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Breaking: Supreme Court affirms interim forfeiture of Patience Jonathan’s $8.4m

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The Supreme Court on Friday affirmed an order of interim forfeiture made by the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court in respect of the sum of $8.4m linked to the wife of former President Goodluck Jonathan, Mrs. Patience Jonathan.

The five-man bench of the apex court led by Justice Dattijo Muhammad, in a unanimous judgment, dismissed the ex-First Lady’s appeal and directed her to return to the Federal High Court to show cause why the funds should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.

The court also rejected her prayer to strike down the provisions of section 17 of the Advanced Fee Fraud Act and other Fraud related offences Act, which was relied on by the Federal High Court to issue the order of interim forfeiture.

Upholding the decision of the Court of Appeal in Lagos, which had affirmed the Federal High Court’s interim order, Justice Kumai Aka’ahs, in the lead judgment of the apex court on Friday, held, “I do not find any reason to interfere with the decision of the lower court”.

Justice Aka’ahs added, ” Appellant is to go back to the trial court (the Federal High Court) to show cause why the interim order should not be made permanent.”

The lead judgment was read on behalf of Justice Aka’ahs by Justice Ejembi Eko, also a member of the panel.

Other members of the five-man panel, Justices Muhammad, John Okoro, Eko, and Sidi Bage, agreed with Justice Aka’ah’s lead judgment.

The EFCC had last year approached the Federal High Court in Lagos with an ex parte application seeking the forfeiture of the sum of $8,435,788.84 and other various sums in various bank accounts linked to the wife of the former President.

The anti-graft agency, in its application anchored on section 17 of AFFA, had urged the court to grant an order of interim forfeiture of the funds which they said were suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities.

Patience Jonathan and others including some organisations were joined in the said ex parte application as respondents.

Justice Mojisola Olatoregun of the Federal High Court in Lagos had on April 20, 2018 granted the ex parte order.

She also ordered the EFCC to publish the court’s order in any major national newspaper to enable the respondents or anyone interested in the funds to appear before the court to show cause within 14 days why the final order of forfeiture of the said funds should not be made in favour of the Federal Government of Nigeria.

Instead of appearing before the court to show cause as directed by the court, she had filed an appeal before the Court of Appeal to challenge the competence of the ex parte application filed by the EFCC to request the order of interim forfeiture.

She also in her appeal challenged the validity of the order made by the trial court and the constitutionality of section 17 of AFFA.

The Court of Appeal in Lagos dismissed her appeal prompting her to approach the Supreme Court to rule in her favour.

Arguing her appeal on December 12, 2018, her lead counsel, Mr. Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN), urged the Supreme Court to quash section 17 of AFFA which he contended negated the principles of fair hearing and presumption of innocence prescribed in the Constitution.

He said section 17 of AFFA which allowed assets to be seized from an individual without conviction, a hearing or a criminal charge whether temporarily or permanently was unconstitutional.

He also said the ex parte application which the trial court granted failed to disclose the alleged “unlawful activities”, the funds were linked to.

Responding, EFCC’s lawyer, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, said the appellant’s appeal was based on a misconception about the provision of section 17 of AFFA.

He said there was nothing unconstitutional about the said provision which he said provides an opportunity to the affected person to be heard on the temporarily forfeited assets.

The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed the appeal and upheld the decisions of the Federal High Court and the Court of Appeal.

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National dailies: 10 things to know this Wednesday morning

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Good morning! Here is today’s TIMELY POST bulletin from Nigerian Newspapers:

  1. The Debt Management Office has said that Nigeria public debt stands at N25.7trn up by N3.32trn in one year as at the end of June 2019. It also said that while the Federal Government owed N20.42trn as at June 30, 2019, the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory debt portfolio stood at N5.28trn.
  2. National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), has said the renewal of the National Identity Card will cost three thousand naira (N3,000) as well as charging the sum of N5,000 for card replacement payable through remita. This, however, drew angry reactions from Nigerians, who described the new policy as wicked and callous on the side of the government.
  3. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has projected that Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth will remain weak in 2019. The fund stated this in its World Economic Outlook (WEO) for October 2019, released at the ongoing IMF/World Bank Annual Meetings in Washington DC.
  4. Chairman, Senate Committee on Army, Senator Ali Ndume, has faulted the N99.87 billion capital expenditure allocation for Ministry of Defence in the 2020 national budget. Ndume said that the amount is less than one percent of the N10.33 trillion budget proposal for 2020 fiscal year. The lawmaker noted that the country is in a war and if such ‘paltry sum’ is presented for the entire defence and not just the Army, it shows that the federal government is not serious about ending the insurgency war.
  5. The meeting between the organised labour and representatives of the Federal Government have been moved till Wednesday, Oct. 16, to allow for sorting out of all grey areas of contention. It was gathered that the organised labour had shifted its earlier position from 29 per cent to 25 per cent for grade levels seven to 14, while for levels 15 to 17 now 20 per cent, which was earlier 24 percent.
  6. Nigeria Senate President, Dr Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan on Tuesday announced President Muhammadu Buhari’s request for approval of N10 billion for Kogi State. In the letter, Buhari said, the amount was expended on projects on behalf of the Federal government which he was seeking the refund through promissory notes and bonds. The letter also explained that 23 other states with authorised expenditures on behalf of the Federal government have been previously refunded, noting that Kogi State would be refunded on prompt approval of the Parliament.
  7. The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has kicked against President Muhammadu Buhari decision to seek the permission of the Senate to approve over N10bn for Kogi State. PDP called on the National Assembly to invoke its statutory powers and directly channel the N10.069 billion Presidential funds for payment of salaries and pensions of suffering Kogi State workers. The party said it was scandalous that Buhari Presidency, with its claims of transparency and integrity, would seek to mislead the National Assembly by asserting that the fund is for projects done by the state government on behalf of the Federal Government.
  8. Senate President Ahmad Lawan has declared the Federal Government would be $1.5billion richer next year following the passage of the Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contract (PSC) (Amendment) Bill by the Senate.
  9. Chairman of the Senate committee on Army, Senator Ali Ndume, has disclosed that a total of 847 Nigerian soldiers had lost their lives to the Boko Haram insurgency in the last six years. Ndume said the Army high command gave the casualty figures to the committee last Thursday.
  10. The Senate has adjourned plenary for two weeks to engage Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) in defence of their 2020 budget. The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan announced the adjournment during Tuesday’s plenary.

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Labour, FG meeting ongoing for final resolution over new minimum wage implementation

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The meeting between the organised labour and representatives of the Federal Government has been moved till Wednesday, Oct. 16, to allow for sorting out of all grey areas of contention.

A top labour official, who pleaded anonymity, hinted that the organised labour had shifted its earlier position from 29 per cent to 25 per cent for grade levels seven to 14, while for levels 15 to 17 now 20 per cent, which was earlier 24 per cent.

The Federal Government has made its earlier position to shift from levels seven to nine to 17 per cent and levels 10 to 14 at 15 per cent.

It also shifted that of levels 15 to 17 to 12 per cent.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that the organised labour is demanding 29 per cent salary increase for officers on salary levels 07 to 14 and 24 per cent adjustment for officers on salary grade levels 15 to 17.

But the Federal Government had presented a proposal of 11 per cent salary increase for officers on grade levels 07 to 14 and 6.5 per cent adjustment for workers of grade levels 15 to 17.

At a meeting in Abuja, the Head of Service, Mrs Folashade Yemi-Esan, expressed hope that the meeting would get to a logical conclusion when it reconvenes on Wednesday.

“Today, the Labour side has discovered that there is just one side on the welfare of workers, we have worked very well together today.

“Both sides have made a lot of contentions, but we discovered that there are some grey areas that need to be ironed out.

“Some documents and information are being sourced that they are providing, by the grace of God tomorrow, discussion will continue and we believe that we will be able to get everything resolved.”

Speaking the end of the meeting, Deputy President of NLC, Comrade Amaechi Asugwuni, who spoke on behalf of the organised Labour, urged to the Federal Government to shift grounds for agitation ahead.

According to him, the matter is a straight forward matter, negotiations is ongoing we actually thought the meeting will be concluded today but that prediction was not successful, therefore, adjournment became necessary.

” To the best of our knowledge, the struggle will still continue, tommorow, we will meet by 2p.m, and that meeting will determine the fate of the parties, we expect that we close that meeting positively.

“So far, commitment has been shown, but we believe that the areas that are still in contest are critical, therefore, we urge the government also on their part see how they can shift ground positively to integrate the agitations ahead.”

Those at the meeting include: the NLC General Secretary, Comrade Emma Ugboaja, Musa Lawal Ozigi of the TUC, Nuhu Toro (TUC) Lawal Alade Bashir as well as Comrade Musa Abbas while in attendance at the meeting with the Joint National.

Others are: Director General of the Budget Office, Ben Akabueze, Acting Chairman of the National Salaries Income and Wages Commission, Ekpo Nta.

Labour had resorted to the strike option, from Oct. 17, following an apparent inability of the government and labour to find a way out of the minimum wage logjam.

The minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, said there is the need for organised labour to set the records straight to workers to understand that current economic realities may not accommodate percentage increase on the minimum wage.

According to him, continued threat of strike action from the organised labour was an intimidation of government and antithetical to the International Labour Organisation principles on negotiations and Collective Bargaining Agreement.

“I will also not seat and watch labour intimidate government. If you dangle strike, it is intimidation and ILO Convention does not permit it.

“People should negotiate freely. If government threatens you in the course of negotiation, it is intimidation.

“We cannot allow government to shut down the economy because it wants to pay salaries and wages.

“The 2020 budget of N10.3trillion has N3.8trillion as personnel cost without overhead.

“If you add running cost and other incidental costs, the total recurrent budget as presented to the National Assembly has taken 76 per cent. Where do we get the money to build roads, airport, rails, health centres, schools etc.

“It is a matter of balancing a budget that is 76 per cent recurrent and 24 per cent capital, for me, it is nothing to cheer about.

“In the 76 per cent, government has captured N200 billion for consequential adjustment for the minimum wage and so on. These are all part of personnel.

“N160 billion is for consequential adjustment of the minimum wage and not total package of workers’ salaries. Everybody has to make sacrifice. We must plug leakages.”

He stressed the need for all workers to be incorporated into the Integrated Payroll Personnel Information System (IPPIS) to reduce ghost workers in the public service.

“The number of workers, 1.4 million or 1.5 million out of 200 million people take 33 per cent of the budget which has deficit. It is important we know this. It is up to us to use all the money to pay salaries and the economy will grind to a halt and be like Venezuela.”

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Buhari seeks N10bn approval from Senate for Kogi

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Nigeria Senate President, Dr Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan on Tuesday announced President Muhammadu Buhari’s request for approval of N10 billion for Kogi State.

In the letter, Buhari said, the amount was expended on projects on behalf of the Federal government which he was seeking the refund through promissory notes and bonds.

The letter also explained that 23 other states with authorised expenditures on behalf of the Federal government have been previously refunded, noting that Kogi State would be refunded on prompt approval of the Parliament.

“I am seeking approval of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for N10 billion being expenditures on projects executed in Kogi State on behalf of the Federal government. ”

“Take note also that the said expenditure was authorised by the Federal Government which other 23 States of the Federation have also been refunded.”

Senate President, Dr Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan referred the letter to Senate Committee on Foreign loans and debts to turn in report in two weeks.

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