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Court orders forfeiture of money traced to former first lady

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A Federal High Court sitting in Kano has ordered the temporary forfeiture of the sum of N1,000,494,000 (One Billion, Four Hundred and Ninety-Four Thousand Naira) traced to a bank account allegedly belonging to the wife of former President, Patience Jonathan.

Justice A. Lewis-Allagoa gave the order in a ruling on a motion ex parte filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), seeking for the interim forfeiture of the money.
According to a statement by the EFCC, the said amount was found in the Bank account of Magel Resort Limited, a company linked to the former First Lady of Nigeria, Patience Jonathan and was lodged in three deposits with Fidelity Bank Plc on May 20 and 25, 2015.

Acting Head of Media and Publicity, EFCC, Tony Orilade, in the statement said the Commission had gotten intel that a bank account domiciled in Fidelity Bank, had a huge sum of money that was not being used by anybody.

“Upon receipt of the intelligence, the EFCC swung into action by conducting a preliminary investigation, which revealed that Patience and some relatives of the former president, Goodluck Jonathan, were directors of the company. Others named as directors are Oba Oba Tamunotonye, Goodluck Jonathan Aruera, Goodluck Jonathan Ariwabai, and Esther Fynface.

“In trying to trace the origin of the money, it was discovered that N500,000 was deposited on May 20, 2015 by Fynface, who is alleged to be in charge of the company, while N1 billion was transferred in two tranches on May 25, 2015, from Pagmat Oil And Gas Nigeria Limited, a company that was not incorporated with the Corporate Affairs Commission”, he said.

Ruling on the motion, Justice A. Lewis-Allagoa held that: “An interim forfeiture order is granted to the Federal Government in the sum of N1,000,494,000 (One Billion, Four Hundred and Ninety Four Thousand Naira Only) in the bank account of the 1st respondent Magel Resort Limited 4011019546 which is maintained with 2nd respondent Fidelity Bank Plc”.

The court further ordered that the forfeited sum be deposited in the Treasury Single Account of the Federal Government.

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EFCC

EFCC detains Babachir Lawal

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Former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Babachir Lawal was yesterday detained by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Lawal will be arraigned today.

The commission had filed a 10-count charge against the former SGF and five others.

Others are Hamidu David Lawal; Sulaiman Abubakar; Apeh John Monday; Rholavision Engineering Limited and Josmon Technologies Limited.

All the suspects will face trial in the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, for alleged N544, 119, 925.36 for the removal of Invasive plant species and simplified irrigation.

But ahead of the arraignment, the former SGF was taken into custody yesterday day.

A source said: “We have detained the former SGF and some suspects in preparation of their arraignment in court on Tuesday.

“They have been served charges and their trial will commence. The EFCC team is ready for the prosecution of the suspects with its witnesses ready accordingly.”

On the charge sheet dated January 30, and filed by Offem Uket, M. S. Abubakar and Abba Muhammed, the EFCC accused Lawal of holding “indirectly a private interest in the contract awarded to Rholavision Engineering Limited and Josmon Technologies Ltd by the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF) through the Presidential Initiative for North East (PINE).

The contracts are:

Consultancy contract awarded to Rholavision Engineering Ltd for the removal of invasive plant species and simplified irrigation to the tune of N7,009,515.96

Consultancy contract awarded to Rholavision Engineering Ltd for the removal of invasive plant species and simplified irrigation to the tune of N6,453,318.38.

Contract awarded to Josmon Technologies Ltd but executed by Rholavision Engineering Ltd for the removal of invasive plant species and simplified irrigation to the tune of N272,524,356.02.

Contract awarded to Josmon Technologies Ltd but executed by Rholavision Engineering Ltd for the removal of invasive plant species and simplified irrigation to the tune of N258,132,735.00.

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EFCC to continue Fayose trial

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A Federal High Court in Lagos on Wednesday fixed Feb. 7 for the continuation of the trial of the immediate past Governor of Ekiti, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, over alleged N6.9 billion fraud.

Ekiti Governor, Ayodele Fayose

The case which was earlier fixed for today for the continuation of cross-examination of the fifth prosecution witness has been shifted to Thursday.

On the next adjourned date, both the prosecutor, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), and the defense counsel, Mr. Olalekan Ojo (SAN), will address the court on the admissibility of an extrajudicial statement made by a party who is not standing trial.
Fayose was arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Oct. 22, 2018, alongside a company Spotless Investment Ltd on 11 counts.

He had pleaded not guilty to the charges and the court had granted him bail in the sum of N50 million with one surety in like sum.

EFCC had opened the case for the prosecution on Nov. 19, 2018, and called four witnesses.

On Jan. 21, the prosecution called its fifth witness, Sen. Musliu Obanikoro, a former Minister of State for Defence.

At the last adjourned date on Feb. 5 (Tuesday), Obanikoro was still under cross-examination by second defense counsel Ojo, who was expected to continue on the next date.

According to the charge, on June 17, 2014, Fayose and Agbele were said to have taken possession of the sum of N1.2 billion, for purposes of funding his gubernatorial election campaign in Ekiti, which sum they reasonably ought to have known formed part of crime proceeds.

Fayose was alleged to have received a cash payment of the sum of five million dollars, (about N1.8 billion) from Obanikoro, without going through any financial institution and which sum exceeded the amount allowed by law.

He was also alleged to have retained N300 million in his Zenith Bank account and took control of the aggregate sums of about N622 million which sum he ought to have known formed part of crime proceeds.

Fayose was alleged to have procured De Privateer Ltd and Still Earth Ltd, to retain in their Zenith and FCMB accounts, the aggregate sums of N851 million which they reasonably ought to have known formed part of crime proceeds.

Besides, the accused was alleged to have used the aggregate sum of about N1.6 billion to acquire properties in Lagos and Abuja, which sums he reasonably ought to have known formed part of crime proceeds.

The accused was also alleged to have used the sum of N200 million, to acquire a property in Abuja, in the name of his elder sister, Moji Oladeji, which sum he ought to know also forms crime proceeds.

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Transparency International knocks Buhari’s anti-corruption war

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Transparency International (TI), has declared that efforts by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to checkmate corruption in Nigeria have yielded no improvement so far.

Nigeria occupies the 144th position out of 180 countries polled in the latest (2018) global Corruption Perception Index (CPI), released yesterday. In 2017, the world anti-corruption watchdog ranked Nigeria 148.

TI linked the country’s unenviable rating to over-bloated contract costs, abuse of security votes, and the recalcitrance of the government to try certain persons found culpable in corruption-related charges, among others.

The report noted that in spite of a number of positive steps by the administration in the past three years, including the establishment of a presidential advisory committee against corruption, improvement of the anti-corruption legal and policy framework in areas like public procurement and asset declaration, and the development of a national anti-corruption strategy, among others, these efforts have clearly not yet yielded the desired results.

TI’s CPI stated that although Buhari campaigned in 2015 to tackle corrupt practices in government’s businesses, and won the presidential election by defeating an incumbent president for the first time in Nigeria’s political history, his subsequent anti-corruption policies and strategies have clearly not yielded any results.

In the newly-released CPI published in Nigeria exclusively by the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), TI revealed that Nigeria scored 27 out of 100 points in 2018, maintaining the same score as in 2017.

In the new report, TI said Nigeria was one of the five African countries under its close watch with regards to political developments in them.

Others on the watchlist are South Africa, Angola, Botswana and Kenya.

“With a score of 27, Nigeria remained unchanged on the CPI since 2017. Corruption was one of the biggest topics leading up to the 2015 election and it is expected to remain high on the agenda as the country prepares for this year’s presidential election taking place in February.

“Nigeria’s Buhari administration took a number of positive steps in the past three years, including the establishment of a presidential advisory committee against corruption, the improvement of the anti-corruption legal and policy framework in areas like public procurement and asset declaration, and the development of a national anti-corruption strategy, among others. However, these efforts have clearly not yielded the desired results. At least, not yet,” said the TI report.

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Obanikoro testifies against Fayose

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A former Minister of State for Defence, Sen. Musiliu Obanikoro, on Monday, told a federal high court that money was given to former Gov. Ayo Fayose of Ekiti from the impress account of a former National Security Adviser, in June 2014.

Obanikoro gave evidence in the trial of Fayose before Justice Mojisola Olaterogun in Lagos.

Fayose is facing charges of N6.9 billion fraud.
He was arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Oct. 22, 2018, alongside a company Spotless Investment Ltd., on 11 counts.

He pleaded not guilty to the charges and was granted bail in the sum of N50 million with one surety in like sum.

The substantive trial began on Nov. 19, 2018, with the EFCC calling four witnesses.

On Monday, Mr Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) appeared for the EFCC, while Messrs Kanu Agabi (SAN) and Olalekan Ojo (SAN) represented the first and second accused respectively.

Jacobs then called on Obanikoro, the fifth prosecution witness, to give evidence.

The counsel led the former minister in evidence.

Jacobs asked him where he was in 2014 and he told the court that he was the Minister of State for Defence.

The counsel asked him to tell the court what he knew about the case.

The witness testified that in June 2014, when Ekiti State governorship election was near, he received a call from the accused, enquiring from him if there was any ‘message’ for him from the then National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki.

The witness said that he told Fayose that there was none but promised to check with the NSA and give Fayose feedback.

He told the court that eventually, the NSA confirmed to him that he had a “message” for the accused and that the funds would be made available.

The prosecutor then showed the witness exhibit E to confirm if it was the account to which the funds were transferred, and the witness replied: “Yes”.

The witness told the court that on June 13, 2014, and June 16, 2014, funds were posted into the account, adding that the funds were from the impress account of the NSA.

He said that he asked the accused how he wanted the money, and he told him that some amounts should be paid in Naira and others in dollars.

According to him, the money was eventually brought in a bullion van to the private wing of the Ikeja Airport, where one Agbele, sent by the accused, was on standby.

He testified that after confirmation from the accused, the money was taken to Ekiti.

The witness told the court that afterwards, he went to Ado-Ekiti to meet the accused in his hotel, known as Spotless, and gave him the dollar component which was five million dollars.

The prosecution counsel asked Obanikoro how many days it was to the Ekiti governorship election when he gave Fayose the money.

“About three days to the election,” the witness replied.

The prosecution also asked the former minister the source of the money.

“The NSA is the only person that can ascertain the source of the money; it is from the impress account of the NSA,” he said.

The counsel asked how the money was debited and the witness told the court that he gave instructions to the managing director of the Diamond bank, but was not available when the deductions were made.

When asked his connection with the accounts, Obanikoro said that it was used for security purposes, adding that he would not want to divulge further information on that.

After the evidence, the defence sought an adjournment to enable it to cross-examine the witness.

After several objections and counter objections, the judge granted an adjournment until Feb. 4, for cross-examination of Obanikoro.

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