…Says FBI gave president-elect ‘clean bill’ in FG’s inquiry
…Cleared him of criminal arrest records, wants, or warrants
…IGP to be subpoenaed to tender ‘clean bill’ letter in evidence
…Tackles Obi, says his eligibility questionable, joined LP less than 30 days to primary
The All Progressives Congress (APC), defending the eligibility and victory of president-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu has argued before the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) that the forfeiture of the sum of $460,000 by Tinubu, its candidate in the February 25 presidential election, to the government of the United States of America (USA) in 1993 is not sufficient ground to disqualify him from contesting the election.
The forfeiture of the said sum has formed one, among other grounds in the cases filed by opposition candidates and their parties petitioned against Tinubu for which they argued he should be considered ineligible for the presidential contest.
The ruling party, however, in processes it filed to defend the outcome of the presidential election which its candidate won, maintained that Tinubu, merely surrendered funds in 10 bank accounts that were opened in either his name or that of Compass Finance and Investment Co.
It argued before the Presidential Election Petition Court sitting at the Court of Appeal in Abuja, that funds in the said accounts, which were domiciled in both First Heritage Bank and Citi Bank N. A, were subject to a civil forfeiture proceeding in Case No: 93C4483.
The APC stated that the purported decision of the United State District Court Northern District of Illinois, Eastern division in the said case, was not a fine but a decree of forfeiture of the amount of $460,000 to the United States pursuant to the settlement of claim by the parties to the case.
“The said decision is not against the 2nd Respondent (Tinubu) but against the funds in the various account opened in the name of Bola Tinubu with First Heritage Bank and City Bank N.A.
“The compromise terms that led to the forfeiture were preceded by express admission on record that the 2nd Respondent did not admit the commission of any drug, drug-related or illicit conduct of dishonesty or fraud that fits into any of the grounds of disqualification to contest for office of president of Nigeria at the 25th February, 2023 general election,” the APC argued.
It listed the 10 account numbers that contained funds that Tinubu forfeited after the settlement of claim by parties involved in the case, as: 263226700, 39483134, 39483396, 4650279566, 00400220, 39936404, 39936383, 52050-89451952, 52050-89451952 and 52050-89451953.
The APC, through its team of lawyers led by Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, told the court that the Federal Government had as far back as 2003, through the American Consulate in Nigeria, inquired about Tinubu’s criminal record.
It said the outcome of the inquiry which FG made through the Inspector-General of Police, “yielded a clean bill of health that unequivocally and unreservedly cleared 2nd Respondent of any criminal record, interest or association in the United States of America.
“The formal clearance report dated February 4, 2003, under the hand of Legal attaché to the United States Embassy, Nigeria in response to the inquiry by the Inspector General of Police is hereby pleaded and shall be relied upon for its full effect; particularly the portion in the second paragraph which states:
“In relation to your letter, dated February 3, 2003, reference number SR.3000 /IGP SEC/ABJ/VOL. 24/287, regarding Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a records check of the Federal Bureau of Investigation‘s (FBI) National Crime Information Center (NCIC) was conducted.
“The results of the checks were negative for any criminal arrest records, wants, or warrants for Bola Ahmed Tinubu (DOB 29 March. 1952). For information of your department, NCIC is a centralised information centre that maintains the records of every arrest and conviction within the United States and its territories.”
APC said it would apply for a subpoena to be issued again at the IGP to enable him to adduce and tender in evidence, the letter dated February 3, 2003, reference number SR.3000 /IGP SEC/ABJ/VOL. 24/287, which triggered the clearance letter of the Legal attaché of the US Embassy in Nigeria, as well as the response to same dated 4th February 2003.
It further argued that the said forfeiture Tinubu made to the US government, having lasted a period of 29 years, was no longer a valid ground to challenge his eligibility to contest the presidential election.
“The Respondent states that, in any event, the impleaded decision of the United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division is not a decision by a competent court of law or tribunal in Nigeria; and same has been falsely, mischievously paraded by 2nd Respondent’s political adversaries like the petitioners, detractors and haters to scandalise, demonise and de-market him to the Nigerian electorate at the 25th February 2023 general election with a view to delegitimising his well-earned victory at the polls, despite all legitimate and fact-checked denials and rebuttals as exemplified by the official report from the United States affirming his innocence and exonerating him from the touted drug connection and criminal conviction.
“The Respondent states further that in any event, the said decree of forfeiture was made by Judge John A Nordberg in the said Case No: 93C4483 on the 4th day of October 1993, a period of 29 years before the 25th day of February 2023 when the said presidential election was duly conducted by the 1st Respondent.
“The Respondent avers that the allegations referred to in the said paragraph have been subjected to litigation and duly litigated upon by a court of competent jurisdiction in Suit No: FHC/L/CS/1146/1999.
“The Respondent further avers that having been litigated upon by a competent court of law, this Honourable Court is estopped from retrying the same issues that have been appealed against. The Respondent shall found and rely upon the judgment in Suit No: FHC/L/CS/1146/1999.
“Without prejudice to the above, the Respondent avers that the Nigeria Police Force investigated the 2nd Respondent regarding any record of criminal arrest and/or conviction. The investigation was extensive and far-reaching.
“Consequently, the American Consulate, Lagos Nigeria revealed that there was no record whatsoever of any criminal arrest, warrants and/or conviction regarding the 2nd Respondent. The Respondent shall find and rely on the letter issued by the Embassy of the United States of America, Nigeria dated 4th February 2003.
“Furthermore, the release from forfeiture of other monies in the account the subject of the proceedings in Case No: 93C4483; in excess of one million dollars and for the benefit of the named beneficiary K.O Tinubu though not the account holder, less forfeited sum of $460,000.00 (Four Hundred and Sixty Thousand United States Dollars) is a manifest affirmation that the case was not a criminal trial and the fund forfeited was not a fine imposed as a punishment for a criminal conviction of any person — let alone the 2nd Respondent.
“The disqualification factors as stipulated by the Constitution only conceives of a conviction sentence or fine involving dishonesty or fraud or contravention of the Code of Conduct as found by a Court of the law of competent jurisdiction or Tribunal in Nigeria,” it argued.
While praying the court to strike out petitions against Tinubu, the APC argued that Mr. Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), who alleged that Tinubu was convicted for a drug-related case, lacked the requisite locus standi to challenge the outcome of the presidential election.
It argued on the ground that Obi was not validly nominated by the LP, stressing that he was not a member of the party, at least 30 days before it conducted its presidential primary election.
He told the court that Obi was a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), till May 24, 2022, adding that he was screened as a presidential aspirant of the party in April, 2022.
APC further averred that whereas Obi joined the LP on May 27, he was subsequently declared the winner of the presidential primary election the LP held on May 30, 2022.
“By section 77(3) of the Electoral Act, 2022, the 2nd Petitioner (LP) is mandated to have submitted its comprehensive register of members to the 1st Respondent 30 days before its presidential primary.
“That is to say the said register of members must have been submitted to the 1st Respondent on or before 30th April, 2022.
“The 1st Petitioner (Obi) as at 30th April, 2022 was still a member of the PDP and his name was not and could not have been in the register of members submitted by the 2nd Petitioner to 1st Respondent (INEC).
“The Petition herein is incompetent as the 1st Petitioner is not a member of the 2nd Petitioner since the 1st Petitioner’s name is not, and could have been listed in the list of the register made available by the 2nd Petitioner to the 1st Respondent, same having been made available before the 1st Petitioner joined the 2nd Petitioner,” it argued.
It, therefore, prayed the court to dismiss or strike out Obi’s petition “wholly or in part as may be appropriate.”
Divestments: Foreign investors cite harsh operating environment as reason for exit, pull out N310bn assets
Foreign investors have cited a harsh operating environment as reasons for their exit from the Nigerian market.
Recall that President Bola Tinubu had in his inauguration speech in May and also in August assured investors of his dedication to revitalising the nation’s economy by intensifying the removal of all bottlenecks obstructing efficient business establishment and management in Nigeria.
However, since the President came on board, the country has witnessed over four major foreign investors in the manufacturing and oil and gas sector exiting the country in droves citing high operational costs and unfavourable business climates as some of the reasons for their exit.
The latest exit announcement was made yesterday by Procter & Gamble (P&G) a major global player in the Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) segment and Equinor, another global player in the upstream oil sector.
With these new exits, Nigeria’s economy is expected to lose $335 million (about N310 billion) in Foreign Direct Investments (FDI).
The amount represents the combined assets value of the two companies.
Procter & Gamble (P&G), an American multinational consumer goods company, says it has plans to transition from local production to solely importing its products as the firm winds down its on-ground presence in Nigeria.
Equinor is exiting after selling its Nigerian business, including its share in the Agbami oil field to Nigerian-owned energy company Chappal Energies.
Explaining the decision, Chief Financial Officer, P&G, Andre Schulten said the decision is a result of “the challenging business environment in Nigeria, as well as the difficulty in creating US dollar value.”
On his part, Equinor’s Senior Vice President for Africa Operations, Nina Koch, in a statement, said, “Nigeria has been an important part of Equinor’s international portfolio over the past 30 years.
“This transaction realises value and is in line with Equinor’s strategy to optimise its international oil and gas portfolio and focus on core areas.”
In the second half of this year two other major multinational companies, GlaxoSmithKline, GSK, Consumer Nigeria Plc and Sanofi-Aventis Nigeria Limited, a French pharmaceutical company, pulled out assets estimated at over $800 million from Nigeria, citing harsh operating environment.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) has blamed stringent regulatory and legislative activities, insufficient infrastructure, and policy inconsistencies for the difficulties faced by businesses.
Reacting to the exit of Procter & Gamble, P&G, NECA’s Director-General, Adewale-Smatt Oyerinde expressed dissatisfaction with the news.
He however, commended the Federal Government for supporting the Small and Medium Enterprises, SMEs, and manufacturers through the disbursement of the N125 billion Presidential Palliative Programme.
The DG said, “NECA commends the Federal Government for supporting the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), and manufacturers through the disbursement of the N125 billion Presidential Palliative Programme.
“This strategic intervention is a proactive step in mitigating the impact of the multi-dimensional challenges currently being faced by businesses. It strongly emphasised the immediate need for decisive measures to halt the ongoing trend of companies divesting from the country.
“While we commend the Federal Government for the disbursement of the intervention funds, we urge a quick and definitive action to arrest the continuous exit and divestment of legitimate organizations in Nigeria.
“In the last few years, hitherto strong brands like GSK, Nampak and now P&G and some other local brands have either closed shop or divested fully or partially. These regrettable departures will persistently undermine the Federal Government’s efforts to attract Foreign Direct Investment, rendering its initiatives highly ineffective.
Highlighting the probable factors behind these business closures, the NECA boss asserted “that the challenging business landscape, marked by stringent regulatory and legislative activities, insufficient infrastructure, and policy inconsistencies, all conspired to exacerbate the difficulties faced by businesses.
“When established global brands like P&G cannot survive the environmental and regulatory onslaught, it is worrisome how many more businesses will capitulate.
“Regulatory bodies tasked with fostering business growth persist in prioritising revenue generation at the expense of their core mandate, while legislators, in the guise of oversight functions, consistently create impediments for organized businesses, hindering their operations.
“The contradictions and self-disruptive tendencies of many federal and state Institutions can only be imagined, as they negate the efforts of the President to attract Foreign Direct Investment.”
NECA implored President Bola Tinubu, as well as the Minister for Finance and the Coordinating Minister of the Economy, “to prioritise the survival of local businesses as the primary step before actively seeking Foreign Direct Investment.
“We advocate for the 2024 Appropriation Bill to address crucial infrastructural requirements conducive to business expansion, laying the groundwork for a prosperous nation.
“Additionally, he underscored the necessity of focusing on comprehensive tax reforms and addressing the challenges related to FOREX and exchange rates with a sense of urgency.”
CBN reviews service charter to drive ease of doing business
By Sodiq Adelakun
In a significant move to bolster the ease of doing business in Nigeria, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Yemi Cardoso, has officially approved a revised “Service Charter” for the nation’s apex bank.
This strategic initiative is a direct response to the mandates of the Business Facilitation Act 2022, which aims to streamline business operations and enhance customer service delivery across the country.
The CBN announced on Thursday that the newly reviewed charter is designed to establish a clear framework for interactions between the bank and its external stakeholders. By adhering to the provisions of the charter, the CBN commits to aligning with the directives set forth by SERVICOM, the government agency responsible for promoting efficient and effective service delivery in public offices.
The implementation of the service charter is expected to mark a new era of transparency and accountability in the CBN’s operations, ensuring that the bank’s services are delivered in a customer-centric manner.
This development is anticipated to have a positive impact on the Nigerian business landscape, fostering a more conducive environment for both local and international investors.
Governor Cardoso’s endorsement of the service charter underscores the CBN’s dedication to upholding the principles of the Business Facilitation Act 2022 and its commitment to driving progress in Nigeria’s economic landscape.
“The document clearly outlines the bank’s mandates, vision, mission, and core values.
“It contains the list of services offered by the bank through its various departments and the service standards for each service.
“The service charter also includes a standardised customer complaints form for reporting service failures as well as a mechanism for addressing failures in any of the bank’s services,” it stated.
It added that the service charter reiterated CBN’s commitment to effective and prompt service delivery to its stakeholders and to its customers.
“It enables our customers to know the range of services provided by the bank as well as the standards at which these services would be provided.
“It equally states redress procedures in the event of service failure from any of our service windows.
“The charter applies to all stakeholders and customers of the bank,” it stressed.
In the foreword to the reviewed document, Cardoso reiterated CBN’s commitment to providing more responsive and citizen-friendly governance through quality service delivery that is efficient, accountable and transparent.
At UBA Business Series, e-commerce owners urge SMEs to prioritise delivering value
Seasoned business owners have advised Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) owners and operators on winning tips that will help them run successful online businesses especially in the face of growing competition and challenging business terrain.
Speaking during the United Bank for Africa (UBA) Business Series hybrid event at the bank’s Head office in Lagos on Thursday, the entrepreneurs and E-commerce experts agreed that SMEs should start small and offer value-added services to their customers as these are essential factors to help them grow their businesses into successful empires.
The Chief Executive Officer, Konga.com, Nnamdi Ekeh, the Founder/CEO RenDoll Fashion Brand, Reni Abina, and Media Personality & Entrepreneur, Kaylah Oniwo were panellists at the event who spoke on the topic; E-commerce: the Effects of Online Retail.
“There is a need for proper documentation. Data is very important for business growth, as it gives you your conversion rates, and lets you know what to do to improve these rates to boost business patronage,” Ekeh said, as he emphasised that boosting security as regards payment options is also very important.
On her part, Abina advised E-commerce business owners and prospective owners to make use of reputable online influencers to promote their businesses, as she said, “It is important to find influencers in your field that are fitting to your brand and the kind of business you do.”
“It is important for business owners to know how their brands are being positioned; remember to track your growth properly as this will help you to know what you are doing right or wrong at every point in time,” Oniwo stated as she pointed out that the need for business owners to take the storytelling element of their business very important.
Together, all the speakers at the event noted that business owners should ensure that their businesses are duly registered, with functional business accounts as this gives a large amount of credibility to the company.
Speaking earlier, the Group Head, Marketing and Corporate Communications, Alero Ladipo, said UBA organises these business series frequently as they go a long way towards equipping customers with the much needed strategies to help build their businesses.
She said, “This year alone, we have had several conversations around business and health, personal finance and now, we are talking about e-commerce. To us as a bank, it is important that we have these conversations and the topic for this session is E-commerce, and is very important as we wrap up the year, because this is the season for giving and a lot of buying and selling will be going on during this period.
“As a financial institution that cares about its customers, UBA is interested in bringing in great speakers, experienced business people and thought leaders to educate its customers and Small business owners as they can then take the points discussed in these series and work with them to improve upon and positively impact their businesses,” she stated.
United Bank for Africa is one of the largest employers in the financial sector on the African continent, with 25,000 employees’ group wide and serving over 35 million customers globally. Operating in 20 African countries and in the United Kingdom, the United States of America, France and the United Arab Emirates, UBA provides retail, commercial and institutional banking services, leading financial inclusion and implementing cutting edge technology.
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