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Exclusive! FG grants SON  Six months provisional stay at Ports


Eyewitness reporter
Using a combined instrumentality of propaganda, blackmail and lobbying, the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) may have succeeded in its long-time inordinate ambition to return back to the ports.
Confirmed sources in the presidency told our correspondent that the agency may have secured a six- months provisional stay at the Port.
The source, who craved anonymity, said the management of SON was able to lobby and convinced Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, who asked the agency to return to the port for an initial six months period.
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo is the Chairman of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) which oversees the Ease of doing business at Ports.
The modalities for the eventual return of the agency are currently being worked out to synchronize with the existing structure of other agencies at the Port.
Following the approval of the presidency for SON to return to the port, its Director General, Malam Farouk Salim, has been visiting the heads of the relevant agencies at the Port to secure their support and cooperation for a seamless return.
Malam Salim visited the Customs Authority, NPA and other approved agencies at the Port to court their favourable disposition and good reception to the comeback of the SON.
His visit to the Managing Director of the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), Mohammed Bello-Koko, recently was strategic because the NPA is the agency that monitors to ensure the compliance of agencies of government to the directive of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) concerning agencies are allowed in the ports.
At the meeting with the NPA, the SON DG was reported to have discussed the modalities of the agency’s return and how the NPA would ensure it makes it seamless through the provision of office accommodation and other logistics as the port landlord.
The SON was among the mushroom agencies that were weeded out of the ports through the 2011 Presidential Directive to reduce agencies operating at the ports.
After the surgical operations, the over 20 agencies that were then operating at the Port were pruned down to Seven.
They included the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Nigeria Police, Department of State Service (DSS), Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) and Port Health.
But later, the NDLEA and NAFDAC came in through the back door through ceaseless lobbying and campaigns.
These now raised the approved numbers of agencies at the ports to nine.
However, since then, SON has embarked on a relentless campaign to also return to the port, taking a cue from the NDLEA and NAFDAC that were initially dropped but later added.
Despite the fruitlessness of its relentless campaigns to stage a comeback, SON was not a deterrent in its desire to return.
However, the campaign reached a crescendo when the incumbent DG of the agency, Malam Salim, was appointed in 2020.
Malam Salim employed a hybrid of methods to get SON back to the port.
The agency used public enlightenment, lectures and seminars where stakeholders were engaged to speak in favour of the agency’s return.
Critical stakeholders such as the leadership of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) and the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) became the megaphones of the agency, advocating for its return.
The two leading associations, which observers said should have ordinarily opposed the staged-managed comeback, given its implications on the cost of clearing procedures and other encumbrances, were at the forefront of the campaign to bring back the agency to the port.
SON management also employed an instrument of blackmail in its bid to return to the port.
At one of his numerous press briefings, which were judiciously deployed in its campaigns,, the DG of SON was quoted to have accused the Customs of complicity in the influx of fake and substandard products into the country, a statement which the DG later denied.
However, the long and persistent bid of the agency to return may have finally paid off with the presidential approval for its initial six months trial at the Port.
The officials of the agency whom our reporter contacted for confirmation of the development were not forthcoming, saying it was only the DG who could comment on the matter.
However, one of the officials confirmed that the modalities for the return are being worked out by the presidency with other existing agencies at the Port.
“Let’s keep our fingers crossed, when all the necessary steps have been taken, the DG himself would address the press to give the modalities for the return.
“Right now, I can’t say anything until the DG holds the press conference” the SON source declared.
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Lagos princess congratulates Tinubu, Sanwo-Olu

… tasks them on development of maritime economy
The eyewitness reporter
The President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and the Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Olushola Sanwo-Olu have been tasked with paying attention to the maritime economy for its development for the overall benefit of Nigeria and her citizenry.
Giving the task with congratulatory messages, a Lagos princess, Princess Ronke Kosoko, noted that developing the maritime economy would instigate the economic development of the nation.
Princess Kosoko who is the CEO of Employment Clinic and Coordinator, Project One Million Jobs,
congratulated Asiwaju Tinubu and Governor Sanwo-Olu on their well-deserved victories at the polls.
She was confident that the Nigerian maritime economy will gain immensely from the Tinubu administration even as she enjoined the President-elect to focus on the industry.
Kosoko noted that skilled maritime personnel is aging and there is a need to transfer their wealth of experience to the younger generation who needs to be prepared to take over from the retiring generation.
She disclosed that the Federal Ministry of Transportation had approved the request for Project One Million Jobs to interface with agencies under the ministry for a seamless flow of talks and synergy that will positively impact and lead to a new frontier in the industry.
Ronke Kosoko unveiled her pet project, Maritime Conversion Programme (MCP), which she explained was designed to introduce Nigerian graduates to the maritime sector and improve career prospects.

Kosoko said that the MCP, which has gotten the backing of the government, would give support and connect not less than 5000 Nigerian graduates with the right employers in the industry who can engage them in non-technical aspects of shipping.

She noted that women will be given an adequate percentage under MCP, stating that the MCP is not creating jobs but providing a fertile ground for the transfer of knowledge from old Nigerians in the industry to young ones.

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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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EFCC arraigns bank manager, two others for N55m fraud in Makurdi

Owolola Adebola

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC,) on Tuesday, March 21, 2023, arraigned one Kichime Gomwalk, a  branch manager of First City Monument Bank, (FCMB,) Michael Damkas Buayam of Tan Global Energy Limited, and Abbas Andrew Dayilim of Castlegate International Limited before Justice P. S. Gang of the Plateau State High Court Jos, on a five-count charge bordering on stealing, cheating and obtaining by false pretense to the tune of N55,000.000.00 (Fifty Five Million Naira) fraud.

Kichime Gomwalk, while serving as branch Manager, FCMB Plc, Murtala Mohammed Way Jos, in Plateau State is alleged to have forged COCIN GRATUITY CERTIFICATE OF PLEDGE/LETTER OF SET-OFF dated 30th DECEMBER, 2019, purportedly co-signed by Mrs. Monica Bitrus Tang and Rev (Dr.) Amos Musa Mohzo, Directors, which he used to secure an overdraft facility from FCMB Plc to the tune of N55, 000.000.00 (Fifty-Five Million Naira) with COCIN Gratuity account N0. 100GOMWALK379 domiciled with FCMB Plc

Count one of the charges reads, “That you, Kichime Gomwalk, Michael Damkas Buayam of Tan Global Energy Limited, and you Abbas Andrew Dayilim of Castlegate International Limited, sometime in December 2019 at Jos, in Plateau State within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court did conspire among yourselves to commit an unlawful act to with without Lawful authority engaged in the acquisition of N55,000.000.00 (Fifty Five Million Naira) overdraft credit facility from FCMB Plc and thereby committed an offense of conspiracy contrary to section 59 (1) of the Plateau State Penal Code Law, (20017) and punishable under Section 59 (2) of the same Law”.

Count two reads, “That you, Kichime Gomwalk, Michael Damkas Buayam of Tan Global Energy Limited, and you Abbas Andrew Dayilim of Castlegate International Limited, sometime in December 2019 in Plateau State within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court fraudulently used LETTER OF CONSENT to engage in the acquisition of N55,000.000.00 (Fifty Five Million Naira) overdraft credit facility from FCMB Plc knowing that at the time of acquisition of the said money, it was derived from the unlawful activity and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 18 (a) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission  (Establishment Act) 2004, and Punishable under section 18 (2) of the same Act”.

The defendants pleaded ‘not guilty’ when the charge was read to them.

 The prosecution counsel, Uwaise Yusuf urged the court to remand the defendants and fix a date for trial.

The judge adjourned the case till May 18, 2023, and ordered the remand of the defendants at the Jos Correctional Center pending the hearing of their bail applications.

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