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Tinubu, Nigeria is sinking and streets are full of tears

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Tinubu, Nigeria is sinking and streets are full of tears
• President Bola Tinubu

By Farooq A. Kperogi
Twitter: @farooqkperogi

The searing torment that everyday folks are going through in Nigeria right now is so dire, so unbearably extreme, and so unexampled in its rawness that even diasporan Nigerians like me who live tens of thousands of miles away from home can feel it not just vicariously but also experientially.

The unending streams of requests for help to meet the most basic obligations of life that we get from previously proud, resourceful, and self-sufficient family members, friends, acquaintances, and even strangers are the conduits through which we have experiential encounters with the ongoing cost-of-living turmoil in the country.

The lower classes are sinking deeper into soul-depressing depths of poverty, despair, and hopelessness, and the middle class is so hobbled by the economic crunch that it is disappearing faster than soap bubbles. The lower and the middle classes are now united by a common sensation of emptiness, agony, and anxiety for the future.

Every day is worse, less hopeful, and more precarious than the previous day for most Nigerians. Even hope, which French philosopher François de La Rochefoucauld assured us is the last thing that dies in humans, is desperately going into a death spiral. That’s an ominous signal President Bola Ahmed Tinubu would do well to not take lightly

Nigeria is famous for its superabundant supply of self-regenerating hope even in the midst of the most nerve-racking existential strain. You know you’re dealing with a potentially explosive social rupture when hope is grasping for breath among people who are famed for feasting on hope.

The current state of affairs isn’t unavoidable. It’s the predictable consequence of the pigheaded pursuit of a ruinous policy of subsidy removal from petrol, the lifeblood of Nigeria. I sounded an early warning about this a month before Tinubu was inaugurated.

In my April 29, 2023 column titled “Six Agenda Items for Tinubu’s Success,” I specifically warned Tinubu to resist the neoliberal anti-subsidy seduction of Western financial institutions, which they have successfully brainwashed Nigerian economists and civil society members into not just accepting but also aggressively evangelizing.

I wrote: “I know that there is now an artfully manufactured consent, particularly among the gilded classes in Nigeria, about the undesirability of ‘fuel subsidy.’ I don’t care what it’s called, but any policy (call it deregulation, subsidy removal, appropriate pricing, etc.) that results in an arbitrary and unbearable hike in the price of petrol without a corresponding increase in the salaries of workers and an improvement in the living conditions of everyday people will sink Tinubu.”

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I concluded: “I can assure Tinubu that if petrol price hikes deepen people’s misery, he’ll have a tough time governing.”

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The dramatic spikes we have seen in abductions for ransom all over the country are attributable to the rising tide of unheard-of deprivation that the removal of petrol subsidies has activated. And that’s just one auxiliary after-effect of the removal of petrol subsidies without a cushion or an alternative.

Other after-effects are the total collapse of the informal sector and what remained of Nigeria’s manufacturing sector. It also instigated the unprecedentedly hyper-inflationary pressures that are being exerted on the economy. Prices of basic goods and services and even of medications for common illnesses are now beyond the reach of people. That’s an unsustainable magnitude of agony.

But it was always obvious to anyone with even a halfway functioning brain that removing petrol subsidies in a weak, oil-producing economy that is organically petrol dependent, that has no well-developed public transportation system, that has weak infrastructures, and that is the poverty capital of the world would trigger infernal anguish on the vast majority of the people and tank the economy to the ground.

These are not birth pangs. They are not the pains before the gains. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. The tunnel is condemned to unrelieved darkness. The blight Nigerians are contending with now is the certain and inevitable result of a conscienceless implementation of disconnected and irrelevant economic policies inspired from outside Nigeria.

I came of age during General Ibrahim Babangida’s regime. IBB started the so-called structural adjustment programs (removal of subsidies, devaluation of the naira, mass retrenchment, etc.), which inaugurated Nigeria’s descent into the abyss. I heard the exact same things the current government is spouting during IBB’s time: that it would get worse before it got better, that after the birth pangs a big bouncing baby would be born, that there was delayed gratification awaiting us if only we could be a little more patient.

None of the promises materialized. Instead, suffering was elevated to crushing heights. Advanced fee fraud (also called 419) blossomed. Corruption was fertilized. Brain drain to the West got wings. This period also unleashed the naira’s irrecoverable slide into the deep hole of worthlessness.

Decades after, the same SAP about which hundreds of books and articles have been written and whose irreversible damage we continually lament, has been artfully repackaged, disguised, deodorized, and huckstered by a well-oiled gang of soulless apes who deployed all manner of clever rhetorical trickery to coax Nigerians into consenting to their own self-incineration.

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The idea that petrol subsidies had to go because they were riddled with corruption and that they consumed a disproportionate share of our national budget is a mere propagandistic cop-out. If petrol subsidy administration is rid of corruption (that is perpetrated in cahoots with the government, which explains why no “subsidy thief” has ever been apprehended much less brought to justice), it would consume no greater share of our national budget than any governmental obligation.

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It certainly won’t be anywhere near the colossal venality that is perpetuated at the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development under the guise of giving money to the poor.

The truth is that we have no original, independent thinkers among people who make or influence economic policies in Nigeria. They are all hopelessly mindless parrots of ill-comprehended economic prescriptions of the Bretton Woods institutions. They do not have the cognitive and intellectual sophistication to transcend what I call derivative or regurgitative knowledge.

There is not a single example of a country in the world that has developed on the basis of the prescriptions of the World Bank and the IMF. On the contrary, the only countries that have achieved inclusive growth and development outside the West are precisely the countries that have bucked the World Bank and the IMF. And every country that uncritically adopts the recommendations of these institutions has been wracked by utter devastation.

Unfortunately, if either Atiku Abubakar or Peter Obi were president today, Nigeria would experience exactly what it is going through now. Like Tinubu, Atiku and Obi said they would remove petrol subsidies “on day one.” When you remove petrol subsidies “on day one” in a desperately poor, inordinately petrol-supported economy with no public transportation, you get what Nigerians are going through now. It’s not rocket science.

Similarly, both Atiku and Obi said they would float the naira and let its fate be determined by the vagaries of demand and supply. When you do that in an import-dependent economy, you can’t escape what the naira is going through now.

Atiku tweeted in March 2021—and in several policy documents—that “Nigeria must move towards a single exchange rate to be determined by market forces.”

On April 9, 2022, Obi also tweeted: “The truth is that for long market forces have not determined the exchange rate of the Naira…. It has to end. Let the exchange rate be determined by the forces of demand and supply. It’s that simple.”

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In other words, Tinubu is doing exactly what Atiku and Obi had proposed they would do, and the results would have been the same. The hyperinflation and hurt Nigerians are going through now won’t have been evaded because it is Atiku or Obi who removed petrol subsidies “from day one.” The naira’s glide to the bottom wouldn’t have been avoided because Atiku or Obi “floated” the naira.

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That is why Atiku- or Obi-supporting critics of Tinubu come across as ignorant partisans who have drunk the Kool-Aid of their cult leaders. Atiku and Obi supporters should be grateful that their idols are not president today. They would have been bearing the reputational brunt of the boneheaded, discredited rightwing economic policies they also advocated, which have thrown Nigeria into the current mess.

Interestingly, in response to Obi’s 2022 tweet rhapsodizing over the imperative of subjecting the naira to the “forces of demand and supply,” a supporter of his by the name of Abel (with the handle @governance9ja) wrote a riposte, which has turned out to be prescient. He wrote: “So @PeterObi will float the currency for a country where most factor inputs into local manufacturing is imported? We already have cost push inflation reducing real income of many Nigerians. Floating naira will ruin many households. @PeterObi and @OfficialABAT are two of a kind.”

Obi supporters who have wet dreams of a Nirvana if Obi were president should wake up. His economic policies are exactly like Tinubu’s. Personalities aren’t the issue; policies are.

Tinubu and his team need to face the reality confronting them and change course. I know that Nigeria has been so polluted by neoliberal propaganda that even news that the government was paying subsidies through the backdoor to stop petrol prices from getting to N1,000 per liter was seized upon by the opposition to poohpooh the government, which compelled the government to deny paying any subsidies.

I’ve never seen this level of self-crushing inanity in my life. Assistance to the needy (which is what subsidy literally means) is now a dirty word that everyone avoids like the plague.

But the government should know that even hope is dying in Nigeria. When a usually hopeful nation spawns armies of hopeless and angry people through thoughtless economic policies dictated by outsiders, it sows and nurtures the seeds of its self-destruction.

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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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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.

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“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.”

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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.”

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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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