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PM Of New Zealand Resigns

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…Says She No Longer Has The Capacity To Continue

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Thursday announced her intent to step down in a shock move that rocked the country’s political landscape.

Speaking to her party’s annual caucus in the seaside town of Napier, 42-year-old Ardern said “it’s time” for her to move on and that she “no longer had enough in the tank” for her premiership. She also called for a general election on Oct. 14.

“I’m leaving, because with such a privileged role comes responsibility,” Ardern told her audience. “The responsibility to know when you are the right person to lead and also when you are not. I know what this job takes. And I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice. It’s that simple.”

Ardern became the world’s youngest female leader in 2017 at the age of 37. Her last day in the office will be Feb. 7.

“This is not something we were expecting today,” said Geoffrey Miller, a geopolitical analyst with the Wellington-based nonprofit Democracy Project. “It was something that commentators had thought of and have been asking since the end of last year … and she quite convincingly said she was going to stay, and that she wasn’t going anywhere.

The last six years have been busy for Ardern, managing disasters and tragedies that propelled her to global superstardom, Miller said. From the COVID-19 pandemic and a volcanic eruption to the terrorist attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, he said Ardern has become much more well known than any New Zealand prime minister in the past.

“In many ways, she was the anti-Trump figure,” Miller said. “They both came into office in 2017 … but she went off to the United Nations and she decried isolationism, brandishing an image of being an internationalist or being a globalist.”

New Zealand’s relationship with China was probably her biggest foreign policy sticking point, Miller said, with Ardern always having to walk a line between souring relations with China and the fact that Beijing is Wellington’s largest trading partner.

“But she had to try and find a way forward,” Miller said. “And I think her consensus approach helped with this, but at the same time, she wasn’t immune to these bigger geopolitical trends.”

Meanwhile, at home, things haven’t been going so well for Ardern. Her popularity took a dive in 2022, as New Zealanders criticized her handling of the economy amid tough COVID restrictions and growing inflation.

“I mean, for the American audience it is probably a bit like how Barack Obama was perceived, we globally everyone thought he was amazing, but then domestically, he was, he was less popular,” said David Cormack with the government relations firm Draper Cormack Group in Wellington.

He said Ardern’s popularity took a major hit following multiple, lengthy lockdowns on Auckland, New Zealand’s biggest city.

“She went from this unifying force to this incredibly polarizing and divisive force,” said Cormack, also the former Green Party head of communications and policy, said. “There were still a lot of people that loved her, but there were a lot of people that had liked her that no longer did, and the feeling towards her seemed really visceral.”

As COVID-19 started slipping from the headlines, other domestic challenges arose, including more crime and rising mortgage interest rates, he said.

Now, New Zealanders are saying they want change in the October general election.

Recent polling ahead of the election shows Ardern’s Labour Party slightly behind the opposing New Zealand National Party. Analysts expect the election to be hard-fought.

Meanwhile, it is unclear who will lead the caretaker government after Ardern’s departure in February.

But it is not expected to be Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robinson of the Labour Party, a move that analysts say could add some discontinuity in Wellington. However, there is also speculation that Ardern’s departure will give time for a new leader of the Labour Party to rise before New Zealanders go to the polls later this year.

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Naira Hoarding: Sterling Bank In Fresh Trouble, Faults ICPC’s Arrest Of 2 Staff

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Few days after Sterling Bank defended allegation of hoarding new N200 notes in the vault of  its Ekiti  branch office, the bank on the evening of Tuesday February 8, 2023, faced similar ‘charges’ at its Abuja regional office and other Federal Capital Territory branches.

Sterling Bank, in a communication, admitted that ICPC invited two of its staff for questioning in respect of the naira hoarding allegation.

The new allegation, this time coming from the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC), hinted of the bank deliberately withholding new naira notes from customers, two days away from the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN)  February 10 deadline for return of old notes.

ICPC had, on Tuesday evening, tweeted  that it discovered millions of new naira notes in Sterling Bank’s Abuja offices, an allegation the bank denied in a statement.

Sterling Bank Respond ICPC’s Allegations

But the bank in a carefully crafted response to the naira hoarding allegation early Wednesday evening, said it complied with all complied with all guidelines on distribution of redesigned notes from inception to date.

What the bank is saying:

OUR ABUJA REGIONAL OFFICE

This report is developed for the purpose of providing the true representation of events to the narrative as expressed by the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) in a tweet late on Tuesday, February 7, 2023.

Background

  1.  A regulatory monitoring team visited our Abuja Central Business District (CBD) Complex on February 3, 2023.
  2. The monitoring team, in the company of the branch service manager and other staff, inspected and observed the following꞉
  3. The branch’s ATMs were dispensing all denominations of the newly designed notes.
  4. The branch was in full compliance with the regulator’s recommendations on Over ‑ The‑Counter (OTC) disbursements.
READ ALSO  Sterling Bank Wins Best Employer Award For Fifth Time

During the inspection, the monitoring team made inquiries about the details of the cash observed in the vaults. To which the team responded with details of the branch’s ATM and OTC cash disbursement processes.

To our knowledge, all responses provided were satisfactory as no further queries were raised.

The monitoring team promptly left the premises upon concluding the inspection.

  1.  Approximately  one  hour  later,  officials  of  the  Independent  Corrupt  Practices Commission (ICPC), accompanied by the monitoring team, returned to the branch and removed two of the branch’s staff for further questioning at the ICPC headquarters in Abuja.
  2.  The Sterling staff were held at the  ICPC office and were later released withoutany charges levied against them by the close of the business day on February 3, 2023.

About the visit to Sterling Bank, CBD, Abuja

  1.  The Sterling branch at the Central Business District, Abuja, is a regional headquartersand serves as a hub for 5 Sterling branches and 15 ATM terminals within the region.
  2.  During the visit, members of the monitoring team inspected the vault of the branchand observed the sum of N258,000,000 in N1000, N500 and N200 denominations.
  3. The distribution records from the CBD branch to other locations served within the region were presented for the evaluation of the monitoring team.
  4. The  monitoring team  proceeded to visit two  branches  in  Utako and Wuye as  both locations receive their cash disbursements from the regional headquarters ofSterling in CBD.
  5.  Upon their visits to the Utako and Wuye branches, the monitoring team reviewed the records submitted for the movement of cash from the CBD branch to other branches served within the region.  It is important to state that cash was being paid over the counter at  both  branches,  and  the  ATM  terminals  were  dispensing  the  newly  designed denominations during the monitoring exercise.

Matters Arising

Sterling deems it necessary to point out the following꞉

  1.  Members of the regulatory monitoring team were informed of the sums contained in the branch’s vault prior to the inspection. These sums were confirmed with are view of the records as presented by representatives of the Bank.

The assertion of a “discovery”, as presented in the narrative, is inaccurate and grossly misleading.

  1. All cash observed in the vault of the CBD branch was earmarked for distribution to other branches in the region for disbursement to customers of the bank and the public.
  2. The sum of N5,000,000 each as contained in the monitoring team’s report,represents the cash moved to augment the vault balances of the Utako, Wuye, Seda Close and Kotangora branches (in line with the bank’s daily routine of cash management) and also for disbursement to the public via their ATM terminals.
  3. All balances in our vaults are reported daily to the Central Bank of Nigeria and form the basis for the allocation of new notes in an efficient manner; it is therefore,untrue that such monies are ‘stashed’ or ‘hoarded.’

Sterling’s Distribution of New Notes

From the commencement of the distribution of the re‑designed denominations, the CBD branch has received the total sum of N1,543,000,000 from the apex bankand paid to customers as summarized below꞉

  1.  The  sum  of  N892,700,000  paid  out  in  about  104,821 transactions  across  15ATM terminals between January 6 to February 6, 2023.
  2. The sum of N78,600,000 paid out in approximately 3,892 over‑the‑counter transactions across all 6 branches in the Abuja region between February 2, 2023 to February 6, 2023.

This was commenced upon receipt of the directive from the regulator to disburse the new notes over the counter ‑ subject to a limit of N20,000 per transaction.

  1. The sum of N1,000,000,000 in a combination of old and new notes, wasdisbursed to customers over the counter in about 2,124 transactions betweenDecember 15, 2022 and January 5, 2023.

The current balances across the 6 branches in Abuja as at the close of business on February 7, 2023 stood at N178,670,000.

The average vault balances currently held in the six locations is N30m per branch; well below our historical vault balances.

Conclusions

  1. The  representatives of the  bank duly  informed the  regulatory  monitoring team and officials  of  the  ICPC  of  the  sums  in  the vault,  stating  the  purpose  as  intended  for distribution to other branches.
  2. It must be noted that no cash was “stashed” in the vault of the regional office.

For emphasis, we wish to state that Sterling Bank has complied with all the guidelines on the distribution of redesigned notes from inception to date,” the bank said regarding the naira hoarding allegation.

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MC Oluomo: Remove Lagos REC, Now, Atiku Tells INEC

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The Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, has called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to remove the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Lagos, Olusegun Agbaje, for his partisanship and compromise.

In a statement by his Special Assistant on Public Communication, Phrank Shaibu, said it was curious that Agbaje had insisted on using the Lagos State Park and Garage Management Committee led by transport kingpin, Musiliu Akinsanya aka MC Oluomo, who is a member of the All Progressives Congress Presidential Campaign Council.

Shaibu described as watery Agbaje’s excuse that INEC would not be able to use the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and the Road Transport Employees Association of Nigeria (RTEAN) because they had been barred in Lagos State.

He stated, “The law is clear that only a court has the power to proscribe an organisation. That was why the Federal Government had to go to court to proscribe the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN).

“What Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu did in Lagos State was to arbitrarily announce a ban on the activities of the NURTW because the organisation suspended MC Oluomo, the APC’s henchman. INEC must not promote illegality by working with a partisan organisation which is filled with APC members that are working for Bola Tinubu.

“How could such people be given sensitive materials to be distributed across Lagos on election day? This has already undermined the possibility of a free and fair election. INEC must sanction Mr. Agbaje for insisting on using MC Oluomo’s committee despite protests from members of the public.”

Shaibu recalled that Agbaje was the REC who superintended over the fraudulent 2018 governorship election rerun in Osun State which even the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union discredited.

He added, “Recall that it was Mr. Agbaje who superintended over the fraudulent and violent Osun governorship rerun which produced Gboyega Oyetola as governor. US Consul General, John Bray was spot on when he stated, ‘We witnessed what appeared to be incidents of interference and intimidation of voters and heard reports of harassment or party monitors, journalists and domestic observers.”

Shaibu noted that even election monitoring groups like the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) dismissed the Osun rerun as “fraudulent and anti-democratic”.

He added, “Unfortunately, it is the same Agbaje, who could not effectively supervise a rerun in a few polling units that has been given the task of superintending the election in Nigeria’s largest state with over seven million registered voters. The election is doomed to fail if INEC doesn’t do the right thing by removing him.

“We remind the INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmoud Yakubu, that this will be his last general election before the end of his tenure. We ask him to protect his legacy by removing Mr. Segun Agbaje if he insists that MC Oluomo must be the one to handle sensitive INEC materials. This election must not only be fair but it must be seen to be fair as well.”

Shaibu noted that as of Wednesday morning, over 17,000 Nigerians had signed a petition on Change.Org titled, ‘Remove Olusegun Agbaje as the Lagos INEC Commissioner for Incompetence and Bigotry’.

Agbaje has been under fire for the last one week following his comments over the inability of a large number of non-indigenes in Lagos to vote. While explaining the development on Channels Television, Agbaje, who was visibly disgusted, stated that people of the southeast migrated to Lagos and engaged in double registration hence their inability to get their Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVC).

Responding to the development, Shaibu stated, “It is disheartening that the Lagos REC, Mr Segun Agbaje, has begun to show open partisanship. We find it curious that it is the local governments considered as opposition strongholds that were unable to get their PVCs.

He stated, “Historians and analysts have described this 2023 general election as a watershed. The destiny of over 200 million people is at stake. INEC says it is ready to deliver a credible and free election but one weak link in the chain of command can undermine the entire process.

“We call on Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu to remove the Lagos REC, Mr. Agbaje, as his credibility is seriously in doubt. Again, we call on INEC not to use the MC Oluomo-led partisan organisation to distribute ballot papers on election day.”

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“Do Not Use Me To Insult My Uncle, Seun Kuti, We Stay United As Family”, Made Kuti Slams Peter Okoye Over Ongoing Drama

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Afrobeats singer, Made Kuti has issued a warning to singer, Peter Okoye following his clash with his uncle, Seun Kuti.

Recall that for hours now, Seun Kuti and Peter Okoye have been slamming each other on social media over Peter Obi.

Seun had described the Labour Party presidential candidate, Peter Obi, had an opportunitist. Peter Okoye, who is a proud supporter of Peter Obi and has been campaigning for him had slammed Seun for his opinion and a fight ensued on social media.

Dragging his nephew, Made Kuti into the drama, Peter Okoye told Seun to learn from Made because he is well guided and clean.

He wrote, “Dude, I understand your frustration. But realize that the sky is big enough for all birds to fly @burnaboy and other great artistes have climbed on our great Fela’s ladder to blow. Comport yourself and pray to your God. My God has blessed my destiny & I’ll 4ever remain thankful. I’ll surely keep you in my prayers. Learn from your nephew @Madekuti cos he is well guided and clean”.

Reacting to the shade, Made Kuti told Peter Okoye to keep his name out of his mouth.

He warned the father of two to stop using his name as a tool to slight, insult or badmouth his uncle.

Throwing a shade at Peter, he stated that the Kuti’s aren’t like the Okoyes and stay united as a family and intend to keep it that way.

“Good afternoon, Please do not use me as a tool to slight, insult or badmouth my Uncle… I’m not sure how we are perceived so I should clarify we stay united as a family and we intend on keeping it that way. Thank you”.

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