There is a growing concern by some officers over recent postings in the Army. Their grouse, Nigerian Tribune gathered, has to do with the failure of the military authorities to adhere to the Federal Character Principle in the Nigerian Constitution.

Investigations by the Nigerian Tribune indicate that   top commanding positions had been taken over by officers from Kano and Katsina, while  Borno and a few states of the North complete the postings.

A review of recent postings, according to sources, showed that 90 to 98 per cent of  soldiers in the Guards Brigade  are from the Kano -Katsina axis.

Investigations also revealed that the command of fighting units, such as the one located at Jaji, Plateau State,  had been ceded to candidates from the North.

It was also gathered that the 3rd Armoured Division in Jos was recently taken over by another candidate from the North-West during the recent Jos crisis.

Some beneficiaries of the recent postings include Brigadier-General Ram Mustapha (Guards Brigade), from Kano State; Lieutenant-Colonel M. Musa Gar; Commander, Guards Brigade Abuja, from Kano State; Lt. Col. U. T. Musa, Commander 4th Guards Brigade, Abuja, from Borno State.

There is also Brig.-Gen. S.N Muazu, Commander 9th Brigade, from Katsina State, while Brig.-Gen. Minimah, regarded as a professional officer, was moved to Defence Headquarters as staff officer. The Commander of Artillery Corps, who is described as another professional soldier, was recently retired.

A source said that some agencies monitoring the unfolding situation were planning to petition the Federal Character Commission (FCC).

Section 14(3) of the 1999 Constitution indicates that all sectors of the country are to be carried along in the affairs of the country.

“14. (1)  (c) the participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution. (3) The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few state or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies.

“(4) The composition of the government of a state, a local government council, or any of the agencies of such government or council, and the conduct of the affairs of the government or council, or such agencies shall be carried out in such manner as to recognise the diversity of the people within its area of authority and the need to promote a sense of belonging and loyalty among all the people of the federation.”

Sources said that some officers from other parts of the country were raising concerns that they were not being carried along in the unfolding exercise.

The issue of postings to the Joint Task Force (JTF) in the Niger Delta is also causing concern, according to a source. He said that the reality of the recent postings was fuelling insinuations that  a section of the country was being unduly and strategically placed in command positions in the military.

It was gathered that some states in the Niger Delta spent between N200 and N300 million on JTF activities on a monthly basis but that fewer officers from the Niger Delta were being retained in postings to the operation.

Said our source:“There are strong grumblings among officers that they are being sidelined. Some of them are of the view that all recent postings in the military should be published. The Middle Belt is also being marginalised.”

A source said that the current fate of  the Middle Belt is pathetic, as the leaders of the area believe that they have not reaped the benefit of helping to unite the country by fighting the civil war.

Amendment of Section 145 of the Constitution is under threat in the Senate as lawmakers are divided over the number of days the Vice President can act for the President, and a Deputy Governor for the Governor.

Lower House members are also kicking against amending Section 144 to empower the National Assembly (NASS) to determine if the President or Vice President is incapable of discharging his functions.

Regardless, Governors’ Forum Chairman, Bukola Saraki of Kwara State, has reiterated that Governors want the Electoral Reform Bill to be passed into law before the 2011 ballot.

He spoke in Ilorin on Wednesday when the new  Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Aniedi Ikoiwak, led a delegation to visit him at Government House.

Saraki said Governors would hasten the passage of the Bill when it gets to state Houses of Assembly, to ensure it becomes law before the next elections, so that previous lapses do not recur.

He urged the new officials of the state INEC to provide good leadership, and advised the Commission to be transparent in its activities.

He recalled that the previous INEC leadership created political awareness and ensured peaceful elections, achievements which the new leadership should build on.

Ikoiwak said the INEC gives serious attention to the next elections in the state, and is currently correcting anomalies in the voters’ register.

He solicited the support of the government and the people for the INEC to succeed.

On Thursday, the Senate deviated from its scheduled debate on Section 145, with some Senators calling for the scrapping of Section 144 from the Constitution.

Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, and 43 others sponsored the Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2010 (Sections 145 and 190 of the Constitution) which was read for the first time on Wednesday.

On the same day, Senate President David Mark noted that two-thirds of the Chamber would be needed before the Bill could scale Second Reading, after which it would be forwarded for the approval of two-thirds (24) of the 36 state Houses of Assembly.

But the Senate failed to agree on the amendment of Sections 145 and 190 because some legislators want the new Constitution to be specific on a time frame the Vice President and Deputy Governors could stand in while others argued that after a certain number of days,  Deputies could take over in the absence of their bosses.

Power and Steel Committee Vice Chairman, Uche Chukwumerije, said a Deputy could occupy the office in a permanent capacity should his boss fail to return to work within a specified number of days.

“Let us look at the problem posed by the long absence of the President. Even if the Vice President begins to act, should he continue to act till eternity?

“I am suggesting that an amendment be made in such a way that after 90 days of the absence by the President, the Acting President should automatically transform into the President,” he proposed.

Water Resources Committee Chairman, Bassey Ewa Henshaw, added that Section 145 should be amended to make it mandatory for the President to inform the NASS before he travels outside Nigeria.

Some Senators want the deletion of Section 144, which empowers the Executive Council of the Federation (EXCOF) to initiate the process of removing the President from office on account of permanent incapacitation.

The Chamber argued that Section 144 is no longer in tune with the political realities in the country.

Senators identified flaws in the Constitution after Ekweremadu led debate on the general principles of the Bill.

Works Committee Chairman, Julius Ucha, argued that Section 144 is “meaningless, senseless, and only made to protect the executive.”

To National Interest Group (NIG) Chairman, Bala Mohammed, “it is wrong to have included Ministers in the responsibility of initiating the process of declaring the President medically unfit.

“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.”

Mark urged his colleagues to prepare for the continuation of the debate, which was postponed to February 23.

But on Thursday House members opposed amending Section 144 to empower the NASS to determine if the President or Vice President is incapable of discharging his functions.

That responsibility currently lies with the EXCOF.

Minority Whip Femi Gbajabiamila, sponsor of the Bill, explained that its motive is to transfer the powers conferred on the EXCOF in Section 144 to the NASS.

By that, the legislature would, within 21 days of absence of the President or Vice President, constitute a medical panel that would determine his health condition.

The debate threw the House into a momentary rowdy session, as members expressed concern over having to vest all powers in the legislature when there is separation of powers.

Section 144 reads in part: “The President or Vice President shall cease to hold office, if (a) by a resolution passed by two-thirds majority of all members of the Executive Council of the Federation (EXCOF) 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 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.”

Gbajabiamila expressed concern that the power to declare the President incapable of discharging his duties, as in Section 144, appears to be “virtually impracticable, and had in the last few weeks thrown up a series of discourses.”

To avert future occurrence of controversy, he counselled, the Section should be amended to transfer such powers to the NASS, whose members are not under obligation to the President and would not be biased in their decision.

He said members of the EXCOF are appointees and loyalists of the President and could not start such a process.

In his view,  this would be addressed by an amendment that the NASS shall, after 21 days of absence, constitute a panel of medical experts to examine either the President or Vice President, and declare him fit or unfit to perform his functions.

Olaka Nwogu observed that the current problem in the country is not caused by the Constitution, but by a lack of political will to act.

He said even if such powers reside with the NASS it would not make any difference unless there is the will to take action.

However, Emmanuel Jime supported the motion since there is nothing wrong with setting a time frame.

Other legislators agreed on the need to alter the Section, as sycophancy would not allow Ministers to take such a decision.

Those who spoke on the Bill included Samson Positive, Suleiman Kawu, Mohammed Ndume, Ubale Kiru, Yakubu Barde, Sada Jibia, Cyril Maduabum, Leo Ogor, Halims Agoda, Aliyu Wadada, Oke Udeh, and Independence Ogunewe.

Also on Thursday, Speaker Dimeji Bankole  gave legislators who went on the failed visit to President Umaru Yar’Adua in Saudi Arabia five days to produce a report.

The five lawmakers who took the trip, instead of the six mandated by the House, are Baba Agaie, Mohammed Ndume, Patrick Ikhariale, Moruf Fatai, and Jubril Adamu.

The sixth person, Nnenna Ukeje, alleged that she was schemed out of the journey.

It was learnt that the deadline resulted from the sluggish manner of the team in compiling a report.

It has been five days since the legislators returned from Saudi Arabia, where they had planned to visit Yar’Adua at the King Faisal Hospital, where he has been receiving treatment for 87 days running.

The legislators were not given access to him.

But rather than hand in a report, the leader of the delegation, Agaie, who is also the House Deputy Majority Leader, told plenary that Ikhariale and Adamu have not signed it.

He said Ikhariale returned with the team last Sunday, but embarked on another trip immediately and could not participate in writing the report.

Adamu disengaged from the team in Saudi Arabia to visit his family in that country, and has not returned to Nigeria, Agaie added.

One week after a delegation from the House of Representatives returned from Saudi Arabia, there is still no report on its findings.

The five-man delegation, which was led by the Deputy Minority Leader, Alhaji Baba Shehu-Agaie, was mandated to visit ailing President Umaru Yar‘Adua in Jeddah in a bid to ascertain the true state of his health.

The group was, however, reportedly denied access to the President by his wife, Turai.

On Thursday, the Minority Leader, Alhaji Mohammed Ndume, led a protest to demand why the report of the trip had not been laid before the House.

Ndume, who was also a member of the delegation, said he was told that the report would be submitted on Thursday (yesterday) after the members of the team had signed it.

He said, “But, Mr. Speaker, I have with me the Order Paper of today and the report is not listed here.”

The Speaker, Mr. Dimeji Bankole, hurriedly stopped Ndume and asked Shehu-Agaie to explain to the House why his report was not laid.

Shehu-Agaie responded that the document was not ready because only three members had so far signed it.

According to him, one of the members, Jibril Adamu, made a detour to Dubai and has not returned.

He claimed that another member, Mr. Patrick Ikhariale, travelled to Madrid, Spain, for another assignment and had not signed the report.

He said, “The minority leader was part of the delegation and he should know better. Not all of us came back.”

After listening to Shehu-Agaie, Bankole ruled that the report would be deferred till next Tuesday to be laid after the remaining two members would have signed it.

The development came as the House rejected a move by the Majority Leader, Chief Tunde Akogun, to drag it into the political crisis in Edo State.

Raising Order 8 [4] under Matters of Urgent National Importance, Akogun alleged that Edo State Governor, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, was about to dissolve local government councils in the state by ”fiat.”

He told the House that the governor had already suspended two local government council chairmen.

Akogun claimed that the governor‘s action was a threat to democratic principles and urged the House to endorse a motion condemning the act.

He was, however, overruled in a majority voice vote on the grounds that the matter was an internal affair of Edo State.

Meanwhile, the federal lawmaker representing Ondo South Senatorial District, Senator Hosea Ehinlanwo, has said that Yar‘Adua will be impeached whenever the Federal Executive Council declares him unfit to perform his duties.

Ehinlanwo, who spoke with journalists in Ugbonla, Ilaje Local Government Area of Ondo State on Wednesday, explained that the Senate had formally requested FEC to write and inform it on Yar’Adua’s true state of health.

He said the issue of the President’s impeachment would be a follow-up to the National Assembly’s declaration of Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan as Acting President.

He said, “We have to look into the constitution and the only way through which we can act is section 145 of the constitution.

“The Senate had been able to act with it by ensuring that the powers and functions of the President are being gradually transferred to Jonathan by asking him to hold the position of the Acting President because Nigeria must move forward.

“The impeachment will come as a follow-up if the people (members of the Federal Executive Council) are able to perform their role, because we have asked them to forward a letter to us.

“Section 144, which will mandate FEC to pass a vote of no confidence (in ailing President Umaru Yar‘Adua), will translate to the issue of impeachment that he is not able to perform his functions.

“We want FEC to testify to the fact that he (Yar‘Adua) is sick and unable to perform the functions of his office. We have done one aspect.

“We succeeded in making Jonathan the Acting President; that aspect had been certified because the impeachment exercise will have to follow its strict rules. FEC, with whom Yar‘Adua worked everyday, must certify that the sickness or incapability of the President has made him unfit to perform his roles.”

However, the National Association of Nigerian Students has disagreed with the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties over the calls for Yar’Adua’s impeachment.

While NANS cautioned those clamouring for the removal of the President, the CNPP has called on the National Assembly to commence the process of Yar’Adua’s impeachment.

In a statement on Thursday, the President of NANS, Mr. Ini Ememobong, warned that removing the President might heat up the polity.

Ememobong said that since the National Assembly had intervened in the political logjam caused by the prolonged absence of Yar’Adua by authorising Jonathan to act as President, it would be too early to start calling for the President’s removal.

The NANS president said, “The National Assembly, acting under the ‘necessity principle,’ rose to the occasion and salvaged our country. It may have been expected that the tension would reduce with the empowerment of Jonathan.

“It is shocking that after such systematic intervention of the National Assembly, some people were reported in the media to have called for the impeachment of the President.

“It shows that such a call was not based on principles.”

But the Akwa Ibom State CNPP Chairman, Chief David Ekanem, argued that Yar’Adua committed an impeachable offence when he refused to write the National Assembly about his medical trip to Saudi Arabia.

Ekanem, who is also the state chairman of the Action Congress, pointed out that it was better for the President to be impeached for dereliction of duty than to allow the fate of Nigerians to hang in the balance.

To him, “Nigerians are compassionate people and they have shown a lot of compassion to the President. But the fact remains that up till now, no letter has been written to the National Assembly on the President’s health.

“We are aware that some lawmakers who went to Saudi Arabia to visit Yar’Adua were not allowed to see him. For how long should we condone such disregard for constituted authorities?”

THE Goodluck Jonathan imprimatur on the nation’s governance has begun to emerge. Power, it would seem, will get priority attention.

And yesterday, Finance Minister, Mansur Muhtar, explained that the Federal Government has included the N75 billion meant for the $500 million bond issue because it is still necessary for it to access the 10-year bond from the International Capital Market (ICM) for development purposes.

The Acting President, Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday met for several hours with the steering committee of the Federal Government’s National Integrated Power Projects (NIPPs), with focus on the completion of electricity generating plants, transmission lines, the gas, pipelines and the distribution networks.

The Minister of Power, Lanre Babalola, told journalists after the meeting that additional work was needed in order to arrive at the completion of the projects slated for this year “in good time”, assuring that the “projects are expected to start production in the second and third quarter of this year.”

The bond issuances, which were in the 2009 budget, were suspended due to the financial crisis in the ICM, which was considered to be capable of undermining the success of the bond issuance and the realisation of the objectives for Nigeria’s entry into ICM.

In a February 3, 2010 letter with reference number DMO/MDD/001/T/18, and titled RE: 2010 Appropriation Bill and the proposal to issue a USD 500M (naira-denominated) bond in the International Capital Market, he wrote: “(You) may note that since the objectives for approaching the capital market are still very relevant, it was considered expedient to include it in the 2010 Appropriation Bill submitted by Mr. President to the National Assembly.

According to Muhtar, the purpose of his letter is to crave the indulgence of the Upper House “to vary the currency in which the bond will be issued from Naira to U.S. Dollars.”

He went on: “As noted in Paragraph 1 of this letter, the currency of the proposed bond issue that was approved in 2009 was the Naira and this is what has also been included in the 2010 Appropriation Bill which is currently before the National Assembly. The reasons for proposing a Naira issuance earlier were: to avoid the exchange rate risk associated with a foreign currency borrowing; promote the visibility of the Naira in the global financial community and support the goals of the FSS 2020 regarding future convertibility of the Naira. The Distinguished Senator may note that while, these reasons are still valid, the likelihood that a bond issued outside of the major currencies (USD, GBP and Euro) will be well received by international investors whom the issuance is targeted at is very low. Accordingly, we seek to change the currency of the proposed bond issuance from Naira to U.S. Dollars.”

“A U.S.D-denominated bond would still be beneficial to Nigeria in several ways, including: establishing a benchmark in the ICM against which future borrowings by the Federal Government, sub-nationals and corporate in the ICM would be benchmarked; promoting visibility in the direction of Nigeria’s economic potentials and macro-economic indices; and, supporting the attainment of Vision 2020 and the goals of FSS 2020.”

The only risk involved in the change in the currency of the issue, according to him, was the exchange rate risk, which was not significant when compared to the nation’s total debt portfolio.

He disclosed that as at December 31, 2009, foreign loans stood at N 582.62 billion (USD 3.95 billion) or 15.29 per cent of the nation’s Total Debt Stock of N 3810.65 billion. Furthermore, 86.42 per cent of the total external debt stock was concessional.

He urged the Senate “to change the currency of issue of the proposed bond offer to USD and incorporate accordingly into your consideration of the 2010 Appropriation Bill.”

Babalola told journalists after the meeting at the Presidential Villa that “one of the issues that was deliberated upon at the Steering Council of the NIPP today is how to move ahead with the assets that are being developed for the NIPP. And it was agreed that the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) are the owners of the assets. The Council considered a memo from the attorney-general of the federation on the destruction of PHCN and it was agreed that funding of the various projects should be accordingly reflected in the sharing of the holding company.”

He added: “On gas delivery, the Council agreed to have a meeting with the gas companies and all the stakeholders. In many places, we are experiencing delay because the owners are not allowing the contractors to move ahead with the work. The council is to summon governors of such area. The generation today is under 2,400megawatts. The sudden drop in power supply is as a result of the lack of gas. The Ministry of Power is talking with the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and also NNPC through PHCN.

“We have brought the issue of gas to the attention of the Acting President a number of times and unless all the problems militating against the supply of gas to the power stations are addressed, there is no way we can actually deliver more power to Nigerians. As at December 2009, we were generating about 3,400megawatts but as at today, we have lost about 1,200megawatts. The capacity to generate 4,000megawatts has been compromised as a result of the lack of gas to the power plants.”

The firm was said to have emerged the preferred bidder for the Nigeria’s foremost national carrier, following the revocation of an earlier sale of the company.

Federal government had in June 2009 revoked the sale of the company to Transnational Corporation of Nigeria Plc (TRANSCORP) due to alleged inability of the core investor to adhere to the terms of the Share Sales Purchase Agreement (SSPA), non-payment of staff salaries as well as non-transformation of the once-viable company in the country.

Some Nigerian operators, involved in the consortium of New Generation Limited said the preferred bidder only showed interest in providing technical supports, saying the financing of the project would come from Dubai’s Minerva Group.

“We have a firm commitment from our investors and partners, the Minerva Group and they are working with us. We did not pull all these out of the air”, Usman Gumi, the Managing Director of GiCell Wireless Limited said in a telephone interview while adding that “We believe Nitel is worth the amount because of the infrastructure and potential that it has”.

Officials at Minerva FZ, Minerva Traders LLC and Minerva Middle East in the Dubai International Financial Centre said, they were not involved in the deal.

The National Council on Privatization (NCP) said the New Generation Telecommunications Limited. Consortium was preferred bidder for Nitel, which Nigeria has struggled to sell since its liberalization in 2001, which made it very uncompetitive.

The $2.5 billion bid, which would still need to win further government approval had surprised some sector analysts as one of the telecommunication consultants valued Nitel at over $500 million, largely due to its mobile license.

Gumi said Unicom’s European office had offered technical and managerial supports in the event of a successful bid. But Unicom spokeswoman Sophia Tso said earlier in an emailed statement that, “There’s no involvement of this project from the parent company, its listed companies or any subsidiary of the company.” Unicom is a subsidiary of New Generation Limited. The federal government is yet to react on this.

“If this is true, it discredits the Nigerian authorities and the privatization process itself. It’s not the first time they have tried to sell Nitel, which obviously doesn’t send a good signal to investors”, said analyst Thecla Mbongue of Informa Telecoms and Media Group

Nigeria has overtaken South Africa to become the biggest telecoms market in Africa with more than 62 million subscribers and one of the fastest growing in the world, making it a potentially attractive country for foreign players.

But early reports of Unicom’s participation in the Nitel bid had surprised many, as the company has little experience in overseas mergers and acquisitions.

Unicom’s state-run parent owns about 20 percent of PCCW, Hong Kong’s former telephone monopoly, but has made few if any forays outside Greater China.

Chinese telecoms carriers in general have been receptive to selling strategic stakes to other major global carriers, but have largely focused operations on their own lucrative home market, the worlds largest with about 750 million subscribers.

The reserve bidder in the Nitel sale was Omen International Ltd (BVI) with a bid of $956 million.

Meanwhile, the Director-General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Dr. Christopher Anyanwu, yesterday dismissed the purported withdrawal of China Unicorn (Hong Kong) Limited from the bidding exercise for the acquisition of Nigeria Telecommunications Limited (NITEL) and its Mobile subsidiary, M-TEL, saying that it was “the handiwork of a cabal”.

He explained that it was China Unicorn which said it was not part of the consortium, adding that “the cabal wanted to discredit the bidding and sale process just to see if the preferred bidder would be cancelled and they called in to take over. The preferred bidder is still intact”.

It would be recalled that through an open financial bidding exercise presided over by the Chairman of the Technical committee of the National Council on Privatisation, Mohammed Hayatu-Deen on Tuesday, the New Generation Communications Limited emerged the preferred bidder for the acquisition of NITEL and M-TEL with price offer of $2.5 billion which was the highest offer.

Dr. Anyanwu’s reaction yesterday was against the backdrop of report by a foreign media, Financial Times on Thursday alleging that the $2.5bn bid for Nitel, Nigeria’s former telecoms monopoly had been thrown into disarray when China Unicom, previously named as part of the bidding consortium, denied any involvement.

The report further alleged that the spokesman for state-owned China Unicom, China’s second-biggest telecoms carrier and listed in Hong Kong, Shanghai and New York, said the group had not been involved in any way in the bid.

The $2.5bn bid from the consortium, known as New Generation Communications Limited, was some $1.5bn more than the second-highest offer, which came from Omen International, registered in the British Virgin Islands.

The two other parties named as members of the New Generation Communications consortium – Minerva of Dubai and GiCell, a small Nigerian operator – could not be reached for comment.

But yesterday, a letter from the China Unicorn (Europe) operations Limited made available to Daily Champion titled “Re: Privatisation of Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL) reassured its commitment to the privatization process.

The Letter endorsed by its President, William So reads: “We are pleased to inform you that we are willing to be technical partner to support New Generation Telecommunications Limited consortium to bid for NITEL and to provide technical and managerial support on terms to be agreed later, when the bid is finally won. We will also consider equity participation of not less than 20 percent subject to final agreement with the consortium”.

It would be recalled that the Federal Government had in June, 2009 revoked the sale of NITEL and M-TEL to Transnational Corporation of Nigeria Plc (TRANSCORP) due its inability to transform the company, failure to adhere to the terms of the Share Sales Purchase Agreement (SSPA) and inability to meet its obligation to pay staff salaries.

The National Council on Privatisation (NCP) had subsequently approved that a new sale strategy of unbundling NITEL and M-Tel and allowing market forces to determine whether the enterprise would be sold as an entity or unbundled.

During the second round of the renewed financial bid opening, the Five qualified bidders namely: Brymedia Consortuim, MTN Nigeria Communications Limited, New Generations Communications Consortium (Formerly Telefonica), AFZI/Spectrum Consortium and Omen International Limited (BVI) had reviewed their first round bids to $551 million, $25 million (for SAT-3 only), $2.5 billion, $375.5 million and $956,998.091 million , respectively.

In the first round of the bidding exercise, the companies had bided thus: Brymedia Consortuim ($95,000), MTN Nigeria Communications Limited ($25 million for SAT-3), New Generations Communications Consortium ($333,333.33), AFZI/Spectrum Consortium ($200 million without liabilities and $173.333 with liabilities) and Omen International Limited (BVI) ($350 million).

Announcing the outcome of the first round of the bidding exercise, the Chairman of the Technical Committee of the National Council on Privatisation (NCP), Dr. Mohammed Hayatu-Deen explained that the NITEL and M-Tel were being sold without any liability.

Also, yesterday New Generation Consortium Limited, the Preferred Bidder of the recently concluded NITEL Bid reacted to media reports quoting China Unicom, Hong

Kong as the Preferred Bidder of the NITEL Bid.

According to the Press Statement issued by the authorized representative of New Generation Consortium Limited, Usman Gumi, the Preferred Bidder of the NITEL Bid is New Generation Consortium Limited. New Generation Consortium Limited is a consortium of several companies for the purpose of the NITEL Bid and naturally the consortium would have financial and technical partners.

According to Gumi, the financial backbone of the New Generation Consortium is

the Minerva Group of United Arab Emirates and they have what it takes to turn

around NITEL and give Nigerians good telecommunication services. The Minerva> Group, not China Unicom is the lead financial partner of New Generation Consortium Limited. Other consortium members are GiCell Wireless Ltd, a Unified Access Service Licencee, Sumatra Star GT Limited and BGL Private Equity Ltd.

China Unicom (Europe) Operations Limited who supported the bid, confirmed that

it will provide technical and managerial support and would consider a minimum of 20% equity participation on terms to be agreed.

Assuring Nigerians that New Generation Consortium Limited will turn NITEL around, Mr. Gumi noted that the consortium has several other strategic partners with whom New Generation Consortium Limited has signed Memorandum of Understanding, including GIT Affinalia in association with Ring South Europa, Spain, and Xtra Telecom/Phone House Group, FiberHomes technologies, Huawei Technologies Limited, Operators of the National Rural Telephony Program in Nigeria and China Academy of Telecommunications Technology.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, has given the five-man delegation of the House that travelled to see ailing President Umaru Yar’Adua in Saudi Arabia, until Tuesday next week to present its report.

The delegation, led by the deputy House leader, Baba Shehu Agaie, returned to the country last Saturday after six days in Saudi Arabia without seeing Mr. Yar’Adua.

The delegation was expected to present the report last Tuesday but it was moved to Thursday because the report was not ready.

However, at the plenary yesterday, a member of the delegation, Mohammed Ali Ndume, raised a point of order complaining that the presentation of the report was not listed on the Order Paper for the day.

Mr. Ndume, who is also the minority leader of the House, told the House that he had signed the report prepared by the delegation and that its members agreed that it should be presented yesterday. He wondered why the report was not on the agenda of the House.

Just as he spoke, Mr. Bankole asked Mr Agaie to explain why the report was not listed.

Mr. Agaie explained that only three members, namely Muhammed Ndume, Moruf Fatai and himself had signed the report.

He said the remaining two members, Jubril Adamu and Patrick Ikhariale had not signed because they are currently outside the country. According to him, Mr. Ikhariale, who is on official trip to Spain and Mr. Adamu will return this weekend.

Apparently worried by the delay, the Speaker directed the delegation to present the report on Tuesday.

A six-member delegation, drawn from the six geo-political zones, was mandated by the House last month to travel to Saudi Arabia to deliver a goodwill message to the President.

But one of the members, Nnenna Ukeje, could not make the trip over issues bordering on her marital status and conflicting information on travel documents.

The remaining five lawmakers, who left Nigeria on Sunday, February 7 could not meet with Mr. Yar’Adua. It was learnt that they met with his wife, Turai and one of his daughters, with whom they had a prayer session before returning last Saturday.

No intervention in Edo

Also on Thursday, the House thwarted moves by the House Leader, Tunde Akogun, to make the House reverse the suspension of two local government chairmen in Edo State by the governor, Adams Oshiomhole.

Mr. Akogun, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from Edo State, sought to have the suspension debated as a matter of urgent national importance.

He had complained that the manner in which Mr. Oshiomhole dissolves councils and sacks or suspends their chairmen is wrong and warned that if not checked, it could affect the fledgling democracy. He said that the governor removed the two chairmen on Wednesday.

But Mr. Ndume raised a point of order and said that it is a matter that should be handled at the state level. Consequently, members voted against the issue being considered in the House.

The House, however, agreed through a vote to consider a motion of urgent national importance on the recent electrocution of some people in Rivers States on Tuesday. It was brought by Ike Chinwo (PDP, Rivers).

ABUJA—Key supporters of  President Umaru Yar’Adua in the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP,  are pushing for the conduct of the party’s presidential primaries in June.

Vanguard gathered in Abuja that the decision to push for an early conduct of the primaries by Yar’Adua’s supporters is to ensure that, if he is unable to return to the country soon, a Northerner would emerge as the party’s candidate to contest the 2010 presidential poll.

Though the campaign is allegedly being spearheaded by members of the party from the Northern part of the country, they allegedly have the support of some of Acting President Goodluck Jonathan’s opponents from the South-South zone.

According to a source at one of the meetings where the matter was discussed, ”the issue is not about Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as a person, but to protect the interest of the North.

”Since there is the understanding that power will rotate between North and South and the South served eight years, the North should also serve its own tenure of four years even if President Yar’Adua is unable to serve out his term.”

Bargains with PDP NEC members

The source said: ”We are looking at reassuring the present members of the National Executive Committee of the party that if they support the proposal, their position would be guaranteed as they would be returned to their posts.

”We are also aware that Dr. Jonathan is not particularly popular with the various power blocs in the South-South. So, we will have natural allies in some of the political leaders from Dr. Jonathan’s immediate political vicinity,” said the source who pleaded anonymity.

Vanguard recalls that in the build-up to the National Assembly resolution empowering Jonathan as acting president, a governor from one of the South-South states mobilised members of the House of Representatives to vote against the resolution making Jonathan the acting president.

Relatedly, in the Senate, only one of the three senators from Edo State supported the resolution making Jonathan acting president. The two others were reportedly directed by a chieftain of  PDP from the state (names withheld) not to support Jonathan’s lift.

The source stressed that to dispel the impression that Goodluck is being targeted, ”he would be offered the opportunity to continue as the vice-president to any candidate that would emerge from the primaries.”

Don’t forget that Jonathan did not contest to be president and we all know that he is not a man of inordinate ambition; so, we don’t anticipate a major problem from him. What we are trying to do is to save the country from any major crisis since it would be unacceptable that the North will serve for less than one term when Chief Olusegun Obasanjo served for two terms.”