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Yes, Atiku Should Go To Court! By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye

20 March 2019 - 5:38am


The decision of the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, to wage a legal challenge against the proclamation of President Muhammadu Buhari the winner of the February 23, 2019, presidential election has not received the encouragement of a few informed minds in the country.

One respected voice, for instance, thinks that Atiku should instead join hands with other well-meaning Nigerians, the civil society and like-minded politicians to help to properly set up and strengthen democratic structures capable of hamstringing the repeat in future elections of the large-scale malpractices that allegedly marred the last elections – an issue that constitutes the main plank of Atiku’s suit.

To my mind, the two positions need not be mutually exclusive. While Atiku assembles his legal team for a formidable challenge against what many have dismissed as a grand mockery of the electoral process, he can also, at the same time, join forces with others to build and fortify our democratic structures. The two very important assignments can comfortably run hand-in-hand.

The people whose views do not qualify for attention here are those Nigerians (some purporting to be “non-partisan” intellectuals) who argue that Atiku’s decision to go to court is a needless distraction and pure waste of time and resources, since going by the announcement of Buhari as winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and presentation of Certificate of Return to him, he should be regarded as having been validly reelected. What was required now is for everyone to forget whatever reservations (or even grievances) they have about the elections, rally around the president and ensure he did the right things this time around to “move the country forward.”     

I beg to disagree. Electoral malpractices seem to have been accepted as a way of life in Nigeria, a permanent feature in our elections, so much so, that some people might even express genuine disappointment that an election has lost its familiar character, in fact, its shine, if it was not marred by these malpractices. And so, our politicians now unleash them with the most sickening brazenness – with utmost impunity. Some even add a touch of fanfare to it. And this is largely because of the growing belief that no consequences would ever follow. Anybody, therefore, who would help to lawfully destroy this toxic mindset will always enjoy my generous support.  That now makes it clear that this position has more to do with the sanitization of our democratic process than with Atiku as a person (or politician) and the PDP as party. It just happens that they are the ones launching the major legal challenge at this point in time. It could have as well applied to anybody or any party.  

The judiciary has a pivotal role to play here. As the arm of government that has received the worst form of battering, especially, under the present regime, moments like these when people come to the courts to challenge alleged electoral infractions present excellent opportunities for this very sensitive arm of government to clearly demonstrate that it is neither inferior nor an appendage to the other arms, especially, the executive. It should summon the courage to clearly demonstrate that its loyalty is first to the country, her laws and institutions and not any individual or regime no matter how authoritarian. As politicians approach the courts to present cases of alleged fraudulent practices during elections, including the one filed by Atiku Abubakar, the learned judges must realise that the integrity of the judiciary and even its continued existence and relevance as a revered arm of government is dependent on the firm, fair and just judgments delivered at the courts. On no account should the judges allow politicians to intimidate them into using their own hands to undermine the dignified status of the judicial arm of government.

I want to see every politician (without an exception) who gained public office through any kind of electoral malfeasance to not only be booted out by the court but also recommended for trial for grievous infractions against the country’s democratic process and laws. This is the only way to deter desperate characters who have no respect for any organised systems and before whom nothing is sacred. Aggrieved politicians should have the patience to prosecute their legal challenges against electoral robberies to their logical conclusions and ensure that justice is seen to have been done.

If the judiciary would continue to enjoy the respect and sympathy of Nigerian people, it is totally in its hands to ensure that. The recent move to desecrate and ride roughshod on it through the reckless and illegal removal of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) attracted widespread local and international condemnation, and that was an unambiguous demonstration that the civilised world jealously retains a strong abhorrence of any attempt to intimidate the judiciary and tamper with its independence. It is not about the persons that occupy those offices, but about the offices themselves which will remain long after their occupiers have left. We must protect these institutions with all our will and strength.

If therefore Atiku’s case has merit, the judiciary should have no inhibitions upturning the election that returned President Buhari to office. But if Atiku fails to prove his case, the judiciary should equally summon the courage to say so unambiguously in its ruling, and it would be clear that justice has been fairly served. We as a country should be able to make it clear that we can no longer tolerate the desecration of our institutions by public officers. To continue to allow that is to give our blessing to anarchy which will always return to haunt us and stall our progress as a people and country. Nobody, therefore, no matter the office he occupies, should treat the ruling of a court of competent jurisdiction with scorn. Such a person should be seen as treating the whole Nigeria and her people with disdain and that must be strongly rejected.

Only recently, in September, 2017, Kenya became the first country in Africa to have her Supreme Court annul a presidential election. Nobody saw it as an attempt by the judiciary to “humiliate” the president, because in Kenya, the country and her institutions are higher than any individual or political party. Shamefully, this is very far from being the case in Nigeria, where public officers allow their oversized egos to goad them into the delusive belief that by virtue of their positions they are higher than the country, her people and institutions. While the political parties in Kenya are desirous of acquiring and retaining power, they are also mindful of preserving their institutions which will still be there with the people after the expiration of each regime.

Reacting to the annulment, the BBC observed that “regardless of the winners and losers following the ruling, this is a proud moment for Kenya. The litigation and debate on the merits of the election was done at the Supreme Court and not on the streets.” I hope that Nigerians who allow religious or ethnic intoxicants or both, to push them into lethal extremities whenever attempts are made to subject their “idols” to the dictates of organised systems should learn from this.   

Fortunately for Atiku, he has behind him Mr. Peter Obi, a man who became governor of Anambra State by waging about three years battle against the result of an election which he was firmly convinced was massively manipulated to deny him victory. After a long tortuous legal expedition, the Supreme Court gave him justice and he was sworn into office. He then commenced the second leg of his legal battle, this time, to seek a judicial definition of when exactly a public officer’s tenure should commence; should it be taken that part of his tenure was executed on his behalf by the usurper who had rigged himself into office, as was widely believed in Nigeria at that time? In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court agreed with Obi and his lawyers that the tenure of an elected official should start counting the very day he was sworn into office until the four years statutorily allocated to him to spend in office elapses. Many politicians have been beneficiaries of this illustrious legal battle prosecuted and won through one man’s diligence and perseverance.     

Now, there are Nigerians who consider it unthinkable that certain elections into certain “high offices” like that of the president can be upturned by the court. Some small minds even suggest that such a development is capable of “destablising” the country! This is one myth that must be shattered if we must make progress and build solid structures for our democracy and nationhood.

*Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye is a Nigerian journalist and writer (scruples2006@yahoo.com)

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Categories: audio

How Dispatch Rider Was Imprisoned And Tortured For A N355m Fraud 'Committed By First Bank And Olam Nigeria Staff'

20 March 2019 - 4:40am


Omeli Darlington, a former staff member of First Bank of Nigeria, has spoken about how he was implicated in a fraud of N355million, allegedly carried out by staff of First Bank and Olam Nigeria Limited.

Speaking during an interview with SaharaTV, Darlington broke down in tears, revealing how as a dispatch rider for First Bank Nigeria, Iganmu branch, he was framed as the sole culprit in the fraud.

He said while he was an employee of the bank in 2013, two staff of the bank and another staff member of Olam Nigeria Limited conspired to defraud Olam Nigeria Limited of N355million. He said when problem arose during the transaction, the bank's head connived with the culprits and held him responsible for the fraud.

Darlington, who was a student of the Lagos State Polytechnic when the incident happened, stated that he was summoned by one Mr. Abimbola Jaiyesinmi to dispatch some documents, which he did. 

Narrating the incident, he said: “I was a student of Lagos State Polytechnic when I was employed at First Bank as a dispatch rider through a consultant, Sandy Management Consultant Limited, at Festac. I was deployed to Iganmu branch of First Bank in 2010 and was put in charge of everything that had to do with their documents. 

“On 25th of September, 2013, Mr. Abimbola Jaiyesinmi, Relationship Manager to Olam Nigeria Limited, one of the customers of First Bank, called me and said he had a document he wanted me to dispatch early that day.

“That morning, Mr. Mike from Olam was talking with Mr. Abimbola and they both left the building. I picked the documents and the first one was a transfer document from Olam Nigeria Limited. I assumed it was brought by Mr. Mike. 

“I took it straight to the bank's secretary, whom he directed it to. The branch secretary stamped, signed and entered it into her own register and I had to retain this copy in my own file until when I would drop it for the man that sent me to dispatch it to. I also had to return this copy to him to show that I had already dispatched the document.”

He said he got a hint of the fraud from one Mrs. Kelechi Ogbuehi, who told him that the document he dispatched "has a problem”.

“The whole thing started when I had dispatched the document. I went to three other places. I was at Nigeria Bottling Company, Iddo, when my phone rang. Mr. Abimbola and Mrs. Kelechi Ogbuehi called me and said I should quickly return to the branch that they have other documents for me to dispatch. When I got there, I only met Mrs. Kelechi Ogbuehi at the branch. I dropped all the documents I dispatched, including hers. When I gave her Abimbola’s own including the document that caused the problem, she asked who gave me the document. I told her it was Mr. Abimbola and she immediately said the document had a problem.

“While we were discussing, the manager in the department, Mrs. Mojisola Majasan called me on phone and asked where I was. She asked me to immediately come to First Bank head office in Marina. On getting there, her secretary told me they were in a meeting. I waited from 3:30pm when I got there till 6pm in the evening. Mr. Abimbola came out of the meeting first and asked if I submitted all the transfers in the morning. I said 'Yes', and he told me that if anybody asked me about the transfer, I should say I submitted in error. 

“Mr. Abimobola and Mrs. Mojisola Majasan came to meet me and we had a short discussion with the security head. The security head then asked her what he should do. She said I should only say I submitted the document in error. I was handed over to Mr. Abidemi, one of the security personnel, who told me to write a statement on what happened. He was the one that told me that the document I submitted was a fraudulent document. The document contained stamps and signs from Olam Nigeria Limited. The first one was N100million, followed by N80million, the third one N88million and the last one was N87million and everything was N355million originating from Olam Nigeria Limited.”

He explained how he was taken from one police station to another and how he narrowly escaped being kidnapped. 

“I was taken to Lion Building Police Station in Ikoyi and he said my boss would come the following day to explain what happened and I was detained in the cell.

"The officer said the documents contained all the information he needed and by the time he finished investigation, if anything concerned me, he would call me. Mr. Abimbola said 'no' and insisted that I should be tortured to speak the truth.

"That was how I was returned to the cell. I was taken there on Wednesday, September 25, 2013. On Friday, 27th of September, 2013, the Investigative Police Oficer, Mr. Elegbede, brought me out of the cell and told me to call my people to come and bail me because First Bank and my bosses refused to assist the Police in the investigation. He called Mr. Abidemi to come, and forced him to sign my bail bond. I was discharged, and Mr. Abidemi said the IPO should retain one of my phones so I can could back on Monday. 

“When I stepped out of the station, Mr. Abidemi ran after me and said I should wait for him to call our superiors at the office to inform them. While we were standing, the same van that took me to the station came and Mr Abidemi said we should enter so they can drop me on my way home. 

“Suddenly, as we were going, the van just drove off our path, I asked where we were going. They did not answer, so as I brought out my phone to make call. However, they forcefully collected my phone and we began struggling in the van. I was able to stretch my hand to the ignition key and turned off the engine of the van. I eventually removed the key and refused to release it despite the beating I was given by the Mobile Police and the other man. The incident caused major traffic and attracted other people who intervened.

“The people said they should take me to the nearest police station because I was shouting that they were kidnappers. I was taken to the nearest police station that was at the back of Ikoyi Club. I thought within myself that I was safe, but when we got to the station, they told the officers that I was a criminal that wanted to defraud the bank of N355million. I was tortured; iron rod was inserted into my private parts. At the end of the day, I fainted and the officers dumped me in the cell. I was revived by other people who were remanded in the cell. My case was taken up by Inspector Bashiru. I also explained what happened and wrote my statement. Mr. Abimbola also came to write his statement. Later, the IPO apologized to me for the torture I was given. Mr. Abimbola also insisted that I should be detained saying I was the only culprit.

“The police took me to my house in cuffs and could not find anything. I was detained for another week, taken to court and charged for attempted stealing and conspiracy. I could not perfect my bail bond and was taken to Ikoyi Prison where I stayed for two months before my bail bond could be perfected. Then I had to sell all of my properties.”

He lamented that every effort he took to ensure that the matter was properly prosecuted and those who truly committed the fraud were arrested and prosecuted was futile.

“I spoke with some lawyers and one of them who decided to take up the matter said we should start from pursuing fundamental human rights abuse. He wrote a letter to First Bank requesting for help for me to go to hospital, but they declined.

“After that, we went to court. On February 1, 2016, Justice Animahun of Igbosere High Court, Lagos ruled and Mr. Abimbola, Mrs. Mojisola were held responsible by the court for illegal detention and N17.7million was awarded against them, while N500,000 was awarded against the Police station at Ikoyi. At the end of the day, they refused to pay that money and Abimbola and Mojisola went to the Appeal Court.

"On the 4th of December, 2017, the Appeal Court in Lagos dismissed the appeal with extra N100,000 as cost. When it was dismissed, they refused to pay and sent me notice of appeal to the Supreme Court. 

“At this moment, I have been running up and down and I have written a petition to the Legal Aid Council of Ministry of Justice in Lagos. Presently, we are at the Supreme Court for fundamental human rights abuse. Now my lawyer sent a motion for dismissal, because they are not doing what they are supposed to do.”

Darlington called on the Inspector General of Police and the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to step in to investigate the matter.

As of press time, all those involved in the case refused to give any comment on it.

When contacted to verify if claims made by Darlington were true, Abimbola was unreachable while Mojisola did not answer her calls. They also failed to response to messages sent to them.

Kelechi, on her part, refused to make any comment on the case, denying having knowledge of the case. When also asked if she remembered Darlington, a former staff of the bank branch, she said “I don’t know anything.”

Frank Mba, Police Public Relations Officer, when asked why Darlington was unable to get his compensation from the Police after a court order, said: “This is a purely legal matter. It is, therefore, my candid opinion that the best person to provide answers to your questions is Mr. Darlington's lawyer(s). I am certainly not a fit and proper person to deal with this.”

He, however, refused to answer further questions, when told that Darlington’s lawyer was asked to get consent letter from the office of the Attorney General of the Federation. The AGF, however, said they've stopped issuing such letters which indirectly means anybody that gets such judgment against the Police can't get their compensation.

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Categories: audio

Kawu Modibo’s Constant Campaign of Calumny Against Saraki By Sola Ebiseni

20 March 2019 - 2:40am


Kawu Modibo's usual attacks on the Saraki family, particularly Bukola Saraki, the enigmatic Nigerian Senate President, is not just a past time but actually, an occupation pursued with uncanny passion. A media man of repute, Lanre Kawu ( as he then was) often leverages on the abundant press space available to him in his harangue of the person of the former Kwara governor and all he stands for. This Kawu often does, unmindful of his own reputation, in repeating worn-out allegations which have seen the best of their days, but unsuccessfully, with both the EFCC and the Code of Conduct Tribunal.

One could easily have dismissed his latest tirades titled *"Final meltdown for the Saraki hegemony*" as one of such envy inspired diatribe for which he seeks relevance in his local Kwara politics, even  with unverified outlandish figures of releases from the federation account, as if the parameters for revenue allocation to Kwara is different from the rest of the federating states. This time around, he ventured into national politics, perhaps oblivious of the current political status and stature of his object of attacks, beyond local Kwara political squabbles.

How could Kawu expect  Nigerians to take him seriously when he claimed that Saraki's return to Senate in 2015 was a benefit from Buhari. The question is when did Buhari ever win any election in Kwara state, particularly in his previous three consecutive presidential contests in 2003, 2007 and 2011, until his political partnership with the Sarakis in 2015. 

Besides, Kawu should have sought other means of ingratiating himself to President Buhari rather than claiming that Saraki's acts, as the head of the Nigerian parliament, were responsible for the president's lacklustre performance. For the information and education of Kawu and his cohorts, if anything qualifies Bukola Saraki as the hero of Nigerian democracy, since Buhari's presidency, it is his unmatched capacity to steer the ship of the National Assembly, in a way that he and his colleagues wittingly weaned our democracy from the dictatorship of the president. Not only can these salutary endeavours be diminished by the whims of anyone, they have certainly taken Bukola Saraki far away from the local Kwara boy of Kawu's fixated perception.

The much fuss by Kawu about the loss at an election could only diminish his learning and understanding of democracy, its precepts and workings. While he admitted that the Saraki political group, which has become an institution or hegemony, as he would love it referenced, has dominated Kwara politics for upwards of four decades, one begins to wonder the big deal in the group's performance, however low, in the current elections. 

Certainly, the problem is not of he who lost an election but of a so-called political or educated elite, so psychologically transfixed, in the assumptions that Saraki family or Bukola or anyone for that matter, could never have lost an election. The reality of the electoral process, even in advanced democracies is that, no matter the performance of politicians or political parties, the people often want to try other hands. That is the philosophy behind fixing terminal or tenure ends, with no respect for performance ratings which are often based on subjective political indices.

This is the rationale behind the O TO GE (Enough is Enough) message as the dominant campaign mantra in the current electioneering process in Kwara. It is not a political death sentence, but of the need to try other hands in the process of development. This is the inalienable right of the people in any democracy. It is instructive that Saraki has demonstrated statesmanship in his reaction to the electoral events, while those who should devote their time and energy to their vision in the daunting task of governance, are rather preoccupied with obsequious analysis. 

In trying to impress some powers and justify his new self-discovery, even beyond his petty political squabbles with his imaginary Saraki foes, Modibo's piece is, clandestinely, laced with ethnic cards. It is evident in his patronizing references to "our people" and "our state" which pervades his diatribe, that he reckoned not with some ethnic groups in the state, particularly the Yoruba majority. This observation is strengthened by my personal interaction with Kawu with relation to his perceptions of Kwara politics and its complex ethnic relationships, which the Saraki group has long managed with almost magical dexterity. 

For instance, Kawu's reference to traditional rulers was only to emirs and never a  mention of  Obas, whose Yoruba people are the indisputable majority, or the rulers of other tribes like Nupe and Baruba, as if Kwara is a typical northwestern state. In the same vein, he would have wished that the constitution of Nigeria be amended so that Kwara Central Senatorial District be reflected as Ilorin Emirate. No wonder, part of Saraki's offences, according to Kawu, was also that one or two of his aides or a personal assistant of a minister from his camp are allegedly persons from a neighbouring Yoruba state. It would have been permissible if such persons have been from some foreign land even if Mali or Chad. 

While revelling in what he saw as political revolution in Kwara, he mischievously and deliberately avoided the O TO GE message of the revolution because of his repulsion for the language and angst for its Yoruba ethnic nationality. I had engaged Modibo during the 2014 National Conference, of which we were both delegates, on why he changed his name from Olanrewaju, with which he was known back in school and later as a broadcaster. His reply was that he then recently discovered that his parents were Malians or Futa D'jallon migrants to Ilorin. His other weird comments on the history of Ilorin and its ethnic settings are also in tandem with his disdain for the Yoruba and which has since dictated his views. He has forgotten that in Ilorin, the location of one’s father’s house in the family compound also say a lot in how his father came to be a claimant to being a part of the compound. We live the interpretation of this symbolism for Kawu to decide his own place in his family compound. Kawu may only take notice that, in its fullest essence, the ignited O TO GE revolutionary fire will not be limited to democratic politics but will sweep through the land initially created as West Central State, uprooting every hegemony, even those perpetuated by centuries of falsehood.

Neither the Saraki family nor Bukola is infallible as humans, in the same way there will never be a public administrator immune to criticism. I have only viewed the Sarakis from the distance and only more closely observed Bukola recently with my involvement in the Atiku campaigns. All over the country, he not only added value to the campaigns, which he led as Director General, he also came up as the hero of the people.

In the South West states, for instance, the crowd would teasingly insist on his addressing them in the Yoruba language, which he did admirably. In other parts of the country as well, he was applauded. He exudes humility and was warmly received, contrary to the image of a man seeking obeisance from people as he is being mischievously presented by Kawu. Yet in his mutually contradictory opinion, which smacks of untold vendetta, part of Sarakis' offences, according to Kawu, was the success of the family even when they have no royal blood in their veins. 

The Saraki family and its political machine are  a case study, not only in Kwara but, in the politics of Nigeria. Abubakar Olusola Saraki was Senate Majority Leader during Shagari's presidency of the Second Republic. Not much was known of him in the First Republic and the military politics thereafter but during Babangida's Third Republic, he contested in the presidential primary  of the SDP before he and the likes of Shehu Ya'ardua, Olu Falae etc were by banned by Babangida. I was then the Chairman of the old Ilaje-Ese Odo Local Government of Ondo State, having been elected also on the platform of the SDP, after just barely leaving the NYSC.

Notwithstanding his fortunes at the national level, Dr. Olusola Saraki, from his entry in the Second Republic, has enacted a regime as king maker in Kwara, from Adamu Attah of the same NPN, Cornelius Adebayo of the rival UPN and every elected governor up to his son, Bukola, who not only became governor of Kwara State and successfully took over as kingmaker, but has surpassed his father to occupy the constitutional number three position but, de facto, the second most powerful position in Nigeria, after the president. Without prejudice to the achievements of his predecessors, Bukola Saraki's Senate Presidency has been the most eventful but challenging in the face of the gang-up of the President and his party against him. Where others, older and apparently more politically suave, have bitten the dust, slipping by stepping on the proverbial banana peels on the red rug of the Senate chamber, Bukola has taken the challenges in his strides, giving  stunning leadership for his colleagues who, across party divides, have shielded and made him impregnable by the Aso Rock hawks.

In the final analysis, it seems rather gullible to pronounce a man, still in his middle age, politically dead and embark on singing his nunc dimitis over a momentary electoral hiccups, at a time his star is just illuminating the national political firmament. Their beclouding venom could not allow realistic reasoning that Saraki's commitment to his PDP nationwide campaigns assignments could have taken its toil on his concentration on the home front political activities.

For Kawu and his ilks, it is far very easy to write and denounce political actors, from a comfort corner, especially by those who have never tested and indeed afraid to try their own popularity in elections. One can therefore only advise those who presently feel invested with the people's mandate to be focused on making a difference and shun the distractions from unhelpful vengeance seekers. 

Those who deceived the people with the change slogan at the federal level in 2015, have soon now resorted to different shenanigans and trying to twist the verdict of the people just delivered against their patriarch. Let them not sing uhuru too early.

Ebiseni, lawyer and former Commissioner in Ondo State, is a member of the PDP Presidential Campaign Council.

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Categories: audio

257 NNPC Pipeline Points Vandalised In One Month

20 March 2019 - 2:02am


Vandalised pipeline

Vandalised pipeline

Data from the Nigeria National Petroleum Company (NNPC) ‘Monthly Financial and Operations Report,’ shows that 257 pipeline points were vandalized in December 2018.

This is an upsurge of sixty vandalization points from November’s total of 197.

The December figure is also higher than the 219 pipeline points petroleum products were siphoned from in October of 2018.

Out of this total of 257 breaches, one pipeline point failed to be welded and six pipeline points were ruptured.

According to the report which was seen on its website by Saharareporters on Tuesday, six pipeline points failed to be welded and two pipeline points were ruptured out of the 197 points damaged in November.

The high-octane vandalized points were in Ibadan-Ilorin- 90, Mosimi-Ibadan- 69 and Atlas Cove-Mosimi network- 57.

These points were responsible for 34 per cent of the breaches. In November, the composition of the top three incision points was slightly altered by the Aba-Enugu pipeline, which had reduced attacks in December.

According to the data, Mosimi-Ibadan, Ibadan-Ilorin and Aba-Enugu were the source of 58, 35 and 34 points, respectively. The vandalization of the corporation's pipelines did not halt its prevention of queues during the yuletide season, as it distributed 1.80 billion litres of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS)- 58.17m liters per day.

According to the December report, the Petroleum Product Marketing Company (PPMC), an NNPC retail subsidiary, sold 1.96 billion litres of petroleum products.

This means there was increased demand in December, as the company sold 1.09 billion litres in November 2018.

In December, PMS made up the largest volume of demand, with 1.94 billion litres delivered. About 7 million litres of kerosene and 140 million litres of diesel were sold in December.

Between December 2017 and December 2018, PPMC sold 21.84 billion litres with PMS consisting of 92.36 per cent. In monetary terms, NNPC made ₦241.46billion from the sale of petroleum products in December 2018, compared to ₦146.56billion sales in November 2018. From December 2017 to December 2018, the firm realised ₦2.8 trillion, and PMS contributed 89.63 per cent of the total sales with a value of ₦2.5 trillion.

In its gas arm, NNPC says 9.15 per cent of gas generated was flared back into the atmosphere. It was, however, able to deliver gas volumes worth 3,131 megawatts of power to the Nigerian national grid. The corporation said there was an increase of 12.22 per cent in gas production and it was able to commercialise 62.61 per cent of the gas produced. Gas flare rate was 9.15 per cent for the month under review.

In all, it had a good outlook for the year ending 2018. The corporation made a trading surplus of ₦12.13 billion. Ndu Ughamadu, its Group Managing Director of Corporate Affairs, said the positive outlook was fueled by its upstream subsidiary, Nigeria Petroleum Development Company (NPDC).

The crude oil exploration arm of the government-owned corporation was able to produce 300,000 barrels per day during 2019. Ughamadu said NPDC is targeting 500,000 barrels per day by 2020.

Considering the amount of non-audited deductions made from its montly remittance to the Nigerian government for pipeline repairs and the presence of officers of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) at pipelines, the NNPC and the government will need to change its approach to defending its petroleum assets.

NNPC Oil News AddThis :  Original Author :  SaharaReporters, New York Disable advertisements : 
Categories: audio

INEC Yet To Pay Ad Hoc Staff In Oyo

20 March 2019 - 2:00am


The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says ad hoc staff that participated in the 2019 governorship and state house of assembly elections have not been paid.

Mutiu Agboke, the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Oyo State, made this known on Tuesday.

According to Agboke, the payment has not been made to the ad hoc staff, because their account details were not correct.

"Some of them submitted wrong account details; others used account numbers of third parties. That’s the problem we are facing. As I am speaking with you now, we are in a meeting to sort out the issues and reconcile so that everybody gets his or her money,"he told Daily Trust via phone call.
 

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Categories: audio

Injustice In Ivory Tower: How Lecturers In Ogun College Die In Silence As Govt Withholds Salaries, Entitlements (1)

20 March 2019 - 1:51am



Family photograph of the Osinaike’s hung beside a picture of Muyiwa Osinaike


Titilayo Osinaike and her two younger brothers have not been able to get their late parents’ pension benefits


Toyin Badejo’s husband died after a car accident in 2012



Bukola Asenowo is moved to tears as she narrates her experiences


God’s Times is the Best Fashion Designer


The TASCE minibus involved in the accident of April 28 2016

Video of How lecturers in Ogun college die in silence as govt withholds salaries... How lecturers in Ogun college die in silence as govt withholds salaries...

Workers at the Tai Solarin College of Education are currently owed billions in salary arrears and unremitted cooperative and pension deductions by their employer-Ogun State government, from 2009 till date. Over the years, 48 of them have passed away in active service, with most of the deaths attributable to the hardship caused by the prolonged non-payment. In this three-part report, The ICIR‘s ‘Kunle ADEBAJO chronicles the challenges faced by the deceased before they died, and the frustration of the living college’s staff members as well as their dependants.

THE weather condition on a July morning at Ijebu-Ode in Ogun State was sunny, cloudy, and mildly windy. It was fair weather, and everything else seemed normal.

Students and teachers at Ijebu-Ode Grammar School including the visitors walked in different paces into the school premises. But not too far into the morning, the atmosphere changed abruptly from calm to commotion with the shocking discovery of a dead body.

A 66-year-old man, Abiodun Osinaike, who had worked at Tai Solarin College of Education, TASCE, until his retirement in 2017 was found lifeless behind the wheels of his beige-coloured 2001 Nissan Pathfinder.

Finding him at the location was no surprise. For years, the deceased had paid frequent visits to the premises of Ijebu-Ode Grammar School to participate in the annual marking exercises of the West African Examinations Council and the National Examination Council.

Though a former chief lecturer, head of the Department of Chemistry, and dean of the School of Science at the college, Osinaike could barely afford to feed his wife and three children because of the protracted non-payment of salaries by his employer, the Ogun State government.

To make ends meet, he joined members of the National Youth Service Corps, young graduates and secondary school teachers who earned paltry wages from marking answer scripts for ordinary level examinations. He also wrote science textbooks, which he marketed to schools.

Mojisola, Osinaike’s wife who taught at Christ Apostolic Church in Degun, had always relieved him of many of his financial burdens. But on August 22 2012, she had an asthma attack and was admitted at the Ogun State University Teaching Hospital. Three Wednesdays later, she died—despite a loan obtained by her husband from Guaranty Trust Bank to prevent her death.

“Ever since she died, things have been very tough for him,” says Titilayo Modupe, 34, Osinaike’s eldest child.

She recalls her dad slipping continuously into despair and needing to be constantly consoled. He was overwhelmed with worry, gloom, and financial burden. Titilayo is certain her father died of depression.

Her father’s misfortune was not unexpected, she said. The Ogun State government had owed him full salaries for over two years, part salaries for over four years, as well as pension arrears among other entitlements.

And all the over 300 individuals still working at the Tai Solarin College of Education (TASCE) are similarly affected. At the last count, other 48 former staff of TASCE  have died in active service—the deaths of most of whom may be directly attributed to privation and depression.

There are  89 colleges of education in Nigeria approved by the National Commission for Colleges of Education, NCCE. Of these, three are situated in Ogun State, and TASCE is the only one owned by the state government.

Family photograph of the Osinaike’s hung beside a picture of Muyiwa Osinaike

First established in 1978 as the Ogun State College of Education, TASCE was upgraded to a university of education in 2005 after approval by the Nigerian Universities Commission. Then in  October 2008, the college was disjointed from the university and relocated from Ijagun to a new campus in Omu-Ijebu. This separation commonly referred to as ‘disarticulation’ began the misfortune of the college workers.

In 1999, after its accreditation exercise, the NCCE rated TASCE as the best state College of Education. Over the last decade, however, the institution’s rating has dropped.

Life without a father, mother, or job

Since the death of both parents, staying heads above water has been tough for Titilayo and her orphaned brothers: Muyiwa and Michael. Life would have been more difficult had her dad not built a house of his own before the change of fortune. She imagines they would have ended up homeless or at best as beggars, having received very little help from relatives.

At their residence on Femi Ogunade Street, Irewon, Ijebu-Ode, Titilayo flips through a set of documents belonging to her parents as she narrates her family’s ordeal. One of those documents is her dad’s payslip from June 2010. Despite a total earning of N206,492, it shows that he was only entitled to receive N33,606—after numerous deductions, including loan refunds, which were not remitted to the cooperative society’s accounts.

The three children have not been able to get either of their parents’ entitlements from the state government. The eldest daughter discloses that while all the requirements for their mother have been satisfied, there is some difficulty getting access to some of their dad’s documents, such as specific payslips and letter of employment.

Suddenly becoming the family’s breadwinner has not been easy for Titilayo as she has been mostly without a job since she graduated from the Olabisi Onabanjo University’s Industrial and Labour Relations Department in 2011. Last year, she was employed as a supervisor by a private company based in Lagos, but was fired after excusing herself for two weeks to make arrangements for her dad’s funeral.

Now they depend on returns from her petty soft drink business and the meagre salary of Muyiwa who works with a small-scale enterprise in the town. Yet their joint earnings aren’t enough to cater for the academic needs of Michael, the youngest one who studies Entrepreneurship at the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta.

“We don’t have means to pay his house rent and school fees once they call off the strike,” says desolate Titilayo as she flings her arms, “but we are still hoping on God that he will surely do something for us.”

Titilayo Osinaike and her two younger brothers have not been able to get their late parents’ pension benefits

Left in the lurch

The administration of Governor Ibikunle Amosun often touts itself as a respecter of the dignity of labour and one that is committed to paying workers’ salaries on time. But this claim comes to question when put against the fact that workers of TASCE are left without pay for many years.

For that long, staff members of the college haven’t been paid their full salaries among other entitlements — starting from the Gbenga Daniel-led administration and now the Ibikunle Amosun-led government, despite the current administration collecting at least three tranches of bail-out fund of N22 billion and being entitled to the last tranche of N17.3 billion. It is also in spite of the state generating the 3rd highest internal revenue in the country and the 7th highest total revenue. In the past seven and a half years, Amosun’s administration has also not paid its part of the contributory pension scheme.

All appeals made to the state governor, including getting highly respected indigenes of the state—such as former president Olusegun Obasanjo, Wole Soyinka, Bola Ajibola—as well as traditional and religious councils to lobby, have so far went to nought. The government, according to public records, owes up to N4.3 billion in Consolidated Tertiary Institutions Salary Structure (CTISS) and Consolidated University Academic Salary Structure (CUASS) arrears for the period of July 2009 to December 2018.

The situation is worsened by the school’s very little internally generated revenue and alleged mismanagement of funds by the college provost, Adeola Kiadese, and acting bursar, Gbenga Olusanya.

Amosun has claimed that salaries were not paid because the list of staff submitted to the government doubles the stated population of students, which he put at 3,000 workers to 1,600 students. But this has been denied by workers. Instead, they say the institution had 442 staffers in 2008 when it was disarticulated, while it presently has 349 workers (180 of whom are lecturers) and 3,690 students in all. The claim of the staff has been confirmed recently by the secretary to the state government, Taiwo Adeoluwa.

The infrequent payment of salaries has affected many households, none yet to receive the entitlements due to them despite fulfilling stated requirements. One of those households is the family of Popoola Adeoye Ebenezer, a senior staff member who died on March 18, 2013, as a result of lung cancer. He was operated at the University College Hospital, Ibadan, but could not follow through with the prescribed chemotherapy sessions. His request for financial assistance from the college management to fund this was not granted.

His wife, Popoola Abolade Iyabode, 55, who teaches at the Tai Solarin University of Education Primary School, now relies on her meagre salary and assistance from colleagues to keep the family going, including three children Popoola left behind.

There is also the family of Toyin Badejo, who worked at the college as a gardener before his death in 2012, following his involvement in a road accident on his way to work. His wife, Yemisi, whom he married in 1998, says she is 33 years old, but looks at least ten years older. Since her husband’s death, she has been catering for the three children by offering to assist well-to-do families with laundry and other house chores.

Toyin Badejo’s husband died after a car accident in 2012

In 2017, her former landlord asked her to evacuate after owing months of rent, at the rate of N2000 per month. Where she presently lives with her daughter, Funmilayo, in the less accessible parts of Onirugba, Ijebu-Ode, Toyin pays N1500 every month. Dare, her first-born graduated from Government Technical College in 2016, but has not been able to proceed to a tertiary institution. In the mean time, he is apprenticed to a barber in Ago-Iwoye. Funmilayo, also a high school graduate, is learning tailoring till there is enough to send her to the university; and Titi, the last born was sent to live with a relative just to reduce the number of mouths to be fed.

A pension fund administrator at Pensions Alliance Limited, Wale Sodimu, explains that private companies that administer pension funds (PFAs) often pay retirees their deductions within 21 working days of receiving a response from the employer. The retirees are to submit their retirement letter, passport photographs, proof of age and means of identification, but if they are deceased then the next of kin has to visit the PFA for access to the funds.

Sodimu adds that, though he cannot speak on why government may be to slow to keep its end of the bargain, the bureaucracies and inefficiencies often associated with public offices do not characterise the private sector.

Meanwhile, Daniel Aborisade, chairman of the Coalition of TASCE Staff, says union members have been called a lot of times to accompany families of deceased workers to the pension office in Abeokuta, but they are always deluged with finicky requirements. The office also capitalises on monies owed to cooperative societies and requests that the debts be firstly resolved.

“I say how much are they owing. If someone is owing N700,000 at the cooperative, and you are owing that person almost N17 million, why can’t you deduct from source and pay the remaining?” Aborisade wonders. “But everything still boils down to the fact that government is not interested in staff welfare. Government doesn’t want to pay. They are not paying those of us who are alive. So they will not want to pay the families of the deceased.”

The burden of educating a fatherless trio

One prominent thing about the bereaved is their ability to remember exactly what day their loved ones died, regardless of how old the event. For Bukola, 40, the wife of late Adeyemi Adekunle Asenowo who worked at TASCE as a security operative for ten years, the date that sticks is Saturday, February 1, 2014.

Asenowo had been working for the learning institution since 2004. One day in 2012, while returning home from work, he was involved in a road accident close to Ijebu-Ode which damaged bones on his left arm. Knowing the school’s cooperative society lacked money to entertain loan requests, he wrote to the management for a salary advance to undergo surgery. But his request was denied, ostensibly due to a shortage of funds. Two years later, he passed away, his body sent to Ijebu-Igbo, a neighbouring community, for burial.

Even before his death, Asenowo’s family struggled to cater for basic needs, including square meals. He always complained about not receiving salaries, and whenever he received little payments they went into transporting him to and from work. Bukola, inevitably, learnt very early to be the family’s financial cornerstone.

Despite preparing and submitting documents asked of her, she has not received any benefits from the school or government, and has since resigned to fate—anticipating the day her children will become self-sufficient.

Bukola had three children for Asenowo: Fowowe, 12, Martins Fowosere, 10, and Fowoke, 8. The eldest two are enrolled at St. Anthony Primary School, and their mom is worried about expenses for their continuous schooling. “Everything is in God’s hands,” she concludes, after letting out a hollow, bitter laugh.

Martins, she observes, has shown himself to be exceptional brilliant, such that his teachers decided that he should skip primary five. His dad had fondly called him ‘doctor’, kindling in him a strong interest in a career in medicine. On the other hand, his elder brother has decided to become an engineer.

“Their dad had always called the youngest Fowoke [one who blesses another with money], but he did not wait around to live out the name,” says Bukola with a drawn face as she clutches her measuring tape.

Bukola Asenowo is moved to tears as she narrates her experiences

Proceeds from her tailoring business, “God’s Times is the Best Fashion Designer”, are evidently not enough to see her three children through schooling among other crucial expenses. What’s more, she has received no financial help from relatives and has been managing on her own.

“There is nothing left to be said except that the government should help us… because the children are still small and still have a long way to go. If they can have mercy on us… because… not up to two years after his death, his family asked me to remarry,” she says, contagious tears beginning to swell up. “But which man do I want to give three children? Those who have not even borne their own burdens successfully?

“I will be glad if the government can help… for the sake of my children’s education.”

God’s Times is the Best Fashion Designer

A widow’s curse

According to many cultures, curses uttered by the oppressed are more likely to be fulfilled compared to those from ordinary men. Certain tribes in Nigeria further attach special weight to harsh prayers made by widows. Perhaps Bukola Babatunde,* 45, was aware of this. Perhaps not. But one thing is clear: a conversation about her late husband stirred within her such strong emotions that she could not hold back cursing all who contributed to the heartbreak.

On Thursday, April 28 2016, Babatunde, a senior member of staff at TASCE, did not have his breakfast before leaving for the workplace, hoping to eat upon his return. He also left with only N300, after attempting to persuade his wife to hold on to all of the N500 they both had. Being a subsistence farmer, he had tilled some land for planting by the time it was evening. But the planting never took place.

He was involved in a road accident alongside colleagues, all in one of the college’s minibuses; but he suffered the greatest injury and had to be rushed to the state general hospital. It was thought that he only suffered an injury to arm but, as not all necessary tests were immediately conducted by the college, they discovered more than a year later that he in fact had his liver damaged too. A request for salary advance made to the provost for the purpose of treatment had been denied.

When her husband passed on, Bukola was giving six months of leave from work. With that free time, she took steps to get her benefits from the school and the Ogun State government, frequenting the bursary, the Ministry of Justice, the State High Court and so on. But till today, her husband’s owed salaries, pension and gratuities have still not been paid.

Babatunde had borrowed the sum of N300,000 in the past from the school’s cooperative society. Though the refund was deducted from his salaries over the years, it was not remitted to the society’s account. Now, the state government says she has to clear the debt before progress can be made, and the society is equally asking her to pay the debt before she can be given clearance. But she does not have up to that; and even if she miraculously gets the money, she asks rhetorically, how sure is she that she will get what is due to her soon after paying?

Before his demise, Babatunde always kept hope alive about his condition and the difficulty experienced at work. His wife owned a shop close to the Nigerian Television Authority’s premises and would have leased it out for extra cash but for his persistence. They will soon pay, he repeatedly said. “I don’t want you to give it to someone else such that you won’t be able to easily get it back once our entitlements are paid.”

Bukola and her late husband had been married since 1996 and she says she can never find someone like him again. His kind and generous nature did not only endear her enough to tie the knot with him, it also caused her to convert to Christianity. Her religious beliefs, the lessons he taught her, and her constant reading of the Bible are what keep her going.

Nevertheless, whenever she thinks deeply about it, she cannot help but speak strongly against those who contributed to her family’s tragic fate. “If it is true that God exists,” she says with a high-pitched, teary voice, “all the people who played a role in the death of my husband will have their reputation tarnished.

“They hurt me greatly, and may God do the same for them. On the issue of my husband’s money, I have told them it is oronro [bile]. Nobody can misuse it, and I will get it while I am still breathing. I will make use of it. They have to pay because my husband worked for it. It is his sweat.”

The TASCE minibus involved in the accident of April 28 2016

The unkept promise and the nagging deal

In her circle of friends and coworkers, Bukola is more commonly known as ‘Mama Ibeji’ (mother of twins). This is because she has given birth to two sets of identical twins, in addition to Sarah, a first-born daughter. While the first set of twins are enrolled in a secondary school, the second is still in primary school.

Their mum laments that paying the school fees, alongside other regular expenses such as house rent, has been gruelling, as she has to occasionally pay visits to the school administrators to plead that her kids not be sent home for defaulting.

Sarah graduated from a secondary school in Ijebu-Ode in 2017 but, for lack of financial resources, has yet to proceed to a higher institution. She has rather been attending tutorial lessons so as not to sit idly at home.

When she viewed her NECO (National Examination Council) result in September that year, she excitedly shared the good news over the phone with her dad, admitted at the time at Lagos University Teaching Hospital.

“Daddy! I cleared my NECO,” Bukola recalls her saying, and her husband had assured her he would continue working on her admission to Ahmadu Bello University once he returns from the hospital. But that promise could not be kept, as death whisked him not long after.

Before he died, Sarah had made a deal with her dad she would study to become a medical doctor. Two years later, she has refused to change her dream, despite obvious financial challenges. “I told her to consider Nursing or Microbiology, but she disagreed,” says her mum.

“I sometimes think she is naive. Where exactly does she want us to get the money? Let us just get the degree and carry on with our lives.”

*Her real name, as well as her late husband’s, is not disclosed in order not to put her job security at risk.

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House Of Reps To Probe Military Involvement In 2019 Elections

20 March 2019 - 1:49am


Daily Trust

The House of Representatives has set up a committee to probe the activities of officers of the Nigerian Army during the 2019 elections.

At the plenary session on Tuesday, the House said an ad hoc committee would be set up to investigate the role of the military in the 2019 general election.

The duty of the committee is to undertake comprehensive investigation of the deployment of soldiers during the polls.

The committee would also investigate allegations of abuse and intimidation levelled against soldiers during the elections.

The committee has four weeks to report back to the House.
 

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Students Injured As Cultists Invade Secondary School In Edo

20 March 2019 - 1:48am


Academic activities at Ihogbe College and Oba Akenzua Secondary School in Benin, the Edo State capital, were disrupted on Tuesday as suspected cultists invaded the premises.

Students were attacked with knives, cutlasses, and other dangerous weapons, and many sustained injuries in the incident.

Students and teachers scampered for safety as the hoodlums invaded both buildings in the school, located along ICE Road, off Wire Road in Benin.

One of the students was fatally injured and rushed to the hospital.

According to eyewitnesses, the suspected cultists were heading for a target in the area, when some students who are members of junior rival cult group started throwing stones at them.

Consequently, the cultists stormed the school and started inflicting injuries on any student in sight.

Following the incident, heavy security was drafted to the school, and two people have been arrested in connection to the incident.

The suspects, however, claimed they were innocent.
 

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INEC Challenges Court Order Stopping Collation Of Results In Bauchi

20 March 2019 - 1:42am


The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has filed a motion challenging the order of a Federal High Court in Abuja, directing it to stop the collation of the governorship election results in Bauchi State. 

Festus Okoye, INEC’s National Commissioner, Information and Voter Education, said the commission has challenged the court for granting the order.

Speaking to NAN, Okoye said: "The motion has not been taken. Until that motion is taken, the court order barring us from collating the result of Tafawa Balewa area subsists."

On Tuesday, a Federal High Court in Abuja barred INEC from resuming the collation and announcement of the governorship election result in Bauchi.

The commission had halted the scheduled collation of the governorship election result in the state, which was to resume on Tuesday.

However, the commission said it would continue with the result for the state house of assembly election as that was not covered by the court order.
 

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Obasanjo Earns N40,000 As NOUN Facilitator, Says VC

20 March 2019 - 1:41am


Former President Olusegun Obasanjo earns N40,000 annually as a supervisor at the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), Abeokuta Study Centre, Ogun State, Professor Abdalla Adamu, the institution’s Vice-Chancellor, disclosed on Tuesday.

He said while addressing journalists at a press briefing in Abuja, on the 8th convocation of the institution.

According to Adamu, Obasanjo, who is a Ph.D. holder in Christian Theology, has two students in Theological Studies attached to him.

He said 20,799 students would be awarded graduate and postgraduate degrees, with 103 graduates finishing with first class honours.

When asked about the former President's performance after being employed by the university in 2018, the VC said Obasanjo collated and analyzed in Borno during his research work and now had an office in Abeokuta and earned N40,000 yearly.

Adamu also disclosed that the 20,799 students for convocation were divided into 15,642 for graduate degrees and 5,157 for postgraduate degrees.

His words: “He (Obasanjo) has two students attached to him in Theological Studies. We gave him an office in Abeokuta and the salary is N40,000 a year as a facilitator.

“The former President did his fieldwork in Borno State during the heat of the insurgency; going to collect and analyse data. We have another big fish that we have appointed as a facilitator and we will announce him when we have given him an appointment letter.

“The 20,799 students for convocation are the highest in our history and the highest single graduation of students in a year in Nigeria."
 

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Bandits In Zamfara Better Equipped Than Military, Says Yari

20 March 2019 - 1:31am


Governor of Zamfara state, Abdulaziz Yari

Governor of Zamfara state, Abdulaziz Yari

Abdulaziz Yari, Governor of Zamfara State, says bandits disturbing the peace of his state are better equipped that the military trying to counter them. 

He stated this after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja on Tuesday.

He also stressed that there would be no more negotiations as it had not brought any favourable outcome.

He said: “Well, I have told my people that that will no longer take place during my time because I have done that three times but it did not work. This is in the sense that we know their capacity.

“For instance, during the first dialogue, they invited some of our team, Army, DSS, Police and my Chief Security Officer, as well as some traditional rulers representatives and we have seen what they have.

“They are in control of the kind of weapons that the Command In Zamfara State does not have.

“In one armoury alone, they have over 500 AK47; we saw it. Our people were even given the chance to take pictures.

“But when we said we will dialogue, offer amnesty, that they should surrender their arms, I can tell you till date, we did not get up to 90 AK47. So, it is a deceit. That is why I said no more dialogue during my tenure.

“During the dry season, they will look for dialogue because they know the security can get access to anywhere in the forest and they have no place to hide. But when the rainy season comes and the forest becomes thicker, they will return to their normal practice.

“That is why I said there has to be a show of force before anything else. I know that in any war, eventually, you have to come to the table and dialogue, but the situation we are right now, sincerely speaking, a dialogue is not needed at this point in time.”

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Taraba Govt Relaxes Curfew

20 March 2019 - 1:30am


The Taraba State government has lifted the curfew imposed on residents of Jalingo.

The government imposed the curfew on the state capital to forestall the escalation of the post-election violence that broke out almost immediately after the results of the governorship election was announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

This was contained in a statement by Alhaji Hassan Mijinyawa, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Darius Ishaku.

Security agents were also directed to continue their surveillance and patrols of the state.
 

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Labour Party Sues INEC Over Exclusion From Fact-Finding Meeting In Rivers

19 March 2019 - 12:57pm


Labour Party has filed a suit against the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) over its exclusion from a meeting with the fact-finding committee sent to Rivers State to investigate the irregularities that marred elections in the state.

In a suit filed before a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on Tuesday marked FHC/AB/306/2019, the Labour Party and its governorship candidate in the March 9 governorship and house of assembly elections, Isaac Wonwu, are praying to court to determine whether INEC was right in excluding them from meeting INEC’s fact-finding team that was sent to the state to look into the disputes arising from the polls.

The party is also praying the court to stop the electoral body from proceeding, as it had announced, with the resumption and declaration of the results of the polls until the matter has been determined.

INEC has scheduled Wednesday, March 20, 2019, for the announcement of the result of the March 9 elections held in the state.

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'I Was Feeding My Mum' — Survivor Recounts Final Minutes Before Lagos Building Collapse

19 March 2019 - 12:30pm




Looking on at what was once her home, which has now been replaced by dust, machines and red tapes, one of the survivors of the Ita Faji building collapse, Ibiduni Ayeni, sat down with SaharaReporters to narrate the events leading up to the building collapse.

Just Before It Happened...

With her clenched teeth and watery eyes, Ayeni recalled the morning of the sad event. 

"I was one of those affected by the collapse. That morning, I was at home. I usually go to work but that day, I had not left home at that time," she told SaharaReporters.

"Just before it happened, I wanted to give my mother food because she was sick. She said she wanted to eat Semo, so I made it and gave it to her. The next thing I prepared to do was to give her a bath. She had just a singlet on.”

Our Landlord Knew

Chronicling events as they happened minutes before the building went down, Ayeni said: "I went to the balcony to pick a towel, when I noticed the landlord and another woman, an Alhaja. She was complaining to the landlord that our house was tilting and that some parts had already started collapsing.

"There is a school on the third floor. I stay on the second floor and could see the Alhaja and the landlord as they came to complain to the woman who owned the school, Aunty Esther, telling her that the house was beginning to collapse. As a result, Aunty Esther offered to follow both of them downstairs to see what they were talking about.”

Minutes Too Late...

Of the 20 who lost their lives in the incident, about 16 were pupils of the primary school that occupied the third floor. Ayeni told SaharaReporters of the lost chance to save the kids by the school proprietor.

"Aunty Esther and the woman went downstairs and immediately they did, I saw the landlord and his wife. They all came down and went to the back to see the affected area. The woman insisted that Aunty Esther go up to bring the kids out of the building so that immediate repairs can start. Aunty Esther had just taken a few steps up the flight of stairs, when the building collapsed. Our landlord survived, but is at large as no one has heard from him since then.”

Sinking Sand

“I was on the balcony when it happened. I noticed that it was vibrating and was sinking. It didn't really collapse as it felt like it was sinking. As it went down, the blocks were not solid, so they crumbled into dust. People were indoors when it happened. Those that were sleeping were caught in the rubble and many of such people died. My mum was also there, but was rescued.

"She died when she was being transferred from the General Hospital to Ikeja. She died en route to the hospital. We buried her on Monday, because they didn't release her corpse on time," she narrated with a sigh, looked away and then continued.

Grateful!

Expressing her gratitude to the first responders who constituted young men in the area, she said: "I am grateful to all the boys in the area who responded immediately. I was one of the first people to be rescued alongside a few children. The kids who died are more than those who survived. The tenants who were at home who survived the incident were no more than four. However, of all of them, I’m the only one who has made a nearly-full recovery. I thank God that when they were removing the blocks, all I sustained were injuries on my face, legs and thigh.

“None of us expected it, but thank God it didn't happen in the night when people were asleep as rescue would have been difficult.”

"I commend the doctors at the hospital where I was taken. They really took care of us. I was discharged early and was asked to pay N40,000, but I couldn't afford it. However, I was eventually told the government asked them to treat us for free. I thank the counsellors too from the non governmental organisations and churches that have been giving us food, checking our injuries. They even gave me clothes."

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Police Said My Aide Died In Auto Crash After Making Statement To EFCC, Says Obanikoro

19 March 2019 - 11:39am


Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, the fifth prosecution witness in the ongoing trial of Ayodele Fayose, immediate past Governor of Ekiti State, has told a Federal High Court in Lagos how he was informed about two years ago that his late Special Assistant (SA) Justin Erukaa died in an accident.

Obanikoro gave the evidence in continuation of his cross-examination by Olalekan Ojo (SAN), the second defence counsel.

Fayose was arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on October 22, 2018, alongside a company, Spotless Investment Ltd, on 11 counts. He had pleaded not guilty to the charges, and the court had granted him bail in the sum of N50million with one surety in like sum.

EFCC had opened the case for prosecution on November 19, 2018, and called four witnesses. On January 21, 2018 prosecution called its fifth witness, Obanikoro, a former Minister of State for Defence.

At the last adjourned date on February 5, Obanikoro was still under cross-examination by the second defence counsel, who had sought to tender the extra judicial statement of Justin Erukaa, made to EFCC in the course of their investigation into the case.

However, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), the prosecuting counsel, had objected to the admissibility of the said statement on the grounds that counsel was seeking to tender the document from the Bar, with which he wanted to contradict the witness from the Bar.

Citing the provisions of Sections 232 and 233 of the Evidence Act, he argued that the approach was wrong.

Justice Mojisola Olatoregun had consequently, ordered counsel to address the court, on the admissibility of such extra judicial statement made by a person interrogated during the course of investigation and who is not standing trial.

Parties had addressed the court on February 7, after which the judge reserved ruling.

In her ruling delivered on Monday (yesterday), the court had admitted the extra judicial statement of the late Erukaa and marked same as exhibit J.

When trial resumed on Tuesday, Ojo continued cross-examination of Obanikoro, who has been in the witness box since January.

Ojo asked: “Do you remember your statement on exhibit G2 made on October 8, 2018?”

Obanikoro replied: “I will have to see that to acknowledge.”

After being showed the exhibit, Ojo asked: “In exhibit G2, you specifically stated that you were not privy to any discussion between the first defendant and the former NSA,” to which Obanikoro replied: “That is correct.”

The conversation continued thus:

Ojo: “I suggest that because you were not privy to any such conversation, you can’t on your oath tell the court any date or time of such alleged conversation.”

Witness: “Correct.”

Ojo: “In the same exhibit G2, you categorically said that Justin Erukaa died after he had made exhibit J”, to which the witness replied in the affirmative.

Defence: “This Justin Erukaa who was one of your special assistants, can you tell the court how you got to know about his death after making exhibit J?”

Obanikoro: “He left Lagos a day before Sallah about two years ago, and the Police called one of my SAs that the owner of the phone just had an accident and died on the spot. He immediately called me and informed me.”

Ojo: “Do you remember on February 4, you told the court that you could not recall whether or not Justin Erukaa made any statement to the operatives of the EFCC?”

Witness: “Yes, I said so.”

Defence counsel then urged that exhibit J be shown to the witness and then he asked him what the document was. Obanikoro replied that it is a statement.

Defence: “Whose name appears as the maker or author of exhibit J?”

Witness: “Justin Erukaa.”

Defence: “Did you attend the burial of Justin Erukaa?”

Witness: “I was there with my family.”

Finally, Ojo asked the witness if any document was provided to the EFCC operatives in the course of interrogation to back his statement before the court concerning the second defendant, and Obanikoro replied in the negative.

With this last question, Ojo informed the court that he had finished the cross-examination of Obanikoro. The former minister consequently stepped down from the witness box.

The prosecution called its sixth witness, Olugboyega Falae, a staff of Ecobank, who said he had worked in Skye Bank (now Polaris), as Head of Estate Support Department.

On what he knows about the property known at 44, Plot 1241, Osun Crescent, Maitama, Abuja, the witness told the court that one of the responsibilities of his unit was to dispose non-core assets of the bank that are excess to requirements.

He said the property was one of such assets, which was sold at the time, after acquiring requisite approvals.

According to Falae, in the case of the said property, one Mrs. Titiloye approached the bank with a N300million offer for the property, adding that there were discussions and exchange of letters between them, before the property was eventually sold for N200million.

After the witness finished his evidence before the court, he was cross-examined by defence counsel, but there was no re-examination from prosecution. The court has adjourned until Wednesday for continuation of trial.

According to the charge, on June 17, 2014, Fayose and one Agbele allegedly took possession of the sum of N1.2billion for the purpose of funding his the former’s governorship election campaign in Ekiti State, “which sum they reasonably ought to have known formed part of crime proceeds”.

Fayose was alleged to have received a cash payment of the sum of $5million (about N1.8billion) from Obanikoro, without going through any financial institution and which sum exceeded the amount allowed by law. He was also alleged to have retained the sum of N300million in his Zenith Bank account and taken control of the aggregate sums of about N622million, “which sum he ought to have known formed part of crime proceeds”.

Fayose was alleged to have procured De Privateer Ltd and Still Earth Ltd., to retain in their Zenith and FCMB accounts, the aggregate sums of N851million. Besides, the defendant was alleged to have used the aggregate sums of about N1.6billion to acquire properties in Lagos and Abuja, as well as the sum of N200million to acquire a property in Abuja, in the name of his elder sister Moji Oladeji.

The offences contravene the provisions of Sections 15(1), 15 (2), 15 (3), 16(2)(b), 16 (d), and 18 (c) of the Money Laundering Act.

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BREAKING: Court Stops INEC From Announcing Rivers Governorship Election Result

19 March 2019 - 10:43am


A Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to halt the collation and announcement of the result of the governorship and house of assembly elections in Rivers State held on March 9, 2019.

The commission had rescheduled the collation of the results that had been previously suspended for Wednesday, after it was alleged that the African Action Congress (AAC) candidate was leading in the results so far declared at the various collations centres.

There was a disruption of the collation process at some collation centres which led to the suspension the electoral process.

However, after the report by a fact-finding committee set up to investigate electoral irregularities that characterised the poll, INEC scheduled the continuation of the process for Wednesday, March 20, 2019.

However, Justice Iyang Ewa has ordered the commission to halt its scheduled resumption of the announcement of the result, based on an ex parte application filed by the AAC candidates.

The applicant prayed the court for an order of interim injunction restraining INEC from resuming, collating or announcing the results of the suspended elections in Rivers State.

Justice Ewa ordered INEC to appear before the court on Friday for the hearing of the suit filed against it by AAC and its candidate in the election.

He also affirmed that the court would give its final order after it concludes the suits brought before it by the plaintiffs.

INEC, represented by Ransome Uwa, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), approached the court with a motion challenging its jurisdiction.

Mohammed Abali, counsel to the plaintiffs, however, objected to the application of INEC, informing the court that the order issued on Monday asking the electoral body to show cause why the requests of the plaintiffs should not be granted had not been obeyed.

The judge ordered the electoral umpire to halt the proceedings till the court gives the final order.

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Real Reason Another Lagos Building Collapsed And Why The Govt Denied It

19 March 2019 - 9:59am


Residents of 57, Egerton Square, Oke Arin, Lagos, have said the real reason for the collapse of a building in the area on Monday is that the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA) engaged the services of quacks to bring down houses marked for demolition in the wake of the Ita Faji building collapse.

When SaharaReporters visited the site of the collapse on Tuesday, partial demolitions were ongoing in front of the collapsed building.

On Monday, Adesina Tiamiyu General Manager, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), had denied the collapse, saying "no building ever collapsed as being circulated online".

However, a witness, Adesesan Oladejo, who spoke with SaharaReporters, said: "I live in the next building. The building authorities came on Sunday that they wanted to demolish this building here. Around 1pm, they brought some ‘Mallams’ here and they started demolishing.

"Instead of them to demolish from the top, they started from the bottom. It was the way they were doing it from beneath and the fact that they were so unprofessional that made the building collapse on them. You can see the roof is still intact. They didn't start from the top, but we thank God. They were four victims; two were badly injured and are in the hospital and two are completely okay.”

He added that the building had been earlier marked for demolition.

    

SaharaReporters observed that most of the workers did not have any form of safety gear such as gloves, helmet or even reflective vests. There was also no sophisticated equipment in sight as they continued working with bare hands and sledge hammers.

Another resident, Mrs. Agboola, who was leaving her apartment in-between the collapsed building and buildings being hacked down by the workers, corroborated Oladejo's account.

"On Sunday, they came and asked everybody to come down. They forced everybody out. Some were angry that they didn't give them any notice. So, on Monday they came and I was on the second floor of my house. I heard a loud bang and I became scared and went outside with my baby. It was just a little distance from our building, which is next to the one that collapsed when I heard a loud bang and the building came down,” she said.

Investigations by SaharaReporters revealed that more buildings had cracks and in some cases, they were supported by thin pillars, but they had not been marked by the government because the owner of most of the unmarked buildings is someone from the Sanusi Olusi Chieftancy House, a powerful and well-connected family in Lagos.

When the representative of the LASBCA was approached for comments, he declined and walked away.

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Appeal Court Asks 'Trespasser' Sunnyvale (Nig) Ltd To Vacate Ikoyi Foreshore

19 March 2019 - 9:59am


The Court of Appeal in Lagos has held that a firm, Sunnyvale Nig. Ltd, is trespassing on a land on Plot 19, Block 6, Ikoyi Foreshore, Lagos.

The appellate court held that Sunnyvale and its agents “are not entitled to enter or cross the first appellant's land”.

The appeal was filed by County & City Bricks Development Company Ltd and Layi Ajayi Bembe.

In the lead judgment by Justice Ugochukwu Ogakwu, the Court of Appeal, restrained the company and its agents “from entering, crossing, continuing to enter or cross” the land belonging to County & City Bricks.

The court held: “The certificate of occupancy purportedly issued to the third respondent (Sunnyvale) by the Federal Government is hereby nullified. The sum of N1million is awarded in favour of the appellants as general damages for trespass against the third respondent.”

Justice Ogakwu held that where another person has a better title to a land, the court would revoke the certificate of occupancy of the other.

“The necessary implication of the setting aside of the third respondent's certificate of occupancy is that it is a trespasser on the disputed land and it is not entitled to enter onto the said land. The appellants, having established their legal rights over the disputed land, are entitled to have their interest protected by the grant of an injunction. In a summation, from the totality of the forgoing, this appeal is immensely meritorious and it accordingly succeeds. The judgment of the lower court is hereby set aside. Judgment is entered in favour of the appellants on their counterclaim,” Justice Ogakwu held.

The Lagos State High Court had held that the land belonged to Sunnyvale Nigeria Ltd. However, County & City Bricks appealed against the judgment and filed an application for stay of execution.

While the litigation was ongoing on the disputed land, Sunnyvale continued building on it. Following the Court of Appeal judgment delivered on March 6, County & City Bricks petitioned the Assistant Inspector-General of Police in Lagos over development on the land.

The Police Chief, acting on the appellate court judgment, directed mobile policemen at the property at Sunnyvale's instance to vacate the land.

It was learnt that the AIG took legal advice from the zonal legal department, which advised that Sunnyvale, having been declared trespasser and prohibited from entering and crossing the land, ought not to be on the land pending an order from the Supreme Court and ought not to be encouraged to disobey the order of the Court of Appeal.

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Obasanjo: Why I Don't Want To Speak On Presidential Election

19 March 2019 - 9:49am

Speaking about the just concluded presidential election would amount to sub judice since the matter is already before the court, former President Olusegun Obasanjo said on Tuesday. 

Obasanjo said this on Tuesday in Abuja at the public presentation of a book titled, 'Election in Nigeria: The Long Road To Democracy’, written by Abdullahi Shehu.

He said that since the matter had been taken to court, he would restrain himself from dabbling into the details of the election.  

“I will not dabble into the details of what I call current aspect of Professor Shehu's book because since the emphasis was on the national elections, particularly the presidential election, and the presidential election is now taken to court,” he said.

“I think talking about it would become sub judice because it has been taken to court.” 

The book dwelled and enunciated on the electoral processes in Nigeria, including the factors and circumstances that led to the defeat of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2015, and how the APC mismanaged the victory.

While commenting on the book, Obasanjo noted that the book is a comparative analysis of APC’s ‘Next Level’ and the PDP’s ‘Let's Get Nigeria Working Again’.  

" In the introduction, in which election is the bedrock of a democratic government, all modern democracies and old elections, not all elections, are truly democratic. The measure of a democratic election is that it is transparent fair, credible and acceptable,” Obasanjo said.

 ''The problem is, who determines these outcomes in the election? And that is where the concerns are about a sustainable democracy and sustainable democracy, and if an election is fundamental and basic to democracy and good governance.”

The former President explained that any election conducted that is short of integrity is a farce.

Also in attendance at the event were former Head of State Yakubu Gowon and human rights lawyer Femi Falana


 

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Ijaw Group Wants Security Beefed Up At INEC Office In Bayelsa

19 March 2019 - 9:36am


A group known as Egbesu Brotherhood has called for security to be stepped up in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, and at the various registration area centres of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), where rerun elections are scheduled to take place.

A statement by Bodmas Kemepadei, the group’s leader and coordinator, said the call became imperative as “strange faces are roaming the INEC office area, particularly at night hours”.

The group alleged that there were plans to bomb the INEC office in the state.

The statement read: “We suspect the presence of external forces using sophisticated weapons, considering the recent killings in the capital. We also suspect that there may be plots to burn down the INEC office to stall the conduct of the rerun election of 23rd March, 2019. If we may recall, we all witnessed how on the 10th of March 2019, a candidate from the ruling party entered the INEC office with unauthorized military personnel in the company of non-Bayelsans, and harassed a ward agent. If not for the timely intervention of some observers, it would have been chaotic.

“We therefore call on all relevant stakeholders to up the ante by tightening security to ensure that the office is protected for the peaceful conduct of the rerun election slated to hold on the 23rd of March, 2019. Any candidate with unauthorized military escorts must not be allowed to gain entrance from now until election results are announced.

“The activities of military personnel in Ukubie, Lobia, Azuzuama and Koluama, especially in the RACs of these wards, should be checkmated. The authenticity of military personnel, military gunboats, election observers, pressmen who may want to visit these areas on or before election day uninvited, must be thoroughly investigated.

“Also, we call on the Bayelsa State Government to at this point, invoke the community safety corps bill in support with the NPF, to ensure thorough community policing in these communities, to investigate every suspicious vehicle, person, and to spotlight on major hotels, investigating every group gathering and movements.

“We further call on INEC officials to be careful and neutral in their dealings with candidates of political parties as there are already rumours of SPOs and collation officers wining and dining with a candidate who is brandishing already prepared result, which we suspect that the said candidate moves about with in his vehicle, boasting that he has INEC on his palms.

“For a free and fair election void of any conflict amongst our people, we hope that this information, if adhered to, will avert disaster and forestall any possible danger.”

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