Saturday, August 30, 2014

This Week in Nigeria: Pension Scam Suspect Claims He Bribed Senate Committee

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Photograph by Wayan Vota.

This Week: News

Pension scam suspect claims he bribed senate committee

Sani Shu’aibu Teidi, one of the suspects accused of stealing N32.8 billion ($200 million) from Nigeria’s pension fund, has claimed that he, alongside other suspects, bribed the leadership of the senate committee in the hope of avoiding prosecution. Sani Shu’aibu Teidi alleged that bribes totalling N3 billion ($20 million) were given to members of the committee and named Farida Waziri, former head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as one of the beneficiaries of the scam. Teidi said he felt “betrayed” by the senate committee and promised to make public all information on the collusion.

University renamed to honour Moshood Abiola

To mark the 13th anniversary of Nigeria‘s return to democracy, President Goodluck Jonathan renamed the University of Lagos, ‘Moshood Abiola University’. The late Moshood Abiola won Nigeria’s 1993 presidential elections, which were later annulled by the then military head-of-state Ibrahim Babangida. Abiola’s subsequent incarceration and death are seen by many as having been a catalyst for the emergence of the Olusegun Obasanjo civilian government in 1999. Not all agree with the changing of the university’s name, however, and students took to the streets holding placards saying “Reverse or Resign, UNILAG can't be called MAU!”.

Ayorinde appointed to chair Legal Aid Council

Bolaji Ayorinde has been appointed by President Goodluck Jonathan to be the new chairman of the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria. The council is empowered to handle civil and fundamental rights cases as well as criminal cases for less privileged people. Chief Ayorinde, a former chairman of the Governing Council of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology and of the Committee for the Decongestion of Prisons in Oyo State, will serve a four year term in office.

Osun State secures multi-billion naira loan for road-building

Osun State government has secured a loan worth around N13.5 billion ($90 million) from the World Bank for the construction of 500 kilometres of rural access roads. Kunle Oyatomi, Director of Publicity, Research and Strategy for the Action Congress of Nigeria, said that the project was to be assisted by the bank in conjunction with the French Development Agency and claimed it was the first of its kind in Nigeria. The scheme comes on the heels of ongoing large-scale agricultural development projects being undertaken by the Osun Rural Enterprise and Agricultural Programme.

Central Bank top officials kick out against political scrutiny proposal

Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Adamu Ciroma, a former CBN Governor, and, Green Nwankwo, a former Executive Director of the CBN, have all criticised the Senate’s proposed CBN amendment act 2012. The act seeks to compel the CBN to submit their annual budget to the national assembly for scrutiny. Sanusi explained that this would remove the bank’s autonomy and lead to political interference. He said: “The global trend for efficient and effective central banking is a truly independent central bank with both operational and financial independence”.

This Week: Politics

Yesterday saw celebrations in various parts of Nigeria to mark the 13th anniversary of Nigeria's return to civilian rule. But this is also an opportunity for reflection, when Nigerians can try to assess the benefits Nigeria has gained from democracy since the demise of General Sani Abacha on June 8, 1998. Abacha’s death opened the door for the return of the democratic principles last seen in the second republic (1979-1983). By the time Abacha passed away, Nigerians had grown accustomed to the overbearing and authoritarian attitudes of military regimes, and the handover by General Abdulsalami Abubakar to the civilian government of Olusegun Obasanjo signalled a new chapter in Nigeria’s story. Some might not be happy with the country’s economic, social and political progress, yet I am proud and happy that Nigeria has managed to keep the military at bay for the longest period in our history so far. It is true that Nigeria has a lot still to achieve, but yesterday was about celebrating the progress Nigeria has made over the past 13 years.

The names now being bandied around regarding the pensions scandal have not been surprising. Collusion between senate committees and various corruption investigations is often an open secret. It seems like there is a band of thieves whose sole purpose is to get what they can from Nigeria. There is no doubt that there are many legitimately-elected senators and house representatives who have the best intentions of Nigeria at heart, but at the same time it seems that far too many are somehow involved.

The N32 billion ($200 million) that was stolen by the pension fund directors deprived the retired members of the Nigerian community of what was rightfully theirs. Those in positions of authority did not skim money off the top of pension funds unnoticed – their corruption could very likely have contributed to the premature deaths of pensioners. It is common to hear stories of poor pensioners passing away as they wait week after week to receive desperately needed money they will not see. Those on trial are not just guilty of corruption therefore, but indirectly also of manslaughter. Once again, however, we will just have to wait and see if our judiciary delivers real justice.

Writers of the week:

No Place Like Home – Rashidi Yekini’ is an interview conducted by Johnson Ayantunji for Tell newspaper in 2003. The interview offers an insight into the thoughts of the top-scoring footballer for Nigeria’s national team. His premature demise this month was met with disbelief. When he was alive, the interview shows, Yekini didn’t want to live anywhere but home.

Nigeria: Can North Survive Without the South?’ by Clifford Ndujihe examines the ideas around a unified Nigeria in the context of north-south divisions. Ndujihe approaches the issue from various angles including the relevance of oil wealth and its distribution, education, and rampant poverty as well as political power. The article adds to the growing discourse on the subject and offers an informed analysis of a difficult situation.

Website of the week:

ipaidabribenaija.com is an online initiative focused on the reporting of bribes and corrupt practices in Nigeria. You can report on the nature, number, date, pattern, type, location, and frequency of corrupt acts. The site also has a section dedicated to the latest news stories and creates a platform for discourse on how to rid Nigeria of the scourge of corruption.

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