The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, yesterday, narrated before an Abuja High Court sitting at Maitama, how the suspended Accountant-General of the Federation, AGF, Ahmed Idris, and two others pilfered about N84.7billion of $2.2 billion meant for nine oil producing states.
The anti-graft agency told the court that the former AGF and his co-defendants— Godfrey Olusegun Akindele and Mohammed Kudu Usman — who are facing trial for allegedly diverting public funds to the tune of about N109.4 billion, perfected the fraud, using the account of a company, Gezawa Commodity Market and Exchange Limited, which is the 3rd defendant in the matter.
Testifying as the first prosecution witness, PW-1, an investigative officer at the EFCC, Mr. Hayatudeen Ahmed, said whereas the 2nd defendant, Akindele, was a staff in the office of the AGF, the 3rd defendant, Usman, was the Director of federation account in the same office.
He said the ex-AGF was arrested following the outcome of an investigation into a petition lodged against him by the Federal Treasury Concerned Staff Association.
The witness said the investigation revealed that the defendants had after the Federal Account Allocation Committee, FAAC, approved $2.2 billion for the nine oil producing states, surreptitiously diverted N84.7 billion out of it under the guise that it was for the settlement of consultants.
He told the court that a company that was floated by the 2nd defendant, Akindele, who was a technical assistant to the former AGF, was approved as the sole consultant for the deal.
According to him, subsequently, the defendants, sequentially withdrew funds from the Escrow account of FAAC and shared among themselves and other persons that included a former governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari and a former deputy governor of Abia State, Chuks Akomas.
He told the court that his team of investigators uncovered that the former AGF used his own share of the loot to purchase property like the Gezawa Commodity and Exchange Market Ltd, Gezawa Integrated Farms Ltd and Kano City Mall, some of which he said were acquired in the name of his family members.
Led in evidence by EFCC lawyer, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, the PW-1 said his team had in the course of the investigation, interrogated several persons, including a Kano-based Bureau de-Change, BDC, operator, Beta Kurah, who he said admitted that he received over N1.3 billion from the former AGF, all in cash and in US dollars.
He said the BDC operator equally revealed that he made several payments, including N208 million into the account of Gezawa Commodity and Exchange Market Ltd, in Jaiz Bank.
He said: “He further admitted that he paid the sum of N866 million and another amount of N507 million to one Mustapha Muktar of Marcs and Construction Ltd, for the construction of Gezawa Commodity and Exchange Market Ltd and Kano City Mall.
“Based on his statement, we invited Muktar, who stated that all the monies received from Beta, through his account, was on the instruction of the 1st defendant,”
Gov Adeleke’s First Day In Office Off To A Violent Start
On Monday morning, hoodlums unleashed indiscriminate attacks on various auto parks throughout the metropolis, terrifying residents of Osogbo, the capital of Osun state.
Fidel Info reports that Members of the transport unions were attacked at the parks in a coordinated attack that began at 8 a.m. at Oke-Baale, Old-Garage, Ilesa Garage, and Aregbe Garage.
Leaders who supported the state government, which was governed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) and just finished its term, dominated the parks.
Gunshots could be heard throughout the area as union members at Old-Garage were pursued from the park toward Ayetoro.
One of the union members managed to flee from Ayetoro with matchstick cuts, but his car caught fire.
In an effort to stop the attacks from spreading, business owners quickly closed their doors.
At Oke-Baale, Aregbe Garage, and Ilesa Garage, union members were also the targets of attacks.
In the meantime, Governor Ademola Adeleke issued a directive to union leaders to uphold peace in all parks and issued a warning against violence in a statement through his spokesperson, Olawale Rasheed.
“The Governor, Senator Ademola Adeleke has warned against violence among transport workers’ unions in the State, directing security agencies to maintain status quo across the motor parks.
“All union leaders and their supporters are, hereby, directed to remain calm and bring any grievances to the dtate government for resolution.”
“Security agencies are consequently directly to maintain law and order,” it reads.”
Meanwhile policemen have been stationed at strategic areas in the state, including the motor parks.
NIS Instructs Passport Offices To Work On Saturdays
The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) has ordered passport offices all across the nation to open on Saturdays in order to process the backlog of passport applications.
Fidel Info reports that This information may be found in a statement that the Service’s Public Relations Officer, Mr. Tony Akuneme, made accessible in Abuja on Saturday.
According to Akuneme, the Comptroller-General, Mr. Isa Jere, who issued the direction, also gave his approval for the transfer of the Ondo Passport Controller to the NIS Zonal Office in Ibadan and the deployment of the Ekiti Passport Controller to Jigawa.
According to the NIS spokeswoman, for forward, the CG will hold passport officers responsible for any acts of indiscretion committed by officers working under their supervision.
The directive, he said, was intended to help the Service lessen the backlog brought on by the lengthy lockdown that would occur in 2020 and 2021 owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The C-G has directed that Passport offices across the country with high volume of pending applications to work on Saturdays.
“The period for this exercise is expected to be every Saturday commrencing from Dec. 3, 2022 to Jan. 28, 2023 between the period of 10 am to 2 pm.”
“This is to enhance our service delivery to out esteemed clients.”
“The Saturday proceding the Christmas and New Year holidays are exempted, ” he said.
The spokesman said passport offices that fall within this category should contact him by Monday for further details.
Akuneme reiterated the resolve of the C-G to make passport services available and stress free to the traveling public, especially during the festive season.
Biden’s Granddaughter Weds At White House
Trailed by a lengthy, flowing veil, President Joe Biden’s granddaughter Naomi Biden walked across the South Lawn of the White House on Saturday toward an altar of shrubs and flowers to marry her longtime boyfriend Peter Neal in a rare wedding on the grounds.
Fidel Info reports that Theirs was just the 19th wedding in 200-plus years of White House history.
Under a sunny, blue sky paired with unseasonably crisp 40-degree temperatures, the bride and groom, both dressed by American fashion designer Ralph Lauren, exchanged “I do’s” as 250 family members and friends watched as they were united in a nearly hourlong ceremony.
Naomi Biden, 28, wore a long-sleeved, high-neck gown and veil covering hair that had been styled behind her head. Neal, 25, chose a navy blue, three-piece suit with a double-breasted vest.
President Biden and first lady Jill Biden hosted the wedding of their eldest grandchild.
“It has been a joy to watch Naomi grow, discover who she is, and carve out such an incredible life for herself,” they said in a statement announcing the marriage of Naomi King Biden and Peter George Heermann Neal.
“Now, we are filled with pride to see her choose Peter as her husband and we are honored to welcome him to our family,” they said. “We wish them days full of laughter and a love that grows deeper with every passing year.”
The south side of the White House, facing the lawn and Washington Monument, was decorated with wreaths and garland bearing white flowers. The bride walked down an aisle that led from the Diplomatic Reception Room to the altar of shrubs and white flowers.
Guests began arriving at the security checkpoint hours before the ceremony, including women in open-toed shoes despite the chill. Some guests were given hand warmers. Most wore coats, and some topped off with hats and scarves.
It is the first White House wedding with a president’s granddaughter as the bride, and the first one ever on the South Lawn.
Pennsylvania Avenue was closed to ordinary pedestrians before and during the ceremony, as was a sidewalk bordering the Ellipse, the park just south of the White House.
After the ceremony, the newlyweds, their families and the wedding party had lunch in the White House. A reception with dessert and dancing was planned for later Saturday. President Biden went to church in Washington in between events.
Unlike some past White House weddings, Naomi Biden and Neal barred journalists, although the ceremony was outdoors on the grounds of what the president and first lady call the “people’s house.” The White House released a photo, and others were posted on the wedding planner’s social media account.
Naomi Biden is a lawyer in Washington. She is the daughter of Hunter Biden and his first wife, Kathleen Buhle.
Neal, of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, recently graduated from the University of Pennsylvania law school. He works at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington. His parents are Drs. Mary C. and William “Bill” C. Neal of Jackson Hole.
The couple, who have been living at the White House, was set up by a mutual friend about four years ago in New York City and have been together ever since, the White House said. Neal proposed in September 2021 near his childhood home in Jackson Hole with a ring that repurposed the band of his grandmother’s engagement ring, according to the White House.
The White House has released few other details about the wedding, citing the couple’s desire for privacy. The Biden family will pay for all wedding activities, officials have said.
“Naomi and Peter have asked that their wedding be closed to the media and we are respecting their wishes,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Friday.
White House weddings are rare. There have been 18 documented weddings in the 200-plus-year history of the White House. Nine involved a president’s daughter, most recently Richard Nixon’s daughter Tricia in 1971 and Lyndon Johnson’s daughter Lynda in 1967.
But nieces, a grandniece, a son and first ladies’ siblings have also gotten married there. One president, Grover Cleveland, tied the knot at the White House, too, while in office.
Some of the weddings were open to coverage by the news media, while others weren’t at all.
Journalists were allowed into Tricia Nixon’s wedding to Ed Cox, the first wedding held in the Rose Garden. Her wedding planner — a three-ring black binder in the offices of the White House Historical Association — includes extensive notes on the media plan.
But the May 1994 wedding of a brother of then-first lady Hillary Clinton and the daughter of then-U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer — the first since Tricia Nixon’s marriage — was closed to the press. Clinton’s spokesperson commented afterward and the White House released a photo.
It was the same for the October 2013 wedding of Pete Souza, President Barack Obama’s official photographer, and his longtime partner, Patti Lease. The White House announced the wedding in a statement following the small, private wedding in the Rose Garden.
The White House Correspondents Association, which advocates for press access to the White House and the president, said it was “deeply disappointed” that the White House declined its request for press coverage of Naomi Biden’s wedding.
“White House weddings have been covered by the press throughout history and the first family’s wish for privacy must be balanced against the public’s interest in an event occurring at the People’s House with the president as a participant,” the WHCA board said in a statement.
Stewart McLaurin, president of the White House Historical Association, said it’s important to remember that first families are families first.
“Their privacy should be respected, their wishes should be respected,” he said.
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