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Binance will face all due process on charges of severe financial crime – FG

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Binance will face all due process on charges of severe financial crime – FG

Against the backdrop of continuing interest in the ongoing trial of rogue online platform, Binance, and one of its Chief Executives, who illegally trade in cryptocurrency in Nigeria, the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, has said due processes are being applied in all stages of the trial by the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“At all stages, due process has been followed, and prosecutors are confident of their case, based on the facts and evidence gathered. Binance will have every opportunity to defend itself in court against these severe charges of financial crimes against the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The next hearing is on June 20, 2024,” Idris said.

The Minister explained that Binance, the defendant, has received consular access and all due care, following normal diplomatic protocols and the rule of law, adding that the judge in the case has sufficiently posited that bail was denied because of the flight risk, after a co-accused, now the subject of an Interpol warrant, illegally absconded.

It would be recalled that Binance had a turnover in Nigeria of over US$20 billion in 2023 alone, far above the federal budget for health and education, fueling currency speculation and the cost-of-living crisis. In addition, it is not registered in Nigeria and neither has it ever paid any taxes within the Nigerian jurisdiction, having all the while operated without oversight or any of the normal guard rails to flag criminal activity.

Idris said it is important that Binance is prefaced as an entity whose representatives have been variously imprisoned, fined, sanctioned, and banned in North America, Europe, and Asia, in recent years.

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“Changpeng Zhao, the billionaire co-founder and former CEO of Binance is currently serving a four-month prison sentence in the United States after being found guilty of money laundering, while Binance has openly accepted its role in facilitating terrorism, corruption, sanctions busting, and in aiding and abetting paedophile gangs.

“Law enforcement agencies believe Binance operations in Nigeria are part of a broader international pattern. It will be for the courts here, as in other jurisdictions, to hold the company and its executives accountable,” Idris said.

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Bill proposing return to regional govt to be presented to Tinubu Friday

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Tinubu to receive bill on regional government next week
President Bola Tinubu

President Bola Tinubu will, on Friday, receive a draft bill seeking a return to a regional system of government for Nigeria.

The proposed legislation authored by a chieftain of the Yoruba socio-cultural association, Afenifere, Akin Fapohunda, and titled, “A Bill for an Act to substitute the annexure to Decree 24 of 1999 with New Governance Model for the Federal Republic of Nigeria’, seeks among others, new extant laws to be cited as “The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria New Governance Model for Nigeria Act 2024.

The bill was disowned by the House of Representatives last week as its spokesman, Akin Rotimi, and the Chairman, Committee on Rules and Business said it has not been listed for deliberation in the ongoing moves to review the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

However, Fapohunda told our correspondent on Thursday that the bill would be transmitted to the President on Friday.

“I’m submitting my letter (draft bill) today but I will wait for seven days before releasing it to the public,” he told our correspondent.

Meanwhile, Fapohunda who also represents the Coalition of Indigenous Ethnic Nationalities told The PUNCH that the organisation is proposing the division of the country into eight geo-political regions with approximate interim boundaries.

The proposed regions. according to Fapohunda. include the southern region to be made up of Akwa-Ibom, Bayelsa, and Cross Rivers States and “Optional inclusions of the Annang, Effik, Ekoi, Ibibio, Oro Ohaji/Egbema in Southern Imo, the Adonia, Efemia, Ijaw, Ogoni, Bini, Ishan, Isoko, Urhobo and the Ijaw-speaking people in Northern Ondo State with land contiguity.”

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He continued, “The South Eastern region consists of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, and Imo States. The Western region comprises Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, and Ekiti States, incorporating the Yoruba-speaking people in Kogi and the Igbomina people in Kwara State. Additional options would be the Itsekiri people of Delta State and Akoko-Edo people of Edo State to make their respective choices.”

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Others include the Mid-Western Region “Made up of Edo and Delta States, possibly incorporating the Anioma people and the Eastern Middle Belt Region comprising Northern Cross River, Southern Kaduna, Southern Borno, Adamawa, Benue, Kogi, Plateau, Nasarawa and Taraba States.”

The Western Middle Belt Region comprises Southern Kebbi, parts of Kwara and Niger States while the North Eastern Region will be made up of parts of Borno, Gombe, Bauchi, Jigawa, and Yobe States.

The North Western Region, according to the Afenifere chieftain, comprises Kaduna, parts of Kebbi, Kano, Katsina, Sokoto and Zamfara States.

Fapohunda said the coalition envisaged a two-tier government, federal and regions, adding that the latter would be at liberty to manage her affairs, “Including the creation of sub-entities, based on the stipulations that are agreed upon and embedded in their respective constitutions.”

In its proposed governance stipulations, CIEN stated that “In the quest for re-configuration and downsizing, an option to consider might be to retain the present boundaries of the 36 States, as would have been adjusted, but to creatively downgrade the paraphernalia of political administration as follows:

“To introduce a new regional government framework with executive and legislative functions and bodies with the headship title of Premier.

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“In the new dispensation, the present States (for example the six in the Western region) would be converted to provinces. Governance at this level shall be by Provincial Councils that integrate executive and legislative functions, with Chairman and Support Specialist Administrative Officers. The regions shall be at liberty to create provinces, subject to viability and self-sustainability.

“The present Local Government Areas are to be transformed into divisions, with divisional managers and specialist administrative officers; to operate as socio-economic development institutions. The new provinces shall also be at liberty to create divisions, subject to viability and self-sustainability.”

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The coalition also proposed a new constitution to embody novelties including freedom of the regions to “Create, merge and or re-configure their sub-political units and may adopt provinces, divisions or districts as may suit their circumstances without interference from any other authority.

“Regions and sub-regional entities are to be reconfigured such as would reduce the cost of public and civil service administration to less than 20 to 30 per cent of generated revenue.

“In drafting their Constitutions, the peoples of the respective regional territories will take a cue and also dismantle any arrangement or configuration that will favour the politicians and the political class; with a focus on freeing resources for true development.

“A uni-camera federal legislature comprising members that are elected at the discretion of the regions for which they would be representatives at Abuja.

“Decentralization of federal power in favour of not more than 10 regions on which there is a general national consensus, rather than the presently unwieldy number of 36 States. These old States are inconsequential indeed in being a viable unit of a truly federal system of government.”

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In all, the coalition proposes that the Federal Government “Shall comprise not more than nine Ministries and Ministers,” adding that “The very big United States has just 15 Cabinet Ministers, while Nigeria is not even up to just a State of Texas or New York.”

The group is also advocating a return to the parliamentary mode system of government “Built-in statutory rotation of headship among the regions.”

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Ex-Kogi Gov Bello’s trial for alleged N80.2Bn graft stalled again, to appear in court June 27

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Follow AGF’s advice, submit to EFCC – Group tells Yahaya Bello
Former Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello

The arraignment of former Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello for alleged N80.2 billion fraud slated for Thursday was stalled again as the case was adjourned to June 27 based on requests from both counsels in the case.

Bello, who was expected in court on Thursday, before Justice Emeka Nwite at the Federal High Court Abuja on a 19-count charge, was absent.

According to the EFCC, through the counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo (SAN), the court had previously adjourned the case on May 10 with the expectation that Bello would be present for arraignment today.

However, Bello’s lawyer, Adeola Adedipe (SAN), argued there was a misunderstanding.

He claimed the lead prosecutor, Kemi Pinheiro (SAN), had suggested to his colleague, Aliyu AbdulWahab, of postponing the arraignment to June 27 for convenience sake during an informal meeting outside of court.

Adedipe stated that he was surprised to find EFCC lead counsel, absent from the court today.

“They (EFCC) agreed that junior counsel would be sent to court today to formally pick a date. And the registry can confirm this.

“Kemi Pinhero, SAN, has been calling us to say today is not convenient,” Adedipe said, accusing the prosecution of attempting to “ambush” him.

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The EFCC prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo (SAN), countered by saying the defense team was misrepresenting the situation. He argued that holding an unofficial meeting was not a valid reason for Bello’s absence and called for an apology to the court.

“Assuming without conceding that there was a conversation between the counsel for Bello and the prosecution (outside the court), to have this matter adjourned, the fundamental issue today is compliance with the order of my lord; to with, the appearance of the defendant,” he said.

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According to Adedipe, Yahaya Bello was prepared to appear today as originally scheduled.

“Under 266 ACJA there are instances when defendants don’t need to come and this is one of them.

“We came here to pick a date. Of what use will the defendant coming here be? It is the prosecuting counsel that approached us, we did not approach them. We have nothing to hide,” Adedipe argued.

After hearing the arguments from both sides, the judge acknowledged the confusion and accepted the defense team’s apology.

“I am minded to take the apology on the ground that the defendant is making a fresh undertaking that the defendant (Bello) will be produced on June 27.

“The matter is adjourned to June 27 for arraignment,” the judge ruled.

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Alleged N80bn Fraud: Yahaya Bello to appear in court for trial today

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Ex-Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello

After several months of hide-and-seek between the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the former governor of Kogi state, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, the ex-governor is expected to appear before the Federal High Court in Abuja on June 13 for arraignment on the corruption charge against him.

The former governor, through his lawyer, finally agreed to submit himself to the court at the last adjourned date.

Bello’s lead counsel, Abdulwahab Mohammed, gave the undertaking to Justice Emeka Nwite on May 10, shortly after the court rejected the defendant’s request for suspension of trial.

According to him, the former governor was not afraid of arraignment but of the safety of his life in the hands of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in Abuja.

He said the life of his client has been under consistent threats in Abuja, hence his decision to go underground for safety.

The agreement to submit to court trial was informed by Justice Nwite’s remarks that the EFCC, as a law-abiding body, would not do anything contrary to the provisions of the law.

The judge said Bello was not the first former governor to be merely invited by the anti-graft agency and would not be the last.

The judge also said that the charges are based on allegations that have not been proved, adding that the law presumes any accused person innocent until proven otherwise.

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He advised the senior lawyer to prevail on his client to respect the law and order of the court as a law-abiding person.

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Bello’s lawyer, responding to the admonition, thanked the Judge for the hint, adding that, with the assurance that the EFCC would not do anything untoward, the former governor would be brought to court.

“All my client needs is just an assurance for the safety of his life, which has been under threat for some time in Abuja.”

The lawyer requested for four weeks to bring his client before the court.

He said Bello would, however, come to the court instead of the EFCC to take his plea in the charges.

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