Many saw it coming but very few imagined that it would take the respected person of His Eminence , the Sultan of Sokoto and President-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar to personally voice the request for amnesty to all combatants in the ranks of Boko Haram.
Covered by the familiar caution often employed by the aged to cow the youth into submission: ‘what an elder sees sitting on a kitchen stool, the young cannot fathom even when well positioned at the summit of the highest mountain’, the sultan last week urged the Federal Government to grant amnesty to a faceless group famed for mass murder of innocent and defenceless men, women and children, at peace time.
Since then, many Nigerians have continued to criticise the Sultan and even accused him of demonstrating crass insensitivity to the countless Christian deaths, bombed by members of the terrorist group. In fact, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) picked holes in the Sultan’s allusion to addressing injustice and questioned what justice there was in a systemic ploy that sought to wipe-out Christians, on daily basis.
The CAN accordingly rejected the Sultan’s request and urged the Federal Government to ignore the appeal on grounds that the group is not only faceless but was merely pursuing an extremist Islamist agenda intended to rubbish the secularity of the Nigerian Constitution.
His Eminence, the Sultan does not require all the criticism to realise how unpopular his request was and is. All the facts concerning the senseless killings, the destruction of parts of the North, the terror attacks on public places including homes of Emirs perceived non-supportive and above all, the growing isolation of the terrorists, are very well known to the royal cum spiritual father.
But he spoke as any worried elder would, particularly since it was part of the communiqué issued at the end of the 1434/2013 Annual Central Council meeting of the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI) held March 5, 2013, at its headquarters in Kawo, Kaduna. He was merely the head, but not alone.
The second of that meeting’s 11-point resolution states: “As a way of curtailing religious insurgency, the meeting called on the Federal Government to as a matter of urgency treat the case of insurgents with all sense of magnanimity by declaring amnesty to all of them, especially combatants that have expressed readiness to tread the path of peace”.
Curiously, that communiqué did not condemn the protracted acts of terror that have claimed more than 1,500 innocent lives, most of them armless Christians in sacred places of worship. It did not also recommend any succour for those who lost loved ones to the wanton destructions, a favour enjoyed by the payment of N100 million to the late Islamist sect leader’s family, by the Borno State government.
Instead, there appears to be greater urgency in calls to compensate killers who, for no just course waged a war against peace, against civilisation, against religious tolerance and, above all, against Christianity. All these facts are known to the Sultan, but he must have spoken as an elder, after appraising secrets, many at mountain-tops can’t see not to talk of comprehending.
In late 2011, this column in an Agony titled, Behind The Smoke- screen… Unravelling The Boko Haram Agenda, made some disclosures concerning the real reasons for the birth and modus operandi of the Boko Haram sect. In that treatise some of the underlisted issues were clearly listed as reasons for the apparent silence of the Northern political elite to the terrorist activities of Boko Haram.
i) A section of the Northern political elite felt and still feel cheated by the resources deployed to the oil producing states of the South in the name of amnesty and needed to posture a murderous insurgency to attract equal, if not more resource allocation.
ii) Since in their estimation, the Vice Presidential slot of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party was ceded to the South-South, during the terminal days of the Obasanjo presidency, as a means of assuaging the neglect suffered by the oil-producing states of the Niger Delta, only a murderous insurgency of the kind unleashed on the Nigerian state by Boko Haram could restore the Presidency back to the North in 2015.
iii) The 13 per cent derivation fund to oil bearing states denies the North better fiscal allocations from the Federation account and unless something drastic was done to attract special Federal Government attention to the North, in whatever guise, the South would progress faster than the North.
To achieve all these, a Northern unity was required, hence, the choice of religion and veiled imposition of sharia in the predominantly Islamic North to silence, and if possible, drive away any, with competiting religion. So, the original propaganda that ‘Western Education is a sin’, clearly offered itself as a brand theme, intended to actualise that unity, albeit by brute force. But not the real reason.
All these facts should be well known to the Sultan, but he spoke only as an elder would, in crises.
Truth is, those hidden goals contained in the political agenda of a section of the Northern political elite, had political power at the nucleus of it all. But with the high rate of human casualties, the growing size of the Boko Haram monster they created, and the level of insecurity even its founders today risk, global condemnation of the group and above all, the recent listing of Boko Haram as a terror group by the United States and other European partners, open identification with the group became less honourable. The call for amnesty therefore becomes not just an after thought but a leeway for their own safety in the hands of the monster they created.
The truth be told, Boko Haram cannot be equated in any way with the civil protest, just struggle and eventual insurgency of the Niger Delta youth. In the case of the latter also, the facts were well known to the Sultan but he merely spoke as would an elder, concerned for his own security.
For the records, in more than 50 years, the oil bearing communities of the Niger Delta lived in squalor, want, disease and total neglect. While they suffered the environmental harm caused by oil prospection and production, destruction of the mangrove swamps and farmlands and above all, denied their basic occupations of fishing and farming, the central government did very little or nothing for their socio-economic survival and infrastructural development.
Curiously, all civil agitations, protests and appeals to redress the injustice yielded no positive results. The situation was made even worse by the area’s minority status and the systemic denial of political space they needed to articulate their grievances. That deprivation continued unabated, the only known assurance then being, “be patient, there is something in the pipeline, very soon, the Niger Delta will smile”.
Plateau State Governor, Jonah Jang, captured the struggle aptly, albeit comically last year in Uyo, when, he told the Nigerian Guild of Editors Conference that, “the search for content of the pipeline repeatedly promised oil bearing communities, without corresponding action, fueled the Niger Delta youth insurgency”.
The ideology thus became, if we can’t benefit from the oil and gas production activities on our land, then, oil companies must stop production. That demand snow-balled into a more profound agitation for resource control, in the words, unless “you carry us along” a term frequently used by the youth, no more oil and gas.
In all these protests, not once did the Niger Delta youth target Mosques, simply because the serving Presidents or Heads of State since independence were predominantly Moslems from the Northern parts of the country. Not once did they bomb any newspaper house and most importantly, the membership and leadership of the insurgent groups were very well known.
That was why it was easy for the Federal Government to dialogue with the Niger Delta agitators and their political leaders, which talks led to cease-fire and eventual granting of amnesty to the repentant militants.
Who are the political and spiritual leaders of Boko Haram on whom government must depend for the group to honour any truce, if eventually reached? Last year, when the group suggested that former Head of State, Gen Mohammadu Buhari (rtd) led its delegation in dialogue with government, Buhari publicly rejected the offer and denied any ties with Boko Haram.
But as soon as Buhari’s Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) along with ACN, APGA and ANPP, merged to form All Progressive Congress (APC) the opposition state governors felt suddenly safe to visit parts of the embattled North, and departed without any incident. Is Boko Haram an opposition army?
My Agony is that His Eminence, the highly revered Sultan is being unfairly criticised for speaking as would an elder, on a kitchen stool, even if the facts were well known to him.
Methinks, the best way to understand the Sultan is to properly appraise and understand the Okrika proverb, “Bu bilema mingi, gborianga ani boke” meaning, ‘From not a single route rages the tide that submerges the mangrove swamp’.
Again, RSG Begins Unveiling, Flag-Off Of Nine Key Projects, ’Morrow
The Rivers State Government has rolled out the drums to herald another phase of official commissioning of key projects embarked upon by the Governor Nyesom Wike-led administration in the state.
A statement by the state government said that the process is in continuation of the commissioning and flag-off of projects by Governor Nyesom Wike.
It indicated that Rumuola flyover would be commissioned tomorrow, while the GRA flyover would be commissioned on Saturday.
The also stated that the government would commission the Ezimgbu Road on Monday, December 13, 2021; with another commissioning of Tombia Road Extension scheduled for Tuesday, December 14, 2021.
The statement said that the governor would commission the Safe Home, Borikiri, Port Harcourt on Wednesday, December 15; while on Thursday, December 16, 2021, the governor would commission the Odokwu internal roads.
Also, the governor would continue the flag-off of key infrastructure projects with Chokocho-Igbodo Road slated for Monday, December 20, 2021; Oyigbo-Okoloma Road on Wednesday, December 22, 2021; and Magistrates’ Court Complex, Port Harcourt on Thursday, December 23, 2021.
Wike Justifies N7bn Libel Suit Against THISDAY
Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, yesterday, appeared before the state High Court in Port Harcourt, to testify as a witness in an N7billion libel suit against THISDAY Newspaper.
Wike said he was in court to seek justice and clear his name as a person from the malicious publication by THISDAY Newspaper, which portrayed him as deceitful, untrustworthy person, who exerts subterranean influences on judicial matters and over court sittings in Port Harcourt.
It would be recalled that Wike had in August, 2020, slammed a N7billion suit being damages for libel written and published in THISDAY’s Tuesday, June 23, 2020 edition captioned, “With Wike, Obaseki Meets His PDP’s Waterloo; Almost.”
The defendants in the suit are THISDAY Newspapers Limited, Leaders and Company Limited, Davidson Iriekpan, Chuks Okocha and Adibe Emenyonu.
Wike, while testifying as witness in suit No. PHC/1505/CS/2020 before the court presided over by Justice A. Enebeli, asserted that the defendants maliciously and falsely portrayed him as an unreliable friend/person.
“When you say somebody cannot be trusted; that cannot be a fair comment. When you say somebody is influencing the Judiciary, that cannot be a fair comment”, the governor said.
In his written statement on oath, Wike had stated that the defendants had accused him of influencing the decision of the court sitting in Port Harcourt that granted an injunction restraining Godwin Obaseki from participating in the primaries of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo State in 2020.
He stated that the defendants maliciously accused him of undemocratically exerting influence on the primaries process of PDP in Edo State in aid of his ally, Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama, who was the beneficiary of the court order restraining Obaseki from participating in the PDP primaries.
The governor, who told the court that he was not even aware of the aforementioned suit by Ogbeide-Ihama against Obaseki, said the publication was reckless, false and without regards for the truth.
According to him, contrary to well-known journalistic tradition and practices, the defendants did not investigate properly to ensure the information they relied on was accurate.
“They did not seek to verify the facts from me or in any manner oblige me with the opportunity to state my own side of the story before proceeding to make the false publication” the governor argued.
Wike stated that the defendants further denigrated him before the entire world as a fake democrat, who engages in meddling in the internal affairs of All Progressives Congress (APC) in order to get at his political foe, Chibuike Amaechi.
The governor explained that he was not a member of the APC and has had no hand in the internal crisis which has bedevilled the party both in Rivers State and all over Nigeria.
“By the letter of Messrs E.C. Ukala and Co., Solicitors, under the hand of Emmanuel C. Ukala, SAN, dated 23rd June, 2020, the defendants were given opportunity to retract, and recant the publication as well as to offer apology for the false publication but the defendants spurned the opportunity and ignored the letter completely.”
The governor, while responding to claim by lawyer to the defendants, Turudu Ede, SAN, that the essence of the lawsuit was to intimidate and harass his clients, said the whole essence of the suit was to get justice and clear his name as a man of substantial character, honour and repute.
“The essence of the suit is to get justice since they (defendants) refused to retract the publication or apologise. So, I sued them to clear my name.”
Speaking to journalists outside the court, one of the lawyers to Wike, Mr. Mark Agwu said his client was in court to seek legal redress.
“To challenge him as a person, it means you have made him untrustworthy, a deceit, a cheat, an influencer of the court, because the publication they made was that he had a role to play in influencing the outcome of that Federal High Court case. Nobody will take that lightly, and especially for a man who believes in the rule of law”, Agwu added.
The court adjourned the matter for further hearing to 12th, 13th and 14th of January, 2022.
$130m Fraud: Rivers Sues Saipem SPA, Saipem Contracting Firm, Others
The Rivers State Government has charged two construction firms, Saipem SPA and Saipem Contracting Nigeria Ltd, to court over an alleged conspiracy to cheat and with intent to defraud the state of the sum of $130million, being advanced payment for the construction of the OCGT power plant in Port Harcourt.
In a 16-count criminal charge filed by the Director of Public Prosecution, C.F. Amadi for the Rivers State Attorney General, the state alleged that after collecting the said sum as advanced payment between 2011 and 2018, the defendants have not kept their obligation under the contract.
Others charged alongside the companies were Walter Peviana; Kelechi Sinteh Chinakwe; Giandomenico Zingali; Vitto Testaguzza and Davide Anelli, who are directors and officers of the companies.
The defendants are charged with various offences ranging from conspiracy, cheating and obtaining credit by false pretence, contrary to Section 518 (6) and (7) and punishable under Section 518 of the Criminal Code, Cap 37 Vol. 2 Laws of Rivers State of Nigeria, 1999, section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b) of the Criminal Code, Cap 37 Vol. 2 Laws of Rivers State, amongst others.
Already, the Rivers State Government has issued a fiat to the law firm of Godwin Obla (SAN) to prosecute the matter before the state High court.
The defendants are equally charged for the offence of false Statements by Officials of Companies contrary to and punishable under Section 436 (b).
The prosecution specifically accused the defendants of obtaining credit of $130million by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b); obtaining credit of $20,467,942.00 by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b), obtaining credit of N7,000,000,000.00 only by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b).
They are charged for obtaining credit of N318,640,173.54, by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b); attempt to cheat $97million contrary to Section 508 and punishable under Section 509; attempt to cheat $15million contrary to Section 508 and punishable under Section 509; conspiracy to receive a credit of $97million by false pretences contrary to Section 518 (6) and punishable under Section 518; cheating $11million contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421; cheating contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421; cheating N110, 097, 416.51 contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421; cheating by collecting sums attributable to shared facilities already paid for in AFAM Phase I in AFAM Phase II contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421.
Obtaining N20, 467, 942 contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421; obtaining credit of $60,168,936.00 by false pretences or other fraud, contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b); obtaining credit of $1,512,034.00 by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b) all of the Criminal Code Law of Rivers State, Cap 37 Vol. 2 Laws of Rivers State of Nigeria 1999.
According to the Proof of Evidence attached to the charge and the statement made by the Head, Power Generation/Mechanical of the Rivers State Ministry of Power, one Mr Temple Azunda M., the facts constituting the case in hand are as follows:
Saipem SPA and Saipem Contracting Nigeria Limited and other officers of the duo, herein the Defendants, are Italian companies which services have been retained by the Rivers State Government, herein RSG, in several projects, prominent amongst which is the AFAM Phase II Power Plant Project.
By an initial tripartite agreement made on the January 20, 2010, the RSG under the auspices of the Rivers State Ministry of Power entered a contract with Saipem Contracting Nigeria Limited, Saipem SPA for the construction of the OGCT power plant in Port Harcourt at a total cost of $119million consequent upon which the Rivers State Government made advance payments, in instalments, to Saipem Contracting Nigeria Ltd and Saipem SPA amounting in total to a sum of $130million in all which the Defendants have acknowledged receipt of.
The Defendants were to be given an initial mobilization of 20per cent of the total contract sum which the RSG paid.
It was part of the initial agreement – and indeed a condition sine qua non – that, to access the 2nd tranche of payment of 25per cent from the Rivers State Government, the Defendants would mandatorily have installed the Gas Turbine into the foundations as referenced in ATTACHMENT 1 to VO 007 which states that:
CONTRACTOR shall be entitled to a payment corresponding to 20per cent of the VO No. 007 LS PRICE upon mobilisation to site and commencement of bush clearing activities at SITE.
Upon commencement of bush clearing activities at the site, the contractor shall issue the invoice relevant to the above payment and the owner shall pay such invoice within 14 days from its issuance.
The parties agree that no deduction for recovery of advance payment shall apply on the payment due to the contractor for invoices issued by the contractor in accordance with this paragraph.
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