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OPINION

 Interrogating Abaribe’s Declaration for Governor of Abia

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Senate Minority Leader and Moral Authority Enyinnaya Harcourt Abaribe declared open the race for Governor of Abia State 2023-2027 on 24 December 2021. He did with a courtesy call and declaration of intent to the incumbent Governor Okezie Ikpeazu. The statement was at the Umuobiakwa Palace or alternate government house of Abia State.

Abaribe went with a 50-vehicle motorcade of party lords and influential stakeholders across the local governments of Abia State and the three senatorial zones. The Abaribe declaration deployed surprise as one of the tested principles of war.

After a gracious reception, even the state government seemingly gave vent to this surprise in a statement that bewailed the ambuscade. The information said the declaration is a distraction from work ahead of the Abia State government and its governor.

Really? So, what has distracted the governor in the last six years of perceived poor delivery? Please!

Key strengths

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Abaribe has taken the offensive. He has seized the initiative and needs to exploit it maximally. So let us do a SWOT analysis and look at the political, economic, sociological (ordinarily scientific), and territorial (PEST) circumstances of this crucial moment.

A key strength of Senator Abaribe is his earned moral authority as a voice for Ndigbo.

The many platforms of Ndigbo in the social sphere have hailed his declaration and look forward to his victory. The calculation is to have Enyi Abaribe and Chukwumah Soludo leading the state governments in charge of the principal Igbo economic centres of Aba and Onitsha.

Abaribe earned his pips by his moral stance and advocacy for Ndigbo in the Senate and public outings.

Political experience is another strength. Enyi Abaribe has been in the mix of Abia and Nigerian politics since 1999. He is now like a tested civil servant who knows all the plans, programmes, corpses, and cemeteries. He can use knowledge of the terrain and players to his advantage.

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…and weaknesses

While the element of surprise offers a first-mover advantage, it can also be a weakness. Abaribe has shown his hand, and the opponents can mobilise and strategise for a counter. Note, however, that December 2021 is political December for the 2023 elections. The primaries of the parties will commence in February 2022. There is no time for dillydallying by others.

Abaribe’s 12-year stint in the Senate could also be a weakness. He has upheld party loyalty and has not been publicly pointing to other directions for the governments that have held Abia State down. The lone exception is his battles with Orji Uzor Kalu, the originator of the failed governance template of Abia.

Senator Kalu has been working overtime on infrastructure constituency projects in his zone. He has characteristically made fanciful claims of huge Federal Government expenditure and releases of up to N50 billion. Except that the claim sounds so much like the one he made about the infrastructure renewal at Aba ahead of the Federal Constituency elections, attempting to appropriate them to himself as initiator. It fell flat.

Abaribe could rewrite the political template of Abia State regarding the rotation of political offices. His quest represents the opportunity as each of the three senatorial zones has had its chance at the governorship. Thus, 2023 represents a fresh start. It is a challenging proposition, though.

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Chinks in the armour

The threats would come essentially from chinks in the armour. They include the aspirations of persons from other senatorial zones. The more insidious threat will feature his fellow Ukwa La Ngwa of the Abia South and Abia Central zones. Then there is the First Son, who has positioned himself as Speaker and Successor-Apparent over the years.

There is also the hardy perennial Dr Alex Otti. He has contested twice. Some portions of the street claim that he lost only to electoral malfeasance both times. Expect him to join the race from the Bende Division after giving up his claim to Ngwa.

The political factors include how well or poorly Okezie Ikpeazu performs in the critical 2022 in the key areas where Ndi Abia have complained. They include essential roads of Aba, the much-beloved Ururuka Road that links Ikpeazu’s homestead and reminds the people of the heydays, and the main arterial road that cuts through communities in Abia North, worker’s welfare, and outstanding salaries and pensions. Therefore, it is understandable that Abaribe avoids open antagonism with his brother, the governor.

Burden of expectation

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If Abaribe is leaving the exalted national platform for the governorship, he makes the point for rebuilding capacities at all levels of our political governance. It is even more so for our local governments that the governors and politicians have made suitable only for the dregs of the system. The local government narrative needs to change as a few people are doing.

Finally, candidate Enyi Abaribe would have the burden of expectation. His entry has raised the stakes. He would have to work hard in the next 15 months to justify those expectations by articulating a winning value proposition for the management of Abia State and its resources. To whom much is given, so much more should the citizens expect.

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OPINION

EFCC, Naira Abuse And The Real Anti-Corruption War

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EFCC Operatives

By Emeka Alex Duru*

It is becoming clear that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), is not looking back in its battle against abuse of the national currency, the Naira. Or so it seems! Two quick moves by the commission within the month, indicate that it perhaps, means business in this regard.

On Wednesday, two days ago, EFCC arraigned a businessman and socialite, Pascal Okechukwu, popularly known as Cubana Chief Priest, before a Lagos court on three counts bordering on abuse of naira, by allegedly spraying and tampering with the nation’s currency at a social event.

According to EFCC, Okechukwu had on February 13, 2024, at Eko Hotel, within the jurisdiction of the court, while dancing during a social event, tampered with funds in the denomination of N500 notes, by spraying the same for two hours, and thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 21(1) of the Central Bank Act 2007.

The commission also alleged that sometime in 2020, during a social event in Lagos, Cubana Chief Priest tampered with funds in the denomination of N500, by spraying the same for two hours.

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In Count 3, EFCC alleged: “That you, Okechukwu Pascal, sometime in January 2024, in Lagos during a social event, tampered with funds in the denomination of N500 (Five Hundred Naira) issued by the Central Bank of Nigeria by spraying the same and you thereby committed an offence, contrary to and punishable under Section 21(1) of the Central Bank Act 2007.”

The EFCC had on April 5, 2024, secured the conviction of controversial cross-dresser, Idris Okuneye, also known as Bobrisky, on similar charges for which he was sentenced to six-month imprisonment on Friday, April 12, 2024. The judge, Abimbola Awogboro, imposed the sentence after the 31-year-old socialite pleaded guilty to the alleged offences.

Earlier in February, a Federal High Court in Lagos had convicted an actress, Oluwadarasimi Omoseyin, of spraying and stepping on new naira notes at a wedding in Lagos.

Ms Omoseyin was apprehended on February 1, following the viral circulation of a video clip showing her spraying new Naira notes at a wedding in Lekki, Lagos State, on January 28. On February 2, the trial judge, Chukwujekwu Aneke, sentenced Ms. Omoseyin to six months imprisonment, but with the option of a N300,000 fine.

Many celebrities, according to the EFCC, are facing investigations and will soon be prosecuted for Naira abuse. We must commend the commission for waging the battle against abuse of the Naira.

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A country’s currency is its legal tender; its store of value, unit of account, and medium of exchange. It is a major tool in transactions by its nationals and residents. In the absence of money, the transactions would become inefficient, and the economy would not be able to produce. By extension, the currency counts among the indexes of national security of a country. How a country treats its currency goes a long way in determining how others see it and its citizens.

Over time, the Naira has been an object of abuse by Nigerians, especially of low value and fleeting identities. Careless spraying of the Naira or even trampling on it, has become an easy path for upstarts to announce their arrival in social circles. If proper analysis is done on the rising incidences of kidnapping, cyber fraud and the get-quick tendencies among the youths, flaunting of the Naira at public functions, will have some blame for the odious acts.

The desire to be celebrated has led many into crimes. It is nearly impossible for anyone who has struggled and toyed to make his or her money to flaunt or spray it in a meaningless fashion. Every effort at safeguarding the value and essence of the Naira should therefore be lauded.

But then, there is the greater task ahead for the EFCC. That is the real war against graft and other acts of corruption. Incidentally, that was even why the commission was established.  Established under the Economic And Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, 2004, EFCC has among other functions to investigate all financial crimes including advance fee fraud, money laundering, counterfeiting, illegal charge transfers, futures market fraud, fraudulent encashment of negotiable instruments, computer credit fraud and contract scam.

It is also empowered to examine and investigate all reported cases of economic and financial crimes to identify individuals, corporate bodies or groups involved. It can also identify, trace, freeze, confiscate or seize proceeds derived from terrorist activities, economic and financial crime-related offences or the properties the value of which corresponds to such proceeds.

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Given the initial success of the Commission in reining in advance fee criminals and scammers, it was generally seen as a bold move in tackling crime and other misdemeanours that had dented the nation’s image locally and abroad.

With time however, especially, due to the closeness of the leadership of the organisation to successive administrations and the willingness to be used in executing vindictive wars of any seating president, EFCC gradually began to be seen as an instrument of blackmail and intimidation by the government. The agency began to lose steam.

The result is that Nigeria is still rated among the countries with high levels of corruption. By the 2023 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) released by Transparency International (TI) in January this year, Nigeria ranked 145 among 180 countries surveyed. The EFCC had on its own, in 2015, admitted that about $20 trillion had been stolen from the national treasury by leaders who had access to the nation’s money between 1960 and 2005. That figure must have been exceeded over time.

Some of the perpetrators of the heinous acts against the country and their cronies are still in the government houses at the state or federal level or other agencies. The opacity and dirty deals in the oils sector, also portray Nigeria as a country that is neck-deep in corruption.

It is therefore not enough for the EFCC to go about raking in petty thieves, internet fraudsters or those abusing the Naira at social functions while leaving out the brains behind huge crimes. For the anti-corruption war to have meaning and be convincing, it must be comprehensive and encompassing.

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The EFCC may have done well in securing a conviction for those trifling with the Naira. But leaving the real thieves roam freely, casts doubt on the genuineness of its anti-corruption war.

  • Duru is the Editor, TheNiche Newspapers, Lagos (08054103327, nwaukpala@yahoo.com)            
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OPINION

Yahaya Bello, EFCC And Rule Of Law

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Bello

By Pelumi  Olajengbesi

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) stands as a cornerstone in upholding the rule of law and combating economic and financial crimes in Nigeria. Its unwavering commitment to investigating and prosecuting offenders has earned it commendation, fostering transparency and accountability in governance, even though there cannot be an institution without a challenge.

Despite facing institutional challenges, the EFCC’s track record of success has solidified its reputation as a formidable government agency, instilling a sense of propriety and caution among those in positions of political and economic influence.

However, recent events have generated concerns about the agency’s capability to function above interference, particularly in light of perceived political interference in its operations. A notable example is the recent stand-off between EFCC personnel and the immediate former Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, highlighting the roles played by the Nigeria Police, the Court, and his successor, which underscores this concern.

The recent decision of the Kogi State High Court, purportedly restraining the EFCC from taking action against the former governor came as a rude shock, sparking widespread debate and scrutiny of the Nigerian legal system. Many citizens perceive this as an instance where certain individuals are seemingly placed above the rule of law, fueling media arguments and public discourse.

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While awaiting access to the Certified True Copy of the judgment for clarity, it’s crucial to affirm the EFCC’s statutory authority, akin to other law enforcement agencies, to investigate and prosecute individuals suspected of committing offences. Sections 6 and 7 of the EFCC Establishment Act unequivocally empower the Commission, with constitutional backing that cannot be overridden by the courts.

The Supreme Court in the case of Dr Joseph Nwobike SAN v. The Federal Republic of Nigeria held thus: “Having regard to sections 6, 7, 14-18 of the EFCC Establishment Act, particularly 6(b), 7(1)(a), 2(f), 13(2), the EFCC has powers to investigate, enforce, and prosecute offenders for any offence, whether under the Act or any statute, insofar as the offence relates to the Commission of economic and financial crimes.”

Similarly, in the case of Ewulo v. EFCC & ors., the Court of Appeals held as follows: “It is no longer in doubt that agencies vested with statutory powers to investigate crimes cannot be restrained or arm-twisted by litigation to prevent them from exercising their statutory powers. Once there is semblance of legal justification in the exercise of statutory powers, the courts must refrain from making orders that have the consequence of stupifying the proper exercise of statutory powers.”

From the above, it is clear beyond a doubt that the Commission cannot be restrained from carrying out its constitutional responsibilities. Any attempts by an individual or group to use the instrumentality of the law to obstruct, delay, and/or circumvent the Commission’s constitutional responsibilities are therefore unlawful.

While respecting citizens’ constitutional rights is crucial, courts lack the authority to impede law enforcement agencies from executing their duties, regardless of the individual’s status. Upholding the rule of law necessitates ensuring equal accountability and justice for all, without exceptions or undue influence.

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  • Olajengbesi Esq, Legal is Managing Partner at Law Corridor, Abuja
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OPINION

Shifting Urban Mobility Trends: Electric Scooter Ride Is The New Normal

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Electric scooter prototype

By Faheem Daha

Recent decades have seen unprecedented technological advancements. Modern devices and gadgets seep into our daily lives and replace outdated products effortlessly. Change is normal and a sign of liveliness. The bustling roads that were once a showcase for large vehicles are now witnessing a different scene. People today are more intrigued by restoring the environment to a healthy state. While it’s impossible to reset the environment in pristine condition. It will be still a success to conserve the environment at its present condition. It requires a lot of continuous effort, mindful practice choices and patience. Preferences of individuals are shaping the trends of urban mobility. Electric scooters are a popular trending product. Each passing day a new e-scooter is joining the fleet. The proliferation of electric scooters in the urban transportation grid is compelling authorities to focus on the development of dedicated infrastructure for these single-occupancy vehicles.

Key triggers behind the surge of electric scooters

The post-pandemic world is facing the aftershocks of COVID-19. Global inflation is one such impact. Unstable fuel prices and unreasonably high car prices are a limiting factor in owning a personalized vehicle. Although the US economy is largely based on credit obtaining a car on lease is easier than the rest of the world. Yet every car leaves massive air pollution. Eco-friendly people are aggressively heading to electric stores to hit the best deal. What could be more exciting than taking an independent ride that is cost-effective, convenient, and environmentally friendly? You just need to have a few hundred bucks in your pocket to hit the right deal. No worries if you are out of budget, companies like LIME and Bird are offering electric scooters on rental service. Another good news is some states in the USA offer relaxed policies and GOvernment incentives for switching to this eco-friendly vehicle.

Impact of Electric scooters on the environment
Zero tailpipe emission
Conventional scooters draw power from combustion engines. On Average, a normal-sized motorcycle will add 0.18245kg of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere for every mile it covers. On the contrary electric scooters are surging in demand because of their zero to negligible tailpipe emissions. Thus conserving the air quality.

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Bye Bye to frustration
Traffic congestion is one of the primary reasons for underperforming individuals. Juggling for way among different vehicles is an uphill task. Electric scooters can now navigate you easily through dedicated bike lanes in no time. Individuals can save a lot of time and conserve their productivity for onsite work. Similarly, returning home frustration-free can restore the domestic environment. It sounds cliche but fresh and healthy individuals are likely to make healthier choices. Just like frustrated peeps resort to cigarettes and alcohol, mindful buddies prefer activities that are safe for them and the environment too.
Critiquing the e-scooters from procurement to production
There has been an ongoing debate regarding the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere while extracting the raw materials, establishing production units to final delivery of e-scooters in the market. There is no denying that extracting raw materials for e-scooters requires a significant amount of energy. Yet, the initial environmental cost is offset by the far-reaching benefits it brings to the environment. Additionally, companies are looking for ways to reuse and recycle electrical components that can be retrieved from discarded products. Practices to make the extraction and production process efficient are underway.

Lesser emissions from idling vehicles
Idling vehicles despite being stationery still impart a carbon footprint to the environment since the engine is running and fuel is burning. The slim structure of electric scooters is a big plus. Navigation through populous terrains is swift and trouble-free. The e-scooter rider is a blessing for the rider himself and other road fellows. Why? Because the compactness of this scooter plays a big role in reducing congestion we can have fewer idling vehicles. Because of electric scooters riders’ fuel of other cars is conserved along with air quality. Isn’t that great? But it does not mean that car drivers keep on polluting the air. They also owe their fair share towards the betterment of the environment.
Electric scooters boast active commutation
E-scooters enable riders to engage in healthy lifestyles without compromising their physical limitation. Elderly people with back and leg pain discourage the idea of the outdoors as walking and bicycling appear tedious to them. Electric scooters besides conserving the environment conserve precious moments too. Like healthy individuals, weak people can enjoy cool breezes, friend reunions and nature walks equally on their much-loved e-scooters.

First and Last-mile commute
Using public transportation is always referred to as an environmentally friendly and cost-effective solution. However, a gap always exists between transit points and destinations. E-scooters fill this gap impeccably. No need to pay extra bucks now. As electric scooters have immense portability, they easily fill the gap from your place to the transit station. And then to the final destination.

No parking hassle
Escooter riders enjoy the liberty of hassle-free parking. Identifying a reasonable parking spot for cars is painstaking. Contrary to this you can effortlessly park the e-scooter at the specified area near the actual destination

Convenience on the go
Demand for escooters is surging in urban traffic dynamics. They are ideal, particularly for short trips. With the help of different smartphone applications, you can avail the convenience of riding on the go. Simply locate available e-scooters in your surroundings using the app, unlock and tada there you go! No more need to wait for transport to arrive. Electric scooter rides liberate you from the worries of fuel charges, waiting times, and traffic jams along with better air to breathe in.

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There have been a lot of real-life stories advocating how electric scooters emerged as a real heroes. Be it a navigation through densely populated cities or becoming a travelling partner of environmental enthusiasts NANROBOT D6+2.0 never disappoints.

Electric scooters have challenges too
Like every product e-scooter industry has its challenges. Problems like vandalism. improper disposal and safety considerations have raised eyebrows. Public demand for a developed infrastructure is pressing the authorities whether to openly legalize vehicles or not. However, for every problem, there exists a solution. If e-scooter companies collaborate with local stakeholders and municipal authorities, there is a better chance that issues will be resolved.Reference link: https://www.nature.org/en-us/get-involved/how-to-help/carbon-footprint-calculator/
https://www.escootersstores.com/pages/carbon-footprint-calculators
https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/what-is-a-carbon-footprint-how-to-measure-yours

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Faheem Daha, CEO of a pioneering electric scooter company in the USA, leads with a focus on sustainable urban mobility.

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