The South- East Enlightenment Network (SE-EN) has condemned a recent communiqué issued by a pan-Igbo group, the Alaigbo Development Foundation (ADF) were it claimed there were powerful interests to conquer, occupy and enslave the Igbo people in Nigeria.
The socio-cultural-political group at an emergency meeting of a “consultative caucus of concerned pan-Igbo” organizations on Friday said it met to deliberate on issues of “grave and urgent importance that threaten the peace, development and security situation in Alaigbo and elsewhere in the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.
Reacting to the alarm raised by ADF, the South- East Enlightenment Network called on the general public to disregard it in its entirety while the Igbo nation focuses on robust and more realistic approaches to existing security challenges facing the country as they particularly affect the South-East of Nigeria.
Chimezie Egboh JP, President of the group in a statement on Sunday, said Igbos must be wary of being drawn into fighting the wrong enemy by being misled into randomly attacking or killing Muslims or Fulani.
According to the statement, “The fallout of such mistake would not only be costly it will also stain the South-East with the stigma of starting a fight of blame even when there are indications that we have been provoked into taking certain actions.”
It further urged “Ndi’Igbo to reject those that are working with other ethnic nationalities to push us into acting against our own interest by making enemies of other ethnic nationalities before 2023, when alliances will be needed to clinch an Igbo presidency.
The statement below.
We have recent experiences of individuals and organizations that exploited our agitation for fairness and greater self determination to feather their own nests. Such people went as far as pitching the entire South-East against the other five geo-political zones only to escape to foreign lands to enjoy the money they were paid by our detractors. These dubious agitator for Igbo rights went as far as inciting our youths to imprudently act in way that cut short their prospects in life while leading to the death of others.
This is why we find it alarming that the premises canvassed by Alaigbo Development Foundation uncannily tally with the “Fulanization and Islamization” propaganda recently launched by former President Oluegun Obasanjo. This divisive concept originally has its root in the campaign message of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), who, confoundedly, is Fulani and a Muslim. If he is setting the Igbos up to fight his own people (Fulani and Muslims) we should be wary and ask why he wants to use the South-East as his disposable cannon fodder.
This is not to dismiss that there are pressure points in the interaction of nomadic cattle herders and the permanent communities they pass through in the course of taking their herds to pasture. Globally, this stressed relationship is recognized as part of the fallouts of human population growth, climate change, and culture-in-transit. We must therefore again demonstrate the unrivalled intellectual capacity that Igbos are known for. We are known as people that deal with problems in ways that leave us emerging winners as opposed to the insinuated descent into barbarism being championed by ADF.
We suggest that Igbos should immediately hold dialogues and other interactive engagements to explore solutions to the globally identified problems, bring the attention of our political leaders to the proffered solutions and pressure them to adopt same. This will ensure that agreed actions will be systematic, institutional, legal and enduring.
In the short term, our recommendation is for communities to build networks that feed information about suspicious persons to security agencies and create a format of documenting such reports so that there would be a trail of evidence if security agents fail to act on such information. As an intermediate measure, we recommend that Igbos massively support the creation of state and local government police as recommended in the report on Police reform, when the time comes.
These are practical suggestions that are missing in the ADF communique, which proves that the group’s intentions are neither altruistic nor noble. The implication is that the Forum targeted Ndi’Igbo with the hoax of Islamization and Fulanization in pursuit of the agenda of the enemies of Igboland. These are people that continue to prevent the masses of the South-East to realize and accept that politics is about collaboration and not isolation. They want to continue reaping dirty gains from pitching Igbos against other parts of the country.
We therefore urge Ndi’Igbo to reject those that are working with other ethnic nationalities to push us into acting against our own interest by making enemies of other ethnic nationalities before 2023, when alliances will be needed to clinch an Igbo presidency. Our people must be cautious of mushroom organizations like ADF, which are set up to torpedo our prospects at a time when greatness beckons on us.
Buhari Approves N208bn for Varsity Infrastructure
President Muhammadu Buhari, on Saturday, said he had approved the disbursement of N208bn to federal universities for infrastructure.
The President said the approval was done under the 2019 intervention of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund to “address the deficiencies in all the segments of our educational system.”
Buhari said these at the 23rd convocation of the University of Abuja, where he was represented by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Mr. Sonny Echono.
The President, who is the Visitor to the school, said the university system must search for solutions to the nation’s developmental needs.
Buhari said, “The ability of Nigeria with its huge population to overcome its present challenges of development no longer depends on petroleum resources but on the ability of the country to develop its human capital. The present administration will continue to improve on the infrastructural facilities in the universities, promote teacher development and curriculum review.
“It is in furtherance of this that I recently approved the disbursement of N208bn to public tertiary institutions under the 2019 intervention of the TETFUND.
“The government will continue to look into the issues raised by the universities, especially regarding physical development and will equally monitor the universities closely.”
UNIABUJA Vice-Chancellor, Prof Michael Adikwu, said 4,946 students graduated from the institution with 24 first-class.
He said, “The total is made up of 4,725 undergraduates and 221 postgraduate students from the 2017/2018 session. We have 982 Second Class Upper and 2,498 Second Class Lower degrees. A total of 68 have doctoral degrees while 233 were awarded master’s degrees.”
FG Admits Shortcomings of 2019 Polls, Vows to Act on EU Recommendations
The presidency has welcomed the report of the European Union (EU) on the 2019 general election, promising to analyse it fully and act on the recommendations.
Garba Shehu, senior special assistant to the president on media and publicity, made this known in a statement in Abuja on Saturday.
Shehu said the EU observers were invited to the country by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and welcomed by the federal government.
He said this showed that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari had “good intentions”.
In its report, the EU said there were marked improvements from previous elections, although it highlighted that more work needed to be done.
It also questioned the neutrality of INEC, condemning the violence witnessed in different parts of the country.
In its response, the federal government said it is working to address some of the concerns raised by the organisation.
“The administration of President Buhari will work with all Nigerian citizens, state institutions, parties, civil society, the media, and other experts to make sure that the improvements recommended by the EU are implemented, and that these areas of concern are addressed,” Shehu said.
“It is noteworthy that INEC is in receipt of a number of recommendations that form a part of the EU report. The presidency assures that the commission is in safe hands and happy that they are currently engaged in root and branch reviews of the 2019 general elections and will input lessons learned into its recommendations for electoral and constitutional reforms.
“We believe that the commission conducted a good election and will continue to improve on its processes and procedures. While it is regretted that the elections in a few parts of the country witnessed some violence, among other shortcomings highlighted by the EU, we note however that none of these hitches affected the overall outcome of the elections.”
Shehu expressed delight that the EU did not question the results of the presidential election, describing this as a “further proof that the polls reflected the overall will of Nigerians, and that the world is solidly behind the election of President Buhari for a second term”.
‘INEC’s Neutrality Questionable’ — 10 Highlights of EU Report on 2019 Polls
The European Union Election Observation Mission to Nigeria on Saturday released the final report gathered from its observation of the 2019 general election.
The report highlighted a number of issues regarding the polls and gave 30 recommendations to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The mission, which had in its preliminary report released in April, adjudged the polls as characterised by violence, underage voting, and vote-buying, however, said the election recorded some improvements compared to past ones.
“The systemic failings evident in the elections and the low levels of voter participation show the need for fundamental reform,” it read.
“Without this, there is a risk of unaccountable leadership and citizen disengagement. Such reform requires principled political leadership committed to the rights of Nigerian citizens and an inclusive process of national dialogue involving state institutions, parties, civil society, the media and other experts.
“This needs to be urgently undertaken to allow time for debate, legislative changes and implementation well in advance of the next elections.”
Below are some of the highlights from the report:
INEC RECORDED IMPROVEMENT
“The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) worked in a complex security and politically-charged environment, with its premises and officials subject to physical attacks and intimidation,” it read.
“INEC made a number of improvements, including making electoral participation more accessible through simplified voting procedures. INEC made efforts to strengthen electoral integrity by issuing regulations making smart card readers mandatory to accredit voters, but there were insufficient accompanying transparency measures.
“Other procedural weaknesses continued, including in regards to checks and transparency in the results process. Severe operational shortcomings resulted in the elections being postponed by a week just five hours before polling was due to start on 16 February.”
LACK OF TRANSPARENCY
The report said the 2019 polls recorded transparency issues even though it was highly competitive.
“Nigeria’s 2019 general elections were marked by severe operational and transparency shortcomings, electoral security problems, and low turnout. Positively, the elections were competitive, parties were overall able to campaign and civil society enhanced accountability,” it read.
“The leading parties were at fault in not reining in acts of violence and intimidation by supporters, and in abusing incumbency at federal and state levels.”
LESSER WOMEN PARTICIPATION
The EOM decried the decreasing participation of women in electoral positions.
“Nigeria has the lowest rate of women in parliament in Africa, with the number progressively decreasing since 2011,” it said.
“The number of women elected fell again. These systemic failings show the need for fundamental reform so elections better serve the interests of the Nigerian people.
“The proportion of women elected is well below the 30 per cent Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the 35 per cent national targets. 203 Similarly, the proportion of female candidates for national and state-level elections generally reduced in comparison to 2015 by an average of two percentage points to 10 per cent”
SUSPENSION OF CJN ‘QUESTIONABLE’
It said the suspension of Walter Onnoghen, former chief justice of Nigeria, is questionable, adding that due process was not followed.
“It was seen by many as undermining the security of tenure, damaging judicial independence and compromising the division of powers. The suspension did not follow due process, was divisive, and undermined confidence in the electoral process and opportunity for remedy.
“The mission observed that questionable procedures were followed by the Code of Conduct Tribunal. The removal of the chief justice of Nigeria during the elections had an inhibiting effect on the judiciary.
“Very few electoral offences result in arrest or prosecution, and thus there is an enduring culture of impunity.”
OVER 100 ELECTION-RELATED DEATHS
Violence was recorded across some states, including Lagos and Delta during the polls, leading to loss of lives and property.
“The elections became increasingly marred by violence and intimidation. This harmed the integrity of the electoral process and may deter future participation. Based on information available, around 150 people died in election-related violence during the campaign period and over the election days.
“Approximately 145 people were killed in election-related violence, 84 of which were in the South-South zone. This is a comparable figure to the 2015 general elections.
“However, exact numbers of incidents and fatalities are hard to obtain and there are different views on what is categorised as electoral and political violence.”
INEC’s CREDIBILITY QUESTIONABLE
“INEC’s neutrality and ability to withstand political pressure was increasingly questioned, particularly following the September 2018 off-cycle governorship election in Osun,” it said.
“INEC operated in a highly politically-charged and complex security environment. Its officials and premises were subject to physical attack, including abductions and intimidation, and there were also difficulties with some inter-institutional arrangements.
“A number of procedural weaknesses identified by previous EU election observation missions remained unaddressed, particularly regarding checks and transparency in the results process.”
According to the report, the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) was biased in its covering and reportage of the polls, adding that it gave preferential treatment to President Muhammadu Buhari.
“There was evident partisan programming by the NTA. The joint share of exposure for the president, the government and the APC was over 84 per cent.
“During the EU EOM’s 46-day monitoring period, President Buhari had two hours and eight minutes of direct speech within the news, while Atiku Abubakar had seven minutes,” it said.
“Except for federal radio, state media primarily served the interests of the president or the governor at state level.
However federal government-owned TV clearly favoured the president and the ruling party.”
FAKE NEWS FACTOR
“Disinformation (fake/false narratives) was a key focus of political discussion with concern about its impact on the 2019 elections and risk of violence.119 Government officials repeatedly alerted the public to the risk of disinformation. People affiliated with both major parties posted false partisan information online.”
GUBER POLL MORE ORDERLY THAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
It judged the gubernatorial election as more orderly than its presidential counterpart.
“Polling was more orderly and assessed more positively by EU observers in comparison to the 23 February election day.”
TRANSPARENT COUNTING OF BALLOT
“Overall, the counting of ballots was transparent. In 25 out of 28 observed polling units, results forms were filled in completely. But in 12 cases collation was assessed as bad or very bad. In most cases, results forms and smart card readers were not packed in tamper-evident envelopes when delivered to collation centres.”
Meanwhile, Mahmood Yakubu, INEC chairman, has promised to ensure the implementation of the recommendations.
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