The Supreme Court has upheld the appeal of Senate President Bukola Saraki and discharged him of the remaining three charges against him in the case of false declaration of assets.
The court upheld the appeal in a lead judgment delivered by Justice Centus Nweze on Friday in Abuja, the nation’s capital.
Senator Saraki had filed an appeal at the apex court to challenge the ruling of the Court of Appeal which asked the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) to try him on three of the 18 counts brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The Supreme Court then fixed today to deliver its ruling, after hearing the appeal and cross-appeal filed by the Senate President and the anti-graft agency over the allegations of false asset declaration.
The lead judgment delivered by Justice Nweze was supported unanimously by the five man-panel of the court.
In the main appeal, the Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the appeal court which held that Saraki had questions to answer with regards to charges 4, 5 and 6 in an 18-count of non-declaration of assets and money laundering before the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
The court noted that since the lower court held that the prosecution failed to call those who had direct knowledge about the fact and then turn around to rely on parts of it to reach its position, hearsay evidence cannot be used as proof to establish a prima facie case on three out of the 18 counts.
It then vacated the ruling of the appeal court which it said was equivalent of an ‘analytical somersault’ and in its place, restored the position of the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
In June 2017, the CCT quashed an 18-count of false asset declaration and money laundering levelled against the Senate President by the EFCC for lacking in merit.
The tribunal had also agreed with the Senate President that he had no case to answer.
While the appeal court agreed in part with the lower court in its ruling on January 14, 2018, it held that Saraki had a case to answer in counts 4, 5, and 6, which had to do with his purchase of properties in the Ikoyi area of Lagos State.
I Will Honour Invitation By Police, Says Melaye
The lawmaker representing Kogi West Senatorial District, Senator Dino Melaye, says he will honour the invitation by the police.
He disclosed this in an interview with Channels Television on Saturday, a day after the police accused some persons in his convoy of attacking their personnel in Kogi State.
“The account of the police is false and illogical,” the lawmaker said, adding, “I will honour the invitation of the Kogi State Police Command on Thursday, despite the attempts on my life.”
Senator Melaye had accused the police of shooting at his convoy on his way to inaugurate a project at his constituency on Thursday in Kogi.
He explained that he was riding in a convoy of about 20 vehicles headed for the scheduled event and his cars were the second and third, having being led by the out riding Hilux vehicle of the personnel of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC).
The lawmaker noted that the police claimed that the vehicles at the back shot at them and wondered why “they shot at my cars which were in the second and third on the convoy.”
He alleged that the incident clearly indicated an attempt on his life if not for his bulletproof vehicles, claiming that the gunshots were directed at the owner’s sitting side of the cars.
Melaye purported further that after the scenario which played out on the road, there was another attack on his house in Aiyetoro where gunshots were fired sporadically.
He also said he had written to the police and the NSCDC through his lawyer, to seek protection for his planned visit.
The lawmaker claimed that while the NSCDC deployed some personnel to escort him, there was no provision made by the police.
On the other hand, the police said they were aware of the senator’s visit and had already deployed personnel to strategic points in the state.
The Commissioner of Police in Kogi, Mr Ali Janga, told reporters on Friday that part of the personnel deployed were those involved in the incident in which an officer was fatally injured.
He insisted that Senator Melaye was not attacked, but the police repelled an alleged initial attack by some individuals on his convoy.
“Unidentified civilians inside (a vehicle in the convoy) decided to open fire on my policemen. You don’t expect the police to fold their arms; eventually, they replied and opened fire too. Nobody attacked Dino but rather, his convoy attacked by policemen and they repelled,” Janga had said.
He said they had invited the lawmaker for questioning, noting that the police would not hesitate to declare Melaye wanted should he ignore their invite.
Nigeria’s plan to redistribute recovered corruption money needs a rethink
The Nigerian government has announced that USD$322 million (£244 million) stolen by Nigeria’s former military ruler, Sani Abacha, has been returned by the Swiss authorities. Abacha, an army general who was head of state from 1993 until his death in 1998, is suspected to have embezzled between USD$3 to 5 billion of public money.
Plans have also been announced to distribute the recovered loot to around 300,000 households in 19 of Nigeria’s 36 states. Under the plan each household would get around USD$14 a month. The handouts would be paid to poor Nigerians for about six years.
Roberto Balzaretti, one of the Swiss officials involved in the negotiations with Nigeria, reported that there would be strict conditions attached to the transfer of the money back to Nigeria. Nigeria has signed a memorandum of understanding with Switzerland and the World Bank agreeing the modalities for the return of the stolen funds.
The Nigerian government has opted for cash payments to be made to help poor families as part of the Nigeria National Social Safety Net Program. The money is to be paid in instalments and in small amounts under the supervision of the World Bank, which will also conduct regular audits. If the first instalment is not properly accounted for, subsequent payments will be halted. This is to prevent the funds from being stolen again.
But there are fears that this is not the best way to use the recovered funds and that the “distribution” is just a ruse to influence the Nigerian elections next year. Concerns have been raised that it’s an easy way for the ruling political party to score cheap points ahead of the 2019 polls. And there are strong views about how the money can be better spent, particularly on the country’s crumbling infrastructure.
The money is being returned to Nigeria at a delicate time. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has announced that he will be seeking reelection next year. This despite his ill health and corruption scandals.
Nigerian politicians are infamous for buying votes.
Suspicions that the redistribution scheme is another vote buying ruse have been fuelled by the fact that the government plans to give money to only 19 states out of the 36. The government has said that 17 states where excluded from the scheme because they didn’t have the “appropriate platform” to implement the conditional cash transfers.
There are also fears that the recovered loot might end up in the coffers of ghost beneficiaries.
The Nigerian house of representatives – the lower house of Nigeria’s bicameral National Assembly – has passed a motion that the money must be distributed in line with the country’s revenue sharing formula for disbursing money to all 36 states.
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, a Nigerian nongovernmental anti-corruption agency, has added its voice to criticisms of the plan. It has pointed out that the distribution of funds is mis-targeted and would not bring any tangible benefits to the beneficiaries.
The project argues that the president should renegotiate the memorandum of understanding with the Swiss authorities in consultation with the communities affected by grand corruption so that the recovered loot can be put to better use.
A better way?
Is there a better way to utilise the recovered loot?
Nigeria needs proper procedures to manage recovered money as it continues with its anti-corruption agenda. The government will be better placed in the future to manage recovered funds if it has a coherent plan detailing how they should be handled. The plan will need to be overseen by the country’s anti-corruption institution.
There’s a strong view that the recovered money should be used to foot the bill for infrastructure projects that would improve the lives of the victims of corruption and also help alleviate poverty.
Infrastructure projects, such as proper transport systems and power generation, also have the advantage of being highly visible and could be easily tracked through Budgit and Tracka. Construction projects would also create jobs.
There is a clear link between infrastructural development and economic growth – an area where Nigeria could really do with some help. The country struggles from infrastructure deficits, particularly in power generation, transport, education and health care.
Experts also argue that giving the money to poor households will only serve as temporary respite from poverty. Investing in infrastructure that can improve growth, employment, production, education and health care would create better and longer-term value.
The government might be wise to listen to these views.
Lecturer in Economics, Staffordshire University
Christians mark 150 days since Nigerian girl was held captive for her faith
By Eno Adeogun
A protest outside the Nigerian High Commission in London was held on Wednesday to mark 150 days since a 15-year-old Christian girl was kidnapped by Boko Haram from Dapchi in Yobe state, Nigeria.
Leah Sharibu was one of the 110 schoolgirls abducted by members of the terrorist group on 19th February from the Government Girls Science and Technical College.
While five died during the ordeal and the rest were freed, Leah remained in captivity as she refused to denounce her faith.
Speaking from the protest organised by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), the charity’s CEO Mervyn Thomas said what he hoped would be achieved.
“It’s very important to remember that this isn’t just a protest – this is prayer and protest. CSW believes in those two things going together.
“So we’re hoping first of all that God will answer prayer but we’re also hoping that the Nigerian government will take action.”
Mr Thomas handed a petition to a representative of the High Commission which called for urgent action to secure the release of Leah and other girls held in captivity.
The terror group has kidnapped more than 1,000 children in the country, famously kidnapping nearly 300 schoolgirls from Chibok four years ago.
Pastor and filmmaker Fred Williams lived in the northern state of Jos where he saw first-hand the devastation Boko Haram caused.
However, speaking at the protest, he told Premier he had faith Leah and other girls kidnapped would be released.
“My plea is that we continue to pray and we continue to be a voice for the voiceless and not keep quiet because it has taken so long to get a positive response.”
Christians have been urged to join in with others around the world marking 150 days since Leah was kidnapped by praying for her.
Nigerian Police Arrest Suspects of Mass Abduction
The Nigerian police reported today the arrest of eight suspected members of the Boko Haram group, linked to the abduction in April 2014 of 276 girls from a school in the eastern state of Borno.
Under strong police custody the detainees were shown in the streets of the state capital of Maiduguri.
According to a spokesman, the suspects were arrested in an operation conducted by officers of the Borno State Police Inspector General’s Intelligence Response Team, in whose forested areas Boko Haram has its headquarters, but also operates in Cameroon, Niger and Lake Chad.
Between 2014 and the next year Boko Haram vindicated the abduction of some 2,000 children, but the case of the school in Chibook received special attention because of the number of children.
In 2016, the Nigerian central government succeeded in negotiating the release of 22 of the abducted women, many of whom have now returned to their families after undergoing medical examinations and a psychological reintegration process at the request of Nigerian President Muhamadu Buhari.
According to estimates, Boko Haram, who has an Islamist ideological inclination and is loyal to the Islamic State, is holding 196 of those kidnapped in Chibook captive.
Aviation Minister unveils new national airliner Nigeria Air
The Federal Government of Nigeria on Wednesday unveiled the new National Carrier. It is called ‘Nigeria Air’.
The Minister of State for Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, did the unveiling to investors at the ongoing Farnborough International Air Show in UK.
The colour is green white green.
According to Sirika the new carrier will ply 81 routes, both local and international, after considering about a thousand destinations.
Ethiopian Airlines said it is in talks with Nigeria on the new national carrier.
Major drugs gang caught
AN international drug smuggling operation stretching all the way from Nigeria to Bahrain has been busted by police.
It was exposed when a drug mule arrived at Bahrain International Airport carrying 3.1kg of crystal meth, known locally as Shabu, and 177.4gm of marijuana in his luggage.
An investigation identified a Bahraini inmate at Jaw Prison, aged 30, as the mastermind behind the operation – who allegedly used his own father and brother to distribute the merchandise.
Seven defendants, five Bahrainis and two Nigerians, are now standing trial in Bahrain’s High Criminal Court in connection with the racket.
Six of them appeared before judges for the first time yesterday to plead not guilty, while the alleged mastermind was not brought from his cell to attend the hearing.
An investigating officer said police had been on the trail of the gang since last year and swooped when a man arrived at the airport in April carrying drugs.
The drugs were in the possession of a 27-year-old Nigerian, who was intercepted by police after arriving on a flight from Nigeria via Dubai.
“I received a tip that the 30-year-old in jail was running a drug smuggling ring from his cell,” said the investigating officer in his statement.
“My investigations led to a 43-year-old Nigerian, who was running the operation with him and arranging with people outside Bahrain to smuggle Shabu from Nigeria.”
The drug mule was detained at the airport on April 19 after police, who received word that drugs were on board, searched all Nigerian passengers.
One of the Bahraini defendants, 37, who was allegedly responsible for distributing the drugs in Bahrain was waiting in arrivals to meet him.
“He (the alleged drug mule) told us the 37-year-old Bahraini was waiting in the lounge to receive him,” added the officer.
“When we asked the 37-year-old why he was there, he panicked and admitted he was there to pick up the 27-year-old drug mule and take him to the 43-year-old Nigerian’s apartment.”
The 30-year-old alleged mastermind behind the smuggling operation is already serving a 10-year prison sentence on another drugs charge.
He is said to have overseen the trafficking of narcotics from behind bars using a mobile phone that was smuggled to him.
The 43-year-old Nigerian defendant told prosecutors he had been dispatched to Bahrain by a drug lord in his own country to meet the alleged mastermind.
“Last January the drug lord Ojay, in Nigeria, told me to go to Bahrain and give Shabu to the 30-year-old Bahraini defendant,” he said.
“I arrived in Bahrain with around 1kg of Shabu and was received at the airport by the 37-year-old Bahraini, who took me to Juffair and gave me $2,000 as commission and BD1,000 to wire back to Ojay.
“He then wired the other BD1,000 to him.
“In early April I was instructed by the 30-year-old to smuggle two to three kilos of Shabu, so I called Ojay’s brother Paul in Nigeria to make the arrangements.
“He informed me that a Nigerian, the 27-year-old, would arrive in Bahrain on April 19 with the drugs and that the 37-year-old Bahraini was supposed to pick him up, bring him to me and receive the Shabu.
“I was surprised when police burst into my apartment on April 19 at 10am and arrested me.”
The following day a sting operation was arranged near a school, in Isa Town, and an undercover policeman met a 31-year-old Bahraini defendant to sell him 250gm of Shabu, which was intended for resale.
He instead handed over a bag of white sugar and police swooped to make the arrest.
However, during questioning the alleged mastermind denied any knowledge of the drug smuggling operation.
He admitted the 37-year-old was a former colleague, but claimed neither he, his brother nor his father were involved.
“I’ve been in Jaw Prison on another drug dealing charge for the past five years and I’ve got around four and a half years left on my sentence,” he told prosecutors.
“I was in another trial for drug possession when my lawyer informed me that my brother and father were also arrested on drug charges.
“A few days after that he told me the 37-year-old Bahraini claimed I was involved in this case – and that I run a drug smuggling operation with my brother and father as distributors, which is not true.”
The two Nigerian defendants, 43 and 27, have been charged with possession with intent to distribute methamphetamines and marijuana.
The 43-year-old Nigerian was also charged with possession of pornographic material on his phone and failing to renew his residency permit.
The alleged mastermind’s 60-year-old Bahraini father has been charged with possessing and using methamphetamines and hashish, while his 29-year-old brother has been charged with possession with intent to distribute, as well as funding the operation.
In addition, the 37-year-old Bahraini arrested at the airport is charged with receiving narcotics with intent to distribute.
Meanwhile, the 31-year-old Bahraini arrested as he allegedly attempted to buy Shabu from an undercover officer has been charged with receiving narcotics with intent to distribute and possession of amphetamines and Diazepam.
The alleged mastermind is facing charges of possession with intent to sell drugs, inciting others to commit the crime and providing funding.
Their trial has been adjourned until September 9.
Twitter to Purge Tens of Millions of Accounts
They’re keeping it real. In a move the company says is aimed at “building trust,” Twitter announced yesterday it’s deleting tens of millions of accounts — about 6 percent of its current followers — that were deemed fake or suspicious. The sweeping measure, part of a concerted push to purge dubious accounts and curb malicious activity, means almost all users will see at least some decrease in their followings, while high-profile accounts could experience significant drops. During May and June, Twitter reportedly suspended more than 70 million accounts.
Dino cries out as Senate demands protection for embattled senator
Senator Dino Melaye has cried out over the alleged withdrawal of his personal security by the Police, stressing that he is “hanging his soul” in the hands of President Muhammadu Buhari, the Inspector General Police, Ibrahim Idris and the Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello due to “threats” to his life.
The Senator who spoke while raising a point of order on Wednesday also lamented the deployment of 30,000 policemen ahead of the Ekiti State Gubernatorial elections slated for Saturday, 14th July, 2018.
According to Melaye, the huge deployment of security personnel will “militarise” the election while arguing that such large-scale security presence should rather be deployed to states that are faced with significant security challenges.
He said: “Election is a civic responsibility and we have consistently maintained as democrats that we need not militarise, scare or put fear in elections all over the world.
“As a Nigerian, I am appalled that the Nigeria Police can provide 30,000 policemen for a 16 local government state. One begins to wonder that to conduct a presidential election; we will need 30,000 policemen in 36 states, we will have to go to other West African states to hire policemen.
“I wonder why the crises in Zamfara, Dapchi, Chibok, Taraba, Benue, and Jos have not attracted 30,000 policemen.”
In his reaction, the presiding officer and Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu explained that he is not against the deployment of 30,000 policemen to Ekiti state but expressed worry that such numbers might have been merely inflated on paper without corresponding presence on ground.
“The only concern I have is that in Anambra we had 25,000 policemen also in Edo we had about 26,000 policemen but we heard of instances where there were no policemen in some of the polling booths.
“My appeal is if we are deploying one million policemen they must be seen on the ground. We don’t want a situation where we have such numbers but we don’t see them on ground, we must be sure that those policemen are available to do the work.”
The Senate in its resolution rejected the motion’s prayer mandating the Police to furnish it with the Police service numbers and names of the 30,000 policemen, where they were deployed from as well as the locations they were deployed to in Ekiti state.
Nevertheless, the red chamber resolved that the Police and the Nigerian Civil Defence Corps to provide security for Senator Dino Melaye as his entitlement.
N100billion under-remittance by NNPC : House of Reps to Investigate Oil Sales
The House of Representatives has resolved to investigate the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) for under remittance of over N100Billion in the month of June.
An adhoc committee is to investigate crude oil sales from January to July 2018, as well as other sources of funds to NNPC for the same period.
The yet to be composed committee mandate includes; investigating the revenue template of the NNPC, exchange rate and cash haul of the state owned oil company.
The decision to investigate the NNPC followed a motion of urgent public importance moved by Ossai Nicholas Ossai (PDP, Delta), entitled: Urgent need to investigate NNPC’s current under-remittances to federation account.
While moving the motion, Ossai explained that monthly Federal Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) could not hold because of the N100billion under remittance by NNPC.
He noted that the under-remittance which according to him is a recurring decimal has slowed down the pace of government businesses across the country.
Ossai raised concern that states and local governments that depend on federal allocations are unable to pay monthly salaries and allowances of its workers for the month of June.
He noted further that if the under-remittance is not checked, through investigation, the NNPC could be emboldened to declare no revenue from sales of oil and gas. He also accused the NNPC of usurping the powers of the National Assembly by spending without appropriation.
Speaking on the motion, Aminu Shagari (APC, Sokoto) admonished the House to produce the reports of previous investigations into the operations of the NNPC, adding that question of “gut” by the committee should be considered.
He said, “What happened to the reports of the other committees set up, in 6th and 7th Assembly, we must ask ourselves, these committees, do they have the gut to carry out the investigation?” Noting that “the members of these committees are picked apart, and they will start speaking from two mouth.”
Also speaking on the motion, Abdulmumin Jibrin (APC, Kano) stated that the investigation must be expanded to include issues volume of production and sales as he described the inability of FAAC to meet as a national security issue.
When the motion was put to vote by the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, the “ayes” had it. The committee has 2 weeks to submit report.
Anambra PDP Crisis : Court Orders INEC Chairman to Appear Before it over Contempt
The Federal High Court in Abuja has again ordered the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC Mahmoud Yakubu to appear before it to show reasons why he shouldn’t be committed to prison for contempt.
Justice Stephen Pam made the order on Tuesday after taking submissions from counsels in the contempt suit filed by Ejike Oguebego of the People Democratic Party in Anambra state.
Counsel for INEC, Adegboyega Awomolo sought for an adjournment to enable him reply to the applicant’s application seeking to commit his client for contempt. This was however opposed by the applicant’s counsel, Chris Uche who stated that the contempt or had repeatedly disobeyed the court order without any reasons
Awomolo informed the court that he has filed a notice of appeal against the ruling delivered at the last adjourned date to stay further proceedings in the matter adding that the objection filed by the plaintiff is an abuse of court process.
The court in its ruling held that the Contempt or cannot ask favours from the court while he continues to disregard court order, he urged counsels to refrain from giving advice that will ridicule the judiciary
The Plaintiff had filed a suit seeking the court’s determination on who the legal and validly nominated candidates of the party to stand for the Party’s last elections in the state.
The federal high court had earlier issued a notice of consequences of disobedience to court order against, INEC, and professor Mahmood Yakubu for failure to obey court verdict re-affirming the chairmanship of Ejike Oguebego as the authentic State Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Anambra State.
The matter has been adjourned to 1st August, 2018.
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