TOPICAL MATTERS: secret graveyard saga, Okorocha's 20bn contract, data recapture for pension benefits, the presidential tribunal and Magu's frustration

DHQ dismisses report on secret graveyard in north-east

DHQ dismisses report on secret graveyard in north-east

The defence headquarters has denied the existence of secret military graveyards in Borno state.

Onyema Nwachukwu, defence spokesman, made the denial while reacting to a report by the Wall Street Journal.

The report stated that over 1,000 soldiers involved in the Boko Haram war were secretly buried.

But in a statement, Nwachukwu described the publication as “sacrilegious” and “a figment of the imagination of the writer.”

“This insinuation can only emanate from an uninformed position of the author of the said publication,” he said, adding that Nigeria’s armed forces has a “rich and solemn tradition for the interment of our fallen heroes.”

The defence spokesman further said the military always gives befitting funerals to soldiers killed in the course of duty and does not indulge in secret burials.

“The cemetery described in the publication, which is situated in Maimalari military Cantonment is an officially designated military cemetery for the Armed Forces of Nigeria in the North East theatre, with a Cenotaph erected in honour of our fallen heroes,” the statement added.

“The official cemetery has played host to several national and international dignitaries, where wreaths were laid in honour of the fallen heroes. It is therefore a far cry from the sacrilegious impression being painted by Wall Street Journal.”

Atiku reacts to report on secret burial of 1000 ‘patriotic’ soldiers

Atiku reacts to report on secret burial of 1000 ‘patriotic’ soldiers

Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has called for an independent inquiry into the reported secret burial of soldiers who died in the Boko Haram war.

In a statement on Thursday, the former vice-president said it is shocking that such a thing could happen under a democratic government.

The Wall Street Journal had reported how the soldiers killed by Boko Haram insurgents are allegedly being buried in hidden graveyards, away from the eyes and pity of family and friends.

Senior government and military officials were quoted as saying a secret graveyard in Maiduguri, Borno state capital, as well as an official military cemetery in the state, hold the bodies of at least 1,000 soldiers killed while fighting the insurgents.

The former vice-president described the situation as “a national emergency that should shock all statesmen and leaders of thoughts into action to save Nigeria.”

“Shock, that such a thing could happen under a democracy, such as Nigeria is supposed to be. I shudder to think that the cover-up of such an event of epic proportions can be true,” he said.

“The men and women of our armed forces are our first, second and last defence against our domestic and foreign enemies and should be treated with love, respect, dignity and appreciation for the invaluable service they render to Nigeria.

“I cannot fathom that in the space of a year, 1000 of these great patriots were killed and buried secretly without their families being told. I hesitate to believe that deceit on such a grand scale is even possible.

“To ensure that we get to the bottom of this matter, I urge that a judicial commission of inquiry headed by a non-partisan and reputable jurist, be inaugurated to investigate the findings of the Wall Street Journal. While this is occurring, I also strongly urge that a panel of inquiry comprising distinguished former military officers be set up to investigate and report to Nigerians the true state of the war on terror and what must be done to ensure Nigeria brings a speedy end to the ongoing insurgency.”

Sagir Musa, spokesman of the Nigerian army, did not immediately respond to inquiries to comment on the matter.

EXCLUSIVE: ‘N700m for hand of God’, ‘N680m for happiness office’… inside Okorocha’s N20bn contracts

EXCLUSIVE: ‘N700m for hand of God’, ‘N680m for happiness office’… inside Okorocha’s N20bn contracts
Rochas Okorocha, former governor of Imo state, awarded 12 contracts worth N20 billion to Zigreat International Company Limited between November 15, 2013, and November 3, 2017.
Documents obtained by TheCable showed that the contracts were awarded to this company in violation of the public procurement act.
TheCable understands that in 2010, the administration of Ikedi Ohakim, a former governor, modelled the procurement act of the state after that of the federal government.
The act says to bid for contracts, a company needs to present three years tax clearance, audited accounts, evidence of work experience as the main contractor executing or having executed a minimum of four (4) projects of similar complexity, evidence of possession of relevant machinery and equipment and scanned copies of certificates of technical/professional staff of the company.

Okorocha and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo at the site where ‘Akachi’ tower was constructed.
But  Zigreat International Company Limited, which had no functional website as of the time this report was filed, got its first contract from Okorocha’s government three months after it registered at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). The former government in Imo had awarded a N700 million contract to it for the construction of a tower.
All the contracts awarded by Okorocha’s government were signed by Paschal Obi, then principal secretary to the governor. Obi is now the member representing Ideato north and Ideato south in the house of representatives.

N683 million was awarded for the construction of this project: Community Hospital, Ogboko
The first contract, construction of “Akachi”, an Igbo term which translates as “The Hand of God”, in Owerri, the state capital, was awarded for N700 million. In a letter dated November 15, 2013, his administration told Zigreat that 25 percent of N700 million would be made available as mobilisation fee.
“I am directed to refer to your quotation of the above contract and to convey His Excellency’s approval that your company Zigreat Intl. Coy. Ltd. undertakes the contract for the Construction of Akachi (Hand of God) at a total contract sum of #700,000,000.00 (Seven Hundred Million Naira) Only,” the letter read.

Building of office blocks for ministry of sports wasn’t completed before Okorocha left office. N690 million was awarded for the project.
“In line with Government Policy on contracts, you are requested to indicate acceptance in writing without delay. You should report to the Principal Secretary to the Governor, Government House, Owerri for details and signing of Contract Agreement, please.”
The ex-governor also approved N683 million for the construction of Community Health Hospital in Ogboko, his hometown in Ideato local government area. Till date, the hospital is in a derelict state.
Also awarded was over N689 million contract for the office blocks of the ministry of happiness headed by Ogechi Ololo, Okorocha’s sister. N5.9 billion was awarded for the construction of police headquarters, phase 1, Owerri and N4.3 billion for the construction of police headquarters, phase 2, Owerri.

Although N3.7 billion was approved for this project in 2017, University of Imo State University of Agriculture and Environment in Aboh/Ngokpala, was still under construction when Okorocha handed over.
Below are the details of other contracts awarded between 2016 and 2017:
  • Construction of Imo State University of Agriculture and Environment in Aboh/Ngokpala, N3.7 billion.
  • Reconstruction of sub-treasury building for conversion to government house clinic, N210 million.
  • Construction of ministry of Niger Delta office blocks, N611 million.
  • Construction of ministry of agriculture office blocks, N611 million.
  • Construction of ministry of tourism office blocks, N630 million.
  • Construction of IMSU campus at Onuimo, N2.79 billion.
  • Construction of ministry of sport office blocks, N690 million.

Government House, Clinic, Owerri.
Some of the contracts were not completed before the end of the former governor’s tenure in 2019.
Asked to react to the manner that the contracts were awarded, Sam Onwuemedo, spokesman of the former governor, said the most important thing was that the contracts were executed.
He said with over 1000 projects, Okorocha, whom he described as a hero, should be honoured.
“Okorocha has more than 1000 projects in the state, even if trillions of naira were spent on those project, that’s justifiable because the man has worked. The most important thing is whether the contracts were executed or not, if you are a contractor and I know you can give me what I want without running away with my money, I will give you the contract,” he said.

An estate EFCC said it traced to Okorocha in Owerri
“The issue should be was the job done? If the job was done, then it’s left for those who are financial experts to know whether the price budgeted for it was commensurate with what was delivered.  You give a job to person that will perform or a company that is not registered. If a company is registered and bid for a job and the job is given, what’s criminal about it?”
Asked if Zigreat International Company Limited has any affiliation with Okorocha, the media aide said: “I’m not in a position to answer that.”
Okorocha, the incumbent senator representing Imo west, is currently under investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Last week, the anti-graft agency seized some properties allegedly traced to him in Imo. They include schools, a hotel, hospital, estate, supermarket and residential buildings.

The anti-graft agency also said it seized this from the senator

The documents:

Mahogany Hotel and Suites(Ibadan)
08099887255/ 08083061500

ALERT: You can no longer claim your pension benefits without data recapture

ALERT: You can no longer claim your pension benefits without data recapture

The Pension Fund Operators Association of Nigeria (PenOP) says contributors will be unable to claim their retirement benefits if they do not participate in the data recapture process.

Addressing journalists in Lagos on Wednesday, Wale Odutola, PENOP’s head of communication and managing director of ARM Pension, said the data recapture process was mandated by the National Pension Commission (PENCOM).

“At present, we have about 9 million contributors but among that figure, we have cases of people having multiple pins.

“So the whole idea of this data recapture is to manage the industry such that people are uniquely identified so that when we pay, we are sure that we are paying the right people.

“With the recapture, we are going to use the national identification number (NIN) as the unique identifier for contributors. The NIN is now linked to BVN so there is no risk that we will pay the wrong person.

“It’s a major project and everyone has to be re-enrolled. It took us quite a while to enrol the 9 million people that we have so imagine the work we have to do to do it all over again.”

When asked if there would be a deadline for the data recapture process, Odutola said a deadline could be deployed.

Using BVN registration as an example, Ronke Adedeji, PenOP president and managing director of Leadway Assurance, said: “Banks also had to use a deadline to enforce compliance so we might do that too.”

“Because we have a lot of people to capture, we are considering engaging a third-party service provider to fast-track the process. So to everyone out there, the earlier you do it, the better.”

‘Typo on Buhari’s certificate’, ‘Atiku from Cameroon’ – controversies at the presidential tribunal

‘Typo on Buhari’s certificate’, ‘Atiku from Cameroon’ – controversies at the presidential tribunal

About four months after whirlwind proceedings, the presidential election petition tribunal has scheduled August 21 for final arguments in the petition filed by Atiku Abubakar, PDP presidential candidate, against President Muhammadu Buhari, challenging the outcome of the election.
On Thursday, the president’s legal team closed its case, which it opened on Tuesday, at the tribunal after calling only seven witnesses.
Wole Olanipekun, lead defence counsel, said closing the case was to“restrict the legal duel to the four corners of this honourable court’’. The proceedings in the past few days have re-awakened slumbering controversies.
Since May 8, when the tribunal commenced sitting, there has been a twirling of claims and counter-claims by the parties to the case.


Bulkachuwa presided over the proceedings before having to step aside because her husband is in APC
On May 16, the legal team of the former vice president filed a motion asking Zainab Bulkachuwa, president of the appeal court and chairman of the tribunal, to recuse herself from presiding over the case. It alleged that the judge was the wife and mother of two prominent members of the APC and that she could show bias in handling the matter. A firestorm of reactions followed afterwards.
Bulkachuwa had presided over the first few proceedings of the tribunal, and she had pledged that “justice will be done to all parties without fear or favour, affection or ill-will.”
On May 22, she announced her withdrawal from the panel. This was despite a judgment dismissing the motion seeking her recusal.
‘’I am recusing myself from the panel for personal reasons’’, she said. She also said the judgment was a precedent for future cases of similar bent.
Besides Bulkachuwa, there are judges whose spouses are politically-exposed persons, and with peculiar cases such as this, the intricacy of the law will always be tested.


Atiku’s Cameroon roots became a major topic of discussion
In its response to the PDP petition, the APC claimed Abubakar is not a citizen of Nigeria by birth, and that he ‘’ought not to have even been allowed in the first place, to contest the election’’.
The Nigerian constitution prescribes citizenship by birth as a requisite for the office of president.
In its counter  appeal, the party said: “The parties are not entitled to any prayers being sought by them’’, and it urged the tribunal to “dismiss the petition with substantial cost as same is devoid of any merit and also founded on frivolity, having not been initiated bonafide but on palpable abuse of judicial process’’.
Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), had actuated the controversy over the origins of the PDP presidential candidate. He claimed Abubakar is a citizen of Cameroon and not of Nigeria, having had his place of nativity in a part of Adamawa that was a portion of northern Cameroon until the plebiscite of 1961 which wedded that area of Cameroon with Nigeria. Abubakar was born in Jeda in November 1946 before the unification.
The APC couched its case on this claim and argued that “votes purportedly cast’’ for Abubakar were wasted.
Abba Kyari, chief of staff to the president, who appeared before the tribunal on Wednesday, re-emphasised this claim.
This is a grey area in Nigerian law that the courts will have to interpret to enrich the jurisprudence.


Voters were accredited electronically but whether or not the results were transmitted to a server became the bone of contention
One of the claims of the Abubakar legal team is that an alleged INEC server contained figures, which put the PDP candidate in the leading gear over the APC candidate.
The PDP and its presidential candidate, through their counsel, Levy Uzoukwu asked the tribunal to order INEC to grant them access to its server and smart card reader records.
The petitioners claimed that from the data in lNEC’s “server’’, the results from state-to-state computation showed that Abubakar had a total of 18,356,732 votes to defeat Buhari who had 16,741,430 votes.
However, Yunus Usman, INEC counsel, in a counter affidavit urged the court to reject the application.
“They are asking us to bring something we do not have,” he said.
‘’My Lord, the commission did not deploy such technology infrastructure in the last general election.’’
INEC has been emphatic in its position that there is no server for the 2019 election. Though it admitted it mulled relaying results from the field electronically, the commission said it jettisoned the idea owing to budgetary constraints.
The electoral umpire also said it only experimented with transmitting results electronically in Anambra, Sokoto and Osun elections.
The tribunal will decide if the petitioners proved their case in this regard, though there were some inconsistencies in the testimonies of the witnesses they called.


Buhari presented secondary school certificates but the question of their validity was played up by the PDP
A highlight of the proceedings at the tribunal is the furore over Buhari’s “missing’’ certificate.
The PDP argued that Buhari was not eligible to vie in the 2019 presidential election for not submitting his credentials to INEC as required by law. It also claimed the president did not have the minimum qualification to run for the election.
On Wednesday, Oshideinde Adewunmi, a former official of the West African Examinations Council (WAEC), said the president obtained a Cambridge University West African Examination certificate.
Adewunmi, a witness called by Olanipekun,  said this while being cross-examined by Uzokwu.
The former WAEC official, however, added that Cambridge certificate presented to the tribunal has a typographical error.
He explained that the Cambridge certificate has “Mohamed Buhari” rather than “Muhammadu Buhari” as the name of the second respondent.
He also said though the Cambridge certificate has six subjects, the president sat for eight in 1961.
These discrepancies are stoking renewed controversy over Buhari’s ”certificate”. And this issue may not be going away soon.

Dunamis Kente
+233 50 257 6068

Alaafin: Why senate under Saraki frustrated Magu

Alaafin: Why senate under Saraki frustrated Magu

Lamidi Adeyemi III, the alaafin of Oyo, says the senate under Bukola Saraki frustrated the confirmation of Ibrahim Magu as EFCC chairman because its members had something to hide.

The alaafin’s comment was contained in a statement issued by Tony Orilade, EFCC spokesman, on Thursday.

According to the statement,  the monarch made the declaration in his palace when Friday Ebelo, Ibadan Zonal head of the anti-graft agency, led a delegation to pay him a visit.

“The eighth national assembly tried, they did everything possible not to get (Ibrahim) Magu appointed. Why? It is because they have skeleton in their cupboard,” the alaafin was quoted to have said.

“We must encourage you. We must support you and cooperate with you, otherwise corruption will kill Nigeria.

“The fear of EFCC is leading some looters to several parts of the world. But you are after them. You are getting them. There is no hiding place for them.

“Through you, I want to commend Ibrahim Magu for a job well done.’’

Ebelo had told the monarch that the team’s visit was at the instance of the commission’s acting Chairman, who, according to him, has decided to engage the traditional institutions across the country in the campaign against corruption in order to get the message down to the grassroots more effectively.

Topical matters is credited to TheCable, Nigeria's most credible online independent newspaper.