God’s Bankers: Church of England Wages War on Loan Sharks


By Hans Hoyng.DER SPIEGEL.August 06, 2013

Photo Gallery: Taking on the Payday Loan Sector The UK’s thriving payday loan sector is in hot holy water. The new head of the Church of England, an 11-year oil-industry veteran, is hoping to undercut the business by forging ties with credit unions to offer better interest rates to the poor.

The Church of England has made a former oil industry executive its new leader. He now aims to defuse the conflicts between religion and the financial world.

The working meal in mid-July wasn’t exactly exemplary for a “church for the poor.” The menu consisted of swordfish carpaccio, pasta with prawns, tuna steak, semifreddo, fresh fruit and coffee. Nevertheless, the two church leaders, who had taken office within only two days of each other, quickly came to an agreement.

Anglicans and Catholics alike, said Pope Francis, should give “a voice to the cry of the poor, so that they are not abandoned to the laws of an economy that seems at times to treat people as mere consumers.”

This well-intentioned statement could have also come from his counterpart, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, since March the head of the Church of England and supreme spiritual leader of about 80 million Anglicans worldwide. Welby, 57, has addressed issues of justice in capitalism ever since he was a theology student, and he rewrote his doctoral thesis into a treatise that poses the question: “Can Companies Sin?”

Of course they can. Unlike his predecessors, Welby can draw on his own experience to answer such questions. Before beginning his church career, Welby worked for 11 years as a financial manager in the oil industry: five years at Elf Aquitaine in France, followed by six years in London and, most recently, with Enterprise Oil, a production company that is now part of the Shell conglomerate.

The archbishop doesn’t shy away from naming the sinners in the world of business. In the same week in which Pope Francis, speaking in Rio de Janeiro, sharply criticized the “cult of money,” Welby took aim at an industry that is currently doing very well in the United Kingdom, where wages are falling and social services have been slashed: the shady business of payday loans.

Payday lenders like Wonga, Speedy Cash and Quick Quid are increasingly lending small sums of money for a few days or weeks at interest rates that, when extrapolated onto a full year, can exceed 5,000 percent. Welby calls the practice “sinful” and “immoral.”

But unlike German reformer Martin Luther, who wanted to see all usurers sent to the gallows, Welby preaches solutions from within the system. In a meeting in late July with the head of one of the money-lending companies, Errol Damelin of Wonga, Welby reportedly said: “We’re trying to compete you out of existence.”

It’s the kind of language that is understood in the financial world of London. Some 2,000 years after Jesus drove moneychangers and lenders out of the temple, Bishop Welby is inviting them back in. The Church of England, says Welby, has “16,000 branches in 9,000 communities,” which he wants to open up to credit unions so that they can issue short-term loans to the needy at far more moderate interest rates.

A Rough Business

Cutthroat payday lenders like Wonga are unlikely to be overly daunted by bankers in the vestry. The formula for success at the controversial companies is that they can provide a credit decision within minutes after combing through all the information about the applicant that can be found online. Credit unions aren’t nearly as fast. In 2011, the payday-lending industry lent the equivalent of €2.5 billion ($3.3 billion) — in some cases to customers who could no longer qualify for credit with regular banks. Still, less than 10 percent of borrowers defaulted on the loans.

In contrast, British credit unions, which have traditionally been the banks of the poor, have only lent about £605 million (€700 million or $930 million) to their customers. Most suffer from a cumbersome bureaucracy and laws limiting the maximum interest rate on short-term loans to 26.8 percent. As large as this number sounds, even Bishop Welby admits that credit unions would have to charge rates of 70 to 80 percent for these types of loans so that high processing costs wouldn’t eliminate their profits.

Now members of the coalition government want to examine how they can “work together to ensure credit unions can provide strong competition and a viable alternative to payday lenders,” said British Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills Vince Cable.

The proposal to tie the credit unions to the church is only Welby’s most recent attempt to defuse the natural conflict between God and Mammon, the New Testament personification of greed, as well as to influence the reform of the British banking sector. Welby was also a member of the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards and helped develop its recommendations. Under those recommendations, bankers could go to prison for “grossly negligent behavior,” and financial managers would have to wait up to 10 years for their bonuses to ensure that they had truly earned them.

But the financial angels in the Anglican Church are also not infallible. Less than 24 hours after Welby’s declaration of war against loan sharks, the Financial Times revealed that the church’s pension fund had a small amount of money, £75,000, indirectly invested in Wonga.

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Which way Nigeria 2


By  Olusegun  Ogolo

On Wednesday the 31st of July 2013,INEC,Nigeria’s electoral commission approved the registration of the All Progressives’ Congress, (APC) as a political party in Nigeria.

APC-toon

The APC is the result of a merger of four political parties:  All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA),Congress for Progressive Change (CPC),All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP),and Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).

Although the All Progressives’ Congress has been registered by INEC, the use of the acronym APC is still  fiercely contested by at least two other ‘wannabe’ political parties.

Unsurprisingly,INEC’s  eventual registration of the APC was hailed by the sponsors of the party as ‘…a victory for democracy…’ while other Nigerians have remarked that the emergence of the APC would ‘deepen our democracy’.

I am of the considered opinion that these Nigerians have jumped to a conclusion that may turn out to be completely wrong.

On Februarury 12 ,2013, ten governors met in Abuja ;this meeting was presided over by Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola.Others in attendance were the governors of Ekiti, Kayode Fayemi; Ogun, Ibikunle Amosun; Oyo, Abiola Ajimobi; and that of Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola.Also in attendance were Adams Oshiomhole of Edo; Rochas Okorocha of Imo; Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara; Tanko Al-Makura of Nasarawa; and Kashim Shettima of Borno State.

At the end of the meeting a communique was issued .The communique   read by Governor Tanko Al-Makura, announced that ”…the party would give priority attention to the promotion of radical social economic and political reformation of the country. In particular, the party said its priority programmes would be agricultural development, job creation, free education, affordable healthcare, infrastructural development, adequate power supply, eradication of poverty and corruption and rapid technological advancement and industrialisation. They declared: “We shall pride ourselves as social democrats that are committed to organise our society based on the values of justice for all and individual freedom where everyone’s basic needs are fulfilled.”(vanguard. February 13,2013).

A close examination of the Governor’s communique shows that it is another blast of hot air by Nigerian politicians.

How many of the governors attending this meeting can show with  valid proof that they have implemented anything close to this communique  in their various states? If they have done nothing of such in the states they currently govern, then the only thing they have to replicate on a national level is bad governance.

Politicians have taken this country for granted for too long, but can you really blame them? The citizens also contribute to this.

When will Nigerians rise up to the truth that acronym (APC, PDP,    CPC, ACN, CPC, ANPP, APGA, e.t.c) peddling politicians will lead us nowhere. Nigeria is in dire need of reformed minds that would ultimately transform this great nation.

A close look at the sponsors of the APC shows that they may not be different from the members of the ruling People’s democratic Party (PDP).These APC fellows are solely interested in grabbing power at the national level  from the PDP, pure and simple.

The PDP is ever quick to remind all that they are Africa’s largest political party: but they are silent on the truth that they are also Africa’s worst performing political party.

For fourteen (14) years the PDP has been in power, and every sector of national life has been put in reverse gear: a great percentage of any twenty four hour period is spent without electric power. Hospital environments in Sri Lanka are better than those in Nigerian government hospitals. Students take classes in dilapidated school facilities. Craters on many roads in Nigeria  paint the picture of the aftermath of an air force campaign.

Strikes have become the order of the day: from University lecturers , to Health service workers to local government workers. The baton of strike seems to be one that is easily passed from one sector   to the next available one ,all because of bad governance, thievery and a total dearth of visionary leadership.

The PDP is such  a confused party that they appointed a sixty three (63) year old man as the youth leader of the party in Lagos state.

At  the national level, the party has structured itself in such a  way that it can only accommodate a pack of elderly individuals that are known to have mismanaged or contributed to the mismanagement of the affairs of this nation.

Whilst I have absolute respect for the elderly, I firmly believe that national interest should come first and not the narrow interest of these sectional minded individuals.

Prof Wole  Soyinka has  been quoted as saying that the PDP is responsible for killing Bola Ige the former attorney general and minister of justice and has also referred to the PDP as a nest of killers (Punch,July 29,2003.Daily Independent,June 14 2013)).

But is this not also true of the APC?

For example, former governor of Borno State and a key member of the newly formed APC, Senator Ali Modu-Sherrif has been accused of having links with the terrorists group, Boko Haram (National Mirror, Oct 27, 2012); Tanko Al-Makura,Governor of Nasarawa state (the individual that read the APC communique, vide supra) has been accused of having a hand in the killing of 20 policemen in a village called Alakyo about 10km from Lafia, the state capital (Blueprint .May 23, 2013).

My argument is that the difference between the new registered APC and the ruling PDP is exactly the same difference between twelve and a dozen.

These two groups can never (especially as currently composed) deliver the change Nigeria and Nigerians so desperately need.

The prognosis for 2015 is either that these politicians and their parties (irrespective of acronym) will wax stronger by their unpatriotic acts of thievery,bad governance and poor leadership while the nation is continually mired in the cesspool of underdevelopment  OR Nigeria will arise progressively and  radically with the concomitant demise of this pack of self aggrandizing politicians.

WANTED:A NATIONAL DELIVERER.

Further Reading:

https://spearide.wordpress.com/2012/12/20/authentic-leadership/

http://www.vanguardngr.com/2013/08/the-making-of-apc-and-the-storm-ahead/

http://www.punchng.com/news/obasanjo-had-a-killer-squad-as-president-former-associate/

http://www.vanguardngr.com/2013/08/our-registration-victory-for-democracy-apc/

http://www.tribune.com.ng/news2013/index.php/en/component/k2/item/18184-apc’s-long-walk-to-life.html

http://www.nigeriamasterweb.com/paperfrmes.html

http://www.punchng.com/news/apc-presidential-ticket-north-woos-danjuma/

http://pointblanknews.com/pbn/exclusive/polio-vaccines-dont-cause-infertilitymodu-sherriff-was-an-ally-of-late-boko-haram-kingpin-says-jonathan/

British Police Investigating $1.3 Billion Shell, ENI Nigerian Oil Corruption


John Daly | OILPRICE.com| 29 July 2013

Oil  Refinery.credit:www.informafrica.com

The British police are probing an allegation that a $1.3 billion Nigerian oil bloc deal involving Royal Dutch Shell and Italy’s Eni SpA may have involved money laundering. Most of the money was allegedly paid to a company linked with Nigeria’s former Minister of Petroleum Dan Etete. Nigerian President General Sani Abacha appointed Etete Minister of Petroleum in March 1995 and he served in that role until 1998, when he went into exile following Abacha’s death. In 2007 Etete was convicted of money laundering in France.

Last week a British High Court issued a judgment, Shell and its by-then-partner ENI paid the federal government $1.3 billion, including a $207 million signature bonus paid into a government account, in return for the right to operate the offshore OPL 245 bloc concession. A Shell subsidiary paid the signature bonus, and an ENI subsidiary paid the $1.1 billion balance. The court further ruled that convicted felon Etete should pay at least $110.5 million to Emeka Obi, the owner of Energy Venture Partners for helping him facilitate the sale of OPL-245.

According to the tangled story presented in court, Etete had in his capacity as Minister of Petroleum in the Abacha administration in 1998 awarded the OPL 245 concession to Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd, a company in which he allegedly had interest, for a payment of $2 million. Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd was registered on 24 April 1998, five days before Etete awarded OPL 245 to the firm. Three months later Abacha died.

Abacha’s son Mohammed and other Abacha cronies were also alleged to be shareholders in the company. After Abacha’s death the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo subsequently cancelled the concession, considering the transaction was lacking transparency and due process. Scrutiny of Etete’s activities as Oil Minister increased when the Obasanjo administration filed a complaint with international financial review agencies asking for help in tracing over $386 million that disappeared from the Central Bank of Nigeria from 1994 to 1998, adding that another $800 million was missing, with Abacha family members strongly suspected to have profited from the theft of the funds. During the subsequent investigation, millions of dollars in Switzerland, France, Gibraltar, the British Virgin Islands and several other tax havens traced accounts held by Etete. Etete told investigators that he was one of the largest ship-owners in Nigeria but that the corruption accusations against him were initiated by Obasanjo in an effort to deprive him of the OPL 245 oil bloc concession which Abacha awarded to his Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd.

During the London court proceedings Etete told the court in a breach of contract suit brought against him over the sale of the OPL 245 oil bloc that he only made $250 million working as a consultant for Malabu Oil and Gas Ltd., testifying, “I put my blood, I put my life into this oil bloc,” even as he denied ownership of OPL245. When presented with a transcript of a recording where he said, “It’s my bloc,” Etete claimed that the transcript was inaccurate.

In London a police spokesman speaking on condition of anonymity said, “The Metropolitan Police’s Proceeds of Corruption Unit is investigating allegations of money laundering related to the oil bloc.”

The U.K. based energy campaign organization Global Witness director Simon Taylor said, “From Global Witness’s point of view, the decision before Court effectively came down to whether or not to give cash to a crook who had stolen the block worth over a billion dollars from the Nigerian people, or to the middleman who claims he brokered the deal to sell it on.

Given that there are serious unanswered questions about the legality of OPL-245 deal, and the way it was put together, it is surely a scandal that the Court’s only consideration was where to send the money. The first question that should have been considered and fully investigated is to the legitimacy of the deal in the first place.”

West African states order Nautic Africa patrol boats


Helmoed-Römer Heitman. IHS Jane’s .31 July 2013

 
 

A computer-generated image of Nautic Africa’s 35 m patrol boat. The South African boatyard is building seven for undisclosed West African clients. Source: Nautic Africa
 

The Cape Town-based yard Nautic Africa is building seven 35 m fast multi-role patrol vessels for undisclosed West African clients for a total value of ZAR600 million (USD60 million).

The first two are currently being built, with another three to follow shortly, and Nautic expects to deliver the first vessels in 2014 and complete the contract in 2015.

The contract grew out of previous work for navies and offshore oil companies in West Africa, where Nautic already has a maintenance support facility at Takoradi in Ghana.

CEO James Fisher says the company will now also firm up its plans to establish a second “life-cycle and support” facility in the Gulf of Guinea at Port Harcourt in Nigeria. The company has previously built a number of 30 m, 26 knot utility vessels that are based at Port Harcourt to support the offshore oil industry.

The aluminium patrol boats will have South African developed ‘Super Shield’ composite armour protection for their wheelhouses and a full-load displacement of 175 tonnes, a beam of 7.5 m and a draught of 1.4 m.

Powered by three 1,193 kW Caterpillar C32 ACERT engines driving three shafts, they have a maximum speed of 28 kts, a range of 2,130 km at their normal cruising speed of 20 kts and 7,590 km when speed is reduced to 10 kts for extended patrols. Electrical power is provided by two Caterpillar C4.4 107 kVA generators.

The vessels have a crew of six in standard configuration, with accommodation for up to 12 passengers or additional personnel, and are designed to carry up to two of Nautic’s BR850-TPD Guardian interceptors for boarding work. These are launched using a single-point system.

The Guardian is an 8.5 m aluminium craft with 2.8 m beam and 60 cm draught and a full load displacement of 3.8 tonnes. The shallow draft combines with a 373 kW diesel with a tunnel propeller drive to allow operations close to the shore and in river deltas.

They have a maximum speed of 42 kts with a range of 295 km at that speed, or a 700 km range at 20 kts for inshore patrol or similar tasks. They are designed for a crew of two with space for a six-strong boarding party, and can be fitted with shock-mitigating seats if intended for high-speed intercept missions. Their systems include a GPS/chart plotter and a 2 kW 4G broadband radar.

Boko Haram leader, others captured in Niger Republic


Yusuf Alli. THE NATION.1ST AUG 2013

Boko Haram leader, others captured in Niger Republic

The Defence Headquarters on Thursday gave insights into how a Boko Haram leader and other suspected members of the sect were captured in Niger Republic.

All the suspects are presently undergoing interrogation in an unnamed military facility.

According to a statement issued by the Director of Defence Information, Brig.-Gen. Chris Olukolade, the breakthrough was recorded through intelligence gathering.

He said the intention of the sect leader and those arrested was to rearm from Niger Republic and launch deadly attacks on Nigerian communities.

The statement said: “The plan by a band of terrorists who relocated to Niger Republic to remobilize and rearm insurgents with the aim of carrying out fresh terrorists attacks on some Nigerian communities has been foiled.

“The leader of the group who had fled Nigeria when the terrorist camps were sacked was reportedly recruiting fresh hands and training them for renewed terrorist activities in Nigeria.

“The intention of the group is to focus its attacks on some towns around the Nigeria-Niger Republic border.”

“Intelligence operatives of the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) had been on the trail of the leader until he was eventually arrested in Karanga, Niger Republic on Saturday with the cooperation of Nigerien forces.

“His other accomplices were later picked up in other villages in Nigeria. They are currently being interrogated.

A source, who spoke in confidence, added: “Investigation revealed that following their dislodgement from their camps in Nigeria, the Boko Haram leader relocated to Niger Republic with his cell members.

“While in Niger Republic, they tried to regroup and recruit more hands to be able to attack Nigerian communities. When we got intelligence report, we contacted our Nigerien counterpart. The Boko Haram suspects were trailed and their leader was captured.

“We succeeded in arresting other members of the cell and they were brought down to Nigeria from Niger.”

Nigerian legislators’ jumbo pay


Sun Newspaper Editorial.31st July 2013.

 

Nigerian legislators’ jumbo pay tariff

It is no longer news that Nigerian legislators are the highest paid lawmakers in the world. When this fact was first revealed a few years ago, the federal lawmakers tried to justify the jumbo pay package without any success.

The matter is once again on the front burner of public discourse as the respected international magazine, The Economist of London recently affirmed that Nigerian lawmakers, with a basic salary of $189,500 (N30.6 million) yearly, excluding allowances, are indeed the highest paid lawmakers in the world. As the magazine noted, it is unfortunate that Nigeria is running the costliest democracy in the world. Even Kenya that comes second on the dishonourable ranking of costly democracies does not pay even half of Nigerian lawmakers’ salaries to its legislators. The disparity widens more down the line out of the 28 countries investigated. The magazine had also, in an earlier report, declared our national legislature as the “filthiest arena of the most corrupt politicians in the world.”

The jumbo pay of Nigeria’s lawmakers raises some salient questions. For example, what does lawmaking in Nigeria entail that ours should be the most exorbitant legislature in the world? Is it that our lawmakers do more than their counterparts elsewhere or that our representatives are just greedy? Should the country be shouldering their excesses and wastages on platoons of aides? With members of the National Assembly, in particular, also collecting tens of millions of naira as quarterly allowances, what we have in the country is simply a bazaar of public finance expenditure without commensurate output.

We call on our lawmakers to review their battery of emoluments downwards in realistic appreciation of the need to commit more funds to development programmes. They should de-emphasise agitations for unrealistic constituency allowances and reduce their expenditure.

Our lawmakers, oftentimes, engage in unnecessary brawls, fisticuffs and free for all. At other times, they engage themselves in debates over issues that are not critical to the people’s needs and aspirations. If it is not same sex argument, it is upping of legislative allowances. There is hardly any seriousness in debates. The National Assembly chambers are usually half-filled, with some of those in attendance dozing off amid debates, under the full glare of television cameras. There is a dearth of robust debates, laudable and enduring contributions from lawmakers and evidence of research on legislative matters. If our lawmakers are not on prolonged and, at times, indeterminable holidays, they are busy hopping from one social event to another with irrational passion.

As we have had cause to point out in the past, there can be no rationalization for the huge cost of legislators on the public purse. This is one of the reasons why some people have advocated the making of legislation a part-time affair in the country. This way, a lot of public funds could be saved. A situation where lawmakers are required to sit for only 187 days in a year, while receiving full time salaries, speaks volumes of the level of mediocrity in the national legislature.

The current legislators’ pay is not just alarming, it is scandalous, especially in a country as relatively poor as Nigeria. Our current socio-economic milieu does support this kind of flagrant deployment of scarce resources to meet the inexplicable wants of lawmakers who make up an insignificant percentage of our population. Nigeria is at the bottom of everything when compared to the developed world. The country’s educational sector, technological endeavours, healthcare and other social infrastructure are in a shambles.

Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, had also sometime ago decried the outrageous pay our lawmakers receive, pointing out that a large chunk of public funds go down as outlay for lawmakers’ pay and gamut of allowances. Sanusi declared that 16 per cent of the country’s national resources is spent on lawmakers who constitute less than one per cent of the population. It is amazing that the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) has not deemed it fit to do anything reduce the legislators’ indefensible pay.

The State vs. Al-Mustapha and others


Guardian Editorial Wednesday, 31 July 2013

THE acquittal the other day, of Major Hamza Al-Mustapha and the emotions now trailing the judgement, have again shown that the scars are not only still deep, they have been dug further open.

Hamza Al Mustapha.Credit:Vanguard Newspaper.

The accused persons are free, the victims are dead, and their families are nursing the scars. With the killers still unknown, as this judgment effectively says, Nigeria still bleeds from the assault of the Sani Abacha years.

In place of a closure on those bestial years, the nation now deals with an open and nagging reminder of a mindless torture. And for many, the nightmare not only continues, the nation is trapped in bondage to a ghastly memory.

That judgment of the Court of Appeal, Lagos which upturned the death sentence handed down by a Lagos High Court to Hamza Al-Mustapha, former Chief Security Officer to the late Gen. Sani Abacha and Lateef Shofolahan, former aide to the late Chief Moshood Abiola, over the murder of Kudirat Abiola, has once again, put the judiciary in an uncomfortable controversy. Not only did the court discharge and acquit Al-Mustapha in the most controversial manner, it also descended heavily on the High Court Judge for being “fool-hardy and unreasonable” “to have so swiftly convicted the appellants when it was very evident that the prosecution had a bad case.”

Ironically, many Nigerians believe that if any judgment fits that description, it is actually that of the Appeal Court and not the Lagos High Court’s. The lower court’s verdict appears more reasonable and convincing than that of the Appeal Court. In other words, what was evident was that the prosecution did not have a bad case.

There is a lot to take away from the judgment. In the first instance it brings to the fore the too many ills besetting the Nigerian criminal justice system which makes it deserving of a complete overhaul. Most bizarre is the inordinate delay which cases suffer in court. An average case takes three or more years to be decided against the provision of the constitution that “whenever any person is charged with a criminal offence, he shall unless the charge is withdrawn, be entitled to a fair hearing in public within a reasonable time by a court or tribunal.” It is even worse and perhaps orchestrated in criminal trials involving high profile persons as witnessed in Al-Mustapha’s case which took 14 years to decide, and in the trials of corrupt public officers and former governors some of who have been in court since 2003, without an end in sight. Nigerians are bewildered as to whether there would ever be an end to the trials. High hopes enkindled by such arraignments have become forlorn by the indeterminable delay. Any criminal justice system that drags for so long makes itself vulnerable to all sorts of abuse and external or extraneous manipulation potent enough to asphyxiate or pollute justice.

Secondly, the judgment raises the question of whether Nigerian courts are actually courts of justice as they are called, or mere courts of law. For a court of justice according to the law, sentiments have no place at all. It is a popular view in legal circles that sentiment or a semblance of it is never allowed to filter into justice. And this is why the Court of Appeal came across in this case as no more than a court of law determined to espouse the principles of law to arrive at a destination. Its consideration of the law was to set the “captives free” whether or not there was any justification for this. It capitulated pathetically to the strong wind of sentiment. The court was not known to fall so cheaply and naively for retraction of confessional statement in the way it did in this case. In all of its previous judgments, its consistent and seemingly immutable position was that retraction of confessional statement does not per se render the statement unreliable and that conviction can be based on such statement provided the court is satisfied of its truth. What operates in the mind of the court in assessing the quality of a confessional statement, whether retracted or not, are: whether there is anything outside the confession which shows that it may be true; whether it is corroborated; are the relevant statements of fact made in it true as far as can be tested? Was the accused person one who had the opportunity to commit the offence? Is the confession possible and is it consistent with other facts which have been ascertained?

Against this background, can it be honestly contended that there was not enough independent corroborative evidence of the facts contained in the confessional statement of prosecution witness Sergeant Barnabas Jabila Mshela and Mohammed Abdul? Why did the justices find it more convenient to believe the retraction more than the confession? Was there no spate of killings in those dark days of Abacha regime which claimed the lives of Alfred Rewane, Rear Admiral Omotehinwa, Dr. Omotshola, Tosin Onagoruwa and others, and which should readily make the confession more believable than the retraction? Was there no attempt on the lives of Alex Uruemu Ibru, Chief Abraham Adesanya, and others? Was Kudirat Abiola not murdered? Did the graphic illustration of star witness, Barnabas Jabila Mshela, alias Sergeant Rogers, on how Kudirat was murdered not exactly how she was killed? Were the circumstances and events surrounding the murder of Kudirat Abiola not exactly as painted by Rogers? Why did it take so long to retract the confession? Is it not more probable that they were induced to retract the statement than to make the confessional statement bearing in mind when the statement was made and when it was retracted? It is not out of place to assert without fear of contradiction that there was a lot outside the confession of Rogers, which showed that his confession might be true, that Rogers as a member of the strike force under Al-Mustapha’s control had the opportunity to commit the offence and that what he said about the murder of Kudirat was possible. It is surprising and an irony of great significance that the Court of Appeal did not see all of these, which other Nigerians saw, and instead, chose to reprimand the lower court judge who was clear-visioned enough to see them.

The truth is that it has remained part of the nation’s criminal jurisprudence up till today that conviction can be predicated solely on a confessional statement. To deprecate the judgment of the lower court for standing on the confessional statement of Rogers reinforces the argument that the court was either labouring for excuses, or would not be bothered into making deeper inquiry on a crime so gruesome. The former appears more apt in the light of the previous decisions of the court in similar matters where it took positions completely at variance with the ones now taken in Al-Mustapha’s case.

In Usung v. State, the same Court of Appeal justified the reliance of the lower court on a retracted confessional statement and the conviction based thereon. Why then did the same court turn around to deprecate what it applauded in an earlier judgment? Basically therefore, it is safe to conclude that the Court of Appeal by discharging and acquitting Al-Mustapha and Shofolahan for the reasons it did, took its stand on a banana skin. It is unlikely to survive the scrutiny of the Supreme Court. What this suggests is that the judgment should be appealed for posterity sake.

Although the Court of Appeal accused the trial judge of impropriety, they would appear to be more guilty of all the allegations and travesties levelled against her. While the Lagos State government prosecution team can be accused of shoddiness in some respect and should be knocked for this, the appeal court went too far when it described the failure of the prosecution to tender “the bullet extracted from the forehead of the deceased” as fatal to its case. Whereas it was the same court which said in the cases of Ochiba v. State and Kabaka v. State that where the cause of death is clear, production of murder weapon, though desirable, is no longer necessary before the court could convict for murder. And so, it was in Bayewu v. State, where the murderer of a popular musician, Ayinla Omowura, was convicted, as indeed in several other cases, without the tendering of the items used in the assassination. Or was the court insinuating that it was not clear that Kudirat died of gunshot wounds?

In all, what the judgment has done is to authenticate impunity. It reinforces the conviction that here in Nigeria, only the small man pays for his crimes. Above all, it means that all those behind the dastardly acts and litany of woes freely dispensed by the Abacha regime have finally got away, literally with murder, in a manner that calls to question the essence of government or its readiness or capacity to discharge its basic responsibility of protecting lives and property, and enforcing law and order. The greatest tragedy is that this judgment has, once again, defeated the expectation of Nigerians, and shunned the invitation to a patriotic partnership to save Nigeria. The accused may have been freed by the court, but Nigeria remains shackled to the memory of a traumatising era. With justice now put off over these murders and the killers still unfound, the cleansing Nigeria needs remains elusive. And the blood of the victims, still raw on the pavement of the hearts of Nigerians, cry out ever more loudly for justice.