Justice Adebisi Akinlade of the Lagos High Court, sitting in Igbosere, on Wednesday September 17, 2014, ordered that Abdullahi Alao, a defendant standing trial in a N2.6billion scam, instituted against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, should pay a sum of N50, 000 as fine to the EFCC, for the failure of his counsel to appear in court for the continuation of his trial.
A defence team led by Taiwo Osipitan (SAN) failed to show up in court on Wednesday, for the cross examination of a prosecution witness, Laval Ahmed, who also doubles as the principal witness in the ongoing trial of Alao and his company, Axenergy Limited for their alleged involvement in a N2.6 billion oil subsidy scam, under the Petroleum Support Fund, for a purported importation of 33.3million litres of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS).
Oluwatosin Dawodu, who held brief for Osipitan, prayed the court to adjourn to a later date, explaining that Osipitan was absent because he had to attend a conference.
The prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, immediately prayed the court not to grant the application.
“This application is intended to put wool in the eye of my Lord, I therefore urge my Lord to use the sledge hammer of justice to prevent that from happening. And that the cost of transportation of the witness be taken over by the defence counsel,” he said.
Justice Akinlade, who had earlier insisted that Dawodu must go ahead with the cross examination of the witness, however, granted the adjournment, which according to her, was necessary to enable the defendant get deserved fairness and proper representation.
She also ordered that the transportation cost of the prosecution witness be paid to him before the next adjourned date.
She subsequently adjourned the matter till October 8, 2014 for continuation of trial.
An Economist, Dr Abiodun Adedipe, on Saturday said that the controversial suspension of the CBN governor, Lamido Sanusi, is “a very critical issue for our economy” stressing that the manner in which the act was carried out will affect the economy and that the Federal Government’ s claim that it wouldn’t is merely a ‘political statement.’
Speaking on Sunrise (Saturday), Dr Adedipe said “Immediately that pronouncement was made, the exchange rate market began to react. Also the stock market started to react,” maintaining that macroeconomic indices began to move in adverse directions.
According to him “the major issue is new capital formation “which is simply new investment.” He added that “any investor, whether domestic or foreign, will naturally look at the development and say it is not the time for me to put in fresh money.”
“Ultimately, if we get back on track, that little space of time where we lost momentum willensure that the prospect for growth that the economy had at the beginning of the year will certainly fall short by the end of the year.”
He stressed that the position of the CBN Governor is very key to the financial industry and the national economy hence comments made by the person in the position are important and are key indicators of the direction of policy and response of the system to developments in the economic space.
“Whatever actions are taken or utterance made by such a person is a reflection of the data and information available to him.
The way the government deals with whoever is in that position becomes important and that is why in my opinion, the government has not handled it in a way that will help this economy.”
While speaking on the programme, Social Commentator, Biodun Sowunmi, said that, that the suspended CBN governor erred “may not necessarily be in doubt”
“The fact of the matter is that there are so many allegations made against Sanusi. Whether they are right or not, we don’t know because it has not been investigated.
However, “where people have problems now is not whether there are no issues, indictments against Sanusi. They are mere allegations which have not been investigated. The real issue is whether the president has the powers under the law to suspend Sanusi.”
He stressed that the president has a right to appoint, nominate while the Senate confirms. “That means the President is sharing that authority with Senate and when it comes to the issue of removal, it’s only under section 1F that made an explicit provision that you can only remove the governor of Central Bank if for instance the President recommends the removal and is backed by two-thirds of the Senate.”
He continued by saying “interestingly, there’s only one aspect of section 11 that made reference to removal. The section relating to that is section 11(1)(D), you can only be suspended from office if the professional body that he belongs to finds him guilty of one thing or the other.
“There’s no provision for suspension, there’s only provision for removal and you can only suspend somebody if he has been found guilty by his professional body. That is not the case.”
He attributed the suspension to the president’s desire to accelerate his transformation agenda.
Journalism is the activity or profession of writing for newspapers or magazines or of broadcasting news on radio or television while Social media refers to the means of interactions among people in which they create, share, exchange and comment on contents among themselves in virtual communities and networks.
The impact of social media in the communication system cannot be overemphasized as traditional media has undoubtedly taken an onward progressive turn in achieving its core assignments of educating, informing and entertaining its audience; the Nigerian populace.
The consistent and goal-driven use of social media has filled the interactive and investigative vacuum found in the traditional media in Nigeria and the entire world. Hitherto this new age of journalism, reporters were only able to practice the time-sensitive profession within a certain constrained environment which permitted the Nigerian journalist to find facts from physically available sources.
Today, the Nigerian journalist can boast of new skills in news gathering and better accuracy in reporting the opinion of the people. Platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Google + have been used to monitor trends and gather intelligence in regards to the opinion of the masses.
Take for instance events which have garnered much attention as a result of activities on social media. Thousands of Nigerians joined Twitter during and after the subsidy protest (OccupyNigeria) of 2012, the death of four UNIPORT students (ALUU4) caused a nationwide outcry against ‘jungle justice,’ the video of a policeman caught extorting a motorist went viral online and has now found its way into TV and radio.
These events were either instigated or projected online as a result of the use of social media platforms by those who witnessed and shared the details.
The ability of the social media to breed interactivity has caused the audience to exit its passive shell and enter into a new sphere of activity. This has helped in a number of other sectors in the economy; most especially politics and education. Worthy of note is the fact that social media has helped traditional media to gain its lost audience (youths).
With the rise in social media usage, Nigerian youths, who scarcely subscribed to the print media, have now cultivated a healthy habit of keeping abreast of events in the country.
Social media has impacted Nigerian journalism in the area of reporting as new features i-reports which allows individuals report events in real time in any case where an official correspondent is not on ground.
The integration of social media in news gathering and delivery has also enabled the Nigerian journalist to work in a capacity that totally erases the restrictions of distance. Today, interviews are conducted via email correspondence, Twitter conversations, Skype video chats etc.
Breaking News! This feature has been redefined since the advent of social media in Nigerian journalism. Journalists can now break news as they happen with supporting files such as pictures taken and posted alongside headlines.
Live broadcasts have been made possible online via web streaming. In most cases, the audience is able to participate and give feedback via the comments section which allows the reporter access to instant feedback.
The World Wide Web evolves daily; so does the social media. This means traditional media will yet experience even more changes and growth in times to come.
Written by Mayowa Ogundele, an online journalist with Channels Television, creative writer and aspiring broadcaster. Follow her via Twitter @Ohluwamayowa and Google+, Mayowa Ogundele.
An economist and Professor at Pan Atlantic University, Austin Nweze, has said that President Goodluck Jonathan’s call to score his midterm performance is baseless, stating that he did not make clear what his goals were at the beginning of his administration.
While speaking on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, the professor said that there no performance metrics to use in measuring the how well the president has done in the past two years.
Mr Nweze implied that President Goodluck Jonathan did not plan before getting into power, an attribute he said is typical amongst African (and by extension) Nigerian leaders.
He said they are usually caught up in a struggle for power and forget to plan for it.
He also said in measuring the performance of the present administration; one has to consider both the fiscal and monetary aspects of the governance.
Corrupt Oil Industry
Mr Nweze also hinted at corrupt and unprofessional practices in the crude oil industry in Nigeria, describing it as a ‘huge mess’.
“If you are familiar with what goes on in the industry, you will feel sorry for this country and how the main source of national revenue (is run)… there’s huge corruption in the system,” he said.
He said that if the current administration can regularize the abnormalities in the sector, it would be recorded as a major plus. “If they are able to clean that up, that’s a huge plus,” he added.
He implied that majority of the contractors who do business at the federal level of government buy bids from ‘friends’ who have ‘connections in Aso Rock.
Markets For Farmers
Speaking on the report as regarding the level of the nation’s over-dependency on crude oil, which has reduced from 100 percent to 70 percent, and is now focusing on Agriculture as well, Mr Nweze said that government is putting in some ‘good thinking’ in the sector.
He however said the government needs to create a ‘holistic national strategy’ if the sector is to move from sustenance production to commercial production; after which exportation can be achieved.
He disclosed that Nigeria has over 79 million acres of arable land; a figure which surpasses that available in Thailand, the major exporters of cassava in the world.
He added that Thailand controls over 70 percent of the cassava market.
A Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja has dismissed an application by two oil marketers seeking to quash the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s (EFCC) oil subsidy fraud charges against them. The EFCC accused Aro Bamidele and Abiodun Bankole, and their firm, A.B.S Investment Company Limited, of fraudulently obtaining N1.5 billion from the Federal Government under the subsidy scheme.
The presiding judge, Justice Lateefat Okunnu, in a ruling on Wednesday, dismissed their preliminary objection by which they were challenging the competence of the charges and the power of the EFCC to file them at the state court.
Justice Okunnu said the application was lacking in merit and held that the charges were validly instituted by both the Attorney-General of the Federation and the EFCC.
She also dismissed the defendants’ argument that the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos State prohibits the AGF and EFCC from prosecuting offences created by state laws in the state courts.
Justice Okunnu said: “By the virtue of Section 211 of the Constitution and relevant provisions of the EFCC Establishment Act 2004, the Attorney General of the Federation and the EFCC can properly and validly institute charges with reference to laws enacted by the state House of Assembly in any court in the country.
“Provisions of the ACJL must not be construed to defeat the provisions of the Constitution.”
The judge said the EFCC, as a federal agency prosecuting cases at the state high courts, was not different from the police prosecuting offenders on laws created by the state at the magistrate’s courts.
The accused face 18 counts of subsidy fraud, forgery, altering of forged documents and conspiracy.
The anti-graft agency alleged that the defendants never supplied the 30 million litres of Premium Motor Spirit for which it received N1.3 billion from the government.
Counsel for the defendants, Anthony Idigbe, had also urged the court to quash the charges on the grounds that his clients were charged on a repealed law – Criminal Code Laws of Lagos State 2003
Justice Okunnu, in dismissing the argument, said it followed the principle of fair hearing to charge an accused on the basis of the law operational at the time of the commission of the alleged offence.
A Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja on Thursday granted an order for an interim forfeiture of assets belonging to an oil marketer, Oluwaseun Ogunbambo of Fargo Oil & Gas Ltd, who is standing trial for fraudulently collecting money meant for fuel subsidy. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) obtained the order from the court presided over by Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo through an ex parte application on Thursday.
Though the anti-graft agency did not specify the worth of all the assets it sought the court to freeze, it alleged that Mr Ogunbambo was being prosecuted for frauds totalling about N4.5 billion.
The affected assets, mostly bank accounts with a United Kingdom and five Nigerian banks, also includes a landed property at 2 Olamijuyin, Avenue Parkview Estate, Ikoyi Lagos.
The UK bank account bearing the name of his England-based company, Seatac Petroleum Ltd, was said to be having £1 million standing to its credit.
Five of the bank accounts bear the names Fargo Petroleum Gas Ltd, Arnage Oil & Gas Ltd and Seatac Petroleum.
Also, the account of one company, Nassaman Oil Service Ltd, belonging to Mamman Ali, son of former Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Ahmadu Ali, was among the assets frozen at the instance of alleged fraud linked with Seun Ogunbambo.
The EFCC’s counsel, Francis Usani, moving the application for forfeiture on Thursday said, “the properties and bank accounts set out in the schedule hereto, properties of the persons currently standing trial for conspiracy to obtain money by false pretence, obtaining the sums of over N4.5 billion by false pretence, forgery and uttering of a documents in Charge Nos ID/116C/2012, ID/133C/2012 and ID/122C/2012 all pending in this judicial division (Ikeja), be in the interim forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria pending the determination of all the pending proceedings against him”.
Two of the charges are pending before Justice Onigbanjo, who granted the forfeiture order on Thursday.
In the other charge involving Mr Ogunbambo and his firm, Adeline Investment, pending before another judge, Justice Olabisi Akinlade, the defendant was alleged to have used forged cheques and false claims to defraud Stanbic IBTC Bank of about N430 million in 2010.
According to the other two charges involving him, Habila Theck and Fargo, the accused were said to have defrauded the Federal Government under the fuel subsidy scheme up to the tune of N976.7 million.
In the other case involving Ogunbambo, Mamman Ali, Christian Taylor as well as Nasaman Oil Services, they were accused of defrauding the FG of N4.5 billion under the subsidy scheme.
The trial of Mamman Ali, son of the former Chairman of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), who is standing trial for allegedly fraudulently claiming subsidy fund continued on Wednesday at the Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja. Mr Ali is standing trial alongside Christian Taylor, Seun Ogunbambo, and Nasaman Oil Services over a 13-count of fuel subsidy fraud amounting to about N4.46 billion.
At the resumed trial of the matter, the cross examination of Victor Chidok, the Head of the Lagos Zonal Office of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) continued from where it stopped last week.
The prosecution witness at the last sitting of the court on 6 February had explained the role of the agency in the importation of fuel into the country and the requirements of petroleum marketers.
In the cross examination which barely lasted 15 minutes, the witness admitted that he did not personally know or interact with some of the defendants but knew about the transactions leading to the charges against them when the EFCC wrote to demand documents from his office.
After the brief proceedings and the EFCC admitting that it had no other witness in court, presiding justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo adjourned till 21 February for continuation of trial.
The conference of Nigeria Political Parties, CNPP has given the Federal Government 7 days to release to them all the reports on the fuel subsidy scam to enable them examine and further unravel the perpetrators of the scam for immediate prosecution.
In their demand contained in a letter to the coordinating minister of the economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, the CNPP led by their chairman, Alhaji Balarabe Musa said “Nigerians are suffering from the persisting fuel crisis while the Federal Government foot drags on naming and shaming all the people involved in the scam”.
Questioning the use of the Aig-Imokhuede report over and above other reports such as the one by the House of Representatives, the group held that there is need for them to be involved in the forensic audit aimed at the recovery of the stolen funds so that all hidden agenda will be uncovered.
The Chief Executive Officer of Capital Oil and Gas Industries Limited, Ifeanyi Uba, who has been in police custody for over two weeks, on Monday regained his freedom.
Mr Uba was arrested by the Nigerian security operatives for his alleged role in oil subsidy theft. The bail conditions require the Capital oil’s boss to report daily at the Police Special Fraud Unit, Ikoyi. Court rejects bail request
A Federal High Court Lagos on Monday struck out a bail application filed on the behalf of Chief Executive Officer of Capital Oil and Gas, Ifeanyi Uba, and four others charged with alleged fuel subsidy fraud.
Justice Okon Abang in his ruling described the application as incompetent, defective and incurable by amendment.
Justice Abang also said that counsel to the applicant, Joseph Nwobike had failed to inform the court that the applicants were detained on a subsisting order of remand made by Magistrate Martins Owumi.
He said that this fact was not deposed to by the applicant counsel in their affidavit of urgency before the court; neither did they inform the court that they had a pending bail application before the same magistrates’ court.
“I have gone through the affidavit filed by the applicant counsel, and I find no place where it is stated that there was a subsisting order for remand by the magistrate court.
“I cannot possibly comprehend why the learned SAN (Senior Advocate of Nigeria) has chosen to hide this fact from the court.” He said
He said though the applicants could bring an application for bail before the court, they could not do so under the Fundamental Human Rights Enforcement Procedure Rules.
“Where bail is refused an applicant at the magistrates’ court, he has the right to bring his application before a higher court, but he has to do so within the confines of the law.
“I cannot make findings on the bail application of the applicants, brought pursuant to the Fundamental Human Rights Enforcement Procedure Rules.
“The applicants cannot use this rule to challenge a subsisting order of court. Whether the magistrate had or exceeded its jurisdiction is entirely a different issue.
“The learned SAN should have employed either of three mode in bringing his bail application before this court;
“The applicant could have appealed against the order for remand made by the magistrate, before the High court, pending the arraignment of the applicants, or, apply for an order of Cetorarai, to purge that order, pending their arraignment, or, apply to the high court for a fresh summons for bail pursuant to Section 118 of the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA).
“I cannot consider counsel’s application for the applicants to be released on bail under the fundamental rights enforcement procedure; this relief cannot be sought under that law.
“This is not a sentimental or emotional issue; it is an issue of law, because there already exist a subsisting order of court.
“The police possess the constitutional right to arrest any person accused of committing an offence, even if it is based on suspicion.
“In the final analysis, the preliminary objection of the respondent subsists in part and the application of the applicants struck out, with no order as to cost. I so hold” Justice Abang ruled.
Mr Nwobike in his remark informed the court that the applicants had already been admitted to administrative police bail on Friday Oct. 19 by the SFU.
Ifeanyi uba, Nsika Usoro, Godfrey Okorie, Chibuzor Ogbuokiri, and Joseph Orji, were ordered to be remanded on 11 October by Magistrate Martins Owumi of a Tinubu Magistrates’ court, for 14 days at the special fraud unit (SFU).
The order for remand was made based on an application for remand signed by Superintendent of Police of the SFU, Effiong Asuquo, against the five suspects over an alleged fuel subsidy fraud.
Mr Asuquo had stated that the suspects were reasonably suspected to have committed the offences of economic sabotage, obtaining money by false pretence, stealing of N43.291 billion, property of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, money laundering and forgery.
He had further alleged that the fraud was discovered by the Presidential Committee on the Verification and Reconciliation of Fuel Subsidy Payments Auditors, and reported to the SFU, Ikoyi
Mr Nwobike had filed an exparte bail application before the court under the fundamental human right enforcement procedure rules, seeking an order for release of the applicants on bail.
This exparte motion was however converted by the judge to a motion on notice, and time abridged in favour of the respondents to respond.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is presently arraigning fresh suspects in the fuel subsidy scam. Reports indicate that 10 suspects comprising four companies and six individuals are being arraigned before Justice Habeeb Abiru of the Lagos High Court in Ikeja.
The suspects are among several suspects scheduled for arraignment by the Commission over the theft of N10.6 billion in dubious subsidy claims. A statement by the spokesman of the EFCC Wilson Uwujaren, yesterday, said “among the individuals to be prosecuted are Ifeanyi Anosike, Emeka Chukwu, Ngozi Ekeoma, Alhaji Adamu Aliyu Maula, George Ogbonna and Emmanuel Morah. The companies involved are Anosyke Group of Companies Limited, Dell Energy Limited, Downstream Energy Sources Limited and Rocky Energy Limited.”
“These suspects are among several suspects scheduled for arraignment by the Commission over the theft of N10.6 billion in dubious subsidy claims.
“Anosyke Group of Companies, Ifeanyi Anosike, Dell Energy Limited, Emeka Chukwu and Ngozi Ekeoma will be arraigned on an eight count charge bordering on conspiracy to obtain by false pretence; forgery and uttering false documents to the tune of N1,537,278,880.82(One Billion, Five Hundred and Thirty Seven Million, Two Hundred and Seventy Eight Thousand, Eight Hundred and Eighty Naira, Eighty-Two Kobo), being payments fraudulently received from the Petroleum Support Fund for a purported supply of 15, 000 metric tonnes of Premium Motor Spirit.
” Downstream Energy Sources Limited, Alhaji Adamu Aliyu Maula, Rocky Energy Limited, George Ogbonna and Emmanuel Morah who will be facing trial on an eight count charge bordering on conspiracy to obtain property by false pretence; conspiracy to forge documents, forgery and uttering false documents to the tune of N789,648,329.25( Seven Hundred and Eighty Nine Million, Six Hundred and Forty Eight Thousand, Three Hundred and Twenty Nine Naira, Twenty-Five Kobo), being payments fraudulently received from the Petroleum Support Fund for a purported supply of 14,273,0227 litres of Premium Motor Spirit.”
The Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on Friday said that oil marketers who do not have a case to answer after the on-going verification exercise will be paid their entitlements without any delay.
Speaking at a meeting with oil marketers in Abuja, Mrs Okonjo- Iweala said that the verification process is a necessary prerequisite in sanitizing the oil and gas sector.
“We will continue to pay and make good on our words as the verification process by the Aig-Imoukhuede’s committee continues,” she said
The Minister said that the verification process is being expedited “to make sure that there are no undue delays and that marketers who make it through this process are paid the monies that are due them.”
On their part, some major oil marketers in the country have assured Nigerians of the availability of petroleum products in the country.
The General Manager of Folawiyo Energy ltd, Dipo Makanjuola said that his company supports the verification process and will continue to support government’s efforts to ensure steady supply of petroleum product in the country.
“The amount we have that is outstanding, we’ve all agreed with her (Minister of finance) and we are all basically on the same page. We hope that subsequently we can move from there and continue to support government in this challenge,” he said.
The Chief Operating Officer of Oando plc, Yomi Awobokun, who also said his company supports the verification exercise said since the process is slow, some “miscreants have taken advantage of this exercise and good intentions to ensure that they make a quick bulk enhance the queues that you see on the road.”
The Federal Government on Monday said it has paid a total of N259, 339, 041, 657.85 as subsidy claims between 2011 and 2012.
Paul Nwabuikwu, the Senior Special Assistant to the Coordinating Minister and Minister of Finance in a press statement said “contrary to the impression given by some marketers and their agents, the Federal Government has continued to pay marketers whose claims have been duly verified.”
He said that the Federal Government is committed to encouraging honest and professional private sector operators in the subsidy regime.
“As the attached information shows, in addition to other verified payments made in 2011-2012, a total of N34.6 billion was paid on Wednesday, August 22, 2012 alone.
“In all, a total of N259, 339, 041, 657.85 has been paid in 2011-2012,” he said.
Mr Nwabuikwu however, said that in line with the Federal Ministry of Finance regulations, “only marketers whose documents have been verified, processed and cleared will be paid.”
He further said that “both the number of claims by marketers and the amount paid have reduced significantly due to the work of the Aig-Imoukhuede Committee and the rigorous procedures which have been adopted to check fraud.”