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$130m Contract Fraud: RSG, SAIPEM Battle In Court

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The criminal case between the Rivers State Government vs. SAIPEM SPA and six others have been adjourned till January 11, 2022 for further hearing.
At a resumed sitting before Justice Okogbule Gbasam of the Rivers State High Court, Chief Godwin Obla, SAN, D. G. Adeyemi Esq. and I.D. Israel Esq., represented the Rivers State Government, while Mr Odein Ajumogobia, SAN and Patrick Osu, Esq appeared for the 1st and 2nd Defendants (SAIPEM SPA & SAIPEM Contracting Nigeria Ltd), respectively.
The 3rd -7th Defendants were unrepresented though duly served as ordered by court.
Counsel to Rivers State informed the court that Walter Peviani/3rd Defendant (SAIPEM Contracting Nigeria Ltd.’s MD), 4th Defendant/Kelechi Sinteh Chinakwe, 5th Defendant/Giandomenico Zingali, 6th Defendant/Vitto Testaguzza, and Davide Anelli/7th Defendant have been served with the amended information and the proof of evidence via “i. publications in three National Newspapers, ii. Pasting by the Bailiff of Court at New Operational Base of the Defendants at Rumuolumeni, Port Harcourt, and by sending same to the Defendants’ Secretariat email address segreteria.societaria@saipem.com”.
Obla immediately applied pursuant to Section 120 of the Rivers State Administration of Criminal Justice Law 2015 for the issuance of the warrant of arrest to compel the appearance of Mr Walter Peviani/the 3rd Defendant and the other Defendants in court at the next date for the criminal proceedings.
However, counsel to the 1st and 2nd Defendants pleaded profusely on behalf of the 1st -3rd Defendants, citing section 121 of the Rivers State Administration of Criminal Law for the court to indulge them for today and that at the next adjourned date the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Defendants will be present in court.
The court noted that Ajumogobia announced an appearance only for the 1st and 2nd Defendant and cannot, therefore, urge anything in favour of any other Defendants.
At this point, Ajumogobia announced an appearance for the third Defendant also.
The court held that it has taken notice of the Defendants’ disrespect for the court despite the fact that they have all been served with the Amended Information and proof of evidence.
The court said as a criminal proceeding, the Defendants are bound to be present in court to take their plea and both Sections 120 and 121 of the Rivers State Administration of Criminal Justice Law empowers the court to issue a warrant of arrest to compel the appearance of the Defendants in court to take their plea at the next adjourned date.
However, after a plea from Ajumogobia, and his undertaking to ensure the presence of the Defendants at the next hearing, the court agreed to bend backwards and decided to keep the issuance of the warrant of arrest at bay till the next adjourned date, but promised to effect the full weight of the law to compel their appearance if they refuse to appear at the next adjourned date.
It would be recalled that the Rivers State Government had filed a 16-count charge against Saipem SPA, Saipem Contracting Nigeria Limited, its Managing Director, Walter Peviani and 4 others over alleged conspiracy, fraud, obtaining credit by false pretences, and cheating.
The offences run contrary to Sections 518 (6) and (7), 419 (A) (1) (b), Section 421 of the Criminal Code Law of Rivers State, Cap 37 Vol. 2 Laws of Rivers State of Nigeria 1999.
Saipem and its top management staff are being prosecuted based on fiat to Chief Godwin Obla SAN, George Adeyemi, Esq and John Eche Okpe, Esq of OBLA & Co.
Charged alongside the duo are their Managing Director, Walter Peviani and other major officers including Kelechi Sinteh Chinakwe, Giandomenico Zingali, Vitto Testaguzza and David Anelli who are charged, amongst others, for the offence False Statements by Officials of Companies contrary to and punishable under Section 436 (b).
Specifically, the defendants as contractors to Rivers State Government of Nigeria and officers of Saipem SPA and Saipem Contracting Nigeria Ltd, in respect of the contract for the construction of the OCGT power plant in Port Harcourt between 2011-2018 conspired to cheat and with intent to defraud, obtained credit by false pretence from the Rivers State Government being advance payment of the total contract sum of $130million when they have not kept their obligation under the contract.

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LG Boss Lauds Mrs. Wike On Women’s Mentorship

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The Chairman of Bonny Local Government Area, Rivers State, Hon. Anengi Barasua has said that the mentorship roled played by Mrs. Suzzuest Nyesom Wike has enriched women in the State in all ramifications.
She said Justice Nyesom Wike’s display of humility and support for women was worthy for emulation.
Barasua, said this while fielding questions from journalists, at the weekend, in her office in Bonny, saying support given to the governor was enormous.
” Justice Suzzuest Wike, is a virtuous mother and role model to women, particularly in Rivers State. The women are proud of her. Her humility and inspiration she has given to women is commendable” Barasua said.
The local government chairperson urged women in authority to always emulate Mrs Wike, as she support her husband to succeed in his administration.
” I want to say an old time adage that says behind every successful man there is a woman. We have seen a real mother that has so much interest in women empowerment and deveploment.
I urge every woman in her position to emulate her and be submissive to your husbands. I also use this opportunity to felicitate with her on her birthday and wish her God protection and good health” she stated.
In another deveploment, Bonny Chairman has also congratulated all women elected in the just concluded PDP delegate and primary elections describing it as most peaceful.
She reiterated her commitment to the administration of Governor Nyesom Wike for given women more opportunity to participate in the democratic process.
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Nigeria’s GDP Grew By 3.11% In Q1 2022, NBS Affirms

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The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has said that Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by 3.11per cent in the first quarter of 2022.
The NBS made this known via its Nigerian Gross Domestic Product Report Q1 2022 released, last Monday.
According to the report, Nigeria’s GDP grew by 3.11per cent year-on-year in real terms in the first quarter of 2022.
The NBS noted that the development showed a sustained positive growth for six consecutive quarters since the recession witnessed in 2020 when negative growth rates were recorded in quarter two and three of 2020.
It added that the first quarter 2022 growth rate further represents an improvement in economic performance.
The NBS stated: “The observed trend since Q4 of 2020 is an indication of a gradual economic stability.
“The Q1 of 2022 growth rate was higher than the 0.51per cent growth rate recorded in Q1 of 2021 by 2.60per cent points and lower than 3.98per cent recorded in Q4 of 2021 by 0.88per cent points.
“Nevertheless, quarter-on-quarter, real GDP grew at -14.66per cent in Q1 of 2022, compared to Q4 of 2021, reflecting a lower economic activity than the preceding quarter.
“In the period under review, aggregate GDP stood at about N45.317million in nominal terms.
“This performance is higher when compared to the first quarter of 2021 which recorded aggregate GDP of about N40.014million, indicating a year-on-year nominal growth rate of 13.25per cent.
“The nominal GDP growth rate in Q1 2022 was higher relative to the 12.25per cent growth recorded in Q1 2021, and higher compared to the 13.11per cent growth recorded in the preceding quarter,” the report read.

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RSG Launches RIV-CARES Programme …World Bank Rates Rivers High

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The Rivers State Government has launched the state COVID-19 Action Recovery and Economic Stimulus (RIV-CARES) Programme.
The state Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike performed the launching at the NBA Secretariat in Port Harcourt, yesterday.
Speaking through his Deputy, Dr. Ipalibo Harry Banigo, the governor said the programme was to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the poor and vulnerable households and support micro and small-scale enterprises as a means of stimulating economic growth post-COVID.
According to the State Chief Executive, “the state government had signed in for the programme, made provisions in the 2022 Budget for Result Areas and signed Funds Release Policy, which is an assurance to the World Bank that funds shall be released for the implementation of the programme”.
Wike said the launching of the RIV-CARES Programme would create awareness for the people of the state and engender expression of interest by beneficiary households, communities and operators of micro and small businesses (SMEs).
The governor, who encouraged the Rivers people to take advantage of the opportunities provided by RIV-CARES to enhance their means of livelihood and reduce the spate of poverty in the communities, commended the World Bank and the Federal CARES for their support to the state.
In her remarks, the Permanent Secretary of the state Ministry of Budget and Economic Planning, Mrs. Titilola Kuna Cline, said in a bid to check the negative effects of COVID-19 pandemic on livelihoods, food security and micro and small businesses, the World Bank in partnership with the Federal Government of Nigeria and the state governments, introduced the Nigeria COVID-19 Action Recovery and Economic Stimulus (NG-CARES) Programme.
She said the state scaled through rigorous preparatory stages and qualified to participate in the programme whose objective was “to expand access to livelihood support and food security services, and grants for poor and vulnerable households and firms”.
According to her, the stages include, signing of subsidiary loan agreement and fund release policy by the government.
Others include the establishment of the RIV-CARES Steering Committee, establishment of State- CARES Coordination Unit domiciled in the Ministry of Budget and Economic Planning and preparation of work plan.
“The NG-CARES, after domestication of programme implementation manual now known as RIV-CARES programme has the State Coordination Unit (SCU) saddled with coordinating implementation of RIV-CARES programme in the state and reporting to Federal-CARES supporting unit and the World Bank in Abuja.
“It is also a bridge between the delivery platforms and the State-CARES Steering Committee and for delivery platform under three Results Areas (RA1-3).
Cline listed the three areas to include cash transfer unit, labour intensive public works and community-driven development social (CDD-S) Plus.
The rest are, FADAMA and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
Also speaking, the representative of the World Bank, Mr. Aso Vakporaye, said the programme must succeed in order to kick out poverty from the state in view of the fact that failure to kick out poverty would make life difficult for the entire citizenry.
He, therefore, thanked the governor for making it possible for Rivers State to participate in the programme.
Similarly, the World Bank and the Federal Government have rated Rivers State high in the implementation of the COVID-19 Action Recovery and Economic Stimulus scheme by the state government.
Representative of the World Bank Task Team Leader, Mr.Aso Vakporaye said this, yesterday, in Port Harcourt at the official flag offand implementation of the Rivers State COVID-19 Action Recovery and Economic Stimulus (RIV-CARES) Programme in the state.
Vakporaye, who is also the chairman of the Federal Government’sFederal-CARES Technician Committee,confirmed that Rivers State has met the requirements for the implementation of the programme.
He said alot still remains to be done,adding that the state needs to release more money for the implementation of the programme.
Also speaking, theTechnical Head of State CARESCoordinating Unitand Secretary,RIV-CARESSteering Committee,Mrs Imaonyeni Ephraim, said the programme would improve the livelihood of the poor and vulnerable people in the state.
She said the programme, which runs for two years,was open to many beneficiaries.
The flag off was performed by the state Deputy Governor,Dr.Ipalibo Harry Banigo, onbehalf of Governor Nyesom Wike.

By: John Bibor

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