- Judge Withdraws from Trial of Fani-Kayode, Nenadi Usman
Justice Muslim Hassan of a Federal High Court in Lagos thursday recused himself from the trial of a former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, charged with N4.6 billion money laundering.
Fani-Kayode was charged with a former Minister of State for Finance, Senator Nenadi Usman, and a former National Chairman of the Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON), Yusuf Danjuma.
Also charged is a company, Jointrust Dimentions Nigeria Limited.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had preferred against the accused, a 17-count charge of laundering about N4.6billion.
They had each pleaded not guilty. Yesterday, Justice Hassan in a ruling, withdrew from the criminal trial of the accused.
His withdrawal followed an application by counsel to Fani-Kayode, Mr Norrison Quakers (SAN), urging the court to step aside from the suit.
Recalling the arguments of counsel for and against the application to withdraw from the case, the judge held that although counsel had not been able to show or prove any element of bias, it would serve the interest of justice for him to withdraw from the suit.
He held: “It will serve the interest of justice for me to withdraw from this suit.”
The judge further held that the case file would be returned to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ndahi Auta, for re-assignment to another judge.
He consequently, directed the accused to await further directives from the Chief Judge.
At the last adjourned date in February, counsel to Fani-Kayode, Quakers, had argued an application before the court, elucidating why it should recuse from the trial of the accused.
Quakers had contended that Justice Hassan, who worked as Head of Legal services at the EFCC before his appointment as a judge, signed the money laundering charges for which Fani-Kayode was previously prosecuted years back.
He added that Fani-Kayode was however, discharged and acquitted by Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumobia on July 1, 2015.
Quakers had argued that while judges ought to operate as if they were blindfolded, the blindfold is sometimes removed on primordial sentiments.
On the other hand, counsel to Usman, Mr. Abiodun Owonikoko (SAN), had also argued his application before the court, seeking a severance of the criminal charge.
Owonikoko had urged the court to allow Usman to be tried separately from Fani-Kayode as well as for her trial to be transferred from Lagos to the Abuja division, for purposes of convenience.
He had hinged his application on grounds of Usman’s health condition, adding that she resides in Abuja and always had to travel to Lagos each time the case comes up, spending at least three days on each occasion.
He had therefore, urged the court to grant his application.
Opposing the applications, the prosecutor, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, argued that the chief judge could not exercise his powers to transfer a case where the prosecution had called its first witness.
Besides, Oyedepo had argued that 13 of the listed 17 witness lived in Lagos. Moreso, in opposing the application by Fani-Kayode, Oyedepo had argued that although Justice Hassan signed the charges as head of EFCC’s legal department, the case was prepared and prosecuted by an external counsel, Mr Festus Keyamo.
He had said that the judge did not feature in the trial of Fani-Kayode at any time, adding that nothing has been placed before the court to justify the likelihood of any bias.
In the charge, the accused were alleged to have committed the offences between January and March 2015.
African Union Holds Global Conference to Accelerate African Vaccine Development and Manufacturing Capacity
African leaders assembled at a global meeting to discuss the status of local pharmaceutical manufacturing on the continent, underscored the need to increase local production of vaccines and therapeutics to achieve greater public-health security.
“The production of vaccines and access to vaccines is an absolute priority,” Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa, said Monday in opening remarks at the start of the two-day virtual meeting, convened by the African Union.
The meeting was attended by several African heads of state, health, finance and trade ministers from across the continent, as well as officials from global financial institutions, foundations, pharmaceutical manufacturers, business leaders, and the general public. The African Development Bank was represented by Solomon Quaynor, Vice President Private Sector, Infrastructure and Industrialization.
Although Africa consumes approximately one-quarter of global vaccines by volume, it manufactures less than 1% of its routine vaccines, with almost no outbreak vaccine manufacturing in place. The region lags behind in procuring vaccines amid a global scramble for the medicines among wealthier nations. Thus far, only around 2% of the world’s vaccination against Covid-19 has taken place in Africa.
The need for a new public health order in Africa, which promotes domestic vaccine manufacturing, epidemic preparedness and upgraded healthcare systems to meet the needs of the world’s fastest-growing population, was the conference’s main objective.
The African Union and the Africa CDC said they would continue to work with all stakeholders to identify implementable actions, financing needs and timelines to competitively produce vaccines in Africa.
Quaynor noted that the current undertaking would require immense investment. “Vaccine manufacturing, because of its complexity, is not really an entrepreneurial drive but actually an institutional drive,” he added.
The African Development Bank is working with global and African stakeholders, to articulate a 2030 vision for Africa’s Pharmaceutical Industry in response to several calls received from African Heads of State, who have expressed a strong political will. This vision aligns with its “industrialize Africa” priority strategy.
The vision will build on previous efforts to produce a continental plan of action to boost local African pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity, such as the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan for Africa adopted in Abuja in January 2005 and the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan for Africa (PMPA), prepared by the African Union Commission and the United Nations in 2012, to assist local manufacturers with pharmaceutical production.
Quaynor said Africa could count on the African Development Bank’s support to secure Africa’s health defense system. “Leveraging on our comparative advantages, we will both provide upstream support to governments on the enabling environment, as well as provide financing to private sector and PPPs both indirectly through some of our private equity investee funds and directly through lending, and credit and risk guarantees. We will also use the Africa Investment Forum to bring in all relevant stakeholders and partner DFIs into bankable opportunities…”
The 2030 vision for Africa’s pharmaceutical industry would also work with pharmaceutical industry associations in Africa to create capacity development links between universities and industry in Africa, and work with African scientists in the diaspora, Quaynor said in remarks made on behalf of African Development Bank President Akinwumi A. Adesina.
ITF, Nigerian Air Force, Others, Sign MOU To Advance Research
The Industrial Training Fund, ITF has signed a tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Nigerian Air Force, NAF, and Equipment and Protective Application International Limited to establish the framework that will give room for optimal performance as well as enhance productivity.
The Director General, Industrial Training Fund, Sir Joseph Ari while speaking at the NAF headquarters in Abuja, said the MOU will be pursued with vigour and all the seriousness it deserves so that greater success would be the catalyst that will drive their intentions.
He explained that over the years, ITF had redirected its focus on technical, vocational training and education noting that developed nations are where they are today because of the initiative.
According to him, “even here in Abuja, we have a model of a skills training centre and the model was brought in from the Singaporean experience of the institute for technical education and services of Singapore”.
“We brought a semblance of it here to experience with five trade areas, Mechatronics and Autotronics, Computer Networking, ICT, Facility Technology as well as culinary in both African and Western cuisine is right there in the heart of Abuja in the ITF house, it is like a university”.
“The ITF is well positioned to work hand in hand with the Nigerian Air Force,” he said
The ITF boss added; “I must say that the Chief of Air Staff has a lot of foresight with his men to think about this Memorandum of Understanding because I deed, ITF is where you should be”.
“The ITF came into contact with the Nigerian Air Force even though a lot of the officers of the Air Force might have participated in its programmes in the past and since then I have noticed that NAF has not relented in its efforts to equipped it’s workforce and also upgrade and retrain its people,” Sir Ari added.
He also commended the men and officers of the NAF for their sacrifice in keeping the nation safe.
The Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal, Oladayo Amao said the Nigerian Air Force has a highly technical Service and technology is the bedrock of all its operations.
Represented by the Chief of Standards and Evaluation, Air Vice Marshal, Olusegun Philip, Amao noted that in line with the focus of the Federal Government in promoting indigenous technology, the Nigerian Air Force has been looking inwards to gradually wean itself of overdependence on foreign technology and to become more innovative and resourceful.
“Therefore, in order to advance the Nigerian Air Force’s Research and Development efforts, we have deemed it necessary to formally collaborate with indigenous organizations through the signing of Memorandum of Understanding,” Amao stated.
“These collaborative efforts provide pedestals to leapfrog capability as well as a repertoire of capabilities that can be harnessed”.
“The collaborative efforts also provide platforms to synergise ideas for innovations that are key to achieving meaningful results to solve the technological challenges we currently face in a cost effective manner,” he said.
The Managing Director, Equipment and Protective Application International Limited, Engineer, Kola Balogun however, assured that the MOU entered would be for the overall economic benefit and development of the nation.
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.”
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