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Osun monarch testifies against defendant in alleged N525m fraud

Owolola Adebola

The trial of one Philemon Gora, Osigwe Edison, and Gracious Environ Workers Limited & Planners Nigeria Limited, before Justice S.O. Solebo of the Special Offences Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos for an alleged N525 million fraud, continued today, March 24, 2022, with their victim, a monarch from Osun State, His Royal Highness, Oba Jacob Esan testifying against them as the prosecution’s third witness.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, had on December 6, 2021, arraigned the defendants on a 10-count charge bordering on stealing, conspiracy to obtain by false witness and obtaining by false pretence.

One of the counts reads: “Philemon Ibrahim Gora, Osigwe Tobechukwu Edison and Gracious Environ Workers Limited & Planners Nigeria Limited, sometime in 2021, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court,and with intent to defraud, did conspire amongst yourselves to steal the total sum of N525,000,000 (Five Hundred and Twenty-five Million Naira) property of HRH Jacob Esan.”

Another count reads: “Philemon Ibrahim Gora, Osigwe Tobechukwu Edison and Gracious Environ Workers Limited & Planners Nigeria Limited, sometime in 2021, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, dishonesty converted to your own use the total sum of N300,000,000 (Three Hundred Million Naira) property of Liberitas Plc.”

The defendants are further accused of defrauding Mabilla Resource Ltd. of the sum of N140million, and Covidol Traders, UAE of the sum of N85million.

They pleaded “not guilty” to the charges.

Gora who is being prosecuted by the EFCC at a Federal Capital Territory, FCT High Court, Abuja for another alleged fraud, was arrested by the EFCC in July 2021, following the petition against him.

He allegedly obtained the sum of N525 million from the traditional ruler, with the assurance of helping him convert it to United Arab Emirate, UAE, Dirham; but, he never did, and instead, converted the money to his personal use.

At today’s proceeding, the Kabiyesi, who was led in evidence by the prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, informed the Court that previously he was “an investment banker and currently an entrepreneur”.

He further testified that he founded a number of companies including Liberitas Plc, which according to him was established in 2017 “to provide low-cost housing in Nigeria”.

He testified that Mabilla Resource Ltd was part of a group of companies that he worked with to deliver on regenerating the Nigerian economy. He also identified Covidol Traders, UAE.

“I know them, and I worked with them as part of a group of companies I work with, with which we have a strategic partnership to deliver on regenerating this country’s potential,” he said.

Testifying further, he said, his company had entered into a strategic partnership with FORSA, a company in South Africa, which deals in the use of formworks to build three-bedroom flats in two to three days. He said the aim was to address the housing problems in the country.

He testified that he had a meeting with the Osun State governor to assist in using the technology to construct 7,200 housing units.

He said: “We entered into an  MoU with the Osun State Property Development Commission.

“Subsequently, I needed to purchase the formworks and the invoice was raised for that.

“I instructed that the invoice be paid for.

“So I delegated that they should source for the currency to enable us to pay for the invoice so that we can start development.”

According to him, subsequently, in sourcing for the currency, Liberitas, Covidol and Mabilla transferred a total sum of N525 million to Gracious Environ Workers Limited & Planners Nigeria Limited.

He said: “However, I now know from the investigation that Philemon Gora conspired with some other persons known and unknown to me now, to collect and represent that they can provide the equivalent of the money.

“But instead, as I speak, my lord, we have not received value in whatever form.”

He alleged that Gora merely squandered the money to personal use.

The case has been adjourned from May 9 to 13, 2022 for the continuation of the trial.

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Headlines

IMO tasks Mobereola to sustain NIMASA’s leadership role in regional maritime industry

—– hails his appointment as DG
The Eyewitness Reporter
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has lauded the leadership role of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) in the maritime industry within the West African sub-region which it said has stabilized maritime administration in the region.
In his congratulatory letter to Dr. Dayo Mobereola, the new NIMASA DG, the Secretary General of IMO Arsenio Dominguez, observed with satisfaction the collaborative efforts of NIMASA that have brought relative peace to the troubled Gulf of Guinea (GoG).
He therefore charged Mobereola to sustain the tempo of activities that will keep the momentum going in the areas of safety, security and building of strong maritime institutions.
In a conveyance letter personally signed by him, the IMO Secretary-General recognized the strides of the Agency in building a robust maritime sector in Nigeria, adding that the IMO commends the significant effort, initiatives, and investment that Nigeria has made in strengthening its maritime institutions.

In the words of Dominguez, “The focus on strengthening maritime law enforcement and security architecture has been welcomed by seafarers and flag States.

“The Deep Blue project and the C4i Centre as well as maritime piracy laws under the SPOMO Act are just some of the many investments that have set a new gold standard in the region in maritime security capacity building”.

“IMO has long supported the regional role of the Yaoundé Code of Conduct and its Member States in strengthening maritime security and law enforcement.

” In this respect, we have been greatly encouraged with the continuation of this regional ownership with the formation and work of the Gulf of Guinea Maritime Collaboration Forum and Shared Awareness and De-confliction (GoG-MCF/SHADE) in 2021”.

He commended the Agency’s partnership with the various regional bodies and expressed the readiness of the IMO to work with Nigeria and other member states on many maritime issues with the aim of jointly tackling these issues.

“NIMASA’s partnership with the Interregional Coordination Centre (ICC) and the collaboration with the shipping industry, navies and the Yaoundé architecture has been instrumental in suppressing the threat of piracy to merchant vessels and seafarers in line with UN Security Council resolution 2634 (2022) on piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea and IMO Assembly resolution A.1159 (32)”.

” I look forward to working with you and your colleagues on many of the maritime issues that we are jointly tackling and hope to welcome you in person at the IMO, he said.

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Headlines

Eastern shippers, freight forwarders on collision course with Shippers’ Council over increase in haulage rate

Akutah Pius Ukeyima, ES, NSC
The Eyewitness Reporter
Importers, Exporters and freight forwarders playing their trade in the South East region of the country have rejected the recent 200 percent hike in haulage rate by the Nigerian Shippers’Council.
They described the increase as “outrageous, arbitrary, and unacceptable.”
In a press conference called by the aggrieved shippers in Port Harcourt on Wednesday, they claimed that if the hike was not reversed, it would bring them on a collision course with the Shippers’ Council.
Addressing journalists on behalf of the aggrieved group, Joshua Ahuama, Zonal Coordinator of the Association of Nigerian Customs Licenced Agents (ANLCA), claimed that the rate will not only lead to spiral inflation but also in contravention of the provisions of the NSC Act.
He disclosed that the group shall give the Shippers’Council a seven-day ultimatum to reverse to status quo or face withdrawal of their services at the Eastern ports.
He accused the council of not consulting concerned stakeholders before arriving at the decision, saying consultations are an integral part of the NSC Act.
 “Recently, the NSC approved a 200 percent increment in haulage rate for transport owners and drivers operating under the Maritime Union of Nigeria.
“To this end, importers and freight forwarders associations in the eastern zone have unanimously disputed the new rate because it is outrageous, arbitrary, and unacceptable to all stakeholders in the zone.
“We have, however, resolved to adopt all peaceful efforts. We started this move on March 14 by calling on the NSC to ensure proper stakeholder engagement and renegotiation.

” These measures are also expected to help all parties to reach a benchmark that would be in the interest of all stakeholders in the maritime value chain,” Ahuama noted.

 “We also urge the NSC to return to the status quo by suspending the implementation of the disputed rate, pending proper renegotiation covering the interest of all stakeholders.

“We are not on a selfish course. Our demands are in the interest of Nigerians because any slight increase in the haulage rate will reflect on the prices of goods in the open market.

“A businessman incorporates total logistic costs into the prices of goods.”

However, the group said they might be constrained to take drastic measures, including suspending all declarations of goods and payments of customs duties, which could negatively affect national revenue and economic output.

Some members of the import and export associations present at the meeting included the Nigeria Shippers Association, the Aba International Traders Association, the Ultimate Importers Association, the POP Importers Association, the Nnewi Importers Association, and the Onitsha Importers Association.

However, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council has said that the new approved rate took into consideration the cost, moderation and other cargo transport issues.
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Customs

Performance of Apapa Customs scanning officers excites Comptroller Jaiyeoba

The Eyewitness Reporter
The Area Controller of Apapa command of the Nigeria Customs Service, Comptroller Babajide Jaiyeoba has lauded the uncompromising attitude of the officers of the Non-Intrusive Inspection Technology Unit (NIITU) which he said has been invaluable to the overall success of the command.
Comptroller Jaiyeoba, who was on an unscheduled visit to the scanner site, reminded the officers of the importance of teamwork as a strong basis to sustain the gains of compliance and revenue collection recently recorded by the command.
He thanked Deputy Comptroller Salamatu Atuluku, the Officer in charge of the scanning site and encouraged the unit not to be deterred by complaints coming from persons who were made to pay accurate duties to the government after issuance of demand notices
According to him, no business person who is made to part with money will be happy with officers who refused to compromise the ethics of their job
” The main reason for me coming here is to appreciate you. I may not see you but I have seen your work and I won’t keep quiet about what I have seen about your work.
“You are doing very well. I just want to encourage you to work as a team. If you don’t work as a team, you give room for outsiders to come in and when they come in, they divide you and when they divide you,  achieving success will be very difficult
” Do your work without blemish. Once you keep your arm straight, you can stand before anybody. Your work as a customs officer is to ensure that you do the correct thing
” For those of you doing an intervention in the form of Demand Notice(DN), there is no body who part with money that will be happy with you.
“They will want to play intelligent by hiding somewhere. When you fetch them from their hiding place, they become your enemy. Whatever they write about anybody here will still come down to me and if anybody works well, the onus on me is to defend such a person.
“Just have it at the back of your mind that you owe yourself the duty of doing your work diligently whether anyone comes around as a friend or enemy.
“It is not enough for you to rest. The reward for hard work is more work. These demands require sacrifice so that you can maintain the status” he said.
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