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US asks parties not to claim victory before final results by INEC

Stuart Symington, US ambassador to Nigeria, has warned against the release of results which are not from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Symington also asked key candidates not to claim victory before the final announcement by INEC.

He also appealed to politicians to honour the peace accord signed to ensure successful polls.

The US envoy said the elections were “predominantly peaceful” except for violence recorded in a few places.

“I congratulate the tens of millions of Nigerians who stood patiently in long lines to vote this week and the hundreds of thousands who worked together with INEC to conduct the elections,” Symington said in a statement.

“As noted by many observer groups in their preliminary reports, this election was predominantly peaceful, and it was proof of the Nigerian people’s resolute commitment to choose their leaders.

“The peaceful achievement of millions was shadowed by the violence of a few. We extend our deepest sympathy to the families of those who lost their lives, and we urge all candidates to honor the Peace Accord they signed.

“No one should break the law by announcing results before INEC does, or break the peace by claiming victory before the results are final.

“Everyone has a common interest in showing patience as INEC collates and announces the election results.”

US imposes visa restrictions on Ghana

The United States, on Thursday, said it has imposed visa restrictions on Ghana.

Mike Pompeo, US secretary of state, said the West African country has not been co-operating in accepting Ghanian citizens to be deported from the US.

“As a result, Secretary of State Pompeo has ordered consular officers in Ghana to implement visa restrictions on certain categories of visa applicants. Without an appropriate response from Ghana, the scope of these sanctions may be expanded to a wider population,” the department of homeland security said in a statement.

“The sanctions will remain in place until the Secretary of Homeland Security notifies Secretary Pompeo that cooperation on removals has improved to an acceptable level.”

Commenting on the development, Kirstjen Nielsen, DHS secretary said: “The United States routinely cooperates with foreign governments in documenting and accepting U.S. citizens when asked, as appropriate, as do the majority of countries in the world, but Ghana has failed to do so in this case.

“We hope the Ghanaian government will work with us to reconcile these deficiencies quickly.”

Onnoghen: Again, Presidency tackles UK, US, EU

The Presidency has once again criticised the US, UK and EU over their statements on the suspension of Walter Onnoghen, chief justice of Nigeria (CJN).

President Muhammadu Buhari suspended Onnoghen  on Friday over the false declaration of assets charges filed against him.

The Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) had filed six-count charge against him at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) following a petition written against the CJN.

Although he failed to appear before the CCT which summoned him, the tribunal ordered that he be replaced with Ibrahim Muhammad.

The implementation of the order triggered fierce criticisms, with the UK, US and EU, calling on the Buhari administration not to heat up the polity.

In separate statements, they said the action could affect the credibility of the general election.

Garba Shehu, senior special assistant to the president on media and publicity, had said Nigeria would not accept foreign interference.

However, in another statement on Sunday, Shehu said the statements of the foreign countries were based on unfounded assumptions.

He said linking the suspension to the elections is illogical, advising them to  refrain from “being too hastily attracted by the arguments of those who have partisan agenda at odds with the government’s positions”.

Below is his statement:

The Presidency notes with interest the coordinated statements of the US, UK and EU linking the suspension of CJN Onnoghen to the conduct of the upcoming elections. We appreciate the concerns voiced by the three statements and accept that the authors of the statements believe they were acting in friendship toward Nigeria with regard to making the statements.

However, we also note that friends, when not properly informed or acting in haste, can indeed make serious mistakes even with the best of intentions. Such is the case here.

The statements by the three seem more driven by unfounded assumptions and to be honest, a certain condescension to this African democracy. This is unfortunate. But this gives us an opportunity to clarify some points in the hope that these three friends reach a deeper understanding of the situation.

The statements by the US, UK and EU speak of their respect for constitutional practice and fair elections. However, the positions they stake tend to contravene rather than strengthen these laudable objectives.

CJN Onnoghen’s situation is one of his own making and, to a large degree, his own choosing.

The CJN was brought before the CCT because of a serious breach of law regarding his assets declaration. This is not a mere technicality like innocently placing a document in a wrong file or mistakenly placing yesterday’s date on a document.

All credible evidence indicates the CJN owned and operated several secret bank accounts. Unexplained large sums of money, exceeding several million dollars have passed through these accounts. Several thousand dollars are currently parked in the accounts. Multiple deposits of equal sums of money were deposited in some of those accounts during the same day. Such rapid and equal deposits are indicative of a person attempting to evade banking reporting laws and regulations.

Thus far, CJN Onnoghen has given no plausible explanation for the funds or for failing to report the subject accounts in his assets declaration despite having ample time and opportunity to explain the omission. Given the amount of money involved and the CJN’s inability to explain the source of the funds, the most plausible explanation at this point is also the most unfortunate explanation. No one did this to CJN Onnoghen. He and he alone is to blame for this turn of events.

Over the years and with great frequency, the authors of the three statements have advised and even chided Nigeria about official corruption. Now we are presented with the sad and unwanted situation where the CJN is discovered to have a vast, unexplained amount of money in his pocket.

Because of this he has been thoroughly discredited. It is untenable that a person in such compromised circumstances would be allowed to preside over the entire judicial system of a great nation. That would travesty the nation and what it stands for.

Had the situation been reversed and the US, UK or any EU member government found that its chief judicial official is the recipient of large sums of money of questionable origin and Nigeria suggested that you retain the person in that position, you would question Nigeria’s bona fides. You also would swiftly move to suspend the official pending final determination of the causes against him.

Not one of your nations would allow a person enmeshed in legal uncertainty to preside over your legal systems until the cloud has been cleared from him. That would incentivize corruption and assault the rule of law.

Thus, the CJN should have and could have helped the process in this regard by recusing himself from the bench until this matter is settled.

Instead, he indefinitely postponed a NJC meeting for no plausible reason except to avoid any consideration of this matter by the NJC.

Again, this calls into question his motives while undermining the normal operations of the judiciary. The CJN cannot be allowed to use his office to shield himself from the normal operation of the law as applied to any other jurist or any other Nigerian for that matter. Such a ruse is effectively an abuse of office. His position is one of utmost public trust; it is not a shield to protect him from the fair consequence of his own actions.

Despite these errors and omissions by the CJN, let us make this very clear, he has not been removed from office. Nor has he been permanently replaced. Those who claim that he has been permanently removed, do so out of imprecision of thought or mischief.

CJN Onnoghen has been suspended pending the final determination of the substantive issues in his matter. The suspension is only temporary. This is only as it should be. He cannot sit as both defendant and umpire in his own matter. No legal system allows for such self-interested adjudication; the US, UK and EU should not now ask us to embrace such an anomaly.

While the three friends seem to give much credence to those who question the constitutionality of the suspension, they seem to give less to those who believe what we did is constitutional and protective of the integrity of the judiciary. Only the three can answer why they have assumed this bias.

Last, the three make a curious direct linkage between the CJN suspension and the elections. However, in Nigerian law there is no such linkage. The CJN does not run the election. Nor is he the first arbiter of any electoral complaints. He and the Supreme Court will only get involved as the final arbiter at the end of the appellate process.

For the authors to link the CJN to the elections in this way is illogical unless they assume that election complaints will be filed and will go all the way to the Supreme Court. Here perhaps they know something about the intentions of certain political actors to which we are not privy.

Yet, even with that, the US , UK and EU should want any such matters to be heard by a Supreme Court led by a CJN without an obvious and outstanding ethical and legal blemish on his ledger. To have such a person preside over any case, would call into question the impartiality of any decision rendered and undermine the rule of law.

This cannot be what these three friends of Nigeria intended. Thus, they should do a bit more research on this matter and refrain from being too hastily attracted by the arguments of those who have partisan agenda at odds with the government’s positions on most matters and who thus hope to use this issue as a new arrow in their quiver of partisan contestation.

US, UK threaten visa ban on those who interfere with Nigeria’s elections

The United States and the United Kingdom have announced repercussions, including visa restrictions, for election interference and election-related violence in Nigeria.

This was announced in a statement issued on Thursday.

Both countries described the elections as very important to not just Nigeria but Africa, demanding that the process be fair and transparent.

“The conduct of the upcoming elections in Nigeria is important not only for Nigeria, but for the African continent,” the US mission in Nigeria said in a statement.

“The United States government does not support any specific candidate or party in Nigeria’s upcoming elections. The United States supports the Nigerian democratic process itself. We support a genuinely free, fair, transparent, and peaceful electoral process.

“We, and other democratic nations, will be paying close attention to actions of individuals who interfere in the democratic process or instigate violence against the civilian population before, during, or after the elections.

“We will not hesitate to consider consequences – including visa restrictions – for those found to be responsible for election-related violence or undermining the democratic process. Under U.S. immigration law, certain violations may also lead to restrictions on family members.”

In its statement, the UK said it remains committed to free and fair elections in Nigeria.

It promised to support the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in order to make the exercise credible.

“Twenty-three days to the Presidential and National Assembly elections and 37 days to the Gubernatorial and State Assembly elections, the British High Commission in Abuja would like to reaffirm our strong support for free, fair and peaceful elections in Nigeria,” the statement read.

“We and our international partners remain committed supporters of Nigeria’s democracy. We do not support any party or individual and believe that the Nigerian people should be able to choose their leaders in an environment free from hate speech and insecurity.

“We continue to provide significant support to Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission and to Nigerian civil society to help them deliver credible elections. We also regularly engage with actors across the political spectrum to encourage them to respect electoral rules and maintain an atmosphere of peace and calm. We will be deploying an extensive observation mission for the forthcoming elections, including coordinating with the EU’s Election Observation Mission.

“Our monitors will in particular be looking out for any attempts to encourage or use violence to influence the elections, including on social media. We would like to remind all Nigerians that where the UK is aware of such attempts, this may have consequences for individuals. These could include their eligibility to travel to the UK, their ability to access UK based funds or lead to prosecution under international law.”

Boko Haram plans to disrupt Nigeria’s elections, US warns

The US has warned that the Boko Haram insurgent group is planning to carry out attacks during Nigeria’s forthcoming general election.

A security alert was issued to this effect by the US embassy in Nigeria.

According to the alert posted on its website on Friday, the insurgent group plans to attack security and infrastructure, as well as markets, hotels, and malls.

“There is an increase in ISIS propaganda videos specifically directed to Nigeria and the ongoing civil unrest in Borno state and the Northeast,” the alert read.

“ISIS West Africa (ISWA) and Boko Haram have both stated they plan to disrupt the upcoming 2019 presidential elections by conducting attacks on Nigerian Security and infrastructure, as well as places of gathering such as markets, hotels, and malls.

“While we have no specific threat information to the U.S. Embassy or within Nigeria during the election season, U.S. citizens in Nigeria should remember to follow personal security precautions on a regular basis.”

The embassy urged its citizens to “carry proper identification, including a US passport with a current Nigerian visa, if needed” and to
“exercise caution when walking or driving at night”.

It also advised US citizens avoid crowds and demonstrations, keep a low profile and to “stay alert in public places, including schools, hospitals, government facilities, places of worship, tourist locations, and transportation hubs”.

The presidential and national assembly elections will take place February 16 while the governorship and state assemblies polls will be held March 2.

Atiku hasn’t travelled to US – Aide

Former Vice President and the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, has not travelled to the United States of America (USA), his Special Adviser on Media, Mr. Paul Ibe, has said.

Ibe told our correspondent via a telephone chat Thursday afternoon that online reports which stated that Atiku had travelled to the US were a figment of the imagination of the authors.

“You know what the social media can do. You know the social media for what they are now. It is not true. His Excellency hasn’t gone anywhere,” he said.

The clarification came following an online tweet from the Publisher of Ovation magazine, Mr. Dele Momodu, who shared the web link of the online report. See his tweet below

BREAKING: Atiku arrives in the US

Peoples Democratic Party presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar,  has arrived in Washington DC, United States ahead of meeting with senior political and business  figures.

Abubakar had previously been banned from entering the US.

The former vice-president is reportedly scheduled to speak at the Chamber of Commerce on Friday, from 2:30pm to 4pm local time, although no confirmation of his schedule has been made available.

The private roundtable, to be hosted by the US Chamber of Commerce and the US Africa Business Centre, is reportedly going to hold at 1615 H street, NW 20062.

Atiku secretly flew out from Lagos on Wednesday night with most of his aides and associates taken unawares.

He was scheduled to be in Ogun state on Thursday morning but the event was cancelled.

US asks FG to investigate killing of Shi’ites

The United States has called for a thorough investigation into the recent clashes between members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) and security forces.

In a statement on Thursday, the US embassy in Nigeria urged the federal government to hold everyone responsible for the violence to account.

The IMN members better known as Shi’ites have been clashing with policemen and soldiers in various parts of Abuja since Saturday.

They are protesting the continued detention of Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, their leader.

While the army said three persons were killed during one of the protests, the Shi’ites have declared over 1000 of their members missing.

The US embassy urged the two parties to exercise restraint.

The statement read: “The United States Embassy is concerned by the deaths resulting from clashes between Nigerian security forces and members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria in areas surrounding Abuja.

“We urge government of Nigeria authorities to conduct a thorough investigation of the events and to take appropriate action to hold accountable those responsible for violations of Nigerian law. We urge restraint on all sides.”

On Friday, the police arraigned over 100 Shi’ites before different magistrate’s court in Abuja.

US threatens to arrest ICC judges who probe war crimes

White House National Security Advisor John Bolton called the Hague-based rights body “unaccountable” and “outright dangerous” to the United States, Israel and other allies, and said any probe of US service members would be “an utterly unfounded, unjustifiable investigation.”

“If the court comes after us, Israel or other US allies, we will not sit quietly,” Bolton said.

He said the US was prepared to slap financial sanctions and criminal charges on officials of the court if they proceed against any Americans.

“We will ban its judges and prosecutors from entering the United States. We will sanction their funds in the US financial system, and we will prosecute them in the US criminal system,” he said.

“We will do the same for any company or state that assists an ICC investigation of Americans,” he said.

Bolton made the comments in a speech in Washington to the Federalist Society, a powerful association of legal conservatives.

– Investigation into detainee abuse –

Bolton pointed to an ICC prosecutor’s request in November 2017 to open an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by the US military and intelligence officials in Afghanistan, especially over the abuse of detainees.

Neither Afghanistan nor any other government party to the ICC’s Rome Statute has requested an investigation, Bolton said.

He said the ICC could formally open the investigation “any day now.”

He also cited a recent move by Palestinian leaders to have Israeli officials prosecuted at the ICC for human rights violations.

“The United States will use any means necessary to protect our citizens and those of our allies from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court,” Bolton said.

“We will not cooperate with the ICC. We will provide no assistance to the ICC. We certainly will not join the ICC. We will let the ICC die on its own.”

– ‘Threat’ to US sovereignty –

The condemnation of the ICC added to the White House’s rejection of many supranational institutions and treaties the president does not believe benefit the United States.

Bolton also condemned the record of the court since it formally started up in 2002, and argued that most major nations had not joined.

He said it had attained just eight convictions despite spending more than $1.5 billion, and said that had not stemmed atrocities around the world.

“In fact, despite ongoing ICC investigations, atrocities continue to occur in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Libya, Syria, and many other nations.” he added.

But Bolton said the main objection of the administration of President Donald Trump is to the idea that the ICC could have higher authority than the US Constitution and US sovereignty.

“In secular terms we don’t recognize any higher authority than the US constitution,” he said.

“This president will not allow American citizens to be prosecuted by foreign bureaucrats, and he will not allow other nations to dictate our means of self defense.”

(AFP)

U.S. deports 34 Nigerians over various offences

At least 34 Nigerians were on Wednesday deported from the United States of America for allegedly committing offences in the country.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the deportees arrived at the cargo wing of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMlA), Lagos at about 2.30 p.m.

The deportees, comprising 32 males and two females, were brought back in a chartered Omni Air International aircraft with Registration Number W342AX.

The spokesman of the Lagos Airport Police Command, Joseph Alabi, confirmed the development to NAN.

Mr Alabi said, “at about 14.30 hours (2.30 p.m.), we received 34 Nigerians who were brought back from the United States. They were made up of 32 males and two females.”

He said the 25 of the deportees were alleged to have committed criminal offences, with one involved in narcotics while others were alleged to have committed immigration-related offences.

Mr Alabi said the deportees were received by officers of the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) and the Police.

Also on ground to receive them were officials of Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA).

He said that the deportees were profiled by the relevant authorities and allowed to depart to their various destinations. (NAN)