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Abuja Politics

Kebbi gov’s removal shocking to us –PDP

The Peoples Democratic Party on Friday expressed shock over the removal of Kebbi State Governor, Alhaji Saidu Usman Dakingari, from office by the Supreme Court.

A statement by the signed by the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Prof. Rufai Alkali, said the removal of Dakingari, who married the daughter of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, was capable of breeding tension and instability in the country.

It, however, vowed that it would win the rerun election as ordered by the apex court.

The statement reads, “The Peoples Democratic Party has received with great shock the verdict of the Supreme Court, which nullified the election of our governor in Kebbi State, Alhaji Saidu Usman Dakingari.

“While our faith in the judiciary remains unwavering, we’re deeply concerned about the trend of judgements, some of which breed unnecessary tension and instability.

“The acting National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Alhaji Kawu Baraje, on behalf of the National Working Committee and the entire members of the PDP, is deeply touched by this temporary setback, but calls on all our teeming supporters in Kebbi State to remain calm, law abiding and continue to support the PDP, which remains the most formidable and purposeful political party in Nigeria.

“We however wish to commend Dakingari for all his efforts in the courts and urge him and his team in the State to be steadfast, courageous, while the party prepares for a rerun election, which God willing, we shall win.”

Imoke gets PDP guber ticket, aspirant seeks Dickson’s disqualification

GOVERNOR Liyel Imoke of Cross River State in a landslide victory clinched the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) ticket for the 2012 governorship election.

Imoke had earlier won the party’s ticket in 2011 to contest the governorship race but had to continue in office as the Appeal Court ruled that his tenure terminates in 2012 and not 2011. Meanwhile, a governorship hopeful under the platform of the PDP, Orufa Justine Bolou yesterday prayed the Federal High Court, Abuja Division to order a fresh nomination of gubernatorial candidate in Bayelsa State in accordance with Nigeria 1999 Constitution as amended and the Electoral Guidelines for Primary Elections 2010 of the PDP.

At the U. J. Esuene Stadium yesterday, Imoke pulled 737 votes to defeat his main contender, Ambassador Soni Abang who got only three votes. Seven votes were voided. Chairman of the Electoral Panel Senator Ahmed Zanna described the entire exercise that started at about 8a.m. and ended at about 4.36p.m. as most peaceful and urged other states to emulate Cross River.

He described the PDP as one family, saying, “I urged Abang not to defect to another party but should remain in the party to work in harmony and build the party”. The plaintiff, Bolou predicated his request on the ground that PDP did not comply with the Electoral Act and its Constitution in conducting the November 19, 2011 primary election where Seriake Dickson was chosen as the PDP’s flagbearer in Bayelsa State.

PDP, Seriake Dickson and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) are joined as 1st to 3rd defendants respectively The plaintiff in this fresh suit is seeking for a declaration that the primaries conducted on November 19,2011 is in breach of Articles 2,12.7,12.8(e)&(f),17(1)(2)(b) of PDP Constitution and Articles 2(1)&3,Part II(A)&(B)(xi) of the Electoral Guidelines for Primary Election.

The plaintiff through his counsel Ricky Tarfa therefore prayed the court for order of injunction restraining the PDP from sending or forwarding any result/name or winner of the purported gubernatorial primary election of November 19, 2011 held in Bayelsa State, among others

You are enemy of the people, CNPP tells PDP

The Conference of Nigerian Political Parties has described the endorsement of fuel subsidy removal by the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party as an act of sabotage against the Nigerian people.

The CNPP said in a release issued by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Osita Okechukwu, in Abuja on Friday that the only thing that could have informed that decision at the party’s 56th National Executive Committee meeting in Abuja on Thursday was the PDP’s anti-people’s predisposition since its formation in 1998.

The statement said, "The PDP has always stood for policies and programmes that inflict pains on the masses of our people.

"The NEC of the party, being overpopulated by ‘food is ready politicians,’ has once again displayed its well-known penchant for taking sides with the oppressors of the common man in Nigeria.

"In taking the decision to endorse President Goodluck Jonathan’s fuel subsidy removal policy, the PDP NEC members know what they stand to benefit individually when that anti-people policy is unleashed on Nigerians.

PDP sets hurdles for chairmanship candidates

Ahead of its national convention next February, the Peoples Democratic Party has listed the criteria that must be met by its chairmanship candidates.

SATURDAY PUNCH investigation on Friday showed that the conditions were agreed upon during the party’s caucus meeting on Tuesday night at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. Already, the decision to do away with the party’s zoning arrangement has started creating ripples among its members.

The PDP had at its NEC meeting in July, zoned its chairmanship slot to the North-East; secretary to the South-West, deputy chairman, South-South; National Treasurer, North-Central; National Organising Secretary, North-West; National Legal Adviser, North-Central and the National Publicity Secretary, South-East.

But on Thursday, the PDP, made a U-turn after its NEC meeting, when its Acting National Chairman, Alhaji Kanu Baraje, said that there was no agreement on zoning yet. At least, 11 members of the party from the North-East have signified interest in the position.

They include a lawyer and chairman of Keptin Group, Alhaji Sheu Birma; a former Nigeria’s ambassador to the United States, Dr. Hassan Adamu; ex-governor of the defunct Gongola State, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur; former Minister of Petroleum, Prof. Jibril Aminu and ex-governor Adamu Mu’azu.

The investigation showed that while the NEC meeting failed to agree on the zoning of offices, there was a consensus on the qualities the candidates must possess. It was learnt that some of the criteria listed by the PDP included age, loyalty to the party, exposure and wealth.

It was learnt that both the party caucus and the NEC had emphasised the need to elect a young and dynamic chairman, who had a solid professional background. The investigation showed that the party agreed that its next chairman should be "a well-established man," who could not be easily swayed by various interest groups. A top member of the PDP National Working Committee told our correspondent that the party would go for an independent-minded candidate.

He stated that at the caucus and the NEC meetings, members noted that none of the past PDP chairmen finished his term.

He said the meeting noted that all the chairmen, except the current Minister of Defence, Dr. Haliru Muhammed, left the post in controversial circumstances.

This, it was gathered, informed the decision of the party to set standards for those aspiring to lead it.

The NWC member said, "The party is of the view that there is the need to stem this tide in order to stabilise it. We are glad that many people have indicated interest in the post. We are going to do weeding.

"Age will be a determining factor for the post. The party will go for a young and dynamic person, who will chart a new course for the PDP. We will not mind throwing our search net to other parts of the country."

He said although PDP offices were not for sale, the party would go for "a person with financial muscle."

He explained that this was to avoid a situation where chairmen used their position to amass wealth during elections.

"We have noted that many past chairmen lacked the capacity to take independent decisions because of the patronage they get during primaries. As part of our reforms, we are electing a chairman, who is well established and will curb indiscipline in the party," the NWC member stated.

The investigation showed that many PDP states in the North-East were desirous of the chairman emerging from their states.

It was learnt that their fear stemmed from the clashes between some former PDP national chairmen and their governors. The PDP states from the North-East include Bauchi, Adamawa, Gombe and Taraba, while Borno and Yobe are being governed by the All Nigeria Peoples Party.

It was learnt that the governor, who preferred that the chairmanship slot should be given to the ANPP states included Muritala Nyako (Adamawa) and Isa Yuguda (Bauchi).

The NWC member said, "The governors fear that the chairman is always powerful for them to handle. They cite the clash between a former National Chairman, Dr. Okesilieze Nwodo and the Enugu State Governor, Sulivan Chime."

Mua’zu, Bamanga Tukur, Abba-Aji, six others in race for PDP chair

The National Caucus of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) met last night over the party’s forthcoming National Convention. It was gathered that national issues bordering on the security challenges and deregulation were also discussed.

Investigation by our correspondent revealed that the party leaders, including President Goodluck Jonathan who returned from a trip to Ogun State, met in House 7 at the Presidential Villa.

The meeting which started at about 7pm, was still in progress at press time.

A source, who spoke in confidence, said the session might be devoted to the party’s National Convention which is likely to hold in February.

A new National Chairman of the party is expected to emerge at the convention.

The source said: “The National Convention will shape the zoning policy of the PDP now and in 2015.

“Most PDP members from the Northeast are demanding that the National Chairman office be zoned to the geopolitical zone.

“But in the light of the distortion of the party’s zoning formula, it is left to the leaders to determine whether to give the National Chairman slot to the Northeast or not. They will also advise on how to share party offices among the remaining five zones.

“The decision of the National Caucus will give direction on the zoning policy of the PDP in 2015.”

As at press time, nine aspirants have so far indicated interest to lead the PDP.

They are a former Nigeria’s Ambassador to the United States, Dr. Hassan Adamu, ex-Governor of the defunct Gongola State, Alhaji Bamanga Muhammed Tukur; ex-Minister of Petroleum, Prof. Jibril Aminu(Adamawa); ex-Minister of Commerce, Ambassador Idris Waziri (Yobe); ex-Minister of Agriculture, Alhaji Shettima Mustapha and a former National Chairman of the defunct Grassroots Democratic Movement, (GDM), Alhaji Gambo Lawan(Borno); ex-Governor Adamu Mu’azu(Bauchi); a former Presidential Adviser on National Assembly Matters, Senator Mohammed Abba-Aji; and ex-Governor Danjuma Goje, who is a Senator from Gombe State.

The source added: “Some leaders prefer a younger aspirant like ex-Governor Adamu Mu’azu to lead the party because age is on his side.

“But some PDP chieftains are saying that experience and mature hands are better than younger ones.”

It was also learnt that the presidency has decided to table some national issues before the caucus including the proposed deregulation of the downstream sector of the oil industry.

The government will also explain how it is addressing the security challenges facing the nation.

Another source added: “Actually some government officials were actually invited to be part of the caucus session. “So, the government will seek advice and support on its proposed plans.”

Subsidy: Jonathan, Economic Team Meet NANS

In a strategic move to douse tension among the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) and win support, President Goodluck Jonathan and his economic team yesterday, met with NANS leaders in Abuja to assuage the ill-feelings of students on the removal of fuel subsidy.

The meeting which had in attendance the president's economic team dwelt on the need for NANS leaders to mobilise its members rather than pose as a storming block to the removal of the subsidy.

Jonathan, who was accompanied by the Vice-President, Alhaji Namadi Sambo; Ministers, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator Anyim Pius Anyim; and the Chief of Staff to the President, Chief Mike Oghiadomhe, hinted that the future of Nigeria would depend squarely on the difficult decisions we make today in growing the economy to create jobs and prosperity for young Nigerians.

He stated that currently the country runs an annual budget of 26 per cent capital expenditure and 74 per cent recurrent, adding that apart from the fact that this lopsided expenditure pattern cannot meet the economic aspiration of Nigerians, even the 26 per cent capital budget is borrowed annually because of the huge budget deficit government is compelled to implement.

The President told the student leaders that the situation in which Nigeria has to borrow to carry out capital projects as well as part of its recurrent expenses was an obvious road to disaster and portend great danger ahead.

Explaining further, Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku quoted the president to have stressed that in the midst of all these difficulties staring the country in the face, the country has continued to bear a huge subsidy burden of N1.3 Trillion on fuel consumption.

The president noted that the situation was so precarious that in the first eight months of this year alone, government was forced to dole out N1.3 trillion in payment to offset cost of subsidy to fuel importers.

He said currently, Nigeria which is in desperate need to rehabilitate its infrastructure in all sectors is compelled to spend almost One-Third of its annual budget on fuel subsidy. President Jonathan explained that if this continues, in two to three years, the economy will crash.

He said in the past, every government avoided taking the difficult decision on this matter and instead resorted to borrowing to carry out government transactions thereby piling up huge domestic debts that today threaten the future of young Nigerians and future generations.

Sambo, in his presentation, said measures mapped out by government to reinvest proceeds that will accrue from deregulation in critical infrastructure, and in welfare programmes for Nigerians.

Also, the Minister of Finance and Chairperson of the Economic Management Implementation Team, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala had briefed the student leaders in statistical terms about the danger signals in the economy which needed urgent measures to address.

She said the deregulation of the downstream sector of the oil industry was only one of these measures, as government was also taking other measures to address issues of leakages in the economy and aggressive strategy to earn more from the maritime and other sectors of the economy.

She said presently, Nigeria offers the cheapest fuel in West Africa and one of the cheapest in the world including among many oil producing nations.

She showed the students statistics of fuel prices in several countries of the world, which showed clearly that even after deregulation, fuel prices in Nigeria will be among the cheapest in the world.

The finance minister explained that the reason why in some countries prices were high after deregulation of their downstream sector was because most countries levy tax on fuel and that in order to keep prices at reasonable levels after deregulation, government has decided not to levy tax on fuel.

She further stated that the President had given the go ahead to deal with all issues of leakages in the economy against which measures are currently being taken.

But in a telephone chat with THISDAY, NANS President, Dauda Muhammed said though the meeting took place, there was no agreement reached.

He told THISDAY that "The meeting on our part dwelt on ASUU strike and increase in school fees, we discussed about how we can go back to the classroom, because, we are not happy that we are out of school."

Muhammed further maintained that "The President discussed the issue of the removal of fuel subsidy, but for us, it wasn't our priority as the NANS Senate has set up a committee on the issue," he said.

According to Maku, the President is expected to continue the dialogue with ASUU to resolve the ongoing dispute between the government and university teachers.

I’m Back to PDP for Good, Says Atiku

Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar Wednesday said he was back in the fold of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to for good and to actualise the dreams of the founding fathers of the party.

He also said his return to the party was to also ensure that the party maximises its electoral fortunes in future elections, including the 2012 governorship election in Adamawa State, where the incumbent governor, Murtala Nyako, is a serious contender.

Appearing for the first time since he lost the PDP presidential primary, Atiku said the party was conceived as the mother of all parties to cater for all shades of interests and opinions.

Atiku, who spoke at a rally organised in honour of Nyako’s governorship ambition, had mounted the stage shouting Nyako’s campaign slogan, “Adamawa Sai Nyako”, even as he said a reconciliation process was on- going.

The former vice-president, who said he was sure the PDP would win any election in the state and the country at large, said: “We had always won in the past and we are set to win again. All those now in other political parties like CPC, ACN, ANPP were originally in PDP, and they are set to come back and vote PDP.”

Atiku said he was endorsing Nyako for another shot at returning to government house in 2012, because of the performance of Nyako in transforming the social infrastructure in the state. “Nyako has worked and we should vote him back,” Atiku stressed.

Speaking at the rally, the Vice-President, Alhaji Namadi Sambo, singled out the maintenance of peace and security in the state by Nyako, as one of the major credits of the administration that should endear Nyako to the people of the state.

Sambo said: “He considered the people of the state to be lucky because the state have produced visionary leaders that put the development of the state and country first,” adding: “ Nyako’s performances in education, health and Agriculture has remained exemplary and that is why Nyako was appointed a member of the federal government economic management team.”

Flanked by the governors of Taraba, Bauchi, Gombe, and Sokoto States, Sambo said Nyako had the blessing and support of the national leadership of the party and the Federal Government to contest the January 2012 election.

The vice-president, who announced Federal Government’s intervention projects in the state, said the government had approved over N12.5 billion for the Lagdo dam and Choochi irrigationprojects in the state, at the instance of the governor and urged the people to vote enmasse for the PDP.

Also speaking, Nyako pledge to consolidate on the foundation laid in the last four years.

House Slashes Jonathan’s Virement Request

The House of Represen-tatives Wednesday, considered and approved the sum of N31.9 billion out of the N98.4 billion requested by President Goodluck Jonathan in the 2011 Appropriation Act. The approval came same day the House of representatives received the Same Sex Marriage

Prohibition Bill which was passed by the Senate last week. The controversial bill marked HB 197 was read for the first time on the floor of the House of Representatives yesterday having being transmitted to the lower chamber of the parliament for the purpose of concurrence. The House also received ten other new bills all of which underwent the mandatory first reading stage.

The lawmakers had initially ruled out the passage of the virement proposal submitted to them in September but soft-pedalled last week and mandated it Committee on Approriation to scrutinise it and advise the chamber on what items to approve.

Chairman, House Committee on Appropriation, Hon John Enoh (PDP/Cross River), who presented a report on the virement Wednesday said that the Committee did not approve of virement items proposed in some Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) because it did not find them appropriate.

The agencies for which virement requests were not granted include the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Science and Technology, Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Ministry of Mines and Steel, Federal Civil Service Commission, Service Wide Votes, Public Complaints Commission, National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP); Indepen-dent Corrupt Practices Commi-ssion and National Sports Commission.

The report said that with the passage of the virement to the 2011 Appropriation Act, the 2011 budget cycle has been extended to March 31, 2012 to ensure effective implementation of the capital projects for which the virement was proposed.

Out of the N31,859,945,730 approved virement, FCT got N940,703,866 as against N17,067,478,034 initial request; Federal Ministry of Agriculture got N820,650,668 as against N6,374,772,436; Federal Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development got N2.9 billion, Federal Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs got N10.9 billion while the Federal Ministry of Aviation got N3.953 billion as against the proposed N9.4 billion.

Similarly, the Federal Ministry of Education got N538,285,620 as against N7,768,824,003; Ministry of Defence/Nigerian Army got N1 billion as against N3 billion; National Sports Commission got N810,667,452 against N1,454,893,610; Health got N6.549 billion for Federal Ministry of Health; N3.4 billion for Police Formations and Command while Public Complaint Commission got N15 million.

“In presenting this report, we are so mindful of our responsibility as a committee constituted to guide the House in taking the right decision on appropriation matters without laying a faulty precedent that would impact negatively on our legislative process in the area of power of the purse,” Enoh stated.

Senate Rebuffs Minister over ASUU

Worried by the looming hardship staring Nigerian students in the face over the ongoing strike by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, (ASUU), the Senate yesterday, rejected the excuses of the Minister of Education on government’s inability to implementing the 2009 agreement it reached with the university teachers.

Minister of Education, Prof. Ruqayat Rufai, who briefed the Senate Committee on Education on the ASUU strike, said nine of the 17-point demands by the university lecturers had been implemented, while eight are on stages of implementation.

She said the bone of contention was the content of the retirement age bill which merged universities with all other tertiary institutions but which the ASUU was kicking against.

She explained that the implementation of the remaining eight demands is being delayed because of the processes they had to pass through.

But the Committee Chair-man, Senator Uche Chukwumerije (PDP, Abia) was not happy with the minister’s excuse that the remaining eight were being delayed by the processes.

He told the minister, “You keep saying processes and processes”, asking, “These processes are they made in the moon or Jupiter or where else? Are you not the people that created these processes? Or is it that you are waiting for another court action before you implement an agreement both parties willingly singed almost three years ago? Why can’t these processes be speed up to safe us another agony of going on strike?”

But the minister replied that it was not that government deliberately refused to attend to other demands but the circumstances surrounding them does not help the matter especially the difference in the 65 years retirement age for Non-academic staff and 70 years for the academic staff.

Chukwumerije said the bill on retirement age of lecturers are being treated expressly and has already reached second reading in the House of Representatives and on its way to second reading in the senate.

He warned the Federal Government against foot-dragging on the implementation of the agreement reached with the Academic Staff Union of Universities, (ASUU) in 2009.

“I wonder why it is taken the Federal Government almost three years to implement the agreement reached with the academic staff and even settles all the contentious issues. This is December and in few weeks time we will be in 2012. It took a judgment by the Supreme Court before the matter on the illegal sack of the University of Ilorin teachers could be implemented do you also want us to wait for another four years on this?”

UN Votes N12.4bn to Advance Democracy in Nigeria

The United Nations UN has said it is currently implementing a five-year intervention programme on deepening democratic governance in the country at a budgeted cost of N12.4 billion ($80 million).

As part of the assistance to help deepen democratic culture in Nigeria, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and its partners are providing over US$ 10 million to 18 civil society organisations.

According to UN, the money is to support community-based elections education, including registration, voting, observation and sensitisation on gender issues. The project also aims to ensure the effectiveness of the mass media and citizen participation as well as encouraging women’s participation in the electoral process.

A statement by (UNDP), yesterday said the support for the electoral process was being coordinated under the Democratic Governance for Development (DGD) project and was planned to gulp US$80 million over five years, covering Nigeria’s 2010-2015 electoral cycle.

UNDP said the money would be deployed to assist the Nigerian authorities to consolidate and advance democratic governance and accountability.

Funding for the project is jointly provided by UNDP, the European Union, the UK Department for International Development, the Canadian International Development Agency and the Korean International Cooperation Agency.

The project is focused primarily on support for voter registration, civic education, media training, women’s political representation, training for elections tribunal staff and election observers, and production of information materials and electoral kits,” the statement said.

Details of the programme of assistance show that UNDP and its partners provided US $5.5 million to the Independent National Election Commission (INEC) to help it to deliver a credible voters’ register; while they also provided over US$ 10 million to 18 civil society organizations to support community-based elections education including registration, voting, observation and sensitization on gender issues.

Speaking in an interview with THISDAY during the flag-off of Civil Society Strategic Planning Validation meeting in Enugu, the UNDP Specialist, Ms. Vernice Guthrie, said the project being coordinated under the Democratic Governance for Development (DGD) is aimed at strengthening the capacity of various segments of the society to be able to engage government in the implementation of various development programmes.

She said capacity-building programme for civil society groups was going on simultaneously throughout the six geographical zones of the country, trying to harmonise their activities and impart special skills to members.

Gruthrie explained that the focus of the DGD project is to strengthen democracy in Nigeria and through its capacity-building training create opportunities for good governance and improvement in the living conditions of the people.

“We are training CSOs to engage governance in a variety of development programmes and the best way to do this is to strengthen them to overcome weaknesses as well as harmonise their strategies to deal with issues of governance,” she said.

According to her, the aim of the intervention programme was to deepen democracy by encouraging greater participation of the people in governance and proper application of resources.

FG Tells Obama off over Gay Rights

The Federal Government Wednesday, reacted to the position US President Barack Obama on same-sex marriage, saying the country reserved the right to make laws as a sovereign nation that governs it.

Reacting to the move by Obama to intensify campaign for gay rights at a time the senate is trying to make homosexuality a criminal act, Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, said there were norms and practices peculiar to each country and society which should be respected and not overlooked on the altar of human rights so as not to assault the sensibilities of the people. “But at any rate, between Europe, America and Africa there is a huge culture gap. Some of the things that are considered fundamental rights abroad also can be very offensive to African culture and tradition and to the way we live our lives here. I said this (prohibition of same-sex marriage) has not become a law, but sometimes we get worried by comments that are made.

“The truth of the matter is our democracy will be guarded by Nigeria's interest and values. And if eventually the law becomes law, we will live with it but it is not yet law. And we will take comments by our foreign partners and friends as legitimate but I also know that it is within the legitimate rights of Nigeria as an independent nation and our legislature to legislate and discuss any matter in the world that comes before them that is also in tune with the welfare of the people of Nigeria,” he said. Maku insisted that taking a position on yet-to-be-passed law was premature.

“The reported comments by the US Government about the proposed law by the Senate about same-sex marriage in Nigeria have not fully come to government for a position. But let me say this, we live in a democracy, we live in a free country, we live in an independent country and in every democracy as you know, there are institutions, there are laws and also there are cultures, there are beliefs and values in every nation.

“Relating to the law that is being proposed by the Senate, as you know Senate has passed a version of a law relating to same sex marriages, that law has not yet gone through House of Representatives not to talk of becoming a law that will be forwarded to the president for assent,” he said.

Explaining further, he said Nigeria as a nation has institutions that regulates what happens within the legal confines of living within the law would always guide the standard whether foreign countries like it or not and cannot determine how the country lives its life.

“I believe our institutions are clear, we live in a democracy. Foreign countries that may not be happy with certain aspects of laws passed in Nigeria are free to express their views concerning whatever law that is passed through the Nigerian legislature but at the same time all those countries know how democracies work,” he said.

The Rage of the Disabled

Vexed by the feeling of negligence, or better still, marginalisation on account of their physical defects, scores of Nigerians living with various forms of disability stormed the National Assembly on Tuesday to protest the delay by President Goodluck Jonathan in signing into law the “Nigerians with Disabilities Bill” passed by the federal legislature in September last year.

Although the protest was largely peaceful, the members of the association, many of whom were on wheelchairs, were visibly enraged at the long delay in signing into law a Bill that is meant to enhance their status and welfare.

Led by Governor Tanko Al-Makura of Nasarawa State and Senator Bode Olajumoke, the persons with disabilities (PWD) asked the federal legislators to prevail on Jonathan to sign the Bill into law without further delay.

The Bill, which seeks to establish a National Commission for Persons with Disabilities ,with the responsibility fortheir welfare, including education, healthcare, and protection of their social, economic, civil and political rights, was passed into law in September 2010 after the two versions passed by both chambers were harmonised. It was subsequently forwarded to the Presidency for assent, an action that President Jonathan has since failed to carry out

Essentially, the Bill seeks to address key issues around discrimination, safety, access to facilities, education, health, and standard of living of PWDs.

Specifically, the bill provides that:

“No person with disability shall be discriminated against on the ground of his or her disability by any person or institution in any manner or circumstance whatsoever; no public building shall be constructed without necessary accessibility aids such as lifts (where necessary), ramps to make them accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities including those on wheelchairs and the visually impaired; transport service providers shall make provisions for lifts, ramps and other accessibility aids to enhance the

accessibility of their vehicles, parks and bus-stops to persons with disabilities including those on wheelchairs.

“ Before a person with disability boards or alights from a vehicle, the driver shall ensure that the vehicle completely pulls up; Government shall take all appropriate measures to ensure the full development, advancement and empowerment of women and girls with disabilities for the purpose of guaranteeing them the exercise and enjoyment of all the rights and privileges provided for in this Bill. In all situations of risk, including situations of violence, emergencies and the occurrence of natural disasters, government shall take all necessary steps to ensure the safety and protection of persons with disabilities taking cognisance of their peculiar vulnerability; A body to be known as the National

Commission for persons with disabilities be established and placed under the' Presidency ” .

Part III, section 8 of the Act provides a transitory period of five years for the modification of buildings and automobiles, which were hitherto not accessible to persons with disabilities, to enable them access these places.

The Bill further prescribes sanctions and punishment for contravention of its provisions.

A human rights lawyer, Bayo Atoyebi noted that if signed into law, “the bill has the power to turn around the lives of PWDs in Nigeria from one of drudgery to one of opportunities and fulfillment”, wondering why there has been no political will since 2008 to turn the bill into an Act ” .

He said, “This gives the impression that the lives of PWDs are of no value despite the fact that many of them have brought and continued to bring glory to this country through the paralympics games, in the civil service, development sector and even in the entertainment industry”, adding that many PWDs have risen to notable heights including being recipients of the prestigious Ford Foundation awards and others international fellowships and some have even been given national honours.

But Senator Ayogu Eze (PDP, Enugu), who addressed the protesting disabled persons on behalf of the Senate President, assured that the National Assembly would persuade the President to sign the bill.

Earlier while presenting the case of the irate protesters, Governor Al-Makura said the protest was to remind the lawmakers on the need for President Jonathan to assent to the Bill.

He said: “The essence of our visit to the National Assembly is to remind the National Assembly that the bill they passed for more than one year is awaiting assent of Mr. President.

“We are appealing to them to see if they could urge Mr. President to sign the bill into law so that it can become functional as soon as possible.”

The governor, who is a member of the Joint National Association of Persons With Disability (JONAPWD), regretted that people living disabilities were discriminated against and denied the basic necessities of life.

“People living with disabilities do not enjoy equal opportunities with other Nigerians,” Al-Makura said.

The governor noted that successive governments in Nigeria had done little or nothing to reduce the suffering of this class of Nigerians, adding that the agitation by the group for government to provide for them basic necessities of life is not a privilege but a right.

Also speaking, the National President of the association Danlami Umaru Basharu said over 22 million Nigerians are living with one form of disability or the other.

He noted that Nigeria remains one of the few countries without a dedicated department of government dealing with disability.

“Nigeria is one of the four countries in the world that is still polio endemic,” he said.

Senator Olajumoke, who also took part in the protest, said he championed the passage of the Bill and would be glad to see it signed into law for the disabled to access the basic necessities of life.

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