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Repatriation Of $550m Abacha Loot: U.S Court Clears Legal Hurdle

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A United States District Court, yesterday, dismissed a case by a Nigerian lawyer seeking to stop the repatriation of over $550 million of stolen funds during the regime of late General Sani Abacha (referred to as the Abacha loot) to Nigeria until the payment of his legal fees worth $320 million by the Nigerian Government.

The thrashing of the case by Justice John D. Bates of the U.S District Court automatically clears the final legal hurdle for the return of the loot to Nigeria to help it retool its plummeting economy which has received heavy pummelling from falling oil prices and corruption.

The U.S-based Nigerian lawyer, Godson Nnaka, had laid claim to the fact that the Nigerian Government must pay him the $320 million as legal fee for the forfeiture of the $550 million of the Abacha loot still trapped in the United States.

But Justice John D. Bates, in dismissing Nnaka’s case, held the claimant was not entitled to such payment since he was not a party to the forfeiture case filed by the US Department of Justice in conjunction with Nigeria.

Nigeria, through the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation, also filed a robust opposition to Nnaka’s motion for the payment of the lien and also asked the court to bar Nnaka from making subsequent filings in that case.

Ruling on the case, the District Court entered an order denying Nnaka’s Motion for a Charging Lien (fee). The Court also specifically ruled that Nnaka’s participation in this case must now come to an end.”

Justice Bates said that Nnaka did not meet the basic prerequisites to be considered as a proper party in the case and to be paid the amount he requested for, having not qualified to represent Nigeria.

The judge also ruled out Nnaka for the payment since he had not won any judgment for Nigeria.

Justice Bates said in his ruling last night that “Neither Nnaka nor his purported clients are parties to the forfeiture matter and neither of them can win judgment through this litigation.

“The conclusion dooms Nnaka’s motion for charging lien. At common law, the charging of lien is applicable to a judgment or decree obtained for a client by an attorney. Until a judgment or decree has been obtained, the right to impose a lien does not arise.

“Even the most basic prerequisites for charging lien are missing here: Nnaka has not won a judgment for Nigeria; indeed, he had not successfully entered appearance on Nigeria’s behalf. A charging lien in the amount of $320 million is not called for. Nnaka’s claim against Nigeria must be pursued in another case: 16cv-1400.

“Unless and until Nnaka’s claim to the defendant’s assets are reinstated by the DC Circuit, Nnaka’s participation in this case must now come to an end,” the U.S judge ruled, paving the way for Nigeria to draw down its huge cash.

It will be recalled that Nigeria’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, who was in the U.S for the judgment, had recently raised the alarm that Nnaka was merely trying to delay the return of the Abacha loot by the U.S, by making a frivolous claim that Nigeria must pay him 40 percent of the Abacha loot.

Nnaka had also claimed that Malami was working against him after he had refused to relinquish “70 percent” of his 40 percent to the minister.

But in responding to the allegation, Malami described Nnaka as a strange person to the case who had not recovered a dime for Nigeria since he was allegedly given a mandate by the former Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Olujimi, to recover the Abacha loot in 2004.

Malami, in a 44-page document made available earlier, described Nnaka as a man trying to reap from where he did not sow.

The minister said the Nigerian Government would not pay Nnaka the huge amount he is asking for since he is not qualified to practise law in the Maryland area where the case is taking place and did not recover any money for the country 14 years after he was given a provisional letter to help locate and recover the Abacha loot.

The court had also held that since the temporary letter given to Nnaka by Olujimi was not revalidated by Mohammed Adoke when the forfeiture case resumed in 2013, the lawyer could, therefore, not claim to be representing Nigeria.

But Nnaka immediately rejected the court verdict and appealed against the ruling and threatened to sue Malami for saying that he was not qualified to represent Nigeria and was not entitled to 40 percent of the Abacha loot. The litany of cases filed by Nnaka and the appeal by the US Department of Justice, in conjunction with Nigeria, directly delayed the repatriation of the huge cash from the U.S to Nigeria.

Upon persistent inquiry, Malami told Sunday Vanguard from the venue of the hearing in the U.S that he was hopeful that with the dismissal of the frivolous case by Nnaka, efforts would be intensified to bring back the Abacha loot.

“We trust that this Order denying Nnaka’s frivolous claim to the Abacha assets, will help to allay the fear of the Nigerian general public arising from an online medium’s article which stated that Nigeria stands to lose $320 million on account of Nnaka’s Motion.

“We also hope that this Order will help to correct the many falsehoods and half-truths published in the past against the Office of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation regarding this matter.

“This is a positive development for Nigeria,” the AGF said.

Is the CEO/Founder of Investors King Limited. A proven foreign exchange research analyst and a published author on Yahoo Finance, Businessinsider, Nasdaq, Entrepreneur.com, Investorplace, and many more. He has over two decades of experience in global financial markets.

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NIMC Announces Launch of Three National ID Cards to Boost Identity Management

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The National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) has unveiled plans to launch three new national identity cards.

These cards are aimed at providing improved access to government services and bolstering identification systems across Nigeria.

The three new national identity cards, as disclosed by Ayodele Babalola, the Technical Adviser, Media, and Communications to the Director-General of NIMC, will include a bank-enabled National ID card, a social intervention card, and an optional ECOWAS National Biometric Identity Card.

Babalola explained that these cards are tailored to meet the diverse needs of Nigerian citizens while fostering greater participation in nation-building initiatives.

In an interview, Babalola outlined the timeline for the rollout of these cards, indicating that Nigerians can expect to start receiving them within one or two months of the launch, pending approval from the Presidency.

The bank-enabled National ID card, designed to cater to the middle and upper segments of the population, will offer seamless access to banking services within the specified timeframe.

Also, the National Safety Net Card will serve as a crucial tool for authentication and secure platform provision for government services such as palliatives, with a focus on the 25 million vulnerable Nigerians supported by current government intervention programs.

This initiative aims to streamline the distribution process and ensure efficient delivery of social services to those in need.

Furthermore, the ECOWAS National Biometric Identity Card will provide an optional identity verification solution, facilitating cross-border interactions and promoting regional integration within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

The announcement comes on the heels of NIMC’s collaboration with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigeria Inter-bank Settlement System (NIBSS) to develop a multipurpose national identity card equipped with payment capabilities for various social and financial services.

This collaborative effort underscores the commitment of key stakeholders to foster innovation, cost-effectiveness, and competitiveness in service delivery.

Babalola stated that the new identity cards aim to address the need for physical identification, empower citizens, and promote financial inclusion for marginalized populations. With a target of providing these cards to approximately 104 million eligible applicants on the national identification number database by the end of December 2023, NIMC is poised to revolutionize the identity management landscape in Nigeria.

The implementation of these programs aligns with broader efforts to drive digital transformation and improve access to essential services for all Nigerians.

Babalola highlighted the multifaceted benefits of the new identity cards, including their potential to uplift millions out of poverty by facilitating access to government social programs and financial services.

While the launch date is set tentatively for May pending presidential approval, NIMC remains committed to finalizing the necessary details to ensure a smooth rollout of the new identity cards.

The introduction of these cards represents a significant step forward in NIMC’s mission to provide secure and reliable identity solutions that empower individuals and contribute to the socio-economic development of Nigeria.

Efforts to reach Kayode Adegoke, the Head of Corporate Communications at NIMC, for further insights on the initiative were unsuccessful at the time of reporting.

As Nigeria gears up for the launch of these innovative identity cards, stakeholders express optimism about the potential positive impact on identity management, financial inclusion, and socio-economic development across the country.

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Nigeria Launches New National ID Card to Enhance Access to Social and Financial Services

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The Federal Government of Nigeria has announced the launch of a National Identity Card with integrated payment and social service functionalities.

This initiative, spearheaded by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) in collaboration with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigeria Inter-bank Settlement System (NIBSS), aims to provide Nigerians with a single, multifunctional card that combines identification, payment, and access to various government and private sector services.

The new National ID card backed by the NIMC Act No. 23 of 2007 is poised to become the country’s default identity card, serving as a tangible proof of identity for citizens and legal residents alike.

With features aligned with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards, including a Machine-readable Zone (MRZ) and biometric authentication capabilities, the card offers robust security and verification mechanisms.

One of the most significant aspects of the new ID card is its payment functionality. Cardholders will have the ability to link their cards to bank accounts, enabling them to conduct debit and prepaid transactions seamlessly.

This feature is expected to enhance financial inclusion efforts, particularly for the unbanked and underbanked populations in Nigeria.

Also, the card will grant holders access to a wide range of government interventions programs, including travel, health insurance, microloans, agriculture initiatives, food subsidies, transport benefits, and energy subsidies.

By consolidating these services onto a single platform, the government aims to streamline administrative processes and improve service delivery efficiency.

To ensure widespread accessibility, the NIMC has outlined various channels for obtaining the new ID card, including online applications, commercial banks, participating agencies, and NIMC offices nationwide.

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New York City Hit by 4.8 Magnitude Earthquake

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New York City, famously known as the “city that never sleeps” was hit by a 4.8 magnitude earthquake.

The tremors reverberated through the towering skyscrapers and bustling suburbs as it sent shockwaves across the densely populated metropolitan area and left residents feeling shaken.

The earthquake, with its epicenter approximately 45 miles west of New York City and 50 miles north of Philadelphia, caught many off guard.

Reports indicate that over 42 million people across the Northeast region may have felt the midmorning quake with reports coming in from as far as Baltimore to Boston and beyond.

The impact of the earthquake was not confined to mere tremors; it resulted in significant damage to several multifamily homes in Newark, New Jersey, displacing nearly 30 residents.

Officials immediately sprang into action, conducting checks on bridges and other major infrastructure to assess any potential structural damage.

Flights were diverted or delayed, Amtrak slowed trains throughout the busy Northeast Corridor, and a Philadelphia-area commuter rail line suspended service as a precautionary measure.

The experience was unsettling for many New Yorkers, with some likening it to the sensation of an explosion or construction accident.

Shawn Clark, an attorney working on the 26th floor of a midtown Manhattan office, described it as “pretty weird and scary,” echoing the sentiments of many who felt the earth move beneath them.

Aftershocks were reported hours later in a central New Jersey township, causing additional concern and producing reports of damage and items falling off shelves, according to Hunterdon County Public Safety Director Brayden Fahey.

The disruption caused by the earthquake extended beyond immediate safety concerns. Cellphone circuits were overloaded as people tried to reach loved ones, and phones blared with earthquake-related notifications during the New York Philharmonic’s morning performance, adding an unexpected twist to the day’s events.

Even as the seismic event rattled New York City, residents and officials alike drew comparisons to past earthquakes, particularly the memorable tremor of August 23, 2011. Registering a magnitude of 5.8, it was the strongest quake to hit the East Coast since World War II, leaving lasting impressions on those who experienced it.

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