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VON takes over building seized from ex-defense chief accused of corruption

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on Wednesday, handed over the property to the Director-General of VON, Osita Okechukwu.

The building is located at UDA Crescent, off Aminu Kano Cresent, near Globacom Communications office in Wuse 2, Abuja.

The event had in attendance the spokesperson of the anti-graft agency, Tony Orilade, and Mr Okechukwu among others.

Mr Badeh served as the 18th Chief of Air Staff and the 15th Chief of Defence Staff of Nigeria.

He died from gunshot injuries he sustained after his vehicle was attacked by unknown gunmen along Abuja-Keffi road on December 18, 2018.

At the time of his death, he was being prosecuted for an alleged N3.9 billion fraud he committed as the defence chief under former President Goodluck Jonathan.

An Abuja Division of the Federal High Court in March presided over by Okon Abang ordered the forfeiture of all properties belonging to the late Air Marshal to the federal government through the EFCC.

The judge also ordered that the Corporate Affairs Commission should be notified of the ruling.

Osinbajo’s firm linked to company fingered in alleged N100bn Alpha Beta scam

 

A company in which Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo has a stake, Simmons Coopers Partners, has been linked to another firm, Ocean Trust Limited, which was fingered in an alleged N100bn scam involving Alpha Beta Consulting Limited and Alpha Beta LP.

Ocean Trust Limited, which was accused of being a conduit for diversion and laundering of funds by Alpha Beta, listed the law firm of Simmons Coopers as its company secretary, documents exclusively obtained from the Corporate Affairs Commission by Saturday Punch showed.

Simmons Coopers was listed as a company in which Prof Yemi Osinbajo (now Vice-President) had a stake in his asset declaration form in 2015, according to the statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu.

In a petition submitted to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in July 2018, Dapo Apara, the erstwhile managing director of Alpha Beta, had alleged that Alpha Beta owed the Federal Government N100bn in unpaid taxes spanning over 10 years, adding that the firm usually laundered funds through another firm, Ocean Trust Limited.

He alleged that the firm was being protected by powerful politicians.

The petition by Apara’s lawyer, Adetunji Adegboyega, read in part, “Over the years, the company (Alpha Beta) has been protected and shielded by some powerful politicians and people in the society which made them to always boast of being untouchable.

“But our client, feeling the need not to keep quiet again and strengthened by his belief in the fact that the government of President Muhammadu Buhari is keen on fighting corruption which has been the bane of our country, is of the firm view that it is time to expose and open the can of worms called Alpha Beta Consulting.

“Our client is of the firm belief that it is time for the commission to step in and conduct a holistic investigation into the activities of Alpha Beta Consulting Limited and Alpha Beta LLP with a view to uncovering the massive corruption, money laundering, tax evasion, etc., going on in the company.

“Kindly note that one of the companies being used to perpetrate money laundering by the company is still another company named Ocean Trust Limited.”

Osinbajo’s reaction

When contacted on the relationship between Osinbajo’s firm, Simmons Coopers and Ocean Trust, the Senior Special Assistant to the Vice-President on Media, Mr Laolu Akande, said he would not comment on the matter unless he was shown the document indicating Simmons Coopers was Ocean Trust’s company secretary.

But, a source close to Osinbajo claimed that “the Vice President has since 2014 left the firm. There is no interest there anymore.”

The source added, “And I think you should talk to the EFCC about its own decisions. It does not make sense that the EFCC will say it is not prosecuting or, as you say, investigating or probing (the allegations) because of what you claimed.”

However, Osinbajo in 2015 listed Simmons Coopers as one of his companies in his asset declaration form.

Where is Ocean Trust?

Saturday Punch, which investigated Ocean Trust Limited for three months, conducted a search at the Corporate Affairs Commission.

It was noted during a CAC search that the firm was registered with number 419706 on January 5, 2011, and is located at 684, Idowu Taylor Street, Victoria Island, Lagos and had Gboyega Iyiola and Kunle Akinniyi as shareholders at the inception both of whom relinquished their shares two days later on January 7, 2011.

One of documents exclusively obtained from the Corporate Affairs Commission
Incidentally, the property where Ocean Trust Limited is located shares the same address with the office of former Governor Bola Tinubu of Lagos State known as ‘Freedom House’.

All efforts to contact Ocean Trust Limited proved futile as investigations by Saturday Punch showed that the company might no longer be in operation.

Also, attempts to speak with its management turned out to be a wild goose chase.

When one of our correspondents visited the company’s address at the Freedom House, Plot 684, Idowu Taylor Street, a fair-complexioned lady, who said she was an employee of Ocean Trust Limited, told Saturday Punch that the company was no longer located there.

When asked if it was true that the firm was being used to launder funds for Alpha Beta, the lady, who refused to identify herself, asked our correspondent to send an email which she would forward to her boss.

Over three weeks after one of our correspondents sent her an email, a response was still being awaited as of the time of filing this report on Friday.

A visit to Ocean Trust’s second listed address at 42 Norman Williams Avenue, Ikoyi, Lagos yielded no positive result as the compound looked deserted having been overtaken by weeds.

Saturday Punch met with a lady, who simply gave her name as Blessing, and confirmed that the place was being used by Ocean Trust. She, however, said she could not speak on any issue as the place was only a correspondence office.

After a brief chat, she gave one of our reporters a phone number that she claimed belonged to an accountant with Ocean Trust.

When Saturday Punch called the number, a man who picked the phone said he was not a staff member of the company.

After one of our correspondents told Blessing that the ‘accountant’ denied working for Ocean Trust, she referred him to the head office on 9 Grace Anjous Street, Lekki Phase I to make an enquiry.

When one of our correspondents got to the address, a male receptionist initially confirmed that the office belonged to Ocean Trust.

However, after an introduction as a journalist, he retracted his statement and said the premises belonged to Paragon Holdings and only delivered correspondences to Ocean Trust.

He said, “Ocean Trust is not one of our partners; they used to use here to receive correspondences, but they no longer come here.

“They are not our partners again. Here, we only deal with their files, both physical and electronic.”

While questioning the receptionist on why he had earlier admitted that the place belonged to Ocean Trust, another man emerged from one of the offices in the building and said Ocean Trust was no longer in existence.

He said, “To the best of my knowledge, Ocean Trust is not functioning. We only receive correspondences for them, but in terms of business, they stopped existing before the end of the (former Lagos State Governor Babatunde) Fashola’s administration. We don’t even know who they are. They’ve folded up since.”

EFCC yet to take action

One year after Apara’s petition, the EFCC has yet to take any action on the matter.

The EFCC spokesman, Tony Orilade, had said in February that the petitioner should send a reminder as the petition could not be traced.

In a recent chat with Saturday Punch  on why the commission had refused to respond to media inquiries for over a month, the EFCC spokesman asked one of our correspondents to give him more time to react.

Efforts made thereafter to get a response from the EFCC did not yield result.

As of Friday when this report was being filed, Orilade had yet to respond.

Apara, who accused the firm of tax evasion to the tune of N100bn, also told Saturday Punch that the EFCC had yet to contact him a year after the petition had been submitted.

“I have still not been contacted by the EFCC,” he said in response to an inquiry.

Alpha Beta controversies

Alpha Beta Consulting was awarded a contract by the Tinubu-led government after a recommendation by a committee comprising the then attorney-general of Lagos State, Prof Osinbajo (now the Vice-President); Mr Wale Edun, the then commissioner for finance; and a former commissioner for economic planning and budget, Yemi Cardoso.

The firm was subsequently given exclusive rights to collect taxes on behalf of Lagos State and was believed to receive about 10 per cent commission from the revenue it collected for the state.

However, pro-transparency groups and opposition politicians have constantly alleged that Tinubu owns Alpha Beta.

In 2012, a Lagos-based medical doctor, Dominic Adegbola, filed a Freedom of Information request to state authorities, seeking detailed information on all Alpha Beta contracts with Lagos State since 1999.

But the state’s Attorney-General then, Ade Ipaye, (now Osinbajo’s chief of staff), rejected the request, insisting that the FoI was a federal law that did not apply to the states.

However, in November 2017, a state judge ruled that the FoI was applicable to Lagos State. The judge said the law was duly enacted by the National Assembly and did not require domestication to take effect in states.

When one of our correspondents visited the office of Alpha Beta at the Lagos Water Corporation Building, Ijora Causeway, Lagos, the company’s Head of Corporate Support Services and General Counsel, Mr Omogbemi Adelagun, said the matter was already in court and, therefore, he could not comment on the issue.

“If the matter had not been taken to court, we would have been able to react to it. So, right now, we cannot say anything until the court rules on the case,” he said.

Alpha Beta LLP had, however, said in an advertorial in response to the allegations levelled against it by its former MD that the accusations were illogical and false.

The advertorial read in part, “Alpha Beta has been visibly engaged by the Lagos State Government since 2002 as a forensic, internal control and enhancement adviser. In working with the state, Alpha Beta helped develop the state’s centralised transaction platforms, the precursor to the present-day Treasury Single Account.”

The firm said at the time it entered into the contract with Lagos State, the state was taking in the sum of N600m in internally generated revenue per month but things had since changed for the better.

Meanwhile, the Alpha Beta’s former managing director, Apara, has approached a Federal High Court, Abuja, “directing an investigation to be made by the Corporate Affairs Commission into the conduct of Alpha Beta Consulting Limited.”

Apara, who said he had been and remained a director of the firm since its incorporation, with control of 30 per cent of its shares value, also alleged that the financial records of the company filed with the CAC and tax authorities did not reflect the actual profits of the company or of its directors.

He alleged among others in the suit that he and shareholders of the company were being owed their remunerations.

Also praying for the takeover of the management of the company by an appointee of the court, the suit urged the court “to appoint a receiver or a receiver manager of the property of Alpha Beta Consulting Limited.”

The suit, couched as a “petition” and brought under the Companies Proceedings Rules and Order 5 of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2009, was filed on November 9, 2018 and marked FHC/ABJ/PET/2018.

When contacted on the telephone, a former Senior Partner at Simmons Coopers, Babatunde Irukera, said he had never heard of Ocean Trust Limited and wondered how Simmons Coopers could have served as its company secretary.

Irukera, who is now the Executive Secretary, Consumer Protection Council and had served as managing partner at Simmons Coopers during the time in question, directed our correspondent to another partner, Victoria Alonge.

Alonge told Saturday PUNCH that she had never heard of Ocean Trust Limited and asked the reporter for more time.

She said Simmons Coopers had checked all its records and had not found Ocean Trust in its books, adding that it had no record with the CAC.

When one of our correspondents dictated the contents of the document linking Simmons Coopers with Ocean Trust, Alonge expressed shock and asked that the document be sent to her.

She, however, maintained that Vice-President Osinbajo was a man of honour and honesty and would never hinder the EFCC from doing its job.

Alonge said, “Simmons Coopers has never had any dealings with Ocean Trust. We are also doing our own investigations. We checked our Abuja records and Ocean Trust is not stated there. This is new to us and it cannot be insinuated that Prof Osinbajo is stopping the EFCC from doing its job.

“For us, there is nothing to hide. As a partner, I should be in a position to know. We are still checking our records and we haven’t found anything.”

The PUNCH

No going back on Oyo EFCC, says Makinde

Governor Seyi Makinde has assured that he will not renege on his plans to set up a state anti-graft agency to be christened Oyo state Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

He also declared that not less than N60billion of the state monies are in wrong hands.

The governor solicited support of the judiciary to actualise the plans, promising he would not negotiate the independence of the third arm of Government in his administration of the state.

The Governor made the disclosure on Thursday when he paid a courtesy call on the judiciary at the State High Court, Moshood Abiola Way (former Ring Road), Ibadan.

He was received by the Chief Judge of the state, Justice Munta Abimbola in the company of other judges, registrars, deputy registrars and other top officials of the state judiciary, as well as members of Judicial Service Commission.

Makinde said: “The independence of judiciary in the state is non-negotiable and I promise that my administration would be completely transparent in terms of finances of the state.

“I have asked that a committee be set up that will administer the funds coming to Oyo State and we will have a member of the judiciary to be a part of that committee.

“I need your support. During my inaugural address, I promised to set up Oyo State Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. It is not a joke.

“I am very serious about it. I am also serious about what I said regarding waving my immunity to come before that commission if I am found wanting in managing the resources of Oyo State.

“The bill has been prepared and it is going to Oyo State House of Assembly. Once it is passed, I want your support to implement and execute.

“We have on record, at least close to N50billion to N60billion of Oyo State money in wrong hands.

“Maybe we are being sensational, maybe we have a vendetta against our political opponents, I am sure very shortly the ball will be in your court to look at it dispassionately.

“I am saying before you that don’t listen to us if we send anybody to you that we want you to help us persecute this individual or that individual for political reasons. We want you to follow your mind.”

He added: “I said that Oyo State is technically bankrupt. I mean it. This state is bankrupt.

“This is our current situation, and it is our reality. However, it is not the end of the story. What we are getting from the Federation Account and the IGR, when you put them together and we net off salaries, not even the cost of administration, we are talking of roughly N500million available for every other thing.

“Also, we have verified at least N150billion in debt. This morning, I met with the pensioners. The retired primary school teachers, they were owed about N60billion in backward of pension arrears.

“Now, the good news is that Oyo State has the capacity to exit all of these debts. We have the capacity to be prosperous. In land mass, Oyo State is as big as Belgium.

“In terms of weather, from derived Savannah in the north of the state, or the way to the south of the state where we have rain forest, you can practically grow on every inch of land available in Oyo State.”

Speaking on the judgment obtained by local government chairmen his administration sacked in the state, Makinde said: “The judiciary is a very important arm of government and its independence is non-negotiable.

“So, what you should expect from us is a validation of that independence of the judiciary.

“Before we came in, if I take the issue of local government and local council development areas (LCDA) administration in Oyo State, I know they got a judgment, saying that the governor should not dissolve them. I am not a lawyer. I am actually a layman as far as legal issues are concerned.

“But I asked people to interpret to me and they said from all intents and purposes, it was an anticipatory judgment.

“I stand before you to say to you that as the executive governor of Oyo State, I will not interfere in how you go about carrying out your functions. You are free to go against us.

“If the people who have come before you are right, tell us. I give you the assurance that we will obey your judgment. You are the final hope of the common folks. They look up to you.”

How EFCC stopped former Kwara officials from withdrawing N10bn before hand over

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) says it prevented former officials of Kwara state government from misappropriating N10 billion from the treasury between May 24 and May 29.

Isyaku Sharu, EFCC’s zonal head, told journalists on Tuesday that the commission mounted surveillance on the state accounts to prevent last-minute looting by the outgoing administration.

“It has always been a tradition in the country, except to macroscopic few, that whenever any government is exiting, it will indulge in mass pilferage as the last minute golden opportunity,” he said in Ilorin, the state capital.

“Hence, our resolve to mount surveillance on all Kwara state government accounts between May, 24 and 29, 2019, when the states received federal account allocation committee (FAAC), joint account and allocation committee (JAAC), value-added tax (VAT) and tax refund from the federal government to the tune of about N10 billion.

“I can authoritatively tell you that we saved the state last-minute attempted misappropriation of those billions.”

He said the commission is investigating properties allegedly belonging to civil servants in the state capital.

“You will agree with me that official corruption is the greatest killer as officials who ordinarily supposed to guard and protect state resources turned out to misappropriate them.

“To this end, the commission beams its searchlight on the state officials and on a credible tip-off, the commission is currently investigating 15 properties in choice areas within Ilorin metropolis. The properties range from hotels, filling stations, residential accommodation to microfinance banks.

“It will shock you to hear that the alleged owners are civil servants, whose earning per month is not more than N90,000. Some have confessed to the commission and the matter is in court. In fact, we discovered about N3 billion in the accounts of two of them, who are not up to assistant directors in the ministry.”

EFCC desperate to nail me, says Saraki

Former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, has said he is innocent of the allegations of fraud levelled against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

He also said he is not engaged in any media war with the anti-graft agency.

The EFCC had in May marked some properties saying it believed Mr Saraki purchased them from the Presidential Implementation Committee for the Sale of Government Properties through shell companies.

In a recent allegation, the EFCC also accused Mr Saraki of taking N12 billion from the treasury of the Kwara State Government while he was governor of the state between 2003 and 2011.

The commission said the money was withdrawn in cash.

The money, EFCC said, was allegedly used by Mr Saraki to offset the N1.36 billion bank loan he used in purchasing homes at 15, 15A, 17, 17A and four flats on Macdonald Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, hence, its decision to seize the properties.

The agency, in a statement on Sunday, said no amount of “media campaign” against its acting chairman, Ibrahim Magu, will stop the prosecution of the former All Progressives Congress chieftain.

The spokesman of the commission, Tony Orilade, said Mr Saraki “seems to have chosen outside the shores of Nigeria as the launch pad of his campaign of calumny against the EFCC and its leadership.”

“We wish to state without any contradiction that the ongoing investigation against the former Senate president and other Politically-exposed Persons (PeP) are on course, while Saraki and his co-travellers will surely have their day in court shortly,” he said.

Mr Saraki addressed some of the allegations on Monday.

In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, the politician said he has not engaged in any media war ”but has rather been the one at the receiving end of the media onslaught sponsored from the office of the EFCC”.

He said that various documents and court processes from the agency had been given to a newspaper for publication.

“While the EFCC distributed copies of its letter to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court immediately it was submitted, we are still surprised how Dr Saraki’s response written early May found its way into a newspaper last Sunday.

“It should be known that if we were interested in leaking the letter, we would not wait for seven weeks to do that. Dr Saraki believes he is on firm ground on the points of law and has nothing to be afraid of. He is innocent of the charges.

“We need to reiterate that Dr Saraki is not interested in obstructing any investigation by the EFCC or any security agency. While the EFCC claims that it is investigating the Office of the Senate President between 2015 and 2019, we make bold to say that it is just on a wild goose chase.

“That Office has nothing to do with contract awards and handling of the finances of the National Assembly. These are functions of the bureaucracy of the National Assembly, otherwise known as the National Assembly Management,” part of the statement read.

Mr Olaniyonu said all the issues the EFCC are presently raising were ”the same issues that are contained in four of the charges filed before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) and taken before the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court”.

He said since the issues have been determined by the courts up to the Supreme Court, ”the EFCC is just on a persecution and smear campaigns with its current investigations”.

“At the time the CCT charges were filed, it was generally believed some of the charges should not have been lumped up with the asset declaration issues.

“However, in their desperation to nail Dr Saraki, some of the charges that contained insinuations that Kwara State funds were paid into accounts owned by him and companies in which he has interests were filed. And twice, the charges went before the highest court in the land, and he was discharged and acquitted,” he said.

He added that the current investigation constitutes an infringement on Mr Saraki’s fundamental human rights.

He said in the exercise of his belief in the judiciary; he filed a case seeking the court’s intervention for the protection and enforcement of the rights.

BREAKING: Court orders forfeiture of Patience Jonathan’s N9.2bn, $8.4m

The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on Monday ordered the permanent forfeiture of the sums of N9.2bn and $8.4m recovered from wife of former President Goodluck Jonathan, Patience.

Justice Mojisola Olatoregun ordered that the funds should be forfeited to the Federal Government.

The judgment followed an application by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, which said the funds were proceeds of crime.

Though Mrs. Jonathan , through her lawyers, Chief Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN) and Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), opposed the application and insisted that the funds were legitimately her own, the court held that the EFCC proved its claim beyond reasonable doubt.

EFCC to arraign Saraki for allegedly diverting N12bn

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has accused former Senate President Bukola Saraki of diverting N12 billion from the treasury of the Kwara State Government illegally while he was governor of the state between 2003 and 2011.

The commission said the money was withdrawn in cash, the Punch is reporting.

The money, EFCC said, was allegedly used by Saraki to offset a N1.36 billion bank loan he used in purchasing homes at 15, 15A, 17, 17A and four flats on Macdonald Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, hence, its decision to seize the properties.

The EFCC had in May, marked the said properties placing inscriptions ‘EFCC, Under Investigation’ in red on the walls and the fences of the houses.

It said Saraki purchased them from the Presidential Implementation Committee for the Sale of Government Property through shell companies.

In a counter-affidavit to Saraki’s originating motion with suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/507/2019, the anti-graft agency asked Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, to rescind the ex parte order preventing the commission from investigating and prosecuting Saraki.

In a counter-affidavit deposed to by Ojilibo Stanley on behalf of the EFCC, the agency said it had established a case of money laundering, criminal breach of trust and conspiracy by the immediate past Senate President.

The EFCC said Saraki, through his companies had taken loans worth N1.36 billion from the Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB) and Intercontinental Bank (now Access Bank) between 2005 and 2006.

In a bid to offset the loan, the ex-governor “began to divert N100 million from the coffers of the state monthly,” the commission said.

The affidavit stated that on February 28, 2005, the Presidential Implementation Committee on the sale of Federal Government Landed Properties wrote a letter to Saraki conveying the approval of the then minister of lands and housing for the sale of properties at 15 and 17 Macdonald Road, Ikoyi.

The EFCC said, sequel to the letter, Saraki wrote to GTB on March 8, 2005, requesting N200 million loan to finance the acquisition of the properties and on March 24, 2005, GTB approved the loan to partly finance the purchase of the properties.

The agency said on October 11, 2006, another loan of N380 million was granted to the ex-Senate President by GTB to partly finance the acquisition of properties located at 17 and 17A Macdonald Road, Ikoyi.

And on January 30, 2007, a personal loan of N380 million was again granted to the former governor to partly finance the same properties, it said.

According to EFCC, another loan of N400 million was obtained by Saraki to develop the same properties on April 28, 2009.

“The personal loans used to acquire the properties were later liquidated with the proceeds of the applicant’s (Saraki’s) criminal breach of trust or misappropriation of funds of the Kwara State Government.

“The applicant (Saraki) procured one Abdul Adama, who was his personal member of staff to receive cash from then Controller of Finance and Account of Government House, Kwara State, Mr Isiaka Kareem, on a monthly basis, the sum of N100 million.

“While the applicant was the governor of Kwara State, the total sum of N12 billion was withdrawn in cash from the Kwara State Government House’s account domiciled in Zenith Bank,” the affidavit read.

The EFCC further denied being controlled by the All Progressives Congress.

It said the ‘fresh investigation’ was different from the one conducted by the Code of Conduct Bureau, which had once arraigned Saraki.

Saraki’s defence

In an earlier reaction, Saraki had said the acting EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, was on a revenge mission because of the role he (Saraki) played in blocking his confirmation as EFCC chairman.

“Apart from the instigation by my political adversaries, my close contacts have confirmed to me that the 4th respondent (EFCC) renewed its harassment as a way of punishing me for the decision of the Senate not to clear acting chairman of the EFCC, Alhaji Ibrahim Magu, to be appointed as the substantive chairman of the commission,” he said.

He said the EFCC was also pained because he was in charge of the Senate when the legislative arm of government ensured the creation of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit “to Magu’s annoyance”.

He had also alleged that he was being witch-hunted by the anti-graft body because he emerged as the Senate President against the wishes of certain elements in the APC in 2015.

According to him, the allegations levelled against him were not new as he had been charged before the CCT and emerged victorious.

He said the aggrieved elements in the APC were using the EFCC agency to harass him.

The case has been adjourned till July 2, 2019.

AGF takes over Goje’s N25bn fraud case

The Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) on Friday took over the case of alleged N25 billion fraud filed against former Gombe State Governor Danjuma Goje from the EFCC.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports in Jos that for almost eight years, the EFCC had been prosecuting the former governor until Friday.

The case, which is before Justice Babatunde Quadiri of Jos Federal High Court II, has even gone to the Jos Court of Appeal over the remaining two count charge out of 21 filed against him by EFCC.

The Appellate Court is yet to fix a date for the hearing of the appeal.

When the case up for an emergency hearing before Justice Quadiri, the EFCC Counsel,Mr Wahab Shittu, told Court that the agency was withdrawing from the case and handing it over the office of the Attorney-General for continuation.

“My Lord, this case was earlier adjourned for June 20 for continuation of hearing, but then we are here today on the latest development on the matter.

“We as EFCC counsels are withdrawing from the matter and handing it over to the office of the Attorney-General for continuation with the prosecution.

“As you can, in Court today is a State Counsel from the AG’F’s office to formally take over this case from us,“ Shittu declared.

Responding, Mr Paul Erokoro (SAN), did not object to the EFCC withdrawal and handing over of the case to the Attorney-General.

“My Lord we not objecting to the anti-graft withdrawal and handing over the prosecution to the AG’s office,“ Erokoro said.

Mr Pius Asika, Counsel from the office of the attorney general, however, announced his appearance for the case.

Asika then applied for an adjournment to enable him prepared for the case proper “having come into the matter today (Friday).

Justice Quadiri then adjourned to the case to June 21, 2019 for continuation of hearing.

EFCC to arraign woman who claimed snake swallowed N35m in Benue, five others

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) will on Friday arraign a controversial official of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Philomina Chishe and five others for trial over alleged N35million fraud.

Chieshe was alleged to have told operatives of the anti-graft commission that a snake swallowed the cash in question.

The other five officials facing trial are Samuel Umoru, Yakubu Jekada, Daniel Agbo, Priscilla Ogunsola, and Aliyu Yakubu.

All the suspects will be tried by Justice Peter Afen of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court in Abuja,

A brief on the case reads: “Philomena, who is a JAMB official in Benue State, became popular when she made an outlandish claim that a mysterious snake swallowed about N35million cash arising from sale of e-JAMB cards in the state.

“The controversial JAMB official is being prosecuted by the EFCC on an eight-count charge, following her refusal to furnish the management of JAMB the true information on the financial status of JAMB e-cards supplied to the Benue Zonal office between 2014 and 2016.

“Instead of Philomena rendering account on the said N35million, being the shortfall of unremitted e-JAMB cards in connivance with other officials, she claimed that a mysterious snake swallowed the money.

“According to the EFCC, Philomena ought to know that the shortfall in the unremitted e-JAMB cards, which she claimed disappeared as a result of manipulation from the kingdom of darkness is false and untenable before the law.

“The commission added that the action of Philomena was contrary to section 139 (a) of the Penal Code Law.

“The commission has also arraigned another JAMB official, Labaran Tanko, on Tuesday while the defendant pleaded not guilty to the offence.”

The EFCC gave insights into how the fraud was uncovered and those involved.

Another document said: “The remittance of over N8billion by the Registrar of JAMB, Prof. Ishaq Oloyede to the Federal Government as revenue led to the Forensic Investigation of Financial Activities of JAMB between 2010 and 2016 by Faithpro Consulting Auditing Associate (Financial and Management Consultants).

“The forensic investigators came up with N8.7billion shortfall within the same period which the EFCC has been investigating. There are about 15 suspects who may face trial in the first batch.”

According to the document, the fraud bordered on alleged diversion of revenue from the sales of e-facility cards and change of course cards.

Some of the states where the fraud was detected, include Benue, Nasarawa, Kano, Kogi, Plateau, Gombe, Yobe and Edo.

Some of the suspects under investigation, who may face trial, include Chise and Sale Umar(Benue); Labaran Tanko(Nasarawa); Daniel Agbo(Kogi), Yakubu Jekada(Plateau), Patricia Ogunsola and Cyril Izireim Imoukhuede(Edo); Murtala Abdul(Gombe); Aliyu Yakubu(Kano) among others.

Okorocha, Imo ex-governor not arrested – EFCC

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), has denied allegations that its operatives have arrested immediate past Governor of Imo, Rochas Okorocha.

Reports had emerged Thursday that the commission arrested Okorocha and his wife, Nkechi.

Reacting to the report,  EFCC’s spokesman, Mr Tony Orilade told News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Thursday that the report “is fake”.

“The report is fake news, just disregard it,” he said.

Recently, the Commission’s Chairman, Mr Ibrahim Magu affirmed that the anti-graft agency was investigating the former governor who handed over leadership of the state to Emeka Ihedioha after his eight years tenure.

“Of course, we are doing a couple of checks and investigations here and there.

“We are investigating almost everybody,” the EFCC boss had said.

He noted that the commission had to get to a certain level before it could disclose any information about an ongoing investigation.

Magu explained that this was necessary to prevent any action that could jeopardise or interfere with the process of the inquiry.

EFCC arrests proprietor, students of Yahoo Yahoo training school

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Lagos Zonal Office, has arrested the proprietor of a Yahoo Yahoo training school in Lagos, Frank Chinedu.

Chinedu, 22, was arrested alongside eight students of the unnamed training centre located at 14, Animashaun Street, Progressive Estate, Ojodu Berger, Lagos, while receiving lectures in internet fraud activities.

The students are: Ahmed Musa, 24; Desmond Eze, 29; Preye Kingsley, 23; Benjamin Irabor, 21; Benjamin Opah, 19; Akapo Prosper, 22; Innocent Paul, 20 and Olamide Edun, 20.

House where Yahoo Yahoo boys were arrested under investigation
House where Yahoo Yahoo boys were arrested under investigation

The suspected internet fraudsters were arrested under cover on May 22, 2019, following intelligence reports received by the Commission about their involvement in alleged criminal activities.

Items recovered from the suspects at the point of arrest include nine laptops, 16 mobile phones, an Airtel modem, Orange Wifi and one Toyota Camry with registration number EPE406FN.

The suspects will soon be charged to court.

N136m Fraud: Ex-NIMASA DG, Calistus Obi, to be sentenced June 3

Justice Mojisola Olatoregun of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, has fixed June 3, 2019 to give sentence, following the conviction of a former acting Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, Calistus Obi.

Obi was on May 23, 2019 convicted along with Alu Dimas, an aide to Patrick Akpobolokemi, a former Director-General of NIMASA. They were arraigned along with two companies, Grand Pact Limited and Global Sea Investment, on April 12, 2016, on an eight-count charge bordering on conspiracy, conversion and money laundering to the tune of N136million (One Hundred and Thirty Six Million Naira).

Justice Olatoregun had found the first defendant guilty of counts five, six, seven and eight. The second defendant was also found guilty of counts two and four.

Consequently, Justice Olatoregun had adjourned the case till May 28, 2019 for counsel to address the court on sentencing.

At the resumed sitting, counsel for the EFCC, Rotimi Oyedepo, argued that the defendants wasted the time of the court, so they did not qualify to enjoy the discretion of the court in not imposing the maximum sentence.

He said: “This is a time we must begin to make statements that send a signal to public servants and those entrusted with public funds not to betray the trust imposed on them as the court had found in this case.

“The first and second defendant converted the total sum of N111 million to their personal use, while the first, third, and fourth defendants converted the sum of N114 million to their personal use.

“The court has the power to order them to refund the money and compensate the Agency for the funds already utilised.

“We also urge the court to order the forfeiture to the Federal Government of the sum of N30 million recovered by the EFCC from the first defendant.”

Oyedepo also urged the court to order the forfeiture of a hotel, La Diva Hotel and Events Centre in Asaba, Delta State, belonging to the first defendant, to the Federal Government, adding that “Doing this will also send a warning signal to intending members of the public, who want to dip their hands into public funds.”

He further urged the court to make an order imposing a 100 percent fine on the third and fourth defendants, as contained in the provisions of sections 15(4) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Acts, ACJA, on corporate bodies found guilty of such allegations.

Counsel to the first convict, Mobolaji Kuti, urged the court to temper justice with mercy, saying, “My Lord, my client is a first time offender, with no past criminal records.”

Kuti further told the court that his client had been actively involved in public service in the country, including being a former chairman of a local government and a founder of a charity organisation.

Kuti further told the court that his client was in the EFCC detention for a month before being arraigned.

Counsel to the second defendant, Collins Ogbona, told the court that the prosecution had failed to prove its case against his client beyond reasonable doubt.

He said his client was just used as a conduit pipe for being a Personal Assistant to his boss in the Agency.

Ogbona, who said his client was kept in the EFCC custody for three months, therefore, urged the Judge to temper justice with mercy.

He added that “if my client is found guilty, I pray my Lord to pronounce a non-custodian sentence.”

Consequently, Justice Olatoregun directed all parties to forward any necessary citations regarding their addresses to the court.

“I will like to adjourn one more to consider the issues raised by both parties,” the Judge said, and ordered that the convicts should be remanded in prison till the next adjourned date.

How I spent alleged N400m loot – Metuh

Olisa Metuh, the former National Publicity Secretary of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, on Tuesday, told a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, how he spent an alleged N400 million traced to him as proceed of money laundering by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

According to Metuh, while testifying before Justice Okon Abang, said “We leased an office through the late Chief Tony Anenih, amounting to N25million. He requested for cash payment and over N21Million was made in cheque in his name and delivered to him. The office was fully furnished with state -of –the- art -computers, internet facility, two brand new generators and staff had 24-hours access to the office daily”.

He further revealed that N37million was used for media engagements and meetings with editors in Nigeria, adding that expenditures on analysts, content developers, core staff and support staff hired for the purpose of the assignment amounted to N13million, “while CNC connect one of the consulting firms came to N7million”, he said.

He also revealed that workshops and perception management campaign cost N23million and that N10million was spent on new media, while the production of materials, appearances on radio and other media services gulped N15million.

According to Metuh who is the first defendant in the matter, the cost of security, transportation, hotel allowances amongst others amounted to N47million. He said that the total amount spent in the South- south zone was N55million, while the Northern zone, handled by the late Tony Anene amounted to N97million with an additional N1.4million which was used for procurement of public address systems.

Metuh further told the court that the amount spent in the South-east region amounted to N40.4million, while honorarium for different recruited persons cost N200, 000 each adding that there were 57 of them.

While concluding his witness, Metuh said that a total sum of N421million was expended on supposed national assignment, as contained in exhibits before the court.

Recall that Metuh is being prosecuted by the, EFCC, for allegedly receiving N400million from the Office of the National Security Adviser, ONSA, in 2014 to run advocacy campaign for former President Goodluck Jonathan ahead of the 2015 general elections.

During the continuation of his trial today, which had suffered many adjournments, Metuh accused the EFCC of engaging in media frenzy since his arrest in 2015. He added that he refused to provide a list which contains names of those he gave monies while executing the national assignment given to him by the former President Goodluck Jonathan.

“The whole issue borders on the investigation activities of EFCC, they requested that I provide the names of those I disbursed the monies to, I refused to discuss that with them, because I knew it was going to be a subject of media frenzy,” he said.

He said his story attracted several malicious newspaper headlines, adding further that the headlines presented him to be the one who embezzled the alleged N400m security funds.

While being led in evidence, the defendant denied making any payment through one Nneka Ararume (staff of ARM Pension) to Kabiru Ibrahim, a Bureau De Change operator. This was in response to the allegation that he gave $1m (One Million United States Dollar) to the BDC operator for the purpose of investment. Both had testified as prosecution witnesses before today’s trial.

“I did not make any payment of $1m to Kabiru Ibrahim through Nneka Ararume. Ararume has never acted as my agent in this transaction or any other, she is a staff of ARM”, he added.

Meanwhile, at the last sitting on May 24, 2019, the defendant during his examination stated that the national assignment given to him by Goodluck Jonathan has nothing to do with his party activities.

He further informed the court that it wasn’t his first time of executing a national assignment for a president adding that he was also able to execute a national assignment for former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Justice Abang there after adjourned the matter to June10 and 11, for cross-examination of the witness.

Zamfara SSG’s brother arrested with ‘N60m cash’ in car boot

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Tuesday arrested one Murtala Muhammad said to be the younger brother of Abdullahi Shinkafi, secretary to the Zamfara state government, with N60 million in the boot of his car.

In a statement, the commission said its Sokoto zonal command arrested Muhammad following intelligence report.

The anti-graft agency disclosed that he was nabbed at 45 Igala housing estate, off byepass road, Gusau, Zamfara state by operatives of the commission.

EFCC officials with the Zamfara SSG brother
EFCC officials with the Zamfara SSG brother

“Items recovered from him at the point of arrest include one Black Toyota Land Cruiser Prado Jeep with registration number DKA 67 PX Kaduna loaded with four bags of ‘Ghana Must Go’ containing one thousand Naira notes of fifteen million naira each, totaling to sixty million naira,” the statement read.

“One single barrel gun, one locally made revolver pistol, 25 rounds of cartridges and 12 rounds of 12.9mm live ammunition. He will be charged to court as soon as investigation is completed.”

Court acquits Jonathan’s cousin of $40m fraud charges

An Abuja federal high court has discharged and acquitted Robert Azibaola, a cousin of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, of the $40 million laundering charges filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Azibaola was charged alongside Stella, his wife, and their company, One Plus Holdings Nigeria Limited for the alleged diversion of $40 million meant for the supply of tactical communication kits for special forces.

The money was allegedly transferred from the account of the office of Sambo Dasuki, former national security adviser (NSA) with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to the domiciliary account of their company.

Delivering judgement on Monday, Nnamdi Dimgba, the judge, ruled that no credible evidence was given to establish the allegation of money laundering against Azibaola.

He noted that the prosecutor should have produced Dasuki as a witness.

“That the EFCC and the prosecutor cried more than the bereaved,” the judge held.

“That the prosecutor has not been able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the 2-count charge against the defendant.

“The defendant is hereby discharged and acquainted and not guilty.”

During the trial, the anti-graft agency had called 10 witnesses and tendered 27 documents before the court, after which it closed its case on January 23.

Chris Uche, counsel to Azibaola, then filed a no-case submission to dismiss the charge against his clients.

Uche said the prosecution had failed to establish a nexus between the defendant and the alleged offence.

Share listing: EFCC raids MTN Nigeria head office

Operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on Friday raided the MTN Nigeria head office in Falomo Ikoyi Lagos, shutting down all activities in the Complex, BusinessDay is reporting.

Although the reason for the raid could not be ascertained at the time of reporting, sources say members of the anti-graft agency stormed the telco’s head office, stopping all activities for alleged fraudulent financial activities pertaining to the company’s recent listing on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE).

“I believe the EFCC was informed that MTN was manipulating figures and also, maybe because of fraud pertaining to the company’s listing,” the source said.

MTN Nigeria was listed at a total of 20, 354,513,050 at N90 per share on May 16, after the company had completed all the necessary steps required by the NSE for listing which led to the approval.

On the day of the listing, MTN Nigeria was reported to have emerged as the second largest company on the nation’s bourse after Dangote Cement with a market capitalisation of N1.83 trillion.

BusinessDay said it contacted Funso Aina, MTN’s Public Relations Officer, who neither denied nor admitted that the company was raided, but said: “We will send out a statement to that effect very soon.

MTN share price had skyrocketed since its listing a week ago amid complaints that the shares were not available for sale to retail investors creating a pressure on demand and upward price movement.

MTN  share price soared to N149 per share on Friday but lost N9 to close at N140 and investors took quick profits.

EFCC arrests Covenant University IT staff for stealing N180m

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has confirmed the arrest of a member of staff of the Information Technology department of Covenant University, Ota, Ogun State,  for allegedly diverting N180m school fees belonging to the school.

The EFCC’s acting Head, Media and Publicity, Tony Orilade,  in a text message to  one of our correspondents  said, “I  can confirm that  a Covenant University staff has been  with us for some days now over an alleged case of stealing reported by the Chancellor of the school.”

The diversion of the money was said to have taken years before the university discovered his alleged fraud.

The Chancellor of the university and Presiding Bishop of Living Faith Church Worldwide, Bishop David Oyedepo, reportedly described the suspect’s lifestyle as “riotous”.

The suspect was said to have bought some flashy cars, which he allegedly kept in a mansion he bought with part of the stolen money at  Lekki, Lagos,  despite having a house in the school where he lives with his wife.

The Punch

EFCC arrests health ministry workers over yellow fever card racketeering

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has arrested four officials of Port Health Service of the Federal Ministry of Health in Benin City, Edo State over alleged e-yellow fever travel card racketeering.

The EFCC’s Acting Head, Media, and Publicity, Tony Orilade, in a statement on Saturday, said the Benin zonal office of the commission had, on Tuesday, arrested the suspects in a sting operation, after a petition.

Orilade said the petitioner had alleged that her aged mother, who was to travel to Europe, visited the Benin Office of Port Health Service to procure the e-yellow fever travel card, but, rather than lead her through the proper procedure, she was convinced to pay N10,000 to obtain the card instantly.

He added that, while boarding her flight at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos, it was discovered that the e-yellow card did not have the Remita Retrieval Receipt Reference Identity.

The statement read, “She was subsequently compelled to get a proper one at the airport with the sum of N2,000. Based on the petition, the Benin zonal office of the EFCC sent two operatives to Port Health Service office in Benin, who pretended to have genuinely requested the e-yellow fever card.

“Unaware that they were EFCC operatives, the Port Health Service staff requested N7,000 as payment for each card. On payment of the amount, the EFCC operatives were issued with the cards instantly. The e-yellow fever travel card is officially N2,000.

“The illicit transaction made EFCC operatives swoop on Port Health Service office on Tuesday morning, arresting four of its officials. The arrested officials will be arraigned in court as soon as investigations are completed.”

EFCC files 11 charges against musician Naira Marley

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has preferred 11 charges bordering on fraud against upcoming musician, Azeez Fashola, aka Naira Marley, for alleged credit card fraud.

The musician effectively risks seven years in jail if found guilty, as Section 33 (2) which he was accused of breaching, reads: “Any person who uses: a counterfeit access device; an unauthorised access device; an access device issued to another person; resulting in a loss or gain commits an offence and shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of not more than seven years or a fine of not more than N5,000,000.00 and forfeiture of the advantage or value derived from his act.

The charges with suit number FHC/L/178C/19 were filed before a Lagos State High Court.

Some of the credit cards, according to the EFCC, bore the names- Nicole Louise Malyon, and Timea Fedorne Tatar.

The alleged crimes were in contravention of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act and the Cyber Crimes Act.

The charges read in part, “That you, Azeez Adeshina Fashola, aka Naira Marley, and Raze (still at large), on or about the 11th day of December 2018, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, conspired amongst yourselves to use Access card 42658840359191132 issued to persons other than you in a bid to obtain gain and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 27(1)(b) of the Cyber Crimes (Prohibition, Prevention etc) Act 2015 and punishable under Section 33(2) of the Same Act.

“That you, Azeez Adeshina Fashola, aka Naira Marley, and Raze (still at large), on or about the 10th day of May 2019, within the jurisdiction of this honorable court, with intent to defraud possessed, counterfeit card 4921819410257431 issued to Timea Fedorne Tatar and you thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 33(9) of Cyber Crimes (Prohibition, Prevention etc) Act 2015.”

The artiste has been enmeshed in controversy in the last one month following his decision to openly support online fraud commonly called ‘Yahoo Yahoo.’

He was arrested last Friday along with four others, including his bosom friend, Zlatan Ibile.

Suspected Yahoo boys set attack dog on EFCC operatives

Detectives from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Ibadan zonal office got a dose of ‘corruption fighting back’ when suspected internet criminals also know.as Yahoo boys, unleashed a dangerous dog on them in order to resist arrest.

Upon receipt of intelligence reports and launch of preliminary investigations into their alleged illegal activities, officers of the Commission stormed the suspects’ hideout at Agara area of Ibadan, Oyo State, at the early hours of Wednesday 15 May.

Instead of allowing them in, after proper introduction, one of the suspects instructed the guard to release the attack dog on the operatives.

This, however, failed to win as the officers were able to neutralise the animal and carry out extensive search on the apartment and effect arrest of the suspects.

Internet scammer who damaged his phone to prevent access by EFCC

Again, out of desperation to conceal useful information that could help the Commission in their investigation, one of the suspects smashed his android phone with the intention to destroy the gadget and deny access to the data therein.

The attempt equally failed as the operatives took possession of the broken phone, which is currently with the forensic unit, where analysis is being carried out to obtain data from it.

The second-in-command to the zonal head, Bright Igeleke, who led the operation, described the experience as part of the ‘hazards of the job’.

Suspects arrested in the operation are: Paul Afolabi, Balogun Ibrahim Adebayo, Izu Ibobo Chukwunalu, Abe Tolulope, Onifade Gidion Idowu, Komolafe Tosin and Igwe Kinsley Otuu.

Similarly, operatives from the zone earlier in the week arrested four other suspects over their alleged involvement in cyber-related offences.

The suspects are Adebisi Adewale Michael and Olowolayemo Olakunle Quddus, Opaaje Oluwatobi Isiah and Itowe Kelvin Olutayo. They are now under interrogation, and are giving useful information to the operatives in the quest to unravel the extent of their illegal activities.

Information obtained from them so far reveals that they used the internet to defraud unsuspecting victims while posing online as white ladies and foreign military officers.

At the point of their arrest, a Lexus car, iPhones, other brands of phones and International Passports were recovered from them.

All the arrested suspects will be charged to court as soon as investigations are concluded.