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CCT orders Onnoghen to appear on Feb 13

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The Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) yesterday adjourned till February 13, the trial of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, insisting that the embattled CJN must appear for trial on the new date.

This is coming as the Senate yesterday ordered the discontinuation of its case before the Supreme Court, seeking the judicial interpretation of the suspension of the CJN by President Muhammadu Buhari, predicating its action on the intervention by the National Judicial Council (NJC).

The adjournment of CCT was a sequel to an oral application by counsel to the embattled CJN, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN).

Onnoghen is yet to be arraigned on a six-count charge bordering on non-disclosure of his assets preferred against him by the federal government.

The tribunal had last Friday fixed yesterday, February 4, for the arraignment of the chief justice as well as the hearing of all pending applications, shortly after the Court of Appeal in Abuja, dismissed Onnoghen’s motion on notice, seeking a temporary stoppage of his trial at the tribunal, pending the determination of his suit challenging the jurisdiction of the tribunal.

When the matter was called yesterday, the prosecution counsel, Mr. Aliyu Umar (SAN), informed the court that the matter was adjourned till yesterday for arraignment and hearing of two motions, one on preliminary objection to jurisdiction of the CCT and another one filed by the prosecution, asking for an order for the CJN to step aside.

However, defence team, led by Awomolo, drew the tribunal’s attention to the fact that the same petition forwarded to the Code of Conduct Bureau by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) has been forwarded to the National Judicial Council (NJC).

Awomolo said since the NJC has sent the same petitions to the defendant to reply within seven days, which will lapse on Wednesday (tomorrow), February 6, it is in the interest of justice to allow NJC take a decision before continuing with the proceedings at the tribunal.

Prosecution counsel, however, said he was not opposed to the application for adjournment.

In a short ruling, tribunal Chairman, Mr. Danladi Umar, adjourned the matter till February 13 for the arraignment of Onnoghen and the hearing of all pending applications.

He, however, urged the defence team to ensure that the defendant physically appear in court at the next adjourned date, adding that “plea must be taken before the defendant can raise any objection regarding the case.”

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EFCC

Fraud: 9 FIRS senior official detained by EFCC

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Nine senior officials of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) are currently in detention over alleged multi-billion naira fraud.

The officials, who are being detained by the anti-graft agency (EFCC) in Abuja, include the Director of Finance and Accounts (DFA) of the FIRS, Mohammed Auta.

Apart from Auta, another director of the agency, Peter Hena, is also alleged to be involved in the scandal.

Hena, the Coordinating Director, Support Services Group of the FIRS, is currently out of Nigeria and will be arrested as soon as he returns to the country, EFCC sources told this newspaper.

A top official of the FIRS, however, said Hena is on official medical leave outside the country and did not flee.

Hena is believed to be one of the closest officials to the FIRS chairman, Babatunde Fowler.

It is still unclear to EFCC officials, whether or not Fowler is involved in the scandal.

Details of the scandal are still sketchy as at the time of this report. However, Auta and Hena are being investigated for allegedly diverting about N6 billion tax funds that should have gone to the Nigerian government, anti-corruption officials said.

Our reporter learnt that most of the other affected officials are from the finance and account department of the FIRS.

All the officials have been in the EFCC detention since April 1.

It was learnt the EFCC is closing in on several other senior officials of the revenue collection service in a widening investigation to uncover other fraudulent activities involving several billions of government tax revenues.

When contacted on the detention, the EFCC spokesperson, Orilade Tony, promised to get back with more information. He was yet to do so at the time of this report.

The FIRS is saddled with collecting taxes and revenues of the federal government.

The agency under Mr Fowler has seen its revenue generation improve, setting new records. The agency said it collected about N5.32 trillion as revenue in 2018, the highest in Nigeria’s history.

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Politics

Rivers Politics: Court strikes out Magnus’ faction of APC

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The Supreme Court on Monday strikes  out a motion seeking to determine the authentic candidate of the All Progressives Congress for the 2019 governorship election in Rivers State.

All Progressives Congressc

A seven-member panel of the Court struck out the request after ruling that the manner in which the applicants brought their prayer was incompatible with the laid down procedure for such applications. The judgment was delivered by the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mohammad Tanko.

The applicants are members of the APC in the Magnus Abe faction of the party. The court also said they were wrong in including people who were not part of the matter before the case arrived the Supreme Court.

The court added that the time allowed for such applications was 14 days after the date the case was determined at the lower court.

Mr Tanko added that the decision of the parties to amend their request after 14 days, rendered their application defective.

Consequently, the apex court ruled that the application was lacking in merit and struck it out.

Mr Abe had approached the court to determine whether the candidate produced by his faction or that produced by the Tonye Cole-led faction was the authentic candidate in the election.
His application followed an initial decision of the Supreme Court which affirmed the nullification of the primaries conducted by a faction of the APC.

According to Premium Times, the Rivers APC has two factions, one loyal to the serving senator, Mr Abe, and another to Transportation Minister, Rotimi Amaechi. While Mr Amaechi’s faction produced Mr Cole as governorship candidate, Mr Abe’s faction produced him as the candidate.
On May 11, 2018, a high court in Rivers presided by Chinwendu Nwogu gave an injunction barring the APC from conducting its congress scheduled for the next day.

The party, from the faction loyal to Mr Cole, ignored the injunction and proceeded with the congress on May 12. The party also conducted other congresses where party representatives loyal to Mr Ameachi emerged as candidates for the state elections.

In addition, the factional members challenged the decision in a motion brought before the Appeal Court on May 15.

Following that request, on June 21, 2018, the Court of Appeal affirmed the congresses conducted by the APC and nullified the injunction issued by the High Court.

Dissatisfied, Mr Abe’s faction challenged the June 21 decision at the Supreme Court.

Consequently, on October 22, the Supreme Court nullified the judgment of the Court of Appeal and questioned the lower court for allowing a request by “applicants in breach of an existing court order.”

But the APC members led by Mr Cole approached the court with yet another request. Subsequently, on February 4, the Court of Appeal affirmed the candidate of the faction led by Mr Cole as the authentic candidate of APC for the state governorship election.

However, following a further appeal on February 8, Mr Abe’s faction secured another victory which saw the apex court nullifying the decision of the Court of Appeal on February 4.

The apex court viewed that the appeal court was wrong in its actions and evoked section 22 of the Supreme Court rules which allowed it to revoke decisions termed wrongful by the lower court.

Subsequently, Mr Abe again returned to the Supreme Court with a request for the court to make a final pronouncement on who is the rightful candidate of the party is, in the general elections.

The Court has, however, struck out the request for lacking in merit.

Speaking during an interview with journalists after the ruling, Mr Abe’s lawyer, Henry Bello, said the Supreme Court decision has taken away their opportunity to determine the authentic candidate of the party in the recent election. He, however, said the applicants are bound by the final decision.

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Politics

Nnamdi Kanu: Court revokes bail, issues warrant of arrest

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Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has revoked the bail granted to the leader of the proscribed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOD), Nnamdi Kanu and consequently issued a bench warrant for his arrest.

The leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu

The order was sequel to Kanu’s continued absence to face his trial since late 2017.

Justice Nyako in a bench ruling Thursday also held that the court will continue the trial of Kanu, who is believed to be taking refuge in one of the Middle East countries, in his absence.

The court recalled that the self acclaimed leader of IPOB was granted bail in April 25, 2017 on health ground, but the defendant had failed to attend trial since November 2017.

This action prompted the court to issue an order directing his sureties to show cause why they should not forfeit the N100 million bail bond each of them made for the release of Kanu to the federal government.

Subsequently, the matter was adjourned till June 18 for continuation of trial in Kanu’s absence.

At the resumed trial Thursday, the prosecution lawyer Shuaibu Labaran prayed the court for a bench warrant of arrest against the IPOB leader for failing to appear in court to face his trial.

However, Kanu’s lawyer, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, requested a short adjournment to enable him give reasons why the defendant was not in court.

His request was overruled by the court on the ground that the defence team had enough time to adduce reasons for Kanu’s absence in between the four adjournments granted them by the court from November 2018 till Thursday, March 28, 2019.

Meanwhile, the court has adjourned the case involving Kanu’s sureties: Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, a Jewish Priest Emmanuel Shalom Ben Madu and an accountant Tochukwu Uchendu indefinitely following an appeal lodged by Senator Abaribe’s lawyer, Chukwuma Machukwu Ume (SAN), challenging the order directing the sureties to deposit their bond with the court.

Senator Abaribe, the Jewish Priest Ben El Shallom and the accountant, Uchendu, had all stood sureties for Kanu in the sum of N100 million each.

However, following the disappearance of Kanu and his subsequent failure to attend his trial, the federal government, through the prosecution counsel Shuaibu Labaran applied and secured a court order directing Kanu’s sureties to ‎produce him in court or show cause why they will not be sent to prison or forfeit the bond of N100 million each.

Kanu and four others were arraigned before a Federal High Court in Abuja on a six-count criminal charge bordering on treasonable felony in June 2016.

Though they pleaded not guilty to the charge, however bail was denied them by the different judges who had earlier tried the matter, including Justice Nyako.

However, Justice Nyako following the deteriorating health of the first defendant admitted him to bail to enable him access quality medical care.

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EFCC

Magu gives update on stolen funds

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N1.3 trillion public funds were stolen by 32 entities (human and corporate) between 2011 and 2015, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Acting Chairman Ibrahim Magu has said.

Magu made the revelation yesterday in his keynote remarks at the opening of the 2019 First Batch Conversion Training Programme to Procurement Cadre for Federal Parastatal and Agencies.

The event was organised by the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) in Lagos.

The EFCC chair, whose paper was delivered by the Commission’s Secretary, Ola Olukoyede, decried the impact of the huge financial loss on the country.

He said: “One third of this money, using World Bank rates and cost, could have comfortably been used to construct well over 500km of roads; build close to 200 schools; educate about 4000 children from primary to tertiary levels at N25 million per child; build 20,000 units of two-bedroom houses across the country and do even more.

“The cost of this grand theft, therefore, is that these roads, schools and houses will never be built and these children will never have access to quality education because a few rapacious individuals had cornered for themselves what would have helped secure the lives of the future generations, thereby depriving them of quality education and healthcare, among others.”

He identified the poor state of procurement process as one of the major reasons corruption continued to thrive in government agencies and parastatals.

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