Jonathan to INEC for all eligible voter to get his or her card, which precipitated the decentralisation of the distribution process of the PVCS from the local government to the ward level.

With the calls for the postponement of next month’s elections reverberating on the score that the commission couldn’t sort out the PVC distribution, it needed to save its face.

Besides the call by the national security adviser, Col Sambo Dasuki, for the postponement because of the PVCs, a group besieged the vicinity of the national headquarters electoral commission, demanding the cancellation because they wonder how the commission would, as they say do the magic of distributing the cards before the election.

Also, grumbling over the distribution process which perceptibly indicated that there was a higher degree of a collection in certain geopolitical zones sparked a new dimension to the clamour for PVCs distribution.

For instance, there were allegations that some eligible voters in the northern states collected their PVCs by proxy, a claim which was confirmed by the Borno State The resident electoral commissioner, Kassim Gaidam, at a recent stakeholders meeting for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Abuja.

He said although they got complaints of collection by proxy in the state, such complaints only emanated from those who were actually engaged in the process. The commission frowns at this practice.

Again, the House of Representatives conveyed same fears of the inability of the INEC to deliver the cards and disenfranchise many, deliberated on the issue and passed a resolution to make those with TVCs vote in 2015.

While INEC has resisted the resolution of the lower chamber with regards to the TVCs, the political parties have come in defence of the electoral commission with regards to the postponement of election on grounds of PVC distribution.

The 26 political parties, under the aegis of the Inter Party Committee (IPAC), asked the federal government to declare public holiday for collection of permanent voters’ cards (PVCs).

Chairman of IPAC, Dr Yusuf Tanko, who spoke at the quarterly meeting between political parties and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Abuja, told INEC not to postpone the forthcoming general elections slated for next month as being agitated in some quarters over the inability of categories of eligible registered voters to get their permanent voters’ cards (PVCs).

According to him,”as we speak INEC has not come out to tell us that the elections will be shifted, INEC has been carrying the registered political parties along in all the preparations for the February polls,though there may be challenges in the area of distribution of the permanent voters’ cards (PVCs) that is not enough to postpone the elections, to us it remains agitation and we are not in support of the idea”

But INEC is racing against time with regards to sorting out the entire gamut of its logistic issues, chief of which is the distribution of the PVC.

With less than 16 days to the general election, the scramble to ensure that INEC gets its act together on the PVCS and commence wider sensitisation for a new innovation in a keenly contested election is pivotal, some analysts opined.

The ready criticism against INEC is that it had all of four years to prepare and plan for this election, yet it is faced with this crisis of PVC distribution challenges, which as important as it is, seems to have garnered the bulk of its attention in recent weeks.

Just as the political elites have been suspect in the scuttling the elections by their acts, the perennial logistics concern by INEC appears to be as much a threat to the elections as the antics and violence instigating remarks of political elites.

The commission in 2011 postponed the elections because it had little time to prepare for the election, but in a highly charged political environment and an election which is too close to call moves to shift elections are likely to be greeted with suspicion.

Some INEC watchers have noted that it is not enough to collect PVCs but to their names in the recently released voters register.

The executive director, Policy and Legal Advocacy Center, (PLAC) Clement Nwankwo noted “that is an important issue of worry to us. We did monitor some governorship elections and we found out that in some states like Anambra, many people showed up at their polling units but couldn’t find their names in the register. However, we saw that in Ekiti and Osun states, these issues were minimised. But it is an issue of concern and we believe that INEC will prepare for this.

“We know that INEC has sent the voters register to the political parties and we know that they should raise questions we know that the political parties should be much more able to analyse these issues that is why INEC has given them the voters register to analyse and wait till Election Day to raise these incidence.”

Nevertheless, the apathy by electorates towards the collection of the PVCs has also been an issue of concern, just as INEC and political parties have been criticised for not doing enough on sensitisation.

Director of voters registration at INEC, Engr Emmanuel Akem, while speaking on a national television said the PVCs are more available now since the decentralisation but maintains that there is apathy. He however notes that this is because the “registration not compulsory, lack of interest, driving it down to the lowest levels. Business people especially in the east don’t seem interested so much. But there is improvement. We can only appeal to them. But INEC can’t Bear the cost of taking it down to people’s houses, it is quite expensive.”

On his part, Nwankwo, noted that while the civil society has become more involved in the campaign for the collection of PVCs, the political parties have not done enough.

He said “now the political parties are failing in their responsibilities of civic awareness. They have the responsibility to ask citizens to go pickup their PVCS and vote. Rather they have attacked themselves and threw up scare-mongering. Even if you have a hundred percent collection you will never have a hundred percent turnout.”

Jega has however assured that the electoral commission will stick to election timetable it released last year, noting that distribution of the Permanent Voters Card (PVC) will not alter the date slated for the elections.

Jega, who stated this at the official launch of the Mitigation Of Violence in Election (MOVE) in Abuja, said the issues of PVCs distribution before the election is something the commission will handle before the election dates.

The INEC boss said the commission was prepared “if push comes to shove” to sustain the distribution of PVCs till the eve of elections.

Jega who was responding to a position by the National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki, who called for the postponement of election within the time frame of the electoral law, however said the commission has not discussed possible postponement.

He continued “the challenge of distribution PVCs, we believe it is something we can address before the elections. I don’t know what else anybody wants me to say about this. We issued a timetable for the 2015 election almost a year ago and we have been busy working to implement that time table to the letter.”

 

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Gov. Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom has promised the national leaders of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that his state would vote the party 100 per cent in the forthcoming elections.

Akpabio made the promise while addressing the PDP presidential campaign in in Uyo on Friday.

He assured that President Goodluck Jonathan that no amount of propaganda would prevail against him.

“In Akwa Ibom, we will give you 1.67 million votes as valentine gift. Nigeria will not go backward. In the midst of distraction, you have done well in human empowerment, transportation, education and agriculture.

“You have proved that you read to Ph.D level by your action. Education matters”, Akpabio said.

The South-South Coordinator of PDP presidential campaign organisation, Gov. Liyel Imoke of Cross River, said Jonathan administration had moved Nigeria forward.

Imoke said PDP governors in the South-South zone had performed creditably well and would deliver PDP in the coming elections.

He assured the president that he would win the zone massively.

Dr Amadu Ali, the Director-General, PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation, called on Akwa Ibom people to drive away any party that was not PDP.

“PDP has done very well. Goodluck has refurbished the moribund railway and undertaken educational reforms”, Ali said.

He urged the people to keep faith with PDP in order to benefit from agriculture that would be the target of revenue generation for the next administration.

The First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, told women that PDP was the answer to their problems.

She said that the incoming PDP government would give women 50 per cent appointive offices, having fulfilled 35 per cent earlier.

Jonathan urged the women to have faith that the next governor of Akwa Ibom would carry them along.

“Be prepared to follow Goodluck and Sambo on Feb. 14, our valentine day”, Jonathan said. (NAN)

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anambra_poll_soldiers_arrest_25_men_for_violating_no-movement_order

Military Confirms Sack Of Terrorists From Michika

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The Military authorities on Friday confirmed that its troops sacked the terrorists who had been occupying Michika and its environs in Adamawa.

This is contained in a statement issued by the Director of Defence Information, Maj.-Gen. Chris Olukolade in Abuja.

The statement said that extensive mop up operation and search for arms or stranded terrorists and other casualties were ongoing.

It said assault on terrorists’ main positions was concluded on Thursday, Jan. 29 as many of them died in the combat.

It said that troops who sustained injuries in the operation were receiving medical attention.

“Other troops are continuing the pursuit of those who are on the run from the town. Normalcy has been restored accordingly’’, it said.

The statement also said that Nigerian officers in key command positions of the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) were in the process of accounting for their actions.

It explained that the actions of the officers had led to the loss of weapons, men and location in their sphere of responsibility in the mission area.

It added that the exercise was a normal military procedure in major operations or after encounters.

It said that the essence of the procedure was to extract and collate relevant information for subsequent missions.

The statement said that it could also lead to or determine appropriate disciplinary action where necessary. (NAN)

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The challenges confronting the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) are no doubt numerous and daunting including management policies. The challenges are more evident in less advanced Nigerian states, making mega cities like Lagos and Abuja the preferred places for the national service. In this report, corps members serving in the capital of Lagos (Ikeja-1 local government) shared their challenges with CHISOM EZEH

The one year compulsory youth service scheme which was introduced by General Yakubu Gowon as Nigeria’s Head of State in 1973 has recently been a subject of public debate. While some are of the opinion that it should be improved to suit modern realities, others are advocating that it is no longer relevant. Government has recently shown great commitment towards improving the programme but there are still loopholes in the system and there is the need for further improvement.

Among the many challenges facing youth corps members popularly known as corpers, low income is the greatest. This is because, prior to March 2011, corps members earned a paltry sum of N9,775 as monthly allowance from the federal government. Though the director-general of NYSC, Brig. Gen. Johnson Bamidele Olawumi announced at a House of Representatives’ committee hearing on the N4,000 mandated on corps members, that corpers would soon start to receive N500 daily feeding allowance, the current monthly allowance still remains at the usual N19,800.

Corpers are expected to make up the financial gap from earnings from their “places of primary assignment” as clearly stipulated in the NYSC posting letter. Two policy guidelines stated on the letters state as follows: “Provide corps members with a modest accommodation or at least reasonable allowance per month in lieu; provide transport for the corps members to and from place of work or reasonable per month in lieu.”

Sadly, these only exist on paper and not every organisation is as magnanimous as the Lagos State government which pays corpers N20,000 monthly. With a good number of corpers unable to secure a place of primary assignment weeks after leaving the orientation camp, they tend to be forced into accepting even a “no pay” job offer from organisations who they still remain loyal and committed to, in other to ensure a steady flow of the NYSC monthly allowance which can only be paid when the organisation approves by means of a clearance letter.

Not even corpers posted to NYSC local government offices receive the stipulated benefits as their monthly allowance is N3,000.

Speaking on this development, Oluwatoyin Ogundare and Esther Damilola Bayonle, who are both serving in Ikeja-1 local government area decried the frustrating conditions of coming to work daily and earning that little.

Esther explained that she spends heavily on transportation daily, coming all the way from Berger to Ikeja. “The difficulty of coming every day, trying to make sure you don’t have any problem is serious. Then the local government is not helping matters insisting on attendance every day. How much are they paying us? They are paying us N3,000 and we are trying to meet up with everyday attendance,” Esther said.

Ezekiel Anozie, a corps member serving at Reliance Limited also complained about the poor welfare packages for corpers, urging the government to show more care. “I think they should be concerned about the welfare of corpers in Lagos State, a money-consuming terrain. We are not being catered for at all,” Ezekiel said.

“They should be concerned about corpers, taking into consideration that people sometimes have to come all the way from other states down to this place and they don’t even know if you have a place in Lagos State,” he added.

Another issue linked to the afore-mentioned challenge is the demoralising work environment and structure of many organisations where corpers are posted to. Some organisations lacked basic amenities to enable workers deliver while others disregard corpers or over-work them as unskilled labourers without adequate compensation.

Maryann Esekhile who serves at the Ministry of Energy sounds totally disgruntled at the entire NYSC programme and lashed out on the ministry. “The ministry (Ministry of Energy) is worst ever,” Maryann said. “They are lazy and do not even acknowledge their corpers. There’s absolutely no serious job corpers are doing there. They expect us to come to work every day and they don’t give us anything. No extra pay at all and we work daily.”

Similarly, Ukah Onyekachi Kizito who is a medical doctor serving at a primary healthcare centre spoke about poor equipment and amenities at the healthcare centre. “In my centre, we don’t even have running water. We don’t have beds and we are supposed to see patients. They can improve on that,” he said. Buttressing the demotivation from every area of the national youth service programme, Ukah added that government should motivate corpers and give them a reason to do what they do in as much as they are serving their fatherland.

Besides, corpers are plagued by a compulsory weekly activity called Community Development Service (CDS). It requires every corps member to contribute to selected groups which have primary responsibility of executing projects that will benefit their host communities. A very brilliant idea on paper but apparently a practical disaster because of the lackluster attitude of corpers and NYSC staff to it.

It has become simply a day of taking attendance as most times, nothing is achieved from the CDS. This old idea seems untouched but rather a new substitute activity called Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development programme (SAED), runs simultaneously. SAED allows corpers to be trained in various areas of semi-skilled programmes which encouraged entrepreneurship, with many success stories recorded.

However, SAED despite brilliantly suiting into the socio-economic realities of present day Nigeria and the global economy is unreachable by many corpers who wish to go for it. Instead of the training to be offered free to willing corpers, all NYSC does is act as an intermediary, enabling trainers to offer services at a lower cost. Some trainings cost more than corpers real income. Corpers who can’t afford SAED are forced to attend the weekly CDS meeting; it is perhaps the most challenging part of the entire programme.

“Let’s not talk about the CDS here. It’s like an intentional way of punishing corpers. We just come, sit and gist, doing absolutely nothing. They are just interested in wasting our time,” Maryann stated.

Tobi Okuntade who is serving at Laralak Ultimate Limited also faulted the CDS programme saying that he comes every week to hear the same thing. “The main reason why people come for CDS is so they can meet with their friends instead of coming to render community services,” he said.

On her part, Rahmat Akinsonya who is serving at LTV said, “I won’t lie to you, it (CDS) is nothing to write home about because you come here and waste your time for five to six hours, not doing anything, just coming to local government to sign cards.”

However, this problem is peculiar to some local governments as it is better managed in some other units of the NYSC. This was the position of Ite Famidele who was redeployed from Cross River to Lagos State and serves at Flora School. “When I was in Calabar, it was a two-hour activity and it’s better. Here, I’ve been standing since 9am and it’s almost 12,” she said.

A good number of these problems should not persist if there was effective communication between the corpers and NYSC staff members. This singular drawback (ineffective communication), is perhaps the most worrisome because it breeds the rest. The local government officials are often stern and as some corpers like Steven Orumade who serves at Ministry of Arts and Culture, described them as unapproachable.

“They should look at the local governments they post people to because my local government, Ikeja-1 local government, the officials here are not approachable. You meet them to ask them of things you don’t understand and they end up insulting you,” Steven said. Another corper who preferred anonymity confirmed Steven’s claims adding that his clearance card was mishandled by the staff of the local government and when he made efforts to trace the misplacement, they insulted and threatened to deal with on him. It was later found in their custody after weeks of persistence.

There seems to be a huge gap in the actualisation of National Youth Service Corps dream though a few corpers like Qudus Awotayo, only have the challenge of meeting and interacting with youths of varying culture and background claiming that a great number of them have real issues that must be addressed. In fact, the entire ideals of the programme needs to be re-engineered for the 21st century relevance it deservea. If corpers are not serving with joy and gladness, the aim of strengthening Nigerian unity through it is defeated.

 

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Caught between the iceberg of possible defeat and the tempest of certain shame, this is crunch time for President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. With the economy unhinged, the naira in a free-fall and his approval rating plunging barely three weeks to the presidential polls, it is clear something is about to give in the world’s most populous black nation.

In 2011, the pan-Nigerian formation at his disposal aided him in clinching the presidential trophy, how ironic that the regiment behind Mr President now consists mostly of dubious contractors and political mendicants. Back in 2010, a broad coalition from across the nation’s divides had gathered at Aso Rock to champion GEJ’s coronation as acting president, following the eventual incapacitation of Yar’Adua, invoking the spirit of the law. By raising their voices and standing to be counted for what was just then, those citizens no doubt helped in large measure to give patriotism its true meaning.

Today, the big tragedy is that from those lofty overtones of 2010/2011, agitation for GEJ’s re-election is increasingly hijacked by the likes of Edwin Clark, Tompolo and Asari Dokubo with their bankrupt idea that the national yardstick for leadership selection and recruitment in the twenty-first century be determined only by base clannish consideration, even after their kinsman had convincingly failed the preliminary aptitude test.

Drunk on new-found power, Asari and his cohorts swooped on Yenagoa last weekend and openly threatened to levy war on Nigeria should Jonathan lose the February 14 poll. They spoke after meeting with Governor Seriake Dickson at the Government House, in sheer contempt of the much-trumpeted anti-violence pact signed two weeks ago by political parties. Characteristically, Mr President looks the other way. No less confounding also is the DSS’ loud silence so far. Like bullies, its operatives appear adept only at showing strength over hapless members of the opposition.

Of course, these overfed political hirelings are only looking for what to eat. Their worry actually is the sustenance of obscene contracts and other mouth-watering largesse they are getting from Abuja. So, they cannot possibly be speaking for the generality of Niger Delta people who, just like other Nigerians, are at the receiving end of Jonathan’s fumbling and wobbling.

Now, GEJ’s new fair-weather friends want to show their own love is greater than the unconditional national brotherhood shown him in 2010 or the pan-Nigerian solidarity of 2011. Unable to sustain the argument of logic further, they have resorted to hurling personal abuse or issuing threats like ill-bred motor-park touts (apology GEJ).

But they miss the point. Before a global audience in Turkey in January 2011, Jonathan had hinted he would do only a term. As editor-in-chief of a national newspaper then, this writer recalls that it was the lead story in most national dailies on February 1, 2011. It helped to finally disarm some northern agitators who had mounted a vociferous campaign that one of their own be allowed to fly PDP’s flag in the pending presidential polls in view of “Yar’Adua’s right to two terms”.

Having enjoyed fifteen months of the four years of Yar’Adua’s first term, GEJ pleaded for four more years, if only to write his own name in gold. If granted, he boasted that his focus would be to make blackouts history in Nigeria. His exact words: “If I’m voted into power, within the next four years, the issue of power will become a thing of the past. Four years is enough for anyone in power to make significant improvement and if I can’t improve on power within this period, it then means I cannot do anything even if I’m there for the next four years.”

For the avoidance of doubt, he ruled out the possibility of Nigerians in Diaspora participating directly in the voting exercise of 2011: “I would have loved that the Nigerians in Diaspora vote this year. But to be frank with you, that is going to be difficult now. Presently, the law does not allow voting outside Nigeria and so this year Nigerians in Diaspora will not vote but I will work towards it by 2015 even though I WILL NOT BE RUNNING FOR ELECTION” (emphasis is mine).

Against this weighty backdrop, that GEJ could still keep a straight face today and be gallivanting all over the land asking for a renewal of his tenancy at Aso Rock could only mean two things: a contemptuous assumption the nation is condemned to amnesia or he sees no shame in not keeping his word . But what defines a man is honour. The most elementary measure of a man’s honour is the weight his own very word carries.

To be sure, newspaper reports of GEJ’s Turkey declaration would certainly not have become an issue now had he delivered on his own self-assigned priority: power and security. Weighed against the resources and opportunities available, the hard truth is GEJ has failed woefully on both counts. Today, power supply remains epileptic with all Nigerians sentenced to pay more for darkness.

Under Jonathan’s watch, we have been treated to some funny coinages like GENCOS ((Generation Companies) now humorously pronounced as GECKOS) and DISCOS (Distribution Companies) in the name of liberalising the power sector. But like everything, the devil has been in the details. Public assets as well as the commanding heights of this critical sector have only ended up mostly in the hands of GEJ’s cronies with little or no clue on how the sector should be run. They are often the first to announce multi-billion naira donations at any fund-raiser hosted by their benefactor. As Edo governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, recently put it, “Nigerians will never have power as long as PDP remains in power… And when PDP said they would be in office for sixty years, I am sure they meant to say sixteen years.”

Today, the mess in the power sector is perhaps only equalled by the bungling of national security. Whereas the Nigeria GEJ took over in May 2010 boasted of 774 councils. Today, close to thirty of those territories are being occupied by insurgents, with their dark, blood-stained flag fluttering defiantly. Over 200 Chibok girls are yet to be accounted for under GEJ’s watch. While it is true that Boko Haram took inspiration from the global terror order, the truth that still needs to be admitted is that the Nigerian variant has metastasised largely on account of official impotence. While it is now so convenient to accuse our ill-equipped soldiers of running away from battles with the rampaging insurgents, what is often added in hushed tones, perhaps out of charity, is that the nation itself is left to endure the shame of a runaway commander-in-chief.

Again, whereas the national navy is starved of funds, its statutory duty has been outsourced to a known thug at a jaw-dropping fee. Perhaps, the only area where presidential competence has so far been demonstrated was in neatly loading millions of dollars, sack after sack, into a rented jet on the way to secure arms from the black market in South Africa.

So, Asari and co need be reminded the case against Jonathan is not personal. It is about changing a model that does not work and stave off national haemorrhage inflicted by thieving incompetence. Those who have had personal interactions with Mr President are often quick to attest his good nature. But the guy you engage in the debauchery of beer and banter in a pub is not usually the type you need to think up fresh ideas to drive changes in the boardroom. In fact, last week, a joke gained currency in the social media. It goes thus: “If you insist PDP must return in 2015, then also pray that God should run your life the way Jonathan is running Nigeria.”

In the final analysis, GEJ may be left with a consolation prize after all. If his party loses the February 14 polls as all indicators now clearly suggest, he can at least return to his native Otuoke with this epithet: the first sitting president to lose an election and took his fate like a man.

 

 

 

 

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