One nation bound in freedom, peace and unity…

Rather than the greetings of happy New Year, the people of Tomatar, Umenge, and Akor villages in Guma, Ayilamo, Turan Ngambe-Tiev in Logo local government area of Benue were greeted with cries of agony, pain and loss.

From Numan to Barkin-Ladi and Riyom, from southern Kaduna to Awe and Doma in Nasarawa and then to Agatu, Logo and Guma in Benue, all the way through to Odukpani and then to Arochukwu, this group of malicious and murderous herdsmen have been acting out a genocide with complete contempt for human lives.

So much loss! Children have become orphans, women have become widows, mothers and fathers have become childless.

We have watched as the journey from the sanctuary of our homes to our place of productivity, be it farms or shops, have become treacherous routes and our places of safety have become our graves.

The lethal act of these herdsmen goes as far back as 2012 in Yogbo, Guma local government area, where no fewer than 30 women and children were killed. We also saw the 2016 killing of almost 2000 people in Aguta.

The herdsmen related death toll in Benue has grown to almost 3000 and no group has been brought to justice.

During the campaign, yourself and your running mate at the time visited Benue, and even identified with its people by dressing up in their local attire as you all fought for votes. But, the fact that the president or vice president did not deem it fit to attend the mass burial of 73 of its citizens, or even send a representative remains a mystery to me. That the people you swore to serve and protect are now placed second to the commerce of cattle rearing. Now a 4 hour drive from the capital has suddenly become a 3 week journey.

We have watched in complete stupor as the team of doctors and specialists, including the Hon. Minister of Health who was appointed to administer the health of over 180 million Nigerians, the Chief Medical Director of National Hospital, Abuja, and his team, among other experts, dropped all to attend to the ‘sacred cow’ who was in a coma after a motor bike accident. The same government, however, was too busy to send a delegation to mourn with the wailing wailers when they buried their loved ones. Or in the least, send medical help to the injured and dying in Benue.

Genocide is playing before our very eyes. These people are creeping into our communities and taking over, they are settling in communities that once belonged to the people of Benue. Cows are now roaming freely in places where children used to play.

Hatred, rage, anger, bitterness, vengefulness and other dangerous emotions are been sown and carelessly thrown around. They are fanned by malicious elements in the society and the government has failed to pay attention. This government has allowed all this negative feelings take root in an already agitated populace. A wise man said, “you sow the wind, you reap a whirlwind.”

The last line in the second stanza of the National Anthem could not express my opinion better; it speaks of “One Nation, bound in FREEDOM, PEACE AND UNITY”.

We can only be considered as one nation if we are bound by the tents of freedom, when everyone from all parts of the nation know they are free, then we will have peace and that peace will guaranty unity.

The interesting thing about unity is that, unity is one of those things that can never be forced. Like the young man who tells his father, “I may be sitting physically, but I am standing in my mind.” You cannot enforce unity. The people must choose unity.

How can you expect unity in a nation where agitators are arrested and harassed but the perceived injustice that caused the agitation is not addressed?

How can you expect unity in a nation where internationally recognized terrorists and murderers are protected by the government that was voted in by the victims?

How can you, Mr. President, expect unity in a country where murderers roam free and the victims who raise lamentations about their victimization are harassed by those sworn to protect them?

Mr. President, this is unacceptable. You are the president today because the North, South, East and West chose you. At your inauguration, you said, “I BELONG TO NOBODY.” We believed you. Your actions however, do not align with those declarations. Starting with your lopsided appointments to the military actions of your generals in the South-East and other parts of the country.

As the nation stands at the precipice of great division, suspicion, fear and accusations and counter-accusations, you are the umpire of this technical march. Your action or inaction will set you apart as the president who brought unity and kept us together proving your accusers wrong or forever shove you down in history as the Nigerian president that caused the greatest division in our country.

Whatever your decision Sir, history will remember!

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Corruption: Four Nigerians accused by Switzerland to be probed

THE NEWSGHOST, NIGERIA – The Swiss Federal Prosecutor’s office (MPC), in an indictment issued on May 1, 2017, disclosed that between 2006 and 2011, Dredging International, a company that is specialised in dredging services and is part of a consortium having a joint venture arrangement with Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), wired huge bribes to offshore companies belonging to three former top officials of NPA.

The three former top NPA officials allegedly involved in the bribery scandal include:Adebayo Sarumi, former Mananaging Director of NPA; Felix Ovbude, former Managing Director of NPA’s eastern ports; and Abba Murtala Mohammed, former Executive Director of Finance at NPA.

Following the conviction of Dredging International by the Swiss government, Nigerian government is preparing to probe these three former top NPA officials.

Earlier today, the acting chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, instructed some of his staff to scour the agency’s records and dig out files relevant to the case, according to a top official of the anti-graft agency.

Report says, Sarumi, Ovbude and Mohammed allegedly received $2.6 million bribes.

Daniel Afam-Obi, former executive assistant to Sullivan Akachukwu Nwankpo who was ex-President Goodluck Jonathan’s special adviser on technical matters, was reported to have been paid $157,000 for unknown reasons. But investigators believe Afam-Obi acted on behalf of Nwankpo.

Investigations also revealed that another $18 million was sent to companies in which some unknown Nigerian officials have interest.

Report also indicates that Switzerland had sought assistance from Nigeria and that the then Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke, replied that there was no case for criminal prosecution.



Nigeria: Streak of corruption case losses sparks concern

THE NEWSGHOST, NIGERIA –

Nigeria’s recent loss of corruption cases instituted before several federal courts in the country has raised much concern in the Presidency and among other Nigerians.

According to report, at least three judges delivered rulings against the Nigerian government on corruption cases prosecuted in the court by the government.

At the Federal High Court, Lagos, Justice Abdulazeez Anka vacated a freeze order on the account of Mike Ozekhome, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, after initially ordering a temporary forfeiture of ₦75 million found in his Guaranty Trust Bank account. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) originally called for a freeze order on the account alleging that it held money considered as proceeds of crime.

Two days later, at a Federal High Court in Abuja, a judge of the same court was discharged of all 18-count charges of fraud brought against him, his wife and a senior lawyer. The prosecuted judge Adeniyi Ademola and his wife Olabowale, along with a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Joe Ago, were accused of fraudulent diversion of huge sums of local and foreign currencies, possesion of firearms and involvement in illegal collection of gratification.

On Thursday of the same week, a Federal High Court in Lagos issued an order unfreezing the Skye Bank account of former First Lady, Patience Jonathan. Earlier in November, EFCC had filed an application before the court calling for an order freezing the account. EFCC contends that the account holding $5.8 million holds money that were reasonably suspected to be proceeds of crime.

As if these were not enough, a federal court discharged and acquitted former Niger Delta minister, Godsday Orubebe, of all corruption allegations.

Former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo blames the loss of the cases on lack of ‘proper investigation’ and ‘commitment to fighting corruption’.

Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Itse Sagay, also expressed worries over the losses.

MTN executive Amina Oyagbola was not sacked, MTN says

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Nigeria’s Telecommunication giant MTN has stepped out to deny report that it sacked one of its top executives.

The South African firm said its former Head of Human Resources and Corporate Services resigned last week, according to report.

The report that made the accusation claimed to have relied on an inside source in the telecom company and some powerful people in Abuja. According to the report, Oyagbola was sacked for her role in an alleged ₦500 million bribery of President Muhammadu Buhari’s Chief of Staff Mr. Abba Kyari to cut down the fine on the company.

MTN was fined ₦2.04 trillion ($5.2 billion) by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) for contravening regulatory issues regarding registration of Subscribers Identification Module (SIM) cards.

After several interventions which included the visit of South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma, the fine was later cut down ₦780 billion and later ₦330 billion.

In a statement titled ‘RE: Fictitious story on MTN and Amina Oyagbola’, the company said:

‘To be clear, we state without equivocation that the story is untrue, malicious, defamatory, with the goal of damaging our hard-earned reputation, as well as that of our highly respected executive, Amina Oyagbola, who has served our company for 12 meritorious years.

‘We categorically deny the accusation that MTN (or its employees) offered a bribe to a government official over the NCC fine.

‘Secondly, there is absolutely no truth to the accusation that Oyagbola, who is our Human Resources and Corporate Services Executive, was fired.

‘She made the voluntary decision to resign after serving MTN for 12 years as the longest serving Executive. During this period, she also served as a Director on the boards of the MTN Nigeria Foundation, MTN Benin and Visafone.

‘In conclusion, we would like to reassure our customers and stakeholders in the public and private sector that MTN continues to subscribe to the highest ethical standards in all its activities.’

The telecom company insisted that Oyagbola has made the decision to take a well-deserved break after almost 30 years of providing her leadership skills and expertise to various multinational organisations in corporate Nigeria.

Whistleblower protection needed for anti-corruption fight

whistleblower

According to Wikipedia, a whistleblower is a person who exposes any kind of information or activity that is deemed illegal, unethical, or not correct within an organization that is either private or public.

Whistleblowing is particularly important in the fight against corruption. Acts of corruption often go unchallenged when people with relevant information do not speak about it. Accounts of witnesses offer invaluable insights into corruption, and are powerful tools in the fight against it.

However in most countries, whistleblowing carries high personal risk because there is little or no legal protection against dismissal, humiliation or even physical abuse. Several controls on information, libel and defamation laws can deter people from speaking out when they have information.

Australia, Canada, Jamaica, India, Ireland, Netherlands, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States all have safe and confidential mechanisms enabling public servants and the general public to disclose wrongdoings committed in public and private sector.

A number of African countries have recently adopted comprehensive whistleblower laws including Ghana, South Africa and Uganda, while Kenya and Rwanda are also considering enacting it.

Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index 2015 ranked Nigeria 136th of 175 countries. Nigeria has struggled to successfully prosecute corruption cases due to the gap in its legal framework, since most corruption cases depend on whistleblowers.

Nigeria’s attempt to have a comprehensive legislation that protects whistleblowers was during the 6th assembly of the National Assembly between 2007-2011. The legislation which was not passed during the period was reintroduced in the 7th assembly between 2011-2015 and also suffered same fate. Its introduction in the 8th assembly of the National Assembly in the Whistle Blowers Protection Bill 2016 and Witness Protection Bill 2016 reignites the hope of getting a legislation that seeks to protect persons who disclose confidential information on the grounds of public interest and will enable the proper investigation of matters disclosed.

The sponsor of the Whistle Blowers Protection Bill in the Senate Senator Biodun Olujimi argued that the provision for protection of whistleblowers would support an open and transparent structure where citizens would be aware of how to report suspected acts of corruption or wrong doing and have the confidence in the reporting procedures free from fear of retaliation. She was of the view that the existing structures of anti corruption agencies appeared insufficient and that the bill, if passed, would improve the country’s poor performance in its fight against corruption.

The Witness Protection Programme Bill, a closely related legislation, sponsored by Senator Isiaka Adeleke in the Senate also seeks to promote law enforcement by facilitating the protection of persons who provide information that assist law enforcement agents. The bill also seeks protection for investigators, prosecutors and members of the judiciary and increases the incentive for persons with useful information to testify. Under the provisions of the bill, a witness may qualify for protection if he or she provides information that directly or indirectly assists law enforcement agencies.

The two bills have been passed for second reading and referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters for further legislative inputs. The bills may be merged due to their similarities as suggested by some members during debate on the bills.

Having a legislation that protects a whistleblower will be a giant stride in the fight against corruption in Nigeria.

Analysts blame corruption in Nigeria on underreporting

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Despite the heated campaigns and radical efforts to fight corruption in Nigeria since the Goodluck Jonathan regime to Muhammadu Buhari’s recent assumption of office, a recent survey shows that corruption is still on the rise in the country.

The latest Global Corruption Barometer survey [2014/2015] by the international anti-corruption organisation Transparency International reveals that ‘78% of Nigerians’ accuse the government of failing badly in its effort to fight corruption.

According to a recent report, analysts worry that ‘underreporting’ is encouraging this current increase in corruption.

The survey by Transparency International suggested that only 2 in 100 respondents saw that it was too expensive to report corruption. Most of the other respondents in the survey were either afraid of the consequences of reporting, convinced that it would make no difference, convinced that corruption was normal or unaware of where to report.

South African anti-graft activist Ronald Menoe explains that, ‘We have a responsibility to make sure the public understands it and reports it, and they need to see punitive measures or consequences for the perpetrators.’

Menoe adds that, ‘People who are politically connected or occupy positions of power, when they commit corruption, you don’t see measures in most cases. According to him, ‘Where there are punitive measures, it is a lightweight kind of punishment that they get. We see that demotivating the public in reporting corruption or being active in the fight against corruption in general.’