Invictus Obi, Real Name Obinwanne Okeke, Facing Trial in the United States
From the legend Samson Siasia to Invictus Obi to the newly wanted 80 Nigerians involved in frauds estimated at over $1.1 billion, Nigeria’s name is gradually becoming synonymous with fraud and corruption.
In the space of one month, Samson Siasia was handed a lifetime ban by FIFA with 50,000 dollar fine for bribery and an attempt to fix a football match. Barely 24 hours later, Obinwanne Okeke, popularly known as Invictus Obi, a former Tedx speaker and Forbes under 30 Africa’s most promising entrepreneur, was arrested in the U.S and currently being charged with conspiracy to commit computer fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
In one of the cases being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Invictus Obi is being accused of fraudulently wiring $11 million from Unatrac Holding Limited bank account, the export sales office, Caterpillar heavy industrial and farm equipment, in the United Kingdom.
A week later, another set of Nigerians, in fact, 80 Nigerians both in the United States and Nigeria, were accused of carrying out over $1.1 billion frauds, mainly wire fraud and online romance.
The question is when would all these stops?
Please, no generic response of when unemployment eased in Nigeria as almost 20 people that have been arrested out of the 80 were Nigerians living in the US for more than a decade with citizenship or permanent residence, hence, nullifying the pervasive poverty/unemployment excuses.
Even Invictus Obi had his Bachelor and Master Degree (MA) in International Relations and Counter-Terrorism (cum laude) from Monash University, Australia. One of the most expensive universities in Australia.
It is obvious the issue is not entirely poverty or the high unemployment as most Nigerians have been postulating but a broad mental decadent that placed monetary worth over honesty or even humanity. Nobody knows Invictus Obi until he was able to buy his way into Forbes and other top platforms.
“Indeed, across Nigeria, we worship money. That is our national problem,” Ndubuisi Ekwekwe, the Chairman of Famcro, said in a Linkedin post.
“But the FBI arrests of many Nigerians (especially men from the southeastern part) take this to a new level. It is very shameful, and all of us should be ashamed of how we have gone this low as a nation – at home and abroad.
He explained that “there are consequences to all these things: the lowest among us sets the denominator on how people see us. Who told you that a New York company will hire you to serve as its CFO after Invictus Obi mess even though you were in the game a few days ago?
“And today, a U.S. investor planning to invest in a startup in Lagos pulled out after reading the Jumia mess. The investor, an American and a former schoolmate, has lost confidence in the numbers which the startup had shared.”
Similarly, local businesses and freelancers based in Nigeria have started losing potential foreign clients and investors, especially after Jumia numbers, the Amazon of Africa, were actually discovered to be inflated as declared by Citron Research in May.
A controversial personality on Linkedin, Jenna Bourgeois, the Chairman of Dynamics Intelligence Nigeria, had announced on Friday that his company was closing its operation in Nigeria due to numerous examples of employees and contractors extorting the company.
He said: “Effective immediately, we will be closing our operations in Nigeria. Over the last year, we have faced numerous examples of employees and contractors extorting the company. While we kept giving Nigerians a chance to gain skills and employment, we cannot run a company when we can’t trust the people who work for us. Any company interested in conducting business in Nigeria can reach out to us to learn how to avoid being scammed by technical resources. It is a kick in our face that we spent so much time trying to give Nigerians the benefit of the doubt to have this happen. Customers who wish to outsource, are well advised to seek an India-owned company for the best results.”
While few people that have worked with him have attacked his business approach or blame his failure in Nigeria on poor managerial structure, some of the comments from Nigerians were shocking.
For instance, Akin A, an experienced Accounting & Treasury Control Officer, commented by assuming he understands what Jenna needs and suggested a “decisive restructuring and effective business & financial control mechanism.
He supported that statement with “there are MNCs that have been operating in Nigeria for over 40, 50 & 60 years, how have they managed to succeed?.”
Here is the answer, they managed by adopting a localisation strategy — adapting to local modus operandi. Sadly, that means bribery and settlement in Nigeria. Shell has been indicted on numerous occasions and recently fighting to have a case presided over in Nigeria instead of the UK where bribery won’t work.
The U.S has sentenced all the people involved in Halliburton bribery scandal and the company itself paid $177 million and KBR, a former subsidiary of Halliburton indicted as well paid another $4002 million to the U.S Securities and Exchange Commission. However, no single person has been sentenced in Nigeria 25 years later.
The current Nigerian system is not working and until educated few with the right mindset start calling it what it is we may not get to the bottom of this menace.
Dapo Alade, a software engineer, said “the problem itself is deep-rooted. Some people are still celebrating Invictus Obi knowing he committed fraud or got to his position through fraud.”
He added, “sadly, this country celebrates people with a questionable source of income. We need to be sensitized from the ground up.”
Parents, Pastors, Imams, traditionalists, organisations, and individuals (especially ladies) should start refusing gifts (money, donations, etc) from people with a suspicious source of income.
Until we start shaming fraudsters, denying them any form of respect even with their big cars and houses, stopping them from accessing opportunities and start celebrating hard-working everyday people without ‘purchased influences’ but life-changing contributions, we will continue to lose our young talents to fraud and turn the nation to a home of sympathisers of criminals (they have parents, wife, kids, etc) with no hope of rebranding or redeeming the nation of almost 200 million people.
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.
China Urges U.N. States Not to Attend Xinjiang Event Next Week
China has urged United Nations member states not to attend an event planned next week by Germany, the United States and Britain on the repression of Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in Xinjiang, according to a note seen by Reuters on Friday.
“It is a politically-motivated event,” China’s U.N. mission wrote in the note, dated Thursday. “We request your mission NOT to participate in this anti-China event.”
China charged that the organizers of the event, which also include several other European states along with Australia and Canada, use “human rights issues as a political tool to interfere in China’s internal affairs like Xinjiang, to create division and turbulence and disrupt China’s development.”
“They are obsessed with provoking confrontation with China,” the note said, adding that “the provocative event can only lead to more confrontation.”
The Chinese mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The ambassadors of the United States, Germany and Britain are due to address the virtual U.N. event on Wednesday, along with Human Rights Watch Executive Director Ken Roth and Amnesty International Secretary General Agnes Callamard.
The aim of the event is to “discuss how the U.N. system, member states and civil society can support and advocate for the human rights of members of ethnic Turkic communities in Xinjiang,” according to an invitation.
Western states and rights groups have accused authorities in Xinjiang of detaining and torturing Uyghurs in camps, which the United States has described as genocide. In January, Washington banned the import of cotton and tomato products from Xinjiang over allegations of forced labor.
Beijing denies the accusations and describes the camps as vocational training centers to combat religious extremism.
“Beijing has been trying for years to bully governments into silence but that strategy has failed miserably, as more and states step forward to voice horror and revulsion at China’s crimes against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims,” Human Rights Watch U.N. director Louis Charbonneau said on Friday.
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