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BIG STORY

The Obsessive Quest For Saraki’s Head: FG, APC, And The Old Power Brokers — Victor Ojelabi

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Senator Bukola Abubakar Saraki is a member of the ruling class by birth, having been born into the Senator Olusola Saraki’s political dynasty in Kwara State.

The young Bukola, like most privileged children of the elites, had his path to success well laid out. He had the best education both in Nigeria and the United Kingdom.

He also quickly cut his teeth in leadership at a tender age, jumping on the board of Societe Generale Bank in 1990 at just 28, after a one-year practice as a medical professional in the UK. Bukola had rapid boardroom capacity development and corporate leadership in the space of 10 years with SG (1990-2000).

And at the young age of 38, he entered into public service, becoming the Special Assistant on Budget to President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2000. He held this position for the president’s full first term and was credited for initiating the famous and widely praised Fiscal Responsibility Bill. 

In 2003, Bukola Saraki took his political career home to Kwara State, where he contested and won the seat of Governor with a large margin. Many attributed his victory to the existing political power structure of his father, but Saraki would prove everyone wrong when he went against his father’s dictates and contested against the Saraki’s political lever in 2007. He emerged victorious again, and just then announced his arrival to mainstream politics in one single swipe. 

Bukola Saraki was no longer that protegee and son of Chief Olusola Saraki, who enjoys the mercies and support of his father’s friends -individuals (mostly retired generals and first republic politicians) who maintained a nation-wide grip of power, each running their own political caliphates, states by states, zone by zone.

Bukola became a brewing storm in the teacup because the growth of his influence was sporadic, his political style unusual, views contemporary and revolutionary. Bukola came with the position that threatened control and centralization of power.

There was a worry about his mysterious style, unpredictability, unusual desire and ability to work with people across political divides. He had also proven to be too independent and headstrong, that quickly cemented the perception that the boy was headed for a solo run, a development that started setting out political enemies and stiff opposition for the new Saraki.
Power brokers started noticing how this new kid on the block gets through with all he sets to do politically, without an expected subscription to the loyalty demands, nor referencing of the supremacy of the power court. The Saraki Jnr at this point, had gone rogue.

He would beat off his father’s power play to take one of the three senatorial seats in Kwara, after successfully doing two terms as governor and installing his chosen successor. Even so, just at his second term as a senator of the federal republic, Bukola Saraki played grandiose national politics by winding his way to the seat of the senate president, against the wish of his party and national political bigwigs. Dr. Bukola Saraki’s adversary grew quite rapidly. Even now, drawing battle plots all across the country, particularly with the organized political South West, whose regional agenda (as led by Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu) took a massive hit with Saraki’s emergence as Senate president.

Into his term as Senate President, Bukola Saraki was famous for his independent opinions and audacious stand against the Federal Government and his party’s leadership. He led the 7th assembly to earn the reputation of total independence, an impressive allusion to the principle of separation of power.

For the first time in Nigeria’s about 2 decades of democracy, there was a Senate that was largely non-partisan. Bukola’s complete grip of the very volatile senate presidency seat shocked many. In previous assemblies, Senate leadership was only as stable as the extent of party loyalty.

Here was a 50-year-old senate president whose leadership was never in contention, had to support across party lines and even enjoyed the activism of some apostle-colleagues, who would go against any view or move to unsettle or question his authority. Without any doubt, Saraki led the most independent and stable Senate in our recent political history.

This also came with its own harvest of political enemies. Young Saraki in his political journey had congregated so much foe-men that it is not illogical to expect the relentless call for his head.

In the space of 12years from when Bukola rooted his political career as Governor of Kwara state, there hasn’t been a year without a big case hanging over his head. From anti-graft bodies to party’s disciplinary committee, the police force, DSS, and recently the Code of Conduct Bureau, Bukola Saraki seems to be under constant investigation, always answering to one summon or the other. 

This dates back to his tenure as Kwara State governor, particularly during his second term. Senator Abubakar Saraki, his wife, family, friends, and associates had government searchlight constantly beamed at them. From 2003 – 2007, Saraki had seven separate investigations done on him by the EFCC, none of which resulted in any conviction. The matters either ended in a judgment in Saraki’s favour or a total case abandonment for lack of merit and traction. 

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC) has had a steady run on Saraki. In more recent times this seems to have garnered more fire. A lot of people keep wondering if the resources available to the EFCC suddenly swells when it bothers on anything Saraki. For an organization that has a hip of inconclusive case files in several courtrooms across the nation, it is bewildering that it seems to open fresh cases against the Senate president every 6-8months.

Questions are being asked if this special attention to details and concerted effort is not worthy for the investigation and conviction of several public office holders the organization has fingered in recent times.

There is also a particular momentum in the unearthing Saraki’s dirts’ effort of the Magu dispensation of the EFCC. It seems rather peculiar to Saraki, that even hitherto closed investigation, some over a decade-old, are getting reactivated. Previous EFCC bosses reached conclusions on some allegations of financial crime against Saraki during his term as Kwara Governor. It is strange that Magu would discredit the positions of his predecessors by launching new inquiries into activities as far back as 16 years. Kudos to that level of commitment from an EFCC boss who took 17 months to charge former SGF, despite the substantial report of the Presidential Investigation Panel (led by Vice President Osinbajo) that led to his sack. 

This backward pry into Saraki is also very unique to him. Erstwhile governors of same dispensations as Saraki, whose investigation and prosecution on financial crime matters was hindered by immunity are still drumming their political careers at this time without any worry. This preference for Saraki’s cases only lifts the lid on people’s curiosity. Could there be a covert intent and purpose of the Magu-led EFCC on Saraki?.

Will it be out of place to adduce that it has a spatial relation with the Senate’s refusal to confirm Magu as the substantive chairman of the EFCC? 
Since Ibrahim Magu was appointed by Buhari as EFFC chair in November 2015, he has worked in an acting capacity, since the Senate rejected his appointment on two occasions.

With this Magu will be the ONLY chairman of the EFCC, whose appointment was never confirmed. You would recall that the Senate had unanimously voted to reject Magu based on the report of the SSS about his suitability for the job, but Buhari has kept him as chairman rather than send a replacement to the Senate. It is rather too circumstantial that the leadership of the Senate quickly attracted the investigative powers of Mr Magu’s EFCC more vigorously after. 

In September of 2006, Nuhu Ribadu, then Chairman of EFCC, took to the floor of the Senate to give a clean bill to six states, of which Kwara was one. Under Ribadu’s successor Waziri’s Chairmanship, Kwara Local Council was investigated in 2010 at the time that Dr Saraki joined the presidential race. Then, in 2011 at the same time that the Senator raised a motion on the floor of the senate, he was investigated by SFU, but the Ministry of Justice wrote to him clearing his name of any wrongdoing. Meanwhile, under his Governorship, Kwara State was the first state to open its accounts up to public scrutiny, and the first to gain an internationally recognized Fitch credit rating. 


Notably, most of the investigations have taken place after Senator Saraki raised issues of public concern, such as the mismanagement of the fuel subsidy, or when he was pursuing his presidential ambition.

The newly announced investigations, by EFCC, on Saraki’s time as Governor which ended over 12 years ago, point to questionable motivations for the investigations.

In 2003/4, whilst Governor, Senator Saraki gave up his immunity to answer questions on SGBN and till date, he is one of only two governors in the history of Nigeria to ever give up immunity.

Victor Ojelabi is a social commentator, wrote from Ilorin, Kwara State.

BIG STORY

Court Orders Seizure Of 46 Houses, Land Linked With Ex-NSITF Boss Olejeme

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A Federal High Court in Abuja has granted an order of interim forfeiture in relation to 46 property including houses and parcels of land suspected to be owned by former Chairperson of the Board of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), Mrs. Ngozi Juliet Olejeme.

Justice Taiwo granted the order in a ruling on a motion ex-parte, marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/538/2020, argued on Tuesday by Ekele Iheanacho, a lawyer with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Justice Taiwo ordered the EFCC to publish the order in a national daily to enable anyone who is interested in the affected property to show cause within 14 days why the assets should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.

The judge fixed July 27 this ‎year as the return date.

The 46 property, listed in documents filed in court, is said to be located in Abuja, Bayelsa and Delta states.
The EFCC claimed, in a supporting affidavit, that Olejeme acquired the said property with public funds she allegedly diverted while serving in the NSITF between 2009and 2015.

One of the properties is identified as N0: 2 Kainji Crescent, Off Lake Chad Crescent, Maitama, Abuja (also known as Plot 738 Cadastral Zone AO5, Maitama, Abuja, the which the EFCC claimed she acquired in 2012 at N1.3billion.

The EFCC alleged that Olejeme acquired the property using funds received as kickbacks from contractors, through third parties.

It stated that “During Mrs. Olejeme’s tenure as aforestated, she collected a cumulative sum of USD $48, 485,127.00 from Chuka Eze (her Account Officer in First Bank Plc), Henry Sambo Ekhasomi (the Director of Finance of NSITF), Aliyu Zubairu (Director of Corporate Affairs -NSITF), Adebayo Aderibigbe and Abubakar Umar.

“The said sum of USD $48, 485,127.00 represents the dollar equivalent of kickbacks paid to BDC (bureau de change) by contractors/consultants of NSITF on Mrs. Olejeme’s instructions as well as payments to the BDC operators directly from NSITF account.

“The personal account of Mrs. Olejeme in First Bank Plc also received a total in-flow of N22, 200,000.00 from Hybrid Investment Advisors Ltd, a contractor to NSITF.

“Excellent Solicitors & Consultants is one of the firms engaged by the NSITF as a consultant.

“In the course of time, the firm received over N1,000, 000, 000.00 from the NSITF under the guise of rendering consultancy services, its proprietor Max Ozoaka withdrew the monies and either gave same in cash to Mrs. Olejeme or did transfer to her proxies under her instructions.

“Within the same period, the sum of N5, 984,059,110 was paid by NSITF under the guise of consultancy services to Fountain Legal Services and Fountain Media Consults being the firms owned by Adebayo Adebowale Aderibigbe (a staff of NSITF).
“As the said payments were made by the NSITF to his firms’ accounts, Mr. Adebayo Adebowale Aderibigbe gave Mrs. Olejeme a total cash sum of N505,000,000.00 and US$11,488,550.00 in dollars.

“Mrs. Olejeme procured the services of bureau de change operators through Mr. Chuka, who provided the bank accounts of the BDC operators to her.

“Several consultants/contractors to NSITF transferred money to the bank accounts of these BDC operators in naira for Mrs. Olejeme while the dollar equivalent of each naira lodgment would be collected by Mr. Chuka and handed over to Mrs. Olejeme in her house or through bank transfers.

“Mr; Chuka was interviewed on various dates including 23rd August 2016, 19th December 2016, 4th April 2017, 2nd May 2017, 17th July 2017 19th December 2017, 27th December 2017 and 17th May 2018 and he consistently narrated the details of the numerous United States dollars he couriered to Mrs. Olejeme as well as other financial dealings he carried out for her.

“The BDC Operators which provided the currency exchange services for Mrs. Olejeme through Mr. Chuka include Majia BDC, Alim BDC, and Ashanbrak.BDC.

“In addition to giving the currencies to Mr. Chuka for Mrs. Olejeme, there were occasions where the BDC Operators transferred some of the funds directly to Mrs. Olejeme’s controlled bank accounts.

“For instance, Mrs. Olejeme received the sum of N350,000,000.00 from the BDCs into her private company Able Jes Nigeria Ltd’s account in GTBank Plc in two days i.e (29th and 30th April 2013).

“In fact on 29th April 2013, only Adamu Musa of Majia BDC made cash deposits into the same account totaling N236,350, 000.00. She (Mrs. Olejeme) is the sole signatory to the said account.

“Mrs. Olejeme used the huge funds referred to in the foregoing paragraphs, which funds did not form part of her lawful income, to acquire property referred to.

“She used third parties in making payments for all the property so as to conceal and or avoid the properties/funds from being easily traced directly to her.

“Mrs. Olejeme hired the services of one Mr. Ifeanyi Njokanma, who is a property manager to purchase and acquire, on her behalf, most of the property,” the EFCC said.




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BIG STORY

BREAKING: Lagos, Abuja Airports To Resume Operations July 8

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The Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, are to resume domestic operations on Wednesday, July 8.

Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, announced this on his twitter handle on Wednesday night.

He said the date for commencement of international flights would be announced in due course.

The minister said Lagos and Abuja airports would resume operations on July 8, while Kano, Port Harcourt, Owerri, and Maiduguri airports are to resume operations on July 11 and other airports would start operations on July 15.





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BIG STORY

BREAKING: FG Increases Petrol Pump Price To N143.8/litre

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The Federal Government through the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) has announced a new retail price band for oil marketers across the country.

In a circular dated July 1st, the downstream regulator said oil marketers are now expected to sell petrol within the price range of N140.80 and N143.80.

The circular reads in part;

“Please recall the provision for the establishment of a monthly price band within which Petroleum Marketers are expected to sell PMS at the retail stations, based on the existing price regime.”

“After a review of the prevailing market fundamentals in the month of June and considering Marketers’ realistic operating costs, as much as practicable, we wish to advise a new PMS pump price of N140.80 to 143.80/Litre for the month of July 2020.”




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