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Onnoghen: Don’t institutionalise corruption, MURC tells NBA

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The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has advised the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA not to institutionalise corruption by taking sides with the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, a man whom it said has already admitted that he committed an offence.

The ex-CJN was suspended from office last week by President Muhammadu Buhari on allegations bordering on graft but members of NBA resolved to embark on a two-day warning boycott of courts in protest against the suspension on the ground that the action did not follow due process.

MURIC said that “This boycott is sheer hocus pocus. It is poor Nigerians who will suffer from the NBA’s boycott. They have allowed their emotions to run away with them. The problem with our lawyers is that they see every problem, including political, as a legal problem. They do not look at other angles or think of other possibilities and solutions. They tend to corroborate an African proverb which says, ‘If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.’

“We are talking about a man who sat at the helm of our judiciary here. This man has admitted that he ‘forgot’ more than a billion naira in his bank account. That, to us, is preposterous. It is alarming. Unfortunately those who know better because they are ‘learned’ are the same people staging a boycott to protect the billionaire Justice.

“Why can’t it happen here if it can happen elsewhere. Just last year, on June 20, 2018 to be precise, a judge of the Supreme Court in West Virginia, United States of America, Justice Allen Loughry who was accused of using his office for personal gains was suspended. His offence involved $363,000 worth of office furniture, having expensive office furniture taken to his private house and using government vehicle and gas card for personal use.

“That happened in a sane society They have lawyers there too and his colleagues did not identify with the wrongdoer. So we need to ask ourselves if we truly want to sanitise this society. Perhaps it was this kind of sentiment that made Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, to conclude that, ‘To fight corruption in a corrupt system, you don’t follow due process, you follow the necessary process.” Vladimir Putin

“We are tempted to ask, ‘Where is the human face in the practice of law in Nigeria? We know the thief. He confesses to us. But we are the same people who will tutor the thief to change his confessional statement. We tell him to claim it was made under duress. We are the same people who appear for the Evans and the Oyenusis yet we go to the mosque on Fridays and attend church on Sundays. Do you think God is blind?

“MURIC appeals to the NBA to put humanity on the front burner in matters like this. NBA should not wish away Justice Onnoghen’s offence. It should be Nigeria first. No single person is bigger than Nigeria. Crimes like the one the ex-CJN is accused of are what turned this country into a wild jungle and NBA must join other patriotic citizens who are presently working day and night to return Nigeria to the comity of sane communities.

“We further appeal that the NBA creates an enabling environment for ordinary Nigerians to have access to justice. We should not be seen protecting the rich and powerful all the time, particularly a powerful man who has already admitted that he is the owner of incriminatingly humongous bank accounts when poor Nigerians are sentenced to long terms in prison just for stealing one tuber of yam. Ayn Rand has a strong message here, ‘When the law no longer protects you from the corrupt, but protects the corrupt from you, you know your nation is doomed’.

“It was the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who said, ‘Any wealth accumulated on a selfish basis, at the expense of the state in defiance of social justice helps to create a disorganized society in which everybody will eat everybody, and no one person can be safe.’ Do the respected members of the NBA want to support the creation of such a chaotic society?

“MURIC has taken the ex-CJN to the court of public opinion and he lost woefully. Nigerians are flabbergasted that the ex-CJN has N1,131,684,554.00 (one billion, one hundred and thirty-one million, six hundred and eighty-four thousand, five hundred and fifty-four naira) in his personal accounts and still counting. It is appalling, repugnant and nauseating.

“We advise NBA not to pursue vested interest. Nigerians see the Onnoghen affair as a struggle between those who fight corruption, those who despise it, those who embrace it and those who benefit from it. If NBA will not stand up to be counted among those in the first group, it must not be seen to identify with the third and fourth camps. The second rank is a safer ground for the purpose of posterity.

“We appeal to the NBA not to resume its boycott of courts soon after the two days. This is because it is poor Nigerians who suffer each time there is a boycott of courts. The legal profession is sine qua non to the dispensation of justice anywhere in the world and that is why lawyers are respected by all.

“Resumption of boycott is unnecessary because Justice Onnoghen himself in a separate case in 2013 acknowledged the special powers of the CCT. In the case of AHMED V AHMED & ORS (2013) LPELR – 21143 (SC) delivered on 12th July, 2013, the ex-CJN held that, ‘The CCT has exclusive jurisdiction to deal with all violations contravening any of the provisions of the Code of Conduct Bureau’ and that ‘the provisions expressly ousted the powers of ordinary regular courts in respect of such violations’. He further concluded that ‘Any allegation that a public officer has committed a breach of or has not complied with the provisions of this Code shall be made to the Code of Conduct Bureau’.

“As we rise from this session, we remind honourable members of the NBA that law is a noble profession and a good number of our lawyers, both senior and junior ones, are men and women of integrity. This profession is for the bold, the assertive and the man of decency and candour. We advise NBA to think outside the box. Onnoghen appears to have dragged its name in the mud. What NBA should do to reclaim its good name is to step aside and allow the ex-CJN to defend himself at the tribunal,” MURIC said in a statement by its director, Prof. Ishaq Akintola.

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THE NATION

Poly lecturers suspend strike, resume Wednesday

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The Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) has officially suspended a strike it commenced two months ago.

The union directed polytechnic lecturers to resume duty from tomorrow, February 13.

The suspension of the strike was confirmed by the national president of the union, Usman Dutse, in a phone interview with PREMIUM TIMES Tuesday evening.

The union embarked on a strike on December 12 over the failure of the federal government to implement agreements reached with the union in 2017.

ASUP went on strike in November 2017. But when it reached an agreement with the federal government to implement the recommendations of the 2014 NEEDS assessment, the strike was suspended 15 days after.

The agreement particularly highlighted the need for increased funding of polytechnics. – Premium Times.

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THE NATION

Election scare: Okowa makes u-turn, reviews Uduaghan’s 2015 civil service recruitment

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Delta state Governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa has set up committee to review the 2015 civil service recruitment by his predecessor, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan in what appears a political strategy to appease those who are seriously angry with his government’s decision to halt the exercise.

This newspaper learnt that the governor has set up a fact finding committee to probe into the exercise in which Uduaghan employed over 3,000 people into the civil service at the last lap of his tenure which was halted by Governor Okowa on assumption of office over alleged irregularities

The decision to revisit the scrapped recruitment exercise which has been a minus to the Okowa’s administration is coming barely 21-days to the Governorship and State House of Assembly election.

A statement signed by the Head of Service, Reginald Bayoko said the state government has set a 9-man Committee to re-examine the 2015 recruitment exercise.

The statement reads: “It is hereby announced for the information of the general public particularly Deltans that in fulfillment of his earlier promise to revisit the 2015 recruitment exercise which was suspended due to alleged irregularities, His Excellency, Senator Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, Governor of Delta State, has approved the commencement of a screening exercise to review the suspended recruitment with a view to lifting the suspension.

“The screening exercise which is to be handled by a 9-man Committee is expected to be concluded within three weeks.

“The action of the government was in deference to public concerns regarding the fate of candidates who might have genuine cases, the continuous exit of staff in the civil service due to retirement and the apparent incremental improvement in the state economy.

“Considering the fact that, the allegation of widespread irregularities in the 2015 recruitment exercise have not been fully debunked, there is therefore the need to screen the affected candidates who participated in the exercise to establish those with genuine cases and ascertain the areas of personnel shortfall, so that those found worthy could be re-absorbed and personnel gap in the civil service bridged.

The Committee has the following terms of reference:

i. to determine the number/nomenclature of advertised posts that were filled;

ii. to screen the candidates, specifying those considered eligible and those not eligible for each of the advertised posts;

iii. to ascertain the number and geographical spread of applicants/candidates involved in the exercise according to their respective local government areas and the genuineness of their certificates/credentials and their local government of origin;

iv. to make appropriate recommendations to government on the number of candidates and categories to be absorbed from those found eligible v. to recommend measures to avoid future occurrence of irregularities in the recruitment process”.

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THE NATION

Presidency backs El-Rufa’i, says ‘he spoke in defence of national interest’

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KADUNA State Governor Mallam Nasir El-Rufai has stirred the hornet’s nest, with his warning that foreigners  should not interfere in the conduct of the general elections.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday threatened to pull out of the peace accord it signed with other parties before the National Peace Committee (NPC) chaired by former Head of State Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar.

The opposition party hinged its decision on the “death threats” issued by the governor, according to it, to officials of the United States (U.S.), United Kingdom (U.K.) and the European Union (E.U.).

But the Presidency dismissed it all as a storm in a tea cup. “There is nothing more to sneeze at”, it said.

Besides, the governor denied calling for violence.

Also yesterday, the EU Election Observer Mission (EOM) said its men were in Nigeria on the invitation of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and that they will remain in the country to monitor the elections billed for February 16 (presidential/National) and March 2 (governorship/state Assembly).

Speaking on an NTA live programme El-Rufai was reported to have threatened the foreign nationals who might interfere with Nigeria’s upcoming elections with violent attacks.

“Those that are calling for anyone to come and intervene in Nigeria, we are waiting for the person that would come and intervene, they would go back in body bags,” he was quoted as saying.

The governor, however, explained himself yesterday, insisting that his comments were not in any way calls for violence, but a defence of Nigeria’s sovereignty.

El-Rufai said he merely stood up for Nigeria’s dignity as against those who would traduce their country and reduce it to a colony in their vain quest for power.

In a statement last night, the Presidency said: “The Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari would cooperate with election observers and would not let the international community down in the conduct of the coming elections.

“The Presidency assures Nigerians and the international community that the President would do everything within his power to ensure free, fair and credible elections in the country.

“We have taken note of the clarification to a reported earlier statement by the Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufa’i concerning opposition call for foreign interference in our domestic affairs and to say that latest statement by him should rest the issue for good. There is nothing more to sneeze at. The Governor spoke strongly in defense of of national interest. It is clear that El-Rufa’i, our party the APC and all its candidates have reposed their faith in democracy through general elections. They are all of the view that there is no place for violence against local people or foreign citizens in our midst.

“Opposition PDP ought to own up to the mistakes of their own policies for 16 years which have led the country to a sorry pass that has cost lives, jobs and growth instead of dwelling on diversionary issues.”

The PDP’s threat was issued at a news conference in Abuja. Its spokesman Kola Ologbondiyan described El-Rufai’s comments as inimical to peaceful, free and fair elections.

He said: “The PDP is left with no option than to consider a review of its signatory in the National Peace Accord, if no action is immediately taken to curb this trend.”

But a pro-Buhari group, the Buhari Media Organisation (BMO), said neither the PDP nor its presidential candidate, was genuinely committed to any peace deal.

According to the BMO, PDP’s presidential candidate signed the peace accord reluctantly.

The main opposition party called on the international community to immediately impose a travel ban on El-Rufai for what it described as the inciting comments against peaceful elections.

Ologbodiyan also called on the Gen. Abdulsalami to summon El-Rufai on the threat.

He said: “The PDP holds that any situation that seeks to allow the APC to abuse the tenets of the accord will definitely force our party to review our signatory to the peace process.

“We therefore call on the NPC to immediately summon El-Rufai on his inflammatory remarks against peaceful election in our country.

“In that regard, we might have no option left than to allow our members to defend their votes with whatever that is available to them.

“This country belongs to all of us and no individual or group, no matter how highly placed, can subjugate other citizens, or seek to appropriate any sort of absolutism to himself.”

The PDP also kicked against what it described as an alleged plot by the police authority to redeploy Kayode Egbetokun as Commissioner of Police to the Kwara State Command.

The opposition party alleged closeness of Egbetokun to a section of the leadership of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC).

This, according to the PDP, might lead to Egbetokun taking sides in the ongoing supremacy tussle between the PDP and the APC chapters in Kwara State.

Ologbondiyan said: “This is in line with plans by the Buhari Presidency and the APC to effect a mass deployment of top security officers, particularly the police, to intimidate, harass and manhandle Nigerians that will not support the self-succession bid of President Muhammadu Buhari as well as aiding APC thugs to snatch ballot boxes and orchestrate violence in the elections.

“Nigerians are aware of how CP Kayode Egbetokun was posted to Lagos State by the former Inspector-General of Police, Idris Ibrahim, to serve the same partisan interest and how that posting was stopped by the new IGP Adamu Mohammed. Now, he is being redeployed to Kwara State for the same ignoble plot.

“It is necessary to state that the PDP is a party of peace and we are committed to the peace accord. However, the deployment of Kayode Egbetokun as Kwara CP directly negates the principle of the Peace Accord and can only hurt the fragile peace that currently exists in Kwara state.

“We wish to remind the acting Inspector General, Adamu Mohammed, that his acceptability among Nigerians across party line was based on the pedigree, which was presented to Nigerians before his appointment.

“These pedigree and exposure place on his shoulders, the responsibility to be just, firm, equitable and professional in the discharge of his duties. We therefore urge him not to allow his reputation to be mired in controversial political activities.”

The party called on the National Peace Committee to note the alleged infractions by the APC and its leaders to the peace accord.

-THE NATION

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