Justice Lateefat Okunnu of the Lagos State High Court sitting in Ikeja has ordered the freezing of the assets and funds to the tune of N19, 178, 253,050 belonging to a convicted former Managing Director of the defunct Bank PHB Plc, Francis Atuche.
The Judge gave the order on Tuesday, August 31, 2021, following an ex parte application filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on August 17, 2021.
The funds, investigation showed, were domiciled in 24 different banks in Nigeria, including Citi Bank Limited; Ecobank Nigeria Limited; First Bank of Nigeria Plc; First City Monument Bank (FCMB); Globus Bank Limited; Fidelity Bank Plc; Keystone Bank Limited; Lotus Bank Limited and Mainstreet Bank Plc.
Others are: Polaris Bank Plc; Platinum Mortgage Bank Limited; Providus Bank Limited; Stanbic IBTC Nigeria Limited; Standard Chartered Bank; Sterling Bank Plc; Wema Bank Plc; Zenith Bank Plc; Unity Bank Plc; Titan Trust Bank Limited, Union Bank of Nigeria Plc and others.
Moving the application, counsel to the EFCC, Kemi Pinheiro, SAN, told the court that 15 persons, as well as 22 firms, were used by Atuche and his co-respondent, Ugo Anyanwu, a former Chief Financial Officer of the bank, to launder the funds.
Pinheiro listed the individuals to include Anthony Atuche, Emeka Patrick Atuche, Paul Okobi, Felix Oyiana, Moruf Kazeem Adisa, Olatunji Abiodun, Daniel Enebeli, Aina Olugbenga, Augustine Nwabueze, Omonua Benedict, Oliver King Nduaaron, Dr. Chris Ike Ogbechie, Mr. Murat Bektaslar, Attah Omataikpo Olukemi and Thomas Etuh.
The EFCC counsel further stated that the firms, in which Atuche has either direct or indirect interest are: Aqua Harvest Limited, Hubmart Stores Limited, Hubmart Limited, Sapphire Capital Management Limited, Homeland Real Estate Company Limited, Malechi Foods Limited, Homeland Meridian Partners Limited, Promise Investment Limited and Temple Cottage Hotel Limited.
Others are: Wegas Properties Project Limited, Buckhead Construction Limited, Claremount Management Services Limited, Afco Associates Limited, Platinum Capital Limited, Ghazali Yakubu Investment Limited, The Financial (Services) Company Limited, Venture Resources Limited, Elizabeth-A Company Limited, Signature Partners Limited, Purplepay Technologies Limited, Oakwood Asset Management Limited and Conesto Nigeria Limited
Justice Okunnu granted the 12 prayers of the applicant and held that “An order is made restraining the 1st defendant (Atuche) whether by himself or acting through the persons or entities listed or such other persons including but not limited to his family members or agents, from removing, alienating, disposing of, dealing with or diminishing the value of assets, proceeds of economic and financial crimes or otherwise in the name of the 1st defendant.”
The Judge also held that “the assets or funds included those held indirectly by or for Atuche’s benefit, whether solely or jointly held, that are located in Nigeria or worldwide.”
Justice Okunnu further ordered the freezing of any bank account being run and operated by Atuche “personally or jointly, whether in his personal name or otherwise or with the Bank Verification Number (BVN) 22295357230 in any of the respondent banks to the tune of N19, 178, 253, 050 billion, pursuant to the Restitution Order made by this Honourable Court on June 16, 2021.”
Atuche and his privies, including his lawyers, were also barred from presenting to the above-listed banks “any mandate or instruction for the withdrawal of any money and/or funds standing to the credit of any of their accounts to the tune of N19, 178, 253. 050 billion.”
Justice Okunnu, who also restrained the banks from honouring any such instruction from Atuche and his privies, further held that “ A mandatory order of injunction is made directing the named respondent banks to file within 48 hours of service of this Order of this Honourable Court on their returns of the Statements of Account of the 1st Defendant (personally or jointly) whether in his personal name or otherwise or with the Bank Verification Number: 22295357230 and the accounts of persons and entities listed in the aforementioned Schedules A and B maintained with them.
“A further order is made directing service of the Order made herein on persons affected thereby including, in particular, the persons and entities listed in Schedules A and B. by way of advertisement in either The Punch or Thisday or The Guardian newspaper.”
Justice Okunnu had, in June this year, sentenced Atuche to six years imprisonment and Anyanwu four years for stealing and conspiracy to steal to the tune of N25.7bn.
The judge, while sentencing the duo, had ordered them to make restitution of the sum of N25.7bn to the Federal Government to replace the funds stolen from the public to bail out the bank.
I want to bequeath fully automated ports to Nigerian shipping industry–Bello Koko
Mohammed Bello-Koko, the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), has expressed his passion and uncommon commitment to leaving a fully automated port system as his legacy after he bows out of office.
Bello- Koko, whose ascension to the NPA’s highest office was as dramatic as it was eventful, said port automation, which is the latest trend in the world, especially, the Port system, is central to his administration in the NPA.
Koko, who spoke Saturday 14th, May 2022 during his maiden press conference, expressed his belief that a fully automated port system will translate to efficiency, low costs, and improved revenue.
In a no hold- barred interactive session with journalists, the NPA helmsman shared his vision of robust port processes hinged on automation devoid of human interaction.
“We have so much automation done in isolation and we need to integrate them.
“We need to put up something that everybody will love to log into. We need to copy a system that is being used in other developed countries, something that will add value, something that everyone agrees with and that is the port community system and harbour automation.
“I am looking forward to a legacy of rehabilitated port infrastructures with the right marine equipment and that is something we have started working on already.
“Discussions have started in terms of designs, we have gotten the full design of the Tin Can port, how it is going to be reconstructed, what is the likely cost of reconstructing Tin CAN, what are we going to do with some parts of Apapa port.
“We have approached BUA to start reconstruction. The same process is on in the Rivers ports where some of the infrastructures have collapsed.
“If we are able to do this, then we have achieved quite a lot.
Apart from port automation, Koko beloved that he needs efficient and committed staff who are well motivated to drive the reformation agenda.
So he declared that improved staff welfare is another area he wants to work on while in office.
“Staff welfare is very important to me which I want to pay special attention to. All these things are the legacies I want to leave behind when I exit as the Managing Director of NPA” he declared.
The NPA MD, who gave a blow-by-blow account of the challenges and prospects of bequeathing a reformed port process, believed that the core function of the NPA was trade facilitation.
However, he lamented that since the agency has been turned into a revenue-generating agency, it has lost focus on this vital core function of trade facilitation while pursuing revenue generation
“NPA is about trade facilitation.
“The core responsibility of every port in the world is to facilitate trade.
“While the NPA has been turned into a major revenue earner for the federal government of Nigeria, gradually, some of our responsibilities are impossible to carry out because there is more focus on the contribution to the CRF, which is fine.
“What it does for us is it makes us reduce costs and generate more.
He then extensively dwelt on the efforts of his management to reinvent the wheel of making NPA more of a trade facilitator than a revenue earner.
“For you to ensure that this trade facilitation succeeds, you need to meet with your stakeholders.
“The port environment is a conglomerate of so many players.
“That was the first thing we did and we set a goal for ourselves, which is what are those things we need to do in order to improve trade facilitation.
“It is only when you do that that you start to have a better flow of traffic, shorter dwell time of cargo, and quick turn around time of ships.
“And we reached out to as far as the Nigerian Navy with whom we are able to resolve some issues that we were not able to resolve for over 20 years.
“We just humbled ourselves and decided that we would reach out to everybody.
“We also realised that the modern ports are all moving toward automation, and automation cannot be in batches but there has to be full automation.
“Once there is manual interference in some of the things you do, then you haven’t fully been automated and because of that, we wrote to the IMO to help us consult. We are about to deploy the port community system.
“The port community system is an avenue which ensures that all stakeholders, all the players in the port processes, log into the system of exchange of data and processes.
“The good thing is that it doesn’t disturb the automation processes of individual agencies or stakeholders, such as e-customs and that was why we got the stakeholders to buy into it.
“We are upgrading our RIMS, you all know the problems of downloading manifest and we are going to deploy harbour automation.
“The IMO has mandated all ports to deploy such IT and soft wares by 2025, our target is 2023, maximum early 2024.
“We reached out to NLG. We have been trying to deploy VTS for about 10 years now but since we came, it was one of the major challenges.
“You can’t get qualified people to deploy VTS, they are very few.
“We wrote to IMO, they gave us some companies which could not meet our requirements while some of them were not interested in working with NPA.
“However, NLG has a VTR in Bonny, even though it is not robust.
“We do not have a problem in collaborating and in the last few months, we have been meeting with the NLG so that they do the survey and put the moles and the sensors around the country.
“It is one of the most important things in the maritime industry now, worldwide.
“We should be able to have visibility without seeing the ship and it would be a tremendous achievement and I believe we can achieve it within the year.
“Our RIM is also being updated and we ensure that people keep using those applications that we have which have reduced manual processes.
“As a result, things are improving, speed is improving. We have been able to block revenue leakages.
“However, we have old ports, we can all attest to that. The problem with the Eastern ports is decaying infrastructures while Tin Can island port is practically collapsing.
“We have decided to focus our budget on the rehabilitation of those decaying infrastructures.
Having reeled out his vision for a new port system, he then dared whoever cared to listen that he should be held responsible and accountable over his vision for the Nigerian ports.
“You can hold me responsible for any of these things ” he declared in a measured tone that betrayed his confidence and determination to succeed.
He promised to collaborate with relevant stakeholders and lending agencies to achieve his set objectives
“I will work with the relevant agencies, investors, and lending agencies who are interested in lending, either directly or indirectly.
EFCC discovers academy where Yahoo boys are trained
Operatives of the Abuja Zonal Command of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC), have arrested one Afolabi Samad, owner of a Yahoo Yahoo Academy in Abuja.
The 24-year-old was arrested Thursday, May 12, 2022, in a sting operation alongside 16 of his students.
The owner of the alleged Academy rented the 3 bedroom flat for Three Million Naira to impact the tricks of cyber-frauds on his apprentices for undisclosed fees.
Item recovered from the suspects include laptops, phones, charms and two vehicles: a Lexus RX350 and Toyota Highlander.
The suspects will be charged to court as soon as investigations are concluded.
PSTT seeks partnership with NARTO, MWUN to end traffic gridlock
The Coordinator-General, Port Standing Task Team (PSTT), Mr. Moses Fadipe has said that for the ports corridors to be freed, the team needs to work with the Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) and Maritime Workers’ Union of Nigerian (MWUN).
Moses Fadipe said this during a meeting held at the Nigerian Shippers’ council headquarters in Lagos. He said that the illegalities on the port corridors are being tackled as a lot of state and non-state actors are currently being profiled.
He disclosed that some persons pose as NARTO workers to extort money on the port corridors.
In his response, the Executive Secretary, NARTO, Mr. Ogbogo Aloga, said anyone collecting money on the port corridors is involved in an illegal act. He appealed to the PSTT to address illegalities along Mile 2, Tin Can and Liverpool.
NARTO President, Yusuf Lawal said there is a need for collaboration amongst all agencies working in the ports.
He further stated that the transport sector of the maritime industry is currently going through a tough time.
Also, speaking at the meeting the President-General of Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), Comrade Adewale Adeyanju expressed the readiness of the Union to support the team to ensure the successful curbing of illegalities at the port.
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