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Banker abducted after attempting to expose Mrs Ngozi Ekeoma on subsidy fraud

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Ngozi Ekeoma
A former banker, Chukwuemeka Ekwunife, who was billed to continue his evidence on how a businesswoman and oil marketer, one Mrs. Ngozi Ekeoma used him to steal millions of Naira from the Federal government of Nigeria using subsidy scheme, was on Friday abducted.
Ekwunife was allegedly abducted by plain clothed gunmen a few metres away from an Ikeja Special Offences Court, Lagos where he was billed to give evidence in a criminal matter against him.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, had arraigned Ekwunife and Structured Energy Limited for stealing a total sum of N168.5m from several companies on an 8 count charge.
The anti-graft agency had alleged that the defendant stole the money in tranches of N19m, N9m, N85m, N25m, and N6.5m sometimes in August, October and November 2014 from the complaint, Nepal Oil and Gas limited.
But at Friday hearing, the defendant was whisked away by gunmen while attempting to photocopy documents he had intended to tender before the court as evidence against Mrs. Ekeoma, The Managing Director of Nepal Oil and Gas.
However, when the case was called yesterday, the Defence Counsel, Mr. Eubena Amedie told the court that the defendant has been abducted by gunmen, who later identified themselves as police officers at the Intelligence Response Team.
Amedie, who appeared worried, told Justice Sherifat Solebo that his client was earlier present in court to continue his trial and tender some vital documents for his defence.
The Defence lawyer said, “My lord, some of the documents from Liberia which we had promised to tender before the court today arrived on Wednesday and the rest came in late on Thursday evening.
“We came with some original certificates too but on our way to this court, the defendant was abducted by gunmen, on plain clothes, who later identified themselves as policemen from Intelligence Response Team.
“I came to the court with the defendant today so we could tender these documents but he was abducted at GRA Ikeja, Opposite Diamond Bank, where we had gone to make photocopies.
“I then pleaded with them to bring him to court to complete his evidence and after the proceedings, they could take him back but the refused. So as it stands now, the defendant is absent and today’s proceedings have been frustrated as a result of this action”.
Justice Solebo thereafter ordered that the EFCC lawyers should go with the Defence Counsel to the station where the defendant is being held and confirm the report.
“Go and verify if the defendant is there and find out why he was taken away. I want us to verify the facts so I can put it on record. This matter is hereby stood down,” the judge ordered.
The matter was stood down for more than thirty minutes to enable the EFCC lawyers to verify the facts.
When hearing on the matter resumed, the EFCC lawyers confirmed that the facts were true but the Defence Counsel told the court that the police officers refused to show the alleged petition that led to his arrest.
Amedie said, “At least the prosecuting Counsel has confirmed my client’s abduction. The policemen even refused to show the petition that warranted his arrest. And the only person who could have written a petition against him is Nepal Oil and Gas.”
The judge, however, blamed the EFCC for allowing Nepal Oil and Gas to petition a defendant who is standing trial and already giving evidence in defence before the court.
Justice Solebo also humorously advised the Defence Counsel to be careful before he also gets abducted since he is still holding the original copies of the documents to be tendered.
Meanwhile, earlier in his defence,  Ekwunife had informed the court of his intentions to bring supporting documents to prove how Mrs. Ngozi Ekeoma, owner of Nepal Oil and Gas Limited, used him to facilitate false documentations in Liberia in order to obtain money from the FG through subsidy scheme.
Ekwunife, while led in evidence by his lawyer, said that he helped Mrs. Ekeoma register several companies in Liberia to enable her to carry out various importation of petroleum products particularly Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), under the petroleum scheme fund (subsidy scheme) with the FG.
The former banker, who was formerly a Credit Relationship Manager of Sterling Bank, said he resigned from the bank in 2014 after Mrs. Ekeoma pleaded with him to join her business and help her provide credit facilities for her companies.
He said: “I met the Managing Director of Nepal Oil and Gas limited, Ngozi Ekeoma in 2010 while I was working with Sterling Bank as a Credit Relationship Manager. Mrs. Ekeoma was a customer of the bank and so she came to me to help her provide credit facilities to various companies that she introduced to the bank.
“She introduced companies as Nepal Oil and Gas Limited, Dell Energy Limited, Carnival Energy Oil and Gas Limited.
“So I provided credit facilities for these companies that enabled her to carry out various importations of PMS through subsidy scheme with the FG.
“This relationship lasted for four years. And in 2014, I voluntarily resigned from Sterling Bank after she pleaded earnestly with me to join her business.
“So I left my job in the bank to work for her in a contractor/staff arrangement.
“I helped her set up various companies like Structured Energy Resources Limited, Dexter Oil Limited, Ritrak Supply and Trading Limited, Gulf Trading and Shipping Limited – all registered in Liberia.
“These companies were used at various times to carry out trading and documentations related to subsidy by the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“We produced supporting documents like Bill of Laden, the recertification of products, the certificate of quality and certificate of Origin.
“These documentations were done outside the shores of Nigeria and used for trades that never happened in Nigeria. The documentation were done in Liberia for trades that were not live (feasible).
“For instance, Mrs. Ekeoma, in her stock of trade, would arrange documentations to convert dual purpose kerosene to aviation fuel.
“What I mean is that where dual purpose kerosene was supposed to be sold to households, Mrs. Ekeoma would instruct us (Myself, Ugochukwu Onwuegbunam, Alexander Uwaezuoke to facilitate and get documentations that the products are jet fuel.
 “We would facilitate the documentation and sell the product as Jet fuel to aviation airlines.
“We used these documentations to carry out fraudulent activities by using documents formulated outside the country to perform trade in Nigeria that were not suppose to happen,” he said.
The judge, however, adjourned the matter till 21 and 22 October for a continuation of trial.
Culled: https://themomentng.com
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Opinion

Eastern Palm University: Okorocha Appointed Fake Professor As VC     -Ex-Commissioner

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Arrest

…Engages Wife’s Younger Brother As Registrar

Two times Chief Librarian of Imo State University, Owerri and erstwhile Commissioner for Petroleum and Environment, Prof Okee Okoro has revealed that the immediate past Governor of the state, Rochas Okorocha appointed a fake Professor, Dafe Otobo as Vice Chancellor of Eastern Palm University, Ogboko for reasons known to him.

He said that the Edo State born Vice Chancellor, Otobo retired from Lagos State University having attained 70 years mandatory age, wondering how a non indigene that is so old could head a state University, when Imo possesses qualified individuals if Okorocha was not meant to cover the frauds he committed.

Prof Okoro disclosed this Friday in a chat with newsmen in Owerri, the capital of Imo State. According to him, it is illegal for an individual to be made a Professor in a field he does not possess degree in, saying that the Vice Chancellor of Eastern Palm University, Dafe Otobo should be held to explain his professorial award that engineered his appointment.

He expressed bitterness that despite engaging the alleged fake Professor Otobo as Vice Chancellor, Okorocha also appointed his wife’s cousin, Mr. Ernest Onuoha from Isikwuato, Abia State as Registrar of the school, describing it as not only an action to cover shoddy deals, but an affront to Imo people.

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He said, “The Vice Chancellor of Eastern Palm University, Dafe Otobo from Edo state retired from Lagos State University after reaching seventy years mandatory age. His Professorial award is doubtful. He does not attend work; he lives at Spibat with Okorocha, perhaps discussing how the wealth of the state will be looted with him”

Prof Okoro revealed that all documents from National Universities Commission (NUC) that established the institution recognized Eastern Palm University as the 42nd state University and 143rd university in Nigeria respectively, wondering why Okorocha should claim ownership of the school after funding it with state resources.

“Governor Emeka Ihedioha should do something very urgent; due process is nonsense when your rights are infringed. As a Commissioner under Okorocha, I was privileged to most information. From available records by NUC, Eastern Palm University is recognized as the 42nd state University and 143rd University in Nigeria. So, Governor Ihedioha should not make the school a subsidiary of Imo State University but should allow it to run independently having received approval of NUC. A situation where the Governor is helpless, he should invite those with relevant information to assist him to ensure that every Okorocha’s link with the institution is cut to side”

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“How could such a school have two, three or five students in a department when there is overflow of admission seekers at Imo State University? This means that Lecturers are not teaching the students. The best time to admit students into various department of the school is now. This will be easy if Government partners with Imo State University, Owerri so that overflow of students not admitted at IMSU will be sent to Eastern Palm University, which is the second Imo State Government owned University” He submitted.

Prof Okoro further queried why Okorocha did not name the school “Rochas Foundation University” if he claims that the institution does not belong to Imo State Government, advising the Ihedioha’s led administration to approach NUC for clarification on ownership of the school, which he vowed would uncover the fact that there was no ‘Public Private Partnership’ (PPP) arrangement as claimed by Okorocha.

By Ikenna Onuoha, Owerri
Copyright @ NigDailyWatch                                                                
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Special Report: Poor Policies Of Successive Administrations Responsible For Nigeria’s Food Insecurity-World Bank Economist

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Lukmon Akintola

Lagos

 Food, shelter, and clothing are globally accepted as the basic needs of man. However, many would agree that food takes precedence over the other needs.

In the 60s and 70s, Nigeria was globally recognised as one of the largest producers and exporters of food.

In 2010, agriculture in Nigeria employed about 30 per cent of the population via commercialisation at the small, medium and large-scale enterprise level.

The following year, it contributed 32 per cent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Before then, specifically in 1990, 82 out of 91 million hectares of Nigeria’s total land area were found to be arable. 42 per cent of the cultivable area was famed under the bush fallow system, whereby land is left idle for some time to allow natural regeneration of soil fertility.

A colourful statistics no doubt, they are now memories fading away, as Nigeria’s once admired record in food production is now almost history.

The catastrophe at hand is evident in the unpredictability of the prices of food items in the Nigeria market, as what is purchased at N 1000 can hardly be gotten as the same price the following day, except in peculiar cases.

According to traders, the situation can be blamed on multiple factors chief among which are a shortage of supply and bad roads. While food and other produce might be cheap and in abundance in some states, the challenges of bringing them to the market end up skyrocketing the price.

“The situation is pitiable, as whatever food item you buy plentiful in Ogoja local government of Cross River State which is about five hours from Calabar comes to nothing when you transport it to the main town in Calabar. By the time you get home and do the Mathematics, you will realise that it was a wasted effort, as you could have simply bought the items in Calabar, no matter the cost. The truth is that the road is bad, and a journey which originally should take five hours ends up lasting for eight or more,” Funke Alayande (not real name), a woman who spoke with Saturday INDEPENDENT Newspaper said.

The wastage of perishable produce in Benue and other states due to lack of storage facilities is known to be almost legendary. The wastage also plays a role in food insecurity.

The situation is exemplified by the Senior Agricultural Economist for the World Bank, Dr. Adetunji Oredipe when he recently stated that Nigeria’s food crisis had assumed a frightening dimension.

Dr. Oredipe, who spoke at the second Sterling Bank International Agricultural Summit (SBIAS), in Abuja stated that the nation was “tragically living on borrowed times and being unable to feed her own citizen who are now very hungry, angry and war-threatened.” He blamed the situation on poor policies of successive administrations in the country.

Making his presentation at the summit themed “Agriculture: Your One Trillion Dollar Economy ”, Dr. Oredipe said: “anticipated rewards and positive changes will only happen if Africa’s farmers and agribusinesses undoubtedly can receive expanded access to more capital outlays, uninterrupted electricity, modern technology, and well-irrigated areas to cultivate high-value nutritious foods.

“For Nigeria, it is a great window of opportunities to harness the countless openings that exist in the agricultural value chain towards building a sustainable economy that creates hope for the realisation of our much-desired national development and sustainable food security.”

Furthermore, he said: “To maintain its share of the continent’s agriculture GDP by 2030, Nigeria will need to grow its agriculture sector revenues by a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.7 per cent. To ensure this is achieved, a national agriculture budget to GDP would have to be sustained by at least seven per cent annually.’’

While the solution proffered by the Agricultural Economist might be long term, there are moves to manage the food crisis baring its fangs.

According to the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, the government of President Muhammadu Buhari is on course to reinvent the country through agriculture.

Represented by the Minister of State for Agriculture, Mustapha Shehuri, Professor Osinbajo, who also spoke at the second edition of SBIAS which was attended by delegates from all continents of the world, including 40 others representing some African nations assured that the government was also working to make Agriculture the mainstay of the nation’s economy.

The road to food security is however not only on the doorsteps of the Federal government, as some state governments have also been making efforts to ensure adequate food for residents there.

In the past, state governments such as Lagos and Ogun States have individually pursued projects to make food adequately available.

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In 2015, about 400 farmers were a part of a special rice farming project tagged ‘FADAMA III Additional Finance Project’. The project was an offshoot of a $25 million agreement between the Federal Government and Lagos State.

According to the then Lagos State Fadama Coordinator, Foluso Ajibola, the project was aimed at raising production and increasing income of farmers operating within the catchment of the selected states and other production area engaged in priority staple foods namely rice, cassava, sorghum, and horticulture in Kogi, Kano, Niger, Enugu, and Anambra States.

In March 2016, the Lagos State government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), with Kebbi State government which led to the unveiling of the Lake Rice in Lagos markets in December of the same year. Initially sold during festive periods, a 50kg bag sold for N12, 000, while 25kg sold for N6, 000 and 10kg for N2000, although variables have since led to a change in price.

Asides making the rice available to reduce food scarcity and break the escalating price of polished rice, the state government also went a notch further to ensure even and fair distribution by signing a pact with distributors to ensure adequate transportation, distribution, and marketing of the rice.

While the just mentioned efforts at food security might be in the past, steps are presently being made by some state governments including Lagos and Akwa Ibom to increase food production.

The Lagos State government under the leadership of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu recently acquired 84 hectares of land in Osogbo, Osun State. The lands are expected to be used for crop cultivation to meet the immediate food needs of residents.

Speaking on the acquisition, Gbolahan Lawal, Commissioner for Agriculture said that the farms would ensure food security for Lagosians.

“Lagos State with a population in excess of 21 million people and a daily influx of people from diverse places has a serious agricultural land constraint and being a coastal state, the available land for agriculture has been drastically reduced due to urbanisation.”

Lawal further explained that the farms will serve as the aggregation center for the State Government’s collaborative efforts with the DAWN States exporting produce to other states of the federation and foreign countries, adding that the Osogbo Farms would forestall the shortage of food as well as ensure food security for the ever-increasing population.

On its part, the Akwa Ibom State is also starting strategic farms to ensure food security for its residents. The state recently promised to provide 100 hectares of land for cooperatives and farmers for cultivation in each of the 31 local government areas of the state. Cumulatively, the government is expected to make available 3100 hectares of land for food crop cultivation.

The position was confirmed by the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Information, Charles Udo.

While the moves by states might be a step in the right direction, there have been fears raised about how effective and successful the project can be. There have also been questions concerning similar projects carried out earlier.

A Lagos State Agriculture Youth Empower Scheme Agric- YES with centers in Epe and Badagry originally meant to create jobs and food security became inactive years after it kicked off.

While the Epe center has been partially taken over by weeds, especially the greenhouses, the Badagry center which sits on a massive 167 hectares of land is in a better look, but is devoid of activities.

The collapse of the project was blamed on alleged mismanagement and embezzlement of funds by representatives of the state government as well as beneficiaries.

The Agric-YES programme started in 2009 and ran successfully till 2015 until stakeholders alleged a stoppage in the allocation of funds by the state government.

A three-phase initiative, it included a six-month intensive hands-on practical based training in aquaculture, poultry, vegetable farming, and beekeeping.

The next phase would naturally see the trainees being exposed to another six-month practical experience in aquaculture, poultry, vegetable farming and beekeeping in a commercial farm before they are permanently settled in a farm estate in various locations across the state.

While the Badagry center was modelled after the Songhai farming system in the Republic of Benin, the Epe Center was fashioned after the Israelis farming system.

Currently, both centers are a shadow of what they used to be. However, officials in the Lagos State Ministry of Agriculture still consider them work in progress.

The new initiative by Lagos and Akwa Ibom state governments has however been described as a step in the right direction.

Otunba Oke Babafemi, the Chairman of the Lagos State chapter of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), described the moves by both Lagos and Akwa Ibom States to ensure food security as a good development.

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“Lagos State is trying very much. Immediately they identify anything having potentials they move in to take advantage of it. I can easily point out the partnership with Kebbi State which led to the production of Lake Rice. It is yielding good result and I do not doubt that the new collaborations in the area of crop production will be very fruitful.”

On the challenges likely to be faced in actualising the project, he said “Lagos State being the center of excellence, there is no way that some challenges will not come up, but definitely by the time the project starts proper, they will be easily identified and eliminated. For now, I don’t think there will be many challenges knowing that the project is just kicking off.”

Otunba Babafemi, however, agreed that transportation to move the products from the farm to the markets or distribution centers would be a major challenge, as most of the roads are now bad.

According to him, “transportation is a major challenge in the country, I don’t know if there is any place that does not have that challenge. However, thanks to the new government, they are trying to put up some new roads and those with potholes are being patched. We have to start somewhere.”

Advising the government, he asked that they work towards making adequate storage facilities available. “We could have some farm settlement where storage could be sited, especially those using solar energy so that we don’t rely on electricity.”

Mufutau Oyelekan, a practicing farmer in Lagos State who spoke with Saturday INDEPENDENT bares his thoughts on the project.

“I think this is a good action in the right direction if the purpose is to increase food production and to sustain food security in the country and Lagos State especially. It is not a new thing for Lagos State to acquire land from the Osun State Government. The state is already in partnership with Kebbi State and the result is the Lake Rice, so such partnerships should not stop existing because a lot of state governments do businesses with Lagos State. We don’t have what they have and they don’t have what we have in Lagos State. If they don’t have other resources or financial buoyancy in their state and they come to Lagos State to do business, nobody is stopping them. If we don’t have the land and we now go to Osun State to acquire land for food production, I don’t see anything that is bad in it.”

On the likelihood of the new project succeeding, Oyelekan said that there have been such projects in the past. According to him, “Things like this have happened in the past, and none of the projects have been a failure. We have acquired land in Osun State before now, but I think the land documentation was not perfected then. If they are asking for more acquisition of a larger expanse of land, I think it is a good thing in the right direction provided the executors are good executors because you know in Nigeria generally, although Lagos State proves an exceptional state in most things they do, they prove to be a state of excellence, and some of the executors are good. They are very active and sincere to some extent. So, seriously, I want to believe that the personnel and the Ministry of Agriculture in Lagos State today, especially the leadership of the government officials, I mean the Permanent Secretary Dr. Olayiwole Onasanya, he is a professional and he is up to the task. And I want to believe that anything he lays his hands on will be very successful. I want to believe that this project being embarked upon by the Lagos State government through the Ministry of Agriculture will be successful, and I will give them any support required of me as a practicing farmer in Lagos State and as a professional too.

 That is not to say that there wouldn’t be some challenges on the part of the executors or the staff of Lagos State. You know that all of us cannot be good executors when it comes to program execution, so let us give room for 30 per cent failure and 70 per cent success.”

Indeed, light in a very dark tunnel, the successful execution of both projects will, however, be dependent on the ability of the executors to articulate a clear vision towards achieving a hunger-free Nigeria.

And according to Dr. Oredipe, it will all be dependent on the ability to encourage an agricultural sector that grows income, accelerates food, generates employment and transforms the nation into a leading player in global food markets.

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Iyara Development Movement celebrates 2019 ‘Iyara Day’

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Iyara Development Movement (IDM) has concluded plans to celebrate another “Iyara Day” on Saturday October 19th, 2019.

The event is scheduled to hold at Iyara Town Hall Premises, Iyara, Kogi State by 10 am.

A statement dated 5th September, 2019 and jointly signed by the President of IDM, Professor Mike Ikupolati and its Director General, Mr. Funso Fayomi, revealed that the 2019 Iyara Day, celebration is the 26th in the series and it will feature cultural activities by various groups to make the event memorable.

The theme of the celebration, according to the statement, which was made available to journalists, is “Operation Quench Thirst In Iyara Water Project” and the event would be marked with fanfare such as cultural dances, displays, and celebrations.

The water project is estimated to cost N100 Million.

Prof Ikupolati, Alh Gani Musa, Dayo Asaju and Chairman, with the chairman, Dotun sulaiman at the Iyaraday ’19

It will be recalled that the fund raising for the ambitious project started during the 25th Anniversary of “Iyara Day” in September last year.

Expected at the event, which had been endorsed in the past by former president Ibrahim Babangida and Chief (Mrs.) Kemi Nelson, are the Executive Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, who is the Special Guest, while the Minister of State for the Federal Capital Territory, Hon. (Mrs.) Ramatu Tijani Aliyu is the Special Guest of Honour.

Others that will add colour to the ceremony are the Board Chairman of Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria and a top management consultant, Mr. Dotun Sulaiman, who will serve as the Chairman of the event and the Chairman of Nigerian Insurance Association, who is also the Vice President of the African Insurance Organization and Managing Director of NEM Insurance PLC, Mr. Tope Smart, who is the Chief Launcher.

Ikupolati and Fayomi revealed in the statement that the water project was meant to provide potable water for the people of the community and put an end to years of suffering of the residents due to unavailability of potable water in the community.

“This year’s Iyara Day has been planned to be the best in recent times.

“We are happy that we are all alive to celebrate this special day and we look forward to seeing our people trooping to the town and joining us in this celebration and fund raising ceremony.

“We use this opportunity to invite all Okun sons and daughters to this special event and we assure them that they will be glad to be part of this year’s event that promises to be full of actions, colour and tradition,” they said in the statement.

It will be recalled that In 1993, a group of young persons identified the advantages of community day celebration they witnessed in their respective areas of domicile and were motivated to replicate same in Iyara, headquarters of Ijumu LGA, Kogi State.

The celebration was the first of its kind in Okunland and it has become an avenue to unite the people of the community.

Ikupolati and Fayomi revealed in the statement that the laudable idea of “Iyara Day” is the flagship of such celebrations in Okunland and that it has become a reference point, which others have since emulated.

The duo emphasized in the statement that “Iyara Day” has become an avenue to unite the people of the community and that it is getting better by the day.

They recalled that the jubilee celebration of “Iyara Day,” which they said held in September 2018, is still being talked about by the people of the community and others, adding that this year’s celebration would be far better.

“Iyara Community will always be grateful to God for what He has done for us and we will continue to showcase those things that unite us as a people.

“We are committed to the development of Iyara Town and its people and we are proud of the dreams of the founding fathers of Iyara Community and Iyara Development Movement (IDM) will continue to do its best to move the community and it’s people forward.

“2019 “Iyara Day” will surely mark a turnaround for the community and it will also be an avenue to socialise and make better plans for the development of the community and it’s people.

“May you be honoured and celebrated as you be a part of this event and we are sure that your efforts will not be in vain as you support our humble efforts of uplifting our common heritage,” the statement read.

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