|Emma Ujah, Abuja Bureau Chief
The massive looting of public funds during the administrations of former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan came to the fore, Monday, as top government officials and businessmen were said to have illicitly enriched themselves with public funds, amounting to over N1.35 trillion.
The chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Itse Sagay, disclosed this in Abuja, at the conference on Promoting International Co-operation in Combating Illicit Financial Flows and Enhancing Asset Recovery to Foster Sustainable Development.
Citing a study, Prof. Sagay said that the corruption captured in the study related to only six years (2006- 2013).
The PACAC chairman said that the figure of looted funds in the period under review was much higher when fuel subsidy scam, billion arms purchase scam, hundreds of millions of dollars taken from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation by a former minister to bribe election officials in 2015, were taken into consideration.
In his address, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, said that the federal government would sanction banks that aide illicit financial flows from the country.
According to him, it would not have been possible to divert the volume of funds in question from public organizations without the involvement of banks.
As groups and individuals continue to claim that President Muhammadu Buhari’s health is deteriorating while his supporters say he’s getting better and, with the President’s return to the United Kingdom on an indefinite sick leave, BAYO AKINLOYE writes that not a few people are experiencing a sense of déjÃ vu
With a gait less graceful, the gaunt figure dressed in a dark grey kaftan with a matching cap unhurriedly climbed down from the aircraft. A momentary, studied smile formed on his face as he made a cursory glance at those who had come to welcome him after spending 49 days in an undisclosed London hospital in the United Kingdom.
That was President Muhammadu Buhari returning from his medical leave since January 23 this year – he got back into the country on March 10.
“I couldn’t recall being so sick since I was a young man, including in the military with its ups and downs. I couldn’t recall when last I had blood transfusion. I couldn’t recall honestly; I can say in my 70 years (sic),” the President had said at a meeting he held with top government officials led by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo shortly after he arrived the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Today, voices within the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress, and the opposition, are wary that Buhari’s state of health and goings-on in the Presidency are more than meet the eye.
Few days ago, the National Caretaker Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party alleged that a cabal is now ruling Nigeria.
Prior to the PDP’s public outburst, members of the Arewa Consultative Forum and Arewa Youth Consultative Forum also expressed grave concerns about the possibility of some people in Aso Villa taking advantage of the President’s ill-health to the detriment of the country.
Prominent personalities like Prof. Wole Soyinka and Femi Falana have also called the number one citizen to take a break and hand over power to his deputy, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.
Though there is nothing unusual in Buhari being sick, the former ruling party said what was wrong was his refusal to disclose his true state of health.
“It is now certain that the country is now being ruled by a cabal. Members of the cabal are not known. Who is in charge of the country now? We don’t know. Nigeria is now on autopilot. We don’t know who is rocking the country and who exactly is churning out orders or exercising the executive powers of the President anymore.
“This can’t happen in saner climes. We have a President who has not been seen in public for some days and the government is not worried,” spokesperson for the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led caretaker committee, Dayo Adeyeye, said.
Mounting pressure on Buhari also is an association of political pressure groups, under the aegis of Free Nigeria Coalition, who called on Buhari to “urgently seek medical attention of his doctors in the United Kingdom and take some deserved rest.”
Just like Buhari, former President Umaru Yar’Adua – who hailed from Katsina State like the incumbent – was “so sick” in the twilight of his administration. With a tragic end, the former president lost to death in a mortal battle over his protracted illness.
Prior to Yar’Adua’s death, not a few people had called for his resignation or impeachment, among who were the former Governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Buhari himself.
Ten years ago, Tinubu, a leading opposition voice, had on January 18, 2010, called on Yar’Adua to step down as the country’s president.
“Now our dear country is living on the edge and hanging dangerously with FEC adrift, while the National Assembly has lost touch with reality; and the word ‘national exigency’ has since lost meaning to the remnants of the ruling party (Peoples Democratic Party). Therefore, the President (Yar’Adua) must be told, without further delay, to transmit his authority to Vice President Goodluck Jonathan to take charge of the country, in accordance with Section 145 of the Constitution.
“I recognise his love for his country but this is the time to show that love for his country by putting the nation’s interest above self, and not be misled by those selfish advisers. He has already made history be being elected as President of Nigeria. So, he must not destroy that democratic institution from which he has benefitted,” he had said.
About two months after Tinubu’s painstaking statement, specifically on Tuesday, March 9 – reclined in a couch, in his Kaduna home – playing host to chieftains of the National Unity Forum, who had paid him a visit, the former military head of state and then presidential candidate of the All Nigeria Peoples Party in the 2003 and 2007 presidential elections, Buhari, made a call that made front-page headlines the following day.
He had reportedly called for the impeachment of Yar’Adua. According to Buhari back then, impeaching the former Katsina State governor could save the country from the political impasse Yar’Adua’s lingering ill-health had caused.
In sheer fervour, Buhari called on the Federal Executive Council to save the nation from the political logjam by declaring Yar’Adua incapacitated, arguing that such declaration would pave the way for his impeachment by the National Assembly.
Condemning the failure of the FEC and federal legislative body to impeach Yar’Adua, Buhari said, “Political expediency won’t remedy this kind of problem because if the FEC had acted in accordance with the constitution, by invoking the necessary sections to declare the President incapacitated, we would not have found ourselves in this present situation.
“As you can see, adopting extra-constitutional measures have not addressed the problem. If it had, we would not have been subjected to the raging debates and controversy going on. So, we must go back to the constitution. FEC must do the right thing, because once we start moving away from the constitution, then we are inviting anarchy.”
A prominent member and ex-spokesman for the ACF, Anthony Sani, told SUNDAY PUNCH that what occurred in 2010 concerning Yar’Adua is different from what is playing out in the Villa at the moment.
“President Buhari cannot resign or be impeached as he advised President Yar’Adua to do. This is because when the same Buhari asked Yar’Adua to resign or be impeached, it was because Yar’Adua had breached the constitution by not writing to the National Assembly notifying them of his health challenges.
“As a result, there was no acting president while the president was not on seat. Most of all, Jonathan, the FEC and the NASS were kept in the dark of what happened in the seat of power. It was against this backdrop that Buhari asked President Yar’Adua to resign or be impeached,” Sani argued.
Last Tuesday, the media was awash with a chieftain of the ruling party, Chief Bisi Akande’s ominous statement warning of such anarchy in view of Buhari’s failing health.
In the statement, Akande had said, “These are two great red flag dangers that have the potential of plunging the country into unprecedented chaos and of destabilising the gains of democracy since 1999. The greatest danger, however, is for political interests at the corridor of power attempting to feast on the health of Mr. President in a dangerous manner that may aggravate the problems between the executive and the National Assembly without realising if, in the end, it could drag the entire country into avoidable doom.
“Let me warn today that those who wish to harvest political gains out of the health of the president are mistaken. This is not Nigeria of 1993. My greatest fear, however, is that the country should not be allowed to slide into anarchy and disorder of a ‘monumental proportion.'”
The ACF chieftain does not think there any cause for alarm. He feels that since Buhari had already put the National Assembly and the nation on notice concerning his deteriorating health, it is fair that everyone allow the President to rest.
Sani added, “While I appreciate the sympathy and the concern of Chief Akande which comes with past experiences when a group called ‘cabal’ in the Presidency kept the nation in the dark about health challenges of President Yar’Adua, and what happened in the seat of power which resulted in the introduction of doctrine of necessity to overcome the problems by making Jonathan acting president in the absence of a letter from Yar’Adua, it is very important to note that the situations are not the same. Also, Akande’s reference to 1993 is misplaced. I do not think there is cause for alarm.”
A president who wrote and handed power to Osinbajo, and who on return told the nation that he had never been “so sick” in his life, the northern elder argued, is not the kind of person who will allow some people to take advantage of his sickness and manage the presidency by proxy.
In January, the President had left Nigeria for the United Kingdom for what the Presidency described as “a short leave” during which he was to undergo “routine medical check-up.”
He was expected to resume work on February 6 – that medical check-up was the third by Buhari in one year; the President had earlier embarked on a six-day leave in London between February 5 and 10, 2016; following that, on June 6, 2016, he jetted out of the country for another 10 days allegedly to treat an ear infection.
The last public event attended by Buhari was the grand finale of the 2017 Armed Forces Remembrance Day held at the National Arcade, Abuja. Since his return in March also, the President has hardly appeared in public.
Buhari may not listen to those calling for his resignation, or take a pill he had offered Yar’Adua in 2010, but he promised that, “The best way for me to repay you all is to rededicate myself to serving you, protecting your interests and keeping your trust. I am feeling much better now; there may, however, be need to have further follow-ups within some weeks.”
That assurance was re-echoed by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, when he said, “He (the President) is following his doctor’s advice. Mr. President himself told the nation he has never been this sick and he is going to take it easy. He said it from day one when he came back from the UK.
“So, I don’t think there is anything that is out of place from what he said. He has been quite transparent and upfront in the matter concerning his health.”
As the controversy concerning Buhari’s health rages on, the President has left Nigeria again, for the UK for treatment- this time around he gave no date of his return.
“The length of the President’s stay in London will be determined by the doctors,” a statement issued by his Special Adivser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, had said.]]>
A Federal High Court in Lokoja, the Kogi State capital on Monday convicted a former member of the Kogi State House of Assembly, Gabriel Daudu, of money laundering and sentenced him to two years imprisonment.
Justice Inyang Ekwo, in a judgment on Monday, found Daudu guilty on 77 out of the 208 counts pressed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
Daudu, who served as the Caretaker Chairman of the Ogori/Mangogo Local Government Area of Kogi State between January and July 2008, had been standing trial since April, 2010 alongside a former Commissioner for Agriculture in Kogi State, Albert Adesina.
The charges pressed against them by the EFCC bordered on conspiracy, advanced fee fraud and money laundering involving about N1.4bn.
But while Daudu was convicted on 77 counts and sentenced to two years on each count to run concurrently, Justice Ekwo, however, discharged and acquitted Adesina, who was only charged with one count.
Daudu’a trial started first before Justice Adamu Bello of a Federal High Court in Abuja before it was later transferred to the Lokoja Division of the Federal High Court before Justice Ekwo, where Daudu and Adesina were re-arraigned twice on amended charges.
The prosecution counsel, Mr. Wahab Shittu, fielded 13 witnesses and tendered 47 exhibits to prove the charges against Daudu.
Though Daudu, through his lawyer, Mr. O.J. Onoja (SAN), called seven witnesses in a bid to prove his innocence, the court however found him guilty as Justice Ekwo held that the prosecution proved its case beyond reasonable doubt.
Late last year, the EFCC had expressed fear over the possibility that the case could start afresh after Justice Ekwo announced that the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, had asked Justice P.M. Ayuba of the Lokoja Division of the court to take over the case.
But following the plea by the EFCC, through its lawyer, Shittu, asking Justice Auta to review the decision, the case file was returned to Justice Ekwo, who eventually delivered judgment on Monday, convicting Daudu and sentencing him to two years imprisonment.
Obasanjo said one of the people who wanted to succeed him in 2007 was “stinkingly corrupt” and that the only way he (Obasanjo) could justify himself before man and God was to go for Yar’Adua, who, he said, was the only one among the contenders then who was not corrupt.
The former President, who spoke in an interview with a private television station, Channels Television, in Abeokuta, did not mention the ‘corrupt’ Yar’Adua rivals.
Among the prominent presidential hopefuls in the Peoples Democratic Party in 2007 were Obasanjo’s deputy, Abubakar Atiku; and ex-Governor of Rivers State, Peter Odili.
Atiku later abandoned the PDP to contest the presidential election on the platform of the defunct Action Congress while Odili’s ambition fizzled out with the nomination of Yar’Adua.
The AC later metamorphosed into the Action Congress of Nigeria, which later merged with the Congress for Progressive Change and the All Nigeria Peoples Party to form the now ruling All Progressives Congress.
Obasanjo’s choice of successor died on May 5, 2010 from heart-related ailments. Many condemned Obasanjo for choosing a man who was manifestly sick to lead the country.
But in the Channels interview, Obasanjo said he only acted based on the information made available to him.
He said, “Even if you take your son as your successor, you are not sure of what he will do when he gets there. Don’t ever kid yourself.
“What do I know about any successor? What he presents. When he gets there, he presents it differently.
“We did our best, but if you say our best is not good enough, I will say, when it comes to your turn, do better.
“With all the people who are available as successor, what we came up with was about the best that we could think of at that time.
“One of those who wanted to do the job came to me and said, ‘Sir, I like your job, but I cannot do it the way you are doing it.’ Now, if he had told me that, should I then come and say, ‘okay, come, let me give you the job?’ He had told me that, ‘I like your job, but look, the way you are doing it, I haven’t got the stamina to do it that way.’ Then, what do you expect me to do?
“Or the one that I know that, oh!, this one, before he gets the job, he’s stinkingly corrupt. Now will I be able to defend myself before God and man if, with what I know, I give this job or I encourage the man to have this job?”
THE State Security Service on Thursday said it had foiled a plot to abduct one of the daughters of late President Umaru Yar’Adua.
The SSS said two suspects, Hamza Abubakar and Lawrence Okoro, had been arrested in connection with the foiled kidnap attempt.
Deputy Director, SSS, Public Relations, Ms. Marilyn Ogar, told newsmen in Abuja that the two suspects had on August 21,2013 attempted to kidnap the late President’s daughter at a construction site belonging to her at the Kado area of the Federal Capital Territory.
Ogar did not reveal the name of the targeted ex-President’s daughter.
She said that Abubakar,27; and Okoro, 43 colluded with one Abu Katsina and four others to plan the abduction.
The four other suspects, according to Ogar, are Daddy Mohammed, Isa Keteri, Masa’udu Kateri and another person simply identified as Ik.
Ogar said that Hamza cultivated the friendship of Katsina, a security guard at the late president’s daughter’s construction site, thus providing him the opportunity to visit the area regularly.
She said, “Having obtained sufficient information on the lady, he contacted Dennis, who was at Owerri at the time. The suspects had planned to kidnap and detain the woman at Zuba, in the residence of an acquaintance of Okoro. However, the SSS operatives, acting on actionable intelligence, foiled the plot.
“Both Hamza and Dennis and other collaborators shall be charged to court soon.”
Ogar said that Abubakar was charged with armed robbery in 2006 and remanded at Goron Dutse Prison, Kano, till August 9, 2013 before he was granted bail.
She added that Okoro was also charged with similar offence in 2000 and remanded in the same prison till March 1, 2013 before being granted bail.
According to her, the two became friends while in prison and later reunited in August 2013 after their freedom and subsequently plotted the kidnap plan.
The SSS also paraded a fake Army General, Abubakar Sani (65), who allegedly claimed to be a Special Adviser on Defence to the President.
Ogar gave the suspect’s real name as Elias Tyopart Adams, adding that the fake General also claimed to be a coordinating member of the National Committee on Flood Relief and Rehabilitation.
Ogar said the service initiated an investigation into the activities of the suspect following complaints received from the management of Pipeline and Product Marketing Company.
She said that the investigation which led to Sani’s arrest revealed that the suspect met with PPMC officials in 2012 and claimed to be the Special Adviser to the president.
“He told the PPMC officials that he was directed by the Presidential Villa to facilitate the speedy supply of DPK through certain markets located at flooded parts of the country; he claimed that this was a means to mitigate the burden of victims of the 2012 national flood disaster.
“Investigation also revealed that Elias had equally impersonated a former Minister of Defence and secured up to five lorry loads of DPK from Warri and Kaduna Depots respectively,” Ogar explained.
She said that the suspect claimed that he acted on behalf of the minister and that the product was meant to be distributed to Muslims in Takum, Taraba State, for the celebration of Sallah.
“Suspect used the following business ventures as fronts to divert petroleum products, Usmad Ventures, Arung Oils, Bonje Oil and Gas, and Chavota Oil and Gas,’’ she added.
In an interview, Elias said he got involved in the act out of frustration, adding that between January and the time he was arrested, he had made about N800, 000 from the fraudulent act.
According to the report presented by Senator Ahmed Lawan, Chairman of the committee, the said amounts cut across the Natural Resources Account, Derivation and Ecology Accounts and Stabilization Account.
The Special Funds Accounts, comprising Development of Natural Resources Account, Derivation and Ecology Account and Stabilization Account were being maintained by the Federal Government of Nigeria. Senator Ahmed Lawan in his submission said that the amount was misappropriated between 2002 and 2012 by the governments of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Late President Umaru Yar’Adua and current President Goodluck Jonathan, adding that the governments at various levels abused the Special Funds Account by making several releases not related to what the accounts were designed to achieve.
Breakdown of the report showed that N710,489,494,960.6, N149,881,359,210 and N191,780,136,241 were reportedly misused by the three administrations in the Derivation and Ecology Account; Development of Natural Resources Account and Stabilization Account respectively.
According to the committee in its report, within the period under review, the sum of one trillion, five hundred and eighteen billion, eight hundred and seventy one million, three hundred and fifty seven thousand, four hundred and twenty six naira, sixty four kobo (N1, 518, 871, 357, 426.64) was the accruals to the special funds accounts.
The sum of one trillion, two hundred and thirty five billion, one hundred and sixty six million, seven hundred and eighty one thousand, three hundred and forty seven naira, fifty two kobo (N1, 235, 166, 781, 347. 52) was the total payments from the special funds account.
Also, five hundred and eighty billion, nineteen million, six hundred and eighty two thousand, seven hundred and thirty eight naira (N580, 019, 682, 738) was released as loan; and three hundred and forty seven billion, nine hundred and ninety seven million, five hundred and eighty three thousand, and eight naira and forty one kobo (N347, 997, 583, 008.41) yet to be recovered from various loans beneficiaries.
Senator Ahmed Lawan, earlier in his presentation of the report said: “The operation of the Natural Resources Account is grossly abused because several releases under this account were not related to the intendment of the account.”
Out of a total of N329, 329, 745, 916 granted as loan, N200, 585, 790, 991. 64 is still outstanding under the Natural Resources Account; under the derivation and Ecology Account, a total of N61, 000, 000, 000.00 was granted as loan leaving an outstanding of N30, 000, 000, 000.00.
“Several approvals made from the special funds accounts do not conform to the purposes for which the funds were established; and there were no operational guidelines for the administration, regulations, approvals and procedures for the release of money from such funds.”
It also noted that loans granted from the accounts have not been paid back several years after such loans were granted.
Involve EFCC, ICPC — Ekeremadu
In his contribution, the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, called on the Public Accounts committee to undertake further inquiry to determine whether loans given from the special funds accounts had been recovered.
Ekweremadu said in an event where the monies have not been recovered, the Senate should invite the EFCC and ICPC to wade into the matter, as failure to do so would be interpreted by the public as the National Assembly abdicating from its responsibilities.
He said: “Section 8(82) (of the constitution) said, no money shall be withdrawn from the consolidated revenue fund of the federation except to meet expenditure.
“In this situation, we have seen where monies meant for ecological fund are being used to develop airports, to build malls and then to build abattoir. So that is the crux of the matter. Most of them according to the report of the committee, indeed all of them, have not been recovered.
“This committee will need to do further work to ensure that they hear from the other side of the divide or this matter be referred to the EFCC or ICPC to do further investigation.”
Also commenting, the Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma Egba said the impunity shown in the report confirmed his earlier belief that the nation’s public finances still remain opaque after 14 years of democratic governance as they were under military rule.
His words: “All the misapplications of funds carried out by the executive in the special funds accounts since 2002 are clear attestations of an opaque public finances in Nigeria where for now, transparency and accountability are rules not adhered to, in anyway by the executive arm of government.”
Deputy Majority Leader, Senator Abdul Ningi who also doubles as Deputy Chairman of the Committee on Public Accounts, said: “This is sheer crass executive recklessness and the National Assembly indifference to it.”
N’Assembly to be blamed too — Mark
Meanwhile the Senate did not exonerate itself from the blame, stressing that the abuse was an indictment on the National Assembly because if they had carried out their work effectively, the problem would have been discovered before now.
Senate President David Mark, while reacting to the absence of guidelines for the operation of the special funds account, said: “We are taking it for granted that these funds exist and they can be used in any way and manner. And I think that is truly an indictment on the National Assembly. It is a wake up call for the National Assembly to do its work properly.
“It is an intervention fund in several areas and they are also specified: Development of mineral resources, Derivation and Ecology fund and Stabilization Account. Our problem here is how these funds are being utilized.”
He demanded from the Chairman of the Committee as to whether there were guidelines on the appropriation of such funds.
“It is a combination of their own personal issues and those who collect the loans and those who are given. We as Nigerian citizens and as the legislature, this is about our own collective intelligence.
“We must not under any guise sweep away these findings. Going forward this chamber must have to add a committee to make sure that the loans which were collected are refunded, and where there is a breach, such persons must be brought to book by being prosecuted.
“This impunity is ongoing; it has not stopped, because even in 2011 we could see the impunity by the coordinating minister. That means the trend continues.”
When asked whether there were guidelines, Senator Lawan said, “there is no guideline. But during the public hearing, the committee asked the permanent secretary, Ministry of Finance, how he would define special funds accounts. And he said that is a discretionary account; and what that means is that they can do whatever they want with it. But again there are document of the Ministry of Finance indicating clearly the purpose for each of these three accounts and the beneficiaries, so it is not a discretionary account but there is no guideline.
Mr. Edevbie, along with five others has since 2009 been the subject of investigation by the EFCC in connection with the sale of Delta State’s shareholding in Vee Networks Ltd. (VNL), while he was Delta State commissioner for finance. In the suit (FHC/L/CS/178/2013) brought before the court yesterday for the enforcement of his fundamental right to fair hearing, within a reasonable time and the right to receive information without interference, the applicant was asking the court to determine whether the anti-graft agency ought not to have prosecuted or exonerated him over financial crimes allegations, following the sale in 2006 of the Delta State’s shareholding in VNL, in which Delta State was a substantial shareholder.
The EFCC and the Attorney General of the Federation were the first and second respondents respectively. The plaintiff through his lawyer, Olasupo Shasore (SAN) of Ajumogobia and Okeke, was therefore seeking an order of the court to compel the respondents to prosecute him where investigation discloses evidence of wrongdoing or in the alternative, an order compelling the EFCC to make an official written communication exonerating him from any alleged financial crime, arising from the VNL transaction. Mr. Edevbie was also praying the court to issue an order compelling the EFCC to disclose the results of its investigation into his involvement in the VNL transaction, while he was the Delta State commissioner for finance, pursuant to section 1(3) of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011.
In addition, he wanted the court to award him the sum of N500 million as damages for the agency’s breach of his constitutional right to receive information without interference, as enshrined in section 39(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act (Cap 10) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN), 1990, (‘the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Right’) and sections 1, 4 and 7 of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011, which denial has brought about loss of business and goodwill to the applicant over the period of the time of the denial.”
In a three-page affidavit supporting the motion, Mr. Edevbie averred that he could not had been involved in any money laundering activity arising from the transaction because he had ceased to be a member of the Board of VNL as a director and the Delta State executive council as commissioner for finance before the sale of the shares was concluded, and funds received by Delta State Government in June 2006.
He deposed that: “After my resignation from the VNL board in August 2004, after which I was duly replaced by another appointee of Delta State Government – Mr. Onosode – and my departure from the Delta State Government as commissioner for finance in December, 2005, I was no longer entitled to receive information regarding the final negotiations that eventually led to the sale of Delta State’s shares in VNL in June 2006.” However, by virtue of his position as the commissioner for finance and his role as representative of the state government on the board of VNL from June 2001 to August 2004, Mr. Edevbie was in 2009 named along with five others as a co-conspirator in the alleged money laundering charges preferred against former Delta State governor, James Ibori by the Crown Prosecution in the United Kingdom in 2009.
This was shortly after he was appointed principal secretary to the late president Yar’adua, replacing the previous chief of staff. In his affidavit, Mr. Edevbie told the court that he wrote to the EFCC through his lawyers on February 24, 2011 and April 1, “requesting the EFCC to carry out investigations into the allegations, with particular interest in his alleged role as the commissioner for finance.” Subsequently, he stated, he was invited by the EFCC for questioning in their Lagos office. “As an honourable citizen of this Country, “I honoured the invitation, and on August 10, 2011, I was interviewed by operatives of the first respondent at the first respondent’s Lagos office.
Following further detailed investigations in Nigeria and the UK, I was again interviewed at its Abuja office in March 2012. The plaintiff further stated that on November 27, 2012, he caused his lawyers to write another letter to the EFCC, demanding for action to be taken on the matter. In their letter to the EFCC, his lawyers Ajumogobia and Okeke demanded “written confirmation of the investigation” adding: “Should your office determine that our client is still required to answer any criminal charges, we have instructions to demand that a charge be preferred within the next 14 days, in the absence of which a written communication of ‘case closed’ with a determination of no criminal liability must be brought forward.
“Take notice that we remain under instruction to commence civil action against your office in the absence of the above written report within the next 14 days.” Mr. Edevbie asserted that: “The failure, neglect and or refusal” of the EFCC to prosecute him at the conclusion of its investigations is an indication that he has committed no offence for which he could be prosecuted.
“Since the interviews with the EFCC and till date,” he said “there has been no communication whatsoever from the second respondent, informing me of the progress and or any further development in its investigation; neither have I been charged with the commission of any crime. This situation has left me in limbo, particularly as I have the desire to clear my name,” he said.
Ezekwesili, who was a former Minister of Solid Minerals and Education under Obasanjo, said at the convocation lecture of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, on Thursday, that Nigerians had lost dignity because of ravaging poverty arising from poor choices of the elite, corruption and lack of investment in education.
Noting that the country had enjoyed five cycles of oil boom, she decried the failure to convert oil income to renewable assets through training of human capital, development of other sectors and investment in foreign assets as other resource-rich countries did with their oil income.
Ezekwesili, a founding director of Transparency International, said, “The present cycle of boom of the 2010s is, however, much more vexing than the other four that happened in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.
“This is because we are still caught up in it and it is more egregious than the other periods in revealing that we learned absolutely nothing from the previous massive failures.”
The former minister lamented the “squandering of the significant sum of $45bn in the foreign reserves account and another $22bn in the Excess Crude Account being direct savings from increased earnings from oil that the Obasanjo administration handed over to the successor government in 2007.”
She said, “Six years after the administration I served handed over such humongous national wealth to another one, most Nigerians, especially the poor, continue to suffer the effects of failing public health and education systems as well as decrepit infrastructure and battered institutions.
“One cannot but ask what exactly does symbolise with this level of brazen misappropriation of public resources? Where did all that money go?
“Where is the accountability for the use of both these resources and the additional several hundred dollars realised from oil sale by the two administrations that have governed our nation in the last five years? How were these resources applied, or more appropriately misapplied? Tragic choices.”
Ezekwesili asked the graduating students of UNN and other young people to become the turning point generation of young and educated Nigerians willing to make the right choices by serving or having a say in political affairs of the country.
She said sorting out the “Nigerian political mess” was critical as there was a strong correlation between politics and economic development.
According to her, university graduates account for 4.3 per cent of Nigeria’s youthful population in 2012, a slight increase from the three per cent when she graduated in 1985.
“This compares unfavourably with opportunity for university education in other countries put at 37.5 per cent in Chile; 33.7 per cent for Singapore; 28.2 per cent for Malaysia; and 16.5 per cent for Brazil,” she said.
Speaking on behalf of the delegation, Mr. Alfred Dixon, the President Trans Atlantic Group, North Carolina, USA, said the organisation was ready to bring its technical expertise to bear with the world heavyweight champion as the main trainer.
Dickson said: “We have decided to partner with the state and queue into the tourism development initiative with huge potentiality capable of generating employment opportunities and disclosed their readiness to collaborate with the state to attract visitors.”
He averred that as a two-time visitor to the state, he was in the right position to convince others willing to visit the state to do so, as it remains one of the safest places in the world.
On his part, Cross River State Governor, Senator Liyel Imoke, commended the organisation for choosing to invest in the state as well as complement its comprehensive sport development programme. Imoke said: “The government is willing to harness the sporting potentialities of the youths and groom them to become world champion.”
While disclosing that the state is preparing to host the National Sport Festival in 2014, he said: The state is preparing to host the National Sport Festival in 2014 and your mission will further boost its morale in organizing and winning laurels in boxing.”
He said, “so far the state government has contracted six foreign coaches with the supervision of a consultant, to train youths in various fields of sport and promised to collaborate with them to a achieve the vision of revamping the sport sub-sector.”
The Federal Government plans to spend N3.19bn on the pensions and allowances of former Presidents, Heads of State, their deputies, former leaders of the National Assembly and their families in the year 2012.
The proposed N3.19bn represents an increase of about N2bn from what was provided for the former rulers in the 2011 Budget.
The government also earmarked a total of N141.7bn for the pensions and gratuities, of retired civil servants, that are not captured in the contributory pension scheme.
The amount contained in the 2012 budget currently before the National Assembly is under Service Wide Votes. Our correspondents report that beneficiaries under this heading will receive a total of N414.4bn for the fiscal year.
The Remuneration for former Presidents, Heads of State Act passed by the National Assembly in November 2010 provides for the remunerations of all former Presidents, Heads of State and their deputies, including the families of former leaders who are late.
Currently, those who benefit from the Act are former Heads of State Gen. Yakubu Gowon; Gen. Muhammadu Buhari; Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar; Gen. Ibrahim Babangida; former head of the Interim National Government, Chief Ernest Shonekan; former President Shehu Shagari; former President Olusegun Obasanjo; their living deputies; and former heads of the National Assembly.
Other beneficiaries are the widow of a late former President, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe; the widows of a former Prime Minister, the late Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa; and the widows and families of former Heads of State, General Murtala Muhammed; and Gen. Sani Abacha.
When the N1.2bn bill was presented to the Senate in 2011, the Senate Committee on Federal Character and Intergovernmental Affairs queried the amount, saying that it was too high a price to pay for the comfort of former leaders who presided over the “economic retardation” of the country.
But explanations from the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation showed that there were seven living former Heads of State, five Vice Presidents, six families of deceased leaders and two families of deceased Vice Presidents.
Among other benefits, the former leaders are expected to get a five bedroom housing accommodation each in any location of their choice with telephone services; at least three vehicles; and salaries of personal staff.
Also, the law provides that government should cater for the needs of the former heads of state whenever they visit Abuja, as well as pay for their use of courier services.
Reacting to the provision, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, Senator Bassey Otu, said the Senate would take a look at the provision and ensure that the former leaders did not get beyond what they deserved.
He said the N3.19bn might be slashed in line with the new posture of government to reduce the cost of governance.
“Rest assured that anything that should be done to bring these budgets to their proper sizes, will be done,” he said.
But the President of Campaign for Democracy, Joe-Okei Odumakin, criticised the increase from N1.2bn to N3.19bn, saying it smacked of insensitivity.
She told one of our correspondents in a telephone interview on Sunday that voting more money for the care of former leaders suggested that the poor would remain poor while those who had misruled the country would continue to grow richer.
She said, “First and foremost, it is extremely outrageous. How can you explain an increase from N1.2bn to N3.19bn? It smacks of insensitivity to the plight of Nigerians. It is sad that this is happening when our citizens are impoverished.
“It means that all the mouthing that the regime will reduce their pay is cosmetic and hypocritical.”
Also, the All Nigeria Peoples Party said the huge budget provision was President Goodluck Jonathan’s way of preparing the ground for when he would leave office.
According to the National Publicity Secretary of the ANPP, Chief Emma Eneukwu, the government has no idea of how to move the country forward.
He said, “We keep on saying it that this government has no human face and that it does not care what happens to the people.
“It was telling Nigerians that it was going to cut expenses, yet, it went ahead to increase the budgetary provision for these leaders.
“This same government told us that the economy would collapse without the removal of petroleum subsidy. It did not tell us that the economy of individual would collapse.
“This government is proving it day-by-day that it is a government that lacks vision and cannot be trusted. Nigerians cannot be deceived forever. One day is for the thief, the rest are for the owners.”