Suswam’s Trial Continues In Abuja

SuswamThe trial of the former Governor of Benue State, Mr Gabriel Suswam and his former Commissioner of Finance, Omodachi Okolobia, continued in Abuja on Tuesday.

A witness presented by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commissions (EFCC), Mrs Bridgid Shietu, denied knowledge of the sales of about 47 million units of shares in three tranches in 2006 by the administration of Senator George Akume.

During cross examination by the defence counsel, Mr Joseph Daudu, the witness, who was the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Benue Investment and Property Company Limited, also denied knowledge of the sales of some shares belonging to the state government.

The witness denied the knowledge of another sales of about 2,764,800 units of Julius Berger shares in 2006 and another 12,358,650 units of AfriBank Nigeria PLC shares sold in the same month and the same year by Senator George Akume.

She, however, admitted receiving the sum of $2.2 million from the proceeds of the shares sold by Mr Suswam, as counterpart funding paid into the account of Samkalos Benue Farms Limited, which was a joint venture project between the Benue State Government and Samkalos Farms of Mexico.

The prosecutor, Rotimi Jacobs, declined commenting on the trial while Mr Daudu restated the innocence of his client.

The case has been adjourned to March 2, 2016.

Mr Suswam and his former Commissioner of Finance are standing trial for an alleged criminal diversion of 3.1 billion Naira brought against him by the EFCC.


Stakeholders Advocate Agro-Based Economy For Benue

benue stakeholders on agro-based economyParticipants at the first Benue State Stakeholders Forum have advised the State Government to pursue agro-based economy in order to create wealth for the people.

This appeared to be the unanimous position adopted by the stakeholders who gathered at Government House in Makurdi on Saturday to interact with Governor Samuel Ortom on his performance in his first 100 days in office.

The Managing Director of NEXIM Bank, Mr Robert Orya and Mr. Ambrose Feese an investment banker, who led the call among other speakers, said that Benue State must turn to agriculture, in which it holds comparative advantage over other states, to avoid a total system collapse due to falling crude oil prices.

They further advised Governor Ortom to create an enabling environment for agriculture to thrive.

Lending his voice to the call, A former governor of the state Senator George Akume challenged well-placed Benue indigenes to rise up to the occasion and create wealth for the people through agriculture.

Expectedly, Governor Ortom listed the agricultural revolution as part of his administration’s resolve to address unemployment and wealth creation.

He also spoke about the success of his amnesty programme, peace and security, as well as his probe of the administration of his predecessor, Mr. Gabriel Suswam.

To underscore his preparedness for the task ahead, the Governor also launched a three years development plan.

Agriculture was the mainstay and major income earner for Nigeria until the discovery of crude oil in the country and the subsequent wind fall from the international price boom.

However, since the instability in the crude oil market began in 2012 most oil-producing countries, including Nigeria have been finding it difficult to manage their financial obligations.

APC Senators Condemn Obanikoro’s Confirmation

obanikoroSenators of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Nigeria have condemned the confirmation of a ministerial nominee, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, by majority in the Senate, saying they were extremely disappointed by the decision.

Senator Obanikoro was confirmed, without much questioning, by majority in the Senate on Wednesday during the plenary.

The APC lawmakers walked out of the floor of the Senate after their bid to stop the confirmation failed.

Number Advantage

Briefing reporters after Senator Obanikoro was confirmed, the Senate Minority Leader, George Akume, who is a member of the APC, said that the opposition party had objected the nomination of Senator Obanikoro, but lamented that the Senate President and other members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the Senate took advantage of their numbers to override the process.

“We objected to the nomination of Senator Obanikoro and yet the Senate President and his colleagues from the PDP decided to take advantage of their numbers to override what was supposed to be basically a very straight forward issue. We wonder whether we want to grow democracy in this country or we want to destroy this democracy.

“I have said his (Senate President) action is a breach. He should have stayed to clear himself. The matter is in court and one of the rules of the Senate is that when a matter is in the court, the Senate cannot deliberate on it,” he said.

“Compromised His Office”

Senator Obanikoro was a former Minister of Defence before he resigned to vie for the governorship candidacy of the PDP in Lagos State. He lost in the primary election.

He is alleged to have planned out a process to rig the Ekiti State governorship election. Senator Obanikoro has denied the allegation.

But the APC Senators still said he had questions to answer in respect to what transpired in the Ekiti State election.

Another Senator and a member of the APC, Chris Ngige, expressed worries over the rush to bring back Senator Obanikoro, who he alleged had compromised his office as a Minister of Defence.

“One wonders what is the rush in trying to bring back a former minister of defence who has been alleged… and clips shown that he compromised his office.

“You oppose card reader, Permanent Voter Cards and everything that will make for a credible election and you want to bring back someone who is alleged to have been tented by all evidence,” he stated.

“Innocent Until Proven Guilty”

Responding to the grouse of the APC Senators, the spokesman for the Senate, Enyinnaya Abaribe, said although there were allegations against Senator Obanikoro, there was no court decision, condemning Senator Obanikoro for any crime.

“Well, what we know as a matter of fact is that there were allegations against Senator Musiliu Obanikoro

“But in our law and the Constitution of Nigeria, anything that is a mere allegation, that is not in any way a court decision, is nothing but a mere allegation and every citizen of Nigeria is deem to be innocent until proven guilty.

“And even the Senators, who addressed the press conference and spoke about the qualification and non-qualification of Senator Musiliu Obanikoro are enjoying this privilege because some of them have EFCC cases and they are still in the Senate because of this privilege of being innocent until proven guilty,” he said.

Senator Abaribe said that the APC Senator’s statement was an attempt to convict somebody when the person had not been convicted in a court of law.

“They cannot enjoy that privilege themselves and sit in this Senate and then turn around and say that somebody else cannot enjoy that privilege.

“And the laws of Nigeria is very clear. You are innocent until you are proven guilty and that is what played out on the floors of the Senate.

“The senate in its wisdom, having known that this is the law of Nigeria and this is the Constitution of Nigeria, and that every Nigerian is entitled to this privilege, went ahead to do what it is supposed by law to do which is confirmation of somebody that is on the floor of the Senate who has not been convicted of anything,” he stressed.




APC Lawmakers Warn FG Against Sacking Jega

Voter register
INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega

The All Progressives Congress (APC) caucus in the Senate has warned of an alleged plan by the executive to sack the Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega.

Speaking to journalists after plenary, the Senate Minority leader, Senator George Akume, said the APC was aware of the plan to ask the INEC chairman to proceed on pre-retirement leave.

Professor Jega’s tenure as INEC chairman is expected to end in June this year.

Senator Akume said the APC would resist any plan to remove Professor Jega at this critical time.

He further stressed that any plan to remove the INEC chairman is capable of sabotaging the forth coming general elections.

A former Oyo State Governor, Mr Victor Olunloyo had called for the immediate resignation of INEC chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega.

In an exclusive interview with Channels Television in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, Mr. Olunloyo opined that Jega’s resignation would pave way for better reforms, as several attempts have been made to discredit him and his office.

He urged the electoral body to desist from using the Ekiti 2014 governorship poll as a template for credible elections in Nigeria, insisting that the election was tainted with series of malpractices.

The elder statesman further stressed the need to conduct credible elections starting with sincerity in PVC distribution, and holding politicians responsible for their mistakes.

Meanwhile, the Senator representing Oyo South Senatorial District, Sen. Olufemi Lanleyin, in a swift reaction negated Olunloyo’s submission, describing Jega as a credible professional who must be encouraged to conduct a credible poll.

APC Members In North Central Demand Replacement Of Police Chief

Suleiman Abba.Some members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the North central zone have asked President Goodluck Jonathan to appoint an impartial Inspector General of Police (IGP), insisting that the present one lacks the capacity to be fair to all Nigerians.

The Senate Minority Leader, Senator George Akume and a governorship aspirant on the APC platform, Mr Solomon Dalung, from Plateau State made the call on Monday at a mega rally organised to seek the re-election of governor Tanko Al-makura of Nasarawa State.

The party leaders, who gathered in Lafia to drum support for Mr Al-makura, condemned the action of the Acting IGP, Mr Suleiman Abba, who withdrew the security details of the speaker of the House of Representatives, Honourale Aminu Tambuwal.

After the security personnel attached to Mr Tambuwal were withdrawn on October 30, the police in a statement issued by its spokesman, Mr Emmanuel Ojukwu, cited the recent defection by Mr Aminu Tambuwal from the Peoples Democratic Party to the APC as reason.

Part of the statement read, “…having regard to the clear provision of section 68 sub section 1(g) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) has redeployed its personnel attached to his office.”

At the rally in Lafia, thousands of pro-Al-makura supporters drawn from Nasarawa southern senatorial zone, gathered to endorse the governor to seek re-election.

Prominent among APC chieftains at the rally were the Senate Minority Leader, Senator George Akume, Mr Buba Galadima, Mr Nasir El-rufia, Abdullahi Adamu, and Mr Solomon Dalung who took a swipe at the Acting Inspector General of Police.

To drive home his message of support for Governor Al-makura, Senator Akume, enumerated the achievements of the governor, with education topping the list.

While all the mass support for Mr Al-makura is going on, the immediate past Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Mr Innocent Lagi, joined the list of those seeking to unseat the Governor.

Lagi is seeking to oust his former boss on the platform of the Labour Party. He denied ever belonging to the APC, insisting that he has solution to the challenges the Al-makura led administration had been unable to address.

Besides the mass endorsement of Governor Al-makura by all the zones and groups, there is the growing concern among indigenes of the state as political intrigues continue to dominate the game ahead of 2015.

Senate Probes Alleged NNPC’s Non-remittance Of Oil Proceeds

The Nigerian Senate is to investigate an allegation that the National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) failed to remit 48.9 billion dollars oil proceeds to the Federation Account.

Senator Olubunmi Adetunmbi requested that the Senate should probe the NNPC based on an allegation against it by the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr Sanusi Lamido Sanusi.

Mr Sanusi had accused the corporation of failing to remit the money to the Federation Account between 2012 and July 2013.

After deliberations on the issue, the Senate President, David Mark, directed the Committee on Finance to investigate the allegation and present its report to the Senate in seven days.

Senator Adetunmbi said that the Committee on Public Accounts had written to the CBN seeking further clarification on the issue that has received increasing media attention, a situation that spurred the Senate into looking at the issue.

A lawmaker, Senator Olusola Adeyeye, was not pleased with the Senate President’s decision.

The matter however assumed a political dimension when senators from the All Progressives Congress called a press conference and requested that Nigeria’s President, Goodluck Jonathan, should take a prompt action on the allegations.

Senator George Akume was also against the Senates President’s decision. He pointed out that the presidency had not implemented the recommendations of previous probes by the National Assembly.

“The fuel subsidy probe and the pension scam probe recommendations have not been implemented by the president,” he said.

He asked the presidency to ensure that the issue would not be swept under the carpet.

House To Probe Increase In Power Charge

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has mandated its Committee on Power to investigate and determine if Nigerians are being over charged.

The motion, sponsored by Hassan Saleh, a lawmaker from Benue state, said several complaints have been made against the upward review of the amount being paid as service charge.

The motion was unanimously passed without a debate.

ACN drums support for Akume, he remains Senate Minority Leader

The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has passed a vote of confidence on its senate minority leader, Senator George Akume describing the phantom plot to replace him as the minority leader as the handwork of some reactionary and anti-democratic forces in the senate.

In a statement issued on Sunday by its national publicity secretary Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party expressed satisfaction in the manner senator George Akume has so far, discharged his onerous responsibly as the senate minority leader and reminded all busy bodies that the choice of the minority senate leader is the sole and exclusive preserve of the leadership of the Action Congress of Nigeria and no amount of horse trading, intrigue or blackmail can change this.

The party absolves its member in the upper chamber of the national assembly from this phantom plot and puts the blame squarely on the doorstep of the leadership of the senate who would rather prefer a more pliable and easily “compromisable minority leader” to our principled and disciplined senator George Akume.

ACN blamed the purported removal on the strength Akume has garnered in Benue state, which has threatened the popularity of the PDP “the plot to remove Senator George Akume according to the party can be located first and foremost in the battle for the soul of Benue state and even more importantly in the paralysis and fear that have gripped the People’s Democratic Party following the growing popularity and acceptance of the Action Congress of Nigeria all over the country”.

The party recalled that only last week a thoroughly confused People’s Democratic Party described the Action Congress of Nigeria as a tribal party. Can a party with a governor from the South South geo-political zone, senators from Benue, Edo and Anambra States, House of Representative members from Anambra, Akwa Ibom, Cross Rivers, Adamawa, Benue, Kogi and Imo states among others be described by right thinking people as a tribal party?

The party accused the ruling PDP of trying to sour its relationship with the people by giving the party a tribal coloration “Is the plot to remove Senator George Akume as the party’s senate minority leader not part of the desperate plot of the ruling People’s Democratic Party’s to give the impression to Nigerians that we are a tribal party, especially when we remove Senator George Akume and replace him with a senator from the South West”, the party queried.


Senator deplores Jonathan on Boko Haram

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Police, Senator George Akume has decried President Goodluck Jonathan’s inability to tackle security challenges that has been raging the northern part of the country.

Addressing journalists in Abuja, the Senate Minority leader disagreed that the on-going insurgency staged by the fundamentalist group, Boko Haram is political.

The former governor of Benue state explained that it is more of a protest by a few disgruntled elements in the north which has been exploited by some people who have grudges with the government.

He however called on the federal government to inject more funds into agriculture in the north to reduce the menace of the sect as he said food runs hand in hand with security.