Sunday, 21 January 2018
Headliners

Headliners (1839)

A Nigerian in the United States, Osa Alohaneke, faces the prospect of spending the rest of his life in jail, after he was convicted by a court in Fort Bend County, Houston for the 2015 stabbing to death of his fiancée, a Cameroonian.

After deliberating for some 13 hours, a jury late Friday afternoon convicted 59-year-old Osa Alohaneke in the slaying of Evelyne Ebane Epiepang, 52.

Alohaneke looked down and showed no emotion when the verdict was read in court.

Prosecutors alleged that Alohaneke used a kitchen knife to attack Epiepang, his fiancée, and her friend, Veronica Taku.

Alohaneke, who was living at the time in a section of southwest Houston that lies in Fort Bend County, was charged with first-degree murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Jurors acquitted Alohaneke of the assault charges.

Epiepang was stabbed more than 30 times and died as she called 911 operators for help. Screams echoed in the courtroom for more than four minutes when prosecutors played the 911 call for jurors last week.

When police arrived, Alohaneke was on the phone with an attorney, his hands covered in blood. Blood was splatted on his arms up to his elbows, Assistant District Attorney Amanda Bolin told jurors during her closing arguments.

“His mission was pain and devastation and he accomplished his mission,” Bolin said.

Defense attorney Eric Ashford pointed to what he said were weaknesses in the case against Alohaneke, many of which he alleged were caused by a haphazard investigation by the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office.

“Was this case taken seriously by investigators? They didn’t even do the forensic analysis needed to determine the murder weapon,” Ashford told jurors.

Ashford told jurors that detectives took several knives from the scene but that no testing was done to figure out which was used in the killing. In addition, the attorney said, detectives took Alahoneke’s clothes when he was arrested but never tested them for blood or DNA. Neither were fingernail scrapings were taken from the victim. Also, he noted that detectives took Alahoneke’s phone but that jurors were never shown text messages as proof he was involved in the attack.

Ashford also attacked the credibility of Taku, the only witness to the killing. She had testified she saw Alohaneke “turn white like a ghost after the murder”.

“This could have been a hallucination,” Ashford told jurors. “But did detectives investigate Taku’s mental status? No, during testimony they said they didn’t think it was important.”

Jurors now begin the penalty phase. Alohaneke faces a sentence of up to life in prison.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Posted On Sunday, 21 January 2018 01:25 Written by

Former Super Eagles captain Nwankwo Kanu has alerted to plans to take over his Hardley Suites on Victoria Island, Lagos.

He said although the matter is in court, an agency is about to “forcibly seize” the property.

A statement yesterday by Kanu, the initiator of the Kanu Heart Foundation, lamented that the property, which is a growing concern in the hospitality industry, was put under the temporary possession of the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) by an ex-parte order on account of a purported indebtedness which is yet to be proved. The statement claimed that there were plans to sell the hotel under a secret arrangement.”

Kanu said: “While I remain resolute in my decision to respect the sanctity of our law courts, I am however constrained to issue this statement to call on well-meaning Nigerians and all men/women of good conscience around the globe to prevail on AMCON to do same. This has become necessary in the light of some bizarre actions of self-help embarked upon by AMCON in vandalising/stripping the assets, under the guise of renovations, but ostensibly with a clandestine design to brazenly sell or hand it to a third party under secret terms and thus complicate/further stall this matter.”

Kanu said he felt pained that his prized possession was at the risk of being taken away. He said funding for surgery and treatment of many heart victims by the Kanu Heart Foundation had come from his earnings at the Hardley Apartments.

The matter will come up for hearing before a Federal High Court on February 14.

Posted On Friday, 19 January 2018 02:15 Written by

Ten people were killed and dozens injured on Wednesday in a double suicide-bomb attack in the northeast Nigerian city of Maiduguri, a civilian militia leader and a resident told AFP.

The blasts happened in the Muna Garage area of the Borno state capital, in a market used mainly by internally displaced people (IDPs) from a nearby camp.

“I can confirm that 10 people have died in the attack,” said Ibrahim Liman, of the Civilian Joint Taskforce (CJTF), which assists the military with security against Boko Haram.

Liman initially gave the death toll as three but he added: “Seven more bodies were brought in from the UMTH (University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital).

“Now the number of injured is 52,” he said.

“Two under-aged girls, aged about 13, struck at the market at about 4:10 pm (1510 GMT) — a peak hour. The first bomber set off her explosives in a sparsely populated part of the market.

“Moments later, the second bomber set off her explosives in the crowded part of the market. That was where most of the casualties were recorded.”

Liman’s account was supported by local resident Dahiru Bulama, who said soldiers had cordoned off the area as the injured were evacuated to hospital for treatment. 

“The attack was really bad. The casualty toll could be high. We were not allowed to go near,” he added.

“But I saw one car parked across the road that was splattered with blood and flesh.”

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack but Boko Haram has repeatedly used young girls and women as suicide bombers to attack civilian “soft targets”.

IDP camps, including the one at Muna Garage, markets and mosques have been hit. Army and CJTF security posts have also been targeted.

Twelve people were killed on November 15 when four suicide bombers — two men and two women — blew themselves up in the Muna area of Maiduguri.

Wednesday’s attacks comes after Boko Haram jihadists killed nine people on Monday in two separate attacks — one in the Ngala area of Borno and the second in neighbouring Adamawa.

The attack in Ngala saw six people shot dead as they collected firewood to sell to IDPs.

Civilians have borne the brunt of the casualties in the nearly conflict, with at least 20,000 killed and more than 2.6 million others made homeless since 2009.

Posted On Thursday, 18 January 2018 04:11 Written by

‘I’m worried, concerned’

Ortom insists no land for cattle colony in Benue

President Muhammadu Buhari has directed security agencies to fish out the herdsmen who killed no fewer than 73 farmers in New Year’s Day in Benue State.

Victims of the incident were buried last Thursday in Makurdi amid a nationwide outrage.

Governor Samuel Ortom told reporters that the President gave the order during a meeting with the state’s leaders of thought on the security situation.

At the meeting were Deputy Governor Benson Abounu, Tor Tiv Prof. James Ayatse, Ochi Idoma, former Senate President David Mark, Senator George Akume, Senator Barnabas Gemade, Gen. Lawrence Onoja (retd.), Speaker Terkimbir Kyambe and Senator Joseph Waku, amog others.

Presidential spokesman Femi Adesina quoted President Buhari as telling the delegation:

“Your Excellency, the governor, and all the leaders here, I am appealing to you to try to restrain your people. I assure you that the Police, the Department of State Security and other security agencies had been directed to ensure that all those behind the mayhem get punished.

“I ask you in the name of God to accommodate your country men. You can also be assured that I am just as worried, and concerned with the situation.’’

The President told the delegation that his administration had already begun a process of finding lasting solution to the perennial challenge of herdsmen conflict with farmers and communities around the country.

The Tor-Tiv, said his domain had been thrown into mourning due to the incessant attacks.

“We want you to put an end to the gruesome situation.’’

Ortom said Benue leaders demanded that the killer-herdsmen be arrested and prosecuted.

His words: “The situation as at today is relatively calm, although there are pockets of issues. For the past five days we have witnessed two killings compared to what was happening before. Other places are relatively calm. The security men and the IGP and the Benue State Government have been working day and night to ensure that we bring the situation under control and stop the killings.

“There are still security issues from one town to the other, like some few  days ago we had an uproar in Makurdi Local Government, headquarters of Benue State where some hoodlums wanted to take advantage. That is one of the things we have discovered in trying to create confusion so that they can go in there and loot.

‘We have made it known that for us in Benue State is that there is no room for anyone taking laws into his hands. It is expected even when you are offended or someone violates the law, the best thing to do is to report, by that we will be able to meet our sanctions on such people. But when you take laws into your hand,  you are inviting anarchy and we will not accept this.

“So we are here to appreciate Mr. President for providing security. Yesterday (Sunday), we also received relief materials based on his directives to NEMA and is being shared among the five IDP camps that we have in Benue State.

“But beyond that we made strong appeal to Mr. President to arrest those people that perpetrated this act, the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, because they are not above the law. They made inciting statements against our people and they came and perpetrated this act. We are law abiding citizens; we are not going to let our people go out of control.”

The governor was full of praises for Buhari. He said: “We believe in the leadership of Mr.  President because he is disciplined and is an upright man and we believe he will be able to sanction this people and he did assure us that there is no room for impunity, the law of the land must take its cause. So, those perpetrators…; the IG was at the meeting; he directed the IG to arrest those who perpetrated this act and prosecute them according to the law.

“And he assured us that he would do everything possible to ensure that Benue State lives peacefully and there are no further killings. So, basically, that is why we came to see Mr. President.”

Asked if the issue of arming militia groups came up, Ortom said that the allegation was false.

He said: “It is not true. I see that as distraction, completely from the main issue that we are talking about. These people were not even arrested in Benue State. If we are being killed in the magnitude that we saw and we had weapons of what I saw in the media, I know that five AK 47s can sack a whole community. So if we had such weapons and I as governor my local government had been attacked and people killed, property destroyed and so on, so will I go and sponsor militia in Taraba State? I organised an amnesty programme, which saw  the disarmament of over  800 youths and more than 700 weapons were turned in which were destroyed in the presence of security men and the UN and the committee on small weapons and light arms from the Presidency.

“So it is not true; it is false. It is meant to turn facts away from the reality that is happening on ground.”

Ortom said the meeting with the President was at the instance of Benue State as he defended the anti-open grazing law made by his administration but which the Fuluni are opposed to.

“The law is a win win; it provides security for  the herdsmen and the farmers. And as far as we are concerned the implementation of the law is going on smoothly.

“We have also arrested more than 18 herdsmen who violated the law and they were arraigned before the court of law.”

Ortom said that the state  is open to suggestions from the Federal Government on finding a lasting solution.

“The Minister of Agriculture happens to be a son of the soil. There are many options that are put on the table.

“Like I told you the last time I came here, I did not understand what cattle colonies meant. Today, I was privileged to meet him and he did explain to me that a colony is many ranches in one place, restricted in one place. So, for us in Benue State, there is no 10,000 hectares; they are looking for 5,000 hectares, we have no 10,000 hectares to allow it for that kind of a thing to take plac.”

Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai said the Federal Government had very clear plans to end herders/farmers clashes in the country.

The governor told reporters after laying a wreath to mark the Armed Forces Remembrance Day in Kaduna that the issue was being tackled head-on.

“We met with the Minister of Interior. There are very clear plans to curtail these issues. I  want to assure everyone, the President and other security agencies are doing their best.’’

Posted On Tuesday, 16 January 2018 02:52 Written by

Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong,  has tendered his unreserved apologies to the people of Benue State and Nigerians over the comments he made following the murder of over 60 people by herdsmen in two local government areas.

Lalong had told newsmen that he warned Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue against passing the anti-grazing law which was believed to have caused the deadly killings by the herdsmen.

The governor’s statement was widely criticised as highly insensitive and suggestive of justifying the killings and grave injuries inflicted on the villagers by the unidentified herdsmen.

However,  Lalong, at the weekend in Abuja,  told newsmen that his comments would not in any way help in the resolution of the crisis.

While expressing his belief in the sanctity of human lives,  the governor said Plateau State has a strong affinity with all states in the Middle Belt, especially Benue which was carved out of Plateau State, noting that his initial comments were misconstrued and misinterpreted.

He said: “I am here to comment on my statement concerning the lingering issue. That is my comment after the presidential visit in respect of the crisis in Benue State.

“Once again, let me use this opportunity extend my deepest sympathies and extend our condolences to the people of  Benue State over this great loss. My prayer is that God will continue to give them and every Nigerian the fortitude to bear the loss.

“I must say that I humbly apologise for my comments because I have seen that it was really misconceived and misinterpreted. That generated a lot of social media writeup here and there about the issue. I apologise for that because neither the argument for or against helps the matter because it involves lives.

“I have great respect for the sanctity of human lives and the unity of the Middle Belt. I would not say Plateau is fighting Benue State at all. We are brothers and sisters. Benue was created out of Plateau. Nasarawa was created out of Pleteau.

“We still remain brothers and sisters. So I extend my prayers to all of them and I pray that God Almighty will give them the fortitude to bear the loss and grant the souls of the departed eternal rest.

“This is to tell those who are for and against  that there is need, especially at this time when lives are involved, for all of us to join hands to ensure that we work towards  the resolution of the matter and helping in ensuring peace not only in Benue, but in Nigeria.”

Posted On Sunday, 14 January 2018 16:48 Written by

The case of a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Jumoke Akinjide, has been transferred to the Federal High Court in Lagos.

It has been re-assigned to Justice Muslim Hassan.

Akinjide was charged along with former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, who is said to be at large.

Others named in the charge are Senator Ayo Adeseun and a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) stalwart Chief Olarenwaju Otiti.

They were accused of conspiring to directly take possession of N650million, which they reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful act.

They were arraigned last June before Justice Joyce Abdulmalik in Ibadan.

It was learnt that the Acting Chief Judge, Justice Adamu Kafarati, moved the case to Lagos at Akinjide’s instance.

The former minister was granted bail on self-recognition when she was arraigned in Ibadan. She was also asked to submit her international passport.

Prosecuting counsel Mr Rotimi Oyedepo confirmed to our correspondent yesterday that the former minister would be tried in Lagos.

“Yes, we have been served with a Hearing Notice by the Federal High Court, Lagos Division, that the case is coming up before Justice Hassan next week,” he said.

The defendants allegedly received the money from Mrs Alison-Madueke in the build- up to the 2015 general election.

It was said to be part of the $115 million allegedly disbursed by Mrs. Alison-Madueke to influence the outcome of the 2015 presidential election.

One of the charges reads: “That you, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke (still at large), Oloye Jumoke Akinjide, Senator Ayo Ademola Adeseun and Chief Olarenwaju Otiti on or about the 26th day of March, 2015, in Nigeria within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court conspired amongst yourselves to directly take possession of the N650 million which sum you reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful act.

“That you, Oloye Jumoke Akinjide, Senator Ayo Ademola Adeseun and Chief Olanrewaju Otiti on or about the 26th day of March, 2015 in Nigeria, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court did conspire amongst yourselves to commit an offence, to wit: making cash payment of the sum of N650 million which sum exceeded the amount authorized by Law without going through financial institution and you thereby committed an offence.”

The defendants pleaded not guilty.

It was learnt that Akinjide held plea bargain talks with the EFCC. The case may come up before Justice Hassan on Tuesday.

Posted On Thursday, 11 January 2018 04:39 Written by

A U.S. couple will go to jail after holding a Nigerian woman captive as an unpaid maid and nanny for two years in a Houston, Texas suburb, restricting her movements and threatening her if she objected, authorities said on Monday.

The husband and wife will pay restitution of more than $100,000 to the victim, whom they lured from Lagos with promises of wages that were never paid, according to the Office of Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez, Reuters reports.

Sandra Nsobundu, 49, pleaded guilty to a forced labor documents charge and her husband Chudy Nsobundu, 57, pleaded guilty to visa fraud in hearings that ended late on Friday, the office said in a statement.

The victim was rescued in October 2015 after a tip to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center.

She had been living for more than two years with the Nsobundu family in Katy, Texas, officials said.

During that time, the Nsobundus kept the woman’s passport from her, did not pay her and threatened to send her back to Nigeria if she objected.

They restricted her movements to two short walks each day around the block with their children and frequently yelled at her and berated her, officials said.

The couple had helped falsify a U.S. visa application for the victim with lies to boost the chances that it would be approved and hide that she would be working illegally as a housemaid and nanny, officials said.

Among the falsehoods, the application portrayed her as married and as 20 years older than she was, officials said. It also falsely claimed she was related to the Nsobundu family.

Sandra and Chudy Nsobundu each will serve sentences of seven months in jail and seven months home confinement, and they will pay more than $121,000 in restitution to the victim, officials said.

Posted On Tuesday, 09 January 2018 05:03 Written by
A Houston-based couple was ordered at the weekend to pay more than $121,000 in restitution to a Nigerian nanny who worked in their home.

The couple had pleaded guilty to federal charges related to forcing the woman to work nearly 20 hours a day, taking care of their home and five children without pay for two years, authorities said.

Besides, Chudy Nsobundu, 57, and his wife Sandra, 49, were sentenced to seven months in jail and seven months of home confinement, plus three years probation.

The couple, who are Nigerian-born, naturalized U.S. citizens, recruited the woman by promising her a $100 monthly wage. Instead, they abused her physically and verbally while she worked at their home in the Houston suburb of Katy from September 2013 to October 2015, authorities said.

Chudy Nsobundu pleaded guilty to visa fraud in 2016 while his wife pleaded guilty to unlawful conduct with respect to documents in furtherance of forced labour.

According to court documents, the nanny worked every day from 5:30 a.m. to 1 a.m., with no breaks, and no fresh food, and at times was allowed to drink only the milk left in the children’s cereal bowls.

The Nsobundus prevented the nanny from leaving their employment by withholding her passport and by threatening her with physical and mental abuse, authorities said.

The nanny reached out for help and was rescued following a tip to the National Human Trafficking Resource Centre.

Prosecutors also say the couple knowingly submitted false application to the U.S. State Department for the woman’s visa application.

Posted On Sunday, 07 January 2018 03:07 Written by
Advocates of another term for the President are getting more serious. Communications Minister Adebayo Shittu told reporters yesterday after a meeting with the President at Aso Villa that he had been appointed to lead a group in support of President Muhammadu Buhari’s 2019 election.

According to him, the Muhammadu Buhari/Osinbajo Dynamic Support Group will on January 20 inaugurate its Southwest zonal office to launch the President’s reelection battle.

He said for Buhari to seek a second term “goes without saying”.

“I know he has not made up his mind but I can say that some of us can assist him in making up his mind so that Nigeria can continue to enjoy stability and progress.

“I mean if you have a child who goes to primary school, does well, proceeds to secondary school, does well, and you keep asking, is he going to university? It goes without saying. By the grace of God, we his ardent supporters who appreciate his worth on behalf of millions of Nigerians would urge him to recontest.”

Asked whether campaigns for 2019 elections had begun, Shittu said: “Everyday since he came into office, all his activities are geared towards letting Nigeria know they have a saviour, a rescuer, somebody who is committed to providing relief to Nigerians in all respects.

“In the area of fighting corruption, insurgency, whether in the Northeast or the Niger Delta, in the area of repairing the economy and providing jobs and providing social stability in the society. You will agree with me that today but for Buhari, Boko Haram would have invaded even Lagos.”

Shittu, who hails from Oke Ogun, Oyo State, plans to run for governor in 2019, having previously failed as the governorship candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) in 2011.

The President has not spoken about his interest in 2019.

During the last National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Abuja, an attempt to move a motion on his 2019 candidature was stopped.

Presidential spokesman Femi Adesina said on New Year’s Eve that ”nobody knows whether or not the President will seek reelection. About four groups have come to the President, asking if he will go for second term. The last of such groups was Good Governance Support Group, but the President has not said anything.”

However, in October, last year, the Buhari Support Organisation inaugurated its office in Abuja to campaign for Buhari’s second term.

Buhari’s men and many public office holders gathered at the event which enjoyed wide publicity.

Customs Comptroller General Col. Hamid Ali, the chief speaker at the event, urged the President to reward those who worked for his emergence but still left in the cold more than two years into the four-year tenure.

Members of the group-led by Senator Abu Ibrahim, later visited the President at the Villa.

The President himself gave a subtle hint that he would run when he told Nigerians in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire when met with them after attending an African Union/European Union Summit, that he might need Nigerians’ vote in future.

Posted On Thursday, 04 January 2018 00:46 Written by

I join my fellow citizens this morning to welcome and celebrate the New Year 2018. This year promises to be pivotal in our quest for CHANGE.

Unfortunately, I am saddened to acknowledge that for many this Christmas and New Year holidays have been anything but merry and happy. Instead of showing love, companionship and charity, some of our compatriots chose this period to inflict severe hardship on us all by creating unnecessary fuel scarcity across the country.

The consequence was that not many could travel and the few who did had to pay exorbitant transport fares. This is unacceptable given that NNPC had taken measures to ensure availability at all depots. I am determined to get to the root of this collective blackmail of all Nigerians and ensure that whichever groups are behind this manipulated hardship will be prevented from doing so again.

Such unpatriotism will not divert the Administration from the course we have set ourselves. Our government’s watch word and policy thrust is CHANGE. We must change our way of doing things or we will stagnate and be left behind in the race to lift our people out of poverty and into prosperity.

My address to fellow Nigerians this morning is devoted mainly to informing you about the intense efforts this Administration is putting to address our country’s huge infrastructural deficit.

We are going to make significant in-roads in advancing road, rail and power projects across the country.

The Ministry of Power, Works and Housing is one of the drivers of this Government’s commitment to renew and increase Nigeria’s stock of infrastructure in order to achieve global economic competitiveness as targeted under the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan.

With regards to Railways, we have set ourselves ambitious targets. Already in construction stage is the Lagos-Kano Standard Gauge Railway.

The line should reach Ibadan from Lagos by the end of 2019 and will carry two million passengers per year and five million tons of cargo will be transported every year giving a substantial boost to the country’s economy.

Construction of the Kano – Kaduna segment is expected to commence this year and reach Kaduna by the end of 2019. By the end of 2021 the two ends will be joined so that we will have standard gauge railway across the main North-South trading route.

The Abuja – Kaduna route will be boosted by additional rolling stock next Thursday and will be able to handle one million commuters annually.

At the same time I have approved and negotiations will be concluded in the first part of this year for the Port Harcourt to Maiduguri line covering Aba, Owerri, Umuahia, Enugu, Awka, Abakaliki, Makurdi, Lafia, Jos, Bauchi, Gombe, Yola and Damaturu. The Abuja to Itakpe line will go through Baro and terminate in Warri with construction of a new seaport at Warri.

Negotiations are also advanced for the construction of other railway lines, firstly from Kano to Maradi in Niger Republic passing through Kazaure, Daura, Katsina, Jibia to Maradi.

Secondly, Lagos to Calabar the “Coastal Rail” through Ore, Benin, Agbor, Asaba, Onitsha, Sapele, Ughelli, Warri, Yenagoa, Otuoke, Port Harcourt, Aba, Uyo and Calabar. In the next few years, all these Nigerian cities will be linked by functional modern rail systems, giving enormous boost to the social and economic life of our people.

With respect to the Abuja Capital Light Rail, progress has reached 98% completion, as at 64% completion when we assumed office. Only test runs remain before start of operations.

This train service will stimulate economic activities in the Federal Capital and provide residents with an efficient and safe transportation system. Twelve railway sub-stations around the capital over a 45.2 kilometre route will serve as a catalyst and a pull factor to the economy of the area. The Light Rail System will reduce traffic congestion and carbon emission in line with the Administration’s policy on climate change.

Management of the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) has been reconstituted and has been charged with a 12 week rapid intervention in road repairs to cover all the geo-political zones. Government is undertaking repairs and maintenance of 44 roads within the six geo-political zones.

Twenty five major highways will be funded under the N100b SUKUK facility. Each geo-political zone will benefit by an equal amount of N16.67b. The following major highways are to receive special attention:

a. Oyo – Ogbomosho,

b. Ofusu – Ore – Ajebandele – Shagamu,

c. Yenagoa Road Junction – Kolo Otuoke – Bayelsa Palm,

d. Enugu – Port Harcourt Dual Carriage Way,

e. Onitsha – Enugu Expressway,

f. Kaduna Eastern Bypass,

g. Dualization of Kano – Maiduguri Road,

h. Dualization of Abuja – Lokoja – Benin Road,

i. Dualization of Suleja – Minna Road.

In addition, Government has approved work to start on the re-construction of Abuja – Kaduna – Zaria – Kano road which is in a state of disrepair. Work will soon start and is expected to be completed in 2019.

More Nigerians across the country are experiencing improved power supply to their homes and businesses. However, power remains a concern to this government because too many people still do not have regular and reliable supply.

The Payment Assurance Guarantee Scheme which started in January 2016 has enabled the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trader to raise so far N701 billion to assure Generation Companies of at least 80% payment for any power delivered to the national grid.

Consequently, generation has now reached 7,000MW. On December 8, 2017 the country achieved 5,155MW of power delivered to consumers, the highest level ever recorded.

Several moribund projects have been revived. Repairs of Afam Power Station added 110MW in 2017 and another 240MW will be added this year through a private investment partnership.

Katsina Power Project is now being tested and producing 10MW of power from wind for the first time in Nigeria. It should be fully operational this year.

The Zungeru 700MW Hydroelectric Power Project, stalled by court cases is due for completion in 2019. The transmission and other requirements to operate the 30MW Gurara Phase 1 Hydroelectric Plant, the 40MW Kashimbilla Hydroelectric Plant and the 215 MW Kaduna Gas/LPG/Diesel Power Plant will also be completed this year.

A landmark project, Mambilla Hydroelectric Power Project is at last taking off. This project has been on the drawing Board for 40 years, but now the engineering, procurement and construction contract for the 3,050MW project has been agreed with a Chinese joint venture Company with a financing commitment from the government of China. Completion is targeted for 2023.

As I mentioned earlier, the Transmission Company of Nigeria can now distribute all the 7,000MW that can be generated. TCN and the Niger Delta Holding Company have added 1,950MVA of 330 down to 132KV transformer capacity of 10 transmission stations and 2,930MVA of 132 down to 33KV transformer capacity of 42 sub-stations including Ikot Ekpene, Aba, Alagbon, Ajah, Ejigbo, Funtua and Zaria.

This Administration is working with the privatised distribution Companies to overcome the continuing challenges of distribution.

These massive public works should spearhead the recovery and lead millions back to employment. You will recall that it was not until last year that we got out of the economic recession into which the country had fallen as a consequence of past unsustainable economic policies which projected short-term illusory growth.

The government is slowly stabilizing the economy.

It was in order to change the steady and steep decline that we adopted the more sustainable policies and programmes captured in the Economic Recovery Plan. Diversification efforts have resulted in improved output particularly in agriculture and solid minerals sectors. The relative exchange rate stability has improved manufacturing sector performance.

We have got to get used to discipline and direction in economic management. The days of business, as usual, are numbered.

Two years ago I appealed to people to go back to the land. I am highly gratified that agriculture has picked up, contributing to the government’s effort to restructure the economy. Rice imports will stop this year. Local rice, fresher and more nutritious will be on our dishes from now on.

By the same token, I am today appealing to enterprising Nigerians with ideas and unemployed graduates and other able-bodied and literate men and women with ideas not to just sit and wait for employment from the government or the Organized Private Sector. Great nations are built by enterprising people who turn their hands to anything that circumstances dictate.

In respect of political developments, I have kept a close watch on the on-going debate about “Restructuring”. No human law or edifice is perfect. Whatever structure we develop must periodically be perfected according to changing circumstances and the country’s socio-economic developments. We Nigerians can be very impatient and want to improve our conditions faster than may be possible considering our resources and capabilities. When all the aggregates of nationwide opinions are considered, my firm view is that our problems are more to do with process than structure.

We tried the Parliamentary system: we jettisoned it. Now there are shrill cries for a return to the Parliamentary structure. In older democracies, these systems took centuries to evolve so we cannot expect a copied system to fit neatly our purposes. We must give a long period of trial and improvement before the system we have adopted is anywhere near fit for purpose.

However, there is a strong case for a closer look at the cost of government and for the public services long used to extravagance, waste and corruption to change for the better. I assure you that government is ever receptive to ideas which will improve governance and contribute to the country’s peace and stability.

As the electioneering season approaches politicians must avoid exploiting ethnicity and religion by linking ethnicity with religion and religion with politics. Such must be avoided at all costs if we are to live in harmony.

In this respect, the rest of Nigeria could learn from the South Western States who have successfully internalized religion, ethnicity and politics.

Political discourse should be conducted with civility, decorum and in a constitutional manner. We all have a collective responsibility to strengthen our democracy and entrench the rule of law. We should draw encouragement from the series of bye-elections conducted by INEC last year which were generally violence-free and their outcomes adjudged to be free and fair.

Before I conclude my address I must reassure my fellow citizens that security of life and property is still top of our government’s agenda. We have since beaten Boko Haram. Isolated attacks still occur, but even the best-policed countries cannot prevent determined criminals from committing terrible acts of terror as we have seen during the past years in Europe, Asia, Middle East, elsewhere in Africa and in America.

Our government remains determined to protect all Nigerians in line with our election pledge and promises. On behalf of all Nigerians let me offer our thanks to the Armed forces, the Police, other para-military forces and traditional authorities who are working round the clock to ensure that you and I go about our normal business in reasonable safety.

Terrorism and urban crimes are world-wide phenomena and our security forces are continuously adapting their responses to changing threats.

With regard to rampant cases of kidnappings, we are taking immediate short-term measures to combat this new evil creeping into our societies. Tighter police methods and swift and severe punishment for those proved to be engaged in kidnapping are on the way.

With respect to Niger Delta, Government is still engaging the responsible leadership of the Communities to help in identifying and addressing genuine grievances of the region. Our clean-up programme in collaboration with the United Nations is making satisfactory progress.

I am grateful to all the Governors and other Political & Community leaders of the Niger Delta States for their part in bringing relative peace to the areas.

Finally let me again express my heartfelt thanks to all Nigerians who prayed for me during my illness last year. I feel deeply humbled by your prayers and good wishes and I am more determined than ever to serve you to the best of my ability.

Good morning. And I wish everyone a Happy New Year.

Posted On Tuesday, 02 January 2018 00:54 Written by
Page 1 of 132

Newsletter