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The Police And Akpabio’s Sermon On The Mount

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By Hon Eseme Eyiboh

84-year-old renowned Belgian painter and writer, Erik Pervernagie, says: “People die from lack of shared empathy and affinity. By establishing social connectedness, we give hope a chance and the other can become heaven (“Le ciel c’est l’autre”).

No institution has been so disparaged and stigmatised as the Nigeria Police. It is treated with so much contempt and neither appreciated nor celebrated. Rather, anything bad or despicable is attributed to the police. An average policeman is held in utmost and never enjoys any empathy or affinity from most Nigerians. Although the police are the friend of the people, the mutual reciprocity from the people is seemingly non-existent. The compensation is abysmal while the motivation is infinitesimal.

That is why in its years of existence, no one has remembered to honour its men and officers who have excelled in their professional outings until the coming of IGP Olukayode Egbetokun. Hence, the maiden edition of the Nigeria Police Awards and Commendations Ceremony held in Abuja last Monday was long overdue and an emotion-laden event. This was the first time the Nigeria Police celebrated itself by recognising gallantry, rewarding excellence and professionalism, thereby boosting the morale of officers and men, which has over the decades been at an all-time low.

By this maiden award, the present Inspector General of Police has jump-started a new Nigeria Police Force whose personnel are ethically compliant, professionally focused, and stable with a strong reward culture and post-service incentives. The IGP has also, through this event, instituted a reward system and reputation management process that will ultimately change the general perception our people hold about the Nigeria Police. Going forward, the men and officers of the force will be motivated and energised to give their all in spite of the negative reception from the public and compete to be recognised and honoured.

Putting the icing on the cake was the effervescent President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Senator Godswill Obot Akpabio, CON, who stole the show. It was, however, devoid of an elaborate sense of humour or trademark jokes nor hilarious laughter. It was the underpin of the inspirational remarks by the number one Legislator in Nigeria.

In a delivery reminiscent of the oratory of a Barrack Obama, Luther King, William Churchill or Nelson Mandela, Akpabio’s speech evinced the feelings of empathy and affinity. Call it Sermon on the Mount, and you will be damn right! Because he gave the Nigeria Police Force a thump-up for the timely, strategic, and innovative strategies it has adopted in the cutting-edge reputation management of the organisation and the morale-boosting initiative adopted to foster professionalism, innovations, competition, and courage amongst its workforce.

The admonition of Senator Akpabio falls within the prism of constructive stakeholders’ engagement and an urgent demand to integrate the force into a citizen-police cubicle. Drawing allusions from the Holy Books (the Bible and Koran) to drive home his message, Akpabio said, “I see hope in today’s event. The story is told of how Prophet Elijah (known in the Koran as Ilyās), after three and a half years of drought, asked his attendant to go and look for a rain cloud. After seven attempts, the assistant came back and told him that he had seen a small cloud, the size of a man’s hand. Not minding the size of the cloud, Elijah declared that a torrential downpour was impending”.

Continuing, the Senate President was eclectic: “In this country we have had a deficit of heroes. Not because Nigerians are not heroic but because we do not celebrate our heroes. Yet heroes play a vital role in society through the provision of inspiration, motivation, hope and serving as representations of values and character. Celebrating heroes could bring the much-needed change we need in the fabric of our society and make our country a better place.

“So today, I can see in this award ceremony a small rain cloud, the size of the hand of a man. But I declare, like Elijah, that out of this event shall come a mighty downpour of recognition of heroes and heroines in all sectors of the public service, law enforcement and allied service”.

Delving into the literary world, Akpabio navigated the thoughts of one America’s finest naturalist, essayist, poet and philosopher, Henry David Thoreau. He said, “It is apt that the police should set the ball rolling for us in this hero’s recognition affair. Many have sought to hang the police to dry for all our many vices. But the truth of the matter is that the police are all members of our society. Down the ages the popular philosophical thinking was that man could not be better than the society because the society makes the man, socialises man, and orients him with a sense of right and wrong. But Henry David Thoreau came with a counter narrative that man can surpass societal limitations, and rise above societal norms and expectations”.

According to Akpabio, “This is what the police are trying to do with this event under the current leadership. This leadership understands that the role of the police in a democracy cannot be overstated. They are the custodians of law and order, and they ensure the safety and security of the citizens.“

In a democratic society, it is imperative that the police uphold the highest ethical standards in carrying out their duties. They are entrusted with the responsibility of protecting the rights and liberties of the people, while maintaining law and order.

“Once again, I commend the police for this maiden effort in organising this awards ceremony. It is a testament to IGP Egbetokun’s commitment to giving honour to whom it is due. By recognising the gallant, selfless, and patriotic contributions of individual officers, will not only motivate them for higher performance but also reinforce the new policing agenda of the force. This agenda focuses on internal ethical regeneration, restoration of professional standards, and the enhancement of the anti-corruption drive”.

He left some words of admonition: “However, let us not ignore the challenges faced by the police in Nigeria. The ever-evolving landscape of crime and the increasing sophistication of criminal gangs pose significant obstacles. More so, as we honour the good officers, let us weed out the bad ones because a chain is as strong as its weakest link. We must address these issues and work together to find solutions. The police need the support and cooperation of all stakeholders, to overcome these challenges and build a stronger and more effective police force.

“I congratulate the awardees who have excelled in their respective fields of policing. Their dedication, bravery, and integrity have set them apart and made them deserving of this recognition. I commend every one of them for their outstanding performance and commitment to the service of our nation. I urge them to remember that to whom much is given, much is expected.“

As the leader of the National Assembly, I pledge our full cooperation and support for the better policing of Nigeria. We recognize the importance of a well-equipped and motivated police force in ensuring the security and well-being of our citizens. We will continue to work tirelessly to provide the necessary legislative framework and resources to enable the police to carry out their duties effectively”.

This is what our institutions need now, this is the quality Nigeria is looking for and the leaders that deserve to be at the helm of affairs. Senator Akpabio was generous in the act and in the heart of his personal support to the families of the posthumous awardees.

Hon Eseme Eyiboh is the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity and the official Spokesperson to the President of the Senate.

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Opinion

PLAUDITS FOR OTTI, SOLUDO AND BAGO

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By Tunde Olusunle

A video clip which is just about two and half minutes in duration has been trending on the social media in the last few days. It captures the moment top officials of the Abia State government, arrive for a meeting of what could pass as a state executive council meeting, (ASEC), the sub-national variant of the federal executive council, (FEC). The faces of a few of my friends and colleagues indeed stroll past in the short clip. They include Kingsley Agomoh, an Assistant Corps Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Corps, (FRSC) who is on leave-of-absence to help the new administration in Abia and Kazie Uko, my colleague in the old *Daily Times.* Iheanacho Obioma, (we call him *Chomen*), a former federal parliamentarian, also appears in that recording. The curious and discerning will easily know that the venue of that converge is not the designated executive council chambers of Government House, Umuahia.

From the lacquer on the fence of the facility, to the interlocked driveway, and thenceforth to the improvised conference room where the meeting was held, it is obvious this is a private property. I’m indeed told it is the country home of Alex Otti, in Isiala-Ngwa, Abia South senatorial zone. The official address of the governor in Umuahia is probably undergoing renovation. And for Otti that is no reason to negatively impact the course of governance. Each senior Abia State government functionary, secretary to government, chief of staff, commissioner, adviser, technical assistant who walk past in the said video, carried their essentials themselves. They hauled their files, folios, notepads, laptops, handbags, backpacks, to the meeting themselves. There are no squirming, stampeding aides and security details needlessly occupying space, shoving people aside to make way for their principals. And you could see smiles on the faces of some of the officials an attestation to their subscription to the new administrative regimen. Otti, governor of the state himself arrived without fanfare, without ceremony in the said video, holding his mobile phone.

The Alex Otti regime in Abia State is barely one year in office. But the incumbent administration has compelled national attention and admiration to the state for the novel to governance championed by Otti, a former helmsman of the erstwhile Diamond Bank, which has since coalesced into the mega Access Bank. A few months ago, the 141 megawatts *Aba Integrated Power Project, (AIPP),* was commissioned by Nigeria’s Vice President, Kashim Shettima. Reputed to be the first of its kind in Nigeria, it will produce uninterrupted electric power for nine local government areas of the state which is about half the entire Abia State. True it was work-in-progress before Otti’s advent dating back 20 years by the governor’s own admission, the eventual consummation and operationalisation of the initiative was courtesy of the former banker. Critically, the infrastructure will liberate the infinite potentials of Aba, the *Enyimba City* which is the folkloric socioeconomic hub of the state.

Aba’s direct competitor in Nigeria’s South East is Nnewi in Anambra State, an equally vibrant nexus of multilevel entrepreneurial ingenuity. Since he became chief executive of the state two years ago, Chukwuma Soludo the globally recognised economist has worked hard to redefine governance and administration in the state. Soludo came into the job with a virtual truckload of competencies and experience. First, he is a class professor of economics who was called up by the Olusegun Obasanjo/Atiku Abubakar regime to serve first as economic adviser. He was soon after appointed governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN), a position from which he superintended over the recapitalisation of Nigerian banks which facilitated their competitiveness in the global financial market. The exercise shrunk the nearly 100 banks, some wobbly and breathless, to 25 solid entities, a process which entailed partnerships and absorptions in many instances.

Soludo signalled his faith in home-made brands when he rode a sports utility vehicle, (SUV) built by the Nnewi-based indigenous vehicle production outfit, *Innoson Motors* to his inauguration in March 2022. The various components of his regalia to his swearing-in ceremony derived from various parts of Anambra State. He inherited a state which had previously assumed worldwide notoriety for large-scale violence. Faceless murderers branded “unknown gunmen” had free reign prawling contiguous streets of communities in the state hunting the innocent like game, in the full glare of the afternoon skies. Abductions, cannibalism, arson were rampant before Soludo’s coming. I had reason in 2021, to engage with the worrying issues in two public discourses, *Unknown Gunmen, November 6 and the Epidemic of Bloodletting* and *Gun Smoke from the East.* It seems the horrendous trends have been on a gradual downward slide, since Soludo’s coming.

Soludo is equally pursuing an aggressive infrastructural development programme. First, he is concerned about congestion in Awka the state capital and Onitsha the commercial capital of the state. His administration is poised to build three new cities. Masterplans for *Awka 2.0,* *Onitsha 2.0* as well as the *Anambra Mixed Industrial City* are being concluded. While those are in the works, Soludo has embarked on a very ambitious road development programme. This encompasses 400 kilometres of roads in the present phase and aims to facilitate seamless commuting by road users. Remediation of failed portions of existing road infrastructure is a regular chore, handled by statutory departments of government and contracting firms. The Soludo government has also been credited with remarkable fiscal prudence, the stuff of the prototype economist.

I began to take studied note of the enterprise of Mohammed Umar Bago the governor of Niger State when I followed his courageous works in the agricultural sector. I was once his guest a few years ago in his Maitama, Abuja home when he was in the House of Representatives. I visited him in company of a mutual friend, Bimbo Daramola who was in the “Seventh Assembly” with Bago. He is a tea aficionado by the way. He is also a dog lover which is a point of mutual convergence between us. Bago began this year by clearing one million hectares of arable land, preparatory to the approaching rainy season. Food security for his constituents is paramount on his agenda. His government has procured a record 500 mega-capacity tractors, as well as irrigation equipment, tillers, water and solar pumps among other accessories, to drive his agricultural vision.

True, Bago ruled against the shipment of truckloads of produce from his state to others earlier this year, in the face of inflation and imminent famine. He is fully cognisant though of the fact that his state has headwind advantage over many others in the country, in the agricultural sector. He is willing to do legitimate, mutually beneficial business. The landmass of Niger State is larger than that of Sierra Leone, by the way. If Niger State was a ravenous python, the belly of the state would effortlessly swallow Gambia and Togo put together! Bago’s administration is willing to partner with other states in agricultural development and exchange which informed the memorandum of understanding, (MOU), signed between Bago and his Lagos State counterpart, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on behalf of their entities.

Governor Bago has also been unyielding in the battle against sundry criminalities which have held his people helplessly captive over the years. Kidnappings for ransom, routine invasions, occupation of communities by vagrants and wanton banditry, have headlined the security situation in Niger State in recent years. Bago has been at the fore of the mitigation of the situation vis-a-vis increased collaboration with, and support for the security sector in his state. His administration has provided support in terms of motor vehicles and equipments to the various security agencies, to enhance their performance. There is said to be motorised patrol by joint security services which has brought sanity to the state, notably the very important Suleja-Paiko-Minna road.

Bago has also directed the redesignation and remodelling of the moribund *Shiroro Hotel* in Minna as the new *Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University Teaching Hospital.* The Niger State leader who spots a strikingly luxurious black beard and was a notable banker like the older Alex Otti before his political journey, is redeveloping Minna the state capital, as well as Suleja and Bida into model towns. His fiscal shrewdness evidenced by the fact that he saved N10 Billion from leaking valves within his first four months in office has loosened funds for investment in needy departments of statecraft. Among these is the ongoing construction of roads in all the local government areas of the state to ensure unimpeded movement by commuters and by extension the evacuation of agricultural produce to the secondary markets.

It is instructive that Alex Otti, Chukwuma Soludo and Mohammed Bago belong to different political tendencies, namely: the Labour Party, (LP); the All Peoples’ Grand Alliance, (APGA) and the All Progressives Congress, (APC). What this implies is that if democracy is allowed to grow and fruit without unobtrusive impunity and high-handedness from political high commands, Nigeria can be availed of some of its best across board. Enyinnaya Abaribe the senator representing Abia South for instance, is in the parliament for the fifth successive time for instance. Muscled out of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, (PDP’s) ticket by the immediate past governor of Abia State, Okezie Ikpeazu, Abaribe contested on the platform of APGA and won! Soludo himself had his own share of gravitation from the PDP to the APC before pitching his tent with APGA which ensured his pathway to his present office. Let’s hope that party politics in Nigeria is gradually throwing up some of our best albeit from unanticipated platforms.

Tunde Olusunle, PhD, is a Fellow of the Association of Nigerian Authors, (FANA)

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Opinion

EFCC vs Yahaya Bello: What the story must not be on or after June 13

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By Lere Olayinka

On May 10, 2024, a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, adjourned till June 13, 2024, for the arraignment of the immediate past Governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, with the alleged N80.2bn fraud charges brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Count one of the charges reads: That you, Yahaya Adoza Bello, Ali Bello, Dauda Suliman, and Abdulsalam Hudu (Still at large), sometime, in February, 2016, in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, conspired amongst yourselves to convert the total sum of N80, 246,470, 088.88( Eighty Billion, Two Hundred and Forty Six Million, Four Hundred and Seventy Thousand and Eight Nine Naira, Eighty Eight Kobo), which sum you reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of your unlawful activity to wit, criminal breach of trust and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18(a) and punishable under Section 15(3) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 as amended”.

Yahaya Bello assumed office as governor of Kogi State on January 27, 2016 and left office on January 27, 2024.

Before the present charge was filed against Yahaya Bello, EFCC, had claimed, in the ‘Amended Charge’ No. FHC/ABJ/CR/550/2022: FRN V. 1. Ali Bello, Dauda Suleiman, currently pending before Justice J.K. Omotosho of the Federal High Court, Abuja Division, that he (Yahaya Bello) diverted N80 billion of state funds in September 2015, four months before he assumed office as governor of Kogi State!

Before adjourning till June 13, Justice Emeka Nwite, had rejected the application made by Yahaya Bello through his lawyer, Abdulwahab Mohammed (SAN).

Nwite held that “The application cannot be entertained unless the defendant (Yahaya Bello) is present in the court. In the absence of the defendant in court, the motion on notice filed by the complainant can only be conducted if the defendant is in court.”

Responding to comment by Bello’s counsel that he would love to obey the court order and appear in court but he was afraid of his life, the judge said; “Bello should come to court on his own not through EFCC for arraignment on the next adjourned date.

“It is just a charge. It has not been proven. Counsel, it is your duty to bring him and you prepare yourselves.”

On this premise, Mohammed assured the court that he will ensure that the former governor appears in court for his arraignment on the next adjourned date.

Of course, like the judge said, Bello only needs to come court on his own and not through the EFCC for arraignment.

Issue of arrest or no arrest is already gone the moment Bello appears in court on June 13 and takes his plea.

The story must therefore not be that EFCC arrests Yahaya Bello on or after June 13. The story must also not be that EFCC invades Yahaya Bello’s house.

Rather, it should be about EFCC presenting evidence(s) of its allegations before the Court.

This is because once an accused is charged to court, it presupposes that investigation has been concluded and only the court can have hold on such person.

Therefore, when Bello is arraigned on June 13, he will take his plea and if he pleads not guilty, he will apply for bail through his counsel. If his bail is granted, he will go home after fulfilling the conditions and return to court on the next adjourned date for the continuation of his trial.

In other words, Bello no longer have any business with the EFCC. He is an accused before the Court, with the EFCC as his accuser who must prove its accusations beyond reasonable doubt.

On June 13, let there be no display of any form of bravado with the arrest of Bello, under the pretext that there is another matter under investigation.

After all, like many other cases, the EFCC has been on his case for a very long period of time and all investigations ought to have been concluded. Except may be, as usual, the EFCC will be expecting the accused to be the one to provide the evidence(s) with which he will be tried.

It will also do the image of the EFCC a lot of good by focusing attention more on the prosecution of Bello with the charges already filed, including the one alleging that sometime, in February, 2016, in Abuja, he conspired with others to steal over N80 billion belonging to Kogi State.

Seeking to amend the charges will mean that EFCC, an anti-graft agency being headed by a lawyer did not know what it was doing before dragging Bello before the Court.

Most importantly, after June 13 that Bello has been arraigned in court, the onus will now be on the EFCC to prove its allegations and do so as provided by the laws.

As for me, I am hoping this will not be like that of former Governor of Ogun State, Senator Gbenga Daniel, who was charged to court for stealing N58bn in 2011, only for the EFCC, after all the media noise and public drama, to come back and reduce what he allegedly stole to N211.3 million!

Interestingly, after 11 years, the case against Senator Gbenga Daniel was dismissed by the Court and the Court even describe the prosecution as malicious.

Most importantly, the EFCC Chairman, Ola Olukoyede, should now have time to go after those he boasted in January, this year, that their cases will be reopened.

Or shouldn’t what is good for Bello of Kogi also be good for Bellos of elsewhere?

Olayinka, a journalist lives with the Irunmales of Oke Agbonna in Okemesi Ekiti

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Opinion

EFCC Verses Two Bellos A Smack of Bias

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By Adamu Garba

What is the sin of Kogi people and Yahaya Bello in particular that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has shown us this level of hatred? Ola Olukoyede, the anti graft ceazar must explain to us the reasons why he has deployed so much energy and resources to chase Yahaya Bello who has just left office barely four months ago where as his Zamfara State Counterpart, Bello Matawalle with similar offence is left to enjoy the luxury of the office as Minister of State for Defence in the current government.

One would have expected the same measure with which the Commission is chasing Yahaya Bello of Kogi State over the alleged laundering of eighty billion Naira Kogi state fund in the case of the seventy billion Naira also allegedly diverted to private purse by Ex- Zamfara State Governor, Bello Matawalle. After all, both equally share the same name, Bello. The other Bello from Zamfara left the office a year this month of May.

In fact, Nigerians are beginning to question the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s, (EFCC’s) approach to its war against fraud cases under the agency’s current leadership headed by Ola Kayode.

While some people have crowned the anti graft agency, the pursuers of little flies, (yahoo boys), others have denounced it for being selective and biased in the investigation of politically exposed persons especially the Ex-governors.

The EFCC Chairman, in one of his media briefings, vowed before journalists that he would rather resign from office than fail to prosecute Yahaya Bello. He had also hurriedly arraigned him before an Abuja High Court and subsequently declared him wanted after a failed attempt to arrest him in his Abuja house last month.

One wonders why the agency’s boss is pouring out so much venom and anger in pursuance of the immediate past Governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Bello and keeping quiet over Matawalle’s case which it inherited since one year from the previous management headed by Abdulrasheed Bawa.

The agency had last year accused the Ex-Zamfara Governor of having allegedly diverted the sum of seventy billion Naira,(N70billion) from the state’s treasury into personal account through fantom contract awards. That case was started immediately, whereas Matawalle left office in May 2023.

The commission through its then spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, told Nigerians the same last year that the EFCC had interrogated the proprietors of one hundred companies allegedly used by Matawalle to perpetrate the alleged diversion of the huge sum.

Mr Uwujaren equally disclosed that the owners of those companies upon interrogation allegedly affirmed that the moneys paid to their companies’ accounts by the Zamfara state government were on the instruction of the former Governor allegedly converted to dollars and returned to him.

He also went further to allege that the Ex-Governor Matawalle obtained the said N70billion as loan from a commercial bank under the guise of executing a conceived project that was to be replicated in all the local government areas of the state which he never carried out.

Since the exit of Ex-Governor Matawalle from office, various pressure groups had repeatedly protested to the EFCC headquarters demanding his prosecution but despite the promises of doing so, the commission has remained lethargic in carrying out the conclusion of the case.

Just last week, the news went viral that Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has assured that it would continue the alleged N70 billion corruption case against committed by the Minister of State for Defence, Bello Matawalle while he was the governor of Zamfara State from 2019 to 2023 but nothing has happened yet.

Matawalle even had a running battle with the former Chairman of EFCC, Abdulrasheed Bawa, who he accused of demanding two million dollars bribe from him (Ex-Governor Matawalle) over this same matter. It has been equally suggested in some quarters that the body movement of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu who despite the dangling corruption case on Matawalle’s neck went ahead and appointed him Minister of State for Defence might have probably constrained the anti corruption watch dog from biting the former number one citizen of Zamfara State.

Protest groups from the state had severally demanded his sack from the federal cabinet to redeem the image of President Tinubu led government as one that shields corrupt individuals from facing justice.

Without holding Matawalle to account over the claims that he allegedly diverted seventy billion Naira from the Zamfara treasury to his personal account, the EFCC lacks the moral justification to keep harassing the Ex-governor of Kogi Stste, Yahaya Bello.

The EFCC under Olukoyede must conduct the affairs of the commission in good conscience. He has no explanation for confining Matawalle’s alleged corruption case to mere claims of not abandoning it. As a federal minister, the Ex-governor is not under any immunity, so EFCC has no reason not to prosecute him if he actually committed the alleged infraction.

EFCC can not convince Nigerians that it’s raging war against Yahaya Bello is not vindictive if it fails to conclude that of the Ex-Governor of Zamfara State which it started a year ago. It must also show its concern for every state of the federation, which resources have been misappropriated by any Governor, the same way it is chasing to recover money from Bello for the benefit of Kogi people.

Adamu Garba writes from Lokoja

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