Four companies involved in a money laundering case linked to the former First Lady, Mrs Patience Jonathan, on Thursday pleaded guilty before a Federal High Court, sitting in Lagos.
The companies — Pluto Property and Investment Company Limited; Seagate Property Development and Investment Company Limited; Trans Ocean Property and Investment Company Limited; and Avalon Global Property Development Company Limited — pleaded guilty to a 15-count charge preferred against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) before Justice Babs Kuewumi.
The companies were arraigned alongside former Special Assistant to former President Goodluck Jonathan on Domestic Affairs, Waripamo Dudafa; former presidential aide, Amajuoyi Briggs; and former Skye Bank official, Damola Bolodeoku.
The three pleaded not guilty before the judge.
The EFCC slapped a 15-count charge on the accused bordering on conspiracy and fraud.
However, Patience Jonathan in a statement signed by her counsel, Gboyega Oyewole, disowned the representatives of the companies, claiming they were mercenaries recruited by the EFCC to plead guilty so that her funds could be confiscated by the state.
When the case was called yesterday, the four companies announced their representation as follows: Friday David represents Pluto Properties and Investment Company, and Agbor Obaro represents Sea Gate Property Development Company.
Also, Fredrick Dioghowori announced his representation for Trans Ocean Property Limited, while Taiwo Ebenezer represented Avalon Global properties Limited.
After the charge was read to the accused, the first, second and third accused pleaded not guilty to all counts of the charge.
Meanwhile, the four individuals representing the companies listed in the charge, each pleaded guilty to the offences.
Following the guilty plea of the companies, the EFCC prosecution team led by Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, then prayed the court to allow a short time for review of the facts, adding that he would not waste the time of the court.
The trial judge, Justice Kuewumi, however, declined the prosecution’s request, ruling that he would adjourn to a future date.
Meanwhile, the counsel representing the second and third accused, Messrs Tochukwu Onyiuke, and Joseph Okebiemen, informed the court of a bail application filed on behalf of their clients, adding that same had not been opposed.
They urged the court to admit the accused to bail on liberal terms.
The counsel representing the first accused, Mr. Gboyega Oyewole, also informed the court that his client was already on bail on existing conditions granted by a brother judge, and urged the court to allow his client enjoy same bail standing.
To the request of the counsel, Justice Kuewumi declined granting bail to the first accused, and ordered him to file a formal application for bail before the court.
The court, however, granted bail to the second and third accused in the sum of N250 million with one surety in like sum.
The judge added that the sureties must be owners of landed properties in Lagos, and if a public servant, such surety must produce a letter of introduction from his employer.
The judge also ordered the sureties to submit evidence of tax clearance.
He adjourned the case to September 27 for continuation and ordered the accused to be remanded in prison custody pending the perfection of their bail.
In the amended charge, the EFCC alleged that the accused had between November 13, 2013, and June 2015, used the different companies to commit the offences.
The accused were alleged to have conspired to retain over $15 million, which sum they reasonably ought to have known formed part of the proceeds of crime.
The alleged offences are said to be contrary to and punishable under sections 15 (d), 17(a), 18(a), and 27 (3) (c) of the EFCC (Establishment) Act 2004.
The offence is said to have also contravened the provisions of sections 1(2) (c), and 1(19) (6) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, Cap M17, Laws of the Federation, 2004.
It also contravened the provisions of sections 18 (a) of the money laundering prohibition Act, 2012.
However, Mrs Jonathan has picked holes in the authenticity of the representatives of the four companies who pleaded guilty yesterday to charges of money laundering.
Counsel to the former first lady, Oyewole, told the court that his client would file an appeal to challenge the validity of the representatives of the companies.
In a statement by her media aide, Yemi Akinbode, the former first lady was quoted as saying that the second amended charge and the conduct of the Federal High Court have shown clearly that the EFCC was bent on denting her image and trampling on her fundamental human rights.
Mrs Jonathan said: “This is an irony. I was the one who went to court for the repatriation of my confiscated money when I realised that the EFCC and its co-travellers were playing politics with this issue after I had come out publicly to say that the said money belongs to me and that I have all evidence to prove the sources of my money. Up till this very moment, EFCC has refused to interrogate or invite me for questioning, while the agency has continued to detain Dudafa under heavy armed security guards.”
She further said: “The biggest twist in court on Thursday was that the fourth to seventh defendants pleaded guilty to all the 15-count charges. It is clear that these unknown faces were agents of the EFCC, who have been stage-managed and tutored to come to court to complicate the case as a strategy to confiscate my money.”
Mrs Jonathan reiterated her respect for the sanctity and integrity of the judiciary as the bastion of hope for every citizen of the country.
She however expressed disappointment that her well-earned image was being maligned in the court of public opinion through the “tissues of lies being churned out by the EFCC in respect of the matter”.
Mrs Jonathan restated that she was not a director, shareholder, promoter and/or participant in any of the four companies now under trial, and that she was the sole signatory to all the said accounts, contrary to the fabrication that she used her driver and cook as proxies.
She also denied ever receiving any monies from any unknown sources into her accounts and that the accounts were opened in order to facilitate her travel overseas particularly for medical treatment, sundry purchase for herself and her late mother, Mrs. Charity Oba (Mama Sisi).
92.6 Million Nigerians Enrolled For the National Identification Number – NIMC
The Federal Government through the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) has stated that NIN will be a compulsory requirement for business registration.
The National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) has announced that 92.63 million Nigerians have enrolled for the National Identification Number as of November 2022.
This represents an increase of 1.9 million when compared to the 90.68 million recorded in October.
According to the recent data released by NIMC, more men have been captured than women. The data also revealed that men accounted for about 52.1 million people or 56 percent of the total people captured so far in the NIN database.
On the other hand, women represent 40.5 million or 44 percent of the total enrollment, Investors King learnt.
On a state-to-state basis, Lagos State recorded the highest enrollment with about 10.3 million. This was followed by Kano State with more than 8 million people.
Other states with substantial enrollments include Kaduna with 5.4 million, Ogun with 3.8 million, Oyo with 3.6 million, FCT with 3.2 million, Katsina with 3.1 million, Rivers with 2.7 million, Delta with 2.4 million, and Bauchi with 2.4 million.
Meanwhile, Bayelsa is presently the state with the lowest enrollments. A total of 583,323 have so far enrolled in the state. Ebonyi trailed Bayelsa with 744,869 and Ekiti’s record shows 971,712 enrollments. While Cross River, Taraba, Yobe, Enugu, Imo, Akwa Ibom and Zamfara followed with 1 million, 1.3 million, 1.3 million, 1.5 million, Imo 1.5 million, 1.5 million and 1.6 million, respectively.
In another development, the Federal Government through the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) has stated that NIN is now a compulsory requirement for business registration like it is with banks.
According to the Registrar of the Corporate Affairs Commission, Garba Abubakar, NIN was adopted because its security can’t be compromised, unlike the National Identity card, passport, and driver’s license, which could easily be cloned.
“If you don’t have a NIN, it means you can’t register your company. The essence is to verify the integrity of the data we are collecting,” Garba noted.
National Identification Number is the unique number created by the Nigerian government to identify Nigerians, curb crimes, deepen infrastructure in cities and generally access all citizens.
Governors Forum Replies FG, Blames Poverty on Rising Insecurity
The NGF accused the federal government of being unable to tame rising insecurity which has led to the high costs of food.
The Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) has stated that governors could not be blamed for poverty in their respective states. The NGF accused the federal government of being unable to tame rising insecurity which has led to the high costs of food.
Investors King could recall that President Muhammadu Buhari earlier alleged that governors are pocketing funds meant for the development of the local governments.
Similarly, the Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Clement Agba, also stated that the 36 governors were responsible for the rising poverty index in the country,
According to the Governors Forum, the rising level of poverty among Nigerians was a consequence of the biting effect of insecurity on commercial and agricultural activities.
A statement released by NGF’s Director of Media and Public Affairs, AbdulRazaque Bello-Barkindo said “It is important to put on record the progress made by state governors in the administration of their states, which have witnessed tremendous progress in recent times. Governors have undertaken projects where they, in conjunction with their people, deem them fit for purpose.
“This dereliction of duty from the centre is the main reason why people have been unable to engage in regular agrarian activity and commerce. Today, rural areas are insecure, markets are unsafe, travel surety is improbable and life for the common people generally is harsh and brutish.”
Barkindo further accused the minister of deviating from the major issues and passing blames when he and his colleague, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, should be implementing policies that can ameliorate the hardship Nigerians were facing.
Barkindo in the statement added that the primary duty of any government is to ensure the security of lives and property, an area he claimed the Federal Government has failed.
“But the Federal Government, which is responsible for the security of lives and property, has been unable to fulfil this covenant with the people, thus allowing bandits, insurgents, and kidnappers to turn the country into a killing field, maiming and abducting people, in schools market squares and even on their farmlands,” he said.
President Buhari Accuses Governors of Stealing LG Funds
Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari has once again accused state governors of stealing monthly allocation due to local government under them.
The president spoke at a parley with members of the Senior Executive Course of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru, held at the State House Banquet Hall, Abuja.
Speaking at the event, the president stated that it beats anyone’s imagination how some governors collected money on behalf of council areas in their states, only to remit just half of such allocation to the council chairmen, who would further deplete the remittance by filching it. Investors King learnt.
‘‘I found it necessary to digress after reading my speech and this digression is a result of my personal experience. What they did, this is my personal experience, if the money from the Federation Account to the state is about N100m, N50m will be sent to the chairman, but he will sign that he received N100m. The governor will pocket the balance and share it with whoever he wants to share it with,” the president narrated.
‘‘This is what’s happening. This is Nigeria. It’s a terrible thing; you cannot say the person who was doing this is not educated. He was a qualified lawyer, he was experienced, yet he participated in this type of corruption.” he queried.
Furthermore, the president clarified that state governors and local government chairmen should be held responsible for the underdevelopment in the rural areas noting that most of the local governments lack basic amenities.
Similarly, the National Union of Local Government Employees on Thursday backed the position of the president on the embezzlement and mismanagement of local government funds.
Responding to Buhari’s position, the President of the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), Hakeem Ambali, said Buhari was merely stating the obvious.
The NULGE President nevertheless admonished the president to go beyond the statement and ensure governors, especially those in APC to sign the local government autonomy bill into law.
“He should go beyond that statement. He is the leader of the party, he should ask them to sign the autonomy into law; he is the leader of the governors,’’ he said.
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