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DSO Fraud Case Collapses, Prosecutors In A Fix – By Andrew Jokson

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The bubble has truly burst following the fizzling out of an anti graft agency much hyped N2.5 billion fraud charge against DG of National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Ishaq Modibbo Kawu and top executives of Pinnacle Communications Limited at the Federal High Court, Abuja where it has failed to produce any witness or evidence in support of its claim that the said amount paid by NBC to Pinnacle Communications Limited was illegal, irregular and unauthorized.

The agency top prosecutor was visibly flustered at the last hearing on May 27 as, for the second consecutive time, he admitted inability to produce any of three remaining witnesses he had promised would turn up. While at the previous hearing the expected witness had gone on “pilgrimage”, this time the witness was “bereaved”, a situation that led to an abrupt adjournment barely an hour into the scheduled three or four hearing specially set aside by the presiding judge, Folashade Giwa to accelerate proceedings.

Both the judge and defence counsel were flabbergasted and Alex Izinyon (SAN) asked the judge to close the case describing the conduct of the prosecutor as a disappointing indication of laxity and time wasting after sufficient notice of dates set aside, a position that two other defence counsel promptly aligned with.

The presiding judge mitigated the agency’s dilemma by giving the prosecutor the last chance to bring all his witnesses at the next hearing or risk foreclosure, berating the prosecutor for wasting the court’s valuable time that could have been better utilized for other pending trials.

That episode marked the latest in a series of unexpected and unexplained shortcomings in the prosecution of a case the agency had literally deployed the media to declare the defendants guilty long before arraignment and then clumsily converted its website to a parallel court where incomplete testimonies and biased selection of snippets of exhibits tendered were highlighted in furtherance of its trial-by-media agenda.

The media manipulation however back fired fatally as the agency’s top witnesses–a retired NBC legal adviser, NBC deputy director of finance and even a senior investigator who supposedly worked on the case– collectively crumpled under cross examination by defence counsel to affirm that the DSO White Paper did not specifically outlaw the payment of N2.5 billion by NBC to Pinnacle Communications Limited whose “very expensive world class broadcast technology” equipment was used for the national launch of the DSO in Abuja in 2016 by VP Osinbajo on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari and has since then been powering the 35 channel digital transmissions for the Federal Capital and environs and that the NBC DG duly processed the payment through the supervising Minister who approved it without hesitation, among other factors debunking the agency’s so-called investigation and charges against the defendants.

As if this was not sufficient self-indictment, the agency has been caught in a web of politically-motivated intrigues and in house amorous entanglement combined to effectively hijack its official procedures and decision making especially affecting the investigation and prosecution of cases.

The NBC DG Ishaq Modibbo Kawu is the sole target of a political cabal intent on planting its crony in his position to consolidate the media empire building manoeuvres of its Grand Master’s 2023 presidential permutations. The DSO and Pinnacle Communications Limited were surreptitiously roped into the plot by the well-positioned Information Minister who has been desperate to appease the cabal after being outsmarted by Ishaq Modibbo Kawu in getting the NBC top job even as he was busy claiming to be on top of the situation for another candidate to be planted there.

The former minister who is still lurking around SGF weeks after handing over eagerly linked up with his agency’s cabalists and NBC hirelings with the ultimate objective of “just arraignment” and media smear campaign against Kawu in his mistaken belief that he could suspend the DG on that ground thereby paving the way for Alake. Thus, apart from securing a highly absurd “immunity” from arraignment for payment he approved, he had no concern about the absence of any tangible basis for using the DSO as the weapon of vendetta.

The trial by media and politically-motivated “investigation” were orchestrated by the open secret marriage of convenience amorously linking the investigation department with the publicity unit and has recently shifted focus from the bogus N2.5billion “fraud” to the selective extracts from the Pinnacle bank account which is a malicious violation of the privacy of bank account transactions of a reputable company that has not been indicted.

The agency had last year been forced by court order to lift its freeze order on Pinnacle’s account by an Abuja Federal High Court that found no justification for its action and even cautioned it against basing its actions on spurious “pepper soup joint gist”.

The fiasco over the mercenary investigation and prosecution of DG NBC a d Pinnacle Communications Limited executives has become an internal scandal among the agency’s staff and management who have been highly agitated by the increasing failure rate of the commission’s prosecutions in recent times due to the “privatisation” of official duties by a few management staff.

The inauguration of a new board that was expected to sanitise the agency has turned out to be another hoax because of the continuing influence of the political cabalists as well as the exposure of yet another in house scandal of payment of salary in advance of Senate confirmation of the board for almost a year amounting to millions of naira which is now gathering dark clouds of impending implosion that will lead to a massive shake up and flushing out of the entire board and management of the agency.

IT IS A MATTER OF TIME!

ANDREW JOKSON is public affairs analyst in Jos

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OBJ, GEJ as Villains of Nigeria’s Democracy – By Anthony Kolawole

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Nigeria recently celebrated 20 years of uninterrupted democracy. As usual, it was a time for sober reflections on the journey that started in 1999. Even as we celebrated, we forgot that there were events that led to what we are now celebrating. Some individuals made sacrifices, and some also paid the supreme price with their lives.

One of such individuals is the late M.K.O Abiola on whose mandate some persons rose to limelight in the democratic dispensation in Nigeria. But guess what? They would never admit this fact because they see themselves as gods who must be worshiped at all times, not minding that the bulk of the challenges we encountered in the past twenty years were caused by the ignorable role they played and have continued to play in the democratic governance in Nigeria.

I stand to be corrected. Olusegun Obasanjo remains one of Nigeria’ undoing since the advent of democracy in Nigeria. He has constituted the bulk of the anomalies that Nigeria witnessed since we began the journey in 1999. From the fact that he wanted a third term in office after eight years in power to bequeath to the country an arrangement he knew would do the country no progress.

One thing suffices. Olusegun Obasanjo still hasn’t gotten over the fact he is no longer president and courtesy demands that he conducts himself in public with decorum. But his posturing in recent times negates all that is expected of a supposed former president of the federal republic of Nigeria.

Olusegun Obasanjo has not carried on well since he left power. He has attempted to constitute himself as the messiah Nigeria needs. All others after him are deficient according to his standards as Olusegun Obasanjo, the almighty messiah.

This brings me to the recent utterances by Olusegun Obasanjo on the democratic experience in Nigeria. He has done what the rational mind would term unbecoming of a former president. He has constituted himself as the villain of democracy in Nigeria. In truth, the annals of Nigeria’s democratic history would have it that Olusegun Obasanjo is indeed a villain of Nigeria’s democracy.

As a flashback, when he failed to get his infamous third term bid, he vowed to ensure that Nigeria experiences no meaningful leadership. With great regards to late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Olusegun Obasanjo knew quite well that Nigeria was at some point going to be faced with a crisis of immeasurable proportion. And he had his way with the unfortunate death of Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. That period saw the emergence of a Goodluck Jonathan whose tenure as president of Nigeria was nothing to write home about.

The irony of it all of that Goodluck Jonathan, who by all indications was not prepared for governance saw himself as president, and as they say, the rest is history. The same Goodluck Jonathan that superintended over a corrupt and indolent administration has joined forces with his benefactor to constitute a wheel in the of progress in Nigeria.

The eight years of Olusegun Obasanjo and the five years of Goodluck Jonathan were some of the darkest ages in the history of Nigeria. Under Obasanjo, political killings were rife; corruption reigned supreme and political persecution was the order of the day. Under his protégée, Goodluck Jonathan, good governance eluded us. It was a rudderless journey Nigerian embarked on in five years. But today, these two individuals are busy making irresponsible statements on the state of affairs in Nigeria. Utterances that are devoid of logical reasoning and a well thought out process.

In the case of Olusegun Obasanjo, I am most disappointed. For the eight years he held sway as president, he refused to acknowledge the fact that the death of his kinsman M.K.O Abiola indeed paved the way for him to emerge as president. He also refused to give credit to the sacrifices of M.K.O Abiola in the journey to democracy in Nigeria. The rational mind would have thought that he would have acknowledged M.K.O Abiola. But he didn’t. Goodluck Jonathan, in his wisdom, toed the line of his benefactor and was also consumed by his misdemeanour.

Nigerians must realize that these two individuals must never be taken seriously in Nigeria. They have carried on like drowning individuals forgetting the fact that their administrations indeed set Nigeria back donkey years. And to think that they have the moral right to make uncomplimentary remarks in recent times is most despicable and a shame indeed.

For Olusegun Obasanjo, it has been a way of life right from the Shehu Shagari era. Wanting to dominate public discourse by peddling negative narratives and inciting the public against the administration of Muhammadu Buhari. But this time around, he has been demystified, and Nigerians know better.

The recent actions by the administration of Muhammadu Buhari towards setting Nigeria of the path of progress are what they cannot come to terms with. And in the attempt to stay relevant in the scheme of affairs in the country, they have taken to irrational behaviours.

But the good news is that Nigerians have realized that the intentions of these individuals are not in the national interest but selfish interest borne out of an insatiable desire to see that Nigeria does not experience sustainable growth and development. I won’t mince words. These individuals are rejected souls that are not rational in their thinking and their actions and inactions.

It is therefore my considered opinion that Nigerians should continue to disregard the duo and concentrate on the journey ahead of us. Nigeria is bigger than individuals, and that is sacrosanct. I could go on nonstop because I am happy with the giant strides of Muhammadu Buhari since he assumed leadership of this country. The 15 years of Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan cannot be equated with the four years of Muhammadu Buhari.

Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan do not have the moral right to stand up to be counted as one of those that stood in the interest of Nigeria when it mattered. They are villains of Nigeria’s democracy, and so shall it remain. They can cry wolf where none exists. They can write open letters. They can make inciting and delirious statements about the state of affairs in Nigeria. But for all we care is that Nigeria is on the path of greatness. The indices are there for all to peruse. Nigerians are wiser. And Nigerians know better than what Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan want the world to believe. A word is enough for the wise and the discerning.

Kolawole PhD a University teacher wrote from Keffi.

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Time to Reform the Taraba Tea Sector – By Zanau Hassan Maikasuwa

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Taraba state is fortunate to be the only tea growing region in the whole of West Africa with a land area coverage of far less than 1500 hectares. Since the commencement of the establishment of the tea estate on the Mambilla plateau in the 1970s into the 1980s, there has been little or no effort made to expand the production of tea plantations on the Mambilla beyond the current 1200 hectares.

As national revenues continue to dwindle, it is now time to begin to explore other sources of revenue generations and jobs creation. Being the only region in Nigeria that grows tea, Taraba state has not maximized the opportunity to increase production, break the Highland Tea Company monopoly and attract further investments into plantation establishments and tea processing.

Having one tea company alone is not enough to generate the needed revenue and drive growth that will increase jobs.

It is time that the Taraba state government takes a bold step to liberalise Tea production and processing. This will see to more investment and an increased competition that will further make the Highland Tea do better.

It will also increase the revenue base of the state in terms of additional taxes to be collected, increase job opportunities and bring more developments to the rural areas.

According to the World Top Export website, total Tea import is $6.5 billion with Asia importing $2.3 billion worth, equivalent to 35% of the global tea import. Nigeria on the other hand imported $19.2 million (N58.7B at N305/$).

This means that, despite the presence of the Mambilla tea, we are spending more money on tea import. If Taraba works hard to supply 10% of that amount, that will be a share of N5.87B.

This can only be possible if the Taraba state government can begin to take steps to develop the Taraba Tea Development Policy to liberalise the sector, open it up for investment in both processing and cultivation.

Secondly, there is a great need to develop Agricultural extension and promote the teaching of tea cultivation in the state agricultural institutions like the College of agriculture and the Faculty of agriculture of the Taraba State University. These will create the needed manpower for the sector’s growth and development.

As we await for the commencement of the operation of the Kashimbila hydro power distribution, it will be strategic for the state government to woo investors and assure them of a guaranteed source of power on one hand and the supply of Tea raw material on the other.

In a time like this when Central Bank of Nigeria is looking to reduce import dependency and promote local production, it offers the Taraba state government and opportunity to approach the CBN with a convincing proposal to set aside funds for investors willing to invest in the Tea sector.

Zanau Hassan Maikasuwa is an Agricultural consultant, he writes from Abuja.

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Mr. Usman Gur Mohammed; The Man of Efficiency

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“The appointment of the interim MD for TCN was designed to ensure responsiveness to the needs of DISCOs and GENCOs, and to improve their efficiency.” These were the words of the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, who at a Senate hearing, defended his decision of appointing Mr. Usman Gur Mohammed as the new interim head of Transmission Company of Nigeria. The Senate acted in response to a signed petition from an in-house union of the company against Mr. Mohammed’s appointment. Since then, President Muhammadu Buhari has extended Mr. Usman Gur Mohammed’s tenure to four years and he has stayed true to Mr. Fashola’s characterization of him– the person to improve the efficiency of TCN, as the company has witnessed many significant changes under his management.

Among those significant changes, starting with the most notable is TCN’s consistent achievement of higher grid energy peaks. With contrived plans set up by President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration and the Minister of Power, Works, and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, guiding the activities of TCN, in March 2019, the maximum daily grid energy reached a record of 110,734.93MWH from 109,372,01MWH in February 2016. And the peak grid generation power of 5,375.0MW in February 2019 from about 3500MW in 2015. This illustrates TCNs ability to enhance the capacity of wheeling more power into the grid. However, in order not to get confused by the figures, the maximum daily grid energy refers to the energy wheeled from generators to all distribution load centres across the country in 24 hours, while the peak generation grid power is a high point in grid generation.

Also worthy of praise is the full implementation of President Muhammadu Buhari’s Transmission Rehabilitation and Expansion Programme (TREP), which aside from constructing many 330/132/33Kv substations in key areas like Sokoto, Daura, Jogana, Ilashe Island, Birnin Gwari, Argungu, and Lambata, installing a 300MVA power transformer in Aloji, and 60MVA transformers in Onitsha, Edo, Ogun, and Akure, as well as rehabilitation of Jebba and Kainji, has also drawn wide support and sponsorship from the French Development Agency, The African Development Bank, and The Japan International Corporation. Rehabilitation of the substations and transmission lines is a major part of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration’s objective to achieve transmission capacity of 7GW. The increase in maximum power transfer capacity from about 5GW to 7GW has enabled DISCOs to supply consumers with additional power and has ushered in private participation in the transmission sector.

Furthermore, lost in the debate of generating more power is the discussion on the quality of that power. Under Mr. Mohammed’s leadership, TCN has implemented unprecedented steps in enforcement of frequency control measures of the nation’s grid system with a strategy of reaching 49.8 and 50.2HZ, the West African Power Pool standard for member countries. This translates to Nigerians being provided with stronger electric energy capable of powering the most intensive of appliances.

And many of these efforts are seen at the grassroots. A recent survey by Channels TV asked Nigerians about improvement in the quantity of power and 73% said it was positive. Also corroborating this claim is the NBS report that recorded an 18% improvement in power. Anecdotal evidence suggests that many are satisfied with President Muhammadu Buhari’s efforts in improving in electricity in Nigeria, and those who are not satisfied believe that it is “at least better than before”.

In terms of transparency and openness, the management has taken steps that are a complete departure from the previous mode of operations in TCN. The company now provides instant access to information on their website regarding all ongoing projects and their completion rate. This is alongside having many social media accounts to disseminate information, make public service announcements, especially regarding planned maintenance that could result in power outages, and inculcate a culture transparency in their operation that wins public support.

Most of Mr. Mohammed’s efforts have been commended by even his predecessors. At an honorary dinner, the former MD of the defunct NEPA, Engr. Hamza Ibrahim gave many words of praises to his efforts. As for the in-house union that protested his appointment, they similarly issued an apology and lauded his achievements shortly after his one-year contract.

It is quite evident that President Muhammadu Buhari and Mr. Babatunde Fashola’s plans for improving power in Nigeria are being implemented effectively through Mr. Mohammed’s painstaking efforts. He has indeed increased the efficiency of the very complex bureaucracy whose management was once outsourced to a Canadian Company. He is the man who keeps himself attuned to the everyday activities that happen on the grid with his very own meter set up in his office, tracking any changes and taking swift action.

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