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More Troubles For Saraki …As FG Files Fresh Charges Against Senate President …CCT Dismisses Self-Disqualification Motion

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L-R: Minister of State for Environment, Ibrahim Usman, Minister of Environment, Amina Mohammed, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Pastor Usauni Usauni, Rivers State Commissioner for Environment, Mrs Roseline Konya at the sansitasation of stakeholders on Pre and Post Launch activities of the clean-up Ogoniland and other oil impacted communities in the Niger Delta Region in Port Harcourt, yesterday.                                                                                                        Photo: Chris Monyanaga

L-R: Minister of State for Environment, Ibrahim Usman, Minister of Environment, Amina Mohammed, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Pastor Usauni Usauni, Rivers State Commissioner for Environment, Mrs Roseline Konya at the sansitasation of stakeholders on Pre and Post Launch activities of the clean-up Ogoniland and other oil impacted communities in the Niger Delta Region in Port Harcourt, yesterday. Photo: Chris Monyanaga

The Federal Government, yesterday, filed two amended charges against the Senate President, Bukola Saraki at the Code of Conduct (CCT).
Saraki is currently standing trial on a 13-count charge bordering on false assets declaration.
Counsel to the Federal Government, Rotimi Jacobs, at the commencement of proceeding for the day after the tribunal Chairman, Danladi Umar, had dismissed the application for self-disqualification, urging the tribunal to accept the amended charges filed on April 27 so that, “the record can be set straight to what the defendant is facing.”
Saraki’s counsel, Paul Usoro, however, contended with the appeal, citing Section 216/1 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA).
He said the tribunal judge should direct the prosecution to present before the tribunal the fact that necessitated the amendment of the earlier charges.
But Rotimi, in his response, argued that the prosecution in pursuant to section 163 of the constitution, has the right to file an amended charge at anytime.
The chairman of the tribunal, in a short ruling said, “after carefully analysing section 216(1) of the Constitution, the prosecution has the right to file amended charges at anytime.
“The application of the prosecution is hereby accepted while that of the defendant contesting the application is refused,” Umar said.
The two charges read, “That you on or about September 16, 2013 within the jurisdiction of this honourable tribunal did make a false declaration in the asset declaration form for public officers which you filled and submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau upon assumption of office as the governor of Kwara State in the year 2003 by your failure to declare your leasehold interest in number 42, Remi Fani-Kayode Street, Ikeja, Lagos, which you acquired through your company, Skyview Properties Limited from First Finance Trust Limited on December 12, 1996, and you thereby committed an offence contrary to section 15(1)(2) of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act. CAP. C15, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and as incorporated under paragraph 11(1)(2),I fifth schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and punishable under section 23(2) of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act as incorporated under paragraph 18, Part I of the Fifth Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).
“That you between June 2011 and October 2013, within the jurisdiction of this honourable tribunal, did receive monthly salaries or emoluments as governor of Kwara State and at the same time, from the Federal Government as a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and you thereby committed an offence contrary to section 6(a) of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act. CAP. C15, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and as incorporated under paragraph 2(a), Part I of the, Fifth Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and punishable under section 23(2) of the Code of Conduct Bureau and tribunal act as incorporated under paragraph 18, Part I of the Fifth Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).”
Meanwhile, the Code of Conduct Tribunal in Abuja, yesterday, dismissed an application asking its Chairman, Danladi Umar, to disqualify himself and withdraw from the trial of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki.
The Federal Government is prosecuting Saraki before the Umar-led CCT on 13 counts of false asset declaration which he allegedly made between 2003 and 2011when he served as Kwara State governor.
Saraki had, in his motion, argued by his lawyer, Mr. Ajibola Oluyede, on Wednesday, asked Umar to disqualify himself on the grounds of likelihood of bias in the handling of the trial by Umar.
Oluyede argued that Umar would likely be subject to control by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on the basis that the anti-graft agency brought Saraki before the CCT for prosecution while it (EFCC) was still investigating the tribunal chairman for bribery.
But in the ruling of the two-man panel of the CCT, yesterday, Umar held that the application “lacked absolute meritý”.
He upheld the opposition of the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), to the motion, to the effect that contrary to Oluyede’s claim, the EFCC had cleared him of the bribery allegation.
He said the EFCC had by its letter dated March 5, 2015, through its then chairman, Ibrahim Lamorde, to the then Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, cleared him of the alleged crime.
He said the March 5, 2015, letter in which the EFCC indicated that the allegation against him was a mere suspicion and that it did not constitute sufficient evidence to prosecute him, superseded the earlier investigation report issued by the anti-graft agency on June 24, 2014
In the June 24, 2014 report, Adoke had endorsed on it, directing that Umar and his co-accused be prosecuted.
But Umar ruled, yesterday, that the EFCC was not answerable to the AGF in its investigation and prosecution of cases.
“The AGF cannot prosecute without sufficient evidence from investigative agencies,” Umar said.
He added that the incumbent AGF, Mr. Abubakar Malami, had said he (Umar) had been cleared while appearing before a House of Representatives’ committee which was petitioned with respect to the bribery allegation.
He recalled that Malami told the committee that he (the AGF) stood by the March 5, 2015 letter of EFCC to Adoke, indicating that there was no sufficient evidence to prosecute him (Umar).
He said, “The issue of having case to answer before the EFCC is over.
“The application lacks absolute merit and it is hereby dismissed in its entirety.”
The tribunal then directed the defence led, yesterday by Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN), to continue the cross-examination of the first prosecution witness, Mr. Michael Wetkas.
Umar was accused of demanding N10million from an accused that was appearing before the CT sometimes in 2012.

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Eid-El-Kabir: Sultan felicitates Nigerians, urges greater commitment to farming

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Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, the Sultan of Sokoto and President General of the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), has extended his felicitations to Nigerian Muslims on the occasion of Eid-el Kabir.

In his Sallah message on Sunday, Abubakar urged Nigerians to commit more to farming as a means to alleviate societal economic hardship and address the high cost of living in the country.

“We are fully aware that the leaders in the country are doing their best to ease the hardship, but more needs to be done.

“Our people, particularly in the North, are in a very difficult situation. Therefore, leaders need to do more in tackling the current challenges,” he said.

The Sultan further urged farmers to make the most of the rainy season to ensure sufficient food production to meet societal demand.

“We should all go back to farming and produce food because doing so will ease our condition and boost the country’s economy,” he advised.

Abubakar also called on Muslims to continue praying for the leaders, emphasising that only prayers could support the desired needs of any society.

He appreciated the security agencies in the country for their sustained dedication to ensuring the safety of all citizens.

The Sultan applauded Gov. Ahmed Aliyu of Sokoto State for his commitment to supporting the less-privileged in the state and urged the people to continue living peacefully with one another.

He thanked the Muslim community for the continued dedication to propagating the true essence of Islam, and urged them to have full faith that the country’s challenges would soon be over.

He also prayed for the safe return of the pilgrims in Saudi Arabia, urging them to pray for Nigeria and its leaders.

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Presidency clears misconceptions on New York Times report on Nigeria

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Mr Bayo Onanuga, Special Adviser to President Bola Tinubu on Information and Strategy, yesterday, reacted to a recent report published in New York Times on Nigeria’s economy.

He said Ruth Maclean and Ismail Auwal’s feature story titled, ‘Nigeria Confronts Its Worst Economic Crisis in a Generation,’ published on June 11, appeared typically predetermined and followed the usually denigrating way foreign media establishments reported African countries for several decades.

He said that because of the misleading slant of the report, there was need to clear up some misconceptions conveyed by the reporters as regards the economic policies of the Tinubu administration that came into power at the end of May 2023.

“Most significant about the report was that it painted the dire experiences of some Nigerians amid the inflationary spiral of last year, and blamed it all on the policies of the new administration.

“The report, based on several interviews, was all gloom and doom, as it never mentioned the positive aspects in the same economy as well as the ameliorative policies being implemented by the central and state governments,” said Onanuga.

According to him, President Tinubu did not create the economic problems Nigeria faces today.

“He inherited them. As a respected economist in our country once put it, Tinubu inherited a dead economy.

“The economy was bleeding and needed quick surgery to avoid being plunged into the abyss, as happened in Zimbabwe and Venezuela.

“This was the background to the policy direction taken by the government in May/June 2023, with the abrogation of the fuel subsidy regime and the unification of the multiple exchange rates standing out.”

The Special Adviser said that for decades, Nigeria had maintained a fuel subsidy regime that gulped 84.39 billion dollars between 2005 and 2022 from the public treasury in a country with huge infrastructural deficits and in high need of better social services.

He said the state oil firm, NNPC Ltd, the sole importer, had amassed trillions of naira in debts for absorbing the unsustainable subsidy payments in its books.

“By the time Tinubu took over the leadership of the country, there was no provision made for fuel subsidy payments in the national budget beyond June 2023.

“The budget itself had a striking feature: it planned to spend 97 per cent of revenue servicing debt, with little left for recurrent or capital expenditure. The previous government had resorted to massive borrowing to cover such costs.

“Like oil, the exchange rate was also being subsidised by the government, with an estimated 1.5 billion dollars spent monthly by the CBN to ‘defend’ the currency against the unquenchable demand for the dollar by the country’s import-dependent economy,” explained Onanuga.

He stated that by keeping the rate low, arbitrage grew as a gulf existed between the official rate and the rate used by over 5,000 Bureau de Change (BDCs) that were previously licensed by the Central Bank.

“What was more, the country was failing to fulfil its remittance obligations to airlines and other foreign businesses, such that FDIs and investment in the oil sector dried up, and notably Emirate Airlines cut off the Nigerian route.

“President Tinubu had to deal with the cancer of public finance on the first day by rolling back the subsidy regime and the generosity that spread to neighbouring countries. Then, his administration floated the naira,” said Onanuga.

He said that after some months of the storm, with the naira sliding as low as N1,900 to the US dollar, some stability was restored, though there remained some challenges.

“The exchange rate is now below N1,500 to the dollar, and there are prospects that the naira could regain its muscle and appreciate to between N1,000 and N1,200 before the end of the year.

“The economy recorded a trade surplus of N6.52 trillion in Q1, as against a deficit of N1.4 trillion in Q4 of 2023. Portfolio investors have streamed in as long-term investors.

“When Diageo wanted to sell its stake in Guinness Nigeria, it had the Singaporean conglomerate, Tolaram, ready for the uptake,” he said.

He was emphatic that with the World Bank extending a 2.25 billion dollar loan and other loans by the AfDB and Afreximbank coming in, Nigeria had become bankable again.

He explained that such was all because the reforms being implemented had restored some confidence.

“The inflationary rate is slowing down as shown in the figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics for April. Food inflation remains the biggest challenge, and the government is working very hard to rein it in with increased agricultural production.

“The Tinubu administration and the 36 states are working assiduously to produce food in abundance to reduce the cost. Some state governments, such as Lagos and Akwa Ibom, have set up retail shops to sell raw food items to residents at a lower price than the market price.

“The Tinubu government, in November last year, in consonance with its food emergency declaration, invested heavily in dry-season farming, giving farmers incentives to produce wheat, maize, and rice,” he said.

According to Onanuga, the CBN has donated N100 billion worth of fertiliser to farmers, and numerous incentives are being implemented, adding that in the western part of Nigeria, six governors had announced plans to invest massively in agriculture.

“With all the plans being executed, inflation, especially food inflation, will soon be tamed.

“Nigeria is not the only country in the world facing a rising cost of living crisis. The USA, too, is contending with a similar crisis, with families finding it hard to make ends meet. US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen raised this concern recently.

“Europe is similarly in the throes of a cost-of-living crisis. As those countries are trying to confront the problem, the Tinubu administration is also working hard to overturn the economic problems in Nigeria.

“Our country faced economic difficulties in the past, an experience that has been captured in folk songs. Just like we overcame then, we shall overcome our present difficulties very soon,” said Onanuga.

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Rivers Tourism Agency, Mayor of Housing Seal Deal After Economic Summit

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…..Set to Restore Rivers Leadership Status In Tourism, Entertainment

The Rivers State Tourism Development Agency (RSTDA) has sealed partnership deal with the Mayor of Housing to boost tourism and entertainment.

This is aimed at rebooting the economy of the state  as the state government seeks to boost ease of doing business (EoDB).

The partnership was sealed after the Rivers State Economic and Investment Summit which ended on May 23, 2024.

The partnership was unveiled at an event at the GRA where the Director-General (DG) of the RSTDA, Mr Yibo Koko, gave details of what he called the low hanging fruits initiative to tap into obvious advantages.

He presented the Mayor of Housing, My-Ace China, the CEO of the Housing and Construction Limited, who has demonstrated capacity and willingness to join in the task.

It was gathered that some banks have also indicated interest in partnering with the Agency to achieve the objective of Sir Sim Fubara’s administration in the Tourism sub-sector.

It was gathered that tourism alone can restart the economy, based on what worked for the state in years past when the city led other states and cities in entertainment and tourism.

The new role of the RSTDA seemed to have been rediscovered at the economic summit and fresh mandates with marching orders may have been issued.

The DG of the Rivers State Tourism Development Agency (RSTDA) spoke glowingly about the gains of the Rivers State Economic Summit and the Creative Art, saying the Mayor of Housing was part of the panel on creative economy and his participation led to the decision to go back and start from the ‘Low Hanging Fruits Initiative’.

He said Gov Fubara’s body language suggests positivity and this has led to trickling effects on creative economy and the young people.

He gave insight into how reputations are ruined online, saying Algorithm or Artificial Intelligence (AI) picks what comes online most frequently and uses it to characterize a person or place for profiling.

“So, when people click on your name, what comes up is the thing AI says you are. For Rivers State, it’s the steady bad news in the media that AI picks to brand the state.

“The RSTDA wants to reverse that and we want the many good things happening in the state to be brought up deliberately.

“The state government wants entrepreneurs and investors to be the ones driving wealth creation and the growth of the economy. We want to bring back the vibrancy of the Garden City and we know the role tourism and entertainment can play.”

He took time to articulate what constitutes the low hanging fruits and how the RSTDA planned to harvest them with support from partners, especially the Mayor of Housing.

Speaking, the Mayor of Housing (My-ACE China) expressed delight working with the RSTDA.

He said: “I started estate business in Abuja. In 2021, we wanted to extend to Port Harcourt, but the first thing the CEO of our company then told me was all about insecurity in the Garden City and all the associated hypes.

“He asked me how I would need over five Mopol (Military Police Operatives) to move about in Port Harcourt. The narrative then was that Port Harcourt was unstable and unsafe. We argued and agreed I would be the one to go, and if I was killed, he would stay away.

“Coming into Port Harcourt at last, I was shocked at the peace and stability, at the hospitality, at the liveliness, cuisine, housing potentials, etc.

“In housing, we were more than 100 brands in Abuja hustling for space, but I came into Port Harcourt and saw only two active brands. It was like I could beat them ad be the topmost.

“I called my people and said, this is a deep market. I staged the biggest event in Port Harcourt. It was shocking. People came out because of the shouting I did.

“This was the same Port Harcourt they said would swallow me.

|When I went into the nitty-gritty of doing business in Port Harcourt, I found why the narrative was looking gloomy.”

He said there was a political dilution of people’s goodwill  and  most persons in the state were victims, including top people doing so well.

“I discovered that there are very many unsung people here that felt they would not make it unless they went to Lagos.

“So, I chose the comedy industry to start the push to sell Port Harcourt with positive narrative and restart of the story of the city.I began to sponsor them with whatever little I had.

“I am the first corporate body to scale Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) because others start CSR when they make it, but I started from the start or even before the start of my project.

According to him, as at this year, we have won ‘brand of the year’ for three years running just by doing little by little.”

“So, part of the fundamental things why we are here today is to tell everybody that the awareness and deliberate narrative change can start now and here; and we can begin to talk about the positives of Rivers State, we can skew the algorithm back in our favour.

“If Lagos State has 15 million people and they have less people talking about their potential, that would reduce visibility to the work of about three million people. Rivers with six million people need to work harder. If 50 per cent or more of our people talk about the positives of this state, it will beat that pattern or algorithm.

So, the idea is, who else will tell them. The good book said how will they hear, if somebody doesn’t preach to them. We thus put this meeting together so you can all preach the message of the positives of Rivers State.

“When this competition as outlined by the DG (of the RSTDA) begins, it would launch Rivers State back as the tourism capital of the world. By the story told by the DG, if the tourism promoters of Dubai could come to Port Harcourt to promote a show and only seven persons showed up, the small number was not because there was scarcity of talent or lack of interest from the youths of Rivers State, it was because of lack of narrative-pushing to tell the youths that there was opportunity somewhere.

“When I started my project in Alesa Eleme, I was told don’t go, they do worry. But today, I have not even started the project proper and I have got an award from the same Alesa Elele youths as ‘Hero of Development’ all because of little corporate social responsibility (CSR) things I did for them.

“It broke my heart when they came to me and said they could secure our facility. They said all we needed to give them were equipment and gears not costing up to N5m. We did that donation in December 2023 but I was weak when they said for 20 years, no company had donated those things.

“It is about the narrative being peddled around the state and around the communities. The story is not being told. If you don’t load the search engine with good stories, you won’t move up on the scale of attractive cities and investments.

“Let’s get to the level of knowing what to tell and what not to”, he said .

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