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Atiku, 5 others in prison over N32.8b police pension scam

An Abuja High Court at Gudu on Thursday remanded the Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Atiku Abubakar Kigo and five others in Kuje Prison, following allegation that they conspired and diverted the sum of N32.8 Billion from the Police Pension Fund.

persons who were arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commissions (EFCC) alongside Mr Kigo were Esai Dangabar, Ahmed Inuwa Wada, John Yakubu Yusufu, Veronica Ulonma Onyegbula and Sani Habila Zira.

There was a mild drama in the court as the trial began. Two lawyers, Adeniyi Awomolo and John Egwuonu separately announced that they will be representing the accused persons.

Presiding Judge, Justice Mohammed Abubakar Talba however asked each accused person to identify their counsel, clearing the air for the case to commence.

Each of the accused persons pleaded not guilty to the 16 count read to them.

Mr Awomolo, the counsel to the first defendant, made an application for bail, which was supported by the counsel to the other five accused persons, Mr Egwuonu based on the fact that the accused persons are presumed innocent until proven guilty by the court of the law, therefore the accused persons can be admitted to bail.

The counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Jacob who did not object to the applications of the defence counsels, asked the court to set another date for the bail to be formally argued.

Though the accused persons begged the court to allow them to remain in the Custody of the EFCC pending the determination of their bail applications, the judge declined their request, saying that: “there is no law permitting the remand of an accused person in any other place apart from prison custody.”

He thereafter ordered the six accused persons to be remanded in prison till next Tuesday when their bail application will be argued.
Consequently, the accused persons were moved to the Kuje prison.

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Kebbi governorship election is just formality, Bamanga Tukur says

he National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Bamanga Tukur, says the re-run election in Kebbi fixed for this Saturday is a mere formality because the former governor of the state, Saidu Dakingari, had done enough to deserve re-election.

“I have no doubt in my mind that this election is a formality as our candidate has delivered so much in the last term, enough to make his victory very possible,” Mr. Tukur said.

Mr. Tukur who was speaking at a rally organised by the party at the township stadium in Birnin Kebbi also said Mr. Dakingari should be sworn in immediately after being re-elected to continue from where he stopped.

The national chairman equally announced that his tenure of office would be characterized by the 3Rs policy of ‘Reconciliation, Reformation and Rebirth agenda’.

Mr. Tukur said that his leadership would ensure that all the feuding parties in PDP are reconciled within the shortest possible time to  move the party ahead.

“I am glad that this policy is already gaining ground in Kebbi state. The presence of the former governor Adamu Aliero with all his supporters at the rally is an indication of greater things to come,” he said.Mr. Dakingari was sacked by the Supreme Court who also ordered for fresh elections by the independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Premium Times had earlier reported that the two main opposition parties of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) had both lost their gubernatorial candidates in the persons of Abubakar Mallam and Kabiru Tanimu to the ruling PDP, which led to speculations that the elections might  be postponed to enable the parties select fresh candidates for the election.

However, Attahiru Jega, INEC Chairman, Wednesday after a meeting with stakeholders announced that the elections would go ahead because no political party had  informed the commission of withdrawal by any contestant and that time for substitution had  lapsed.

Mr. Jega also said all candidates who ran for elections in the April 2011 election  would still be candidates in this Saturday’s election.

Fifteen candidates ran for the office of governor during the gubernatorial election held in April 2011 including Messrs  Malam and Tanimu for CPC and ACN respectively.

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Nigerian Secret Police Nabs Kidnappers Of Dubai Businessman

The Nigerian secret police today announced the arrest of a 7-man kidnap gang in Osun state in the Southwestern parts of Nigeria. The gang were paraded before journalists at the headquarters of the SSS in Abuja.

Spokesperson for the State Security Services, Marilyn Ogar told reporters that the group kidnapped Mohammed Majed Ishmael Al Ali, a Dubai-based businessman and United Arab Emirates citizen who was invited to visit Nigeria on a phony business deal.

The group earlier proposed Al Ali that he would benefit from a large business deal through Finuche Investments, however, as soon as Al Ali arrived Nigeria the group kidnapped him and held him in a remote village in Osun State.

The SSsS said Mr. Al Ali was held hostage for 60 days in Aboriogun village near Ikoyi town in Isokan local government area of Osun state.

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I withdrew N282M cash for Jolly Nyame

A former accountant in the Taraba State Liason office in Abuja has testified against former governor Nyame

An Accountant with the Rural Electrification Board in Jalingo, Taraba State, Abdulrahman Mohammed,  has admitted to having withdrawn N282 million naira for the former governor of Taraba State, Jolly Nyame.  

Mr. Mohammed, former head of the accounts department in the Taraba State liaison office in Abuja, who is now a key witness of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in the prosecution of the former governor of Taraba State, made this admission in an Abuja high court hearing being presided over by Justice Adebukola Banjoko on Wednesday.  

He said told Justice Adebukola Banjoko that he issued, withdrew and gave the former governor of Taraba State, 20 Zenith Bank PLC cheques valued over N282 million.

The former governor is currently facing a 41-count charge of money laundering, criminal breach of trust and gratification totaling one billion, three hundred and sixty million naira in the Abuja High Court.  

While Rotimi Jacob, the prosecution counsel examined Mr. Mohammed, the later said Mr. Japheth Wubon, the former permanent secretary of the liaison office in Abuja would instruct him to prepare a Zenith Bank cheque, withdraw money and then take to the former governor at his lodge on T Y Danjuma Street, Abuja. 

Mr. Mohammed said that a driver and at least two police escort always accompanied him on the assignment. He also told the court that the money was either received by the governor or his steward and never had a receipt or voucher that was signed by the governor. 

Mr. Mohammed identified two exhibits labeled “M” and “S” as the Zenith Bank financial statements and copies of the cheques he signed and with which money was paid.

According to him, the money he withdrew for the ex-governor in 2006 include: N15.5 million on March 13, N25 million on May 4, N5 million on June 16; twenty five million twenty thousand Naira on June 29, , N3 million on July 21, five million ten thousand Naira on October 10, , N10 million on October 31, N20 million on November 7 and twenty five million ten thousand naira only on November 13 .
 
In his testimony, Mr. Mohammed said the 2007 withdrawals he made for the ex-governor include: N25 million on January 8, N15 million on January 18, N25 million on January 30, N20 million on February 19, two million and ten thousand naira on March 7, N4 million on March 21, N6 million on March 24, N20 million on March 30, and N20 million on May 7.
 
On the other hand, the defence counsels, led by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Lateef Fagbemi, objected to the cheques being tendered as evidence.

He maintained that since the monies were withdrawn from Zenith banks with the cheques, they could not be tendered as evidence by the witness.

“The witness is a staff of Taraba state government and not an employee of Zenith Bank. The document to be tendered is ordinarily in possession of Zenith Bank, how did the witness come in possession of these cheques?
“To me, it is a mystery. This is a criminal matter and the process by which the guilt of the accused is arrived at must be seen to be pure and clean. I urge your Lordship to reject these documents,” Mr. Fagbemi said.
 
But Mr. Jacobs, the prosecuting counsel, cited Section 147 and 148 of the Evidence Act. He stated that as long as “the witness wrote and signed the cheques during the period under scrutiny, he has link to the exhibit. I therefore urge my Lord to discountenance the objection”, Mr. Jacob said.

The judge adjourned the case till April 30, May 24 and 25, 2012, for further hearing.

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jonathan and the pension scam

ne of the cardinal characteristics of the concept of the rule of law, is the presumption of innocence, which is to say, people standing trial are subjected to extensive investigation upon which an interdiction process is initiated to determine guilt or innocence.

The most tasking period for the law and enforcement agents, is the period between the initiation of official investigation, the formal preferment of charges; and the zenith of a proper judicial trial to determine the degree of culpability of the persons standing trial.

Since only proper courts can determine guilt in our legal system, the  legal challenge is the maintenance of the presumption of innocence, no matter the volume of damaging factual evidence against the individual.  Typically, however, the fear of a mob-inspired conviction of an innocent within the expansive realm of public opinion remains an eternally hovering presence  that the secluded eminence of a courtroom cannot effectively reverse.

The past few weeks has been a period of melancholic drama, laced with bizarre disclosures, disingenuous statements,,and a grand conspiracy to bankrupt the savings of Nigerian workers by way of their corrupt management of the nation’s pensions scheme. The context of the current drama was the Senate hearings of the Abdulrasheed Maina’s Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT). 

The high drama here was the ironic fate that confronted an intervention committee set-up by the federal government to unravel the evident pilfering of the pension proceeds of the Nigerian workers. While the hearings were going on and upon all the emanating scandals, the chairman of the task force had his own due of allegations of corruption against his own person.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission early last week initiated a prosecutorial process against some of the officials suspected of damaging acts of corruption.  The agency, through its spokesman, Wilson Uwajaren, proclaimed the arrest of a federal permanent secretary, four directors, a deputy commissioner of police and two other officials. While confirming their release on an administrative bail, the agency also affirmed its readiness to banish graft and all its associated ills from the working of the Nigerian civil service, asserting further that the Jonathan administration does not and will never tolerate such sleaze within its ranks.

Unfortunately, the moral underbelly of the administration was exposed on Tuesday of last week when President Goodluck Jonathan reshuffled the velvet rank of the federal bureaucracy by re-posting 14 permanent secretaries to different offices, and bringing in only two fresh hands into the pool.

If this swivel chair motion meant nothing to most Nigerians, the biggest benefit came by way of the apparent re-posting of the federal permanent secretary in the Ministry of Niger-Delta, to the office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation.  The individual, by the name of Abubakar Kigo, is alleged to be neck deep in the pension funds scam currently unfolding before Nigerians, that has been subject of extensive scrutiny by the corruption investigation bodies, many uncontested reports in the newspapers. Indeed  on accounts of the spokesperson of the Pension Reform Task Team, Mallam Hassan Salihu, this gentleman has been linked with the recovery of about two billion naira stashed in a residential abode in Abuja.

The question that is begging for answers is: could the president be be unaware of the status of an individual facing such weighty allegations, to effect a transfer that seemingly transmit a perception of a cover-up?  Was it not the president himself who established the investigation task force on the activities of the pension fund administration?

Right from time immemorial and through the long periods of the development of the fundamental ethos of the rule of law, one of most challenging tasks before the erudite temples of justice, is weighing the balance between the actual declaration of a judge [or jury] and the perception of justice from the court of public opinion. Thus, under the applicable dictates in our legal norms, as epitomized by the operative pronouncements of the Nigerian Civil Service Rules (NCSR); reasonable suspicions, verifiable accusations, and probable inference of the commission of a crime, cannot cause a civil servant to be relieved of his or her office, as it is only when such an individual has been convicted and pronounced guilty by a competent court of law or a legally constituted administrative panel.

However, it is still under the same civil service rules, which, while safeguarding the individual rights of a Nigerian worker, also protects the of suspension of person’s reasonably suspected of breaking the law, pending the completion of an investigation and proper trial.

Majority of Nigerians have a reasonable suspicion of complicity of the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation in the illegal deeds of the pension scam.  This has even been corroborated with the submissions of the Senate Investigative Panel. Since many of the indicted personnel have direct relationship with the office, it is hard not to feel a sense of odium for the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation, after all, it is the office that supervises the pension department, not to forget that the leadership of the controversial task team emanated from that office.

Thus, when someone that is accused of illegal deals in the management of the pension fund administration is dramatically redeployed to the same office, the safe and reasonable assumption is that of a grand ploy of a cover-up.  Let us not forget that this is the same Nigeria, a country without great historical pedigree in investigating and prosecuting corruption cases

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Nigeria Senate reads Riot Act to Mali coup plotters, weighs military action

The lawmakers say the coup plotters must quit or face sanction

Nigerian senators on Tuesday dispatched a rare warning to Malian coup plotters who ousted that country’s elected government last week, threatening at a point, the use of force to restore Amadou Toure’s government in a strange diplomatic meddling that fleetingly portrayed Nigeria as the formidable regional big brother.

In a resolution to condemn the dramatic take-over of government and the suspension of Malian constitution by the soldiers, the lawmakers appeared furious at the development and tipped the rhetoric far above the expected, repeatedly mentioning military force as an option to restore normalcy.

One of the prayers canvassed for, by the sponsors of the motion was to mandate President Goodluck Jonathan to consider sending Nigeria’s military to eject the mutineers led by Captain Amadou Sanogo. The move was however defeated.

The events in Mali have drawn international condemnations from world powers like the United States and former colonial master, France.

Amid rising fears of a counter coup by soldiers loyal to the ousted president, the coup leader, Captain Sanogo has reassured of his control of the country, and has said the military would not keep power any longer than is necessary to deal with the Tuareg rebellion in the country’s north.

The Nigerian senators deplored the move and the senate president, David Mark, himself a former coup plotter, said a military take-over presented no solution to the insurgency in the north of the poor West African country.

“Coup used to be the order of the day,” he said. “Every country in Africa then felt that its military should be in charge of governance. But now I think they have learnt their lessons that military coup is no t only unwanted, but it is an aberration.”

Mr. Mark gave emphasis to call from a senator, Abdul Ningi (Bauchi state) for immediate Nigeria-led military invasion of Mali to oust the coup plotters.

“They should leave, and if they fail they can be forced to leave. Whatever they call it, coup, mutiny or insurrection; all we want is for the military to vacate,” Mr. Mark insisted.

The senate condemned the act, and demanded an immediate restoration of democracy within seven days, failing however, to state a punitive response. An earlier suggestion that Nigerian envoy to Mali be recalled was rejected.

Still, some senators saw the move somewhat intrusive, and a measure that may fetch no adherence coming from Nigeria – a known bastion of coup plots in the past.

“We don’t have the moral high ground and they will not listen to us,” advised Ahmed Makarfi, a Peoples Democratic Party senator from Kaduna State

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