Right Of Reply: The Editor Of The Guardian And The Defence Of Looting, By Laolu Akande

There is something incongruous about the Editor of the Guardian Newspapers, a paper once known for its strident advocacy against abuse of power and corruption, to excoriate a Vice President who repeatedly calls out perpetrators of grand corruption. Even more astonishing is the fact that the Editor, Mr. Abraham Ogbodo abdicates the investigative role of his newspaper when there are allegations of corruption, but works hard to disparage both the information supplied and the informer.

While it is clear that the Editor is a rabid PDP apologist, and this is obvious from the direction that he has taken the newspaper since he assumed the role, one would have thought that, even if only to give an appearance of fairness in the great tradition of a newspaper celebrated for balance, (and “the best tradition and ideals of republican democracy”) he would still not descend to the use of abusive language against the Vice President.

Perhaps it might help to reiterate what the VP said at the Quarterly Business Forum held on the 19th of March, 2018. His basic premise was that grand corruption constitutes the preeminent problem of Nigeria’s economic development. He said that, unlike any other country, it would be either ignorant or negligent of any economic planner in Nigeria not to fully appreciate the massive hemorrhaging that comes from corruption. He went on to point out that despite the fact that the nation earned between $100 to $114 a barrel of oil between 2011 and 2014, investment in capital was abysmal.

He argued that the difference between the current government and the previous one is that the current government has tamed grand corruption and the impunity in the looting of public resources and is thus able to spend more on capital even when it is earning probably 50% less than the previous government. He gave one example of 2014. Then, oil prices were consistently over $100 dollars a barrel.

Actual capital releases to the Ministries of Works, Housing and Power was N99B. Ministries of Transport and Agriculture got N15B and N14B respectively. In total these 3 ministries got N139B. He compared that with capital releases to the same ministries in 2017, when oil price was between $50 to $60 a barrel: N415B for Power, Works & Housing, N80B for Transportation and N65B for Agriculture, totaling N560B.

In exposing the impunity of the grand corruption in the Jonathan regime, the VP said barely two weeks to the 2015 elections, the sum of $289million dollars was released in cash. ( N104 billion today) That sum of money was disbursed from the JVC account of the NNPC/NAPIMS with the J.P Morgan Chase Bank, and the cash was released on 25 February 2015. Part of the sum was the $43m cash discovered at an apartment last year in Ikoyi and is now the subject of EFCC investigation. The full facts may not of course be disclosed until the case is tried in court. But suffice it to say that even the disbursement of such an amount in cash is a criminal act under our money laundering laws.

In addition, another N60B that had been sourced from the Central Bank towards the latter part of 2014, which was set apart for campaign purposes. It was shared between the then NSA-N40B and SSS N20B. This is apart from another N10B again sourced from the CBN’s Corporate Responsibility Budget in November 2014 that was used for “PDP Presidential Primaries.” Also N2.1B in cash was approved and paid through the office of the National Security Adviser.

Most of the money which was disbursed between January 8 and Feb 25, 2015 was shared between senior PDP members, including companies, without any contracts being awarded to them. Most of them have admitted to receiving these sums of money, some have made refunds, many are on trial, others are prosecution witnesses in the trials.

So while a total of N139B was disbursed to the above listed five key ministries for the entire 2014, well over N100B in cash was disbursed and illegally shared within a few weeks by the same government! This shows how corruption can completely undermine an economy. Amazingly, Mr Ogbodo pretends not to be aware of these facts though they have been in the public domain for almost two years.

A few days later, at the Ogun State investment Forum, while speaking on the subject of the catastrophic impact of grand corruption on the Nigerian economy, the VP also gave an example of the looting of Nigeria’s oil earnings through the so-called Strategic Alliance Contracts involving two companies owned by the duo of Jide Omokore and Kola Aluko. The companies lifted Nigerian oil, by some estimates in excess of $3billion( over N1Trillion) and paid nothing back. The theft was not limited just to that amount but also included unpaid taxes and royalties.

The VP then pointed out that government was now putting together about this same sum of $3B to build the following roads: Abuja-Kaduna-Kano road, 2nd Niger Bridge, Enugu-PH road, East-West road, Sagamu-Ore-Benin road, Kano-Maiduguri road, Abuja-Lafia-Akwanga-Keffi road and the Lagos-Abeokuta: the old road.

How corruption can defeat our best hopes for the future!

One of the promoters of the company is on trial, the other is still at large although there is strong international collaboration to confiscate their assets all over the world. The effort includes the tracing and confiscation of the assets of the then Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Dieziani Allison-Maduekwe

Nigeria’s recursive economic growth is not merely because we have for years ran a mono-product economy, it is more because the proceeds of that single product is hijacked by a few. So even when oil earnings were high, the number of the poor, sick, malnourished and child mortalities continued to rise.

For the editor of a major Nigerian Newspaper, like The Guardian, to attempt to trivialize all that, rather than hold the perpetrators to account, is the tragic paradox of corruption fighting back through the very forces established to fight it.

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Buhari Goes Tougher On Fight Against Corruption, Engages Senior Lawyers To Lead Prosecution

The presidency has revealed plans to beef up the prosecution of corruption cases in several courts of law across the country by engaging a number of senior lawyers with high integrity ratings to play active roles and lead the prosecution of some of the cases.

Mr. Laolu Akande, a Senior Special Assistant on Media & Publicity to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), disclosed this to pressmen in Lagos on Saturday.

Akande, who interacted with the press over the weekend, noted that those who are asking “our people to simply forget the blatant violation of public trust and the pillaging of the nation’s commonwealth witnessed in the past, are saying wittingly or otherwise that we should forget where the shoe actually pinched and pretend as if the social raping of the nation never occurred.”

Continuing, Akande asked, “How can we do that?

“We have a situation where a former first lady came out openly to claim over $171M found in her accounts and you think Nigerians will simply overlook that. You have a situation where hundreds of billions have been recovered including the discovery of $43M cash in an apartment in Ikoyi, and you think Nigerians will simply forget that?”

He stated that it is mere wishful thinking to imagine that Nigerians would just forget all of these colossal atrocities in the management and disbursement of public funds.

On the progress of prosecution, Akande said there are tonnes of corruption cases arising from the conduct of the past administration, adding that such pending cases in the courts would hopefully benefit with establishment of special courts for the speedy trial of corruption and other criminal cases.

“We have a number of lawyers, senior lawyers, people with solid reputations, who have volunteered to assist in prosecuting the cases, and soon the prosecuting agencies will be assigning specific cases to them,” Akande noted.

Nigerians should be rest assured, he stated that the Buhari Administration will not relent in the pursuit of those corruption cases because “we know that the mass of our people are closely following these cases and expect that consequences would be meted out to those who have violated public trust.”

He added that while there have been concerns about the delay in the pursuit of some of the cases, no one should underestimate the resolve of the Buhari Administration to push all the cases to its logical conclusion.

According to him, “To those who have asked what has happened to the several instances of corruption that we have spoken about, we say, wait and see.

“Sometimes the wheels of Justice may be slow, as it is often said, but they grind exceedingly fine. Let Nigerians know that justice would be served in the end, and the world will see it. We have a President and Vice President who will not take no for an answer on this matter,” Akande concluded.

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2019: Vice President Yemi Osinbajo Distances Self From Campaign Group

A group, “Osinbajo Volunteers” canvassing for Osinbajo as a presidential candidate in the 2019 election, has been disowned by the Vice President.

Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the Vice President, Laolu Akande, said on his Twitter handle “please disregard this website created by faceless people for mischievous purposes. It has absolutely nothing to do with the vice president.”

The group, on its website, however exonerated the Vice President, saying: “Note that Osinbajo did not endorse this volunteer group. We have never met him. We are strong believers in the fact that he is the right ruler for Nigeria and must create a people’s volunteer base for him.”

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Vice President Osinbajo Says He Is Not Leading Negotiations With ASUU

Amidst widespread rumours that  Vice President Yemi Osinbajo had taken over the negotiations with the striking Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), the insinuation has been denied by Osinbajo.

Recall that on August 29, the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr. Chris Ngige, said FEC had assigned Osinbajo to take charge of some aspects of the negotiations with the university lecturers, disclosing that relevant government officials would later proceed to the vice-president’s office that day for a meeting after which he said government decision would be communicated to the lecturers.

But in a statement by his spokesman, Mr. Laolu Akande, said the vice-president only had a discussion with Ngige and his counterpart in the Ministry of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu after last Wednesday’s FEC meeting, explaining that both ministers remain the leaders of government’s negotiations with the union.

“News reports that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, is now leading Federal Government negotiations with the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU is inaccurate. 

“Media reports seemed to have misrepresented what Labour and Employment Minister, Chris Ngige meant when he spoke with reporters about the negotiations after the Federal Executive Council meeting on Wednesday. 

“The Vice President had a discussion after FEC with both the Labour Minister and Education Minister Malam Adamu Adamu around the issues, but has not taken over the negotiations as widely reported. Both Ministers will continue to lead the FG- ASUU talks.

“The Federal Government continues to diligently pursue a prompt resolution of this dispute and is confident the matter would be resolved,” the statement said.

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Presidency Rolls Out Details Of How Executive Orders Will Be Driven

In its determination to significantly transform the business environment and how government business is done in the country, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo has explained in details how the Buhari administration will drive the new executive orders signed last week.

Spokesman to Osinbajo, Mr. Laolu Akanda made this known in a press statement made available to journalists in Abuja.

According to him, part of measures to drive the reforms intended in the executive orders include an interactive event which is scheduled to hold in Abuja on Wednesday, with the Ag. President  discussing in particular, the executive orders on business environment and promoting “Made in Nigeria” products with a cross-section of middle level and senior public and civil servants.

“These are the people who will be directly responsible for the attainment of the objectives of the executive orders, so the Ag. President wants an opportunity to talk with them directly and also hear from them in person.”

While noting that the interactive forum would be opened for live coverage by a number of TV stations, and live streaming, Akande added that ensuring the effective implementation of the orders are critical for the overall prosperity of Nigerians and Nigeria.

Besides, as part of activities commemorating the Second year of the Buhari administration, Akande said next week on May 29, a presidential level Report Card event on the Social Investment Programmes of the Buhari presidency would be held at Aso Rock.

“Here at this national event, we shall be updating Nigerians on the progress so far attained, how we are addressing some challenges and how President Buhari’s Social Investment Programmes would be significantly expanded going forward,” Akande noted.

The SIPs are the N-Power, which selected and engaged 200,000 unemployed Nigerians graduates for a volunteer job programmers, the Conditional Cash Transfer being implemented now in 9 states, General Economic & Empowerment Programme, GEEP-a micro credit scheme that has given out almost 60,000 loans out already, and the National Homegrown School Feeding Programme, where 25 million meals have been served and over 1 million primary school pupils in at least seven states are being fed and over 11,000 cooks hired.

Regarding media inquiries on the progress of the report of the Presidential Investigative Panel, Akande urged for patience explaining that when time comes the outcome of the panel would be made manifestly public “and Nigerians would be satisfied.” He said the two suspended officials remain suspended.

A SUMMARY OF THE EXECUTIVE ORDER ON EASE OF DOING BUSINESS AS BACKGROUND MATERIAL FOR EDITORS AND REPORTERS

Transparency in MDAs

 The Order promotes transparency by directing that Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) should publish a complete list of all requirements for obtaining permits, licences and approvals, including fees and timelines, in their premises and on their websites within the next 21 days.

 The Order also directs that MDAs must communicate with applicants by at least two methods, and any approvals for applications not received within the specified period will be assumed to have been granted to the applicant by default.  Any rejections must be given with valid reasons. The Applicant whose application is deemed granted after the expiration of the application period can apply to the supervising Minister to issue any document or certificate required.

 Importantly, it is the responsibility of the head of the relevant MDA to ensure that the list is verified and kept up-to-date at all times. If there is any conflict between a published and an unpublished list of requirements, the published list shall prevail.

 Default Approvals

 The Order directs that MDAs must communicate with applicants by at least two methods, which will be made known to applicants. Any approvals for applications not received within the specified period will be assumed to have been granted to the applicant by default.  Any rejections must be given with valid reasons. The Applicant whose application is deemed granted after the expiration of the application period can apply to the supervising Minister to issue any document or certificate required.

 The applicant’s acknowledgement copy of the application, including electronic submission acknowledgements, shall serve as proof of the date of submission of the application for purposes of determination of the commencement of the application timeline.

One Government Directive

To simplify application processes for Nigerians, the Order promotes a “One Government” policy. No private applicant will be asked to produce or submit a document issued to it by the FGN as part of an application process if an original of the document is in the possession of another FGN MDA. A photocopy will be sufficient. Instead, FGN MDAs are now required to bear the responsibility of seeking verification or certification directly from the issuing MDA.

Entry Experience of Visitors and Travellers

 With specific reference to travellers to Nigeria, visas will be issues within 48 hours and the processing of issuance of visas on arrival shall be carried out in a transparent manner.  Our airports and sea ports are not excluded. There will now be only one centrally located interface for agencies and touting has been strictly prohibited.

Any official caught soliciting or receiving bribes from passengers or other port users shall be subject to immediate removal from post and disciplinary as well as criminal proceedings in line with extant laws and regulations.  

Ports Operations

All agencies currently physically present in Nigerian Ports have been directed harmonise their operations into one single interface station in one location in the port and implement by a single joint task force at all times.

The Apapa Port shall resume 24-hour operations within 30 days from today and each Port in Nigeria shall assign an existing export terminal to be dedicated to the exportation of agriculture produce within 30 days of this Order in order to jumpstart our international trade and economic activity.

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Ag. President Yemi Osinbajo To Sign 2017 Budget

The Minister of Information, Mr. Lai Mohammed has said that Acting President Yemi Osinbajo will assent to the 2017 budget when he is satisfied with the content.

Lai made this known on Wednesday while responding to a Vanguard newspaper report entitled: “We don’t know who will sign 2017 budget – Lai Mohammed.”

“Our attention has been drawn to a story in a section of the media quoting the Honourable Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, as saying ”we don’t know who will sign the 2017 budget”.

“This quote is a malicious misrepresentation of what transpired at the post-Federal Executive Council Meeting press briefing on Wednesday, 17 May 2017.

“When the minister was asked a question relating to the signing of the 2017 budget, his response was: ”When it is transmitted to the Presidency, the issue will be addressed.”

“Anything beyond that response amounts to deliberate mischief and should be ignored,” the statement from his office reads.

The information Minister went ahead to describe the report as “It’s absolute rubbish,”

In related development, spokesperson to the acting president, Mr. ‘Laolu Akande, reiterated that Osinbajo would sign the budget into law in due course.

“Just so we are clear: when the time comes, everything is set, and he is satisfied, Ag. President Yemi Osinbajo will assent to the 2017 Budget,” tweeted Mr. Akande.

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Presidency May Not Reinstate Suspended SGF, NIA Boss

The Presidency has ruled out the possibility of reinstating the Director General of the National Intelligence Agency, Ambassador Ayo Oke, and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, who were both suspended from office recently.

A source in the presidency told SUNDAY PUNCH in Abuja on Saturday that they were both indicted in the report of the presidential investigative panel that probed them.

The source explained that the Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, who is the chairman of the panel would have presented the report to President Muhammadu Buhari last Monday but for the President’s journey to London for medical consultation.

The source, who is conversant with the arrangement, told our correspondent on condition of anonymity that in case Buhari tarries in his return to the country, Osinbajo will act on the report and a decision would be made public soon.

He said the decision to make the report public was arrived at before the President travelled.

The source added, “The panel’s report was ready since last Wednesday. It was the formal presentation that was fixed for Monday. That has been overtaken by event with the President’s journey.

“Before the President travelled however, he met with the Acting President on many issues, including this one in question.

“An understanding was reached on the position to take. That decision will soon be made public. It is just a matter of time.

“The President can return any time. The Acting President can also announce the decision in case the President did not return on time.”

When asked if it is appropriate for Osinbajo who led the panel to be the one that will implement the report, the source said, “He chaired the panel as the Vice President and now, he is the Acting President. Besides, the decision was arrived at in consultation with the President. It is a government decision.”

When further asked if there was any possibility that Oke and Lawal might be given a clean bill of health, the source said, “as a matter of fact, their case is a done deal.”

The Senior  Special Assistant to the Acting President on Media and Publicity, Laolu Akande, could not be reached on the telephone for comment as of the time of filing this report .

The Osinbajo panel also had the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), and the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, as members.

The panel investigated allegations of violations of law and due process made against Lawal in the award of contracts under the Presidential Initiative on the North-East, while it probed Oke on the discovery of large amounts of foreign and local currencies by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in a residential apartment at Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos, for which NIA is laying claim.

The Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Mounting Humanitarian Crisis in the North-East had also indicted the suspended SGF on the same matter.

The panel was said to have considered the Senate report alongside its own investigation in arriving at a conclusion on Lawal’s case.

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