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2015: A NEW BEGINNING FOR NIGERIA AND CANADA

The year 2015 is significant for Nigeria and Canada in many respects. It is the year both countries had a change of government; and not just a change of government, but a change from the conservative to more progressive after over a decade-long regime of arrogant conservative party misgovernance.

 

It is also a year familiar names popped up in the mantle of leadership in both countries. For Nigeria, erstwhile military dictator-but-now-turned democrat, Muhammadu Buhari, mounted the saddle as democratically elected president 30 years after his first sojourn on the same seat as military head of state. And for Canada, it was Justin Pierre James Trudeau, son of former Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau who stepped up to the seat as Canada’s 23rd Prime Minister. 

 

2015 also represents a year revelations of sleaze rent the air in both countries. But while corruption in government cannot be said to be a major headache in Canada, it is the reverse in Nigeria. In fact, in Nigeria, it seems strange not to hear of corruption by government officials. And the level of corruption is usually strange even by Nigerian standards. 

 

But strange things, of course, are never strange in Nigeria. What is considered abnormal and unimaginable in other climes are far from being so in Nigeria – especially in the political arena. Indeed, it could, to some extent, be said that Nigerians are beyond shock and dismay where corruption is concerned. Otherwise how else could one describe the indifference so far displayed by the people of the country towards the shocking revelations coming out of the ongoing arms purchase probe in Nigeria? Appropriately dubbed “Dasukigate,” the revelations appear to set immediate past administration of President Goodluck Jonathan on the road to infamy and somewhat on a trip to Golgotha. The signs are certainly ominous.  

 

It will be recalled that shortly after assumption of office on May 29 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari commissioned a panel to investigate how billions of dollars meant for the procurement of arms to fight Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast of Nigeria disappeared from the vaults of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) under the administration of his predecessor in office, Goodluck Jonathan. The bubble burst when Presidential Investigation Committee in its interim report revealed an extra-budgetary spending by Jonathan’s administration to the tune of N643.8 billion, and an additional $2.2 billion meant for purchase of arms and munitions. An estimated $600 million was also found to have been withdrawn from the CBN two weeks to the March 28, 2015, presidential elections in questionable circumstances. 

 

The man in-charge of the management, disbursement, and supervision of these funds was Col Sambo Dasuki (rtd), President Jonathan’s National Security Adviser (NSA).  These monies have been alleged to have been laundered by Dasuki in a manner and formulae that would leave any people other than Nigerians speechless. 

 

Among those alleged to have benefitted from the loot are Chief Raymond Dokpesi, multi-billionaire founder and owner of African Independent Television and Raypower 100.5 FM. He was alleged to have received N2.1 billion from Dasuki from the funds meant for purchase of arms. Dokpesi told the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) officials that the money he received from Dasuki was for the airing of Jonathan’s campaign and publicity for the PDP. He was subsequently arrested, detained and later released on bail. On December 9, he was arraigned before a Federal High Court in Abuja.

 

Former minister of state for finance Bashir Yuguda was also fingered in the arms deal scam. Yuguda was alleged to have received the sum of N1.5 billion from Dasuki through an unnamed company for unstated purposes, N1.275 billion from Stallion Group during the campaign for the last general election and another N775 million allegedly received from the office of the Accountant General of the Federation for unstated purposes. He too has been arrested and charged to court.

 

Former Sokoto state governor Attahiru Bafarawa was also arrested in connection with the $2.1 billion arms purchase scam. He is alleged to have benefited about N100 million from Dasuki. He has denied the allegation, describing it as an orchestrated media campaign aimed at tarnishing his image. His 35-year-old son Sagir Bafarawa, allegedly received from Dasuki the sum of N4.6 billion from funds budgeted for the prosecution of the war against terror. Sagir Bafarawa told EFCC officials that the payment was meant to secure the services of Marabouts (Muslim “holy men” who are believed to possess supernatural spiritual powers) from Saudi Arabia and other North African countries to pray for former President Goodluck Jonathan’s victory in the last presidential election.

 

Ex-convict and former Chairman of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and deputy national chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Olabode George a.k.a Lagos Boy, and former Rivers State PDP governor Peter Odili each received N100 million from Col Sambo Dasuki. The largesse to the two PDP officials was also alleged to have been diverted from funds meant for the purchase of arms in order to better equip the Nigerian military in its campaign against Islamist terror group, Boko Haram. Olabode George has denied receiving any money from Dasuki, claiming that he doesn’t know Dasuki and has never met him throughout his tenure, let alone collecting money from him.

 

Former Senate President, David Mark was also alleged to have received N10.7 billion from the arms purchase fund deal, while former coordinating minister of the economy and minister of finance under President Jonathan’s administration, Dr. (Mrs) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, was alleged to have diverted the late head of state Sani Abacha’s loot. Though Okonjo-Iweala has not been directly accused of benefitting from the loot, she allegedly approved the transfer of at least N61.4 billion ($300 million and £5.5 million) from funds recovered from the late Abacha, to the office of the NSA, few weeks to the 2015 presidential election. She said the money was a loan to the office of the NSA

 

In all of these allegations, the former NSA, Col Sambo Dasuki, has stoutly defended his actions, claiming that he was obeying the orders of former President Goodluck Jonathan. So far Jonathan’s responses have been tepid and un-reassuring. At a recent forum in Washington DC on “Presidential Elections and Democratic Consolidation in Africa: Case Studies on Nigeria and Tanzania,” a conversational forum in which he was a speaker, Jonathan denied ever awarding any contract to the tune of $2.1 billion for procurement of arms. He dismissed the allegation as bogus and queried off-handedly “where did the money come from? 

 

Meanwhile, protests continue in parts of the south-east of Nigeria over the continued detention of Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and founder of the pirate internet radio, Radio Biafra. The street protests have witnessed a few causalities as soldiers shot at the protesters in a bid to disperse them. So far, the causalities have failed to stop the protests. The IPOB are protesting marginalization of the Igbos in Nigeria, and thus demanding secession from the country. Earlier last month a Magistrate Court sitting in Abuja had ordered Nnamdi Kanu released on bail. The Directorate of State Security (DSS) failed to obey the court order and instead withdrew the case against Kanu from the Magistrate Court on the grounds of lack of jurisdiction. In a modified affidavit, the DSS earlier this month sought from an Abuja Federal High Court permission to detain Nnamdi Kanu for a further 90 days on the grounds that it was in possession of information suggesting that Kanu was financing terrorism.

The order was granted, but in a counter affidavit, Kanu’s lawyer Vincent Obetalast Wednesday approached the court with an application for the bail of his client who, according to him, had already been held for 80 days since his arrest by the DSS. The presiding judge, Justice Ademola in his ruling ordered the unconditional release of Kanu on the grounds that his continued detention without trial violated Section 158 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 and Section 35 of the 1999 Constitution.

 

In a similar development, members of the Shiite Muslim sect who were observing their annual procession on the streets of Zaria, Kaduna State, clashed with the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff, Major General Tukur Yusuf Buratai. Seven of the Shiite Muslims were said to have been killed in the clash. The incident occurred on Saturday, December 12 after an argument ensued when members of the sect tried to deny the convoy of the Army chief passage. 

 

And in Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last Wednesday appeared in a rare televised town hall meeting in simple shirt sleeves to defend his relaxed style of governing which he said was not indicative of his being a lightweight prime minister. 

 

Trudeau who last month appointed a cabinet of an equal number of men and women following his victory at the October 19 polls, has faced harsh criticism from his opponents who decry what they see as his obsession with style instead of real governance. Critics accuse him of being weak on terrorism, implying that he would be pushed around by leaders such as Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama. Trudeau is also often seen taking selfies with passers-by on the street. Last Tuesday, he took a group of sick children to see the new “Star Wars” movie. 

 

But in the town hall meeting arranged by Maclean’s magazine, Trudeau defended his style, saying “it’s not about image, it’s about substance. According to him “If you want to serve Canadians well … you have to listen to them, you have to get to know people, you have to be engaged in real conversations and talking about their hopes and dreams for the country.”

 

In contrast, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari is not known to have such disarming street connect despite massive support from the ordinary people of Nigeria. While this may be understandable in a country sharply divided along ethnoreligious lines and daunting security challenges, Justin Trudeau’s style is nevertheless worth emulating in Black World’s most populous country. 

 

Finally, the President of United States of America, Barack Obama, has appointed 34-year-old Nigerian-born American, Adewale “Wally” Adeyemo, as Deputy National Security Adviser for International Economic Affairs. Adewaletakes over from Caroline Atkinson whose tenure ended recently after two and half years on the job. Adeyemo has served in Obama’s administration since 2009.

 

In a statement announcing Adeyemo’s appointment, President Barak Obama said the Nigerian helped the US combat global economic recession which started in 2008. Adeyemo graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, with a bachelor of arts, before moving to Yale Law School, where he bagged his Juris Doctor (JD) in specialized law. 

 

Adewale served in top roles including Treasury Department in the White House and Deputy Chief of Staff to US Secretary, Jacob Lew. He was also part of the team that helped coordinate US response to the global recession and also helped to establish the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in the United States. Adewale joins the league of Nigerians making the country proud around the world.

 

We in Nigerian-Canadian News join millions of Nigerians at home and in Diaspora to wish Adewale Adeyemo successful tenure as US Deputy National Security Adviser. As the year 2015 gradually winds down, we also wish our numerous readers merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year. It is our hope that the coming year 2016 would usher in closer and mutually beneficial ties between Nigeria and Canada. We pray and hope that by this time next year, we shall be able to count the gains in the relationship between both countries. On our part, Nigerian-Canadian News promise to always be there for you with authoritative news concerning both countries.

 

Once again, happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year in advance. 

 

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