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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)

BIG STORY

‘I’m Not Owing Workers Any Dime’ —- Yahaya Bello Speaks After Election Victory

Gbemileke Ajayi

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The Kogi State Governor-Elect, Yahaya Bello, on Tuesday, rubbished claims that he was owing salaries, stressing that such were “lies.”

Bello said his administration met salary backlog owed workers in the state, but insisted that his administration was not owing workers.

The governor-elect, who said this while featuring on Channels Television, also alleged that thugs of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, stabbed a resident after he was declared the winner of Saturday’s election.

Bello also alleged that the wife of his deputy was also shot after he emerged winner of the election.

He said: “All these reports of me owing salaries are lies. Past governors of Kogi State were owning salaries starting from Audu to my immediate predecessor. Kogi state is not owning any dime at the state level, what is left is the ten percent from the previous government.

“As for El-Rufai kneeling, he was begging that Kogi people should forgive Bello for ensuring security and ensuring the state was peaceful and not because he could not pay salaries.”

On the claim of people being killed during the election, Bello said: “After I was declared winner, a PDP thug stabbed somebody and ran into the house of their women leader but he was caught and dealt with.

“My deputy governor-elect’s wife was shot at but thank God she didn’t die, the police are looking into it and would bring the culprits to book.”

Recall that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, had on Monday declared Governor Yahaya Bello of the All Progressives Congress, APC, winner of the Saturday’s governorship election in the state.

INEC’s Returning Officer in the state, Prof. Ibrahim Garuba had declared Bello winner after polling 406,222 votes to defeat his closest rival, Musa Wada of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, who scored 189,704 votes.

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Falana Seeks Death Penalty For Corrupt Politicians

Peter Okunoren

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Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Femi Falana, has asked the National Assembly to make laws that will pronounce the death penalty for corruption perpetrated by politically exposed persons.

Mr. Falana while reacting in a statement to the hate speech bill currently debated by lawmakers described it as an encroachment on the legislative autonomy of the state governments.

A bill to establish a National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speech, sponsored by Senator Abdullahi Sabi, was introduced on the floor of the Senate on November 12 and has generated reactions across the country.

The bill proposes that any person, who commits an offense deemed as hate speech, shall be liable to life imprisonment and where the act causes any loss of life, the person shall be punished with death by hanging.

The Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), explained that the National Assembly has no power to exercise such power because Hate Speech is not covered in the Exclusive Legislative and Concurrent Legislative Lists.

“Since we are operating a federal system of government the supreme court of Nigeria had declared in a number of cases that the national assembly lacks the constitutional powers to make laws outside its legislative competence, which are by implication residual matters meant for the houses of assembly of the states. Certainly, the hate speech bill is an attempt to encroach on the legislative autonomy of the state governments.

“However, it is pertinent to point out that the Penal Code and Criminal Code applicable in the northern and southern states respectively, have made provisions for hate speech because it is a state offence.

“Hence, the house of assembly of each of the state has enacted laws against incitement, false accusation, sedition and criminal defamation.”

Mr Falana decried the move, urging the sponsors of the bill to uphold the decision of Nigeria’s founding fathers who created a constitution that guarantees freedom of speech.

“The decision of the founding fathers of this present constitution which guarantees freedom of speech which must include freedom to criticize should be praised and any attempt to derogate from it except as provided in the Constitution must be resisted. Those in public office should not be intolerant of criticism. Where a writer exceeds the bounds there should be a resort to the law of libel where the plaintiff must of necessity put his character and reputation in issue.

“Finally, while the leaders of the national assembly may want to advise the legislature in each of the states of the federation to review the applicable penal statutes to review the provisions on hate speech we are compelled to urge the few bloodthirsty legislators in the national assembly to amend the anti-graft laws to provide death penalty for grand corruption perpetrated by politically exposed persons to the detriment of development in the country.”

He added that even though the bill is sponsored by a member of the House of Representatives, it has been adopted by the Buhari-led Federal Government.

He maintained that the constitutional validity of the Bill will be challenged in the Federal High Court if it is passed by the national assembly and assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari.

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Thugs On Rampage In Kogi, Burn PDP Woman Leader Alive In Her Home

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Hours after Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State was announced the winner of the November 16 election, on Monday, thugs believed to be working for a popular party burnt alive the Woman Leader of Wada/Aro Campaign Council of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ochadamu Ward, Mrs. Acheju Abuh.

She was burnt alive in her home.

Chanting solidarity and victory songs, the thugs, according to neighbours, arrived at her house around 2:10 pm, “surrounded the place, poured petrol all over the house and set it on fire”.

They ensured that the woman never escaped from the house while it was burning.

Some neighbours said they watched in hiding as the thugs set the house on fire.

One of them said: “She tried to escape through a window but was prevented by the burglary-proof.

The thugs were also shooting in the direction of all the windows and doors so that she would not escape from the fire.

“She was shouting inside but there was nothing we could do as many of us could not go outside to challenge the thugs. We tried calling the police, but nobody responded. She was screaming inside until her voice could no longer be heard. When the thugs saw that the house was almost burnt to ashes, they left, shooting”.

Spokesman and Head Communications, Wada/Aro Campaign Council, Faruk Adejoh-Audu, confirmed the killing.

He said it was unfortunate that the woman was killed in a gruesome manner for no reason at all.

He appealed to the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, to ensure the arrest of the killers.

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