Court Acquits Jide Omokore of $1.6bn Fraud, Convict Two Others
By Aduragbemi Omiyale
Mr Jide Omokore, an ally of former Minister of Petroleum, Ms Diezani Alison-Madueke, has been acquitted by Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja.
Mr Omokore was accused by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of laundering funds to the tune of $1.6 billion.
However, at the ruling on Tuesday, February 7, 2023, Justice Dimgba held that the anti-money laundering organisation could not prove its case against Mr Omokore and two companies linked to him, Atlantic Energy Brass Limited and Atlantic Energy Drilling Concept Limited.
But two other persons linked to the matter, Victor Briggs and Abiye Membere, both former top officials of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), were convicted by the court today.
They were found guilty of “unethically collecting car gifts as public officials,” in contravention of section 98 of the Criminal Code Act.
According to the trial judge, public officials must act at arm’s length with private individuals, especially those that have business relations with their departments or agencies. They would be kept in the custody of the EFCC pending their sentencing on Wednesday.
In a statement issued after the ruling, the EFCC expressed shock over the acquittal of Mr Omokore, vowing to challenge it at the appeal court.
The agency dragged Mr Omokore and others to court, alleging that he used the Strategic Alliance Agreement signed between the NPDC and Atlantic Energy Drilling Concept Limited to swindle the NPDC and the Nigerian government of monies running into billions of dollars through the lifting of crude oil from some oil wells between March 2013 and May 2014.
The other defendants, who were senior management staff of the NNPC, were accused of conspiracy in inducing the NPDC to facilitate the lifting of crude by Mr Omokore, Atlantic Energy Brass Development Limited and Atlantic Energy Drilling Concept Limited; and receiving car gifts from Omokore, Atlantic Energy Brass Development Limited and Atlantic Energy Drilling Concept Limited.
“That you, Olajide Jones Omokore, Atlantic Energy Brass Development Ltd, Atlantic Energy Drilling Concept Ltd and Kolawole Akanni Aluko (now at large) between May 2013 and March 2014 within the jurisdiction of this court obtained by false pretence and with intent to defraud, 7,551,867 barrels of crude oil (Brass blend) valued at the sum of $823,75,189.95 from Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Federal Government of Nigeria on the false pretence that you had funds (both local and foreign) necessary to support the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company Limited in petroleum operation for the OML 60,61, 62 and 63 and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 1(a) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act Cap. A6, 2010, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria and punishable under Section 1(3) of the same Act,” one of the charges read.
Appeal Court Restores Adeleke as Osun Governor
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
An appeal court sitting in Abuja on Friday upturned the judgment of the Osun governorship election tribunal, which removed Mr Ademola Adeleke as Governor of Osun State.
In January, the tribunal declared the former Governor of the state, Mr Gboyega Oyetola, as the authentic winner of the 2022 governorship election in the state.
While Mr Adeleke contested for the position under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr Oyetola flew the flag of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Mr Adeleke was declared winner of the poll by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), but Mr Oyetola, who contested as a sitting governor, approached the tribunal to dislodge the winner.
He argued that Mr Adeleke won through an electoral fraud, over-voting and his prayers were answered, as the tribunal upturned INEC’s decision and declared him the winner.
However, Governor Adeleke appealed the judgement and today, a three-member panel of justices held that the election tribunal erred when it ruled that Mr Oyetola and the APC proved their allegation of over-voting.
The appellate court held that Mr Adeleke was validly elected as the governor of Osun State and restored his mandate.
NDDC Seeks Partnerships to Reduce Dependency on IOCs, FG for Funding
By Adedapo Adesanya
The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has disclosed plans not to rely on oil multinationals and the federal government to raise funds for development projects in the region but instead pursue Public-Private Partnerships arrangements to drive development in the Niger Delta region.
According to the NDDC Managing Director, Mr Samuel Ogbuku, this PPP model would ease the financial burden of the central government.
Mr Ogbuku, speaking during an Executive Management and staff meeting at the commission’s headquarters in Port Harcourt, announced that a summit was in the offing to enable stakeholders to explore opportunities for collaboration.
He stated the NDDC would not relent in its PPP campaign to bring sustainable development to the Niger Delta region.
“We intend to leverage our PPP initiative during the summit, which will take place in April. It will help us to showcase what we can offer and show the world the future of NDDC.
“We cannot continue to rely on international oil companies and the federal government to raise funds for development projects. We intend to show the world that NDDC has been rebranded.
“We will take the campaign to all relevant organisations. Last week, we were at the meeting of the Oil Producers Trade Section, OPTS, of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Lagos. Henceforth, NDDC will be attending the OPTS quarterly meetings.”
The NDDC boss further stated that the commission would also focus on capacity building for youths in the region.
“We are going to focus on youth development programmes; we have come up with a new concept of working with the Niger Delta Chamber of Commerce in the training of our youths and young entrepreneurs.
“We will show the world that we have young entrepreneurs. The various Chambers of Commerce will help us to make the programme sustainable. We will focus on empowering young people because the government cannot employ everybody.”
On NDDC’s commitment to its contractors, Mr Ogbuku affirmed that the Commission was engaging them to arrive at practicable ways of liquidating the debts saying, “We have been meeting with the contractors, and gradually, all legitimate debts will be defrayed.”
The NDDC boss said there was a need for reform within the Commission in order to bring it in line with the NDDC Establishment Act. For instance, he said, “we are reorganising the directorates to bring the number to only 13 provided for in the Act.”
Aremu Tasks CBN, NLC on Dialogue Over Cash Scarcity Strike
By Adedapo Adesanya
The Director-General of the Michael Imoudu National Institute of Labour Studies (MINILS), Ilorin, Kwara State, Mr Issa Aremu, has advised the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to engage the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in a social dialogue to avert the planned strike over the continued cash scarcity.
Mr Aremu made the call on Thursday in Ilorin on the sidelines of the Interfaith Prayer organised to mark the 40th anniversary of the institute.
Recall that Business Post earlier this week reported that the president of the NLC, Mr Joe Ajaero, directed affiliate unions of the group to be on standby for a picketing exercise across all branches of the CBN nationwide.
The directive, according to the trade unionist, became imperative following the expiration of a one-week ultimatum given to the apex bank to make cash available for Nigerians.
Speaking on the development, the MINILS head said it was unprecedented that the labour union is threatening to picket the CBN, tasking the apex bank to use every means at its disposal to ensure monetary stability in the country.
The DG, who was once a labour leader, noted that depositors had been subjected to a lot of hardship in recent times over the CBN financial policy.
Mr Aremu said that CBN must be more transparent and engaging and look at the overall policy’s impact on the growth and development of the nation’s economy.
He said that this would ensure the confidence of Nigerians in the banking system.
Mr Aremu explained that such a cashless policy should be gradually introduced after the appropriate infrastructure had been put in place.
“It also requires mass sensitisation and awareness, and there is a limited time for implementation of the policy for Nigerians,” he said.
The institute’s head lauded the CBN’s Anchor Borrowers Programme, saying it “provides loans (in kind and cash) to smallholder farmers, which had boosted agricultural production, especially rice”.
He, therefore, insisted that picketing of the apex bank by labour leaders was avoidable and preventable, advising CBN to address all concerns by organised labour.
On the 40th anniversary of the institute, Mr Aremu said, “This gathering is all about appreciation to Almighty God in the Holy Month of Ramadan, in which Catholic lent also runs. Both Christianity and Islam stress gratitude. Gratitude pleases Allah, while ingratitude displeases Him.”
“Glory to Almighty for sparing our lives to continue the institutional building that started with President Shehu Shagari’s formal inauguration in 1983,” he said.
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