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Court Strikes Out N170M FIRS Contract Fraud Against Zinox Boss, Leo Stan Ekeh

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Zinox  
Zinox Group Chairman, Leo Stan Ekeh

The High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) presided over by Honourable Justice C. O. Oba sitting in Court 32 has struck out Charge No. FCT/HC/CR/469/2022 filed by Falana & Falana against the Chairman, Zinox Technologies, Leo Stan Ekeh and officials of Technology Distributions Limited, including Mrs. Chioma Ekeh, Chris Eze Ozims, Shade Oyebode, Charles Adigwe and others over an alleged fraud involving a N170m contract with the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).

This follows a letter dated October 28, 2022 from the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, through the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions of the Federation (DPP) to Falana & Falana withdrawing the fiat earlier granted them in May 2022 and also directing them to immediately withdraw the said Charge constituted as FCT/HC/CR/469/2022 leveled against Mr. Ekeh and the others, based on the findings that the fiat was obtained on misrepresentation and concealment of material facts by their client, Mr. Benjamin Joseph of Citadel Oracle Concepts Limited.

At the court proceedings on Tuesday, November 8, 2022, Mr. Marshall Abubakar, counsel from the firm of Falana & Falana, who appeared for the prosecution, tried to argue against the instruction and sought adjournment on some flimsy grounds, despite the clear instruction of the AGF contained in the letter to his firm.

However, Mr. Matthew Bukaa (SAN) who appeared for Mr. Ekeh, and the aforementioned staff of Technology Distributions Limited, opposed the application for adjournment and prayed the court to give effect to the unambiguous directive of the AGF to withdraw the charges.

The trial judge, Honourable Justice C. O Oba, after reviewing the certified true copy of the Attorney General’s letter, agreed with the defence counsel, Mr. Bukaa SAN, that there is no legitimate grounds to sustain the charges or grant adjournment and accordingly struck out the charges.

It would be recalled that some recent media publications had published stories indicating that the Federal Government of Nigeria was to prosecute Mr. Ekeh and 12 others over an alleged N170million FIRS contract which Mr. Benjamin Joseph claims was fraudulently executed using the name of his company, Citadel Oracle Concept Limited, without his knowledge and that the Federal Government was accordingly defrauded.

It was also reported that the firm of Falana & Falana, acting for Mr. Benjamin Joseph, applied for and was granted a fiat in May 2022 from the AGF to bring a charge against Mr. Ekeh and 12 others, upon which Mr. Femi Falana filed the purported charge on September 9, 2022.

However, the Attorney General, by a letter dated October 28, 2022, to Falana & Falana withdrew the fiat earlier granted them and directed them to immediately withdraw the charge they filed in court.

The directive came a couple of weeks after the AGF discovered that material information was withheld in the application by Falana & Falana for the fiat allegedly meant to prosecute Ekeh and others. Crucially, Mr. Falana SAN, who had only recently started representing Benjamin Joseph, failed to disclose to the AGF that the FCT High Court presided by Honourable Justice Damlami Senchi had in February 2021 delivered a judgment in Charge No. FCT/HC/CR/244/2018, dismissing as false and malicious the various allegations put forward by Mr. Benjamin Joseph and awarded the sum of N20m against him as damages for false petitioning and to serve as a deterrence to others against false information.

The respected SAN also failed to disclose that his client has refused to be cross-examined since 2018 in an ongoing criminal case (Charge No. CR/216/2016) instituted against him by the Federal Government of Nigeria through the Office of the Inspector General of Police (IGP) based on false information on the same allegations.

Also, it was not disclosed to the AGF that the Nigerian Police Force Headquarters had, by a comprehensive final report dated December 1, 2020, after a thorough review of the facts and investigations of the case, absolved Mr. Ekeh and all the aforementioned persons of any criminal liability in the entire transaction leading to this case, but rather recommended the continuation of the trial of Mr. Benjamin Joseph which began since 2016. Furthermore, the AGF had, by a letter dated June 6, 2022, also directed the Inspector General of Police to prosecute Benjamin Joseph to a logical conclusion.

The said criminal proceedings is still ongoing against Mr. Benjamin Joseph before Honourable Justice Peter Kekemeke of the FCT High Court and comes up on January 24, 2023, for continuation of trial.

There was, therefore, no basis to grant or sustain the fiat to file charges against Mr. Ekeh and the staff of Technology Distributions on the same set of facts and allegations for which Mr. Benjamin Joseph, the petitioner, is currently standing trial for false information. Consequently, the fiat was withdrawn and the Charge struck out on Tuesday, November 8, 2022 by Honourable Justice C. O. Oba sitting in Court 32 of the FCT High Court.

Reacting to the development, a human rights activist, Dr. Niyi Abo, who was present in court on a sidelines as an observer, hailed the judgment, even as he expressed his disappointment at the step taken by Falana & Falana in filing the case against Mr. Ekeh and others without due diligence.

‘‘I think what they want to achieve is to see Mr. Ekeh in the dock just to diminish his stature because from findings, the only sin the man committed is that he founded TD Africa and his company extended an interest-free credit to help a young man to survive, just like he has done for thousands of others partners of TD Africa, some of whom are in court here in sympathy with Mr. Ekeh.
‘‘This further gives vent to the claims that this might be a case of blackmail gone wrong, according to what Benjamin Joseph’s ex-business partner, Princess Kama confirmed in the media herself, that Benjamin Joseph’s grouse is that she did not support him to divert TD Africa’s funds after the FIRS paid them, as well as his alleged attempt to extort money from Mr. Ekeh when he learnt that Mr. Ekeh is a very rich man. I understand Mr. Ekeh and his wife have never met the alleged blackmailer. Does it mean if you transact a business with a company and something goes wrong according to your own estimation, you start calling the Chairman of the company, a distinguished Nigerian and global citizen, a criminal?
‘‘I sincerely think it is very demeaning for a reputable law firm like Falana and Falana to get involved in this. Nigerian lawyers must please upgrade and exhaust simple due diligence on their clients before accepting their briefs. I think that blackmail, due to hard times, is one of the biggest businesses in Africa now. Several compromised media houses are being used by these blackmailers to extort rich men. You can imagine the negative publicity orchestrated by some online media houses against Mr. Ekeh in the past few days on account of this useless case.
‘‘I congratulate Mr. Ekeh for having the guts to follow this fight to the end, and if I were him, I would probably consider a petition to the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee against Falana & Falana. He should also take Mr. Benjamin Joseph to the cleaners by taking out court actions against him and his compromised media supporters,’’ Dr. Abo concluded.

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Oronsaye Report: Don’t Merge Nigerian Army University With NDA, Olowu Urges President Tinubu

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Olowu of Kuta, HRM Oba Dr Hameed Adekunle Makama, CON, Tegbosun iii, has urged President Bola Tinubu not to merge the Nigerian Army University with the Nigerian Defence Academy, NDA as part of the implementation of Steve Oronsaye report. 

Oba Makama, in a statement issued by his media office on Tuesday in Kuta, said Nigerian Army University, Biu, unlike the Nigerian Defence Academy,

is a full fledge federal university like other federal universities in the country, offers various courses and not specialised like NDA.

Again, the monarch said the Nigerian Army University was established by the Act of Parliament and cannot be reversed without going back to the national assembly to repeal the act that set it up.

 Merging NUB with NDA means the Federal government is ready to merge every Federal universities created by act of Parliament. 

Oba Makama also reminded President Tinubu that Nigerian Army University was set up to cater for the multitude of students in search of university education in the north east axis, adding that merging it with the NDA will reduce it to an institution where military personnel are trained.

Oba Makama, however, commended President Tinubu for the political will to implement a far-reaching civil service reform that was initiated twelve years ago so as to cut the over-bloated costs of governance. 

 ‘’Finally, I believe the mixed up should not have arose if proper wide consultation were made before advising Mr. President on inclusion of NUB because Army University is not even in existence during the Orosanye panel. 

May God continue to protect and guide Mr. President’’ The Oba stated.

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South West Development Commission Bill Passes 2nd Reading

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Otunba Gbenga Daniel

The Senator representing Ogun East, Gbenga Daniel, Wednesday, took the helm in the Senate, leading the debate for the second reading of the Bill for an Act to Establish the South West Development Commission, 2023 (SB. 68). This important bill, co-sponsored by all Southwest Senators and spearheaded by Senate leader Opeyemi Bamidele, marks a significant step towards addressing the region’s pressing developmental needs.
Initiated on August 1st, 2023, the South West Development Commission Bill responds to the demographic shifts and infrastructural challenges facing the region. With 21% of Nigeria’s current population residing in the Southwest, projections indicate that by 2050, the region will host close to 50% of the nation’s populace due to migration patterns. This anticipated population surge underscores the urgent need for strategic development initiatives to alleviate pressure on existing infrastructure.
The proposed South West Development Commission (SWDC) adopts a forward-thinking approach to bridge critical gaps in key sectors, thereby catalyzing progress and fostering sustainable development. Among its core objectives are initiatives to facilitate affordable land acquisition for agricultural purposes, enhance transportation networks through road and rail connectivity, address environmental concerns, and expand avenues for socio-economic advancement.
Senator Otunba Gbenga Daniel emphasized the imperative of the SWDC in propelling collective prosperity and ensuring the region’s competitiveness on the national stage. As a Fellow of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (FNSE) and a Fellow of the Academy of Engineering (FAEng), Senator Daniel brings a wealth of expertise to the forefront of this legislative endeavor.
The debate underscores a unified commitment among Southwest Senators to prioritize the region’s development agenda and chart a course towards a more prosperous and resilient future for all residents. With the stage set for further deliberations, the South West Development Commission Bill holds promise as a transformative mechanism for unlocking the region’s full potential and fostering inclusive growth.
The bill was referred to Senate committee on Special Duties to report back in 4 weeks.

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Energy Mogul, Adewale Tinubu, takes Centre Stage at Guyana Energy Conference

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Mr. Adewale Tinubu, CON.

Adewale Tinubu, CON, boss of energy giant, Oando Group, is always a delight to watch when in the boardroom or engaged in anything concerning business.

He usually leaves his watchers and admirers enthralled by his articulation and aplomb. He is always graceful in his fine grasp of business intricacies, with a very strong sense of deep erudition in discussions, especially in the area of economic development in Nigeria.

Of course, the foregoing may not be news to many. But what many may not know about this technocrat is that beyond his feats in the oil sector, he is endowed with oratorical power.

 That excellent trait was much on display at the ongoing Guyana Energy Conference, where the top oil player once again showcased his God-given talent.

While speaking on the topic, ‘Upstream Activities Required for a Resilient Oil and Gas Value Chain, the oil and gas mogul received intermittent standing ovations, accompanied with several rounds of applause for his dazzling and awe-inspiring speech.

Oando, Africa’s largest integrated energy solutions provider, is diamond sponsor of the third edition of the Guyana Energy Conference and Supply Chain Expo, which started on Monday, 19th February to Thursday, 22nd, 2024, attracted participation, at the highest level, from more than 21 countries also drawn in 19 sectors – outside of the energy sector.

 Participating companies at the conference tackled important concerns affecting the energy sector, as well as the challenges of climate change mitigation and maximizing the benefits of local content development in Guyana and the region.

Commenting on the conference, Mr. Tinubu posted on his social media handles.

He wrote:

 ‘’Spent the last two days at the Energy Guyana Conference and Supply Chain Expo – a first time attendee and 3rd time visitor to this beautiful country.

Myself and the #HumansofOando welcomed the President of Guyana, Dr Mohamed Irfaa1, the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago Dr Keith Rowley and the Minister of Petroleum, (Trinidad and Tobago) Stuart RYoung 1 to our exhibition booth, where we walked them through Oando’s journey to date in curating Nigeria’s energy mix. 

The oil and gas industry in Guyana is rapidly evolving, thus the importance of creating an enabling environment for growth cannot be understated. 

Yesterday, I delivered a keynote address to industry leaders and other esteemed guests explaining the winning Oil and Gas Industry Strategy. 

With the warm welcome we received we are assured of promising collaboration towards successful oil and gas venturing in Guyana’’.

Other speakers at the event include His Excellency, Dr Mohamed Irfan Ali, President of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana; Bharrat Jagdeo, Vice President, The Cooperative Republic of Guyana; the Honourable Vickram Bharrat, Minister of Natural Resources, The Co-operative Republic of Guyana; Stuart Young, Minister of Energy and Energy Industries, the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago; Antonio Almonte, Minister of Energy and Mines, the Dominican Republic; His Excellency, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Bin Jassim Al Thani, Prime Minister of the State of Qatar; Alistair Routledge, President, Exxonmobil Guyana and Her Excellency Jane Miller OBE, British High Commissioner to the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, among several other world class personalities.


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