Daily Archives: November 23, 2007

David Mark’s Aide In Electoral Scam

The Chief Of Staff (COS) to Senate President David Mark, Mr. Agbo Oga was arrested and thrown into detention among other suspects after the state People’s Democratic Party (PDP) lodged a complaint to the police in Makurdi alleging that he led a gang to rob electoral materials at gun point in Otukpo.

State Assistant Commissioner of police, Ibrahim Muhammed who is acting on behalf of the commissioner, Mr. Adeyinka Adeyemi confirmed the arrest but refused to state details. Ibrahim Muhammed said his men were still investigating the reported incidence and will only brief the press at the appropriate time.

Agbo Oga had allegedly led a gang comprising a former state chairman of the PDP, Mr. Mike Iduma, a former local government chairman in Ohimini, Mr. Ezekiel Adaji, Dickson Oha, Simon Adole and Donald Agida and other unidentified persons who bore fire arms, and attacked a convoy conveying PDP local government nomination materials to Idekpa in Ohimini LGA.

According to the report lodged to the police by the PDP, three of its members who were sent as electoral panelists and the Special Advisor to Governor Gabriel Suswam on Public Utilities, Barr. Agbo Madaki and Ohimini council chairman, Mr. John Ameh were attacked by the Agbo Oga led suspected gang at gun point at about 3pm on Wednesday. The report says Agbo Madaki was part of the escort team to lead the materials to Idekpa.

The chairman of the PDP team of panelists, Mr. Iorfan Odey who gave the statement before the Ohimini Divisional Police Officer, Mr. Onye Jikwe, at Idepka before the matter was transferred to the command headquarters in Makurdi for onward arrest of the suspects, alleged that the gunmen accompanying Oga shot sporadically in the air to bring the convoy to a stop.

He alleged further that at gun point, the suspected gang demanded to have the electoral materials but that he and his team resisted it. Nobody was hurt in the attack.

Special Adviser to Governor Suswam, Barr. Agbo Madaki who was allegedly attacked by the suspects confirmed the incidence. Madaki said he had done his report but will have to brief the governor before speaking to the press on the matter. He however said some of his suspected attackers had already been arrested and were in detention at the CID department of the state command in Makurdi.

Meanwhile, LEADERSHIP gathered preparations for the PDP primary election was still being made as party leaders in Ohimini were said to have calmed the nerves of the members who rose with protests over the alleged attack.

A statement signed by Ohimini PDP chairman and secretary, Japan Adeju and Okpe Oteikwu respectively said members in the area will have to wait for the decision of the state secretariat.

– Leadership


Governorship Tussle: Tribunal Orders Recount In Edo State!

Edo State election petition tribunal has ordered the re-count of ballot papers used for the April 14, governorship election in 12 local government areas of the state.
The tribunal Chairman, Justice Orilonishe Olabanji gave the order yesterday while ruling on an application made by counsel to Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and Action Congress (AC), Chief Adeniyi Akintola (SAN).

The 12 local governments that would have their votes re-counted are Uhunmwonde, Esan West, Etsako West, Ovia South West, Owan East, Igueben and Esan Central. Others are Ovia North East, Esan North East, Orhionmwon, Esan South East and Owan West.

The application for the recount which was objected to by INEC and Prof. Oserheimen’s counsel, Mr. Roland Otaru and Dr. Alex Izinyon, both Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN), was as a result of the failure of INEC’s Head of Operations, Mr. Kayode Olawale to give the figure of ballot papers that INEC brought to the tribunal in several Ghana must go sacks.
Ruling on the application, the tribunal chairman fixed Saturday and Sunday for the re-count exercise to be carried out by Mr. Olawale, who is currently testifying for INEC. He would be assisted by the assistant secretary to the tribunal.

Justice Orilonishe while overruling the objections from counsel to the respondents, said since the witness had already told the tribunal that he did not know the numbers of the ballot papers as exhibits, the tribunal has the power to order the re-count of the ballot papers as tendered.

Governor Osunbor 

The tribunal ordered that the re-count must be done local government by local government, even as it also directed secretary to the tribunal to provide adequate security for the exercise which the tribunal ruled, counsel or their representatives were free to witness.

The INEC witness could only tender rejected, voided and cancelled ballot papers used for the election in only four out of 18 local government areas in the state, saying “these are the ones we have in our records.”

A mild drama played out at the tribunal yesterday, as the Chairman, Justice Orilonishe ordered INEC Resident Electoral Officer for Edo, Mr. Josiah Uwazuoronye and Mr. Ferdinand Orbih to vacate the front seat meant for Senior Advocates of Nigeria, following an observation by Chief Akintola that the REC was interjecting while he (Akintola) was leading the witness in evidence.
Justice Orilonishe said it was unprofessional for counsel who were not involved in a matter to make contributions or interfere with the proceedings of the tribunal.

– The Sun

Nigerian Experts Disagree On Rejection Of Bakassi Transfer

Legal experts in Nigeria have reacted differently to the decision of the country’s Senate Thursday rejecting the transfer of the resourc e -rich Bakassi peninsula to Cameroon, in line with the 2002 ruling of the Interna t ional Court of Justice (ICJ).

While some agreed with the upper legislative chamber’s decision, others said it was wrong, in view of the ICJ’s ruling on the issue.

The Senate, following a motion by 22 members, said the decision of the immediate past administration to transfer Bakassi to Cameroon last year, without seeking a pproval from the National Assembly (parliament), was unconstitutional, citing Se c tion 12 (1) of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution.

The Section reads: “No treaty between the federation and other country shall hav e the force of law except to the extent to which any such treaty has been enacte d into law by the National Assembly.”

“Technically speaking, nothing has been ceded. In law, Bakassi is still part of Nigeria because the areas supposedly ceded are all listed in the Constitution,” S enate spokesman Ayogu Eze said.

“Unless the Constitution is amended, the areas remain part of the country,” he a dded.

Reacting to the decision, Bola Ajibola, Nigeria’s chief delegate to the Nigeria- Cameroon Mixed Commission, set up by the UN in the aftermath of the ICJ ruling, s aid it was wrong.

Ajibola, also a former Nigerian Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, said t he Senate should have asked for a public hearing on the issue before taking a de c ision.

“What they are talking about is in consonance with Section 12 of the Constitutio n. That is another matter which is the internal domestic affair of Nigeria. But t he customary international law will not allow them to do that,” he added.

On his part, President of the umbrella Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Olisa Agba koba, said the Senate’s decision could not nullify the judgement of the ICJ that Bakassi belongs to Cameroon.

But another former Nigerian Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Richard Ak injide, disagreed, saying the 109-member Senate was constitutionally and legally right to take the decision.

“No head of state or president has the right to approve any treaty or to cede an y part of Nigeria without complying with the provisions of the Nigerian Constitu t ion.

“Besides, no part of the country can be ceded to any foreign country without the approval of the legislature and the approval of the people of the affected part of the federation,” Akinjide added.

Famous constitutional lawyer Itse Sagay said while he believed the decision to c ede Bakassi to Cameroon was unconstitutional, because the government did not see k the approval of its bicameral legislature, the Senate’s decision might not reve r se the handover.

The controversy over the Bakassi came shortly after the tension generated by the recent killing of 21 Cameroonian troops in the region by yet unknown persons.

Both countries submitted to the jurisdiction of the World Court after they almos t went to war several times over the ownership of the 1,000-square-kilometre ter r itory jutting into the Gulf of Guinea.

After the landmark ICJ judgement, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan set up the Mixed Commission to help work out the modalities for its implementation.

Consequently, the leaders of both countries signed the Green Tree Agreement sign ed in New York 12 June 2006.

In the agreement, Nigeria recognized Cameroon’s sovereignty over the territory a nd agreed to withdraw its forces and administration.

Nigerian troops were withdrawn from Bakassi 24 August 2006, paving the way for the implementation of other aspects of the agreement.

PANA Press


Judith Asuni Shares Prison Experience As She Reunites With Family

The Burdin family has a lot to be thankful for this year.

Like millions of Americans on Thanksgiving, the Burdins celebrated food, family and freedom — but especially freedom.

Judith Burdin Asuni, a peace and conflict resolution worker in the Niger Delta, was released from prison in Nigeria only three weeks ago after more than a month in solitary confinement. This week she’s home in Central New York, celebrating Thanksgiving with a house full of extended family in Interlaken.

Asuni was arrested Sept. 26, supposedly on espionage charges, but after a month of holding her, local authorities could find no evidence to try her and Nigerian president Umaru Yar’Adua eventually intervened on her behalf to have her released and all charges against her dropped.

Lena Burdin talks with her daughter, Judith Burdin Asuni, during a family Thanksgiving celebration Thursday afternoon near Interlaken. Asuni who runs a non-governmental organization in Nigeria was recently released from jail there

Nigerian officials claimed that Asuni had aided two Germany documentary filmmakers in filming without government clearance. Asuni said this was simply an “excuse to pick me up and try to clip my wings.”

‘Corruption everywhere’

In her more than 30 years living in Nigeria and working toward inter-ethnic, religious and political conflict resolution, Asuni said she has been witness to “a very high level of corruption everywhere,” in all levels of government.

Asuni said she regularly reported on this corruption directly to Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who stepped down from office in May 2007.

When President Yar’Adua came to power, Asuni said she found herself caught in “a power struggle between various groups in the government.” She had been working on an extensive report on corruption among local officials only a week before her false arrest.

“Vested interests benefit tremendously from the conflict in the delta,” Asuni said. “People don’t want to solve the problems because they’re making so much money.”

She was denied access to a U.S. embassy official for 48 hours and was never allowed to see a lawyer until the day she appeared in court, almost a week after her arrest. By Nigerian law, people can only be detained 48 hours without charges, but Asuni was held without charges for six days.

“I was actually told that this happens to Nigerians a lot and my reaction was, ‘Does that make it right?’” she said.

Prison experience

Asuni said that in the prison she “had the VIP suite,” with “a fairly good bed” and a private bathroom.

“The major thing is that I was in solitary confinement so except when I went out for interrogation or to receive visitors, I was alone,” she said.

“Sometimes, for lack of anything else, I would ask to go down and talk to my interrogators and give them lectures on the Niger Delta,” Asuni said, laughing. “I had a couple of very intelligent ones who were very interested and a couple of them said to me, ‘You’re doing a great job for this country.’”

Carol Bergin, Judith Asuni’s sister, talks about working in fair trade goods during an interview Thursday afternoon near Interlaken.

Lena Burdin, Asuni’s mother, said she and her husband had been afraid something like this might happen for years, because of where her daughter lives and the work that she does there.

“When Judy was being interrogated, some days she had three hours of interrogation,” Burdin said. Burdin said that interrogators who expected Asuni to “crack” underestimated her strong will and sense of humor.

Asuni demonstrated this humor by introducing herself to distant relatives and unfamiliar guests at the Interlaken celebration with, “Hi, I’m the ex-convict.”

Faith at home

Burdin said the interrogators also didn’t “know how many hundred people she had praying for her to keep her strong.”

Burdin said members of the Ovid Federated Church, the Interlaken Reform Church, and friends and relatives in New York, Oregon, Arizona, Tennessee and New Zealand all prayed for Asuni while she was being held.

“One of the women at Ovid said, ‘I’ve gone to this church for 50 years but I have never seen as many people pray as fervently as they have for Judy,’” Burdin said. “I feel that the prayers have done a lot.”

Having been raised on a farm outside Lodi, Asuni said her parents “don’t know how they managed to get a couple of daughters who decided to tour the world.”

Asuni’s oldest sister, Carol Bergin, also works internationally to help farmers establish fair trade deals.

Bergin is working to establish an internationally recognizable fair trade symbol that can appear on products that are certified fair trade by uniform, enforceable standards.

Bergin directed those interested in international fair trade to www.ifat.org and www.fairtrade.net.

Asuni said she was astonished and appreciative of the help she received from friends and strangers all over the world, who pressured Nigeria to release her, ranging from “ex-ambassadors to professors to warlords.”

Work will continue

Asuni has worked to encourage armed militants to give up their weapons and refuse to participate in the violence that cripples the Niger Delta.

She participated in a ceremony where roughly 900 militants gave up their weapons.

Asuni told of one man in particular who she helped to turn away from drugs and violence.

Gospel Tamuno was a militant and clearly on drugs when Asuni first met him.

She invited him, along with others, to participate in an “outward bound” camp where she remembers, he especially enjoyed rappelling down a cliff.

“I’ll always remember him leaving the camp when he rolled down the window of the bus and he said, ‘Bye bye, mom, I’ll see you in Port Harcourt,” and threw me a kiss and his eyes were bright and sparkling. And although I’m sure he probably used drugs somewhat after that, it helped to break that cycle,” Asuni said. “And now he’s dropped out of his armed group, he’s a community liaison officer for an oil servicing company, he has another new baby whose name is Judith, and he’s a whole different guy.”

“When you see that happening over and over and over again, helping to reform their lives, it’s a very satisfying job.”

Asuni said her immediate plans include going to London for “grandma duty” for her first grandchild, expected next month. But she said she does plan to return to Nigeria eventually to continue her work.

– Courtesy of The Ithaca Journal