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Tunji Ojo Has No Case To Answer” – Shehu Sanni 

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Former Kaduna Central Senator, Shehu Sani, says Minister of Interior, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, has no case to answer regarding the contract awarded to a company linked to him by suspended Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Betta Edu.

Sani, in a chat with The Whistler, said Tunji-Ojo did not violate any public service law since he resigned from the company years ago.

 

” It could have been a conflict of interest if he hadn’t resigned.

The senator further said it is “not his ministry (that awarded contracts), and companies have the right to pursue businesses anywhere.

“Edu’s case is very clear and can’t be equated with that of a company associated with Hon Ojo.

“Legally, he can’t be held to account on this matter.

“Let’s not be distracted,” Sani said.

“The extant provision of the law under the 1999 Constitution is that anybody who is a public servant cannot engage in any business other than farming,” said Nelson Kebordih, a senior lawyer whose interest is in public policy.

He said the implication of the law is “that a person must be in active control and directorship of the company in the management of any enterprise.

“You are permitted to own shares because owning a share does not put you in the day-to-day management of the company or any enterprise.

“If he (Tunji-Ojo) has resigned from being a director, the law does not stop him from owning shares in the company,” he stated.

The former lawmaker’s position aligns with the 2008 Federal Service Rules on Chapter 4 which states that “Public officers are not prohibited from holding shares in both public and private companies operating in Nigeria or abroad except that they must not be Directors in private companies, and may only be Directors in public companies if nominated by Government.”

 

Following the suspension and quizzing of Edu, concerning alleged financial sleaze, the Minister of Interior has come under pressure to resign or equally be suspended by the president after it emerged that his company, New Planet Project Ltd, also received a contract from Edu.

Edu had awarded some companies contracts, some of which were unregistered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) raising concern of fraud and illegality.

Tunji-Ojo is also being pressured to step down with many commentators saying he has flouted the Public Service Rules which barred public servants from being awarded contracts or contracting any business except farming.

But the Minister while speaking on television explained that he had resigned since 2009 from the company.

“Almost five years ago, I resigned as director of the company, so I’m not a director. I resigned on 1st of February, 2009, you can take that to the bank,” the minister had said.

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Interview

Ikpeazu diverted N10bn airport fund into road construction – Abia PDP

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Vice Chairman and acting Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party in Abia State, Abraham Amah, talks to DANIEL AYANTOYE about the aborted airport project, among other issues

In a recent statement, you disowned the comment of the former speakers of the state House of Assembly on the performance of the state Governor, Alex Otti. Does it mean that they did not speak the mind of your political party, the PDP?

In that statement, we made it very clear that as members of the Association of Former Speakers, have the right to pay a visit to the state governor. It’s part of their fundamental rights. There is no law against that. And for those of them who are members of the PDP, there is no law also in the party against that. So, they have the right to go to where they have gone. Whatever they had said, they also said on behalf of themselves and not on behalf of the party. Another very important thing to note is that the membership of that association cuts across several political parties in the state.

But is it not anti-party for PDP members in the group to visit and commend the governor in such a way that could portray an endorsement of the Labour Party government in the state?

The truth about it is that some politicians put their interests first before anything else. The major purpose of that visit was to engage the governor for him to consider the need to pay them a kind of pension every month as former members of the state House of Assembly because there was a subsisting law before, which took care of the interests of the former governors but did not take care of the interests of former speakers.

Also, because judiciary leaders get something when they leave office, they (former speakers) go to canvass for that. But unknown to them, the governor was already planning to abrogate the law that favours the former governors through the act of the State Assembly. When you lobby as a politician, you tell the person you are lobbying something that will make him happy, to be able to grant you what you want. That was exactly the card they played.

Unfortunately for them, the card was not able to attract anything. The situation is just that the public was not looking at it from the angle that they were former members of the State House of Assembly who visited the governor but from the angle of the PDP and that is the narrative most media houses were promoting.

How will you describe the request they presented to the governor? Is it justifiable or not?

There is no basis for me to say it’s justifiable or not. As I said, no law allows for such expenditure, as far as the state is concerned. What they should have done was to take that lobby to the state House of Assembly, and not to the governor. They should have lobbied the Speaker of the state House of Assembly and members and then sponsored a bill. That is the appropriate thing for them to have done. When they sponsor that bill and it is passed through first, second, and third reading, and then move it to the governor for assent, it is at about that time they can visit the governor to tender the request.

Does that mean they goofed in their tactics despite being former lawmakers?

Of course, they did.

The former lawmakers praised the governor’s performance in the state while endorsing his administration. Do you agree with their appraisal?

Unfortunately, he is less than one year but in the next couple of weeks, he will be one year in office. The only way to talk about performance is to look at what he has been able to receive from the Federation Account, what he has been able to generate through the internally generated revenue vis-à-vis the expenditure, and then we match this expenditure with what is visible on the ground. If we follow this format, I can assure you that many Abia people, today, think that the governor has not done well.

The governor (Otti) spends a lot of money on media and propaganda, and to a very large extent, he is enjoying the dividends of that propaganda, but such dividends can only last for a while. Let me just run down what was captured from the websites of the state government. In less than one year, the governor has spent N11.4bn to run the Governor’s Office, and as we speak, the governor operates from his private home. The fundamental question here is why a governor spends N11.4bn to run a Governor’s Office in his home. What is it that you are running in that home? I think we are in the 11th month; so, you are spending a little bit about over N1bn every month to run the Governor’s Office from your home. The governor has also spent N32.3bn on roads. The truth is that Abia people are asking, where are the roads?

Don’t you think that a government that can provide information about its expenditures and its income on its websites is transparent and can also be described as a performer?

That website was put in place by the former administration as a requirement of the World Bank for all the states in Nigeria. That is why they cannot shut it down. The first time their publications on that website were captured by the media, that website was shut down. But when there was a lot of pressure from the World Bank, It had to come up again. The website enables the World Bank to monitor the activities of the state government because of what they are doing in the various states across the country. So, it is not as if the state government put up the site on purpose. All the state governments have these websites for the purpose I mentioned.

There have been several reports of people applauding the performance of the governor, saying he is performing well in this state. Why is this so?

Let me analyse one of those major performance indicators they boast of. During a lecture at Johns Hopkins University, recently, the governor told the world that he met 10 years of unpaid pension arrears and that he had cleared these arrears. Everybody clapped for him. If you search on Google, you will also find out that several mainstream media have also reported on the clearance of 10 years of pension arrears in Abia State, whereas what was paid as pension arrears in Abia State was pension for nine months and not 10 years as he claimed.

The problem is that a lot of people don’t know how to verify these things. There is also a video that is trending about him building a seaport in Abia State. That is what an average Igbo man wants to hear. Most of these claims, with the support of artificial intelligence, we have people who can package them together and when they watch it, they believe that something like that is going whereas there is no stone laying or foundation or inauguration of any building or any seaport anywhere in the state.

Even as we speak, there is no document presented to the federal authorities saddled with the responsibility of approving a seaport much less of anybody building anything. We have this type of misinformation circulating everywhere. The people have bought into this information. They believe that these things are true. They don’t know that they are not true. So, today, the pensioners in Abia State are saying, ‘You cannot do this to us.’

Reach out to the pensioners and ask them, ‘How many months’ pension has been paid?’ If you look at the money they allocated for pension, in these documents, you’ll find out that it’s around N1bn. You will agree with me that the amount cannot be pension for 10 years. It’s under one-year pension arrears. He creates this narrative and pushes them.

How is this possible that?

When we talk about marketing, the banks in Nigeria, particularly the new-generation banks, came with innovation in marketing. The kind of innovation we have never seen before. When you talk about advertisements and those who pay the biggest money for advertisements, for radio and television, it’s Nigerian banks. So, he (Otti) brought that kind of innovation of marketing to governance.

Recently, the governor revealed that the previous government under PDP’s Okezie Ikpeazu spent billions of naira on a non-existing airport which was discovered through an audit report. How did this happen?

To conduct an audit requires by law that the auditor, as a matter of necessity, or compulsion, must engage the person or institution to be audited. That is, those who operate the business he is auditing, and ask them questions. That was why, when President Bola Tinubu’s administration appointed an auditor to do a forensic audit for the Central Bank of Nigeria, they had to go to where Emefele was detained, brought him out, and asked questions. You cannot do an audit without asking. So, you cannot conduct an audit without asking questions to the auditee.

Secondly, you accused a company of receiving N10bn, according to your report, but today, that same construction company remains your number one construction company. If you want to conduct an investigation, the first suspect is a person who received the money into his accounts because to receive the money into your accounts, you must deliver the services for which that money was meant.

So, was the money paid for the airport, and where is the airport?

The documents are available everywhere. Those who served in the government and others made those documents available. What happened was that when that N10bn loan was approved for the airports, members of Abia State Council of Chiefs; that is the traditional rulers, approached the governor and told him that from Aba to Port Harcourt was a maximum of one one-hour drive, from Umuahia to Uyo was one hour, from Umuahia to Owerri Airport was 45 minutes, and that we were like a state surrounded by three major airports and that what we needed at that moment was the construction of more roads because we had a lot of bad roads.

Based on that, the governor approached the House of Assembly and told them to do the necessary approval for that money which had been paid to the construction company that was already handling several road projects in Abia State to capture same for further jobs about road construction. The good thing is that the construction company is not a ghost, and the governor is still using them for projects to date. The governor does not mention the company, but the former governor, Ikpeazu.

I had expected the construction company as a responsible organised firm to issue a statement and tell the world about what they know and what they do not know about the N10bn, because as far as the law is concerned and as far as the best of investigators are concerned, the only body that can implicate the former government is the construction company, and the only way they can do that is to prove that they transmitted some of those monies back to Ikpeazu, and that will not make them free.

To the best of your knowledge, was the money channelled to road projects in the state, or was transmitted back to the state government?

It was used for the construction of roads in the states, and as we have said and I speak again today, there is no statement from the company itself.

Some have perceived the visit of the lawmakers to Governor Otti as an attempt to defect to the Labour Party. Is your party not concerned about this development?

I joined politics in the ‘90s as a young man; I contested my first election under the (United Nigeria Congress Party) UNCP on December 6, 1997. I won that election into the state House of Assembly. It has been the tradition of Nigerian politicians to defect, and each time a person defects, it creates room for other people to join. As I speak to you, prominent individuals are reaching out to the party that they want to join the PDP.

Many of those defecting are doing that for personal interest. They know better why they are doing what they are doing. As far as we are concerned, they have not also violated any known law, and our party is open to people. So, for us, it is a season of shedding leaves, and some of these leaves, I can assure you that many of those leaves will turn out to become manure for the same tree they fell from. So, do not be surprised that many of the people who are leaving the party (the PDP) today will still come back to the party to work for the party tomorrow. We have seen that happen on several occasions.

It was said that the division in your party led to the loss of the 2023 presidential election. Do you think there will be any difference in 2027?

Well, 2027 is still pregnant. I don’t want to dwell on that because I am a human being, a Christian, and an Elder in the Church. A lot of people will even die before that time. Sometimes when men talk, they don’t remember that people die. That I am alive now is all by the grace of God. So, I don’t know what will happen in the next minute or seconds from now. A lot of things will still happen between 2023 and 2027. So, don’t let us talk about that. What is on the ground now is that the party is preparing for the congress.

Of course, one thing that is always certain is that political parties adopt strategies ahead of the elections. Do you see the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nyesom Wike, working for the PDP in 2027?

This is not the first time that a President appointed a member of another political party and we have seen it happen several in the history of this country. It happened in the First Republic. It also happened in the Second Republic during (Shehu) Shagari’s administration where some members of the Nigerian Peoples Party were given appointments by the then government. In the Third Republic, we saw it happen when Obasanjo himself did the same and they said the action was under the framework of Government of National Unity.

 

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Interview

NAUB: MR PRESIDENT, WHO ARE THOSE PLANNING TO KILL THE ONLY FEDERAL UNIVERSITY THAT DOES NOT GO ON STRIKE?

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By femi Oyewale

 

 

Higher education in Nigeria, quite frankly, is facing immense challenges including but not limited to poor infrastructure, unrealistic academic calendars resulting in extra years against stipulated durations, lack of teaching equipment, social menace, poor funding, amongst others.

 

 

 

Interestingly, Nigerian Army University, Biu (NAUB) is quite unique from other federal universities in the sense that since inception, there has not been any issue of strike, cultism, protest, or anti-social conduct.

Rather, the university is reputed for its excellent condition of learning environment.

 

This was aptly covered by the Governor of Borno State, H.E Professor Babagana Umara Zulum through his deputy during the maiden edition of the convocation ceremony of NAUB on Saturday, October 28th, 2023 at the University’s main campus ( note not temporary campus within five years of existence) in Biu, Borno State.

 

 

 

The Borno State governor said he was physically present at the groundbreaking ceremony of the foundation laying stone of NAUB five years ago, and he is impressed by what he has seen adding that it must take military precision and focus to put in a full-fledged and functional university on a barren land in such a short period.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Governor further thanked the Federal Government, the Nigerian Army, the traditional rulers, scholars and academics philanthropist, industrialists, associates and men and women of goodwill from within and outside Borno State for the selfless service of gradually re-modelling the future of Borno State in particular and Nigeria in general and for putting Borno State on the path of further greatness through the Nigerian Army university, Biu.

 

Why then do we plan to abort such a great independent institution of learning known as a barrier breaker and line crosser by merging it with NDA whose missions and visions are not in tandem with each other

Why cut short the dreams of such noble ideas via politics?

 

Are there those who do not want a stable educational system in Nigeria?

Are there external forces or their agents at home trying to destroy a good foundation for a stable educational system in Nigeria?

Is NAUB in competition with the private universities?

Are there big shots who benefit from a chaotic educational system in Nigeria?

 

Are there some subterranean forces working within the system to achieve the Boko Haram objective that “education is sin”?

 

 

 

The words of Governor Zulum rings a wise bell when he said that Boko Haram insurgents have achieved their objectives if the university is scrapped.

 

 

 

 

 

“Therefore, we appeal to Mr. President to look into this issue so that the Army University Biu would remain a university… because of the importance of education in this part of the country, where Boko Haram is saying that education is forbidden. And I think that by allowing this Army university to be scrapped, they might have achieved one or two of their objectives,” he said.

 

The governor noted that, for over a decade, Borno State has been facing a serious crisis that has denied many children access to education.

 

“Therefore, this university is very important to not only the people of Borno State but our neighbouring states,” he said.

 

 

 

Look at the Western countries that started with military polytechnics that propelled revolution in military equipment development.

 

Many of these developed countries collaborated jointly through civil-military research.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Swedish Defence University established like NAUB is Sweden’s leading resource in, and first choice for, education, training and research in the management of crisis, war and periods of tension in the leadership of both civil and military agencies. The Swedish Defence University is an accredited institution for academic education for military and civilian students and researchers where different experiences, approaches, and traditions come together. It has become a hub for both national and international students.

 

 

 

 

 

It might shock you to know that American Military University (AMU) and American Public University (APU). APUS is wholly owned by American Public Education, Inc., a publicly traded private-sector corporation that offers associates, bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees, in addition to dual degrees, certificate programs and learning tracks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During my NYSC, I served in the Nigerian Army School of Education (NASE), Ilorin, which is a renowned military institution focused on providing high-quality education and training for Nigerian Army personnel and civilians. So why the proposed merger of NAUB?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interestingly, the Nigerian Army University Biu provides such a platform for the Nigerian military towards technological innovation, research, and development in varied fields for national defence and security breakthroughs like many modern nations. In fact, instead of downgrading the Nigerian Army University, many more Army universities should be established in Nigeria. That is the way out for a caricature type of educational system that has failed to have stability over the years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who is not interested in seeing that a federal university graduates its students within the regular course time frame?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Must programmes of all federal universities be easily disrupted. A course of 4 or 5 years ends up taking over 6 to 7 years to complete. The worst part is that many universities end up in a crash programme to be able to cover up for the lost times. The terrible damage to these universities’ products is the very low standard of graduates.

 

Who wants the Nigerian educational system to collapse completely? These are rhetorical questions the amiable president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and all stakeholders should ask those proposing the merger to answer us publicly, else should let the matter die forever in the abyss of hasty decision.

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Interview

‘The Coleman Wires and Cables Business Story is a Journey From Grass to Grace’

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On the sidelines of the 12th Practical Nigerian Content (PNC) organized by the Nigeria Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), Mr. George Onafowokan, the Managing Director/CEO of Coleman Technical Industries Limited, a leading Nigerian brand manufacturer of wires and cables, shared secrets to his business success amid recent national and global economic challenges. Onafowokan maintains that as a Nigerian, one can start a small business and grow organically into a big global competitor…..

 

What do you mean when you said Coleman Wires and Cable’s story is one of “grass to grace”?

 

Coleman Wires and Cable was registered as a company in 1975, but we began as a small-scale business in 1996. In 2021, we had to restructure our operations to overcome the setbacks we faced from the beginning, and that’s when I became the Managing Director.

Our story is one of grassroots to grace. Through investing time and effort over the years, we were able to systematically grow from a micro-small company into a small, medium, large, and extremely large company in terms of size. Our business vision started small, but we strategically expanded it. Please note, our aim was not to become the largest company, but it began with the goal of being the preferred wires and cable choice for Nigerians in terms of quality.

Subsequently. we found that every Nigerian preferred locally made cables over the foreign imported ones. So, the question of why we can’t build a company capable of servicing the entire nation and the global market arose; with this, our vision expanded. We progressed from a humble factory to a ripple plant that became the largest in West Africa at the time it was built. Starting out from 20,000 square meters, we expanded to 30,000 square meters and further into the Shagamu plant, which began with over 100,000 and has grown to over 350,000 square meters today.

We diversified into other products, such as high-voltage cables, and we became the first in the country and in West Africa. This achievement made Nigeria the fifth country in the world to produce such cables. Today, more than fifty percent of Coleman’s products are not produced by any other company in Nigeria, West Africa, and most parts of sub-Saharan Africa. This accomplishment is a testament to the story developed by a predominantly 99 percent Nigerian team. It illustrates that it is possible to be Nigerian and organically grow into a global competitor.

Could you provide some insight into your personal background for the readers?

Certainly! I am George Onafowokan, the second generation of the Onafowokan family, born into the distinguished lineage of Asiwaju Solomon Kayode Onafowokan. He is currently the second Asiwaju of Remo, succeeding Chief Obafemi Awolowo, and is well-regarded as a business mogul. Personally, I am a family man with a spouse and children.

I pursued my first degree in Accounting and Finance in the UK, followed by a postgraduate degree in Information and Management. With a penchant for improving processes and a dedication to giving back, I often find myself engrossed in thoughts on how to enhance various aspects of life.

Having witnessed the success of companies I’ve mentored in Nigeria, I am committed to building the capacity of individuals and small to medium-scale businesses. My guiding principle, which I consider my calling, is to contribute to the growth and improvement of others over time.

Reflecting on my upbringing, my father’s journey serves as a true “grass to grace” story. From humble beginnings in a one-bedroom apartment, he worked his way up to become well-educated and stand out among his peers. However, my perspective evolved when, at the age of twelve, my aunt imparted valuable advice. She encouraged me to cease complaining and adopt the mindset that my parents served as vessels for me to enter the world. Once in the world, their responsibility concluded. Embracing this philosophy, I no longer felt entitled to my parents’ resources and committed to earning everything I needed. This mentality shaped my life principle—I don’t expect anyone to owe me anything. Consequently, I work diligently, understanding that neither a “yes” nor a “no” signifies offense or entitlement.

 

Was Coleman Wires and Cables your first business?

No, Coleman was not my first business; it is a family business. I started my own business when I was young. At the age of sixteen, I ventured into my first wine business. By the time I completed university, I had my own business in the UK, specializing in financing and exporting to Nigeria using containers. My initial entry into the cable business involved supplying raw materials, and coincidentally, one of my main clients was Coleman.

You spoke about replicating yourself; how can one access mentorship opportunities from you?

 

I am one of those who don’t believe that you can run a business as a one-man show. Therefore, you have to build human capacity in every way, integrate it into your structure, empower the people around you, and let them handle their responsibilities. Personally, I have built a team around what I do. I started in a business where I handled every department myself, but today, I am not involved in those tasks anymore.

Most importantly, I empower them to effectively perform their jobs and give them a sense of belonging, so they feel that their contributions have value.

In many companies in Nigeria, you often find that the Managing Director or CEOs are the only individuals making decisions, while the rest are mere yes-ma or yes-sir. I wouldn’t run a business that way.

Are there mentorship opportunities for people outside your current team?

No, we have not fully structured it for everyone; we currently have a limited number, mostly for individuals already in the industry. However, from my work with the LCCI mentoring group and my team, I have found that what most people generally need is a simple understanding and mentoring to discover what aspects of their life or history they could improve upon or learn from.

What has Coleman been doing with the NCDMB?

For us, we are a success story of the Nigeria Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) because we have been working with the board since 2017. Prior to that, in 2008, I met with Senator Lee Maeba, who led the private bill for the local content law before it became an act in 2010. I could see the passion in the man when he talked about the whole idea, and from that passion, we took action. “Taking action” means we started putting our money where our mouth is, began examining areas in the law that affect business and expanding capacity, and we have succeeded in doing so. Over the years, it has been challenging to break into these oil and gas companies, but we have managed to do so. We primarily supply cables to their vendors, without handling any installation. We supply for NLNG projects, Shell, and Mobile. We have been able to provide cables that have never been produced by any other company in Nigeria.

 

In the face of business and economic setbacks, Coleman expanded. What did you do differently?

First, I think we took a strategic position to ensure our ability to continue operations. Second, we minimized our losses and restructured our capacity. One month before the Covid-19 shutdown, we had submitted a request for restructuring with our banks. We had slowed down, scrutinized all our positions, and had already started reducing the size of our business. By the time we entered the Covid-19 pandemic, we operated with the same number of staff for about a year. After Covid-19 started easing, we increased the number of staff. Therefore, we were somewhat prepared for Covid-19, and over the years in our business, we had already trained specific capacity. During Covid-19, we were able to build two factories without anyone coming from abroad. Covid-19 has, in a way, compelled everyone to enhance their in-country capacity.

In your panel discussion, you mentioned that the NCDMB should replicate the success in the petroleum industry in manufacturing. So, in concrete terms, what are you looking for to happen?

 

Replicating success in manufacturing means being intentional with manufacturers, ensuring that they perform well because there are not a lot of manufacturers. We need to be more deliberate, encourage more factories, open more businesses here, and manufacture goods instead of just assembling them. That is the focus I am emphasizing. There should be a deliberate action to build local capacity.

 

What is the future for Coleman?

 

The future for Coleman is still very bright. The opportunities have not stopped. We have two or three projects that are still ongoing, which will be finished by the first quarter of next year. The copper and aluminum factories are underway, the fiber-2 project, the expansion and completion of the Shagamu project, and our power project to increase our capacity from 16 to 24 megawatts. We are also looking to supply around West and Central Africa going forward in the next year, and later on, in East Africa. Our export plan is quite extensive, and we hope to see significant figures coming out of it, apart from Nigeria.

I believe we need to trust in the opportunities that abound in Nigeria, and in time, we are all going to reap the benefits. Regardless of the situation, Nigeria still finds its way to continue growing; and if given peace and the chance by the government, we would most likely see an upward swing in businesses by 2025.

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