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Asset Forfeiture: FG Behind Ekweremadu’s UK Ordeal, Ohanaeze Alleges

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Apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, has accused the Federal Government of masterminding the ordeal of former Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu in the United Kingdom.
Ohanaeze was reacting to the Friday’s ruling of a Federal High Court in Abuja ordering interim forfeiture of 40 properties allegedly linked to Ekweremadu.
In a statement, yesterday, the National President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council Worldwide, Mazi Okwu Nnabuike, said it was immoral to attack a man whose hands were tied to his back and unable to defend himself.
Ohanaeze Youth Council lamented what it described as a pattern of persecution and humiliation of people from one part of the country by the EFCC, insisting it was time the monopoly of the agency by one part of country is ended through the immediate appointment of a new EFCC Chairman from the South.
“The ex-parte interim assets forfeiture order by Federal High Court, Abuja, is to say the least most cruel and whoever filed that suit at this time that Ekweremadu is incarcerated and unable to defend himself has no conscience or slightest regard for the cardinal pillars of law and justice, particularly the principle of “audi alteram partem” (“let the other side be heard as well”).
“This has also proved our suspicion all along that some highly placed personalities were behind Ekweremadu’s UK ordeal”, he stated.
Ohanaeze wondered when it became a crime under Nigerian laws to own properties or be involved in properties business, especially since the EFCC could not pin any crime on him for over six years that they have been on Ekweremadu’s matter.
“Ekweremadu’s name was not mentioned anywhere in all the scandals supposedly uncovered by the EFCC since the All Progressives Congress (APC) came to power.
“Moreover, EFCC’s claim that its investigators traced to Ekweremadu properties that he had dutifully declared in his assets declaration is ridiculous and not different from Mungo Park travelling thousands from Scotland to discover the River Niger.
“With court’s direction to the EFCC to publish the said properties in national dailies for any interested persons to show cause why they should not be permanently forfeited to the government, how is Ekweremadu, who is in custody in the UK access documents or properly brief his lawyers to show that the said properties were not proceeds of crime?
“EFCC’s action, therefore, conforms to the worrisome pattern of assets stripping of southern businesses and individuals because having failed to establish any case against the lawmaker for the past six years, the EFCC saw his UK ordeal over the daughter’s health as an opportunity to strip him of his assets and rubbish his reputation, knowing he is not in a position to defend himself. Is that what our anti-corruption and justice system are about?”, the statement read.
The Ohanaeze Youth Council Worldwide equally accused the EFCC of working with Ekweremadu’s prosecutors in the UK to keep him permanently in custody to, among other things, perfect their agenda to destroy the lawmaker economically, politically, and socially.
“It will interest Nigerians to know that in a bid to please the London Metropolitan Police, which has been its benefactor since inception; in a bid to confiscate Ekweremdu’s assets; and for whatever promises of ensuring they secure their future outside EFCC after President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, the EFCC penned a malicious letter for the London Metropolitan Police, which the prosecutors tendered against Ekweremadu’s bail in London court back in July.
“In the said letter, the EFCC equally assured the Metropolitan Police that they would move against Ekweremadu’s assets immediately, all in the bid to help the Metropolitan Police present him as a man of means and a flight risk.
“How do the EFCC and London Metropolitan Police explain that Senator Ekweremadu’s matter could not be taken on Monday, October 31, as earlier scheduled and that other days proposed by the Senator’s lawyers were rejected, except Monday, November 7, but only for an ex-parte order to be sought and obtained on Friday, October 4, obviously to be weaponised against the prospects of Ekweremadu’s bail on Monday, November 7?
“Why is it so auspicious for the EFCC and their London collaborators to orchestrate Ekweremadu’s continuous detention as against allowing him to defend himself in line with the law?
“Why is the EFCC so bent on continually infusing themselves into the case of Ekweremadu’s daughter’s health with extraneous issues?
“Unable to charge Ekweremadu since 2016, shouldn’t an institution truly fighting corruption have demanded for his repatriation so that he could personally answer for himself in Nigerian courts where these matters are alleged to have taken place?”, they queried.
The Ohanaeze youth body said it was quite unimaginable that a UK parliamentarian or US congressman could be treated this way by a UK or US agency over a yet to be proven case of conspiracy to traffic a person.
“Their governments would usually insist on the innocence of even ordinary citizens and do all they can to secure their freedom. Even the Nigerian government did exactly the same for Jigawa State-born Zainab Aliyu, who was caught with banned drugs in Saudi Arabia. If the Nigerian Government will not intervene for Ekweremadu as it did for Zainab, why should its agency be working hand-in-glove with Ekweremadu’s prosecutors to keep him continually in detention without bail or accelerated trial?
“From Nuhu Ribadu to Farida Waziri, to Ibrahim Lamorde, to Ibrahim Magu, and now Abdulrasheed Bawa, it has become clear that the monopoly of the leadership of the EFCC by people from the northern part of the country since inception has resulted in the corrosive deployment of the agency against the people from the southern part of the country.
“Could the EFCC have taken this unpatriotic and wicked step against a northern senator fighting a battle of his life, fighting for his reputation, fighting for his freedom and for the survival of a very sick child in a foreign land?
“We, therefore, hold that now time to end this wicked monopoly at the EFCC and for the south to head the EFCC”, Ohanaeze Youth Council concluded.

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Tinubu Lauds Dangote’s Diesel Price Cut, Foresees Economic Relief

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President Bola Tinubu, yesterday, applauded Dangote Oil and Gas Limited for reducing the price of Automotive Gas Oil, also known as diesel, from N1,650 to N1,000 per litre.
The Dangote Group recently reviewed downwards the gantry price of AGO from N1,650 to N1,000 per litre for a minimum of one million litres of the product, as well as providing a discount of N30 per litre for an offtake of five million litres and above
Tinubu described the move as an “enterprising feat” and said, “The price review represents a 60 per cent drop, which will, in no small measure, impact the prices of sundry goods and services.”
In a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale, Tinubu affirmed that Nigerians and domestic businesses are the nation’s surest transport and security to economic prosperity.
The statement is titled ‘President Tinubu commends Dangote Group over new gantry price of diesel.’
Tinubu also noted the Federal Government’s 20 per cent stake in Dangote Refinery, saying such partnerships between public and private entities are essential to advancing the country’s overall well-being.
Therefore, he called on Nigerians and businesses to, at this time, put the nation in priority gear while assuring them of a conducive, safe, and secure environment to thrive.
This statement comes precisely a week after Dangote met President Tinubu in Lagos, where he said Nigerians should expect a drop in inflation given the cut in diesel pump prices.
“In our refinery, we have started selling diesel at about ¦ 1,200 for ¦ 1,650 and I’m sure as we go along…this can help to bring inflation down immediately,” Dangote told journalists after he paid homage to President Bola Tinubu at the latter’s residence to mark Eid-el-Fitr.
The businessman said his petroleum refinery had been selling diesel at N1,200 per litre, compared to the previous price of N1,650–N1,700.
He expressed hopes that Nigeria’s economy will improve, as the naira has made some gains in the foreign exchange market, dropping from N1,900/$ to the current level of N1,250 – N1,300.
Dangote said this rise in value has sparked a gradual drop in the price of locally-produced goods, such as flour, as businesses are paying less for diesel. Therefore, he asserted that the reduced fuel costs would drive down inflation in the coming months.
“I believe that we are on the right track. I believe Nigerians have been patient and I also believe that a lot of goodies will now come through.
“There’s quite a lot of improvement because, if you look at it, one of the major issues that we’ve had was the naira devaluation that has gone very aggressively up to about ¦ 1,900.
“But right now, we’re back to almost ¦ 1,250, ¦ 1,300, which is a good reprieve. Quite a lot of commodities went up.
“When you go to the market, for example, something that we produce locally, like flour, people will charge you more. Why? Because they’re paying very high prices on diesel,” he explained.
He argued that the reduced diesel price would have “a lot of impact” on local businesses.
“Going forward, even though the crude prices are going up, I believe people will not get it much higher than what it is today, N1,200.
“It might be even a little bit lower, but that can help quite a lot because if you are transporting locally-produced goods and you were paying N1,650, now you are spending two-thirds of that amount, N1,200. It’s a lot of difference. People don’t know.
“This can help bring inflation down immediately. And I’m sure when the inflation figures are out for the next month, you’ll see that there’s quite a lot of improvement in the inflation rate, one step at a time. And I’m sure the government is working around the clock to ensure things get much better,” Dangote added.
He also urged captains of industry to partner with the government to improve the lives of citizens.
“You can’t clap with one hand,” said the businessman, adding, “So, both the entrepreneurs and the government need to clap together and make sure that it is in the best interest of everybody.”

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Court Halts Amaewhule-Led Assembly From Extending LG Officials’ Tenure

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The Rivers State High Court sitting in Port Harcourt has issued an interim injunction directing the maintenance of status quo ante belum following the move by the Martin Amaewhule-led Assembly in Rivers State to extend the tenure of the elected local government councils’ officials.
The Amaewhule-led Assembly, which is loyal to the Minister of Federal Capital Territory, Nyesom Wike, had amended the Local Government Law Number 5 of 2018 and other related matters.
Amaewhule, explained that the amendments of Section 9(2), (3) and (4)of the Principal Law was to empower the House of Assembly via a resolution to extend the tenure of elected chairmen and councilors, where it is considered impracticable to hold local government elections before the expiration of their three years in office.
But the court asked all the parties to maintain the status quo ante belum pending the hearing and determination of motion on notice for the interlocutory injunction.
The court presided over by G.N. Okonkwo also ordered that the claimant/applicant would enter into an undertaking to indemnify the defendants in the sum of N5million should the substantive case turned out to be frivolous.
The court fixed April 22, 2024 to hear the motion on notice for interlocutory injunction.
Okonkwo also issued an order of substituted service of the motion on notice for interlocutory injunction, originating summons and other subsequent processes on the defendants.
The orders were made following a suit filed by Executive Chairman, Opobo-Nkoro, Enyiada Cooky-Gam; Bonny, Anengi Claude-Wilcox; and five other elected council officials challenging the decision of the Amaewhule-led House of Assembly to extend the tenure of local government areas.
Also named as defendants in the suit are the Governor of Rivers State, the Government of Rivers State and the Attorney-General of Rivers State.
The claimants/applicants are praying the court for a declaration that under section 9(1) of the Rivers State Local Government Amendment Law number 5 of 2018 the tenure of office of the chairmen and members of the 23 local government councils of Rivers State is three years
A declaration that the tenure of office of the elected chairmen and members of the local government areas would expire on the 17th of June 2024 having commenced on the 18th of June 2021 when they were sworn in.
A declaration that the defendants cannot in any manner or form extend the tenure of office of the chairmen and members of the local government areas after the expiration of their tenure.
An order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendants from extending the tenure of office of the chairmen and members of the local government areas.
An order of perpetual injunction restraining the 28th, 29th and 30th defendants (the Governor, the Government House and the Attorney-General) from giving effects to any purported extension of the tenure of the chairmen and members of the local government areas.
They also prayed for an order of interlocutory injunction directing all the defendants to maintain the status quo by not elongating the three-year tenure of the chairmen and councilors.
The claimants further sought an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the defendants from extending the tenures of the chairmen and the councilors.

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Nigeria’s Inflation Rate’ll Drop To 23% By 2025 -IMF

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In a recent release of its Global Economic Outlook at the International Monetary Fund/World Bank Spring Meetings in Washington D.C., on Tuesday, the IMF provided projections for Nigeria’s economy, indicating a significant shift in inflation rates.
Division Chief of the IMF Research Department, Daniel Leigh, highlighted the impact of Nigeria’s economic reforms, including exchange rate adjustments, which have led to a surge in inflation rate to 33.2 percent in March.
Nigeria’s inflation rate rose to 33.2 percent according to recent data released by the National Bureau of Statistics.
Also, the food inflation rate increased to over 40 per cent in the first quarter of 2024.
Leigh stated, “We see inflation declining to 23 per cent next year and then 18 percent in 2026.”
This is however different from the fund’s prediction of a new single-digit (15.5 per cent ) inflation rate for 2025 which it predicted last year.
He further elaborated on Nigeria’s economic growth, which is expected to rise from 2.9 percent last year to 3.3 percent this year, attributing this expansion to the recovery in the oil sector, improved security, and advancements in agriculture due to better weather conditions and the introduction of dry season farming.
The IMF official also noted a broad-based increase in Nigeria’s financial and IT sectors.
“Inflation has increased, reflecting the reforms, the exchange rate, and its pass-through into other goods from imports to other goods,” Leigh explained.
He added that the IMF revised its inflation projection for the current year to 26 percent but emphasised that tight monetary policies and significant interest rate increases during February and March are expected to curb inflation.
An official of the IMF Research Department, Pierre Olivier Gourinchas commented on the global economic landscape, mentioning that oil prices have risen partly due to geopolitical tensions, and services inflation remains high in many countries.
Despite Nigeria’s inflation target of six to nine percent being missed for over a decade, Gourinchas stressed that bringing inflation back to target should be the priority.
He warned of the risks posed by geo-economic fragmentation to global growth prospects and the need for careful calibration of monetary policy.
“Trade linkages are changing, and while some economies could benefit from the reconfiguration of global supply chains, the overall impact may be a loss of efficiency, reducing global economic resilience,” Gourinchas said.
He also emphasised the importance of preserving the improvements in monetary, fiscal, and financial policy frameworks, particularly for emerging market economies, to maintain a resilient global financial system and prevent a permanent resurgence in inflation.

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