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Obama Voices Concern to Najib About Governance in Malaysia

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U.S. President Barack Obama’s meeting Friday with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak stands out on a long list of his one-on-one talks with world leaders this week because the premier is under fire over a multi-million dollar funding scandal.

Obama could hardly skip a meeting with Najib, who is hosting Obama at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit, but it might not be a photo op the White House touts. While the two played golf in Hawaii last year, Najib now faces pressure to explain how 2.6 billion ringgit ($607 million) ended up in his personal bank accounts in 2013, and has cracked down on dissenters while using sedition laws to detain media executives.

Even as the two held a 45-minute meeting and posed for the cameras, Obama showed concern from the start of his three-day trip about what’s been going on in Malaysia. At his first appointment — a town hall event at a university — a relaxed, shirt-sleeved Obama told young leaders from the 10 Asean countries that he’d raise the issue of government transparency and press freedom with Najib.

“I was going to do it anyway, but now that I hear it from you, I’m definitely going to do it,” he told the audience. During the town hall he addressed issues ranging from climate change to inequality, U.S. political gridlock and the recent elections in Myanmar.

Peace, Stability

In his remarks after meeting Obama, Najib said Malaysia is “taking into account some of” the president’s views. “Malaysia is committed to reforms,” Najib said. “And we are committed to ensuring at the same time there is peace and stability.” The two also discussed Islamic State and terrorism, tensions in the disputed South China Sea and human trafficking.

Obama said the leaders talked about the importance of civil society — in Malaysia and the region more broadly. They discussed “how we can promote those values that will encourage continued development and opportunity and prosperity,” Obama said. “I very much appreciate this conversation.”

Najib has rarely answered questions from the media since the funding scandal broke in July, when the Wall Street Journal reported that about $700 million may have moved through government agencies and state-linked companies to his private accounts. Najib has denied taking money for personal gain.

Opposition lawmakers and some in Najib’s own party have asked questions over the funds, which reached his accounts before the 2013 general election. Najib has acknowledged the money but said it was political donations from the Middle East, an initial conclusion also reached by the anti-corruption commission.

Political Tensions

The accounts have since been closed. The receipt of political funds was to meet the needs of the party and the community and wasn’t a new practice, the official Bernama news agency has said, citing Najib.

The scandal has fueled political tensions with Najib firing his deputy in July, while thousands of anti-government protesters rallied in the capital in August. The imbroglio has unnerved foreign investors in Southeast Asia’s third-largest economy, contributing to a sell-off last quarter in Malaysian markets.

Malaysia is one of the 12 nations in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, which has been a key element of Obama’s security and economic rebalance to Asia. The U.S. has also been working with Malaysia on countering terrorism, the importance of which was highlighted by last week’s attacks in Paris and Friday’s hostage-taking in Mali.

Countering Extremism

“Malaysia like Indonesia are majority Muslim countries that represent tolerance and peace,” Obama said. “Malaysia’s willingness to host a center that uses all the tools of social media with scholars and clerics to counter” extremism is important, he said.

“Malaysia is part of the coalition to fight ISIL and has been particularly helpful on issues like countering the destructive and perverse narrative that’s developed.”

The Southeast Asian nation has arrested dozens of suspects who authorities said were plotting attacks in the country or linked to Islamic State. Some have been arrested upon their return from Syria.

Earlier this week Najib said he was “shocked and sickened” by the murder of Malaysian engineer Bernard Then, who was beheaded by the Abu Sayyaf Islamic militant group in the southern Philippines. Then was the first Malaysian hostage to be beheaded by the group.

Bloomberg

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

Government

In The Fight Against Corruption, No Individual is Bigger Than The State – Buhari

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Muhammadu Buhari

In response to the suspended acting EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, President Muhammed Buhari, lamented that the anti-corruption war becomes endangered “when persons entrusted with the responsibility of that magnitude become suspects themselves.”

Buhari, whose vision is to put an end to corruption in Nigeria, believed that every aspect of the nation’s life is enshrined in corruption and it’s of major concern when leaders of institutions saddled with the mandate to fight the menace are found in the waves of the corruption they claimed to be fighting.

This act is a great abomination not only because it strikes at the root but it also trivialises and undermines the anti-corruption crusade itself, the President explained.

He further said that in a bid to put an end to this great abomination, he had set up Ayo Salami Panel to unravel the mystery behind the mystique of Magu’s alleged involvement in corruption that his administration is fighting.

Buhari said that his administration is ready and willing to go all out in the fight against corruption, and no one is too big nor above the law to become a victim of anti-graft’s sledgehammer.

The president said, “However, the stark reality of widespread corruption becomes poignant when allegations of corruption touch on the leadership of an institution set up by law to coordinate and enforce all economic and financial crimes.

“It is an abomination that strikes at the root and undermines the government’s anti-corruption programme.

“It was in response to the serious allegations against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission that I set up a panel headed by the Honourable Justice Isa Ayo Salami, retired President of the Court of Appeal, via an Instrument dated 3rd July 2020 pursuant to the Tribunals of Inquiry Act (Cap T21, LFN, 2004).

“We recognise that there are more grounds to cover in the war against corruption, and we are prepared to go out to possess those lands by cutting off any stream that nourishes the seed of corruption and supports its growth.

“Let it be known that in the fight against corruption, no one is too big to tackle, as no individual is bigger than the Nigerian State!”

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In Search For The New EFCC Chairman, Justice Ayo Salami Panel Advises Buhari to Look Outside The Police Force

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Justice Ayo Salami’s panel advised President Muhammadu Buhari to look outside the Nigerian Police Force for the new Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

A credible source confirmed that President Muhammadu Buhari may have decided to follow the panel recommendation to avoid a similar fate to that of Magu, the former chairman.

The source also confirmed that the panel recommendation was a result of sleaze allegations against suspended acting Chairman, Ibrahim Magu. Also, that search team would be constituted in the next few days to slim down the possibilities of finding the right candidate to bring into reality the President’s vision of a corrupt-free anti-graft agency.

The source further confirmed that “the sleaze and abuse of office allegations against Magu, a commissioner of police, were overwhelming,” and that he may be put on trial.

As advised by the panel, the new EFCC chairman should be in interim position for two years.

It was suggested that the recommendation from the Justice Ayo Salami panel might have pinned Magu, according to Femi Adesina, the presidential spokesman, he advised president Buhari to consider looking into other law enforcement or security agencies, as well as considering important and diligent staff of EFCC in his plans to appoint the next EFCC chairman, as s provided in the EFCC Establishment Act of 2004.

Following the Justice Ayo Salami panel recommendation, Salami said “Your Excellency, permit me to say that four successive chairmen of the EFCC from inception have been drawn from the police. Therefore, in appointing a new chairman of EFCC, consideration should be given to candidates from other law enforcement or security agencies and qualified core staff of EFCC as provided in the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment Act 2004).

“It is also important to point out that at the moment, 970 policemen (114 drivers, 641 mobile policemen and 215 operations), are on secondment in the EFCC.

“Therefore, an exit plan for the disengagement of the police and other personnel within two years from now should be considered. This will address the issue of non-promotion of core staff for over nine years.

“Your Excellency, our thinking here is that whoever you are appointing other than a core EFCC staff, should be in transitional capacity of two years during which period, the arrangement would be made for the appointment of any of the core staff who has been commended by National Crime Agency, UK and other international law enforcement for their professionalism”.

Justice Ayo Salami appreciated the president for giving members of the panel an avenue to serve the country.

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Ezekwesili Presents Research Findings on Fixing Nigeria’s Politics

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A quest to understand the interconnection between politics and economic performance in a democratic society motivated Richard von Weizacker fellowship and research study at the Robert Bosch Academy in Berlin, Germany, Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili said on Wednesday.

She stated this at the public launch of #FixPolitics, where she presented findings from her fellowship research on how to fix politics in Nigeria and Africa more broadly.

Ezekwesili invited 124 Nigerians from diverse fields of endeavour and geopolitical zones to collaborate on designing the research findings over the last one year as a Work Study Group. The group is the co-leadership organ responsible for an integrated citizens-led actions to fix the broken political system.

She pointed out that politics in Nigeria was not fulfilling the core requirement of a democratic system, which was to provide good governance for the common wellbeing of citizens.

“My research findings primarily reinforce that the poor state of affairs in Nigeria is the consequence of the quality of politics at play. Politics is at the heart of everything any society can or will become. The essential process of democracy is not complete without politics,” the 2019 Nigerian Presidential candidate said.

In her study, she established primarily that in a democratic system, “there are three triangular pillars which determine the kind of outcomes that politics will produce for the people.

Explaining the concept, the former World Bank vice president said, “On the right angle or demand side of the triangle is the electorate; on the left or supply side is the politicians, political class and parties; and at the top is the regulatory – constitutional, legal, electoral and institutional context within which the politics happen.”

According to her, these tripod pillars create an interconnecting network of actions that determine the outcomes of every political system.

“Every pillar or angle of the triangle must function effectively and concurrently with the other two to enable the right quality of politics that will deliver strong economic performance for a people.

“In evaluating the outcome of politics in Nigeria and Africa, my study established that the quality of the electorate, quality of political class and quality and lack of independence and capacity of political institutions constitute a structural and systemic problem for democracy and must therefore be fixed by citizens,” Ezekwesili said.

She also said, “The research found that Nigeria is ridden with politicians without competing ideas of how to solve the problems of citizens, who lack a culture of public service and subordinate the common good to their personal and narrow interests.

“The constitutional, legal, institutional and regulatory environment is compromised by the political class to more frequently act without independence, fairness and adherence to the rule of law. The political space is thus completely monopolised by the supply side of governance, that is the political class, thereby causing political, economic and social stagnation for the nation and people.

“Currently in our politics, voters generally lack the level of influence necessary to compel the right political processes and good outcomes that serve the good of all in society.

“The bright prospect is that evidence from the #FixPolitics research shows that citizens are the only angle of the triangle that can act and propel systemic change by collectively and decisively acting for their common good.”

To alter the status quo, Ezekwesili said only the electorate “have the incentive to correct the abnormality in a political system.”

She added, “It is the collective effort of citizens that can change the quality of political class and compel the kind of constitutional and electoral changes required to achieve good governance.”

Delivering a keynote address, former President Felipe Calderon of Mexico said there was an enormous gap between the interests of the citizens and that of the politicians, which he saw as a major problem to a democratic setting.

“To fix politics in Nigeria, the citizens and the politicians must work together and represent the same in practical life,” he said.

Calderon further said that “citizens must change their perception of politics and political participation rather than holding to a view that politics is for corrupt and dishonest people.”

According to him, corrupt people are quite the opposite of what politics stands. “To fix politics is what happens when the people participate and take responsibility to provide political participation with ethical sense and ethical parameters,” Calderon added.

In a goodwill message, former President of Malawi, Dr. Joyce Banda, said politics should be seen as an inclusive love affair and if institutionally implemented, “Africa will witness a great change in its democratic system.”

While dissecting the dynamics of democracy, three intergenerational panels with discussants like Prof. Atahiru Jega, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, Pastor Tunde Bakare, Aisha Yesufu, Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, Jude Abaga(also known as M.I Abaga), Cynthia Mbamalu, Yemi Adamolekun, Samson Itodo, among others, agreed that there was an emerging consensus to fix politics in Nigeria as the status quo was untenable and unsustainable.

Speakers like Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, Ayo Sogunro, Ndi Kato, Adewunmi Emoruwa, and Dr. Usman Bugaje highlighted that “there is a need for young people and women to fully engage in partisan politics, create platforms for political engagement, use politics as a tool for framing a shared vision based on a new dominant value orientation of public service, connect the elite with the grassroots and mobilise the Nigerian public to mount pressure on the legislature for the right constitutional and electoral changes.”

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