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Nigerian Army: Emulating General Buratai’s Accountability Aura – By Yemi Itodo

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I have followed the operations of the Nigerian Army keenly since 2015 when President Muhammadu Buhari assumed leadership of Nigeria. My interest in the activities of the Nigerian Army stems from two factors. One is the promise made by President Buhari on assumption of office, to tackle insecurity headlong and two, my childhood ambition to join the Nigerian Army.

I must state that I haven’t been disappointed so far with the leadership strides of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai, who has indeed displayed that burning passion in repositioning the Nigerian Army for greater exploits. The various innovations introduced indeed buttress this point.

The achievements of Lt Gen Tukur Buratai did not come to me as a surprise because as one who has held various commands and positions in the Nigerian Army before his appointment, he has understood the importance of accountability as a panacea for service delivery in public service.

The Nigerian Army of today is such that has elicited commendations from and far and near. The Nigerian Army of today is that which is involved in counter-insurgency operations, as well as internal security operations across the country simultaneously and still achieving results. All of these were made possible because of the regime of accountability that has characterized the operations of the Nigerian Army with Lt. Gen. Tukur Buaratai at the helm of affairs.

I recall some years back when some civil society organizations led by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), Enough is Enough (EiE), and BudgIT issued a joint Freedom of Information request, requesting the Chief of Army Staff to use his “good office and leadership position to provide information on spending on military operations across the country, particularly in the Northeast.”

This was indeed the first time such a request would be made to a military institution in Nigeria and as usual, social commentators debated extensively on the merits and demerits of such request. It was even speculated in some quarters that the Nigerian Army was not going to honour the request due to precedence and the likes. But guess what?

The country was stunned when the Nigerian Army responded to the request not just to the Coalition of Civil Society Organizations; it indeed went public in a rare display that elicited commendation from all and sundry in the country. I recall that in response to the gesture of the Chief of Army Staff, one of the Civil Society Organizations, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) in a rare act of endorsement of public institution accountability, was profuse in eulogising the Nigerian and only stopped short of condemning others public institutions for not being so transparent.

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It stated thus: “While we ascertain the level of compliance of the information provided, we welcome Mr Buratai’s demonstrated commitment to the Freedom of Information Act by responding to our request, especially at a time when high-ranking government officials including the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr Audu Ogbeh and Minister of Power, Works and Housing Babatunde Fashola continue to exhibit a blatant disregard for FOI requests by refusing even to acknowledge several of such requests.”

“The National Assembly, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), ministries, agencies and departments should also learn from the good example shown by Mr Buratai by at least honouring and responding to FOI requests from Nigerians, NGOs and others if they are ever to contribute to the efforts to achieve a greater level of transparency and accountability in Nigeria.”

“A quick look at the documentation shows a list of several projects reportedly implemented by the Nigerian Army. Among those listed and displayed, which appeared to show specific projects the Nigerian Army carried out with budgeted funds, include places where operations were carried out; renovation of barracks and military hospitals, spending to honour late soldiers; training and workshops; repairs of some old military equipment; and completion of offices and housing projects. Others are feeding of soldiers; the building of new barracks and schools; acquisition of arms and ammunition and vehicles for military operations; as well as the provision of welfare for soldiers. These are indeed commendable.

I can bet that the response of the Nigerian Army indeed shocked quite a number and silenced a majority that had the erroneous impression that in the Nigerian Army, anything goes as in the previous times where a lot indeed went wrong in the operations of the Nigerian Army. But little did they know that it was indeed a new regime that was anchored on nothing less than patriotism, the sincerity of heart and purpose, as well as dedication to duty.

It is my view that the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai quickly understood that the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari has a covenant with the Nigerian people to lead with transparency and accountability towards attaining our developmental goals. The Chief of Army Staff was also aware that President Muhammadu Buhari took an oath to defend the Nigerian state. He is fully aware that the Army which he leads must be accountable to the Nigerian public hence the entrenchment of transparency and accountability in its operations.

I can go on nonstop with regards to the transformation of the Nigerian Army under Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai. However, I must not fail to mention that some of the projects implemented by the Nigerian Army in the past five years were indeed phenomenal.

Taking the example of the establishment of the Nigerian Army University Biu, a unique university in all standards and designed to make it a solution provider and a centre of excellence for a variety of technologically related ventures such as generation and armament production as well as the development of counter-insurgency manuals for use by the Nigerian Military.

Another example of the ingenuity of the Chief of Army Staff is the recent commissioning of a 200 bed Nigerian Army Reference Hospital in Maiduguri, Borno State to cater for the health needs of soldiers who sustained injuries while fighting the counter-insurgency war. The hospital would also attend to the health needs of families of soldiers, civilians and people in the host community. Also, the Nigerian Army inaugurated a water treatment plant in Enugu State capable of treating and supplying one million litres of water daily to the barracks and its environs constructed by Nigerian Army engineers.

This is aside the numerous inventions of the Nigerian Army in projects across the country. I dare to say that without transparency and accountability, the Nigerian Army would not have been able to achieve results, not just in the prosecution of the Boko Haram war, but also inadequately attending to the welfare of officers and soldiers whose morale have been bolstered in recent times.

It is thus my considered opinion that if the Chief of Army Staff decides to invite members of the general public on a tour of its projects, it is not for grandstanding, but to be accountable to the people and that should be commended and emulated by others entrusted with public offices in Nigeria.

It is on this premise that I give a charge to other public institutions in Nigeria to emulate the Nigerian Army regime of accountability. If the Nigerian Army can do it, I do not see why others should not give account of their stewardship.

Itodo is a social critic and public affairs commentator based in Abuja.

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An Ode and Farewell to Muhammad Babandede, Controller- General of Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS)

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By Omoba Kenneth Aigbegbele
 
Alcaeus (c 620–580BC), Greek lyric poet once said: “Brave men are city’s strongest tower of defence.” Also, according to William Hazlitt, a British essayist (1778–1830), “The world judges men by their ability in their professions, and we judge ourselves by the same test; for it is on this that our success in life depends.” May I also be permitted to use the words of Johann Wolfgang Von Goette, a German author (1749–1832), who said: “The man, who is born with a talent which he was meant to use, finds his greatest happiness in using it.”
 
Indeed, CGI Muhammad Babandede is on the wings of destiny and finding happiness in doing what he has been led to do by his Creator. The 11th Comptroller-General of Immigration will continue to be a reference point, not only in Nigeria, but Africa and the globe for the monumental edifice and global acclaim he is leaving behind on the sands of time and indeed a very big pair of shoes for anyone to occupy when he will be leaving the Service. And, the nation he had served meritoriously for 36 years and some months will applaud him and his monumental achievements.
 
He was given birth to in Jigawa State, Nigeria, in 1963 and obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in History/Islamic Studies and also has a Master’s degree in Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice, a training that really prepared him for the journey ahead with strict disciplinary tendencies and fear of his Creator. He has traversed all the nooks and crannies of the Nigerian Immigration Service, dutifully in all cadres.
 
In service, he respected constituted authorities, including his colleagues and juniors and maintained a lifestyle of a leader, even when he was still a junior officer. Leadership traits have always been in him and whether group or team he finds himself, he gradually becomes the leader of the team and works as a team player, an added advantage that has given him leverage in all his undertakings.
 
He has attended series of Immigration courses both home and abroad and was instrumental to the establishment of the National Agency for Prohibition in Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) where he built his name as a Migration Czar before coming back to the Immigration Service heading the International Airport at Lagos; became Deputy Comptroller-General Operations and Passports, a position he attained by January 2014. He also served as ACG Passports at the Immigration Headquarters between December 2012 and January 2014. Muhammad Babandede was bestowed with a national honours award of Member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR).
 
A leader like Muhammad Babandede is not arrived at easily. His ability to make every team member feel valued and belong is a rare quality. He has been the driving force of the Nigerian Immigration success. Truly, he is one-of-a-kind, even though it is tough to say farewell and good bye, but the guidance and support over the years enjoyed by officers and men of the Service will live in their memory even after they exit the Service, this has left an indelible mark in their hearts. As it is said, Sir, “you came, you saw and conquered.”
 
CG Babandede is, no doubt, a dogged personality, a no nonsense officer that is not scared of fighting against impartiality. He is such a man of honour and integrity, an intelligent officer who knows his onions. In fact, there is nobody that fits or can outdo him since his appointment as CGI as his achievements are not a surprise to most Nigerians who had already known him in his hey days at NAPTIP.
 
Immediately he took over the mantle of leadership as the Immigration boss, the new Migration management scholar went straight to work by internally enacting laws and rules that would take care of the welfare of the officers, rank and file, upgraded most of the training schools for enhanced manpower and training; increased staff morale and high esprit-de-corps, enhance discipline, promotions of staff that had challenges from one level to another. He, as well, built Nigerian Immigration Barracks within the country, built Command structures with social amenities; built Fire Service Command at the Headquarters; graduated a lot of officers and men from Migration Management like never before from the Immigration Command and Staff College (ICSC) Sokoto. A champion and advocate of the “Ease of Doing Business” and the NIS under him has resolved to champion timely cost, effective and efficient services to the various publics so as to safeguard national interest at all times in the course of discharging the NIS statutory duties.
 
In a bid to enhance border patrol, the NIS, under Babandede, is checking irregular migration and as well enhancing coordination of operational activities along the border states with state-of-the-art gadgets and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) equipment among the various border patrol bases to check border crimes and trans-borders irregular movement.
 
The NIS is saddled with the uphill task and responsibility of control of entry and exit of migrants in Nigeria through administration of entry of visa regime, arrival and departure procedures at ports of entry and patrol of the borders. All these are done more efficiently and effectively like never before in the annals of history due to the training and retraining of staff and the use of technology at the various border posts to check these anomalies, the CGI has made collaborating and partnership with traditional institutions a must so as to tackle border security and gather intelligence on the movement of foreigners in and outside the communities across the country and it has assisted in reducing the menace of these migrants.
 
To say you are irreplaceable is an understatement. Your leadership has been so important to the professional development of the NIS staff. Your attitude and leadership have made this NIS an incredible place to work and it has been a pleasure learning and growing under the watch of Babandede who has put his country first than self. Little wonder, there is a clarion call by all that he should continue and consolidate on his achievements and some are saying he should stay till the present administration leaves in 2023. The NIS, under the 11th CGI has embarked on robust technological upgrade, inter-agency and international synergy, capacity building and improved interfaces with all strategic stakeholders, especially members of the border communities to enhance border security and improved service delivery.
 
He has also enhanced services, performance measurement and accountability resulting in effective border security management reducing of Trafficking in Persons (TIP) and Smuggling of Migrants (SOM), administration and issuance of passports and other travel documents to meet International standards to especially the Nigerian public and has also developed people-oriented policies, projects and implementation of reforms never before seen in its history that have reduced physical distance and travel time to get services in hours of operation and reducing waiting time for the services rendered by the NIS.
 
He has instituted the Anti-Corruption Department to end the excesses of touts and passport racketeering and made sure there are no wastages in processing of passports, documents and others.
 
On January 15, 2019, Nigeria’s number one citizen, President Muhammadu Buhari was issued with a passport with 10 years validity, signaling the official take-off of the signature project for the Babandede led NIS management. In particular, the launch of the National Border Management Strategy 2019–2023 emerged as the game-changer as highlighted by analysts and critics alike, who critically reviewed the annual performances of NIS and gave them an excellent mark during the period in question. The introduction of the National Border Management Strategy (2019–2023) was a major booster in securing our borders and frontiers from criminality in transforming the nation’s traditional observation border methods thereby enhancing modern e-border technologies for improved surveillance and monitoring structures in line with development across the world.
 
The launch of the Technology Building, one of the most outspoken and world-acclaimed technological centre pioneered by the Babandede administration is indeed a building to behold and a technological ‘risk’ worth taking by the large heart of the CGI who loves taking risks in order to make not only he Immigration great but the country greater as the glory goes to the country instead of him. The development is significant because it is the age of technological advancement and ICT and the NIS under Babandede took the bold initiative to drive this technology, while having all other military and para-military organizations in our search for an enduring peace, unity and security of our nation.
 
This is indeed a quantum and monumental leap in border management as the circulation of pictures/ photographs of potential troublemakers lead to their arrest at the point of entry and entry denials. But with the digital imaging and its accessories of finger print, retina like scan and voice print and identity disguise will be nearly impossible in the country as having data bank and data processing centre provides access to information at the touch of a button.
 
This makes it possible to monitor all entries and exits at our borders and have real time information on call immigrants. This development will indeed have a great impact in our security architecture. The technology building complex is a national command and control centre for all data coming from border management outposts, be it satellite, earth connecting stations and unmanned space vehicles. The centre receives and gives out still and motion pictures and audio signals in real time, coordinating seamlessly movements within the borders. It is worth mentioning also that the Migration Information and Data Analysis System (MIDAS) enabled the agency to coordinate movement of persons at the four airport borders and upload information on missing and stolen passport to the INTERPOL database.
 
The launching of the world edifice is indeed monumental, as it is a pat on the shoulder of the NIS for an excellent job well done and the launching of the Nigerian Immigration Service on the world stage is a thing unheard of in the annals of history of NIS. This has been done and achieved single-handedly by no other person but Muhammad Babandede which was commissioned by the President on the 4th of March 2021 at Sauka, Abuja respectively. The unveiling indeed provides a unique platform for security agencies in the country to truly synergize and harmonize efforts under one roof to frontally address and confront various national security concerns using the instrumentality of Information and Communication Technology.
 
Accordingly, with this latest world technology, the days of transnational criminal activities will be nipped in the bud. As the NIS has by this feat evolved into a world class migration management agency of the first order and will continue to play its pivotal role in the security and economic development of the country. For, according to the CGI Babandede: “This Technology Building could not have come at a better time than now as it has placed the service in a vantage position to confront the criminal activities of terrorists, migrants, smugglers/human traffickers and other transnational criminal elements who may want to use, or route their nefarious activities through, our international borders.”
 
Consequently, with the construction of this Technology Building; construction of 17 new Command Office Complexes, 37 Divisional Offices, Transit Camps at the Borders, 14 forward operations bases, an ultra-modern Auditorium in the headquarters and Command and Staff College in Sokoto and a whole lot of others too numerous to mention, the NIS under Babandede has indeed written their name in gold and on the footprints of sands for generations to come.
 
As a result of these legacies and milestones, the 11th CGI of NIS was bestowed by the Guild of Civil Societies and Media Executives for Equity, Justice and Transparency (GOCMEJ) with “The Most Outstanding and Distinguished Comptroller General of the Decade” award on Mohammed Babandede. Also, the award of “The Most Reformed Agency” was bestowed on him by the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC), for the Ease of Doing Business Agency in Nigeria.
 
There comes a time and a point in everyone’s illustrious career where you must choose between comfort and growth, between clarion calls from staff and stakeholders to consolidate on achievements. Although it saddens Nigerians due to the rapid development turnaround, repositioning and rebranding of the entire NIS, we are excited for the road ahead, Sir. Also, I’m happy about your new challenges ahead, your absence will certainly be felt, your leadership and guidance have been invaluable, you have been a mentor to so many of us here, and it’s truly appreciated. It will not be the same around without you. We wish we could continue to work together in the NIS family. But we are rest assured that there are more goals for you to accomplish, Sir.
 
CGI Babandede, Sir, as you bid farewell and thank President Muhammad Buhari for giving you all the support to achieve this feat and the Honourable Minister of Interior for his continued advice monitoring and supervising of the NIS and to also thank all the stakeholders from Project Implementation Steering Committee comprising NITDA, ONSA, DSS, NPF, NIMC, Galaxy Backbone, Julius Berger, Artec Practice Ltd, the UN Agency for Migration, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) for galvanizing support globally for NIS, the European Union (EU), governments of Switzerland, Japan, Germany and Denmark for their unflinching support, our gratitude also goes to the United Kingdom for ongoing support for Mobile MIDAS.  
 
We thank you, Sir, for your guidance and support over the years. The knowledge you have passed and impacted unto me and the entire NIS has been so important in my career development. So, let me on behalf of Nigerians, this administration, raise my glass and toast to you. Best of luck in your future endeavours and cheers!
 
Omoba Kenneth Aigbegbele is of Citizens Watch Advocacy Initiative (CWAI) & President, Guild of Civil Societies and Media Executives for Equity, Justice & Transparency (GOCMEJ).
 

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Yahaya Bello and the Fuji House of Commotion Called The PDP – By Chris Mustapha Nwaokobia Jnr

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How more frustrated can a Party that prides itself as the largest Party in Africa be? The Party has failed to lead a vibrant opposition having lost power at the centre some 6years ago. And the Party has become a rambunctious and rabble rousing entity shooting at everything like an age grade village union.

The Peoples Democratic Party PDP has failed to present before the nation a viable alternative blueprint which is the least a credible opposition party should do. Alas the Party suffering from the frustration of losing her leading lights to the All Progressive Congress APC in the past weeks, have chosen to walk deeper down the path of shame. Or how else can one describe the present outburst, diatribe, and ill-informed assessment of the Yahaya Adoza Bello watch over the State of Kogi?

Show me a PDP State and a PDP Governor that has handled Gender Issues like Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State? Kogi has the highest gender inclusiveness in the whole of Africa, second arguably to Rwanda, and that’s responsiveness and civilization in leadership. The PDP therefore erred in qualifying the Bello Watch as having taken Kogi State years back. Indeed Kogi State under Bello’s watch tops the chart in the United Nations assessment of States that comply with the Millenium Development Goals in Nigeria.

Show me a PDP State or Givernor that has managed Security issues like Yahaya Bello has done in Kogi. It is without equivocation that a State like Kogi State with 9 borders is yet the safest State in Nigeria. The truth is sacred and facts are Olympic, so the PDP must learn some honour by acknowledging that you cannot because of politics rubbish a record so evident as noon day. Knowing that the primary responsibility of government is the protection of lives and property, the House of Commotion called the PDP must cover her face in shame, and applaud the young man who has made his State the safest in Nigeria.

Show me a PDP State and Governor that has impacted the citizens in the area of Agriculture like Yahaya Bello has done? Indeed today one of the most functional Rice Mills in the Country is in Kogi State being fed with grains by Rice Farmers in and around the State. And evidently Kogi State tops the chart in the support of farmers in the Country, ask the Central Bank of Nigeria, the records are there.

Need we talk about Religious, Cultural and Ethnic harmony? Is the PDP aware that a multi ethnic, multi religious and a multi lingual State like Kogi tops the chart in peaceful coexistence in the Country? Does the PDP know that the inclusiveness in governance of the disparate ethnicities in Kogi dwarfs any other State in Nigeria? Does the PDP know that Kogi State has the highest level of Youth participation in leadership in Nigeria, and does the PDP know that the young men and women running Kogi State and doing profoundly are eggheads whose commitment to responsible and responsive leadership is second to none?

And does the PDP know that in this period of the Covid pandemic it is on record that Kogi State has generated more revenue and impacted her citizens better than most States in Nigeria because the young man Governor Yahaya Adoza Bello thinks outside the box.

The PDP and her fellow travelers on the path of mendacity must imbibe the ability for frank research, for the knack to poke a deep hole in the balloon of naysayers and purveyors of deceit and tommyrot is what stands out the Yahaya Bello Movement.

PDP and its image makers must therefore seek first to resolve the contradictions in the House of Commotion called the Peoples Democratic Party before seeking to deploy falsehood and perfidy as a tool in her failed effort at discharging the duties of an opposition Party. May these indelible words of Sir Walter Scott ‘O what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive’ serve as reprimand to the kindergarten work of the PDP in opposition politics in Kogi State and at the Federal level.

Chris Mustapha Nwaokobia Jnr.
National Coordinator
GOT YOUR BACK NIGERIA (GYB NIGERIA)

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Rotational Presidency: Yahaya Bello , Ohaneze and Chief Ogbonnia’s Ignoble Effort to Rewrite History – By Chris Mustapha Nwaokobia Jnr

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I would not have responded to that uncouth and demeaning press statement penned by one Chief Alex Ogbonnia and credited to Ohaneze Nd’Igbo, but for the tissue of lies, perfidy and conceit that liter that ignoble effort at rewriting history.

First that Press Statement clearly exposes the Ohaneze disrespect and disregard for Youth. Does Youth to Ohaneze mean the inability to follow the events of history properly? Does blackmail legitimize falsehood? And to what end was that mendacious Press Statement credited to Ohaneze Nd’Igbo?

I am a Nigerian of Igbo extraction, and do not subscribe to ROTATIONAL PRESIDENCY, and there are millions of Igbo who believe that Competency and Capacity must denominate the entire space of our politics as 2023 approaches.

Again there is also no Constitutional backing for Zoning and or ROTATIONAL PRESIDENCY. Infact the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended provides for the freedom of all citizens above the age of 35 who possess the requisite qualification to aspire to the office of President. To zone and or restrict the High Office of President to a particular region or zone is therefore unconstitutional. How does that logical argument of Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State merit the kindergarten response of one Chief Alex Ogbonnia who claims to be the Spokesman of Ohaneze Nd’Igbo? Even more curious is the effort to drag a highly respected Socio-Cultural group like Ohaneze Nd’Igbo in the mud by deploying very unworthy and uncharitable language in that foul attempt by Chief Ogbonnia to rewrite history.

Let me state prestissimo that that 1998 meeting at the National University Commission Conference Centre in Abuja referred to in the Ohaneze Nd’Igbo statement did not settle the issue of zoning and or ROTATIONAL PRESIDENCY. Yes, there were persuasive arguments on the need for zoning but no such thing was agreed upon. It is on record that a few months after, Chief Alex Ekwueme, Chief Jim Nwobodo and a few others outside the Southwest zone were to contest for the Presidential Ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party against Chief Olusegun Obasanjo who was the leading candidate of the Southwest in the PDP primaries. So where and when was zoning/ROTATIONAL PRESIDENCY settled?

Noted that Governor Yahaya Bello may have been in Ahmadu Bello University at the period in our history that that Ohaneze statement seek to misrepresent, must they deny the young man the right to an informed position on the Nigerian polity? Must they continue in the ignoble trajectory that denigrates Youths? When will they understand that in the 21st century information is at the finger tip of the Youths? Sad.

If Zoning and or ROTATIONAL PRESIDENCY was settled as a protocol on our body polity, would President Mohammadu Buhari have been a three-time candidate before he won the 2015 Presidency in his fourth attempt?

If zoning/ROTATIONAL PRESIDENCY were a settled item in our polity would Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar have been a four-time Presidential Candidate since 2007? Would the array of Northern and Southern Aspirants who participated in the various Presidential Primaries of the leading Political Parties between 1999 and 2019 have been? To attempt to blackmail a sitting Governor with deceit, falsehood and perfidy is a no no, and this generation has gone beyond such tommyrot.

May I state without an ounce of equivocation that what those who believe in Igbo Presidency should do is deploy tact and diplomacy rather than blackmail and diatribe, because those who believe in competency and capacity as the linchpin for the President we crave come 2023 cannot and will not be cowed.

Finally I implore the eminent leader of Ohaneze Nd’Igbo Chief George Obizor to helm in the rabid Spokesman of the group for Ndigbo are good students of history and do not deploy falsehood, mendacity and perfidy in pursuit of any worthy cause. Ya’gazie.

Chris Mustapha Nwaokobia Jnr.
AKA Chukwudumebi Nkemcho Nwaokobia CNN.
Convener COUNTRYFIRST MOVT.

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