The trial of the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki, yesterday, took a dramatic twist as one of the Senate President’s lawyers, Kanu Agabi, engaged the Code of Conduct Tribunal Chairman, Danladi Umar, in a heated argument over adjournment of trial.
This happened shortly after the tribunal resumed sitting after the matter was stood down for over one hour.
Upon resumption of sitting, Agabi moved for adjournment of the matter.
Agabi said, “My lord, we need time to rest, you worked so hard as a lawyer and till now, still working hard. We need time to rest.
“This profession is destroying its professionals as we are made to sit in for a whole day during some proceedings. I know many of my colleagues who have died and their wives are now widows because of this kind of action.
“All I ask for is an adjournment to allow us rest.
“As early as 2am, I’m in my office preparing for this matter so I beg for time.”
But the tribunal chairman who was becoming furious turned down the appeal, saying the matter is a summary one and as such must go on.
“We just got back from break and you are asking for an adjournment?
“This matter is a summary one and we want to get it done with as soon as possible.
On the matter taking a whole day, Umar said, “This is the price we have to pay, the matter must continue.”
The Senate President, Bukola Saraki had arrived the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), in company of about 10 senators.
The current number is a significant drop from the previous figure of Senators who accompanied Saraki to the tribunal.
Saraki is currently standing trial at the tribunal for alleged false declaration of assets while he was the governor of Kwara State.
The Senate President had in his previous appearances at the CCT enjoyed a large company of his colleagues from the Upper legislative Chambers who had accompanied him to show their support, though yesterday witnessed a significant fall.
Also, at the tribunal to support Saraki was the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who arrived the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), later.
Donning in a white agbada and a red cap to match, the Deputy President entered the tribunal hall to the admiration of fellow Senators.
In the course of the trial yesterday, a prosecution witness, who is an operative with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Michael Wetkas, had told the tribunal how Saraki used over N522million to procure a property in Ikoyi area of Lagos State, adding that the property was part of many others not declared by the Senate President.
However, a civil society organisation known as Citizen for Defence of Democracy (CDD), yesterday, organisation a mass protest at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), demanding fairness in the ongoing trial of the Senate Present, Bukola Saraki.
The protesters were seen playing drums while displaying banners with the inscription, “Leave Saraki Alone”, “Nigerian Youth/Students to CCT, be courageous and strike out the charges against Saraki,” among others.
Convener of the protest and National Coordinator of CDD, Tochukwu Ohazuruike while speaking with newsmen just outside the tribunal premises where the protest held, said Saraki was being subjected to persecution and not prosecution.
Ohazuruike wondered why the CCT Chairman, Danladi Umar, who is on administrative bail from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), would preside over Saraki’s matter.
“Why would a man who was granted bail for corrupt practices by the same EFCC be allowed to preside over Saraki’s matter?
Ohazuruike berated the tribunal chairman for his action during yesterday’s sitting.
He said, “At yesterday’s sitting, the chairman of the tribunal was busy correcting the witness who was giving his testimony, this is unacceptable.
“I practice this same profession as the chairman and the judge is not allowed to explain to the witness what to say.
“Under the Inquisitor system of law, the judge can only ask the witness questions to indict him, but in the adversarial system which Nigeria practices, the judge is not allowed, he has to be independent,”
“We wonder the special interest in the Saraki’s matter.
“This tribunal has been sitting for years now, never has it been heard that the Chairman declared that a matter shall sit from 10am to 6pm”
Advocating for fair trial, Ohazuruike said, “This Chairman was recommended for prosecution by the last Attorney General, but the current one has shelved off that recommendation, why? And the same person is now presiding over Saraki’s matter, there is need for fairness in Nigeria’s judicial system.
Uhazuruike further stated, “We are not saying he should not be tried but the judicial institution in Nigeria should be fair in its dealings especially this particular proceedings.”
90% Of Money Laundered Via Real Estate, EFCC Reveals
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) says about 90 per cent of money laundering is done through the real estate sector.
The commission’s Chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa, stated this while featuring on Channels TV’s Sunrise Daily, yesterday,
According to him, although the sector is monitored via the special control unit, more needed to be done.
According to Bawa, “One of the problems we have now is the real estate. 90 to 100 per cent of the resources are being laundered through the real estate.”
He said there are so many issues involved, but that they were working with the National Assembly to stop what he called “the gate keepers” as there would be reduction in looting if there is no one to launder the money.
Bawa, the EFCC boss, gave an example of a minister who expressed interest in a $37.5million property a bank manager put up for sale.
He said, “The bank sent a vehicle to her house and in the first instance $20million was evacuated from her house.
“They paid a developer and a lawyer set up a special purpose vehicle, where the title documents were transferred into.
“And he (the lawyer) is posing as the owner of the property. You see the problem. This is just one of many; it is happening daily.”
The EFCC chairman also revealed that he receives death threats often.
Asked to respond to President Muhammadu Buhari’s frequent “Corruption is fighting back” expression, Bawa said he was in New York, USA, last week, when someone called to threaten him.
“Last week, I was in New York when a senior citizen received a phone call from somebody that is not even under investigation.
“The young man said, ‘I am going to kill him (Bawa), I am going to kill him’.
“I get death threats. So, it is real. Corruption can fight back,” he said.
On corruption in the civil service, he said there were a lot of gaps, especially in contracts processing, naming “emergency contracts” as one.
Bawa said, “A particular agency is notorious for that. They have turned all their contracts to emergency contracts.”
However, he said, EFCC has strategies in place to check corruptions, one of which is “corruption risk assessments of MDAs”.
According to him, “I have written to the minister and would soon commence the process of corruption risk assessments of all the parastatals and agencies under the Ministry of Petroleum Resources to look at their vulnerability to fraud and advise them accordingly.”
Asked if the scope of corruption in the country overwhelms him, Bawa, the EFCC boss said, “Yes, and no.”
We’ve Spent N9bn To Upgrade RSUTH, Wike Confirms
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, says his administration has spent N9billion in upgrading structures and installation of new equipment at the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital (RSUTH).
He said the fact that 40 per cent of the 2021 budget of the state is dedicated to provision of quality healthcare delivery was a further demonstration of the priority placed on the sector.
Wike made the explanation at the foundation laying ceremony for the construction of a Renal Centre at RSUTH, last Friday.
The governor said he made promise to Rivers people that the best would be provided to them in all sectors of the society within his capability because of the mandate they gave to him.
“As we came on here, I just looked around and I see the changes in this teaching hospital. I can say that we have put not less than N9billion in this teaching hospital.
“If you look at the budget, the health sector alone, what it’s taking from the Rivers State Government is not less than 40 percent of the 2021 budget.”
Speaking further, Wike said the state government cannot afford to implement free medical service programme in the present economic circumstance.
While dismissing the request for a subvention for RSUTH, Wike, however, commended the chief medical director and his team for their commitment to turnaround the fortunes of RSUTH.
“I have never seen anywhere that health services can be totally free. They’re telling me that people who come here can’t pay. I have never declared that this state is going to take over the health fees of anybody.”
Also speaking, the former Minister of Transport, Dr. Abiye Sekibo, who performed the flag-off, noted that Wike’s achievements in the health sector in particular, surpass what former governors of the state had done.
Sekibo said that the governor has given equal attention to every section of the health sector by providing complete health infrastructure that was positioning the state as a medical tourism destination in Nigeria.
Earlier, the Rivers State Commissioner for Health, Prof Princewill Chike, lauded Governor Nyesom Wike for his interest in the health of Rivers people.
He noted that the renal centre, when completed, would become another landmark development project in the health sector that would handle and manage all kidney-related ailments.
In his remarks, the Chief Medical Director of the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital, Dr. Friday Aaron, commended Wike for approving the renal centre.
Aaron explained that chronic kidney disease was a major burden globally with estimated 14 million cases in Nigeria.
According to him, over 240,000 of these cases require renal replacement therapy in the form of dialysis and renal transplant.
The CMD said the building that would house the centre was expected to be completed in six months and consists of two floors.
The ground floor, according to him, would house the haemodialysis unit with eight haemodialysis machines.
He further explained that the first floor of the centre would house the surgical component where most of the sophisticated equipment for kidney transplant would be installed.
Aaron said Wike has released the funds required to build, equip the centre as well as for the training of personnel locally and internationally.
Power Generation Falls 23% To 3,172MW
Power supply in Nigeria has failed to improve on last week’s performance, as it fell by 22.9 per cent from peak generation of 4,115Megawatts on Saturday to 3,172.20MW as at 5pm, yesterday, latest data from the System Operator has shown.
According to the data, most power plants were operating far below capacity due to gas shortage with Olorunsogo Power Plant 335MW capacity; and Sapele Power Plant, 450MW capacity; completely out.
Egbin was generating at 746MW; Omoku 37.20; Omotosho (NIPP) at 105MW; while Afam was generating at 80MW.
The data showed that on the average power generation in the past seven days were 4,120.9MW on Sunday, June 6; 4,249.4 on Monday, June 7; 4,000.9MW on Tuesday, June 8; 3,720.7 on Wednesday, June 9; 3,517 on Thursday, June 10; 3,765MW on Friday, June 11; and 4,115MW on Saturday, June 12.
The International Oil Companies (IOCs), had last warned that despite Nigeria’s huge gas reserves a lot needs to be done to attract investment to the sector to develop gas reserves to boost power generation in the country.
Speaking at the just concluded Nigeria International Petroleum Summit, the Chair, Shell Companies in Nigeria/MD SPDC, Osagie Okunbor, said with 203trillion Cubic Feet of gas reserves, what was needed in the country is to deliver projects that would produce the gas.
“The challenge is not just growing the reserves but in producing these reserves for the benefits of our country. Essentially growing the reserves and delivering on the production is a function of two or three elements.
“I like to see infrastructure that is required for the development of these resources at two levels. Soft infrastructure is often the one that is more important than and that is the one that is actually drives most of what you see at site.”
“Soft infrastructure refers to the enabling environment and nothing pleases me as much seeing both the Senate President and the speaker of the house give very firm commitments about trying to pass the PIB this month.
“That is probably the big one of the enabling environment to provide the kind of stability we also need all sorts of other issues we need to that we have discussed severally in terms of sanctity of contract, stable policies and collaboration and I think we are well on our way there”, he added.
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