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I want Buhari’s job – Saraki

By News Desk,

Senate President Bukola Saraki has confirmed he has been consulting and he is considering running against President Muhammadu Buhari in the February 2019 election.

He made the confirmation in a wide-ranging interview with Bloomberg in Abuja.

Saraki who had evaded the question on his interest in the country’s number one position at a press conference last week, was more forthcoming in the interview:

“I am consulting and actively considering it,” Saraki, 56, said in the interview held at his residence in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.

“I believe I can make the change,”  he added.

Since last week, the Senate President had visited two former Nigerian leaders, General Ibrahim Babangida and Chief Olusegun Obasanjo at their hilltop homes in Minna and Abeokuta. But he had been coy about his missions to the homes of the two former leaders, who are also opposed to President Muhammadu Buhari and had issued statements, asking him not to run next year.

After meeting Babangida, Saraki  tweeted that he only “dropped in” to pay his respects to “General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida. Always happy to be with a father and leader”. In Abeokuta, he said he came to have a look at the monumental Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, which was formally opened in April 2017, the event which he said, he missed.

Saraki who switched from the ruling All Progressives Congress to his old party, the Peoples Democratic Party along with a dozen renegade senators in July, will need to secure the PDP nomination. And he has at least six aspirants to contend with.

Among them are Atiku Abubakar, a former vice-president, who quit the ruling party much earlier to the PDP; Ibrahim Dankwambo, governor of Gombe State, Ahmad Makarfi, a former senator and former governor of Kaduna State. There are also Sule Lamido, a former governor of Jigawa State; Aminu Tambuwal, governor of Sokoto state, who is yet to make a formal declaration of intent and Attahiru Bafarawa, also former governor of Sokoto state.

The party’s primary election is due between 5 October  and 6 October. Political pundits are predicting  a bruising contest among the aspirants.

Saraki had been at odds with Buhari and the APC leaders, since he emerged  as senate president in June 2015. He got the post by playing out many members of his party who were gathered elsewhere for a meeting with Buhari. He struck an alliance with the PDP to claim the position. In return, he traded the senate vice-presidency to the opposition senator, Ike Ekweremadu.

Saraki claimed in the interview with Bloomberg that investors and citizens have lost confidence in President Buhari. The latter claim has been punctured by the wave of victories recorded by the APC in governorship and senatorial bye elections in recent times.

Pundits also believed that investors could not have lost confidence in  Buhari’s administration, if it was able to raise record amounts of money in oversubscribed Eurobond sales and it is attracting foreign loans to rebuild rail, ports and power infrastructure, which the PDP abandoned in 16 years of running the country.

The Senate president in the interview said the blockade of the National Assembly gates by hooded DSS operatives on August 7,  was contrived by the executive  to impeach him, despite the prompt denial by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, the APC and and the sacking of DSS boss, Lawal Daura.

“If a government can go and lock up an arm of government — and it’s never happened in our history — we should all be very concerned,” Saraki said.

“We should not be surprised that they would use security agencies for elections.”

Saraki, who is now the national leader of the PDP, believes the party has learnt its lesson from the loss in 2015. And conversely, he  thinks the APC has  not learnt from its victory.

“While negotiating with the PDP “we listed a number of issues. We talked about how to sustain and improve the fight against corruption; the issue of providing more powers to the states; inclusion and having a more nationalistic approach on things we do; to continue to improve the environment that will ensure investments. We listed a number of items during the discussions with the PDP, and there is a written agreement to that. We trust that we can hold them to that.

“We would ensure that the party is strong on security. The APC too have not done well on the issue of security. We have the opportunity with the right kind of presidential candidate and president to provide the leadership for the party. The party has a good opportunity to lead the country in the right direction.”

Italy rescuers search for survivors after motorway collapse kills dozens

By News Desk, with Agency Report,

Firefighters searched on Tuesday for survivors and bodies amid the rubble of a motorway bridge that collapsed in the morning in the northern Italian port city of Genoa, killing dozens.

At least 35 probably died, Italy’s ANSA news agency said citing fire brigade sources, while the official body count remained at about 20.

A 50-metre high section of the bridge, including a tower that anchored several supports, crashed down with as many as 35 vehicles driving on it onto the roofs of warehouses and other buildings, plunging huge slabs of reinforced concrete into a riverbed.

“We are still trying to extract survivors from the rubble,” Genoa police official Alessandra Bucci said. “We hope to find more people alive.”

Within hours of the disaster on a morning of torrential rain, the anti-establishment government that took office in June said the bridge collapse showed Italy needed to spend more to improve its dilapidated infrastructure, ignoring EU budget constraints if necessary.

“We should ask ourselves whether respecting these (budget) limits is more important than the safety of Italian citizens. Obviously for me it is not,” said Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, who leads the right-wing League which governs with the 5-Star Movement.

Salvini also said he wanted the “names and surnames of those to blame because a tragedy like this in 2018 is not acceptable.”

“They will have to pay, pay for everything, and pay a lot,” he said.

Helicopter footage on social media showed trucks and cars stranded on either side of the 80-metre long collapsed section of the Morandi Bridge, built on the A10 toll motorway in the late 1960s. One truck was shown just meters away from the broken end of what locals dubbed the “Brooklyn Bridge”.

Motorist Alessandro Megna told RAI state radio he had been in a traffic jam below the bridge and seen the collapse.

“Suddenly the bridge came down with everything it was carrying. It was really an apocalyptic scene, I couldn’t believe my eyes,” he said.

Luigi D’Angelo, an official for the civil protection agency, said there were 30 cars and between five to 10 trucks on the road when the middle section came down. So far, 16 people have been hospitalized, including 10 in critical condition, the agency said.

Some 300 firefighters were working in the wreckage, using sniffer dogs to try to locate survivors. Bucci from the Genoa police said rescuers would continue searching into the night. Four people have been pulled alive from the rubble, Ansa news agency reported.

“People living in Genoa use this bridge twice a day,” Deputy Transport Minister Edoardo Rixi, who is from the city, said. “We can’t live with infrastructures built in the 1950s and 1960s.”

BRIDGE ‘CONSTANTLY MONITORED’

Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli told Italian state television the disaster pointed to a lack of maintenance, and echoing Salvini he said that “those responsible will have to pay.”

Autostrade, a unit of infrastructure group Atlantia that is controlled by the Benetton family, manages the section of the toll highway that collapsed.

Stefano Marigliani, the Autostrade official responsible for the Genoa area, told Reuters: “The collapse was unexpected and unpredictable. The bridge was constantly monitored and supervised well beyond what the law required.”

He said there was “no reason to consider the bridge was dangerous.”

Restructuring work was carried out in 2016 on the 1.2 km-long bridge, first completed in 1967. The motorway is a major artery to the Italian Riviera and to France’s southern coast.

Autostrade said work to shore up the road foundation was being carried out at the time of the collapse.

The government has pledged to increase public investments and lobby the European Commission to have the extra spending excluded from EU deficit calculations.

“The tragic facts in Genoa remind us of the public investments that we so badly need,” said Claudio Borghi, the League’s economy spokesman.

The office of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said he was heading to Genoa in the evening and would remain there on Wednesday. Defense minister Elisabetta Trenta said the army was ready to offer manpower and vehicles to help with the rescue operations.

Saraki can only avoid impeachment if he resigns – Oshiomhole

By News Desk,

The National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole, has again called for the impeachment of Senate President Bukola Saraki.

Oshiomhole made the call during a meeting with Senators and members of the House of Representatives elected on the platform of APC, in Abuja, on Tuesday.

He claimed that Saraki, after his defection to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), is now a member of the minority in the Senate.

“The only way he can avoid impeachment is to either resign or return to the majority party; even then we will not accept him, he should remain where he is,” Oshiomhole said.

“We will impeach Saraki legally and democratically.”

He added that, out of the 360 members of the House of Representatives, APC had the majority with 196 members

Before the meeting, Oshiomhole told journalists that it was aimed at reflecting on issues affecting the country with the aim of delivering good governance to Nigerians.

Saraki, Bafarawa, Dankwambo go to the hilltop to stop Buhari

By News Desk,

Presidential aspirants in the Peoples Democratic Party, such as Attahiru Bafarawa, Ibrahim Dankwambo and Senate President Bukola Saraki, appear to be competing for the endorsement of retired leaders of Nigeria, hopping from Minna to Abeokuta, where coincidentally the ex-leaders have their homes on the hilltop.

Only one PDP presidential aspirant has made a distinctive difference: adding former President Goodluck Jonathan to his endorsement itinerary. The others have made Minna and Abeokuta hilltop palaces, their favourite destinations.

Senate President Saraki, who is still coy about his presidential ambition, was the second among the latter group to join the endorsement train to the hilltops, when he visited former military president General Ibrahim Babangida on Wednesday 8 August.

Former governor of Sokoto, Bafarawa had beaten him to the front seat, when he visited Obasanjo on Sunday 5 August. As he confessed, he had learnt from Obasanjo leadership school in the past, a lesson that made him to save about N11.5 billion in his state, which he bequeathed to his successor. He came to learn more as he hoped to clinch the PDP presidential ticket to square up to incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari in next year’s February election.

Obasanjo, who considers himself probably the best leader Nigeria ever had, even gave his guest some extra leadership lessons. He charged Bafarawa to strengthen the leadership qualities he identified in him, including humility, diligence, selflessness and lack of discrimination

Saraki followed on Wednesday 8 August to the Minna Hilltop home of Gen. Babangida.

In a tweet about his mission, Saraki said he “Dropped in to pay my respects to General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida. Always happy to be with a father and leader”.

On Monday, Saraki surfaced in Abeokuta to meet former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who has floated his own party and has turned himself into a rallying force for anti-Muhammadu Buhari politicians. Cornered by media men on the purpose of the visit, he dropped a not too-honest excuse. He said he came to see the grand Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, which was formally opened last year.

“You know I missed the official opening of the library and that is why I have decided to come and see the place and honestly it is beautiful. We are very proud of what he has done here,” he said.

A day after Saraki left Abeokuta, Gombe governor, Ibrahim Dankwambo also came knocking at Obasanjo’s hilltop home, along with a retinue of aides. The two-term governor and former accountant-general of the Nigerian federation is the latest declarant for the highest position in the land.

He is expected to jet to Minna Hilltop soon, following the trail of other aspirants.

In Minna on Monday night, General Ibrahim Babangida also hosted another presidential aspirant, Attahiru Bafarawa, former governor of Sokoto State. Bafarawa visited Obasanjo last week, with the former leader urging him to improve on his leadership weaknesses.

Yusuf Abubakar, Director Media and Publicity for the Bafarawa Campaign Oragnisation(BCO) said the Minna trip was in continuation of Bafarawa’s political consultations on his presidential aspiration.

Abubakar said that Babangida and Bafarawa, met behind closed doors at the host’s hilltop residence and their discussion was fruitful.

The media aide said that Bafarawa was accompanied on the visit by the Director General of BCO, Sen. Paul Wampana, Mrs Becky Igwe, Alhaji Sani Kabiru, Dr Amanze Obi and Dr Iliya Stephen, among others.

Atiku Abubakar, another presidential aspirant who paid a second visit to Babangida on 2 July and had used all available fora to earn Obasanjo’s blessings got his hope dashed when Obasanjo openly opposed his ambition.

Obasanjo said Atiku should never count on his support.

In an interview with Premium Times, Obasanjo swore he will never support Atiku and the doctor of theology also invoked  God to buttress his position:

“How can I be on the same side with Atiku?” Obasanjo asked. “To do what?”

“If I support Atiku for anything, God will not forgive me. If I do not know, yes. But once I know, Atiku can never enjoy my support,” he added.

“I know Atiku very well. And I have mentioned my position with Atiku. My position has not changed,” he said.

On a personal note, he added, “If my children are getting married, he has sent representatives. If his children are getting married, I have sent representatives. That is social. That is not political.

But “on political ground, my position has not changed. If I support Atiku for a political office other than the one I supported him in the past when I did not know him,” maybe, but not “now that I know him, God will not forgive me.”

Since 4 August came out openly to disrupt Atiku’s campaign, campaign activities and footworks have slowed down a bit.

No date yet for NASS to reconvene – Saraki, Dogara

By News Desks,

The leaders of the National Assembly (NASS) have said that there was no date yet for the National Assembly to reconvene to consider the  N242 billion virement for the 2019 elections.

The president of the Senate Dr Bukola Saraki and his counterpart in the House of Representatives  Yakubu Dogara, disclosed this in a statemnet jointly signed by their Special Advisers on Media and Public Affairs, Yusuph Olaniyonu and Turaki Hassan,

In the statement, they called on all members of the National Assembly as well as the general public to note that no date had been set for the reconvening of the Federal Legislature.

According to them, some relevant committees whose reports are supposed to be considered upon the reconvening of the National Assembly are yet to meet and as such there is no report to be considered.

“The Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki and Speaker, House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, have directed that we inform all Senators, Honorable members and the public that a date has not been set for the reconvening of the Senate and the House of Representatives to consider the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) 2019 elections budget request forwarded by President Muhammadu Buhari on July 17, 2018.

“The leadership of the two chambers had met and agreed to reconvene to consider the proposal this week before which a meeting between the Joint Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Electoral Matters and officials of the INEC must have held on or before Monday August 13, 2018.

“The joint committees were also expected to meet with the joint Senate and House Committees on Appropriations, Loans and Debts on the Eurobond loan request after which two reports would have been ready for presentation in the two chambers.

“However, no such meeting had taken place yet as a result of which both Senate and House of Representatives cannot reconvene as there is no report to consider.

“Until the Committees have a ready report for the consideration of the two chambers, it will be most irresponsible to recall members from recess especially those that may have travelled to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj,” it said.

PDP alleges plot to arrest Saraki

By News Desk,

The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has again alleged plots to arrest the leadership of the Senate to pave way for their impeachment.

The alleged plot to arrest the principal officers of the senate has remained a recurring fear in PDP circle.

The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and concerned members of the public have asked Senate President Bukola Saraki to resign as senate president because he had defected from the party with majority members in the senate.

But he had defiantly kicked against the pressure with the excuse that he was in control of the senate.

Kola Ologbodiyan, PDP National Publicity Secretary, said in a statement on Sunday that the , “the fresh plot is to detain the two presiding officers is part of renewed design to keep them out of circulation ahead of Senate resumption’’.

He said the plot was designed to impeach Senate President Bukola Saraki and his Deputy Ike Ekweremadu.

The plot according to him, is to create an impression that the two failed to show up for proceedings in the Senate.

He alleged that the arrest was planned to come ahead of the reconvening of the National Assembly and to purportedly hold the Senate leaders back from the sitting and, thereafter, impeach them in their absence.

Ologbodiyan accused the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) of being behind the alleged plot to arrest and detention the officers.

He added that part of the plot was to purportedly use security forces and some government agencies to clamp down on the family members of the Senate leaders.

The PDP spokesperson, however, called on Nigerians and the international community to prevail on the ruling party to shelve such plan.

“In all, the PDP cautions the APC and power mongers to know that Nigerians have seen through their intentions and will continue to firmly resist them by standing for democracy and the unity of our nation at all times,” he said.

The opposition party made the claims two days after Saraki and Ekweremadu accused the Federal Government of planning to implicate them in the recent blockade of the National Assembly by security operatives.

APC win Senatorial election in Katsina

By News Desk,

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has declared the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Ahmed Kaita, as the winner of the Katsina Senatorial Bye-election.

INEC Returning Officer, Professor Hudu Abdullahi, declared the candidate of the ruling party as the winner of the election which was held on Saturday.

He said APC’s Kaita got 224, 607 votes to defeat five other candidates in the poll.

Kaita, who is a member of the House of Representatives, representing Kankia/Kusada/Ingawa Federal Constituency, defeated his elder brother, Kabir Usman Babba Kaita of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) who scored 59, 724 votes.

The Senatorial seat became vacant in April following the death of Senator Mustapha Bukar.

APC blasts PDP as war of words continues

By News Desk,

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is engaged in nothing but senseless noise-making, in its failed attempt to distract  President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, the ruling All Progressives Congress(APC) said today.

And quickly reminded the PDP of the miasma of corruption legacy it left for Buhari to clear.

“In both content and context, PDP’s latest allegations on  President Buhari administration’s anti-corruption efforts should be seen for what they are: empty, baseless and diversionary,” acting publicity secretary Yekini Nabena, said in another scathing reaction to the PDP. The reaction was titled; ‘PDP Your Corruption Stench suffocates Nigerians”.

Nabena said although the opposition in a democracy is supposed to offer constructive criticisms and proffer alternative solutions to government policies and programmes, the opposition rhetoric of the PDP has been replete with ‘senseless noise-making”

“It is truly amazing that that the party of a failed government which held the country prostrate for 16 years; stole, wasted and misappropriated our abundant resources will have the audacity to make comments on the current administration that within three years is clearing the rot left after the PDP’s misrule.

“Was it not under the PDP’s immediate-past administration that disclosures of nauseating magnitude were made?

  • I collected N350m from Dasuki for consultation – Iyorchia Ayu
  • I only collected $30,000 from Dasuki not N100m – Bode George.
  • I got N4.6b from Dasuki for spiritual purposes – Bafarawa.
  • I got N2.16 from Dasuki for publicity purposes – Dokpesi.
  • I got another N100m from Yuguda. He did not tell me from where – Bafarawa
  • I gave N100m each to Odili, Jim Nwobodo, Bode George and others – Yuguda.
  • The President asked to change N10b to foreign currency for PDP delegates – Dasuki.
  • N950m was shared in my house – Shekarau
  • And many more shameful disclosures.

“These are just a tip of the iceberg of how our commonwealth were massively looted by the shameless characters in the PDP. Instead of apologizing profusely for their gang rape of the nation, the PDP seeks to present itself before Nigerians in 2019 to seek a return to their stealing. The PDP should understand that Nigerians cannot forget in a hurry how the country was destroyed by the PDP’s gang of pen robbers.

“The PDP may wish to explain to Nigerians under which administration a State Governor who was set free in many courts in Nigeria on charges of corruption and money laundering but was tried and jailed in the United Kingdom. Is it not ironic that the PDP preaches about corruption in the oil sector when it infact oversaw record pillage, maladministration and disrepair of the oil sector when it held sway.

“The PDP should remind Nigerians the circumstances under which the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), now Emir of Kano, lost his job in the bank. How many millions of dollars did he say was not remitted to the nation’s coffers on regular basis? The PDP may also explain the fuel subsidy scandals and how billions of the country’s funds went into private pockets; the massive seizures of properties and cash from public officers who served in the PDP Government.

“In 2015, Nigerians voted massively for the establishment of a truly progressive government to check the shocking level of impunity, corruption, disregard for the rule of law and other deplorable undemocratic practices which previously defined our national life. The APC assures all Nigerians that the President hold sacred this collective trust.

“Despite spirited efforts to discredit on-going anti-corruption efforts, the war against graft is being won. An often overlooked major achievement of the anti-corruption war is that President Buhari has brought the issue of corruption to the heart of national consciousness. The fact that Nigerians are talking about it means we have not accepted it as a way of life and as long as ordinary people continue to show that disdain for corruption, we would win the war sooner or later.

“Under President Buhari, the country has never had it so good. Yearly remittances by the Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board (JAMB) have been in billions of Naira, over and above what PDP governments remitted in 16 years; increasing yearly revenue from the Customs Service; within three years and despite low oil prices, execution of massive road and rail infrastructure our foreign reserves has grown to over $47 billion- about $4billion more than that of South Africa.

“Under the administration of President Buhari, no minister will purchase bullet proof cars with public funds, nor will an oil minister junket the globe with family members in private jets at the public expense.

“Nigerians were taken for granted too long and have vowed enough is now enough. No degree of blackmail and wicked scheming will make us return to the years the locusts had eaten. We have crossed the Red Sea and have no intention to return to our ugly past.

“While the PDP and their agents attempt to discredit the ongoing fight against corruption, the question the PDP should answer is: are anti-corruption efforts being carried out within the ambit of the law? We urge the President, law enforcement agencies, anti-graft bodies and indeed Nigerians not to be sidetracked by the desperate and roguish attempt by the PDP and their agents to discredit the ongoing fight against corruption. It is natural, corruption will fight back!

“The assurances Nigerians can hold firm is that the APC will not fail the country like PDP’s wasted 16years. While the PDP continue to spew lies in its cheap attempt at opposition politics, President Buhari is concentrating on the important work at hand – clearing the mess and rebuilding the country in all facets.”

Akwa Ibom deputy governor refutes resignation claims

By News Desk,

Following recent reports that Akwa Ibom Deputy Governor, Moses Ekpo resigned from office, he stepped forward to debunk the report by saying he not resigned his position and has no plans to leave the Peoples Democratic Party for the All Progressives Congress.

His Chief Press Secretary, Ekikere Umoh, debunked the resignation story, triggered on Sunday by a post by @APCNigeria on Twitter on Sunday,  that said he would also be leaving the Peoples Democratic Party for the All Progressives Congress, along with Senator Godswill Akpabio, a former governor and ally.

Umoh, said that there was no iota of truth in the story.

He said that the deputy governor had travelled on official assignment to represent the Gov. Udom Emmanuel at Ati Annang Convention holding in New York.

The CPS said the deputy governor in a telephone conversation with him on Monday denied the story as groundless.

“The attention of the Office of the Deputy Governor of Akwa Ibom State has been drawn to certain rumours and misrepresentations in a section of the media to the effect that the Deputy Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Mr Moses Ekpo, has resigned from office.

“The reports particularly from the online community further make allusions to the effect that the Deputy Governor has also defected from the Peoples Democratic Party.

“Given the temperament of the times and the implications of such innuendos, we are constrained to categorically state that there is no iota of truth in the story making the rounds

“That the purported report is therefore nothing but a poorly concocted piece of a malicious hatchet job and a pack of lies, and should be appropriately ignored.

“It is instructive to note that currently, His Excellency, the Deputy Governor is representing the State Governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel as Special Guest of Honour at the 2018 International Convention of Ati Annang holding in New York, United States of America and is yet to return to the state.

“In his reaction to the rumour from New York on phone today, the Deputy Governor said: “I have not resigned.

“I have no reason whatsoever to resign or jump ship from a government that is both responsive and performing optimally, while giving practical meaning to democratic dividends for the people of Akwa Ibom.  I cannot, and will not jump ship.”

According to him, the 77 year-old deputy governor has called on Akwa Ibom people, both at home and in the Diaspora, as well as the PDP family in the state to remain resolute and committed to support the Gov. Udom Emmanuel.