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Southern Governors No Longer Ready to Play Second Fiddle



By Eric Elezuo

The 1th of May 2021 marked a new beginning in the annals of Nigeria’s politics. On that day, the combined forces of governors that make up southern Nigeria gathered in Asaba, Delta State, ostensibly to take their future into their own hands. The 17 governors of the three regions that make up southern Nigeria has independently agreed that the issue of neglect, nepotism, killings and general insecurity ravaging the regions, and orchestrated by the dreaded Fulani herdsmen was getting out of hand. They also came to terms albeit individually that the Commander in Chief, President Muhammadu Buhari was treating the matters with kid’s gloves thereby feathering the nest of the killer herders and causing the people to live in perpetual fear.

Consequently, the Asaba retreat, hosted by the Governor of Delta State, Ifeanyi Okowa, brought the governors together, with the singular objective of speaking as one voice and taking concrete steps to addressing the issues that have so far polarised the country, majorly among them a stand on open grazing and lopsided appointments, particularly that of heads of security agencies, which in their thinking, did not reflect federal character.

At the end of proceedings, the governors, without losing sight at the unity of the country, agreed collectively that time has come to stop playing second fiddle in the scheme of things, and play more active role at least in the interest of the people who elected them. As a result, they Nigerian resolved as part of 12 other resolutions, to ban open grazing of cattle in their states.

It would be recalled that open grazing of cattle has caused fatal conflicts between host communities and migrant herdsmen, resulting in several deaths in many states including Enugu, Ebonyi, Ondo, Oyo and others. The case is even more prevalent in North central states like Benue, Plateau and Taraba states.

Not only that, most of the herdsmen have also been accused of committing other criminal acts, including armed robbery, high profile kidnappings and murder.

When the forum met in May, 15 out of 17 governors were in attendance. They were Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Nyesom Wike (Rivers), Godwin Obaseki (Edo), Dapo Abiodun (Ogun), Seyi Makinde (Oyo), and Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos).

Others were Douye Diri (Bayelsa), Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia), Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu), Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), David Umahi (Ebonyi), Willie Obiano (Anambra).

Imo and Akwa Ibom States were represented by their deputy governors, at the meeting while governors of Osun and Cross Rivers States were absent.

Another weighty demand made by the governors was a call on President Buhari to “convoke a national dialogue as a matter of urgency.” This, to many observers, is believed to be an avenue to usher in a much needed debate to determine the indivisibility of Nigeria or otherwise in the wake of separatist groups clamouring for separation from the country, in addition to urging Buhari to “address Nigerians on the challenges of insecurity…”

In totality, the governors made the following recommendations:

i) Affirmed that the peoples of Southern Nigeria remain committed to the unity of Nigeria on the basis of justice, fairness, equity and oneness and peaceful co-existence between and among its peoples with a focus on the attainment of shared goals for economic development and prosperity;

ii) Observed that the incursion of armed herders, criminals and bandits into the Southern part of the country has presented a severe security challenge such that citizens are not able to live their normal lives including pursuing various productive activities leading to a threat to food supply and general security.

Consequently, the meeting resolved that open grazing of cattle be banned across Southern Nigeria;

iii) Noted that development and population growth has put pressure on available land and increased the prospects of conflict between migrating herders and local populations in the South. Given this scenario, it becomes imperative to enforce the ban on open grazing in the South (including cattle movement to the South by foot);

iv) Recommended that the Federal Government should support WILLING States to develop alternative and modern livestock management systems; agreed that the progress of the nation requires that urgent and bold steps be taken to restructure the Nigerian Federation leading to the evolution of state police, review of revenue allocation formula in favour of the sub-national governments and creation of other institutions which legitimately advance our commitment to and practice of true federalism;

vi) Recommended that in view of widespread agitations among our various peoples for greater inclusiveness in existing governance arrangements, the Federal Government should convoke a national dialogue as a matter of urgency;

vii) Recommended that in deference to the sensitivities of our various peoples, there is need to review appointments into Federal Government Agencies (including Security Agencies) to reflect federal character as Nigeria’s overall population is heterogenous;

viii) Resolved to foster cooperation among the Southern States and the nation at large

ix) Expressed concern on the continued gridlock on the Oshodi Apapa Expressway and the chokehold it has exerted on the nation’s economy being the sole outlet from Apapa Wharf. The meeting therefore recommended the activation and establishment of ports in other States of the federation to create new jobs and promote socio-economic activities in the country;

x) The meeting expressed concern the economic implications of another lockdown on the country, and therefore suggested greater coordination and cooperation between Federal and State Governments in evolving strategies for dealing with the pandemic

xi) Expressed very grave concern on the security challenge currently plaguing the nation and strongly urged that Mr. President should address Nigerians on the challenges of insecurity and restore the confidence of our people

The 12th agenda in the list of recommendations was a note of gratitude to Governor Okowa for hosting the gathering.

The major take from the event was the unequivocal refusal of open grazing, thereby banning it in all southern states.

The decisions, however, instead of uniting the country, further polarised it. While many hailed the decisions of the governors, especially those from the south, some others condemned both the governors and the decisions. Most of those that frowned at it were from the North and members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

Among notable voices that condemned the southern governors were the Presidency, which spoke thorugh media aide, Garba Shehu, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General. Abubakar Malami, the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan and many other individuals and groups.

A part of the Garba Shehu’s statement read:

“It is very clear that there was no solution offered from their resolutions to the herder-farmer clashes that have been continuing in our country for generations.

“But the citizens of the southern states – indeed citizens of all states of Nigeria – have a right to expect their elected leaders and representatives to find answers to challenges of governance and rights, and not to wash their hands off hard choices by, instead, issuing bans that say: “not in my state.”

“It is equally true that their announcement is of questionable legality, given the Constitutional right of all Nigerians to enjoy the same rights and freedoms within every one of our 36 states (and FCT) -regardless of the state of their birth or residence.”

Undeterred and emboldened by their May 11 declaration in Asaba Delta State, the 17 Southern governors again converged on Lagos on July 5 to ratify the decisions just as critical stakeholders were beginning to think that the meeting was a “mere gathering” where empty threats or resolutions are made. The meeting was hosted by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu at the State House, Ikeja.

With a determined resolve to get out of the second fiddle class, the Southern Governors Forum at the end of the meeting reviewed the situation in the Country with a focus on the current security situation, constitutional amendment, Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).

They agreed on the following:

1. Re-affirmed their commitment to the unity of Nigeria on the pillars of equity, fairness, justice, progress, and peaceful co-existence between and amongst its people.

2. The Forum reiterates its commitment to the politics of equity, fairness and unanimously agrees that the presidency of Nigeria be rotated between Southern and Northern Nigeria and resolved that the next president of Nigeria should emerge from the Southern Region.

3. Security
a. The Forum reviewed the security situation in the country and commends security operatives for their relentless efforts in restoring security and safety and commiserates with families and loved ones of those who have fallen in the line of duty;
b. Re-emphasised the need for State Police;

c. Resolved that if for any reason security institutions need to undertake an operation in any State, the Chief Security Officer of the State must be duly informed;
d. The forum frowns at selective criminal administration of Justice and resolved that arrests should be made within the ambit of the Law and fundamental human rights;
e. Set a timeline of Wednesday, 1st September, 2021 for the promulgation of the anti open grazing law in all member States; and
f. Resolved that Funds deducted from the Federation Account for the Nigeria Police Security Trust Fund should be distributed among the States and Federal Government to combat security challenges.

4. Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) Law:
i. The Forum commends the National Assembly for the progress made in the passage of the PIB;
ii. The Forum rejects the proposed 3% and support the 5% share of the oil revenue to the host community as recommended by the House of Representatives;
iii. The forum also rejects the proposed 30% share of profit for the exploration of oil and gas in the basins;
iv. However, the forum rejects the ownership structure of the proposed Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC). The Forum disagrees that the company be vested in the Federal Ministry of Finance but should be held in trust by Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) since all tiers of Government have stakes in that vehicle.

5. In order to consolidate our democracy and strengthen the Electoral process, the Southern Governors’ Forum reject the removal of the Electronic transmission of the election result from the electoral act; and also rejects the confirmation of exclusive jurisdiction in pre-election matters on the Federal High Court.

6. The Forum unanimously chose Lagos State as its permanent secretariat and appreciated the Governor of Lagos State for the wonderful hosting of this meeting while commending him for his good work in the State.

The second leg of the gathering received commendations from stakeholders among them, according to Guardian reports, were former Chief of Defence Staff, General Alani Akinrinade (rtd), General Secretary, National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), Mr. Ayo Opadokun and spokesman, Middle Belt Forum, Dr Isuwa Dogo. They hailed the governors’ determination to meet and take a stand, especially at this uncertain period, while tasking them to go beyond making resolutions.

They also said the governors should deploy better strategies by involving their representatives in the National Assembly, engage the State Houses of Assembly and also seek collaborations of socio-cultural and political organisations, to get their aim and objectives achieved.

Akinrinade, for one, commended the forum for having the courage to reconvene, noting that the present challenges confronting Nigeria would linger till the next century “except something urgent is done. He urged them to “remain resolute in the demand for restructuring.”

He called on the Forum to go a step further and impress it upon the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila and all other southern legislators to kickstart the debate on how to restructure the country.

But The Boss has learnt that northern lawmakers are keeping tabs Gbajabiamila and may initiate an impeachment motion against him if he tries anything they perceive to be against the interest of their region.

In their separate views, Dogo and Opadokun said the governors should deploy tactical strategies to get their demands achieved while persuading the National Assembly and their various States Assembly to implement and recognise the resolutions of the 2014 National Conference.

“If they are serious, they can also get support from States like Adamawa, Plateau, Taraba, Southern Kaduna, Sokoto, Kwara and Kogi. They should mobilise all the socio-political and cultural bodies to support restructuring and how to implement the conference report. By the time they do this, President Buhari will have no choice than to adhere to their demands.”

Meanwhile northern caucus as a forum and has individuals have come down hard on the southern governors for their calls on ban on open grazing, restructuring, the need for southern president come 2023 and many more, dismissing them as selfless lots, who do not care of matters of national interest but more preoccupied with regional politics.

But more attacks trailed the governors declarations. The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) rejected the position of the forum that the South should produce the President come 2023, saying it would not be compelled into yielding a democratically elected office.

The forum’s Director of Publicity and Advocacy, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, observed that as far as the North was concerned, the idea that it would be indirectly threatened or intimidated or blackmailed into yielding an office which ought to be settled democratically is not acceptable.

“We are running a democratic government and decisions over where the next president comes from are basically decisions that will be made by voters exercising their rights to choose which candidate best serves their interest.”

He stressed that the democratic rights of Nigerian citizens to vote for a candidate cannot be snatched by threats or intimidation, adding that politicians were becoming very lazy to think they will be given leadership in a manner that suggests an ultimatum.

The southern has already penciled September 1 as the deadline for the promulgation of the law on ban on open grazing in all concerned states. As at press time, Ogun State has become the first of the states to enact the law. It therefore, remains to be seen the efforts that would be put in place to ensure that the presidency comes down south in 2023.

But for now, it is obvious that the southern governors are done with playing second fiddle!

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Fuel Subsidy Removal: FG, Labour Meeting Ends in Deadlock




Talks between the Federal Government and organised labour over the removal of fuel subsidy ended in a deadlock on Wednesday as they failed to reach a consensus following the hike in petrol pump prices to over N700 from N195 per litre by oil marketers.

The hours-long meeting which was held at the Presidential Villa was to, among other things, prevent a labour crisis following the recent increase in the petrol pump price occasioned by the discontinuance of petroleum subsidy.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited said it had adjusted the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit to reflect the market realities. The agency, however, failed to state the new prices of petrol.

However, several retails outlets sold the product between 600 and N800 in Lagos, Abuja , Ogun and some other states.

The National Public Relations Officer, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Chief Chinedu Ukadike, pointed out that the hike in the cost of PMS would trigger galloping inflation in the country, stressing that some outlets in the South-East were currently dispensing the product at N1,200/l.

Ukadike stated, “Once NNPCL retail stations have adjusted their pumps to reflect the new price, there is nothing you can do about it; that is the new price. As I speak with you, all of them are now selling at the new prices. The situation is so bad, that somewhere in Ebonyi State our members informed us that it is now N1,200/litre.

“We thought the President would remove the subsidy through a seamless means because the source of this petrol is the NNPCL. They are the ones subsidising petroleum products, they are the people who use their revenue to subsidise this product.’’

The IPMAN spokesperson expressed worry over the rate of increase in inflation and hardship that would come as a result of the latest hike in petrol price.

“This hike in petrol price will definitely lead to galloping inflation and will worsen the hardship already being faced by the Nigerian masses. It is not something to cheer about. It came as a surprise and in the coming days, we will see the very harsh ripple effects,” he stated.

Meanwhile, Ukadike has called on the Federal Government and the NNPCL to give other marketers the opportunity to start importing petrol in order to create competition in the sector.

“The NNPCL is importing and has not given people the opportunity to join them in importing so as to see whether private sector operators can import the product cheaper or not. So there is no competition. In a deregulated regime, there must be competition, everyone with capacity should be allowed to import,” the IPMAN official stated.

When asked whether other marketers could resume imports since the government had finally deregulated petrol prices, Ukadike replied, “Marketers can import, but let me tell you some of the factors militating against this. The first is that there won’t be availability of dollars.

“You will source your dollar from the parallel market and if you are not careful in doing this, and you go into the importation of petroleum products, you might not ‘come out of it alive’ at the end of the day.

“So what we are saying is that those advantages that NNPCL has, should be shared with other major importers of petroleum products. If it is through crude buy-back, they should let us know so that independent players such as IPMAN members can come together and be able to use it in the buy-back model.’’

He added, “For independent marketers, the most important thing is that there should be availability of petroleum products, and the government should open up the space for importers and investors to come in.”

NNPCL, the sole importer of petrol into Nigeria for several years running, confirmed the hike in petrol price in a statement and a new pricing template released to marketers nationwide.

But the move has sparked a groundswell of anger across the nation with the Nigeria Labour Congress demanding an immediate reversal of the decision.

The union also said it would hold an emergency meeting on Friday on the fuel price increase which had triggered hoarding and scarcity across the country with attendant rise in transport fares, goods and services.

The fuel price hike by the oil firm is coming 72 hours after President Bola Tinubu declared in his inaugural address on Monday that the subsidy regime had ended.

To pacify the growing anger over the situation, the FG hastily summoned some labour leaders to a meeting at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Wednesday evening.

The meeting had in attendance the NLC President, Joe Ajaero and his Trade Union Congress counterpart, Festus Osifo, former NLC President and immediate past governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole, Permanent Secretary, State House, Tijjani Umar, Head of Service of the Federation, Dr Folashade Yemi-Esan, Group Chief Executive Officer of the NNPCL, Mele Kyari, and others, however, ended in a deadlock as the labour and government teams failed to reach a consensus.

Speaking at the end of the meeting, Joe Ajaero, said “As far as labour is concerned, we didn’t have a consensus in this meeting.”

He faulted the NNPCL over an official release published hours earlier reviewing the petrol pump price in its filling stations nationwide.

He said the move puts the labour unions in a difficult position on the negational table.

“That’s the principle of negotiation. You don’t put the partner, ask them to negotiate under gunpoint. The prayer of the NLC is that we go back to the status quo, negotiate, think of alternatives and all the effects and how to manage the effects this action is going to have on the people. If it is an action that must take off.

“The subsidy provision has been made up to the end of June. And before then, conscious people, labour management, and the government should be able to think of what will happen at the end of June. You don’t start it before the time,” Ajaero said.

The Punch

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Breaking: Founder, DAAR Communications, Raymond Dokpesi is Dead




By Eric Elezuo

The Founder of DAAR Communications, owners of the foremost radio and television stations in Nigeria, Raypower and African Independent Television (AIT), High Chief Raymond Dokpesi, is dead.

Reliable sources said the High Chief died while exercising on a treadmill on Monday afternoon.

The source said Dopkesi suffered a stroke some weeks ago.

Details soon…

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I Stand on Rule of Law, with Our Candidate, Atiku Abubakar, PDP, Says Dele Momodu




By Eric Elezuo

Frontline journalist and Director of Strategic Communications of the Atiku/Okowa Presidential Council in the just concluded Presidential election, Chief Dele Momodu, had said that he remains a loyal member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and will always stand on the side of rule of law, and with the party’s presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.

Momodu made the revelations in a statement he signed himself, noting that the last election, which brought Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to power, was savagely manipulated by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

He praised the steps Atiku, and the presidential candidate of the Labour candidate, Mr. Peter Obi, have taken in seeking legal redress.

The statement in details:


My position on the state of our country NIGERIA is simple and straightforward. I’m a loyal member of PDP who owes absolute allegiance to Nigeria and its Rule of Law. My political party PDP and others passionately hold the view that the last Presidential election was savagely manipulated by the ruling party APC and the cases are already in courts. Nothing will make me abandon my party on the altar of convenience and profit. Win or lose, I will continue to stand on this principle without any malice or prejudice against those who think otherwise. Democracy is a game of choice and I’m resolutely standing by our candidate, the former Vice President ALHAJI ATIKU ABUBAKAR (GCON) who has taken the honorable and peaceful step of going to court to seek redress. This is the only way we can deepen our hard earned Democracy. Sacrifice is not always convenient but painful.

I salute and respect The Wazirin Adamawa and others like my dear friend and Brother, former Governor Peter Obi, the Labor Party Presidential candidate, for promoting the best tenets of Democracy in Nigeria and I’m willing to encourage them rather than discourage their onerous quests…


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