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Why we’re freezing Bauchi State govt account – EFCC

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Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Monday, granted the EFCC’s prayer to freeze the FCMB Operational Account number: 0998552074 of the Bauchi State government.

The EFCC, through his Counsel, Abubakar Aliyu, in an Exparte Order with file number: FHC/ABJ/CS/858/2019, sought the order of the court to freeze the account pending the conclusion of the ongoing investigation by the commission.

The state government presently has about N11 billion (N11,500,000 000 00) in the bank account.

The judge ordered the EFCC to, within 21 days, notify the respondents; the Bauchi State government and the FCMB about the court’s decision.

The judge, however, adjourned further hearing until Sept. 3.

Earlier, counsel to the EFCC told the judge that the commission was investigating a money laundering case in which the account featured prominently.

He said many non-existent companies were used to transfer funds from the account.

”My Lord, about N19.8 billion cheques were raised on the eve of transferring power to the new government for purportedly non-existent contracts and other grants,” he said.

He told Justice Taiwo that the amount was beyond the N11 billion in the account

According to him, the Accountant General is still a signatory to the account and they are still trying to access the money.

When the judge asked if freezing the FCMB account would not affect the operation of the state government, Aliyu said the action would not affect the government’s operation because the account was not the one linked to Federal Account Allocation Committee, FAAC.

”They have other accounts and we have tagged this as exhibit 22 and 23,” he said.

Responding to the judge’s question on how long the investigation would take, the counsel said: ”My Lord, investigation is like a pregnant activity. If My Lord will give us 21 days, we will be grateful.”

”I have patiently listened to the counsel’s prayer. I, therefore, grant the order sought by the applicant as prayed.

”Meanwhile, the parties concern must be put on notice within 21 days of the order of this court,” Justice Taiwo held.

In the suit filed, the EFCC had claimed that the immediate-past government in the state was involved in money laundering for which it deployed the account.

The EFCC stated that it needed to have the account frozen to preserve the funds being held in it.

An official of the EFCC, Yakubu Sani stated in a supporting affidavit that “it is a fact that between the 24th and 28th day of May 2019, the applicant received intelligence that the then outgoing government in Bauchi State initiated a process at overdrawing to launder the sum of N19,897,809,334.08 property at Bauchi State Government.

”The bank account subject matter of the intelligence is the Bauchi State Government Operational Account number: 0998552074 domiciled at First City Monument Bunk.

”The actual amount in the sand bank account is N11,500,000 000 00 which was paid to the Bauchi State Government by the Federal Government of Nigeria via the Central Bank.

”The process of laundering employed by the suspects includes the issuance of mandates and cheques rose to the First City Monument Bank (FCMB) for the payments at non-executed contracts and fictitious claims to individuals and contractors.

“The Bauchi State Accountant General is one at the signatory that clears the said cheques and mandate for said suspicious payments and still remains a signatory to the said account under investigation.

”Based on the intelligence received, attempts were being made to activate the withdrawal of such funds while still under investigation by the current Government of Bauchi State

“The investigation has since commenced and the applicant deems it necessary to cause the said bank account and funds to be frozen pending the determination of the investigation therein.

”Freezing the said bank account and funds will greatly assist the applicant to get to the root of the matter and conclude its investigation timeously.

”Deflating the said funds by way at withdrawal will greatly obstruct the applicant from getting to the root of the matter and conclusion of the investigation timeously.

”The applicant needs to obtain the order of this court to cause the freezing of the said bank account and the funds therein.

“This honourable court has the jurisdiction to grant this order and it is in the best interest at justice to grant this application.”

NAN

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THE NATION

Sowore: US senator flays FG, says Nigeria has no regards for rule of law

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Robert Menendez, a US senator

Robert Menendez, a US senator from New Jersey and member of the senate foreign relations committee, says the events surrounding the rearrest of Omoyele Sowore shows that Nigeria no longer has regards for the rule of law.

On Friday, operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) rearrested Sowore, convener of #RevolutionNow Movement, and Olawale Bakare, an activist, at the federal high court in Abuja less than 24 hours after they were released on the orders of the court.

There were rearrested less than 24 hours after their release after spending 124 days in detention.

Menendez, who said it seems President Muhammadu Buhari is not aware of what the secret police is “doing in his name”, added that Sowore ought to be celebrated and not incarcerated.

He said the development is unacceptable from a country that practices democracy, pushing for a reassessment of the bilateral relations between Nigeria and US.

“The United States is watching and the world is watching. I fear that the blatant harassment of Mr Omoyele Sowore, an activist and journalist whose only crime appears to be exercising his right to free expression, is becoming symptomatic of increasingly closing political and civic space in Nigeria,” Menendez said.

“The Nigerian court has twice ordered his release on bail. And the state security agencies openly defied the court order each time leaving me to conclude that either Nigeria no longer respects the rule of law or President Buhari is woefully out of touch with what agents of his governments are doing in his name.

“This is unacceptable in a country that calls itself a democracy. Journalists who risk their lives to expose the truth should be celebrated, not incarcerated.

“It is unacceptable to that the husband and father of a US citizen with such blatant cruelty. Today, my office contacted our ambassador in Nigeria in an effort to obtain answers on what actions the United States is taking on the Sowore family’s behalf.

“In the next several days, I’ll continue to engage with the states department in Washington to ascertain the impart of what the arrest of Mr Sowore and other activists and journalists will have on our relationship with Nigeria. My hope is that the bilateral relationship we have with Nigeria will be reassessed in light of these events.”

Last month, the lawmaker had written a letter to Sylvanus Nsofor, Nigeria’s ambassador to US, over the crack down on journalists and activists”.

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THE NATION

Edo Assembly declares 12 seats vacant

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Edo State House of Assembly on Wednesday declared 12 seats in the assembly vacant.

The seats declared vacant are those of members-elect who have refused to present themselves for inauguration into the 7th Assembly and two others who did not meet the mandatory sitting requirement to continue as members of the House.

The Speaker of the House, Mr Francis Okiye, said even if the affected members decided to resume, they would not be able to meet the mandatory 180 sitting days as enshrined in the constitution.

The affected 12 members-elect are Vincent Uwadiae- Ovia North-East 2; Ugiagbe Dumez -Ovia North-East 1; Washington Osifo-Uhunmwode; Victor Edoror-Esan Central; Kingsley Ugabi- Etsako East; and Michael Ohio-Ezomo Owan West.

Others are Sunday Aghedo-Ovia South-West; Chris Okaeben-Oredo West; Crosby Eribo-Egor: Aliyu Oshiomhole-Etsako West 2; Oshomah Ahmed -Etsako Central and Ganiyu Audu-Etsako West 1.

Okiye, while declaring the seats vacant, said the 12 members-elect refused to come forward to process the necessary documentation as part of the condition for their inauguration.

He said, “12 out of the 24 members-elect who completed their screening and documentation process were inaugurated on June 17, 2019 out of which two of them have refused to discharge their legislative duties.

“They have refused to represent their constituents in the House, invariably denying their constituents effective representation.

“At this point, I am declaring the seats of the 12 members-elect vacant in accordance with Section 109 Subsection 1F of the constitution.”

Okiye thereafter called on the Independent National Electoral Commission to conduct by-elections for the affected constituencies within 90 days.

The Deputy Speaker of the House, Mr Yekini Idiaye, representing Akoko Edo State Constituency I, said the lawmakers arrived at the decision to declare the seats vacant following over 100 petitions and protests from the people of the constituencies who complained of neglect as a result of lack of representation by the members-elect.

But the spokesman of the affected lawmakers-elect, Mr Washington Osifo, said the action of the assembly was laughable.

He said, “It is a laughing matter because the matter is before the court and when a matter is before the court, such action is sub judice.

“We are challenging the illegal inauguration of the House and anything put on nothing cannot stand. So, Okiye is a man that is in search of identity, he is working with the governor in the pursuit of a blind ambition, they have hit the rock.”

He said the House also passed the 2020 Appropriation Bill and affirmed the removal of the suspended Chairman of Etsako East Local Government Area, Alhaji Aramiyau Momoh.

Other matter considered at the sitting, according to him, was the confirmation of the members of the board of the Edo State Internal Revenue Service.

-PUNCH

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THE NATION

FRSC raises alarm over fake vehicle insurance documents

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The Corps Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Corps Boboye Oyeyemi, says faking of the vehicle insurance documents has become quite rampant.

According to him, the situation deserves closer examination.

He spoke in his office while receiving the Chief Executive Officer, Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), Mr. Babatunde Irukera. Boboye said most insurance companies took advantage travellers and drivers’ ignorance of the compensation due to them under the third party insurance scheme.

He suggested that the cost of driver’s licence, number plate, among other services be published so that the citizens would not be cheated.

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