It’s the beginning of a new week. Before new events begin to make the news, it is important to take a look back at the those that dominated the Nigerian public space in the just concluded week. This ensures that the memory is refreshed and issued that were debated do not escape the memory easily. Therefore, The Politico takes your mind back to 10 of the key events that dominated the media last week.
- FG, P&ID Contract Controversy
The week was dominated by reactions to the judgment by a United Kingdom court which awarded the right to seize $9.6bn in Nigerian assets to an engineering and project management company, Process and Industrial Developments Ltd. The August 16, 2019 ruling was based on a 2010 gas processing plant project contract between P&ID and Nigerian government. However, there were reactions from the FG, stakeholders in the country and the opposing party, P&ID, to the ruling. On Tuesday, Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Lai Muhammed, disclosed that President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), National Intelligence Agency and the Inspector General of Police to conduct a thorough investigation into a possible conspiracy in the contract debacle. Mohammed noted that despite the court judgement, Nigeria was not about to lose any of its assets. With the controversy spilling over to the new week, fresh facts are expected to be revealed.
2. Travelers Stranded Following Nigeria’s Closure of Land Borders with Benin
Many travelers were stranded on Wednesday following the sudden the closure of Seme border by Nigerian government. There was no movement into and out of the country as travelers who were going to Benin Republic and those coming into Nigeria from the Francophone country lamented the failure to give prior notice about the border closure. However, President Buhari in a meeting with West African country president Patrice Talon, said the partial closure of Nigeria’s border with Benin Republic was aimed at stopping “massive smuggling activities”. Buhari, according to a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and publicity, Femi Adesina, told his Benin counterpart that smuggling was a setback for the agricultural policies of his administration (Buhari), especially self-sufficiency in food production. He added that the limited closure of the country’s western border was to allow the security forces develop a strategy on how to stem the dangerous trend and its wider ramifications. Buhari however said he would reconsider reopening in the not too distant future. Both leaders met in Japan ahead of the 7th Tokyo International Conference for African Development in Yokohama, which began on Wednesday.
3. Buhari Attended TICAD 7 in Japan
The activities of President Muhammadu Buhari at the 7th Tokyo International Conference for African Development in Yokohama which held between Wednesday and Friday were consistently in the news over the week. President Buhari, who arrived the Asian country on Sunday, held separate bilateral talks with some African countries and host country, Japan. During the conference, Buhari met with South Africa president, Cyril Ramaphosa to discuss the incessant killings of Nigerians in South Africa, and Benin Republic President, Patrice Talon where they held a discussion on how to curb smuggling across Nigeria-Benin border. While meeting with the Japanese delegation led by Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, Buhari sought the country’s help in tackling piracy on the Gulf of Guinea as well as illegal fishing in that region. However, Abe pledged to assist Nigeria Defence College with $300000 and 12million Yen to support Nigeria’s public health. On behalf of the Nigerian government, Minster of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Oyeanma also signed a €50 million Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to support humanitarian and development efforts in the country’s North East region.
4. US Slammed Reciprocity Visa Fees on Nigeria
United States Consulate on Tuesday announced a reciprocity visa fees on Nigerians applying for American visa. The consulate said the decision was in retaliation to the high fees Americans were paying to secure Nigerian visa, explaining that despite the talks it held with the Nigerian government to reduce the fee, the Federal Government refused to accede to its requests. Under the new arrangement, Nigerians applying for tourism, student and business visas will not only pay the N59, 200 fee but will have to pay an extra $110 (N40, 700) after the visa has been issued to them, bringing the total cost to N99, 900. But applicants who are denied visas would not need to pay the extra N40, 700.
Barely 24 hours after the reciprocity fees were imposed, Nigerian government succumbed to pressure by announcing a reduction in visa charges payable by United States citizens from $180 to $150. The Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, on Wednesday said that the Comptroller General of Nigeria Immigration Service, Muhammad Babandede, had been directed to implement the reduction with effect from Thursday. Reacting to the reduction on Friday, the United States Embassy in Nigeria said it would continue to charge Nigerians reciprocity fees because it was yet to receive any diplomatic communication regarding a new fee schedule for Americans seeking Nigerian visas.
5. Lagos Assembly Set up Panel to Probe Ambode
The news of the inauguration of an ad-hoc committee by the Lagos State House of Assembly to probe the immediate past governor of the state, Mr Akinwumi Ambode also generated debate among Nigerians especially on social media. It would be recalled that the Epe residence of the former governor was recently raided by the operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. However, the decision of the assembly to probe Mr Ambode was believed by some Nigerians to be a witch-hunt. Mr Ambode is to be probed for the purchase of 820 mass transit buses allegedly without budgetary approval at the cost of N45bn by his administration. The committee will be chaired by Mr Fatal Mojeed (Ibeju Lekki I).
6. NBA Conference
The Nigeria Bar Association held its Annual General Conference at Eko Hotel and Suites, Lagos. The 59th edition was titled “Facing the Future”. The event which ended on Thursday had in attendance thousands of lawyers including NBA President Paul Usoro (SAN). One of the highlights of the event was the Rule of Law Session on Tuesday where legal luminaries, Femi Falana, SAN, and Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, disagreed over the removal of former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen.
7. Court Refuses to Hear Sowore’s Application
The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Wednesday refused to grant the motion filed by Omoyele Sowore, Convener, #RevolutionNow protests, challenging his detention for 45 days by the Department of State Security. Justice Nkeonye Maya, who declined all applications by Counsel to Sowore, Mr Femi Falana, SAN, sent the case back to Justice Taiwo for further hearing. Justice Taiwo Taiwo had, in a ruling on Aug. 8 in an exparte application, ordered Sowore’s detention for the said period to enable the DSS carry out and conclude its investigation on allegations levied against him.
8. COZA Pastor, Fatoyinbo Grilled by Police
The ‘sleeping’ allegation of rape levelled by Mrs Busola Dakolo, against the founder and Senior Pastor of Commonwealth of Zion Assembly, Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo, was tickled alive as police grilled the cleric for several hours on Tuesday over the allegation. He was questioned at the Force Criminal Investigation Department, Garki Area 10, Abuja, by a team of detectives led by Assistant Commissioner of Police, Adaku Anya. The interrogation also continued till Wednesday as other witnesses were also said to have been interrogated. According to Force spokesman, DSP Frank Mba, police had been conducting their investigation quietly and had to make Pastor Fatoyinbo the last person to question in the matter. He said the issue was not swept under the carpet at any point in time.
9. Fallout of FBI 77: EFCC Declared War on Cybercriminals
Following the indictment of 77 Nigerians by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Tuesday said it had recovered $314,000 and N373m ( N486m in all) from suspects in connection with the FBI list. Mohammed Rabo, Zonal Head, EFCC, Lagos, also disclosed that the recent joint operations coordinated by the commission had yielded 28 arrests, adding that 14 suspects had been charged and convicted. Also, the Ibadan Zonal Head of the anti-graft agency, Mr Friday Elebo said bigger suspects would be unraveled soon, adding that the commission had apprehended a suspected internet fraud kingpin during a recent operation in Ado-Ekiti. The suspect, who he said worked with other cybercriminals abroad in a highly sophisticated web of conspiracy designed to illegally access accounts and defraud individuals as well as organisations, had a number of illicit transactions through his Nigerian bank account amounting to over N223 million.
Recall that the FBI had released a list of 80 persons – mostly Nigerians – for their alleged role in email scams in which Americans were duped of over $70m.
10. Virgil Van Dijk Won UEFA Award, UCL Draw Conducted
Trust the world of sports to always produce the big events for the media to feast on. UEFA on Thursday held its awards event and conducted the 2019/2020 Champions League draw in Monaco, France simultaneously. The biggest winner on the day was Liverpool centre back, Virgil Van Dijk who was named UEFA Men’s Player of the Year, beating Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to the prestigious award. Van Dijk also won the Defender of the Year award for helping the Reds win the Champions League last season. Also, all the 32 clubs that qualified for the UCL were placed into 8 groups for the new season.