- EFCC Re-arraigns Orji Kalu, Others for Alleged Money Laundering
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) monday re-arraigned the former Abia State Governor, Mr. Orji Uzor Kalu, before a Federal High Court in Lagos on a 34-count charge of alleged money laundering.
Also arraigned before the court, is one Mr. Udeh Jones Udeogu, and Kalu’s Slok Nigeria Limited.
In the further amended charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/56/07, the EFCC alleged that Kalu and other accused persons had between August 7, 2001 and December 2005, while Kalu was governor, used the said money to procure Slok Nigeria Limited, a company EFCC claimed to solely belong to Kalu and his family.
The accused persons and one Emeka Abone, said to be at large, were also alleged to have between May 2002 and December 2005, conspired among themselves to launder fund illegally derived from the treasury of Abia State government.
They were also alleged to have aggregated several billions of naira amounting to N3.2 billion, property of Abia State government, knowing that the said amount formed parts of funds stolen from the treasury of the state government.
The accused persons were alleged to have use Manny Bank, now Fidelity Bank Plc; Spring Bank Plc, the defunct Standard Trust Bank and Finland Bank, now First City Monument Bank (FCMB).
In counts one to 10, Kalu was alleged to have between August 13, 2003 and August 10, 2005, while he was governor, procured Slok Nigeria Limited, the company which solely belongs to him and his family members; retained in his account domiciled with the Apapa branch of First Inland Bank Plc, the total sum of N2, 502, 600,000, which formed parts of funds Illegally derived from the treasury of Abia State government, through Manny Bank (now Fidelity Bank Plc), which were converted into several bank drafts before they were paid into the account of Slok Nigeria Limited.
And in counts 11 to 20, Slok Nigeria Limited and Abone, said to be at large, were also alleged to have between April 29, 2003 and August 10, 2005, retained in their accounts domiciled with the Apapa branch of First Inland Bank now First City Monument Bank, the total sum of N2.493 billion, on behalf of Kalu as governor and that the money formed parts of funds Illegally derived from the treasury of the state government, through Manny Bank now Fidelity Bank Plc.
The alleged offences according to the prosecutor, Adeniyi Adebisi, are contrary to sections 17(c) 16, 14(1)(b)17(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2003, and sections 427 of the Criminal Code Act Cap. 77, Laws of the Federation, 1990, and punishable under section 16 of the same Act.
The accused persons, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge. Upon the plea of the accused persons, their lawyers, Chief Mike Ozekhome and Solo Akuma, all Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), urged the court to allow their clients to continue with the bail term earlier granted them.
Ozekhome informed the Justice Mohammed Idris led-court that their clients had earlier been arraigned before Justice Nyako, Adamu Bello, Uweh, all of Abuja Federal High Court, before they were re-arraigned again.
The prosecutor, Adeniyi, did not opposed the submission of lawyers to the accused persons, but said his agency only interested in the trial of the accused persons.
Consequently, Justice Idris adjourned the trial of the accused persons till December 12 and 13, while ordered that the accused persons continue to enjoy the former bail conditions.
2023 Voter’s Registration Will Be Online, Biometric To Be Captured Physically- INEC
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday unfolded plans to allow online filing during the continuous voter registration for the 2023 general election.
The National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee of INEC, Mr. Festus Okoye, however, said only the biometric would be captured physically by INEC officials.
But the commission suffered another setback yesterday as arsonists torched its office in Ohafia Local Government Area of Abia State.
Okoye, during a stakeholders’ meeting on expanding voter access to polling units in Kano yesterday, said: “On June 28, the voter registration exercise for those above 18 years and those who have not registered before will commence with two new innovations. Those versatile with computer can register online and only visit a registration centre to capture their biometrics.”
Okoye stated that the online registration would be introduced to reduce crowd at registration centres in line with COVID-19 protocols.
The commission called on citizens, especially those willing to contest elections, whose voter cards have been defaced, whose names were wrongly spelt or addresses and locations wrongly captured to present themselves for authentication or correction.
INEC also called for valid data of all those with disabilities or physical challenges to be captured during the continuous registration for proper projections ahead of the 2023 general election.
INEC also warned political parties and politicians who have started campaigning to desist from doing so.
Okoye said: “There is a ban on political campaigns which has not been lifted yet. And I find it necessary to draw your attention for you to understand the legal implication of violating this ban.
“I have listened to comments on radio stations, which are capable of heating the polity. Media organisations should avoid providing platforms for such comments. The media should try to curtail such tensions.
“Political parties, politicians and their supporters should understand there is a legal framework for campaigns and it has not commenced yet.”
No Plans To Relocate AFRICOM HQ To Nigeria Or Any Part Of Africa- U.S. Replies Buhari
The United States has said there is no plan to relocate its Africa Command from its current base in Germany to Nigeria or any other part of Africa despite the worsening state of insecurity in the region.
The US gave the response barely two weeks after President Muhammadu Buhari appealed to the US government to consider relocating AFRICOM to Africa to assist Nigeria and other adjoining countries to combat worsening terrorism, banditry and other security crises.
The President made the plea in a virtual meeting with the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, on April 27.
Germany-based Africa Command (AFRICOM) is the US military headquarters that oversees its operations in Africa.
Buhari’s request followed a series of recent military casualties in Nigeria’s decade-long fight against Boko Haram terrorists, fresh expansion of the insurgents’ bases to Niger and Nasarawa States, and heavy waves of abductions and killings by bandits in the North.
Buhari said, “The security challenges in Nigeria remain of great concern to us and impacted more negatively, by existing complex negative pressures in the Sahel, Central and West Africa, as well as the Lake Chad Region.
“Compounded as the situation remains, Nigeria and her security forces remain resolutely committed to containing them and addressing their root causes.
“The support of important and strategic partners like the United States cannot be overstated as the consequences of insecurity will affect all nations, hence the imperative for concerted cooperation and collaboration of all nations to overcome these challenges.
“In this connection, and considering the growing security challenges in West and Central Africa, Gulf of Guinea, Lake Chad region and the Sahel, weighing heavily on Africa, it underscores the need for the United States to consider relocating AFRICOM headquarters from Stuttgart, Germany to Africa and near the Theatre of Operation.”
However, the US government on Thursday ruled out any plan to relocate AFRICOM from its current base in Germany to Nigeria or any part of Africa.
According to the United States Department of Defence’ Pentagon, previous studies have shown that the cost of relocating AFRICOM from Germany to Africa is very huge.
In an emailed response to The PUNCH, the Pentagon said although it would continue to value Nigeria and other countries in Africa as important partners, the American government would not consider relocating AFRICOM to any part of the African continent at the moment.
This newspaper had asked if the US would consider Nigeria’s request to relocate AFRICOM to the continent.
“It would be inappropriate to speculate on any future actions. However, at this time, moving this headquarters (AFRICOM HQ) to Africa is not part of any plans, but USAFRICOM’s commitment to their mission, our African and other partners, remains as strong today as when we launched this command more than a decade ago,” US Pentagon spokesperson, Ms. Cindi King, said.
King also ruled out any plan to consider Buhari’s request in an ongoing global US defence review.
She said, “Although there is an ongoing Global Posture Review, the relocation of Combatant Command headquarters is outside the scope of its assessment. In the case of AFRICOM, previous studies have concluded that the cost associated with the relocation of this headquarters is significant and likely to incur the expense of other engagement opportunities and activities that more directly benefit our valued African partners.
“We greatly value the partnership with Nigeria and appreciate President Buhari’s recognition of the United States’ positive contribution to African peace and security, as well as other regional partners that have made similar past pronouncements. The United States remains committed to continuing our close partnership with African countries and organisations to promote security and stability.”
It’s ‘near impossible’ for America to accept Buhari’s invitation –Campbell, ex-US ambassador
Meanwhile, a former United States Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, has listed reasons why it is “unlikely or near impossible” for the US government to relocate AFRICOM from Stuttgart in Germany to Nigeria or any part of the continent.
He said aside from the fact that the cost of doing so is very huge, the Nigerian military had proved to be a difficult partner for the US over the years.
China Urges U.N. States Not to Attend Xinjiang Event Next Week
China has urged United Nations member states not to attend an event planned next week by Germany, the United States and Britain on the repression of Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in Xinjiang, according to a note seen by Reuters on Friday.
“It is a politically-motivated event,” China’s U.N. mission wrote in the note, dated Thursday. “We request your mission NOT to participate in this anti-China event.”
China charged that the organizers of the event, which also include several other European states along with Australia and Canada, use “human rights issues as a political tool to interfere in China’s internal affairs like Xinjiang, to create division and turbulence and disrupt China’s development.”
“They are obsessed with provoking confrontation with China,” the note said, adding that “the provocative event can only lead to more confrontation.”
The Chinese mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The ambassadors of the United States, Germany and Britain are due to address the virtual U.N. event on Wednesday, along with Human Rights Watch Executive Director Ken Roth and Amnesty International Secretary General Agnes Callamard.
The aim of the event is to “discuss how the U.N. system, member states and civil society can support and advocate for the human rights of members of ethnic Turkic communities in Xinjiang,” according to an invitation.
Western states and rights groups have accused authorities in Xinjiang of detaining and torturing Uyghurs in camps, which the United States has described as genocide. In January, Washington banned the import of cotton and tomato products from Xinjiang over allegations of forced labor.
Beijing denies the accusations and describes the camps as vocational training centers to combat religious extremism.
“Beijing has been trying for years to bully governments into silence but that strategy has failed miserably, as more and states step forward to voice horror and revulsion at China’s crimes against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims,” Human Rights Watch U.N. director Louis Charbonneau said on Friday.
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