Grumbling Heightens Over Ocholi’s Replacement

By Ikenga Chronicles January 15, 2017

Grumbling and disquiet have dominated Kogi State politics recently over the inability of President Muhammadu Buhari to appoint a minister to represent the state in his cabinet almost a year after the demise of James Ocholi, the then Minister of State for Labour and Employment. Ocholi, his wife and son had died in a ghastly motor accident along the Kaduna-Abuja Express Road on March 6, 2016.

The executive director of the Centre for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution, Idris Miliki, said that for failing to appoint a minister to replace Ocholi, several months after his death, the president had violated the constitution, which he swore to uphold.

“As a civil society person and somebody from Kogi, I am disappointed. The constitution states clearly that there shall be a minister from each state of the federation, who shall be an indigene of such state. If the law states that “there shall be,” it means it is compulsory. What does it take the president to appoint a minister from Kogi State?

“This government practises impunity in the name of due process. I think it is time the APC-led government watched their administration. We are becoming disappointed with their government, both at the federal and state levels” he said.

He said the failure to appoint a minister from the state had negatively impacted on the progress and development of the people because they don’t have representation in the Federal Executive Council (FEC), where “far-reaching” decisions and policies that affect the entire country are taken.

“The number one effect is that when it comes to voting, Kogi has no vote in the FEC. There are some elements of democracy at that level. If there are debates and divisions, they would vote on a particular issue. In that case, the state will have no vote since there is no representation.”

“Secondly, the office Ocholi occupied is vacant and has no impact whatsoever on the people. If there is a minister he would have to appoint some aides and would equally visit his people to know their problems, with a view to making [a]case for them.”

“When Ocholi was alive, he used to tour all the places in the state to meet traditional rulers to know the problems in their domains in order to render assistance to them. All these are lacking today since there is no one there for the people.”

“The state is completely lagging behind; we have no votes, we have no opinion, we have no suggestions and we have no benefits. Even in preparing the national budget for 2017, Kogi State had no input.”

“Now, the Federal Government has made a proposal to the National Assembly; then tell me, who is supposed to present the position of Kogi State? Of course, it is the minister, not the governor. It is the minister from the state who would mention the number of federal roads in the state that need attention” he said.

Also speaking on the development, the secretary of the APC in the state, Tom Adejoh, said the party was equally worried that after such a long time, a replacement for the late Ocholi has not been appointed.

“Frankly speaking, we are not happy about the whole situation. Kogi State in particular surprised the nation in the last presidential election. The margin of votes the APC got in the state was unimaginable.”

“The people of Kogi are expecting the dividends of what they have done for the president. We are mindful of the fact that the president has enormous tasks before him, but for us to have lost a minister for close to a year without any replacement is indeed worrisome. We didn’t even expect that it would take up to three months to get a replacement, not to talk of six months or more.”

“Although we are hearing from the grapevine that the president is about to make an appointment, but how soon will that be? We expect the president to feel the pulse and pains of the people after the demise of the former minister. He should take a look at the situation of the state to make sure the pains and agony of the people are lessened” Adejoh said.

In an open letter to  Buhari, copies of which were made available to journalists, a group known as Kogi Democratic Forum(KDF) called on him to limit his choice of a ministerial nominee from the state to the Kogi East senatorial district, where the late Ocholi was from.

In the letter signed by its legal adviser, Bameyi Audu, the group explained that its position was in reaction to “widely circulated” positions of other ethnic groups, who have continued to clamour for the ministerial nominee to come from their zones.

The letter stated, “The attention of members and our Board of Trustees have been drawn to a publication in some national dailies over the prerogative power of the president on the vacant ministerial slot for Kogi State following the death of the former Minister of State for Labour and Productivity, James Ocholi, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) who hailed from Abocho in Dekina Local Government Area.”

“From the records available, the Kogi West senatorial district is presently occupying two federal permanent secretary positions, while the central is enjoying an ambassadorial position.”

“It is on the basis of the above that we are urging Mr. President to consider the plight of the good people of Kogi East who have no representative at the federal level.”

“We want to use this medium to call on desperate politicians in Abuja and Lagos to steer clear of this issue of ministerial nominee, for equity, fairness and justice. We are in support of Mr. President’s fight against corruption and the fight must be sustained.’’

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