Daily Archives: December 7, 2007

FG Signs Peace Deal With Militants, It’s a Ruse – MEND

Nigeria’s federal government and 12 militant groups ba sed in the country’s oil-rich state of Bayelsa have signed a cease-fire agreement to signal the end of hostage taking, pipeli ne vandalism and piracy in the oil-producing Niger Delta region.

But the deal has been weakened by the refusal of the region’s largest militant group to sign it.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) has denounced the deal as a ‘ruse’ designed by some people to hoodwink the international communit y .

Under the agreement, signed in the Bayelsa capital, Yenagoa, Thursday, the gov ernment will police the creeks and bring to book anyone caught engaging in ‘nefarious acts’ in the oil region, while the government is expect ed to implement a seven-point development agenda for the region.

No time frame was set for the implementation of the agreement, which was broke red by a Senate committee on peace in the volatile oil region.

Governor Rotimi Amaechi of nearby Rivers state, who stood in for Vice Presiden t Goodluck Jonathan, witnessed the signing of the agreement, which is expected to be replicated in Rivers and Delta states.

Amaechi said the panacea to the violence in the region was the massive creatio n of jobs to deter the youths from carrying arms out of frustration.

Attacks on oil facilities and abduction of oil workers in the region have comb ined to slash Nigeria’s oil production and forced some companies to relocate from the Niger Delta.

– Agency Report

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Family of Slain Ekiti Govt Driver Stages Protest

Reactions have continued to trail the killing of  three persons, including an Ekiti State Government driver and the shooting of the brother of the State governor, Mr Lanre Oni by policemen in Osun State on Wednesday.

Yesterday, relations of the slain government driver, identified as Mr John Ogunrotimi, who was among the three people that were  shot dead on Wednesday by the police at a check point on Esa/Oke/ Ilesha road, Oshun State yesterday stormed the Governor’s Office in  Ado-Ekiti to protest the death of their son.


The protesters, who were not fewer than 30, and led by the elder brother of the deceased, Mr Shola Ogunrotimi, lamented the alleged failure of the state government to have communicated the demise of the driver to his family on time as they got to know 24 hours after the incident.

The aggrieved relations who stormed the new Governor’s Office yesterday evening came all the way from   Osi-Ekiti in Ido/Osi Local Government Area of the sta te.

Apparently feeling dejected and worried over  the sudden death of their son, the family demanded for the corpse of their son whom they described as a hard-working and committed p erson  during his life time.
While further expressing grief over the incident, they alleged that Ogunrotimi was merely used as a guinea pig in the course of his du ty.
Also  a socio-political pressure group in the state h as called on the  Police  High Command and the Sta te         Security  Service (SSS) to immediately launch an investigation into the arrest of Governor Segun Oni’s younger  brother.

The Ekiti People on the side of History, which is a pro-former Governor Ayo Fayose group, in a p restatement issued in Ado-Ekiti yesterday, and signed by its Secretary, Mr Segun Oguntimehin warned security agents not to allow the matter to be swept under the carpet urging the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr Mike Okiro to personally lead investigation.
However, while sympathising with the deceased family           at the governor’s office, the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Public Communications, Mr Moses Jolayemi explained that they have the right to be aggrieved but attributed the lateness in conveying the news of his death to the fact that the  government received the news late.

According to him, the state government having been briefed fully on the development had already communicated the Ogunrotimi family officially conveying the condolence of the state government to the family and the people of Osi-Ekiti.
He however, deplored the way Osun State Police Command handled the matter expressing dismay that the Policehad jumped to conclusion that the suspects were armed robbers by parading them as criminals in Osogbo, the state capital.
“Nobody was happy over what happened on Wednesday, when we got the news, we called the Chief  Detail and his phone rang endlessly over the incident but we were surprised that the Police paraded them as armed robbery suspects.
“How can somebody used a Kia Picanto car to rob abullion van, these are the facts to look into, it is very unfortunate”, Jolayemi              would be recalled that Mr Lanre Oni, younger brother of the Ekiti governor was  shot by policemen ata checkpoint on Esa-Oke/Ilesa Road  while two sub-machine guns fully loaded with 33 rounds of live ammunition were recoved from the booth of the government car that was conveying them to Ibadan “on amission to buy tyres”.

Three persons including the driver of the Kia Picanto car belonging to the Ekiti State Government were  shot dead while Lanre and a College of Technology, Esa-Oke  student simply identified as Olatunji who were paraded as robbery suspects by the Osun State Police  Command are carrying bullet  wounds.

 

– Thisday

British lawyers won’t speak on ex-governors’ loot

Dariye Accused the British of looting his loot. 

Despite the allegations against it, a British law firm yesterday snubbed enquiries on its handling of the monies recovered from former Governors Diepreye Alamieyeseigha (Bayelsa) and Joshua Dariye (Plateau).

Kendall Freeman and Company confirmed acting for the Federal Government on various cases, including the one against Dariye, but declined to give the details.

It said it did not have the government’s consent to release such details to the media.

“We confirm that Kendall Freeman act for the Federal Government of Nigeria on various matters, including proceedings against Chief Dariye. However, we have no authority from the government to discuss these cases with the media” an e-mail from Mr James Maton, the counsel handling the cases, said.

The e-mail was in response to enquiries by The Nation.

It took Freeman about 18 hours to respond to the enquiries following the allegations levelled against his company by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Justice Minister, Mr Michael Aondoakaa (SAN), on Tuesday.

The minister accused the lawyers of tampering with the monies which they assisted the government to recover in Britain.

Aondoakaa spoke in Abuja when he handed over a cheque of £300,000 (about N76.5 million), which was part of the money recovered from Dariye, to officials of the Plateau State Government.

Before Aondoakaa’s allegation, Dariye had made the same claim.

In a petition to the President, the former governor alleged that part of the money recovered from him was not returned to the Federal Government.

He claimed that part of the money realized from the sale of his properties in Britain was not declared.

Dariye asked President Umaru Yar’Adua to probe the allegation – in line with his administration’s anti-corruption crusade.

Aondoakaa claimed that Kendall Freeman did not remit the money recovered from Dariye to the government.

He alleged that the law firm illegally deducted its legal fees from the loot.

The law firm, he said, also handled the recovery of money from Alamieyeseigha.

“The Plateau State Government is not at loggerheads with the Attorney-General. A law firm was engaged in London to recover money from Dariye. The Kendall Freeman firm collected money for the Plateau State Government but did not remit the money to the state government. They also paid themselves out of the money.

“The state government complained to the past. Attorney-General, Chief Bayo Ojo (SAN). Before the law firm could be asked why they paid themselves, the tenure of the Attorney-General had lapsed.

“I invited Freeman and told him that the money did not belong to the Federal Government and that Plateau State did not engage the lawyers. I told the law firm that they have to refund the money and seek approval for the money to be paid.

“I had a meeting with them and I told them that part of the money must be paid back to me. The President has directed me to hand over the money to the state government. The money is £300,000.”

The minister said Kendall Freeman claimed that it informed the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) about the alleged illegal transaction.

Aondoakaa said he was yet to see any document signed by the EFCC chairman Mallam Nuhu Ribadu in respect of the deal.

On Alamieyeseigha, he said £985,567 (about N251.3 million) recovered from the former governor which is to be returned to the Bayelas state Government remained unclaimed in London.

Throughout Tuesday, the London law firm rebuffed entreaties to talk to The Nation on the matter.

Maton, who confirmed that he was in charge of the cases, asked that an e-mail detailing The Nation’s enquiries be sent to him. The e-mail was sent but he did not reply as promised.

When The Nation called London later the night, he was said to have closed.

Yesterday, it took another call to London before he responded to the enquiries.

 

– The Nation

Iwu: We Should Not Have Held Elections

DESPITE the hail of criticisms of the conduct of last April’s elections, the chief electoral umpire won’t stop defending the exercise.

Prof. Maurice Iwu, the INEC Chairman, said yesterday that the environment was not conducive for the conduct of any democratic election.

The commission, according to Iwu, told the government of the “adverse” environment. He did not, however, state why INEC went ahead to conduct elections that were described as “deeply flawed” at home and abroad.

Besides, he did not state the government’s response to the commission’s complaint.

Iwu was delivering a paper in Bauchi at the fourth All Nigeria Editors Conference of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) entitled: “Assessment of the Nigerian Media and Elections”.

The INEC chief blamed it all on the media, saying they failed to amplify the prevailing adverse environment in which the elections were held.

“The environment in which the 2007 general elections were conducted was not the best any democratic election could have been conducted in,” he said.

Iwu believed the media failed to monitor the following:

•influence of money in politics;

•willful abuse of power and rules by individuals elected into public offices; and

•manipulation of the political class.

He said: “The outcome of every election reflects the very environment and prevailing dispositions in which the election was conducted”.

The commission, he said, “severally made the point also that the political parties as they exist in the society today can only bequeath grief to the political process”.

He said the media, despite recognising the existence of the problems, did not tackle such serious shortcomings with any commitment and vigour.

“The direct result of this neglect as far as the 2007 general election was concerned is that many things happened which ought not to have,” he said. He however refused comments on such wrong things.

Iwu blamed the media for missing the real undercurrent of the high temperature of the period leading to the 2007 elections and also refused to apportion blame on the entities responsible for the hitches identified in the polls.

He said despite the odds, the commission conducted the most free, fair and successful elections, transiting from one civilian to civilian regime as against using excuses to postpone the exercise. He had earlier scored the commission 80 per cent, amidst protests by observers that the polls were fraudulent.

His words: “The most confounding aspect of the assessment and analyses in the media about the 2007 general elections, both before and after the polls, is the consistent refusal by many to place the entire process in context.”

Iwu said despite the shortcomings in the reportage of the elections, “the Nigerian media remains its vibrant and patriotic self but needs to be more profound in its interpretation of issues”.

Mrs Oluremi Oyo, the chairman of the session and Managing Director of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) applauded the courage of INEC in conducting the 2007 general elections in despite the odds.

More than 250 editors are attending the three-day conference opened by Bauchi State governor, Malam Isa Yuguda.

– The Nation 

Why it’s Difficult To Prosecute Odili – EFCC

The Director of the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr. A.O. Okaro, has said that the agency is being hindered in handling the prosecution of a former Governor of Rivers State, Dr. Peter Odili.

He said, “The question of charging suspects to court under 72 hours in a system such as the one, in which we operate is simply impossible; it is not feasible because even when we strive to achieve such targets, we are constantly bogged down by an inefficient judicial system.”

Okaro, who disclosed this at a seminar on the reporting of money laundering in Abuja, further noted that the bureaucracy involved in filing charges at the courts was affecting the operations of the commission.

Okaro said, “The commission is currently investigating over 2,000 cases and most of these cases have been stalled due to the inefficiency in the nation’s judicial system.

“We have achieved over 200 convictions for economic and financial crimes and we usually have a turnaround period of six months on most of these convictions, and our lawyers have had to work overtime to get some of these prosecutors on their feet.”

He said the rule of law should be applied in a flexible manner in order to address peculiar situations in the fight against corruption.

“It is getting impossible to even prosecute some of the cases we have, because of the insistence on the rule of law,” he said.

He noted that Odili’s case had been stalled for months because of an inefficient judicial system.

He added that it was worrisome that nothing had been done about it.

“We are afraid that if we continue to strictly abide by the rule of law, crime will flourish in our land, and we may end up losing this country to a cabal of powerful individuals who have what it takes to exploit the system,” he said.

 

– The Punch

NPA contracts Inflated Under Bode George’s Board – EFCC

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Thursday told an Ikeja High Court that the contracts awarded by the Nigerian Ports Authority under the chairmanship of Chief Olabode George were inflated.

George led the board of the NPA between 2001 and 2003.

The commission also said that the award of the contracts, totalling 24, 252, did not follow due process as it breached the Federal Government’s regulations and directives.

An investigative officer of the commission, Mr. Bamanga Bello, stated this in ‘a written statement on oath’ which he adopted in the court on Thursday after being led in evidence by his lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana.

It was during the proceedings of the N500m suit instituted by George against the Independent Communications Network Ltd, publishers of The News magazine and PM News newspaper.

The Editor-in-Chief of The News, Mr. Bayo Onanuga, and another staff of the magazine, Mr. Ademola Adegbamigbe, were joined as co-defendants.

In the suit, George claimed that a story contained in the July 2005 edition of the magazine, published by the defendants, was libelous and damaging to his reputation.

George added that the story, which linked him to an alleged N5bn fraud in the NPA, was malicious and designed to bring him into disrepute.

However, Bello, who represented the Chairman of the EFCC, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, in the committee set up by the Federal Government to review and verify NPA‘s contracts between 2001 and 2003, told the court that George approved them illegally.

Under cross-examination by George‘s lawyer, Mr. Adebambo Adesanya (SAN), Bello added that the commission was still investigating the matter and that some of the persons allegedly involved in the forgery of documents had been charged to court.

The presiding judge, Justice Akeem Oshodi, adjourned the matter till January 28, 2008.

In his statement on oath, Bello wrote, “The Board of the NPA under the chairmanship of Chief Olabode George approved various contracts without due process and in clear violation of extant government rules and regulations, orders and the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“Investigation revealed that the NPA, during the period under review, awarded over 24, 252 contracts valued at over N100bn.

”The board, under the chairmanship of George, approved various contracts which only the Ministerial Tenders Board or the Federal Executive Council had power to approve and thereby contravened Section 61 of the Criminal Code.

“It was also revealed during the period under investigation that contracts awarded by the board were generally inflated as can be seen from the Report of the Committees and Annexures 11. The act of inflation of contract prices is tantamount to conspiracy and stealing, contrary to Section 516 and 390 of the Criminal Code. This action also contravened Section 22 (3) of the ICPC Act 2000.

“It was also discovered that George left office with about four vehicles belonging to the NPA which prompted the committee to write to him as a result of which he returned the vehicles to the NPA.

”Even after George had been removed as the chairman of the NPA, he was still occupying the two properties belonging to the NPA at Ikoyi, Lagos and Maitama, Abuja, contrary to government regulations.

“Most of the contracts awarded by the NPA under the leadership of George were not budgeted for, contrary to Section 22(4) of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission Act.”

The Special Committee on the Review and Verification of Contracts awarded by the NPA from 2001 to 2003 led by Ribadu had in 2006 indicted the former board led by George.

The committee’s report was presented to former President Olusegun Obasanjo on February 21, 2006.

Presenting the report, the EFCC boss said the committee’s fundings and observations included widespread financial recklessness, flagrant violation of existing government rules and regulations on award of contracts, disregard for due process, gross and massive inflation of contract prices and excessive contract splitting.

Ribadu had said, “The committee has established that the board and management of the NPA during the period under review were responsible for the flagrant violation of the existing government rules and regulations of award of contracts.

“The committee has also established that the NPA awarded a total of 24,252 contracts during the period under review with a total value of N46,946,402,776, $236,913,986, £24,905,588, DM 461,936,147, ¤926,957 and 4,087,918 shekels.

“Most of those contracts were awarded without due regard to existing rules and regulations, which resulted in NPA accumulating a huge contract debt running into billions of naira without corresponding value to the authority.

“The committee has established that the outstanding contract bills for the period under review stood at N9,264,411,707; $1,634,772; £2,920,575; ¤919,001 and DM 41,052.

“The committee made strong recommendations, including the recovery of misappropriated funds, structural and administrative changes, which we believe will assist in sanitising the operations of the NPA and forestall future occurrence of these or similar incidences.”

Receiving the report, Obasanjo had commended members of the committee for a good work and assured them that the Federal Government would study the report and be guided by its recommendations.

He also assured the NPA creditors that their cases would be treated on merit.

“I think we are clearing the Augean stable little by little. the NPA is one of the last to be given a clean-up,” Obasanjo had said.

The EFCC had on November 26, 2007 tendered the report before the court.

The document, which was presented by Bello, was admitted as evidence before the court.

After the court accepted the report, Falana also sought the permission of the court for Bello to give an oral testimony on the document.

The court, however, directed that Bello’s testimony should be made on oath. That prompted Falana to apply for an adjournment.

– The Punch 

 

Federal High Court Voids Yar’Adua’s Indictment

A Federal High Court sitting in Umuahia, Abia State, has quashed the indictment of President Umaru Yar’ Adua and Vice President Goodluck Jonathan by an Abia State Government panel.

The indictment, which was published in the state government White Paper prior to the April elections, also found the Abia State Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate for the election, Onyema Ugochukwu, former President Olusegun Obasanjo and others culpable for corruption and other unspecified wrongdoings.

But Justice H.T. Soba, in the fundamental right enforcement suit, brought by Ugochukwu, held that the procedure adopted by the administration of the former government of Orji Kalu in setting up the panel violates the provision of section 36 of the 1999 Constitution and therefore ultra vires the powers of the government.

Ugochukwu had prayed the court to quash the report of the panel. Specifically, he asked the court to declare “that the Government White Paper on the Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Activities of Some Persons and Serving/Past Government Functionaries Between 1999 and 2007, dated February 21, 2007 which purported to have indicted the applicant of corruption and misconduct is void, being that:

Only a competent court or tribunal can try, inquire and find the applicant guilty and or liable of or for any corruption or wrong doing.

The government of Abia State can only set up a commission of inquiry to inquire into matters in respect of which the Abia State House of Assembly has power to make law.

The applicant was never an employee or contractor to the government of Abia State between 1999 and 2007.

The applicant was not an employee of the federal government of Nigeria between 1999 and the year 2007 among others.

Other persons indicted by the panel include former deputy to Kalu, Enyinnaya Abairibe, Obasanjo’s daughter, Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, and former House of Reps member, Mao Ohuabunwa.

-Daily Independent