All posts by Idris Akinbajo

House Committee rejects Okonjo-Iweala’s answers to 50 questions, asks her to reanswer

Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

The committee also fixed a date for the public hearing.

The Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, failed to answer many of the questions sent to her by members of the House of Representatives Committee on Finance on the ‘true state’ of Nigeria’s economy, the lawmakers have said.
In a review of Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala’s response to the 50 questions issued to her by the committee, the lawmakers said some of the questions were “either not answered, partially answered, outrightly ignored or completely misunderstood.”

The lawmakers’ response is contained in a letter addressed to the minister, dated January 31, and signed by the Chairman of the Committee, Abdulmumin Jibrin.

The committee also said it observed several lacuna in the minister’s response.

“The Committee further noted glaring missing gaps in the responses, absence of supporting proofs to assertions and lack of relevant documents to back up the presentation as is the practice in any legislative oversight or investigation.

“Many data and statistics provided were inconsistent with subsequent information provided while answering other questions,” the committee said.

The 50 questions

The 50 questions were issued to the finance minister on December 19, 2013by the committee. The questions bordered on the state of Nigeria’s economy.

Though the committee gave her two weeks to respond, the minister sent her response and made it public on January 16.
The presentation of the questions to the minister had sparked controversy between her and the House committee on December 19, 2013, when she appeared before the lawmakers.

A disagreement occurred during the minister’s appearance as a video sourced by PREMIUM TIMES showed the minister initially making jest of the lawmakers after they informed her of their decision to hand her the 50-question homework.

The video indicates that the controversial meeting started on a warm note with exchanges of pleasantries between the executive team, led by Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala (and including the Director General of the Budget Office, Bright Okogwu) and the lawmakers led by the committee chairman, Mr. Jibrin.

Despite starting on a good note, the meeting degenerated when the lawmakers told the finance minister not to respond to their questions on that day after she said she was ‘feeling ill’.

Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala said she came to the meeting ‘out of respect’ to the lawmakers as she was not healthy enough to attend.

After the presentation of the questions, however, the minister insisted she would answer the questions on that day, a request refused by the lawmakers who said they wanted her to come back when she was ‘strong and energetic.’
After studying the minister’s response for two weeks, the lawmakers have now said the response falls short of their expectations.

Committee expresses dissatisfaction

The House committee stated its disapproval at the minister referring it to other government agencies for details of the responses to some of its questions.

“…if all the questions raised are beyond the competence of the Minister of Finance, it is certainly not beyond the competence of the Coordinating Minister for the Economy to the extent of information you must have in your possession unless you say otherwise,” the lawmakers said.

The committee, not satisfied with her responses, then resent what it described as “additional observations and requests” on about 40 of the 50 questions it earlier sent the minister. It said those should be provided on or before February 20.

“The observations and requests are made on questions 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 30, 31, 32, 33, , 35, 36, 37, 39, 41, , 43, 44, 45, 47, and 48 while further details on the following questions will be taken at the hearing: Questions 7, 18, 19, 21, 2, 8, 29, 34, 38, 40, 42, 44, 46, 49 and 50.

“Your responses this time and submission of the supporting document are expected to put issues in clearer perspective to enable the Committee conclude preparation for the hearing.

“The Committee has scheduled an investigative hearing to give you the opportunity to explain and defend your submission before the Committee and enable Nigerians to participate and make their contributions to this issue,” it said.

The public investigative hearing is scheduled to hold between March 3 and 6.

Download the House Committee’s letter to Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala here.E

NCAA commences investigation of Aero Contractors airline for ‘shoddy’ treatment of passengers

aero-airline

An NCAA official witnessed the poor treatment of the passengers.

Nigerian aviation authorities are currently investigating complaints from at least 12 passengers over the ‘shoddy’ treatment meted on them by Aero Contractors, an aviation spokesperson has said.

Yakubu Datti, the coordinating spokesperson for Nigeria’s aviation parastatals, confirmed the receipt of the complaints by the agency on Saturday evening.

“Yes we have received complaints from 12 passengers, and appropriate actions will be taken,” Mr. Datti told PREMIUM TIMES.

While aviation authorities investigate the allegations, PREMIUM TIMES can report that by delaying a flight for over 11 hours, all through the night, and failing to provide either refreshment or hotel accommodation for the affected passengers, Aero Contractors violated sections of the Passenger Bill of Rights.

The Bill, put in place by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority to protect the rights of passengers and airlines, provides, among others, guidelines that must be followed by airlines in cases such as flight delays, cancellations, and over-bookings.

Aero had delayed its flight AJ132 from Abuja to Lagos on Friday, first for about three hours (from 6:30 p.m. to 9:45 p.m.), then for over 11 hours till 8:00 a.m. on Saturday.

Most of the passengers were informed via sms and email of the first delay several hours to departure.

“This is to inform you that our flight AJ132 from Abuja to Lagos Today the 8th of November 2013, has been rescheduled to 21:40hrs due to operational reasons. Check in starts two (2) hours before and ends forty(40) minutes before departure. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you. For rescheduling, please call: 01-6284140 or mail tickethelpdesk@acn.aero,” the airline said in the message sent to the passengers.

However, dozens of the passengers who started arriving the airport as early as 1:00 p.m. on Friday were shocked when the airline announced a delay of the flight again.
When the plane that was to convey the passengers finally arrived Abuja at about 12:00 midnight, the pilot simply refused to fly.

The violations

Section 18.17.4.1 states the actions that must be taken by an airline that delays a flight.

The law states that “For domestic flights, when an operating air carrier reasonably expects a flight to be delayed beyond its scheduled time of departure, it shall provide the passengers the assistance specified below:

“a. immediately after one hour, the assistance specified in section 18.17.8.1(a) (Refreshments) and section 18.17.8.2 (telephone calls, SMS and E-mails).

“b. at a time between 10p.m. and 4a.m., or at a time when the airport is closed at the point of departure or final destination, the assistance specified in sections 18.17.8.1(c) and 18.17.8.1(d) (hotel accommodation and transport);”
In other words, Aero was supposed to provide not only refreshments, but also hotel accommodation for the almost 60 passengers it made to sleep on the airport floors because of the flight delay.

The airline provided neither.

PREMIUM TIMES had reported how the passengers had survived through the night at the airport, which is currently undergoing renovation with no place for rest. Some of the passengers were walked out of an Aero jet they had slept in at about 3:00 a.m. by a soldier.

“The treatment was really shoddy. Not only did they not provide any (refreshment or hotel), they could not even apologise to us officially when we eventually flew to Lagos (on Saturday morning),” Charles Musa, one of the affected passengers, said.

Mr. Musa, who is among those who complained to the NCAA, said that an official of the agency was with the passengers all through the night and pledged not to leave the airport until the passengers travelled to Lagos.

Aero’s likely penalties

Apart from providing guidelines to be followed by airlines during flight delays and cancellation, the Passenger Bill of Rights also provides penalties for defaulters that fail to adhere to the guideline.

The law provides “civil penalties as minimum, moderate or maximum for a single violation of a particular regulation.”
While the minimum penalty is N100, 000, the moderate is N250, 000, and the maximum is N500, 000.

Apart from this recommended penalty, the Bill also states that “The Authority may also refer the violator for criminal prosecution as provided in the Civil Aviation Act 2006.”

Mr. Datti explained that the NCAA was determined to enforce its laws to the latter after investigation of the complaints and urged passengers who continuously suffer from such delays by airlines in Nigeria to report such cases as the agency can only act after a formal report.

However, PREMIUM TIMES learnt that some of the passengers may be preparing a court action against Aero.

Aero is yet to react to PREMIUM TIMES enquiry. Calls made to its spokesperson, Simon Tumba’s telephone numbers were unanswered, while a text message enquiry was not responded to.

Aero Contractors airline keeps passengers stranded all night in Abuja

Aero-Contractors

The airline could not apologise to the passengers.

Dozens of passengers were on Friday night till Saturday morning stranded at the Abuja airport as the airline they paid to transport them failed to do so.

The passengers had each paid several thousands of naira to be flown by Aero Contractors to Lagos from the Nigerian capital.

The flight, AJ132, was scheduled to leave Abuja at 6:30p.m. on Friday

In what has become a norm among domestic airlines operating in Nigeria, the flight was announced to have been delayed. Early on Friday, the passengers got a message from the airline announcing a delay in the flight by about 3 hours.

“This is to inform you that our flight AJ132 from Abuja to Lagos Today the 8th of November 2013, has been rescheduled to 21:40hrs due to operational reasons. Check in starts two (2) hours before and ends forty(40) minutes before departure. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you. For rescheduling, please call: 01-6284140 or mail tickethelpdesk@acn.aero,” the airline said in the message sent to the passengers.

Many of the passengers arrived earlier than two hours before 9:40 p.m. for the trip.

“Based on their message, I got to the airport around 7:30 p.m.,” one of the affected passengers, Charles Musa, said.

Before 9:30 p.m., the airport announcer announced that the flight had been further delayed with many of the passengers lamenting the situation.

“They still announced and assured us that we were going to fly to Lagos. And so when they announced that a plane had landed from Lagos, we were asked to queue up for boarding,” Mr. Musa, a Lagos-based lawyer said.

PREMIUM TIMES learnt that the plane from Lagos, which was also a delayed flight, arrived Abuja some minutes before 12 midnight.

After the passengers in the plane disembarked, the Lagos-bound passengers queued and were ready to board.

“Surprisingly, the pilot just came out with his crew and said he was not told to fly back to Lagos. He said he would not fly,” Mr. Musa said.

The passengers were thus left stranded at the tarmac around midnight with no official announcement about their flight from Aero. Some junior staff of the airline, however, told them they would be flown to Lagos at 7:00 a.m. on Saturday but kept mum on where the passengers would stay for the next seven hours before the flight.

The Abuja airport is one of many being remodelled by the aviation ministry, with only makeshift facilities available for both arriving and departing passengers. The airport currently has no facility for a resting area or a hotel.

“Some of us decided to go sleep inside the plane as no other provision was made for us by Aero.

“The plane was locked, but there was another Aero plane nearby. About 30 passengers including foreigners therefore went to sleep inside the other plane,” Mr. Musa said.

The passengers were, however, asked to leave the plane by soldiers at about 3:00 a.m. on Saturday with many of them sleeping on the floor at arrival lounge of the airport.

Aero, which says its mission is to “provide a safe, reliable, efficient and competitive service to our customers”. again delayed its flight on Saturday morning, with the almost 60 passengers finally travelling to Lagos at about 8:00 a.m.
“ We left Abuja at 8:00 a.m. No apologies, no compensation from Aero. It was sad, one of the passengers was at the airport since 1:00 p.m. on Friday,” Mr. Musa said.

Aero Contractors, which won the ‘Best West African Airline of the Year 2012 Award’ at the West African Tourism and Hospitality Awards, refused to respond to PREMIUM TIMES’ enquiry on the treatment of the passengers, and any possible compensation.

Its spokesperson, Simon Tumba, did not pick his calls, return calls or reply to a text message sent to his phone.

Nigeria’s President Jonathan seeks immunity for African leaders from ICC prosecution for war crimes, genocide

President Goodluck Jonathan

Nigeria said it is ‘disappointed’ with the ICC over African affairs.

Nigeria’s President, Goodluck Jonathan, has called for an amendment of the laws governing the International Criminal Court, ICC, to allow serving African leaders to enjoy immunity from prosecution for war crimes, genocide, and war against humanity.

Two serving African presidents, Sudan and Kenya, have been accused of war crimes by the ICC.

Mr. Jonathan stated this on Saturday in an address at the Extraordinary Session of African Union Heads of State and Government, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

“Our (Nigeria’s) position is that certain Articles of the Rome Statute are of grave concern to Africa. In particular, Article 27 which denies immunity to all persons without regard to customary international law, conventions and established norms, must be amended.”

Mr. Jonathan like many other African leaders at the conference, said Nigeria was ‘disappointed’ with the ICC over its handling of matters affecting African leaders.

The president, who expressed Nigeria’s support for the existence of the ICC, said, “While the work of the International Criminal Court is immensely useful for the achievement of a world without crimes against humanity, genocide and other acts of impunity, it would be fair to say that in Africa today, the wave of democratization has engendered greater commitment to the rule of law and respect for fundamental human rights.”

He said the African Union and the ICC shared common principles on war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The president said his belief that both organisations share similar principles is “the reason why the refusal of the International Criminal Court to accede to the requests by our member-states for the deferral of the cases involving the President of Sudan, and now, the President and Deputy President of Kenya has left many of us in the African continent disappointed.”

Mr. Jonathan asked African countries to “maintain our unity and speak with one voice on Kenya,” and called for a reform of the ‘limitations’ of the Rome Statute governing the ICC.

Opponents of the kind of amendment sought by Mr. Jonathan, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, say granting such immunity would mean giving permission to African leaders to commit war crimes.

Many African leaders, including Nigeria’s, already enjoy immunity from all kinds of prosecution while in office.

Section 308 of the Nigerian constitution guarantees total immunity to Nigeria’s serving president and vice president from all kinds of prosecution. A weak and corrupt anti-crime and judicial system has also ensured that Nigerian leaders are not prosecuted even after leaving office.

Many Nigerians and civil society organisations have already called for an amendment or removal of that section of the constitution; which is already being considered by the House of Representatives in its ongoing constitutional amendment process.

Read President Jonathan’s full speech below.

STATEMENT BY PRESIDENT GOODLUCK JONATHAN AT THE EXTRAORDINARY SESSION OF AFRICAN UNION HEADS OF STATE AND GOVERNMENT IN ADDIS ABABA, OCTOBER 12, 2013

Mr. Chairman,

Madam Chairperson of the Commission,

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to participate in this meeting today on the subject of Africa’s relationship with the International Criminal Court.

Mr. Chairman,

While the work of the International Criminal Court is immensely useful for the achievement of a world without crimes against humanity, genocide and other acts of impunity, it would be fair to say that in Africa today, the wave of democratization has engendered greater commitment to the rule of law and respect for fundamental human rights.

Indeed, the Constitutive Act of our Union explicitly prohibits war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity with clear sanctions for violations. I am convinced that our Union and the International Criminal Court are united in our principles and objectives on these matters.

This is why the profound dissatisfaction that has been expressed about the Court’s relationship with Africa deserves the special attention that this Assembly is paying to it at this session.

It is also the reason why the refusal of the International Criminal Court to accede to the requests by our member-states for the deferral of the cases involving the President of Sudan, and now, the President and Deputy President of Kenya has left many of us in the African continent disappointed.

Many are concerned that the African Union’s principled position that African leaders should not be targeted by the ICC has been ignored, and that the ICC, despite its universal jurisdiction, seems to be devoting unusual energy and enthusiasm to the prosecution of cases from Africa, compared to cases from other parts of the world.

If the Court is concerned about this implied allegation of bias; it has not, in our opinion, taken enough pro-active steps to address it and allay the fears of concerned stakeholders. We think it should.

Mr. Chairman,

In our deliberations today, we must not lose sight of the legal identity of our Union relative to the obligations of States Parties of the Rome Statute. Thirty four (34) African countries, including Nigeria, are signatories to this Statute.

Given that not all members of the Assembly are signatories to it, it is important that we balance our interests in a manner that enables signatory and non-signatory members of our Union to express solidarity with one another on matters arising from their obligations. In this regard, it is important that we maintain our unity and speak with one voice on Kenya.

It will also be useful to point out the limitations of the Rome Statute, in order to strengthen the ICC and reposition it for greater fairness and equity in the discharge of its noble responsibilities. This Assembly should urgently call its members in the Assembly of States Party of the Statute, to mobilize requisite support to achieve reforms in the shortest time possible.

Our position is that certain Articles of the Rome Statute are of grave concern to Africa. In particular, Article 27 which denies immunity to all persons without regard to customary international law, conventions and established norms, must be amended.

Similarly, Articles 63 and 98 need close scrutiny and review. There is also the need to align Articles 27 and 98 with a view to bringing them in conformity with the tenets of customary international law, conventions and norms.

Mr. Chairman,

In expressing my support for Kenya on its difficulties with the ICC, I will like to acknowledge that five years after the post-election violence of 2007, the people of Kenya have proven to the world that they are capable of expressing their sovereign wishes in a free, fair and credible manner in accordance with democratic norms and values.

This is a clear demonstration to the world that the people of Kenya are in the best position to determine their own future and deal with their past.

To further consolidate this, I would like to urge the Kenyan Parliament to hasten its consideration of the Report of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission to facilitate the implementation of its recommendations in order to accelerate the process of national healing.

What remains is for the international community, in particular, the ICC, to give the elected leaders of Kenya the space to discharge their mandate in meeting the aspirations and needs of their people.

I thank you.

13 people dead in plane crash involving aircraft carrying Agagu’s body

Agagu plane crash2

The identities of the victims will be released after their families were informed, authorities say.

Aviation authorities said Thursday that 13 people were confirmed dead in a crash involving an airplane that was to convey the body of former governor of Ondo state, Olusegun Agagu, and sympathizers, from Lagos to Akure, the Ondo state capital, for funeral rites.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Aviation, Joe Obi, said 20 people – 13 passengers and seven crew members – were on board the aircraft when the accident occurred, and said 13 people were confirmed dead, six injured, and one person unaccounted for.

Early reports suggested fewer fatalities, with claims one of Mr Agagu’s sons, who travelled on the plane, was amongst the survivors. That report could not be confirmed as the aviation ministry was yet to release the official record of passengers.

The Accident Investigation Bureau, AIB, which also confirmed the number of casualties, said families of the victims would be contacted first before it released the names on the manifest.

The bureau said those injured were receiving treatment and that it had set up an emergency response centre to attend to families of d victims.

Search and Rescue operations closed at 12.50p.m, while investigation into the accident has begun, the bureau added.

Witnesses say the plane, 5N-BJY, operated by Associated Airlines, had barely taken off from the domestic wing of the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Lagos, when it plunged into an open field near an aviation fuel depot at about 9.30 a.m.

An eye witness said that the aircraft, which was “shaking in the air,” nosedived into the ground and exploded about 15 minutes later.

“When I was passing, me and one of my friends, we saw the plane turning in the sky. It looked like the pilot wanted to turn back but there was no power for him to do that,” Olayemi Fawole, who works with a limousine bus shuttle at the airport, told PREMIUM TIMES.

“After we saw the head going down, we started running towards that direction. When we went there, the flight has already crashed. We saw one woman trying to pull herself out, she was still alive,” Mr. Fawole said, adding that he counted eight corpses.

Spokesman of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria, Yakubu Datti, speaking with news channel, Al Jazeera, said the plane suffered engine failure.

“Yes, we can confirm to you that an ‘Emperor 160′ belonging to Associated Airline crashed just after take-off from Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos. The propeller aircraft crashed about 9.42am on its way to Akure carrying 20 persons,” Mr Datti said.

He also confirmed the flight recorder had been retrieved.

The impact of the crash ripped the plane’s fuselage in two, tore its tyres and removed the wings from the plane’s hull.

Fight over a coffin

Rescue officials sliced through the 30 seater Brazilian-made Embraer EMB 120 aircraft to pull out bodies from the charred wreckage.

The Flight Data Recorder was also recovered from the plane as fire fighters struggled to put out the dying flames from the accident.

The impact of the crash tore away the aircraft’s tyres and wings from its body.

Near the smoldering tail of the plane, a blackened Nikkon camera, an Ipad, a padlocked travelling bag, and an almost burnt airplane flight manual lay on the ground.

A few metres away, security agencies battled with journalists, with the former insisting that photos must be taken after rescue operations.

The real battle, however, occurred when a badly dented coffin of Mr. Agagu was forced out of the wreckage.

Naval officers, fire service officers, the police, as well as the officials of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, engaged one another in a heated argument over who would take custody of the coffin.

Minutes later, it was unanimously resolved that the remains of the former Minister be deposited at the Nigeria Airforce hospital within the airport’s compound.

“There was not supposed to be any fight. In any emergency case within Lagos State, the incident commander is the general manager of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA),” said Wale Ahmed, Lagos State Commissioner for Special Duties.

Burial rites on hold

The crash brought to a tragic halt, a series of week-long obsequies that was to peak with Mr. Agagu’s burial on Friday in Ondo state which he governed between May 2003 and February 2009, before a court removed him from office.
Early Thursday, officials of the state government, led by Governor Olusegun Mimiko, had gathered at the Akure airport end waiting to receive his body and guests.

After news of the accident filtered in, members of the entourage and family members relocated to the Ondo state Government House, apparently distressed, over an accident that has shocked the nation.

The state government said in a statement later that the state could only hope on God for mercy and strength to bear the losses. At least one commissioner from the state was on the ill-fated plane. It was unclear if the commissioner survived the accident.

“No doubt, this is an unfortunate disaster in the life of our dear state. We can only pray that God will visit the state with mercy and give us all the strength to bear these unfortunate losses,” the statement said.

The government urged residents to be in a “sober and prayerful mood at these trying times as God is indeed the only person we should call upon in this period”.

Born in 1948, Mr Agagu was former geology lecturer at the University of Ibadan, before venturing into politics. He was at different times Nigeria’s Aviation and Power Minister.

Mr Agagu died on September 13. The funeral events began at the University of Ibadan on Monday, and he was to be buried on Friday. It remained unclear whether the family had rescheduled the burial.

Tributes poured in for the family throughout Thursday, many expressing shock at the turn of events.

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, said he was left “sad and heartbroken”.

The Northern Governors’ Forum called for thorough investigation into the accident.

“The safety of the flying public must be of paramount importance to those saddled with the responsibility of ensuring safe air travels, and no stone should be left unturned in ensuring this,” the forum said in a statement by its chairman, Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger state.

Thursday’s accident came exactly 16 months after a Dana Air plane crashed into a crowded Lagos suburb killing all 163 people on board as well as about a dozen people on the ground.

Despite obvious, widespread graft, Jonathan says Nigeria corruption exaggerated

President Goodluck Jonathan

Although there is corruption in some sectors of the Nigerian government, the situation is not as bad as is being portrayed, President Goodluck Jonathan said on Sunday during his fifth presidential media chat.

For almost two hours on Sunday evening, Mr. Jonathan responded to questions from journalists and Nigerians on twitter on various national questions ranging from insecurity, power, 2015 elections to cost of governance, and corruption.

While speaking on corruption, Mr. Jonathan said his government was winning the war against corruption, and that the perception people had about corruption in Nigeria was exaggerated.

“Perception is different from reality,” the president said, saying even the Transparency International, TI, corruption rating was a Corruption Perception Index.

The latest TI rating had ranked Nigeria as one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

The president argued that the global perception about Nigeria’s corruption was influenced by continuous Nigerian media reports and those by civil society groups in the country.

Mr. Jonathan’s claim that corruption in the country was still at a tolerable level came amidst several corruption allegations against officials of his administration.

Unsolved corruption cases

Among the unresolved corruption cases facing the Jonathan administration is its handling of the Malabu $1.1 billion scandal.

The Jonathan administration approved the transfer of the money to Malabu, a company controlled by convicted money launderer, Dan Etete, in 2011, as payment for an oil block Mr. Etete fraudulently acquired from Nigeria.

The transfer occurred despite that Nigeria’s main anti-corruption agency, the EFCC, was already investigating Malabu for registration fraud and despite Mr. Etete’s earlier conviction in France.

The money was later transferred by Mr. Etete to other dubious accounts including those owned by a politician with links to Mr. Jonathan, Abubakar Aliyu.

Nigeria’s Attorney General, Mohammed Adoke, had claimed that the country only acted as an obligor, a claim that has been proven to be false in earlier PREMIUM TIMES report.

The president’s claim also came despite the massive corruption in the petroleum sector supervised by the Minister of Petroleum, Diezani Alison- Madueke.

At least N300 billion was fraudulently collected as subsidy  by petroleum marketers in 2011, with active connivance of petroleum ministry officials. Several reports including that by a presidential committee and the House of Representatives revealed the unprecedented level of corruption in the sector, with many Nigerians wondering why Mrs. Alison-Madueke remains in office.

Mr. Jonathan, however, said most of the reports on corruption in the oil industry were not factual.

“I’m not saying there is no corruption in the petroleum sector,” he added.

The president also admitted that corruption was not the major issue of concern among foreign investors; saying some investors recently listed corruption as the third most important challenge they face in doing business in Nigeria.

Corruption efforts/successes

The president said even before the federal lawmakers began investigating the corruption in the oil sector, particularly that concerning the petroleum subsidy scam, his administration had begun efforts to check graft in the sector.

While speaking on other efforts being made to tackle corruption, Mr. Jonathan said he and Vice President Namadi Sambo were having regular meetings with the heads of the judiciary, legislature, and anti-corruption bodies in order to holistically address corruption.

“We are interested in making sure that there is no free money for you to steal,” Mr. Jonathan said.

While addressing the slow pace of some corruption trials by the courts, the president said he would not interfere in the running of separate arms of government.

“As a president you cannot gag the judiciary… you must allow the judiciary to be independent,” he said.

High cost of government

Mr. Jonathan also answered questions on the high cost of governance in Nigeria, saying he did not believe the cost of governance was too high.

The president was responding to a question by a panellist on the high number of ‘unnecessary aides’ by some ministers and other officials of government and how it worsened the cost of governance.

“We are doing very well in terms of that (managing the cost of running government),” Mr. Jonathan said.

He argued that ministers and other presidential officials only hired people they needed.

“If you are a minister, you need people that are competent to help you,” he said.

The president argued that governance could not be run like a business, saying “if you want to run government as you run a modern business, you will even have more problems”.

Mr. Jonathan also argued that the cost of governance in Nigeria was not as high as that of some other countries, saying “people (those complaining) don’t compare notes.”

Apo Killings: Nigerian Army, SSS, extrajudicially kill 7, then label them Boko Haram

Survivor, Ibrahim Danladi, a satchet water seller says, "We are no Boko Haram. We are innocent.

The Department of State Security, SSS, and the Nigerian Army schemed to cover-up their atrocity after their personnel extrajudicially killed at least seven innocent men and wounded several others, residents of Apo area of Abuja, where the incident took place, said on Friday.

The security officials stormed a street located behind Zone E of the Apo Legislative Quarters in the early hours of Friday, went straight to an uncompleted building inhabited by homeless artisans and petty traders and immediately began shooting at random, killing at least seven and injuring 17 others, witnesses said.

The operatives then claimed the men were killed in a shootout with Boko Haram insurgents.

The injured, most of them shot on their backs, have since been admitted to the Asokoro General Hospital where they are being treated for gunshot wounds.

One of the injured, Ibrahim Danladi, a 20 year old satchet water seller, told PREMIUM TIMES at the hospital that it was untrue that anyone engaged the rampaging soldiers in a shootout.

A survivor at the Asokoro General Hospital... on Friday
A survivor at the Asokoro General Hospital… on Friday

“We are no Boko Haram,” he said as he writhed in pain. “I sell pure water and none of us are Boko Haram. The soldiers just arrived suddenly and started shooting at us.”

While news of the killings and pictures of the deceased spread on social media on Friday morning, the SSS released a statement saying its officials acted based on information obtained from two Boko Haram suspects, Kamal Abdullahi and Mohammed Adamu, who it claimed had earlier been arrested for terrorist activities.

“They led the security team to the uncompleted building where arms were purported to have been buried underground,” Marilyn Ogar, the SSS spokesperson said in the statement. “No sooner had the team commenced digging for the arms than they came under heavy gunfire attack by other Boko Haram elements within the area.”

The statement said the security team responded immediately.

“As a result, some persons were injured while 12 others were arrested in connection with the incident and are making useful statements,’’ Ms. Ogar added.

But several witnesses and residents of the area have debunked the claim by the SSS. All those interviewed by PREMIUM TIMES said no one shot at the security team that stormed the building.

The team shot at unarmed residents, killing them instantly and then hung the Boko Haram tag on them, residents say.

The House

Building where killings took place
Building where killings took place

Unable to afford the excessively high cost of housing in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, these squatters usually gather in scores to sleep on mats in the few uncompleted buildings on the street, after returning from their daily jobs.

“The keke-napep (tricycle) men that stay in the house (where the shooting occurred) are almost 100,” Abu, a construction worker in another uncompleted building on the street, told PREMIUM TIMES. “Apart from keke-napep, some also sell recharge cards act as phone chargers on the street.”

Witnesses told this paper that the owner of the house (or his representative) where the killings took place, believed to be a top army officer, visited on Thursday morning and ordered the squatters to vacate.

“He gave us one week, one week to leave his house,” said one survivor, who declined to be named for fear he could  be arrested or targeted by soldiers. “He threatened us saying he would bring soldiers to do anything to us if we don’t leave after one week.

“But just two days later, they came to attack us,” one of the tricycle operators who used to sleep in the house cut in in Hausa. He pleaded anonymity saying he feared he could be targeted by  ‘soldiers’.

Many of the residents of the building, who escaped being killed or arrested, have already fled the area.

The attack

Many of the occupants, already worried about where to live at the expiration of the one-week ultimatum, were asleep when the security officials arrived.

The SSS said in their statement that they arrived the place at about 3:00 a.m.

“They came in six Hilux vans. Many of us were asleep. They just started shooting and eventually killed seven of us,” one tricycle operator said.

He gave the names of two of his colleagues killed by the soldiers as Salisu and Abdurahman, both of whom he said were also tricycle operators.

More survivors
More survivors

Ishiaku, a security guard in a neighbouring occupied home, said the soldiers should be made to pay dearly for shedding the blood of innocent people.

“They were soldiers,” he said. “We just started hearing gunfire and from inside house, we could see them and their vans. The Hausa boys who sleep there never harassed anybody. How can they say they had guns?”

Alhaji, another indigent resident of the area, who is from Maiduguri and had been falsely arrested in Borno for being a Boko Haram member and later released, simply remarked at the lawlessness of the Nigerian security agencies and their penchant for killing innocents and labelling them Boko Haram insurgents.

“That is how they behave in Maiduguri. Soldiers will just go to any house or area and kill everyone there and later lie that they killed some Boko Haram people who had guns,” he said.

Soldier’s involvement

All the witnesses spoken to said the security operatives that stormed the building were mainly soldiers in uniform.

The SSS also confirmed that it did not act alone in the raid, saying it was a joint security operation.

The street where the killings took place has several mansions owned by influential people, PREMIUM TIMES found.

Residents particularly mentioned the cream-coloured house right beside the building where the killings took place as belonging to an army colonel who had in the past expressed displeasure at the huge number of indigent artisans and petty traders in the neighbourhood.

Some of them said the soldiers’ actions and involvement in Friday’s killings was probably influenced by the Colonel, a claim the Army authorities denied.

“The operation is an SSS-led operation. I don’t think it has anything to do with a military owner or no military owner,” Brigadier General Ibrahim Attahiru, the Nigerian Army spokesperson, told PREMIUM TIMES, saying the SSS statement had explained what transpired.

“It was a joint operation, the SSS led the operation. Direct all your questions to the SSS,” Mr. Attahiru added.

Efforts to get further clarification from the SSS on the incident and the claims by residents were unsuccessful.

Ms. Ogar did not respond to our telephone enquiry and a text message sent to her.

Both Mr. Attahiru and Ms Ogar declined to answer questions regarding whether any security operative was killed or injured during the operation since they claimed there was a shootout.

They also wouldn’t say whether they found any weapon in the building or its occupants since they claimed they stormed the place based on intelligence that weapons were buried there.

Shot from the back by soldiers
Shot from the back by soldiers

Police dissociates self

The Nigerian Police said seven people were killed in the operation. The SSS statement had kept mum on the number of people killed in the operation.

The police, however, clarified that it was not involved in the operations.

Altine Daniel, the spokesperson of the Abuja police, referred all enquiries on the operation to the SSS.

“Please, I don’t know; you people should contact the SSS,” she told PREMIUM TIMES.

Meanwhile, less than 12 hours after the killings, the National Human Rights Commission has already begun investigations.

Officials of the commission, led by an Assistant Director, Dahiru Bobbo, were seen interviewing witnesses and residents of the area.

 

 

 

Farida Waziri was a disaster to Nigeria’s anti-corruption fight, says Obasanjo

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has described the appointment of Farida Waziri, the former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, as a wrong step in Nigeria’s fight against corruption.

Mr. Obasanjo said this in an exclusive interview he granted Zero Tolerance, a magazine produced by the EFCC.

The former president, whose administration established Nigeria’s two main anti-corruption agencies, the EFCC and the ICPC, said he was aware that former Delta State Governor and convicted money launderer, James Ibori, played a major role in Mrs. Waziri’s appointment.

“I know that the woman they brought in to replace Ribadu (Farida Waziri) was not the right person for that job, because I understood that one of those who head-hunted her was James Ibori.”

“If James Ibori, who is now in a U.K. prison for fraud, head-hunt somebody who will fight corruption in Nigeria, then you can understand what happened,” he added.

When questioned further on his stance on the former anti-graft chief, Mr. Obasanjo said Mrs. Waziri was not adequately qualified to head the EFCC.

“Well, go and look at her track record,” he said. “Go and look at the condition or the qualification; go and look at the type of interaction that anybody holding that job will have with a similar organisation elsewhere; did Waziri have that type.”

“What connection did she have with FBI, what relationship did she have with Metropolitan Police in London. It’s not a picnic,” he added.

Ms. Waziri, a retired senior police officer, was appointed head of the EFCC in 2008 after the controversial exit of the pioneer chairman of the commission, Nuhu Ribadu, also a former police officer.

Her tenure, right from the beginning, was dogged by various controversies including her alleged romance with indicted state governors like James Ibori of Delta, Bukola Saraki of Kwara, and George Akume of Benue.

There were also several investigations including by the now rested NEXT Newspapers that revealed how the EFCC, under Ms. Waziri, wrote controversial letters clearing some of the former governors of corruption charges.

Even the international community was so suspicious of the former EFCC boss that former American Ambassador to Nigeria, Robin Sanders, threatened to walk out of a meeting with Nigeria’s then Foreign Affairs Minister, Ojo Madueke, if Mrs. Waziri was allowed to be at the meeting.

The former EFCC boss was eventually walked out of the meeting.

“I was investigated”

While making further comments on the EFCC, Mr. Obasanjo also said that in order to clear himself of corruption, he asked the commission, then under Mr. Ribadu, to investigate him.

“I was investigated. I told EFCC to investigate me. I told EFCC to carry out clinical investigation and they did,” he said.

“They also did same with all people on my farm. One of them was telling me the other day how Lamorde called him three times and took statements from him. The EFCC even made sure they did not submit that report to me; they waited until I left and updated their report after going round the world and saying look this is the report.

“Nobody should be below board in the fight against corruption,” he added.

Commends Ribadu

Mr. Obasanjo also commended Mr. Ribadu, saying his performance as EFCC boss helped reduce corruption in Nigeria and improve her rating by Transparency International.

“When I was there, the EFCC and ICPC worked tirelessly and we moved this country from the corruption perception index being number 2 from the lowest to being number 45 from the lowest,” he said.

He queried the manner Mr. Ribadu was removed from office saying he cautioned late President Umaru Yar’Adua against the removal.

Mr. Obasanjo said if given the opportunity again, “I will reappoint Mallam Ribadu and I will not dismiss him the way he was dismissed from the EFCC.”

He, however, accused the former anti-graft boss and former presidential candidate of hobnobbing “with people he had declared as corrupt.”

 

Odinkalu, 50 Others Escape Death As Power Cut Stops Arik Plane From Landing

arik air

 

What could have been another  major disaster for the country was narrowly averted in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom state capital, on Friday night, following a sudden interruption in electricity supply to Ibom airport as an Arik aircraft, with its landing gear fully engaged, was just about to land on the runway.

Passengers on Flight W3 533 said there would have been a devastating air accident had the American pilot not been vigilant enough to hurriedly terminate his landing plan and re-engage the engine to quickly fly back to the sky.

The passengers were full of praises to God for saving their lives as their flight returned to the nation’s capital after authorities of the airport failed to provide an alternative source of power supply to enable the plane to land in the Akwa Ibom state capital.

On the flight were an estimated 50 passengers, including  the chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, and some unnamed federal lawmakers, believed to be heading to Uyo for a retreat.

Mr. Odinkalu confirmed the incident. Contacted on the telephone early this morning, a relieved Mr. Odinkalu said, “Thank God we survived. If it had been a rainy night with thunderstorm, anything could have happened to us. Some people need to answer questions over that incident.”

The flight, originally scheduled for 6:25 p.m, left Abuja at about 7 p:m.  It returned to Abuja at 9: 35 p.m. after hovering in the sky for over 30 minutes in expectation that authorities at the Uyo airport would be able to light the runway to enable it to land.

Some passengers on the flight told PREMIUM TIMES that the plane was only 500 metres from the tarmac in Uyo when the airport suddenly blacked out.

“As he re-engaged the engines to go up, the pilot informed us that the control tower had told him there was a power outage at the airport,” a passenger on the flight said. “So they needed a little time to switch to alternative source. So we were told.

“Meanwhile, the aircraft was in a holding pattern over Uyo. So we flew around and  waited. After about 15 minutes, the pilot explained that the man responsible for turning on the back up power unit was about 10-15 minutes from the airport and had been reached. So he was on his way back to switch it on. So we kept holding.”

It is not clear why the technician was not at his duty post at a time the airport was in operation and planes were still expected to land.

The passenger said after another 15 or so minutes, the American pilot announced that the control tower had informed him  that the man expected to switch on the generator had arrived and that power would be restored to the airport in 10 minutes. So the plane held on, hovering in the sky.

But fifteen   minutes later,  PREMIUM TIMES was told,  the pilot again informed passengers that even though the technician to switch on the generator had arrived, the airport authorities were unable to locate the keys to the source of the alternative power unit.

Officials didn’t say who took the keys away and at what point they realized the keys were missing.

They however advised the pilot to return to Abuja.

“Gratefully, the evening was devoid of Uyo’s potentially destructive thunder and rainstorm,” a passenger said. “The information we later got was that the airport’s alternative power source was not in working condition and that they actually lied to the pilot for all the time we hovered in the sky.”

But the ordeal of the passengers was far from ending. On arrival at the Abuja airport, the stranded passengers found, to their irritation, that the Arik Ground Manager had disappeared from his desk, and that there was no one to provide information or arrange transportation or lodging for them.

Some junior staff of the airline, who were approached, simply told the visibly angry passengers they had no idea what to do about the situation,  as they were not given any instruction by their superiors, a witness said.

“Thirty minutes later and very responsible looking men in their suits and expensive silk ties have been reduced on the tarmac to vigilantes using every available part of their anatomy to preclude the pilot from closing the doors and heading off on another trip,” one of our sources said, while still at the airport. “The Arik Manager remains disappeared and this place is going to degenerate.”

The General Manager, Public Affairs of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Akin Olukunle, as well as Arik Air spokesperson, Banji Ola, could not be reached for comments early this morning.

Nigeria’s Aviation Investigation Bureau (AIB) had in some of its reports blamed avoidable human errors and dereliction of duty by public officials working in the aviation sector as major reasons for the loss of hundreds of lives in air crashes in Nigeria.

The bureau, which is saddled with the responsibility of investigating air accidents in the country, stated these in its reports after the crashes involving two airlines, Sky Executive Aviation Services (SEAS)  and Sosoliso airline in 2002 and 2005 respectively.

Some of the human errors identified by the AIB as causes of plane crashes include non-lightening of runways and airfields (as it happened last night), poorly constructed drainage culverts, inaccurate information by the control tower, lack of proper certification of radio operators and poor supervision of aircraft imported into the country.

EXCLUSIVE: Rotimi Amaechi talks tough, says, “No one can push me out of PDP”

Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi

Embattled Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, on Monday said he has steeled himself enough to resist all the maneuverings by the presidency and the top hierarchy of the Peoples Democratic Party to push him out of the ruling party.

The National Working Committee of the party had after an emergency meeting on Monday announced the suspension of Mr. Amaechi for contravening “Articles 58 1 (b), (c ), (h) and (m) of the PDP Constitution following his refusal to obey the lawful directive of the Rivers State Executive Committee to rescind his decision dissolving the elected Executive Council of Obiokpor Local Government Area of Rivers State”.

The suspension came three days after the PDP and the presidency failed in their bid to dethrone the Rivers state governor from the chairmanship of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum.  The governor won a reelection by defeating the presidency/PDP-backed Jonah Jang 19 to 16 votes.

In anger the PDP suspended him and raised an 11-member disciplinary committee to try him.

But speaking to PREMIUM TIMES on Monday night, Mr. Amaechi said he would not leave the party for those seeking to oust him.

“The suspension is to frustrate me out of the party,” Mr. Amaechi said on the telephone. “They believe I will leave once they do it. But no one can stampede me out of our party. I won’t go anywhere.”

The governor said rather than leave the party, he would remain within the fold to challenge his suspension and victimization with every legitimate weapon at his disposal.

“I will challenge this suspension because it is illegal,” Mr. Amaechi said. “I will use all legal means possible to seek redress. They accused me of not reinstating a suspended local government council chairman who was suspended by the state House of Assembly.  Am I a member of the Assembly? Why will anyone blame me for the action of  the assembly?”

The governor described his suspension as a political witch-hunt, saying the party was merely reacting in anger to his reemergence as  chairman of the NGF.

“They were confident that they would defeat me,” Mr. Amaechi explained.  “But they were shocked that I defeated them.  They couldn’t take the defeat in good faith, and they needed to do something.”

The governor also said the party was apprehensive about his political future and that it is doing everything possible to bring him down.

“All they are doing has to do with political tussle,” he said. “They believe  I will contest for a position and they believe they should stop me now.”

The last few months have been politically stormy for Mr. Amaechi after the presidency  and the top brass of the PDP became uncomfortable with him for allegedly opposing party chair Bamanga Tukur and President Goodluck Jonathan on some important national issues.

He is also accused of using his post to strategically position himself as vice-presidential candidate of the party in the coming presidential election.

In late February, the ruling party formed the PDP Governors’ Forum, led by Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom, in what analysts see as a last gasp effort by Mr. Jonathan and Mr. Tukur to dilute the perceived growing political influence of  Mr. Amaechi, who was elected chairman of the Nigeria Governor’s Forum in June 2011 for an initial two-year term.

In mid-April, the control of the Rivers state chapter of the PDP was wrested from the governor after an Abuja High Court, sacked the executive committee of the party, led by Godspower Ake, a loyalist of  Mr. Amaechi.

The court,  in a ruling by Justice Ishaq Bello, recognized the executive committee led by Felix Obuah, a loyalist of the Minister of State for Education, Nyesom Wike, the presidency’s hatchet man in the battle with the governor.

In late April, the Federal Government banned the Rivers State-owned bombardier aircraft from flying in Nigeria’s airspace again in what critics see as a ploy to cripple the government travels in and out of Nigeria.

Aviation authorities claim the plane’s clearance certificate had expired and that its paperwork was a forgery, an allegation that has been punctured by a House of Representatives Committee that investigated the matter.

The PDP and the presidency spent most of May strategizing on how to defeat the Rivers governor  in the NGF chairmanship election held on Friday. Mr. Amaechi however prevailed, and opponents are now fighting back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prof Chinua Achebe is dead

Prof Chinua Achebe

Nigeria’s literary icon and publisher of several novels, Chinua Achebe, is dead.

Mr. Achebe, 82, died in the United States where he was said to have suffered from an undisclosed ailment.

PREMIUM TIMES learnt he died last night in a hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, United States.

A statement from his family said his “wisdom and courage” were an “inspiration to all who knew him”.

A source close to the family was first to confirm the literary icon’s passing to PREMIUM TIMES, saying the professor had been ill for a while and was hospitalised in an undisclosed hospital in Boston. The source declined to be named because he was not authorised by the family to speak on the matter.

He also declined to provide further details, saying the family would issue a statement on the development.

Until his death, the renowned author of Things Fall Apart was the David and Marianna Fisher University Professor and Professor of Africana Studies at Brown.

The University described him as “known the world over for having played a seminal role in the founding and development of African literature.”

“Achebe’s global significance lies not only in his talent and recognition as a writer, but also as a critical thinker and essayist who has written extensively on questions of the role of culture in Africa and the social and political significance of aesthetics and analysis of the postcolonial state in Africa,” Brown University writes of the literary icon.

Mr. Achebe was the author of Things Fall Apart, published in 1958, and considered the most widely read book in modern African Literature. The book sold over 12 million copies and has been translated to over 50 languages worldwide.

Many of his other novels, including Arrow of God, No Longer at Ease, Anthills of the Savannah, and A man of the People, were equally influential as well.

Prof Achebe was born in Ogidi, Anambra State, on November 16, 1930 and attended St Philips’ Central School at the age of six. He moved away from his family to Nekede, four kilometres from Owerri, the capital of Imo State, at the age of 12 and registered at the Central School there.

He attended Government College Umuahia for his secondary school education. He was a pioneer student of the University College, now University of Ibadan in 1948. He was first admitted to study medicine but changed to English, history and theology after his first year.

While studying at Ibadan, Mr. Achebe began to become critical of European literature about Africa.  He eventually wrote his final papers in the University in 1953 and emerged with a second-class degree.

Prof Achebe taught for a while after graduation before joining the Nigeria Broadcasting Service in 1954 in Lagos.

While in Lagos with the Broadcast ing Service, Mr. Achebe met Christie Okoli, who later became his wife; they got married in 1961. The couple had four children.

He also played a major role during the Nigeria Civil War where he joined the Biafran Government as an ambassador.

His latest book, There Was a Country, was an autobiography on his experiences and views of the civil war. The book was probably the most criticised of his writings especially by Nigerians, with many arguing that the professor did not write a balanced account and wrote more as a Biafran than as a Nigerian.

Mr. Achebe was a consistent critic of various military dictators that ruled Nigeria and was a loud voice in denouncing the failure of governance in the country.

Twice, he rejected offers by the Nigerian government to grant him a national honour, citing the deplorable political situations in the country, particularly in his home state of Anambra, as reason.

Below is how Brown University profiled him on its website.

———————————————————————————————————————————-

“Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe is known the world over for having played a seminal role in the founding and development of African literature. He continues to be considered among the most significant world writers. He is most well known for the groundbreaking 1958 novel Things Fall Apart, a novel still considered to be required reading the world over. It has sold over twelve million copies and has been translated into more than fifty languages.

“Achebe’s global significance lies not only in his talent and recognition as a writer, but also as a critical thinker and essayist who has written extensively on questions of the role of culture in Africa and the social and political significance of aesthetics and analysis of the postcolonial state in Africa. He is renowned, for example, for “An Image of Africa,” his trenchant and famous critique of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Today, this critique is recognized as one of the most generative interventions on Conrad; and one that opened the social study of literary texts, particularly the impact of power relations on 20th century literary imagination.

“In addition, Achebe is distinguished in his substantial and weighty investment in the building of literary arts institutions. His work as the founding editor of the Heinemann African Writers Series led to his editing over one hundred titles in it. Achebe also edited the University of Nsukka journal Nsukkascope, founded Okike: A Nigerian Journal of New Writingand assisted in the founding of a publishing house, Nwamife Books–an organization responsible for publishing other groundbreaking work by award-winning writers. He continues his long-standing work on the development of institutional spaces where writers can be published and develop creative and intellectual community.”

 

Jonathan stirs storm over controversial state pardon for Alamieyeseigha, others

President Goodluck Jonathan

President Goodluck Jonathan reached to his constitutional powers to grant prerogative of mercy Tuesday, in Abuja, spraying controversial gifts of state pardon to about a dozen high profile felons including his former boss Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, who served as governor in Bayelsa State between 2000 and 2005.

The president served as deputy governor to Mr. Alamieyeseigha during this period.

PREMIUM TIMES exclusively reported Tuesday morning that President Jonathan had listed this intention on the agenda of the Council of States meeting which held same day at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.

Section 175 of the 1999 Constitution requires the president to seek advisory support from the council but their counsel does not bind him.

Authoritative PREMIUM TIMES sources at the meeting said the appearance of Mr. Alamieyeseigha’s name, recurring on two separate lists circulated to attendees, previous to the meeting and at the meeting Tuesday morning, drew “special, if even muted, attention to the direction of the president’s mind regarding the value of this candidate.”

This development might have also explained the absence of some people at the meeting, according to multiple sources who would not go on record on the matter. “These people simply stayed away in disgust, apparently because they didn’t want this matter to blemish their records” one of the sources said.

No sooner had the Council of State meeting ended, however, and words filtered out that the president had taken this audacious step, than a barrage of angry reactions rang through the nation’s four corners, drawing ringing condemnations and concern at the calculations behind the president’s move.

The late Maj-Gen. Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, elder brother of the late President Umaru Yar Adua, and some velvet ranking military offers implicated in the 1995 and 1997 phantom coups against the late Military Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha also benefited from the presidential gesture.

The officers are: former Chief of General Staff, Lt.-Gen. Oladipo Diya, a former Minister of Works, the late Gen. Abdulkareem Adisa, a former Minister of Communications, and Maj.-Gen. Tajudeen Olanrewaju.

Other beneficiaries include a former Managing Director of the defunct Bank of the North, Alhaji Shettima Bulama and Dr. Chiichii Ashwe.

Maj-Gen. Shehu Musa Yar’Adua’s name on the list raised immediate concern since he had been previously granted pardon by President Olusegun Obasanjo, but knowledgeable sources about how the pardon was design suggested it was a mistake that resulted from a clash of presidential intentions and the inability to do effective checks.

“For instance the first list had Mr. Yar’Adua’s name while the second one simply had some relatively unknown chaps mostly from the north,” said our source who said the important goal was evidently to get Mr. Alamieyeseigha’s case across.

The president’s media team offered no clarity to bewildered journalists after the meeting, which appeared scripted to evade any controversy.

Presidential spokesman, Reuben Abati was travelling abroad, but Doyin Okupe, his official double did not return series of calls and text messages on why no official list of people on the pardon list was available.

As at press time for most newspapers, there was a mood of frustration in many newsrooms making many to miss the story.  The News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, which initially confirmed the story, curiously sent words twenty minutes after to refute itself.  Unusually also, none of the governors was mandated to brief the press.

It is still unclear if President Jonathan ran his proposal by the Presidential Advisory Committee on Prerogative of Mercy (PACPM), as he is expected by law to do. However, the closest to an affirmation on this came from a member of the Presidential Advisory on Committee on Prerogative of Mercy, Constitutional lawyer Tunji Abayomi, who  said it is the privilege of the president to pardon anybody he wants.

“It is his prerogative whether exercised rightly or wrongly,” Mr Abayomi said. “That prerogative is not subject to any condition and so there is not much we can do about it.”

With the presidential amnesty, the former convicts are free to return to their normal public lives, seek elective positions and take up appointments. They are also no longer to be referred to ex-convicts.

Three former heads of government, namely President Shehu Shagari, Yakubu Gowon, and former Head of the Interim Government, Errnest Shonekan, attended Tuesday’s Council of State meeting. Several state governors were also in attendance.

Chelsea maintain top spot in England

Nigerian midfielder John Mikel Obi

 

Chelsea maintained their lead on the English Premier League table with a 1-0 victory over Stoke City.

The London club, which paraded two Nigerian internationals, scored the only goal of the match through left full back, Ashley Cole.

Mikel Obi played in the midfield for Chelsea from the start and was substituted in the 81st minute; while new signing, Victor Moses, came on in the 61st minute to replace Eden Hazard.

The victory saw Chelsea maintain their lead on the table with 13 points from five matches.

The loss by Stoke is their first of the season having drawn their first four matches.

In other Premier League games played on Saturday, West Bromwich Albion without Osaze Odemwingie- suspended for three matches after getting a red card in their last match- defeated newly promoted club, Reading 1-0; Southampton beat Aston Villa 4-1; Fulham defeated Wigan 2-1; West Ham and Sunderland played a 1-1 draw.  Everton had defeated Swansea 3-0 in an earlier match.

Former police boss, Sunday Ehindero, remanded in Kuje prison

Mike Ozekhome is consel to ex Nigeria Police Force boss, Sunday Ehindero

 

A former Inspector General of Police, Sunday Ehindero, is currently an inmate at Kuje prisons, where he has been remanded by the court until he meets his bail conditions.

Mr. Ehindero, PREMIUM TIMES learnt, failed to meet the bail conditions set by an Abuja High Court Judge, Mudashiru Oniyangi, on Friday.

Mr. Oniyangi had granted the former police boss bail in the sum of N10 million. He is also to provide a surety with same amount. Failure to meet the bail conditions, Mr. Oniyangi ruled, the former police boss should be remanded in prison.

Mr. Ehindero is being prosecuted by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other related offences commission, ICPC, for allegedly embezzling N16 million meant for the police, while he was police chief. The money was the interest that accrued to N567 million donated to the police, for equipment, by the Bayelsa State Government. Bayelsa State Government made the donation when President Goodluck Jonathan was the state’s governor.

The ICPC says Mr. Ehindero and a suspended Commissioner of Police in charge of Budget at the Force Headquarters, John Obaniyi, connived to embezzle the funds. Both men are facing a six-count charge at the court.

With Mr. Ehindero’s failure to meet the bail applications by Friday evening, he will spend at least the next 48 hours, until Monday, with fellow prisoners at the Kuje prisons.

Mr. Ehindero succeeded Tafa Balogun, who was also convicted for corruption, as police chief. He was  the police Inspector General between 2005 and 2007.

Ibori $15mn bribe:  EFCC detains Andy Uba for 8 hours

Uba, former domestic assistant to ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo

The Senator representing Anambra South in the Nigerian Senate, Andy Uba, was on Monday held for 8 hours and questioned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, over his role in the Ibori $15 million bribe.

Mr. Uba, sources at the commission say, was questioned on his role in the bribe and his relationship with Chibuike Achigbu, the man who swore an oath to owning the bribe money.

Mr. Uba’s interrogation follows an earlier questioning by the EFCC of the lead counsel to Mr. Achigbu, Adeniyi Akintola, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria; and Mr. Achigbu himself.

Mr. Achigbu, who identified himself as a businessman with interests in diverse fields, had through his counsel swore to an affidavit that he was the true owner of the bribe money, which he claimed he raised from business colleagues for the Peoples Democratic Party.

The businessman also filed an application in court seeking to retrieve the money, being claimed by both the Federal Government and the Delta State Government; an application he later withdrew.

Mr. Achigbu claimed in his affidavit that it was a phone call he received from the Senator a few days before filing his suit that convinced him of the ownership of the bribe money. He said he gave the money to Mr. Uba in 2007 in order for the Senator to clear the source from the EFCC.

He also claimed in the affidavit that the Senator, based on their discussions, was ready to attest to everything he swore to in his (Mr. Achigbu’s) affidavit.

Mr. Uba has however publicly denied the businessman. He stated that his house was only used by the then Delta State Governor, James Ibori, for the deal with the former EFCC Chairman, Nuhu Ribadu. Mr. Ibori allegedly offered the bribe to Mr. Ribadu in April 2007, at Mr. Uba’s house, while the money was received on behalf of Mr. Ribadu by the current EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Lamorde, who was then the Director of Operations of the Commission.

Lawyers and civil society groups insisted that the EFCC investigates both the Senator and Mr. Achigbu for their roles in the bribery scandal. An Abuja Magistrate Court also last week ordered the Inspector General of Police to investigate both men about their roles in the bribe payment. The police boss is to report to the court on September 26 on the outcome of its investigations.

Mr. Uba could not be reached for comments as his telephone was switched off.

The EFCC spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren, said he had no information about the interrogation. He promised to find out the details and get back to us.

Victor Moses stars as Chelsea play goalless with QPR

Victor Moses

The Nigerian forward, Victor Moses, played his first match in a Chelsea shirt after coming in as a 58 minute substitute.

Another Nigerian, Mikel Obi, also played the full 90 minutes for the London club in the match played on Saturday afternoon. Both men could however not help Chelsea as the match against fellow London club, Queens Park Rangers, ended 0- 0.

In another match played at the same time, Nigerian International, Osaze Odemwingie, got a red card in the first half for a foul challenge as his team, West Bromwich Albion lost 0-3 to Fulham. Osaze got the straight red card in the 38 minute in a match that saw former Manchester United forward, Dimitar Berbatov, score two goals for the victors.

In other games played, Arsenal and Manchester United won their home matches convincingly. Arsenal defeated Southampton 6-1, while Manchester United defeated Wigan 4-0.  Aston Villa beat Swansea 2-0, while Stoke and Manchester City ended 1-1.

An earlier match played on Saturday saw Norwich and West Ham play 0-0.

Despite the draw, Chelsea still sits at the top of the Premier League table with 10 points from four matches. Manchester United is second with 9 points, while Arsenal is third with 8 points.