The absence of Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke of a Federal High Court in Lagos, Monday, stalled the arraignment of former Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency, Ambassador Ayo Oke; and his wife, Folashade, over $205m crime concealment.
The defendants were charged before Justice Aneke by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, on counts of money laundering, fraud, concealment of crime proceeds, and criminal breach of trust.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the case which was earlier billed for the arraignment of the defendants, was on Monday, further adjourned to a date that would be communicated to parties, as the court did not sit.
The judge is said to be away on an official assignment.
On February 7, the court had issued a bench warrant for the arrest and production in court of the defendants, following an application moved by the prosecutor, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo.
According to the charge, on April 12, 2017, the accused indirectly concealed the sum of $43.5m, property of the Federal Government of Nigeria in Flat 7B, No. 16, Osborne Road, Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos.
A Federal High Court sitting in Asaba on Monday voided the participation of Great Ogboru as the All Progressives Congress candidate in the 2019 governorship election in Delta State.
The court presided over by Justice Toyin Adegoke also sacked the Mr Jones Erue-led executive of the party in the state.
The court’s decision followed the case filed by the Chief Cyril Ogodo-led faction of the party, urging the court to recognise it as the authentic APC executive.
The Ogodo-led faction had also urged the court to sack the Erue-led executive which produced Great Ogboru as the party’s governorship candidate.
The court similarly upheld the full template of the Ogodo faction’s candidates, including Prof. Pat Utomi, Olorogun Otega Emerhor, Olorogun Ima Niboro as the party’s authentic candidates in the just concluded elections.
The Ogodo faction fielded Emerhor for the Delta Central Senatorial District election and Niboro for the Ughelli North/South/Udu Federal Constituency seat in the House of Representatives.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has re-arraigned a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, and three others before Justice Jude Okeke of a Federal Capital Territory High Court, Maitama.
Lawal along with his younger brother, Hamidu Lawal, Suleiman Abubakar, Apeh Monday and two companies, Rholavision Engineering Ltd and Josmon Technologies Ltd, were re-arraigned on Monday on an amended 10-count charge bordering on fraud, diversion of funds and criminal conspiracy to the tune of over N500 million.
They were earlier arraigned before Justice Okeke on February 13, 2019, and the prosecution was meant to open its case.
At the resumed hearing, counsel for the EFCC, Offem Ukett, told the court that the charges against them had been amended, adding that they had to take a fresh plea.
However, citing Section 218 (2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA 2015, Akin Olujimi, SAN, counsel for Lawal, argued that “before the charge is taken, the prosecution ought to have filed the amended charge to ensure that it was properly endorsed.”
Other defence counsels aligned themselves with the submission of Olujimi.
Justice Okeke, while ordering the prosecution to comply with the section cited by Olujimi, however, ruled that in the interim, the amended charges should be read to the defendants.
One of the counts read, “That you, Babachir David Lawal, while being the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and a director of Rholavision Engineering Ltd on or about August 22, 2016 at Abuja in the Abuja Judicial Division of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory did knowingly hold indirectly private interest in the contract awarded to Josmon Technological Ltd. but executed by Rholavision Engineering Ltd. for the removal of invasive plant species and simplified irrigation to the tune of N258,132,735.99 by the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation through the Presidential Initiative for North East and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 12 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.”
A statement by the acting EFCC spokesman, Tony Orilade, said the accused persons pleaded ‘not guilty’ to the amended charges.
The defence team, thereafter, prayed the court to allow the defendants to continue with the bail earlier granted them by the court.
Okeke granted the request of the defence and adjourned the matter to April 11 for the commencement of trial, noting that he granted the request due to the amendment of the charges.
The court had earlier granted the defendants bail in the sum of N50m with one surety in like sum, who must be resident within the jurisdiction of the court, and must be an owner of landed property within the jurisdiction of the court with evidence of three years tax payment.
The international passports of the defendants were also ordered to be deposited with the court.
Walter Onnoghen, suspended chief justice of Nigeria (CJN), says his two asset declarations forms submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) were tampered with.
Speaking through his counsel, Adegboyega Awomolo, at his resumed trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) in Abuja on Monday, the suspended CJN said the forms he submitted in 2014 and 2016 were mutilated and in loose form.
Onnoghen is currently being tried by the CCT on a six-count charge of non-declaration of some of his assets, although he said it was an oversight.
James Akpala, a senior investigation officer with the CCB, had requested to tender the asset forms investigated by the agency.
When Awomolo asked Onnoghen to confirm the document before it is admitted, the former CJN said it had been doctored.
Akpala, however, narrated how the bureau responded to a petition from the Centre for Anti-Corruption Initiative, signed by one Denis Aghanya, on January 10.
He said his team got a statement from Onnoghen and applied for his account details with his bank, while the team concluded the investigation within 24 hours.
While being cross-examined, Akpala declined comment on if he was aware that the charges, evidence and witnesses against Onnoghen were prepared and signed on January 10, the same day the petition was signed, which was even before the conclusion of the investigation on January 11.
He also said that he was not aware if the bureau had a central registry and register where all returned forms were stored.
Also, Akpala refused to comment when he was shown that the financial statement he said he got from Onnoghen’s bank was addressed to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), having denied earlier that the anti-graft agency was involved in the investigation.
The CCT later adjourned till Thursday to allow Onnoghen appear before the National Judicial Council (NJC).
Cyclone Idai caused more havoc than initially reported as Mozambique reported than over a thousand people may have been killed as the cyclone smashed into the central part of the country.
In neighbouring Zimbabwe, Idai left 89 dead and at least 150 more missing.
The city of Beira in central Mozambique bore Cyclone Idai’s full wrath on Thursday before the storm barrelled on to neighbouring Zimbabwe, unleashing fierce winds and flash floods and washing away roads and houses.
“For the moment we have registered 84 deaths officially, but when we flew over the area … this morning to understand what’s going on, everything indicates that we could register more than 1,000 deaths,”Mozambican President Felipe Nyusi said in a nationwide address.
“The scale of damage… (in) Beira is massive and horrifying”, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said.
Ninety percent of the city of some 530,000 people and its surrounding area has been “damaged or destroyed,” it said in a statement.
“The situation is terrible. The scale of devastation is enormous,” the IFRC’s Jamie LeSueur said.
“Almost everything is destroyed. Communication lines have been completely cut and roads have been destroyed. Some affected communities are not accessible.”
A large dam burst on Sunday and cut off the last road to Beira, he said.
Sofala Province governor Alberto Mondlane warned that the “biggest threat we have now, even bigger than the cyclone, is floods because it’s raining more and more”.
Emma Beaty, coordinator of a grouping of NGOs known as Cosaco, said: “We’ve never had something of this magnitude before in Mozambique”.
“Some dams broke, and others have reached full capacity, they’ll very soon open the flood gates. It’s a convergence of flooding, cyclones, dams breaking and making a potential wave: everything’s in place so we get a perfect storm,” she said.
Mozambique’s environment minister, Celso Correia, has also warned that the death tally would rise.
“I think this is the biggest natural disaster Mozambique has ever faced. Everything is destroyed,” he told AFP on Sunday night at Beira international airport, which re-opened after being temporarily closed because of cyclone damage.
“Flying roofing sheets beheaded people,” Rajino Paulino recounting the moment the cyclone smashed into the city.
“We are sleeping rough, we are eating poorly and we don’t have houses anymore.”
In Zimbabwe, Idai swept away homes and ripped bridges to pieces, leaving destruction that the acting defence minister, Perrance Shiri, said “resembles the aftermath of a full-scale war”.
“There was a lot of destruction both on our facilities and on people,” said Shiri speaking on television from the affected eastern highlands region.
Some roads were swallowed up by massive sinkholes, while bridges were ripped to pieces by flash floods, according to an AFP photographer.
“This is the worst infrastructural damage we have ever had,” Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Joel Biggie Matiza said.
The eastern district of Chimanimani was worst-hit, with houses and most of the region’s bridges washed away by flash floods.
The most affected areas are not yet accessible, and high winds and dense clouds have hampered military rescue helicopter flights.
Two pupils and a worker at a secondary school in the area were among those killed after a landslide sent a boulder crashing into their dormitory.
Soldiers on Sunday helped rescue the surviving nearly 200 pupils, teachers and staff who had been trapped at the school in Chimanimani.
Joshua Sacco, lawmaker for Chimanimani, told AFP that between “150 to 200 people” are missing.
The majority of them are thought to be government workers, whose housing complex was completely engulfed by raging waters. Their fate is currently unknown because the area is still unreachable.
“We are very worried because all these houses were just suddenly submerged under water and literally washed away and that is where we have about 147 missing,” he said.
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who cut short a visit to Abu Dhabi, said on arrival on Monday, “we are deeply grieved as a nation”.
But the government has come under fire for failing to move timesously to evacuate people.
The main labour movement,the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions said the disaster was avoidable.
“Authorities knew about the cyclone weeks before it struck, but did absolutely nothing to prepare for its eventuality,” it said.
Mohammed Abubakar, governor of Bauchi state, says he is heading to court to challenge the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) decision to resume collation of results in the state.
The election in the north-west state was declared inconclusive based on controversies in the results of Tafawa Balewa local government area.
The commission listed Bauchi among the states where supplementary election would hold but it later reversed the decision, saying the collation of results of the March 9 election will continue on Tuesday.
Speaking after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday, the governor described INEC’s decision as illegal.
“I came to brief Mr. President about the situation in my state. I briefed him on the issues surrounding the inconclusive elections,” he said.
“The returning officer for Bauchi State at the end of collation, rejected the result of Tafawa Balewa local government and then 36 other units spread around 15 local governments of Bauchi state and ordered a rerun.
“Surprisingly, we woke up one morning and INEC came up with a procedure that is not known to law. Because, where a returning officer has declared the result, only an election petition tribunal can reverse the result. But INEC is attempting to reverse itself in the case of Bauchi. And when one juxtapose that of Bauchi and other states with inconclusive elections, one wonders why that is happening only in Bauchi state.
“So, for that reason there is a need for me to come and brief Mr. President because that has the potential of touching on the security of the state and it is our paramount duty to secure the state.”
Asked if what is happening was illegal, the Bauchi governor said, “Of course it is definitely extra illegal. It is a straight forward matter. The returning officer is the final arbiter even with respect to scores and declaration of result. And once he makes a declaration, no power can reverse that declaration except duly constituted court of the land.
“I came to brief Mr. President, I am not seeking any action of Mr. President. We all know Mr. President, he is a stickler for procedure. What I pointedly told him was that I am not here to seek for you to interfere on our behalf, sir but to brief you on what is happening and what actions I have taken.
“One of which is that I am a lawyer and I am pursuing the legal angle. I briefed him and he emphasized on that legal angle that it is the best way to go.”