Osun: Gov Aregbesola not guilty of indebtedness — House Speaker,Salaam

Says our state is not bankrupt

SPEAKER of Osun State House of Assembly, Mr.  Najeem Salaam, in this interview speaks on unpaid salaries in the state, Justice Oloyede’s petition against Governor Rauf Aregbesola and the proposed summit being championed by a group among other issues.

By Gbenga Olarinoye

THe  insolvent status of Osun appears to have grounded the business of governance. Are you not worried about this?

Bankruptcy is declared when a state or an institution has gone under. Osun has not gone under. Yes, we have financial challenges but they are temporary.  We are working around it.  I must acknowledge the unalloyed support of the people and some section of workers who think beyond the box.

Osun is passing through a phase and it is so because Osun just like others is a constituent unit of a troubled nation, which was raped badly by the ousted Peoples Democratic Party,PDP.

Economic planning

And  if President Muhammadu Buhari could describe the country as an Augean stable that must be cleaned up, what do you expect Osun as an integral part to do? The predicament  is not the making of the governor or as a result of poor economic planning.  It is a structural problem and not until the top gets it right, the federating units would still be contending with epileptic economy.   The kind of federalism we practise is what I call ‘feeding bottle’ federalism.   Osun is the least paid in terms of allocation  and now that our allocation has fallen short of what we are used to, what can we do? We are  Strategizing on how to wriggle out. It will  take time, but we have to do it.

Some  believe the governor  dragged the state into this condition of indebtedness. How do you react to this?

Najeem Folasayo Salaam.

Aregbesola and Omisore

People are entitled to their opinions, but it would be unfair to hold the position of the  opposition as statement of facts because their insinuations are full of fallacies and innuendoes. Let it be known that the executive doesn’t do anything without the knowledge of the legislature.  So, when some people say the governor has done this or that, the impression is that the governor has the power of life and death.  Governor Rauf Aregbesola came to Osun and was dissatisfied with the state of under-development he met on ground. He  vowed to change the sedentary life of the people, reawaken its commerce and position the state among the comity of performing states. He began with infrastructure, education, agriculture and youth engagement. Look, we should be careful not to make crime out of the zeal to serve because it is convenient for Aregbesola to pay salaries and flashes some substandard projects. But he chose to work and the  opposition are talking.

On debt profile: Tell me of any individual who intends to be great that would not incur debt. When I wanted to build my house, I took loan from a bank and I suffered to pay back. When an industrialist wants to establish an industry, he approaches a bank or consortium  for fund.  Then, what is the issue in approaching financial institutions to source for funds to finance public infrastructure? America with its might has a debt ceiling of over 17 trillion dollars.   We have to be fair to ourselves when criticizing a government. Of course, it could have been a different ball game if the those monies were borrowed to finance consumption.

It saddened me that we have to resort to borrowing to offset pension and salaries, but for the fact that the banks could not lend us for now as a result of vindictive directive given  by the Jonathan administration, people are shouting that the state can not pay salaries.

A serving judge in the state judiciary recently  petitioned the legislature to investigate Gov Aregbesola for alleged financial recklessness. How do you see that?

We have more than one petition  against the governor and we have inaugurated an investigative panel headed by my deputy, who is a lawyer, to work on the petitions.

But the minority leader opposed  the composition of the committee,  protesting the exclusion of opposition members…

Those who wrote the petitions knew that the House of Assembly under my watch is credible and they have faith in the process. Besides, it is my prerogative to constitute the committee.  As the Speaker, I see all members as honourable men, but all of them could not be appointed into the committee. Moreso, ranking and experience count in legislative business. The chairman has been in the House for more than six years and he is very competent to head the committee.  So, it is a committee that is carefully put together  to serve the interest of the people. As for the minority leader, he is playing his role and does not have to agree with us on everything.

Meanwhile, the report would be submitted to the House for debate and the minority leader will have his say on it, but if he is part of the committee, he would be barred as a matter of rule, to speak on it when the report is presented. So, he should know that we have done him a favour by reserving a room for him on the floor when the report is ready. I chose to toe that part to prevent tyranny of the majority.

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Ailing graduate still needs N5m for surgery

Babatope Oguntoyinbo

Thirty-four-year-old Babatope Oguntoyinbo is critically ill. The young graduate has called on Nigerians to support him to seek medical treatment in India.

Oguntoyinbo is down with a spinal cord injury that doctors say could render his cognitive functions ineffective if he does not undergo an urgent surgical operation in the Asian country.

According to his medical report, Oguntoyinbo has Case 2 level lumbar disc disease and the condition has led to his inability to control his bowel and bladder.

The disease, our correspondent gathered, also caused damage to his lumbar and spine.

Mrs. Funke Olanipekun, who spoke on behalf of her ailing brother, said his health had so degenerated that he no longer walked or eased his bowel without assistance.

Before the disease hit him, Olanipekun said her brother worked with a security firm in Lagos.

She added, “Initially, he complained about knee pain in November and he went to the hospital for treatment. Though the pain occasionally resurfaced, it did not stop him from going to work at his office in Ajah, Lagos, till it got worse this February. Now, he is helpless because he cannot urinate or eat without assistance and support.”

Olanipekun urged Nigerians and corporate organisations to support the cost of his treatment in an Indian hospital.

“ We have only been able to raise N110,000 so far. We need help.”

  • To assist Oguntoyinbo, please call: 08029304788

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Politicians should rise above personal interests –Fayemi

Kayode Fayemi

The Immediate past Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, has advised politicians in Africa to place the general interest of humanity above their personal interests.

Fayemi said doing this would enhance good governance in the continent.

The former governor gave the remark while delivering a lecture organised to commemorate the death of a former President of Ghana, the late John Attah Mills, in Accra, the Ghana capital, on Tuesday.

The text of his speech was made available to our correspondent.

Fayemi said, “We need politicians willing and able to rise above their own power interests, or the particular interests of their political parties or states, and act in accord with the fundamental interests of today’s humanity – that is, to behave the way everyone should behave, even though most may fail to do so.”

Speaking on the topic, “Intellectuals in Politics and Governance in Africa: The lessons and legacies of John Atta Mills”, Fayemi lauded the contributions of Atta Mills to the socio-economic development of Ghana during his short tenure in office.

Fayemi told the gathering how the late Atta Mills predicted President Muhammadu Buhari’s victory when the two leaders met in Ghana shortly after the 2011 general election in Nigeria.

He said, “A good politician need not be an intellectual but he should be able to explain, without seeking to seduce; he should humbly look for the truth of this world without claiming to be its professional owner; character and integrity should be more important to him than academic intelligence; he should alert people to the good qualities in themselves, including a sense of the values and interests which transcend the personal, without giving himself an air of superiority and imposing anything on his people.

“In the realm of such politics, intellectuals should make their presence felt in many ways. They could – without finding it shameful or demeaning – accept a political office and use that position to do what they deem right, not just to hold on to power. Or they could be the ones who hold up a mirror to those in authority, making sure that the latter do a good thing and that they do not begin to use fine words as a cloak for evil deeds, as had happened to so many intellectuals in our continent and elsewhere.

“Am I then suggesting that an intellectual necessarily belongs to politics? Put that way, an impression is created that I consider it the duty of every intellectual to engage in politics at all cost. That is not my view. However, it is my profound conviction that Africa requires more than ever before, enlightened, thoughtful politicians with character and integrity who are bold and broad-minded enough to consider things which lie beyond the scope of their immediate influence and benefit.”

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Ekweremadu’s removal will worsen N’Assembly crisis, says Sani

Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu

The senator representing Kaduna-Central senatorial district, Shehu Sani, has said that the impeachment of the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, will deepen   the crisis rocking the National Assembly and impede the operations of the executive arm of government.

Sani, who was elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, said although he didn’t vote for Ekweremadu, the plan to remove him was not the solution to the crisis rocking the National Assembly.

The senator said this during an interview with Sahara TV on Monday.

Sani said, “We have to tell ourselves the truth. We are in a difficult situation. The fact that we have a deputy senate president from the PDP is a better alternative to the election of a senate president from the PDP because we could have had that on June 9.

“If we remove Ekweremadu and replace him with an APC senator, the PDP in the senate would be a potent opposition that would continue to oppose anything that the executive arm presents.

“Now that the APC senators are not united, and when you have a PDP as a force to confront, that would be an additional problem. Now, Ekweremadu is the subject matter. Ekweremadu is being seen as representing a power equation in the sharing of power in the country. Therefore, removing Ekweremadu will create more problems than the solutions which we are saying it would create.

As the 8th Senate resumes on July 28, Sani advised his colleagues to focus on providing good governance to Nigerians.

The APC senator backed President Buhari’s bailout to states to pay their workers’ salaries.

Reacting to the calls for the reduction of the allowances of lawmakers, he said, “I concur with the opinions of Nigerians that the salaries should be reduced to reflect the present economic situation of the country but our people should know that we can only work within the range of what we earn. I believe that 90 to 95 per cent of the people we represent want to see projects in their constituencies, and want to see their social and economic needs met.

“I think we need to understand the situation. When people who worked are not paid, it is not an issue of finance. It is a national security problem and I think we should look at it from that point of view. What we want is a nation that works and also a people that are comfortable with their government at all levels.”

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I won’t spare any corrupt APC member –Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari has said that his government will not spare any member of the All Progressives Congress as well as associates found culpable of corruption.

The President, who is currently on a four-day visit to the United States President, Barack Obama, said this during an interview with the CNN anchor, Christiane Amanpour.

“If any of my associates or party member is indicted of corruption, they cannot escape justice. There is not going to be any APC member or any close personality found guilty that would escape justice,” he said.

Buhari reiterated his commitment to ending insurgency in the country, noting that the release of the Chibok girls was a paramount agenda of his government.

“Our main objective as a government is to secure the release of those girls safe and sound, back to their schools and rehabilitate them to go back to their normal lives. So, if we are convinced the girls would be delivered safe and sound, we will negotiate.”

The President said he was not disappointed that President Obama did not choose to visit Nigeria.

He said that he would send a formal invitation to the US President to visit Nigeria.

“I wouldn’t say I was disappointed that President Obama did not choose to visit Nigeria but I wish that he would change his mind and come to Nigeria. Well, I asked him to come and would send a formal invitation,” he said.

Reacting to criticism against his administration, Buhari said it was too early for people to pass judgment on him based on his campaign promises.

He said, “I think I can be held accountable for my promises in the next quarters I have ahead of me. I think it is too early for anybody to pass judment on my campaign promises.”

Responding to a question on whether he would trade the missing Chibok girls for the release of incarcerated members of the Boko Haram sect, Buhari said, “ We have to be very careful about the credibility of various Boko Haram leaders coming out to claim that they can deliver the girls . We have to be very careful indeed and we are taking our time because we want to bring them back safe and sound to their parents.

Buhari said he supported the trial of former Chadian dictator, Hissene Habre, anywhere so far justice prevails.

He said, “Justice is justice, whether it’s done in Africa or anywhere in the world. The most important thing is let justice be done. Whatever evidence that the prosecution has in Senegal, I think it should proceed to make it available to the world and prosecute him according to international law.”

Commenting on whether or not his administration would negotiate with the Boko Haram sect, Buhari insisted that the major objective of his administration was to secure the release of the girls.

He said, “I cannot be against it. I told you that our main objective as a government is to secure those girls safe and sound back to their schools and rehabilitate them to get back to normal life.

So, if we are convinced that the leaders (of Boko Haram) can deliver those girls safe and sound, we wouldn’t fail to negotiate what they want.”

In another development, Buhari said the introduction of the Permanent Voter Cards and card readers by the Independent National Electoral Commission for the last general elections made the difference between the previous elections he had participated in and the last one he won.

Buhari said this in Washington during a meeting he had with the United States Secretary of State, Mr. John Kerry, during his ongoing four-day official visit to the US.

Buhari again thanked the US for its support and assistance to Nigeria ahead of the elections.

He particularly thanked Kerry who visited Nigeria twice before the conduct of the March 28 presidential election when he presented American government’s position on the need for free and fair general elections in Nigeria.

He said Nigeria would remain grateful to the US for exerting pressure on the former government to ensure peaceful and credible elections.

The President said, “The United States’ message sent to the previous administration was clean and clear that the United States would not accept anything extra constitutional and that prepared the minds of Nigerians to make us arrive where we are today.”

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Aregbesola and Osun: From billions to millions

Viewpoint illustration

There is a common saying in the United States that it takes two or three salary cycles of nonpayment of your mortgage for you to lose your house. The situation in Nigeria has been much worse for government workers in the last one year: The federal and state governments owe for several months one or more of workers’ salaries, pensions, earned allowances, and other remuneration. The multiplier effects of the nonpayment of these emoluments have reverberated across the economy.

I decided to investigate the case of Osun State, given the lopsided media focus on the state and its governor, Rauf Aregbesola. Accordingly, I spent three days last week with the governor and his commissioner for finance. I interviewed both of them over two days and painstakingly went through papers and figures. The goal was to determine why Osun workers did not get their salaries as and when due; at what point the problem began; and what the state government has done to alleviate the problem.

Osun’s salary woes started in 2012, when the state’s wage bill began to rise as a result of the increase in minimum wage. When the increase was applied to junior workers only, the state’s monthly wage bill doubled from N1.4bn to N2.7bn. By July 2013, after the increase in minimum wage was applied across the board and relativity factored in, the monthly wage bill had hit N4bn. By this time, the state’s wage bill was already running ahead of statutory allocations.

Here’s a five-year summary (in billions of naira) of net statutory allocations versus emoluments: 2010 (two months only), 4.2 vs 3.6; 2011, 29.9 vs 25.8; 2012, 28.4 vs 31.6; 2013, 26.4 vs 36.9; 2014, 19.3 vs 22.4. This table shows that deficits in the wage bill began to accrue in 2012 and peaked at N10.4bn in 2013. Thus, between November 2010 and December 2014, Osun got a total statutory allocation of N108.3bn, but expended N120.4bn on emoluments. The state was left with a total deficit of nearly N12bn.

But this is only part of the story as the above summary only covers expenditure on salaries and other emoluments. During the five-year period under review, the state’s total recurrent expenditure was N206bn, while the statutory allocation only stood at N108.3bn.

How then was the governor still able to run the government and engage in major capital and social programmes? There were two additional sources of revenue. First, there were other accruals from Abuja, which raised the allocation profile from N108.3bn to about N176bn. Second, the state’s Internally Generated Revenue during the period stood at about N28bn. Thus, between 2010 and 2014, the state’s earnings from all sources stood at N204bn, leaving a deficit of N2bn on recurrent expenditure. This means that all the earnings could not even carry the state’s recurrent expenditure.

The question still remains as to how the governor still managed to prosecute his social programmes and capital projects. First, he took loans totalling N40bn. Second, he reached an agreement on derivative or flexible financing with contractors. This means that only 50 per cent of project cost would be paid on completion, while the remaining 50 per cent would be paid at agreed intervals over an agreed period of time. Such an agreement was anchored on a promissory note by the government with which the contractor could approach a bank for a loan. This arrangement allowed the state to implement projects worth more than twice the amount of cash in hand.

This is not the place to review those social programmes and capital projects. Suffice it to say that my earlier reviews of them on this column revealed a level of excellence, social penetration, and acceptability that far exceeded the amount expended. A good measure of this claim was Aregbesola’s resounding re-election victory even when the state’s salary troubles had already set in.

The issue at hand is the salary arrears. As a result of the shortfalls in accrued revenue summarised above, the outstanding salaries and pensions for 2014 stood at N13.1bn, while accumulated salary arrears in 2015 is in excess of N16bn.

The outlook for the future is dire, going by the state’s declining federal allocation. Just look at the figures for the first four months of 2015: January N1.25; February N1.12; March N624 million; and April N466 million! Notice the precipitous fall during the two election months. If only the public knew about this, some would have asked what business former President Goodluck Jonathan had in running for re-election, given his abysmal failure in managing the nation’s oil resources.

Two reasons were given for the drop in statutory allocation to the states, namely, (1) oil theft of over 400,000 barrels of crude oil per day and (2) the fall in oil prices from over $100 to about $50 per barrel. While the fall in oil prices might have been beyond Jonathan’s control, it remains unclear why no single oil thief was caught or apprehended beyond a few pipeline vandals.

Incidentally, when Aregbesola cried out in 2013 against the drastic drop in federal allocations to the states, he was vilified by the press. Some chided him for going cap in hand to Abuja, begging for federal largesse. What such critics fail to understand is that the money being shared is our national patrimony for which a sharing formula is enshrined in the constitution. Governors or their appointed delegates go to Abuja every month for the sharing only because Abuja is the federal capital.

The critical question for now is how do Osun workers and pensioners get paid? The collective appeal by the 36 governors to the Federal Government has yielded some fruit. First, the sum of N760bn that accrued to the federation account since President Muhammadu Buhari came to power would be shared. The funds came from two sources, namely, N400bn of tax obligations from the Bonny LNG and Shell Producing Company and N360bn of the internally generated income by the Federal Inland Revenue Service.

Second, the Central Bank of Nigeria would make available a loan package of between N250bn and 300bn for distressed states to access, after fulfilling necessary requirements. Third, the CBN would intercede with commercial banks and the Debt Management Office to restructure the tenure of over N600bn outstanding short term loans of state governments.

Three things are clear from the foregoing. First, the funds being made available to the states are not a bailout. Second, the funds are being shared by defaulting and non-defaulting states alike. Third, workers should not expect that these funds would be sufficient in paying all their salary arrears. For example, the amount accruing to Osun from the N760bn is only N2.25bn, which is barely enough to carry a month’s wage bill.

Yet, the government has managed to defray salary arrears for three months so far and is preparing to pay for an additional month, thus bringing up its payments to February 2015. As one of the 10 most distressed states, Osun may soon have to tap into the loan package. This must be approached very carefully. It will be foolhardy to embark on yet another loan until the outlook on federal allocations improves.

This puts the burden on federal and state governments to begin earnestly on boosting their IGR and diversifying the economy. There is also the need to prune the government’s workforce by attrition due to resignation or retirement. Fortunately, Aregbesola has been very prudent with appointments over the years. Instead, he established a broad spectrum of social programmes that allows the government to reach more citizens than appointments of a few could afford.

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Gbajabiamila faction rejects Dogara’s zoning of principal offices

Dogara; Gbajabiamila

The Femi Gbajabiamila group of the two All Progressives Congress factions at the House of Representatives has rejected the latest zoning proposals on principal officers by the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara.

The group, which calls itself APC Loyalists’ Group, wrote the party’s National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, formally rejecting Dogara’s proposals.

The letter, dated July 18, was made available to The PUNCH on Monday and it confirmed the deepening nature of the leadership tussle.

It was signed by the spokesman of the group, Mr. Nasir Zangon-Daura.

The PUNCH had reported exclusively last week that moves to reconcile the two sides, including an intervention by the Governor of Sokoto State, Mr. Aminu Tambuwal, merely left deepening disagreements.

The letter called on the APC to assert its authority in party affairs rather than continue to allow Dogara get away with what it considered to be disloyalty to the party.

It noted that, having emerged as the speaker against the APC’s initial projection that the South-West should produce the speaker, the members expected Dogara to exhibit the “spirit of give and take” by allowing the APC to decide how the remaining principal offices should be shared.

The group stated, “Mr. Chairman, history beckons and posterity will always judge our conduct and contributions to the development of our democracy. A political party is an institution and its supremacy is universal and not a Nigerian coinage.

“It is on record that the Speaker defied the party going into the elections and he is about to repeat such defiance. The party must assert its authority over all its members, the Speaker inclusive, as none of us came to the House as independent candidates and we subscribed expressly and impliedly to the party’s supremacy in political activities.

“Article 9.2 of the APC constitution which we all subscribed to states, ‘Members of the party shall be obligated to affirm the party’s aims and objectives.’ The party’s letter to the Speaker on party positions forms part of the aims and objectives of the party.

Furthermore, the President (Muhammadu Buhari) himself has spoken severally that the party is supreme and its decision must be obeyed.”

It will be recalled that Odigie-Oyegun, in a June 23 letter to Dogara, had communicated the APC’s recommendation to zone the office of Majority Leader to the South-West; Deputy Leader to the North-West; Chief Whip to the North-East and Deputy Whip to the South-South.

But, the speaker declined to name the officers, saying that he was restrained by a court process filed by some lawmakers opposing the APC’s decision.

He also argued that the recommendations of the party negated the Federal Character Principle enshrined in the 1999 Constitution since some zones would be left without a principal position in the House.

Dogara had claimed that since the North-East and the South-West had already produced the Speaker and Deputy Speaker respectively, they should not be given additional positions.

His refusal to name the officers had led to the fracas on the floor of the House on June 25, later sending members on a forced four-week break.

In place of the party’s recommendation, Dogara on Thursday last week, wrote Odigie-Oyegun, altering the party’s position with his own proposals.

Dogara zoned the majority leader to the North-West; deputy leader to the North-Central; chief whip to the South-South; and deputy whip to the South-East in defence of his argument that each zone must be represented on the leadership.

But, in writing Odigie-Oyegun, the Gbajabiamila group dismissed the latest proposals, pointing out that it seemed the whole idea was to keep Gbajabiamila out of the leadership structure by all means.

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NGF: APC to reject Fayose as deputy chair

Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose

Governors on the platform of the All Progressives Congress are perfecting strategies to oppose the nomination of Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, as the Deputy Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum.

It was learnt that members of the NGF who are scheduled to meet on Wednesday, ahead of the National Economic Forum meeting on Thursday, are likely to select a deputy chairman.

Zamfara State Governor, Abdulaziz Yari, was unanimously chosen as the chairman following the expiration of the tenure of ex-Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi.

A reliable source in the Progressives Governors’ Forum confided in our correspondent that the governors in the PGF received a hint that the opposition Peoples Democratic Party is pushing for Fayose’s candidacy “to spite” the APC.

The source said, “You know the level of antagonism suffered by our party and President (Muhammadu) Buhari before, during and after the elections in the hands of governor Fayose.

“Having him as deputy chairman of the NGF is like rewarding him for his indiscretions; PGF governors are poised to block his emergence.”

Those opposed to Fayose argue that his kind of politics is divisive and should not be allowed to take the centre stage.

They recalled his stiff opposition to Buhari especially during the presidential campaigns and immediately after the victory of the APC.

Chairman of the PGF, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, could not be reached for comments. His Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Sam Onwuemeobi, explained that his boss travelled to the UK and would also move over to the United States as a member of President Muhammadu Buhari’s delegation.

He said, “His Excellency has travelled out of the country. He went to the UK and will also go to the US to join the President’s delegation.”

Reacting to the development, the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Alhaji Abdullahi Jalo said, if there was any position meant to be occupied by a PDP governor, the ruling APC has no right to dictate which of the PDP’s governors should occupy it.

Jalo added, “The PDP as a political party has the right to nominate and support any of its governors to occupy any position given to the party.

“The issue of some governors opposing a governor chosen by our governors to represent them does not even arise. It is entirely our business as a party to choose anyone of our members we feel can best represent our interest anywhere at any time.”

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Wike visited twice but never met me –CJN

Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed

Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, on Monday confirmed the visits to his office at the Supreme Court Complex in Abuja by Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State twice this month.

But the CJN, who spoke through his media aide, Ahuraka Isah, said he was not around to receive or have an audience with the governor on both occasions.

The PUNCH had exclusively reported on Monday that one of the governor’s visits coincided with the day the Rivers State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal, sitting in Abuja, conducted hearing into an application filed by Wike to challenge an order permitting his opponent to inspect the electoral materials used for the poll that brought him to office.

The election of the former education minister, who ran for the governorship on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, is being challenged by the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Dr. Dakuku Peterside.

The PUNCH learnt that the governor’s visits to the CJN were made without prior appointments.

Reacting to The PUNCH story on Monday, Isah, in a statement, confirmed that the CJN never had prior appointments with the governor.

He explained that on the first visit by the governor, the CJN was away in Saudi Arabia observing the Lesser Hajj while during Wike’s second visit, the Nigeria’s number one judicial officer was also at a meeting of the Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee, where candidates shortlisted for the rank of the Senior Advocate of Nigeria, were being interviewed.

The statement read in part, “Our attention has been drawn to reports that the Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike had met with the Honourable, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Mahmud Mohammed, GCON during one of his visits to the office of the CJN on July 6 and July 8 this year.

“However, we would not have ordinarily wished to react to such stories except for the erroneous impression it may cast in the mind of the public. We wish to state with all emphasis that the CJN at no time had an audience with Governor Wike. This includes before, on and after the said date.

“For further clarification, during the week of the purported first visit by Governor Wike on July 6, 2015, his Lordship was away in Saudi Arabia performing Umrah. On the date of the alleged second visit, which was on Wednesday July 8, 2015, the CJN was in court observing the interview of shortlisted applicants for the award of Senior Advocate of Nigeria.

“A senior official in the CJN chamber intercepted Governor Wike and advised that it is a policy of the CJN not to entertain visits of politicians, especially those with cases in the courts.

“Consequently, Governor Wike left at that point, even though he tried to state reasons for his visit, which included the issue of the appointment of substantive Chief Judge for his state and to thank the CJN for sending the Bayelsa State Chief Judge to swear him into the office.

“In fact, his Lordship was not even aware of the visit until the next morning. The CJN therefore did not see the governor as reported in the said dailies.”

The CJN also assured the people of Rivers State and Nigerians that he “is veritably committed to upholding the integrity, neutrality and independence of our Judiciary”.

“This is a responsibility, which we hold dear and will not shirk,” the statement added.

Wike had denied that his visit had anything to do with his case pending before the tribunal. He had told one of our correspondents that he was at the office because of the issue surrounding the appointment of the acting Chief Judge of Rivers State.

The Publicity Secretary of the APC in Rivers State, Chief Chris Finebone, had on Sunday described Wike’s visit to the CJN as curious.

He had said, “We have no cause to doubt the integrity of the CJN, but we must say that the visits must have been made open and known to Nigerians. Why was it not made known?

“Wike believes that every human being has a price. His problem is just to identify the price. His case is pending and he refused to go with the media during the visits.

“We want to believe that the visits didn’t happen and if it happened, he must tell Nigerians why he chose to embark on the visit without the media.”

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DSS invasion of my house unlawful – Ex-Sultan

Former Sultan of Sokoto, Ibrahim Dasuki

The father of the embattled former National Security Adviser, former Sultan Ibrahim Dasuki, has expressed shock at the invasion of his Sokoto home by operatives of the Department of State Services, saying the invasion was unlawful.

The senior Dasuki, who was the 18th Sultan of Sokoto until he was deposed by the military regime of the late General Sani Abacha, said this in an interview he granted the Hausa Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation, on Monday.

The ex-monarch said that at 94 years of age, he was surprised that his residence could be invaded by security officials without being given the courtesy of being informed.

He explained that he had never been found wanting in all the places he had worked throughout his days as a youth.

Dasuki said, “I don’t know what they were looking for in my house. Even, I have not spoken with a member of my staff who they opened the house with. They entered into the ceiling of rooms belonging to women and no one said they found anything.

“They entered my portion of the house, there were two safes, they said they found an old Certificate of Occupancy of a house and that in one (of the safes), they found an empty envelop, that is what they said.”

Responding to a question over a container found within the compound, Dasuki said, “The container is on one side in the compound. Aliyu Dasuki (deceased) is my son, I am a younger brother to his father, and his wife is my daughter. When he died, his wife’s belongings mainly old furniture and mattresses are the things inside the container.

“They opened it. Like I told you before, even the member of my staff who was there, I have not been able to speak with him to know what exactly happened.

“All I have heard is hearsay and if he told me what happened, in the end, like I did before, I will leave everything to Allah.”

He also wondered why the security officials chose to invade his home in Sokoto when his son’s house is in Abuja.

“They did not go to Sambo Dasuki’s house, they went to my house. All my children have a right to my house. Sambo Dasuki is almost 60 years old, he is a man of his own. Can you hold a father responsible for the actions of his son?” he queried.

The senior Dasuki also explained that he was not averse to authorities questioning his son for his actions or inactions while in office.

He said, “He (Sambo) worked; they should ask him.”

The former sultan argued that even the constitution and the nation’s relevant laws stipulate that he should be informed before security officials entered his house.

It will be recalled that the DSS had in a statement on Sunday, explained that it carried out the search on the homes of the Dasukis following credible intelligence report that the former NSA was plotting to commit treasonable felony against the Nigerian state.

Spokesman for the security agency, Mr. Tony Opuiyo said the DSS had planned simultaneous searches on its two targets, but that the former NSA denied its officers entry into his main residence despite being presented with a genuine and duly signed search warrant.

The former NSA, he said, used the military guards at his home to prevent the DSS operatives from performing their legitimate duty, creating a potentially dangerous situation.

Meanwhile, some northern traditional and retired generals have intervened in the case involving the DSS and the former NSA.

Investigations on Monday showed that some traditional rulers from the North-West had prevailed on the former NSA not to drag the Federal Government to court over the invasion of his house in Abuja.

There were reports on Saturday that Dasuki would file a suit against the DSS on Tuesday (today) because of the invasion of his house.

The DSS had on Friday surrounded the ex-NSA’s house in Abuja and that of his father in Sokoto.

Dasuki was forced to stay indoors for about 24 hours and the DSS operatives were said to have seized his international passport.

The security agency had in a statement on Saturday night accused Dasuki of felony, misuse of power and being in possession of destructive weapons.

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