Nigeria - The curse of paradox
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by FricNews
Nov 15, 2019 - 9:11
Opinions
By Dan Agbese

We are an independent nation with 59 years of post-colonial experience of minding our own business under our belt. But truth be told, we are a dependent nation. If you find that strange, remember that Nigeria is swaddled in fine, if painful, paradoxes. Paradoxes contradict what we hold to be true.I have chosen a few of these paradoxes to show that our inability to pull our country out of the paradox rut hobbles our development; it is deleterious to our economic health and our sense of national pride. Despite our fabled great petro-dollar wealth from crude oil, our country continues to be numbered among the poorest nations of the world. To rub salt into our gaping injury, Nigeria is officially classified as the poverty capital of the world. We displaced India from the honoured perch. It should grate on our sense of pride that we continue to live the paradox of a rich but poor nation. A country is either rich or poor; not rich but poor. Nigeria has thus achieved the impossible.

We depend on other nations for our food. Almost every cooking pot in the country is home to American long grain rice or the Thai or Indian variety. Meanwhile, we ignore the short grain rice from Kebbi, Bauchi and Ebonyi states. Not good enough for our cultivated taste, apparently.

Some time ago, the then minister of agriculture and rural development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, said the country was spending $22 billion on food importation annually. Last year, CBN governor Emefiele said we imported food at a much lower cost, as in $1.9 billion; down from $7.9 billion in 2015. And what food are importing? Rice, wheat, sugar and fish. Rice alone from India and Thailand took the chunk of $1.65 billion. That is not a nice way for an independent nation to fully assert its independence. A nation that cannot feed itself, it goes without saying, submits its independence to nations that could feed it.

The experts say that 80 percent of our land is arable; meaning that every inch of that could support food and cash crops. They also say that about 75 percent of the population lives on the land mostly as peasant farmers. If you work out the maths, we should be able to produce enough food to feed ourselves, protect our independence and export our short grain rice to the US, Thailand and other countries and force them to eat Ofada rice. Nigeria is a hungry nation but not an angry nation. Our country comes in at the 40th position out of 79 nations on the Global Hunger Index.

We have been battling corruption since 1966 because the young majors who introduced the gun as an instrument of political power told us that the “ten per centers” were the enemies because they made our dear country look big for nothing. That was a bad image for our country less than six years after the British granted us the instrument of independence and returned home. The majors came, they said, to put the ten per centers out of business and make the rest of the world respect us as honest people for whom cleans hands and a non-throbbing conscience trump the lure of lucre.

We have fought the blight long enough, using the instrumentality of decrees during the military regime and acts of parliament in a democracy, to rid our country of the ten per centers and clean up our country’s image.

If you work out the maths, you should expect incontrovertible evidence of the absence of the ten per centers in our dear, dear country by now. Facts is, there are no ten per centers any more because ten percent is anachronistic in the digital age of digitised corrupt practices. Even as the guns of the anti-corruption war are booming, the brave and the determined still help themselves to our common wealth.

A country that battles corruption and yet embraces corruption, is clearly paradoxical. The war against corruption is the longest war in our country. It is anybody’s guess when it would end and how it would end, given the paradox of the more we fight it, the wider corruption spreads and the deeper it digs into and soils everything we hold dear.

We are a big crude oil producing nation. We are number one in Africa and number five in the world. We have four oil refineries. If you work out the maths, these should be great sources of our national pride. Sadly, they are sources of our national shame. The refineries are mothballed. We are driven to depend on other nations for our petroleum needs. We sell the crude to them; they refine it and ship it back to us through our smart businessmen and women. We are the only oil producing nation in the world that makes a virtue of this obvious vice and is shamelessly proud of it.

Well, if you choose to look on the bright side, many fellow Nigerians have been made billionaires from fuel importation. Successive Nigerian governments were and are sold on the idea that people in an oil producing nation are entitled to some crumbs, as in pay less than the cost of fuel in the Benin Republic. So, they worked out the maths of empathy and arrived at something called subsidy by which the fuel importers receive government funding to persuade them not to charge full commercial prices for their imported petroleum products. This year alone, the federal government would pay them N400 billion to make life a little more bearable for the people. The people, always the people.

In the seventies, the Russians came here and took on the important task of turning our impressive iron ore deposits into various grades of iron rods and flat sheets to move our industrialisation dreams forward. They settled on Ajaokuta, the area of the greatest iron ore deposit in the country in what is now Kogi State and built a huge factory there. Even before the company’s products rolled out of the factory, the federal government set up rolling mills in Jos, Katsina, Oshogbo and Onitsha as part of the necessary down stream investment to add value chain to the products of Ajaokuta. Add to that, the Aladja Steel Mills in what is now Delta State and the maths would show we took our industrialisation seriously. Except that we didn’t.

What became of them? Actually nothing. The Russians left and after some years, the Indians came and took over. In the end, they left an impressive stamp of cheating and thievery on the company. They asset-stripped the company and returned home. Now, the Russians have been persuaded to return to the carcass of the factory they built and equipped so long ago. Where I wonder, do they start from? We are happy they are returning. In all these years, we never challenged our engineers to hunker down and make the factory hum again. Again, we chose to depend on the miracle working foreign engineers.

I understand the Saudis have also promised to help us revive the oil refineries. I would not know when they became experts in this but since Nigeria is prepared to always put its destiny in the hands of foreigners, their coming would be celebrated as part of our national progress. They are not likely to work any greater magic than our indigenous petroleum engineers, some of whom have had extensive experience working with the foreign oil companies. These men have never been challenged to put their expertise to test. Dependence is an easy option but it does not advance the course of our national development. Foreign experts will always come and go at some point as has happened repeatedly over the years; and when they do, things just fall apart and a factory becomes an empty shed. The systematic marginalisation of our indigenous manpower is the curse of our dependence.

No one knows for sure how much successive federal administrations have spent over the years on power generation and distribution. What is known and undeniable is that we generate 4,000 megawatts day for a country of 200 million people. Being a dependent nation, we choose to depend on imported generators. We sit on wealth – arable land, liquid and solid mineral resources, agricultural produce – but we take other people’s money to survive. We have so much, yet we get so little. It is the curse of dependence.
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President Muhammadu Buhari. Photo: TWITTER/NIGERIAGOV
Nigeria - Deep Offshore (Amendment) Act and Tinubu’s Politics
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by FricNews
Nov 14, 2019 - 10:11
Opinions
By Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour

Since President Muhammadu Buhari signed into law on November 4, 2019 the amendment to the Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contracts Act, Cap D3, Laws of the Federation (LFN) 2004, it has become the swan song for Mr. Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the APC at large.

Specifically, he has found in it an attack point to assail the leadership of the Eight National Assembly.

He had written an article in a national newspaper and even in a speech presented on his behalf yesterday at a book launch in Abuja during which he used the new Deep Offshore law as a double instrument to curry favour from the Muhammadu Buhari Government as well as to attack his perceived enemies in the previous National Assembly.

However, one is at a loss as to what Tinubu is celebrating in this “new” law. As somebody with a background in the Petroleum Industry, it must be apparent to him that the government did not need the amendment of the old law to derive the benefit that it is now expecting from the new law.

The old law had clear provision which allowed government to review the Production Sharing Contract (PSC) once oil price is above $20 per barrel or after every five years. In fact, the first review of the PSC ought to have taken place in 2004 but it was not done.

Though the Directorate of Petroleum Resources (DPR) gave a notice for the review in 2007, nothing happened. Also, the expected review in 2013 and 2018 was not done,and these are executive actions.

The Buhari administration came into office in 2015 and did nothing on the PSC till late 2019 when it rushed a bill to the National Assembly that was equally passed in a hurry.

What then is the fault of the leadership of the last National Assembly? Why does the Lion of Bourdillon think he can draw political advantage from the signing of the law and viciously attacking the leadership of the 8th assembly based on the amendment of a law that conferred no new advantage on the nation?

In his speech at the Abuja book launch on Tuesday, he described the leadership of the Eighth National Assembly as “reactionary elements that fought for business as usual and against reform” and added that the “ new National Assembly (is) committed to progressive reform”.

This statement should make any serious minded Nigerian to laugh heartily. Tinubu who claimed to be a “progressive” with an experience in the Senate, though for only 18 months under a military arrangement, should know what a genuine legislature is. Is the present National Assembly what a genuine democrat should be proud of?

A National Assembly which is processing a law to establish a commission on hate speech and criminalizing freedom of speech is Tinubu’s ideal of a “progressive National Assembly”? A legislature that is working on a bill to suppress the operation of the social media is Tinubu’s model of a “progressive” law making body.

A law making body that is debating a bill on astronomical increase on the Value Added Tax even when members have not seen a copy of the bill is a “progressive” one because Tinubu wants to be in the good books of President Buhari.

A National Assembly that prides itself as a lackey of the executive and ready to pitch tent with the Presidency against the people is “committed to progressive reform”, according to Tinubu.

If Tinubu is a progressive, he will speak out on some of the retrogressive, reactionary and anti-democratic bills and actions coming out of the current National Assembly. Where is a true progressive when a country desperately needs one?

Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour is a public policy expert, an architect and was the PDP Lagos West Senatorial candidate in the 2019 National Assembly elections.
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Nigeria - Photos: 3 killed in shootout between APC, PDP hoodlums
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by FricNews
Nov 14, 2019 - 10:11
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Governor of Bayelsa State, Henry Seriake Dickson, Wednesday night visited the injured victims of the brutal clash between suspected thugs of the Peoples Democratic Party and the All Progressives Congress.

Three persons were killed in the bloody clash at the Peoples Democratic Party rally at Okolomabiri in Nembe Local Government Area of Bayelsa State on Wednesday.

Many received gunshot wounds.

Dickson visited the injured in hospitals in Yenagoa.

He was accompanied by the PDP Governorship Candidate, Senator Douye Diri, the PDP Zonal Chairman, South South, Chief Emmanuel Ogidi, during the tour of the Bayelsa Medical Centre, the Bayelsa Specialist Hospital and the Federal Medical Centre, all in Yenagoa.

The driver of Bayelsa Radio Outside Broadcasting Van (OB Van) Simon Onu, and two others were killed during the shootout between the APC and PDP hoodlums.

P.M.News gathered that Onu was hit by one of the stray bullets.Many others were injured, while others scampered into the bush

Nembe is the home local government of Timipre Sylva, Minister of State for Petroleum, the former Governor of Bayelsa and the Leader of APC in the state
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Governor Dickson visits one of the injured in Nembe bloody clash between party thugs
Nigeria - US charges Paul Usoro, 9 other Nigerians over $1.1m romance scams
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by FricNews
Nov 14, 2019 - 10:11
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Ten Nigerians have been charged with conspiring to launder illegal proceeds that were fraudulently obtained as a result of romance scams targeting multiple victims, the US Justice Department said on Wednesday night.

Charged were Paul Usoro, 25, Nigerian citizen and lawful permanent resident of the United States residing in Norman, Oklahoma; Afeez Olajide Adebara, 34, a U.S. citizen residing in Norman, Oklahoma; Oluwaseun John Ogundele, 30, U.S. citizen residing in Norman, Oklahoma, and Brooklyn, New York;Joshua Nnandom Ditep, 25, Nigerian citizen and lawful permanent resident of the United States residing in Norman, Oklahoma.

US charges Paul Usoro, 9 other Nigerians over $1.1m romance scams

Thursday, November 14, 2019 9:35 am

One of the indicted Nigerians arrested for online scam in the US in August

Ten Nigerians have been charged with conspiring to launder illegal proceeds that were fraudulently obtained as a result of romance scams targeting multiple victims, the US Justice Department said on Wednesday night.

Charged were Paul Usoro, 25, Nigerian citizen and lawful permanent resident of the United States residing in Norman, Oklahoma; Afeez Olajide Adebara, 34, a U.S. citizen residing in Norman, Oklahoma; Oluwaseun John Ogundele, 30, U.S. citizen residing in Norman, Oklahoma, and Brooklyn, New York;Joshua Nnandom Ditep, 25, Nigerian citizen and lawful permanent resident of the United States residing in Norman, Oklahoma.

Others are Chibuzo Godwin Obiefuna Jr, 26, U.S. citizen residing in Norman, Oklahoma, and Long Beach, California; Jamiu Ibukun Adedeji, 23, citizen of Nigeria, residing in Norman, Oklahoma; and Tobiloba Kehinde, 27, citizen of Nigeria residing in Norman Oklahoma.

Three others with addresses in New York and Dallas Texas are yet to be fully identified. They are said to be at large.

The victims of the romance scams were from different areas, including Seminole, Florida; Centerville, Ohio; and Pryor, Oklahoma. They were defrauded a total of nearly $1.1 million, including one who sent cash and goods worth $546,000.

Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Trent Shores of the Northern District of Oklahoma and Special Agent in Charge Melissa Godbold of the FBI’s Oklahoma City Field Office made the announcement.

The indictment was returned by a federal grand jury in October and unsealed Wednesday after seven suspects were apprehended in early morning operations executed by the FBI in three states.

Five Nigerians were arrested in Norman, Oklahoma, one in Brooklyn, New York, and one in Long Beach, California.

The indictment alleges that since 2017, the co-conspirators concealed the proceeds of romance scam operations by moving money between and among multiple bank accounts that were opened using fraudulent identity documents to obscure the source of the funds and the identities of the co-conspirators.

Investigators identified at least three victims of the alleged romance scams in Seminole, Florida, Centerville, Ohio, and Pryor, Oklahoma.

The indictment alleges the co-conspirators coordinated with unknown individuals overseas who had assumed false identities on online dating websites and social media platforms with the intent to defraud victims.

The individual told the victims they were U.S. residents working abroad. In fact, the investigation revealed that these individuals were located in Nigeria.

“At the early stages of the “romance,” victims would receive requests for relatively small gifts, such as iTunes gift cards and cell phones.

“As the relationships continued, the requests would develop into increasingly larger sums of money, with the claimed purpose that the funds were needed to complete overseas projects or to return to the United States. The victims were directed by the online romance scammers to send funds to the defendants’ bank accounts, among other things, assuring the victims that they would allocate the money as needed.”

The indictment alleges that, once the victims sent funds, the defendants funnelled the money to accounts that they operated. These accounts were allegedly opened under various aliases in order to obscure the source of the fraudulently obtained funds. In a further attempt to conceal the source of the money, the co-conspirators also purchased salvaged vehicles and car parts to export overseas, usually to Nigeria, the indictment alleges.

In late August, the FBI arrested 14 Nigerians across the US, with 11 of the arrests taking place in Los Angeles area.

They were arrested over a variety of fraud schemes and accused of laundering funds through a Los Angeles-based money laundering network as uncovered by the FBI.

A 252-count federal grand jury indictment charged 77 Nigerians in all, with many said to be living in Nigeria.
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One of the indicted Nigerians arrested for online scam in the US in August
Namibia - State wants life for convicted SA murderer
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by FricNews
Nov 14, 2019 - 10:11
News
State Advocate Solomon Kanyemba yesterday asked Windhoek High Court Judge Naomi Shivute to sentence Wilhelm (Wimpie) Derick Februarie, 40, the man convicted of the murder of a 56-year-old woman in Windhoek West, to life imprisonment.

According to Kanyemba the accused  is not fit for life in a community as he is a danger not only to society in general, but to women in particular.

He asked the court to sentence Februarie to such a prison term that if he is eventually released he will be too old and frail to attack anyone and that even one-year-olds would be able to defend themselves against him.

Februarie was convicted of murdering 56-year-old Dinah Diedericks on 21 June  2014 at her residence in Windhoek West after he allegedly raped her, or exposed her private parts by removing her trousers and underwear. He was however acquitted on the charge of rape. He pleaded not guilty to both counts at the start of his trial. In the judgement, Judge Shivute said that she was satisfied that the only inference to be drawn from the available evidence was that it was Februarie who killed the deceased, but could not with a clear conscience find that he either raped, attempted to rape the deceased or that he was guilty of crimen injuria for exposing the woman’s private parts.

She said that the evidence does not support a conviction of rape and of attempted rape with the current legislation and the evidence also does not state whether the woman was dead or alive when her pants were brought down. His legal aid lawyer Mbanga Siyomunji asked the court to be lenient to Februarie and sentence him to 20 years with five years suspended for five years on condition that he is not acquitted on the charge of murder during the period of suspension. According to Siyomunji his client has been languishing in jail waiting for his trial to be finalised for the last five years and deserves to be given a second chance. He said that society expects from the courts to punish an offender, but not to break him and that retribution as an objective should not be the only one, but rehabilitation should be also be considered.

Although his client did not testify in mitigation of sentence, Siyomunji said, this should not be held against him. Prosecutor Kanyemba told the court that Februarie has not shown one ounce of remorse and remains unapologetic even after the court has pronounced itself on his guilt.

According to him, society must be protected against predators such as Februarie and the courts must send an unequivocal message that offences against the most vulnerable members of society will not be tolerated.

Februarie still maintains that he is innocent and indicated that he will seek leave to appeal the conviction after he is sentenced.

Judge Shivute indicated she will hand down sentence on 4 December at 09h00.
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Namibia - Root Out Systemic Corruption
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by FricNews
Nov 14, 2019 - 10:11
Opinions
By  Editorial Team

NO AMOUNT of firing of ministers and convicting top officials will fix the looting of state resources, unless loopholes in the system are closed.

We cannot agree more with president Hage Geingob when he often points to the importance of “systems, structures and institutions” as key to good governance. And we are not referring only to the need for transparency and genuine access to information by any resident or interested party. We are talking about “systems, structures and institutions” that work effectively in the public interest.

Sadly, Geingob seldom does what he says when it really matters. Instead, his mantra about “systems, structures and institutions” is often used to defend inaction, while passing the buck.

For years, Geingob was aware of the fishing scheme that was exposed this week by The Namibian in partnership with WikiLeaks and Icelandic media. He kept defending himself that he could not act against ministers Bernhard Esau and Sacky Shanghala because he had referred the allegations to institutions that were set up to deal with such matters.

With all the resources and state machinery at his disposal, it is odd that he now acts on media reports, some of which he had dismissed out of hand before.

Geingob has effectively fired the two ministers, albeit stating he accepted their resignations after asking them to explain. The only obvious difference this time is that Namibians are going to vote in presidential and National Assembly elections.

In essence, the president had to sacrifice someone to soothe voter anger in a time of elections.

We urge Namibians not to lose sight of the deeper issues in the country, and to pile more pressure on Swapo and the government to root out corruption.

Firing Esau and Shanghala without plugging the loopholes that allow webs of corruption to flourish will only mean replacing the mask while business continues as usual.

Several years ago, Esau was found by the courts to have acted unlawfully in the allocation of fishing quotas to the parastatal Fishcor, which was headed by one of his scheme masterminds, James Hatuikulipi.

Then, Esau changed the law to give himself more powers. The changes were supported by his comrades, and enacted by Geingob, despite pleas from private actors in the industry about the destruction it would cause.

This newspaper has been calling for an end to the legalised scam that the ministry calls Namibianisation of the fishing industry.

Through this process, a few individuals are hand-picked and given fishing licences. They, in turn, sell off the licences to companies which do the actual work of catching the marine resources.

Similar policies and laws are in mining and other economic sectors, including public works projects such as construction, where middlemen (it's almost exclusively men) who add no value, are given “tenders”, like a parent dispensing sweets to fob children with.

That approach is nothing short of legalised looting. The name of the game is self-enrichment by a few ruling elites and their cronies, including many whites who were sad to see apartheid go when independence was ushering in benefits for the common people.

Getting rid of Esau and Shanghala is, therefore, small comfort to Namibians, who should have benefited from the loss of tax revenue.

What's needed is the will to act. President Geingob should stop claiming that corruption is not systemic.

In this former South West Africa, corruption is firmly entrenched through several laws and policies. It is systemic, and the looters are getting more and more sophisticated to enrich themselves at the expense of many ordinary Namibians.
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Root Out Systemic Corruption
Nigeria - House Passes VAT Increment Bill for Second Reading
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by FricNews
Nov 14, 2019 - 10:11
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House of Representatives has passed the Finance Act (Amendment) Bill for second reading, a component of which seeks to increase the Value Added Tax from five per cent to 7.5 per cent.

The amendments seek to provide for a review of tax provisions and make them more responsive to tax reform.

The bill, which has seven components, seeks to amend the Companies Income Tax Act, Value Added Tax Act, Customs and Excise Tariff (Consolidation) Act, Personal Income Tax Act, Capital Gains Tax Act, Stamp Duties Act and Petroleum Profit Tax Act.

At the plenary yesterday, most of the lawmakers on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who contributed during the debate on the second reading of the bill supported the VAT increment.

President Muhammadu Buhari had, after laying the 2020 Appropriation Bill before the National Assembly, sent the executive bill to both the Senate and the House to approve the increment through the amendment.
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Nigeria - Supreme Court Gives Reasons for Dismissal of Atiku’s Appeal Friday
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by FricNews
Nov 14, 2019 - 10:11
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The Supreme Court has fixed friday for delivery of reasons for its judgment that dismissed the appeal filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate in the 2019 general election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, against the declaration of President Muhammadu Buhari as the winner of the contest.

The apex court had in a unanimous judgment delivered on October 30, dismissed the appellants suit for lacking merit.
Atiku and PDP had in their joint appeal filed in September, challenged the entire judgment of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, which had affirmed the election of President Muhammadu Buhari.

The apex court, which dismissed the appeal less than two hours it was heard by its seven-member panel of justices, however said that reason for the dismissal of the appeal would be given at a date that would be communicated to parties in the matter.

“Having gone through the briefs for over two weeks, we have come to the conclusion that this appeal lacks merit. This appeal is hereby dismissed. Reason will be given at a date to be communicated to parties,” Chairman of the panel and Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Muhammad, had held.

However, nearly two weeks after the judgment, the apex court on Wednesday notified lawyers to parties in the appeal that it has fixed Friday November 15, 2019, to make its reason for dismissing the appeal known.

The notice to lawyers in the matter, a soft copy sighted by THISDAY and dated November 13, 2019, was signed by Mr. Ibrahim Gold, a registrar at the Supreme Court.

It reads: “In the Supreme Court of Nigeria holden at Abuja SC 1211/2019: Atiku Abubakar & anor V. INEC & 2 Ors.
“Take notice that the reasons for the judgment delivered on Wednesday the 30th day of October 2019 in the above named Appeal will be listed before the Supreme Court of Nigeria on Friday the 15th day of November, 2019 at 9.00am.

“And further take notice that in accordance with the Supreme Court Rules, this Notice is deemed sufficiently served on you if it is delivered on your telephone.”

The release would either put to rest various speculations by lawyers and politicians about the action of the apex court or even raise fresh ones.

He said that the decision of the court especially the reasons in dismissing the appeal would be carefully studied when released and that comprehensive reaction would be made public.
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Nigeria - We Didn’t Open Fire on Protesters, Says DSS
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by FricNews
Nov 14, 2019 - 10:11
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The Department of State Services wednesday said it did not fire at protesters, who on Tuesday demonstrated at its headquarters in Abuja, explaining that it only professionally dispersed a crowd that was attempting to forcibly free a detainee, Mr. Omoyele Sowore from detention.

It said in a statement issued by its spokesman, Dr. Peter Afunanya, that its agents had to protect its facility from the protesters and it did so professionally.

“As a normal global security practice, the operatives stood in defence of their facility when some group of persons made unruly attempts to forcefully (sic) break into the place and effect the release of Omoyele Sowore,” it said, adding: “Despite serial and unwarranted provocations, the service, as a professional and responsible organisation, did not shoot at the so-called protesters. It could not have done so.”

On Sowore, the DSS expressed its readiness to release him when “processes are concluded.”
It stated: “For emphasis, the service reiterates its avowed readiness to release Sowore once the processes are concluded. It maintains that the appropriate persons have still not turned up to take delivery of Sowore.

“While all those that have so far shown up are not directly concerned with the matter and therefore unqualified, many others have either chosen to grandstand or politicise it to achieve hidden interests.

“It is only appropriate that those who stood surety for Sowore present themselves and have him released to them. It is even more disappointing that Femi Falana, who is a senior lawyer, would wrongly guide his client and supporters.
“He is rather playing to the gallery and mobilising miscreants to subvert the service and other state authorities. He has excellent relationship with the DGSS. But in the circumstance, he has refused to reach out to him over the case like he had on previously related ones.”

But Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, condemned the DSS the incident.
He said the attack portrayed administration of President Muhammadu Buhari as insecure and paranoid.
But the secret police, in a statement also yesterday, denied opening fire on protesters and journalists that covered the protest.

Soyinka and the DSS’ reactions came on the day the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Adamu Mohammed, said modern policing was no longer driven by the application of brute force but deployment of intellect and respect for extant laws.

Soyinka, in a statement obtained by THISDAY, called on civil society organisations to strategise and coordinate their responses to attacks on human rights by state agents under Buhari.

“The sporadic, uncoordinated responses as in the case of Omoyele Sowore, the absence of a solid strategy, ready to be activated against any threat — these continue to enable these agencies in their mission to enthrone a pattern of conduct that openly scoffs at the role of the judiciary in national life,” he said.

He condemned “the level of arrogance” by agents of the state, saying it “has crossed even the most permissive thresholds.”

“As I remarked from the onset, this is an act of government insecurity and paranoia that merely defeats its real purpose,” he added.

THISDAY had reported how protesters demanding the release of Sowore were violently dispersed with gunshots in Abuja with some of them, including journalists covering the protest, sustaining injuries.

Sowore, publisher of Sahara Reporters, is being detained by the DSS despite meeting his bail conditions set by the court.
The activist and former presidential candidate is being prosecuted for calling for a revolution against bad governance. He is charged with treasonable felony and money laundering.

Soyinka called for an end to what he called a ‘charade,’ saying that it is nothing more than a display of crude, naked power.

He asked the DSS to stop further embarrassment of the country and apologise for the actions.

IG: Modern Policing No Longer by Brute Force

Meanwhile, the IG has cautioned against the use of brute force by law enforcement agents, saying modern policing has gone beyond that.

Adamu, at the decoration of newly promoted Assistant Inspectors General of Police (AIGs) in Abuja, said modern policing required respect for extant laws.

“In the discharge of your duties, however, you should appreciate that modern policing is no longer driven by application of brute force, but the deployment of intellect, respect for extant laws, civility to citizens, knowledge, and sound professional judgement,” he said.

According to him, in view of the critical security challenges confronting the nation, the beneficiaries of the promotion should key into the crime containment strategies of the police.
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DSS spokesman, Dr. Peter Afunanya
Liberia - Lawyers Rage Against Judge Sammy’s ‘Demeaning’ Comments
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by FricNews
Nov 14, 2019 - 10:11
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Several members of the Liberian National Bar Association (LNBA) have taken exception to a comment made by the assigned Criminal Court ‘C’ Judge, Nancy Sammy, relative to corruption, which she said has a negative public perception about the judiciary on lawyers’ behaviors.

Some of the lawyers argue that Judge Sammy’s comment has brought the legal profession into public disrepute, “because it was not in the best interest of the profession that is going through a reform process.”

When Judge Sammy delivered her charged on Monday, November 11 at the opening of the November Term of Criminal Courts, A, B, C and D for Montserrado County, she expressed dismay from “feedback”, which she said was gathered from the public or party litigants, insinuating that lawyers usually request for money from their clients to allegedly bribe the judge; intimating to those clients that they needed said money to give to judges as a requisite for the said judge to assign a case; hear it and make ruling in the lawyers’ favor.

“My people, because party litigants who are reportedly involved in giving money to their lawyers allegedly intended for judges, cannot directly interact with the judges to ascertain whether the assertions the lawyers made are true; most often tend to believe the false representations made to them by their lawyers,” Judge Sammy said.

Her remarks were greeted with resounding round of applauds from those non-lawyers present at the ceremony, while some of the lawyers at the occasion announced that they would take exception to judge Sammy’s remarks, which the lawyers described as being “boastful”.

However, LNBA president, Cllr. Tiawan Saye Gongloe, said it was unfortunate that he did not attend the criminal Courts opening, where Sammy made her statement, but said it was now in the purview of the lawyers to raise the issue.

Although Cllr. Gongloe refused to address the issue, he said: “There were lawyers in audience when the judge made the comment, particularly those of the Montserrado County Bar that should have immediately reacted to Judge Sammy’s statement, but failed to do so.

“I was attending the opening of the 13th Judicial Circuit in Kakata, Margibi County, and so, I did not listen to Judge Sammy’s statement. However, some of the lawyers informed me about her comment against the law profession and lawyers who are practicing in keeping with the law,” Cllr. Gongloe said.

According to him, he has designated some of LNBA’s highly-rated lawyers, who represented the bar at the opening ceremony, to review her remarks, since they heard it and failed to react to such an inflammatory accusation.”

At the ceremony, Cllr. Sam Cooper, president of the Montserrado County Bar, who by tradition of the criminal courts, was given the opportunity to respond to the judges’ charge, failed to do so, not even so much as saying a word about Judge Sammy’s accusation against the lawyers.

Further, Judge Sammy told her audience, many of who were already laughing at her comments that denigrated some of the lawyers, that: “As we lawyers are aware, such behavior is totally in contravention of Rules 1 and 15 of the Code of Moral and Professional ethics for lawyers.

“Rule 1 specifically states that, ‘It shall be unprofessional for any lawyer to advise, initiate or otherwise participate directly or indirectly in any act that tends to undermine or impugn the authority, dignity, integrity of the courts or judges, thereby hindering the effective administration of justice.'”

Also, the judge quoted Rule 15: “… a lawyer should refrain from any act whereby for his personal benefit or gain, abuses or takes advantage of the confidence reposed in him by his client.”

While pleading with lawyers to exercise professional conduct, Sammy added, “I want to make a passionate call to all practicing lawyers appearing before courts anywhere in the country to assist the judiciary in this endeavor.”

This call, she said, “is predicated upon the fact that there are constant negative public perceptions, and allegations of corruption on the part of judges and the Courts. These reported allegations of corruption levied against judges, and the judiciary has claimed the attention of the overall chiefs, and even the judges.”

Based on the repeated allegations of corruption levied against judges, and the judiciary, she added, “Some of us decided to independently conduct surveys to determine how judges, and the judiciary are corrupt.”

“Therefore,” Sammy said, “The conduct of some of the lawyers involved in unwholesome behaviors, is casting negative aspersion on the courts, judges and the entire judiciary. We are therefore calling on those lawyers involved to desist from this unethical conduct, which has the propensity to undermine the integrity of judges and the courts.”

She reminded her audience that lawyers are friends of the Court. “… therefore, if we are to rebuild confidence in our courts and roll back some of the negative perceptions that permeate the minds of some members of the public about our courts, we must all rise to the challenge and stop these negative actions that have the tendency to cast negative aspersions on the courts and the legal system and assist the courts in ensuring the effective administration of justice as revealed.”
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Criminal Court 'C' Judge Nancy Sammy:
Liberia - Ex-soldiers’ muster creates panic
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by FricNews
Nov 14, 2019 - 10:11
News
Call for disbanded soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) to report for general muster this Friday, 15 November at the Slipway community football pitch in Monrovia has left the public panicking here, amid serious economic crisis and a planned protest by group of Liberians to ask President Weah to step down.

Several apprehensive citizens in and out of Liberia who called on a local radio talk show Wednesday, 13 November said the gathering of former military personnel with no clear aim or objective of their gathering is worrisome for the country especially, during these times of economic challenges.The disbanded soldiers on Wednesday, rejected an appeal by the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Nathaniel McGill, to call off their planned muster for the sake of peace.

Retired Major Alexander Giord, head of all battalions representing ex-servicemen insists the muster would go ahead as planned, beginning Friday. He claims the exercise will continue up to 30th November.Ex-soldiers here have a strength 6,500, including retired personnel of the formerly Special Security Service (SSS) Police and Immigration.

Musa Bility, who phoned in from Paynesville City outside Monrovia, urged the Government of Liberia to immediately take seize of the matter before it gets off hand, warning there are clear indications the ex-soldiers are up for something different.
He notes that those former soldiers were the same group that summoned and threatened to arrest Representative YekehKolubah of Montserrado District#10 and the government did nothing.

“Today, everyone is promoting this event that is being organized by former soldiers to gather in their thousands in the heart of the city and our security sector is not doing anything about this to inform us the public. Listen to the name ‘muster’ and you expect us to not be shaking in our various homes?”, Andrew Cooper, another panicking resident questions.
Cooper notes that government’s continues silence on serious security issue has caused the country serious setback, narrating that the planned muster has extended to widows of dead soldiers, who are organizing a separate gathering of their own on the same day.

James Lamine, a youth advocate similarly calls on government through the Joint Security to assure the public and reduce the current fears brought about by the heightened tension in the country, adding, “If the people are rightfully informed, they will not have reason to panic or spread false rumors.”

“Government should not be the one embracing conflict among its citizens. Right now, you are allowing former soldiers to gather in their mass; few days ago, the widows of soldiers are assembling too on that same day at different locations; who knows tomorrow? Maybe few times from now, ex-fighters that are now involved in drug and causing problems in our various communities and streets corners will want to gather in their mass too and you want to tell me, this government will have power to stop them?” Lamine asserts.

The actual motive of the planned muster is unclear, but demobilized AFL soldiers have time to time used mass gathering to pressurize the former Sirleaf administration to give them money, particularly around major holidays such as July 26 Independence celebrations and Christmas. By Ben P. Wesee–Editing by Jonathan Browne
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Liberia - Treat traffickers as rapists
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by FricNews
Nov 14, 2019 - 10:11
News
-Gender Ministry seeks tougher punishment

Acting Gender Minister Madam Alice Howard has recommended here that the law on Trafficking In Persons (TIPs) should be rated high, and that it should have tougher punishment enshrined on the country’s statute books for traffickers just as it is with rapists in an effort to get rid of TIPs.“Trafficking law should be … rated as high as rape case. Not someone going to jail for one year and then be released and then continue in another community. It should be rated as high as rape case so that we make it serious,” she says.

The call came Wednesday, 13 November at the commencement of a high level inception meeting and training of trainers for Liberia Media Development (LMD) partners on TIP in Sinkor, suburb of Monrovia.Relevant government and private institutions including the police, immigration, Labor Ministry, Gender Ministry, the media and other stakeholders are taking part in the three – day inception meeting and training with the aim of helping to provide new skills that will help to educate the public on TIPs and law enforcement.

The training on TIPs comes after Liberia has been placed on Tier 2 Watch List by the U.S. State Department through its annual TIPs report last June.This downgrading of Liberia marks the third consecutive year, and it rings a bell that the country needs to direct human efforts and resources toward the fight against TIPs if it must have good standing to access non – humanitarian development funds from the U.S.

Authorities knowledgeable in the sector say TIPs occur in several forms, including taking family or other people’s children under your care through deception that they will be given better opportunities like schooling, when the actual intent is to later abuse their rights, use them for labor or as breadwinners, among others.

Madam Howard stresses here that officials should be trained in identifying trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, as she highlights women and children as the most vulnerable when it comes to trafficking, especially in Liberia.

She calls for the collective efforts of all, inclusive of the government, the citizens, civil society, partners and the media to combat trafficking in person in the same way as they did in the fight against Ebola so as to be able to get rid of trafficking here.
She suggests that if there can be increased efforts in investigating and prosecuting perpetrators of trafficking, the country will move forward.To achieve this goal, Madam Howard indicates that training is needed and law enforcement officers need to be equipped as well.

“I’m just going to say our own involvement with trafficking in Liberia, we are not doing a lot because we all know the constraints in Liberia. But the Ministry is active on the Task Force and we work collaboratively with the Labor Ministry and other agencies and ministries that are involved with trafficking,” she says.Minister Howard reveals that they sometimes provide survivors with food items, house them for a while, saying because of cost “we can’t keep them too long.”

Also speaking, Labor Minister Mr. Moses Y. Kollie notes that the LMD, being one of the newest local partners to the Anti-Trafficking Task Force, joined the task force in late August this year and expressed its willingness in initiating strategies that will eradicate the issue of Trafficking In Persons in Liberia.Minister Kollie assures the LMD / Internews that the Government of Liberia through the Task Force is prepared and willing to further strengthen the partnership so as to achieve the four key thematic areas inclusive of prevention, protection, and prosecution and [partnership].

Earlier, Liberian Immigration Service (LIS) Head of Anti – Human Trafficking Col. Bolley B. Morlu pledges the support of the LIS in combating TIPs here, saying Immigration is the first point of contact for people entering Liberia.Out of 177 point of entry into Liberia, Col. Morlu reveals that LIS officers are deployed at 46 entry points, while 131 entry points are still “left vulnerable and routinely patrolled” by LIS Border Patrol Unit.

Col. Morlu notes that he was very much disheartened to learn that Liberia has been placed on Tier 2 Watch List for the third time.“And because of this we on this day want to pledge our best endeavors and efforts in helping the national task force, not to completely eliminate – because it’s difficult – but to reduce the number of trafficking in this country,” Col. Morlu says.

USAID Acting Mission Director Madam Rebekah Eubanks recalls that last June, for the third consecutive year, the U.S. State Department placed Liberia on the Tier 2 Watch List in its annual Trafficking in Persons report.

“This ranking reflects the U.S. Government’s assessment that the Government of Liberia is not fully in compliance with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking that regulate U.S. foreign assistance,” she says.

Madam Eubanks adds that what this means for Liberia and Liberian trafficking survivors is troubling in its own right, adding that it also has important implications for the future of U.S. assistance to Liberia.

She urges the Government of Liberia to put into place and enforce policies that demonstrate increased efforts to combat human trafficking, investigate and prosecute traffickers, and protect survivors by early next year or Liberia will be downgraded to Tier 3, and lose access to all U.S. government non – humanitarian development funds.

“USAID is committed to working with our partners to help make sure that doesn’t happen. We are looking across our programming to identify ways we can support Liberian efforts to counter trafficking across the country. That is why we are here today,” she notes.She also reminds the Fourth Estate of its critical role in raising these important issues, facilitating public debate and holding leaders to account. Internews Country Director Jan McArthur expresses delight to work collaboratively on such a high level with the U.S. Government and the Liberian Government, saying she is truly honored for LMD to be invited to support such effort in anti-trafficking efforts in Liberia.By Winston W. Parley
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Uganda - 80 officers desert from police training school
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by FricNews
Nov 14, 2019 - 10:11
News
Police have ordered the arrest of 91 officers on sight on allegations of deserting the Force.

At least 80 of the officers that are said to have deserted were recently transferred to Police Training School, Kabalye in Masindi District as instructors.

A police statement dated November 11 sent by the assistant commissioner of police, Mr Emmanuel Muheirwe, states: “The following personnel, who were reported (absent without leave) by various units are hereby declared deserters. If seen, they should be arrested and respective unit commanders should inform police headquarters for collection.”
Among the deserters are 25 sergeants, 37 corporals and 28 police constables.

Desertion from the police is an offence and attracts a year of imprisonment on conviction, according to the Police Act.

The police spokesperson, Mr Fred Enanga, said the officers have spent 21 days without reporting to work and haven’t given any reasons for their absence.

“The affected officers will be struck off the payroll this month,” Mr Enanga said yesterday.

At least 850 officers were sent to the police school as instructors mid this year. Nearly 10,000 probation police constables and cadets are undergoing training at the school.

Mr Enanga said the desertion will not affect the training standards at the school.
“Officers that deserted are just 10 per cent of the entire training staff. The instructors at the school will be enough to ensure that trainees get quality education,” he said.

Police officers reportedly don’t want to be deployed at the police training schools as instructors since they don’t get avenues to earn side income.

Some police instructors who didn’t want to be mentioned said they have asked police management to give them allowances for the services they offer, but the government has never considered their appeal.

Many officers who are transferred to hard-to-reach areas, Field Force Unit and police training schools, often disappear for months and later return at their previous stations and continue with their normal duties.

“That is a practice we are fighting. Officers, who hide and later return thinking they will be deployed will be struck off the payroll and subjected to the law,” he said.
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Police officers undergo training at Police Training School, Kabalye in Masindi District, in 2018. PHOTO BY ANDREW BAGALA
South Sudan - Pope Francis, Archbishop of Canterbury to visit South Sudan together
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by FricNews
Nov 14, 2019 - 10:11
News
Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, will travel to South Sudan if the country's warring sides form a unity government as planned by February, the Vatican said Wednesday.

The announcement came as Welby held "friendly discussions" with the pontiff that touched on "the condition of Christians in the world", the Holy See said in a statement.

It emphasised "certain situations of international crisis, particularly the sorrowful situation in South Sudan."

The two prelates said they would visit South Sudan together "if the political situation (leads to) a transitional national unity government in the next 100 days".

Francis hosted a two-day Vatican retreat in April aimed at shoring up the fragile peace in South Sudan.

He created a sensation afterward in an event in which he kissed the South Sudanese leaders' feet, saying: "Your people are awaiting your return to your country, the reconciliation of all its members, and a new era of peace and prosperity for all."


Under a 2015 a peace deal, rebel chief Riek Machar returned as vice president in 2016, but the accord collapsed within months, with fierce battles in the capital. The fresh conflict engulfed even more of the country.

Before South Sudan became independent, it was the southern part of the country of Sudan, which was the scene of two civil wars pitting mainly Christian and animist insurgents in the south against Khartoum's Muslim Arab-dominated government. Millions died in the conflicts.

Last week South Sudan President Salva Kiir and Machar were granted an extension of 100 days to form a power-sharing government, in the latest modification to a truce they signed in September 2018.
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Pope Francis embraces Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, leader of the Anglican Communion, during a meeting Nov. 13, 2019, in the pope’s Vatican residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae. PHOT
Uganda - 12-year-old pupil killed in fight with 'best friend'
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by FricNews
Nov 14, 2019 - 10:11
News
A primary three pupil of Lukolo primary school in Jinja district has died following a fight with his classmate.

12-year-old Sowedi Mugulusi reportedly fell on the floor during the fight and bruised his head before he breathed his last yesterday Wednesday. Efforts to get a comment from the school administration were futile. However, a teacher at the school told URN condition of anonymity that the two pupils were close friends and even shared a desk. 

“I am surprised that this unfortunate incident happened at such a time because these two boys have been so close in class and even sat together,” he says.   

Salima Nabirye, the guardian of the deceased, says the school just handed over Mugulusi's body without offering her any explanation on the circumstances surrounding his death. 

“I have looked after this boy since his childhood and he has been healthy throughout. I am surprised that he passed away under unclear circumstances and the school didn’t offer any explanation,” she said.

Arajab Kakande, the LC I chairperson Lukolo village, says he was only invited at the school when Mugulusi was already dead.

Mary Nyangoma, the officer in charge of Mutai police station, says a postmortem was carried out before the deceased was handed over to relatives for burial. She however, didn’t explain what could have caused the minor’s death. 

Nyangoma says the boy who was involved in the fight with the deceased will be handed over to Kiira regional police station for further interrogation.
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Nigeria - Bank worker, accomplices emptied customer’s dormant account, thinking he’s dead —EFCC
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by FricNews
Nov 14, 2019 - 10:11
News
An official of a commercial bank and three others have allegedly emptied the account of a Nigerian man who resides in Saudi Arabia.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission said the suspects had concluded that the owner of the account, Sanusi Yakubu, was dead when he did not operate the account for years.

One of the suspects, a worker in the bank, reportedly contacted his suspected accomplices, namely, Ado Shehu, Ali Muhammad and Abba Sanusi, who work with the Sharia Court, Kano State, to obtain court documents stating that the account owner was dead, and that, as his heirs, should be given access to his money.

Yakubu subsequently petitioned EFCC’s Kano zonal office, which has since arraigned Shehu and Muhammad before Justice Amina Aliyu of the Kano State High Court on three counts bordering on theft and receipt of gratification.

The complainant, Yakubu, in his petition, alleged that one Williams Aondo (now late), who was a staff of a commercial bank (name withheld), conspired with Shehu and Muhammad, both of whom are staff of Sharia Court, Kano State, and instituted a civil action claiming that he (Yakubu) was deceased, after Aondo had noticed inactivity on his account for a few years, whereas he was alive and well in Saudi Arabia.

Yakubu also alleged that the court, acting upon the information presented before it by the said Shehu and Muhammad, ordered his account to be closed and that the sum of N1,255,728.00 that was in the account be remitted to the court for distribution to his heirs.

Count one of the charge reads: ”That you Ado Shehu, Ali Muhammad and Abba Sanusi (now at large), sometime in December 2017 at Kano, Kano State, within the jurisdiction of this honorable court, conspired among yourselves to do an illegal act, to wit: conspiracy to commit theft against one Sanusi Yakubu and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 96(1)(a) and punishable under Section 97 of the Penal Code Law (1987).”

The defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.

In view of their plea, prosecution counsel, Zarami Mohammed, asked the court for a trial date and for the defendants to be remanded in the custody of Nigerian Correctional Service.

Defence counsel Rabiu Sani, however, made an oral application for bail for the defendants, which Justice Amina Aliyu granted.

He admitted the defendants to bail in the sum of N100,000 each and two sureties in like sum.

One of the sureties must be a staff of the judiciary, not less than Grade Level 12; and the other must also be a judiciary staff.

She ordered them to be remanded in the custody of NCS pending the fulfillment of their bail conditions.

The case was adjourned until November 14, 2019 for hearing.
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Nigeria - Nigerian woman faces 10 years in US jail for drug trafficking, fraud
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by FricNews
Nov 14, 2019 - 10:11
News
A Nigerian woman, identified as Tammy, has pleaded guilty to charges of drug trafficking and bank fraud in the US and may spend up to 10 years in jail.

In a statement by the Department of Justice, US Attorney’s Office (Eastern District of Virginia) last Tuesday (November 5), Tammy pleaded guilty to the allegations of conspiring with others to import more than five kilograms of cocaine, as well as to her role in a separate bank fraud scheme, and to making false statements relating to fraudulent claims submitted to Medicaid for reimbursement.

Zachary Terwilliger, US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia said “Tammy is a ‘triple threat’ of criminality – drug trafficker, a fraudster, and a liar. Tammy, a Nigerian immigrant who has spent the last two decades with the privilege of living in the United States as a lawful permanent resident, clearly has zero respect for American laws pertaining to our borders, controlled substances, our financial system, or our health care system.”

With her guilty plea, Tammy faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison for the cocaine importation charge when sentenced on February 28, 2020.

According to court documents, Tammy, who is 40-years-old, recruited men from the greater Washington, D.C. area to act as drug couriers. She was also accused of opening bank accounts in the couriers’ names, assisting them in obtaining passports and visas, and booking their travel arrangements.

Tammy’s suspected couriers travelled primarily to São Paulo, Brazil, where they picked up kilogram quantities of cocaine hidden in the lining of soft-sided briefcases or attaché cases. Altogether, law enforcement seized nearly seven kilograms of cocaine at three different US airports from three separate couriers allegedly recruited by Tammy.

The statement also revealed that in addition to the cocaine importation scheme, Tammy also submitted falsified and fraudulent claims to the D.C. Department of Health Care Finance, a health care benefit program funded by Medicaid.

It was reported that Tammy worked as a personal care aide for various home health agencies in the Washington D.C. area, and in order to receive payment for services rendered, Tammy was required to submit time sheets signed by her clients documenting the services rendered. Instead of submitting time sheets for time actually worked providing health care services, Tammy recruited Medicaid recipients to act as her “patients” and to sign her falsified timesheets in return for a small amount of money as a kickback. On at least two occasions, Tammy billed DHCF for home health services she claimed to have provided while she was out of the country.

Apart from the cocaine importation and the home health services scheme, Tammy alleged also used her African goods business in Maryland to carry out a bank fraud.
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Nigeria - Two Nigerians killed in fatal accident in Canada
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by FricNews
Nov 14, 2019 - 10:11
News
Two Nigerians have been killed in a fatal accident in the Kamloops, B.C. area of Canada.

According to reports, the accident involving a hit-and-run driver occured on First Avenue and Battle Street, just after 1:30 a.m. on Sunday November 3rd.

The two deceased Nigerians were riding in the car alongside two other Nigerians when the driver of a pickup who was on top speed, lost control and rammed into their vehicle.

Okocha and Adebowale died on the spot.

The other two Nigerians were said to have been rushed to the hospital with one of them in critical condition.

22-year-old Daniel Okocha was born in the Delta State in South-South Nigeria and only just moved to Kamloops last year to further his education.

The second child of four siblings, Daniel was working toward his bachelor’s degree in business and commerce at the Thompson Rivers University. 

His older brother, David is expected to arrive Kamloops from  Virginia, USA this month for his brother’s funeral. His parents, however, will remain in Nigeria.

The driver of the pickup fled the scene following the crash. The vehicle’s registered owner was taken into custody briefly later in the day on Sunday but has not been charged.

Meanwhile friends of the deceased Nigerians have taken to social media to pay tribute to them.
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Nigeria - Entrepreneurship in today’s business environment
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by FricNews
Nov 14, 2019 - 9:11
Opinions
By Marcel Okeke

Entrepreneurship is one of the factors of production; and the others are: land, labour, capital and technology. But the place of the entrepreneur is so critical that without him, the rest could practically lie fallow or may not even exist. His role is akin to that of a “net external force” in Isaac Newton’s First Law of Motion (in Physics), which says that “a body at rest tends to stay at rest…unless acted upon by a net external force.” This is to say that it is the ingenuity, vision, creativity and drive of the entrepreneur that puts the other factors of production to use, and through transformative processes, lead to industrialization. This has to happen in an enabling business environment anchored on a deliberate policy of the Government within the jurisdiction.

The industrial policy of government per time therefore provides the substratum or “pull factor”, among others, that moves the entrepreneur to bring his vision to reality, taking along all the risks. Let’s consider a bit of the Nigerian situation. In his Goodwill Message in a document titled “Industrial Policy of Nigeria” issued in 1988, the then President of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Dr. Ismail Babatunde Jose had this to say: “For so long, industrial investors have been groping in the dark with no beacon to guide them. Most often, beautiful and viable investment projects embarked upon by investors have turned into failure because of frequent and unanticipated changes in government policies. Even where attempts have been made to chart a path and provide incentives, expectations have been frustrated by poor implementation.” Dr. Jose said further “…the procedures for setting up industries in the country have proved agonizingly tedious, involving as it were, a maze of regulations and permits that are administered by an array of slow and, often, indifferent bureaucratic machinery.” He however hoped that the document (Industrial Policy of Nigeria) would close a major void which had hampered industrial investment in the country, adding that private entrepreneurs would no doubt be forthcoming, if the climate was conducive.

In 2004, the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) document observed that “overdependence on oil and traditional sectors, such as agriculture and services, is partly due to the hostile business environment,” stressing that “businesses wishing to operate in Nigeria face many constraints, including poor infrastructure, particularly road networks and electricity supply; inadequate physical security; corruption; weak enforcement of contracts, and the high cost of finance”. The document summed up that these factors have deterred foreign entrepreneurs from investing in Nigeria and induced many Nigerians to take their money and skills abroad. Unfortunately, fifteen years after these worrisome observations were made in the NEEDS document, the conditions have hardly improved.

However, government policies that are pivotal to entrepreneurship and industrialization are not all stories of woes. The communication policy that unleashed the Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM) in Nigeria in 2001, in all considerations, transformed not only the business landscape, but lives of the citizenry generally. From less than half a million connected telephone lines in 2001 in Nigeria, the number of active telephone lines in the country stands at over 175 million today; just as the number of Internet users has hit about 123 million (Nigeria Communications Commission, NCC, data). The revolutionary effect of all these on entrepreneurship and industrialization in Nigeria is really enormous. In Nigeria today, from the comfort of your bedroom, you can call and discuss with anybody in any part of the globe. So, you can run your “business at the speed of thought” as envisaged by Bill Gates.

The obverse side of this phenomenal development is that some businesses were put out of business; for example, most post offices and postal agencies across Nigeria are practically lying fallow today, with the buildings decrepit and overgrown by weeds. Many that went into ‘business-centre business,’ using fixed or landlines in the early days of the ‘telecom revolution’, soon went out of business, as virtually everyone got a mobile phone/line. Similarly, manufacturers and dealers in desktop computers have almost been driven out of business by those who produce more compact laptops, tablets and smart phones with wide-ranging functionalities.

Also, in the banking sector, the July 6, 2004 consolidation policy ended up making a revolutionary impact on the industry. In the policy, the minimum paid-up capital for banks was raised from Two Billion Naira to Twenty-five Billion Naira, with a deadline of 18 months (ending December 31, 2005) for each bank to meet the needed capital. By the close of the exercise, the number of banks had dropped to only 25, as against the 89 at the commencement of the consolidation.

The upside of the ‘revolution’ was that the 25 banks that emerged became ‘Mega Banks’, big enough to, either singly or in syndication, finance big ticket transactions in the country. Each of them commenced rapid branch network expansion, including setting up branches and wholly-owned subsidiaries offshore. In no time, most of them got listed among the “Top 1000 Banks” in the world by Financial Times of London. Also, many huge projects that hitherto depended on foreign/external funding got wholly financed by ‘local’ Nigerian banks. Thus, entrepreneurship and industrialization got some boost, as many local businesspeople and foreign investors took advantage of the new financial muscles of the banks.

However, on the downside, the consolidation saw the ‘death’ of some ‘financial empires’. Many entrepreneurial investors and shareholders literally lost their fortunes, as the number of banks shrank to only 25 within18 months. The multiplier effect of this reality also manifested in the bankruptcy of not a few businesses which had depended on the many ‘extinct banks.’ And for the next one decade or so (2005—2015), no new banks (especially Deposit Money Banks) were set up, either privately- or government-owned, because there was no more room for ‘starting small and growing big.’

However, it must be acknowledged that critical as the role of entrepreneurship is among the factors of production, technology remains a key driver of continuous change in every business environment. Again, the situation in the banking industry comes handy, where the use of financial technology (Fintech) has since put an end to ‘brick and mortar’ banking. Just as offices are going ‘paperless’, the entire Nigerian economy is going ‘cashless’.

Nobody carries bundles of bank notes any more, all the way from Onitsha (Anambra state) or Warri (Delta State) to Idumota (in Lagos) to buy some goods. Payment for such goods can now be made through Internet bankingand other e-channels, without the buyer travelling. Retail consumers of an assortment of goods nowadays procure them online, thereby boosting electronic commerce (e-commerce) within Nigeria and globally.

On the other hand, another victim of a changing business environment is the print media in Nigeria and elsewhere, where the ‘hard copy’ newspapers that we all know are badly hit, no thanks to the impact of information technology and/or social media. Almost everyone now reads the daily news online; more so, with what is now called “citizens journalism”. Virtually everyone today is a ‘journalist’ and a ‘photographer’ and in case of any incident, ‘live pictures’ are taken and in a matter of seconds, such pictures are made to go viral, with captions. And, although ICT makes newspaper production easier, but their ‘news’ are delayed. This is part of our changing business environment, where you read what is happening in every part of the world, almost ‘live’—minute-by-minute!

Without any doubt, ICT application in any business not only enhances efficiency of all processes, but also entrenches cost-effectiveness and good ‘bottom-line.’ Digital, as opposed to analogue has become the name of ‘the game’ in business. Every barrier is ‘pulled down’; and neither geography nor language poses limit or limitation to entrepreneurship anymore.

This is why the 21st century entrepreneur must, with all other attributes, possess above-average ICT-skills. Notwithstanding the traditional local constraints, such as poor infrastructure (as in Nigeria), leapfrogging digital opportunities and advantages remains a sure highway for an entrepreneur operating from wherever. The world is indeed, a ‘global village’, with barriers of distance and language already broken completely.

This is why whatever challenge is posed today by ‘Brexit’ in the UK, or President Donald Trump’s protectionist policies in the US, is impacting the entire world. For over three years (since June, 2016), the United Kingdom, following the outcome of a referendum, has been struggling to exit the European Union—where they have been a member for close to fifty years. Things have indeed gone awry in the UK, with two Prime Ministers (PMs) exiting in quick succession, and the incumbent facing very ‘cloudy days’ ahead. And for Trump of the US, his trade wars with China and others as well as anti-globalization stance, are fast defining a ‘New World Order’ that leaves the entire humanity in constant quandary.

And down here in Africa, the unfolding omen of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) on the entire continent is worrisome. In my article on this subject published in The Guardian(of Nigeria) on April 30, 2019, I said: “Already, the rising wave of nationalism and separatism across the African continent is manifesting in widespread xenophobic attacks, killings and looting of properties belonging to fellow Africans. Black Africans no longer want blacks from African countries on their soil. In South Africa, blacks from other countries of the continent are being killed in large numbers or pursued out of the country by ‘indigenous blacks’. In Ghana, on several occasions, Nigerians are being chased out of the country, and having their businesses destroyed by indigenous Ghanaians. In other countries such as Libya, Morocco, Sudan, etc., nationals of other African countries are being ‘bought and sold’ as slaves. Hardly is there a week that hordes of these Nigerian ‘slaves’ will not be repatriated and dumped at our major airports.” That my article is titled: ‘African Common Market, nationalism and xenophobia.’ The recent closure of Nigeria’s land borders has the capacity to worsen this already tension-soaked regional investment climate.

Globally, these uncertain business environments are further being complicated by the import of the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ as adumbrated by Professor Schwab of the World Economic Forum. We already have with us some disruptive technologies and trends such as the Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI). With all these, and in all these, however, the entrepreneur, the ‘risk taker’, the inventor or innovator remains the pivot around which the industrialization process revolves. After all, technology, no matter the sophistication or complexity, is a creation of man.

Okeke, an economic analyst, lives in Lagos.
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Nigeria - EFCC witness recants allegation against Obasanjo
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by FricNews
Nov 14, 2019 - 9:11
News
Prosecution witness for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Bashir Mohammed, has made a volte-face in his allegation against President Olusegun Obasanjo.

In the continuation of his evidence yesterday against Abdulahi Babalele, son-in-law to former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, the witness said he delivered the naira equivalent of $140,000 (N50.4 million) to someone he did not know at Obasanjo’s library in Abeokuta, Ogun State.

His statement followed the prodding from the defence counsel, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), who directed the witness to read from his extra-judicial statement made to the EFCC on March 11. 

Part of the statement reads, “I collected the dollars cash from Dan Asabe and I called Babalele and he told me to take the money to Ogun State to Obasanjo’s library.

“When I got to the library, I met a man who asked if I am Bashir and I said yes. He asked ‘where is the message from Babalele?’ and I gave him the money. I don’t know the name of the person I gave the money, but I can identify the office.”

Addressing the court, Ozekhome said the defence had established from the portion of extra-judicial statements that they were contradictory. 

“Yesterday you said you gave Obasanjo $140,000 personally in his house; but in this your statement today, you wrote that you gave the money to a man in the library that you don’t even know his name.

“You told the court yesterday that you changed N50,400,000 that was transferred to you; but in your statement, we have seen N53 million and N52.5 million that was transferred to you,” Ozekhome pointed out.

Following arguments between Ozekhome and the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, about the admissibility of some statements, Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke adjourned the case till January 29, 2020.
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