Justice Danladi Umar, Please, Step Aside

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Ring True

with Yemi Adebowale , yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com; 07013940521 (textonly)

In the last 10 months, I have had cause to write thrice, urging the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), Justice Danladi Umar to disqualify himself from the ongoing trial of the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki for alleged false declaration. I am doing exactly the same thing today and my main point remains the same: Umar has no moral right to continue chairing the trial of Saraki because he is also facing serious corruption allegations that question his integrity. This talk about the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) clearing him is all political and ludicrous. Report from the ongoing trial of the Personal Assistant to the CCT Chairman, Ali Gambo Abdullahi at an Abuja High Court reinforces my position. On Tuesday, Abdullahi shocked Nigerians (excluding people like me) when he told the court that the CCT chairman met several times in his chamber with a retired Deputy Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Mr. Rasheed Taiwo, who is standing trial before him at the CCT for false declaration of assets charges. This is clearly unprofessional.

For those who have not been following the story, Abdullahi was the one who collected N1.8 million bribe, allegedly on behalf of his boss from the retired Customs officer. Taiwo had accused Justice Umar of demanding N10 million from him to influence his case before the tribunal.
He also claimed that he paid N1.8 million to the tribunal Chairman through the Zenith Bank’s account of Abdullahi. Initially, the PA admitted collecting the money on behalf of his boss. Then, for obvious reasons, he changed his story saying that the N1.8 million was paid into his account by Taiwo to assist him settle this father’s medical bills.
Abdullahi was subsequently arraigned by the EFCC for giving officials of the EFCC “false information” about the money he collected from the former official of the Customs Service. In spite of Taiwo’s indictment of Danladi, the man now on trial is Abdullahi while Justice Umar is a free man. The EFCC itself concluded that Abdullahi’s statement was false. When will the EFCC arrest the ultimate beneficiary of the bribe? This is food for thought for all of us.

Let’s go back to Abdullahi’s “trial within a trial” on Tuesday, which was necessitated by the disputed statement he made to the EFCC in respect of the N10 million bribe allegedly demanded by the CCT chairman from the accused person in order to strike out the charges against him. Umar’s PA, who was cross-examined by the EFCC counsel, Andrew Akoja, told Justice Chizobia Oji’s court that it was at the end of the last meeting the accused person had with the CCT chairman that the sum of N1.8 million was paid into his (Abdullahi’s) account by the ex-customs official. Abdullahi further told the court that he never met with the former deputy comptroller-general of Customs until he (the accused) started visiting the CCT chairman. During further cross-examination by the EFCC counsel on Tuesday, Abdullahi, who read out some portions of his first statement, identified his signature, admitted that he signed the statement and that he also signed an attestation confirming that this statement indicting Justice Umar was made freely and voluntarily by him. Then, suddenly, the PA turned around, re-crafted his statement and shifted the blame to himself. So, how will the retired Customs officer on trial at the CCT, who is not familiar with the PA, transfer N1.8 million to Abdullahi for his father’s treatment?  I am sure that the retired DCC is not Father Christmas. Again, why should an accused on trial in Umar’s court be paying him “numerous” visits as confirmed by Umar’s PA?

I have brought out the key issues that transpired in the court on Tuesday to show the lapses in the effort by powerful forces to save Justice Umar and the glaringly fact that the CCT Chairman has a case to answer. The EFCC should do the needful by putting both Justice Umar and Abdullahi on trial.
Besides the fact that Umar lacks moral right to continue as Chairman of the Saraki trial, this CCT chairman has consistently showed, by his actions and inactions, that he has a mandate to convict the President of the Senate, regardless of the evidence placed before him. I was shocked when Umar said recently: “I am not happy at the delay tactics by the defence counsel and I must say this thing out that this delay tactics will not reduce the consequences the defendant will meet in this tribunal at the end of the trial.” So, while the trial is on, Umar had already determined that Saraki’s alleged asset declaration infraction will attract consequences? The CCT’s chairman has shown frightening bias and intimidation in this trial. Just as Saraki’s lead counsel, Kanu Agabi said, “Umar’s statement will prejudice the outcome of the trial.” In the interest of justice and fair play, Justice Umar should simply step aside. The sanctity of the judiciary must be protected.
Again, if Umar fears Allah, he must treat all those who come before his court justly. Daily, he must reflect deeply on Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) teachings and practices (sunnah) concerning justice found in the Hadith and Sira. May Allah grant Umar the courage to heed these words of wisdom.

Musings on Unending Buhari Certificate Saga
Legal fireworks in the ongoing court case over President Muhammadu Buhari’s school certificate are throwing up so many intrigues and embarrassing questions. In the suit, an Abuja-based legal practitioner, Nwokocha-Ahaaiwe had alleged that Buhari was not qualified to aspire to the Office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria because “he did not sit for the Cambridge West African School Certificate (WASC) in 1961 as claimed.” Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court in Abuja had on May 26, 2016 dismissed Buhari’s preliminary objection in the suit that has been on for over one year. He ordered the commencement of the substantive suit. Buhari’s legal team is now challenging the dismissed objections at the Court of Appeal. Surprisingly, Justice Ademola has suspended the substantive suit indefinitely pending the outcome of the appeal.

Before the 2015 general election, our president’s legal team stalled the case with funny preliminary objections. In one instance, the team challenged the mode of service of the originating summons, insisting that Buhari ought to have been served at an address in Kaduna instead of by substituted means at the national secretariat of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Abuja. The fact that this case has dragged on for this long with funny preliminary objections is reprehensible. Besides, if this is happening with a case involving our president, then, this administration has no moral right accusing anybody of using delay tactics in court or manipulating our judicial system. Buhari’s legal team of about 20 powerful SANs has been making a mockery of our judicial system. The earlier the substantive suit is tackled, the better for Nigeria.

That Boko Haram Attack in Kutuva, Madagali
Just as I said recently that the outskirts of Chibok town were still not safe, some Boko Haram terrorists on Tuesday attacked Kutuva village, near this troubled town in Borno State, during which they killed four persons and abducted four women. But for the swift intervention of local vigilante in nearby Kaya, more damages would have been done in Kutuva. Another Boko Haram attack on Thursday in Kuda-Kaya village (Madagali Local Government Area of Adamawa State) that left 24 people dead was also depressing. I am appealing to the military authorities to deploy troops to the outskirts of Chibok, Gwoza and Madagali LG to protect lives. Of course, concerned Nigerians are still waiting for military operations to commence in the two local government areas in Borno State still occupied by the terrorists -Abadam and Mobbar. May Allah continue to protect our gallant soldiers.

Our Stupendous Expenditure on Generators
The power situation across our nation has become horrendous. I can’t remember the last time I had an hour of supply in 24 hours. Households are spending fortunes powering generators amidst cash crunch. A family using just ten litres of petrol daily will need almost N45,000 monthly to sustain this alternative power supply. Figures from the industrial sector are frightening. I was alarmed when IHS Towers, the largest mobile telecommunications infrastructure provider in Africa, which currently controls all the 16,000 Base Transceiver Stations (BTS), popularly called base stations, belonging to all GSM companies in Nigeria, revealed that it spends N2.6 billion monthly on diesel, to power the base stations. The Co-founder and Interim CEO, IHS Nigeria, Mr. Mohamad Darwish, disclosed that IHS uses a minimum of 20 million litres of diesel every month. The Buhari administration failed woefully in the area of power during its first year in office. Things must change swiftly. Nigerians are tired of excuses. The darkness enveloping our nation must become history as promised by the “change” agents. How this is done is essentially their business.

Still on the Politics of Treasury Single Account
I still can’t fathom why this administration listed the Treasury Single Account (TSA) as one of its achievements in the last one year. What the TSA sets out to achieve is good. Unfortunately, it has done more harm than good to our economy due to slapdash implementation. In just one swoop, trillions of Naira was moved from money deposit banks to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) without any consultation with stakeholders. The result is the gale of retrenchment in the banks. Good cash that should be used to reflate our depressed economy is locked in the vault of the CBN, while Ministries, Departments and Agencies are gasping for breath. Then, members of this government go around telling the unacquainted that they have over N3 trillion saved in the TSA. This is outlandish.
Again, this government needs to respond to the statement of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) that the TSA is unconstitutional.  The RMAFC is of the view that monies generated by revenue yielding agencies of the federal government should be paid into the Federation Account. According to the RMAFC, agencies were established for the federation and not just for the federal government. “Any law that permits any of the agencies to keep funds that it generates or pay into any account other than the Federation Account for the use of the three tiers of government violates the 1999 Constitution. Such laws should be amended to enable the agencies to pay into the rightful account.” I fully concur with this position. It is a point well made. The TSA is obviously a charade. The laws of our land must be obeyed to the fullest.

A Special Appeal to Niger Delta Avengers
The recent statement issued by children in Delta State urging Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) to stop attacks on oil facilities and consider the plight of the vulnerable group in the event of a full blown war in the Niger Delta region was heart-cricking. At a forum in Asaba, organised to mark this year’s Day of African Child, the children drawn from various schools remarked that they were usually the biggest victims of conflicts and urged the militants to sheathe their swords: “We beg the Niger Delta Avengers to think about the plight of children in conflict situations. We don’t want what is happening in Burundi, Somalia, Congo and Sudan to happen here. We need government to protect our rights and guarantee our welfare,” they stated. I hope somebody will bring this to the attention of the Avengers. All bombings must be halted. They have made their points and should now cuddle dialogue.