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SERAP Gives Buhari, Governors 7 Days To Publish Spending On Security Votes

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A rights group, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has requested that President Muhammadu Buhari and the 36 state governors in Nigeria to urgently provide information on specific details of spending of appropriated public funds as security votes between 2011 and 2019.

SERAP in a statement signed by its Deputy Director, Director Kolawole Oluwadare, said, “given the current security realities in the country, we need the information to determine if public funds meant to provide security and ensure respect and protection of the rights to life, physical integrity, and liberty of Nigerians have been spent for this purpose.

“Our request is limited to details of visible, specific security measures and projects executed and does not include spending on intelligence operations.”

SERAP went further to say: “’ Section 14(2)(b) of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended) provides that the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.’ It is the security of the citizens that is intended and not the security of select individuals in public office. SERAP believes that transparency and accountability in the spending of security votes are critically important to fully implement this responsibility imposed on both the federal and state governments.

“We are concerned that rather than serving the citizens, the appropriation of public funds as security votes over the years would seem to serve high-ranking government officials at all levels—federal and states. We are also concerned that the practice of security votes entrusts discretionary powers to spend huge public funds on certain elected public officials who may not have any idea of operational issues on security matters.”

The requests read in part: “SERAP urges you to open up on the matter and provide information and documents as requested. This will be one step in the right direction. Unless the information is urgently provided, Nigerians would continue to see the appropriation of public funds as security votes and the institutionalization of this cash in ‘Ghana Must Go bags’ practice as a tool for self-enrichment.

“We would be grateful if the requested information is provided to us within 7 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, the Registered Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal action under the Freedom of Information Act to compel you to comply with our request.

“The most general purpose of state power is to provide security for citizens and other residents and to enable them to lead a life that is meaningful to them. However, the growing level of insecurity, violence, kidnappings, and killings in Zamfara State and other parts of Nigeria suggest that successive governments—at both federal and state levels—have been unwilling or unable to satisfactorily implement this fundamental constitutional commitment.

“SERAP believes that there is a strong link between corruption and insecurity, violence, kidnappings and killings in several parts of the country. Available evidence would seem to suggest that many of the tiers of government in Nigeria have used security votes as a conduit for grand corruption rather than spending the funds to improve and enhance national security and ensure full protection of Nigerians’ rights to life, physical integrity, and liberty. In fact, former governor of Kano State, Musa Kwankwaso once described security votes as ‘another way of stealing public funds’.

“SERAP believes that by providing the information, your government would help put an end to any insinuation that security votes are spent on political activities, mismanaged or stolen. This would, in turn, contribute to better opportunities for citizens to assess the level of spending and commitment of successive governments to ensuring the security of lives and property of the people,” the statement said

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Fresh crisis Hits CAN As 500 Groups Reject President’s ‘Blood Money’

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The embattled President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev. Samson Supo Ayokunle, may have stirred more controversy in Christendom in the country following his visit to victims of Boko Haram insurgency in the North East barely one month to the Presidential Elections in CAN.

Already, there is tension and division in CAN with a coalition of over 500 Christian organisations in Nigeria rejecting what they described “blood money given to the families of the victims killed by Boko Haram members and other insurgents.”

According to them, since the money may have been proceeds of what the CAN Presisent got from his regular visits to President Muhammadu Buhari and other politicians, they were rejecting it because the Presidency was not concerned over the killing and persecution of Christians in Nigeria.

The resolutions of the over 500 Christian groups was contained in a communique entitled “The CAN President: A Kingdom Personal Non-Grata! You are not welcome here!”, issued in Abuja on Friday after their emergency meeting held at the national secretariat of CAN.

The communique was signed by the President, Arewa Christians and Indigenous Pastors Association (ACIPA), Rev. Luke Shehu; President, Coalition of Christians Groups for Good Governance – Nigeria and Diaspora (COCGOG), Engr. Daniel Kadzai; President, Patriotic Christian Youths of Nigeria (PCYN), Evangelist Timothy Nasso; Spokesperson, Arise Christian Network, Pastor Joseph Zephaniah and President, Christian Youths Integrity Group, Godwin Yilpina.

The communique reads: “The blood of the believers killed in the North East are crying against the visit of Samson Supo Ayokunle. Please, we advise you to do the noble, this week like Judas whom you typified in the Church of Christ in Nigeria, lay down the money earned through conspiracy against the Christian faith and resign.

“You will do well, Sir, to let us know, if the CAN National Executive Council (NEC) or College of Bishops, met over your visit to make provision for funds which has enabled you to donate rice. Or is it a bread of affliction? Our people are determined not to partake in the licking of fingers dipped in the blood of our brethren. Money gotten from conspiracy against our faith is blood money and we will never be part of it. Tell us the value that commanded your congratulatory message, and resign now!”

They wondered why the CAN President would decide to visit the North East, North Central and North West, barely one month to the Presidential Election in CAN, describing it as political, but had refused to visit the family of Leah Sharibu who had been held in Boko Haram captivity for more than one year.

Leah Sharibu was one of the 110 female students of Government Girls’ Science and Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State, who had been held in captivity since February 19, 2018 by Boko Haram terrorists on account of her Christian faith.

The groups said, “It was a week like this that Judas kissed Jesus, have you (Ayokunle) come like Judas to kiss us in your desperation to remain in office? But Judas came to himself after he realised it was wrong for him to have sold Jesus for 30 shekels of silver. For how much was the christians in Nigeria sold?

“The President of CAN will need to clarify where the money he lavishly spent during his visit to the North East is coming from. Is it part of the reward of congratulating our persecutor (Buhari), the man under whose watch as the President, Christians are maimed, killed, livelihoods destroyed and are sacked from their homes? Today, the church has witnessed the highest number of Christians living in Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps under the supervision of Rev. Samson Supo Ayokunle.

“There is a man who will forever be remembered by Christians for his treachery: He is Rev. Samson Supo Ayokunle, the President of CAN, the Judas Iscariot of our time. No wonder he chose to embark on tour across Northern Nigeria ahead of Easter.

“The CAN President has betrayed not only the Nigeria Christians but also believers all over the world who are praying for the persecuted Christians and deeply touched by heinous killings of Christians in Nigeria.

“We are shocked! It was bad enough that the CAN President has battered our sacred institutions. CAN under his leadership is characterised by stinking corruption and terrible immorality amongst the officials. But the sad reality is that he has aligned himself with our tormentors just for money and relevance.

“It is almost unthinkable that the CAN President can embark on a campaign visit to the North East, one month to the expiration of his troublesome tenure in office. Where was he when Christians are being abducted on daily basis, maimed and brutally murdered in the North East: Adamawa, Borno, Yobe and North Central: Benue, Plateau, Taraba, Nasarawa and also Kaduna and Zamfara in the North West?

“While Christian organisations and leaders like ECWA, ACIPA, CNNC and others visited the parents of the abducted Dapchi school girl, Leah Sharibu to pray with and encourage them, the CAN President chose to look the side and was busy negotiating visits to Aso Rock.

“Why is he coming few days to National Elections of CAN, when he has failed woefully and refused to constitute the Electoral College one month to the election?

“It is imperative to mention the failure of Ayokunle, in uniting Nigerian Christians at the most desperate time of their needs. Also, his total disregard and disrespect for the denominational heads as spiritual leaders and Nigeria Christian Elders Forum (NCEF) is the most greatest disservice and dishonour to the body of Christ and ecclesiastical hierarchy in Nigeria.

“He is not welcome, because he has brought us down and caused so much embarrassment to the body of Christ over his corrupt behaviour. He is an ethnic bigot who has turned CAN into Yoruba and Baptist affairs. Whoever is in doubt should find out the people on his entourage each time he travels or go bootlicking in Aso villa. He must not contemplate contesting the election because he has failed his church, Baptist and the Church in Nigeria.”

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At Easter, Senator Bwacha Makes Case For Peaceful Coexistence

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Deputy Minority Leader and Senator representing Taraba south, Sen. Emmanuel Bwacha, has said peace and sacrificial love is the essence of the Easter celebration. In a good Will message, Senator Bwacha said Christians must learn to imbibe the teachings of selflessness and the will to “live peaceably with all men”.

He further enjoined that, in emulating the life of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Nigerians must learn to accept each other’s differences. According to him, the import of Easter would be lost if it was reduced to a mere festive period.

In his words, “Easter is not just a time for jollity. We must appreciate the deep symbolism of the love God the Father showed us in giving us His only begotten son to die for our sins. The lesson is an extraordinary one of How divine love is anchored on the principles of giving, sacrifice and compassion.

These are virtues our country needs today. This Easter is therefore a period of deep reflection and a sober moment to consider the Greatest Love Story ever told: that God became flesh to reconcile and redeem man to Himself. That’s the Great Sacrifice.

We must all ask ourselves if we have followed this example.” Bwacha also urged citizens to shun factors that divide them and emphasis qualities that bring them together. He stressed the need of love as a way out of the current ethnic clashes in some flashpoint of the country.

He said, “we should go back to the fundamentals and begin to walk in love again. The commandment has not changed: “Love the neighbour as thy self”. If we can all begin from here, many of our current challenges would be scaled.”

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National Interest: Groups Sign ‘Abuja Accord’ to Support Nigeria’s Unity Against Religious, Ethnic Bigotry

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The National Inter-Faith and Religious Organizations for Peace ( NIFROP) has rallied together civil society organizations, NGOs, FBOs, etc to sign a pact for national cohesion, unity, peace, and stability tagged: ‘Abuja Accord’ to win the war against religious and ethnic bigotry in our national life.

The peace treaty was signed on Thursday after a two-day International Conference held at Abuja.

The groups in a communique issued at the end of the programme urged Nigerians to eschew ethnoreligious sentiments and resolve to embrace national cohesion, stability, peace, and unity as articulated by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.

The combined groups mutually reached and endorsed the following resolutions:

It congratulated the President Muhammadu Buhari for supervising the conduct of a successful, free, fair and credible 2019 general elections. He was applauded for disabling the plots and exiting the fears of Nigerians over the possible disruption of 2019 general elections and, seamlessly dislodging the potent phobia of electoral violence during and after the ballots.

We also commend and congratulate the masses of Nigeria for their steadfastness in Nigeria’s democracy and peaceful conduct throughout the duration and segments of the 2019 general elections.

The parley noted with great delight the slight improvement in voter-turnout, expressed in the enthusiasm of Nigerians to vote leaders of their choice at various levels. It is surely, a step towards dismantling the leech of voter-apathy in the democratic process and urged all Nigerians to intensify efforts to finally bury the ghost of electoral apathy.

The meeting resolved that the President Buhari-led Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) today has demonstrated a clear direction and focus on national re-engineering and recovery of Nigeria in the spheres of social revival, economic prosperity, security and anti-corruption sub-sectors. This deserves encouragement and espousal by all compatriots for him to go the proverbial extra mile.

The Group noted the abundant evidence in the determination and commitment of the present government in its drive for peace, unity, the indissolubility and indivisibility of Nigeria, by fostering dialogue for national cohesion on thorny issues like ethnoreligious tolerance and peaceful co-existence among Nigerians of different ethno-religious and political persuasions.

The parley noted with excitement the indelible imprints of the Buhari Presidency in hitherto neglected areas such as his ardent pursuit of food security and diversification of the economy through the promotion of mechanized agriculture and the soft loans to Nigerian farmers to boost robust agricultural engagements all over the county.

The Groups pinpointed to Nigeria’s enlivened redemption journey with the revival of the railway’s transport; upgrade of national power generation and distribution from 2,300 megawatts of the national grid in May 2015 to over 7,100 megawatts by end of 2018. We implored Mr. President to sustain these remedial actions.

The increment in workers’ salaries with the President signing a New Minimum Wage Bill a fortnight ago and the expanding windows of the Social Investment Program (SIP) and the popular N-Power Jobs among many other similar schemes for the poorest of poor Nigerians are silent strategies of the administration in redistributing the country’s commonwealth, to majority of less privileged Nigerians, hitherto hijacked and concentrated in the hands of a few ruling elites.

The Abuja Accord also resolved that for Nigeria as a nation, it is incumbent on her citizens to necessarily embrace the new breeze of “Change,” as spearheaded by President Buhari. Nigerians are invited to boldly make a statement to the entire world by supporting initiatives, policies, and programmes which lubricate this “Change,” as it is clear the FGN alone cannot make the desired impact. The cooperation and support of the citizenry are indispensable.

Therefore, Nigerians are challenged to imbibe new thoughts, values, perceptions, and interpretations of national issues detached from personal proclivities or mundane contemplations. National interest should henceforth, be elevated above clannish or sectional interests.

To this end, all Nigerians, old or young are prodded to consciously work in the direction of assisting the central and various state governments in implanting a boisterous agenda of national cohesion, stability, peace, and unity in all nooks and crannies of Nigeria.

These are only the firm pillars of a prosperous and burgeoning Nigeria. We cannot wish otherwise because these are the tripods that will foster rapid growth and development; whilst we de-emphasize pushy ethnic and religious sentiments, with the personal idiosyncratic approach to national issues. We are, first of all, Nigerians before members of any community in the country.

Consequently, the Abuja Accord intensely and strongly condemned the resurgence of violence and killings in some parts of the country for whatever reasons. No nation attains its height of progress through such beastly manifestations.

It appreciated the inevitability of disputes or disagreements among people and communities. But it advocated for dialogue and amicable settlement as a better, decent and more respectful weapon to adopt when such disagreements erupt or in conflict situations. It confers dignity on the feuding parties and the image of the country.

We pray for the souls of our brothers and sisters who have lost their lives in these unfortunate and senseless crises to rest in the bosom of Almighty God. We also wish the wounded quick recovery from their injuries, as we collectively pray for a cessation of the crises and against its resurgence anywhere in the country.

The Abuja Accord found it expedient to call on leaders of Nigeria at the lower rung; whether political, traditional or religious to be more circumspect in their utterances and actions on potentially explosive national issues. They have a moral obligation to support the Buhari Presidency on its path of Nigerian redemption.

Abuja parley extremely frowned at recent comments from religious and traditional leaders which infused ethnoreligious sentiments in the lobbying for the constitution of President Buhari’s next cabinet and the emergence of the leadership of the 9th National Assembly (NASS).

The unhealthy informal debate between the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and The Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA). The two apex religious bodies in Nigeria seem at daggers drawn on a Christian or Muslim Senate President or Speaker of the House of Representatives, much against the trumpeted dictum of the new order of #NextLevel in Nigeria.

The Abuja Conference expressed extreme displeasure at voicing such sentiments on a Christian or Muslim President of the Senate or Speaker of the House of Representatives as a descent into the retrogressive past, which Nigerians are unwilling to romance or accommodate today in any nuance.

It was resolved that all religious leaders in the country should humbly and respectfully abstain from public partisan comments or leadership recommendations on the basis of religion.

Also, the Abuja Accord endorsed the resolution to humbly inform these religious leaders that it is against the spirit of inter-faith and religious harmony and national cohesion among Nigerians to display such abhorrent postures.

More so, as such recommendations are not the direct business of religious leaders, whose recognizable and godly duty is to pray fervently for the emergence of good leaders in the country. They should be concerned more about good leaders who would promote the idea of one Nigeria, as against the subsisting irrational segregation on religious fault lines.

Furthermore, the Abuja Accord also reached a resolution that all ethnic warlords and bigots who have identified the consistent castigation of security agencies as failing in taming insecurity in the country as their only noble duty to give peace a chance. They are counseled to allow security agents to do their jobs undistracted by the often influenced dishonest views they propagate to the disservice of Nigeria.

It was acknowledged that traditional rulers and ethnic champions have greater roles to play in quelling crises in their respective domains than a mere open rebuke of heads of security agencies over perceived wrongs. The penchant of traditional/ethnic leaders in constant interference with the governance process is also detestable and should be discarded.

And where there are genuine concerns about lapses in the operation of security agencies, these traditional leaders have the onerous responsibility to approach the heads of the security agency concerned to raise his observations and recommendations in a manner that confers dignity on all parties.

Such platforms will not erode the confidence of Nigerians in the job of these security agencies and oddly, ennoble the ethnic warmongers with a false sense of triumph over the Nigerian state as currently obtained. When leaders are disposed to national issues, especially on security in this porous manner, it does not lay the template for building the virile and great nation of our dreams.

Going forward, the Abuja Accord has resolved that President Buhari must necessarily serve Nigerians an all-around hard-working cabinet as he takes the oath of office for his second term on May 29, 2019.

Mr. President is encouraged to search deeply and far to engage members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) who are competent, resourceful and committed to his “Change” and #NextLevel” mantra to assist him to accomplish his wonderful dreams for Nigeria in the remaining four years.

Therefore, the Groups resolved to impress it on President Buhari to constitute his 2019 cabinet that will only work for Nigeria and not for an ethnic group or religion or section of the country.

The President should disregard ethnicity or religion in the consideration of the formation of his 2019 cabinet. He should shut his doors and ears to all ethnic and religious lobbyists and appoint competent Nigerian men and women, on merit to help him pilot the affairs of the nation.

The President was also advised to apply the same yardstick in the constitution of chairmen and members of boards of federal agencies and parastatals, which are the major support pillars to ministries in the execution of government policies, programmes, and projects. This Group is insistent that Nigeria should come first, as against any ethnicity or religion.

Abuja Accord observed with dismay the shameful outings of some MDAs in the preceding years who returned unspent budgetary votes amounting to hundreds of billions of naira to government coffers at the end of fiscal years. This ugly scenario occurred even in MDAs covering sectors with severe developmental challenges; but whose heads were barren of initiatives to utilize the funds released to them to better the wellbeing of Nigerians.

The President must be aware that the years 2019-2023 are the periods of fresh renewed hope as argued by Nigerians with his second mandate. And it behooves on him to shake-off all ungodly and distracting influences to redeem Nigeria from the clutches of people and sentiments which have tethered the country to the strings of servitude for decades.

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