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Court acquits suspended SEC DG over N115m fraud

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Court acquits suspended SEC DG over N115m fraud

A Nigerian high court has discharged Mounir Gwarzo, suspended director-general of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), in the N115 million fraud suit filed against him, TOPNAIJA.NG can confirm.

In his ruling on Tuesday, Hussein Baba-Yusuf, the judge, held that the prosecution could not establish any prima facie case against the defendants.

Zakwanu Garba, the co-defendant and executive commissioner of the commission, was also freed.

The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) had filed a five-count charge against Gwarzo and Garuba bordering on alleged misappropriation fund and conferment of corrupt advantage on a public officer .

Gwarzo was said to have received N104,851,154.94 as severance benefits and N10,983,488.88 in excess of car grant when he served as the director-general of the commission.

Garba was accused of conniving with Gwarzo to commit the fraud but the duo pleaded not guilty to the charges.

In 2017, Kemi Adeosun, former minister of finance, had suspended Gwarzo and constituted a panel to probe the allegations.

Baba-Yusuf said the prosecution team was unable to establish beyond reasonable doubt the essential elements of the offence for which the defendants were charged.

The judge maintained that the prosecution, by its admission, through witnesses and evidence proved that the offences the defendants were accused of were products of decisions of the governing board of SEC, which is the highest decision-making body of the commission.

“Furthermore, exhibit 19, which is a memo from the governing board of SEC, has clearly demonstrated that the decisions of the board of SEC as the highest decision and policy-making body of commission is legal,” the judge ruled.

“As a result of this, the first defendant is acquitted on the first charge.

“The burden of proof was on the prosecution but through its own exhibit, which includes a board resolution which approved the car benefit for an executive director who had spent more than two years in office, the charge against Mister Gwarzo has not been established.”

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Rotimi Akeredolu condemns DSS invasion of court

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Rotimi Akeredolu condemns DSS invasion of court

Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State has maintained that operatives of the Department of State Services, DSS, desecrated the courtroom when it attempted to re-arrest Omoyele Sowore, convener of RevolutionNow Movement inside an Abuja Federal High Court.

Rotimi Akeredolu, who spoke at the opening of the 65th-anniversary conference of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Ibadan Branch held at Aare Afe Babalola Bar Centre, Iyaganku, Ibadan, on Monday, urged legal practitioners to condemn the act by the DSS.

The Governor warned that judges were at risk of being arrested in “wig and gown during court session” if the bar refuses to condemn such action by the secret police.

He said: “We must be terror against demagogues. It is when the voice of the bar is heard consistently that it will earn respect.

“Will people go and desecrate our courtrooms and we keep quiet? The bar must condemn it. There is no explanation anybody can give you.

“Somebody calls it drama. Drama! How? What we saw was not drama, you must stand up to condemn the SSS for what they did in Abuja.

“Our spirit must remain indomitable. Forget about where we are today because a lot of us made efforts to say what you have done is wrong and the only way out was apologize almost immediately, but what people believe is different. You must write to justify what is not justifiable.

“If we are not careful, the day will come that people will walk into a judge’s sitting and arrest people with their wig and gown.

“I am not saying our judges are timid, but in the face of the gun, most of our judges will shake.”

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Finland gets 34-year-old female Prime Minister

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Finland gets 34-year-old female Prime Minister

Finland’s Social Democrats have elected a 34-year-old woman as Prime Minister of the country, making her the youngest head of government in its history.

AFP reports that Sanna Marin narrowly won Sunday’s vote to replace outgoing leader, Antti Rinne, who resigned on Tuesday after losing the confidence of the coalition partner Centre Party over his handling of a postal strike.

“We have a lot of work to do to rebuild trust,” Marin told journalists on Sunday night, while deflecting questions about her age.

“I have never thought about my age or gender, I think of the reasons I got into politics and those things for which we have won the trust of the electorate.”

At 34, Marin also becomes one of the world’s youngest state leaders, ahead of Ukraine’s Prime Minister, Oleksiy Honcharuk, who is currently 35.

Former PM Antti Rinne had headed Finland’s centre-left five-party coalition since June, and Marin’s appointment is unlikely to lead to significant policy changes by the Social Democrat-led administration.

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President Buhari jets out to Egypt for meeting on sustainable peace in Africa

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President Buhari jets out to Egypt for meeting

President Muhammadu Buhari will depart Abuja on Tuesday for Aswan, Egypt to attend a meeting designed to set “an agenda for sustainable peace and development in Africa.”

Presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina made this known in a statement on Monday.

“The initiative is being launched by the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in his capacity as the Chairman of the African Union (AU) and as an advocate of Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development in Africa – a recurring theme of his tenure as the AU Chairman,” the statement said.

“It is also grounded in the AU’s Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want, and the search for African solutions to African problems.

“The gathering is expected to bring together heads of state and government, leaders from regional and international organisations, financial institutions, private sector and civil societies.

”(Others are) scholars, visionaries and prominent experts for action-oriented discussions on the threats, challenges, and opportunities.

“It is also expected to end with a Declaration on the theme of the Forum and become an annual event.”

Ali Abdel Aal, Speaker of Egypt’s house of representatives, had delivered al-Sisi’s message to Buhari in Abuja in October while inviting him to the inaugural Aswan forum.

Adesina said the President Buhari will be accompanied by Ahmadu Fintiri, governor of Adamawa state, Godwin Obaseki, governor of Edo, and Mai Mala Buni, governor of Yobe.

Others in President Buhari’s delegation are Bashir Magashi, minister of defence; Zubairu Dada, minister of state, foreign affairs; Babagana Monguno, national security adviser, and Ahmed Abubakar, director-general of national intelligence agency.

The president is expected back in Abuja on Friday.

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Police arrest 2 over murder of wife of Maersk MD

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Police arrest 2 over murder of wife of Maersk MD

The Police Force has arrested two suspects in connection with a robbery attack on the residence of the Managing Director of Maersk Nig. Ltd., Gildas Tohouo.

The incident occurred on Sunday at the Cul-De-Sac compound on Lugard Avenue in the Ikoyi area of Lagos State.

The suspects – Olamide Goke (an in-house electrician) and Ade Akanbi (his accomplice) had carried out the attack on the family while pretending to be in the building to rectify an electrical fault.

The Police Public Relations Officer in Lagos, Mr Bala Elkana, confirmed the incident and the arrest to Channels Television.

He explained that men of the Lagos State Police Command moved into the area shortly after the incident occurred and arrested the suspects.

Elkana disclosed that Tohouo’s wife, Bernadette, a Hungarian and mother of three, died from injuries sustained from the attack. Tohouo was critically injured and has been taken to an undisclosed hospital in the Victoria Island axis of the state.

The Police Public Relations Officer added that the suspects have been transferred to the Homicide Section of the State Criminal and Intelligence Department, Panti in Yaba, for discreet investigation and subsequent prosecution.

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DMO denies claims that Buhari inherited $7bn debt, reveals real figure

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DMO denies claims that Buhari inherited $7bn debt

The Debt Management Office (DMO) has revealed real position inherited by the Buhari-led administration in 2015, pegging it at $63.81 billion.

In a statement released on Monday, DMO said a claim by Obadiah Mailafiya, a former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), that the country’s total debt profile was $7 billion in 2015 is false.

“Contrary to the claim by Dr Obadiah Mailafiya, the total public debt stock as at June 30, 2015, (shortly after the current administration came into office), was $63.81 billion, and not $7.0 billion as claimed by Dr Obadiah.

“Similarly, the nominal increase in the public debt stock between June 30, 2015 ($63.81 billion) and June 30, 2019 ($83.88 billion), was about $20.0 billion, which is a far cry from the gross misrepresentation made at the live programme on Channels that the public debt stock increased by $77.0 billion during this period.”

The DMO explained that the debt stock data it publishes comprises of debt acquired by the federal government and states including the federal capital territory hence, it is erroneous to attribute the growth in the public debt stock to borrowings by the federal government alone.

It said the growth in public debt is guided by the economic recovery and growth plan (ERGP) and the medium-term debt management strategy, 2016– 2019.

“With the deployment of more funds into capital projects, the borrowings contributed to job creation and the recovery from the economic recession in June 2017,” it said.

“The introduction of project-tied financing products (Sukuk and Green Bonds) in the second half of 2017 as part of the new borrowing also supported infrastructural development.

“However, the government recognises that the ratio of its debt service to revenue is rather high, a situation that is directly attributable to Nigeria’s low revenues. This is clearly evident from the tax-to-GDP ratio of 6% in 2018. It is for this reason, that the FGN has developed and is implementing a number of strategies to enhance the government’s revenues significantly.”

It said the strategic revenue growth initiative introduced in January 2019 and the finance bill are some of the measures introduced by the government to improve revenue generation.

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Chilean military plane disappears with 38 onboard

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Chilean military plane disappears with 38 onboard

A Chilean military plane en route to Antarctica with 38 onboard has disappeared.

BBC reports that the country Air Force, in a statement, said the C-130 Hercules transport aircraft took off from Punta Arenas on Monday at 16:55 local time (19:55 GMT), and operators lost contact soon after 18:00 (21:00)

It added that the plane was around 450 miles into its 770-mile journey when contact was lost.

A search and rescue operation is under way to recover the plane.

Among the missing are 17 crew members and 21 passengers, who were travelling to provide logistical support.

News agency EFE reports that three of those on board are civilians.

Air Force General Eduardo Mosqueira told local media that the plane did not activate any distress signal while flying to Chile’s Presidente Eduardo Frei Montalva base, on Antarctica’s King George Island.

Chilean President Sebastián Piñera said in a tweet that he was “dismayed” by the loss, and was monitoring the situation from the capital, Santiago.

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Privatisation of power sector was fraudulent – Ahmad Lawan, calls for state of emergency

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Privatisation of power sector was fraudulent - Ahmad Lawan

Senate President, Ahmad Lawan has revealed that the 4,000 megawatts the country currently enjoys may “become a challenge”.

Lawansaid this while addressing the challenges in the power sector on Monday in Abuja at a roundtable entitled: “Addressing Nigeria’s Power Problems.” The event was organised by the senate.

The senate president said the privatisation of the country’s power sector was done fraudulently.

“For me if there is any one single sector of our economy that is important and yet so challenged is the power sector,” he said.

“I believe this is a sector that needs a declaration of emergency. This is an opportunity for us in this roundtable to discuss not only the challenges of the power sector in Nigeria , I think that has been established by the solutions and the way forward.

“The truth is we all know what is wrong. We all know what is wrong , what we really need to do is to have the political will to take on the challenges.

“From the electricity power reform of 2005 to the privatisation of GenCos and DisCos and to what is happening today, we know that everything is fraud and if we play the ostrich, even in the next 10 years [nothing will be done]. I think the time has come for us to have courage.

“We need to revisit the privatisation because apparently there are flaws and that we have to address whether it is at the expense of government or not. We have to get out of this quagmire otherwise we will continue to be complaining and talking about these things until even the 4,000 megawatts we enjoy become a challenge to us.”

Lawan said the federal government needs to declare a state of emergency in the power sector.

On his part, Gabriel Suswam, chairman of the senate power committee, said his panel would probe all those whose decisions impeded the development of the power sector.

“We are going to investigate all people who were involved in certain acts that were inimical to the development of the power sector. You know some of them have been mentioned here,” Suswam said.

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Full details of Tunde Fowler’s letter lobbying for a second term

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Full details of Tunde Fowler's letter lobbying for a second term

The news of the replacement of former Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Babatunde Fowler, by the President is followed by details of a letter sent to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Boss Mustapha, seeking for a second term.

The Presidency on Monday replaced Fowler with a tax expert, Muhammad M. Nami.

The announcement was contained in a statement by the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu.

The Eagle Online reports that Tunde Fowler wrote to Mustapha on the need to renew his tenure.

The letter, dated December 9, 2019, was titled: “Re: Notification of Expiration of Tenure as Executive Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service.”

In the letter, Fowler wrote: “I write to notify the Secretary to the Government of the Federation that my first tenure as the Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) end today 9th of December, 2019.

“In view of the above, I wish to present myself for reappointment for a second term. This is consistent with the provisions of the FIRS Establishment Act 2007 and would grant me the opportunity to consolidate and build on the achievements we have recorded in the past 4 years.

“Please find attached the highlights of my achievements during my first tenure in office.

“I would like to put on record my gratitude to Mr. President for the opportunity to serve the Nation. I am also thankful for your support in the course of the discharge of my duties.

“Please accept as always, the assurance of my highest regards.”

See the letter;

Tunder Fowler's letter

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Buhari nominates Muhammad Nami to replace FIRS boss Fowler

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Buhari nominates Muhammad Nami to replace FIRS boss Fowler

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the composition of a new board for the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, TOPNAIJA.Ng reports.

 

The President nominated a renowned tax consultant, Muhammad M. Nami as the new chairman. However this approval is largely subject to Senate confirmation

This was contained in a statement by President Buhari’s Spokesman, Garba Shehu.

The board is composed of a member representing each of the six geographical zones and statutory representatives from a select number of ministries and government agencies.

The statement added that, “Mr Muhammad, a well-trained Tax, Accounting and Management professional with highly rated qualifications and professional practice and licenses from relevant professional bodies, has almost three decades of practical working experience in Auditing, Tax Management and Advisory and Management services to clients in the banking, manufacturing, services and public sectors as well as non- profit organizations.

“He is an expert in rendering advisory support services to investors in respect of new business start-ups and management of existing businesses. He has also continuously rendered outsourced services to clients in trading, service and manufacturing sectors of the nation’s economy.

“Muhammad Nami attended Bayero University Kano and Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria where he obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology (1991) and a Masters of Business degree (2004) respectively. He is a fellow of Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria, Institute of Debt Recovery Practitioners of Nigeria and Associate Member of Nigerian Institute of Management (Chartered) and Association of National Accountants of Nigeria.

“He started his career with PFK in 1993 and rose to the position of a Senior Consultant in charge of Tax management and advisory services. He is currently the managing consultant of Manam Professional Services (Chartered Tax Practitioners and Business Advisers) based in Kaduna, Abuja, Niger State.

“Mr Muhammad has served and is still serving, on many companies’ Board and Statutory Board Audit Committees. He was appointed as a member, Presidential Committee on Audit of Recovered Stolen Assets in November 2017 by President Buhari. He is married with children.

“Chairman of FIRS, Babatunde Fowler, whose term of office expired on Monday, 9th December 2019 is expected to hand over to the most senior director on the board, who will take charge, pending the Senate confirmation of the new board.”

Babatunde Fowler, had written to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Boss Mustapha, seeking for a second term before he was replaced on Monday by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Fowler wrote to Mustapha on the need to renew his tenure.

The letter, dated December 9, 2019, was titled: “Re: Notification of Expiration of Tenure as Executive Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service.”

In the letter, Fowler wrote: “I write to notify the Secretary to the Government of the Federation that my first tenure as the Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) end today 9th of December, 2019.

“In view of the above, I wish to present myself for reappointment for a second term. This is consistent with the provisions of the FIRS Establishment Act 2007 and would grant me the opportunity to consolidate and build on the achievements we have recorded in the past 4 years.

“Please find attached the highlights of my achievements during my first tenure in office.

“I would like to put on record my gratitude to Mr. President for the opportunity to serve the Nation. I am also thankful for your support in the course of the discharge of my duties.”

Court acquits suspended SEC DG over N115m fraud

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Osinbajo subtly condemns court invasion by DSS, Sowore’s rearrest

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Osinbajo subtly condemns court invasion by DSS, Sowore’s rearrest

Yemi Osinbajo, Vice President of the federal republic of Nigeria  has indirectly condemned the SSS invasion of a court and re-arrest of Omoyele Sowore, by declining to receive an anti-corruption award days after the incident, TOPNAIJA.NG reports.

Mr Osinbajo, a law professor and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, had been heavily criticised by many Nigerians for not commenting publicly on the Friday invasion of an Abuja Federal High Court by operatives of the State Security Service.

In what can be considered his first public statement on the matter, Mr Osinbajo told the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) that he could not receive an award he had been given, few days after the court fiasco.

“… in view of the developments on Friday in the Sowore case, I think it would be insensitive and inappropriate to attend the ceremony,” Mr Osinbajo wrote to the award organisers on Sunday.

His statement to the organisers was, on Monday, shared by his spokesperson.

Mr Osinbajo had been named as the recipient of the Integrity Specialty of the Anti-Corruption Defender Award for his “invaluable work of overhauling the Lagos State Judiciary, facilitating far-reaching reforms in the administration of justice in the state, his work of promoting integrity in the civil society and business in Nigeria and his consistency as a strong voice for promoting integrity in the country.”

However, in a message to the organisers of the award, Mr Osinbajo said though he accepts the award, he could not receive it at this time for two reasons.

“The award, I note, is for our Justice reform efforts in Lagos State. I had accepted the award with pride on behalf of the excellent Justice Sector team we had. However, two reasons explain my absence. First is that I am currently in Abu Dhabi for an international meeting under the auspices of the government of the UAE where I am the keynote speaker.

“Second, in view of the developments on Friday, in the Sowore case, I think it would be insensitive and inappropriate to attend the ceremony,” the vice president said.

The ‘Sowore Case’
Armed SSS officials had on Friday, 6th December 2019, invaded the Abuja court to re-arrest Mr Sowore, publisher of Sahara Reporters. The activist and a co-accused, Olawale bakare, had been released on Thursday night, 124 days after they were arrested by the SSS for calling for a nationwide protest against bad governance.

The Nigerian government charged them with treason, money laundering and insulting President Buhari. Despite two separate court orders for their release, the SSS refused to release both men.

However, last Thursday, Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu ordered the SSS to release both men within 24 hours. The agency complied with the directive on Thursday night before the court invasion on Friday at the same Mrs Ojukwu’s court.

Although the SSS later released a statement claiming its officials did not invade the court, Femi Falana, the counsel to Mr Sowore, said the head of the SSS team to the court apologised to Mrs Ojukwu for the invasion. That court invasion and re-arrest of Mr Sowore has been condemned by many Nigerians as well as civil society groups.

A lot of the criticism of the SSS action was directed at Mr Osinbajo who is the second topmost official of the Buhari presidency. The SSS Director-General reports directly to the president. Without outrightly condemning the court invasion and Mr Sowore’s rearrest, Mr Osinbajo’s reaction to his award appears to show his disdain of the SSS’ action.

The Award
Earlier on Monday, the award organisers admitted they had received a communication from the vice president. They announced a postponement of the award to Mr Osinbajo, also citing the treatment of Mr Sowore.

The centre had on Monday postponed the presentation of the award to the vice president following outrage over the conduct of the State Security Service at an Abuja court last Friday.

“The postponement was decided on, to align with protests against the repression of freedom of speech in recent times especially the incident between the Department of State Security (DSS) and Omoyele Sowore, Publisher of Sahara Reporters, on Friday 6 December. The Vice President himself shares this awareness and the inappropriateness of the award at this point,” Motunrayo Alaka, the Executive Director of the WSCIJ said.

The WSCIJ holds the award presentation event on December 9, the World Anti-Corruption Day and eve of the World Human Rights Day to highlight the importance of investigative reporting as a tool for accountability, good governance and social justice in a democracy.

Apart from Mr Osinbajo, awards would also be given to outstanding investigative journalists at the ceremony.

Amnesty International, a global movement promoting human rights in Nigeria and beyond, was also to be honoured with the Human Rights Specialty of the Anti-Corruption Defender Award for its “remarkable voice against human rights violations and oppressive laws, and its efforts to defend freedom of expression in Nigeria.”

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