- Bank Stops Patience Jonathan from Withdrawing $5.9m Money
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has barred Patience Jonathan, the wife of former President Goodluck Jonathan, from withdrawing money from a $5.9m account with Skye Bank, which was ordered to be unfrozen by a court last week.
This is just as the EFCC has begun fresh move to ensure that a separate $15m, which was traced to Patience, is permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
It was learnt, on Monday, that Mrs. Jonathan was barred from operating the $5m account after a Federal High Court, sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, ordered that the restriction on the account be lifted.
A reliable source said the EFCC was able to obtain a ‘stay of execution’, a court order obtained for the purpose of suspending the execution of a court judgment.
The source said, “Shortly after the judge ordered that the account be unfrozen, the EFCC quickly obtained a stay of execution in order to prevent her from having access to the money.
“The EFCC communicated with the relevant authorities at Skye Bank that it was important that she wasn’t allowed to withdraw the money or else, the whole purpose of the freezing would have been defeated.”
In a ruling on Thursday, Justice Mojisola Olatoregun set aside the ‘No-Debit Order’, which the EFCC had earlier placed on the account on allegations that the $5.9m found in it was proceeds of crime.
The judge upheld the contention of Patience’s lawyer, Mr. Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN), that his client’s account was unlawfully frozen by the EFCC.
Adedipe had urged the court to unfreeze Patience account on the grounds that she was not a party to the suit leading to the freezing order.
Citing judicial authorities, Adedipe contended that the suit was an abuse of court processes, contending that the court had no jurisdiction to make an order against someone who was not a party in a suit filed before the court.
Following the favourable court order, Mrs. Jonathan’s lawyer went before Justice Mohammed Idris of a Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos, praying the judge to order the EFCC to release to Patience the sum of $15.591m, which was seized from four companies by the anti-graft agency.
Justice Idris adjourned to May 8, 2017 to decide whether or not to grant the prayer.
Impeccable sources within the EFCC, however, told our correspondent that the EFCC would do everything possible within the law to ensure that the money was never returned to Patience.
The fresh move by the EFCC is coming about three days after President Muhammadu Buhari instructed anti-graft agencies to stop losing court cases and do more diligent investigations.
The source added, “In line with the President’s directive, we are changing our strategy to ensure that court cases are not lost. We are covering all angles. We understand that the war against corruption is one of President Buhari’s cardinal goals.”
In an interview on Monday, Mrs. Jonathan’s lawyer, Adedipe, admitted that the bank had not allowed his client to withdraw money from the account, but disagreed with the notion that the account had been frozen again.
He explained that Skye Bank, rather than comply with the court’s order unfreezing the accounts, was banking on the fact that the EFCC had gone on appeal to challenge the unfreezing of the account and had also filed a stay of execution.
Adedipe said, “After the account was unfrozen, the EFCC filed an appeal and a purported stay of execution and on that basis, the bank has not given us access. I have told the bank that it risks litigation. I will not say more than that for now.”
The EFCC had, in June last year, arrested four domestic servants, including a driver and a houseboy, who allegedly operated bank accounts belonging to Patience.
Sources within the anti-graft agency said the identities of the domestic servants were used in opening the company accounts.
The companies are Pluto Property and Investment Company Limited, Seagate Property Development and Investment Company Limited, Trans Ocean Property and Investment Company Limited and Globus Integrated Service Limited.
The four company accounts, which have since been frozen by the EFCC, have a balance of about $15m while another account, which bears Patience Jonathan’s name, has $5m.
Mr. Sammie Somiari, who deposed to an affidavit on behalf of Patience, said the former first lady was the owner of the money in the accounts.
She had revealed that she gave millions of dollars to the then Special Adviser to the President on Domestic Affairs, Waripamowei Dudafa, to open an account for her.
He, however, claimed that Dudafa opened five accounts for Patience and that only one of the accounts was in her name, while the other four were opened in the names of companies belonging to Dudafa.
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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