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The Presidency, on Wednesday, described as outrageous and travesty of justice the acquittal of Senate President Bukola Saraki by the Code of Conduct Tribunal, which upheld the no-case submission of the Senate President.

The Special Assistant to the President on Prosecution, Mr. Okoi Obono-Obla, wondered why the CCT dismissed the weight of “overwhelming evidence” against Saraki, who was tried for false asset declaration by the Federal Government.

The CCT in Abuja had discharged and acquitted Saraki of all the 18 charges of false asset declaration and other related offences preferred against him.

The two-man panel of the CCT, led by its Chairman, Danladi Umar, unanimously upheld the no-case submission, filed by Saraki after the prosecution closed its case with 48 exhibits tendered and after the testimonies of the fourth and the last prosecution witness on May 4, 2017.

But the Transparency International (Nigeria) and a chieftain of the defunct National Democratic Coalition, Mr. Ayo Opadokun, among others, described the judgment as sad and a calculated attempt to frustrate the war against corruption in the country.

The CCT chairman, Umar, in his lead ruling, exonerated Saraki of all the charges on, among other grounds, the failure of the prosecution to obtain Saraki’s statement and make it part of the proof of evidence.

He described as “absurd” that neither Saraki’s statement nor the report of investigation said to have been carried out was produced before the tribunal.

He agreed with the defence team, led by Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN), that the prosecution’s evidence had been manifestly discredited during cross-examination by the defence.

He added that the evidence adduced by the prosecution, led by Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), was “so unreliable that no reasonable tribunal could convict” anyone based on it.

Umar also noted that the evidence of the first prosecution witness, Mr. Michael Wetkas, an operative of the EFCC, was unreliable.

Concerning the evidence of the second prosecution witness, Mr. Amazi Nwachuckwu, Head of Funds Transfer Unit of the Guaranty Trust Bank, Umar noted that the witness had testified that documents relating to alleged foreign transfers by Saraki had been consumed in a fire incident, adding that there was nothing to prove the charges that were based on the documents.

Lawyers and Saraki’s supporters in court burst into wild jubilation as soon as the tribunal made the pronouncement exonerating the Senate President on Wednesday.

While the lead defence counsel, Agabi, thanked the tribunal for the ruling, the counsel, who led the prosecution team at the Wednesday’s sitting, Mr. Pius Akutah, told journalists that the prosecution would review the ruling “in order to determine the next step”.

The charges instituted against Saraki before the CCT related to the alleged breaches of the code of conduct for public officers, acts which were said to be punishable under the Constitution and the CCB/CCT Act.

He allegedly committed the breaches by making false declaration of his assets while being the governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2007 for his first term and between 2007 and 2011 for his second term as governor and from 2011 to 2015 as a Senator.

Among the breaches were that he obtained N375m loan from Guaranty Trust Bank Plc in 2010, converted it to £1,515,194.53 and transferred the sum to the United Kingdom for full and final mortgage payment for a London property.

Additional charges against him included allegation that he continued to receive salary and emoluments as governor of Kwara State after the expiration of his tenure and at the same time, from the Federal Government as a Senator between June 2011 and October 2013.

He was also said to have failed to declare to the Code of Conduct Bureau on assumption of office as Governor of Kwara State in 2003, his leasehold interest in the property at 42 Remi Fani-Kayode Street, Ikeja, Lagos.

The prosecution also alleged that while being a public officer, the ex-governor operated bank accounts outside Nigeria and failed to declare the foreign accounts to the CCB while being governor and a senator during the period.

Properties that were allegedly falsely declared by Saraki included 17, 17A and 17B McDonald, Ikoyi, Lagos; Plot 2A Glover Road, Ikoyi, Lagos; 37A Glover Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, which he allegedly bought through Carlisle Properties; No. 1 and 3 Targus Street, Maitama, Abuja, otherwise known as 2482, Cadastral Zone A06, Abuja.

The Supreme Court had on February 5, 2016 dismissed Saraki’s objection challenging his trial before the CCT.

In his contribution to the ruling of the tribunal on Wednesday, co-member of the tribunal, Atedze Agwaza, who expatiated on the decision of the tribunal to free Saraki, noted that the Senate President was investigated by an illegal team comprising officials of the CCB, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Department of State Services.

He noted that such investigative team was strange to both the Constitution and the CCB/CCT Act under which Saraki was charged.

He also rejected the entire evidence of the prosecution on the basis that the evidence of the third prosecution witness, Mr. Samuel Madojemu, the Head, Intelligence Unit of the CCB, was nothing but hearsay.

Agwaza stated, “I find and hold that this apposite testimony is an affliction and epidemic that bedevilled the entire prosecution’s case and that particular evidence has rendered the whole-evidence of the prosecution invalid.

“It connotes that PW3 had no first-hand knowledge of all he said and the documents tendered. This is hearsay evidence and violates sections 37, 38 and 126 of the Evidence Act 2011.

He said the combined effect of the illegality of the investigative team and the inadmissible evidence of the prosecution was that “the charge is incurably defective” and amounted to a miscarriage of justice suffered by the defendant.

Agwaza added, “It will be fundamentally erroneous for this tribunal to call upon the defendant to prove his innocence.

“On this account, the prosecution had failed to link the defendant to the commission of the offences as charged.”

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Aare Abisoye Fagade Joyously Celebrates The Coronation Of The 43rd Olubadan Of Ibadan, Oba Akinloye Owolabi Olakulehin

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In a momentous celebration that echoes through the vibrant streets of Ibadan, Aare Abisoye Fagade extends his exuberant congratulations to Oba Akinloye Owolabi Olakulehin on his enthronement as the 43rd Olubadan of Ibadan. This landmark coronation ushers in a new era of leadership, heritage, and progress for the illustrious city of Ibadan.

With a heartfelt connection that spans decades, Aare Fagade has cherished the guidance and wisdom of Oba Olamilehin, whom he has revered not only as an esteemed uncle but also as a distinguished entrepreneur and an astute politician, a legacy passed down through his father, the late Elder David Oladokun Fagade. The bond between their families is woven into the very fabric of Ibadan’s history, making this occasion deeply personal and profoundly significant.

“Today, we celebrate not just a coronation but the dawn of a new chapter in the storied history of Ibadan,” proclaimed Aare Abisoye Fagade. “Oba Akinloye Owolabi Olakulehin embodies the virtues of wisdom, integrity, and visionary leadership. His ascent to the throne heralds a future filled with promise and prosperity for our beloved city.”

Aare Fagade’s jubilant praise for the new Olubadan is accompanied by fervent prayers for his reign. “May the reign of Oba Akinloye Owolabi Olamilehin be showered with divine blessings, peace, and unprecedented growth. May his leadership unite us and inspire us to reach new heights of excellence and harmony.

The coronation of Oba Olakulehin is not merely a ceremonial event but a rallying cry for all Ibadan indigenes to come together in support of their new monarch. Aare Fagade calls upon every son and daughter of Ibadan to embrace this momentous occasion with unity and enthusiasm, pledging their support to a reign that promises to uphold the grandeur and legacy of Ibadan.

As the city of Ibadan rejoices in this historic event, the air is filled with anticipation and hope for a future sculpted by the vision and guidance of Oba Akinloye Owolabi Olamilehin. Aare Abisoye Fagade stands proudly with his fellow Ibadan natives, celebrating the dawn of a new era.

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JUST IN: President Tinubu Renames National Theatre After Wole Soyinka

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Nigeria’s President, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has renamed the national theatre in Lagos after Wole Soyinka.

Tinubu made the pronouncement in a birthday message to the Nobel laureate who turns 90 on July 13.

“It is also fitting we celebrate this national treasure while he is still with us,” Tinubu said.

“I am, accordingly, delighted to announce the decision of the Federal Government to rename the National Theatre in Iganmu, Surulere, as the Wole Soyinka Centre for Culture and the Creative Arts.

“We do not only celebrate Soyinka’s remarkable literary achievements but also his unwavering dedication to the values of human dignity and justice.”

 

More to come…

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BIG STORY

HEALTH: FG Inaugurates Committee To End Mother-To-Child Transmission Of HIV

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The federal government has established a multidisciplinary committee to eliminate the transmission of HIV from mothers to children in Nigeria.

Minister of State for Health and Social Welfare, Tunji Alausa, launched the Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT) and Pediatric HIV Programme Committee in Abuja on Thursday.

Alausa highlighted that Nigeria accounts for 25% of global mother-to-child HIV transmission and emphasized the ministry’s commitment to collaborating with the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) and the National AIDS and STIs Control Programme (NASCP) to ensure that no child is born with HIV, thereby eradicating vertical transmission.

“As you are aware, Nigeria contributes 25% of the global burden of HIV transmission between mothers and their children,” Alausa said.

“Despite testing approximately 4 million pregnant women in 2023, our PMTCT (prevention of mother-to-child transmission) and pediatric HIV coverage remain at about 35%, falling significantly short of the 95% target.

“Through the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) and the National AIDS and STIs Control Programme (NASCP), we will provide effective governance for this programme.

“Eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV and ensuring care for all persons living with HIV, especially our children, aligns with the renewed hope agenda of Mr President.”

Also speaking, Temitope Ilori, the director-general of NACA, expressed concern over the low coverage of PMTCT and pediatric HIV in Nigeria.

Ilori said about 140,000 children below 14 years old are living with HIV as of 2023, with 22,000 new infections and 15,000 AIDS-related deaths occurring among underage people.

The NACA DG noted that the newly constituted committee will drive the implementation of the initiative, in line with the sector-wide approach to health care in Nigeria.

“Nigeria faces a critical challenge in preventing mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV and ensuring access to care for children living with HIV,” Ilori said.

“The objective of today’s meeting is to formally inaugurate the acceleration plan committee to provide oversight to the PMTCT and pediatric HIV programme implementation in line with the three-one principle of one coordinating agency, one strategic framework, and one M&E system.”

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