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Judge Slams EFCC For Delays In Cases Disposal

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Justice Abubakar Umar of Abuja High Court, has blamed the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) for the delays in the disposal of criminal cases it instituted against corrupt officials.

Umar, who expressed the view yesterday, said counsels handling various cases for the anti-graft agency were responsible for the slow disposal of the cases through their incessant requests for adjournments at the slightest instance.

The judge’s reaction, followed the request by the counsel to the EFCC, Sylvester Tahir to adjourn a case involving a Lebanese and his son, who were standing trial for alleged forgery of some Federal Government documents.

The accused, Jihad Ghraizi (57) and Mohammed Ghraizi (27) are standing trial on a 14-count charge of conspiring to forge four different documents, two of them belonging to the Federal Government of Nigeria, between December 1999 and June 2008, while presenting same as original copies.

The offence is contrary to sections 97, 363 and 364 of the Penal Code.

The accused persons were also alleged to have forged documents of the Ministry of Interior to fraudulently secure 60 per cent shares of Madeni Construction Company Limited, contrary to sections 97, 363 and 364 of the Penal Code.

Counsel, to the EFCC, Sylvester Tahir, who was supposed to cross-examine a handwritting expert, DSP Ayodele Olufemi, sought for adjournment to enable him read the report of the expert and “prepare” himself.

When the judge asked Tahir to come back on Friday, March 9, to cross-examine the witness, the EFCC counsel told the court that he would be travelling to Jos for other cases.

Not happy with the request, Umar, wondered why the EFCC would be asking for special courts to try corruption cases, when it was essentially contributing to the slow dispensation of its cases in the regular courts.

“The EFCC will be the same to run to press and complain that the judiciary is responsible for the seeming delays in disposal of cases.

“I told you to come back tomorrow and cross-examine the witness. You are now telling me you will be travelling.

“Are you the only lawyer in the EFCC? Can’t the EFCC send another counsel to cross-examine a witness? the judge queried.

By the way, this is not your witness. It is the accused’s witness. “The public will not understand that EFCC is responsible for the slow disposal of corruption cases. It will blame the delay on the judiciary,” he said.

Earlier, the accused’s counsel, Suleiman Yakubu, had opposed the application for an adjournment as requeted by the EFCC, saying there was no reason for it.

Yakubu said the prosecution needed not to study the reports of the handwritting expert before cross-examining him.

Umar, who said that he was reluctantly adjourning the case to Monday, April 2, ordered the prosecution not to come with applications for adjournment again.

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Ogoni Youths Give FG 14 Days To Fix East-West Road

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No fewer than 400 youths under the aegis of Ogoni Youth Federation (OYF), yesterday, staged a peaceful protest at the Eleme axis of the East-West Road, giving the Federal Government 14 days ultimatum to mobilize to site and fix the road or have economic activities in the area grounded.
The protesters, who carried various placards with inscriptions to press home their demands, trekked from Akpajo Junction to Refinery Junction in Eleme LGA, chanting solidarity songs to register their discontent over the neglect of the road.
Addressing newsmen during the protest, President General of the Ogoni Youth Federation, Comrade Legborsi Yaamabana, said it was regrettable that the road, which was a major route to the economic hub of the nation, has remained in a deplorable state, only becoming a death trap that has terminated the lives of innocent Ogonis.
Yaamabana, who described the mass action of the youths as a ‘warning protest’, said if the contractors handling the road were not immediately mobilized to site, then, the youths will have no option than to shut down all economic activities in the area.
He said, “we cannot continue to watch our people being killed on daily basis by tankers because of the poor state of Eleme axis of the east west road, we are calling on the Federal Government to as a matter of urgency fix the road and save our people from untimely deaths as a result of the sorry state of the road, the only bridge on the road at Aleto has collapse but nothing is being done to avert the disasters faced by our people daily”.
Yaamabana also called on the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio to constitute a substantive board for the Niger Delta Development Commission to address the development needs of the Niger Delta region, noting that the use of interim management for NDDC was “diversionary, self serving and not in the interest of the development of the Niger Delta region”.
The OYF president general also called on the Federal Government to exonerate Ken Saro-Wiwa and his compatriots who were extra-judicially murdered by the late Gen Sani Abacha military junta, and given post-humours honour as martyrs of democracy in Nigeria, while the ideals of justice they stood for should be upheld.
Also speaking, the immediate past secretary of the Ijaw Youth Council, Eastern Zone, Comrade James Tobin, who joined the protest in solidarity, decried the neglect of the East—West Road by the Federal Government, and called the immediate fixing of the road to save the teeming road users from untold pains and death.

By: Taneh Beemene

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Rising Prices Push 7m Nigerians Below Poverty Line -World Bank

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The World Bank has said that rising prices pushed about seven million Nigerians below the poverty line in 2020.
This was contained in a press statement titled, ‘Critical reforms needed to reduce inflation and accelerate the recovery, says new World Bank report,’ released by the World Bank’s Senior External Affairs Officer of Nigeria, Mansir Nasir.
The press statement was released, yesterday, in line with the latest World Bank Nigeria Development Update.
It was acknowledged that the Federal Government “took measures to protect the economy against a much deeper recession” but it was recommended that certain policies should be set for a strong recovery.”
The statement read, “The NDU, titled ‘Resilience through Reforms,’ notes that in 2020, the Nigerian economy experienced a shallower contraction of -1.8 per cent than had been projected at the beginning of the pandemic (-3.2 per cent). Although the economy started to grow again, prices are increasing rapidly, severely impacting Nigerian households.
“As of April, 2021, the inflation rate was the highest in four years. Food prices accounted for over 60% of the total increase in inflation. Rising prices have pushed an estimated seven million Nigerians below the poverty line in 2020 alone.”
Quoted in the statement, the World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, Shubham Chaudhuri, identified some of the challenges faced by the country and recommended a way forward.
“Nigeria faces interlinked challenges in relation to inflation, limited job opportunities, and insecurity.
“While the government has made efforts to reduce the effect of these by advancing long-delayed policy reforms, it is clear that these reforms will have to be sustained and deepened for Nigeria to realise its development potential,” Chaudhuri said.
Also quoted is the World Bank Lead Economist for Nigeria and co-author of the NDU, Marco Hernandez, who also gave a recommendation.
“Given the urgency to reduce inflation amidst the pandemic, a policy consensus and expedite reform implementation on exchange-rate management, monetary policy, trade policy, fiscal policy, and social protection would help save lives, protect livelihoods, and ensure a faster and sustained recovery,” Hernandez said.

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Inflation Dips To 17.93% In May, NBS Confirms

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Nigeria’s inflation rate dropped to 17.93 per cent in May, 2021, from 18.12 per cent recorded in April, 2021.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) revealed this in its monthly Consumer Price Index report released, yesterday.
The drop in the headline inflation in May was the second consecutive month this year.
The report indicates that the consumer price index (CPI), which measures the inflation rate increased by 17.93 per cent (year-on-year) in May, 2021, which is 0.19 per cent points lower than the rate recorded in the preceding month.
According to NBS, food inflation dropped in the same month from 22.78 per cent recorded in April, 2021 to 22.28 per cent in May, 2021.
The report reads, ‘‘All items less farm produce which excludes the prices of volatile agricultural produce stood at 13.15 per cent in May, 2021, up by 0.41 per cent when compared with 12.74 per cent recorded in April, 2021.
‘‘The highest increases were recorded in prices of pharmaceutical products, garments, shoes and other footwear, hairdressing salons and personal grooming establishments, furniture and furnishing, carpet and other floor covering.
‘‘Others include, motor cars, Hospital services, fuels and lubricants for personal transport equipment, cleaning, repair and hire of clothing.
“Other services include personal transport equipment, gas, household textile, and non-durable household goods,” the NBS added.

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