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JUST IN: NEDG, BON Pick Only Five Political Parties For Presidential Debate

11 December 2018 - 12:39pm

 

The Nigerian Elections Debate Group (NEDG) and the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON) have released the names of five political parties expected to participate in the vice-presidential and presidential debates in the lead-up to the 2019 general election.

A statement by Eddi Emesiri, NEDG Executive Secretary, revealed the participating political parties as Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN), All Progressives Congress (APC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Young Progressives Party (YPP).

In the order listed above, the five presidential candidates are Oby Ezekwesili, Fela Durotoye, Muhammdu Buhari, Atiku Abubakar and Kingsley Moghalu.

The vice-presidential debate will hold from 7pm at the congress hall of the Transcorp Hilton in Abuja on Friday, December 14, 2018, while the presidential debate is scheduled to hold on Saturday, January 19, 2019.

In 2015, Buhari failed to attend the NEDG debate (pictured), even though then incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan participated.

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Buhari Won’t Sign Electoral Act Because He Wants To Rig The Elections, Claims Wike

11 December 2018 - 11:39am

Nyesom Wike, Governor of Rivers State, has accused President Muhammadu Buhari of intentionally delaying assent to the amended Electoral Act.

He stated this on Tuesday at the Government House in Port Harcourt, during the visit of the Anglican Bishop of Niger Delta North, Right Reverend Wisdom Ihunwo.

According to a statement by Simeon Nwakaudu, Special Assistant to the Rivers State Governor on Electronic Media, Wike noted that the President's refusal to sign the amended bill is a threat to Nigeria's peaceful coexistence after the 2019 elections.

Speaking on the refusal of Buhari to give assent to the bill, Wike said: "This present administration does not want the existence of one Nigeria. We don't know if there will be Nigeria after the 2019 general election. 

"The National Assembly tried to cure the defects of the Electoral Act that led to controversies during the 2015 elections.  After the passage, the President kept on giving countless excuses why he wouldn't sign the amended Electoral Act. 

"The whole essence of not signing the Electoral Act is to rig the 2019 general election. And in the plot to rig the 2019 elections, Rivers State comes first and Akwa Ibom State is the second on their list. 

"Now, they don't want to use the smart card readers because they want to sit down and write results. It is painful that the President that says he is fighting corruption is leaving room for the rigging of the 2019 polls. There is no corruption worse than rigging. The President cannot set this country on fire."

He called on Nigerians to rise to the defence of democracy, just as he urged the church to work with well-meaning Nigerians to resist attempts to rig the 2019 elections.

In his remarks, Bishop Wisdom Ihunwo lauded Wike's achievements in the state.

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Father Kills All His Four Children In Rivers, Sets Self And House Ablaze

11 December 2018 - 8:41am

Achibong Patrick, 36, a native of Akwa-Ibom and a father of four, has strangled all his children to death.

Patrick also hanged himself to death and set ablaze his home in Alesa, Eleme Local Government of Rivers State 

The motive behind the horror incident is yet unknown but neighbours woke up on Tuesday to witness the hideous story of an entire family wipe out, save Patrick’s wife.

Confirming the ugly development to SaharaReporters, Rivers State Police Public Relations Officer, Nnamdi Omoni, said the children were aged five, six and eight, and were “strangled to death by their father, who also hanged himself and set the house on fire.

“Their corpses have been evacuated and deposited at the morgue, while investigations continue to unravel the mysteries behind the unfortunate incident,” Omoni added.

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Court Grants Bail To Sowore’s Party Members Arrested For Pasting Posters

11 December 2018 - 7:23am

The six supporters of the African Action Congress (AAC) arrested and charged to court in a case between them and the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Edgal Imohimi, have been granted bail at a magistrate court in the Samuel Ilori Courthouse, Lagos.

The six were arrested by officers of the Area F Division Ikeja, on Sunday.

A statement by Chike Oti, Lagos Police Public Relations Officer, had accused them of “tearing posters of other political parties and replacing them with that of the African Action Congress".

They were charged to court on Monday. 

The arrest of the AAC supporters led to a peaceful protest at the Area F Police station in Ikeja on Monday, as civil society organisations referred to the action by the Police as "political witch-hunting".

The protest, however, took a different dimension as policemen fired teargas canisters at the protesters, injuring a lady identified as Annabelle Oko-Oboh, and arresting 10 others.

Meanwhile, in court, the six persons accused of tearing posters pleaded not guilty to the three-count charge levelled against them by the Commissioner of Police, which are “conspiracy to commit felony to with criminal damage to property, criminal damage to property of Jimi Agbaje by tearing up his campaign posters on Awolowo House Fence, and breach of peace by tearing campaign posters of other political parties and replacing them with AAC presidential campaign posters”.

Taiwo Olawale of Falana and Falana Chambers, who represented the accused, told the court that “members of the AAC with Omoyele Sowore as their presidential candidate’s only crime was pasting posters at night".

"My Lord, because the party is not a major party, the Police are using the instrument of the state to harass them," Olawale added.

Raising his objection, representative of the Commissioner of Police, Inspector D. Raphael, told the magistrate that the suspects were "indeed caught in a criminal act which will be determined in trial”.

After hearing statements from both the prosecuting and defence counsels, Magistrate B.O. Osunsanmi gave her ruling, stating thus: “This court is not ready for any trial. This is a bailable offence. I hereby grant bail in the sum of N50,000 each with one responsible surety.”

Speaking after the court’s decision, Defence Counsel Taiwo Olawale said: “The court in its wisdom has determined the offence that the Police is alleging is bailable and we will perfect their bail conditions. 
“The ruling party is always in the habit of oppressing the opposition. They know the power and cadre of Mr. Sowore and what he can do and that is why the Federal Government is coming with all this."

The prosecuting counsel, however, declined to comment after the hearing. The Commissioner of Police could also not be reached for comments.

Speaking on the incident, Omoyele Sowore, the AAC presidential candidate, called out the CP on his Facebook page saying: “Lagos Commissioner of Police, Imohimi Edgal, hasn’t learnt from history. Police officers doing dirty jobs for parties in power will ultimately end in ignominy!”

The case has been adjourned till February 4, 2019.

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Déjà Vu: I Fear It Will Be Unto Buhari As It Was Unto Jonathan In 2015 By Fredrick Nwabufo

11 December 2018 - 7:10am


Fredrick Nwabufo

There is a grand conspiracy. A plot hatched in the pits of despair and agony. There are three conspirators involved in this plot – the Nigerian people, top business executives and the international community.

In this thrilling “scheme”, the Nigerian people are providing the hammer and the nail; business executives are providing the brick and mortar, while the international community is providing the moral and logistics support to seal the fate of an incumbent president.  

This is a grand conspiracy!

But why?

The mass movement against President Buhari was expected. Nigerians are easy to please, but they are deficient of patience for incompetence.  No doubt, the “locus classicus” of the Buhari administration is arrogant incompetence.  It is “generally agreed” that the government is rudderless. Even Aisha Buhari, wife of the president, attests to this. The government has failed on all counts, and has even worsened the yoke of citizens. The economy is floundering, the naira is tottering on the brink of further depreciation and external debts are piling up. 30 million Nigerians are unemployed and 13.5 million children are out of school. And there is no hope on the horizon. 

Nigerians are dissipated; after expending so much hope and promise on the current government, they are now at their wit’s end. They want a breath of fresh air.

Also, businesses have not been impermeable to the Buhari hex. Companies are folding up; many of them are laying off staff and many more of them cannot pay salaries. Some top business executives say “Buhari is not good for business”. This has become a code phrase in the business circle.

 An influential real estate developer in Abuja told me that the second coming of Buhari disrupted the market negatively, and that the sector has remained in suspended gloom since his administration. 

As it is, the international community now longs for a Nigeria without Buhari as president. 

In November, Priti Patel, a member of the UK parliament and former secretary of state for International Development, asked investors to be wary of investing in Nigeria. The lawmaker cited specifically the flagrant disobedience of court orders by the administration as the reason for her charge.

She also described the pretend fight against corruption as a “smokescreen”.

Hear her and be shocked:

However, the Nigerian government has continued to flout international law and convention, and it refuses to respect the various court decisions.

Investors must consider this long-running scandal and weigh this obstinance against Nigeria’s mishandled economic potential.

Let us not forget that Nigeria is the only member of OPEC that is dependent upon petrol imports to keep the country going. Nigeria is ranked 145th in the world for its ease of doing business, which demonstrates the risks of investment into Nigeria.

Despite the President’s public anti-corruption platform, Transparency International has not seen any reduction in corruption since Buhari took office. In fact, the precise opposite has happened, with Nigeria falling 12 places between the 2016 and 2017 rankings.

President Buhari currently faces serious allegations, which include staging show trials of opponents of a regime that is accused of corruption and graft, while simultaneously shielding his own party members and inner circle.

We should all welcome international efforts to attract international investment into developing economies. However, to do this successfully Nigeria must seriously tackle corruption, rather than use it as a smokescreen. It must honour its obligations to companies like P&ID. Until then, investors inevitably will be very wary of investing in Nigeria.

Just yesterday, the International Criminal Court (ICC) alleged that Nigerian security forces committed crimes against humanity. I fear some people may even go to jail. The intractable herdsmen killings, which some top officials in the West believe this administration has deliberately allowed to fester, and gross human rights violations, which are all documented by Amnesty International, are some of the grouse of the international community against President Buhari.

But how does one expend all goodwill in three years?

Really, the 2019 presidential election is between the Nigerian people and Buhari.

Déjà vu!

Fredrick is a media personality. He can be reached on Facebook: Fredrick Nwabufo; Twitter: @FredrickNwabufo

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Buhari’s Economic Adviser Threatens To Sue Newspaper But Fails To Answer The N172m Question

11 December 2018 - 5:33am



Dr. Adeyemi Dipeolu, an economic adviser in the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, is threatening legal action against the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), over the occupier of the Office of Chief Economic Adviser to the President (OCEAP).

The Genesis

The story began with the paper’s interest in the budgetary allocations to the OCEAP, and whether the funds were utilized for the specified purposes.

The OCEAP had received a sum of N34 million in 2017 to fund research studies on the economy, but it has so far failed to make this research available.

In 2016, the office requested for a capital allocation of N78 million, out of which N47.8 million was budgeted for research and allocation. In 2018, the office’s capital allocation is N60 million, from which N19.9 million is budgeted for research and the rest for purchase of vehicles, computers, office furniture and so on.

Conversely, in the 2017 budget, the total capital cost for the office was N60 million, with every penny going into research and development. The budget had specifically stated the project title as: “Provision of evidence-based research studies on all aspects of the Nigerian economy that will help Mr. President in formulating sound strategies and policies.”

A document obtained from the office of the Accountant-General of the Federation stated cash releases to all government bodies, with N35 million given to OCEAP as part of the first batch of releases. However, more than six months since the 2017 budget implementation period ended and over a year since money was released for the research project, the studies are nowhere to be found.

The Confusion

When ICIR contacted Dipeolu for explanations regarding the funds, he did not expressly state at first that he wasn’t the CEAP. But he did say that the budget item ‘OCEAP85893258’, about which clarification was being sought, was “not under the Special Adviser to the President on Economic Matters in the Office of the Vice President”.

But when asked to name the CEAP or the official acting in that capacity, Garba Shehu, President Muhammadu Buhari’s official spokesman, had just one answer for the paper: “Dr. Adeyemi Dipeolu.”

Shehu’s answer looked the more plausible of the two, given that the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), the government-owned broadcaster, had reported on August 10, 2016, that Buhari swore in Dipeolu as “Special Adviser on Economic Matters”.

Although NTA had said that “Dipeolu will continue his work under the Office of the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo”, it added that Osinbajo was the “principal economy architect”. So, if Osinbajo is the principal economy architect of this Federal Government and Dipeolu works with Osinbajo, who then is the President’s Chief Economic Adviser? Dipeolu, of course.

To Laolu Akande, the VP’s spokesman, the matter is not that straightforward. “You are saying because Mr Shehu told you that Dr Dipeolu is the ‘Chief Economic Adviser’ when his title says he is a ‘Special Adviser. So, if somebody told you too that I’m the Minister for Information, you’ll just believe it because he said it,” Akande had told the paper.

But there’s another question Akande may want to consider: If the President’s spokesman tells a journalist a thing, and the Vice President’s spokesman tells the same journalist another thing, who of the two is the journalist expected to believe?

Denial Without Clarification

Dipeolu has threatened legal action against the paper for holding him responsible for the funds. A letter from his lawyers to the paper, obtained by SaharaReporters, reads: "We act as Solicitors to Dr. Adeyemi Dipeolu ('our client") who is the Special Adviser to the President on Economic Matters in the Office of the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“Instructions at our disposal show that on 17th of October. 2018, your organization published a defamatory article which referred to the person of our client.

“In the said article, it was falsely stated that our Client in his official capacity received the sum of N34.000.000 (Thirty-Four Million Naira) in 2017 to fund research studies on the economy but failed to make the report of the research available to appropriate authorities. For the avoidance of doubt. our Client is the Special Adviser to the President on Economic Matters and his role is performed within the Office of the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He does not function out of the Office of National Chief Economic Adviser to the President neither is he privy to the budget or any other operational matter relating to this office.

“The said publication which is available online has been read by many of the members of our client's family, friends and associates. The publication conveys the wrong impression that our client who is a Government official collected money from Government treasury and failed to utilize public funds for the official purpose. Our client. since the publication has been queried by family members. friends and colleagues on why he failed to utilize public funds for the purpose the funds were earmarked. The publication has no doubt diminished our client's reputation in the eyes of right thinking members of the society, who came across same. In a Tweet headed “Criminals in APC Government", our client features as a criminal in Government.

“We note that our client's request that the story “be pulled down" by your organization has failed to attract positive response. We categorically assert that our client is not the occupier of the Office of the Chief Economic Adviser to President. We further assert that our client did not collect the sum of N34.000.000 (Thirty-Four Million Nalra) or any sum of money for the purpose of evidence-based research. The publication consequently remains false and defamatory.”

He is demanding a retraction of the said publication, an unconditional apology “to be published in your organization's website and print media” and immediate pulling down/removal of the publication from the ICIR website within seven days, without which court proceedings would be instituted against the paper.

While Dipeolu’s grievances may or may not be an issue to be decided by the court, there is a more important matter that he, Osinbajo, Buhari or anyone else in government must answer: If Dipeolu is not the CEAP, then who is? Who is that person that should be held responsible for the hundreds of millions of naira released, without accountability, to the OCEAP since 2017?

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Delta Assembly Slams Fresh Three-Month Suspension On Ex-Speaker Igbuya for ‘Embezzling’ N35.5m

11 December 2018 - 4:53am

Delta State House of Assembly has again slammed the member representing Sapele constituency in the State Assembly and immediate past Speaker, Monday Igbuya, with another round of three-month suspension for allegedly embezzling the sum of N35.5 million belonging to the house.

It would be recalled that sometime in September, the Delta State House of Assembly had slammed the former Speaker with three-month suspension over alleged financial embezzlement while in office. A probe committee was set up during its executive session in October 2017, with a charge to submit its report in February 2018.

The suspension of Igbuya followed the presentation of a report by the ad hoc committee constituted to investigate his alleged financial recklessness, which was considered and adopted at Tuesday's plenary of the house presided over by the current Speaker, Sheriff Oborevwori,

Presenting the report of the ad hoc committee, the Chairman and Deputy Majority Leader of the House, Oboro Preyor, said that in line with the principles of natural justice and fair hearing as enshrined in Section 36 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), Igbuya was invited to appear before the committee on September 28.

He said the former Speaker did not attend the meeting, prompting the committee to adjourn to October 10, with a second letter of invitation dispatched to the official residence (as was the first letter) of Igbuya, who again compelled the committee to further adjourn its proceedings till October 17 due to his absence.

Preyor said a third letter of invitation was dispatched to former speaker's home and a copy copiously pasted on the entrance to his apartment, which was followed up by a text message to his telephone line, but to the chagrin of the committee, Igbuya once again ignored the invitation without giving an explanation for his continuous absence.

“At this point, it became crystal clear to the committee that it was a deliberate attempt on the part of the former Speaker to frustrate the work of the committee,” he said.

“Therefore, having satisfied the requirements of natural justice and the constitution by affording the Speaker the opportunity to tell his side of the story, which he has neglected or refused to avail himself of, the committee thus decided to proceed with its work."

He said the committee took a holistic review of the period during which Igbuya served as Speaker of the house, and sought testimonies from lawmakers who had useful information that could assist the committee in serving the cause of justice.

He added that during investigation, the committee discovered that between April 2016 and May 10, 2017, Igbuya operated as a Chief Executive Officer and as such ran the financial affairs of the house without recourse to due process.

The committee, he said also found that the former Speaker unilaterally withheld the legitimate earnings of seven honorable members of the house and there was no record to show that the monies withheld were paid back to the House of Assembly account.

After considering all the issues and findings raised by the committee, the house resolved that all financial entitlements of Igbuya be withheld forthwith and paid into the coffers of the House until such a time that he can offset the monies he unlawfully withheld from his colleagues and the sum of N35, 536, 370 that accrued to the house, which could not be unaccounted for during his regime as Speaker.

The house further resolved that Igbuya remains suspended for the period of another three months, making it a period of six months in all when he former Speaker will be absent from house plenaries without entitlements and other allowances.

Igbuya, formerly of the Peoples Democratic Party (PPDP), is now the All Progressives Congress (APC) House of Representatives candidate for the Sapele, Okpe and Uvwie Federal Constituency in the 2019 general election.
He was impeached by 22 of the 29 members of the House during plenary in May 2017, and was immediately replaced with the member representing Okpe constituency, Oborevwori.

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You Are Parading Fake Governorship Flag, PDP Tells Kashamu​

11 December 2018 - 1:05am


The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday lampooned Senator Buruji Kashamu, saying he is brandishing alleged fake PDP gubernatorial flag in Ogun State.

The party, in a statement signed by its national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, described as the height of ridicule, Kashamu’s purported presentation of himself as Ogun governorship candidate of the PDP for which he had to organise his own sham campaign rally, rented an audience and presented alleged fake PDP flag to himself.

The party added that the authentic PDP flag had been handed to its candidate, Ladi Adebutu, by the PDP national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus.

The opposition party accused the lawmaker of acting out the plot of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to destabilise the PDP. It said the APC is allegedly threatening Kashamu with imminent extradition from Nigeria over alleged international fraud.

The statement added “Senator Kashamu, in his forced hallucination, has failed to realise that Nigerians, particularly the voters in Ogun State, have seen through his antics; they know that he is not the PDP governorship candidate in Ogun State; they know that he has a pact with the All Progressives Congress (APC) to destabilise the PDP; they also know that he is a clown on a journey to no where.

“Nigerians are aware that Senator Buruji never purchased PDP nomination form; never participated in our governorship primary or in any process related to nomination of governorship candidate of our party or any position whatsoever.

“Those using Senator Kashamu as their agent have turned him into object of public ridicule, particularly in his charade of organising a rally to hand a fake flag to himself,” the party said.

The PDP however urged the people of Ogun State to completely disregard Senator Buruji and continue their support for the PDP governorship candidate, Ladi Adebutu, who is already coasting to victory.

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Senate Pays Dariye N85.5m Allowances In Prison​

11 December 2018 - 12:59am


Six months after his conviction by a Federal Capital Territory High Court, Senator Joshua Dariye is still receiving the N750, 000 salary and N13.5m monthly running cost from the National Assembly, The PUNCHcan report.

Investigations by The PUNCHrevealed that Dariye, who represents Plateau-Central Senatorial District, was still receiving the allowances because his seat had yet to be declared vacant by the leadership of the National Assembly.

Dariye, who was governor of Plateau State from 1999 to 2007, was prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and convicted by Justice Adebukola Banjoko of an FCT High Court for embezzling N1.162bn.

He was subsequently sentenced to 14 years in prison, but his sentence was reduced to 10 years by the Court of Appeal which upheld his conviction last month.

The ex-governor had even made a non-refundable payment of N8m for the All Progressives Congress’ Senate forms but was screened out by the party in September.

Speaking with our correspondent on the telephone, an aide to Dariye, Mr Christopher John, said the convict and his aides were still receiving their full allowances.

He said Dariye had appealed his conviction at the Supreme Court and it would be unfair for his seat to be declared vacant when he had not yet exploited all legal channels.

John said, “He has already appealed the case; so he is still a senator pending the decision of the Supreme Court.

“It is right for us to still be receiving salaries because his case has not ended. There are many other senators having issues with the courts like Senator Attah Idoko from Kogi State. Judgment was given in favour of AVM Isaac Alfa but since Idoko has appealed the case, he is still serving and attending sittings as a senator pending the outcome of the case.

“Aides should still be receiving salary because Dariye is still a senator. And he is still receiving his allowances and will continue to do so until the case is closed.”

Also speaking with our correspondent, the Special Adviser to the Senate President on Media, Yusuph Olaniyonu, said he could not confirm if Dariye was still receiving allowances or not.

Olaniyonu, however, said the former governor’s seat could not be declared vacant until the leadership of the Senate received official communication from the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation.

When asked if the Senate was not aware of the highly publicised conviction of Dariye, Olaniyonu said the legislative arm of government does not act based on media reports but on official communication.

He said, “The Senate President has no power to declare any seat vacant except he is presented with a request. We have to receive official communication from those who prosecuted him. We cannot read a report in the newspapers and go ahead to declare his seat vacant.

“Even if a senator dies, his family would inform the leadership of the Senate or senators would go and pay a condolence visit and officially confirm that he is dead and then the Independent National Electoral Commission will be notified that the seat is vacant.

“Those who convicted Senator Dariye never informed us that he had been convicted. In fact, we even read that he bought the APC ticket to contest for re-election. The AGF prosecuted him and he ought to write the Senate so that the seat can be declared vacant and another election conducted.”

But the Director for Information at the National Assembly, Mr Jerry Agada, said there was no court order or directive from the Senate President to stop Dariye’s salary and so it could not be stopped.

Agada said it was possible for Dariye’s salary to be withheld pending the outcome of the case in court but the National Assembly Commission had no such powers to stop it.

He said, “The procedure of the National Assembly is that a person’s seat must be declared vacant before he is no longer a senator. Based on the latest information we have, they said he had taken the matter to the Supreme Court.

“On our own, we have no power to stop the salary or allowances of any senator whose seat has not been declared vacant. Our intention was that his pay would be put on hold pending the outcome of the case but do we even have such powers?

“He remains a senator in the eyes of the law. It is not a matter of morality now but a matter of law. The power to declare any seat vacant resides in the Senate President or the Speaker.”

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Losing Election Not End Of Political Career, Oshiomhole Tells Members

11 December 2018 - 12:53am


Adams Oshiomole

The All Progressives Congress (APC) National Chairman Adams Oshiomhole has a word of consolation for party members, who are aggrieved over the conduct of the primaries.

“Losing one nomination does not amount to the end of their political career”, the APC said in Abuja yesterday.

He urged all those who lost nominations to take a cue from President Muhammadu Buhari, who lost three times before winning the presidential election when he had lost hope.

Speaking while receiving the report of the party’s reconciliation committee for the Northeast  from Nasarawa State Governor Tanko Al-Makura, Oshiohmole said “although democracy was both attractive and problematic, it remains the best form of governing a people”.

He told the panel members that the National Working Committee (NWC) will study the recommendation and act on it as quickly as possible.

Oshiomhole expressed confidence that the party would come out of the crisis of the primaries stronger and win the general election.

He said: “Thank you for making quality recommendations that will help us to address what has happened and talk people out of their mood and get them to rededicate themselves to the party, but also to learn one or two lesson in the future because this is not the last time we are going to conduct elections and we will be having more than one person participating therefore the possibility of one or more persons not winning the position they applied for.

“You are the first to submit a formal report to us and we are very grateful. I assure you that to justify the time and effort you have invested, and the time spent by the people and the confidence they have reposed in our party and your committee by appearing before you, we will study this report and NWC Will act on it as quickly as possible.

“It is quite reassuring that people recognise that there is no house where there are no grievances. What matters is whether the family has the competence to manage disagreement within the family.

“The only place where there is no disagreement is heaven and since none of us has been there, we can’t even speak to what happens there.  But in the real world, people have a right to feel the way they feel. They may be right, they may be wrong, but it is all part of democracy.

“I read a lot of things in the media, some of which are not quite informed. The truth is that if you look at the issue of political parties around the world, the United Kingdom (UK) for example, the Labour Party is more prone to internal contestations than the Conservative.

“The more democratic and liberal a political party is, the more freedom that people feel that they cannot be sanctioned and so, you will have such discordant voices.

“We can learn from those voices and run a better party and a better system in the future. No matter what anybody wants to say, our party is leading by example.”

“For example, we are the only party that allows people to contest election against a sitting governor. All the sitting governors of the PDP had automatic tickets and so, you are not even allowed to murmur about your governor.

“But here, in obedience to our rules, we allowed people wishing to challenge sitting governors to do so and in one case, a governor could not return.

“Democracy is an attractive wind but also problematic. But like they say, it is still the best way to run a system and a country. So, I am very confident that we are going forward; we are going to win this election. The whole essence of this reconciliation is to let people know that the fact that you lost one nomination submit the end of your political future.

“We have the best teacher in our family in person of President Buhari who contested elections three times and lost. He almost gave up, hotness encouraged not to give up.  He went for the fourth time and won.  He has thought is that this process is only for long distance runners and not a 100 meters dash.

“Secondly, if our primary purpose for seeking nomination and getting elected is to serve the people, and improve on the quality of life, then even if 20 of us file out to contest election as governor, we know ab-initio that only one person will be elected even if all 20 are angels.

“But if democracy is working and working well, that one person that emerged will govern in such a way that will add value to the quality of life of every citizen because the main objective is to improve the quality of life of the people.

“At the end of the day, the deliverable is what will change as a result of my membership of the APC. I am excited that you said people have not decamped and have confidence in the leadership of the party.”

Al-Makura said the committee was glad to report that no aggrieved members in their area of coverage decamped but have confidence in the leadership of the party.

He said: “Immediately after our inauguration and considering the fact that there no time, we immediately hit the ground running. Considering the area to be covered, the committee decided to cluster the area into three. Maiduguri played host to Borno and Yobe; Bauchi played host to Bauchi and Gombe; and Yola played host to Adamawa and Taraba.

“We are pleased to inform the National Working Committee that we were impressed by the response we received across the zone. It showed commitment and faithfulness of members of our party and their confidence not only on our committee, but the leadership of the party”

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Lagos, Osubi Airports Operate As FAAN Suspends Shutdown​

11 December 2018 - 12:50am


Flight operations continued uninterrupted yesterday at the Murtala Muhammed Airport Terminal II (MMA2) in Lagos and Osubi Airfield in Warri, Delta State, among others, despite earlier notice by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to shutdown the facilities over alleged indebtedness. 

Also unaffected, contrary to earlier information, were airports at Kebbi, Gombe and Bebi, in Obudu, Cross River State.

The Guardian learnt that FAAN suspended the move following public outcry on the impact of the proposed shutdown and the rekindled interest by the facility operators to negotiate their debt.

However, the management of Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL), operator of MMA2, has re-emphasised not owing FAAN, and would continue to run seamless flight operations and services at the terminal.

The Guardian had reported yesterday that FAAN planned to withdraw its services from the affected airports to protest against indebtedness of over N2.608 billion allegedly owed by the facilities.

FAAN, in a Notice To Airmen (NOTAM) worldwide on Saturday said it would be withdrawing aviation security, fire-fighting and rescue operations beginning midnight Sunday, December 9, 2018. Experts described these as safety critical services without which no airport could process flights.

While some airlines had already reordered their schedule and cancelled some flights, the airports remained opened to flight services, though at lower patronage.

General Manager, Public Affairs at FAAN, Henrietta Yakubu, told reporters that negotiations had commenced and “the shutdown is not taking place any longer.”

“The affected airports are ready for negotiation and because people will go through hardship as a result of service withdrawal owing to surge in travelling at this period of the year, we have commenced negotiations with them to deal with the issues,” Yakubu said.

It was, however, not clear if FAAN had updated the global aviation community of the latest development by NOTAM, as some stakeholders had withdrawn their operations from the listed airports.

For instance, Arik Air had withdrawn from MMA2 and has still not returned as at press time yesterday.

BASL, in a statement yesterday, said they were not unaware of FAAN’s allegation of N1.9 billion indebtedness and threat to withdraw aviation security personnel, rescue and fire-fighting services from the terminals.

BASL said the threat had been formally responded to in a letter addressed to FAAN reiterating BASL’s stance on the demand for payment of purported outstanding liabilities.

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INEC: Politicians Sandwich Naira In Bread To Buy Votes​

11 December 2018 - 12:46am


Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu

Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu THISDAYLIVE

The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, has accused politicians of inducing voters with money tucked in slices of bread on election days.

Speaking in the same vein, the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, implored INEC, police and other security agencies to ensure free, fair and credible 2019 polls in the country.

Also at the occasion, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, expressed worry over the distribution of cash to the public by the federal government ahead of the 2019 elections.

Yakubu, Saraki and Dogara spoke in Abuja yesterday at a one-day public hearing on ‘Vote Buying and Improving Electoral Processes in Nigeria,” organised by the National Assembly Joint Committee on INEC.

Yakubu said from past elections conducted in the country, the electoral body had identified politicians as vote buyers and sellers through various forms, including inducement of prospective voters with naira notes sandwiched between two slices of bread.

“When I talk about sandwich we are not talking of bread but ways politicians induce voters by sandwiching naira notes in two slices of bread. I am talking of sandwich not as food but as tool used by politicians for voting exercise,” he said.

He identified other items used by politicians to further induce voters on election days to include branded food items, kitchen utensils, automobiles, clothing, and toiletries.

According to him, INEC on its part, does not sell or buy votes.

The INEC boss warned that vote buying should not be allowed to define Nigeria’s election, adding that such aberration is not acceptable.

“Vote buying is not acceptable; it must never be allowed to define our elections. It is illegal and morally wrong. It denies citizens quality representation and gives us bad name internationally,” he said, adding, “It does not give us a good representation.”

Noting that such development denies the citizens quality representation and gives the country a bad name before the international community, the INEC boss said rather than the public hearing, the National Assembly ought to have held a confessional hearing.

“We talk too much as a country. We should stop talking and move on as a nation. We need a confessional hearing rather than this. We should call the people and ask them how they do it. INEC does not buy or sell votes,” he said.

Yakubu called on the legislators to pass the Electoral Offences Tribunal Bill into law as recommended by Justice Muhammadu Uwais, Lemu and Ken Nnamani Electoral Reform Committees, adding that vote buying is not only a Nigerian issue, but has taken international phenomenon.

“The problem has been with us for a long while and it has become an international phenomenon. It is not just a Nigerian problem. In order to address this, we need to break the chain of voters’ inducement. We have so many instances, where aspirants induced electorate and candidates induced voters,” he said.

Yakubu further noted that the challenges behind vote buying are impunity and poverty, stressing that when voters are beginning to chase vote buyers, it becomes a serious problem.

He, however, called for synergy between INEC, security agencies and the lawmakers, for a solution to vote buying.

The INEC boss further displayed the strategies being put in place by the commission, using specimen presidential ballot paper, to defeat the antics of vote buyers in the coming general elections.

Saraki Canvasses Credible Polls in 2019

Meanwhile, Saraki has advised INEC, security agencies and all election stakeholders to ensure that next year’s elections are free, fair, credible and transparent.

This, he said, has become imperative as the country is in a delicate situation where Africa and the entire world are looking forward to what happens in the coming elections.

“This is understandable when you consider that our president is the Chairman of ECOWAS. Moreover, the Chairman of our INEC is the head of Electoral Commissions in West Africa. With these positions, it is clear that we cannot afford to conduct an election that will not be credible, peaceful, free and fair.”

Saraki noted that having set an enviable record in the 2015 general elections, the country cannot afford to lower the standard in 2019, saying, “We must up the ante, because whatever we do will have impact on the continent and serve as a representation of Africa on the global stage.”

According to him, vote buying and election rigging remain contemporary challenges that mar the nation’s electoral process.

“We must deal with them in such a manner that does not detract from the credibility and legitimacy of the coming 2019 Polls,” he said.

Saraki stated that the country’s major concern should be entrenching global best practices in its electoral process while ensuring that these are backed by legislations to make them sustainable and permanent.

He said the use of Incident Form to bypass the lawful process of accreditation and voting must be discarded.

According to him, “This is one of those issues concerning which, whether there is a law or not; all of us who are stakeholders should come to agreement and address the anomaly. At the very least, this is one minimum condition that we must meet as we move towards 2019 polls. All stakeholders should demonstrate the fact that a credible and transparent election is far better and more important than who wins that election.

“We cannot afford to send the wrong signals with our actions or inactions as we prepare for the next elections. The world must take positive cues from us that we are ready to improve on our process, and make our electoral process more transparent and commendable. This is because perception matters, as you all know. Perception is, in fact, the reality.”

Dogara Describes FG’s Cash Disbursement as Corruption

Also speaking at the occasion, Dogara expressed worry over the distribution of cash to the public ahead of the 2019 elections.

He said the trend of giving N10,000 loans to petty traders by the federal government through its TraderMoni scheme was worrisome.

The House speaker said no matter how noble the scheme may be, it is in contravention of Section 124 of the Electoral Act.

“It is instructive to note that the electoral act anticipated and captured most forms of electoral fraud including inducement and vote buying. I hope we will have the courage at this event to address the distribution of cash to the public very close to general elections by public officials,” he said

“I am afraid that such endeavors no matter how noble the intentions behind them may fall within the all encompassing provisions of S. 124 (1)(a); (b); (c); and S.(124)(2)(4)(5) and S. 130 of the Electoral Act.

“Although penalties are not stringent, there is also lack of political will to implement the laws as it is even if it were to offer feeble deterrence to violators. Arrest are hardly made and even where arrests are made, prosecutions are unheard of.

“A more worrisome dimension to vote buying is the alleged use of the officials of the electoral umpire, INEC, and officers of security agencies to induce, or intimidate and coerce voters to vote for particular candidates.

“Such absurdities have been widely reported in the media and confirmed by some local and international observers in respect of the recently concluded governorship elections in Osun State. As expected, all lovers of democracy worldwide rose to condemn these despicable incidents.

“Condemnation is not enough, it will amount to hypocrisy, if we don’t take the bull by the horn by taking concrete steps to eliminate these evils that make mockery of our hard worn democracy.”

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APC Urges Aggrieved Aspirants To Emulate Ambode​

11 December 2018 - 12:44am


All Progressives Congress (APC) National Peace and Reconciliation Committee has urged aggrieved aspirants of the party to learn from the spirit of sportsmanship displayed by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State, after the governorship primaries.

The committee was in Ado-Ekiti yesterday to reconcile aggrieved aspirants from Ondo and Ekiti states.

Chairman of the committee in South West, Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State, along with and Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna, pleaded with the hurt aspirants to put the interest of the party at heart and embrace the peace initiative of the party.

Other members of the committee include the managing director of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dakuku Peterside; former Ekiti State deputy governor, Prof. Modupe Adelabu; and Hajia Seida Usman-Bugaje.

They stressed the need for politicians to eschew bitterness and work for the party’s unity ahead of 2019.

While interfacing with aggrieved aspirants from the two states, Shettima commended Ambode on how he handled the outcome of the primary in Lagos, urging the aspirants to view life from that perspective.

“Since 1999, Governor Ambode, who is also a member of this committee, I don’t think any Nigerian politician has demonstrated his level of courage in the way he handled the outcome governorship primaries in Lagos.

“He is a governor who has worked exceptionally, but, as I said, politics sometimes comes with unpredictable outcomes. Our courage in reacting to situations like Governor Ambode is what separates men from boys.

“I think anyone unhappy with the outcome of the APC primaries should draw inspiration from Governor Ambode,” he advised.

Governor el-Rufai expressed joy that the crisis in Ekiti was not as huge and convoluted like that of Ondo, expressing fear that lack of unity might cost the party Ondo.

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PDP Looted Our Destiny, Prospects, Says Fashola​

11 December 2018 - 12:42am


The Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Babatunde Fashola SAN, on Monday blamed the Peoples Democratic Party for abandoned Federal Government projects across the country.

He stated this while inspecting the building project of the Federal Secretariat, Awka, Anambra State.

He described corruption during the PDP era as monumental, adding, “They looted our collective destiny, prospects, jobs and so on.

“That’s why the masses are suffering today. That’s why there are no jobs. But we (APC) are trying to bring back smiles on the faces of Nigerians.”

He said the 18-kilometre Umunya axis of the Onitsha/Enugu Expressway would be completed in May 2019, while the Federal Secretariat,  Awka, the state capital, would  be completed in the first quarter of next year.

Fashola said the President Muhammadu Buhari government inherited those projects because past governments failed to complete them as a result of corruption.

“They awarded the contract without paying contractors and when you don’t pay contractors, you create problems down the labour ladder.

“For instance, the contract for this federal secretariat was awarded in 2012 by the previous administration without making funds available for its completion. If the money meant for it was not stolen, it would have been completed before now.

“We are bringing back what was denied the people in the past to them; that’s the difference between a development administration and a corrupt regime”, the minister stated.

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Dogara Labels Govt's Cash Distribution Before Elections As 'The Highest Form Of Corruption'

10 December 2018 - 12:14pm


Speaker of Nigeria's House of Representatives, Right Honourable Yakubu Dogara, has condemned the distribution of cash to Nigerians just before the general election by public officials, stating that no matter how noble the intent is, such endeavours amount to vote buying and inducement, which is a clear case of corruption.

He made the remarks at a public hearing organised by the National Assembly Joint Committee on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Political Parties Matters on Vote-buying and Improving the Electoral Processes in Nigeria on Monday.

According to Dogara, the act of inducing the public with cash in exchange for their votes is a fraud that is covered within section 124 (1)(a);(b);(c); Section(124)(2)(4)(5) and Section 130 of the Electoral Act. He also noted that financial inducement for votes contravenes the fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy enshrined in Nigeria’s Constitution.

His words: “Vote buying and other sundry criminal manipulations of the electoral process in Nigeria have left our citizens in a state of unmitigated disaster. As a result, we have been married off to a mob. A mob that rules us by the example of their power nor by the dictates of law. A mob that rules by fear as an inalienable tool rather than by courage. A mob that accepts the status quo rather than challenge it. Mobs don’t grow others; they only destroy others in order to grow themselves. We follow the mob because we must, not because we are receiving any sense of significance for our own lives from them. Our democracy has stagnated and will sadly remain so until we eliminate all sham elections which have the effect of throwing up the worst of us to lead the best of us.

“It is instructive to note that the Electoral Act anticipated and captured most forms of electoral fraud including inducement and vote buying. I hope we will have the courage at this event to address the distribution of cash to the public very close to general elections by public officials. I am afraid that such endeavours no matter how noble the intentions behind them may fall within the all-encompassing provisions of S. 124 (1)(a);(b);(c); and S.(124)(2)(4)(5) and S. 130 of the Electoral Act. Although penalties are not stringent, there is also lack of political will to implement the laws as it is, even if it were to offer feeble deterrence to violators. Arrests are hardly made and even where arrests are made, prosecutions are unheard of.

“Indeed, the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy enshrined in our Constitution envisages that Nigeria shall be a State based on the principles of Democracy and that sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria, through which government derives its authority, powers and legitimacy. Therefore, any form of contrivance by any person or authority to unduly influence the choice of the voter is condemnable as it is patently an assault on this constitutional guarantee.

“Undue influence of voters has always existed in different forms all over the world, however, the recent phenomenon of direct pricing and buying of votes as if in a market square is very disturbing. It is one of the highest forms of corruption.

“The high prevalence of vote-buying in the electoral system of the country is, without any doubt, of great concern to all Nigerians and members of the global community who truly love democracy. It is disheartening that this absurd phenomenon has assumed alarming proportions in recent times. As citizens, we must not surrender to this criminality as we cannot do so and still expect honour. When political office holders defy the law and corruptly assume office, they will always operate as if they are above the law."

He also lamented the alleged use of the officials of INEC and security agencies to induce, or intimidate and coerce voters to vote for particular candidates, stating that “such absurdities have been widely reported in the media and confirmed by some local and international observers in respect of the recently concluded governorship elections in Osun State".

He continued: “As expected, all lovers of democracy worldwide rose to condemn these despicable incidents. Condemnation is not enough, it will amount to hypocrisy, if we don’t take the bull by the horn by taking concrete steps to eliminate these evils that make mockery of our hard worn democracy.

“Let me seize this opportunity to call on all people of goodwill in our country to rise in condemnation and denunciation of vote-buying and all forms of electoral malpractices. Indeed, electoral fraud is one of the worst forms of corruption, and should be treated as such. This is the only way we can guarantee the stability and growth of our democracy."

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With TechCrunch Startup Battlefield, Facebook Begins Search For Africa’s Best Innovators

10 December 2018 - 11:58am

In line with its commitment to growing Africa’s technology start-up ecosystem and its passion for developing diverse, young talent, Facebook is returning as the headline sponsor of TechCrunch Startup Battlefield Africa 2018. 

The event, taking place in Lagos, Nigeria, will search for Sub-Saharan Africa’s best innovators, makers and technical entrepreneurs.

TechCrunch Startup Battlefield Africa sees start-ups compete across three categories — social good, productivity and utility, and gaming and entertainment. It profiles the founders and entrepreneurs leading Africa’s next wave of technology innovation and highlights new ideas, businesses and applications with disruptive potential.

On December 11, TechCrunch Startup Battlefield supported by Facebook, will bring together the strongest start-ups from across Sub-Saharan Africa, where they will pitch to a live audience of 500 people ranging from VCs, investors and government officials to developers.

Facebook representatives from Africa and beyond will be on the ground to celebrate, connecting, listening and learning from various communities as well as taking part in an exciting series of workshops, networking sessions and talks between December 6 and 11.

“Following the great success of the inaugural TechCrunch Startup Battlefield event in 2017, we are delighted to return as the headline sponsor for this year’s event,” says Emeka Afigbo, Facebook's Head of Developer Programmes. 

“Given our passion for connecting people and helping developers and entrepreneurs to thrive, we can’t wait to see how this year’s entrants are using technology to engage and empower people across the continent.” 

Events Facebook will host over the week include: Developer Circle Leads Summit (6-7 December): A two-day summit for more than 65 Developer Circles Leads across Sub-Saharan Africa, representing a growing community of over 42,800 members across 31 cities in 15 countries across Sub-Saharan Africa.

Instagram Inspire Action Lagos — Women and Small Business Event (6 December): A workshop to inspire, educate and train 70-80 entrepreneurs and women working in tech with a panel featuring special guests.

Startups and Developers Summit 2018 by Developer Circle Nigeria (8 December): Bringing together 600 attendees, and hosted by Facebook Developer Leads, the Summit will run trainings and workshop sessions on specialist deep-tech subjects, such as Messenger Bot

Aspiring Entrepreneurs — Digital Pitch Competition (10 December): Winners from seven Nigerian states who participated in the Aspiring Entrepreneurs: Digital 2018 programme will pitch their businesses to a panel of judges for a chance to win support and prizes from Facebook and Fate Foundation.

NG_Hub Start-up Mixer (10 December): A social gathering bringing together Start-ups from across the ecosystem, including NG_Hub start-ups (Start-ups using Facebook's Community Hub) and those taking part in the TechCrunch Startup Battlefield event.

Student Hack (11 December): In partnership with Re:Learn by CC_Hub, Facebook will bring together 50 local high school students from Lagos to take part in Hack-a-Day and other activities that highlight the difference developers can make in the world using computer science skills.

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'It's Fake News By PDP' — Garba Shehu Denies Atiku's Son's House Was Raided

10 December 2018 - 11:14am


Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President (Media and Publicity), has said the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is a "flowing stream of fake news".

He stated this in response to the reports that the account of the PDP vice-presidential candidate was frozen, and that the house of the son of Atiku Abubakar, PDP presidential candidate was raided by operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

According to Shehu, the reports are untrue and is just "another manifestation of the PDP's growing expertise in fake news".

A statement by the president's spokesman read: "The story about the raid 'ordered by Buhari-led government' on the home of PDP Presidential Candidate, Atiku Abubakar’s son and the fairy tale on the alleged blockage of the bank accounts of the running mate, [former] Governor Peter Obi and his family are both untrue, and should be dismissed as just another manifestation of the PDP’s growing expertise in fake news.

"Nigerians must be becoming wary by now, of a political party with absolutely nothing to offer in the coming elections and has instead, transformed into a knight in shining armor, slaying the truth. In this so-called transformation, PDP has changed into nothing but to a ceaselessly flowing stream of fake news.

"It is impossible to find in Nigeria today, anyone propagating fake news more than the PDP. Our advice to Nigerians is: Ignore them."

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EFCC Arrests Theodore Orji's Son For 'Money Laundering'

10 December 2018 - 9:58am


The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has arrested Ogbonna Orji, son of the former Governor of Abia State, Theodore Orji, over allegations of money laundering.

According to the anti-graft commission. they were arrested after cars alleged to have been bought by the sons from illegal proceeds were traced to them at a night club in Abuja.

EFCC also debunked the claims that the commission raided the house of one of the sons of Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Report of the arrested was disclosed via a series of tweets that read: "The recent arrest of Ogbonna Orji, son of Sen. Theodore Orji, over money laundering, has absolutely nothing to do with son of ex-VP Atiku Abubakar.

"The former Abia governor has been under investigations by the EFCC, for money laundering activities, which was discovered to have been carried out through his sons.

"The EFCC had been on the trail of cars allegedly bought by the sons, and last Friday the cars were traced to a night club in Abuja, where operatives waited patiently through the night to arrest the owners — Ogbonna and his friend, Kelvin Ilonah.

"They were arrested at about 5am on Saturday, and they led operatives to their three-flat apartment, where documents retrieved showed that it was rented at a rate of N13million per annum.

"They have so far given useful information to the EFCC, which is aiding in investigations. It should be made clear that the EFCC never "went after" Atiku's sons, neither was Atiku's son arrested by the EFCC."

They were arrested at about 5am on Saturday, and they led operatives to their three-flat apartment, where documents retrieved showed that it was rented at a rate of N13million per annum.

— EFCC Nigeria (@officialEFCC) December 10, 2018

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'Evasive' NBA President Usoro Escapes Arraignment By EFCC

10 December 2018 - 5:19am

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has failed to arraign the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Paul Usoro (SAN).

Usoro appeared before the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos on Monday for arraignment for alleged N1.4 billion fraud preferred against him by the anti-graft commission. But the arraignment could not go on due to the inability of the commission to serve his lawyer. 

Counsel to the commission, Rotimi Oyedepo, said Usoro had been evading charges hence the reason he could not be served the charge sheet.

SaharaReporters had earlier reported the arrival of Usoro at the Federal High court for the scheduled arraigned on allegation that he connived with the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Emmanuel Udom, to launder money. 

EFCC said the offences contravened Section 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act.

EFCC sources have also confirmed to SaharaReporters that the senior lawyer is currently at EFCC’s office in Ikoyi to receive his charge.

Although Usoro, through his lawyer, Wole Olanipekun (SAN), had asked the presiding judge, Justice Muslim Hassan, to compel the EFCC to serve him in court, Oyedepo has opposed the plea, stating that only the investigating officer on the case can serve the defendant. 

Justice Hassan subsequently adjourned to December 18 by which EFCC is expected to have served the defendant.

The NBA chairman is charged alongside four others — Nsikan Nkan, Akwa Ibom Commissioner for Finance; Mfon Udomah, Akwa Ibom Accountant-General; Uwemedimo Nwoko, Akwa Ibom State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice; and one Margaret Ukpe — all of whom are said to be at large.

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Politics: Why We Must All Get Involved - Outside The Box By Alex Otti

10 December 2018 - 2:40am


A few friends hosted a dinner in my honour at Federal Palace Hotel in Lagos yesterday. I’m taking liberty to share excerpts of my speech with readers today.

Today, I’ve chosen to talk about the low level of participation in our nation’s political process especially amongst our educated elite, professional class, young people, the clergy etc. I remember with great nostalgia, the vibrancy and political activism of the then irrepressible National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS. I am reminded of the public agitations which gets me wondering about what happened to us that we have not only been cowered into political disengagement and apathy but have allowed our political process to be hijacked by professional politicians and Lilliputians, not to mention their handpicked godsons and criminal apprentices. Consequent upon the abdication of our civic responsibility of political participation we have ceded the political playing field to fake merchants of change whose notion of governance is one that is geared at perpetuating their political dominance and self -aggrandizement. Ever since the advent of our nation’s second attempt at electoral and constitutional democracy, the governing elite who have straddled our political landscape have continued to be sustained by a culture of silence of both the likes of us here today and the dispossessed. Their grip on power has been strengthened by a silence and obsequiousness on the part of many Nigerians that has not only been defeating but also economically, socially and politically crippling.  As a result of the self- imposed political disengagement by many of us bad things in our polity keep getting worse. It was Plato that quipped “one of the penalties of refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors”.

A cursory look around the country both in governance and the staffing of our many institutions reveals the emergence of mediocrity, with the best and the brightest scared away either by revulsion of our politics, the do or die nature of our electoral process or the lack of faith, confidence and trust in our political system and processes. On the many rare occasions when some of the disillusioned and disaffected voiced their concerns and somewhat muffled comments of rebuke they are treated by a dismissiveness that bothers on ignorance and in some occasion outright hostility and indifference. As a consequence what we find at both the national, state and local government levels are a growing debt burden, economic stagnation and even deterioration, national instability, rising ethnic tensions, growing unemployment, rising incidence of religious intolerance, non-payment of worker’s salaries and pensions etc. It is therefore very unfortunate that in the face of such national malaise many of us still choose to sit on the sidelines or are ensconced in our silos of political apathy and indifference. The reality of our national predicament today is that never in the history of Nigeria’s national and state governance has there been on display for everyone to witness, such a degree of profound incompetence, moral bankruptcy, visionary blindness and governance ineptitude.

Maybe it is time to make a semantic distinction between political engagement and political participation. While political engagement could be said to include financial contribution to candidates or political groups, voting, volunteering for campaigns and even making contacts with office holders political participation on the other hand could take the form of getting involved with any activity that shapes, affects the political process or outcomes, such as attending party conventions, and registering as a member of a political party. In a sense, it can be said there’s not much of a distinction between the two. Nevertheless, studies in political science inform us that one of the basic civic responsibilities of any citizenry is the extent to which they take part in the political system and process, whether they are voting for a candidate seeking political office, participating in acts of civil disobedience or simply making their opinions and beliefs known and while the aforementioned are the most common forms of political participation, others may include, blogging about a political issue, writing a letter to a public official, publishing opinion page essays, signing a petition, joining an activist group, running for political office etc. As we can see there are many ways to get involved in our political process here in Nigeria, yet the question remains, why the political apathy when as a country we are blessed with the largest concentration of an educated intelligentsia, experienced  technocrats, and articulate social commentators in all of Africa? Why the political disengagement in the face of glaring governing mediocrity and incompetence? Why the public silence and subdued indignation when we can raise our voices in protest against mismanagement, malfeasance and the lack of accountability? Why fall victim to the intimidation, political harassment and threats of violence by criminal political elements? 

It is my honest opinion that there is so much we as citizens can do to change the trajectory of governance in this country if only we can all resolve to actively get involved rather than leave the political process to grafters and political charlatans. As we all know and as I’ve come to discover, every act of political conquest implies both the conqueror and the conquered with the conqueror imposing his views, vision, objectives and values on the vanquished. By staying away from any form of political involvement despite our positions in society, affluence or intellect, we have allowed ourselves to be part of the vanquished and the oppressed majority. Whether we like it or not, we all have invisible scars of the political system and process that have been exploited and hijacked by a criminal few, an electoral system whose integrity has never been a reality only an aspiration, a political process that empowers the strong while hastening the disappearance of the weak.

It is time to face the reality that there is no perfect life or a perfect country hence it is our duty as good citizens not to be political bystanders but to get involved-to build a new era of politics and leadership where we can disagree with one another and still remain friends as we search for common ground and compromise with willingness and humility. Most times, people in our positions in life tend to forget we are animals until we become preys. We isolate ourselves from happenings outside our cocoon of privileged comfort because we deem ourselves safe and unaffected by certain policy outcomes that affects others. Many of us suffer from severe cases of dissociation –removal from our emotional self until we become victims. Conscious of the fact that everything of lasting value demands a great degree of sacrifice and commitment and not a product of convenience it has been a source of enduring comfort to realize that the sacrifices of today give rise to the greatness of tomorrow and that the pain and regret of knowing that at one point in our lives we had the opportunity to bring about change in the lives of others is one that is difficult to live with. As Ronald Wayne, co-founder of Apple once stated, “the future belongs to those who can foresee it and give all it takes to get there”. I must confess that not many of us pause in our trepidation of what the future portends in this country and how to influence it or better still see the possibilities of a glorious future and work assiduously towards it realization. No country is better than its citizenry, its institutions and its constitution and to the extent that we aspire for a better nation let us not just make fame with our individual successes and achievements but use that fame to change people’s lives. 

Let us have hope- hope that sees beyond the darkness of the moment and the possibilities of the future as democracy does not have a self-correcting mechanism unless we help to set it on the right course. As a matter of fact, what sets democracy apart from every other form of government is the input of ordinary citizens and as one notable public opinion writer put it, “it is the input of ordinary citizens into their country’s future”. It is the input of both the powerful elite and the powerless when they cast their vote on election day. It is when they register their opposition to their political leaders and the way they are governed, attend a political rally, engage in public protest and civil disobedience, voice opinions etc. Politics is not supposed to be a blood sport yet it is not supposed to be a spectator sport either for us to sit on the sidelines and applaud or express disgust. So I want to use this opportunity to urge every political bystander to endeavor to get politically engaged, otherwise, what they run from, they may run into and to those who feel the walls of our political process and practice are too thick to crack, let me remind them that even the strongest wall can come crashing down since all that is needed is to find a crack on its surface”. To those who think it is too late to participate because the elections are only a few months away, I will say the ship hasn’t sailed yet but is about to leave the dock hence it is not too late to step on board.

Five years ago when I decided to get into politics I, like many of you, have been apolitical and apoplectic about our politics and its enduring horrendous process. As I looked around I saw leaders who did not seem to be subject to any variety of democratic constraints ranging from legislative oversights to public opinion. I saw political leaders govern with such transactional styles that became the stimulus for authoritarianism and threat to democracy. I saw Governors who regarded themselves as the sun in their own universe with no form of accountability to the governed. I saw political leaders and office holders who were akin to roaches hence where you find one, there were many others around. In my home state of Abia with one of the highest number of university graduates, thriving businesses and economic potential, great entrepreneurial spirit etc, I saw a lost, disillusioned, confused and hopeless generation of young people with no hope for gainful employment, an oppressed citizenry suffering in silence and obscurity, entrepreneurs and investors fleeing the state for lack of an enabling environment for their businesses to thrive, failing health standards and increasing maternal and infant mortality and more importantly, the endemic corruption and fleecing of its resources by successive administrations.

So, given the deteriorating undercurrent of events in the state I decided to get into politics not to seek fame or affluence but to be an agent of change. In doing so I gave up my job as a bank CEO  to the consternation of a lot of people including many of you here today and got myself engulfed in a political process and system that is riddled with all manner of vices, one of which is the attendant hypocrisy of our politicians. It is the kind of hypocrisy that allows us to demonstrate transcendent curse on our political associates when they commit the political apostasy of leaving for another party and when they come back as prodigal sons lavish them with flattering praise and adjectives such as wisdom and courage. However, I was not deterred by any of these and neither should you, if your purpose of getting into politics was borne out of good intentions.

So even though we were unsuccessful in 2015 in the sense that the election results were compromised and manipulated, I decided to join the political fray again because of the same concerns that prompted my entry into politics the first time around and for the fact that as Neil Young the American country music singer once said, “it’s better to burn out than to rust”.  It is the reason why I am urging everyone to be part of something greater than him or herself. To be part of a change effort in our politics, our political discourse and the manifestation of the future we all desire for ourselves, our children and future generations.

So in the next couple of months as the elections approach the question we must all ponder is, who do we hope or expect to be our President, Governors, Senators, and Assemblymen as each political party parades candidates with different philosophies and competences? The truth is that we will need new leaders who will reconnect the country, their states, their local government areas , think outside the box and apply their expertise in new and imaginative ways, hence our inclination in the next few months should not be one of isolation, indifference and nonchalance. The next couple of weeks will test our resolves, our faith in our choices, commitment to change and fidelity to our hopes and vision for a new Nigeria and more particularly, a `new Abia state. 

Distinguished Ladies and gentlemen, let me end with this favourite quote from Bertolt Brecht thus:

“The worst illiterate is the political illiterate. He hears nothing, sees nothing, takes no part in political life. He doesn't seem to know that the cost of living, the price of beans, of flour, of rent, of medicines all depend on political decisions. He even prides himself on his political ignorance, sticks out his chest and says he hates politics. The imbecile doesn't know that from his political non-participation comes the prostitute, the abandoned child, the robber and, worst of all, corrupt officials, the lackeys of exploitative multinational corporations.”

OUTSIDE THE BOX BY ALEX OTTI, Email:alexottiofr@gmail.com

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