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COMMENTARY

Battle for Imo Government House Begins

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At last the battle line for Imo State Government House has been drawn, as far as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is concerned.
The Electoral umpire has accepted Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chief Emeka Ihedioha, incumbent Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha and former Internal Affairs Minister, Captain Emmanuel Ihenacho as the authentic candidates who will vie for the highest office in Imo State, under the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), All Progressives Congress (APC) and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) respectively. Dr Osmond Ukanacho is the governorship candidate for United Progressives Party (UPP). The deputies, in that order, are Hon Chuma Nnaji, for PDP, Eze Madumere, (APC) Ike Ibe (APGA).
The current development follows INEC’s publication of the list of Imo governorship candidates and their running mates, which has cleared the maze of confusion surrounding this all-important and particular segment of the up-coming general elections in Imo-State.
Since the PDP held its primaries on December 8, 2014, to choose a flag-bearer, the whole thing has been shrouded in uncertainty. People were unclear who the real winner was, following controversial media reports plus claims and counter claims of impending court action. Chief Emeka Ihedioha was said to have won but Senator Ifeanyi Araraume who came a close second reportedly disagreed with the result and was suing. But INEC’s latest move indicates that Ihedioha has been cleared for the February 28 governorship election.
It should be recalled that Ihedioha garnered 346 votes to beat Ararume to second position with 336 votes. Araraume rejected the result and went to court seeking an order to stop the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party from submitting Ihedioha’s name to INEC as the party’s gubernatorial candidate. It was said that the NWC submitted Ihedioha’s name to INEC when the court could not issue a restraining order, as and when expected. However, the court has reportedly fixed January 14 for the case. How and if the court case will affect INEC’s position is unclear.
APGA’s primaries were also not an easy ride for Captain Iheanacho, as several conflicting reports emerged after its own meeting. On the other hand, the APC’s ticket was all Governor Okorochas for the taking, from start as there was no one challenging him. He craftily used his son-in-law and commissioner for lands, Hon. Uche Nwosu to secure his position as APC governorship candidate while he went to Abuja and took a chance at the APC presidential ticket.
He came fourth after General Muhammadu Buhari, Alhaji Rabiu Kwankwaso and former Vice President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. On failing to secure the running mate position to Buhari returned to Imo to reclaim the APC guber ticket.
As for the UPP, it was a hitch-free exercise and Dr Ukanacho emerged as its flag-bearer without rancour. Therefore, the battle is now set in Imo-State and the candidates are preparing for the D-day.
Meanwhile, at the national level, it is a battle between the two major parties and their candidates: the ruling PDP under President Goodluck Jonathan and APC’s General Muhammadu Buhari, both of whom also contested in 2011. Whereas the incumbent Jonathan is building his campaign on his controversial record of achievements, General Buhari who is being accused of sponsoring Boko Haram is wooing Nigerians with an anti-corruption and better security message.

ARTICLES

Open Letter to Gov. Rochas Okorocha

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In a meeting of Retired Permanent Secretaries held on December, 2015, it was decided that the payment of only three months of pension to some pensioners by the Imo State Government be acknowledged. However, the arrears left to be paid vary from individual to individual as the minimum arrears yet to be paid is nine months. The government is therefore urged to pay the outstanding arrears immediately.

 

It is important to note that section 210 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended does not permit withholding of pensions for even one day unless in accordance with a law. Sub-section 2 of the said section stated clearly as follows:

“Any benefit to which a person is entitled in accordance with or under such law as is referred to in Sub-section (1) of this section shall not be withheld or altered to his disadvantage except to such extent as is permissible under any law including the code of Conduct”

 

Also in section 2 of the Pension Act which is the law under which civil servants are retired it stipulates that “there shall be charged on and paid out of the consolidated Revenue Fund of the (state) such sums of money as may from time to time be granted by (State) Government by way of pension and gratuity”.

 

It is on account of the above quoted statutes that pensions and gratuities are treated as the first charge on the State Consolidated Revenue Fund. They guarantee these entitlements of retired public servants; and that is why they take precedence over any other government expenditure.

Every Pensioner in Imo state expected the Governor to clear the back log of pension owed to them before the Christmas of 2015; but this did not happen.

 

Finally, it is unfortunate that several letters written to the Governor and requests for audience with him by the Association did not get any response. Since all these efforts and avenues explored to reach the Governor did not yield any positive fruit, the Association has no option than to address him by an open letter.

 

It is hoped that he will read this and act expeditiously to save the lives of these senior citizens.

 

We assure the Governor of our untainted loyalty to the State Government, and still request that he grants audience to the Association so that our collective expertise will be placed at the disposal of his administration for the benefit of Imo people.

 

Yours faithfully,

 

F.I. Agba

Secretary

Association of Retired Permanent Secretaries,

Owerri, Imo State.


 

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COMMENTARY

The Need To Establish Fire-fighting Volunteers Corps In Nigeria

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Fire out-break is a world-wide phenomenon. No nation, no State, no community is exempted. The resultant loss of life and property cannot therefore be totally eliminated. But the important thing is that they can be reduced. The purpose of this piece Is to invite attention to an aspect of combating fire out-breaks which is yet to be meaningfully undertaken in this country.

We must start by accepting that fire-fighting is too enormous and prevalent a societal challenge to be left only to Government fire services departments. That is why some forward looking countries have considered it a matter of crucial importance to enlist the assistance of their general citizenry to compliment Government effort in this matter. That aspect of assistance to Government fire services departments is in the area of human resources, that is by augmenting available career fire-fighting personnel with a corps of fire-fighting volunteers. This is the crux of this presentation.

A typical example is the United States of America which in spite of employing 350,000 career fire-fighters personnel, has organized and put in place over 800,000 fire-fighting volunteers. This is in realization of the fact that effective fire-fighting even in a fully developed country is not a matter of improved machinery only. The need for comparable human resources is equally critical

In our country Nigeria, major fire outbreaks evoke total reliance on the Federal or State fire service facilities which even at the best of times have difficulty in coping with normal challenges. We need to embrace the new approach demanding attitudinal change to tackle the problem.

The new approach is to accept right away the idea of establishing firefighting volunteers in this country, starting from major cities, towns, and key suburban areas. The virile manpower is there, most of which can be drawn from already existing organized bodies.

For example, personnel of the Nigerian Civil Defence Corps, Vigilante Groups, State Orientation Agencies, Members of Major Market Associations, and others can readily constitute the immediate source for the fire-fighting volunteers.

Fortunately also, there are serving and retired fire service officers who can be easily augmented with firefighting experts from oil companies, commercial and industrial establishments to be the pilot trainers.

Re-emphasizing the obvious is reminding ourselves that losses through fire worldwide are generally incalculable. Occurrences in the United States are mind-bugling. In China a deadly out-break killed more than 112 people in a poultry farm in June 2013.

Coming nearer home, 223 people died in fire incidents in Rivers State in 2011. Lagos State, without adding the most recent ones, lost 39billion naira to fire incidents in 2012.  In February 2014, Kara Market in Sokoto was reduced to ashes. In Ose Okwuodu market in Onitsha, goods valued 100million naira went as fire gutted 200.  In Umuisiedo market in Anambra State, 11 shops were razed in April 2014. Similar incidents of fire outrages have been occurring in virtually all other States.

Time and space make it difficult for this writer to outline here all the basic requirements like points for the enabling legislation, training modules, programming, and expected sources of support for the Firefighting Volunteers. These will be contributed as the proposal develops positively.

The important thing at this stage is to recognize the need, and for our governments at various levels to accept and facilitate the formation of fire-fighting volunteers properly prepared and motivated to join hands with the professional ones to respond quickly and efficiently whenever a fire occurs.

Now is the moment to start. Join in the crusade for positive reaction on this matter of Nigeria Fire-Fighters Volunteers Corps. It will turn out to be meaningful and exciting for all concerned.


Chief Nwozuzu wrote from Mbari Street, Ikenegbu Layout, Owerri.

 

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COMMENTARY

Revisiting Electricity Privatization

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Privatization! Privatization! Privatization! That was what Nigerians were told will solve the problems of power generation and electricity. Nigerians received this news of electricity privatization with much hope. They breathed a sigh of relief in hopes that “selling NEPA” and putting it into private hands would mean better electricity supply and better life for all Nigerians. Unfortunately, that has not happened and the country is still in darkness.

Electricity is not called power for nothing; it is, indeed, power and it is power that drives much of what we know, today, as development.  It is the discovery of electricity in Europe that sparked off industrial revolution and opened up new opportunities for the world. The industrial revolution in Europe is actually a revolution in Electricity / Power generation. Obviously, constant and adequate power supply is an important condition for industrialization, which is primarily what separates the so-called developed countries from the rest of the world.

Electricity is, indeed, power and this is what has eluded Nigeria these many years and stalled every attempt to rise to the challenge of industrialization and development.

When Nigerians thought they were getting close to acquiring “real power” through the privatization of the power sector initiated by the Jonathan administration, and that there will be light at the end of the long tunnel of darkness, what they got instead was shock, real shock! The long-awaited exercise which has gulped billions of Naira has not produced anything except more noise and higher electricity bills, without corresponding service. Even hopes that things would soon be better were dashed by the Jonathan government, on the eve of their departure, when the Minister of Power, Prof. Chinedu Nebo, seemingly threw up his hands and announced that “sabotage” was responsible for the problems in the sector. It should be recalled that the same minister at inauguration told Nigerians that “evil forces” were responsible for the problems and that he had the ability, as an Anglican cleric, to exorcise them, so we can have electricity. Apparently his exorcism failed, suggesting that much more than spiritual abracadabra was needed to make Nigeria work.

The question now is, can Buhari and his government save the nation? Can they successfully wrestle with the so-called “evil forces” or “saboteurs” and rescue Nigeria from chronic and embarrassing darkness, given the mess that has already been made in the privatization process?

The average Nigerian does not want to know who the investors were, who borrowed money from where or acquired NEPA assets. What they want is regular electricity like the rest of the world. They do not even want to know what is involved in the generation and distribution of gas, they leave that to the Federal Government. What they want is power, power to do what can be best done with regular electricity.   They are tired of paying bills for electricity they did not even see far more consume.

The issues and challenges may be huge but it is a shame that despite privatization, electricity generation has declined from what it used to be. If sabotage is, indeed, the problem, then the Federal Government should deal with it head-on. That is what Governments do. They should use every possible means to end the sabotage, in the interest of the nation. More so, they should revisit the privatization exercise to ensure that what it delivers is what it promises on paper.

It is obvious that inadequate power supply is at the heart of Nigeria’s industrial morass and much of its under-development. Our “generator economy” cannot sustain any meaningful industrial development. Buhari and his government must do everything possible to dispel the darkness that has enveloped this country for long. Only then can they open the door to real growth and development.


 

 

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