The outgoing Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole allegedly used the National Assembly accounts as collateral to secure the N10 billion loan which has pitched him against his colleagues in the House.
Yesterday in Benin, Edo State, a House of Representatives member, representing the Zagon-Kataf/Jaba federal constituency of Kaduna State, Godfrey Gaiya, said some members are aggrieved with the leadership of the House and the bank in question because Mr Bankole used the accounts of the National Assembly as collateral to access the loan as a personal fund.
Mr Gaiya added, however, that anybody was free to obtain loans from any bank in the country.
“Thank God he (Bankole) said it was a personal loan; he can collect whatever he wants as long as it is returned to the House. We are angry not only with Bankole, but with the bank,” he said.
“We are simply asking Bankole to sort himself out with the bank so that members’ entitlements are paid before the House is dissolved.”
Neither Mr Bankole nor his media aides were available for comment last night and calls put to his spokesperson, Kayode Odunaro, were unanswered.
The issue of the loan, which makes it hard for the leadership of the House to pay the entitlements of members is at the heart of a restiveness among the lawmakers, some of whom have launched efforts to sanction Mr Bankole. The other leaders of the House have, however, rallied around the speaker.
Eseme Oyibo, the spokesperson of the House, said this was done to ensure that the session ends without rancour.
Fear of openness
Speaking on the choice of the speaker for the next assembly, Mr Gaiya assured that the House would give equal opportunity to all interested representatives. He said the House cannot be intimidated by the Presidency or the leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Mr Gaiya, who was among participants at a one week retreat organised for lawmakers in Asaba, Delta State, said it was the position of a majority of members of the House of Representatives that the process leading to the choice of who succeeds Mr Bankole be conducted in an open secret ballot voting pattern.
The move, he said, was to pave way for the protection of lawmakers who may be under undue pressure from their state governors in voting a candidate of their choice. According to him, the decision of the House not to support a representative brought by the party for House Speaker was informed by the need to allow fair play and guarantee all members equal opportunity to aspire to the position of Speaker.
“We do not have a favoured candidate of the party or the government, what we want to do as a parliament is to choose anybody whom we consider competent and is capable of leading the house,” he said. “We don’t want to be disturbed by arrangement like in the past which created fear and panic in the minds of parliamentarians when they wanted to vote.”
Mr Gaiya added that in the past, voting was done in the open, in such a way that members had to stand up and say loudly the name of the person they are voting for. He said such openness had always cowed members so much that they vote against their conscience.
“Every member will be accredited and given his ballot paper and voting will be done and counted before everybody,” he said. “We are not toeing the line of the PDP that says we are zoning the position; we do not want to toe the line of the Presidency that says we are favouring a particular candidate. As elected members of the House, we want to be allowed to elect our speaker.”
AFRICA’S campaign for fair trade practices and funds to develop its infrastructure has received a boost from the government of India.
The cheery news came yesterday from the country’s Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, at the 2nd Africa-India Forum Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where he told 15 African leaders that his administration was set to assist the continent accelerate its development.
African leaders present at the event included President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea, who is also the chairperson of the African Union (AU); Vice President Mohammed Namadi Sambo of Nigeria, President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya; President Idriss Deby of Tchad, Burundi’s Pierre Nkurunziza, Deputy President Kgalema Motlan of South Africa, among others.
The funds, to be expended under “enhanced co-operation” between the two blocs, form part of the New Delhi Declaration of 2008.
The Indian leader hinted that New Delhi would focus on “infrastructure development, regional integration, capacity building and human resource development in Africa.”
He said: “We will offer $5 billion for the next three years under lines of credit to help achieve the development goals of Africa. We will offer an additional $700 million to establish new institutions and training programmes in consultation with the African Union (AU) and its institutions.
“Under the lines of credit that we offered at the first summit, we had specifically looked at promoting regional integration through infrastructure development. On the advice of the African Union, I am happy to announce that we would support the development of a new Ethio-Djibout Railway line to the tune of $300 million for this important regional project.”
Singh said following the success of the Pan-African E-Network Project, “we propose to take the next step and establish an India-Africa Virtual University. This, we hope, will help to meet some of the demand in Africa for higher studies in Indian institutions. We further propose that 10,000 new scholarships under this proposed university will be available for African students after its establishment.”
And in continuation of the capacity building programme, especially in the human resources development sector designed at the first summit in 2008, Singh announced the proposal to establish new institutions at the pan-African level. These are India-Africa Food Processing Cluster that is expected to contribute to value-addition and the creation of regional and export markets; India-Africa Integrated Textiles Cluster to support the cotton industry and its processing and conversion into high value products; India-Africa Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting to harness satellite technology for the agriculture and fisheries sectors as well as contribute towards disaster preparedness and management of natural resources.
“We have received a request to support the establishment of an India-Africa University for Life and Earth Sciences. We would be happy to support this important venture,” Singh said, adding that the setting up of an India-Africa Institute of Agriculture and Rural Development is also underway.
Another area of priority is air connectivity, which Singh noted its inadequacy “has created the biggest gaps in our interaction with Africa. I would be happy to increase the access of African airlines to Indian cities in a significant manner over the next three years.”
Recognising Africa’s strong regional organisations, Singh pledged to work with “regional economic communities to establish at the regional level, soil, water and tissue testing laboratories, regional farm science centres, seed production-cum demonstration centres, and material testing laboratories for highways.”
At the bilateral level, the Indian leader said, “ we propose to establish institutes for English language training, information technology, entrepreneurship development and vocational training.”
And as part of India’s new initiatives in the social and economic sectors, the establishment of rural technology parks, food testing laboratories, food processing business incubation centres and centres on geo-informatics applications and rural development, is also on the card.
In education, he announced an increase from 500 to 900 scholarships yearly for graduate studies in India, offering of 2,500 training positions under the Indian Technical and Economic Co-operation Programme (ITEC) yearly for the next three years. “Our total commitment for the next three years by way of scholarships to African students will stand at more than 22,000,” Singh said.
To stimulate trade and investment flows as well as transfer of technology, he proposed the establishment of India-Africa Business Council, which will bring together chief executive officers of major corporations from both sides. And to enhance African capacities in the maintenance of peace and security, a contribution of $2 million for the African Union Mission in Somalia was also announced. The summit ends today with the endorsement of the “Africa-India Frame-work for Enhanced Co-operation” as part of the highlights of the Africa Day Celebration.
The first edition of the summit held in New Delhi in 2008 produced what is now known as “Africa-India Frame-work for Co-operation” enumerating seven areas of partnership.
The new Falcon 7x presidential aircraft at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
Almost 70 days after the new N7.65bn presidential jet, Falcon 7X, touched down at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, from the manufacturer’s factory in France, Dassault Aviation, France European authorities have banned the jet from flying in Europe and other parts of the world over safety issues.
The ban, an Emergency Airworthiness Directive, which was issued on Thursday by the European Aviation Safety Agency, the agency that regulates Dassault as well as the European aviation industry, took immediate effect, starting from May 27.
The EASA’s grounding of the worldwide fleet of Dassault’s Falcon 7X executive jets came hours after one of the aircraft encountered an in-flight anomaly that could have caused the pilots to lose control.
The EASA directive, which was published on Thursday, said that the jet “experienced an uncontrolled pitch trim runaway during descent. The crew succeeded in recovering a stable situation and performed an uneventful landing.”
An analysis of the plane’s Digital Flight Data Recorder and Fault History Database confirmed the event, EASA said, but the cause of the pitch trim runaway couldn’t be explained.
“This condition, if it occurs again, could lead to the loss of control of the aeroplane,” the EASA notice said.
However, the Cologne, Germany-based safety agency said in its Emergency Airworthiness Directive that the decision to halt all flight operations of Dassault’s flagship jet came at the request of the Paris-based company, according to a Dow Jones report on Friday.
The plane was en route between Europe and Malaysia, Asia, with no passengers on board, Dassault spokesman Stephane Fort told Dow Jones Newswires by telephone.
The pilots managed to regain control of the aircraft and landed it safely in Malaysia, he said. Fort couldn’t say who owns the aircraft or who was operating it.
Fort said the decision to ground the aircraft was a precautionary measure.
Dassault has sent a team of technicians to Malaysia to try to identify the cause of the problem, he said, adding, “Our priority is the safety of our passengers and our aircraft.
The Falcon 7X was introduced in 2007 and is designed to fly 5,950 nautical miles with at least eight passengers. There are 112 of the aircraft in service.
“This airworthiness directive is considered to be an interim measure pending the outcome of the investigation currently carried out by the manufacturer,” EASA said.
The Falcon 7X has a sticker price of about $50m, depending on cabin features.
President Goodluck Jonathan had in the third week of March 2011, taken delivery of a Falcon 7X plane, shortly after it landed on the shores of the country from France.
The aircraft, which was manufactured by Dassault Aviation of France, cost the government $51m (about N7.65bn.)
The Federal Executive Council had on August 12, 2010 approved $102m for the purchase of two Falcon 7X and $53.3m for one Gulfstream G550 aircraft to beef up the presidential fleet.
The second Falcon 7X, it was learnt then, was expected to arrive in the country during the second quarter of this year.
In what is probably its first mission, the jet was said to have conveyed the wife of the President, Patience, to Sokoto during the third of week of March.
The two Falcon 7X aircraft are to be supplied by Messrs Dassault Aviation of France, while the Gulfstream G550 will come from Messrs Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation of the United States.
The Nigerian ambassador to Kenya, Dr Chijioke Wilcox Wigwe, is on the verge of going on an unprecedented trial in that country for assault, battery and cannibalism. On May 11, Wigwe allegedly attacked his wife, Tess Iyi.
According to diplomatic sources, Kenya Police Commissioner Mathew Itwere has formally written to the Nigerian government through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs asking the Nigerian government to waive the immunity of ambassador Wigwe to enable the prosecution to go ahead.
The Kenya media is awash with shocking images of deep cuts and bruises on Mrs. Wigwe’s face, neck, fingers and spine resulting from a quarrel with the ambassador.
A women rights group, FIDA Kenya, has also condemned Ambassador Wigwe as being unfit fit to be Nigeria’s High Commissioner in Kenya.
Mrs. Wigwe, a lawyer who holds dual British and Nigerian citizenships, has also written to the Kenyan police asking that her husband be arrested for assaulting her, causing her serious bodily harm.
She explained that she decided to come out about her situation to show that domestic violence cuts across cultures, education and social standing. "I cannot keep quiet. I have kept quiet long enough," Mrs. Wigwe is quoted as saying.
She also told the Nairobi Star she was rescued by her 20-year-old son and 23-year-old daughter on May 11, and rushed her, bleeding profusely, to the hospital. She was admitted to the Aga Khan Hospital, Nairobi, where she was operated on and discharged on Sunday, May 15. She also said her doctors had advised her to be careful as the injuries to her lower back might lead to paralysis.
Meanwhile, Ambassador Wigwe, who doubles as Nigeria’s High Commissioner to the Seychelles and represents the country at the United Nations Environmental Programme and the UN Habitat in Nairobi, was today expected to play host to a four-day Nollywood roadshow and fair. It is said to have been organised by the Nigerian Export Promotion Council, the Nigerian Guild of Actors and the Nigerian High Commission. It will culminate in a gala dinner on Sunday night.
The Nairobi Star was told by a lawyer acting for Mrs. Wigwe that they are demanding that Wigwe's diplomatic immunity be lifted so that he can face the law.
The couple is reported to have five children — four boys and a girl aged between 32 and 20 years, and five grandchildren.
Federal lawmakers appear headed for a confrontation with the leadership of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over fresh disclosures that about N50 billion of looted public funds recovered from past government officials by the EFCC can still not be located, several years after the monies were recovered.
A formal investigative report on the missing funds was launched by the House of Representatives nearly six months ago, and is expected to be released this week — just before the end of the current legislative session.
Key members of the house ad hoc committee on the investigation who spoke to NEXT have hinted that there has been no revelation from the anti-graft body that is significantly different from its past claim that the N20 billion recovered from the former Inspector General of Police (IGP), Tafa Balogun, and anotherN30 billion from other officials, could not be traced.
“We have sent them a query and they responded still denying that the funds are with them,” said a member of the committee, who refused to be named because the report has not yet been submitted.
The newest of the details though, according to another member, is that out of the total N20 billion recovered from the convicted police boss, the EFCC has, for the first time, argued that the sum was actually N2 billion and not N20 billion. The lawmaker said based on the information made available to the committee, the commission did not refute that N2 billion is in its coffers. “I believe the money is with them,” the source added.
The admission that the agency is in possession of the sum - although it is meagre given that N50 billion was the subject of the House investigation - appears to be a positive step when placed in the context of the many years during which the commission has summarily denied knowledge of the whereabouts of the missing funds.
Even after the latest disclosure last week to NEXT, EFCC spokesperson, Femi Babafemi insisted that issues of the commission keeping records of recovered loots have not arisen at all.“The EFCC does not keep recovered money,” Mr Babafemi said.
In many ways, the wide ranging controversy - denials and counterclaims over the so-called missing money which is nearly the size of the budget of some states for a full year — remains a puzzling episode in the nation’s fight against financial crimes. On the one hand, the anti-corruption body recoups stolen public funds from offenders in a widely acclaimed feat, and on the other hand, the commission stands accused of not remitting the cash to its rightful destination, although it publicly claims that it did.
Police denies receiving funds
The former IGP’s case, which has now l ingered for many years after he was said to have paid out N20 billion to the anti- corruption agency following a plea bargain, stands as a reference point.
Mr Balogun and two other unnamed officials were convicted in 2004 under the former chairman of the EFCC, Nuhu Ribadu. Upon conviction, Mr Balogun entered into a well-c riticised plea- bargain that required that he part with N20 billion of the money traced to him, for a reduced sentence.
The commission further announced that it raised N30 billion from the sale of properties belonging to two other corrupt public office holders.
Several years after the payment, the whereabouts of the money, totalling N50 billion in all, according to the House committee on Police Affairs chairman, Abdul Ningi, remains unknown amid several allegations and denials.
Despite several correspondence between the house police affairs committee, the EFCC and the police, the location of the funds remained unclear according to the testimony Mr Ningi gave when the matter came up in the house late last year.
While the commission, now under a new boss, Farida Waziri, maintained a sweeping innocence on the matter, some of its officials at times laid the blame, not surprisingly, at Mr Ribadu’s feet.
Mr Ribadu has, in past interviews, denied keeping the funds. And so has the police, which is now under its third boss after the removal of Mr Balogun.
In a reply to the House of Representatives inquiry into the missing money, former IGP, Mike Okiro, who succeeded Mr Balogun, said that only the EFCC was in the best position to state the actual amount recovered. He was emphatic that the amount was not remitted to the police purse.
On December 8, 2010, in a motion whose wordings clearly countered the repeated public claims of the anti-graft agency, Mr Ningi drew the attention of the house to the matter, arguing that the funds should be located and be made part of the 2011 appropriation.
The house said that while the police had stated “officially that they had not received the N20 billion,” the EFCC on the other hand “confirmed that the monies had neither been credited to the Nigeria Police nor into the federation account”.
In clear terms, the house noted that failure was a “violation of the provision of section 162 of the constitution,” and after six months of probing, a six-member panel headed by Ehiogie West-Idahosa, is expected to submit a report before the lawmakers wrap up their session next week.
What is the figure?
Despite the investigation, the EFCC spokesperson, Mr Babafemi, insisted on Friday that “recovered money is paid into designated government accounts”.
Mr Idahosa, a third-term lawmaker from Edo State, confirmed to NEXT that the report would be submitted this week. “We have just had to tidy up the few things,” he said, referring to the electioneering, the corruption uproar and speakership zoning crisis that the house has been dealing with since resumption.
“By next week we should have something to report back, to the house,” he said.
The unofficial disclosure, which many members confirmed, of claims by the EFCC that the amount recovered from the former IGP, Mr Balogun, was not N20 billion butN2 billion, now seems set to complicate further the already contentious matter.
The house is itself burdened by its own winternal corruption charges and might not be in a good stead to discuss this major national embarassment.
“It was public knowledge that they announced N20 billion,” said Halims Agoda, who helped push the call for investigation. “Claiming N2 billion now is something we would like to know when we resume next week.”