- Federal Government to Appeal Saraki’s Acquittal
Special Assistant to the President on Prosecutions, Mr. Okoi Obono-Obla, said on Saturday that the Federal Government had finalised its decision to appeal last Wednesday’s ruling of the Code of Conduct Tribunal discharging and acquitting the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, of charges of false asset declaration.
Obono-Obla, who vowed that no one would be allowed to get away with any act of corruption, said in a telephone interview with our correspondent that the government would file a notice of appeal against Saraki’s acquittal by Wednesday.
The presidential aide, who works in the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, argued that the two-man panel of the CCT led by Danladi Umar, misapplied the law by adopting the wrong standard of proof in exonerating Saraki.
He said, “Definitely we are going to appeal against the ruling in Saraki’s case. One of our grounds of appeal is that the tribunal misapplied the law. For instance, the standard of proof that the tribunal used is not applicable to charges of false declaration of asset.
“It (charge of false asset declaration) is a strict liability offence, so you cannot apply the standard of proof that is applied in the regular criminal proceedings.
“Surely, we will file the appeal next (this) week Wednesday.”
Obono-Obla had earlier in an interview described the CCT ruling discharging Saraki as a travesty of justice, pedestrian and outrageous.
He said on Saturday that the government was resolute in its fight against corruption and would appeal against all the recent “nonsensical” rulings delivered in some high-profile corruption cases.
Obono-Obla said, “We are resolute. We are going to fight this war to the end. We must clean up Nigeria, otherwise the nation is doomed. We have gone back to the drawing board to change our tactics and strategies.
“Anybody who thinks he can get away with an act of corruption is dreaming. We are going to file an appeal against all the nonsensical rulings that we have got from our court in recent times.”
The Code of Conduct Tribunal in Abuja on Wednesday discharged and acquitted Saraki of all the 18 charges of false asset declaration and other related offences preferred against him.
The two-man panel of the CCT led by its Chairman, Umar, unanimously upheld the no-case submission which Saraki filed after the prosecution closed its case with the fourth and the last prosecution witness testifying on May 4, 2017.
There were 48 documentary exhibits said to have been tendered in the course of the trial.
Umar, in his lead ruling, exonerated Saraki of all the charges on, among other grounds, that failure of the prosecution to obtain Saraki’s statement and make it part of the proof of evidence was fatal to the case.
He described as “absurd” that neither Saraki’s statement nor the report of investigation said to have been carried out was produced before the tribunal
He agreed with the defence team led by Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN), that the prosecution’s evidence had been manifestly discredited during cross-examination by the defence.
He added that the evidence adduced by the prosecution led by Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) was “so unreliable that no reasonable tribunal could convict” based on it.
The tribunal chairman specifically noted that the third prosecution witness, Mr. Samuel Madojemu, who is Head, Intelligence Unit of the CCB, only gave hearsay evidence on the information the witness purportedly received from the EFCC.
Umar also noted that the evidence of the first prosecution witness, Mr. Michael Wetkas, an operative of the EFCC, was unreliable.
Concerning the evidence of second prosecution witness, Mr. Amazi Nwachuckwu, Head of Funds Transfer Unit of the Guaranty Trust Bank, Umar noted that witness had testified that documents relating to alleged foreign transfers by Saraki had been consumed in a fire incident so there was nothing to prove the charges that were based on the documents.
The tribunal chairman also noted none of the four witnesses, including Mr. Bayo Dauda, an official of Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, Ilorin branch in Kwara State, who testified as the fourth witness, gave evidence that could prove any of the ingredients of the alleged offences.
The charges instituted against Saraki before the CCT related to the alleged breaches of the code of conduct for public officers, acts which were said to be punishable under the Constitution and the CCB/CCT Act.
He allegedly committed the breaches by making false declaration of his assets while being governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2007 for his first term and between 2007 and 2011 for his second term as governor and from 2011 to 2015 as senator.
Among the breaches were that he obtained N375m loan from Guaranty Trust Bank Plc in 2010, converted it to £1,515,194.53 and transferred to United Kingdom for full and final mortgage payment for a London property.
The prosecution accused him of abuse of office by paying back the loan with funds belonging to Kwara State Government.
Additional charges against him included allegation that he continued to receive salary and emoluments as Governor of Kwara State after the expiration of his tenure and at the same time, from the Federal Government as a senator between June 2011 and October 2013.
He was also said to have failed to declare to the Code of Conduct Bureau on assumption of office as governor of Kwara State in 2003, his leasehold interest in the property at 42, Remi Fani Kayode Street, Ikeja, Lagos.
The charges also included allegation that Saraki failed to make a written declaration of his “properties and assets”, that is, N77m made into his account with Guaranty Trust Bank, GRA, Ilorin branch on September 5, 2007.
The prosecution alleged that the sum of N77m was not fairly attributable to his “income, gifts or loan approved by the Code of Conduct for Public Officers”.
The prosecution also alleged that while being a public officer, he operated bank accounts outside Nigeria, and failed to declare the foreign accounts to the CCB while being governor and a senator during the period.
Properties that he allegedly made false declaration about included 17, 17A and 17B Mcdonald, Ikoyi, Lagos; Plot 2A, Glover Road, Ikoyi, Lagos; 37A, Glover Road, Ikoyi, Lagos which he allegedly bought through Carlisle Properties; No. 1 and 3 Targus Street, Maitama, Abuja, otherwise known as 2482, Cadastral Zone A06, Abuja.
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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