- Police Recover N111m Bribe Cash From 23 INEC Officials
The Joint Investigation Panel, which probed the legislative elections in Rivers State, alleged that the state government bribed officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission with N360m to rig the poll.
The panel stated that it recovered N111.3m from 23 INEC officials, who confessed to have received the money from the Rivers State Government officials to manipulate the December 10, 2016 rerun polls in the state.
The panel, which presented its findings at the Force Headquarters, Abuja, on Tuesday, indicted six dismissed police operatives for misconduct and misuse of arms during the polls, contrary to the provisions of Force Order 237.
The officers – ex-Inspector Eyong Victor, ex-Sgts. Peter Ekpo, Oguni Goodluck, Orji Nwoke, Okpe Ezekiel and Tanko Akor – had been dismissed by the Force.
The errant operatives were said to have stormed the Port Harcourt City Council Secretariat and prevented the movement of election results of Emouha polling unit to the appropriate collation centre designated by INEC in disobedience to senior officers present.
The Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, inaugurated the panel on December 22, 2016, following the violence that rocked the poll in which Mohammed Alkali, a Deputy Superintendent of Police, and his driver were beheaded and their heads thrown into a river.
The panel, which comprised 12 officers of the Nigeria Police Force and three from the Department of State Services, was mandated to investigate the various infractions, incidents, and violence that marred the rerun elections in Rivers State and any relevant matter.
The panel attributed the violence during the election to lawlessness and leadership failure.
Speaking during the presentation, the panel chairman, DCP Damian Okoro, said, “The sum of N111,300,000 was recovered from 23 INEC officials.
Okoro said, “Three INEC officials said they met with Wike and that the Rivers State government gave them money. Out of N350m, N15m was given to each of the electoral officers and N5m was added by the government of Rivers to the EOs who were in charge.
“Consequently, the sum of N111,300,000 was recovered by the panel from the 23 electoral officers.”
Okoro said the committee established cases of misconduct against some electoral officers and law enforcement agents, who, according to him, allowed themselves to be compromised in their line of duties.
He stated that violent crimes, such as armed robbery, kidnapping and politically-motivated killings by militants and cult groups enjoyed the funding and protection of desperate politicians in the state.
He said, “These lawless elements target not only the political opponents of their sponsors but also law enforcement agents, especially the police, mostly within the Ogba/Ndoni/Egbema Local Government Area which is the axis of evil of cultism.
“The violence that occurred in Rivers State before, during and after the rerun elections was a reflection of lawlessness and leadership failure of narrow -minded politicians and their gullible supporters.
“Oftentimes, politicians make inflammatory statements that incite their supporters to avoidable violence that leads to the destruction of lives and properties and eruption of violence.”
He complained that Wike refused to cooperate with the panel.
The IG said the panel findings and recommendations report would be forwarded to the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, for implementation, adding that the indicted INEC officials would be prosecuted.
He said, “I see no reason why a rerun election will lead to the beheading of our officers, who were there to do their lawful duties. I believe that the report will go a long way to put an end to individuals seeing election as a do-or-die affair.
“We will take appropriate actions in conjunction with the law officer of the federation, the Attorney General of the Federation, in order to put an end to most of the abuse and electoral violence in this country.”
On the status of those indicted, Idris stated that they would be prosecuted as public officials.
“We are going to forward the report and our recommendations to the Attorney General of the Federation,” he added.
Commenting on the recovered money, Idris said it would be returned to government treasury.
“From the confession of those the money was recovered from, they said the money was from the state government. I can assure you that from here, the money will go into government treasury because this is a recovery on the basis of an investigation conducted.
“Six police officers were indicted and they have already been dismissed and I can assure you that they would also be charged to court,” he explained.
He dismissed insinuations that the probe was targeted at Wike, noting that it was open and transparent.
The police boss said, “The investigation was open and very transparent. We wrote to the governor, they (panel members) went to meet him but in his own wisdom, he refused to cooperate. We believe that what determines the outcome of this report is the transparency and the goodwill.
“Whoever that is involved has been arrested and isolating the governor will be a disservice to this country. The report should be seen as a corrective measure. Those indicted cut across different classes of life.”
Indicted commission staff risk dismissal – Source
Meanwhile, there were strong indications on Tuesday that INEC would embark on mass sacking in the agency, especially of persons indicted for the bribery saga involving INEC officials.
Investigations revealed that the Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Mahmud Yakubu, was embittered by the findings of a police panel set up by the IG, which said it recovered N111.3m from 23 INEC officials.
A top official of the commission, who confided in one of our correspondents, said Yakubu was determined to ensure that anybody indicted for corruption was asked to leave the commission.
The source added, “We have seen the money the police have displayed; it is very sad. This thing has to do with the reputation of the commission and it is a serious issue.
“This thing is going to cause a lot of earthquake. Even within INEC, the chairman is so determined about it. If anybody is found culpable, that person is gone.
“There are two committees investigating these things and the two committees are still sitting.”
However, the commission, in its official reaction to the police findings, described the money recovered from the INEC personnel as a welcome development.
The Chief Press Secretary the Chairman of INEC, Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, said in a text message on Tuesday that while the commission had not received the report, the police findings would aid the leadership of the commission to purge the system.
Oyekanmi stated, “Although INEC is yet to formally receive a report from the Police on its investigation into the Rivers rerun elections, the revelation that money was allegedly recovered from INEC officials is a welcome development.
“This will help the commission in its current effort to clean up the system. Already, our internal panel is also continuing with its investigation on the same issue, and anybody found culpable will face appropriate sanctions.
“The INEC Chairman has reiterated that any INEC staff found doing the wrong thing will bear the consequences.
“We hope that the Police will also reveal all the other parties involved in the bribe saga.”
Prove bribery claim, Rivers tells police
But the Rivers State Government has described the claim by the police panel that the Rivers State Government financially induced officials of INEC as shameful, defamatory and reckless.
The State Commissioner for Information and Communication, Dr. Austin Tam-George, challenged the police to prove that Governor Nyesom Wike bribed INEC workers to rig the December 10, 2016 legislative rerun polls.
Tam-George, in a statement on Tuesday, also challenged the Nigeria Police Force to prosecute and imprison the electoral officers indicted by the panel without delay, even as he described the police investigation as dubious.
He stated, “The attention of the Rivers State Government has been drawn to the melodramatic images of heaps of cash, circulated in the media by the so-called police panel of inquiry into the rerun elections in Rivers State on December 10, 2016.
“According to the Police, the heaps of money were ‘evidence’ of bribes allegedly given to officials of INEC by the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, during the rerun polls.
“We consider the allegations of the Police as shameful, defamatory and reckless in the extreme. Never in the annals of infamy have we seen a vital state security institution descend to the lowest depths of blackmail and criminality as the Nigeria Police Force has done in this case.
“The Rivers State Government challenges the Nigeria Police to show proof that Governor Wike financially induced any official of INEC. Do the Police have bank records of the purported transactions between Governor Wike and the electoral officers?
“We challenge the Nigeria Police to move quickly to prosecute and imprison the so-called electoral officers on the basis of this dubious investigation. We strongly believe that the police panel is part of a bitter, politically-driven smear campaign launched by the Federal Government against Governor Wike and the people of Rivers State.”
COVAX Delivered 38m Vaccine Doses To Over 100 Countries, Says WHO
The World Health Organisation (WHO) yesterday announced that more than 100 countries have received life-saving COVID-19 vaccines from COVAX, the global mechanism for equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.
It said the milestone comes 42 days after the first COVAX doses were shipped and delivered internationally, to Ghana on February 24th.
In a statement, the United Nations’ Agency revealed that COVAX has now delivered more than 38 million doses across six continents, supplied by three manufacturers – AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech and the Serum Institute of India (SII).
Of the over 100 economies reached, 61 are among the 92 lower-income economies receiving vaccines funded through the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC).
It, however, said despite reduced supply availability in March and April – the result of vaccine manufacturers scaling and optimising their production processes in the early phase of the rollout, as well as increased demand for COVID-19 vaccines in India – COVAX expects to deliver doses to all participating economies that have requested vaccines in the first half of the year.
According to the CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, Dr. Seth Berkley, “In under four months since the very first mass vaccination outside a clinical setting anywhere in the world, it is tremendously gratifying that the roll-out of COVAX doses has already reached 100 countries.
“COVAX may be on track to deliver to all participating economies in the first half of the year yet we still face a daunting challenge as we seek to end the acute stage of the pandemic: we will only be safe when everybody is safe and our efforts to rapidly accelerate the volume of doses depend on the continued support of governments and vaccine manufacturers. As we continue with the largest and most rapid global vaccine rollout in history, this is no time for complacency.”
The WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said: “COVAX has given the world the best way to ensure the fastest, most equitable rollout of safe and effective vaccines to all at-risk people in every country on the planet.
“If we are going to realise this great opportunity, countries, producers and the international system must come together to prioritise vaccine supply through COVAX. Our collective future, literally, depends on it.”
Approved Ibom Deep Sea Port, Proposed $1.4B Fertilizer Plant Will Change Akwa Ibom’s Economic Status – Gov. Udom
Akwa Ibom State Government has said the approved Ibom Deep Seaport and the proposed $1.4 billion Fertilizer and Ammonia Plant are expected to change the economic status of the state.
The State Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, made the assertion in an Easter message to the people of the state.
He maintained that with the recent approval and take off of the federal government’s approved Oil and Gas Free Zone and the ongoing construction of the Sterling Petrochemical Plant at Eastern Obolo, the state would be ready to dump its status as a civil service state.
The governor said the fertilizer and ammonia plants should be supported by all indegenes and residents irrespective of political affiliation because of its capacity to change the economic fortunes of the state.
The governor who commended President Muhammadu Buhari for approving the industrial projects in the state said construction work on the Ibom Deep Seaport would commence very soon.
“In recent past, we have been blessed with life-changing projects such as Sterling Petrochemical Plant in Eastern Obolo, where construction is in an advanced stage.
“Two months ago, the Federal Executive Council, (FEC) approved the license for us to commence the construction of our long desired Ibom Deep Seaport. Work would soon commence on this gigantic project. These are huge achievements for our State and our people.
“Ibom Deep Seaport will open up our economic fortunes; create employment and wealth opportunities for our people and throw open our State as a major maritime hub in our nation.
“We thank the President and the Commander in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR) for this kind approval,” he said.
Continuing, Emmanuel said: “About three weeks ago, we signed a $1.4 billion Fertilizer and Ammonia plant with our Moroccan counterparts. The plant will again create huge employment and other supply chain activities for our people, which will transform us from a civil service oriented state to a fast industrialising one.
“These are huge achievements that should gladden the hearts of every Akwa Ibomite irrespective of political affiliations.”
He reminded the people of the state that the essence of Easter would be lost if the resurrection of Christ is not allowed to illuminate their souls through love and sacrifice to one another.
“Let the fishermen in the ocean fronts of Mbo, Okobo, Eastern Obolo and Ibeno love one another. Let the farmers in the rice plantations at Ini, Ikono, Ika, Onna and Nsit Ibom love one another.
“Let the civil servants and public servants, politicians in all political parties, members of all denominations, preachers of all faiths, love one another.
“When we let love drive our every action and every thought, when we let it drip from our lips and from our hands, then shall the joy of Easter be complete, and our State shall surely attain the lofty height set for it by our ancestors when they named it Akwa Abasi Ibom State.” the Governor stated.
US Intelligence Says ISIS and Al-Qaeda Are Planning to Attack Southern Nigeria
The United States has warned the Federal Government of Nigeria that Al-Qaeda and ISIS are planning to attack Southern Nigeria.
This was disclosed by Dagvin Anderson, the Commander of the US special operations command, Africa.
According to Dagvin Anderson, AlQaeda is planning to expand into the Southern part of Nigeria and other parts of West Africa.
He, however, said the US will continue to share intelligence with Nigeria.
“We have engaged with Nigeria and continue to engage with them in intel sharing and in understanding what these violent extremists are doing,” he said.
“And that has been absolutely critical to their engagements up in the Borno state and into an emerging area of northwest Nigeria that we’re seeing al-Qaeda starting to make some inroads in.
“So, this intelligence sharing is absolutely vital and we stay fully engaged with the government of Nigeria to provide them with an understanding of what these terrorists are doing, what Boko Haram is doing, what ISIS-West Africa is doing, and how ISIS and al-Qaeda are looking to expand further south into the littoral areas.
Anderson regretted that despite successes recorded in previous years, there has been a setback, adding: “We as a community of international nations, keep thinking we have defeated them or we have put them on their back foot and that they’re just moments from disintegration.” Anderson said for international efforts to yield desired results in the fight against terrorism in Nigeria, the government must take the lead.
“When it comes to Nigeria in general, Nigeria, obviously, is a critical nation to West Africa. It is a critical nation and we realise that Nigeria is a lynchpin,” he said.
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