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Graduates Of Benin Republic Universities Can't Write Any English Word -NYSC Director General

17 July 2019 - 4:35am


Director General of the National Youth Service Corps, Brigadier General Shuaibu Ibrahim has accused universities in the Benin Republic of presenting unqualified persons for its one-year mandatory national service. 

He stated that NYSC had begun investigations into the activities of the universities involved in the fraudulent practice.

In a statement by the NYSC Director, Press and Public Relations, Mrs. Adenike Adeyemi, Ibrahim was quoted as saying: “It is unfortunate that some institutions of higher learning, particularly in Cotonou, Benin Republic, present to us people who didn’t go through the four walls of the university as graduates for NYSC mobilization.  

“We are presently investigating some of such so-called graduates, many of whom cannot write or spell any word in English.”  

Adeyemi also revealed that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has pledged to support the NYSC in combating fraudulent mobilization of unqualified graduates for national service.  

The EFCC had reportedly commended corps members for educating Nigerians on the dangers of corruption through the Anti-corruption Community Development Service Groups.  

Adeyemi said the EFCC acting chairman, Ibrahim Magu, made the pledge when Brig.-Gen. Shuaibu Ibrahim paid him a courtesy visit in his office recently at EFCC headquarters, Abuja.  

She added that Magu condemned activities of unscrupulous persons who bring shame to the country through their desperate quest for wealth, including the sale of academic qualifications to unqualified graduates.

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Military Officers, Civilian Protesters, Sign Power-Sharing Deal in Sudan

17 July 2019 - 3:22am


Sudan Protesters

Sudan Protesters

After all-night talks, the Transitional Military Council (TMC) and the coalition of political parties representing the Sudanese protesters, have penned their signatures to a power-sharing deal. The signage was postponed following the TMC’s report of an attempted coup last week.

The deal will see a sovereign council hold office for at least 39 months— three years and three months, after which elections will be conducted. 

Out of the 39 months, the military will maintain their grip on power for 21 months and the civilians will hopefully usher in an elected president after 18 months of tasting what ousted president Omar Al-Bashir held for 30 years.

“It is a historic moment for the country," Mohammed Dagalo, deputy leader of the TMC said after the signing. 

The sovereign council which the two parties have agreed to constitute will be made up of 11 members— the TMC will choose five from their ranks, the civilians will do same and both interests will pick the 11th person. 

The two sides will meet on Friday to settle constitutional issues.

The last update on the ousted Al-Bashir came from the country’s’ chief prosecutor, Alwaleed Mahmoud, who said the International Criminal Court (ICC)-wanted former president, will soon stand trial on corruption charges. 

Mahmoud also stated in June that 41 officials who served under Al-Bashir were already docked.

Negotiations between the protesters and the military began in May, a month after the once-loyal armed forces forced their boss out of office. 

Talks soon broke down on June 3 when the TMC broke-up a sit-in protest in Khartoum. 

Mediators led by Ethiopia and the African Union were able to get the parties back to the table after the ‘million-man march' demonstration in June, where more killings were recorded. 

Dagalo’s Rapid Support Force have been fingered for committing some of the worst atrocities.

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R Kelly Still A Danger To Young Girls -Prosecutor

17 July 2019 - 3:15am


A judge in the United States of America has ordered R Kelly to remain behind bars without bail after a prosecutor claimed the singer would still pose a danger to young girls if he was set free.

Speaking in court on Tuesday, assistant US attorney Angel Krull told district judge Harry Leinenweber: “If he was attracted to middle school girls in 1999 then he’s still attracted to middle school girls.

“That’s who the defendant is and that, your honour, makes him a danger today.

“Electronic monitoring can’t stop obstruction of justice, witness tampering.”

She added: “He can entice victims to his own home.” See Also Sahara Reporters R. Kelly’s Brother Accuses Singer Of Molesting 14-year-old Cousin 0 Comments 10 Months Ago

Mr. Leinenweber said Kelly would have to prove that he was not a danger to the public under federal law and that Kelly’s lawyer had failed to do this.

The R&B singer was arrested in Chicago last week while out walking his dog and faces a number of sex-related charges in the city, and in New York – which he denied, News Agency of Nigeria reports.

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Despite Rumble, We'll Go Ahead With Ruga -Niger State Government

17 July 2019 - 3:00am


Niger State Governor, Abubakar Sani Bello

Niger State Governor, Abubakar Sani Bello

Alhaji Ahmed Matane, the Secretary to the Niger State Government, has insisted that the state government will not renege on its plans to establish grazing reserves in the state.

Matane disclosed this while briefing journalists in Minna.

According to him, the establishment of grazing reserves is meant to end the farmer-herders violent conflicts in Niger.

According to him, the grazing reserves will also create job opportunities for unemployed youths.

He said that grazing reserve would help in the quality of meat and milk production for healthier nourishment.

Matane claimed that the project would generate revenue for the state and discourage rural-urban migration.

“There is no difference between grazing reserve and the Ruga settlement only that some people for their selfish interests are bent on over-heating the polity," he stated.

Matane, while calling for more understanding, said the government was ready to do anything that would promote peace and economic well-being of its people.

“That is why the state government is expending millions of naira at Bobi grazing reserve in Mariga Local Government Area, where hospital, schools, and roads are put in place for the comfort of herdsmen and farmers in the state,’’ Matan noted.

He said there were 10 registered companies willing to take part in the multimillion-naira Bobi grazing reserve project.

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Governor Seyi Makinde’s N48 Billion-Asset Agbana Can’t Touch! By Abiodun Ladepo

17 July 2019 - 2:24am


Forty-eight billion naira! That’s a heck of a lot of money! That’s how much Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State is worth. 

That’s novel. 

The public declaration is unheard of. It is rare in our state; nay in our country, to have our depraved politicians declare publicly how much they are really worth. It is indeed un-Yoruba to have everybody in town know where your wealth starts and where it ends.

Most Yoruba husbands don’t even want their wives to know their ‘last cards’. The belief is that once people know how much you are worth, they peg the respect they give you right at the level of your wealth. Others believe that once your enemies know the depth of your pocket, they will employ agbana (spiritistic spell) to help burn off your money. But let me quickly remind you that there are some monies that agbana cannot deplete no matter how potent. Forty-eight billion naira invested in functioning and profitable firms is one such. 

We must salute Makinde for having the intestinal fortitude; the “integrity” to declare his assets. Integrity? Arrgh! That word again. President Buhari promised to publicly declare his assets five years ago.

To date, I have not seen it anywhere. You can blame his reneging on the infinite maladroitness of his aides and advisers. Or you can blame it on intentional swindling of the electorate by the man. I have heard rumours that his asset declaration filing included just 150 heads of cattle. That’s all I know. And he is supposed to be the epitome of Integrity! 

This is why Makinde’s otherwise phenomenal filing was greeted with a large dose of scepticism in many quarters as soon as the news of its filing broke. Who wants to trust these meretricious politicians!

Truth be told, while some of the scepticisms that greeted Makinde’s asset declaration announcement sounded reprehensible, others really appeared as they came from haters who had long been ensconced in non-intellectual silos. Many even bordered on jealousy! Political rivals who didn’t have N10 million to their names yesterday were astounded. Forty-eight billion naira!

Billions! Who else has that kind of money in Oyo State? What is Makinde’s standing on Forbes’ list? Is he in Dangote and Otedola league? How come he has millions in US dollars? How come he has money in South African rand?  Wait: does he have British pounds and UAE dirham too? Is it possible he has millions in Kiribati dollars or Korean won?

How did he make his money? We know what Dangote is selling. We know what Otedola is selling. Some people obviously never heard of MACON. They just knew that Makinde used the title of engineer (Engr.) until he became a governor; they didn’t know what he engineered.

Then the more important questions started coming out. Where are these assets located? Are they in this our Ibadan? How come we have never once come across them? Where, in Ibadan, could anybody “hide” assets worth N48 billion? Are Ikolaba, Dugbe, Alalubosa, Oluyole, and Iyaganku areas, put together worth N48 billion? Did he make “anticipatory declaration”…meaning he anticipates he would acquire properties worth so much while in office (through corrupt means, of course) – the kind that was part of the charges against Bukola Saraki at the Code of Conduct Bureau?

Then the starry-eyed questions: so, Seyi (Ibadan people call the man by his first name as if they know him personally – which is not a bad thing. Let me see the babanla baba of that person that will call Ajimobi, Isiaka) was worth this much and he could only donate two boreholes worth less than N1 million to our village?

More questions: How come I only got N10,000 to vote him into power when he had so much more to spare? These greedy rich people! How come he didn’t just take the “extra” N8 billion that is on top of the N40 billion and use it to help solve our LAUTECH problems once and for all?

Then the really smart questions came. Wait a minute; these are assets. What about the liabilities? The man has four or five companies. Rich people don’t run businesses with their personal monies. They use loan facilities. It was only after Azeez Arisekola died that we found out how much he owed banks. MKO Abiola too was heavily indebted. Aliko Dangote, we all know, is super-Super indebted. Or, at least, these people’s companies owe huge sums of money. And that is normal. It is when you don’t manufacture anything; don’t grow or harvest anything and don’t hire any good number of employees in a corporation that you founded and yet you are stupendously rich (like Bukola Saraki) that people start wondering about you. So, how much does Makinde owe in loans?

Then, hateful comments smacking of competing political hysterias started coming out too. So, he had this much money and yet allowed me to spend my miserly N300,000 on his campaign? How come he didn’t offer me just N1 billion to help win my House of Reps campaign? But they said he owed his companies’ workers salaries at a time. How can he be so rich and still owe salaries?

Is this why he was able to ‘buy’ Baba Ladoja? Did he ‘buy’ Sharafadeen Alli and Femi Lanlehin too? But how come he wasn’t able to “buy” the Baba of Ogbomosho?

Listen: here’s what I think. Makinde was probably even richer than this in 2011 and 2015 when he lost elections at the primaries. The primaries where delegates voted based almost solely on how much money you gave them. In fact, his loss of the 2015 PDP gubernatorial ticket to Senator Teslim Folarin (now in APC) should tell you right there that money is not everything.

Sadly though, money is still very important in Nigerian politics. Although Makinde’s camp spun this asset declaration thing as fulfilment of a campaign promise, potential 2023 PDP primary challengers see it as a not-so-veiled display of financial strength aimed at intimidating them out of contention. And they could be right. Nobody…repeat…nobody has Makinde’s kind of money in Oyo state politics. The questions are whether Makinde has enough financial liabilities to impose some spending constraints on him, and how much of his disposable wealth he is willing to throw into a furnace.

At any rate, the public declaration of asset bell that he rang is one that we should not try to un-ring in Oyo State going forward. We want to know how much you are worth coming in. Makinde should also make this a condition of appointment for all political appointments he’s going to be making.

Maybe –and just maybe –other states and Abuja will copy this truly pacesetting step.   

By Abiodun Ladepo

Ibadan, Nigeria

Oluyole2@yahoo.com

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Ex-Presidential Aide Asks Buhari: Who’s Politicizing Insecurity In Nigeria?

17 July 2019 - 1:33am


A former presidential aide, Akin Osuntokun, has expressed disappointment over President Muhammadu Buhari’s comment that Nigerians politicizing “isolated incidents of insecurity” in the country are unpatriotic citizens.

President Buhari, had during a meeting with the executives of his campaign organization at the State House on Tuesday, had said, “Those who politicize the isolated incidents of insecurity are not patriotic Nigerians. I am confident that this administration will use all the resources at its disposal to protect the lives and properties of all Nigerians, and not just prominent Nigerians or those who make headlines.

Osuntokun, an ally of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, appearing on Channels TV, however, challenged Buhari saying, “What do you mean by politicizing? Who is politicizing it?

“That is his (Buhari’s) own interpretation according to his own convenience. In any case, if people are commenting on issues, how does that amount to politicization?

“What of those people who are victims? This type of casual detachment to people is getting out of hand. When he (Buhari) was attacked some years ago, did people not talk? Did people not raise issues then?  

“Should people not have talked now? Now you want people to be quiet.”

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Buhari Reacts: Unpatriotic Nigerians Politicizing Isolated Cases Of Insecurity

17 July 2019 - 1:15am


Despite widespread violence and a rising level of insecurity in Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari has accused his critics of politicizing isolated incidents of insecurity.

He slammed those he claimed as politicizing the situation as unpatriotic in a veiled reference to his former boss, ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, who had in a scathing open letter censured Buhari for allowing violence and insecurity to fester under his watch.

While hosting the executives of the Buhari Campaign Organisation (BCO) who visited him at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, the president said: “Those who politicize the isolated incidents of insecurity are not patriotic Nigerians.  

“I am confident that this administration will use all the resources at its disposal to protect the lives and properties of all Nigerians, and not just prominent Nigerians or those who make headlines.  

“While we have made significant progress in the fight against terrorism, we acknowledge that there are also emerging challenges like kidnapping and banditry.  

“I assure you and Nigerians that we will not relent in our efforts to secure our country from criminal activities.”  

Obasanjo had on Monday written an open letter to Buhari, criticizing his leadership style and handling of the country's security challenges.

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Northern Leaders To Fulani Herdsmen: Come Back To North If South Isn't Safe, Secure To Live

17 July 2019 - 12:52am


The Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF) says it is time all Fulani herdsmen living in the south of Nigeria returned to their ancestral home in the north if their lives and properties cannot be protected by the government.

The farmers-herders violent conflicts among other issues have continued to polarize the two parts of Africa's most populous country, especially now with a Fulani man, President Muhammadu Buhari, ruling Nigeria.

The northern elders said their kinsmen should immediately vacate the south if their safety and security could no longer be guaranteed in the region.

Addressing a joint press conference in Abuja on Tuesday, the chairman of NEF, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, said the forum would continue to take up issues relating to the security and safety of northerners in southern Nigeria.

“I will like to take particular note of the last paragraph of your presentation, especially with what we have heard in the last few hours that some violence had already started to manifest in some sections of the country against the herdsmen, who for all known reasons have been in peaceful co-existence in the communities where they have lived for many years. 

“Now, certainly we are worried about their safety like we are worried about the safety of every Nigerian who decided to live wherever they want to," he stated.

He added, “But then, if there is no certainty that their safety is guaranteed by the authorities that are immediately around them or by the authorities that have the responsibility for the overall security of all Nigerians wherever they reside, we are certainly worried about their well-being and I think particular attention should be paid to what is happening on hour-to-hour, day-to-day basis. 

“And if it is indeed, true that their safety is not guaranteed in the places where they are residing, we would rather have them back into areas where their safety is guaranteed, and this is coming back as much as possible to the north. 

“Those who are residents there should keep us informed and those of us who are monitoring from here should also keep ourselves informed about what is happening."

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Buhari Orders Payment Of Minimum Wage But Says No Increase For Workers Earning N30,000 And Above

17 July 2019 - 12:50am


President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered the immediate payment of the national minimum wage to federal civil servants. 

Dr. Richard Egbule, the Executive Chairman of the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC), however, told journalists in Abuja on Tuesday that only federal civil servants who earn less than N30,000 monthly would benefit from the implementation.

According to him, the salary structures affected include the consolidated public service salary structure (CONPSS); consolidated health salary structure (CONHESS); consolidated research and allied institutions salary structure (CONRAISS); consolidated tertiary institutions salary structure (CONTISS II) and consolidated tertiary educational institutions salary structure (CONTEDNESS). 

“The negotiations between the federal government of Nigeria and the Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council (JNPSNC) on the consequential adjustments arising from the new national minimum wage for officers who earned salaries above N30,000 per month before 18 April 2019 in the federal civil service will continue,” Egbule pointed out. 

According to him, the outcome of the negotiations will be implemented with the effect from the date an agreement was reached. 

All arrears arising from the implementation of the N30,000 minimum wage are expected to be worked out but federal civil servants who earn N30,000 and above will still get their salaries adjusted after the negotiations with the unions, the government official stated during the press briefing.

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Showdown In Floundering Nigeria: Workers To Go On Strike Across 36 States Over Minimum Wage

17 July 2019 - 12:25am


Nigeria's labour union says civil servants in all 36 states across the country and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja should be prepared to go on a strike.

This is in preparation for a likely failure to reach an amicable conclusion regarding negotiation on the adjustment of the new national minimum wage.  

The Trade Union side of the Joint National Public Service Negotiation Council (JNPSNC) after a meeting also reviewed downward its demands from 66.66 percent to 30 percent for officers on grade levels 07-14 and 25 percent for officers on grade levels 15-17.

However, the President Muhammadu Buhari administration is said to be insisting on 9.5 percent salary adjustment for officers on grade levels 07-14 and 5 percent for those on grade levels 15-17.

“Surprisingly, when the technical sub-committee reconvened, the government side introduced a strange clause to the discussion insisting that the term of reference of the committee was to work out the consequential adjustment of salaries of public servants based on the subhead provided for salaries in the 2019 budget.

“All efforts by the trade union side to persuade the government side to return to the right track of negotiation and agree on a realistic percentage increase proved abortive.

“Thus, the government side deliberately created a stalemate and thereafter adjoined the meeting of the technical committee sine die," the workers said in a communiqué jointly signed by the acting Chairman and Secretary, Comrades Anchaver Simon and Alade Bashir Lawal.  

It added: “The trade union side of JNPSNC has now resolved that the federal government should reconvene the meeting of the technical committee on consequential adjustment immediately so that it can conclude its deliberations and ensure that all public service employees benefit adequately from the N30,000 new monthly national minimum wage signed into law by Mr. President since April 2019.”

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Gunmen Kidnap Three Zamfara State Government Officials, Kill One In Kaduna

17 July 2019 - 12:23am


Gunmen

Gunmen dressed in security uniforms have kidnapped Zamfara state's top government official, seizing two of his staff and killing his deputy.

Agence France Presse reports the kidnapping and killing.

Hamza Salihu, the state's director of budget was kidnapped on Sunday along with two aides on a highway in neighbouring Kaduna State -- a region beset by violence between farmers and herders.

The victims were on an official trip when they were ambushed by a kidnapping gang in a "terrible and disturbing" attack, Zamfara government spokesman, Yusuf Idris, said in a statement.

The gunmen opened fire on the vehicle the victims were travelling in, killing the deputy budget director Kabir Ismail and injuring a female colleague, the spokesman said.

"Bad elements... still use security uniforms to stop and kidnap unsuspecting law-abiding citizens," the statement said.

Kidnapping attacks have surged in the northwest of Nigeria, the home region of President Muhammadu Buhari.

Criminal groups and "bandit" gangs -- stealing livestock, kidnapping and destroying villages -- have capitalized on a lack of security presence in rural areas.

Entire villages have been deserted for fear of raids by criminal gangs which have bases in the dense forest that spreads across northwest Nigeria and into neighbouring Niger.

In the first three months of 2019, nearly half of the kidnappings in the country were in Zamfara, Nigeria's top police official has said.

The security forces launched "Operation Puff Adder" in April to combat kidnappings and armed robberies on roads in northwestern and central Nigeria.

Buhari on Tuesday extended the operation to the south of the country after a string of attacks "as part of a total overhaul of highway security architecture".

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Celebrate With Me Boko Haram Or Face The Music, I've Returned To Maiduguri Invigorated, Boasts Newly Promoted Gen. Bulama Biu

17 July 2019 - 12:22am


Maj.-Gen. Bulama Biu, the General Officer Commanding (GOC), 7 Division, Nigerian Army, says he will prefer Boko Haram terrorists to celebrate with him or face his wrath.  

Biu was recently given accelerated promotion by President Muhammadu Buhari for the "extraordinary feats, exemplary leadership, commitment and valour" recorded under his command in the counter-insurgency operation in the north-east.

The GOC was promoted to the rank of major general in the Nigerian Army.

"The promotion I was told was as a result of all the efforts and successes we recorded in defeating Boko Haram. Our appreciation will, therefore, be incomplete without calling on the remnants Boko Haram to join in celebrating me by laying down their arms unconditionally as quickly as possible for peace to reign.

"Then, I will have a great sense of fullfilment.

“But where some of them decide not to do so, I want to assure them that I have returned to Maiduguri more reinvigorated, well energized.

"I have my eyes very wide and ever prepared to go after those that are adamant,” the gleeful Nigerian army general told journalists in Maiduguri, Borno State.

According to Biu, the military’s final onslaught against the insurgents would be sustained until they were completely defeated.

The newly-promoted army general, therefore, urged his troops to continue to display professional commitment toward restoring peace in Boko Haram-ravaged north-east.

“This opportunity given to me by way of elevating me to this rank will certainly make me redouble my efforts toward ensuring that we achieve our desired goals.

“I want to thank President Muhammadu Buhari, the Commander-in-Chief for finding me worthy.

"I equally want to thank the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Burutai, who put in all his time and support to ensure that we key into his vision and policies. I owe him a lot of gratitude.

“Today, I am celebrated not only by officers and men of the Division and the Nigerian army,  but I believe entire Nigerians," Biu added.

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Nigerian Stock Exchange Continues Its Losing Streak

17 July 2019 - 12:12am


Activities on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) continued on the losing streak on Tuesday with the market indices extending their loss by 0.49 per cent.

The All-Share Index, which opened at 28,341.03, shed 140.15 points or 0.49 per cent to close at 28,200.88 due to negative sentiment.

The market capitalisation lost N68 billion or 0.49 per cent to close at N13.744 trillion in contrast to the N13.812 trillion achieved on Monday.

Thus, the month-to-date and year-to-date losses worsened to 3.29 per cent and 10.28 per cent, respectively.

The downturn was impacted by losses recorded in medium and large capitalised stocks, amongst which were Okomu Oil, Chemical and Allied Products (CAP), Forte Oil, Conoil and Flour Mills of Nigeria.

Analysts at Afrinvest Limited expected the negative performance to persist throughout the week as sell pressure dominated activities.

Cordros Capital Limited said  its outlook for equities in the short to medium term remained conservative in the absence of catalysts to drive positive market returns.

Market breadth remained negative with 10 gainers versus 32 losers.

Red Star Express recorded the highest price gain of 9.81 per cent  to close at N5.71 per share.

Lasaco Assurance followed with a gain 9.68 per cent to close at 34k, while NEM Insurance appreciated by 4.09 per cent to close at N2.29 per share.

Nestle Nigeria went up by 1.79 per cent to close at N1,250, while Guaranty Trust Bank appreciated by 1.72 per cent to close at N29.50 per share.

Conversely, CAP and Cement Company of Northern Nigeria (CCNN) led the price losers’ chart by 10 per cent each to close at N24.75 and N13.05 per share, respectively.

Okomu Oil followed with a decline of 9.93 per cent to close at N55.80 per share.

Forte Oil lost 9.90 per cent to close at N18.65, while Flour Mills of Nigeria shed 9.88 per cent to close at N14.60 per share.

The volume of shares traded rose by 23.95 per cent with 217.13 million shares worth N1.8 billion traded in 3,595 deals.

This was against the 175.17 million shares valued at N2.14 billion transacted in 3,111 deals on Monday.

Transactions in the shares of FBN Holdings topped the activity chart with 46.76 million shares valued at N266.24 million.

Courteville Business Solutions followed with 46.74 million shares worth N9.46 million, while UBA traded 24.17 million shares valued at N136.49 million.

Transcorp traded 12.40 million shares valued at N12.48 million, while Zenith Bank transacted 10.97 million shares worth N204.04 million, the News Agency of Nigeria reports.

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It Can't Be Well For A Nation, Says Secondus, Where 94-year-old Buries 58-year-old Daughter

17 July 2019 - 12:11am


Uche Secondus, the National Chairman of Nigeria's major political opposition, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), says it cannot be well for a country in which a 94-year-old nationalist, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, had to witness the death of his 58-year-old daughter, Mr. Funke Olakunrin.

Olakunrin was shot and killed by gunmen many considered herdsmen but the Nigeria Police Force said were likely "armed robbers" along Ore road in Ondo State.

According to Secondus, the killing of Olakunrin was the high point of wanton killings across the country.

“It certainly cannot be well for a nation that creates an ugly situation where a 94-year-old Nationalist would be burying her 58-year-old daughter.

“This certainly is not Nigeria of our dream,” the politician stated this in Abuja on Tuesday.

Speaking further, Secondus said, "Former President Obasanjo in a timely tirade to the President on Monday raised all the issues and properly situated the security position in the country. He went further to highlight the implications of the current state of the nation and where we are headed if urgent steps are not taken.

“As national chairman of the main opposition party I cannot agree less with the former president.

“I cannot agree less with him where he said among other things that 'The main issue, if I may dare say, is poor management or mismanagement of diversity which, on the other hand, is one of our greatest and most important assets…'."

Continuing, he said: “The PDP urges President Buhari to respond appropriately to their timely advisories by declaring state of emergency on security in the country and go further urgently to address the issues raised in Obasanjo’s letter."

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Gunmen Kidnap 10 Turkish Sailors Off Nigerian Waters

17 July 2019 - 12:08am


Gunmen have attacked a Turkish ship off the coast of Nigeria, kidnapping 10 sailors.

Turkey's Foreign Ministry disclosed this on Tuesday, adding that Initiatives are being taken to free the 10 Turks.

The sailors were reportedly kidnapped on Saturday evening.

A statement by the foreign ministry said: “The ship which the pirates left has been taken to Tema Harbor (Ghana), and the necessary initiatives are taken with Nigerian and Ghanaian authorities for the release of our abducted citizens.

“As a result of the attack, some of the crew members, who are Turkish nationals, have been abducted by the pirates.”

According to reports, a Turkish-flagged ship, Paksoy-1, going to Abidjan, Ivory Coast from the Port of Douala in Cameroon was attacked by pirates on Saturday evening.

The ship, operated by Kadioglu Maritime, had 18 crew on board at the time it was attacked by pirates suspected to be militants in the Niger Delta area of Nigeria.

The Turkish government said it was working with necessary authorities and security agencies to secure the released of the kidnapped.

Turkey’s Ambassador to Ghana, Ozlem Ulueren, told Turkish news angency, Anadolu, that the vessel had reached Ghana’s Tema Harbour with eight crew members on Monday.

Meanwhile, the spokesman for Turkey's ruling AK Party, Omer Celik, said the country's foreign ministry and intelligence services were "intensely working" on the issue.

According to NTV, the gunmen on speed boats attacked the cargo and abducted the sailors. 

The kidnappers have yet to demand a ransom.

However, NTV reported that the other crew members of the ship were rescued and taken to Guinea. 

Efforts are ongoing to locate and free the captives.

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Chinese Quarries, Others In Search Of Solid Minerals Endanger Lives In Ogun State

16 July 2019 - 2:40pm






Health is wealth. But quarry communities in Ogun are losing both to mining companies, which are breaking everything, including the mining laws, Gbenga Ogundare reports.

A huge dose of entrenched ignorance and lethargy. That is about the only prescription anyone will need to live and remain unperturbed in Itokuland in Abeokuta, South-West of Nigeria. Life here, according to residents, is unbearable. Everyday, the rural folks contend with regular blasts of explosives rocking their homes to the foundation, clouds of dust carrying granite particles, and jarring sounds of trucks moving all day long on the gravelly road that leads from Asun, in Obafemi-Owode Local Government Area of Ogun State, to the hinterland.

Itoku Baale, Elejigun, and many other villages lining the road owe their lives to 24 Hours Mining Company Limited, PWD, and four other companies blasting rocks and granite in that axis. 

The villagers have nowhere else to go. And some eventually have paid the supreme price for their refusal to be uprooted from their native land. 

Rasaki Soyoye was amongst those that granite dust has killed.

“He coughed to death,” Alimi Ariibi, a light-skinned 80-something-year-old man, told the reporter. He is the Baale of Elejigun, one of the closest communities to round-the-clock quarry operations.

Ariibi was smart enough to have identified the cause of the death of his kinsman as air pollution from unrelenting quarrying activities in their community. Other villagers just knew people were coughing or dying. 

“But we can’t really tell what caused the coughing,” said an octogenarian who identified himself as Igbagbo. He is the Baale of Jagun, Orita Ijaye in Odeda.

Soyoye didn’t just drop dead. He actually took ill. Particles from mines are among the toxic pollutants the world Health Organisation classifies as ambient air pollutants. No fewer than 4.2 million people die annually around the world as a result of this. “Seventeen percent of all deaths and disease results from acute lower respiratory infection,” says WHO’sDepartment of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health (PHE). 

In Nigeria, air pollution kills 150 out of every 100,000, according to the 2016 report of State of Global Air.

Soyoye’s illness probably worsened because there was no clinic to take care of his failing health. The nearest community where there is a primary health centre is Obafemi, a 40-minute bike ride from the village.

Coughing, resulting from inhaling dust-laden air, is just one of the many ailments the villagers battle with. “We can’t even sleep because their motors go up and down every day and night,” Ariibi added.

Elejigun is a ten-roof community of farmers. The women there outnumber the men. The older men who spent their youth in that village and had relished the freshness and calmness of their peasant life, sometimes are overwhelmed by sense of nostalgia. Locating quarries in that area have turned their lives around—for the worse.

A number of the houses there are now heaps of rubble, decaying planks, rusty roofing sheets, and weeds, all covered in thick dust. Those still standing, including that of the late Soyoye, impaired by gaping cracks and thick fault lines, threaten to crumble any time.

Whatever happens to the health and safety of peasants living at Elejigun and others does not bother the miners. It also appears that state and federal governments too don’t care much either—despite the provision of the Mining Act that spells out responsibilities of a miner for the socio-economic wellbeing of its host communities.

The pain is, however, heavy on the villagers, especially on their health.

“The quarries are putting us through a lot of suffering here,” griped Ariibi.

A state set on a hill

Ogun State is known for its rolling expanse of rocks and other solid minerals that abound in Nigeria.

The state, with its rural communities, has been one of the major destinations of miners, local and foreign, seeking the Golden Fleece buried in the jagged hills and laterite plains that are much of the land mass. Most of the investors are into quarrying, and the gold rush is largely to the Odeda LGA and Obafemi-Owode LGA.

With its granite and other stone deposits, Odeda LGA alone, which has about 25 communities, is home to no fewer than 10 quarries. They are spread across villages like Itesi, Oguntolu, and others under Orile Ilugun; some are at Banja, Orita Ijaiye, and Odeda; others are at Mologede, Ososun, and Ayoyo.

These and other sites across the state spewed out 16 million metric tonnes of solid minerals in 2016. That was 38 percent of the total tonnes produced in Nigeria that year, making Ogun the leading producer of solid mineral in 2016, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

The Southwestern state is also Nigeria’s largest producer of cement, grinding out 13 million metric tonnes annually.

But the life of the rural communities, especially those that have the misfortune of hosting quarrying companies, is nothing to compare with the amount of wealth mined out of their land. The resources in the underbelly of their land have become a curse for them.

Rights activists and environmental advocates have always criticized the investors and government for destroying the source of living of these rural dwellers.

Worse, the quarries are not just destroying the agrarian wealth of these communities; they are also ruining the health of the peasants and violating their well-being.

All that can ever be violated

Local laws, international charters, and principles of fundamental rights frown at this as it violates the rights of the people as recognized by the Nigerian Constitution, and as entrenched in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. It is also a violation of certain provisions of the Nigerian Mining Act.

Amongst other provisions for compensation, Section 116 and 117 of the Act that guides the activities of miners provides for a bill of responsibilities by the company to the host communities. The provision, known as the Community Development Agreement, lists out basic amenities the company and the community will draw up for the company to provide. Health care delivery is one of them. Others include school buildings, roads, skill acquisition programmes, electricity, SME kits, and so on.

“The Community Development Agreement shall be subject to review every five (5 )years and shall, until reviewed by the parties, have binding effect on the parties,” Ssubsection 5 of Ssection 116 states.

This is different from corporate social responsibilities, said Eniolawu Olalekan, head, Geology Department at the OgunState Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

The law also makes the two parties develop an implementation and monitoring plan for those projects they agree on. So the CDA is more like a social contract document between the host and the company. Any dispute following that, the law states, shall be referred to the Minister of Mines and Steel Development.

But from Itesi and Oguntolu, in Orile Ilugun, to Jagun and Oke Osun in Orita Ijaiye, down to Obete in Mologede, and Elejigun in Itokuland, none of the people knew about the CDA, not to talk of having one drawn up with the quarry owners when they came to start business.

Some villagers do not even care at all for whatever goods are in store for them in the CDA. “How is it my business again getting into an agreement when the land owners have sold their land to the white men?” said a man who identified himself as chairman of Obete. 

“Don’t waste your time telling us about the agreement. You see, we are fine. Quarrying does not affect us.”

Obete stands just a little more farther than a kilometer from a quarry which bears no form of identification—like many others. Based on the 2013 records of the University of Ibadan researchers that looked into “Challenges of quarrying amongst rural dwellers in Odeda LGA, Ogun” (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/264047887_Challenges_of_quarry_activities_among_rural_dwellers_in_Odeda_Local_Government_Area_of_Ogun_State_Nigeria), the quarry likely belongs to the Abuja-based Gilmor Construction Company which handled a water purification dam project in Ogun. And the village is one of the clusters of four communities in Mologede, along the Igbo Ora road. 

By law, a community within a radius of one kilometre to a quarry must be resettled by the quarry owner. Olalekan of the Ogun State Mining Ministry said it falls within the blast zone of the quarrying activities, and it is unsafe.

Yet the community leaders said they were just fine.

The Obete chairman’s devil-may-care attitude is not strange. The University of Ibadan researchers found out similar attitudes in their 2013 study across the Odeda quarry communities. Thirty-three percent of those interviewed were just as unconcerned about whatever impact the tremor and dust had on their health. They would not even attribute their ill-health to air pollution or anything.

In a sense, that coldness seems a façade for some kind of loyalty to the quarry owners.

It is, however, an eye opener. It sheds more light on how the law, protective though, is rigged against the locals because of their ignorance—something the companies also exploit. It also reveals there are insiders the companies have kept sweet so the narrative can hardly nail the quarry owners for hazarding the health of the villagers. 

How it works

At Itesi and four other villages under Orile Ilugun, there is one of such insiders: Patrick Owolese. He comes from Itesi, though he lives with his family in a small building of four rooms at Orile Ilugun—five minutes bike ride from Itesi. A green SUV was parked in front of the house on April 12 when the reporter met him for an interview. He also had some level of literacy because he brought out a tome of court papers when he was asked about the CDA document.

By rural standards, Patrick is a big shot. More so that he was the one that sold his family portion of the communal land to the company—CNC Quarry Nigeria Limited.

Whatever the amount of money that changed hands eight years ago when he leased the rocky land to CNC Quarry Nigeria Limited, —it didn’t enrich the larger family. Nor did the cash, which the villagers estimated at N10 million, better the life of the communities. And that might be all Orile Ilugun, Itesi and neighbouring villages—the chiefs amongst them— would ever get for the degradation of their health and sources of livelihood. The benefits in the CDA, in the villagers’ ignorance, have been factored in to the lump sum, which was relatively okay by Patrick.

Other than its failure to renew its second five years’ plan of the 10-year lease agreement, which now landed both the community and the company in court, CNC is not a bad company, as far as some of the community leaders can tell. Patrick could even swear by his ancestors that the Chinese company has been fair enough to the communities.

But older villagers and the youths at Itesi and Oguntolu think otherwise.

About 10 years of inhaling granite particles, feeling your heart pound as payloads of explosives go off now and then, and watching your relatives working on the quarry have accidents and die are no pleasant experiences. They locals believe, in their heart of hearts, the CNC owners are unfair to them.

Environmental health experts say some health conditions relating to mines, especially air pollution, have a latency period.  Dust-related conditions, like asbestosis, for instance, take 10 years or more before showing any symptom. Ignorance of this still makes it confounding to the villagers who know they are dying, but can’t pinpoint what is killing them softly.

The UI researchers, in their survey, identified a number of illnesses common across the Odeda quarrying communities. Leading the syndrome of air-pollution ailments was coughing. Then asthma, rash, eye problem, and ache followed in that order. Some of the villagers attached no reason to these sicknesses. The non-communicable diseases, the villagers thought, were just acts of God.

The conditions begin very simple: just filling the airway with dusty air.

As they advance, things get complicated. Granite dust banked up inside, according to occupational physicians, presents silicosis, tightness of the chest, respiratory problem, and heart problem. All of these are deadlier than runny noses and minor aches the victims experience early on in their exposure.

Not many of the villagers, however, seem interested in the pathogenesis of their health problems.

PaAkanni, a community leader at Itesi, said those dying amongst them show no worse signs than those of any sick human. “But what we are inhaling here is enough,” he said. “Who knows?”

If that’s a question, it’s a difficult one to answer.

The matron of the Primary Health Centre, Orile Ilugun, said the centre had no record of any respiratory health problems—or air-pollution-induced sicknesses—from the town and its neighbouring villages. Not because there is none, really. “They just don’t come here,” she told the reporter, adding they prefer to go to drug sellers in town.

It is true. According to Akanni, since there’s no clinic for them, they usually go to get treatment from one Dr Ben at Orile Ilugun.

Well, Ben didn’t exactly look like a doctor when the reporter met him. He was more of a village know-it-all as he sat amongst his friends in a shop across the road. He is educated, to be sure. He speaks good English, as good as any other southeastern Nigerian living in a Ssouthwestern village. He is also friends with a CNC’s Nigerian manager whose name is Marsi.

Ben’s drugstore, a small shop that had a quarter of its space partitioned with a wooden shelf, boasted scanty drugs. The closed section might just be ideal for privacy if he had to give a shot or two of injection to locals he considered sick enough for that.

He said there had never been a case of respiratory problems resulting from inhaling quarry dust brought to him. “I don’t think those are common here,’ he said. “The Chinese owner of the CNC are actually trying,” he launched into an image-burnishing report. “They wet the road regularly. They give the communities scholarship. They give them bags of rice and money every Christmas.”

About the CDA that might have ensured the five communities had at least a clinic, Ben said that wouldn’t happen. “The heads of these families collect money from the Chinese and share it amongst themselves.”

The absence of a clinic for the quarry communities obviously creates a need. Meeting such needs brings Ben brisk business—at least those cases he can take on. But there have been emergencies a drug salesman like him cannot handle.  

According to Akanni, a young man from Oguntolu who worked for the CNC was crushed by one of the company’s dumpers. He died before they could take him out of Itesi. His father, known as Baba Carpenter, a bed - ridden man of about 80, was still alive when the reporter sought him out for an interview. 

He couldn’t explain well how it all happened and all that followed the incident. The villagers didn’t want to confirm or deny the story either. The reporter, however, gathered that he was offered N400,000 as compensation for losing one of his two children.

The chairman of Oguntolu, Lamidi Shotunde, a hoary-haired man in his 80s, lamented the neglect by the CNC. He explained how the tremor from rock blasting keeps tearing down their huts, and the toll the dust and blasts take on their health. “When our people eventually fall sick, they go to Odeda,” he said.

Oguntolu’s community leaders know neither about the CDA nor the possibility of a clinic, amongst other benefits, the agreement guarantees. So there was no forcing the issue. They have even concluded nothing good can come from CNC. 

“Those people refuse to do anything as their blasting destroy our houses—now you are talking about agreement and a clinic,” Shotunde said.

Another victim, Apostle Atanda, was amongst CNC’s truck drivers. He probably had had his gut scarred with hardened granite dust. At some point, he started coughing out blood. These were life-and-death situations worsened by lack of a single health facility in a cluster of no fewer than five communities. The villagers said no sick or injured worker is allowed to use the CNC clinic.

One of the Chinese owners of CNC who the reporter contacted by phone April 17 didn’t respond to the question on how the quarry owners have showed concerns for the health of the villagers. He gave no response either to the question of violating the Mining Act that provides for the CDA.

“I am not in Nigeria,” one of the directors identified as Jesse told the reporter. Pressed further, he disconnected the phone, leaving the caller at the mercy of a Chinese answering machine.

While Jesse is one of the known directors of CNC Quarry, its registered owners are Li Bin and Li Lin Lin, both living at 25, Xien Hu Village, Yun Yany County Chong, Qing, China. Its secretary,is, however, is a Nigerian:  Mbalisi Charles, of Suite 4, Orji Kalu House, Jahi Road, BanexJunction, FCT, Abuja. The N10m-share capital business was registered in 2007, with the office address at 15, SerikiAro Street, Ikeja, Lagos. However, there is no quarry company in any of the apartments in that three-storey building.  A Chinese travel agency just moved in sometime in May, according to a resident. Not much is known about its annual report either. The last time CNC filed its annual report with the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC, was 2012, two years after its registration.

This zero-sum contract is not just a CNC problem. It’s a custom among the quarry owners—from Odeda to Obafemi-Owode. There is nothing—not one brick of a structure—any of the over 50 companies put down for a clinic in any of about a dozen communities they (miners) have hit pay dirt. They just got their licenses, paid the landowners some pittance, moved in, mined out the areas, made all the money, and left the environment and the health of the communities devastated.

Some even operate illegally. No fewer than 28 of the quarries registered by the Ogun cadastre office to operate in Odeda and ObafemiOwode LGAs carry on business with expired licenses. 

FW San He Concepts, a Chinese companying quarrying granite, for instance, is still operating at Orita Ijaye, Odeda, with a license that expired in 2015. The company has another quarry in Obafemi-Owode.

Its owners are Hu Tianebg of 19-6-302, Penglai of Rd, Dinghai Area Zhoushan,  ZheiJiang, China, and Fasiu Oke of 1/2, Onijoko Street, Off Abiola Way, Abeokuta, Ogun State. Oke’s shareholding was just N500,000 of the N10 million capital base. 

Since its registration in 2007, it only filed its annual reports between 2008 and 2013.

From a detailed search at the Corporate Affairs Commission in Abuja, it’s apparent that  all of these dodgy quarries are Chinese-owned. Except for 24 Hours Mining Company Limited. It’s a family business managed by Mahamoud Adamu living at 6 Anthony Ukpo Crescent, Abraham Adesanya Close, Apo Legislative Quarters, Abuja. The quarry is a family business. It started with a share capital of N1m the Mahamouds raised when it was registered in 2011. Nothing more is known about the quarry. Not even its annual report, according to the report of a CAC search. 

Annual reports do not only contain financial details of company assets and liabilities, it carries reports of its corporate social responsibilities and host community development activities. These reports would have shed more light on the CDA compliance—if they had been available.

Just as they slip off the grasp of the industry’s regulators and operate without any accountability to the authorities, so the miners also dodge their responsibilities to their hosts. These are small communities of peasants whose health and wellbeing, ravaged by quarrying, could have been improved had the community development agreement been drawn up and implemented.

Instead of taking the CDA seriously, the quarry owners would rather play do-gooders.

“They give each village two bags of rice, two gallons of oil, and N10,000 every Christmas ,”Akanni said of CNC’s  gifts to Itesi and Oguntolu whose combined headcount stands roughly at  300. He also admitted they gave them a borehole, and offered their youth scholarship too: N200,000 for 20 youth annually. It is like a windfall, and the entire community, youth and adults, usually share it. “Some get N3000; some N2000,’ he said.

PWD, Gilmor, both construction giants, have stopped their quarrying operation since they finished the construction projects for which they needed stones. Oba Quarry Nigeria Ltd, which the villagers said belonged to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, has also left site. But the impact of their quarrying, and the sustained activities of the functioning 24 Hours, FW, and CNC cannot be wished away. None of them ever considered mitigating this impact on the health of the villagers. Nor did they draw up any CDA with their hosts. “They don’t even care there are human beings here,” said a woman at Jagun whose baale denied they fell sick in that community. “Look at the water we drink here,” she pointed at a bucket half-filled with water the color of leaves.

Situations here and at Elejigun smack of recklessness by the FW and 24 Hours. The companies have never been in anyway responsible to the villages, according to their leaders. 

At least CNC and other companies that grudgingly gave boreholes and food items could label their gesture corporate social responsibility. The CSR, though, is no excuse for the quarry owners ducking the CDA—or even breaching its terms, supposing such agreement exists.

Being socially responsible is one good thing any quarry owner may choose to do, said Olalekan. “But the CDA is not negotiable.” Bigger companies that are more socially responsible still commit to community development agreements.

 

Blame the victims

Olalekan said that, Lafarge, a cement giant in the state, is one company that has been a good corporate citizen going by its donations and social contributions to its host at Ewekoro. Even at that, he told the reporter, there were issues in their CDA that both had had to bring to the commerce and mines commissioner for settlement.

“That shows the Ewekoro community is enlightened enough to know about the CDA,” the geologist confirmed. Unlike those across the Odeda and Obafemi-Owode areas who were just getting to hear about it from the reporter.

“We have carried out enlightenment campaigns, telling them to always contact us when those foreign investors come so we can guide the host communities through the CDA process and other benefits,” he said. But the communities like to keep the government out of it; they want to hog the money investors initially pay them.

“There’s nothing we can do in such situation where there’s no CDA, except they come to report it to us.” That’s not common, though. That is at the state level.

The Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) can only watch on as the quarry operators continue to plague their unwary host communities. Enforcing Section 119 of the Mining Act is not the responsibility of the NEITI, but the Mines and Steel Development Ministry in Abuja, Orji Ogbonnaiya, Director of Communication at NEITI, told the reporter.

The Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development has cadaster offices across the nation to monitor mining activities. The officer at the Abeokuta office, one Engineer Ola, was said to be out in the fields when the reporter went there April 12. He didn’t answer questions asked later—on how the cadaster office is enforcing the CDA sections of the mining Act, and whether the ignorance of the host communities should keep them in perpetual exploitation.

Ola merely thanked the reporter for the concern and observation.

“I am going to pass the information to my superior for necessary action,” he said in response to a text message sent to his phone line on April 17.

And the headquarters, contacted earlier, would not respond to similar questions mailed to them, particularly on what can be done to help the communities who are ignorant of the CDA and its benefits.

It is clear the cadaster office is struggling to articulate its response to the questions. Which more or less means nothing is being done, and nothing may be done about the exploitation and suffering of the villagers. 

That’s almost unthinkable. But it’s the reality discovered by the reporter. Communities like those visited by the reporter in the course of investigation are off the radar of government in Abuja. Edward Opara, Director of Information at the Ministry of Mining and Steel Development, betrayed how clueless the federal authority is about the sufferings of the rural dwellers in Odeda and Obafemi-Owode LGAs. 

When the reporter approached him with questions June 17, Opara simply owned up the communities groaning under the terror of reckless miners in Ogun State  are not known to him as the head of the press and public relations in the ministry. He, however, promised to take the issues to another director who can offer answers to the questions posed by the reporter.

Two weeks later, the reporter was still waiting for a response, despite series of text messages as reminders.

"Sorry my brother, am in Jos for a week program. I will find out when I get back next week,' he said in one of his replies.

Another week gone, Opara still didn’t have any explanation ready for the terror miners are unleashing on their hosts in Ogun. He wouldn’t even pick his calls either. July 3, however, he eventually responded to a text message the reporter sent two days earlier.

“Good day my brother. The director in charge of the department wants to come there and see things to enable him take appropriate decision. He needs the specifics,’ he wrote.

And if the federal regulator is slack in enforcing the mining law, how far can it go when it comes to charters like the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights? The principles mandate states to make laws and formulate policies that will be enforced to make companies live up to their responsibility in protecting human rights. Nigeria’s mining ministry has failed here.

This is good for the quarry businessmen. By pressing home the ignorance of their hosts, they continue to break the mining law to increase their bottom line.

The victims, ultimately, have to take the blame for their suffering. And nobody is going to help them.

 

*This investigation was done with the support of Ford Foundation and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, ICIR

News AddThis :  Original Author :  Gbenga Ogundare Disable advertisements : 
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Sanwo-Olu's Lagos And The Menace Of Suicidal Nigerians Who Refuse To Use Pedestrian Bridges By Samuel Nwite

16 July 2019 - 12:17pm


Abayomi Adisa

A foreigner could have wondered what was going on as men and women lined up on the corridor of Ikorodu road, Ojota Lagos, waving at speeding vehicles to slow down. 

They stood like people on a marathon set, waving, until a driver on the first lane played the Good Samaritan and slowed down and they raced onto the road not paying attention to the car on speed on the second lane. 

Onlookers were yelling until the tyres screeched to a halt. It was close, but thankfully, no casualty. 

They crossed, hurling curses at the driver as if he just drove through the walkway. But it’s not always a case of “Thank God, we didn’t see blood",” some other times there are casualties. 

In 2016, at the same place, a mother and her four kids were holding on to each other’s hands crossing the expressway. They were in the middle of the road when one of the kids lost grip and slipped. A speeding commercial vehicle hit him, and he died. 

People gathered, consoling his weeping mother. 

One question many of them couldn’t stop asking is: "Why didn’t you use the pedestrian bridge?" 

There are about 20 pedestrian bridges on Ikorodu road alone; most of them newly built. These bridges were necessitated by incessant accidents involving people trying to cross The road. 

Each time that happened, the government took the blame. 

“How much does it cost to build a pedestrian bridge that the government is allowing people to get run over by cars on daily basis”? They asked. 

Talk of places without pedestrian bridges, and the government takes the blame for any event involving a pedestrian crossing the road. Where there are pedestrian bridges, it’s a case of people who choose 'ease' over their safety. 

The Lagos state government knows this, and has taken some measures to instill in the people, the discipline needed to save their own life.

For instance, Ojota, along Ikorodu road, has two pedestrian bridges. 

One, a modern edifice with room for disabled people and there is a stretch of metal barricade standing between pedestrians and the road. 

It spans to the end of the long road, just to prevent pedestrians from making a dash across the ever-busy road. 

When this initiative was effected, bouncers and officers of Lagos State’s Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) were placed in various areas to enforce the use of the bridges. 

Many people who attempted to dash across the three-lane road were arrested and fined.  And it helped to a good extent. 

People started using the bridges to the point that some traffic Twitter handles were reporting heavy traffic activities on the bridges. But it didn’t last. As soon as enforcement was relaxed, the people went back to the old ways. 

Their only problem was getting past the barricades. 

One morning, there was a hole in the barricade, just big enough to accommodate an adult body. And that was it. 

Today, close to a half of the barricades has been torn down to enable free flow of 'road jumpers'.

On Apapa-Oshodi expressway, it’s the same people, the same spirit and the same story. Although not having any barricade, the speed of vehicles on the road is enough to scare anyone who cares enough for his life to a pedestrian bridge. 

Unfortunately, that’s not the case, not even heavy-duty vehicles have what it takes to get many pedestrians to use the bridges. 

Lagos-Abeokuta expressway, until its rehabilitation has a reputation of a bad relationship between motorists and pedestrians. 

There were cases of deaths, injuries and curses. Apart from the latter that’s usually shared, pedestrians were always at the receiving end. 

New pedestrian bridges have been built, although some are still under construction, it seems the people have got use to the old ways that they don’t see the need to use pedestrian bridges anymore.

Lekki-Epe Expressway, is one of the busiest roads in Lagos, vehicles are always on speed. But that doesn’t change the crossing mindset of many pedestrians. 

Although, there aren’t enough pedestrian bridges on major roads, the few there are have been ignored by so many people who choose to risk their life crossing the roads instead of using pedestrian bridges. 

The barricades provided to prevent such 'dash of death' have been damaged.

The impunity that enables these actions also undermines the UN General Assembly’s 64/55 Resolution, a 10-year plan adopted in 2010 to curb and reduce the alarming numbers of road crashes worldwide.

Yearly, approximately 1.35 million people die in road crashes worldwide, on average of 3,380 deaths per day. 

Twenty-two percent of these deaths are pedestrians. Africa, due to its poor road infrastructure and lax post-accident medicare has assumed the regional headquarters, securing the highest number of fatalities with an average of 27.5 death rate per 100,000 people. 

Nigeria is sitting high and tight on the list of most affected countries, due to her poor traffic management and loose enforcement of traffic laws, that have enabled drunk-driving, over speeding, obstruction, etc. 

In 2017 alone, there was a record of 66,998 crashes in Nigeria, resulting in 36,215 deaths. 

Lagos is a high partaker of these crashes and the consequent deaths, scoring 5th behind Niger, Kogi, FCT and Kaduna. It has a record of 3,000 road crashes, 900 injuries and 110 deaths. 

About 20 of these deaths involved pedestrians.

Some pedestrians talk about their choices on dashing across roads and why they do so. 

A police officer who doesn’t want to be named said, “I’m a law enforcement agent. No one can arrest me for not using the pedestrian bridge.” 

When asked if the danger of being hit by a car doesn’t matter to him, he said: “I drive too. I know what it takes. So I take my time and observe the vehicles. I move only when the road is clear enough for me to do so.”

A young lady was asked why she risks her life jumping onto the road when she can use the bridge. All she said was, “short cut, short cut".

Another pedestrian gave a different reason. 

“I know it’s risky, but I don’t have the strength to climb the bridge, especially when I have loads,” said Mr. Peter.

“And also, there are thieves on the bridges, pickpockets. Your money, phones, jewelleries and other valuables could disappear before you know it. That’s why I don’t like using the bridge,” he added.

This is the case with every other road in Lagos that has pedestrian bridges. Motorists have had to accept the challenge of swerving, automatic braking or slowing down just to avoid hitting someone. Sometimes, they can’t control it, and the result is devastating. 

Mathew, a professional driver, talked about an event that would never be erased from his memory.

He said, “I was driving home from work that evening, just at Onipanu, Ikorodu road. There was a woman, not far away from the pedestrian bridge who was running to cross. She had a baby at her back. 

"I didn’t know what happened. But I saw the baby slipped off her wrapper and I heard the sound ‘poom'. The vehicle before me shattered her baby to shreds. I struggled to get my car to a stop. That evening will never be erased from my memory. She should have used the pedestrian bridge.”

Drivers can be irritated that they don’t care anymore.

Ifeanyi, a taxi driver, expressed the disappointment he feels whenever he has to slow down or stop because someone doesn’t want to use the bridge. 

He said, “It’s just because of God and humanity, and the fact that no reasonable person would want another person’s blood to his name. If not, I don’t think I would slow down or stop for someone who should have used the pedestrian bridge to cross.” 

To make the matter worse, those who jump onto the road feel that drivers owe them a slow-down or a stop whenever they want to cross. So they sometimes walk onto the road with a high sense of entitlement.

“What is wrong with you people? What will it cost you to wait for 30 seconds or a minute for people to cross?” a disgruntled pedestrian snapped at motorists. 

The answer to her questions is time. It costs time. Lagos has a gnarling traffic reputation that every road user doesn’t want to reckon with. 

The 2017 Forbes’ worst traffic report rated Lagos’ congestion at 60 percent, which means, average commuter in Lagos will spend about five years of his life in traffic. 

Most of the times, traffic gridlock emanates from little ‘slowdowns’, and in some cases, it is as a result of pedestrians who don’t want to use the pedestrian bridge. Thereby, stopping motorists from enjoying the free flow of traffic while it lasts.

The Lagos government has taken the aforementioned measures to curb people’s insouciant attitude toward pedestrian bridges in the past. What is baffling to many motorists now is why the status quo cannot be maintained. 

On June 30, 2017, former Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos state, in a bid to effect a better environmental reforms, disbanded the Kick Against Indiscipline Brigade (KAI) and inaugurated a new agency called The Lagos State Environmental Sanitation Corps (LAGESC).

The new agency has its responsibilities limited to environmental concerns, mainly to serve enforcement notices such as stop work order, quit notice, seal off and demolition notices. 

Following this order of events, the decline in pedestrian discipline has skyrocketed and the barricades have been vandalized with impunity. 

Some claimed there hasn’t been any attempt by the Lagos state government to rehabilitate the vandalized barricades, as residents say they have not seen a strong measure to reinforce the use of pedestrian bridges, which is part of UNGA’s 64/55 resolution’s aim: that every country, especially in Africa, should develop effective traffic rules and enforce them. 

In addition, that Africa has the lowest numbers of cars and the highest record of road crashes is anticlimax that baffles the rest of the world.

Concerned Lagos residents are asking: Is there going to be another measure by the government to get Lagosians to use pedestrian bridges? Are there plans by the state government to curb the vandalism of amenities such as the road barricade? What will Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu do differently? All efforts to get Lagos state government officials to answer these questions were unsuccessful.

SAMUEL NWITE, is a Lagos-based journalist.

Opinion AddThis :  Original Author :  Samuel Nwite Disable advertisements : 
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Two Former Vanguard Newspaper Employees Jailed For Fraud

16 July 2019 - 12:02pm


A High Court in Ikeja, Lagos, on Tuesday, sentenced Bhadmus Abiodun, a former Chief Accountant of Vanguard Newspapers, to seven years imprisonment for fraud.  

The court, presided over by Justice Oluwatoyin Ipaye, also sentenced Joseph Ejike Ezeobi, a former circulation representative at the same newspaper to three years’ imprisonment for his involvement in fraud.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission prosecuted the duo on 8-counts of conspiracy, forgery and stealing to the sum of N3.1million belonging to Vanguard.  

The judge held that the anti-graft agency thoroughly proved its case against Abiodun and Ezeobi beyond reasonable doubt and thus found them guilty of the offences.

She sentenced the defendants accordingly without an option of fines.

Abba Mohammed, the counsel for the EFCC, had said that the offences were committed in collaboration with one Samuel Ogbole, the newspaper's representative in Onitsha, between January 9, 2006, and January 4, 2008.

Ogbole absconded after he was arraigned and granted bail by the court. He is still at large.

Mohammed informed the court that Abiodun and his accomplice had on various dates, illegally converted N400, 000, N2.5million and N120, 000 belonging to the complainant, Vanguard, for personal use.

Mohammed said: “On January 16, 2007, the duo conspired to and forged a Wema Bank deposit slip with No. 7125699 purporting to be the value of N225,165.

“On May 30, 2007, the men conspired and forge a Wema Bank deposit slip with No. 3270712 purporting to be the value of N256, 850”.

According to Mohammed, the offences are contrary to Sections 390 (7), 467 (2)(i) and 516 of the Criminal Code Law of Lagos State 2003.

Justice Ipaye held that the money Biodun and Ogbole kept for themselves belongs to Vanguard newspaper.

The judge said: “The defendant is hereby sentenced to seven years in prison on count one. He is sentenced to seven years in prison each for counts two to eight.”

Justice Ipaye ruled that the prison terms for counts two to eight are to run concurrently. 

CRIME Legal News AddThis :  Original Author :  SaharaReporters, New York Disable advertisements : 
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Nigeria: A Nation In Reverse Separatism By Russel Andrew Crowe

16 July 2019 - 11:43am


Calls for the rebirth of the defunct Republic of Biafra have been increasingly heard on the streets of Nigeria in recent times. Following the reunification of Nigeria and Biafra in 1970, the world looked forward to a new Nigeria without the ethnic-tinged political injustices that had alienated one of the most important ethnicities in Nigeria - the Igbos and their near-kins to the point of seeking a country of their own by force in 1967.

But soon enough, it became clear that, rather than do the sensible thing, some successive Nigerian regimes have used unitary tactics to further alienate the Biafrans that inhabit Nigeria's oil belt. While some previous regimes had made-pretend that this was not the case, the current regime that came to power some four years ago has made no secret of its disdain for the former Biafrans.

This disdain has lately spread to other ethnicities as well, especially the minorities in central Nigeria and the Yorubas in the southwest of the country, thus leading to the notion that Mr Buhari, a Fula, is driving a neo-supremacist agenda aimed at elevating his own people to the status of the new suzerains of Nigeria. In other words, Buhari is unwittingly engaged on a course of ‘reverse separatism’ from the very top as President.

Late last month, Nigeria’s former President, Olusegun Obasanjo virtually accused Buhari of stoking ‘fulanization and Islamization’ of Nigeria; and on July 15, Obasanjo published an ‘open letter’ warning Buhari that his ‘hateful’ policies are fueling agitations that might disintegrate the country. Before this, a former Nigerian army chief who had fought Biafra, Theophilus Danjuma had submitted a petition to the UK Parliament alleging essentially the same thing; and this is after he had called on his people of central Nigeria to prepare to defend themselves.

On the global stage, both President Trump, VP Pence, and others have expressed concerns on the rising spate of unchecked mass slaughter of Christians by non-State actors - the Fulani herdsmen - who are credibly suspected of being pampered by Mr Buhari.

Before all these, Nigerians appeared to have succumbed to this new low until the coming of a fiery British citizen of Igbo ethnicity, by name of Nnamdi Kanu. He alone is responsible for the recent reawakening of the passions that have managed to push-back at President Buhari's evident mistreatment of the region of Nigeria that was once Biafra, a region Buhari has derisively referred to as ‘five percent’ of Nigeria after failing to win its electoral support.

The rapid-fire growth of the Biafra independence movement since early 2016 is proof of its rising popularity and lends credence that all is not well in Nigeria of the current era. To some degree, Kanu’s consistency and near-prophetic renderings have encouraged non-Biafrans to now be speaking more boldly of a ‘restructured’ Nigeria. Mirroring Mr Kanu, some have even ramped it up to calling for outright dismemberment. This includes ranks that had enthusiastically joined in fighting Biafrans in 1967. 

Mr. Kanu leads an internationally coordinated and well-organized group best known by its acronym - IPOB, which has disavowed the military option (unlike in 1967) but is instead calling for a well-ordered separation through a referendum. In September 2017, governors from the Biafran region were already talking with Mr. Kanu when Mr. Buhari ordered his military to crack down on him and his followers, leading to many casualties. This - plus other recent military excesses against IPOB - has increased domestic and international support for Biafra's self-determination.

The Nigerian government’s military response was wrong and silly if the intention was to compel Biafra's loyalty or get the gutsy Kanu to back down. The absence of provocation for the military operation expectedly led to the credible suspicions that the Nigerian government merely wanted Kanu dead as a means of breaking the ‘stubborn’ Biafrans and discouraging other ethnicities from following the same path.

Independence movements commonly start with a small number of idealists, yet quickly grow when central governments respond with repression. In such circumstances, the desire for freedom takes deeper root and flourishes the more. So, the initial responses of central governments to such movements are critical to their ultimate outcome. While that of Scotland, Quebec and a few others slowed due to the pacifist approaches of their central governments, that of Nigeria appears to be on a geometric rise. It’s not hard to figure out why. It happened in the former Soviet bloc.

There are currently millions of open followers of Mr. Kanu and many more that are passive. This is perhaps part of the reason the government of Mr. Buhari panicked and decided to pursue the military option. Yet, the bloodshed and trauma such approach has wrought are well in excess of any practical gains for Nigeria's nominal unity and appears to have strengthened the resolve of the agitators, in addition to winning them new friends in Nigeria and abroad.

All considered, with high risks to its leaders and the uncertain path to success, a secessionist movement is rarely about lack of patriotism for one's mother country but is often a pragmatic response to the injustices of such mother country. Even with popular support, these movements rarely have the military capacity to impose their will on the state from which they intend to secede. It, instead - like IPOB - seeks to raise the national consciousness to a point where it hopes will encourage genuine dialogue for a better, looser union or a 'velvet' divorce, as we saw in Czechoslovakia.  

Kanu's rhetorics may have been passionate and frank but that he was already talking with Nigeria's leaders was demonstrative enough that he was smart and adequately attuned to the realpolitik of a modern independence struggle. So, what was it Mr. Buhari secretly feared that led him to pitch his troops against civilians; and even proceeded to get them declared terrorists when he very well knows that they are not?

It bodes well that, prompted by the meteoric rise of Kanu's movement, some of Nigeria's other important regions - such as the Southwest - have suggested that what is more practical in Nigeria of the moment is a relatively high level of regional autonomy like it was before Nigeria's civil war. The logic is that loosening the ties that bind can ease tensions and make the federating ethnicities/zones and the central government more stable. A wiser Buhari should have seized on this as a cover to launch sincere talks with Kanu.

The Nigerian President's response to Biafra's demands is therefore precisely the wrong response for a leader wishing to contain a popular demand for autonomy. It was, after all, Buhari’s unwise policy of selective exclusion that did most to spark the present calls for independence.

The question, therefore, is this: How can the national government in Abuja step back from an ultimate showdown, not only with a large chunk of its estranged citizens but with a watchful international community?

The answer is simple: President Buhari should know enough to stop stoking the fire of separatism, just as Mr. Obasanjo has also suggested. As it is, if Nigeria breaks, it’s bound to be blamed most on Buhari’s ‘reverse separatism’ rather than the current Biafran agitation or what Mr. Obasanjo called ‘smoldering agitation’, a thinly-veiled slip that a new agitation may be in the offing.

Opinion AddThis :  Original Author :  Russel Andrew Crowe Disable advertisements : 
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Atiku’s Grand Parody At The Elections Tribunal By Peter Claver Oparah

16 July 2019 - 11:29am


Atiku Abubakar is in the tribunals! Why should this be a song? He and his supporters, after receiving heavy trouncing at the last presidential election, turned going to a tribunal to a song, a dance; indeed a major achievement. Dazed by the outcome of the presidential election. Atiku started the new song of going to the tribunal. He said, over and over again, that he would go to the tribunal. If he hoped to get a reaction from Buhari that defeated him, he was terribly shocked that his song of going to the tribunal was treated with such huge snub as has been known of Buhari. In fact, it was only some of his party men who were scandalized by the margin of his loss that advised Atiku not to go to the tribunal because he was defeated fair and square. But Atiku would have none of this. He ate and breathed the threat of going to court and meant the loud but boring repetition of going to the tribunal to be a morale booster in the face of the humiliation he and his henchmen received in that election despite their noisy boasts.

We heard when Atiku constituted his legal team as a subset of the achievement of going to the tribunal. We heard when his legal team went to institute a case at the tribunal as another subset of Atiku’s weird achievement. All these and numerous others were celebrated with uncommon aplomb and publicity by Atiku and his supporters. And then, Atiku went to court. The tribunal proceedings have been carefully serenaded by Atiku and his supporters that you might wonder what really is in the whole process. Atiku suddenly started talking of retrieving his ‘stolen mandate’ and even as he and his rain-battered supporters knew that Atiku has no mandate to retrieve, they hung on to this boast as the tribunal gathered steam and is now rolling in full motion. 

Atiku first anchored his claim of a mandate on the weird contents of an INEC server which is known only to him and his PDP confederates alone. He claims that a server somewhere belonging to INEC gave him victory; a queer and horrible claim that has been denied by both INEC and those who should know. Against the position of INEC, Atiku claims that a certain INEC server declared him winner of the election and chunked out a bogus end figure that favoured him with no further back up. Atiku has no coherent state by state tabulation of results in his server. He has no local government tabulation, no ward by ward tabulation and no polling booth by polling booth tabulation of the results he shamelessly hawks as being from an unknown INEC server that only he and his PDP supporters, especially his Dubai Strategy members are aware of. Simply speaking, Atiku invested heavily in bubbles in his strange claim of an INEC server where results of the 2019 presidential election were transmitted by God-knows-whom. So embarrassing was that in his so-called INEC server results, Nigerians only voted him and Buhari and not even a single Nigerian voted for the many other candidates that contested the presidential election under several platforms apart from APC and PDP! Can you beat that?

As his INEC server story refused to fly, Atiku now braced for the decisive tribunal hearing where he is expected to prove beyond reasonable doubts, his strange claim of a mandate in an election he was beaten black and blue. That is the process we are in now and beyond the watery, leaky, cock-and-bull stories that have so far clothed Atiku’s queer claims is the opportunity to prove, with indomitable facts, that he indeed won the election. That is the process we are in now. Atiku has had an 87-years old Ben Nwabueze, one of his most rabid backers, wheeled into the court room as his leading lawyer and that is where that drama ended. Atiku said he will call 400 witnesses to prove his case and the tribunal has granted him 10 days to do so. By the time of writing this report, Atiku has just managed to call 36 witnesses and he has just about 4 days left to call the remaining 384! At the last sitting on Friday, his lawyers claimed that his witnesses billed to testify that day, coming from Zamfara were attacked by bandits on the way to Abuja. They nether provided the identity of those attacked nor where they were attacked. They threw no further light to this sorry claim but then many are wondering if Atiku indeed transports his witnesses from far-flung states to Abuja on the very day they were slated to appear. What are the chances of a supposed witness slated to testify on a particular day meeting the tribunal after a journey that was supposed to last for nearly the whole day? Lie, pure lies and pure evasion tactics! Anyway, the police has said that no incident of attack by any bandit occurred in Zamfara nor any person claiming to be Atiku’s witness attacked on the said day thereby bursting Atiku and his hopeless legal team’s face saving white lie.

Care to know how Atiku and his witnesses have fared at the tribunal so far? That one has the capacity of provoking a comedy book. So far, the performance of Atiku’s witnesses at the tribunal has fed a huge industry of comedy and parody. What comes from his so-called witnesses is a cocktail of poorly fabricated stories, forgeries, outlandish lies and savagery claims that ridicule his case and his state further. One Atiku witness claimed that Atiku defeated Buhari in Buhari’s Katsina State. When cross-examined, he couldn’t even produce one sheet of paper to back up his silly claim. Even then, Atiku’s ‘INEC server’ didn’t make this claim as it said that Buhari beat Atiku in Katsina but with lesser margin than in INEC result. This particular claim led one social media commentator to make a post that the ban on tramadol is not working! Another claimed that real results were replaced with forged INEC results and when challenged to produce the real results, he said he didn’t have any.

One Atiku witness claimed that he transmitted results to an INEC server and when challenged to give details of the results he allegedly transmitted, he said he didn’t know the details but was concerned with transmitting results. One claimed that he transmitted results to INEC server and when asked the code of the so-called server he transmitted results to, he said he didn’t know. One claimed that he was seeing a statement he allegedly made and signed to support Atiku’s claim the very day he was called to witness for Atiku. Another claimed that on the day of election, a bomb was detonated at the collation center and he and all PDP members, agents and supporters ran away and APC members changed the results. When asked how he knew since he claimed to have ran away, he said that he hid somewhere and was watching what was happening, although he didn’t tell us whether the APC members were immune from bomb blast. One claimed that the results he signed was not the real results, and when asked why he signed, he said that he just felt like signing. 

One of Atiku’s witnesses, in fact his chief witness, Buba Galadima went there to ridicule himself by claiming to be an APC member working for PDP. And on and on and on, the parody keeps mounting. One surprising thing about Atiku’s witnesses is that none has so far passed the integrity test after being cross-examined. None has tendered half a proof or fact to back up his specious claims. Like Atiku and those massing around him, it is obvious that his witnesses were drafted to tell fairy tales and how Atiku hopes to employ this to become president should baffle and jar any decent mind. One would have expected Atiku to come to the tribunal with proof of how he was rigged out in his polling unit in Adamawa where he was beaten but he did not do that. One would have expected him to draft his Campaign Director and National Leader of PDP, Bukola Saraki to witness with resounding proof, how he was rigged out in his Kwara State where Atiku hopelessly lost but he didn’t do that. One would have expected Atiku to call his garrulous supporter, Buba Galadima to witness how he was rigged out in his polling unit where Atiku was beaten by a whopping 750 votes to his own 25 by Buhari but this old lickspittle rather came to the tribunal to revel and loaf. One would have expected Atiku to call Obasanjo, his main godfather in this election to come and prove to the tribunal how he was rigged out at his Owu polling unit where Atiku miserably lost to Buhari but he didn’t do that. Fact is that almost all Atiku’s backbones in all the zones except South East and South South were beaten down to their wards. Atiku didn’t call these to witness how Buhari rigged him out starting from their respective polling units, wards, local governments and states but he evaded this in his disgraceful claim of having a mandate. He rather went shopping for cheap witnesses to come to the tribunal to regale the nation with such silly, empty and baseless claims; none of which has survived preliminary cross examination. 

With the days for him to call his witnesses drawing close, his lawyers, obviously embarrassed by the jaded parody their case has turned to, have to fork out that bandit attack story to buy time and bring their case to an anti-climactic end. But what is obvious from what has happened so far in Atiku’s much-celebrated tribunal case is that it is a charade; a puff and a silly tale told by an idiot; full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. In fact, Festus Keyamo (SAN) was even charitable in describing Atiku’s election petition as the most useless election petition in Nigeria’s history. But then, many believe that Atiku knows the hopelessness of his petition but mobilized all the drama he did around the case just to maintain a stranglehold on the 2023 presidential ticket. Time will tell on this too.

 

Peter ClaverOparah

Ikeja, Lagos.

E-mail: peterclver2000@yahoo.com

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