Withdrawal from elections: Buhari to decide Malami, Sylva, Ngige, others’ fate

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From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja

The fate of those ministers who made U-turn on their political ambitions  would be decided by President Muhammadu Buhari, Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, told State House Correspondents at the end of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, yesterday.

He said he would need to confirm from the president the status of the returning ministers on whether or not they had been reabsorbed into the cabinet.

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Minister of Labour and Employment Chris Ngige, Minister of Women Affairs Pauline Tallen, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami, Minister of State for Petroleum, Timpre Sylva, had rescinded their decision to contest for elective offices in 2023.

Mohammed said: “The other question about ministers returning or not going, I think you need to give me more time so that I can tell you exactly what the situation is. Right now, I need to cross-check. I need to confirm again from Mr. President what the situation is. You see, the final decision on who is going, who’s coming back, who’s not going lies with Mr. President.”

While Malami was part of those who physically attended the meeting at the council chambers, Tallen, who had signified interest in the senatorial seat in Plateau State and Sylva joined virtually. A source who was part of the meeting confirmed that Sylva joined virtually after journalists were excused from the council chambers of the meeting.

The president had last week Friday bade farewell to the 10 outgoing FEC members at a brief ceremony held at the Council.

Malami shelved his ambition for the governorship seat of Kebbi State. Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, who also made a U-turn on his presidential ambition was, however, not part of the meeting during the opening session where members of the press were permitted to be part of.

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Ngige is reported to be on an official visit to South Africa where he is attending the International Labour Organization (ILO), global conference on Child Labour in Durban.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government has assured that it has no intention to ban Facebook over the alleged inciting statements by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) using its platform.

Mohammed had at a meeting with a team from Facebook in Abuja on Tuesday, asked the social media platform to prevent IPOB from using its platform to incite violence. He said people had been killed because of the group’s activities.

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Responding to a question on whether the Federal Government was contemplating to ban Facebook as it did to Twitter over alleged inciting violence by IPOB, the minister said they had a fruitful discussion with the social media platform.

“I had a very fruitful meeting with Facebook yesterday (Tuesday). At that meeting, we expressed our displeasure that Facebook was becoming a power of choice for those who stay outside Nigeria, in particular, to incite violence, killings, burning of government properties, killing of soldiers and policemen.

“And that they should do more than what they are doing now in looking at the contents, which are unwholesome, which are being used on their platforms.

“Incidentally, the BBC did a documentary on this particular issue and found out that some of them who call themselves social media warriors in England, in France and other places, have in recent times, be using the Facebook platform to incite violence in Nigeria. And we’ve all seen the real life impact of those war mongering, the young couple who are going to marry, soldiers who were gruesomely murdered.

“Over this weekend in Anambra state police men were killed, military barracks were attacked. And we we did warn Facebook to please do more than what they are doing now. And I must say that their response was quite encouraging. They said you’re going to do much more.”

Asked whether there is any plan to ban Facebook if the inciting violence continues, he said, “I think I gave you an answer. We had a very robust discussion with Facebook. Facebook saw our point and they said they’re going to do much more than what they are doing. So if they do that, why would we ban them?

“We don’t ban for banning sake. We ban or we only suspend operations if for any reason, lives are threatened and they do not listen. But this is of engagement.”

Federal Government had on June 5, 2021, put an indefinite ban on twitter restricting it from operating in Nigeria after the social media platform deleted tweets made by the Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari warning the people of the South Eastern part of the country, of a potential repeat of the 1967 Biafran civil war due to the security crisis on that rejoin.

The ban was lifted in January 13, seven month at after  suspension of Twitter operations after it agreed to set “a legal entity in Nigeria during the first quarter of 2022.”

The establishment of Twitter’s legal entity, according to the government, was the social media giant’s “first step in demonstrating its long-term commitment to Nigeria.”