The Office of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami (SAN), has ordered the State Security Service to hands off the prosecution of Omoyele Sowore in the charge of treasonable felony against him at the Federal High Court, Abuja. The move according to the AGF is to demonstrate government’s commitment to respect of the rule of law and fundamental rights of citizens.
“The Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice upon a further review of the case, has directed the immediate takeover of the prosecution of all charges in respect of Omoyole Sowore by the Federal Ministry of Justice, in line with the provisions of Sections 150(1) and 174 (1) (a-c) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended),” Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations, Dr. Umar Gwandu said in a statement on Friday.
Sowore alongside Olawale Bakare are standing trial on alleged treasonable felony, money laundering amongst other charges. They pleaded not guilty and were granted bail in the sum of N100m and N30m respectively. However, the re-arrest of Sowore last Friday at the Federal High Court Abuja, has attracted strong condemnation against the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.
While the government on Wednesday disclosed that it had set up machinery to investigate the matter, the statement by Dr. Gwandu, said the move to take over the case from the DSS was to ensure speedy completion of the case. The statement referred to a December 11, 2019 letter sent on behalf of the AGF by the Solicitor-General of the Federation, Dayo Apata (SAN), to the Director-General of DSS, Yusuf Bichi, directing the security agency to “promptly forward all the case files” to the AGF office.
The letter by Apata, who doubles as the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice, was a response to a September 9, 2019 letter sent to the AGF. “As part of deliberate efforts to probe emerging issues related to the recent imbroglio related to Omoyele Sowore’s case and for speedy dispensation of justice, the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice has requested that the case file in respect of charge pending before the Federal High Court, Abuja be forwarded to his office”, the statement read in part.
Sowore has been illegally detained since August after two court orders granted him bail. He was briefly released by the secret police last Thursday but was re-arrested less than 24 hours later without any arrest warrant. But the Nigerian government said Sowore is a “person of interest” to the DSS because he called for “a revolution to overthrow the democratically elected government of Nigeria.”
The “Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami said that the Federal Government is committed to respecting the sanctity of the rule of law, protecting the virtues of human rights and ensuring speedy dispensation of justice,” the statement noted.
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has faulted the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Muhammad, for advocating a constitution amendment to include more Shari’a content in the country’s school curriculum, describing the call as ill-timed, provocative and unacceptable.
Muhammad on Wednesday had advocated the amendment of the constitution to accommodate some of the concerns of Muslims and the Shari’a law. He spoke while declaring the 20th Annual Judges Conference open at the Ahmadou Bello University (ABU), Zaria Faculty of Law’s Moot Court.
Speaking on the theme of the two-day conference, ‘Documentation of Contracts in Islamic Law: Procedure, Sample Precedents and Practice,’ organised by the Centre for Islamic Legal Studies (CILS) of the ABU in collaboration with National Judicial Institute (NJI), Abuja, Justice Muhammad also urged academics to champion the cause of redesigning the methods of teaching Shari’a law.
The CJN, who was represented by the Grand Khadi of Niger State, Justice Muhammad Danjuma, said the implementation of his suggestions would be more feasible if universities give the Shari’a law its own faculty. “As we all know, there are sections of the constitution that allow the implementation of Shari’a personal law and apart from that, we cannot do more. However, we have the number to amend the constitution to suit our own position as Muslims,” he said.
Muhammad had also advocated increase of judges who were learned in Shari’a to allow them to attend to Islamic law issues. The CJN said in view of the importance of the Shari’a system to the legal profession, Shari’a law ought to be taught in Arabic language in Nigerian universities. “The Shari’a law should be taught in Arabic not English. There is no university in Nigeria that runs Shari’a in Arabic; they all teach Shari’a in English. So, academicians let’s also look into this issue,” the CJN added.
But in a reaction, CAN described the call by the CJN as ill-timed, provocative and unacceptable.
The Special Assistant to CAN’s President, Mr. Adebayo Ayodeji, told THISDAY yesterday that there were many challenges ranging from kidnappings, banditry and terror attacks facing the country that were begging for solution.
According to him, rather than dwell on needless controversy over such issues, attention should be given to efforts to make the country more peaceful. He said: “We have not seen the full text of the paper presented and we learnt the Chief Justice was represented at the event. So, it is difficult to know if the speech was that of the Chief Justice or his representative. Be that as it may, asking for the constitutional amendment with a view to adding more to the Sharia contents is ill-timed, provocative and unacceptable.
“Today, there is a cloud of uncertainty over the country, occasioned by the menace of insecurity and alleged assault on the judiciary, to add the controversial Sharia to the list is very unfortunate. The proponents of the idea, whoever they may be, should bury the thought. Let us join the well-meaning Nigerians who are searching for the solution to the kidnappings, bandits and terror attacks if truly we want Nigeria to be peaceful.”
The National Chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr Adams Oshiomhole, on Friday said that Gov. Godwin Obaseki of Edo was not ready for the amicable resolution of the crisis rocking the party in the state. Oshiomhole made this known while briefing newsmen in Benin shortly after receiving Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu in his residence in Benin
Oshiomhole said “the governor has been refusing and avoiding an all-inclusive meeting where all issues would have been tabled and resolved.
“Four governors volunteered to attend the meeting but he has consistently refused to attend the meeting. The only way to iron out issues is to sit down and listen to complaints. He should not worry about the ticket but how to win the heart of Edo people. The name of the game is persuasion, not violence. The men whose cars were burnt yesterday will never vote for them again. It is unheard of to refuse somebody into your party; politic is a game of numbers,” he said.
“l have said it before that the deputy governor is doing damage to his principal. I have to pay the price by staying away from the APC rally,”Oshiomhole said. The APC Chairman explained that he avoided the rally so that some persons would not have any excuse to go and kill people and blame it on him. “We will not go to their level; blood for blood is not our mantra,” he added.
The South-South Vice-chairman of the Party, Mr Hillard Etta, while presenting Ize-Iyamu to the national chairman of the party, said he was delighted to welcome lze-lyamu back to the party. “I never imagined that one day I will be performing this function because lze-lyamu was my boss. I did not see this coming,” he said.
Also speaking, Pastor Ize-Iyamu thanked the national and state leadership of APC for welcoming him back home. Ize-Iyamu said, “l have always said that l am not coming to cause confusion in APC but to come and join in strengthening the house l helped to build.”
Apparently responding to public outrage against the invasion, by the Department of State Services (DSS), of the court of Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu at Federal High Court, Lagos last Friday, the federal government has instituted an enquiry into the incident. The Office of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami (SAN), has ordered the State Security Service to hands off the prosecution of Omoyele Sowore in the charge of treasonable felony against him at the Federal High Court, Abuja. The move according to the AGF is to demonstrate government’s commitment to respect of the rule of law and fundamental rights of citizens.
Courtroom No.7, presided over by Justice Ojukwu trying Sowore, was invaded by DSS operatives in their bid to rearrest Sowore, less than 12 hours after his release from detention. Although the security agency has continued to distance itself from the incident, accusing Sowore and his supporters of staging the act, however, lead lawyer to Sowore, Femi Falana (SAN), and others maintained that evidence abound as to claims that the DSS actually carried out the act.
The action of the DSS was widely condemned both within and outside the country as it was seen as a desecration of the temple of justice and flagrant disobedience of court orders and the rule of law. The Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (BoSAN) has called for a Judicial Commission of Enquiry set up by President Muhammadu Buhari to reveal the identities of those who invaded the court. Chief Onomigbo Okpoko (SAN), who delivered the body’s speech, remarked that the incident with similar ones in the last three years points to the level of disregard to the rule of law and the judiciary; warning that unless the truth is unraveled, Nigeria would lose respect and become an object of ridicule among the comity of nations. BoSAN gave the warning in a speech made at a special valedictory court session to mark the retirement of Justice Kumai Aka’ahs from the Supreme Court.
The Nigerian Senate also ordered its committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters to investigate Friday’s invasion of a federal high court and re-arrest Omoyele Sowore by operatives of the State Security Service (SSS). Opeyemi Bamidele representing Ekiti Central and also serves as the chairman of the committee raised the matter during plenary on Thursday. Bamidele said the invasion and the dramatic re-arrest of Sowore have generated widespread controversies.
Few Nigerians will disagree that the human rights record of the Buhari administration is abysmal. The country has gone back to full military dictatorship. All institutions of democracy have been hijacked and intimidated. The secret police of the regime, the DSS, has invaded the National Assembly in the past. It has invaded the houses of judicial officers and humiliated them. It has now invaded the hallowed chambers of the court, while a judicial officer was sitting. People are being kept in custody without trial and courts orders are treated with disdain. The culture of fear is being imposed upon the people, with the threat of social media regulation and capital punishment for hate speech. What obtains now is a full-blown civilian dictatorship that has no regard for the sanctity of our Constitution.
Buhari came to power based on his perceived and pretentious fight for human rights, freedom of the press and respect for the rule of law. Unfortunately, it now seems to be beating the records of previous administrations (including military regimes) in the suppression of the fundamental rights of Nigerians and disobedience of orders of courts. Judges are no longer safe in conducting proceedings in court without fear of invasion of their courts or residences by the security agencies. These are danger signs for this country.
The fundamental rights to life, dignity of the human person, personal liberty, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly as guaranteed under Chapter Four of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) have greatly eroded. We have all witnessed how aggrieved sections of the society have been subjected to state-sponsored murder and incarceration. Members of IPOB and IMN have been declared terrorists and killed in the hundreds by security forces without any accountability.
The culture of impunity and reckless appropriation of power is now fully entrenched. Nigerians are still being illegally arrested for civil matters. Extra-judicial killings, extortion and torture by the police have not been addressed in any significant way. Court orders are being disobeyed with impunity. The cases of Sambo Dasuki; Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and wife; and Sowore are just a few of many rights violations. Government agencies like the military, police; DSS no longer observe the rule of law in carrying out their constitutional functions.
The recent re-arrest of Sowore in Gestapo style and the desecration of court by the DSS should be condemned by all men of conscience and appropriate sanctions meted out to the perpetrators. The president should urgently address the nation’s descent to anarchy to avoid civil disobedience.
Timeline of Buhari’s disobedience of Court orders since 2015
Omoyele Sowore: A former presidential candidate and publisher of SaharaReporters, an online news platform, Sowore was on August 3, 2019 arrested by the DSS in Lagos and transferred to Abuja. The DSS obtained an ex parte order to keep Sowore for 45 days. Barely 24 hours to the expiration of that order, the Attorney General of the Federation’s office filed charges of treasonable felony, cybercrime offences and money laundering against him before the Federal High Court in Abuja. Sowore’s lawyer, Femi Falana, requested his bail, pending arraignment. Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, granted the prayer. Sowore has since filed a case of contempt against DSS boss Yusuf Bichi for failing to comply with the court order granting him bail.
Ibraheem El-Zakzaky: On December 2, 2016, Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court in Abuja ordered the release of the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) and his wife, Zeenat, from DSS custody. As at the time of that ruling, El-Zakzaky and his wife had been in the agency’s custody since December 2015, following an altercation between the Nigerian Army and Shiites in Zaria, Kaduna State. Besides the order to release them, the court also ordered that the DSS should pay the couple N50 million as compensation. This was not obeyed. On August 5, Justice Darius Khobo of Kaduna State High Court granted El-Zakzaky leave to seek medical attention in New Delhi, India. The couple made the journey but returned within a week without achieving the purpose. El-Zakzaky and his wife are currently in DSS custody.
Sambo Dasuki: Former National Security Adviser Sambo Dasuki is still in custody, despite several courts ordering his release. On Monday, July 2, 2018, the Federal High Court in Abuja granted him bail after the DSS had detained him for two and a half years. Delivering judgment in the suit filed by the ex-NSA in March 2019, Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu ruled that his detention since December 29, 2015 amounted to a violation of his right to liberty. The judge also said that should the DSS have any further reason to interrogate him, the security agency could only invite and interview him between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. on working days. The Economic Community of West African States Court of Justice on October 4, 2016 also ordered his release, a judgment the DSS has not complied with.
Nnamdi Kanu: On October 18, 2015, it was reported that the DSS had arrested the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, in Lagos State. On October 19, 2015, it was reported that Kanu had been granted bail after a secret arraignment at the Magistrate’s Court II, Wuse. The bail however seemed “controversial” and there were claims the DSS announced the bail only “to calm the angry people of Biafra”. The Magistrate’s Court I on November 18, 2015 ordered the DSS to produce Kanu on November 23, 2015. But it was said that the DSS obtained a “secret” court order to detain him.
Court order on debt limit: The Federal High Court in Abuja directed the Federal Government to set the overall limit for the “amounts of consolidated debts”. Justice Kolawole gave the judgment on February 20, 2018 in a suit filed by the Centre for Social Justice. Justice Kolawole said it was mandatory for the government to set the limits as provided by section 42(1) of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007. He specifically ordered the Federal Government to take the action, which should be approved by the Senate and the House of Representatives within 90 days of the judgment. The judgment has not been obeyed.
Navy Captain Dada Labinjo: Navy Captain Dada Labinjo is allegedly being detained by the Defence Intelligence Agency in Abuja since September 12, 2018. His lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, said though he obtained an order of the Federal High Court for his release, Labinjo has not been set free. Falana, who said this in an August 15, 2019 letter to the Executive Secretary, National Human Rights Commission, said Labinjo was just one of 67 persons, including foreigners, being illegally detained without trial by the Nigerian Navy.
Recovered loot:Other high-profile judgments the Buhari government is refusing to obey include at least four rulings obtained by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP). The first is the judgment by Justice Hadiza Rabiu Shagari ordering the government to disclose the stolen assets it recovered. The second, by Justice Mohammed Idris, ordered the government to publish details on the spending of stolen funds recovered by successive governments since 1999. The third, by Justice Chuka Austine Obiozor, ordered the immediate release of details of payments worth billions of naira to all defaulting and allegedly corrupt electricity contractors and companies since 1999. The fourth, by Justice Mohammed Idris ordered Buhari to prosecute senior lawmakers suspected of stealing N481 billion from the 2016 budget. The court also ordered Buhari to “direct the publication of the report of investigations by security and anti-corruption bodies into the alleged padding of the 2016 budget.”
The planned Mega Rally by persons purporting to represent the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo State, turned out a big flop as the Nigeria Police Force and the state government cancelled the event due to security concerns.
Youths in the state had staged protests across major roads in Benin metropolis on Thursday, warning that desperate politicians were importing thugs from outside the state to cause mayhem during the purported rally.
The Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, on Thursday night, ordered that the event be cancelled over 'overriding internal security interests,' directing the state's commissioner of Police to meet with the opposing political interests.
This is as the National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, was on Friday morning placed under temporary house arrest by the Commissioner of Police to avert breakdown of law and order.
The Mega Rally was initially scheduled to hold at Garrick Memorial School, Ekenwan Road, but had to be moved to the private residence of the decampee, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, who was set to lead his supporters to the APC.
However, on Friday morning, the state government issued a strongly-worded directive against holding of political rallies and demonstrations across the state, following rising security tension in the state.
The Police, in a letter addressed to the Edo State Deputy Governor, Rt. Hon. Philip Shaibu, signed by the Principal Staff Officer to the IGP, ACP Idowu Owohunwa, had said "in cognizance of the security consequences of the proposed Mega Rally, I am to confirm that the Inspector General of Police has directed the Commissioner of Police, Edo State Command to emplace appropriate security framework that is directed at suspending the rally until further notice.
"He has also been directed to summon a meeting of all parties involved in the political development with a view to engaging them towards giving effect to his directives in overriding internal security interests."
It was learnt the police manned strategic points across the state to give effect to the state government's directive, which led to the dispersion of crowds that gathered at the Ugbor-Amagba axis of the state.
Comrade Oshiomhole was also not allowed out of his residence by the Commissioner of Police, Lawal Jimeta, who insisted that the political tension in the state would be exacerbated with him appearing in public.
On its part, the government warned all property owners that any venue used for activities in breach of its orders shall have its right of occupancy immediately revoked and forfeited to the Edo State Government, noting that it will not allow any person to turn the state into a battlefield.
According to a statement by the Secretary to the State Government, Osarodion Ogie Esq., on Friday, "The Government of Edo State has, over the past few days, made clear its position that the plans by some identified mischief-makers to organise an unauthorised political rally in Benin City, was capable of leading to a breakdown of public peace and also a danger to the persons and property of Edo citizens.
"The events of yesterday, 12th December, 2019, were a scary prelude to the absolute mayhem which these irresponsible activities would generate if left unchecked.
"In defiance of the clear and publicised instruction of the Inspector General of Police (IGP), calling off the proposed rally owing to the security implications, these desperate persons are presently shopping around for alternative venues to carry out their incendiary activities."
Noting that the primary purpose of government is the protection of life and property, Ogie said "the government of Edo State has placed a total and complete ban on all political rallies, demonstrations and/or processions in any part of Edo State.
"The Government has further directed all security agencies to deal firmly with all persons (no matter how highly placed), who act in breach of this directive."
The state government also warned parents and guardians "to advise their children and wards not to allow themselves to be used as cannon-fodder in aid of the misguided political ambition and ego of people, whose own children reside and school abroad."
Four men of Nigerian origin have been named in an $18 million fraud case in the United States, the Department of Justice said in a statement, adding that the fraud was carried out in more than 100 transactions. The men – Oladayo Oladoku, Farouk Kukoyi, Baldwin Osuji and Henry Ogbuokiri – were among a 15-man gang that the DOJ said defrauded individual and businesses through identity thefts, opening fictitious bank accounts, and depositing stolen checks – or conning victims to wire funds – into those accounts.
10 other members of the syndicate were on the run with one other member was in “state custody”.
The 11 other suspects include Joshua Hicks, Anthony Lee Nelson, Derrick Banks, Ibrahiima Doukoure, Jamar Skeete, Paul Yaw Osei Jr., Kowan Poole, Darrel Williams, Daryl Bartley, Garnet Steven Murray-Sesay, aka “Steven Garnet Murray-Sesay,” and Andrew Heaven.
All the suspects, Oladokun, 46, Kukoyi, 33, Osuji, 31, Ogbuokiri, 32, Hicks, 24, Nelson, 28, Banks, 27, Doukoure, 61, Skeete, 36, Osei, 32, Poole, 29, Williams, 62, Bartley, 58, Murray-Sesay, 35, and Heaven, 49 were charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud, which carry a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. Seven of them – Ogbuokiri, Hicks, Banks, Poole, Williams, Bartley, And Murray-Sesay – were also charged with aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory consecutive sentence of two years in prison.
“As alleged in the criminal complaint, these 15 defendants used an elaborate bank and wire fraud scheme to steal over $18 million from victims,” Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent-in-Charge Peter C. Fitzhugh said. HSI New York will continue to work tirelessly to investigate criminals who target our citizens. Through our law enforcement partnerships, to include the NYPD, USPIS and USSS as well as the prosecutors at the US Attorney’s Office, Southern District of New York, HSI will work to help maintain the integrity of our financial systems.”
According to a statement released by the Department of Justice, US Attorney’s Office, Southern District of New York, the unsealing of the criminal complaint charging the 15 defendants with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud was announced on Tuesday. The statement said four defendants were arrested Tuesday in the District of Maryland, the District of Columbia, and the Eastern District of Virginia, and were presented in those districts’ federal courts. Noting that one defendant is in state custody and will be presented at a later date, it said 10 defendants remained at large.
It said the $18 million fraud scheme consisted of three key phases. Explaining how the fraudulent scheme was perpetrated, the statement said members of the conspiracy opened more than 60 business bank accounts using the real personal identifying information, including names and social security numbers, of identity theft victims.
The members of the conspiracy now move to the next stage which involves depositing money into these bank accounts that they obtained by defrauding victims. In the third stage of the scheme, members of the conspiracy accessed the fraud proceeds by transferring the proceeds into other bank accounts or by withdrawing cash.
According to the statement, “members of the conspiracy typically defrauded their victims in one of two ways. In some instances, members of the conspiracy deposited stolen or forged checks. For example, members of the conspiracy obtained three checks that had been mailed by a national sports league from New York, New York, and deposited those stolen checks into bank accounts that were opened in the names of the intended recipients. In other instances, members of the conspiracy deceived victims into making electronic transfers. For example, a member of the conspiracy posing as a victim’s financial adviser caused the victim to wire money from a bank branch in New York, New York, to a bank account controlled by members of the conspiracy. “
It added that to date, law enforcement had identified more than 100 fraudulent transactions in furtherance of the scheme, totaling more than $18 million. Quoting U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman, the statement said: “As alleged, these defendants conspired to steal millions of dollars by stealing identities, opening fictitious bank accounts, and depositing stolen checks – or conning victims to wire funds – into those accounts. All told, as alleged, the scheme netted more than $18 million and victimized numerous individuals and businesses. Thanks to the combined efforts of our law enforcement partners, the game is up.”
NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said: “This case shows that as criminals move into the areas of cyber-related frauds, law enforcement is following. I want to thank the members of the NYPD’s Financial Crimes Task Force, working alongside our federal partners and prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s office, in the Southern District, for their success today in this important investigation.”
USPIS Inspector-in-Charge Philip R. Bartlett said: “This Case is an excellent example of interagency cooperation and collaboration. Those who choose to break the law will be swiftly brought to justice to answer for their crimes.” USSS Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge Patrick Freaney said: “The success of this investigation illustrates the commitment of the U.S. Secret Service in working with our law enforcement partners to confront the continued threat of cyber enabled financial crimes. The Secret Service remains dedicated in actively pursuing those whose actions threaten the financial security of individuals, businesses, and the financial infrastructure of the United States.”
HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Peter C. Fitzhugh said: “As alleged in the criminal complaint, these 15 defendants used an elaborate bank and wire fraud scheme to steal over $18 million from victim. HSI New York will continue to work tirelessly to investigate criminals who target our citizens. Through our law enforcement partnerships, to include the NYPD, USPIS and USSS as well as the prosecutors at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of New York, HSI will work to help maintain the integrity of our financial systems.”
Berman praised the outstanding work of the Financial Crimes Task Force of the NYPD and the USSS, the Mail Theft Team of the USPIS, and the Dark Web and Crypto Currency Group of HSI. He also thanked the Washington Field Office of the USSS for its assistance in the apprehension of the defendants. Assistant United States Attorney Alexander Li is in charge of the prosecution of the case which is being handled by the Office’s General Crimes Unit.
In another development, an Accra-based Nigerian, Babatunde Martins, 64, has been extradited to the United States to stand trial for wire fraud, money laundering, computer fraud and aggravated identity theft following an indictment by a federal grand jury. Five other individuals have pleaded guilty to being involved in the scheme, including another Nigerian, Olufalojimi Abegunde, 33, who was sentenced to six-and-half years in prison, a statement by the US Department of Justice said. The statement said Assistant Attorney General Brian A Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney D. Michael Dunavant of the Western District of Tennessee, and Special Agent in Charge M.A. Myers of the FBI’s Memphis Field Office made the announcement.
A jet belonging to an unidentified Nigerian named in a multi-million dollar fraud case was on Tuesday seized by the United States federal agents at the Peachtree DeKalb Airport, Georgia, United States.
Local WSB-TV reported that their Correspondent, Aaron Diamant, witnessed the seizure of the plane in a case that was related to an international fraud scheme. Diamant, who shared a video from the seizure on his verified Twitter handle said, “We’re alongside Federal agents as they seize a jet at @PDKAirport.”
Investigators said the plane belongs to a Nigerian national charged in a multimillion-dollar international fraud scheme. After the jet was seized, a sealed sign was placed on it reading: “This property is under detention and/or seizure, United States Customs Service.”
It was reported that the federal agents searched the plane for evidence with a K-9 team for drugs and other contraband. Special Agent Thor Whitmore of the Department of Homeland Security said: “For the most part, people don’t even understand. They don’t know what’s happening in Atlanta, Georgia. We’re looking at it as kind of a turn back to the 1980s. It’s like a game of chess, we try to stay on top of their next move.”
The Homeland Security in 2019 has seized more than five tons of drugs, 200 guns and $4,375,457 cash from private jets. As federal agents went through the plane, the accused was in court Tuesday for an initial appearance.
A removal hearing will has been scheduled for Thursday to send the suspect back to New York where the charges he faces were originally filed.
Nigeria’s development is hinged on the ability of public officials to execute their mandates professionally, and to be shining examples in their various areas of endeavor. It is not a good sign when officials abandoned their responsibility and start clutching at straws.
As spokesperson of the President, he has the onerous responsibility of managing the image of the President and all the good works that he is executing in the country. Rather than face this responsibility squarely, he has shifted his loyalty from the President to others who have no stake in the compact that the President signed with Nigerians on May 29, 2015 and 2019.
To make matters worse, Mr. Shehu has presented himself to these people as a willing tool and executioner of their antics, from the corridors of power even to the level of interfering with the family affairs of the President. This should not be so. The blatant meddling in the affairs of a First Lady of a country is a continuation of the prodigal actions of those that he serves. We all remember that the chief proponent appropriated to himself and his family a part of the Presidential Villa, where he stayed for almost 4 years and when the time came for him to leave, he orchestrated and invaded my family’s privacy through a video circulated by Mamman’s Daughter, Fatima, the public was given the impression that on arrival into the country I was locked out of the villa by Mr. President. Garba Shehu as Villa Spokesperson, knew the truth and had the responsibility to set the records straight, but because his allegiance is somewhere else and his loyalty misplaced, he deliberately refused to clear the air and speak for the President who appointed him in the first place. Consequently, his action has shown a complete breakdown of trust between the First Family and him.
Mr. Shehu was privy and part of the plan and it’s execution and he was shocked when he realized that I had publicized my return to Nigeria on October 12, 2019 and cleared the air on the many rumors that took over social media, a job he was supposed to do but kept mute to cause more confusion and instability for his Principal and his family.
Garba then, vented his anger on the National Television Authority (NTA) Management insisting that the media crew to my office must be sacked. He succeeded in getting them suspended for doing their job. I had to intervene to save the innocent staff from losing their means of livelihood by involving the Department of State Services (DSS) in order to ascertain roles played by key actors in the saga.
It is at this late hour that I recall, sadly, that it was the same Garba Shehu who claimed that the government will not allow office of the First Lady to run. He was later to confirm to one of my aides that he was instructed to say so by Mamman Daura and not the President. This antic attracted the anger of Nigerian women. He didn’t realize the fact that First Lady’s office is a tradition which has become an institution.
Today, even without a budget, I am able run my humanitarian programmes.
In saner climes, Garba Shehu would have resigned immediately after going beyond his boundaries and powers.
GARBA SHEHU NEEDS TO UNDERSTAND THAT THIS KIND OF BEHAVIOR WILL NO LONGER BE TOLERATED.
The latest of his antics was to wage a war on the first family through an orchestrated media campaign of calumny by sponsoring pseudo accounts to write and defame my children and myself.
Based on Garba Shehu’s misguided sense of loyalty and inability to stay true and loyal to one person or group, it has become apparent that all trust has broken down between him and my family due to the many embarrassments he has caused the Presidency and the first family. We all have families to consider in our actions and therefore it is in the best interest of all concerned for Garba Shehu to take the advice of the authority, given to him sometimes in the first week of November, 2019.
Aisha Muhammadu Buhari
First Lady, Federal Republic of Nigeria
11th December, 2019
The faceoff between the Senate and the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, over the fate of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) got messier yesterday as both parties traded allegations of fraudulent practices in the agency. Also, the two parties traded blame on the delay in the inauguration of the NDDC board which was confirmed by the Senate last month.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on NDDC, Peter Nwaoboshi, in a response to an allegation of being placed on a monthly consultancy pay of N1 billion by the commission, allegedly made by the Interim Management Committee (IMC), challenged the agency to publish the facts, if any, to substantiate the accusation.
Nwaoboshi, who addressed reporters through his Special Adviser on Legislative Matters, Luka Igbonoba, in Abuja yesterday, accused Akpabio of frustrating the inauguration of the new NDDC board already confirmed by the upper chamber by President Muhammadu Buhari. He asked the minister to explain to Nigerians how the $91million and N6billion that were in the agency’s coffers as at the time it was brought under the supervision of his ministry were utilized.
The Acting Managing Director of NDDC, Dr. Gbene Joi Nunieh, had said that the commission had suspended the monthly payment of N1billion to a consultant that was collecting money from the International Oil Companies (IOCs) on its behalf.
“We have a consulting firm engaged as a collection agent. We have another company that also collects three per cent whenever money is paid by the IOCs,” Nunieh told reporters in an interview.
However, Igbonoba asked the IMC to publish the facts, if there were any such consultancy arrangements as well as the details of the company involved.
“If they have the facts and records to back their claims that Nwaoboshi or a company linked to him is being paid N1billion consultancy fee every month by the NDDC, let them avail the public with the records. What are you hiding? Let’s know who the consultant is or who owns the company. I can tell you that everything they are doing is about protection of self-interest. Everything Akpabio cannot get, he tries to destroy,” Igbonoba said.
He also described a claim by members of the IMC that 1000 contracts were awarded to a senator by the NDDC as a pure lie. “How many contracts does the NDDC award in a year that they will give 1000 contracts to one senator?” Igbonoba queried. He said the failure of the Senate Committee on NDDC to accede to Akpabio’s overtures not to confirm the NDDC board nominees resulted in the ongoing campaign of calumny against Nwaoboshi by members of the IMC.
“The IMC wanted to perpetuate themselves in power. They lobbied the committee and its chairman as well as the Senate that the new board members should not be screened. But they refused. The truth is that if this country must survive, we must adhere to international best practices and the rule of law in the way we do things. This is the reason for the campaign of calumny against Senator Nwaoboshi. They are now accusing him wildly of things unfathomable,” he said.
He said that the claim that the agency did not have budgets for 2017 and 2018 were spurious because records existed to show that the commission had approved budgets for the two years. Igbonoba, who described the transfer of the NDDC from the presidency to be an agency under the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs as illegal, said: “The annual budget for the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs is just about N23billion, but Akpabio is looking for an elephant and he felt that that elephant lives in NDDC.” He, however, said that the leadership of the Senate was interfacing with the executive to resolve the matter.
But according to Akpabio, as the minister, he only supervises NDDC, and that he neither runs the commission nor awards any contract. A statement by the Chief Press Secretary to the minister, Aniete Ekong, on Monday clarified: “It is President Buhari who approved the setting up of the Interim Management Committee of the NDDC to supervise the forensic audit of the commission so that the incoming board will begin on a clean slate.
“The exposition of phantom contracts and consultancies which have shortchanged the people of the Niger Delta justifies the forensic audit of the commission. Those who have engaged in the wanton looting of NDDC over the years are the ones sponsoring smear campaigns and wild allegations against Akpabio because of the forensic audit ordered by President Buhari.
“They are scared that the forensic audit would expose those who have collected multiple contracts from NDDC, collected full payment without moving to the site of the job. But the forensic audit is not about Senator Akpabio. It is about the resolve of the president to get things right and fast-track the development of the Niger Delta region. So it cannot be business as usual.”
On the delay in the inauguration of the NDDC board, the minister explained: “There are many issues with the composition of the board which are being looked into. For instance, the NDDC Act clearly stipulates that the office of the chairman of the board will rotate among the states in an alphabetical order. Consequently, after Cross River had produced the last chairman in the person of Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, Delta State should produce the next chairman, otherwise it will be a breach of the Act.”
Meanwhile, a coalition of Niger Delta activists have described the campaign to invalidate the board of the NDDC and sack the Senate Committee on Niger Delta as a calculated attempt to perpetuate illegality at the commission. The coalition made the comment in a reaction to a protest by some people at the National Assembly and the Federal Secretariat, Abuja at the weekend. The convener of the coalition, Ebi Torofaowei, in a statement yesterday, condemned what he termed a sham protest.
“The organised protest by the motley crowd did not mask its real intent and sponsors when it asked that the illegal interim management committee set up by the Niger Delta minister be allowed to stay in office while the board duly presented by the president and confirmed by the Senate should be dissolved. It is clear that their real intent is to procure the continuation of the illegality at the NDDC. It is a strange argument for illegality at the expense of the law and due process. The sponsored group is clearly working at the behest of people who are threatened that the Senate resolution vowing to have nothing to do with the IMC will bring down their house of cards.
“For the avoidance of doubt, we support the Senate resolution that the IMC should not defend the NDDC 2019/2020 budget since there is a board in place. We urge the president to direct the inauguration of the board to end these acts of desperation by the illegal interim management committee,” he said.
Even as the Department of State Services (DSS), has discounted video footage of its officers invading the Federal High Court, Abuja premises to re-arrest Omoyele Sowore, #RevolutionNow convener and publisher of Sahara Reporters, dismissing the video as video as “mischief for propagandist purposes,” the presidency has come out in support of the brigandage and lawlessness, with presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, arguing that DSS was “only exercising its power” by re-arresting Sowore.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media & Publicity said in a statement on Sunday that Sowore was not an ordinary citizen expressing his views freely on social media and the internet, but a presidential candidate himself, who ran – and lost – as the flag bearer of the African Action Congress (AAC) in the February 23 general elections. Shehu said anyone who had followed Sowore’s actions and words would agree he is a person of interest to the DSS.
In the statement titled: “Sowore: Between Fact and Fiction,” Shehu accused Sowore of calling for a revolution to overthrow the democratically elected government of Nigeria, adding the DSS did not require the permission of the Presidency in all cases to carry out its essential responsibilities that were laid down in the Nigerian Constitution. He insisted that no government will fold its arms and allow anybody to openly call for destabilisation in the country.
“He did so on television, and from a privileged position as the owner of a widely read digital newspaper run from the United States of America. “He founded an organisation, Revolution Now, to launch, in their own words, “Days of Rage”, with the publicised purpose of fomenting mass civil unrest and the elected administration’s overthrow,” Shehu said.
“Nigeria’s democracy was a long time in the making, and was achieved after decades of often harsh, military-led overthrows of government: the kind of situation Sowore was advocating. To believe in and desire armed revolution is not normal amongst ‘human rights activists’, as Sowore has been incorrectly described,” Shehu stressed.
He said Nigeria was already grappling with an insurgency that has killed thousands of people and rendered millions of people homeless in the north-east region of our country courtesy of the war of terror engendered by Boko Haram militants.
The Presidential aide warned that Nigerians do not need another spate of lawlessness and loss of lives in the name of ‘revolution’, as Sowore is a New York (read New Jersey) resident and who can easily disappear and leave behind whatever instability he intends to cause, like the leader of the Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) Nnamdi Kanu.
On its part, the DSS said the circulation of a video on the attempted re-arrest of Sowore inside a courtroom was a mischief. Dr Peter Afunanya, the DSS Public Relations’ Officer (PRO) in a statement on Sunday in Abuja said the video was meant to serve as propaganda to bring the service to disrepute.
He said the statement was in response to the serial misinformation being circulated in the media on the involvement of the service in the incident that occurred on Dec. 6 at the Federal High Court.
Afunanya said Femi Falana, SAN, Counsel to Sowore had during the court proceeding informed the judge that he was suspicious of a move by the service to rearrest his client. He said the court discountenanced the suspicion, noting that the service was law abiding and would not engage in the act. The PRO said it was on that ground that the court adjourned till February, 2020.
According to him, when Sowore stepped out of the court and sighted operatives of the service within the premises, he ran back into the courtroom. “In a bid to shield him from an imaginary arrest, his uncontrollable supporters mobbed him while chanting “you can’t arrest him”, thus the pandemonium that ensued.
“A critical look at the videos in circulation would convince any objective viewer that there was no DSS personnel during the entire period Sowore crowd acted out its orchestrated drama. DSS personnel were never, at any time, involved in the incident. In actual fact, it was his people who seized him,” he said.
He said reports had shown that the court had adjourned peacefully before suddenly, the unruly crowd imported into the courtroom went into frenzy on suspicion that DSS was sighted at the court premises.
Afunanya said the eventual re-arrest of Sowore was effected outside the courtroom adding that his counsel had affirmed it. According to him, the DSS could not have invaded a courtroom including the one presided over by a respected Judge who is not only handling its case but whose order was unconditionally obeyed within a 24 hour ultimatum. He said the service hold the judiciary in utmost respect and would continue to work with it for national peace and public safety.
In a related development, another aide of President Buhari claimed Sowore faked his supposed re-arrest to make DSS look bad. Lauretta Onochie, infamous for her occasional outbursts against critics of the President said the court arrest was “planned” by Sowore’s “boys and girls.”
“So it was a stage-managed drama in the court yesterday,” Onochie said in a Facebook post. “Sowore pinned down by his supporters in a courtroom in order to give DSS a bad name.” Onochie did not present evidence to prove that Sowore faked his arrest.
The Reformed Oghomwan Mandate Group (ROMG) has commended the leadership of the Edo State House of Assembly for declaring vacant the seats of the 12 members-elect who are yet to present themselves for inauguration into the seventh Assembly as well as two others that failed to meet the constitutionally approved 181 sitting days.
The group also called on well-meaning Nigerians, including the Otaru of Auchi, Aliru Momoh III and the All Progressives Congress (APC) National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, to find common ground to end the political crisis embroiling the state. A statement by ROMG’s Director of History, Statistics and Strategy Wing, George Osagie Osaghae, in Benin City, urged the monarch to prevail on the former labour leader in the interest of peace.
It commended the “uncommon display of courage by the Edo State House of Assembly Speaker, Mr. Frank Okiye, in declaring the 14 members-elect seats vacant.”Osaghae said the 14 absentee members’ action to stay away from office six months after inauguration of the legislature was a threat to democracy and the rule of law.
“We must salute the uncommon tolerance level of Edo State House of Assembly Speaker Frank Okiye.“ This call has become imperative as the Binis are more than ever unanimous that Oshiomhole’s pejoration against Governor Godwin Obaseki’s second term smacks of tribal hatred unless he is cautioned by the Otaru and well-meaning Etsako people,” he stated.
He continued: “Whereas, a good number of Edo South members-elect are affected by the irrevocable plenary decision of the State House of Assembly, we wholeheartedly welcome the declaration and unreservedly so, because, the so-called honourable members-elect should not be allowed to continually hold the legislative progress of their constituencies to ransom under the unholy godfatherism of a brigand,” which was interpreted as a veiled reference to Oshiomhole.
“Fighting purposefully is a honourary duty, but fighting for the sake of being a notorious fighter is a vice, and must be condemned by all, hence, we condemn the reprehensible acts of hostility being waged against Governor Godwin Obaseki, Deputy Governor Philip Shaibu and Speaker Frank Okiye.”
Despite the frantic intervention of President Muhammadu Buhari, about 10 0f the 17 All Progressives Congress (APC) governors have returned to the trenches in a renewed determined effort to oust the party’s national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, zeroing in on the former Zamfara governor, Abdulaziz Yari, as his replacement, Huhuonline.com has learnt from sources at the Progressive Governors’ Forum, familiar with the matter.
At the recently ended meeting of the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) three weeks ago, President Buhari had staved off attempts by the governors to unseat Oshiomhole; believing that fences could still be mended between Oshiomhole and his traducers. Pressure from the governors had forced Oshiomhole to summon the NEC meeting, having not been held since August last year contrary to the provisions of the party’s constitution, which mandates a quarterly meeting.
Preceding the NEC meeting was the National Caucus, where the president was said to have provided Oshiomhole with a lifeline, requesting all the combatants to sheath their swords and recommended that a reconciliation committee be set up to douse the raging inferno he warned could consume the party.
But at the NEC meeting, Oshiomhole’s opponents still drew daggers after the president left. He was, however, saved by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, who called the attention of the meeting to Buhari’s proposal for reconciliation and pleaded that the process be allowed to run its course. The meeting ended in uproar and chaos.
APC sources told Huhuonline.com that weeks after the lifeline NEC meeting, nothing has been heard about the promised reconciliation committee as it now appears the governors had been outplayed and out-maneuvered; a development that has irked the governors who have now returned to the trenches.
To which end, about 10 of the party’s 17 governors met last night in a secret meeting in Abuja and vowed to deepen their push against the national chairman, who has been under intense pressure to resign over sundry accusations, including his style of leadership, which his traducers claim has left the APC more divided than ever.
Huhuonline.com gathered that the arrowhead of the roll call of the antagonistic governors was the chairman of the Progressive Governors’ Forum, Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State. With him in the trenches sharpening their strategy to oust Oshiomhole are: Dr. Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Nasir el-Rufai (Kaduna), Ibrahim Badaru (Jigawa), Mai Mala Buni (Yobe), Inuwa Yahaya (Gombe), Abdullahi Sule (Nasarawa), Abdulrahman Abdulrazak (Kwara), Simon Lalong (Plateau) and Godwin Obaseki (Edo).
In his defense, sources said Oshiomhole can count on the support of governors Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos), Dapo Abiodun (Ogun), Gboyega Oyetola (Osun) and Babagana Zulum (Borno). Those on the fence are: Bello Masari (Katsina), Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano) and Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), who were said to have abstained from the recent meeting of the governors called to discuss the issue.
Sources at the APC National Working Committee (NWC) told Huhuonline.com that the president had bent over backwards to plead with the irate governors to give Oshiomhole another chance to retrace his steps by reconciling with aggrieved party members, most notably the APC national vice chairman (North-west), Inuwa Abdulkadir, who had been suspended by his Sokoto State chapter of the party as well as Governors Akeredolu and Obaseki and former governors Rochas Okorocha and Ibikunle Amosun.
Buhari was also said to have personally directed Oshiomhole to sort out the schism between himself and his successor, Edo State Governor, Obaseki because the optics reflected badly on the national chairman as it paints the picture of a governing party that cannot even self-govern.
But weeks after the lifeline NEC meeting, Oshiomhole believes he has weathered the storm and has begun to stealthily move against his opponents, having secured the backing of two newly elected APC governors from Rivers and Kogi states. Oshiomhole was quoted by close aides as boasting that there was no cause for alarm as he was certain he has survived the plot to unseat him.
“It is true that some of the governors have issues with the national chairman, but they have an uphill task achieving their objective of removing him,” the source said, adding: “They don’t have the numbers.” According to him, “Let them get a majority among themselves first. Then we shall see if they get the required number at the NEC. I doubt if they can.”
According to sources, Oshiomhole’s renewed confidence apparently derives from the support he enjoys from APC state chairmen, who dominate the critical NEC. With majority of this caucus coming from non-APC states that are immune from the influence of APC governors, the source explained that all the national chairman needs is the continued support of the APC national leader, Bola Tinubu, who handpicked him to be party chairman in the first place and is believed to be pulling the strings from behind as the intrigues and horse-trading ahead of the 2023 elections continue to play out.
Oshiomhole was also quoted as berating the antagonistic governors for naiveté and lacking in political sophistication, saying their strategy of proposing former Zamfara governor, Abdulaziz Yari as his replacement, was dead on arrival because although the APC has no official zoning policy, pragmatic politics dictates that the president and the national chairman could not both be Northerners, talk less of the hailing from the same North-west geo-political zone.
It remains to be seen whether the president will read the riot act to the errant governors, especially at a time when the presidency is embroiled in several turf battles between the so-called Cabal and the vice-president; with another front recently opened by the First Lady, Aisha Buhari.
Without knowing it, the Department of State Services (DSS), Nigeria’s detachment of secret police, is helping Omoyele Sowore to push his agenda for #RevolutionNow. In its attempts to smother the call for citizens’ demand for good governance and accountability, the DSS has, by its unthinking procedure to emasculate the convener of #RevolutionNow and publisher of online news platform, Sahara Reporters, exposed the defects in the country’s presidency.
Furthermore, the hint at the country’s gradual slide into diarchy is not lost on many in the outrage that has attended the recent courthouse commotion that trailed the DSS’s Gestapo approach to re-arrest Sowore. In the voices for and against, two camps have been established between those that favor fascism and enthusiastic supporters of real democracy. In all, Sowore’s counsel and democracy activist, Mr. Femi Falana, has cleverly exposed the underbelly of those championing the return to authoritarian system of government in the country. Explaining what happened in court that fateful Friday, Falana stated: “When I informed the court that fresh charges were being filed against our clients and that they could be re-arrested, the prosecution denied any such plan.
“As soon as the case was adjourned, the DSS pounced on Sowore and caused a disruption of the proceedings of the court. Having taken over the courtroom, Justice Ojukwu hurriedly rose and asked the Registrar to adjourn all other cases.”
But, despite the facts of what happened before many people, the prosecutor tried to deny the obvious to the extent of saying that the invasion never happened. And in a bid to exonerate itself from the violation of the hallowed arena of justice, the president pushed back on an attempt to put the DSS’s blame on it, saying that the DSS does not take instructions from the president.
In the statement by Senior Special Assistant to President Buhari on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Garba Shehu, the presidency described Sowore not only as a person of interest but also that it “should not surprise anyone that the DSS is after” him.
Part of the statement read: “The presidency notes some of the insinuations in the media about the arrest by the Department of State Services (DSS) of the agitator, Omoyele Sowore. However, it should not surprise anyone who has followed his actions and words that Sowore is a person of interest to the DSS. Sowore called for a revolution to overthrow the democratically elected government of Nigeria. He did so on television, and from a privileged position as the owner of a widely-read digital newspaper run from the United States of America.” Earlier, the president’s Assistant on Social Media, Lauretta Onochie, claimed that the attempt at forceful removal of Sowore from the courtroom was a drama acted by his supporters to make the Buhari administration look bad, adding that there was no such thing.
The clumsy denial, with another variant that Sowore’s supporters subjected him to the dehumanizing physical attacks, was dismissed by Falana, saying: “If Sowore’s supporters subjected him to such brutalisation in the presence of DSS operatives, why were they not arrested for contravening the provisions of the Anti-Torture Act, 2017? Or were the DSS operatives expecting the supporters of a defendant wanted by the state to kill him in their presence?”
While revealing that the DSS came to the court with no warrant of arrest and detention order, the senior lawyer noted that although “this country was ruled by military dictators for about three decades, at no time did security operatives invade court premises to arrest political activists inside a courtroom.”
VP Osinbajo and the Jackboot NASS invasion
THE December 6 attempt to whisk Sowore away from the premises of a Federal High Court in Abuja came as a cheap rehash of a similar attack on the National Assembly complex on August 7, 2018, that is precisely 16 months ago. On that fateful day, hooded DSS operatives barricaded the gate to the National Assembly complex. As the hooded operatives stood sentry at the NASS gate, the two presiding officers of the Senate, Bukola Saraki and Ike Ekweremadu, were also hemmed in at their respective residences.
Given that Saraki had by then defected to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), there were indications that the presence of the hooded security operatives was to provide cover for APC lawmakers, who claimed to be in the majority, to change the Senate leadership.
The DSS’s action was greeted with massive national outcry and condemnation, just like in the current Sowore debacle. National chairman of PDP, Uche Secondus, condemned the security siege on the Abuja residences of Senate President Bukola Saraki and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, stressing that the DSS’s action was aimed at the forcible overthrow of the National Assembly leadership “and rendering it comatose.” While describing the siege as an “attack on democracy,” the PDP national chairman declared: “It is now a known fact that democracy has collapsed in Nigeria and we are now under a totalitarian and fascist government with no appetite for the opposition.”
Piqued by the unwarranted siege on the nation’s symbol of democracy, the then Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, summoned the then Director-General of DSS, Lawal Daura, to the Presidential Villa, where he was debriefed and summarily dismissed. The Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, who was also summoned to the Villa for the same purpose, ensured that Daura’s retinue of security orderlies and patrol vehicles were withdrawn from him immediately.
Nigerians heaved a huge sigh of relief at the prompt sacking of Daura, which was made possible by the fact that President Buhari was at the time on medical vacation in London. Speaking at a world press conference on the attack on the National Assembly, then President of Senate, Saraki said: “It is a matter of record that yesterday, lawmakers and staff of the National Assembly were prevented from entering the National Assembly Complex by heavily armed security agents of the Department of State Services (DSS). All entries to the Complex were blocked. The National Assembly, the seat of democracy in Nigeria, was under lockdown. Senators and members of the House of Representatives were prevented from gaining access.
“…Some of you may recall that about two years ago, I stated that there was a government within this government, to a purpose that was not in the interest of what the people voted for. I said it then, and now we are beginning to see the manifestations of that government within a government. It beats one’s imagination how the head of an agency could have authorized the brazen assault on the legislature that we saw yesterday.”
A Presidency at War with itself
Unlike in the National Assembly instance of last year, it is obvious that apart from conflicting voices from the presidency, there would be no consequences for the violation of the hallowed precincts of another arm of government.
Two months ago when the Economic Advisory Committee was empaneled and some agencies under the vice president were displaced, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, dismissed insinuations of a quarrel between the president and his deputy.
Appearing on national television, Adesina stated: “You seem to forget that the vice president is the number two man in the country. If the president is away, the vice president acts because it is a joint ticket. Therefore, the new economic advisory body can also relate with the vice president when necessary. It is just some Nigerians, who want to drive a wedge between the president and the vice president that are reading meaning to everything. They insinuate about everything. It is still one presidency and decisions taken are best for the country.”
But, in an apparent show of different approaches and understanding of issues, Prof. Osinbajo denounced the invasion of the court by the DSS. The vice president made his feelings known while rejecting an award from the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism as Anti-corruption Defender.
Osinbajo was announced as the recipient of the Integrity Specialty of the Anti-Corruption Defender Award for his “invaluable work of overhauling the Lagos State Judiciary, facilitating far-reaching reforms in the administration of justice in the state, his work of promoting integrity in the civil society and business in Nigeria and his consistency as a strong voice for promoting integrity in the country.”
But in a letter by his Special Assistant on Media, Mr. Laolu Akande, Osinbajo stated: “However, two reasons explain my absence. First is that I am currently in Abu Dhabi for an international meeting under the auspices of the government of the UAE where I am the keynote speaker. “Second, in view of the developments on Friday in the Sowore case, I think it would be insensitive and inappropriate to attend the ceremony.”
The disparity in their vocations seems to explain the divergent attitude to the rule of law by the president and his deputy. While President Buhari, a former head of state, comes from the military background, Prof. Osinbajo is a professor of law and Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
President Buhari allowed security chiefs extended stay in office after their terms elapsed. At a Nigeria Bar Association conference last year, the president caused a national stir when he stated that the rule of law is subordinate to the national interest. Does that mindset excuse the disdain shown by Nigeria’s secret police to the court in their overzealous attempt to take the law into their hands?
Most Nigerians believe that Mr. Osinbajo’s professional competence and know-how do not come into the reckoning in the performance of the duties of the office of the president, thereby putting a lie to the one presidency claim! It is obvious to anyone not blinded by prejudice or self-interest that things are falling apart inside the presidency and mere anarchy has been let loose by the Cabal against anyone who dare stand on the way of their ambitions.
As a mark of its disapproval of the excesses of the Department of State Services (DSS) , a coalition of civil society groups yesterday gave President Muhammadu Buhari a 14-day ultimatum to release Omoleye Sowore, convener of the #RevolutionNow protests and publisher of Sahara Reporters. They also asked for the release of former National Security Adviser (NSA) Sambo Dasuki, Sheik Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and other persons detained by the security agency.
The activists, at a press conference in Abuja, expressed concern over attacks on free speech allegedly being perpetrated by the Buhari administration. The lead speaker, Yemi Adamolekun of Enough is Enough Nigeria, asked Buhari to address the nation on his commitment to the rule of law and human rights, before the ultimatum expires. Adamolekun in her speech: “Nigeria’s Troubling State of Affairs,” warned that if the demands were not met, the activists would occupy offices of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) across the country.
Rights groups at the event included: Amnesty International (Nigeria); Centre for Democracy and Development; Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre; Socio-Economic Right and Accountability Project; Take Back Nigeria; Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre; and Transition Monitoring Group. Also, the Centre for Truth and Liberty (CTL) said the refusal by the DSS to release leaders of the #RevolutionNow movement, Sowore and Olawale Bakare, despite valid bail granted by a court of competent jurisdiction, violates sanctity of the rule of law and the principle of separation of powers.
According to CTL Executive Director Olusesan Semaye, “The unhealthy development, no doubt, casts Nigeria in bad light. More disturbing however is that it portends grave danger ahead, as the democratic space will further be shrunken under a hostile system that negates the rule of law.” The CTL admonition came as human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, alleged that the Federal Government wanted his client, Sowore, to sign a “death warrant.”
While featuring as a guest on TVC’s programme, ‘Your View’, he said: “They wanted me to persuade Sowore to sign his death warrant and I refused. The government isn’t ready for trial; that is why they elongate his detention.” He added: “In 2003, 2007, 2011, President Muhammadu Buhari lost elections to the Peoples Democratic Party and he led protests for a revolution. The law that put the State Security Service together states that, you’re supposed to act for the Nigerian people; not (for) those in power.”
Besides, the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) yesterday postponed the presentation of an award to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, saying the timing was inappropriate. It said the decision was reached “to align with protests against the repression of freedom of speech in recent times especially the incident between the Department of State Services (DSS) and Omoleye Sowore, publisher of Sahara Reporters, on Friday, December 6.”
Operatives of the agency had invaded the Abuja Federal High Court in a bid to re-arrest Sowore. According to a signed statement by WSCIJ Executive Director/CEO Motunrayo Alaka, “The vice president himself shares this awareness and the inappropriateness of the award at this point.”
The centre stressed that the December 9 event, which was to coincide with World Anti-Corruption Day on the eve of World Human Rights Day, aimed “to highlight the importance of investigative reporting as a tool for accountability, good governance and social justice in a democracy.”
A prominent rights activist, Sowore is also a promoter of investigative journalism. In a statement released by Osinbajo’s spokesman, Laolu Akande, the vice president admitted that besides being away in the UAE for an international meeting, receipt of the WSCIJ’s ‘Integrity Specialty’ award on account of the Sowore saga would be “insensitive”.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs meanwhile declined reaction to a statement issued by US Senator Bob Menendez on the Sowore drama. The New Jersey lawmaker had two days ago described the DSS action as unacceptable, saying Sowore is a husband and father to a US citizen.
But a source at the ministry who pleaded anonymity said Menendez merely spoke in his personal capacity and as such, his statement did not have a direct impact on the ministry. “If the U.S. is making any statement against Nigeria, we will wear our regalia of patriotic citizens and issue a response. But to be on the safe side, the leadership of the ministry will be silent on the issue of Sowore. The American government has not made any statement; it was a parliamentarian that did,” the source said.
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday asked the Senate to confirm newly-appointed Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) chairman Muhammad Nami. The president, in a letter dated December 9, also sought the approval of the upper legislative chamber for the appointments of 13 others as members of the FIRS board.
Members of the board are James Ayuba (North Central); Ado Danjuma (North West), Adam Mohammed (North East), Ikeme Osakwe (South East), Adewale Ogunyomade (South West), Ehile Aibangbee (South South). Also, members of the board appointed from the ministries agencies and departments of the federal government are Ladidi Mohammed from the office of Nigeria’s attorney general and Central Bank of Nigeria governor Godwin Emefiele.
Others are Fatima Hayatu (Ministry of Finance); Maagbe Adaa (Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission); and Umar Ajiya (Nigerian National Petroleum Commission), DCG T. M. Isah (Nigeria Customs Service) and the Registrar General of the Corporate Affairs Commission.
Buhari asked Senate President, Ahmad Lawan to ensure speedy consideration of his request. The president on Monday appointed Nami after former FIRS chairman Babatunde Fowler’s tenure ended. But sources told Huhuonline.com that on the same day he was sacked, Fowler had written to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Boss Mustapha seeking renewal of his four year appointment; hours before he was replaced.
In a leaked letter to Mustapha, dated December 9, 2019, Fowler wrote to present himself for reappointment for a second term in line with the provisions of the FIRS Establishment Act 2007. The letter, a copy which was sighted by Huhuonline.com was titled: Re: Notification of Expiration of Tenure as Executive Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service.
“I write to notify the Secretary to the Government of the Federation that my first tenure as the Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) ends today 9th December, 2019. In view of the above, I wish to present myself for a second term. This is consistent with the provisions of the FIRS Establishment Act 2007 and would grant me the opportunity to consolidate and build on the achievements we have recorded in the past 4 years. Please find attached the highlight of my achievements during my first tenure in office,” Fowler wrote to the SGF.
He concluded the letter saying: ”I would like to put on record my gratitude to Mr President for the opportunity to serve the Nation. I am also thankful for your support in the course of the discharge of my duties”. Hours after the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF) acknowledged receipt of the letter; the Presidency announced the appointment of Fowler’s successor, Nami; a fellow of Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria, Institute of Debt Recovery Practitioners of Nigeria and Associate Member of Nigerian Institute of Management (Chartered) and Association of National Accountants of Nigeria.
On the same day, Fowler was made to hand over to the Coordinating Director, Domestic Taxes Group, Abiodun Aina, the most senior management staff of FIRS as required by law.
The United States government has said it is deeply concerned that the publisher of the online news portal, Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore, who is also the convener of #RevolutionNow protests, was rearrested last Friday by the Department of State Services (DSS), less than 12 hours after he was granted bail by a court of competent jurisdiction, trying his case.
“We are deeply concerned that #Sowore has been re-detained in #Nigeria, shortly after a court ordered he be released on bail. Respect for rule of law, judicial independence, political and media freedom and due process are key tenets of #democracy,” the US State Department said in a tweet on its official Twitter handle on Sunday.
The State Department tweet came on the heels of reactions by two US Senators condemning the re-arrest of Sowore after he had been released on bail by the court. Senator Bob Mendez had at a press conference warned of consequences for US-Nigeria relations, while his New Jersey counterpart, Senator Cory Booker, condemned the act as “appalling” and a “shocking affront” to the rule of law in Nigeria.
Senator Menendez said America will review its relationship with Nigeria over the continued detention and re-arrest of Sowore. “We are watching and will be reviewing our relationship with the Nigeria government,” Menendez said at a press conference jointly addressed by Sowore’s wife Opeyemi in the United States. Menendez, a Democratic Senator representing New Jersey, warned the Nigerian government that “(for) any harm that comes to Sowore, there will be consequences.”
Menendez’s New Jersey counterpart and 2020 presidential candidate, Senator Cory Anthony Booker also said the invasion of the Federal High Court, Abuja, by DSS to re-arrest Sowore is a shocking affront to Nigeria’s rule of law. “It’s appalling that NJ journalist Omoyele Sowore was re-arrested in Nigeria hours after his release,” Booker said on Twitter on Friday. “This is a shocking affront to the country’s rule of law and Nigeria must cease its dangerous attacks on freedom of expression,” he warned
Sowore has been in DSS detention for 124 days before his release on Thursday. He was arrested on Saturday, August 3 for calling for nationwide protests tagged #RevolutionNow. He was charged on offences of treasonable felony, money laundering, terrorism and plotting to overthrow Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari. DSS operatives stormed an Abuja court to arrest Sowore on Friday. The pandemonium caused by the presences of the operatives in the courtroom disrupted proceedings of an unrelated case forcing the judge to adjourn abruptly. The operatives later picked up Sowore outside the courtroom.
DSS has however denied that any of its personnel was involved in the pandemonium in the courtroom even though the altercation was caught on camera. In a video shared by Sahara Reporters, Sowore was seen being dragged by several men inside the Abuja courtroom. Sahara Reporters said some of the men in the video were DSS operatives while others belong to the State Security Service (SSS).
The DSS, which accused Sowore of planning to change the government through unlawful means, is yet to deny re-arresting him. “All that is needed for a #Revolution is for the oppressed to choose a date they desire for liberty, not subjected to the approval of the oppressor,” he wrote on Twitter on 2 August.
Sowore’s lawyer Femi Falana said DSS told him Sowore was needed for questioning on Friday and would be released later in the day. He accused the secret police of “gangsterism”.
“I can assure you what is happening now will not go away unchallenged,” Falana said, adding: “We either run this country on the platform of the rule of law or we resort to gangsterism which is what is going on.” But Nigerian authorities have been less respectful of court orders in this case and in many orders. Earlier court orders for Sowore’s release were not carried out by the secret police. On one occasion, the DSS said it could only release him to his lawyers.
Kano State Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje has signed the new Kano Emirate Council Bill into law.
The bill for the creation of four emirates councils transmitted by the Governor scaled from through the third reading and finally passed at the assembly and forwarded to the governor on Thursday.
The new Kano State Emirate Council Bill 2019 had passed first reading and second reading on Monday and Tuesday after the speaker, Abdl’uazeez Garba Gafasa presented the letter transmitted by Governor Ganduje. In a unanimous acceptance, the legislators consented to the passage of the bill shortly after the lawmakers reconvened. Before the bill was passed, the lawmakers had dissolved into the secretary meeting for 20 minutes.
Signing the bill into law at the Correlation Hall, Government House, Governor Ganduje said the new law will bring development closer to the people, sustainable socio-economic development and improve the security and wellbeing of people.
In the new laws, sanctions including deposition will be attached for any erring Emir or any traditional ruler who refuses to attend the Council of Emirs meetings three times without any concrete and convincing reason. According to Ganduje, “As a law-abiding administration, we came and deliberated upon that at the State Executive Council; after which we sent the Bill to the State House of Assembly, seeking for the creation of 4 additional Emirates, namely Bichi, Rano, Gaya and Karaye.
“After successfully passing the Bill by the House, here we are, as you are all witnessing the singing of the Bill into a Law. And our Emirates have come to stay because all things concerning the new Emirates were done”. Ganduje noted.
According to the dictate of the new Law, “there will be individual Emirate Council in all the now 5 Emirates. And membership of the Councils is drawn from the Emir, who heads the Council of his own domain, Imam from the Emirate, representative of the business community, and other identified group of people from there.
“At the state level, there is going to be a Central Council of Emirs that will consist of all the five Emirs in the state as well as representatives of other identified groups of people. The new system is more of injecting some semblance of people participating in their socio-economic development through the traditional institutions. While the Chairman of the Central Council of Emirs will be appointed by the governor, who will chair the Council for two years, it is again the prerogative of the Governor to make sure that the Chairmanship goes round all the 5 Emirates.”
Sanctions are also attached for any erring Emir or any traditional ruler. If an Emir does not attend the Council of Emirs meetings three times without any concrete and convincing reason, such an Emir’s Turban would be removed, but with the consultation of other Emirs, by the Governor. Another action that attracts sanction from the provision of the new law, is that, if an Emir disrespects the norms and values of his people, where such an Emir’s action goes against the culture and tradition of his people, he would face the music.
Ganduje, however, warns that “Any Emir or any traditional ruler who goes against the provision of this Law, such a person will definitely face the music. He will surely be punished without any wasting of time.” He, therefore, called on all those District Heads who refuse to pay homage to their Emirs to dress up, warning that “If you refuse to pay homage because you then prepare for being dethroned.”
The fresh bill was approved by Kano state executive council and transmitted for the lawmakers following the nullification of Kano Emirs Appointment and Depositions Amendment Laws 2019 by Justice Usman Na’Allah of Kano high court.
Meanwhile, the security men attached to the Kano state House of Assembly had threatened to shoot some journalists who were at the assembly to cover the house proceedings. The security personnel including men of the Police and Civil Security and Defense Corps had prevented the journalists’ access to the assembly to carry out their official duties. It took the intervention of director of press at the assembly who prevailed on the overzealous security operatives to restore calm.
While so muck ink has been spilled on the face-off between Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and the Cabal in the Presidency, who are united in their bid to frustrate the VP ahead of the 2023 presidential election, emerging indications now point to an imminent showdown with the First Lady, Aisha Buhari firing the first salvo against the cabal; in what promises to be a bitter war of attrition in the presidency.
Aso Rock sources confided to Huhuonline.com that presidential aides have been scampering for cover afraid to be caught in the crossfire, after Mrs. Buhari took the unprecedented step of publicly accusing senior presidential media aide, Garba Shehu, of disloyalty and conflict of interests; and all but called for his resignation. In a statement titled: ”Garba Shehu Has Gone Beyond His Boundaries,” personally signed by the First Lady, Mrs. Buhari critically upbraided Shehu of sundry professional misdemeanors, accusing the presidential spokesman of working against the First Family by taking instructions from some people in government rather than from President Muhammadu Buhari.
Without naming names, Mrs. Buhari alleged that Shehu had gone beyond his brief and was waging war on the first family through an orchestrated campaign of calumny in the media using fifth columnists. “As spokesperson of the president, he has the onerous responsibility of managing the image of the president and all the good works that he is executing in the country. Rather than face this responsibility squarely, he has shifted his loyalty from the president to others who have no stake in the compact that the president signed with Nigerians on May 29, 2015 and 2019.
“To make matters worse, Mr. Shehu has presented himself to these people (read Cabal) as a willing tool and executioner of their antics, from the corridors of power even to the level of interfering with the family affairs of the president. This should not be so. The blatant meddling in the affairs of a First Lady of a country is a continuation of the prodigal actions of those that he serves.
While many observers may not be shocked by the willingness of Mrs. Buhari to wage a public relations campaign against the cabal, Huhuonline.com gathered from Aso Villa sources that presidential aides have been caught in the crossfire and there is general fear and apprehension which way the pendulum will eventually switch. In the escalating war, sources tell Huhuonline.com that the first lady feels she has been stabbed on the back by the chief of staff, Abba Kyari, whom she virtually installed into the inner circle of the president. “She feels betrayed by Kyari,” a Villa source quoted Mrs. Buhari’s spokesman, Aliyu Abdullahi, as saying on anonymity. “Well, the first lady has said to hell with the cabal and has now decided to take her case directly to the Nigerian people,” another source quoted Sulaiman Haruna, Director of Information in the office of the First Lady, as corroborating the development.
The First Lady opened a can of worms concerning a protracted family feud, which involved her and a nephew of Buhari, Mamman Daura. Mrs. Buhari was away from Nigeria for over a month and was unusually silent. Her silence generated rumors that the cabal had pushed her to the background amid rumors that President Buhari was going to marry another wife and a viral video in which Mrs. Buhari was seen protesting in the presidential villa were touted as proves that cabal was trying to push her out. Mrs. Buhari, according to sources, has blamed Kyari for the scandal, while accusing Shehu of having knowledge about the plot.
“The Nigerian public was given the impression that on arrival into the country Mr. President locked me out of the villa because he wanted a new first lady; and Garba Shehu, as Villa spokesperson, knew the truth and had the responsibility to set the records straight. But because his allegiance is somewhere else and his loyalty misplaced, he deliberately refused to clear the air and speak for the president who appointed him in the first place. Consequently, his action has shown a complete breakdown of trust between the First Family and him,” Mrs. Buhari noted in her statement.
Huhuonline.com gathered that initially, the first lady was very inclined to tacitly endorse the activities of the cabal as she viewed Abba Kyari as the gate-keeper who would shield her husband from the political vultures in the APC. So close were the two that when the first lady’s office organized a special prayer session for the nation at the State House, images from the event showed Mrs. Buhari sitting beside Kyarif with whom she engaged in discussion. Also in attendance were Interior Minister, Rauf Aregbesola; Inspector-General of Police Mohammed Adamu; and former Nasarawa governor, Tanko Almakura.
But the rupture came fast and furious after the first lady realized much to her chagrin that Kyari has exploited his apparent closeness to the president to build a formidable power base of cronies and loyalists in and outside the presidency who are answerable directly to him; not the president, who was virtually reduced to a spectator inside the Villa. Matters came to a head when the president was away on medical leave in London, and the first lady was barred by the cabal from seeing her husband, even as the social media was awash with reports that Buhari had died.
In hindsight, Mrs. Buhari recalls in her statement against Shehu that: “The genesis of this fake news started when my husband fell sick and perpetrators of this act were showing fake Ambulance, Hospital and dead body suggesting that my husband is dead,” she said. “That time, I received so many calls from other first ladies and Presidents of other countries to confirm; so I called the attention of NCC, NBC and the National Orientation Agency.” Mrs. Buhari said the rumors could have been laid to rest if Shehu had done his job, yet “he [Shehu] kept mute to cause more confusion and instability for his Principal and his family.” The first lady now believes the deafening silence of the presidency over her husband’s travails and tribulations were part of a well-orchestrated ambush by the cabal to hijack the presidency.
It was against this backdrop, sources told Huhuonline.com that the first lady had to cry out in an interview with the BBC; alerting Nigerians that a few unelected individuals had taken the presidency hostage and were presiding over the affairs of the country. Ever since that BBC outburst, the First Lady had been steadfast in waging internal opposition against the cabal, which she described in her tepid statement as “others who have no stake in the compact that the president signed with Nigerians on May 29, 2015 and 2019.”
There was no love lost between Mrs. Buhari and the cabal when the former Director General of the Department of State Services (DSS), Lawal Daura, who was answerable to Buhari’s nephew, Mamman Daura, was ignominiously sacked by then Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, after DSS agents invaded the National Assembly in 2018. Huhuonline.com also learnt from Villa sources that while Daura and Alhaji Isa Funtua were searching for Daura’s replacement, the president’s brother-in-law was able to pass the name of Alhaji Bichi through the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, to Buhari, who was then in London, for his approval as new DG of DSS.
The announcement of Alhaji Bichi as the new DSS boss paved the way for the ascendance of Kyari in the power configuration for supremacy to wield presidential power on behalf of the absentee President Buhari. Kyari’s position was further strengthened by Buhari’s order after his re-election that ministers and heads of agencies should get to him through the office of the Chief of Staff. The recent statement from the office of the First Lady, which upbraided Garba Shehu, is therefore a further escalation of the war within Buhari’s presidency.
Presidential sources told Huhuonline.com that any time there’s a report of disharmony in the presidency; Nigerians must remember how President Buhari shed crocodile tears in 2011, while declining further interest in the presidential election. Buhari, who was then presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressives Change (CPC), had declared that the 2011 election would be his last on the presidential ballot. At the International Conference Centre, where he rendered what was seen as a tearful valediction were the party’s vice presidential candidate, Pastor Tunde Bakare, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd) and former FCT Minister, Nasir El Rufai.
Despite weeping intermittently at the event marking the end of the party’s electioneering, Buhari did not bother to challenge the outcome of the election at the tribunal as he did on two previous occasions. But four years later, propelled by some of those who were present when he announced his exit from politics, Buhari contested the 2015 presidential election and defeated incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Being a contraption of strange political bedfellows who sought to win power before thinking about what to do with the power, Aisha Buhari was the first person that came out to explode about cabals around her husband. Everybody believes that President Buhari is not in total control of the country whether it is said or not.
As the battle lines are drawn between the cabal and the first lady, sources told Huhuonline.com that the presidency is in crisis and nobody seems to be in charge as aides are confused on how to confront issues affecting the president, because of the uncertainty over who has authority over what has to be done. An Aso Villa source confided to Huhuonline.com that the prevailing chaos was evident when the presidency issued conflicting statements on how President Buhari should be addressed, following an editorial by a newspaper, which said it would henceforth address the president as major general, his military era title. The special adviser on media and publicity to President Buhari, Femi Adesina, had earlier said: “If you decide to call him major general, he wasn’t dashed the rank, he earned it. So, you are not completely out of order. The fact that you can do so is even another testimony to press freedom in Nigeria.”
A few hours after Adesina’s statement, another one came from the presidency; and this time, it was signed by Shehu, who described the decision by the newspaper under reference to address Buhari as Major General in his official title and refer to his government as a regime instead of administration, as totally curious and utterly incredible. “It is not within the power or rights of a newspaper to unilaterally and whimsically change the formal official title or the designation of the country’s president as it pleases.” The newspaper had also said it would thenceforth refer to Buhari’s administration as a “regime” to symbolically demonstrate its resentment and protest against what it described as “autocracy and military-style repression” and disdain for the rule of law by the Buhari administration.
Garba’s statement reads in part: “The Constitution of Nigeria recognizes the president as the formal official title of the occupant of that office. Can the newspaper, in its hubris address the president as prime minister as it pleases? “Is it within the paper’s responsibility or power to change the official title of the man who occupies the office of the president? Does that mean any newspaper is free to address the comptroller general of customs a colonel rather than his official title?”
Shehu said Buhari was indeed a Major General, but had retired from that position and now twice democratically elected president of Nigeria. He added that Buhari was the two-time electoral choice of voters. He said the newspaper’s opinion was entirely in line with holding and exercising the right of free speech and freedom of the press, as Adesina said. He urged the newspaper to separate journalism from partisan politics, alleging that its double standards in cuddling some of the past dictators and their open contempt for Buhari clearly showed that the newspaper had sinister motives for its current curious editorial judgment.
It remains to be seen whether President Buhari would side with the cabal to clip the wings of his wife before she takes flight; given that she has decided to take her searchlight to every corner in the Villa and to report to the Nigerian people, all the goings-on inside the presidency. Aisha Buhari is telling any Nigerian who cares to listen, that henceforth, she will no longer be confined to the “other room” as she takes on the cabal and speaks truth to power.
Niger Delta Affairs Minister, Senator Godswill Akpabio, has formally notified the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), of his plan not to participate in the planned Akwa Ibom North West senatorial district rerun; a decision he attributed to the huge responsibility imposed on him as a cabinet minister.
“I have taken into consideration the critical national assignment bestowed on me by Mr. President which will be of immense importance to Nigerians and in particular the indigenes of the Niger Delta region and have resolved to remain as a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to further discharge my contributions and services to our great fatherland,” Akpabio said in a letter dated December 2, and addressed to APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole.
The Court of Appeal had, last month ruled that a rerun should be held in some parts of Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District after Akpabio challenged the declaration of Senator Chris Ekpenyong of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the winner of the February 23 senatorial polls. But the former Senate Minority Leader in the 8th Senate emphasized that he cannot abandon a critical assignment placed on him by President Muhammadu Buhari in pursuit of a rerun, urging the party to write the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), in line with Sections 33 and 35 of the Electoral Act, 2010, and submit a replacement to run in his place.
The Minister in the letter, also urged the APC Chairman to prevail on the Chairman of INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, to redeploy the State Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Mike Igini if free and fair elections must be held in the Senatorial district.
Akpabio’s letter read inter alia:
“I wish to recall that I was the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the Akwa Ibom North-West Senatorial District Election held on the 23rd day of February, 2019. Upon the declaration of Christopher Ekpenyong of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the purported winner of the election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), I challenged same at the National and State Houses of Assembly Election Petition Tribunal, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.
“The Tribunal In a split decision by a majority of two to one (Hon Justice WO Akanbi and Hon Justice 0D Etubu) dismissed our Petition, while in a dissenting judgment delivered by Hon Justice Hahz S. Tahlr, the petition was adjudged proven and all the reliefs sought were granted.
“Being dissatisfied with the decision of the majority judgment and upon the erudite points of law and conclusion contained in the minority judgment, we appealed to the Court of Appeal, Calabar Judicial Division which in a unanimous decision delivered on the 9th day of November, 2019, allowed our appeal and set aside the Judgment of the Lower Tribunal.”
“I have taken into consideration the critical national assignment bestowed on me by Mr. President which will be of immense importance to Nigerians and in particular the indigenes of the Niger Delta region and have resolved to remain as a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to further discharge my contributions and services to our great fatherland.
“It is on the premise of the foregoing and particularly in line with the provisions of Section 35 of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) that I want to formally and voluntarily withdraw my candidature as the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the forthcoming Court ordered Re-run Election for the Akwa lbom North-West Senatorial District.
“It will be inappropriate in the circumstance and pursuant to Sections 33 and 35 of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) for the party to immediately communicate this withdrawal to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and forward to her the name of another candidate of the party to replace me at the Court ordered Rerun Election for the Akwa lbom North-West Senatorial District.
“I want to seize this opportunity to thank our formidable party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), its leadership at the state and national levels for availing me the party platform and the immeasurable support I received throughout the period of the election and beyond.
“Mr. Chairman, may I advise that the National Working Committee of our party should reiterate our earlier plea to the chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (lNEC) to redeploy Mr. Mike Igini (the Resident Electoral Commissioner) from Akwa lbom State if a free and transparent re-run exercise is to be guaranteed.”
Amid the controversy over payment of jumbo pensions to ex-governors in the face of fiscal crisis in the states, the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) yesterday clarified that the severance allowance of the former chief executives was 300% of their salary. The commission, however, added that state Houses of Assembly were empowered by law to fix pensions for their ex-governors.
The Chairman of RMAFC, Elias Mbam, spoke on the issues yesterday in Lagos while answering questions from journalists on the sidelines of a retreat organised for members and management staff of the commission. The theme of the retreat was “Consolidating the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission for Greater Efficiency: Issues, Expectations and the Way Forward.”
The retreat was opened by Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, while the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, delivered the keynote address. Mbam spoke against the backdrop of the recent judgment by the Federal High Court, sitting in Lagos, which declared illegal pension being collected by former governors, who are now holding political offices as lawmakers, ministers, among others. The court had directed the Attorney General of the Federation to make sure the beneficiaries refund such payments and to also file a suit to challenge the legality of the pension laws for former governors, their deputies and others.
Mbam, in his response on the issue, said: “The present law that designed their entitlements is the Remuneration Act of 2008, which provides that at the end of their service they are entitled to severance allowance of 300 per cent provided that they have served for a minimum of two years. This is the only thing provided by the law for governors by that Act. So, anything outside this is not known to our own laws. But there is also a provision in the law, which permits a state House of Assembly to provide pension for their leaders. As far as we are concerned the one we know, and the one we said it should be, is the Remuneration Act of 2008, which is basically severance allowance and nothing more.”
He added that the commission would review the remunerations of political office holders to reflect the country’s current realities in line with its constitutional mandate. Mbam said the review would affect the remunerations of LG chairmen and councilors as well as commissioners, governors, ministers, the president, vice president and members of states’ and national legislatures.
He said part of the commission’s responsibility “is to do the remuneration appropriate for the political officeholders from the local council to the national level whether appointed or elected. Our work does not include those of civil servants, which are handled by the Salaries and Wage Commission. I am talking purely on the political officeholders from the council level to the presidency. That is the area we are saying that we will review in line with our constitutional mandate to align them to our current realities.”
He, however, declined to reveal whether the review would lower the entitlements of political officeholders, which most Nigerians perceived to be the highest in the world. “Well, what it will be is going to be a process. We are going to engage Nigerians both in the private and public sectors to make their inputs because remuneration is not just what you will wave your hands and say this is what it will be. This process will get us to appropriate remuneration for public office holders,” he said.
He also pledged the commission’s continued support for the diversification program of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration and “implored the government at all levels to continue to support agricultural development and invest in the development of solid minerals as means of diversifying the sources of revenue in order to meet the increasing expenditure requirement of governance and development.”
Mustapha, in the keynote address, described the theme of the retreat as timely and well-conceived as it fits appropriately with the ongoing repositioning of the agencies of government to deliver optimally on their mandates so as to contribute effectively to the socio-economic development of the country. The SGF, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary, Political and Economic Affairs, OSGF, Gabriel Aduda, said the practice whereby the three tiers of governments are sustained by statutory transfers is no longer sustainable. According to him, “The culture is unsustainable and is increasingly becoming a source of worry particularly when one considers the decline in the quantum and demand of our crude oil upon which a greater percentage of our resources are derived.
“May I call on the commission to redouble its efforts in ensuring that all revenues generated are monitored and properly remitted into the Federation Account, as provided for by relevant laws and guidelines. The commission should beef up its advisory role to the three tiers of government on improving their respective revenue drives and also ensure that the remunerations of political and public office holders in the country are reasonable and sustainable.”
While declaring open the conference, Sanwo-Olu said the time had come for the RMAFC to use population density as a major criterion for revenue allocations. He said: “It will be necessary for me to use this opportunity to reiterate the need for the commission to take a more critical look at some of the parameters being used to determine what is allocated to each state and local government. On our part in Lagos State, we would definitely like to see a review that more accurately reflects existing national and sub-national realities, which in our case throws up the issue of population density.”
Scio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Governors’ Forum, Ekiti state governor Dr Kayode Fayemi and Sokoto state governor Aminu Tambuwal, and other 34 governors urging them to use their “leadership position to urgently disclose details of payment of pensions to former governors and other ex-officials between 1999 and 2019 under your state’s pension law, and to provide a copy of the said pension law.”
The organization is also urging each of the 36 state governors to “provide information on whether any such pension law exists in your state, and if so, to provide the names and number of ex-governors and other ex-officials receiving pensions in your state, and to publicly commit to repealing the law, and to pursue recovery of funds collected under the pension law.”
In the letter dated 9 December, 2019 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “Public officials should not encourage, sustain, or implement jumbo pension laws that show an appearance of conflict of interest, impropriety or create situation of personal enrichment. The pension law negates the duty to act honestly and to represent the needs and concerns of the people, and to refrain from activities, which interfere with the proper discharge of public functions.”
SERAP also said: “Any such pension law also represents the use of public office to advance private interests at the expense of some public interest, suggests the misuse of legitimate discretion for improper reasons, and has created a more cynical public view of politics and politicians.”
According to the organization, “Those who manage the resources of the state ought to protect the interest of the people in their states. Public officials while entrusted with duties and discretions are not to act in their own best interest, but to discharge those duties and exercise those powers in the interests of the public.”
SERAP’s FoI request read in part: “Repealing any such pension law would demonstrate your commitment to public service and the requirements of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended). It would show that you would not tolerate the use of public office in a manner which ignores the public interest in order to achieve personal advantage.”
“We would be grateful if the requested information is provided to us within 7 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, the Registered Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions under the FoI Act to compel you to comply with our request.”
“Pension law for former governors and other senior ex-officials represents a conflict with the constitutional and legal conflict code of conduct for public officials, and would seem to prioritise private interest of former state officials over and above the public interest and public duties of state governors.”
“The duties on public officials including governors flowing from their position as trustees to the public also include the duty to refrain from activities which interfere with the proper discharge of their functions, and the duty not to place themselves in a position where public duty conflicts with private interest.”
SERAP’s request is coming on the heels of the landmark judgment delivered last week by Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo of the Federal High Court, Lagos ordering the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN to challenge the legality of states’ pension laws permitting former governors and other ex-public officials to collect such pensions.
The judgment followed the invalidated pension law for former governors and other ex-public officers in Zamfara State, which provided for the upkeep of ex-governors to the tune of N700 million annually. The state has produced three former governors since 1999.
SERAP’s FoI request further read: “This request is consistent with your constitutional, fiduciary and public service roles, and the spirit of the landmark judgment delivered last week by Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo of the Federal High Court, Lagos in the suit brought by SERAP.”
“By Section 1 (1) of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2011, SERAP is entitled as of right to request for or gain access to information, including information on any life pension law for former governors and other senior ex-officials in your states and the details of payments to such officials over the years.”
“By Section 4 (a) of the FoI Act, when a person makes a request for information from a public official, institution or agency, the public official, institution or urgency to whom the application is directed is under a binding legal obligation to provide the applicant with the information requested for, except as otherwise provided by the Act, within 7 days after the application is received.”
“By Sections 2(3)(d)(V) & (4) of the FoI Act, there is a binding legal duty to ensure that documents containing information relating to any life pension law for former governors and other senior ex-officials in your states and the details of payments to such officials over the years are widely disseminated and made readily available to members of the public through various means.”
“The information being requested does not come within the purview of the types of information exempted from disclosure by the provisions of the FoI Act. The information requested for as indicated above, apart from not being exempted from disclosure under the FoI Act, bothers on an issue of national interest, public concern, interest of human rights, social justice, good governance, transparency and accountability.”
Human rights lawyer Femi Falana (SAN and lawyer for Omoyele Sowore, RevolutionNow convener and publisher of Sahara Reporters has painted a grim picture of what transpired at the Federal High Court in Abuja last Friday from the time the court premises were invaded by officers of the Department of State Services (DSS), until when Sowore was finally remanded in DSS custody from where he had been granted bail after spending over 124 days in custody.
Speaking in Lagos at an event to mark the adoption of the Charter on UN Declaration of Human Rights, Falana stated that “what happened in court last week has never happened before. There is no way they would have taken Sowore away, as it would have been so bloody.” Falana further said that some of the DSS operatives “disguised in lawyer’s black and white suit” to re-arrest him in the court.
He alleged: “We discovered that the government brought miscreants to demonstrate against Sowore, but there was a crowd of young people and women. Some of the women were half-naked and were ready to demonstrate against the monstrosity that was taking place
“We have seen him (Sowore) brutalized physically in the court, and members of the legal team had to quickly meet and resolve that if we left him at that place, he may be killed or since the DSS said a truck may run over him, we didn’t want that to happen. So, we agreed that I should take him to the DSS headquarters. I asked him to get into my car which he did.
On our way, as soon as we got to the Federal Secretariat, the DSS surrounded us, disrupted traffic and said I must transfer him to their vehicle and I said you either kill him or kill me here, and I will not take that risk because you are masked, you might be kidnappers and I will not transfer him.”
Falana insisted that “what Sowore demanded for was a warrant of arrest and they couldn’t produce it and that was when he resisted their arrest. So we have to get prepared to defend our rights.” Besides, Prof. Akin Oyebode, who was the guest speaker, also condemned the development.
In the same vein, the national chairman of National Conscience Party (NCP), Dr. Yunusa Tanko, has asked the Federal Government to come out clean on the incident. He was reacting yesterday in Abuja to the viral video on the social media where Sowore was allegedly harassed by the secret police in court. Tanko said “that type of impunity whereby the temple of justice is being desecrated needs to be checkmated as quickly as possible.”
Kaduna State High Court yesterday ordered the Department of State Services (DSS) to transfer the leader of Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, and his wife, Zeenat, to the Nigerian Correctional Centre, Kaduna. Kaduna State government is prosecuting the IMN leader and his wife for culpable homicide, unlawful assembly and disruption of public peace, among other charges.
The trial judge, Justice Gideon Kudafa, ruled yesterday that the decision to remand the IMN leader and his wife in the correctional facility was to enable their lawyers and doctors have easy access to them. El-Zakzaky and his wife had been in DSS custody.
Justice Gideon Kudafa’s order was sequel to the application by counsel to the IMN leader, Haruna Magashi, at the resumed hearing of the main suit in Kaduna, eight months after the last hearing in April. Kudafa had on April 25 adjourned the trial of the IMN leader indefinitely to enable him serve on the panel of the Presidential and National Assembly Elections Petitions Tribunal in Yobe.
At the resumed hearing of the case yesterday, Magashi, who held the brief for Femi Falana (SAN), the lead counsel to the IMN leader and his wife, applied for his clients’ transfer to the Kaduna prisons, now known as Correctional Centre. He told newsmen shortly after the case was adjourned till February 6, 2020, for hearing, that the team of counsel to the IMN leader had always had difficulty seeing him at the DSS detention facility.
The counsel will have easy access to the IMN leader and his wife if transferred to the correctional facility in Kaduna and that will speed up the trial, he added. The order equally took the team of prosecution by storm, when the prosecution counsel led by Dari Bayero appeared in court set to continue with the trial of the IMN leader and his wife.Bayero, also Director of Prosecution at the Kaduna State Ministry of Justice, told newsmen that his team was ready for the trial, but that it was stalled. He, however, said the team would appear set for the trial on the adjourned date.