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The Federal Government on Wednesday suspended the Director-General of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Mr. Mounir Gwarzo, to allow for an unhindered investigation of several allegations of financial impropriety leveled against the Director-General. Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun announced the suspension in a statement on Wednsday, saying that two others had also been suspended. The statement from the Ministry of Finance and issued by Patricia Deworitshe, Deputy Director, Press, said the suspension was in line with the Public Service Rules (PSRs) 03405 and 03406. “Minister has set up an Administrative Panel of Inquiry (API) to investigate and determine the culpability of the Director-General. “She has directed the suspended SEC Director-General to immediately handover to the most senior officer at the Commission, pending the conclusion of investigation by the API,” the statement said. “Also suspended are two management staff of the Commission – Mr. Abdulsalam Naif Habu, Head of Media Division and Mrs. Anastasia Omozele Braimoh, Head of Legal Department – who have been alleged to engage in financial impropriety in the Commission,” the statement added.

The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) said it had arrested a former Kano State High Court Judge, Justice Kabiru Auta, for an alleged N220 million fraud. Spokesperson of the commission, Mrs Rasheedat Okoduwa, disclosed this in a statement on Wednesday. Okoduwa said the suspect was detained on Tuesday when he honoured an invitation by the commission over allegations of criminal conspiracy, cheating and forgery. Auta, according to her, allegedly conspired with some other persons to defraud a Kano businessman named Alhaji Bashir Yakasai of N220 million. “The matter was referred to the commission after it had been reported to the National Judicial Council which had constituted a committee to investigate the allegations. “The amount involved had been fraudulently obtained from Yakasai by Auta and his accomplice, Bashir Sufi, on the pretext that they were acting on behalf of the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Aloma Mukhtar. “Auta in his statement to the Commission disclosed that he made a part repayment of N20 million to Yakasai during the course of the matter,” she said. Okoduwa said the suspect was released on administrative bail, while further investigation into the matter was ongoing.

The Federal Government has told the Federal High Court in Lagos that the record of spending of N388.304billion London Paris Club Loan refunds by 35 states released to the states by Federal Government to pay overdue pensioners’ entitlements and workers’ salaries “is protected by professional privilege, and therefore confidential.” The Federal Government through the Accountant General of the Federation Alh. Ahmed Idris was responding to the suit number FCH/CS/523/17 filed by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) seeking “an order of mandamus directing and/or compelling the government to publish details of spending of N388.304billion London Paris Club Loan refunds allegedly diverted and mismanaged by 35 States.” The Federal Government’s response filed last Friday followed the ruling in June by Justice Muslim Hassan that SERAP could proceed with the legal challenge to unravel how exactly 35 states spent Paris Club loan refunds. Justice Hassan had while granting leave stressed that it was important for the authorities “to come and tell us how they spent our money.” However, in its defence the Federal Government is now arguing that, “The relationship between the Accountant General and the 35 states is professional and confidential. It is a fiduciary one akin to that between a bank and its customer and allied professionals. On that score, record of the spending of N388.304billion London Paris Club Loan refunds by the 35 states is exempted from publication, assuming the Federal Government has the information sought by SERAP.” The Federal Government is also arguing that, “The Accountant General does not have custody or possession of the information or record relating to the spending of N388.304billionLondon Paris Club Loan refunds by 35 states which the government gave them. The Accountant General did not release the funds to the states. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the Accountant General argues that assuming we have the information sought, the government is not obliged to comply with the request.” The government argued that, “States have exclusive control over their revenue and expenditure and the Accountant General of the Federation cannot demand obligatorily from any tier of government including the 35 states information how they have spent the Paris Club refunds.” According to the government, “SERAP has the right to the information sought but not to request that the information be passed to the Attorney General of the Federation. In any case, the Accountant General has no record of the spending of N388.304billion London Paris Club Loan refundsby 35 states and therefore cannot be compelled to release the record, as the court does not act in vain. An order of mandamus should not be issued because it will be unnecessary and not effective and will not serve the purpose.” Responding, SERAP argued that, “Due to non-payment of overdue pensions and salaries of workers by the states, citizens have continued to languish in untold hardship and poverty. Therefore, there is compelling public interest in knowing how exactly the Paris Club loan refunds were spent by the 35 states. There is also no professional relationship or privilege between the Accountant General and the 35 states as to warrant any duty of confidentiality on the part of the Accountant General.” According to SERAP, “There must be transparency and accountability in the spending of the refunds, in line with the principle of Open Government Partnership (OGP) to which Nigeria is a signatory. In addition, section 15(5) of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) provides that the state shall abolish corrupt practices and abuse of power. Citizens must be able to access the performance of government, and this depends on access to record about spending of the refunds by the 35 states”. SERAP also argued that, “Assuming without conceding that the Accountant General does not have record of spending of N388.304billion London Paris Club Loan refunds by the 35 states, nothing stops the Accountant General from working with other agencies/ministries to release information on the spending, especially being the Chief Accounting Officer of the Federation, and constitutionally charged with the overall responsibility of keeping and managing all the receipts and payments of the Federal Government.” SERAP said that, “The Accountant General cannot therefore say he is unaware of the spending of the refunds by the states. Otherwise, this would mean that the Accountant General is lacking in his duty as Chief Accounting Officer of the Federation.” SERAP’s response read in part: “The Accountant General has a duty under section 2(2) of the FOI Act to keep and maintain records, and to proactively disclose information without SERAP even requesting it. A basic principle behind the FOI Act is that the burden of proof falls on the body asked for information in this case the Accountant General, and not the person asking for it. The person making the request does not have to explain their actions.” “The government’s counter-affidavit constitutes objection and legal argument, and therefore same ought to be disregarded by the court as it offends section 115 of the Evidence Act. Besides, any control by the 35 states over the spending of Paris Club Loan refunds is not absolute, and in fact subject to scrutiny by Nigerians.” “The Accountant General owes no duty of confidence to the 35 states but rather to the entire citizens of Nigeria. Disclosure will not constitute an actionable breach of confidence if there is a public interest in disclosure which outweighs the public interest in keeping the information confidential.” “The FOI Act does not say that the information requested can only be issued to the person making the request nor does it say that SERAP cannot request information for the use of another person, especially when that person is the Attorney General of the Federation who is constitutionally obliged by law to act in the public interest, including in matters relating to the spending of the Paris Club Loan refunds by the 35 states.” “The intention of the drafters of the FOI Act as shown in its preamble and its sections is to allow access to information, enhance and promote transparency, accountability, openness, justice and development. Therefore, all public officials including the Accountant General ought to strive to ensure the effective implementation of the FOI Act.” It would be recalled that the motion on notice was set for Wednesday 14 September 2017 for the hearing of argument on why the government should not be directed and compelled to public details of projects on which the Paris Club loan refunds were spent. But the government has now filed a counter-affidavit and brief of arguments, claiming among others that the matter was confidential. It would also be recalled that the Federal Government released N388.304billion of the N522.74 billion to 35 states as refunds of over-deductions on London-Paris Club loans. The amounts received by the states are as follows: Akwa Ibom N14.5bn; Bayelsa N14.5bn; Delta N14.5bn; Kaduna N14.3bn; Katsina N14,5bn; Lagos N14.5bn; Rivers N14.5bn; Borno N13,654138,849.49; Imo 13bn; Jigawa 13.2bn; and Niger N13.4bn. Others are: Bauchi N12.7bn and Benue N12.7bn, Anambra N11.3bn; Cross River N11.3bn8; Edo N11.3bn; Kebbi N11bn; Kogi N11.2bn; Osun N11.7bn; Sokoto N11.9bn; Abia N10.6bn; Ogun N10.6bn; Plateau N10.4bn; Yobe N10bn; and Zamfara N10bn. Other states are: Adamawa N4.8bn; Ebonyi N3.3bn; Ekiti N8.8bn; Enugu N9.9bn; Gombe N8.3bn; Kwara N5.4bn; Nasarawa N8.4bn; Ondo N6.5bn; Oyo N7.2bn and Taraba N4.2bn. SIGNED Timothy Adewale SERAP deputy director 5/11/2017 Lagos, Nigeria Emails: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Twitter: @SERAPNigeria Website: www.serap-nigeria.org

The management of Sterling Bank Plc, Lagos has dragged its staff and a teller attached to its Wilmer Branch, Olodi-Apapa area of Lagos, Chidebe Henry Ikenna, 41, before a Lagos Magistrate Court for allegedly stealing the sum of N2 million entrusted in his care by the customers of the Bank to lodge in their accounts. The accused, from Awka North Local Government Area of Anambra State, Southeast Nigeria was ordered arrested by the Divisional Police Officer, DPO in charge of Lion Building Division, CSP Folashade Tanaruno following a complaint by the management of Sterling Bank Plc through Mr Okonugha Sunday Evaristus in charge of security department. Ikenna was arraigned before an Igbosere Magistrate Court on a one count charge of felony to wit, stealing. Police Prosecutor, Inspector Abass Abayomi informed the Court in charge No. C/61/2017 that the accused committed the alleged offence in November, 2016 at the Sterling Bank Plc, Lagos. Abayomi told the Court that the accused betrayed the trust reposed on him by his employer as a teller and stole the sum of N2 million entrusted in his care by the customers of the bank. Abayomi added that the management of the bank got to know about the alleged fraudulent act when some of the customers of the bank lodged a complaint against the accused that anytime they give him money to lodge in their account, they would receive an alert that the money had entered into their accounts but that when they checked the balance, they would not find the money in their accounts. According to him, following the complaints, the management of the bank swung into action and launched investigation into the complaints during which they discovered that the accused had been sending false alerts to the complainants and converting the money they entrusted in his care as a teller to lodge in their accounts to his personal use. Abayomi added that the offence the accused committed was punishable under section 287 of the Criminal Laws of Lagos State, 2015. The accused, however, pleaded not guilty to the alleged crime and Chief Magistrate, A.O. Komolafe granted the accused bail in the sum of N1 million with two sureties in like sum. Komolafe adjourned the case till 14 November, 2017 for mention and ordered that the defendant be remanded at the Ikoyi Prison, pending when he is able to fulfill the bail conditions.

Justice Ayo Emmanuel of the Federal High Court sitting in Ibadan, capital of Oyo State has sentenced the former Director-General of the Institute of Agricultural, Research and Training (IAR&T), Professor Benjamen Ogunmodede to 40 years in prison without an option of fine for mismanaging funds meant for the payment of salaries and execution of projects in the institution. Two other staff of the institution Zacheus Tejumola and Adenekan Clement were also jailed. They were arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in 2011 on 16-count charge bordering on conspiracy, unlawful conversion, stealing of school subvention, among others. They were accused of diverting and spending without due process, the sum of N177 million out of a subvention of N600m released by the Federal Government for the school. Justice Emmanuel ruled that each of the convicted persons would spend four years for each of the charges they were found guilty, adding however that they would spend the jail term concurrently. In their response, the convicted persons claimed that a huge part of the amount was used to bribe members of the House of Representatives and some staff of the Federal Ministry of Finance who facilitated the release of the fund for the research institute. But Justice Emmanuel ruled that Ogunmodede and others were clearly guilty of the charges preferred against them. He said that bribery and money laundering were illegal activities that had been prohibited in the country and that they were punishable under the law. The judge said that the sentence would serve as deterrent to people in public positions. EFCC lead counsel, Nkereuwem Anana, said the judgement was an indication that the war against corruption was being won in the country, saying that the judgement would send a strong message to others who are mismanaging or embezzling public funds. Counsel to Ogunmodede, Tunde Olupona, said that the legal team would review the ruling and Justice Ayo Emmanuel of the Federal High Court sitting in Ibadan, capital of Oyo State has sentenced the former Director-General of the Institute of Agricultural, Research and Training (IAR&T), Professor Benjamen Ogunmodede to 40 years in prison without an option of fine for mismanaging funds meant for the payment of salaries and execution of projects in the institution. Two other staff of the institution Zacheus Tejumola and Adenekan Clement were also jailed. They were arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in 2011 on 16-count charge bordering on conspiracy, unlawful conversion, stealing of school subvention, among others. They were accused of diverting and spending without due process, the sum of N177 million out of a subvention of N600m released by the Federal Government for the school. Justice Emmanuel ruled that each of the convicted persons would spend four years for each of the charges they were found guilty, adding however that they would spend the jail term concurrently. In their response, the convicted persons claimed that a huge part of the amount was used to bribe members of the House of Representatives and some staff of the Federal Ministry of Finance who facilitated the release of the fund for the research institute. But Justice Emmanuel ruled that Ogunmodede and others were clearly guilty of the charges preferred against them. He said that bribery and money laundering were illegal activities that had been prohibited in the country and that they were punishable under the law. The judge said that the sentence would serve as deterrent to people in public positions. EFCC lead counsel, Nkereuwem Anana, said the judgement was an indication that the war against corruption was being won in the country, saying that the judgement would send a strong message to others who are mismanaging or embezzling public funds. Counsel to Ogunmodede, Tunde Olupona, said that the legal team would review the ruling and

Former First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, has appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene to stop the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), from a “witch-hunt”. A statement issued by her media aide, Mr Belema Meshack-Hart, on Monday in Abuja, quoted Mrs. Jonathan as saying that the EFCC was prosecuting a plot to destroy her family. Meshack-Hart said that the vindictive disposition of EFCC was portraying the organisation as an agency for revenge. Mrs. Jonathan, according to Meshack-Hart, specifically accused Ibrahim Magu, EFCC’s boss, of bias and intimidation. He said that the EFCC boss was “spreading barefaced falsehood and propaganda against Mrs Jonathan in the name of investigations”. Meshack-Hart accused the EFCC of “unjustified witch-hunt”, saying that no other former first lady had faced “such brazen intimidation in the history of this country”. Quoting Mrs Jonathan, Meshack-Hart said: “For almost three years, the EFCC has beamed its searchlight on me and my family members, including my siblings and parents, as well as my Foundation and Non-Governmental Organisation. “As a tradition, every First Lady in this country has had one pet project or the other, with which they sought to intervene in the lives of the less privileged.’’ Mrs. Jonathan explained that she started her NGO in Bayelsa State 11 years ago, when her husband was the Governor of that State. She said that she has over the years, touched the lives of many Nigerians in different ways. According to her media aide, “it is surprising that while other First ladies and their pet projects were left alone, it is only her activities and that of her NGOs that are being subjected to indefinite probe and microscopic scrutiny. EFCC has maliciously linked Mrs. Jonathan to all kinds of fake possessions and properties around the country, he said. “It has come to a point where all the magnificent edifices in Abuja, Yenagoa or Port Harcourt are presented to the media as belonging to Mrs. Patience Jonathan. She has been accused of owning several plots of land in many cities across the country, including places she has never visited. “The most astonishing of all is that her close relatives are being victimized and their personal properties are being investigated,” the statement stated. It urged Buhari to intervene on the matter to ensure justice for the former first family and also ensure that the EFCC’s actions were not interpreted as part of a larger plot to disgrace his (Buhari)’s predecessor. Efforts to speak with EFCC spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren, were not successful, but a senior official of the commission, rejected suggestions that the outfit was out on a witch hunt. “We are not out on a witch hunt; we are not targeting anyone or family for a witch hunt; it is not only Mrs. Jonathan that is being investigated. Many people are answering questions in various places. “Those found guilty will be charged before a competent court of law; those who have nothing to hide should have no fear because we shall not victimise anyone that is innocent,” the source told NAN, craving anonymity. (NAN)

Investigator with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Tosin Owobo, on Tuesday narrated before Justice Mohammed Idris presiding over a Federal High Court in Lagos how the sum of N22.1 billion belonging to the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) was moved to private companies. He made the revelation while being led in evidence by the EFCC prosecuting counsel Mr Rotimi Oyedepo in the on-going trial of a former Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshall Adesola Amosu (Rtd.) and 10 others over an alleged N22.8 billion fraud. Amosu was on June 29, 2016, arraigned by the anti-graft agency alongside Air Vice Marshal Jacob Bola Adigun, Air Commodore Gbadebo Owodunni Olugbenga and eight other companies. The companies are: Delfina Oil and Gas Ltd, Mcallan Oil And Gas Ltd, Hebron Housing and Properties Company Ltd, Trapezites BDC, Fonds and Pricey Ltd, Deegee Oil and Gas Ltd, Timsegg Investment Ltd and Solomon Health Care. In his testimony before the court, the witness disclosed that investigations by his team revealed that a staff of Zenith Bank Plc, Mrs. Funke Osisanmi, carried out every debit transactions done on the NAF’s account after receiving instructions to that effect from Air Commodore Gbadebo. “If debit were to be made from NAF account, she receive instructions from Air Commodore Gbadebo and debit the account following which she liaised with various Bureau De Change (BDC) operators for the conversion of the money to foreign currencies”, he said. According to him, the BDC’s involved in the transactions includes; Lebol Oil and Gas, Judah Oil and Gas and Right Option Oil and Gas. The witness said upon interrogation, Mrs. Osisanmi revealed that after conversion, she usually hands over the foreign currencies to either Air Commodore Gbadebo or other officers of NAF. Giving a breakdown of the monies moved to some of the private companies from NAF account, Owobo said: “The sum of N5.9 billion was moved to Delfina Oil and Gas Ltd, N6.1 billion was moved to Mcallan Oil And Gas Ltd, Trapezites BDC got N3.6 billion, N800 million was moved to Deegee Oil and Gas Ltd while N700 million was moved to Timsegg Investment Ltd. In all, about N21 billion was moved from NAF account to these companies and there were no contractual agreement or Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between these companies and NAF before these funds were transferred”. The witness added that the funds moved to these companies were eventually used to purchase property in Nigeria and abroad for the service chiefs. On efforts to recover the fund, Owobo said: “We were able to recover some of the accounts that received funds from NAF. The 1st defendant (Amosu) also raised draft and refunded over N2 billion to government coffers. The property were traced and marked. We visited the properties in Nigeria and most of them have been handed over to the Asset Management Division of the EFCC after obtaining orders of interim forfeiture from court”. Further hearing in the matter continues tomorrow

After months of attending to preliminary objections and legal fireworks, a Federal Capital Territory High Court sitting in Apo, Abuja, will on Thursday, 21st September, 2017 commence hearing on a Ten Billion Naira (N10b) defamation suit instituted against controversial Lagos lawyer, Emeka Ugwuonye, by the former husband of missing Abuja business woman, Charity Aiyedogbon, Mr. David Aiyedogbon. The Court had in May, 2017, adjourned to September 21, 2017, after resolving all issues around preliminary objections and motions filed by the defendant. It is expected that at the resumed hearing on Thursday, Aiyedogbon will give an oral evidence in support of the already submitted electronic evidence, in compliance with relevant sections of the Evidence Act. Ugwuonye had earlier filed a motion challenging the twenty thousand Naira (20,000.00) fine slammed on him by the Court for refusing to move an earlier motion he filed challenging the jurisdiction of the Court. He had also prayed the Court to reinstate the motion earlier struck out, saying his absence in previous sittings to move same was not deliberate. All the issues relating to preliminary objections are now resolved in favour of the plaintiff, clearing the air for the commencement of the substantive suit. The crux of the matter is that David Aiyedogbon approached the Court to seek redress following the alleged refusal of Ugwuonye to desist from posting materials he considered defamatory on his Facebook group, The Due Process Advocates. He also wrote Mr. Ugwuonye through his lawyers, demanding an apology and retraction, but he refused to heed, leaving Mr. Aiyedogbon with no option, but to approach the court to seek justice. Ugwuonye had falsely accused Mr. Aiyedogbon of having a hand in the sudden disappearance of his estranged wife, Charity Aiyedogbon; an unsubstantiated claim that compelled Mr. Aiyedogbon to institute the N10b suit against him. In addition to the Ten Billion Naira damages, the Suit, with number CV/2750/16, between David Aiyedogbon (Plaintiff) and Emeka Ugwuonye (Defendant) on defamation of character, before Justice Peter Kekemeke of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court 14, Apo, Abuja; also prays that the defendant be ordered to pay for the cost of the litigation. The Plaintiff is also seeking an order of perpetual injunction “restraining the Defendant, his Agents, Privies, Associates or whosoever called” from making further defamatory publications against him and his family members. Mr. Ugwuonye is accused of posting severally on The Due Process Advocates (DPA), a Facebook group, claiming to have evidence of the involvement of the missing Charity Aiyedogbon’s ex-husband, David Aiyedogbon in her sudden disappearance. One of the posts reads in part: “I now have overwhelming evidence that Mr. David Aiyedogbon killed his wife, Chacha. David has an idea of the kind of evidence at my disposal.” In another post, Ugwuonye is quoted as saying: “this is the headless and dismembered body of Charity Aiyedogbon (posting a corpse on his DPA Facebook page). DPA has been able to identify this as her body within the limits of resources at our disposal.” Continuing, on the 28th of June, 2016, he is quoted as posting: “I will describe David as a low-life and cold-blooded murderer of his own wife. The only reason I would not go further to describe David in the most despicable language that he rightly deserves is that I would rather focus my argument on points that would lead to justice for Chacha.” In an earlier reaction to Ugwuonye’s allegation, Mr. Aiyedogbon washed his hands over the disappearance of the woman and wrote his accuser, through his lawyers, demanding an apology, failure which he would institute a suit against him for defamation of character. The letter dated 21st June 2016, titled: “Defamation of the character of David Aiyedogbon; demand for apology,” signed by his lawyer, Obiora Ilo and made available to newsmen, expressly states: “It is our instruction to demand an unqualified apology from you to our client through our chambers for the defamatory publications you have made of and concerning our client.” Aiyedogbon went a step further by writing a reminder to him, reiterating the issues raised in the earlier letter. The second letter dated 12th July, 2017, signed by Chinenye Ofoegbu, of Ogbulafor chambers and made available to newsmen, expressed his readiness to drag him to Court, in an event that he failed to apologize and issue a retraction. It is instructive to note that as at today, Mr. Ugwuonye is yet to produce any evidence to substantiate his allegations against Mr. Aiyedogbon. Impeccable sources reveal that Mr. Aiyedogbon’s lawyer, Tony Ogbulafor may have also filed a personal suit against Mr. Ugwuonye for wrongly accusing him of giving a bribe (in an envelope) to a Police man to detain him, at the peak of Police investigations. As the whereabouts of Charity Aiyedogbon remain unknown, I join millions of Nigerians to demand that Emeka Ugwuonye provides his “overwhelming evidence” regarding what happened to Chacha or get prosecuted for false information, criminal conspiracy and defamation. .

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