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NJC to reconvene over Ononghen, Muhammad

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The National Judicial Council (NJC) will reconvene today to consider the responses of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, and the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad to the queries issued to them by the council.

Justice Walter Onnoghen was suspended by President Buhari for alleged corruption (The Nation)

The council had at its emergency meeting held on January 29 given both top jurists seven days to respond to petitions written against them.

 A statement by the council’s Director of Information, Mr. Soji Oye, said the decision to query the two senior jurists were taken during the emergency meeting held at the council’s chambers in Abuja.

None of the lawyers, who had so far represented Onnoghen, would volunteer information regarding his response to the query.

However, some council members were said to favor a decision that would lead to easing out the embattled CJN.

Others are quick to argue that Justice Muhammad too should go having accepted to be sworn in by President Muhammadu Buhari in the absence of council’s recommendation to the president.

A judge of Abia State High Court was punished in similar circumstances when for no fault of his, the Abia State governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, appointed him acting chief judge of the state after the governor had illegally suspended the then chief judge.

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Politics

Lai Mohammed to appear in court in fraud case

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The immediate past Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has been scheduled to appear before a Federal High Court, Abuja, to explain his role in the alleged misapplication of N2.5 billion Federal Government Digital Switch-Over (DSO) program.

The planned appearance of Mohammed was revealed by the Independent Corrupt Practice and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), who is prosecuting the Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Ishaq Modibbo Kawu, over alleged abuse of office and money laundering.

ICPC had filed a 12-count charge before Justice Folashade Ogunbanjo-Giwa, against Kawu, Lucky Omoluwa and Dipo Onifade and other, saying that the NBC director general misled the former Minister into approving government funds to a private company.

“The former minister’s involvement had come under questioning following the discovery by ICPC during investigations, that a government White Paper that governs the execution of the DSO program was allegedly flouted by the head of NBC”, ICPC states in a statement Wednesday.

“Mohammed had however admitted in a statement to the Commission that he was misled by Kawu, as opined in court by a witness from ICPC, Osanato Olugbemi.”

Olugbemi, led in evidence by counsel to ICPC, Henry Emore, also told the court that the payment of N2.5 billion from NBC to Pinnacle Communications Limited, as seed grant was suspicious because ICPC found out through its investigations that only government-owned company was approved to benefit from the grant according to the White Paper.

The court also heard that the processes that led to the final payment of the fund to the private company were shrouded in secrecy as revealed by the minute from an NBC emergency board management meeting where issues of carriage fees owed Pinnacle and not seed grant was discussed.

He told the court that 47 suspicious transactions were originated by the Chairman of Pinnacle Communications, Omoluwa, immediately after the receipt of the funds on June 2, 2017.

The transactions include payments of N363 million to one Idowu Olatunde, N274.4 million to one James Segun and N127 million to Dipo Onifade, the Chief Operating Officer of the company.

He informed the court that Omoluwa refused to explain the reasons for the payments to Olatunde and James when asked by ICPC, but Onifade explained that he received the N127 million as legal fees he rendered to Pinnacle Communications Limited.

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EFCC

EFCC intensifies war against fraudsters

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The Ibadan zonal office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday said it recovered N116,945,981 and 65 vehicles from various operations in the last six years. Other foreign currencies it also recovered within the period include US$39,125; £50 and 1,800 Euros.

The commission spoke through the Head of its Ibadan Zonal office, Mr. Friday Ebelo when he addressed reporters at the Iyaganku, Ibadan zonal office to update the public on the successes achieved by the anti-graft agency within the period.

Explaining how the recoveries were made, Ebelo said the money was partly forfeited to the Federal Government and partly to individuals who were defrauded.
He said: “This briefing is essentially organized to share with you the successes of the commission’s Ibadan zonal office in the last six months.

“With the unwavering support of our Acting Chairman and other stakeholders, the zone has recovered remarkable successes in the period under review.
“This year, the zone received 481 petitions out of which 117 were rejected. About 364 were approved for investigations and we were able to secure 83 convictions out of the 107 cases filed at different courts within the zone. That represents 83 percent of the total number of cases filed.

“From January to June 21, an aggregate sum of N116,945,981.68 was recovered. Others, which are foreign currencies, include $39,125, £1,800 and £50. Also recovered are 65 vehicles – 54 registered and 11 unregistered.”

Decrying the increase in the number of suspects brought to the commission’s office, Ebelo urged parents to monitor their children and wards.

He noted that those in higher institutions, especially, engaged in cybercrimes at an alarming rate.

“I want to say that in the last six months, going by the crime indices done by the commission, most of the suspects brought in are young Nigerians with potentials to be great in life.

“It is not enough to send kids to school; parents should pay unscheduled visits to their schools, especially higher institutions of learnings, and see what the children are doing. That will help to nip in the bud any criminal tendency they might be showing or engaging in.

“Also, we must be wary of using or giving our bank accounts to people around to use to receive funds. Many innocent people are falling victims and it is increasingly becoming difficult to prove, especially when they are the ones who also help them withdraw cash which could have been proceeds of crimes. Parents must monitor their wards and ensure that they do not keep bad company.”

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Lagos state to arraign killer cop

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The Lagos State Government on Monday took over the prosecution of dismissed Inspector Olalekan Ogunyemi, who is accused of killing a football enthusiast, Mr. Kolade Johnson on March 31. Ogunyemi will now be tried at the high court following the recommendation of Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

He has been in prison since April 5 following his remand by an Ebute-Meta Magistrates’ Court pending the DPP’s advice. The remand order was obtained by the police.

When the case was mentioned on Monday, Magistrate A.O. Salawu said the DPP advised that the case be transferred to the high court.
The DPP, she added, advised that Ogunyemi should be prosecuted in accordance with Section 223 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015.

But the DPP absolved the second suspect, Godwin Oji, of complicity in the case and asked that he should be released.

The magistrate adjourned till August 6 for the case to be filed at the high court.

Ogunyemi, of No. 17, Alhaji Ede Street, Igando, was brought before the court on April 6, on a temporary one-count charge of murder.

Prosecuting Inspector Kehinde Olatunde alleged that he committed the offense on March 31, at about 5:10 pm, at Onipetesi Estate, Idi-Mangoro, Lagos.

Olatunde alleged that Ogunyemi, who served in the Anti-Cultism Unit of the Lagos State Police Command, shot Johnson, a 36-year-old father of one, to death, with his AK47 rifle.

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Onnoghen: NJC hails Buhari

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The National Judicial Council (NJC) has hailed President Muhammadu Buhari for accepting the voluntary retirement of former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen. It gave the commendation at its emergency meeting yesterday, during which members deliberated on the President’s decision in relation to Justice Onnoghen’s exit from the Bench.

President Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, had, in a statement on Sunday, said: “President Buhari has accepted the voluntary retirement from service of Hon. Justice Walter Onnoghen as Chief Justice of Nigeria, effective from May 28, 2019.

“The President thanked Justice Onnoghen for his service to the Federal Republic of Nigeria and wished him the best of retirement life.”
NJC’s spokesman, Soji Oye, said in a statement that members of the judicial body noted that Buhari’s acceptance of Onnoghen’s retirement was in line with its recommendation to the President on April 3.

The statement reads: “The NJC held an Emergency Meeting today (yesterday) to take formal note of the acceptance of the voluntary retirement of Hon. Mr. Justice W. S. N. Onnoghen, GCON, as Chief Justice of Nigeria by President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR.

“The President’s acceptance of the retirement is in line with the Council’s recommendation to the President on 3rd April 2019.
“Council at the end of its deliberations thanked the President for the acceptance which was in the best interest of Nigeria.”

He claims that Buhari’s acceptance of Onnoghen’s retirement was part of its recommendations creates doubt as to the actual position of the NJC on the issue.

The NJC had, after concluding its investigation of allegations of “financial impropriety and infidelity to the constitution” raised against Onnoghen in a petition by the economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), kept sealed lips on its findings, but announced that it has sent its recommendations to the President.

In their recent response to a suit by the Incorporated Trustees of Malcolm Omirhobo Foundation, challenging Buhari’s appointment of Justice Ibrahim Muhammad as acting CJN, the President and the office of the Attorney General of the Federation (OAGF) disclosed that the NJC recommended Onnghen’s compulsory retirement.

They stated that NJC’s recommendation that Onnoghen be compulsorily retired preceded his retirement letter to the President on April 4, 2019.

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