Our plans for Nigeria, by presidential candidates
At the event organised by the Nigerian Election Debate Group (NEDG), the candidates addressed issues of corruption, insecurity, political indiscipline and impunity.
President Goodluck Jonathan, who participated in the second session of the debate and later met with youths in Lagos, assured Nigerians that the general elections, rescheduled for March 28 and April 11, 2015, would hold.
Other candidates, in the second sessions of the debate with Jonathan, were Prof. Comfort Oluremi Shonaya of the KOWA Party, Martins Onovo of the National Conscience Party (NCP), Godson Okoye of the United Democratic Party (UDP), and United Progressive Party’s (UPP’s) Chekwas Okorie.
The first session of the debate had featured seven presidential candidates. The candidates are the Adebayo Ayeni of the African Peoples Alliance (APA); Chief Sam Eke, Citizen Popular Party (CPP); Ambrose Albert Owuru, Hope Democratic Party (HDP); Ganiyu Galadima, Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN); Nani Ibrahim Ahmad African, Democratic Congress (ADC); Rafiu Salau, Alliance for Democracy (AD); and Tunde Anifowoshe-Kelani of the Action Alliance (AA)
However, the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Major-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), was absent at the second session where he had been scheduled to appear. The All Progressives Congress Presidential Campaign Organisation (APCPCO) said unfolding events have justified its decision to stay away from the presidential campaign debates, due to the disagreement among the organisers.
All the presidential candidates responded to questions posed by a team of panelists, including the Editor of The Guardian, Mr. Martins Oloja, on issues of corruption, education, petroleum and gas resource, agriculture as well as insecurity and rehabilitation of victims of insurgency.
On anti-graft campaign, Jonathan said the solution should be more of preventive than punitive. Explaining why punitive measures in curbing corruption had been ineffective, President Jonathan cited the age-long futility in using capital punishment to discourage armed robbery in Nigeria. The President also listed other measures such as giving people a fresh orientation on virtues of honesty and hard work as well as the evil of the get-rich-quick syndrome, which, he noted, had permeated all strata of the Nigerian society.
He said the introduction of the electronic payroll system now being adopted in the private sector, was one of such preventive measures that had stopped corruption in the civil service.
KOWA Party’s Oluremi said that corruption was not an act of God but a deliberate action by the corrupt to pocket monies meant for the development of the country.
She advised that public offices should be made less attractive and lamented that Nigerian public office holders earned much more than their counter parts in developed countries.
She advocated the system of reward for hard work as against favouritism and over reliance on godfatherism.
Okorie suggested that declaration of assets by public office holders be monitored on yearly basis, adding that security votes which were often abused should be cancelled.
He also said that the immunity clause in the constitution should be removed.
In Okoye’s view, the problem of corruption arose because the socio-political economy has failed to reward competence, ability and merit.
On insecurity, Jonathan listed steps taken to ensure that victims of terrorism were rehabilitated. He said that, apart from normal government interventions through the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), his administration had launched the private sector approach by appointing a committee headed by Gen. Theophilus Danjuma ( rtd) to manage funds donated by private individuals to alleviate the sufferings of the victims.
Jonathan said the “Presidential Initiative on North East” was another step taken to address the problem created by insurgents in that zone.
The President also stated that the Save School Initiative which was introduced to take care of the educational problems created by the insurgents would be sustained if re-elected.
But Oluremi, however, stressed that her ultimate desire was for the Chibok girls to be brought back safely.
Okorie lamented the delay by government in motivating the military.
Okoye, however, commended government’s efforts in recapturing some local governments ceased by the terrorists.
On the oil sector and the challenges posed by gas flaring, Jonathan insisted that once the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) is passed into law, challenges relating to the management of the downstream sector would be dealt with.
Saying that his government is striving to create the enabling environment to encourage the private sector to participate in the downstream sector of the petroleum industry, Jonathan disclosed that a contract had been awarded for the purchase of a technological equipment that would curb oil bunkering and theft.
For Onovo, who wondered why government would “waste” N700 billion to subsidise the importation of fuel, the privatisation of the downstream sector was needless, adding that he would ensure that the country’s refineries were made functional if elected into office. He believed that once the refineries are fixed, a litre of fuel could sell for as low as N7 in the country.
Oluremi expressed concern over the fall in the price of a barrel of crude oil in the international market, adding that there was need to involve the private sector to rejig the oil sector. Applauding the success story in the Liquidified Natural Gas (LNG), she insisted that rather than contract ex-militants to watch over oil pipelines and crude oil on the high seas, such responsibility should be left with the country’s security agencies statutory empowered to do so.
Okorie said the non-passage of the PIB bill which should have addressed the issues bedevilling the petroleum sector was a scandalous act.
Galadima has said if elected as the president of the country, he would do away with the national grid by ensuring that every state was allowed to generate its own electricity.
Speaking specifically on the problems bedevilling power generation in the country which has had adverse effect on the economy, Galadima said that allowing states to generate their own power supply would be the solution to the epileptic power supply in the country and would revive the economy.
On oil theft, Ahmad said that Nigeria had lost several billions of money because most powerful men in the country were involved in the nefarious oil bunkering activity and that as the president, he would start a process that would trace every stolen oil in the country with the support of the international community.
In collaboration with the position of the ADC candidate, Owuru, also accused oil companies, the army, the navy and the police for being behind oil bunkering but vowed that vandals and oil theft would not happen under the watch of his government.
He said that he would undertake surveillance of the oil vessels to ensure that the country was no longer embarrassed as much as complaining that vandals were stealing the oil.
Eke said that security operatives would be well equipped to secure the water ways and that the oil companies would be made to live up to their corporate social responsibility in their host communities, among others.
A statement signed by the Director of Media and Publicity of the APC campaign, Mallam Garba Shehu yesterday , noted that sordid details coming out of organisations of the debate would have tainted Buhari had he presented himself to the group.
A civil society group with knowledge of the working of the NEDG, Value and Integrity Group alleged at a press conference on Friday, that a First Bank account opened for the NEDG had the founder of a private television network as sole signatory, even though he is not listed as one of the directors of the NEDG.
The group also alleged that the leading private television’s network address was used for the documentation of the First Bank account instead of the NEDG’s office address.
According to leaders of the Value and Integrity Group, Sina Odugbemi and Popoola Ajayi, co-ordinator and secretary respectively, “an initial deposit of N1 million was paid into the said First Bank account, and on March 28, 2011, another N20 million belonging to the NEDG was paid into the personal account of the said founder of the leading private television network.”
“We at the APC Presidential Campaign got the eye-opening news of the press conference by the Value and Integrity Group accusing the Nigeria Election Debate Group, the crux of the allegation being that some members of the NEDG have been monetarily influenced.
“Although the group failed to mention from what source the monies came from, we had taken a position, based on intelligence made available to us that the PDP has compromised the integrity of an unnamed few in the NEDG with huge and ridiculous sums of money.
“And watching President Jonathan reading from a prepared script gleefully as he answered questions in the debate confirmed our suspicion that there will be “EXPO”.
“Without a fore-knowledge of the question to be asked, how did the president come with prepared answers?
Meanwhile, President Jonathan, shortly after the Abuja debate, moved to Lagos, where he further sold the PDP manifesto and his development plans to youths. The event was attended by the crème of Nigeria’s entertainment industry, celebrities, students and other young Nigerians.