From George Oji and Chuks Okocha:
Ministers are in a “big dilemma” as they appear set to apply what one of them called “political euthanasia” on President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua who is believed to be gravely ill.
By the provision of Section 144 of the 1999 Constitution, the Executive Council of the Federation (EXCOF) is empowered to commence the process of the removal of the President by declaring him incapacitated, after which the Senate will set up a medical panel to examine him to verify the claim before removing him from office.
THISDAY learnt that most of the ministers have concluded plans to apply “political mercy killing” on the President in order to free him to be properly taken care of by the family without the distractions of politics.
“Every effort to see Yar’Adua so far has been rebuffed by the people around him, especially the wife,” a minister told the newspaper. “That is why we suspect that something is gravely wrong. The Yar’Adua we know, the one I’ve been working with, would have received us by now if he was in a good state.”
He said even Acting President Goodluck Jonathan has not been allowed to see Yar’Adua, “and this has reinforced our belief that the President is indeed incapacitated. These antics are completely out of character with Yar’Adua.”
The source said the ministers are agonising because of their relationship with Yar’Adua who appointed them in the first instance, “but we just have to do the right thing in the interest of the country. We need to move forward.”
The failure of the six-man ministerial team to see Yar’Adua in Saudi Arabia last Wednesday may have compounded matters as the President was hurriedly flown back to Nigeria same day while the team was still in the kingdom.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Alhaji Yayale Ahmed, who led the delegation on the unsuccessful mission, is expected to present the report to EXCOF on Wednesday in what should see a final nail on Yar’Adua’s presodency.
Meanwhile, Jonathan will today commence a series of consultations with key policy makers and stakeholders to brief them on these developments and define his major agenda as he consolidates his hold on power.
THISDAY reliably gathered that he will meet some members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Governors Inner Caucus. The meeting is billed to hold at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
In the meantime, the Acting President has said there is no relationship between the N19 billion River Niger Dredging project and shore protection and land reclamation projects in the Niger Delta.
Jonathan was responding to speculations that he diverted N19 billion from the River Niger Dredging project into shore protection and land reclamation projects in the Niger Delta or that he cancelled the project flagged off September last year by President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua outright.
Members of the PDP Governors inner caucus expe-cted at the meeting with the Acting President include the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum, Governors Bukola Saraki of Kwara State, Isa Yuguda of Bauchi State, Danjuma Goje of Gombe State, Gabriel Suswam of Benue State and Ibrahim Shema of Katsina State.
According to a source, the Acting President would use the meeting to discuss his policy thrust and what he intends to do within the period he acts as President.
It was gathered that after the meeting, Jonathan will play host to a large meeting of the Nigeria Governors Forum, where all the governors are expected to be in attendance. The venue of the meeting is also at the Presidential Villa.
Since the National Assembly passed a resolution to enable the Vice-President act as the President, this is the first formal meeting between Jonathan and the governors.
The meeting between the PDP Governors Inner Caucus is to agree on the agenda of the Tuesday meeting with all the governors, THISDAY was informed.
Speaking through his Senior Special Assistant Media and Publicity Ima Niboro, Jonathan described both version of the stories as false and sponsored by desperate persons who are determined to injure the peace and unity of the country.
He said: “There is no relationship whatsoever between the River Niger dredging project and the proposed shore protection and land reclamation projects proposed for the Niger Delta states. The latter are a part of the post-amnesty projects planned for the region, and are to be funded from a ‘ring fenced’ fund dedicated to the Niger Delta amnesty programme.
“In the instant case, the sum of N5.5 billion, part of the dedicated amnesty fund under the 2009 supplementary appropriation, was set aside by the Ministry of Transportation for improvement of waterways and related issues in the Niger Delta. The ministry therefore proposed to dredge a channel through the River Nun, taking off from Onya in Delta through Odoni, Kalama, Tombia, Yenagoa, Okodogu, Okokiri, Nembe (with a spur to Brass), Apiama, Ndukiri, Sand Village, Ekulama, Idama, Tombiabok (with a spur to Degema), Bobake, Ndorokiri, Obekiri, Yekiri, Okungba up to Port Harcourt.
“The total cost of this project was estimated at N19 billion, and was set out as follows: 1.Onya (Delta) to Nembe (Bayelsa), with a spur to Brass. 2. Nembe to Port Harcourt (120 kilometres), with a spur to Degema (Rivers)
“By this plan proposed by the Ministry of Transport, the entire funds would have been spent on Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers, with the bulk going to Bayelsa, the home state of the Acting President. But in reviewing the decision, more states of the Niger Delta, notably Ondo and Akwa Ibom, now stand to benefit.
“Another factor that guided the decision to take a second look at the plan was the fact that an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was yet to be carried out, and for a project of this magnitude that affects navigation and the ecology of aquatic organisms, an EIA is mandatory.
“However, from conception through completion and approval, an EIA would take between one and a half to two years to complete. So, should funds earmarked for urgent post amnesty intervention projects be left unutilised for two years even as the Niger Delta amnesty was threatening to unravel before our eyes?
“There was a further consideration. Even with an EIA, the deepening of the channel would result in a faster flow, and worsen river bank erosion for communities on the route. This has always been a significant challenge for riverine development planning in the Niger Delta.
“Therefore, in his usual consultative manner, Dr. Jonathan invited the governors of the Niger Delta states and asked them to consult with the people and find a way forward.
“When the governors returned for the next meeting, their position was clear: some of the greatest challenges confronting the Niger Delta riverine communities were shore protection and land reclamation, since many of them are steadily being washed away by erosion. There was also complete agreement that the Federal Government moves quickly to consolidate the gains of the amnesty, and be seen to be delivering on its commitments to the people of the area.
“Following the presentation of the governors, a unanimous decision was taken to embark on a vigorous effort to protect the shores of vulnerable communities, and reclaim lands that have been washed away.”
Niboro explained that Jonathan subsequently directed the Finance Minister to begin a virement process to move the N5.5 billion provided in the supplementary appropriation for this project, under the Amnesty initiative, to the Niger Delta ministry.
“This is a detailed administrative process that would naturally have to pass through the National Assembly before it is concluded,” he said.
He said there was no time it was announced that the dredging of the River Niger had been stopped. “Indeed, that project remains on course, and site reports indicate that things are going on just fine.
“This gigantic N36 billion project takes off from Forcados, through Warri and Onitsha, and terminates in Baro, Niger State. We are totally committed to completing and delivering it as one of the priority projects of this government,” he said.
The Action Congress (AC) has, however, warned individuals and groups against sectionalising or trivialising the leadership crisis currently rocking the nation, saying the issues arising are national issues, which must be resolved through constitutional means.
In a statement issued yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary Lai Mohammed, AC said all concerned must bear in mind the fact that Jonathan is occupying that position for all Nigerians, not for the South-southerners, the Ijaws or Christians.
“We therefore strongly advise sectional groups and religious leaders against making statements that can be misconstrued as playing the sectional/tribal/religious card, and avoid the situation that occurred over the June 12th 1993 presidential election which was almost turned into a South-west issue,’’ it said.
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