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Ononghen reveals source of wealth

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The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, continued his battle for survival yesterday, hinting at agriculture as the source of his wealth with a petition to the acting Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, over alleged threat to the lives of workers on his farm in Masaka, Nasarawa State.


Onnoghen was suspended a couple of weeks ago by President Muhammadu Buhari and has a February 13 date with the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), where he is being arraigned for alleged asset declaration offenses.

He has, however, asked the CCT Chairman, Mr. Danladi Umar, to stand down from the panel of three on the grounds of likelihood of bias.
In an apparent bid to force the CJN out of office, the federal government had acted speedily on a petition by a non-governmental organization alleging that the apex court justice had failed to declare his assets fully, complaining that he failed to disclose some domiciliary accounts harboring huge forex.

A few days later, the media was awash with details of the said hidden accounts with the insinuation that the hefty cash could proceed of illicit transactions.
In a nationwide broadcast, the president complained that while he was being upbraided for unlawfully suspending the CJN, no one was talking about the funds found in Onnoghen’s account.

Analysts said yesterday that Onnoghen’s petition complaining about ‘herdsmen’ attack on his farm, might be his strategy of explaining the source of his wealth already being assailed by the federal government.
Under the 1999 Constitution, as altered, public officers are allowed to engage in farming.

In the petition dated February 2 and filed February 4, his counsel, Mr. Ogwu Onoja, SAN, said his client, the CJN informed him that “some men who appeared to be herdsmen were at the farm yesterday afternoon and also later at night, inquiring about the owner of the farm and issued frightening threats to the farmers.

Onoja stated that the workers are now living in dreadful fear and have consequently stopped all farming activities.
According to Onoja, the farm, which belongs to the family of Onnoghen, is a large commercial venture that provides employment to a large number of people who live on the farm and tend to the commercial poultry, piggery, livestock as well as cash and food crops on the farm.

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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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