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EFCC Denies Deal to Exclude ex-Customs Chief Dikko From Prosecution

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission ( EFCC ) has denied being part of any deal to exclude former Comptroller-General of Customs, Abdullahi Dikko Inde from criminal prosecution for fraud and money laundering.

EFCC made the clarification in a notice of preliminary objection it filed in a suit by Inde, in which the ex-Customs chief claimed to have entered an agreement with the EFCC to refund about N1.6billion to Federal Government’s coffers, following which he would excluded from prosecution.

Lawyer to Inde, Mahmud Magaji (SAN), while arguing his client’s counter-affidavit to EFCC’s objection on Thursday, contended that it was a breach of an existing agreement and contract for EFCC to seek to prosecute the ex-Customs chief after he has kept to his side of the bargain and made huge refund to the government.

Magaji also faulted EFCC’s claim that the suit was wrongly commenced by way of origination summons.

He argued that, contrary to EFCC’s contention, facts in the case were not contentious. He added that the issue involved in the case was simple.

Mahmud said: “Our case is simply about the interpretation of Section 174 of the Constitution and Section 14(2) of EFCC Act, and no more.

“Our decision to bring this action by way of an originating summons is the appropriate position. There is no hostility in the whole case.

“Our client was to be prosecuted for financial crimes. When he was invited, he was confronted by information the EFCC said it has against him by virtue of its investigation activities.

“He (Inde) was confronted with options of either to enter a refund agreement or be prosecuted. He agreed to a refund. And made refund in several tranches.

“At every payment, we ensured that we get evidence of payment from the bank,” Magaji said.

He identified the evidence of payment as reflected in some court documents marked as Exhibit 1 to 20D, and said “these are the evidence of the refund we made”

When asked by the judge, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, aboutwhere the said agreement was reached, Magaji said a meeting was held at the instance of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF).

Magaji added that after the agreement was reached by parties, an official of the EFCC, who he identified as Hajeed (who was the IPO in the case) provided an account number into which his client (Inde) made all the refund he made.

He added: “We have fulfilled our side of the agreement. It is for the EFCC to fulfil its own side of the agreement, by complying and allowing things to settle

“We are asking that under Section 174 of Constitution and Section 14(2) of EFCC Act, the EFCC is not bound by this agreement.

“We are asking this court to enforce this agreement on them. They should be bound by the agreement,” Mahmud said.

In a counter-argument, EFCC’s lawyer, Chile Okoroma urged the court to decline jurisdiction over the suit because it was wrongly instituted.

Okoroma argued that the case was brought under the originating summons rules when facts in the suit are disputed.

He added: “They said they made some payments by agreement and we said no, we are not aware of any payment.

“They claimed Magu (EFCC’s Acting Chairman, Ibrahim Magu) was part of the agreement, but we said no. We do not know anything about the agreement they claimed to have with the AGF.

“These are triable issues. There are contentious facts and we say, we need those disputed facts to be resolved by calling oral evidence. That is our ground of objecting to the suit.

Before entertaining arguments from the two lawyers, Justice Dimgba observed that while there was evidence that the AGF was aware of the case and had been served all documents relating to it, the AGF has not filed any process in response to the case since it was commenced last year.

In a ruling, Justice Dimgba uphled EFCC’s objection in part.

The judge agreed that facts were contested by parties and ordered them to file pleadings.

He said: “Having reviewed the processes filed, I am of the view that the suit was wrongly commenced. The facts are so hostile. Parties are to file pleadings.

The judge adjourned to March 1 this year.

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NJC Recommends Onnoghen For Retirement

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The National Judicial Commission (NJC) has recommended Walter Onnoghen, chief justice of Nigeria (CJN), for compulsory retirement, TheCable understands.

After deliberating on the petition filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Wednesday, members of the NJC unanimously agreed that Onnoghen has lost the moral authority to continue as CJN with the litany of allegations bordering on misconduct.

The NJC — which handles disciplinary issues of judicial officers — sat under the interim leadership of Umaru Abdullahi, former president of the court of appeal, who had to act because Onnoghen was already under suspension.

The council also concluded that Tanko Muhammad did not commit any offence by making himself available to be sworn in as acting CJN without the recommendation of the NJC.

These recommendations have been passed to President Muhammadu Buhari for approval, Soji Oye, the council’s director of information, informed the media on Wednesday, although he did not make the details public.

WHAT NEXT NOW?

TheCable can report, however, that the president still has to seek the approval of the senate for Onnoghen to be retired if he wants to follow the CJN route.

This will require two-thirds majority of the upper legislative chamber.

Section 292 (1) of the 1999 constitution says a “judicial officer shall not be removed from his office or appointment before his age of retirement except in the following circumstances – (a) in the case of – (i) Chief Justice of Nigeria… by the President acting on an address supported by two-thirds majority of the Senate.”

Onnoghen is also undergoing trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) over allegations of false asset declaration — and if found guilty, he could be removed.

ROAD TO RETIREMENT

Buhari suspended Onnoghen on January 25, 2019 following an order made by the CCT.

TheCable had reported how the Anti-Corruption and Research Based Data Initiative (ARDI), a civil society group, launched the legal move to remove Onnoghen.

The group had filed a petition against him at the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) over alleged false declaration of assets.

The CCB is empowered by the constitution to investigate public officers, after which it would forward its findings to the appropriate body for trial if the allegations are confirmed.

It had listed a number of allegations against Onnoghen — notably false declaration of assets.

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N1trn Projects: ICPC to Probe Senators, Reps

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The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) yesterday said senators and members of the House of Representatives who failed to execute constituency projects will be prosecuted.

Also, all companies engaged for the failed or abandoned projects will face trial.

But the commission, however, opposed to plea bargain by corrupt elements because the nation’s laws allow it.

Over N1trillion has been released by the Federal Government for constituency projects since 1999. The funds include the N200 billion by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari from 2015 to 2017.

More than 2,345 senators and representatives have benefitted from constituency projects since 1999.

About 37 per cent to 40 per cent of the projects have either been completed or ongoing in the last 20 years.

Many senators and representatives were found to have diverted the funds, using their personal companies. Some abandoned the projects.

Of the 2,516 projects tracked by BudgIT Nigeria between 2015 and 2017, 918 were not done, 395 are ongoing and 214 cannot be located.

The Chairman of ICPC, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, yesterday said the anti-graft commission had demanded a list of all constituency projects and presented budgets to make senators and representatives account for the funds they got.

Owasanoye, who spoke at the launch of Constituency Projects Tracking Group (CPTG), said ICPC will also publish the names of those behind the project failures.

The tracking will cover outgoing senators and Representatives in the 8th National Assembly.

He said ICPC was collaborating with the Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors (NIQS) to evaluate whether or not the projects executed were commensurate with the budgetary allocations.

The ICPC chairman said: “We are mindful of the fact that this is a Herculean task as constituency projects dot the entire landscape but we will overcome the challenges one way or another.

“Where contractors and or politically-exposed persons have diverted funds for projects, we will pursue them to either complete the projects as initiated, return the funds or face prosecution.

“Affected companies and their directors will also be prosecuted. We also hope to publish the names of those behind the project failures for possible social sanctions in their communities.”

Owasanoye regretted that constituency projects had been turned into avenues of corruption.

He added: “Constituency projects are intended for developmental projects, such as provision of water, rural electrification, rural clinics, schools, community centres and bursary for indigent students.

“In the light of annual budgetary allocations to constituency projects and based on actual releases by the government, it is firmly believed that the impact of constituency projects on the lives of ordinary Nigerians ought to be more visible.

“Regrettably, available statistics from open sources paint a bleak picture of the level of performance or delivery of constituency projects.

“Over the years, constituency projects have become enmeshed in controversy among non-state actors, the promoters of the projects and the communities that are supposed to benefit from the projects.

“The concern is that in Nigeria, rather than address the needs of constituents; many constituency projects have become avenues of corruption.”

Owasanoye gave some three-year statistics which revealed how senators and Representatives have paid lip service to constituency projects.

He said: “The level of implementation of constituency projects in 16 focus states for 2015 is revealing. Out of 436 constituency projects for the year that were tracked, 145 were completed, 77 ongoing while 211 were not executed at all.

“For 2016, out of a total of 852 constituency projects in 20 states in the 2016 Budget that were tracked, 350 were completed, 118 were ongoing, 41 locations not specified in the budget and 343 not done or performed.

“In 2017, a total of 1,228 constituency projects in the budget were tracked for performance as at June 2018. Out of these, 478 were completed, 173 in unspecified location, 200 ongoing, 13 abandoned and 364 not started. The level of performance of constituency projects is therefore disputable.”

The ICPC chairman unfolded plans to collaborate with the media and Civil Society Organisations to fight corruption.

But he warned against reckless whistleblowing and declared that the commission will deal with anyone who misleads it.

He said: “We hope to have a robust relationship with the media and civil society. Not just in Constituency Project Monitoring and role of CSOs and media as partners in giving credible intelligence and evidence of corruption rather than generalised accusations or allegations of wrongdoing but specifics that help to make investigation seamless.

“We also want to caution CSOs to avoid misleading ICPC with intelligence that have no foundation in the name of whistleblowing. We have had one or two experiences of reckless and irresponsible allegations of wrongdoing against prominent citizens provided by CSOs.

“But for the cautious approach of the commission, the outcomes would have been embarrassing. We want to say loud and clear that there will be dire consequences in accordance with the law for anyone that misleads the commission.”

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Saudi Arabia Executes 8 Nigerians, 20 Others on Death Row

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No fewer than eight Nigerians have so far been killed in Saudi Arabia over drugs related offences, Chairman of the National Diaspora Commission, Mrs. Abike Dabiri has said.

Dabiri told State House journalists on Tuesday while speaking on the execution of a Nigerian woman in Saudi Arabia over drug trafficking.

Daily Trust reports that a Nigerian woman was executed by the Saudi Arabian government after she was convicted of drug trafficking by the ultra-conservative state on Monday.

Dabiri, while lamenting the execution of the Nigerians, said 20 others are on death row, awaiting execution over drug offences.

While appealing to Saudi Arabian authorities to ensure that the Nigerians on death row are given fair hearing, she alleged that Egyptian and Ethiopian airlines are conniving with drugs syndicate.

Urging Nigerians to always be good ambassadors of their country, she said the five Nigerians involved in armed robbery case in Dubai, “are disgrace to Nigeria”.

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