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Election: Buhari dispatches special envoy to Benin Republic

President Muhammadu Buhari, the ECOWAS Chairman, has dispatched the Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama to intervene in the political crisis in Benin Republic as the country heads for election on April 28.

Ms Sarah Sanda, Media Aide to the Minister, said this in a statement on Thursday in Abuja

Sanda said that the minister in company of the ECOWAS Commission President, Jean Claude Brou, met with President Patrice Tallon of Benin on Thursday in Cotonou.

According to her, the visit of the envoy is to resolve the political disagreement which prompted the opposition to threaten a boycott of the parliamentary elections scheduled for April 28

”Benin Republic has been undergoing political reforms aimed at strengthening democracy.

”The reforms includes the registration of political parties with a view to having parties with national spread based on a new legislation that stipulates conditions for registration.

”However, out of the many parties that applied for registration, only a few have been successful both at the Ministry of Interior and the National Electoral Commission (CEMA).

”With barely a month to the parliamentary election scheduled for April 28, the opposition have complained about being deliberately shut out of the process by the government,” she said.

She said the opposition staged demonstrations and cried out to the ECOWAS to intervene or they will boycott the elections entirely.

She said that after initial engagements and reports from delegations from the ECOWAS Commission who visited the country, President Buhari who is the ECOWAS Chairman sent a Special envoy to meet with Cotonou President, Tallon.

The envoy, she said was received by Beninoise Minister of Foreign Affairs Aurelien Agbenonchi and the Nigerian Ambassador to Benin Republic, Emmanuel Oguntuase.

The envoy according to her, also met with the Tallon behind closed door to deliver the message of the ECOWAS Chairman, President Buhari

Sanda quoted Onyeama as saying: “President Buhari remains concerned about the growth of democracy in the sub region.”

”Hence his message to President Patrice Tallon to ensure that all politicians and political parties in Benin Republic are given a level playing ground to participate in the democratic process,” he said.

He said that Buhari stressed the need for the rule of law and dialogue to prevail in the country, especially as the parliamentary elections were approaching.

He also called on the opposition to embrace dialogue and discuss their grievances rather than resorting to boycott of the entire process.

Also speaking, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Benin Republic, Aurelien Agbenonchi also said: “there is no political crisis in Benin Republic as the main bone of contention is the government’s desire for reform in line with the rule of law.”

He said President Tallon was open-minded and willing to carry all political actors along including the opposition.
He said the Parliament would look at the laws again and see areas that could be addressed in line with the concerns of the stakeholders.

The Minister further disclosed that President Tallon also used the opportunity of the visit to again congratulate President Buhari on his re-election.

Nigeria according to him, continues to set the example for the sub-region and Africa in terms of consolidating democracy.

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Nigerians will no longer own cooking gas cylinders – FG

The Federal Government has said it is coming up with a policy that would remove the ownership of Liquefied Petroleum Gas cylinders from consumers.

It made this known yesterday at a stakeholders’ forum on LPG penetration in Abuja.

Speaking, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, said the policy would require that the ownership of the cylinders rests strictly with the dealers and distributors, adding that this was part of the strategy to deepen the penetration of LPG, also known as cooking gas, and address issues of safety.

Kachikwu added that the Federal Government had reached an agreement with two original cylinder manufacturers to deliver 600,000 cylinders to LPG distributors on credit, with a pre-payment period of 18 months.

He said the Federal Government would in the next couple of days commence the clampdown on illegal roadside LPG dealers, while he directed all skid operators of LPG to immediately convert their outlets to micro distribution centres before the enforcement begins.

Represented by his Senior Technical Assistant, Brenda Ataga, Kachikwu said: “The MDCs will essentially create and introduce into the market what we call the cylinder exchange programme, whereby the cylinders are owned by the distributors.

“There is no need for you to decant for anybody that comes in, and that eliminates illegal risks as well.

“You would fill them at the refill plants that would be tied to you and exchange it with your customers because you know your customers already.

“Your customers pay for only the content, while you own the cylinders and control the management of those cylinders.

“It is for us to be able to, at any point in time, discern and discover cylinders that are bad, cylinders that need recertification and cylinders that need to be removed from circulation.

“We put that onus on distributors going forward, to support the safe and standard method of selling LPG.

“I tell you today that Nigeria is the only country in West Africa that does not practice the re-circulation model.

“Everyone has moved away from this because, again, most of the population cannot afford cylinders.

“So, you have to remove that cost from them.”

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Okorocha: Group tells INEC what to do about certificate of return

An Igbo socio-political group, Imo Renaissance, has called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to cancel the Imo West senatorial district election as it did in other states with similar circumstances.

A statement issued yesterday by the convener of the group, Chief Donatus Oparadike, said INEC erred to have allowed the election to go on, given the open show of violence and brigandage before, during and after the election in the senatorial district.

The statement reads, “Without prejudice to the case now before the court and the tribunal, we are aghast that INEC did annul the Imo West senatorial election amid overwhelming evidence of violence by agents of the incumbent Governor, Rochas Okorocha, who is also a contestant in the election.

“We refer INEC to the decisions it took in elections with similar acts of violence, namely, the elections in parts of River State, Anambra, Lagos among others; all of which were cancelled and re-runs held.

“We do not see any difference between these elections that were cancelled and the sham that happened in Imo West senatorial district.

“We hold INEC in high esteem and we expect it to show the same courage it demonstrated in states where elections in some flash points were cancelled and re-run held.

“What happened in Imo West was a display of primitive electoral values by the incumbent governor, who used state apparatus to oppress and intimidate, not only the opposition but INEC officials and the electorate who trooped out to exercise their franchise but were scared away by armed agents of the governors.

“Those of us from this part of Nigeria particularly residents and natives of Imo West, who witnessed what happened during the election are still in shock as to why INEC failed to halt the election in the peak of the violence visited on INEC officials and the electorate. INEC ought to have declared the exercise a nullity, hours after the show of shame by Governor Okorocha and his agents.

“We wager that it is still not late for INEC to render nugatory the senatorial election in Imo West in the same manner it did in similar election in other states with similar circumstances of violence and crude undertakings of a few agents of destabilisation to abridge the will of the people,” Oparadike said.

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French President Macron invites Buhari

French President, Emmanuel Macron has invited President Muhammadu Buhari to the Africa-France Summit scheduled for June 2020 in Bordeaux, France.

Secretary-General, Africa-France Summit, Stephanie Rivoal, said this when she visited the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, on Tuesday in Abuja, NAN reports.

According to her, Nigeria is expected to showcase its projects that have been proven to work at the two-day summit for all stakeholders involved in development of cities.

She said it was the wish of Macron for Nigeria president to be in attendance at the summit because of the importance the country in the continent.

Rivoal also said that the summit, unlike every other summit was expected to provide concrete solutions to the challenges facing cities in Africa.

“I will appreciate it if President Buhari will come with a delegation of people involved in city development,” she said.

She stressed that the summit wanted to provide a forum in which “ministers share ideas with one another on concrete solutions to development of cities.”

“Stakeholders will be there to look at what is the best for the people that live in those cities.

“Besides, there will be concrete commitments by stakeholders and this will be followed up at the end of the summit,” she said.

According to her, issues like how to ensure access to health, water, power and the rest will be discussed and also ways to make the rural areas more attractive to the people so as to curb rural-urban drift.

This she said explained why the summit would be hosted in Bordeaux instead of the big city, Paris.

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