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Southern Leaders Kick Against Buhari’s Broadcast, Insist on Restructuring

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  • Southern Leaders Kick Against Buhari’s Broadcast, Insist on Restructuring

Southern leaders drawn from the South-west, South-east and South-south geopolitical zones have collectively expressed their strong opposition to the position taken by President Muhammadu Buhari in his national broadcast on Monday.

The leaders, who converged on the Colonades Hotels, Ikoyi, Lagos, Wednesday to take a stand of the president’s broadcast, said in a statement titled, “Only restructuring will ensure the unity, peace and development of Nigeria,” and jointly signed by Chief Edwin Clark and Albert Horsfall for the South-south; Chief Nnia Nwodo and Prof. Joe Irukwu for the South-east; and Chief Reuben Fasoranti and Chief Ayo Adebanjo for the South-west, that Nigeria was in a “very bad shape and requires statesmanship in its leadership”.

Buhari, in his broadcast, barely acknowledged the growing agitation for the nation’s restructuring, and only stated that the appropriate institutions for national discourse were the National Assembly and National Council of State.

The southern leaders noted that the president, in his broadcast, handled some very important issues with levity that did not give cognisance to the level at which they affect the overall well-being of Nigerians.

“We have studied the national broadcast by Mr. President on Monday, August 21, 2017 and after a careful and thorough analysis of the speech, we make the following observations: the president expressed his disaffection about comments on Nigeria while he was away that ‘question our collective existence as a nation’ and which he said had crossed the red lines.

“Against the background of the threat to treat hate speech as terrorism, we see a veiled threat to bare fangs and commence the criminalisation of dissenting opinions in our national discourse.

“The president deployed the imagery of the late Chief Emeka Ojukwu to play down the demand for the renegotiation of the structure of Nigeria by saying they both agreed in Daura in 2003 that we must remain one and united.

“While we agree with them, the meeting between the two of them could not have been a sovereign national conference whose decision cannot be reviewed.

“The fact that we agree on their conclusion that we should remain united does not foreclose discussions of the terms and conditions of the union,” they said.

The leaders contended that the claim that Nigeria’s unity was settled and not negotiable was untenable on the grounds that “every country is in daily dialogue and there is nothing finally settled in its life”.

“Stable nations are still fine-tuning details of the architecture of their existence now and then,” let alone Nigeria, which they described as a country yet to attain nationhood.

Regarding the October 1 quit notice given to Nigerians of eastern extraction by Arewa youths, the southern leaders noted that Buhari did not give the issue the needed attention in his speech.

According to them, “The one sentence by the president that every Nigerian can live anywhere without let or hindrance, if meant to address the quit notice by Arewa youths against the Igbos was rather too short to address the clear and present danger that the unwarranted threat represents.

“We are distressed by the refusal of the police to comply with the arrest orders given by the Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai and the vice-president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo while the president was away.

“Instead of ensuring that these orders are carried out, the president has now come to make a bland comment on the explosive issue. We are of the view that leadership requires more than that at this crucial moment.”

The southern leaders were also disappointed with the description of the fatal clashes between farmers and weapon-wielding herdsmen as a mere “conflict”, saying: “We are equally miffed that the president talks about the serial onslaught by AK47 wielding Fulani herdsmen against defenceless farmers as a conflict between two quarrelling groups.

“In the last two years, the Fulani herdsmen have become much more ferocious in their attacks against farmers in the south and middle belt areas of the country, with security forces shying away from enforcing law and order.

“To present the various onslaught on farmers by the herdsmen as ‘two-fighting’ would portray the president as taking side with the aggressive Meyiti Allah.

“So, as elders who have spent most of our lives fighting for the unity of the country based on justice, fairness and equity, we call on the president to realise that the country is in a very bad shape at the moment and requires statesmanship and not ethnic, religious and political partisanship.

“This is the time to renegotiate Nigeria along the federal lines negotiated by our founding fathers to stem the tide of separatist feelings and agitations.

“This is why we do not accept that it portrays the president in a favourable light to be away for a long period, only to return to a badly fractured polity and avoid promoting a new dialogue for a better, just, inclusive and peaceful country.”

Other notable persons present at the meeting included Mr. Efiye Bribena, Obafemi Ayo-Adebanjo, Mr. Denzil Kentebe, Mr. Tony Uranta, Chief Supo Shonibare, Col. Tony Nyaim (rtd), Prof. Banji Akintoye, Dr. Amos Akingba, Chief Guy Ikokuru, Mr. Gani Adams, Dr. Walter Ofonagoro, Ambassador George Obiozor and General Ike Nwachukwu (rtd).

Conference of Ethnic Nationalities

Also weighing in on the restructuring debate Wednesday, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Mohammed Sa’ad Abubakar III, called for a conference of ethnic nationalities to reach a resolution on Nigeria’s quest for nationhood, including a discourse on restructuring and federalism.

The sultan, who spoke in Abuja at a colloquium organised by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) with the theme, “The Labour Movement and the Future of a United Nigeria: What Role for Restructuring,” however, maintained that the nation’s unity was sacrosanct.

The sultan posited that there was strength in unity, but stressed the need for dialogue among the ethnic groups in an atmosphere where there will be mutual respect for one another’s views.

While stressing that the country had undergone phases of restructuring since the 1914 amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates by Lord Frederick Lugard, the sultan insisted that as a people, Nigerians needed to know their history and how they came together as a nation.

“It is good to sit down and dialogue but there must be respect. It is important to know who we are and where we come from. We have a history. We must look back at where we are coming from. When we talk about restructuring, what are we to restructure, how do we restructure?

“Let us sit down to talk about all these with position papers prepared by every ethnic nationality – Afenifere, Ohaneze, Arewa, the Ijaws and others.

“Let the federal government provide the enabling environment that will be conducive for us to sit down and discuss these issues. But like I said, there must be respect for one another’s views,” he said.

Sultan Abubakar commended the labour movement for taking the initiative to discuss issues that are germane to the country’s national unity, saying that it was long overdue.

Former Ebonyi governor, Prof. Sam Egwu, who presented the lead paper, however, said he did not subscribe to the notion that Nigeria was indissoluble but would rather advocate what needed to be done to retain the unity.

According to Egwu, “We need to work to retain the existing relationship among the different ethnic nationalities and the unity of the country.”

Egwu, a political scientist, said it was unfortunate that some people calling for restructuring were ignorant of what it means, thus causing tension in the country.

“They only succeeded in creating trying times for the country, trying times for our unity, trying times for our democracy because they keep on overheating the polity and our corporate existence is being threatened,” he said.

Egwu said the call for restructuring was not enough without resolving other dynamics of federalism that needed to be addressed and centre around the institution of the state.

He said: “The central rallying point of identity which is what the state has taken away, leaving the stage for alternative identities such as religion and ethnicity,” explaining that people agitating for one thing or the other were contesting the meaning of the state.

“People are asking legitimate questions but using the wrong platform of religion and ethnicity,” he noted.

Egwu blamed the Nigerian federal system for failing to reflect the principles of true federalism embedded in the shared roles that recognise the peculiarity of each component units of the federation.

He made reference to the 2014 National Conference to which representatives of the six geopolitical zones presented position papers as a better way of arguing on the wrong platform of ethnicity.

To him, restructuring “is about how you can align structures with functions in a federal system”, adding that the problem with Nigeria was that of governance, justice and equity and the inability to mobilise and distribute national resources.

The president of NLC, Mr. Ayuba Wabba, said the colloquium was put together to articulate a labour perspective on the debate on the restructuring of Nigeria, adopt just and fair measures of reconciliation, integration and development, and to proffer practical and policy based recommendations on the nature of restructuring.

Pursuant to the outcome of the proceedings, Wabba said the NLC would take a position that would be submitted to the presidency, the National Assembly, state assemblies and labour affiliates for consideration and implementation.

In addition, he said, a labour group would be constituted to monitor the constitution review process and lobby the appropriate bodies to ensure the implementation of the resolutions.

Justifying the need for the labour movement to join in the national discourse, he said the ongoing articulation of positions by the political class, civil society and the contending groups of agitators was being conducted using violent language and deploying ethnic and religious sentiments, which have the potential of shaping the opinions of the Nigerian workers and dividing them along ethnic and religious lines.

“Unfortunately, the working people have been mobilised to be partisan by accepting some of these canvassed positions which are heavily identity-based rather than ideological.

“The Nigeria Labour Congress feels strongly that she should access this dominated space and articulate an agenda for Nigeria by hosting a platform for national discourse on the issue,” he said.

On hand to discuss the papers presented were Prof. Godoni Darah, Prof. Toye Olorode, Mr. Femi Falani, Adams Oshiomhole, and Prof. Jibo Ibrahim.

But there was a mild drama over Oshiomhole’s submission that those calling for restructuring must be interrogated, noting that they were self-serving.

He was of the view that Nigerians should focus more on good leadership that guarantees speedy development.

The ex-Edo State governor stressed that qualitative leadership and devolution of power to the states would lead to a reduction in corruption at the federal, state and local government levels.

Also speaking, the chairman of the occasion and former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Alfa Belgore, commended the NLC, describing it as one of the most educated and informed labour movements in Africa for its concern about the unity of the country. “Nigeria will be united forever,” he said.

‘Threats, Insults Not the Way’

Meanwhile, the Presidency has advised proponents of restructuring to exercise restraint in their choice of words, saying issues can be resolved through “established processes, not by abuses, insults or irresponsible statements”.

Malam Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President, Media and Publicity, gave the advice in a statement in Abuja Wednesday.

Shehu was reacting to the opinions expressed by Nigerians for and against Buhari’s broadcast after his return from a medical vacation.

He said the call had become imperative to avoid heating up the polity and causing acrimony across the country.

The presidential aide said a majority of the citizens welcomed the broadcast, and condemned those criticising the president for not responding to calls for the restructuring of the country, reported the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

He said the president has no power to impose restructuring on the country by military dictate, explaining that National Assembly members are the elected representatives of the people who can handle agitations for restructuring and other constitutional changes.

According to him, the president is constitutionally bound to work with the National Assembly to deal with such complex issues.

He reminded the critics that Buhari would not exercise arbitrary powers or bypass the legislature in taking such fundamental decisions.

“Changes don’t happen on a whim in a democracy. The ‘immediate effect’ military mentality cannot work under a democratic order.

“Since the president has sworn to defend the constitution, he will remain faithful to that oath by working with the legislature in taking major decisions on the future of Nigeria’s federal system,” Shehu said.
He, however, stated that “while Nigerians are free to express themselves, they should exercise such liberty with restraint and a sense of responsibility”.

He said calling the president an enemy of Nigeria was in extreme bad taste, adding that nothing in Buhari’s service record would justify such language.

“The country’s parliament is ready and willing to discuss all issues but the pundits are more interested in television and newspaper headlines.

“Threats don’t work in a democracy. Democracy requires planning and proper processes; issues are resolved through established processes, not by abuses, insults or irresponsible statements,” he said.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

Government

COVID-19 Vaccine: African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim) to Purchase 270 Million Doses for Nigeria, Other African Nations

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African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim) Approves $2 Billion for the Purchase of 270 million Doses for African Nations

African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim) said it has approved $2 billion for the purchase of 270 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines for African nations, including Nigeria.

Prof. Benedict Oramah, the President of the Bank, disclosed this at a virtual Africa Soft Power Series held on Tuesday.

He, however, stated that the lender is looking to raise more funds for the COVID-19 vaccines’ acquisition.

He said: “The African Union knows that unless you put the virus away, your economy can’t come back. If Africa didn’t do anything, it would become a COVID-19 continent when other parts of the world have already moved on.
“Recall that it took seven years during the heat of HIV for them to come to Africa after 12 million people had died.

“With the assistance of the AU, we were able to get 270 million vaccines and financing need of about $2 billion. Afreximbank then went ahead to secure the $2 billion. But that money for the 270 million doses could only add 15 per cent to the 20 per cent that Covax was bringing.

He added that this is not the time to wait for handouts or free vaccines as other countries will naturally sort themselves out before African nations.

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China Calls for Better China-U.S. Relations

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China Calls for China-U.S. Relations

Senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi said on Monday the United States and China could work together on issues like climate change and the coronavirus pandemic if they repaired their damaged bilateral relationship.

Wang, a Chinese state councillor and foreign minister, said Beijing stood ready to reopen constructive dialogue with Washington after relations between the two countries sank to their lowest in decades under former president Donald Trump.

Wang called on Washington to remove tariffs on Chinese goods and abandon what he said was an irrational suppression of the Chinese tech sector, steps he said would create the “necessary conditions” for cooperation.

Before Wang spoke at a forum sponsored by the foreign ministry, officials played footage of the “ping-pong diplomacy” of 1972 when an exchange of table tennis players cleared the way for then U.S. President Richard Nixon to visit China.

Wang, a Chinese state councillor and foreign minister, said Beijing stood ready to reopen constructive dialogue with Washington after relations between the two countries sank to their lowest in decades under former president Donald Trump.

Wang called on Washington to remove tariffs on Chinese goods and abandon what he said was an irrational suppression of the Chinese tech sector, steps he said would create the “necessary conditions” for cooperation.

Before Wang spoke at a forum sponsored by the foreign ministry, officials played footage of the “ping-pong diplomacy” of 1972 when an exchange of table tennis players cleared the way for then U.S. President Richard Nixon to visit China.

Wang urged Washington to respect China’s core interests, stop “smearing” the ruling Communist Party, stop interfering in Beijing’s internal affairs and stop “conniving” with separatist forces for Taiwan’s independence.

“Over the past few years, the United States basically cut off bilateral dialogue at all levels,” Wang said in prepared remarks translated into English.

“We stand ready to have candid communication with the U.S. side, and engage in dialogues aimed at solving problems.”

Wang pointed to a recent call between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden as a positive step.

Washington and Beijing have clashed on multiple fronts including trade, accusations of human rights crimes against the Uighur Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region and Beijing’s territorial claims in the resources-rich South China Sea.

The Biden administration has, however, signalled it will maintain pressure on Beijing. Biden has voiced concern about Beijing’s “coercive and unfair” trade practices and endorsed of a Trump administration determination that China has committed genocide in Xinjiang.

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U.S. Supreme Court Allows Release of Trump Tax Returns

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President Trump Signs Executive Order In Oval Office Of The White House

U.S. Supreme Court Allows Release of Trump Tax Returns

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday paved the way for a New York City prosecutor to obtain former President Donald Trump’s tax returns and other financial records as part of a criminal investigation, a blow to his quest to conceal details of his finances.

The justices without comment rebuffed Trump’s request to put on hold an Oct. 7 lower court ruling directing the former Republican president’s longtime accounting firm, Mazars USA, to comply with a subpoena to turn over the materials to a grand jury convened by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, a Democrat.

“The work continues,” Vance said in a statement issued after the court’s action.

Vance had previously said in a letter to Trump’s lawyers that his office would be free to immediately enforce the subpoena if the justices rejected Trump’s request.

A lawyer for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority included three Trump appointees, had already ruled once in the dispute, last July rejecting Trump’s broad argument that he was immune from criminal probes as a sitting president.

Unlike all other recent U.S. presidents, Trump refused during his four years in office to make his tax returns public. The data could provide details on his wealth and the activities of his family real-estate company, the Trump Organization.

Trump, who left office on Jan. 20 after being defeated in his Nov. 3 re-election bid by Democrat Joe Biden, continues to face an array of legal issues concerning his personal and business conduct.

Vance issued a subpoena to Mazars in August 2019 seeking Trump’s corporate and personal tax returns from 2011 to 2018. Trump’s lawyers sued to block the subpoena, arguing that as a sitting president, Trump had absolute immunity from state criminal investigations.

The Supreme Court in its July ruling rejected those arguments but said Trump could raise other objections to the subpoena. Trump’s lawyers then argued before lower courts that the subpoena was overly broad and amounted to political harassment, but U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in August and the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in October rejected those claims.

Vance’s investigation, which began more than two years ago, had focused on hush money payments that the president’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen made before the 2016 election to two women – adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal – who said they had sexual encounters with Trump.

In recent court filings, Vance has suggested that the probe is now broader and could focus on potential bank, tax and insurance fraud, as well as falsification of business records.

In separate litigation, the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives was seeking to subpoena similar records. The Supreme Court in July sent that matter back to lower courts for further review.

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