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).
NAFDAC Grants Conditional Emergency Use Authorisation For Jansen COVID-19 Vaccine
The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, on Tuesday granted conditional Emergency Use Authorisation for Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine to prevent COVID-19 in Nigerians above 18 years of age.
In a press statement made available to the media, the Director-General of the Agency, Prof Christianah Mojisola Adeyeye said after a thorough evaluation, the NAFDAC Vaccine Committee concluded that the data on the vaccine were robust and met criteria for efficacy, safety and quality.
”The data also show that the vaccine’s known and potential benefits outweigh its known and potential risks thereby supporting the manufacturer’s recommended use. Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine is the third vaccine recommended in Nigeria for preventing COVID-19.”
On vaccine efficacy, Adeyeye noted that the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine is administered as a single dose and results from a clinical trial involving people in the United States, South Africa and Latin American countries found that Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine was effective at preventing COVID-19 in people from 18 years of age.
She added: ”The Phase III clinical trial involved over 44,000 people. Half received a single dose of the vaccine and half were given a placebo (a dummy injection). People did not know if they had been given Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine or placebo.
”The trial found a 67 percent reduction in the number of symptomatic COVID-19 cases after two weeks in people who received Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine”.
On side effects, she said the most commonly reported side effects with the vaccine were pain at the injection site, headache, fatigue, muscle aches and nausea. Most of these side effects were mild to moderate in severity and lasted 1-2 days.
Speaking on vaccine safety, she said in line with the NAFDAC’s Pharmacovigilance and safety monitoring plan for COVID-19 vaccines, Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine would be closely monitored and subject to several activities that apply specifically to COVID-19 vaccines.
”Manufacturers are required to provide monthly safety reports in addition to the regular updates generated by NAFDAC activities. Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine works by preparing the body to defend itself against COVID-19.”
She further explained that unopened vaccine vials can be stored and/or transported frozen at -25°C to – 15°C for up to 24 months and three months when stored at 2 to 8°C.
She also stated that the Ministry of Health and National Primary Health Care Development Agency will announce when the vaccine becomes available for use in Nigeria.
NLC Alleged That El-Rufai Reverted Minimum Wage to N18,000
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) yesterday alleged that the Kaduna State government plans to infiltrate its protest with thugs.
It said it was misled in praising the Nasir El-Rufai administration for being the first to pay the new N30,000 minimum wage.
NLC, in a statement by its Kaduna State Council Chairman, Ayuba Suleiman, said the state had since reverted to the old wage of N18, 000 for council workers. It said 20,000 civil servants have been receiving half salary of less than N18, 000.
The workers union said the state owed its members several allowances. It condemned threats to arrest NLC President Ayuba Wabba.
“We are calling the attention of the general public to the planned mobilisation of thugs by the state government to discredit our peaceful protest. We urge the people of Kaduna State to be vigilant and stand against this plan.
“We implore the general public to remain calm and peaceful throughout the five-day warning strike.
“We are assuring the Kaduna State workers and the general public of our commitment to maintaining peaceful strike action in their interest,” Suleiman said.
FACAN Seeks Partnership With Lagos on Ranching
The Federation of Agricultural Commodities Association of Nigeria (FACAN) is seeking partnership with the Lagos State government on the operation of ranches as part of a road map with investment plans that seek to improve animal productivity and production, as well as increase the value addition of key livestock value chains.
Its President, Dr Victor Iyama told the media that the association is examining various aspects of agricultural development such as investment, demand, consumption, gender and social inclusion and is ready to partner with Lagos in driving out livestock-sector investment interventions, to help the state meet its targets by improving productivity and total production in the key livestock value chains of sheep and cow
According to him, the absence of a roadmap to develop the livestock sector had hindered the successful implementation of previous investment plans for the sector.
He said the creation of the master plan would guide livestock-sector investment interventions in improving feed and water resources, health services, industry and factory and promote private sector investment and business environment.
Urging the Lagos government to pursue the establishment of ranches for hire, Iyama reiterated that investors were convinced the efforts would foster public-private partnerships for livestock development.
According to him, private operators will be ready to rent ranches for meat cattle, indicating that the state remains one of the safest places for increasing industries for meat production and milk processing.
Recently, the Lagos State Butchers Association has requested the provision of about 50 hectares of land from the Lagos State Government for ranching and rearing herds of cattle in the state.
Meantime, the Lagos State Commissioner for Agriculture, Ms Absiola Olusanya, said well over 1.8 million herds of cattle and over 1.4 million herds of sheep and goats, were being consumed in Lagos yearly.
Olusanya called on the private sector to partner with it to establish feedlots in the state for cattle rearing and fattening in furtherance of its reforms and sanitization of the red meat value chain, stressing that partnership becomes necessary as it would ensure better production and supply of cattle for consumption in the state.
According to her, the feedlots when operational would help revive and resuscitate cows that might have travelled from far cities such as Sokoto, Jalingo, Bauchi and Jigawa among others where they may have come to Lagos before slaughtering them.
Olusanya added that the feedlot system would also help in fattening the cows before taking them to the slaughter slabs which would improve the quality of beef as well as help butchers and meat sellers to make more profit. “We have been having discussions around the transformation agenda centred on abattoirs, transportation and markets but there is a revised plan to have a more holistic approach to the red meat value chain.
“We are not just focusing on abattoirs alone which are a processing angle, we are starting right from the animal identification and traceability systems, meaning right from the source or point of origination of the cattle.
“That is why we want to establish feedlots in the state so that we can have cattle fattening centres. Having feedlot centres means that the cattle can rest, they can be fattening.”
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