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HOUSE OF SLEAZE

In this edition of your informative newspaper, we bring to you happenings in Nigeria, Canada and around the world. Nigeria continues in her characteristic tradition of churning out jaw-dropping stories of drama and ingenuity – even in infamy.

That drama and ingenuity came to the fore when news broke out that the wife of the immediate past President, Mrs. Patience Jonathan had sued Skye Bank, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Waripamo-Owei Dudafa (an aide to former President Goodluck Jonathan), Amajuoyi Briggs, and four companies claiming ownership of the sum of $15.5 million, which the anti-graft agency claimed was laundered. The $15.5 is part of a total of $31.4 million found in the frozen accounts of the companies and Dudafa’s domestic help.  

The companies (Pluto Property and Investment Company Ltd, Seagate Property Development and Investment Company Limited, Trans Ocean Property, and Investment Company Limited and Avalon Global Property Development Company) had pleaded guilty to the charge, but in a surprise twist the lawyer representing Dudafa and Briggs, on 27th September asked a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos to reverse the guilty plea entered into by the four firms. Observers have continued to wonder why Mrs. Jonathan is claiming ownership of money frozen in an account that has no link whatsoever, documentary or otherwise, to her.

In a related development, former chairman of the Nigerian House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation, Hon. Jubrin Abdulmumin revealed how House members allegedly loot the treasury by pocketing about N10 million each every month in the guise of “running cost”. Jubrin has been having a running battle with House Speaker Yakubu Dogara and other principal officers of the House over his allegation that the Speaker prevailed on House committee chairmen to illegally and corruptly “pad” the 2016 Budget. Jubrin was removed as Appropriation Committee chairman upon which he petitioned Nigeria’s anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission alleging Budget padding by Dogara and other principal officers of the House. His latest allegation follows his suspension from the House for 180 legislative days. He has challenged his suspension in court.

Nigeria is always in the news for official corruption, a pandemic that has soiled its image in the comity of nations and stunted her economic development. President Muhammadu Buhari has wedged a relentless war against the cankerworm since he assumed office on May 29, 2015.

Meanwhile, the country’s economy continues to go southwards. Inflation rate shrank at 17.1%, GDP contracted by 2.06%, exchange rate fell to N312 and N452 to the Dollar in the interbank and parallel markets respectively as at 28th September 2016. Nigeria’s overall earnings remain low as the price of crude – the country’s only export – maintained only a marginal increase at just below $50 per barrel in the month of September 2016.  In order to shore up the foreign reserve, the government recently toyed with the idea of disposing of some national assets. Minister of Finance Kemi Adeosun, however, remains optimistic that the worst of the recession may be over and the country on her way to economic recovery.

Gloomy as the economy may be, however, President Muhammadu Buhari continues to receive positive approval rating from the international community for his tough stance against corruption and terrorism. While attending the 71st United Nations General Assembly, US President Barack Obama told his Nigerian counterpart that “we have confidence in your leadership. There are some difficulties you face, but this administration is willing to assist in the short time we have left……You have made real progress in defeating the brutal organization called Boko Haram, and that was achieved because of your leadership.”  The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, also similarly praised Buhari saying that “…you are highly respected by world leaders, including myself. Your persona has given your country a positive image.”

Finally, in Ontario, Canada, Liberals have pledged an estimated $1 billion annually in a tax cut on electricity bills. The amount which represents an 8 percent subsidy for residential electricity bills is seen as a desperate gesture by the Liberals to reverse the downward slide in their popularity. It is also seen as one of Premier Kathleen Wynne’s re-election strategy in an election that would hold in about 20 months’ time. There have been concerns that the tax break might end up as a temporary palliative but Premier Kathleen Wynne has assured that the rebate will be permanent.