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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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Irate IPOB members attack Ekweremadu in Germany

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Irate members of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB, in Nuremberg, Germany, Saturday attacked the former Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu.

The Senator, who gave the account of the event on his social media handle, @iamekweremdu, however, assured Ndigbo and his supporters across the nation that he was safe.

But in a statement by Ekweremadu’s media aide, Uche Anichukwu, he quoted the lawmaker as saying, “I attended the Second Annual Cultural Festival and Convention organised by Ndi-Igbo Germany in Nurnberg today where I was billed to give a keynote address along with the President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo, who, however could not make it eventually.

“I was given a resounding welcome by Ndigbo in Germany and everything went smoothly until some men, who identified themselves as IPOB members stormed the venue and began to complain about the killings in the South East, stressing that there would be no Igbo event at the venue.

“I tried to engage them, but when they became unruly, I had to leave the venue. The organisers also invited the police and I was accompanied out of the venue.

“Much as I am disappointed in their conduct, especially as I am one of the persons, who have spoken up on justice for Ndigbo, the Python Dance, judicial killings in Igbo land and elsewhere both on the floor of the Senate and in my written and personal engagements with the Presidency as well as rallied the South East Senate Caucus to secure Mazi Nnamdi Kanu’s release with Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe taking him on bail to douse tension in the South East, I nevertheless do not hold this to heart against them, for they know not what they do.

“I have received thousands of solidarity calls and messages from well meaning Ndigbo. I want to assure them that I am hail and hearty. I have also spoken with the Nigerian Ambassador to Germany, Ambassador Yusuf Tuggar”.

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ICPC ex-boss takes over Salaries and Wages Commission

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Former chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Offences Commission (ICPC), Ekpo Nta, has taken over the chairmanship of the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission (NSIWC).

The Chief Press Secretary of the Commission, Emma Njoku, made this known in a statement on Saturday in Abuja.

According to Mr Njoku, the Chairman of the Commission, Richard Egbule, handed over to Mr Nta, who is also the Commissioner for Compensation at the NSIWC, after the completion of his statutory 10 years tenure.

Egbule, while handing over to Nta, described his tenure as historic, being the first to complete two terms and the first chairman as the pioneer staff of the Commission from inception in 1992.

He called on staff of the Commission to get acquainted with the Act establishing the Commission.

This, according to him, will enable them know the enormous contributions and importance of the Commission to the development of the Civil Service and overall welfare of Public Service.

Nta, in his response, commended Egbule for his achievements in streamlining the nation’s salary administration.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that Mr Egbule started his working career as an Administrative Officer on grade level 08 in the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation and rose to the post of Chief Management Consultant in the same office in 1992.

He became a pioneer staff of the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission in 1992 and worked to structure and builds the Commission with the best professional practice.

In 2006, he was appointed the Secretary to the Commission and on Aug. 17, 2009, former President Umaru Yar’Adua made him the Executive Chairman of the Commission.

He attained 10 years as the Executive Chairman on August 17.

(NAN)

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RevolutionNow: DSS frees Dan-Halilu over Facebook post

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The Department of State Services (DSS) has finally released Ibrahim Dan-Halilu, eleven days after he was arrested at his residence in Rigachikun, Kaduna.

Dan-Halilu, a former Political Editor at Daily Trust newspaper, had been picked up by the intelligence agency over a Facebook post he made allegedly “supporting” Revolution Now movement.

The movement was convened by Omoyele Sowore, detained publisher of Sahara Reporters and Presidential candidate of Action Democratic Congress (ADC) in the 2019 election.

Dan-Halilu, a former staunch supporter of President Muhammadu before the 2015 elections was once a communication specialist with USAID, Information Assistant at the US Embassy and a Regional Communication Specialist for Family Health.

A DSS officer told PRNigeria on Saturday that the journalist was released in Kaduna at about 6pm on Friday.

TIMELY POST gathered that Dan-Halilu was released last Wednesday after preliminary investigation but was re-arrested after the operatives of DSS in Kaduna received a directive from Abuja that he should be made to undergo further grilling.

A family source, who prefers to remain anonymous, confirmed that Dan-Halilu has been released and is happy to be re-united with his loved ones after a long while.

The Facebook post that put him against the state reads: “I feel I should share because it resonates with me. If resonates with you too, please share until all oppressed people of Nigeria get the message and domesticate it. This is #Not the Nigeria of My Dream.

“Somebody asked me why we need a revolution now, this was my reply: The aim of the revolution is to challenge the uncommon hardship why we have 16m children on the street; challenge why we have become the poverty capital of the world; challenge why we have 20 persons with corrupt cases as federal legislators and would-be ministers.

“We need to restructure the country. We need to put an end to trillions spent on electricity while we live in darkness and pay estimated bill for electricity and meters. Why do we have huge oil reserves but our refineries are dead and we are re-importing what we exported as crude oil? It is time to ask why those in government travel abroad for medical care when they have left our hospitals dilapidated; why they send their children to school abroad when our children learn under mango trees.

“We are revolting against the continuing killings that have left 20,000 Nigerians dead while those in office move around under state paid security and do nothing. We are revolting against the because over a thousand Nigerians soldiers killed by Boko Haram have been secretly buried without identifiable graves, dignity or honour. $16m was purportedly spent on mosquito nets but our children die daily from malaria. $320m Abacha loot was purportedly distributed to the poor. Where is the verifiable list? N500bn was purportedly distributed to the poor as so-called Trader-moni. Where is the verifiable list?

“With divine grace, God gave us about 40 natural resources spread across the length and breadth of the country. No country on mother earth is as blessed! The persons destroying Nigeria in and out of government are less than 10,000. For how long will the 201 million of us be silent? Forever?

“It will be sheer stupidity and very unfair of us to be silent and bequeath today’s sorry Nigeria to our children. For how long shall we continue to endure bad leadership from certificate forgers, election riggers, ritualists and yahoo politicians, hoping upon hope for a better tomorrow when things get worse by the day? We are too rich to be poor. We are too blessed to be a mockery of the world!!! No!!!”

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