Court Adjourns Hearing on Patience Jonathan’s Final Forfeiture of $5.8m, N2.4bn
The Federal High Court in Lagos State, on Tuesday adjourned the commencement of hearing on the application for final forfeiture of the sum of $5.8 million and N2.4 billion allegedly owned by the former first lady, Mrs Dame Patience Jonathan.
The Presiding Judge, Justice Tijjani Ringim fixed March 28, 2023 for the hearing of the application.
The hearing date was shifted after the judge ruled on the arguments by counsel to the parties in the case.
Investors King recalls that Retired Justice Mojisola Olatoregun, on April 26, 2017 granted an ex parte application for the temporal forfeiture of Patience Jonathan’s $5.8 million and N2, 421, 953, 522. 78 billion, which was filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Justice Olatoregun ordered that the money which was kept in the defunct Skye Bank (now Polaris bank) and Eco bank be seized in the interim.
The court order was, however, challenged at the Supreme Court which refused the case, ordering that the hearing of the matter should continue at the high court.
After Justice Olatoregun’s retirement, the suit was moved to the table of Justice (Professor) Chuka Obiozor who was later transferred to another jurisdiction of the court, hence he didn’t preside over the case which was now taken up by Justice Ringim.
As the court resumed hearing on the application, the counsel to La Wari Furniture and Baths Limited, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), informed the court that his client had two pending applications in the court.
The applications were seeking to stay proceedings on the case, based on its pending appeal, and secondly, for the matter to begin newly.
The defense counsel of Mrs Patience Jonathan, Mr. Sammie Somiari aligned himself with the submission of Chief Ozekhome.
However, the counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Oyedepo (SAN) opposed the applications. He argued that the major assignment of the day was to hear the application seeking final forfeiture of the money.
After considering the arguments of the counsel, Justice Ringim agreed to the EFCC’s counsel submissions. He thereby adjourned the case till March 28, 2023 for the hearing of application for final forfeiture of the money.
Nigerians Consumes 644,452 Champagne Worth N11.525 Billion in 2022
A report compiled by Comité Champagne shows that Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy imported 644,452 bottles of Champagne estimated at N11.525 billion or £25.3 million in 2022.
This, according to the report is the highest import quantity in eight years and represents an increase of 15.3% from the preceding year.
Import of the luxury drink has been on increase since 2020 despite COVID-19 and other economic challenges that plunged the Nigerian economy into recession when the value of brent crude oil dipped to $15 a barrel. Yet, Nigeria’s elites, largely those responsible for the woes of the country won’t stop drinking champagne or celebrating.
While some experts attributed the increase in imports to growing consumer confidence post-COVID, stability in the financial services and a few other sectors, the nation’s key economic indicators show otherwise as economic activity remained generally weak with earnings hovering around their lowest while unemployment stood at a record high of 33.33%
Victor Ikem, a Lagos-based champagne and wine retailer, believed the upsurge in political activities in 2022 might have led to the increase in the luxury drink consumption.
He said, “throughout the second quarter till Q4 last year, there was an upsurge in political activities, which meant that a lot of disposable cash was available in the system and a number of high-profile political events were held which must have impacted on the consumption of champagne and other alcoholic beverages.”
However, the rise in champagne consumption is not across all segments of the economy, with only a small group of continuous orders from the affluent and political class.
Champagne has become a lifestyle drink that people use to signal aspiration value, their status and celebrate their achievements. Despite this, the demand and supply of luxury goods are not really affected by inflation levels in the country, but rather the wealth levels of the buyers and the ability to play within that space.
While champagne is associated with luxury, its high cost has made consumers seek cheaper alternatives such as wine. Data from Euromonitor International showed that Nigeria’s wine consumption rose to 33.1 million in 2021, the highest since 2015, from 32.0 million in 2020, with brands such as Chamdor and 4th Street performing strongly.
Npower Beneficiaries Share Experiences; Want Next Administration to Sustain Scheme
Current and ex-beneficiaries of the Npower scheme shared their experiences and pleaded that the next administration should sustain the social intervention scheme. Npower alongside other social intervention programmes was created by the Federal Government in 2016.
Investors King understands that under N-Power, graduates are expected to earn N30,000 and N10,000 for non-graduates as monthly stipends from the Federal Government until they exit the programme or secure permanent employment.
The scheme has three core segments, namely N-Power Volunteer Corps (for graduates), N-Power Build (for non-graduates) and N-Power Knowledge, which is also a non-graduate programme for the ICT-inclined.
Speaking on the impact of the scheme, one of the beneficiaries of the N-Power Knowledge Programme, Mr Umar Ahmed Sarki, said that the programme was of immense benefit to youths.
“The N-Power programme is a good one. We thank the government for empowering the youths with monthly stipends. We hope it will be sustained by the incoming administration’’, Sarki said.
Similarly, Abigail Thomas who benefited from the same programme said she would use the knowledge gained from the training on software engineering to develop applications that would help in solving some of the challenges facing humanity.
“I have been here since February. It has been an amazing experience as we were paid transportation fare to get here and we get paid N1,200 for daily feeding.
“The Federal Government should please sustain the programmes to give opportunities to other youths to benefit. This way, the vision of Buhari to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in ten years will be achieved,’’ Abigail pleaded.
Although the Npower scheme has been engulfed in some controversies such as diversion of funds and non-payment of monthly stipend as at when due, the programme, however, has been very impactful to millions of its beneficiaries, some of whom have gained meaningful employment after the programme while some are now running their own business.
The Stranded Traveller: A Tale of Trapped Funds and Soaring Airfares in Nigeria
Nkechi had been saving for months to take her dream trip to London. She had researched everything from flights to hotels, and had finally settled on a good deal with Virgin Atlantic. But just as she was about to make the payment, she noticed that the price had gone up significantly.
She couldn’t understand why the exchange rate had suddenly skyrocketed from N462 per dollar to N551 per dollar, as she had been keeping up with the news and hadn’t heard of any major changes in the forex market.
Nkechi soon found out that the increase was due to a recent move by foreign airlines to block their inventory of cheaper tickets in order to cushion the effects of the rising amount of trapped funds. Nigeria had the highest amount of foreign airlines’ trapped funds globally, with about $743m as of January that year. This had led to a backlog of unremitted funds which the airlines were unable to repatriate, resulting in the increase in the exchange rate for ticket sales.
Nkechi felt frustrated and helpless. She had saved diligently and now her dream trip seemed to be slipping away. She wondered why the government hadn’t done more to release the trapped funds and make things easier for travellers like her. She reached out to her travel agent, who explained that the increase in the exchange rate had led to an over 20 per cent increase in international airfares. This meant that the promo price for her Virgin Atlantic ticket had gone up from N800,000 to N1.1m.
Nkechi was devastated. She had to either pay the higher price or forfeit her trip. She decided to explore other options and eventually found a cheaper deal with a less popular airline. The trip wasn’t exactly what she had envisioned, but at least she was going to London.
As she boarded the plane, Nkechi couldn’t help but think about how the situation could have been different if the government had acted faster to resolve the issue of trapped funds. She knew that many travellers were still stranded and unable to afford the high airfares. She made a mental note to write to her representatives and urge them to take action.
Nkechi’s trip was filled with mixed emotions. She was grateful for the opportunity to travel, but also saddened by the knowledge that many others were unable to do the same. She hoped that the situation would improve soon, and that travellers like her would not have to suffer the consequences of bureaucratic delays and economic uncertainty.
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