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Wike, NIA Fight Over Ownership of N13bn Seized by EFCC

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  • Wike, NIA Fight Over Ownership of N13bn Seized by EFCC

The controversy surrounding the ownership of the N13bn ($43.4m, N23m and £27,000) found by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission at the Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos, took a dramatic turn on Friday evening when Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State and the National Intelligence Agency claimed ownership of the money.

The National Intelligence Agency on Friday said the money belonged to it.

A national daily had earlier reported that the money belonged to the NIA. Sources at the agency confirmed to one our correspondents late Friday that the money belonged to the agency and that it had written a formal letter to President Muhammadu Buhari to claim ownership of the money.

Investigation revealed that the NIA, which is Nigeria’s foreign intelligence service, explained that the money, which was found on the seventh floor of the building, was approved by former President Goodluck Jonathan for covert operations and security projects covering a period of years.

The money was said to have been released in bits during the tenure of a former NIA director-general.

A source said that the cash was approved before the advent of the Treasury Single Account.

He stated that the Director-General of the NIA, Amb. Ayo Oke; the EFCC Chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Magu; and the National Security Adviser, Babagana Moguno, had met over the issue. A Presidency source also confirmed the meeting to one of our correspondents.

The NIA source explained that when EFCC operatives stormed the Ikoyi property on Wednesday, they were informed that the said apartment was a safe house of the NIA from which discreet operations were carried out.

The EFCC boss, however, rejected all entreaties from the NIA and entered the building, breaking the fireproof safes and taking the money.

The source, who wished to remain anonymous because he was not authorised to speak with the media, said, “The money belongs to the NIA. It is for covert operations and security projects covering a period of years.The DG  has met with the President, he has explained everything to him. The President asked him to put everything into writing and he has done so.

“The entire chain of events was a big misunderstanding. That place was an NIA safe house and you have to understand that the NIA carries out discreet investigation in conjunction with many agencies across the world.

“On the day the EFCC men gathered around the house, the NIA reached out to Magu to explain to him that the money was the property of the Federal Government and the place was an NIA safe house. Unfortunately, the EFCC still went ahead to break down the doors.”

But Wike, who described the claim that the cash belonged to the NIA as balderdash, alleged that the immediate past governor of the state and the current Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, kept the money in the apartment.

As such, the Rivers State governor gave the Federal Government a seven-day ultimatum to return the money to the state government or be ready to face legal action.

Speaking with newsmen in Port Harcourt on Friday night, Wike said the $43m was part of the proceeds from the sale of a gas turbine by the immediate past administration, adding that the gas turbine was initially built by the Peter Odili administration.

The governor further challenged the Federal Government to set up a commission of inquiry to probe the source of the huge money found in the flat, insisting that the funds belonged to Rivers people and should be returned to the owners within seven days.

He said, “All these things they are saying that the $43m belong to the Nigerian Intelligence Agency is balderdash. When did the NIA begin to keep money in houses? As I speak to you now, the Federal Government is so embarrassed.

“I want the President to set up a commission of inquiry. We don’t want to fight anybody; they should set up a commission of inquiry or return our money within seven days. If they don’t, we will take all necessary legal actions and NIA will come and prove where they got the money from.

“The $43m is the proceeds of the sale of the gas turbine sold by the immediate past administration. The gas turbine was built by the (Peter) Odili administration. It (gas turbine) was sold to Sahara Energy.

“The turbine was sold for $319m. But as of May 2015, what was in the account was $204,000. We will avail ourselves and we will be present at the commission of inquiry expected to be set up by the Federal Government. If we are invited, we will come. There is no contradiction in this at all, but I know they (FG) will not agree.”

Wike maintained that he would complete the monorail project if the Federal Government returned the $43m to Rivers State, adding that it would be “projects galore” in the state should the money be returned back to its original owner.

“Part of the money from the sale of the gas turbine was used to fund the All Progressives Congress campaign. We are telling the world that the money belongs to us. If they (FG) give us the money, I will complete the monorail project,” he said.

When contacted, the media aide to Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, Mr. David Iyofor, said he would react to Wike’s claim on Saturday (today).

The money has since been deposited into the account of the Central Bank of Nigeria following an interim forfeiture order granted by a Federal High Court in Lagos.

The court had also ruled that if the owner of the money did not show up within 30 days, it would be forfeited to the federal Government permanently.

EFCC keeps mum

All attempts to speak with the spokesperson for the EFCC, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, on Friday proved abortive as his phone indicated that it was switched off while a text message sent to his phone was not responded to.

It’s a security issue –Presidency 

When contacted, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, directed our correspondent to the security agencies said to have been involved in the matter.

“This is not a matter for the Presidency. It is a security issue and I will advise you to get across to the agencies mentioned,” he said on the telephone.

SERAP, CD, others hit EFCC for hiding owners’ identities

But socio-political groups, including the Socio-Economic Right Accountability Project and the Campaign for Democracy, criticised the EFCC for hiding the identities of the owners of the recently recovered funds in Lagos and Kaduna.

SERAP and the CD said that it was anti-democratic for the EFCC to shield the identities of the owners of recovered money.

The SERAP Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, said, “Whatever information that the EFCC has about any money abandoned or found in any place deserves to be released to the public. In a democracy, there can’t be opaqueness. This issue affects public interest and it is against the collective interest if the EFCC withholds the identities.

“The EFCC’s action will be contrary to public policy and anti-democratic if the information is not released. What will happen if the EFCC is not open is that it will give room for rumours, which is not good for democracy.”

In his own remarks, the CD President, Usman Abdul, said, “The EFCC of recent has just been playing to the gallery. The APC-led Federal Government should not take citizens for a ride. After the denial of the confirmation of the EFCC Chair, Magu, we have had several seizures in Kaduna and Lagos states, without anybody having being identified as the custodians of these monies.

“It is quite laughable that new notes of money, even hard to get in banks, were found and the EFCC cannot disclose who committed such acts.”

On his part, the National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, said that it was unfortunate that Magu’s EFCC out of desperation had thrown caution to the wind in the desperate attempt to be in the news and excite the public.

He stated, “You found such volume of cash without any attempt to find the owners and you start a cinema of exhibit. A sergeant IPO who does that should be fired without benefits.

“You cannot tell me that you cannot trace the title of a property in Ikoyi at Alausa in a matter of hours .But it seems Magu is all about anti-corruption and seduction.

“If Magu fails to disclose the owners of the money, it means that the anti-corruption war has become a ‘night of a thousand laughs.’”

Also, the Executive Secretary, Anti-Corruption Network, Ebenezer Oyetakin, said, “The fight against corruption must be total, unambiguous, true in character and content, transparent in outlook and must not be cloudy in presentation to the public.”

He said that the shielding of the identity of the looters in itself was corruption and detrimental to the success of the fight against graft.

Oyetakin stated,  “The fact that this is fuelling speculations that those involved are government officials of the present regime is too bad for the image of the government that is fighting corruption.

“This is why I must vehemently call on the EFCC to do the needful by releasing the names of the looters. The more reason why the names should be made known is to serve deterrence against such practices.

“However, I am more concerned that arresting and making this type of discovery once in a month is not the only way to fight corruption or regained the loots, otherwise fifty years will not be enough to regain looted funds.”

He called for the re-denomination of the naira, adding that owners of looted funds could come out and change their money.

A former chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Adamu Mu’azu was reported to have said that he knew nothing about funds recovered at a property reported to be his in Ikoyi, Lagos.

An online  newspaper, The Cable, reported  that Mu’azu, who was the Governor of Bauchi State from 1999 to 2007, said he got a bank loan to acquire the land where the house was built, adding that he sold the house to pay back the loan.

Another online newspaper, Sahara Reporters, reported that the Minister of Transportation, Amaechi,  said he had no connection whatsoever with the apartment or the money.

He was reported to have said that he did not own any apartment or house in Lagos, stating that his only property in Nigeria was in Abuja.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

Government

COVID-19 Vaccine: African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim) to Purchase 270 Million Doses for Nigeria, Other African Nations

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African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim) Approves $2 Billion for the Purchase of 270 million Doses for African Nations

African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim) said it has approved $2 billion for the purchase of 270 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines for African nations, including Nigeria.

Prof. Benedict Oramah, the President of the Bank, disclosed this at a virtual Africa Soft Power Series held on Tuesday.

He, however, stated that the lender is looking to raise more funds for the COVID-19 vaccines’ acquisition.

He said: “The African Union knows that unless you put the virus away, your economy can’t come back. If Africa didn’t do anything, it would become a COVID-19 continent when other parts of the world have already moved on.
“Recall that it took seven years during the heat of HIV for them to come to Africa after 12 million people had died.

“With the assistance of the AU, we were able to get 270 million vaccines and financing need of about $2 billion. Afreximbank then went ahead to secure the $2 billion. But that money for the 270 million doses could only add 15 per cent to the 20 per cent that Covax was bringing.

He added that this is not the time to wait for handouts or free vaccines as other countries will naturally sort themselves out before African nations.

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China Calls for Better China-U.S. Relations

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China Calls for China-U.S. Relations

Senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi said on Monday the United States and China could work together on issues like climate change and the coronavirus pandemic if they repaired their damaged bilateral relationship.

Wang, a Chinese state councillor and foreign minister, said Beijing stood ready to reopen constructive dialogue with Washington after relations between the two countries sank to their lowest in decades under former president Donald Trump.

Wang called on Washington to remove tariffs on Chinese goods and abandon what he said was an irrational suppression of the Chinese tech sector, steps he said would create the “necessary conditions” for cooperation.

Before Wang spoke at a forum sponsored by the foreign ministry, officials played footage of the “ping-pong diplomacy” of 1972 when an exchange of table tennis players cleared the way for then U.S. President Richard Nixon to visit China.

Wang, a Chinese state councillor and foreign minister, said Beijing stood ready to reopen constructive dialogue with Washington after relations between the two countries sank to their lowest in decades under former president Donald Trump.

Wang called on Washington to remove tariffs on Chinese goods and abandon what he said was an irrational suppression of the Chinese tech sector, steps he said would create the “necessary conditions” for cooperation.

Before Wang spoke at a forum sponsored by the foreign ministry, officials played footage of the “ping-pong diplomacy” of 1972 when an exchange of table tennis players cleared the way for then U.S. President Richard Nixon to visit China.

Wang urged Washington to respect China’s core interests, stop “smearing” the ruling Communist Party, stop interfering in Beijing’s internal affairs and stop “conniving” with separatist forces for Taiwan’s independence.

“Over the past few years, the United States basically cut off bilateral dialogue at all levels,” Wang said in prepared remarks translated into English.

“We stand ready to have candid communication with the U.S. side, and engage in dialogues aimed at solving problems.”

Wang pointed to a recent call between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden as a positive step.

Washington and Beijing have clashed on multiple fronts including trade, accusations of human rights crimes against the Uighur Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region and Beijing’s territorial claims in the resources-rich South China Sea.

The Biden administration has, however, signalled it will maintain pressure on Beijing. Biden has voiced concern about Beijing’s “coercive and unfair” trade practices and endorsed of a Trump administration determination that China has committed genocide in Xinjiang.

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U.S. Supreme Court Allows Release of Trump Tax Returns

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President Trump Signs Executive Order In Oval Office Of The White House

U.S. Supreme Court Allows Release of Trump Tax Returns

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday paved the way for a New York City prosecutor to obtain former President Donald Trump’s tax returns and other financial records as part of a criminal investigation, a blow to his quest to conceal details of his finances.

The justices without comment rebuffed Trump’s request to put on hold an Oct. 7 lower court ruling directing the former Republican president’s longtime accounting firm, Mazars USA, to comply with a subpoena to turn over the materials to a grand jury convened by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, a Democrat.

“The work continues,” Vance said in a statement issued after the court’s action.

Vance had previously said in a letter to Trump’s lawyers that his office would be free to immediately enforce the subpoena if the justices rejected Trump’s request.

A lawyer for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority included three Trump appointees, had already ruled once in the dispute, last July rejecting Trump’s broad argument that he was immune from criminal probes as a sitting president.

Unlike all other recent U.S. presidents, Trump refused during his four years in office to make his tax returns public. The data could provide details on his wealth and the activities of his family real-estate company, the Trump Organization.

Trump, who left office on Jan. 20 after being defeated in his Nov. 3 re-election bid by Democrat Joe Biden, continues to face an array of legal issues concerning his personal and business conduct.

Vance issued a subpoena to Mazars in August 2019 seeking Trump’s corporate and personal tax returns from 2011 to 2018. Trump’s lawyers sued to block the subpoena, arguing that as a sitting president, Trump had absolute immunity from state criminal investigations.

The Supreme Court in its July ruling rejected those arguments but said Trump could raise other objections to the subpoena. Trump’s lawyers then argued before lower courts that the subpoena was overly broad and amounted to political harassment, but U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in August and the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in October rejected those claims.

Vance’s investigation, which began more than two years ago, had focused on hush money payments that the president’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen made before the 2016 election to two women – adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal – who said they had sexual encounters with Trump.

In recent court filings, Vance has suggested that the probe is now broader and could focus on potential bank, tax and insurance fraud, as well as falsification of business records.

In separate litigation, the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives was seeking to subpoena similar records. The Supreme Court in July sent that matter back to lower courts for further review.

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