The Federal Government has started investigating how the 2014 and 2015 budgetary allocations of the National Assembly were expended.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had demanded details of the budgets totalling N300bn from the National Assembly clerk, Sani Omolori.
Besides, he was requested to produce details of the contracts awarded by the assembly.
It was learnt that some principal officers of the seventh and the current eighth National Assembly would be invited in the coming months for interrogation.
Investigations showed that although the commission had received a petition from a former Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation, Mr. Abdulmumin Jibrin, on the alleged padding of the 2016 budget, it is extending its investigations to 2014 and 2015 fiscal years.
Jibrin, in his petition, had alleged that the Speaker of the House, Mr. Yakubu Dogara and three other principal officers padded the 2016 budget.
A top official of the EFCC said that although Jibrin’s petition bothered on the 2016 budget, funds had not been released for the projects allegedly inserted in the budget.
The source stated that the commission was focusing on 2014 and 2015, when the National Assembly got N150bn annually as its allocations.
It was learnt that for the seventh National Assembly, principal officers including the then Senate President, Senator David Mark, and his Deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, would be invited by the commission.
For the eight National Assembly, besides Dogara, the current Senate President, Dr.Bukola Saraki; Ekweremadu and the Deputy Speaker, Sulaiman Lasun, will also be quizzed.
The official stated, “You know the National Assembly has never made its budget public. Besides Jibrin’s petitions, there are others that will make investigations into the 2014 and 2015 budgets inevitable.”
For example, a group, the Anti-Corruption Unit of the National Youth Council of Nigeria, in a petition to the EFCC, alleged that N418m contracts were awarded in 2014 to firms linked to Jibrin.
The contracts included the supply of beans and millets to Kano State awarded to Eleku Construction Limited.
When contacted, the EFCC spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren, confirmed that the commission had requested for 2014 and 2015 budgets from the National Assembly.
Attempts to get Jibrin’s reactions did not succeed on Friday as he could not be reached through his telephone. He also did not reply to a text message our correspondent sent to his mobile phone.
Dogara, on his part, had recently said that the police and the EFCC could not investigate the House on the alleged padding of the 2016 budget.
When contacted on Friday, both Saraki and Ekweremadu said they were not aware of any invitation from the EFCC or intention to invite them.
The Chief Press Secretary to the Senate President, Sanni Odogu, simply said, “Saraki is a law-abiding citizen.”
He referred one of our correspondents to the Special Adviser to the Senate President (Media and Publicity), Yusuf Olaniyonu.
Olaniyonu, when contacted on the phone, said he was at a function and requested that a text message be sent to make the enquiry.
In his reply to the text message sent to him, Olaniyonu said, “No such thing. The Senate is on recess. We do not have any inkling about any such probe or invitation. In any case, remember that he became Senate President on June 9, 2015. So, if they are talking of 2014 and 2015, I don’t think that (the probe) will concern him.”
But another senior aide to Saraki, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, noted that even when the Senate President was charged to two different courts, he had been law-abiding.
“When they dragged him to the Code of Conduct Tribunal, he has been attending the proceedings. When they dragged him to a Federal High Court (over alleged forgery of Senate Standing Rules along with some principal officers of the Senate), he has been going. If there is anything else, let us wait till that time comes,” the source said.
Also, the Special Adviser to the Deputy Senate President on Media, Uche Anichukwu, said, “We are not aware of any invitation or the intention to invite Senator Ekweremadu.”
Similarly, Mark’s media aide, Paul Mumeh, said he could not react to speculations.
“We can only react to what I know of. Have you seen the letter of invitation written by the EFCC? Who signed it? Who was it sent through? We can only react to facts,” he said.
However, the Deputy Chairman, Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Senator Shehu Sani, told one of our correspondents that the probe is the same as meddling in the affairs of the legislature by the executive.
He noted that the security and anti-graft agencies are arms of the executive. He asked why the agencies were not paying attention to the executive and the judiciary.
Sani said, “The anti-corruption agencies are showing more interest in allegations against members of the National Assembly than against members of the executive and the judiciary. And the discriminatory responses of the anti-corruption agencies are an ill wind that will blow no one any good. It simply discredits the agencies as well as raise suspicions on their activities.
“The National Assembly is not immune to the law that is applicable to anybody in this country but the anti-corruption agencies must respect the independence of the legislature and seek an informed opinion whenever they are delving into issues that concern the legislature because they are still seen as part of the executive. They must know that any of their actions, naturally, will be interpreted as a calculated attempt to undermine the activities of the National Assembly.
The lawmaker, who is representing Kaduna-Central at the Senate, however, added that no legislature should “in any way take advantage of its esteemed position and the privileges of its esteemed position to commit crime with the expectation of immunity or impunity.”
Afenifere, CD back probe
Reacting to the moves to probe the National Assembly, the National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, supported the investigation and took a swipe at the All Progressives Congress for saying that it would not punish any of its members involved in budget padding.
Odumakin said, “That is high wire politics. It is dawning on the owners of the game that if this is pursued to a logical conclusion and Dogara has to step down, there is possibility of power changing hands. So, it is practical to shave the anti-corruption stance so as not to upset the apple cart.”
Also, President of Campaign for Democracy, Bako Abdul Usman, backed the investigation of the National Assembly.
He said, “It’s unfortunate that the level of high-handedness, impunity, lack of respect for the judiciary by the APC within just one year in office, is quite alarming and negates its ideology of fighting corruption.
“A party that recorded victory based on the principles of change from corrupt practices, aids and abets illegality without sanctioning its erring members.
“Most of us will see the fight against corruption as a mere mirage or witch hunt of the opposition. If that should happen, then Mr. President’s body language of ‘I belong to everybody, I belong to nobody’ is not true for he really belongs to somebody and certainly he is for somebody and will never stop being for the powers that be in shielding corruption.”
In The Fight Against Corruption, No Individual is Bigger Than The State – 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!”
In Search For The New EFCC Chairman, Justice Ayo Salami Panel Advises Buhari to Look Outside The Police Force
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.
Ezekwesili Presents Research Findings on Fixing Nigeria’s Politics
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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