- Category: Law, Crime & Judiciary
- Published on Monday, 26 April 2010 16:33
- Written by Admin
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A court on Monday charged Mr. Vincent Ogbulafor, the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) chairman over a series of corruption allegations, creating a criminal case against the most powerful man blocking the acting president from running in next year's election.
Picture: Vincent Ogbulafor
Vincent Ogbulafor faces 16 counts accusing him of funneling money toward fictitious projects during his service as minister of special duties. The charges claim Ogbulafor conspired with two top officials from the National Economic Intelligence Agency and two contractors to defraud the government of about N200 million from March to November of 2001.
Nigeria's anti-graft agency, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offenses Commission, sought the permission of the court to file charges against Ogbulafor and the others for the crime. In a ruling Monday, Judge Ishaq Bello ordered Ogbulafor and others to appear in court to enter pleas in the case.
The charges come a day before the ruling People's Democratic Party is to hold a meeting where Acting President Goodluck Jonathan will preside for the first time. The party has yet to coalesce around a candidate for the upcoming 2011 election, as elected President Umaru Yar'Adua fell ill in November and hasn't been seen publicly for months.
In March, Ogbulafor said the next president must be from the Muslim north to satisfy an internal power-sharing agreement in the party. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, a Christian, served two four-year terms after the end of a string of military dictatorships in Africa's most populous nation. Yar'Adua, a Muslim, is nearing the end of his first term.
"The south had the president for eight years and it is proper to allow the north to have the presidency," Ogbulafor told reporters at the time. That statement appeared to confine Jonathan, a Christian from the Niger Delta, to his current role as custodian of the nation.
However, things appear to be changing. Campaign posters declaring Jonathan "the positive hope for Nigeria" in the 2011 election appeared across the nation's capital of Abuja this weekend. The acting president traveled to a conference on nuclear weapons this month in Washington hosted by President Barack Obama and met privately with the U.S. leader.
Jonathan also reshuffled the nation's Cabinet to remove some Yar'Adua loyalists and funneled billions of dollars of government surplus money into a host of projects. Some analysts have suggested that money served as payoffs to ensure he would hold onto power after Yar'Adua came back to the country.
Charles Dokubo, an analyst at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, said the timing of the charges was no surprise to him. He said Jonathan would seek to mold the party leadership to match his "tempo and the direction of government," something that Ogbulafor likely wouldn't have backed.
"In a country like ours, everything is politicized," Dokubo said.
Since this comes the day before an executive meeting of the PDP, which is considering its options for a candidate for the presidential election in 2011, analysts have thus seen the unfolding drama as part of the consuming struggle for the soul of the party in the 2011 general elections. Some names have been dropped as likely replacements for the embattled party chairman.
But Chijioke Odom, a Director in Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), Nigeria's foremost civil rights group, sees what is happening to Ogbulafor, and by implication, the PDP as a natural fall out of a political party that lacks internal democracy and dialogue.
He interpreted the travails of Ogbulafor as fallout of the politics of repression, which he claims the party has given Nigeria for the past 10 years. "The crisis is fallout of the larger politics of incontinency, lies, subterfuge, repression and chicanery which is the hallmark of the gang of strange bedfellows that is called the PDP", he observed.
Incidentally, Ogbulafor's troubles took another dimension for the worst on Friday, April 23, when questions were asked on the veracity of his claim to have participated in the National Youths Service Corp (NYSC) scheme. Reports indicated that Ogbulafor who graduated from Lake Forest College, Illinois, in the United States, in 1975, stalled for 18 years, until he was already 45 years old, to participate in the scheme.
Incidentally, Ogbulafor had scaled through similar troubles in the past. For instance, a petition sent to the ICPC in 2000, where he was accused of fraudulently stealing N104 million belonging to the Federal Government, while serving as Minister for Special Duties (Economic Affairs) did not lead to his prosecution.
Human Rights Justice and Peace Foundation (HRJPF), raised questions regarding the source of the money he used to acquire his palatial home in Abuja. He was specifically accused of buying a N400 million mansion at 45 Mamman Nasir Street, Asokoro, Abuja, barely three days of becoming the PDP chairman.
Ogbulafor, who hails from Olokoro in Umuahia, the capital of Abia State, was born in 1949. He is the first son in a family of three wives and 42 children.
He started off in the current civilian dispensation with the then All Peoples Party (later All Nigeria Peoples Party), the platform of which he was initially appointed minister in the first term of former President Olusegun Obasanjo administration. He later dumped ANPP for the PDP where he has risen to his current post.