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N37bn fraud uncovered by EFCC in Humanitarian Ministry, Buhari’s minister, contractor indicted

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EFCC accuse religious organisation of laundering money for terrorists
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has uncovered a total sum of N37,170,855,753.44 allegedly laundered in the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs under former minister Sadiya Umar-Farouk.

Details of the ongoing probe according to a report by Sunday PUNCH revealed that the money was transferred from the Federal Government’s coffers and sent to 38 different bank accounts domiciled in five legacy commercial banks belonging to or connected with a contractor, James Okwete.

Following receipt of the funds, Okwete allegedly transferred N6,746,034,000.00 to Bureau De Change Operators, withdrew N540,000,000.00 in cash, purchased luxury cars with N288,348,600.00, and bought luxury houses in Abuja and Enugu State with N2,195,115,000.00.

Fifty-three companies were allegedly traced to Okwete, who was also said to have used 47 of the companies to lift Federal Government contracts amounting to N27,423,824,339.86. He is also linked with 143 bank accounts in 12 commercial banks in which 134 accounts are corporate accounts linked to different companies.

Checks by our correspondent with the Corporate Affairs Commission revealed that Okwete is a director in only 11 of the 53 companies, while the remaining 42 companies’ accounts are only linked to his Bank Verification Number as a signatory to the accounts.

The Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs currently serves as the parent ministry to eight agencies, including the National Social Investment Office, the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals, and the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants, and Internationally Displaced Persons, among others.

Umar-Farouq was the pioneer Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development. She was appointed by former President Muhammadu Buhari in July 2019 as the youngest cabinet member.

Her work with Buhari dates back to his days as the leader and presidential candidate of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change when she was the national treasurer of the party and later the national treasurer of the All Progressives Congress.

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She was later appointed minister in 2019 by President Buhari.

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The EFCC document revealed, “Between 2018 and 2023, the subject (Okwete) received the sum of N37,170,855,753.44 from the coffers of the Federal Government linked to the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.

“The monies were sent to 38 bank accounts domiciled in five legacy commercial banks. The suspect transferred N6,746,034,000.00 to Bureau De Change Operators, N540,000,000.00 withdrawn in cash, N288,348,600.00 used to purchase cars, and used N2,195,115,000.00 to purchase choice properties within Abuja and Enugu State.

“Fifty-three companies were traced to the suspect. He used 47 of the companies to lift Federal Government contracts amounting to N27,423,824,339.86. Okwete is associated with 143 bank accounts in 12 commercial banks in which 134 of the 143 accounts are corporate accounts linked to different companies.”

In 2020, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission said it uncovered N2.67bn meant for the ministry’s school feeding programme in private bank accounts.

The former ICPC Chairman, Prof Bolaji Owasanoye, disclosed that the commission unravelled N2.67bn in personal accounts, being payment made to some federal colleges for school feeding during the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020.

Other discoveries by the ICPC include 18 buildings, 12 business premises and 25 plots of land. Owasanoye said under the Open Treasury Portal review carried out between January and August 15, 2020, of the 268 Ministries, Departments and Agendas, 72 had cumulative infractions of N90m.

The former ICPC chairman argued that the money was paid when children were not in school.

Despite requests by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project to Umar-Farouq to publish details and names of the suspects, the former minister failed to reveal their names.

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Reacting to this, SERAP had written on its official Facebook page, “Following the disclosure by the ICPC that N2.67bn meant for school feeding during the COVID-19 lockdown ended up in private bank accounts, we’re calling on the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development of Nigeria, Sadiya Umar-Farouq, to immediately publish details of those suspected to be responsible, or face legal action.

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“If the names are not immediately published, we’ll issue a freedom of information request to ensure that those involved are named and shamed.

“We’ll also pursue appropriate legal actions to hold suspected perpetrators to account, in the public interest.

“Diverting funds meant to feed school children (who are already disproportionately affected by corruption), especially during COVID-19, is a blatant violation of the rights to education, health, and dignity, as well as the government’s own COVID-19 transparency frameworks.

“Corruption in school feeding increases distrust in the government. The Federal Government must ensure that transparency and accountability measures are fundamental to all school feeding and other initiatives in the context of COVID-19, to ensure the children receive the support they need.”

When contacted over the development, the spokesperson for the EFCC, Dele Oyewale, neither confirmed nor denied the story.

Oyewale simply said, “No comments on that.”

Lawyer, CSO react

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Reacting, a human rights lawyer, Tolu Babaleye, said, “If we want to be sincere, the corruption under the Buhari government was unprecedented. The main accused under Goodluck Jonathan’s government was Diezani Alison-Madueke, but under Buhari, many have cases to answer. Nigerians deserve to know what happened in the aviation sector, Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, and other sectors. I call on President Bola Tinubu to probe that administration so that Nigerians can know who is corrupt and for justice to be served.”

On his part, Chairman, Peering Advocacy and Advancement Centre in Africa, Ezenwa Nwagwu, urged Tinubu to probe all previous administrations.

“Buhari’s government should be probed, and not just his government, but all previous governments and past heads of MDAs, and all those who are found wanting should be brought to justice,” Nwagwu noted.

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Similarly, the Counsellor of a Civil Society Organisation, International Social Justice and Human Rights, Jackson Omenazu, said, “It is exceptionally important to probe the Buhari government, but Tinubu is morally incapacitated to probe Buhari’s government because he is an integral part of the APC government.

“Tinubu cannot exonerate himself from the maladministration of Buhari. (Godwin) Emefiele (former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria) is just a victim of circumstances. The only crime he committed was because he raised his head gullibly and showed interest in being President.”

Another lawyer and public affairs commentator, Jiti Ogunye, said that it was desirable for the present administration to probe the preceding administration following the Air Nigeria and CBN scandals, but regretted that the law did not make provisions for that.

Ogunye noted that the law only allowed the incumbent administration to probe individuals who were engaged in corrupt practices under the previous administration, including the President, to establish facts.

He stated, “When Nigerians are fascinated with the idea of a holistic and comprehensive probe of a past administration by the succeeding administration, the law does not grant an administration that blanket powers to probe the past administration in the way Nigerians imagine.

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“We have anti-corruption agencies, which are the ICPC and EFCC. We have criminal laws, anti-corruption laws, and money laundering laws. Recently, we have had the Proceeds of Crime Act. The provision of these anti-corruption laws has no place for targeting an administration in totality like that, but if there are individuals, including a former president, who are suspected to have committed corruption crimes, guilty of corrupt practices, or suspected to have committed money laundering, if found guilty of all other crimes bordering on corrupt practices and abuse of power, these individuals may be investigated specifically.” (PUNCH)

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JUST IN: Emefiele printed N684.5m with N18.9bn, says EFCC in fresh charge

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JUST IN: Emefiele printed N684.5m with N18.9bn, says EFCC in fresh charge
Emefiele

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has filed a fresh charge at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory against the embattled former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele.

EFCC in the charge accused Emefiele of approving the printing of N684,590,000 at the rate of N18.96 billion.

In the charge sighted by PUNCH Online on Tuesday, EFCC alleged that Emefiele broke the law with intent to harm the public during his implementation of the naira swap policy of the administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari.

The anti-graft agency also accused Emefiele of unlawfully approving the withdrawal of N124.8 billion from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation.

The document dated April 2, 2024, and marked Suit No: CR/264/2024, was filed by EFCC’s top prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo, SAN revealed that Emefiele will be arraigned on a new four-count charge before Justice Hamza Muazu bordering on disobeying the law to punish Nigerians, iilegal printing of money, abuse of office, among others.

Counts one to four of the charge, read, “STATEMENT OF OFFENCE: Public Servant disobeying direction of law with intent to cause injury to the public contrary to and punishable under Section 123 of the Penal Code Law, Cap. 89 Laws of the Federation, 1990.

“PARTICULARS OF THE OFFENCE: That you GODWIN IFEANYI EMEFIELE between the 19th day of October 2022 and 5th March 2023 in Abuja, knowingly disobeyed the direction of Section 19 of the CBN Act, 2007, by approving the printing of N375,520,000.00 pieces of colour swapped N1, 000, at the total cost of N11,052, 068,062 without the recommendation of the Board of Central Bank and the strict approval of the President, Federal Republic of Nigeria which conduct of yours caused injury to the public and you thereby committed an offence.”

“COUNT 3: “That you GODWIN IFEANYI EMEFIELE between the 19th day of October 2022 and 5th March 2023 in Abuja, knowingly disobeyed the direction of Section 19 of the CBN Act, 2007, by approving the printing of 137,070,000 pieces of colour swapped N200 (Two Hundred Naira) Note, at the total cost of N3, 441, 005, 280 without the recommendation of the Board of Central Bank and the strict approval of the President, Federal Republic of Nigeria which conduct of yours caused injury to the public and you thereby committed an offence.”

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“COUNT 4: “That you, GODWIN IFEANYI EMEFIELE, on or about the 7th day of October 2020, in Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, knowingly disobeyed the direction of Section 80 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (As Amended), by approving the withdrawal of the total sum of N124, 860, 227, 865.16 from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation in a manner not prescribed by the National Assembly, which conduct of yours caused injury to the public and you thereby committed an offence.”

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Recall that Emefiele was on November 18, 2023, arraigned before the court on six counts of procurement fraud, in what is the most high-profile corruption case under President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

He was also accused of abusing his office by approving a contract for the acquisition of 43 vehicles totalling N1.2 billion from 2018 to 2020.

On Monday, April 8, 2024, the EFCC arraigned the former banker alongside one Henry Omoile before Justice R.A. Oshodi of the Special Offences Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos for an alleged $4.5bn and N2.8bn fraud. (PUNCH)

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Remove ‘Wanted’ from Yahaya Bello’s name – Kogi Assembly tells EFCC

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Remove ‘Wanted’ from Yahaya Bello’s name - Kogi Assembly tells EFCC
• Embattled former Kogi Gov, Yahaya Bello
Kogi House of Assembly has asked the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to vacate the ‘wanted’ tag it placed on the name and picture of the immediate past Governor Yahaya Bello.

This forms part of the resolutions during the House plenary on Tuesday and follows a matter of urgent public importance presented on the floor of the House by the member representing Ajaokuta Constituency, Hon Jibrin Abu.

Their resolutions made available to newsmen on Tuesday read: “The EFCC, IGP, Immigration, NSA and other agencies conscripted into this melodrama be so informed and involved to act accordingly. The Commission should not allow itself to become a tool of political vendetta, blackmail, or intimidation against any individual through personal grudges, persecution, and campaign of calumny to tarnish the image of personalities from Kogi State, especially Alh Yahaya Bello or any perceived political enemy of the characters hiding behind their executive powers to unleash allegations through media for public consumption and sympathy.

“The House condemns in its entirety a statement by legal practitioner suggesting a request that the military be involved in the case that does not constitute a threat to internal security or treasonable felony.”

Earlier in his motion, titled,: “A call to end all false, frivolous, fictitious, and far from the truth smear campaign against the former Governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Bello,” Abu lamented the anti-graft agency had been allegedly witch-hunting the former Governor for a long time.

“The recent reports on the print, electronic and social media had featured various debasing forms of address against the former Governor of Kogi State. Recall that the whole narrative was principally sparked off by the blithe actions, without respect to due legal process by Nigeria’s anti- graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

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“The consequence of this has deeply affected the minds, emotions, and impressions of Kogi citizens, and by extension, Nigerians. Kogi State, over the years, has witnessed a worrisome trend and torrent of witch-hunt by the anti-graft agency, unrepentantly striving to force corruption claims on the State Government and officials.

“This is not forgetting the plight of late Prince Abubakar Audu in the hands of the same agency, albeit, giving his dog a bad name for the kill.

“The Commission started with claims that it discovered a non-existent fund in an alleged Fixed Deposit Account. By its statutory responsibility and while appreciating EFCC’s efforts in the fight against corruption, every right thinking individual would hold it a duty to support it in no small measure to succeed in its primary responsibilities. It is also possible as touted all around for those very wary of certain actions outside legal process by the EFCC to caution against allowing the Commission to become a tool for political vendetta.

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“It is pertinent for House to further note that the new objectives assured by the leadership of EFCC upon assumption of duty and in his fight against crimes and corruption under President Ahmed Bola Tinubu are to fight financial crimes with due diligence and legal process. These objectives are being eroded by certain selfish group of political individuals with access to media and investigations in the commission.

“The 7th Legislative Assembly of Kogi State in August and September 2021 berated the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission upon the completion of its investigation over the allegation of N20b Bailout diversion against the former Governor of Kogi State, Alh. Yahaya Bello through a fixed deposit account at Sterling Bank, Lokoja.

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“The EFCC has continued the trajectory of persecuting the former Governor against all known legal decencies and now likened, by most, to personal vendetta. But the question is why?

“A point of reference for the House to take cognizance of is the submission, that having wasted taxpayers’ money, the time of the honourable court and Nigerians, one Kemi Pinheiro SAN, acting on behalf of EFCC and other Legal luminaries, discovered that the case of N20b against the State Government lacked substance and that it was aimed at disrespecting the rule of law. The case was accordingly withdrawn citing 6 reasons. These reasons were in line with findings of 7 Legislative Assembly and for berating the EFCC.

“The Rt. Hon. Speaker, distinguished honourable members, this was not without a fight by the then Governor, revealing to Nigerians the impotent drive
by the Commission and its sudden acceptance of duties not enshrined in the law establishing the same.

“Kogi State, by allocation standard, is not rich so much so that N80.4b will be missing that the State will not be shaken to its foundation. This claim by the EFCC should be sanctioned and taken as laughable. Innocent Nigerians and Kogi State citizens that bought into the lies should by their personal volition withdraw their support,” he stated.

In his submissions, the member representing Kabba-Bunu State Constituency Hon. Oluwaseyi Bello berated EFCC for allegedly disobeying a subsisting court order in the State.

Former Deputy Speaker Hon. Enema Paul told the anti graft agency to respect the rule of law.

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He said: “Why is EFCC in a haste? Nigeria is not a banana republic. I was surprised to hear a senior lawyer to EFCC inviting the military in a Civil case. Has the Police, DSS failed?

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“I think EFCC should look at their lawyer and see if he is really qualified. The Man they declared wanted is in Appeal Court with them. Declaring him wanted, I think EFCC has a lot of questions to answer. We don’t want military to rule this Country and some body is dragging us back to the olden days.”

Speaker Aliyu Umar Yusuf admonished the anti-graft agency not to act contrary to the law of the country.

“This House is not against the EFCC doing their job but they should do it within the ambit of the law and not in a gestapo way.

“The country belongs to all of us, so we must respect the law and work with it. The EFCC engaging in media trial and working in a gestapo way is unacceptable. If Yahaya Bello has a case to answer, it should be done within the rule of law,” he stated.

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Blackout in 3 Northern states as vandals pull down TCN towers

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Blackout in 3 Northern states as vandals pull down TCN towers
• One of the vandalized towers

The Transmission Company of Nigeria, (TCN) has confirmed that vandals destroyed its four towers along the Jos-Gombe transmission line, causing power blackout in three States of Adamawa, Gombe and Taraba.

TCN general manager, Public Affairs, Ndidi Mbah, who disclosed this in a statement late Monday night, said the towers were vandalised around 3:32pm on Monday.

As a result, the bulk power supply to Gombe, Yola, and Jalingo Substations has been disrupted, affecting the bulk power supply to parts of Yola and Jos Electricity Distribution Companies’ franchise areas.

“The Transmission Company of Nigeria hereby states that four towers along the Jos – Gombe 330kV transmission line have been vandalised at about 3:32 pm today, 22nd April 2024.

“TCN notes that when the 330kV transmission line tripped, its operators attempted to restore it to service but it tripped again, prompting the dispatch of TCN lines men to trace the line to detect and rectify the fault.

“While fault tracing, TCN’s engineering crew discovered that towers 288, 289, 290, and 291 were vandalised and that some tower members were carted away. Also, the towers had equally collapsed as a result of the incident.

“Presently, bulk power supply to Gombe, Yola, and Jalingo Substations have been disrupted, affecting the bulk power supply to parts of Yola and Jos Electricity Distribution Companies’ franchise areas.

“To mitigate the effect of the incident on electricity consumers affected by the incident, TCN is trying to first back feed Gombe through its 132kV transmission line from Bauchi and subsequently Ashaka, Potiskum, Damaturu, and Billiri/ Savannah.

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“We will do everything possible to restore supply to the affected areas while efforts are made to reconstruct the four vandalised towers,” the TCN spokesperson said.

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Recall that Abuja was thrown into darkness in February over the vandalisation of TCN towers.

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