By Idris Akinbajo
By engaging in political campaigns for President Goodluck Jonathan during the last presidential election, the “Neighbour 2 Neighbour initiative” has carried out illegal activities and ought to be deregistered, a PREMIUM TIMES investigation has shown.
The organization, registered at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) two days before the last presidential election, is not supposed to be involved in any political campaign for any candidate or political party.
According to a senior official of the CAC, it is illegal for any registered organization to be involved in political campaigns.
“We don’t register organizations that have political motives, it is INEC that does that,” said Garba Abubakar, the special sdviser to the Registrar-General of the CAC.
In other words, according to Mr. Abubakar, if any organisation explains that it wants to carry out political campaigns for any candidate, it would not be registered.
In the runup to the 2011 general election, Neighbour 2 Neighbour had easy access to huge funds, perhaps running into billions of naira, with which it consistenly and extravagantly planted advertisements about Mr. Jonathan in the print and broadcast media.
Questions arose at the time concerning how the organisation sourced its funds. And there was thick suspicion that a huge chunk of the funds were sourced from the public till.
Neighbour 2 Neighbour Initiative
Registered as an ‘incorporated trustee’ on April 14, 2011, the group has as trustees the Aviation Minister, Stella Oduah (who gave her occupation as businesswoman); Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godsday Orubebe (a public servant); and a traditional ruler in Ijaw land, Amalate Johnic Turner ( a businessman).
The group has “5th floor, Millenium Building Plaza, opp NNPC Tower, Central Businesss District, Abuja,” as its registered address.
Organisations registered as incorporated trustees are commonly called Non-Governmental organizations.
The organisation’s registered address has strengthened suggestions that oil mogul, Jide Omokore, who was implicated in a massive scam concerning the sale of Nigeria Petroleum Development Company’s (NPDCs) 55 percent interest in two oil fields (OML 30, and 34), is one of its major funders.
Mr. Omokore’s Spog Petroleum occupies the 5th Floor of the Millennium plaza.
According to Part C of the Companies and Allied Matters Act 2004, an incorporated trustee can be registered for the purpose of “the advancement of any religious, educational, literary, scientific, social, development, cultural, sporting or charitable purpose, and must be lawful.”
N2N lied for registration
Lagos based human rights lawyer, Jiti Ogunye, says that a group such as Neighbour 2 Neighbour initiative must have lied to register at the CAC.
“It is very unlikely that such a group has registered as its objectives the political campaign that it is doing,” Mr. Ogunye said.
Just like the Lagos Lawyer predicted, the group lied about its functions in order to get registered.
Its objectives, according to the documents at the CAC, are five and are all about promoting good neighbourliness in the society.
Its first objective is to “promote peaceful coexistence between neighbours,” while its last is “to help the needy and the less privileged… to be your brother’s keeper.”
The closest to involvement in politics which the group stated in its application papers at the CAC is “to ensure fairness in the electoral process through awareness campaign…”
Preparing for 2015
Beyond 2011 however, sources close to the Presidency state that Neighbour 2 Neighbour is already preparing for the 2015 presidential elections for Mr. Jonathan.
In other to ensure that the group is not starved of funds, our sources say, its national coordinator, Mike Omeruo, has already been appointed the director-general of the National Orientation Agency.
“With Stella in Aviation, Orubebe as special Adviser and now Mike as NOA Director, President Jonathan is ensuring that Neighbour 2 Neighbour is well oiled in preparation for 2015,” a source said.
PREMIUM TIMES learnt that the recent mass recruitment carried out by the group is in preparation for the 2015 elections.
In its recruitment advertisement in September 2011 (published in various print and online media,) the group, which introduced itself as “a leading support group that contributed immensely to the emergence of President Goodluck Jonathan and Vice President Namadi Sambo at the April 2011 elections,” stated that it has “been transformed to continue in support of the Transformation agenda of Mr. President.”
The group recruited coordinators for each of the 36 states, each of the 774 local governments, and all the wards in the country.
We are not aware
Despite the political campaigns and adverts sponsored and carried out by the organization for President Jonathan in 2011, the CAC, which has the responsibility to check such illegalities, says it is not aware of any such political campaigns by Neighbour 2 Neighbour.
“If we have proof that any organization registered by the CAC is engaged in political activity, we will call them to order,” Mr. Abubakar said.
“If they disobey, the law has given us the power to file an action in court for the dissolution of such an organization.”
Efforts to reach Mr. Orubebe were unsuccessful. Several calls to his telephone were unanswered while he also did not to respond to text messages.