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Atiku attempting the impossible at S’Court, CSU papers worthless – Tinubu

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President Bola Tinubu has picked holes in the submissions of Atiku Abubakar at the Supreme Court, with which he urged the apex court to declare that he is not fit to contest the 2023 election, having submitted forged documents to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Atiku, former Vice President and candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in the election, held on February 25, is relying on the content of the deposition made by the Chicago State University (CSU) in relation to Tinubu’s academic records, to establish his case of forgery, claiming that what the former Governor of Lagos State submitted to the electoral body ahead of the election, was different from what he claimed to have obtained from the US university.

But, Tinubu’s argument through his lawyers led by Wole Olanipekun, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), is that the Supreme Court could no longer, at this stage, assume trial jurisdiction in the case since the 180 days allocated for the hearing of election petition has lapsed and that the supposed new evidence was strange to the proceedings, having not been presented by the trial court, Atiku and the PDP, who were joint petitioners at the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC), did not challenge the outcome of the last presidential election on ground of forgery before the PEPC.

In Tinubu’s counter deposition at the apex court, he further argued in a written brief that court could not accept the written deposition of the Registrar of the CSU, who was not a witness before the the PEPC and whose written statement was not activated through oral evidence as required under Section 41(1) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act 2022.

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He argued: “The mode of oral examination is provided for in paragraph 41(3) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act, to wit: adoption of written deposition. Where a written deposition is not activated by oral examination of the deponent before the court, same will not be acted upon by a court.

“It is not in doubt that the deponent of the deposition sought to be introduced as additional evidence was not orally examined at the lower court. The appellant has not made a case for the court to override the provision of Paragraph 41(1) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act or referred to any law permitting the use of the deposition outside the confines of Paragraph 41(1) of the 1st Schedule.

“Appellants are attempting the impossible – thus, they have not stated whether the evidence is documentary or oral evidence because it fits into neither.

He also argued that the Supreme Court no longer has the power to assume trial jurisdiction on the petition by Atiku and the PDP because the 180 days allowed by the Constitution for the hearing of election petion lapsed on September 17 in respect of this petition.

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“In the circumstance, this honourable court is without the vires to consider the said deposition either as oral or documentary evidence, moreso when same was not considered by the court of first instance within the 180 days timeframe provided by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

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“The case presented by Atiku and the PDP is worse than the situation in the case of Tofowomo v. Ajayi (SC/CV/1526/2022 where the apex court, in a judgment delivered on January 27, 2023, declined to invoke its power under Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act as being sought by Atiku and his party in their latest application.

“The court will note that the above decision presented more valid basis than this application for the Supreme Court’s intervention, because therein, the issues had been raised at the lower court without resolution. The situation of this application is worse because, admittedly, it relates to fresh evidence obtained after the  judgment of the lower court and the date of the filing of the motion was/is outside 180 days of the filing of  the petition.

“Admission of fresh evidence can only proceed from the combined provisions of sections 22 and 33 of the Supreme Court Act. The provisions of Order 2 Rule 12(1) of the Rules of this honourable court, pursuant to which appellants’ motion has been brought, circumscribe the receipt of fresh evidence within the circumference of section 33 of the Supreme Court Act.

“Hence, for this honourable court to be able to give effect to Section 33 of the Supreme Court Act, which is the bedrock for Order 2 Rule 12(1), the jurisdiction of the lower court must be alive. Unfortunately for the appellants, however, this jurisdiction died as far back as 17th September, 2023, upon the expiration of 180 days from the date of filing of the petition by the appellants.

“In recent times, even in very dire and pathetic situations, this honourable court has been faced with supplications from parties to consider the merit of their actions which was left unattended by the trial court after consideration of threshold issues. However, being bound by the provision of section 285(6) of the Constitution , this honourable court has consistently declined.

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“We reiterate that the new document/deposition was neither pleaded nor listed at the lower court.  Even in regular civil proceedings, the court will still be required to fall back to originating processes in assessing the extent of its powers. Five conditions/requirements must co-exist before this court can grant this type of application, as decided in a host of authorities.

“In summary, the conditions are that: the fresh evidence could aot have been obtained with reasonable diligence at trial; such evidence, if admitted would have important effect on the subject of the appeal; such evidence, er facie, is apparently capable of being believed; such evidence would have influenced the judgment of the lower court in favour of the appellants, had it been available; and if such evidence is admitted, further evidence from the opposing party will not be needed.

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“Aside from the fact that there was no pleading whatsoever in the appellants’ petition before the lower court relative to the fresh evidence, which they seek to adduce, may we refer the court to paragraph 14(iii) of the counter affidavit, where the 2nd respondent had reiterated the fact that no issue was joined as between him and the appellants on this purported evidence which they seek to tender.

“This is in addition to the fundamental issue of fair hearing contained in paragraph 14 (iv) to the effect that the respondent will have no opportunity of reacting to this fresh evidence. A person who alleges that his right to fair hearing is being or likely to be breached does not need to prove any special damage.

Accusing Atiku and his party of deliberately misrepresenting facts before the Supreme Court in relation to their claim that he was not qualified to contest the election, he added: “In addition to the foregoing, is the misleading posture of the appellants, attempting to mislead the apex court in this land through Ground 1  of their application, that ‘one of the grounds of the appellants/applicants’ petition before the court below is that the 2nd respondent was not qualified at the time of the election to contest the election as required by section 137(1)(j) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended)’, whereas, the only ground (Ground D) of their petition relating to disqualification reads thus: ‘The 2nd respondent was, at the time of the election, not qualified to contest the election.’

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“While this application, for whatever it is worth, seeks the equitable jurisdiction of this honourable court, it is obvious that the applicants have not come with clean hands; they have come with a deceitful disposition ex facie (on the face of it). This honourable court cannot pay heed to this type of applicants, even if they had had a good cause, owing to their attitude.

Tinubu, stressed that the Supreme Court could equally not admit the deposition by the CSU’s Registrar and an additional document (marked Exhibits C and D) because the deposition was not made before a court, but in the office of Atiku’s lawyer, saying: “Exhibits C and D are not admissible in their current form. Starting from page 1 of Exhibits C, it reads: ‘This is the discovery deposition of Caleb Westerberg taken in the above titled cause before Gwendolyn Bedford, a Certified Shorthand Reporter…taken at the offices of Dechert LLP…’

“The purported deposition was made, not before a court, but before a shorthand reporter, in a law office of the 1st appellant (Atiku’s) counsel. In essence, the appellants seek to tender as fresh evidence, before the Supreme Court of Nigeria, statements made by a third party by name Caleb Westerberg, in the presence of lawyers and a shorthand reporter , without calling him as a witness. It is at best hearsay, which is of no evidential value in the absence of the alleged deponent, Caleb Westerberg. See section 83 of the Evidence Act.

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“While we are not oblivious that the procedure adopted is as prescribed by 28 U.S.C. § 1782 and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in the USA, we dare submit that these body of laws do not have extra-territorial application and cannot bind this honourable court, which is by no means of equal or subordinate status to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois or more ridiculously, the law office of 1st appellant’s US counsel, Dechert LLP, where the deposition took place.

“There is no connection between the appeal and the documents that Atiku and the PDP went to the US to obtain and which they seek to tender before the apex court. It is our further submission that in the most unlikely event that this honourable court considers Exhibits C and D admissible, they will be of no utility or affinity to the appellants’ appeal, for several reasons, including the fact that there is no ground of appeal upon which they can be structured, as well as there being no accommodative issue for determination.

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“The law is trite that an appeal is not only a continuation of hearing, it is also circumscribed by matters heard and determined at the trial court. Thus, the Supreme Court cannot exercise any jurisdiction that the Court of Appeal is incapable of exercising.

“We refer your Lordships to the brief of argument filed by the appellants, and submit that no issue for determination thereof, can accommodate Exhibits C and D, yet, appeals are decided on issues for determination, which must be predicated on the grounds of appeal. None of the seven issues for determination presented by the appellants has any proximity to the disqualification of the respondents on the ground of forgery of any certificate whatsoever.

“Equally, there is no relief in the petition, seeking the disqualification of the respondent on the ground of forgery.”

Citing the Supreme Court’s earlier judgment in that case Saraki v. Kotoye (1992) 9 NWLR (Pt. 264) 156 at 188, Tinubu submitted that the latest application by Atiku and the PDP “is meant to harass, irritate and annoy the respondent (Tinubu),” adding that “it is reckless and frivolous, and there is no iota of law supporting it.

He said: “From the foregoing, it is safe to submit that this application is a crass abuse of the processes of this honourable court. Arising from the foregoing, we urge the Supreme Court to resolve the sole issue formulated in this address against the appellants/applicants and in favour of the respondent. In conclusion, and for the reasons and arguments advanced in this address, we urge the Supreme Court to dismiss this application.”

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Rebranding, customer-centric policy, paying off – Berger Paints MD

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The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Berger Paints Nigeria Plc, Mrs. Alaba Fagun, has ascribed the outstanding performance of the company for the financial year ended December 31, 2023, to the market appreciation of its rebranding, customer-centric policy, deployment of modern technology to ensure quality products and availability of strong human capital.

Despite the inclement operating environment, Berger Paints, a leading manufacturer of coated paints and allied products in Nigeria, has proposed a dividend of N231. 9 million for the 2023 financial year up from N202.9 million paid in 2022 and would be paying a dividend of N.80 kobo per share for its shareholders, subject to the ratification at its 64th Annual General Meeting (AGM), scheduled for Tuesday, May 14, in Lagos.

The dividend will bring the final dividend for the review period to N1 per share. At the AGM, the company shall seek ratification of payment of an interim dividend of 20 kobo per share, which amounts to N58.0 million.

Other performance indicators of Berger Paints include its profit for the financial year, which grew to N468,797 from N208,670 in 2022, and basic earnings per share, which jumped from 72 kobo to 162 kobo, an increase of 125 percent respectively.

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“Despite the myriad challenges in our operating environment, impacting both our business operations and the daily lives of our customers and team members, we achieved a remarkable 125% growth in our bottom-line figure compared to 2022.

A review of the company’s other performance indicators shows that its revenue hit N7.91 billion, an increase of 25 %, Year-on-Year, Operating Profit, N730.18, an increase of 84 %, and total assets, N6.61 billion, an increase of 20 % amongst others

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According to the Managing Director, the year 2023 underscored the enduring Nigerian love for vibrant experiences and Berger Paints rose to the occasion by exceeding customers’ expectations in the quality of products and service delivery. “With Berger Paints, you can never go wrong. Our commitment to customer satisfaction has been the bedrock of our success since 1959’, she added.

‘Throughout the year, we revitalized our corporate ethos by reshaping our brand. More than just a logo, our brand embodies a commitment to quality assurance and customer-centric values: Professionalism, Integrity, Innovation, customer focus, and Teamwork which helped us to achieve a strong position in the market’ the MD stated.

‘’Looking forward, we aspire to conquer the African market landscape with our products and services. Our dedicated team is poised to leverage resources efficiently, and innovate to deliver exceptional service to our customers,” explained Fagun.

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In March last year, Berger Paints took the Nigerian manufacturing sector and the financial market by storm, when it unveiled its new brand identity. The rebranding was prompted by the need to capture the younger demography especially those aged 25-45 to ensure business continuity and success.

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BREAKING: Why Ihedioha quit PDP *Weighs next political option

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Emeka Ihedioha, Governor of Imo State from May 29, 2015 to January 14, 2020, has finally ditched the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the platform under which he became Deputy Speaker for eight years before he ran for the number one job in his state – one of the major outcomes of the current crisis in the nation’s main opposition party.

Ihedioha, announced his resignation in a letter to the ward Chairman in Mbutu, Aboh-Mbaise Local Government Area of the state, on Tuesday, five days after the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party, citing his unhappiness with the way its affairs were being handled, which he could no longer live with.

An acolyte of Atiku Abubakar, former Vice President and two-time presidential candidate of the party in 2019 and 2023, it is believed that the position of former Deputy Speaker had to do with the inability of the PDP NEC, the second highest organ to deal decisively with the issues that have been beleaguering its leadership since the 2023 elections, in which it was split down the middle.

One of the issues was the failure of the party to take action against some renegades, who worked against Atiku in the last election, particularly the G-5, a group of five governors on the platform of the party before the election, led by Nyesom Wike, former Governor of Rivers State, now Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

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The group, which also included Samuel Ortom of Benue, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu, Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia, whose tenures ended in 2023 and Seyin Makinde of Oyo, currently in his second and final term, had stood staunchly against Atiku on the ground that he did not support the removal of Iyorchia Ayu, as National Chairman of the party, since both of them came from the North.

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Against the backdrop that Wike and his group would be sanctioned with possible suspension or outright expulsion from the party, the NEC took a middle ground in what was not only seen as a slap in the wrist, but a victory for Wike against the Atiku camp, which had favoured full sanctions.

It is believed that this was what Ihedioha, was referring to when he lamented in his letter dated April 23, and delivered to the PDP headquarters on Tuesday, where he pointed out that he has no doubt whatsoever that his decision to quit was the right course of action, given that the party had deviated from its original character.

He wrote: “Since 1998, I have contributed my quota to the development and transformation of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as one of the founding members. All these years, I have taken pride in the fact that the PDP is a party that will always look inward for internal reforms and provide credible leadership for the people, whether in power or outside power.

“I have had the benefit of serving and benefitting from the party at various levels. Regrettably, in recent times, the party has taken on a path that is at variance with my personal beliefs. Despite my attempt to offer counsel, the party is, sadly no longer able to carry out internal reforms, enforce its own rules or offer credible opposition to the ruling All Progressives Congress.

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“It is in the light of the foregoing, that I am compelled to offer my resignation from the Peoples Democratic Party effective immediately. While this decision was difficult to take, I, however, believe that it is the right one. Despite this resignation, I will always be available to offer my services towards the deepening of democracy and good governance in Nigeria.”

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It is however not certain where the former governor is headed, as one source is saying that he could be heading to the All Progressives Congress (APC), having helped Hope Uzodimma, the incumbent governor, who incidentally ousted him through the Supreme Court, in 2020 win his second term elections on the promise of a payback in 2027.

However, another source told Whirlwindnews.com.ng that the former Deputy Speaker, considered the ruling party too dirty and a no-go area to achieve his ambition, preferring the more popular Labour Party (LP) as the next destination.

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BREAKING: MAN celebrates, as Dangote crashes diesel price again

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Less than one week after Dangote Petroleum Refinery announced the reduction in the price of Automative Gas Oil (AGO), otherwise known as diesel from N1,200 to N1,000, the company, the first privately owned refinery in the country and one of the largest in the world, on Tuesday, moved further with another price crash this time with a reduction of N60, to bring the price per litre to N940.

It was also a day the company announced the decrease in the price of Aviation Turbine Kerosine (ATK), otherwise known as aviation fuel to N980 per litre, a move expected to further reduce the cost of air transportation, which has hit the roof and is now beyond the pockets of average Nigerians.

The price change of N940 is applicable to customers buying five million litres and above from the refinery, while the price of N970 is for customers buying one million litres and above, Anthony Chiejina, Head of Communication of Dangote Group, explained on Tuesday, saying the new price is in consonance with the company’s commitment to cushion the effect of economic hardship in Nigeria.

“I can confirm to you that Dangote Petroleum Refinery has entered a strategic partnership with MRS Oil and Gas stations, to ensure that consumers get to buy fuel at affordable price, in all their stations be it Lagos or Maiduguri. You can buy as low as 1 litre of diesel at N1,050 and aviation fuel at N980 at all major airports where MRS operates.”

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Informing that the partnership would be extended to other major oil marketers, he added: “The essence of this is to ensure that retail buyers do not buy at exorbitant prices. The Dangote Group is committed to ensuring that Nigerians have a better welfare and as such, we are happy to announce this new prices and hope that it would go a long way to cushion the effect of economic challenges in the country.”

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On April 5, the management of the company had announced reduction of the price of diesel from 1200 to 1,000 Naira per litre, the second time after initial reduction from the N1,700, the price stood at when the company commenced operation early in the year.

Nigerian President Bola Tinubu had also commended Aliko Dangote, President of conglomerate for the initial price reduction, describing it as an “enterprising feat.”

Reacting to the latest development, The Director General of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Mr Ajayi Kadiri, said: “The decision of Dangote Refinery to first crash the price from about N1,750/litre to N1,200/litre, N1,000/litre and now N940 is an eloquent demonstration of the capacity of local industries to positively impact the fortunes of the national economy.

“The trickledown effect of this singular intervention promises to change the dynamics in the energy cost equation of the country, in the midst of inadequate and rising cost of electricity. The reduction will have far-reaching effects in critical sectors like industrial operations, transportation, logistics, and agriculture, contributing to easing the high inflation rate in the country; a lot of companies will be back in operation.”

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