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34-year-old becomes Speaker of Kwara House of Assembly

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Yakubu Saliu Danladi, a 34-year-old legislator, was on Tuesday elected as the speaker of the ninth Kwara state House of Assembly. 

Danladi, who is a first timer in the Assembly is representing Ilesha/Gwanara constituency in the state House of Assembly. 

Soon after the inauguration, Saheed Popoola, the only returning member in the Assembly nominated Danladi as the Speaker and was seconded by Haliru Danbaba and thereafter adopted by all the members of the Assembly. 

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Post election review: INEC reviews 2019 general elections in Ebonyi

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Ebonyi has commenced a state level post-election review workshop of activities during the 2019 general elections.

The one-day workshop which was held at the state Headquarters of the commission in Abakaliki on Monday, had key INEC staff, ad-hoc staff and other key stakeholders in attendance.

Prof. Okechukwu Ibeano, INEC National Commissioner for Abia, Ebonyi and Imo states, said that in spite of successes recorded in the 2019 general elections, the commission still recognised that the exercise was with challenges.

Ibeano commended members of staff for their commitment, hard work and perseverance throughout the election period which made the commission to achieve its target.

He described the 2019 general elections as the biggest ever conducted on the African continent.

He said: “It is clear that the magnitude of work that we have just concluded is second to none on this continent.

“You are looking at an election that involve over 150,000 voting locations with a population of over 84 million with about 1.2 million election officials that participated in different ways.

“The officials that took part in the election are about three times the entire population of Armed Forces of West Africa, hence the election was like mobilising the entire armed forces of West Africa.

“So, this is a huge engagement that we have just concluded and this is why I think we should start by first congratulating ourselves.”

Ibeano said that despite the challenges experienced during the elections, it did not in any way affect the commission from achieving a credible election.

He, however, added that the commission would not fail to recognize that the 2019 general election was not a perfect one, stressing that the only way to continue to improve on the conduct of elections was to look back while moving forward.

He said that the purpose of the workshop was to provide a platform for evaluation by looking back at the elections, identify those things that worked well and those that did not work well in order to prepare for future elections.

“This workshop is therefore a root and branch evaluation of the 2019 general elections and it is a comprehensive review involving staff across board.

“This is the first of its kind because in the past such reviews involved only the Resident Electoral Commissioners, administrative secretaries, national commissioners and other staff at the national headquarters.

“But, as you can see, this state level review workshop does not only involve staff at the state headquarters, it also involves staff at local government area offices, INEC ad-hoc staff, among others,” he said.

Earlier, Prof. Godswill Obioma, INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) for Ebonyi, said the review workshop would promote better electoral processes in the future.

He said that discussions at the workshop would be all inclusive, urging participants not to be deterred by any personal distractions.

“We will break into sections as the workshop progresses and the idea is to ensure that we gather and garner as much as possible, conversations from various levels of our interventions,” Obioma said.

He further urged participants to be open, frank, objective and to narrate their experiences on say the field in order to bring out the best from Ebonyi.

He added that the post-election review would enhance the role of electoral officers, improve the electoral process and broaden the capacity of electoral officers to deliver on their mandate.

It was gathered that no fewer than 40 participants are in attendance while a communique is expected at the end of the workshop.

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9th Assembly: Lawmakers to get N19.89bn allowances in three months

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Payment of overhead allowances to lawmakers inaugurated on Tuesday in the first three months will increase their total allowances to N19.89bn, investigations by Saturday PUNCH has shown.

It was learnt that 469 lawmakers would get N4.68bn as welcome package to sort out accommodation and furniture issues.

Further investigations showed that each senator will receive N40.5m for three months as overhead allowance, with  each member of the House of Representatives  receiving N30m for the same purpose.

This means that 109 senators  will get N4.41bn as overhead allowance for the first three months while the 360 Reps will get N10.8bn in  their first three months.

Added to the N4.68bn for accommodation and furniture, the legislators  will get N19.89bn within their first three months in the red and green chambers.

It was gathered that, some Non-Governmental Organisations led by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project had been strident in opposing the N4.68bn welcome package.

Meanwhile, further investigations also showed that the process of reviewing downwards the entitlements of lawmakers and other office holders was aborted by the Presidency, which refused to officially receive a bill for the review of salaries and allowances of public office holders prepared by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission.

Following a  public  outcry  that the remuneration of lawmakers was not in tune with the economic realities in the country, RMAFC  embarked on downward review of allowances of all political office holders.

The ratification of the new packages prepared by a committee headed by a former Chairman of Remuneration Committee, Mr Abdullahi Inde, followed a retreat held for commissioners of the agency in Owerri in November 2015.

Although the recommendation was informally sent to the Presidency, it was not formally received along with a bill for new revenue formula which was also prepared by RMAFC.

It is the responsibility of the President to present the recommendation to the Federal Executive Council for  approval  before  being  forwarded to the National Assembly as a bill.

This aspect of the process was never completed as the Presidency allegedly avoided anything that would lead to completing the process for the review of the existing revenue formula, findings by Saturday PUNCH revealed.

A top executive of RMAFC confirmed that the process for the review of the remuneration of political office holders could not be completed.

The source, who spoke to our correspondent on condition of anonymity, said, “The commission made an attempt to review the  package. There was an attempt  but it did not see the light of the day.

“It is still on because it has to reflect  the current economic realities. Maybe when the new board comes in, they will look into it again because of public outcry.”

Speaking on the call for the review of the welcome package of lawmakers, the RMFAC official said except for the ‘overhead’ payment, the furniture and accommodation allowances were backed by the law.

He said, “Some NGOs make blanket statements without looking at what the law says. They do not know the mandate of public institutions. Sometimes, they don’t look at the position of the law. If it is within the law, it is not illegal.

“It is not really a welcome package. It is part of the Remuneration Act. It is also not only the legislature that benefits; the executive also benefits; the same with  the judiciary. In fact, all public office holders, whether civil servants or public servants, are entitled to those things.

“If you are employed newly, you are supposed to be given some allowances to enable you to settle down. So, as legislators they are entitled to furniture and  accommodation allowances. If they are seen as welcome packages, yes, they are. But  they are backed by law. There is an Act which  you cannot change.

“They cannot be paid anything outside the law in terms of furniture allowance and accommodation allowance. They cannot be paid anything outside what the law stipulates except it is for overhead as Senator Shehu Sani had revealed.

“The money will come from the National Assembly Service Commission. They have their own budget. But for ministers, their salaries and allowances come from the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.

“It must have been captured in the budget. They must provide for their members in their budget salaries and allowances.”

Each member of the House of Representatives on resumption, therefore, is entitled to N9,926, 062.5, according to the prescription of RMAFC in its Remuneration Package for Political, Public and Judicial Office Holders 2007 to Date.

They are entitled to furniture allowance of N5, 955,637.5 and accommodation allowance of N3,970,425.

Therefore, the 360 members of the House of Representatives are entitled to accommodation and furniture allowances of N3.57bn.

On the other hand, each senator is entitled to a combined furniture and accommodation allowances of N10, 132,000 on assumption of office. While the accommodation allowance of a senator is N4, 052,800, the furniture allowance is N6, 079,200.

For motor vehicle, each of the senators is entitled to N8, 105,600 while each Rep is entitled to N7, 940,850.50.

The allowance for motor vehicle has been controversial. According to the RMAFC, this allowance payable once in four years is a loan and optional. This means that it is repayable.

However, lawmakers that received such money  in the past had asked the government to convert it into a grant.

Apart from these allowances, other perks of office that are paid to lawmakers on a monthly basis include motor vehicle maintenance and fuelling. This is pegged at 75 per cent of their monthly salary.

Others are personal assistant – 25 per cent; domestic staff – 75 per cent; entertainment – 30 per cent; utilities – 30 per cent; newspapers/periodicals – 15 per cent; wardrobe – 25 per cent; house maintenance – five per cent; constituency – 250 per cent.

The lawmakers are also entitled to tour duty allowance, estacode (when they travel overseas) and recess allowances. For a senator, the tour duty allowance is N37, 000 per night; the estacode is $950 per night and the recess allowance is 10 per cent of their annual salary.

For a member of the House of Representatives, the tour duty allowance is N35, 000 per night; the estacode is $900 per night and the recess allowance is 10 per cent of their annual salary.

When contacted for reactions, the Presidency said Buhari could only act on a formal recommendation sent to him.

His Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly Matters, Senator Ita Enang, who spoke on the issue, asked for evidence of the proposal said to have been sent to the President.

Enang said, “It can only be turned down if it was passed and sent. So, who passed it, who sent it and when was it passed?

“What was the content of what you said was passed or presented?”

When he was told that the RMAFC reportedly made a presentation to Buhari on the issue, Enang replied, “I am not aware.”

Meanwhile, two civil society organisations, the Socio-Economic Right and Accountability Project and the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, have condemned the humongus allowances to be paid to members of the ninth National Assembly, saying such allowances are not sustainable.

The SERAP Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, said, “We insist that allowances which the Nigerian workers are not entitled to and an average Nigerian is not entitled to, should not be paid to members of the National Assembly. How sustainable, equitable and conscionable are those allowances?”

Also, the CACOL Director, Mr Debo Adeniran, said, “We are dissatisfied with the welcome package. This is because most members of the National Assembly have benefitted one way or the other from the same system. Some members of the senate are former governors, board chairmen and other government appointees. They don’t need furniture and house allowances.

“This country is broke. There is violence everywhere because of the anger bottled up in people due to mismanagement of our economic resources which has taken people away from their jobs. The government has to work harder to reduce the allowances of these legislators.

“The reason why the people scramble tooth and nail to become members of the National Assembly is because of the allowances. We have also said that if there is no clear-cut policy direction that deliberately revisits the cost of governance, the members will not want to deliberately bring down their allowances.”

Meanwhile, a Northern elder statesman and Second Republic lawmaker, Dr Junaid Muhammed, has said the Federal Government should allow RMAFC to review the allowances downward.

Junaid said, “The President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House are yet to prove themselves and have to prove to us that they are different from the last batch of leaders. And if they don’t prove leadership, everything that has been done to get them into office would be a waste of time.

“The government should be aware of the counter-economic effects of this financial recklessness. For me, the solution to this problem is to return to the law. The law says the National Assembly should take their salaries and allowances as determined by RMAFC.”

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Dickson intends to give the baton of leadership to a PDP candidate

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The governor of the oil-rich state appear to be confident that he will hand over the baton of the state’s leadership to the PDP candidate after the forthcoming November 16 governorship election.

Speaking recently at a PDP stakeholders’ meeting, the governor insisted that with the support of leaders of the state, he would lead the PDP to victory at the coming poll.

Dickson said: ”Another PDP governor will be elected in the next election. I urge all the people to step into the communities and mobilise the people. It will be my pleasure to lead the PDP with your support so that another PDP governor will be elected.

“How we survived during the 2015 governorship election is by the grace of God and our mobilization skills. You now have people who know how to play opposition politics. As we begin the transition programme, we expect you to put on the toga of an opposition person.”

There is, however, an unusual kind of silence in the state with only a few months to the election that will determine who takes over the mantle of leadership from Dickson. The task of getting a successor is made more precarious in PDP by key political figures in the state who were accused of engaging in anti-party activities to undermine the party’s leadership.

The last general election threw up some unresolved issues that border on anti-party, leaving a question mark on the allegiance of some members and leaders of the party. Ordinarily, it would be logical to expect that a former President of the State, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan and Governor Dickson would join forces to tackle the issue of succession. However, the fallout of the last general elections, especially the activities of party leaders identified as the henchmen of the former President, has thrown up more puzzles.

For instance, the state leadership of the PDP is irked by the decision of known associates of the former President to throw their weight behind opposition candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Action Democratic Alliance (ADC) in the last election.

The PDP won 20 out of the 24 House of Assembly seats out of the 23 whose results were declared. The party is in court with its candidates, battling to retrieve the remaining seats as well as two House of Representatives and one Senate seats, which it believed were manipulated by the APC in connivance with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Sources in the PDP observed that the former President whose presence should ordinarily be a motivating factor curiously stayed away from the campaigns of the PDP in the last general election. The bewildered party leaders are not comfortable that Jonathan refused to back Dickson when he led the leaders of the party across the state to canvass for votes.  Key party leaders believed that the former President did not only ignore the political campaigns of his party, his allies sponsored opposition candidates against the PDP in the last election.

A notable party leader who spoke in confidence said: “Even as the state moves closer to the November 16, 2019 gubernatorial election, there is a growing disenchantment among top chieftains of the PDP against the deliberate moves by Jonathan political family in Bayelsa to sabotage the fortunes of the PDP.

“PDP leadership set up a panel of investigation into the conduct of party leaders and members during the last election with a view to taking disciplinary measures against culprits of anti-party. Unfortunately, the report of that panel is still being awaited as the party was caught in a game of the ostrich, not willing to disrupt its internal cohesion by punishing allies of the former President who naturally should play as the father of all.

“It is incontestable to say that in Bayelsa, the expected role of former President Jonathan is seriously scathed by the events of the last election and the general perception that he had turned his back to the PDP which provided the platform for his ascendancy.

“It is in the records of the party that Jonathan did not just avoid identifying with the party in its critical moment of need, he also did not make any financial contributions to aid the party’s pursuit of victory in the elections.

“Many leaders of the PDP are also bitter that the former President did not live up to the high expectations from somebody of his status as he kept mum when the party came under a heavy attack from an interplay of forces loyal to the Federal Government and the All Progressives Congress.

“It is the viewpoint that a man who deliberately refused to condemn the murder of a Government House photographer and a party chieftain in Southern Ijaw and the brazen acts of impunity at Nembe Bassambiri is not in the best moral position to decide the party’s next successor.”

Another factor that seems to have worked against Jonathan and his followers is their perceived reputation for turning against their political associates. There is the prevalent belief that Jonathan’s lack of firmness and decisiveness was at the root of the disintegration of his political movement, the Green Movement, which he formed alongside his associates as governor.

Defending his boss against allegations of anti-party activities, Media Aide to the ex-President, Ikechukwu Eze, dismissed them as untrue.

He said: “It is manifestly dishonest, deceitful and preposterous for anybody to suggest that former President Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan is working against the interest of the party under which he rose to occupy the highest office in the land.

“As one of the leaders of the party, having served as President under the Peoples Democratic Party, it is obvious that Dr. Jonathan has continued and will continue to work for the success of PDP across the nation.”

But the seemingly overbearing influence of Jonathan’s wife, Mrs. Patience Jonathan, has not helped Jonathan’s popularity with the political crowd and its leaders in Bayelsa. Most people hate the idea of a Bayelsa being governed by a man who would hand over the state to the controlling influence of the former First Lady.

Sources said the closeness of some of the governorship aspirants, including Reuben Okoya, to the former First Lady was negatively affecting their ambitions. In fact, a good majority of PDP stakeholders appear not inclined to queue behind a candidate emerging from Jonathan following his recent history with the state PDP. Such Stakeholders are of the view that it will be repugnant to the concept of justice and fairness for some people to make the sacrifice over the years to build a solid party only to yield it to some passive interests.

Investigation further revealed that all leaders of the PDP Restoration Team led by Dickson are of the same opinion. Dickson recently told PDP stakeholders in April that he would support somebody from his restoration team to fly the party’s flag in the November 16 elections.

Although, a number of government officials have so far indicated interest in participating in the primaries, none of them have summoned the courage to make public declarations of their ambitions.

Obviously, the members of the restoration team seem to be waiting for the governor’s endorsement as he appears to be in firm control of the party and all its structures from the unit to the state level. In fact, all the aspirants crave the governor’s endorsement in the race for the PDP ticket in the next election.

Indeed, Dickson’s declaration that the search for his successor would begin from the Restoration Family, which controls over 80 per cent of the PDP in Bayelsa, has ruffled some feathers. Restoration members have insisted that since they are in control of the party, any attempt to impose a candidate on them from outside their family will be resisted vehemently. Indeed, some of the politicians who belong to the household of the returnee aspirants are said to be jolted by the position of the Restoration Team.

But some of the aspirants are claiming that they have Jonathan’s backing. Such aspirants are pushing the narrative that they have not received the backing of the governor yet because they are believed to be too independent-minded and mature for his support. These aspirants view President Goodluck Jonathan as the only lifeline to their ambition, seeing that they lack the political presence, the pedigree and popularity to pursue a successful campaign in the state without the governor and his men.

But the multiplicity of aspirants jostling to succeed Dickson has put the PDP and its leadership in a difficult situation. A top member of the State Executive of the party lamented that a particular leader invited many of the aspirants to indicate interest in the governorship thereby deepening confusion ahead of the election.

Despite the name dropping, the two political leaders of the PDP, Dickson and Jonathan, have kept mum about the touchy issue of the PDP candidate in the next election.

While both leaders have held close door meetings with no other person in attendance, the outcome of such deliberations are closely guarded secrets. The enduring silence from those perceived as the anchor for the political ambitions of these aspirants have resulted in a lull in political activities across Bayelsa.

A source close to Dickson, who is also a member of the State Executive Committee of the PDP, hinted that only Dickson will determine his successor. The source said that it is the party’s view that the former President whose strongest contribution to the PDP in Bayelsa remains his membership of the party in principle, should concede the decision to the governor in the interest of continuity, party cohesion and strength.

The party chieftain, who preferred anonymity, said: “PDP in Bayelsa takes directives from only one man, Governor Dickson. His firm grip on the party is as impregnable as it is impenetrable.”

But observers of the political situation in Bayelsa are of the view that it would strengthen the PDP further if the two leaders agree on a consensus arrangement where the governor and the former President agree on a successor.

A PDP chieftain said: “As the state inches towards November 16, it is the inevitable reality that no candidate of the PDP will emerge let alone win an election in Bayelsa without the support of the Restoration family built on the leadership provided by Dickson.

The governor, however, has continued to deny rift with Jonathan. The governor said they were in good terms, insisting that their cordial relationship was displayed during the last state function on the Bayelsa Education Development Fund (BEDF).

He said: “That event should have shown to most people that there is no problem between us. He is my elder brother and leader and he will continue to receive his respect. Even in this transition. That event shows that we are united when it comes to what we do for our people.

“There is no relationship that has lasted longer than our relationship. There is no issue. But aides and people around make careless statements and they manipulate stories and take advantage of the proximity they have with the former President.”

Dickson said Jonathan would be the first leader he would consult during the process to decide his successor and standard bearer of the PDP in the coming election.

“I will sit down with former President Jonathan. When I am ready, I will visit him and we will compare notes. I have his support. The bottom line remains that I am in charge of governance. There are many people I will sit down to rob minds with,” he said.

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