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Kogi’s confluence of controversy over sale of public assets

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Kogi’s confluence of controversy over sale of public assets

By John Akubo, Lokoja

Kogi is not only the location of the iconic confluence of Rivers Niger and Benue for which it is known and addressed, the state could also be said to be a confluence of opportunities because of its abundant human and natural resources.
   
In recent months however, the state has become a confluence of controversies as the administration of incumbent governor, Yahaya Bello battles with issues mostly bordering on his political personality and how the state is being run.
    
From his unpopular creation of cattle colonies as the only solution to the herdsmen menace to the non-payment of workers’ salary and unending crisis within the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC), the governor has been moving from one controversy to the other.

    
The new controversy is the disclosure by the State Commissioner of Finance, Otunba Asiwaju Idris, during his budget defence that the government was going to sell some state properties to finance the 2018 budget.Despite the poor leadership that the state had been bequeathed with over the last 26 years, successive administrations had made some impact with legacy projects for which they could be remembered.
    
These projects include the Confluence Beach and Kogi Hotels in Lokoja, the state’s liaison offices in Lagos and Kaduna, Lokoja International Market, the 12-storey Kogi House in Abuja, the vast commissioners’ and legislators’ quarters in the state capital and many others.
   
Many of the assets were not only viable means of generating internal revenue, they were also meant to promote tourism and attract businesses to the state. The issue has been generating a lot of debate among stakeholders who wonder why a government that has not put any legacy project in place would want to sell off inherited ones prompting many to ask what the governor wanted to achieve by erasing the legacies of his predecessors.
  
They recalled that barely few months after his emergence as governor, Bello was preoccupied with demolition of roundabouts in Lokoja, many of which were considered as monuments, on the suspicion that charms were buried under them.
    
Questions are also being raised by stakeholders on why the state should be finding it difficult to finance its budget; after it received all the tranches of the bailout fund, Paris Club refund, Excess Crude money and monthly allocations of about 4.5 billion.Many commentators on the issue preferred that these assets, if the state is not getting enough returns on them, should be upgraded and re-branded to meet current standards to generate revenue while others argued that a similar executive fiat from another governor in the future, would throw the assets out of business.
 
The senator representing Kogi West district, Dino Melaye, expressed dismay that the governor even contemplated the idea of selling the assets which he described as “the remaining glory of the state.”He urged the governor not to go ahead with the plan as doing so will portray him (Bello) as a prodigal son who sells family inheritance.
     
Melaye said Kogi is blessed with resources that remain untapped, making the state to continuously rely on allocations from Abuja to remain afloat, stressing, “Despite a poor Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) profile occasioned by the foregoing coupled with bad governance syndrome, Kogi has remained one of the underdeveloped states of the federation irrespective of its natural endowments.
  
“Against this backdrop, it is unthinkable that the current state government under Governor Bello will contemplate trading off what is left of Kogi’s glory for momentary financial gains under the pretext of bolstering the state’s finances.”He said no past governor of Kogi ever contemplated selling the state’s monuments or properties, “hence Bello must listen to the voice of reason otherwise his prodigal decision will be challenged in court by me as a representative of the people.”
    
Executive Director, Center for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution, Idris Miliki Abdul said the citizens common patrimony cannot be advertised for sale without their consent.According to him, “Although commercialization and privatization has been part of economic development in Nigeria, the report that government has hired consultants for outright sale of 10 Kogi assets to finance the approved N151 billion 2018 budget is disheartening.”
   
Stressing that the reason for the decision is not cogent enough, Abdul said, “This is a government that has not built one bedroom flat in two years despite the colossal amount it has received through bailout, Paris Club, statutory allocation and monies collected on behalf of local governments from the Federation Account.”
    
He said as host to the biggest cement factory in West Africa, coupled with the nature’s gift of Rivers Niger and Benue the government should have entered into agreement with the Dangote Group, owners of the factory, for massive housing.
  
“These are assets that can bring in income and generate revenue for the state if properly rehabilitated and put to use. This is the same government that has embarked on the renovation of Government House with billions spent so far and it is yet to be completed after two years.”
    
Abdul expressed the hope that the same Government House will not be the next asset that would be put up for sale to finance the 2019 budget describing the government action as “one step forward and two steps backward.”A former Acting Governor, Clarence Olafemi condemned the plan, saying if government sells these assets to finance the 2018 budget, what would it sell to finance 2019?He said, “All the allocations the governor has been collecting for two years, what did he use the money for? What of the Paris Club refund and all the bail out?”
   
National Leader of Uk’Omu Igala Organization (Voice of the Igala) Major-General Patrick Akpa (rtd) also warned against the sales saying, “We understand that the governor, drained of ideas on how to boost Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) in Kogi State, is embarking on a wild and unthinkable venture of selling off landmark projects executed by previous administrations.
   
“It is shocking that instead of adding value to these assets, and possibly initiating and executing developmental and revenue-generating projects, the governor is bent on blotting out the imprints of previous governors in his delusion and fixation that he has superior ideas to those of his predecessors.It is on record that the IGR of Kogi State has taken a long leap in the last two years since Governor Yahaya Bello came to power. For one, allocations from the Federation Account have been bolstered by the increase in the revenue generation at the federal level.
   
“Kogi State is not Yahaya Bello’s enterprise. Its lifespan is beyond the four years of this current regime. It is absurd and ridiculous that this government is bent on destroying legacies instead of making a positive mark in the state.”
   
Also in its opposition to the sales, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Kogi described the plan as the height of rascality by a clueless government.In a statement signed by Bode Ogunmole, its Publicity Secretary and made available to The Guardian, the party urged the governor to rescind the plan as the PDP would not accept the mortgage of the peoples’ collective future.
    
The party added, “Rather than frittering our heritage in loose living, the government should champion their protection. Anything short of this will be strongly resisted by our people.”
    
Reacting to the PDP, the Finance Commissioner insisted that the planned sale is in the best interest of the state while the governor, through his Chief Press Secretary (CPS), Petra Onyegbulem, said the party was criticising the move because it lacked vision and ability to move the state forward.

 
According to the CPS, government decided to sell the non-earning assets as was done by the Federal Government during the regime of former President Olusegun Obasanjo adding, “The past administration took a bond to set up white elephant projects that could have been assets to the state but because they were so gigantic without proper projection, they became liabilities to us and the state continue to service the debt without making anything from the projects.
   
“But we have pressing needs that should impact ordinary people of the state. These are the needs we are to finance now, so non-earning assets of the state that have become liabilities will be sold off to get funds for other meaningful projects”.When contacted, the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Mathew Kolawole, said there is Separation of Powers as the executive arm may decide to execute policies that may not necessarily have inputs from the legislature.
   
“I have not received any letter from the governor that he is selling any property. I will say I am getting the information from you. Until the government communicates to us officially that they want to do anything like that, it will not be subject of discussion and none of my members brought it up as a matter of urgent public importance. Definitely we would be communicated.”

Culled from the Guardian

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2023 Presidency: Bello tells oldies to cool their heels, as their time is up

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2023 Presidency:  Bello tells oldies to cool their heels, as their time is up

Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State may have signaled to all the older persons jostling for the Presidency to jettison their ambitions as the time is for the younger generation
He said, the nation is bedevilled by leadership crises due to the absence of succession plan.
He spoke in Abuja on Saturday when he received a team of ex-Nigerian football internationals, led by a former Super Eagles player and coach, Augustine Eguavoen.
He said Nigerians should focus on competence of aspirants seeking for the presidency of the country as against the clamour for zoning.
The Gover had since thrown his hat in the ring backed with vigorous campaigns for the topmost job.
Bello expressed confidence that come 2023, the All Progressives Congress (APC) will provide the next generation of leaders who will fix the country.

He added that the earlier the seniors know that the time is up, the better for them.

Bello said competence should be the basis for the emergence of Nigeria’s next President instead of ethno-religious considerations.

Using the example of the new leadership of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Governor Bello said it was time the old left the political stage for the younger generation. “Mr President who listens to the calls and yearnings of the youths appointed one of us to head the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and you are going to see the magic wand in the fight against corruption because Mr Bawa knows that the future lies squarely on the shoulders of the young generations.

So, we will do everything possible to assist Mr Bawa to succeed on the job. “No matter the energy or talent that you had put in building the Super Eagles of those days, if you don’t have successors, younger ones who will take over from you, we would not have still had some brilliant people on the pitch today.  “Both north and south do not know boundaries when it comes to football and other sports. So, we are appealing to Nigerians to look beyond religion and ethnicity. For once, let us get one person who will fix this country irrespective of where he comes from and then the rest shall follow. “I pray that good reasons will prevail on our seniors to know that the time is up for them because I have been charged with the responsibility of educating, sensitizing, mobilizing strong, energetic, committed and patriotic new generation of men and women. I will not fail in that responsibility. “I know that the youths and students are listening to me. We have spoken. We have communicated a nd we understand ourselves. We are ready to take leadership. We are not waiting to be simply called upon. We are saying, here we are. We are taking charge. “By the special grace of God, I can assure you that come 2023, our party under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari will provide the next generation of leaders who will fix this country. There will be Judases. No doubt about it. There will be gang ups. There will be landmines but we will overcome them. There will be obstacles. There will be hurdles but we will cross them. I think the elders, the earlier the seniors know that the time is up, the better for them. I want to finally urge our seniors and the federal and state governments to give every necessary support to those who made us proud at one time or the other,” he said.

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2023 election: Group asks Tinubu to declare his presidential interest

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2023 election: Group asks Tinubu to declare his presidential interest

***offers N10M to support purchase of Tinubu nomination form

By Doris Ferdinand

A group under the aegis of Tinubulate Nigeria Agenda (TINA) is urging Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to as a matter of urgency declare for 2023 presidential election.

Director General -TINA, Alamoh Kehinde Samuel disclosed this in an inaugural world press conference held at Tinubu Support Group Office in Abuja on Saturday.

Kehinde said after much consultation, the group decided to throw their weight behind Bola Ahmed Tinubu and give their unrelenting support to him because they are convinced that he is competent to actualize the Nigeria of their dream.

The group further offered a dummy cheque of N10,000,000 to support Asiwaju’s purchase of presidential nomination form.

“Our group has concluded plans to present a cheque to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as support for the purchase of the expression of interest and nomination forms to run for the presidency, when the party commences the sales of form.”Kehinde said.

“As a show of our commitment, we wish to present to Nigerians, a dummy cheque of N10,000,000 as support in the purchase of Asiwaju presidential nomination form immediately the APC commences sale of forms, this is to demonstrate our commitment to this course which is critical to the development and progress of our dear country.

“Again, we are convinced beyond every reasonable doubt that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu possesses all the qualities, competence, capability, capacity and experience needed to actualize the Nigeria of our dream.” Kehinde added.

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INEC schedules Aba North/South Federal Constituency for Saturday 27th March 2021

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INEC schedules Aba North/South Federal Constituency for Saturday 27th March 2021

By Janet Samuel

The Independent National Electoral Commission has fixed Saturday 27th March 2021 for the conduct of the bye-election to fill the vacant seat for the Aba North/South Federal Constituency of Abia State.
Thia was contained in a statement that was issued by National Commissioner & Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye.
The vacancy he said arose as a result of the death of Hon. Ossy Prestige, member representing Aba North/South Federal Constituency of Abia State in the House of Representatives and the subsequent declaration of vacancy for the Federal Constituency by the National Assembly.

He pointed out that the official notification for the election the commission said will be published on Monday 1st March 2021.
“Political Parties shall conduct their primaries between 4th and 10th March 2021 while the last day for submission of list of nominated candidates is at 6pm on the 16th March 2021.

“Political Parties shall submit the names of their Polling Agents for the election to the Electoral Officers of the respective Local Governments on or before 19th March 2021 and campaigns by political parties shall stop on 25th March 2021.

“The Access Code for the nomination forms shall be available for collection from 10th March 2021 at the Commission’s headquarters.

“Political parties fielding candidates for the bye-election should pay close attention to the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the conduct of the bye-election and conduct transparent and valid party primaries in line with the dictates of Section 87 of the Electoral Act 2010 (As amended).

“We enjoin political parties to note that under section 31(8) of the Electoral Act, a political party which presents to the Commission the name of a candidate who does not meet the qualifications stipulated in the Constitution and the Electoral Act shall be guilty of an offence and on conviction shall be liable to a maximum fine of N500, 000.00

“The detailed Timetable and Schedule of activities has been uploaded on the Commission’s website and social media platforms.”

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