Governor Uduaghan who made this call in Uyo, Capital of Akwa Ibom State at the weekend during the 8th All Editors Conference such interface would help government efforts in managing security challenges in the country.
The Governor whose remarks was centred on the theme of the conference, ’’National Security and the Editor’ ’noted that such an interactive forum will create a platform that would enable governors give accurate briefing about happenings in their respective states.
Besides, he said that it would enable the media and the editors in particular appreciate better the security challenges and the government perspective.
Dr. Uduaghan appealed to them to prevail on their reporters in the field to be guided by the interest of the country first and foremost, especially as it affects crisis prone areas of the Niger- Delta.
He traced the origin of the Niger/Delta Crisis to the ethnic crisis that engulfed the Warri axis of Delta state in the 90’s, stressing that the region still had security challenges to contend.
’’We still have armed youths engaged in criminal acts like kidnapping, vandalism etc. We still have political challenges that are heating up the polity as the 2015 general elections draw near’’. Governor Uduaghan stated.
He added that his comment on the issue of offshore/onshore dichotomy was merely an advice and not a threat saying: ‘’I only advised that pressing for the reinstatement of the dichotomy to forget it as it is a no go area. It was indeed a candid advice and not a threat’’.
Host governor, Chief Godswill Akpabio, reminded the media of its key role of shaping the views of the people.
He therefore urged Editors to focus on things that will unite the country rather than sowing the embers of disunity.
Instructively Akpabio tasked the Newspaper Chiefs to always portray the country positively because, according to him, ”the way editors see Nigeria is the way Nigeria will become’’.
The governor of Plateau state, David Jang urged that true federalism should be practiced in the country based on equity, justice and fairness.
In addition, he asked that the rights indigenes across the country should be respected.
Below are some exclusive photos of the event by ace photographer Henry Unini.
L-R: Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa-Ibom State, Chief Olusegun Osoba, former governor of Ogun State, Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State and the representative of Governor Amaechi of River State, his Deputy, Engr. Tele Kuru during the all Nigeria Editors Conference held at Government House, Uyo.
Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State (left) and the representative of Governor Amaechi of Rivers State, Deputy Gov, Engr. Tele Kuru (right) during the all Nigeria Editors Conference held at Government House, Uyo
A federal High Court sitting in Lagos, has adjourned till October 29, 2012, the case of ownership of the $15million alleged bribe offered by former Delta State governor Chief James Ibori to Nuhu Ribadu, former chairman of EFCC to purportedly compromise the corruption investigation instituted by the EFCCagainst the former Delta state governor.
The case earlier slated for September 17, 2012, by Justice Gabriel Kolawole was adjourned to October 29, as a result of the on-going annual judges’ conference holding in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital.
The annual conference traditionally kicks off the beginning of a new Legal Year and the trial Judge, Justice Gabriel Kolawole, was said to be attending the event.
The registrar in Justice Kolawole’s court has, suo motu, adjourned further hearing in the matter till October 29, 2012.
The story of the case so far reads like this: A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja and headed by Justice Gabriel Kolawole, had on July 24, 2012, ordered the EFCC to publish an interim order of forfeiture in a national newspaper (Thisday Newspaper), to allow anyone interested in the money to appear before the court, within 14 days, to state reasons for their claim and why a final order of forfeiture should not be granted in favour of the Federal Government.
This order was sequel to an application brought before the Court by EFCC counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, who had filed an ex-parte application on behalf of the EFCC, asking for forfeiture of the said $15million ‘bribe’ to the Federal Government if no one came up within 14days to lay claim to it.
The EFCC, in a 14 paragraph affidavit deposed by one Bello Yahaya who was one of the investigators assigned by the EFCC to investigate the criminal case against Ibori, had listed the Federal Government, the Attorney General of the Federation and the EFCC as the plaintiffs, and the Central Bank of Nigeria as sole defendant and the application for forfeiture was hinged on the following grounds:
“While the investigation was going on, on April 25, 2007, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, the then Chairman of the EFCC called the investigation team headed by Mr Ibrahim Lamorde, the then Director of Operations, to pick up cash in the sum of USD 15, 000, 000 given to him and the Commission through an undisclosed agent of the said James Ibori.
“That upon picking up the said USD 15, 000, 000, we deposited same on April 26, 2007 with the CBN which was duly acknowledged and signed for by one M.M El-Yallud, a staff working in strong room 1 of the CBN.
“That from the said April 26, 2007, the money remained in the custody of the CBN till date. The issue was raised by me in my affidavit sworn to on January 9, 2008 in opposition to James Ibori’s bail application when he was eventually charged to court for Money Laundering Offences.
“James Ibori denied through his reply to counter affidavit dated January 10, 2008, of giving the sum of USD 15, 000, 000, to EFCC or its officials. That ever since April, 2007, no one has claimed ownership of the said sum and it has since remained unclaimed money in the strong room of the CBN.
“That the said sum if left untouched and unspent in the state it was kept in the strong room since April, 2007, may eventually be destroyed, defaced, mutilated and become useless.
“That it is in the interest of justice to, in the interim, make an order of forfeiture to the Federal Government of Nigeria and allow publication to be made in the National Newspaper to alert any interested member of the public to come out within 14 days to show their interest, failure to which this honourable court will make an order of final forfeiture in favour of the Federal Government of Nigeria”.
“That the EFCC is ready to abide by the order that this honourable court will eventually make. It is in the interest of justice to grant this application,” he added.
The forfeiture was to be made permanent if no one came up to claim the money within 14 days of the publication of an advertorial to the effect. Justice Kolawole then granted the prayers of the application and ruled that the publication be made and it was summarily done in Thisday Newspaper.
And as to be expected, an application was immediately filed by one Timipa Okponipere, a Lawyer, who claimed that he had instituted the application on behalf of the government and people of Delta State and prayed that the money belonged to Delta State and should be retuned to the state.
Said he, “In filing this application, I am acting in the public interest. I believe as a lawyer, no section of Nigeria should be denied their fundamental rights,” read an affidavit he personally deposed to.
Barr. Okponipere also asked the court to declare that the $15m alleged bribe money, which has been in custody of the third respondent (Central Bank of Nigeria) since April 2007, is property belonging to government of Delta State and its people.
He urged the court to hold that any application or order granting the money to any other entity other than the government and people of Delta State would be illegal and of no effect and asked the court to order the Attorney-General of the federation, the EFCC and the CBN to return the money to the government and people of Delta State.
In addition, he asked the Court to make, “a declaration that the $15m alleged bribe money became property of government and people of Delta State when James Ibori was convicted and sentenced to prison in the United Kingdom” and “a declaration that James Ibori’s conviction quashed all previous denials or counter affidavits he may have made to any court or investigating authority including the EFCC regarding the question of whether or not he was the actual giver of the alleged bribe money.”
The Delta state government , according to Okponipere, is contending that the bribe could not be taken over by the federal government since the jailed ex-governor robbed the state and not the federal government. It also invited the court to issue an order returning the money to Delta State because if the court awarded the money to the federal government, it would be paid into the federation account and would be shared by the 36 states of the federation when in fact, the money belonged to Delta alone.
Delta State, through Okponipere, also argued that the denial by Ibori, in a counter affidavit filed before a Federal High Court in Kaduna way back 2009 while facing money-laundering trial could no longer be relied upon, since Ibori had already been convicted and jailed for the offence of stealing Delta State money, including the US$15m that was allegedly offered as bribe to Ribadu to stop his trial.
His application virtually laid the blue print for everything that was replicated in the application filed by Mr. Charles Ajuyah, SAN, the Attorney General of Delta State, who, during a press briefing with newsmen in government House, Asaba, Delta State on August 14, 2012, informed that the State government had followed suit and pitched in on the on-going saga over the alleged $15million ‘bribe’.
According to Ajuyah, the State had at last gone before the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja to challenge moves by the Federal Government to claim the $15 million via an application, arguing that the alleged money legitimately belongs to Delta State and had also strongly urged the high court to issue an order, remitting the fund to the Delta State treasury.
Delta State, in its application, dated August 10, 2012, maintained that the Federal Government was bereft of the right of ownership of the money, insisting that $15 million was offered when Ibori held sway as Governor of the State.
In a 35-paragraphed affidavit attached in support of the application, Delta State maintained that the release of the money would facilitate current developmental projects in the state.
In its affidavit deposed to by one Nikiru Bridget Emakpor, a legal officer in the Delta State Ministry of Justice, the state noted that Ibori was a governor of the state between May 29, 1999 and May 29, 2007, the period the money in dispute was allegedly offered to officers of the EFCC with a view to compromising investigation into his alleged involvement in acts of corruption.
Consequently, it argued that the $15 million was the exclusive property of the state and it is therefore entitled to collect same, being the bona fide owner.
According to the affidavit, “any money, asset or property recovered from Ibori rightly belonged to Delta State and same should be returned to it as it has always maintained its entitlement to any asset recovered from Ibori.”
The deponent further averred that “any denial by Ibori in respect of the money cannot affect entitlement of the state to the amount.”
The state said the reason it did not formally apply for payment of the money was in view of pending appeals before both the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal, saying it did not want to prejudice the outcome of the appeal cases.
Moreover, the state claimed that all monies, assets and property recovered from Mr. Joshua Dariye, former Governor of Plateau State were returned to Plateau State, just like those recovered from Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha of Bayelsa were returned to Bayelsa State.
It argued that there should be no legal basis to treat the case of Delta State any different from others, saying it is in the interest of justice that the money should be released to Delta State.
The presiding Judge, Justice Gabriel Kolawole then adjourned argument on who should be rightful owner of the controversial money till September 17, 2012.
However, just when it appeared that only Delta State, represented by two contending legal fronts and the Federal Government represented by the EFCC were the only claimants, a new twist was put in the tale when a certain Chibuike Achigbu, an Engineer said to be an executive with Chimons Gas Ltd and member of the Peoples Democratic Party, suddenly appeared as another claimant to the $15m.
In an affidavit filed on his behalf and before Justice Gladys Olotu, the presiding Judge of a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, by three Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs); Adeniyi Akintola, Okey Amaechi and Abiodun Owonikoko, leading seven other senior lawyers, all of whom were hired by the applicant to argue the case; the plaintiff alleged that as an oil magnate and member of the ruling PDP, he had donated $15 million towards the presidential election of late President Umaru Yar’Adua and then Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan in 2007.
According to Chibuike Achigbu, the new claimant, he had sought advice from legal experts on whether he could raise money in support of the PDP and its candidates throughout the country, with a view to ensuring a clean sweep for the party.
He further claimed that though he set a target of N3bn for himself and friends, he was however able to raise more than N2bn by April 2007. In order to expend the fund legitimately, Achigbu said he then approached Andy Uba, now a Senator, and agencies of government to investigate and ensure that he raised the funds legitimately and in good faith.
Uba, he alleged, had advised him to deliver the fund to him (Uba) for onward transmission to EFCC being the agency of the Federal Government empowered to certify such. In an affidavit he filed in support of the application, he said: “Andy Uba was a Special Assistant in the Presidency, who offered to take custody of the fund with a view to inviting EFCC to carry out the audit and certification before being donated to the PDP.”
In the affidavit, he stated that upon delivering the money, he heard rumours about an attempt by Ibori to bribe the chairman of the EFCC, insisting that he had nothing to do with Ibori.
His words: “That it was not until several months after Uba’s election was voided at the Supreme Court that he succeeded in making contact with him.
“That Uba, in a telephone conversation he had with him sometimes in the early part of the year 2008, confirmed that, as agreed, he did invite the EFCC to take custody of the purported unclaimed fund and revert on their investigations about its suitability for the purpose that the fund was intended.”
Achigbu said that he, however, did not believe Uba and suspected that he (Uba) had diverted the money to fund his own electioneering expenses when he was campaigning for governor of Anambra State.
Said he; “That I took the view that God had sufficiently avenged Uba’s betrayal when his election funded with the money was voided by the Supreme Court less than a month into his tenure in June 2007.”
However, on the night of August 27, 2012, he received a call from Uba informing him about the latest development concerning the $15 million and that the money in question was the same money he collected from him.
That Uba specifically confirmed to him that it was Ibrahim Lamorde, the then Director of Operations of the EFCC, that was superficially instructed to receive the money from him (Uba) on April 25th, 2007.
The application by Engineer Achigbu was also heard alongside a fresh suit filed by the Attorney-General of Delta State, Mr. Charles Ajuyah (SAN), who not only urged the court to award the $15 million bribe money to Delta state but also sought a short adjournment to enable him serve fresh hearing notice on the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Mohammed Adoke (SAN) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Ajuyah equally prayed the Court to dismiss the earlier application filed by Timipa Okponipere, on the grounds that he, Ajuyah, as the Chief Legal Officer of Delta State was the rightful person vested with the authority to file any application on behalf of the state.
Justice Gladys Olotu, the trial Judge heard them all and then adjourned till September 17, 2012. According to her, the adjournment became imperative consequent upon a petition written to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, by the anti-graft agency, EFCC and having been served with a copy of the letter by the CJ, the honourable thing for her to do in the circumstance, was to adjourn the matter till September 17, 2012.
Justice Gladys Olotu also granted the prayer of the Delta State Attorney General and cancelled the name of Mr. Timipa Okponipere from the list of those contesting to determine the destination of the money, after Delta State’s Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice Charles Ajuya (SAN) denied authorising Okponipere to file any case on behalf of the state. Mr. Timipa Okponipere was thus dismissed from the case.
It will be recalled that Justice Gabriel Kolawole had also adjourned a similar suit with the same subject matter to the same September 17, 2012 to enable interested parties to come forward with claims of ownership of the controversial $15 million within fourteen days of the order and granted an order of temporary forfeiture of the bribe sum to the Federal Government. It was therefore in reaction to this order that the Delta State government had filed a fresh application before Justice Olotu, thus prompting the EFCC to write to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court.
In his explanation on why the EFCC had written to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta after the preliminary proceedings, Counsel to EFCC, Chief Rotimi Jacobs, said the letter to the Justice Auta was necessitated by the fresh suit filed by the Delta State government, which he said the commission was not comfortable with, especially when placed against the backdrop of Justice Kolawole’s unambiguous ruling that nothing should be done until September 17, 2012, when parties were expected to appear before the Court to express their interests.
His words: “You will recall that on the 24th of July, 2012, the Honourable Justice Kolawole heard the application and ordered us to advertise the order granting interim forfeiture and then adjourned the case that it should not be heard until 17th of September, 2012, so as to enable parties that have interest to come out and file their process.
“The return date effectively is 17th Sept; only God knows what happened, we did not know what happened; there is no application that the time be abridged or that the time be moved backward. So, all what we heard is hearing notice, that is why the EFCC complained about who changed the date; we want a transparent thing, we want everybody with claims to come out”, Jacobs said.
Recall of course that Mr. Jacobs had earlier dismissed the intention of the Delta State government to file an application of claim to the $15m as ‘laughable’. He said: “I just read the claim of Delta State from the newspapers… I am yet to be served with their affidavit deposing to this. But it is really interesting and amusing. However, it is an issue of ownership. The burden is on Delta State to prove ownership of money which is not in its custody”.
According to Jacobs: “I am waiting to see how Delta justifies the withdrawal of over N2 billion from its coffers without any documentation. The burden is on them.”
In his submission, Keyamo urged the Federal Government to immediately arrest the duo of Andy Uba and Chibuike Achigbu and interrogate them with a view to tracing the origin of the $15million allegedly offered to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, by agents of convicted former Governor of Delta State, James Ibori, in 2007.
If however the origin of the money could not be ascertained, then both Uba and Achigbu should be charged with money laundering and/ or conspiracy and bribery.
Mr. Keyamo equally queried why the money, which he described as the proceed of a crime already and identified as an exhibit to be tendered in court, was kept with the CBN, asking if the EFCC no longer had facilities to keep exhibits recovered from suspected criminals.
According to him, the criminal case against Ibori is still pending in court despite his conviction by a London court, and stressed that “if the appeal of the EFCC against Ibori succeeds at the Supreme Court, Ibori can still be tried in Nigeria for laundering $15million and giving it as bribe, since he was never tried for those offences in United Kingdom.”
He said: “For instance, if a person kills Mr. Peter and Paul and he is tried only for killing Mr. Peter and convicted, he can later be tried for killing Mr. Paul also. It will not amount to double jeopardy.
“It is with this state of affairs that the Federal Government, through the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, sparked off controversy recently when it applied to court that the said money be forfeited to the Federal Government. The Delta State Government has also come forward to lay claim to the money.
And a certain businessman named Chibuike Achigbu and Dr. Andy Uba, the former Special Assistant on Special Duties and Domestic Affairs to President Olusegun Obasanjo, have also claimed in court that they were the proxies through whom the money was given to Ribadu, but that it was for a different purpose other than bribe.
Keyamo then asked the following questions: 1.“Why were the duo of Andy Uba and Chibuike Achigbu not arrested at that time (since they enjoyed no immunity like chief James Ibori) and charged to court for conspiracy and bribery? Why have they not been arrested up till this minute and charged to court? Or is the federal government telling Nigerians that Nuhu Ribadu was lying about the bribe money?
2. “What kind of country will want to recover exhibits that are the proceeds of crime, without first arresting the culprits, investigating them, tracing the origin of the money, charging them to court and securing conviction?
“It is in the light of the above that the attempt by the Federal Government to recover the alleged $15miilion bribe money deposited in the CBN surreptitiously through the court is nothing but a shameful and disgraceful attempt at covering up a crime, abdicating its statutory responsibility to prosecute criminals, and reneging on its pledge to the people to fight the cancer of corruption to its roots, no matter whose ox is gored”.
Speaking further, Keyamo warned that, “The Federal Government should immediately withdraw that case from court and the Delta State Government and all other parties should back off from this national embarrassment we are witnessing. Consequently, Keyamo told the Federal Government to do the following:(1) Await the decision of the Court of Appeal or Supreme Court over the appeal against the discharge of Ibori on the 170-Count charge. If the Supreme Court rules that Ibori was wrongly discharged and orders a retrial (just as happened recently in the case of Kenny Martins when a retrial was ordered by the Court of Appeal over stealing of police funds), the $15 million is one of the exhibits that will be tendered when the case is retried.
“(2) Await the verdict of that retrial, (if it is ordered) which retrial will determine once and for all whether the money was actually given by Ibori or not as bribe to Ribadu.
“(3) Arrest immediately the duo of Andy Uba and Chibuike Achigbu, interrogate them, trace the origin of the $15million, and if it has no origin, charge them with money laundering and/or conspiracy and bribery.”
He then maintained that in the alternative, the Federal Government should: “(4) Arrest Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, interrogate him and charge him to court, if necessary, for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and perjury as regards the proceedings in Asaba when he swore on oath or procured another to swear that he was given a bribe.
“This is because, it is either Ribadu on the one hand is lying that he was offered $15million as bribe or Andy Uba, Ibori and Chibuike Achigbu on the other hand are all lying that it was not bribe. Both versions cannot be correct and any version that is false amounts to a crime under our laws.
Keyamo then noted that; “Either way, we cannot fold our arms and watch helplessly and hopelessly as some persons with dubious intentions regarding that money which is public funds play on our collective intelligence in this matter.
He described the whole issue thus; “This is a very serious matter that is turning into a comedy of sort. It is the embarrassing failure of the Federal Government to follow due process and the rule of law to the letter regarding that bribe money that is the foundation for the present absurdity we are witnessing where those who should actually be in jail and institutions that failed in performing their duties are fighting themselves publicly to claim money that is purely the proceeds of crime.
Sounding a note of warning to all parties in the matter, the maverick lawyer said; “It is important to mention that apart for my well-known commitment to the campaign against corruption in public office, my particular motivation in this case is the fact that the funds in question have some kind of connection to my State (Delta State) which has suffered from series of maladministration.
He defined his identity and stake in the matter thus; “I am an Urhobo man, born, bred and raised in Ughelli, while I hail from Effurun in Uvwie Local Government Area of Delta State, near Warri. I am pained to see that whilst social amenities and infrastructure are lacking in most parts of Delta State, a hefty sum of $15million WHICH MAY HAVE come from the State was allegedly given in one fell swoop as bribe to cover up crimes committed, perhaps, against the people of Delta State.
“Consequently, if in the next few days, the Federal Government fails, refuses and/or neglects to take appropriate steps to terminate the case in court and properly investigate all the suspects in this matter, whether the principals or proxies who participated in laundering and offering this money as bribe or otherwise, I will be left with no other option than to proceed to court to bring the suspects to justice,” he warned finally.
However, in a new twist to the matter and perhaps in reaction to Mr. Festus Keyamo’s stern position and warning, it was suddenly reported that both Senator Andy Uba and Chibuike Achigbu, had abandoned their claim to the $15 million
According reports attributed to some lawyers, EFCC officials and two PDP chieftains, it was learnt Andy Uba and Engineer Achigbu had instructed their lawyers to discontinue with the case and that Mr. Achigbu’s lawyers have already gone to court to officially withdraw the claim to the $15m.
Uba, in a statement credited to his aide, Mr. Chike Okeke, said that he gave the money to the then EFCC Director of Operations, Ibrahim Lamorde.
Uba said, “When I was in the Presidency, my house in the Villa was a convenient place for many top people in Nigeria to come. Probably, Chief Ibori didn’t want to go to the EFCC office to hand over the money and so decided to use my house. All I know about this matter is that Chief James Ibori brought some money to the then EFCC chairman, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu”.
The Uba statement further went on to say that; “The details of the transaction were undisclosed to me at the time. The money was handed to Mallam Nuhu Ribadu who invited his then Director of Operations, Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde, to fetch it. I was never a party to the transaction between Ibori and Ribadu. That my house was used as the venue for the transaction is not in question as an affidavit to that effect has been sworn to by the current EFCC chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde, which is probably the point of confusion”.
Senator Uba affirmed his non involvement in the matter thus: “I hereby state unequivocally that I have no involvement in this matter beyond that stated above. So, I’m not involved and will not be involved in this matter. Nobody should drag me into it please,” he said.
The decision of Senator Uba and Engineer Achigbu to withdraw their claim for the money may also have been informed by the supposed hardline position of the PDP on the matter as some very credible sources within the Wadata Plaza Headquarters have hinted that the party was not aware of the said funds allegedly collected for its candidates by Mr. Achigbu and that the party was likely to support the arrest and prosecution of Senator Uba if it is established that he was in any way involved in the plan to claim the funds that were seized from Chief Ibori as part of an anti-corruption investigation; an action which the sources described as very unbecoming of a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
And in a further twist to the tale Barr Keyamo has now made good his threat and gone ahead to obtain a Court Order to commence investigation on Senator Andy Uba and Chibuike Achigbu. The Court further ordered the Police to submit the report of its findings to it on September 26, 2012.
And to further add spice to the story, Engineer Chibuike Achigbu was recently arrested by the EFCC following the court order granted to lawyer Keyamo, but was temporarily relesed following his fulfillment of EFCC’s bail conditions.
Spokesman of the EFCC, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, confirmed that Achigbu was released immediately he was able to meet all the requirements for his “bail,” but also disclosed that the agency was yet to consider arresting Senator Andy Ubah.
And to raise the expectation levels even higher, the case has now been shifted to Monday October 29, 2012 to add another tantalising twist in the tale.
As we await further developments in this alleged bribery saga, it appears from the look of things, that we have certainly not heard the last of Ibori yet. The ‘godfather’, it seems, never sleeps.
There are strong indications that, having failed to address the very important issue of States creation in the 6th Session of the National Assembly, the newly Inaugurated 7th Assembly Session will consider the matter as one of its major priorities.
Three statements at separate fora by Senate President David Mark have made the position of states creation clearer and further confirmed that the issue will not end with the tenure of the 6th session National Assembly.
Senator Mark gave the first assertion while receiving a delegation of Orimili State Creation Movement from Anambra State. In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Paul Mumeh, Mark reminded the delegation that the process of state creation requires tedious and painstaking efforts, adding that the 6th session of the National Assembly made efforts to create more states as demanded by some Nigerians, but was unfortunately caught up with time, coupled with the fact that some of the documentations required in the consideration of matter still needed some fine tuning.
According to him: “The process of state creation is tedious and painstaking but it is possible and surmountable, we are doing everything possible to get the process right.”
Mark said the National Assembly is committed to meet the yearnings and aspirations of Nigerians of which state creation is one of the issues desired by the people and also added that there was the need to create a constitutional role for traditional rulers in order to empower them and give legal backing to their functions.
The second indication on the issue was given by the Senate President during the valedictory dinner and gala night for the members of the 6th National Assembly. In a veledictory dinner speech where he captured some of the anecdotal highlights of his tenure, he recalled how Senator Ayogu Eze as member of the Committee on Constitutional Reforms headed by Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremmadu, would cleverly chip in the matter of the creation of Apa state, a project close to the heart of Senate President Mark, and thus soften and subtly get all the necessary benefits accruable through ways and means.
According to the Senate President, Ayogu would regularly interject with the magic phrase; “We must create Apa state” into their conversation even as he equally introduced the demands of the Committee for the Senate President’s approval, all of which ensured the excellent performance of the Committee. However, President Mark warned Ayogu jokingly that this ploy will no longer work in the new Senate because “ State Creation will be done in the 7th session of the Senate and Apa State will be one of the states to be created” he said.
And only recently the Senate President gave the strongest aeertion yet when he re-iterated the same position that the National Assembly remained committed to amending the 1999 constitution to give room for the creation of more states in Nigeria.
Senator Mark, gave the assurance during a thanks giving service in his home town, Otukpo, and added that he would be guided by God and the constitution in the discharge of his duties as the President of the Senate.
He maintained that state creation was a certainty because the National Assembly was confident that the creation of more states would enhance development and bring government closer to the people.
Emphasising his resolve to ensure that the Constitutional Amendment continued, Mark said “the dream of our people to have Apa State created will be realised.
“I am committed to it and I believe that creation of additional states would be in the interest of our people because development would be nearer to them.”
This confirmation,coming from Senate President David Mark, irrespective of the forum in which it was delivered has finally given the clearest and strongest indication yet that the issue of states creation is very prominent in the agenda of the 7th National Assembly and is also a clarion call to all those agitating for states of their own, like Anioma state, to ensure that they perfect all the necessary documentations and engage the strongest lobbysts, because more states will surely be created in addition to the now confirmed Apa state championed by none other than Senate President David Mark.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday affirmed that the tenure of Delta State governor-elect, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, ends on May 28, this year. But Uduaghan kicked, saying only the judiciary could determine his tenure. By the INEC position, Uduaghan, who emerged winner of Thursday’s rerun governorship election, has less than five months to spend in office and would have, by that, completed a term of four years. Speaking in a telephone chat with our correspondent, Mr. Kayode Idowu, Chief Press Secretary to Prof. Attahiru Jega, chairman of INEC, said the agency had put the rerun election behind it and was preparing for a governorship election in Delta, holding in April. On the legality of denying Uduaghan a fresh, four-year tenure, Idowu explained thus: “Under the law, there is going to be election in Delta State because it is contained in the electoral act, that the time a governor spent in office before the date his election was annulled shall be taken into account. “That provision is in the electoral act and the electoral act is a subsisting law.”Idowu said the same fate awaited five other governors of Bayelsa, Kogi, Adamawa, Rivers and Sokoto States respectively, whose tenure would lapse counting from the day of their original inauguration. But in his reaction, Uduaghan said he would await the verdict of the Appeal Court on the vexed issue, even as he was prepared to stand another election for a second term in office, come April. Speaking on behalf of the governor-elect, one of his aides, Mr. Felix Ofou, said “we are waiting for the Appeal Court to resolve the controversy.” “Recall that the Appeal Court, in ordering for a rerun election, said no election took place in Delta State in 2007. So, what is the justification of the INEC deciding to recognise an election that the court had cancelled? He asked rhetorically.Ofou said his principal was not scared of returning to the campaign field next April, assuring, “If INEC is determined to conduct the election in April, my governor is also prepared to campaign for a second term. “But honestly speaking, I believe that the Appeal Court will soon rule that our tenure has just started,” Ofou said. Already, the Adamawa State governor, Admiral Murtala Nyako (rtd) and the ousted governor of Ekiti, Mr. Segun Oni, are in the Appeal Court, seeking the appellate court’s reversal of the judgement of a Jos Federal High Court in Plateau State, which ruled that Oni’s tenure ended on May 28, 2011, despite a rerun election which ushered him in for a supposed fresh tenure.However, Oni’s position in the appeal case became naturally atrophied with his sack by the Appeal Court. In his own rection to the matter, governor Uduaghan’s Communications Manager, Paul Odili, said: “ There is a process to get a High Court to look at the judgment and see if it was a rerun or fresh election.”According to Odili, “We do not know what the court may determine yet.”All this is coming amid very rife speculations that Governor Uduaghan will decide to rest the matter once and for all by heading to the Courts himself and asking the court to rule that his tenure began afresh on January 10 when he was inaugurated.A very reliable source confirmed to Delta Focus that, “A lot of people are talking about the rerun, but they have not seen the copy of that judgment because all through the 60-page document signed by the chairman and members of the panel, there was no place rerun was mentioned. The ruling kept on talking about fresh election and all these things would have to be explained.”Speaking further the Source said that, “The areas where the governor may seek interpretation include whether it was a fresh election on January 6 or a rerun. And if it is a fresh election, we would want to know if it has a four-month or four-year tenure. In other words we would like to know if our governor is serving on the first certificate of return that has already returned to INEC after that election was ‘quashed’, or if he is serving on the fresh certificate given to him on January 10 which certified his swearing-in as the authentic Governor of Delta state”It will be recalled that Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan himself had raised these very posers concerning the Appeal Court ruling, in several interviews he granted during his days on ‘sabbatical’, after the annulment of the April 2007 election. Many pundit are of the opinion that the matter has now achieved an even greater urgency, with the news that Chief Great Ogboru, the defeated governorship candidate of the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP), in the January 6, 2011 re-run election, has already filed a petition at the election tribunal, seekin that the Court declares him the actual winner of the re-run election, which constitutionally carries a four-year tenure, if it comes to pass.
Prior to the annulment of the April 2007 governorship elections in Delta state by the Justice Monica Bon Gbam Mensen Court Appeal sitting in Benin in November, 2010, Dr. Uduaghan was almost sure of coasting home to victory in the 2011, Delta state gubernatorial elections. He had already set up his campaign organization, picked up his nomination form for a second term, settled with the national PDP, which even appointed him as the Chairman of the Fund raising committee of the party and equally managed to partially neutralize the influence of chief E. K Clark in the power game over who is in charge of the Delta PDP.
His confidence was such that he had even held critical meetings with political aspirants of the PDP at all levels in two senatorial districts of the state (the third was on the cards) and had told them in clear terms that he would not endorse anybody. He was on top of the game and had his opponents, both in the PDP and outside, in a fix. Then the bombshell landed, the election was annulled and now he must go for a new election.
THE REASONS WHY UDUAGHAN MAY WIN RE-RUN ELECTION
THE PDP IN DELTA: There is no doubt that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), is the only party that has a vibrant operational structure in Delta state today, despite the fact that it is embroiled in some internal membership crises. An analysis of the other key parties in the state reveal that the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) is presently involved in a leadership problem since the departure of Peter Okocha back to the PDP. The Chairman of the Party Chief Sam Egwerome is fighting the politcal battle of his life to remain on seat, especially with the purported arrival into the fold of Chief Great Ogboru and Barr. Ovie Omo-Agege.
The Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) on the other hand has only been a party in name and signpost as it has not engaged in any visible political activity apart from fleeting statements from its chairman, Chief Tony Ezeagwu after court cases. Even its guber candidate Great Ogboru had been reporetd to have crossed over to the ACN to enhance his political fortunes, but now that he has won the right to re-contest the election it is left to be seen, what structures will be put on ground for the DPP as rumours also have it that he will quickly decamp to the PDP if he wins the forthcoming re-run elections.
The Labour Party is the third serious party in the state, but even in the words of its gubernatorial candidate Olorogun Abel Edijala, the party had been dormant since after the 2007 elections and is only now planning to dust up its old manisfesto from where it had been gathering dust to see how relevant it will be in the re-run.
The other Political parties are what is refered in political parlance as ‘Briefcase Parties’ and most of them had already thrown their weight behind the second term bid of Dr. Uduaghan before the Court of Appeal judgement.
THE POLITICAL AMBITIONS / EGO OF HIS OPPONENTS
Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan will face three two formidable opponents in the forth coming re-run elections namely Great Ogboru, Ovie Omo-Agege and Chief E.K Clark and the only way he can be defeated is if the three of them come together and put up one common front to battle him. But that is not very likely if the statements and actions coming from those camps are anything to go by.
Great Ogboru had already believed and even stated categorically that he was the only eligible candidate to contest against Dr. Uduaghan in the re-run. But he did not realize that Ovie Omo-Agege, as a wily political schemer had already discovered that the candidate of the Republican Party of Nigeria (RPN) was late and this offered him a clear opportunity, under the law to be nominated by the RPN for the re-run. He has since got the ticket of the party, informed INEC of the development and is well poised to contest the election, pending INEC’s endorsement. Omo-Agege’s doggedness and his vigourous campaign has lefy no one in doubt that it will be difficult, if not impossible to get him to step down for anybody.
Political analysts are of the opinion that both Ogboru and Omo-Agege will divide the votes in Delta central which is their power base. They are also expected to share the votes with Dr. Uduaghan in Ndokwa/ Ukwuani where Ogboru’s running, Fidelis Tilijie, is from and in some parts of Oshimili, Aniocha and Ika axis where Omo-Agege has made important inroads by appealing to the sentiments of those who feel that the present Anioma political leaders have betrayed the larger Anioma nation by opting to wait for 2015 to contest and supposedly win the governorship of the state, which is by no means a done deal.
Both Ogboru and Omo-Agege are very much aware that if either of them wins, then the other will have to wait for another four or even eight years to become governor and by then, the Aniomas would be very much in the race. The best option therefore may be to allow Dr. Uduaghan win the re-run and then prepare to give him a real battle in the general elections in 2011. But that is if the Courts intepret that his tenure will end in 2011 instead of a fresh tenure which will end in 2015. For both Ogboru and Omo-Agege therefore, this is the best opportunity for either man to become the governor of Delta state and after all the efforts and resources they have put into their governorship ambition since 2003 till date, it will be a huge miracle to get any of them to step down for the other.
Chief E.K Clark on the other hand has made it clear that he will not support Great Ogboru this time around, because Ogboru ‘chickened out’ of the struggle to fight Uduaghan after he was declared wanted for murder and even arrested and taken to Abuja, following the 2007 elections. Chief Clark has also reportedly fallen out with Ovie Omo-Agege because of the decision of Omo-Agege to continue his governorship quest. It had been rumoured in the days before the annulment, the Chief Clark had done a power sharing deal with Dr. Uduaghan, which would give him the power to produce his own candidates for the other elective positions from his camp and Senatorial district, while the Uduaghan camp would produce the governorship candidate and some other elected officers from the other senatorial zones, amongst others. The claim was that since Chief Clark’s son was running for the House of Representatives in the PDP, it would only be politically expedient for some compromise to be reached to ensure the ticket for the younger Clark. This, according to some sources, was what led to the decamping of Omo-Agege and Senator Adego Eferakeya, from the PDP. But with the annulment of the 2007 election, the political permutations have taken a whole new look, the alleged power sharing agreement between Clark and Uduaghan has been torn to shreds and it is now everyman for himself.
Which may explain why Chief Clark, according to Delta watchers, has renewd his battle to ensure that Dr. Uduaghan does not return as Governor of Delta state, with intensified vigour.
The only axis where Uduaghan is expected to have a landslide is in Delta South where his Itsekiri kinsmen will vote for him enmasse and some parts of Isoko too, although it is rumoured that the running battle between the ALGON Chairman, Delta state, Chief Askia Ogeah and some of his staff who were sacked some time ago will come back and haunt the Uduaghan campaign in that area of Isokoland.
There is also the calculation that the Ijaws may decide to support the opposition especially with the rumours making the rounds that Dr. Uduaghan is not working for President Jonathan. The recent decision of one of his strong ally Peter Biakpara (an Ijaw man) to decamp from the President Jonathan campaign and join forces with Atiku Abubakar, on the grounds of an Abuja High Court ruling on Zoning in the PDP, is an indication of this thinking, according to pundits.
Again, there are strong feelers that Elder Godsday Orubebe may have aligned with certain opposition to ensure that Governor Uduaghan does not return to Government House Asaba again, whether in the re-run or in the General elections. A new political movement called the United Democratic Party (UDP), a party which enjoys the full patronage of some very top PDP kingpins in Delta state, has been set up to fulfill that purpose and Delta Focus has reliably learnt that some top PDP chieftains, who are unhappy with the way some leaders in the party are imposing themselves in the state are planning to use the new Party, UDP, as platform to sponsor candidates against those endorsed by the PDP leaders in the various senatorial zones. The UDP is also said to have teamed up with a new coalition called the United Congress for Change UCC, a political pressure group set up for the very purpose of joining forces with the Rainbow Coalition of Great Ogboru, to stop Dr. Uduaghan during the re-run election.
But all these are mere permutations and will only be realized when the forces arrayed against Dr. Uduaghan decide to come together and fight him. But, according to analysts, there very big egos at play here and the chances of them working together is quite slim. Ogboru, they say has been embarassed and humiliated not once, but twice by the Ibori political machinery. The second in 2007 was even more humilating because he was declared wanted and even arrested after suffering a crushing defeat at the polls and the beneficiary had been Emmanuel Uduaghan. Ovie Omo-Agege is still smarting from the manipulation, allegedly masterminded by James Ibori, which edged him out at the last minute and planted Emmanuel Uduaghn as the Delta state PDP Governorship candidate in 2007. As if this was not enough, it was alleged that Uduaghan, while he he was governor, sponsored and instigated a certain Chief Andi Osawota, former Secretary of the Delta state Oil producing Areas Development Commission, (DESOPADEC) to give Omo-Agege a fight in his own Orogun Kingdom, which led to a forced relocation to Abuja, where he found solace and political rejuvenation in Aso Rock, with the emergence of Goodluck Jonathan as President of Nigeria.
Both Ogboru and Omo-Agege are men with very big egos and with Chief James Ibori out of the way and embroiled in his own battle for political survival with the British authorities over money laundering charges; (a case which has already nailed his wife, his mistress and his sister) they are more than convinced that this is the best time to tackle Dr. Uduaghn and stretcher him out once and for all. But is that possible? Delta watchers are not convinced that this will happen and if that is the case, then Dr. Uduaghan is sure to win the re-run
INEC AND THE VOTERS REGISTER
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has made it categorically clear that it will use the old voters register to conduct the Delta state re-run election. The new state Resident Electoral Commission Dr. Godwin Adah has confirmed that no new voters registration will take place and while efforts will be made to ensure that the cases of missing voters cards are addressed, the election will be a litmus test for INEC in preparation for the 2011 general elections and will be conducted strictly on one man one vote procedure.
This stand by INEC according to Delta watchers, is quite instructive, because according to them, it is only the PDP and its supports that may have supposedly secured and maintained their voters cards as the only party engaged in constant political activity since the 2007 elections. Most supporters of the other political parties may have been too disappointed with the results of that election and simply thrown their cards away of forgotten where they threw them into. Others may have even been unhappy with the way the Uduaghan administration had run the state since 2007 and moved out of town. Some others still may have even vowed to themselves to ensure they register in the forthcoming voters registration and so may not be around for the re-run. In the final analysis, the situation, according to political analysts, is that the number of eligible voters will be greatly reduced in comparison with what was witnessed in 2007 and if INEC succeeds with its one man one vote agenda, then the number will even be lesser.
The point which pundits make with this scenario is that it is not the crowds that win elections but the registered voters. Thus, the massive crowds which had been identified with some candidates may just be mere propaganda, because most of them may not have registered as eligible voters in 2007 and therefore will not be eligible to vote in the re-run. The fact that the PDP could still have more registered supporters than any other party in Delta state, is very much a possibility and if that is the case then Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan will surely secure a majority of those votes and go on to win the re-run. The fact that Dr. Uduaghan has embarked to a peace and fence mending mission with those whom he feels he had neglected or embarrassed in the past is a clear sign that he understands what is needed to be done to get to those who are likely to be the eligible voters in the re-run. But whether they are ready to forgive him and believe in his promises to change for the better is still a matter that hangs in the balance as we approach the re-run.
THE ANIOMA FACTOR
It is no longer a secret that the people of Anioma have set their eyes on 2015 as the year when the governorship of Delta state will rotate to Delta North. As a result, some of their top leaders have sacrificed their political reputation on the alter of speculation and earlier given Delta South and Dr. Uduaghan the mandate for eight years. But with the nullification of the 2007 election and the re-run ordered by the courts, Anioma is once again in the eye of the storm. The situation is even more complex because the 2015 arrangement is only a PDP affair and there is no guarantee that Delta central will not make a bid after Uduaghan’s tenure.
To further complicate issues, Omo-Agege has promised that he will make sure Anioma gets the governorship in 2015 as part of his campaign strategy to win their votes. So, the calculation is simple; give Uduaghan or Omo-Agege the re-run or another term and get the 2015 slot or give Ogboru the re-run and perhaps forget the governorship till 2019.
Chances are that Ogboru and Omo-Agege may divide the anti Uduaghan votes between themselves while the pro-Uduaghan block, which is quite substantial will be intact. If this happens then Anioma, which has traditionally been the deciding factor in any Delta election may once again deliver Uduaghan.
Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan is the only candidate in the re-run, who has the advantage of having served as a sitting governor and thus has a list of achievements to his his name in the three years of his administration, which have been well chronicled by his supporters. They visible ones include the street lights, the Delta city airconditioned taxis and buses, the free maternal care and free medical care for under Fives and the aged, the payment of examination fees for pupils and of course the big screen televisions. But the most important of all his achievements is the Micro Credit scheme under the astute management of Dr. Antonia, which has brought laurels and awards to Governor Uduaghan and Delta state.
Dr. Uduaghan’s re-run campaign has expectedly been targeted at those who have been direct beneficiaries of these programmes and many analysts believe that those persons who have benefited from such government initiatives like the micro-credit, the free maternal care and the massive crowds at the viewing centres were the big screen televisions are located across the state, will surely vote for Dr. Uduaghan in the re-run, provided they are registered as eligible
voters in Delta state.
From the foregoing, Delta political pundits are of the opinion that Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan stands a better chance of winning the forthcoming re-run elections in Delta state, but they also affirm that Dr. Uduaghan still has a lot to do to assure Deltans that his return will be much better than the last three years of his administration, if he eventually wins the re-run. Otherwise a run-off will be the most likely option in the long run
The recent decision by the 25 chairmen of Delta State to adopt governor uduaghan for a second term has continued to raise ripples amongst Deltans, especially when placed against the backdrop of the fact that several of the Council chairmen are presently embroiled in political battles with their Legislative arms and indeed some have already been suspended by the Delta state House of Assembly.
This adoption of Governor Uduaghan by the Council chairmen is even more remarkable in the light of the fact that not too long ago, the Delta state House of Assembly had also endorsed the Governor for a second term.
For the avoidance of doubt, Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan remains the candidate to beat in the 2011 elections but the question that many Deltans are trying to resolve is what exactly is the reason for all these endorsements and adoptions when it is obvious that Governor Uduaghan has actually performed better than all the Local Council Chairmen and House of Assembly members in the last three years. In fact, if anything, it is they who should be looking for Governor Uduaghan’s endorsement or adoption and not the other way round. So are these endorsements and adoptions another way of ensuring their political survival or what?
One thing that is however not in doubt is that the Local Council chairmen have not committed any offence because what they have done is constitutionally right as they are merely expressing their fundamental human rights to which they are individually and collectively entitled to as equal citizens of Nigeria as guaranteed by Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Section 39 of the Constitution states that “every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference”.
In addition, as PDP members, their decision is also constitutionally justified to pursue and support their personal political interest and the interest of their political party (PDP) as also guaranteed by Section 40 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution. Section 40 of the Nigerian Constitution states that “every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and in particular, he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his interests”.
Therefore, if they feel and are strongly convinced that their political interest is guaranteed by the re-election of Governor Uduaghan come 2011, so be it. Their decision to adopt governor uduaghan cannot therefore be constitutionally questioned, faulted or challenged by anyone so long as they do not abuse and misappropriate the political and economic powers and authorities inherit in their offices as chairmen of local government Councils of Delta State.
However, there is an inherent danger in the wordings of their endorsement of Governor Uduaghan’s second because it presupposes that they directly or indirectly compel, threaten or intimidate any employee of the 25 Local Government Councils to support the re-election of Governor Uduaghan.
Doing so would amount to serious violation of Fundamental Human Rights of the employee(s) also guaranteed by Section 39 and 40 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution and Articles 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The need therefore to warn that on no grounds should they coerce or harass any employee to do their bidding becomes very imperative. Governor Uduaghan himself has already made it clear that his legacy will speak for him so we must leave at that because the governor is very electable right now and he will do even more for Deltans before the race begins for the 2011 elections.
It also important to note that the decisions by Rear Admiral John Kpokpogri (rtd) and others Deltans to vie for the governorship of Delta State come April 2011 is very welcome and laudable as hopefully this will further raise the level of politics and democracy geared towards bringing about participation of more credible and patriotic Deltans into governance process of our beloved Delta State.
Deltans, irrespective of their political parties should give all governorship aspirants equal opportunity to be heard and to present their manifestoes and agenda.
It is also very imperative to strongly advise the PDP against undue and biased support to any particular candidate above other new PDP governorship aspirants of PDP. Such action, unfavourable treatment and support if allowed, will be immoral and unconstitutional and will sure provide a good ground for litigations ahead of 2011 elections.
The Delta State Police Command must also give equal security protection to all Political Office Aspirants during the period of these ongoing political consultations and campaigns. All politicians and political parties must unconditionally and immediately desist from recruiting, organizing and or sponsoring youths into political violence because the overriding interest for a peaceful, united and progressive Delta State cannot be negotiated away for any individual’s or party’s interest.