The Federal Government has started searching for more facts that can further prove the involvement of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, in the alleged forgery of Senate Standing Rules, 2015.
On Friday that the Police Special Investigation Panel had written the Clerk of the National Assembly, Mohammed Sani-Omolori, to demand for the records of the proceedings where the Senate rules were amended.
Following the realisation that the evidence against the men was not enough to secure their conviction in court, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, had directed the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, to dig further and get more evidence against the two senators.
The trial judge on June 27, 2016, admitted the defendants to bail and adjourned the matter for trial.
The accused persons pleaded not guilty to the charges preferred against them.
On Friday that the IGP had directed the SIP handling the investigation to get more evidence that could sustain the conviction of the accused persons for forgery.
It was learnt that the panel, led by Ali Amodu, a retired Assistant Inspector-General of Police, wrote a letter to the National Assembly Clerk in August, 2016 and demanded the record of proceedings of the last Senate.
The police also requested the clerk to clarify if the 7th Senate at any time amended the Senate Standing Orders 2011 and the extent of the amendment, if any.
Sources stated that the panel also requested for copies of the Senate Standing Orders, 2015, as well as the Hansard (official record of debates) of June 9 and 24, 2015 to know what transpired on the floor of the Senate.
It was learnt that the panel, had in its letter, asked that the information should be dispatched before September 7.
A source, who was familiar with the investigation, said that the clerk had yet to respond to the request, prompting the SIP to send a reminder about two weeks ago.
The source said, “The SIP was expecting the clerk to send the copies of the senate standing rules, 2011 and 2015 to know if there was an amendment and the extent of such amendment. The police also demanded the record of the last proceeding of the 7th senate, but up till now, the clerk has not responded.
“The SIP has again sent a reminder to the clerk to fast-track its request. All these records are needed by the police to carry out a thorough probe into the case and ensure that the probe is rested once and for all.”
Efforts made to get the Clerk to the National Assembly proved abortive as calls to his telephone did not go through. He also did not reply a text message sent to him as of the time of filing this report on Friday evening.
In June, when the case was first filed in court before Saraki and other co-accused persons were arraigned, the Federal Government had deposed to an affidavit, attesting that investigations into the matter had been concluded.
In the charge sheet dated June 10, 2016 and signed by D.E Kaswe Esq., Principal State Counsel on behalf of the AGF, which was supported by an Affidavit of Completion of Investigation deposed to at the Federal High Court Registry, Abuja, on the same date by Okara Neji Jonah, a litigation officer in the Federal Ministry of Justice, Abuja, attested that the police had concluded its investigations.
The police failed to carry out a thorough investigation into the forgery case because the leadership of the Force was in a hurry to conclude the probe to please the Presidency.
The inconclusive investigation was carried out by detectives from the Force Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department.
Renewed investigation abuse of judicial process—Saraki
Saraki, in his reaction, described the renewal of the investigation as an abuse of judicial process when the prosecutor had already dragged the suspects to court.
The Special Adviser to the Senate President on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, told one of our correspondents on Friday that only Saraki’s lawyers would continue to speak for him on the matter.
He said, “I would have preferred that our lawyers speak on the matter; they would have been able to spell out the legal implication of going to court, swearing to an affidavit that the investigation had been concluded, which is the fulcrum of taking the matter to court. To now say there will be a fresh investigation is like leaving the case in court, while looking for an evidence to justify your position. That will be a clear abuse of court process, just like our lawyers submitted on Wednesday. It is a clear case of abuse of court process.”
Ekweremadu, who spoke through his Special Adviser on Media, Mr. Uche Anichukwu, said his lawyers would speak on the matter.
He referred our correspondent to a statement by the Civil Liberties Organisation, which, according to him, strongly criticised how court processes were being abused in the forgery case.
The Special Adviser to the Attorney-General of the Federation on Media and Publicity, Mr. Salisu Isah, could not be reached through his telephone on Friday as repeated calls made to the telephone line indicated that it was not available.
It’s all drama—Afenifere
But the National Publicity Secretary of the Yoruba socio-political group, Yinka Odumakin, described the suit as a drama.
He stated, “I think it is all drama and we have better things to face. We have had enough of these shows. Our anti-corruption war has yet to secure one conviction in 16 months now and I don’t think Saraki would be the first causality.
“What we want to see is concrete actions to halt the dangerous slide that we are in as a country.”
On his part, the Executive Director of a faction of the Civil Liberties Organisation, Ohabuenyi Ezike, described the issue as a rude shock.
According to him, the reopening of investigation by the AGF and IGP appears to corroborate “the position of the Senate that the names of the accused persons were politically generated as names of the Senate President, Dr. Olusola Saraki, and Senator Ike Ekweremadu could not in any way be related to the Proof of Evidence.”
The President of the Nigeria Voters’ Assembly, Mashood Erubami, said that the matter should be thoroughly investigated.
Erubami stated that sweeping the matter under the carpet would not conform with the spirit of the moment. This is the time that the President should send a strong signal to the world that he and his government believe in the fight against anything unethical.
“It is a pity that the police have been reluctant to let Nigerians know what their findings are on the alleged forgery case and nobody is sure of whose doorsteps the guilt over the matter is to be laid.
“It is not enough to make an allegation against a person; what is important is being able to prove the case against the person to secure conviction.”
Envoy Considers Establishment Of Chinese Banks In Nigeria To Boost Economy
Mr Cui Jianchun, the Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, says he is in talks with Chinese owned Banks to establish operations in Nigeria.
This, the envoy said, is to boost Nigeria’s economy and expand trade relations between the two nations.
Cui made this known on Tuesday in Abuja while addressing Journalists during the commemoration of the 2021 Chinese Moon Festival and China-Nigeria Cultural week.
According to Cui, the establishment of Chinese Banks in Nigeria will also be one of the key areas of discussion during the China-Nigeria Binational Committee meeting, which he is also pushing for the establishment.
He said that an efficient financial institution was a key driver to achieving a strong economy, one Nigeria can learn from China’s experience.
“Before my departure from Beijing to Abuja, I talked to several banks in China. When you list the World’s 10 big banks, six are in China.
“The Banking sector is very important, because, without money, we cannot build our industries.
“What I am thinking here is best to talk to the governor of Central Bank and how we can allow the Chinese Banks to run office here and now, they are doing the feasibility studies on that.
“I am working hard that in the Bi-national meeting, I hope we can make a big decision and give a big push to let the banking industry and insurance industry because financial integration and institutions are key.
“If you go to China, you will find our banking industry is very powerful, not only for business but the change in the way of life.
“Because of the COVID-19, the Banking Industry is a little hesitant, but I told them Nigeria has a lot of human resources and as long as we work together, we can do big things.
“And that is why it is important to invest in the banking industry, to solve this problem,” Cui said.
Extolling the extant China-Nigeria trade relations, Cui noted that the volume of trade between China and Nigeria is nearly 20 billion US Dollars, with an increase from 2020’s 19.2 billion dollars.
Cui said the Chinese economy is restoring to the normal post-COVID-19 pandemic and both governments are working hard on how to expand imports and exports.
Speaking on the event, Cui said the China’s moon festival is a very important and significant one for China as it symbolises family reunion, national peace and social harmony.
The envoy said the 2021 celebration is also a special one as it coincides with the 50th Anniversary of China-Nigeria’s bilateral relations.
He said that both countries also share Oct. 1 as their National Days.
He said it is also on that note that the Chinese Embassy is honouring 50 Nigerian employees of Chinese Companies in Nigeria for their outstanding performance and contribution to strengthening diplomatic ties.
Dr Ifeoma Anyanwutaku, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, also lauded the Nigeria-China relations.
She said the relations had recorded great successes over the past five decades.
“The five decades of co-operation had since witnessed several cultural activities and exchanges in the spheres of arts, music, dance, exhibition, cultural administration, training and capacity building of cultural officers.
“And recently, the development of Cultural Industries centres in Nigeria, among others.
“I must add that China, through the youth-oriented programmes such as the photos competition and similar activities in the past is surely a dependable ally.
“In redirecting the energy and mind of our youth to creative ventures, thereby furthering the Nigerian government’s policy of lifting a hundred million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years”, Anyanwukatu said. (NAN)
Lagos Prohibits Open Cattle Grazing, Sanwo-Olu Signs Bill Into Law
Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on Monday, assented to the bill prohibiting Open Cattle Grazing and Trespass of Cattle on Land, signing the legislation into law 11 days after it was unanimously passed by the State House of Assembly and transmitted to the Executive arm for authorisation.
By implication, it is now criminal in Lagos for cattle rearers to occupy unapproved public areas and private land with their livestock for grazing. The law also prohibits the act of moving cattle round public places by herders.
The signing of the anti-open grazing law by the Governor followed the decision of Southern Governors’ Forum last August, setting the September deadline to pass the law across member States.
There have been crises witnessed in some States, resulting from alleged open grazing.
Although farmer-herder crisis is not pronounced in Lagos, the anti-open grazing law is expected to prevent the spillover of the menace into the State.
Sanwo-Olu, who assented to the bill during the State’s Executive Council meeting in Alausa, directed the security agencies to swing immediately into action and enforce provisions of the law.
He said: “By the powers vested in me as the Governor of Lagos State, I am signing the bill on Open Cattle Grazing and Trespass of Cattle on Land into law to prohibit issues associated with open grazing of livestock.”
The Governor also signed legislation transforming the Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team (DSVRT) into a full-blown agency.
The development coincided with the commemorative month dedicated to raising awareness on gender-based violence in the State. The Governor and members of the State’s cabinet wore attire with purple shades to support the campaign against sexual violence.
The DSVRT legislation provides for the establishment of Sexual Offenders’ Register that would help the State efficiently tackle violations in the communities.
After signing the law, Sanwo-Olu said: “Raising awareness about domestic and sexual violence is an important piece of working to end the cycle of violence. It is important to reiterate the State Government’s zero tolerance to all forms of sexual and gender-based violence. We will not rest on our oars until the menace is reduced to the barest minimum in Lagos.”
The Governor appointed Mrs. Titilola Vivour-Adeniyi as the Executive Secretary of the new agency.
Vivour-Adeniyi was the coordinator of the response team before the legislation was signed into law.
ECOWAS Imposes Sanctions on Guinea Junta Over Coups
West African leaders have decided to impose travel bans and freeze the financial assets of members of Guinea’s ruling junta and their families after a coup more than a week ago.
The decisions were announced Thursday after an Extraordinary Summit on Guinea in Ghana’s capital, Accra. Mediators with the regional group had traveled to Guinea to meet with junta leaders and check on the condition of deposed President Alpha Conde.
ECOWAS president Jean Claude Brou said the West African leaders have also insisted that there should be no “need for very long transition for the country to return to democratic order.”
The targeted sanctions come after Guinea’s coup leaders set a number of conditions for releasing Conde, according to the foreign minister of Ghana.
ECOWAS had already warned it will impose penalties on the junta in Guinea unless it immediately releases Conde, who has been held at an undisclosed location since being detained during the Sept. 5 coup in Conakry.
“We are coming to address a burning issue in the region,” said Ghana’s President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the current chair of the regional bloc, ahead of the summit. He was joined by presidents or high-ranking officials from eight of the other 15 ECOWAS countries.
Members of the ECOWAS delegation that visited Conakry after the coup presented their reports at Thursday’s meeting, said Ghanaian Foreign Minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchway. The junta has set a number of conditions for complying with the demands of regional mediators, she said but declined to disclose what they are.
The delegation has spoken with Conde’s doctor “who ascertained that indeed physically, he’s very well,” she said. However, she said, the ex-president is still coming to terms with the fact that his government has been toppled after more than a decade in power.
“For anybody who has gone through such a traumatic experience like he did, mentally, it’s not the best, not to say that mentally we found anything wrong, but he was quite shocked; he’s still in a state of shock,” she added.
Meanwhile, in Conakry, junta leaders were also set to meet with mining company representatives on the third day of a special summit to chart Guinea’s political future. Junta leader Col. Mamady Doumbouya has sought to reassure the country’s most vital economic sector that the political changes will not impact existing mining projects in the country, which has the world’s largest reserves of bauxite.
Guinea’s coup leaders have yet to make public their proposed timeframe for handing over power to a civilian transitional government, nor have they outlined how quickly new elections can be organized.
Conde had sparked violent street demonstrations last year after he pushed for a constitutional referendum that he used to justify running for a third term, saying term limits no longer applied to him. He ultimately won another five years in office last October, only to be toppled by the coup 10 months later.
At the time he came to power in 2010, he was Guinea’s first democratically elected leader since independence from France in 1958.
The regional bloc also planned to tackle concerns over whether a second member state, Mali, is making enough progress toward a return to democracy more than a year after a military takeover there.
In Mali, the ruling junta led by Col. Assimi Goita has committed to holding new elections by February 2022, though mediators who recently visited have expressed concern about whether that deadline now can be met.
Goita overthrew Mali’s president in August 2020 and then agreed to a civilian transitional government and an 18-month timeframe for holding a vote. However, only nine months after the first coup he effectively staged a second one, firing the civilian interim leaders and ultimately naming himself as president of the transition.
ECOWAS has not reinstated Mali’s membership in the bloc, marking the first time since 2012 that two of the 15 member states are suspended concurrently.
ECOWAS President Brou said there was the need to revisit the organization’s 2001 protocol on good governance “because a lot of things have changed or improved.”
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