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Tribunal: Tinubu’s forfeiture of $460,000 to U.S. Govt, no ground for disqualification — APC

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…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.”

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Join us or we meet in 2027 — Tinubu tells Labour

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..Commisions Lagos Red Line Rail project

…insists Nigeria will be out of economic problems,

…Red Line Rail to transport 750,000 passengers daily

By Moses Adeniyi

President Bola Tinubu on Thursday replied the Organised Labour over their protests against troubling economic situation in the Country, calling for support for his government ‘to make Nigeria work.’

President Tinubu who noted that the Organised Labour has embarked on strike four times in about nine months of his government, gave them an option to either join fellowship to work hand in hand with his administration, or should they choose “to be political,” they should meet his government at the polls in 2027.

“The Labour has gone on strike four times within my nine months in government. That’s a record. However, they should join us to make Nigeria work as we are currently doing, otherwise if they want to be political, they should meet us in 2027,”  President Tinubu said on Thursday when he inaugurated the first phase of the Lagos Rail Mass Transit (LRMT) Red Line project.

Calling on Nigerians to embrace change and work towards national progress,   he reaffirmed his administration’s commitment to eradicating corruption and called on labour unions to refrain from disruptive actions.

‘’Some labour unions should understand that no matter how we cling to our freedom and rights, to call for strikes within the first nine months of a new administration is unacceptable.

‘’If you want to directly participate in the electoral process, wait until 2027, if not, maintain the peace. Labour is not the only voice of Nigeria,’’ the President affirmed.

The Lagos Rail Mass Transit (LRMT) Red Line project is a 37km project expected to reduce travel time and improve transportation and logistics in the state.

The President on Thursday also witnessed the signing of the contract for Phase 2 of the LRMT Red Line project by the Managing Director of Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA), Engr. Abimbola Akinajo, and the Chairman of CCECC Nigeria Limited, Jason Zhang.

The President, before departing for a state visit to Qatar on Thursday, embarked on an inaugural train ride from the Ikeja station to the Agege station, accompanied by Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu; Deputy Governor of the State, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat; some state governors; members of the Federal and State Executive Councils; members of the Federal and State Legislative Assemblies; Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Cui Jianchun, and a select group of journalists.

Addressing a gathering of Nigerians at the train station in Ikeja, President Tinubu directed the Minister of Transportation, Senator Sa’idu Alkali, to ensure that the federal and subnational governments strengthen their collaboration to provide reliable, efficient, and affordable transportation systems for all Nigerians across the country.

‘’Today, I am seriously honoured that I am a Lagosian and the first to be President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

‘’My promise is not to let you down. We will arrive at the destination with joy, happiness, and prosperity; God willing,” he said.  

Reflecting on his tenure as the former governor of Lagos State, when the vision of a modern and effective public transportation system in the state was conceived, President Tinubu described the project as a dream realised and a fulfillment of years of hard work and dedication by successive governments.

‘’I am very happy indeed that today is a day to remember in Nigeria’s infrastructural history, particularly Lagos, the centre of excellence. Today is evidence that it is good to dream, and it is a serious validation of democracy as a form of government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

‘’When you put people at the centre of your vision and planning, you will realise the value of democracy.

‘’Twenty-five years ago, I was elected to lead Nigeria’s most populous state. From the very beginning, my team and I toiled day and night with a very bare cupboard and amidst pervasive deficiency to implement a developmental vision that would transform Lagos into an economic powerhouse. Today, we are realising that dream.

‘’The momentum of greatness we kickstarted a quarter of a century ago has become unstoppable progress. It is not a crime to dream and dream big. Just stay focused and make development a central focus,” he said.

President Tinubu commended the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA), the urban transport agency which was established under his watch as Lagos State Governor over 20 years ago, for its exemplary performance and implored LAMATA to sustain the momentum in completing all other phases of the Red Line project, as well as the full execution of the broader rail blueprint of the state.

“Thank God LAMATA as a public sector institution and Lagos State as sub national government has moved strong and constant that true change is possible,” he said.

Further commenting on efforts he said, “Let me commend here the Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu for the giant strides. He was part of the vision. Some 20 years ago, I sent them around as their governor and leader to look at the system, to  other parts of the countries and they worked hard. .

“I am delighted that as we inaugurate the first phase of the Red Line. We cannot afford to rest on our oars, more work still need to be done at national and subnational level, no room for complacency. I look forward to the completion of the other phases.

“I perceived massive economic opportunities coming out of this. I am assuring that Nigeria will be out of economic problems, we just need to persevere, work hard and be assured.”

On the issue of corruption, the President said, “we will be on it, we are not looking back.”

“I speak to Nigerians through this podium that change is possible and change is possible and change we must achieve, progress we must achieve.

“We cannot afford to relax the burgeoning population, we must plan and prepare for it, we must be committed to a great value. This economy, we blow it, we will build ourselves out of the penury and will be happy that we did it

“Taking a close look at work in aviation, what is our problem, if it is corruption, we must exterminate it.

“No matter how hard it is fighting back, no to corruption, we must adhere to our pledge, patriotism, perseverance, consistency and stay open.”

On the need to blend national efforts with those of subnational governments, he said: “The national transportation minister is here. It is very critical for your Ministry to collaborate further with sub-national government, to help build a Nigeria for the greatest number.

“Nigeria must be able to enjoy access to multiple alternative modes of transportation all of which are safe, efficient and affordable.”

Remarking, Governor Sanwo-Olu explained that the first phase of the project, executed by the State Government, spans 37 kilometers and shares the track of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) Lagos-Ibadan modernisation project from Ebute Metta to Agbado with stations at Oyingbo, Yaba, Mushin, Oshodi, Ikeja, Agege, and Iju.

According to Sanwo-Olu, phase one of the project will transport 750,000 passengers daily at inception and 1.1 million passengers daily once it is fully operational.

‘’All the stations are live and ready to receive passengers,’’  Sanwo-Olu said.

Sanwo-Olu described the ceremony as a “culmination of long, painstaking journey” of reforms in the transportation sector of the State, stressing that the commissioning of the rail system, once again, breathed life into Tinubu’s vision of integrated transport connectivity.

The Governor said the Strategic Transport Master Plan (STMP) of Lagos outlined six integrated rail lines, one monorail, 14 BRT corridors, over 20 water routes, and a vast network of major and inner roads.

Two of the rail lines had been completed, he said, acknowledging the contributions of his predecessors — Fashola and Ambode — towards the accomplishment of the State’s rail projects.

He said, “Today, we mark a historic milestone in the annals of Lagos and indeed, our nation, with the commissioning of the Red Line, a 37-km marvel of modern engineering that stretches from Agbado in Ogun State to the iconic National Theatre in Iganmu. The segment we are inaugurating today spans an impressive 27-km from Agbado to Oyingbo, featuring state-of-the-art stations at Agbado, Iju, Agege, Ikeja, Oshodi, Mushin, Yaba, and Oyingbo.

“For the first time in the history of Lagos, we have a system comprising and integrating all three modes of transportation: road, rail and waterways. We started construction of the rail infrastructure mid-2021, and I am happy that our administration has been able to complete for operations. At full capacity this first phase of the Red Line will transport 250,000 passengers daily, which will grow to 750,000 passengers daily when we have the full complement of rolling stock on the line.”

While speaking to reporters aboard the train during the inaugural ride, President Tinubu assured Nigerians that their lives will only become more enjoyable as modern amenities are built across the entire nation under his progressive leadership.

“This is very efficient and comfortable, and I am happy. Our transportation system must be all about the people. We have cut down imports on PMS by almost 50 percent. We need mass transit to complement the daily efforts of citizens and make things easier for our people. And this is what this is all about. It is about the people. It is about democracy. We are happy about it,” President Tinubu stated.

The first phase of the 37-kilometre rail line, constructed by the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA), was commissioned with seven stations built along its corridor, traversing Agbado — a boundary town in Ogun State — to Oyingbo in Lagos Central.

The Red Line was inaugurated exactly 12 months after the State’s first light rail — Blue Line — was inaugurated by former President Muhammadu Buhari. The 13-kilometres project, started by ex-Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola, traverses five stations between Mile 2 and Marina.

Six Governors, led by the chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) and Governor of Kwara State, Mallam AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, were among the first set of passengers who joined the President alongside Gov. Sanwo-Olu in a ride on the train, following the commissioning at the Ikeja mega station in the State Capital.

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Illegal arms: FG recovers 80,000 ammunitions

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The Federal Government (FG) of Nigeria through the National Centre for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons (NCCSALW)  has retrieved 80,000 arms and ammunitions.

The North West Zonal Coordinator of the centre, Retired Air Vice Marshall Haruna Mohammed disclosed this during a stakeholders meeting at Bukavu Barracks on Thursday in Kano.

According to him, the centre recovered 20,000 small arms and 60,000 units of ammunition in Nigeria.

Mohammed explained that the centre was determined to eliminate small arms and light weapons in the region and the country as a whole.

He said that the centre was tasked with formulating and implementing strategies to eradicate arms proliferation.

He further emphasised that the recovered weapons often had trade markings, enabling the identification of their source countries and manufacturers.

According to him, NCCSALW used kinetic and non kinetic measures to recover the weapons and ammunition.

Mohammed added that synergy between security agencies and different stakeholders had eased the task of the centre.

“The centre’s engagement underscores the commitment of NCCSALW in achieving a weapon-free environment and ensuring the safety and development of the Nigerian society,” he said.

He warned against illicit circulation of arms, urging Nigerians to support the efforts of the government in curbing insecurity created by the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.

Earlier, the Assistant Director of Strategic Communications at the centre, Brig-Gen. Mohammed Sani, said the institution was established on May 3, 2021 in line with Article 24 of ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons.

Sani said that all hands must be on deck in support of the efforts of the government at curbing the security challenges in the country.

Some of the participants who spoke at the event called on the government at all levels to fight drug abuse and create jobs for youths to prevent them from dealing in illegal arms.

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Seplat Energy’s gross profit rises to N349.3bn in 2023

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…Receives approval for operation of OML 40

Seplat Energy Plc has recorded a growth in gross profit in its twelve months ended 31 December 2023 results.

The energy company reported a gross profit rise of 14.5 percent from N197.2bn to N349.3bn, and achieved more than 8.7 million hours without Lost Time Injury (LTI) on Seplat-operated assets in 2023.

It also recorded a growth of 12 percent in revenue from N403.9bn to N696.9bn.

In a press statement, the company revealed that the Board recommended a special dividend of US 3 cents per share, in addition to Q4 2023 declared dividend of US 3 cents per share. Core dividend declared for 2023 is US 12 cents per share, up 20 percent on 2022. Therefore, the total dividend declared is US 15 cents per share.

Seplat Energy’s 2024 production guidance is put at 44-52 kboepd. Guidance assumes availability of TNP from 3Q 2024, and assumes ANOH contribution in line with guidance.

Initial 2024 capex guidance is $170-200 million. Drilling capex flat on 2022 (13 wells in base plan). Seplat will fund capex on Abiala, a marginal field development tied into OML40.

The company also announced that it has obtained regulatory approval for the full lifecycle Field development plan (FDP) for the Sibiri oil discovery on OML40.

Commenting on the results, Chief Executive Officer, Seplat Energy Plc, Roger Brown said, “Seplat Energy’s 2023 results illustrate the Company’s ability to deliver production growth, fortify our balance sheet and reward shareholders despite facing some unexpected challenges during the year.

“Operational performance was strong, production increased 8 percent over 2022 and we recorded the lowest level of reconciliation losses seen in recent years, a testament to the improving security efforts on the Niger Delta. Drilling yielded positive results, and I’m pleased to report strong 2P reserves growth, up 9 percent on prior year estimates. Our revenue exceeded $1bn, and while costs increased, our proactive approach meant we generated more than $260m of free cash flow in the year, allowing us to continue rewarding our shareholders and further reduce net debt.

“Our strong financial position, excellent operational performance and robust outlook means that we are delighted to declare a special dividend again this year, lifting the total dividend for the year to US$15 cents.

“In 2024, we look forward to a number of key growth events. We are moving forward on both the Sibiri and Abiala developments on OML40. Clear progress is also being made on the important ANOH gas project, with first gas expected in 3Q 2024. Finally, we have high confidence that we will conclude the transformational acquisition of MPNU this year.

“I’m delighted to welcome Mr. Udoma as Seplat Energy’s new Chairman and Mr. Rabiu as SINED and wholeheartedly thank Mr. Omiyi and Mr. Okeahalam for their longstanding support and guidance. Nigeria’s Oil & Gas industry is going through a generational change and as we reach our tenth year as a listed company, we fully intend to play an important role as Nigeria’s leading independent company.”

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