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EFCC Gets Court Order to Seize $43.6m Belonging to National Intelligence Agency (NIA)




In a bizarre twist that got many in government circles expressing shock at the reckless breach of security protocol, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Thursday got a Federal High Court in Lagos to grant a temporary forfeiture of the sums of $43,449,947, £27,800 and N23,218,000 (totalling $43.6 million or N13.3 billion) belonging to the National Intelligence Agency (NIA).

NIA, a highly secretive organisation in Nigeria’s security circles, is the government agency that oversees foreign intelligence and counterintelligence operations in the country.

With the forfeiture order on the cash recovered by the commission from an apartment in the Ikoyi area of Lagos State on Wednesday, EFCC got the court to temporarily seize monies that were meant for an ongoing covert operation and had been hidden in a safe house back to the government coffers.

The court order also came on the heels of the raid by EFCC operatives on the Abuja residence of the former Managing Director of NNPC Retail, Mrs. Esther Ogbue, and her invitation to the commission’s office for interrogation over the expropriation of NNPC’s petroleum products stored in Capital Oil and Gas Limited and MRS Oil Plc’s facilities in Lagos.

As of press time, it was uncertain if Nnamdi-Ogbue who went to the commission in the company of her lawyer, Mr. Emeka Etiaba (SAN), had been released.

On Thursday, it was erroneously reported that the cash haul discovered in Apartment 7B, No. 16 Osborne Road, Ikoyi, belonged to her.

However, her lawyer and a member of her family who spoke to THISDAY strenuously, denied that she owns the apartment and cash found in it, disclosing that she and her family reside in Apartment 2B in the same luxury sky-rise complex, known as Osborne Towers, where the cash was discovered.

THISDAY learnt that the cash had been stashed away in the apartment by NIA for a covert operation but was shocked on Wednesday when news broke that its operation had been compromised by the acting Chairman of the EFCC Ibrahim Magu and his personnel.

Opening up on how the raid of the apartment occurred and what transpired subsequently, a security official revealed that when the EFCC officials got to Osborne Towers, they were confronted by three or four NIA operatives who showed them their ID cards and confirmed that “property” in the said apartment belonged to the NIA.

“However, they were ignored and excitable Magu and his operatives went ahead to move the cash found in the apartment and made a great show of the discovery of another cash haul.

“When the Director General of the NIA, Ambassador Ayodele Oke, got wind of what had happened, he immediately got in touch with Magu and informed him that the money belonged to his agency and their cover had been blown by the action of the EFCC.

“All Magu said to him was ‘okay I have heard’, and took no action to correct his mistake.
“When Magu remained unyielding, the DG asked him to inform Mr. President that the funds belong to the NIA and were meant for an ongoing covert operation.

“We don’t know if Magu eventually reported the incident to the president, but we know that Mr. President has instructed that the funds should be returned to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN),” the security source revealed.

He said that President Muhammadu Buhari also instructed that the NIA should reapply for the funds, which shall now have to go through appropriation at the National Assembly.

“Right now, the intelligence community is shocked at Magu’s blunder, which he made worse by trying to ascribe the funds to that NNPC woman who knew nothing about it,” the source added.

Court Orders Forfeiture

The court, in its ruling on Thursday by Justice Muslim Hassan, ordered that the funds be temporary forfeited to the federal government.

The judge also adjourned till May 5, 2017 for anyone interested in the funds to show up before him to show cause why the money should not be permanently forfeited to the government.

The judge made the forfeiture order shortly after entertaining an ex parte application by the counsel for the EFCC, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo.

Moving the application, Oyedepo told the court that no one had come forward to claim it, adding that the staff of one AM Facilities managing the apartment building, where the huge sums were found could not provide the anti-graft agency with information on the possible owner of the money.

He urged the judge to exercise the power conferred on him by Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offence Act to order the interim forfeiture of the money to the federal government.

“We received an intelligence report that No.16, Osborne Road, Osborne Towers, Flat 7B had in it various sums of money that we are seeking to forfeit.

“The intelligence was acted upon and on getting there, we executed Exhibited EFCC1, which is a search warrant. As God would have it sir, we were able to recover $43,449,947; still in the same flat we also recovered £27,800. That was not all, we were also able to recover N23,218,000.

“For security reasons and because of the volume, we did not want to bring the money before my lord but we have registered it as an exhibit with the exhibit keeper and the evidence is contained in Exhibit EFCC 04.

“Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act empowers my lord that, where a property is found to be an unclaimed property or where a property is found to be the proceeds of an unlawful activity, to forfeit such property in the interim,” Oyedepo said.

He pointed the judge’s attention to a portion of the court papers where the commission had stated under oath that “no one had approached the commission to claim the said money with reasonable evidence confirming the authenticity of the origin of the money that we are seeking to forfeit in the interim”.

“I, therefore, humbly and most respectfully urge my lord to forfeit this money to the federal government, pending when anyone who has the mind to come and claim the money,” the lawyer added.

After listening to him, Justice Hassan, in a short ruling, said in view of the facts placed before him he was “mindful of granting the interim reliefs sought by the EFCC”.

He also granted the anti-graft agency’s prayer to advertise or publish the interim forfeiture order in any national newspaper for any concerned party to see it.

He adjourned till May 5 for such a person to come before him to give reasons why the money should not be permanently forfeited to the federal government.

EFCC Raids Nnamdi-Ogbue’s House

But before the judge granted the interim forfeiture order, officials of the EFCC at about noon on Thursday raided the Abuja residence of Nnamdi-Ogbue who was retired last week.

According to THISDAY sources, when the operatives arrived her home with a cameraman who filmed the entire exercise, she was at home and co-operated with the commission’s officials some of whom were armed.

They were said to have searched her home thoroughly and found no cash or incriminating documents.
A source, however, revealed that they carted away her computer hard drive and copies of all official memos relating to the lifting of petroleum products stored in the depots of Capital Oil and MRS.

After the search, which lasted for hours, she was invited to the commission for interrogation.
The source expressed confidence that she would be released on Thursday, but it was impossible to ascertain if she went home last night.

Also, when THISDAY contacted a member of her family on Thursday, he vehemently denied that Nnamdi-Ogbue owns the Ikoyi apartment and cash found in it.

The family member, who preferred not to be named, told THISDAY that Nnamdi-Ogbue and her family occupy Flat 2B in the building and that her husband and son were in the apartment complex at the time of the EFCC raid on Wednesday.
“They were actually at home yesterday (Wednesday), when they heard that EFCC officials were in the building. Tony, her husband, had a slight fever and was at home with his son.

“No one ever came to their apartment at the time of the raid and I can confirm that Esther is in Abuja as we speak,” the family source said.

Another source close to her linked her travails to the fact that she had reported the unathorised sale of petroleum products belonging to NNPC by Capital Oil and MRS, to the EFCC and Department of State Services (DSS).
The source said she had obviously stepped on some “very big toes”, hence the attempt to “deal with her”.

Nnamdi-Ogbue was appointed MD of the Petroleum Products Marketing Company (PPMC) in September 2015 and was redeployed a year later to head NNPC Retail by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, when he was still the Group Managing Director (GMD) of the state-run oil firm.

THISDAY had reported on Tuesday that she and three other officials of NNPC Retail had been recommended for retirement by a committee set up by the current GMD of NNPC, Dr. Maikanti Baru, to investigate the expropriation of NNPC’s products.

In line with the recommendation, she was given her letter of compulsory retirement on Tuesday.
Similarly, her lawyer, in a statement on Thursday denied the allegations that the huge cash found in Ikoyi and the apartment belonged to her, saying that she was just as shocked as the rest of the public when news broke on the cash haul.

Etiaba said: “The attention of our client, Mrs. Esther Nnamdi-Ogbue has been drawn to the news making the rounds in the news media to the effect that the large sums of money to wit: $38,000,000 (sic), N23,000,000 and £27,000 uncovered by the Economic and Financial Crimes from an apartment in Osborne Towers, Osborne Road, Ikoyi Lagos, Lagos State belong to her.

“By this press release, we inform the public (especially the news media) that the said sums of money and/or the apartment where the sums of money were found do not belong to our client.

“Our client is as shocked as many other Nigerians at the uncovering and recovery of the said sums of money and wishes to salute the courage and efforts of the EFCC in the war against corruption.

“She also wishes to commend the whistle blowing policy introduced by the federal government in the fight against corruption which policy has resulted in large scale uncovering and recovery of monies and assets.

“It is our client’s belief that the source and ownership of the said uncovered sums of money are known or eventually will be known by the EFCC in due course. There is therefore no need for conjecture or speculation.
“May we finally implore the news media to be more circumspect in their publications.”

Who Owns What in Osborne Towers

Meanwhile, Osborne Towers which was developed by the former governor of Bauchi State and ex-National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu, is known to have high profile occupants, including two other former governors of South-east and South-south states, who bought the flats from Mu’azu and the developer off-plan when it was still under construction.

Other high profile occupants of the building include Mr. Damien Dodo (SAN), a former presidential aide in the Goodluck Jonathan administration, a media owner, and the son of a technology business mogul.

During the construction of the 12-storey building by the construction firm Cappa D’Alberto a few years ago, the apartments were marketed by Mrs. Udo Maryanne Okonjo, the Chief Executive of Fine & Country West Africa, a real estate firm that specialises in the sale and lease of high-end properties in Lagos and Abuja.

A source with knowledge of the ownership of Apartment 7B, in which the money was kept, said it was initially bought by Bishop Dale Investment Limited, but later sold to Chobe Ventures Limited, the current owner of the flat. At the time the cash discovery was made, the flat was unoccupied, THISDAY confirmed.

Another source close to Mu’azu further confirmed that about 90 per cent of the apartments have long been sold, while the former PDP chieftain retains the penthouse on the 12th floor in the building.

The latest cash haul is reminiscent of a similar discovery, last February, of $9.7 million in the Kaduna home of the former GMD of NNPC, Dr. Andrew Yakubu.

NNPC Confirms Sack of Officials

In a related development, NNPC on Thursday confirmed the sack and deployment of its officials over the unauthorised sale of 82 million litres of petrol valued at N11 billion by Capital Oil.

The corporation said in a statement from its spokesman, Mr. Ndu Ughamadu, that the sack and deployment were in line with the ongoing reforms it initiated to cleanse it of corruption.

Ughamadu explained that those affected included Nnamdi-Ogbue, who was the Managing Director of NNPC Retail before her dismissal from the corporation’s services; Mr. Alpha Mamza, who was Executive Director, Operations of NNPC Retail; and Mr. Oluwa Kayode Erinoso, who was Manager, Distribution of NNPC Retail.

He said the trio of Mr. Adeyemi Adetunji, Mr. Lawal Bello and Mrs. Affiong Akpasubi had also been appointed to replace the sacked staff as Managing Director of NNPC Retail, Executive Director, Operations NNPC Retail, and Executive Director, Services NNPC Retail, respectively.

Also appointed was Mr. Agwandas Andrawus to head the distribution department of NNPC Retail.
Ughamadu stated that the sacks and appointments would take immediate effect.
He said until his new assignment as the MD of NNPC Retail, Adetunji was the General Manager, Strategy and Planning, Gas and Power and also former General Manager, Transformation Office in the corporation.

He quoted the GMD of NNPC to have charged the deployed staff to remain committed to their duties in line with the transformation aspirations of NNPC.

NNPC recently uncovered a breach in its throughput transactions with MRS and Capital Oil. It disclosed that it lost about 130 million litres of petrol it kept in the storage facilities of the firms as strategic reserves, adding that they sold the products without its approval.

While it launched an investigation into the development, NNPC subsequently announced that MRS had returned the products it sold from its stock, but Capital Oil was yet to refund its 82 million litres of petrol valued at N11 billion.

Insisting that it would recover the products despite counter claims by Capital Oil that the corporation owed it for past business transactions, Baru had pledged that NNPC would in addition to investigating the breach, set up new modalities to guide its engagement of throughput partners, as well as take punitive actions against parties involved in the anomaly.

Source: ThisDay Live

© 2017, . All rights reserved.


Letter from Africa: Can Nigeria avoid repeating past mistakes?



In our series of letters from African journalists, novelist and writer Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani writes that many of the hopes Nigerians had at independence have been dashed.

Of all the stories I have heard of the day when Nigeria gained independence from Britain on 1 October 1960, the most memorable is the one told by my friend’s father, Onye Kamanu, who had spent the preceding night at Tafawa Balewa Square in the then capital, Lagos.

Sitting on the surrounding walls and bare ground were thousands of Nigerians, who, like him, could hardly wait to usher in the day that their country would finally be free from colonial rule.
‘Joy and pride’

With tears in his eyes, Mr Kamanu recalled the occasion, describing the deafening bellow of triumph that went up from the teeming crowd when the British Union Jack finally went down and the green-white-green Nigerian flag was hoisted.

Nigeria’s then Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa captured the mood of the entire nation during his Independence Day speech.

“This is a wonderful day and it is all the more wonderful because we have awaited it with increasing impatience. Words cannot adequately express my joy and pride at being the Nigerian citizen privileged to accept from Her Royal Highness these constitutional instruments which are the symbols of Nigeria’s independence,” he said.

“It is a unique privilege which I shall remember forever, and it gives me strength and courage as I dedicate my life to the service of our country,” he added.

Shortly after witnessing the historic event, Mr Kamanu received a scholarship to study at an American university. Throughout the journey by sea, he was fed little else but macaroni and cheese, hence his subsequent lifelong abhorrence of the meal.
‘Full splendour’

Once in the US, he boasted to his classmates about the future of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous state.

“Nigeria is going to be a world power in the next few years,” he said. “Oh, you just wait and see.”

Mr Kamanu was certain that, with the coloniser gone and with the advent of self-rule, Nigeria would soon bound forth like a racehorse released from its stall.

That same year, a total of 17 African states celebrated their independence from the UK, France and Belgium.

I understand that a cartoon at the time depicted the map of Africa as a growing giant bursting out of its chains.

Nigeria: Key facts

*1960: Independence from Britain
*1966: Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa (above, right) killed in a coup
*1967: Civil war breaks out over secessionist attempt in south-east
*1999: Military government hands over power after elections
*2009: Militant Islamist group Boko Haram launches insurgency in north-east
*2015: Muhammadu Buhari wins presidential election; first opposition candidate to do so

Clearly, Mr Kamanu was not the only one with high hopes. Others also expected that a continent, blessed with natural resources and hard-working people, would arise in her full splendour and shine.

About 40 years after independence, Mr Kamanu travelled from Nigeria to attend his college reunion in the US. His classmates remembered how loudly he had boasted.

“I thought you said Nigeria was going to be a world power?” they asked, giggling and nudging one another. “So, Onye, what happened?”

A lot happened.

Within six years of his emotional speech, Mr Balewa was assassinated in a coup.

About a year later, Nigeria plunged into a civil war after member of the Igbo ethnic group tried to secede and form the breakaway state of Biafra in the south-east.

Three years of war eventually ended and three decades of coups and dictatorships followed.

Human rights abuses and pillaging of the nation’s vast resources by those in power carried on with little restraint.

Nigeria finally found her way back on to her feet with the return to democracy in 1999.

The giant of Africa leaped several steps forward in March 2015 when the government of Goodluck Jonathan was voted out, the will of the people prevailing, for the first time, over the power of an incumbent.

That historic election of President Muhammadu Buhari led many Nigerians to be as optimistic as Mr Kamanu was in 1960 about the country’s future.

But barely two years later, some of the forces that derailed Nigeria then are once again flashing their sharp talons.

Particularly alarming are the ethnic agitations sounding from almost all parts of the country, especially from the south-east where clashes between the military and the separatist group, the Independent Peoples of Biafra (Ipob), have led to the loss of life and property.

In the media and in daily conversation, Nigerians continue to express their fears about how much more ferocious the crisis could become if not handled with immense care.

This is one déjà vu that Nigeria cannot afford. The giant of Africa has marched too far to be suddenly crippled by the same old mistakes.

As my country celebrates her 57th year of independence, my prayer is that the Nigerian government will handle these agitations with compassion and great wisdom.

Surely none of us wants to look back at this era of hope and struggle to answer the question: “What happened?”

© 2017, Sunday Emmanuel. All rights reserved.

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Cameroon bans pro-independence rallies in Anglophone area



Cameroon has banned public meetings and travel in a mainly English-speaking region ahead of a protest to demand independence for the area.

The South-West region’s border with Nigeria has also been shut to block “infiltration” by people threatening Cameroon’s unity, officials said.

Pro-independence marches have been planned for Sunday, the 56th anniversary of Cameroon’s unification.

English speakers accuse the Francophone majority of discrimination.

They say they are often excluded from top civil service jobs, and that the French language and legal system have been imposed on them.

The government denies the allegations and insists that it treats all citizens equally.

The divisions in the central African state date back to the post-colonial settlement.

Cameroon was colonised by Germany and then split into British and French areas after World War One.

Following a referendum, British-run Southern Cameroons joined the French-speaking Republic of Cameroon in 1961.

It is now divided into the South-West and North-West regions.

Demands for independence have grown in the two regions in recent years and tension has been escalating ahead of Sunday’s planned protests, reports the BBC’s Randy Joe Sa’ah from the capital, Yaoundé.

The South-West region’s governor, Bernard Okalia Bilai, has called protest organisers “dogs”, and has warned them that they will be met by troops if they take to the streets on Sunday, our correspondent adds.

At least six protesters were killed and dozens arrested during protests earlier this year. Access to the internet in the Anglophone regions was also blocked from January to April.

Announcing the new security measures, Mr Bilai said there would be a ban on gatherings of more than four people, and travel between towns, from 20:00 GMT on Friday until 08:00 GMT on Monday.

The region’s border with Nigeria would also be closed during this time “following persistent threats of destabilisation” by individuals based outside Cameroon, he added.

In a statement on Thursday, the UN said Secretary-General António Guterres was concerned about tensions ahead of Sunday’s protests.

He urged Cameroon’s government to address the grievances of its Anglophone population, and to take steps to promote national reconciliation, it said.

“The Secretary-General supports upholding the unity and territorial integrity of Cameroon and urges all parties to refrain from acts that could lead to an escalation of tension and violence,” the statement added


© 2017, Sunday Emmanuel. All rights reserved.

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When does cultural borrowing turn into cultural appropriation?



Blankets from Lesotho are at the centre of controversy in the fashion world, with some arguing that powerful people are appropriating them for their own benefit. BBC Africa’s Mayeni Jones reports from Cape Town.

At a home in a quiet suburb of Cape Town city, fashion designer Thabo Makhetha shows me her latest collection.

Originally from Lesotho, she uses traditional blankets from the small landlocked country to make modern garments, including trendy capes, coats, trousers and skirts.

The blankets are known as Basotho blankets, after the people of Lesotho.

Made from thick wool, their intricate and colourful patterns each tell a different story of the Basotho people’s history. They wear them as shawls at special events and give them as gifts.

Ms Makhetha was inspired to use these blankets and turn them into modern creations six years ago, after she decided to design a coat for herself to wear at the Durban July, the main horse-racing event in South Africa.

Her attire was very well received. She got so many compliments that she decided to create her own fashion line.

The popularity of the coat also made her question why the traditional African fabric was often absent from day-to-day modern life.

“I started to ask myself, why is it that when we leave home and we move into the cities we tend to leave our culture behind?” Ms Makhetha told me.

Louis Vuitton controversy

She decided to make clothes that would allow people to wear the Basotho blanket in the corporate world, and at formal functions and family events.

Ms Makhetha is not the only one to have seen the fashion potential in the Basotho blankets.

In 2012, French luxury fashion brand Louis Vuitton released a menswear design for its autumn/winter collection featuring large scarves inspired by the Basotho patterns.

And this year, the brand released a menswear collection called “Basotho Plaid”. The line includes shirts with Basotho-style prints. A men’s silk shirt is priced at more than $2,400 (£1,790).

However, the designs caused an outcry, with many criticising them as mere copies. Nevertheless, the collection rapidly sold out in South Africa.

Ms Makhetha told me it would have been better had Louis Vuitton collaborated with the Basotho people when developing its collections.

“We’ve seen this happen a lot of times where big fashion brands take cultural items and turn them into fashion pieces without really talking to the people whose culture they’re using, or incorporating them in it, and I think that needs to change.”

Many of those who are opposed to cultural appropriation say the main problem is that the originators of the designs often do not get credit or financial remuneration for their creations.

However, others point out that many artefacts we think of as being African may have in fact originated from other parts of the world.

‘Homage to an ancient kingdom’

Dutch wax fabrics worn across West and Central Africa originally come from the Netherlands and were initially intended for the Indonesian market.

University of Cape Town academic Adam Haupt says that as language and culture are hybrids, often built with many different influences, it becomes impossible to categorically claim that something is “originally” African or European.

In his view, it is much more useful to look at the issue from the perspective of global power relations, especially “between people who colonised the global South and people who are economically and politically dispossessed and marginalised”.

According to this view, companies like Louis Vuitton, or British artists like Damien Hirst, who was criticised earlier this year for exhibiting a golden sculpted head which bore a striking resemblance to a 14th Century bust from the ancient Ife kingdom in Nigeria, reflect the history of cultural looting.

“It’s easy to say let’s just get over the past,” says Cape Town artist and photographer, Thania Peterson, “but we can’t because the past, and how we feel. is so deeply ingrained in us… So when we see Damien Hirst, a British artist, using African art in his work, what he represents to us is a nation and an empire that has only taken.”

But, in a statement by his spokesperson, Hirst said he was very clear about his sources and was in fact paying homage to the Kingdom of Ife.

Many artists and designers argue that in a globalised world, being inspired by a different culture does not necessarily equate to exploiting it.

‘Taking control’

Thai fashion designer Chu Suwannapha has lived in South Africa for 15 years. His bright designs, using a variety of African fabrics. have earned him the nickname “King of prints”.

He says he is constantly inspired by the boldness and beauty of African culture, but that he is always respectful in the way he uses his sources of inspiration.

“Louis Vuitton made a shirt, they only used the Basotho blankets as inspiration. I don’t think their intentions were bad. Those prints are Louis Vuitton’s creation, they were inspired by the Basotho blankets but they created something different,” he adds.

Some commentators suggest that the solution to protecting artworks may lie in trade-marking them.

But intellectual property expert Caroline Ncube warns this may not be easy.

“The law, as we know it, is conceptualised from a certain viewpoint. It’s a global North viewpoint. It’s about individual ownership of things and that doesn’t normally fit with the culture that’s being appropriated.

“The culture that is most frequently appropriated is traditional indigenous culture, and that doesn’t fit into the neat boxes of intellectual property law. The law doesn’t actually allow us to own cultural heritage,” Ms Ncube says.

Ms Makhetha says that Africans have to take control of how their culture is perceived and used.

“A lot of people, especially in Africa, do not appreciate our own culture. We need to bring the awareness that our culture is valuable. We can modify it. We can add things to it and we can tell the world our own story because people want to hear our story. The world wants to hear our story,” she adds.

© 2017, Sunday Emmanuel. All rights reserved.

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“Beautiful Ones (Acoustic)” from Beautiful Ones (Acoustic) – Single by Hurts. Released: 2017. Track 1 of 1. Genre: Pop.