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Anambra election: Fear, doubts over November polls as Nigerian govt mobilizes against unknown gunmen

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In less than one month, eligible voters in Anambra State will file out to elect a new Governor for the State. There have, however, been controversies over the election as many believe that the election is already threatened. This is because of the spate of violence in the state, which has for months remained sustained.

The first real doubt about the election holding first came in March 2021, when some unidentified gunmen stormed the home town of Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, Isuofia in Aguata LGA of Anambra State and attacked a gathering where he was speaking with young people about his vision for the state. Soludo is the candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) for next month’s election.

The gunmen came at a time when Soludo was still struggling as an aspirant to get the ticket of APGA. Even before the attack on Soludo, there have been sustained attacks on federal establishments, including Police Stations, Correctional Centers and burning of vehicles belonging to government establishments, including attack on INEC. The attack on Soludo, however, gave it a political coloration, leaving all with the question of whether the election would hold or not.

In the last few weeks, the level of insecurity in the State has become alarming. It came to the climax penultimate week when Dr. Chike Akunyili, the widower of the late former Minister of Information and former Director General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Prof. Dora Akunyili, was murdered in the most gruesome manner, along with eight others.

Before then, in Ajalli, Orumba North Local Government Area, a police station was attacked and two policemen killed. Also, the vehicle of a member of the House of Representatives and former PDP governorship aspirant, Hon. Chris Azubogu was attacked, and his driver killed.

The gunmen also set ablaze the offices of the Department of State Services (DSS) and Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) in Nnewi, Anambra State, leaving two people dead on their trail. Also set ablaze was the Nnewi country home of a Lagos-based chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Joe Igbokwe, and the home of another prominent son of Nnewi and former minister, Dr. Chu Okongwu, which was also invaded and burnt down.

In most of the incidents, eyewitnesses have pointed at the separatist group; Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), even though the group has been struggling to extricate itself from it. Those who have witnessed scenes of attack always say the heavily armed groups have always passed one message for their lucky victims who escaped alive to go and tell the concerned authorities that there will be no election in Anambra State.

Away from IPOB, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) have been in a war of words over who is responsible for the attacks in the State.

The APC had first accused APGA of not doing enough to stem the tide of insecurity in the state. Senator Andy Uba, the party’s governorship candidate, had accused Governor Willie Obiano of having a hand in the increasing violence in the State for the purpose of putting off the scheduled election.

Uba said with the huge monthly security vote collected by the governor and his wife, the security of the State ought to be better managed. Uba who spoke through the media director of his campaign organisation, Hon. Afam Ogene said: “Each time Gov Obiano clownishly adorns himself in military camouflage, does he do so for mere comic display?”

But in a swift response, APGA stated that by accusing Governor Willie Obiano of having a hand in the insecurity in the state, the APC was indirectly accusing President Muhammadu Buhari of ineptitude, since the president is the Chief Security Officer of the country.

The state Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, Mr C. Don Adinuba who also doubles as the Director of Media and Publicity of the Soludo Campaign organization, argued that the “Anambra APC indicts President Buhari anytime it comments gratuitously on a negative security development in the state. President Buhari, not Governor Willie Obiano, is the Commander in Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces and head of all security agencies in the country. Security is on the Exclusive List of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.

“Each of the 36 state governors in the federation is merely the titular chief security officer of his state. No governor has control over the police force or the Department of State Services or the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) in his state, let alone any of the Armed Forces. Even the Anambra Vigilante Group (AVG) is supervised by the state police command, like any other state vigilante service,” Adinuba explained.

As the brickbat continues, there have been arguments about whether there will be election in the state or not. Attorney General of the federation, Abubakar Malami reacting to this said the federal government was determined to ensure that elections hold, and that even if it means imposing an emergency rule in Anambra, it will not hesitate.

Malami has, howeve,r been roundly condemned for the statement, with many stating that he has an ulterior motive by making such an utterance, especially, being that he is a member of the APC campaign council in the state.

Governor Willie Obiano who visited President Muhammadu Buhari on the issue said: “I was warmly received today at the State House in Abuja by President Muhammadu Buhari. I reported the statement credited to the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami to him. The Minister had threatened that the federal government will impose a state of emergency on Anambra State over security challenges.

“The President assured me and Ndi Anambra that the federal government is not contemplating taking such drastic action. Rather, President Buhari said that the federal government will increase its support to security agencies operating in Anambra State to contain the challenges. Among other measures, the President said that there will be more booths on the ground”.

Obiano said that President Buhari frowned at those who use his name and that of the federal government to intimidate Anambra voters. “We also discussed the November 6th. 2021 Anambra gubernatorial election. President Buhari assured me that he will not support intimidation of the electorates in any form, and promised that the federal government will support INEC and other agencies connected with the election to ensure the conduct of a free, fair and credible Anambra gubernatorial elections”.

On the feasibility of elections holding in Anambra State, the federal government has responded by launching operation Golden Dawn, not only for Anambra State, but for the entire South east. DAILY POST confirms that there is a massive presence of the military and mobile police operatives in all corners of Anambra State.

Hon Emeka Aforka, a member of the House of Assembly, while reacting said: “Anambra has not recorded death above 15 persons since the new scales of violence in the state. For a state that has for the past 7 years enjoyed well-deserved reputation of being Nigeria’s safest and most peaceful state.

“Anambra has not recorded a fraction of casualties the nation has seen in places like Borno, Zamfara, Katsina, Benue, Plateau, Yobe, Niger, Adamawa, Taraba, amongst others, where terrorists have killed several thousands of civilians and attacked military formations. The bandits operating in Northern part of the country have even brought down some sophisticated combat aircraft, were elections not held successfully in these states in 2019?

“Is the number of victims of the politically motivated violence in Anambra State anything near what the nation has seen even in such states as Imo and Ebonyi controlled by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC)? Why hasn’t Malami considered a state of emergency in these APC-controlled states? Anambra will hold its election, and it will be peaceful,” he declared.

Echoing same stand, A human rights Lawyer, Barr Kelechi Eze who spoke with DAILY POST said, “Let us assume that the insecurity continues, have there not been elections in other states in the North, even in the heat of terrorists attacks? I am very confident that elections will hold in Anambra. The state governor has said he is ready for the election, the APGA, APC and even PDP have also said same. So, is it people from other states as the governor has said that will come and destabilize what we are doing here?

“It is a one-state election, and so all focus would be here. I think the federal government can also mobilize to ensure that the state is better protected for the election.”

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27 abducted train passengers not yet released, says Negotiator

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A total of 27 remaining abducted train passengers are still being held by their captors, a Kaduna-based publisher and former negotiator, Malam Tukur Mamu, has said.

He was on Tuesday reacting to reports of their release by military authorities trending on social media since Monday, saying in a statement that the hostages were still in captivity.

He stated, “Though I have disengaged myself from negotiating, anxious family members, pressmen and concerned Nigerians have been calling to confirm the veracity of the news.

“While many others justifiably have been celebrating and even congratulating relatives of the innocent victims.”

Mamu who is also Sheikh Ahmed Gumi’s spokesman noted that though “it is news we are all praying earnestly to hear, it is highly irresponsible for peddlers of FAKE NEWS to circulate sensitive contents that are not only unverifiable, untrue but news items that will certainly trigger anxiety and concern among the family members of those that remain in captivity and millions of their well-wishers across the globe.

“The condition of the remaining victims is still very bad, many of them are sick, and the rainy season is affecting them so much.

“I urge President Muhammadu Buhari to intensify efforts in securing their release immediately as the situation remains highly unpredictable while the families of those that are still in the bush are incapacitated in whatever way to negotiate the safe release of their loved ones, he declared.”

Over 60 passengers of an Abuja-Kaduna train were abducted by terrorists who attacked their train near Kaduna and killed about eight other passengers.

The terrorists have released other passengers in batches after the relatives of  the victims reportedly paid undisclosed amount as ransom.

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Lalong apologises to Catholic bishops over comment on Pope

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Plateau State Governor and Director-General of the Presidential Campaign team All Progressives Congress, Simon Lalong, has apologised to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria over his unpopular statement to the Holy Father, Pope Francis.

Lalong, while reacting to his recent appointment by the ruling APC to spearhead the presidential campaign of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu said Pope had not disapproved his support for a Muslim-Muslim ticket.

His statement had attracted heavy criticisms from Catholic faithful across the country, with some calling for his suspension from the church.

Lalong’s apology was contained in a letter addressed to the President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji, dated August 12.

In the letter, the Plateau governor said he realised that his comment had brought “embarrassment” to the Catholic Church, especially to the family of Papal Knights.

The letter read in part, “I have followed with some shock and deep regret, the reactions that have trailed my appointment as the Director-General of the Campaign Council for the Presidential Candidates of our Party, the All Progressive Congress, APC, Ahmed Bola Tinubu and Ibrahim Shettima,” the letter reads.

“The appointment understandably was received with mixed reactions across the Christian community who genuinely feel aggrieved by the decision of our party to settle for a Muslim-Muslim ticket.

“While many people commended me for the appointment and saw it as a way of remaining within the system to fight for our interests, others cast aspersions on it on the grounds that our faith had been insulted and denigrated.

“In the course of this, many of my opponents turned the issue into a political weapon with some spreading rumours and questioning the integrity of my credentials as a Catholic and a Papal Knight. In trying to make my case, I have granted interviews to justify why I believe that the appointment did not in any way undermine my commitment to the Catholic Church.

“During the week, in the course of defending myself, I had cause to make reference to my credentials as a Catholic and a Papal Knight. In the process, I made reference to the Holy Father.

“I now realise that this was an error on my part and has caused some level of concern and even embarrassment to many especially the Members of the family of Papal Knights to which I belong.

“I now understand that I may have overreached myself in the course of trying to defend my personal decision in accepting this appointment and thus, the reference to the holy father was not intended as an act of disrespect to his exalted and revered office.

“Your Grace, by this written letter, I wish to tender my unreserved apologies and ask for their understanding and forgiveness from my brothers in the Catholic faith and, through you, the entire members of the Bishops’ Conference, our Fathers and our Leaders. My commitment to the Catholic faith to which | belong remains unreserved and undiluted.

“I will continue to uphold the banner of my faith in public life as I have done over the years. You may recall, Your Grace that in the last five or so years, I have been at the forefront of facilitating our dialogue as politicians with you our fathers in the faith. I remain committed to this and pray that you will continue to encourage us as we ascend the slippery slope of politics. While soliciting your episcopal blessings.”

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ASUU strike: Parents reply Keyamo, give conditions to beg lecturers

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The National Parents Teachers Association of Nigeria (NAPTAN) has said it will only beg the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to call off its prolonged strike if government considers the reports of the various committees set up to look into the matter and come out with its decisions.

The parents said it expected the Federal Government to come out publicly with its offers in order to know how they could intervene in the matter.

NAPTAN spoke through its National President, Alhaji Haruna Danjuma, in an interview with Vanguard on Sunday.

The association was reacting to an interview where the Minister of State for Labour, Mr Festus Keyamo(SAN) asked Nigerians, especially parents, to beg members of ASUU to return to their duty posts.

Keyamo also said the government would not go borrowing to meet the demands of the union.

“Let the Federal Government consider all the reports of the various committees it set up to negotiate with ASUU.

“There was a committee led by the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, among numerous committees.

“There has never been a time when parents are involved in the negotiation. We don’t want a situation where somebody will pitch us against ASUU or any group.

“The negotiation should involve parents, NANS, ASUU and government team.

“What the government should do is consider the reports of those committees and look at areas they can afford or work on and present same to ASUU. If whatever they can afford is unacceptable to the unions, then parents and others can come in to intervene,” Danjuma said.

National President of ASUU, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, in an interview, also said it was a subtle blackmail for anybody to insinuate that the union was pushing the government to borrow.

He advised the government to get its priorities right address the impasse.

He said, “We are not asking the government to go borrowing. But since the minister is a Nigerian, he should know what our demands are. Our demands include that they implement the Memorandum of Action signed in 202 with us.

“The document says government will release the first tranche of the Revitalisation Fund, pay Earned Academic Allowance, stop proliferation of universities and renegotiate the 2009 agreement, among others.

“They have set up a committee to renegotiate the 2009 Agreement and they are yet to come up with anything from the report of the committee they set up. I wonder why some people behave as if they are living in another world entirely. Is it because they are occupying public offices that they seem to exist in another planet?”

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