Atiku Frowns as US Secretary of State, Blinken Calls Tinubu
A former Nigeria Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, yesterday said he was disappointed that the United States Secretary of State, Antony Blinken made a call to the President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
Blinken, had on Tuesday called Tinubu, emphasizing his continued commitment to further strengthening the US-Nigeria relationship with the incoming administration.
A statement by the US State Department spokesperson, Matthew Miller, said Blinken rang Tinubu’s phone on Tuesday, May 16, 2023, informing him of the United State’s readiness to further strengthen its relationship with Nigeria under the incoming administration.
The secretary noted that the US-Nigeria partnership was built on shared interests and strong people-to-people ties and that those links should continue strengthening under president-elect Tinubu’s tenure.
In his reaction, on his Twitter handle, Atiku, who was the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) presidential flag-bearer in the February, 2023 general elections, said the Secretary of State’s move was a contradiction to the public position the US had earlier taken on the 2023 presidential election in Nigeria.
He questioned why the United States, despite being regarded as the bastion of democracy, would seem to have legitimised the process that produced the President-elect.
“I am in disbelief that @SecBlinken called Tinubu, a contradiction to the publicly stated position of the US on Nigeria’s 2023 presidential election. This is inconceivable considering that America, as the bastion of democracy, is well briefed on the sham election of February 25. To give legitimacy to the widely acknowledged fraudulent election in Nigeria can be demoralising to citizens who have hedged their bet on democracy and the sanctity of the ballot @StateDept @POTUS @USinNigeria. –AA,” Atiku said.
The US State Department Spokesperson, Matthew Miller, who disclosed the phone call, in a brief communique, said the Secretary noted that the U.S.-Nigeria partnership is built on shared interests and strong people-to-people ties and that those links should continue to strengthen under President-elect Tinubu’s tenure.
Miller further stated that Secretary Blinken and President-elect Tinubu discussed the importance of inclusive leadership that represents all Nigerians.
They also spoke about the continued comprehensive security cooperation, and reforms to support economic growth.
On his part, President-elect Bola Ahmed Tinubu promised to hit the ground running and unify the country upon his assumption of office on May 29.
He further pledged to work to ensure continued positive relations with the United States.
According to Tinubu’s spokesman, Tunde Rahman, during the telephone discussion which was frank and friendly, the president-elect said his immediate priorities would be to deliver institutional reforms and development programs to deepen democratic institutions and bring help to poor and vulnerable Nigerians.
He also expressed his determination to strengthen Nigeria’s democracy and faithfully serve the people as their president.
During the talks that lasted about 20 minutes, President-elect Tinubu recalled being granted asylum by the US when he was forced on exile during his struggle for the restoration of democracy in Nigeria, and, while reaffirming his democratic bona fides, expressed his absolute belief that the result of the elections, which he clearly won, reflected the will of the Nigerian people.
He further urged the US to factor in Nigeria’s important place in Africa and provide needed assistance in the areas of security and economic investment in order for the nation to lead the way and be a shining example to the rest of the continent.
Both President-elect Tinubu and Secretary Blinken ended their discussion with pleasant greetings and a promise to keep the channels of dialogue and communication open, whilst maintaining a strong relationship between the two nations.
Presidential Election Tribunal: Tinubu Opposes Live Broadcast
President-elect, Bola Tinubu, has opposed the application by the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, for a live broadcast of the proceedings of the election petition.
In response to the application yesterday, Tinubu and the Vice President-elect, Kashim Shettima, through the team of their lawyers led by Wole Olanipekun said the application is an abuse of court process.
They asked the presidential election petition court to dismiss the application, arguing that the relief demanded by the applicants is not such that the court could grant it.
Besides describing the application as frivolous, they said the court was not a rostrum, soapbox, stadium, nor theatre or an arena for public entertainment.
They stated, in the counter affidavit, that the application was linked to policy formulation of the court, which is outside the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal (PEPT)’s jurisdiction as constituted.
They argued that Atiku and his party failed to draw the court’s attention to the fact that practice directions were made by the respective courts for the exercise.
The application, in their view, also touched on the powers and jurisdiction vested in the President of the Court of Appeal by the constitution, over which the court as presently constituted cannot entertain.
They held that it was in the interest of justice for the court to dismiss the said application filed by the petitioners.
They added that at the very best, the application was “academic, very otiose, very unnecessary, very time-wasting, most unusual and most unexpected, particularly, from a set of petitioners, who should be praying for the expeditious trial of their petition”.
Panel Adjourns Obi’s Pre-hearing Against Tinubu to May 19
The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja, yesterday adjourned to Friday, May 19 for continuation of pre-hearing in the petition filed by the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi against the President-elect, Bola Tinubu.
LP National Chairman, Julius Abure was also in court yesterday. The party’s factional chairman, Lamidi Apapa was also present.
The Tribunal had last week adjourned the pre-hearing session on Obi and the LP’s petition till May 17 at the instance of the petitioners.
Yesterday, the justices arrived to commence the day’s proceedings and also refused to acknowledge the representation of the party aside from Obi.
A mild drama, however, ensured between the two camps of the Labour Party on which group should be in court.
The Tribunal refused to take an appearance for the LP as acting National Chairman of the party, Lamidi Apapa, as well as the National Women’s Leader of the party, Dudu Manugu, tried to make an appearance for Labour Party when the petition was called.
Justice Haruna Tsamani noted that if two persons are making an appearance for the party, they will not be put on record.
Apapa had attempted to occupy the seat reserved for the Abure but was resisted.
At the resumed hearing, counsel for Labour Party, Livy Uzoukwu informed the court that the scheduled meeting to agree on documents to be tendered for hearing hasn’t yielded much results as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has only made available 30% of the documents required from them.
He added that this is contrary to commitment by the INEC Chairman, Mahmoud Yakubu, that all documents required shall be made available.
He further added that the party is yet to get documents with respect to Rivers State where he said the Resident Electoral Commissioner said there are no forms EC8A available to be given but is yet to put that in writing despite request to do so.
Counsel for INEC, Abubakar Mahmoud, however, said he is taken aback by the allegations of the counsel for the Labour party as they did not show up for the meeting as agreed, and walked out of the rescheduled meeting.
Abubakar added that the documents for Rivers and Sokoto states, where indeed provided, but the Labour Party refused to pay the sum of 1.5million naira for Sokoto State, and the Form EC8A for Rivers State, have not been given to them.
He added that some documents were given to the party, but refused to collect it until it was complete.
He assured the court that they were doing everything possible to assist the court in an open manner.
He added that they are ready to pay any amount of money for a document.
Senate Defers Valedictory Session to Saturday
Trailed by unresolved wrangling over the election of its principal officers in the 10th assembly, the Senate yesterday postponed its earlier announced valedictory session.
The Green Chamber is yet to agree on who occupies what position in the incoming Senate principal officers’ election, following the All Progressives Congress (APC) to allocate the positions to the six geo-political zones of the country.
The APC National Working Committee (NWC) had zoned the Senate Presidency of the forthcoming 10th National Assembly to the South-South; and the Speakership of the House of Representatives to the North-West.The party also zoned the Deputy Senate Presidency to the North-West, and Deputy Speakership to the South-East.
President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, announced yesterday that the Senate has rescheduled its valedictory session to Saturday.
On the other hand, the House Representatives yesterday held its Valedictory Session.
Lawan had announced on Tuesday that the Upper Chamber would hold its valedictory session on Thursday.
The Senate President told members of the Senate Press Corps that the shift in the date was due to a scheduled meeting of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu with the lawmakers of the incoming 10th National Assembly on Thursday.
The Senate held plenary on Tuesday as well as yesterday.
“By the grace of God, we will still hold plenary today and then our valedictory session will be on Saturday.
“It is because tomorrow, Mr President, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu will be meeting with the Senators-elect and members-elect at 2pm.
“And we believe that a session as significant, important, historical and memorable as valedictory session of the Senate requires a whole day. Not one, two, three hours. And therefore we pushed it to Saturday,” Lawan said.
The Ninth Senate officially ends its four-year tenure on 11th June, 2023.
Lawan hinted that the 10th Senate would be inaugurated on Tuesday, 13th June, 2023.
Memories, Emotions as Reps Dissolve 9th Assembly
By Eze Okechukwu & Ubong Ukpong, Abuja
Memories and emotions went high yesterday during the valedictory session of the House of Representatives, as Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila officially dissolved the 9th assembly.
Rep. Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, the Majority Leader of the House, had moved a motion to commence the valedictory session, while Rep Ndudi Elumelu, the Minority Leader seconded the motion.
Gbajabiamila, in his valedictory speech, said: “I will miss all of you and miss this house, you have enriched my life and I cannot express how much you have impacted the house.
In an emotion laden speech, Gbajabiamila said the joint efforts in nation building by members were to ensure that the dreams of the nation’s founding fathers did not die.
“We have come, we have seen and while we are yet to conquer, my enthusiasm to serve remained undiminished,” he said.
According to him, it has been the honour of his life to serve the people of the country.
“I thank my constituency and I express gratitude to my colleagues for the privilege to serve.”
He said since he assumed office, the house had changed drastically in such a manner he had not witnessed, adding that the change came with speed as witnessed in the last four years.
He said the 9th House of Reps had governed well with some interventions, including COVID-19 pandemic, Police Reform Bill, Electoral Acts Amendment Bill, Constitutional Review, among others.
“We have worked to take advantage of social and economic transformation that benefit us; we have left our mark on every sectors of our national life,” he said.
He said the House was able to introduce discipline on the Appropriation Act that now commenced from January to December of every year.
According to him, the 9th House of Reps has ended and the 10th will commence.
“I urge you to ensure that you are not found wanting by man or God in the final judgment.”
Also, Rep. Julius Ihovhre (APC-Edo), said he would forever cherish the friendship he made in the 9th assembly, adding that such relationship would last forever.
He commended the speaker for leading the house well and perfectly and demonstrated that he could manage a diverse group of people.
“In your new roles as the Chief of Staff to the President, the challenges you will face are more than here, we plead with you not to abandon the spirit of excellence,” he said.
He said Nigeria required the kind of leader with a sense of mission, while urging Gbajabiamila to ensure the Federal Government paid attention to basic education.
Rep. Luke Onofiong (PDP-Akwa-Ibom) said members had made relationships that would last forever and commended his constituency for giving him the privilege to serve.
He commended the speaker for accommodating members and relaxing the rules to give new members a voice, noting that the speaker was gentle enough to accommodate their errors.
He urged the house to take the judiciary seriously with salary review.
Rep. Yusuf Gadgi (APC-Plateau) on his part said, “In my constituency, Muslims are 30 per cent while Christians constitute 70 per cent but they have always sent me here and for using me as a good example of how Nigeria should behave.
“What I want to say is the message of forgiveness, I want, on your behalf and other members, to forgive one another. In this assignment, we must have offended one another.
His comment on forgiveness generated some uproar, as members grumbled endlessly.
Unperturbed, Gagdi said “irrespective of the grumbling, what is right is right and people must learn to forgive others”.
Rep. Aisha Duku (APC-Borno) expressed gratitude for the opportunity to serve as the first woman to represent her constituency.
“Mr Speaker you have blessed me to bless others, I have changed the perspective of politics in my area because this is the first time that a Fulani woman and a Muslim will come out from that area.
“I have been able to enlighten people and bring out the women to vote, which hitherto they had not.
“I have participated in Bills assented to by the president and today they are laws, I commend my committee as the Chairman, House Committee on INEC, for supporting me.
Duku said she was now a better Nigerian, as she traveled to a lot of places in the country but her only regret was that no gender bill was passed.
In attendance at the session of the 9th assembly were former speakers, House Leader such as Gali Na’abba, Patricia Etteh, Mulikat Akande and some former clerks of NASS.
Tinubu Directs NEC to Work on Subsidy Removal Palliatives
By Mathew Dadiya, Abuja
President Bola Tinubu, yesterday directed the National Economic Council (NEC) led by Vice President Kashim Shettima to device an approach and begin the process of working on interventions to mitigate the impact of subsidy removal on the Nigerians.
Governor of Ogun State, Dapo Abiodun, stated this after leading some major oil marketers on a courtesy visit to the President at the State House in Abuja.
Addressing correspondents after the meeting, Abiodun, who was a former chairman of the oil marketers association, stated that the marketers expressed solidarity with the President for removing the N4trn subsidy burden, a move that can enhance the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) allocation to states.
The group of marketers subsequently announced their intention to donate to 50 to 100, fifty-seater mass transit buses that would run on CNG, costing N100m each and N10bn cumulatively, to cushion the effect of the removal within the next 30 days.
They are hoping other corporate bodies can emulate their action.
The President’s meeting with the oil marketers comes amid the controversy and protests trailing the removal of subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit known as petrol.
President Tinubu, during his inaugural speech on May 29 at the Eagle Square in Abuja had announced the removal of subsidy payment on petrol. The President said that the immediate past administration of Muhammadu Buhari did not make provisions for subsidy in the 2023 budget beyond June.
Many Nigerians had expected that the new price regime would come into effect by July 1 but almost immediately after the presidential pronouncement, queues resurfaced at filling stations across the country even as retail outlets hoard the product and increase prices.
Already, a litre of petrol is being sold at over N500 across the country following NNPC price adjustment and the presidential pronouncement on subsidy removal.
Fuel queues have since surged for the vital commodity, compounding the traffic situation in parts of the country, even as transportation cost skyrocket to more than 100% increment.
The Organised Labour had resolved to embark on a nationwide strike beginning Wednesday but was restrained by a court order of Monday, June 5, 2023. The Organised Labour subsequently shelved its planned strike after a meeting with the Federal Government late Monday.
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