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RSG Accounts Probe: Court Slams N.6bn Damages Against EFCC …Fayose Demands N20bn From EFCC Over Sercurity Watchlist …As Commission Claims N1.5bn Recovery In S’ South

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A Port Harcourt High Court presided over by Justice George Omereji has awarded N600million general and punitive damages against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in two separate fundamental human rights enforcement applications brought against it by the Rivers State Accountant-General, Mr. Fredrick Dagogo Abere and a retired Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Local Government Affairs, Mr. Lekia Biokpo.
Delivering a one and a half hour judgement in Port Harcourt, yesterday, Justice Omereji said it was embarrassing that the EFCC could invite the applicants in flagrant disrespect to the 2007 judgement which had made the Rivers State House of Assembly the only body that could pry into the accounts of the state government.
Justice Omereji restated that the EFCC has no right to investigate the Rivers State Government or any of its officials.
He noted that while the 2007 judgement was subsisting, the EFCC could not investigate the Rivers State Government accounts.
Justice Omereji said he was embarrassed by the actions of the anti-graft agency; which he said, had failed to appeal the judgment against it more than 10 years after it was delivered, but instead resorted to self-help by inviting the state officials.
He added that the first thing the EFCC should do was to vacate the subsisting order made by Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court before taking any action on the accounts of the Rivers State Government.
Justice George Omereji also said that the EFCC’s Letter of invitation was in disobedience to the court order and also malicious, clarifying that only the Rivers State House of Assembly has the right, by law, to investigate the financial activities of the state government.
He noted that the action of EFCC by inviting the applicants, scandalising their names and declaring them wanted was a violation of their fundamental human rights.
The judge awarded N300million general and punitive damages for each of the applicants against EFCC as exemplary damages.
The anti-corruption agency was not represented during the judgement but the court had noted that hearing notice had been served on the respondent.
Speaking with newsmen immediately after the judgement, the applicants’ lawyer, Mr. Dike Udenna described the action of EFCC as unlawful and a breach of the fundamental human rights of the applicants.
Udenna said that the verdict of the court addresses actions of federal agencies which take the Judiciary for granted, stressing that the issue of corruption must be investigated and handled within the ambits of the law.
He expressed regrets that the law enforcement agency could take actions that would breach the rights of citizens, and noted that the applicants had filed for N500million damages but were awarded N300million each.
The applicants’ counsel said he was elated over the judgement, and expressed hope in the ability of the judiciary to protect the rights of citizens.
Udenna described the judgement as good for democracy, and warned security agencies, as well as anti-graft agents to ensure that they do not take the rights of the people for granted.
It would be recalled that in 2007, the Dr Peter Odili-led Rivers State Government had obtained a perpetual injunction restraining the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission from prying into the accounts of the state.
The judgement vested the right to investigate the state government on the Rivers State House of Assembly.
But in defiance of the court order, the EFCC went ahead to invite the applicants, and also declared them wanted through publication of their pictures in the media.
Meanwhile, Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State has demanded a written apology from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for placing him on watch list and directing that he should be arrested if he attempted to travel out of the country.
Governor Fayose said in a letter to the commission by his lawyer, Mr Obafemi Adewale, also demanded N20 billion as damages, saying the EFCC had violated his rights and privileges as a sitting governor conferred with constitutional immunity against any criminal proceedings.
Fayose also demanded that the written apology should “be published to all security agencies in Nigeria, three national newspapers and the social media as well as withdrawal of the request/directive to security agencies to place him on security watch list.”
The letter stated that “unless these demands are met within 72 hours of the date of this letter, we shall not hesitate to carry out our client’s firm instruction to proceed forthwith to institute legal action against you to seek appropriate remedies before the law court without any further recourse to you.”
The letter was dated September 3, 2018, and has been received at the Abuja office of the EFCC.
The letter read: “By a letter Ref No: 3000/EFCC/ABJ/EG/TA/VOL.59/010 dated 12th September, 2018, you instructed all Security Agencies in Nigeria, including but not limited to the Nigerian Customs Service, NCC, to place our Client on a watch list and to arrest him at sight upon ‘suspicion’ that he might be attempting to flee the country.
In your exact words, we quote: ‘The under listed suspect is under investigation in connection with the above mentioned offences and there is reasonable suspicion suggesting that he may likely leave the country either through the land borders, airport, or seaport in order to invade investigation. Hence, you are kindly requested to watch-list and arrest him.’
“By these words, you have not only fallen foul of the clear provision of Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic which grants our client, as an incumbent Governor, immunity from any criminal process/proceedings, you have also exposed our Client to ridicule, opprobrium, odium and hatred in the eyes and opinion of the ordinary man on the street and falsely and mischievously portrayed him as a common fugitive, a run-away from the law who could/should be arrested at sight like a dangerous criminal.
“By this act and words, particularly coming after our Client had by his letter of 10th September, 2018 duly received in your office on 11th September, 2018 voluntarily without any prompting by you or anybody else, offered to report in your office in Abuja on 16th September, 2018, the very next day after his tenure as Governor, Ekiti State would have ended and his immunity lifted, you have demonstrated premeditated mischief, open hatred for our Client and contempt for his office as Governor.
“This is even moreso when considered against the background of your earlier threat on your official EFCC twitter handle which was widely circulated on the social media and published in the Punch Newspaper of 16th July, 2018 where you mocked our Client in the following words to the whole world: ‘The parri is over, the cloak of immunity is torn apart and the staff broken, Ekiti Integrated Poultry/Biological Concepts Limited N1.3bn fraud case file dusted off the shelves. See you soon.’
“In the light of the above, our Client has directed that we demand of you and we hereby demand as follows; a retraction and withdrawal of the aforesaid request/directive to Security Agencies to place our Client of the security watch list and arrest him at sight even whilst he still enjoys immunity as Governor forthwith.
“A written apology to our Client published to all Security Agencies in Nigeria and in 3 National Newspapers and the Social Media for the flagrant mischievous and deliberate attempt to breach his constitutional rights and malign him in the eyes of right thinking members of the society.
“Payment of the sum of N20bn as damages to our Client for the flagrant, deliberate, pre-meditated and reckless libel and unprovoked attack on his character and reputation and breach of his constitutional right/immunity as an incumbent Governor.
“Take notice that unless these demands are met within 72 hours of the date of this letter, we shall not hesitate to carry out our client’s firm instruction to proceed forthwith to institute legal action against you to seek appropriate remedies before the law court without any further recourse to you.”
However, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said over of N1.5billion has been recovered from investigated financial crime suspects in the last six months within the South-South Zone of the country alone.
The South-South Zonal Director of EFCC, Nnaghe Obono-Itam, who disclosed this in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, however, did not disclose the identity of the suspects or sources from where the said monies were recovered.
He said, “Over 221 cases have been forwarded for legal advice, with 44 cases charged to court and 16 convictions achieved through the past three quarters of this year.
“Between 2nd and 3rd quarter of this year, we have done recoveries of N1, 592, 568, 524.38, made up of N466, 486, 038.68 and N1, 126, 082, 485.07 as money held in various accounts. Out of that, we have N1, 000, 036, 448.06 on interim forfeiture with the Federal Government.
“We also have a total recovery of $678, 354.80, cash of $402, 425.89, and we have $275, 928.91 in account of Post-No-Deposit (PND) as well. We have €5, 254.20 with €5, 225 as cash and €29.20 in account of PND.
“We had in the second quarter received a complaint about a syndicate that uses online medium to sell fake results for WAEC, NECO and the rest. I am glad to say that we have been able to break that syndicate,” the South-South zonal director of EFCC stated.
Obono-Itam commended the Nigerian Army for its efforts in the arrest of 283 trucks/vehicles for loading illegally-refined petroleum products, adding that 15 vessels were under investigation with nine barges and two wooden boats also in custody of the commission.
“The trucks were arrested at different locations within Port Harcourt. Laboratory results of analysis from the DPR indicate that 121 of the trucks were carrying adulterated AGO, 39 loaded with High Pour Fuel Oil (HPFO) and Low Pour Fuel Oil (LPFO).
“Also, DPR result indicates that 31 of the trucks were loaded with waste/lube oil, four of the trucks loaded with crude oil, 24 trucks loaded with genuine products (AGO, PMS and DPK), 31 empty trucks and eight trucks loaded with fertilizers, animal feeds, spaghetti and polythene chemicals.
“Total quantity of products (AGO, PMS, DPK, crude oil, HPFO, LPFO and waste/lube oil) recovered from all the trucks/vehicles was estimated at 5, 6000, 000 litres,” he said.
The EFCC official further said that 59 trucks and about 1, 180, 000 litres of petroleum products have been temporarily forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.

 

Chidi Enyie & Dennis Naku

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Rivers’ll Be Known For Peace, Not Crisis -Fubara

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Rivers State Governor, Sir Siminalayi Fubara, has said that peace has prevailed because he draws strength from God to resist insults and tantrums thrown at him while frustrating attempts by some disgruntled persons who wanted to plunge the State into unending crisis.
The Governor also said that because he has anchored his Government on promoting peace, the enabling atmosphere has been provided for investments and sustainable development to flourish.
Governor Fubara made the assertion when he received a delegation of members of the Bishops and Gospel Ministers’ Association International Incorporated, Rivers State Chapter, at Government House in Port Harcourt, yesterday.
Represented by the Head of Rivers State Civil Service, Dr George Nwaeke, Governor Fubara said while most people took his meekness for weakness, his stance on peace has unarguably enhanced harmonious atmosphere of concord as residents sleep with their two eyes closed, and investors and shareholders are happy with the returns on investment.
He said, “Before, what they hear of Rivers State is that they are fighting, and some genuine investors will not come. Some people even ask you: How are you coping in Rivers State?
“But now”, he asserted: “The Governor has brought about a lot of changes in the State. One of the most important things is that he has changed the negative narrative. It is no longer Rivers of blood. It is now Rivers of peace.
“We are enjoying our lives here. Why? Because there is a change in the narrative. We have peace. The Governor is, as much as possible, absorbing any level of insult at him only for one purpose: that Rivers State may have peace; that we may grow; that this state will experience genuine development.”
Governor Fubara urged them, as members of the Christian family in the State, to continue to pray for the State and the Government so that the enemies of the State will be put to greater shame.
“This peace is what I want you to embrace. Go and continue to pray, because when the sower of the seed went and sowed, the enemy went in the night and sowed tares inside there. But the Governor is sowing peace.
“When I listened to the leader of the team, His Grace Eddy Ogbonda, he said you came all the way from Eleme Junction, and stopped at major junctions, and you uttered prayers for the peace of Rivers State.”
He also said: “I, hereby want to thank you for identifying with the Governor at a time like this. At a time when it looks as if someone wants the Governor’s peace posture misunderstood as weakness.
“When someone has the strength to fight back, but refuses to fight back. That is a bigger strength; that power of restrain does not just come, it can only come from God.
“You cannot give peace, if you do not have peace within you. The Governor is not interested in any form of trouble or violence. What he is interested in is known, and it is: let there be peace in Rivers State,” he said.
In his address, leader of the group, Archbishop Eddy Ogbonda, said they had observed a week-long intensive prayers that culminated into a peace rally, which brought them to Government House, and assured the Governor that God will continue to give him victory over his adversaries while preserving Rivers State.
“It is Rivers State Prophetic Prayer Convocation and Rally 2024 with the theme: ‘Peace be still’. Of a truth, everyone of us understands that we live in a time when we need peace much more than any other thing.
“Rivers State needs peace. Everyone as individuals need peace. The country needs peace, and the world at large needs peace. So, we are here to do a peace march. We pray that God will command His peace to reign in Rivers State,” he said.

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Hoteliers, School Owners Charging In Dollars Risk Arrest -EFCC

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has stated that hotels, schools, and other establishments that accept payments in dollars from their customers are at risk of facing arrest.
The Chairman of EFCC, Ola Olukoyede, said this in the agency’s publication called EFCC Alert on Monday, adding that action would be taken against individuals involved in the dollarisation of the economy.
According to him, the exception is if foreigners come in to transact business and the only means of transacting is their credit card and dollar but to charge local customers in dollars or other foreign currencies would no longer be allowed.
He said charging local activities and customers in dollars is against Nigeria’s constitution.
The EFCC chairman said, “Schools that charge Nigerians in dollar, supermarkets that trade in dollar, estate developers that sell their property in dollar, hotels that are invoicing in dollar, we are coming after you and we have made arrests in that area.
“Yes, if foreigners are coming in and the only means of transacting is their credit card, and dollar, why not? You will get that.
“But document it properly as against selling things within the system, local economy and you will be using dollar as the medium of exchange, it is illegal.
“Our law does not allow for that. And we have also affected some arrests.”

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Eid-El-Fitr: Fubara Felicitates Muslims, Calls For Unity, Tolerance

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Rivers State Governor, Sir Siminalayi Fubara, has enjoined Muslim faithful to remain steadfast to the lessons learnt during the holy month of Ramadan.
Governor Fubara stated this in his message of felicitations to Muslims as they celebrate the 2024 Eid-el-Fitr Sallah, which marks the end of the one-month Ramadan fasting.
The Governor emphasised the importance for Muslims to also uphold the tenets of Islam by exhibiting the fear of God and showing piety in their daily work.
Governor Fubara said, “We must all continue in the good attributes imbibed during the holy month of Ramadan as directed by God through His Prophet, so as to ensure peace, unity and harmony in the society for a better future.”
While praying that the essence of the festival offers them happiness, peace and prosperity in all aspects of life, Governor Fubara said he recognises and appreciates the critical role that the Muslim community continues to play in the development of Rivers State, and indeed, Nigeria at large.
Governor Fubara charged them to remain unwavering and steadfast in their commitment and positive contributions to advance the development of the State and the country.
“I enjoin you all in the State to remain calm, be patient and continue to do what is right,” the Governor added.
He wished the Muslim faithful in the State and across the country a happy Eid-el-Fitr celebration.

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