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FG Searches For More Evidence to Nail Saraki, Ekweremadu

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The Federal Government has started searching for more facts that can further prove the involvement of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, in the alleged forgery of Senate Standing Rules, 2015.

On Friday that the Police Special Investigation Panel had written the Clerk of the National Assembly, Mohammed Sani-Omolori, to demand for the records of the proceedings where the Senate rules were amended.

Following the realisation that the evidence against the men was not enough to secure their conviction in court, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, had directed the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, to dig further and get more evidence against the two senators.

Apart from Saraki and Ekweremadu, others facing trial over their alleged involvement in the forgery of the senate rules, include the former Clerk of the National Assembly, Alhaji Salisu Maikasuwa, and his deputy, Mr. Benedict Efeturi.

The trial judge on June 27, 2016, admitted the defendants to bail and adjourned the matter for trial.

The accused persons pleaded not guilty to the charges preferred against them.

On Friday that the IGP had directed the SIP handling the investigation to get more evidence that could sustain the conviction of the accused persons for forgery.

It was learnt that the panel, led by Ali Amodu, a retired Assistant Inspector-General of Police, wrote a letter to  the National Assembly Clerk in August, 2016 and demanded the record of proceedings of the last Senate.

The police also requested the clerk to clarify if the 7th Senate at any time amended the Senate Standing Orders 2011 and the extent of the amendment, if any.

Sources stated that the panel also requested for copies of the Senate Standing Orders, 2015, as well as the Hansard (official record of debates) of June 9 and 24, 2015 to know what transpired on the floor of the Senate.

It was learnt that the panel, had in its letter, asked that the information should be dispatched before September 7.

A source, who was familiar with the investigation, said that the clerk had yet to respond to the request, prompting the SIP to send a reminder about two weeks ago.

The source said, “The SIP was expecting the clerk to send the copies of the senate standing rules, 2011 and 2015 to know if there was an amendment and the extent of such amendment. The police also demanded the record of the last proceeding of the 7th senate, but up till now, the clerk has not responded.

“The SIP has again sent a reminder to the clerk to fast-track its request. All these records are needed by the police to carry out a thorough probe into the case and ensure that the probe is rested once and for all.”

Efforts made to get the Clerk to the National Assembly proved abortive as calls to his telephone did not go through. He also did not reply a text message sent to him as of the time of filing this report on Friday evening.

In June, when the case was first filed in court before Saraki and other co-accused persons were arraigned, the Federal Government had deposed to an affidavit, attesting that investigations into the matter had been concluded.

In the charge sheet dated June 10, 2016 and signed by D.E Kaswe Esq., Principal State Counsel on behalf of the AGF, which was supported by an Affidavit of Completion of Investigation deposed to at the Federal High Court Registry, Abuja, on the same date by Okara Neji Jonah, a litigation officer in the Federal Ministry of Justice, Abuja, attested that the police had concluded its investigations.

The police failed to carry out a thorough investigation into the forgery case because the leadership of the Force was in a hurry to conclude the probe to please the Presidency.

The inconclusive investigation was carried out by detectives from the Force Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department.

Renewed investigation abuse of judicial process—Saraki

Saraki, in his reaction, described the renewal of the investigation as an abuse of judicial process when the prosecutor had already dragged the suspects to court.

The Special Adviser to the Senate President on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, told one of our correspondents on Friday that only Saraki’s lawyers would continue to speak for him on the matter.

He said, “I would have preferred that our lawyers speak on the matter; they would have been able to spell out the legal implication of going to court, swearing to an affidavit that the investigation had been concluded, which is the fulcrum of taking the matter to court. To now say there will be a fresh investigation is like leaving the case in court, while looking for an evidence to justify your position. That will be a clear abuse of court process, just like our lawyers submitted on Wednesday. It is a clear case of abuse of court process.”

Ekweremadu, who spoke through his Special Adviser on Media, Mr. Uche Anichukwu, said his lawyers would speak on the matter.

He referred our correspondent to a statement by the Civil Liberties Organisation, which, according to him, strongly criticised how court processes were being abused in the forgery case.

The Special Adviser to the Attorney-General of the Federation on Media and Publicity, Mr. Salisu Isah, could not be reached through his telephone on Friday as repeated calls made to the telephone line indicated that it was not available.

It’s all drama—Afenifere

But the National Publicity Secretary of the Yoruba socio-political group, Yinka Odumakin, described the suit as a drama.

He stated, “I think it is all drama and we have better things to face. We have had enough of these shows. Our anti-corruption war has yet to secure one conviction in 16 months now and I don’t think Saraki would be the first causality.

“What we want to see is concrete actions to halt the dangerous slide that we are in as a country.”

On his part, the Executive Director of a faction of the Civil Liberties Organisation, Ohabuenyi Ezike, described the issue as a rude shock.

According to him, the  reopening of investigation by the AGF and IGP appears to corroborate “the position of the Senate that the names of the accused persons were politically generated as names of the Senate President, Dr. Olusola Saraki, and Senator Ike Ekweremadu could not in any way be related to the Proof of Evidence.”

The President of the Nigeria Voters’ Assembly, Mashood Erubami, said that the matter should be thoroughly investigated.

Erubami stated that sweeping the matter under the carpet would not conform with the spirit of the moment. This is the time that the President should send a strong signal to the world that he and his government believe in the fight against anything unethical.

“It is a pity that the police have been reluctant to let Nigerians know what their findings are on the alleged forgery case and nobody is sure of whose doorsteps the guilt over the matter is to be laid.

“It is not enough to make an allegation against a person; what is important is being able to prove the case against the person to secure conviction.”

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

Government

COVID-19 Vaccine: African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim) to Purchase 270 Million Doses for Nigeria, Other African Nations

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African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim) Approves $2 Billion for the Purchase of 270 million Doses for African Nations

African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim) said it has approved $2 billion for the purchase of 270 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines for African nations, including Nigeria.

Prof. Benedict Oramah, the President of the Bank, disclosed this at a virtual Africa Soft Power Series held on Tuesday.

He, however, stated that the lender is looking to raise more funds for the COVID-19 vaccines’ acquisition.

He said: “The African Union knows that unless you put the virus away, your economy can’t come back. If Africa didn’t do anything, it would become a COVID-19 continent when other parts of the world have already moved on.
“Recall that it took seven years during the heat of HIV for them to come to Africa after 12 million people had died.

“With the assistance of the AU, we were able to get 270 million vaccines and financing need of about $2 billion. Afreximbank then went ahead to secure the $2 billion. But that money for the 270 million doses could only add 15 per cent to the 20 per cent that Covax was bringing.

He added that this is not the time to wait for handouts or free vaccines as other countries will naturally sort themselves out before African nations.

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China Calls for Better China-U.S. Relations

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China Calls for China-U.S. Relations

Senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi said on Monday the United States and China could work together on issues like climate change and the coronavirus pandemic if they repaired their damaged bilateral relationship.

Wang, a Chinese state councillor and foreign minister, said Beijing stood ready to reopen constructive dialogue with Washington after relations between the two countries sank to their lowest in decades under former president Donald Trump.

Wang called on Washington to remove tariffs on Chinese goods and abandon what he said was an irrational suppression of the Chinese tech sector, steps he said would create the “necessary conditions” for cooperation.

Before Wang spoke at a forum sponsored by the foreign ministry, officials played footage of the “ping-pong diplomacy” of 1972 when an exchange of table tennis players cleared the way for then U.S. President Richard Nixon to visit China.

Wang, a Chinese state councillor and foreign minister, said Beijing stood ready to reopen constructive dialogue with Washington after relations between the two countries sank to their lowest in decades under former president Donald Trump.

Wang called on Washington to remove tariffs on Chinese goods and abandon what he said was an irrational suppression of the Chinese tech sector, steps he said would create the “necessary conditions” for cooperation.

Before Wang spoke at a forum sponsored by the foreign ministry, officials played footage of the “ping-pong diplomacy” of 1972 when an exchange of table tennis players cleared the way for then U.S. President Richard Nixon to visit China.

Wang urged Washington to respect China’s core interests, stop “smearing” the ruling Communist Party, stop interfering in Beijing’s internal affairs and stop “conniving” with separatist forces for Taiwan’s independence.

“Over the past few years, the United States basically cut off bilateral dialogue at all levels,” Wang said in prepared remarks translated into English.

“We stand ready to have candid communication with the U.S. side, and engage in dialogues aimed at solving problems.”

Wang pointed to a recent call between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden as a positive step.

Washington and Beijing have clashed on multiple fronts including trade, accusations of human rights crimes against the Uighur Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region and Beijing’s territorial claims in the resources-rich South China Sea.

The Biden administration has, however, signalled it will maintain pressure on Beijing. Biden has voiced concern about Beijing’s “coercive and unfair” trade practices and endorsed of a Trump administration determination that China has committed genocide in Xinjiang.

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U.S. Supreme Court Allows Release of Trump Tax Returns

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President Trump Signs Executive Order In Oval Office Of The White House

U.S. Supreme Court Allows Release of Trump Tax Returns

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday paved the way for a New York City prosecutor to obtain former President Donald Trump’s tax returns and other financial records as part of a criminal investigation, a blow to his quest to conceal details of his finances.

The justices without comment rebuffed Trump’s request to put on hold an Oct. 7 lower court ruling directing the former Republican president’s longtime accounting firm, Mazars USA, to comply with a subpoena to turn over the materials to a grand jury convened by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, a Democrat.

“The work continues,” Vance said in a statement issued after the court’s action.

Vance had previously said in a letter to Trump’s lawyers that his office would be free to immediately enforce the subpoena if the justices rejected Trump’s request.

A lawyer for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority included three Trump appointees, had already ruled once in the dispute, last July rejecting Trump’s broad argument that he was immune from criminal probes as a sitting president.

Unlike all other recent U.S. presidents, Trump refused during his four years in office to make his tax returns public. The data could provide details on his wealth and the activities of his family real-estate company, the Trump Organization.

Trump, who left office on Jan. 20 after being defeated in his Nov. 3 re-election bid by Democrat Joe Biden, continues to face an array of legal issues concerning his personal and business conduct.

Vance issued a subpoena to Mazars in August 2019 seeking Trump’s corporate and personal tax returns from 2011 to 2018. Trump’s lawyers sued to block the subpoena, arguing that as a sitting president, Trump had absolute immunity from state criminal investigations.

The Supreme Court in its July ruling rejected those arguments but said Trump could raise other objections to the subpoena. Trump’s lawyers then argued before lower courts that the subpoena was overly broad and amounted to political harassment, but U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in August and the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in October rejected those claims.

Vance’s investigation, which began more than two years ago, had focused on hush money payments that the president’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen made before the 2016 election to two women – adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal – who said they had sexual encounters with Trump.

In recent court filings, Vance has suggested that the probe is now broader and could focus on potential bank, tax and insurance fraud, as well as falsification of business records.

In separate litigation, the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives was seeking to subpoena similar records. The Supreme Court in July sent that matter back to lower courts for further review.

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