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Maina Slumps, As Court Adjourns Trial To Dec 21

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The Federal High Court in Abuja has deferred further proceedings in the trial of former Chairman of the defunct Pension Reform Task Force Team, Abulrasheed Maina, till December 21.

Maina, who is answering to a 12-count money laundering charge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), preferred against him and his firm, Common Input Property and Investment Limited, collapsed in court shortly after his case was called up, yesterday.

He slumped beside the dock while his lawyer, Mr. Anayo Adibe, was trying to persuade the court to adjourn the trial to later date.

EFCC closed its case, last Wednesday, after it produced nine witnesses that testified in the matter, even as Maina notified the court of his decision to enter a no-case-submission to the charge against him.

However, at the resumed sitting, yesterday, Maina’s lawyer, Adibe said he was unable to prepare the no-case-submission owing to the fact that he was not availed with records of proceedings of the court in the matter.

Adibe was still on his feet when his client, Maina, fell down from his seat, a development that forced the court to temporarily suspend sitting.

Some lawyers and officials of the Nigerian Correctional Service had promptly rushed to Maina’s aid after he slumped.

Medical personnel from the court were later brought to the scene in a bid to resuscitate him. When proceedings resumed around 11am, Maina was not yet back to the courtroom.

In a bench ruling, trial Justice Okon Abang, refused the application for an adjournment.

The court, however, held that since the defendant was not back for continuation of the proceedings, it would not foreclose his right to make the no-case-submission.

Nevertheless, the court stressed that Certified True Copies (CTC) of all the records of proceedings Maina’s counsel requested were ready since December 8.

Justice Abang further confirmed from all the court registrars that Maina’s lawyer failed to return to pick up the compiled records.

Though the court described the adjournment request by Maina’s lawyer as “a deliberate ploy to delay the trial”, it, however, held that since the defendant was not back in the courtroom, his right to make a no-case-submission would be preserved till December 21.

EFCC had in the charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/256/2019, alleged that Maina used a bank account that was operated by his firm and laundered funds to the tune of about N2billion, part of which he used to acquire landed properties in Abuja.

It told the court that the defendant used fictitious names to open and operate various bank accounts, as well as recruited his relatives that were bankers to operate fake bank accounts through which illicit funds were channelled.

The prosecution told the court that contrary to financial regulations, the banks, opened phony accounts for the defendant, without conducting due diligence to ascertain the true identities of the owners.

It told the court that some of the bogus names Maina used to operate the accounts in a bid to conceal his true identity, included Aliyu Nafisatu and Dr. Abdullahi A. Fisal.

In count three of the charge, EFCC alleged that the defendant had sometime in 2014, took possession of the sum of N171.91million that was paid into one of the accounts he operated with UBA.

He was in count four, alleged to have taken possession of $360, 588.27, knowing that same was proceeds of an unlawful activity.

Maina was alleged to have in 2012, opened account number 4510002782 with his pseudo name, Dr. Fisal, and subsequently wired $1.822million into the account.

In count 11, EFCC told the court that without going through any financial institution, the defendant paid a cash sum of $1.4million to purchase a property in Abuja.

It said that the defendant had on June 27, 2012, made cash payment of $2million through one Adamu Modibbo, for the purchase of another property in the Jabi District of Abuja.

The prosecution maintained that the defendants committed criminal offences punishable under sections 11(2) (a), 15(3), and 16(2) (c) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, and also acted in breach of the Advance Fee Fraud Act.

The defendants, who were arraigned on October 25, 2019, had pleaded not guilty to charge.

Meanwhile, Faisal, son of the former chairman of the defunct Pension Reform Task Force Team, Abdulrasheed Maina, has been arrested.

Recall that Faisal was declared wanted by the Federal High Court in Abuja after he jumped bail since June 24.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), confirmed to the court, yesterday, that Faisal was apprehended by security operatives, last Wednesday night.

Faisal is facing a three-count money laundering charge the anti-graft agency preferred against him.

At the resumed hearing, yesterday, counsel to the surety, Mr. M. E. Sheriff, urged the court to suspend the hearing of the forfeiture case against his client given the arrest of the defendant.

He said: “My lord, I was reliably informed that the defendant had been arrested. He was arrested last night, and he is in custody”.

However, EFCC’s lawyer, Mr. Farouk Abdullah, told the court that the defendant was not in their custody yet.

“We got information unofficially that he has been arrested”, the prosecution counsel added.

In his ruling, Justice Abang dismissed the adjournment request and ordered the surety to move the application he filed to show cause why he should not forfeit the bail bond to the Federal Government.

 

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Reps Urge FG To Revisit School Feeding Programme

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The House of Representatives, yesterday, urged the Federal Government to revisit the school feeding programme, suspended over sundry controversies.
The National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme was a pilot programme launched in 2004 targeting 12 states to provide a nutritious midday meal to public primary school pupils in the country:
In 2016, the programme was relaunched nationally, targeting public primary school children using locally sourced ingredients to improve health, stimulate agricultural production, and boost smallholder farmers’ income.
Recall that President Bola Tinubu, on January 12, 2024, suspended all programmes of the National Social Investment Programme Agency for six weeks.
The four programmes administered by NSIPA are N- the Power Programme, Conditional Cash Transfer Programme, Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme, and Home Grown School Feeding Programme.
Following the adoption of the motion, the House mandated its Committees on Special Duties and Finance to invite the Ministers of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs, Education, and Finance to revisit the program and propose solutions for its future success.”
The House, while adopting a motion on “Urgent call to revisit school feeding policy” moved by the member representing Tarauni Federal Constituency, Kano State, Mr Muktar Zakari, noted that the philosophy behind the NHGSFP is to encourage enrollment into the public primary schools, address childhood hunger pangs, and improve their ability to concentrate, learn, and increase school attendance.
The lawmaker, a member of the New Nigeria People’s Party, lamented that “The suspension of the NHGSFP by the current administration is unsettling for several reasons, namely reduced school enrollment and attendance, compromised health and cognitive development of the children, and disruption of the income of smallholder farmers.”
He also said “Addressing the programme’s challenges is crucial, but a complete suspension may cause more harm,” noting that “It is important to find alternative solutions or efficient implementation of the NHGSFP to ensure Nigerian children continue to benefit from this important initiative.”
In his words, “The cancellation of the programme is causing an upsurge in the number of out-of-school children, posing a threat to the country’s future and leading to a high rate of crimes, insecurity, and unemployment.”

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Kogi Lauds Appeal Court’s Verdict On Ododo’s Victory

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The Kogi State Government has hailed the verdict of the Appeal Court, Abuja that yesterday uAtiku hails Supreme Court judgment on LG autonomypheld the victory of the state governor, Usman Ododo.
The state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Kingsley Fanwo, made the government’s position known in an interview with journalists shortly after the judgment was delivered in Abuja.
Fanwo described the judgment as “sound,” adding that the it represents “echoes of the indisputable victory” of the governor at the poll.
He said the governor remains unwavering in his faith in the judiciary.
The conmissioner said, “Today’s judgment represents echoes of our victory on November 11, 2023. We campaigned round the state and worked hard to reassure the people that our party is the most reliable to take the state forward.
“November 11 will continue to be remembered in Kogi as the day that Kogites across the senatorial districts united to speak with one voice, birthing a resounding victory for the incumbent governor.
“Today’s verdict has offered another great opportunity for those who lost at the poll and in the courts to join the governor in moving the state forward.”
Fanwo said the court case did not in any way slow governance down as the governor has continued to “roll up his sleeves and deliver democracy dividends to the great people of the state.
“The jubilation that greeted the verdict affirming the victory of the Chief Servant of Kogi is a demonstration of the triumph of the people’s will.”
He urged the people of the state to continue to support the governor to make the state the Confluence of Excellence.

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Insecurity: Reps Want Modern Technology Deployed In Nation’s Borders

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The House of Representatives has called on the Nigeria Customs Service to deploy modern technology to secure the nation’s borders with neighbouring countries.
The directive followed the adoption of a motion on “Need to employ the use of modern technology to secure the nation’s borders,” sponsored by the member representing Awka North/Awka South Federal Constituency, Anambra State, Obiageli Orogbu at Thursday’s plenary.
Consequently, the Reps mandated “The Nigeria Customs Service to beef up the nation’s border security with modern technological gadgets.”
It also directed its Committees on National Security and Intelligence and Customs and Excise to “Interface with the relevant agencies of the executive arm to ensure implementation and report back to the House within four weeks for further legislative action.”
Leading the debate, Orogbu said that there are over 320 illegal routes into Nigeria “That serves as horrendous channels for the influx of inadmissible aliens and goods.
“Nigeria at the moment lacks sufficient security personnel to safeguard the existing illegal routes across the borders. These unmanned routes provide avenues for insecurity, proliferation of arms, and dumping of unwholesome goods into the country;
“The porous borders have provided an impetus to the thriving drug and human trafficking routes all over the country.”
Justifying the significance of the motion, the Labour Party chieftain noted that, “Border policing has since shifted from the mundane use of only human beings to the deployment of sophisticated electronic based equipment for potency.
“The deployment of technologies like electronic sensors, video monitors, and night vision scopes to detect illegal entries has proved more effective in western countries than human security.
“Advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, (drones) and dark fighter cameras are available to further enhance border controls,” she added.

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