Tuesday, March 21, 2017

AKPABIO ON MAGU: ONUS OF DENIAL IS ON AKPABIO



22nd March, 2017
PRESS RELEASE:
AKPABIO ON MAGU: ONUS OF DENIAL IS ON AKPABIO


The Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, yesterday reacted to a press statement issued by the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) in which the organization quoted him as saying that Magu wanted Senate to confirm him so that he could use some of them for pepper soup. Senator Akpabio denied making such a statement and challenged MURIC to provide evidence.


We aver that Akpabio missed the crux of our statement. This would not have occurred if he had taken a good look at the semantics. Our statement was crafted to indicate that we were quoting a third party. That was why we used the adverb ‘allegedly said’ and the adjective ‘alleged utterance’. It means we did not pretend to affirm the statement but left a window for the Senator to either confirm or deny.


We reproduce the half paragraph here for the avoidance of doubt, “A statement credited to Senator Akpabio in which he allegedly said, “Magu wants us to confirm him so he can use some of us for pepper soup” lends credence to our hypothesis. Akpabio’s alleged utterance confirms our worst fears.”


To bring what people feel or say about public officials to their attention is our duty and a priviledge, to deny or confirm such statements or sentiments is the right of the public official. We have used our priviledge. Senator Akpabio has exercised his right.      


The onus is on Senator Akpabio to confirm or deny the statement. He has chosen to deny it and we are satisfied because there is nothing personal for us to pursue. Therefore, we will not press the issue of the statement allegedly made by him any further.


What the Senator cannot deny is that he has a case of graft before the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) or that he did not oppose the confirmation of Magu during the screening in the red chamber on Thursday. We leave Nigerians to make their own deductions regarding the rationale for the senator’s opposition of Magu’s confirmation.


Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Director,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)

Friday, March 17, 2017

MAGU: SENATE HAS SKELETON IN ITS CUPBOARD



17th March, 2017
PRESS RELEASE:
MAGU: SENATE HAS SKELETON IN ITS CUPBOARD

The Nigerian Red Chamber yesterday and for the second time refused to confirm Ibrahim Magu as the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).    


The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) strongly condemns Senate’s action. It is victory for the monster called corruption. Senate has shown that it is not fighting corruption. On the contrary, it is fighting for corruption. By rejecting a firebrand anti-graft boss, our senators have sent out a wrong signal to the international community. But Senate has been too clever by half. It has exposed itself as an institution with skeleton in its cupboard.


A statement credited to Senator Akpabio in which he allegedly said, “Magu wants us to confirm him so he can use some of us for pepper soup” lends credence to our hypothesis. Akpabio’s alleged utterance confirms our worst fears. This Senate will not confirm any EFCC boss who refuses to withdraw cases involving its members. This Senate will not confirm any anti-graft boss who is not ready to treat senators as sacred cows even if they are corrupt. We also entertain the fear that these senators will not allow any other EFCC boss to function effectively even if Magu is removed.


. Our suspicion has been confirmed by Senator Akpabio. Now we know why Senate rejected Magu. It is simply because our senators’ hands are not clean so they fear a no-nonsense anti-graft boss. Yet we know where Akpabio is coming from. He was invited twice by the EFCC last year after Leo Ekpeyong, an Abuja-based lawyer and activist, wrote a petition in which he accused Akpabio of looting a whooping sum of N108 billion belonging to the Akwa-Ibom government.


Apart from Senator Akpabio, eight other senators, including the Senate President, are facing corruption charges amounting to billions of naira. It is therefore paradoxical that a tainted Senate sits in judgement over the fate of the same man investigating not only its helmsman but also many of its members. What do you expect? Senate has not disappointed us. It has demonstrated its readiness to kill EFCC and any other anti-corruption agency that has the temerity to investigate its members.


The issue is not even Magu this time around. Senate does not want any agency investigating fraud anywhere around the red chamber. Senate wants its members to be untouchable. The first rejection of Magu was meant to serve as a yellow card from the senators and the message was clear, “Back off or we will never confirm you.”


Instead of compromising, however, Magu was not only barking but biting and very hard too. As a result of EFCC’s resilience, huge sums of money stolen by public officials have been discovered in cash in bunkers and in judges’ homes. Two fuel subsidy fraudsters have bagged ten years jail each. For the first time in the history of Nigeria, an ex-governor was sent to jail for fraud-related charges.  Senators became alarmed. Seeing that Magu will not be intimidated, our senators are bent on denying him confirmation even if his name is presented a thousand and one times.


The excuse used by Senate to deny Magu that confirmation is neither here nor there. Somebody somewhere is playing Jekyll and Hyde. What caused the seemingly yawning lacuna between the presidency and the Department of State Service (DSS)? Didn’t Aso Rock get a security report on Magu ab initio? Why should the whole affair be made to appear as if the DSS is working at cross-purposes with the presidency? Why is there no synergy? The DSS too may have questions to answer at the end of the day.


Nigerians must not allow this crop of senators to tarnish the image of this country. We must not allow them to drag us back to those days when every Nigerian who went abroad was treated like a leper. Transparency International (TI) ranked Nigeria the Most Corrupt Nation in the world in 2001. In 2003 Nigeria was ranked 2nd Most Corrupt Nation and in 2004 we were labeled 3rd Most Corrupt.


But the current war against corruption has been so vigorous and its impact has been felt around the globe. This has led TI to drop Nigeria’s corruption ranking to 39th Most Corrupt Country as Nigeria moved to 135 out of 175 countries in the Corruption Perceptions Index of January 2017. This is commendable progress in our war against corruption. We should not allow selfish politicians to drag us into the abyss of shame again.  Nigerians should resist Senate’s attempt to stop the good work Magu has been doing.

The alarming figures in senators’ jumbo pay and the secrecy of its budget indicate its unwillingness to share in the pains of this recession. Already, Senate is plotting to take the power to appoint the head of anti-corruption agencies from the president and to arrogate it to themselves.


This is definitely a dangerous trend in a polity where the hands of the senators are not clean. It is the president who conceptualizes the focus of his administration. He knows what he wants and he must be allowed to pick his men. Who picks his ministers for him anyway?


Nigerians should reject this crop of senators at the next general election. With the exception of a few senators, we are constrained to conclude that these are not the true representatives of the people. Nigerians want a Senate that will complement the efforts of the executive in its war against corruption. Nigerians now know that there can be no improvement in standard of living so long as corruption still reigns supreme and so long as members of the National Assembly not only aid and abet corruption, they are also neck-deep in corrupt practices.


For the war against corruption to be thorough, MURIC suggests that anybody facing corruption trial should not be allowed to contest in elections. Should they use technicalities to wriggle through and become candidates, the Nigerian electorate should also reject them at the polls.


We charge civil society, the media and religious leaders to speak out. Senate must tow the path of transparency, probity and accountability. We appeal to the international community to turn its searchlight on the Nigerian Senate and note how its members are frustrating the executive in its war against corruption.


As a final shot, we issue this red alert: the Nigerian Senate is not with the Nigerian people in the fight against corruption. Senate is protecting the narrow interest of its members who are facing corruption trial. Senate is not on the side of the electorate. It has elected to fight the very people who elected its members into the red chamber. Nigerian senators have become foot-soldiers for corruption thereby constituting a most potent threat to democracy.


Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Director,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)

Friday, March 10, 2017

CUSTOMS BOSS: SENATE MANIFESTING PULL HIM DOWN SYNDROME (PH.D)



10th March, 2017
PRESS RELEASE:
CUSTOMS BOSS: SENATE MANIFESTING PULL HIM DOWN SYNDROME (PH.D)


The Nigerian Senate yesterday ordered the Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Hammed Ali, to appear before it “in uniform” and threatened to sack him if he does not obey its order on the suspension of collection of duties on old vehicles.   


The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) is deeply worried by this development. Senate appears to be engaging in parliamentary recklessness and flexing muscles unnecessarily. It is sheer massaging of parliamentary ego, witch-hunting and profiling.


What has the wearing of custom uniform by the custom’s boss got to do with the performance of his duty? What is wrong if the custom’s boss takes salutes in mufti? Don’t we have officials who receive salutes from the military, the police, etc in mufti? Has it occurred to Senate that the custom’s boss is a retired army officer? Why is Senate leaving the substance to chase the shadow?


What is important to Nigerians is service delivery. Some Senators appear interested in humiliating people appointed by the present administration on the basis of their pedigree. What does the custom’s boss appearance in uniform mean to Nigerians?


There have been reports of great improvement in the performance of customs at the borders since Hammed Ali took over. Startling discoveries have been made. Dangerous goods like weapons which should not be allowed into the country have been seized on many occasions. Is Senate not pleased with these achievements?


Senate’s order to the custom’s boss for the stoppage of the collection of duties on old vehicles stands logic on its head. Is Senate not interested in boosting income at the nation’s borders? This order seems strange coming at a time when government needs every kobo it can generate for effective running of the country. How many people are bringing new cars into the country? This is a tall order. It must be rescinded.


The order is also suspicious because somebody somewhere may have vested interest in bringing old vehicles into the country and he wants to bring them in gratis! The Nigerian Senate should not allow itself to be used for undermining the nation’s economy. This will be most unpatriotic.    


Is Senate envious of the rising profile of the custom’s boss? Or is it a manifestation of the well-known pull him down syndrome (Ph.D)? Nigerians should note where Senate is coming from. There has been no love lost between Senate and the executive arm of government since the commencement of the war against corruption particularly since top echelons of the National Assembly were involved.


MURIC advises Senate to desist from frustrating the executive arm and its operatives. It amounts to arm-twisting. Nobody should test the will of the Nigerian people. They know what is going on. Senate’s bashing of men of integrity appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari for the purpose of intimidating them and rubbishing the executive arm of government should stop forthwith. Senate should not join corruption in its avowed fight-back.


As we round up, we advise Senate to create harmony between the NASS and the executive for the smooth running of government, economic progress and political stability. It is better to address the tangential than to focus on the peripheral. It will not get us anywhere. Nigerians are interested in performance and not whether the custom’s boss wears any uniform.


Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Director,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)

Thursday, March 9, 2017

MURIC CALLS FOR PRESIDENTIAL PARDON FOR 54 SOLDIERS



9th March, 2017
PRESS RELEASE:
MURIC CALLS FOR PRESIDENTIAL PARDON FOR 54 SOLDIERS

As five hundred dismissed soldiers plead with the Nigerian Army to “tamper justice with mercy”, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) is reiterating its appeal for presidential pardon for the 54 soldiers who are currently serving a ten-year jail sentence for requesting for proper armament before advancing on Boko Haram insurgents.       


They had earlier advanced with their battalion on 9th July, 2014 under Lt. Col K. C. Uwa to recapture Damboa but they were ambushed and they lost 23 men and four officers due to inadequate equipment. Without fresh arms and without a single armoured tank, they were again asked to advance on Damboa,Deluwa and Bullabilin.

This made them request for more equipments from their commander, Lt. Col. Oporum. For daring to demand arms before engaging a better equipped enemy, they were rounded up. Their death sentence which was pronounced on 17th December, 2014 was commuted to ten years imprisonment each by the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Major General Tukur Yusuf Buratai in December 2015.

MURIC has since been pleading with President Muhammadu Buhari to grant presidential pardon to the 54 soldiers. We have issued six different press statements since their predicament began (7th December, 2015, 21st December 2015, 5th January, 2016, 5th June 2016 , 21st October, 2016 and 11th December 2016). This statement is the seventh.


The COAS has played his own part by commuting their death sentence to imprisonment and we believe that it is now the turn of President Buhari as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces to exercise the prerogative of mercy by granting the 54 soldiers presidential pardon.


It hurts severely to be made to suffer for so long for exposing large scale corruption in the army. We remind Mr. President that it was this case which actually revealed the massive graft involving arms fund meant for soldiers fighting Boko Haram. It is therefore paradoxical that the 54 soldiers are undergoing punishment for exposing corruption in the army.


Equally ironical is the fact that the 54 soldiers who acted as whistle-blowers in the arms fund case are rotting in jail at a time the Federal Government promised reward for whistle-blowers in corruption cases. It is a sad twist of fate and it may serve as a source of deterrent for prospective whistle-blowers if their case is not urgently revisited.


Mr. President sir, remember that Allah will ask you how you conduct the affairs of citizens under your care. He (Allah) said in the Glorious Qur’an, “We shall ask those to whom our messages were delivered and We shall also ask those who were sent to deliver them” (Qur’an 7:6).


Finally, MURIC appeals to all ex-heads of state, serving governors, the Minister of Internal Affairs, the Chief Commissioner of the Public Complaints Commission, Mr. Emmanuel Ogbole and civil society groups to show interest in the plight of the 54 soldiers.


Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Director,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)