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Sunday, 25 September 2016 22:47

Sunmi Smart-Cole: It’s the ‘75th shot’

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TO many people, his story begins and revolves around photography. That notion seems to be right but it is absolutely wrong. Don’t just think about Sunmi Smart-Cole and visualise photography alone. Doing that may not be a balanced reflection on a journey that commenced 75 years ago in Port Harcourt without the glamour that has largely distinguished it so far. Now, whenever the name crosses your mind, also think barbing, architecture, drumming, and journalism.

Though, there are other glitzy fields of endeavour that also add up, the aforementioned, in many ways and different scales, defined the man, whose formal education abruptly ended at 15 because of hunger.

With these areas of pursuit being part of his story, it is amazing that he is synonymous with photography in a way that literally subsumed other areas that also contributed in making him a brand. Indeed,   Smart-Cole lives and personifies photography like no one had done in Nigeria or better still Africa. Since 1976 when he took to photography, Smart-Cole, who was born on September 25, 1941, to a Nigerian and Sierra Leonean parentage, had applied panache, power and character in a fashion that leaves no room for him not to be admired. Through his lens, remarkable stories have been told, bridges have been built and records have been made and broken across the world. To have eventually engraved his name on gold with these feats appear surprising given that he was just a ‘’common barber” (the phrase he told SundayVanguard, was used by the late Brig Gen Benjamin Adekunle in describing him when the latter pushed him into a drainage system at Yaba.’’ Unlike many big names in Nigeria today, becoming the brand that he is was neither accidental nor unmerited, as Smart-Cole, who is being celebrated today by family and friends, told Sunday Vanguard in a chat that his bold steps were inspired by the nonavailability of funds to continue with his education at the age of 15.  

The Sunmi’s Place

‘’I stopped going to school at the age of I5 because my mother, who was just a petty trader, could not fund my education because she had no money. I became an elementary school teacher but hunger made me to set up a barber shop,” he said, during the interview that was held at his Yaba residence. Named the Sunmi’s Place, the saloon, which he said was located in Yaba, was sort of a melting pot for socialites especially the young at heart in Lagos in the 60s.

‘’My barber shop, Sunmi’s Place, was located at number 1 McEwen Street, off Herbert Macaulay Way, Yaba.   I borrowed £40   to pay   the rent   and also borrowed   £12   to buy equipment and furniture from the late Chief Adetuniji Soyede, paternal grandfather of Mrs. Dolapo Osinbajo, wife of Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo. I had been an elementary school teacher at the age of 15. My self-education started at that time.   I was buying old books and magazines like Time magazine, News Week, Readers Digest among others. I learnt how to speak in English by always waking up between 4 and 5am to listen to the BBC radio. That was how I learnt how to speak English.” Interestingly, the majority of his clientele then later became men of power and influence in the contemporary Nigerian society. Continuing, he said: ‘’The other language I speak is Krio Pidgin. At 17, I was apprenticed to an architectural draughtsman who taught me the rudiments of architecture. I had the dubious distinction of designing the washrooms at Ikoyi Club, Lagos, when I worked with Nixon and Boris, the country home of the Prime Minister of Sierra Leone, Sir Albert Margarai, in his village, Gbamgbatoke. I also designed an extension to the house of Mr. Johnie Smythe, QC, a one-time Attorney General of Sierra Leone and another house with a swimming pool at the top, for BBC presenter of   “Good Morning Africa” programme, Pete Myers.  

Artist and Road Manager

‘’ In 1966, the late musicologist, bandleader, and impresario, Mr. Steve Rhodes, appointed me Artist and Road Manager instead of Artist and Repertoire manager in his company because I could not read music. I road-managed musicians like Fela Ransome-Kuti and the Koola Lobitos, Victor Uwaifo, Sunny Okosun, British singer, Militants Small of the M Boy Lollipo fame, Ghanian dancing group, the Rolling Beats, and Pat Finn and The Hikers. ‘’I had been adjudged to be one of the best drummers in Nigeria and was a founding member of the Soul and Jazz group, The Soul Assembly, reputed for bringing and popularising African-American Soul music to Nigeria. Mr. Rhodes refused to manage our group because we were not full-time musicians.” His career in the music industry, he told Sunday Vanguard, was, however, punctuated by his sack by Rhodes over what he termed a conflict of interest. ‘’At that time, I was still a red meat eater. I went to Koriko Bar on the ground floor of Bristol Hotel to buy sausage rolls for lunch. I returned to find my termination letter on my desk. I had been dismissed for “conflict of interest”. I was extremely sad,” he quipped. Interestingly, music still lives in Smart-Cole, as his living room where this interface held, had a corner dedicated to musical instruments which were arranged the way it is done in studios. A striking aspect of this encounter was that in spite being interrupted within intervals by issues regarding today’s birthday celebration, the renowned photographer, was always able to reconnect with the subject hitherto being discussed. During one of such instance after a long interlude, he said: ‘’The barber shop was also a cultural centre. People came to read foreign newspapers and magazines. During the civil war, luxury items like foreign publications, butter extra were banned.

The ban was lifted at the end of the war, in 1970 but I had my way of getting butter from the airport. They also came to listen to Jazz, Soul, and Classical music. On Friday and Saturday evenings, they came to find out where the parties for “hep-cats” and the “in-crowd” will be held. I started operating the shop in 1967 and shut it down, in September 1972, when I migrated to the United States of America to live “permanently”.   I returned home after ten years. I lived in Mountain View, California, where I worked with VIDAR Corporation as a Technical Illustrator and Architectural Drafter. I began my study of photography in 1976, at Foothill College, Los Alto, California. ‘’I thought myself barbing, drumming and photography. I went into photography in America because I wanted something that would bring out the real artist in me.’’ Agreeably, taking to photography quickened the blossoming of the infinite stars that had lived in Smart-Cole, as his lens and craft earned him fame and influence beyond Africa. Going through a voluminous compendium of his jobs entitled: Sunmi’s Lens: Medium Between Man And Nature, attested to how people of substance and commoners seamlessly converged courtesy of his creativity. On the strength of this, Sunday Vanguard asked how he felt clocking the age of 75. Cheerfully, he took a sip of coffee earlier served and responded thus: ‘’I feel grateful to God because I know people I was growing up with that died in their 20s. A friend of mine who was a pilot got shot down three days before the end of the war.   He was shot down two weeks before the end of the war. A childhood friend of mine, Prof Tunde Cole-Onitiri, a Prof of medicine died four years ago of heat stroke. He died at his office in Lekki, Lagos. He was not sick. He was in his of office and as he was moving his private papers to another office,   he started feeling very hot because they had removed the air condition in his office. Before the person he sent to get a cooling fan came, he had slumped and died.   I am just a few years older than him. To me, he died young. Sometimes, you want to say why them?  

Total knee replacement

‘’ I am having a thanksgiving service with Holy Communion to thank God  for saving my life at least three times.   As a result of one of the accidents, I had total knee replacement surgery. I fell down inside a helicopter while I was taking photographs over Bonny LNG in 2002. I was sitting down with an English-Nigerian. When you are in a helicopter you have to make sure that you are belted down all the time and it was their responsibility to make sure that I was belted down. But this fellow saw something interesting and asked me to photograph what he saw. I completely forgot that I was in a helicopter and unbuckled.   As I did that, there was a jolt, my head hit the roof and I landed on my knee. My leg turned and my toes were   backward. My knee was smashed.

Much later, I ended up going to America for a total knee replacement surgery which cost about $30.000.  

Editor of Lagos Life

‘’Before that, I was involved in an accident when I was at the Guardian which led to the pain I have now on my neck. As Editor of the Lagos Life Newspapers, I was returning to the Guardian from Apapa on Isolo Expressway, a policeman with a machine gun stood in the middle of the railway and was trying to stop lorries coming from Apapa Wharf because he was collecting bribe or trying to collect bribe. A lorry loaded with bags of flower, rammed into my car. From the middle of the highway, I ended up at the service lane at Cele Bustop. People were diving into the bush, I was lying down in the car because the seatbelt pulled me down, I grabbed the steering, hit my one leg down on something which turned out to be the break. I came out but the car was smashed. I didn’t see any blood and thought I was okay but I knew I was shocked. We went to a police station in Surulere. We saw the police and told them what happened. They managed to bring back the policeman who caused the accident. The accident happened in July when the car was only four months old.”I bought the car new on credit. As Editor of Lagos Life, I could not afford to buy a car, my salary was N900 monthly. But cars like Peugeot sold for N1400 while Volkswagen sold for N400. Prof Wole Soyinka, Dr. Yemi Ogunbiyi, the current Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh, and myself were assisted in buying the car by the late Alex Ibru because people used to line up   to buy cars. Alex did four of us a favour by telling us to come and choose the colour we preferred.  

Audu Ogbeh couldn’t buy a car

‘’We bought the cars from Rutham Motors. Audu Ogbeh was a minister but he could not afford to buy a car because he was not stealing.

He could not afford to buy a car under Shagari’s government even though he was   a minister. The purchase of mine was financed by Societe Genrale Bank, a Guardian lawyer cosigned for me. My salaries were paid into the bank while the money was deducted within the span of three years. Something interesting came out of that.   I didn’t know I had sustained an   injury in that accident that happened in 1986. Six months later, I started feeling very poorly. My late friend, Prof Tunde Cole-Onitiri said it was cervical spondylosis. He thought it was just part of aging but when an   x-ray was done, it was found out that a bone on my neck got chipped and was erupting against a nerve. When it got bad, my doctor said I should be allowed to travel out of Nigeria to have a rest because of my workload. Alex Ibru asked me to go Zimbabwe and rest at one of the two houses he bought there when the whites were running away. I actually changed my route at the airport and went to London where I spent two weeks.  

Buhari-Idiagbon regime

‘’Audu Ogbeh and others were arrested then by the Buhari-Idiagbon regime. They said he must prove how he bought a car without stealing. The government was dismissed in 1983 and they asked him to come and explain how he bought the car in 1985.   A warder was sent to the Guardian office with a letter addressed to Dr. Ogunbiyi. The letter was written by Audu Ogbeh. I thought he needed   some things and I took the decision of opening the letter. He wrote in the letter that security men were coming to question Ogunbiyi and he should tell them nothing but the truth. And after questioning   Yemi later, they released Audu Ogbeh. The truth is that none of us, including Wole Soyinka, could afford to buy a new car at that time. ‘’Wole Soyinka had not won the Nobel Price then, he was just a university Prof, who was managing himself with proceeds from his books. I am not saying that I am vouching for Ogbeh but there is a handful of people, who had been in public office, especially in the past, who never stole anything.

Today, we are worried about what to do to people who stole billions of dollars in Jonathan’s administration and some are saying that everybody is corrupt. That is wrong. Everybody is not corrupt. When the army overthrew the government of Nigeria in I966, they   said the Prime Minister who was among those killed was corrupt. But less than three days later when the banks opened, they found that the man had only 25 pounds in his bank account. That shows that not everyone who held office in the past was corrupt.’’  

Godliness and contentment

‘’In the old days, some people had plaques in their homes with inscriptions like ‘’Cleanliness is next to godliness.” But then there was also godliness and contentment. Compared to most people out there, you might say I am well to do. I have always been contented. That is why I am afraid that we shouldn’t have a revolution, because if such happens, a man, who has a commercial motorcycle might be killed by those who can’t afford it. If that should be the case, what then would now be the fate of those, who have cars.’’

On Lagos in the good old days

Explaining how Lagos made his stardom possible in the good old days, Smart-Cole, who is reputed to ‘’know   Lagos just like Lagos,’’ said: ‘’When Lagos was Lagos, if you drop a piece of paper on the floor and you are caught, you could be sentenced to six months in prison. A police officer from the rank of inspector upwards would administer the cane after putting a piece of cloth on the person’s buttocks. After then they will pour Izal (a brand of germicide) on the person’s buttocks. When the British were here, there was a punishment called Leave Township. It involves sending the offending person back to his village and holding the traditional ruler of the person’s town responsible if the person returns to Lagos. They also did that to prostitutes who have been arrested several times.  

Then the police obeyed the law because of honesty. There was a case when a policeman and his colleagues were sent to the scene of derailment in Offa. The man was busy searching pockets of the dead.   He was arrested by his colleagues, brought back to Lagos and tried. But he later escaped from jail only to join the Nigerian Army during the war. Things are bad but there was a time in this same town when taxi ran all night while nightclubs closed at 2pm.    

Mansions rotting away

On craze for properties among Nigerians, he said ‘’This is my first house. I had a parcel of land at Borno Way which I bought initially for N14 million. By the time I sold it seven years later, I got N45 million. I added N10 million to that amount to buy this place. That is how civilize people act. It is better than building mansions like some in Victoria Island that are currently rotting away because there is nobody to maintain them. This place belonged to the YABA Medical college, it was the first place where medical doctors were trained in Nigeria. Even the first Premier of Eastern Region, Dr. Micahel Okpara, was trained here. When Obasanjo started selling houses, he sold it to the last man, who lived here. He didn’t have money and had to get Briscoe properties to develop it after which we started buying.’’ Since Smart-Cole, who is widely travelled is synonymous with photography, describing his 75 years birthday as his 75th shot, is not really a bad idea.

As the trial of former aides of ex-First Lady, Patience Jonathan begins on Tuesday, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has placed its 13 witnesses in the case under security watch.

The witnesses, including a banker and the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) are expected to tell the court how four slush accounts were opened for the former First Lady.

The Nation newspaper reports that the accounts were opened by the ex-First Lady’s former Senior Special Assistant (Domestic/Household and Social Events to the former President), Dr. Dudafa Waripamo-Owei Emmanuel.

Dudafa and six others were last Thursday, September 15 arraigned before a Federal High Court in Lagos.

The others are a lawyer Amajuoyi Briggs, a banker, Adedamola Bolodeoku; Pluto Property and Investment Company Limited; Trans Ocean Property and Investment Company Limited; Globus Integrated Service Limited; and Seagate Property Development and Investment Limited.

A document attached to the charge sheet indicates that 12 witnesses, including an account officer, will tell the court how the current and VISA Platinum Credit Card ( USD) accounts were opened.

The document lists the accounts in Skye Bank Plc as follows: 1771420773 and 2110002238 ( Pluto Property and Investment and Company Limited); 1771420797 and 2110002245(Trans Ocean Property and Investment and Company Limited); 1771421299 0and 2110002269 (Globus Integrated Services Limited) and 1771420780and 2110002207 (Seagate Property Development and Investment Limited).

A source with the EFCC said: “We are set for the trial on how the slush accounts were opened for the former First Lady. We have filed a list of 13 witnesses along with our Proof of Evidence to show that we conducted due diligence.

“The Account Officer, who managed the slush funds, will tell the court the remittances into the accounts and how the ex-First Lady operated them. I think Nigerians have not heard the last on these slush accounts. This is not a case of witchhunt.

“We have also taken adequate measures to protect all the witnesses in order to enable them to testify against encumbrances. We know some of the witnesses have been under pressure but we will ensure their safety.

“It is imperative to protect these witnesses because we have availed the defence their names in line with the Administration of Criminal Justice Act. This may expose the witnesses to some risks which are being taking care of.”

The former First Lady is said to have sued the EFCC, demanding that her accounts be defrozen.

But the EFCC said: “We are still investigating her and she cannot operate all these accounts until she is able to give the details of the sources of funds remitted into the accounts,” the source said, adding: ”Our findings showed that the remittances were products of gratification. It is left for her to prove otherwise.

“Already, the team which investigated the case has declared that she has a case to answer. But we need to dig more before determining her fate.”

The report of the investigative team said in part: “Investigation so far carried out has revealed that the four VISA Platinum USD Card accounts used by Mrs. Patience Jonathan has a cumulative balance of $14,029.881.79 which has been swept Post No Debit Card category.

“Again, her personal account, different from the four VISA Platinum USD card accounts, bears the balance of $5,841,426.17.

“Considering the above stated findings, we can safely conclude that a prima facie case of conspiracy to retain proceeds of unlawful activities, retention of the proceeds of unlawful activities, money laundering, contrary to Section 15(3) and 18(a) of the Money Laundering ( Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012 and forgery contrary to Section 1(2) (c) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, Cap M17, Laws of the Federation, 2004 have been established against the aforementioned suspects.”

A Nigerian police unit, Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) set up to combat violent crime has instead been systematically torturing detainees in its custody as a means of extracting confessions and lucrative bribes, Amnesty International said in a report published on Wednesday.

In Nigeria, you have signed your death warrant, former detainees told Amnesty International as they had been subjected to horrific torture methods, including hanging, starvation, beatings, shootings and mock executions, at the hands of corrupt officers from the feared SARS.

“A police unit created to protect the people has instead become a danger to society, torturing its victims with complete impunity while fomenting a toxic climate of fear and corruption,” said Damian Ugwu, Amnesty International’s Nigeria researcher.

“Our research has uncovered a pattern of ruthless human rights violations where victims are arrested and tortured until they either make a ‘confession’ or pay officers a bribe to be released.”

Amnesty International has received reports from lawyers, human rights defenders and journalists and collected testimonies stating that some police officers in SARS regularly demand bribes, steal and extort money from criminal suspects and their families.

“SARS officers are getting rich through their brutality. In Nigeria, it seems that torture is a lucrative business,” said Damian Ugwu.

SARS detainees are held in a variety of locations, including a grim detention centre in Abuja known as the ‘Abattoir’, where Amnesty International found 130 detainees living in overcrowded cells.

Amnesty International’s research shows that, in addition to its stated remit of tackling violent crime, SARS investigates civil matters and in some cases tortures detainees involved in contractual, business and even non-criminal disputes.

In one case in Onitsha, Anambra state, a 25-year-old fuel attendant was arrested by SARS after his employer had accused him of being responsible for a burglary at their business premises.

He told Amnesty International: “The policemen asked me to sign a plain sheet. When I signed it, they told me I have signed my death warrant. They left me hanging on a suspended iron rod. My body ceased to function. I lost consciousness. When I was about to die they took me down and poured water on me to revive me.”

Like many people detained by SARS, he was not allowed access to a lawyer, a doctor or his family during his two-week detention.

Yet in various cases where victims of police torture or other ill-treatment attempted to seek justice, the authorities took no action.

When asked by Amnesty International to explain why no police officers had been suspended or prosecuted for torture, the police simply denied that any torture had taken place.

However, one senior officer disclosed that around 40 officers alleged to have carried out various acts of torture and ill-treatment of detainees were transferred to other stations in April 2016. He did not say whether the claims against them were being investigated.

“This lack of accountability breeds and perpetuates impunity, creating an environment where SARS officers believe they have carte blanche to carry out acts of torture,” said Damian Ugwu.

“This is hardly surprising when many of these officers have bribed their way to SARS in the first place. The police chiefs in charge are themselves entwined in the corruption.”

Chidi Oluchi, 32, told Amnesty international he was arrested in Enugu before being robbed of his belongings and then tortured in custody by SARS officers.

“They told me to slap myself and, when I refused, they started beating me with the side of their machetes and heavy sticks. My mouth was bleeding and my vision became blurred,” said Chidi, who was released after he paid SARS officers N25,500 ($100) to be freed.

Apart from demanding bribes, SARS officers have been accused of stealing or confiscating property from relatives of detained suspects.

Some family members told Amnesty International that SARS officers stole their cars or withdrew all the money from their bank accounts.

The brother of a man arrested on suspicion of participating in an armed robbery told Amnesty International how a team of SARS officers raided his home in Nsukka.

“The police team from SARS forcefully broke into boxes, locked furniture and drawers. By the time they left, several items including watches, jewellery and shoes were missing. We were too scared to report the incident,” he said.

The majority of the victims of torture in SARS custody are poor and unable to hire legal representatives. In some cases when detainees cannot afford to pay bribes, they are simply tortured more.

“Our research has exposed the callous workings of a police squad operating outside of the law and inflicting daily brutality on Nigerians who are often legally powerless to defend themselves against criminal accusations, let alone from the torture meted out by SARS,” said Damian Ugwu.

“Depressingly, there are scant judicial or any other mechanisms in place to prevent SARS officers from subjecting vulnerable targets to human rights violations for their own financial gain.”

Despite repeated calls from Amnesty International in recent years, the Nigerian justice system has failed to prevent or punish torture.

In December 2014, the Nigerian police launched a human rights manual which prohibits torture and other ill-treatment of detainees, but SARS has failed to implement it.

When a new Inspector General of Police was appointed in early 2015 it was announced that there would be reform and reorganization of SARS, but officers attached to the unit told Amnesty International they were not aware of the reforms.

A revised version of a bill to criminalize torture, which was first introduced in 2012 but was returned unsigned by the President, was passed by the House of Representatives in June 2016 and will be resubmitted to the Senate for further debates in 2016.

“With the Nigerian government’s previous attempts at stamping out torture proving completely ineffective, it is time for the authorities to ensure that officers responsible for such human rights violations are finally held accountable,” said Damian Ugwu.

“Police torture is a stain on Nigerian society that must be addressed with clear orders to law enforcement officers not to inflict torture or other ill-treatment on detainees under any circumstances.

“There is also an urgent need for robust legislation that ensures all acts of torture are offences under Nigeria’s criminal law. All victims have a right to reparations, and steps must be taken to ensure that nobody profits from abusing detainees.”

Nigeria is obligated under international and regional human rights law to ensure the prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment.

-Kazeem Ugbodaga

“We are on it (Patience’s $15,591,700). You see, we work for the long-term. We must complete our preliminary investigations before we come out. We will not spare anybody. We cannot protect anyone form answering to the people.

“Determination is key. I believe we will go a long way. Our tomorrow is better than our today.”

Magu said banks and their officials who helped in stealing public funds would soon face trial, adding that it was unfortunate that some banks created an enabling environment for looting.

“The banking sector is creating a fertile ground for corruption. It was as if the banks told the looters, go and steal and I will hide it for you. This must stop. We will zoom in on the banks. We need to stop them from creating an enabling environment for corruption to thrive,” he added.

The Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu, has said the agency is investigating a sum of $15,591,700, which Patience, wife of former president, Goodluck Jonathan, claimed belongs to her.

Magu said this in Lagos on Tuesday while fielding questions from journalists after an interactive session with the commission’s external lawyers and civil society organisations.

The EFCC chairman added that some banks in the country which allegedly helped in concealing stolen money in the country would soon face trial by the commission.

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, to use his offices as a defender of public interest to urgently institute and undertake criminal proceedings against Mrs Patience Jonathan over $15m unexplained wealth frozen in four companies’ accounts.

The organization asked Mr Malami to “take this step within 7 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter, failing which SERAP will institute legal proceedings to compel the discharge of constitutional duty in this matter.”

The letter dated 13 September, 2016 and signed by SERAP’S Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni argued that, “Mrs Jonathan is a politically exposed person under anti-corruption standards. She is also covered under the definition of ‘public officials’ contained in the UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party. Under article 2 of the convention, public officials include Mrs Jonathan or any other family members of the former President Goodluck Jonathan who exercised official duties while he was president.”

The letter reads in part: “According to article 2 “for the purpose of some specific measures contained in chapter II of this Convention, “public official” may mean any person who performs a public function or provides a public service.”

“Thus, article 2 makes it very clear that any person, such as Mrs Jonathan performing a public function, entrusted with a public task or to whom public functions have been assigned are public officials, regardless of whether they have been elected or appointed, paid or unpaid.”

“In this context, it is the character of the duties performed by Mrs Jonathan while her husband was president that is the overriding consideration as she held a position of trust by virtue of performing public functions or services. In addition, such public duties or services by her are expected to be performed in good faith.”

“Under article 20 of the convention, this government has an obligation to prosecute intentional illicit enrichment, that is, a significant increase in the assets of a public official that he or she cannot reasonably explain in relation to his or her lawful income.”

“The fact that the $15m found in the four accounts belong to Mrs Jonathan raises serious suspicion or at the very least a prima-facie case of unexplained wealth/illicit enrichment, and imposes an obligation on Mrs Jonathan to explain and justify the source(s) of the $15m.”

“In the event that she is not able to justify, explain or put forth evidence demonstrating the legitimate origin of the $15m, SERAP urges you to take immediate steps to forfeit the asset under appropriate legal proceedings, and to institute criminal prosecution for unexplained wealth in the matter.”

“Similarly, section 44 of the Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Act criminalises unexplained or illicit wealth and allows criminal penalties and forfeiture if in the course of an investigation there are reasonable grounds to believe that a corruption offence has been committed, that is, the failure to explain the origin of the $15m given present or past emoluments, and other relevant circumstances.”

“SERAP notes that Mrs Jonathan has admitted that the four accounts belong to her and that she is the sole signatory to these accounts. The four accounts in which Mrs Jonathan’s $15m was lodged are said to belong to the following companies: Pluto Property and Investment Company Limited, Seagate Property Development and Investment Company Limited, Trans Ocean Property and Investment Company Limited and Globus Integrated Service Limited. Mrs Jonathan was given a platinum card and exclusive access to the accounts.”

“According to reports, a houseboy, a driver and other domestic workers of a former Special Adviser on Domestic Affairs to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Waripamowei Dudafa, were named as directors.”

“Pursuing prosecution in this case would help to provide adequate reparation, which may take the form of restitution, compensation, satisfaction or guarantees of non-repetition to victims of corruption who continue to be denied their right to an effective remedy. It would also send a clear message that cases of unexplained wealth or illicit enrichment involving politically exposed persons would not go unpunished.”

“The use of the offence of illicit enrichment is necessary to any anti-corruption movement, and accepted instrument in the global fight against corruption. It would also enhance the government’s powers to monitor wealth and improve transparency and accountability within the public sector. SERAP considers this as a proportionate and measured response to the pernicious problem of corruption in the country. By combating an official’s unexplained material gains, illicit enrichment offenses make it clear to public officials that if they engage in corrupt conduct they would forfeit illegally acquired wealth and go to prison.”

Thursday, 15 September 2016 00:17

$15m Saga: Patience Jonathan to sue EFCC

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Nigeria’s anti-corruption agency has confirmed to the BBC that former first lady Patience Jonathan is taking the agency to court following an investigation into the four of her bank accounts.

But the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) refused to confirm whether it had blocked any of her funds.

A letter from her lawyers, published in several Nigerian newspapers on Wednesday alleged that $15m (£11.4m) was blocked in July – and that the money is for the former first lady to settle medical bills abroad.

Her lawyers, Granville Abibo (SAN) and Co, told the BBC the firm had written to the EFCC on her behalf but refused to give further information.

Muhammadu Buhari won elections last year, when he beat former President Goodluck Jonathan, promising to fight corruption.

Several top former military officers and politicians are currently being prosecuted for corruption.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016 00:18

Jonathan meets IBB, Abdulsalami in Minna

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FORMER President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday met separately with a former military dictator, Ibrahim Babangida, and a former military Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, at their Hilltop residences in Minna, the Niger State capital.

It was gathered that Jonathan arrived Babangida’s residence at about 11am and spent about one hour with his host before he left for Abubakar’s house situated right opposite IBB’s home.

Jonathan was accompanied to the two former Nigerian leaders by a former Minister of State for Finance, Bashir Yuguda, from Zamfara State and his former Chief of Staff, Chief Mike Oghiadome, from Edo State.

Babangida received Jonathan in his private living room as against the common visitors’ room located downstairs where he usually received ordinary visitors.The details of the discussions between the former Nigerian leaders were not made known to journalists.

But it was gathered that IBB and Jonathan held a closed-door meeting for about 50 minutes. While the meeting was going on, it was gathered that  Yuguda and Oghiadome were left at the living room downstairs.

Sources hinted that despite the fact that the details of the meeting with IBB was not disclosed,  the discussion might not be unconnected with the President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption war and how it had been affecting Jonathan’s relations, particularly his wife, Patience.

Unconfirmed sources added that the meeting might have discussed the postponed Edo State governorship election, the 2019 general election as well as the state of affairs in the People Democratic Party.

It was also learnt that the duo of IBB and Abdulsalami in the separate meetings with Jonathan raised concern over the spate of bombings going on in the Niger Delta by the Niger Delta Avengers and the need to stop the trend.

It was observed that while the meeting lasted at both residences of the two former leaders, visitors were not allowed into the houses.

Jonathan left Minna at about 1pm.

Governor Nasir el-Rufai of  Kaduna State on Monday said the Federal Government had been notified about the earth tremor that rocked Kwoi  in  Jaba Local Government  Area of the state on Sunday.

He also called on residents of the state to remain calm following reports of earth tremor in the state that caused panic and confusion among the people of the area.

 It was gathered that on July 30, 2016, Hayin Magani in Ikara Local Government Area of the state  was rattled by earth tremor which destroyed some homes and injured some people.

The Chairman, Caretaker Committee of the LGA, Mr. Ben Kure, confirmed the development, saying that the first one happened around 10.30am on Sunday.

 He  had said, “I was in the church around 10.30am when the whole town shook. It lasted for about three to five seconds. I came out of the church and we inspected the town and there was no damage to any building and no one was injured.

 “Two hours later, while I was driving to Kaduna, a palace official called to inform me that there was another one that took place. When I inquired, he said that there was no damage.”

 Worried by the development, El-Rufai said a formal report had been made  to the appropriate Federal Government’s agencies to investigate the development, report precisely on the event and issue an appropriate guidance.

 The governor’s Special Assistant on  Media and Publicity,  Samuel Aruwan, said in a statement that his principal  had notified the geological and emergency agencies for necessary actions.

 Besides, while sympathising with the people of Kwoi, el-Rufai directed the State Emergency Agency to, as a matter of urgency, mobilise to the area immediately.

 The statement read in part,“The governor sympathises with the people in the Kwoi area over the reported earth tremors. He has directed the State Emergency management Agency to mobilise to the area and comfort our citizens. The national geological agency has also been notified, and has been invited to investigate the tremors in the Kwoi area and provide an appropriate guidance.

“The Kaduna State Government is receiving updates from the area. Relevant government agencies have been directed to take steps to comfort the residents of Kwoi area and to allay their fears as they come to terms with an unusual event.

“The Kaduna State Government wishes to appeal for calm, and urges everyone not to spread unverified information, or create panic.”

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has finally announced the postponement of the Sept. 10 governorship election in Edo by two weeks.

Mr Solomon Soyebi, INEC national Commissioner in-charge of voter education and publicity, made the disclosure at a press conference at INEC’s office in Benin on Thursday.

Soyebi said the election would now hold on Sept. 28.

He attributed the postponement to alleged security threat as reported by the security agencies

Wednesday, 07 September 2016 21:06

Edo governorship election must go on-INEC

Written by

The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, on Wednesday said would not postpone Saturday’s governorship election in Edo State for the West African Senior School Certificate Examination scheduled to hold on the same day.

The National Chairman of the commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, disclosed this during a stakeholders’ meeting held in Benin, Edo, South-South Nigeria.

Punch reports that a total of 1,742 candidates are expected to sit Mathematics 1 and 2 papers on September 10, a development which sparked a protest by some of the affected candidates and parents on Monday.

There had also been calls for the postponement of the poll to a later date to allow the students exercise their rights to vote.

But the national commissioner, who spoke through the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Sam Olumekun, said INEC had given adequate notification on the date for the election prior to the date fixed for the examinations.

“It is important to draw your attention to the fact that INEC gave notice of this election on March 2, 2016. There was no registration for WASSCE candidates as of that time.”

He stated that the commission had held a robust discussion with the examination body and security agencies on the issue, where it was agreed that the examination should be moved to Ondo and Delta states, as holding it simultaneously might create security challenges.

According to him, “The issue is, basically, security. So, the security agencies advised WAEC accordingly that giving room for people to move around may pose some challenges because many people will cash in on the situation.

“Permit me to remind you also that there are about 1.9 million registered voters ‎in Edo State, whose interest also should be taken care of. At the end of that meeting, we agreed that the exams be shifted outside Edo State to places that are nearby.”

“Indeed, WAEC had even concluded arrangements to do this. It suggested Ore, Agbor and one other place. Yes, there might be some inconveniences for the students to travel outside Edo State; but, of course, it is not too much pain to bear if you have your state at heart.”

“I do not think we need to suspend an election because WAEC is going to conduct GCE. It is not SSCE but GCE for those who did not do well in the past exams‎.”

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