FG spends N500bn to settle power debts

The Federal Government spent about N500bn to settle liabilities and debts that threatened to truncate the power sector reform, Supervising Minister of Information, Dr. Nuruddeen Mohammed, has said.

Mohammed who said this at a press briefing on the nation’s economy in Abuja on Wednesday also disclosed that the government was in discussion to buy power from several organisations that generate more electricity than they need to run their businesses.

Some of the forces that threatened to frustrate the reform in the power sector that had to be settled were workers of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria that wanted their payoffs before the sale of the successor companies could continue.

The minister said, “The Federal Government expended close to N500 Billion to settle debts/payoffs, to allow progress in the power sector.

“The Federal Government through the Central Bank of Nigeria has provided a N213bn power sector intervention facility, to be disbursed to generation and distribution companies, as well as gas suppliers.

“The funds are intended to take care of legacy debts that had hampered the operations of the new players in the power industry. The CBN, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission and deposit money banks in the country have since signed a disbursement agreement in respect of the intervention fund.”

He added, “In order to get stranded power unto the grid, the Ministry of Power is coordinating negotiations with companies willing to generate power and export to the grid. These companies include: Ajaokuta Steel Company (85MW); ALSCON (100MW); Lafarge Cement (40MW); and Kaduna Refinery (33.5MW).

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Youths storm Rivers PDP secretariat, protest senatorial primary

Youths from Rivers West Senatorial District on Wednesday stormed the State Secretariat of the Peoples Democratic Party in Port Harcourt to protest an alleged imposition of a senatorial candidate on the people.

The youths, who sang solidarity songs specifically called for the substitution of the Rivers West senatorial candidate, Mr. Osinakachi Ideozu, with the former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Prince Chibudom Nwuche.

Some of the placards displayed by the protesters read, ‘Rivers West senatorial primary was a sham’, ‘Chibudom Nwuche is the people’s choice’, ‘We don’t want Ideoze, Nwuche is the answer’ and ‘We are saying no to imposition’.

Though none of the party officials were around to speak with the youths, some security operatives were on the ground to ensure that the peaceful protest did not degenerate into violence.

One of the leaders of the protesters, Chief Boma Dappa, told newsmen that they were at the state PDP secretariat to show the world that they were dissatisfied with the way the Rivers West Senatorial District primary was handled.

Dappa, who is a former leader of Degema Legislative Council, regretted the PDP as an opposition party in the state allowed unpopular candidates to be imposed on the people without minding the repercussion.

He condemned the continued influence of godfathers in Nigeria’s democracy, adding that the imposition of candidates was inimical to justice and fairness preached by the party.

“We are here as members of our great party to express our dissatisfaction with the way and manner the Rivers West Senatorial primary was conducted. We know that Rivers State is a PDP state.

“We voted for the PDP, but the government we voted for has taken our mandate to APC. PDP now stands as an opposition party. We are going to face an election next year as an opposition party.

“The days of godfatherism in Rivers politics brought us to this level. Therefore everybody is aware now. Our people want the best choice to represent them. The senate is not a child’s play, where you bring people who live in London to come and represent us.

“We need people who are on the ground to represent us. Youths of Rivers West are therefore appealing to the leadership of the PDP to go back to that primary to make sure that the people’s choice emerges as the flag bearer of the party.

“The people’s choice is Rt. Hon. Chibudom Nwuche. He is a man who can represent us very well. We are asking the leaders of our great party, to listen to the voice of the people,” Dappa said.

Dappa, however, cautioned that the PDP could lose the general election in most areas should it fail to correct the anomaly occasioned by the imposition of unpopular candidate in Rivers West Senatorial District.

FG using security agencies to oppress opposition parties -APC

The All Progressives Congress has raised the alarm over the plan by the Federal Government to use the security agencies, especially the DSS and the Police, to harass and intimidate the opposition with a view to decapitating it ahead of the 2015 elections.

In a statement issued in Abuja on Wednesday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said the torrent of threats being issued recently by the Minister of Police Affairs and the DSS, over alleged inflammatory statements by opposition leaders, is nothing but a thinly-veiled attempt at cowing the opposition and destabilizing its ranks.

It said the strategy includes the invitation of key opposition figures for questioning by the DSS, starting with the APC National Publicity Secretary, to be followed by arrests and detention of such figures.

APC said the impending clampdown is the PDP-led Federal Government’s answer to the soaring profile of the opposition ahead of the polls, and called on local and international observers of the elections to keep a close eye on the unsavoury developments, which constitute a clear and present danger to the success of the elections.

”The Minister of Police Affairs said publicly that he has already directed the Inspector-General of Police as well as the DSS to arrest anyone who makes inflammatory statements ahead of the 2015 elections, and then went ahead to castigate the APC, thus exposing the real reason for his directive.

”If the Minister, and indeed the security agencies were carrying out their duties as an official/agents of state rather than partisans, they would have realized that no one is more guilty of making inflammatory and even treasonable statements than the supporters of the President and members of the PDP.

”Yet, not once has the Minister, and the security agencies under his control, called these people to order. There is no better indication of the mindset of these threats-issuing Minister and the security agencies under his control than their glaring double-standard and vexatious partisanship. This is not how to run the affairs of state,” the party said.

It recalled that a series of inflammatory, insulting and downright treasonable comments by supporters of President Goodluck Jonathan and officials of the PDP all went without as much as a whimper from those who are now howling at the opposition for statements that are neither inflammatory nor treasonable.

Ondo doctor, Alonge, attackers are robbers –Police

The Police in Ondo State on Wednesday said the gunmen who attacked Dr. Muyiwa Alonge, a medical doctor with the Federal Medical Centre, Owo, on Tuesday at his home at Aule in Akure, were armed robbers and not hired assassins.

Although the command had not made any arrest, nor had it given any clue as to those attacked the medical practitioner, it held that it was an unusual case of coincidence that Alonge was attacked the same week Dr. David Oguntuase died in controversial circumstances in his clinic in Akure.

Alonge had informed our correspondent that the assailants, while threatening him, said they were sent to kill him, but changed their minds after several pleadings and prayers.

But Police Public Relations Officer, Wole Ogodo, said, “The attackers were not assassins. It was a case of armed robbers.

“It is just a coincidence that it happened at the same time we have Dr. Oguntuase’s case. It was armed robbery.”

According to him, the thieves gained access into Alonge’s apartment through the window and as their victims woke up, they were told to lie face down.

He said, “They were forced to continue lying down while the robbers parked away the following items: Samsung Galaxy valued at N130,000; a Black Berry phone worth N60,000; another Black Berry phone worth N45,000; a flat screen Samsung TV worth N145,000.”

Ogodo also noted that the thieves also carted away a DVD player worth N95,000; gold and jewelery costing N40,000; an HP laptop of N100,000, and went away with his wife’s Camry car with number plate LJA 383 CQ Lagos, ash colour, valued at N1, 250,000.

According to the police, the assailants also made away with a cash of N35,000, bringing the total value of the losses to N2.4m

Edo tertiary institution workers resume strike January

Workers of four state owned tertiary institutions in Edo have threatened to resume their suspended industrial action in January next year, over the non-payment of salaries owed them by the state government, in addition to the call for the infrastructural upgrading of the institutions.

The workers, under the Coalition of Unions of State Owned Tertiary Institutions‎, had on December 1, suspended their indefinite strike which grounded activities in the affected institutions for over three months, in order to continue discussions with the state government.

The institutions are the College of Education, Igueben; College of Education, Ekhiadolor, College of Agriculture, Iguoriakhi and Institute of Management and Technology, Usen.

‎It was also learnt that over 30 staff of IMT, Usen, had ‎been sacked by the management of the institution as a result of their involvement in the suspended strike.

The ‎President of the coalition, Fred Omonuwa, told The PUNCH on Wednesday that the workers were sacked following a directive from the state government.

Although the ‎Edo State Government had on December 23 announced that it had updated the salaries of workers in the state to December, the employees of the four institutions disclosed that they were yet to receive their October salaries.

Omonuwa, noted that despite the promise by the state government to provide certain grants to cover the payment of salaries, none of the affected schools had been paid.

The president, who stated that the workers were yet come to terms on why their salaries were not paid, vowed that the unions would resume industrial action in January, if the government continued to delay on its promise.

Omonuwa said, “He (State Governor) brough‎t N40 million to Ekiadolor, N20 million to Igueben, N21 million to Usen and N8 million to Iguoriakhi.

“But as we speak, we are the only people in Edo State ‎that didn’t receive salaries this December.

“They should pay us our salaries now because the salaries of workers is sacrosanct.

“About 34 staff of IMT, Usen have been sacked by the management of the school, saying that it was directed by the government.

“We may resume our suspended strike action from January because government is not sincere and they have breached the gentleman agreement that we had with them.”

Efforts to reach the Commissioner for Higher Education, Washington Osifo, were unsuccessful as of the time of filing this report.

Calls his telephone line indicated that it was unavailable, while our correspondent was yet to receive a response to a text message sent to his line.

Buhari decries hardship, corruption in New Year message

The presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Wednesday alleged that the Federal Government had declared “a regime of austerity on Nigerians in 2015.”
He warned the Federal Government against wishing Nigerians a happy New Year, saying it had become clear that “its actions are calculated to undermine the happiness of Nigerians.”
Buhari, while congratulating Nigerians on the New Year, expressed hope that the alleged plans would not work out if elected in 2015.

In a New Year message by the Director of Communications, Buhari Campaign Organisation, Mr. Dele Alake on Wednesday, Buhari said hardship, corruption and insecurity in the country were unacceptable.
He said the country desperately needed a disciplined and visionary leadership that genuinely has the capacity to fight corruption.
According to him, “It is only some Nigerians who have access to the corridors of power and benefit from the monumental graft that characterises governance in the country today that can enjoy their perverse and ultimately futile form of happiness.”
The APC presidential candidate, however, expressed hope that the glory and pride of Nigeria would be restored if elected in 2015.
He said, “Great Nigerians, the announcement made by the Presidency and its agencies in the last one month has put many Nigerians in sadness. Electricity shall cost more. The devaluation of the naira means the price of goods and services shall rise. Essential goods are being removed from the reach of the poor. Indeed, the Presidency has declared a regime of austerity that will be executed in 2015. To quote the press reports, the President himself has declared that Year 2015 shall be “tough” on our people.

“Against this season of despair foisted on our people, I bring to you, a New Year message of hope and optimism. I share the anxiety of the middle class and the poor who have borne the brunt of the policies of this government for so long with increasing burden. I share the fear of the unemployed whose hopes for new jobs in the new year is being dashed because companies will cut jobs to escape inflationary spirals. I share the concerns of the manufacturers whose import-dominated production will be challenged by the austerity measures.”
Buhari called on Nigerians to vote out the Peoples Democratic Party, promising that his administration would ensure “cheaper electricity, food security, accelerated power supply, integrated transport network, free education, affordable health care service and effective security of life and property.”

According to him, Nigerians cannot enjoy the dividends of democracy owing to corruption, impunity and indiscipline that currently incapacitate the country.

He added, “Nigerians must be the sole object and focus of government. Man must be the pivot around which governance revolves. The more the potentials of citizens are maximised within any nation, the higher will be the prospects of that nation for attaining greatness. The first great task facing Nigeria today, therefore, is to put in place a government that can guarantee the safety and security of Nigerians throughout the length and breadth of our country. This is because Nigerians must first of all be alive, safe and free from fear before they can exercise and utilise their talents for the benefit of their nation.

“I declare, that, collectively, we can bring an end to this season of despair; we can bring an end to this avoidable fear; we can bring an end to this needless anxiety. On February 14, 2014, the Almighty offers us a historic opportunity to chart a new course out of the tragedy that we have found ourselves; History offers us a chance to correct the errors of the past. Great Nigerian people! This is our chance!

AirAsia plane wreckage found, bodies recovered

Only 6 bodies have been recovered so far from the missing AirAsia flight, despite earlier claims of 40. Objects resembling parts of the plane, as well as what was thought to be the plane’s outline underwater, were seen in the search area.

The Indonesian navy initially said 40 bodies had been recovered, but the figure was later corrected. The plane itself has yet to be found.

One of the three bodies recovered on Wednesday morning was female dressed in a stewardess uniform, F. H. Bambang Soelistyo, chief of Indonesia’s search and rescue agency said. The other two bodies were male. The search effort is continuing despite poor weather conditions.