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Ex-SGF Babachir Lawal: What happened in court on Tuesday

Babachir Lawal, former Secretary to the Government of the Federation was on Tuesday arraigned in an FCT High Court Maitama on allegation of N544 million grass cutting fraud.

He was arraigned alongside Hamidu Lawal, a director of Rholaviosion Engineering Ltd., Babachir’s company, Sulaiman Abubakar, a staff of the same company and Apeh Monday, a staff in Josmon Technologies Ltd.

Joined in the suit are the two companies, Rholaviosion Engineering Ltd. and Josmon technologies Ltd.

The judge, Justice Jude Okeke ordered that they be remanded in EFCC custody pending the outcome of the ruling on their bail applications on Feb. 13.

Okeke gave the order after listening to the bail applications of all the counsel to the defendants.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) dragged them to court on a-10 count charge bordering on conspiracy and unlawful award of contract.

Lawal was accused of benefiting illegally from the approval of N544,119,925.36 for the removal of invasive plant species and simplified irrigation.

The EFCC alleged that Babachir Lawal, the former SGF and Hamidu Lawal, Director of Rholavision Engneering Ltd. and Abubakar, a staff of the same company, on March 7, 2016, within the Abuja jurisdiction conspired to commit the offence.

EFCC said that the defendants fraudulently acquired a property, which was contrary to section 26 (1) (c) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.

It also alleged that the first defendant, Lawal knowingly held indirectly a private interest in the consultancy contract awarded to Rholavision Engineering Ltd. for the removal of invasive plant species and simplified irrigation to the tune of N7 million and N6.4 million.

EFCC claimed that it was done through the Presidential Initiative for North East (PINE).

It further alleged that on March 4, and Aug. 22, 2016, the defendant was also involved in contract for removing evasive grass worth N272.5 million and N258.1, respectively, which were awarded to Josmon technologies but executed by Rholavision.

EFCC said that these offences are contrary to Section 12 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.

All the defendants pleaded not guilty to the allegations levelled against them.

Prosecuting counsel, Mr Mohammed Abubakar prayed the court to give him date to open his case.

Chief Akin Olujimi (SAN), counsel to Babachir applied for his bail.

Olujimi informed the court that Babachir had abided by the terms and conditions of the administrative bail granted to him by EFCC since April 13, 2018.

Counsel to others defendants, Mr Sunday Ameh (SAN), Mr Napoleon Idenala, and Mr Ocholi Okutupa applied for their bail.

The prosecuting counsel, Abubakar, however, opposed the bail applications by the defendants’ counsels.

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Ishaq Murtala: Atiku’s lawyer’s arrest – Tyranny and the continued brutalisation of Nigerians

The recent arrest and subsequent detention of Mr Uyi Giwa-Osagie, lawyer to the leading opposition PDP candidate in the rescheduled 2019 Presidential election of Saturday, February 23, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, by operatives of the EFCC, is exactly what it is: a political witch hunt, aggressive intimidation and harassment of opposition actors motivated by the well known tyranny of a jittery and fading government which has carved for itself an inglorious niche of destroying state security institutions by using them to achieve selfish and extra-judicial purposes in blatant and flagrant disregard for the rights of Nigerians, the rule of law and constitutionalism.

In their usual characteristic manner of subverting legally prescribed judicial processes for the arrest of citizens, opposition members and those associated with them have been severally and severely persecuted by this government, and Uyi Giwa-Osagie’s case is not different as he was reportedly subjected, without any warrant of whatever kind, to a straight 7-hour search of his house and office, took him away along with files of his clients and detained him even when it was reported that nothing incriminating was found during the grueling search.

There is no gainsaying the fact that this is a gross abuse of the lawyer’s rights particularly when the files belonging to his clients were carted away in such a brazen manner thereby grossly violating the trust that usually exists between lawyers and their clients. And to think that this was nothing but a politically motivated raid, it causes the hearts of patriotic Nigerians to bleed.

No doubt, this is a panic button being pressed by the APC-led federal government on the eve of the presidential election. Just over a week ago, President Muhammadu Buhari addressed the nation twice saying in one of them, “I hereby humbly ask for your support again in the coming election to enable us to move to the next level and consolidate on the successes recorded in making our country a better place. I don’t take your support for granted”.

The question Nigerians have been asking since that broadcast is, since when did Buhari start addressing Nigerians and use the word “humbly”? This is the same president they had “humbly begged” several times to address them on critical national issues but he had always rebuffed them with the arrogance of Pharaoh only for him to go abroad and talk down, brashly and rashly, on his own citizens thereby making them a laughing stock before the world.

Election is indeed a humbler!

Days to the election, and within a space of one week, Buhari addressed the nation twice and used the word “humbly” in asking them for their votes. These are the same people he had unleashed the military on under the guise of operations named after carnivorous animals, which also leave behind them tales of sorrow, tears and blood. The same Nigerians he had unleashed the security agencies on for daring to ask him questions as their leader, criticize his non-existent policies that have led to millions losing their jobs, thousands murdered either by herdsmen or security forces, as was the case with the Shiite Muslims in Zaria, without justice for the victims; thousands others displaced by those the federal government once said came from Libya etc; the same Nigerians whose relatives have been summarily arrested and detained for days, weeks, months and even years without trial, and in some cases, in flagrant disobedience of court orders granting them bail, it is the same Nigerians Buhari is now begging to vote for him again.

The same Buhari who once chided the Shiites for daring to tap the chest of Generals which allegedly led to the murderous military clampdown on the Shiites, was the same man, who after being pelted with stones in the sad and unfortunate Ogun saga said, “I don’t have any trouble with it. It is your right”. Indeed, election is a humbler!

Seeing that no amount of begging or election-instigated humility would sway Nigerians, frustration set in for Buhari and his handlers, and in confusion, are now harassing and attempting to intimidate Atiku and his supporters by waging a frontal war against the PDP candidate directly even if by proxy.

But then, it is too late. Nigerians have since made up their minds and are saying “Enough is enough!” rather than boost his image, the politically motivated arrest of Osagie is making the matter worse for the APC. They tried it against Saraki, but failed. They tried it against Ekweremadu, they failed! They tried it against Dino Melaye, but also failed. They tried it against the legislature as an institution, they failed! They tried it against the judiciary, they also failed. They have tried it against Atiku before with the US challenge, they failed abysmally. Now, they are trying Atiku again! The good news to Buhari and his agents is that they will fail again!

No matter what they do now, whether by persuasion or coercion, Nigerians are tired of this hardship in the land and my part of the country, the north, is even worst hit by it. So, rather than retire in more damning infamy, President Muhammadu Buhari should actually retrace his steps from this whimsical and capricious political bellicosity of his, stop intimidating the people, and prepare for a peaceful retirement.

With the minds of Nigerians already made up, the illegal arrest and detention of Atku’s lawyer, Uyi Giwa-Osagie, is nothing but the last kick of a dying horse!

— Ishaq Murtala sent this piece from Kano

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Nigeria decides 2019: What Aba market people told me about Buhari – Orji Kalu

The candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for Abia North Senatorial District, Chief Orji Kalu, on Wednesday, claimed that traders at the Ariaria International Market, Aba, had promised to give at least 65 per cent of their votes to President Muhammadu Buhari in Saturday’s rescheduled poll.

Kalu said this in a statement he issued to newsmen in Umuahia, pointing out that the traders “unanimously agreed” to vote for Buhari and other APC candidates in Abia in the upcoming polls.

He said that the leadership of the market took the decision “after due consideration” of the integrity and capacity of all the candidates for the general elections across the different political parites.

According to Kalu , “the leadership of Ariaria, led by Chief Peter Iheke, has made the best choice with their resolve to give Buhari a minimum of 65 per cent votes.

“They told me that their decision to support the president is rational because no one has done for the market what Buhari did.

“You saw what happened, where the Aba people, majorly traders from Ariara market, came out in their numbers to welcome and thank the president, when he came to Aba.

“Aba North and South Local Government Areas will deliver Buhari and the Ariara market has vehemently assured me of their votes too.

“You know Aba people are my own people and we have emotional attachment to each other.

“One great thing about Aba is that they know their own people and as of today, the president has given Aba one of the important things they need.”

Kalu said that many traders did not know that the newly built Ariaria Independent Power Plant (IPP) was a Federal Government’s project until the president visited to Aba on Feb. 19.

He said that Buhari’ s visit to Aba had helped to throw more light on some of the federal government’s projects in the state.

He ssid that about 30,000 shops, belonging to traders and small business owners in Ariaria market would soon be connected to the IPP dedicated electricity supply.

He listed other federal government’s projects, for which Aba people were grateful to the president, to also include the N-Power and Trader Moni which, he said, had several beneficiaries in Aba.

Meanwhile, the former governor has accused Sen. Mao Ohuabunwa, who is seeking re-election on the platform of PDP, of under performance.

He alleged that Ohuabunwa did not attract meaningful projects to the area.

He admonished the youths of the area not to allow themselves to be used as thugs during the general elections.

Kalu urged those plotting to recruit the hapless youths in the area as thugs to engage their own children instead.

“That politician that is plotting to recruit the youths of Abia north as thugs should bring back their own children from abroad and engage them as thugs for the elections,” he said.

He urged the youths to resist rigging and to report any strange face in your community on the election day to the security agencies.

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Nigeria elections: INEC reveals what’ll happen to exceptional NYSC members

The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has pledged automatic employment to members of the National Youth Sevice Corps, NYSC, who are outstanding during the general elections, starting from Saturday.

INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu gave the assurance during a briefing on Wednesday in Abuja.

Answering questions on the welfare of corps members seen sleeping on the floor the night before the postpones elections, Yakubu said assured that the welfare NYSC Corps members would be adequately taken care of during the conduct of the elections.

He said: “The youth corps members are among the most educated, most reliable, most patriotic, and most readily available ad-hoc staff we have… so we don’t joke with the wellbeing of corps members.

“Arising from my interaction with DG NYSC yesterday, they are looking at how they can mobilise mattresses, used by the youth corps members in camp to places where the youth corps members are going to stay the night so that the layover before we open the polling units on Saturday can be more comfortable for them.

“I am waiting for the DG NYSC to submit the details to the commission, but I want to assure you that anything that the commission can do to make the corps members comfortable, and all other staff, including their welfare and security, we will do.

“Those who do exceptionally well during elections are accorded automatic employment by the commission.”

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