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Ex-minister Agunloye seeks AGF, NBA , others’ intervention in alleged $6bn fraud

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A former Minister of Power and Steel, Olu Agunloye, charged with six billion dollars Mambilla Hydroelectric plant fraud, has sought intervention of the Minister of Justice, Mr Lateef Fagbemi, SAN.

He also sought the intervention of the President, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Yakubu Maikyau , SAN; a former Minister of Justice, Chief Kanu Agabi , SAN and, Joseph Daudu, SAN .

Agunloye is challenging the powers of the EFCC to prosecute him in the charge before an FCT High Court.

The EFCC is prosecuting Agunloye, who served as a minister in the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, on certain infractions regarding the Mambilla power plant.

The former minister is charged  with forgery, disobedience of presidential order and corruption.

The EFCC accused the former minister of awarding a contract for the construction of 3,960MW Mambilla Hydroelectric Power Station on build, operate and transfer basis to Sunrise Power and Transmission Company Limited without any budgetary provision, approval and cash backing.

The prosecution also alleged that it traced some suspicious payments made by Sunrise Power and Transmission Company Limited to the former minister’s accounts.

The defendant, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge preferred against him.

At the resumed hearing of the case  the prosecuting counsel, Abba Mohammed informed the  court that the case was slated for hearing of two motions filed by the defendant on variation of his bail conditions and preliminary objection to the charge.

He told the court that the prosecution had filed counter affidavits to the two motions.

Responding, counsel for Agunloye, Adeola Adedipe SAN, informed that he filed a fresh motion on behalf of the former minister, urging the court to invite amicus curiae, friends of the court, to be present while hearing the preliminary objection.

He added  that the application was special and had to be heard before the preliminary objection could be heard by the court.

Inspite of expressing the prosecution’s readiness for the defendant’s three motion to be heard, Adedipe insisted that the preliminary objection could only be heard after the motion seeking amicus curiae is heard and determined.

Following the development, Justice Onwuegbuzie adjourned the case to March 21 for hearing Agunloye’s fresh application.

In the fresh motion filed by Adedipe, Agunloye is seeking an order of the court for leave to hear his preliminary motion on notice, filed on February 8, 2024, with motion number M/3736/2024, with the participation or contribution from Amici Curiae, some of which should include, the AGF; Maikyau; Agabi and Daudu.

He also seeks an order of the court inviting and/or requesting contributions from the aforelisted amici curiae and such other friend(s) of the court that may be invited at the court’s discretion for the purpose of hearing his preliminary motion on notice.

He cited that the motion was brought pursuant to relevant provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA).

Adedipe argued the court to grant the orders sought in the overall interest of justice, sanctity of the Bench, preservation of the Constitution and sustenance of the rule of law.

He hinged the application on the grounds that the Supreme Court ‘s decision on Nwobike vs FRN “weighs heavily on the delimited power of the EFCC under Sections 6,7 and 46 of the EFCC Act, 2004 to investigate and prosecute a case of this nature, more particularly because EFCC was the prosecuting agency in the said decision”.

He further said mong others, that whatever the court arrives at, in respect of the preliminary motion on notice, “will project a major test on the integrity of our courts, rule of law, sanctity/authority of the Bench, with far reaching effects on the doctrine of judicial precedents and the administration of criminal justice”.

Responding, the EFCC counsel, Mohammed told the court that the anti-graft agency would respond to the fresh motion filed by the defence.

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U.S. army sets deadline for troop withdrawal from Niger

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The United States has initiated the withdrawal of its military forces from Niger Republic, following directives from the West African nation’s military leadership.

The withdrawal process, slated to be completed by September 15, 2024, marks the end of an era of American military presence in the country.

According to a press release jointly issued by the National Council for the Safeguarding of the Homeland and the US Department of Defense on Sunday, discussions between the two parties, held from May 15 to 19, 2024, in Niamey, Niger, aimed to ensure the orderly and safe withdrawal of US forces from the region.

Led by high-ranking officials such as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, Christopher Maier, and the Chief of Staff of the Nigerien Army, Colonel-Major Mamane Kiaou, the discussions emphasised transparency and mutual respect.

The withdrawal encompasses troops stationed at key bases, notably the strategically significant $110 million drone base in Agadez.

“Representatives of the U.S. Department of Defense and the Department of National Defense of the Republic of Niger met from May 15 to 19, 2024, in Niamey, Republic of Niger, as part of a Joint Disengagement Commission, to coordinate the orderly and safe withdrawal of U.S. forces from Niger.

“These discussions between the militaries were conducted in complete transparency and with perfect mutual respect between the two parties.

“The U.S. Department of Defense delegation was led by the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, Mr. Christopher Maier; and the Director of Joint Force Development in the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Lieutenant General Dagvin Anderson. The delegation of the Ministry of National Defense of Niger was led by the Chief of Staff of the Army, Colonel-Major Mamane Sani Kiaou,” the statement read in part.

Despite the military disengagement, both nations affirmed their commitment to ongoing diplomatic dialogue and cooperation in areas of mutual interest, including counterterrorism efforts.

“The U.S. Department of Defense and the Ministry of National Defense of Niger have reached a disengagement agreement to effect the withdrawal of U.S. forces, which has already begun. It is therefore agreed that this disengagement will end no later than September 15, 2024.

“Both delegations confirmed the guarantees of protection and security to the American forces during their withdrawal. The delegations also established procedures to facilitate the entry and exit of U.S. personnel, including overflight and landing clearances for military flights.

“The U.S. Department of Defense and the Nigerien Ministry of National Defense recall the joint sacrifices of Nigerien and U.S. forces in the fight against terrorism and commend each other’s efforts to build up the Nigerien Armed Forces. The Parties undertake to continue cooperation in areas of common interest.

“The withdrawal of U.S. forces from Niger does not affect the continuation of U.S.-Niger development relations. The United States and Niger are committed to ongoing diplomatic dialogue to define the future of their bilateral relations,” it added.

The US initially established a military base in Niger to combat armed groups aligned with al-Qaeda and ISIL operating in the Sahel region, which includes Burkina Faso and Mali. The primary airbase in Agadez, located about 920km from the capital Niamey, has been a crucial site for both manned and unmanned surveillance flights and other military operations.

On April 19, 2024, the US announced plans to withdraw its troops from Niger due to the West African nation’s growing alignment with Russia and its distancing from Western powers. Consequently, the US Department of State agreed to pull out approximately 1,000 troops from the country, which has been under military rule since July 2023.

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Reps seek more financial investment for federal teaching hospitals

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The House of Representatives Committee Chairman on Health Institutions, Amos Magaji, has called for a sustained financial investment in the federal teaching hospitals across the country.

He said this will be in line with the Renewed Hope agenda of the President Bola Tinubu-led administration for the betterment of the citizenry.

Magaji disclosed this during an oversight visit of members of his committee to the Federal University of Health Sciences Teaching Hospital, Otukpo.

He stressed the need to allocate more funds in health sector, considering the primary responsibility of health institutions in the country.

Magaji appreciated the Chief Medical Director, CMD, and his management staff for showing interest in the growth of the teaching hospital, considering the tremendous achievements recorded within a period of one year.

He assured that he would work with his members to ensure that more funds are made available to develop the needed infrastructure including the medical equipment to meet up with the expectations of the people.

“We are glad to be in Otukpo today to see things for ourselves. We don’t want to depend on second hand information on the true condition of the Federal University Teaching Hospital Otukpo,” he said.

He assured the management of full support of the Federal House of Representatives as appropriate incentives would be given through interface with other critical stakeholders in Abuja.

The committee chairman enjoined the staff, whom he described as foundation staff to work as team despite the working condition, “we have seen how the environment is looking and we will continue to monitor the progress.

“So, as foundation staff, you all have the opportunity to write your name in gold.”

While welcoming the committee, the CMD, Prof Silas Ochejele, appreciated the federal government for the establishment of the teaching hospital in Otukpo which has drastically changed the medical services narratives in the state.

Ochejele thanked the House of Representatives Committee on Health Institutions for the pains to come down to Otukpo and believed that the visit has made them to see things themselves, which would go a long way in repositioning the hospital for the betterment of the people.

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JUST IN: Helicopter carrying Iran’s President crashes

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A helicopter carrying Iranian President, Ebrahim Raisi, has been involved in an incident while he was visiting neighbouring Azerbaijan, Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency reported on X on Sunday according to CNN.

“Some of the president’s companions on this helicopter were able to communicate with Central Headquarters, raising hopes that the incident could have ended without casualties,” it added.

It is unclear what the exact status is of Raisi’s helicopter, CNN reports.

The helicopter was part of a convoy of three helicopters. Two of those helicopters were carrying ministers and officials who arrived at their destination safely, according to Tasnim.

“Seyyed Mohammad-Ali Al-Hashem, Tabriz’s Friday Prayer Imam, and Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian were also reportedly on the helicopter with the president,” Tasnim said on X. BREAKING: Helicopter carrying Iran’s President involved in an accident

A helicopter carrying Iranian President, Ebrahim Raisi, has been involved in an incident while he was visiting neighbouring Azerbaijan, Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency reported on X on Sunday according to CNN.

“Some of the president’s companions on this helicopter were able to communicate with Central Headquarters, raising hopes that the incident could have ended without casualties,” it added.

It is unclear what the exact status is of Raisi’s helicopter, CNN reports.

The helicopter was part of a convoy of three helicopters. Two of those helicopters were carrying ministers and officials who arrived at their destination safely, according to Tasnim.

“Seyyed Mohammad-Ali Al-Hashem, Tabriz’s Friday Prayer Imam, and Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian were also reportedly on the helicopter with the president,” Tasnim said on X.

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