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Alleged N2bn fraud: Court admits fresh exhibit against School, ex-FIRS staff,

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Justice F. Giwa Ogunbanjo of Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on Monday, January 22, 2024 admitted a fresh exhibit against Emmanuella Eteta Ita, Head of Stakeholders Unit of the Federal Inland Revenue Services, FIRS and Surestart School Ltd in a trial within trial to determine the admissibility of her statement with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

Ita and Surestart School Ltd are standing trial on 25-count charges bordering on criminal misappropriation, diversion, criminal breach of trust and money laundering to the tune of N2billion.

Ita’s counsel, Paul Erokoro had objected to the admissibility of the statement of her client before the court, claiming that it was exacted from her under duress and in the absence of her counsel. This came even as the defendant reportedly volunteered her statement to EFCC’s investigators in the presence of Eka Didara-Abasi Akpata, a lawyer from Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, who accompanied her to the EFCC office.

Ruling on the matter on Monday, Justice Ogunbanjo stated that the defence did not prove beyond reasonable doubt that the statement of the defendant was not voluntary. Citing Section 15 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, he further stated that electronic recording of a defendant’s statement was not mandatory, so also the presence of a defendant’s counsel. With the ruling, the statement was admitted in evidence and marked “Exhibit 25.”
Further on the matter, Ijeoma Matilda, an EFCC operative, led in evidence by prosecuting counsel, Ekele Iheanacho, concluded her testimony on the matter. According to her, information provided by System Specs, a Federal government Remittance payment platform through which funds were allegedly funneled into Surestart School Ltd between 2017 and 2018, amounted to N173,346,391.50. Surestart School Ltd is the second defendant, owned by the first defendant.

“We observed that there were transfers to the tune of N145,218,000 from the account of the first defendant to the second defendant, Surestart School Ltd. During the reconciliation with the defendant`s account she could not provide documents to justify the sum of N158 million which is the total money that came to her account. And in a bid to explain, she brought copies of receipts she signed which she claimed were receipts for Lomein Express Ltd.

We contacted the owner of Lomein Express Ltd who said that the receipts did not emanate from them. She also brought letters of reimbursement, we invited all the companies she mentioned and they all denied that the receipts were from them while other addresses do not exist,” she said.

While the first defendant also claimed that she resigned as the director of Surestart School Ltd, the prosecution witness revealed that documents from the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC established that she was the owner of the school.

Speaking further, the witness stated that Ita has refunded about N19.5million so far, which was made at different dates into the EFCC‘s account domiciled with the CBN.

According to the witness, “We requested for her salary account with Federal Inland Revenue Services, FIRS. In the course of analyzing the account, we discovered that around 2016, a huge sum of money was moved into the second defendant`s account and that over N277 million had entered into her salary account apart from her allowances, which were funds for travel allowance and entertainment expenses.”

Matilda further revealed that the frequency of money paid by the first defendant into the second defendant’s account increased from February 2016 with every of her salary being transferred to the second defendant’s account.
Justice Ogunbanjo adjourned the matter to January 23 and 24, 2024.

Crime

Alleged $9.6bn P&ID scam: Hearing in EFCC’s suit against fleeing Briton stalled

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Hearing in two separate money laundering suits filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against British national, James Nolan, could not proceed on Wednesday at a Federal High Court, Abuja.

The matter, which was scheduled for adoption of final written addresses of parties by Justice Donatus Okorowo, suffered setback due to failure of Nolan’s counsel, Michael Ajara, to file and serve his processes on the EFCC”s lawyer, Bala Sanga.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Justice Okorowo had, on Nov. 20, 2023, fixed today for adoption of the final addresses after Nolan, who jumped bail and fled Nigeria in the alleged 9.6 billion dollars Process and Industrial Development (P&ID) Ltd scandal, opened his defence in absentia without calling any witness.

Ajara had told the judge that he did not intend to call any witness upon resumed hearing in the matter in the last adjourned date.

He said after his evaluation of the EFCC’s evidence, he would rely on the case of the prosecution and Sanga did not object, upon which the matter was fixed for today.

When the matter was called on Wednesday, Ajara had not filed their final written address.

The lawyer prayed the court for an adjournment to enable him do the needful.

The anti-graft agency’s lawyer, Christie Makar, who held Sanga’s brief, did not oppose the oral application.

Justice Okorowo consequently adjourned the matter until May 6 for adoption of final written addresses.

NAN reports that the EFCC is prosecuting Trinity Biotech Nigeria Limited and Nolan in the charged marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/272/2022 as 1st and 2nd defendants in the case.

Also, the commission is also prosecuting the sister case marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/273/2022 filed against Resorts Express Concept Nigeria Ltd, another company, and Corrado Fantoli as 1st and 2nd defendants respectively before Okorowo.

Fantoli, also a foreigner and an associate of Nolan, was one of the suspects behind the alleged $9.6 billion P&ID fraud.

The suspect, said to be at large, alongside the company, was arraigned in absentia on Nov. 25, 2022, on eight-count money laundering charge.

He was not present in court or represented by a lawyer when they were arraigned.

The court also declared him wanted and ordered for his arrest anywhere he is sighted after Sanga made application to the effect.

Fantoli and Giovanna Beccarelli, who had also been declared wanted and an arrest warrant issued against her, were said to be directors and signatories to the company’s Guaranty Trust Bank account number: 0123849451.

Resorts Express Concept Nigeria Ltd and Trinity Biotech Nigeria Limited are two of the over 30 companies associated with the $9.6 billion scam.

NAN reports that other cases linked to the scandal are currently before Justice Ahmed Mohammed, Justice Obiora Egwuatu, Justice Zainab Abubakar of FHC, Abuja, besides other charges at FCT High Courts.

A Business and Property Court in London presided over by Justice Robin Knowles of the Commercial Courts of England and Wales had, in October, quashed the 11 billion dollars awarded against Nigeria in a case filed by the P&ID.

Judge Knowles held that the award was obtained by fraud and that what had happened in the case was contrary to public policy.

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Crime

NAF bombs terrorists hideouts in Borno

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The Air Component of Operation Hadin Kai, OPHK, and the Nigerien Air Force on Tuesday eliminated scores of terrorists and destroyed their hideouts in Damasak and Mobbar local government areas of Borno State.

A statement by the Director, Public Relations and Information of NAF, AVM Edward Gabkwet, on Wednesday in Abuja, said that the interdictions were under the Multi-National Joint Task Force, MNJTF.

Gabkwet said the terrorists had attempted to attack troops of Sector 4 of the MNJTF at Lada, a border town between Niger Republic and Nigeria, and subsequently fled across the border into Nigeria.

According to him, the fleeing terrorists who were on eight motorcycles were later tracked to two locations in Zarri village, about 28 kilometers east of Damasak and Mala Alide in Mobbar areas of Borno.

He further stated that they were observed hibernating in the village with their motorcycles hidden under trees.

“Subsequently, airstrikes from the Air Component of OPHK and Nigerien Air Force, under the watchful eye of Niger’s Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft, struck the terrorists’ locations.

“Real-time ISR footage later confirmed numerous terrorists were eliminated and several structures within the targeted areas destroyed.

“Collaborative efforts of this nature have continued to yield positive outcomes on both sides of the border.

“It has also led to the reduction in terrorism and other forms of cross-border crimes perpetrated by criminals crisis-crossing the borders to evade justice,” he added.

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Crime

Sex Scandal: We won’t oppose any sanction against lecturer — ASUU UNN

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The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has said that the union would not oppose any sanction against the lecturer allegedly involved in sex scandal in a video trending in the social media.

Chairperson of ASUU, University of Nigeria Nsukka, (UNN), Dr Oyibo Eze said this in Nsukka on Tuesday while reacting to the alleged attempt by a lecturer in UNN to have sex with a female student in his office on Monday.

“ASUU will not oppose any sanction if after investigations, the suspect is found guilty of allegation to have attempted to have sex with a female student in his office.

“We should all know that every action has its consequences,” he said.

He said that ASUU condemned the alleged act by the lecturer identified as Mr. David Udom-Udom of the Social Science Unit, School of General Studies (GS) of the UNN.

“I saw the trending video of the alleged act yesterday and this morning I went  to GS department and confirmed the incident in the viral video on Monday.

“Lecturers should see students as their children by displaying high sense of discipline, morality and avoid asking sex for mark.

“It is condemnable and that is what happens when a dog eats the bone hung on its neck.

“Our job as lecturers is to teach students not to harass them sexually,” he said.

Reacting to the incident, Comrade Enoch Utazi, the President, Students Union Government (SUG) of the UNN, also condemned the alleged act by Udom to have sex with a student for mark.

Utazi said SUG would follow the matter to its logical conclusion to ensure that the affected randy lecturer was punished according to rules and regulations of the university.

“SUG will ensure this randy lecturer is punished to serve as deterrent to others who exploit female students sexually in order to give them mark,” Utazi said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Chris Alumona, the Chief Security Officer of UNN, when contacted, confirmed the incident and said that the randy lecturer Udom-Udom had been arrested and handed over to the police.

Alumona said his office acted on tip-off from UNN Department of Students Affairs on what was happening on Monday in Udom’s office

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