The Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), has condemned, in strong terms, the alleged recurring persecution and harassment of persons from the South-South geopolitical zone by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), over alleged cases of corruption.
PANDEF, in a statement, by its National Publicity Secretary, Ken Robinson, noted that the continued “media trial” and persecution of former public office holders, particularly from the South-South zone and other parts of Southern Nigeria, by the anti-graft agency, “is not only unethical but despicable and irksome.”
It urged the anti-graft body to stop the egregious practice, stressing, “according to our laws, an accused is ‘innocent until proven guilty’ by a competent court of law.”
The statement reads “PANDEF as a responsible organisation would not condone corruption in any way but it is the flagrancy and snobbery with which the EFCC carries out its operations that is upsetting. The EFCC has continued to conduct its operations in a manner that depicts complete disrespect for the rule of law and fundamental human rights of citizens, as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
“More disturbing is the selectiveness of its operations; from 2016 to date, under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, not less than 30 high profile persons from the South-South geopolitical zone have been harassed, persecuted and prosecuted, mostly, in the ‘court of public opinion’, rather than procedural prosecution in competent courts of law.
“Our people have continued to be maligned and denigrated by the EFCC and other state agencies; some have been hassled to death. These issues are well documented in the public sphere. Let EFCC stop persecuting our people!
“The case of retired Lieutenant General Kenneth Minimah, a former Chief of Army Staff, is one of the most preposterous. The periodic resurgence of so-called charges against Minimah and two other serving senior Army officers, in the media, since 2016, further substantiates concerns in the region that there is a determined schedule by antagonists of the South-South geopolitical zone, and indeed, the Niger Delta region; to humiliate and discredit prominent persons from the region, to erode the zone of credible leadership.
“It appears to us that the nation’s anti-graft agencies, the EFCC, in particular, have an established protocol whereby persons from certain parts of the country and certain religions are saints, while any person from the south-south zone and the Niger Delta is culpable.
“Just as the unfathomable manner in which former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, was forced out of office remains an indelible signpost of the biases and injustice against the people of the South-South geopolitical zone.
“These situations are unacceptable and must stop forthwith. This country belongs to all of us. No section owns Nigeria more than the others.
“PANDEF is mindful of the fact that the General Minimah matter is before the courts, therefore, will not comment on its specifics and substance, but the reckless and gross misconduct of the EFCC requires censure.
“It is necessary to note that General Minimah and the other Army officers had earlier gone to a Federal High Court to challenge the said suit, mainly the procedure, and seeking whether the court was competent to entertain the matter. The Federal High Court had fixed the hearing of the suit by Minimah & Co on December 9, 2021.
“But, in its usual disregard for due process and the rule of law, the EFCC defied the suit and on December 8, 2021, the eve of the suit released a statement to the media that it had charged Minimah and the other senior officers to court over an alleged diversion of N13billion meant for procurement of arms.
“Not minding that there was already a subsisting court judgment barring it from arraigning the retired General and the two others.
“It bears recalling that Justice I. E. Ekwo of Federal High Court had on December 6, 2020, ruled in suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/1595/2020 between Lt.-Gen K.T.J. Minimah (rtd), Maj-Gen A. O. Adetayo and Brig.-Gen R. I. Odi as plaintiffs/applicants and Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as defendants/respondents, that all parties in the suit maintain status-quo antebellum, pending the hearing and final determination of the Motion on Notice.
“The EFCC action again demonstrated the propensity of the anti-graft agency for engaging in malicious and unjust blighting of people’s reputation, more than fighting corruption.
“Accordingly, it may be necessary to re-echo some questions piquing the minds of well-meaning and patriotic Nigerians; why would the EFCC not obey court judgments? Is the EFCC above the law? Is the anti-graft agency dancing to tunes of persons afraid of General Minimah; bent on smearing the name and image of the retired gallant general and the nation’s former Chief of Army Staff?
“Is this the way to reward a man who had dedicated his life and service to the protection of the territorial integrity and unity of the Nigerian State? Or is it because of where he comes from? Let the truth be said, if General Minimah were a “Fulani” would EFCC or any other state agency be allowed to disparage his reputation?
“PANDEF readily notes that General Minimah, during his meritorious career in the Army, spanning over three decades; served at different levels in the Nigerian Army before he was appointed Chief of Army Staff (COAS) in January, 2014. He served as the General Officer Commanding 81 Division; Commanding Officer of the 149 Infantry Battalion; Commanding Officer of the Nigerian Battalion 2, Commandant Officer of the Nigerian Army School of Infantry and was also the Director of Standards and Combat Readiness of the Nigerian Army, at different times.
“He also served with the 72 Para-Battalion in Liberia. He was the Commanding Officer of Nigerian Battalion II with the United Nations Mission in Serra Leone.
“Perhaps, more importantly, during his period as Chief of Army Staff, it is established that the Nigerian Army turned the tide against the Boko Haram terrorists; leading to their defeat and recapture of all Nigerian territories that were hitherto under the control of the insurgents and holding of elections in those LGAs.
“PANDEF, emphatically, demand the immediate stop to these shenanigans by the EFCC against General Minimah, and indeed, any other son or daughter of the South-South Geopolitical Zone and the Niger Delta region.
“It is also pertinent to ask why a federal agency like the EFCC will be dominated by only Northern Muslims and Fulanis – to the extent that Hausa is reportedly the Lingua Franca at the agency – in a multi-ethnic nation like Nigeria.
“PANDEF, therefore, further calls on President Muhammadu Buhari to order an immediate re-organization of personnel of the agency to reflect federal character, and erase the tint that it is a tribal/religious investigation agency, out to persecute persons from other sections of the country.
“Is it not worrisome that only former governors from the South, besides Jolly Nyame and Joshua Dariye, both Christians, have been jailed by the EFCC; former Governor David Jonah Jang is also being tried, while other Northerner ex-governors, even those with established cases of corruption, are let off the hook?
“PANDEF, meanwhile, applauds and commends the Nigerian Judiciary for its courage and steadfastness in upholding justice, and for not capitulating to the apparent acts of intimidation by state agents. It is necessary to note that without the firmness of the Judiciary, the country would have been in the worst state than we are witnessing now, in terms of the violation of citizens’ fundamental human rights.”
World Bank To Fund $30bn Projects In Nigeria, Others
The World Bank has said it is set to disburse a total of $30billion to fund existing and new projects in Nigeria and other countries as part of a global response to combat the ongoing food security crisis.
According to the bank, it is working with countries on a $12billion new projects fund for the next 15 months.
It said the projects are expected to support agriculture, social protection to cushion the effects of higher food prices, and water and irrigation projects.
It added that most of the funds would go to Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and South Asia.
The global bank disclosed this when it announced how it plans to be part of a comprehensive, global response to the ongoing food security crisis.
It stated that it intends to roll out this fund in existing and new projects in agriculture, nutrition, social protection, water, and irrigation.
It said, “This financing will include efforts to encourage food and fertiliser production, enhance food systems, facilitate greater trade, and support vulnerable households and producers.”
World Bank Group President, David Malpass, said, “Food price increases are having devastating effects on the poorest and most vulnerable.
“To inform and stabilise markets, it is critical that countries make clear statements now of future output increases in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Countries should make concerted efforts to increase the supply of energy and fertilizer, help farmers increase plantings and crop yields, and remove policies that block exports and imports, divert food to biofuel, or encourage unnecessary storage.”
The bank added that its current existing portfolio includes balances of $18.7billion in projects with direct links to food and nutrition security issues, covering agriculture and natural resources, nutrition, social protection, and other sectors.
It stated, “Altogether, this would amount to over $30billion available for implementation to address food insecurity over the next 15 months. This response will draw on the full range of Bank financing instruments and be complemented by analytical work.”
FG Postpones FAAC Meeting Over AGF’s N80bn Probe
The Federal Government has announced the postponement of May, 2022 Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) meeting.
The sudden postponement may not be unconnected with the ongoing investigation of the suspended Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, over alleged fraud to the tune of N80billion.
The FAAC meeting is a monthly meeting where the federation allocates monthly revenue among the three tiers of government.
The meeting had earlier been scheduled to hold virtually between May 18 and 19, 2022.
The Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, said this in a letter signed by Director, Home Finance,Stephen Okon.
The ministry said the meeting was postponed due to “certain circumstances.
“I am directed to inform you that the Federation Account/Allocation Committee (FAAC) meetings earlier scheduled to hold/virtually on the 18th and 19th May, 2022 have been postponed due to/certain circumstances,” the circular reads.
“In view of the foregoing, I am to further inform you that the new date for the meetings will be forwarded to you in due course.
“While we regret the inconveniences this change might cause you, please accept the assurances of the Minister’s warm regards,” the letter read in part.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had on Monday arrested and detained Idris over an alleged N80billion fraud.
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, announced indefinite suspension of Idris, last Wednesday.
Ahmed said the suspension “without pay” was to allow for “proper and unhindered investigation” in line with public service rules.
Nigerian Out-Of-School Children Hit 18.5m
Nigeria has 18.5million out-of-school children (OSC), the highest number in the world, and out of the figure, 10million are girls, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) has said.
The Chief of UNICEF Field Office in Kano, Rahama Farah, stated this at a media dialogue on ‘Girls’ Education under the Girls’ Education Project 3, GEP 3’, funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), and implemented by UNICEF.
“For those lucky to be in school, their condition is also not enviable given the situation of public schools in the country. Only recently, the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), said 50per cent of schools in Nigeria lack basic furniture”Farah said.
The Executive Secretary of the commission, Hamid Bobboyi, said this in Abuja at a one-day civil society organisations’ CSO-Legislative Roundtable Meeting where some National and State Houses of Assembly members were present.
According to him, emerging constraints in basic education delivery in the country may necessitate an increase in the consolidated revenue funds from the current two per cent to four per cent.
He buttressed his position for an increase in funding on the security challenges bedevilling the country, insisting that rising student population also poses urgent need for teaching facilities.
Also speaking, the Chairman of Senate Committee on Basic Education, represented by Senator Frank Ibezim, decried the failure of State Universal Basic Education Boards (SUBEBs), to sustain some UBEC-initiated projects such as classrooms and libraries earlier introduced by the commission in all constituencies in the country.
While commending UBEC over the construction of classrooms in schools across the country, he lamented the poor maintenance culture, noting that there is no school in the country that does not have a dilapidated block.
A representative of MacArthur Foundation, Mr Dayo Olaoye, called on stakeholders to review the impact of the country’s annual budget on education, stressing that it was not enough that the country is increasing its budget to the sector.
“As we think about reforms, let us think beyond buildings that have been delivered, let us start thinking about how many children have been brought to school,” he said.
“If classrooms are dilapidated, and there are not enough furniture, what about teachers and the quality of the ones available? The Registrar, Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN), Prof. Josiah Ajiboye, said there are over 300,000 unqualified teachers in the system.
“Education is very important to be left in the hands of quacks and that is why at TRCN, we are stepping up efforts at ridding the system of unqualified hands. We implore teachers and their employers to take advantage of the various windows TRCN is providing to improve the quality of teachers in the country so as to get better results from our education system,” he said.
For the General Secretary of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Dr Mike Ene, there is need for better funding of the education sector.
He noted that in many states, teachers are overwhelmed by the number of pupils and students they handle.
“In so many states, there is inadequacy of teachers. Some states have not recruited teachers in the last 10 years and yearly, teachers are leaving the system through retirement, resignation or even death. Worse hit by poor staffing are schools in the rural areas. Such schools are called hard-to-staff schools.”
It is in that regard that the welfare packages announced by the Federal Government are very much necessary,” he said.
Also speaking on the issue, the National President of the National Association of Parent-Teacher Association of Nigeria (NAPTAN), Alhaji Haruna Danjuma, decried the manner some state governments are implementing the Basic Education Policy of the government whereby pupils and students in primary and junior secondary schools are to enjoy free education and are given textbooks in some core subjects.
“Some states are not doing well in that respect. They have abandoned the programme. They are not funding education as it ought to be funded. Even counterpart funds that some states should put down to complement the funds from UBEC are not provided. Some states have even misused UBEC funds and are suspended from getting further grants.
“We are talking now about our tertiary institutions that are grounded by workers’ strikes, the basic education level, which is the foundation, is not faring better too. Something urgent must be done to redress the situation before the sector collapses finally,” he noted.
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