• Says no one can remove Magu
• US Transparency Bill to expose illicit funds from Nigeria, others
By John Shiklam in Kaduna and Paul Obi in Abuja with agency report
Acting President Yemi Osinbajo has said that the federal government will soon come out with policies to address the clamour by Nigerians for restructuring of the country.
Osinbajo made the disclosure at the presentation and launch of a book titled: “Nigeria: The Restructuring Controversy,” in Abuja Thursday.
Osinbajo, who was represented by his Special Adviser on Political Matters, Babafemi Ojudu, said the debate for the restructuring of the country by Nigerians had been noted by the government.
“We are looking at all contributions made by Nigerians across the country. Very soon we will come out with policies to address the call for the restructuring of the country.
“We are watching and looking and taking notes. The beauty of Nigeria is that we don’t take up our guns to fight, we love to talk, we love to debate, and this is what we know,” he said.
He recalled that even though tension was high during June 12 crisis, “Nigerians never took their guns to fight”.
“It is a beautiful thing that we are looking at the issue of restructuring, but what we are against is to rise up and take up guns against other persons.
“But what we can assure you is that we are all looking at the contributions being made across the country, whether, from the North, South-south, South-east, North-central and South-west, the government of President Muhammadu Buhari is taking notes of all the contributions.
“Very soon we are going to come out with policies that will take care of some of the issues around restructuring,” Osinbajo stated.
While citing South Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria as countries that sought for separation that eventually plunged their nations into endless warfare, Osinbajo asked Nigerians to discard agendas that promote division and separation and focus on the unity of the country, as the federal government was already making plans to prioritise the issue of restructuring.
The acting president warned that the federal government would not tolerate any act capable of causing disaffection among the various ethnic groups in the country.
He urged Nigerians to be committed and loyal to the cause of the country, stressing that separation was not the answer to the country’s challenges.
“It is in our interest as a nation to continue to dialogue for the unity and peace of the country.
“Equity, fairness and justice can only be achieved under a peaceful atmosphere. We must not do those things that will turn us against each other,” he cautioned.
Osinbajo said the government was working assiduously to ensure that all Nigerians, irrespective of their tribes lived better lives.
The chairman of the occasion and former military Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, who was represented by his erstwhile Minister of Information and Culture and current President of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Nnia Nwodo, concurred with Osinbajo, stating that with the current quagmire regarding the structure of the country, restructuring Nigeria had become inevitable.
Abubakar contended that the peaceful co-existence between the various ethnic groups “has been bastardised and turned round into where you come from and not what you can give Nigeria”.
“That is why restructuring has become an inevitable sine qua non for the continuous being of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The reason we are in this jinx is because we found oil.
“But those who found oil and the formula for its allocation divided Nigeria into states that are dependent on oil and nothing else.
“When we found oil, we all forgot about production, we all forgot about agriculture, the government became about sharing oil wealth.
“Very soon, our oil will mean nothing if this structure persists. The essence of restructuring is to enthrone a new scheme of development, a scheme for the exploration of our human and natural resources,” he said.
Abubakar advised the federal government to adopt modern technology to move the nation forward, as oil was no longer lucrative in the international market.
Earlier, Mike Okiro, a former Inspector-General of Police (IG) and author of the book, said the country currently demands true patriotism from all citizens.
“Presently, our country demands from all citizens a strong display of true patriotism in whatever we are doing or saying,” Okiro said.
He blamed Nigeria’s ruling elite for systematically deploying ethnicity and religion as tools to create divisions for their self-promotion and enrichment.
“My strong conviction is that Nigeria will emerge an unstoppable giant on the path of peace, rapid development and progress, not by dissolving into mushroom republics along ethno-religious lines, but by a leadership-led reconstructing that accords iron-cast deference and reverence to justice, equity and fair play even in the face of the worst of odds,” Okiro submitted.
The reviewer of the book, Sam Omatseye, who is also the Chairman of the Editorial Board of The Nation Newspaper, said the book was about the cry for justice and a denial of the cry for justice.
He said that the book was about believing and those who hated believing.
In attendance were five former IGs, traditional rulers and National Assembly members, among others.
‘No One Can Remove Magu’
At another event Thursday, the acting president also remained resolute on the presidency’s retention of Ibrahim Magu as the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), despite the insistence by the Senate that he should be removed from the position.
Osinbajo, who spoke at the commissioning of the zonal office of the EFCC in Kaduna, declared that nobody could remove Magu from office.
The acting president, who was represented by the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, expressed confidence in the capacity of Magu in the fight against corruption.
He said he had spoken to President Mohammadu Buhari on Magu, adding that the president had assured him that as long as he (Buhari) remains president, Magu will not vacate the anti-corruption seat.
“We have every confidence in Magu to fight corruption to a standstill. He will remain the EFCC chairman as long as I remain the acting president and Muhammadu Buhari remains the president.
“It is our belief that Magu will continue to remain a nightmare for corrupt people for years to come,” the acting president said.
In his own remarks, el-Rufai disclosed that over N500 million had been quietly recovered from corrupt former government officials and contractors in Kaduna State.
He added that those corrupt officials would be handed over to the EFCC in due course for prosecution.
He said the EFCC was encouraged by him to establish a zonal office in Kaduna because of the zero tolerance for corruption by the state government.
The governor promised to allocate land to the commission for the construction of its training school and staff quarters in Kaduna and assured it of its continuing support.
Earlier in his remarks, Magu advocated the establishment of a special prison for corrupt people in the dreaded Sambisa forest, the Boko Haram enclave in the North-east, in order to keep them away from people.
He said for the prison to become a reality, the judiciary must cooperate with the commission.
Magu predicted that illegal monies were likely to be abandoned by corrupt persons at the nation’s airport and places in the near future, as it happened at the Kaduna airport a few months ago.
He warned that if concerted efforts were not made to rid the country of corruption, the country would not make progress.
“We want to call for the establishment of a prison in Sambisa forest in order to keep away corrupt people from our midst.
“In this case, the judiciary has direct influence to help in the fight against corruption. But concerted efforts are being made by some big Nigerians to neutralise the fight against corruption.
“We must change the narrative by fighting back those that do not want the fight to succeed.
“I remain committed to the fight against corruption and I commend the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, for encouraging the EFCC to establish a zonal office in Kaduna.
“We must therefore join hands together to kill corruption, before corruption kills us,” Magu said.
US Law to Expose Illicit Funds
Meanwhile, Nigeria’s fight to wipe out corruption will get a boost soon, as a corporate transparency bill introduced in the U.S. Congress last week will force disclosure of Nigerians and other nationals who run shell companies registered in the United States.
The bipartisan bill, “Corporate Transparency Act of 2017,” introduced by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, a Democrat, and co-sponsored by Congressman Peter King, a Republican, will compel disclosure of beneficial owners “to prevent wrongdoers from exploiting United States corporations and limited liability companies for criminal gain”.
Both legislators represent New York, a city that has been cited in several investigative reports as one of the prime destinations for illicit financial flows from Nigeria.
According to online news medium, Premium Times, the bill enjoys the support of members of the Financial Services Committee of the U.S. Congress, law enforcement agencies, 44 anti-corruption advocacy groups, and 27 investors whose combined asset are in excess of $855 billion.
Nearly two million companies are registered in the United States every year. The bill will amend the current incorporation law, which often demands only basic information from proprietors and typically does not ask for the names of beneficial owners.
In her introduction, Congresswoman Maloney said: “Criminals have exploited the weaknesses in state formation procedures to conceal their identities when forming corporations or limited liability companies in the United States.
“They then use the newly created entities to commit crimes affecting interstate and international commerce such as terrorism, drug trafficking, money laundering, tax evasion, securities fraud, financial fraud and acts of foreign corruption.”
Her speech to the U.S. Congress last week coincided with the recent uptick in Nigeria’s campaign for transparency in the financial sector.
Speaking in Abuja last month at the Conference on Promoting International Co-operation in Combating Illicit Financial Flows, Osinbajo observed that the Thabo Mbeki-led High-Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa singled out Nigeria as a source of most of the illicit fund flow out of Africa.
Ms. Maloney similarly called for international collaboration on corporate transparency. “Anonymous shell companies have become the preferred vehicle for money launderers, criminal organisations, and terrorist groups because they can’t be traced back to their true owners,” she said, adding that “the U.S. is one of the easiest places in the world to set up anonymous shell companies.”
“Frankly, it’s an embarrassment. We need to fix this gaping hole in our national security and listen to law enforcement that is requesting these changes,” she added.
The Corporate Transparency Bill 2017 will empower United States Treasury Department to issue regulations requiring corporations and limited liability companies to file information about their beneficial owners.
The bill also stipulates that the Treasury Department will collect beneficial ownership information for corporations registered in states that choose not ask for such information.
When it becomes law, the bill will also establish minimum beneficial ownership disclosure requirements, the beneficial owners’ name, current address, and details of their non-expired passport or state-issued driver’s licence must be recorded at the time of registration.
False, fraudulent or incomplete beneficial ownership information will attract civil penalties.