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Timipre Sylva Accept Defeat: “I couldn’t have won Bayelsa poll with PDP in charge” — Sylva

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Former Governor of Bayelsa State and candidate of the All Progressives Congress in the 2015 governorship election, Timipre Sylva, who blames his loss in the recently held poll on malpractices, spoke to select journalists in Yenagoa, the state capital. Society Reporters bring to your his excerpts….

The Bayelsa State governorship election has been won and lost. What is your assessment of the prolonged Bayelsa State 2015 governorship election which was concluded on January 9 this year?

The results of the Bayelsa State governorship election declared on Sunday, January 10, 2016, did not meet with our acceptance at all, as a party and as a person.

What are your misgivings?

Ab initio, I am sure you are familiar with the fact that I have always complained about the Independent National Electoral Commission in Bayelsa State. Even in a court of law, if an accused person is to stand trial before a judge and the accused person says that he cannot expect justice from a particular judge, usually something is done about it. In this case, we were contesting an election and I said from the beginning that I did not have confidence in the Resident Electoral Commissioner and in the Administrative Secretary (of INEC), and that I did not expect a free and fair election if these people were going to preside over the election.

What actions did you take to express your worries?

I complained about the issue over and over again. I even reduced it (complaint) to writing and we sent a petition. Usually, before an election of this nature, INEC officials are switched; sometimes they send them to another state and bring another electoral commissioner. But this time, they chose to keep this team that was already in place, set up by the Peoples Democratic Party as a rigging machine. This was the same team that returned almost 100 per cent of all voters in Bayelsa to the former President (Goodluck Jonathan) in Bayelsa State. And we felt that these people could not have given us a free and fair treatment. We said it over and over again.

What did the electoral body do in its response to your complaints and petition?

Unfortunately, our cries fell on deaf ears. On Sunday, they proved themselves true to type. We believed that the election could even have been declared inconclusive on Sunday because there were still a lot of votes outstanding — 53,000 votes — and they still declared the results against the law.

Are you saying the election was skewed against you?

If you look at the whole election, the election was skewed against the All Progressives Congress from the very beginning. Anywhere APC won, results were cancelled; anywhere PDP won, results were entered. The process of distributing materials was rigged. We had it on good authority that all the vehicles to move electoral materials were all provided by the PDP for INEC.

Was it an understanding the political parties had with the INEC?

Of course, INEC will say that they provided the money but some officers decided, probably, to pocket that money and went for those vehicles from the PDP. The understanding we had with INEC was very clear: take materials to the Registration Area Centres and then move materials from the RACs to the various units. Suddenly, that was changed by INEC here in Bayelsa and they started moving materials to communities and to units, in some cases, from Yenagoa. So, while our people gathered at the RAC to be part of the process of distributing the materials, they suddenly heard that their materials were already in their communities. By the time they got to their communities, a lot of our leaders in these communities could not even enter their communities anymore because the communities had been taken over by gunmen and thugs of the PDP.

Are you inferring that there was collusion between INEC and the PDP?

There was collusion between INEC and the PDP. Even the cancellations were clearly collusion. We feel that we have not had a free and a fair treatment. I believe that in any free and fair election in Bayelsa — I am sure all of you will bear me witness — APC will win. But, unfortunately, while we were trying to be fair, the opponent was bent on rigging the process. As we heard, they were bent on keeping Bayelsa. Then, there was no way one could win because they (the PDP) were just bent from the beginning on rigging the process.

Now that the results have been declared and your opponent returned as governor, what is your next move?

Yes, the results have been announced but as far as we are concerned, as a party, these results are completely unacceptable to us. However, we have called all APC members to keep calm; there is no need for anybody to take law into their hands. We will seek redress in a competent court of law. But I will like to just put this on record that as far as APC is concerned, what happened in Bayelsa was not a proper election. It was just the normal impunity of the PDP that played out. Of course, these institutions were already set up by the PDP. They were inherited by this government and it will take a while before we see a complete disappearance of this attitude in Nigeria. So far, we have told our supporters to stay calm and wait for instructions from us. I thought I should address you and let you know the position of our party.

What does the law say about cancelled votes; does it say that during supplementary poll, cancelled votes do not count or is it that this election is a unique one?

The law did not say that cancelled votes will not matter at any stage at all. The law is clear: if the votes that are cancelled are more than the difference between the winner and the next person, then elections should hold again in those areas where results were cancelled. That is the position of the law. But, unfortunately, the law was turned upside-down very clearly in this case and we feel that that is not right. I think at some point, the PDP and INEC were desperate to announce a winner; they just didn’t want to go through that process all over again. I think that’s what happened but, of course, that doesn’t make it right at all. And as far as we are concerned, we are going to discuss with our lawyers.

You raised issues against the REC and the administrative secretary. The Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, had raised a similar issue against the REC in Edo and the REC was changed. What response did you get from the INEC on your petition?

As far as the REC was concerned, I did not just write a petition; I did not just ask for the change of the REC. Even the REC, at some point, began to take issues with us (candidates), accusing a faceless candidate of offering him bribe. A REC like that, who is already quarrelling with the candidates in an election, was allowed to conduct the same election. I have never seen this; it has never happened anywhere, not even in Nigeria before. But, unfortunately, I didn’t get a reprieve as you know. In that case, you don’t expect me to now opt out of the election because they had refused to change the REC.

I was forced as a candidate. If I said I wasn’t going to subject myself to the election, what were the options? I don’t have any option. INEC is the body to conduct the election. I have cried out to INEC over and over again to change the REC but INEC refused to change the REC. What will I do? Of course, I went into the election, unfortunately hoping that the REC would have a change of heart. But, you can see from the event that they were just bent on making sure that the APC loses that election. If you look at the event from the very beginning on December 5, we won in a local government area, they cancelled a section of that local government and reordered (rescheduled the) election the next day, almost without informing us. We didn’t even know on December 5, 2015 that election was holding in those areas.

Meanwhile, there were other areas as well that were outstanding from that same election but those areas that they were interested in, they quickly held a rerun on Sunday and then said there was going to be a rerun for the rest of other areas on the 9th of January. Why didn’t they shift the rerun in those areas as well? Why didn’t they hold the rerun that were pending also on Sunday that they held those other elections?

What happened on January 9?

You can see INEC was playing a game from the beginning. The INEC in Bayelsa was set as part of the rigging machine of the PDP and I have said it over and over. If you look at what happened on Saturday (January 9), how can they ever justify a situation where materials to the farthest communities were sent last and materials to the nearest communities were sent first? They knew that the farthest communities were some of our strongholds. They sent materials to communities like Enewari a day before. Enewari is like 30 minutes from Yenagoa. But they didn’t send materials to a place like Forupa, to a place like Azuzuama and to a place like Ikubie. These are places that are six hours by speedboat. And they started the journey by boat in the morning of the election and when they got to Ikubie, they insisted that they were going to deliver these materials from one community to community. At six o’clock in the evening, my people were calling me that they were still distributing materials in those communities. What the PDP wanted to do, we knew about it. Their strategy was to frustrate the election in Southern Ijaw because they felt that they already had a lead; they felt if the election held in a few places, it will be enough for them (INEC) to declare them (winner).

They colluded with the INEC to frustrate the election in Southern Ijaw. The election really didn’t hold in Southern Ijaw. In most places where the election held, as long as it was the APC that won, it was cancelled. Not at the unit level; no result was cancelled at the unit level. The cancellation was done mostly at the local government area collation level, which is a misnomer. And when we said that results should be cancelled at the state level, the panel said they didn’t have any powers to cancel election results at that level. That same panel that claimed that they did not have powers to cancel results invoked the power to cancel Southern Ijaw results on the 5th of December, even before the results arrived and while collation was ongoing. But suddenly, they didn’t have that power anymore, as long as it was the APC that was making the case.

But INEC sent two additional RECs. Didn’t it?

Clearly, there was collusion between the local INEC and the PDP. Some people will say it was okay that they sent more RECs — two other RECs from Cross River and Delta States. But then, you ask the question: when did those RECs arrive? By the time those RECs arrived, the damage had already been done. All the Supervising Presiding Officers had been appointed and the SPOs were mostly their people. When I made a case that the SPOs were mostly their people, the REC told me that the instruction was for him to use experienced SPOs. That means these SPOs should be SPOs that have conducted an election before. And what were those elections before: The presidential election and the House of Assembly elections, and you know the outcome of those elections. The same set of SPOs was used; the same set that rigged the other elections for them.

The same set of collation officers was appointed. When we protested, they said they had to appoint only the same people. How were we expected to win an election where the PDP rigging machine was still very (much) intact and its people were just drafted? It was very clear. I likened it to a rat being in a cat’s court. Of course, the result can be guessed by anybody because the rat can never be right in a cat’s court. That was the kind of situation that we found ourselves.

One of the issues that marred the election was violence. The APC was accused of perpetrating violence during the poll. Do you agree?

We agree that there was violence during the election but that violence can be traced, in all cases, to the doorstep of only the PDP. Our people were actually the victims of the violence — before, during and after the election. I said ‘after’ because even as I speak, some unknown people went to the country home of my state agent and destroyed it. Today, as I speak, some PDP thugs went and dealt machete cuts on an APC member in a place in Nembe. All these are still ongoing. As far as we are concerned, this senseless violence must stop. The violence in Ekeremor, you are all familiar with. This election was procured by the PDP, I am sure, wholesale. I am sure it was a turnkey project; they were supposed to return everything wholesale for certain things to be paid; I do not know how much. If you look at the election in Yenagoa, one of the collation officers was the younger sister of the Director of Publicity of Dickson Campaign Organisation, Mr. Jonathan Obuebite. How can anybody win in her unit or ward. Of course, they had the materials and everything in a corner and wrote (the) results and came back. Of course, INEC was on hand to receive the results. That is what happened all through that election.

In Southern Ijaw, it was learnt that election did not hold in Ward 17 and over 39,000 votes were cancelled. What actually happened?

Those results were not meant to be entered at all. It was deliberate. Materials for the whole of those areas were sent deliberately late on the day of that election. And that is our stronghold. The materials arrived there very late. It was a collusion between INEC and the PDP.

 

 

 

@ Sunday Punch

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Paris-bound bizman arrested with 111 cocaine wraps

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The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency has arrested a 48-year-old businessman, Emmanuel Orjinze, at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, for ingesting 111 wraps of cocaine.

The suspect, who claimed to be a professional footballer in Europe, was arrested on May 21 during the outward clearance of an Air France flight to Paris, France.

This was made known in a statement signed by the agency’s Director of Media and Advocacy, Femi Babafemi, and shared on the agency’s website on Sunday.

The statement read, “Operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency have arrested a 48-year-old Paris, France-bound businessman, Emmanuel Okechuku Orjinze, for ingesting 111 wraps of cocaine, which he excreted after days of observation in the agency’s custody following his arrest at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.

“Okechukwu, who also claims he is a professional footballer in Europe, was arrested on Tuesday, May 21, during the outward clearance of Air France flight AF 878 from Abuja to Paris, France.

“After a body scan confirmed he ingested illicit drugs, he was taken into custody where he excreted a total of 111 pellets of cocaine that weighed 1.603 kilograms over three days. The suspect claimed he did business in the maritime sector while still scouting for any European football club to engage him. ”

In the same vein, the NDLEA officers operating at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos hinted that they had dismantled another drug trafficking syndicate at the airport.

This, they said in a statement, followed the arrest of four members of the network and the seizure of a total of 8kg of methamphetamine and 7.60kg of Loud, a synthetic strain of cannabis imported from South Africa.

The statement added that a drug trafficking syndicate was busted at the airport when an official was caught with illicit substances in their backpack and bag.

On May 21, 2024, the NDLEA officers, supported by aviation security, intercepted the official at Terminal 1 and discovered the drugs during a search, blowing the lid off the syndicate.

“A swift follow-up operation at the Ajao Estate area of Lagos led to the arrest of two other members of the syndicate: Chris Nwadozie and Chinedu Nwaosu. Further investigation led to the arrest of another member of the cartel working within the airport system on Saturday, May 25,” the statement added.

In a related development, the agency also arrested a freight agent, Sonubi Abiodun, for attempting to export eight parcels of cocaine concealed in paint buckets to the United Kingdom.

Additionally, the NDLEA operatives arrested suspects producing and distributing skuchies, a mixture of black currant and illicit drugs, in Lagos, and recovered 2,480 litres of the psychoactive substance.

In Cross River State, a suspect, Ogar Emmanuel, was arrested with 2.5kg of cannabis, while 290kg of cannabis was recovered from the warehouse of Usani Ikpi, who is still at large. Additionally, three suspects – Sa’adu Sule, Mukhtar Nura, and Hamza Nura – were arrested in Katsina State with 70kg of cannabis, which originated from Ogun State.

The statement added, “No fewer than five suspects including Ezekiel Munda, 30; and Sule Mustapha, 21, were arrested by the NDLEA operatives on Thursday, May 23, during raids at the Karu Abattoir, Jikwoyi and Tora Bora hill area of the FCT, Abuja, where 95.01kg of cannabis and different quantities of opioids were recovered from them.

“In Edo State, operatives arrested a physically challenged notorious drug dealer, Zekere Sufianu, 45, at Auchi town on Wednesday, May 22. At the time of his arrest, he was found with 751 grams of Loud, 178 grams of tramadol, and pills of swinol,” the statement concluded.

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FG suit against 36 govs over LG funds begins

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The Federal Government has approached the Supreme Court with a suit seeking to compel governors of the 36 states of the federation to grant full autonomy to the local governments in their domains.

The suit, marked SC/CV/343/2024, was filed by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), on behalf of the Federal Government.

The Federal Government is urging the apex court to issue “an order prohibiting state governors from unilateral, arbitrary and unlawful dissolution of democratically elected local government leaders for local governments.”

In the suit predicted on 27 grounds, the Federal Government accused the state governors of gross misconduct and abuse of power.

The FG, in the originating summons, prayed the Supreme Court to make an order expressly stating that funds standing to the credit of local governments from the Federation Account should be paid directly to the local governments rather than through the state governments.

The justice minister also prayed for “an order of injunction restraining the governors, their agents and privies from receiving, spending or tampering with funds released from the Federation Account for the benefits of local governments when no democratically elected local government system is put in place in the states.”

The Federal Government further sought “an order stopping governors from constituting caretaker committees to run the affairs of local governments as against the Constitutionally recognised and guaranteed democratically system.”

The originating summons was backed by a 13-paragraph affidavit deposed to by one Kelechi Ohaeri of the Federal Ministry of Justice.

Ohaeri, in the affidavit, averred that the AGF instituted the suit against the governors under the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court on behalf of the Federal Government.

He said,“The Constitution of Nigeria recognises federal, states and local governments as three tiers of government and the three recognised tiers of government draw funds for their operation and functioning from the Federation Account created by the Constitution.

“By the provisions of the Constitution, there must be a democratically elected local government system and the Constitution has not made provisions for any other systems of governance at the local government level other than a democratically elected local government system.

“In the face of the clear provisions of the Constitution, the governors have failed and refused to put in place a democratically elected local government system even where no state of emergency has been declared to warrant the suspension of democratic institutions in the state.

“The failure of the governors to put democratically elected local government system in place is a deliberate subversion of the 1999 Constitution which they and the President have sworn to uphold.

“All efforts to make the governors comply with the dictates of the 1999 Constitution in terms of putting in place a democratically elected local government system has not yielded any result and to continue to disburse funds from the Federation Account to governors for non-existing democratically elected local government is to undermine the sanctity of the 1999 Constitution.

“In the face of the violations of the 1999 Constitution, the Federal Government is not obligated under Section 162 of the Constitution to pay any state, funds standing to the credit of local governments where no democratically elected local government is in place.”

The AGF, therefore, urged the apex court to invoke sections 1, 4, 5, 7 and 14 of the Constitution to declare that the state governors and state Houses of Assembly are under obligation to ensure a democratic system at the third tier of government in Nigeria and to also invoke the same sections to hold that the governors cannot lawfully dissolve democratically elected local government councils.

Furthermore, he urged to invoke sections 1, 4, 5, 7 and 14 of the Constitution to declare that “the dissolution of democratically elected local government councils by the governors or anyone using the state powers derivable from laws enacted by the state Houses of Assembly or any Executive Order is unlawful, unconstitutional, null and void.”

The apex court has fixed Thursday, May 30 for hearing.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees hailed the move by the Federal Government, saying it would join the lawsuit as a concerned party.

 

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JUST IN: Tribunal affirms Diri as Bayelsa governor

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The Bayelsa State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja, on Monday, upheld the election that produced Governor Douye Diri of Bayelsa State.

A three-man panel led by Justice Adekunle Adeleye dismissed the petition filed by the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Timipre Sylva, and the party for lacking in merit.

In a unanimous decision, the tribunal held that the petitioners failed to prove any credible evidence to back up any of the allegations they raised against the re-election victory of Diri.

Details shortly…

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