Former Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mustafa Tafa Balogun, made a surprise appearance at the Presidential Villa yesterday, years after he had gone underground following his unceremonious end as head of the Nigeria Police Force.
Balogun, who was sacked and put through harrowing court trials by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over cases of official corruption and diversion of police funds, was guest of President Muhammadu Buhari at the occasion marking the 55th Independence Anniversary of Nigeria.
The former IG was invited to the Independence Anniversary alongside other top cops that had headed the Nigeria Police Force.
Balogun was Inspector-General of Nigeria’s Police for three years until his arrest. He assumed headship of Nigeria Police in March 2002 and was forced to retire because of widespread charges of corruption in January 2005.
He had pleaded guilty to eight charges of corruption and sentenced to six months in prison.
He was arrested in January 2005 and spent 67 days in custody while the case against him lasted in court. He walked out of prison in early 2006.
He was accused of illegally diverting police funds put in the region of about N5.7 billion official corruption.
The pioneer Chairman of EFCC, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, had explained that Balogun crossed the line and had to face trial for corruption.
Sentencing Balogun, Justice Binta Nyako had noted that he was a first offender and his demeanour in court reflected him as having shown remorse.
He was also ordered to pay a fine of N4 million ($30,000), while some $150 million worth of cash and property were seized by government.
Buhari, Saraki Meet
President Muhammadu Buhari had led former Heads of State, the leadership of the National Assembly, the judiciary, other senior government officials and diplomats to celebrate Nigeria’s 55th Independence Anniversary in Abuja.
The President was dressed in white babanriga and cap while Vice-President Yemi Osibanjo was similarly clad in white agbada,but with green cap to match the nation’s colours.
Senate President Bukola Saraki, and Speaker of House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, were accompanied by some principal offers of the National Assembly, and arrived shortly before the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mahmud Mohammed.
The one-and-half-hour event held at the forecourt of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, decorated in green and white colours and featured the ceremonial Presidential Change of Guards Parade, a military affair.
The parade was mounted by officers and men of the 177 Battalion and 7 Battalion of the Presidential Guards Brigade, Abuja.
Other features of the colourful event included inspection of new guard/quarter guard; silent drill; posting of sentries; colour/flags patrol; 21-gun salute and echelon reporting of parade, among others.
There were also foot and arms drill, rhythmic march steps, and inspection by parade commander of the soldiers’ weapons to ensure they were battle ready.
At the end of the parade, Buhari signed the Independence Anniversary register and released white pigeons to signify peace.
He was accompanied to this by a few of the dignitaries, including the Service Chiefs; Inspector-General of Police, Solomon Arase; and the former leaders.
Among dignitaries at the event were former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (rtd), and erstwhile Head of the defunct Interim National Government, Chief Ernest Shonekan.
Former Vice-President Alex Ekwueme; Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, and former Chiefs of General Staff, Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe, and Lt. Gen. Oladipo Diya (rtd); and former Senate President, Joseph Wayas, attended the ceremony.
There were also National chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), John Odigie-Oyegun; APC governorship candidate in Bayelsa State, Timipre Sylva; former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babagana Kingibe, and members of the diplomatic corps.
Buhari, Osinbajo, Saraki, Dogara and Mohammed shared light refreshments after the ceremony before proceeding to the President’s office for small talks before they all departed.
In a brief chat with journalists afterwards, Saraki spoke of Nigeria after 55 years of Independence, saying “I am hopeful and confident that the future is very bright. In next few years, things will be even better.
“It will not be business as usual. We will ensure that the National Assembly will be people-oriented and will make laws that will make impact on Nigerians.”
On his part, the CJN simply said, “We will make it by the grace of God. We are on the right path.”
In his remarks, Oyegun said: «At 55, we have finally discovered that we have been on the wrong road.
“We have finally moved to the road that leads to progress, hope, employment, prosperity and that will lead to Nigeria finally attaining that greatness that God destined it for. We are on the way.”
Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State said Nigeria has started to reclaim her lost glory in the comity of nations since Buhari took the reins of governance.
In his 55 Independence Anniversary message, the governor said in spite of the turmoil of the past, Nigeria is stronger today than it was 55 years ago when it gained Independence
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State in an address to commemorate Nigeria’s 55th Independence Anniversary in Asaba yesterday urged Nigerians to remember and pray for our compatriots who were in the trenches battling insurgents to save the country.
The governor who paid glowing tributes to those who fought for the country’s Independence like Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Tafawa Balewa and Tony Enahoro, among others, used the occasion to reassure Deltans of his administration’s commitment to their welfare and prosperity for all Deltans.
The Chairman Senate Committee on Rules and Business, Senator Babajide Omoworare, has expressed optimism in the greatness of Nigeria regardless of the enormous challenges it is facing at present.
In a congratulatory message to Nigerians on the 55 years of Independence Anniversary, signed by his media assistant, Tunde Dairo, Omoworare said that the future of the nation was bright, given its size, ethnic diversity, culture, natural and human resources.
Contrary to expectations, the Nigeria 55th Independence Anniversary celebration could not hold in Oyo State as the state governor, Abiola Ajimobi, stayed away from the designated place for the annual celebration.
As at the time of filling this report, there was no official explanation from the state government on why the governor and any of his officials failed to show up at the anniversary venue.