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Nation’s Challenges Take Centre Stage at 2021 Awolowo Lecture as Leaders Speak Out

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Nigerian leaders and panelists, at the 2021 Obafemi Awolowo Annual Lecture, have reiterated the necessity of building a united and progressive Nigeria through massive education and a re-engineered constitution.

The webinar lecture, held on Saturday evening and chaired by Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, was to mark the 112 birthday anniversary of the late Sage and former Premier of Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo.

The Special Guest, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, a Diplomat and former Commonwealth Secretary-General, who noted that the current state of affairs in the country was not sustainable, emphasised the need for one Nigeria.

“There is no section or ethnic group in Nigeria that does not stand to gain from belonging to one country.

“It is in the common interest of all the ethnic groups and component parts to sustain the oneness, for progress of the country,” Anyaoku said.

He decried the growing poverty, incessant attacks, killings and displacement of people by terrorists and bandits, growing level of distrust and divisiveness undermining the cohesion and continued existence of one Nigeria.

The elder stateman, who noted that these national challenges should be effectively dealt with to make progress, however, stated that they could not be tackled with the present federal system of government.

Anyaoku said that a federal system with less dominance of the federal would bring Nigeria  back to the path of political stability and progress.

He advocated the Indian type of federal system as against the US, saying that India shared a lot of national attributes with Nigeria.

He urged the National Assembly to organise an all-inclusive national dialogue, taking into account previous national conferences to produce a consensus constitution, as only a restructured constitution would guarantee political stability and economic development.

The Sultan of Sokoto and Royal Father of the Lecture, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, who noted that the processes of Nation building always took time, said that insinuations, suspicions and provocative utterances had held the country back.

He decried the inaction of governments and the erosion of the nation’s founding father’s healing, understanding and accommodation processes among ethnic groups, while calling on the political class and religious leaders to manage social tensions.

“We can solve our problems without a stick. No problem is beyond dialogue, ” Abubakar said, while cautioning against violence and tribal wars.

He urged government to act promptly and swiftly in addressing national challenges and send strong signals to divisive elements.

The Guest Speaker, Mr Odia Ofeimun, who delivered a lecture on the theme; “Whither Nigeria? “, emphasised the necessity of education for all children and ending minority domination of the nation, to overcome her teething challenges and make progress.

Ofeimun, who stressed the need for ethnic nationalities, said that the nation had many unresolved issues such as Boko Haram, Indigenous People of Biafra, herdsmen and others, all of which had been fueling secession pressures.

“We need to discuss what belongs to us as a people. This is a country that is worth defending and we should all defend it. We need to free ethnic nationalities so that Nigeria can be free,” he said.

Emphasising the need for restructuring, Ofeimun, who called on political leaders to take responsibility, decried political financing and the widening  gap in education between the south and the north.

“There is a way of managing Nigeria such that every child will go to school. We must put all the cards on the table and discuss Nigeria. We need a less dominant centre. If we go by this, we are moving towards having a country.

“Every government should give every child education, to address some of our problems. There are so many children roaming the streets without education and hope. Every child in the north needs to go to school.

“We have to plan a country, Awolowo did it and it worked. It is important we bring all Nigerians into education like the Awolowo Education Policy did. Nobody should be left out,” he said.

In his contribution, the former Emir of Kano, Alhaji Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, said that some of Nigeria’s issues were not ethnicity or religion, but economic and governance, saying that the nation’s expensive system of government had also hindered her progress.

Wrapping up the dialogue, Soyinka observed that there was a consensus on the country requiring restructuring that would allow decentralisation and devolution of powers, adding that a lot could be done on the Constitution to allow greater autonomy for the state.

Soyinka, who said that the current system was not working and should not be allowed to continue, called for an honest and people-oriented Constitution to set the country on the path of progress.

Dr Dosunmu Awolowo, one of the daughters of the late sage, said that Obafemi Awolowo Foundation’ lecture was instituted to honour Chief Awolowo, noting that Nigerians wanted the country to work and are willing to sit together to find solutions to the nation’s challenges.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the lecture, moderated by Prof. Michael Faborode, had several eminent Nigerians, both from within and abroad emphasising the need to address our national challenges without delay. (NAN)

Metro

Court Sentences Lady to Death by Hanging for Killing Enugu Make-up Artiste

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From Sylvia Udegbunam, Enugu

An Enugu State High Court, sitting in Enugu, has sentenced Chiamaka Ifezue to death by hanging for killing an Enugu-based make-up artist, Ijeoma Nweke.

The court, presided over by Justice Kenneth Okpe, in a two-hour judgement on Wednesday, found the accused guilty of killing the victim by forcing her to drink a poisonous substance.

The corpse of the make-up artist was found in Maryland within Enugu Metropolis on Monday.

The deceased, Nweke had left home on Wednesday November 11, 2020, for a job but went missing afterwards.

Her supposed client, having refused to disclose the location for the job, asked the deceased to stop at the Enugu State Broadcasting Service (ESBS) Bus Stop, where she would then be taken to the venue.

Nweke, having perceived foul play, sent the client’s phone number to her brother via text.

Her phones were unreachable after hours leading to suspicion that she might have been kidnapped.

This led to a frantic search for her by friends and relatives until early on Monday morning when her corpse was found at Maryland in Enugu.

Eyewitnesses said that her corpse was mutilated with a substance suspected to be acid.

While delivering the judgement, Justice Okpe, said every evidence pointed to the fact that the convict lured the deceased to her house where she poisoned the deceased and evacuated her body out of her house.

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FCTA Disburses N4.82bn to Area Councils, Teachers, Pension Scheme  

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The Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) has disbursed N4.82 billion to the six area councils of the FCT, teachers and pension scheme as statutory allocation for December 2023.

The Minister of State for FCT, Dr Mariya Mahmoud, disclosed this on Wednesday while presiding over the 185th Joint Account Allocation Committee (JAAC) meeting in Abuja.

According to the minister, the amount represents a slight increase when compared to N4.

73 billion shared in November of the same year.

“A breakdown for the amount shows that N2.36 billion was disbursed to the six area councils, while N2.

45 billion was disbursed to other stakeholders.

“Of the N2.

36 billion distributed to the area councils, Abuja Municipal Area Council got N549.98 million, Gwagwalada got N371.09 million while Kuje received N402.34 million.

“Also, Bwari Area Council received N364.67 million, Abaji N313.34 million, while Kwali got N362.73 million.

“For teachers and pension scheme, primary school teachers got N2.07 billion, N226.48 earmarked as 15 per cent pension funds, N107.85 million as 10 per cent employer pension contribution, while N48.16 million was earmarked as 1 per cent training fund.”

The minister commended the synergy between the Satellite Towns Development Department and the area councils, particularly in waste collections and management. (NAN)

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FCTA Gives Quit Notice to Traders in Gwarinpa Illegal Market

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By Laide Akinboade, Abuja

The Department of Development Control in the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), has served a quit notice on ‘Ya Kasuwa’ market along the 16 road corridor in Gwarinpa, saying they must quit latest by Wednesday as clearance operations would commence on Thursday.

Director of the department, Mukhtar Galadima gave the order during a meeting with stakeholders including representatives of the traders union.

He said the contract for the full scope development of the arterial road had since been awarded by the FCT Administration and that the contractors had been engaging the traders since last September but that the traders kept asking for more time, a development he said could no longer be tolerated.

According to him, the timeframe for the contract had since been eaten into by the traders’ refusal to quit, saying if the contract is not executed as scheduled, the cost of materials would keep rising and could lead to demands for contract variation, which is against the policy of the present Administration.

“We want to tell them that yes the FCT Administration gave out this contract from Ring Road 2 to Ring Road 3. The Ring Road 2 starts from Katampe Extension to Life Camp to Jabi Mbora up to Galadima roundabout and in between, there is Ring Road 3.

“The contract has been awarded and we are calling on all those people doing business on the corridor to leave. All structures existing in that corridor are to be removed. We are calling on you traders and others there to please cooperate with us. Start removing your valuables before we come there.

“We are coming to clear the place. We are giving you up till Wednesday to clear your things. By Thursday, we are going to start”, he added.

According to him, the contractors had begun discussions with the traders since September 2023 and that “granting further extensions would eat into the contract time which could lead to contract variations and more costs”.

On request by the local council revenue collector for a new market site, the director said since markets are under the councils, it is incumbent on them to look within and allocate a new market to the affected traders.

Secretary of the traders union, Mohammed, said they had operated the market for over 20 years, saying he would convey the government’s message to the traders.

“We have been there over 20 years ago and now it has come to our notice that the road is to be constructed. We are grateful to have been invited and ours is to now go and sensitize our people so that the traders can look elsewhere. We are asking for more time as we are already concluding plans to relocate”, he stated.

Meanwhile, the department has pulled down a structure within an estate in the Karmo district, for obstructing a flood plain.

An official of the department, Garba Jubril said the developer had been so recalcitrant to the extent of even enlisting policemen to frustrate the department from carrying out enforcement duties on the estate.

He said; “We are on Plot 840 Cadastral Zone CO1 Karmo District. It is an estate development, but the challenge we have here is an issue of a recalcitrant developer. This structure we are removing has been marked right from the outset at the foundation level.

“While efforts to bring to the attention of the developer that this plot is outside his boundary, it is on the green area and on the flood plain. You can see the building, just a few metres to the stream here. So that means it is not safe for habitation. So, all efforts to bring this to his attention proved abortive. Sometimes, when we come here, we meet stiff opposition from the forces that are behind the man. So, we had so many such challenges here.

“There are about 12 structures that are affected. Some are on the green verge, some are on the floodplain, and some are on the road corridor.

“The developer came, and ironically, he came with his own force. In fact, if you look up there, you can see some policemen in red caps against our own policemen that we came with. In fact, they almost outnumbered our policemen. So, when they came initially,  they wanted to confront us and force us to stop, but we proved to them that we cannot stop the demolition as it is a directive from above. So eventually, he had to come down and plead after seeing that force can’t work.

“They should obey the law. Abuja is a planned city. Whoever wants to build knows what to do. Once you secure a duly allocated land, you should apply for the building approval. And one thing is to get approval, another thing is at the point of implementation, or they invite our building inspector to come and assess what they are doing because even the quality of structures here is questionable”, he added.

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