RIGHT OF REPLY
By Akeem Olagoke
After reading your story titled: ‘EFCC’s Alleged Diversion of Trillions – Lamorde and the Schism in the Senate’, written by Henry Umoru, the Senate Correspondent of your newspaper, published on Sunday, August 30, 2015, particularly the section of the report sub-titled ‘Toyin Saraki’s Saga’, I feel compelled to give you the benefit of the account of what transpired during Mrs Saraki’s visit to the office of the anti-graft agency.
I believe this will stop all erroneous insinuations and imputations contained in your article and others published in Nigerian newspapers in which people try to link the wife of the Senate President with the activities of the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions concerning the EFCC.
As a citizen with the utmost respect for highest standards of transparency and democratic accountability, , Mrs Toyin Saraki visited the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on July 27 and 28, 2015, in response to an invitation. Mrs Saraki made herself immediately available to assist the commission wholeheartedly with any lawful enquiry they had.
During her visit, Mrs. Saraki was informed that this enquiry concerned “an investigation into public funds diversion and money-laundering.” It was based upon a 2012 petition submitted to the EFCC by one Sulaiman Abdul – of unknown and unverified provenance – regarding alleged “non-completed and non-performed Kwara State 2012 MDG contracts”.
Mrs Saraki assured the EFCC of her cooperation towards the prompt and positive resolution in satisfaction of this enquiry. Mrs Saraki has always maintained absolute propriety as a spouse of an elected public officer, and in her own private capacity. She has never sought to influence awards of government contracts in any capacity.
Mrs Saraki has noted, as a matter of fact, that the 2012 petition upon which she was belatedly invited to attend this enquiry, three years later, in July 2015, made no reference to herself or her Wellbeing Foundation Africa.
The petition concerned the performance of a third party independent distributor of her foundation’s copyrighted and trademarked intellectual property. She has been reliably advised that this independent distributor won its contract in an openly advertised competitive tender process in Kwara State – long after the May 2011 conclusion of her husband’s tenure as Executive Governor of Kwara State.
Mrs Saraki has since been informed that this company – a well-regarded health sector distributor – in which it should be clear she has no proprietary interest, won this tender in all due process, satisfied its obligations to a high standard, and duly received its completion certificate from the Kwara State Government.
It is pertinent to note that there has been no complaint from the Kwara State Government.
Mrs Saraki has willingly provided comprehensive documentary evidence of the lawful contractual relationship with this independent company.
For the record, the company is an appointed distributor of her Wellbeing Foundation’s registered copyrighted and trademarked tools and resources, which have been deployed throughout Nigeria’s National Health Strategy’s Midwives Service Scheme.
Since its inception, the Wellbeing Foundation has adopted a globally recognised charity sector-funding model that is widely used by others such as UNICEF and OXFAM.
Having always placed an emphasis on the importance of accountability, transparency and diligent reporting, Mrs Saraki has always operated within the law and to the highest standards of global compliance in all of her activities, and she is confident of her personal and institutional integrity.
It is thus, a sad reflection of the general mistrust of prominent figures in Nigeria, that any authentic and verified lawfully earned copyright, trademark and author royalties accruable, and declared transparently, to Mrs Saraki and The Wellbeing Foundation Africa, could ever be hastily and wrongly presumed, by any party, to be illicit in origin. Equally worrisome, is the unfortunate prevalence of maliciously concocted petitions, of fictitious origins.
Every single day, 2,300 newborns and under-five year olds and 145 women of childbearing age die in Nigeria. This makes Nigeria the second largest contributor to the under–five and maternal mortality rate in the world
For over a decade, the Wellbeing Foundation Africa has led efforts to reduce Nigeria’s unacceptably high maternal, newborn, and child mortality indices.
Through collaboration and consultation with local, national, and international partners, WBFA has developed innovative solutions that have been adopted into the very frontline of the Nigerian health systems.
These solutions include the WBFA Integrated Maternal, Newborn, and Child Personal Health Record, WBFA Universal Health Maternity And Child Record Books and Notebooks, the WBFA Clean Birth MamaKit, the WBFA BabyKit, WBFA EMONC Skills & Drills Training, #MaternalMondays Demand Creation for Birth-Preparedness, WBFA Baby-Friendly Initiative Breastfeeding Manual, WBFA Antenatal Education Curriculum, and Inclusive Access to Health Financing Capacitation.
Having been partners to the United Nations Every Woman, Every Child initiative since 2011 at the invitation of UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, WBFA has consistently worked to bring global best practice innovations back home to Nigeria. These innovations include the Alaafia Universal Health Coverage Fund, which provides health insurance for 5000 Kwaran residents annually, and the recent partnership with the Johnson and Johnson Foundation and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine to provide ‘skills and drills’ emergency obstetric and newborn care training for health-workers in Kwara State.
The WBFA’s work as a non-governmental civil society organisation has been recognised by the United Nations, as demonstrated by the awarding of special consultative status to the UN Economic and Social Affairs Council, while the WBFA also led Nigeria Health CSO’s recent Position Paper On Health, presented to The Presidential Transition Committee.
Former United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Strategic Planning, Dr. Robert C. Orr, has previously commended the Wellbeing Foundation for its life-saving interventions, writing “African philanthropy for women’s and children’s health is something that could catalyse much needed resources toward the issues that you have championed for nearly a decade in Nigeria, including the Personal Health Record (PHR) of Nigeria.”
Mrs Saraki has thanked her supporters, who had accompanied her to the meeting, for their peaceful presence. Additionally she categorically denies reports that supporters forced their way into the offices of the EFCC. A group of supporters and friends attended the meeting venue as a gesture of goodwill, speaking to her character as a philanthropist and global reputation as an advocate. They made themselves available should the enquiry process have necessitated any standard sureties – which were not called upon. Their presence was in no way intended as a tactic nor should it be interpreted as such.
Mrs Toyin Saraki remains positive about working with the EFCC, which asserts itself to be “a body operating to international standards” towards the prompt resolution, and satisfaction, of this enquiry. She hopes that the spirit of this enquiry will thus follow the global standards and principles of open democracy, transparency, and impartiality that the EFCC – and other similar organisations around the world – are founded upon, and in adherence to the Rule Of Law.
Mrs Saraki’s legal team requested some weeks ago that the EFCC fully disclose to her, the identity of a fraudulent female impostor who has been using a false likeness of Mrs Toyin Saraki’s name and identity.
This impostor has been known to the investigative body for a number of years, thus she is disappointed that she was not previously informed about this despite the risk to herself and her reputation from an individual of such apparently grievous criminality.
A response has not been received from the EFCC, regarding the above requests.
We thus caution the media to refrain, cease and desist from unfounded speculation, and politically influenced conjecture in order to preserve the principles of equity, dignity, fairness, and justice, in the interest all concerned parties to the presumed lawfulness and integrity, of this EFCC enquiry.
Her Excellency Toyin Saraki looks forward to drawing a line promptly under this matter and continues to focus on her consistent leadership of global advocacy on maternal, newborn and child health.
* Olagoke is Private Secretary to Mrs. Toyin Saraki, Founder – President, The Wellbeing Foundation Africa