The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government to “immediately withdraw the clumsy, arbitrary and selective looters’ list, released last week, as the list would seem to serve a political objective or carry out political agenda.”
The organisation said: “This kind of action can only diminish the government’s ability to fight corruption, frustrate its oft-expressed goal of a transparent governance, allow suspected perpetrators — whether from the All Progressives Congress (APC) or the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) – to escape justice, and ultimately, deny victims of corruption justice and effective remedies.”
It would be recalled that the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed had, last Friday, released a list of some of those who have allegedly looted the nation’s treasury.
The names in the list revealed were mostly PDP chieftains who are currently being tried for corruption and financial crimes.
But reacting to the one-sided list, SERAP, in a statement, yesterday, by its Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni said: “The authorities should withdraw the looters’ list and come up with a comprehensive list as ordered by Justice Hadiza Shagari last year. Allowing the published looters’ list to stand will undermine the credibility of the government’s claim to fight corruption, and signal to Nigerians that it is not serious to satisfactorily address the allegations of grand corruption under the former government of President Goodluck Jonathan and involving those close to this government.”
According to the organization, “If Buhari is truly interested in vindicating the rule of law and the proper administration of justice, his government will do well to genuinely obey Justice Shagari’s judgment ordering the authorities to ‘tell Nigerians the full names of all suspected looters of the public treasury past and present.’ Few things would go farther in fostering and nurturing our system of constitutionalism, democracy, and the rule of law.”
The statement read in part: “This politicized list comes at a time when the government is promoting itself as a beacon of transparency and accountability, and a model for other African countries to follow. The authorities ought to have resisted the temptation to put out this shambolic list and instead obeyed the spirit and the letter of Justice Shagari judgment. What is at stake is not just the rule of law, but also the larger question of whether the government is really serious to fight grand corruption and combat the impunity of perpetrators, regardless of who is involved.
“The government cannot pick and choose which judgments it wants to obey even though the judgments at times may be highly unsettling. The judgment ought to have been fully obeyed and implemented even if the government would step on toes and make some politicians—whether in APC or PDP–uncomfortable.
“For the government to impose this list on Nigerians, which would seem to serve as an expedient means to an end that disregard the orders by Justice Shagari is more than a violation of law; it is a breach of trust with the Nigerian people. If disobedience of court orders becomes the norm, the ship of government would become anchorless and adrift in a sea of treacherous uncertainty that could lead to a beachhead on the land of tyranny.
“If Buhari is to renew his commitment to fight corruption regardless of whether it involves politicians from his own party and the opposition, something more than a propaganda list and hypocritical conduct is needed to restore citizens’ confidence in the ability of his government to deliver on good governance. That something more is a restoration of the rule of law.
“Our courts, interpreting our Constitution and legislation, stand as the living symbol of the rule of law. But persistent disobedience of court orders by this government has magnified its lack of respect for the rule of law. Persistent disobedience of court orders is profoundly, dangerously wrong, and a distortion of democratic principles, and ultimately, an assault on the very concept of the rule of law and judicial integrity.”
“It would be recalled that the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abukabar Malami SAN had last year disclosed President Buhari’s directive to all relevant agencies to compile documents on names of all looters with a view to fully enforcing the judgment of a Federal High Court ordering the government to release to Nigerians information about the names of high ranking public officials from whom public funds were recovered.”
The judgment delivered in July, last year, by Hon Justice Hadiza Rabiu Shagari following a Freedom of Information suit number: FHC/CS/964/2016 brought by SERAP ordered the government to tell Nigerians the circumstances under which funds were recovered, as well as the exact amount of funds recovered from each public official.
Malami made the disclosure during a meeting at his office with a delegation from SERAP in October last year.
SERAP suit followed disclosure, last year, by the Federal Government of funds recovered from some high-ranking public officials and private individuals.
In her judgment delivered on July 7, 2017, Justice Shagari agreed with SERAP that “the Federal Government has legally binding obligations to tell Nigerians the names of all suspected looters of the public treasury past and present.”
Joined as defendants in the suit are the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Muhammed and the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture.
The same day that the judgment was delivered, Malami told reporters in Abuja that government was in agreement with the ruling and would carry out the order as long as it does not amount to subjudice.
Justice Shagari also granted the following reliefs: A DECLARATION that by virtue of the provisions of Section 4 (a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2011, the Defendants are under a binding legal obligation to provide the Plaintiff with up-to-date information relating to the wide dissemination, including on a dedicated website, of information about the names of high ranking public officials from whom public funds were recovered since May, 2015, and the circumstances under which stolen public funds were returned.
Following the request, the Ministry of Information, last year, published details of the recoveries, which showed that the Nigerian government successfully retrieved total cash amount N78,325,354,631.82, $185,119,584.61, £3,508,355.46 and €11, 250 between May 29, 2015 and May 25, 2016.
Also released were recoveries under interim forfeiture, which were a combination of cash and assets, during the same period: N126,563,481,095.43, $9,090,243,920.15, £2,484,447.55 and €303,399.17. Anticipated repatriation from foreign countries totalled: $321,316,726.1, £6,900,000 and €11,826.11.
The ministry also announced that 239 non-cash recoveries were made during the one-year period.
The non-cash recoveries are – farmlands, plots of land, uncompleted buildings, completed buildings, vehicles and maritime vessels.
Subsequently, SERAP issued an FOI request and gave the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Muhammed 14 days to disclose the names of all suspected looters.
The request reads in part: “While we believe that suspects generally are entitled to be presumed innocent until proven guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction, SERAP opposes blanket non-disclosure of names of high-ranking public officials from whom some of the funds were recovered.
“SERAP insists that the public interest to know is greater than any other legitimate interest that the government might wish to protect.
“The Nigerian government has an obligation to balance whether the risk of harm to the legitimate aim (that is secrecy of ongoing corruption investigation and presumption of innocence) from disclosure of the names of public officials is greater than the public interest in accessing the information. Publishing the names of those public officials will provide insights relevant to the public debate on the ongoing efforts to prevent and combat a culture of grand corruption in the country,” SERAP argued.
UBEC, RSUBEB Begin Digital School Construction In Rivers
As part of government’s efforts to realize its dream of making the nation’s educational system a global digital community, the Federal Government, through the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) and the Rivers State Universal Basic Education Board (RSUBEB), have commenced the construction of a modern digital Smart Basic School in the state, with 14-month completion schedule.
The school, which is a pilot modern basic education facility, is designed by UBEC in collaboration with RSUBEB to entrench digitization of ICT-driven basic education system across the 36 states and FCT, Abuja.
Speaking with journalists at a brief handover ceremony of the proposed smart school site to UBEC by RSUBEB at the Community Primary School, Uzuoba in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of the state, over the weekend, the National Consultant, UBEC Smart School Project, Prof Masud Abdulkarim, said the school was designed to incorporate digital technology into the basic education system in the country, which he said, has been in practice in advanced countries for years.
Abdulkarim stated that the desire of the Federal Government was to ensure that Nigerian children were not left out in the digital space, saying that the school would have great impact on the youth and give them equal opportunity to compete globally in the technology world.
He described the school as the first of its kind in the history of the country, adding that the school would have four categories that would take care of the nursery, handicapped, primary as well as junior secondary students with a maximum of 35 persons per class of two streams.
Abdulkarim noted that with the strategy, no fewer than 700 children would be enrolled into the school.
According to him, the school would afford the children the opportunity to become robotic engineers, artificial intelligence (AI) engineers and ICT engineers, and added that as future leaders, they need to be equipped and encouraged.
The UBEC consultant commended the state government for the provision of the school for the construction of the smart school, and described the site as the most suitable across the 23 states so far visited.
“Let me thank the RSUBEB for the site, in fact, it is the best and most suitable site among the 23 states we have so far visited. Because it has an existing school structure with a fence to protect our equipment and infrastructure. Moreso, the project will impact on the schools around because they will benefit from our Wi-Fi”, he stated.
Abdulkarim called on the host community to jealously guard the project as a growing child, till its maturity to adult stage, saying that they were important stakeholders in the project.
Also speaking on behalf of the Chairman of Rivers State Universal Basic Education Board (RSUBEB), Ven Fyneface Akah, a commissioner in the board, Chief Faith Amaso, called for synergy between the contractors and host community in other to remove every impediment that may affect the delivery of the project on schedule.
Akah opined that the project, when completed, would improve basic education in the state, and expressed happiness over the commencement of the project in the state.
Rivers United Beat Young Africans Of Tanzania 1-0
Rivers United Football Club of Port Harcourt, yesterday, at the Adokiye Amasiemaka Football Stadium, trounced the Young Africans Football Club of Tanzania 1-0 in a return leg match of the ongoing Confederation of African Football Club Champions League competition.
The stadium, which was filled to capacity, witnessed a trilling encounter, which saw the crowd craving for more.
It would be recalled that Rivers United had defeated the Young Africans of Tanzania 1-0 in the first leg of the championship at the Benjamin Mkapa Stadium, Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, last Sunday.
Reacting to the feat, the Chairman of Degema Local Government Area, Hon. Michael John Williams, expressed joy over the victory of the Rivers United FC of Port Harcourt against the Young Africans of Tanzania in the ongoing Confederation of African Football (CAF) Champions League.
The match, which ended 1-0 in favour of the Rivers United FC, took place at the Adokiye Amiesimaka International Stadium in Rivers State, yesterday.
Top government officials in the state, including Rivers Deputy Governor, Dr. Ipalibo Harry Banigo; LG council chairmen and commissioners, amongst other sports enthusiasts, graced the event.
Speaking on the outcome of the match, Williams stated that the Rivers United players exhibited the Rivers team spirit, which culminated in their victory.
The political heavyweight in Degema LGA, noted that nothing would be impossible for Rivers people to achieve when they work together in unison and firm determination.
He added that the massive support and huge investment in the sports sector by the Governor Nyesom Wike administration, also motivated the Rivers team, who worked hard to secure a back-to-back victory.
By: Nelson Chukwudi
NJC Okays Six Chief Judges, 30 Others For Appointment
The National Judicial Council (NJC), has recommended the appointment of chief judges and 30 others as judicial officers to beef up judicial functions in some states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
At its 95th meeting held on September 15 and 16, 2021, the council considered the list of candidates presented by its Interview Committee, and recommended the 36 successful candidates to their respective state governors for appointment as heads of courts and other judicial officers in Nigeria.
They are Hon. Justice Richard O. Olorunfemi as chief judge, Kogi State, Hon. Justice Joe Itsebaga Acha for Edo, Hon. Justice Akintoroye Williams Akin for Ondo, Hon. Justice Husseini Baba Yusuf for FCT, Hon. Justice Ekaette Francesca Fabian-Obot for Akwa Ibom, and Hon. Justice J. O. Adeyeye for Ekiti State.
Others are Hon. Kadi Baba Gana Mahdi as Grand Kadi, Yobe; Umaru Ahmad Liman as Grand Kadi, Bauchi; Hon. Justice Osagede Osado Emmanuel as President, Customary Court of Appeal, Nasarawa; Hon. Justice Mashud Akintunde Akinfemi Abass as President, Customary Court of Appeal, Oyo State; and Siyaka Momoh Jimoh Usman as President, Customary Court of Appeal, Kogi State.
Three judges are recommended for High Court of Gombe, and they are Zainab Abdulkadir Rasheed, Abdussalam Muhammad, and Daurabo Suleiman Sikka.
Akwa Ibom has Effiong Asukwo Effiong; Bauchi has Nana Fatima Jibril; while Kaduna High Court has Abdulkarim Mahmud.
The three candidates recommended for Katsina State are Kabir Shuaibu, Ibrahim Ishaku Mashi, and Ibrahim Abubakar Mande, while Prof Alero Akeredolu was recommended for Ondo State.
Four successful candidates for Oyo State are Olusola Adebisi Adetujoye, Folabimpe Beatrice Segun Olakojo, Prof Taiwo Elijah Adewale, and Kareem Adeyimika Adedokun.
Kogi State has three candidates, and they are Abubakar Sule Ibrahim, Abdullah Sulyman, as well as Aminu Ali Eri.
Two Kadis for Sharia Court of Appeal are Adamu Kuna Jibril and Ahmed Baba Bala, while the four for Bauchi are Musa Sani Abubakar, Mahdi Manga, Khamis Al-Hamidallah Muhammad and Sani Musa with Ondo State having one in the person of Orimisan James Okorisa and Oyo Customary Court of Appeal having Ajadi Olubukola Omolayo.
A statement by the NJC Director of Information, Mr Soji Oye, and released in Abuja, yesterday, said that all the recommended candidates are expected to be sworn-in after approval by President Muhammadu Buhari, and their respective state governors, and confirmation by the respective state Houses of Assembly.
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