[OPINION]: Ekweremadu’s many battles — Ismail Omipidan

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The general belief among most Africans that “a man’s life is preordained and ruled by God,” has continued to play out in the political trajectory of the Deputy President of the Senate, Dr. Ike Ekweremadu.

From 1997 when he was elected pioneer chairman of Aninri council to 2015, when against all odds he emerged as the deputy president of the senate for a record third consecutive time, at a time when many thought it was all over for him, Ekweremadu has fought and survived several political landmines placed on his path.

For instance, after serving in the transition committee that ushered in the then governor, Chimaroke Nnamani in 1999, on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), some political actors plotted against him to ensure he never got any appointment. But providence played a fast one as the governor appointed him as Chief of Staff, Government House and later as Secretary to the State Government (SSG).

The year 2002 was the year of the epic political battle between the Ebeano faction of the Enugu State PDP led by Nnamani on one hand, while former governor of old Anambra State, Senator Jim Nwobodo led the other faction which was also a convergence of all the opposition elements in the state. Had the Ebeano faction lost, Ekweremadu’s political journey could have been brought to a halt. But, behold, they had the upper hand and in 2003, he was elected a Senator to represent Enugu-West senatorial district.

In 2006, efforts were made to stop him from returning to the senate in 2007 at the primaries, using a female university lecturer, aided by the former Political Adviser to Nnamani, Chief Sam Ejiofor.  He not only returned to the senate, he was elected for the first time as the deputy president of the senate.

But towards the build up to the 2011 elections, he was offered the ticket on a platter of gold by the then Nwodo-led PDP leadership, following the political war between Nwodo and the governor, Sullivan Chime. Ekweremadu turned it down and instead supported Chime.

In the end, they succeeded and Chime got a second term. Ekweremadu too returned to the senate and was elected the deputy president of the senate again.

However, rather than pay Ekweremadu back by supporting his ambition to return to the Senate in 2015, Chime was bent on scuttling it in 2014, until the “unseen hand of God” settled the matter, in favour of Ekweremadu. He not only returned to the senate in 2015, he again emerged the deputy president in an All Progressives Congress (APC) dominated senate, a feat unprecedented in the country’s political history.

The latest battle

But whether he will survive the latest onslaught against him is what many do not know?

What has, however, become a regular pattern is that at the eve of every general election, Ekweremadu would be confronted with a major political battle.  But in this dispensation, the battles began early.

Following his emergence, he was arraigned alongside the president of the senate, Bukola Saraki, for allegedly doctoring the senate’s Standing Rule. They were both accused of a criminal offence. Before their arraignment no police interrogated them, and even in the police investigation report which was the basis upon which the case was filed in the first instance, there was no mention of either Saraki or Ekweremadu. After one year of dilly-dallying over the matter, the Federal Government approached the court one morning and asked that the case be withdrawn, following which the case was struck out in October 2016.

About a year later, May 2017, to be precise, Ekweremadu, at plenary, raised the alarm concerning an alleged plot to incriminate him by allegedly planting monies and guns in a house linked to him. The plan, according to him, was part of a “grand plan to arrest” and take him “out of circulation on the basis on an investigation.”

Daily Sun, however, gathered that it was part of the series of plans to force him to dump Saraki, so as to enable forces after Saraki in the APC get him out of office.

Although officials of the government denied the plot, shortly after its denial, his official guesthouse in Maitama, Abuja was raided by officers from the Inspector General of Police Special Squad. That was barely two weeks after he raised the alarm.

The police, on its part said it had nothing to do with the raid, but the steward who was in the guesthouse at the time of the search, was arrested and later released by the same police.

Only recently, Ekweremadu again raised another alarm that the Special Assistant to the President on Anti-Corruption and Prosecution, Mr. Okoi Obono-Obla, was sponsoring a smear campaign against him ahead of the elections. He among other things alleged that Obono-Obla and one other person had petitioned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) claiming that he was given some money by the Federal Government to develop the South-east geo-political zone, but diverted it to purchase 32 properties.

“They sent similar petitions to Mr. President, the Vice President, Senate President, Attorney-General of the Federation, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, Code of Conduct Bureau, Director-General of the Department of State Security, Inspector-General of Police, Commissioner of Police (Enugu), among others,” he said in a statement.

A few days after the statement was made public, the Federal Government indicated that it would try Ekweremadu for not disclosing some assets, allegedly totaling 13, in the United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and United States of America, and seek forfeiture of the assets.

But in a swift response, Ekweremadu said there was no asset to forfeit as all his assets had been declared.

In his reply to the suit filed by the panel, Ekweremadu is asking the court to dismiss the suit because the panel, established by a military decree in 1983, and which instituted it, was illegal.

He contended that the panel had ceased to exist since its mandates had been ceded to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) by virtue of the provisions of the 1999 Constitution and the Code of Conduct Bureau/Tribunal Act.

Curiously however, Daily Sun’s investigations revealed that one of the assets the committee claims it wants to attach, purportedly located in Kyami district of Abuja, was given to Ekweremadu by the government in 2008 and he was required to pay and accept the offer. The government, however later said it discovered it was for hospital and replacement (new layout) would be structured, but which never happened.

“Why would he refuse to declare a property given to him by government if it is his and was officially allocated to him?

“The one on Evan Enwerem was monetised to him as a senator. If they had bothered to look closely at the Asset Declaration Form they would have seen it declared. But because the name of the street changed, they thought it was a different property,” one of the sources close to Ekweremadu told Daily Sun.

The source went further to say “how can a top official and a card carrying member of APC like Obono-Obla be expected to carry out an objective investigation? For the sake of fair hearing shouldn’t he have sent Umezulike’s petition to Ekweremadu and invite his comments and explanations? In any case, what he is trying to do is purely the role of the Code of Conduct Bureau.”

Before Ekweremadu, there were judges

Daily Sun investigations also revealed that Ekweremadu is not the only one being tried and or investigated by the panel. Judges were said to have been written letters telling them that it had received petitions against them for corruption and asking them to declare their assets.

Apparently sensing the dangers ahead, the Minister for Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Mallam Abubakar Malami SAN, quickly wrote back to judges asking them to ignore Obono-Obla and his committee.

In a letter dated November 1, 2017, signed by Dayo Apata, Solicitor-General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary, titled: “Withdrawal  of notice issued by the chairman, Special Investigation Panel on Recovery of Public Property,” a copy of which was sighted by Daily Sun, it was stated among other things that the notice to the judges was issued “without due process and requisite clearance, hence I have the mandate  of the Honourable  Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice to withdraw same with immediate effect. Your Lordship may therefore wish to discountenance the said notice issued to you in its entirety.”

Obono-Obla tackles Ekweremadu

Reacting to Ekweremadu’s charge against him, Obono-Obla said: “That allegation is very juvenile and I am disappointed that it’s coming from the Deputy Senate President. It’s awkward, its balderdash, it’s laughable, it’s a figment of his imagination. I’m not from Enugu State. I am a public officer, I am doing my work, he should stop attacking me.

“If he has committed offence, let him go and face the law, let him not drag me into his personal troubles with the people of Enugu State. I don’t know Innocent Umezulike. I am a lawyer; I don’t practice in Enugu. I’m a public officer, I’m doing my work, he should leave me alone and stop being childish. The allegations are childish and if he defames my character I will sue him,” he threatened.

Defending the legality of his panel, Obono-Obla also contended that “the point being made here is that if the ICPC Act is valid even where it borders on matters within the constitutional purview of the Bureau, an existing law, like the Act under consideration, which vests power in panel to investigate a public officer who has in any way breached the Code of Conduct for Public Officers contained in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is equally valid.”

Last line

The House of Representatives, through its Ad Hoc Committee on Activities of the Special Presidential Investigation Panel, has given the panel chairman a week ultimatum to submit to its secretariat, 12 sets of documents about his panel.

The two-page letter, signed by the chairman of the ad hoc committee, Ahman Pategi,  with the reference number, NASS/8HR/DCD/016180/001, was titled: “Need to investigate the legality of the operations of the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property.”

The House of Representatives is demanding for the books of the panel to commence what it called “legislative actions” on the legal status of the panel.

The details demanded from the panel included documents showing the membership/composition of the panel and their curriculum vitae with relevant certificates attached; instrument/gazette establishing the panel; operations and activities of the panel since inception; and a nominal roll of staff of the panel since inception.

Other documents demanded are the ones showing the annual budgetary provisions for the panel since inception; list of investigations carried out from inception to date; list of all the seizures effected from inception till date, showing their location and names of persons from whom the seizures where made; details of bank account and details of income and expenditure since inception.

The ultimatum expires this week. What next?

Sun

 
 
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