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Buhari: From Washington with dignity




It was an official visit that attracted not only national, but also international attention. President Muhammadu Buhari was going to visit the United States of America for four days, on the invitation of President Barack Obama. Was this going to be just another jamboree, or truly an event that would reset the buttons in the relationship between the two countries?
Sure, there had been some cooling of passion between the two erstwhile allies during the dying days of the Goodluck Jonathan administration, and American experts sent here to train our military had even been asked to leave. She had also refused to sell us Cobra helicopters and other armaments, which could have made a lot of difference in our fight against insurgents in the North-east of the country. America had cited some reasons, including alleged human rights violations. The then President Jonathan was thus forced to look towards South Africa for arms. He loaded millions of dollars in a private jet as if going to Oyingbo market, and got his fingers burnt in the process. South Africa seized the cash, and also impounded the aircraft for some time. The Nigerian government could only huff and puff for a while, and then licked its wounds quietly.
No doubt, the kiln of passion needed to be kindled anew between Nigeria and America, and the invitation extended to President Buhari during the G7 Summit in Germany in June, was a much needed elixir. The Nigerian leader accepted the offer, and so was in Washington between Sunday, July 19 and Wednesday, July 22.

But another whiff of controversy had presaged the meeting. America, through its Supreme Court, had recently legitimized same sex relationship. A man could marry a man if he wanted, while a woman could also marry a woman. It was against the laws of God, but heck, what did America care? God was either dead due to old age, or now belongs to the old school. What matters now are rights, and people with homosexual or lesbian cravings must have their rights protected under the law.
It was into the eye of this storm that some Nigerians felt President Buhari would be flying, on his trip. True, he had been asked to bring a ‘wish list’ by his host, but is there ever free lunch in America? Yes, your wish would be granted. America would help you decapitate Boko Haram, would help you trace and repatriate billions of dollars salted away in foreign banks by past rulers, would help boost your economy and generate employment, but at what price? At a price of endorsing same sex marriage, which would be contrary to our laws as a country, and to the laws of the God that majority of Nigerians believe in, and serve? Would President Buhari capitulate simply because America would help him fulfill promises he made during election campaigns?
To America we flew last Sunday, arriving after a voyage of 12 hours. Our President was accommodated along with some members of the entourage at the historic Blair House, just a peeping distance from the White House. A good number of meetings were to hold at that Blair House in the next four days.
You would be permitted if you had jet lag after 12 hours in the air, punctuated only by a one hour technical stopover at a Portuguese island called Santa Maria, to refuel your plane. But President Buhari was still spry enough to settle down to business immediately. We have heard of the work rate of former Army General and later civilian president, Olusegun Obasanjo. Now we see another retired Army General now civilian president, exhibiting the same horsepower work ethics. Could it be true that they give them some injections in the military, which makes them go on and on? Well, I did not say so. I only heard of it.
After a briefing of what was to come in the next four days by Professor Ade Adefuye, Nigerian Ambassador to the United States of America, the President played host to former American Ambassador in Nigeria, Thomas Pickering and Professor Jean Herskovits. The man who has been quite outspoken about Nigeria, and who had doubted if the country would survive the 2015 general elections, Ambassador John Campbell, also came, among other people.
The day was not done until Madeline Albright (remember her? A large number of people across the world were mad about Madeline years back when she was American Secretary of State. She did the work admirably). Well, Madeline came to dinner with our President. She has aged, but rather gracefully.
Day 2 was the day the world had been waiting for. Day of meeting with the world’s most influential president, Barak Obama. But not so fast! First, breakfast with the Vice President, Joe Biden. Venue was the Naval Observatory, which is the official residence of the American number 2 man. What did he tell our President?
Biden gave an overview of the objectives of the entire visit,assuring Nigeria of the goodwill and support of America. He shared perspectives on the terror war, drawing from America’s experiences after the September 2001 assault, in which thousands were killed by Al-Qaeda inspired terrorists. He said Boko Haram, which has now pledged loyalty to ISIS, should not be battled with just military option. There was also the need to combine the war with strong socio-economic programs. He said the U.S would be ready to work with Nigeria in that direction.
On the Nigerian economy, Biden bade the leadership to tackle the issue of corruption, strengthen the institutions, and appoint tested hands to man critical sectors. If all these were done, he assured that investors would flood Nigeria in droves.
President Buhari thanked his host, and added that the role played by America prior to general elections, sending Secretary of State John Kerry to convey that America would not tolerate the subversion of the people’s will, went a long way to guarantee fairness and justice.
Having served as Minister for Petroleum Resources for over three years in the 1970s, President Buhari did not forget to mention the oil sector. He said between 10 to 20 billion dollars may have been lost to oil theft in the past one year, and pledged to sanitize the sector. He welcomed American assistance.
The much awaited meeting with President Obama came up a while later at the White House. American leaders have been known to be fairly parsimonious with praises, particularly when talking about leaders of other countries. But Obama was effusive. He described President Buhari as a man of integrity, needed for such a time as this in Nigeria. He congratulated him for winning the March 2015 presidential election, adding that Nigeria was very important to Africa. The destiny of the continent was tied to Nigeria’s, he said, pledging that America would continue to support, as long as Nigeria does the right things.
Every patriotic Nigerian must have stood several feet taller, as Obama eulogized our President. It served to rekindle confidence in our country. With the right leadership, Nigeria can, and will get there. Sure.
The American president charted the same course as his deputy on the issue of Boko Haram. According to him, economic and social programs must run concurrently with military option, to conclusively defeat insurgency.
Obama said the diversity of Nigeria, rather than be a centrifugal force, must be a centripetal one. The disparate parts of the country should be harnessed to become source of strength, adding that no part of the country should be left behind, or alienated.
Buhari, the American president observed, was hugely popular, judging by the enormous goodwill that surrounded his election. He urged him to use the goodwill to serve Nigeria, alongside the governors that accompanied him. The governors are Rochas Okorocha, Imo, Adams Oshiomhole, Edo, Tanko Al-Makura, Nasarawa, Kashim Shettima, Borno, and Abiola Ajimobi, Oyo.
Speaking on behalf of the governors, Okorocha assured Obama that the states’ helmsmen would back up Buhari to bring enduring change to Nigeria.
President Obama made pledges. America would help Nigeria in diverse ways: checkmate insurgency, train and equip her military, recover monies siphoned out of federal coffers, and many others. And with no strings attached.
The bilateral meetings/ audiences with the Nigerian president at Blair House, and other venues, were worth their weight in gold. The American Secretary of Commerce met with the Nigerian team, so did Loretta Lynch, U.S Attorney General, Jack Lew, Secretary of the Treasury, the Barker Group, potential investors in the Agriculture and Power sectors. There was an interactive dinner hosted by U.S Chamber of Commerce and Corporate Council for Africa, and captains of industry from Nigeria and America were there, among others.
What of the meeting with Dr Pate of the World Health Organization (WHO), representatives of the World Bank, and of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation? Refreshing. WHO unfolded plans to spend 300 million dollars to fight malaria in Nigeria, while the World Bank, subject to ratification by its board of directors, will make available the princely sum of 2.1 billion dollars for the rebuilding of infrastructure in the North-east, a region beleaguered by insurgency in the past six years. The fund, under the auspices of International Development Agency (IDA) will be made available as loans for Nigeria, at very low interest rates. The first 10 years would be interest free, while an additional 30 years would be granted at rates lower than that of the capital market.
A delighted President Buhari said priority would be given to the resettlement of more than one million internally displaced persons (IDPs), and directed that a team be set up on the side of the Federal Government, which would meet and harmonize plans with the World Bank team as soon as possible.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation also disclosed plans to work with the Dangote Foundation to ensure that Nigeria gets a clean bill of health on polio. Already, no case of polio has been recorded in the country for a full year, and if the position subsists for another full year, Nigeria would be declared polio free.
Cheery news also from the session between the Nigerian team and the American Attorney General. The host country would track illicit money from Nigeria in all their jurisdictions, including the U.S, while training would also be provided for our judicial officers, prosecutors, police, and other security agencies, to track and recover stolen funds.
There were other bilateral meetings with John O. Brennan, Director of the CIA and Deputy Secretary of Defence, Robert Work, and Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen Martin Dempsey.
Oh, the courtesy call by the Class of 1980 of the United States War College, in which the then Col Muhammadu Buhari participated, and got glowing recommendations. It was a time to go down memory lane.
Same sex issue enters the scene. On Tuesday afternoon, President Buhari was in his right elements, as he attended a joint session by the Senate and House Committees on Foreign Affairs at the Capitol Hill. Many issues came up for discussion, ranging from foreign relations, to growing democracy, human rights, and many others. Then a senator brought in the clincher. What does Nigeria think of the rights of homosexuals and lesbians.
Sodomy or anything of such kind is against the laws of Nigeria, and, indeed, the Nigerian society abhors such practices, the President declared. Pastor Tunde Bakare of The Latter Rain Assembly was in the audience, and from the delight on his face, he could have carried the President shoulder high, if protocol had permitted such.
To cap that delightful day, the president headed to the Chancery, Nigeria Embassy. He had two assignments there. A Meet and Greet session had been packaged by Mo Abudu of Ebony Life TV, in which Nigerian youths, who are professionals, had been invited from across America to greet President Buhari, and share their dreams of a greater country with him. The young people were really happy to have their president and father figure in their midst.
Next was the meeting with Nigerians in Diaspora, who also came from across America. Biodun Ogunjobi had driven 12 hours to attend the event. He alo had waited for four hours outside the Embassy gates, till the program commenced. Such is the fervor Nigerians in America have for their country, and for a president they see as symbol of change. For about two hours, the President interacted with them, answering all the questions.
The night did not end without the president meeting with the All Progressives Congress (APC) members in USA and Canada. The previous day, the party members had massed at the gate of Blair House, bearing different placards hailing President Buhari. When he saw them, he got down from his vehicle to greet them. The gesture drew sustained applause.
On the final day of the visit, it was an interactive event at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP). It was jointly organized by the National Democratic Institute, International Republican Institute, Centre for Strategic Studies and Atlantic Council. Ambassador Johnny Carson, who coordinated the session, described the guest as a man of honour and integrity. The event included a question and answer session, a round table discussion, and a presentation by the Nigerian president. And did the man sparkle? In fact, so remarkable was that outing that Pastor Bakare told this writer: “He obviously left the best for the last. That was simply brilliant.”
President Buhari went to America, he saw, and he conquered. As I watched him signing the Visitors’ Register as he attempted to leave that historic monument called Blair House, I wondered how many people in the world would ever have such privilege. Not many. An American official had given him a pen, and the president wrote for about three minutes. He also must have been effusive in his appreciation. When he finished, he read over what he had written, put the pen back in its casing, rose, and handed it to the American official. That one collected it, and solemnly handed it back to the Nigerian president as a gift. Very solemn. And moving.
As President Buhari strode out of Blair House for the last time, with his entourage in tow, one could see that an invisible Nigerian flag had been hoisted in the Amrican sky, and it was fluttering proudly. The Nigerian president had come with dignity, attended all the sessions lined up for him, not missing a single one, and was returning home with an enhanced reputation, not just for himself but also for about 170 million of his country men and women. Who says change will not come to Nigeria?

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More Troubles For Umo Eno As Court Rejects Stay-of-execution Request



A Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday dismissed an application filed by Pastor Umo Eno seeking a stay-of-execution of the Order which had nullified his nomination as the PDP governorship candidate in Akwa Ibom State.

The court which nullified Eno’s nomination, ordered that he should be replaced with Rt. Hon. Michael Enyong as the authentic PDP candidate.

In throwing out the request for stay of execution, the Court ruled that Umo Eno was never a party to the case filed by Enyong, and so his request could not be entertained by the COurt. The court therefore described Umo Eno as ‘’meddlesome interloper’’ for seeking to file an application in a matter he was never a party of.

Recall that in a judgement delivered on January 20, Justice Fadima Aminu of the FHC, Abuja, had ordered the PDP to submit Enyong’s name to INEC as its candidate. In a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1295/2022 filed in August, Enyong had submitted that he won the party’s primary held on May 25. The defendant in the case was PDP. Enyong did not join Eno as a party in his case. How clever!

This means that it is only the PDP that has the locus to file an appeal or stay of execution application against the judgement which sacked Eno. So far, the PDP’s National Legal Adviser (NLA) is not willing to participate in the matter especially since he was never carried along in all the Umo Eno legal matters. Rather, the Akwa Ibom State Chapter of the Party had always engaged Barr. Emmanuel Enoidem (the former NLA) as its legal counsel, totally sidelining the current National Legal Adviser. Recall also that the PDP National Legal Adviser had a few weeks ago issued a public statement announcing that it is only the NLA that has the authority to brief and engage lawyers holding briefs for the party. The public statement had also warned party members to desist from engaging lawyers without his knowledge.

Meantime, I understand that Enyong’s lawyers had served INEC with the Court order and his name would soon be published by the electoral umpire as PDP’s authentic governorship candidate.

My Take:

1. The chances of Umo Eno returning to his former status as the governorship candidate is very, very slim. It probably will not happen.

2. Gov. Udom Emmanuel and the PDP have yet to come to terms with the fact that Umo Eno’s name has been deleted as the candidate. They are inconsolable in anger, grief and pain. ‘’They are experiencing a great sense of separation, akin to the overwhelming feeling of loss which one experiences when he is bereaved’’, says a political analyst and business man, Elder Aniefiok Isatt.

3. This development is also the greatest setback and the most devastating blow the PDP has ever suffered in the state since 1999. This case might just be some kind of ‘’Nunc Dimittis’’ for the PDP in the State.

4. Privatively, PDP stalwarts are quick to blame the governor for the woes that has befallen the party this season. They believe that by imposing a very unpopular person as the candidate, the governor had bruised and hurt the majority of the members.

5. The question many are pondering is: Will Udom Emmanuel take to Enyong and accept him as the PDP candidate, thus conceding that Umo Eno was never God’s revelation, contrary to what he told the people; or will the governor leave Enyong to his own devices and embrace a different person?


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Our Client Wanted To Say ‘Pupsy’, Not Her Private Parts — Lawyer Defends Embattled Nigerian Polytechnic Female Graduate



Barrister Ikechukwu Nwaopara, a legal practitioner representing the interest of Sharon Ogechi Okoroafor, the graduating student of the Federal Polytechnic Nekede, Owerri, Imo State, who went viral on social media for saying that she graduated with the help of God and her private parts, has said his client was misinterpreted.

The lawyer, who made the appeal to the institution’s management in a statement made available to newsmen, claimed that their client had no intention of disparaging the institution’s reputation, standards or integrity.

The statement reads: “We are solicitors to OKOROAFOR OGECHI SHARON (our client under our Pro Bono (Free Legal Services) on whose behalf we write this memo to you.

“We are aware that she will be facing the school disciplinary panel this morning, and we wish to use this medium to express our confidence that the panel will carry out their duties in compliance with the principles of Fair hearing, good conscience and natural justice, devoid of harassment, intimidation, and threats.

“We have met and discussed with our Client and evidence before us shows that she has no intention to defame the character, standard and integrity of the institution. In her words what happened in the said viral video was a slip of tongue as a result of her uncontrollable ecstasy over her graduation. Her intended words were “God and Pupsy” in appreciation of the Almighty God and her dad.

“It is clear, therefore, that she had no intention whatsoever to use such a “foul word” in the said viral video to cajole or blackmail the institution, as no lecturer or name of the institution was mentioned or referred to in the said viral video.

“Our lawyers are already on ground at the institution now to follow up the proceedings at the panel against any form of intimidation or harassment. The integrity and standard of the said institution is not in doubt especially since my senior brother, Rev Dr Arimanwa took over as the Rector. Indeed, justice is for all parties.”

We had reported that after Sharon’s video went viral on the internet, the management of the institution announced that it would investigate her action as it was capable of dragging the reputation of the school to the mud.


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Alleged N1.4bn Fraud: Witness Reveals How Kogi Assembly Candidate, Atumeyi Fraudulently Benefitted N681m from Union Bank Customers’ Accounts



The first prosecution witness, PW1, Olusegun Falola, in the ongoing trial of Ismaila Yousouf Atumeyi, a Kogi State House of Assembly candidate of the New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP, and two others, on Monday, January 31, 2023, told Justice Tijani Ringim of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos how the sum of N681m (Six Hundred and Eighty-one Million Naira) was paid into Atumeyi’s business account.

Atumeyi is standing trial alongside Ngene Joshua Dominic and Abdulmalik Salau, a former employee of Union Bank Plc, on an 18-count charge bordering on alleged cybercrime and money laundering to the tune of N1.4bn.

Led in evidence by the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, SAN, Falola, an Internal Auditor and Team Lead, General Investigations, Union Bank Plc, told the court that “sometime in October 2022, during the periodic internal review of accounts of customers, we observed that some accounts that were placed on No-debit were debited.

“In the course of our review, it was observed that the methodology employed in debiting the said accounts was different from the way accounts are being debited in the normal banking activity.

“Based on this, the case was assigned to me for further internal investigation. During the review, I observed that beyond the few accounts that were referred to me for investigation, there were other numerous accounts that were being debited.

“Furthermore, the debits on these accounts were traced to two beneficiaries, Atus Homes Limited account and Fav Oil and Gas Limited.

“These two accounts received the sum of N681m and N1.38bn, respectively from the account of 429 customers.”

He also told the court that further investigations revealed that Atumeyi is the signatory to the Atus Homes Limited account, while the signatories to Fav Oil and Gas are Shuaibu Yusuf and Nurudeen.

According to him, all illicit debits on the customers’ accounts were done via internet banking on one of the bank’s platforms known as Union 360.

Giving further testimony, he said: “As at the time of investigation, over 600m had been withdrawn from the account of Atus Homes Limited and over N800m withdrawn from Fav Oil and Gas.

“We also realized that they were able to make those fraudulent transfers because the bank system was fraudulently manipulated.

“It was this realization that made us know that only a person with privileged information on the bank’s information technology could have carried out such illicit transactions.

“It was based on that knowledge that we reported the matter to the EFCC for further investigation.”

Oyedepo sought to tender the petition written to the EFCC, the correspondences between EFCC and the bank as well as the defendants’ statements of account that had been identified by the PW1.

However, counsel to the third defendant, Babatunde Ogunwo, objected to the admissibility of the attached statement of account on the grounds that the prosecution had not sufficiently complied with Section 84 (2) 2(4) of the Evidence Act.

“I strongly believe that the prosecution has not satisfied the provisions of Section 84 (2) 2(4) of the Evidence Act. All I heard the witness say is questions put to him by the prosecution.

“However Section 84(2) of the Evidence Act gives conditions more than what the witness has stated.

“There are four legs as stated by the Evidence Act and the witness has only answered one. These conditions have to be complied with.

“I humbly submit that the prosecution has not complied with the conditions stated for the admissibility of the statements of account”, Ogunwo argued.

Responding, Oyedepo said that the argument of the defence counsel was misconceived and also missed its target.

He, therefore, urged the court to discountenance the objection of the defence.

He also submitted that the certificate of identification as enshrined in the Section of the Evidence Act “is not a ritual that must be performed in achieving admissibility of computer-generated evidences.”

He further argued that “where the issue is as to the failure to comply with procedural steps towards admissibility, the order the court will make is not to reject the document, but to urge the tendering party to regularize.

“This document is relevant in the determination of this matter and I urge my Lord to so hold.”

In a short ruling, Justice Ringim overruled the objection of the defence and admitted the evidence in exhibit.

Justice Ringim also granted the second defendant, Dominic, bail on the same terms of the 3rd defendant, as granted on January 6, 2023.

The matter was adjourned to February 2, 2023 for continuation of trial.

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