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Twitter dumps Nigeria  —–sites African operations headquarters in Ghana

The Internet giant, Twitter, has chosen Ghana ahead of Nigeria as the headquarters of its African operations.
The preference for Ghana was despite the over 2.5 million users of Twitter in Nigeria, which is about the third-largest in the continent after Egypt and South Africa.

The Twitter Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder, Jack Dorsey, confirmed this on Monday, saying, “Twitter is now present on the continent. Thank you, Ghana, and Nana Akufo Addo.”

“The choice of Ghana as Headquarters for Twitter’s Africa operations is excellent news. The government and Ghana welcome very much this announcement and the confidence reposed in our country,” Ghana’s President, Nana Akufo-Addo also tweeted on Monday.

In a release, Twitter reinstated that its mission is to serve the public conversation, and it’s essential, for the world and for Twitter, to increase the number of people who feel comfortable participating in it.

It said, “Today, in line with our growth strategy, we’re excited to announce that we are now actively building a team in Ghana.

“To truly serve the public conversation, we must be more immersed in the rich and vibrant communities that drive the conversations taking place every day across the African continent.

“As a champion for democracy, Ghana is a supporter of free speech, online freedom, and the Open Internet, of which Twitter is also an advocate.

 Furthermore, Ghana’s recent appointment to host The Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area aligns with our overarching goal to establish a presence in the region that will support our efforts to improve and tailor our service across Africa.

“Whenever we enter new markets, we work hard to ensure that we are not just investing in the talent that we hire, but also investing in local communities and the social fabric that supports them.

“We have already laid foundations through partnerships with Amref Health Africa in Kenya, Afrochella in Ghana, Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative (MANI) in Nigeria, and The HackLab Foundation in Ghana

” As part of our long-term commitment to the region, we’ll continue to explore compelling ways we can use the positive power of Twitter to strengthen our communities through employee engagement, platform activation, and corporate giving.

“We still have much to learn but we are excited to listen, learn, and engage. Public conversation is essential to solving problems, building shared ideas, and pushing us all forward together. We can’t wait for the next step on that journey.”

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Ekweremadu, wife may go to jail as London court finds them guilty of organ tafficking

Ike Ekweremadu; his wife, Beatrice;
The Eyewitness reporter with agency report

A former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu; his wife Beatrice; and their doctor, Obinna Obeta have been found guilty of organ trafficking in the first verdict of its kind under the Modern Slavery Act.

Ekweremadu, 60; his wife, Beatrice, 56; and Obeta, 51; were found guilty of facilitating the travel of a young man to Britain with a view to his exploitation after a six-week trial at the Old Bailey.

They  allegedly criminally conspired to bring the 21-year-old Lagos street trader to London to exploit him for his kidney, the jury found, according to UK Guardian.

Ekweremadu and his wife were charged in the United Kingdom after they allegedly lured a young man from Nigeria to harvest his organ for their ailing daughter, Sonia.
The lawmaker was last year arrested and had been in the custody of UK authorities after they received complaints from the young man about their alleged plans to harvest his organ.

The prosecutor, Hugh Davies KC, told the court on Thursday the Ekweremadus and Obeta had treated the man and other potential donors as “disposable assets – spare parts for reward”.

He said they entered an “emotionally cold commercial transaction” with the man.

The behaviour of Ekweremadu, a successful lawyer and founder of an anti-poverty charity who helped draw up Nigeria’s laws against organ trafficking, showed “entitlement, dishonesty and hypocrisy”, Davies told the jury.

He said Ekweremadu, who owns several properties and had a staff of 80, “agreed to reward someone for a kidney for his daughter – somebody in circumstances of poverty and from whom he distanced himself and made no inquiries, and with whom, for his own political protection, he wanted no direct contact”.

Davies added, “What he agreed to do was not simply expedient in the clinical interests of his daughter, Sonia, it was exploitation, it was criminal.

“It is no defence to say he acted out of love for his daughter. Her clinical needs cannot come at the expense of the exploitation of somebody in poverty.”

Ekweremadu, who denied the charge, told the court he was the victim of a scam.

Obeta, who also denied the charge, claimed the man was not offered a reward for his kidney and was acting altruistically.

Beatrice denied any knowledge of the alleged conspiracy. Sonia did not give evidence.

The judge, Mr Justice Jeremy Johnson, will pass sentence at a later date.

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Court adjourns Fayose’s alleged N6.9bn fraud trial till May 8

 Owolola Adebola

Justice Chukujekwu Aneke of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, on Wednesday, March 21, 2023, adjourned further hearing in the trial of a former governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, and his company, Spotless Investment Limited, over an alleged N6.9bn fraud, till May 8, 2023.

The Lagos Zonal Command of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission,( EFCC), had, on Tuesday, July 2, 2019, re-arraigned Fayose and  Spotless Investment Limited on an 11-count charge bordering on money laundering and stealing to the tune of N6.9bn ( Six Billion Nine Hundred Naira).

The defendants had first been arraigned on October 22, 2018, before Justice Mojisola Olatoregun.

At the resumed sitting on Wednesday, the 12th prosecution witness, PW 12, Musiliu Obanikoro, a former Minister of State for Defence, told the court that he had no document showing that he withdrew the sum of N1.2billion, which he allegedly gave Fayose.

During cross-examination by counsel to the second defendant, Olakekan Ojo, SAN, Obanikoro told the court that he never, at any time, showed the EFCC operatives any document showing that he gave instruction or withdrew the sum of N1.2 billion from the Diamond Bank account of Sylva McNamara Limited.

Obanikoro, in his previous testimony, had told the court that the sum of N1.2 billion was deposited into the account of a company, Sylva McNamara,  to fund “clandestine security operations”  to prevent terrorists’ activities in Lagos State in two installments.

When asked if he produced any resolution of the Board of Directors of Sylva McNamara, authorising him to control the management of the account of the company, he said “No.”

According to him,  “I didn’t produce any Board resolution or letter to the EFCC.

“Also, there was no letter from Sylva McNamara to the then Diamond Bank, telling the bank that I was asked to control and manage the account.”

Obanikoro, who said Sambo Dasuki, a former National Security Adviser, had no interactions with  Fayose or Diamond Bank in respect of the N1.2billion withdrawn from the account of Sylva McNamara Limited, further told the court the EFCC exonerated him of any wrongdoing after investigations.

Asked if he was ever asked to refund money to the EFCC, he said: “Yes, I refunded, as it was part of the conditions given for my release. Anywise man would do the same.”

When asked how much was refunded, he said: “I do not recall.”

But when Ojo asked Obanikoro if the money he refunded was between N100m and N200m, he responded: “ Okay, around that…”

Obanikoro, while reacting to the question about the sum of $4bn he allegedly gave Fayose, said: ”In our line of business, it is not customary to ask for receipt or acknowledgment of such money.
“So, there was no confirmation of the money.”

The case was adjourned till May 8 and 9 and June 6, and 8, 2023 for the continuation of trial.

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Two PDP chieftains jailed 2 years for N142m elections bribe scam

Owolola Adebola
Two Chieftains of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) in Bauchi State, Saleh Hussaini Gamawa and Aminu Umar Gadiya, have been convicted by a Federal High Court, Bauchi and sentenced to 2 years imprisonment for offences that bordered on conspiracy and money laundering to the tune of N142, 460,000.00 (One Hundred and Forty-Two Million, Four Hundred and Sixty Thousand Naira).
Justice Hassan Dikko convicted the duo on March 2, while ruling on the two-count charge brought against the defendants by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC).
The defendants were first arraigned on June 4, 2018, and re-arraigned on October 16, 2018, on a two-count charge for allegedly receiving over N142 million to influence the outcome of the 2015 presidential elections in Bauchi State.
Count one of the charges reads, “That you, Saleh Hussaini Gamawa and Aminu Umar Gadiya, all members of the Finance and Funds Disbursement Committee of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) 2015 General Elections, and in such capacities sometime in March 2015 in Bauchi State within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court did agree amongst yourselves to commit an offence, to wit; Conspiracy to accept cash payment exceeding the threshold provided by law, thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18(a) and punishable under Section 16(2) (b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2012( as amended) now No.1, 2012”.
Count two reads, “That you, Sale Hussaini Gamawa and Aminu Umar Gadiya, all members of the Finance and Funds Disbursement Committee of the Peoples’ ‘Democratic Party (PDP) 2015 General Elections, and in such capacities sometime in March 2015 in Bauchi State within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court did accept cash payment of N142,460,000.00 ( One Hundred and Forty-Two Million, Four Hundred and Sixty Thousand Naira) from the Directorate of Finance, Bauchi State PDP Campaign Organization exceeding the required threshold of cash payment, thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 1, 16(1)(d) and punishable under Section 16(2)(b) of the Money Laundering ( Prohibition)Act, 2011 (as amended) now No.1, 2012”
The defendants had pleaded not guilty to the charges, setting the stage for the case to proceed to full trial. In the course of the trial, the prosecution presented one witness and tendered documents marked as Exhibits A1, A2 and A3.
Both defendants testified in their respective defence.
At the close of evidence, the final written addresses were filed, exchanged and adopted on January 17, 2023, with the prosecution asking the court to convict the defendants as charged.
The defence, on the other hand, submitted that the evidence presented against the defendant by the prosecution was not credible and urged the court to discharge and acquit the defendants.
Justice Dikko then reserved judgment for March 2, 2023.
In the well-considered judgment that lasted more than three hours, Justice Dikko reviewed the facts of the case and the submissions of counsel and arrived at the conclusion that the prosecution proved the cases against the defendants beyond a reasonable doubt on count one and convicted them as charged.
He however discharged and acquitted the 2nd defendant on count two.
According to justice Dikko, “the fact that the defendants in this instant case endorsed exhibit A1, A2 and A3 to receive cash to the tune of N142,460,,000.00, well in excess of the legal threshold designated by law, there can be no other conclusion but that the defendants conspired to so commit the offence and I am satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt.
“It is rather astonishing that in the defence of the count, the defendants completely disregarded the damaging evidence of exhibits A1,A2, and A3, lying right before the Court.
“I, therefore, find the 1st and 2nd defendants guilty of conspiracy as charged in count one and are accordingly convicted”.
On Count two, he said, “I have relied almost entirely on Exhibits A1, A2 and A3, and close scrutiny of the Exhibits demonstrates that the 1stdefendant, Saleh Hussaini Gamawa received N105, 840,000.00 in Exhibit A1, N27, 650,000.00 in Exhibit A2 and N8, 970,000.00 in Exhibit A3, summing up to N142,460,000.00, all in the presence of, or witnessed by the 2nd defendant Aminu Umar Gadiya. The content of these documents leaves no one in doubt as to who received the money, that is Saleh Hussaini Gamawa (1st defendant) who is a natural person from the Bauchi State PDP Campaign Organization (Director of Finance) which is not a designated financial institution, and for the purpose of payment to participants during the National and Presidential Elections.
“The offence under Section 1 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2012 is one of strict liability. The fact of the payment or receipt of cash in excess of the threshold alone is sufficient to ground a conviction as can be noticed in the exhibits before this court and again, I am satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt.
Consequently, I find the 1st defendant guilty of the count and is accordingly convicted. The 2nd defendant is hereby discharged and acquitted on this count”.
In his allocutus, the 1st defendant urged the court to be lenient and temper justice with mercy.
“I have a large family which includes the family of my elder brother who turned blind and cannot fend for his family; they look up to me for sustenance, since the beginning of this case neither the political party nor the Government came to my rescue, thus I urge the court to forgive me”, he stated.
The 2nd defendant also pleaded for leniency, arguing that he is a retiree and had not benefited from the money.
Before sentencing the defendants, Justice Dikko acknowledged their pleas for leniency but insisted that they must be punished to serve as a deterrent to others.
“I consider your pleas that you have family who will suffer in your absence thus I will be lenient, however, your offences must be punished appropriately to deter others in the society from perpetrating the same.”
He consequently sentenced the 1st and 2nddefendants to 2 years imprisonment at the Bauchi Correction Service or a fine of N3,000,000.00 each in lieu of imprisonment on count one; while the 1st defendant bagged a further 2 years imprisonment or a fine of N3,000,000.00 in lieu of imprisonment on count two.
The sentences are to run concurrently from March 2, 2023.
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