Senate Drops Ex-Kwara Speaker, Benjamin, Abubakar as NCC Commissioners

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• Confirms Agbamuche-Mbu INEC commissioner, Bage, Galinje Justices of S’Court
• Arraignment of S’Court Chief Registrar stalled
Omololu Ogunmade and Alex Enumah in Abuja

The Senate yesterday rejected the nominations of former Speaker of Kwara State, Pastor Ezekiel Yisa Benjamin, and Saidu Abubakar as non-executive Commissioners of the National Communications Commission (NCC).

While many were not surprised at the rejection of Abubakar who had repeatedly called for scrapping of the Senate, they were however, taken aback that Benjamin who hails from Kwara State, Senate President’s home state, was dropped over a strange claim.
In another development, the arraignment of the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, Ahmed Gambo Saleh and two others before a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) over allegation of fraud and corruption was yesterday stalled due to the absence of the second defendant.

Benjamin’s rejection by the Senate was predicated on the report presented by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Communications, Senator Gilbert Nnaji, which had recommended his rejection along with that of Abubakar.

The committee, while recommending Benjamin’s rejection, claimed that his background as a trained nurse “will not put him in good stead to be able to effectively cope with the dynamics of the communications sector if his nomination is confirmed.”

In his own case, Abubakar ran into trouble with the Senate during his screening on October 18, when the committee confronted him with photographs of his frequent protests and calls that the Senate should be scrapped at the gate of the National Assembly. During the screening, the committee asked him if he still believed in his calls.

But Abubakar dared the committee as he reiterated his position that the existence of the Senate was not justifiable, pointing out that the upper chamber was only wasting the nation’s enormous resources by its existence.

In his report, Nnaji said Abubakar’s response to questions asked by the committee portrayed him as “a candidate who is not prepared for the demands of office such as required of a non-executive commissioner on the Governing Board of the Nigeria Communications Commission.”
The report added: “Mr. Saidu Abubakar could not produce any credible educational certificate for the committee to verify at the screening. He obviously lacks the professional and educational disciplines provided in Section 7(1) (a-h) of the Nigerian Communications Act 2003 which stipulates the qualification of the commission’s board.”

Acting on the committee’s recommendations, the Senate dropped Abubakar and Benjamin but confirmed other nominees, viz: Senator Olabiyi Durojaiye as Chairman of the NCC Governing Board.
Also confirmed were Sunday Dare (Executive Commissioner), Ifeanyi Ararume (Non-executive Commissioner), Clement Omeiza Baiye (Non-Executive Commissioner) and Chief Okoi Obono Obla (Non-Executive Commissioner).

Also yesterday, the Senate confirmed THISDAY Law Editor, May Agbamuche-Mbu (Delta) as INEC Commissioner. Also confirmed as INEC commissioners were Professor Okechukwu Ibeanu (Anambra), Ahmed Mu’azu (Gombe), Mohammed Kudu Haruna (Niger), Dr. Adekunle Ogunmola (Oyo) and Abubakar Nahuche (Zamfara).

The Senate also confirmed the appointments of Justices Dauda Bage and Paul Galinje as Supreme Court justices.
Meanwhile, apart from Saleh, the others judicial officials arraigned were, the Director of Finance of the apex court, Muhammed Abdulrahman Sharif and the Chief Accountant of the court, Rilwanu Lawal.

They are facing a nine-count criminal charge of allegedly diverting N2.2 billion belonging to the Supreme Court.
When the matter was called up yesterday, counsel to the 2nd defendant, Dr. Garba Tetengi (SAN), said his client was unable to appear before the court as he is currently on admission in the hospital.

He therefore urged the court to adjourn the matter to a later date.
Responding, prosecution counsel, Charles Adeogun, who said he would not be objecting the request for adjournment sought by the second defendant, based on the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act as regards arraignment in a joint trial, stated that the prosecution was not served with any documents to support the absence of the 2nd defendant.

Trial judge, Justice Abba Mohammed, with the consent of counsel for 1st and 3rd defendants, Abdulakeem Mustapha (SAN) and I. K. Usman (SAN), respectively, adjourned the arraignment to December 15, 2016.

The accused persons were alleged to have agreed to divert N2.2 billion belonging to the Supreme Court into a personal bank account domiciled at the United Bank for Africa Plc account No. 2027642863 and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 96 of the Penal Code Act.
The filed charge alleged that the defendants committed criminal breach of trust between 2009 and 2016 when they were entrusted with the property of the apex court.

It was alleged that the defendants obtained gratifications to the tune of N80 million contrary to Section 10 of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences (ICPC) Act.
It was also alleged that a N2.4 million gratification was obtained from Welcon Nigeria Ltd, N16 million from Dean Musa Nig. Ltd, N19 million from Ababia Ventures Ltd, all being private contractors who provided services to the apex court.