- Fresh EFCC Probe Links Obanikoro to Diezani Poll Cash
A former Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, has been fingered in a new N400m scam.
Impeccable sources in the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission told our correspondent on Sunday that Obanikoro, who was released last Friday, might be invited again soon to explain his alleged role in the scam.
The ex-minister, who returned from the United States on October 17, spent three weeks at the Abuja office of the EFCC for allegedly receiving N4.7bn from the Office of the National Security Adviser and distributing over N3bn to Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State and Senator Iyiola Omisore, who were the governorship candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party in Ekiti and Osun states respectively in 2014.
Obanikoro subsequently returned N100m to the EFCC with a promise to return another N480m.
His American and Nigerian passports were subsequently seized before his release last Friday.
An EFCC detective on Sunday told our correspondent that recent investigations showed that Obanikoro allegedly received N400m from a former Minister of Finance, Senator Nenadi Usman, who was the Director of Finance of the Goodluck Jonathan Campaign Organisation during the build-up to the 2015 elections.
The source said sometime in 2015, Usman sent the money to Obanikoro through a proxy.
The detective said, “As part of investigations into the billions disbursed by Nenadi Usman during the build-up to the 2015 elections, we interrogated a suspect at our office. The suspect told us that he handed over N400m to Obanikoro in the presence of some PDP members.
“So, Obanikoro will be invited to the Lagos office of the EFCC to tell his own side of the story.”
The EFCC had alleged in March that about N3.145bn was mysteriously transferred from the account of the ONSA, domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria, to the account of Joint Trust Dimensions Limited, a company allegedly owned by Usman.
Usman was said to have transferred N840m to the account of the Director of Publicity of the organisation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, in Zenith Bank on February 19, 2015, while she allegedly gave a former finance minister, Chief Olu Falae, N100m on the instruction of a PDP stalwart, Chief Anthony Anenih.
A former Governor of Imo State, Achike Udenwa, and a former Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Viola Onwuliri, according to the documents, got N350m in two tranches.
The first tranche of N150m was allegedly paid into their joint account with Zenith Bank on January 13, 2015. The second tranche of N200m was credited into their account with Diamond bank.
Usman and Fani-Kayode have since been arraigned before the Federal High Court in Lagos and their accounts frozen while Udenwa and Falae may be arraigned soon.
Apart from the ONSA fund, Usman allegedly disbursed a separate N23bn to various states during the build-up to the elections.
The money Usman disbursed allegedly emanated from a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke.
The money, which was $115m but converted to N23bn, was alleged to have been kickbacks from some dubious oil contractors involved in oil theft.
The EFCC has, so far, grilled about 16 former governors and ministers over the alleged N23bn Diezani sleaze.
Some of them include the immediate past Governor of Kebbi State, Saidu Dakin Garin; former Governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu State; former Governor Ibrahim Shekarau of Kano State; former Governor Ali Modu Sheriff of Borno State; former Governor James Ngilari of Adamawa State; and a former Governor of Zamfara State, Mamuda Shinkafi.
Among the others are a former Governor of Cross River State, Senator Liyel Imoke; a former Minister of State for FCT, Jumoke Akinjide; and a former Minister of State for Finance, Ambassador Bashir Yuguda.
During the elections, each state was said to have received at least N450m from the fund, which was handled by ministers or governors, who were members of the PDP.
All attempts to speak with Obanikoro’s media aide, Jonathan Eze, proved abortive on Sunday
as his phone indicated that it was switched off.
A source close to Obanikoro, however, told our correspondent that the ex-minister was not in charge of former President’s Goodluck Jonathan’s Lagos campaign and therefore could not have received such money.
He said, “I am aware that the EFCC has interrogated the person who collected money for the Jonathan campaign organisation. However, Senator Obanikoro never collected N400m from him.
“Those who collected money at Federal Palace Hotel know themselves and they should please leave Senator Obanikoro out of it.”
Lagos State Moves to Completely Ban Okada, Keke, Introduces Minibuses
The Lagos State Government on Monday announced plans to completely ban the use of motorcycles (okada) and tricycles (Keke) due to rising crime and lawlessness across the state.
The announcement was made after a stakeholders’ meeting held at the Adeyemi Bero Auditorium, Alausa Secretariat, Ikeja.
In the meeting attended by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Mudashiru Obasa; the Chief Judge, Kazeem Alogba; the Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, traditional and religious leaders and members of the civil society, among others, the governor said the string of lawlessness daily witnessed from the confrontation between commercial motorcyclists and law enforcement agencies required urgent action.
“Based on all that we have seen and experienced in the past couple of weeks, as well as the increasing threat posed by the activities of commercial motorcycle operators to the safety and security of lives, we will be announcing further changes to the parameters of motorcycle and tricycle operations in the state in the coming days. No society can make progress amid such a haughty display of lawlessness and criminality,” he added.
Sanwo-Olu said from next week, the state would be inaugurating the First and Last Mile buses next week, which would take the routes the motorcycles were plying.
The state Commissioner of Police, Odumosu, raised the alarm over rising security breaches from the menace of okada operations in the state.
He said between January and early this month, 320 commercial motorcycles were impounded in 218 cases of criminal incidents in which 78 suspects were detained and 480 ammunition recovered.
In the same period, the Lagos police boss said Okada accounted for 83 per cent of 385 cases of avoidable fatal vehicular accidents in Lagos.
At the end of the meeting, a 12-point resolution was reached, among which was a ban on Okada “as a means of transportation in the state.”
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.
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