The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has urged governors of the Northern states to start preparing to receive law-abiding Fulani herders who may be compelled to relocate from their present abodes in different parts of Nigeria, following conflict with various host communities.
On the same day, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State faulted the statement made by his Bauchi State counterpart, Bala Mohammed, supporting the free movement of herders with AK-47 rifles.
The NEF made the appeal in a statement signed by its spokesman, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, where it alleged that some groups are fuelling tension in the country in order to achieve their selfish aims.
A number of communities across the country have issued herders qit notices following bloody fracas over grazing lands.
Baba-Ahmed told THISDAY last night that the northern governors should start working on land and infrastructure to accommodate the herders, their families and cattle.
He also talked about planning ahead for the health and security needs of the herders, to ensure hitch free resettlement.
The group likewise urged Northerners to assure people from other parts of the country of their safety
Baba-Ahmed said NEF “is planning to meet with governors in the North and South” to improve on collaboration and synergy.
The statement further condemned attacks on Fulani communities, declaring: “Fulani who have broken no laws must be protected from abuse wherever they are.
“We ask all governments to identify criminals among the Fulani and subject them to the laws of the land.
“Similarly, we demand the cessation of threats and attacks by local ethnic defenders on Fulani communities.
“People who have broken the law by attacking and harassing Fulani for just being Fulani must be brought to book.”
The forum called on “all law-abiding herders to stay put and seek protection, and if they cannot be protected, to relocate to safer areas in the country.”
Baba-Ahmed said the country “is under imminent threats” by those bent on pushing the country to disaster for their nefarious goals.
He said the forum was constrained to draw the attention of Nigerians to sustained attempts by some people to create tension and fear in the country to achieve their objectives.
“Northern Elders Forum is constrained to invite the nation’s attention to the dangers of sustained attempts to raise tensions and create fears among Nigerians until, presumably, they lead to major crisis involving groups and regions in the country.
“In the last few weeks, the Forum has led many responsible groups and individuals to appeal for restraint and respect for the law in the way we engineer developments that cause tensions, or react to them.
“Now, the nation is facing imminent threats from persons who are bent on pushing all of us nearer to disaster, to help them achieve their nefarious goals,” the statement said.
Baba-Ahmed adds: “Continuing narratives and threats, including comments from seemingly responsible Nigerians and even elected officials who swore to protect the rights of all citizens and the survival of the country, are raising fears and passions that could make it easy to break more laws of the land and pitch citizens against each other.
“There are efforts to create multiple sources of falsehood in videos and other inflammatory materials in the media clearly targeted at inciting people to act violently against each other.
“Allegations of planned or actual genocide are being made with reckless abandon, and even the international community is being lobbied in futile efforts to sell the fiction that some groups are intent on mass extermination of other groups.
“The latest communication by the Yoruba Council of Elders to the United Nations is an example of lamentable desperation of some groups to erode our security and integrity as a country, and it is more regrettable that it is the handiwork of so-called elders who should forfeit all rights to that honour.”
The statement said that NEF would continue to work to retrieve the country from the dangerous cliff where it has been placed by irresponsible people, many of them in positions of responsibility.
“We urge all northerners to assure Nigerians from other parts of the country that they are safe and welcome to continue to stay in the north.
“The forum repeats: it is not a crime to be member of any ethnic group, and no one has the right to attempt to expel any Nigerian from places where they live lawfully.
“The Forum advises President Muhammadu Buhari and Governors to consult and explore measures that will lower tensions and assure all Nigerians that we live in a country where laws have meanings, and all citizens have equal rights to live under secure environments.
“The fight against armed criminals must be pursued on all fronts and with a lot more seriousness.
“The criminal must not reap from the suspicions and fears which his activities also generate,” the forum said.
Ortom Tackles Bauchi Gov on Herders’ Right to AK-47
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State yesterday faulted the statement made by his Bauchi State counterpart, Bala Mohammed, which supports the free movement of herders with AK-47 rifles.
Mohammed said the herders use the weapons to protect themselves from the dangers in the forest and also from cattle rustlers.
Faulting the Governor’s declaration, Ortom, in a statement through his spokesman, Terver Akase, wondered which law Mohammed cited to support his stance.
The statement reads: “Governor Ortom wonders which section of the law the Bauchi State Governor cited to support herdsmen’s free movement around the country with sophisticated weapons.
“He recalls that it was the same Governor Mohammed who once said on national television that a Fulani man is a global citizen and, therefore, does not need a visa to come to Nigeria and that the forests belong to herdsmen.
“Governor Ortom wonders if his friend and colleague in Bauchi State knows a thing or two about the horrendous activities of herders in parts of the country to warrant the emotional defence and justification that he has repeatedly put forward in their favour.
“The Governor finds it unfortunate that those who are trusted with the people’s mandate, and should ordinarily uphold truth and justice have chosen to mislead the country. He stresses the need for leaders to be cautious and retrace their steps which are capable of leading the country to anarchy.”
In reference to Governor Mohammed’s comment that there are Benue people freely doing business in Bauchi and elsewhere, governor Ortom states that Benue indigenes in Bauchi have been law-abiding and do not carry arms to attack their hosts, noting that Fulani, as well as many other Nigerians residing in Benue who respect laws of the land also live peacefully with their hosts.
Ortom said his administration had not driven away any law abiding Nigerian in Benue State.
Presidency divided over national honour for Bukola Saraki
There are indications that the immediate past Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, may miss a statutory national award on October 1 when deserving Nigerians are conferred with the awards.
The Presidency, according to a report by Sunday Punch, is divided over including Saraki on the list of the awardees.
As part of a series of activities lined up to mark Nigeria’s 62nd independence anniversary, President Muhammadu Buhari will on October 1, 2022 confer various categories of awards on deserving Nigerians, the Presidency has confirmed.
The investiture ceremony, billed to hold at the International Conference Centre, Abuja is eliciting diverse commentaries with the omission of Senator Bukola Saraki.
The convention and norm have always been for a Vice President, Senate President, and Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, to be given the title either on the assumption of office or when national awards are being generally bestowed on recipients.
The belief was that the former Kwara State governor Bukola Saraki had not been conferred with the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger, GCON because Buhari did not confer the awards before now.
Sunday Punch however gathered that the committee set up to recommend deserving Nigerians to the Presidency, enlisted Saraki, but a power bloc in Aso Rock denied him a place on the list.
It was revealed that the group labelled Saraki an “enemy of the administration,” arguing that the All Progressives Congress-led government should rather beam its searchlight on other Nigerians.
This position, Sunday Punch gathered, did not sit well with another group in the Presidency, which was said to have argued that though Saraki’s opposition to some of the policy decisions taken by Buhari while serving as Senate President was well documented, he should not be denied a place in the 2022 honour list.
This is more so as Saraki’s successor, Senator Ahmad Lawan is set to bag the prestigious award next week.
The latter group also argued that Saraki is more popular with the people and is credited to have achieved more while in office, pointing out that he deserves the award based on his achievement in office and that the award should not be seen to be politicised by the incumbent administration.
It turned out however that the former group prevailed and Saraki is now set to miss out unless a dramatic twist in fate plays out.
In what appears a calculated effort to deny Saraki his place in history, Ahmad Lawan has refused to include his predecessor’s portrait among those of former presiding officers of the Senate in the main gallery of the New Senate Building more than three years after he (Saraki) left office.
It would be recalled that former Senate Presidents, Pius Anyim and David Mark, as well as ex- CJN, Walter Onnoghen, all had the GCON conferred on them in compliance with the convention.
Speaking exclusively to Sunday Punch, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mike Ozekhome urged Buhari to right the error before the date of the event.
He said, “By protocols and convention, Vice President and Senate President are usually conferred with the national honour of GCON. I want to believe that the President’s attention was not drawn to it. He can still amend the situation by including his name before the date of the award because this is beyond politics.”
On his part, former Nigeria’s High Commissioner to Canada, Professor Iyorwuese Hagher, said Saraki deserves the award on merit.
He said, “I believe that in keeping with the hallowed tradition in the conferment of honorably awards, all former Senate Presidents deserve the title of GCON, Dr. Bukola Abubakar Saraki inclusive.
“Buhari should convoke a ceremony for such awards quickly to redeem his image as the father of the nation and not a mere patron of political bias.”
However, a chieftain of the Arewa Consultative Forum, Anthony Sani, told Sunday Punch that those conferring the title know the criteria for selecting deserving awardees.
He said, “I am not conversant with criteria being used for the award of national honours. If it is on merit, the President is the one to explain why the former Senate President does not merit it.
“But if it is statutory, he has to explain why he has denied him (Saraki).
Meanwhile, Saraki has stated that his silence on the recent happenings in the People’s Democratic Party does not translate to him opposing the party’s candidate, Atiku Abubakar.
Saraki, in a series of tweets on his official Twitter account on Saturday evening, noted that he had been on his annual vacation, and had returned on Friday. He said he headed straight to the celebration of the 35th year celebration of the creation of Akwa-Ibom State.
Nigerian Steals $6.7m From US Taxpayers
Melvin Orellana, a computer support employee of a tax software company based in Georgia, United States of America, has been sentenced to 18 months in prison at a US District Court for his role in a scheme to steal $6.7 million from US taxpayers between 2016 and 2017.
According to a statement on the website of the US Department of Justice, Orellana supplied sensitive taxpayers’ data to King Isaac Umoren, a Nigerian based in Las Vegas, who in turn executed the fraud.
Umoren, who operated the Universal Tax Services (UTS), a tax preparation firm, used the information he received from Orellana to steal from the tax software business. Between May 2016 and November 2017, Umoren made $6.7 million from the fraud.
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For releasing the information to Umoren twice, Orellana was supposed to receive a sum of $32,000.
While delivering the judgement on September 21, Stuart M. Goldberg, the presiding judge, also handed Orellana a three-year supervised release after serving the jail term.
Before bagging the 18-month prison sentence, Orellana had been charged with identity theft conspiracy.
Umoren, who pled guilty to identity theft, wire fraud and money laundering in June, is to be sentenced on November 2.
FG to establish youth bank for entrepreneurs
The Federal Government says there are plans to establish National Youth Bank as part of its empowerment programme in the country with an investment of about N75 billion.
Minister of Youths and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, disclosed this to State House correspondents on Thursday at the 52nd briefing organised by the Presidential Media Team, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The minister revealed that the instruments for the establishment of the bank would be presented to the Federal Executive Council early next year for approval.
Dare who revealed that his ministry had empowered 31,000 youths under the Nigeria Youth Development Funds (NYDF), said the ministry had so far received only N10 billion out of the N25 billion for the year 2022.
The N75 billion fund was approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC), for Nigerian youths to support entrepreneurship for the over 68 million Nigerian youths between ages 18 and 35.
He said, “I have discussed the plans with Mr. President and he has given us his commitment to support the creation of such bank that will solely cater for our youths in the area of entrepreneurship
“The African Development Bank (AFDB) has concluded plans to partner with our ministry and once the banks come on stream, they are ready to roll out the necessary support
“You can imagine what it will mean for the youths to have their own bank that will be giving out loans on a single digit interests.
“We have so far empowered 31,000 youths out of the 45,000 approved, to receive N250,000 from the N10 billion youth development funds.”
Dare, who disclosed that 61,000 youths applied for cybersecurity programme currently run by the ministry, added that “the youth bank is the future of decent jobs for our youth, that is expected to disburse loans on single-digit interest rates.”
The funds are being disbursed by the Development Bank of Nigeria (DBN) engaged as the vehicle for the disbursement of the funds.
According to the minister, over four million youths had applied for the loans out of which 45,000 were shortlisted.
“The future of that fund is bright. What we have done is to ensure that only those who are qualified, with the relevant business plans are shortlisted and eventually empowered,” Dare said.
The minister, who also spoke on the recently launched 10 Football Masterplan, said the plan would be implemented by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF)
He described 2022 as an outstanding year in the history of sports and youth development in Nigeria.
“We are not resting on our oars. This administration will ensure that we leave behind, a legacy in youth development that will serve as a reference point for others,” he said.
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