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Atiku Hires New US Lobbyists For Recognition As ‘President-Elect’

Peter Okunoren

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Atiku Abubakar, the defeated presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party is not solely casting his lot on his legal challenge of President Muhammadu Buhari’s victory in the 23 February election as he has enlisted the assistance of two high-powered Washington, D.C. lawyers.

Their role will be to lobby those in President Donald Trump’s inner circle and the US Congress to delay recognising Buhari as the winner as declared by Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC) on 27 February. Instead, Atiku craved to be recognised as the ‘authentic president’ of Nigeria.

In addition, he has set up what he called a “US Situation Room’.

Bruce Fein, a former Justice Department official and his firm Fein & DelValle PLLC and W. Bruce DelValle are the new lobbyists hired by the failed candidate. They were registered as foreign agents on Abubakar’s behalf, according to a report by the Centre for Responsive Politics, a research group that tracks money in U.S. politics and its effect on elections and public policy. The report was published on opensecrets.org

According to Opensecrets.org, Delvalle, one of the lawyers, has a varied background tackling civil rights and constitutional law issues, litigating intellectual property and liability disputes, along with representing a number of sports and entertainment personalities. Fein on the other hand was the associate deputy attorney general in Ronald Reagan’s administration and general counsel to the FCC. He was reported to have played a significant role in the repeal of the FCC’s “Fairness Doctrine.” He also later worked with then-Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.) in drafting articles of impeachment against Bill Clinton.

Atiku’s liaison with the American lawyers is a Nigerian lawyer, Lloyd Ukwu, who was described as the failed candidate’s confidant.

In the run-up to the election and Abubakar’s controversial visit to the United States, weeks to the election, Abubakar and his party hired political consultants such as Riva Levinson, who worked with Paul Manafort, and Brian Ballard, a major Trump fundraiser.

“The filing also asserts that the lobbying effort will demonstrate that an Abubakar presidency is “the will of the People.” It warns that if Abubakar is denied a victory, problems like genocide, poverty, corruption and strife will “undoubtedly continue.”

And when Abubakar visited the United States on 17 January this year, he opted to stay at Trump International Hotel to bolster his standing with Trump, like other foreign leaders seeking Trump’s attention.

Abubakar joins opposition politicians like Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó in turning to lobbyists to garner American support, opensecrets.org reported.

The lobbying agreement notes that Lloyd Ukwu, who is described as “a Nigerian barrister and trusted confidant [of Abubakar],” is assisting “in the operations of the U.S. Situation Room.”

According to the filing under the Foreign Agent Registration Act(FARA), Fein will be paid $30,000 over a 90-day contract to provide “legal, consultancy and public advocacy services to encourage Congress and the Executive” to wait on recognising a winner of the Nigerian election until after the legal challenge is “impartially and independently resolved.”

Opensecrets.org also reported another filing which lays out how the influence campaign will be conducted.

Lobbyists will meet with members of Congress and their staff to persuade them to pass resolutions in the House and Senate “to forebear from a final declaration and recognition of a winner” until after Abubakar’s appeals are decided fairly and independently. Additionally, the firm will “draft articles and op-ed pieces” about the issues surrounding the Nigerian election and appear on television and other media programs.

“In the contract, Fein’s firm is explicit in promising to “obtain official recognition that you are the authentic President of Nigeria based on an accurate counting of legal ballots.” The goal of the effort is straightforwardly described as “to convince the United States that your presidency would open a fresh and new chapter in Nigerian politics.”

“The filing also asserts that the lobbying effort will demonstrate that an Abubakar presidency is “the will of the People.” It warns that if Abubakar is denied a victory, problems like genocide, poverty, corruption and strife will “undoubtedly continue.”

Abubakar’s lobbying gambit may be a waste of energy and resources as the United States already recognised President Buhari as the winner of the 23 February election.

U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, in a statement on March 1, congratulated President Buhari and the people of Nigeria for the largely peaceful election.

Pompeo said: “The United States congratulates the people of Nigeria on a successful presidential election, and President Muhammadu Buhari on his re-election.

Buhari polled 15,191,847 votes while Atiku Abubakar polled 11,255,978 votes as runner-up, according to the official result by INEC.

Pompeo added: “We commend all those Nigerians who participated peacefully in the election and condemn those whose acts of violence harmed Nigerians and the electoral process.

“We note the assessments of international and domestic observer missions affirming the overall credibility of the election, despite localised violence and irregularities. We also congratulate all the other candidates for their peaceful participation in the electoral process”.

Abubakar has a rocky legal history in the United States. A Senate subcommittee report on foreign corruption cited him as a case study regarding his transfer of millions of dollars into the U.S. through shell companies. He was never prosecuted.

In 2009, the FBI alleged that Abubakar demanded bribes from former Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.), who was convicted of corruption charges. At one point, Jefferson claimed he stored $90,000 in cash for Abubakar in his freezer. That year, a search of Abubakar’s Maryland home, which he had since sold yielded nothing incriminating. But Abubakar never visited the US until his visit on 17 January for 24 hours.

(NAN)

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Repentant Boko Haram Members Will Have Opportunity Of Schooling Abroad —— Senate Bill

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The proposed National Agency for the Education, Rehabilitation, De-radicalisation and Integration of Repentant Insurgents (Boko Haram) in Nigeria’ will get its funding from the Universal Basic Education Commission and the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, The PUNCH reports.

Other sources of funding include- donations, grants, annual subventions from the government and counterpart funding from the six North-East states of Borno, Bauchi, Yobe, Adamawa, Taraba and Gombe. The details are included in the bill which was obtained by Punch on Thursday.

The controversial bill, which is officially known as ‘A Bill for the Establishment of the National Agency for the Education, Rehabilitation, De-radicalisation and Integration of Repentant Insurgents in Nigeria and for Other Connected Purposes’, passed the first reading in the Senate on Thursday last week.

But few hours after the bill, which was sponsored by Senator representing Yobe East, Ibrahim Geideam, passed the first reading, it attracted angry reactions from the Chibok Community, which was attacked by the insurgents in 2014, and the Christian Association of Nigeria.

Also, the #BringBackOurGirls movement, which has been calling for the release of schoolgirls abducted from Chibok in 2014 by the insurgents, said the plan to set up the agency should be done concurrently with the rehabilitation of thousands of internally displaced persons.

But on Monday, Geidam, in an interview with journalists, defended the bill. He said many Boko Haram terrorists were willing to lay down their arms but were afraid of the consequences of their action. The senator explained that his bill was not meant to take care of insurgents captured by the security agencies because those ones would be made to face the full wrath of the law.

Barely two days after the senator defended the controversial bill, 25 Boko Haram members and their wives, who surrendered to troops in Niger Republic, arrived in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, on Wednesday.

A copy of the bill on the agency for Boko Haram repentant terrorists, obtained by our correspondent, states that one per cent of TETFund and UBEC fund will be used in funding the agency for rehabilitating the terrorists. The agency will also be funded by 0.5 per cent of the federal allocation of the six North-East states. Reports says the TETFund obtains its funding from a compulsory two per cent profit tax that is paid by all registered companies to the Federal Government.

Section 10 of the controversial bill reads in part, “The agency shall establish and maintain a fund which will consist of initial take-off grant from the Federal Government; annual subvention from the government; states counterpart funding which will be deducted at source at 0.5 per cent of their statutory allocation; 1 per cent of the Education Tax Fund (TETFund) and UBEC fund.

According to the proposed law, the agency will also be funded by grants in aid, gift, testamentary dispositions, endowments and donations. The bill states that the proposed agency shall have a governing board which shall consist of the chairman who is to be appointed by the President in consultation with the National Assembly.

The governing council will also have one representative from each of the North-East states, one representative each of the stakeholders, three representatives of the impacted communities, one person from the Nigerian Army, air force, navy, police and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, all of whom must not be below the rank of lieutenant colonel.

The council will also include one representative each from the federal ministries of humanitarian affairs, finance, environment, petroleum resources, North-East Development Commission and the Local Content Board. As regards the powers of the proposed agency, the bill gives repentant terrorists the opportunity of receiving foreign education.

Section 5(m) reads in part, “(The agency shall) implement programmes geared towards the rehabilitation of beneficiaries, engage the services of offshore and Nigerian institutions in the pursuit of the educational needs of ex-agitators.” The proposed agency is expected to implement a comprehensive programme in the area of disarmament, demobilisation, rehabilitation and reintegration.

It will also coordinate efforts of relevant agencies, organisations and institutions towards the attainment of set objectives as regards job placement, internship and sustainable reintegration.

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BREAKING: Italian Infected With Coronavirus Visited Ogun State

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The Italian confirmed to have been infected with Coronavirus had also visited Ewekoro in Ewekoro Local Government Area of Ogun State this week.

But residents and visitors to the state have no reason to panic, the Commissioner for Health, Tomi Coker said on Friday morning.

Coker disclosed that the Italian visited a giant manufacturing company(name withheld) in the Ewekoro community, adding that the facility so visited has since been quarantined in accordance with the health safety standards.

The Commissioner, who abandoned her bed rest to attend to the public health emergency, while briefing the press, said the state has epidemiologists and Infectious Disease Consultant already handling the situation with support from the Lagos State Government and Federal Government.

She said efforts are in place to get in touch with people that have had contact with the established index case.

She advised the public to wash their hands regularly, cover their mouth and nose while sneezing or coughing and to report to the nearest public health center if they notice any sign of cold, cough and respiratory difficulty.

Details shortly…

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BREAKING: First Case Of Coronavirus Confirmed In Lagos

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The Ministry of Health in Lagos State has confirmed its first case of COVID-19 and reported it to the Federal Ministry of Health.

The case, which was confirmed on Thursday, is the first to be reported in Nigeria since the outbreak in China in January 2020.

The case is an Italian citizen who entered Nigeria on February 25 from Milan, Italy for a brief business visit.

He fell ill on February 26 and was transferred to Lagos State Biosecurity Facilities for isolation and testing.

COVID-19 infection was confirmed by the Virology Laboratory of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, part of the Laboratory Network of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.

The patient is clinically stable, with no serious symptoms and is being managed at the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba, Lagos.

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