November 13, 2008

Michael Jackson Lets Neverland Fly Away

The fairy tale is really over now.

Michael Jackson has turned the deed to his financially plagued Neverland Ranch over to a company that he has a partial stake in, effectively ending his reign as the King of the House That Pop Built.

Then again, one could wonder what took so long. Jackson hasn't spent any time at the Los Olivos, Calif., estate he bought in 1988 since being acquitted of child-molestation charges in 2005—crimes he was accused of committing on his 2,500-acre property, which in its heyday featured a working petting zoo, amusement park and various other kid-friendly attractions.

According to paperwork filed Monday with the Santa Barbara County Clerk-Recorder's Office, Neverland's new owner is the Sycamore Valley Ranch Co., LLC.

Jackson nearly lost the whole kit and caboodle to foreclosure in May, but an eleventh-hour reprieve from L.A.-based real estate company Colony Capital, which bought a $23.5 million loan that the Thriller artist had been unable to pay back, saved Neverland from the auction block.

Jackson most recently reared his reclusive head to shoot down reports of an original Jackson 5 reunion, saying that he wishes the best for his brothers but has other creative fish to fry.

"My brothers and sisters have my full love and support, and we've certainly shared many great experiences, but at this time I have no plans to record or tour with them," he said through a rep.

"I am now in the studio developing new and exciting projects that I look forward to sharing with my fans in concert soon."

Navy summons Rear Admiral to DHQ over assault on lady

ndications emerged on Wednesday that the naval authorities had summoned Rear Admiral Harry Arogundade to Abuja over the assault on a lady, Miss Uzoma Okere, in Lagos on November 3.

The victim of the recent naval ratings’ assault, Miss Uzoma Okere

Uzoma was beaten up and stripped half naked by six naval ratings attached to Arogundade, the Flag Officer, Commanding Logistic Command of the Nigerian Navy, Oghara, Delta State.

The summon comes exactly three days after the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Paul Dike, ordered the Navy to thoroughly investigate the incident which attracted widespread condemnation from within and outside the country.

Our correspondent in Warri gathered from a very reliable source in the Navy that a team had been constituted to drill Arogundade on the assault.

Our source, who is with the command in Oghara, said Arogundade left for Abuja through Lagos on Tuesday.

It was learnt at the command that Arogundade was directed to come in company with the ratings who assaulted Uzoma, the daughter of the National Assembly Sergeant-At-Arms, Col. Emmanuel Okere (rtd.).

The source said, “The FOC (Arogundade) has left the command in response to the summons of DHQ over the alleged assault on a lady in Lagos by the ratings attached to him. You can go to his office and you will discover that he’s not around.

“The man just packed his bags and baggage en-route Lagos for Abuja on Tuesday. The order asking him to report in Abuja came suddenly on Monday.

“You know that the incident has discredited the armed forces and the CDS was very disturbed by the negative publicity it has attracted both in the local and international media.

“The FOC was billed to return to Oghara when the order came and he had to put things in order immediately and departed from Lagos . He left in company with the six ratings who caused the trouble for him in Lagos as directed by the DHQ.

“They will appear before the in-house board of enquiry set up by DHQ on the matter before Friday. It is unfortunate that these ratings caused the problem for the FOC.

“The incident has rubbished the image of not only the Navy but the armed forces in general. It has especially eroded the gains of the campaign for better military/civil relationship by the present leadership of the armed forces.”

Efforts on Wednesday to get official confirmation of Arogundade’s summon at the Public Relations Unit of the command were futile.

The Head of the unit was not around when one of our correspondents called at his office. He also could not be reached on the telephone.

However, a senior officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that the summon was in line with the position of the CDS that the incident should be investigated.

Meanwhile, the Centre for Human Rights and Ethics in Development has demanded the immediate retirement of Arogundade for allegedly allowing the naval ratings to assault Uzoma.

The group, in a statement by its Senior Programme Officer, Mr. Akin Salvage, on Wednesday said that the incident was an indication that some security officers in the country were yet to learn to be tolerant.

It described as barbaric, “a situation whereby a defenseless lady would be physically assaulted on the street of Lagos, chained and taken into unlawful detention by some uneducated, untrained and unenlightened naval ratings while transporting their boss home.”

The group commended President Umaru Yar’Adua’s order of full investigation into the incident and advised that the report of the probe should be made public.

“Admiral Arogundade, if found culpable, should be retired out-rightly from service to serve as deterrent to other erring officers who always trample the rights of innocent members of the public, while the ratings should be dismissed,” it added.

CHRED said part of Arogundade’s retirement benefits should be set aside, to pay compensation to the victim.

It said, “The fact that Arogundade blared siren was another offence he committed against the land, because he is not covered by traffic laws to make use of it on the roads.

“If Arogundade were to have behaved this way in a western country , he would probably be cooling off in jail.”

Oshiomhole takes over in Edo

Mr. Adams Oshiomhole formally assumed office as the Edo State governor on Wednesday with an admonition to his associates and supporters to shun vengeance and be at the vanguard of reconciliation in Edo State.

Oshiomhole, who was inaugurated at the Sam Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin, by the state’s Chief Judge, Justice Michael Edokpayi, however, said his administration would prevail on the police authorities to probe the death of three youths that were killed while waiting to cast their votes for him on April 14, 2007.

His journey to the Government House was made possible on Tuesday by the Court of Appeal, Benin Division, which upheld the March 20, 2008 verdict of the state Election Petitions Tribunal that he and not Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor won the April poll.

Delivering his inaugural speech at the crowded stadium, Oshiomhole, who wore his trademark Khaki shirt and trouser, said that his administration would not embark on a mission to settle scores even though a good number of his supporters might be thinking in that direction.

He said that the verdict of the tribunal indicated that if he was denied his right, the judiciary had been able to redress the injustice, thereby making vengeance unnecessary.

Oshiomhole, a former Nigeria Labour Congress president, argued that since the battle to retrieve his “stolen mandate” had been fought and won, reconciliation, friendship and the readiness to forgive were imperative.

He said, “I am aware that there are many of our supporters who are angered and pained by what we have had to go through in the past 19 months. Some of them may even be nursing the spirit of vengeance. My friends, there is so much to be done. Hate and vengeance can only suffocate and impede the clarity of thought and purpose.

“The battle has been fought and won. It is now a time for unity and reconciliation. The spirit of forgiveness will open up our minds to the challenges that lie ahead. Let us blaze the moral heights by stretching our hands of forgiveness and friendship.”

Oshiomhole said that his administration would set up a committee to decide on how to immortalise the three youths who were shot dead at the Akenzua Primary School, Benin, while waiting to exercise their civic duty on April 14, 2007.

He said that with his inauguration as governor, Edo was witnessing a new dawn where the votes of the people would be sacred.

Oshiomhole was inaugurated alongside his running mate, Dr. Pius Odubu, by 11.20am amidst fanfare and celebrations.

The turnout at the stadium was unprecedented as the joint team of policemen, soldiers and men of the Nigeria Civil Defence and Security Corps had a tough time controlling the surging and jubilant crowd.

Among prominent AC chieftains that graced the occasion were the National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande; the vice-presidential candidate of the party in the April 2007 elections, Senator Ben Obi; a former Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu; his successor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN); the National Vice-Chairman in the South-South, Chief Tom Ikimi, and a former Edo State Governor, Chief John Oyegun.

A former Chief of General Staff under the regime of Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, Vice-Admiral Mike Akhigbe (rtd); the Speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly, Mr. Zakawanu Garuba, and the representatives of the Oba of Benin, led by Chief Sam Igbe, the Iyase of Benin, and traditional rulers were also present.

Shortly after the inauguration, the governor made his first appointments.

He named Mr. Pally Iriase the secretary to the State Government; Mr. Omorodion Ogie, Chief of Staff; and Mr. Eric Osagie, director of publicity.

Ogie, according to an announcement by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information, Mrs. Betty Igbeyin, was the secretary of the Oshiomhole Campaign Organisation.

Meanwhile, the Independent National Electoral Commission has said that it will study the lapses in the governorship election in Edo State which led to the removal Osunbor as governor by the Court of Appeal.

The commission also said that it would investigate the source of tabulation error that affected the election in order to determine if there was willful negligence or mischief.

It further said that anyone found to have had a hand in such laxity would not go unpunished.

The INEC National Commissioner and Chairman Legal Services and Clearance Committee, Mr. Victor Chukwuani, told journalists in Abuja that the commission was awaiting a copy of the appeal court judgment.

Chukwuani, who said the judgment was a demonstration of the ideals of democracy, added that the courts and tribunals provided avenues for persons aggrieved by the decisions of the INEC to air their grievances.

On Tuesday, the INEC Chairman, Prof. Maurice Iwu, reiterated that electronic voting remained the best balloting system for the country.

Iwu, at a workshop in Abuja on balloting method for future elections in Nigeria, said the system reduces the time voters spend at polling centres.

He said, “It holds out tremendous prospects, one of which is the capacity to minimise human influence and therefore enhance confidence in polls.

“With the existence and application of the electronic voters register as well as the capacity for electronic transfer of data and results, the adoption of electronic voting machine will usher in a full use of the electronic voting system.

“There is no doubt that the nation and its electoral system will record a positive leap in advancement of this voting option comes the existence.”

Iwu, who picked holes in the Option A4 and the Open Ballot System, said that both exposed voters to danger.