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Absence of Counsel, Defendant Stalls Arraignment in Alleged N178.8m Fraud in Jos

The arraignment of Okewole Dayo, Bishop Katung Jonas, Dadin Kowa Microfinance Bank and Mamman Irmiya Jatau before Justice Sharon T. Ishaya of the Federal High Court, Jos, Plateau State was stalled on Wednesday, May 22, 2024 due to absence of counsel to the first defendant, Dayo as well as the absence of the fourth defendant, Jatau.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC is prosecuting the quartet on 24-count charges that border on conspiracy, obtaining by false pretence and money laundering to the tune of N178,885,000 (One Hundred and Seventy-eight Million, Eight Hundred and Eighty -five Thousand Naira).

Count two of the charge reads: “That you, OKEWOLE DAYO (Alias OKEWOLE DAVID DAYO)and BISHOP KATUNG JONAS being Secretary and Chairman of Covenant Fadama Cooperative Society, sometime in 2012, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court did knowingly transferred the sum of N50,000,000.00 (Fifty Million Naira only) from Covenant Fadama Cooperative Society Account First Bank Account number 2003050001625 into Dadin Kowa Micro Finance Account; First Bank Account number 2016452671 which sum represent proceeds of unlawful act and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15(2) (b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011( As Amended by the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Amendment Act, 2012) and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act”.

Count three reads: “That you DADIN KOWA MICRO FINANCE BANK LTD and MAMMAN IRMIYA JATAU sometime in 2012 in Jos within the Jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, retained the sum of N50, 000,000.00 (Fifty Million Naira only) in your First Bank plc account number 2016452671 owned and operated by you which sum you reasonably ought to have know represents proceeds of unlawful act and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 15(2) (d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011( As Amended by the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Amendment Act, 2012) and punishable under section 15(3) of the same Act”.

Having noticed the absence of the first defendant’s counsel and the absence of the fourth defendant during the day’s proceeding, prosecution counsel, Ibrahim Buba informed the court that all the defendants were aware of the sitting, having been duly served hearing notices through their respective counsels. He therefore prayed for a bench warrant to be issued against the fourth defendant and a clarification from the first defendant as to who would represent him.

“My Lord, the defendants have been served hearing notice through their counsels, however, the fourth defendant is not in court today. In view of the absence of any formal communication to the court, explaining the absence of the fourth defendant, we shall be humbly applying for the issuance of bench warrant against the fourth defendant, and also his sureties to be summoned to show cause why they should not forfeit their respective bonds that is before the court,” he said. He asked for a fresh arraignment date in addition.

In respect of the first defendant whose counsel was not in court, Buba prayed the court to find out from him if he intended to represent himself or needed to get another representation to avoid continued delay of the arraignment and subsequent trial.

Responding, G.G Aji, counsel to Jonas, the second defendant informed the court that the fourth defendant was absent in court having passed on. “On the absence of the fourth defendant, my lord, I can confirm to you that he is dead, I know him in person,” the counsel said.

After listening to the counsels, Justice Ishaya adjourned the matter till July 1, 2024 for arraignment and ordered the sureties of the fourth defendant to produce him in court or show course why they should not forfeit their bonds.

The defendants are before the court following claims of some petitioners alleging that they formed a fraudulent cooperative society with which they fleece unsuspecting members of the public in Plateau State and beyond their resources. They were also alleged to have laundered the proceeds of their crime through investments in properties in Jos.

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Police arrest, parade two suspected drug traffickers in Imo

The Imo State Police Command has paraded two persons, Uchechukwu Nwaguma, 28, and Onyekosi Chukwu Ebuka, 35, as suspected drug traffickers who specialise in selling different kinds of illicit drugs.

According to a statement from the Public Relations Officer of the command, ASP Henry Okoye, the arrest of the suspected drug pushers was carried out by the operatives of the command’s anti-narcotics unit in different locations through painstaking investigations.

He stated that Uchechukwu Nwaguma was arrested on July 17, 2024, at Caroline Hostel, Okwu Uratta, Owerri, with large quantities of weeds suspected to be Canadian Loud, a substance the police spokesperson said to be an imported strong synthetic strain of cannabis, and hard drugs commonly known as molly or happy pills.

According to ASP Okoye: “The suspect, upon interrogation, confessed to the crime, stating that his parents were late and that he moved into the sale of hard drugs to enable him to take care of himself and his siblings.”

In another successful operation by the operatives of the command’s anti-vice unit on the same day, Onyekosi Chukwu Ebuka of Uloano in Isu LGA of Imo State was arrested for unlawful possession of weeds suspected to be Indian hemp. He was arrested following a tip-off received from a concerned citizen.

The police spokesperson in the statement further informed that the suspects will face prosecution upon completion of a diligent investigation.

Following the development, Commissioner of Police Aboki Danjuma has reaffirmed the command’s dedication to clamping down on illicit drug dealers and peddlers in the state.

He implored parents to caution their children against indulging in the intake or sale of hard drugs or illicit substances, warning that violators will face severe legal consequences.

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Student loan scheme will thrive on equity and inclusiveness says President Tinubu

President Bola Tinubu says the Nigerian Education Loan Fund (NELFUND) will thrive on fairness and equity and promote inclusiveness by removing the financial barrier to higher education for Nigerian students.

The President, who launched the digital NELFUND disbursement exercise at the State House on Wednesday, said the provision of loans to students will encourage more people to seek knowledge, go for higher education, and become valuable contributors to national development.

“As I earlier said, my belief is that education is the greatest weapon against poverty. Without education, there is no vision; without education, there will be no development; without education, you cannot successfully conquer poverty, insecurity, and abuse in society.

“Education is that light at the end of the tunnel, and no matter how sluggish it moves, it will give you light and the hope you need. We are investing in it. We do not want to try ignorance as an alternative. We want education from the foundation to the topmost level.

“I am glad we are achieving it with NELFUND and that the leadership has accepted this responsibility, and they are working hard,’’ the President said.

President Tinubu commended the Chairman of the Fund, Mr. Jim Ovia, and the Managing Director, Mr. Akintunde Sawyerr, for their efforts in driving the critical agency.

The President expressed his determination to ensure the success of the Fund and the fulfilment of the dream of higher education by indigent Nigerian students.

“The tool is available, and the hope is here; genuine, and the commitment to inclusiveness is what democracy is all about. I am fulfilling one of my greatest promises of the campaign. We are building an inclusive society. You can find many ways around any opportunity, but you cannot find a way if you are not well-educated,’’ President Tinubu stated.

The President emphasized that education is an essential antidote to some of the challenges faced by the nation.

“We cannot even fight terrorism and banditry unless there is inclusiveness, and our people are properly educated and can invest in their own lives. I promise that we will hand a banner without stain to our children. Therefore, it is my honour to launch the portal,’’ the President said.

In his remarks, the Chairman of NELFUND thanked the President for the privilege to serve the nation.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to be here today for Mr. President to formally launch the Nigerian Education Loan Fund (NELFUND). Mr. President, I would like to make reference to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, of which education is number four.

“The President has recognized that; hence, he inaugurated and also signed into law in February the NELFUND. We are all grateful for Mr. President’s time for inaugurating and also sanctioning the activities of NELFUND,’’ Mr. Ovia said.

The Managing Director of NELFUND affirmed that there were enough funds to meet the initial requests of students across the country.

“Your Excellency, at this stage, we have more than enough funding. When we start to promote properly, we might need more, but right now, we can disburse to any single person who has applied,’’ he said.

Mr. Sawyerr said the portal was opened on May 25, 2024, and had so far received 110,000 applications, with more than 164,000 visits; noting that the applications have been increasing daily.

“Clearly, what we want to ensure is that there is equity in the distribution of the loans across the six geo-political zones. So, we are having to look very closely at the data we are receiving to ensure that we are doing the right things and pushing the right buttons to ensure that those who need these funds get them, and that it is seen to be fair and equitable,” Mr. Sawyerr added.

President Tinubu presented cheques to some of the students and institutions that had already been processed by NELFUND. Students are to receive stipends for their upkeep, while tuition goes directly to the institutions.

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Imo House of Assembly recommends sack of Chief Judge for misconduct and age falsification

The Imo State House of Assembly has recommended the removal of the state’s Chief Judge, Justice Theresa Chukwuemeka-Chikeka, citing misconduct and alleged age falsification.

This decision was reached during a plenary session on Thursday, with a two-thirds majority of the lawmakers voting in favour of the recommendations made by an ad hoc committee.

The committee was established to investigate a petition filed by the Civil Society Engagement Platform (CSEP), which accused the Chief Judge of falsifying her age. The petition, titled “Petition Against The Chief Judge of Imo State, Hon Justice Theresa Chukwuemeka Chikeka For Age Falsification Which Is A Grave Criminal Offence And An Act For Which Many Other Judges And Justices Have Been Summarily Dismissed And Some Are Currently Being Prosecuted By The Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC),” prompted the House to take action pursuant to Section 292 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).

The ad hoc committee, chaired by Hon Ikenna Ihezue, included Hon Bernard Ozoemenam, Rt Hon Clinton Amadi, and Hon Ebonine Beneath, with Mrs. Anne Martins Ezirim serving as the committee clerk. They conducted thorough investigations by inviting relevant individuals and institutions to provide oral and documentary evidence.

Despite the committee’s invitation, Justice Chukwuemeka-Chikeka declined to appear, citing the Constitution and insisting she would only appear before a panel set up by the National Judicial Council (NJC).

Key testimonies and documents were obtained from the Civil Society Engagement Platform, represented by its Director of Investigations, Comrade Ndubuisi Onyemaechi. Additionally, the Head of Service of Imo State, the Secretary of the Imo State Judicial Service Commission, the Secretary to the Council of Legal Education, and the Director of Administration at the Nigerian Law School were consulted. These consultations aimed to verify the actual date of birth of the Chief Judge, as recorded during her admission to the Nigerian Law School in 1981 and her employment with the state’s civil service in 1993.

Evidence revealed that Justice Chukwuemeka-Chikeka had altered her date of birth from October 27, 1956, to October 27, 1958, via a statutory declaration of age sworn in 2006. This adjustment was made long after she had initially declared her birthdate when enrolling in law school. The statutory declaration was later submitted to the Judicial Service Commission.

The ad hoc committee concluded that Justice Chukwuemeka-Chikeka had indeed engaged in misconduct and recommended her removal from office by Governor Hope Uzodimma. The House also resolved that this recommendation be forwarded to the National Judicial Council for further action.

All 19 members present at the plenary session unanimously adopted the committee’s recommendations. The resolution marks a significant development in the state’s judicial administration, with further actions anticipated from the NJC.

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