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Paris Club refund: Court freezes seven accounts linked to governors’ forum

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The Federal High Court in Abuja has frozen seven separate accounts which, according to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, were used by the Nigerian Governors’ Forum to launder the sum of N10bn said to be derived from the proceeds of the Paris Club refund.

Justice Gabriel Kolawole directed on Wednesday that the freezing order would last for 45 days within which the EFCC must either institute charges in respect of the transactions against the relevant suspects or apply to the court for an extension of the order.

The judge also gave seven days to the account owners, if interested in seeking the setting aside of the freezing order, to file an application which must be served on the EFCC.

The frozen accounts are  0002184449 with Jaiz Bank Plc and operated by HAD Properties Limited; 0025600864 with Guaranty Trust Bank Plc and operated by Hassan Ahmed Danbaba; as well as 0005892453 with Access Bank Plc and operated by Melrose General Services Coy.

They also include one Access Bank account,  0045824054 and another Zenith Bank Plc account 1010948906, both of which belong to Bina Consult and Integrated Services.

The rest are two Access Bank Plc accounts – 0700755576 and 0700946008 – belonging to Farouk Adamu Aliyu and Malam Alu Agro Allied Company Ltd., respectively.

EFCC’s lawyer, Mr. Ben Ikani, had moved the ex parte application seeking the freezing of the accounts on November 27, following which Justice Kolawole adjourned till Wednesday for ruling.

The commission alleged that its preliminary investigation had revealed that the N10bn was fraudulently diverted by the NGF under the guise of paying consultancy fee to BizPlus GSCL Consortium which the Forum engaged “to carry out reconciliation of accounts and recover the amounts due to the states” from the refund of the over-deducted payment of Paris Club debt by the Federal Government from 1995 to 2002.

In an affidavit filed in support of the EFCC’s ex parte motion, a member of the Special Investigation Committee, set up by the commission to investigate the alleged Paris Club refunds scam, Osas Azonabor, alleged that preliminary investigation had revealed that the NGF caused the Central Bank of Nigeria to pay N19,439,225,871.11 into its account for onward payment to BizPlus as consultancy fee.

But the investigator stated that N10bn of the N19.4bn paid to the NGF account by the CBN was fraudulently disbursed to the seven accounts of companies and individuals, who were not part of the said BizPlus GSCL Consortium.

Detailing how the fraud was allegedly perpetrated, Azonabor alleged that the NGF had agreed to pay success fee of two per cent to BizPlus GSCL Consortium.

But the investigator alleged that upon the success of the recovery, rather than stick to the two per cent fee, the NGF caused the Central Bank of Nigeria to deduct five per cent, amounting to the N19.4bn.

He said, “That sometime in January 2017, the applicant (EFCC) received intelligence in respect of a case against the Nigerian Governors’ Forum alleging conspiracy, criminal misappropriation of public funds involving the sum of N19,439,225,871.11 out of the Paris Club refund made by the Federal Government in favour of the 36 states of the federation.

“That preliminary investigation conducted by the commission revealed that the 36 state governments, under the auspices of the NGF, engaged the services of Bizplus GSCL Consortium to carry out reconciliation of accounts and recover amounts due to the states from line charge made on them from 1995 to 2002 for a success fee of two per cent payable by the NGF.

“That investigation further revealed that contrary to the agreed fee of two per cent as stated in paragraph 6 above, NGF caused the Central Bank of Nigeria to deduct five per cent of the amount due to the states which amounted to the sum of N19.4bn (stated in paragraph 5 above) and paid the same into the NGF account, supposedly for onward payment to the Bizplus GSCL consortium.

“That our investigation of the case further revealed that a larger part of the amount stated in paragraphs 5 and 7 above was fraudulently disbursed by the NGF to individuals and corporate entities that were not part of the consortium.

“That the names, account numbers and bankers of the fraudulent beneficiaries of the criminal diversion of the public funds are as stated in the schedule to this application and that copies of the statements of accounts showing the disbursements is hereby attached and marked Exhibits EFCC1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 & 7 respectively.

“That further investigation revealed that those individuals and corporate entities were used by the NGF to launder over N10bn under the guise of paying consultancy fees to the Bizplus GSCL Consortium which, however, found its way to the various accounts listed in the schedule to this application.”

Justifying the commission’s request for the freezing order, Azonabor stated that the 72 hours stop-order allowed by law to be placed on any account suspected to be involved in suspicious transaction or any crime had expired, but investigation had yet to be concluded.

He maintained that the court order freezing the accounts was needed to enable the EFCC to carry out its investigation to a logical conclusion.

He said, “That further to the foregoing, I am aware that substantial amounts from the fraudulent disbursements into these accounts have further been laundered to some other accounts or withdrawn as cash. While discrete investigation is currently ongoing, the 72 hours stop order allowed by law to be placed on any account suspected to be involved in suspicious transaction or any crime has expired.’’

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False age declaration: Documents clear HoS over wrongdoing, border agency boss faces sack

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Contrary to claims that the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita, failed to act on the embattled Acting Director, Border Communities Development Agency (BCDA), Mrs Victoria Olutayo Odumosu, over alleged age falsification, this newspaper has gathered that the HoS had in a letter to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on May 9, 2018 recommended Mrs Odumosu’s sack.

Documents sighted by this newspaper in the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) showed that the memo to the vice president was in line with extant rules of the civil service as he is the Statutory Chairman of the Governing Board of BCDA.

Following the approval of her recommendations by the VP, the HoS wrote to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, on June 13, notifying him of the VP’s approval and requesting him to “kindly direct immediate implementation of His Excellency’s approval as appropriate.”
The BCDA is one of the parastatals of government under the supervision of the office of the SGF.

The HoS letter to the SGF was the climax of a rigorous process of investigation to establish the culpability or otherwise of Mrs Odumosu who was alleged to have falsified her age to remain in service.

“Oyo-Ita’s desire for due process in removing public officials from office, and to comply with the Federal Government directive on handing over to the most senior director in an agency appear to be the reasons Mrs Odumosu stayed up till this time,” an official who asked not to be named as he was not authorized to speak on the matter told our reporter.

Official correspondences obtained from the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation show that the HoS, initially found it curious that the allegations against Mrs Odumosu first came from Engr Numoipre Wills, former Executive Secretary of BCDA at the point he was to hand over to her.

In her first official correspondent on the issue to Vice President Osinbajo, dated December 5, 2017, Oyo-Ita states: “The decision of the outgoing Executive Secretary, Border Communities Development Agency(BCDA) to make allegations of fake age declaration against the most senior Director without proof of his allegations is an issue of concern to the Service.

“It is irregular for Chief Executives of any Government Parastatal to engage in disobedience to policy directives of Government as conveyed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation(SGF) under any guise of unsubstantiated allegations.”

The memo further stated that public officers should not be deprived of the privileged to serve their nation based on unsubstantiated allegations, adding that such situations are capable of creating negative precedence in the service.

According to the December 5 memo, the HoS observed that the documents provided on the allegations, which she considered “serious,” called for “further investigations into the issues raised.”

She, however, concluded that the existing senior and the only director in the agency should be authorized to act pending the appointment of a new Executive Secretary or outcome of investigations of allegations of false age declaration.

“Where an officer overstayed his/her age in the service, the penalties are available in the service rules. But an officer should not be punished or deprived of a privilege based on allegations that have not been proved,” she pointed out to the Vice president.

With no response from the office of the Vice President to her earlier memos, the HoS prompted a follow up letter on May 9, 2018, more than four months later. But by this time Mrs Oyo-Ita appeared to have been convinced that Mrs Odumosu actually falsified her age and should be immediately asked to leave the service.

In the second letter to the VP, she re-iterated her earlier concerns for due process but revealed she had been presented with more evidence of Mrs Odumosu’s guilt. She stated in the letter that she received additional correspondence from the Senate Committee on States and Local Government Administration which oversights the BCDA, and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).

On receipt of the correspondences from the institutions mentioned, the HoS said, she wrote to Mrs Odumosu requesting for her response, and also requested for information and other career progress chart from the Industrial Training Fund-former employers of Mrs Odumosu.

She further stated that after a review of the submissions and the records from ITF, there were indications that “a prima facie case of age falsification” had been made against Mrs Odumosu. She therefor recommended thus:

i. Mrs Odumosu be directed to disengage from office.

ii. The SGF designate a Director with requisite seniority from the OSGF to oversee the affairs of the BCDA pending the appointment of a substantive Executive Secretary.

iii. The Overseeing Director could commence investigation/disciplinary procedure against the officer. In the event that the BCDA as presently constituted does not have the required number of Directors to constitute the Investigation Panel same can be empanelled from the OSGF being the supervising office.

iv.The SGF to fast track the appointment of a substantive Executive Secretary.

A response from the office of the VP dated June 12, and signed by Ade Ipaye, the Deputy Chief of Staff, the VP gave his approval to all the recommendations and requested the HoS to “proceed with immediate implementation.”

The HoS consequently wrote the SGF informing him about the VP’s approval and requested that “The SGF may wish to kindly direct immediate implementation of His Excellency’s approval as appropriate.”

-Culled from TheWhistler

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Breaking: DSS arrests Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe

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The Department of State Security has arrested Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, lawmaker representing Abia-South Senatorial District in the National Assembly, The Whistler has learnt.

According to reports, the senator was picked up on Friday morning at a Barbing Saloon in the Apo Area of Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.

It is not clear why the senator was arrested, but a source close to the Abia lawmaker said his arrest may not be unconnected to his constant criticism of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s government.

Meanwhile, the lawmaker is due to appear before Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High court, Abuja, on June 26 to explain the whereabouts of leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB}, Nnamdi Kanu.

Abaribe and two others had stood as a surety as part of the bail conditions for Kanu, whose whereabouts has remained unknown.

Justice Nyako fixed the date after the court ordered the prosecution to serve the sureties with an earlier order of court demanding them to appear in court and explain the whereabouts of Kanu or show cause why they should not forfeit their bail amount.

-TheWhistler

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Oshiomhole unopposed for APC chair as Ebri withdraws

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The coast is virtually clear for former governor Adams Oshiomhole’s bid for the chairmanship of the All Progressives Congress. The last of his rivals, Chief Clement Ebri, also a former Governor of Cross River, announced his withdrawal from the race, leaving Oshiomhole now unopposed.

Ebri’s decision to withdraw from the race was made known on Thursday in his letter titled: “Withdrawal from National Championship race”, in Abuja.

Ebri's letter of withdrawal
Ebri’s letter of withdrawal

Ebri’s decision came ahead of the party’s National Convention slated for Saturday and followed two other chairmanship aspirants’ withdrawal from the race.

He stated in the letter that his decision to withdraw from the race came after due consultations with friends, family and associates in the interest of the party.

He added that the decision was also taken in his belief that “all stakeholders “must tow in the same rancour free direction as the 2019 general election approaches”.

Ebri noted that what happened in the leadership of the APC was directly responsible as to whether it could deliver on its promises to Nigerians to provide them with better lives.

He said that such was the core conviction that drove him into declaring his candidacy for the party’s National chairmanship position in the first place.

He also stated that the fundamental task of the APC was to win elections, adding that it behoved on the party to offer its elected officials a means for organising government.

This, Ebri said, became the primary link between the people and government.

He also urged his supporters to transfer their support for his aspiration to former governor of Edo, Adams Oshiomhole as National Chairman of the APC.

“We should all render him every support and encouragement he needs as he and his team proceed to rebuild our party into a formidable, unified and inclusive organisation where every voice counts,” he said.

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