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Activists Dismiss Buhari’s Anti-corruption Vow After Appointment Of Bello-Koko Named In Pandora Papers

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Anti-corruption activists have slammed President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to appoint an official named in the Pandora Papers to the top job at the Nigerian Ports Authority, calling it “one of the clearest pieces of evidence” that the president lacks the will to deal with rampant government corruption.

Mr. Buhari last week named Mohammed Bello-Koko as the NPA’s substantive managing director, months after designating him as an acting managing director. Many Nigerians believe that the decision, and its sheer boldness, confirms their suspicions that the Buhari administration’s pledge to enhance transparency in government is a ruse.

In a report assessing the six years of the Buhari administration, CDD had said Mr. Buhari’s often-repeated promise to fight corruption with zero tolerance has remained “largely unmet”.

It was reported last November how Mr. Bello-Koko, then acting MD of NPA, hid behind two firms tucked away in the British Virgin Islands, notorious secrecy and tax haven, to invest in the London property market, a common destination for dirty money flowing from the Global South.

The revelations came from Pandora Papers, a trove of 11.9 million leaked confidential records obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, ICIJ.

The reporters spent two years sifting through the leaked records, tracking down sources, and digging into court files and other public records from dozens of countries. It is the biggest collaboration of investigative journalists – from 117 countries and territories – in history.

The leaked records came from 14 offshore services firms from around the world that set up shell companies and other offshore nooks for clients like Mr. Bello-Koko, who seek to shroud their financial activities, often suspicious, in secrecy.

Mr. Bello-Koko used two BVI-incorporated shell companies – Marney Limited and Couldwood Limited – to secretly acquire a total of five London properties, including one in 2017 after his public service appointment. He was appointed executive director for finance and administration in 2016 and later acting MD in 2021 before taking his substantive appointment this week.

As a public servant, he continued to serve as a director of the two companies in breach of the country’s code of conduct law. The full extent of the officer’s violation of the country’s laws has not been fully determined but, last year, the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, the Nigerian chapter of Transparency International, demanded a transparent investigation of Mr. Bello-Koko and others.

 

The Code of Conduct Bureau declared a commitment, last year, to investigate Pandora Paper’s investigations. However, such an announcement has never been matched with action.

“It is quite unfortunate that the relevant anti-graft agencies have failed to investigate revelations of the Panama, Paradise, and Pandora papers,” said Auwal ‘Rafsanjani’ Musa, the CISLAC director, in a statement to PREMIUM TIMES on Thursday, also criticizing the Buhari administration’s failure to act on previous global investigations exposing offshore shenanigans involving Nigerian officials before the Pandora Papers.

“We find it also disturbing that Mr. Koko who was mentioned in the Pandora papers has not been publicly cleared by any law enforcement or anti-graft agency yet, he is to replace Hadiza Bala Usman who was suspended and Nigerians are yet to see the findings of the committee set up to look into allegations raised against her,” he said.

Mr. Buhari has repeatedly vowed his commitment to efforts against corruption, regarded as the country’s biggest problem stalling development.

“This whole process mocks the anti-corruption efforts of the government, and it is not surprising that Nigeria continues to fall on the Corruption Perceptions Index which we released last month. There is no way the anti-corruption efforts of the current government will be taken seriously,” Mr. Musa said.

Mr. Bello-Koko replaced Hadiza Bala, who was suspended last year for alleged misconduct and corruption. The government did not make public the probe report on the allegations made against Ms. Bala by his then supervisor, Rotimi Amaechi, the minister for transportation.

“The controversial appointment is another indication of the corruption-prone tendency of the Buhari-led government,” said lawyer Inibehe Effiong. “It shows convincingly that the government is not taking the fight against corruption seriously. The government should not downplay allegations of this nature. The allegation of ownership of assets abroad should be properly investigated.”

BIG STORY

Ekweremadu Narrates How David, “Kidney Donor” Refused To Return To Nigeria

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The former deputy senate president, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, has explained that David Ukpo Nwamini, the would-be kidney donor of his daughter, Sonia refused to return to Nigeria after it was discovered that his kidney was not compatible with his daughter’s.

The Enugu-born federal lawmaker gave the details in a suit filed along with his wife, Beatrice, against the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) over the controversy surrounding the real age of Nwamini.

Ike Ekweremadu and his wife were recently arrested for allegedly bringing a minor to the UK to harvest his organ. They were subsequently remanded in custody till July 7.

However, Ekweremadu had written to the UK high commission to support the visa application of a “kidney donor” for his daughter Sonia.

Although the UK police said the donor was 15, he was listed as 21 years old on his international passport and the Bank Verification Number (BVN) portal.

In a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/984/2022 and filed on June 27 by Adegboyega Awomolo, counsel to the senator and his wife, before Inyang Ekwo, justice of a federal high court in Abuja, the Ekweremadus prayed the court for an order directing the NIMC to supply them with the certified true copy (CTC) of Ukpo’s biodata, The Cable reported.

They also sought an order directing the NIS comptroller-general to supply the applicants with Ukpo’s documents and application form presented for the issuance of his international passport.

The suit is also seeking an order directing Stanbic IBTC Bank and UBA to supply the applicants with the certified true copy of the “mandate card and account opening package of Ukpo’s bank accounts”.

Awomolo, who gave 20 grounds why the prayers should be granted, said Ukpo offered to donate one of his kidneys to the daughter of the applicants if his kidney was compatible.

He said Ukpo informed the applicants that he was 21 years old, after which Ekweremadu supported his visa application to the United Kingdom with a letter to the British high commission in Nigeria, explaining the purpose of the visit.

“After conducting various medical tests, the Royal Free Hospital in London decided that the said David Nwamini Ukpo was not a suitable donor because his kidney is not compatible with that of Sonia Ekweremadu,” he said.

According to Awomolo, Ukpo was then asked to return to Nigeria but rather than do so, he approached the authorities in the UK, claiming he was 15 years old.

“The applicants require documents from the respondents to assist in the fair criminal investigation and as facts in their defense to establish their innocence of the allegation in the charge and to prove that David Nwamini Ukpo is not a minor and indeed consented to the medical examination in the United Kingdom,” he said.

Ekwo fixed July 1 for a hearing of the matter.

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BIG STORY

JUST IN: Court Dismisses Kanu’s Application For Revocation Of Bail

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The Abuja division of the Federal High Court has dismissed an application by Nnamdi Kanu, the detained leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), seeking an order discharging the earlier order revoking his bail.

Justice Binta Nyako in her ruling on Tuesday ruled that Kanu has not provided sufficient reasons to warrant the court to set aside its order.

She accordingly dismissed the application for being an abuse of the court process.

In the dismissed application which was filed by his lead counsel, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, Kanu also prayed for an order setting aside the order made on March 28, 2019, directing for his arrest and continuation of his trial in absentia.

Justice Nyako had, on March 28, 2019, revoked the bail Kanu, ordered his arrest, and directed that his trial should continue in his absence.

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BIG STORY

CJN Resignation: Public Confidence In Judiciary System At All-Time Low – Olumide Akpata

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Olumide Akpata, president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has reacted to the resignation of Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad as CJN, saying public confidence in the judiciary is currently at “an all-time low”.

In the statement, Akpata thanked the retired CJN for his service to the nation and prayed for his quick recovery.

“In the course of previous publications and communications, I have consistently appreciated the outgone chief justice of Nigeria for the cordial working relationship between the bar and the bench under our respective administrations. I must do so again today as he bows out,” the statement read.

“It is however impossible, to consider his lordship’s retirement in isolation of the recent unprecedented developments at the supreme court where 14 justices of the court censured the outgone chief justice of Nigeria over his lordship’s handling of their welfare and related issues.

“Beyond this, there is near-universal agreement that public confidence in the judiciary and indeed the legal profession is at an all-time low.”

The NBA chairman added that “there is now more than ever the need for urgent reforms in the judiciary and to rebuild the almost dissipated confidence that Nigerians have in the judiciary and the wider legal profession in Nigeria”.

“These should form the immediate first tasks for honorable Mr. Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, who is expected to now take over as the acting chief justice of Nigeria,” he said.

“The NBA welcomes the appointment of honorable Mr. Justice Olukayode Ariwoola and pledges its readiness to work together with his lordship and the judiciary in cleansing the Augean Stable and addressing the ills that have continued to plague not just the Judiciary but the entire legal profession.”

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