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SERAP reacts to $16bn power projects, backs EFCC’s decision to probe past govts’ spending

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The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has agreed that  “the reported probe by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of the past governments, starting with the government of former president Olusegun Obasanjo’s $16 billion power project.

SERAP noted that it is an opportunity for the anti-graft agency to show that former heads of state and other high-ranking public officials are not immune from investigation and prosecution for allegations of grand corruption in Nigeria.

“This probe is something, which SERAP has consistently called for. Nigerians have for far too long been denied justice and the opportunity to get to the bottom of why they continue to pay the price for corruption in the electricity sector–staying in darkness, but still made to pay crazy electricity bills.”

According to reports, the EFCC has begun the probe of the $16 billion power project of the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. While some put the exact cost of the project at $16 billion others say it is $13.8 billion. Key contractors and about 18 top public officers allegedly involved in the power project scam during the Obasanjo administration, and those of former Presidents Umaru Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan, may also be arrested.

SERAP, in a statement signed on Sunday by its deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, said: “The probe is timely, especially coming at a time of citizens’ frustrations at persistent allegations of corruption and the impacts on their human rights. Investigating allegations of grand corruption and prosecuting former heads of state and other high-ranking officials where such allegations show relevant and sufficient admissible evidence would address the grave travesty that has for many years occurred in the power sector.”

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The organization also added: “The EFCC should urgently invite anyone suspected to be involved for questioning. The agency should also expand the probe to cover the alleged squandering of a total of N11 trillion in the power sector between 1999 and 2015, and the unresolved case of the reported missing $12.4 billion oil windfall, allegedly spent between 1988 and 1993 by the government of former military dictator, General Ibrahim Babangida.”

“The EFCC has the full support of Nigerians in its efforts to hold high-ranking public officials to account for grand corruption, and if consistently, fairly and diligently pursued, this probe would contribute to ending impunity for corruption, and to mobilizing and encouraging youth civic engagement in the anti-graft fight in the country. SERAP stands ready to work with the EFCC in pursuing all allegations of grand corruption.

“SERAP notes that former presidents have routinely faced corruption charges in countries like Iceland, Kyrgyzstan, Brazil, Montenegro, South Korea, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Slovakia, Peru, and Mauritius, and the probe by the EFCC would mean this list would grow even further to include Nigeria.

“Impunity for grand corruption will continue as long as high-ranking public officials go largely unpunished for their alleged crimes. It is by pursuing these allegations and taking the evidence before the court that the truth will be revealed and justice best served. Addressing impunity in the power sector should be total. This would help to further public perception of fairness and thoroughness.

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“Lack of regular electricity supply in the country had occasioned many other problems, including lack of access to potable water. The failure by successive governments to tell Nigerians the truth about allegations of corruption in the power sector amounts to a failure to ensure that electricity services are progressively made available, on the basis of equality and non-discrimination.

“In November 2016, SERAP petitioned the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, urging him to probe the alleged spending of the $16 billion. In April 2017, SERAP sent President Muhammadu Buhari an open letter, advising him to take allegations of corruption in the power sector to the international criminal courts to ensure that justice is served.

“SERAP has also called on Mr Buhari to refer the alleged $16 billion spending on electricity between 1999 and 2007 to the EFCC. Mr Buhari subsequently raised questions over the issues, saying that ‘one of the former Heads of State was bragging that he spent more than 15 billion American dollars, not naira, on power. Where is the power? Where is the power?

“In August 2017, SERAP published a report, ‘From Darkness to Darkness: How Nigerians are Paying the Price for Corruption in the Electricity Sector’, which revealed how over N11 trillion meant to provide regular electricity supply was allegedly squandered under the governments of former presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan”, the statement concluded.

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Meanwhile, the said report reads: “The Obasanjo’s administration spent $10 billion on NIPP with no results in terms of increase in power generation. $13.278,937,409.94 was expended on the power sector in eight years while unfunded commitments amounted to $12 billion.

“The Federal Government then budgeted a whopping N16 billion for the various reforms under Liyel Imoke (2003 to 2007) which went down the drains as it failed to generate the needed amount of electricity or meet the set goals. Imoke was alleged to have personally collected the sum of $7.8 million for the execution of the contract for the construction of the Jos-Yola Transmission Line, which was never executed. There were documented/reported allegations of corruption against Imoke that fizzled-out shortly thereafter.”

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Crime & Court

Security: Amotekun finally begins operation in Oyo

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Oyo state governor, Engr. Seyi Makinde on Wednesday declared the state Security Network Agency code-named Ameotekun Corps Operational.

Governor Makinde who made the disclosure at the passing-out ceremony of Oyo pioneer Amotekun Corps at Emmanuel Alayande College of Education Sports Complex, Main Campus, Oyo also noted that security has always been an issue, which make security one of the pillars of his administration, averring that insecure state can never attract investors both local and foreign.

The governor said, “When telling the story of the Western Nigeria Security Network code named Amotekun, it will be on record that it was officially launched on January 9, 2020. However, the Amotekun journey began earlier. In July 2019, the six states of the southwest, namely Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, and Oyo States, agreed to set up this outfit.

“Amotekun is indeed a first of its kind security agency because it is a regional security outfit initiated by one of Nigeria’s six geopolitical zones.

“History will also state that the headquarters is here in Oyo State.

Since its founding, we have been taking steps to ensure that the security outfit kicks off operations. In March 2020, the Oyo State House of Assembly passed the Oyo State Security Network Agency Bill 2020, which I signed into law a few days later.

He continued, “Although COVID-19 and other logistical issues delayed the recruitment process, we ran an open and transparent recruitment process that culminated in announcing the 1,500 successful candidates’ names in October 2020. Shortly after that, their training began in the first week of November. Today we are here to witness the passing out parade of the pioneer members of the Amotekun Corps.

“Security has always been an issue close to my heart. While on the campaign trail, I spoke about how we could tackle insecurity in Oyo State. We outlined clear plans in our manifesto, the Roadmap to Accelerated Development in Oyo State 2019-2023. And so, when we came into office, we went ahead to make security one of the pillars of our administration.

“Our actions have been based on the fact that if our state is insecure, we cannot attract investment, whether foreign or local. So far, we have supported our federal security outfits, who do their best to protect our people. We provided them with communication gadgets and patrol vehicles. More recently, we requested for and established just this past May 2020, the Police Mobile Force 72 Squadron at Ago-Are and presented them with patrol vehicles for the outfit’s operations.

“But as I have argued on various fora, for governors to really play the role of Chief Security Officers of their states, state policing is the way forward. I am confident that someday, we will get enough support at the national level to achieve that constitutional review.

But, for now, we will settle for the next best thing”, Governor Makinde concluded.

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Crime & Court

#EndSARS: Makinde Frees 6 Suspects Arrested At Ogbomoso’s Protest

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No fewer than six suspects arrested in connection with the crisis that visited the protest against police brutality at Ogbomoso recently have been freed by the court as prayed by Oyo State governor, Engr. Seyi Makinde.

The suspects include Olaoluwa Busayo, Olagoke David, Olusola Matthew, Amole Adebayo, Adedokun Segun and Ganiyu Saheed.

The protest against the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) had led to vandalization of the palace of Soun of Ogbomoso, Oba Oladunni Oyewumi Ajagungbade on Sunday 10th of October, 2020 while the six suspects were apprehended by the police as being part of those responsible for the attack on the palace.

A statement issued by the State Ministry of Justice, titled ‘Re-unconditional Release of the 6 Suspects Arrested In Ogbomoso in Connection with Ongoing National Protest’ and signed by the Director Public Prosecution, Mr Nathaniel Okeniyi on Tuesday and made available to the press said, upon the visit of the State governor to Ogbomoso immediately after the incident after which the governor visited the palace and later addressed protesters, he promised to set the arrested individuals free as demanded by the protesters.

“Sequel to the promise of his Excellency, Governor Seyi Makinde at Ogbomoso to effect the release of the suspects arrested in connection with the protest, today, being 19th October, 2020, the Chief Magistrate Court 2, Iyaganku Ibadan, on application of Attorney General has discharged and withdrawn the charge filed against the suspects forthwith.”

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Recall that governor Seyi Makinde gave his support to peaceful protest which he said was borne out of high level of youths’ unemployment and poverty in the land, he called on the police to take the back sit in the protest while the men of ‘Operation Burst’ should give the protesters adequate protection and avert its being hijacked by hoodlums.

 

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Crime & Court

Ibadan: EFCC Secures Conviction of Fraudsters, Arraigns Three

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Justice Sherifat Adeyemi of the Oyo State High Court, Ibadan, on Wednesday, sentenced one Balaji Salami to prison for fraud.

The convict was prosecuted by the Ibadan Zonal Office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on amended one-count charge of obtaining money by false pretence, contrary to Section 419 of the Criminal Code Cap 38, Laws of Oyo State 2000.

The charge read: “That you Bolaji Salami sometime in March, 2020, at Ibadan, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, with intent to defraud, obtained various gift cards, worth the sum of USD$150 (One Hundred and Fifty United States Dollars) from one Smith Johnson, a white male American citizen, when you falsely represented to him that you are a white female American by name Angelina James, that you are in love with him and wanted to marry him, which representations you knew to be false and thereby committed an offence.”

He pleaded guilty to the offence following which the judge pronounced him guilty as charged and sentenced him to six months imprisonment with effect from his June 30, 2020 date of arrest.

Apart from his prison term, he would restitute his victim, the sum of $150 USD (One Hundred and Fifty United States of American Dollars) and forfeit his iPhone X Max, Itel mobile phones and HP laptop computer to the federal government.

Similarly, Justice Patricia Ajoku of the Federal High Court, Ibadan, on Wednesday, October 14, sentenced one Olanrewaju Isaac Olatunji (a.k.a. Mia Cruz) to one year imprisonment for fraud. He was prosecuted by the Ibadan Zonal Office of the Commission on amended one-count charge of criminal impersonation.

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The charge read: “That you Olanrewaju Isaac Olatunji (a.k.a. Mia Cruz) sometime in May 2019 at Ibadan within the jurisdiction of this honourable court with intent to defraud, knowingly impersonated one Mia Cruz, a white female, when you falsely represented yourself to Abigail Mccaroll, in order to gain advantage for yourself, contrary to Section 22 (2) (b) (ii) of the Cyber Crimes (Prohibition, Prevention Etc) Act, 2015, and punishable under Section 22 (2) (b) of the same Act.”

He pleaded guilty to the charge upon which prosecution counsel, Mabas Mabur asked the court to sentence and convict him accordingly.

The judge sentenced him to one year imprisonment with effect from February 13, 2020, day of his arrest. His is also to restitute the sum of $1600 (One Thousand Six Hundred United States Dollars) to his victim through the EFCC, and forfeit his Honda Crosstour and other items recovered from him to the federal government.

Meanwhile, the Ibadan Zonal Office of the Commission also yesterday, arraigned the trio of Adedapo Olayiwola, Adebola Aderonke Adesina and her company, Kestrel Travels and Tour Limited, before Justice Sherifat Adeyemi.

Olayiwola is being prosecuted on a five-count charge of obtaining money by false pretence, contrary to Section 1 (2) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act, 2006 and punishable under Section 1 (3) of the same Act.

He is alleged to have fraudulently obtained over N4 million (Four Million Naira) from different victims on the pretence that he has plots of land to sell to them.

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However, the victims, with time, discovered that the said plots of land did not belong to him.

“That you Olayiwola Adedapo sometime in 2016, in Ibadan within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, with intent to defraud obtained the sum of N1,400,000 (One Million Four Hundred Thousand Naira) from one Monsuru Watiu Adekunle under the pretext that it is the purchase price for two acres of land, situated at Oyigun Village, Akinyele, Ibadan which you claimed belong to you, which representations you knew to be false and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 1 (1) (a) and punishable under Section 1 (3) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act 2006.”

He pleaded “not guilty” to the charges, upon which prosecution counsel, Murtala Usman asked the court for a commencement date of trial and for him to be remanded in prison custody.

Justice Adeyemi admitted Olayiwola to bail in the sum of N5million and two sureties in like sum. The sureties are to provide a valid means of identification, verified by the EFCC. He was given seven days to comply with the bail conditions or be returned to EFCC’s custody. The case was adjourned till December 2, 2020.

Adesina, on her part, was arraigned alongside her company on one-count charge of stealing, contrary to Section 390 of the Criminal Code Law, Cap 38, Laws of Oyo State, 2000.

She was alleged to have fraudulently obtained the sum of N2,400,000 (Two Million, Four Hundred Thousand Naira) from one Adeniyi Taiwo Dauda through her company on the pretence that she could help him procure visas for some of his clients. She, however, failed to deliver on her promise and refused to refund the money to her victim.

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The charge read, “That you, Adesina Adebola Aderonke and Kestrel Travels and Tours Limited sometime in February, 2019 at Ibadan, within the Ibadan Judicial Division of this honourable court, did commit an illegal act, to wit: stealing of the sum of N2,400,000.00 (Two Million and Four Hundred Thousand Naira) only, property of Adeniyi Taiwo Dauda.”

She pleaded “not guilty” to the charges, prompting prosecution counsel, Murtala Usman to ask the court for a commencement date of trial and for the defendant to be remanded in prison custody.

The court ordered that she be remanded in EFCC’s custody, pending an application for her bail and adjourned the matter till October 20, 2020 for hearing.

 

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