Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has finally been issued a visa to the United States, despite being arrestable.
A family source disclosed this on Saturday and confirmed that the former vice-president has left Nigeria for the UK, where he will spend some time before flying to the US.
It was gathered that former president Olusegun Obasanjo played a “critical” role in getting the American government to issue the visa to his former deputy with whom he was estranged for almost 15 years.
The trip marks another chapter in the controversy that has rocked the former vice-president for over a decade.
Atiku, who is widely travelled, has not been to the US in 13 years, intially fueling speculations that he might be avoiding possible arrest or prosecution.
His political opponents had used his absence from the US not just to taunt but to discredit him.
His row with the US authorities began after the FBI investigated a bribery scandal involving William Jefferson, former US congressman, in 2004.
Atiku was accused of demanding a bribe of $500,000 to facilitate the award of contracts to two American telecommunication firms in Nigeria.
The FBI had searched his residence in the posh neighbourhood of Potomac, Maryland, but no money was found.
The investigators had videotaped Jefferson, who was the congressman representing Louisiana, receiving $100,000 worth of $100 bills which he claimed was meant for Atiku, but the former vice-president has consistently denied the allegation.
Despite Atiku’s claim to innocence, the controversy raged.
Two months before he declared interest in the 2019 presidential race, Atiku granted an interview to Dele Mommodu, celebrity journalist, where he clarified his absence from the US.
“It is the sole prerogative of America to determine who they want in their country or not,” he said.
“I’m not running away from America. I applied but wasn’t issued a visa.”
He said the US did not categorically deny him visa.
“They’ve only said my application is going through administrative process,” he said.
On Thursday, Lai Mohammed, minister of information, had warned the US to be cautious in granting visa to the main opponent of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019.
Asked to comment on Atiku’s visa status on Friday, Rusell Brooks, spokesman of the US consulate in Lagos, had said issuance of visa to Nigerians irrespective of their status is strictly a confidential matter.
He said the US government would not discuss such confidentiality in public.
Some All Progressives Congress (APC) members had alleged that Brian Ballard, publicist of US President Donald Trump, was working towards relaxing the visa ban on Atiku
Meanwhile, reports have it that Atiku Abubakar has returned to Nigeria after failing to secure assurances from the US Department of Justice that he will not be arrested if he sets his foot into the soil of the United State.
Waziri Adamawa secured a US visa and had travelled to the United Kingdom from where he will fly into the United state where he had not been able to step foot for more than 13 years.
“His mission in the United Kingdom is to get the British Government to help him secure the assurances of the United States Department of Justice that he will not be arrested upon setting foot in US soil. But the British government is reported to have informed Abubakar that the US Department of Justice has made it clear that it cannot guarantee he will not be arrested.”
#Nigeria Decides: Corps members lament shoddy treatment
Members of the National Youths Service Corps (NYSC) have called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to put adequate logistics in place, ahead of Saturday’s elections.
The Corps members lamented lack of security, inadequate transportation and the poor communication channel between them and the INEC officials.
They noted that they slept in the open fields, on bare floor and benches with election materials without security presence before the commission announced the elections’ rescheduling.
It was gathered that in some of the schools, the NYSC members were posted to, the schools’ gatemen were not aware they were coming. It was also learned that the corps members were alone in most of the schools overnight without policemen to provide security.
Many of the Corps members also lamented that they were at least expecting dinner to be served, mattresses and mosquito nets from INEC because they were told that they would be taken care of, but they got nothing.
A Corps member, Princess Ukaps, told The Nation that she and some of her colleagues were at the INEC office around 4 pm last Friday. She said they were there to check the names of their polling units and supervisors.
“After waiting endlessly, we moved to the primary school we were posted to and we got there few minutes to 9 pm. We were there hoping that INEC officials would come and address us. We also hoped they would give us food, mattresses and maybe mosquito nets because we were told that we would be taken care of.
“To our surprise, we waited endlessly and later went to look for food and drinks. I had to take my bath at the back of one of the classrooms in the school that night because I can never sleep without taking my bath. It was one woman in the school that gave me a bucket and water. I slept on a bench in one of the classrooms, but mosquitoes bite me seriously. Some slept on the floor in the classrooms. I learnt that at some other schools, the gatemen did not open the gates for the corps members and many had to sleep inside buses and on the floor on the roadsides. The experience was pathetic.”
Another Corps member, who simply identified himself as Chinedu, who was attached to a local government on the Lagos Mainland, said the way many of them were treated last Friday was inhuman and uncalled for.
“INEC made us feel less of a human being. We were left to sleep in an open space and no one catered for us; no one communicated with us. When I and some of my friends got to the primary school we were posted to, we were expecting some of the INEC officials to come to the school for our final training. They told us at the previous training they had with us that they were would come to our polling units to give us final training on the election materials, card readers and all, but no one showed up. We all slept in an open space.
US backs postponement of elections
The United States Embassy in Nigeria has thrown its weight behind international election observers on the postponement of last Saturday’s presidential and parliamentary elections in the country.
In a statement made available to New Telegraph, the U.S. Embassy said it fully supports the joint statement by the heads of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and other international election observation missions on the decision of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to shelve the polls by one week. “We join in encouraging all Nigerians to ensure a free, fair, peaceful, and credible election by supporting INEC while it finalizes electoral preparations this week and by voting in peace together on February 23,” the statement read.
The heads of the international election observation missions and the United Nations in Nigeria had, on Saturday, appealed for calm over the sudden postponement of the general elections in Nigeria by one week due to logistic and operational challenges. The international observers are drawn from the European Union, Commonwealth, African Union, and ECOWAS, amongst others, said they would continue to stand in solidarity with the people of Nigeria in their desire for credible and peaceful elections and would continue to closely observe preparations for the rescheduled polls across the country, “We have taken note of the decision of INEC to postpone the 2019 general elections due to logistical and operational challenges. “While we note that this decision has caused disappointment for many, we call on all Nigerians to continue to remain calm and supportive of the electoral process as INEC works to implement its new timeline.
“We urge INEC to use this time to finalize all preparations and ensure that the new election dates are strictly adhered to. We encourage INEC to provide regular updates and information to the public on its preparations in the coming days and weeks to enhance confidence and trust in the process,” they said. Other groups that endorsed the joint solidarity message include the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa Election Observation Mission; National Democratic Institute/ International Republican Institute Election Observation Mission; Organisation of Islamic Cooperation as well as the Office of the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa and the Sahel Region. Similarly, the Centre for Transparency Advocacy (CTA) has described the postponement of the polls as a bold and courageous decision by the leadership of INEC, saying that the alternative could mess up the electoral process.
Tinubu promises to reward APC members
The National Leader of All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, has promised to give a substantial amount of money to the party faithful if their votes can secure reelection for President Muhammadu Buhari.
Tinubu, former governor of Lagos State, also disclosed that he had enough money to bankroll elections without requesting any money from Buhari or dipping his hands in Lagos State’s treasury.
He made the remarks in a leaked audio tape THISDAY obtained yesterday from an authoritative source that pleaded anonymity.
In the tape, Tinubu said, “For all those who have come to Bourdillon, you know why we are here. We are here for mobilization. You know what I mean by mobilization.
“So, as registered APC members, you have to go and get your neighbors to come out and vote for the APC. It is after I have seen the favorable results of the elections that I will bring out good money.
“Buhari does not have the money that I want to steal and he doesn’t have the money I want to take from him. Also, he does not have the war chest for this presidential election.
“Therefore, whatever I’m promising you is for real – and it is coming from my own pocket. It is not until I go to Alausa before I can get money to give you.”
He, however, told the APC supporters who had come to visit him in preparation for the now-postponed presidential and federal parliamentary polls that he would reward them financially after they had “delivered victory” for Buhari.
Explaining why, Tinubu stated: “Before now, party faithful would gather here around me like ants around sugar, asking for mobilization. They always succeeded in getting something substantial from me with many of them from the same areas.
“That was then. This time it does not matter if your footwear wears out. Once you can deliver in this election, I am committed to giving money that is substantial. We’ll never lack.” The maverick politician also stunned his supporters when he admitted demeaning the people of Osun State. Until now Tinubu had denied making any denigrating statements regarding the financial capacity of the state.
INEC to meet today over ban on campaigns
Following the opposition of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) ban on electioneering during the one-week extension of the poll, the commission will meet today to review the restriction.
INEC, according to its national chairman’s Chief Press Secretary (CPS), Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, would meet to review its position and decide whether or not to reopen campaigns.
The two leading parties have argued that the commission’s restriction has no basis in law.
The PDP also alleged that fresh facts have confirmed that officials of the federal government and the APC have been sabotaging INEC in a well-orchestrated plot to engineer staggered presidential election, contrary to simulated stance by the presidency and the party’s National Chairman, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole.
The main opposition party also urged the electoral body to rescind its decision on the suspension of campaigns by political parties, a position backed by the Director of Strategic Communications of the ruling party’s Presidential Campaign Council, Mr. Festus Keyamo, SAN, who described as illegal, the decision of INEC not to allow political parties to engage in further campaigns, despite the postponement of the presidential election to Saturday.
However, the South-south Coordinator, and Special Adviser on Youth and Support Groups to the PDP presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Rev. Chukwudi Eke, has called on the federal government to ensure peaceful and credible elections.
The National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement yesterday said the reason for the postponement of the presidential and National Assembly elections was that President Muhammadu Buhari was determined to have a staggered election, where he could use security agencies to subvert the will of the people at the polls.
According to the PDP, APC sympathizers in INEC engineered actions that affected the distribution and delivery of INEC’s sensitive materials to designated locations, thereby frustrating the electoral process.
The party stated: “We also have details of how a hired team of data hackers corrupted the voter register, with a view to causing mass confusion and voters suppression on the election day.
“Nigerians would have been shocked that many registered voters in possession of their Permanent Voter’s Cards (PVCs) would have arrived their polling centers on election day, only to discover to their amazement that their names have disappeared from the register in their units.
“Intelligence available to us further details how agents of the Buhari Presidency infiltrated the distribution system and ensured that sensitive election materials do not arrive at the designated locations, with a view to stall elections in several states and pave way for a staggered election.
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