Sunday, 2 December 2012

VIP ex-convicts still on national honours list • Presidential directive on George, Ibru, others ignored

Cecilia Ibru and Bode GeorgeThe names of a  former National Deputy Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Bode George, and other ex-convicts, are still on the national honours list,  The PUNCH has learnt.
Other prominent convicts whose names are  on the list  are a  former Inspector-General of Police, Tafa Balogun;  ex-Managing Director of Oceanic Bank, Cecilia Ibru; her former counterpart in the defunct Intercontinental Bank, Erastus Akingbola; and  other ex-managing directors of banks  convicted after they were conferred with the  national honours.
President Goodluck Jonathan  during the 2012 national honours awards in Abuja in September had said that he had directed the national honours award committee to withdraw the awards from awardees who had been convicted or undergoing criminal trial.
Investigation by The PUNCH showed that the committee had not been able to meet to carry out Jonathan’s order.
It was also gathered that 21 recipients of the 2010 and 2011 National Honours awardees had yet to receive their medals more than one year after they were conferred with the awards.
Eighty per cent of the awardees came from the public sector as either public officers or political appointees.
Already, the Special Duties Office in the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation had concluded arrangement to use its 21 members of staff, preferably those from recipients’ home states to take the medals personally to them.
A senior government official told our correspondent on Sunday in Abuja that the members of the national honours award committee had not been able to meet due to “some logistic factors.”
The committee which is chaired by a former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Alfa Belgore, it was learnt, had also been unable to meet  because some of its members  were on  other national assignments.

The source said, “Prof. Attahiru Jega is a member of the committee but following his appointment as chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, he has not had the time because of his commitment to ensure that INEC got  its acts  right. Dr. Christopher Kolade is also a member of the committee but his appointment into the Federal Government’s SURE-Programme is  also a minus.
“The committee has not even been able to meet since the last  ceremony in which Otunba Mike Adenuga and 148 others were honoured.”
 Our source, however, assured that the case of George,  Ibru, Akingbola,  Balogun and others would be resolved  next year when the committee begins sitting.
“It(committee) is most likely to meet in January 2013 to review the whole process and find a way of transferring the medals to the recipients since many of them are too old to travel and commence compiling the names as directed Mr. President.”
 Our correspondent was also informed that one of the greatest challenges facing the committee was funding.
“The national awards committee is in a serious financial crisis. There is no money because funding has been difficult and it will be difficult to perform very well when there is no money. But as soon as things improve, the committee would start sitting and we can assure you that everything will come  back to reckoning”, the source stated.
 Jonathan’s directive on the removal of recipients  not worthy of the honours was contained in a letter to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim.
A source in the Presidency had confirmed to The PUNCH in September that,  “There is a letter to that effect, with a directive to find out the names of those who were indicted and who have (national) honours awards. I think the job is ongoing and almost being concluded. The office of the SGF has been mandated to find out the names of those who were indicted and have national honours.
“It is not all the people indicted that have national honours awards. For instance, you cannot strip somebody of a national honours award when he has none in the first place, even if he has been indicted. So the Office of the SGF is on it.
“Mr. President has given instruction that the names of the people should be compiled. As soon as the list is out, the President will do something about their case. The SGF is sorting out the names of those who were indicted and have national honours.
“For instance, the former Managing Director of Oceanic Bank Plc, Mrs.  Ibru, falls within the category. So also is the ex-MD of Intercontinental Bank, Mr.  Akingbola.”
 George was sentenced in 2009 to a 30-month jail term by Justice Olubunmi Oyewole of the Lagos High Court for contract splitting and inflation when he was the chairman of the board of  the Nigerian Ports Authority.
Balogun pleaded guilty to eight counts of money laundering  in 2005 and was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment by Justice Binta Nyako.
Ibru was in 2010 convicted by Justice Dan Abutu of the Federal High Court in Lagos of bank and securities fraud. She was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment and made to forfeit over N150bn in assets and cash.
The PUNCH last year had reported that the country’s most prestigious honours awards held on November 15, 2011 was marred by a shortage of medals and certificates.
As a result of the shortages, many of the honourees had been unable to get their medals and certificates.
 Anyim had blamed it on the large number of recipients in  2011 and promised that those who could not receive their medals and certificates would have them “in the next one week.”

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