Monday, July 30, 2007

Randy Fanny Kayode; the awesome thief

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Randy Fanny Kayode; the awesome thief

The hand of the freedom clock is ticking for one time Aviation Minister, Femi Fani-Kayode over allegations of how he diverted into private account about N11 Billion Intervention Funds meant to salvage the troubled Nigerian Aviation industry.

There is also another nagging albatross of N19 Billion Tourism and Culture Ministry money that Fani-Kayode is now been accused of having squandered.

Fani-Kayode was appointed to run the Aviation Ministry following successive air mishaps within the Nigerian air space during the tenure of his predecessor, Professor Abraham Babalola Borishade. To make his job easy as back-up mechanism for expected reforms that would safeguard the sector, the Obasanjo’s administration was said to have appropriated and released a total sum of N11 Billion to his once trusted and fanatical political god-son.

Barely two months after handing over as the political head of the ministry, many people are now wondering whether the former minister could be described as a “patriot or a saboteur” concerning how he handled and hurriedly dispensed the said money.

Sources told that the ex-minister acted contrary to “informed advice” said to have been generously made available to him by core stake holders within the Nigerian Aviation industry.

He was said to have convened the meeting of his inner caucus whom he directed to made lodgment of the huge amount of money into specific account numbers which he provided. A number of the bureaucrats and account personnel in the ministry was said to have raised reasonable objection which Fani-Kayode abrasively brushed aside.

It was alleged that he decided to be selective in implementing and funding recommended reforms in the ministry. He adopted “footsy attitude” not because there was no money to implement the reforms but “because there was hidden agenda to fool around with tax payers money.” learnt that the ex-minister may have been speculating and expecting interest on the various lodgments while slowing down the various programs of the ministry. He was said to have run into serious opposition with the technocrats who always criticized his unorthodox approach and day-to-day strategy and tactics. Overtime he was said to have moved back some of the money into the official account of the ministry. When eventually he decide to return the rest of the money, serious short falls became obvious.

Although an outline of all the crimes allegedly committed by Fani-Kayode while in the Aviation Ministry has now been penned and put on the table for EFCC in Abuja, the ex-minister is said to be saying it loud that he ran an impressive tenure while in the ministry.

Fani-Kayode is said to be a man now in the cold. Ex-president Obasanjo is said to have parted ways with him over his failure to award Aviation contracts to Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello (senator and first daughter of ex-president Obasanjo). It was said that the ex-minister could not provide very sound justification for denying Iyabo the said contract which in turn was said to have made Obasanjo to see him as a “spiteful character.” findings showed that Fani Kayode might have had a “personal interest” in the said contentious contract.

Obasanjo also said to have received very disturbing intelligence reports on the escapades of Fani-Kayode while he served as both Tourism and Aviation Minister. He was alleged to have stolen quite some substantial amount of money in both ministries. Obasanjo was said to have simply become disenchanted with his stylish and systematic way of “stealing from the public treasury.”

Fani- Kayode recently in a bid to be renamed as minister in the new Umaru Yar’Adua’s Government failed for two reasons. It was said that Yar’Adua was determined not to have somebody that would simply be an image liability on his administration going by the exclusive reports run by on the money laundering activities perpetuated by Fani-Kayode in association with one of his lovers who also doubled as a Special Assistant, one Chioma Anasoh, and Folake St. Mathew Daniel.

Secondly, Yar’ Adua was said to have been disturbed that Fani-Kayode could shepherd two human money couriers into an international flight without going through proper security clearance.

The ex-minister was also contending with an immoral issue: That of having an affair with the house maid of Mr. Akin Osuntokun, former Special Adviser on Communication, whom he was alleged to have impregnated and sponsored for an abortion. The poor house maid was later fired from her job.

We lost a whole generation of kids coming home for Christmas from school, we lost our most Reverred Sultan of Sokoto of blessed memory (peace be upon him), several government officials, business magnates including but not limited to the late John "Bolingo" Igwe and countless others, all due to faulty aircrafts and delapidated airports while some idiot was busy humping his soul away and getting domestic helps pregnant. Robbing us blind and adding to the worsening state of our insecurity and air safety. Woe betide you, Fani Kayode!

The houses Jigawa State's I.2 billion Naira bought for Andy Uba

Click here to enlarge photo (House 1)

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The houses Jigawa State's 1.2 billion Naira bought for Andy Uba

Mr. Andy Uba is again in the news. He recently acquired a piece of property worth N1.2 Billion from the proceeds of the truncated third-term bid of ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo.

It is now an open page available for everybody to read that the scandalous money voted for the failed third term bid drove a wedge within the People’s Democratic Party, PDP.

The last time former Jigawa State Governor, Saminu Turaki spilled, he alleged that he took N10 billion from his State coffers and diverted same to the Obasanjo’s third term campaign.

Central to the whole scandal is a well-known name and personality, disgraced two-weeks Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Andy Uba. According to investigations, when Turaki took the money from the coffers of Jigawa State in 2006, following alleged directives from former President Obasanjo he passed the money on to the third term campaign purse managed by Uba, Senator Ifeanyi Ararume, and Senator Florence Ita-Giwa, Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters.

Thus a whooping N10 Billion illegally stolen from the Nigerian tax payers was arbitrarily shared between Uba, Ita-Giwa and Ararume. Ita-Giwa and Ararume were given the task of “taking care” of the Senate which was purportedly divided into two groups. While Ita-Giwa expressly delivered by making sure that the money she was given actually got to the designated senators, there was a lingering suspicion as to whether Ararume did delivered the whole package entrusted into his care to the appropriate individuals in the Senate. That doubt was further reinforced by the appalling manner in which the senate thwarted the unconstitutional dream.

On the other hand, Mr. Uba was assigned the duty of “taking care” of a cross section of natural rulers and other opposing civil society groups. He allegedly delivered a pittance which many of the beneficiaries saw as an “unmitigated insult.” He was said to have pocketed a larger chunk of the third term lobby fund which he allegedly deposited in an account with Oceanic Bank. The proceeds that he kept for himself would surface on a private estate which he was said to have been obsessed with for a long time. The estate is said to be located somewhere on Logona Crescent around Erie Street, off Nile Street, Maitama, Abuja. It is built on top of a hill known as Minister’s Hill. Uba bought the estate for N1.2 Billion paid for in one lump sum.

House 2 on the hill

Crafty as ever, Uba did not leave any easy footprint in the sand concerning the way the transaction was carried out. The property originally belonged to a company known as A Group. Knowing that if he approached the company directly, a future inquest could possibly put him behind the slammer, he decided to make the purchase through the Oceanic Bank where he owns a sizeable amount of shares. Oceanic Bank pretending to be exercising its business outreach through homes and property acquisition was alleged to have fronted for Uba in the purchase of the property.

Oceanic Bank shares a dubious reputation with Zenith Bank, UBA and others in handling and dispensing funds for the ill-fated Obasanjo’s third term campaign. They have also been fingered as possible accomplices used by Nigerian politicians for money laundering runs.

Andy Uba is said to be eminently close to Cecilia Ibru, the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Oceanic Bank. Analyst suggest it is one nexus that must be probed concerning how a reputable bank such as Oceanic could be easily moved by one individual for unscrupulous transactions.

Also the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, EFCC, in Nigeria continuous to receive a barrage of petitions and information on how Obasanjo and Uba cunningly acted in concert to pull the wool over Nigerians in their insatiable efforts to amass unquantifiable sums of money. Uba recently recounted what he was once quoted to have declared, that he was worth N1.7 Trillion. Once humiliated and removed as Governor of Anambra State by the Supreme Court in Nigeria, he claimed that he was misquoted. His understandable denial notwithstanding, the alleged asset declaration document which he was said to have signed and submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau continues to fly around and feature in public discussions on the street of Abuja.

Nigerians remain patient on the possibility of having former President Obasanjo face possible indictment on allegations of graft, corruption and illegal take-over of public properties by way of under-pricing and doctored manipulated auctions. The wait is going to be a very long one because since leaving office in May, he has assumed responsibilities as the chairman of the board of trustees of the PDP. He is said to be protected as the “Patron Saint” of the acclaimed largest political party in Africa. Obasanjo also enjoys unimaginable protection as the god-father of the incumbent President, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. Finally, it is said that there is an unannounced new code of cooperation within the court of power in Nigeria that no surviving past leader of the nation would ever be made to face trial for any breach of the law.

However, several civil society groups and individuals are lining up to put shame to such myth. One such organization is the Conference of Nigerian Political Party, CNPP, whose spokesperson, Osita Okechukwu told that “we are actually taking up the issue of Obasanjo to the EFCC next week. Our petition is almost ready and would be made available to the EFCC by next week. We are looking at Obasanjo as the enemy of the EFCC. He has committed evil against Nigeria.”

Efforts to get the reactions of Uba did not succeed as his Media Assistant, Chuks Akunna, claimed he was having poor network connection.

Bloody lies; Abia State Government

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Reacting to media reports in the past one week that Dr Kalu’s statement to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) indicted him, Governor Orji, through a press statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Ukoha Kalu, accused the newspapers which published the report of fabricating falsehood. He said that the former governor could not have made such statement.

The statement reads: “The attention of the Abia State Government, particularly that of the Governor, Chief Theodore Ahamefule Orji has been drawn to several media reports with particular reference to the one carried in the Vanguard, Friday, July 27, 2007, where it promoted as riders to the lead story: “Alamieyeseigha convicted, Nnamani charged” that Kalu “fingers Governor Orji in N2.6bn fraud.”

“It is very doubtful whether such a statement at all would have been made by the former governor, Dr Orji Uzor Kalu. What the authors of the statement want to achieve is to create confusion within the circles of the former governor and the incumbent.
To set the records straight, the incumbent governor of Abia State, Chief Orji was indeed the Chief of Staff during the time the former governor, Dr Uzor Kalu was in office. The office of the Chief of Staff (COS) is by no means the equivalent of the office of the Accountant General of the state or the Ministry of Finance.

The schedule of the COS office is clearly spelt out and does not include the general disbursement of monies accruable to the state. Money that the office of the COS disburses is approved and the mode of disbursement is contained in the former COS statement with the EFCC, a statement that the former COS stands by today and tomorrow.

The government states that the report is calculatedly false and mendacious and is seen to have been written to breed suspicion and disaffection between the affected parties. The Government condemns the alarming resort to falsification of reports, especially when they are credited to people who can easily be reached to get confirmation or otherwise of such reports. The government respects the rule of law and will not bring itself to comment on an issue that is already in court.”

You really must speak for yourself, Mr Governor. Reading between the lines, it is actually Uzor that you have called a liar and no-one else. You have simply said that if it is true that anyone (Uzor inclusive) said such stuff, they are bloody liars. Having declared that you stand by your confessionals to EFCC, today and tomorrow, it becomes clear that your concerns are not for newspaper commentaries but to send a clear message to Uzor that you are not about to be his fall guy this time around... once bitten, twice shy, I may add.

Niger Delta crisis; FG woos Alamieyeseigha

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Niger Delta Crisis; FG woos Alamieyeseigha

Following his release from prison at the weekend, the Federal Government is set to engage former governor of Bayelsa State, DSP Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, in its peace moves in the restive Niger Delta, THISDAY has learnt.
The Federal Government, it was gathered, entered into negotiations with the former governor to provide a soft landing for him because it realised that he was one of those that held the ace to the final resolution of the Niger Delta crisis.
�It was part of the deal. Government would negotiate with him and secure freedom for him so he can be part of moves to resolve the crisis. Government knows Alamieyeseigha is very crucial to the resolution of the problems in the Niger Delta,� said a source in Abuja.
The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta (MEND) and other militant groups in the area had earlier listed the release of the former governor as one of the conditions for peace in the area.
THISDAY also learnt that the British authorities had earlier advised the Federal Government to involve the former governor if it was serious about achieving a lasting peace in the region.
Alamieyeseigha is expected to work hand-in-hand with the Vice President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, who has made the resolution of the Niger Delta crisis his major task and has relocated to Yenagoa, Bayelsa State capital for the assignment.
The vice president had met his former boss in Lagos two weeks ago where the deal to negotiate freedom for the former governor was struck.
Last Thursday, the former Federal High Court in Abuja presided over by Justice Muhammed Shuaib, handed down a two-year jail term on each of the six-count charges.
But the terms were to run concurrently from the day of his first arrest on December 9, 2005.
Alamieyeseigha was, however, released by the prison authorities last Friday and was said to have moved into his residence at Reverend Akinbiyi Road, Government Reservation Area (GRA), Ikeja, Lagos.

Ha! After all that hell? This would lend credence to the speculation that his wife and daughter are indeed being held hostage by British authorities

The case against Alamieyeseigha

Mr VP Nigeria won't declare his assets publicly

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Mr VP Nigeria won't declare his assets publicly

Vice President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State said he would not make public the details of his assets which he filed with the Code of Conduct Bureau as required by the constitution.
Jonathan’s position is a sharp contrast to the decision of his principal, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua who last month published the contents of his assets declaration form. The President had stated that he is worth N850 million in cash, stock and other types of property.

Speaking at an interactive session with newsmen, the Vice President said “people are calling on me to go and publish my Code of Conduct declaration. I have five declaration of assets at the Code of Conduct Bureau. If the law says so I will, but if it does not I will not.
"I have declared my assets five times between 1999 and this year. Anybody who doubts that can cross-check at the relevant places." He said the "spurious" allegations against him in the media were politically motivated and that he is ready for any scrutiny on his 16-month tenure as Bayelsa State governor.
Section 185 of the 1999 Constitution states: " A person elected to the office of the governor of a state shall not begin to perform the functions of the office until he has declared his assets and liabilities as prescribed in this constitution and subsequently in the Seventh Schedule to the constitution…"

Although there is no provision in the constitution that places a mandate on public officials to declare their assets and liabilities to the public, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua as governor of Katsina State in 1999, publicly declared his assets and repeated the same exercise in 2003 upon re-election.
Shortly after being sworn in as president in May 29, he again made public his assets totalling well above N800 million. Yar’Adua was followed by Governor Gbenga Daniel of Ogun State, who made public his assets of well over N3 billion as well as former Zamfara State governor now senator, Ahmed Sani Yerima.
Jonathan also said he cannot declare how much the assets and liability he left behind in the state as he is no longer the state governor and that there are so much on-going projects that would make it difficult to categorically state the exact amount the state has in its coffers at any given time.

The Vice President lamented the pull-him-down syndrome prevalent in the state and added that such attitude should stop in order for the state to move forward.
I am not afraid to apologise if I do anything wrong," he said. He urged the media to refrain from speculations in view of its role in shaping lives and opinions. According to him, his administration in Bayelsa made solid investments for the future development of the state.
"I acknowledge that the state had its share of liabilities; that was why I cancelled some approvals on realising that our finances were going down," Jonathan said. On the attack on his personal residence some months ago, Jonathan said his major loss were his school certificates.
The vice president added: "There was no money in whatever form, whether domestic or foreign that was stolen during that attack on my residence. I challenge anybody with contrary version of what I said on that attack on my residence to prove it."
He solicited the cooperation of all Bayelsa people and urged them to work for the progress of the state.
He said he is not afraid of petitions from any quarter, saying he has a large number of petition filed against him already and most of them lack substance.

Coming to the defense of the Vice president in the area of assets left behind for his administration, Governor Timipre Sylva disclosed that the Jonathan administration left over N20 billion in investment through the Ministry of Finance Incorporated (MOFI) for his government.
Sylva who like Jonathan did not say exactly how much in cash or debt the Jonathan government left agreed with the Vice President that government is a continuum and as such whatever assets and liability left by the previous administration is inherited by the in-coming one.

... but Nigeria's legal luminaries think not

Femi Falana, President, West African Bar Association

Goodluck Jonathan reportedly said public declaration of assets by public officers was voluntary and therefore, he would not make his assets and liabilities public.

Reacting to the statement, a leading legal practitioner, Chief J. B. Daudu (SAN) queried: “Morally, is he not bound to follow suit to show transparency? If voluntary declaration is an example of openness of transparency that the president set a very good example, being a vice president, he has no choice in the matter.

He should have followed a good example of the president. By his stance he must have something to hide. It is unfortunate, let’s hope we won’t have another Atiku,” he added.

Also speaking, the President of the West African Bar Association (WABA), Mr Femi Falana, explained that the vice president and other public office holders are not only morally bound to declare their assets publicly, they have a legal obligation to declare their assets publicly to the people.
“Public declaration of assets for public office holders is not just a moral question, it is, in fact, a legal obligation, which they must discharged just as the president has demonstrated by example.

“The legal implication is to the effect that the word declaration came from the Latin word declario, which simply means ‘to make public’ or ‘announce publicly.’ So it is both morally and legally incumbent on the affected public office holders to make known publicly their assets to the people. Do you declare something and still keep it secret? No. Public assets declaration is an essential ingredients of democracy,” Falana said.

Also kicking against the pronouncement, another notable lawyer, Ebun Adegboruwa, who said he was surprised at the statement.
“I think that since the vice president knew that it was part of the campaign policy of the president to openly declare his asset, it is wrong for the vice president to now make a U-turn that he would not declare his assets publicly, contrary to what they promised the electorate. He cannot, at this time, deny his president,” he added.

According to Adegboruwa, Jonathan has no moral justification not to declare his asset publicly. “We cannot have a president who is transparent and have a vice president who chooses not to be transparent,” he said.

Birds of the same feathers flocking together or two left hands trying to scrub each other clean? If you have declared your assets somewhat, Mr VP, what's the fear in going the whole hog and doing so publicly? It would appear that someone truly has something to hide.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

A tale of two leaders

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A tale of two leaders

To say that a new leader's style and/or persona is different from that of his predecessor may amount to a statement of the obvious. But in Nigeria, style in this context acquires a significance that is instructive beyond what may seem to be given. And in attempting a preliminary assessment of President Umaru Yar'Adua, what is emerging is the realization, now generally acknowledged, that his style is so far a radical and refreshing departure from what Nigerians experienced under former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Already Nigerians are breathing a sigh of relief as Yar'Adua in the past two months has now begun gradually and certainly to show that he is his own man. The style is the man. What defines the man conditions what he does, or says or how the public responds to him. If there is any concrete change in the Presidency that we can speak of, for now, it is the change in Presidential style.

President Olusegun Obasnajo was an authoritarian leader who left no one in doubt that he was in charge. For him, every occasion provided an opportunity to advertise the supremacy of his office. Even when this was absolutely unnecessary, he went out of his way to behave in an imperial manner. It was as if the then President needed to reassure himself of his achievement and pre-eminence at every hour, every minute and every second. Discussions with him often ended up, it was said, as a monologue in which he alone was the wise one. Any sign of independence or expression of an alternative view point was shot down from the imperial throne. There were many demonstrations of this style in the public arena. Obasanjo once asked a Christian cleric, a high-ranking official of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) to shut up. On another occasion, he threatened top flog someone who disagreed with him publicly. At a meeting in London he also reportedly threatened to slap a fellow for asking a question that he considered rude.

The swagger and empty essence that imitates Nero

Journalists who took part in "The President Speaks" media encounters suffered terribly in his hands. He bullied them, booed them or asked them to sit down, stand up or get out. This the leader-knows-it-all tendency and style soon became a key factor in that government's policy processes. The Presidency became the nation's centre of gravity. It overruled the courts of the land, obeying the courts only when it was convenient to do so. Special advisers were advised to keep their ideas to themselves. Political appointees were constantly reminded that they were at the mercy of the President. One other Nigerian leader had been described severally as being Machiavellian but I suppose no other leader in Nigerian history has been more Machiavellian than Obasanjo. Between 1999 and 2007, he was in many ways, the archetypal Prince.

This curious leader-people dynamic was further complicated by the emergence of mini-Obasanjos in the corridors of power. A group of Ministers and Advisers, hidden economic hit-men, self-promoting patriots, the know-it-all gang which also thought that the best way to serve the people was to bully them. Their arrogance was insufferable and infuriating. They were poor imitators; for they differed from Obasanjo in an essential respect: they lacked Obasanjo's common touch, his wit and humour, his predictability, naturalness and native intelligence which often won him the admiration of even his most ardent critics. Obasanjo's style may have been ambivalent, his methods may have been vague, but for the most part, the people knew where they stood with him. There wasn't much that he did that surprised the average Nigerian.

With President Yar'Adua, there appears to be some form of clarity and simplicity and the public appears to be somewhat excited. The new President may not be a fantastic campaigner on the political platform; he may not make quotable statements that would be transported from lips to lips for weeks on end. He may not be able to break out in an expansive dance in response to the rhythms of drum and song; he certainly may not have great stories to tell about the past and the future of Nigeria. But we can conclude that this is not a President who will threaten to slap, flog or frog-march people. He does not look like the kind of President and he is not behaving like one, who will walk people out of his office. Or ask people to shut up, sit down, or stand up as if these were the nicest words in the English dictionary. His manners are mild. In close to 60 days in office, no one can trace any act of viciousness or word of antagonism to him. President Obasanjo had hardly settled down in office when he told everyone who supported his election campaigns not to expect any favours from him! Umaru Yar'Adua does not even hug the limelight. He is so self-effacing, so soft-spoken, you may be tempted to sympathise with him.

He had assumed office on May 29 with the promise that he will be a servant-leader. He seems to be working hard at this aspiration. His body-language is according to his early admirers, pleasant. You could miss him in a crowd of his assistants. Nobody could ever miss Obasanjo's swagger, imposing presence and power-grunts. It is perhaps a function of Yar'Adua's style that in two months he has been able to handle a number of controversial incidents, including the quiet dismantling of Obasanjo's spheres of influence without attracting much attention to himself or his likely long-term motives. After what seemed like an initial bout of stage-fright, he reversed the increases in the pump prices of petroleum products and VAT.

The sale of the Kaduna and Port Harcourt refineries had also raised much dust. Without making the powerful owners of Bluestar Consortium lose face, Yar'Adua provided them a soft landing by allowing them to withdraw their purchase of the refineries with a threat that they were giving the NNPC one year to turn around the refineries "or else". But or else what? Quietly also, Yar'Adua managed to put an end to the face-off between government and ASUU. When the Supreme Court gave a ruling which rendered the April 2007 Gubernatorial elections in Anambra state null and void, the Yar'Adua Presidency made no attempt to stand in the way of the apex court. Under Obasanjo, either the Presidency or the ruling party could have overruled the Supreme Court. Yar'Adua has also ordered the release of the remaining part of the withheld funds due to local councils in Lagos state. He has also named Lagos one of the two Presidential retreats that will be used by his government. This is the same Lagos that President Obasanjo dismissed as a "jungle" and turned into a victim of partisan politics.

EFCC picks up Accountant-General of Ebonyi State

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EFCC picks up Accountant-General of Ebonyi State

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has arrested the accountant general of Ebonyi State, Mr. Linus Chidi Nwankwo over corruption and fraud in the South Eastern State.

The arrest and detention of the accountant general may be a prelude to the arrest of the former governor of Ebonyi State, Mr. Sam Egwu who was accused by the EFCC of embezzling billions of naira belonging to the state.
An EFCC source told Saharareporters that they are building a solid case against the two-term ex-governor.

Sam Egwu is former president Obasanjo's choice for the position of party chair for the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP). The former governor may soon join his colleagues, former Abia State governor-Orji Kalu and Chimaroke Nnamani (A.K.A Ebeano) in prison custody according to our source at the EFCC.

... and ex-Deputy governor of Plateau State too!

Saturday Punch gathered that Bot-Mang was picked up in his Dadin Kowa country home around 1 pm on Wednesday. A source, who sighted him at the EFCC’s headquarters in Abuja, said Bot-Mang was downcast and he blamed his aides for his predicament.

It was gathered that the EFCC had been on his trail since he left office, but he was said to have travelled out for medical check-up. It was not immediately clear why Bot-Mang was arrested. Since the reinstatement of Dariye, who is standing trial for alleged corruption, Bot-Mang’s tenure has come under intense scrutiny over alleged financial malpractices, especially from Dariye’s supporters.

His administration was accused of hurriedly spending the N2 billion allocations to the state for March 2006. It was also accused of paying less than half of a N1.3bn contract sum to contractors after they had mobilised to site.

Also under scrutiny was the Bot-Mang administration’s award of a contract for the rehabilitation of the burnt Jos Main Market, as well as the spending of millions of naira on the visit of the former President Olusegun Obasanjo to flag off the rehabilitation of the project.

Though the contract was a Build-Operate-Transfer scheme, the Bot-Mang administration allegedly paid N700m for the clearing of the site. This was besides the alleged withdrawal of about N44m from the state’s allocation to install inter-locking tiles for the round-about in the metropolis.

Another problem for Bot-Mang was the alleged award of a contract to one of his sons for the purchase of 17 jeeps for the 17 local government transition chairmen at the cost of N14m each; as well as another N6m expenditure on the purchase of plates and cutlery for the Government House.

Obj's crumbling cookie

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Obj's crumbling cookie

The chicken might have commenced a decisive and dangerous move towards its roost for former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo over his activities in office. Very reliable sources available to Saturday Sun is indicative of a pointer that the ghost of the third term agenda of the ex-president has continued to lurk in the shadows waiting to claim victims.

The latest of the outcomes of the unsettled dusts of the third term is the directive of the presidency to former domestic aide of Obasanjo, Mr. Andy Uba to clear himself with security agencies over the allegation by former Jigawa State governor, Alhaji Saminu Turaki that Uba was privy to money he (Turaki) dispensed to lubricate the wheels of Obasanjo’s third term project. Saturday Sun got this fact from a very reliable presidency source.

After Turaki dropped the bombshell, the media was awash the following day with denials from Andy Uba of having any deals with Turaki in any form or especially in respect of the over N10bn the ex-governor disbursed to Obasanjo’s project through his aide.
In the same vein, the EFCC also joined the fray by stating that no such money was given by Turaki to Andy Uba.

But the presidency feels otherwise on the matter. The stance is that the allegation is too weighty to be shoved aside as mere rant of a man in deep mess. It also feels, according to our source that it should not have been the duty of the EFCC to defend that allegation by Turaki as the accuser never in any form linked EFCC with the handover of the money.

As a result Uba may be required to explain in details to law enforcement officers whatever link he had with the allegation, and when that becomes the situation, the next scenario is that some hidden facts of the funding of the third term monster would come to the surface and that might constitute a very dangerous encroachment on the seeming out-of-trouble posture of the former president and his activities.

Meanwhile, as this drama is about unfolding, more pressure continues to mount on the President Umar Yar’Adua administration to probe Obasanjo’s administration. One of the latest calls to this effect is from the National Chairman of APGA, Chief Victor Umeh who told Saturday Sun in an interview that the best way EFCC and the present administration will fight corruption is to probe Obasanjo’s days in power.
Likewise, the NDP has made a similar call, noting that until Obasanjo is investigated, prosecuted and his administration cleared of wrong doings or otherwise, there would be no meaningful fight against corruption.

According to the sources, the directive of President Umar Yar’Adua to release the withheld Lagos LGAs’ allocation, a Supreme Court judgment flouted with impunity by Obasanjo, the indicting verdict of the Court of Appeal last week that Obasanjo abused his office by paying two ministers in dollars and the reversal of the sale of refineries by Obasanjo said to have been improperly done are strong points that he erred while in office and should be arrested to answer to charges of misconduct.

Alamieyeseigha released, whereabouts unknown

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Alamieyeseigha released, whereabouts unknown

The former Governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha has been released by the Nigerian Prison Services (NPS), but his whereabouts were yet to be established at the time of this report.
His release is believed to have been facilitated by a plea bargain entered into between him, the court and the EFCC at his last court appearance, Thursday.
Last Thursday, the Federal High Court, presided over by Justice Mohammed Shuaib, handed down a two-year imprisonment term on each of the six-count charges specifying that the terms will run concurrently and from the day of his first arrest, December 9, 2005.
Confirming Alamieyeseigha’s release, sources at NPS said he had been released from Ikoyi prisons where he had been detained since his return from treatment overseas and taken to an undisclosed location. It could not be ascertained if the location is in Lagos, Abuja or Bayelsa, his home state.
Also collaborating the news about his release, the co-ordinator of the Ijaw Monitoring Group, Mr. Joseph Eva expressed gratitude to the media and the judiciary for their support in ensuring the speedy trial, conviction and eventual release of erstwhile the Governor of Bayelsa State, Mr. DSP Alameseigha from prison last night.
Eva said, “we are happy that he has been released to re-unite with us and his family. We thank the press and the judiciary for their unwavering support while the trial lasted.”
But the EFCC last night denied knowledge of the former governor’s release. “I’m not aware of that,” the commission’s prosecuting counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, told THISDAY in a telephone interview. “The order of the court said he should be remanded in prison and that was what we did.” He said it’s not the responsibility of the commission to determine if Alamieyeseigha has actually spent the requisite term in jail specified by law. “We’ve done our bit,” he said.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Nnamani prefers prison to EFCC facility

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Nnamani prefers prison to EFCC facility

A former Governor of Enugu State, Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani, was on Thursday, remanded in Ikoyi Prison by a Federal High Court in Lagos.

Before the pronouncement of the court, Nnamani, however, stunned the prosecuting Economic and Financial Crimes Commission when he told the court that he preferred prison custody than the facility of the anti-graft commission.

The ex-governor, spoke through his lead counsel, Mr. Rickey Tarfa (SAN). Tarfa informed Justice Peter Olayiwola that the development would be part of history.

A lawyer to the EFCC, Mr. Kelvin Uzozie, urged the court to direct that the amended charge be read to the accused...

Uzozie later told the court that since the necessay pleas had been taken, the parties should be given a hearing date.

He added that he was aware of the accused‘s pending bail application.

The lawyer also said that the commission was ready for accelerated hearing of the matter.

But a controversy later ensued over where the accused should be kept pending the next adjourned date.

Uzozie told the court that the EFCC had the best facility to take care of the accused.

He said, “We are prepared to give them the best and we urge the court to direct that the accused be remanded in the EFCC custody.”

Immmediately he finished his submission, Nnamani whispered to his lawyer, saying, “I prefer to stay in prison.Tell the judge that I want to be reamanded in prison. I will like to stay with my people.”

Tarfa then told the court that his client would prefer the prison to the EFCC‘s custody.

But Onwubuemeli said that she preferred the EFCC‘s custody to prison.

Responding, Uzozie said, “We are surprised about this development. This is the first time that an accused will say that he prefers prison to the EFCC‘s custody.”

But the judge said, “It is an aberration for the prosecuting agency to keep an accused in its custody. When normalcy returns in the country, it will be a thing of the past for the prosecutor to request for such an application.”

He consequently ordered that Nnamani and Anyaogu be remanded in prison (Ikoyi prison) while Onwubuemeli be remanded in the EFCC‘s custody.

Men can have kids, get pregnant

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Men can have kids, get pregnant

Renowned obstetrician and pioneer of in vitro fertilisation unit at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Prof. Osato Giwa-Osagie, has said men should start preparing themselves to have babies just like women in future.

He said this was possible with advances in the science of Assisted Reproductive Technologies world-wide.

Giwa-Osagie said this on Thursday while delivering a keynote address on the Pioneering work of ART in the West African sub-region at the National Hospital, Abuja.

He said the art of producing children through the fertilisation of eggs by sperm in a laboratory, known as IVF, holds the key to solving most of the age-long problems associated with infertility.

Giwa-Osagie, while giving a historical perspective of how the IVF started in Nigeria 30 years ago, said with ART it was possible for men to have babies like women.

He also stated that with the technology, women above 60 years of age could still have children while procreation without sex was very possible.

Speaking exclusively with our correspondent, Giwa-Osagie said, ”Men could have pregnancy just like women.

He said, ”A man could be put on large doses of oestrogens. A donated egg can be fertilised with sperm and the embryo can now be injected into the man‘s abdomen to achieve abdominal pregnancy.

”Abdominal pregnancy occurs in women and also outside of a womb. So, theoretically, it can also occur in men.”

He advised government to fund medical and other scientific research since the advance societies were far leaving Nigeria behind.

He said if investments were made in these areas, it would be possible to have sex selection in Nigeria, fertility in HIV positive patients, procreation without sex, stem cell research and cloning.

He urged non-governmental organisations, and the Federal Government to invest heavily in the field of IVF so that poor Nigerians who want to have babies of their own can afford the cost.

Wouldn't you know it... that this was where we were headed?!

Kalu sues, makes bail

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Kalu sues, makes bail

Former Abia State Governor, Dr Orji Uzor Kalu, has described the freezing of his assets by a Federal High Court in Abuja, as "unconstitutional, reprehensible and against the rule of law."

The assets including business concerns that span aviation, publishing, manufacturing and marine services have been ordered frozen by the court at the instance of the EFCC which is prosecuting the former governor for alleged abuse of office and corruption.

The court order granted temporary forfeiture of Kalu’s multi-billion naira assets and business concerns of which The Sun Publishing Limited is one.

But, the ex-governor, in a statement signed by his media adviser, Iyke Ekeoma, argued that the action was illegal and unfair since the courts were yet to find him guilty of having acquired the said assets illegally. He is consequently heading for the court to challenge the court order, he said in the statement.

... but EFCC says Kalu lied

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has said that the claim by former Governor of Abia State, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, that he is not a director in companies belonging to the Slok Group, is a lie.

The anti-graft commission’s stand was contained in the documents attached to the 107 charges filed against the former governor at the Federal High Court, Abuja.

The commission will rely on the documents to prove the charges against Kalu.

Kalu’s spokesman, Mr. Iyke Ekeoma, and the management of The Sun Publishing Limited, said the EFCC was pursuing a political agenda, by freezing the assets of the former governor.

The commission submitted that as at October 20, 2004, Kalu, though a serving governor, was still a director in Slok Nigeria Limited, Neya Nigeria Limited, Slok Shipping Limited, Slok Pharmaceutical Limited, Slok Properties Limited, Mak Travels Agency Limited and Astel Offshore Limited.

When confronted with the allegation that contrary to law, he remained a director of the companies while in office as governor, Kalu said, “In 1999 when I became a governor, I resigned from the company in a letter which I will forward to EFCC and which I have sent to the Code of Conduct Bureau. I wrote to Slok Nigeria Limited asking them to remove my name as a director.

“I did not check or confirm from Slok management whether they have removed my name or not.”

The former governor, who denied any wrong doing, said that he started trading in vegetable oil in 1983 but later went into manufacturing of vegetable oil in Borno State and later Imo State.

He said in his statement made under caution, “I started this business with the help of my parents with N5,000.”

He made the first statement to EFCC’s officials on July 11, 2007, and another statement on July 12, 2007.

Kalu added that some of the funds declared missing by EFCC were within his powers as the Chief Executive adding, “It was not to my knowledge that these funds were missing.”

He, however, admitted that a company, Firmbase Nig Ltd, which he said belonged to his brother, Johnson Uzor, supplied cars to Abia State Government.

Meanwhile, Kalu has said that his successor, Governor Theodore Orji, who served as his Chief of Staff, would be in a better position to explain the disbursement of the state funds.

In a statement he made to the commission on the July 11 and 12, 2007, Kalu said he was in total dark on how Orji disbursed the monies, though he confessed that he gave approvals for the drawing of the funds.

Kalu said that throughout his tenure, he did not meddle in the awards of contracts.

Meanwhile the embattled ex-governor of Abia State has been granted bail by the Federal High court in Abuja with conditions similiar to that of ex-governor Dariye of Plateau State. Kalu was granted bail in the sum of N100 Million with a bond deposit in a bank and two sureties in the like sum. The sureties must have evidence of their tax payment certificates from the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) for three consecutive years as and when due.
Besides, the former Abia State governor is to depose to a sworn affidavit stating the number of all the countries he has citizenship in and to deposit all his passports with the court. He is also to provide two traditional rulers and to deposit three recent passport photographs with the court.
In addition, Kalu was directed to report to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on a weekly basis and he is not to travel out of jurisdiction without the permission of the court. Justice Binta Murtala Nyako had while ruling on his bail application said the offences are bailable and that there was the possibility of his standing trial.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Alamieyeseigha pleads guilty gets 2 years sentence

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Alamieyeseigha pleads guilty gets 2 years sentence

The former governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Solomon Peters Alamieyeseigha who had been under EFCC custody for close to two years, earlier today pleaded guilty to charges of corruption and money laundering brought against him by the EFCC.

A judge of the Federal High Court,Justice Mohammed Shuaibu sentenced the former governor to 2-years in prison. According to the prison calendar, it (is) expected that DSP Alamieyeseigha will be free from detention having spent two years in Federal custody. He is expected to face his health problems described as "terrible" by a source.

His sentencing ends series of behind the scenes negotiations between his lawyer, Mr. Okpoko (SAN), EFCC and his successor Goodluck Jonathan.

Nnamani off to court

Also, in Lagos, former governor of Enugu State Chimaroke Nnamani was formerly charged before Justice Peter Olayiwola today on charges of corruption and money laundering, the ex-governor was indicted by the EFCC for stealing close to N6 billion from the treasury of Enugu state, proceeds with which he bought 172 houses and invested in several businesses that are now confiscated by the EFCC through a court order.

In Abuja today, the former governor of Taraba state was granted bail with tough conditionality. that may see him go back to jail. He is required to produce three sureties with deposits of N100 million.

As the hiding place shrinks

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As the hiding place shrinks

Talks have been concluded, and follow up actions have begun by both the government of Nigeria and that of the United States of America on tracing, retrieval and repatriation back to Nigeria of public funds stolen by politicians. A bilateral arrangement entered into on behalf of the Nigerian government by the country’s Economic and Financial Crime Commission, EFCC with appropriate agencies of the U.S is ensuring that Billions of Nigerian money stolen and illegally banked offshore in the United States would now be recovered and wired back into the coffers of the Nigerian Government.

The U.S is also said to be lobbying its European Union, EU allies to join in the initiative aimed at assisting Nigeria to successfully recover its looted fortunes.

Families, friends and associates of any indicted Nigerian politicians residing in the United States are going to be under close monitor with their financial dealings under watch, learnt authoritatively.

This development is coming barely a week after the United States Government unfolded a multi-faceted strategy to assist in combating money laundering and illicit drug trafficking. learnt that the U.S Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Jendayi Frazer had held talks with President Umaru Yar’Adua in Abuja during the inauguration ceremony. Even before President Yar’Adua got elected, there were several high level contacts and protocol signing expressing the two countries commitment to trace and bring back to Nigeria every dime stolen by greedy public servants and politicians.

The czar of the EFCC, Nuhu Ribadu, is one of those prominent top level functionaries that have periodically shown up in the U.S. The U.S was said to have pledged logistic support to Abuja especially in the area of fighting corruption.

Expectedly Washington which has an impressive tracking and blocking of international money laundering activities would be placing at the disposal of Nigeria that vast wealth of experience if Nigeria’s situation does not defy proven logic. Whatever people like the late General Sani Abacha, late Sunday Afolabi, Diepreye Alamieyesiegha, Ayo Fayose, Orji Uzor Kalu, Samuni Turaki, Lucky Igbinedion, James Ibori, Peter Odili, Jolly Nyame, Joshua Dariye, Bola Tinubu, Bukola Saraki among others have stashed abroad would now be coming back to Nigeria.

The U.S social security administration rule makes it less cumbersome to investigate and determine the activities of every individual living or doing business within the country. Therefore, relations, associates and business partners who could be established as having anything to do with the indicted Nigerian politicians would now be under the radar.

Wilbros ex-Executive indicted on charges of corruption

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Wilbros ex-Executive indicted on charges of corruption

WASHINGTON – A federal grand jury in Houston has indicted a former executive of a subsidiary of Houston-based Willbros Group Inc., on charges of conspiring to make corrupt payments to Nigerian officials in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), the Department of Justice announced today.

The four-count indictment unsealed today charges Jason Edward Steph, 37, a U.S. citizen residing in Kazakhstan, with conspiring to make over $6 million in bribe payments to Nigerian officials in order to obtain and retain gas pipeline construction business from a joint venture majority-owned and controlled by the Nigerian state oil company. Steph was also charged with money laundering based upon the international transfer of some of the bribe money.

Willbros, a publicly-traded company that provides construction, engineering and other services in the oil and gas industry, conducts international operations through a subsidiary known as Willbros International Inc. (WII). Steph was a WII employee from 1998 to April 2005. From 2002 until April 2005, he served as general manager of WII’s on-shore operations in Nigeria.

The indictment alleges a conspiracy from late 2003 through March 2005 that included Steph, a former senior Willbros executive officer, two individuals acting in Nigeria as purported consultants to Willbros, Nigeria-based employees of a major German engineering and construction company, and others, to make millions of dollars in corrupt payments to assist in obtaining a major gas pipeline engineering, procurement and construction project known as the Eastern Gas Gathering System (EGGS), which Willbros and its German consortium partner bid to perform for approximately $387 million. In exchange for the award of the EGGS project, the conspirators allegedly paid, promised to pay, and authorized payments to officials of NNPC, NAPIMS, a senior official in the executive branch of the Nigerian federal government, and to political party, as well as to officials of the operator of the EGGS joint venture. Most of the payments were allegedly laundered through the consultants, who typically received 3 percent of Willbros’ contract revenue by wire transfer from Houston to a foreign bank, and transferred some or all of the funds to Nigerian officials.

The maximum sentence for a charge of conspiring to violate the FCPA is five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, or twice the gross gain or loss. Each of the money laundering charges carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000 or twice the value of the funds involved in the transfer, whichever is greater.

The Sun responds

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The Sun responds

•At the time of this statement, neither The Sun Publishing Limited nor any of the numerous companies owned or associated with Kalu were put on notice before the order was obtained nor were served with the court order, leaving us in The Sun completely in the dark as to what our offences were beyond our association with the targeted Orji Uzor Kalu.

•By Monday afternoon, however, our bankers notified us that the company's accounts at various banks have been blocked on the order of EFCC, pursuant to this court order. By Wednesday morning, the same order had been passed round to other banks where we have accounts. The result is that the newspaper group has been denied access to funds to finance its daily operations even though legal experts have informed us that such actions fly in the face of due process and intent of the relevant EFCC Act.

•Although we have since briefed our lawyers to take up the matter, our informal investigations indicate that the latest attack on us might not be unconnected with an old and jaded allegation that some cheques were drawn in the name of THE NEW REPUBLIC, the original name under which THE SUN PUBLISHING LIMITED was incorporated in 2001, but which name was changed to THE SUN Publishing Limited at the last quarter of the same year at the instance of the two executive directors.

•The change of the company name became inevitable when the executive directors changed the editorial niche of the newspaper from a hard political newspaper which was earlier conceived to a broad market publication which was considered a better business proposition. It was reasoned that THE SUN was a more acceptable name for a sales-driven newspaper than NEW REPUBLIC which sounds too rigid.

•Before the change of name, however, a pre-operational account in the old name of THE NEW REPUBLIC NEWSPAPERS LIMITED was opened on August 1, 2001. The account domiciled at Diamond Bank was later changed to The SUN Publishing Limited and has remained so till date.

•However, prior to the date this account was opened, the EFCC investigators allege that two cheques were drawn from a NEW REPUBLIC NEWSPAPERS LIMITED account in another bank.

•Incidentally, we have also learnt that, in the course of its investigations, the EFCC actually found out that none of the registered directors or legal signatories of the then NEW REPUBLIC/The SUN Publishing Limited account either signed or received the said cheques.

•In any case, the details of our banking transactions which had repeatedly been investigated by the commission indicated that no such alleged cheques ever passed through our accounts.

•It was therefore a huge surprise to us that in the heat of the third term debate and Kalu's opposition to it, photocopies of the alleged cheques were leaked to a news magazine which reported that The SUN Publishing Limited, was set up with Abia State government money, even when there is no foundation to such blatant falsehood as evidenced by all our bank records.

•Also noteworthy is that up to this moment, no director of THE SUN has ever been questioned in connection with the alleged cheques transactions obviously because EFCC’s various investigations vindicated our position.

•We suspect that, having gone through our bank statements as THE SUN PUBLISHING LIMITED since August 2001 and finding nothing against us, our persecutors have fallen back on spurious cheques issue. To us, mysterious cheques have become a veritable bogeyman that could be waved at whims.

•Perhaps, unknown to our traducers, the premises, warehouses and the machines were already in place over a year before the date of the mysterious cheques came up.

•That meant that the bulk of the facilities on ground at the premises of The SUN PUBLISHING LIMITED either predates THE NEW REPUBLIC - some of them going as far back as the late I980s when Kalu published a title called EVERY WOMAN.

•Whatever the circumstances of the anti-Kalu onslaught on THE SUN notwithstanding, we must state it here and now that we, as a company, have done nothing wrong.

•We have run our company in keeping with the business best practices and are proud of our professional integrity. We consider it a credit that even though we are now arguably the most scritinised organization in our industry, we are still waxing strong, unbroken and unbowed.

•We are simply humbled by the amazing grace of God upon our organization and believe that despite all our travails, in the end, God will vindicate the just.

•We, therefore, have every reason to believe that the latest move against THE SUN has nothing to do with any genuine effort to locate funds from Abia State government. Rather it is a political persecution and an effort to shut up a publication that has evolved to represent the authentic "Voice of the Nation" and give vent to otherwise muzzled opposition perspective to issues and policies of government. That is why we are shocked that the system could allow for the granting of an exparte motion of this magnitude without, first of all, insisting that the parties involved be put on notice.

•May we, however, remind our persecutors that contrary to their belief that THE SUN is all about equipment and fixed assets, THE SUN is actually an idea. A great idea! And, as the old saying goes, there is no army strong enough to stop the growth and blossom of a great idea.

•We are convinced that, no matter what anybody else says, the root of the current onslaught against us is the aborted Third Term ambition of the immediate past president. When we took a principled stand to oppose the evil agenda, we knew that there would be both economic and political price to pay. Like the sacrificial lamb, we are ready for it. However, we emphasize that those who find themselves in public office today must resist the temptation of putting their ego ahead of them and, in the process, personalise state policies.

Kalu being escorted back to prison yesterday

•As for Kalu, we are of the conviction that there is a lynch mob out there to destroy him seemingly at all costs. We, therefore, fear for his life, and are appealing to all well-meaning Nigerians and the international community to join hands and ensure that Kalu is not killed in detention the same way anti-democratic elements eliminated Chief MKO Abiola, winner of the June 12, 1993, presidential elections.


* * * *

The EFCC Story

The commission said that eight of the accounts were in the United States and Senegal. The other accounts were operated in five Nigerian banks. The list of the accounts was in an affidavit attached to charges against Kalu before a Federal High Court Judge, Justice Anwuli Chikere. The accounts were in the names of companies owned by the former governor and some of his alleged cronies.

In the affidavit, which was obtained exclusively by THE PUNCH on Wednesday, the EFCC said Kalu also had three vessels and 10 landed properties in some parts of the country. The affidavit was sworn to by Ibrahim Magu, the leader of the investigation team that probed alleged corrupt acts by Kalu.

The affidavit reads, “That the other directors of these companies are Kalu’s wife, children, mother and brothers. That Kalu is also the majority shareholder in some other companies such as Reality Organisation and Firmbase International Ltd. That Abia State Government funds running into billions of naira in banks were withdrawn and converted into drafts in favour of Slok Nigeria Ltd account for the personal use of Kalu. That Abia State Government funds were also moved into the account of Reality Organisaton Nigeria Limited and Firmbas International Limited.

“That Abia State Government contracts were awarded to companies in which Kalu had cronies, agents, associates and such include, Zerock Construction Ltd, Hitech Construction Ltd, Hapel Nigea Ltd and Udex Nig. Ltd. That these contractors used by Kalu during his tenure as governor also obtained several drafts and lodged same into the accounts of Slok Nigeria Limited. That the funds that were lodged into Slok Nigeria Limited accounts were used by Kalu to finance the purchase of three vessesls owned by Slok Shipping Company, Slok Airlines and the acquisition of The Republic, which was renamed as The Sun Publishing Limited.

“That Kalu, also while in office, acquired properties in The Gambia, including Tiangi Holiday Resort, an estate, and First International Bank.”

The commission said that it sought to freeze the accounts and the landed properties because the former governor and his cronies made moves to sell them. The EFCC said that if the properties in question were not forfeited to the Federal Government, they would be sold, thereby jeopardising the criminal charges against Kalu.

The EFCC said that before Kalu became governor, he incorporated some companies, including Slok. It said that even when he became governor, he continued to operate the companies as a major shareholder and director, contrary to his oath of office.

In a proof of evidence also attached to the charge sheet, the EFCC claimed that the former Commissioner for Finance in Abia State, Mr. Moses Agoh, confessed that Kalu had substantial interests in banks in The Gambia, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

The EFCC said that Agoh, in his statement dated November 1, 2006, added that Kalu talked him into investing in the banks. The former commissioner, according to the EFCC, also listed two Nigerians and four foreigners as directors of the banks.

The EFCC quoted him on page four of his statement, as saying, “I am a shareholder in First International Bank in The Gambia. The (former) governor of Abia State (Kalu) is also a shareholder. The bank was incorporated in 1998 and that was the year I became a shareholder. The (former) governor was the person who invited me to invest in the bank. Since the bank in The Gambia is a shareholder in both Liberia and Sierra Leone, my share ownership will then extend to those countries.”

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

EFCC freezes Kalu Uzor's assets

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EFCC freezes Kalu Uzor's assets

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday secured an order of the Federal High Court, Abuja, to freeze assets allegedly owned by the former governor of Abia State, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu. He is currently on trial on a 107-count charge of corruption and abuse of office.
Notable among the assets temporarily forfeited to the EFCC is Sun Publishing Limited, publishers of Daily Sun, Saturday Sun and Sunday Sun.
Others are Slok Air Nigeria Ltd, which was grounded four years ago by the former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Firmbase Inter Ltd, Slok Marine Vessels, Reality Organisation Nig. Ltd, International Insurance Com-pany Ltd, Tanji Resort, Gambia, Banque International in Gambia and Sierra Leone and many companies allegedly registered in the name of his wife and children.
In all, a dozen companies and numerous local and foreign accounts were frozen in an order issued by Justice A. I. Chikere of the Federal High Court, Abuja, in Suit/ Abuja/M462/107.
EFCC had, pursuant to Section 34/1 of the EFCC Act of 2004, prayed the court for an order for freezing/forfeiture of accounts/assets of the former governor who was arrested two weeks ago on his arrival from a trip to the United States. He was subsequently charged to Federal High Court, Abuja on July 16 and remanded in Kuje Prisons custody on the orders of the court.
Yesterday�s order also asked the EFCC to take over various landed property scattered in some major cities in the country including Mai-duguri, Bama, both in Borno state, Port Harcourt, and Owerri, in Rivers and Imo State, purportedly owned by Kalu.
Kalu had appeared before Justice Binta Murtala Nyako after being charged by the EFCC for allegedly transferring billions of naira belonging to the Abia State government to Slok Airline over a period of eight years.
According to the charge, Kalu transferred money belonging to the Abia state government account in the defunct Manny Bank (now part of Fidelity Bank) to the Slok Airline account at Inland Bank.
The former Abia governor was also alleged to have at various times between 1999 and 2007 transferred huge sums of government money into Slok Investment, Slok Nigeria Limited, Slok Incorporated and other companies owned by him.
The former governor was charged alongside Emeka Uzor Kalu (now at large) and Eunice Agwu (also at large). In the 107-count charge, he was said to have conspired with the two others to divert a total N2.7 billion Abia state monies to finance his private business, Slok Nigeria Limited.
An EFCC official told THISDAY yesterday that the companies and accounts that were forfeited to the commission would still continue to operate unhindered as long as their managements �co-operate with the commission in the exercise of its oversight and supervisory function over them.�

Monday, July 23, 2007

Little Lagos et al

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Little Lagos et al

"Has anyone heard this Nigerian joke?", he said, in a heavily accented tone. The others lent him their ears. Africans love tales. And the Ethiopian with the mischief that had cast a mist over his eyes, looked like he had something useful to say.

"A Nigerian Minister", he said "once visited Singapore for a conference and he went to the home of a Minister in Singapore. It was a very beautiful house, with swimming pool and all kinds of modern fittings. The Nigerian loved the house. So he asked his Singaporean colleague: How did you manage to build this great house? The Singapore Minister told him he made the money from government contracts that he had awarded. On every contract he got a 20 per cent kickback. The Nigerian Minister just nodded. He didn't say anything. A year later, there was another conference in Nigeria and the Minister from Singapore was there. His old friend the Nigerian Minister received him warmly and then later took him to his own house. When the Singapore Minister saw the house, he marveled at the opulence. His own house looked very modest in comparison. Then he turned to his Nigerian colleague and asked him: how did you build this house? To which the Nigerian replied: Contracts, my friend. And the Singaporean asked: how many per cent? And the Nigerian replied: 100 per cent, my brother"

Not a particularly new joke, but it drew throaty laughter from everyone around the table.

"Nigerians are every clever people", the Gambian said. "They are very well known in Gambia . You know a Nigerian will suddenly show up in Banjul , He has no education, nothing. But after some time you'd start seeing him with a used computer. He will be playing with it, dismantling it and putting it together. By the time you see him again he would have opened a small shop with a sign board: Computer Specialist, London-trained, and before you know it, people will start patronizing him"

"They also have this people they call yahoo boys, "the Malawian added.

"And 419. Nigerians have people they call 419 too. Those ones are hardened crooks. They can turn anything into money"; the Ghanaian said

"You know in Gambia , one Nigerian saw two Gambians discussing and they were lamenting about how they had been working so hard and making very little money. The Nigerian told them that that is precisely their problem. You don't work hard to make money. You negotiate money. You make money through negotiation, When Nigerians talk like that, we, Gambians are always confused. Please, how does a man negotiate to make money?"

I had no answer to this.

The taste of the pudding is here

My picture for the day!

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Hairdresser on the rock!

He feels good... Papa's got a brand new bag!

Time to legalize corruption in Nigeria

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Time to legalize corruption in Nigeria

There are at least three dozen Nigerians in and around the corridor of presidential power today who have been in and around the corridor of power since the era of President Nnamdi Azikiwe and Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa. One president after another, one head of state after another, these men and women have managed to be around -- stealing, mismanaging, misappropriating, abusing power and manipulating the people. And in spite of their high crimes and misdemeanors, they freely roam the Nigerian landscape. Above the law and revered by their people, they continue to reign supreme in the dilapidated theater that is Nigeria . Their offspring are already in the game, scheming and milking the nation’s blood and marrow.

When was the last time any corrupt person or regime was probed? When was the last time any person was brought to proper and severe justice for stealing? When was the last any one was made to return all the money they stole from the state? When was the last any public official forfeited illegally acquired properties and investment portfolio? The fact is that such things rarely happen in Nigeria . On the few occasions they’ve happened, they were given light slap on the wrist, occasioned by knowing winks. Does anyone remember what happened to the money and properties seized by the government of General Murtala Mohammed? Does any one remember what happed to the men and women that were arrested, probed and sentenced to prison? Where are they today?

There is not a single governor, state and federal legislator, commissioner, chair of local governments, and their counterparts in all government agencies that did not, have not, or is not now illegally dipping their hands into the public treasury. Government officials, since the days of General Yakubu Gowon, have been at it. (Ironically, Gowon himself was said to be above board.) Things started on the slope during the era of Alhaji Shehu Shagari -- an era personified by Umaru Dikko’s avarice and licentiousness. And then there was Generals Abacha and Babangida, both of whom institutionalized corruption. No one though both men could ever be bested, outperformed by any other Nigerian leader. But presto, there comes Obasanjo and his gang! Even so, no one could have imagined that President Olusegun Obasanjo would turn out to be the high-priest of thievery and malfeasance. He was one of a kind.

In recent days, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has been on the heels of former governors Chimaroke Nnamani, Orji Uzor Kalu, Saminu Turaki, Joshua Dariye, Boni Haruna and Abdullahi Adamu. But knowing the EFCC, this round of roundups could very well be another one of their charades. Even if they mean it this time around, what about former governors like Peter Odili, Jonathan Goodluck and Ahmed Tinubu and all the pupils of the Nigerian Corruption Academy ? And then there are heavyweights like Chief Tony Anenih, Col. Ahmadu Ali (rtd); and Governor Gbenga Daniel who declared about N469billion as his total assets. Common, what was he before he became a governor? We must not forget the grandfather of them all, Chief Obasanjo.

The EFCC and other anti-corruption agencies cannot claim to be battling corruption if ex-President Obasanjo and his gang are free from arrest and prosecution. I ask, as I asked a while back: what’s the difference between Obasanjo and Oyenusi? Both were armed robbers -- one robbed with pens, the other with guns. But really there is no difference between the dealings of Obasasanjo’s Aso Rock and the dealings of street urchins who used force or the threat of force to get things done. What difference was there between what Oyenusi and Anini did and what the former president did?

If Obasanjo, Abubakar Atiku and several other high ranking officials are not arrested and prosecuted for their crimes, then it would be unjust to prosecute armed robbers and other petty thieves. Why prosecute drug dealers and prostitutes and money launderers when the Ubas, the Odilis, the Tinubus and scores of others are allowed to roam free and free from arrest and prosecution. The law caught up with Oyenusi and Anini and their likes; it is hoped that the law will also catch up with Obasanjo -- not only for being an active participant in prosecutable offenses, but also for encouraging others to dream up and execute dastardly schemes against the national interest of Nigeria. When EFCC arrest and prosecute Obasanjo, then, we’ll know where their hearts lie; we’ll know they are serious about fighting corruption. Until then, I am tired of their charades and grandstanding.

Since successive Nigerian government has failed to genuinely prosecute anyone for corruption and fraudulent practices, it is time we have a level-playing field for everybody (to engage in the stealing game). Since corruption has become a way of life in Nigeria , it is time we codify it. After all, most Nigerians don’t even frown on corrupt practices; it is readily accepted, promoted and practiced. And since the administration of President Musa Yar’Adua is not likely to prosecute Obasanjo, Atiku and others, it is time we legalize corruption. Let’s make it easy to enter, engage and exit whenever a player sees it fit. There should be no monopoly on corruption since corruption, nepotism, and other forms of insidiousness are now part of our national culture; so, why waste time and precious resources railing against it? Why fight it? The most logical and pragmatic thing to do now is to legalize it. Come one come all and partake in the feast.

Even though some Nigerians may corrupt corruption, there are still several benefits to legalizing corruption:

1. Saves scarce resources currently used by EFCC in their bogus missions
2. Gives every Nigerian a level playing field in the acquisition of extralegal wealth
3. Will save us from the hypocrisy and duplicity of pontificating about such issue
4. It will permit the judiciary and police to devote their energies to serious matters
5. Legalized corruption will help in the fair allocation of the nation’s wealth
6. Equal access may help eliminate prostitution, poverty and other social ills
7. Equal grabbing may also help to eliminate social-classism and superciliousness
8. Legalized corruption may eliminate the need for people to pretend and show off
9. No nation on the face of the earth will ever again brand Nigerians “corrupt,” this may lead to an improvement in how the rest of the world perceive Nigerians.

For several decades now, we have been fighting corruption, but have never succeeded. Not even a dent; so, instead of making corruption an elite sport, why not open it to all and every one who have the means and the capacity to engage in such an activity? Nigeria can never arrest corruption. Never! And in fact, prevailing conditions are making it easier to engage in all sorts of debauchery. One of the ways this government can prove to Nigerians that incidence of corruption can be arrested and restricted is to arrest and indict the Obasasanjos and their fellow travelers. How did corruption get out of hand? Simple: there were never penalties for the thefts that occurred in previous administrations. That set a bad precedence. If there are no penalties for all the crimes committed between 1999 and 2007, the Nigerian treasury will become an open sesame for all who wants to get rich by any and all means. So far, there is no indication that the Yar’Adua regime is any different. This presidency did not come to the table with a clean hand.