The Supreme Court on 6 July dismissed the trial of a Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, on assets declaration and sundry charges instituted against him before the Code of Conduct Tribunal. A five-man panel of the court led by Justice Dattijo Muhammad unanimously upheld Saraki’s appeal, by dismissing the remnant three counts, declaring the evidence led by the prosecution as hearsay. The Danladi Umar-led CCT had, in June last year, terminated the trial upon an application by Saraki, by dismissing the entire 18 counts preferred against the Senate President. The CCT’s decision was based on the grounds that the prosecution, with its four witnesses and 49 exhibits tendered, only led hearsay evidence which could not be the basis to link Saraki to the 18 counts preferred against him. However, the Court of Appeal in Abuja ruling on December 12, 2017, in an appeal filed by the Federal Government against the decision of the CCT, restored three out of the dismissed 18 counts and ordered Saraki to return to the CCT to defend the three charges.
Nigeria’s main opposition parties have agreed on an alliance to select a joint candidate to contest next year’s presidential election, according to a memorandum issued by the alliance on 9 July. The ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) has split after one faction declared it no longer supported the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, threatening his hopes of securing a second term in elections due in February 2019. On July 4, a breakaway group of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) formed the Reformed APC (rAPC). Senate President Bukola Saraki is believed to be a key member of the new grouping.
The Presidency announced on 11 July that President Muhammadu Buhari has signed the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) Bill into law. Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, (Senate) Senator Ita Enang made the disclosure at the State House, Abuja, where he noted that Buhari appended his signature to boost Executive Order 6, also recently signed by the President to check illicit financial dealings in and out of the country. According to Enang, the NFIU which has now become an Act, will among other things, ensure compliance with international standards on matters bordering on money laundering and terrorism financing. It is also expected to check suspicious financial transactions, including receiving, requesting, analysing, and disseminating financial intelligence to relevant agencies. The unit will henceforth be domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria, not the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
Cameroon’s president Paul Biya issued a decree on Monday saying a presidential election will be held on 7 October, amidst a worsening security situation in the Southwest and Northwest Anglophone regions. Biya, 85, who has been in power for close to 36 years has not announced whether he will run for a seventh re-election, but in May his party sais he is their “natural” candidate. The opposition has described Biya’s state record as “chaotic”. Among them, Joshua Osih, who was elected in February as candidate of the main opposition party, the Social Democratic Front (SDF, English-speaking). This 49-year-old businessman contest for the Cameroonian presidency, after Ni John Fru Ndi, leader of the SDF and historical opponent to Biya decided to give way to the “young cadets” of the party.
- It is important to note that the Code of Conduct Tribunal, effectively Nigeria’s premier anti-corruption court, has failed to deliver convictions in high profile cases brought before it. Both the trials of Bola Tinubu and Bukola Saraki, which both came to naught, have exposed the Tribunal to charges of being used for political hatchet jobs. Measures will have to be taken to restore the institutional credibility of the CCT and to rebuild confidence in her. However, the most important implications of Saraki’s judicial victory are inevitably political. The Senate President can now focus on his ambitions with considerable single-mindedness. Judicial vindication by the country’s highest court constitutes some form of political capital which Mr. Saraki has already began to spend in driving a realignment of the discontented elements within the APC with other opposition groups. Without the constraints necessarily imposed by having a corruption case hanging over his head, Mr. Saraki will feel liberated, and encouraged, to pursue his political path – a course which is certainly divergent from that of the president and the ruling APC.
- The emergence of the Reformed APC (rAPC) and its split from the APC mirrors the emergence of the nPDP and its departure from the PDP four years ago. The new alliance should be seen for what it is – part of the usual pattern of realignments that occur during Nigeria’s election cycles. Typically, elite discontent with the ruling party crystallises into a schism and mass defections with breakaway factions forging alliances with opposition parties to create super coalitions. Whether the newfangled coalition is successful in attaining power, only time will tell. Much will depend on how it mediates the internal rivalries that will certainly ensue between the big egos of the A-list cast of politicians and presidential aspirants within its ranks. While Senate President Bukola Saraki is rumoured to be one of the prime movers of the rAPC, he is by no means the only influential politician in the mix and allying with other ambitious politicians and political groupings will most definitely generate new tensions as well as opportunities. What is also certain is that President Buhari has failed to keep together the coalition that brought him to power in 2015 and will face a far more difficult campaign for re-election that he did to win power.
- President Buhari’s signing was a long overdue assent to the NFIU bill. The undue drama that went into the signing process which endangered international transactions showed the levity with which the government took such an important compliance law. The new law was predicated on the requirements of Recommendation 29 of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Standards and Article 14 of United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) NFIU had been admitted in 2007 into the Egmont Group, a global body responsible for setting standards on best practices for FIUs in over 131 FIUs from 131 jurisdictions. It is sad that the key driver of the delay was politicking between the presidency and the National Assembly over the EFCC director. We hope, but are not confident, that the lessons from this will be learnt and applied for the future.
- The political and social crisis in western Cameroon is likely to be compounded by the election announcement as the security situation continues to deteriorate. Buea, a city of 100,000 and capital of the Southwest region witnessed gunfire exchanges this week between soldiers and Ambazonian Anglophone separatists – the first time the city had witnessed an armed confrontation since the beginning of the English-speaking crisis in 2016, and despite the presence of a large military deployment. According to the government, more than 80 soldiers have been killed in renewed fighting; while large parts of both regions are cut off from the Internet and food prices skyrocketing. Furthermore, it remains unclear if elections will (or can) be conducted in parts of English-speaking Cameroon, especially in pockets of territory in Northwest region held by separatists. Biya is looking to cement his RDPC’s hold on a country buffeted by a host of security challenges – Boko Haram remains activities in the far north amid critics warning about the decree’s potentially explosive implications. The consequences might be damning.