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Alleged Fraud: Court Grants N500m Bail To Saipem MD, Others

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A Rivers State High Court in Port Harcourt has granted bail to the Managing Director of Saipem Contracting, Mr. Walter Peviana, and Kelechi Sinteh Chinakwe with N500million.
On January 11, the duo were remanded at the Port Harcourt Correctional Centre over an alleged conspiracy to defraud the Rivers State Government the sum of $130million.
At the resumed hearing, for bail consideration, the trial Judge, Justice Okogbule Gbasam, granted bail to the defendants in the matter filed by the state government as registered in suit number PHC/3106/CR/2021.
The prosecution in the matter is the Government of Rivers State, while the defendants are Saipem SPA (1st defendant); Saipem Contracting Nigeria Limited (2nd defendant); Mr. Walter Peviana (3rd defendant); Kelechi Sinteh Chinakwe (4th defendant); Giandomenico Zingali (5th defendant); Vitto Testaguzza (6th defendant), and Davide Anelli (7th defendant).
Earlier, the counsel for the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 6th defendants, Odein Ajumogobia (SAN), and the counsel for the 4th defendant, relying on Sections 194 and 169 of the Administration of Criminal Justice and Sections 35 and 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, pleaded for the bail of their clients.
The counsel told the court to grant the defendants bail considering the facility where they were detained, explaining that their clients could fall ill following the spread of the COVID-19.
Ajumogobia urged the court to grant his client, Peviana, bail owing that he is the “managing director of one of the largest company in West Africa (Saipem),” and would not jump bail.
The counsel pleaded that the court has the power to grant bail to the defendants.
But the applicant counsel, Godwin Obla (SAN), urged the court to dismiss the bail application for the defendants.
Obla argued that the money involved in the allegation, if converted to Nigeria currency, would amount to N32billion, which he said is about 6.7percent of the total state budget for the year.
He argued that the 4th defendant counsel filed application of bail a day to the client arraignment in court, saying the application did not comply with the law; hence, the court should dismiss such.
The counsel further argued that: “It shows the seriousness of the crime the accused persons were charged with and reason why the accused should not be granted bail.”
Ruling on the bail application, Gbasam noted the error in filing a bail application before the defendant appears in court.
The judge said: “The anticipation is that bail should come before arraignment, arrest or remand. The application made on January 10, 2022, was merely speculation and presumption. The 4th defendant should have filed his application after the case has been brought to court.”
He stated that the application was null and void.
Gbasam, who also expressed the discretion of the court in granting bail to the 2nd and 4th defendant, ordered that they should present two sureties each, and surety for the 2nd defendant must be a principle officer of the 1st defendant (Saipem), and must own a landed property in the state with Certificate of Ownership.
Also, as the bail condition, the judge said the defendants should deposit their international passports to the court and that sureties must deposit original papers of their landed property in the court.
However, the court adjourned the matter till February 2, 3 and 4, 2022, for accelerated hearing.
Speaking with newsmen outside the courtroom, counsel for the applicant, Obla, explained that: “The matter came up today (Tuesday) for plea as previously scheduled by the court, and the plea of the defendants were all taken to the 15 count-charge, and they moved their application for bail.
“We opposed the application for bail but also left a window for the judge to also exercise his discretion.
“He has now granted bail to the 3rd and 4th defendants in the sum of N500million each, two sureties to provide landed property, the surety for the 3rd defendant must be a managerial level with the second defendant.
“The case has been adjourned till February 2, 3, and 4, 2022, for hearing on the day-by-day basis.”
Also speaking, counsel for the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 6th defendants, Ajumogobia, lauded the court for granting bail to his clients, but noted the high conditions of the bail.
He said: “Bail is at the discretion of the court. We made an appeal that the court should issue conditions that are not too stringent. I think the court was gracious enough to issue difficult conditions, but we will try and see how we can meet those conditions-I mean N500million is not a small amount of money for the two of the defendants.
“But at least the challenge now is to meet those conditions for bail so that they can come out of the prison,” he said.

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June 12: DSS Issues Stern Warning Against Protest

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The Department of State Services (DSS) has warned individuals and groups planning to stage protests on June 12, Democracy Day, to desist from any violent or disruptive actions.
The warning was contained in a statement signed by the Director of Public Relations and Strategic Communications, DSS, Dr Peter Afunanya, yesterday.
The Service said it has received intelligence on plans to incite violence and disrupt public order during the protests.
The security agency vowed to maintain public safety and national security and urged citizens to resist any persuasions to engage in lawless acts.
The DSS also encouraged disgruntled persons to channel their grievances through appropriate channels and procedures.
Afunanya said: “The attention of the Department of State Services (DSS) has been drawn to plans by certain individuals and groups to stage physical protests in some parts of the country on 12th June 2024. These protests are designed with sinister objectives to coincide with the Democracy Day Celebration.
“While citizens may have the rights of assembly and expression, such freedoms should not be used to undermine public safety and national security. The determination by some non-state actors to incite mass disaffection through demonstrations that may turn violent will not be tolerated.
“Citizens are, therefore, called upon to resist any persuasions to be lawless or cause disorder and anarchy in the nation. Displeased persons are rather encouraged to appropriately channel their grievances through the right channels and procedures.
“The Service, while felicitating the government and citizens on this auspicious occasion of celebrating 25 years of unbroken democracy, calls for continued patriotism, unity and commitment to building a Nigeria of our collective dream.
“The Service will sustain collaboration with all relevant stakeholders, including sister security agencies, to maintain the peace as well as protect lives and property across the nation. Law-abiding citizens are enjoined to go about their businesses without fear.”

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Court’s CTC Validates Our Position On Amaewhule, Others -Rivers AG …Advises Media Against Misinterpretation Of Judgements

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The Rivers State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Dagogo Israel Iboroma, SAN, has said that the State High Court neither declared nor affirmed Martin Amaewhule as Speaker of the House of Assembly, stressing that the certified true copy (CTC) of court judgment validates the government’s position.
Mr Iboroma also urged media practitioners to desist from giving interpretations to court judgments by fiat, emotional or other shades of persuasions.
Rather, he advised that they should first obtain the judgement in order to read it thoroughly to gain proper understanding or at best, seek competent legal advice before going to press.
Mr Iboroma gave the advice yesterday night while briefing newsmen after obtaining the certified true copy (CTC) of the Monday court judgment in Port Harcourt.
The briefing was to restate his earlier position that there was no court ruling that ever declared or affirmed Martin Amaewhule and 26 others as members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Rivers State House of Assembly.
Iboroma said: “Yesterday (Monday), I briefed the press and made the point that there is a misrepresentation of the judgment of the High Court of Rivers State in Suit No. DHC/20/CS/2024 in social, print, and electronic media.
“My position has been confirmed and vindicated by the Certified True Copy of the court order in Suit No. DHC/20/CS/2024.”
Mr Iboroma stated that a court order embodied the enforceable decisions of a court, adding that in this case in focus, the enforceable orders of the court will necessarily entail the specific pronouncements of the court.
He listed the three orders of the court in the judgment to include: “That this Suit be and is hereby dismissed/struck out for want of jurisdiction.
“That the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) be and is hereby joined as 4th defendant.
“That the claimants’ case be and is hereby dismissed for lacking in merit.”
Mr Iboroma further said: “Contrary to the false claims and misrepresentation in social, print and electronic media, the court did not make a declaration that Martin Amaewhule is the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly, neither did it make a declaration that Martin Amaewhule and 26 others are members of the Rivers State House of Assembly and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
“If it were so, it would have been embodied in the court orders which have been circulated to you all and displayed by me here for the purpose of clarity.”
Mr Iboroma regretted that by the deliberate misrepresentation of yesterday (Monday), the court was painted in bad light and the public misled with such misinformation.
He said: “Whatever finding of fact that is not included in the court order is an Obiter Dictum, which has no binding force.
“Once again, I respectively urge the media to desist from giving any interpretation to any judgement without first reading the content of the judgement and seeking legal advice,” the attorney-general added.

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Sexual Harassment: Minister Drags Perm Sec Before Head Of Service

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The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Yusuf Tuggar, has formally lodged a complaint with the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation regarding allegations of sexual harassment levelled against the ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Ambassador Ibrahim Lamuwa.
In a letter addressed to the HOCSF dated May 27, 2024, Tuggar expressed his concern over the serious nature of the allegation levelled against the permanent secretary by Mrs Simisola Ajayi.
He emphasised the importance of addressing the matter urgently and thoroughly.
The letter was titled, “Re: Official Complaint Regarding Sexual Harassment Of Mrs Simisola Fajemirokun Ajayi By Ambassador Ibrahim Adamu Lamuwa (Permanent Secretary Ministry Of Foreign Affairs.
It read, “I am compelled to write to inform you of a formal complaint against the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Ibrahim Adamu Lamuwa, on allegations of sexual harassment.
“Bearing in mind the gravity of the matter, I feel it necessary to draw your attention to it and ask that you handle it accordingly,”
The letter included an attachment of the complaint received via email, and Tuggar assured the HOCSF his full cooperation in the investigation.
“May I also assure you that I remain available to provide you with any assistance required in discharging your responsibilities,” he added.
Ajayi, had a petition dated May 29, 2024, addressed to Tuggar, accused the permanent secretary of serial sexual harrasment.
Ajayi, through her lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), called for a thorough investigation into the actions of Amb. Lamuwa.
The petition, signed by Adebayo A. Oniyelu LP of Falana & Falana’s, was titled “Request For An Investigation Of Amb. Ibrahim Lamuwa’s Conducts Of Sexual Harassment At The Place Of Work, Abuse Of Office, Official Intimidation And Discrimination.”
According to the petition, Ajayi narrated multiple instances of harassment allegedly by Lamuwa, which have created an unsafe and uncomfortable working environment.
She claimed for instance that during a policy retreat on October 7, 2023, Lamuwa allegedly made inappropriate advances towards her, suggesting she joined him in his hotel room.
He reportedly continued with inappropriate remarks throughout the retreat.
She also cited an incident on November 10, 2023, where Lamuwa allegedly invited Ajayi to travel to Hong Kong, promising significant personal benefits from the trip.

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