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Monday, March 4, 2024

2023, Nigeria’s most dangerous year By Emmanuel Onwubiko

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Gabi Ancarola in January 1, 2022 wrote a piece for his local news journal in Greece about the Celebrations and customs for the New Year that are found throughout countless cultures around the world, and he stated that Greece is no different. The reporter stated that there are many unique traditions to celebrate the New Year from the country.

The reporter began by analysing the symbolic meaning of the New Year’s fireworks in Greece and informed us that
Fireworks are an essential part of New Year’s celebrations in many countries. The stunning displays of light and color are even more impressive in Greece, which is full of natural wonders and archaeological sites.

On New Year’s, shows of glitter and magic light up the skies all across the country in many cities and villages. The spectacles are all different from city to city, but they are all magnificent to watch.

Greek New Year’s Cake, or Vasilopita
January first is New Year’s Day as well as the feast day of Greek Orthodox Saint Basil. In honor of both the New Year and St. Basil’s day, Greeks bake a coin into a New Year’s cake called “Vasilopita.”

The delicious cake is sliced up and served. The first cut goes to Jesus, and then the rest to the family – Greeks even cut slices for family members who are not present, as well as one for “the house.”

The person who gets the lucky slice with the coin baked inside is said to have good luck for the coming year.

Carolers Bring Good Luck to Your Home
Caroling is not just a Christmas tradition in Greece. Carolers also play the triangle and sing carols, or “Kalanda,” as they visit the homes in their neighborhoods for the New Year, the reporter further informed us.

The reporter wrote also thus: “It is customary to give the children money when they come to your door. The songs are thought to bless your house for the new year and is therefore considered good luck if a caroler visits you. This is a very old tradition that continues to live on throughout the entire country!”

The reporter delved into other celebratory cultures of the Greek such as playing Cards and stated that Good fortune and New Year celebrations go hand in hand, and doing something that could attract even more luck, such as playing games, is something no Greek would ever say no to. Bets are modest and symbolic, the idea is to get something out of nothing, a real metaphor for luck!

Even with limited amounts at stake, people, the reporter stated, get really enthusiastic and games usually last all night, even in cafés and taverns. People in Greece often play board games, dice and the lottery as well. It’s even common to give scratch off lottery tickets as gifts to friends on New Year’s Eve.

As expected, Greeks usually celebrate the New Year with a delicious feast. It is common to invite friends and family to one’s home and serve a delicious meal before heading out to celebrate the upcoming year.

In the piece published in the Greekreporter.com informed us that Many households set an extra empty place at the New Year’s table as a symbolic ritual closely related to the legendary Greek hospitality, so that there will always be a place at the table for any newcomer. Smashing pomegranates, a Greek New Year celebration. Hanging a big, juicy pomegranate over the front door is a typical Greek ritual that takes place on the night of New Year’s Eve.

Traditionally, the family leaves the house minutes before midnight. Right after midnight, one especially lucky member of the family (usually a child), will be the first to reenter the house, stepping inside with the right foot.

This lucky “First Footer” will be in charge of bringing good luck for everyone who lives in the house, for the rest of the year.

While the “First Footer” enters the house, another family member grabs the pomegranate with their right hand, and smashes it against the door, causing as many seeds as possible to fly around the room. Tradition says that the more seeds that fall all over the floor, the more good fortune will be brought to the house.
(Copyright – GreekReporter.com).

This writer deliberately delved into the Greek way of marking the New Year because for so many of the adherents of organised Western religion and Western lifestyle, the Greeks played significant and profoundly intellectual roles in moulding those Western cultures by way of Religion and Philosophy.

In Nigeria therefore, with a greater percentage of persons deeply rooted in foreign religions and cultures brought to Africans by Europeans and Arabs, the celebration of the transition from the preceding year to the next, is marked symbolically and with tinge of spiritualism and philosophy. The year 2022 came with lots of challenges and one of these contending issues include the way the bad state of the national economy has affected millions of Nigerians.

In the year 2022, we learnt that Nigerians that are poverty stricken in a multidimensional fashion are about 130 million families. Over 30 million graduates who are ready for employment are out of jobs in Nigeria just as sophisticated Crimes have become widespread with road travels becoming very risky due to the presence of armed non state actors kidnapping, maiming and killing travellers with the Federal Government’s interventions not coming to their aide. The issue of poverty and the high rate of the absolutely poor is pathetic.

This is not just a mere figure but a reality of our time in Nigeria. Poverty has come with it a general climate of national insecurity so much so that mass killings have become a critical aspect of the daily life in the contemporary Nigerian society.

The preparations for a transition to the new year 2023 is also very tangential and critical because of the general elections that will happen in the first quarter of the new year 2023 in about 60 days away or so.

The 2023 general elections and the general state of insecurity are basically the factors that distinguishes the year 2023 as Nigeria’s most dangerous year. The government as we have stayed has failed to implement measures to secure the lives and property of the citizens which is the primary legal duty of government.

This is precisely so because the government in place headed by President Muhammadu Buhari has in the last seven years failed spectacularly to provide the necessary democracy devidends and secure the lives of the citizens which is the primary duty of government as provided for in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 1999 as amended.

Part of the fundamental reasons that the year 2023 can be considered as Nigeria’s most dangerous year is because the government in power that is a failed administration, is bent by all means to manipulate the electoral process and install a successor that has lots of past alleged criminal misdeeds that he hasn’t clearly explained his role to Nigerians.

Few hours back the National chairman of the All Progressives Congress which is the political party that produced the current President, unabashedly stated that it will be a disgrace if President Muhammadu Buhari who is of the APC should hand over to an administration not headed by a member of the All Progressives Congress.

This treacherous statement coming from no less a person than the national chairman of the national ruling political party is disconcerting and worrisome.

Few hours back, there were speculations in the media that some five governors of the Peoples Democratic Party known as G-5 led by Nyesom Wike of Rivers State is contemplating working for the candidate for Presidency of the All Progressives Congress. This same Muslim candidate has another Muslim as Deputy which negates the very essence of our coexistence as a multireligious and multicultural society.

This is very dangerous given the several controversies surrounding the former Lagos State governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu who is the Presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress which the ruling party is bent on manipulating into power by all means.

An online newspaper recently wrote a piece titled: “Corruption Allegations Against Tinubu Linger As 70-year-old Ex-Lagos Governor Becomes Ruling APC Presidential Candidate” dated June 8, 2022.

The newspaper wrote thus: “Fraud cases against Tinubu dated as far back as 1998, raising questions about how the former governor struggled to delay the axe of the law. Despite court cases of alleged massive frauds hanging on his neck, former Governor of Lagos State and National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu was on Wednesday officially declared the presidential candidate of the party. Tinubu polled 1,271 votes at the election which was held at Eagle Square, Abuja.

Checks by an online newspaper revealed that the fraud cases against Tinubu dated as far back as 1998, raising questions about how the former governor struggled to delay the axe of the law.

On February 18, 2009, the media obtained original copies of a judgment in the case of United States versus Bola Ahmed Tinubu, in which Tinubu was charged (along with other defendants) in a case of massive drug trafficking and money laundering.

This judgment directly relates to (and further documents) the SaharaReporters report of September 16, 2008 – How US Federal Agents successfully Linked Tinubu to Drug Trafficking Ring in Chicago.

The United States of America, by its attorney, Michael J. Shepard, United States Attorney for Northern District of Illinois, for its verified complaint of forfeiture, stated that “Beginning as early as 1998, Adegboyega Mueez Akande, with others operated an organisation which distributed white heroin, a controlled substance under Title 21 of the United States Code.

“This distribution operation was conducted on a large scale and the proceeds of the operation substantial.”

The judgment was that the court ordered: “that the funds in the amount of $460,000 in account in the name of Bola Tinubu represents proceeds of narcotics or were involved in financial transactions in violation of 18 U.S.C ss 1956 and 1957 and therefore these funds are forfeited to the United States.”

After protracted litigation in which Bola Tinubu claimed that the monies legitimately belonged to him, his wife, Oluremi Tinubu, and his surrogate mother, one Alhaja Mogaji, Bola Tinubu finally opted for a stipulated settlement with the US government.

According to the settlement order dated September 15, 1993; Hon. Judge John A. Nordberg ordered that the sum of $460,000 held by Bola Tinubu in the First Heritage Bank account be forfeited to the United States Government.

A bigger scandal says the media was uncovered in 2018 when Alpa Beta, a consultancy owned by Bola Tinubu, was caught at the centre of a N100 billion fraud, tax evasion, and money laundering petition written by Mr. Dapo Apara, its Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer.

According to Apara’s petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Alpha Beta “has become an avenue for official corruption of government officials, a conduit pipe for massive money-laundering scheme, tax evasion, among other vices.”

In the petition, sent on his behalf by Adetunji Adegboyega ESG, his solicitors, Apara said: “Over the years the company is being protected and shielded by some powerful politicians and people in the society which made them to always boast of being untouchable, but our client, feeling the need not to keep quiet again and strengthened by his belief in the fact that the government of President Muhammadu Buhari is keen on fighting corruption, which has been the bane of our country, is of the firm belief that it’s time to expose and open the can of worms called Alpha Beta Consulting.”

Alpha Beta first became known when it was appointed as a consultant to the Lagos State Government, arguably its first client, under the tenure of Babatunde Fowler as the Chief Executive Officer/Executive Chairman of the Lagos State Board of Internal Revenue from 2005 to 2014.

The company got the appointment when Tinubu was Governor of Lagos State. The speculation, which has yet to dissipate since then, is that Tinubu completely owns or is a major shareholder in the company.

In the same vein, the state has also never denied claims that the company takes about 10 percent of the internally generated revenue of Lagos, estimated in 2016 to be about N40 billion every month.

The court process was still ongoing when on October 27, 2020, hoodlums burnt the documents during the riotous #EndSARS violence in the state.

The court papers stating charges brought against Tinubu, his tax consultancy firm, Alpha Beta Consulting, by Apara were burnt, according to claims by Tade Ipadeola, Apara’s lawyer.

“Everything in Igbosere High Court got burnt including the registrar’s copy of our application. In fact, the whole building was burnt to ashes. So, we will have to file again. The registry has been moved to Ikeja.

“We may have to file the case afresh at the Ikeja High Court but we have not yet been instructed to do so,” he said on October 27, 2020.

Apara had claimed in the documents that Tinubu, suspiciously diverted N22,360,000,000 and $4,396,063 from the firm’s account to that of Vintage Press Ltd, publisher of The Nation Newspaper.

In a writ of summons marked LD/7330GCMW/2020 deposed at a Lagos High Court, Apara, who claims to own a 30 per cent stake in the company, alleged that the former governor reneged on certain agreements reached in the past about the management and control of the consulting firm.

Other fronts used by Tinubu, according to the former Alpha Beta boss, are Olumide Ogunmola and Tunde Badejo.

In his statement of claim, Apara said during a review of the company’s account, he discovered that huge sums of money earned by the company over the years were not reflected in its account.

He also revealed how Tinubu used the Osun State governor, Adegboyega Oyetola, as a front for the establishment of the firm.

Alpha Beta Consulting was awarded a contract by the Lagos State Government when Tinubu was governor of the state after a recommendation by a committee comprising the then Attorney-General of Lagos State, Prof Yemi Osinbajo (now the Vice President of Nigeria); Mr Wale Edun, then Commissioner for Finance; and a former Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget, Yemi Cardoso.

The firm was subsequently given exclusive rights to collect taxes on behalf of the Lagos State Government and was believed to receive about 10 percent commission from the revenue it collected for the state.

However, as observed by the media reporter, pro-transparency groups and opposition politicians had constantly alleged that Tinubu owned Alpha Beta even though his name was not on any of the company’s documents.

After the incorporation of Alpha-Beta Consulting Ltd in 2002 and the company, Mr Apara said it was structured according to the dictates of Mr Tinubu, in his official capacity as the governor of Lagos State. Mr Tinubu thereafter approved that Alpha-Beta Consulting Ltd be awarded consultancy contract for the assessment and collection on behalf of the Lagos State Government, all taxes and Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) due and payable to the State at a 10% consultancy fee (subject to a benchmark which varies from time to time).

He noted further that due to the technology deployed by him, the Internally Generated Revenue of the state grew from a base of about N10 billion in 2002 to over N300 billion in 2019.

The story continues that in 2010 or thereabouts, he alleged, Mr Tinubu directed that the incorporation structure of the Alpha-Beta Consulting Ltd be changed from a Limited Liability Company to Limited Liability Partnership under a newly promulgated law of the Lagos State Government. Mr Apara said Mr Tinubu explained to him that the purpose was to further shield his (Tinubu’s) Involvement in Alpha-Beta Consulting Ltd from public scrutiny. This was done in 2010.

Mr Apara claimed that Mr Tinubu thereafter directed that Mr Ogunmola be designated as Managing Partner of Alpha Beta Consulting LLP, while he was designated as Deputy Managing Partner. He explained further that in 2014, Mr Tinubu directed that Mr Ogunmola should cease being the Managing Partner and he (Mr Apara) then became the Managing Partner with access to review the financial records.

But things took a dramatic turn sometime in 2016 when Mr Tinubu told him he had has received feedback that he (Apara) was reviewing past financial records of the company and he was displeased with this action. He claimed Mr Tinubu therefore announced that he intends to bring Mr Doherty into the management of the company as Managing Director to take over the financial management of the company, while he (Mr Apara) should revert to his former role as Deputy Managing Director and not get involved in the company’s financial affairs.

“The 2nd Defendant (BOLA AHMED TINUBU) also warned the claimant not to even think of exposing his involvement in the financial affairs of the lst Defendant to the EFCC as the then Acting Chaiman of EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, will always protect him (the 2nd Defendant),” Mr Apara said in the writ.

“The 2nd Defendant (Tinubu) also threatened to use the agencies of the Lagos State Government such as the Lagos State Internal Revenue service (LlRS) and the Lagos State Building Control Agency to harass and seize the assets of the Claimant if the Claimant ever betrayed him.”

Mr Apara said he disagreed with the Mr Tinubu’s request that he should revert to the role of a deputy.

“Instead the Claimant agreed with the 2nd Defendant that he will transition to a consultant to the 1st Defendant to manage the technology and get remunerated on a monthly basis for this task,” he claimed.

“Thereafter, the 3rd Defendant was brought to the office premises of the 1st Defendant by Mr. TUNDE BADEjo, a partner, and introduced to the staff as the new “Managing Director” of the 1st Defendant.

“Thereafter, MR. TUNDE BADEJO told the claimant that if he (the claimant) ever came to the office of the 1st Defendant, he, MR. TUNDE BADE]O, win terminate the life of the Claimant.

“This incident was reported to the Police in 2018 and is under investigation. When the Police commenced investigation into this complaint by the plaintiff in 2018, the 2nd Defendant (BOLA AHMED TINUBU) interfered in the PoLice investigation to frustrate it.”

Mr Apara said that despite being a signatory to the company’s account, from 2018 to date, Messrs Badejo and Tinubu have colluded to operate the bank accounts of the amongst themselves without his involvement contrary to the subsisting mandate which stipulates that he and Mr Badejo jointly sign any amount as “A” signatories, apart from a limit of N10 million monthly which may be signed jointly by any “A” and a “B” signatory.

The “B” signatory was designated as Mr Bode Oluyemi, an employee of the company.

Suspicious that his signature was being forged to enable the Messrs Tinubu to operate the bank accounts of the company without his involvement, Mr Apara claimed that he wrote to the bankers of the company in February revoking his mandate for any debit transactions.

On the alleged Breach of Agreements Mr Apara claimed that Clause 8 of the Partnership Agreement which relates to Profit and Losses provides that “the Partnership’s profits and losses (including profits and losses of capital) shall be divided between and borne by the Partners in proportion to the shares in its capital for the time being owned by them”.

However, he said, the company has received from the Lagos State Government commission for its services estimated at over One hundred and fifty billion naira from 2010 to date with the profits of the Partnership being that sum minus legitimate costs.

Despite the huge income made by the company, he said, Messrs Badejo and Doherty “acting under the direction of the 2nd Defendant (TINUBU) breached Clause 8 of the Partnership Agreement and denied” him (Apara) his share of the profit from the partnership as provided in the agreement.

“The Claimant avers that Messrs Tunde Badejo, Michael Olunride Ogunmola and Akin Doherty have colluded and conspired to run the affairs of the business in a manner designed to bankrupt the 1st Defendant through suspicious monetary transfers to 3rd parties running into billions of naira contrary to the Partnership Agreement,” he averred, listing some of the alleged suspicious transactions.

He alleged further that during a review of the company’s account, he discovered that huge sums of money earned by the company over the years were not reflected in the account.

“The claimant avers that the account review alluded above revealed large scale fraudulent transactions some of which are stated above and diversion of the lst Defendant funds running into billions of naira by the 2nd and 3rd Defendants,” the writ stated.

“The Claimant shall contend at the trial of the suit that au actions of the 3rd Defendant acting alone or in connivance with the 2nd Defendant is a continuing violation of the Laws of Lagos State as it pertains to Partnerships as well as a violation of the Partnership Agreement through which the 1st Defendant came into existence.”

Mr Apara claimed that he confronted Mr. Badejo who then admitted to him that the funds of the company were grossly mismanaged over the years including the diversion for purported joint venture purposes at the direction of Mr Tinubu.

“The said partner confided in the Claimant that it was the style of the 2nd Defendant (TINUBU) to corrupt his office and extort benefits of between 70% or more from all projects on-going in Lagos State since he became Governor in 1999 to date,” Mr Apara said in the writ.

“The said partner further cited as example to the Claimant the Global Computerisation Project which is being handled by another company of his called Soft Alliance and Resources Limited and where all the payments received are diverted to the 2nd Defendant (BOlA AHMED TINUBU).

“The Mr. Tunde Badejo also cited the case of the Land Use Charge) Project which followed a similar pattern. The Claimant avers that Mr. Tunde Badejo further admitted that the diversion of the 1st Defendant funds over the years running into billions of naira into suspicious accounts was done in a “smart” way to shield the 2nd Defendant (BOLA AHMED TINUBU) from public scrutiny and to hide his assets from the Code of Conduct Bureau and the anti-corruption agencies.”

Mr Apara claimed that after Mr. Badejo had explained the facts to him, it became clear to him that the company was being used for “massive corruption purposes including tax evasion, bribery of government officials, diversion of the funds.” However, he said that Mr. Badejo thereafter threatened that his life will be in danger if he ever reveals the admitted facts to third parties.

After a thorough and full assessment of the information he received from Mr Badejo which confirmed the poor records book keeping of accounts, Mr Apara said he decided to whistle blow the fraudulent activities, adding that as a stakeholder, he is entitled to the payment of his dividends from 2010 to date in accordance with agreements reached.

Besides, In 2018, Mr Apara made newspaper headlines when he took to Twitter to vent his frustration over the operation of Alpha-Beta.

Tweeting via @DapoApara, he revealed that the company has generated about N1.5 trillion for the Lagos government since 2002, from which Alpha-beta earned 10%.

In the writ issued by Mr Apara’s lawyer, he said he had made attempts to have the matter settled out of court with Messrs Tinubu and others but such attempts were unsuccessful.

“The Claimant caused his lawyers to write the defendants several letters from 31st July 2018 to 21st September 2020 and Defendants refused or neglected to respond,” the lawyer said.

All efforts to get the company’s side of the story then were unsuccessful. A telephone number listed on the company’s website failed to connect.

When the medium that wrote the story reached out to Tunde Rahman, spokesperson to Mr Tinubu, the telephone line rang out several times Thursday morning but was not answered.

Besides, the Candidate of the All Progressives Congress that President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress are working to manipulate into office has a question around his academic credentials in both the primary, secondary and the University.

But the most dangerous of the controversies that is still hanging is how Nigeria’s anti narcotic war will proceed if it turns out that Tinubu wins given his past suspected links with hard drugs and alleged money laundering.

This is why next year is very dangerous and because Nigerians care about BREAD AND BUTTER, it may be difficult to ensure that the election is FREE, FAIR, TRANSPARENT AND PEACEFUL.

So the year 2023 will be marked by how far the early general election goes. If the election is manipulated, then the prediction that the year 2023 will be our most dangerous year will be actualized because there will certainly be a bucket full of crises and anarchy at the highest levels. Many will run out of Nigeria for fear of a full blown war.

The ball is in the courts of Nigerians to make or Mar the future of the country. If Nigerians allow Bola Tinubu becomes the President, then it is nunc dimittis for Nigeria as we have known it for over 100 years.

*EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA and was NATIONAL COMMISSIONER OF THE NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF NIGERIA.

 

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