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Court remands Suswam’s e-aide, others in prison over alleged diversion of N16.6bn SURE-P, LG funds

The Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday remanded in Suleja Prison, Niger State, a former aide to former Governor Gabriel Suswam of Benue State and two other officials of the state for allegedly diverting fraudulently Benue State’s N16.6bn.

The Attorney-General of the Federation’s office, which filed nine counts against the defendants, alleged that the three men diverted the sum of N16.6bn from Benue State’s bank accounts, dedicated for the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme and the Joint Allocation Account for Local Government funds.

The money was allegedly diverted by the defendants between June 27, 2011 and May 29, 2015, the day Suswam completed his second term in office.

The first defendant is a former Special Adviser to the ex-governor on Bureau of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Solomon Wombo.

Wombo doubled as the Chairman, Joint Allocation Account for Local Government Committee in the state.

The second is a former Permanent Secretary of the Bureau of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs and Secretary, Asen Sambe, who served as the Secretary to the Joint Account Allocation for Local Government Committee.

The third defendant is a former Director of Accounts and Finance in the state’s Bureau of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs and Secretary, Isiah Ipevnor.

Justice Nnamdi Dimgba ordered that the three men be remanded in Suleja prison pending when they would meet the bail conditions imposed on them shortly after they pleaded not guilty to the nine counts on Monday.

After the arraignment on Monday, the lead prosecuting counsel, Mr. Aminu Alilu, urged the court to remand the defendants in prison pending the hearing and determination of their bail applications and their trial.

But noting that the alleged offences were bailable, Justice Dimgba directed both the prosecution and the defence teams to meet, agree and propose the terms and condition of the bail the court could impose on the defendants, other to save time.

After a short meeting outside the court room between the prosecution led by Alilu and the defence team led by Mr. Innocent Daa’gba, a set of bail conditions and terms were presented to the court.
Justice Dimgba accepted the conditions but made some alterations including imposition of an additional surety instead on one for each of the defendants as suggested by the two parties.

The judge also imposed another condition that one of the two sureties to be presented by each of the defendants must have a house in Abuja worth the N100m bail sum to be imposed by the court.

Generally, the court granted bail to the defendants in the sum of N100m each with two sureties in like sum.

The judge ruled that one of the sureties should be a civil servant not lower than Assistant Director in any state of federal ministry or other government establishment.
He ruled that the other surety could be a private businessman or woman who owned a property in the municipal area of Abuja with worth sufficient to cover the N100m bail sum.

The civil servant to be presented by each of th defendants must also present to the court their, first letters of appointment, last promotion letters, and their staff identity cards or driver’s licences.

The court also directed that the defendants must deposit with the court their passports and other traveling documents.

The judge ordered that the defendants mustt not travel outside the country without an express permission of the court sought through a motion on notice that must be serve on the defence.
But despite the defence lawyer’s appeal that the defendants be remanded in police custody pending when they would be able to fulfill the bail conditions, Justice Dimgba ordered them to be remanded in prison.

Meanwhile, before the parties went into the meeting on the bail conditions, on Monday the prosecuting counsel, Alilu, informed the judge that the case ought to be filed in the division of the Federal High Cour in Makurdi, Benue State, where the alleged offences were committed, but for the prevailing insecurity in the state when the case was filed on August 1, 2017.

He conceded that the security condition in the state had improved considerably since then.

But Alilu, who said all the defendants, the witnesses and members of both the prosecuting and defence teams were all resident in Abuja, urged the court to assume jurisdiction and continue the trial.

He also cited the provisions of section 102(1)(c) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, to back his prayer.

The defence counsel, Daa’gba, agreed with the prosecution’s prayer that the court should assume jurisdiction to continue to hear the case.

In addition to section 102()(c) of ACJA cited by the prosecution, Daa’agba also referred the court to the provisions of section 385 and 386 of the same law.
But in response, Justice Dimgba asked parties to the case to go back to reflect on the issue, noting that it was possible that the case could be more speedily determined in Makurdi where there were far less number of such high profile corruption cases than they were in Abuja.

The judge then adjourned until December 18.

The total sum of N16,604,314,604.01 allegedly diverted by the defendants was said to be owned by the 23 Local Government Councils of Benue State.

Out of the N16.6bn, the defendants allegedly, between June 15, 2012 and May 29, 2015, diverted N7,032,333,506.28 from the state’s “SURE-P Local Government component” bank account into the account of Benue State Local Government Joint Account with the aim of concealing the money and for their own personal benefits.

The defendants were also said to have, between June 27, 2011 and May 29, 2015, diverted the sum of N5,342,028,098.73 paid into the state Local Government Joint Account by the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation of the state.

They were also said to have between, June 15, 2012 and May 29, 2015 diverted another sum of N4,230,953,000 from the state’s Local Government Joint Account into the Benue State Association of Local Government of Nigeria “with the aim of concealing the money being property derived directly from corruption”.

The prosecution accused the three defendants of diverting the sum of N16.6bn in violation of various provisions of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011, and the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act.

The AGF office accused the defendants of “conspiracy to transfer property derived directly from corruption contrary to Section 18 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 and punishable under Section 15 of the same Act.

The defendants were also accused of “transfer of property derived directly from corruption contrary to Section 15(1)(a)(ii) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 and punishable under the same Section of the Act”.

They also face charges of “conversion of property derived directly from corruption contrary to Section 15(1)|a)(ii) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 and punishable under the same Section of the Act.”

They are also charged with offences of “obtaining by false pretence contrary to Section 1 of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act, Cap A6 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 and punishable under the same section of the Act”.

The charges read in part, “That you Solomon Wombo (m), former Special Adviser to former Governor Gabriel Suswam on Bureau of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs and Chairman, Joint Account Allocation for Local Government Committee of 30 Spring Road Sun-city Estate, Abuja; Asen Sambe (m), former Permanent Secretary of the Bureau of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs and Secretary, Joint Account Allocation for Local Government Committee of No 1 Kungo Sambe Street, Judges Quarters Makurdi; and Isaiah Ipevnor (m), former Director of Accounts and Finance of BNA 1305, Off Abu Shuluwa Road, Makurdi, Benue State, between June 15, 2012 and May 29, 2015 at Makurdi, Benue State, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, did transfer a total sum of about Seven Billion thirty two million, three hundred and thirty-five thousand, five hundred and six naira, twenty-eight kobo (N7,032,333,506.28), from Benue State Sure-P Local Government Component Account number 0760175012 domiciled with the First City Monument Bank (FCMB) into Benue State Local Government Joint Account number 2017241513 domiciled 1with the First Bank of Nigeria the aim of concealing the money, being property derived directly from corruption.

“That you Solomon Wombo (m), former Special Adviser to former Governor Gabriel Suswam on Bureau of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs and Chairman, Joint Account Allocation for Local Government Committee of 30 Spring Road Sun-city Estate, Abuja; Asen Sambe (m), former Permanent Secretary of the Bureau of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs and Secretary, Joint Account Allocation for Local Government Committee of No 1 Kungo Sambe Street, Judges Quarters Makurdi; and Isaiah Ipevnor (m), former Director of Accounts and Finance of BNA 1305, Off Abu Shuluwa Road, Makurdi, Benue State, between June 27, 2011 and May 29, 2015 at Makurdi, Benue State, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, did covert a total sum of about five billion three hundred and forty-two million, twenty-eight naira and seventy-three kobo (N5,342,028,098.73) meant for the twenty-three (23) Benue State Local Government Councils paid by the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation into the Benue State Local Government Joint Account number 2017241513 domiciled with the First Bank of Nigeria, which you withdrew in cash With the aim of concealing the money, being property derived directly from corruption.”


Illegal demolition: Suleja shop owners sue local govt

Shop owners at the Old Minna Garage have sued the chairman and Suleja Local Government of Niger State over the alleged illegal demolition of their shops.

The fundamental rights application was filed on November 11 by their lawyer and human rights activist, Frank Tietie before a Niger State High Court in Suleja.The shop owners and occupants of Old Minna Garage, Suleja, Niger State, who are represented by: Hezekiah Bola Joshua, Onuora Ezekwesili, Paulinus Ojobe, Iyabode Joseph, Gerald Ego and Ejike Onyekwere, wants the court to issue an injunction restraining the council from further demolition of any shop “without proper acquisition procedure.”

In an affidavit attached to the origination motion, Joshua stated that they were allotted the shops at sums ranging from N600, 000 to N1m with approvals, which are subject to renewal every three years with recent expiring by August 2018

He further averred that the applicants “renovated, decked the shops in line with the modern plan required and provided security measures, safety gadgets against fire accidents, toilets, bathrooms, access roads, parking space, electricity and warehouses all with the consent of the respondents.”

Besides, Joshua stated that the demolition exercise, which was carried out without legal procedure hazardously left their equipment in the open space. They include: heavy duty printing machines like cutting machines, laminating machines, cord machines and various G.T.O machines and Mortlate machine equipment, motors and spare parts of various aspect.

No date has been fixed for hearing.


SERAP asks CCB, ICPC to probe Okorocha over ‘N1bn statues of Zuma, Johnson-Sirleaf’

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, (SERAP) has asked Dr Muhammad Isah Acting Chairman of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) and Professor Bolaji Owasanoye Acting Chairman of Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to “jointly investigate allegations of incompatibility and/or apparent conflict of interest situation, and abuse of office involving Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State in connection with the exercise of his public functions and leadership of the Rochas Okorocha Foundation, and to collaborate with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in any such investigation.”

The organization said that “Such investigation would help to improve public confidence in public authorities, and minimize the risks of bad government by public officials.”In the petition dated 10 November 2017 and signed by SERAP executive director Adetokunbo Mumuni the organization expressed “serious concern that Governor Okorocha may have spent over N1 billion of public funds to build statues of South African President Jacob Zuma and Liberian President Mrs Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.”

According to the organization, “the spending on statues and apparent misuse of public resources may have violated constitutional provisions and international standards on code of conduct for public officers. The initiatives cannot be justified under any circumstances whatsoever, especially at a time when Imo state is unable or unwilling to pay teachers’ salaries and pensioners’ entitlements.”

The petition copied to Ibrahim Magu Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) read in part: “Inviting Zuma and Johnson-Sirleaf to attend the opening of his Foundation and then ‘honouring’ them with statues suggests abuse of office and apparent conflict of interest situation, as such acts were undertaken by Governor Okorocha in the exercise of his public functions to presumably promote and advance the commercial and other interests of the Foundation.”

“SERAP believes that rather than serving the common interest of the public, spending over N1 billion possibly of public funds on Zuma and Johnson-Sirleaf in the context of their participation in the opening of the Rochas Okorocha Foundation would seem to put Governor Okorocha in a conflict of interest situation.”
“SERAP notes that the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended) and UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party prohibit conflict of interests and set ethical standards for public officers. Indeed, both the Constitution and the Convention require public officers to abstain from all acts that may compromise the exercise of their public office and functions, or are inconsistent with their entrusted positions.”

“Public officers also must discharge their public duties truthfully and faithfully, abide by the constitutional code of conduct, observe the primacy of public interest, and not allow their personal interest to influence their official conduct.”

“The CCB and ICPC should carry out joint investigation in collaboration with the EFCC of the allegations of conflict of interest, abuse of office and apparent misuse of public funds by Governor Okorocha. SERAP also urges the CCB and ICPC to prosecute Governor Okorocha after leaving office if there is relevant and sufficient admissible evidence of abuse of public office against him.”

“Conflict of interest represents a situation where the person exercising a public function has a personal interest of patrimonial or commercial nature, which could influence the objective fulfilment of the duties incumbent on public officers under the Constitution and international standards.”

“Conflict of interest arises from a situation in which a public official has a private interest which is such as to influence or appear to influence the impartial and objective nature of his or her official duties in order to promote private interests, which would be contrary to the public interest.”

“According to reports, Governor Okorocha recently hosted two African presidents—South African President Jacob Zuma and Liberian President Mrs Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and built statues in Owerri to ‘honour’ them. The statues reportedly cost over N1 billion to build. Further, a Memorandum of Understanding between the Zuma Foundation and the Rochas Foundation was signed, while Mrs Johnson-Sirleaf visited the newly established Rochas Foundation College of Africa (ROFOCA).”


Status Of The Legal Profession Regulation Bill At The National Assembly

The Legal profession Regulation Bill which is known as A Bill for an Act to repeal the Legal Practitioners Act Cap C11 LFN 2004 and all amendments thereto; Legal Education (Consolidation etc,) Act Cap. L10 LFN 2004 and enact the Legal Profession Regulation Act which shall regulate the legal profession is currently having a smooth passage before both Houses of the National Assembly.

The Bill sponsored by Sen. Godwill Akpabio of the People’s Democratic Party in the Senate was first introduced at the Upper House on the 9th of March, 2017 when the first reading of the bill was made. The second reading of the bill before the Upper House was done on the 1st of November, 2017 which shows a space of almost seven (7) months before the second reading. Informations gathered by TheNigerialawyer shows that the bill is currently at the Committee Stage awaiting the Committee’s report, which is but only the third step in the passage-process of the Bill.

The Bill has however only passed through its first reading on the 28th of September, 2017 before the lower chamber being the House of Representatives. This invariably shows that the said soon to be Act still has a long process to undergo before it is eventually made law and as such, the likelihood of the bill commencing on the 1st of December, 2017 as stated in the draft bill dwells only in an obvious skepticism. Thus, this puts doubts in the minds of as many who think the Bill will begin legal operation anytime soon, as the legal document seems to be undergoing the incubation process in all ramifications. Considering how long bills take to be made law, it is believed that this piece of supposed legislation will not become legally binding anytime soon.

TheNigerialawyer recalls that the Long title as stated shows that if eventually passed, the Legal Practitioners Act as well the Legal Education (Consolidation etc,) Act Cap. L10 LFN 2004 will be fused into one Act known as the Legal Profession Regulation Act.

TheNigerialawyer also recalls that the Bill seeks the establishment of a council to be known as the LEGAL PROFESSION REGULATION COUNCIL OF NIGERIA as well as the Establishment of a Secretariat for the Legal Profession Regulation Council of Nigeria. The Council is intended to regulate the legal profession in the overall interest of the public and to achieve the regulatory objectives and professional principles set out under the Act; to regulate such other persons other to whom legal practitioners may delegate some of their duties, to issue Call to bar certificates amongst others.

Apart from judges, the Council is to include a Young Lawyer, women’s representatives from FIDA, three lay persons appointed by an Appointment Panel from the Institute of Directors, Nigeria; and the Nigerian Medical Association amongst others.

The bill intends to establish other committees such as the legal services, ethics and standards committee, the remuneration and welfare committee, legal aid and pro bono committee, education and training committee, young lawyers and career committee, amongst others. Quite interesting is the fact that the law seeks to make the body of benchers a committee of the council.

Part IV of the bill deals with the constitution and functions of the Nigerian law School which is an institution of the Council of Legal Education. The bill as well deals with the remuneration of legal practitioners with respect of scale of charges as well as the application for taxation of charges and other matters directly dealing on the above repealing and fusion. The bill is divided into several parts with a transitional and savings.

With the Current status of the Bill before the Lower House, it is glaring that the Bill has five steps to undertake before it will eventual metamorphose into an Act of the National assembly.



A brief background of death penalty in Nigeria was given, the LEDAP representative, Pamela, pointed out that the Supreme Court declared in Onuoha Kalu vs The State and Azeez Okoro vs The State (1998) held that death penalty is not unconstitutional in Nigeria. Therefore, death penalty has been imposed for crimes that do not involve intentional killing, and therefore do not meet the threshold of “most serious crimes”, as prescribed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Pamela noted that Six persons were executed in Edo State of Nigeria, in 2013 and 2016, Just recently (9 June 2017), the National Economic Council (NEC) advised State governors to sign execution warrants for death row inmates in order to decongest the prisons, notwithstanding that Seventy percent (70%) of the current prison population in Nigeria is comprised of persons awaiting trial and not death row inmates.


Pamela highlighted the several injustices faced by the indigent persons in Nigeria as against the affluent as follows:

Corruption — She stressed that the Nigeria police force is riddled with corruption and they are usually the first institution, a criminal suspect meets.  The Nigerian police force is overstretched and under resourced to deal with the high incidence of crimes across Nigeria, therefore officers rely heavily on supposed confessions to solve crimes, “rather than investigate crimes. The police commonly roundup random citizens in public places, including mass arrests at restaurants, markets, and bus stops. Those who fail to pay are often threatened and unlawfully detained, and at times tortured, killed in police custody or charged to court for the offence of armed robbery. Sadly, many crimes go un-investigated by the police were influential persons including government officials are fingered as suspects. These influential criminal suspects with money can simply bribe the police to avoid arrest, detention, or prosecution, to influence the outcome of a criminal investigation, or to turn the investigation against the victim.

Effectiveness of legal counsel — For the indigent persons, once their case proceeds to trial, the indigent accused person struggles to exercise the right to adequate representation. Over the years, lawyers assigned by the state/ court to indigent defendants are less effective than the legal counsel that more affluent defendants can hire. These state-appointed attorneys may be less experienced, non-zealous, underpaid, overworked and may have no time to collate mitigating evidence to tell the stories of their clients The rich and influential people have enough resources to hire the zealous and effective lawyers to represent them in court. If he is highly connected, he can even get the Attorney –general to enter nolle prosequi on his behalf.


High costs associated with Litigation-  At the court, the  indigent accused will  have to battle with the several unofficial fees which will be paid to the court registrars for different purposes, such as   moving of files from the magistrate court to the high court or for locating missing files and also paying for compilations of record of proceedings. The accused is faced with the challenge of getting a zealous lawyer to represent him at appeal court. Whereas the influential/rich people can easily provide such funds and even more.



Illiteracy – Indigent persons often lack the basic education that would enable them understand the proceedings at the police stations. These police officers take advantage of that to abuse, torture them to sign “’statement” which was never read or explained to them. The judges on trial will accept the said “confessional statement and proceed to convict them.


Conditions on death row- The conditions of detention on death row often depend on the financial resources of the convicted person. In Nigeria, the indigent prisoners may have difficulty accessing good food or to be considered for pardon by the state.


In conclusion, Pamela stated that Nigeria should expunge without equivocation the death sentence from its laws and in practice. The Nigerian Government should pass a law on moratorium on executions and commute all death sentence to life imprisonment or term of years. It is wrong for the State to carry out capital punishment in the name of justice.  She recommended the following;


The Government should focus on the social and economic origins of crimes such as poverty which engenders violence. Nigerian Government should ensure basic amenities and jobs opportunities are provided for the citizens.

The Nigerian government has to make concrete efforts towards implementing the ACJA and also enhance the capacity of the police officers.


There were other presenters that also shared their country’s situation.


Jean JACQUES from Pax Christi Uvira (Republic of Congo)


Salomon Nodjitoloum from ACAT (Chad,) (Their presentation was in French)


The side event was moderated by Nora Nodjitoloum from Reprieve UK.

Reps want death of 26 Nigerian migrants probed

THE House of Representatives on Thursday called for a probe into the death of 26 Nigerian girls believed to have died en route Mediterranean sea to Italy.


The House directed its committee on Foreign Affairs and Human rights to liaise with the federal ministry of foreign affairs to unearth the cause of their death and report back to the House.

A report had it that their bodies were recovered from a Spanish warship in the Italian coastal city of Salerno.

Reps probe alleged killing of 97 Nigerians by Cameroonian Gendarmes

The House Leader, Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila in a motion of urgent public importance said that it was curious that the 26 girls found dead were Nigerians.

The House leader while calling for a probe into the death of the girls said that they were within the age range of 18 and 24.

According to Honourable Gbajabiamila, there are allegations that the girls were murdered, while others alleged that the girls were being trafficked to Italy.

Contributing to the motion, the House committee chairman on Youth Development, Honorable Segun Adekola said that, everyday people are dying at the Mediterranean sea, saying that, it was high time we do something to ameliorate the sufferings of our youths.

He added that “Nigerian government should do something for our youths to be gainfully employed. There is no better place like Nigeria”.

Both Honourable Beni Lar and Betty Appiafi advised that emergency funding for the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) in the 2018 budget to enable the agency to carry out any emergency assignment anytime the need arises.

The motion scaled through when it was put to a voice vote by the Speaker, Honourable Yakubu Dogara.


National Assembly investigates 26 girls’ death in Spanish warship

Lawmakers lament harsh living condition of citizens

The National Assembly has resolved to investigate the death of 26 young Nigerian girls found in a Spanish warship on the Mediterranean en route Italy.The decision was taken yesterday in the Senate following a motion titled “Death of 26 young Nigerian girls en route Italy” sponsored by Rose Oko.In her lead debate on the motion, Oko said the concern was not only about the ages of the dead girls, which range from 14 to 18 years, but that they were said to have been sexually abused and eventually murdered.

The lawmaker noted that the rate of illegal migration of young boys and girls to Europe, especially to Italy and Spain, in search of fake greener pastures is high. “These journeys are through the long and hazardous Sahara desert and the Mediterranean sea. They run into the hands of bandits, and are abused and raped as they move through the perilous sea waves often in rickety rubber boats,” she said.

The lawmaker said that about 10,000 Nigerians perished along the Sahara desert-Libya-Mediterranean sea route in May this year. According to her, Italian prosecutors who have begun an investigation into the recent deaths have arrested an Egyptian and a Libyan as suspects.

Other legislators who made contributions listed the factors that led to the national tragedy as poverty, economic instability, hardship, drug trafficking and unemployment across the country. They called on the presidency to declare a state of emergency on the employment market in the country and proffer options on how to engage the teeming unemployed youths.

Also, the House of Representatives yesterday mandated its committees on Foreign Affairs and Human Rights to investigate the death of the girls and suggest measures aimed at forestalling recurrence.Their concern followed a motion by the Leader of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, who said he was concerned with the circumstances that surrounded the death of the girls.

In the motion, Gbajabiamila said the news that filtered in indicated that there were over 50 persons that were travelling in the boat. He queried what could have led to the tragic loss of the lives of the 26 Nigerians.He said: “You are all aware that just a few days ago, 26 bodies were found. News filtered in that they were Nigerians. We were made to understand that there were about 70 persons but 26 died, and they were Nigerians.

“We need to investigate it with the Foreign Affairs Ministry, with the human rights groups to know what happened and report back to this House so that we can avert a future occurrence.”Many members of the House took turns to ventilate their worry on the possible cause and circumstances of the deaths.

Agidade Fijabi (Oyo State), Beni Lar (Plateau State) and Betty Apiafi (PDP, Rivers) spoke on the matter. Segun Adekola (PDP, Ekiti) lamented the harsh living conditions that usually make Nigerian youths to seek greener pastures abroad in the midst of deadly challenges, urging the House and the government to create jobs for them to prevent people from taking avoidable risks.

Onyemaechi Mrakpo (PDP, Delta) reminded the House that the government is supposed to save the youths whom he said are the leaders of tomorrow.“Each time we have painful deaths like this, it brings to mind how we have failed. The death of our youths that are supposed to be leaders of tomorrow is terrible. When you get up in the morning and there is nothing to do or eat, what would you expect? I think as a country, we should look seriously into their issues,” she said.

When eventually the motion was subjected to a voice vote by Speaker Yakubu Dogara, it got an overwhelming majority.Dogara then mandated the two House committees to liaise with the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Libyan government to investigate the tragic occurrence.