By Eric Elezuo
“If you have tears, prepare to shed them now…”
The above expression by Mark Antony in William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar came to mind as the Supreme Court declared its landmark judgment which threw the entire nation into a frenzy and shock, depending on your side of the divide. It ruled that the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), My David Lyon, who was elected governor of Bayelsa State in November 2019 will no longer be governor. This was barely 24 hours to his inauguration, and even as the former governor-elect was rehearsing for the ill-fated inauguration.
A five-member panel of the apex court led by Justice Mary Odili nullified the election of Mr Lyon on the grounds that his deputy, Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo, presented false information to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in aid of his qualification for the governorship election in the state held on November 16, 2019.
In the judgment, delivered by Justice Ejembi Eko, the final arbiter ordered INEC to withdraw the Certificate of Return issued to Lyon and Degi-Eremienyo and immediately declare the party with the highest number of lawful votes and geographical spread the winner of the election. The decision did not just draw tears; it drew pains, heartbreak and blood. The Supreme Court judgment came exactly one month after it sacked the former Imo State governor, Emeka Ihedioha, who had been in office for eight months, replacing him with APC’s Hope Uzodinma, who came a distant fourth in the March 9, 2010 governorship election in Imo State.
With the judgment, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Diri Duoye, was declared winner and inaugurated as governor of Bayelsa State the following amid pockets of protests and subsequent three-day curfew.
The PDP and its governorship candidate, Mr Diri, had filed a suit against Messrs Lyon and Degi-Eremienyo, and INEC, seeking the disqualification of the APC deputy governorship candidate.
They had claimed that Mr Degi-Eremienyo gave false information in his CF 0001 form submitted to INEC.
It is more painful that Lyon was sacked just two days after he survived a court process against a member of his party, Heineken Lokpobiri, who approached the apex court, asking it to declare him the winner of the APC governorship primary held in the state. He claimed that the party wrongly gave the ticket to Mr Lyon who eventually contested and won the governorship election.
But in its judgment read by Justice Iyang Okoro, the Supreme Court said, “The sole issue is resolved against the appellant. Accordingly, the appeal lacks merit and is hereby dismissed.”
But that was not to be when PDP approached the court. Recall that prior to the election on November 12, Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja had disqualified the APC governor-elect on the grounds that his deputy provided false information to INEC.
Mr Ekwo held that there was no connection between the name on the candidate’s school-leaving certificate, first degree (BA), master’s degree and the affidavits he swore.
Lyon started his career as a foreman in Western Geophysical Company Limited, before moving on to become the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Darlon Oil and Gas Nigeria Limited, Darlon Group Nigeria Limited and Arutex and Sons Nigeria Limited.
Lyon joined politics in the Third Republic, as a member of the defunct, National Republican Congress (NRC). He contested and won a councilorship election at Ward 4 in Southern Ijaw, but the military incursion aborted his tenure in 1997. He went on to become a founding member of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Southern Ijaw. He was later appointed as the Caretaker Committee Chairman of Apoi Olodiama Local Government Development Center in 2000.
In 2015, he decamped to the All Progressives Congress and contested the Bayelsa State governorship primary election in September 2019, where he emerged as the party’s candidate.
The story of David Lyon will have a special place in history books as the almost governor or the governor that never was. He will have his chance again in 2023, maybe.
Honorable or Horrible Members? Lumumba Questions Nigerian Lawmakers
Nigeria’s development has been slow-paced for too long, largely due to lack of visionary leadership, an anti-corruption advocate told federal lawmakers on Wednesday.
Patrick Lumumba, a former director of Kenya’s anti-corruption commission, also asked the Nigerian lawmakers if they are ‘honourable members or horrible members.’
He referred the lawmakers to late nationalists, Ahmadu Bello and Nnamdi Azikwe, asking them how much of their legacies have been preserved.
He said the clarity of vision and the instinct to marshall people is the antidote to tackle Nigeria’s many challenges, as this was what worked for the nation’s founding fathers.
The don who is also the Director, Kenya School of Laws, spoke at the launch of the House of Representatives Green Chamber magazine Wednesday in Abuja.
“Nigeria has been becoming great for too long,” Mr Lumumba said in his speech. “The time is now that Nigeria must be great. In fact, Nigeria should be in the same space economically as Germany is; Nigeria should be in the same space politically as the United States is.”
“You are the successors of Nigeria’s great leaders. The question that you must ask yourself now that you have been given the honour and privilege of serving Nigeria, you should ask yourself, are you honourable members or horrible members?” he asked amidst laughter from his audience.
He said being “honourable” or “horrible” members is determined by the quality of service they deliver to Nigerians. He urged the lawmakers to be servants, rather than masters of the people, whose sole aim is to deliver the common good to Nigerians.
“Now that Nigerians have given you the opportunity to think for them, the question is: are you midwives of the good things of Nigeria or are you midwives that kill the children of the creator.
“Today you are the leaders, even as I am congratulating you, ask yourself do you deserve to be congratulated?”
Mr Lumumba lauded the move by the lawmakers to tell their stories themselves by launching the magazine. He urged them to ensure the publication remains within the ambit of facts and to tell the legislations the House is introducing to give Nigerians social and economic security.
“I hope that through this magazine that that ghost of ignorance which has not allowed Nigerians to appreciate and embrace their leaders will now be exorcised.
“I hope that that ghost would be consigned to Jahannam so that it will not rise again; so that going forward, Nigerians will understand their leaders for (whom) they are.”
Accountant General, Customs CG Disagree over N28bn Unremitted Fund
The Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ali (retd.), on Thursday disagreed with the Accountant-General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, over the N28bn allegedly under-remitted into the Federation Account in 2015.
Ali and Idris appeared before the Senate Public Accounts Committee to address the panel over the audit query issued to the Accountant General Office by the Auditor-General of the Federation, Anthony Ayine.
Ayine had in his Financial Statement for 2015 asked the Accountant-General to explain the differentials in the amount remitted by the Customs Service and the figures contained in his own records.
The audited report showed that the NCS remitted N185bn as against N157bn in the Accountant-General’s document.
The Accountant-General who was represented by a director in his office, Feyintola Olusegun, had earlier referred the Auditor-General and the Senate Panel to the NCS for clarification.
The NCS boss while appearing before the Senator Matthew Uroghide-led SPAC on Thursday absolved his agency of any wrongdoing.
Ali said the query was strange to the service because the mode of Customs collections was purely automated.
The Accountant-General therefore said the N28bn was for ECOWAS Stabilisation Fund for 2015.
The members of the panel said the Accountant-General’s latest explanations did not reflect in his earlier written submission to the Senate Panel.
He was also unable to provide documentary evidence to back up his claim.
On the query of non-remittance of pension fund, Ali admitted that his command defaulted in 2015 because it did not have sufficient funds to meet up with the obligation.
But the Accountant-General was asked to explain the N37.8bn borrowed from the 10 per cent Rice Level Account for urgent expenditure in 2013.
The Senate Panel asked why the Accountant General had failed to include the loan in the budget since then.
The Customs Service benefitted N4.5bn from the said loan.
Other beneficiaries of the unpaid loan are the Independent National Electoral Commission, PHCN, and NIMCOMSAT.
The Senate panel, however, asked the Accountant General to come forward with details of the loan that could help it conclude its probe.
The Chairman of the Senate panel expressed disappointment with the MDAs over their inability to defend audit queries issued to them.
Urhogide lamented that for over five years, many MDAs hadn’t produced their audited accounts.
He said, “How can we say we are fighting corruption under this situation?
“The Customs Act says you must send in your audited accounts, six months into another financial year.
“We must clear the outstanding unaudited accounts. What the President does with this will tell us how we are fighting corruption.”
Prepare for Increase in Electricity Tariff, Nigerians Told
Nigerians should be prepared to pay cost-reflective electricity tariffs in order to enjoy the benefits of the liberalisation of the power sector, the government-owned Transmission Company of Nigeria has said.
The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, TCN, Mr Usman Mohammed, who said this on Thursday, noted that the government had continued to pump money into the power sector despite privatising it more than six years ago.
Mohammed spoke in Lagos during the groundbreaking for the replacement of old wires on the Ikeja West-Alimosho-Ogba-Alausa-Ota transmission lines.
He said when completed, the project would allow Ikeja Electric to take the full capacity of all the transformers along the substations to be supplied by the lines.
He said, “We are working to transform the TCN to be one of the best transmission companies in the world. But I want to tell the Nigerian public that we cannot move forward if we don’t pay for electricity.
“I want to tell Nigerians that there is no relationship between poverty and payment for electricity.”
According to the TCN boss, Nigeria has the cheapest electricity tariff in West Africa.
He said the government had sunk N1.5tn into the power sector in terms of payment assurance guarantee for power generation.
Mohammed said, “We have to stop this government intervention and we can only stop it when contracts become effective. Contracts can only be effective when you have cost-reflective tariffs.”
The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission in its December 2019 Minor Review of Multi Year Tariff Order 2015 and Minimum Remittance Order for the Year 2020 for the 11 Discos, had said on January 4 that consumers would start to pay more for electricity from April 1, 2020.