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Media Trial: Judging A Book by Its Cover




By Abdurrahman Abubakar

Judging a book by the cover most at times gives a bad deduction. The thorough read might have made one understands it better. It is similar with jumping into conclusion on allegations against fraud, mismanagement of public funds in Nigeria by anti-graft agencies like EFCC, ICPC, without a patience wait to the end of the investigations and found someone guilty or otherwise by the competent court of law.

Nigeria practices democracy and the rule of law is supreme; hence the fundamental human rights of any persons being investigated should be respected and dignity be maintained. It is pertinent to note that the way and manner news filtered around on allegations on fraud, mismanagement, fraudulent intent should be cautious especially on social media that sometimes the headlines are scary.

A reference of the case of former Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Bello Adoke, who was arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for corruption allegations back in 2019. Later the EFCC filed a corruption charges, which includes Malabu oil scandals, money laundering, among others.

Nearly three years later, (2022) the court in England and Wales ruled that there was no evidence of fraud in the transfer of proceeds from the sale of OPL. 245 in the Malabu oil deal. Only God knows the kind of trauma the former Attorney General Mohammed Adoke SAN passed through during the case and supposedly media trial on the Malabu oil deal case.

Why do people rush to deduce that persons under investigations are criminals, looters? They are suspects of fraud, until the competent court of law finds them guilty.

Media trial should be relegated and focus on the happenings surrounding the investigations; making updates, until the competent court found the suspect guilty or otherwise.

The recent happenings at the EFCC is another case study, though with a different outlook. Initially, Halima Shehu the Coordinator of the National Social Investment Program Agency (NSIPA) was suspended by the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and immediately after the suspension a huge allegation was labelled against her of moving N44 billion from the NSIPA account to some suspicious accounts within the last four days of December, 2023.

Several headlines largely on social media and online media on her appearance at the EFCC that she had committed an offence and with fraudulent intent.

For the case of Betta Edu, the suspended Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation who was suspended confirmed that the leak memo of seeking transfer of N585m to personal account was from her and had claimed that the N585m payment was meant for vulnerable groups in Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Ogun, and Lagos states, describing the allegations against her as baseless.
The Media Assistant to the Minister, Rasheed Olarenwaju, said in a statement that it was legal within the civil service for such payments to be made into private accounts of staff members, especially project accountants. The rules of engagement of the civil servants has prohibited transfers to personal accounts from the government coffers. May be the Media aid is ignorant of this postulation. Though, the law says ignorant of the law is not an excuse.

Despite the fact that she had admitted that the memo was from her but still the case is under investigation, no one could judge but the competent court of law.

Another case of a contractor Mr. James Okwete, was arrested by the EFCC to investigate an allegation of N37 billion fraud. There was no any report from the EFCC or its spokesman that stated that the contractor has a link with the former Minister Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouk but some cross section of largely social media suggested that the former Minister has a link with the contractor whom she denied even meeting or knowing him; to the extent of suggesting even how the money was spend and transferred. All these were attributed to the sources not the EFCC spokesman or its chairman.

According to the former Minister’s comment Sadiya Umar Farouk, “There have been a number of reports linking me to a purported investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) into the activities of one James Okwete, someone completely unknown to me. James Okwete neither worked for, nor represented me in any way whatsoever. The linkages and associations to my person are spurious,” she said.
“While I resist the urge to engage in any media trial whatsoever, I have however contacted my Legal Team to explore possible options to seek redress on the malicious attack on my person.”

Another media trial suggested that the former Minister Sadiya Umar Farouk shunned the invitation by the EFCC; but the EFCC spokesman refuted that and further explains why she is not at the headquarters at the first day expected.

In an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Thursday in Abuja, the EFCC spokesperson, Dele Oyewale, said that the former minister had sent a letter explaining her inability to attend due to health challenges.

“She did not decline the EFCC’s invitation; she provided reasons for her absence. Furthermore, her lawyer visited the commission to explain why she couldn’t attend,” the EFCC spokesman said.

The Former Humanitarian Minister during President Muhammadu Buhari, Sadiya Umar Farouk was at the EFCC headquarters for nearly 12 hours answering questions on clarification about the allegations against a contractor and some agencies under her watch then.

Though, there were headlines that said she was arrested and detained which is another episode of media trial.

No doubt, the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu should be commended and has done the needful by suspending the head of the National Social Investment Program (NSIPA) Halim Shehu and Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Betta Edu, this is to allow the investigations go unhindered and uninterrupted.

In another episode of media trial back in 2020, the former Minister of Humanitarian Affairs Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouk was accused of hiding the covid-19 palliatives meant for the poor. The media then was dominated with different kind of headlines in that regards, especially the new media.

Until the End SAR’s protest that triggered youth to break the stores in some states that’s when Nigerians realized that the former Minister, Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouk is innocent; had never hide any palliatives meant for the poor. After the story broke out, she had forgiven those that alleged that she hides palliatives.

“I am aware many people have made various spurious allegations and accusations against my person and my ministry over the way we distributed Federal Government palliatives to cushion the effect of COVID-19. “Now that they have realized their mistakes, l will only pray to God to forgive us all,” she maintained.

Several persons had passed through similar routes, some convicted others appeared not guilty and freed by the competent court of law.

Note that nobody should be spared of investigation if there is an allegation against him or her; but their rights of hearing and dignity should be respected and only competent court of law could find someone guilty of a financial crime or any other crime.

The point here is, don’t judge the book by its cover, hence, media trial should be ignored till the allegation against any public office holder was proven by the competent court of law.

Abdulrahman Abubakar is a freelance journalist in Kano and could be reached at No 14 Sharada Opposite Kwanar Freedom.


Letter To The President On The Re-Introduction Of Subsidy




Dear President Tinubu

Sir,every Nigerian with rudimentary knowledge of economics will agree with you that fuel subsidy has to go, it has stagnate the growth of our economy over the years,benefitting only selected few.
Most Nigerians have no qualms with subsidy removal,its the approach that was used that we have reservation for. There is no doubt that the removal of fuel subsidy had ripple effect on the woof and warp of Nigeria’s economic fabric. The private sector is struggling to keep up with the reality of the moment and civil servants in public sector are financially incapacitated.
Nigeria’s present consumer price index (CPI), stood at almost 30%, this clearly shows a reduction in the citizens purcasing power. Families are finding it difficult to have 2 meals a day; this will have resultant negative effects on the health of the citizens and may reduce manpower ability to contribute to the Nations gross domestic product (GDP).
Nigeria at this point needs to invest massively in agriculture, to make surplus food available to the citizens at an affordable rate. Agriculture is one of the most subsidized sector of most world power’s economy. United States,Russia and China controls the world grains reserve because of the subsidies available for agriculture and other working policies. NIRSAL is a case study of working policy in Nigeria, its a fantastic government programme that was supposed to transform Nigeria’s agriculture by making funds available to real farmers who produce what Nigerians consume daily,but it could not achieve its objective due to the Nigerian factor.

Yes, subsidy is gone in the petroleum industry, but it needs to be re-introduced into agriculture to make funds available for small scale farmers who produce 70% of the food items consumed in Nigeria. Also, there is the need for more regulatory policies in the agrochemical industry to control sub-standard products in the market and possibly provide tax waivers to reduce the market price of these agrochemicals.

Fertilizer is a key component of agricultural production which must be made available to farmers at subsidized rate. The e-wallet template used by Dr. Akinwumi Adesina of African development bank when he was Nigeria’s minister of agriculture is a tested and verified framework for reaching out to small scale farmers.

Insecurity is an integral index in Nigeria’s agricultural sector today, there is the need to improve on the country’s security architecture and a synergy should be put in place betwern the proposed agro-rangers and the various security apparatus ( army,airfoce, police etc). Farmers should be able to go about their business with maximum safety and also a viable solution must be worked out to put a stop to farmers/cattle rearers conflict by establishing a symbiotic relationship between both party.

The twelve River Basin Development Authorities can provide the fulcrum for achieving food security, with thousands of hectares of lands,Dams,Canals and other Irrigation structures in their control for achieving an all year round farming. More funds needs to be funneled into these agencies for revitalization and expansion of existing infrastructures.
Nigeria is presently at a turbulent time in its economic history; making food available to the masses at an affordable rate through subsidized agriculture is necessary to extinguish the embers of looming disquiet in Nigeria.
Ibrahim Baba-Ibrahim writes from Ilorin. ibrahimbabaibrahim@gmail.com


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Government Panics as Cost of Living Crisis Deepens



Professor Jibril Ibrahim


Jibrin Ibrahim

The Tinubu Administration is a fanatic believer in economic liberalism and market forces. Based on its belief, it cancelled fuel subsidy and floated the naira so that it can find its true value. The naira played its part and has been rising steadily desperately searching for its true market value, which it turns out, is still very far away. The result is a “misery crisis” as food prices rise beyond the incomes of ordinary citizens whose naira is too small to enable them purchase food and hunger and anger spreads throughout the land. The President who always tells Nigerians that he understands their pains then offers a solution and orders distribution of free grains from the Strategic Food Reserves. It turned out the civil servants forgot to brief him that the reserves are empty.

Over the past few weeks, hunger and anger have led to street protests all over the country and strike threats. Our politically savvy President sensing the danger decides that since the stupid market forces are now threatening his turn to rule in peace, he must find a diversion. If you search, you will find. The Bureau de Change operators, the “Mallams”, are responsible for destroying the capacity of the “market forces” he unleashed to bring down the cost of living. He therefore got the EFCC to establish a Special Task Force across its commands, to clamp down on individuals “dollarizing” the Nigerian economy. The gun trotting operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission have since Monday been raiding Bureau de Change operators and arresting them all over the country. The task force which was inaugurated by the Executive Chairman of the Commission, Ola Olukoyede, was raised: “to protect the economy from abuses, leakages, and distortions exposing it to instability and disruption”, we were told.

Those of us of a certain age were brought up in an era in which the dollar did not circulate as a means of exchange or store of value and we used our currency, the naira. Did our Afrobeat hero Fela Kuti not do to jail for having dollars cash that he wanted to travel out of the country with to perform in a concert? Then the neoliberals told us it was imperative to allow free purchase and sell of foreign currency. They even encouraged us to open domiciliary accounts in our banks to store foreign currency which government guaranteed will be safe as the ideology of free markets requires the assurance. The Central Bank of Nigeria licensed thousands of BDCs and asked them to trade in currencies. Why the hell are they being arrested today for doing what the law asked them to do? The other panic move is to place the blame on crypto-currency websites for stealing the value of the naira. The issue is that the few people with naira, conscious of its steady and daily loss of value, would seek to protect their asset anyway they can, won’t they?

The fact of the matter is that we are simply not earning enough foreign currency to meet our high demands for imported goods. In so doing, for decades, we have relied on petroleum rent as our major source of foreign currency. Then to our shock, in 2022, the Group Managing Director of NNPCL, Mele Kyari, explained to us in a State House media briefing that most of our petroleum was being stolen so the dollars are no longer coming in. Mr. Kyari blamed various sections of the Nigerian society for being complicit in the theft of millions of barrels of crude oil, mentioning even that make-shift pipelines and stolen fuel have been found in churches and mosques.

We were told that between January and July 2022, Africa’s biggest oil producer lost an average of 437,000 barrels of oil a day to criminal entities and individuals who illicitly tap pipelines onshore and offshore in the Niger Delta region. The solution to the problem is therefore clear – stop the oil theft and more dollars will come in. The bigger issue is that for a rentier State, safeguarding the source of rent is an existential problem and simple logic should have prevailed and made the state stop the theft. The underlying reality, as we all know however, is that our political leaders and upper echelons of our security forces are beneficiaries of the oil theft. They have taken the decision to eat the goose that lays the golden egg and move to Dubai thereafter as rich refugees.

There is still an explanation needed for the astronomic collapse of the Naira over the past few weeks. What the hell is going on? The answer, says the research done by Business Day is that we should look at those with a lot of naira – government. Since the removal of fuel subsidy, the Federal and State governments have been receiving massive amounts of naira through the disbursement of money by the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC). BusinessDay learnt that portions of the funds from FAAC were often changed to dollars by some governments at the parallel market, putting more pressure on the naira. Their analysis shows that from July 2023 to January 2024, the naira depreciated in the black market for the six months immediately after the FAAC shared money to the federal, state and local governments:

“With the removal of fuel subsidy, more volumes of naira are being shared by the federal, state and local governments and some of these monies are changed to dollars at the parallel market.” BusinessDay has asked us to open our eyes from now on. We should note the price of dollars one week before FAAC allocation, check back the price after the allocation and you will see clearly the difference. Let’s all do that and know that those who should go to jail are some of our governors and ministers. President Tinubu, please stop panicking, just look around you and you shall see.

Professor Jibrin Ibrahim
Senior Fellow
Centre for Democracy and Development, Abuja
Follow me on twitter @jibrinibrahim17

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How Senator Saliu Mustapha is ameliorating the hardships in Kwara Central




By AbdurRaheem Sa’ad Dembo

It is no longer news that inflation is ravaging the country and it has adversely affected the economic power of the citizens. The surge in the prices of grains and other commodities in the market is alarming and heart-wrenching.

Senator Saliu Mustapha, having been a philantropist and a figure with a good heart prior his ascension to the Senate, understood the implications and consequences of such situations and had, as a matter of urgency, reached out to some indigent households in Kwara Central Senatorial District through distribution of rice and other items in late December, 2023.

Similarly, in mid January,2024 he rolled out NECO, WAEC and UTME scholarships for considerable number of indigent students across some selected schools in Kwara Central. The Chairman, Saliu Mustapha Foundation Education Committee, Prof. Binta Suleiman, who represented Turaki of Ilorin during the flag-off ceremony held at Socrates College, Ilorin admonished the beneficiaries to be focused, dedicated, disciplined and committed to their educational pursuits. She reiterated the commitment of Senator Mustapha to the educational development of his Senatorial district with further award of full scholarship to deserving students among the beneficiaries.

Meanwhile, the Secretary of Saliu Mustapha Foundation Education Committee, Yakub Ishowo, explained that the committee initially planned the registration and capturing of the beneficiaries for one week, but was extended to capture over 2000 beneficiaries. Being a member of the committee I can attest to the assertion of the secretary.

Most of the parents of the beneficiaries appreciated the Senator and prayed to Allah to grant him long life and good health. In one of the videos shared by Alhaji Jagunma, one of the parents said they never expected it and that it was enough an evidence that the selection process was devoid of political affiliations and biases. Rather, the emphasis was on those who actually needed it, which were indigent students.

Essentially, the Turaki of Ilorin is much aware of the fact that sharing of food items is a temporary measure to cushion the effects of the inflation at all levels of the society and that the Federal and State governments are working together to ensure a permanent solution that would bring succour to the entire country.

In Mustapha’s philosophy, one should reach out to people in one’s neighbourhood no matter how little, because it would help in alleviating their conditions. One does not have to wait to become a rich person before extending the hand of fellowship to the less privileged in his or her community.

Most importantly,I can confirm recently that Saliu Mustapha has started giving out appointment letters to some individuals in Kwara Central. This will be a continuous thing so that an appreciably large coverage is attained ultimately.

I have always said it that when one’s is fixing other people’s lives, he or she is invariably fixing his or her own life too. According to a former president of the United States, Bill Clinton, “we cannot build our own future without helping others to build theirs”. This is in tandem with the philosophy of Senator Mustapha, hence he is working tirelessly to build others.

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