Section 144 of the 1999 Constitution is proving difficult to amend. The Section vests in the Executive Council of the Federation (EXCOF) the power to initiate the process of removing a President from office on the ground of permanent incapacitation.

But moves by the House of Representatives to amend the controversial section through an amendment bill sponsored by Action Congress Leader and Minority Whip Femi Gbajabiamila collapsed like a pack of cards yesterday.

And all that was amidst a rowdy session.
The bill seeks to transfer the power given to EXCOF in the constitution to the National Assembly but a majority of the House members voted in favour of maintaining the status quo, claiming it was to protect the principle of separation of powers.
Meanwhile, in the Senate, many senators, apparently going beyond the scope of the amendment bill before it, which seeks to alter the provisions of Sections 145 and 190 of the 1999 Constitution, canvassed outright deletion of Section 144.

Section 144 (1) reads: The President or Vice-President shall cease to hold office if –(a) by a resolution passed by two-thirds majority of all the members of the executive council of the Federation it is declared that the President or Vice-President is incapable of discharging the functions of his office; and
(b) The declaration is verified, after such a medical examination as may be necessary, by a medical panel established under subsection (4) of this section in its report to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Amidst the rowdiness, voice vote was conducted thrice in the House and thrice did the voice of the “nays” reverberate louder than the voice of the “nayes”.

The drama of the day began in the House when the “Bill for an Act to Alter the Provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 and for Other Matters Connected Thereto, 2010 (HB.377)” came up for second reading.
The bill was presented and read for the first time on January 13, 2010.

In his lead debate to push the bill through the second reading, Gbajabiamila said the bill was aimed at amending Section 144, explaining that the bill seeks to transfer the powers vested in the EXCOF to the parliament to avoid the current situation where cabinet ministers have found it extremely difficult to play their role in terms of declaring the true state of health of the President.
He said the section had become a problem over the past two months because it gives EXCOF the sole right to kick start the process of determining the true health status of the President or Vice-President.

According to him, empirical evidence had shown that it is impracticable for the ministers who are appointees of the President to declare him incapacitated.
He canvassed that this power should now reside with the National Assembly and that a time-frame of 21 days be inserted within which the parliament must set up a medical board to determine the health of the President after the preliminary opinion that he/she was incapacitated.

The debate drew a lot of comments from various lawmakers who argued from various angles.

Hon. Olaka Nwogu (PDP Rivers) kicked against the bill insisting that the current problem was not with the constitution and its provisions in Section 144 but the will to carry out the dictates of the provision by the ministers.
Nwogu argued that transferring the powers to the parliament was not a guarantee that the persons to be entrusted with the powers will do the right thing.

Among those who spoke against the amendment bill were   Emmanuel Jime, Ubale Jakada, Sada Soli Jibia, Ahmed Wadada, Mohammed Ndume as well as Bala Ibn Na’Allah.

Most of them argued that the powers currently conferred on EXCOF should remain untouched just as a few of them canvassed that at best a time frame be given to EXCOF to activate the provisions of Section 144.

This position was, however, countered by the argument of Hon. Mayor Eze (PDP Imo) who said that waiting for the EXCOF to declare a sitting President incapacitated given the risk of their jobs and the level of sycophancy associated with the Third World political environment.

Others who spoke in favour of the bill were Hon. CID Maduabum (PDP Anambra), Hon. Sulaiman Kawu (ANPP Kano), Hon. Abike Dabiri- Erewa (AC Lagos), Hon. Henry Dickson (PDP Bayelsa) and Hon Independence Ogunewe.

Senators spoke during the second reading (debate on the general principles) of the bill to remove the inherent flaws in Section 145 on Acting President in the absence of the President and Section 190 on Acting Governor in the absence of the Governor.
But rather than dwell solely on the amendment of Sections 145 and 190, which debate was introduced by Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, Senators veered off by attacking Section 144, saying the provision was out of synch with the political realities in the country.

Effiong Bob (PDP, Akwa Ibom North-east) said members of EXCOF who were vested with the responsibilities in Section 144 were grossly mocking and abusing the provisions of the section, stressing that the provisions were out of tune with political realities.
According to him, “Section 144 should be completely deleted from our constitution because of the master-servant relationship our ministers have with the President. I have never in the history of this nation seen or heard of any minister resigning from office because of clash of ideology.”

“The ministers are appointees of the president and they owe their allegiance to him; therefore, they cannot declare their boss incapable.  No minister or commissioner appointed by the president or governor will accept to declare his boss incapable,” he said.

Senator Bala Mohammed (PDP, Bauchi South) said it was improper for the drafters of the constitution to have made such provision vesting in the ministers the responsibility to initiate a process of pronouncing their employer (president) medically unfit even when his state of health is obvious.

Mohammed declared: “Section 144 ought to be amended to remove that responsibility from members of the EXCOF because it makes no political sense to be asked to initiate an action that would culminate in the removal of one’s benefactor.”
Senator Julius Ucha (PDP, Ebonyi Central) said that the provision was “meaningless, senseless and only made to protect the executive.”

However, some senators, who dwelled on the thrust of the bill to amend Sections 145 and 190, said the National Assembly should look for ways of making the transmission of letter before proceeding on vacation mandatory.
They contended that this would address the problem thrown up by the ailing President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua debacle.
A number of senators suggested that there should be a provision in the book, specifying the number of days the Vice-President can act in the absence of the President.

Bassey Ewa Henshaw (PDP, Cross River State South) said Section 145 should be amended to make it compulsory for the President to inform the National Assembly anytime he is billed to travel out of the country.
Uche Chukwumerije (PPA, Abia North) wanted ninety days to be set as the maximum time that a president could be away from his duty post after which an acting president would automatically become president.

But contrary to hints dropped by Senate President David Mark (PDP, Benue- South) on Wednesday that the proposed amendments would be fast-tracked and passed, the Upper House could not conclude on the second reading.
Mark advised members to come prepared on Tuesday, next week, to contribute robustly to the debate on the general principles of the bill, preparatory to its passage.

The proposed amendment to Section 145, as contained in the bill sponsored by Ekweremadu and 43 other senators, reads: “In the event that the President is unable or fails to transmit the written declaration mentioned in sub-section 1 of this section within 7 days, the National Assembly may by a resolution made by a simple majority of the vote of each House of the National Assembly mandate the Vice-President to perform the functions of the office of the President, as Acting President, until the President transmits a letter to the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives,  that he is now available to resume his functions as President.”

It is to replace the extant Section 145, which reads: “Whenever the President is proceeding on vacation or is otherwise unable to discharge the functions of his office, he shall transmit a written declaration to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives to that effect, and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, the Vice- President shall perform the functions of the President as Acting president.”

In the same vein, it is being proposed that Section 190 of the constitution be amended by substituting it with a new Section 190, which reads: “In the event that the Governor is unable or fails to transmit the written declaration mentioned in sub-section 1 of this section within 7 days, the House of Assembly may by a resolution made by a simple majority of the vote of the House mandate the Deputy Governor to perform the functions of the office of the Governor, as Acting Governor, until the Governor transmits a letter to the Speaker, that he is now available to resume his functions as Governor.”



Nigeria’s leadership of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was extended for another year last night as Acting President Goodluck Jonathan was elected the new chairman of the sub-regional body.

Ailing President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua had steered the ship of the association for a year until he fell ill, a development which had twice forced the postponement of the 37th Summit of the body.

Meanwhile, in his address at the summit  of ECOWAS Heads of State and Gover-nment at the Hilton Hotel Abuja, Jonathan talked tough, condemning what he described as the undemocratic efforts by some elements at carrying out political change in the sub-region.

He warned that henceforth the West African sub-region would no longer tolerate any acts of political mis-adventure.
The re-election of Nigeria to chair the West African sub-region for the next one year, according to a communique read at the end of summit by the out-going President of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas, was in solidarity with the country and in recognition of her significant contributions to the survival of the organisation.

The Heads of State paid glowing tributes to President  Yar’Adua for displaying great qualities of a statesman, particularly his total and ready disposition to the ECOWAS causes and positive contributions to the consolidation of the regional integration process as well as to the entrenchment of democratic culture in West Africa.

The leaders also wished Yar’Adua speedy recovery.
While welcoming Jonathan to the helm of affairs of ECOWAS, the leaders expressed their conviction that under Jonathan’s guidance, Nigeria would continue to demonstrate her interest and leadership in deepening the regional agenda.

In a seeming reference to the unconstitutional change of government in the Republic of Guinea in 2008 and the killing of about 300 protesting civilians by the Guinean soldiers in 2009, Jonathan said: “Your Excellencies will recall that we were confronted with a number of most undemocratic efforts at political change. In a few of our countries the will of the people and their genuine aspiration for democracy were trampled upon with impunity.

“Let it be stated again that no place exists in this sub-region for such rape on the rights and indeed dignity of our people. No more will there be comfort zone for such political mis-adventure.”
On the emerging trend of terrorism and drug trafficking in the sub-region, the Acting President appealed to the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government to evolve joint strategies to stem the ugly trend.

Jonathan called on the leaders to take advantage of the summit to explore ways and means of harnessing their collective energies in partnership with the international community to put a halt to the ugly tide.
The Acting President in addition expressed concern at the deliberate breaching of the full implementation of the sub-region’s protocol on free movement of persons, goods and services and the right of residence by his colleague presidents in the region.

He warned that ECOWAS might be compelled to sanction any of the countries’ officials found to be deliberately flouting the letter and spirit of the protocol.
On the issue of the proposed ECOWAS common currency, the ECO, Jonathan said he was optimistic that all hands would be on deck to ensure that the project, which he described as long overdue would soon be actualized.

On the Customs Union for the sub-region, the Acting President expressed delight that the Common External Tariff (CETT) had witnessed substantial progress, particularly in the re-classification of products that will fall under the 5th band tariff classification.
He said the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiation with the European Union (EU) offers ECOWAS countries an important platform to re-state the need for a firm financial commitment from the EU on funding the EPA development programmes.

He said it was gratifying that regional and national agricultural investment programmes had been finalized, which culminated in the international donors conference that held in Abuja in November last year.
He expressed confidence that all the stakeholders would fulfill the pledges made at the conference.

Out-going President of ECOWAS Commission who was last year elected Secretary-General of the 79 member countries of African Carribean Pacific (ACP) was replaced by a fellow country man, Ambassador Victor Gbeho as the new President of ECOWAS Commission.

The Heads of States congratulated Chambas for the outstanding achievements recorded in the sub-region during his tenure in office, particularly the impressive and brilliant contributions he made in opening the ECOWAS integration avenues.

Those who attended yesterday’s summit included Dr. Thomas Boni Yayi of the Republic of Benin, Blaise Compare of Bokino Faso, Pedro Pres of Cape Verde, Professor John Evans Atta Mills of Ghana and Malam Bacai Sanha of Guinea Republic.
Others are Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia, Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria, Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, Ernest Koroma of Sierra Leone and Faure Gnassingbe of Togo. Three countries including the Republic of Gambia, Cote d’Voire and Mali were represented.



Those thinking that the political and constitutional crisis occasioned by the refusal of ailing President Umaru Yar’Adua to hand over to his deputy, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, was over had better brace up fro fresh challenges.

It is not yet Uhuru as another round of crisis is looming in the Presidency following an alleged plot by Yar’Adua’s diehard loyalists to bring him back to the country at all costs.
Sunday Sun learnt authoritatively that the bemused loyalists are still smarting over the National Assembly resolution that empowered the Vice President, Dr Jonathan, to assume the position of Acting President and are bent on bringing the ailing President back even if it will be for one week.

A source privy to the plan informed Sunday Sun that the plot is for Yar’Adua to be brought to Nigeria in an air ambulance while an ambulance limousine and other life support equipment that had been imported into the country would be on standby.
He would then be made to write a letter to the National Assembly asking that power be reverted to him.

But, according to our source, because the President is still not medically fit to assume office, there is every possibility that he will break down again and the country will begin another round of handover crisis.
“The cabal is very uncomfortable with Jonathan as Acting President, so they are doing everything possible to ensure Yar’Adua returns to Nigeria. Their fear is that they will lose power completely if Jonathan is allowed to complete Yar’Adua’s tenure. They want to bring Yar’Adua back to Nigeria at all costs,” said the source.

Another source said the visit of the Bauchi State Governor, Isa Yuguda, his Benue and Katsina counterparts, Gabriel Suswam and Ibrahim Shema, as well as chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Vincent Ogbulafor, to Saudi Arabia is part of the plot to bring the ailing President back.

Even the former Attorney-General of the Federation, Chief Michael Aondoakaa, who was redeployed to the Special Duties Ministry on Wednesday in a minor cabinet reshuffle, is also said to be in Saudi Arabia on his annual leave, which is believed to be a decoy.
A source close to the Presidency however said Aondoakaa should not have been allowed to travel out of the country because of the mood of the nation and the role he played in the handover crisis.

Sunday Sun however learnt that Aondoakaa’s redeployment sent jitters into members of the Yar’Adua kitchen cabinet and they now are afraid that Jonathan would sooner or later move against them.
Some politicians close to the corridors of power are also said to be unsure if Jonathan will not move against pro-Yar’Adua elements in the government.

“The demotion of Mike Aondoakaa from the exalted position of Attorney General to Special Duties on his first day in office without consulting anyone, including the party hierarchy, is a clear signal that Jonathan wants to be his own man and might be ready to rock the boat.

“Some are scared of the possibility of the man going after some ministers in Yar’Adua’s kitchen cabinet like Sayyad Abba-Ruma and super-aides like Mohammed Abba-Aji and Tanimu Kurfi as well as others who treated him with scorn while he was vice president,” the sourced said.

Sunday Sun gathered that the biggest fear of the Yar’Adua loyalists is “the possibility of the man (Jonathan) inserting certain provisions in the 1999 Constitution that might be against the interest of the North. What happens if he suddenly decides to support the call for resource control? You know he is from there (Niger Delta) and he will be seen to be doing his people a favour. He can do that on the pretence that he is trying to ensure that the restive militants don’t disturb again. We heard the man is also very committed to electoral reform.”
Perhaps, the biggest fear that prompted the plot against the Jonathan government is that he might contest the 2011 presidential election.
“Yes, they were able to extract some commitment from him in that direction, but can you stop a man that has all the power he has from doing anything? After all, such commitments are not binding on anyone.

“They feel this is the time to quickly move in and circle him before he grows wings. The actions he took in the first few days in office did not inspire a lot of confidence,” the source said, adding that part of the plot is to discredit the Jonathan-led administration before Nigerians, for instance, by pinning the tag of a stooge on the Acting President.
“They will try to pin the tag of a stooge of former President Olusegun Obasanjo on him. You know not many Nigerians love Obasanjo because of his style. They feel the best way they can make him lose the acceptance of Nigerians is link him to Obasanjo,” the source further said.

Given all these permutations, there is already panic in the federal capital that the Acting President will this week appoint new Service Chiefs and a new Chief of Staff, who would also double as a de facto Vice President.
Yar’Adua’s Principal Private Secretary, Mr David Edevbie, is also said to have briefed Jonathan on the outcome of his visit to Jeddah purportedly to present the 2009 Supplementary Appropriation Bill to Yar’Adua for his signature.

Edevbie was said to have confessed to Jonathan that he was not allowed to meet Yar’Adua in Jeddah.
“He (Edevbie) admitted before the Acting President that Yar’Adua’s wife, Turai, and the ADC did not allow him to meet President Yar’Adua. He said he was asked to stay in his hotel where Yar’Adua’s ADC and CSO (Chief Security Officer) met him to pick the budget document and later returned it to him there.
“Edevbie has been in a dilemma over the controversy that his visit to Saudi Arabia sparked off and he is desperate to clear his name. That was why he had to tell Jonathan the whole truth,” our source said.



ACTING President Goodluck Jonathan has had his elevation backed by “a force of law.”

This is sequel to a letter that was sent to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Alhaji Mahmud Yayale Ahmed, from the National Assembly.

The Assembly exalted Vice President Jonathan to Acting President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federation on Tuesday.

The contents of the National Assembly letter were expected to be conveyed to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Ignatius Katsina-Alu, the Executive Council of the Federation (EXCOF) and the Acting President.

The letter, which a legislative source said is tantamount to a law being passed by the National Assembly, is referenced NASS/C5/R/05/III/92 and dated February 10, 2010.

It came from the Clerk of the National Assembly (CAN), Mr. Yemi Ogunyomi, to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.

Titled, ‘State Of The Nation And The Way Forward – National Assembly Resolutions, Of 9th, February, 2010’, it reads in full:

“On Tuesday 9 February, 2010, the Senate and House of Representatives adopted Resolutions on the State of the Nation occasioned by the prolonged medical holidays of the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, His Excellency, Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

“Members of the National Assembly noted that Nigerians fervently prayed for the speedy recovery of Mr. President and his early return to Nigeria.

“However, on 12 January 2010, Mr. President informed Nigerians through the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), that he was receiving medical treatment in Saudi Arabia, and would only return to Nigeria to resume his functions as President when his doctors so certify.

“Satisfied that this declaration by Mr. President amounts to substantial compliance with the provision of Section 145 of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999, the National Assembly resolved that:

(i) the Vice President, His Excellency Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, shall henceforth discharge the functions of the Office of the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federation as Acting President; and

(ii) the Vice President shall cease to discharge the functions of the Office of the President when the President, Commander-in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federation, transmits to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives in writing, that he has returned from his medical vacation.

“Kindly convey these National Assembly Resolutions to His Excellency, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, the Chief Justice of the Federation for his information, and Members of the Federal Executive Council for compliance.

“Find attached hereto, the Votes and Proceedings of the Senate and the House of Representatives in this regard, please.

“Accept the assurances of my highest regards for your office.”

A knowledgeable source said last week that because the resolutions of both Houses of the National Assembly were similar, it could pass of as a law and be tendered as such.

The source said: “Perhaps unknown to both Houses, that is the way to give a force of law to their resolutions. Pass the same resolution and it has the same force as a law.

“But when you pass resolutions intermittently and they are not similar, the other arms of government can afford to ignore them and nothing will be done.”



Following  the growing criticism on the Seven-Point Agenda  of the present administration, eminent elders group has advised the Acting President Goodluck Jonathan to scale down the Agenda, possibly to two, and concentrate on “few” measures to deliver good governance to Nigerians.

The group, comprising former Heads of State and key national leaders across the nation led by General Yakubu Gowon, gave the advice yesterday during a visit to Dr. Jonathan at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Addressing State House correspondents after the visit, Professor Jerry Gana, who spoke on behalf of the group, said the elders also wanted the Acting President to focus on how to ensure a free and fair election in 2011.

“First of all, we emphasized the issue of good governance in terms of ensuring that the processes of government are effective and deliver results for the benefit of the people of Nigeria. We also emphasized that of the very good 7-point agenda, they should identify a few that can be done effectively because people really want to see action and result on the ground, and we emphasized about two or three of this”, Gana said.

He said the former Presidents, former Heads of State together with some eminent elders have come to have a consultation with the acting President ,saying what  Nigerians are looking forward to is for this  administration to do its very best to ensure free, fair and credible election in 2011.
Professor Gana charged the administration under the Acting President to do everything humanly possible to ensure that elections in Nigeria is free and fair so that we can have legitimately elected government in the coming election.

“Second on our list is the issue of energy and power. There is no reason in this world that Nigeria should be in this kind of situation regarding power supply or even in the energy sector because we are an oil producing nation. The elders would like to see the demonstration of strong political will in these areas so that decisive action would be taken to resolve the issues and give the nation a new lease of life,” he said.
Gana, who observed that Nigeria should be able to produce more power and resolve the problem in the energy sector, said the elders recognised that no economy could grow and prosper without good infrastructure, food, roads, good railways, pipelines.

He said things have to move in the country, “so, we want the administration in the short time to take a few things and do them effectively to ensure result. In other words, the elders are just emphasizing that it is not how long, but the focus, the concentration should be on a few things and getting them done properly. Nigerians are very observant; they know when efforts are being made to get things moving.”

“The elders also emphasized on the need to promote peace and security without, which, according to them, development and progress will continue to elude the nation. It is not just in the Niger Delta now, even across the nation. These political killings are getting very worrying and the elders really emphasized the need for resources to be deployed to ensure that criminals are detected and punished effectively, and we hope that the issue of restoring fairness, justice and equity even in the Niger Delta area can be pursued because people love justice, they love fairness.

“They also called on the Acting President to urgently address the problems of unemployment, especially among the youths to combat crime in the country. We have energetic youths; they want to work but no job. So the elders just came to wish the acting president well and to say to him be focused, courageous, decisive, firm, but fair, honest and just,” Gana further said.

Earlier, leader of the delegation, Gen. Gowon, said the elders were in the State House on a solidarity visit and to consult with the Acting President and offer advice for peace, security progress and general development of the nation.

He said there was the need for a robust determination to move the nation forward and also advised that emphasis should be placed on ensuring good governance, free, fair and credible election at all levels of governance in 2011 and for the nation’s democracy to be deeply rooted to bear fruitful harvest.
According to him, the proposed electoral reforms should be thoroughly pursued and that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) needs to be reconstituted before the 2011 polls.

Gen. Gowon also called for greater attention to power, resolution of the crisis in the oil and gas sector, vigorous pursuit of the amnesty programme, peace and security, as well as infrastructure development.
“What is required is a courageous political will to take and implement appropriate decisions on these areas. We will urge you to have the courage to take and implement such bold and pragmatic decisions as you steer the wheel of the nation,” Gowon said.

Receiving the elders, Acting President Jonathan assured them that he was committed to doing the right thing, just as he promised to continue consultations with ex-leaders.
He assured the former leaders of his commitment to doing what is right, as he steers the affairs of the nation in the absence of President Umaru Yar’Adua.

“Let me sincerely welcome you and appreciate your kind gesture and advice on areas of critical needs and concerns of Nigerians. As a government, we are time bound. We are looking at just a little over a year or so to round up. All of you that are here have one thing in common. You have all written your names in the positive side of history in this country. Even if I leave this job today or tomorrow, I want to be able to raise my head to say this and that is what we have done,’’ he said.
Dr. Jonathan reiterated the commitment of the administration to conducting credible, free and fair election come 2011.

Stating the need for the country to develop the culture of good elections, Jonathan said in achieving this, there was the need to come up with credible people who will be at the helm of affairs of the nation’s electoral body.
The Acting President stressed the need to quickly do things that will impact positively on the lives of Nigerians within the shortest possible time.
He said the administration would work towards stable power supply, ensure adequate security of Nigerians through the on-going reform of the Police and improve on the force’s intelligence gathering capacity.
The Acting President assured that suggestions by the elder statesmen would be presented as council note to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for consideration.
Among those on the visit are former Vice President Alex Ekwueme; former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Alfa Belgore; former Defence Minister, Gen. T.Y. Danjuma;  Chief Solomon Lar; Mallam Adamu Ciroma; Sen. Ahmed Joda; Chief Edwin Clark; HRH Johnny Turner;  Prof. Jerry Gana; Sen. Jonathan Zwingina; Senator Isaiah Balat and Dr. (Mrs) Christy Silas.Following  the growing criticism on the Seven-Point Agenda  of the present administration, eminent elders group has advised the Acting President Goodluck Jonathan to scale down the Agenda, possibly to two, and concentrate on “few” measures to deliver good governance to Nigerians.

The group, comprising former Heads of State and key national leaders across the nation led by General Yakubu Gowon, gave the advice yesterday during a visit to Dr. Jonathan at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Addressing State House correspondents after the visit, Professor Jerry Gana, who spoke on behalf of the group, said the elders also wanted the Acting President to focus on how to ensure a free and fair election in 2011.

“First of all, we emphasized the issue of good governance in terms of ensuring that the processes of government are effective and deliver results for the benefit of the people of Nigeria. We also emphasized that of the very good 7-point agenda, they should identify a few that can be done effectively because people really want to see action and result on the ground, and we emphasized about two or three of this”, Gana said.

He said the former Presidents, former Heads of State together with some eminent elders have come to have a consultation with the acting President ,saying what  Nigerians are looking forward to is for this  administration to do its very best to ensure free, fair and credible election in 2011.
Professor Gana charged the administration under the Acting President to do everything humanly possible to ensure that elections in Nigeria is free and fair so that we can have legitimately elected government in the coming election.

“Second on our list is the issue of energy and power. There is no reason in this world that Nigeria should be in this kind of situation regarding power supply or even in the energy sector because we are an oil producing nation. The elders would like to see the demonstration of strong political will in these areas so that decisive action would be taken to resolve the issues and give the nation a new lease of life,” he said.
Gana, who observed that Nigeria should be able to produce more power and resolve the problem in the energy sector, said the elders recognised that no economy could grow and prosper without good infrastructure, food, roads, good railways, pipelines.

He said things have to move in the country, “so, we want the administration in the short time to take a few things and do them effectively to ensure result. In other words, the elders are just emphasizing that it is not how long, but the focus, the concentration should be on a few things and getting them done properly. Nigerians are very observant; they know when efforts are being made to get things moving.”

“The elders also emphasized on the need to promote peace and security without, which, according to them, development and progress will continue to elude the nation. It is not just in the Niger Delta now, even across the nation. These political killings are getting very worrying and the elders really emphasized the need for resources to be deployed to ensure that criminals are detected and punished effectively, and we hope that the issue of restoring fairness, justice and equity even in the Niger Delta area can be pursued because people love justice, they love fairness.

“They also called on the Acting President to urgently address the problems of unemployment, especially among the youths to combat crime in the country. We have energetic youths; they want to work but no job. So the elders just came to wish the acting president well and to say to him be focused, courageous, decisive, firm, but fair, honest and just,” Gana further said.

Earlier, leader of the delegation, Gen. Gowon, said the elders were in the State House on a solidarity visit and to consult with the Acting President and offer advice for peace, security progress and general development of the nation.

He said there was the need for a robust determination to move the nation forward and also advised that emphasis should be placed on ensuring good governance, free, fair and credible election at all levels of governance in 2011 and for the nation’s democracy to be deeply rooted to bear fruitful harvest.
According to him, the proposed electoral reforms should be thoroughly pursued and that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) needs to be reconstituted before the 2011 polls.

Gen. Gowon also called for greater attention to power, resolution of the crisis in the oil and gas sector, vigorous pursuit of the amnesty programme, peace and security, as well as infrastructure development.
“What is required is a courageous political will to take and implement appropriate decisions on these areas. We will urge you to have the courage to take and implement such bold and pragmatic decisions as you steer the wheel of the nation,” Gowon said.

Receiving the elders, Acting President Jonathan assured them that he was committed to doing the right thing, just as he promised to continue consultations with ex-leaders.
He assured the former leaders of his commitment to doing what is right, as he steers the affairs of the nation in the absence of President Umaru Yar’Adua.

“Let me sincerely welcome you and appreciate your kind gesture and advice on areas of critical needs and concerns of Nigerians. As a government, we are time bound. We are looking at just a little over a year or so to round up. All of you that are here have one thing in common. You have all written your names in the positive side of history in this country. Even if I leave this job today or tomorrow, I want to be able to raise my head to say this and that is what we have done,’’ he said.
Dr. Jonathan reiterated the commitment of the administration to conducting credible, free and fair election come 2011.

Stating the need for the country to develop the culture of good elections, Jonathan said in achieving this, there was the need to come up with credible people who will be at the helm of affairs of the nation’s electoral body.
The Acting President stressed the need to quickly do things that will impact positively on the lives of Nigerians within the shortest possible time.
He said the administration would work towards stable power supply, ensure adequate security of Nigerians through the on-going reform of the Police and improve on the force’s intelligence gathering capacity.
The Acting President assured that suggestions by the elder statesmen would be presented as council note to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for consideration.
Among those on the visit are former Vice President Alex Ekwueme; former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Alfa Belgore; former Defence Minister, Gen. T.Y. Danjuma;  Chief Solomon Lar; Mallam Adamu Ciroma; Sen. Ahmed Joda; Chief Edwin Clark; HRH Johnny Turner;  Prof. Jerry Gana; Sen. Jonathan Zwingina; Senator Isaiah Balat and Dr. (Mrs) Christy Silas.



Goodluck Jonathan wasted no time in asserting his authority last week when he orchestrated a minor cabinet reshuffle on his first full day in charge. The reshuffle itself was an offshoot of an attempt to sack Michael Aondoakaa, who was until recently attorney general of the federation.

Reliable sources told NEXT that Mr. Jonathan was advised not to sack the former justice minister and the deployment to the “special duties” ministry was seen as a concession.

Sources have also confirmed that there are likely to be a few more changes in the coming weeks and more cabinet members are in danger of being dropped in the next round.

NEXT can also reveal that Mr. Jonathan has met individually with almost all the members of his cabinet and is believed to have outlined his expectations for each of them.

Powerless

One of those considered at high risk of losing his job is Lanre Babalola, the minister of power who presided over the abject failure to deliver the promised 6,000 mega watts by December last year. On Thursday, Mr. Babalola was locked in a meeting with the Acting President which lasted for about 45 minutes.

During the meeting, Mr. Jonathan expressed his “embarrassment” that the administration had broken its promise to meet its power target last year. Mr. Babalola has been asked to draw up new plans on how exactly he intends to deliver on the proposed 6000 MW.

During his televised address on Tuesday, the Acting President mentioned power generation as one of the “most critical areas which continue to plague our effort at engendering meaningful economic growth and development.”

One of Mr. Babalola’s aides denied that any ultimatums were laid down based on performance but confirmed that the power ministry have been asked to draw up new plans to present to the Acting President.

“It is normal that any new president will have a one-on-one with his ministers,” the aide said. “There was nothing like [an] ultimatum during the meeting. We just need to re-strategise on how to meet our target for this year. That’s all.”

Crippling education

Sam Egwu, the education minister, is also in charge of a sector that has performed poorly in the past year. The Academic Staff Union of Universities and various other teachers’ unions went on strike for a large part of 2009 with several protesters calling for Mr. Egwu’s resignation.

The academic ranking of world universities for last year indicated that no Nigerian university was ranked within the top 500 higher institutions in the world.

Ukachukwu Awuzie, the universities’ union president, said last August that Mr. Egwu and his advisers had made it difficult for an agreement to be reached between the union and the federal government.

Fuel queues

The minister of petroleum, Rilwanu Lukman, is also likely to be dropped said analysts who noted his poor performance in the past two years. A stalwart of several administrations, Mr. Lukman will be hard put to convince the Acting President that he is still the right man for the job.

The privatisation of the nation’s refineries is no closer to completion than when he took over. Additionally, Abuja and Lagos have been beset by fuel scarcity and irregular pricing since last year. NEXT has also indicated that Mr. Lukman has long had several business interests which represent a conflict of interest for an oil minister.

However, Mr. Lukman has considerable influence and is highly regarded and it will require some high degree of tact for him to be replaced.

Information

Dora Akunyili, the Information minister, submitted a memo last week that arguably jolted the National Assembly into action. It has been long suggested that her role as the government spokesperson was an under-utilisation of her talents.

After bravely pitching her tent in the Jonathan camp, it is not likely that she will be booted out but she is almost certainly earmarked for a more substantive role in any future shake-up. She said on Wednesday that the Acting President “has the power to move any of us.”

The Yar’Adua loyalists

Abba Ruma, the minister of agriculture, is one of Mr. Yar’Adua closest confidantes. In December, Mr Ruma said Mr. Yar’Adua’s absence was not a problem and that a previous military ruler had once vacated the country for so long with no repercussions.

Speaking to journalists, he said: “Let us not hold the Nigerian public to ransom; let us not continue to deceive them but educate and enlighten them because we have the opportunity, with information at our doorsteps today.”

The minister, who previously served under Mr. Yar’Adua in Katsina State, has been embroiled in a controversy surrounding fertiliser subsidy after his ministry’s decision to centralise the distribution of the commodity. Food importation has also risen sharply and has not stabilised but in spite of this,

Mr. Ruma claimed last year that Nigeria was immune to the global food crisis.

Tanimu Yakubu Kurfi is the ailing president’s chief economic adviser. He is undoubtedly one of Mr Yar’Aadua’s key men and is one of the few people who is on the loop concerning the true status of the president’s health.

During Yar’Adua’s time as Kastina State governor, he was commissioner for finance between 1999 and 2003. In the run-up to the 2007 presidential election, Mr. Kurfi was appointed finance director of Mr. Yar’Adua’s campaign organisation. Following the disputed election victory, Mr. Kurfi reappeared at Aso Rock as the president’s deputy Chief of Staff. It was from that position that Mr. Yar’Adua named him as his chief economic adviser.

He will certainly not enjoy the same closeness with Mr. Jonathan that he did with Mr. Yar’Adua and the acting president may decide that he is better placed elsewhere.



MAJORITY of the lawmakers in Ondo State billed to travel to the United States of America for a seminar have been denied visa by the Country’s embassy in Nigeria.

Out of the 26 members of the state House of Assembly, investigation revealed that only the Speaker Hon Taofiq Abdusaalam and three other Principal Officers of the Assembly who applied for visa before the attempted suicide bombing of an American plane on 25 December last year by a Nigerian, Abdulmutalab Farouk,  were granted.

The denial of their visa might not be unconnected with the Abdulmutalab attempted bombing saga.

The members were scheduled to travel to the US for a two_week Seminar on the act of lawmaking from the middle of February this year after their recess last week.

Their last legislative assignment was the passage of the 2010 appropriation bill forwarded to them in December last year by the governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko. It was also learnt that the action of the US embassy to stop the lawmakers might not unconnected with the attempted suicide bombing of an American plane on 25 December last year by a Nigerian, Abdulmutalab Farouk.

Saturday Vanguard gathered that aside the four members that applied before December the other 22 legislators who applied after the December 25th 2009 were turned down”.

Speaking on the development, the member representing Ilaje 11 Hon Thompson Otito Atikase described “the US government’s action against them was unpleasant, callous and a slap on Nigeria as a nation.”