May 29 handover date, sacrosanct, says Jonathan
• Pledges credible polls • Buhari promises more jobs
• Principal queried over release of ex-military leader’s result
DOUBTS over the forthcoming general elections were cleared yesterday following strong assurances from President Goodluck Jonathan that the May 29 handover date remained sacrosanct.
Meanwhile, the presidential candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC), Maj-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), has promised to create one million jobs in the Southeast by revamping the huge coal deposits in Enugu State for generation of electricity and export.
And for releasing Buhari’s WASC/Cambridge results, the Principal of Government College, Katsina, Isyaku Bello Kofarsoro and his Examination Officer, Kabir Ahmed have been queried by the State Ministry of Education.
On his part the Director of Media and Publicity of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Presidential Campaign Organisation, Femi Fani-Kayode, has faulted what he called “a syndicated media report” which indicated that the Minister of Defence, Gen. Aliyu Gusau (rtd), said that Buhari passed his Cambridge/WASCE examination in 1961 and that they attended Katsina College together.
Also, a coalition of lawyers has called on the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Suleiman Abba, to immediately open investigation the claim by Buhari over his certificate.
Besides, immediate past Minister of State for Defence, Musiliu Obanikoro yesterday said that Nigeria should judge Buhari, by his past and not what his party presents him to be in 2015.
Jonathan who gave the assurance in a speech he delivered after a meeting with the visiting United States (U.S) Secretary of State, John Kerry in Lagos, also assured the U.S. top diplomat of the determination of his administration to ensure that the elections remained free, fair and credible.
The President, who also restated his administration determination to ensure a quick end to the ongoing insurgency in some parts of the country, however, expressed appreciation to the international community, especially the U.S for its assistance to the country in times of its challenges.
According to the President: “Nigeria is a vibrant democracy and the largest trading partner of the U.S in Africa, with more than $18 billion in bilateral trade. Our countries and peoples share a mutual admiration for each other and a deep commitment to freedom, democracy and human rights.
“This is why we are together engaged in a struggle against a common enemy that promotes terror, fear, division and violates human rights, most especially of women and girls, with complete impunity. Winning the fight against Boko Haram in Nigeria and West Africa is absolutely essential to beat back the tide of religious extremism around the world.
“Our security forces have been working tirelessly and courageously to achieve this goal. I reaffirm to Kerry that Nigeria is strongly committed to building the multinational task force to fight Boko Haram in partnership with Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Benin Republic under the auspices of the Lake Chad Basin Commission. Indeed, I called publicly for such a regional approach at the African Leaders’ Summit in Paris in May 2014 and more recently in multilateral meetings.
“We are pleased that the international community is now strongly united behind this initiative and agree that its success is critical. It is equally important that the multinational force receives the significant support that is required to address the threat through our global partners.
“The U.S, more than any other country in the world, has the most experience fighting armed insurgencies. And having suffered the devastating attacks of 9/11, its people also understand the insecurity and fear that is the reality for the vast majority of peaceful, tolerant Muslims and Christians in Northeastern Nigeria.
“This is why I firmly believe that enhancing and expanding various channels of cooperation between our two countries, in the context of growing international coordination, are of the utmost importance. I discussed a number of ideas with Secretary Kerry to move such cooperation forward.
“We are grateful to the U.S for standing with Nigeria and its people in our fight against Boko Haram. I reaffirmed our strong commitment to working together with the U.S to put an end to global terrorism and particularly Boko Haram. Nigeria will also work to deepen and consolidate our bilateral relationship with the United States.”
The President said that he emphasized to Secretary Kerry that he was deeply committed to ensuring that our forthcoming election would be free, fair, and credible. It is especially critical that all political parties abide by the Abuja Accord, which commits each to non-violence before, during, and after the election.
“I made it absolutely clear that the May 29 handover date is sacrosanct. In addition, the government will provide all resources that are required by the Independent National Electoral Commission to ensure that the election goes smoothly. I also emphasized that INEC is an independent body, which makes its own decisions without any interference from the government.”
Earlier, Kerry had said that it was critical and important that the next elections would be held as scheduled.
Speaking yesterday in a news briefing in Lagos, Kerry said that it was important that elections would be held as scheduled and there had to be commitment from politicians that the polls would be peaceful.
“Politicians must honour the peace agreement they had in Abuja whether or not the outcome of election is favourable to them or not. They should abide by the results.”
He stressed that the elections must be peaceful and nonviolent, adding: “We want to say that any Nigerian who promotes any form of violence during the elections will be ineligible for the U.S.visa.”
Buhari made this promise at Enugu West APC zonal rally, held in Orie Awgu Market, Awgu local government area of the state on Saturday.
The presidential candidate who was represented by the State Chairman of APC Presidential Campaign Council, Osita Okechukwu, explained that coal would be revamped with the objective of generating electricity to serve the entire Southeast, hence boosting the economy of the zone.
Buhari assured that he would award the contract immediately he would be sworn into office, to avoid the mistakes of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that allegedly squandered over N2 billion voted for 3D Seismic Study for the coal to power project, between 2012 and 2014.
“We are banking on huge coal deposits located at Amasiodo, Inyi and Leje axis of Enugu Coal belt. We are going to award contract for mining and construction of coal-fired-power-plant unlike PDP that since 1999 promised to revamp the coal fields and 16 years after, nothing has been done.
“We believe that coal is the most abundant fossil fuel in Enugu State and Enugu Coal is one of the most qualitative Coal brand in the world, which means that while some are used to generate electricity, some will be exported,” Buhari said.
The former Head of State said that his objective was to create one million jobs directly and indirectly, from the coal project, as ancillary projects will follow.
Kofarsoro was invited by the Commissioner of Education and other top officials of the ministry to a meeting after the release of Buhari’s WASC result to explain the circumstances of the release and why he should not be sanctioned.
The principal’s office in Katsina has become a tourist centre of sorts for journalists who seek more details on Buhari’s certificate which, has been disputed by his opponents since the flag-off of the 2015 presidential campaign.
The principal, who turned down journalists request for more details, however, referred them to the State Ministry of Education for more clarifications, saying: “I am not in a position to speak further on the issue.”
It was gathered that since the release of the result by the principal, unanimous phone calls were put to him and Ahmed either to praise or threaten them for their courage in releasing the documents.
Kofarsoro was said to have been summoned to the Ministry of Education to explain his role in the release, but he however, defended his action as he insisted that due processes were followed.
Sources told The Guardian that Buhari’s WASC statement was released by the principal to a professor at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria whom the APC Presidential Candidate mandated to collect it from the college.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and former Inspector-General of Police (IG), Ibrahim Coomasse, has said that he was in the same college with Buhari, stressing that the APC presidential candidate was the school prefect then.
According to him, while Buhari decided to join the Army after leaving the college, he went for the Higher School Certificate (HSC) at Barewa College, Zaria.
Fani-Kayode, in a statement issued yesterday in Abuja, said that the report was part of the opposition propaganda and desperate bid to cover the wrongdoing of their presidential candidate whose integrity they have so much flaunted.
According to him: “It has been brought to our attention that a number of online publications and newspapers have published a false story suggesting that Gusau, the Minister of Defence, has defended Buhari on the certificate issue and has said that they attended Katsina College together.
“This is pure falsehood and crass disinformation and it is indicative of the type of shameless desperation and propaganda that the opposition is now indulging in.
“Not only did Gusau not attend any school with Buhari or go to Katsina College, but he has also never sought to defend or absolve him in the ongoing controversy about his school certificate.
“We urge the Nigerian people to be very wary of the antics of the opposition when it comes to this and virtually all other matters.”
Also yesterday, the PDP slammed the APC over its claims that members of the PDP masterminded last week’s attacks on Jonathan’s campaign convoys in Katsina and Bauchi.
The PDP Campaign Organisation expressed shock that the spokesperson of the opposition APC, Lai Mohammed, could come up with such allegation.
Citing alleged discrepancies in the document purportedly from the Cambridge in the United Kingdom, where the former military leader took their examinations in 1961, the group under the aegis of the Coalition of the Concerned Lawyers of Nigeria (CCLN), at a news briefing in Abuja, said that the IGP needed to urgently intervene, using all available legal instruments to ensure that Buhari answers to some critical questions.
Besides, the group also asked the police to verify the claims that some groups were reported to be cloning the permanent voters’ card (PVC) to be used for the forthcoming general elections, noting that doing otherwise would leave the electoral process in serious jeopardy.
Briefing reporters on behalf of the group, its spokesman, Amaechi Nwaiwu (SAN) noted that there had been a lot of inconsistencies in Buhari’s certificate. For instance, he noted that on January 21, Buhari’s Alma Mater, Government College (formerly Katsina Provincial School) “released a West African School Certificate result purportedly belonging to Mohammed Buhari showing that the candidate had credit in English Language, but failed mathematics, which was certainly a required subject for enrolment into the Nigerian Army.