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$15b Arms Cash: Judges in Trouble Over Stipends

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  • $15b Arms Cash: Judges in Trouble Over Stipends

More judges are under probe by security and anti-graft agencies for allegedly receiving monthly stipends from the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA).

The stipends were allegedly paid from the $15billion meant for arms procurement, which was mismanaged by the administration of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan.

It was also learnt that the National Judicial Council (NJC) has received more than 20 petitions against some judges.

A  Preliminary Complaint Assessment Committee is said to be sieving the petitions to establish whether or not there are prima facie evidence against their Lordships.

But the committee has found no merit in the four petitions against Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court because “he acted within the law”.

According to sources, security and anti-graft agencies are looking into the activities and conduct of more judges bordering on abuse of oath.

The NJC has sanctioned more than nine judges this year for some infractions.

They are: Justice O. Gbajabiamila (Lagos State High Court); Justice Idris M. J. Evuti (Niger State High Court); Justice Tanko Yusuf Usman (Niger State High Court); Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia; Justice Mohammed Yunusa of the Enugu Division of the Federal High Court; Justice Olamide Oloyede (Osun State High Court); Justice Ladan Tsamiya of the Ilorin division of the Court of Appeal; JusticeI. A. Umezulike, Chief Judge of Enugu State; and Justice Kabiru Auta of Kano State High Court.

But many more judges may be shown the way out of the bench for corrupt practices.

It was learnt that security and anti-corruption agencies have stumbled on documents showing that some judges were on monthly stipends from the ONSA.

The said stipends were disbursed from an account which was tagged “Security Vote”.

Some judges benefited from the account in form of “assistance”;  others were bought Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) for official purpose, it was learnt.

A source, who spoke in confidence, said: “In one instance, there were allegations that some outstanding allowances and SUVs were purchased from the account for judges based on a request by some heads of some courts.

“Many contingency requests were accommodated from the three arms of government by ONSA under the guise of Security Vote. This is one of the reasons why the prosecution is opposed to the open trial of ex-National Security Adviser, Mr. Sambo Dasuki.”

Another source said since May, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had been watching four high court judges in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) who allegedly frustrate the probe of high-profile corruption cases.

The judges were said to have developed a penchant for going soft with suspects who approach their courts to stop their trial by the EFCC for corruption.

“The affected judges have been indulging in ‘arrangee’ injunctions,”  the source added.

Meanwhile, the NJC has more than 20 petitions against judges in the lower and appellate courts.

A member  of the NJC said: “There are many outstanding petitions before the NJC against more judges. These allegations border on delay in delivering judgment, abuse of judicial oath, request for bribe and others.

“But the Preliminary Complaint Assessment Committee is going through the claims, affidavits in support and evidence against the judges.

“It is when a prima facie case is established against them that a report will be tabled before the NJC for investigation and disciplinary action.

“The process is cumbersome and painstaking. Those behind these petitions owe the NJC a duty to prove their allegations beyond reasonable doubt. Otherwise, petitions without evidence won’t be considered by the council.”

The source added: “For instance, four petitions were filed against Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court but all the allegations were frivolous.

“The committee discovered that the judge discharged his duties within the law; he committed no infractions and the petitions were dismissed at the preliminary stage.”

According to the rules, the Chairman of NJC may “ assess a complaint or may, at his discretion, refer it to  a  Preliminary  Complaint  Assessment  Committee  where  such  has been  established.

“The  Preliminary  Complaint  Assessment  Committee  shall  review  the complaint referred  to  it  and advise the  Council whether the  complaint should  be: • dismissed; • terminated  and  not  proceeded  with because  an  intervening event  has  taken  the  complaint; • terminated  because  remedial  action  has  been  taken  that  makes  action  on  the  complaint  no  longer  necessary; • referred  to  the  subject  Judicial  Officer  for  his  response; • referred  to  an  investigation  committee  should  his  response not  be  sufficient  to  dispose  of  the  matter  without  an investigation.”

Paragraph 21 of Part One of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria( as amended) says: “The National Judicial Council shall have the power to:

  1. Recommend to the President from among the list of persons submitted to it by the Federal Judicial Service Commission, persons for appointment to the Offices of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, the Justices of the Supreme Court, the President and Justices of the Court of Appeal, the Chief Judge and Judges of the Federal High Court, and the Judicial Service Committee of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, persons for appointment to the Offices of the Chief Judge and Judges of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, the Grand Kadi and Kadis of the Sharia Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja and the President and Judges of the Customary Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja;
  2. recommend to the President the removal from office of the Judicial Officers specified in sub-paragraph (a) of this paragraph, and to exercise disciplinary control over such Officers;
  3. recommend to the Governors from among the list of persons submitted to it by the State Judicial Service Commissions persons for appointments to the Offices of the Chief Judges of the States and Judges of the High Courts of the States, the Grand Kadis and Kadis of the Sharia Courts of Appeal of the States; and President and Judges of the Customary Courts of Appeal of the States;
  4. recommend to the Governors the removal from office of the Judicial Officers specified in sub-paragraph (c) of this paragraph, and to exercise disciplinary control over such officers;
  5. collect, control and disburse all moneys, capital and recurrent, for the judiciary;
  6. advise the President and Governors in any matter pertaining to the judiciary as may be referred to the Council by the President or the Governors;
  7. appoint, dismiss and exercise disciplinary control over members and staff of the Council;
  8. control and disburse all monies, capital and recurrent, for the services of the Council; and
  9. deal with all other matters relating to broad issues of policy and administration.

BACKGROUND ON THOSE SANCTIONED

  1. Justice Gbajabiamila allegedly delivered judgment in a matter before him 22 months after written addresses were adopted by all the parties and 35 months after the close of evidence in the suit.
  2. Justices Evuti and Tanko Yusuf Usman, guilty of allegations that they falsified their dates of birth.
  3. Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia of the Federal High Court barred from elevation to the appellate court for allegedly adjourning pre-Election matter severally until the termination of the life span of the Ogun State House of Assembly.
  4. Justice Mohammed Yunusa was recommended for compulsory retirement for making orders restraining the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission and other law enforcement agencies from investigating some persons, including a former Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah.
  5. Hon. Justice Mohammed Ladan Tsamiya thrice, in his residence in Sokoto, Gwarinpa, Abuja and Owerri where on each occasion, he demanded from him the sum of N200, 000.000 (Two Hundred Million Naira) to influence the Court of Appeal Panel in Owerri or risk losing the case.
  6. Justice Oloyede was sanctioned because of the petition she wrote to the Osun State House of Assembly against Governor Rauf Aregbesola, and failure to conduct herself in such a manner as to preserve the dignity of her office and impartiality and independence of the judiciary.”
  7. The Chief Judge of Enugu State failed to deliver Judgment in Suit No E/13/2008: Ajogwu V Nigerian Bottling Company Limited in which final addresses were adopted on 23rd October, 2014. The judgment was however delivered on 9th March, 2015, about 126 days after addresses were adopted, contrary to constitutional provisions that judgment should be delivered within a period of 90 days.
  8. Justice Kabiru Auta allegedly received N125million from a litigant through an account approved by him.

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.

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Oyo Begins Training of 3,300 Youths in Agribusiness

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Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State

The Oyo State Government has signed a memorandum of understanding with the CSS Global Integrated Farms in Nasarawa State to train 3,300 youths from the state on agriculture and agribusiness.

The state governor, Seyi Makinde, made this disclosure at the Stakeholders Consultative Meeting on the 2022 Budget, noting that the move is part of measures being taken by his administration to address the challenges of youth unrest and youth unemployment.

He equally explained that the state government’s decision to reconstruct the Oyo-Iseyin federal road was borne out of the need to prevent the state’s investments in the Fashola Agribusiness Hub from becoming a waste as a result of lack of road access.

A statement by the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mr Taiwo Adisa, quoted him as explaining that the training will have 150 participants per batch and that the first batch is to begin training this week.

“I am happy to tell you that we just signed an MoU with CSS Farms in Nasarawa State to assist us in training 3,300 youths in agriculture and agribusiness.

“The training will last two weeks. The first set will start on August 1, and there will be 150 participants for every batch. By the end of August, we would have trained 600 of them.”

Governor Makinde, who stated that his administration will do everything to ensure that youths in the state are meaningfully engaged, said he has also instructed the local governments to set up Direct Labour Agencies, which would absorb the youths to engage in minor construction and other works.

He said: “Our youths have to be meaningfully engaged and we will continue to strive. What I asked them to do in each local government is to set up a Direct Labour Agency, in which a certain amount of money will be earmarked for them every month.

“They will be the ones to be doing culverts, fixing street lights, channelisation of drainages and we have an arrangement with the local government chairmen. As soon as we put the new cabinet in place, I assure you that whoever becomes the new Commissioner for local government matters will drive the process.”

The governor equally said that his administration has been investing heavily in sports development in order to take youths off the streets, saying the investments in the Lekan Salami Stadium and other sporting facilities will soon pay off.

“Some of us have talked about our troublesome youths who are disturbing the peace of our environments because they have nothing doing. This is why the Oyo State Government has committed resources of about N6bn to remodel the Lekan Salami Stadium, not only for football but for other sporting activities.

“We have to be patient with the government so that we don’t lose focus. What you are doing at the community level and what we are doing at the state level, what we need to do is to consolidate, which is the only way we can develop the talents in our communities. We should not relent.

“So, I also want to urge our local government chairmen and chairpersons to develop their programmes to ensure they utilise the sports facilities we have put in place.”

While stating that the state is set to flag off the Oyo-Iseyin Road once it obtains the written approval, Governor Makinde said: “I went to Abuja to meet with the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola. We are hell-bent on the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Oyo-Iseyin road even though it is a federal road.

“This is because we are investing a lot of money in the Fashola farm estate there. If we don’t fix that road, all of that money will go to waste.

“I am happy to report that the Minister was gracious and has given his verbal go-ahead. He asked us to come with the document and it will be signed.”

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US Congress Puts On Hold Proposed Arms Sales, Pressures Biden to Reassess US-Nigeria Relations Over Human Rights Record

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United States lawmakers have begun to mount pressure on President Joe Biden over concerns about Nigeria’s human rights records.

Already, a proposed sale of 12 attack aircraft and 28 helicopter engines worth $857 million has been put on hold.

Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have delayed clearing a proposed sale of 12 AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters and accompanying defence systems to the Nigerian military, pausing a deal worth some $875 million, according to U.S. officials and congressional aides familiar with the matter.

In addition to the helicopters, the proposed sale included 28 helicopter engines produced by GE Aviation, 14 military-grade aircraft navigation systems made by Honeywell, and 2,000 advanced precision kill weapon systems—laser-guided rocket munitions, according to information sent by the State Department to Congress and reviewed by Foreign Policy, a US-based magazine.

It said the behind-the-scenes controversy over the proposed arms sale illustrated a broader debate among Washington policymakers over how to balance national security with human rights objectives.

It said the hold on the sale also showcased how powerfully the US lawmakers wanted to push the Biden administration to rethink the country’s relations with Africa’s most populous nation amid overarching concerns that Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari was drifting towards authoritarianism as his government has been besieged by multiple security challenges, including a jihadist insurgency.

Foreign policy observed that Western governments and international human rights organisations had ramped up their criticisms of the Nigerian government, particularly, in the wake of its ban on Twitter, systemic corruption issues, and the Nigerian military’s role in deadly crackdowns on protesters after widespread demonstrations against police brutality last year.

Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Bob Menendez, called for a “fundamental rethink of the framework of our overall engagement” with Nigeria during a Senate hearing with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in June.

Both Menendez and Senator Jim Risch, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, have therefore placed a hold on the proposed arms sale, according to multiple U.S. officials and congressional aides familiar with the matter, who spoke to Foreign Policy on the condition of anonymity.

The details on the proposed sale were first sent by the US State Department to Congress in January before then former US Vice President Joe Biden was inaugurated as president, according to officials familiar with the matter.

Nigeria has relied on US arms sales in the past to help address multiple security challenges, including the 12-year insurgency by Boko Haram militants in the country’s northeast, a spate of high-profile kidnapping-for-ransom campaigns targeting schoolchildren in the country’s North-west, and deadly clashes between the country’s semi-nomadic herders and farmers fueled by climate change and environmental degradation of the country’s arable land.

The State Department, it was said, described the US-Nigeria relationship as “among the most important in sub-Saharan Africa” and had provided limited funding for various military training and education programmes.

Some experts said the United States should hit the pause button on major defence sales until it could make a broader assessment of the extent to which corruption and mismanagement hobble the Nigerian military and whether the military was doing enough to minimise civilian casualties in its campaign against Boko Haram and other violent insurrectionists.

“There doesn’t have to be a reason why we don’t provide weapons or equipment to the Nigerian military,” said Judd Devermont, Director of the Africa programme at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank.

Continuing, he added, “But it has to be done with an assessment of how it will actually, one, change the direction of conflict in Nigeria, and, two, that they will use it consistent with our laws. In both cases, it’s either a question mark or a fail. There is a culture of impunity that exists around abuses by the military,” said Anietie Ewang, the Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch.

Ewang cited the Nigerian military’s killing of unarmed protesters during the country’s massive #EndSARS demonstrations against police corruption and brutality last year as well as cases documented by human rights organisations of abuses in the military’s campaign against Boko Haram.

“I’m sure it’s a difficult situation. There are so many conflicts springing up across the country now. The authorities, I presume, are trying to do the best they can to save lives and properties. But this must be done in accordance with human rights standards. You can’t throw one out just to be able to achieve the other.”

Nigerian Embassy in Washington did not, however, return a request for comment, foreign policy claimed.

In the past, the Nigerian military had dismissed reports of human rights abuses by its soldiers as baseless and accused human rights groups of undermining the military’s resolve to combat terrorism.

But the United States had scrubbed proposed arms sales to Nigeria in the past on a case-by-case basis.

Former US President Barack Obama’s administration cut back arms sales to Nigeria over concerns about civilian casualties and human rights abuses, including blocking a 2014 sale of Cobra helicopters by Israel to Nigeria.

During that time, US officials reportedly voiced concerns that Boko Haram had infiltrated the Nigerian military—an accusation that provoked indignation from the Nigerian government.

These moves severely strained US-Nigeria relations, with Buhari accusing Obama of having unintentionally “aided and abetted” extremist groups by refusing to expand military cooperation and arms sales.

In late 2017, then US President Donald Trump’s administration agreed to sell the Nigerian government 12 A-29 Super Tucano warplanes, resurrecting a proposed sale the Obama administration froze after the Nigerian Air Force bombed a refugee camp that January.

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Over 1M Nigerians Have Completed Online Voters Card Pre-Registration – INEC

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) affirmed that over 1 million additional voters have completed their online pre-registration for the ongoing nationwide Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) within the last four weeks across the country.

INEC’s national commissioner, and chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, said this through a statement released in Abuja on Monday.

Of the 1 million new eligible voters, 259,450 people have completed their registration in Osun State and it is currently been followed by Edo state with 98,286 new voters.

These two states were closely followed by Anambra state with 65,014, followed by Bayelsa with 63,250, and later Lagos State with 61,991, this came as Yobe with 1,893, followed by Sokoto State with 2,453, Jigawa 2,593, and Zamfara with 2,769 were some of the least stare registered.

The state’s distribution of the online fresh registration released by INEC in Abuja on Monday showed the weekly update provided by INEC for week four which also reveals that the commission received 1,135,395 applications.

The figure of the total applications received includes those for voter transfer, requests for replacement of Permanent Voter Cards, and update of voter information record, etc.

According to the commission, the distribution of the 1,135,395 total applications by age group showed that 740,063 of them were youths between the ages of 18 to 34 years.

The applications from the middle-aged of between 35 to 49 years old were 278,042; the elderly from 50 to 69 years were 102,578; while the old from 70 years and above were 14,712

The distribution by occupation indicated that artisan constituted 75,877 of the total applications; farming/fishing – 81,096; public servants -25,298; business -230,551; house wives -25,816; students 355,227; civil servants 44,093; traders 97,624; others/not specified 199,813.

Also, the distribution by gender showed that females constituted 492,449 of the received applications while males were 642,946 as well as showed that 12,274 of the applicants indicated to be persons living with disabilities.

Okoye, providing an update on the online pre-registration which started nationwide on June 28, disclosed that the commission, also on Monday, commenced physical registration at its 811 state and local government area offices nationwide.

According to the statement, “As of 7 am today, Monday, July 26, the number of new registrants has risen to 1,006,661. The detailed distribution of the registrants by age, State/FCT, gender, occupation, and disability for week four of the exercise has been uploaded on the commission’s website and social media platforms.

“However, the distribution by age still shows that 740,063 (or 73.5 percent) are young Nigerians between the ages of 18 and 34. As earlier announced by the commission, physical or in-person registration begins today, Monday, July 26 at our 811 state and local government area offices nationwide.

“The exact locations of the designated centers have already been uploaded to our website and social media platforms. For further details, citizens are encouraged to contact our state offices through the dedicated telephone numbers provided in the uploaded publication.

“‘Nigerians who pre-registered online can now complete their registration at those centers based on scheduled appointments. In addition, other Nigerians who prefer to register physically/in person can now do so at those centers.

“Both online pre-registration and physical/in-person registration will continue simultaneously until the suspension of the CVR exercise on June 30, 2022, to enable the commission to clean up the data and compile the voters’ register for the 2023 General Election.”

Okoye appealed to all citizens who wished to register to approach any of INEC’s state or local government area offices nationwide to do so, as the commission entered the next phase of the CVR exercise.

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