Saturday, October 30, 2010

Court sentences police corporal to death

By Ikechukwu NNOCHIRI, AbujaIt was end of the road for Corporal Gad Barminals yesterday as an Abuja high court sitting in Maitama, sentenced him to death following his involvement in an armed robbery attack that resulted in the death of an Abuja based taxi driver, Mr Paul Ojo.
Corporal Barminals was said to have arrested the deceased driver at gunpoint, took him to a secluded spot within the Airport road in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, pumped loads of bullets into his chest and made away with his Toyota Camry marked XA398RBC.
The lifeless body of the murdered cab driver was subsequently recovered from a ditch located close to Dantata Company, after the owner of the vehicle, one Abbas Akintayo, on May 25, 2005, reported to a police station situated at Lugbe a suburb in Abuja, that his driver was missing.
Luck, however, ran out of the daredevil police officer when he went to sell the stolen vehicle in Kaduna, where underground cops who posed as buyers, arrested and handed him over to the FCT command for interrogation.
Passing judgment on him yesterday, trial Justice Ishaq Bello, maintained that a confessional statement made by the convicted officer while under interrogation, disclosed that he was guilty of culpable homicide punishable by death.
The Judge waved aside an oral denial made by the accused person before the court, as flimsy, adding that he had ab_inition consented to committing the crime in his written statement tendered as part of the proof of evidence against him.
Justice Bello maintained that the convicted officer was not able to give a convincing alibi for himself nor tell the court where he was on the day the incident took place, stressing that the fact that he was caught on the point of selling the deceased man’s car indicted him to the crime.
Corporal Barminals, hitherto attached to the Loius Edet House in Abuja, in the said statement that nailed him, admitted robbing the deceased driver at gunpoint along the games village junction in Abuja.
He commandeered the murdered driver towards airport road and repeatedly shot him when he refused to let go of his car key.
According to him, “I was on a stop and search duty with my AK_47 very close to the games village junction that day when I stopped the vehicle and entered. Along the way, I asked the driver to stop and I give me the car key, when he refused and started fighting with me, I pushed him down and shot him”.
Despite a plea of allocutus made by his counsel, Mr A.A Aliyu yesterday to the effect that he was not only a first time offender but also the breadwinner of his family, the trial Judge, went ahead and ordered his death, inline with section 221 and 298 of the penal code.
According to the Judge, “going by the overwhelming evidence before me, I am convinced that there was an armed robbery and that the accused person conceived and executed it. The fact that he was arrested in the process of selling the stolen car in Kaduna lends credence to his confessional statement earlier tendered as exhibit_1 in this case.
“The plea that he is the bread winner of his family is inconsequential considering the gravity of the offence he committed. I will not loose sight of the fact that the deceased man might have also been an irreparable loss as breadwinner of his own family.
“The convict who should be a security to the society, by committing the offence does not deserve pity, moreover my hands are firmly tied by section 229 of the penal code which provides for death penalty in a case of culpable homicide like this, therefore, the convict is hereby sentenced to death according to the provisions of the law”, the Judge held.
Meantime, the convict immediately after the judgment yesterday, while clutching a copy of the holy Bible very close to his chest, started evangelism in the open court.
He quoted copiously from portions of the holy book that said there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, even as he accused the Judge of passing judgment on him in error.
The convicted officer insisted that his travail was orchestrated by high_ranking police officers that he said had vowed to eliminate him, just as he denied writing the incriminating statement that was used against him.

» Court sentences police corporal to death::Vanguard (Nigeria)

» Court sentences police corporal to death::Vanguard (Nigeria)

Confusion as police invade palace, shoot one, maim others

Confusion as police invade palace, shoot one, maim othersCrime Guard Oct 30, 2010
By Albert AkporCONFUSION, dejection and perhaps, frustration all best captured the state of mind of an embattled traditional ruler, Oba Gbolahan Akanbi Timson, the Jagunmolu of Shomolu\Bariga communities in Lagos state as Crime Guard arrived his palace strategically located on Ayoka Street in the area.
As he lifted his head in apparent retrospection laced with visible rage, all he could utter was, “They have done it again, the police; they have been here shooting and beating everybody because they could not find me. That same person who said he would not live to see me enjoy this throne, in spite of my court victories, has done it again!”

The palace invaded
Eyewitness account said the heavily armed policemen that invaded the palace to unleash terror were led by a Chief Superintendent of Police suspected to be the Divisional Police Officer in-charge of the area. Residents of the area, including guests of the royal father, fell victims to the invasion.
A French national, simply identified as Vincent, a 70_year_old second Republic Councillor, Pa Omoshebi Olayemi who were seated awaiting the arrival of the Oba when the warring policemen stormed the palace, were not spared.
Whereas, the foreigner was given the beating of his life with his clothes torn to shreds, the septuagenarian who was mistaken for the Oba was asked to frog jump before being hauled into a waiting van. He was later asked to jump down when it was discovered that he was not the man they wanted. No reason was given for this attack.
But the traditional ruler said he knew the source of the invasion, wondering, however, why they had to transfer the aggression to innocent and defenseless visitors to the palace.
Said he: “I know the man behind all this. He has started again. I thought with the court rulings, he would have soft-pedaled and back off. What they wanted to do was to assassinate me and install an Oba of his choice against the wishes of the people.
The court has ruled in favor of me and even restrained them from further harassing me.
Some times in June this year, another higher court awarded N3m as damages to me for their continuous violation of my fundamental rights. Another higher court has equally issued a mandamus to the state government, compelling it to issue me with the staff of office without further delay.

Embattled Oba Timson
But up till now, none has been complied with. Even in the face of this, I have complained to many quarters, against either the state government or the same man fanning the amber of destruction. For them to have resuscitated the aggression this morning at about 9.30am while I was still in bed is something I cannot understand.
While the shooting in my premises intensified, I sneaked out to see what was the problem, only to see armed policemen led by the DPO of Bariga harassing and beating everybody on sight.
I called him to find out what was amiss and he said they were looking for those that participated in a fight last week somewhere in Ilaje. I asked him the correlation between a fight in far away Ilaje community and those innocent people in the palace.
He then ordered his boys to calm down and vacate the palace. Then I went inside. About 10 minutes later, I was jolted by staccato of guns and the wailing of innocent people, among them were a 70- year- old second republic councillor and a passionate friend from France.
They shot at random and beat anybody as if there was war. By this time, I was afraid to come out because the shooting was too much. While at the penthouse, I heard gun shots piercing my bedroom windows. Perhaps, they thought I was sleeping there. They broke down doors, windows, all in frantic search for me.
In the process, the son of my gate man was shot in the leg while others were badly beaten. In between time, I could hear them saying, ‘though I may have won all the legal tussles, I would never be crowned an Oba in this community’. As they were leaving, they took away seven other innocent persons, including my driver.
On the ground were 19 shells of expended bullets. It was even gathered that when they discovered that the shells may be used as evidence against them, they started packing the ones outside.”
Apparently determined to defend the mandate of his people, Oba Timson, who seemed to have exhausted all known credible and legal means of resolving the unending animosity, said it was time he fought back his tormentors. “With what is happening now, I think they have pushed me to the wall. We will have to bounce back.
We will have to resist this unwarranted oppression with every tool within our reach since they have refused to abide by court orders. We will also let the world know that we are not weaklings. The mistake they are making is that they are taking the gentle stride of the tiger for cowardice”, he stated.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Nnamani, ex-Enugu gov re-arraigned in Lagos

yesterday, re-arraigned before a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on a 124-count charge of alleged money laundering.
Trial judge in the matter was Justice Charles Archibong. Nnamani, who was arraigned alongside some of his former commissioners and companies, is currently standing trial over alleged money laundering and economic crimes to the tune of about N5 billion.
Some of the other accused persons standing trial with Nnamani included former Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters, Sam Ejiofor and a former consultant to the state government, Victor Udeh. Also charged were Sunday Anyaogu and a Permanent Secretary in the Enugu State Civil Service, Sylvia Onwue-bemeli.6 firms, too
Six firms linked to the former Governor were charged. They include: Rainbownet Nig. Ltd, Hillgate Nig Ltd, Cosmos FM, Capital City Automobile Nig. Ltd., Renaissance University Teaching Hospital and Mea Mater Elizabeth High School.
During yesterday’s proceedings, the new charge was read to all the accused persons and their representatives and they pleaded not guilty.
In the meantime, Sylvia Onwue-bemeli, who is standing trial alongside the former Governor, has asked the court to remove her name from the charge.
In an application before the court, Onwuebemeli is contending that the proof of evidence filed by the EFCC does not support the allegation against her and that there was no link between her and the charges.
Onwuebemeli further contended that the proof of evidence does not disclose any case against her.
Meanwhile, Justice Archibong has adjourned till January 25, 2011 for hearing on Onwuebe-meli’s application, even as he directed that the accused persons should continue to enjoy their subsisting bail.
Some of the counts in the new charge read as thus;
“That you Chimaroke Nnamani, Chinero Nwigwe(now at large), Sunday Anyaogu, Rainbownet Nig. Ltd, Hillgate Nig. Ltd, Cosmos FM, Capital City Automobile Nig. Ltd, Renaissance University Teaching Hospital, Renaissance University and Mea Mater Elizabeth High School on or about 15th day of March, 2007 within the jurisdiction of this honourable court did transfer the sum of $14,975.00 to Rainbow Associates LLC account in the United States of America(in which Chimaroke Nnamani and Chinero Nwigwe are sole signatories to the account) which sum you knew represented the proceeds of crime with the aim of concealing the nature of the proceeds of the said crime and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 14(1) of money laundering(prohibition)act, 2004”
“That you Chimaroke Nnamani, Chinero Nwigwe(now at large), Sunday Anyaogu, Rainbownet Nig. Ltd, Hillgate Nig. Ltd, Cosmos FM, Capitalcity Automobile Nig. Ltd, Renaissance University Teaching Hospital, Renaissance University and Mea Mater Elizabeth High School on or about 15th day of March, 2007 within the jurisdiction of this honourable court did transfer the sum of $62,214.00 to Elizabeth Group LLC account in the United States of America (in which Chimaroke Nnamani and Chinero Nwigwe are sole signatories to the account) which sum you knew represented the proceeds of crime with the aim of concealing the nature of the proceeds of the said crime and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 14(1) of money laundering(prohibition)act, 2004”

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Neighbours shocked as Okah stands trial for Nigeria bombing

FAMILY MAN: Nigerian rebel leader Henry Okah and his wife, Azuka, far left, pose with their four children in South Africa on her birthday last mont

Now he stands accused in South Africa of being the mastermind of the terrorist car bombings in Nigeria's capital this month which killed at least 12 and wounded 50 on the 50th anniversary of the country's independence.

He is being tried in the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court - which heard of his friendship with "senior officials in the Nigerian government" - while others whom he allegedly directed are being tried in Lagos.

Okah has denied all the charges in an affidavit and, from a public phone in the cells, told the Al Jazeera news agency: "I am arrested here at the (insistence) of Nigeria, which threatened the South African government with diplomatic action if they didn't arrest me. That is the only reason why I am in detention."

The alleged political leader of the militant rebel group Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend), Okah is the most famous voice of protest against what he claims is Nigeria's refusal to share the oil wealth of the delta region with its people.

The group, which claimed responsibility for the bombings, has been blamed for billions of dollars in losses to oil companies - and a massive rise in global oil prices - through sabotage, threats and kidnappings.

Apart from two years of solitary confinement in a Nigerian prison, which ended last year - after he was charged with treason and gun-running - Okah, 45, has kept a low profile as a family man in Bassonia, in southern Johannesburg, since 2004.

In a key moment of a six-day bail hearing, the court heard a statement from the SAPS investigating officer, Colonel Graeme Zeeman, that Okah had instructed rebels in Nigeria by cellphone to buy the two bomb vehicles and load them with dynamite.

Zeeman alleged that a Nigerian-based suspect had sent text messages to Okah on October 1 - including one just a minute before the first blast - and that Okah's e-mail correspondence with suspects on that day included the statement, "Done, tell them to leave now."

At least 14 people have been arrested in Nigeria in connection with the bombings, including two of Okah's relatives.

He has no political or official title, beyond being a co-director in a tiny import-export company in Glenvista, Johannesburg. He is a former door-to-door gun salesman with a degree in marine engineering.

Time magazine has described him as "the Nigerian rebel who 'taxes' your gasoline".

Nigerian Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan visited him in Johannesburg in 2007 for "peace" talks, and a Nigerian governor allegedly dined at his home last month.

He lives in a four-bedroom house with a pool, which he uses daily, and staffed by a driver, a housekeeper, a nanny and a "gateman".

A neighbour, Delilah Mahomed, said he was a passionate biker who owned a powerful Yamaha V-Max.

"I've known them for six years - and, no, I do not live next door to a terrorist," said Mahomed. "In fact, Henry is the nicest guy. I've seen him stop his bike to help an injured cat on the street, and then wait there until his driver arrived to take it to the vet. We've heard these stupid terrorism accusations about him before, and he just laughs."

However, Mahomed confirmed that Okah was a "war junkie", with a "massive" collection of war books - "Vietnam, World War 2, Gulf War, he's got everything in that bookcase, and he studies it".

In an interview with the Sunday Times this week, his wife, Azuka, 44, said the charges were "ridiculous" and described a gentle family man who had fallen in love with South Africa, who falls asleep during movies and who moved his children to the Christian Harvest School because their previous high-priced school was "too snobbish".

She said Okah - who grew up in a privileged home in Lagos and has a British accent - became an activist after being "horrified" by the poverty in his ancestral village in the delta region.

"I don't want to be a Winnie Mandela. I want to live a simple life, with my husband with me," she said. "And I don't want to go back to Nigeria with my husband being hunted. He's serious about the delta issue, but he's a gentle man."

The couple's home was raided by South African detectives searching for weapons just two days before the bombings. "When the cops broke our door down at 3am, I thought they were assassins. They brought dogs to sniff for bombs, they dug up our flower beds, they destroyed our daughter's piano, looking for stuff they didn't find."

Outside court on Friday, Azuka appeared more concerned with her husband's immigration status than with his terror charges, saying that his six-year permanent residency status was now under threat.

His daughter, Eniye, a shy and intelligent 15-year-old with neatly braided hair, said: "I'm not worried."

She said of her father: "He'll be missing his prawns, the big ones. Prawns and steaks."


Henry Okah: Activist or Terrorist?

In a country accustomed to puzzling developments, this one stands out. The revelations coming from the trial, in far-away South Africa, of Nigerian citizen Henry Okah, the alleged mastermind of the October 1 Independence Day bombings, and the speed at which events are unfolding, are astounding.

Mr. Okah is not a stranger to law courts and prisons and criminal charges in various countries. On September 3, 2007 he was arrested in Luanda by Angolan authorities and detained for almost six months on charges of gun running and money laundering. On February 14, 2008, the Angolans handed him over to Nigerian law enforcement, who subsequently held him for another 17 months.

During this time – in which MEND loomed large in the imagination of the world – he was charged to court in Nigeria, for treason. In a 2008 profile of Okah titled: “The Nigerian Rebel Who ‘Taxes’ Your Gasoline”, Time Magazine said: “Okah may be in prison, but the organisation he leads, Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) continues to wreak havoc on international oil companies operating in the Niger Delta, sabotaging facilities and kidnapping personnel.”

Indeed Okah was the public face of MEND, as well as the stated reason for many of its attacks; MEND made it clear on a number of occasions that their attacks on oil installations in the Delta were as a result of Okah’s detention.

In July 2009, all the charges against him were dropped, and he was released unconditionally, days after it was reported that he had “unconditionally” accepted the Yar’Adua administration’s amnesty offer.

Following that his ‘rehabilitation’ was swift, and almost total. No longer seen as the menacing public face of MEND, he enjoyed a spell of heroic publicity, marked by media interviews, and an October 2009 meeting with President Yar’Adua at the presidential villa; a meeting whose agenda or outcome the presidency declined to release.

In his interview with this paper in September 2009 he described himself as a “peace-loving citizen of the Niger Delta” who, like many other Niger Deltans, is “engaged in a just fight against the Nigerian government and its collaborators – the western oil companies.”

He however added a chilling caveat: “…Should the Nigerian government fail to take advantage of this opportunity before them to bring a lasting peace to the Niger Delta region, and choose instead to wage an unwinnable war against us, I will side with my people and do all within my power to bring us victory and justice.”

Today, one year after that threat, the Nigerian and South African governments are insisting that Okah was “the mastermind behind the [October 1] bombings.” In court South African prosecutor Shaun Abrahams described him as a “dangerous man.”

Evidence of this seems to exist: items seized from him during a recent raid on his home included a diary containing potentially incriminating entries (including lists of ammunition), and telephone records (calls and messages) that link him to Chima Orlu and Ben Ebere, two of the suspects, who, very disturbingly, remain at large. Okah’s various conflicting statements also hint at the deliberate concealment and falsification of information.

There are several questions that need answers: How did Henry Okah acquire his reputed vast wealth? What happened to the evidence acquired by the Angolan and Nigerian governments, evidence which was used to detain him for almost two years? What is his relationship with MEND? Indeed, what - or who - is MEND now?

These answers will prove very crucial in answering the most important question of all: Who exactly is Henry Okah - activist for the fair and equitable treatment of the inhabitants of the Delta; or terrorist and criminal?

The Nigerian and South African governments need to cooperate with each other to the fullest to get to the bottom of this matter. We commend the South Africans for the sense of urgency and determination they have brought to this case.

The Nigerian authorities on their own part need to get their act together, and not say or do anything that will jeopardise the progress of the investigations and trial. One of the arguments of Okah’s defence team is that “little or no reliance can be placed on any evidence emanating from that part of the world [Nigeria]” because of the preponderance of “conflicting statements” arising from our authorities.

It is high time the Nigerian government realised that it would have no excuse for bungling this case. The secret trial (defence lawyers and journalists were kept out of the court premises) on Thursday, of Henry Okah’s brother, Charles, and other arrested suspects in Abuja is condemnable. It is disgraceful that while South Africa is conducting an open trial of the main suspect, Nigeria on its own part is resorting to Abacha-era behaviour.

Indeed our greatest fear is this: that, in the quest to bring the perpetrators of the Independence Day bombings to justice, and to bring some form of closure, however belated, to the families of the victims, our government and law enforcement agencies will once again demonstrate their matchless capacity for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

In this case that would be totally unforgivable.

How Fifa's Amos Adamu tried, and failed, to control the Nigerian press

In 2002, the Nigerian reporter Olukayode Thomas began investigating the background of Amos Adamu, the man who allegedly offered to sell his World Cup bid vote and was provisionally suspended last week by Fifa. The executive board member denies any wrongdoing.

Thomas travelled across the country to interview senior figures in sport. Among his questions: how had Adamu, a civil servant, become so wealthy? How had he built up a portfolio of hotels, private companies and properties across Nigeria? And why had he changed his name – with documents showing him as Babatunde Aremu?

"When we met in 2002, I asked about his wealth, where he comes from and his real name," Thomas says. "Adamu's answers were all 'yes', 'no' or 'no comment'. As I left, he said: 'I won't stop your story, but remember, I have the best lawyers in Nigeria.'"

Thomas claims that what followed was a series of remarkable attempts to kill the story, including a visit by Adamu and 20 aides to the offices of Thomas's newspaper, the Guardian, in Lagos. The Guardian published regardless.

The story sparked several new, related allegations about Adamu's conduct from within sport, all of which he denied. There was a claim by the head of the Nigeria Football League that Adamu had sought to have sponsorship money diverted directly to him. Officials from the athletics federation made similar allegations. The Guardian ran a new story in September 2007 – and this time Adamu decided to sue.

Adamu, by now on Fifa's executive committee, launched one claim against the newspaper, and another against Thomas, claiming £2m in damages from the journalist. Adamu said the story impugned his character "by portraying me as an unreliable, dishonest and unstable character who is corrupt and financially indisciplined".

What followed was unpredictable, even by Nigerian legal standards. First, word reached Thomas via an intermediary that Adamu had backed down and withdrawn the case. Checks appeared to confirm it, and Thomas stopped preparing his defence. "The message was that I should try and be their friends, and move on." But then, in the summer of 2008, came news that Adamu's legal team had, in fact, been working on the case throughout, and a judge in the capital, Abuja, was ready to issue his verdict. A shocked Thomas made his way to the hearing.

"When I arrived at the court I was met by a lawyer. He told me he had been on the case for a while, and that he had prepared a statement of defence for me. All I had to do was to tell the judge that the statement was mine. It looked like a set-up. I had never met this guy in my life. I said to him: 'If you are representing me, shouldn't you at least have spoken to me before drawing up my statement?' Then I noticed that the document already contained a signature next to my name."

When Thomas told the judge what had happened, the case was adjourned until March – allowing Thomas time to assemble a public interest defence, helped by a lawyer working for a nominal fee. He had further help in the form of investigations into Adamu's background by the English journalist Andrew Jennings. When the verdict was finally returned last March, it was blunt: Adamu's cases against the Guardian, and against Thomas, were thrown out.

"I am still in debt as a result of all this," Thomas says. "But the joy that truth prevailed is compensation for the loss and the emotional trauma."

Thomas is now working as an adviser to the new minister of sports, Alhaji Ibrahim Isa Bio, who has stated his aim to be rooting out corruption.

"Defeating Adamu opened a lot of doors for me. I get invited to talk about the problems with Nigerian sport, and now I am working with the new minister to help change it. Pulling down Adamu's hegemony in Nigerian sport has not been easy. But thank God for the British press. They have made our job much easier."

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