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Drama As Saraki’s Trial Resumes …90 Lawyers In Defence

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Programme Director, British Council Nigeria, Louisa Wadlingham (left), with the Principal Investigator, UCL Institute of Education, Elaine Unterhalter, presenting the report of findings on teacher education, teacher practice, gender and girls schooling outcomes in Abuja on Monday

Programme Director, British Council Nigeria, Louisa Wadlingham (left), with the Principal Investigator, UCL Institute of Education, Elaine Unterhalter, presenting the report of findings on teacher education, teacher practice, gender and girls schooling outcomes in Abuja on Monday

The trial of the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, on a 16-count charge of false assets declaration resumed at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), yesterday, with controversy over how many of the over 90 lawyers representing the defendant can speak for him and cross examine the first prosecution witness, Micheal Wetkas.
The prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, rose up in protest immediately after Kanu Agabi, SAN, the lead defence counsel, told the court that Paul Erokoro, SAN, another member of the defence team will continue the cross examination of the witness.
The prosecution counsel who had earlier expressed the hope that the defence will end the cross examination of the witness which has been on for about four days, argued that though the defendant may have many lawyers, only one counsel is entitled to speak for him at a time.
He further told the Chairman of the tribunal, Mr. Danladi Umar, that he should not give opportunity for the defendant to use many “voices” in the cross examination.
“My submission is that a party is only entitled to one audience in one proceeding. A counsel who starts a cross examination should conclude it. The fact that the defendant has four SANs does not mean each of them should do it. Not that one when person is tired another person will take over. It (the cross examination) will be endless.”
But Erokoro opposed him arguing that there is no law that limits the number of counsels that a party can use in a case.
He argued that it is for the very reason that a counsel may get tired that the law allows a party to a case to have many counsels.
Erokoro described the request by the prosecution that the defence should end its cross-examination of the first prosecution witness today as absurd, stressing that they will not allow themselves to be rushed.
“We are going to take our time and do the case properly. We will not be rushed; we will not be stampeded. If the prosecution doesn’t like it, he should withdraw some of the exhibits. We are going to take the court through all the exhibits,” said Erokoro.
In reply, Jacobs said his point is that the defendants cannot have several voices at the same time, over the same case and the same witness.
“He can have several counsel, but not all of them will speak at the same time. That’s why we have lead counsel. They can have several lawyers. That’s why they have 90, but only one voice. So, the lead counsel who has started the cross examination is bound to conduct his case.
In his short ruling, Umar said the defence team has the discretion to conduct the defence in a way it deems fit.
He also added that the tribunal is bound to give every opportunity to the defendant to defend himself and the court cannot stop him.
However, the trial continued with the cross-examination of the first prosecution witness by Erokoro.
But Counsel to the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, Paul Erokoro, SAN, yesterday, alleged that the Federal Government has something to hide.
Erokoro made the allegation when the principal witness involved in the ongoing trial, Michael Wetkas, an operative with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), was unable to give explanations to the letter the commission wrote to the Presidential Committee on the Implementation of Sales of Government Properties in relation to one of Saraki’s property.
EFCC, in its evidence, tendered before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), claimed it had written a letter to the Presidential Committee on the Implementation of Sales of Government Properties in respect to Saraki’s property on MacDonald Street in Ikoyi, Lagos.
The commission claimed the property was one of those the Senate President did not declare in his assets declaration form.
Responding to Erokoro, Wetkas said, “Sometimes when we write to these committees or government agencies, their reply sometimes is compiled, the committee did reply in another letter not here.
Following Wetkas’ reply, Erokoro declared, “So, from the evidence, the committee did not reply the letter?
“Those prosecuting or whoever is prosecuting definitely has something to hide.”
Meanwhile, the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, yesterday alleged before the Code of Conduct Tribunal sitting in Abuja that his assets declaration form of 2003 has been tampered with, hence the reason the original copy of the form was not presented before the tribunal.
Saraki is standing trial over alleged false assets declaration, while he was the governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2011.
At the resumed trial yesterday, the counsel to Saraki, Paul Erokoro (SAN), levelled the allegation while cross examining the prosecution witness, Michael Wetkas.
Under cross examination, Wetkas was asked whether he saw the original copy of Exhibit 1, which is Saraki’s assets declaration form , in the cause of investigation.
Wetkas initially stated that he never saw the original copy but on a second thought he reversed himself and said he sighted the form from one Samuel Majemu of the CCB.
When asked why the original copy of the form was not brought before the tribunal, Wetkas stated that he always worked with the Certified True Copy furnished by the CCB because it is a replica of the original and it serves the same purpose.
It was at that point that Erokoro submitted: “Whoever is prosecuting the defendant is hiding something by not having bringing the original copy before this tribunal.
“If it is important for the investigative team to see the original, then why is it not important for the tribunal to see it?”

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90% Of Money Laundered Via Real Estate, EFCC Reveals

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) says about 90 per cent of money laundering is done through the real estate sector.
The commission’s Chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa, stated this while featuring on Channels TV’s Sunrise Daily, yesterday,
According to him, although the sector is monitored via the special control unit, more needed to be done.
According to Bawa, “One of the problems we have now is the real estate. 90 to 100 per cent of the resources are being laundered through the real estate.”
He said there are so many issues involved, but that they were working with the National Assembly to stop what he called “the gate keepers” as there would be reduction in looting if there is no one to launder the money.
Bawa, the EFCC boss, gave an example of a minister who expressed interest in a $37.5million property a bank manager put up for sale.
He said, “The bank sent a vehicle to her house and in the first instance $20million was evacuated from her house.
“They paid a developer and a lawyer set up a special purpose vehicle, where the title documents were transferred into.
“And he (the lawyer) is posing as the owner of the property. You see the problem. This is just one of many; it is happening daily.”
The EFCC chairman also revealed that he receives death threats often.
Asked to respond to President Muhammadu Buhari’s frequent “Corruption is fighting back” expression, Bawa said he was in New York, USA, last week, when someone called to threaten him.
“Last week, I was in New York when a senior citizen received a phone call from somebody that is not even under investigation.
“The young man said, ‘I am going to kill him (Bawa), I am going to kill him’.
“I get death threats. So, it is real. Corruption can fight back,” he said.
On corruption in the civil service, he said there were a lot of gaps, especially in contracts processing, naming “emergency contracts” as one.
Bawa said, “A particular agency is notorious for that. They have turned all their contracts to emergency contracts.”
However, he said, EFCC has strategies in place to check corruptions, one of which is “corruption risk assessments of MDAs”.
According to him, “I have written to the minister and would soon commence the process of corruption risk assessments of all the parastatals and agencies under the Ministry of Petroleum Resources to look at their vulnerability to fraud and advise them accordingly.”
Asked if the scope of corruption in the country overwhelms him, Bawa, the EFCC boss said, “Yes, and no.”

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We’ve Spent N9bn To Upgrade RSUTH, Wike Confirms

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The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, says his administration has spent N9billion in upgrading structures and installation of new equipment at the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital (RSUTH).
He said the fact that 40 per cent of the 2021 budget of the state is dedicated to provision of quality healthcare delivery was a further demonstration of the priority placed on the sector.
Wike made the explanation at the foundation laying ceremony for the construction of a Renal Centre at RSUTH, last Friday.
The governor said he made promise to Rivers people that the best would be provided to them in all sectors of the society within his capability because of the mandate they gave to him.
“As we came on here, I just looked around and I see the changes in this teaching hospital. I can say that we have put not less than N9billion in this teaching hospital.
“If you look at the budget, the health sector alone, what it’s taking from the Rivers State Government is not less than 40 percent of the 2021 budget.”
Speaking further, Wike said the state government cannot afford to implement free medical service programme in the present economic circumstance.
While dismissing the request for a subvention for RSUTH, Wike, however, commended the chief medical director and his team for their commitment to turnaround the fortunes of RSUTH.
“I have never seen anywhere that health services can be totally free. They’re telling me that people who come here can’t pay. I have never declared that this state is going to take over the health fees of anybody.”
Also speaking, the former Minister of Transport, Dr. Abiye Sekibo, who performed the flag-off, noted that Wike’s achievements in the health sector in particular, surpass what former governors of the state had done.
Sekibo said that the governor has given equal attention to every section of the health sector by providing complete health infrastructure that was positioning the state as a medical tourism destination in Nigeria.
Earlier, the Rivers State Commissioner for Health, Prof Princewill Chike, lauded Governor Nyesom Wike for his interest in the health of Rivers people.
He noted that the renal centre, when completed, would become another landmark development project in the health sector that would handle and manage all kidney-related ailments.
In his remarks, the Chief Medical Director of the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital, Dr. Friday Aaron, commended Wike for approving the renal centre.
Aaron explained that chronic kidney disease was a major burden globally with estimated 14 million cases in Nigeria.
According to him, over 240,000 of these cases require renal replacement therapy in the form of dialysis and renal transplant.
The CMD said the building that would house the centre was expected to be completed in six months and consists of two floors.
The ground floor, according to him, would house the haemodialysis unit with eight haemodialysis machines.
He further explained that the first floor of the centre would house the surgical component where most of the sophisticated equipment for kidney transplant would be installed.
Aaron said Wike has released the funds required to build, equip the centre as well as for the training of personnel locally and internationally.

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Power Generation Falls 23% To 3,172MW

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Power supply in Nigeria has failed to improve on last week’s performance, as it fell by 22.9 per cent from peak generation of 4,115Megawatts on Saturday to 3,172.20MW as at 5pm, yesterday, latest data from the System Operator has shown.
According to the data, most power plants were operating far below capacity due to gas shortage with Olorunsogo Power Plant 335MW capacity; and Sapele Power Plant, 450MW capacity; completely out.
Egbin was generating at 746MW; Omoku 37.20; Omotosho (NIPP) at 105MW; while Afam was generating at 80MW.
The data showed that on the average power generation in the past seven days were 4,120.9MW on Sunday, June 6; 4,249.4 on Monday, June 7; 4,000.9MW on Tuesday, June 8; 3,720.7 on Wednesday, June 9; 3,517 on Thursday, June 10; 3,765MW on Friday, June 11; and 4,115MW on Saturday, June 12.
The International Oil Companies (IOCs), had last warned that despite Nigeria’s huge gas reserves a lot needs to be done to attract investment to the sector to develop gas reserves to boost power generation in the country.
Speaking at the just concluded Nigeria International Petroleum Summit, the Chair, Shell Companies in Nigeria/MD SPDC, Osagie Okunbor, said with 203trillion Cubic Feet of gas reserves, what was needed in the country is to deliver projects that would produce the gas.
“The challenge is not just growing the reserves but in producing these reserves for the benefits of our country. Essentially growing the reserves and delivering on the production is a function of two or three elements.
“I like to see infrastructure that is required for the development of these resources at two levels. Soft infrastructure is often the one that is more important than and that is the one that is actually drives most of what you see at site.”
“Soft infrastructure refers to the enabling environment and nothing pleases me as much seeing both the Senate President and the speaker of the house give very firm commitments about trying to pass the PIB this month.
“That is probably the big one of the enabling environment to provide the kind of stability we also need all sorts of other issues we need to that we have discussed severally in terms of sanctity of contract, stable policies and collaboration and I think we are well on our way there”, he added.

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