Thursday, August 30, 2007
Nigeria and others oppose US Command in Africa
United States government’s plan to establish a military command in Africa is not receiving the blessings of Nigeria and other African nations.
They fear that such a command may attract the ire of other African countries, Empowered Newswire, a US-based Nigerian news agency, has said.
Competent sources said that the Nigerian government in particular had diplomatically withheld support for the US plan, and instead passed the buck to the African Union.
A US military spokesperson, who spoke in Pentagon, Lt. Col. Todd Vician, confirmed that the US authorities had been meeting with African governments, including Nigeria, to discuss the US command plan in Africa.
However, he did not disclose the outcome of the meeting. He said one of the top Nigerian officials that the US has discussed the idea with was the former Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Martin Agwai, who was consulted between April 15 and 21 this year.
Lt. Col. Vician said the US government was yet to decide on where the headquarters of the command would be, in what observers call a signal that the whole idea is not moving on very well with a majority of African governments so far.
Nigeria and some other African nations are believed to be opposing the idea of a US command in Africa since it might be perceived as violating a decision of the AU that Africa should hold common positions on defence and security, just like the Europeans do under the European Union. A common African position also discourages such initiatives as the US military command on African soil.
Europeans are also largely seen as opposing the idea, which is being cast as the triumph of US militarism and a possible attempt to fend off China‘s inroad into Nigeria and other African nations.
In the US the legislative arm of the government, the US Senate conducted a hearing on the matter through its Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Africa earlier this month.
Senators from both the Democratic and Republican parties are said to be wary of the idea so far.
American government officials, senators and congressmen are however pushing the idea and seeking to find suitable responses to the criticism of the US-Africa Command. For instance Senator Feingold is currently travelling in some parts of the continent, especially the Democratic Republic of Congo seeking to among other things explain the idea.
Recently Congressman Donald Payne, also a democrat and chairman of the US House of Representative Subcommittee on Africa, met with the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of External Affairs, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, where the issue of the US-Africa Command also came up.
No tenders for Madam Speaker's contracts
A THISDAY Investigation
Facts emerged last night in Abuja that the National Assembly did not openly call for tenders before awarding the controversial N628 million contract for the renovation of the official residences of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mrs. Patricia Olubunmi Etteh and her deputy, Alhaji Bab-angida Nguroje.
THISDAY also learnt that the bidding process did not follow due process as none of the jobs were advertised while some of the companies that submitted bids for the contract were not registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
The National Assembly management, however, claimed the tenders were pasted on the Notice Board of the National Assembly.
And in a bid to forestall a division among the South-west lawmakers and save Etteh’s job, the leadership of the South West Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its members in the House of Representatives yesterday met for four hours at Perniel Apartments in Maitama, Abuja where they resolved to stand behind Etteh.
It was also confirmed last night that two former Speakers of the House, Alhaji Ghali Umar Na’Abba and Alhaji Aminu Bello Masari, in their resolve to find a lasting solution to the problem, held a meeting in Abuja with key lawmakers believed to be spearheading the move to unseat Etteh.
THISDAY checks at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) in Abuja showed that one of the companies that got the contract for the furnishing of one of the residences was registered in 2000 in the name of a former member of the House of Representatives.
The Company, VICTOGENVEL Nigeria Limited, with registration No 381308 was registered on November 23, 2000 with a share capital of 100,000.
Its registered office and address of directors are both located at 38 Ndidem Usang Uso Road Calabar, Cross River State.
It was discovered that all the directors of the company including the former member of the House bear the same family name.
But the address of an Abuja office situated in Wuse Market Extension was used to execute the contract.
The company got the N71, 895,000million contract for the furnishing of the Speaker’s official residence within the Apo Legislative Quarters, Abuja.
The letter of award was dated 30th July 2007 and signed by one Mansur S. Jarkasa for the Clerk of the National Assembly, Alhaji Nasir Arab.
For the furnishing and renovation of the Deputy Speaker’s official residence, Messrs Lee Development Nigeria Limited with registration Number 310156 and office address at Suite 30, Neighbourhood Centre, Area 3, Garki, Abuja got the plum job. The letter signed by Jarkasa on behalf of the clerk for Lee Development Nigeria Limited read, “The total sum is N90, 296, 225, 25 (ninety Million two hundred and ninety-six thousand two hundred and twenty five kobo) only with eight weeks execution period from the date of receipt of this award.”
The company was incorporated on March 20, 1997 and gave its registered address as Plot D6, Federal Housing Estate, Karu, Abuja. The company directors also have the same address as that of the office.
Since its completion by the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) two years ago, the Deputy Speaker’s residence remained uninhabited.
The former Deputy Speaker, Chief Austin Opara, did move in but preferred his house in Apo village which he bought when the Federal Government decided to sell the Apo Legislative quarters to the lawmakers.
For the renovation of the Speaker’s House proper, Messer’s Stateco Nigeria limited, registered with the CAC on the 24th of April 1976 with registration no 16957 and a share capital of 100,000 got the job at the cost of N238,852,192 as against the N242,478,279 it quoted and a completion period of six weeks.
The company with office address at No 17 Nnamdi Azikiwe Road, Minna, was given two months to complete the job and a required payment of 80 per cent
From the list, other companies that allegedly quoted for the job are M/S Niger Investment and Construction Company Nigeria Limited which gave the price of N258, 753,129million and M/S Mutunshi Nigeria limited that quoted N262, 484,855.
THISDAY, however, could not trace any of the two companies at the CAC.
Efforts by our correspondent to get the Clerk of the National Assembly to react to the development proved abortive.
It was learnt that the Clerk was too busy attending a crucial meeting.
His Special Assistant, Mallam Umaru Mohammed, was equally said to be busy when THISDAY visited his office.
But it was gathered that during the meetings on the renovation plan and as deliberations on the request of Etteh and Nguroje for the repair of their official residences progressed, the Clerk had sought to know whether there were enough funds to cater for the projects.
The Director of Finance and Supplies in the National Assembly apart from confirming the availability of funds was said to have assured of timely payment to the contractors but “provided that the Estate and Works Department issued job certification.”
FCDA had refused to furnish the official residences of Etteh and Nguroje because officials of the authority discovered there was no provision for it in FCDA’s budget.
Under the law, FCDA is the owner of the National Assembly Principal Officers Houses and was supposed to renovate the houses but the authority told the leadership of the National Assembly that there was no fund for the project and as such advised the assembly to find other means of executing the project.
In a reply to the National Assembly’s request for the furnishing of the houses, FCDA’s Executive Secretary, Alhaji Mohammed Sanni, had said there was no provision for such in the authority’s budget.
Most of the furniture, fittings and other items in the Speaker’s residence had been monetised and bought by the former Speaker, Alhaji Aminu Bello Masari.
The Speaker’s residence has four blocks of houses comprising the main building and three chalets.
THISDAY confirmed that Julius Berger was supposed to do the job initially.
The construction company gave a bill of over N600 million for just the Speaker’s residence.
This, it was gathered, was beyond the FCDA as the amount quoted was so much that FCDA had in an attachment to the letter explaining the lack of funds quoted a February 16, 2006 document on the amount spent on the renovation of the Senate President’s official residence last year. N450 million was spent on that contract.
At the meeting chaired by PDP National Vice Chairman (South West), Senator Yinka Omilani, the lawmakers were reminded that Etteh remained their choice as Speaker.
According to Omilani, “the South-west meeting resolved that the zone does not have any other candidate for the position of Speaker as Chief (Mrs) Foluke Etteh is eminently qualified and competent to hold the position which has been zoned to the South-west.”
Omilani said further that “after a thorough evaluation of the available facts on the issues raised by some members of the House, the meeting expressed its implicit confidence in the leadership of the House and noted that the issues at stake are more political than the touted award of contract.”
THISDAY, however, learnt that Hon. Wole Oke from Osun State like Etteh was taken up by the South-west PDP leadership over his alleged role in the crisis rocking the House.
He was said to have been thoroughly drilled by the leadership after the spate of accusations against him.
But sources said Oke who is the Chairman, House Com-mittee on Defence, denied being part of those rooting for Etteh’s ouster.
Out of the three South-west lawmakers being fingered as part of the group planning to effect Etteh’s impeachment, namely Oke, Dave Salako and Kayode Amusan both from Ogun State, only Oke was present at the meeting. Salako was said to have travelled to the United States.
Etteh was said to have attended the meeting for only 15 minutes. She reportedly left shortly after exchanging banters with the leaders and her colleagues in the House.
The two former Speakers also met with Etteh on Tuesday night where the Osun lawmaker was also taken up on the controversial renovation contract.
The concern of Masari and Na’Abba, it was learnt, is the possible ripple effect of any negative action on Etteh and the credibility question that may arise thereafter.
THISDAY gathered last night that the duo had been pressing it on the Northern lawmakers to soft pedal on the matter and follow the party position, which is against Etteh’s impeachment.
Lawan last night confirmed that the two former Speakers met with some of them.
He said the meting centred on the crisis in the House and how it could be resolved without tarnishing the integrity of the House.
But he insisted that the public that voted the lawmakers would want an investigation conducted into the whole contract affair.
"Yes, I can tell you that there was a meeting last night. It is all about settling the crisis. But we were elected by the people and must listen to them. The meeting may not have much impact. I am not alone in this fight. A moral burden is on all of us, " he told THISDAY over the telephone.
Meanwhile, the Action Congress (AC) has warned PDP against sweeping the allegations against the Speaker of the House under the carpet.
In a statement issued yesterday in Abuja by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said reports that PDP planned to treat the issue as another ‘family affair’ by playing down the scandal and ensuring a soft landing for the Speaker would spell more doom for the PDP.
AC also condemned the Speaker for her seeming non-chalance since the scandal broke out, saying such attitude confirmed its (AC) earlier doubt about Etteh’s competence to preside over the affairs of the House.
“Mrs. Etteh is not the Speaker of PDP’s House of Representatives but that of Nigeria’s House of Representatives, with responsibility to all Nigerians. It is therefore wrong for the PDP to embark on the self-destructive path of branding this incredible scandal as a ‘PDP family affair’ as a means of covering it up,” it said.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Gov. Donald Duke and his 16 billion Naira Trojan horse
The legacy of former Governor Cross River State, Mr. Donald Duke, is now being closely scrutinized and when the exercise is over, he may end up falling short of the carefully package image of incorruptibility. Damning documents have shown up to deconstruct the myth that Duke, the youngest Governor at the beginning of the present democracy in Nigeria was not totally ignorant of corruption. At least he has been allegedly linked to misappropriating close to N16 Billion, money belonging to the people of Cross River State.
Duke, the music loving former Governor who dazzled his state with Christmas carnival and was once spared by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, EFCC, in Nigeria, like a saintly alter boy, is being accused of employing less than scrupulous means to put up for sale choice properties belonging to the state that he once governed. He also was said to have used extra legal means to divert government money N18Million every month to his wife’s non-governmental charity called Enterprise Nigeria Foundation with headquarters in Plot 15E, Muri Okunola Street, Victoria Island and a branch office in Suit c9, Amin Building, Calabar.
Before former President Obasanjo decided to personally present Umaru Musa Yar’Adua as his successor to the Nigerian Presidency, Duke was well known to be one of his preferred choices for the plum job. But various “actionable reports” from the intelligence community combined to shatter Duke’s carefully scripted image as Nigeria’s “Mr. Integrity.”
Pointblanknews.com initial investigations revealed that Duke benefited heavily from the reviewed cost of actualization fund from the well promoted Tinapa project. From the initial project cost of N25 Billion, Duke successfully cajoled and convinced the powers that be to upwardly review the cost to N65Billion. It was said that the actual construction cost was incongruous with the final financial commitment obtained from the financiers.
There was very little surprise, therefore, when Duke started investing in plush real estate like the Admiralty Towers now being leased to net-worth clientele such as Shell Petroleum and other blue chip multi-nationals. The monthly on this three luxury apartment located at 9A Gerard Avenue, Ikoyi, Lagos goes for as much as $5,000.00 monthly rent. Duke is reaping in multiple folds his financial stakes on politics and other personal business initiatives funded with money suspected to have been embezzled while he was Governor of Cross River State.
Investigations revealed that beyond Donald Duke child-like and deceptive ignorant look that he may have propped up and cultivated many cronies and family members whom he used as channels for taking away money from the people of the largely impoverish coastal state of Cross River State. He had very smooth and unchallenged rein on the psyche of the usually peaceful people of the state. It is believed that he must have taking close to N1,291, 000,000.00 Billion realized from the sales of company that used to be owned by the State Government. Apart from the fact that the properties were under-priced, the meager proceeds from the sales are yet to be reflected in the state’s account. Citizens of the state where he once ruled want to hold him accountable “but he is sleek and slippery.”
There is a lengthy list of financial sins that are being laid on the pitiable soul former Governor Duke. One such other transgression is said to have involved his wife, Onari Duke who was said to have collected money totaling N480 Million for her private NGO, Enterprise Nigeria. the money was never appropriated for such purpose by the State House of Assembly. This was aside another N18 Million allegedly paid to the same NGO with Guaranty Trust Bank cheque number: 00000714 for the month of November 2005.
There are allegations of shoddy and poor business know-how in the ways he handled the economics of Cross River State. This is accentuated by the absence of wisdom concerning the sale of the Metropolitan Hotel, a process that was teleguided and predetermined to favor Donald Duke and family. The hotel had been rehabilitated in 1999 at the cost of N400Million. When it was later put up for sale by the Duke administration, there was no shortage of potential buyers. General Anthony Ukpo was one of those who expressed interest in acquiring the Hotel. Sources said that Ukpo had made the highest bid of N600Million. His offer was turned down. It still beats everyone’s imagination that Duke administration turned down N600Million offer and decided to sell the hotel for a paltry N200Million. An auditor with the Cross river State said “it was a bad business decision. The ownership of the hotel has now been traced to Duke himself in a soon to be released document.
The ex-Governor who was said to be fund of making heavy withdrawals from Local Government funds usually paid in bulk through the State Government account employs bullish tactics to silence Local Government Chief Executives from making him accountable. According to sources, he was always invoking executive privileges to deep his hands to the joint accounts that was maintained with Guaranty Trust Bank.
For example, in July 2005, Duke made an unauthorized withdrawal of N63, 505,013.70 from the Local Government Joint Account as loan repayment for Tinapa. In August 2005, the former Governor also made an unauthorized withdrawal of N70, 028,538.81 from the joint account of Local Government from Guaranty Trust Bank in favor of Citizen International Bank for Tinapa loan repayment and many other unauthorized withdrawals of Local Government funds for Tinapa loans repayment.
Those critics of Duke’s style of administering Cross River State when he captained its affairs questioned the yardstick of inquiry that the EFCC had earlier used to clear the ex-Governor of culpable financial misconduct. They want a re-visit of the Donald Duke years.
Obasanjo seeks UNESCO recognition for dubious library
Former President, Olusegun Obasanjo’s quest to remain relevant after quitting Aso Rock has propelled him to seek recognition for his controversial N8.5 billion Presidential Library in Abeokuta as one of the World Heritage Sites of the United Nations Educational, Scientific And Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).
The inordinate desire of the former president, which observers say smacks of fraudulence, is being surreptitiously pursued by his pointsman, Professor Michael Omolewa, who worked with UNESCO for many years and is still influential in the world body due to the contacts he still has there.
Apart from the Sukur Cultural Landscape which was granted that recognition in 1999 and the Osun-Osogbo Grove in 2005, the only site in Nigeria on the cards for such status is the Idanre Hills in Ondo State.
However, the Ota chicken farmer is deploying all the resources at his disposal, with the assistance of Prof. Omolewa and Prof. Ulli Beier, a German scholar who has adopted Nigeria as his home, to actualise his ambition. Beier works closely with UNESCO as well.
P.M.News gathered that a meeting was held in Osogbo by Omolewa, the Osun State Governor, Ologunsoye Oyinlola, and three other Yoruba PDP leaders to perfect the plan.
Beier is said to be very close to Oyinlola and knew him as child and was also close to Oyinlola’s father when he was the king of Okuku, the home of the Oyinlolas in Osun State.
A strong lobby is also being carried out abroad by Prof. Omolewa’s contacts in UNESCO to facilitate the move.
Obasanjo is said to have hoodwinked Beier to play along by lying that the Presidential Library would be used to store cherished Yoruba artefacts and other cultural heritage.
Beyond seeking relevance through the library if it is eventually granted the status, sources said the $4 million annual grants to World Heritage Sites for their maintenance, also holds attraction.
At least N8.5 billion was reportedly raised at the launch of the library project on 14 May, 2005, which was estimated to cost N7 billion on completion.
Among the donors, most of whom are friends and political associates of Obasanjo, monarchs, state governors and political aides, included Chief Mike Adenuga, Alhaji Aliko Dangote and Chief Sunny Odogwu who donated N250 million, N211.6 million and N200 million respectively.
Others included Chief Arisekola Alao, Olorogun Michael Ibru, Chief Sam Nweke and the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuade.
The launch of the Presidential Library which the former president named after himself, was, however, greeted with widespread criticism and outrage from concerned Nigerians who saw the project as a clever way for the sitting president to use his office to feather his nest.
In his reaction, Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka described it as executive extortion which negates his (Obasanjo’s) anti-corruption campaign.
“Mind you, Obasanjo is a transparent man, but what happened in Abeokuta was executive extortion and a contradiction of his anti-corruption campaign.”
Renowned lawyer, Chief Gani Fawehinmi in his reaction, said: “All over the world, you wait until you leave office. In America, the system which we are practising, that is the way it is done. Those in living memory, Nixon after he left office in 1975 as a result of Watergate, set up his library after he left office. You remember Clinton, he was even begging for funds here and there after leaving. It is because Obasanjo knows (and I am saying so most categorically) that if he has to launch that library fund after leaving, he will not see one tenth of those who gave him money. He knows and he has even said so to somebody that ‘if I don’t do it now, once I leave office, I won’t see them again’.”
Gani also went a step further to institute a case at the Federal High Court challenging the propriety of establishing the library by Obasanjo and the award of a license to himself.
The court ruled that Gani had a locus standi to institute the case.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Burying AIDS victims alive in Papua New Guinea
RELATIVES are burying some people with the human immuno-deficiency virus (HIV/AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) in Papua New Guinea (PNG) alive, a local health worker has said.
Margaret Marabe a local activist who works for Igat Hope organisation in the capital, Port Moresby said families were taking the extreme action as they could no longer cater for the sufferers or feared getting infected.
Ms Marabe said she witnessed the "live burials" during a five-month trip to PNG's remote Southern Highlands.
The renowned activist, earlier this year carried out an awareness campaign in the Tari area of the Southern Highlands.
"I saw three people with my own eyes. When they got very sick and people could not look after them, they buried them," she told reporters.
Ms Marabe described how one person called out "mama, mama" as the soil was being shovelled over their head.
Villagers told her that such action was common, she said.
PNG has been grip by the worst HIV/AIDS epidemic in the region.
An estimated two per cent of the six million population are believed to be infected, and HIV diagnoses rise by around 30 per cent each year.
Meanwhile, international health agencies have warned action must be taken to prevent hundreds of thousands of people becoming infected.
Ms Marabe, said that people in remote parts of PNG remained ignorant about HIV/AIDS and urged the government to take action, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reported.
"There are no voluntary counselling training centres in Tari. There are also no training programmes on HIV," Ms Marabe was quoted by PNG's Post-Courier newspaper as saying.
PNG's Secretary for Health Dr Nicholas Mann admitted to the BBC in an interview last year that the multitude of cultures and languages in the country made it difficult to get the HIV/AIDS message across.
But he said Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare had brought the issue under his remit, and that the government was working closely with agencies to curb the pandemic.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
By Reuben Abati
"The only option left for Soludo, the Central Bank Governor now is to resign and take his exit. It is the honourable thing to do."
"This is Nigeria, my friend. It is not that easy. And why should he resign, just because the Attorney General says he does not know the law? Soludo is not a lawyer. So, if he didn't interpret Section 19 of the CBN Act correctly, well, he is not a lawyer."
"You know this is precisely the problem with us in this country. We can rationalize anything. We are ever so capable of leaving the road and heading for the bush even when the road is so clear. What the Federal Government has done is to put Soludo in his place. Short of calling him names, they have just told him where the power lies in government. The CBN does not exist in a vacuum. And you don't treat the President of the country shabbily and still expect to remain in government. He should go now before they kick him out."
"To tell the truth, I think the man asked for what he got. He shot himself in the foot by announcing such a major national policy above the head of the President. It is not done."
"If I were President Yar'Adua, I would have fired him immediately for gross insubordination, effrontery and contempt."
"But that is what has been done. They are just waiting for him to take the cue."
"Did you see how the Attorney-General of the Federation was sounding on television? He was sounding as if he was the Supreme Court making final pronouncements on CBN authority."
"It is actually his job to state the position of the law."
"But he was doing it with such braggadocio. If you give that Aondokaa too much power, I swear he will over-use it."
"When a man is out of favour in the corridors of power, anything can happen to him. Even our friend, Segun Adeniyi referred to CBN autonomy on which the CBN Governor based his actions as so-called autonomy"
"You know what I think? I think they were all expressing the mind of the President. They must have attended meetings where Soludo was called all kinds of names. If the guy refuses to resign and stays on as CBN Governor, he should be prepared for real shabby treatment."
"His tenure actually ends in June 2008"
"You mean it? So why was he introducing a policy that would start in August 2008. Ha ha. He was scheming for an extension of his tenure? Come to think of it. But if that was the motivation for coming up with the new Naira policy, the thing has back-fired big time. He should just go because if he doesn't, they will turn him into yeye, they will do him shege."
"The CBN spokesman has said that the Federal Government's allegation is not true. That the CBN actually consulted the Presidency"
"Was the spokesman speaking for himself or for Soludo?"
"He is a spokesman. He can only speak for his boss."
"You mean Soludo is calling President Yar'Adua a liar? Oh, my God. What kind of government are these people running? The AGF was categorical in saying that nobody consulted the President, and that he did not give any approval for the removal of two zeros from the Naira, the shifting of decimals in the national currency and the conversion of N100, 000 to N1, 000 and all that. Then, the CBN spokesman stands up to say: that is a lie. I think that is something serious."
"No. They didn't call the President a liar. They just talked back, to set the records straight."
"That is even a worse offence."
"But you know the CBN can actually go to court to seek a proper interpretation of Section 19 of the CBN Act which the Attorney General of the Federation was quoting. If Soludo wishes, he can force the issue and insist on a judicial interpretation of CBN autonomy within the purview of the CBN Act of 2007."
"And what would that be in aid of? Heroism? Foolishness? Look, I like the man; I will not advise him to do anything foolish. I have not seen the CBN Act, but the Section 19 that was quoted by the Attorney General is explicit enough. It says you cannot change Nigeria's currency except with the approval of the President. And that approval must be in writing. If Soludo has such a letter, let him produce it."
"But still I don't think he should resign. He should just hang in there and wait till his tenure expires."
"The unfortunate thing is that the only thing people will now remember about him is this Naira policy blunder."
"May be not. After all, the Federal Government says the policy has only been suspended. They may still get round to it. It is a suspension not a cancellation."
"It is in fact neither a suspension nor a cancellation. I will use the word dismissal, outright rejection. You people like to force things. Look at it carefully. The Economic Management Team was just getting ready to consider the policy when this legal bombshell was dropped. And Soludo was not even included in the Economic Management Team."
"There are two persons from the CBN in that team"
"Where is the CBN Governor? That is the point. And the Minister of Finance who has been playing Mr Innocent in all of this dropped the word that the Economic Team had to be re-organised because some former members were not contributing ideas at meetings. Who could he be referring to? If nobody was contributing ideas, could it ever be Soludo or Ribadu who were both dropped from the reconstituted team?"
"Politics. Raw politics. We are focusing on politics, instead of the idea of revaluation and the need to fix the Naira to save Nigeria. I would have preferred a battle of ideas, not this ego conflict."
"Soludo asked for it. He got it. He was the one who threw a stone at the President and the Federal Government, This is a classic study in the failure of tact and diplomacy. There is nothing to examine again. Forget it. In any case, who wants to go about spending coins and small denominations. The thing is not even working in Ghana where they copied it from."
"So you really think Soludo should resign?"
"It is up to him. You know many Nigerians can survive under any weather. But I think this is about principles. A man should be able to stand up for something."
"But if he resigns now, he could be accused of arrogance, walking out on the President. Then, they can come up with all kinds of allegations. They could say he renovated some CBN buildings with too much money or collected too many estacodes. You know how bad people are. They will just look for a way to tarnish his image. But if he lies low and eats the humble pie, that may be a better survival strategy."
"It is his decision really. After all, we are just talking. If the man likes he can go and collect all the traditional rulers in the East and ask them to go and beg Yar'Adua on his behalf. He can kneel down before Yar'Adua and say 'I am sorry sir'. And all Ezes and Obis in council would tell Yar'Adua 'forgive him sir, he is your son'. That is one strategy. Classic Nigerian strategy of survival"
"We can advise him"
"When did that become our kettle of tea, really? And what was that thing you were saying about spending too much money on the renovation of buildings. Look if anybody spends public funds on unreasonable renovation, such a person should be sanctioned. And I have the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Patricia Etteh in mind as I say this."
"You know the woman is in trouble."
"She approved over N628 million to renovate her house and that of the Deputy Speaker. Then she and her supporters have since turned around to say sorry oh, it is only N238 million"
"Another person defending the Speaker says it is N232 million only. There is so much mealy-mouthing going on, you are actually convinced that they are trying to cover up something. The initial report was that N232 million was spent on the Deputy Speaker's House, N238 million on the Speaker's House and then another N117 million was used to buy vehicles for their Royal Honourables"
"Whether it is N232 million oh or N238 million oh, my view is that the thing is outrageous and shameful. That money is enough to start a new town. To think that they have spent that much on the same buildings which were renovated only in 2003 stinks to high heavens"
"The Speaker's spokespersons say she is being hounded because some people who wanted juicy committee positions did not get them when the House set up its committees."
"I don't see how that explains the profligacy. And do you mean the Nigerian House of Representatives officially classifies some committees as juicy and some as unprofitable? What are they doing in that House of Representatives? Trading? Stealing? Over N200 million on the mere renovation of houses, for God's sake, what are they renovating? Did they pull down the buildings completely?"
"No. According to Eziuche Ubani, the money was spent on perimeter fencing, outside works and furnishings."
"Over N200 million to erect ordinary fence, plant flowers and buy chairs?"
"I hear everything was imported"
"And that the job was given to local contractors"
"If the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker know what is good for them, they will resign immediately."
"They don't intend to do so. They will probably arrange juicy positions for their aggrieved colleagues and that will be the end of the story."
"No, Then the public must continue to protest. The Nigerian Labour Congress has already called for a probe of this renovation scandal. That probe must be thorough. The public must be given a complete list of what was bought, who supplied the blocks and the flowers that they used and at what rate, how many bags of cement went into the renovation and where the furniture came from, the names of the contractors and so on. Look, I know someone who could have renovated those buildings with less than N10 million."
"Oh come on. Don't spoil this conversation. This is not the kind of project for which you engage Baba Mukaila the bricklayer or Kashi, the plumber. We are talking about the official residence of the leadership of the House of Representatives, please."
"And is that why they should empty the Central Bank? Would they spend that much if they were building their own homes? Let us be realistic. These guys are not interested in service. They just want to get rich at public expense."
"Please. Madam Speaker's mother has asked Nigerians to leave her daughter alone."
"Where did you get that from?"
"I read the story in the Punch".
"Really, and what did her father tell us to do? And her husband?"
"It was one of her uncles who also spoke. He said we should stop disturbing her, because she is in politics to help her community"
"Oh, poor woman! You know what I think? Patricia Etteh should have stayed back in Ikire after completing her secondary school education there and she would not have been exposed to this kind of embarrassment. She would have been at peace in Ikire roasting and selling Dodo Ikire, that specially prepared, tasty plantain chips for which that town is known."
"You are a mean guy"
"And a hairdressing salon beside her Dodo Ikire shop and we useless Nigerians would have left her alone except when our long throats take us to her doorstep."
"You think she will be impeached?"
"To start with, she and her Deputy must refund money to government. And the EFCC should be invited to take a look at the expenditures. Nonsense and ingredient."
"You know sometimes I pity President Yar'Adua. Soon it will be 100 days since he assumed office, but his government has been busy cancelling this, reversing that, generally trying to clean up the mess."
"And creating a little of its own. Don't forget to add that"
"The flip-flop over the powers of the EFCC, for example. And then the suspension of the import duty waivers list."
"The import duty waiver suspension is a good thing. It had become under the Obasanjo government, a veritable vehicle for corruption. That is the mess they want to clean up."
"I know. But my fear is that this may be a policy that is targeted at some persons. You can't make policies just to deal with some people. It is a risky thing to do"
"Which persons are you talking about? I would in fact ask for a probe, heads should roll in the Customs Department and whoever has cheated the country should be sanctioned."
"These things are not that straightforward, you know. Certain categories of imports should enjoy import waivers, in order to assist local producers. A blanket suspension could cause hardship in the industries and the cost would be passed on to the consumer. This is my point really."
"Go and tell them."
"Go and tell who? Don't they read newspapers?'
"Candidly, I wouldn't know if Yar'Adua reads Nigerian newspapers. He probably doesn't. He "
Saturday, August 25, 2007
A thief and an ever-tightening noose
Former Governor James Ibori of Delta State has been mentioned in connection with the less than open and transparent sale of the National Fertilizer Company of Nigeria, NAFCON. The controversial purchase estimated to have cost N20.5 Billion (about $153 Million) contributed to the momentary financial hardship for the Government of the new administration.
The purchase of NAFCON was barely a year after the former Delta Governor currently under intense probe by the Economic and Financial Crimes, Commission, EFCC, bought Willbross Engineering for $155 Million.
Pointblanknews.com gathered that the purchase of NAFCON believed to have been carried out through a bidding process that was teleguided and predetermined to favor Chief Ibori is one of the privatization sales conducted by the Bureau for Public Enterprises, BPE now being investigated. Mrs. Irene Chigbue is the Director General of the BPE that conducted the sales.
According sources Chief Ibori acquired NAFCON through an Engineering and Oil Servicing Company named O’Secul Nigeria Limited in 2005. He was said to have enjoyed unchecked control over the resources of Delta State with the unqualified support of his former commissioner for Finance, Mr. David Edevbie, who made sure that his boss had every kobo that would be needed for such acquisitions.
Ibori presently lobbies President Umaru Musa Ya’Adua to appoint Mr. Edevbie, a two term Finance commissioner, to the converted position of Director General of BPE. Our sources hinted that Ibori has two reasons for pushing for the appointment of Edevbie: One, to cover up any possible trace of their past collaborative agenda which made Delta State to bleed in terms of capital loss. Two, so that the BPE could be used to continue to exercise hold on what Ibori questionably had in the past and to possibly acquire more such government “liquidated companies.
Two banks have become very prominent in assisting Ibori to keep looted funds in private accounts in the past. The two banks according to highly placed sources are Access Bank and Oceanic Bank. Ibori has considerable amount of shares in the two banks. And they are both currently being investigated by the Economic and Financial crime Commission, EFCC for acts considered as “economic and financial fraud.”
Ibori’s name has consistently surfaced in several “shady purchases of government and private companies” lately. He was linked with the purchase of Willbross, a Tulsa Oklahoma based company for $155 Million in what has been described as a “mafia approach to doing business.”
A cloud of suspicion hangs over him as he is accused of gun running, providing support for Niger-Delta insurgents. The metropolitan Police are on his trail for money laundering activities. But Sources say that whatever the Metropolitan Police may find on him, may pale into insignificance compared with the possible indictment that could come when the EFCC concludes its investigation of Ibori.
When Pointblanknews.com contacted Sheddy Ozoene, spokesman to Chief Ibori, he said “I don’t have anything to say about that.”
Turaki and the mark of Zorro
Embattled former Governor Saminu Turaki facing trial for fleecing over N33 Billion belonging to Jigawa State, North of Nigeria is at it again. This time, the Obasanjo third term campaigner is alleged to have stolen Burkina Faso diplomatic passport with No. 01007812.
Turaki, in a sworn affidavit deposed at the Federal High Court Abuja had declared “That international passport No. 01007812 issued by the government of Burkina Faso is a diplomatic passport which was issued to me as a gesture when escorting the President of the country on a presidential visit to another country.
But when Pointblanknews.com contacted Burkina Faso, an official in the office of President Blaise Campaore denied that the country issued out any diplomatic passport to any Nigerian former Governor.
The official at the Burkina Faso presidency who simply identified herself as Ms. Basole told Pointblanknews.com that as a policy, the country does not issue out any of its passports to foreigners.
“We don’t issue diplomatic passport to non-citizen of Burkina Faso. Passports are for Burkina Faso citizens and diplomatic passports are for some Government officials whose duties require one. We don’t know where he got it from.”
Asked whether the President might have authorized the issuance of the passport, Ms. Bisole said, “sir before your second call, I had confirmed from our President and the immigration office and they did not issue any passport to such person in Nigeria. Maybe he got it from another source but not here.”
The official also denied knowledge of seeing Turaki with President Campaore saying, “I cannot remember such name traveling with our President. I have been in this office for many years and I travel with the President most times and I know those who had traveled with him so I don’t think I have seen that name.”
Turaki was arraigned before a Federal High Court on July 24 by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for looting N33bn belonging to Jigawa State. He has since been granted bail.
As the bell tolls for Odili
Investigators from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) are interrogating Lucius Nwosu (SAN) over his involvement with the former Governor of Rivers State Peter Odili.
The commission’s team of investigators are interested in digging up information about the operations of two oil companies, Cleanwaters Consortium and Orandi Petroleum. Both corporate entities have featured in the commission’s investigations of Odili’s alleged money laundering activities.
Mr. B.O. Ezenwa, Odili's brother-in-law, is the Vice Chairman of Cleanwaters, a consortium supposedly made up of Cleanwaters Refinery and RIVGAS Petroleum and Energy Limited. During the Olusegun Obasanjo presidency, the consortium was allocated oil blocks OPL 289 and OPL 233 during the 2005 and 2006 mini-bids. The awards reveal rampant fraud in the system Obasanjo used to dispose oil block allocations.
For example, the Obasanjo government declared that it was giving oil blocks to investors interested in building refineries.
However, a Cleanwaters document obtained by Saharareporters shows that the refinery criterion was a smokescreen to bestow oil blocks on the former president’s political associates of which Chief Peter Odili is a major one.
After Peter Odili was allocated a second oil block through his phony consortium and refinery, he quickly cobbled together a RIVGAS Petroleum and Energy Limited headed and managed by Okey Ezenwa (his brother-in-law) and Lucius Nwosu (SAN). $10 million was promptly withdrawn from the coffers of Rivers State to pay the Signature Bonus.
They also put together a management team to fool foreign investors. Princewill Adowei, described by the consortium as the “Head of IT & Business Development,” admitted to our reporters that he has not been involved in the management of Cleanwaters Consortium after the company won the oil block. Mr. Adowei said he was given a nominal role as a "consultant" to the consortium.
Cleanwaters Consortium is the second oil company in which Odili has controlling interests. Prior to the oil block allocations to Cleanwaters, the former governor was also involved as a chief partner with Mr. Arumemi-Johnson in Orandi Petroleum.
Arumemi-Johnson was the major contractor to the Rivers State government in a power plant construction project that has become the biggest source of corruption in Rivers State.
In 2002, Peter Odili hijacked Orandi Petroleum from Arumemi-Johnson. Arumemi-Johnson has told close confidants that Odili’s takeover of Orandi was illegal, but that he could not do anything about it because Odili constantly blackmailed him with the power plant projects.
When Orandi Petroleum got foreign partners to pay $7 million as the Signature Bonus for OPL 320, Odili and his cronies allegedly embezzled the money and shoved Arumemi-Johnson aside.
According to our sources, both Okey Ezenwa and Lucius Nwosu (SAN) are confessing to their roles in running the two companies under EFCC investigation.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Before darkness falls
By Dr. Gary K. Busch
Things are far worse than the news reports coming out of Port Harcourt. At an important meeting of the leadership yesterday and this morning it has become very clear that the situation in Rivers State is already out of hand.
Soboma George may well be dead but Farah is still taking his anger out on his foes. There are already over forty dead in the fighting. The creeks are crowded with fighters from several groups and the sound of army helicopters and automatic firing is incessant. There is talk from Yar’Adua of declaring martial law in Rivers. The locals, especially the militants, have said this would be an act of war against the people of Rivers. They said, in the meeting, “You want to put some more Hausa boys in charge of our region again? Never. You will not get one drop of oil out again.”
They added, “We did the bunkering for you. We did this for the army boys and the politicians. You politicians gave us the ships; you gave us the guns. You kept the money but gave us guns. We stuffed the ballot boxes for you in that wuwuru election. Is this the gratitude for our work? You now come here to kill us, to shoot us down like dogs? We will tell the world what nasty business you all have been doing in the Niger Delta. The world will know!”
Others muttered about how Yar’Adua had not kept his promises. He had turned against Ibori; he turned against Odili; he left them nowhere to go. They put in Goodluck to look after the Ijaws and to keep them from joining up with the others, but the locals paid no attention to his efforts. The removal of the two GOCs in the area removed two of the key figures in the bunkering business and the field was open for a new constellation of power.
Everyone agreed that Yar’Adua had fooled them. He didn’t follow Obasanjo’s lead but stood on his own. He already has money; he’s not a well man; and he feels he is not beholden to the PDP’s rattling structure for his success. He may be the one thing everyone in the Niger Delta fears – an honest man.
There was much discussion of whether it wasn’t time for Nigeria to have a military ruler again, but the military leadership, with their new Yar’Adua promotions have little stomach for this. They don’t see a solution in martial law; they don’t see a solution in a coup; and they fear a continuation of the killing and gang warfare. Whatever the outcome, until Yar’Adua can come to some form of compromise with Ibori and Odili Nigerians will be walking ever closer to the abyss.
There are many who have looked over the edge and are afraid of what they see. What is sure is that substantial quantities of oil are being ‘locked in’ and production will decrease. On the other hand, with oil over $72 a barrel it probably doesn’t matter as much; so this is a good time to fight it out if they must. It may also put a temporary hold on bunkering for a while. Many more will die before this is settled.
Governor Alao Akala ineligible to hold office
Contrary to public declarations to the effect that the current Governor of Oyo State, Chief Bayo Alao Akala served the Nigeria Police Force until September 1995 meritoriously, a document obtained by Saharareporters has put a lie to the claim.
Bayo Alao who recently only acquired a new name, “Akala” to cover up his ugly past was compulsorily retired from the Nigeria Police Force after he was found guilty of gross misconduct by an Administrative Panel of Inquiry set up by the Nigeria Police Force in 1995. He was then recommended for dismissal for reasons that were not disclosed by the letter of sack obtained by Saharareporters.
However, interventions the former Inspector General of Police, Sunday Adewusi to whom, Bayo Alao once served as Personal Assistant had his dismissal reduced to compulsory retirement.
The letter for the compulsory retirement was signed by J.A Obe (mni) who was the Secretary of the Nigerian Police Service Council. The letter with reference number PSA/s/88/V.3/149 which was dated September 7th 1995 stated inter alia:
"In view of the serious act of misconduct against you from which you have not exonerated yourself, the Head of State and Commander-In- Chief of the Armed Forces, after due consultation and deliberation, and as the appropriate authority in this regard, and in accordance with the provisions of the public officers (Special Provision) Decree No. 17 of 1984 has decided to compulsorily retire you in public interest".
As soon as Bayo Alao “Akala” was compulsorily retired as a Chief Superintendent of Police, he ran to Chief Afe Babalola, the Ibadan-based eminent lawyer and attorney to former President Olusegun Obasanjo to help him appeal to the head of state to lighten his punishment. In 1995, Chief Afe Babalola wrote to Gen. Sani Abacha to ask for pardon on behalf of Bayo Alao-Akala. Abacha refused.
According to sources in the police force, CSP C.A Alao, as he was then known, was never pardoned for his misconducts, which makes him ineligible to hold public office.
In private conversations with people conversant with his status as a dismissed police officer, Akala claims that his misconduct was associated with his support for Chief M.K.O Abiola over the clamor for the revalidation of the June 12, 2003 presidential elections that was annulled by the military. This claim is also a huge lie. Information that could not be immediately ascertained points to the fact that the former police officer was found with weapons used by armed robbers, he was investigated found guilty and dismissed from the police force.
When Saharareporters contacted the current Inspector General of Police, Mike Okiro to release the documents relating to Bayo Alao's indictment to us he refused , instead he requested that we write to the police authorities requesting them to release the documents, something we know is impossible!
Saharareporters reached out to aides to Bayo Alao “Akala” to seek clarifications from him about his status. Mr. Diran Odeyemi who promised to check with Akala over the true situation of his retirement got back to us admitting that Bayo Alao was compulsorily retired from the police force for misconduct, when asked why his principal changed his last name after leaving the police, he said that it was necessary for political reasons, saying that “Akala” is the name of his big family compound in Ogbomoso.
Saharareporters also spoke to Chief Afe Babalola in London to confirm his involvement, he told Saharareporters to call him back at 8:00 PM London time to confirm if the letter of appeal sent to Abacha was written by him, according to him he had forgotten that he wrote such a letter.
We sent him a copy through his daughter’s e-mail as requested but he told us he didn’t get the e-mail when we called him the next day.
Click for Alao Akala's dismissal letter from the N.P.F (adobe)>
World Bank Hails New Naira Policy
The World Bank has broken its silence on the new Naira policy introduced last week by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). It hailed the policy and expressed its readiness to assist in its implication.
This is even as eminent Nigerian academics and economic experts continue to offer discordant opinions on what the new policy means for the nation's economy.
Mr. Isaac Aluko-Olokun, Dr. Osita Ogbu, Prof. Bolaji Aluko, Joshua Dogo and Tunde Odunlade were among those that examined the New Strategic For The Naira.
Acting Director of the World Bank in Nigeria, Ms. Sotirova Galina, who broached the Bank's offer, said on the telephone at the weekend that the intervention would, however, be dependent on Nigeria's request.
She said Nigeria was yet to inform the Institution officially about the new policy, which, she described, simply as a re-denomination of the Naira currency as opposed to the impression that the Naira had been revalued.
"The World Bank supports the new policy, which is simply a re-denomination of the Naira as against what some Nigerians think is a re-valuation of the currency. It's a good policy undertaken by several countries, which has recorded huge successes as can be seen in their growth," she said.
"However, the World Bank has not been briefed by the Nigerian Government officials about the new policy. We have only read it in the papers. If the Nigerian Government approaches us for intervention in the new policy's implementation, the Bank will be glad to assist.
"This is particularly so in the Bank's resolve to partner and support the new administration of President Yar'Adua in the implementation of his seven-point development agenda, she said.
She disclosed that some experts from the Bank's headquarters in Washington are due in Nigeria this week, to begin discussion with the new Government on support and partnership and might just be on time to advise Nigeria on the new policy.
If ever there was proof that this is an ill wind, it shows in the World bank's undue interest and premature willingness in supporting it.
Happy birthday Madam Speaker, indeed!
Mrs. Patricia Olubunmi Etteh, the 54 -year old hairdresser turned Speaker of Nigeria’s lower House of Assembly is set to celebrate her birthday in style tonight in Bowie, Maryland. The event which was shifted from Thursday till later tonight will commence at 6 P.M at a huge garden of a mansion belonging to a family member in Bowie, Maryland barring last minute change of mind.
This grand event will involve several members of the lower house of representatives who have already relocated to the US for the purpose of the party. The birthday bash is expected to cost Nigerian taxpayers close to $90,000 according to sources in the know of the magnitude of preparations for the event.
Saharareporters could not confirm the exact location of the event as the time of going to press, but our sources said there are already 12 aides to the Speaker on ground to assist her with chaperoning guests around the huge mansion where the event will be taking place in Maryland. These include her Chief of Staff, Special Adviser on Special Duties and the Special Assistant on Media amongst others.
The latest development puts a lie to the press statements issued yesterday by other leaders of the lower house that the 54 year old speaker was currently in the US for medical checkup. There is no truth in that assertion. The speaker arrived to the US on Wednesday evening on a flight from London in preparation for the big bash.
The event is wholly planned by the Chairman, House Committee on Appropriations, Honorable Festus Adegoke. The lawmaker who is almost ten years younger than the Speaker, is known to have dated the speaker for close to four years. They are both married with two kids according to their profile on the website of the National Assembly.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
US Food aid is wrecking Africa
Critics of US food aid subsidies say they help cause obesity among Americans and starvation among Africans.
Now Care, one of the world's biggest charities, has announced that it will boycott the controversial policy of selling tons of heavily subsidised US produced food in African countries. Care wants the US government to send money to buy food locally, rather than unwanted US produced food.
The US arm of the charity says America is causing rather than reducing hunger with a decree that US food aid must be sold rather than directly distributed to those facing starvation. In America, the subsidies for corn in particular, help underpin the junk food industry, which uses corn extracts as a sweetener, creating a home-grown a health crisis.
The farm lobby meanwhile has a stranglehold on Congress, which has balked at making any changes that would interfere with a system that promotes overproduction of commodities.
Critics of the policy say it also undermines African farmers' ability to produce food, making the most vulnerable countries of the world even more dependent on aid to avert famine.
Under the system Washington buys tens of millions of dollars of surplus corn and other products from agribusiness. The food, which can only be exported on US flagged ships, is then sold by charities to raise money to pay for emergencies.
Globally, about 800 million are chronically hungry and the number is rising every year. US farmers love the present system, but it is slow and unresponsive when there are food emergencies.
Care has caused a huge upset in the American charitable sector by deciding to phase out the practice. It has also upset US agribusiness and shipping interests, which benefit to the tune of some $180m a year from the practice.
After two weeks of sustained violence which led to the death of several persons and the destruction of property worth billions of naira, the Rivers State Government on Friday imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in the state.
This is even as President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua on Friday ordered the Defence Headquarters to make sure that peace is restored to the troubled Niger Delta region without further delay.
The crisis, which led to the deployment of troops in streets in Port Harcourt, had compelled some residents to flee the city while others have been holed inside their houses. While street fighting subsided early in the week, the suspected killing of one of the militant leaders, Mr. Soboma George, during an armed confrontation with troops on Thursday morning led to the escalation of crisis in the state. Residents of the affected areas have since fled their homes, while public and private institutions as well as business centres in the area have remained shut. But the Commissioner for Information in the state, Mr. Emma Okah, who announced the imposition of the curfew, said that it would take effect from 7pm to 6am daily with effect from Friday.
Governor Celestine Omehia of Rivers State yesterday (Saturday August 18, 2007) announced what amounted to a subtle proclamation of emergency rule in the state when he said soldiers would be on Port Harcourt streets for the next six months.
Omehia made the announcement after a security meeting he attended with Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Owoeye Azazi, Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Luka Yusuf, Acting Inspector General of Police, Mike Okiro and other top security chiefs.
Others who attended the meeting included the Chief Logistics Officer of the Air force, the Flag Officer Commanding the Eastern Naval Command, Rear Admiral Bodurin Raji and the Director of State Security Services in the State among others.
Azazi after meeting with Omehia referred newsmen to the Governor and insisted that he would only talk during his next visit to the State. The defence chief however said his primary concern was the return of peace to the troubled State.
Omehia who tried to shy away from the probing questions on the situation in Port Harcourt later caved in and said the decision to maintain heavy military presence in the state capital was to consolidate the return of peace to the city and to ensure that there was no relapse into the chaotic situation in which cultists practically took over control of the state.
He said for a long time, the government had used carrot and stick method to deal with the militants but it has now discovered that the boys were taking the carrot and still resorting to crime, hence the resolve to apply the stick as the final solution.
Friday, August 17, 2007
I once argued in a column that the tragedy of Obasanjo’s presidency was not its incompetence. It would be easy to forgive a merely incompetent president. The tragedy lay in the man’s decision to lend himself, and the considerable prestige as well as resources of the presidency, to awful forces (the Uba brothers and Adedibu) and malignant policies (incessant fuel price hikes, a selective—and hypocritical—crusade against corruption, neglect of the nation’s terrible roads, commitment to the emasculation of the National Assembly, his unmonitored (mis)management of the oil sector and the NNPC, disdain for the judiciary, and an abject failure, after squandering hundreds of billions and making misleading promises, to improve the nation’s power supply).
Yar’Adua has so far avoided some of the snares and pitfalls of that preceding dispensation. Still, he is surrounded by many of the same forces who made Nigeria a hellish address. In fact, he is a product of those forces. As a man thrown up by an irredeemably errant process, he won’t ever be able to shake off the stamp of illegitimacy. That is why, for all his promising moves, one still hopes that the courts would do the right thing by ordering fresh polls. But as long as Yar’Adua occupies the office of president, it would pay him to remember that the right compass of action and deportment is the one that points away from Obasanjo’s tracks.
Read full text here
Chevron is liable for Murder
In a landmark development which could open the door for a flood of lawsuits against oil companies operating in the country, Chevron Nigeria Ltd is to stand trial later this year in the United States for the alleged murder of villagers in the Niger Delta region in two separate incidents in 1998 and 1999.
In a series of ruling issued yesterday, the United States (US) District Court Judge in San Francisco, Susan Illston, ruled that Chevron was directly involved in the alleged attacks by acting in consonance with Nigerian government security forces, paving the way for a trial which the company had made spirited attempts to avoid for eight years.
The lawsuit was brought against Chevron eight years ago in San Francisco Federal Court by nine Nigerian plaintiffs for alleged deaths and other abuses in the two incidents in 1998 and 1999. The plaintiffs assert claims ranging from torture to wrongful death.
According to information made available to THISDAY, Judge Illston “found evidence that CNL [Chevron Nigeria Limited] personnel were directly involved in the attacks; CNL transported the GSF [Nigerian government security forces], CNL paid the GSF; and CNL knew that GSF were prone to use excessive force.”
The report alleged that the crime occurred when the Nigerian Military and Police were paid by Chevron to shoot and torture protesters opposed to the company’s activities in the troubled region. Chevron helicopters and boats were used by the security forces, resulting in torture and wrongful death, it further alleged.
The said evidence, the Judge said, will allow a jury to find that Chevron knew the attacks would happen and supported the military’s plan.
“We're pleased that our clients will finally get justice for Chevron's crimes," said the plaintiffs' counsel Theresa Traber, partner at Traber & Voorhees.
Continuing, she said, "Chevron conspired with and paid the notorious Nigerian military to attack our clients and their loved ones, murdering at least seven people, torturing others and burning two villages to the ground. The court correctly refused to let narrow legalistic excuses allow Chevron to escape responsibility for these brutal attacks."
In his statement, the Litigation Co-ordinator for EarthRights International, Rick Herz said that "the court's ruling reaffirmed that corporations who are complicit in human rights abuses can be held accountable, regardless of where those abuses occur."
Asked to comment on how a case involving a huge and powerful multinational like Chevron would play out, the Legal Director of EarthsRights International told THISDAY in Washington DC that “Chevron has very expensive legal counsel, there’s no doubt about that. But they’ve been trying for eight years now to dismiss this case and they failed. So their expensive lawyers so far have not been able to get them off, to avoid accountability for their action and at this point it’s going to be a jury that decides Chevron’s faith. And all of Chevron’s money and power won’t necessarily have much impact on a jury.”
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Why Chigbue's backside still awaits the bootstamp
Saharareporters has unearthed the main reason why Mrs. Irene Chigbue retained her job at the BPE, at least in the meantime.
Following widespread condemnation of her handling of the sale of the Port Harcourt and Kaduna refineries under shady circumstances, Mrs. Irene Chigbue was penciled for removal by Umar Yar’adua in order to give the BPE a new leadership.
However, Chief James Ibori’s former commissioner for finance was nominated to replace her, everything was set for the announcement until it was discovered at the eleventh hour that David Edevbie was under investigation by the Metropolitan Police in London for money laundering.
The former finance commissioner of Delta State was fingered in the ongoing investigations of Chief James Onafefe Ibori, the former governor of Delta State whose worldwide assets have been frozen by the Southwark Crown Court in London, on the prompting of the Metropolitan Police.
Sources told Saharareporters that James Ibori had calculated on acquiring public assets with monies looted from the Delta State treasury, if David Edevbie had made the appointment as the Director General of the BPE.
But please, someone do tell, what's all this stuff with Ibori appointees? Who is actually running the Nigerian presidency, Yar'Adua or Ibori for God's sake?
Monday, August 13, 2007
'Bombed': Nigeria's President Yar'Adua
What appears a bombshell exploded on President Umaru Yar’Adua at the weekend, with fresh revelation that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) fleeced the nation of a whooping N555 billion between December 2004 and April this year.
Chairman, Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), Mr Hamman Tukur, who made the shocking disclosure during a courtesy call on the President at the Aso Rock Villa in Abuja, said the nation may have lost the huge sum from its federation account, due to lack of transparency and accountability which bedevilled the computation, procedure of payment and stakeholders involved with the fuel subsidy.
The report is coming on the heels of an expose in which top officials of the corporation, allegedly milked the nation’s cash cow of another N502 billion through various frauds including producing crude oil far in excess of assigned Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) quota and converting the proceeds to political electioneering and selfish ends.
Some two billion dollars were also said to have been diverted between United Kingdom and Bermuda in certain shady deals involving Nigerian officials.
Worsening the picture of the rot in the oil sector, the United States Justice Department also recently claimed that the US oil services company, Wilbros, bribed officials of the NNPC, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Nigerian government millions of dollars in a bid to secure the $387 million Eastern Gas Gathering System project.
Funsho Kupolokun, until last Thursday the Group Managing Director of the corporation was sacked and replaced with Abubakar Yar’Adua, by the President on Friday.
There are speculations that Kupolokun could come under probe by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for sundry allegations of misdeeds, including award of contract to an oil firm in which he had interest.
But alarmed at the magnitude of the emerging sleaze, eminent Nigerians and groups have called for a full-scale audit of the corporation and probe of the alleged scams.
The opposition Action Congress (AC) in a statement issued in Abuja on Sunday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the handling of the allegations would be a litmus test for the Yar’Adua administration in its avowed commitment to the fight against corruption.
But former Petroleum Resources Minister, Professor Tam David-West, reacting to reports that the EFCC may go after Kupolokun for the wrong-doings at NNPC, said former President Olusegun Obasanjo should be arrested alongside the ex-GMD to answer questions on the mess in the oil ministry for the eight years he was the Petroleum Resources Minister.
His contention is that Obasanjo could not plead ignorance of the deals at the NNPC, which, he says, is coterminous with the oil ministry.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
Nigeria's Attorney-General on rogue Governors
Indications have emerged that some former governors accused of gross abuse of office allegedly hid their loot underground.
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EFCC Boss, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu
The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Michael Aondoakaa (SAN), gave the hint in an exclusive interview with Sunday Punch in Abuja two weeks ago in his office.
Though he did not give further details on the public officers involved and the specific location of their loot, he said the Federal Government was exploring all necessary and legitimate means to retrieve looted funds.
Aondoakaa marvelled at the alleged antics adopted by some former public officers in trying to shield their loot from the prying eyes of EFCC operatives.
He explained that every corrupt former public official, including ex-governors, would have to defend himself or herself over the charges against them.
He said, ”This is ongoing; if we arraign someone on specific charges at one time, that does not mean that we cannot press other charges with further evidence. Do you know how these people hide the money? Sometimes, it‘s even in places where we cannot even reach. It‘s only when people like you give us information.
“Assuming that we discover now that there are other assets somewhere, new charges will arise. We are pursuing an ongoing process; these are the most difficult sets of people when it comes to the hiding of money. Do you know that some of their money is hidden underground? If we discover such, we will go there.”
He allayed public fears over the issue of plea bargaining, saying the government would not compromise on its decision to recover all looted funds.
He said the government took account of national interest in adopting the necessary legal and constitutional strategies in the current battle to recover such funds.
He said, “You have to look at the national interest. In prosecution, the role of the law for the attorney general is to carry out prosecution in the public interest. Sometimes, this public interest could be on the issue of security or other matters. We do not discuss security issues on the pages of newspapers. If you look at Section 174 of the constitution, the EFCC is prosecuting as an agent of the Attorney-General of the Federation and anything it does is on the directions of the Attorney-General. If the EFCC goes outside the Attorney-General‘s directives, they will be cautioned. The Attorney-General has the power to take over the prosecution of cases.
“Things have to be done in the public interest. Take for instance, if we discover a governor with about $30m in an account, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, who has been doing a good job, goes to the man and, says, ‘look, this is what we found.’ The man shows remorse and says, ‘sorry sir, it‘s the devil’s work,’ and thereafter, brings back the money without stress.
”We are going to use that money in the public interest. We will now consider his case in the public interest and give him what we feel will be in public interest. However, if a former governor says no, he will not refund the money; I will still have to take from the taxpayers‘ money to pursue him,” he said.
When asked if it was enough for a corrupt former governor to forfeit a fraction of his loot and regain his freedom, the minister said that was not the case under the ongoing war against corruption.
“What I can assure you is that in all this (plea bargaining) process, we are abiding by the provisions of the constitution. I believe that you should commend this office and the EFCC. All the people that we have taken to court got there within 48 hours (of being charged). They were given opportunities and they even had their supporters there.
“It was like a political jamboree, which ordinarily I would not have allowed. But we felt we should give them that opportunity and let nobody say that we stopped anybody. Their supporters were in court, even shouting as if nothing happened. But we felt that this is a civilised country, let them have free access.”
This Day replies Sowore
Dear Mr Sowore,
Again, you publish false reports against me without even attempting to get your facts right as you have all my contacts.
You are wrong. I do not do anyone's bidding: I have never, will never collect funds from James Ibori or anyone for that matter to influence , covertly or overtly, publications in any media. Throughout the eight years Ibori was governor, I never participated in or secured any contracts from Ibori or his government beyond the normal placement of advertisements in THISDAY newspapers which is a right of all. Aside from being a proud citizen of Delta origin and a friend of the former governor, am not a financial beneficiary of his government, and have never been. And their is no journalist who can say I tried to influence him/her one way or the other to publish any stories on Ibori. If you have any shred of evidence, bring it on!
And you are again wrong when you repeat your lies in SAHARA REPORTS
that I collected N3.2billion to assist Presidenrt Yar'Adua for his elections in the media. As I said before and I repeat now, I have never collected any funds from Yar'Adua or the PDP for any matter whatsoever, howsoever. AND I have never spoken to any journalist to influence publications,one way or the other, on PDP,Yar'Adua or any political party. If you have any shred of evidence, bring it on!
When you consistently and maliciously publish falsehood against me, you leave me with no option than to seek legal redress. I had reconsidered this line of action because I felt (that despite of the defamation), you were a young man whose journalism should not be silenced given my own career starting up a major news magazine with 300 staff members at age 26 against all odds.
But when you continue to fabricate stories against me and now expand your lies to THISDAY operations in South Africa we will take every legal step to protect ourselves as I am not, and have never been wanted, "sought" or even questioned by SA authorities. AND for what???
For legitimately investing in their country and creating jobs? The last time I was in SA I was a guest of, and had a meeting with President Thabo Mbeki in Cape Town last year. That certainly is not a privilege given to fugitives from the law.
Futhermore, THISDAY does not owe any pensions to any staff or authorities in SA as we reached settlement with all when we elected, on our own, to suspend the publication following an unfavourable business climate in 2004. We owe no banks in SA or your so called "15 investors" which may exist only in your imagination.
Your cocktail of lies and falsehood will not stand. You are advised to retract them immediately. You earn respect by truthful, courageous journalism, not by lies and fabrications as we have been consistently commended by EFCC for standing up on the side of truth and probity.
When EFCC is wrong, we say so and when they do well we commend them so what's our business intervening for or against EFCC through your imaginary "close-knit" Kitchen cabinet?
Finally, it's a matter of public record that since 1995, staff of THISDAY have been invited by government's at all levels and across political parties to hold public appointments. This will not be the first or last. We believe journalist have a role in public service and will continue to release our journalists for service, whether you like it or not.
And you know what? It's a vote of major confidence in our robust journalism that governments at all levels continue to look to us for critical technocrats in the service of Nigeria.
The ball is now in your court, Mr Sowore, the man says bring it on!
I have just received the following comments to this post and I found it as alarming as it was revealing. It was irresistible for me not to share same with the reading public. I cannot vouch for the author as it was posted anonymously or do same for its truthfulness or otherwise neither does it represent our personal views on the matter.
Let me tell you, I live in South Africa and we know Nduka here. Since the man ran into financial troubles with his 'show boy' newspaper investment here, he has been running from pillar to post looking for financial succour. It is a well known fact that he was working Ibori for financial gains during his tenure as governor and when Ibori ran into trouble with EFCC it presented the perfect opportunity for him to exploit that situation. He knew Ibori had become a raging bull approaching the china shop when his assets were frozen by London court and today that thief has spent nothing less than 750 million naira in trying to pull EFCC down. The escalating militant crisis in Portharcourt, Rivers state is the doing of Ibori and Odili in their mad bid to destabilize the Delta region and whip Yar'Adua into line. Billions of naira belonging and stolen from my people is now being applied to make the Delta region ungovernable and they are there trying to frame Rotimi Amaechi who is not on the ground. These people are mad men!
Back to Nduka. He is telling us he met with Mr Mbeki in Cape town last year, is the seat of the South African govt in Cape town? What was he doing with Mbeki in Cape town? Were they avoiding prying eyes or was he at his usual trade of supplying women of quick and easy virtue to South African top govt officials, he should tell us. He is saying he did not owe anybody, so what was he settling in South Africa? When you say you reached settlement it means there are aggreived parties and the settler is the appeaser.
Nduka is a really bad boy. It has always been his way to play two parties against each other. He did it against Babangida and Dele Giwa, supplying false information and back biting Dele, it has always been his style. And then after all that, money suddenly appears for him to set up news magazine when he was 26 years old, Nduka where did you get the blood money from? You should have just shut up your mouth because people will expose you very soon. It is a known fact that even before 1995, as he claimed, that he was always hustling govt. He is the one that lobbies to secure appointment for his moles to get political and government appointments so that he can get blackmail information to use. He is a spy, and a very dangerous one, and if he has been meeting with Mbeki secretly in Cape town then he has must have been passing sensitive information to the South Africans, there is no doubt about this in my mind. He is as useless as Ibori but from another angle. We Deltans know ourselves and Nduka is one person I happen to know very well.