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The United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation, Monday, said it had arrested 74 ’email scammers’, 29 of them Nigerians in a global operation.

The bureau also said the criminal scheme, which was used by the suspects, originated from Nigeria.

The FBI said 42 suspects were nabbed in the U.S., 29 in Nigeria, and three others in Canada, Mauritius, and Poland.

Some of those arrested were working as part of a larger network of criminal organisations, while others acted alone, the bureau said.

In a statement published on the agency’s website, it said, the operation was a coordinated effort by the federal authorities including the Department of Justice and the FBI aimed at intercepting illegal wire transfers from businesses and individuals across the globe.

The statement on Monday by the DoJ reads in full:

Federal authorities announced today a significant coordinated effort to disrupt Business Email Compromise (BEC) schemes that are designed to intercept and hijack wire transfers from businesses and individuals, including many senior citizens.

Operation Wire Wire, a coordinated law enforcement effort by the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of the Treasury and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, was conducted over a six month period, culminating in over two weeks of intensified law enforcement activity resulting in 74 arrests in the United States and overseas, including 29 in Nigeria, and three in Canada, Mauritius and Poland. The operation also resulted in the seizure of nearly $2.4 million, and the disruption and recovery of approximately $14 million in fraudulent wire transfers.

BEC, also known as “cyber-enabled financial fraud,” is a sophisticated scam often targeting employees with access to company finances and businesses working with foreign suppliers and/or businesses that regularly perform wire transfer payments.

The same criminal organizations that perpetrate BEC also exploit individual victims, often real estate purchasers, the elderly, and others, by convincing them to make wire transfers to bank accounts controlled by the criminals.

This is often accomplished by impersonating a key employee or business partner after obtaining access to that person’s email account or sometimes done through romance and lottery scams. BEC scams may involve fraudulent requests for checks rather than wire transfers; they may target sensitive information such as personally identifiable information (PII) or employee tax records instead of, or in addition to, money; and they may not involve an actual “compromise” of an email account or computer network. Foreign citizens perpetrate many BEC scams.

Those individuals are often members of transnational criminal organizations, which originated in Nigeria but have spread throughout the world.

“Fraudsters can rob people of their life’s savings in a matter of minutes,” said Attorney General Sessions.

“These are malicious and morally repugnant crimes. The Department of Justice has taken aggressive action against fraudsters in recent months, conducting the largest sweep of fraud against American seniors in history back in February. Now, in this operation alone, we have arrested 42 people in the United States and 29 others have been arrested in Nigeria for alleged financial fraud. And so I want to thank the FBI, nearly a dozen U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, the Secret Service, Postal Inspection Services, Homeland Security Investigations, the Treasury Department, our partners in Nigeria, Poland, Canada, Mauritius, Indonesia, and Malaysia, and our state and local law enforcement partners for all of their hard work. We will continue to go on offense against fraudsters so that the American people can have safety and peace of mind.”

“This operation demonstrates the FBI’s commitment to disrupt and dismantle criminal enterprises that target American citizens and their businesses,” said FBI Director Christopher A. Wray.

“We will continue to work together with our law enforcement partners around the world to end these fraud schemes and protect the hard-earned assets of our citizens. The public we serve deserves nothing less.”

“The Secret Service remains committed to aggressively investigating and pursuing those responsible for cyber-enabled financial crimes,” said U.S. Secret Service Director Randolph “Tex” Alles. “Although the explosive expansion of the cyber domain has forced us to develop innovative ways of conducting these types of investigations, our proven model remains the same.”

“FinCEN has been a leader in the fight against BEC and other cyber-enabled crime,” said FinCEN Director Kenneth A. Blanco. “Since 2014, working with our domestic and international partners, our Rapid Response Program has helped recover over $350 million stolen from innocent Americans. We must continue to be smarter, quicker, and better than the criminals that we face every day. Today’s action is a victory, but it will take vigilance, time, and resources to take this fight into the future. In defense of the victims of these crimes, we are ready for the challenge.”

“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service has a long history of successfully investigating complex fraud and corruption cases,” said Chief Postal Inspector Guy Cottrell.

“We are proud to work alongside our fellow law enforcement partners in major efforts, such as Operation Wire Wire, to target those individuals who take advantage of the American public for illegal profits. Anyone who engages in deceptive practices like this should know they will not go undetected and will be held accountable, regardless of where they are. Postal Inspectors will continue to work tirelessly to protect our customers from fraud.”

A number of cases involved international criminal organizations that defrauded small to large sized businesses, while others involved individual victims who transferred high dollar funds or sensitive records in the course of business.

The devastating effects these cases have on victims and victim companies, affect not only the individual business but also the global economy. Since the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) began keeping track of BEC and its variant, Email Account Compromise (EAC), as a complaint category, there has been a loss of over $3.7 billion reported to the IC3. BEC and EAC is a prevalent scam and the Justice Department along with our partners will continue to aggressively pursue and prosecute the perpetrators, including money mules, regardless of where they are located.

Money mules may be witting or unwitting accomplices who receive ill-gotten funds from the victims and then transfer the funds as directed by the fraudsters. The money is wired or sent by check to the money mule who then deposits it in his or her own bank account. Usually the mules keep a fraction for “their trouble” and then wire the money as directed by the fraudster. The fraudsters enlist and manipulate the money mules through romance scams or “work-at-home” scams.

Starting in January 2018, this coordinated enforcement action targeted hundreds of BEC scammers. In addition, law enforcement agents executed over 51 domestic actions including search warrants, money mule warning letters, and asset seizure warrants totaling nearly $1 million. Local and state law enforcement partners on FBI task forces across the country, with the assistance of multiple District Attorney’s Offices, charged 15 alleged money mules for their role in defrauding victims. These money mules were employed by the fraudsters to launder their ill-gotten gains by draining the funds into other accounts that are difficult to trace.

Among those arrested on federal charges in BEC schemes include:

Following an investigation by the FBI and the U.S. Secret Service, 23 individuals were charged in the Southern District of Florida with laundering at least $10 million from proceeds of BEC scams, including eight people charged in an indictment unsealed last week in Miami. These eight defendants are alleged to have conspired to launder proceeds from numerous BEC scams, totaling at least approximately $5 million, including approximately $1.4 million from a victim corporation in Seattle, as well as various title companies and a law firm.

Following an investigation led by the FBI with the assistance of the IRS Criminal Investigation, Gloria Okolie and Paul Aisosa, both Nigerian nationals residing in Dallas, Texas, were charged in an indictment filed on June 6 in the Southern District of Georgia. According to the indictment, they are alleged to have victimized a real estate closing attorney by sending the lawyer a spoofing email posing as the seller and requesting that proceeds of a real estate sale in the amount of $246,000 be wired to Okolie’s account. They are charged with laundering approximately $665,000 in illicit funds. The attorney experienced $130,000 in losses after the bank was notified of the fraud and froze $116,000.

Adeyemi Odufuye aka “Micky,” “Micky Bricks,” “Yemi,” “GMB,” “Bawz” and “Jefe,” 32, and Stanley Hugochukwu Nwoke, aka Stanley Banks,” “Banks,” “Hugo Banks,” “Banky,” and “Jose Calderon,” 27, were charged in a seven-count indictment in the District of Connecticut in a BEC scheme involving an attempted loss to victims of approximately $2.6 million, including at least $440,000 in actual losses to one victim in Connecticut. A third co-conspirator Olumuyiwa Yahtrip Adejumo, aka “Ade,” “Slimwaco,” “Waco,” “Waco Jamon,” “Hade,” and “Hadey,” 32, of Toledo, Ohio, pleaded guilty on April 20 to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Odufuye was extradited from the United Kingdom to the United States and on Jan. 3, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. Nwoke was extradited to the United States from Mauritius on May 25, marking the first extradition in over 15 years from Mauritius. His case is pending.

Richard Emem Jackson, aka Auwire, 23, of Lagos, Nigeria, was charged in an indictment filed on May 17 in the District of Massachusetts with two counts of unlawful possession of a means of identification as part of a larger fraud scheme. According to the indictment, on two occasions in 2017, Jackson is alleged to have possessed the identifications of two victims with the intent to commit wire fraud conspiracy. In another case being prosecuted in the District of Massachusetts, a 25-year-old Fort Lauderdale, Florida man was indicted in federal court in Boston on June 6 on one count of money laundering conspiracy. According to the indictment, the individual was part of a conspiracy that engaged in wire fraud. It is alleged that in early 2018, the defendant’s co-conspirators gained access to email accounts belonging to a Massachusetts real estate attorney and sent emails to recipients in Massachusetts that “spoofed” the real estate attorney’s account in an attempt to cause the email recipient to transfer nearly $500,000, which was intended to be used for payment in connection with a real estate transaction, to a shell account belonging to a money mule recruited and controlled by the defendant.

The BEC scam is related to other forms of fraud such as:

“Romance scams,” which lull victims to believe that their online paramour needs funds for an international business transaction, a U.S. visit or some other purpose;
“Employment opportunities scams,” which recruits prospective employees for work-from-home employment opportunities where employees are required to provide their PII as new “hires” and then are significantly overpaid by check whereby the employees wire the overpayment to the employers’ bank;

“Fraudulent online vehicle sales scams,” which convinces intended buyers to purchase prepaid gift cards in the amount of the agreed upon sale price and are instructed to share the prepaid card codes with the “sellers” who ignore future communications and do not deliver the goods;

“Rental scams” occur when renters forward a check in excess of the agreed upon deposit for the rental property to the victims and request the remainder be returned via wire or check and back out of the rental agreements and ask for a refund; and
“Lottery scams,” which involves persons randomly contacting email addresses advising them they have been selected as the winner of an international lottery.

The cases were investigated by the FBI, U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Department of the Treasury Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) and IRS Criminal Investigation. U.S. Attorney’s Offices in the Districts of Central California, Connecticut, Eastern Virginia, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, Southern Florida, Southern Georgia, Southern Texas, Eastern Pennsylvania, Eastern Washington, Western Pennsylvania, Western Tennessee, Western Washington, Utah, and elsewhere have ongoing investigations some of which have resulted in arrests in Nigeria. The Justice Department’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section and Office of International Affairs of the Criminal Division provided assistance. District Attorney’s Offices of Caddo Parrish in Shreveport, Louisiana; Harris County, Texas and Los Angeles are handling state prosecutions. Additionally, private sector partners and the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Canadian law enforcement including the Toronto Police Service, the Mauritian Attorney-General and the Commissioner of Police, Polish Police Central Bureau of Investigation, Indonesian National Police Cyber Crimes Unit, and the Royal Malaysia Police provided significant assistance.

This operation, which was funded and coordinated by the FBI, serves as a model for international cooperation against specific threats that endanger the financial well-being of each member country’s residents. Attorney General Sessions expressed gratitude for the outstanding efforts of the participating countries, including law enforcement actions that were coordinated and executed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in Nigeria to curb business email compromise schemes that defraud businesses and individuals alike.

Victims are encouraged to file a complaint online with the IC3 at bec.ic3.gov. The IC3 staff reviews complaints, looking for patterns or other indicators of significant criminal activity, and refers investigative packages of complaints to the appropriate law enforcement authorities in a particular city or region. The FBI provides a variety of resources relating to BEC through the IC3, which can be reached at www.ic3.gov.

BIG STORY

FG Drags Davido’s Uncle, 4 Others To Court For Exam Malpractices

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The Federal Government has charged Senator Ademola Adeleke and four others before the Federal High Court, Abuja over alleged examination malpractices.

The accused were dragged to court on Monday.

Adeleke and others were accused, in a four-count charge filed in the name of the Inspector General of Police, of fraudulently registering as students of Ojo-Aro Community Grammar School, Ojo-Aro, Osun State to enable them to sit for the National Examination Council examination of June/July 2017.

Named with Adeleke in the charge are: Sikiru Adeleke, Alhaji Aregbesola Mufutau (the principal of the school), Gbadamosi Thomas Ojo (school Registrar) and Dare Samuel Olutope (teacher).

Adeleke was absent when the case was called.

His lawyer, Alex Izinyon (SAN), who is also the lawyer of the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, told the court that his client took ill on Friday and had been stooling.

Izinyon said a copy of a medical report was available to that effect.

He said Adeleke suddenly took ill at the weekend, but was getting better.

He sought a postponement of the arraignment.

Prosecution lawyer, Simon Lough, an Assistant Commissioner of Police, said he was in receipt of the medical report on the health condition of the 1st defendant (Adeleke).

Lough said he was not averse to a short adjournment as sought by Izinyon.

He said the defendants were released on the administrative bail granted them by the police.

Lawyers to the other defendants also agreed to a short adjournment, following which Justice I. E. Ekwo adjourned till October 31 for arraignment.

In the first count preferred against the defendants, the prosecution alleged that the five defendants “conspired to commit a felony, to wit: examination malpractices, and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 10 of the Examination Malpractices Act Cap E15 LFN 2004”.

In count 2, the prosecution alleged that the three members of staff of the school acted in concert by aiding and abetting “the commission of examination malpractice by personation” when they allegedly “registered Senator Ademola Adeleke and Sikiru Adeleke” while knowing or having “reasons to believe that they are not students of the school”.

The alleged offence is said to be contrary to Section 9(1) of the Examination Malpractices Act Cap E15 LFN 2004.

In count three, the two Adelekes were accused of acting in concert and “personated as students of Ojo-Aro Community Grammar School when you fraudulently registered as students of the school in the June/July, 2017 NECO”.

The offence is said to be contrary to Section 3(2) of the Examination Malpractices Act Cap E15 LFN 2004.

The fourth count accused the three members of staff of the school of “acting in concert” and while “saddled with the responsibilities of registering students of your school in the June/July 2017 NECO examination, breached that duty by registering Senator Ademola Adeleke and Sikiru Adeleke as students of your school in the June/July 2017 NECO examination when you know or had reasons to believe that they are not students of the school”.

The fourth count was said to be contrary to Section 10(a) and punishable under Section 3(2) of the Examination Malpractices Act Cap E15 LFN 2004.

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BIG STORY

I’m Going To EFCC With My Bedclothes, Pillowcase And Yoruba Bible —- Fayose

Gbemileke Ajayi

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The outgoing Governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, has said that he was going to the office of the Economic and Financial Crime, EFCC, today with his bedclothes, pillowcase, English and Yoruba bibles.

Fayose’s tenure expired midnight on Monday.

The Governor’s immunity ends along with his tenure and he has been invited to the headquarters of the EFCC.

Fayose will be answering to allegations that he received about N1.3bn from the Office of the National Security Adviser, NSA through the then Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro.

Fayose told reporters in Abuja “I will be there on Tuesday. I am not begging for any bail. It is up to them. If they want me, they should just give me a bed

“I have done by bed bedclothes, I have done my pillowcase, I have my English and Yoruba bibles.

“I am prepared for them. Nobody should worry about me. Only cowards die many times before their deaths.”

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BIG STORY

Why And How I Organised Obasanjo, Atiku Reconciliatory Meeting —- Bishop Kukah

Peter Okunoren

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The Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Kukah, has disclosed how he convinced former President, Olusegun Obasanjo to forgive his ex-Deputy and Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Atiku Abubakar.

The Catholic Bishop in a lengthy statement said he had been working on both leaders reconciling for years.

Stating that he wanted the meeting to be between him, Obasanjo and Abubakar, the clergyman expressed delight that the parley took place.

Read his full statement below:

I have deliberately made this explanatory note long because I think it is necessary that people make up their minds based on the facts, given my central role in the event.

I note that Sheikh Gumi has already told his own side of the story. I feel obliged to state my own side so that Nigerians can have a clearer picture of my own involvement.
Sadly, I personally did not read President Obasanjo’s statement until two days later on the Internet since I was not physically in the hall.

Although trying to reconcile President Obasanjo and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar was something I had been working on intermittently in the last few years, nothing could have prepared me for the way things finally shaped up. My focus all along had been with President Obasanjo and I had never brought Alhaji Abubakar into what I was doing. Quite fortuitously, a chance meeting changed the tide in favour of reconciliation.

Understandably, the pictures of the four of us (President Obasanjo, Alhaji Abubakar, Shaikh Gumi and I) literally lit up the social media and elicited divergent reactions from the general public.

Although over 99 per cent of the reactions that have come to me have been largely those of commendation, with people focusing, rightly, on the reconciliation, there have been others whose focus has been on an isolated development that had absolutely nothing to do with what I had in mind all these years, namely, the endorsement.

I must say that I am eternally grateful to God that this reconciliation finally happened.

The focus of attention has been on the endorsement of Alhaji Abubakar by President Obasanjo, a development that I can call the third leg of the process which I initiated. I am not sure of President Obasanjo’s other interlocutors after we agreed to meet leading to the participation of other actors and so, I will only clear the air on what I can take full responsibility for.

Let me state first that I am a priest of the Catholic Church and by the grace of God, a Bishop. I have more than a passing knowledge of our discipline and doctrine in matters relating to the role of a Catholic priest in political engagement.

My doctoral thesis was on “Religion and Politics in Nigeria”. So, this is an area that I have written and spoken extensively about for over thirty years. I am therefore very clear about the boundaries, the slippery slopes and the contexts. Unlike Sheikh Gumi and Rev. Oyedepo who were invited to this event, I am a central actor. So let me explain what really happened.

On Tuesday, October 9th, 2018, I had the honour of being the Guest Speaker for the annual conference of the Four Square Gospel Church in Alagomeji, Lagos. (The Presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, a member of this Church, had first invited me some years back, but I could not honour the invitation). President Obasanjo was the chairman of the occasion.

At the end of the lecture, he indicated that he would have to leave because he had a scheduled meeting. I told him I needed to see him briefly and he obliged. I brought up again the issue of what he thought of his reconciliation with Atiku.

My last discussion with him this year was either in January or February. His response was still negative and he told me what he later told the media. I reminded him that I was not interested in the politics of reconciliation but the spiritual angle.

After all, I said to him, ‘as a Christian, this is an important thing for you to do’. He was quiet and then said he would speak with me later that evening on his final decision. We parted, he went to his car and I returned to the Church to end the event.

At about 9pm the same Tuesday, he called to say that he had thought over the issues I had raised and finally decided to accept my suggestion and that yes, he would be happy to reconcile with Atiku. When did he think we could meet then, I asked him? He said he would look at his diary and get back to me later.

Then, just before 11pm the same Tuesday, I received another call from him saying his diary was full, that the earliest date for him was October 21. I accepted happily and told him that I would try and reach Alhaji Atiku either directly, or through his aides to convey the news.

My initial intention had been to return to Abuja that same evening from Lagos, but my hosts at the Four Square Gospel had suggested that I should get some rest. Next morning, Wednesday October 10, after I had finished celebrating the Holy Mass, I received a call from President Obasanjo: ‘Bishop, listen, I have changed my mind’.

My heart nearly sank, but before I could ask why, he said: ‘Let us do it tomorrow if you can reach Atiku. I am going to deliver a lecture in Ife and will be back home before 1pm. So, tell him to come at 1pm’. I started frantic efforts to reach Alhaji Atiku without luck. I reached one of his aides, Paul Ibe, and asked him to please let him know I am trying to reach him. Finally, at about 1pm, I received a call from him. I told him what had happened with President Obasanjo. He agreed and said he would be in Abeokuta for 1pm on Thursday.

I got back to my hosts, the Four Square Gospel Church to tell them about the change in my travelling plans, especially as I had no car to take me to Abeokuta.

I didn’t want to ask President Obasanjo’s people to send me a vehicle because I believed I needed a leeway of independence and trust. My hosts were exceedingly gracious in making a vehicle available, a driver and an aide to take me to Abeokuta.
Getting nervous

Earlier that morning, President Obasanjo had called me a second time and told me that he wanted Alhaji Atiku to come with the Chairman of the PDP, and two or three others. He also told me he had also invited both Sheikh Gumi and Bishop Oyedepo. This was welcome news – Bishop Oyedepo is a kinsman of his, and the presence of Sheikh Gumi made sense. I was a bit nervous, seeing that the circle was getting larger for something I thought was between three of us.

I arrived at Abeokuta about 12.15pm ahead of both President Obasanjo and Alhaji and his team. Alhaji Atiku and his team arrived, and then I saw more and more people coming in. I saw familiar faces of different people who turned out to be the leaders of Afenifere. All these years, whenever I brought up this matter of reconciliation, my idea has always been for the three of us to sit down together. I still believed that the meeting would be between the two of them and the three religious leaders.

When President Obasanjo appeared, I walked up to him and said I wanted to know the protocol for the meeting. He suggested that we would meet in a hall and that I should say a few words about how we got here.

I declined because it seemed again that at this point, we were in a small forest of politics and I had no wish to be caught in it. I was happy that what I wanted to achieve had been achieved, namely, getting these two men to put the past behind them.

My personal preoccupation was a pastoral one, and not a political one. I was uncomfortable with this and I decided to make my position clear. I offered a different proposal to help us sift the moral grain from the chaff of politics via a three-step process so as to insulate the three of us from the political fallout.

I proposed that the first step would be for he and Alhaji Atiku to sit down behind closed doors, sort out their issues and then the next step would be for both Sheikh Gumi and I to go in and listen to the two of them as Bishop Oyedepo had not arrived.

After that, I said, they could continue with the third phase which from what I could see, was high wire politics and I had no wish to be caught in the web. After they both finished their brief meeting, Sheikh Gumi and I went in and sat down with the two of them.

We had some small briefing and then both of us spoke briefly on what they had done, encouraging them to ensure that this reconciliation holds. I even said jokingly that I am a Catholic priest and our marriage vows are indissoluble! After that, we prayed and then took what has now become the famous photograph behind closed doors.

At this point, I felt that my spiritual duties had been achieved and I was prepared to maintain my independence. Sheikh Gumi and I shook hands and although I was hungry and food was being laid out, I skipped lunch.

I quietly let myself out by the side door, got into the Four Square Gospel Church car and we drove off to Lagos. Despite the dread of Lagos traffic and the disruption of flights at the Airport in Lagos, I had declined the offer of a seat in the Aircrafts which had flown them to Abeokuta.

Although flying with them was the best (and most convenient) assurance I had of getting to Abuja in time for a speaking engagement at an event with the Sultan and Cardinal Onaiyekan for 9am the next day, it was necessary to ensure that I took no favours from any of the two parties.

I was not in Abeokuta to endorse Alhaji Atiku, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). I perfectly understand the feelings of many of my friends and members of the opposition who believe that I travelled with Alhaji Atiku and his team to attend his endorsement by President Obasanjo, but I reiterate that this was not the case.

All the bills for my travel were settled by the Four Square Gospel Church hosts for the earlier dated programme who had bought my tickets, booked accommodation for me and took care to get me to the airport for my flight to Abuja and Sokoto.

I am a strong believer in a peaceful and united Nigeria, ideals for which I have striven and served my entire adult life as a thinker and a priest. My instincts for reconciliation and peace were sharpened during my involvement and experience with the Oputa Panel. When the Generals refused to respond to the invitation of Oputa Panel, I personally undertook to visit both generals Babangida and Buhari (he was not at home) at a time that today’s latter-day Buharists were asking the panel to compel them to come or risk being blacked out of national life.

Objective-minded people will remember that back in 2001, when the Christian community and many of President Buhari’s opponents claimed that Gen Buhari had said that Muslims should vote only for Muslims, many people in the Christian community were disappointed that I wrote a long article to explain the context of what he had said after speaking with the Gen. His party, the ANPP later used part of my article for their 2003 campaigns! My faith and experience have taught me to learn to suspend judgment till I have heard both sides of a story, no matter what.

I hope that this clarification helps to allay the concerns of those who may have seen all of these in a different light. Many minds will remain set no matter the reasonableness of my comments here, and this is to be expected- one cannot please everyone. This is why it is often best to seek to please only one’s own conscience, and here, mine is very clear.

I have been involved in a few behind-the-scene shuttle diplomacy for years, largely on my own initiative, taking advantage of my knowledge of those engaged in the conflict or at the invitation of third parties. Some have succeeded and some have not. As priest, it is not in my place to publicize what we have achieved.

I am the Convener of the National Peace Committee (NPC). This alone is enough to place a moral boundary which I am bound to respect. The NPC able to accomplish much because of trust and that is not what I can treat lightly. When it became clear that both President Obasanjo and Atiku were on the verge of making peace, I alerted the Chairman of the NPC, Gen Abdusalami. Since I happen to be in Lagos, I drove to the Ikoyi home of Chief Emeka Anyaoku and alerted him. I spoke to my Metropolitan, the Archbishop of Kaduna, Archbishop Matthew Ndagoso. All in all, everyone believed this was a very good move if we could achieve it. None of us imagined the third phase of this meeting.

Both theoretically and practically, I have come to know that peace making is a very risky business and often a thankless job. I recall listening to the late Kofi Anan speak about his on two different occasions. Anyone involved in peace making from domestic quarrels to larger battles, must be ready for the good, the bad and the ugly.

In the end, we must wear the shoes of the long distance runner, believing and trusting that the truth never ever sinks to the bottom of the sea. The truth will always have a stubborn way of defying the hostile elements and popping up at the right time, no matter how long it takes.

I perfectly understand that with Alhaji Atiku, having just picked up the presidential ticket of his party, without providing this context, definitely, I can appreciate why many people will have a lot of anxieties. They will definitely be right to question my neutrality.

However, I have far too many friends across party lines for me to openly endorse one candidate or party against the other. It will be against the principles of the Code of Canon Law of the Catholic Church which regulates our public life in the political space.

The President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference has signed a statement to the effect that no altar of the Catholic Church must ever be open to any politician, something we have all taken seriously. I, therefore, hope that this clarification helps those whose minds are open.

I am thankful to God and quite pleased that this reconciliation took place and that I was a small instrument in making it happen. However, I am sorry that it has been given a different colouration and doubts to many people. Its timing was purely fortuitous and purely circumstantial not a contrivance. Personally, I will never relent in the very urgent task of making peace and reconciliation across the spectrum of our country.
. Rt. Rev. Kukah is the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto.

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