Rivers elders write Fubara, say Abuja resolution ‘death sentence’

Rivers State elders and leaders have written an open letter to Governor Siminalayi Fubara, warning him against implementing the resolution reached at a meeting with President Bola Tinubu in Abuja to resolve the political crisis in the state.

The Rivers elders, in their letter, described the resolution as “a death sentence,” contending that it was lopsided in favour of Fubara’s estranged political godfather and ex-governor, Nyesom Wike.

The forum, led by former Rivers State governor, Chief Rufus Ada-George, made the declaration in two separate open letters dated December 24, 2023, and addressed to President Tinubu and Fubara respectively and read to newsmen in Port Harcourt on Wednesday.

They declared that the presidential resolution on the political crisis in Rivers State was lopsided and not implementable because it was against the rule of law.

“For us, as custodians of the Rivers people’s conscience and morality, we find the directive resolution document lopsided and skewed in favour of the interest of your current minister, Nyesom Wike, to the detriment of the governor, Sir Siminalayi Fubara, the governance of the state and the interest of the generality of the good people of Rivers State,” they wrote.

They said Tinubu did not have the power to overrule the decision of a court of competent jurisdiction, while faulting the Christmas Day broadcast by Fubara that he would implement the resolution.

The open letters were signed by Chief George, Dr Gabriel Toby, Ibim Princewill, Rear Adm. P. Fingesi (retd.), Emeritus Prof. Dagogo Fubara, HRH Iraron, Ede Obolo, Anabs Sara-Igbe, Senator Bennett Birabi, Ms Annkio Briggs, Captain Nwankwo, Prof. A.W. Obianime, Prof. E. T. Bristol, High Chief Marcus Atata, Senator Wilson Ake, Dr Silva Opusunju, Sen Andrew Uchendu, Kalada Iruenabere, Atamuno Atamuno, Prof. N O Nyenke, and Godwin Abbey.

“Mr. Governor, Sir, you stated categorically that you are a principal participant in the entire saga and the Presidential Peace Proclamation is not as bad as being portrayed by those genuinely opposed to it.
“That proclamation is actually a death sentence as it breaches all legal and constitutional rights you swore to uphold. Mr. Governor, you
also stated in your broadcast that the document offers a way and means of peace: Peace at what cost?” the elders queried.

“Does the President have the powers to overrule the ruling of a court of competent jurisdiction when he is a product of the court himself?

 “Central to this, Mr President, is the sacred doctrine and practice of the separation of powers. May we inform Mr President that the seats of the cross-carpeting members have been declared vacant by the Speaker, known to the law, Rt Hon Ehie Edison, through an ex parte order issued by the Federal High Court Port Harcourt division.

 “We cannot but imagine how providing accommodation and meeting venue for legislative business becomes the duty of members of the House of Assembly who you directed to seat wherever they choose and not by the Executive arm as in the case of the National Assembly Complex were Legislative Quarters are provided and maintained by the Executive arm.

 “Given the foregoing, it is evident that Governor Siminalayi Fubara, the Chief Executive Officer of Rivers State, was coerced into submitting to your premeditated action plan even when it is well known that Mr President does not possess such powers to give directives to a democratically elected governor or impose his will on the state government and the good people of Rivers State.

 “As far as we are concerned, that meeting did not happen, and those directives are not implementable because to do so will be acting against the constitution and the rule of law.”

The elders, however, lauded Fubara for his humility as shown in his Christmas Day speech to the people of the state.


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Aiyedatiwa takes over, Tinubu, govs say Akeredolu’s death big loss

Acting Governor of Ondo State, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, was on Wednesday sworn in as the substantive governor of the state following the death of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu earlier in the day.

Akeredolu, aged 67, passed away on Wednesday morning while undergoing treatment for prostate cancer in a German hospital.

Born on July 21, 1956, Akeredolu studied Law at the Obafemi Awolowo University (then the University of Ife) graduating in 1977. He was called to the bar in 1978.

His demise generated an outpouring of tributes and condolence messages from President Bola Tinubu, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, the Ooni of Ife, the Nigerian Bar Association, the Christian Association of Nigeria, and other eminent Nigerians, who described his death as a big loss to the country.

In line with the constitution, Aiyedatiwa was sworn in as the seventh executive governor of the Sunshine State by the state Chief Judge Justice Olusegun Odusola.

He took the oath of allegiance at 5.15pm, swore the oath of office at 5:17pm, and signed the Oath Register at about 5:19pm.

‘Man of courage’

In his maiden address, the new governor described his former boss, Akeredolu, as a man of courage and conviction who always stood for the truth even at his own detriment.

He vowed to continue with the developmental ideas of the late former governor and also solicited support and cooperation from the stakeholders.

He said, “Today’s (Wednesday ), event has placed a burden on all of us to pull together and stay together as one because we have the onerous responsibility to continue to sustain the legacies of Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu, SAN, CON, which was good governance, properly called.

“Our leader and governor, during his time embarked upon several landmark projects, many of which have been completed and several ongoing. We now have the responsibility to complete them.

“It is to the credit of Arakunrin Akeredolu, that the state now has a flyover in Ore, while the one in Akure is ongoing. It is necessary for us to acknowledge with pride the wonderful achievements and legacies of Arakunrin Akeredolu. His records of performance are monumental and unprecedented.’’

He said the people of the South-West would forever be grateful to Akeredolu, who as the Chairman of the governors in the zone ensured the establishment of Amotekun, the region’s security outfit which tackled kidnapping and other crimes

Present at the inauguration were the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Olamide Oladiji; Secretary to the State Government, Oladunni Odu, some state executive council members; the Head of Service, Pastor Kayode Ogundele, former deputy governors, permanent secretaries, Chairman of the All Progressives Congress in the state, Ade Adetimehin, the Chief of Staff to the late governor, Chief Olugbenga Ale, party supporters, among others.

Before his death, Akeredolu had transferred power to Aiyedatiwa via a letter to the state House of Assembly on December 13, 2023, when he was to proceed on medical leave in Germany.

The development followed the intervention of President Tinubu who intervened in the crisis that resulted from the failure of Akeredolu to hand over to his deputy after he returned to the country from Germany in September.

Although Akeredolu returned to Nigeria in the first week of September after a three-month medical leave, he was operating from Ibadan, the Oyo State capital.

The state House of Assembly had commenced an impeachment process against the deputy governor over allegations of gross misconduct.

This led to a division in the state assembly and the state executive council as well as the state chapter of the All Progressives Congress.

In a bid to resolve the crisis, Tinubu met with the leadership of the assembly and the state APC at the State House, Abuja, last month, where it was decided that Aiyedatiwa should take over as the acting governor.

The state Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mrs Bamidele Ademola-Olateju, announced the governor’s death in a statement saying, “Mr governor peacefully departed from this world in the early hours of today, Wednesday, December 27, 2023.”

The statement was titled, ‘It is a sad day in Ondo State.’

 It read, “With a heavy heart, the Ondo State Government announces the passing of our beloved Governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, CON.

 “Mr governor peacefully departed from this world in the early hours of today, Wednesday, December 27, 2023. This tragedy has left behind a profound void in our hearts.

“Governor Akeredolu answered the eternal call while receiving medical treatment in Germany. He succumbed to complications arising from protracted prostate cancer.”

It noted that a letter had been sent to the President to officially inform him of the governor’s death.

The family and the Ondo State Government appreciate Mr President’s support for Governor Akeredolu during his illness. The family and the state government will release further details regarding the funeral arrangements.

“Governor Akeredolu was an extraordinary leader whose unwavering dedication to the state and its people was both commendable and unparalleled.’’

Meanwhile, the new governor, in a statement on Wednesday evening  in Akure by his Chief Press Secretary, Ebenezer Adeniyan,  declared three-day mourning.

According to Aiyedatiwa, the period of mourning, with fasting and prayer, takes effect from Thursday and ends on Saturday.

Akeredolu’s aides resign

Shortly before the swearing-in of Aiyedatiwa, the Special Adviser to Akeredolu on Union Matters and Special Duties, Mr Dare Aragbaye and the Chief Press Secretary Mr Richard Olatunde resigned from office.

In the letters of resignation signed by the duo, addressed to the office of the Secretary to the State Government on Wednesday, the aides cited the demise of the governor as the reason for their action. The letters came in, some hours after the death of Governor Akeredolu.

Aragbaye’s letter was titled ‘Resignation of appointment as Special Adviser Union Matters and Special Duties.’

The letter read, “I write to refer to the subject above and to resign my appointment as Special Adviser Union Matters and Special Duties with effect from today, Wednesday 27, December 2023. My decision to resign is based on the unfortunate death of my principal a fearless and honest leader, Governor Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredulu, SAN, CON , whom I am loyal to even in death.

“I sincerely thank His Excellency for the opportunity granted me to serve in his administration as a member of the State Executive Council first as a Head of Service and now as Special Adviser. Please accept the assurances of my esteemed regards. “

Olatunde in his letter titled ‘Resignation Letter’ partly read, “ It is with a heavy heart and deep sadness that I tender my resignation as the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, effective from today, Wednesday 27, 2023.”

It further stated,” My decision to resign from office is hinged on the unfortunate and untimely death of our leader, principal, and father figure, Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, CON.”

The Ondo State Government Secretariat was in a sombre mood following the death of the governor as the workers who resumed office after the Christmas holiday wore somber looks.

They were seen in groups discussing the development while many of them could not carry out any official duty.

Tinubu in a personally signed statement expressing his grief described the second-term governor, who was expected to conclude his tenure in 2024, as a fearless fighter, brother, confidant, and political soulmate.

He stated, “Today, I mourn a fighter and fearless defender of truth and the masses…brother, confidant, political soulmate, and the Executive Governor of Ondo State.”

He further noted, “Rotimi was a man of ideas and action. While he was with us, he taught us the power of action and service.

“In Ondo State, where he had the honour to serve as the governor over the past six years, he served his people with absolute loyalty, dedication, and forthrightness,” said the President.

In the tribute titled, ‘I mourn my fearless brother, Rotimi Akeredolu,’ Tinubu said: “Rotimi has played his role well and left us untimely. We will never see his likes again. Let me tell the people of Ondo State that I am grieving with you. We will honour Rotimi’s memory and make sure his legacy of service is never forgotten.

“In my grief and sadness, I have telephoned his wife, Betty, and Acting Governor Lucky Aiyedatiwa to commiserate with them and urge them to take heart over this national tragedy.

“Governor Akeredolu was not just a friend and associate, the departed leader was a brother and a soulmate. His death is a blow to our governing APC and the progressive family as we are diminished by it.”

Govs mourn

Also, the governors of Oyo, Lagos, Osun, Edo, Ogun, Kogi, Benue, and Delta states expressed profound sorrow over the death of the former chairman of the Southern Governors’ Forum.

Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State described Akeredolu, who, until his death, was the Chairman of the South-West Governors’ Forum, as a dogged fighter and courageous leader.

Makinde, in a statement issued in Ibadan on Wednesday by his Special Adviser on Media, Mr Sulaimon Olanrewaju, expressed heartfelt condolences to the late governor’s wife, the entire family as well as the government and the people of Ondo State.

The Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, while expressing grief over the sad development, said Akeredolu would be greatly missed for his positive impacts in Ondo State, South-West, and Nigeria as a whole.

Sanwo-Olu in a statement issued on Wednesday by his Chief Press Secretary, Gboyega Akosile, commiserated with Aiyedatiwa, Akeredolu’s widow, Dr Betty Akeredolu, and the entire family and friends of the deceased.

In a tribute, Osun State Governor, Ademola Adeleke, submitted that Akeredolu’s death had denied Nigeria one of its finest.

Adeleke in a condolence message signed by his spokesperson, Olawale Rasheed, on Wednesday, said he was deeply touched by Akeredolu’s death, who he said made great contributions to Nigeria in the legal field and public service.

The Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, lauded the departed governor for his bravery and independence of mind, noting that he served his people meritoriously and diligently.

Obaseki in a statement on Wednesday, asserted that Akeredolu’s intellect, hard work, and diligence stood him out and was reflected in his attainments and the fervour in which he served the good people of Ondo State.

Ogun State Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, described the death of his Ondo State counterpart as tragic.

In his condolence message to Aiyedatiwa, the family of the deceased, and the Ondo people, Prince Abiodun described Akeredolu as a dogged fighter throughout his lifetime.

Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, in a statement, described the tragic passing of his Ondo State counterpart as a monumental loss to the nation.

“Akeredolu’s unwavering commitment and dedication in steering the ship of democracy and good governance during his seven-year tenure as the Governor of Ondo are acknowledged with deep admiration,” Bello pointed out.

Benue State Governor, Rev. Fr. Hyacinth Alia, similarly expressed sadness over the death of his Ondo colleague and a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ghani Na’Abba.

In a statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Kula Tersoo, the governor described Akeredolu as a gentleman, who he said gave his all in trying to change the fortunes of his state.

The Delta State Governor, Sheriff Oborevwori has expressed deep sadness on the passing of the Ondo governor, saying he was an urbane and cerebral leader of great value who was progressively committed to the growth and development of Ondo State and Nigeria.

Governor Oborevwori, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Sir Festus Ahon in Asaba, expressed his condolences to Akeredolu’s wife, Mrs Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, family members, the government and people of Ondo State on the passing of the renowned senior lawyer.

The Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, described the demise of the Ondo governor as a huge loss to the Yoruba race and Nigeria at large.

Ooni, who stated this in a statement he issued on Wednesday, said that the late governor was an epitome of honesty and courage, who lived a life worthy of emulation.

According to him, the Oduduwa race had lost a pillar of honesty and courage; a man who served humanity with his expertise as a legal luminary, experienced politician, and true descendant of Oduduwa.

“When we were challenged at the grassroots by invaders who masqueraded as herdsmen, Aketi worked with stakeholders across South-West and the national level to deliver our mandate of security and prosperity.’’

“This birthed Amotekun and other initiatives through which our people are safer and more confident to embark on their lawful businesses daily.

“He was an honest, bold, and courageous leader whose legacy will never be forgotten. If Akeredolu tells you anything, that is the way it is.

 “His death is a personal loss to me because we were very close, right from our days as students of Loyola College, Ibadan to date.’’

The National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Dr Abdullahi Ganduje, also joined other Nigerians to mourn Akeredolu, whom he described as a politician with exceptional leadership skills.

 The APC national chairman, in a tribute released by his Chief Press Secretary, Edwin Olofu, in Abuja, stressed that the death of the former NBA president was a great loss not only to the Ondo people but to Nigerians as a whole.

. The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, observed that the ex-NBA president would be sorely missed.

 Fagbemi, in a statement on Wednesday, recalled Akeredolu’s days as the president of the NBA, saying he brought immense growth to the bar.

 The 2023 Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party and former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, commiserated with the families of N’Abba and Akeredolu.

He described the deceased men as quintessential gentlemen who took finesse to governance.

 Atiku noted that the two-term elected governor of the Sunshine State, Akeredolu, was a politician of class because he was never known for destructive politics.

“Hon. Na’Abba on the other hand raised the bar of legislative enterprise in Nigeria as it is evident that the 1st Session of the National Assembly where he served with distinction between 1999-2003 remains one of the best in the annals of our legislatures,’’ he added.

The Labour Party presidential candidate, Peter Obi, has also joined others in mourning the demise of Akeredolu and Na’Abba.

The former Anambra State governor said their deaths showed the nothingness of life.

Obi stated this in a condolence message via his verified X handle on Wednesday.

He noted that the death of the two prominent Nigerians has shown political officeholders that it is important for them to remain committed to good works.

Obi stated, “I was opportune to be close to Akeredolu as the then President of the Nigerian Bar Association, he invited me to speak at an NBA event and since then we remained close and always discussed issues about Nigeria.”

President of the Senate, Senator Godwill Akpabio, expressed shock over the death of the Ondo state governor, describing him as “a nationalist and the Iroko of the Sunshine state.”

Akpabio in a statement issued in Abuja by his special adviser on media and publicity, Eseme Eyiboh, said Akeredolu was a leader who knew his onions and was indeed the Iroko of Ondo state as he defended the state with all his strength as governor.

The Senate president eulogised the late governor whom he said spent his active life fighting for justice, fairness, and equity adding that as a nationalist, “Akeredolu believed in true federalism, which he pursued with passion and vigour.”

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Abbas Tajudeen, expressed sadness over the death of Ondo State Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu describing his demise as a painful loss.

In a statement issued on Wednesday by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Musa Krishi, Mr Abbas described Akeredolu’s death as a big blow to the APC even as he said that the late governor was one of the brilliant legal minds in the ruling party.

The Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum and Kwara State Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, has also mourned the passage of his colleague, describing Akeredolu as an exceptional statesman who made indelible marks in public service.

The Chairman of the Northern States Governors’ Forum and Governor of Gombe State, Muhammadu Yahaya, conveyed his heartfelt condolences to the government and people of Ondo State over the governor’s death.

Yahaya, on behalf of the 19 northern governors, mourned the loss of Akeredolu, in a press statement signed by Director-General Press Affairs Ismaila Misilli describing the governor as “a senior figure, friend, resilient advocate, and a visionary leader whose attributes of excellence and remarkable brilliance positively influenced the transformation of Ondo State and contributed to the development of the country.”

On its part, the Peoples Democratic Party said the governor’s death was shocking, noting that he would be missed for his leadership capacity, especially in his roles towards the unity, stability, and development of the nation.

Reacting to the tragedy, the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba in a statement on Wednesday, said, “His death is a huge national loss. He was an unrepentant fighter for fairness, equity and justice in the affairs of the nation.

‘’He believed in true federalism, respect, defence, and protection of ethnic nationalities which he advocated as a prerequisite for peace and development in our nation.

“The PDP commiserates with Governor Akeredolu’s widow, Betty Akeredolu, his children, and the people of Ondo State. We pray to God to grant them the fortitude to bear this irreparable loss and to the faithful departed, eternal rest in His Bosom.”

The Nigerian Bar Association, Ibadan branch, has also mourned the passage of the governor, describing him as one of its shining lights.

The Chairman of the association, Mrs Folasade Aladeniyi, said this on Wednesday in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria.

According to her, with Akeredolu’s death, NBA Ibadan branch has lost one of its brightest, a friend, mentor, and fearless man as well as a caring patron.

Similarly, a legal practitioner, Mr Tobi Fatoki, said that the governor’s death was shocking and sad, adding that Nigerian lawyers had lost a legend.

 The Chairman of the Ondo State Christian Association of Nigeria, Rev. Fr. Anselm Ologunwa eulogised the late governor, saying his death was a colossal loss to the state and Nigeria as a whole.

Ologunwa, in a statement by the Director of Information and Communication of the association, Mr Daisi Ajayi, expressed shock over the news of the death.

He described Akeredolu as a great fighter of democracy, a dedicated and loving father of all.


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British-American Tobacco fined $110m as FG drops criminal charges

The Federal Government, through the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, has fined British American Tobacco and its affiliate companies $110m.

This is for alleged infringements of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act, National Tobacco Control Act, and sundry legal instruments, the FCCPC said on Wednesday in a statement.

In addition, the commission said BAT must subject itself to compliance and monitoring for a period of 24 months, mandatory public health and tobacco control advocacy, and provisions of written assurances to the commission.

“In exchange for BAT Parties fulfilling their obligations under the Consent Order, the commission withdrew pending criminal charges against BATN and at least one employee with respect to obstructing the commission by attempting to prevent execution of the search warrant and initial lack of cooperation/compliance with steps in the investigation,” the commission said.The FCCPC said the decision followed its “active” investigation into British American Tobacco Nigeria Limited and other affiliated companies (BAT Parties) on August 28, 2020, after it received credible pieces of information and intelligence.

Commenting on the resolution, it said, “During the year ending 2023, the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission came to a final resolution with British American Tobacco (Nigeria) Limited (BATN, British American Tobacco Marketing (Nigeria) Limited (BATMN), British American Tobacco Plc, British American Tobacco (Holdings) Limited (all together referred to as BAT Parties) with respect to a range of infringements of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act, National Tobacco Control Act and sundry legal instruments.”

According to the commission, it carried out an order and warrant of search and seizure, approved by a Federal High Court, at BAT locations and the location of a service provider on January 25, 2021.

It disclosed that it gathered, received, and procured substantial evidence from forensic analysis of electronic communications and other information/data obtained during the search, as well as other evidence procured during, and after the search from other legitimate sources.

It added that additional investigation, including proffers, hearings, transcripts of sworn testimonies, and continuing analysis of evidence established and supported multiple violations of the FCCPA and other enactments.

It highlighted that during the investigation and in furtherance of mutual engagements between the commission and BAT Parties, BAT Parties, in writing sought, and the commission accepted BAT Parties into cooperation under the Commission’s Cooperation/Assistance Rules & Procedure, 2021.

It clarified that this provides for benefits such as possible reduced monetary penalties; waiver of the application of the commission’s Administrative Penalties Regulations 2020; as well as prosecutorial discretion, particularly Rules 5.1 and 5.3 (subject to compliance with Rules 3 and 5.4).

The FCCPC noted that its penalties were reached upon full consideration of the record, BAT Parties’ additional articulation representations, and correspondence.

Part of the verdict of the investigation read: “That BAT Parties shall pay a penalty of $110,000,000 under and pursuant to Section 155 of the FCCPA, Clause 11 of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission’s Administrative Penalties Regulations, 2020 and Clause 4.2 of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission’s Investigative Cooperation/Assistance Rules and Procedures, 2021.”

The commission stated that it remained committed to promoting and ensuring fair market practices while protecting consumer interests.

It added, “A distorted market redounds only to the benefit of those who engage in malfeasance, is at the expense of others, and exploitation of consumers while undermining a stable economy. It compromises a constitutional and national priority of economic growth and shared prosperity.”

Recently the Executive Vice Chairman of FCCPC, Babatunde Irukera, revealed that businesses must be held accountable and made to face the consequences when they err. He said this while disclosing that the commission generated N56bn, mainly from penalties, as Internally Generated Revenue in 2023.

While noting that 90 per cent of the IGR was mainly from penalties, he said, “What makes the market stable is holding businesses accountable. The consequence management system is what we have adopted.

“We are not trying to close down businesses, but they must know that if you snooze, you lose. You cannot distort the market and expect that there will be no consequences.”

When contacted, the External Affairs Director of the company, Odiri Erewa-Meggison told our correspondent to send an inquiry via text message. She was yet to send feedback at the time of filing this report.


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N’Assembly reconvenes Friday, to pass budget Dec 30

The Senate Leader, Opeyemi Bamidele, has revealed that the National Assembly will pass the 2024 Appropriation Bill on December 30 to sustain the January-December budget cycle.

He disclosed at a session with journalists in Iyin-Ekiti, Ekiti State on Monday, saying all federal lawmakers would have to cut short their holidays to ensure the speedy passage of the 2024 Appropriation Bill.

He said, “To ensure the passage of the budget,  we abridged time to make all ministries, departments and agencies appear before the joint sitting of all the relevant committees of both the Senate and House of Representatives.

“This has already reduced the time for the budget defence process by half rather than appearing before the Senate first and House of Representatives later. The resolution has also removed the need for harmonisation. In essence, we have been able to save time.

“We have also been sitting beyond our regular sitting days. We have sat on Saturdays. We may even sit on Sunday as we are approaching another year. We only gave ourselves three days to go home and celebrate Christmas.

“We are reconvening on December 29. Our hope and determination is to pass by December 30. On January 1, 2024, Mr President will have the 2024 Appropriation Bill on his desk for assent so that its implementation can take off in earnest.”

Meanwhile, Bamidele expressed concerns about the activities of economic saboteurs who were doing everything to keep exchange rates high against the naira or trying to make the naira unavailable to the people who kept their money in banks.

According to him, the Federal Government “will, from next year, go after economic saboteurs who are making life difficult and unbearable for Nigerians.”

“The Federal Government will charge, prosecute and punish them for their acts of economic sabotage.

 “All these will take place next year. In the long run, those who mopped up the naira and dollars from the markets will face the consequences of their actions. Those who mopped up the dollars to keep commodity prices high will not escape justice.

“Those who are speculating are also on the watch list of the Federal Government. At some point, the Federal Government will have to go after them,” Bamidele said.


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Edo crisis takes a new turn as govt slashes budgetary allocation to deputy governor’s office

The rift between Governor Godwin Obaseki and his deputy, Philip Shaibu, may have taken another dimension as  N345 million was allocated to the Office of the Deputy Governor in the 2024 Budget as against the N19bn allocated to the Office of the State Governor.

An analysis of the budget which the governor signed into law on December 15, 2023, showed that the Office of the Secretary to the State Government got N8bn far higher than the N345m allocated to the deputy governor’s office.

The document also showed that while the House of Assembly got N13bn, the Office of the Head of Service got N968m.

A source close to the House of Assembly said the slash in the allocation to the deputy governor’s office was connected to his ambition to succeed his boss as governor of the state.

It was gathered that some lawmakers believed to be loyal to the deputy governor opposed the decision of the members of the assembly to pass the budget as presented by the governor.

Lawmakers in that category were said to have described it as an “unfair appropriation” but that they were overwhelmed other members.

An insider claimed that the budget has divided the lawmakers, but a principal member of the House of Assembly said there was no division in the House.

PUNCH reports that Shaibu had last week said his office had not received any allocation in the last six months owing to the tension between him and his principal.

The deputy governor, who stated this at the unveiling of the Correspondent Office in Benin on Tuesday, said he had been running the office and doing other activities through goodwill and contributions from friends.

He said, “You know there is tension between the governor and me. And for six months, there has been no allocation to my office. So, whatever I am doing is contributions from friends and my goodwill; and I am still standing very strong.”


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25 killed in Rivers illegal refinery explosion

No fewer than 25 persons have lost their lives following an explosion from an illegal oil tapping point in Omoku, Ogba/Egebema/Ndoni Local Government Area of Rivers State.

PUNCH Metro learnt that the incident occurred on Sunday morning, after the youths allegedly broke a pipeline belonging to one of the multinational oil firms operating in the areas, and began using jerrycans and buckets to scoop fuel when the tragedy struck.

 A source who pleaded anonymity told our correspondent that while 25 persons were feared dead, many suffered varying degrees of burns and were receiving treatment in different hospitals in the area.

 She said, “It is a very terrible incident. Imagine the death of 25 people in such a time. We learnt some youths bust a company pipeline.

“If you go to the General Hospital and other private clinics in Omoku, you will see many of the injured people scattered all over the place in both government and private hospitals taking treatment.”

 Another source who spoke to our correspondent on the condition of anonymity said the inferno occurred as a result of attempts by suspected oil thieves to light mosquito coils.

He disclosed, “The leakage was from an obsolete pipeline belonging to one of the oil companies operating in the area.

Speaking, the chairman of Niger Delta Youth Movement, ONELGA chapter, Emeka Ukwuosah, advised youths in the area to engage in meaningful activities and shun illegal oil bunkering.

Ukwuosah said, “Let me join in condemning the illegal oil bunkering going on within ONELGA. We are also calling on the security agencies to be up and doing and check what is happening within that circle.

 “Secondly, we are also calling on the multinationals that own the oil facilities to overhaul their aging facilities to forestall such incidents.”

 On his part, the Assistant Secretary of a vigilante group in the area, Onelga Security Peace Advisory Council, Emeka Agbabere, blamed the incident on illegal oil bunkering.

Agbabere said the vigilante group, the Community Development Committee and the youths were directed by a monarch in the area to put a stop to illegal oil bunkering activities there.

He however expressed dismay that despite their repeated campaigns for the youths to stop illegal bunkering, they paid a deaf ear.

He stated, “We proclaimed that they must put a stop to it and this is the aftermath of it. When they busted the pipeline, fire engulfed immediately and 19 of them died instantly and about 12 in two different hospitals.”

When contacted, spokesperson of the state police command, Grace Iringe-Koko, said she would find out and get back to our reporter.

Iringe-Koko, a Superintendent of Police, had yet to do so as of the time of filing this report on Tuesday.


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Plateau carnage: Death toll hits 150, over 10,000 displaced as Tinubu orders arrest of attackers

•I lost my father, 10 other family members to attack, Jos photographer laments

•President orders killers’ arrest, CAN, northern govs, elders, Saraki condemn attacks

There was outrage on Tuesday over Christmas Eve attacks on communities in three local government areas of Plateau State.

President Bola Tinubu, in a statement in Abuja by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale, condemned the attacks and ordered a manhunt for the killers.

While condoling with the government and the people of Plateau State, Tinubu assured Nigerians that “these envoys of death, pain, and sorrow will not escape justice.”

As the President ordered the arrest of the killers, the Chairman of Community Peace Observers in the Bokkos Local Government Area, Kefas Mallai, told one of our correspondents that over 150 were killed by the gunmen.

Mallai also said information indicated that the gunmen were still attacking some villages, adding that over 10,000 people were displaced by the attacks, which had attracted strong condemnation by prominent groups and individuals including northern governors and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas.

On Sunday, gunmen stormed Ndun, Ngyong, Murfet, Makundary, Tamiso, Chiang, Tahore, Gawarba, Dares, Meyenga, Darwat, and Butura Kampani villages in the Barkin Ladi, Mangu and Bokkos areas of the state burning houses and shooting residents.

On Tuesday, the Chairman of Community Peace Observers in the Bokkos Local Government Area, Mallai, in an interview with The PUNCH, said, “Over 150 people were killed in the attacks. In Bokkos town alone, more than 10,000 people are taking refuge in churches, mosques, schools, and private residences.”

Although our reporter could not get eyewitnesses to verify the death toll supplied by Mallai, the state government said over 100 people were killed, while the police put the death toll at 96.

‘Gory Christmas’

 In an interview on Channels television on Tuesday, state Governor, Caleb Mutfwang, stated, “This has indeed been a very gory Christmas for us. We have had to celebrate with a heavy heart. Just when people had finished preparing for Christmas celebrations, unprovoked attacks were unleashed on several of our communities.

“As I’m talking to you, in Mangun Local Government alone, we buried at least 15 people. So far this morning in the Bokkos Local Government, we were counting not less than 100 corpses. I have yet to take stock of that of Barki-Ladi. Most of the communities affected in Barki-Ladi share a border with the Bokkos Local Government. ‘’

He further disclosed that no fewer than 64 communities in the state had been displaced by terrorists who were occupying schools in the local government area.

He said, “When people are dislocated from their villages and they have to run for shelter, now we are struggling to provide shelter for these people that have been displaced and dislocated from their communities.

“If they stay away from those communities for a sustained period, the terrorists would come in. As I am talking to you today (Tuesday), in the Riyom Local Government and in Barkin Ladi Local Government, schools have been occupied by these terrorists for almost a number of years now. We have not less than 64 communities that have been displaced and their lands have been taken over by these terrorists.”

 “Under the last regime, the feeling among people in Plateau State particularly the victims of these terrorist attacks is that it looks as if the terrorists were given official government backing to be able to terrorise them because little or nothing was done to repel these attacks.

“I can tell you these schools that are being occupied, it didn’t just start now, some of those schools have been occupied in the last three, four, five years.

“Children therefore in those schools have not been able to go to school. They have to relocate. We even have primary health care centres abandoned because of these terrorists which means that our health care system is put in jeopardy; what do we need to do? I think this is where the President needs to come in,” he added.

Security architecture

The governor noted the flaws in the state’s security architecture, which he said required some tinkering.

He added, “The reason we have enjoyed relative peace up until this moment is because of the kind of arrangements we put in place. But obviously, it shows that those arrangements are not adequate. What we have had to do is motivate the security agencies on the ground to make sure that they perform optimally.

“And I would say to some extent that I give credit to the Nigerian Army, other security agencies, and the mobile police that have been deployed to the conflict areas. Sometimes, when you think you are achieving the target, you probably relax a little bit, because, for me, security is not the presence of security personnel; it is the absence of conflict. Unfortunately, we have had to also engage in a lot of non-kinetic methods.

“We have had engagements with community leaders to identify potential areas of conflict and nip them in the bud. We have been trying to build communal harmony, and to a large extent, we have succeeded. But, with the breach that we have experienced in the last few days, it means that some people are not happy with the progress we have made.’’

The governor expressed sadness over the breakdown of the peace pact signed by the indigenous communities and Fulani leaders.

He disclosed that the attacks were well coordinated and executed with heavy weaponry even as he admitted that unravelling the masterminds was beyond him.

On its the Plateau State Police Command on Tuesday disclosed that a total of 96 persons were killed while 221 houses were set ablaze during the attacks.

The state Commissioner of Police  Okoro Alawari, disclosed this in a statement signed by the Command’s spokesman, Alfred Alabo.

Apprehend culprits – Tinubu

The President on his part, condemned the heinous crime and directed security agencies to scout for and apprehend the culprits.

Describing the incident as a “primitive and heinous” attack, Tinubu said, “These envoys of death, pain, and sorrow will not escape justice.”

He also deployed a high-power delegation of well-armed operational forces to the troubled areas to prevent further attacks.

The President in a statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Ngelale, ordered the immediate mobilisation of relief resources for the surviving victims of the cruel attacks as well as medical treatment for the wounded.

The statement read, “President Tinubu directs security agencies to immediately move in, scour every stretch of the zone, and apprehend the culprits.

“The President also directs immediate mobilisation of relief resources for surviving victims of the primitive and cruel attacks as well as a medical treatment for the wounded.”

The statement is titled ‘President Tinubu condemns heinous attacks in Plateau, directs immediate apprehension of culprits.’

While condoling with the government and the people of Plateau State, Tinubu assured Nigerians that “these envoys of death, pain, and sorrow will not escape justice.”

The Presidential candidate of the Labour Party in the 2023 election, Peter Obi, also condemned the attack.

He reacted in a statement on X while commending the contributions of various security agencies in combating insurgency and other acts of terror.

Obi said “After my sympathy visit to the Regent of Oba Community in Anambra State for the recent horrific killing of people in a nightclub in that community; plus the mindless act of terrorism that occurred on Christmas Day in Plateau State, where the death toll is now reportedly more than 100 with over 300 injured; with the saddening acts of violence that have occurred in Zamfara and Katsina States where farmers were killed and several others kidnapped, and the many other violent attacks in many parts of the country, which may go unreported; my thoughts went to our overstretched security operatives. The men and women of our armed and security services come to mind.”

Similarly, a former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, appealed to the government to carry out thorough investigations to fish out the perpetrators of the attack.

“The audacity of the assailants and the sheer scale of the carnage are reminders of the deep-seated challenges that continue to plague our nation and the urgent need for decisive action to address the root causes of these conflicts.”

“I urge the Federal Government to launch an immediate and thorough investigation into this heinous act. No stone must be left unturned, and no perpetrator is allowed to go free. All the affected communities should receive justice. All well-meaning Nigerians want answers.”

An ex-federal lawmaker, Shehu Sani, demanded justice for the victims, calling for an end to killings in the name of ethnic sentiments.

The Chairman of the Northern States Governors’ Forum and Governor of Gombe State, Muhammadu Yahaya, has described as reprehensible and heinous, the attack on communities within Bokkos and Barkin-Ladi Local Government Areas of Plateau State.

 Yahaya, on behalf of the 19 Northern Governors, expressed his deepest condolences to the affected families and communities as well as the government and people of Plateau State in a statement signed by the Director-General, Press Affairs, Ismaila Misilli, on Tuesday.

 The statement read, “It is reprehensible and disheartening to hear of the loss of over 100 lives and destruction of properties that occurred during these attacks, especially during a time when residents were preparing to celebrate the festive season.

 “Such acts of violence are not only cowardly but also run counter to the spirit of unity and coexistence that our region upholds.

 “We must all prioritise peace and harmonious living in our communities. Now, more than ever, we must reaffirm our commitment to peaceful coexistence and solidarity regardless of our differences.

“We must unite in our commitment to peace and security, and stand firm against all forms of violence and division.”

The NSGF chairman commended Governor Mutfwang for his leadership and responsible handling of the situation in the aftermath of the attacks, assuring him that the forum stands united in solidarity with him in the face of adversity and will work together towards ensuring peace in Plateau State.

Meanwhile, the Northern Senators Forum has also condemned the recent killings in Plateau State.

The northern senators in a statement by their spokesperson, Senator Suleiman Sumaila, urged the authorities to commence an investigation into the mayhem and bring the perpetrators of the dastardly act to book.

Sumaila said that the Senators had expressed their deepest condolences to the affected families, loved ones, the people, and the Government of Plateau State over the killings.

“Their immense loss is a collective grief, and we stand united in our determination to seek justice. In our legislative role, we strongly condemn this reprehensible act and call upon the authorities to promptly initiate a comprehensive investigation.

CAN mourns

The Christian Association of Nigeria similarly condemned the attacks on the Plateau communities.

In a statement on Tuesday, the CAN President, Archbishop Daniel Okoh, condoled with the bereaved communities, and described the attacks as “a direct assault on our shared values of peace, unity and mutual respect.”

While commending the quick intervention of the military and the state governor, Okoh urged security to intensify intelligence gathering, to pre-empt and forestall future attacks, adding that they must move from reactive to preventive measures.

Part of the statement read, “We mourn with the families, friends, and communities who tragically lost their loved ones in the villages of Ruku, Hurum, Darwat, Mai Yanga Sabo, NTV, and Lisham Kwahasnat community in Wase LGA. We stand with you at this time of grief, and our prayers go out to you for comfort and strength.

“We condemn these acts of violence in the strongest possible terms. The burning down of houses, and worship centres, and the destruction of properties worth millions of naira is not only a criminal act but also a direct assault on our shared values of peace, unity, and mutual respect. Such acts have no place in our society and must not be allowed to prevail.

“We commend the swift intervention of the military and the deployment of a joint police and military task force to restore peace and prevent further lawlessness in the affected communities.

“However, while appreciating these immediate responses, we urge the security agencies to intensify their efforts in intelligence gathering and proactive interventions to pre-empt and forestall these types of dastardly acts in the future. Our people deserve to live in peace, and it is high time we moved from reactive to preventive measures.”

The CAN President also urged Nigerians to remember the victims’ families and reach out to them in the spirit of the festive season, while calling on citizens to shun all forms of violence and embrace peace and unity.

Expressing pains over the attack, the Northern Elders Forum condemned the attacks on the plateau communities in the latest in a series of coordinated attacks, rampant killings, and mass displacements that have plagued the northern region.

In a statement signed by the NEF Convener, Prof Ango Abdullahi on Tuesday, the forum stated that it had reasons to suspect the government’s operational methods, while raising concerns over the inability of the military to prevent the killings, despite claiming to have received 36 distress calls from different locations in the state.

The group stated, “NEF strongly condemns this devastating act and expresses its heartfelt condolences to the families affected by this heinous crime. It is deeply distressing to witness the continuous deterioration of security in the conflict-affected areas of the North, which has led to countless lives being lost and a pervasive sense of fear and instability amongst the communities.

“Moreover, NEF expresses concern over the inability of the military to prevent the Christmas Eve killings, despite claiming to have promptly responded to 36 distress calls from different locations in Plateau State in the 48 hours leading up to Christmas.

“This highlights the Forum’s growing suspicions regarding the efficacy and sufficiency of the government’s operational methods. NEF questions whether the strategies employed by the government are flawed or grossly inadequate, given the audacious regularity and ease with which the attackers operate across the northern region.’’

While also raising concerns over the loss of lives of two persons, and the kidnap of 25 others, including the wife of the head of Ruwan Dorawa village in Zamfara State, Abdullahi demanded an investigation into the security lapses that resulted in the kidnap, adding that the report must be made public, while those responsible are held accountable.

“NEF is also deeply concerned about the recent security incident in Ruwan Dorawa village, Zamfara State. The tragic event that unfolded on the same Christmas Eve resulted in the loss of two innocent lives and the abduction of over 25 individuals, predominantly children, and women, including the wife of the village head,’’ the forum noted.


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Singer Portable beats Charles Okocha in celebrity boxing fight

After the fourth round, Nigerian street-pop artist Habeeb Badmus, aka Portable, was declared winner of the celebrity boxing fight against Nollywood actor, Charles Okocha, on Wednesday.

The fight, which was sanctioned by Heritage Boxing Entertainment, held at Landmark Beach in Victoria Island, Lagos State, started after 1am and lasted about 40 minutes.

The pair had finally settled their scores with their fists after Portable alleged contractual issues, which led them to engage in an online feud over an alleged N40m rip-off.

Portable claimed Okocha cheated him out of the money, only sending him a small amount, contrary to a contractual agreement.

In Round One, Portable took the lead early with a confident start.

He was adorning a blue pair of knickers and a blue armless top to match.

He also took full control of the ring and looked to find his range from several jabs to the body of Okocha, who was wearing a red top and red shorts.

In Round Two,  Okocha was back in the game as he had been avoiding blows from Portable, and everything seemed to be in his favour.

Okocha gained more ground than Portable had in the entire bout, and he did not give up on amassing more points despite being in the pole position to win.

His jabs even brought Portable down, and the referee had to come in between them.

In Round Three, Portable was running around the ring to see if he could bounce back into the game and Okocha was following him around.

Portable seized some opportunities to retaliate the blows that were descending on him from the round two fight.

In Round Four, the two celebrity boxers were tired, but Portable was still throwing some direct punches, which caught Okocha unaware.

Meanwhile, when the referee called for Round Five to decide the winner, both of them declined to continue and this led to the eventual announcement of Portable as the winner.

Although Portable did not win through TKO, KO, or even points recorded but with his victory, he clinched the belt while solidifying his position as the deserving champion in the hard-fought bout.


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100 Airbus employees fall sick after company’s Christmas party

Earlier this month, festivities turned sour for employees of an Airbus subsidiary in France as a holiday celebration resulted in dozens of employees falling ill after a company Christmas party.

“Around 100 Airbus Atlantic employees were taken ill after contracting a food-borne illness after eating the company-organized Christmas lunch,” a spokesperson said in an emailed statement to CNN.

No one at Airbus experienced severe illness during the incident on December 15, and by the following Monday, all employees had returned to work, as per the spokesperson.

The outbreak of illness is currently under investigation by French health authorities, as stated by the Airbus spokesperson.

Established in January 2022, Airbus Atlantic is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Airbus focused on airplane seats.

Despite having 13,000 employees across five countries, the unfortunate Christmas lunch incident happened in France.


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Tinubu’ll continue to intervene in states battling crises – Presidency

Presidential spokesman, Ajuri Ngelale, said President Bola Tinubu will continue to intervene in states battling political crises if such development will affect the country.

Ajuri stated this on a pre-recorded show on  Channels Television’s News Night aired on Monday.

According to him, the President was right in intervening in political crises in Ondo and Rivers State despite criticisms that the actions undermined the government of those states.

“That has nothing to do with, of course, political development, destabilisation of a particular region or state or subnational entity that could potentially turn into a national conflagration.

“If the President sees that, he is not going to sit by as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and fold his hands and keep quiet. I think that is what he has done,” he stated.

The presidential aide added that Nigerians expect Tinubu’s government to offer responsible leadership to the country.

Admitting that the current administration inherited a lot of economic challenges, Ajuri stated his principal is putting things in place to tackle the issues.

“You combine all of these factors, obviously, our debt burden is another factor, you would know there is no easy fix; there is no magic wand solution to this. There is going to be pain before pleasure,”  he said.


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