The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) arrested 102 suspects for electoral offences nationwide during the National Assembly election.

The INEC boss, Prof. Attahiru Jega, who made this known to journalists yesterday in Abuja, added that the suspects would be prosecuted.

According to the list of electoral offences tabulated on state -by-state basis, the suspects were said to have allegedly been involved in bomb explosion, murder, Boko Haram attack, impersonation and forceful diversion of electoral material.

Other offences for which the suspects  would be arraigned include the unlawful possession of firearms, snatching of ballot boxes and undue influence with money and soliciting for votes.

Although no arrest were made over the bomb explosions on the eve of election and during the election day, INEC said 17 people lost their lives in the Suleja and Maiduguri bomb blasts.

The electoral body added that 27 people died from murder, bomb blast, Boko Haram attack before and during the election day.

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From Azimazi Momoh Jimoh

•  AP alleges smear campaign against Otedola

ARRANGEMENTS have been concluded by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to prosecute 260 persons suspected to be guilty of various offences including insider dealings within the troubled Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE).
SEC’s Director-General, Arunma Oteh, at a meeting with the House of Representatives’ Committee on Capital Market at the National Assembly on Tuesday declared that the commission had carried out a thorough investigation on complaints it received from many Nigerians about the activities of some persons alleged to have contributed to the crisis in the NSE.
She said: “We have also been working very hard on some of the complaints that ordinary investors have shared with us as to some of the things that happen in our market. As a result of that, we are going to take about 260 individuals and entities to the Investment and Securities Tribunal for different types of allegations of share price manipulation and insider dealings.”
Meanwhile, the management of African Petroleum Plc (AP) has alleged that a malicious campaign was being waged against the oil company and its chairman, Mr. Femi Otedola, by a suspended director of the firm who was brought on board by shareholders.
Oteh who briefed the House Committee on the damage which the crisis in the NSE had caused to investors and the Nigerian economy, said: “Like you know, our call and mandate is to protect public interest and to protect the investor, particularly what I will consider the voiceless masses of people who have seen the market in our country over the last three years as an opportunity for them to participate in developing our economy, to create wealth for themselves, whether they be local investors or international investors. As honourable members, you would recollect that at the peak of our stock market, the valuation of our stock market was over N12 trillion. But  in March, 2009, there was an unprecedented crash in our stock market which made the market reached a bottom of N5.5 trillion.
“A lot of average Nigerians were severely affected by this crash because over the last few years, a number of ordinary citizens of our country have invested in our market, but today, more than seven million investors who invested in the market directly were affected by the crash. Therefore, we have seen since this unprecedented crash the fragility in investors’ confidence.”
Oteh enumerated the measures which SEC had taken to resolve the issues that caused the crash saying: “As a result, since the crash, the SEC has spoken on how to enhance its own capacity to regulate the market; has tried to focus on addressing the issues that led to the crash, some of which relate to the global financial crisis, some which relate to market integrity issues in our market.”
Still trying to convince the committee on the need to prosecute those found to have acted against the smooth operations of the NSE, Oteh decalared: “There have been allegations of insider dealings, of share price manipulations, of weakness in enforcement of excessive risk taking and notably, the fact that there have been a lot of marginal loans that were taken both by institution investors and by retail investors with no adequate guidelines.
“As regulators, we have also looked at the things that we haven’t done over the last few years that impacted on the market and led to, or accelerated the crash. We feel that there haven’t been sufficient coordination amongst regulators, and I believe last year, both the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank have put in place, measures to try and enhance this coordination, and we at the SEC have been actively participating in this respect.”
According to her, guidelines had been developed to improve on the situation in the NSE.
Her words: “The SEC and the CBN are working very closely together to develop guidelines that would ensure that the kind of excessive risk taking and the margin lending that we saw in our market don’t happen again, and we hope that very soon, we can publish those guidelines because we have had the opportunity of having the capital market operators review these guidelines, made comments on them; we had experts from outside and from other jurisdictions looked at the guidelines. We had those guidelines approved by the Minister of Finance as is statutorily required”.
On the remote causes of the crash in the NSE, Oteh said: “We had a market that was not as deep, or as broad as it should be. Because breadth and depth help to immunize the market against crises. What is important is to have a market that is deep and broad such that it doesn’t have that kind of impact that it have had on our economy.
“So, some of the things we are doing are to try and help the market not just to be dependent on equities, but to build a very strong system. In that respect, the Federal Government has taken the lead in developing a world class sovereign bond market under the auspices of the Debt Management Office with the guidance of the Ministry of Finance, because the sovereign bond market provides the benchmark which is the basis for state governments’ bonds or for corporate bonds to be priced.
“What we have seen also was that because of the commitment of the President to developing this market, recently, he approved some waivers which have allowed us to take away the discrimination that we have seen in the past where corporate bonds and state bonds were not as attractive as sovereign bond. This has allowed corporate bonds and state bonds to become at least 300 points cheaper than they would have been in the past. We believe this will help build a truly sustainable bond market, which will enable us to address some of the challenges that our country faces in terms of infrastructure, in terms of companies being able to raise money to be able to address some of the immediate needs, rather than waiting to raise equity in order to address those needs.”

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By: Habeeb Pindiga & Muideen Olaniyi

The National Caucus of the PDP rose from a meeting early morning yesterday rejecting moves to initiate a process for the removal of provisions on zoning and rotation from the party’s constitution.

But the caucus agreed that President Goodluck Jonathan was free to stand for elections in 2011.At a meeting held at the State House in Abuja, members of the caucus refused to accept plans to include among the proposed constitution changes a proposal for the deletion of section 7.2 (c) which provides that the party should zone and rotate political offices in the interest of peace and unity of the country.

Although no official statement was issued at the end of the meeting, senior party officials who attended the meeting told Daily Trust that there were heated debates over whether the president should be allowed to stand for election in the light of the party’s rules that zone the presidency to the North.

Supporters of the president said since the major inhibition for Jonathan’s ambition is the party rules, the constitutional provision should be deleted during the forthcoming convention.

But pro-zoning party leaders rejected this, saying it would create crisis that the party would not be able to manage.

Some party leaders suggested that given that the Federal constitution gives the president the right to stand for election, there was no point changing provisions of the PDP constitution. They also argued that in 2002 and 2006, politicians from sections of the country other than where the presidency was zoned to did contest the primaries regardless of the zoning arrangement.

The meeting rose at about 2am affirming the president’s right to stand but also rejecting moves to delete the zoning and power rotation clause from the constitution of the People’s Democratic Party.

The caucus also agreed that the party should spearhead wider consultations with the board of trustees and the national executive committee of the party over the contentious power rotation issue. It also mandated the party’s leadership to initiate dialogue with the top party leaders from both sides of the zoning debate.

The meeting was chaired by national chairman Okwesilieze Nwodo. Those who attended include President Jonathan, Senate President David Mark and other principal officers of the National Assembly, as well as members of the National Working Committee of the party. Former president Olusegun Obasanjo did not attend even though he is a member of the caucus.

Obasanjo was billed to chair the BOT meeting last night, to continue with deliberations over the power rotation issue.

Also at the caucus meeting, supporters of the president raised issues with the new state-by-state presidential primaries style contained in the Electoral Act as passed by the National Assembly. They urged that this should be removed from the bill before the presidential assent. But Mark told the agitators that it was too late to make such changes to the bill, but added that even after presidential assent, amendments could be proposed.

The caucus is an advisory body for the party and its decisions would only be enforceable after ratification by the national executive committee.

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By: Hassan Ibrahim, Uchechukwu Olisah, Jackson Udom and Leon Usigbe

•  South-South stakeholders woo North over Jonathan
•  Abrogating aspirants’ rights can cause problem – Marwa

THE Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), on Tuesday, resolved that all political parties should endeavour to field northern candidates for the 2011 presidential election.

ACF said this in a communiqué issued  after its emergency joint meeting chaired by its Board of Trustees chairman, General Jeremiah Useni, adding that fielding northern presidential candidates in the 2011 election by all political parties was very important and necessary in order to ensure the principle of federal character, which, it claimed, had become part and parcel of the Nigerian political culture.

The forum urged all political parties and public organisations to continue to uphold the practice of zoning in the interest of social justice, equity, fairness and stability of a united Nigeria.

“The meeting also commended the government for appointing credible persons, including Professor Attahiru Jega, at the helm of affairs of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and urged the government to provide the INEC with all the necessary support for the 2011 elections,” they said.

Meanwhile, hundreds of youths carrying various placards converged on the ACF secretariat in Kaduna, where they told the Arewa chieftains that zoning must be retained by the PDP, while President Jonathan should not contest in 2011.

The youth, said to be mobilised by supporters of  former head of state, General Ibrahim Babangida and former Vice-President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, under the aegis of Arewa Citizens Action for Change, said their position on the political future of the North was that zoning must be retained.

The leader of the youth, Alhaji Nastura Shariff, said “much as we know that the ACF will not sacrifice the wishes of millions of people in the region, we hope that today will mark an important day in the political history of the North, where ACF shall tell the truth as it is.

“We must state that we will not accept any deliberate move to shut the door of the presidency, just when it is our turn. The North had not even had one term yet.”

However, leaders of the PDP and stakeholders in the South-South geopolitical zone of the country have expressed their readiness to woo their northern counterparts for the emergence of Jonathan as president in 2011.

The leaders and stakeholders said their move was emanated from the belief of the pro-North elements that the interest of the area would better be served with a president from the South-South geopolitical zone.

Coordinator of the Edo State chapter of the Rebuild Nigeria Initiative and a member of the Goodluck Support Group, Chief Ewie Aimienwauu, made this known while addressing journalists in Benin City, on Tuesday.

According to him, now was the time for the South-South to leverage on its familiarity and friendship with the North, so as to secure the ticket for President Jonathan in 2011.

Aimienwauu said the issues of the minority and political hegemony at Nigeria’s independence had not been well articulated by the leaders, particularly as they affected the interest of the South-South in the country’s quest for the position of the presidency.

“The second point is the issue of North/South dichotomy. As a South-South leader, it behoves on us to go to the North and woo them to support us. There is no automatic ticket for anybody. All of these talks about zoning or no zoning presumes that PDP will win the presidency.

“I am a PDP leader and I believe that the PDP will win the presidency but be that as it may, whoever wants to emerge as the presidential candidate of the party must go through the hurdle of the primaries. So it behoves all of us now, as South-South leaders, as those people who are championing Jonathan, to go to our brothers and sisters in the North and say to them that they should support us,” he said.

In a related development, secretary of the former Deputy Governors’ Forum of Nigeria (DGFN), Mr Christopher Ekpenyong, has called on the North and its leaders to see the Jonathan presidency as “an avenue to reciprocate the age-long support the zone had been giving the North since independent and rally round the candidature of the president.”

Ekpenyong, a former deputy governor of Akwa Ibom State, said this while addressing journalists on the state of the nation.

According to him, “while one should not rejoice over the untimely death of former President Umaru Yar’Adua, it is, however, imperative at this point to remind the North of the age-long political support it had enjoyed from the South-South zone and rise in support of the calls from within and outside the country that the son of the zone be allowed to govern the country, even beyond 2015.”

He noted that “it is even unfair to the South-South zone which produces the wealth of the country, for some people, particularly in the North, to say that even if they will support the South-South, it has to be for a term of four years, after which power will return to the North. It is unfair and unacceptable.”

Speaking further, the former deputy governor, who is aspiring for the Senate in 2011, reminded those holding the views that the president should spend only four years that “ let us not forget that the South-West, with Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, spent eight years, and, if by providence, the office has been zoned to the South-South, it would be morally right to allow the zone to rule for eight years before power goes to the North, and that is why I keep saying that Jonathan’s eight years is non-negotiable in the spirit of equality, fairness and justice.”

He lauded the president on his policy on power, which, he said, was the fulcrum of the nation’s development.

“Let me say that I am very pleased with the declaration of the president on power deregulation. I think with this policy, power will be made available to the people within the shortest possible time.

“The president should also ensure that people who are qualified are made members of the National Economic Council, so that our dream of being one of the world’s most developed economies in 2020 is achieved soonest,” he said.

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By:  Johnchuks Onuanyim  & Godwin Isenyo

• ACF insists on 2011

FRONTLINE politicians from the North and South-East yesterday took a stand in support of the controversial presidential zoning arrangement in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The decision that presidential power must be retained in the North until 2015 was reached after four hours of closed door meeting in Abuja.

The meeting attracted many Igbo PDP politicians and their counterparts from the North.

Before now, the South-East governors, on behalf of the Igbo people, had backed Dr. Goodluck Jonathan for the 2011 presidency.

But yesterday, the Igbo politicians, including former Senate President, Dr. Ken Nnamani said “in the best interest of this country, power must be retained in the North till 2015”.

Other notable Igbo politicians at the meeting were former Anambra State governor, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Senators Ben Obi, Jim Nwobodo, Sylvanus Ngele, Uche Chukwumerije and Fidelis Okoro.

Other Igbo representatives are Prof. A.B.C. Nwosu, Elder Ken Emechebe, Agunwa Anaekwe, Dr. Sam Egwu, Chief Achike Udenwa, and Brandy Nwosu.

The Northerners are Adamu Ciroma, Bashir Yusuf Ibrahim, Major-General David Jemibewon (rtd), Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, Senator Salisu Mantori, Ciroma Keffi, Senator Daniel Saror, Prof. Isa Mohammed, Shetimma Mustapha, Lawal Bata Gara, Mohammed Gambo Jimeta, Prof Ango Abdullahi, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, AVM Hamza Abdullahi (rtd), General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd), Abubakar Madi, Fatima Bala, Shaba Lafiaji, and Senator Jubril Aminu

In the communique of the group read by their representatives, Bashiru Yusuf Ibrahim, the Secretary Northern Elders Forum, and Chyna Iwuanyanwu, the Secretary, South-East Consultative Forum, the group resolved that zoning and rotation “is in the best interest of Nigeria at this time and it is sacrosanct to the unity of Nigeria”.

“The South-East supports the North totally and completely to complete the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s term.

“The North and the South-East have resolved to work together for South-East to take the presidency in 2015”.

Also at the same venue yesterday, 30 Northern Senators met after the meeting of the North-South East group.

Although they did not brief the press or respond to questions, a reliable source told the Nigerian Compass that their meeting centred on zoning as well.

Among the Senators were Smart Adeyemi, Kanti Bello and Grace Folashade Bent.

In Kaduna yesterday, Northern youths almost disrupted the meeting of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the Arewa Consultative Forum(ACF) that would have deliberated on the contentious zoning formula of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The youth, from various organisations, were opposed to those against zoning. They vowed to deal decisively with any anti-zoning element in the region.

In their thousands, they carried placards with various inscriptions, arguing that the presidency must be retained in the North for the 2011 election..

Notwithstanding, the ACF meeting went on with a resolution that all the political parties must field Northern presidential candidates next year.

In fact, a pro-Jonathan politician was beaten mercilessly. He was later smuggled out of the venue of the meeting at the ACF Secretariat, Sokoto Road in the metropolis.

In a position paper presented to the ACF by the youth under the aegis of the Arewa Citizens Action for Change, the youth said that as far as they were concerned, they are for zoning.

The position paper signed by the leader of the group, Alhaji Nastura Shariff, reads: “We wish to humbly re-state our position on the political future of the North in the context of the issue of zoning of the Presidency to the region in 2011.

“As you may recall, we made a similar submission to the ACF on the eve of the Northern Governors Forum (NGF) meeting. Today, as we have been doing in the last five months, we wish to emphasise that our position remains the same.

“We must state that we the youth of the North will not accept any deliberate move to shut the door of the presidency just when it is our turn. The North has not even had one term yet.

“Series of rallies by our coalition have taken place in all of the 19 Northern states in the last three months. This is a pointer to the fact that any attempt to discard zoning is potentially dangerous for national stability, with dire consequences to our democracy.

“We wish to hereby remind the ACF that they too have a responsibility to promote the interest of the good people of the North, by ensuring that the zoning agreement is honoured, so that the North would feel a sense of belonging.”

However, amid tight security, the ACF still held their closed-door meeting with a resolution that all political parties in the country should field Northern candidates for the presidency in 2011.

Rising from the well-attended gathering, the ACF, in the communiqué signed by its Publicity Secretary, Anthony Sani, said: “All political parties and public organisations should continue to uphold the practice of zoning in the interest of social justice, equity, fairness and stability of a united Nigeria”.

“This is very important and necessary in order to ensure the principle of federal character, which has become part and parcel of our political culture.

“The meeting also commended the government for appointing credible persons, such as Professor Attahiru Jega, at the helms of affairs of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). These have gone in no small measure to rekindle the hope and confidence of Nigerians in INEC’s capacity to conduct a free and fair election.

“Furthermore, the meeting urged the government to provide INEC with all the necessary support for the 2011 elections.”

At the meeting were Brigadier-General Halilu Akilu (rtd), former governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Lawal Kaita, former governor of Katsina State, Alhaji Saidu Barda, former military administrator of Kaduna State, Major-General Bagudu Mamman (rtd), former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Jos, Prof. Para Mallum, Alhaji Abu Gidado, Lt-General Mohammed Wushishi (rtd) and Alhaji Magaji Danbata, among others.

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Ceremonies for the burial of Nigeria’s late president, Umaru Yar’ Adua is still on-going in his hometown of Katsina, Northwestern Nigeria with thousands of mourners, and local and international dignitaries in attendance.

The event has witnessed evocative readings from the Holy Koran and praises for the departed leader who died on Wednesday. Most offices, businesses and shops were closed in honour of the deceased and roads in the city were overwhelmed by traffic.

His remains had earlier been taken from the State House, Abuja at 11.02a.m to the airport, wrapped in the Nigerian Flag and conveyed by a State House Ambulance Registration Number 572.

Late Yar’Adua’s wife, Turai and her children accompanied the body. Also on the trip were the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, who is leading the federal government delegation, and the governors of Kwara, Bukola Saraki; Benue, Gabriel Suswam and Bauchi, Isa Yuguda.

The military aircraft which carried the body of the late president left Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja at about 12:30p.m. The body was received in Katsina by hundreds of relatives, associates and indigenes.

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Written by Mahmud Jega:

President Umaru Musa Yar’adua’s long battle with chronic kidney and heart disease ended last night when he died inside the Presidential Villa in Abuja. He will be buried at his family home in Katsina at 1 o’clock this afternoon. Very few details were available last night, but Daily Trust learnt that Yar’adua’s health began to deteriorate yesterday, and some staff members said his condition was “going up and down” throughout yesterday. Only a few family members and the late president’s closest aides were at hand as his personal physician and Saudi Arabian doctors battled to save Yar’adua’s life. He died around 9pm.

Late last night, the Federal Government confirmed in a statement that Yar’adua had died. The statement by Acting President Goodluck Jonathan’s spokesman Ima Niboro announced that the burial will take place at Katsina at 2 o’clock this afternoon. The government declared today a public holiday in honour of the departed president and also declared 7 days of national mourning.

Since his controversial secret return to the country last February, the late president had been kept away from public view inside the Presidential Villa in Abuja. Although his family members and close aides generally said his health was improving since he returned to the country, he occasionally suffered a relapse. Two weeks ago, his wife Hajia Turai told friends who visited her that she was “full of worry” for her husband’s health. She said the biggest problem was his inability to speak, due to a device inserted into his throat by the Saudi Arabian doctors during his 93-day hospitalisation in Jeddah.

According to the now widowed First Lady, the main reason why the family held Yar’adua out of public view was because his doctors dictated for him a very light dress so that he would receive maximum ventilation. She reportedly said it was not possible for him to appear in public in that very light dress.

The president’s tragic passing and a tenure dogged by illness will be formally closed this afternoon when he is buried in Katsina. Yar’adua was the Mutawallen Katsina and was for 8 years the governor of Katsina State. It will be completed with the formal swearing-in of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, who will make the transition from Acting President to substantive President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.

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