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Opinion: Nigeria and Chinese Loans -By Reuben Abati

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By Reuben Abati 

The relationship between Nigeria and China with regard to loans obtained from the latter to fund Nigeria’s infrastructural projects suddenly became a matter of legislative intervention and public scrutiny last week when the House of Representatives summoned the Minister of Transportation, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning and the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy to appear before it on August 17. The Ministers are expected to explain certain clauses in the Agreement signed between Nigeria and the Export-Import Bank of China with regard to a loan of $400 million for the country’s National Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Infrastructure Backbone Phase II Project. The agreement was signed in September 2018 by the Federal Ministry of Finance on behalf of Nigeria (the borrower).  Nigeria’s lawmakers have raised eyebrows about a clause therein which waives Nigeria’s sovereign immunity if it defaults in its repayment plan. 

 

The contentious clause is Article 8(1) which provides inter alia that “the borrower hereby irrevocably waives any immunity on the grounds of sovereign or otherwise for itself or its property in connection with any arbitration proceedings pursuant to Article 8(5) thereof with the enforcement of any arbitral award pursuant thereto, except for the military assets and diplomatic assets.” This has been interpreted to mean that Nigeria is in danger of losing its sovereignty to China. The opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has seized upon it to proclaim that it has been vindicated because it has always argued that the mission of the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has always been to mortgage the future of Nigeria. PDP Presidential candidate in the 2019 General elections, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, quickly added that Nigeria faces the risk of embracing the fate of Zambia with regard to Chinese loans. Groups and stakeholders in civil society, including lawyers and the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Group (SERAP) have asked that all agreements ever signed between Nigeria and China should be brought forward and subjected to close scrutiny, just in case any government official either out of ignorance or incompetence has committed Nigeria to a debt-trap, to the disadvantage of future generations. 

 

From the government’s side, the only man who has spoken up is Rotimi Amaechi, the Minister of Transportation, but his explanations do not seem to address the issue. He says for example, that the waiver of immunity in the agreement is merely “a contract term”, a sovereign guarantee. Nobody is convinced. Amaechi and his colleagues who have been summoned by the House of Representatives would have to do much better than that. Nigerians no longer trust their government when it comes to international agreements. The quoted Article 5(1) in the said agreement with the Export and Import Bank of China rings too familiar and too topical in the light of recent revelations about the handling of Nigeria’s agreement with a certain Process & Industrial Development (P&ID). In that case, still on-going, a sum of $9.6 billion is still pending against Nigeria, just because some Nigerian officials signed an agreement that put the country into trouble. 

 

Now, again, in the case of China, the aforementioned Article 8(1) refers to such words as “arbitration”, “property”, “enforcement of arbitral award”. These are the same key words in the P&ID case. Hence, additional questions need to be raised about the Chinese agreement: who signed the agreement? Was due diligence carried out? Was Nigeria thrown under the bus by the negotiators as has been alleged in the P&ID case?  Ordinarily, a waiver of sovereign immunity does not mean that China will take over the running of Nigeria. Sovereign immunity is a principle in customary international law which simply means that a state cannot be pushed around by another state without its own consent to be so treated, in a foreign court. Hence, in every agreement that may go to arbitration, there is usually an agreement as to the place of arbitration and other details. What exactly did Nigeria sign up to on September 5, 2018 with the China EXIM bank? To the extent that the Nigerian people have a right to know, I am convinced that the House of Representatives is in order to raise the questions before us.     

 

To go further, the various stakeholders who have asked for a proper audit of all agreements with China are definitely aware of how the $6.6 Billion judgment against Nigeria which became $9.6 billion (because of accrued interest) in the P&ID case poses a serious risk to the country’s economic survival. They are also probably aware that there are similar cases relating to lack of due diligence in the signing of agreements that Nigeria is also grappling with. This includes the international arbitration in Paris with Sunrise Power and Transmission Company over the Mambilla Hydro Power Plant. Sunrise went to arbitration accusing the Nigerian government of breaching a 2003 agreement when it granted a separate contract to Chinese companies. The same Export-Import Bank of China was on the sidelines of that agreement. I understand the matter has been resolved but 17 years after the initial agreement, the country is yet to make any significant progress with the Mambilla Hydro which if things had progressed as scheduled would have emerged as the second largest hydro power plant in the whole of Africa. In this case, as in others, Nigeria remains behind because some characters failed to do the right thing. Similarly, the Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited which was meant to be a game-changer for Nigeria’s industrial growth process, was also held down for years by disagreements over agreements and a prolonged legal tussle between the Federal Government and a company called Global Infrastructure Nigeria Limited (GINL). Ajaokuta Steel is a living archetype of how all good intentions in Nigeria fail. In one word, legal tussles and arbitral disputes over contracts, obligations and commercial agreements have over the years, exposed the failure of public policy and the incompetence of state officials in Nigeria. Minister Amaechi is concerned that if the same controversy is brought to the door-step of the Chinese, they may simply refuse to provide necessary loans for the Ibadan-Kano rail line. Amaechi appeals to the patriotic instincts of Nigerian lawmakers: he wants them to suspend all further enquiries until Nigeria gets an additional $5.3 billion from the Chinese. He means well no doubt, he wants Nigeria to get that Chinese money that Nigeria needs, but in his appeal lies the bigger question about Sino-Africa relations, and the place and conduct of African leaders within that matrix. 

 

Amaechi is certainly an admirer of China’s romance with Africa. He begs his own country’s parliament to “mechionu” as Igbos would say, so Nigeria can get more Chinese money and sign more agreements. Someone needs to tell Rotimi Amaechi that Nigeria’s engagement with China cannot and should not be reduced to an Abiriba, Aba, or Alaba market transaction business model: “my brother, bring money make we do business, chop together.” But he is not alone. Many African leaders are like that and as they engage China, they fail to look at the sub-text.

Amaechi is certainly an admirer of China’s romance with Africa. He begs his own country’s parliament to “mechionu” as Igbos would say, so Nigeria can get more Chinese money and sign more agreements. Someone needs to tell Rotimi Amaechi that Nigeria’s engagement with China cannot and should not be reduced to an Abiriba, Aba, or Alaba market transaction business model: “my brother, bring money make we do business, chop together.” But he is not alone. Many African leaders are like that and as they engage China, they fail to look at the sub-text.

 In the 70s, China was far behind many African countries. I grew up in a country where any product that was made in China or Taiwan was derisively dismissed. China and Taiwan were the standard euphemisms for fakery, inferiority and cheapness. In those days, Nigerians talked about the British Standard (BS). Nigeria’s economy was doing well. The Naira was at par with the pounds sterling.  Nigerians travelling to London on Fridays aboard Nigeria Airways, stopped by at Liverpool market and the Main street and spent money as if it was going out of business as a legal tender. This was the age of the oil boom. No Nigerian would touch anything Chinese. I grew up being told that anything Chinese or Taiwan does not last. Even when this COVID-19 break-out began, I heard some older Nigerians insisting that if indeed the virus originated from China, it would not last, because nothing that comes from China can be relied upon. Unfortunately, China pulled itself up by the boot-straps. China re-invented itself while other countries either went to sleep or became complacent. It is ironic that today, Nigeria adores China. In our class at the University of Maryland, College Park, 1996 -97, in an American Foreign Policy Process class taught by Hodding Carter III, in the Department of Government and Politics, we read a book titled “The Coming Conflict with China”. That conflict then was at best hypothetical. Today, it is a reality. China is one country that has leap-frogged into the future in an unimaginable manner. The emergent conflict between China and the Western world will be the most definitive factor of this century and the next to come. Africa and the developing world are both at the centre of that conflict. 

 

With China thus on the ascendancy, its leaders defined for that country, broad geo-political ambitions. With the West in retreat and increasingly navel-gazing, protectionist and isolationist, China launched a muscular approach to foreign policy with its Belt and Road Way Initiative through which it sought to engage developing economies by way of financial support through loans and grants. The focus has been so far, infrastructural development but there is a lot more in there. Strategically, therefore, long before COVID-19, China tried to fill a vacuum that Western nations created. As Western creditors prescribed more and more stringent conditions for bilateral and multilateral loans, China offered cheap, easy and accessible alternative financing arrangements: interest-free government to government credits, and preferential loans from China EXIM and the China Development Bank. The latter, that is preferential loans, represents the bulk of China’s overseas lending. Developing countries were over-excited. They swooped on China’s offers like bees after nectar. Today, China is the world’s largest creditor to the developing world. Since 2008, China has been Africa’s main trading partner. There is even now in place, a Forum on China-Africa Co-operation. 

 

Nobody saw the catch, and countries were caught flat-footed. China has been accused of debt-trap diplomacy. Many countries embraced that diplomacy with their hands tied behind their backs and today, their countries are in the throes of debt servitude. China gives but it takes! China helped Sri Lanka to build the port of Hambantota. Both countries signed an agreement, similar to the one Nigeria signed with the Export-Import Bank of China. Today, China runs that port with Chinese personnel. In Djibouti, the Chinese are in charge of the ports too, just because Djibouti borrowed money it could not pay back. In Zambia, for similar reasons, China is now controlling the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (in other words, China is in charge of mind control in Zambia). China is also planning to take over the Zambia National Electricity Company. Djibouti took loans from China to build a new port and two new airports, Unable to repay its loans, China has also taken over a part of Djibouti’s sovereign rights and possession of its new port, and has since set up in that country, its first military overseas base. There have been issues as well, with China’s relations with Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo and other African countries.  

 

But should we blame China? Whatever travails developing countries may have gone through in the hands of China, in the form of damages to their sovereignty, we must all agree on certain basic points. One, “there is no free lunch”. China is not offering anyone a free lunch. Its cheap loans are tied to its own strategic interests in the world.  African nations are the ones submitting themselves as pawns to China’s global strategic agenda. African leaders are most certainly complicit.  Two, “when you borrow, you pay”.  Chinese negotiators are often focused. If you don’t pay in cash, you will pay in kind. The Chinese only give out their loans even under the Belt and Road Initiative to countries that have something to offer in return. Many developing countries are so economically narrow and badly managed, they end up giving up national resources for borrowed funds that translate into debt servitude. Three, and this is the worst part, is that Chinese loans are often opaque. This is one of the reasons China is not a member of the Paris Club. It may have committed to the G-20 process on the moratorium for debt service re-payments for example, but China has stubbornly refused to participate in data calls. It is the biggest player in Africa’s infrastructure boom but it may never disclose the full details. China’s influence in Africa even runs far deeper. In Nigeria, that influence has gone beyond loan agreements that touch on sovereign rights to an increasing ubiquity of Chinese presence in Nigerian lives. It is so real that the Chinese have now taken over a rather complicated business chain in the country from manufacturing to retail, including internet services, hospitality, car sales and ride hailing services. One of these days, we may wake up to see a Chinese roasting corn by the road-side in Nigeria, properly licensed to do so!

 

Nigerian lawmakers have a responsibility to shout out about Nigeria’s sovereignty, and the integrity of agreements with China or others.  We certainly don’t want to hear that a certain Amaechi has signed off Nigeria’s Presidential Villa to the Chinese to get cheap loans to build a rail line to Port Harcourt!. If that were to be the case, the Chinese will take over that Villa and like P&ID, look at us all in the face, talk about the sanctity of agreements, and dare Nigeria to go to the court of international arbitration. The onus is on Amaechi and co to tell us what we need to know. The Chinese knee is on our necks today, simply because our leaders have failed to lead us aright.  

 

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Behold! The Asiwaju of Edeland, Gov Ademola Adeleke

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By Eric Elezuo

The ancient town of Ede in Osun State is set to host the who’s who in Nigeria’s political and traditional institutions as the Executive Governor of the state, His Excellency, Senator Ademola Nurudeen Jackson Adeleke, is installed as the Asiwaju of Edeland.

The one in town event is scheduled to hold on Monday, May 13, 2024 at the Grounds of the Palace of the Timi of Ędę, HRH Oba Adesola Munirudeen Lawal (Laminisa 1), on the same day the governor, who has been termed as ‘performing’ will be celebrating his 64th birthday.

The Asiwaju title was previously held by Governor Adeleke’s elder brother, Isiaka Adeleke, who passed away on April 23, 2017.

Among dignitaries expected at the event are the former President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, members of the Osun State executive and legislative councils, federal legislators, members of the diplomatic Corps, business men, politicians across the nation, entertainers and the general public.

THE MAN, ADEMOLA JACKSON ADELEKE

He has one of the most jovial personalities, combined with a mien that is down to earth and thoroughly enterprising. Many call him ever smiling senator; some others call him dancing senator while a whole lot of others call him the incoming governor. He is the Senator, who represented Osun West Senatorial district in the Nigeria’s upper legislative chamber between 2015 and 2019. He is Ademola Jackson Adeleke, a distinguished contender for the Osun governorship seat. 

Born of the Adeleke family of Ede in Osun State on May 13, 1960, Adeleke commenced his primary education at Methodist Primary School, Surulere Lagos State before he was privileged to relocate to Old Oyo State to continue his education at Nawarudeen Primary School, Ikire.

Adeleke was born Nurudeen Ademola Adeleke to a Muslim father and Nnena Esther Adeleke, an Igbo Christian mother. Like him, Adeleke’s father, Raji Ayoola Adeleke was a Senator and the Balogun of Ede land in Osun State. His father, Raji Ayoola Adeleke was also the leader of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN).

On completion of his primary education, he moved on to The Seventh Day Adventist Secondary School, Ede to begin his post primary schooling. In the later years however, he attended Ede Muslim Grammar School Ede, where he completed his secondary school education and subsequently relocated to the United States of America, joining his two older brothers, who were also studying there.

In the United States, he joined Jacksonville State University, Alabama, and studied Criminal Justice, with minor in Political Science.

To prove doubting Thomases, who wiped up controversies around his educational qualification, wrong, he went back to school and got enrolled at Atlanta Metropolitan State College in the United States, where he obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice in 2021.

A businessman and administrator of no mean repute, Adeleke was the humble Group Executive Director at his brother’s company, Pacific Holdings Limited from 2001 to 2016, where his credible performances shot the company to enviable heights; a height it is still enjoying till date.

It is imperative to note that before he joined Pacific Holdings Limited, Senator Adeleke worked with Quicksilver Courier Company in Atlanta, Georgia, US, as a service contractor from 1985 to 1989. His dexterity to work earned him a progression in career, and he berthed as Vice President at Origin International LLC, Atlanta, Georgia, US, a flavours and fragrance manufacturing company. His meritorious stewardship lasted a period of five years, from 1990 to 1994.

Not a few has described Adeleke as the philanthropic capital of Ede, as his influence in aiding the less privileged and downtrodden remains top notch. He is a voracious believer in community development, and has not spared any expense to see that his community receives global influence.

Politically, Adeleke is a beacon of light and hard nut to crack, having remained an albatross to opposing powers and a reference point to ideal administration.

Shortly after he lost his brother, Senator Isiaka Adeleke, who died in April 2017, he contested the Osun West 2017 Senatorial by-election after the death of his brother, emerging as the winner under the Peoples Democratic Party, where he decamped to from the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Having emerged senator, Adeleke’s political influence waxed stronger, an on July 23, 2018, he emerged as the governorship candidate of PDP in Osun State after defeating Akin Ogunbiyi by seven votes. Efforts made to deprive him of the mandate was twated by the courts.

Adeleke’s lawyer in his defense claims his secondary school hasn’t come out to deny his testimonial asking the court to dismiss the Case. The court dismissed the suit stating that the plaintiff could not prove Adeleke’s forgery.

Adeleke ran for Osun state governorship election under the PDP against top contenders Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola of APC and Iyiola Omisore of SDP on 22 September 2018. The election was declared inconclusive by the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) while Adeleke was leading, and a rerun slated on September 27, 2018. The candidate of the APC Oyetola was declared winner after the run-off. Adeleke protested the result describing the election as a “coup”.

Much as on March 22, 2019, the tribunal sitting in Abuja declared Adeleke the winner of the election, the Supreme Court later affirmed Gboyega Oyetola as the authentic winner of the 2018 Osun State governorship election on Friday, July 5, 2019

Popularly known as the Dancing Senator because of his penchant to joyfully react to the sounds of music, Adeleke is uncle to one of Nigeria’s popular musicians, Davido.

Governor Adeleke is married to an equally successful businesswoman and a self-made boss. They are blessed with three children who are all entertainers. They are B-Red and Shina Rambo and a daughter, Nike Adeleke. He is the uncle of one Nigeria’s primus inter pares in entertainment, Davido.

As expected, Adeleke is moving Osun State to the greatest of heights as he promised, and many who know him agree that there are still very many more in the offing.

HIS EXTRAORDINARY EASE OF DOING BUSINESS STRATEGY 

The governor has shared good news on the ease of doing business in the state as follows:

In continuation of our administration’s effort to improve the state economy and encourage the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), we have completed the harmonization of multiple taxes and levies collected by different government departments, agencies, and ministries across all business sectors of the state economy including the informal sectors into a single bill. This Harmonized Bill curates all levies, which businesses are expected to pay on an annual basis as a single bill.

This initiative is to promote ease of doing business by ensuring seamless and convenient payment of levies and taxes due to individuals and businesses across the state in equal or unequal tranches and ensure the issuance of Harmonized Bill Certificate upon completion of payment of the total amount.

I hereby note to all business owners in Osun state both in formal and informal sectors that the official online payment channels for the state is pay.irs.os.gov.ng; POS machines in Tax stations across the state; commercial banks across Nigeria; and Money Transfer Services for those outside Nigeria.

In addition, we have also completed the deployment of Automation System for improved service delivery on payment of rent and lease on government properties; processing of Certificates of Occupancy (C of O) in 45 days; Electronic Affidavit System; Electronic State of Origin and Local Government Area of Origin portal; Mobile tax stations; Online Tax payment system etc.

OFFICIAL PROFILE OF GOVERNOR ADEMOLA ADELEKE, THE NEW ASIWAJU OF EDELAND

Governor Ademola Jackson Nurudeen Adeleke, the Executive Governor of Osun state and the new Asiwaju of Edeland is a pan Nigerian by birth, by philosophy and by worldview. Born at Enugu as a son of independence on 13th May, 1960, the new Ede frontliner widely acknowledged as the Olosun of Osun is a tactical politician, a businessman, show business activist and a humanist within philanthropism. The ever lively, urbane scion of the Adeleke family of Ede North Local Government is an innovative entrepreneur, a grassroot political figure and a strong advocate of good governance, then as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and now as the Governor of Osun State.

From his childhood, the Asiwaju is a man of complex character, a young man with multiplicity of talents and an adult with widely praised open heart, strong will and constancy of adaptation to ideas and innovations. From his secondary education at Ede Muslim Grammar School to his sojourn to the United States and tertiary education at the Jacksonville State University, Alabama where he majored in criminal justice, the Ede frontliner demonstrated deep business interest, unconventional approach and a rare mastery of intricacies of politics, business and social life.

Despite hailing from a well to do family, the Asiwaju was in the United States and Nigeria, a man in search of opportunities for self growth and advancement. His passion for self development and business prosperity occasioned his joining the Quicksilver Courier Company in Atlanta, Georgia, US, as a service contractor between 1985–1989. He progressed to Origin International LLC, Atlanta, Georgia, US, a flavours and fragrance manufacturing company where he served as Vice President from 1990 to 1994.

A suave businessman and administrator, he served as a Director of Guiness Nigeria Limited between 1992- 1999 where he contributed immensely to the expansion of the multinational company. He was later appointed Group Executive Director of Pacific Holdings Limited from 2001 to 2016. Senator Adeleke is also an acclaimed creative Industry entrepreneur and mentor. As a talented creative figure, he mentored world rated ace musicians while his family members and children are leading stars in the global music industry.

As a man ever restless in pursuit of self growth and opportunities, the Asiwaju again opted to restart his educational sojourn which he suspended because of business and entrepreneurial preoccupations. In 2019 after he was rigged out of a governorship election he clearly won, Governor Adeleke, in a can do spirit, re-enrolled at Atlanta Metropolitan State College in the United States and obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice in 2021.

All along and considering his family background, the frontliner was for years both a political servant and leader, learning the rope from his father (Senator Ayoola Adeleke) , a second republic progressive Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and his brother, Senator Isiaka Adetunji Adeleke, the First Executive Governor of Osun State. His business teeth were sharpened by his brother, the global business mogul, Dr Adedeji Adeleke while his political potency was strengthened by his sister, the Yeyeluwa of Edeland, Chief (Mrs) Dupe Adeleke- Sanni. The celebrant of today was eventually elected the President of the Adeleke dynasty, representing the sons and daughters of the great Adeleke family at home and abroad.

Having been thus fortified by his innate personality, his family background and his multifaceted experience, his political participation predated 1991 but he took the front seat in 2017 when he was elected with a landslide victory as a Senator for Osun West Senatorial District in 2017. His popularity reached a peak when he won the Osun 2018 governorship election before the open rigging and manipulation that was globally condemned.

As a man of steel character, the frontliner took the gauntlet again in 2022 and beat the incumbent to reclaim the stolen mandate of 2018. Imole as the Governor is popularly known has since been delivering on good governance, winning applause and praises from far and near.

In December 2023, he was honoured with a doctorate degree by the Valley View University, Accra, Ghana. The Vice Chancellor lauded the Governor’s multi-million naira education scholarship as a Senator, his sterling records on workers welfare as a Governor, his performance on infrastructure upgrades and his commitment to due process, rule of law and fear of God.

He has received several awards including the Governor of the Year Award by Champion newspapers in 2023, Sahel Standard Man of the Year in 2022, Vanguard Newspaper Governor of the Year on Infrastructure and a host of other recognition. The frontliner serves on several national governmental committees including being the representative of the South West on the National Minimum Wage Committee.

The new Asiwaju of Edeland is a strong family man, an avid sport lover, a man of God and a David of our time with incessant passion for praise singing and adulation of God Almighty.

Courtesy: Governor’s Office, 2024.

By this new office, Governor Adeleke is now the one who leads in Edeland, and is expected to use his office to better the lot of the people of Ede.

Congratulations sir!

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You’re Non-Existent, Fubara Tells Amaewhule-led Rivers Assembly

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Rivers State Governor, Similaya Fubara, has taken a swipe at the Martin Amaewhule-led group of lawmakers at the state House of Assembly and declared that they do not exist anymore in the eyes of the law.

“Let me say it here, those groups of men who claim that they are assembly members, they do not exist. I want it to be on the record,” Fubara declared

The governor stated this when he received on courtesy visit the Bayelsa State delegation of political and traditional leaders, led by former Governor of the State, Senator Seriake Dickson, at Government House in Port Harcourt on Monday.

Fubara and 26 members of the assembly loyal to former governor, Nyesom Wike, have been at loggerheads after the move to impeach the governor was thwarted.

He told the delegation that he has been showing restraint since the political crisis escalated in the state.

The governor further stated that despite wielding state powers that he can deploy to achieve his aim, he has continued to act as the big brother in the face of intimidation and unwarranted attacks.

“So, I want you to see the sacrifice I have made to allow peace to be in our state. I can say here, with all amount of boldness, I have never called any policeman anywhere to go and harass anybody.

“I have never gone anywhere to ask anybody to do anything against anybody. But what happens to the people that are supporting me? They are being harassed, they are being arrested and detained.

“There is no week that somebody doesn’t come here with one letter of invitation for trump-up charges and all those things,” he said.

The governor added, “I am saying all these because of what my senior said here. I don’t think the other party has shown any restraint. I am the one who has shown restraint in the face of this crisis.

“I am the one that is badly hit, even when I have all the government instruments to shake up the table. But, why will I do it? I believe that peace is the best relationship to cultivate.”

He revealed that he had always been present at any meeting that was called to resolve the crisis in the state but after each meeting, he was met with a new dimension of the crisis from the opposing side.

He, however, vowed to continue to be peaceful, acknowledging that power is transient.

“We might have our division, but I believe that one day, we could also come together, but it has gotten to a time when I have to make a statement that they are not existing. Their existence is me allowing them to exist. If I de-recognize them, they are nowhere. I want you to see the sacrifice I have made in allowing peace to reign in our state,” he concluded.

The Punch

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Yahaya Bello vs EFCC: The Tussle Continues

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By Eric Elezuo

With the declaration of the Apppeal Court, sitting in Abuja over the weekend, ordering a stay of proceedings in the contempt charge instituted by Yahaya Bello, former Kogi governor, against Ola Olukoyede, chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the stage seems set for an elongation of legal fireworks between the two feuding entities.

The declaration was a follow-up of Bello, who approached the Kogi High Court, seeking an order to issue and serve the respondent (EFCC chairman) with “form 49 notice” to show cause why an order of committal should not be made on him.

The judge, after listening to the arguments of the applicant’s counsel, the submission and the exhibits attached in the written address, granted Bello’s prayers and ordered Olukoyede to be summoned to appear before the court to answer the contempt charge.

However, while it is believed that the crisis of apprehending the former governor for prosecution is an institutional matter, many on the other hand, has accused the EFCC chairman of attaching a lot of personal interest in the matter going by the way he is fighting tooth and nail to see Bello in custody.

In a chat with editors at the EFCC Headquarters, Jabi, Abuja, the anti-graft agency chairman swore to follow the prosecution of Bello to the logical conclusion.

He also vowed that all those who obstructed the arrest of the former governor would be brought to justice.

The EFCC is seeking to arraign Bello on 19 counts bordering on alleged money laundering, breach of trust and misappropriation of funds to the tune of N80.2 billion.

“If I do not personally oversee the completion of the investigation regarding Yahaya Bello, I will tender my resignation as the EFCC Chairman,” Mr Olukoyede had vowed, adding that those who obstructed the arrest of the former governor would be brought to book. This was a veiled accusation against the governor of Kogi State, Usman Ododo, who used security agents to forestall the arrest of Bello in Abuja.

Olukoyede had also accused Bello of paying his children’s school fees upfront with funds from the atatae coffers.

“A sitting governor moved $720,000 directly from the government account to the Bureau de Change and used it to pay for the school fees of his child in advance in a poor state like Kogi, and you want me close my eyes under the guise that I’m being used. Use by who? At this stage of my life? By who for crying out loud?

“I didn’t initiate the case, I inherited the case file,” he retorted.

The EFCC had sought to arrest Yahaya Bello following his absence from court, and an order by Justice Emeka Nwite of the Federal High Court in Abuja after his absence in court.

He was absent from court for his arraignment on a 19-count charge of alleged money laundering to the tune of ₦80bn.

The judge relied on sections 384(4) and (5) of the Administrative and Criminal Justice Act 2015, directing the counsel to the immediate past governor to receive a copy of the charge.

The court held that where it had become impossible to effect personal service of a legal process on a defendant, such could be done through substituted means.

Justice Nwite further held that it was clear that the former governor failed to appear in court for his arraignment.

Notable minds including veteran journalist, Dele Momodu; human advocate and constitutional lawyer, Mike Ozekhome among others have said that the brazen nature with which Olukoyede is going about the matter smacks of personal vendetta, noting that now that the court of appeal has ordered a stay of execution of the contempt of court charges against Olukoyede, everyone must maintain status quotes, and allow Bello to respond to court summon, as the case is now between him and the court of Justice Nwite.

On his part, Momodu has lashed out at the EFCC for selective prosecution, wondering if Olukoyede has any personal stake in the matter, adding that generally the EFCC misfired in the Bello saga.

He said in part, during his Instagram live show:

“I don’t work for EFCC but from all the things that I have read, a lot of them, they misfired. That is the honest truth. They misfired. They didn’t do their due diligence. When you said a man took out money and paid for his children’s school fees, just as he was about to leave power, and you go and check the documents and you see that these things started happening from 2021, 2022 (laughs); I am not an illiterate.

“How do you expect me to believe everything they said when they were too much in a hurry to prosecute him that they did not take their time to check the file. Once you allow a lacuna in law, everything will fall flat.

“That is it. I am not one of those people who will say because I don’t like APC and because I supported Dino Melaye in the last election in Kogi State. Dino is my guy. But, I will not because of that be blinded by hatred for Yahaya Bello and say yes, he should go and surrender himself to EFCC when there is an existing injunction.

“And he is not the only governor who went to court and if the court has granted him that, so be it. We all know that our judiciary is not so perfect but you know, even at that, law is law, it must be obeyed. If we disobey the rule of law, then, we will have to obey the rule of the jungle. So, I never said that they are lying, it is their own statement that shows that they didn’t do their due diligence.”

TheCable, in its report, recalled that “a Kogi State high court presided over by Isa Jamil Abdullahi, had ordered Olukoyede to appear before it on May 13 to show why he should not be committed to prison for allegedly disobeying its order restraining the EFCC from arresting or taking any action against Bello.

“However, the EFCC chairman filed an appeal against the court summon.

“Olukoyede filed two motions, one seeking a stay of execution of the summon, and another one asking to serve processes on Bello via substituted means by pasting the process at his Abuja residence on No 9 Bengazi Steet Wuse Zone 4.

“In its ruling, a three-member panel of justices led by Joseph Oyewole granted the two motions.

“The appellate court fixed May 20 for the hearing of the substantive appeal marked CA/ABJ/CV/413/2024.

“Bello had on February 8, 2024, instituted a fundamental rights enforcement suit, asking the court to declare that “the incessant harassment, threats of arrest and detention, negative press releases, malicious prosecution” by the EFCC, “without any formal invitation, is politically motivated and interference with his right to liberty, freedom of movement, and fair hearing”.

“The former governor also sought an order “restraining the respondent by themselves, their agents, servants or privies from continuing to harass, threaten to arrest or detain him”.

“On February 9, the Kogi high court granted an interim injunction restraining the EFCC from “continuing to harass, threaten to arrest, detain, prosecute Bello, his former appointees, and his staff or family members, pending the hearing and determination of the substantive originating motion for the enforcement of his fundamental rights”.

On March 12, the EFCC filed an appeal against the interim injunction because the court could not stop the commission from carrying out its statutory responsibility.

The Kogi high court delivered judgment on the substantive motion on notice on April 17 wherein the presiding judge granted an order restraining the EFCC “from continuing to harass, threaten to arrest or detain Bello”.

However, the judge directed the commission to file a charge against Bello before an appropriate court if it had reasons to do so.

The judgment coincided with the recent “siege” laid on the Abuja residence of  Bello by EFCC operatives seeking to arrest him.

The commission had also obtained a warrant of arrest against the former governor from the federal high court in Abuja.

The EFCC is seeking to arraign Bello on 19 counts bordering on alleged money laundering, breach of trust and misappropriation of funds to the tune of N80.2 billion.

At the scheduled arraignment on April 18, Bello was absent.

At the court session, Abdulwahab Mohammed, counsel to Bello, told  Emeka Nwite, the presiding judge, that the court lacked jurisdiction to grant the warrant of arrest in the first instance.

He referenced the February 9 interim injunction issued by the Kogi high court, adding that the appeal filed by the EFCC was still pending.

However, the EFCC has filed a notice to withdraw the appeal.

In the notice filed on April 22, the anti-graft agency said the withdrawal was predicated on the fact that events have overtaken the appeal.

The commission also admitted that the appeal was filed out of the time allowed by law.

With the present status, legal minds are of the opinion that matters have returned to status quo, and Justice Emeka Nwite, reserved the right to order Bello’s appearance in court, and await his appearance before any other injunction can be  made.

“For now, it is not about who won or who did not. The matters of the case rest with the invitation of Bello by Justice Nwite. Bello was absent during his first summon, and the case was adjourned. So, everyone has to keep the calm and wait for the next hearing and see if he appears or not as directly by his lordship,” Ozekhome noted.

As it is therefore, May 20 will be a deciding factor for both Bello and EFCC as the tussle for who laughs last continues.

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