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N24.6M Fraud: EFCC presents first witness against former Benue University Hospital Chairman

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Makurdi Zonal Command today, November 16, 2021 presented its first witness in the alleged N24.6m fraud trial involving former chairman of Benue State University Teaching Hospital, Professor John Ibu before Justice Abdu Dogo of the Federal High Court sitting in Makurdi, Benue State.

Professor Ibu is being prosecuted alongside Chief Abukenchi Suleiman and his company, ADB Motors Venters Nigeria Limited on charges of conspiracy and obtaining N24, 650,000 (Twenty-Four Million, Six Hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira only) by false pretence.

They allegedly obtained the said sum from the Benue State University Teaching Hospital under the guise of purchasing a Toyota Landcruiser Prado 2018 Model which they never did. The offence is contrary to Section 8(a) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act, 2006 and punishable under section 1(3) of the same Act.

At today’s sitting, the 1st prosecution witness, PW1, Prof. Faromo Fende, Chief Medical Director of the Benue State University Teaching Hospital, led in evidence by the prosecution counsel, George Chia-Yakua, narrated how the Hospital, sometimes in 2019, awarded a contract to the 2nd defendant to supply a Toyota Prado Jeep and how he failed to deliver within the stipulated time having received an advance payment in July 2019.

Deal of the day

“After several reminder, we took the matter back to the board, the board chairman then, the 1st defendant, kept giving excuses on behalf of the vendor, citing a problem at the broader of Benin Republic and Nigeria as reason for the delay.

“In June, 2020, a year after the contract was awarded, the board then threatened to take legal action or report the matter to the authorities. ADB Motors then disclosed that the then board Chairman Prof. Ibu approached them prior to the award of the contract and asked them to submit a bid with the understanding that if they got it, they will give the money to him to buy the vehicles by himself from the vendor of his choice”.

The prosecution counsel tendered a petition written to EFCC which was admitted in evidence and marked as exhibit A. Also, during cross examination of the witness by the defence counsel, the defence tendered in evidence the contract letter signed by the witness dated 16th November, 2020.It was admitted and marked as exhibit B.

Justice Abdu Dogo adjourned the case to January 21, 2022 for continuation of trial.

Count one of the charge reads:

“That you, Professor John Ibu, being the Board Chairman, Benue State University Teaching Hospital, you Chief Abukenchi Suleiman, being the Managing Director, ADB Motors Ventures Nigeria Ltd and you, ADB Motors Ventures Nigeria Ltd sometime in July, 2019 within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, with intent to defraud conspired amongst yourselves and obtained the sum of N24,650,000 (Twenty Four Million Six Hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira only) from the Benue State University Teaching Hospital Board for the purchase of a Toyota Land cruiser Prado 2018 Model under false pretence that you have the capacity to supply which pretence you knew was false and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 8(a) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act, 2006 and punishable under section 1(3) of the same Act”.

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Omicron: South Africa president calls for lifting of travel bans

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South African President Cyril Ramaphosa
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa

South Africa’s president has condemned travel bans enacted against his country and its neighbours over the new coronavirus variant Omicron.

Cyril Ramaphosa said he was “deeply disappointed” by the action he described as unjustified and called for the bans to be urgently lifted.

The UK, EU and US are among those who have imposed travel bans.

Omicron has been classed as a “variant of concern”. This is because early evidence suggests it has a higher re-infection risk.

The heavily mutated variant was detected in South Africa earlier this month and then reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) last Wednesday.

Over the last two weeks, the variant has been responsible for most of the infections found in South Africa’s most populated province, Gauteng. However, it is now present in all other regions in the country.

On Monday, Japan became the latest country to reinstate harsh border restrictions, banning all foreigners from entering the country from 30 November.

The WHO has warned against countries hastily imposing travel curbs, saying they should look to a “risk-based and scientific approach”. However, numerous bans have been introduced in recent days amid concerns over the variant.

WHO’s Africa director Matshidiso Moeti said on Sunday: “With the Omicron variant now detected in several regions of the world, putting in place travel bans that target Africa attacks global solidarity.”

In his speech on Sunday, Mr Ramaphosa said there was no scientific basis for the travel bans and that southern Africa was the victim of unfair discrimination.

He also argued that the bans would not be effective in preventing the spread of the variant.

“The only thing the prohibition on travel will do is to damage the economies of the affected countries further and undermine their ability to respond to, and recover from, the pandemic,” he said.

He called on countries with bans in place to “urgently reverse their decisions… before any further damage is done to our economies”.

Mr Ramaphosa described the emergence of the Omicron variant as a wake-up call for the world regarding vaccine inequality – warning that until everyone was vaccinated, more variants were inevitable.

There are no vaccine shortages in South Africa itself, and Mr Ramaphosa urged more people to get jabbed, saying that remained the best way to fight the virus.

A previous statement by the South African foreign ministry on Saturday also strongly criticised the travel bans, saying the country was being punished – instead of applauded – for discovering Omicron.

Omicron has now been detected in several countries around the world, including the UK, Germany, Australia and Israel.

In other developments on Sunday:

  • In the Netherlands, Omicron was detected in 13 people who arrived in Amsterdam on two flights from South Africa.
  • Separately, Dutch police said they detained a couple who had escaped from a quarantine hotel. The arrest was made on a plane just before the take-off.
  • Israel banned all foreigners from entering the country for 14 days from midnight Sunday.
  • The UK called for an emergency meeting of the G7 group of nations on Monday to discuss the new variant.
  • Voters in Switzerland backed the government’s measures to tackle Covid, according to preliminary results.

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2023: Igbo man should run for president, not vice president — South East group

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The Movement for the Actualization of Nigerian President of Igbo Extraction, MANPIE, has called for every Igbo candidate who is willing to run in the 2023 election should aim for the highest office in the land, instead of the second highest.

“Ndigbo only need to get their acts together for an Igbo to emerge as President of Nigeria 2023. The arc of the universe is long but it always bends towards justice. Ndigbo are the major ethnic group in Nigeria yet to produce a president,” the MANPIE’s South East chairman Unuero Sylvester said in a keynote address.

“And so if we go forth with this faith and this determination to achieve the presidency of Nigeria in 2023, Ndigbo will usher in a new day and a new Nigeria.

“When that day comes the fears of insecurity, marginalization and doubt clouding Nigeria’s future will be transformed into confidence and excitement that Nigeria will accomplish creative goals.”

The chairman also noted Igbo people should no longer be happy with the second best position.

“Today MANPIE says to Igbo sons and daughters be not afraid, shun seeking for the Vice President and Coordinator positions and run for the President,” Mr Slyvester added.

“If the South West/South-South emerged from the presidential contest, why can’t an Igbo man emerge in 2023, so today we are saying that no Igbo man should run for Vice President in any political party.”

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Omicron: Japan bans foreigners as G7 sets to meet over new COVID variant

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Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo,

Japan, the world’s third-biggest economy, will close its borders to all foreigners, while Australia’s plans to re-open to skilled migrants were also in doubt as nations scrambled on Monday to rein in the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Markets regained some composure as investors await more details of the variant following a freefall last week after news of its emergence ignited fears that fresh curbs could upend a nascent economic revival from a two-year pandemic.

Potentially more contagious than prior variants, Omicron, first identified in South Africa, has been found in Australia, Belgium, Botswana, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands and South Africa.

It could take “days to several weeks” to understand the level of severity of the variant, says the World Health Organization (WHO), which has dubbed it a “variant of concern”.

Japan will close its borders to all foreigners from Tuesday, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said.

“We are (taking measures) with a strong sense of crisis,” he had told reporters earlier, although no Omicron infections have yet been found in Japan.

Australia is to review plans to re-open from Dec. 1 to skilled migrants and students, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday, adding it was a “bit too early” to reinstate two-week hotel quarantine for foreign travellers.

“So we just take this one step at a time, get the best information, make calm, sensible decisions,” Morrison told broadcaster Nine News.

A national security panel will meet later in the day to assess border easing due from Wednesday, he added, while leaders of states and territories are set to meet.

Morrison called for calm as the severity, transmissibility and vaccine resistance of Omicron had not been determined, echoing remarks by the WHO.

Symptoms of Omicron are so far mild and could be treated at home, a South African doctor, one of the first to suspect a different variant, has said.

Travel curbs

Countries from Indonesia to Saudi Arabia have imposed travel curbs for visitors from southern Africa.

Singapore has deferred the start of vaccinated travel lanes with Middle Eastern countries, such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, in view of their role as “transport nodes” for affected countries, its health ministry said.

The wealthy southeast Asian city-state and neighbouring Malaysia re-opened their land border, one of the world’s busiest, allowing vaccinated travellers to cross after a shutdown that lasted nearly two years.

Britain said it would call an urgent meeting of G7 health ministers on Monday.

In the most far-reaching effort against the variant, Israel is to ban the entry of foreigners and re-introduce counter-terrorism phone-tracking technology, it has said.

South Africa has denounced the measures as unfair and potentially harmful to the economy, saying it was being punished for its scientific ability to identify variants early.

“The prohibition of travel is not informed by science, nor will it be effective in preventing the spread of this variant,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Sunday.

“The only thing (it) … will do is to further damage the economies of the affected countries and undermine their ability to respond.”

President Joe Biden will give an update on the variant and the U.S. response on Monday, the White House said in a statement.

It will take about two weeks to get definitive information about the transmissibility and other features of Omicron, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious diseases official, has told Biden, it added.

Fauci believes existing vaccines “are likely to provide a degree of protection against severe cases of COVID”, the White House said.

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