IDPs Grass: Refer Babachir to EFCC, ICPC—SERAP Begs Buhari
By Dipo Olowookere
President Muhammadu Buhari has been urged to use his good offices and leadership position “to urgently refer the allegations of corruption against the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Babachir David Lawal, to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) for further investigation.
This call was made in an open letter by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).
The group also appealed to President Buhari to “urgently publish the outcome of the investigation conducted on the matter by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami (SAN), and to ask Mr Malami to hand over the file to both the EFCC and ICPC.”
In the letter dated 27 January 2017 and signed by SERAP executive director, Mr Adetokunbo Mumuni, the organization said, “We are concerned that the failure to suspend Mr Lawal from his position as Secretary to the Government of the Federation pending the investigation by Mr Malami, and the perceived lack of transparency in the outcome of that investigation may have created the impression that your government is treating Mr Lawal as a sacred cow.”
The letter, copied to the Acting President Professor Yemi Osinbayo, reads in part: “SERAP believes that Mr Lawal’s case presents your Administration with a real opportunity to reassure a lot of Nigerians who may be worried about the direction of travel of your anti-corruption agenda.
“Rather than assuming a defensive posture to the matter, we advise you to use this case to show to Nigerians that there will be no two standards of justice in your Administration’s fight against corruption.
“SERAP also believes the recommended approach would help to address the growing public suspicion and pessimism about your government’s ability to fight high-level official corruption to a standstill, and to avoid any collateral consequences.
“It is absolutely important that the public should have complete confidence and trust in your Administration’s oft-repeated commitment to fight corruption and the impunity of perpetrators.
“It is true that Mr Lawal enjoys a constitutionally and internationally guaranteed right to a fair trial, which includes the right to be presumed innocent unless and until proved guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction.
“But we believe that the right to presumption of innocence is one that should have personally be raised by Mr Lawal and not your government, especially given his position as Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
“SERAP believes that the guilt or innocence of Mr Lawal is for the court to decide, following a due process of law.
“To assist the government to achieve public confidence and trust, effectively spread the gospel of anticorruption, and be on the right side of history, SERAP made the following recommendations: Urgently refer the allegations against Mr Lawal to both the EFCC and ICPC for further investigations, and if there is relevant and sufficient admissible evidence, for him to face prosecution; Pending the referral to the EFCC and ICPC, to suspend Mr Lawal from his position as Secretary to the Government of the Federation, pending the outcome of any investigation by the EFCC and ICPC; Promptly and widely publish the outcome of investigation carried out by Mr Malami and instruct that any files relating to that investigation be handed over to the EFCC and ICPC to assist in their follow-up investigation “SERAP notes that following a report by the Senate ad hoc committee which indicted Mr Lawal over alleged breach of Nigeria’s law in handling contracts awarded by the Presidential Initiative for the North East, PINE, you reportedly instructed Mr Malami to carry out further investigation into the allegation.
“Among other allegations contained in the Senate’s report is that Mr. Lawal’s company, Global Vision Ltd benefited from inflated contracts of over N200 million to clear ‘invasive plant specie’ in Yobe State.
“According to the report, Mr Lawal was still the director of Global Vision as of the time the contract was awarded in March 2016, and remains the signatory to the company’s account.
“SERAP further notes your instruction to Mr Malami to carry out further investigation into the allegations, as well as your recent letter to the Senate effectively raising some technical and procedural concerns about the report which indicted Mr Lawal.”
NDDC Seeks Partnerships to Reduce Dependency on IOCs, FG for Funding
By Adedapo Adesanya
The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has disclosed plans not to rely on oil multinationals and the federal government to raise funds for development projects in the region but instead pursue Public-Private Partnerships arrangements to drive development in the Niger Delta region.
According to the NDDC Managing Director, Mr Samuel Ogbuku, this PPP model would ease the financial burden of the central government.
Mr Ogbuku, speaking during an Executive Management and staff meeting at the commission’s headquarters in Port Harcourt, announced that a summit was in the offing to enable stakeholders to explore opportunities for collaboration.
He stated the NDDC would not relent in its PPP campaign to bring sustainable development to the Niger Delta region.
“We intend to leverage our PPP initiative during the summit, which will take place in April. It will help us to showcase what we can offer and show the world the future of NDDC.
“We cannot continue to rely on international oil companies and the federal government to raise funds for development projects. We intend to show the world that NDDC has been rebranded.
“We will take the campaign to all relevant organisations. Last week, we were at the meeting of the Oil Producers Trade Section, OPTS, of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Lagos. Henceforth, NDDC will be attending the OPTS quarterly meetings.”
The NDDC boss further stated that the commission would also focus on capacity building for youths in the region.
“We are going to focus on youth development programmes; we have come up with a new concept of working with the Niger Delta Chamber of Commerce in the training of our youths and young entrepreneurs.
“We will show the world that we have young entrepreneurs. The various Chambers of Commerce will help us to make the programme sustainable. We will focus on empowering young people because the government cannot employ everybody.”
On NDDC’s commitment to its contractors, Mr Ogbuku affirmed that the Commission was engaging them to arrive at practicable ways of liquidating the debts saying, “We have been meeting with the contractors, and gradually, all legitimate debts will be defrayed.”
The NDDC boss said there was a need for reform within the Commission in order to bring it in line with the NDDC Establishment Act. For instance, he said, “we are reorganising the directorates to bring the number to only 13 provided for in the Act.”
Aremu Tasks CBN, NLC on Dialogue Over Cash Scarcity Strike
By Adedapo Adesanya
The Director-General of the Michael Imoudu National Institute of Labour Studies (MINILS), Ilorin, Kwara State, Mr Issa Aremu, has advised the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to engage the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in a social dialogue to avert the planned strike over the continued cash scarcity.
Mr Aremu made the call on Thursday in Ilorin on the sidelines of the Interfaith Prayer organised to mark the 40th anniversary of the institute.
Recall that Business Post earlier this week reported that the president of the NLC, Mr Joe Ajaero, directed affiliate unions of the group to be on standby for a picketing exercise across all branches of the CBN nationwide.
The directive, according to the trade unionist, became imperative following the expiration of a one-week ultimatum given to the apex bank to make cash available for Nigerians.
Speaking on the development, the MINILS head said it was unprecedented that the labour union is threatening to picket the CBN, tasking the apex bank to use every means at its disposal to ensure monetary stability in the country.
The DG, who was once a labour leader, noted that depositors had been subjected to a lot of hardship in recent times over the CBN financial policy.
Mr Aremu said that CBN must be more transparent and engaging and look at the overall policy’s impact on the growth and development of the nation’s economy.
He said that this would ensure the confidence of Nigerians in the banking system.
Mr Aremu explained that such a cashless policy should be gradually introduced after the appropriate infrastructure had been put in place.
“It also requires mass sensitisation and awareness, and there is a limited time for implementation of the policy for Nigerians,” he said.
The institute’s head lauded the CBN’s Anchor Borrowers Programme, saying it “provides loans (in kind and cash) to smallholder farmers, which had boosted agricultural production, especially rice”.
He, therefore, insisted that picketing of the apex bank by labour leaders was avoidable and preventable, advising CBN to address all concerns by organised labour.
On the 40th anniversary of the institute, Mr Aremu said, “This gathering is all about appreciation to Almighty God in the Holy Month of Ramadan, in which Catholic lent also runs. Both Christianity and Islam stress gratitude. Gratitude pleases Allah, while ingratitude displeases Him.”
“Glory to Almighty for sparing our lives to continue the institutional building that started with President Shehu Shagari’s formal inauguration in 1983,” he said.
Nigeria to Get 25,000 Tonnes of Wheat from Ukraine
By Adedapo Adesanya
Nigeria will get about 25,000 tonnes of wheat from warring Ukraine, with the federal government designating Port Harcourt as the target location for the grains.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr Mohammed Abubakar, disclosed this on Wednesday during a briefing after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House in Abuja.
Mr Abubakar revealed that the Rivers State capital had been selected as the hub for the 25,000 metric tonnes of wheat expected from Ukraine, as Russia also extends its supply of grains to the country through a United Nations arrangement.
He explained that the wheat consignment from Ukraine is on the high sea.
The agriculture minister stated that the hub would create economic activities in the area.
As part of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, Ukraine exported 6.9 million tonnes of wheat, 20 per cent of which was sent to African countries. Out of this, Nigeria will get about 1.8 per cent.
Some 2.67 million tonnes of wheat, or 43 per cent, was transported to the poorest countries and those with incomes below the average.
The grain initiative will allow Ukraine to remain a top agrarian nation and will allow Ukrainian farmers affected by the Russian war, which started more than a year ago, to sow and be able to receive income from their harvest.
The grain initiative was launched on July 22, 2022, with the first bulker carrying Ukrainian food commodities leaving the port of Odesa on August 1.
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