Thursday, June 30, 2011

Christy Essien-Igbokwe, Nigeria's lady of songs dies

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Leading female musician, Christy Essien-Igbokwe, has died aged 51. She passed away this morning at a private hospital in Lagos after she fell ill three days ago, family sources confirmed to NEXT.
Popularly known as the ‘Lady of Songs', Ms Essien-Igbokwe was the first female president of the Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria. Some of her hit songs include ‘Omo Mi Seun ReRe', ‘Hear the Call' and ‘Tete Nu Na Ula'

 "This really hits home to me. Not just because I'm an artist as well, but more so because I had the thrilling pleasure of spending one memorable afternoon with her, along with Onyeka Onwenu, Kris Okotie and Godwin Ash at her residence in Enugu decades ago. May her beautiful SOUL REST IN PERFECT PEACE..AMEN."---Monday Midnite


To the citizens of western nations who really cares about the problems of Africa and sincerely wants to help, here are six of the best and most effective ways you can. 

(1) Ask your government to STOP supporting inefficient and unproductive African leaders.

(2) Ask your government to STOP your BANKS from accepting and helping to keep and protect stolen money brought into your countries monthly by African looting politicians. 

(3) Ask your government to help locate and ensure the return of hundreds of billions of dollars of stolen money illegally brought into your countries over the years by despicable African leaders. 

(4) Ask your government to STOP financing many of your mega corporations that colludes with rotten African leaders to exploit Africa of her vast mineral and natural resources. 

(5) STOP buying the shares of such corporations.

(6) Ask your government to open up your MARKETS to the innumerable decent African products that are currently being UNFAIRLY restricted from getting into your countries. 

And please ask your government to stop their regular FINANCIAL AID to African governments. Such aid does not help the masses. First of all, it's mostly shared by greedy looters and their cohorts in power,  secondly, it encourages complacency and dependency, and thirdly, it destroys our self-esteem and ability to be thoroughly independent.

Now ask yourselves these questions individually: How many African made products have I bought in my lifetime? How many African made products do I use monthly or even yearly? 

The answer will most likely be NONE as more than 95% of westerners have never once bought or used any finished product made in Africa. 

On the other hand, more than 80% of products you will find in many of the homes of even low income earners in Africa are western products. Most Africans uses multiple western made products (food, clothes, gadgets, etc,) daily. I've lived across America and Europe for decades and I can count in my fingers how many times I've seen Caucasians wearing African clothing. And in those few cases, I can guarantee you that they were white women or men in interracial relationships with Africans.

It's a no-brainer as to what would happen to western economy if Africans suddenly starts buying as little of western finished products as westerners buys of African finished products.


Monday Midnite.

New lawmakers to retain controversial jumbo allowance

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Lawmaker in session
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The notoriously huge quarterly payroll enjoyed by outgoing federal lawmakers is almost certain not to be reviewed downwardw despite promises for greater probity by the new National Assembly leadership in the aftermath of corruption trial of former speaker, Dimeji Bankole.
The 243 new legislators are already part of the 2011 second quarter allowance for which each member should draw N42 million while a senator takes about N60 million, according to sources familiar with the arrangement.
Under the sixth assembly, the "ordinary" members received N42 million and N60 million in the house and the senate respectively, while principal officers in both chambers earned N50 million and above, with the speaker and the senate president taking up to N100 million every three months.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, has pledged financial reforms and spending cuts for the House although he has not clearly stated whether lawmakers will retain the self-allocated quarterly bonuses.
Some lawmakers, speaking unofficially, say in demonstration of that in part, legislators will receive a 40 per cent pay cut - a reduction that does not specify whether it is their official salary, which is relatively less, or the huge allowances, that will be affected.
Yet, in what clearly appears a continuation of the old pay structure, the N42 million and the N60 million for the two chambers respectively for the second quarter of the year, have already been split between former and current legislators, the source informed NEXT confidentially.
As the National Assembly resumed Tuesday after three week-break, Mr Tambuwal, reechoed his commitment to minimising a well-criticised parliamentary spending and pledged a general review of total cost of governance as well as the chamber's financial structure.
"The seventh session of the House of Representatives recognises the concerns raised by Nigerians about the cost of running the National Assembly. The House will be more transparent regarding all public funds spent for the purpose of paying salaries and allowances of legislators," he said yesterday after meeting behind closed doors with members for hours.
More promises, less action
In a remark themed by a well-known promise for enhanced probity, the speaker said he will direct the House away from the financial ills of the immediate past, and will push for minimised budgetary outlay.
"The watchword in financial issues will be fiscal conservatism," he said amongst a long list of planned reforms that included stricter monitoring of budgets implementation and performance, and a crackdown on government wastages.
But the welfare and pay package of the new legislators, criticised by the public as excessive and whose review is seen as the first test for the new administration, is certain to remain unchanged, well informed sources told NEXT.
For instance, while outgoing members got N42 million for the first quarter of 2011, they received only N20 million for the second quarter (comprising April, May and June).
With their tenure ending May, the remainingN22 million was retained for the new members, while about N7 million out of that from each member, was reportedly used in servicing past loans, the source added.
Legislative officials well briefed on the pay plan, say the speaker may be under pressure not to push for reductions.
Still, Mr Tambuwal's speech yesterday offered somewhat a contradiction. While on the one hand the House promises reforms, he said the House will "ensure that distinction is sufficiently made between what a legislator actually earns and what is spent to run and implement legislative business and committee activities."

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Police officer jailed over N10,000 bribe

Written by Lanre Adewole, AbujaWednesday, 29 June 2011

The Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, has upheld the two-year jail term without an option of fine imposed on a police officer, Corporal Akingbola Johnson, by the Abuja High Court for demanding and receiving N10,000 bribe for bail.
A statement issued in Abuja, on Tuesday, by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) by its spokesperson, Mr Folu Olamiti, stated that it arraigned the convict in 2005 over the offence.
The statement read: “A police officer Corporal Akingbola Johnson, is to spend the next two years in prison for demanding bribe from suspects in police custody.
“Mr Akingbola on 16th June, 2011 lost his appeal against a judgement of a Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court which had convicted him to two years imprisonment without option of fine.
“Justice Lawan Garba of the Federal Court of Appeal in Abuja upheld the earlier judgement.
“The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) had on 31st May, 2005 arraigned Mr Akingbola before the FCT High Court in Abuja for demanding and receiving bribe of N10,000.00 before granting bail to two suspects, an offence contrary to section 8 (i) (a) and punishable under section 8(i)(b)(ii) of the ICPC Act, 2000.
“The suspects, Chiduban Nwaogo and Victor Uzor, were arrested on suspicion of being in possession of Marijuana and were detained at the Utako Police Station. When one Mr Okwudili Isielu, who claimed to be the brother to the suspects requested for the bail of the suspects, the police officer demanded for N10,000.00k(ten thousand naira).
“Okwudili complained to his lawyer, who advised him to petition the ICPC, intimating it of the request by the policeman. Consequent upon this petition, operatives of the ICPC mapped out strategies and had him arrested after he had collected from Mr Isielu N10,00 marked money.
“In his judgement, Justice Garba said the court was not convinced with the defence of the accused, more so, when he was caught red handed.”

Monday, June 27, 2011

Bombs kill 25 in Maiduguri

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Suspected members of a radical Islamist sect threw bombs at a drinking spot in Maiduguri on Sunday, killing around 25 people, witnesses and military sources said.
The attackers -- who the military said were suspected members of the Boko Haram sect -- threw three sets of explosives from the back of motorbikes at around 5 p.m. (1600 GMT) and appeared to be targeting police officers, witnesses said.
"Around 25 people have been killed in a multiple bomb blast in the Dala ward of Maiduguri," a military official said, asking not to be named.
The National Emergency Management Agency said it was working with other rescue teams to evacuate the injured but gave no further details.
Insecurity in parts of northern Nigeria has rapidly replaced militant attacks on oil infrastructure hundreds of kilometres away in the southern Niger Delta as the main security threat in Africa's most populous nation in recent months.
Boko Haram, which says it wants a wider application of strict sharia Islamic law in Nigeria, claimed responsibility for a bomb blast 10 days ago outside the national police headquarters in the capital Abuja.
The sect has been responsible for almost daily killings and attacks on police and government buildings in and around Maiduguri, which lies near Nigeria's remote northeastern borders with Chad, Cameroon and Niger.
Boko Haram's former leader, self-proclaimed Islamic scholar Mohammed Yusuf, was shot dead in police custody during a 2009 uprising in which hundreds were killed. His mosque was destroyed with tanks and the security forces claimed a decisive victory.
But low-level guerrilla attacks on police stations and assassinations, including of traditional leaders and moderate Islamic clerics, intensified in the second half of last year.
President Goodluck Jonathan, who was sworn in for his first full term in office a month ago, has voiced support for dialogue with Boko Haram.
But the group has an ill-defined command structure, a variety of people claiming to speak on its behalf, and an unknown number of followers. Some security analysts say its supporters number in the thousands.
West African Islam is overwhelmingly moderate and the sect's ideology is not widely supported by Nigeria's Muslim population, the largest in sub-Saharan Africa, but poverty and unemployment have helped it build a cult-like following.

Oil minister, her jeweller and their sweetheart deal

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Former Petroleum Minister, Diezani Allison Maduekwe.
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On April 7, 2010, a day after her appointment as minister for petroleum resources, Diezani Allison-Madueke flew to Beverley Hills in Los Angeles to revel in a lavish party and fashion show put together by Christopher Aire, a United States-based Nigerian celebrity jewellry designer and merchant, whom she met during her 15-month tenure as minister for solid minerals and steel development.
By the time the bejewelled Mrs Alison-Madueke returned home a few days later to assume duties as Nigeria's first female oil minister, she had achieved three clear objectives from the trip - she had unlimited fun, acquired some of Aire's exotic gold and gemstones, and handed Mr Aire an invitation to become one of Nigeria's biggest crude oil lifters.
It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

At the time, the 47-year-old Mr Aire had nothing whatever to do with the oil business. His company, Solid 21 Incorporated, dealt strictly in jewellery and timepieces. Those close to him said Mr Aire was content with his jewellery business and had no plan to venture into Nigeria's murky oil waters. But all that changed after his meeting with Mrs Alison-Madueke that fateful April 7.
As the minister was flying home, Mr Aire also kick-started the process of registering brand new companies with which he planned to lift Nigerian crude. On July 9, 2010, the jeweller incorporated Siseno Oil Nigeria Limited, with him and one Patience Iluobe (believed to be his relative) as directors, to carry out the business of petroleum products sales and distribution.
Twelve days later (July 21, 2010), Mr Aire, through his agents, headed again to the Corporate Affairs Commission, where he incorporated another firm, Caligeria Oil Limited, also for the purpose of conducting petroleum products sales and distribution.
This time, one of his US-based companies, Osiri Holdings, Ms Iluobe, and one Otaigbe Onyekwere Agba, were named as directors. Mr Aire also proceeded to incorporate a US version of Caligeria with himself, his bodyguard, Joseph Agbi, and Jivani Davoodian, a Californian lawyer, as directors.
Favourite crude oil lifter
Mr Aire passed the papers of his newly minted companies, which have neither fixed addresses nor personnel, to the Crude Oil Marketing Division of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. Shortly afterwards - a month after the companies were born - Mrs Alison-Madueke discretionally approved the award of crude oil lifting contracts to the two firms, in violation of NNPC guidelines for lifting of Nigerian crude.
She also disregarded the fact that the "briefcase company" had no track record and lacked the ability to perform. According to a stringent guideline released by the NNPC in early 2010, companies which wish to lift Nigerian crude must prove that they are bona fide end users and that they are established and globally recognised large volume traders with evidence of their global network, their activities, and volumes of crude oil handled in the last three years.
Such companies must also provide evidence that they are registered Nigerian companies with operations in Nigeria's oil and gas industry, and must have a minimum annual turnover of at least $100 million and net worth of not less than $40 million.
Applicants are also required to show commitment to the development of the Nigerian economy by investing in any number of opportunities that abound either in the oil industry or gas sector. Besides, successful companies are expected to post a $1 million performance bond through a first class Nigerian bank in addition to the regular crude oil contract provisions.
In the same guideline, the corporation promises transparency, fairness and equity in the contract award processes. "The NNPC further wishes to emphasise that there is absolutely nothing like ‘Presidential', ‘Task Force', ‘Ministerial', ‘Diplomatic' or any other form of special or privileged allocation, which can be peddled by hawkers or anyone," the guideline states.
Mrs Alison-Maduekwe approved this guideline, which was posted on the NNPC's website on June 24, 2010, over a month after she became minister. But by allocating crude oil to Mr Aire's companies without regard for these rules, the then minister, insiders say, demonstrated a penchant for violating laws, including regulations she helped put in place.
Those who should know at the NNPC say Siseno and Caligeria did not meet any of these requirements. In fact, NEXT was able to determine that the companies do not have fixed addresses or personnel in Nigeria. Caligeria has Plot G19, House 34, Dan Alhaji Road, Barnawa, Kaduna, as its registered address. Siseno, on the other hand, listed Dollar Shop at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel in Abuja as its operational address.
But visits to those addresses showed that these companies never operated out of those locations. Plot G19, House 34, in Kaduna is an unpainted residential bungalow, and residents and neighbours said no company known as Caligeria has ever operated in the building. "Just because their owner knows the minister and hosted her well at his glamorous event in California, the companies are today two of the biggest lifters of Nigeria's crude oil," said a source at the petroleum ministry.
We have learnt that, between them, Mr Aire's two companies lift 60,000 barrels of crude per day, the highest for any established industry player and twice as much as well-known companies such as Addax, Vermont, Oando, Unicorp and others who are allocated 30,000 barrels per day. The government, through the NNPC, subcontracts crude marketing by allocating crude lifting contracts of 30,000 barrel per day; but some traders like Glencore, Travigura, Vitol and Sahara get as much as 60,000 barrels per day.
Nobody got more than the minister's jeweller friend
As usual, Mrs Alison-Madueke declined to state her own side of the story to our reporters. She called off an interview appointment scheduled with our editors for June 13. She also did not return calls and text messages seeking her comments for this story.
Mr Aire did not respond to our enquiries either. When our reporter called his California office, a spokesperson who identified herself as Adriana, requested that questions should be e-mailed directly to her. She did not respond to the email as at the time this newspaper went to print. But the spokesperson of the NNPC, Levi Ajuonoma, rose in stout defence of his organisation, saying the organisation did nothing wrong. "The process for crude oil lifting license is so cumbersome. If you don't meet the requirements, you cannot be approved to lift crude," Mr Ajuonoma said. He confirmed that Caligeria, which he claimed had been around for a long time, got a one-year lifting contract that had since expired. He denied that Siseno was awarded contract to lift crude, saying "there is no such company on my list." But information at our disposal shows otherwise.
Caligeria's registration documents, obtained officially from the Corporate Affairs Commission, indicate that the company was incorporated less than a year ago and has a subsisting contract with the NNPC. High level sources also confirmed to us that Siseno, also less than a year old, is on the list of our country's crude oil traders. With the arbitrary allocations to his no-address companies, Mr Aire and his associates earn about $11 million a year in profit for doing virtually nothing. Crude lifters make about 50 cents a barrel per day, which cumulatively comes to about $30,000 per day in profit for the jeweller-turned-oil magnate.
Typically, what these ‘briefcase companies' do is team up with influential officials such as Mrs Alison-Madueke, lobby for contracts independently, and then sell their allocations to more established traders. Mr Aire's companies also benefitted from Mrs Alison-Madueke's discretional award of contracts for the lifting of products from the Oso condensate (an extra light Nigerian hydrocarbon) and the Escravos liquefied petroleum gas terminal. Our sources said Caligeria lifts 45,000 metric tonnes of condensate, while Siseno gets 30,000 metric tonnes of LPG from Escravos. Industry insiders said profit from this also runs into several millions of dollars.
Some industry operators described the obvious in calling Mr Aire's a "sweetheart deal". "We just can't understand why briefcase companies without any track record became Diezani's most favourite companies to lift crude oil," said one highly placed source in the petroleum ministry, who did not want to be named for fear of reprisal. "This is the highest level of arbitrariness and corruption I have ever seen, and this woman must be made to answer questions," the source said.
Allison-Madueke's bazaar
Arbitrary awards of crude lifting contracts to obscure companies is indicative of the corruption in the oil industry, which allegedly skyrocketed during the tenure of Mrs Allison-Madueke to a degree last seen during the Sani Abacha administration. Insiders said that during her tenure, awards of contracts were characterised by bribery of top politicians, cronyism in allocation and indirect ownership in some of the lifters, and payment of huge bribes to high level facilitators within the petroleum ministry and the NNPC.
But this has not stopped Mrs Allison-Madueke, who has alienated the entire industry as well as her cabinet colleagues and senior aides to the president, from lobbying furiously for reappointment. Sources say Mrs Allison-Madueke, who is close to the president, is also opposed by Patience Jonathan, the president's wife.
Despite what appears to be overwhelming opposition, however, insiders still rate Mrs Allison-Madueke's chances high, as the president finalises his list of cabinet ministers for transmission to the Senate this week. Our investigation revealed that apart from Caligeria and Siseno, the former minister also trampled on due process in awarding crude lifting contracts to other companies such as Sullom Voe, Spog, Tempo and Tacomo. Insiders also accuse her of discretionary awards of Escravos liquefied petroleum gas contracts to Addax Energy, Avidor Oil and Gas Limited (believed to have connection to Vitol), Taleveras Business, Accoldis Limited (with connection to Spog), Elan Oil (believed to be another version of Traffigura) Tempo Energy Limited, and Blissfield Enterprises. Yet, the bazaar did not end there.
Mrs Alison-Madueke, our sources further revealed, proceeded to discretionally approve the awards of Oso condensate contracts to Algasco (also linked to Vitol), Optima Energy Services, Theydon Petro SA, Ocean Bed (with connection to Sahara Energy), Mangrove Energy, Havistar Petroleum (linked to Taleveras), Hyson, Ascon limited, Nipco Plc, Vitacan Services Limited, AMG Petro Energy, Energy Resources Management, Ultimate Gas Limited, Tempo Energy, Caligeria Oil Limited, Mez Technical Limited, Messrs Affiliate Global Exchange Limited, and Mezcor SA. Most of these companies have little or no investment in Nigeria, as required by the NNPC guideline for crude oil lifting.
A stench of corruption
The former powerful minister worked through a group of very small, even shadowy, companies that always seem to get the best contracts from the NNPC in the upstream and downstream sectors and on occasion in the services industry.
The tangled web of questionable deals includes last-minute assignment of production rights in five large oil blocks to Septa Energy and the obscure Atlantic Drilling Concept Limited without a public tender. The practices also include the secretive award of kerosene allocations, crude oil allocations, fuel oil allocations, LPG and condensate exports, automotive gas oil and naphtha. Oil traders, according to insiders, regularly pay substantial kickbacks into the offshore accounts of top oil sector executives. Insiders say the Isle of Man has been a favourite jurisdiction for such offshore accounts.
The funds are paid directly into the accounts from outside Nigeria and thus the funds never enter Nigeria and cannot be tracked internally. The funds are often then laundered through real estate purchases. A source familiar with the arrangement said London remains the dominant location where funds are laundered in this fashion.
It is said that since Farida Waziri became the chairperson of the EFCC, the Metropolitan Police had enjoyed zero local co-operation in pursuing such matters. In fact, the source added, when the Met briefs the EFCC on such cases with a view to getting its assistance, elements in the commission promptly informs the target - for a fee of course. Under Mrs Allison-Madueke, all sorts of gaps have been exploited. As at April this year, 600,000 metric tonnes of diesel had been imported, with importers shaken down at a rate of N10 per litre.
We have no evidence that these bribes directly involved the former minister. NEXT had also uncovered an elaborate bribery scam at the Petroleum Product Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), where oil marketers were compelled to pay bribes in US dollars in exchange for obtaining authorisation to import gasoline.
Our investigation at the time showed that oil marketers were instructed by PPPRA to call a mobile telephone number and pay a bribe of $8 per metric tonne of petroleum allocated to them, such that a firm with a 100,000 metric tonnes allocation would be required to pay a bribe of $800,000 in cash. We were also able to establish in subsequent investigations that Mrs Alison-Maduekwe appeared to have violated Nigeria's procurement law by quietly signing away operatorship rights in five lucrative oil blocks to two barely established companies.

New lawmakers to receive one billion naira for accommodation

by Ini Ekott
Congressman sleeps on cot to save cash - CNN

With the National Assembly quarters in Abuja retained by their outgoing counterparts, the 343 new lawmakers at the National Assembly are to draw between N3 million and N5 million for new houses as they resume work this week.
The Assembly leaders said the amount is to cover annual rental cost for new accommodation for each legislator, after a controversial government monetisation policy transferred titles for the Abuja Apo legislative quarters to former lawmakers who were not reelected.
The ownership rule has drawn the condemnation of some legislators as they face a raft of uncertainties, as the Senate and the House of Representatives resume legislative duties. Each new Senator is receiving N5 million for a new place in the federal capital territory after an initial demand for N7 million (and an upward rental fee for three years) were reportedly rejected by the senate leadership.
The 264 new members of the House of Representatives are getting between N3.5 million and N4.5 million, sources say. But the new entrants into the hunt for houses have already caused a surge in real estate value in choice areas within Abuja, complicating the accommodation controversy, with some legislators urging a reversal.
Within the city centre, for instance, houses that went for N1.5 million a year ago, are reportedly now being let out at N3 million.
“The major problem we are facing now is the problem of accommodation for the new senators. Many of them may not be able to concentrate in legislative proceedings because for now they do not have a place to stay,” Smart Adeyemi, a returning senator from Kogi state, said.
Mr Adeyemi spoke last week as both chambers faced the prospect of a tardy resumption with many of the new members without houses ahead of Tuesday’s reopening.
“We cannot even talk about hotels because where is the money for that. That is why the Apo legislative quarters should not have been sold in the first place. If the houses were to be there now, they will just pack in and start work, even if with ordinary mattress.
“Those behind the monetisation policies should have known that new senators are elected every four years, so there should be provision for that so that the new senators can move in. I think the proper thing to do is for government to reverse the sale of Apo and return monies back to those that bought the houses,” Mr Adeyemi added.
The three-week break was announced by both chambers shortly after inauguration to allow for the provision of home and office accommodation for the members.
The House has said office spaces for members will not be ready until August ending as contractors had announced a longer delivery time than expected. The deputy dpeaker, Emeka Ihedioha, said the House would however proceed with the June 28 resumption while improvised arrangements were made for the members as they resume.


Matthew 7:15
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

Matthew 24:11
And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.
Matthew 24:24
For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.
Mark 13:22
For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect.
1 John 4:1
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
Revelation 16:13
And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.
Revelation 19:20
And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.
Revelation 20:10
And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night forever and ever.

‘Waziri signed letters that exonerated accused politicians'

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Farida Waziri
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In early 2009, Mohammed Buba Marwa, then Nigeria's ambassador to South Africa, became dissatisfied with his status as a diplomat. He wanted an elective executive position, which in our country gives virtual free rein for a leader to do as he pleases, calling the shots and dispensing patronage.
A former military administrator of Lagos State, Mr Marwa tried to be the number one citizen of Nigeria in 2007, when he sought the presidential nomination of the ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). But the attempt came to nought, partly due to his indictment for corruption by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Realising that his chances of being president in 2011 were slim, Mr Marwa decided to run instead for governor of his home state of Adamawa. However, the same EFCC report which was used to stifle his chances four years ago posed the same threat to his new ambition.
Mr Marwa was indicted by the EFCC for assisting Sani Abacha, Nigeria's former military dictator, to launder money and for benefitting from the illicit undertaking. The particular case involved the purchase, in 1996, of 1500 trucks from Tata Overseas sales and services, an Indian company, for $149 million and another set in 1997 for $29 million. While the first batch was for the Nigerian Army and the Police, the second was for the national electoral body. Mr Marwa, who was then defence advisor at the Nigerian permanent mission to the United Nations in New York, negotiated the deals. Both Mr Marwa and the late dictator, according to top EFCC officials, benefitted from the payment of $12 million dollars as kickbacks. The money was put in different accounts in foreign countries, including the Cayman Islands and Kenya. The matter was investigated not only by the EFCC, but also by US authorities, whose request led to the EFCC's investigations in the first place.
The matter was still under investigation when Farida Waziri became chair of the anti-graft commission in 2008. With the appointment of Mrs Waziri, Mr Marwa saw an opportunity to cover up his allegedly corrupt past and ready himself for an obstacle-free governorship contest. It turned out Mrs Waziri was ready to play ball.
Seeking clearance
In order to realise his political ambition and free himself from arrest and prosecution abroad, Mr Marwa struck a deal with Mrs Waziri. He would be cleared of any wrongdoing. However, he had to initiate the clearance process.
On June 16, 2009, lawyers to Mr Marwa from Mike Ungwanyi and Co. legal firm wrote to Mrs Waziri, seeking clearance for their client. The letter was entitled "Kickbacks for contracts with TATA to supply vehicle for military police... by Marwa when he was military attaché in NY in 1996".
Three weeks later, Mr Marwa received a letter from Mrs Waziri clearing him of the allegations. Without recourse to previous investigations and indictments, even by international security agencies, Mrs Waziri stated in her response to the ambassador, in a letter dated July 6, 2009 that "investigation has now been closed and the matter brought to an end as there is not sufficient evidence to warrant prosecution".
When contacted, Femi Babafemi, the spokesman of the EFCC admitted that the EFCC did write a letter but denied its content.
"I'm not aware of anything like that (clearing Mr Marwa). What I know is that some years ago, there was a request by his lawyers to ask for the status of the case and the commission replied that we don't have anything yet to prosecute him."
With Mrs Waziri's secret clearance in hand, Mr Marwa was ready to be governor and to tell anyone who cared to listen that he was sparkling clean. But for the Court of Appeal, which postponed governorship election in Adamawa State till 2012, he would have given incumbent Governor Murtala Nyako a run for his money. He is currently waiting in the wing for next year's political battle with Mr Nyako.
Part of a trend
Rather than go after corrupt public officials and bring them to book, Mrs Waziri has in the past three years operated a clearing house for several corrupt people in what appears to be a gesture of appreciation to those who helped her clinch the EFCC top job. Less than eight months into her tenure, the EFCC chairperson secretly and, under strange circumstances, cleared top government officials, including at least two former governors, of corruption charges levelled against them.
Former Governors Victor Attah (Akwa-Ibom) and James Ibori (Delta), on whose necks hang monumental allegations of corruption, also benefitted from Mrs Waziri's negative generosity. She issued clearance letters to the two men, certifying them clean.
These letters have helped the beneficiaries to not only escape prosecution by the EFCC but also by international agencies such as the Metropolitan Police. While the EFCC, after much public outcry and condemnation by international agencies and governments like the United States, eventually decided to prosecute Mr Ibori, the other two beneficiaries, Messrs Attah and Marwa still possess the "get out of jail card" handed them by Mrs Waziri.
Payback time
While the reasons given for clearing each of these former public officials differ, sources in the commission believe that the roles played by these individuals in the appointment of Mrs Waziri as the commission's boss was a major factor.
Mrs Waziri was appointed EFCC boss in May 2008 following the removal of Nuhu Ribadu, the pioneer chairman of the commission in controversial circumstances. Her appointment was however marred by controversy, as she was accused by a section of the media and civil society as previously acting as legal advisers to former governors who were being prosecuted by the EFCC during Mr Ribadu's tenure.
The former governors believed to be behind Mrs Waziri's appointment include Mr Ibori, Mr Attah, Bukola Saraki (former governor of Kwara State and incumbent senator), and George Akume, former governor of Benue State, who is also now a senator. The EFCC is yet to commence prosecution of the latter two - Messrs Saraki and Akume - despite their having been indicted for corruption by the agency.
Though the cases are different, the formula for getting Mrs Waziri to issue clearance letters basically followed the same pattern. Each of the "political heavyweights" would have his lawyer write to the EFCC asking for clearance, and the EFCC was always in a hurry to oblige. Even when investigations were still ongoing, Mrs Waziri would quickly issue a letter clearing corrupt elements of any wrongdoing.
The Akwa-Ibom Econet deals
"The commission wishes to state emphatically that it has not at any time or in any correspondence with the persons (Mr Ibori; Mr Attah; and Bola Tinubu, former Governor of Lagos) referred to in these media reports or any other person cleared them of complicity in all matters relating to them which are either in court or still under investigation."
This was a statement released by the EFCC on September 11, 2009 and signed by Mr Babafemi, the commission's head of media and publicity. Mr Babafemi explained that the commission had to clarify the issues because it was "inappropriate to input or infer that the three former governors have been exonerated in matters that are still pending or yet to be determined by the law court, which is the only competent organ of government that can pronounce guilt or innocence in matters like the ones under reference."
The matter referred to by Mr Babafemi was the management of the proceeds made by the states headed by these former governors through the sale of their states' shares in Econet Wireless, now Airtel. The three governors were being investigated by London's Metropolitan Police for laundering proceeds of the states funds into personal accounts in the UK.
However, Michael Aondoakaa, then minister of justice and attorney general, refused to co-operate with the Met claiming that the EFCC had cleared the three men of any wrongdoing.
What Mr Babafemi refused to disclose was that eight months before his statement, the EFCC did clear at least one of the governors.
In a letter dated January 21, 2009 and addressed to Adeptus Caxton of Martins Agbor and Segun, lawyers to Mr Attah, the EFCC stated that "investigation into this matter has been concluded and there is no case of money laundering established against your client." The letter was a response to that by Mr Attah's lawyers titled "Akwa-Ibom Investment and Industrial Promotion Council, African Development Fund Inc ."
The letter, signed by Umar Sanda, then Mrs Waziri's close aide, was Mr Attah's "get out of jail card" as it cleared him of any wrong doing as regards the disposal of Akwa-Ibom State shares in Econet, which was disposed through the African Development Fund, Inc.
When asked to clarify the reason for this clearance letter, Mr Babafemi said: "I am not aware of that (existence of the letter)".
It however appears Mrs Waziri had a change of mind long after the letter was delivered to Mr Attah. Five months after its clearance of the former governor and three months before Mr Babafemi's statement, the EFCC, in a letter addressed to Mr Aondoakaa, again indicted the former governors.
The letter, dated June 30, 2009, was a response to Mr Aondoakaa's letter written a day before and entitled "Money Laundering, African Development Fund Account No. 0140011552".
The letter, signed by Mrs Waziri, stated that "Delta, Lagos and Akwa-Ibom States invested in shares of V-mobile." The letter further stated that the states sold their shares and "disposed of proceeds through African Development Funds, Inc."
Indicting the three former governors, Mrs Waziri stated that "the respective state governors James Ibori, Ahmed Bola Tinubu, and Victor Attah converted the funds to their personal use."
Getting specific about Mr Attah, Mrs Waziri stated that "in the case of Akwa-Ibom, $18.5 million was realised from the sale of the shares.
"The funds from the transaction which were frozen in Access Bank were released on the written advice of the EFCC dated 12, January 2009."
While Mr Babafemi, two years after issuing his statement, claims that investigations are still ongoing on the Econet money laundering case, Mrs Waziri's letter guarantees Mr Attah freedom from prosecution.
Ibori is clean
The most bizarre of the clearance letters are those issued to Mr Ibori. Prior to Mrs Waziri's assumption of office, the former Delta State Governor was having it rough with the EFCC. The EFCC under its former chairman had cashed in on the loss of immunity by the former governor to arrest him and start his prosecution, even as he attempted to bribe Mr Ribadu with $15 million.
Apart from the EFCC, Mr Ibori was also being investigated by international agencies, particularly the London Met for corruption and money laundering. With the appointment of Mrs Waziri however, Mr Ibori saw an opportunity to escape prosecution. He wanted to be cleared of any wrongdoing by the EFCC as a way of weakening the case against him by the Met.
Two of the major evidences being used by both the EFCC and the Metropolitan police were Mr Ibori's corrupt links with Wing Aviation and Ascot Offshore.
I want clearance
Sensing that the controversy over Mrs Waziri's appointment had simmered down, Mr Ibori, who helped enthrone her, approached the EFCC boss for clearance, even when the allegations against him were still being investigated and a case pending against him in court. So, he got his lawyers to write Mrs Waziri requesting what one of our sources describes as a "get out of jail card". Investigations show that the EFCC chairperson promptly responded.
The letter, personally signed by her and dated December 22, 2008, reads in part, "From the record of investigation conducted, there was no nexus established between Mr James Ibori or the Delta States Government, and Wings Aviation Limited, nor was it established that Wings Aviation Limited was used to launder funds for on behalf of Mr James Ibori."
The letter was a response to an earlier one by Mr Ibori's counsel, Efere Ozako and Associates, dated December 11, 2009 and titled "Wings Aviation/ Captain Nogie Meggisen."
This newspaper was able to establish that although the EFCC letter was signed by Mrs Waziri, the content did not originate from her. It came from another source outside the EFCC, believed to be Mr Ibori himself.
Ibori drafts, Waziri signs
But Mr Ibori felt the letter was not exonerating enough. So the former governor made a hand-written amendment and asked his emissary to take the amended version back to Mrs Waziri for reissuance.
Explaining the rationale behind the clearance letter, Mr Babafemi said that "based on the investigation report, there was no record in the CAC (Corporate Affairs Commission) linking him with Wings Aviation."
When confronted that an EFCC investigator in a sworn affidavit at the court, as well as the Met established that Wings Aviation was used by Mr Ibori to launder funds, Mr Babafemi said: "What I know happened is that that letter was written based on the report available in the case file at that time."
Realising that his first letter of clearance over Wing Aviation deals, despite evidence to the contrary, wasn't sufficient particularly with the Met, an emboldened Mr Ibori asked for more.
In a letter by his counsel, Seni. M. Adio of Copley Partners, Lagos, and dated March 3, 2009, Mr Ibori sought clearance over any wrongdoing as regards Ascot Flowlines Limited.
EFCC investigators, as stated in an affidavit signed by Yahaya Bello, a lead investigator, at the Federal High Court Benin in 2007 established that Mr Ibori, through Henry Imasekha, a close associate, was involved in the ownership of Ascot.
But Mrs Waziri didn't mind weakening her agency's case against Mr Ibori. She issued him a letter without delay.
"There has been no nexus established between James O. Ibori or Delta State Government with Ascot offshore Nigeria Limited nor was it established that Ascot offshore Nigeria Limited was used to launder funds for on behalf of James O. Ibori and or Delta State government," Mrs Waziri wrote.
With these letters, Mrs Waziri and Mr Ibori thought, the former governor was not only free in Nigeria but also in the UK.
However, following pressure on Nigeria by the American authorities and other international organisations, the EFCC retraced its step, decided to cooperate and assist the Met and also to prosecute Mr Ibori. The former governor is currently in the UK where he is being prosecuted for money laundering.
Mr Babafemi, the commission's spokesman, again denied the existence of this letter.
According to him, "No, that was a forgery (the Ascot letter). I only know of one letter. Ascot is part of the issue that has led to the fleeing of Ibori from Nigeria."
Civil society reacts
According to Shehu Sani of the Civil Rights Congress, EFCC owes Nigerians a duty to tell which of the governors they have cleared and which of them they have not.
"The politics of clearance or not is simply to blackmail the former governors into silence and to revive their cases whenever they become critical of government," he said
Jiti Ogunye of Lawyers for Human rights said the fact that the letters were issued by Mrs Waziri in a very secretive manner without letting the public know these persons have been cleared of wrongdoing suggests that those who authored these letters knew that the letters were made to exonerate without any good reason.
"Otherwise," Mr Ogunye continued, "Mrs Waziri and EFCC would have gone public with these clearances the way they've been inundating the public with perceived success stories and achievements they've made."