- Judge Orders Permanent Forfeiture of Diezani’s $153m to FG
Justice Muslim Hassan of the Federal High Court in Lagos has ordered the permanent forfeiture of a sum of $153,310,000, which was said to have been diverted from the coffers of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation by a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke.
The judge ordered that the money should be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had traced the money to three commercial banks in the country where it was kept in the sums of N23,446, 300,000, N9,080,000,000 and $5m.
The anti-graft agency had on January 6, 2016 approached Justice Hassan with an ex parte application, wherein it stated that the money was proceeds of crime and urged the judge to make an order to forfeit it to the Federal Government temporarily.
The judge had granted the interim forfeiture order and gave 14 days for anyone interested in the money to appear before him to show cause why the money should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
When the case was heard on January 24, 2017, no one came to court to claim ownership of the N23,446, 300,000 and the $5m.
But one of the executive directors of one of the banks, who was joined as second respondent in the suit, appeared in court through his lawyer, Mr. Charles Adeogun-Philips, to claim the N9,080,000,000.
Adeogun-Philips had told the judge that the EFCC misrepresented facts in urging the court to order the forfeiture of the N9,080,000,000 belonging to his client as proceeds of crime.
He said his client was arrested by the EFCC and was coerced by the operatives of the anti-graft agency to sign an undertaking to make a refund of N9.08bn to the Federal Government as a condition for his release.
Adeogun-Philips said his client had to run around to raise the money from his associates.
He urged the judge to order the release of the money to his client.
In his judgment on Thursday, however, Justice Hassan said he found from the exhibits presented before the court that Adeogun-Philips’ client was not coerced but he voluntarily elected to make the undertaking after he had been duly cautioned.
This, the judge said, was done in the presence of Adeogun-Philips, who also appended his signature on the undertaking made by his client attesting that it was voluntarily made.
He, therefore, ordered the permanent forfeiture of the money to the Federal Government.
The judge held, “I hereby make an order pursuant to Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act 2016, for final forfeiture of the unclaimed sum of N23, 426, 300.000 and five million United States dollars to the Federal Government finally.
“In respect of the second respondent, learned counsel, Mr. Charles Adeogun-Philips, informed the court that the second respondent filed a counter-affidavit on why the sum of N9.08bn should not be forfeited.
“I have carefully examined the affidavit evidence before the court and I find that the second respondent was duly cautioned in English language before his statement was taken and so, I hold that same was taken without any evidence of inducement.
“On the whole, I am satisfied that all the conditions stated in Section 17 of the Advanced Fee Fraud and Other Related Offence Act was duly fulfilled by the applicant.
“I accordingly make the following orders:
“An order for the final forfeiture of the sums of N23, 426,300.000.00 and $5m being unclaimed properties to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“An order of final forfeiture is also made for the sum of N9.08bn recovered from the second respondent, to the Federal Government of Nigeria. This is my judgment,” he said.
Responding to the judgment, the EFCC lawyer, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, thanked the judge and said the Federal Government would use the money for the benefit of all Nigerians.
Justice Hassan thanked the EFCC counsel in turn for the good work the agency was doing and urged the government to ensure that the money was used for the benefits of all citizens.
The judge also commended Adeogun-Philips for the courage to show up on behalf of his client to claim the money.
“After all, you were the only one who came forward,” the judge said.
SERAP Urges FG to Slash Politicians’ Allowances
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the Chairman of Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), Elias Mbam, to urgently review upward the remuneration, allowances, and conditions of service for Nigerian Judges, and reduce the remuneration of President Muhammadu Buhari and other political office-holders in order to address the persistent poor treatment of Judges, and improve access of victims of corruption to justice.
The appeal came on the heels of a nationwide industrial action by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) to press home their demand for financial autonomy for the judicial arm of government, and the federal government silence on the judiciary workers’ strike that has grounded court activities across the country.
In a letter dated April 10, 2021, which was signed by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said Judges should get all they are reasonably entitled to, and that it is unfair, illegal, unconstitutional, and discriminatory to continue to treat Judges as second-class people, while high-ranking political office holders enjoy lavish salaries and allowances.
SERAP expressed concern that the remuneration and allowances of Judges have fallen substantially behind the average salaries and allowances of political office-holders such as president, vice-president, governors and their deputies, as well as members of the National Assembly.
The letter read in part: “According to our information, the last review of the remuneration, allowances, and conditions of service for political, public and judicial office holders carried out by RMAFC in 2009 shows huge disparity between the remuneration and allowances of judges and those of political office holders.
“Judges’ work is very considerable but they cannot give their entire time to their judicial duties without the RMAFC reviewing upward their remuneration and allowances, and closing the gap and disparity between the salaries of judges and those of political office holders such as the president, vice-president, governors and their deputies, as well as lawmakers.
“We would therefore be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, the Incorporated Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel the RMAFC to comply with our requests.”
COVAX Delivered 38m Vaccine Doses To Over 100 Countries, Says WHO
The World Health Organisation (WHO) yesterday announced that more than 100 countries have received life-saving COVID-19 vaccines from COVAX, the global mechanism for equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.
It said the milestone comes 42 days after the first COVAX doses were shipped and delivered internationally, to Ghana on February 24th.
In a statement, the United Nations’ Agency revealed that COVAX has now delivered more than 38 million doses across six continents, supplied by three manufacturers – AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech and the Serum Institute of India (SII).
Of the over 100 economies reached, 61 are among the 92 lower-income economies receiving vaccines funded through the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC).
It, however, said despite reduced supply availability in March and April – the result of vaccine manufacturers scaling and optimising their production processes in the early phase of the rollout, as well as increased demand for COVID-19 vaccines in India – COVAX expects to deliver doses to all participating economies that have requested vaccines in the first half of the year.
According to the CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, Dr. Seth Berkley, “In under four months since the very first mass vaccination outside a clinical setting anywhere in the world, it is tremendously gratifying that the roll-out of COVAX doses has already reached 100 countries.
“COVAX may be on track to deliver to all participating economies in the first half of the year yet we still face a daunting challenge as we seek to end the acute stage of the pandemic: we will only be safe when everybody is safe and our efforts to rapidly accelerate the volume of doses depend on the continued support of governments and vaccine manufacturers. As we continue with the largest and most rapid global vaccine rollout in history, this is no time for complacency.”
The WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said: “COVAX has given the world the best way to ensure the fastest, most equitable rollout of safe and effective vaccines to all at-risk people in every country on the planet.
“If we are going to realise this great opportunity, countries, producers and the international system must come together to prioritise vaccine supply through COVAX. Our collective future, literally, depends on it.”
Approved Ibom Deep Sea Port, Proposed $1.4B Fertilizer Plant Will Change Akwa Ibom’s Economic Status – Gov. Udom
Akwa Ibom State Government has said the approved Ibom Deep Seaport and the proposed $1.4 billion Fertilizer and Ammonia Plant are expected to change the economic status of the state.
The State Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, made the assertion in an Easter message to the people of the state.
He maintained that with the recent approval and take off of the federal government’s approved Oil and Gas Free Zone and the ongoing construction of the Sterling Petrochemical Plant at Eastern Obolo, the state would be ready to dump its status as a civil service state.
The governor said the fertilizer and ammonia plants should be supported by all indegenes and residents irrespective of political affiliation because of its capacity to change the economic fortunes of the state.
The governor who commended President Muhammadu Buhari for approving the industrial projects in the state said construction work on the Ibom Deep Seaport would commence very soon.
“In recent past, we have been blessed with life-changing projects such as Sterling Petrochemical Plant in Eastern Obolo, where construction is in an advanced stage.
“Two months ago, the Federal Executive Council, (FEC) approved the license for us to commence the construction of our long desired Ibom Deep Seaport. Work would soon commence on this gigantic project. These are huge achievements for our State and our people.
“Ibom Deep Seaport will open up our economic fortunes; create employment and wealth opportunities for our people and throw open our State as a major maritime hub in our nation.
“We thank the President and the Commander in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR) for this kind approval,” he said.
Continuing, Emmanuel said: “About three weeks ago, we signed a $1.4 billion Fertilizer and Ammonia plant with our Moroccan counterparts. The plant will again create huge employment and other supply chain activities for our people, which will transform us from a civil service oriented state to a fast industrialising one.
“These are huge achievements that should gladden the hearts of every Akwa Ibomite irrespective of political affiliations.”
He reminded the people of the state that the essence of Easter would be lost if the resurrection of Christ is not allowed to illuminate their souls through love and sacrifice to one another.
“Let the fishermen in the ocean fronts of Mbo, Okobo, Eastern Obolo and Ibeno love one another. Let the farmers in the rice plantations at Ini, Ikono, Ika, Onna and Nsit Ibom love one another.
“Let the civil servants and public servants, politicians in all political parties, members of all denominations, preachers of all faiths, love one another.
“When we let love drive our every action and every thought, when we let it drip from our lips and from our hands, then shall the joy of Easter be complete, and our State shall surely attain the lofty height set for it by our ancestors when they named it Akwa Abasi Ibom State.” the Governor stated.
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