Thursday, 21 November 2019
Items filtered by date: April 2019

OSUN State Governor Adegboyega Oyetola, his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) have asked the Court of Appeal in Abuja to uphold the governor’s victory in the governorship election held on September 22 and 27, 2018.

Their request was contained in three separate appeals they filed against the  majority judgment given by the Osun State Governorship Election Tribunal on March 22, 2019.

The tribunal had, in the majority judgment, given by two of its three members upheld the petition by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate in the election, Senator Ademola Adeleke and voided Oyetola and APC’s victory.

In their appeals, argued yesterday, Oyetola, the APC and INEC prayed the five-man panel of the Court of Appeal, led by Justice Jummai Sankey, to set aside the majority decision of the tribunal, uphold their appeals and dismiss the October 16, 2018 petition by Adeleke and the PDP.

They equally urged the court to dismiss the cross-appeal filed by Adeleke, on the grounds that it is unmeritorious.

In the appeal by Oyetola, his lawyer, Wole Olanipekun (SAN), faulted the reasons given by the tribunal in reaching the judgment appealed against, arguing that the decision was not supported by the evidence led by the petitioners.

He urged the court to void the judgment because the judge, Justice Peter Obiorah, who wrote and delivered it, did not participate in all the proceedings of the tribunal.

Olanipekun noted that “the judge, who did not sit, came to write the lead judgment and reviewed the evidence of February 6, 2019 proceedings, where he was absent”.

“Adjudication is like video watching. It cannot be done by proxy. The judge cannot analyse the evidence of a witness, whose demeanour he did not observe. The judgment should be declared a nullity on this ground alone,” he said.

Olanipekun, who said he and some named senior lawyers were at the tribunal  on February 6, 2019, faulted the argument by lawyer to Adeleke and the PDP that it was not clear from the record of proceedings, whether or not Justice Obiorah was absent on the particular day.

He argued that the judge’s failure to sign at the end of the proceedings on February 6, 2019, was enough evidence to justify the appellant’s claim that Justice Obiorah was absent on the day in question.

Olanipekun also faulted the tribunal’s cancellation of results in 17 polling units in the state, and noted that the petitioners did not tender any result of the election before the tribunal.

He  argued that the tribunal went beyond its powers by annulling  results in the 17 polling units to justify the judgment it gave in favour of the petitioners.

Lawyer to the APC, Akin Olujinmi (SAN), while arguing the party’s appeal, contended that the tribunal was wrong to have allowed the petition, which was incurably incompetent.

“The 1st and 2nd respondents  sought to be declared winner of the election, held on September 22, 2018, which was declared inconclusive. They also asked the tribunal to void the rerun election held on September 27, 2018, because they believed it was unlawful.

“You cannot say you should be declared a winner on the election that you said was unlawful and void,” the senior lawyer said.

Olujinmi accused the tribunal of exceeding its jurisdiction when it engaged in amending the petitioners’ reliefs to make them grantable.

“No tribunal has the jurisdiction to reframe, amend or formulate reliefs for the petitioners.

“On realising that the reliefs could not be granted, they (members of the tribunal) amended the reliefs and granted it by themselves.

“We are saying the tribunal has no power to amend a petitioner’s reliefs. The much they ought to do, on realising that the reliefs could not be granted, was to have dismissed the petition.”

He faulted the tribunal for holding that the petitioners proved its case of non-compliance in respect of the polling units where it voided results.

Lawyer to INEC Yusuf Ali (SAN), who argued in a similar manner, contended that the tribunal erred in its majority judgment, particularly as regards the issue of non-compliance.

He noted that the tribunal, having found that accreditation was properly done and that all witnesses agreed that the votes scored were not affected by the omissions noted in some result sheets, ought not to have voided any results.

Citing Section 134 (b) of the Electoral Act, Ali argued that  non-compliance means not compliance with the provision of the Act, not an act of omission on the part of INEC officials,  which are not contrary to the provision of the Act.

Ali also argued that since the tribunal held that the petitioners did not prove over-voting and non-compliance, it ought not to have turned around to void votes in some polling units.

On the question of why INEC did not call it witnesses at the tribunal, Ali said it was unnecessary because the petitioners did not discharge the burden of proof placed on them by the law to warrant INEC to call fresh witnesses.

Lawyer to Adeleke and the PDP, Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), faulted the three appeals and the arguments proffered by Olanipekun, Olujinmi and Ali.

Ikpeazu argued that the tribunal was right in its decision to have declared Adeleke and his party as the winner of the election.

He faulted the argument that Justice Obiorah did not participate in all the proceedings of the tribunal, arguing that there was no sufficient evidence to that effect.

Ikpeazu urged the court to dismiss the three appeals and uphold the judgment of the tribunal.

Kehinde Ogunwumiju (SAN),  who argued Adeleke’s cross-appeal, urged the court to allow his client’s appeal and reverse the portion of the judgment, where the tribunal rejected the evidence the petitioners lead in relation to six polling units.

Ogunwumiju argued that the tribunal wrongly excluded some of its evidence, because while it called 23 witnesses to prove it’s allegation of non-compliance in 23 polling units, the tribunal only upheld 17 where it voided elections.

Olanipekun, Olujinmi and Ali argued that the cross-appeal was incompetent on several grounds and urged the tribunal to reject it.

At the conclusion of proceedings that lasted over eight hours, the presiding judge, Justice Sankey, said judgments would be reserved till a later date.

She told the parties that the date of the judgment would be communicated to them by the court’s Registry.

Other members of the court’s five-man panel are: Justices Abubakar Datti Yahaya, Ita George Mbaba, Isaiah Olufemi Akeju and Bitrus Sanga.

Published in Politics

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday spoke of his administration’s future plan, saying he will continue to emphasise on high impact infrastructure to “vastly improve the people’s lives.”

The President whose second term in office begins on May 29, spoke in Lagos where he inaugurated five “Next Level” projects undertaken by outgoing Governor Akinwunmi Ambode.

The projects are the Ayinke House at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Ikeja, which has been renamed Institute of Maternal & Child Health; the 500-seater Lagos Theatre, the Oshodi Transport Interchange, 820 mass transit buses, and the rehabilitated International Airport Road, Ikeja.

“Our government will continue to prioritise high impact infrastructure which will vastly improve the lives of our people,” he said, and thanked Lagosians for returning him and the All Progressives Congress (APC) to power in the last elections.

The President praised Ambode for his “satisfactory performance”, saying: “We should all commend him for his contribution to the growth and development of the state”.

At the Oshodi Interchange, the President said the three key projects reflected his administration’s drive in pursuing policies and programmes that will positively impact on Nigerians.

He said: “The New Oshodi Transport Interchange, the mass transit medium and high capacity public buses and the reconstructed Murtala Mohammed International Airport Road by  Lagos State Government clearly demonstrate the need to continue to provide high impact projects for the development of infrastructure and opportunities for job creation at all levels.”

He added: “The mass transit buses totalling 820 buses will also move the people of Lagos State in a more comfortable and more efficient manner.

“These projects by Lagos State perfectly align with the efforts of the Federal Government to improve the country’s infrastructure, especially in the transport sector.

“To complement Oshodi Transport Interchange, the Federal Government has recently approved the reconstruction of the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway up to Oworonshoki and Old Toll Gate which was last attended to 40 years ago.

“We have recently commissioned the new international airport terminals in Port Harcourt and Abuja, as well as the rail lines from Abuja to Kaduna. The Lagos to Ibadan Rail Line is under construction. Our government will continue to prioritise high impact infrastructure which will vastly improve the lives of our people.”

Thanking Lagosians for supporting him and the ruling APC  during the last elections, Buhari said: “Earlier this morning, I commissioned the Ayinke House of the Institute of Maternal and Child Health and also the Lagos Theatre in Oregun. Your Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode has performed satisfactorily and we should all commend him for his contribution to the growth and development of Lagos State.

“I once again thank all the people of Lagos State for their support for our government and our party.”

Ambode said the projects would not have been possible without Buhari’s direct influence and support.

He said: “These projects and facilities are: Oshodi Transport Interchange, Murtala Mohammed International Airport Road and 820 medium/high capacity transport buses”, adding that the high-impact projects have the utmost interest of Lagosians at heart.

“In our promise to deliver people-oriented projects and programmes, a closer look at all the projects indicate that nearly all the different pillars of our development plan as a State have been affected positively through these projects. The Institute of Maternal and Child Health at LASUTH contributes to our health and education sectors simultaneously.

“The Lagos Theatre, Ikeja is about our social development sector while the Oshodi Transport Interchange and buses come under our transport, infrastructure and commerce sectors. The Murtala Mohammed International Airport Road is an infrastructural development project.

“All these projects together form the thrust of our vision as a government and the end result is to make life better for all our people, irrespective of gender, tribe or political leanings.”

The governor said the state’s future prosperity was secured, noting:

“It is on record that our state has never had this measure of support from the Federal Government as we have enjoyed under your leadership.

“Mr. President, we believe strongly that the projects being commissioned today are our own modest contributions to national development.

“As I said earlier, these projects would not have been possible without Mr. President’s quiet but impactful decision to approve and release the payments of the Paris Club refund and the refund on federal road projects incurred by the states.

“Mr. President, the first tranche of the Paris Club refund to states approved by Your Excellency was what we used to pay the 40 per cent down-payment for the 820 buses you see here today. We are grateful, Mr. President.

“It may also interest you to know sir that, our second tranche of the Paris Club refund, in addition to the refund by the Federal Government on federal road projects executed by states, are the resources we applied to the construction of the Murtala Mohammed International Airport Road and this first in Africa transport interchange.

“This is our report card, Mr. President. We have used your approval and releases judiciously because we believe strongly in you, in your leadership and in your vision for our country. This is our modest contribution to the growth and development of our state and to the country in general.”

Ambode said the projects would serve the needs of Nigerians, pointing out that the Murtala Mohammed Airport Road and the U-Turn Flyover will be open for public use immediately.

He said: “The two flyovers will be open for use from May 10 after the quality assurance work is completed. Of the three terminals at the Oshodi Transport Interchange, Terminal 3 will become fully operational on May 1 while Terminals 1 and 2 will become operational by the end of May.

“We have, in the last four years, invested so much in strengthening the social and physical infrastructure base of the state economy. The dividends of these efforts are becoming manifest in all sectors of the economy.

“With the completion of these projects and given the level of commitment of the next administration as well as the continuous support of the Federal Government, I am assured that the immediate and future prospects of our state is very bright.

“Mr. President, Lagos State will continue to support your aspirations to move Nigeria to the next level. The business community in the state is desirous of partnering with your government in moving our economy forward.”

Earlier, Ambode described the Ayinke House upgrade as historic, expressing optimism that the facility would provide world class childbirth and maternal care services to Nigerians residing in Lagos.

He said: “Today, seven years after the closure of the facility, the new edifice is now a 170-bed facility with five surgical theatres. It has a 16-bed emergency care unit with three-organ support facilities, 30-bed special baby care unit, five neo-natal intensive care units, a fully equipped laboratory with support services, laboratories and a blood bank.

“Beyond the significance for the health sector, this institute is a major contribution to our education sector also; as it becomes a veritable platform for our medical students in the state university to enhance their exposure and experience with the top-class medical equipment provided”.

Ayinke House, the governor said, had been digitalised with state-of-the-art medical facilities as well as information technology services supported by the Ministry of Science and Technology.

Present were some governors, ministers and special advisers.

They included: Governors Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun);  Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo); Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (Ondo); Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti); Jubrila Bindow (Adamawa); Acting Edo Governor Philip Shaibu; Lagos State governor-elect Babajide Sanwo-Olu, deputy governor-elect Dr Obafemi Hamzat, Oba  of Lagos, Rilwan Akiolu, Communications Minister Adebayo Shittu and Special Adviser to the President on Media & Publicity Femi Adesina. Osun State Governor Gboyega Oyetola was unavoidably absent as he was at the Appeal Tribunal where he is challenging the voiding of his election by the election tribunal.

Published in Business and Economy

With the current preoccupation of President Muhammadu Buhari with the setting up of his own university, his flatulent claim of being actuated by public interest has suffered further repudiation. His pet project has unravelled him not as a touchstone of integrity, moderation and patriotism but as another victim of the acquisitiveness of the nation’s leadership that has ceaselessly undermined good governance.

To be sure, it was not Buhari himself who publicly vouchsafed his plan to set up a private university. It was his wife who disclosed that she would set up a university with the name Muhammadu Buhari University. But even if Buhari were not the originator of the idea, the fact that his name is associated with the project shows that he is fully behind it. After all, he has not disavowed his wife’s claim since the news broke. For Buhari, it is a rapid metamorphosis. Having transformed from being an iconic figure of discipline and credibility to now an intrinsic part of the corrupt political class who secure electoral victories through vote-buying, rigging and killing, Buhari wants to be among those who own private universities. Already, out of the existing 170 universities in the country today, 79 are privately owned. And the government is planning to grant licences for 303 more private universities.

By no means can we be convinced that this plan of Buhari and his wife is sufficiently indicative of their interest in education. It has rather shown three major things about Buhari: His inability to live up to the challenge of bequeathing great legacies; his quest to massage his ego; and a hankering for profit.

If Buhari were propelled by genuine interest in education, he would not opt for the setting up of a private university. He has many opportunities to adequately express this interest. His involvement in a private university would rather compound the crisis in the public universities. There is the not unfounded suspicion that Buhari would not project the best interest of the public universities when he is at the same time pursuing his private university. In the long run, Buhari may find himself in the hall of shame of former leaders who neglected the nation’s public schools for their private ones to thrive.

Instead of this misguided quest for a private university that the bulk of the citizens whom Buhari is presiding over their affairs cannot benefit from, he should seek to leave behind a functional educational system which is currently being plagued with a lack of funding. In the public universities which are under the control of the Federal and State Governments, lecturers are not enough. Because of the poor welfare system, those who should be in the university system because of their academic brilliance do not want to be there. There are no books and journals in the libraries. The environment is not conducive to learning: Students receive lectures standing in crowded classrooms, no electricity and water for research , among others .University teachers often express their grievances over these impediments to effective learning through strikes . Buhari could have found an innovative way of solving these problems instead of wasting his energies on setting up a private university.

Clearly, there is room for competitiveness. As in other climes, the public and private universities should be allowed to prove their mettle and spur themselves to greatness. But in those climes where there are Harvard and Yale universities, their leaders do not deliberately neglect the public schools for their private ones to thrive. Yes, in Nigeria, the coming of private universities has made a huge difference in the educational sector. In this regard, Afe Babalola has always been cited as a reference point. This is not surprising since Babalola as a former pro-chancellor of the University of Lagos, has had the opportunity to understand the problems of tertiary education. But we cannot say that Buhari and his wife have had this opportunity even though the former is the president.

Buhari does not need to set up a university to leave legacies in the university system. Even the late Obafemi Awolowo who genuinely had interest in education having broken free from poverty through it did not set up a university for himself. Rather, as the premier of the defunct Western Region, he demonstrated his love for education by founding the then University of Ife, a public university whose gates are open to all and not a private one that is accessible to only those who can pay the heavy fees that have probably been stolen from the citizens’ treasury.

Indeed, Buhari’s wife does not need to set up a university to leave a legacy. There are many opportunities for her to serve Nigerians and the whole of humanity. In this regard, Aisha Buhari should come to terms with the fact that the university she wants to set up would not serve the interest of those who really need it. How would the millions of children, including the almajiris, in the northern part of the country she comes from who have not had the benefit of a good primary and secondary education attend her university? So, Aisha needs to direct her energies towards making more children to go to school. She needs to vigorously campaign for the girl child to be free from premature marriage so that she can spend the early part of her years to acquire a good education. She also needs to make a strong case for more women in government. More importantly, she should know that her assignment in Aso Rock is not complete if by 2023 Leah Sharibu and other girls still being held by Boko Haram are in captivity. It is possible that the first lady has been making a case for these captives in secret . But when last did she publicly speak about these girls? When last did she comfort the parents? Is it in the captivity of Boko Haram and lecherous old men that these girls would attend her university?

If Buhari who claimed that he did not have money to buy his presidential nomination form now has billions with which to set up a private university, he should spend the resources on a worthwhile cause . Again, Buhari should be reminded that Awolowo did not build a university for himself but he lives on in the hearts of millions of those who benefited from the educational opportunities he provided. Nelson Mandela did not build a university for himself but he is in the pantheon of the greats not only in South Africa but in the whole world.

The overarching quest of Buhari should be how to bequeath a great nation to future generations. He should not demur at the prospect of playing a major role in the emergence of modern Nigeria. Are those referred to as the founding fathers of America identified with personal universities? Where are the private universities of George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, James Monroe and Benjamin Franklin? Yet, these were people whose love for education is unquestionable. Jefferson is said to have had a personal library of between 9,000 and 10,000 books which was the largest personal collection of books in the United States in that era. And in 1812 when British forces overran Washington, D.C. and burnt down the Capitol building, there were only 3,000 volumes in its library. It was Jefferson who later in 1815 used his personal library to rebuild the Library of Congress.

Buhari should think of uniting a divided Nigeria that is about disappearing. If he does not do this, his university may not have a country called Nigeria where it would be located. However, we should not rule out the possibility that Buhari is well aware that through his parochialism, divisiveness and poor management of the fissiparous forces of the nation, Nigeria may not exist for long. In that case, Aisha may not be planning to set up her university in Nigeria but in either Sudan or Qatar where she claims her partners in the project are waiting for her.

Published in Parliament

Sudanese protest leaders Wednesday mounted pressure on the country’s military council by calling for a million people to march to demand power be handed over to a civilian administration.

“We are calling for a million (people to) march on Thursday,” said Ahmed al-Rabia, a senior leader of the Sudanese Professionals Association, the umbrella group that launched protests against deposed president Omar al-Bashir in December.

In a separate statement, the SPA said the march calls for “civilian rule” in Sudan, the central demand of protesters since the army ousted Bashir on April 11.

The demonstrations began in the central town of Atbara on December 19 against a decision by Bashir’s government to triple bread prices.

The protests swiftly turned into nationwide demonstrations against his rule, and the seizure of power by a new military council.

But that council — led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, after his predecessor lasted barely 24 hours in the post — says it has assumed power for a two-year transition period.

The protesters have therefore turned their agitation against the council, suspending talks with the army rulers on Sunday over their refusal to transfer power immediately.

Thousands have camped outside the military headquarters in central Khartoum since before Bashir was deposed, and have vowed not to leave the area until their demand has been met.

The protesters have found support in Washington, which has backed their call for civilian rule.

“We support the legitimate demand of the people of Sudan for a civilian-led government, and we are here to urge and to encourage parties to work together to advance that agenda as soon as possible,” State Department official Makila James told AFP on Tuesday.

“The people of Sudan have made their demand very clear,” she said.

“We want to support them in that as (it is) the best path forward to a society that is respectful of human rights, that respects the rule of law and that would be able to address this country’s very serious issues,” she added.

But on Tuesday several African leaders, who had gathered in Cairo at the behest of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, insisted on “the need for more time” for a transition, according to the Egyptian presidency.

The leaders urged the African Union to extend by three months a deadline for Sudan’s military council to hand over power to a civilian body, Egypt’s presidency said.

The AU on April 15 threatened to suspend Sudan if the military failed to transfer power within 15 days.

Published in Headliners

President Muhammadu Buhari has responded to allegations in the petition by Atiku Abubakar and his party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), before the Presidential Election Tribunal.

Buhari, in a response filed on Tuesday by a team of lawyers led by Wole Olanipekun (SAN), debunked Atiku’s and PDP’s claim  that he was not qualified to run for President.

The President said he was far more qualified than Atiku and challenged him to produce his academic credentials before the tribunal.

He argued that Atiku was not qualified to run for the office.

Buhari said he did not, “at any time, provide any false information in Form CF00] submitted to the lst respondent, either in 2014 or 2018.

“The affidavit of compliance to the 2019 Form CF001 was correct in every material particular.

“In filling Form CF001 in 2014 and 2019, respondent was not oblivious of the constitutional qualifications stipulated in Section 131 of the Constitution and interpreted in Section 318 of the same Constitution.

“Petitioners themselves are also not oblivious of the fact that respondent possesses far more than the constitutional threshold expected for a candidate contesting for the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“The respondent avers that he is far more qualified, both constitutionally and educationally, to contest and occupy the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria than the 1st petitioner (Atiku); and that in terms of educational qualifications, trainings and courses attended, both within and outside Nigeria, he is head and shoulder above the 1st petitioner in terms of acquisition of knowledge, certificates, laurels, medals and experience.

“Respondent states further that it is the 1st petitioner, who is not qualified to contest the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and challenges the educational credentials and certificates of the 1st petitioner.

“1st petitioner is hereby given notice to produce and tender his educational certificates, indicating the schools attended by him, with dates.”

The President gave his educational resume as: “Elementary School, Daura and Maid’adua (1948 – 1952), Middle School, Katsina (1953-1956, Katsina Provincial Secondary School (now Government College, Katsina (1956-1961).”

Buhari faulted the entire petition filed by the PDP and Atiku,noting that they are more about pre-election issues, which the Court of Appeal, sitting as a tribunal lacked jurisdiction.

He also argued that the petitioners told lies against themselves in the petition and made conflicting claims which the tribunal cannot grant.

Buhari noted that while the petitioners claimed to have won the last presidential election and also won elections in many states in the Southsouth and Southeastern part of the country, they also urged the court to nullify the election and order a fresh presidential election.

Buhari argued that by virtue of Section of 137of the Electoral Act, petitioners cannot question the results of elections in states where they claim to have won and still retain themselves as petitioners.

Buhari faulted the petitioners’ claim that the election was marred by corrupt practices and substantial non-compliance with the Electoral Act.

The President also faulted the petitioners’ claim that they won the election, insisting that, by the result announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), he and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), won the last presidential election election.

Buhari denied the claim by Atiku and PDP that the Trademoni policy of the government was a vote buying measure.

He argued that the policy forms one of the many social intervention policies of the Federal Government, directed at alleviating the suffering of the masses.

Buhari argued that the claim by the petitioners that they won by results they obtained from a purported INEC server lacked a legal basis and should be ignored by the tribunal.

The President challenged the petitioners to produce evidence of their claims that their votes were depleted and manipulated.

The President, in a preliminary objection he filed with his response, noted that the questions about his academic qualification and the reliefs predicated on the issues were matters over which the Court of Appeal had sat, adding that the tribunal lacked the jurisdiction to hear them.

He also faulted the petitioners’ allegations of vote manipulation made against some security personnel, some named private individuals and organisations, without making them parties to the petition.

He asked the tribunal to dismiss the petition on the grounds that the reliefs the petitioners sought by the petitioners are frivolous.

“The entire reliefs are not justifiable, as the petitioners, who claim to have scored majority of lawful votes in substantial number of states, are also questioning their own return in those states.

“The petitioners cannot act as petitioners and respondents in the same petition.

“The alternative relief sought is self-defeating, apart from being frivolous.

“The election to the office of President on 23rd February, 2019, was conducted in substantial compliance with the provision of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended),” he said.

Buhari, challenged the petitioners to produce “specifics of website: www.factsdontlien .com, including its domain owner, proprietor, lessee, lessor,  etc., pleaded in paragraph 29 of the petition.

“Details of the electronic data on the servers of the 1st respondent (Inec), including the time, the details were downloaded, the person who downloaded them and the means of downloading (paragraph 29 of the petition).

“The documents from the 1st respondent, publishing the registered voters in Nigeria, as 84, 004, 084 and the number of PVCs collected as 72,775,502 (paragraph 30 of the petition).

“Details and documents, showing a breakdown of the electronically collated votes of 664, 659, allegedly cast for the petitioners in Abia State (paragraph 34 of the petition).

“Documents showing the published registered voters in Bauchi State, as pleaded in paragraph 41 of the petition.

“Details of the electronically collated 332,618 votes in Bayelsa State (paragraph 42).

“Documents showing how petitioners’ votes were depleted by 173,153, in Benue State (paragraph 44).

“Details of how petitioners’ votes were depleted by 210,109 in Bomo State (paragraph 46 of the petition).”

Published in Headliners

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) will on Thursday arraign Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia on 18 charges at the Federal High Court in Lagos.

Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia is to be arraigned before Justice Rilwan Aikawa, alongside Godwin Obla, SAN.

The EFCC had on Tuesday arrested Rita who is a dismissed judge of the Federal High Court.

Her arrest took place on the premises of the Lagos High Court, Lagos, Ikeja shortly after Justice Hakeem Oshodi struck out the corruption charges made against her by the EFCC.

As she attempted to leave the courtroom, EFCC officials moved to surround the dismissed judge.

Upon sighting them, the judge made a hasty retreat and went back upstairs into Justice Oshodi’s courtroom to seek the protection of the court from the EFCC officials.

Justice Oshodi, when notified about the development, said there was nothing he could do, as “the file had been closed.”

Her co-defendant, Mr. Godwin Obla, SAN, was however allowed to leave the court premises.

Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia was standing trial before the court on charges bordering on unlawful enrichment, taking property by a public officer, corruption, forgery and giving false information to an official of the EFCC, while Mr. Obla was Charged with bribing her with N5m.

They had both pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Before her arrest, the trial judge, Justice Oshodi, in a ruling, had struck out the 31 counts filed by the EFCC against Ofili-Ajumogobia and Mr. Obla on the grounds that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the suit.

According to Channels TV, the judge ruled that, based on the judicial precedent set by the case of Justice Nganjiwa Vs FRN, the EFCC had “jumped the gun” in filing the first amended charge.

Published in Business and Economy

The ambition of Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan, to become the Senate President in the 9th Senate has received a boost with three senators from Kano State endorsing his candidacy.

The three senators, namely Barau Jubrin, Kabiru Ibrahim Gaya and senator-elect Malam Ibrahim Shekrau, threw their weights behind Senator Lawan’s candidacy, describing him as eminently qualified to occupy the exalted seat, going by international parliamentary best practices.

Senator Barau Jubrin, who is the secretary of Ahmed Lawan Campaign Organization, led other members of the campaign train to the residence of Senator-elect Shekarau, who also endorsed Lawan.

Among those who visited Kano with the Senate Leader were Senator Yahaya Abdullahi (Kebbi North), chairman, Ahmed Lawan Campaign Organization; Senator Danladi Sankara who is the new Senator-elect for Jigawa North-West Senatorial District; Senator Bello Maudiya (Katsina South); Senator Solomon Adeola Olamilekan (Lagos West); Senator Degi-Eremienyo (Bayelsa East) and Senator Lekan Mustapha (Ogun East). 

According to Senator Jubrin, “the National Assembly leadership is elected based on international parliamentary best practices. What used to be the case was a beat appellation to that parliamentary best practices.

“In every parliament, leaders are elected based on ranking, based on experience, and once a parliament goes by election and the party that gets the majority in that election produces the leader, and in this case, the majority leader in such a parliament automatically becomes the Senate President or the Speaker, as the case may be.

“Now, Ahmed Lawan is the current leader and he will be the oldest senator, the most ranked Senator in the 9th Senate. He was a two-time member of House of Representatives and four-time member of the Senate. So, he is the most experienced and most ripe for the job of the Senate presidency, going by intentional parliamentary best practices.”

On his part, Shekarau, two-time governor of Kano State and senator-elect for Kano Central who hosted the Lawan’s campaign train, said: “I am so highly honoured to be visited by this high-powered delegation led by the leader of the Senate, Senator Ahmed Lawan.

“I am now a Senator-elect and I pray the 9th National Assembly will be a very peaceful and smooth one, where we will all join hands together to move Nigeria forward.

“I also congratulate you for aspiring to lead the National Assembly. It is one thing to be there, it is another thing to be identified as a leader. It is a challenge and we are all proud of the fact the it is one of those that we have known before that is aspiring to lead the National Assembly.

“I believe you have all it takes to lead the National Assembly. We are already your canvassers. Whether you are around or not, you need not to be out to it, or recruit us to do it. We understand where we need to go and who needs to have the responsibility to lead us.

“It is not that you a super person among the rest, but one thing is that you are the first among the equals, and I believe that with all the other experienced people around, you will be able to give Nigeria, a Senate that everybody will be very proud of.

“So, I pray Allah in his wisdom will see you through and I pray you will make it, you will succeed. For the fact that others are interested is nothing new. It is a contest, many others may want to come in.

“Sometimes it is more interesting to say that I won election than just say it is dashed over. So, I pray Allah in his wisdom will grant you the success. Allah will give you the required guidance and bless you.”

In his response, Senator Lawan said they were in Kano to solicit the support of Malam Shekarau whose wealth of experience he said is much needed to move the 9th Senate forward.

According to him, “we are very happy you are going to be part of the 9th Senate. The 9th Senate will be a very good one because we have so many people who have gone through some other experiences in life.

“Even before you became a governor, you were a very disciplined person, a very thorough person and a very considerate person.

“Now, when you became a governor, you introduced sanity in Kano. You have gathered a lot of experience in life. We hope and pray that such experience will be made available in the Senate and I want to say that you are going to be one of our leaders in the Senate because we always have a small group of people that we refer to as leaders, not because they are former governors, but because they have seen so much in life.

Published in Business and Economy
Saturday, 06 April 2019 02:14

ONNOGHEN RESIGNS AHEAD OF IMMINENT SACK

THE suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, resigned from office on Thursday.

His resignation came less than 48 hours after the National Judicial Council (NJC) recommended his compulsory retirement.

His resignation, it was learnt, was aimed at pre-empting the action that President Muhammadu Buhari would take on the report of the NJC.

It was gathered that at the time the embattled CJN tendered his resignation, President Buhari was still seeking legal advice on whether to retire him or subject him to full trial on the allegations levelled against him.

Onnoghen, however, decided to beat the President to it in order that he might remain on the honours roll of past Chief Justices of Nigeria and also enjoy the full benefits accruing to the office.

Explaining why Onnoghen resigned his appointment in a telephone conversation with one of our correspondents yesterday, counsel to the suspended CJN, Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN, said he acted in the interest of the judiciary.

Awomolo, who confirmed that Onnoghen resigned on Thursday, said: “I have just spoken with him. He confirmed to me that he resigned yesterday. He said he resigned in the interest of the Judiciary.”

Awomolo is the lead defence lawyer in Onnoghen’s trial before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) on charges of non-declaration of asset.

Another Senior Advocate in Onnoghen’s defence team, who sought anonymity, also confirmed that the suspended CJN put in his resignation letter on Thursday, saying that he addressed it to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Another top source in the Supreme Court said the suspended CJN resigned on Thursday evening following a fait accompli decision taken by the NJC.

The source said: “The CJN was shocked at the decision of the NJC, so he offered to resign instead of being thrown out through compulsory retirement.

“I think he chose resignation because it is a better option than a compulsory retirement, which implies some indictment. “The truth is that if a public or a judicial officer is compulsorily retired, he is not entitled to some benefits.

“Technically, compulsory retirement has some stigma attached to it while resignation would allow the CJN to get full complement of his entitlements, including a N2.5 billion package.

“One of the official perks enjoyed by past Chief Justices of Nigeria is a retirement home worth about N2 billion, provided by the NJC.”

Another source, who confirmed the resignation of the CJN said: “I believe Onnoghen opted for resignation because President Buhari can either accept or reject his retirement.

“And do not forget that if the President accepts Onnoghen’s compulsory retirement, he has to subject it to a two-thirds consent of the Senate in line with Section 292 of the 1999 Constitution.

“The alternative is to allow the process to drag in the Senate and the fate of Onnoghen will hang in the balance. “Definitely, the Buhari administration will not send its decision to the 8th Senate; it will only leave it for the 9th Senate to decide in June.”

But a judicial officer who is conversant with the case said: “Onnoghen’s resignation is an afterthought, because he was given the same window when a delegation of the NBA met with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on his fate.

“It was decided at the meeting that some senior members of the bar should sell the resignation idea to him. Unfortunately, some lawyers persuaded him not to resign without knowing that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has more dossiers on him.

“Going by precedent, NJC decision has more pre-eminence before President Buhari than an emergency resignation.

“Now, the President has two letters on his table including the one from the NJC and the other, which is a subterfuge ploy, from Onnoghen.”

But the Buhari Media Organisation (BMO) and the Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED) yesterday demanded tough sanctions against the embattled former CJN.

In a statement signed by Niyi Akinsiju and Cassidy Madueke, its Coordinator and Secretary respectively, the BMO said the failure of Justice Onnoghen to declare his assets and thus breaching the Code of Conduct expected from judicial officers, among several other malfeasances and breach of the Money Laundering Act, are too grave to be treated with kids gloves.

It noted that the offences that are being prosecuted and that have been petitioned against Justice Onnoghen have tainted the sanctity of the judiciary and are not matters to be played with or treated with levity.

“Justice Walter Onnoghen is alleged to have outrightly failed to declare some of his assets. In fact, he declared only salary accounts but failed to declare accounts where he had funds that were far above his legitimate earnings as a public officer.

“There is also no evidence that he ever declared his assets since his appointment as a judicial officer from 1989 up until 2016. This is an outright THE NATION ISATURDAY I APRIL 6 I 20192 •Continued on breach of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers under the 1999 Constitution, and is the least expected from a man who sat at the pinnacle of Nigeria’s judiciary, and should ordinarily be the one to mete out punishments to others who commit such breaches.

“The ‘Chief Justice of Nigeria’ is also alleged to have had money that he could not reasonably explain the source, but which were lodged in various accounts operated by him. He had over $1.7 million in his dollar accounts, which he conspicuously never declared.”

According to the group, the alleged receipt by the Justice Onnoghen of pecuniary gifts from various lawyers who had cases in his court breached the Rules of Judicial Conduct which outrightly prohibits judges from receiving pecuniary gifts from lawyers who had cases before them.

“Justice Onnoghen received several gifts, ranging from a luxury car worth N7 million to a deposit of $30,000 from lawyers who had cases before him,” they said.

They criticised Justice Onnoghen for maintaining suspicious relationships with lawyers who had serious cases in his court, noting that such conducts created perceptions of bias which is against the Rules of Judicial Conduct.

The group noted that Justice Onnoghen failed to maintain the minimum standard of decorum expected from judicial officers, saying “the many infractions of Justice Walter Onnoghen are so grave, they have fouled the temple of Justice.

“It is even most unfortunate that this man was sitting in the highest judicial office of the land. He has embarrassed the legal profession and brought shame and disdain to the judiciary.

“We must not treat this matter with kid gloves. We expect the toughest sanctions to be meted out to him. What Justice Onnoghen has done does not deserve mercy but serious punitive and corrective sanctions that must send a clear message to other members of the Bench, while assuring Nigerians that the judiciary still remains the last hope for the common and even uncommon man.” 

CHRICED, on its part, recommended summary dismissal of Onnoghen to send a clear message that the law is no respecter of anyone.

The body faulted the NJC for recommending compulsory retirement for Onnoghen, saying it was strange that the Council would propose a soft landing for the suspended CJN even after it had established that funds running into millions in foreign currencies were traced to his bank accounts.

It said potential investors and partners of Nigeria are closely watching to see if the judiciary would rise up to the occasion by using the Onnoghen case as a litmus test to demonstrate readiness to address the rot in the system.

It demanded summary dismissal of Onnoghen to send a clear message to the public that the action taken against Onnoghen by the Federal Government was meant to clean the Augean stable in the judicial arm of government.

CHRICED made its position known in a statement signed by its Executive Director, Comrade Dr. Ibrahim M. Zikirullahi.

The statement said: “The Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civic Education (CHRICED) is seriously concerned about reports making indicating that the National Judicial Council (NJC) has recommended that President Muhammadu Buhari should compulsorily retire suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, with full benefits and privileges.

‘For us, it is curious that the NJC is making this kind of recommendation, despite establishing a clear case of judicial misconduct and unbridled corruption against the suspended CJN.

‘As the organisation which spearheaded the efforts of credible civil society organisations (CSOs) to investigate and report Onnoghen’s asset declaration infractions to the NJC, CHRICED finds it strange that the Council is proposing a soft landing for the suspended CJN even after it has established that funds running into millions in foreign currencies were traced to the bank accounts of Onnoghen, which he could not convincingly explain how he came about such huge amounts that were far above his legitimate income as a judicial officer.

“In the course of the hearing at the NJC, it was also established through extensive documentary evidence, and by the admission of the suspended CJN himself, that he breached the Code of Conduct for public officers by his failure to declare his assets as required by law.

“With these facts in mind, it is our considered position that the NJC is working towards rewarding the breaking of laws, financial impunity and judicial corruption by making this kind of recommendation.

“The proposed steps give the impression that the judiciary as an institution is not prepared to clean up its act in the face of the deep rooted problem of corruption.

“CHRICED therefore calls on the President not to accept the NJC recommendation, which would further embolden misconduct in the judiciary.

“Given the weight of the infraction committed, and as admitted by the CJN, the kind of punishment which would serve as deterrent to other judicial officers is nothing less than summary dismissal of Onnoghen. This would send a clear message to the public that the action taken against Onnoghen by the Federal Government is to clean the Augean stable in the judicial arm.

“For the umpteenth time, CHRICED deems it necessary to remind the NJC and all other institutions connected with this case that the whole world, including potential investors and partners of Nigeria, are closely watching to see if the judiciary would rise up to the occasion by using the Onnoghen case as a litmus test to demonstrate readiness to address the rot in the system.

“If the soft landing being recommended is allowed to stand, then the impression would have been further created that the rule of law, justice and accountability have no place in Nigeria’s judicial system.

“Such precedence would also damage public confidence in the anti-corruption drive, especially as it would fuel the narrative of a separate kind of justice for the rich and powerful, while there is another kind of justice for the poor and less-connected citizens.

“Finally, CHRICED hopes that in taking a final decision on this case, the President would be guided by clear provision of the 1999 Constitution as amended, which unambiguously mandates in Section 15(5) that: ‘The State shall abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power’.

“Only a faithful application of the laws of the land would guarantee a just and fair closure of the Onnoghen matter.”

 
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