A former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu; his ex-aide, Jones Udeogo and Kalu’s company, Slok Nigeria Limited, were on Tuesday arraigned before a Federal High Court in Abuja by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, nine years after their cases were stalled.
Also, the EFCC on Tuesday arraigned the immediate past Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Usman Jibrin (retd.) and three others for alleged diversion of N600m.
Kalu and others had been initially arraigned in 2007 before Justice Adamu Bello of the Federal High Court, Abuja (now retired).
They were arraigned in an amended 34-count charge over an alleged diversion of about N3.2bn from the Abia State Government’s treasury during Kalu’s tenure as governor.
Before their arraignment, Kalu and others had argued against the proceedings, and urged the court to await the pending appeal by Slok pending at the Supreme Court.
But Justice Anwuri Chikere rejected their objection to their arraignment and ordered that the charges be read to them.
When the charges were read to them, the accused persons pleaded not guilty, while the court granted them bail on the terms attached to the bail earlier granted them on April 30, 2008 when they were earlier arraigned before Justice Bello.
The court adjourned the case till December 6 for the commencement of trial.
After pleading not guilty to the charges, lawyer to the ex-governor, Awa Kalu (SAN), urged the court to allow them to remain on the bail earlier granted them.
He gave to the court a copy of the enrolled orders made in 2008 by Justice Bello, granting bail to Kalu and Udeogo.
Counsel for Udeogo, Solomon Akuma (SAN), aligned with Kalu’s lawyer and urged the court to adopt Justice Bello’s position.
The EFCC counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), did not however object to the position canvassed by the defence lawyers, saying he was interested in their trial.
Others the EFCC arraigned with Jibrin include Rear Admiral Shehu Ahmadu (retd.), who was the Commander, Central Pay Office; and Rear Admiral Bala Mshelia (retd.), who is a former Chief of Naval Accounts and Budget.
The EFCC also arraigned a firm, Habour Bay International Limited, which allegedly helped the accused persons to perpetrate the fraud.
The ex-naval officers were arraigned before Justice A. S Umar of the FCT High Court sitting in Maitama, Abuja on four counts bordering on criminal conspiracy.
The anti-graft agency alleged that the naval chiefs whilst in office allegedly bought a house worth N600m from the account of Naval Engineering Services without the said purchase contract being captured in the budget.
It was also alleged that the documentation for transfer of ownership of the property was done such that a private company owned by the family of Jibrin became the buyer.
The offence is in contravention of Section 26 (1) (b) and punishable under Section 22 (4) of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission Act 2000.
The defendants pleaded not guilty when the charges were read to them.
In view of their plea, counsel for the EFCC, Abdullah Faruk, asked the court for a date for commencement of trial.
However, Y. C. Maikyau, (SAN), representing Jibrin and the firm, through an oral application made pursuant to Section 36(5) of the 1999 Constitution sought for the bail of his clients.
Maikyau told the court that the defendants had been enjoying administrative bail granted them by the EFCC and had never breached any of its terms.
The counsel stated that though he had earlier filed and served the prosecution with a formal bail application, he felt the need to move an oral application subject to the discretion of the court.
Counsel representing Mshelia and Ahmadu also requested bail based on Jibrin’s argument.
Justice Umar after listening to the submissions of counsel on both sides, remanded the accused persons and adjourned till Wednesday (today) for hearing on the bail application.
Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) Speaks on Looted Palliatives, Explains Delay
Looted Palliatives: Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) Speaks
Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) has spoken on the recent actions of criminals and thugs who hijacked the #EndSARS protest and looted warehouses where COVID-19 palliatives were kept for distributions.
The group refuted claims that the stolen items were hoarded for certain people instead of distribution to the vulnerable they were meant for. This is despite the fact that some of the palliatives were already rotten by the time criminals broke into the warehouses.
Some of the looters, who spoke with the press, said a sizeable number of the items were already rotten and destroyed by rodents, while one of the lawmakers tasked with distribution claimed he planned to distribute the items on his birthday. A statement that angered many Nigerians.
However, in a statement issued on behalf of the group by Osita Nwanisobi, the Acting Director of Corporate Communications, CBN, on Monday, CACOVID said due to the huge size of the items meant to be distributed, the complex process involved in manufacturing, packaging and the eventual distribution to 2 million most vulnerable families across the 774 local government in the country, the group agreed to conduct the supply in stages, especially given locked down imposed by the Federal Government during the period.
The statement reads, “Members of the Private Sector-led Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) wish to call for calm, amidst the looting of COVID-19 palliatives meant for distribution in various State Government warehouses across the country.
“The Coalition is deeply concerned by the recent events and is urging those involved in the wanton destruction of public and private property to immediately desist from these raids, in order to allow the States to proceed with a peaceful and fair distribution of these palliatives to the neediest and most vulnerable in our society.
“Over the past few months, the private sector, through CACOVID has been working with governors, the FCT Minister, and the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) to procure, deliver, and distribute these food relief items to almost 2 million most vulnerable families (over 10 million Nigerians) across the 774 local government areas of the country, as part of the private sector’s support towards the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The sheer scale of this nationwide food programme and the timing of the orders and deliveries, which coincided with the lockdowns and reduced movement across the country, compelled CACOVID to roll out distribution in a staggered manner.
“The very large size of the order and the production cycle required to meet the demand caused delays in delivering the food items to the states in an expeditious manner; hence, the resultant delay in delivery of the food palliatives by the state governors.”
Makinde Directs Schools to Reopen After #EndSARS Protest
Schools to Reopen After #EndSARS Protest, Says Governor Makinde
The Executive Governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde, has directed schools across the Ibadan metropolis to resume normal activities immediately after the #EndSARS protest.
Mr Olasunkanmi Olaleye, the commissioner for education, Oyo State, disclosed this in a statement issued on Sunday in Ibadan.
According to Olaleye, the directive was after a careful review of the situation in the Ibadan metropolis as promised by Governor Makinde in a state broadcast on October 20.
This was after the governor ordered the closure of all schools, private and public, in the Ibadan metropolis for three days and promised to review the situation on October 23.
Olaleye said the governor thanks the youths who have been cooperating with security operatives in the state to ensure peace and order.
NIMC to Register, Issue 2.5 million National Identification Monthly
The National Identity Management Commission has said it would improve registration and issuance of the National Identification Numbers to both Nigerians and legal residents to the current 500,000 to 2.5 million per month.
Aliya Aziz, Director-General, NIMC, said this was the commission’s renewed commitment towards the provision of identity services to the nation.
He gave the assurance while playing host to the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, who was on an official visit to the commission’s head office in Abuja.
Aziz said in a statement issued in Abuja by the Head, Corporate Communication, NIMC, Kayode Adegoke, that the commission would meet and surpass the monthly target.
This, he said, would be part of the policy statements in the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy.
The NIMC boss told his guest that the commission had competent human resources and was looking forward to government support and intervention in injecting the much needed material resources to realise the set objectives.
Pantami charged the commission to increase and improve its performance with regards to NIN registration and issuance, as he also reiterated the target of 2.5 million monthly enrolments.
The minister told his host that the importance of digital identity in actualising the digital economy goals could not be overemphasised and commended the strides recorded by the NIMC despite limited resources.
He assured the commission of government’s support and guidance towards ensuring the fulfilment of its mandate, adding that he had initiated moves to improve staff welfare at the NIMC.
Pantami also assured the NIMC management and staff of his resolve to improve the state of the current infrastructure and equipment to enable the commission to sustain its performance.
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