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NDDC Contracts: Akpabio Visits National Assembly, Seeks Peace

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Nearly two months after he accused senators and House Representatives members of being the biggest beneficiaries of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) contracts, Niger Delta Affairs Minister Godswill Akpabio on Tuesday visited the National Assembly on fence-mending.

He attributed his face-off with the federal lawmakers to mischief-makers, explaining that the visit was primarily to seek a harmonious working relationship between his ministry and the Legislature.

Akpabio first met with the Acting Clerk to the National Assembly, Amos Olatunde-Ojo, before another round of closed-door talks with the Chairman, House Committee on NDDC, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, and Spokesman for the House, Benjamin Kalu. The second meeting was ongoing as of the time of filing this report.

After the meeting with Olatunde-Ojo, reporters demanded to know from him if he submitted more names of the NDDC contractors or clarified the earlier list he sent to the House.

Akpabio said: “No no no, you are wrong. That was not what the Speaker demanded. The Speaker wanted to know whether there was undue influence from any section of the National Assembly in respect of contracts in the NDDC.

”He did not say whether they were contractors so I’m hearing it from you.”

The minister explained that his visit was to congratulate Olatunde-Ojo on his ‘elevation’ and in furtherance of President Muhammadu Buhari’s call for a cordial relationship between the Executive and the Legislature.

His words: “I am here(National Assembly) to congratulate the acting CNA for his elevation and of course to solicit the continuous cooperation of the National Assembly towards the development of the Niger Delta region.

”In any case, I am a senator, so seeing me in the National Assembly should not be a surprise; as a former Minority Leader of the Senate and a senator, I believe I am a senator for life.

”Nobody will refer to me as Governor Akpabio, they will always refer to me as Senator Akpabio so this is a homecoming for me. The National Assembly is supposed to resume today(yesterday) but it had been postponed. I had intended that as soon as the resumption takes place, I will be here as part of my effort to support the President’s decision that there must be a much more cordial relationship between the Executive and the Legislature.

”So far, I believe that whatever disagreement that could have occurred between my own ministry and the National Assembly must have been as a result of mischief and that mischief must be put to rest so that we can work in one accord for the sake of the nation.

”It is important as a minister to make efforts to work towards ensuring that cooperation comes on board for the benefit of the region.

”The National Assembly is one, we must ensure that there is harmony between the Legislature and the Executive. Today, we have a better National Assembly in terms of Legislative-Executive harmony and cordiality.”

 

BIG STORY

Plot To Scrap EFCC Thickens, Bill Seeking To Replace Commission With Agency Under Ministry Of Justice In Circulation

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A plan to scrap the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is underway. A draft bill, now in circulation, seeks to replace the commission with an agency under the Federal Ministry of Justice under the Attorney-General of the Federation.

It eliminates EFCC’s autonomy and replaces it with an entity to be under the complete control of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice. The Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) exposed the plot last Wednesday.

According to PACAC Chairman Prof Itse Sagay (SAN), the development amounted to “the mother of corruption fighting back”.

The proposed bill

The bill is entitled: “An Act to Repeal the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, 2004 (Act No. 1 of 2004) and enact the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act which establishes a more effective and efficient Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to conduct inquiries and investigate all economic and financial crimes and related offenses and for other related matters.”

In several sections, the bill seeks to give the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) so much power over the proposed new anti-corruption agency and reduce it to a “mere paper” department under the Federal Ministry of Justice.

For instance, the draft bill proposes a repeal of the EFCC Establishment Act 2004, the scrapping of the commission, and its replacement with a department in the Federal Ministry of Justice under the Attorney-General of the Federation.

It also proposes the replacement of the EFCC Executive Chairman with a Director-General to be appointed by the President, based on the recommendation of the AGF, subject to confirmation by the Senate.

Section 8 of the bill reads in part: “There shall be for the commission, a Director-General who shall be appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Attorney-General, subject to the confirmation by the Senate.

“Subject to the provisions of Subsection (3) of this section, the Director-General shall be a retired or serving member of any government institution, including any security or law enforcement agency not below the rank of a director or its equivalent or a person from the private sector.

“A person shall not be appointed as a Director-General unless he is of proven integrity and has 15 years cognate experience in security, forensic or financial crimes investigation; forensic accounting or auditing; or law practice or enforcement relating to economic and financial crimes or anti-corruption.”

The proposed law restates the power of the AGF to discontinue the prosecution of criminal cases as guaranteed in Section 174 of the 1999 Constitution and empowers him to cancel the prosecutorial power of the EFCC when he sees fit.

Section 45 of the new bill states that the AGF may, after notifying the EFCC, intervene in court proceedings, at first instance or on appeal,  where, in the opinion of the AGF, public interest, the interest of justice, and the need to prevent abuse of legal process so demand.

It further reads: “On receipt of the notice under subsection (2) of this section, the commission shall hand over to the Attorney-General the prosecution file and all documents relating to the prosecution and provide him with such other information as he may require on the matter within the time specified by him.

“The commission shall furnish returns of all cases handled by it annually and in such manner and at such intervals as the Attorney-General shall direct.

“Where the commission fails to comply with the provisions of this section, the Attorney General may, subject to prevailing circumstances, revoke the power to prosecute from the commission.”

The draft bill states that the chairman and members of the management board shall be appointed by the President, on the recommendation of the Attorney-General subject to confirmation by the Senate; and for a period of four years in the first instance, renewable for another period of four years and no more.

The Secretary of the EFCC, which is a creation of Section 8 of the existing EFCC Act, is not mentioned in the new bill, indicating that the position has been scrapped.

Other proposals are the replacement of the EFCC Board with directors to be appointed by the Attorney-General, and the elimination of the position of the Secretary of the EFCC, who PACAC said is a critical officer who serves as the institutional memory and the administrative head of the agency.

According to PACAC, Section 11 of the proposed bill provides that nobody may be appointed or seconded to the new agency unless he is screened and approved by the Department of State Services (DSS).

Under the bill, the EFCC’s annual report is not to be submitted to the National Assembly until it has been passed through the Attorney-General for onward transmission to the National Assembly; thus making the Attorney-General the reporting officer of the agency rather than the Chairman or the Director-General, as the new bill is proposing.

Frosty relationship

The EFCC under the watch of its suspended Acting Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, had a strained relationship with AGF Abubakar Malami (SAN), who accused Magu of insubordination and re-looting of recovered funds.

It has also complained that Magu often failed to forward case files bordering on corruption to the AGF’s office. Rather the EFCC proceeded to court, a situation which Malami felt was, among others, unprocedural.

The power play between both men resulted in Magu’s arrest last July by a combined team of Department of State Services personnel and.

He has since been replaced by EFCC Director of Operations, Mohammed Umar, pending the conclusion of the ongoing investigation and further directives. Since Magu’s axing, President Muhammadu Buhari reportedly suspended 10 senior officials of the EFCC.

Magu’s suspension followed an all too familiar trend of top bosses of the anti-graft agency facing the axe in very questionable ways for allegedly questionable behaviour.

Stakeholders alarmed

The new bill has evoked alarm in many stakeholders. They are particularly concerned by the AGF’s (exercise of his constitutional right) of filing of nolle prosequi (discontinuance of a criminal proceeding) in respect of major political and governmental figures.

Frustrated corruption cases

According to one of such stakeholders, the Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC), the AGF’s office is to be blamed for many stalled high profile corruption cases. It cited the trial of a former Kogi State Senator Mr. Dino Melaye, as one of the high profile cases allegedly stalled by the AGF’s office.

It made the allegation in a petition titled “Illegal takeover of the case file of Senator Dino Melaye on the operation of foreign bank accounts and obstruction of justice by the Attorney General of the Federation and Compromise of Prosecutions”  signed by its Chairman, Mr. Olanrewaju Suraju.

Following allegations of running a foreign account, some with fictitious names, the rights group petitioned the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), requesting for prosecution.

It said the bureau in a reply dated May 22, 2018, stated that it had transferred the case file to the Ministry of Justice on the request of the Attorney-General.

Similarly, a coalition of about 150 civil societies on August 3, in a petition to President Muhammadu Buhari, also listed about 14 cases bordering on corruption said to have been stalled by the office of the AGF which they said threatened the prospect of future of anti-corruption campaigns.

The coalition alleged that, that on November 18, 2018, Mr. Malami, through a lawyer from his office, Mr. Pius Akuta, came to Lagos High Court to withdraw a case of fraud filed by EFCC against one Dr. John Abebe, a businessman and younger brother to the late Stella Obasanjo but the EFCC resisted the illegal move before Justice Mojisola Dada of Ikeja High Court on the ground that the AGF had no constitutional power to take over a case filed in Lagos High Court.

Other allegations listed included the withdrawal of the case against the Chairman, Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), Mr Danladi Yakubu, for criminal charges, demand for the withdrawal of the cases against Bello Adoke, Diezani Alison-Madueke, and others involved in the Malabu scandal, and his alleged halting of investigation of fraud in the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NISRAL).

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BIG STORY

El-Rufai: Most People Think Governors Are Thieves

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Nasir El-Rufai, governor of Kaduna state, says many people believe governors are corrupt and ineffective.

Speaking on Sunrise Daily, a Channels Television programme, he said being a governor is one of the most difficult things in the world.

He also highlighted some of the challenges he faced when he assumed office.

“We came into office at a very bad time in terms of economic viability. We came in when oil prices were crashing into the twenties and we had inherited bureaucracies that were designed and structured around $100 per barrel oil. We had inherited wages at that level as well. And all of a sudden, there was this collapse and Nigeria went into a recession,” he said.

“Governors are the most suspected elected officials. Everyone thinks governors are just thieves and we are wasting state resources, we are not doing anything. Governors are assumed to be taking security votes. When people hear security votes, they think it is a slush fund for governors. So we have a very negative image out there.

“Meanwhile, we have one of the most difficult jobs in the world. And we are subnational; our capacity to borrow is limited. The federal government can print money. We cannot.

“Other than Lagos, very few state governments have room to do what they can do because apart from Lagos virtually every state in Nigeria relies on Federation Account transfers. And when they go down, you are in trouble.”

He spoke on the sidelines of the fifth edition of Kadinvest, the state government’s investment forum.

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BIG STORY

I’II Announce My Next Plan Soon, Ize-Iyamu Speaks After Saturday’s Loss To Obaseki

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The governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress in Edo State, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, has said he will soon announce his next line of action after the declaration of Governor Godwin Obaseki the winner of the Saturday poll.

Ize-Iyamu, who trailed the winner with over 84,000 votes, said he was still studying the results and he would make known his plan very soon.

He said this on his Facebook page.

It read, “I hereby thank and appreciate my teeming supporters, who have had to endure many evils including being prevented from exercising their franchise, for their support and determination during the election process.

“I assure you all that I am studying the results along with other party members and will announce the next line of action soon. God bless you all.”

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