Police arrest kidnapper on wanted list 3 years after

The Anti Cultism and Kidnapping Squad (ACKS) of the Police Command in Cross River has arrested a notorious kidnap kingpin, three years after he was declared wanted.

The SP Ogini Chukwuma led ACKS, acting through intelligence, had stormed the hideout of the kingpin, Kufre Etim, also called Romance, where he allegedly opened fire on sighting the team.

He was injured in the gun duel with the police and was subsequently arrested.

While he was arrested, other members of the gang escaped with various injuries.

The state Commissioner of Police, Sule Balarabe, described his arrest as a victory for the police and the people of Cross River.

“The notorious kidnapper has been terrorising the state and part of a neighbouring state for years, we are glad that he has been apprehended.

“He has been on the wanted list for three years and we finally picked him up today,” he stated.

Romance name has been linked with several kidnap cases, armed robbery and killings in the state.

He is said to be responsible for the abduction of several medical doctors, lecturers of the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital as well as the University of Calabar.

He was also responsible for the abduction of the wife of a popular journalist in Calabar.

He was apprehended behind the University of Cross River.

 

Source: News Agency of Nigeria

Nigerian Supreme Court Suspends Currency Swap Deadline

Nigeria’s Supreme Court has suspended the government’s deadline to stop the use of old currency notes.

The Central Bank of Nigeria had ordered people to swap out old bank notes for currency with a new design by the February 10 deadline, but the directive led to cash shortages, protests and some attacks on banks.

The court ruling halts the move by federal authorities and the Central Bank of Nigeria to completely phase out the old 200, 500 and 1,000 naira bills by this Friday. The Central Bank has yet to respond to the court ruling, which comes ahead of another hearing next week.

The decision follows a lawsuit filed by three Nigerian state governors seeking to keep these bank notes in circulation a while longer.

Abdulhakeem Mustapha, the attorney who filed the suit on behalf of the Kogi, Kaduna and Zamfara state governors, said Wednesday the bid to transition to the new notes was causing political instability.

However, economist Emeka Okengwu said the central bank has been operating within legal parameters and that the high court should not be involved.

“Clearly we can see that the CBN is making efforts. All they need to do is be able to redouble their efforts,” Okengwu said. “I don’t think they should extend it, and I think we should start respecting the sanctity of institutions. The CBN is operating based on the laws and powers that it has. This is not arbitrary, so I don’t even think that the Supreme Court should have entertained that suit.”

In late October, the central bank redesigned the bank notes to curb crime, ransom payments to kidnappers, and counterfeiting and to regain control of the amount of money in circulation.

Authorities say the measure has been successful.

But millions of citizens across the country have been scrambling to get the new notes.

The situation has been especially challenging for some 40 percent of Nigerians in rural areas who have little access to banking services.

Daily struggles have resulted in protests and attacks on commercial banks.

The CBN has blamed the scarcity of the old money on sabotage by commercial banks and has been cracking down on institutions that are not compliant.

On Tuesday, President Muhammadu Buhari held a private meeting with the central bank governor and the head of anti-graft agency the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. The closed-door meeting followed pleas for calm as citizens protested the cash shortages.

The situation comes ahead of elections set to begin later this month.

Source: Voice of America

Seeing Wrongdoing and Injustice, Ugandan Journalist Uses Reporting for Change

When asked how she made her breakthrough in investigative journalism, Cecilia Okoth says it came down to having a curious mind.

Assigned to cover a media briefing at a cancer treatment center in Uganda’s capital, Kampala, the reporter was intrigued by the patients waiting on the building’s veranda.

Many had traveled from across Uganda for treatment that is supposed to be free. But when Okoth spoke with the patients, she heard stories of irregularities in the care, with some patients saying doctors had asked them for bribes.

Because of her inquisitive nature, Okoth said, that “debut story became my main sort of breakthrough.”

Okoth went undercover to look into the allegations raised by patients. When her story was finally published by Uganda’s New Vision media group in August 2018, it made waves.

“Parliament acknowledged the article, and many people were able to share their experiences on social media about how they had been harassed by the same medical doctors that I caught on camera,” she told VOA. “That alone gives me the satisfaction that I was able to do something different for society.”

In more recent years, Okoth has reported on issues affecting children and young people — a focus that led her in 2023 to join the communications team at the charity ChildFund in Uganda.

She cites another of her investigative pieces as a turning point. It was 2019, and Okoth was in the Kenyan capital for a conference on child protection.

“We took a break to go and see what Nairobi was like. And then I noticed young girls from a particular ethnic tribe,” she said. “I was so curious.”

The reporter found that girls from Napak district in northern Uganda, some as young as 10, were being taken to Nairobi on the promise of school or work.

“But it was child trafficking. And most of these girls ended up being sexually abused,” she said.

As well as reporting on the case, Okoth was able to help rescue nearly 300 girls.

“[They] were brought back and taken to facilities for sort of rehabilitation … trying to get them to do things and learn skills,” she said.

For Okoth, “[It’s] not just about exposing the wrongdoing but being a story that will even wake up the government to say, ‘We didn’t know this is where our girls were ending up.’

“We must do a lot about looking at government solutions, and then journalists — the fourth estate and the voice for the voiceless — can change the narrative,” she said.

Fellow Ugandan journalist Solomon Serwanjja shares a similar view. In an interview with VOA last month, he said reporters can help bring change.

“Everyone talks about changing the world. But changing the world requires that we do something,” he said.

Doctors save lives, lawyers defend the weak, politicians pass good laws, said Serwanjja. “And fighting for freedoms is changing the world as an investigative journalist,” he said.

As journalists, “when we see something is going wrong, we have the platforms, we have the audience, we have the equipment, we have the knowledge, we have the skills to do something about it,” Serwanjja said.

But looking into corruption and wrongdoing can bring risks in Uganda. Human Rights Watch, in its World Report published in January, noted that authorities in Kampala often fail to hold security forces accountable for human rights violations, including restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly. The report found that journalists are also “routinely harassed and intimidated.”

Media rights organizations, including Reporters Without Borders, have also cited challenges for media, including attacks, kidnappings, and threats for those who report on influential figures.

But when asked about the risks she and others in Uganda face, Okoth said, “Tell me any profession that has no risks. If there’s something wrong, there must be someone to start that talk,” she said.

And the reward from bringing important issues to light keeps Okoth going.

“My journey in investigative journalism has paid off because I have been focusing on issues with children. The injustices and providing proper and workable solutions,” she said.

It is that interest that led Okoth to take a position at ChildFund.

She sees the work as a continuation of her reporting career, saying, “I wouldn’t have gotten there if I didn’t do these stories that expose the wrongdoings … it has enabled me to embark on a career that will help me continue my passion for children.”

Okoth would like to see more newsrooms encouraging female reporters to take on complex stories.

When she started in journalism, she didn’t think she would be qualified for investigative reporting.

“I often looked at it as something that was [reserved] for the seniors in the newsroom, and being a female was even worse because we know that investigative journalism is usually a bit complicated in safeguarding yourself,” Okoth said.

“The newsroom, like some organizations, is primarily male-dominated,” she said. “It is high time for editors to deliberately encourage their [female reporters] to go for these stories.”

Source: Voice of America

Burundi: Journalist’s conviction must be overturned: Floriane Irangabiye

On 2 January, the High Court of Mukaza in Bujumbura, Burundi, sentenced journalist Floriane Irangabiye to 10 years in prison and a fine of one million Burundian francs (USD 482). She was convicted on trumped-up charges of “undermining the integrity of the national territory”. Her lawyers have appealed this decision. Floriane Irangabiye was arrested on 30 August 2022 while on a family visit in Bujumbura. She is currently being held at the Muyinga Prison. Amnesty International believes that Floriane Irangabiye is being prosecuted solely for peacefully exercising her human rights and for her work as a journalist and calls for her immediate and unconditional release.

Source: Amnesty International

Minister Ronald Lamola: Countering Corrupt Reform of Criminal Justice Administration in South Africa Hybrid Conference

Speech by Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Mr. Ronald Lamola (MP) at the Countering the Corrupt Reform of the Criminal Justice Administration in South Africa Hybrid Conference, on 6 February 2023

Distinguished Guests

Distinguished Leaders in Civil Society, Academia and the Legal Profession

It is my singular honor to gather with you today and be part of this wonderful initiative by important role players in our country.

A gathering of this nature is indicative of the fact that there is general consensus that corruption cannot be addressed by government alone, civil society, the private sector and academia as collective with government can be instrumental in effecting various reforms.

As we gather here today, we are giving effect to the phrase democracy in action. We may not necessarily agree on certain aspects, but I think it is crucially important for us to look at the challenges we face from various vantage points.

As government we are now in position to act on the recommendations the Judicial Commission into allegations of State Capture, Corruption and Fraud in the Public Sector.

I am pleased to highlight a few areas where significant progress has been made to date:

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the Investigative Directorate (ID):

We have made significant progress in renewing the NPA , the reinstatement of the aspirant prosecutors’ program has seen more than one thousand new employees brought into the fold over the past three years.

Close working relationship with other Law enforcement agencies

One of the weak points which have been identified in the Criminal Justice System is a silo approach in the fight against fraud and corruption.

Today, we see greater levels of collaboration and co-ordination between the Investigative Directorate, Asset Forfeiture Unit, the Specialised Commercial Crime Unit, Special Investigating Unit and the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation.

This has been self-evident. The ACTT records 35 cases in court involving 180 accused. In total the Investigating Directorate has enrolled 32 cases, involving 187 accused individuals have appeared in court for alleged State Capture-related offences. This is not something to be scoffed at it is proof that accountability is happening as we speak.

This is the same work that has led to R 12, 5 billion being recovered.

Furthermore, the impact of the performance of law enforcement agencies can be felt in all areas of our democracy. When law enforcement agencies fail to perform we are judged as a country by international financial institutions such as rating agencies, the Financial Action Task Force, and so on. Capacitation of these entities, including the NPA has received the much needed injection of funds to assist it in achieving their mandate. The impact of grey-listing by FATF, which we are soon to receive the final outcomes will have a dire effect on our economy and ability to raise funding in the international markets. This is where co-ordination and collaboration is needed to work together not only as a the Justice cluster but with the economic cluster as well.

Permanency of the Investigative Directorate:

To ensure that the independence and the security of tenure of the incumbents in the ID is strengthened we have a new bill which is currently undergoing internal consultative processes between relevant departments.

This work builds on President Ramaphosa’s pronouncement in October as part of the actions we will undertake to implement the recommendations in the judicial commissions’ report.

In the interim whilst the consultative processes are underway, we have assigned peace officer powers to the Investigative Directorate this will enable them to arrest people, take statements, conduct search and seizure operations.

Let me pause here to say that we are aware of views that this structure has to be a chapter nine (9) institution for us to meet the standard set out in the Glenister judgment.

At the heart of this argument is a notion that in securing the independence of the NPA and its subsidiaries its interface with government poses a danger to its autonomy and independence.

This is where we differ with the proponents of this view, paragraph 58 of the Glenister 2 Judgment is instructive it reads : “For our country to win the war against these serious crimes, we need to enhance the capacity of the police to prevent, combat and investigate these crimes and other national priority crimes..”

At paragraph 80 the same judgment supplements this view by invoking international law : International law does not support the proposition advanced by the applicant either. For example, the Legislative Guide for the Implementation of the United Nations Convention against Corruption provides:

“States parties may either establish an entirely new independent body or designate an existing body or department within an existing organization. In some cases, an anti-corruption body may be necessary to start combating corruption with fresh and concentrated energy. In other cases, it is often useful to enlarge the competence of an existing body to specifically include anti-corruption. Corruption is often combined with economic offences or organized criminal activities. It is thus a sub-specialization of police, prosecution, judicial and other (for example, administrative) bodies. Implementers are reminded that the creation of new bodies with hyper-specialization may be counterproductive, if it leads to overlapping of competences, a need for additional coordination, etc., that would be hard to resolve”

Perhaps the most pointed rejection of this argument is found in paragraph 124 of the Glenister judgement The independence of an anti-corruption unit in the context of international agreements must not be confused with the independence of the judiciary, for example.

Nor does independence in the context of anti-corruption international agreements require that the executive should play no part in the functioning of anti-corruption agencies.

Were this to be the case, this would run afoul of the fundamental principles of our legal system as contained in our Constitution, in particular, sections 206(1) and 179(6). Indeed, it is doubtful whether, if that had been the requirement, states like ours would have ratified the conventions.

What is crucial, therefore, is whether the anti-corruption agency enjoys an adequate level of structural and operational autonomy, secured through institutional and other legal mechanisms aimed at preventing undue influence.

Whilst it is true chapter 9 of our Constitution is where independent entities are housed in our democracy. We are of the view that the independence of an entity like the NPA and its subsidiaries cannot be looked through a simplistic lens of where the entity is housed.

Its independence must be assessed via the lens of structurally and operational autonomy. This was risk identified first by the Glenister judgment and then again by the judicial commission on state capture.

Some of these reforms have begun to take shape, the clearest example is the manner in which the current National Director of Public Prosecution was appointed, we had a transparent selection process.

Improvements Required To Our Whistleblowing Framework:

I would like to pay tribute to all the Whistleblowers who have come forward to reveal the under belly of unethical conduct and corruption in the public and private sector.

You are the true embodiment of the famous saying by British philosopher John Stuart Mill: “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.”

You are the good people who refused to look on and do nothing.

In many cases this has come at a great cost to yourselves and your family. The level of reprisal which whistleblowers are being subjected to is proving to be counter-intuitive to the laudable goals of whistleblowing, which are in the main to mainstream integrity and expose unethical organisational cultures through detection and protection.

Whistleblowing is an integral part of any anti-corruption framework. Quite clearly in our context there appears to be a gap in the in overall intention of what the Public Disclosures Act seeks to do.

One of the gaps we have identified is the fact companies or government departments who are implicated by whistleblowers are not held accountable for victimizing whistleblowers.

The second gap we have identified is how we can transition whistleblowers into witnesses in criminal cases where possible.

In direct response to the recommendation by the judicial commission, comparative research is being done on the incentivisation of whistleblowers.

The review of SA’s anti-corruption architecture discussion document which highlights the mandates of the various entities engaged in the fight against corruption, compares this with a comparative international benchmarks points to an outdated legal framework. Consideration is also being given to the creation and modalities of an anti-corruption entity. This work will be the culmination of research and discussions that have been ongoing for the past two years.

Distinguished Guests these are some of the reforms that we are seized with to help us counter the corrupt and reform our criminal justice system. We look forward to you your inputs when we publish our discussion documents which will comprehensively outline these reforms.

I wish you well in your deliberations.

Source: Government of South Africa