Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, Femi Falana (SAN) and others failed to attend court on Wednesday at the resumed proceedings in the trial of former Chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT), Abdulrasheed Maina.
Maina and his firm, Common Input Property and Investment Ltd, are being prosecuted before a Federal High Court in Abuja by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on money laundering charge involving about N2.1billion.
The court had on March 8, 2021, at the instance of Maina’s lawyer, issued witness summons on Malami, Falana, the suspended acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu and seven others to appear between March 9 and 11 and testify as witnesses of the first defendant (Maina).
The court also invited M. Mustapha, Director of Compliance at the Central Bank of Nigeria; Ibrahim Kaigama of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS); Chief Kenneth Amabem of Central Business District, Abuja; G.T. Idris and Hassan Salihu of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC); and Commissioner of Police (CP), Mohammed Wakil (retd).
None of those invited attended the resumed proceedings on Wednesday.
Maina’s lawyer, Sani Katu (SAN). also did not inform the court that any of the subpoenaed witnesses was in court. Instead, he applied orally to withdraw from the case.
He was silent on why he sought to withdraw. Had his application been granted, Katu would have been the fifth defence lawyer to withdraw since the case started.
Those who earlier withdrew are Joe Gadzama (SAN), Adeola Adedipe, Francis Oronsaye and Anayo Adibe.
When Katu applied to withdraw on Wednesday, lawyer to the EFCC, Farouk Abdullah objected, arguing that the defence lawyer failed to comply with Section 349(8) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA).
Section 349(8) of ACJA states: “Where a legal practitioner intends to disengage from a matter, he shall notify the court, not less than three days before the date fixed for hearing and such notice shall be served on the court and all parties.”
Ruling, Justice Okon Abang rejected Katu’s claim that he had discussed his withdrawal, off record, with the prosecution lawyer.
He described Katu’s request to withdraw as one “done in bad faith”.
“His application to withdraw is to compound issues and to hold the court to ransom. In any event, from the record from the court, a notice has not been filed before the court.
“If a law requires that notice should be filed, it should be filed. It is not a sentimental issue but an issue of law which cannot be overlooked.
“The obvious lapses on his part cannot move the court to grant this application. The application to withdraw legal representation and cause confusion in the matter lacks merit and is accordingly refused,” Justice Abang said.
He also rejected Katu’s further request for adjournment to enable him to file a formal application for withdrawal. The judge then ordered the first defendant to produce his second witness.
Rather than call his next witness, Katu told the court that his planned witness, Charles Enakaeno, was involved in an accident and could not attend court.
Katu sought a further adjournment, relying on Section 396 of the ACJA, a request Abdullah did not oppose.
Ruling, Justice Abang expressed displeasure that Maina failed to assemble his witnesses on time.
Support hijab to suppress urge for nudity, crime – Muslim groups
Muslim groups have called for maximum support for hijab to ensure decent dressing in the society and address the urge for appearing almost nude in the public.
They made the call in their different messages delivered in Lagos on Wednesday at a press conference to commemorate the World Hijab Day.
Secretary of NASFAT Women Affairs, Lagos Zone 2, Alhaja Aishat Busari, asked people to stop bullying those wearing hijab, stressing that there must be religious tolerance for peaceful coexistence of people in the society.
She said “This is a simple call to movers and shakers of the world to live by their sayings and preaching of peaceful coexistence, a significant part of the SDGs.”
She also said, “It is disheartening to know how much the society applauds immorality and frowns on right choices. How women empowerment is preached, yet the empowerment and choice of Muslim women is opposed. In this World, where the urge to go naked is prevalent, let’s join hands together, schoolteachers/administrators, leaders of faith, and every one to encourage modesty, the use of hijab.”
She maintained that anyone discriminating against the Hijab would not only be violating the law and peaceful co-existence but also encouraging violence.
“Let’s rise against all forms of discrimination against women and girls. Let’s rise against all forms of discrimination against the Hijab,” Busari stated.
Executive Director, Hijab Rights Advocacy Initiative, Mutiat Orolu-Balogun, said the Hijab for Muslim women apart from being a fulfilment of a divine commandment is also guaranteed by section 38 of the 1999 constitution.
She stated, “Though the Hijab was legislated and enjoined on Muslim women over 1400 years ago as described in Chapter 24 (Surah An-Noor,Verse 31) of the Qur’an, we keep seeing how it is even more relevant today. Nakedness marked a distinctive feature of pre-civilization , hence to adopt modesty in dressing is progression.”
Even as she acknowledged the recent Supreme Court judgement was a landmark achievement for hijab, there were still issues casting shadow on progress made so far.
Senior Admin Officer, Muslim Public Affairs Centre (MPAC), Fatimah Sanni, asserted that discrimination against women in hijab is Islamophobia
She said, “At MPAC, we challenge Islamophobia, discrimination, and the ideologies that drive them. At the same time we promote empowerment and freedom to practice hijab in safety. We believe that the female Muslims should be free to express their religious beliefs free of discrimination and prejudice. “This is why we have continued to support initiatives like the World Hijab Day campaign.”
She called the attention of government agencies to the plight of Muslim women when seeking government services particularly the taking of biometrics.
According to her, despite the law recognising the use of the Hijab and does not require the ears to be brought out of the hijab, “et we get numerous verified reports of Hijabis being compelled to either take off their hijabs completely or bare their ears when they require their biometrics taken even for a sim card registration!”
Assistant Welfare Secretary, The Criterion, Lagos District, Modinat Braimah, declared that the wearing of hijab was of immense benefit to the society.
She said, “The hijab marks the wearer as honorable, respectable, chaste and modest with expected high level of morals.
“The Muslim woman dressing does not oppress Muslim women or any other woman for that matter as the media wants to portray it. It is not a political tool or a fashion statement. It is the dignity of the human person of a Muslim woman as guaranteed by the constitution of our dear country Nigeria.”
She also cautioned against harassment of innocent female Muslims wearing hijab, adding, “Our strength as a community and indeed a nation lies not in how we treat the high and mighty, but how we care for the weak and vulnerable.”
Similarly, Ameerah FOMWAN Lagos State, Alhaja Sherifat Ajagbe, stated that all women deserve to be protected from gender-based violence.
She recalled the recent report of a young lady in Niqob raped in a mosque in Ibadan, Oyo State, describing it as heinous crime against humanity and desecration of the mosque.
“It is sad indeed that Muslim women who are known to be modest have become targets of these criminal elements. Indeed, the hijabi is almost becoming ‘endangered species’ as she is being discriminated against by her fellow citizens and she’s also not safe from the attacks of criminals,” Ajagbe said.
She added, “We at FOMWAN Lagos as well as the other 17 participating Organisations hereby call on the relevant authorities to prosecute as a matter of urgency the perpetuator of this heinous crime named as Idris A.K.A Kesari as well as his father popularly called Al-Majiri who not only helped the perpetrator to escape, before arrest but also seeks to intimidate the victim as well as concerned Nigerians.”
FG dismisses Transparency International (TI) verdict on Nigeria
Federal Government, yesterday, dismissed the recent verdict on Nigeria by Transparency International (TI), which said the country dropped five places in the 2022 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI).
It boasted that some of the government’s legacy projects have been facilitated with funds known as Abacha loot, hitherto stolen and stashed abroad by a former Nigerian leader but returned to the country.
This came against the backdrop of reports that Nigeria scored 24 out of 100 points while ranking 150 among 180 countries on the 2022 Corruption Perception Index released by TI, a development which has continued to stoke concern by citizens.
Although the country maintained its previous year’s (2021) score of 24 out of 100 points, however, there was a change in rank from 154 to 150, as some other countries performed more poorly in 2022.
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Fielding questions, Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, downplayed the rating, saying the Nigerian government’s fight against corruption is not at the whims and caprices of the global agency.
The minister spoke after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He said: “We are not really worried or bothered about rating of the TI, because we know that everything we do is to ensure that we fight corruption the best way we know how to. If TI is not seeing this, then I think it has to change its template. But, again, we’re not fighting corruption to impress TI.
“We are not fighting corruption because we want to impress Transparency International or any organisation whatsoever. We’re fighting corruption because we believe if we do not fight corruption, there’ll be no growth, either in terms of the economy or even political.”
The minister added: “Therefore, what we do and what we’re putting in place to fight corruption is not because we want to be rated by anybody. I can assure you that we do not know what template TI is using. Whatever template it is using, it is clearly oblivious of what this administration is doing to fight corruption.
“Corruption fighting is not just by how many people have you arrested? How many people have you tried? How many people have you convicted? Of course, even in that respect, we have a very impressive record.”
East-West road, 43 others to be completed without delay – Fashola
All 44 road projects in the approved phase two of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC) Road Infrastructure Tax Credit Scheme including the East-West road will be completed without any delay or break.
The Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola (SAN), stated this, stressing that sustainability of funding for the critical infrastructure in Nigeria would be guaranteed.
Fashola, who spoke in Abuja, noted that unlike in the past, when there was inadequate funding of infrastructure, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari had secured alternative sources of funding that could guarantee sustainability from the beginning of the projects to their completion.
He said the tax credit scheme remained a new model that encourages partnership with private companies where taxes are paid in advance to enable the government invest in notable projects that would be beneficial to its citizens.
The minister said the Federal Government had focused on nine major axes of Nigeria, adding that the A1 – A4 axis covered the Northern part of the country, while the A5-A9 axis covered the East and West of the country.
He said the successful completion of all the roads would lead to sustainable mobility for Nigerians.
“The roads like Akure – Ado –Ekiti and East-West which people have been complaining about would be adequately catered for with the approval of the second phase of the NNPC Tax Credit Scheme,” he said.
On payment of compensation, Fashola noted that it would not be paid to anyone occupying the government’s Right of Way (RoW) and appealed to members of the communities occupying the areas to vacate.
Permanent Secretary of the ministry, represented by the Director overseeing the Office of the Permanent Secretary, Folorunsho Esan, said in line with the Executive Order 7 (2019), phase one was approved on October 27, 2021.
He stated that with the completion of phase one, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) has also approved phase II of the scheme to fund 44 critical road infrastructure to the tune of N1.96 trillion naira.
Esan said that as it was done with phase one, phase two would be governed by a set of guidelines to be issued to each contractor, adding that there would be a funding intervention agreement to be implemented in addition to the standard condition of the contract governing the execution of the projects.
He said that the availability of this new funding window will ensure steady cash flow and a timely completion of projects.
He also stated that the NNPC intervention which began in October 2021 with phase one has now occupied the top of the log with a portfolio well in excess of N2.6 trillion.
On the part of NNPC, the Group Chief Executive Officer, Mallam Mele Kyari, who was represented by the Chief Financial Officer, Umar Aliya, said that funding would not be an issue anymore as the company is committed to fully funding the next phase.
“We are committed to setting aside funds for phase II. Funding would not be a problem. What is important to us is that our consultant will need to validate the value for money and the quality of work. We will not compromise the quality and timely completion of work,“ he said.
“There is no need for excuses. As for us, on our part, we are committed and we implore the contractors to do quality work and do it on time so that the road projects can be open for use to Nigerians,” he added.
The Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS) Mohammed Nami, explained that most of the roads captured by Executive Order 7 to be executed by the NNPC were mostly road projects inherited by the administration of Muhammadu Buhari.
“So, we are appealing to Nigerians to trust Executive order 007 so that government will continue to provide the physical infrastructure that our people need,“he said.
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