Below are the headlines found on The Guardian Online Newspaper for today, Sunday, 28 January, 2018.

Sun, 28 Jan 2018
Prominent Nigerians across diverse platforms are united in their submission that the All Progressives Congress (APC) is at its wits’ end and so is using the report of the Nasir el-Rufai committee to curry the attention of Nigerians while buying time in office.

Short of describing the party’s position as a smokescreen to deflect attention from its gross underperformance and the worsening state of insecurity in the country, South-South stakeholders insist that the report is a mere political posturing meant to mislead Nigerians ahead of the 2019 poll.

And without mincing word, renowned northern politician, Dr. Junaid Muhammed, says the APC is toying with the intelligence of Nigerians over the agitation for the restructuring of the country.

While the National Chairman, African Democratic Congress (ADC), Chief Ralph Nwosu, said the ruling APC is using the recommendations of the el-Rufai committee report as new propaganda aimed at deceiving Nigerians “ahead of the election, which it would certainly lose,” his counterpart at the United Progressives Party (UPP), Chief Chekwas Okorie, said the APC was just grandstanding for election purposes.

Governor Nyesome Wike of Rivers State , alongside other leaders from the South-South are insisting that the country must restructure and return to true federalism as against the current unholy unitary system.

Wike in his keynote address to the South-South Summit on Restructuring organised by Project Nigeria Movement in Port Harcourt, yesterday, dismissed the el-Rufai’s report, which called for more devolution of powers to states as a hoax geared at misleading unsuspecting Nigerians.

“I urge our people not to be hoodwinked or deceived by the recent media report that showed that the Governor el-Rufia-led committee of the ruling party is now promising to restructure Nigeria. This coming close to the election can be akin to posturing to mislead Nigerians into thinking that the party that has denied all its basic promises to Nigeria can midway into election year suddenly somersault into promising Nigerians restructuring,” he said.

In his address, which was read by the state’s Head of Service, Mr. Rufus Godwin, the governor noted that since independence, the path before the founding leaders of Nigeria has been to build a united, prosperous country in which anyone in any part can have a sense of belonging.

Regrettably, he said 58 years after, this vision remains a mirage as the country has become increasingly divided, disorganised, and ridden by violence and blood-spilling across the length and breadth of the country.

Wike noted that for many people across the country, Nigeria’s multifaceted problems are rooted in the country’s current structure, which is unfortunately flawed, manifestly fraudulent and has become a drag on national cohesion and progress.

According to him, there is nothing in the existing Nigerian federal structure that acceptably advances the fundamental principles of nation building.

“Here in the South-South region, there is a high sense of grievance and resentment against the existing structure because we do not like the way the region has been denied reasonable access to our resources with which to advance our development at our own pace. Although no political structure is flawless, ours is not about a political structure that can be fixed from within through the patchwork of intermittent adjustment here and there as some people will want us to believe.”

The conveners of the submit included former Akwa Ibom State Governor, Obong Victor Attah, Prof. Kimse Okoko, former Cross River State Governor, Donald Duke, Chief Idu Amaidhe, Chief Solomon Asemota (SAN), and Onueze Okocha (SAN).

Okoko, a former President of Ijaw National Congress (INC), noted that restructuring the Nigerian political system is the most peaceful means instead of revolution for preventing the country from collapse.

He argued that the current proposed amendments of the 1999 constitution by the National Assembly cannot legitimise the fraud that is inherent in this constitution.

“It is in this looming perilous slide to avoidable self-destruction that we must situate the clamour for restructuring as a compelling imperative,” he said.

First Military Governor of old Rivers State, His Royal Majesty, King Alfred Diete-Spiff, observed that the country’s political crisis started when the military modified the 1960 constitution in 1979 before handing over power to former President Shehu Shagari.

He urged President Muhammadu Buhari to heed the calls for restructuring by different ethnic nationalities, as according to him: “If there is anything to go by, knowing that the president advocates change, I am all ears to hear how the people will convince the powers that be on restructuring. Change begins with restructuring.”

Dr. Junaid Muhammed, who was the defunct Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) Minority Leader of the House of Representatives in the Second Republic maintained that the el-Rufai’s committee report is an exercise in futility.

He argued that his position was based on the antecedents of the party as well as Buhari’s widely publicised position on restructuring and the need to entrench true federalism in the country.

Muhammed who represented Kano State in the 2014 Constitutional Reform Conference believes that the APC would not make any political gains from its latest position on restructuring.

“The APC as a party, judging from its constitution, its manifesto on the basis of which it won the last election never admitted, and never accepted anything you can now refer to as restructuring and even when it was invited along with the PDP to send in two representatives each to the last 2014 Constitutional Conference, the party not only refused to send delegates, it also issued a statement to say that they do not believe in the entire exercise and so they would not send anybody.

“The chairman of the so-called committee, Governor Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai went on television and said that it was their stand and that they do not believe in it. And that was how they went into the election and won and of course they are not duty-bound to now come and revisit it.

“Now to indicate the cheeky political opportunism of the party, they made a U-turn without even the common sense and the decency to even apologise for taking the country for a ride, and they now say they believe in restructuring. They put up a panel, put themselves together, governors, a few ministers including people, who are not members of the party, including people who were serving ministers in the Jonathan administration and went for the exercise.

“But if you meet them in a small corner, they would tell you they still don’t believe in it. It is a cynical political act purely for the purpose of the 2019 election. In addition, this same issue that was discussed at the level of the party was not the same as was discussed at the level of the presidency.

“From the body language of the president, they believe he does not believe in the exercise. So, since he is the leader of the government and the de-facto leader of the party, I want to know who would implement whichever recommendation they have in mind. And how can you do it by bypassing the head of government and of course the leader of the party?

“The party is taking the country and even their own followers for a ride. And this is a very dangerous development. This is a party that believes that everything else including lives and death can be dealt with as a matter of political expediency, and that I regard as highly cynical and unfortunate, they are not going to do anything, they are going to put the report somewhere to gather dust, and behind Nigerians, they would start laughing. But someday it might come back to haunt them. And of course Buhari is a political illiterate,” he said.

Muhammed continued: “According to INEC, we have the election scheduled for February. So, we have 12 months to the election, I don’t know what magic they can do to launder themselves and win election on the basis of this issue, and since they have woefully failed in terms of the economy, failed in terms of security and the Boko Haram challenge, I don’t know how they can use it to sell themselves to the electorate.

“It is impossible to deliberate on any of the bills relating to restructuring of the country at the National Assembly before the elections. I know for now that the National Assembly has tones of bills, which have not been attended to and there are several others awaiting the signature of the president. Anyway, you can start a process and not see the end of it. I don’t believe they can see the end of the process. I know it is going to fail.”

The ADC chief Nwosu is strongly of the opinion that the “APC is not ready to devolve powers, implement state police or embrace restructuring.”

He said if in three years it failed to achieve any of its promises “what’s the guarantee it will achieve anything again?”

Nwosu, who said the country has had enough of the ruling party in three years, added that there was an underground plot by the party’s leadership to frustrate the ongoing coalition force among the political parties, civil society organisations and other credible bodies across the country that have vowed to push it out of power in 2019, and the el-Rufai committee’s recommendations were part of the agenda. “Nigeria are now wiser,” he said.

UPP’s helmsman, Chief Okorie, told The Guardian on phone that he received the recommendations with a feeling of vindication, “because when we began the campaign for self-determination and referendum, some people laughed at us, saying that what we were saying amounted to subversion or even supporting separatism, or secession.”

The UPP chairman said he was pessimistic about the credibility of the recommendations, especially regarding state police, devolution of powers, resource control among others, stressing, “These were issues the North rejected during the 2014 National Conference.”

Sun, 28 Jan 2018
The influx of thousands of Cameroonians from Southern Cameroon into the country is raising serious humanitarian concerns in Cross River State.
No fewer than 36, 000 refugees are seeking asylum in the state, especially in the Northern Senatorial District, in the wake of the crisis rocking that part of the country.

Food and health crisis is already threatening over 4, 000 refugees and their host communities in Boki Local Council of state, where residents fear that unless urgent steps are taken, Nigeria may witness a huge loss of lives in the affected areas.

When The Guardian visited some of the communities recently, the women and children were looking haggard, malnourished and frustrated.

Recounting their ordeals, they said they were not finding life easy since they became refugees in Bashu Okpambe/Bokim, Bashu Kaku, Abo Bonabe, Obisu, Danare and Okwangwo.

One of the refugees from Kajivo Village in Southwest region of Cameroon, who is taking refuge alongside his family in Bashu Okpambe community, Ojong Steven, said: “I am here with my family of 11 because of the war that happened in Cameroon. The Bashu people are trying their best, but the problem is that, we the Cameroonians are more than the people in the village so we find it difficult to feed and get satisfied.

“At times when they bring food, we normally eat together with our hosts, but the food does not go round. Secondly, I am having issues with my heart and when I was in Cameroon, I used to go for checkup, but now I can’t do that anymore. My children are supposed to go to school, meaning it has affected their education. Two of them were in the university, but now they are all here with me, I don’t know what to do.”

On her part, Mrs. Bamate said, “I have five daughters and they have all stopped going to school. Since I was born, I have never experienced such a thing before. They forced us out of our village and since then we have been staying here. We hardly have food to eat. We sleep on the bare floor coupled with the harsh weather.”

In tears, Magdalene Kekong, who is living in a household with her husband and six children said, “my 18-year-old son is epileptic and needs medical attention.When we were still in our country, I used to take him to the hospital, where he received medical care but since we became refugees here, his situation has become worse because he stopped taking treatment. The worst of it is that the people we are sharing apartment with have threatened to send us parking. I, my husband and six children are all living together in a single room.”

The state government, through the Special Adviser on Aviation Matters, Mr. Amos Kajang, has promised to intervene as quickly as possible to prevent an outbreak of epidemic.

When he visited some of the communities in Boki, Kajang said: “The number that I have come to see is more than what has been reported lately. More than 4, 000 people are here and what I have seen is a direct threat, ecological threat in terms of survival, housing, shelter, health and all related to the livelihoods of the people. I have discovered that in most households, there are about twelve persons in one room and I foresee an outbreak of epidemic if measures are not taken.”

“A few days ago, the state governor had a meeting with the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadiq Abubakar and he raised issues concerning Bashu, Dana and Okwangwo. He also assured the people that he was going to swing into action to ensure that a swift intervention would be taken and we have assured the people that government will not sleep or rest until something is done,” he added.

According to the village head of Bashu Community, Chief Emmanuel Echam, the community is facing a major problem as the refugees are more in number than the members of the community harboring them.

He appealed to the state government to come to their aid as they no longer have where to sleep, food to eat or medication to take.

Sun, 28 Jan 2018
Within 34 years and two months, Samuel Nduka rose from being a primary school teacher to being a headmaster. All through his career, he deeply enjoyed his job of imparting knowledge to young people.

As a student in the early 1950s, he loved the aura that surrounded his school principal, Mr. P. O. Anyamele. Even though he was a simple man, Nduka said Anyamele was a symbol of everything a decent young man would want to be.

Despite being a rural gentleman Anyamele’s love for immaculate white shirts and well-ironed trousers, according to Nduka, made him look urbane. At all times, his diction, gait, polite manners and civility stood him out at all times. All these, in addition to the respect he commanded in the entire community, fetched him mentees from a wide spectrum of locals, both old and young, men and women.

Like the ramrod cane he wielded most times, he detested cutting corners, lukewarm attitude to life, foolery and such unserious attributes.

Infatuated with all what Anyamele represented, Nduka elected to become a teacher at a very tender age. He did, and retired meritoriously in late 1990s.

Seated on a rustic cane chair in one flank of his modest residence, he pondered over when next his meagre pension would hit his account. Every time he does this, torrents of tears cascade down his emaciated cheeks, especially when he recalls the millions of naira that his state assembly legislated to be paid to his former student, who by sheer luck became a state governor.

There is no denying the fact that many welcomed the return of democracy to the country in 1999 with open arms. The democracy did not only come with a gale of fresh air, it also arrived with a cocktail of oddities, including diverse shades of profligacy.

And for nearly 20 years after the return of the most popular form of government to the country, millions of Nigerians are totally disillusioned at the glaring lack of corresponding development in the country, occasioned by the country’s brand of democracy, which has been dubbed as the most expensive in the world, especially in view of its overhead cost.

Increasingly, Nigerians are now seeing the hurriedly assembled pension laws for former ex-governors as one of those licentious avenues through, which government’s resources have been frittered over the years.

Expectedly, the number of aggrieved persons calling for appropriate legal actions to challenge the legality of states’ laws, which permit former governors currently serving as senators and ministers to enjoy serving governors’ emoluments as pensions is swelling correspondingly.

Why this is now sticking out like a sore thumb is because it recently emerged that 21 states have so far spent over N40billion to service the luxurious lifestyles of their former state governors and their deputies.

A good number of these states, where many serving senators and ministers are receiving salaries and life pensions running into billions of naira are currently unwilling or unable to pay workers’ salaries. Consequently, these double emoluments and large severance packages for former governors now serving public officials constitute a blatant betrayal of public trust.

One factor that has made this “unmerited largesse” possible is the proliferation of rubber-stamp Houses of Assemblies in many cash-strapped states. In some of these states, accountability and probity on the part of the executive is non-existent, while opacity reigns supreme as far as financial matters are concerned.

For way too long, the issue of pension laws for former state governors was treated with kid gloves by the society. This perhaps forced the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) to take the bull by the horn by instituting a suit seeking to stop former governors who are serving as senators and ministers from receiving “double pay and life pensions.”

Penultimate Friday, the Federal High Court, Lagos, ruled that SERAP, which filed a separate suit in October 2017, is right to institute the suit seeking the stoppage.

Oluremi Oguntoyinbo, the presiding judge handling the case in her ruling, gave leave to SERAP to compel the Attorney General of the Federation/Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, to challenge states’ laws that allowed the former governors to enjoy such mouthwatering benefits.

Sun, 28 Jan 2018
As a former state governor, what are your views regarding former governors drawing mouthwatering pensions from their states upon the completion of their tenures?
I can only speak for myself, and not for other former governors because I do not know what exactly they earn as pensions and benefits in their respective states.

As a person, the only thing I collect from Ogun State since I left office is N676, 000 monthly. During the era of Governor Gbenga Daniel, he was not even paying. It took the intervention of highly placed traditional rulers and other prominent people to intervene before he made some payments to me. The governor said he thought he would be paying it annually. But my response then was that does a man eat once a year?  The N676, 000 does not even cover the cost of fuelling my car in a month. The tax that I pay to Ogun State yearly is in millions when you look at the balance sheet. I am putting more into the coffer of Ogun State than what I am taking from the state. That is the reason I will only speak for myself. I cannot comment on others unless I have facts and figures indicating what they are collecting with what they are collecting in their various appointive or elective offices now.

For instance, if I am holding any appointive office, I will rather collect all my entitlements because N676, 000 that I am taking from Ogun State cannot sustain me.

But there are states where former governors earn millions in pensions monthly, have their cars changed every three years, when pensioners are dying due to the non-payment of their pensions.      
The issue of changing cars every three years is part of Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) rules and regulations. You would recall that penultimate week, the Federal Government announced that it was going to monetise the cost of purchasing cars for former heads of state and presidents. I also know that the government built one house per former president in a location of their choices. If the issue of car is covered under the law, it is their right and entitlement. Let us be honest with ourselves, in the 1999 constitution, former presidents and governors are not by law allowed to hold any office with any multinational companies.

We are restricted as to what we can do as former public office holders. I therefore would counsel that we should take cases on individual basis. I will give you an example. There was a case of a former governor from the South East whose property were one day thrown out of a house he rented in Abuja. I also know of a former governor in Kogi/Kwara State who died in penury. I know of former governors who barely could afford modern-day furniture when you get to their homes. I would therefore counsel that we should take each of the cases on its merit. These are receipts of the taxes that I pay to both Lagos and Ogun states (displays his tax cards) because I live in both states. I interchange my stay, therefore I pay taxes to the two states.

I would counsel that we look at the issue from the two sides before jumping to conclusion or outright condemnation of what is accruable to ex-governors and presidents.

Would you condemn any former governor that is holding an elective or appointive office and still collects a mindboggling amount as pension from his state?
I will condemn any of the past governors who is collecting an outrageous amount as pension. It is wrong. It is wrong to hang your burden on the neck of the state.

For example, I had major health challenges last year, which led to my travelling to the United Kingdom for medical treatment. Between May and December, I was in and out of different hospitals but I am happy that I had successful surgeries. I do not use recommended glasses anymore, which has been part of me for over 70 years.

I paid a £20, 000 deposit in one of the hospitals and by January 1st this year, I paid the £10, 000 balance for the treatment. The total cost of my treatment was nearly £100, 000 pounds, but I refused to put the burden on the neck of Ogun State.

As a former governor my health is part of their problem and if I die today, the state will bury me. But I just didn’t bother myself. And since the state government did not ask me about the medical procedure, when they knew what I went through, I didn’t bother them with the details.

I have a philosophy that what I cannot afford in my private life I wouldn’t go for it in any public office I find myself.  As a former Managing Director of Daily Times, I was entitled to several benefits including a driver, yet I was driving myself in the evenings. I still do it today.

But some of your colleagues in elective and appointive positions still collect pensions as former governors plus their current salaries. What is your advice to them?
I don’t offer free advice because it is never valuable to the person whom you are offering. If they genuinely seek my opinion, then I can speak to them. Secondly, it is not possible for me to impose my lifestyle on anybody. For example, it is not my ambition to ever want to own an aircraft and it is still not my ambition to live an ostentatious lifestyle. I can always tell people the way I live therefore I won’t give free advice to anybody. What I value most is my peace of mind. I have vowed never to take any appointment that would make me end up going to answer questions before EFCC because a lot of public offices have been criminalised now.

But most state governors that are paying their predecessors in office huge pensions cannot even pay workers’ salaries or pensions to retired civil servants. Is this not deplorable?
Any state that is not paying workers’ salaries, but its past governors are living flamboyantly will earn condemnation. That is not acceptable. For instance, when I became governor in May 1999, civil servants were owed six months salary arrears while local governments staff and teachers were owed nine months. My first year in office was used to settle all the salary arrears that I met on ground, and I can boldly say that most of those that benefited are still alive to bear me witness. Each of the civil servants in Ogun State as at 1999 was collecting double salaries for almost nine months. They were collecting their salary arrears and their salary for the month. I can say that at the rooftop.

If you were in the Senate now, would you still be collecting pension as a former governor?
If I am a minister or a senator, I will collect my entitlements and still collect my N676, 000. When I was governor, I was paying arrears of pensions to pensioners in the state and even to federal government pensioners.

I will give you an example. There was a time that former President Olusegun Obasanjo was attacked on his way and he nearly died. I was one of those who went to meet former President Ibrahim Babangida to complain to him about the plight of a former president. In America their former presidents are fully protected. I collected two cars from the Federal Government and delivered them to Obasanjo. As a former president you need a back-up car and security aides with another car.

Our lives as former governors are endangered because we must have stepped on a lot of toes with the decisions that we took when we were in office. I am therefore not against the regular change of vehicles for ex-governors. It is ostentatious living that I condemn. You can change a car as recommended by the RMAFC, but not a fleet of cars. That is too much. Changing a car once in a while is not too much although I have never benefited from it from Ogun State government.

The only time they changed my car was when I was 70. The Ogun State government since the last 15 years has not given me that privilege. I don’t mind because the way any governor lays his bed today is the way he will sleep on it tomorrow. What they don’t give to me if they leave office and they ask for it, I will raise the alarm. Like my medical treatment. I know how much I have spent but nobody asked me. A lot of prominent Nigerians have asked me to demand it, but I said no. I don’t want anything scandalous.

Sun, 28 Jan 2018
The Co-Founder of BudgIT, Oluseun Onigbinde, described state assemblies as rubber stamps of state governors, who legislate into existence whatever catches the governor's fancy. 

Sun, 28 Jan 2018
The essence of pension is to cater for people who have served meritoriously and to discourage the attitude of people who want to keep things aside for eventualities in case one is out of office and money is no longer available. 

Sun, 28 Jan 2018
Armed bandits suspected to be Fulani herdsmen hacked three elderly men to death at Hukei village in Bassa Local Government Area of Plateau State, last Friday. 

Sun, 28 Jan 2018
Note carefully! Jesus did not come to earth only to show us the way to heaven or to the Father. Jesus Himself is the Way. 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. 

Sun, 28 Jan 2018
To boost teachers' morale and reward loyalty, Mind Builders School, Lagos, has rewarded four of its staff with plots of land in the Mowe area of Ogun State. 

Sun, 28 Jan 2018
Manoeuvres are at fever pitch following the planned home visit of the Senator representing Kano Central Senatorial district, Rabi'u Kwankwaso. Kwankwaso... 

Sun, 28 Jan 2018
The production of jute bags is one of the many untapped prospects of Nigeria to earn foreign exchange yearly, as it is capable of contributing to the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). 

Sun, 28 Jan 2018
TheSupreme Court of Nigeria, last Friday, dismissed an appeal by Gabriel Daudu, a former member of the Kogi State House of Assembly and former caretaker chairman, Ogori/Magongo Local Government Area... 

Sun, 28 Jan 2018
In a 1964 BBC interview, Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock was asked about his style of filmmaking and the introduction of sound (talkies) to the medium... 

Sun, 28 Jan 2018
For Nigeria to attain economic development through agriculture, government needs to empower its citizens through training, to attain food sufficiency in the country. 

Sun, 28 Jan 2018
Both testaments in the Bible contain exciting records of the application and display of the power and character in the name of God. Both Testaments reveal 

Sun, 28 Jan 2018
The management of Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC), yesterday, promised improved service delivery to its customers in Edo, Delta, Ondo and Ekiti States. 
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