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In The Spotlight
Femi Fani-Kayode, a former Minister of Aviation and later spokesman of the campaign organisation of former President Goodluck Jonathan, was on Wednesday discharged and acquitted by a Federal High Court in Lagos after years of trial for charges of corruption brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimees Commission (EFCC).
Fani-Kayode was finally freed by the court seven years after he started facing trial first before Justice Ramat Mohammed.
To celebrate his victory, the former Minister re-christened himself with the name 'Olukayode'.
Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia, who presided over the case said there was not enough evidence to nail Fani-Kayode for the money laundering allegation brought against him by the anti-graft agency.
The EFCC had alleged that he laundered about N100 million while he was Minister of Culture and Tourism and later, the Minister of aviation. This was later reviewed after the court dismissed 38 out of the 40-count charge against him.
Minutes after the judgement, Fani-Kayode spoke with journalists expressing joy and satisfaction with the judgement which, he said, had proven his innocence.
Fani-Kayode said: "Ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted, humbled and relieved by this verdict. In the last seven years, I have been subjected to the most malicious, vicious, sinister, well-orchestrated, insidious and devastating form of political persecution and wickedness.
"The whole process almost destroyed my life, my family, my reputation, my health and my career. I thank God for his goodness, his mercy and for the fact that today, the whole nightmare has finally come to an end.
"Initially, I was accused of stealing N19.5bn of public funds when I was Minister of Aviation. It was thrown out by the courts. Then I was accused of stealing N6.5bn. It was thrown out by the courts. Then I was accused of laundering N200m. It was thrown out by the courts.
"Then I was accused of laundering N99m. It was thrown out by the courts. Finally, I was accused of laundering N1m and N1.1m respectively, and today, both of these charges have also been thrown out by the courts. I give thanks to God for today’s verdict.
"It is the doing of the lord and it is marvellous in our sight. Once again, he has proved that he is faithful and true and that he always honours his word. I wish to thank my family members, leaders of the Body of Christ, intercessors, pastors, political associates and friends who never doubted my innocence and who stood by me through thick and thin.
"I wish to thank my lawyers who worked so hard and so diligently over the last seven years throughout this case. I wish to thank the Nigerian judiciary for dispensing justice in an honest and God-fearing way and for refusing to be intimidated by anyone or guided by anything other than the evidence presented before them in this case.
"They dispensed justice with candor and fairness, and throughout the proceedings, they were fair to all, honest, courageous, professional and true. I thank them for refusing to send an innocent man to jail and for refusing to allow themselves to be used as tools for personal and vindictive vendettas or political persecution. This gruesome ordeal started seven years ago and throughout that period, it was gruelling and difficult.
"They took seven years from me but they couldn't break me or end my life. It was a very difficult period for both me and my family which came with enormous and unimaginable challenges, yet from day one I never doubted that I would be vindicated because God had assured me of it and I know the God that I serve. He never lies and He never fails. He said, through his Holy Spirit, that my innocence would speak for me and that he would fight this battle for me and he did. He said that he is the author and the finisher of my faith, my shield, my glory and the lifter of my head and he was. He has proved all that throughout my life and he has proved it once again with the verdict in this case. To him alone be all the glory.
"When the ordeal began seven years ago the Lord ministered that it would last for seven years but that in the end, I would be declared innocent, I would be vindicated and I would be delivered. Again he honored his word because the whole nightmare started on 1st of July 2008 when I was arrested in the premises of the Nigerian Senate after the public hearing on the N19.5 billion Naira Aviation Intervention Fund. I was cleared of any wrong doing in the administration of that fund by the Senate Committee on Aviation yet despite that, immediately after the sitting before the Committee, I was abducted and arrested in an unceremonious and shameful fashion and locked up by the Farida Waziri-led EFCC for 10 days and charged to a magistrate court in Abuja.
"Today, the 1st of July 2015, seven years to the day from that day when I was first arrested and first put into detention, I have been discharged and acquitted of all remaining charges by the courts. The Lord has, once again, honoured his word, to him alone be the glory.
"As a mark of honor and respect for the Lord and as an everlasting testimony of my love for and dedication to him, I wish to make it known to the Nigerian public that as from today my name will be changed. It will no longer be David Oluwafemi Fani-Kayode but instead, it shall be David Oluwafemi Olukayode. Olukayode means "the Lord has brought me joy" and today he has done precisely that.
"As from this day, in honor of him and as a small tribute to my love for and total dependence on Him, that shall remain my family name. Once again, I give thanks to God for all that has happened to me and for this great deliverance. To him be all the glory. I swore that I would not leave the shores of Nigeria until this matter was finally brought to an end and the courts had pronounced my innocence. That was seven years ago. I kept faith with that oath and it gives me pleasure to tell you that now that the whole ordeal is over I shall be leaving the shores of my beloved country for the first time in seven years for a short holiday and a long overdue medical examination.
"They not only threw the whole book at me but also the entire kitchen sink but the Lord was with me. I stood on His words in Isaiah 50 v.7-9 and I never faltered or doubted Him even in the most difficult times. Now they know that I serve a mighty God who never forsakes His own.
"I thank the media for their constant support and attention and I thank the millions of Nigerian people that chose to believe in me and to keep faith with me throughout this ordeal. Once again, I give thanks to the Lord. God bless you all," he said.
As part of efforts to reform the Oil sector and move towards transparency, sources tell Huhuonline that President Muhammadu Buhari is expected to take direct charge of oil issues, indicating that he won’t appoint a Minister for Petroleum Resources, at least for the time being. Rather, the President will combine his office with the duties of the Petroleum Resources Ministry, where he is expected to personally oversee major reforms in the sector, as part of his announced economic policy agenda.
Huhuonline understands that the decision followed meetings with the International Chair of the global Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), Clare Short, who underscored the importance of integrating the revised EITI principles and standards in his economic policy agenda as obtainable in resource rich countries of the developed world. In meetings in Abuja with Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and other administration officials, the EITI chair explained that international development stakeholders have endorsed Buhari’s declared commitment to good governance, transparency and accountability which are consistent with the principles professed by the EITI.
Buhari had reportedly listed the implementation of the findings and recommendations of the local EITI chapter; the Nigerian Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (NEITI)’s audit reports on operations within Nigeria’s extractive sector as a priority for his administration in his first 100 days in office. EITI principles emphasize public disclosures of information by owners of oil and mining licenses through regular audits of their operations on oil production figures, revenue sharing arrangement between tiers of governments as well as the open process of contract awards in the oil, gas and mining industry.
Short, who headed a delegation of a special EITI implementation committee drawn from 50 member countries, noted that the findings and recommendations of NEITI audit reports over the years had suffered from the absence of a strong political will to implement them; and insisted that Buhari himself should take personal responsibility to oversee reforms in the extractive industry sector, especially oil and gas because the vested interests are too powerful and risks torpedoing any efforts at change. Insisting that only the President’s office can effect the badly changes to the mismanagement, under-payment of taxes and royalties, under-assessment of operational processes as well as other lapses, which costs the government billions of dollars in revenue losses, the EITI chair pressured Buhari to take charge of the Oil Ministry, and to cast a critical eye on the NNPC, which he founded in the 1970s when he was a Minister.
Among the much anticipated reforms, President Buhari is looking at scrapping the subsidy. In addition, he is weighing a divestment and privatization of the NNPC that would the state-owned company and one of the world’s biggest oil companies by output to operate at a profit; to disclose revenue and to be more transparent and accountable to government. Currently, the NNPC regulates itself. President Buhari is also considering making the Oil ministry a directorate subordinate to an energy ministry that would be also responsible for mining and electricity, and placed under the direct supervision of the presidency. The idea is to create closer collaboration among bureaucrats working on similar issues. The “new” Oil minister, assuming there will still be one, would mostly be ceremonial; play an oil-diplomacy role, attending OPEC meetings, while the President would immerse himself in the operations and take a more aggressive military posture against oil bunkering and pipelines vandalism.
Sources also tell Huhuonline that Buhari appears highly sensitive to recommendations in reports by EITI, of which Nigeria is a member. Each year EITI has pointed to shortcomings with regards transparency in Nigeria and underscored the need to overhaul the (NNPC). Buhari is considering an overhaul of the economy, weighing options that include eliminating ministries, reconfiguring the NNPC, and removing the multibillion-dollar fuel subsidy, which is ridden by corruption and abusive patronage. The international donor community wants Buhari to end the subsidy and is therefore pressuring the new president to take over the Oil ministry so as to keep a close eye on the likely pushback by Labor unions who will call for nationwide strikes and demonstrations if, and when the fuel subsidy regime ends.
Nigeria is Africa’s biggest oil producer, exporting two million barrels of crude daily. It spends much of that windfall—at least $4 billion in this year’s budget—subsidizing gasoline. Nigeria also sits atop the world’s ninth-largest gas reserves. But 18 of its 23 power plants are currently closed, because they can’t get gas. Nigeria currently produces just 1.3 megawatts, less than what Zimbabwe generates for a population a twelfth as big.
Nigeria’s military spent nearly a decade fighting oil thieves in the swamps where they built camps, amassed arms and took oil workers hostage -the conflict ended with the 2009 Niger Delta Amnesty program. It isn’t clear how the army would fare this time, but the risk is even greater that it could backlash into kidnappings and general insecurity.
In The Spotlight
No other event lately perhaps dramatizes the contradictions of the new administration of President Muhammadu Buhari than the ongoing crisis in the Eight National Assembly which degenerated into a free-for-all last week as lawmakers exchanged punches and engaged in fistfights inside the hallowed chambers, to the consternation of onlookers, including school children. The selection of principal officers of the National Assembly, which spurred the litany of indecorous actions by the lawmakers, is inexcusable. The disgrace was simply mind-boggling; and stands condemned in all ramifications. The fighting was barbaric and constituted a rude assault on the sensibility of Nigerians. In the reckoning of Nigerians who voted overwhelmingly for change, this was an embarrassment not only to Nigeria, but to democracy as a form of government. Besides, it lowers the country’s image before the international community. This is a national shame that must not be allowed to repeat itself.
The emergence of Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara as Senate President and House Speaker, has thrown the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) party in crisis with rival factions; one supporting the new National Assembly leadership, while the other faction supports the supremacy of the party. In a manner that was sufficiently self-indicting and far from being evocative of any commitment to the business of lawmaking, two Senators exchanged blows on the Senate floor, and two days later, while House reps rained blows on each other, to the consternation of school children who had visited to watch the day's proceedings. Since the emergence of Saraki and Dogara, the APC has been divided over whether or not the new leaderships of both chambers of the National Assembly should respect the supremacy of the party over the zoning of the positions.
In a letter to the Speaker, the APC nominated Femi Gbajabiamila (South West) for House Leader, Ado Doguwa (North West) for Deputy Speaker; and Mohammed Monguno (North East) for Chief Whip. But lawmakers loyal to the new Speaker rejected the party list. The same scenario played out in the Senate, where Saraki said his hands are tied. The Senate rejected attempts to compel it to accept and adopt all nominations made and sent to it by APC National Chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun, nominating Ahmed Lawal as Majority Leader; George Akume, Deputy Majority Leader; Olusola Adeyeye as Chief Whip and Abu Ibrahim as Deputy Whip. But Saraki refused to read the letter claiming it ran afoul of its rules.
The schism has infected APC governors, who rose from a meeting with President Buhari with a resolve to pressurize Saraki and Dogara to abide by the party’s decision on leadership positions in the National Assembly. But indications have emerged that while the party is in a hurry to resolve the crisis trailing the emergence of Saraki as Senate President and Dogara as House Speaker respectively, they crisis has infected the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF), between opponents and supporters of the new leaderships of both chambers of the National Assembly to respect the supremacy of the party over the zoning of the positions. Out of sheer desperation, lawmakers have been digging-in; on behalf of their zonal caucuses and some have even accused the APC of violating the standing rules and the federal character provisions enshrined in the constitution.
In the ensuing melee, the important task for which the lawmakers were elected, took the backstage; and was consequently undermined. The goal of governance, which is to improve the wellbeing of the people, seems to have taken the back stage while brigandage deployed in self-service has taken the forestage of national political life. In the wake of these untoward developments, the APC has sought to mollify the indefensible illegal act of its members trading punches inside the National Assembly, with empty promises of resolving the issue as a “family”. The fact that this has not yet happen put a serious question mark on the APC’s ability to put its house in order and deliver the dividends of democracy to the Nigerian people. The fighting lawmakers were definitely wrong if they expected Nigerians to hail their actions as a hallmark of legislative genius. Rather, Nigerians consider their action as rank irresponsibility that should not have been allowed in the hallowed chamber of the last National Assembly.
The emerging crisis in the national assembly and the disgraceful action of the lawmakers has grave implication for the current democratic dispensation in the country. It is in appreciation of the enormity of lawmakers fighting that condemnation has trailed it for being a lawless action; and that when the lawmakers fail to respect the directives of their party on whose platform they were elected into office, and went ahead to quarrel and fight each other over positions and privileges, the country was headed towards anarchy. Similarly, the action of the errant lawmakers has been appropriately captured as a reckless display of partisanship against the backdrop of the fact that the fighting has been done by lawmakers from the same party.
Indeed, more non-altruistic motives can be inferred from this brazen national embarrassment that was clearly unprecedented and a rude assault on the country’s democracy. The action amounts to a travesty and the president was seemingly complicit by the illogical logic of his “non-interference” in the crisis; and his failure to personally condemn the issue. The warring lawmakers did not hide the fact that their intention was to rein in the new Senate president and House speaker. If the game plan was to pressure the new national assembly leadership to bend to the supremacy of the party as the action indicates, it was ill-advised; they ought to have charted the path of legality and due process instead of a resort to fighting and brigandage. For the sad fact remains that Nigerians elected lawmakers, not boxers.
For Nigerians, the attitude of the lawmakers is a sad reminder of the need for them to wonder about the people they elected to represent them. The current set of lawmakers should see their attitude as a shame that should never be brought upon Nigerians again. The country’s dire situation requires lawmakers who are genuinely committed to finding solutions to problems and making life worth living for the citizens. Nonetheless, the (Dis)honorable members by trading punches portrayed themselves as brigands. Nothing can justify such irresponsibility. Did they forget that they represent an important institution of the state and Nigeria? Good manners, different from their actions in public and portraying themselves as rioting students, were desired and expected of them. If the extant republic were to survive, democratic tolerance and conduct would be invaluable.
This unruly behavior should never be allowed to repeat itself. All told, the process that led to the current crisis should be dealt with in accordance with the constitution. When man begins to rule, in the circumstances the rule of law suffers and when this happens anarchy looms. This must not be allowed to stand in the way of the hope for change which Nigerians massively voted for in the last general elections. The new lawmakers in both chambers of the National Assembly must be true agents of change for good.
In The Spotlight
Exactly a month ago, President Muhammadu Buhari took over the reins of power. It is still early days yet, just one month out of 48, a mere two per cent of a four-year term. Ordinarily, it is too early for even a tentative appraisal. But these are no ordinary times. Nigeria is in a very terrible place. And most Nigerians, especially those who deliriously bought into the promise of change, expect the world of their new president, and expect it quickly, or at least expect to quickly see reassuring signs of it. But it is not clear that President Buhari got that memo about pace and the foreshadowing import of take-off or, in case he did get the memo, that he thinks much of it. Beside the burden of expectations and the normal search for signs, the past four weeks have thrown up a number of issues that are getting even the most ardent Buharists worried. These issues may define the character and the capacity of the new administration and are worth highlighting early on as a service to both the president and the country.
I will examine some of these issues below, using three criteria to undertake what I have deliberately called a preliminary appraisal.
Public Perception: The increasingly widespread perception is that Buhari has not taken off with a bang, or to use the new cliché, that ‘he has not hit the ground running’. This contrasts sharply with the impression avidly sold and enthusiastically bought during the campaigns. Buhari had been positioned as a man ready to govern from day one. Beyond the work of campaign spin merchants, the fact that Buhari had been a head of state and that he had, for four electoral cycles, been a conscious candidate, not a drafted or an accidental one, helped in solidifying this impression. Besides, the presidential election was conducted a clear two months before the inauguration and he has had the rare luck of not being distracted by post-election litigations. It is thus not unreasonable to expect that Buhari, given his antecedent and the admitted urgency of the task at hand, would set to work immediately. It is also not unreasonable that he would settle in quickly, aided by a core team that he would have identified over time and with a blueprint that he might just need to temper with inherited realities.
A month after, his core team is not yet in place. The president is yet to name his Chief-of-Staff, even if in acting capacity, or choose his advisers, even when the last Senate had promptly approved his request for advisers. The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the engine room of government, has also not been appointed. If the president has a blue-print, the best we can do for now is to speculate about it, as none has been clearly articulated or even suggested. While the president may need to consult in choosing ministerial nominees and would need the Senate to confirm them, the key appointments mentioned above are almost exclusively his prerogative. In a pre-inauguration interview with Daily Trust, Buhari said he had an idea or a list of his key appointees already but would rather keep it in his chest. If that sounded defensible prior to inauguration, I doubt if it still does a month after. In a recent interview with Arise TV, President Buhari said he was not in a hurry to appoint ministers. Well, they will be his ministers. But the president needs to realise that this is not exclusively in his hands. If he is not in a hurry, the country is. And a critical element of leadership is knowing where your people are. Some explanations have been given on the president’s current pace. One explanation is that he needs to be fully aware of what he has inherited before making appointments and commitments. Another is that he is just being careful, trying to avoid mistakes and desirous of appointing only untainted people. Yet another is that he wants all the factions in his party to wear themselves out first. Then, there is the argument that as a matter of personal style, the president abhors being pressured and he takes his time to come to a decision. To be sure, every president is entitled to his/her style. But to be effective, presidents need to align their styles with the moment and the mood of their people. The reasons given for the delay in appointments and policy direction cannot pass the muster for long. Presidents will make mistakes because they are human. And having the power to fire and hire and amend initiatives, they are allowed to adjust and adapt. By the way, they won’t know they have made mistakes until they act. Also, even if he takes the entire 48 months of his term, the president will still make mistakes and will not have all the information he needs. We live in a world of incomplete information anyway, yet decisions have to be made. Nigerians yearn for a president who will be decisive, not one that will be above mistakes or one that will make only perfect decisions. Additionally, the myth of a president who can govern effectively without aides and ministers has zero shelf life. I have no scientific data on this, but my hunch is that the president’s stock of goodwill is getting depleted by the impression of seeming vacillation. While giving allowance for the fact that some people for certain reasons will never be Buhari’s fans no matter what he does (there will be haters, as the Adidas advert says) and that politicians frustrated by his peculiar style might be the ones whispering the tale about indecisiveness, it is very important to pay special attention to how public perception evolves. Public perception is very critical to democratic governance and the effusive support of even fanatical supporters should not be taken for granted. Perception can be fickle. The good news is that it is early days yet, and it is still possible for Buhari and his team to pro-actively take charge of the narrative and shape how the administration is perceived, not just through spin but, more importantly, through concrete actions.
Key Campaign Promises: President Buhari rode to power on a chariot of promises. He vowed to curb corruption, tackle insecurity, and rescue the economy. All these resonated with most Nigerians, gave him an edge over an incumbent, and secured him a historic win. But as the late Mario Cuomo memorably stated, Buhari would have discovered by now that ‘you campaign in poetry; you govern in prose’. From the little that has happened in the first one month, it is difficult to say Buhari will or will not deliver on his campaign promises. But some patterns are emerging that are worth paying attention to. One, it is clear that fighting Boko Haram will be Buhari’s big thing. This is clearly signposted by his decision to ask for the relocation of the command headquarters to Maiduguri, his meetings with service chiefs and his visits to Chad and Niger and the G7. Next, or at par to security, will be anti-corruption. The most memorable line from his inaugural speech remains ‘I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody,’ suggesting that he would not be held hostage by vested interests, including those in his party, and that the days of sacred cows and impunity are numbered. The mere knowledge that a new sheriff is in town has already woken up some anti-corruption agencies and has put everyone else on notice. But his mere presence is not enough. He needs to take concrete steps that will show he really means business. Otherwise, the fear factor will disappear, same with the momentum. The flak he has received for not publicly declaring his asset (a clear promise he made in his Covenant with Nigerians) and for not commiserating with victims of recent attacks by Boko Haram underscore the fact that governance is a delicate balance between substance and symbolism. This is a lesson that can be ignored at great cost. The economy is clearly not Buhari’s strong suit and no one should be apologetic about it. But given the current state of the economy and the need for clear direction and urgent but informed decisions, this fact makes a compelling case for the appointment of his advisers and ministers on the economy. Ahead of this, I suspect a statist impulse, an over-careful approach and the possibility that eventual reforms might not go far enough. Punch yesterday reported that the government has incurred N57 billion on petroleum subsidy under one month. If there is anything on which there is close to a consensus today, it is on the need to remove this badly targeted and corruption-riddled subsidy programme. Even if there is a plan to fix our refineries, what is to be lost by removing the subsidy? Also, the presidency has denied a story about a plan to sell off some aircraft in the presidential fleet. This would have sent a powerful message about the desire to cut waste and would have strengthened the hands of the administration when it eventually requests citizens to make sacrifices. When he eventually gets to it, I think it is important for the president to adopt a very radical approach to cutting/eliminating wastes, from symbolism of reducing aides and salaries through leading constitutional reforms that will eliminate unnecessary structures and roll back the prebendal state to campaigning against an entrenched ethos that sees public resources as good only for plunder.
Political Management: Mark H. Moore, the pre-eminent authority on strategic public management, insists that political management is the most important work of public officials, presidents inclusive. President Buhari needs to take politics more seriously. His present stand-offish position may come back to bite him. He doesn’t need to make himself the leader of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), and I won’t advise him to impose his candidates on the National Assembly. But he cannot stand by while his party becomes engulfed in an internecine warfare, loses the capacity to enforce its will, and becomes a systemic risk. There is a real chance that the calculated insurgency in the National Assembly, and the thorough mismanagement of it by APC, may spin out of control. Whether he likes it or not, Buhari is now a politician and he is a president in a political environment. Even if there are points to be scored for not appearing dictatorial and not interfering in a battle with guilty parties on all sides, allowing the crisis to fester and not taking charge of the political environment is counter-productive. A crisis-ridden party and an unstable parliament will negatively impact his ability to see through his legislative and reform agenda and weaken his capacity to govern. Using his convening power and moral authority, he needs to actively pursue genuine reconciliation and nudge his party to move from an electoral platform to a real political party. This also makes a compelling case for why he should prioritise political management as a critical area of presidential work and why he needs to promptly appoint his advisers on political, inter-party, and legislative affairs. The take-off is critical to any enterprise. But the beginning is not destiny. Just a single major action could spark life into Buhari administration. It is still morning yet.
By Waziri Adio