NGF Meeting: Presidency, Opposition Exchange Words

The crisis in NGF is still on as the presidency and opposition parties on Tuesday continued to trade words over the role of Rivers State Governor Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, as chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum.

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First to throw the barb was the Presidency which accused Amaechi of dissipating energy on the politics of the NGF  instead of delivering democracy dividends to the people of his state.

But the opposition – Action Congress of Nigeria and  the Congress for Progressive Change – took a swipe at President Goodluck Jonathan for “trying to frustrate the Amaechi-led NGF.”

Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Mr.  Ahmed Gulak, had while reacting to reports that  a  presidential dinner slated for 8pm on Wednesday (today) was meant to scuttle a meeting of the NGF also billed for the same time today, had also  described Amaechi as a non-issue.

Gulak, in an interview with one of our correspondents in Abuja , said, “As far as I am concerned, Amaechi is not an issue. Amaechi is just a state governor. He  should govern his state and deliver dividends of democracy to his people rather than dissipating energy on the politics of NGF. He should not  exert serious energy on this issue.

“Let us dissipate energy on governance and development rather than the issue of politics in the NGF.’’

The NGF was last month factionalised over the election of its chairman with one group supporting Amaechi and the other backing Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau State.

Jonathan had  been accused of supporting the rival NGF led by Jang, which he had hosted   twice at the Presidential  Villa.

Denying the allegation that the presidential  dinner was meant to undermine the Amaechi NGF meeting, Gulak said that the   dinner was not organised exclusively for  state governors but for all senior stakeholders in the nation’s democracy, including ministers and others.

Gulak said, “They (Nigerians) should know that Mr. President presented his mid-term report. They should also know that Mr. President organised a family dinner for everybody in the PDP. The organisation of mid-term dinner for governors is to assess so far the journey from 2011. You cannot say that the President is organising the dinner to undermine Amaechi who is calling for a meeting of other governors.”

He advised that the earlier Nigerians confined the intrigues in the NGF to the dustbin of political history, the better for the nation’s democracy.

Efforts made to get the Press Secretary to the governor, Mr. David Iyofor, to respond to Gulak’s statement, proved futile.

But  the ACN  and the CPC  threw jabs at Jonathan, saying he was merely overheating the polity by  making the dinner to coincide with the NGF meeting.

In  an interview with one of  our correspondents, the National Publicity Secretary of the ACN, Alhaji Lai Mohammed,  said, “The President is trying to frustrate the authentic NGF from meeting; that is my position.

“I would advise the  forum led by Amaechi to hold their meeting first before attending any dinner.  Mr. President has shown his bias very openly. He has publicly referred to the Jang faction which is illegal as the authentic one; he has publicly addressed Jang as the chairman of the NGF.

“I think this is just  an ambush and Amaechi and the authentic governors’ forum should not fall for it.”

Mohammed’s  counterpart in the  CPC, Mr. Rotimi Fashakin, said,  “ Jonathan is a divisive President;  he is showing lack of tact as a politician.

‘‘We know the problem of the authentic NGF is coming from the bedroom of President Jonathan.

‘‘He does not act like a President of a nation;  he is trying to use a dinner to block  a legitimate meeting  is wrong.”

Meanwhile, the 16 governors, who are members of the Jonah Jang-led  faction of the NGF,  have vowed not to be part of the meeting  called by Amaechi.

The Sole Administrator of the faction, Mr. Osaro Onaiwu, told one of our correspondents in Abuja,   that the members had also wanted to   meet on Wednesday (today) but decided to shelve it because of the dinner.

He said he was also aware that members of the PDP  Governors’ Forum were planning to meet on Wednesday (today) but  they shelved the idea.

Onaiwu said, “What business do we have with the (NGF) meeting? We  were  supposed to meet as well but we decided to cancel it when we heard about the dinner.

“Invitation for the dinner was sent on Saturday and we said it  should not clash with the dinner and that was why we shelved our own meeting.”

There was however confusion over the true identities  of the lawyers   representing  the Jang faction  in the suit by Lagos State Governor, Mr.  Babatunde Fashola, asking  the Abuja High Court  to restrain the Plateau State governor  from parading himself as the  NGF chairman.

When the matter came up for mention on Tuesday, two Senior Advocates of Nigeria – Tayo Oyetibo and Paul  Erokoro – rose separately to announce appearance for Jang, who is the first defendant in the suit.

Also, there was confusion over the identity of the lawyer representing the 4th defendant – the Registered Trustees of the NGF.

Chief Awa Kalu, a SAN, announced appearance for the 2nd and 4th defendants – the Director-General of the NGF, Asishana Okauru and the Registered Trustees of the NGF, respectively.

But F.N. Nwosu also filed a preliminary objection on behalf of the Registered Trustees of the NGF.

Both Oyetibo and Erokoro had, on behalf of Jang, filed separate preliminary objections to Fashola’s suit.

The two lawyers are also, separately, representing the 3rd defendant –  Onaiwu.

The development  prompted Fashola’s counsel, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), to urge the court to strike out the different sets of preliminary objections  by Oyetibo and Erokoro.

Osinbajo argued that the development was an abuse of the court process.

He said, “If there are two counsel for a party, that is an abuse of process.

This is the same confusion in the governors forum.”

But Justice Peter Affen refused to strike out the processes, but instead, adjourned the matter till July 3, 2013, to enable Oyetibo and Erokoro to resolve the confusion.

He said, “I don’t think we have got to that stage (of striking out).

“We are in the spotlight again, both the Bar and the Bench. We should not do things that will further erode our credibility.’’

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