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Nation Building Remains In Vain Without Rule Of Law, Democracy – Hon. Abonta

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Hon. Uzoma Nkem-Abonta

Hon. Uzoma Nkem-Abonta represents Ukwa East/Ukwa West federal constituency of Abia state in the House of Representatives. He speaks with George Opara, on the prevailing disquiet and crisis being experienced in some State Houses of Assembly, implications of breaching the rule of law  and promise of Igbo Presidency in 2023.

Excerpts:

Ahead of 2019 general elections, rival political parties are seen in the struggle to take over some State Houses of Assembly. What does this action portend to our nascent democracy?

Every state governor would like to be in control of the State Assembly because it is the legislative arm of government. Therefore, for them to think that they have stability, they will like to control the State Assembly, likewise, the opposition parties in the state.

They want to penetrate the state Assemblies in the hope to check the activities of the governor and, his excesses.

So, the soul of the State Assembly is now necessary for the survival of the governor or the opposition party to make an inroad toward wrestling the state power from the government because the various state Assemblies could destabilise a governor. A strong opposition state Assembly could increase the fortunes of the opposition party by pointing out the ills of the ruling party.

For democracy, I will say it is healthy so long as it is done in a democratic manner. And, so long as it is done within the confines and means provided by the framework of the constitution. That is to also say so long as constitutionality is being maintained, it is healthy. But if it is done with impunity and spirit of victimisation, it is unhealthy.

Also, you can see that some governors will make the State House of Assembly members to help them do what they want to do.

And it leads to the issue of divide and rule in the legislature where the governor will prefer to do more things for those whom he believes. That is why you see the madness of the minority in a bid to impeach the majority with less than one-third members which is a shortfall of the required number approved by the constitution.

This situation happens because there is an apparent crack between the speaker and governor. So, any number can attempt to carry out impeachment and to that extent, our democracy is being endangered for selfish interest.

The constitution provided a window for the National Assembly to have a say in such a situation but regrettably it has not been able to exercise a full control of the situation even though it was provided that certain conditions must apply if it is impossible to govern. And where you see seven members trying to impeach a group of twenty-one members and the latter try to exercise their rights, it becomes ungovernable.

So, we should watch it and refrain from doing things likely to hurt our democracy.

Nigeria runs a constitutional democracy. But can you say that the actions and inactions of various layers of government in the country are in compliance with the principles of constitutional democracy?   

First of all, we say that we are running a federal system of government. But in practice, what we see is a unitary system of government. The government we have now by its operations, it portends a unitary system. Federalism in its entirety is not being practiced as professed by the constitution. And the constitutionality as enshrined by our extant law and grand norms is also not adhered to. The government told us upon coming to power that it would stand by the rule of law. The extent the rule of law is being used is what we have seen. We are far from complying with the rule of law.

If you use the statistics of human rights to compare, you will now notice that it is far from compliance. If our Human Rights records as provided by the Amnesty International and other human rights agencies, we can see a downward trend of abuses.

In effect, the International community and particularly the United States of America based on our human rights records will deny us purchase of arms through the official means.  And by this denial, it will give rise to all sorts of criminalities. And we may be unable to fight it because we don’t have enough sophisticated arms. And we can’t buy clearly from the black market because it is very difficult. And we are compounding the issue by not adhering to the principles of fundamental human rights as provided by the constitution.

I, therefore, advise that the present government should try as much as it could to obey all laws, particularly when a high court and other relevant courts make an order, the order should be obeyed to the letter, otherwise, it will lead to anarchy. Failure to obey orders from a court of competent jurisdiction spells doom.

We have three arms of government. The Executive, Legislature and Judiciary. They ought to function independently. And for the judiciary to say one thing and the executive practices another thing and the legislature will not be able to assert its independence is dangerous.  No country practicing presidential system of government and democracy can develop the democratic values without a strong presence of the rule of law. So, I want to advocate that rule of law should be practiced seriously. All political parties should abide by the rule of law in its entirety in our democratic setting.

It will not augur well when courts give an order and political parties or the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, will disobey it. Often, they hide under the pretext of appeal to do a lot of things. It doesn’t portend well for us as a country. What we should do is to first, obey the court order and after, challenge it. Often times, the excuse of insecurity was given. But I want to ask, security issues and rule of law, which is superior?

Some people tend to believe that security issue ranks over and above the rule of law. But I want us to balance it.  Rule of law will bring about good security and disobedience to rule of law, will aggravate the security problems. So, I don’t think security issue rank over and above rule of law. However, by abiding to the rule of law where it conflicts with security issue, you can develop a template that will help to check and monitor it seriously.

I want to advise the political party in power to take necessary steps towards ensuring that rule of law is being obeyed. The Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo is an intelligent lawyer. So, he understands what the rule of law is all about. So, the world not just Nigeria is expecting him to advise accordingly.

The rule of law should be practiced and maintained. Without the rule of law, in vain we Labour and, the act of nation building will remain in vain. You should not only practice the rule of law but should let the common man in the street know that we are being guided by certain grand norms. That is the way out, otherwise, our democracy is being jeopardised.

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Boss Mustapha said Igbo 2023 Presidency will be achieved if the people support the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019 general elections. What is your take on this?

Is Boss Mustapha having the presidency? Is he the custodian? Can he decide where it goes, no? What he said is mere campaign promises. He is campaigning for his boss. This is expected of him. So, I don’t think that he is in a position to offer what he cannot give. He is merely campaigning. Promises are allowed in campaign but don’t make promises you can’t keep.

However, that promise also is alluding to the fact that the presidency of Igbo extraction is overdue. That we can see.  It is now being used as a trap to draw the Igbo. But he knows that Igbo is wise. They will, therefore, decide where they will go in 2019 general elections.

For Mustapha to even make the promise, it is not new. Was such a promise not made in 2011 and 2015? So, why will it not be made in 2019 and even beyond?

It is for the Igbo to know through history because if you study history, you can predict the future. It is for them to sit down and analyse their situation and know where they can key in.

I don’t think Mustapha spoke the truth. If you go to his depth of his mind, he will tell you, I just made a political statement. So, people should place a second thought to it and not put theirweight. It is a mere campaign talk.

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Tinubu explains why APC, Buhari came to power in 2015

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The National Leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, has described the previous government of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, from 1999 to 2015 as irresponsible and spendthrift.

The APC leader said that it was the pursuit of good governance, that brought the APC and President Muhammadu Buhari to power in 2015.

Tinubu also said that the Bukola Saraki led 8th National Assembly was controlled by reactionary elements that fought for business as usual and against reform.

The former Lagos State Governor made the remarks at public presentation of a book entitled “The Challenges of Good Governance in Nigeria,” written by the founding Chairman of APC, Chief Adebisi Akande on Tuesday at Sheraton Hotel & Suites, Abuja.

“It has been the challenges of good governance, or may I say the pursuit of good governance, that compelled the APC forward.

“That led the people to elect and re-elect President Muhammadu Buhari. This pursuit has also shaped the public life and career of the person we honour here, Chief Bisi Akande.

“Over the years, obstacles to good governance were constructed so that a few people might unduly benefit at the expense of many.

“This process went on for years. It distorted our society. Our institutions became so corrupted that they often worked against their stated purposes. Vice became virtue. Governance turned into misgovernance and then misrule. Wrong became right.

“The social compact at the core of our collective existence was being disregarded if not discarded, not by the people but by those who led them.

“But justice and hope do not disappear. They remained in the hearts of man even during the worst of times. We have been on sometimes slow, but nevertheless inescapable evolution toward progressive good governance.

“First, we transformed from military to civilian governance. Now we transfer from the irresponsible, spendthrift governance of the PDP period of 1999-2015 to the advent of progressive governance in 2015.

“The road to good governance is tough; there have been obstacles placed in our way. However, this is the task we have assumed and we shall not deviate from this path for this is how we perfect our nation and live up to our best purpose.

“I have had a chance to take a cursory look at the book. The author has identified challenges to governance which are institutional, psychological, political and economic.

“Many of the issues raised in the book are matters of the deepest concern to our party, APC, and of President Buhari’s administration.

“For example, with regard to the institutional relationship between the presidency and legislature, you might recall that not too long ago the ability of this government to deliver on key aspects of its mandate was hampered because the National Assembly was controlled by reactionary elements that fought for business as usual and against reform.

“This situation has been corrected by the sovereign will of the people during the last election. What emerged is a new National Assembly leadership committed to progressive reform.

“As a result, we have seen the quick passage of the historic Deep Offshore (and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contract) Act, which substantially amended the financial terms of deep offshore oil production.

“Because of this, government will gain billions of dollars in new revenue to be used for the development of our economy, its infrastructure all for the ultimate benefit of the Nigerian people.

“This achievement is not an isolated occurrence. It is a harbinger of other reforms to come now that the president has a reliable partner in the current National Assembly.

“History will look back and record this as a key moment in our progress as a nation. However, this moment would not have been possible but for the formation of the APC.

“And here I can tell you one thing; the establishment of the APC might not have taken place. For this single act, if for nothing else, the nation owes a debt of gratitude to Chief Bisi Akande.”

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APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole suspended

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The All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo State has suspended its national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole.

TIMELY POST learnt that the State chairman, Anselm Ojezua, who made this known in a statement on a Tuesday night said
Oshiomhole‘s suspsension followed the vote of no confidence passed on him by the chairmen of the APC in the 18 local government areas (LGAs) of the state.

It would be recalled that of the Deputy State Chairman of the APC in Edo State, Kenneth Asekomhe was earlier on Tuesday quoted as saying, “After the meeting of the State Executive Committee, in pursuant of Article 17, Section 5 of APC constitution of 2014, as amended, we the undersigned members passed a vote of no confidence on the State Secretary of the party, Lawrence Okah. He is hereby removed from office.

“The committee also passed a vote of confidence on the State Chairman of APC, Mr Anselm Ojezua.

”The APC chairmen in the 18 LGAs of the state also reaffirmed their support for the second term bid of Governor Godwin Obaseki on account of his developmental strides.

”The chairmen passed a vote of no confidence on the National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.”

The statement reads, “Consequent on the development, the State Executive Committee has adopted the vote of no confidence passed on him and the subsisting suspension order from the organs of the party in the state.

“Comrade Adams Oshiomhole is the one behind the crisis in Edo APC. We have passed a vote of no confidence on him and he stands suspended from the party.”

“We don’t want what happened in Zamfara State or other parts of the country to happen in Edo State,” the Nation reports.

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Govt officials found conniving with pipeline vandals to face sanction, prosecution – Lawan

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Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, on Tuesday said officials of government found conniving with criminals involved in vandalising oil pipelines would face sanction and prosecution if identified.

Lawan stated this in his remarks after the consideration of the report of the Ad-Hoc Committee on Pipeline Explosions during plenary.

He also directed the Senate Committee on Petroleum (downstream) to invite the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) with a view to ensuring a review of security measures for pipelines in parts of the country.

The Senate President also said the National Assembly will amend the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) Act to prevent the activities of pipeline vandals that leads to explosions and deaths.

In his words, “Our Committee on Petroleum (downstream) should invite the NNPC with a view to know what they have been doing over the years to secure the pipelines; what measures are in place and whether there is need to review these agreements.

“This is a multi-billion dollar industry. People consciously do these things, it’s not an accident. Those who are caught in the fires or who come to scavenge are the ones who end up losing their lives. This is not acceptable.

“There must be sanctions, somebody will have to pay the price and of course, after these resolutions are sent to the executive, our committee must follow it up.

“When we have to amend the NOSDRA Act, this is something that we have to do expeditiously. We should do it because it will help in preventing or minimising reoccurrence of these criminal acts.”

Earlier in his contribution to the debate on the report, Senator Chukwuka Utazi (PDP, Enugu North) blamed the activities of pipeline vandals on officials of the NNPC.

The lawmaker, therefore, called for the introduction of punishment for any official of the corporation caught conniving with pipeline vandals.

“If there is no punishment for any offence, the tendency that it will be repeated severally will be there.

“The people in NNPC must find those people and discipline them. I’m suggesting that the downstream committee should follow up this issue to make sure those people managing these pipelines face the music. We have to get these people and ensure they are punished,” Utazi said.

The lawmaker also called for the amendment of the NOSDRA Act.

“Let us get all these laws concerned with the regulation of the petroleum industry amended holistically,” he added.

Another lawmaker, Senator Ibrahim Musa (APC, Jigawa North) said the government should “focus on the criminal rings responsible for the initial pipeline breakage.”

Senator Rochas Okorocha (APC, Imo West), who described pipeline vandalism as an act of economic sabotage, called on the Federal Government to subject the surveillance of oil pipelines to contractual arrangements with private firms.

Senator Ibikunle Amosun (APC, Ogun Central), accused the NNPC of conniving with vandals to sabotage the economy by encouraging the activities of oil pipeline vandals.

“This is not an act of negligence but connivance. The NNPC knows what to do and cannot claim ignorance.

“The NNPC knows from their office when a pipeline is vandalised. I want to support my colleagues that they should be punished.”

According to the Ad-Hoc committee’s report, the incidences of pipeline explosions in Rivers and Lagos States would have been avoided if the NNPC/Nigerian Pipeline Storage Company (NPSC) and contractors monitoring the pipelines were proactive.

Chairman of the Ad-Hoc Committee, Senator Ibrahim Gobir, said both NNPC/NPSC and the contractor were aware of the Komkom pipeline leakage in Rivers State, two days before the explosion but delayed in taking necessary action.

The lawmaker disclosed further that both NNPC/NPSC and the Oilserv contractor were aware of the intended activity of the vandals and the leakage a week and a day respectively, before the Ijegun explosion in Lagos State.

He added that security personnel in connivance with NPSC staff collaborated with the vandals to siphon petroleum products from the pipelines.

The Senate, after consideration of the report on pipeline explosions, adopted all 15 recommendations by the Ad-Hoc Committee.

Accordingly, the Senate recommended that the NNPC without further delay should embark on Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) in re-laying pipelines especially in identified hotspots where erosion has exposed the pipelines to the surface.

The upper chamber also recommended that the NNPC involve members of host communities in pipeline surveillance within their various areas as an interim preventive measure.

The Senate further recommended the deployment of modern technology in pipeline surveillance and detection of leakages as well as the introduction of “cathodic prevention of the pipelines”.

It also directed NNPC to refund to the Treasury, the “outrageous” sum of three hundred and eighty-two million two hundred and three thousand fifty-five naira seventy four kobo (N382,203,055.74) it claimed to have used in firefighting operation in Komkom and provide evidence of compliance to the Senate Committee on Downstream Petroleum Sector.

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