Google+ Followers

Monday, 25 February 2013

Draft Criminal Charges Detail How Gov. Peter Odili Plundered Rivers State's $500million To Set Up Arik Air And Buy Up Media At AIT, Thisday, Newswatch And ChannelsTV

Peter Odili , Mary Odili and judges
By SaharaReporters, New York
SaharaReporters has obtained detailed draft charges that never made it to the courts regarding the brazen looting of Rivers State treasury by the state’s former governor, Peter Odili. The documents show how Mr. Odili used a combination of government officials and personal companies disguised as fronts to fleece Rivers State to the tune of N100 billion between 2004 and 2007.
Saharareporters’ analysis of the draft charges, which were prepared by well-known Nigerian lawyer Festus Keyamo on behalf of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) under the chairmanship of Mrs. Farida Waziri, reveal that, between December 2004 and September 2006, Emmanuel Nkatah, a personal staff of the governor operating at the Rivers State liaison office in Abuja, alone withdrew over N4 billion naira from Zenith Bank account No. 6010916567 which belonged to Rivers State Government House.
The 220-count draft indictment targeted Mr. Odili and 24 others regarding allegations of theft, conspiracy to commit theft, money laundering and fraud.

The draft charges listed other accused persons and beneficiaries of Mr. Odili’s extensive looting. The list includes founder of Arik Airline, Johnson Arumemi-Ikhide, former Minister of Aviation, Babalola Borisade, two former People's Democratic Party chairmen, Ahmadu Alli and Barnabas Gemade. Also listed as co-accused are Pauline K. Tallen, Mrs. Olufemi Agagu, Ike Nwachukwu, a retired general, and Ukandi Damanchi, a professor.

The businesses named in the charge sheet include Courage Communications Ltd, Attn Ltd, Ragolis Water Ltd, M/S Wetland Health Services Ltd, Transky Ltd, Foby Eng. Ltd, First Medical/Sterile Company Ltd, Habila Resources Ltd, Rockson Engineering Co. Ltd, Ojemai Farms Ltd, Ojemai Investments Ltd, and Godsonic Oil Company Ltd, an oil company owned by Peter Odili which also has business interests in the Nigeria/Sao Tome Joint Development Zone (JDZ) Block 4.
The documents reveal, for instance, that between January 2004 and December 2006, Mr. Johnson Arumemi-Ikhide, the alter ego of Rockson Eng. Ltd, received over N60 billion from the accounts of the Rivers State government. Also between September 2005 and the year 2006, Mr. Borishade was the beneficiary of an illegal diversion of over N4 billion in the guise that it would be used to rehabilitate Port Harcourt International Airport. On March 3rd and March 10th 2006, then Governor Odili withdrew the sum of $2 million U.S. dollars for personal use but in the guise that the money would be used to sponsor senior government officials on a trip abroad. As his tenure as governor drew to a close, Mr. Odili intensified the questionable withdrawals. On March 16, 2007, he withdrew another $2 million for the same purpose of sponsoring senior government officials on a foreign trip. On April 20th 2007, he withdrew another $2 million for the same purpose. On May 23, 2007, days before he left office, he withdrew another $1 million.

Of particular interest in the indictments is Mr. Odili’s corrupt entanglement with several major media organs. The charge sheet listed some media companies that received huge sums of money from Mr. Odili’s loot. SaharaReporters learnt that the dole-outs to the media were designed to buy their silence.
The biggest chunk of the payoffs went to Nduka Obaigbena's Leaders and Company Ltd, the publishers of ThisDay newspapers, Raymond Dokpesi's Daar Communications PLC, owners of African Independent Television (AIT) and Raypower FM, John Momoh's Channels Television Ltd, and Newswatch Communications Ltd, publishers of Newswatch magazine whose chief executive is Ray Ekpu.
In particular, the charge sheet stated that between 2004 and 2007, Gov. Odili channeled almost N2 billion to Daar Communication, over N300 million to Leaders and Company, N50 million to Channels Television Ltd and over N100 million to Newswatch Communications Ltd. all received part of the loot from Mr. Odili's slush fund.
In addition, Mr. Odili was notorious for doling out cash to numerous prominent editors, columnists and reporters. Thanks to his policy of bribing the media, he received little or no negative publicity during his eight-year rule. “Governor Odili presided over Rivers State at a time when a lot of revenue was rolling in here,” said a Port Harcourt-based politician. “Yet, the state capital, Port Harcourt, was in very bad condition and the state had no good roads or other infrastructure. Where did all the money go? Why did members of the press not ask questions?”
Sometimes, Mr. Odili splashed cash on party officials as well as other notable figures. Among those who received N20 million each were Mr. Ahmadu Ali, Mrs. Olufemi Agagu, Mr. Barnabas Gemade, and retired General Ike Nwachukwu. 

The documents indicate that the scale at which public funds were converted to private use was staggering. There was clear evidence of money laundering and blatant stealing of Rivers State funds for the personal use of the governor and his cronies.

Mr. Odili’s legal trouble started on October 31, 2006 when a petition came into the office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The commission launched investigations into various allegations of corruption and financial crimes leveled against Mr. Odili and other officials of the Rivers State Government. On December 12, 2006, the EFCC issued an interim investigative report and prepared a draft of 223 charges against the governor.

In a counter-move, the then Attorney-General of the state, and later Nigeria's Foreign Affairs minister, Odein Ajumogobia, on February 23, 2007 sued the EFCC, the then Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly, Rotimi Amaechi, and other defendants in a Federal High Court in Port Harcourt. In the suit, Mr. Ajumogobia asked Justice Ibrahim Nyaure Buba  of the federal High Court in port Harcourt to bar the EFCC from investigating, prosecuting or ever harassing Mr. Odili and officials of his administration. In the suit (number FHC/PH/CS/78/2007), the then Attorney-General claimed that the EFCC had no powers to investigate the state government and that such a move went contrary to provisions of Nigeria’s Constitution which gave such power to the State House of Assembly. The suit asked the court to bar the EFCC from sharing whatever information it had gathered with the media or coercing the State House of Assembly to commence impeachment proceedings on the governor.

On March 20, 2007, Justice Buba granted the Rivers State government all that the state’s Attorney-General prayed for in what is now called a perpetual injunction. Upon leaving office, Mr. Peter Odili again went to court and asked that he should be made a beneficiary of the perpetual injunction granting him permanent immunity from prosecution. Again, Justice Buba’s court agreed. The judge imposed “a perpetual injunction restraining the EFCC from arresting, detaining and arraigning Odili on the basis of his tenure as governor based on the purported investigation.”
In 2007, the Nuhu Ribadu led EFCC claimed they immediately file an appeal but the court of appeal never assigned the case as Mary Odili was a judge with enormous powers at the Court during the period.
Again in 2008, the EFCC filed an appeal against Justice Buba’s ruling. In the brief, the EFCC argued that the commission had the right under the statute that created it to investigate economic crimes allegedly committed by the state government and Mr. Odili. It also argued that the Buba Court was wrong in proceeding with an “Original Summons when it was obvious that the parties were in serious contentions on the facts.” The appeal described Justice Buba’s action as “at best incompetent,” insisting that the court “lacked jurisdiction” to hear the case. It concluded that “the judge was wrong to have issued the declaratory orders and injunctions against the Appellant (EFCC) which amount to prohibiting [the EFCC] from carrying out its statutory functions and setting aside its report when in fact the report was not even placed before him.”

Five years after, the EFCC’s appeal is still at the Appeal Court of Nigeria in the Port Harcourt judicial division waiting for the lower court’s verdict to be vacated.
Meanwhile, Mr. Odili also went to the same court and on January 27, 2011 won a ruling that he should be joined as an interested party in the substantial case.
However, no date has been set for the hearing. Sources close to Saharareporters said that the administrations of former President Umaru Yar’Adua and incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan have had no interest in seeing Mr. Odili tried. “Both President Yar’Adua and now President Jonathan subtly encouraged the no-action status quo,” a legal source in Abuja told SaharaReporters.
In fact, while Mr. Odili’s charges had been prepared and awaiting filing at the Federal High court, President Jonathan nominated his wife, Mary Odili, to the Supreme Court in May 2011. Several sources told SaharaReporters that Mrs. Odili played a key role in the plot to scuttle the wide-ranging indictment against her husband.

After governing the oil-rich Rivers State from 1999 to 2007, Mr. Odili ran for president in 2007. But he was forced to withdraw when some interests within his party confronted him with the numerous allegations of embezzlement of government funds during his governorship.
In his autobiography, Conscience and History, published last year, Mr. Odili acknowledged that he negotiated the charges against him with then President Olusegun Obasanjo. Mr. Odili offered to drop his presidential bid in exchange for a sort of soft landing that initially included being offered the Vice-Presidential slot. That slot was later given to Mr. Goodluck Jonathan.

Former Governor Odili is one of the nine governors whose corruption cases are in perpetual limbo in the courts. Others are James Ibori of Delta State, currently serving jail time in London for corruption, Chimaroke Nnamani of Enugu State, Joshua Dariye of Plateau State, Orji Uzor Kalu of Abia state, Lucky Igbinedion of Edo State, Saminu Turaki of Jigawa State, Boni Haruna of Adamawa State, and Jolly Nyame of Taraba State.
In spite of the swirl of corruption around Mr. Odili, he had no difficulty persuading Lincoln University, one of America’s most prestigious historically Black colleges, to accept donations from him, a fact noted by Human Rights Watch. By the end of 2006, Mr. Odili had become one of the school’s largest donors, with at least $1.64 million in donations. During that year, the university bestowed a controversial honorary degree on Mr. Odili. Lincoln held a luncheon in his honor, and named a building after him, actions that drew outrage from Nigerian groups as well as Human Rights Watch.
Political sources in Abuja told SaharaReporters that several factors have helped Mr. Odili evade prosecution so far. One factor is his wife, whose position as a justice of the Supreme Court makes her an insider who is able to ensure that her husband will not face a no-nonsense judge. Another factor is that Mr. Odili was very close to former President Obasanjo, and was an early and enthusiastic supporter of Mr. Obasanjo’s failed plan to change the Nigerian constitution in order to continue as president. Besides, since the end of his tenure as governor, Mr. Odili has moved to Abuja where he maintains a quiet profile, making as little political noise as possible. After years of feuding with his successor, Governor Rotimi Amaechi, Mr. Odili and the Rivers State governor had a kind of reconciliation in 2011, just as Mrs. Odili was elevated to Nigeria’s apex court. In a country where political considerations are often paramount, Mr. Odili has ensured that he is not perceived as a political threat to President Jonathan and other powerful political interests while his businesses which are proceeds of corruption booms.
 Mr. Keyamo’s detailed charge sheet was prepared for former EFCC chairman Farida Waziri. The file was inherited by current EFCC chairman Ibrahim Lamorde who has failed to prosecute Mr. Odili despite the fact that, as several legal authorities told SaharaReporters, the so-called injunction obtained by the former Rivers State governor does not really stand in the way of the anti-corruption agency.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

NJC to sack more judges

 by  Lanre Adewole- Lagos
News coming out of the nation’s judiciary top echelon is pointing to the sack of more judges as different panels set up by the National Judicial Council (NJC) are about to turn in their final reports, a top source revealed on Friday.
The source, who was shocked by the ongoing probe of Justice Abubakar Talba of the Abuja High Court over the controversial sentencing of  pension scam suspect, Yakubu Yusufu, told Saturday Tribune that feelers from other committees working on allegations against others judges under probe were returning damning verdicts.
One of such judges was involved in the controversial trial of a former governor for corruption, coming up with a controversial conclusion.
His indictment was said to be inevitable following the confession of the said former governor to grand larceny.
The council’s Performance and Evaluation Committee, headed by a retired justice of the Supreme Court, reportedly entered dismissal recommendation for the said judge, who currently sits in a state in the North-Central.
Talba’s fate may also have been sealed, considering reports that an incriminating piece of evidence had been sourced against him over his alleged dumping of an agreement among him, Yusufu and the prosecuting Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in the execution of the controversial plea-bargain involving Yusufu’s alleged theft of N2 billion pension fund.
Though it could not be confirmed if any case of corruption had been established against Talba, Saturday Tribune source noted that reneging on an agreement by all the parties in the said suit and concluding on another without the involvement of the prosecution would amount to unethical conduct, which may ultimately put Talba on the firing line.
The source also disclosed that some judges were found guilty of dereliction of duties by the evaluation panel, adding that those that had earlier been queried for same offence would definitely be shown the way out.
Saturday Tribune can also disclose that the NJC, on Friday, received the police investigative report that indicted the suspended President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Isa Ayo Salami, Tunji Ijaya, chieftains of the Action Congress of Nigeria and telecommunications giant, MTN, for unethical communications during the hearing and determination of the Osun State Governorship Election Appeal Tribunal.
The police report was made available to the council by former governor of Osun State, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, seeking a review of the council’s probe clearing Salami over the alleged unethical communication.
A source disclosed that the report was received on Friday and briefly deliberated upon.
It was learnt that the council will meet on March 13 and 14, and might use the platform to deliberate on whether to re-open the Salami probe or not.

A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja would on March 11 deliver judgment in a suit seeking to reinstate Salami to office without the assent of the approving authority; President Goodluck Jonathan.

NJC had no objection to the prayers of the plaintiff and others respondents; Jonathan and the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Bello Mohammed Adoke did not enter an appearance.

Revealed: How Then Governor Goodluck Jonathan Gave Obaigbena $1 Million From Bayelsa’s Poverty Alleviation Funds For Beyonce And Jay Z's Visit To Nigeria

Beyonce and Jayzee in Nigeria in October 2006
By SaharaReporters, New York
SaharaReporters has uncovered a document indicating that a million dollars of Bayelsa State’s poverty alleviation fund was spent by then Governor Goodluck Jonathan on bringing American entertainers Beyonce and Jay Z to Nigeria in 2006.
In a letter stamped and signed by Bayelsa officials, N150 million (approximately a million dollars in 2006) was released from the state’s poverty alleviation fund for the first ThisDay Music Festival in Lagos.
The document came to light after a controversy was ignited over how much money American “reality TV” star Kim Kardashian was paid for a brief visit to Nigeria.
Ms. Kardashian, star of a US TV show about her idle rich family and who shot to international fame after a sex tape featuring her and her rapper boyfriend went viral, was reportedly paid half a million dollars for the 24-hour-visit last week.
The sources who provided the 2006 document for Beyonce and Jay Z’s visit told Saharareporters that there was a shady financial link between the producers of some high profile entertainment events and the governors and other officials who control budgets at the state and federal levels. Mr. Obaigbena’s newspaper, ThisDay, is a major sponsor of entertainment events that brings US music stars as well as top public figures for flying visits to Nigeria in exchange for gargantuan paychecks.
“Mr. Obaigbena often lines up financial bonanzas from numerous governors, ministers and other top government officials to finance his jamborees,” said one of the sources who is based in the UK and is knowledgeable about such deals.
SaharaReporters obtained a letter from Mr. Obaigbena to the Bayelsa State government soliciting funds from the oil-producing state ahead of Nigeria’s 46th independence celebrations in 2006. The publisher wrote, “We invite you to partner with us as co-hosts of the festival.” The letter added: “With a total budget of $10 million, the co-host is expected to contribute a minimum of $2.5 million (two million five hundred thousand USD).”
At the bottom of the letter, minuted by hand and signed by then Governor Jonathan’s aides as well as the Bayelsa State accountant general are the words, “Release N150,000,000.00 (One hundred and fifty million naira) only to be drawn from the poverty alleviation subhead.”
One source told SaharaReporters that Mr. Obaigbena sent similar letters to other south-south states.
SaharaReporters could not ascertain how much of the released funds was paid directly to performers at the festival. There is no indication that Beyonce, one of the few entertainment stars internationally famous enough to only need one name, was aware that her performance was being subsidized by the poor people of Bayelsa.
But during Beyonce’s celebrated rendition of the Nigerian national anthem, pictures of Bayelsa State were projected onto the wall of the Lagos concert venue.
According to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics, 47% of Bayelsans live in poverty. The World Bank says that per capita gross domestic product in the Niger Delta is significantly below the country’s average. According to the state’s own 2005 development strategy, 80% of rural communities have no access to safe drinking water, a key indicator in judging poverty. In Yenagoa, the state capital and Bayelsa’s largest urban area, an estimated two out of every five residents do not have access to safe drinking water.
In 2005, as part of its UN-approved strategy to combat poverty, the state promised to make a fund of N100 million available as soft loans and micro-credit to Bayelsans. The allocated fund was N50 million less than Mr. Jonathan approved for Mr. Obaigbena’s music festival. That promise was made in the Bayelsa State Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy, published by the United Nations Development Program and signed by then Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha. A civil rights activist in Yenogoa told SaharaReporters that the state “has been a woeful failure in its poverty reduction program.”
The letter from Mr. Obaigbena to then-governor Goodluck Jonathan said the concert was necessary to show that the news from Nigeria was “not just…HIV/AIDS, conflicts, poverty, kidnapping, strife and riots.”
The publisher added: “This is the longest ever period of democracy in Nigeria, over seven years and counting! And a stable democracy means more investment and economic prosperity for all.”
The publisher went on to give reasons why the state government should contribute to the concert.
The stars’ performances would “tell the world, through music, that Nigeria’s time has come,” Mr. Obaigbena wrote. The letter added, “And once the good news catches on with the young and upwardly mobile, music loving new generation it will catch on with the world of investments and bountiful opportunities.”
In 2006, Mr. Goodluck Jonathan had just become governor of Bayelsa after his boss, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, was impeached and convicted on corruption charges.  Mr. Jonathan was then elevated to Vice President to then President Umaru Yar’Adua. Mr. Yar’Adua's death in 2010 enabled Mr. Jonathan, a zoologist whose PhD focused on tropical fish, to assume the presidency.
Since 2006, Mr. Obaigbena’s parent company, Leaders & Company, has produced a number of high-profile events that have seen such American stars as Rihanna, R Kelly, and Usher perform for Nigerians. The ticket prices for these concerts are usually out of reach of the “average” Nigerian. The events feature tickets that cost many tens of thousands of naira, usually reserved for “VIP access.” ThisDay has also hosted political luminaries like former US President Bill Clinton and former economic adviser to the Obama presidency, Lawrence Summers. At an Africa Rising concert in London, former US Secretary of State Colin Powell came on stage and danced to the popular Naija jam “Yahooze” by Olu Maintain.


2015: Another loud silence from Jonathan

By John Bulus
EVEN though Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger State had caught another jaw in the controversy surrounding President Goodluck Jonathan’s alleged intent for a second term in 2015, the number one citizen has rather chosen to concentrate on his job rather than clearing the air. Vanguard Saturday’s JOHN BULUS in this piece analyses the danger of the seeming elongated silence.
“We wish to state categorically that this is neither the time nor the season to begin electioneering campaign or related discourse for the 2015 presidential elections and so, President Goodluck Jonathan will not jump the gun. Mr. President will therefore stoutly resist any disguised or open attempt to drag him into any debates, arguments or political discussions relating to a presidential election in 2015”.
With these words, Dr. Doyin Okupe, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs on Wednesday dashed the hope of many Nigerians who had hoped to hear from President Jonathan in another round of provocation of thoughts on whether he entertains a two-term rule ambition in 2015.
Okupe: Mind my roar
To some people, that was being smart while to others, it smacks some theatrical garb. But to Jonathan’s critics and anti Jonathan’s 2015 ambition, Okupe’s defense of his master was devoid of courtesy to Nigerians who in the first place, elected Jonathan as their President in 2011. To them, President Jonathan even though he has a duty to perform still owes Nigerian the obligations of declaring his stand on the 2015 controversy.
Indeed, for months now, talks about whether the President will seek re-election in 2015 have reached a crescendo yet the President has continued to maintain what critical analysts referred to as “vexing silence”. In fact, more vexing is the fact that each passing day literally heralds one or two events that bring President Jonathan closer to the ring of contest. And when an opportunity presented itself for the President to line issues, he failed. Instead, chose to play politics.
But there have been arguments and counter-arguments over 2015 in the past, many however believe that none has been as sensitive as the “bombshell” dropped by the Niger State Governor, Alhaji Babangida Aliyu on Sunday on the issue. Aliyu during a Radio programme “Guest of the Week”, aired on Liberty Radio 91.7, Abuja said that governors of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) signed pact of one term for Jonathan in 2011. And with the governor, like a gadfly provoked a thought and seeming touched some raw nerves.
According to him:   “I recall that at the time he was going to declare for the 2011 election, all the PDP governors were brought together to ensure that we were all in the same frame of mind. “And I recall that some of us said that, given the circumstances of the death of President Umaru Yar’Adua and given the PDP zoning arrangement, it was expected that the North was to produce the president for a given number of years.
“I recall that at that discussion, it was agreed that Jonathan would serve only one term of four years and we all signed the agreement. Even when Jonathan went to Kampala , in Uganda , he also said he was going to serve a single term.
“For now, President Jonathan has not declared a second term ambition and we must not be speculating based on those who are benefiting from the campaign. I think we are all gentlemen enough; so when the time comes, we will all come together and see what is the right thing to do”.
Presidency’s response
According to analysts, this frontal statement is most sensitive of all issues surrounding 2015 and as such deserves either outright refutal or admission. But to the consternation of Nigerians, the Presidency, they said, played to the gallery and side-stepped the statement.
Hear Okupe’s further defence on the issue. “Mr. President will therefore stoutly resist any disguised or open attempt to drag him into any debates, arguments or political discussions relating to a presidential election in 2015”.
Groups gathering for Jonathan in 2015
Like the days preceding the keenly contested primary election of PDP and the presidential contest in 2011, the polity is heating up again with various interest groups initiating moves for a Jonathan’s presidency in 2015 even when the President has not categorically said he would run.
Allow Jonathan enjoy his democratic rights – Dr. Frederick Fasehun, the President of the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC).
Leading a delegation of the OPC on a visit to Mr Kingsley Kuku, the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Fasehun on Thursday said in Abuja that President Jonathan should be allowed to “enjoy his democratic rights”
“We fought for the democracy. Democracy is a pervasive commitment and the President has his democratic rights to enjoy. I think Nigerians should allow him to enjoy his democratic rights by standing election in 2015. I agree that he should be allowed to enjoy his democratic rights.
“And if Nigerians think he has brought peace. He has encouraged growth and progress, they should give him another chance to continue,” the OPC boss said.
PDP women drum support for Jonathan’s presidency
PDP National Woman Leader, Mrs Kema Chikwe at a presentation and launch of the PDP Women in Power calendar on Thursday in Abuja said expressed hope that President Jonathan will return to power in 2015 to give women more political positions.
“We are confident that when President Jonathan returns in 2015, women would be talking about 50 per cent, no longer 35 per cent affirmative action.
“As we give him unequivocal, undiluted, unreserved support and as we match with him to 2015, PDP women will reach the promise land,” Chikwe said.
Jonathan /Sambo Solidarity Forum Home and Abroad (JSSFHA)
In a statement issued in Abuja on Thursday and jointly signed by the national President and secretary of the group, Hon. Franklin Ekong, and Mr. Idoko Hilary Nduka, the group explained President Jonathan should go for a second as president in office.
“We want to call on Nigerians to join hands with this God giving leader to transform Nigeria rather than trying to engage Mr. President in uninteresting, wasteful arguments that are uncalled for. “It is our desire as a group to advise good people of Nigeria to disregard any arguments that is of personal or group interest that President Jonathan agreed to do one term,” the statement reads.
We can’t be intimidated –Asari Dokubo
On his facebook page, Alhaji Dokubo Asari on Thursday said that President Jonathan does not have the right to sign off the constitutional right of the people of south- south.
“GEAJ does not have right to sign off the constitutional right of the people of the south-south to have to have the presidency for two terms…he cannot and no sane south southerner will allow him to do that. This is not an issue of integrity…the issue is the right of a whole region…we cannot be intimidated or cajoled to accept such perfidy”, he said.
Meanwhile, as 2015 inches close, it is left to be seen whether President Jonathan will fly the flag of his party, the PDP and square up in another round of contest with whosoever that emerges the Presidential candidate from the leading opposition parties which have fused to form All Progressive Congress (APC).

UNILAG Name Change: Jonathan Makes U-turn

Protesting students resisted name change
Abuja – President Goodluck Jonathan has reversed the change of name of the University of Lagos which he renamed Moshood Abiola University in a broadcast to mark the 2012 Democracy Day.
Chairman, Governing Council of University of Lagos, Professor Jerry Gana disclosed this yesterday in Abuja during his inauguration alongside three others by the Minister of Education, Professor Ruqayyatu Rufai
The name change had been the subject of litigation and protests from students and alumni of the institution while a court recently ruled that the change was illegal.
Gana who hailed President Jonathan for retaining the name of the institution. said the president had upheld the Constitution by reversing the change of name of the university.
“This is a pointer to the fact that the current administration is committed to entrenching democracy and justice in the country.’’
Gana, who was responding on behalf of the four councils, said they would ensure that the universities’ communities settled down in peace.
“I assure you that we will do our best to be fair, just and honourable in the discharge of our duties.” He also promised effective leadership with integrity, honour and justice.
Gana said members would work according to the rules governing the institutions.
He thanked Jonathan for the appointments and said they would put in their best as Nigerians deserved nothing less.
The other governing councils inaugurated by the Minister of Education, Prof. Ruqayyatu Rufa’I, were for the University of Benin, ObafemiAwolowoUniversity, Ile-Ife and Michael Opara University of Agriculture, Umudike.
Their Chairmen are Sen. Bob Dickson, Prof. Rowland Ndoma-Egba and Prof. Anya O.Anya respectively.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Education, Sen. Uche Chukwumerijie said the lawmakers’ job had been made easier by the appointments.
Chukwumerijie said the committee’s oversight visits to the institutions had identified lack of leadership by the absence of governing councils and the quality of members of the boards as challenges facing the institutions.
He said the Federal Government had by the appointments taken care of the issues.
“There are councils for those that did not have and the members who have been appointed are men and women of proven integrity and experience in academics.’’
The lawmaker described the appointees as round pegs in round holes and the right captains in the ship.
Chukwumerijie charged the councils to immediately tackle falling standards of education, corruption, cultism and many ills that had continued to affect the development of education.
The Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission, Prof. Julius Okojie, said no university could function effectively without a governing council.
Okojie urged government to consider training and retreat for members to enable them to keep abreast of global best practices in university administration.
He also advocated financial autonomy for universities in the country.

Cynthia Osokogu’s Murder: Hotel Receptionist, Porter, Lodged Suspects With Forged Receipt to Defraud Hotel

By SaharaReporters, New York
Vivian Emenike, a receptionist at the hotel where Cynthia Osokogu was murdered, today explained to the court how she manipulated hotel records to exclude the presence of the suspects.
Ms. Emenike, 28, told the court that the room was originally booked by a couple who vacated the premises early, leaving some hours unused. When the suspects arrived and wanted a room, she gave them that room, ;issuing a fake receipt to them and making no official hotel record in respect of that transaction. She stated that the shady act was with the connivance of the hotel porter with whom she normally shared the proceeds from such deals.
The testimony contradicted an earlier statement she made to the police that the suspects were younger brothers of the original person who had booked the room, but who left use of the accommodation to his brother until the booking expired.
Ms. Emenike further revealed that her action was with the connivance of the hotel porter, whereby fake receipts were issued to new customers lodging in a room that had been checked out from, but the booking for which still had time on it. The same tactic, she said, was applied in granting accommodation to the suspects in Cynthia’s murder.
At the hearing, defence lawyers today lost ;a stay-of-proceedings bid for the second time, failing to persuade the judge that their clients would not get a fair hearing because of the wide media reportage of the matter. The court ruled out their application, saying it failed to see the effect of media coverage on fair hearing in court.
Cynthia, a student, was allegedly murdered by some of her Facebook friends last year.
Justice Akinlade, presiding, adjourned ;the hearing to March 22.

It’s in South-East’s interest to back APC – Annie Okonkwo

…•Says doubting Thomases’ll be disappointed…
Senator Clement Annie Okonkwo, who represented Anambra Central Senatorial District in the Sixth Assembly, led the delegation of a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in the merger talks with other opposition parties to form the All Progressives Congress (APC). In a chat with reporters, Okonkwo said it was in the interest of the South-East to join other regions in the push to rescue Nigeria from the shackles of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
You were quoted as saying that your party, APGA was dead following the formation of APC. What informed that view?
I was misquoted. I made my point clear that the major political parties in the country are surrendering their party to form one strong platform and that if the merger works the political parties involved will cease to exist and this is what the law says. This is the first time that this has happened. What we use to have is alliance and not merger. I never said that APGA is a dead party. But the truth of the matter is that if the merger talk is successful there won’t be anything like APGA. Some people on their own have destroyed the party.
To be specific, a sponsored court order by the governor of Anambra State has kept APGA in an impotent condition from the national to state level. Today it has become very difficult for somebody to do anything that will yield good result in APGA. Most of them are in PDP but are still pretending to be in APGA. I will like to thank the Governor of Imo State, Owelle Rochas Okorocha as the only governor from the South-East that supported the merger of the major opposition parties into one strong platform, APC because there is no way this country can be rescued from the hands of the greedy and selfish PDP members.
So, to ensure that this does not continue, the people of the North have surrendered their major opposition parties, the oldest political party, the All Nigerian Peoples Party, ANPP and the leading political party in the area, the Congress for Progressives Change, CPC; the South-West has also sacrificed their own party, the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN. So, I don’t see any reason we in the South-East should not support the merger talk. I commend Okorocha for his courage to support the merger and this will make APC a strong political party because it has received the support of all the zones in the country. And each zone also has a governor.
The North-Central has a governor; the North-East has a governor, the North-West also has. In the South-West, there are governors, South-South, there is a governor and the South-east cannot be left aside, we also have a governor. So, people who are thinking that the merger will not work will be disappointed at the end of the day. I see APC as a party that is going to rescue this country from the problem of insecurity, corruption and others that the PDP government has failed to solve because of their selfish leadership system.
Sen. Annie Okonkwo
Sen. Annie Okonkwo
Do you think Ndigbo stand a chance of producing the president on the banner of the APC?
When we were talking of the Igbo president, a lot of people thought we weren’t serious. As far as I am concerned, I believe that APC is the only party that can compete and defeat the PDP in any election. So, the opportunity is that as time goes on, we are going to contest the presidential primary election and if we win, we will have the opportunity of producing the president. One of the policies of the party is that internal democracy must be maintained and once it is maintained we will progress.
In PDP, there is no hope for the Igbo nation. Presently, from the president, vice president, Senate President and the Speaker there is no Igbo representative. The Vice President, Namadi Sambo is from the North, the Senate President, David Mark is from the North and the Speaker of the House of Representatives is also from the North and they are all PDP members. Tell me, is that how we will achieve the Igbo dream of producing the President?
APC is dominated by the South-West and North. With APGA already divided, don’t you think the South-East would be a minority in the party? As the President of C21, how do you hope to convince the Igbo to buy into it?
Our people find it very difficult to believe in reality. The truth is that it will be difficult to convince people to move in at the same time but when they start seeing result, they will be convinced to join the movement. What we want to do is to put an enlightenment programme to enable them understand our plan. I believe that by the time we are through with that, the Igbo will understand that the only political party where we can achieve our vision is the APC.
How are you tackling the problem of logo facing APC, which was occasioned by the crisis in APGA?
Everybody is aware that for the past six months, there have been crisis in APGA which has also witnessed several court cases. So, it will be very difficult for any merging political party to accept an APGA logo because they will believe that it will attract a lot of litigations. But we are still making our case very clear to ensure that all the parties are accommodated.
With APC merger talk still in progress, are you still going to contest for Anambra governorship under its platform?
The major thing we are doing is to build the party. For me, I am still in still contesting the election but it is not a do-or-die affair. The most important thing is to make sure that APC wins the next election in Anambra State. So, if the party supports my ambition I will fly the flag of the party.
APC fielding candidates, how do you think the 2015 election would look like?
This is the kind of election that Nigerians have been waiting to witness. A lot of unimaginable things will happen. PDP will lose a lot of states. For 14 years of PDP leadership at the federal level, the masses have been suffering one problem or the other. You can imagine how many families that have lost their loved ones either through Boko Haram attacks, Niger Delta militants’ attacks, kidnapping or plane crash. It means that something is wrong somewhere. With the birth of APC, the country will witness another style of leadership that will end the sufferings of the people. A leadership that will provide jobs for the people, a leadership that will provide security for the people, a leadership that will provide electricity for the masses of this country and of course, a leadership that will develop this country in all aspect.
What gives you the confidence that APC will beat PDP at the presidential and state elections?
PDP is a failed party. They don’t care about the masses and with the kind of people in APC, PDP is going nowhere.
What is responsible for the problem that Chief Victor Umeh is facing in APGA?
Everybody is aware that the crisis is sponsored and masterminded by Governor Peter Obi who believes that he has nothing to do with APGA again and thinks the best way to pay the people of APGA the good thing they did for him is by destroying the party. Unfortunately for him, we have moved on.
Obi will be rounding up by next year, how would you assess his achievement so far?
I don’t like discussing people. But honestly, people are scared of going to Anambra State because the insecurity there is too high and it was caused by unemployment in the state. We have thousands of graduates roaming the streets of Anambra and the state government is not doing anything about it.

The Counterfeit Christian Church 2

By Femi Aribisala

Most of today’s Christians do not have the kind of faith Jesus is looking for.

Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is like putting yeast in a large portion of dough. (Matthew 13:33).  While pastors with limited understanding of kingdom dynamics see this yeast as beneficial on the grounds that it is designed to promote the rapid numerical growth of the church; those with better insight see it as spiritually counter-productive precisely because it leads to the exponential growth of the church.  This growth is contrary to God’s design.

Abnormal church

Yeast in the bible is a metaphor for a corrupting agent.  The yeast “infects” the dough and makes the bread puffed up and “proud.”  Therefore, yeast was required to be thrown away at the Passover. (Exodus 12:15).  No meal offering was acceptable with yeast. (Leviticus 6:17).  Jesus himself uses yeast to characterise the duplicitous doctrine of the religious leaders.  He warns: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” (Luke 12:1).

As the church grew from a tiny seed into a small mustard bush, it was as God designed it.  But over time, with the yeast of pastors, it mutated into a large tree, something God never intended.  It became a freak giant of a tree not in keeping with its genetic-code.  It therefore ceased to be God’s church when we perverted the doctrines of Jesus on the altar of church growth.  It became a counterfeit of the true church, even though it still claimed to be “Christian.”  It formed an unholy alliance with Rome and took on many facets of pagan mystery religions.

Jesus defined the acceptable parameters of his church.  It is small in size: “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32).  Its workers are small in number: “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few.” (Luke 10:2).  Its membership is a small elect: “Many are called, but few chosen.” (Matthew 20:16).  Its pathway is found only by a small number of people: “Narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:14).  Therefore, the crowd should not be confused with the church.  

Jesus says: “When the Son of Man comes, will he really find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8).  Since according to the reputable Pew Research Centre there are now over 2 billion Christians on earth, more than any other religion, the conclusion is inescapable.  Most of today’s Christians do not have the kind of faith Jesus is looking for.

Demonic church

In effect, Jesus’ parables portray the current deviant form of the kingdom of God.  His mustard tree not only experiences aberrant growth; the birds of the air nesting in its branches are demons.  They are messengers of Satan: “the wicked one,” with the objective to steal the word of God from men’s hearts. (Matthew 13:4/19; Mark 4:4/15; Luke 8:5/12).  Jesus’ portrait is therefore identifiable in its perverseness as the end-time “mystery Babylon” which represents today’s Christian church. (Revelation 17:5).  The church is “a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!” (Revelation 18:2).

Jesus says: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat.” (Matthew 13:24-25).  Accordingly, the modern church is overrun by demons who plant weeds among God’s wheat.  These weeds now occupy strategic positions as pastors, bishops and general overseers.  They are revered as “father,” “papa” and “daddy,” in contravention of Jesus’ directive to call no one father but God. (Matthew 23:9).  God allows this to happen, just as he allowed Satan to tempt Job; just as Jesus was led of the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil; and just as Jesus allowed Satan to sift Peter like wheat. (Luke 22:31).

Out of this adversity, God is nevertheless determined to bring forth his true children.  Jesus says: “The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:45-46).  This presents another remarkable kingdom dynamic.  The pearl is the only “jewel” that is not buried in the earth.  It comes from a living organism: the oyster.  The first thing of note about the oyster is that it is not kosher.  It is forbidden food in the Law of Moses. (Deuteronomy 14:10).  The second thing of note is that oysters only produce pearls in response to irritation.  When the oyster gets hot and bothered, it produces the pearl in self-defence.

Even so, those who seek the Lord even in the counterfeit church will become his pearls.  They will be rescued from their inconvenient places of growth and become God’s glorious adornment: “‘They shall be mine,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘on the day that I make them my jewels. And I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him. Then you shall again discern between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.” (Malachi 3:17-18).

Counterfeit church

Therefore, what we see all around us today is the false church headed by false popes, pastors and bishops.  This counterfeit church is large, flamboyant and worldly.  But God’s true church is a “little flock” of “little ones” led by one Good Shepherd. (Luke 12:32; Matthew 18:14).  By presenting the kingdom of God as a mustard seed which grows to become a tree, Jesus was giving a prophecy about the coming perversion of church growth, which is already upon us.

Thus, Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed is designed to dispel all grandiose mythical and self-serving expectations of the kingdom of God.  But thanks to “Nicodemus pastors,” the myth has once again recaptured Jesus’ true portrait.  We are back again to planting cedars of Lebanon everywhere.

What we have now in the churches is the kingdom of pastors, which has little to do with the kingdom of God.  There, personal empires are built through the distortion of the scriptures for the sake of collecting as much tithes and offerings as possible.  Jesus says: “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’” (Matthew 21:13).

Our so-called “men of God” now include jet-flying, designer-suited internationally-acclaimed superstars.  However, true “children of God” are despised and rejected by the people. (Isaiah 49:7).  The authentic ministry of Christ is not glamorous: it is humiliating and frustrating.  The Messiah himself laments: “I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing. Yet what is due me is in the LORD’s hand, and my reward is with my God.’” (Isaiah 49:4).  Therefore, today’s celebrated pastor is a contradiction in terms.

This is the Lord’s final verdict: “Many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

The Counterfeit Christian Church I

By Femi Aribisala

The modern Christian church, with its mega-pastors and highfalutin cathedrals, is nothing but a counterfeit of the true church of Christ.

One day, the Lord asked me one of those questions that turn my faith upside down.  ”Femi,” he said, “does a mustard seed ever become a tree?”

The question was confusing.  Jesus himself says: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.” (Matthew 13:31-32).  Nevertheless at your word Lord Jesus, I decided to investigate.  Does the mustard seed actually become a tree?

The answer was so unexpected, it made me angry.  The mustard seed never becomes a tree.  At best, it grows to become a shrub.  Mustard trees don’t exist; except of course in Christian circles where they are planted fictitiously by “Nicodemus” pastors and televangelists.

Double-edged parables

The disciples asked Jesus why he spoke to the people in parables.  Why not just speak plainly to them?  Jesus replied that since they don’t want to understand what he was saying, he was also going to make sure they don’t understand. (Matthew 13:10-15).

Jesus’ parables are often designed to conceal and not to reveal.  In the portrait of the kingdom of God, his parables turn everything upside down.  The despised Samaritan, and not the “godly” priest or Levite, turns out to be the righteous hero of the story of the Good Samaritan.  Jesus’ Good Shepherd is so reckless; he leaves ninety-nine sheep unattended while looking for just one lost sheep.  In another parable, the despised tax collector is justified, while the presumably “godly” Pharisee is condemned.  In the story of the Prodigal Son, a party is thrown for the sinful prodigal son, instead of for the older, more faithful son.  In yet another parable, a master commended an unrighteous servant for his unrighteousness, and proclaimed him to be wise.

That is kingdom dynamics.  The first become last and the last become first.  Jesus’ parables confound our preconceptions by telling us what we know the way we have never known it.  This is because the ways of the kingdom are not the ways of men.  Therefore, his parables expose many religious myths as false answers to life’s hard realities.  They shatter our comfortable social sensibilities by confounding accepted norms and values.  Unfortunately, we are no longer offended today because the myths have reclaimed the parables once again.

True to form, very few things about Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed conform to reality.  The mustard seed is not the smallest of all seeds.  That distinction actually belongs to the orchid seed.  The mustard is a herb, so it never grows into anything like a tree.  All the varieties of the mustard family have thin stems and branches.  At best, they grow to become shrubs.  Most birds would not be inclined to build their nest in a mustard plant because of the stinging aroma.

Of course, Jesus is aware of these anomalies.  But true to form, he is a rock of offence to the sensibilities of the Jewish farmer.  To expose the falsehood of a myth, a story must sometimes be outrageous and offensive.  The mustard is appropriately a biting, irritating and disturbing condiment.  It is therefore well-suited to the gospel, which irritates and disturbs those at ease in this world.

Cedars of Lebanon

The Jews believed the kingdom of God would bring about the restoration of Israel to its former power and glory.  The symbol of this expectation was the cedar of Lebanon.  With the advent of the kingdom, it was anticipated that Israel would be restored as a mighty cedar, head and shoulders above its neighbours. The cedar was magnificent by all accounts.  It grew straight up, sometimes for two to three hundred feet.

This expectation seemed to be confirmed by the vision given to Daniel: “I was looking, and behold, a tree in the midst of the earth, and its height was great.  The tree grew and became strong; its height reached to the heavens, and it could be seen to the ends of all the earth.  Its leaves were lovely, its fruit abundant, and in it was food for all. The beasts of the field found shade under it, the birds of the heavens dwelt in its branches, and all flesh was fed from it.” (Daniel 4:10-12).

However, no sooner had Daniel received this vision than the Lord asked that the tree be cut down. (Daniel 4:13-14).  Ezekiel notes that the counsel of the Lord is to bring down the high tree and exalt the low tree. (Ezekiel 17:24).  Isaiah also gives a similar message: “The day of the LORD of hosts shall come upon everything proud and lofty, upon everything lifted up- and it shall be brought low.” (Isaiah 2:12-17).

So, when Jesus told the parable of the mustard seed, he actually wanted his listeners to know that the kingdom of God does not come as a tree, growing high up into the sky.  On the contrary, it grows like a weed.  It grows as under-bush.  It spreads out on the ground.  The kingdom of God is like a little mustard seed that is sown in us.  It is growing, but it is not going to turn us into cedars of Lebanon.  We would be doing excellently well if we were to become modest shrubs.

The modern Christian church, with its mega-pastors and highfalutin cathedrals, is nothing but a counterfeit of the true church of Christ.

Invisible church

Jesus wants Christians to think small and not big.  The tasks before us are not accomplished by filling huge stadiums and mausoleums or by making intercontinental television broadcasts.  God’s great works are not done on such vainglorious levels.  Jesus says: “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20-21).

It is Bethlehem Ephratah which, though little among the clans of Judah, is nevertheless singled out to bring forth great things. (Micah 5:2).  The kingdom is accomplished in us in the mundane details of everyday life, with its ups and downs.  It is fulfilled by small acts of love and kindness; encouraging the afflicted; supporting the weak.  Nothing about this will be carried in the news, proclaimed on billboards or extolled on television.

Those things that meet the approval of men are not God’s idea of success.  In his eyes, they constitute abject failures. (Luke 16:15).  The greatest works of the kingdom are accomplished in secret.  They are unseen and unsung.  They are reflected in our beatitudes.

Thus, God says to the counterfeit Christian church: “Quit your worship charades. I can’t stand your trivial religious games: Monthly conferences, weekly Sabbaths, special meetings- meetings, meetings, meetings- I can’t stand one more! Meetings for this, meetings for that.  I hate them! You’ve worn me out! I’m sick of your religion, religion, religion, while you go right on sinning. When you put on your next prayer-performance, I’ll be looking the other way. No matter how long or loud or often you pray, I’ll not be listening.” (Isaiah 1:13-14).  (Continued)

Corruption is Nigeria’s biggest problem Akinyemi

By Dayo Johnson,  Akure
A FORMER External Affairs Minister, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, yesterday, fingered corruption as Nigeria’s  biggest  problem.
According to him, “No one can be a billionaire in this present Nigeria without being corrupt.
”To be a millionaire is still alright but if you are a billionaire, you are corrupt and that means you are cutting corners”.
Akinyemi spoke in Akure at a lecture, to herald the inauguration of Governor Olusegun Mimiko for second term entitled, Leadership, Democracy and Development; A paradigm relationship of Governor Olusegun Mimiko second term in office.
He lamented that in Nigeria of today there are no more values to hold on to unlike in the 60s.
”Parents not only encourage their children to cheat to beat the system, they aid and abet the children in the nefarious activities,” the former minister said.
”Akinyemi continued: No one believes anymore in the concept of society. In my youth, to be accused of theft or any other criminal offence was tantamount to being banished from society. To be convicted was tantamount to suicide. But now no one asks for the source of the wealth.
”People in jail,accused of murder, run for and win elections. More than a score of members of the Nigerian Senate have EFCC court cases against them. Only in Nigeria do you steal billions and escape with less than a million naira fine.
”To move forward, the political elite must make a conscious effort to arrive at a consensus that will be the outcome of negotiation, give and take,compromises.
” The system to be put in place should not reflect temporary advantages secured through a temporary monopoly of power.
He asked Mimiko to maintain the tempo of developmental projects put up by his administration in the last four years.
The lecturer, who insisted that the governor  must score Grade A during his second term, congratulated him for his encouraging achievements in his first term in  office and charged him not to relent on his oars.
”At the same time, I commiserate and feel sorry for him because having set such high standards of achievements, he is going to be under considerable pressure to maintain that high level of achievements for second term.,”Akinyemi stated.
”Now that Governor Mimiko has scored a distinction in the first term, I am also expecting another Grade A performance during this term.
”I know what Ondo State looked like in the 50s at least as seen through the eyes of a young adult. I have seen what it looked like in the 1990s and what it looks like now. I am impressed by what I see.”

The President’s men’s hammer on NGF

Edwin-ClarkBy his age, he is old enough to be the father of President Goodluck Jonathan. He once declared himself as the president’s godfather and the President has described him as his father. Chief Edwin Clark, a former Minister of Information, is seen by many as one of those who speak the President’s mind. Not a few believe that once he speaks, his sentiment can be taken as the President’s.
There are other men, who share such slot with the elder statesman. One of them is Minister of Niger Delta Godsday Orubebe.
Of recent, both men have attacked the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) and its leadership, Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi.
Clark, in a recent open letter to the NGF, described it as undemocratic and practically called for its ban.
He said: “The Governors’ Forum is now acting as an opposition party to the Federal Government. It deliberately breaches with impunity the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the constitution of the PDP, without any challenges. The Forum has now become a threat to the peace and stability of Nigeria. Most of the governors today are more dictatorial than the then military governors.
“The over-bearing influence of the Governors’ Forum in the polity has become a matter of serious concern. The activities of the PDP Governors Forum, in particular, have become very disturbing and call for urgent correction as they are fast eroding the authority and the supremacy of the party and posing a serious threat to our democracy. The forum has become a powerful tool in the hands of the governors who now use it to pursue and promote their individual and collective interests with little or no regard to the letter and spirit of the Party’s Constitution and supremacy.”
Orubebe, who was nominated by Clark into the cabinet, was more frontal in his attack. He went straight for Amaechi’s jugular.
He said: “Unfortunately, the man (Amaechi) has forgotten that it was by the grace of God that he became the governor of Rivers State. He has forgotten so soon. He has arrogated to himself, powers that he does not have. It is God that has powers.
“Today, he sees himself as the governor of governors and he begins to feel that he is even bigger than the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. But I want to let him know that God is still God. He must have respect for the Presidency. He must have respect for the President of this country.
“It is sad. It is unfortunate that people from the South-South, even governors, particularly Governor Rotimi Amaechi, have no respect for the President of this country. I think this is the right time we should let him know and I have decided to speak because this is the time to speak.”
Amaechi, who spoke through his Chief Press Secretary, David Iyofor, said: “Contrary to his madcap vituperations, Governor Amaechi has tremendous respect for the office of the President of Nigeria and President Goodluck Jonathan. The office of the President of Nigeria is a big institution that deserves utmost respect and it would be grossly irresponsible for anyone to disrespect Mr. President, which unfortunately Minister Orubebe is doing by dragging the President’s name into his inability to deliver on the East –West road.
“Minister Orubebe seems to suffer from a severe form of selective amnesia as he conveniently forgets that the same Amaechi he (Orubebe) now contemptuously, disgracefully and insolently disparages and flippantly accuses of not respecting Mr. President led Rivers people to overwhelming vote for and gave President Jonathan the highest votes by any state in the country at the last presidential elections. Minister Orubebe should please tell us, what respect, regard and show of love is bigger than that?
“Minister Orubebe’s imprudent and reckless attacks on the person of Governor Amaechi are a dubious but obvious attempt by the minister to divert attention from his abysmal failure to deliver on the East- West road. This callous attempt to drag the President’s name into it is what is most disrespectful and irresponsible.
“I challenge Minister Orubebe to show the world projects he started and completed in the Niger-Delta as Minister of Niger-Delta Affairs. I challenge Minister Orubebe to show the world one project he started and completed in Rivers State with the huge resources allocated to his ministry. “Or is Rivers State not part of the Niger-Delta, Minister Orubebe?”
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs Prof. Jibril Aminu has also attacked the NGF, calling it an oppressive group. He said the governors were not practising democracy in their states.
He said: “It is very strange. I worked in many countries and have not seen anything like such a forum. The Governors’ Forum is what is used to oppress everybody, including the President.”
He said it was difficult to fathom that governors wanted to have their way in everything, “including nominating who becomes an ambassador or member of the National Assembly. I don’t know how the forum came about in this country. And if it is not checked, it will put the country in serious trouble, as the state chief executives unite to challenge the Federal Government.”

God Told Me To Go — Pope Benedict

Photo - God told me to go — Pope Benedict
In an emotional goodbye to 100,000 supporters, the Pope revealed on Sunday that he was stepping aside because God told him to do so.
In a voice raw with emotion, Benedict XVI told pilgrims in St Peter’s Square that he was resigning on February 28 because God had called on him to devote himself to prayer. He said God had told him ‘to climb the mountain’.
Mail Online reports that pilgrims filled the piazza to witness a historical moment and thank the Pope for his eight year Pontificate at the Angelus Prayer, his penultimate public appearance as the Pontiff.
Despite recently looking tired and frail, he spoke in a clear, strong voice, repeatedly thanking the faithful for their closeness and affection as they interrupted him, again and again, with applause and cheers. Police estimated some 100,000 people turned out.
Benedict insisted he was “not abandoning the church.” Instead, speaking in Italian, he said he would serve the church with the same dedication he had until now, but would do so “in a way more suitable to my age and my strength”.
He also said he would continue to serve through meditation and prayer after his historic abdication.
He completed the last Angelus of his tenure by saying he would always be close to the Church and its people.
A child in the crowd held up a sign on a yellow placard, written in Italian, ‘You are not alone, I’m with you’. Other admirers held signs simply saying ‘Thank you’.
Heavy rain had been forecast for Rome, and some drizzle dampened the square earlier in the morning, but when Benedict appeared, to the peal of church bells as the clock struck noon, blue sky crept through the clouds.
‘We thank God for the sun he has given us,’ the Pope said.
The 85-year-old will spend his last years in seclusion in a cloistered monastery within the confines of Vatican City.
The Pope officially steps down on Thursday. He resigned two weeks ago, saying he no longer had the mental or physical strength to lead the world’s 1.2bn Catholics. It is the first time a Pope has stepped down in 600 years.
Vatican-watchers have speculated that his declining health is a key factor.
It has subsequently emerged that the Pope had had a secret heart operation to replace a pace-maker three months ago.

Most Nigerian Billionaires Are Tainted By Corruption – Akinyemi

“Being a billionaire in Nigeria today without corruption is impossible.” These words were attributed to a former Minister of External Affairs, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, on Saturday.
The erudite professor of International Relations and Diplomacy stated this in Akure, the Ondo State capital while delivering the second term inauguration lecture of Governor Olusegun Mimiko.
Akinyemi spoke on the topic, ‘Leadership, Democracy, and Development.’
The event which was chaired by a former Nigerian High Commissioner to United Kingdom, Dr. Christopher Kolade, had in attendance seasoned diplomats, senior citizens, politicians, former governors, traditional rulers and religious leaders from within and outside the country.
Akinyemi said, “No one can be a billionaire in Nigeria today without being corrupt. If you are a businessman, you would have evaded tax or other levies like import duties with the active connivance of those in charge.
“Your entire income as a political office holder, either elected or appointed, cannot make you a billionaire without indulging in corrupt practices. It is also not possible for you to work and retire as a civil servant in whatever capacity and become a billionaire without being corrupt.
“I know I am stepping on sensitive toes but I can handle that. Unless our leaders tackle the issue of corruption and offer selfless service to the people, our democracy may not produce the desired development we are all expecting.”
Akinyemi decried the situation where Nigerians sacrificed their value systems on the altar of greed, indiscipline, selfishness and insatiable craze for material wealth acquisition.
He said, “There are no more values to hold on to. Parents not only encourage their children to cheat in order to beat the system but also aid and abet them in their nefarious activities. No one believes anymore in the concept of society.
“Nigerians have created their own God in their own image. In my youth, to be accused of theft or any other criminal offence was tantamount to being banished from the society while to be convicted was tantamount to suicide.
“However, today, no one asks for the source of wealth. People in jail, accused of murder run for, and win elections.
“More than a score of members of the Senate have EFCC court cases hanging against them. Only in Nigeria do you steal billions and escape with less than a million naira fine.”
Akinyemi noted that the problem did not start today as it was created by the military following the coup that displaced the first civilian generation of Nigerian leaders.
“Only three years after independence, whatever system existed was shattered by the thoughtless overthrow of the western regional government and from then on, politics of development was replaced by politics of looting,” he stated.

Amnesty International accuse Lagos State Govt. of human rights violation


Amnesty International has accused the Lagos State government of gross violation of human rights.
It said the government erred by demolishing houses of residents of Oke Ilu-Eri area, Ijora Badia, in the state.
A statement by the London based group appealed to the state to henceforth, stop such inconsiderate evictions, which it said commenced on Saturday 23 February 2013, at about 9am.
“According to the Nigerian NGO, Social and Economic Rights Action Center (SERAC), which has been working with leaders of the community since Wednesday to try to prevent the demolition, at least 300 houses have been demolished so far with hundreds of people displaced” the statement read.
“SERAC said about 200 heavily armed police officers supervised the demolition and several residents who tried to resist the demolition were beaten up by the police.”
The statement lamented thus, “no adequate notice was given to the residents of the community before the demolition commenced” noting further that “on Wednesday 20 February, a notice of eviction was given to the Baale (the traditional district head) of the community – just three days before the demolition started.”
The human rights body also observed that “no compensation has been paid to residents; the evicted people have not been offered alternative housing and many people have been displaced.”
It affirmed that “The demolished houses included both wooden and concrete structures. Some of the displaced residents owned their homes, while many were poor tenants.”
“The eviction of people from their homes without the appropriate legal and procedural action, including prior and adequate consultation, adequate notice and the provision of adequate alternative housing constitute a forced eviction and is a gross violation of human rights, including the right to adequate housing” said Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Africa, Lucy Freeman.

Michelle Obama Oscars Appearance: First Lady Presents Best Picture To 'Argo'

The Huffington Post  |  By  
The Academy Awards suddenly turned into the Michelle Obama Oscars when Jack Nicholson told the audience a special guest was joining him to present Best Picture.
"Argo" won the award, which the First Lady read off an envelope while being paged in to Los Angeles' Dolby Theatre.
"[These films] taught us that love can beat all odds," Obama said. "They reminded us that we can overcome any obstacle if we dig deep enough and fight hard enough and find the courage within ourselves."
It's through cinema, Obama said, that "our children learn to open their imagination and dream just a little bigger and to strive every day to reach those dreams."
"Argo's" win was remarkable because it was only the fourth film in the Oscars' 85-year history to win Best Picture without a corresponding Best Director nomination. Affleck, a producer on the film, gave an emotional acceptance speech that ended with a simple message: "It doesn't matter how you get knocked down in life, all that matters is how you get back up."
More on the Oscars is available in our further coverage and in the live blog that follows the below gallery.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

"Prepare for Dire Consequences if You Kill Our Holiness" – Rev. King's church members

Members of Chukwuemeka Ezeugo’s church have warned Nigerians to be prepared for dire consequences if their General Overseer, popularly known as Reverend King, is indeed killed by hanging.
"Prepare for Dire Consequences if You Kill Our Holiness" – Rev. King's church members
This warning emanated from the last Sunday service held at the church, Christian Praying Assembly (CPA), located at Ajao Estate, Lagos. "It will be absolute tragedy in this country if they touch our Holiness, they are just ignorant of this,” the goatee-spotting acting general overseer, Reverend Elijah King, threatened on the pulpit."
As it was observed during the course of the Sunday service, held on February 3 at the church premises, the acting general overseer also read a weekly message purportedly sent from prison by the incarcerated Reverend King, in which the beleaguered clergy urged his followers not to be deterred by their recent setback. "You must continue in the faith which I have taught you," a line from the prison notes read.
Despite his incarceration, the affairs and activities of the church still run smoothly. Investigations during recent visits revealed that preparation is in top gear for King’s birthday celebration this year and members are being urged to pay certain amount of money for the undertaking. An insider disclosed that apart from money donated by the church members, generous donations come in every week from some rich and influential people in the society, who are secret followers of the embattled man of God.
Last year, his birthday was marked with roaring publicity, as members of his church bought several advert spaces in one of the prominent daily newspapers in Nigeria, where they showered praises on him, even to the point of comparing him to Jesus Christ.
Aside the contribution for his forthcoming birthday, other financial obligations that church members must fulfill, include a weekly toll which will be for "His Holiness' welfare". This is often sent as a lump sum to the imprisoned church founder for his upkeep in jail.
On this Sunday, the presiding reverend frowned at what he called insult offerings to the Holiness. "We see N100 notes in the envelopes of the Holiness Welfare, if I catch that person," he threatened.
This further confirmed the report that the on-death row King lives like a king inside the prison, courtesy of the resources squeezed from his loyal church members.
Investigations revealed that in spite of Reverend King's six-year absence, nothing has really changed in the operation of his church. A first-hand experience by SE showed that high-handedness still persists in the church. For instance, latecomers to Sunday service on February 3, were still subjected to kneeling outside by macho-looking ushers.
The controversies notwithstanding, the Anambra State-born reverend still commands absolute loyalty from his followers.
A member asserted: "I have no problem with the church, this is my second year in this church and everything has been going on well." Another also affirmed: "Brother, you were in the church service, you can see how we cherish and respect him, he is Christ to us. We don't care what other people say."
Reverend King was convicted by Justice Joseph Oyewole of Lagos High Court and sentenced to death by hanging on January 11, 2007, for the alleged murder of a church member, Ann Uzoh. He allegedly poured petrol on the deceased for what he called "acts of fornication" and set her ablaze, alongside others. The victim eventually died as a result of injuries sustained from the burns. Arraigned on September 26, 2006 on a six-count charge of attempted murder and murder, to which he pleaded not guilty, King was found guilty by the trial judge.

Nigerian Embassies in US, Canada, Switzerland in huge debts; cannot pay bills, salaries

Paucity of funds has hit Nigerian Missions abroad with a number of embassies unable to meet basic responsibilities like the payment of staff salaries, as well as electricity and telephone bills.
Saturday PUNCH gathered in Abuja on Thursday that complaints from some of the missions, especially in Europe and Asia, have become more strident.
As a temporary measure, some of the diplomats have resorted to dipping their hands into their personal savings or using their credit cards to get by.
The more enterprising ones among them, especially non-career diplomats, have reached out to their state governors to advance them funds before remittances are made from Abuja.
It was further gathered that some diplomats in Ireland, Canada, Belgium, Germany, United States, Switzerland and Japan are worst hit with the high cost of living in their host countries.
Some allege that salaries have not been paid since October 2012 due to non-remittance from Abuja.
When contacted, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru said claims that remittances have not been made since October 2012 were untrue.
He said, “As you are aware, the ministry is part of government and our budget is tied to the budget of the federation.
“The 2013 budget is still being processed. As we speak, we have received assurances from the Minister of Finance that everything is being done to ensure that our missions are properly funded.
“It is not true that we have not remitted funds since October, it is absolutely not true.
“I have constantly advised our officers to ensure the prudent management of the little resources available so that when there is a little delay they can sustain basic services.”
The Nigerian High Commission in Ottawa, Canada, where former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ojo Maduekwe holds sway, was so broke in October last year that it could not meet its financial obligations for two months.
It was learnt that the situation was so critical that Maduekwe paid a visit to Abuja, where he met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru.
A source at the Nigerian High Commission, said on the condition of anonymity that it was so embarrassing that staff, including non- Nigerians working with the embassy, have begun to complain openly.
The situation in Ottawa is not different from what obtains in several other Nigerian Missions including Geneva, Switzerland.

Meteorological Agency Predicts Excessive Rainfall in Sokoto, Kebbi Others

Abuja – The Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) on Friday predicted normal rainfall in Nigeria during the year except in Sokoto, Kebbi, Niger and Kwara states, which might experience excessive rainfall. The Director-General of NIMET, Dr Anthony Anuforom, made the information known at the public presentation of the 2013 Seasonal Rainfall Prediction (SRP) and Nigeria Climate Review Bulletin in Abuja.

He said the rainfall pattern in most parts of Nigeria was likely to be similar to that of 2012. “However, some areas in the North-western parts of the country, which also fall within the catchment area of River Niger, the total rainfall predicted for 2013 may exceed that of 2012. “Rainfall for 2013 is predicted to be normal over large areas of the country. The expected changes in the annual rainfall are well below normal in Abeokuta and above normal over Ibadan and Yelwa areas.
“The predicted rainfall for the Northwest areas of Sokoto , Kebbi, Niger, Kwara and environs is likely to be above normal in comparison to 2012,’’ he said. Anuforom advised relevant authorities to use NIMET’s updates issued regularly to control possible adverse impacts. He said the forecast was not automatic as the predictions could change due to climate change. Anuforom said the volume of rainfall for the year would range from 420 cubic metres spread over 120 days in the extreme North-East to 2,980 cubic metres over a period of 290 days.
“These forecasts are statements of probability and are based on the available scientific knowledge and data. “Man’s knowledge is still limited and, therefore, some margin of error within tolerable limits is not unusual. “The conditions that determine the rainfall pattern over Nigeria have become more variable due to the effects of climate change and global warming. “This is a big challenge for atmospheric scientists all over the world. NIMET will continue to monitor the trend in all parts of the country and publish updates as the rainy season progresses,’’ Anuforom said.
He explained that the early release of the forecast was to create good lead-time for adequate preparation against risks and hazards associated with weather and climate extremes. The Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah, who was represented by Mr Clement Dosunmu, the Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, said weather information was important to humanity. She urged NIMET to fulfil to its mandate by ensuring that the information got to the end users in time.
“The information in these publications are useful for planning, decision-making and policy formulation, especially in those sectors of the economy that are sensitive to weather. “It is expected that the early release of the 2013 SRP will enable all stakeholders apply the information in planning and executing their activities in such a way as to reduce vulnerability to climate extremes,’’ Oduah said.

At Least 21 People Burned After Motivational Speaker Urges Them To Walk On Hot Coals


When someone tells you to do something stupid do not listen, you will get burned. At least 21 people have been burned after walking over hot burning coals for the motivational speaker Tony Robbins.
The news media reported that at least three people went to a hospital and most suffered burns of second or third degree.
Robbins hosted a four-day meeting called “Unleashing the Power of Within” in the San Jose Convention Center. Witnesses say that on Thursday, a crowd went to a park where 12 lanes of the hot burning coals were placed on the lawn.
His website promotes Robbins’ “Firewalk Experience” in which people walk on hot coals to bring out their power within.
Witness Jonathan Correll says he heard “screams of agony.”
Fire Captain Reggie Williams said organizers had a permit for a fire and emergency personnel were on alert.