Activist, Former Lawmaker React To Buhari’s Letter On Magu, SGF

Activst, Former Lawmaker React To Buhari’s Letter On Magu, SGFA former lawmaker has joined other observers, including rights activists in reacting to President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to re-nominate Mr Ibrahim Magu as EFCC Chairman and retain Mr Babachir Lawal as Secretary to the Government of the Federation.

Mr Babatunde Ogala, a former lawmaker in the Lagos state House Of Assembly, faults the interim report sent to the Presidency by the Senate as not sufficient enough to throw out the candidacy of both men.

He said that while he would not exonerate or condemn the SGF, the votes and proceeding and interim reports, did not suggest that he was given a fair hearing.

“The President has not said you were right or wrong. He has only pointed out their procedural errors.

“A legislature takes resolutions to the executive – You do not send interim reports”, he stressed, adding that the Senate had sent an incomplete report.

Questioning the actions of the Senate, he said: “Supposing the man had been sacked in your interim reports and your final reports now prove that he’s not even liable, what would have happened?”

Selective Application Of Constitution

Sharing a different view, rights activist, Richard Nwankwo, believes both the SGF and the EFCC boss, ought to have stepped down from office to allow for proper investigations into allegations leveled against them.

Nwakwo stressed that in the fight against corruption, there should be an elaborate, comprehensive and an intellectually driven campaign; which he believes is not what is playing out in reality.

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“Like I have repeatedly maintained, the selective application of the provisions of this constitution is the highest form of corruption.”

He then added that “even if there is no merit from the allegation from the Senate, I expect that the gladiators involved to have stepped aside for a thorough investigation to be done.”

They both gave their opinions while speaking on Channels Television’s breakfast show, Sunrise Daily.

President Buhari had on Monday re-submitted the name of Mr Magu to the Senate for confirmation as the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

In that letter, the President explained that the nominee had satisfactorily clarified the allegation, which led to the earlier rejection by the Senate.

The President also rejected the recommendation of the Senate, asking for the removal of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal, over allegation of corruption.

Different Circumstances

Meanwhile, the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL), has highlighted what it called differences in the circumstances surrounding both situations involving Magu and Lawal.

In a statement made in reaction to President Buhari’s letter, the spokesman for CACOL, Mr Wale Salami, explained that “there is the imperative need to separate Magu’s case and that of Babachir”.

Lawyers Should Be Involved In SAN Selection Process – Nwankwo

Richard NwankwoA Member of the Crusade For Justice group, Richard Nwankwo, on Friday asked that the legal reforms being spearheaded by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Aloma Mariam Mukhtar, be taken a notch higher, through the overhauling of the appointment process, which confers the position of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) on any person.

“It is ridiculous when you sit down and people are appointed and you are hearing the names of some judges for the first time,” he said, noting that the constitution does not insist that a person must have been practicing before being appointed.

Addressing issues concerning the judiciary on Sunrise Daily, Nwankwo said the current judicial reforms were in tune with the sentiments of lawyers and right thinking members of the society.

“We quite appreciate the difficulties that are inherent in the legal judicial system and occasionally, that plays out and that is what we are seeing in some jurisdictions now and I believe that a lot ought to be done. All hands should be on deck, especially from the perspective of the judiciary and we believe that that is presently being done but the pace at which these reforms are going on is not something to write home about,” he said.

Concerning the issue of corruption which the CJN had said was rampant among judiciary employees including secretaries, court registrars, process clerks and bailiffs nationwide, Nwankwo said: “she actually said the obvious”. But he argued that the CJN should have “gone beyond that”.

“There’s a lot of corruption going on also at the bench and we believe that the judiciary must fall back on the in-house cleansing system to purify some of these things” he said, noting that the issue was pretty embarrassing.

“We see that play out in all the courts and we have always maintained that the first thing must be done first and that is constant training and re-training.

“Also, we have to take into consideration the fact that the welfare package of some of these judiciary workers must also be captured, in a very brilliant manner, otherwise we still have indices of corruption as it is currently playing out.

“I think what we should focus on now is in bringing in new blood into the judiciary, especially at the lower segment. The system must be open. The system must be transparent and the issue of integrity must be elevated to a critical level, so that we just don’t bring in anybody into the bench.”

He noted that “a whole lot of political appointees are at the bench and that makes nonsense of the entire process.

“The process of appointment must be isolated from the ambiance of the executive and if that is not done we will still continue to muddle in the kind of mess we have now.”

He also called out the Lagos State Government for butting into the Nigerian Bar Association’s arrangement towards ensuring a “purified” system of appointment.

According to him, the elevation of people to the rank of Senior Advocate should undergo stringent reforms. He, however, said that there were obstacles on the path of change.

“Part of the challenges we are having under this present dispensation is the difficulty in effecting some of these amendments. “Some of these things are constitutionally designed in such a way that it would be extremely difficult for whoever wants to effect a change.”

“We believe that with the total and comprehensive involvement of all the stakeholders, it will be a lot easier.”

He noted that they were agitating that some of these processes must be refined and core practitioners and those who are in the industry should be allowed to have a say in some of these appointments.

Chartered Private Jets: Reps Give Diezani, Others One Week To Reply Query

The Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke
The Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke

The Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison Madueke, Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Mr. Andrew Yakubu, VistaJet International, Evergreen Aviation Terminal, operators of private Jets and the Federal Aviation Authority of Nigeria, FAAN have been written by the House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts.

The letters dated March 26 and signed by the Chairman of the committee, Samuel Adeola, signifies the heightened preparations for the probe of the chartered private jets which is said to be costing the country billions of Naira.

The Minister is expected to tender a written submission within one week of “all she knows about the transactions, and if as a Minister she is entitled to such chartered private jets for private use, and whether or not she has not breached public service rules, as well as who is responsible for the bills.”

Other necessary information that would aid the Committee in the investigation is also to be forwarded by the Minister.

On its part, the GMD NNPC is to forward in written form to the lawmakers “all information relating to the deal from 2011 till date, the level of involvement of the Corporation, the contractual agreement between the Corporation and the operators of the private jets and its financial commitment to it since 2011 till date among others,” a source close to the committee said.

The Committee is requesting from the private jets operators “the contract agreements between them and the NNPC from 2011 till date, all the flight schedules, the passengers’ manifests from 2011 till date and the amount of money paid to them during the period under review,” the source added.

The probe into the controversial operation of chartered private jets for private use for local and foreign trips by Mrs Diezeani Alison-Madueke was sequel to a motion brought before the House on the matter by a member, Samuel Adejare (APC, Lagos).

One of the aspects that the Reps Committee is interested in getting answers to is why there was no valid contract agreement between the NNPC/Petroleum Resources Ministry and the Private Jets operators for the lease of the 850 challenger Aircraft which was allegedly extensively used by the Minister.

The tendering of memoranda by stakeholders would be followed by the adoption of a date for the public hearing on the matter, in line with the resolution of the House, it was learnt on Wednesday.

Several new flight schedules operated on foreign trips by the Minister between 2012 and 2013 has also been uncovered by the Public Accounts committee.

The new discovery, involving Global Express XRS with tail number S5-GMG and tail number OE-LGX,OE-LSS and OE-INA allegedly cost $300,000 (about N50m) per trip, way above an estimated cost of N7.5million for the same trip.

A December 21, 2012 trip from the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja to the United Kingdom with the Global Express XRS with the tail number: OE-LGX gulped N57.5million as against an estimated N6million, it was also alleged.

Petroleum Minister’s Probe: National Assembly Is Equally Corrupt – Nwankwo

Richard NwankwoA representative of the Crusade for Justice, Richard Nwankwo, believes that the reports of corruption in the Nigerian oil sector and the abuse of funds levelled against the Petroleum Minister are products of corruption in the entire Nigerian system.

Speaking on Channels Television, he said that there was a bazaar going on in Abuja, as “there have been several instances of massive corruption.”

The House of Representatives had mandated its committee on public accounts, to probe the alleged reckless spending of over N10 billion by the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Deziani Allison-Madueke for air charter services, and Mr Nwankwo refused to take them serious.

He said that the National Assembly itself lacked the moral justification to investigate corruption when they are also corrupt. He cited the $620, 000 bribery scandal still hanging on the neck of a member of the House of Representatives, Farouk Lawan, as one of those that disqualifies the National Assembly from investigating the NNPC or the alleged abuse of funds by Mrs Allison-Madueke.

When reminded that some of the cases involving the lawmakers were still in court, the legal practitioner said that this was no guarantee that the House was seeking true justice, considering how long the cases have been lingering without signs of being close to its conclusion.

He expressed belief that if indeed Nigeria wishes to truly fight corruption; all corruption cases must be tried on a day-today basis and brought to conclusion without the usual unjustifiable delays. He feared that all those cases in court, involving lawmakers would not be concluded before the election and they would be forgotten.

“There are a lot of latter day born again activists in the National Assembly”, he said, adding that but none of them has ever come out to tell Nigerians how much they were earning, let alone admit that these monies were too much, despite complaints that they were consuming too much of the country’s resources.

Nwankwo advised that Nigerians cannot afford to look at agencies like the NNPC or the Petroleum Ministry in isolation. He insisted that there is an existing culture of corruption, explaining that the system has a structure of how they do things which has been customary in the mentality of the people within the system.

He said that the system of operation within the NNPC has been the same way for decades, as it has become their in-house style, and to fight it, there has to be a strong political will.

He said, “If you are operating within the confines of these institutions, you must be above board” and once the National Assembly is guilty of some of the corruption allegations against the Minister and the NNPC, they cannot tackle the issue.

The National Assembly was said to have acknowledged that the NNPC has a right to use a private aircraft, and Nwankwo would not oppose this, but he said that allegations of ‘Waste of Resources on the Arbitrary Charter and Maintenance of a Challenger 850 Aircraft for Non-Official Use’ against the Minister of Petroleum are indeed cases of corruption, which should be taken up.

He noted, “A leader must be forensic and result minded.”

 

PDP/APC: Court Cannot Declare Seats Of Decampees Vacant – Nwankwo

A Lawyer, Richard Nwankwo on Thursday said that the court cannot declare the seats of 37 lawmakers who defected to the APC on Wednesday vacant because the constitution guarantees freedom of association.

37 members of the House of Representatives, who were formerly under the umbrella of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC), on Wednesday.

The lawmakers said that they changed parties due to “division and factionalisation” within the ruling party.

Reacting to the latest development on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, Nwankwo said that no court pronouncement would detract from Section 38 of the constitution which talks about the freedom of thought, conscience and religion as well as section 40 which talks about peaceful assembly and association.

“These two constitutional provisions are very key and strong, and that is the beauty of constitutional democracy,” he said.

“We have to look at what is going on from the perspective of the fundamental rights provisions, because that is the thrust of this matter. The constitution is clear, and I believe that whatever cross-carpeting or re-alignment that is taking place will not detract from the strength of any political party that is on the ground, but what should border Nigerians is that these cross-carpeting, re-alignments have no ideological platform,” he added.

The political circle in the country has been regarded as bereft of any ideology as politicians often hop from party to party, Nwankwo supported the popular assertion by saying “in some other jurisdictions, political parties are known for their ideological slant but that is completely non-existent in our political equation here.”

He added that “this is an environment where our President talks about provision of water, good roads, and environmental sanitation issues. These are 14th century challenges in some other jurisdictions.

“We are still battling with the basics and that also gives us insight into the strength of the challenge we have.

“We have a political arena that is bereft of political ideologies,” he said, and added that the disputes leading to the defection of governors and lawmakers “have absolutely nothing to do with ideologies” as they are “predicated on personal disputes.”

“The landscape is becoming very muddy and very uncertain.”

Calls For Cancelation Of Election Are Misplaced — Nwankwo

Richard Nwankwo of Crusade For Justice.The call for the cancelation of the November 16 governorship election in Anambra State has been described as misplaced calls predicated on gross misinformation.

A lawyer with the Crusade for Justice, Mr. Richard Nwankwo, insisted that the irregularities that were noticed in the election were not new and that they were as a result of the poor background.

“What is the magnitude of this non-compliance and deviation  from electoral norm. I feel these people are not being very fair enough in their comments. We have seen elections conducted and we have seen massive deviations in terms of electoral norms,” he stressed.

He maintained that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had made commendable efforts that should not be jettisoned.

“If anybody is aggrieved with the result, they should take advantage of the provisions of the electoral law,” he said on a Channels Television breakfast programme, ‘Sunrise Daily’ .

“It is quite unfortunate that we are having a recurrence of the same issues, but the issues have been blown out of proportion through the media.

According to him, the incidence were isolated and sporadic and not enough for people to call for the cancelation of the election.

Mr. Nwankwo, however, pointed out that there were lapses on the part of INEC but insisted that they were not enough to call for a fresh election.

“Section 133 of the Electoral Act as amended states that the only way a party can object to an election result is through a petition which must go to either a court or a tribunal,” he explained.

Mr. Nwankwo stated that the election would offer the electoral body a broader perspective in monitoring future elections to ensure credibility.

Nigeria’s Survival Dependent On ‘Weak’ FCT – Nwankwo

A member of the Crusade For Justice Group, Richard Nwankwo, has advocated for a strong regional system of governance which will minimize the over-dependence on the Federal Government and make the centre ‘weak.’

Nwankwo, who was speaking on the proposed National Conference, on Sunrise Daily, stated that “for Nigeria to survive, you must have an extremely weak centre,” and grant power to the people to determine how they want to be ruled.

He averred that the current Federal System of governance was copied from the United States of America and is not being practised correctly, as there are several distortions in the system, here in Nigeria.

“You cannot run a presidential system of government predicated on the kind of decree we have, decree of 1999 constitution,” he said.

According to the activist, the National Conference, which has garnered both applause and criticism from different groups and individuals, is “proper at this point” and shows that the “government means well.”

However, President Goodluck Jonathan’s decision, which mandates that the recommendations made on the Conference will pass through the National Assembly, was ill-advised.

“I think the president is not properly being advised.”

Although the Advisory Committee is yet to complete its 6 week assignment of delivering a modus operandi for the Dialogue, Okonkwo stated that its activities so far fall within the picture of a properly organized conference.

However, he advised that all shades of opinion be represented.

Fewer States

Mr Nkwankwo also called for the reduction of the existing 36 states in the Federation, which he believes will reduce the cost of governance.

“It is mathematically impossible to move the nation forward with the number of states we have.

“It is also impossible to have the bloated NASS, with the kind of reckless allocation of funds going to them to talk about development,” he said.

He faulted the number of states in the country, a pattern he said Nigeria ‘copied’ from the United States of America.

“Texas is the 11th most powerful economy in the world. California is the 6th,” he said. In Nigeria, “these states are absolutely, economically redundant.”

He alleged that the states are created to appease political appointees.

Mr Nwankwo advocated that all the states in the different regions be collapsed into one.

“We want to see the possibility of collapsing all the states in the south east into one, all the states in the south west into one.”

This proposition will curtail the financial excesses and the high cost of governance in the country’s recurrent expenditure.

Lawyer Describes Public Sector Reform “Cosmetic”

A legal prpractitioner and  a member of the Crusade For Justice, Richard Nwankwo has tagged the reform taking place to sanitise the public sector as “cosmetic”.

He said “corruption as we know in Nigeria has grown over time and justice is yet to prevail. The approaches that can solve these problems have to be comprehensive, wholehearted and there must be a display of political will”.

Nwankwo, who spoke as a contributor on Channels Television’s flagship breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, on Tuesday, advocated for the creation of an enabling environment for battling corruption.

He added that the major way of dealing with the problem is identifying where to start from, saying “where do you start? You start from the leadership. If the leadership is clean, you see people falling in line.” He noteded that Nigerians are selective in addressing issues therefore constructive criticism is needed.

He therefore called on all Nigerians to come together to address the issues of corruption in the public sector.

Lawyer Claims Constitution Of NJC Members Is Totally ‘Skewed’

Richard Nwankwo, a legal practitioner while accessing Nigeria’s judiciary on the mid-term report of the Jonathan administration said the legal arm has fared well but it does need a lead way for improvement.

Speaking on Channels Television’s breakfast programme Sunrise Daily, Mr. Nwankwo stated that the judiciary should be firm when dealing with issues whilst he called for a thorough procedure in the Constitution of members of the National Judicial Council (NJC).

He said that the judiciary should be firm adding that the constitution of NJC members is “grossly skewed.”

He argued that an “organization like NJC is very sensitive and the appointing power resting solely on the CJN is very unacceptable.”

Referring to the statement by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Aloma Mukhtar that“if a judge fails to deliver a minimum of four judgments in a year the judge should be sanctioned”, Mr Nwankwo said the implication of such a remark is that a lot of judicial officers will fall below that bench mark.

 

Lawyer Describes Fight Against Corruption As Cosmetic

A lawyer and member of the Crusade for Justice, Richard Nwankwo has described the efforts by the leadership of Nigeria in fighting corruption as superficial and designed to achieve nothing.

Speaking as a guest on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, Mr Nwankwo said the present leaders in the country lack the political will and determination to conduct a genuine crusade against corruption in Nigeria.

“When you are fighting corruption from the general point of view, the leadership must show some measure of political will and determination and some measure of drive to demonstrate to everybody that actually there is a massive campaign against corruption and that is clearly not been done here,” he said.