The United States Government has said that it pushes for commitment when repatriating to countries looted funds in its domain to ensure transparency and accountability and strengthen anti-corruption prevention.
It said it was for this reason the agreements signed during the release of the funds often include the specified use of the funds, as observed in the August 23, 2022 and 2020 agreements with Nigeria.
The latest agreement indicated that the $23million recently transferred to the Federal Government, which would be administered by the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), would help in financing the Second Niger Bridge, Lagos–Ibadan Expressway and the Abuja-Kano Road.
The US has in recent years returned to Nigeria $334.7million, including the $311.7million returned in 2020, stolen by former Head of State, late Gen. SaniAbacha.
The US Department of State’s Coordinator of Global Anti-Corruption, Richard Nephew, in his response to our correspondent’s enquiries as part of his maiden press briefing recently noted that the US would continue to work aggressively to prosecute money launderers and their facilitators for the benefit of the people harmed by corruption around the world.
He stated, “When negotiating these agreements, the United States, led by my counterparts in the Department of Justice, pushes for commitments by countries to strengthen anti-corruption prevention and legal frameworks, enhance enforcement efforts through effective investigation and prosecution, and ensure transparency and accountability in asset return.
“With respect to the agreement signed on August 23, the United States transferred 100per cent of the net forfeited assets totalling approximately $23million to the Federal Republic of Nigeria to support three critical infrastructure projects in Nigeria that were previously authorised by Nigerian President, MuhammaduBuhari, and the Nigerian legislature”.
He noted that important safeguards were inserted in the agreements to ensure transparency.
Nephew added, “The August 23 agreement is consistent with the approach taken in the agreement signed in 2020 by the US Department of Justice and the governments of the Bailiwick of Jersey and Nigeria, through which approximately $311million in stolen assets linked to SaniAbacha’s embezzlement schemes were recovered.
“Both agreements are comprehensive in that they include specified uses of the funds but also important safeguards to ensure transparency and accountability, including administration of the funds and projects by the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority, financial review by an independent auditor, and monitoring by an independent civil society organisation with expertise in engineering and other areas.”
Meanwhile, Nephew pointed out that since the United States launched the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative in 2010, the Department of Justice had filed cases in court to confiscate over $3.4billion in corruption proceeds, confiscated over $1.7billion of the assets and returned or assisted in the return of over $1.6billion to the economies from which the money was stolen.
He noted that Nigeria and some other countries owned a significant amount of the sum.
He added, “Importantly, this is an aggregate amount from a variety of countries. A significant portion of these assets have involved criminal proceeds linked to Nigeria, but also Malaysia, Ukraine, and several other countries involving smaller amounts like the Philippines, the Republic of Korea, Taiwan, Armenia, Equatorial Guinea, Panama, Canada, and Peru.”
He noted that there was no silver bullet to solve corruption, but that without a strong legal system to enforce laws, investigate and prosecute corrupt actors consistently, and without systems to enforce transparent processes around public procurements or hiring within the public sector, corruption often flourished.
15 Judges Face Probe Over Alleged Misconduct
No fewer than 15 Judges of the Federal and State High Courts are in trouble over alleged misconduct occasioned by petitions from individuals and corporate bodies.
Already, the National Judicial Council (NJC) has set up high-powered probe panels to investigate alleged gross misconduct allegations brought against them.
The probe panels are to determine the culpability of the judges in the various petitions filed against them.
However, the NJC did not name the judges to be probed, their divisions and specific nature of their alleged offences.
It, however, revealed that the council dismissed petitions against 51 judicial officers of the Federal and State High Courts for either lack of merit, being subjudice, or being matters for appeal or that the concerned judge had retired from service.
A statement by the NJC issued by Director of Information, Mr. Soji Oye, last Friday, in Abuja, confirmed that the decision to investigate the alleged erring judges was taken at the council’s 99th meeting presided over by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola.
The decision, the NJC said, was sequel to the submission of recommendations of three Preliminary Complaint Assessment Committees, which considered 66 petitions forwarded to them by the council from all over the federation.
The statement explained that the council was formally presented with the reviewed Judicial Information Technology Policy, which established the general requirements and responsibilities for the Nigerian Judiciary systems and information.
“The policy provides for guidance of Courts and Judicial Bodies in protecting Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability (CIA) of Judiciary function and process.
“It also stipulates guidance for acceptable use of system, services and technologies as well as provisions for secure storage of judicial data and recovery processes in the event of emergencies or distress.
“Similarly, it further provides guidelines and incident management policies, including Data Centre deployment and use policies.
“The scope is intended for all Courts and Judicial Bodies in Nigeria, including staff of the Nigerian Judiciary, employed or contracted to any Judicial Body handling information that is generated, received, stored, transmitted, or printed.
“It encompasses all personal or Judiciary identifiable data held in their Courts and Judicial Bodies’ systems and process, including supporting mechanisms and technologies for managing such data at rest or in transit.
“All staff are expected to comply with the policy and associated standard protocols and procedures that have been put in place to support the document.
“The policy is applicable to all courts unit, departments of all Judicial Bodies in the Nigerian Judiciary.
“Council noted appointments of judicial officers recommended for appointment at the last meeting who have been sworn–in as Judges of Federal and State High Courts.
“Reports from Standing and ad-hoc Committees of the Council were also presented at the Meeting as well as notifications of retirement of 16 judges and notification of death of a judge from the Federal and State High Courts,” the NJC said.
Expose Govs Pilfering LG Funds, Wike Dares Buhari
Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, has dissociated himself from state governors who dip their hands into local government funds received from the Federation Account.
Wike was reacting to the accusation by President Muhammadu Buhari that governors had continued to deliberately deplete remittances released to various LG councils in their states.
The Rivers State governor, who spoke at the inauguration of Mgbuosimini Ring and internal roads in Rumueme Kingdom of Obio/Akpor Local Government Area, last Friday, said the generalisation done by Buhari was unfair.
The governor stated that since 2015, he has never had any reason to tamper with local government funds.
He, therefore, challenged Mr President, as a true leader, to tell Nigerians those governors pilfering council funds.
“You said the governors are taking local government funds. I want to say in the name of almighty God, I have never touched local government funds one day.
“I have never, and I have no reason to do that. So, Mr. President, tell us who are those people. You know them, tell us. It is not good to make class defamation by saying governors. Please, I am not one of those governors.
“So, Mr President, please, spare me, tell Nigerians that the Integrity Governors are not part of them. We have integrity. And do us a favour to announce all those state governors that are taking local government money because you have the records.”
Wike emphasised that when he was a council chairman under the administration of Dr. Peter Odili, the governor then never touched their funds, adding that that was an example he had continued to practice.
He noted that ordinarily, most of the road projects his administration had constructed should have been done by local government councils, but quickly stressed that he has never asked any council for partnership to fund any project.
“When I was chairman of local government under Dr. Peter Odili, he never touched one Naira of local government funds. When I was chairman, nobody touched my funds, and I see no reason why I will begin to touch other people’s funds.”
Wike explained that his administration had also given optimal consideration to the payment of pension and gratuity.
According to him, over N3billion was spent monthly by the state government to cater for that concern.
Commenting on the Mgbuosimini roads, Wike said the inauguration event was remarkable because he had always enjoyed over 98percent support from the Rumueme Kingdom.
“In Rumueme Kingdom, I have always had 98percent support. And I have told them, there is nothing within my powers that I can do, and I will not do for them.”
The governor recounted that he had sited Dr. Nabo Graham Douglas Campus of the Nigerian Law School, the Judges’ Quarters, relocated the state’s abattoir from Trans Amadi to the Rumueme Kingdom, as well as elevated the traditional stool to first class status.
“It is the benefit and dividend of democracy. So, you have done well for me. I will never turn my back against you. Rumueme people, God will continue to bless you for all you have done for me in my political career.”
Wike also spoke about the employment into the state civil service soon, and assured Rumueme people of filling their quota.
The governor also urged them to extend their support to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate, Sir Siminialayi Fubara and all senatorial, House of Representatives and State Assembly candidates of the party in the 2023 elections.
Performing the inauguration of Mgbuosimini Ring and internal roads, Benue State Governor, Dr. Samuel Ortom, aligned with Wike that Buhari should name the governors misappropriating local government council funds.
He noted that by delivering such road project to the community, Wike had improved the wellbeing of the people.
“Governor Wike, I want to thank you for setting the pace in project execution. God will bless you. Like has been said, the essence of government, apart from providing security for life and property, is to ensure welfare, which you are doing here.”
Ortom mentioned that commissioning of projects was one virtue he learnt from Wike.
This, he said, has helped him to be more visible and seen to be a governor who delivers projects too.
“One thing that I can say, amongst others, that I have learned from my brother, the governor of Rivers State, is his commissioning of projects. Because if you don’t do it, your enemies will go out there to say this is the project they had done.
“And this is the blackmail that I faced back home in Benue State until Wike told me that look, you have to start commissioning projects.”
Providing the description of the project, Rivers State Commissioner for Works, Dr. Dakorinima Alabo George-Kelly, said the Mgbuosimini Ring and internal roads project was approximately 6km long, with an average width of 7.3meters and 8km of drains length, with 100millimetre asphaltic thickness.
George-Kelly emphasised that the roads were built to last for a long time, and offers such benefits of improving the value of property in the area, ease traffic flow and serve as an alternate traffic route for the people.
In his address, Chairman of Obio/Akpor Local Government Area, Barrister George Ariolu, recalled that before the roads were reconstructed, most businesses and tenants left the community because of the deplorable condition of the roads.
He noted that the situation now, was a return of the bustling commercial activities and delightful socio-cultural life.
Speaking on behalf of the contractor, Ferotex Construction Company, Mr. Jack Afara, said the roads had been done with highest standard of road construction.
He thanked the Rivers State governor for entrusting the company with the project, and several others.
RVHA Passes 2023 Appropriation Bill Of N555bn
Less than two weeks after the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, presented the 2023 Budget, the state House of Assembly has passed the 2023 Appropriation Bill after it was adjusted from about N550billion to over N555billion.
The Speaker of the House and who also chairs House Committee on Supplies, Hon Ikuinyi-Owaji Ibani, during a debate on the bill, last Friday, granted leave to adjust the budget estimate after scrutinising the report submitted by the Chairman, House Committee of Appropriation, Hon. Enemi Alabo George, to accommodate some items not captured in the budget, which include registration of West African Examinations Council (WAEC) for students of Rivers origin and the take off of the Justice Mary Odili Judicial Institute.
The Leader of the House, Hon. Martin Amaewhule, representing Obio/Akpor Constituency 1, who led the debate on the report of the House Committee on Appropriation, said the House was empowered to make adjustments, where necessary, in the appropriation estimate before passage.
Also, member representing Obio/Akpor Constituency 2 and Chairman, House Committee on Works, Hon Michael Chinda, in his submission, said during the budget defense with MDAs, it was observed that some of the projects listed in the budget by the Ministry of Works in the last budget had not been awarded, and advised that such projects should be awarded or be removed totally from the 2023 budget estimate.
While ruling on the debate, Ibani, said that the budget would enhance more projects for the people of the state.
All members voted for the passage of the budget while the House adjourned sitting to Tuesday.
By: Ike Wigodo
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