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Just In: Atiku campaign team gives condition for presidential debate

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The presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, Atiku Abubakar, will only participate in the presidential debate slated for today if President Muhammadu Buhari attends, a campaign spokesperson has said.

Mr Abubakar, who travelled to the United States on Thursday, is expected back in Nigeria today– Saturday.

However, a spokesperson of the Atiku Campaign Organisation, Kassim Afegbua said by phone on Saturday, “If Buhari is not attending, he (Atiku) is not going to attend because that is the real debate”.

Other sources in his campaign team said he might still participate if he returns to the country before the time for the debate.

Mr Abubakar, a former vice president, is seen as the main challenger of the ruling All Progressives’ President Buhari in next month’s presidential polls.

Mr Buhari and Mr Abubakar are among five presidential candidates expected to sell themselves to Nigerians during the presidential debate organised by the Nigerian Election Debate Group and the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria ahead of the general elections.

The debate will start at 7pm at the Congress Hall of the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja.

Apart from the duo, other candidates shortlisted for the debate are those of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, Oby Ezekwesili; Alliance for New Nigeria, Fela Durotoye; and the Young Progressives Party, Kingsley Moghalu.

The running mates of the candidates all participated in their own debate held last month.

The Presidency did not confirm if Mr Buhari will attend the debate.

Calls and text massages sent to the president’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Shehu Garba, were not responded to.

However, there are indications Mr Buhari may not attend the debate. His party, APC, hinted this week that there was nothing special about the debate.

Lanre Issa-Onilu, the party’s national publicity secretary said the president may choose not to attend if he feels there are other viable options through which he can engage Nigerians.

On Wednesday Mr Buhari, and his deputy, Yemi Osinbajo, appeared at a town hall discussion forum organised by Daria media, in partnership with the Nigerian Television Authority. They took questions from Kadaria Ahmed – the anchor of the event.

Ahead of the presidential elections in 2015 when Mr Buhari was the main challenger to the then President Goodluck Jonathan, a similar debate was organised.

Mr Buhari boycotted the event. His argument then was that there was no basis for debate since the record of the PDP and Mr. Jonathan in government was public knowledge.

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“Passage of life pension Bill, a desperate coup against Bayelsa people”—Group

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A group, the Bayelsa Against Eelection Violence Initiative (BAEVI) has kicked against the recent passage by the Bayelsa State House of Assembly of a bill to provide for monthly lifetime pension for its members, describing the action as a desperate coup against the people. 

According to the group, the presentation of same to Governor Henry Seriake Dickson for assent is the height of legislative rascality and desperation and, to say the least, an economic coup against the state.

The group, the Bayelsa Against Eelection Violence Initiative (BAEVI),in a statement issued  yesterday in Yenagoa, said the passage of this repugnant bill at a time when government has consistently screamed blue murder over dwindling state income and rising liabilities,” speaks to a clear lack of moral compass on the part of our reprentatives to put the public good first in all things and ensure the equitable and beneficial use of scarce state resources.”

The group, in the statement, signed by its President, Hon. Preye Johnbull and Secretary, Egba Father,  the doctrine of the fruit of the poisoned tree readily comes to mind here and renders nugatory the veiled, surreptitious attempt to endanger the public interest. If the tree is poisoned, it’s fruit can by no means be sweet but bitter. A good motive for committing a crime doesn’t necessarily absolve the culprit of the guilt and consequences.”

“The truth is that Bayelsa legislators are already comparatively sufficiently provided for under the subsisting remuneration package, and there is no need whatsoever to add a lifetime pension to sweeten the deal and enhance their exit package when the state civil servants are hardly well catered for, unemployment rate is hitting the roof and the lack of critical infrastructure such as power and industrial expansion has stifled development and brought the state practically to its knees. What with the backlog of gratuities of retirees and unpaid salaries of local government workers.”

“If the legislators strongly feel that they deserve to be included in monthly pensions then by the same token they must pass social security laws to enhance the welfare of the unemployed, physically challenged, bursary allowances and scholarships funding for tertiary students, the widows, single parents and all economically disadvantaged segment of the population.”

“The heightened social tension resulting from this melodramatic theatre of the absurd is  steadily building to a deafening crescendo and Governor Seriake Dickson must, without bathing an eyelid, throw this putrefying bill to where it rightly belongs; the stinking dustbin of history.”

“Unless something is done urgently to reverse this mindless rape of our commonwealth, the unsettling equal and opposite reaction could be that Bayelsans could be forced to take to the streets to register their displeasure and deploy every legitimate means to ensure its abrogation.”

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Breaking: NJC Approves Buhari’s Request To Extend Tenure Of Acting CJN Tanko Muhammad

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The National Judicial Council (NJC), has approved President Muhammadu Buhari’s request to extend the tenure of the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Muhammad.

The council in a statement by its Director Information, Soji Oye, stated that the approval followed several deliberations during a meeting which was held last week Thursday.

Mr Oye noted that contrary to reports that the NJC was going to meet next week on the extension of Justice Muhammad’s tenure, the council, however, meet on April 18, 2019, which resolved to the approval of his extension.

“The attention of the National Judicial Council has been drawn to an online newspaper and daily newspaper Report stating that the Council would meet next week to deliberate on the extension of the Acting Appointment of Honourable Dr Justice I. T. Muhammad CFR, as the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria.

“Contrary to the above, the Council actually met on Thursday 18th April 2019 and at the 88thMeeting considered and approved the request of President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, for the extension of the Appointment of Hon. Dr Justice I. T. Muhammad, CFR, as the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria for another three (3) months and Council has since forwarded its approval to the President”.

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How I got N1.2b cash from Fayose, others, by bank chief

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The Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday heard how the N1.2 billion allegedly given to former Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose from the Office of National Security Adviser (ONSA) was moved to the state.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is trying Fayose for allegedly receiving and keeping N1.2 billion and $5 million said to have been stolen from the ONSA.

Testifying before Justice Mojisola Olatoregun, the 11th prosecution witness, Mr Sunday Alade, said he was the Akure, the Ondo State capital Branch Manager of Zenith Bank Plc in 2014 when the money was moved to his branch.

Led in evidence by prosecuting counsel, Mr Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), the witness said he got a call from his Head of Operations asking him to prepare to head to Akure Airport to receive some cash from a customer.

“On June 17, 2014, I was in my office in Zenith Bank, Akure. I received a call from my Head of Operations, Abiodun Oshodi, that a customer would be coming to make a deposit into his account with the bank.

“He said in order to provide security, we should arrange for a bullion van to go to the airport to pick the cash.

“After an hour, Oshodi came and said the customer had arrived. He introduced Abiodun Agbele as the customer.

“He said we should prepare to go to the airport. I asked for time to arrange for security, but they said that won’t be necessary as they had sufficient security. They came with MOPOL (mobile policemen) and some soldiers in a Hilux van,” Alade said.

The witness said he joined Oshodi and Agbele to the airport, along with the bullion van and the security men.

He added: “At the airport, we waited for a few minutes before the arrival of the aircraft. Three individuals came out of the aircraft.

“Two of them walked away. The remaining person introduced himself as O. Adewale. The cash was offloaded into the bullion van and we drove to Zenith Bank in Akure.”

Alade also said when he and the others got to the bank, the money was counted in his presence.

According to him, Oshodi, Adewale and Agbele were also present at the bank.

“The money was counted in our presence. It was N724 million. We were informed that there was a balance. We went back to the airport and picked N494 million.

“The total cash amounted to N1.219 billion. Another aircraft brought the N494 million.

“I gathered that the cash was lodged in three bank accounts – those of De-Privateer, Spotless Investment and Ayodele Fayose.

“I also understand that some cash was taken away that day by Mr Agbele.”

Asked who Adewale was, he said: “Adewale O. introduced himself as (former Minister of State for Defence) Musliu Obanikoro’s ADC (aide-de-camp).”

On whether or not he knew those who walked away from the aircraft after it landed, the witness said: “One of them resembled Obanikoro. I never met him in person. But he resembled the person I saw on television and newspapers.”

Under cross-examination by defence counsel Ola Olanipekun and Olalekan Ojo, both SANs (for Spoless Limited, Fayose’s co-accused), the witness said he did not know where the money came from.

Asked if he knew what the money was meant for, he said: “Not at all.”

The witness said it took 10 days to process the cash.

Responding to a question by Ojo if he submitted a bulk cash register to the EFCC on the transaction, the witness said: “No.”

Ojo showed the witness a statement of account belonging to Spotless Investment.

He was asked to identify entries for October 6, 2014, September 5, 2014 and December 6, 2014.

Alade said the entries showed the transfer of N11.173 million each described as “mortgage repayment” and “mortgage loan liquidation”.

He added: “But I didn’t know anything about the transactions.”

To this, Ojo said: “Don’t worry.”

Before the trial began, Jacobs said he was involved in an accident and had to come to court in crutches.

The lawyer asked the court to allow him take only one witness, but he did not disclose when or where he had the accident.

He was seen wearing a heavy bandage brace on his right foot without a footwear.

There was also no indication that the case would be transferred to another judge.

EFCC Acting Chairman Ibrahim Magu reportedly wrote to the Chief Judge, asking that the case be withdrawn from Justice Olatoregun and re-assigned to another judge.

Magu was said to have expressed lack of confidence in the judge.

But no reference was made to the purported letter to the CJ by the EFCC acting chairman.

Fayose had pleaded not guilty when he was arraigned on an 11-count charge on October 22, last year.

EFCC said the former governor and Agbele, who is facing a different charge, allegedly took possession of N1,219,000,000 on June 17, 2014 to fund Fayose’s 2014 governorship campaign.

The commission said Fayose “reasonably ought to have known” that the money “formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful act, to wit: criminal breach of trust/stealing”.

EFCC said the former governor, on the same day, received cash payment of $5 million from Obanikoro without going through a financial institution.

The commission said the sum exceeded the amount authorised by law, thereby violating the Money Laundering Act.

Justice Olatoregun adjourned till May 10 and 14 for continuation of trial.

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