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EFCC rearraigns Saraki’s aide Makanjuola, two others over N3.5bn fraud

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Wednesday rearraigned Gbenga Makanjuola, a Deputy Chief of Staff to Senate President Bukola Saraki before Justice Maureen Onyetenu of the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on an amended 11-count charge bordering on alleged conspiracy, accepting cash payment beyond threshold and money laundering to the tune of N3.5billion.

Makanjuola is charged alongside Kolawole Shittu, cashier to the Senate; Robert Chidozie Mbonu, a former Managing Director, Societe Generale Bank of Nigeria, who is at large; Melrose General Services Limited; and Obiora Amobi, Operation Manager, Melrose General Services Limited.

At the resumption of hearing, EFCC counsel Bashir Kamil informed the court that Wednesday was slated for the rearraignment of the defendants due to the transfer of Justice Babs Kuewumi, who was handling the case earlier.

Justice Kuewumi was among the judges transferred out of Lagos early this year.

Justice Onyetenu ordered that the charge be read to defendants for their plea to be taken.

One of the counts read: “That you, Gbenga Makanjuola, sometime in December 2016 in Nigeria, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, did accept cash payment of the sum of $500,000.00 (Five Hundred Thousand Dollars Only) from Kolawole Shittu without going through a financial institution and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 1(a) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011 (as amended by Act No. 1 of 2012) and punishable under Section 16 (2) (b) of the same Act.”

Another count read:  “That you, Robert Chidozie Mbonu (now at large) and Melrose General Services Limited between the 14th day of December, 2016 and January 2017 in Nigeria, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, took control of the sum of N3,500,000,000.00 (Three Billion, Five Hundred Million Naira Only) transferred from the Nigerian Governors’ Forum’s account into Access Bank Plc account number 0005892453 by Melrose General Services Limited, when you reasonably ought to have known that the said fund represented the proceeds of lawful activities to wit-conspiracy, stealing and fraud, and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15(2) (9) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended by the Act No.1, 2012) and punishable under Section 15( 3) of the same Act.”

The defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges preferred against them.

In view of their pleas, Bashir Kamil, the prosecution counsel, asked the court for a trial date.

However, Okwudili Anozie, counsel to the second and fourth defendants, holding the brief of Paul Erokoro (SAN), applied that the court should allow defendants continue on the bail earlier granted by Justice Babs Kuewumi who was transferred out of Lagos earlier this year.

Also, Omeoga Chukwu, counsel to the third defendant, urged the court to allow his client continue on the existing bail.

Consequently, Justice Maureen Onyetenu granted the defendant application to continue on the existing bail earlier granted and adjourned till May 20, 21 and 22 for trial.

The EFCC had submitted a report to President Muhammadu Buhari linking the Senate President and some of his aides to the diversion of the sum of N19billion from the N522.74billion Paris Club refund.

In December 2016, the Nigerian government approved the sum of N522.74billion to be paid to the 36 states of the federation as part of the reimbursement of the over-deduction on the Paris Club loan from 1995 to 2002.

However, the EFCC discovered that the loan refunds were illegally diverted through the account of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

Investigation revealed that following the receipt of the fund, the NGF, in alleged connivance with Saraki, remitted huge sums of money to private consultants who eventually laundered about N19billion.

Investigation further revealed that a sum of N3.5billion was allegedly lodged into Melrose General Services’ company account number 0005892453 domiciled in Access Bank from the NGF.

Boeing shares fall again as U.S. grounds 737 MAX jets

United States President Donald Trump on Wednesday issued an emergency order to ground Boeing 737 MAX 8 and MAX 9 aircraft after a crash in Ethiopia that killed 157 people.

“We are going to be issuing an emergency order of prohibition to ground all flights of the 737 MAX 8 and the 737 MAX 9 and planes associated with that line,” Trump told newsmen at the White House.

According to him, the FAA is prepared to make an announcement very shortly regarding the new information and physical evidence received from the site, and from other locations and through a couple of other complaints.

Boeing shares, which were up earlier in the session, fell two per cent to 367.70 dollars.
The shares have fallen about 13 per cent since the crash, losing more than 25 billion dollars of market value.

Meanwhile, Germany’s federal agency responsible for investigating air accidents will not analyse the black box from the Ethiopian Airlines plane that crashed on Sunday, casting uncertainty over the process of finding out what may have caused the disaster.

“This is a new type of aircraft with a new black box, with new software. We can’t do it,” said Germout Freitag, a spokesman for Germany’s Federal Bureau of Aircraft Accident Investigation (BFU).

The move leaves unclear the destination of the black box, which may yield vital details of what caused the Boeing Co 737 MAX 8 to plunge to the ground, killing 157 people.

A spokesman for Ethiopian Airlines had said earlier that the black boxes recovered from the crashed plane would be sent to Germany for analysis.
Canada also grounded 737 MAX jets, saying satellite data suggested similarities to a previous crash involving the same plane model.

Countries around the world have grounded the 737 MAX jets or banned them from flying over their airspace since the Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed soon after taking off from Addis Ababa on Sunday.

The still unexplained crash followed another involving a Boeing 737 MAX in Indonesia five months ago that killed 189 people.

Although there is no proof of any link, the twin disasters have spooked passengers, led to the grounding of most of Boeing’s 737 MAX fleet and hammered shares in the U.S. plane maker, the world’s largest.