It is an irony. While some sacked workers in Delta State are up in arms against the state government, others are in joyous mood after they received employment letters for teaching jobs. DOMINIC ADEWOLE, in Asaba, reports on the controversy that has become employment in the state

While some indigenes of the state are crying, protesting, weeping and gnashing, threatening fire and brimstone over the annulment of their employment into the state’s civil service, some others are smiling home with offer of employment by the state government.

The 3,000 workers that were recruited at the twilight of the Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan-led administration in 2014 but were sacked by his successor, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa because their employment was allegedly fraught with fraud and irregularities have renewed hostility against the state government.

Ironically, 1,014 newly employed indigenes of the state have rolled out their drums of joy and appreciation to the governor, whom they referred to as “Ekwueme-gburugburu” for keeping to his promises.

The sacked workers vowed to overrun the streets of Asaba, the state capital with their family members, well-wishers and benefactors, if nothing was done at the expiration of a one-month ultimatum they issued to Okowa.

But unperturbed, within the one month ultimatum, the governor granted automatic employment to 14 persons and gave 1,000 appointment letters, on merit, to others. This is not including the sacked workers.

While the sacked workers, under the aegis of the Suspended Civil Servants in Delta State, lamented that the governor deceived them in the build up to the 2019 general elections into supporting his re-election and voting for his party (the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP) candidates, having promised to revisit their matter for possible reabsorption, over 650 sacked workers of the Delta Line Transport Company lambasted the governor for sacking them  unjustifiably and filling the vacancies to feather his political nest.

They rose from an emergency meeting, presided over by their chairman, Comrade Obus Regha in Asaba, last month, and expressed shock that the governor had advertised for youth employment in the agricultural and skill training but ignored his campaign promises.

He said: “We all attended the screening to recall us back in April this year but till date nothing has been done. Yet, there has been advertisement for employment in the agricultural sector with rumour going round that the plan of government is to recall only 500 persons. If this is true, we condemn such plan and demand that all truly employed Deltans that were affected over five years ago, be recalled as we all worked for the governor’s re-election.”

But the governor’s Commissioner for Information, Charles Aniagwu, doused the rising tension and reassured them that the state government has started reviewing the process, maintaining that measures had been put in place to ensure that Deltans were gainfully engaged whether in private or public sectors.

Few days after their anger was kindled, the governor provoked their thought again. He rolled out 14 automatic employments. He claimed that it was for deserving indigenes of the state.

During the inter-denominational thanksgiving service to mark the 28th anniversary of the creation of the state at the Government House, Asaba, the governor told those that cared to listen that since the grace of God had kept the different ethnic groups in the state together, it would  be good for him to announce automatic employment for 14 distinguished persons.

The governor maintained that his administration would continue “within the limits of the funds available”, to ensure that there is fairness and equity within the ethnic nationalities.

He said: “As a government, we realize that there is need to be equitable and fair in all that we do and that will help to unite our people even more. I want to assure all Deltans, on behalf of the deputy governor and myself and other top government functionaries that we will continue to work hard to ensure that we stay equitable in all that we do.

“We will try that, within the limits of the funds available, to ensure that there is fairness. As a state, we are one family and this can only be possible as we ensure that we continue to love each other and in that demonstrating that love, we can achieve a stronger Delta. And, this can only be actualized by what we are willing to contribute to the development and growth of our state.”

At this, the sacked workers wondered why the governor failed to use their case to celebrate the anniversary. According to them, Okowa had transferred his aggression that his predecessor (Dr Uduaghan) defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) on them, hence their matter was inconsequential to him.

As they were crying foul over this, on Friday, August 30, in Asaba, barely 72 hours after the pronouncement of automatic employment, the governor, released letters of appointment to 1,000 indigenes of the state in teaching profession with a charge to be resourceful to the meaningful education pursuit of his agenda.

The governor’s Commissioner for Basic and Secondary Education, Chief Patrick Ukah, supported by the Permanent Secretary in his ministry, Hon Sam Diateke, who represented the governor during the official handing over of their offer of appointment letters, said the newly employed persons were among the 3,000 applicants for job slots in Science related subjects that was published by the state government few months ago.

He explained that they were selected on merit from the 25 local government areas of the state, which cuts across the three senatorial districts of the state and have voluntarily signed to be posted to the rural areas of the state and remain there for, at least, five years, before seeking redeployment to urban areas of the state.

He said: “We are going to engage the 1,000 employees in training and induction programme. They have signed for us that they will remain in rural areas to raise the standard of education for the state for a period of five years. We took them on merit. We will resist any pressure from them to be posted to urban areas.”

What magic wand did the lucky ones perform to catch the attention of the powers-that-be in the state that is different from the sacked civil servant, is the puzzle that remained unresolved?

Obus said his members have prayed and fasted for the sack sledge-hammer to pass over but to no avail.

He explained that successive administrations in the state, including the incumbent government, employed the service of a consulting firm to help downsize the alleged over-bloated staff strength of the state, which according to the governor, rose above 60,000 when he assumed office on May 29, 2015, flush out ghost workers and those that falsified their credentials, but their matter was not referred to the firm.

He made reference to Accapella, a consulting firm, which started at the twilight of the administration of Uduaghan, inherited by Okowa, to fish out over 20,000 ghost workers, including those that are due for retirement but have dubiously remained in service.

He said workers, under alleged ‘non-performing parastatals’ -especially,  Delta Line Transport Company and those that involved in the unholy practice of age falsification and indulge in certificate forgery, have been shown the way out of service, but still, they were not used to fill the vacant spaces.

One of the new employees, Mr Donaldson Onowu, who hails from Ndokwa West council area, flanked by his colleagues, Mrs Ifakpo Ezimaife (Isoko South) and Omomo Ediri (Ughelli North) expressed surprise that they got their jobs without political patronages or party affiliation, maintaining that “the recruitment was transparent. I was surprised I made the list. I don’t know any politician. I have been in the labour market for years. This goes to show that it is no longer business as usual in Delta State”,

Mrs Oghenerukvwen Olise, from Uvwie council area, who studied Computer Science from Delta State Polytechnic, Otefe, said: “I have been on the streets since 2016.” She hailed the governor for putting an end to her gallivanting from one unproductive private job to another, saying, “it was like a miracle to seek for job and get it on merit in Delta State. So, I am most grateful to Governor Okowa for providing such free, fair and transparent platform.”

The  sacked workers, have continued to cry foul, and calling on well-meaning Deltans, political god-fathers, top government functionaries and human right activists to prevail on the governor to fulfil his electoral promise.

“What will he (Governor Okowa) be remembered for? Forconstructing thousands of roads but rendering those to ply them jobless? He said he keeps to promise. What  has become of our own? If he forgot, can his advisers or somebody who is close to him, please remind him before we take our destiny in our hands?”, Obus said.

IRIS Foundation HAS forecasts green and ethical investment to reach £23.5bn this year, around 24 per cent higher than the £19bn recorded over 2018.

This is thought to reflect the growth in demand for existing and new investment products that take environmental and social issues into account.

“Growing awareness of the need for action with regards to climate change and other urgent social issues has contributed to this rise,” said EIRIS Foundation CEO, Peter Webster.

“Retail investors are looking to extend their conscious purchasing decisions to their finances and we’ve seen some innovative new product launches aimed at meeting this demand.”

The findings were published ahead of this week’s Week campaign, which aims to raise awareness of sustainable and responsible finance.

According to The Actuary, they come as separate research from Hargreaves Lansdown revealed that most people are unaware they can invest in a way that benefits the environment and society.

After surveying 2,000 UK citizens, the researchers also found that climate change is the issue that people would most like to help tackle through investments.

Other key challenges cited were poverty, poor health and wellbeing and lack of access to clean water and sanitation.

And of those that had seen David Attenborough’s Blue Planet documentary on plastic waste, two-thirds said they had changed the way they live because of the programme.

A whopping 68 per cent of female respondents said they had changed their lifestyle as a result of watching the documentary, compared to 57 per cent of men.

Eight out of 10 people said they recycle, and a similar number use their own shopping bags at the supermarket, while five in 10 avoid single-use plastic.

“It is fantastic to see so many people taking action to avoid further damaging our planet, but disappointing to learn that people who want to make an even greater positive impact, through their investments, were not aware they could do so,” Hargreaves Lansdown head of investment analysis, Emma Wall, said.

“It is our job as an investment industry to shout louder about the benefits of environmental, social and governance investing, and to educate and enable people to invest in this way.”

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has urged Nordic investors to take advantage of the friendly business climate in Nigeria to invest in key sectors of the economy, saying that the country is the investment destination in Africa.

Osinbajo, who also explained reasons for the closure of Nigeria’s land borders, said with the signing of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, it was important for Nigeria to take major steps to address issues bordering on smuggling and dumping of products imported via neighbouring countries.

Speaking at the at a round-table event at the Nordic-African Business Summit holding in Oslo, Norway, Prof. Osinbajo, said that recent rating of the economy by the World Bank reinforces his claim that the country is the investment destination in Africa. He urged Nordic investors to take advantage of the friendly business climate in Nigeria to invest in key sectors of the economy.

The Vice President, who used the opportunity to explain how the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration reformed several sectors of the nation’s economy, noted that efforts are being made to encourage the nation’s youths actualize their dreams within the Nigerian space.

Citing the work done by the Creativity and Technology Group of the Industrial Policy and Competitiveness Advisory Council, the Vice President said the efforts of the group is expanding the horizon for local Fintech companies, run by young Nigerians, to grow and undertake bigger tasks.

According to him: “The first thing is to democratize that space, which is what we are doing so that there is adequate competition. There are progressive stuffs going on even without any of the reforms yet, but the reforms are major. Digitizing Nigeria Drive, that is really what this is all about. The whole idea is to open the space up for competition.

“I think one of the most important things to bear in mind is that we intend to open up the space; we don’t intend to control the space. We don’t think that it should be government run; it should be opened up for everyone. The question really is how to do so in a way that it is not abused.

“As a matter of fact, the whole point of all of these is lowering the barriers so that ISPs can function in a competitive atmosphere.”

Speaking further on how some of the programmes have impacted young Nigerian entrepreneurs, the Vice President said most of the services required for the implementation of components of the Social Investment Programmes were provided by Nigerian technology companies.

The Vice President, in a statement by his Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr Laolu Akande, said that some of the initiatives of the administration have made a positive impact on the populace.

There were indications Tuesday, that the Nigerian Army may have shifted commencement of its operations across the six geo-political zones of the country, owing to some alleged “logistics challenges”.

New Telegraph recalls that the Nigerian Army had, on September 25, disclosed plans to commence a nationwide operation on Monday, October 7.

The Acting Director of Army Public Relations, Col. Sagir Musa, who conveyed the plan, had said, among others, that: “In her spirited efforts to combat insecurity across the nation, the Nigerian Army (NA) is set to commence simultaneous routine training exercises in the various Geo-political zones of Nigeria.

“The exercises are Exercise AYEM AKPATUMA II in the North Central and parts of North Western States of Benue, Nasarawa, Kogi and Taraba as well as Kaduna and Niger States in 1 and 3 Divisions Area of Responsibilities (AOR) including Headquarters Command Army Records, Guards Brigade and 707 Special Forces Brigade, Exercise EGWU EKE IV which will be carried out in the South Eastern part of Nigeria comprising Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo States in 82 Division AOR, while Exercise CROCODILE SMILE IV will as usual  take place  in the South South and parts of South Western States of Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Lagos, Ogun and Rivers States in  2, 6, 81 and 82 Divisions’ AOR.

“These exercises will start concurrently from the 7th of October to 24th of December 2019,” Musa had said in a statement.

Curiously, however, the Army on Tuesday announced that the said operations will now commence on November 1.

An officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the development may be due to “logistics’ contraints”.

Several calls made to the telephone lines of the Acring DAPR, were not answered, as has been the case.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has said the N10.7 trillion 2020 budget proposal presented by President Muhammadu Buhari to the National Assembly would mortgage the future of the country.

The party in a statement by the National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said the budget was skewed to serve the interest of the rich, noting that projects that would have direct bearing on the wellbeing of the masses were not substantially accommodated in the overall expenditure profile.

According to the PDP, the 2020 budget proposal showed streaks of padding and fraudulent duplications, adding that it was “replete with false performance indices, deceptive projections and inexplicable expenditure assertions which create openings for continued looting of our national patrimony by leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and persons close to the presidency.”

It noted that the budget was lacking in wealth creation strategy but relied in squeezing Nigerians through excruciating taxes, levies and agonising tolls, despite the huge natural resources in the country.

“Furthermore, the PDP notes, as unacceptable that President Buhari, in his budget speech, could not give account of his handling of the 2019 budget and had to resort to lame excuses and unsupported figures, particularly on the various unimplemented subheads in critical sectors of the economy.

“Moreover, Mr. President failed to explain why his administration has remained hugely corrupt and how his presidency depleted our foreign reserves to an all time low of $41,852 billion, accumulated huge foreign and domestic debts and kept the naira at its knees at about N360 to $1USD under his watch.

“Standing with millions of Nigerian youths and women, our party rejects the paltry budgets of N48 billion for education and N46 billion for health and urges the National Assembly to review the allocations in the interest of Nigerians,” the party added.

The party also criticized the Buhari administration for not being transparent in the allocations for vague projects, particularly the ministries of works and housing as well as transportation, where allegations of diversion of public funds were endemic in the last budget.

The Bayelsa State government, on Tuesday, accused the Federal Government of illegally deducting 4% as fuel subsidy from its monthly allocation, which has amounted to over N450 billion in the last 13 years.

The Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Maxwell Ebibai, stated this in Yenagoa during the monthly transparency briefing for the month of August 2019.

Ebibai said the deduction was made without the approval of the Council of States, which dated back to 2006 after the debt relief granted by the Paris Club to the country during President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration.

The fuel subsidy, according to him, is being deducted from the 13% derivation with adverse effects on the economy of the states in the South South region.

Ebibai noted that the Federal Government had been making withdrawals from the Excess Crude Account to fund petroleum subsidy, arms purchase and other activities that do not have any direct bearing on the oil producing states, thereby denying them of their full 13% derivation.

The Finance Commissioner, who said there was an improvement in the state’s allocation for the month of August as against that of July 2019, however, noted that the Governors Forum and the Council of States would deliberate on the matter.

His words: “We noticed that there was a bit of improvement with the derivation figure for August compared to July. It is important that we highlight that for a long time, under the pretext that we are saving for the rainy day, the Federal Government used monies in the Excess Crude Account for activities such as petroleum subsidy, arms purchase and others. Some states are contributing unfairly to those activities where we use that money for things like petroleum subsidy and other so-called critical government expenses that do not relate to the states.

“So that battle has been on. We have managed to reach some consensus as regards that. But if we want to save money in the excess crude account, let the 13% due to the states be given to them. So we know we are contributing at par with our colleagues based on what is received.

“By recent calculations, from the 13% derivation money that has passed through the excess crude account that the people of Bayelsa have not enjoyed the benefits amount to about N450b. That is what in the name of one nation we are subsiding.”

Presenting the financial statement for the month of August, Ebibai said the total inflow from the federation account was N14.5 billion, comprising statutory allocation of N3.5 billion, derivation N8.6 billion among others.

Jordanian Princess Haya bint al-Hussein, the estranged wife of Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, appeared at the High Court in London on Tuesday in the latest round of a battle over the welfare of their two children.

At a preliminary hearing in July, she had asked the court to protect one of her children from a forced marriage and to grant a non-molestation order, a type of injunction that protects against harassment or threats, reports Reuters.

The two parties said in a statement at the time that the legal battle was related to the welfare of their children but did not concern divorce or finances.

A full hearing in the case between the sheikh and Haya, the daughter of the late King Hussein and half-sister to King Abdullah, will be heard on Nov. 11 and is expected to last five days.

While Haya attended the preliminary hearing, the sheikh was not present in court. He was represented by David Pannick, one of Britain’s top lawyers.

The judge told reporters that they could say Tuesday’s hearing took place but not give any details of the legal arguments.

The 70-year-old sheikh, who is also Vice-President of the UAE, married the princess, a former member of the International Olympic Committee, in 2004 in what was believed to be his sixth marriage. He has more than 20 children by different wives.

President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday disclosed that he had not only lost his voice, but also had a cold òn account of his working hard.

The President said this during the presentation of the 2020 budget to the joint session of the National Assembly.

Buhari, who was about to commence the reading of his speech, apologised to lawmakers for losing his voice and his inability to speak audibly.

According to Buhari: “Before I proceed to read the details of the budget, let me apologise for my voice.

“As you can hear in my voice, I have cold because I am working hard and it’s a sign that I’m working hard.”

The Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) has described the 2020 budget presented to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari as empty in substance and value.

The coalition said its implementation would further impoverish Nigerians because it has no serious source of funding except taxing the people.

CUPP in a statement Tuesday by its spokesperson, Ikenga Ugochinyere, the coalition noted that the budget presentation has shown that President Buhari has no formula to save the nation’s economy from the impending final ruins caused by his mismanagement.

“Opposition parties see this fiscal document as empty document that is not worth the paper on which it was written. It is full of rhetoric.

“Buhari’s appropriation bill can best be described as a heavy travel bag that is empty in substance or value,” the statement added.

It regretted that the days of suffering of Nigerians were not coming to an end, noting that the document was a final weapon to consolidate Buhari’s next level of economic ruins, poverty, looting and visionlessness.

“It is a come and chop document meant to further impoverish many and prosper the privileged few,” the coalition stated.

It rejected the inclusion of the proposed increment in the value added tax (VAT) as part of the expected sourced to fund the 2020 budget.

The August 6 killing of three operatives of the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Intelligence Response Team and two civilians in Ibi community, Taraba State, would have been averted, had standard operating procedure been adhered to.

That was the position of a seven-panel of enquiry constituted to investigate the alleged killing of the IRT operatives, and civilians, by soldiers of 93 Battalion deployed at a checkpoint along Ibi-Wukari Road, within the Ibi general area.

New Telegraph recalls that the late police personnel – Inspector Mark Ediale, Sergeants Usman Danzumi, Dahiru Musa, as well as an informant – were among the IRT operatives that arrested a suspected kidnap kingpin in Ibi, Alh. Hamisu Bala (a.k.a Wadume), on that fateful day.

They were, however, shot and killed as they made their way to the Taraba State Police Command Headquarters in Jalingo, where they were scheduled to document report of their operation.

Apart from the killing of the operatives, the soldiers were reported to have set the suspected kidnap kingpin free.

Though, Wadume has since been rearrested by operatives, the development had caused a strain in the relationship between the Army and the Police.

Signs of the bad blood first emerged when, the Army, whose troops were accused of killing the police officers and civilian, had swiftly defended its men, saying the circumstance had presented the forced as “suspected kidnappers”.

A further pointer emerged when the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai, directed soldiers on pass to travel in mufti, warning of likely “aggression” towards them by police personnel.

Worried by the incident, President Muhammadu Buhari consequently ordered the Defence Headquarters to set up a panel of investigation to unravel the circumstances surrounding the ugly development.

Consequently, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Gabriel Olonisakin, had set up the seven-man Board of Enquiry headed by Rear Admiral Ibikunle Olaiya.

However, in the report submitted to the convening authority, the panel observed that there were infractions and poor communication between personnel of the police and troops of the Army.

This was as the panel recommended further investigation of Captain Tijani Balarabe, who was alleged to have ordered the attack on the police operatives.

The recommendations of the panel were conveyed in a statement Tuesday by the Acting Director of Defence Information (DDI), Col. Onyema Nwachukwu.

Also, Sergeant Ibrahim Mohammed, and Corporal Bartholomew Obanye,were recommended for further investigation by the Army.

On the part of the Police, the Board emphasised the compelling need to probe the role of the Divisional Crime Officer (DCO) in charge of Ibi Police Division, Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Aondoona Iorbee and Inspector Aliyu Dadje.

Further to this, the board of enquiry, according Nwachukwu, also recommended that Wadume be thoroughly investigated for alleged gunrunning and kidnapping and possible prosecution.

Former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and political activist, Comrade Timi Frank, has described the appointment of former President Goodluck Jonathan by the United Nations as one of the rewards for leaving behind a legacy of peace in Nigeria.

He, however, has cautioned President Muhammadu Bubari to think of the kind of legacies he will leave behind at the expiration of his tenure, adding that International Criminal Court (ICC) is no respecter of any president.

The United Nations (UN) on Monday announced the appointment of Nigeria’s ex-President as its Special Envoy on Crisis Management. UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterre made the announcement.

Reacting to the appointment through a statement in Abuja to congratulate the former President Goodluck Jonathan, Frank said: “GEJ’s uncommon trait of leadership in Africa and beyond is an asset to the whole world.

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“We will be praying to God to give Goodluck Jonathan wisdom, knowledge and understanding to manage this honour as the first African to hold this position.

“Jonathan’s love for humanity is a virtue every living being must imbibe. His humility, through the grace of God is beyond ordinary. Though being vilified at home by some elements of darkness but International community, where things work daily recognise him. A big congratulations to a peaceful leader.”

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