Buhari, who spoke to newsmen at the Summit of the African Union in Johannesburg, South Africa, said he was being careful in order not to make mistakes in appointing individuals especially to key positions such as in the finance and petroleum ministries.
His words: “I don’t know why people are so anxious about ministers. But eventually we will have (them). But the main reason is that I have an interim committee which I agreed with the former President Jonathan that the ministers of the outgoing government should hand over their notes or their documents to this interim committee so that a position can be prepared for the new government to start from with clear records from ministers.
“But the ministers knew that they were going while the technocrats, the permanent secretaries and directors and so on, would remain. If anything goes wrong they would be invited to explain, but unfortunately the outgoing government did not cooperate.
“So, what the committee did was to divide itself into about five sub-committees and got a resource person that was willing to come and bring the document, and so they prepared and I got the report I think three days ago.
I’m not in a hurry to get ministers
“I was waiting for this report because I would like to know the position of things in the government especially in terms of finance and petroleum industry. So, I am not in a hurry to get ministers.
“I want to get ministers after at least I have seen the report because I don’t have to appoint a minister today and sack him the next week because this report would give me what actually happened in terms of security, and economy of the country.
“And since I have to have ministers from politicians and technocrats, I wouldn’t (like to) make the mistake of getting somebody, who has been involved on account of accountability.“
Buhari added that he, Jonathan and former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, had agreed to let the former ministers hand over their notes to the interim committee he had formed.
He said that the planned examination of the hand-over notes had to be suspended when the outgoing ruling party accused his then incoming administration of forming a parallel government.
Buhari said he actually wanted to get a platform from the former ministers on which to start from following the problem of accountability in the administration.
The President, who recalled that during his time as Minister of Petroleum during the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo military regime, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had only three accounts, said that during the immediate past administration, the NNPC and the Ministry of Finance did not know how many accounts they had. He described the development as improper.
On emergence of Saraki as Senate Presdent
He also said that the emergence of Sen. Abubakar Saraki as Senate President divided the All Progressives Congress (APC) in spite of the moves by the party to avert a crisis.
He said that the onus was on the National Assembly to resolve the issue as it had its own criteria for choosing its officers, which was why he did not want to interfere in the exercise.
Buhari said the problem of Boko Haram had been internationalised and expressed happiness with the support coming from Nigeria’s neighbours and the G7 in an effort to end insurgency.
The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, had last week, stated its resolve to commence the confiscation of Ogogoro and conduct sensitization across the country, following the death of more than 60 persons arising from the consumption of local gin in Rivers and Ondo states.
Reacting to NAFDAC’s resolution, Chairman of the union, Mr. Samuel Egedegbe, said that their distilled gin does not kill, emphasizing: “It is the Ogogoro produced from methanol that kills.”
He reiterated that their “distilled gin” is produced from palm wine derived from raffia palm or liquefied sugar mixed with yeast and “well cooked before distilling the gin.”
He added: “In the case of methanol, they do not have factories and they do not cook before distilling their gin. Rather, they only mix the methanol with water in their houses and automatically they have produced gin inside their bedrooms. On our part, we the members of the distillers union produce our gin through a scientific distillation process.”
On his part, Secretary of the union, Prince Anthony, said that the union was duly registered with the Delta State Government since June 18, 2010 with registration number 0938, arguing that “If we are transacting illegal business, we would not have registered it with the government.”
In a statement issued in Lagos, Abiola said that the June 12 celebrations which coincided with her birthday reminded her of the many years she missed without a father on her special day.
She said; “At eight years old, I could not begin to understand the importance and significance of such a tremendous victory by my father.
”I did not realize it was the beginning of true democracy but also eventually the end of many years of military rule.
She, however, stated that; “To many, Bashorun MKO Abiola was just an accountant, philanthropist and politician. To us his children, he was just Dad.
”Our family paid the ultimate price and we still miss him dearly.”
While she reiterated that her father’s legacy and sacrifices paved the way for future democratic governments in Nigeria, Abiola said; “My father’s vision for our great nation led him to selflessly give up family, wealth and subsequently his freedom for the opportunity to serve his country which he did not live long enough to realize. Today, we all sing and rejoice that change is here. But we must not forget the struggle and the lives that were lost for the benefit we as Nigerian citizens reap today.”
Presidency sources disclosed that a committee of legends in law, led by the vice-president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo identified the five bills which have been passed on to the President for further scrutiny.
The President in turn is said to have requested legal advice on the five bills which include the Office of the Financial Ombudsman Bill 2015, National Convicts and Criminal Records Bill 2015, Electronics Transactions Bill 2015, Whistle Blower Protection Bill 2015 and the Nigerian International Financial Centre Bill 2015.
All five bills were among the 46 rushed through the Senate on June 3, the last day of sitting by the 7th Senate. Presidency sources, however, could not confirm if the presidency gave any prompting to the Senate on the bills that led to the controversial passage of the 46 bills in a space of 10 minutes.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu nevertheless confirmed the presidency’s interest in the five bills but would not say more than that when contacted.
However, normally reliable sources close to the President said that the President has sought legal advice on the bills. The sources, however, would not say to what degree the Osinbajo-led committee of legends in law has gone on the issue, but it is expected that the committee would prod the President to give his assent to the bills.
Osinbajo has generally been expected to lead the administration’s efforts in justice sector reform and the identification of the five bills in the initial campaign against graft is believed to be in that direction.
Osinbajo leads law experts
“A Committee of legends in law led by Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) is putting finishing touches to a recommendation that will request President Muhammadu Buhari to assent to five of the 46 bills hurriedly passed by the 7th National Assembly at the point of its exit,” the normally reliable source now working with the president spoke on the basis of anonymity.
The sources, however, could not confirm if the opinion have been delivered to the President who is expected back in the country today after a two-day visit to South Africa.
It is expected that the President’s assent to the bills would officially signal the administration’s expected fight against corruption.
Garba said that President Buhari and his Vice had promised the nation in the course of their campaign that they would strengthen the country’s anti-graft laws. “If these bills are of help and I am convinced that they are, then expect some action in that direction,” he said.
The five weapons
The Whistle Blowers Protection Bill sponsored by former Senator Ganiyu Solomon “seeks to provide for the manner in which individuals may, in the public interest, disclose information that relates to unlawful or other illegal conduct or corrupt practices of others; to provide for the protection against victimisation of persons who make these disclosures.”
Senator Solomon first presented the bill to the House of Representatives where he served in 2007 but the bill did not get the expected legislative and executive endorsement until the concurrent passage by the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The bill defines the nature of an impropriety that qualifies for disclosure, the procedure for disclosure and the protection that would be given a whistleblower by government agencies.
It aims to give some measure of protection to individuals who give out information on alleged malfeasances in government to security agencies.
The Electronic Transaction Bill, 2011 was sponsored by a former member of the House of Representatives, Uzoma Nkem-Abonta provides the legal framework for electronic transactions in the country. The bill especially becomes relevant for security agencies in the wake of increasing transition of the country from a cash-based economy towards a cashless economy facilitated by electronic channels.
The Electronic Transaction Bill, when signed by the president, is expected to facilitate e-government services and promote transparency in the transaction of government businesses, including procurement and sales of goods and services.
The Nigerian International Financial Centre Bill, aims to produce three separate agencies, namely, the Nigeria International Financial Centre Authority (administrative body); Nigeria Internal Financial Centre Regulatory Authority and the Nigeria International Financial Centre Judicial Authority.
The effect of the three agencies would be to position properly the country at the centre of global finance and as such attract international finance into the economy.
The Office of the Nigerian Financial Ombudsman, 2015 which was also passed by the Senate on June 3 seeks to establish the Office of the Nigerian Financial Ombudsman, as an independent body charged with the responsibility of resolving financial and related disputes in the Nigerian financial services sector.
The establishment of the Office of the Financial Ombudsman is also expected to lead to efficiency in dispute resolution in the financial services sector.
The Convicts and Criminal Records Bill, 2015 aims to among others ensure a proper documentation of convicts and criminals for the purpose of keeping a record of criminals in the country.
President must have political will— Agbakoba
On his part, a former president of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Mr Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, who highlighted ways the president could tackle corruption in the country said he (Buhari) must have the political will.
His words: “The first thing is to strengthen the anti-corruption agencies, he is also to make them independent and well-funded. He is to realign all the anti-corruption agencies into frameworks that can deliver. He would have to look at whether the EFCC, ICPC and Special Fraud Unit are not doing conflicting jobs. What is important is that first of all, he must have the political will, strengthen the anti-corruption agencies, he should also fund them. He should also give the anti-corruption agencies independence to go after anyone, who is found wanting without fear or favour.”
“We need new strong laws, the laws to tackle corruption now are weak, they are also duplicating and confusing and sometimes, the laws are wrong. So, sometimes, we need simple laws that will state who is a corrupt person.”
Continuing, the legal luminary added: “What is important is the political will, strong institutions, allow these institutions to work independently and finally, give them the money to work. Once you have these four things in place, it is very easy to fight corruption. But when you now have an agenda, then, there is a problem. For instance, if you want to go against corruption in the oil industry, if you are president, you must be prepared to allow whatever comes out of the probe to come. But if you want to hide anyone, then, there is a problem. These are the ways you can fight corruption.”
Firefighters are currently battling to put out a fire that broke out in Ajah Market in Lagos.
No one could ascertain what caused the fire, but an eyewitness, who called our correspondent on Sunday, explained that the fire started around 4.30pm.
“There is a fire right now in Ajah Market. It started about an hour ago. The firefighters are there to put it out,”said the caller, who identified himself as Mike, a vendor.
Shortly before his May 29 inauguration, Buhari had reportedly rejected plans by governors of the All Progressives Congress the party leadership in the states to submit ministerial nominees to him.
The Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media, Garba Shehu, in an interview with Sahara TV on Saturday, argued against comparing Buhari’s government to such states as Kaduna and Rivers, which have appointed some commissioners.
According to Shehu, following the 2011 elections, many South-West governors took several months to form their governments.
He said, “The President did say he would hit the ground running, but he has not been given the chance to hit the ground running because the administration that he succeeded — the Jonathan administration — did not deliver the handover notes until two or three days to the inauguration, meaning that these handover notes were submitted at a time when everyone had been consumed by (inauguration) activities.
“Unfortunately, there was no time to look at them until after the President had been inaugurated. The President was left in the dark. He had to understand what the situation was and what was on the ground. That was why he set up a different transition committee. It was only this week that the committee, led by Dr. Ahmed Joga, scrutinised the handover notes and handed over the report to him (Buhari).
“To be fair to him, he would have hit the ground running if the previous government had handed over the notes early. However, the Jonathan government did not even permit any minister to interact in any way with the Buhari Transition Committee. Evidently, we had our hands tied behind our backs until we took over. Thus, there is nothing shady about it.”
Shehu explained that the ministerial appointments had yet to be made because the committee needed to conclude its findings first, an 800-page report of which was presented to Buhari on Friday.
On Wednesday, there was speculation that the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, was prevented from attending Buhari’s meeting with the National Security Adviser on the orders of the President.
The Vice-President was reportedly denied security clearance to attend the meeting because of security reasons by the President.
In his response, the SSA said, “That is the creation of someone who just wanted to write something. It was on the same day he travelled to Sudan to represent the President, the government and the people of Nigeria at the inauguration of the president of that country.
“He couldn’t have been present in two places at the same time. Osinbajo is the Vice-President of Nigeria. In the absence of the President, he is the President. So, there cannot be dark corners into which he will not be allowed. It is not true.”
Speaking on the National Assembly crisis, the presidential spokesperson expressed conviction that the party with the majority, the All Progressives Congress, and the opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, would coexist harmoniously.
On Tuesday, against the directive of the APC, Senator Bukola Saraki was elected unopposed as President of the 8th Senate. Fifty-one senators, include the party’s preferred candidate, Senator Ahmad Lawan, were absent. Saraki and Lawan have been engaged in a fierce contest to clinch the Senate top job.
The other senators were at the International Conference Centre, on the invitation of Buhari, who had called the meeting to resolve the National Assembly leadership crisis, at the time Saraki was declared Senate President.
Speculation had trailed Buhari’s absence at a peace meeting, with some arguing that Buhari favoured Saraki.
However, Shehu said, “It is a matter of courtesy that the office of the President would be given that respect. The PDP, which issued a statement saying the delay had embarrassed the country, should be asked: How many times have they suspended the plenary of the National Assembly, either the Senate or the House of Representatives, to go into the PDP caucus?
“A party needs to meet to organise itself and it can’t be taken for granted. Buhari could not have failed in wanting to meet his party members in order to convey an important message to them. And he has not allowed that chance because at the time when he was setting out to go, the National Assembly they had begun voting, hence the mission was aborted.
“The fact that he said he would work with the National Assembly (leadership) is consistent with his position as a principled democrat. It is a body recognised by law that is independent of his control. He cannot control them. They carried out a constitutional process and he will work with them.”
Disclosing this yesterday, a community leader in Aguleri, one of the warring communities in Anambra, and Patron of Omambala Indigenous Youth Foundation, Chief Ifeanyichukwu Abala, regretted that the states and Federal Government have not put a stop to the war.
According to him, “these displaced people on the side of Anambra state need medication, food and shelter to help curtail the suffering they are going through”.
He stressed the need for the warring communities of Odeke and Echeno in Ibaji Local Government Area of Kogi State and Enugu Otu Agulueri, Eziagulu Otu, Mkpunando and Agulueri, Anambra East Local Government Areas of Anambra State to have a covenant and boundary demarcation to end the war.
“The traditional ruler of Igala, HRM Attah Agabaidu Michael Idakwo Anieh Oboni, HRH Rev JJ Agbata the Doga of Echeno community, traditional ruler of Odeke, HRH Dominic Urana, the Doga of Odeke, Igwe Christopher Idigo of Aguleri and Eze Akajiofor Chukwuemeka Ezeani, were among the traditional rulers who endorsed our call for covenant and boundary demarcation”, he disclosed.
Odeyemi said this in an interview with journalists in Osogbo on Thursday in reaction to the declaration by the governor that his administration had performed creditably.
He said, ” The governor said he had performed well, but if this is the best he can deliver, then he should resign.
” Is this the change he promised the people?, everybody is suffering now, both Christians and Muslims and the governor is saying he had done well. He is insensitive to the plight of the people of the state.
“The governor, through his profligate spending, has brought shame and ridicule to the workers and the entire people of the state. He has turned almost everybody to beggar in the state.
” Where is Laoye-Tomori (deputy governor) now?, it is so sad that workers have been turned to beggars. The Christian Association of Nigeria has now started soliciting food for workers.
” Is the governor not eating? Are his children and wife starving like the workers?. Certainly not. The governor still goes with all the vehicles in his convoy, he has failed woefully. ”
But the governor has denied the allegation of wasteful spending levied against him, saying anti-corruption agencies had in the past commended his administration.
The governor reacted to the NAP’s allegation through his media aide, Mr. Semiu Okanlawon.
He said, “If no one could accuse Aregbesola of wasteful spending in his four years of governance why now would anyone say he is wasteful. It is ironic that those making these allegations today applauded the very prudent manner he had managed the affairs of the state even with the very meagre resources at his disposal.
“Where has he been wasteful?. Is it in his implementation of the most applauded people oriented programmes such as OMEAL, OYES or care for the elderly and vulnerable, or in the massive provision of infrastructure across the state?.
“The accusation of insensitivity cannot be true, but for the revenue crisis, payments of salaries and allowances were major priorities of this government.
“We are aware that at periods like this, the head of any administration becomes easy target for pillory, but this is just a phase that will pass away.
Senator Oluremi Tinubu representing Lagos Central in the Senate on Wednesday refused to shake hands with the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki.
Oluremi is the wife of the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress and a former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu.
This happened when Saraki was administering the oath of office and allegiance on the 28 All Progressives Congress’ senators who were absent at the formal inauguration of the Eighth Senate on Tuesday.
The 28 senators, who are mainly members of the Senate Unity Forum, led by Senator Ahmed Lawan, mobilised themselves to the chamber as early as 8.30am on Wednesday, waiting for the Senate President to formally swear them in as senators.
The senators, after the votes and proceedings of the previous legislative day were adopted, took turn to take their oaths by reading it out aloud and appending their signatures.
By protocol, each of the newly sworn-in senators were expected, after taking their oaths, to present a copy of their certificates of return to the Senate President and in turn, shake hands with him.
The protocol was duly followed by others, except Mrs. Tinubu, who refused to shake hands with Saraki but merely showed him her Certificate of Return and walked out on the Senate President.
The 28 senators were gathered at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, waiting for President Muhammadu Buhari, who was billed to address them when the Clerk of the National Assembly, Alhaji Salisu Maikasuwa, proclaimed the Eighth Senate and subsequently conducted the election on Tuesday.
The election, which had 23 APC senators in attendance, produced Saraki as President of the senate while Senator Ike Ekweremadu was elected as the deputy.
Saraki, after the election, had administered the oath of office and allegiance on 75 other senators.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, which brought the accused persons before Justice Ibrahim Buba, identified them as citizens of Russia, Ukraine, Japan and the United Kingdom.
Their remand followed their arraignment alongside their companies on four counts bordering on the alleged offence.
The names of the accused persons, according to the charge filed by the EFCC, are Artur Pakhladzhian, Sergo Abbgarian, Vasily Shkundich, Vitaliy Bilours, Hlarion Teofilo Regipor, Laguta Oleksiy and Cadavis Gerarado.
Others are Kretov Andry, Badurian Benjamin, Chepikov Olksan, Naranjo Allian Antero, Patro Christian, Alcayde Joel and Caratiquit Michael Beyan.
The prosecution alleged that the accused persons operated from their vessel named, MT Anukpet Emerald, to illegally deal in petroleum products estimated at 1,738.087 metric tons.
The accused persons, who were alleged to have committed the offence on March 27, 2015, were equally said to have illegally dealt in 1,500 metric tons of Automated Gas Oil as well as 3,035 metric tons of Low Pour Fuel Oil.
The EFCC prosecutor, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, said the men had contravened Section 4 of the Petroleum Act, Cap10, Law of the Federation of Nigeria.
The 14 foreigners, however, pleaded not guilty to the four counts.
Their lawyer, Mr. Babaji Koku, applied for their bail on self recognition and in liberal terms.
The EFCC counsel, Oyedepo, however, contended that the privilege of bail on self recognition could not apply in the case because the accused persons were foreigners.
“My Lord, the issue of granting bail on self recognition does not apply in this case because the accused persons are all foreign nationals.
“We humbly ask that even if the court would admit the accused persons to bail, the conditions should be stringent to prevent them from absconding from the country,” Oyedepo said.
Justice Buba admitted the defendants to bail in the sum of N50m each with one surety each in like sum.
The judge said the sureties must be resident in Lagos, adding that the accused were also to deposit their travelling documents in the custody of the EFCC.
However, the accused informed the court that they were ready to issue a bond of N750m bank guarantee in order to avoid delay in securing a surety.
Buba, who granted the request, however, ordered that they should be remanded in prison custody pending when they would perfect their bail conditions.
He adjourned till June 17, 18 and 19 for trial.