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Post-subsidy talks: Labour threatens indefinite strike, gives one week ultimatum

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• Members of the Nigeria Labour Congress during the protest at the National Assembly Complex in Abuja...on Wednesday.
• Giving a bag of rice to 12 people, N100m to each lawmaker insulting – Labour

• Gov’t has absconded from negotiation table, fails to meet workers’ demands, says NLC

Barely one week after leading a two-day nationwide warning strike,  the organised labour on Tuesday threatened to begin an indefinite strike should the Federal Government fail to meet its demands at the end of a 21-day ultimatum which will expire in approximately one week’s time.

The workers union said the proposed strike was necessary following the failure of the Federal Government to provide palliatives to assuage the Nigerians hardships as a result of the fuel subsidy removal.

The Nigeria Labour Congress said the industrial action which may commence any day from next week would lead to an indefinite shutdown of commercial and economic activities across the country.

Speaking with The PUNCH on Tuesday, the National Assistant General Secretary of the NLC, Mr Christopher Onyeka, said the FG was wrong to share a bag of rice to a dozen citizens while reportedly giving N100m palliative to each member of the National Assembly.

The union had on September 1 handed down a 21-day ultimatum to the FG over the delay in sharing of palliatives, saying it might be compelled to declare an indefinite labour action if its demands were not met.

“If the government fails to provide the appropriate responses to our demands, we encourage you to maintain your steadfast resolve. The same passion and determination that fuelled this warning strike will be crucial if we find ourselves compelled to embark on an indefinite nationwide strike,’’ the labour body said in a letter to the FG.

To demonstrate its seriousness, the NLC mobilised workers for a two-day warning strike on September 5 and 6, partially grounding social and economic activities in several states with banks, ministries, agencies and departments closed to the public in some states.

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The NLC leadership had said the action was in preparation for a total shutdown which would start at the expiration of the ultimatum next week.

Among other demands, the NLC and the Trade Union Congress were asking for wage awards, implementation of palliatives, tax exemptions and allowances to the public sector workers and a review of the minimum wage.

Though the FG made a commitment to restructure the framework for engagement with organised Labour on palliatives, the eight-week timeframe set for the conclusion of the process expired in August with no action whatsoever.

The committees were given eight weeks to conclude their assignment and hasten the implementation of the framework in cushioning the effect of petrol subsidy removal on Nigerians but weeks after the timeframe expired, the sub-committees had yet to meet or actualise their mandates.

President Bola Tinubu had since June 19 set up the Presidential Steering Committee and various sub-committees to discuss the framework to be adopted on the palliatives.

The sub-committees had been created to implement FG’s palliative package in areas such as Cash Transfers, Social Investment Programme, Cost of Governance, Energy, and Mass Transit and Housing.

This was a fall-out of the President’s closed-door session with the leadership of the NLC and the TUC during a nationwide protest by the organised labour.

Nationwide protest

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Giving an update on the planned walk out following the lukewarm attitude of the government, Onyeka insisted that the FG had absconded from the negotiation table, noting that it had also failed to meet the workers’ demands.

The union leader hinted that the strike would not notify the government before carrying out any action it deems fit.

SEE ALSO:  Hardship: Don’t join protest, Ohanaeze tells Ndigbo

He said, “We sent the letter to the Federal Government on September 1, 2023, so by September 22, 2023, the 21-day ultimatum will end.

“We have made it clear that the Federal Government has abandoned and absconded from the table for negotiation; that government is no longer negotiating with Nigerians and there is no good faith negotiation that is going on.’’

“President Bola Tinubu promised Nigerians on his own on the television with the President of NLC, Joe Ajaero, that he was going to restructure the committees, but he did not do that, and since then the committees have not met and there has been no negotiation that is on-going. As it is, NLC is not negotiating with the government,” Onyeka said.

The Assistant General Secretary said Nigerians were insulted by the inadequate palliative being given.

He lamented, “Can you see the insult that a ward would share a bag of rice and the government calls that a palliative? It is an insult to Nigerians, whereas the government gave legislators N70bn and each of the legislators gets over N100m in a country where Nigerians are suffering.

“The FG is buying cars and houses of over N100m for each person and Nigerians are keeping quiet as if what is going on is a normal thing. NLC calls Nigerians to join hands together because they cannot do it alone.

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‘’When NLC calls for action, people should come out, they should because it is a collective effort to make the government yield to the desires and the interest of Nigerians.”

Workers who spoke to our correspondents said they have been badly affected by the withdrawal of the fuel subsidy, urging the government to quickly cushion the pains.

In order to beat the harsh economic situation, civil servants said they have been devising various survival strategies, including skipping work as well as engaging in farming and trading to augment their incomes.

Some workers in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja and Lagos revealed that their organisations have reduced the number of work hours and days.

They further noted that their organisations had also adopted the work-from-home model which became popular during the lockdown period following the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

An Abuja-based civil servant, Judith Obiora said, “Most of the offices at the Federal Secretariat are no longer filled up as they used to be before the fuel subsidy removal. Now, we only come to the office twice or thrice a week.”

A civil servant who is planning to relocate abroad said he could no longer cope with the high cost of living.

He said, “The situation in Nigeria is very terrible because the minimum wage no longer meets the cost of living. Civil servants are suffering because the prices of things have increased, and it is tough to cope these days.

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“By the time you weigh everything, you will see that it is not worth it. Even as a businessman in this country, getting customers to patronise you is difficult, and getting your profit from the work you are doing is hard.”

A worker, who identified himself as Friday, said he had been going to work three times a week to cut costs.

He said, “It has greatly affected me because I can’t afford to go to work Monday through Friday anymore. I go three times a week. Even if the directors have their ways, they won’t show up.

SEE ALSO:  Villagers plan mass burial for bandits killed in supremacy battle

“The effect of the subsidy removal is general. The bus provided for my area is an 18-seater bus but we have over 50 staff living in Kuje, and the senior staff always get preference over the junior staff.

‘’The junior staff members are left behind. I don’t even try boarding the bus because I don’t want any senior staff member to talk to me anyhow (disrespectfully).”

Hard times

A staff member of a prominent agency who wished to be known as Vivian stated, “It has been tough, especially in the area of feeding. Things are very expensive, and for people like us who still have young children, it has been quite difficult meeting up.

“If it is an adult, you can still manage, but how do you tell a child that the money is not enough? Also, in the area of transportation, it has been very difficult. For instance, the transport fare that used to be N100 before has jumped to N300, and when you calculate it, you will find out that the easiest thing to do is to work remotely once in a while.”

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A civil servant who identified herself as Sade said she and her husband had been having sleepless nights over the survival of their family.

She lamented, “I was at the market yesterday, and I screamed. Things are too expensive. Honestly, we can’t continue like this. Apart from the high food prices, the school fees of my children have increased, and my husband and I have been having sleepless nights trying to manage ourselves.”

One Mr Kunle Adams, who worked with a federal agency, said he had been forced to become a cab driver in order to generate extra income.

He noted, “I usually do not like to pick passengers when going to work, but I have been doing it to cover the amount I spent on fuel. I once tried parking my car at home, but it was not convenient for me to do so; otherwise, I would have dropped it because it is cost-effective.

‘’If you are talking about high prices of commodities, that is everywhere, so who am I not to be affected? If only the government could intervene, it would be lovely.’’

Lamenting the situation, Ade Abayomi, a Lagos-based civil servant said, “It’s not been easy since the subsidy removal was announced. But I think the government has been reasonable too. I only go to work about thrice in a week these days.”

Hassan Ahmed, who works with a federal parastatal in Abuja, admitted that he works remotely and only visits the office occasionally.

“The cash crunch is affecting everyone, including government organisations and private companies and individuals. Most of us now work from home. I only go to the office occasionally now,” he disclosed.

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The Ekiti State NLC Chairman, Kolapo Olatunde, declared that the workers were working under harsh conditions since the Federal Government removed the fuel subsidy.

Olatunde, who said the fuel subsidy removal had led to an increase in the prices of goods and services, justified the need for salary increment.

“If you must fill your car tank now with petrol, you must have over N35,000 and that won’t serve you for two weeks. It means you have to fill your tank twice amounting to N70,000 to take you for four weeks.

‘’If you are a civil servant from whichever level to grade level 14, I am not sure the salary is up to that on a monthly basis. The equation is not balanced, that is the truth. That is why the government should have a listening ear,” Olatunde said.

SEE ALSO:  Economic hardship: We are dying of hunger – Kogi beggars cry out

The NLC leader, who said reducing the working days was not the solution, noted, “The solution is to give workers what is required of them to do their work effectively so that at the end of the day, there will be a positive plough-back.

“If you go to the office to solve problems, someone is now saying don’t come to the office twice or thrice in a week, who solves the problems of those days? It means that the office is not doing anything. It means we are deceiving ourselves. ‘’

“Then, what becomes of the unemployed if you are asking the employed people to stay at home? Definitely, that is a brighter picture that people will no longer be employed,” he concluded.

Kwara workers

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In Kwara State, workers go to their offices three times a week in order to save money in view of the high cost of petrol.

The state government had earlier directed the workers to report for work three times and added N10,000 to their salaries pending the review of the minimum wage.

A female civil servant simply identified as Lola, explained that since the fuel subsidy was removed, she had been going to work thrice a week.

‘’Workers in my office agreed that we should be reporting in the office three times a week. We have agreed on which days to come to the office since the government said that we should come to work for three days in a week,’’ she noted.

She complained about the high cost of transportation which she said had increased by 200 per cent.

‘’I have been reporting for work on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday while others also selected other days of the week when they come to the office. In my house, we have also reduced the quantity of food we eat.  We only eat in the morning and evening.

‘’On days that I don’t go to work, I supplement the feeding of my two children with garri in the afternoon if they complain of hunger as they are presently on holiday,” Lola stated.

A worker in the governor’s office, Mallam Makun Abdullahi, revealed that he had stopped bulk purchase of foodstuffs from the cooperative society as he used to do on a monthly basis.

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“Though the government has added N10,000 to our monthly salary, it cannot take us anywhere. Our salary is no longer enough to feed our family. I am also involved in farming where I go on days I don’t go to work.”

Public workers in Sokoto State explained that many of them do not come to the office every day in order to save money on transportation.

Some of the civil servants in the state who spoke with our correspondent confirmed that the arrangement in most cases was among the junior staff without the knowledge of their boss.

A state worker said, “We have some arrangements among ourselves to deal with the situation even though it’s without the knowledge of the management but we cover for ourselves.

“Most of us use the spare time for farming as part of our own little way to tackle the current hardship.”

The Sokoto State NLC Chairman, Abdullahi Aliyu, and his secretary, Hamisu Yanduna, were unavailable for comment. (PUNCH)
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Hoodlums break into Abuja warehouse, cart away food Items

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Some unidentified hoodlums raided a government storage facility in Gwagwa town within the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on Sunday morning, seizing stored food supplies.

According to accounts from locals, young individuals from the area forcibly entered the warehouse situated near the Tasha region of the community around 7 am, absconding with bags of maize and grain.

Jaafar Aminu, a resident, revealed that the looting persisted without interruption until 9 am when he spoke with our correspondent. He further explained that additional residents from nearby Jiwa and Karmo towns joined in the plunder.

The incursion resulted in heavy traffic congestion on the Gwagwa-Karmo road, affecting travel to the Dei-Dei and Jabi areas.

Aminu reported sustaining injuries before departing from the scene.

Another resident, Christopher Agbo said the looters did not spare even protectors used to barricade the site as they picked anything deemed useful from the warehouse.

Recall that the warehouse was also looted during the Covid-19 lockdown. Grain bags as well as pumping machines meant for intervention were stolen from the site by the looters.

After raiding the store, the rampaging youths headed towards Idu Industrial Estate, an area that hosts warehouses owned by individuals and also the government.

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There was no presence of security operatives to check the attacks at the time of filing this report.

But when contacted, FCT police spokesperson, SP Josephine Adeh said the police were already on ground trying to control the situation.

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SEE ALSO:  Villagers plan mass burial for bandits killed in supremacy battle
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Peter Obi mourns Mr Ibu

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Mr Ibu undergoes another leg surgery, hardly talks as condition worsens
Late John Okafor, Mr. Ibu
The Presidential candidate of the Labour Party in the 2023 general election, Mr. Peter Obi has mourned the demise of Nollywood actor, John Okafor popularly known as Mr. Ibu, saying that “his death is a huge loss, not just to the entertainment industry, but to the nation.

Mr. Ibu died on Saturday, March 2nd, 2024 at Evercare hospital, Lekki, Lagos state.

In a post via his X account, Obi said Ibu’s “death is very saddening” because “he was one legendary comic actor who embodied laughter, exuded joy and spread happiness.”

Obi’s post reads:

“Just as I tweeted my condolence on the death of Nollywood actor Sisi Quadri, a lot of people, through my comments section, called my attention to the death of veteran Nollywood actor, John Okafor, popularly known as Mr Ibu.

“His death is very saddening. He was one legendary comic actor who embodied laughter, exuded joy and spread happiness. When sadly he took ill, we all prayed for his quick recovery and hoped he would bounce back in good health.

His death is a huge loss, not just to the entertainment industry, but to the nation. Those artists who lighten the mood of the nation also perform a great task of helping us all to weather the dark storms of life.

“On behalf of my family, I commiserate with his bereaved family, the Actors Guild of Nigeria, who just lost two legendary actors within a few days and the entire Nollywood family. We share the pains of his death, but are comforted by the cherished moments of joy and happiness he left behind.

SEE ALSO:  Don’t blame me for Nigeria’s economic woes – CBN Gov. Cardoso

“May God who called him home grant him eternal rest and grant his family, and all of us who mourn him, the fortitude to bear his sad irreplaceable loss. Rest in Peace Mr Ibu!”

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Japa: How Canadian-based Nigerian duped Jobseekers eyeing care jobs abroad of millions of naira

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How Canadian-based Nigerian duped Jobseekers eyeing care jobs abroad of millions of naira
Kayode Stephen

A Nigerian based in Canada, Kayode Stephen, has been accused of defrauding several people of millions of naira under the pretext of getting them certificates of sponsorship for care jobs in the United Kingdom.

A home learning website — www.ncchomelearning.co.uk— describes a care worker as ‘a trained professional who supports other people in all aspects of their daily life, including preparing and eating meals, socialising, physical activities, medical support, and toileting support’.

It explained that some care workers work in care homes, and others are employed on a contract basis in patient’s homes, while domiciliary carers travel to different people’s homes in the community.

Sunday PUNCH reports that of the constant wave of young Nigerians surging out of Nigeria in search of greener pastures abroad, especially in recent times, a significant portion of them are actually in search of care jobs in the UK.

For an immigrant who wants to secure such care jobs in the UK, they have to get a certificate of sponsorship, a document affirming that they have been offered employment as a carer in the country.

However, some Nigerians have found themselves at the short end of the stick, after paying Stephen, who used to be based in the UK, millions of naira, and not getting a CoS as the latter had promised.

Thousands duped over non-existent jobs

Indeed, many Nigerians desperate to escape the hardship in the country and seek better lives in the UK have been swindled out of their hard-earned money.

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In December 2023, an agency of the United Nations— International Organisation for Migration— stated that over 1,000 Nigerians had been duped with fake employment letters and other documents.

Speaking in Abuja in December 2023, IOM’s Chief of Mission, Laurent De Boeck, advised potential migrants to be cautious of syndicates that specialised in offering fake employment letters to Nigerians seeking to work in the United Kingdom.

Urging them to seek out proper information before migration, he stated that no fewer than 1,000 Nigerians were currently stranded in the UK, having got visas based on fake employment letters procured for them, only to get to the respective organisations in the UK and then be denied acceptance, because the letters did not emanate from those organisations.

In search of elusive CoS

An accountant trainee based in the UK, Anjola (surname withheld), told our correspondent that she paid Stephen the sum of £12,000 for training as well as a CoS for her boyfriend, who was in Turkey.

She alleged that upon the completion of the training, Stephen gave her boyfriend a fake CoS, which he submitted at the UK Embassy in Turkey in the course of seeking a visa, and was subsequently handed a ban of 10 years from entering the country.

Recalling the incident in a subdued tone, Anjola said, “I am in a dilemma as I was scammed of £12,000 by Stephen, who posed as a care home manager and claimed to allegedly issue certificates of sponsorship after one is done with training. He gave my boyfriend a fake CoS, which he used to unknowingly apply for a visa, and got a 10-year visa ban from the UK.

“He (Stephen) came in as a student from Nigeria, and now, he has absconded from the UK I have reported to the police but he has unfortunately not been found. Meanwhile, he has scammed other people as well, even from Nigeria, of over £100,000, and someone allegedly committed suicide because of his activities.

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“He is still actively defrauding people, as he is still posting ‘CoS available, cars available for export. Let’s deal,’ on his WhatsApp status.”

Narrating how she paid him for the training, the accountant trainee said, “I paid him in six installments. He gave me the account number of a person, who he claimed was his secretary. I later found out that the person I paid to was his accomplice.

“I contacted the bank to make complaints, and I was informed that the account had been closed because it had been flagged for fraud.”

She added that she became worried after the UK Home Office informed them that it needed more time, raising the suspicion that something was fishy about the document.

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“A month and three weeks after the training, he issued the CoS, and told us that we could go ahead and apply for the visa. I remember reaching out to him because an agent was handling the visa process for us, and I asked him for the licence number of the CoS. He told me it was there. But, I told him to highlight the place for me, because I could not see it.

“After my boyfriend applied for the visa, we later got a mail from the Home Office, saying that the application had not been straightforward and they would need more time. That usually happens when one’s document is not complete, and there seems to be something fishy.

“Another email was then sent, stating that he had been banned for submitting a fake document, which was identified as the CoS. I reached out to him (Stephen) after that, but he stopped taking my calls and did not respond to messages.

“He later told the person who referred me to him, Adeyinka Ajayi, that he would give me a refund if I stopped making noise about the issue,” she said.

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Anjola added that she had made a report to the Metropolitan Police in London, and they stated that they were still working on the case.

Yet another victim, simply identified as Adekoya, alleged that he paid Stephen the sum of £8,000. According to him, he was initially referred to a Nigeria-based lawyer, Peniela Akintujoye, by his brother-in-law, who told him that the latter could help him get a CoS.

“I was introduced to Peniela by my brother-in-law, that he could help my family with CoS. He (Peniela) also told me that his contact in the UK could get me a CoS.

“I told him I wanted the CoS to be for a care home in Birmingham (a city in England). But, he told me that he had already submitted four applications in Birmingham, and was waiting for confirmation. He assured me that it would be out in three days. So, I sent the naira equivalent to my sister-in-law in the UK to convert to £8,000 and give Peniela’s representative,” Adekoya told our correspondent.

“After two weeks, I called him and asked if the CoS was out, so I could proceed with the travel process. He replied that it was not out, so I asked him to refund my money, since it seemed that his contact was not very sure; and he promised to do so. However, he contacted me after three days and said he had another contact that could issue a CoS very fast in Wolverhampton and Manchester (also cities in England).

“After I did not hear from him in three weeks, I told Peniela that if the CoS was not issued after four weeks, they should refund my money. But, that was where the problem started. I later discovered that he gave my money to the same person I had advised him to withdraw the Birmingham application from,” he added.

Couple’s relocation plans truncated

Tosin Ojelabi, a Nigerian living in the United Arab Emirates, also alleged that he paid over N7m to Stephen for the same document to enable him to relocate to the UK with his wife and start a family, but never got what he paid for.

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Like Adekoya, Ojelabi told Sunday PUNCH that he came in contact with Stephen through Akintujoye.

Recounting his experience with Stephen to our correspondent, Ojelabi said, “I am one of the victims defrauded by Mr Kayode Stephen. I got to know him through a lawyer, Peniela Akintujoye. I gave him my hard-earned money so that he could help me get a CoS in the UK.

“The plan was to travel with my wife to the UK and start a family. Since Akintujoye is a lawyer and pastor, I felt that I could entrust him with my money. I paid him a total of N7,162,500. All the money was paid on the same day from two different accounts. As of the time I paid, that money was equivalent to about £6,006.”

SEE ALSO:  Police parade lawyer for brutalising 10-year-old househelp

Showing our correspondent the receipts of the transfers, Ojelabi stressed that he felt even more confident because Akintujoye assured him that Stephen had procured CoS for several people through him.

He added, “After about four weeks and I did not get anything, I asked him what the update was, and he told me they were trying to get a CoS for me in Birmingham. Later, he stated that a CoS in Birmingham was not coming, and that they would get for me in another location.

“I was angry, but I decided to wait for another five weeks, yet I still got nothing. I then asked him to give me Stephen’s phone number, so I could communicate with him directly. When I sent him (Stephen) a message, he responded well initially, assuring me that everything would be sorted out soon.”

However, the UAE-based Nigerian stated that he suspected that Akintujoye was Stephen’s accomplice and not a victim.

He said, “I have a strong suspicion that Akintujoye is actually an accomplice, even if he says that he did not take a dime from the money. Throughout the process of waiting for the CoS, he kept defending Stephen and was showing me different CoS’s that Stephen had purportedly procured for some people.

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“He was constantly putting things like that on his WhatsApp status, and misleading people. I believe that as a barrister, what he did was very wrong; it was tantamount to using his platform to give people false information.”

Victims unite

United by their unpalatable experiences with Stephen, 26 of his victims later created a WhatsApp group where they discussed how to recover their money from him.

Our correspondent gathered that more cans of worms were opened when the victims started interacting with one another, as they realised to their chagrin that he had even fleeced more people than they had initially thought.

The middleman

Sunday PUNCH further gathered that many of the victims were linked to Stephen by Akintujoye, and some of them believed that the lawyer was Stephen’s accomplice.

However, in an interview with our correspondent, Akintujoye said he had no idea that Stephen would not fulfil his end of the bargain.

He said, “I am a travel agent, and Stephen told me he had links to secure CoS for my clients. I had actually known him (Stephen) before he left Nigeria, and had done some small businesses with him before he left the country; that was the basis of my trust in him. I did not know that he had become a fraudster in the UK.

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“Based on his assurances, I gave my clients his bank accounts to pay into. I also gave him about £58,000 for 10 CoS. Unfortunately, and perhaps not surprising to him knowing what he set out to do from the outset, he did not deliver even a single CoS out of the 10 I paid him for.”

The lawyer added that when the document was not forthcoming, he requested a refund from Stephen, who he said claimed that the monies were with the care homes. He also said that Stephen failed to provide any evidence of payment to the care homes.

“I also requested that he should put me on call with the said care homes, so I could speak with them personally, but he blatantly declined,” he added.

Akintujoye added that he suspected that Stephen’s girlfriend, Saratu Jubril, was in on the crime, as over £70,000 was paid to her account at the behest of her boyfriend.

Long road to justice

Akintujoye further stated that to get justice for the victims, he had written petitions to different law enforcement agencies. According to him, some of those who paid for the CoS were on the verge of being deported, because they needed to renew their visas, and they had given all their money to Stephen.

He said, “We have petitioned the Nigeria Police Force through the Inspector General of Police, Interpol, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, UK police, his former school — the University of Lincoln (in the UK), and the new school he has gone to (CAN College, Canada); as well as the Canada Anti-Fraud Centre.”

SEE ALSO:  Provide electricity in South East or be kicked out, IPOB warns EEDC, Emeka Offor

The lawyer added that the National Cyber Crime Centre of the NPF had extended a letter of invitation to Stephen.

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A copy of the invitation letter dated January 2, 2024, and sighted by our correspondent read in part, “The Nigeria Police Force National Cyber Crime Centre is investigating a case of Advance Fee Fraud and Obtaining by False Pretence, in which your name prominently featured.

“In view of the above, you are requested to interview the Director of the Nigeria Police Force National Cybercrime Centre…”

The letter, which was signed by a Deputy Commissioner of Police, Usman Imam, directed Stephen to present himself at their office on January 16, 2024. However, Sunday PUNCH gathered that the invitation was not honoured.

Akintujoye also said he had been going through mental turmoil, as the alleged victims had been piling pressure on him and demanding a refund.

Promise for refund not fulfilled

One of the victims, Ojelabi, claimed that out of the over N7m he paid to Stephen, he (Stephen) refunded only N1,500,000 before going incommunicado. Akintujoye also said that out of about N90m paid by his clients to Stephen, only N6m was refunded.

However, when our correspondent reached out to Stephen over a month ago, he claimed that he was in the process of refunding all the funds that were paid to him.

Admitting that the victims indeed paid him to get certificates, he claimed, “But, my contact messed up the work, and I have started refunding them.”

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He thereafter sent receipts of the payments he claimed he made to the complainants.

But Akintujoye told Sunday PUNCH that Stephen was only trying to be clever by half.

“In my opinion, his (Stephen’s) approach to scam is that he would take a lot of money from people, later refund a part of it and keep the rest. By giving some of the money back, it would seem like he did not defraud the person.

“But, as long as the monies were diverted and not used for the purpose they were meant for, it has an element of fraud. Up till now, he has not provided any proof of his payment to the third parties he claimed to be dealing with.”

When our correspondent informed Stephen that the victims wanted their funds back in full and asked him to give them a specific timeline for the refunds to be made, he said, “They are getting refunds already. That is what I am explaining to you, but I cannot be specific on an exact time.

“However, I can keep updating you as I send the money to them. I am not employing delay tactics. I could not do anything before, but I have started returning their money.”

Stephen later told our correspondent that the victims were not being patient. He claimed that rapid changes in the immigration laws in the past few months had reduced the allocated slots employers in the UK got, as a means of regulating the inflow of immigrants into the country, hence, reducing the duration it took to secure a certificate of sponsorship from a UK employer.

He said, “Nobody was scammed. A few locations had delays, and that is why I have not been able to deliver. I am in talk with my clients, but clearly, they are not being patient.”

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However, when Sunday PUNCH reached out to the policeman handling the case, ASP Victor Okeshola, he directed our correspondent to the Force Public Relations Officer, Muyiwa Adejobi, as he was not authorised to speak to the press on the issue.

But, calls and messages put through to the FPRO were not responded to as of the time of filing this report.

In a similar vein, calls put through to the spokesperson of the EFCC, Dele Oyewale, did not connect, and messages sent to him had not been responded to as of press time.

Source: Sunday PUNCH

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