Army Court Martials General over Fraud Practices
By Gom Mirian, Abuja
The Nigerian Army, yesterday said the former Group Managing Director (GMD), Nigeria Army Property Limited (NAPL) was being Court Martial following his indictment over sharp practices while in office.
The Director, Army Public Relations, Brig.-Gen. Onyema Nwachukwu, gave the clarifications in a statement in Abuja yesterday.
“The general is being tried having been indicted by a military police investigation and recommendation for trial.
“Therefore, the media report on the ongoing Court Martial process of the erstwhile Group Managing Director, Nigerian Army Properties Limited (NAPL), Maj.-Gen. UM Mohammed, is ill-conceived and campaign of calumny.
“Indeed, Maj.-Gen. Muhammed is facing army court-martial over alleged offences of theft of various sums of money belonging to NAPL and forgery,” he said.
According to him, “it is expedient to clear the air on the despicably false report and calculated attempt to cast aspersion on the ongoing court martial”.
He said the trial had already progressed to an advanced stage, adding that the prosecution had put forward the evidence against the general and closed its case.
Nwachukwu disclosed that the accused has opened his defence and testifying as First Defence Witness (DW1).
“For the avoidance of doubts, without being sub-judicial, the former GMD NAPL is facing trial in relation to alleged offences of theft of various sums of money belonging to NAPL and forgery.
“These are all acts declared as offences punishable under the provisions of various extant penal laws in Nigeria.
“To set the records straight, upon investigation and indictment of the accused senior officer by military police investigations, the Army Headquarters convened a Special Court Martial.
“This is to try the senior officer as a procedure to legally recover the sums of money he allegedly fraudulently acquired from the coffers of NAPL during his tenure as GMD.
“The details of the outcome of the court martial will be provided at the end of the court martial proceedings.
“It is instructive to point out, that trials are lawfully provided in the Armed Forces Act (AFA) as one of the disciplinary tools in the armed forces,” he said.
Nwachukwu said the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court had in multiple instances validated the procedures, findings, and sentences of court-martial.
He added that the court martials like all other criminal trials were held in the open.
According to him, the trial of Maj.-Gen. Mohammed is taking place at the Army Headquarters Command Officers’ Mess, Asokoro Abuja and not shrouded in secrecy as being insinuated.
“The trial has been opened and the Defence has presented adequate representation in court.
“The accused senior officer’s family members, friends, and associates attend and observe the court proceedings till date, without hindrance.
“It is factual that Maj.-Gen. Mohammed ought to have proceeded on retirement, however, provisions of the Armed Forces Act (specifically Section 169) permits the retention in service of such a personnel, who has pending disciplinary case(s) to allow extant legal processes.
“Furthermore, it is also a fact that members of the Special Court Martial trying Maj.-Gen. Mohammed are all junior to him.
“This is permissible in special circumstances, as the Armed Forces Act provides for this contingency in Section 133(7), where the Convening Officer is required to obtain the consent of an appropriate superior to appoint any such officers as members of the court.
“The requisite consent was obtained before convening the Special Court Martial trying the accused senior officer,” he added.
The Army spokesman said that the general was being defended by a legal team comprising two Senior Advocates and six lawyers, including a retired military officer.
Immigration Dismisses Eight Officers, Investigates 80 over Extortion
The Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) said about 80 officers have gone on trial over the collection of illegal fees for the issuance and renewal of passports.
Speaking yesterday, Tony Akuneme, NIS spokesperson, said eight officers have been dismissed in connection to the offence in the last year.
He said the disciplinary measures are part of the three-point reform agenda of Isah Jere, NIS comptroller general (CG).
Akuneme said the CG’s three-point agenda includes passport issuance reform, tightening border security and improving the welfare of NIS officers.
The NIS spokesman said the CG has vowed to discipline officers who try to sabotage the reform process.
“We have continued to punish NIS officers and men who try to assist people for a fee. You can assist people genuinely but not extorting from them,” he said.
“We are committed to curbing corruption and other illicit acts in the service. You will appreciate the fact that if nothing else, the level of awareness has increased in the last few months.
“Don’t patronise agents, fill your forms yourself. We have officers watching and these agents know they are being watched. When they take money from you, tell us. If we don’t take action, tell the world.”
He said employing the services of third-party agents in securing passports hinders the reform process.
“We have tried as much as possible to eliminate third parties so that if you really want, you can process the application of your passport from the comfort of your room on your laptop, android phones and you can pay online,” Akuneme said.
“You don’t really need anybody whether immigration officers or agents which we usually call louts. They have upgraded and become agents. They are still third parties.
“The problem we have is the use of third parties because no matter how much reform you put in, you will always see a learned and civilised person using a third party to process his or her application.
“And one thing they don’t understand is that third parties don’t have an idea of the information entered into your application. This can result in somebody having issues with his/her National Identification Number (NIN).”
Again, Tribunal Steps Down Obi’s Petition
For the third time, the Presidential Election Petition Court, PEPC, was forced to step down hearing in the petition filed by Mr Peter Gregory Obi and the Labour Party, LP, against the election of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
The petition was stepped down by the court following a poor schedule of documents being sought to be tendered to establish the allegations of malpractices during the February 25 presidential election.
At yesterday’s proceedings, the court discovered that the documents were not properly scheduled as ordered by the Court.
In the drama that ensued at the point of rendering the documents from the 23 local government areas of Benue, a lot of discrepancies were uncovered.
All efforts to reconcile the anomaly and reschedule the documents were unsuccessful as the errors were beyond immediate solution.
To save the situation, counsel to Obi and the Labour Party, Chief Emeka Okpoko SAN, sought to use documents not filed to conduct the proceedings, but the move was rejected on the ground of illegality.
In the end, the court stepped down hearing of the petition and ordered the legal team to go and re-file the schedule of documents in line with the provisions of the pre-hearing report.
The hearing of Obi’s petition had run into stormy waters three times, prompting the shift in the hearing of the petition.
At the time of this report, Peter Obi and the Vice Presidential candidate, Datti Baba Ahmed, were in the court as their lawyers were running helter-skelter to the Registry of the Court to file a new schedule of documents.
Meanwhile, the five Justices led by Justice Haruna Simon Tsammani hearing the petition have retired to their chambers to await when the legal team will put its house in order.
In Maiden Meeting, Crush Oil Thieves Now, Tinubu Orders Service Chiefs
By Mathew Dadiya, Abuja
President Bola Tinubu, yesterday met with the Service Chiefs and heads of security and intelligence agencies and told them that he would change the security architecture of the country to blend with his philosophy to address the insecurity challenges across the federation.
The President also said as far as he is concerned, ‘Nigeria should not go on her knees as a result of security challenges while other countries are working, moving forward and recording tremendous achievements.’
Tinubu stated this in his maiden official meeting with Security and intelligence heads led by the Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor at the Presidential Villa, Abuja as the the National Security Adviser, NSA, Major Gen.Babagana Monguno (retd), who briefed State House correspondents after the meeting that lasted two hours, said the President has directed heads of security agencies to come out with their blue prints.
He ordered the security agencies to crush anyone involved in oil theft, stressing that his administration will not tolerate such menace.
“He is going to embark on a lot of reforms in terms of our security architecture, he is going to take a closer look at our misfortunes in the maritime domain, focusing particularly on the issues of oil theft, that as far as he is concerned, he is not going to tolerate oil theft wherever the problem is coming from it must be crushed as soon as possible,” he stated.
He has already mandated the security agencies to come up with a blueprint as far as he knows and as far as he concerned, he doesn’t have the luxury of time; and whatever changes will be made have to be done as soon as possible.
“The President also has decided that whatever ventures the armed forces are going to be engaged in, they must carry along those operatives in the theatre. They must be well fed, well kitted, motivated and given all that they require.
He said it was an appraisal meeting for the President to get briefing on the activities of the different security formations and for him to tell them his own philosophy and what he expects from the security heads.
“The President and Commander in Chief of the armed forces has just concluded a meeting of the general security appraisal committee consisting of the Chief of Staff, Service Chiefs, Inspector General of Police, and heads of the intelligence agencies.
“This is the very first meeting he’s had with the heads of the security agencies. The meeting lasted for two hours.
“Having been briefed by the participants of the meeting, Mr. President, addressed prevailing issues confronting the nation in terms of insecurity and also mentioned his own philosophy towards dealing with national security issues.
“First and foremost, he appreciated the armed forces and intelligence agencies and the wider paramilitary agencies for the work they have been doing in the past couple of years. Their sacrifice, their loyalty, and he also paid tribute to those who died in defending this country, from the great big menace of terrorism, insurgency banditry, oil theft, sea robbery, piracy, etc.
“The President has made it very clear that he’s determined to build on whatever gains that have been made and to reverse misfortunes and turn the tide in our favour.
“As far as he’s concerned, this country should not be on its knees struggling while other countries are working and achieving greater heights,” he said.
President Tinubu said in moving the country forward he needs the security agencies to redouble their efforts, stressing that his own philosophy is one of contemporary security measures dealing with the requirements of the time.
“He has made it very clear that he will not accept a situation in which our fortunes keep declining. And his own trajectory is that national security has to be coordinated, there has to be whatever…whether it is a basket system, but there must be a clearing house.
“All agencies must work to achieve one single purpose. Working at cross purposes and colliding with each other is not something that he will condone. He has made it very, very clear that all the security agencies must comply with the demands of coordination, with the demands of frequent consultations and also timely reports which must be acted on.
“President has said clearly that he will do whatever is within his powers to enable the operational elements but the intelligence agencies must also make their work easy for them by providing the type of intelligence that they require to carry out the assignment,” the NSA said.
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has mandated his security chiefs to draw up a fresh blueprint that would guide security operations in the country.
Tinubu, who met with the security chiefs in the country for the first time since assuming office, yesterday, said he had a personal philosophy about how security issues should be handled for effective results.
Obi, LP Challenge Election Results in Rivers, Benue, Niger, 15 Other States
The Presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP) in the February 25 presidential election, Mr Peter Gregory Obi and his party confirmed to the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) yesterday in Abuja that they would challenge the election results in 18 states only.
They held that they would not dissipate energies in the states where they won convincingly and without any dispute.
However, at the end of proceedings, Obi and his party tendered certified electoral documents obtained from the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC in only six states.
The documents, mainly, Forms EC8A, election results from polling units were admitted as exhibits to be used to establish their alleged riggings and other malpractices during the election.
Presiding Justice of the Court, Haruna Simon Tsammani admitted the documents as exhibits after they were tendered by Chief Emeka Okpoko SAN who represented Obi and the Labour Party.
Meanwhile, INEC, represented by Kemi Pinhero SAN, issued the documents and certified them as genuine but dramatically announced its decision to object to the admission of the documents.
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his Vice, Kashim Shetima, who are 2nd and 3rd respondents and represented by Adebayo Adelodun SAN in the petition challenging their declaration as winners of the election, also hinted to oppose the admissibility of the electoral documents.
Similarly, the All Progressives Congress, APC, represented by Chief Afolabi Fashanu, SAN, argued that it would raise objections against the documents.
Breakdown of the tendered and admitted documents showed that Forms EC8A were tendered in 15 Local Government Areas of Rivers State, 23 in Benue, 18 in Cross River, 23 in Niger State, 20 in Osun and 16 in Ekiti Local Government Areas.
A further hearing in the petition has been shifted to June today by the Court at the instance of the two petitioners.
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