Nigeria will consider cutting oil supply to attract higher prices, Buhari tells Saudi Arabia

President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday in Abuja pledged the cooperation of Nigeria to the effort of oil-producing nations to reduce output to attract higher prices in the global market .

A statement by Garba Shehu , Media and Publicity Aide to the President , said Buhari made this position known when he received Mr Ahmad Qattan , Minister of State for African Affairs and Special Envoy of King Salman Bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia .

In the statement , the president said that Nigeria was , as a responsible member of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, willing to go along with the Saudi initiative of limiting oil output to push up prices.

He said that output cuts had always been difficult for Nigeria considering its peculiar circumstances of large population, huge expanse of land and state of under -development , adding , “ I wish we can produce more .

“ I have listened carefully to the message . I will speak with the Minister of State for Petroleum. I will call for the latest production figures.

“ I know that it is in our interest to listen . We will cooperate . ”

He said that higher oil prices would make both nations stronger and their citizens more prosperous.
Buhari commended the Saudi monarch for his leadership in global oil matters , assuring that Nigeria would continue to accord respect to the Kingdom in that regard .

Earlier , the Special Envoy had said that he brought special greetings from King Salman and the Crown Prince , and expressed their best wishes for Nigeria as the country prepared into general elections.

Qattan said that the important reason for his mission was to make a request to Buhari to ensure that Nigeria complied with quotas assigned in January by exiting previous exemption from output cuts .
According to him , Saudi has reduced its own output by 1 . 4 million barrels per day to ensure that prices go up .

He, however, pointed out that Saudi Arabia alone could not bring stability to the oil market and shore up prices.

The envoy called for greater adherence to production cuts by Nigeria and expressed hope that he would take a positive message back home .

Movement restriction during elections is illegal, says Adegboruwa

Activist lawyer, Mr Ebun – Olu Adegboruwa , has warned the police against restricting human and vehicular movements on election days , saying it is unconstitutional .

According to him , the Federal High Court in Lagos had in 2014 pronounced that such movement restriction was unconstitutional .

The lawyer noted that despite the constitutional provisions and the pronouncement of the court, the Inspector – General of Police had on Friday , February 15, ahead of the postponed presidential election , announced the restriction of human and vehicular movements for 12 hours .

He complained that despite that the movement restriction was illegal , the police did not consider it needful to lift the movement restriction even after the election was postponed.

Adegboruwa warned the police against a repeat of the movement restriction order on the new election dates.

He said , “ The Inspector -General of Police did not appeal against this judgment of the court and yet he proceeded to hold people down at home on February 16, 2019, contrary to the express order of injunction granted by the court in this case against any repeated illegal practice of keeping citizens indoors.

“ We will therefore not condone or agree with any attempt to restrict people ’ s movement illegally on February 23 , 2019 or indeed any other day , by reason of elections. ”
Meanwhile , Socio – Economic Rights and Accountability Project has said the postponement of this year ’ s general elections should be blamed on successive governments since return to democracy in 1999 .

In a statement on Sunday by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare , SERAP said , “ Given the increasing tendency to postpone elections and the cumulative failures and corruption over the years, SERAP would , after the elections, pursue appropriate legal action against the government in power and the National Assembly leadership for the catalogue of breaches of constitutional and international obligations , and seek effective remedies for the citizens. ”

INEC returns sensitive electoral materials to Awka CBN

The Independent National Electoral Commission in Anambra State on Sunday said it has taken delivery of all the sensitive electoral materials earlier deployed for the February 16 presidential and National Assembly elections.

INEC Head Voter Education and Publicity, Mr. Leo Nkedife , told the News Agency of Nigeria in Awka that the action was necessitated to secure the materials .

The electoral commission had attributed poll shift to logistic and operational challenges .

The spokesman said , “ All ballot papers and result sheets have been recalled and deposited at the CBN Awka branch , while the Smart Cards have also been returned to our office for safe keeping. ”

Nkedife said that the postponed election would now hold on Feb. 23 for the Presidential and National Assembly while March 9 is fixed for the Governorship and State House of Assembly.

Reports gather that the Presidential and National Assembly elections were earlier scheduled to hold on Feb. 16 was postponed in the early hours of the day of the election by the INEC Chairman , Prof. Mahmood Yakubu.

Yakubu said in a nationwide broadcast in the early hour of Saturday that the elections have been shifted by a week , attributing it to issues of logistics and operational challenges faced by the commission .

Elections shift: Kwara INEC returns sensitive materials to CBN

The Independent National Electoral Commission in Kwara State on Saturday started returning the sensitive materials earlier distributed to the sixteen Local Government Areas for elections to the Ilorin branch of the Central Bank of Nigeria .

The election materials such as ballot papers , election results sheets , ink pads and other materials were loaded in trucks , buses and cars and brought to the CBN office.

INEC Public Relations officer in the state, Jacob Ayanda told
The PUNCH correspondent that the materials were being taken to the CBN for safe keeping.

Ayanda said , “since the election has been postponed till next week , we have to take care of the materials to ensure that they are safe and intact wherever we keep them and CBN is the best and safest place to keep them . ”

In a reaction , Labour Party governorship candidate in kwara state , Comrade Issa Aremu said that the rescheduling of the elections by INEC was received with mix feelings .

Comrade Aremu said the decision of the umpire to fix 23rd February and 9 th March 2019 for the much awaited elections came as a surprise and disappointment for all labour party candidates and members who are ready to exercise their democratic rights but could not do so .

Aremu however said he received the news of postponement with some optimism that INEC has another one week to put the proper arrangements in place for free and fair elections.

“ It is certainly unacceptable that some voting materials are not ready after four years of preparations.

It is also embarrassing that the postponement came so late in the day with all the attendant costs to poor voters who had to travel to and fro to vote .

The state branch of the All Progressives Congress in a statement signed by Folaranmi Aro, its Publicity Secretary urged the people to remain steadfast and resolute to vote for all APC candidates next week .

America won’t protect you, Assad warns Syria’s Kurds

President Bashar al- Assad warned Syria’ s Kurds Sunday that their ally the United States would not protect them against any Turkish offensive as Washington looks to withdraw it troops.

The US is set to pull out its soldiers from Syria after allied Kurdish – led forces capture the Islamic State group ’ s last holdout in the war – torn country.

Any withdrawal risks leaving the Kurds exposed to a long threatened attack by neighbouring Turkey, which views Kurdish fighters as “ terrorists” .

“ We tell those groups who are betting on the Americans that the Americans will not protect you , ” Assad said in a televised speech .

“ The Americans do not hold you in their heart … They will put you in their pocket so you can be a bargaining chip . ”

Apart from fighting IS, the Kurds have largely stayed out of Syria ’ s civil war , working towards semi – autonomy in the northeast of the country .

The looming prospect of a US withdrawal, announced in December , has sent them scrambling to rebuild ties with the Damascus regime, but talks so far have failed to reach a compromise .

“ If you don’ t prepare yourselves to defend your country and resist, you will be nothing but a slave to the Ottomans , ” Assad warned , using a historic term for Turks .

“ No one will protect you except your state. No one will defend you except the Syrian Arab army, ” he said .

Nearly eight years into a war that has killed more than 360 , 000 people and displaced millions , Assad ’ s forces control almost two thirds of the country.

Just two areas remain beyond its control : the jihadist- held northwestern region of Idlib , and around a third of the country under control of Kurdish – led forces .
“ Every inch of Syria will be liberated , ” Assad said in Sunday’ s speech .

Election postponement: Stop the blame game, AU council caution

The African Union, Economic , Social and Cultural Council on Sunday cautioned politicians and stakeholders in Nigeria ’ s political space to stop the blame game caused by the postponement of last Saturday ’ s presidential elections.

It also charged the Independent National Electoral Commission to set a global standard with the February 23 , 2019 , adding that voters must not be discouraged as a result of the one week postponement by INEC .

The council urged Nigerians to be calm , exercise restraint and support INEC in discharging the responsibility of conducting free , fair and credible election .

The AU- ECOSOCC disclosed this in an emailed reaction on the election postponement , which was made available to our correspondent through its Nigeria Chapter Representative , John Oba.

It said , “ We have read with concern several insinuations and blame game in the media on the postponement and wish to caution that all stakeholders should exercise restraint and rather channel their effort at assisting the commission to organise credible polls .

“ We must all understand that our words at this time will go a long way to either make or mar the process and endanger the peace of Nigeria and Africa at large. Stakeholders must therefore watch against comments that may hamper the process . ”

The council said INEC should be supported to ensure it conducts elections that would send strong democratic lessons for other member states of the AU to emulate .

It also noted that the world was hoping that Nigeria would through this election set a standard and commended INEC for taking proactive steps to avert staggered elections that may give room to suspicion and legal logjams.

The AU – ECOSOCC appreciated the roles being played by international and domestic observers , especially in mobilisation and financial support towards a credible , free and fair 2019 general elections in Nigeria .

It appealed to stakeholders not to get tired due to the postponement and the shortcomings of the electoral commission , adding that the AU council had confidence that INEC will still make Africa proud .

It also charged INEC to ensure that all necessary arrangements were perfected and finalised now to avoid further postponement and stressed that the commission must continue to prioritise voter awareness and prompt release of information in order to avert all forms of fake news

At 73, I still do 120 laps weekly in my swimming pool – Sir Steve Omojafor

When I graduated from the university , I worked at Daily Times , where I was for three years and rose to become a Chief Sub – Editor for the evening part of production .

After those three years, I felt an urge to do something else. I heard about Lintas Advertising and I joined the company .

I spent five years there and was sent to the United Kingdom on a training programme . There , the idea of setting up an agency struck me .

When I came back to Nigeria , I discussed with two of my colleagues who were also at the university with me .

We came together and formed Rosabel Advertising Limited which ran for about 13 years.

Then, we established STB McCann as a second line advertising agency .

The lot fell on me to run STB and the McCann aspect of it was an affiliation to some agencies outside Nigeria .

I am retired now but I visit them once in a while .

The company has been handed over to the second generation of people who we trained and kept on the job , who were learning and gaining exposure .

In starting STB McCann in 1991 , I faced many challenges .

Rosabel Advertising was made , well known and had good control over the business .

When we decided to set up STB McCann , the challenge was getting a client base and a work space .

So , my partners gave me their old office and a staff of two , because they were moving to another office space .

They also gave me two clients to handle and I got started with them . That seemed like the biggest challenge of my life at the time .

So , I started to think of strategies to grow the business and look for clients to add to my base. Back then, you couldn ’ t poach others’ accounts; you had to find fresh businesses to work with.

A year after I started , I ran into luck with Coca Cola , who was in the midst of changing their agency and someone called me to inform me of the activities .

I worked with my networks but the hunter from Coca Cola said he wasn’ t interested in a one-year – old agency .

Not willing to give in to defeat, I invited him to tea and pitched him my ideas to reconstitute an agency from the beginning.

When he came, I offered him a chance to mould the agency into what he wanted because we were new and flexible.

At the end of it , when he returned to England , he put our name on a list of six agencies that were to be further looked into .

We got invited to the United Kingdom to propose our work and I didn’ t have much to offer.

I got a reel of all the work I was involved in at Rosabel and it served as my Curriculum Vitae .

We got the gig but it was so big , we had to burn the candle on both ends and work extremely hard just to manage it right . But in the end , it worked just fine .

What was your experience as Zenith Bank Chairman ?

It came like something God had destined for me because I wasn’ t in the finance sector and I didn’ t work in any bank .

I call it one of the miracles of my life . The owner invited me one day when the bank was going public .

He said he wanted to appoint two new directors and looking at my reputation and integrity, I was suited for the office.

I had to start learning and reading broadly about what banks did and what made up a bank .

Also , I learnt about what happened on a board and how the board oversaw the things they did – the credit, risks and ratio of returns and investments.

I spoke with my friends who were already in the bank and some who were on the boards of other banks .

I was on the board for about seven years , after which I was made chairman for four years.

Jim Ovia came back to the board and it was time for him to take over as chairman . Happily , I handed over to him and completed my tenure on the board .

It was a very exciting period for me and I learnt quite a lot.

I came out of it wiser , more learned and ready to face whatever the future held for me .

You ’ ve been in the industry for over 40 years. How will you compare then and now?

It was more exciting back then because clients usually appointed a firm as their agency of record and they stuck with one company for their business .

They also paid their bills on time , in comparison to now .

Nowadays , what a lot of multinationals wouldn’ t do in their countries , they do in Nigeria .

They come here to set up in- house agencies to do their advertising work and unfortunately, the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria is gradually becoming obsolete .

The government enables APCON to regulate and make laws for the industry but since it has become politicised , it ’ s not working as well anymore .

In the last four years, we haven’ t had a council, which means that clients can do what they like because there are no binding laws anymore .

Everyone kept to the rules back then, so advertising was a lot easier .

However , we have more alternative channels in modern day advertising, which is an advancement for the country and the industry because one can now look at the situation holistically and appropriate a budget .

But , some of it must still be traditional because many people are still not online. A lot of people still watch television and listen to radio.

Back then , it was easier to manage but now , it ’ s more complicated because people are going digital.

Practitioners need to improve themselves in order to cope with the new realities .

All in all, it ’ s been an exciting ride.

What were your low and high moments in advertising ?

My high point was winning Coca Cola ’ s account one year after the establishment of STB McCann , and getting Nestle Foods ’ brief shortly after that .

We also won accounts of very high profile businesses. Our slogan used to be ‘ the agency that didn’ t crawl before it started running ’ .

Our low points were losing the big businesses that kept us going and unfortunately, at the time , I was already stepping aside .

Is there anything you would have loved to do differently in your career ?

I would do the same things but will be a bit different with recruiting staff because one needs high calibre expertise in recruiting people for work .

Back then, it seemed like you had to study Journalism or Mass Communication to work in advertising but today , practically any graduate can work in the industry .

The only criteria are creativity , flexibility and fluency .

You turned 73 recently. How does it feel being that age ?
It’ s been good.

It actually came on me without me thinking about it unlike when I turned 70, three years ago.

Turning 70, I wondered about how different life was going to be ; what plans and aims I had for the rest of my life .

After that, I started living leisurely , yet still purposefully daily till it became my birthday again and this time , I had turned 73 . I realised that time moves by quite fast after a period .

There was a period in life where it seemed lagging and dormant ; like nothing was moving.

That could have also been as a result of many activities going on at the same time .

I always thank God for the years as they come. However , I am the same Steve I’ ve always been .

I still do what I enjoy with reduced pressure and I take on what I choose to .

Expectations are no longer as high because I am not expecting too much out of life anymore . I focus on the areas I can give to and impact on people , my children and the society .

I’ m also focusing on living healthy.
When I turned 70, I was excited but it also dawned on me that certain things had to change .

At this age , I don’ t feel as strong as I was at 60 but I feel good and strong for a 73-year – old man .

There is still a lot to life and I feel that there’ s still so much I can do in my environment and family .

I’ m still keeping myself busy , relevant and strong enough to add value.

How have you been keeping busy since retirement?

I retired fully at 70; so , I decided to focus on other things aside work.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos had a dream of building a university in Epe , Lagos ; and post-retirement , I became very pivotal in setting it up .

I headed the fundraising group to get the university running .

Then, I became the chairman of the Board of Trustees , which I still am.

I spend a lot of time on the matters concerning the university . I also do a lot of work for the Catholic Archdiocese .

I belong to the Metropolitan Club in Victoria Island, Lagos , and the Lagos Motorboat Club .

These are some of the activities I’ m now engaged in. I like swimming and I complement my swimming with long walks in my neighbourhood .

In addition to these , I’ m involved in talking to the younger generation . I get invited often to speak at St .

Gregory ’ s College , where I had my secondary school education . And because my daughter belongs to a book club , I’ m given a book and we review it .

There is a youth club in Lafiaji ( Lagos Island), which is the neighbourhood I grew up in; they dance fante , which is a dance imported from the west coast of Africa .

I am a member of the Elders ’ Group that sees to what they do and counsels them .

What does Augustine University plan to do differently to be unique in the educational sector?

Recently , we got full NUC accreditation for eight programmes.

If I have another chance to set up a university, I won ’ t go for the conventional anymore – Bsc , BA , etc. I would opt for a technical university because that ’ s what we need in Nigeria today .

We are looking for graduates with strong vocational skills and I think that’ s where our future lies . Now that we have our accreditation , this concept can be introduced .

We can also apply for more relevant faculties .

What other corporate activities have you been engaged in ?

At the last general meeting of the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria , I was appointed the chairman of the board of trustees.

I willingly accepted to serve in the association so that I could still contribute my little quota to the advancement of the marketing communications industry .

I was also recently made the chairman of the government relations committee.

What advice will you give to the youth to ensure they have a good future?

Nobody , at the point of birth , decides what he or she wants to be in the future . It is as they grow that they pick a path that they ’ d like to toe .

As they go , there is no guarantee how life will turn out for them . Some fall by the wayside and some become successful .

In my time , work was readily available for us as we were leaving school .

I tell the younger generation to be focused ; don’ t jump from one job or profession to another .

You need to learn to crawl before you walk and then run.

For every level you get to , sit down and reflect ; look at where you are coming from and visualise where you are going.

No one falls from heaven and becomes anything ; it ’ s about planning your life .

You must be ready to deny yourself many distractions and work hard .

Another important thing is learning to be unique in doing your things. Don ’ t dance to someone else’ s tune but yours.

Tell us about your background .

I was born in Obalende , Ikoyi , Lagos , but I’ m from Delta State. My dad was conscripted to help in the colonial army when they went off to war .

After the WW 1 , they were demobilised and my dad got a job with Post and Telegram , in the course of which he got married to my mother .

My mum had the greatest influence on my life .

My dad was a semi – learned civil servant ; he couldn ’ t really afford to send us to school .

However , he supported us as best as he could. My mum was a trader in the market who worked really hard to send me and my two siblings through school .

My parents were average but they provided what we needed and were able to plan and manage whatever resources they had for us to grow up and have our feet grounded.

Both of them are late now .

My parents had three kids before me but they all died .

I was the first one who survived. So , I ’ m the first surviving out of the first four children .

When I was about three years old , my mum took me to the Catholic Church to ‘ dedicate’ me and ensure that nothing happened to me . T

hat’ s why I got so close to the church and still am. I became a mass server and later a papal knight in 1990 .

I attended St. Matthias Catholic School, Lafiaji, Lagos , for my elementary education and St . Gregory ’ s College , Ikoyi , for my secondary school education .

Afterwards, my parents suggested I went to Delta State for my higher school for two years. The idea was to learn more about my culture .

So , I went to Hussey College , Warri , Delta State , where I completed my higher school. Then, the war started in 1967 and I came back to Lagos to take my final higher school examination .

I got into the University of Lagos to study Mass Communication , with a major in print and broadcast .

Tell us about your marriage .

While I was with the Daily Times in 1973, I belonged to a drama group called Neighbourhood Players .

I had heard about it and went in , told them I was interested in acting .

They auditioned me for a new script they were working on titled , Too much , Too Soon , and I was given a good part to play .

A lady , Moji , was also introduced into the drama group .

I spoke with her but she said she wasn’ t interested because she was still in secondary school , though we kept in touch somehow .

As soon as she finished her secondary education , she travelled to England and we lost touch .

Years later , my friends and I went to the Federal Palace Hotel to hang out and I saw Moji walking down the stairs with another gentleman I knew. I went to her and we talked.

I was about 28 then and we ‘ linked up ’ , this time , very seriously. I met her mum and she approved of me immediately. About two years later , we got married .

Getting married was beautiful and it came at the right time .

I had a two – bedroom apartment in Surulere , Lagos , but I didn’ t even have a car , although , transportation in Lagos was easy at the time .

We had so much fun during our courtship that she even got tired of partying .
We have three amazing children from our union and my first two sons are married .

How did you propose to her?
Of course , no one just wakes up and decides to propose without having thought about it thoroughly .
I had juggled it in my mind for a few weeks and discussed with two of my friends, who had met her .

We used to go to the Bar Beach to enjoy the ambience of the sea .

One day, we went to the beach and we were inside one of the shacks, just enjoying ourselves .

I unwrapped a piece of candy and told her to open her mouth, which she did .

I popped the candy into her mouth and popped the question , almost out of the blues .

The interesting part of it was that I didn’ t propose to her with a ring or get on my knee to ask her to marry me .

I got her the engagement ring after our two families had met and we had fixed a date to get married .

Tell us about the first time you became a dad .

We got married in 1975 and she was pregnant in 1976 .

Our first baby was a boy , followed by another boy, and finally , we birthed a girl .

We had our three kids in the space of eight years. The first time I saw my first son, I was very emotional .

I wasn ’ t present in the labour room because I just couldn ’ t bring myself to be there. Till now , if I’ m watching a movie where there is a birth scene , I immediately shut my eyes.

I don’ t know whether to say I’ m not bold enough, but I just can ’ t face it .

I walked up and down the corridor till the baby came before I could finally breathe easily. It took quite a while , an overnight labour session .

She took a break from the legal firm where she was working , although she studied Sociology , not Law .

If you came back to this world, would you pick advertising again ?
I will definitely love to come back and practise advertising but I ’ ll wish to have more time to write. I love writing and I’ ve written a book already.

Because I started out as a journalist , it still haunts me and if I still have my way, I will do a lot more writing .

However , at 73 , I believe I have seen it all and will want to give back to society.

Life has been good and God has been very faithful. I’ m also lucky to have listened to parental advice , checks and controls to keep me on the right track .

Anything you ’ re struggling too hard for may not necessarily be yours.

You must let things flow naturally and make the best of them .

With your achievements and integrity , why haven ’ t you got involved in politics ?

Many politicians are mostly concerned about what they can get out of the system. They promise so much and deliver very little .

They spend a lot of money to get into government , then find ways to recoup by asking for different types of allowances .

Do these people ever see how the country really is , looking at the hungry and angry people in the country? I’ m not built for such a life .

Sadly, bribery and corruption have now become a part of our DNA. If you can ’ t beat them , you are made to join them .

So , even if you go into politics to make a change and be pious with your agenda , it won ’ t work .

How do you think Nigeria can grow out of its present state?
It’ s sad that we are where we are now .

Back then, Nigeria was peaceful and politicians did their thing . They did not make life difficult for us .

Ethnicity and nepotism weren’ t this pronounced . The system ran well and graduates didn’ t need to have connections to secure jobs.

Jobs were easier to get ; transportation was good and things were relatively cheaper .

I would have thought that things would have been improving rather than diminishing .

I think it had to do with the politicians and the military who saw the wealth in the land and plundered it .

In plundering it , they used politicians and other Nigerians . When they left the scene , we were already opened up to cheap money everywhere and we kept grabbing.

What could make sense given the type of situation we are currently in is to find a way for the members of the legislature to agree to scrap the presidential system of government we are running now .

Nigeria will save so much money . The amount of money the politicians make for themselves annually is scandalous .

A time will come when people will shamefully have to say they have failed the country and find a way to rebuild the country for a future generation .

I am very dissatisfied with the state of affairs today .

Why are you more attached to Lagos than Delta ?

I was born in Lagos and almost all the schools I attended were here, except when I went to Warri for two years during my higher school education .

Although I have always lived in Lagos , I am not oblivious of my culture and who I am .

During the two years I spent in Delta State, I got very attached to my grandmother and I used to spend my holidays with her instead of going home to Lagos .

When I came back to Lagos , I very frequently went back to visit her .

What are your hobbies ?

Every Tuesday, we have lunch at the Metro Club, which I am a member of . It is a social club for elders .

The lunch is the hallmark of it and it is very formal. After the lunch , we break into groups and talk about things. I also swim very well .

I have a pool in my house and at least , three times a week , I swim about 40 laps to and fro. At the Lagos Motorboat Club, we go sailing and picnicking and just sightseeing Lagos from the lagoon.

I don’ t have a boat but my friends do .

I party a lot , though not as much as I used to but most weekends , there’ s an event to attend .

I enjoy socialising and travelling because I generally like going to new places .

What’ s your favourite food?
Back then , it was eba and egusi soup but gradually over the years, as I grew older , I cut off from too much carbohydrate .

Now , I like rice, beans , dodo and vegetables. I am a very bad cook but I enjoy well – cooked meals .

If I even tried to boil water, it could get burnt . Luckily , my wife accepted me for who I am . Even during my bachelor days , I didn’ t cook .

If my girlfriends came over and they wanted to cook , I let them cook in the kitchen and I ate what they cooked .

How do you like to dress?
When I was in active service, I loved dressing formally .

I liked wearing a suit and tie. Now, I have elevated to my bow- tie, when I have to dress formally but if the occasion doesn’ t require me to dress formally , I like to dress casually in my buba and sokoto .

Poll shift is divine intervention – Abiara

A former General Evangelist of the Christ Apostolic Church , Prophet Kayode Abiara , has urged Nigerians to see the postponement of the presidential and National Assembly polls as a divine intervention .

Abiara appealed to Nigerians not to blame the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission , Prof. Mahmood Yakubu , for the postponement but to see it as an act of God to make Nigeria a better country.

The cleric said this while reacting to the postponement of the elections on Saturday .

He said , “Nigerians must thank God almighty for this situation because God owns Nigeria and God is aware of the cancellation of these elections.

“ It so sad many people travelled from different parts of Nigeria to cast their votes in their various states and they will be disappointed by the postponement .

But Nigerians must appreciate God for averting a series of devilish ploys concerning these elections by the postponement

“ The chairman of INEC is not God , he needs to apologise to Nigerians.

We Nigerians should also not blame him because it is God ’ s intervention . ”

Abiara urged Nigerians not to shun the elections due to the postponement while pleading with them to troop out to vote their leaders on February 23.

New Lagos-Ibadan railway ready in May, says NRC

The 156 – kilometre new Lagos -Ibadan railway will be ready in May this year , the Managing Director , Nigerian Railway Corporation , Mr Fidet Okheria , has said .

He also said commercial operation would commence on the 85km Iju – Abeokuta section of the new standard gauge line after the ongoing free train ride by passengers on the line expected to last for three months .

The Iju – Abeokuta section of the standard gauge new railway is currently operating a daily free train, which will last for three months .

This is after the Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi , led several dignitaries including Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State and Alake of Egbaland , Oba Adedotun Gbadebo , on a train ride from Iju to Abeokuta on February 8 to signify the commitment of the Federal Government to the new railway project .

Okheria , who spoke on the telephone with SUNDAY PUNCH on Friday , said appreciable progress had been recorded on the railway project.

“ The entire stretch of the new line from Lagos to Ibadan would have been completed in May this year , ” he added .

Responding to a question by our correspondent on what was left to be done, the NRC managing director said the contractor handling the project , China Civil Engineering and Construction Company , would need to lay rail track from Iju to Ebute Meta and extend it to the Lagos port.

He said the contractor had also done substantial work on the Ibadan – Abeokuta end of the project because it had approached the construction simultaneously from both the Lagos and Ibadan ends when the project started .

Okheria also said the CCECC was not expected to encounter much difficulty in the execution of the Lagos – Iju work having secured the cooperation of the Lagos State Government and other affected stakeholders and had jointly agreed on how to handle the various knotty issues.

About 30 coaches , including two sets of the diesel multiple unit , would be dedicated to the new line after the three months ’ free train ride , the NRC boss said .

The Deputy Director , Public Relations at the NRC , Mr Yakubu Mahmoud , said the three- month free train period was also to enable the corporation to effectively determine the number of trains that would be run on the route when full commercial operation commenced .

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo , who was initially billed to grace the test ride with Amaechi , was absent . No reason was given for his absence .

Nobel Laureate , Prof. Wole Soyinka , at the inauguration of the first phase of the Lagos -Ibadan standard gauge rail in Abeokuta , warned against politicising the project.
He said , “ This is not a political vote gathering but my house is somewhere in that direction not far from here and this used to be part of my hunting ground .

So , I came to see for what my hunting ground was appropriated and so far, so content . ”