The High Court of Niger State sitting in Minna, was told how a former Registrar of the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Prof. Dibu Ojerinde, allegedly diverted N341.9 million from the National Examination Council (NECO) to set up a personal printing press, school and buildings.
Prosecution witness, Dr. Jimoh Olatunde, who testified before the trial judge, Justice Abdullahi Mikailu, in the on-going trial of Ojerinde, told the court that N216, 297.443 was deceitfully withdrawn from NECO account for payments for 17 fictitious printing contracts, which was in actual sense, used for establishing the printing press.
Olatunde is the first witness to be brought before Justice Mikailu, in a 10-count charge of official corruption and abuse of office brought against Ojerinde by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).
The witness, who is a former deputy director and head of treasury at NECO said: “We follow due process for the award of the contracts strictly on paper but I am confirming to this court that I know what went on underneath despite perfection of all the documents and processes.
“Let me give you an instance, between 2004/5, most printing contracts were awarded to these 17 companies owned by a friend of Prof. Dibu Ojerinde. He was the one in charge of all printing materials in NECO.
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“He brought a handwritten bill of N246, 914, 890, when he wanted to establish a printing press for Prof Dibu Ojeriende and I was directed to pay 87.6% amounting to N216, 297.443 only. We perfected all the documents through award of fictitious contracts to the 17 companies.”
While being led in evidence by counsel to ICPC, Ebenezer Shogunle, the witness gave details about the various properties he acquired in Minna for Ojerinde, using different fronts including one Alhaji Muri Lamidi, and fictitious address in Kontagora, Niger State.
The witness further listed before the court, a multiple storey building known as “TejumolaHouse”, Ojodu, Lagos, which was acquired in 2003, in the name of Doyin OgbohiIndustries Ltd from Intercontinental Bank for N27 million and Sapati International School, Ilorin, Kwara State, which was built at an initial contract sum of N98.6 million.
The witness, who took full responsibility for all the illegal withdrawal of funds from NECO being the Head of Treasury as at the time the alleged fraud took place, told the court that assets were acquired with stolen public funds.
A total of 18 documents including correspondence addressed to the witness as “client representative’ by the various contractors used for the projects as well as bills of quantities were tendered and admitted in evidence.
The witness also tendered some documents to show that a number of shares in some blue chip companies acquired for the former JAMB boss were transferred to ‘Madiba’sTrust’, an entity created to consolidate.
While being cross-examined by counsel to the Defendant, Ibrahim Ishyaku (SAN), the ICPC witness also tendered a list of 17 companies, which he said were used to siphon funds from NECO to acquire some of the companies and assets for the benefit of the defendant.
The matter was adjourned to March 7-8, 2022 for continuation of hearing following complaint of back ache by the witness and further cross-examination by the defence counsel, a statement by ICPC said.
Insecurity: Terrorists, bandits are threats to 2023 poll, says Dambazzau
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Former Interior Minister Abdulrahman Dambazau yesterday reflected on the worsening insecurity in the country, warning that terrorism and banditry may threaten next year’s general election.
He urged security agencies to intensify the war against terror and kidnapping by taking the battle to the criminals in their hideouts.
Gen. Dambazau, a former Chief of Army Staff, who delivered a paper at the yearly Public Lectures and Impact Series/Awards of the Blueprint Newspaper Limited in Abuja, lamented that terrorists were creating cells close to the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
He called for the review of security strategies and reforms to combat criminality, while also warning against ethno-religious politics.
As concern mounts on insecurity, governors are expected to meet today in Abuja to deliberate on the common threat and solutions.
Yesterday, Zamfara State Governor Bello Matawalle signed the death penalty bill as part of measures to combat kidnappings.
In Lagos State, stakeholders who expressed worry about the security situation in the country, called for a total ban on commercial motorcycles (Okada) operators in the metropolis.
In Imo State, Governor Hope Uzodimma, who donated 10 armoured vehicles to the police, charged them to effectively maintain law and order in the state.
At the Blueprint Lecture Series to commemorate its 11th anniversary were Yobe State Governor Mai Mala Buni, his Kogi counterpart, Yahaya Bello, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Sports, Sunday Dare, and the Sarkin Sudan of Kontagora, Alhaji Mohammed Barrau II.
Danbazzau urged security agencies to take the war against terrorism, banditry and kidnapping to criminals, who are building their cells close to Abuja.
“Terrorists are inching closer to the seat of power. So, also the motorcycle bandits whom had almost taken control of the Abuja-Kaduna Road; and to some extent, the Abuja-Lokoja Road, and Kaduna-Birnin Gwari Road.
“These roads or highways must be constantly dominated by security activities, and the terrorists and/or bandits must be pursued with adequate firepower aimed at eliminating them.
“It is clear that the violent activities of these groups are designed to make citizens uncomfortable, in addition to embarrassing and discrediting the government.
“To elicit emotions, raise tension, and influence public opinion against the government, the terrorists would normally post video of their helpless victims and/or activities.
“They extort money as ransom from family members of their victims, and sometimes they even murder their victims after payment.
“They make deliberate efforts to put the government on panic mode, leading to closure of schools, businesses, and other public activities.
“This situation will encourage their audacity. From now on, we should take fight to wherever they are, put pressure on them and make them very uncomfortable, where the opportunity avails itself, eliminate them.
“We must live our normal lives, and not allow some violent gangs to make us live miserable lives, full of uncertainties.
“As we are preparing for the 2023 elections, we are also thinking about the possibility of attacks or disruptions of the election processes by these violent groups.”
He added: “The security threats against the 2023 politics are not limited to the activities of the terror groups in the North, but also the proscribed IPOB in the southeast, which has not only been terrorizing the people of the region, especially while enforcing their illegal sit-at-home orders, but also killing and destroying properties of northerners seeking livelihood in the region.”
The former COAS, who made recommendations to address the security challenges, said the welfare of military personnel is paramount, regretting that the Police and the military are currently being overstretched right now.
He also advised the military to put their differences aside and work together as a team in tackling the security challenges.
Danbazzau said: “The reforms of the security sector in line with the current and future security challenges are inevitable, and there are no options other than to carry them out.
“The sooner we commence the process, the better. I believe that this should be the very first item on the agenda of the government coming in May 2023.
“Aside the issues or factors earlier mentioned, the reasons why these reforms are necessary are that firstly, there appears to be no synergy among the security agencies in terms of cooperation, coordination, and collaboration while carrying out their activities, rather they operate in silos with no role convergence; they hoard information; and are reluctant to share intelligence, as if they are in competition.
“Secondly, there is poor security governance, making accountability and transparency almost impossible; and thirdly, there is duplication of efforts, leading to wastages of resources.”
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Dambazau urged Nigerians not to focus on ethnicity and religion in making their choices in 2023 general elections.
He said with over 60,000 abandoned projects in Nigeria, which is estimated to cost about N12 trillion, Nigerians should be more interested in poverty reduction; food security; youth unemployment; improved power sector and others..
He defended the choice of ex-Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State as the running mate to the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
He said Shettima was a product of merit and not religious factor.
He listed factors that could influence 2023 politics, including zoning, restructuring debate, ethnicity, religion, widespread insecurity and socio-economic challenges.
Dambazau delivered a paper in Abuja at the Annual Public Lectures and Impact Series/ Awards of the Blueprint Newspapers Limited.
He expressed concerns that 2023 politics has started with the mundane issues, which have led to insecurity and instability.
He said: “It is apparent that we have started 2023 politics with the mundane issues that brought us to the level of insecurity and instability we are today.
“We have more than enough challenges or issues confronting us. Rather than directing our energy on religious or ethnic controversies, we should be more interested in such issues as poverty reduction; food security; youth unemployment; improved power sector; quality and affordable healthcare services; and improved education system.
Dambazau however, defended the choice of ex-Governor Kashim Shettima as the running mate to the Presidential Candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
He added: “If it(religion) were, he could have picked from the Northwest, where about 90 per cent of the population is Muslim.
“When strategising for winning elections, all factors are put on the table for consideration. Tinubu’s choice of Kashim Shettima could not be by chance. Kashim Shettima had in the past demonstrated leadership as a two-term Governor of Borno state under the stress of insurgency, violent extremism, and terrorism.”
“We are also aware that Borno state is one of the northern states that have been hard hit by the impact of Climate Change, resulting in land degradation. With the insecurity challenge in Nigeria, including climate-related conflicts, the choice of Kashim Shettima to leverage on his crisis management experience was apt.
“At the level of personal relationship, it is an open secret that Shettima had shown loyalty and support for the presidential aspiration of Bola Ahmed Tinubu. “While it is not expected that everyone agrees with such strategic decisions, no one can also deny the candidate his right to make his choice, of course, after due consultations with party stakeholders, and this is applicable to all our fifteen or so candidates.”
Dambazau listed issues that may shape 2023 politics, especially the presidential race by 15 candidates.
He said: “So, what are the likely issues or factors that could influence the 2023 politics? Firstly, the politics of zoning the presidency between North and South, that re-emerged when the Southern and Middle Belt Leadership Forum insisted that for the 2023 presidential elections, the parties must produce candidates from the South, to which the Northern Elders Forum opposed.
“As a matter of fact, the zoning controversy was further reduced to the level of ethnicity with the agitation of what was termed “Igbo presidency”, meaning that 2023 was the chance of the Igbo ethnic group to produce the next president after Buhari.
“The development of critical infrastructures is also a key area of concern, and although the APC government under Buhari has done remarkably well by completing many of the projects it met in 2015, in addition to new ones it originated, there are however approximately 60,000 abandoned projects in Nigeria, estimated to cost about N12 trillion. And what can we do to mitigate such waste? These are only a few critical areas the 2023 politics should focus attention on, not religion and ethnicity.”
The ex-minister said tackling insecurity should be on the front burner in 2023.
He said the security problems could affect 2023 poll because “some communities would still be displaced and the terrorists would likely continue attacks on soft targets.”
“While the government records significant success in tackling Boko Haram in the North-East, the Northwest caught the insecurity virus with several incidents of banditry, cattle rustling, and kidnapping for ransom. Banditry is multifaceted with a variety of events and activities, but unlike the Boko Haram insurgency, which is ideologically driven hoping to establish a state, the bandits have not shown such territorial ambition.
“It is a complex combination of violent business entrepreneurship through kidnapping for ransom, cattle rustling by the criminal gangs, and attacks on rural settlements.”
Dambazau said the nation must address its population explosion, especially what he described as the “youth bulge.”
“The UN had projected that by 2050 the population would double to a little over 400million which also means that the young population would also double. The extent to which this human capital is developed, and its well-being adequately taken care of, is of utmost importance. The youth bulge is a matter of serious security concern now and in the future. What are our plans for the youth? This is a relevant question for 2023 politics.
“If we do not have positive plans for them in terms of poverty reduction, accessible and quality education, employment opportunities, skills acquisition, healthcare services, shelter, and other aspects of human development, there are readily available criminal and terror organizations that would easily recruit them for their violent activities.”
Buni said: “The theme “2023 Politics, National Security and Nigeria’s Stability” is very apt in view of the security threats that usually accompany National elections and the already existing security challenges that have bedeviled our nation.
“The success or otherwise of the 2023 elections hugely depends on us the politicians, the political parties, candidates and their supporters, and of course, the political umpire the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
“The need for peace to conduct the elections and to have good governance and development cannot be overemphasized. It, therefore, becomes obvious for all of us to make sacrifices and consider national interests above personal interests for a free and peaceful election in 2023.
“As patriots, with the zeal to ensure the unity of Nigeria, there is no election or interest of any single individual that is worth sending Nigeria to war.”
Appeal Court frees Kano singer sentenced to death by Sharia ruling
The Court of Appeal in Kano State, on Wednesday, discharged and acquitted 22-year-old Yahaya Sharif Aminu sentenced to death by a Sharia court over alleged blasphemy.
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Umar, in his ruling said: “Section 38 of 1999 Constitution provides that every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including the freedom to change his religion or belief.
“This is the judgment of the court, the appellant is discharged and acquitted,” Umar declared.
The Sharia Court had sentenced the musician to death by hanging for blasphemy.
The 22-year-old was convicted based on Section 382 (b) of Kano penal code of 2000 after he was accused of committing blasphemy against the Prophet in a song he circulated via WhatsApp in March 2020.
‘We had turned them back’, Lagos beach reacts to drowning of four teenagers
The management of the Elegushi Beach in Lagos State has reacted to the drowning of four teenagers who went swimming to celebrate their external examination success at the beach on Tuesday.
Chief Ayuba Elegushi, while speaking on behalf of the beach management, said in a statement made available to newsmen that the incident occurred at an unmanned section of the beach area, which was not open to the public.
According to him, about 10 teenage boys visited the beach on Tuesday morning to celebrate the success of their West African Examination Council (WAEC) results.
He said while the beach authorities and security team had turned them back, the boys took a detour and went to an unmanned section of the beach area to swim.
He said unfortunately, about 10 of them were almost drowning before the beach security was alerted to the scene and six of them were rescued alive while four were not that lucky.
The state Police Public Relations Officer, Benjamin Hundeyin, confirmed the incident, adding that investigation was ongoing.
He said, “The teenagers were from Kuramo Senior College, Lekki. Four of them are missing. They are two males and two females. Efforts are on to recover their bodies. We have yet to meet with the parents of the victims.”
Elegushi said, “We initially sent them away from the area of the beach they wanted to swim in. Then, they went to another place that was not for the public at all. It was the child of our kinsman, Abass, who took them from school to the beach and those kids followed him.
“They did not pay any gate fee to access the beach. Abass used the leverage that he was one of us to take them through another place.”
The victims were said to have raised the alarm as the water swept them away.
Elegushi said some life guards plunged into the water and brought out six of the pupils.
“Out of the six that were rescued, some escaped by the time we got there. We were able to arrest two of them and we took them to the Jakande Police Station.
“As of now, there are still four missing as our seamen have not been able to bring them out of the water. We have informed their parents and they have come to the police station.
“Abass is one of the missing kids. There is another boy we have not identified with two other girls,” he added.
He said the arrested two boys told the police that they were chased from the beach before sneaking into the restricted section to swim.
He said, “They wrote in their statements that they were chased from the first section they went to. Abass told them that they should not worry and he would take them to another part of the beach. He took them to another end of the beach where no one could see them.”
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