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Buhari: From Washington with dignity

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By FEMI ADESINA

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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Paris-bound bizman arrested with 111 cocaine wraps

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The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency has arrested a 48-year-old businessman, Emmanuel Orjinze, at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, for ingesting 111 wraps of cocaine.

The suspect, who claimed to be a professional footballer in Europe, was arrested on May 21 during the outward clearance of an Air France flight to Paris, France.

This was made known in a statement signed by the agency’s Director of Media and Advocacy, Femi Babafemi, and shared on the agency’s website on Sunday.

The statement read, “Operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency have arrested a 48-year-old Paris, France-bound businessman, Emmanuel Okechuku Orjinze, for ingesting 111 wraps of cocaine, which he excreted after days of observation in the agency’s custody following his arrest at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.

“Okechukwu, who also claims he is a professional footballer in Europe, was arrested on Tuesday, May 21, during the outward clearance of Air France flight AF 878 from Abuja to Paris, France.

“After a body scan confirmed he ingested illicit drugs, he was taken into custody where he excreted a total of 111 pellets of cocaine that weighed 1.603 kilograms over three days. The suspect claimed he did business in the maritime sector while still scouting for any European football club to engage him. ”

In the same vein, the NDLEA officers operating at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos hinted that they had dismantled another drug trafficking syndicate at the airport.

This, they said in a statement, followed the arrest of four members of the network and the seizure of a total of 8kg of methamphetamine and 7.60kg of Loud, a synthetic strain of cannabis imported from South Africa.

The statement added that a drug trafficking syndicate was busted at the airport when an official was caught with illicit substances in their backpack and bag.

On May 21, 2024, the NDLEA officers, supported by aviation security, intercepted the official at Terminal 1 and discovered the drugs during a search, blowing the lid off the syndicate.

“A swift follow-up operation at the Ajao Estate area of Lagos led to the arrest of two other members of the syndicate: Chris Nwadozie and Chinedu Nwaosu. Further investigation led to the arrest of another member of the cartel working within the airport system on Saturday, May 25,” the statement added.

In a related development, the agency also arrested a freight agent, Sonubi Abiodun, for attempting to export eight parcels of cocaine concealed in paint buckets to the United Kingdom.

Additionally, the NDLEA operatives arrested suspects producing and distributing skuchies, a mixture of black currant and illicit drugs, in Lagos, and recovered 2,480 litres of the psychoactive substance.

In Cross River State, a suspect, Ogar Emmanuel, was arrested with 2.5kg of cannabis, while 290kg of cannabis was recovered from the warehouse of Usani Ikpi, who is still at large. Additionally, three suspects – Sa’adu Sule, Mukhtar Nura, and Hamza Nura – were arrested in Katsina State with 70kg of cannabis, which originated from Ogun State.

The statement added, “No fewer than five suspects including Ezekiel Munda, 30; and Sule Mustapha, 21, were arrested by the NDLEA operatives on Thursday, May 23, during raids at the Karu Abattoir, Jikwoyi and Tora Bora hill area of the FCT, Abuja, where 95.01kg of cannabis and different quantities of opioids were recovered from them.

“In Edo State, operatives arrested a physically challenged notorious drug dealer, Zekere Sufianu, 45, at Auchi town on Wednesday, May 22. At the time of his arrest, he was found with 751 grams of Loud, 178 grams of tramadol, and pills of swinol,” the statement concluded.

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FG suit against 36 govs over LG funds begins

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The Federal Government has approached the Supreme Court with a suit seeking to compel governors of the 36 states of the federation to grant full autonomy to the local governments in their domains.

The suit, marked SC/CV/343/2024, was filed by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), on behalf of the Federal Government.

The Federal Government is urging the apex court to issue “an order prohibiting state governors from unilateral, arbitrary and unlawful dissolution of democratically elected local government leaders for local governments.”

In the suit predicted on 27 grounds, the Federal Government accused the state governors of gross misconduct and abuse of power.

The FG, in the originating summons, prayed the Supreme Court to make an order expressly stating that funds standing to the credit of local governments from the Federation Account should be paid directly to the local governments rather than through the state governments.

The justice minister also prayed for “an order of injunction restraining the governors, their agents and privies from receiving, spending or tampering with funds released from the Federation Account for the benefits of local governments when no democratically elected local government system is put in place in the states.”

The Federal Government further sought “an order stopping governors from constituting caretaker committees to run the affairs of local governments as against the Constitutionally recognised and guaranteed democratically system.”

The originating summons was backed by a 13-paragraph affidavit deposed to by one Kelechi Ohaeri of the Federal Ministry of Justice.

Ohaeri, in the affidavit, averred that the AGF instituted the suit against the governors under the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court on behalf of the Federal Government.

He said,“The Constitution of Nigeria recognises federal, states and local governments as three tiers of government and the three recognised tiers of government draw funds for their operation and functioning from the Federation Account created by the Constitution.

“By the provisions of the Constitution, there must be a democratically elected local government system and the Constitution has not made provisions for any other systems of governance at the local government level other than a democratically elected local government system.

“In the face of the clear provisions of the Constitution, the governors have failed and refused to put in place a democratically elected local government system even where no state of emergency has been declared to warrant the suspension of democratic institutions in the state.

“The failure of the governors to put democratically elected local government system in place is a deliberate subversion of the 1999 Constitution which they and the President have sworn to uphold.

“All efforts to make the governors comply with the dictates of the 1999 Constitution in terms of putting in place a democratically elected local government system has not yielded any result and to continue to disburse funds from the Federation Account to governors for non-existing democratically elected local government is to undermine the sanctity of the 1999 Constitution.

“In the face of the violations of the 1999 Constitution, the Federal Government is not obligated under Section 162 of the Constitution to pay any state, funds standing to the credit of local governments where no democratically elected local government is in place.”

The AGF, therefore, urged the apex court to invoke sections 1, 4, 5, 7 and 14 of the Constitution to declare that the state governors and state Houses of Assembly are under obligation to ensure a democratic system at the third tier of government in Nigeria and to also invoke the same sections to hold that the governors cannot lawfully dissolve democratically elected local government councils.

Furthermore, he urged to invoke sections 1, 4, 5, 7 and 14 of the Constitution to declare that “the dissolution of democratically elected local government councils by the governors or anyone using the state powers derivable from laws enacted by the state Houses of Assembly or any Executive Order is unlawful, unconstitutional, null and void.”

The apex court has fixed Thursday, May 30 for hearing.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees hailed the move by the Federal Government, saying it would join the lawsuit as a concerned party.

 

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JUST IN: Tribunal affirms Diri as Bayelsa governor

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The Bayelsa State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja, on Monday, upheld the election that produced Governor Douye Diri of Bayelsa State.

A three-man panel led by Justice Adekunle Adeleye dismissed the petition filed by the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Timipre Sylva, and the party for lacking in merit.

In a unanimous decision, the tribunal held that the petitioners failed to prove any credible evidence to back up any of the allegations they raised against the re-election victory of Diri.

Details shortly…

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