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Patience Jonathan Faces Fresh Probe Over N5b Abuja Hotel

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EFCC sends team to Port Harcourt, Yenagoa over four other choice assets linked to ex-First Lady

•May forfeit alleged properties to Federal Government
•Four accounts containing $19m to remain frozen
•Commission insists Mrs. Jonathan must explain source of fund

Former First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan appears to have more explanation to make to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) besides the $19 million just frozen in her accounts.

Mrs. Jonathan has just been linked with five choice properties including a N5billion hotel in Abuja.

The EFCC is currently studying documents on how the Abuja hotel (names withheld) was built.

It has also dispatched a team of investigators to Yenagoa, Bayelsa State and Port Harcourt, Rivers State for the purpose of establishing the ownership of four properties in the two cities.

The anti-graft agency is likely to confiscate the five properties once it is able to confirm that they belong to Mrs. Jonathan.

One of the pieces of evidence the EFCC has in its possession in its probe of the ex-First Lady is her cumulative pay and perks as a civil servant in Bayelsa State where she rose to the post of Permanent Secretary.

Sources said the pay details are far below the $31million which the ex-First Lady claimed as her legitimately earned money.

The EFCC is insisting that Mrs. Jonathan must account for how she came about the cash wired into the five accounts to which she is a signatory or forfeit it to the Federal Government.

One of the sources familiar with the probe said the money used in acquiring the properties under investigation appears to be gratification to Mrs. Jonathan when her husband was in power.

The source said: “Based on intelligence report, we have isolated five properties allegedly identified with the ex-First Lady. These properties include a N5billion hotel in Abuja and four others in Yenagoa and Port Harcourt.

“A special team has gone to verify all these assets in the affected areas including the contractors engaged, the mode of payment to them, relevant land registration documents, and associates used as fronts.

“In the next few days, we will start questioning all those involved in the acquisition or building of the assets. We are lucky that this investigation has a lot of e-transaction and computerization components. There is no hiding place for anyone involved.

“If at the end of the day the five assets belong to the ex-First Lady, we will approach the court to place all these assets under Interim Assets Forfeiture in line with Sections 28 and 34 of the EFCC (Establishment Act) 2004 and Section 13(1) of the Federal High Court Act, 2004.”

Section 28 of the EFCC Act stipulates that: “Where a person is arrested for an offence under this Act, the Commission shall immediately trace and attach all the assets and properties of the person acquired as a result of such economic or financial crime and shall thereafter cause to be obtained an interim attachment order from the Court.”

Section 13 of the Federal High Court Act reads in part: “The Court may grant an injunction or appoint a receiver by an interlocutory order in all cases in which it appears to the Court to be just or convenient so to do.

“Any such order may be made either unconditionally or on such terms and conditions as the Court thinks just.”

Responding to a question, the source said: “If our investigation reveals that the assets are not owned by Mrs. Patience Jonathan, we will return them to their legitimate owners.”

The EFCC is not about to defreeze Mrs. Jonathan’s accounts under investigation.

“We have retrieved documents on the pay package and monetized perks of Mrs. Patience Jonathan when she was a Permanent Secretary in the government of Bayelsa State. Her total emoluments do not tally with the funds remitted into the five accounts,” an EFCC source said.

“She owes us a duty to explain how she came about these funds. Our investigation showed that the funds came from gratifications; it is left to her to prove otherwise.

“The good thing is that the ex-First Lady was the one who sued EFCC demanding the release of her $31million. She has a duty as a former public officer to explain how she earned the funds. Did she declare these funds in her Assets Declaration Form as a Permanent Secretary?

“We are happy that the case is in court and the onus is on her to prove ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ that she is the owner of the funds. If we had initiated the action, some people by now will be accusing EFCC of witch-hunt.

“But she went to court to exercise her rights under the law. The same law demands that you must seek equity with clean hands. I think the press should take more than a passing interest in what is going on in the court.”

The anti-graft agency claimed last week that it has established a prima facie case of money laundering against the ex-First Lady and 10 others.

The 11 suspects may face trial for money laundering if the recommendation of the investigative team is upheld.

The EFCC declared that “preliminary investigation has also indicted Mrs. Patience Jonathan.”

The other 10 suspects indicted by the investigative team are a former Senior Special Assistant ( Domestic / Household and Social Events to the former President), Dr. Dudafa Waripamo-Owei Emmanuel; Damola Bolodeoku; Dipo Oshodi; Theodora Varinik; Pluto Property and Investment Company Limited; Seagate Property Development and Investment Limited; Globus Integrated Services Limited; Trans Ocean Property and Investment Company Limited and Skye Bank Plc. The report said in part: “Based on the investigation so far carried out, it has revealed that the four fraudulent VISA Platinum USD Card accounts used by Mrs. Patience Goodluck Jonathan has a cumulative balance of $14,029.881.79 which has been swept Post No Debit Card category.

“Again, her personal account, different from the four fraudulent VISA Platinum USD Card accounts, bears the balance of $5,841,426.17.

“Considering the above stated findings, we can safely conclude that a prima facie case of conspiracy to retain proceeds of unlawful activities, retention of the proceeds of unlawful activities, money laundering contrary to Section 15(3) and 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012 and forgery contrary to Section 1(2) (c) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, Cap M17, Laws of the Federation, 2004 have been established against the aforementioned suspects.”

Also, Mrs. Jonathan has admitted that she is the owner and signatory to the five accounts in which the Economic and Financial Crimes (EFCC) found over $22.3million.

She said she has never received any monies from any unknown sources paid into the five accounts.

But she was silent on the sources of the cash wired into the affected accounts.

She however explained that the accounts were opened to facilitate her travel overseas particularly for medical treatment, sundry purchase for herself and her late mother Mrs. Charity Oba (Mama Sisi).

She indicted Wampemo-Owei Dudafa who was the Special Adviser on Domestic Affairs to the former President Dr. Jonathan, and Skye Bank officials for registering phony companies for four of the five accounts.

A statement by her Media Office said: “Sometime in 2013, following the advice of top officials of the EFCC then in the company of Wampemo-Owei Dudafa who was the Special Adviser on Domestic Affairs to the former President Dr. Jonathan, that she should not travel oversees with cash otherwise she may contravene Money Laundering laws, Mrs. Patience Jonathan agreed to open accounts with Skye Bank Plc and directed Dudafa to see to it.

“Dudafa came with two bank managers (Officials) of Skye Bank Plc with the account opening forms which she duly signed.

“These accounts were all dollar based Platinum Visa cards in respect of five accounts.

“When the bank officials brought the ATM cards for the said accounts of which she is sole signatory, she discovered to her surprise that only one of these accounts bore her personal name while four were in the names of companies not known to her.

“She immediately complained about this anomaly to Dudafa and the bank officials, Demola Doledeoku and Dipo Oshodi came back to the villa with forms to change and convert the said accounts to the personal name of Mrs. Jonathan.

“This was her firm request which the bank officials promised to effect immediately and she duly completed account conversion forms and signed the mandate forms as a the sole signatory, but as it would appear, the said bank officials did not change the Account names despite her request.

“It was in 2014 or thereabout that she was given the ATM cards for all the five accounts with the bank officials promising to exchange the cards for the four reflecting her correct names. This again, the banks officials failed to do despite her repeated request.”

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

Coronavirus – Angola: Confronting the COVID-19 Pandemic and the Oil Price Shock

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COVID-19 Vaccine

The COVID-19 pandemic and the shock from the falling price of oil have put severe pressure on Angola since the country’s second review under the Extended Fund Facility (EFF) in December 2019.

Only months after the conclusion of the second review in December 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic reached Angola, ushering in economic and health crises. The decline in oil prices further strained the economy, which is heavily reliant on oil exports. The economic downturn and social distancing to contain the spread of the virus have been damaging, especially given the large informal sector.

A swift response to the crisis

The Angolan authorities adopted timely measures to tackle the challenges arising from the COVID-19 shock. Measures to protect public health included quarantine, social distancing, closing of borders with limited exceptions, closures of schools, restaurants, and public events, and limited transportation. The government recently approved a prudent supplementary budget for 2020 using a conservative oil reference price. It has also introduced a comprehensive set of fiscal and monetary measures to support economic activities.

Fiscal measures

On relief to help vulnerable people:

• Tax exemptions of value-added tax (VAT) and customs duties on goods imported under humanitarian aid and donations.

• VAT tax credit for imported capital goods and raw materials for producing essential consumption goods.

• Interest-free, deferred payment option for social security contributions.

• Regulation of prices for a list of medical goods.

On government spending:

• Freeze of 30 percent of purchases on nonessential goods and services.

• Reduction in the number of ministries from 28 to 21.

• Suspension of selected, nonessential capital expenditures.

• Decrease in travel and real estate investments.

Monetary measures

• Additional liquidity support to banks and a liquidity line to buy government securities from nonfinancial corporations.

• A credit-stimulus program.

• Temporary suspension for debt service payments.

• Requirement for banks to provide credit to importers of essential goods.

A proactive external debt management

The government needs to safeguard its ability to continue to service its debt on schedule, even under the current trying circumstances. The government has therefore availed itself of the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative. They have also secured selected debt reprofiling operations with some of their large creditors.

Financial support from the IMF

On September 16, 2020, the IMF’s Executive Board approved the third review under the EFF and additional financial support to Angola to help mitigate the impact of the crises. Accordingly, the IMF has provided $1 billion to Angola, bringing its total expected financial support to about $4.5 billion under the three-year program. The authorities are strengthening their public financial management to improve accountability for the funds received from the IMF and debt relief from creditors.

The path to recovery

It is important for Angola to continue to stabilize the economy, control inflation, keep the reform momentum, and safeguard financial stability. It is also crucial to persevere with structural reforms, such as privatization, improvement in governance in state-owned enterprises, and strengthened legal frameworks. These reforms will help improve the business environment and pave the way for foreign direct investment and growth-enhancing economic diversification.

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Republic of Korea Contributes Rice and Cash to Assist Ugandans threatened by locusts

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The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today welcomed 5,000 metric tons of rice and US$300,000 in cash from the Republic of Korea to provide much-needed relief assistance to 781,000 people including refugees and Ugandans threatened by locusts.

“WFP is extremely grateful for the continued generosity of the Republic of Korea since 2018 and its appreciation of the immense humanitarian needs in Uganda, which were suddenly made even more complicated by COVID-19,” said WFP Officer in Charge Ryan Anderson.

”This contribution of 5,000 metric tons of rice found us at a crossroads when we were considering whether to make deeper ration cuts for refugees because of a shortage of funding, even as we have evidence that they already face high food insecurity,” he added.

Combined with other contributions, the rice may allow WFP to maintain rations for 1.26 million refugees at the current 70 percent of a full ration for a while. Valued at US$4.3 million, it will also meet cereal needs of 614,000 refugees in seven settlements towards the end of the year.

The additional US$300,000 in cash will enable WFP to meet the relief needs of 167,000 people in the northeastern region of Karamoja, which is the most food-insecure region in the country and is threatened by a combination of malnutrition among its residents, locusts, floods and animal diseases.

“The Republic of Korea is committed to supporting vulnerable groups of people in Uganda, especially refugees fleeing conflict and nationals faced by chronic food shortages and malnutrition,” said Ambassador Ha Byung-Kyoo.

“We also are very pleased to continue making contributions of rice, which we have heard is appreciated by the refugees and contributes to much needed dietary diversity,” he added.

WFP was forced to reduce rations for refugees in April to 70 percent of a full ration because of funding shortages. The economic pressures that COVID-19 has brought on donor capitals has further complicated funding to feed refugees. WFP is putting in place safety measures in 13 refugee settlements to prevent the spread of COVID-19 during food and cash distributions.

The Republic of Korea has contributed rice to WFP in Uganda annually since 2018 in support of 1.43 million refugees – the highest number of refugees hosted by any country in Africa.

The US$300,000 contribution will also contribute to supporting WFP assistance in Karamoja. Even though families in the region were able to harvest some crops in August, despite repeated sightings of locusts between February and July, the very presence of the pests in the region threatens both agriculture and vegetation needed for animals. Relief food helps to cushion families as the government and UN partners work to control the impact of locusts.

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UAE May Reverse Visa Restriction on Nigerians Today Amid Airlines Ban

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Nigerian Government Pressures UAE to Revisit Visa Restrictions

Barring any last-minute hitches, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), will today, review the visa restriction placed on Nigerian travellers, following the ban of Emirates Airlines from the most populous black nation.

Sources at the company’s his office in Lagos confirmed that the issue was being reviewed, and the “right” diplomatic approach taken.

This came as aviation stakeholders commended the Federal Government for going “tough and playing tit-for-tat with countries that would not accept Nigerian travellers into their domains.”

The Federal Government, following pressure from some quarters, banned Emirates Airlines from Lagos and Abuja airports, effective today, over refusal to grant fresh visa applications submitted by Nigerians.

The government earlier banned European carriers, with the exception of British Airways, over travel restrictions.
Emirates officials said: “We have met with the Nigerian government on this issue, and we assured them that we will resolve it. We are presently working on it.”
“I hope this issue will be resolved before Monday. One thing I will assure you is that the issue will be resolved earlier than expected,” a manager said.

The Chief Executive Officer of Finchglow Travels, Bankole Bernard, said assurances had been given on the matter.

He noted that Nigeria was third-biggest market to Emirates, adding that the UAE would do everything to sustain their operations.

“UAE should have resolved this matter long ago. The ban means that they will lose the market, and they know the implication.

A market lost is never easily regained. Right now, we are certain that the ban will only affect Monday flights, and hoping that things will be normal by Tuesday,” he added.

The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, at the weekend, via his twitter handle, announced the suspension of Emirates Airlines from Nigeria, saying the ban would take effect from today.

Emirates Airlines’ situation was reviewed, and they are consequently included in the list of those not approved, with effect from Monday, September 21, 2020,” he said.

The President Muhammadu Buhari administration had in August warned that Nigeria would activate the principle of reciprocity in granting permission to airlines to resume operations in the country as it reopens its airspace.

It said the decision was informed by the embargoing on flights from Nigeria by some nations.

Air France, KLM, Lufthansa, Etihad Airways, Angolan TAG, Air Namibia and Royal Air Maroc were not approved to operate flights into the country.

Aviation stakeholder, Julius Akintunde, said the measures were in the best interest of the economy.

Also speaking, Secretary-General of the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI), Group Capt. John Ojikutu (rtd), urged that the reciprocity should be done with caution in order for the Nigerian market not to be undermined by neighbours.

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