Monday, 18 December 2017

POLITICS

The UN has warned of a rise in trafficking of the synthetic opioid tramadol across West Africa, as one official revealed it is being found in the pockets of suicide bombers.

Seizures of the drug have skyrocketed since 2013, from 300kg (660lb) to more than three tonnes a year, the UN's Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said.

In September, three million pills in UN-logoed boxes were found in Niger.

The opioid is known to be popular with Islamist militants Boko Haram.

The pills - which can be legally prescribed as painkillers - are thought to be used to calm the would-be attackers, with the Guardian previously reporting the terrorist group stuff it into dates which they then feed to children before sending them to their deaths.

Some 600,000 pills bound for the group were seized on the Nigeria-Cameroon border in August.

Pierre Lapaque, the UNODC's West and Central Africa representative, warned the situation could not be allowed to "get any further out of control", as it continues to undermine global security.

"Tramadol is regularly found in the pockets of suspects arrested for terrorism in the Sahel, or who have committed suicidal attack," Mr Lapaque said.

"This raises the question of who provides the tablets to fighters from Boko Haram and al-Qaeda, including young boys and girls, preparing to commit suicide bombings."

The UNODC says the abuse of the drug - usually smuggled from Asia through the Gulf by criminal gangs - is escalating into a major health crisis in the Sahel, particularly in northern Mali and Niger, with sub-Saharan Africa's young population potentially providing traffickers with an even larger market.

One woman in northern Mali told the agency she regularly saw children little older than 10 walking around "after taking or being given pills in their tea in order to help reduce their feeling of hunger".

People taking the drug illegally are thought use a dose up to five times higher than usual medical prescriptions, the UNODC added.

Published in News & Stories
The 2019 Presidential election is only 423 days away, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced Friday.

According to the time table released by the commission, Nigerians are expected to elect the president on February 16, 2019.

Also scheduled for the same day is the election into the Senate and the House of Representatives.

News of the election dates was broken by INEC chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, at an induction retreat for Resident Electoral Commissioners in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.

The Governorship, State Assembly and Area Council elections in the Federal Capital Territory will follow on 2nd March 2019,” Yakubu said.

The implementation of the 2019 Election Project Plan is to begin on   January 1, 2018.

He said an additional 3,630,529 voters were registered in the recent continuous registration.

“This is an important development in our efforts to ensure that electoral services offered to Nigerians are better, more frequent and easier to access than ever before,” he said.

This exercise will continue until 60 days to the 2019 General Elections, as a provided by the Electoral act.

The INEC Chairman said the commission was “working assiduously to ensure 100% performance of the Card Readers. That is why there is an ongoing pilot to upgrade it by enhancing its features including new superior processors.”

He added: “At the same time, the Commission is exploring ways of improving the integrity of the collation and results transmission processes and has begun to deploy the electronic result collation and transmission platform on a pilot basis.

“Our ultimate aim, learning from the pilot and consequential improvement of the supporting infrastructure, is to deploy the system for all forthcoming off-season elections and, ultimately, the 2019 General Elections. The Commission is working to ensure that this goal is achieved.”

The commission said it has conducted 175 elections across the country in the last two years.

These include 79 Court-ordered re-run elections, 73 end of tenure elections and 23 bye-elections.

Yakubu said that even where electoral tribunals overturned two of the elections conducted, the commission was never asked to do a fresh election.

He also noted that to the credit of the commission, outcomes of most recent elections were not challenged in court.

Published in Headliners

The Swiss government has announced that it will return $320m (£240m) of the money allegedly stolen by Nigeria's late military ruler Sani Abacha.

The money was frozen in 2014 by a Swiss court after a legal procedure against his son, Abba Abacha.

Originally deposited in Luxembourg, it is a fraction of the billions of dollars allegedly looted during his rule from 1993 to 1998.

Recovering the "Abacha loot" has been a major priority for Nigeria.

President Muhammadu Buhari made the recovery of stolen assets a major part of his 2015 election campaign and this will be the largest yet.

Although an agreement to repatriate the money was signed in March, the Nigerian Ministry of Justice, the World Bank and Switzerland have been grappling with legal complications surrounding the return of the money, says the BBC's Stephanie Hegarty in Abuja.

However an agreement setting out how the money would be repaid was signed on Monday by the three parties at the Global Forum on Asset Recovery GFAR in Washington, which means the funds will finally be sent back to Nigeria.

How much 'Abacha loot' is outstanding?

The Swiss government has paid $700m of the "Abacha loot" to the Nigerian government in the last 10 years and the outstanding $320m is the last of the money on Swiss soil and will be remitted in the next two to three years, ambassador Roberto Balzaretti, head of the Swiss delegation to GFAR told BBC's Gbolahan Macjob in a telephone interview.

"The money will be transferred to the Bank for International Settlements in Basel into the Nigerian government account," he said.

"It will be used to finance projects that will strengthen social security for the poorest sections of the Nigerian population."

What are the conditions of the agreement?

The money will be paid in instalments and in small amounts, specifically to finance the National Social Safety Net projects, which would be agreed with the Nigerian government under the supervision of the World Bank with regular audits.

If the first instalment is not properly accounted for, subsequent payment will be halted. This is to prevent the funds from being stolen again, Mr Balzaretti said.

"It is the first time we are having this sort of trilateral agreement and we feel confident that it will work, plus we signed it in the spirit of trust that the money will be put to good use," he said.

Switzerland said the agreement was in line with its policy on returning illegally acquired assets and would set a good example for future cases, according to a statement from the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.

"The fight against corruption is one of Switzerland's priorities" Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter said, adding that the move should "strengthen social security for the poorest Nigerians", AFP reports.

 
Published in Business and Economy
Monday, 04 December 2017 03:21

Atiku Abubakar rejoins PDP

Former Nigerian vice president Atiku Abubakar has returned to the country’s former ruling party, the People’s Democratic Party, less than two weeks after he resigned from the ruling All Progressives Congress.

“Today, I want to let you know that I’m returning home to PDP as the issues that led to me leave it have now been resolved,” he said in an announcement on Sunday on Facebook Live.

He is expected to run for the Nigerian presidency on the platform of the PDP, where he was the VP to President Olusegun Obasanjo between 1999 and 2007.

Atiku has defected from the party twice to contest for Nigeria’s top job in the then oppositions parties.

On December 20, 2006, he emerged the presidential candidate of now-defunct Action Congress after falling out with the leadership of the PDP.

He, however, failed to garner popular support as he came third in the 2007 general election behind eventual PDP’s candidate Umaru Yar’Adua and All Nigerian People’s Party’s Muhammadu Buhari.

He returned to the PDP after the 2007 misadventure. There, he vied again for the top job but lost the primaries to President Goodluck Jonathan who succeeded President Yar’Adua.

In February 2014, he, again, defected to the then newly formed All Progressives Congress which comprised major leaders of the defunct Action Congress, a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance and Congress for Progressive Change.

In APC, he failed again to realise his presidential ambition as he was defeated in the primaries by Muhammadu Buhari who went on to win the 2015 presidential election.

Not minding his few defections, Atiku doubled down on his criticism of the APC, blaming the party for the bad state of the economy and for its failure to deliver on its campaign promises.

“It is clear that the APC has let the Nigerian people, especially our young people, down.”

In a statement shortly after he announced his resignation from APC on November 24, Atiku alleged that the APC had derailed from the principles that made him join the party on February 2, 2015.

“While other parties have purged themselves of the arbitrariness and unconstitutionality that led to fractionalization, the All Progressives Congress has adopted those same practices and even gone beyond them to institute a regime of a draconian clampdown on all forms of democracy within the party and the government it produced,” Atiku said in a statement.

He also, tacitly, acknowledged the existence of a frosty relationship with the leadership of the party and President Muhammadu Buhari, using a controversial leaked memo sent to Buhari by the governor of Kaduna State Nasir El-Rufai as a reference.

“Only last year, a governor produced by the party wrote a secret memorandum to the president which ended up being leaked. In that memo, he admitted that the All Progressives Congress had “not only failed to manage expectations of a populace that expected overnight ‘change’ but has failed to deliver even mundane matters of governance”.

“Of the party itself, that same governor said ‘Mr President, Sir Your relationship with the national leadership of the party, both the formal (NWC) and informal (Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Atiku Abubakar, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso), and former Governors of ANPP, PDP (that joined us) and ACN, is perceived by most observers to be at best frosty. Many of them are aggrieved due to what they consider total absence of consultations with them on your part and those you have assigned such duties’.”

Atiku insisted that since the memo was leaked, neither President Buhari nor the leadership of the APC had made moves to attend to all the points raised by El-Rufai.

He said the party has derailed, failed to deliver on its electoral promises, and has stifled youth participation in its government.

“But more importantly, the party we put in place has failed and continues to fail our people, especially our young people. How can we have a federal cabinet without even one single youth?

“A party that does not take the youth into account is a dying party. The future belongs to young people.

“I admit that I and others who accepted the invitation to join the APC were eager to make positive changes for our country that we fell for a mirage. Can you blame us for wanting to put a speedy end to the sufferings of the masses of our people?”

Published in News & Stories
Four governors may dump Secondus 

Battle for 2019 deepens crisis

There are moves to checkmate some Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governors pushing to install the party’s chairman at Saturday’s convention, sources said at the weekend.

Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike is leading the plan to put former Interim Chairman Uche Secondus on the much coveted seat.

But former military President Ibrahim Babangida, some PDP  founding fathers, ex-President Goodluck Jonathan and members of the Board of Trustees (BoT) may have teamed up to block the governors whose ranks may have been broken.

Four governors, including two from the Southeast,  may jettison the plan to make a former Acting National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, the chairman, it was learnt at the weekend.

A party source said: “We are set for a make or break convention between the old brigades, led by Gen. Babangida and Jonathan, and the governors.”

With Gen. Babangida are founding fathers, like former Minister of Information  Prof. Jerry Gana, ex-PDP national chairmen, including Sen. Ahmadu Ali, members of the BoT, ex-ministers, ex-governors and former Deputy Senate President Ibrahim Mantu.

The new brigade includes Wike, Ekiti State Governor Ayo Fayose, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu and state party chairmen “who want to put an end to godfatherism and hijack the structure of the party”.

The source, who pleaded not to be named, went on: “The hidden plan of the two groups is the battle for the 2019 presidential ticket of the PDP. So far, it is apparent that the founding fathers and Jonathan are beholding to former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, to whom they want to give the ticket

“The governors seem to have a focus on another candidate either an ex-governor or a defector into the party. The game is tough because whoever controls the structure of the party may produce the PDP flagbearer for the 2019 presidential poll.

“As it is now, the governors are in control of more delegates than the founding fathers who are scavenging for delegates. Even ex-President Goodluck Jonathan is not sure of the 50 per dent control of delegates from Bayelsa State.”

A former member of the NWC said: “Gen. Babangida, Jonathan and others are determined to tame the governors. They have succeeded in breaking their ranks because four of the PDP governors may back out of their colleagues plans to install Secondus as the next chairman.

“The governors have decided to abandon their colleagues following plea from Babangida and Jonathan.

“But the governors have the resources to make it a battle to the finish. The old brigades depend on goodwill whereas delegates need lifeline because the party had been out of power for two and a half years.”

“Babangida is crying out now because he has seen the handwriting on the wall that these governors are in charge. The founding fathers are banking on votes from the North to stop the governors from hijacking the party.

The source said: “The situation is dicey. The party may end up in a deeper crisis because the chairman that will emerge might cause a split. Once we are in a crisis, 2019 presidential poll will be an easy ride for APC.”

It was learnt that a former National Security Adviser Gen. Aliyu Gusau, has been the arrowhead of the outreach by PDP founding fathers to the governors to allow the chairman to come from Southwest. They are working for Prof. Tunde Adeniran.

“Gen. Gusau has been trying to restore the ideals of PDP as espoused by Gen. Babangida and other founding fathers. But the governors may fight the old brigades to a standstill.”

Published in Headliners

The 44-year-old mum of nine who left her husband and kids for her new man, who is 12 years her junior, has said that the love she has for her lover was stronger than any considerations.

Heidi had met Gambian lover on Facebook, claiming that before then, her marriage to husband Andy was over.

Last month Heidi’s heartbroken husband Andy, also 44, spoke of his horror at discovering his wife of 23 years had gone off to meet Salieu, who had contacted her on Facebook from The Gambia, West Africa.

Her decision sparked a police investigation and Andy said: “It’s a mid-life crisis. The person she has become is horrible.

“A caring mum wouldn’t go off ­gallivanting around Africa with her new boyfriend.”

Heidi has defended her actions, saying: “I don’t have a single regret. I’m not a terrible parent.

“It was really hard for me to leave my kids, but they couldn’t come with me, so I had no choice.

“I was shocked at the anger that was directed at me for supposedly abandoning my children. That just didn’t happen.”

Heidi has two sons and a daughter aged 24 to 29 from a previous relationship. She and Andy have three daughters aged six, nine and 23 and three sons aged 11, 17 and 18.

She added: “The three youngest were left with my eldest daughter. She moved into my home while I was away so that they were disrupted as little as possible.

“I went online every night and we video-chatted. They seemed happy and I know my kids well.

“They also chatted to Salieu and have become very fond of him through talking online over the past few months.

“If people think I went over to The Gambia and didn’t give them a second thought, they are so wrong.

“But having said that, I make no apologies for following my heart. I’ve been unhappy for a long time and I think I have found someone to spend the rest of my life with.

“We are in love and nothing will stop me from marrying him. If other people don’t like that, they will just have to lump it.”

Heidi’s romance rocked her family and made her the talk of her town, Hetton-le-Hole in Sunderland.

Car mechanic Andy blamed her online romance for killing their marriage, but Heidi insists the relationship was over before Salieu first sent her a Facebook friend request.

She also claims Andy was messaging women online behind her back, which he denies.
Heidi said: “Andy and I didn’t even share a bedroom, never mind a bed, for the last two years of our marriage.

“We were both unhappy and on some days the most conversation I would get from him would be when he’d say, ‘Put the kettle on.’

“At the end of last year, I picked up his phone to look up a number my daughter wanted and saw messages from two women. It was a big shock.

“We drifted even further apart and I was so unhappy. I started volunteering at the children’s school, just so I had some contact with other people and could feel better about myself.

“In February I started to talk online to Salieu after he sent me a friend request out of the blue. At first we were just chatting, asking about each other’s lives and hobbies.

“But as I got to know him I started to confide in him about how badly things were going wrong in my marriage, he was there for me to talk to.

“Andy has claimed I sent sexy pictures to Salieu, but I didn’t, that simply isn’t true.”

She added: “After a few months we were in touch with each other all day, every day via WhatsApp and I knew I was starting to develop feelings for him and he said he was feeling the same.

“I was falling in love with him.”

Although she had never flown or even been abroad, Heidi travelled to The Gambia at the end of October to meet shopkeeper Salieu in person for the first time.

But locals back home were furious at her arrangements for her three youngest children.

Their school was tipped off, leading to a police investigation, but officers were satisfied the kids were being cared for properly.

Heidi said: “I was shocked by the reaction. Anyone who knows me would confirm that my children are my world and always have been, but I believe Salieu is my future.

“I’ll do whatever it takes to be with him, but it has to mean we are all together — me, him and the children.

“I don’t know how we will achieve that, but we’re both determined to make it happen.

“It might be that Salieu comes to live with us in the UK, it might even mean we go to Gambia but that’s more complicated.”

“It was a romantic, unforgettable time with a loving, caring man.

“I had forgotten how it feels to be wanted that much. We slept together in the same bed and although we kissed we did not have sex because Salieu is a strict Muslim and it is forbidden before marriage.

“I respected that because I love him completely.”

During the month Heidi was in The Gambia she met Salieu’s parents, who run a small farm in the country’s Serekunda district, a few miles from the capital, Banjul.

“Salieu has made it very clear my children are important to him and he has been talking to them for months in video conversations.

“He told me that my family would become part of his family, which proves how much he cares.”
After her month in The Gambia, school worker Heidi had to return to the UK but she is already planning her next visit — and the rest of her life.

She said: “I am going to marry Salieu when my divorce comes through and I’m prepared to convert to Islam if that’s necessary. If people don’t like that they will just have to lump it. I’m not going to cry about it.

“We’ll be together, one way or another, whether Salieu comes to live here or I find a way to take the children to The Gambia.

“When I left him at the airport in Banjul it was one of the hardest things I have had to do.”

Heidi knows that cynics will claim her new lover is more interested in a British passport than life with her. But she said: “He’s not like that.

“He isn’t looking for a passport or anything like that, he is happy in Gambia. He fell in love with me, not the idea of a new life abroad.”

Published in News & Stories

The Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun has suspended the Director-General of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Mr Mounir Gwarzo, from office over allegations of financial misappropriation.

The Ministry’s Deputy Director of Information, Mrs Patricia Deworitshe, in a statement on Wednesday,said that the suspension was to allow unhindered investigation into several allegations of financial impropriety against Gwarzo.

Deworitshes said that Mr Abdulsalam Habu, Head of Media Division, SEC and Mrs Anastasia Braimoh, Head of Legal Department, had also been suspended.

“The suspension is in line with the Public Service Rules.

“The Minister has set up an Administrative Panel of Inquiry (API) to investigate and determine the culpability of the director-general.

“She has directed the suspended SEC Director-General to immediately handover to the most senior officer at the Commission, pending the conclusion of investigation by the API,” she said.

Gwarzo allegedly paid himself N104 million severance package when he was appointed DG SEC from the position of a Director in the same commission.

”This is in total disregard to the standing rule in the civil service which states that severance benefit can only be paid to an employee who has concluded his or her service or has completely disengaged from service.

Since Gwarzo was promoted within the commission to become a Director-general, the service rule says that he’s not yet entitled to a severance package.”

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) is also investigating the owners of the nine companies that got contracts from the SEC under Gwarzo.

They include Outbound Investment Limited, Medusa Investments Limited, Northwind Environmental Services, Micro-Technologies Limited, Tida International Limited, Outlook Communications, Acromac Nigeria Limited, Balfort International Investment Limited and Interactiven Worldwide Nigeria Limited.

According to the EFCC, Gwarzo, his wife and other cronies allegedly used the companies to carry out illegal transactions in SEC. (NAN)

Published in News & Stories

Robert Mugabe will continue to have a role to play in Zimbabwean politics, the Jesuit priest who helped negotiate his resignation has told the BBC.

Father Fidelis Mukonori said he would provide "advice" as an elder statesman, including to the new president.

Mr Mugabe, 93, resigned on Tuesday after a military intervention and days of mass protests.

Mr Mukonori said he could not confirm reports that the ex-leader was granted $10m (£7.5m) to ease him out of office.

Emmerson Mnangagwa was sworn in to replace Mr Mugabe as president on Friday.

Mr Mnangagwa, long a close ally of Mr Mugabe, was sacked earlier this month, triggering the political crisis that eventually saw his boss's downfall.

Father Mukonori, 70, who is close to Robert Mugabe and acted as a mediator between him and the military, said the new president would go to his predecessor for political counsel.

"In the African world, senior citizens are there for advice," he told the BBC's Richard Galpin at a church outside the capital, Harare, after leading a service that included prayers giving thanks for the peaceful transfer of power.

He referred to what Mr Mnangagwa said about his predecessor at his inauguration.

"When he says 'he's my father, he's my leader, he's my mentor', you tell me he's going to stay off from his father, from his mentor, from his leader? I don't think so."

The priest said that Mr Mugabe and his wife Grace remained at their house in Harare and had no plans to leave the country.

The military takeover came in response to Mr Mugabe's decision to position Grace as his successor and sack Mr Mnangagwa from the vice-presidency.

Father Mukonori said he could not confirm reports that the ex-president was granted millions of dollars and promised that his assets would not be touched to persuade him to step down.

"We didn't offer him anything... He resigned for the good of Zimbabwe," he said.

He added: "What I have read in the newspapers is about immunity [from prosecution], and that he will be looked after like any other former head of state."

Mr Mugabe leaving power, he added, was the best thing he had ever done.

 
President Mnangagwa called Robert Mugabe "a father, mentor, comrade-in-arms and my leader"

Separately on Sunday, Robert Mugabe was described as being "quite jovial" by a nephew in an interview with the French news agency AFP.

"He is actually looking forward to his new life - farming and staying at the rural home. He has taken it well," Leo Mugabe said.

He said that Grace wanted to focus on already announced plans to build the controversial $1bn Robert Mugabe University in Mazowe, near Harare.

There are fears that President Mnangagwa, who is associated with some of worst atrocities committed under the ruling Zanu-PF party since independence in 1980, will not usher in the democratic reforms that many in Zimbabwe are hoping for.

But Father Mukonori said he believed the former spymaster knows that democracy is "crucial".

Published in Headliners

• Lamido, Shekarau, Dankwambo, others may not step down 

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has one more hurdle to cross in his secret deal with some stalwarts of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) led by ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, The nation can authoritatively report.

It was learnt yesterday that Jonathan said Atiku must beg or apologize to ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo to get the 2019 presidential ticket of the PDP on a platter of gold.

Although Obasanjo has quit partisan politics, Jonathan was of the opinion that “he is still a strong factor in shaping the future of the nation in 2019 because he is a force among the revered kingmakers.”

Former President Jonathan  had in early November told the publisher of Ovation magazine in an interview that “If Atiku gets our party ticket, he would compete well. But he would have to reach out to our boss, Baba OBJ, the boss of all bosses. We’ve all learnt at different times that you ignore OBJ at your peril. OBJ has the magic wand. He is respected at home and abroad.”

It was however unclear if Atiku has either accepted the condition or opted to go it alone in seeking the presidential mandate of the PDP.

But some presidential aspirants in PDP were said not to be ready to step down for Atiku, whom Jonathan is working to the answer for.

The aspirants said they prefer to slug it out with Atiku during the presidential primaries.

The affected aspirants are ex-Governor Sule Lamido, ex-Minister Ibrahim Shekarau, Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo and a former governor (now a Senator), who is expected to defect from APC to PDP.

The fate of the Chairman of the Caretaker Committee of PDP, Sen. Ahmed Makarfi on the party’s 2019 ticket was hanging in the balance as at press time.

Findings by our correspondent revealed that the secret deal, which made Atiku to resign from the All Progressives Congress (APC), was comprehensive and targeted at the ex-VP securing the PDP presidential slot.

It was gathered that the package also borders on hijacking the party structure at the National Convention on December 9 to make Atiku’s choice as the PDP presidential candidate a reality.

Following lobbying by Jonathan, some founding fathers of PDP (including a few retired military officers), have been part of the latest course in PDP.

Investigation revealed that most governors of the PDP were said to have bought into the Atiku project in deference to Jonathan.

A top source, who was privy to the deal, said: “The unfolding script on Atiku’s return to PDP has the blessing of some founding fathers of PDP who are out to salvage the party. A major component is a likely waiver for the ex-VP to contest the party’s presidential primaries.

“So far, Atiku is complying with the secret accord for his return to PDP. A formal declaration in Yola is being expected either on Wednesday or December 6 as indicated in a tentative timetable.

“But in one of the negotiation shuttles with Atiku, ex-President Jonathan added a caveat that the former Vice President can comfortably secure PDP ticket and win the 2019 poll if he begs ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo.

“We were all shocked by this condition because Obasanjo is no longer in partisan politics. But Jonathan said Obasanjo is an institution whose action or inaction could make or mar the electoral fortunes of Atiku.

“The former President also believes that Obasanjo may persuade any of the presidential aspirants to withdraw for Atiku after weighing all the indices. He said if Obasanjo could reconcile with him, he can also forgive Atiku.

“As a matter of fact, Jonathan cited cases of chairmanship aspirants in PDP travelling to Abeokuta to seek his blessing.

“We are expecting Atiku to comply with this proviso because we want to begin the media war (based on facts and figures) in earnest.

“Jonathan’s position on Obasanjo has been endorsed by some founding fathers of PDP, especially the military class which contrived the existence of the party.”

Meanwhile, there were indications yesterday that some presidential aspirants in the PDP may not step down for Atiku.

These include Lamido, Shekarau, Dankwambo and a former governor (now a Senator), who is expected to defect from APC to PDP.

It was not clear if the Chairman of the Caretaker Committee of PDP, Sen. Ahmed Makarfi will seek the party’s 2019 ticket.

A governor, who played a significant role in the pact with Atiku, said: “As part of the deal, we have been trying to prevail on some of these aspirants to step down but they have chosen to contest the primaries with the ex-Vice President.

“Some of them queried why a politician will cross from the opposition party and just be given PDP presidential ticket.

“One of the aspirants said since 1999, he has never defected to any party. He said loyalty to the party and competence should be compensated by PDP.

“Well, we have looked into PDP Constitution, it is immaterial when you join, you can enjoy the rights and privileges which a Methuselah member enjoys. Go and look at sections 8 and 18 of our constitution.”

While Section 8(a) and (b) of the PDP Constitution deals with the procedure for rejoining PDP, Section 18 is on the Status of Returnee Members.

Section 8 reads: “A person who desires to rejoin the party after leaving it shall: (a) apply to his Ward Secretary for readmission; and (b) unless given waiver by the National Working Committee(NWC), be placed on probation for a period of not less than one year.

“Subject to the provision of Section 8(b), a member on probation shall have the right to attend all meetings of the party but shall not be entitled to vote at such meetings, nor shall he be eligible to contest for elective office on the platform of the party.

Section 18 says: “A person who has earlier decamped from the party but later decides to return to the party shall lose the seniority and privileges conferred on him by his previous status.”

But the PDP top shot said: “As the opposition party, we are looking at the larger picture of the return of Atiku, we will give him all waivers required to ensure his readmission.

“Some of our leaders, who were initially opposed to the return of the ex-VP, had shown enough understanding in the past few months.”

Meanwhile, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, Alhaji Kehinde Olaosebikan yesterday said the exit of Atiku would not have any significant effect on the fortunes of the party in the 2019 general elections.

He said no serving governor, no presiding officer of the National Assembly or key national executive officer of the party was in sync with Atiku’s defection.

Olaosebikan who spoke with journalists in Abuja yesterday said in spite of the defection, President Muhammadu Buhari would win hands down and that the party would perform better in 2019.

He added:  “Going through the resignation letter, I found out that the Turaki did not exercise enough fortitude. He allowed politics and ambition to take control of him. He should have stayed with his avowed position in 2013 that the All Progressives Congress was his last bus stop politically, and leave the rest in the hands of Allah.”

“What the President needs from us, particularly the big political players is love, understanding, support and prayers as already being exhibited by the National Executive of the party and our National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu who at different fora recently gave us hope and assurances of a better tomorrow.”

When asked of the declaration of Asiwaju Tinubu that the party would not give automatic ticket to President Buhari for a second term, Olaosebikan told journalists that the position of Tinubu was in the best interest of the President, APC and the country as a whole.

“Asiwaju,  with the declaration of no automatic ticket was merely portraying  the President as a genuine democrat who believes in due process. What Asiwaju Tinubu said was in support of strengthening our democracy and our political institution which we need to do with all seriousness.

“You would recall too, that he stated that all the organs of the party would support him through the processes. In a nutshell, he is in full support of his second term and you know with him, all the APC governors and the presiding officers in the National Assembly, the ticket is already in the pocket of the President.

“And when it comes to the general election, it is a platitude that you cannot compare the popularity and acceptability of President Muhammadu Buhari with that of any person in the country today. He will win in the North and in the South convincingly. Buhari is not loved for money or any material thing; he is passionately loved for his strong character and piousness.”

Published in Business and Economy
Saturday, 25 November 2017 20:33

Messi extends Barcelona contract until 2021

Lionel Messi ended months of speculation when finally putting pen to paper on Saturday to extend his contract with Barcelona until 2021, the club announced, making official an agreement reached in July.

The Spanish giants had announced in the summer that Messi, 30, had committed his future to the club but the Argentine had not signed the new deal.

With his previous contract set to expire in 2018, Messi could have left Barca for free next summer had he not extended his deal.

“FC Barcelona and Lionel Messi signed on Saturday morning a new contract that will keep the Argentinian superstar at the club through the 2020/21 season,” read a club statement. “The buyout clause was set at 700 million euros ($835 million).”

The steep rise in the five-time World Player of the Year’s buyout clause from 300 million euros in his previous contract is designed to avoid any repeat of Paris Saint-Germain’s capture of Neymar from Barcelona by paying the Brazilian’s 222 million euro buyout clause in August.

Pressure has been mounting on beleaguered Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu to get Messi to put pen to paper.

Bartomeu was heavily criticised for his role in Neymar’s departure and a haphazard search for replacements in the final weeks of the transfer window.

However, Bartomeu saw off a vote of no confidence measure launched by disgruntled fans thanks to Barca’s fantastic start to the season, in large part inspired by Messi’s form.

And Bartomeu now has the image he craved of a smiling Messi tying the remainder of his peak years to the club.

Messi’s 30 trophies are along with teammate Andres Iniesta the most in Barca’s history, including eight La Liga and four Champions League titles.

The diminutive Argentine, who joined Barca at the age of 13, has also smashed 523 goals in 602 games to become the Catalans’ all-time top goalscorer.

News of Messi’s renewal also comes as a huge boost to the La Liga leaders ahead of Sunday’s top of the table clash at Valencia (1945GMT).

Barca lead a revitalised Valencia by four points, with both Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid a further six points adrift, thanks to a club record start of 11 wins and one draw from 12 games.

Published in News & Stories
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