Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Thursday, ruled that there was insufficient evidence to order the removal of Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, from office over corruption allegations leveled by the opposition.
A verdict to dismiss Sharif would have left his party in power but would have brought turmoil at a time when Pakistan is experiencing modest growth and improved security, and the civilian government and powerful military have appeared to come to uneasy terms.
According to Reuters, two of five judges on the court bench recommended Sharif should step down, saying he was dishonest “to the nation as well as to the parliament”, but they were out voted.
Presenting its 549-page judgment amid tight security in the capital Islamabad, the court however, ordered a joint investigation team be formed to look into allegations around three of Sharif’s four children using offshore companies to buy properties in London.
The team has two months to complete its inquiry, after which a special bench will decide what action to take. The court said this in a ruling that opened with the epigraph from Mario Puzo’s novel “The Godfather”: “Behind every great fortune there is a crime”.
The Prime Minister and his children had denied any wrongdoing and have expressed openness towards the court’s latest ruling.
“We are ready for all kinds of investigation,” Defence Minister Khawaja Asif told reporters outside the court.
Justice Sylvester Ngwuta has pleaded not guilty to eight charges bordering on false declaration of assets preferred against him by the Federal Government before the tribunal.
According to the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, Justice Ngwuta contravened section 15 of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, laws of the federation of Nigeria, which is punishable under section 23 (2) of the Act.
The Chairman of the CCT, Justice Danladi Umar, adjourned the matter for hearing to July 12, 2017 after the judge pleaded not guilty.
Justice Ngwuta is one of the judges whose residence was raided in October 2016 by the Department of Security Service, which uncovered huge sums of money in in the process.
He is also standing trial before Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court, Abuja, on an amended 16 counts bordering on money laundering.
A legal practitioner, John Oloyede, has faulted the Federal Government’s idea of setting up a committee to investigate issues surrounding the suspension of the Secretary to the Federal Government, Babachir Lawal and the Director General of the National Intelligence Agency, Ayo Oke.
He said in Nigeria, committees are set up to cover up lies. “There is a lie and you need a bigger lie to cover it up”.
“Why should the Vice President be heading a committee to investigate an allegation of crime against two individuals.
Dead On Arrival
“Secondly, the Attorney General and even the Presidency authored a response to the allegations by the Senate, giving the Secretary to the Government of the Federation a clean bill of health previously.
“The clean bill of health was on the basis of a report that was submitted by the Attorney General of the Federation. You now set up a committee; that committee is dead on arrival.
“If you suspect that there is some proof that something untoward has been done and is an infraction of the law, the proper procedure is not to set up a committee that is dead on arrival.”
The lawyer therefore stated that the President should have taken a different step, rather than setting up a committee headed by the Vice President.
Let EFCC Investigate
“In Nigeria, you set up institutions and decapitate the institutions,” he said, while also noting that “what Professor Sani said, is playing out. You do not move two different sets of rules to fight corruption.
“If there is an allegation of crime against somebody, first and foremost, where did the first report come from? Now that it has become apparent to you (Mr President), that there is a problem with this particular person or persons, aren’t there institutions that are presently fighting the war on corruption? The EFCC, DSS, Police? He questioned.
“That administrative step should not be in public domain, it is not our business,” Oloyede added.
According to him, “the important thing now is that once a person is suspended, the EFCC should do their work.
“Let them investigate this person, just like they are investigating and charging other people to court. Why have two sets of rules for the same kind of crimes.”
He holds the belief that since the AGF had absolved the SGF before, he could easily do same this time around as he would not want to double speak. However, if he does otherwise, then his previous report would be questioned.
“If he says this man is guilty as charged, then we’ll say where did you get your false report before, why didn’t you do a thorough investigation? The chief law officer, involved in double speak, that is untoward,” he asserted.
Meanwhile, other reactions have continued to trail the suspension. The Chairman of the Senate’s Ad-hoc Committee on Humanitarian crises in the North East, Shehu Sani, however, stated that the suspension of Mr Babachir Lawal will not interrupt its ongoing investigation of the Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE).
President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the suspension of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. David Babachir Lawal.
President Buhari has also ordered an investigation into the allegations of violations of law and due process made against the SGF in the award of contracts under the Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE).
Also, pending the outcome of the investigation into the discovery of large amounts of foreign and local currencies by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), in a residential apartment at Osborne towers, Ikoyi, Lagos state, the President has suspended the Director General of the National Intelligence Agency, Ayo Oke.
This was made known in a statement signed by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina.
According to the statement, the investigation is also to enquire into the circumstances in which the NIA came into possession of the funds, how and by whose or which authority the funds were made available to the NIA, and to establish whether or not there has been a breach of the law or security procedure in obtaining custody and use of the funds.
A three-man Committee comprising the Honorable Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, and the National Security Adviser, headed by the Vice President, is to conduct both investigations.
The committee is expected to submit its report to the President within 14 days.
In the interim, the most senior Permanent Secretary in the SGF’s office, and the most senior officer in the NIA, are to act, respectively, during the period of investigation.
Meanwhile, Mr. Osinbajo has held a closed door meeting with the SGF, Mr. Lawal. The NIA DG, Mr. Oke, who had been turned back earlier, in an emotion-laden moment and denied attempts to speak with the VP, was later granted an audience.
A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, has ordered the temporary forfeiture of the sum of 449,750,000 Naira to the Federal Government, found in possession of one Mohammed Tauheed, of the LEGICO Shopping Plaza in Victoria Island.
Justice Rilwan Aikawa, who was sitting as the vacation judge, for the Easter holidays, ordered the forfeiture of the money after listening to an Ex-parte application filed and argued before his court by a counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr Rotimi Oyedepo.
The EFCC in an affidavit sworn to by one of its operatives, Moses Awolusi, submitted that the commission received an intelligence report on April 7, 2017, that money in several Ghana must go bags were warehoused in one of the shops located at the LEGICO shopping Plaza.
The intelligence report according to the EFCC, was analysed and found worthy of investigation.
Upon inquires into the ownership of the shop (number LS64) where the exhibit was recovered, the EFCC said their investigations indicated that the shop had not been opened for close to two years.
Also, according to the commission, the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the plaza, Mr Sulaiman Mukthar Daba and Alhaji Ishaq Ayandiran, could also not trace the identity of the owner of the shop, but came to EFCC’s office with one Mohammed Tauheed, who claimed ownership of the money.
He then informed the EFCC that he received the money in cash from a serving Government official whose name he would not disclose for security reasons.
The EFCC further stated that thereafter, Mohammed Tauheed in the presence of his lawyer agreed to return the money back to Federal Government of Nigeria who is the rightful owner of the money.
The anti-graft agency then concluded that Mohammed Tauheed who has been arrested in connection with the money, criminally conspired with the owner of the shop (now at large) to launder the said funds.
After laying all its facts before the court, the EFCC told Justice Aikawa that it would be in the interest of Justice if the court could, in the interim, make an order of forfeiture of the money to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
The EFCC also requested that the court allows Tauheed or any other person to be put on notice and appear before the court within 14 days to state reasons why the money found in their possession should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
Justice Aikawa granted the request and also ordered the EFCC to advertise the order of the court within 14 days for any interested party to come forward and convince the court as to why the money should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
The matter was subsequently adjourned till May 19.
Officers and men of the Ondo State Police Command have been deployed to the Akure-Ilesa and the Owo- Ikare-Akoko Highways as well as some other roads across the state in order to combat criminal activities such as armed robbery and kidnapping.
Speaking to journalists during one of her visits to supervise operations on the highway, the State Commissioner of Police, Hilda Ibifuro- Harrison disclosed that the essence of the deployment is to ensure that the lives and property of people travelling on the road are safe and well secured.
The CP expressed sadness on the incident of armed robbery that took place on the highway in March, in which a former Managing Director of Daily Times, Onukaba Adinoyi-Ojo, lost his life.
She however thanked all stakeholders in the state including the government, traditional rulers, hunters, vigilanté groups and all security agencies for their support for the police in ensuring security.
Harrison also noted that the deployment of police on the Owo-Ikare roads in stop and search duties has actually helped in putting pressure on the abductors of a traditional ruler in the state, Oba Joel Sunday Daodu, the Oniyani of Iyani- Akoko, leading to his release by his captors.
The weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting which holds every Wednesday at the Presidential Villa, has failed to hold this time.
A statement from the Presidency said: “The staff of the council secretariat, resumed on Tuesday after the Easter.
“There was no time to prepare and circulate memos to ministers. By practice, the ministers receive council memos two or three days ahead of meetings because they must read them and sometimes undertake research. It is not a rubber stamp council so everyone must prepare themselves well for debates.”
For now, it is not clear whether there would be an abridge version of the meeting before the week runs out or the council members would have to wait till next week.
Meanwhile, the President who usually chairs the meeting was absent at last week and the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, had to take charge. It was the first time President Buhari would miss the weekly meeting since returning from a 50-day vacation in London.
The four companies convicted by the Federal High Court in Lagos for laundering $15.5 million allegedly belonging to the wife of former President Goodluck Jonathan, Patience, have asked the Court Of Appeal also in Lagos to overturn the verdict.
They were arraigned alongside a former Special Adviser on Domestic Affairs to President Jonathan, Waripamo Dudafa, a lawyer, Amajuoyi Briggs and a banker, Adedamola Bolodeoku, who all pleaded not guilty.
The four men who represented the companies had pleaded guilty to laundering the money when they were arraigned before Justice Babs Kuewumi.
However, the companies through their lawyer, Mike Ozekhome, now claim that the identities of those who purportedly pleaded guilty on their behalf were “unverified”.
According to the firms, the representatives did not present any evidence that they were duly appointed.