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Editorial: Saraki and the Bullet-Proof Range Rover

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The call by Senator Ali Ndume (APC-Borno South) for the Senate Committee on Ethics and Privileges to investigate allegations that a N298 million bullet proof Range Rover sports utility vehicle, which was imported into the country allegedly with fake documents belongs to Senate President Bukola Saraki, is a rigmarole that is begging the issue. The armored SUV was impounded by Nigerian customs on January 17, precipitating a campaign of vendetta against the Customs Service, whose boss, Hameed Ali was ordered to appear before the Senate in his official uniform, after he refused to release the vehicle. Nigerians suspect, with good cause, that the Senate investigating its own president is a mere subterfuge to deflect pressure from Saraki and others involved in the ugly episode. In real terms, the transaction, along with the totality of the circumstances surrounding it, is a sad commentary on the values and quality of those in charge of the affairs of the country. The scandal underscores the yawning disconnect between the government and the governed in terms of priority and need, and why there is so much struggle for political appointment and offices.

 

A media aide to Saraki, Yusuph Olaniyonu, has denied the Senate president had anything to do with how the SUV was imported, arguing that it was the Senate that contracted out its procurement. “A supplier was engaged by the Senate to supply a vehicle. While transferring the vehicle between Lagos and Abuja, it was impounded by the Customs,” Olaniyonu said. “We believe that is an issue between the supplier and the Customs because the Senate has not taken delivery. So, why is somebody trying to drag in the name of Saraki into the issue?” Apart from the fact that due process was circumscribed; that so much public money was expended on one vehicle, at a time the country is in dire economic straits, the deal is as inexcusable as the reason offered for it. The worries of an average Nigerian are about the basic necessities of life – food, healthcare, quality education, gainful employment and reliable infrastructure, all of which remain hard to come by.

 

It is pathetic that while the average citizen buckles under the severe yoke of poverty; unemployment and lack, and the failure of government to discharge its statutory and moral responsibility to the populace, public officials would have so much leeway on profligacy and the mundane, which the bullet proof SUV at issue represent. This is more so at a time government revenue is said to be dwindling. When juxtaposed with the worst economic recession in decades characterized by an economy in free-fall; and the simmering insecurity and government’s failure to ensure safety of lives and property of Nigerians, the extent of government’s contempt and disdain for its citizens becomes obvious.

 

The Senate President went too far with the acquisition of the bullet proof SUV in a country where poverty is on the rampage, where primordial diseases such as cholera and guinea worm still decimate the rank and where infant mortality remains a source of concern to the international community. It is this same intense individualism, buoyed by the rapacious corruption in the country that can make Senators think that what is important for a lawmaking body is the safety of the President of the upper legislative chamber, rather than that of millions of people who depend on the legislators to pass laws that will improve their welfare. Individualism is the only reason the Senate has become the backyard farmland for its members where free funds are harvested as much and as often as they want.

 

Needless to say, the Senate traded away its integrity and compromised its oversight responsibility in order to please its leader. In so many ways, lawmakers conduct themselves as if they were above the law to the detriment of public service ethics. This pathetic phenomenon has bogged down the nation, as lawmakers would rather serve themselves than serve the Nigerian people who elected them.

 

Nigerians expect that this scandal should not be swept under the carpet, as many so-called investigations into financial impropriety in the public service have been compromised in the past. By any moral or decent standard, Saraki, who is undergoing trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, ought to have been ushered out of office to allow unfettered investigation by appropriate law enforcement agencies. That is the only way to counter insinuations that this government feels no scruple about corruption; or that no harm would befall anyone accused of corruption, however damning the allegation and its proof, if he belongs to the right ethnic group.

 

What the time calls for is a comprehensive overhaul of executive privileges at all levels of government. There is no need for any rigmarole, for that is what the Senate investigation or indeed any other panel set up by the government amounts to. There has been too many of such investigations in the past at public expense that turned out to be too much ado about nothing, mere sound without fury. That is not what Nigerians desire at this time as it amounts to an assault on the collective psyche of all citizens. The issues involved, namely morality, ethics and dignity of office are clear. All the culprits in this obscene act should be made to pay a price for their misconduct. Saraki’s continued stay in office is no longer tenable. President should do the right thing by using his office to bring pressure on the lawmakers to replace him with another person. The Senate officials involved in the Range Rover deal should also be thrown out of the system.

 

Meanwhile, the Police or the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) should open inquiry into the conduct of the culprits with a view to prosecuting them, if necessary. It is time public officials were made to account for their actions. No government that vacillates in a case so obvious and that smacks of massive moral deficit on the part of the Senate President will be deserving of the respect of its people. If government hopes to get away with this, it will not get away with the harsh verdict of history.

 

 

@Huhuonline

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Despite his “expulsion”, ADC presidential candidate, Kachikwu, makes INEC list

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Mr Kachikwu was expelled from the party last Friday by the Ralph Nwosu-led NWC.

The embattled presidential candidate of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), Dumebi Kachikwu, has been named among candidates validly nominated by political parties for the 2023 presidential election despite his “expulsion” from the party.

Mr Kachikwu was among the 18 presidential candidates approved by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Tuesday.

The Ralph Nwosu-led National Working Committee (NWC) of the party announced the expulsion of Mr Kachikwu from the party last Friday for alleged anti-party activities.

He was expelled along with seven other key party leaders following the recommendation of a seven-member disciplinary committee earlier set up by the ADC NWC. The NWC had earlier on 2 September placed the presidential candidate on suspension.

Mr Nwosu, in a statement issued late Friday, said the disciplinary committee found Mr Kachikwu guilty of allegations of gross misconduct, and gross violations of its constitution, among others.

But in its reaction the following day, the interim leadership of the ADC dismissed Mr Kachikwu’s purported expulsion.

The interim National Chairman of the Party, Patricia Akwashiki, in a statement, described the action of the erstwhile chairman, Mr Nwosu, as the antics of a sinking man clutching at straws.

The crisis rocking the ADC has its genesis in the call for the resignation of the national chairman by 27 state chairmen of the party, having spent 17 years in the office.

At the time of filing this report, we could not confirm if the party’s leadership had made formal or legal requests to the commission to remove the candidate from the list.

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Stella Obasanjo’s brother, John Abebe, arraigned for fraud

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Dr. John Abebe, the younger brother of a former First Lady, Stella Obasanjo, was on Monday arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Monday before the Lagos State Special Offences Court in Ikeja over allegations of fraud.

Abebe was arraigned alongside a former Head of Firstbank Plc, United Kingdom Correspondent Office, Kamoru Alade Oladimeji, before Justice Olubunmi Abike-Fadipe on six charges of conspiracy, stealing, and obtaining money under pretence.

Part of the counts against the defendants read: “That you, Dr. John Abebe and Kamoru Alade Oladimeji, on or about the 4th day of June 2013 in Lagos within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court conspired amongst yourselves to commit felony to wit; stealing the sum of N120 million worth of property of Arsenal Technologies Limited.”

“That you, Dr. John Abebe and Kamoru Alade Oladimeji, on or about the 4th day of June 2013, in Lagos within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court conspired amongst yourselves to commit felony to wit; obtaining by false pretence the sum of N120 million property of Arsenal Technologies Limited under the pretence that your property lying being and situate at 9, Magbon Close, Ikoyi-Lagos State, which you pledged as the security to the Arsenal Technologies Limited was unencumbered, which representation you knew to be false.”

“That you Dr. John Abebe and Inducon Nigeria Limited, on or about the 4th day of June 2013, in Lagos within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, with intent to defraud and to gain for yourself the sum of $1,000,000.00 or its Naira equivalent from Arsenal Technologies Limited by false pretence to procure the execution of valuable security to wit; a deed of assignment between Inducon Nigeria Limited and Arsenal Technologies Limited, wherein you falsely claimed that the property lying being and situate at No. 9, Magbon Close, Ikoyi-Lagos was unencumbered and that you have full powers to assign and transfer the said property to the assignor; Arsenal Technologies Limited.

According to EFCC, the offences committed are contrary to Sections 280(1), (12), 8 (7), 285(1) and 278(1)(b) of the Criminal Laws of Lagos State, 2011.

The defendants, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Following their plea, the prosecutor, Sulaimon urged the court to fix a trial date and to remand the defendants in the custody of the Nigerian Correctional Services until the hearing and determination of the charge.

However, the defense counsel, Anthony Popo and Sam Etaifo urged the court to grant their clients bail in the most liberal terms.

While moving the bail application on behalf of Abebe, Popo told the judge that the matter before her is a commercial transaction between the first defendant and the nominal complainant, which he is ready to settle out of court.

He also claimed that Abebe had paid back the sums of $100,000 and N30 million to the complainant and had also deposited the title document of 26 acres of land and the documents of a property in London to show his seriousness to resolve the matter.

The lawyer further submitted that the defendant would not jump bail since he never violated the terms of the administrative bail granted to him by the EFCC.

The prosecutor did not oppose the application but urged the court to impose stringent terms that will ensure the defendant’s appearance in court for their trial.

In her ruling, Justice Abike-Fadipe granted the first defendant bail in the sum of N20 million with one surety in like sum.

She directed that the surety must be a resident of Lagos and must deposit the title document of a land property whose value must not be less than N20m

The judge also admitted the second defendant to bail in the sum of N10m with one surety in like sum, who must be a resident of the state.

Justice Abike-Fadipe further ordered that the defendant shall continue to enjoy the administrative bail earlier granted to them by the EFCC but if they failed after seven days to perfect the terms of the bail she granted them, they shall be arrested and remanded in prison.

She adjourned the case to December 6 for commencement of trial.

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HIGHGARDEN CELEBRATES WORLD CLEANUP DAY

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The Eleko Beach stretching over 5km was cleaned on the 17th of September 2022 by Volunteers from HighGarden Private Beach Club to celebrate the world Cleanup day.

World Cleanup Day is an annual global social action program aimed at combating the global solid waste problem, including the problem of marine debris. It is coordinated by the global organization Let’s Do It! World.

 

According to the MD of Highgarden Mr Wale Ewedemi “Environmental cleanliness and awareness is key to our values as a lifestyle brand, so we use the world Cleanup day to indoctrinate our customers and friends into one of our core lifestyle values”

 

The event that started at 9am rounded up about noon. Plastics and debri Collected were separated and marked for pickup.

 

The HighGarden Private Beach Club in Eleko boast of the first Glamping site in Nigeria.

@highgardenprivatebeach

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