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Binance executive may die in detention – Lawyer raises alarm

Aluko & Oyebode, the law firm handling the case of Binance Holdings Limited, says Mr Tigran Gambaryan, it’s executive, standing trial alongside the company in Nigeria, may die in Kuje Correctional Centre.

The law firm stated this in a letter addressed to the Deputy Chief Registrar of Federal High Court (FHC) and signed by a Partner, C.J. Caleb.

The letter, dated and filed on May 23, which was sighted on Sunday, was titled: “Re: Charge No: FHC/ABJ/CR/128/2024 – Application for the Provision of Medical Treatment to Mr. Tigran Gambrayan at Nizamiye Hospital.”

Caleb said: “We continue to act as counsel to Mr. Tigran Gambaryan, the 2nd defendant in the captioned suit pending before the Honourable Justice E. Nwite sitting at Court 9 of the Federal High Court, Abuja.”

He said Gambaryan, the Head of Financial Crimes Compliance of the cryptocurrency platform, broke down on Wednesday (May 22) in prison and was administered with “Intravenous (IV) treatment for malaria” by the medical personnel.

“Please be informed that the 2nd defendant, who is an American citizen and remanded at the Kuje Medium Correctional Facility is very ill and requires comprehensive medical attention at the best available hospital within the jurisdiction of this honourable court.

“The applicant broke down yesterday and the medical facility gave him Intravenous (IV) treatment for malaria,” he said

The lawyer, therefore, raised the alarm over Gambaryan’s continous remand in the correctional facility expressing fear for his life amidst his alleged deteriorating health.

“The Consul Officer at the United States Consul Office in Abuja, emphasised the need for the applicant to receive comprehensive treatment because malaria is a severe disease for American citizens which can result in death because they do not have the immunity that ordinary Nigerians have against the disease,” he said in the letter.

Caleb, who said the defendant equally suffered from throat infection, added that “the Kuje Medium Correctional Facility is currently undergoing renovation works.”

“It is therefore not best suited for the medical treatment of the applicant,” he said.

According to him, given the above, we humbly apply that the applicant be transferred to Nizayime Hospital, Abuja to receive comprehensive diagnoses and treatment for the preservation of his Ife.

“We kindly request that this application be drawn to the attention of the court.

“We look forward to a favourable consideration,” he said.

It was observe that the letter came six days after Justice Emeka Nwite of a FHC declined to grant Gambaryan’s bail application moved by a lawyer in the defence team, Mark Mordi, SAN.

Justice Nwite had held that based on the affidavit evidence before him, Gambaryan would jump bail if the application was granted.

The judge held that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had overwhelming evidence against the applicant that he was a flight risk.

Justice Nwite ordered him to remain in remand throughout the hearing and determination of the alleged money laundering and terrorist financing charges.

On Thursday when the matter came up, the ailing Gambaryan collapsed in the open court over alleged ill-health.

The development occurred shortly after the matter was called for trial continuation before Justice Nwite.

His lawyer, Mr Mordi, explained to the court why his client could not stand as soon as the matter was called.

Mordi said Gambaryan had been indisposed and a written application letter had been filed to notify the court of his failing health.

The lawyer, who sought an adjournment, also prayed for an order, directing the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS) to release his client’s medical examination conducted some days ago.

Although the EFCC’s lawyer, Ekele Iheanacho, did not oppose giving Gambaryan proper medical attention, he opposed to a plea that the court should specifically directed the NCoS to take him to Nizayime Hospital.

The lawyer also said that the NCoS should also ensure that Gambaryan was well secured to guard against escaping from hospital.

In his ruling, the judge said: “An order of this honourable court is hereby made that the 2nd defendant be allowed to be treated in Nizayime Hospital or any other hospital within jurisdiction which the Correctional Service Centre deems fit provided the Correctional Service Authority shall provide adequate security for the 2nd defendant within the period the 2nd defendant stays in the hospital.”

He also ordered the NCoS to make available the result of the medical examination to parties in the charge.

Justice Nwite subsequently adjourned the matter until June 20 and June 21 for cross-examination of the 1st prosecution witness (PW1) and a Director with the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), Abdulkadir Abbas.

It would be recalled that Abbas had, on May 17, revealed how Binance breached the Nigerian law, operated naira peer-to-peer services in exchange of crypto assets to devalue the Nigerian currency.

The witness, who is a Director of Registration, Exchanges and Market Infrastructure Department at SEC, disclosed this while testifying before the judge.

The EFCC had sued Binance Holdings Limited and Gambaryan as 1st and 2nd defendants.

In the five-count charge, Nadeem Anjarwalla, a British-Kenyan Regional Manager for Africa of the company, was listed as being at large.

They were accused to have allegedly conspired amongst themselves to conceal the origin of the financial proceeds of their alleged unlawful activities in Nigeria including 35,400, 000 dollars.

They were alleged to have committed the offence contrary to Section 21 (a) and punishable under Section 18(3) of the Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Act, 2022, among others.

However, Anjarwalla escaped from lawful custody on March 22 and fled Nigeria to Kenya.

Tthe alleged tax evasion four-count charge filed by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) against Binance Holdings Limited and Gambaryan could not proceed on Wednesday due to his absence in court.

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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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Labour accepts President Tinubu N70,000 minimum wage offer

Organised Labour leaders have confirmed accepting the N70,000 minimum wage President Bola Tinubu approved for Nigerian workers.

Mohammed Idris, Minister of Information, disclosed on Thursday, July 18, that the president announced the offer earlier in the day at a meeting with the labour leaders at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.

Speaking after the meeting, Comrade Joe Ajaero, President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), flanked by Comrade Festus Usifo, President of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), and other representatives of Nigerian workers, said the unions agreed to the offer because of other incentives attached.

He said another reason for accepting the offer is that the president promised a review every three years as against what was obtainable in the past.

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