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Alleged N715m fraud: Jonathan’s ex-aide testifies against Turaki

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An ex-aide of former President Goodluck Jonathan, Umar Tahir,  on Tuesday, told the Federal High Court, Abuja, that ex-Minister, Taminu Turaki, released N200 million out of the N359 million for a security sensitisation programme in parts of the country in 2014.

Mr Tahir, who was Mr Jonathan’s Senior Special Assistant (SSA) on Islamic Affairs, made the allegation before Justice Inyang Ekwo while testifying as the first prosecution witness in Turaki’s trial on money laundering charges involving about N854 million.

Turaki was Minister of Special Duties and Inter-governmental Affairs between 2013 and 2015.

He also served as the supervising Minister of Labour from 2014 to 2015 during Jonathan’s administration.

Newsmen report that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had, on May 4, arraigned the former minister alongside his former Special Assistant, Sampson Okpetu, and two firms; Samtee Essentials Limited and Pasco Investment Limited, on 16 counts of money laundering.

The EFCC alleged that the defendants used the companies to launder funds totalling about N845 million stolen from the two ministries where the minister held sway under the then administration. However, Turaki and Okpetu pleaded not guilty to the charges.

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Testifying on Tuesday, Tahir disclosed that due to the shortage in the funds released, the programme that was planned to be organised in each of the 19 northern states and the six geo-political zones of the country could only be executed in the North-West zone, South-South zone, Abuja, Kaduna and Kano States.

He told the court how he was invited by the former president on June 23, 2014, to discuss the security challenges posed by Boko Haram, fake speeches, amongst others in the country.

The witness, who was led in evidence by EFCC’s counsel, Mohammed Abubakar, said part of the advice he offered Jonathan was to let his office organise “a sensitisation town hall meetings across the 19 states and the six geo-political zones which the Vice-President and top members of the government would attend.”

He said he raised a memo on June 30, 2014, in which he enumerated how he planned the programme and indicated the need for funds to be released to organise it.

“But as a Senior Special Assistant to the President, I did not have ministerial accounts.

“So, I was asked to liaise with the Minister of Special Duties so that the money would be sent to him and he would then send it to me.

“The president in his minute on my memo gave his approval through the Vice-President and my office.

“Therefore, on July 7, 2014, the approval was conveyed to my office and that of the Vice-President,” he narrated. Tahir said he subsequently held meetings with Turaki after which he sent a budget of N359m for the programme to the minister on Sept. 2, 2014.

“In January 2015, the president granted the approval that the Minister of Finance should release N359m for the programme,” he said.

The witness, however, alleged that out of the N359 million approved by the president, only N200 million was released to him.

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According to him, of the N200 million, the sum of N150 million was paid to me in three tranches of N50m each in January 2015, via an account he submitted to the minister.

He said he collected the balance of N50 million in cash from the ex-ministers aide. He said it was when he was invited by the EFCC to shed light on the transactions that he was told that the total sum of N359m was released to the minister.

“I gave EFCC copies of the cheques I issued for the disbursement of the money released to me.

“I said it was only N200 million that was released to me. They said the complete N359 million was released to the minister but he only gave me N200 million,” he added.

Justice Ekwo then adjourned until Sept. 21 for the cross-examination of the witness.

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Earlier in the proceedings, Justice Ekwo ordered the EFCC to produce its investigation reports in respect of the case and the statements of four of its proposed witnesses and have them served on the second defendant.

The judge gave the order following an application by the second defendant’s lawyer, A.K Ajibade, SAN.

Abubakar did not opposed application.

 

 

 

 

 

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COVID-19: Demand for oxygen by patients has increased- Lagos commissioner

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The Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof Akin Abayomi, has said that there is an increase in the demand for oxygen by COVID-19 patients.

As a result of this, he said the state government has intensified efforts to make oxygen available across the local government areas in the state.

Abayomi stated this on Friday at a Zoom webinar by the Lagos Civil Society against COVID-19. The webinar was themed, ‘COVID-19 Home/Community Based Care in Lagos: Issues and Opportunities.’

It was moderated by the Chairman, International Institute of Risk and Society Management Nigeria, Dr Eugene Itua.

Speaking during the session, Abayomi stated,

“We noticed that there is a slight increase in the demand for oxygen. Patients are coming in with breathlessness and sometimes they present (themselves) to other hospitals in need of oxygen.

“So, we are trying to make oxygen available across the local government areas so patients can get oxygen treatment to be stabilised. Once they are stable, they can now be moved into isolation centres and get more medical treatment and hopefully, we can rescue them from getting into a more critical stage where we may now need to consider ventilating.

“We’d rather not ventilate. There are about five levels of oxygen therapy before we get to the ventilation stage and if we can use those levels and avoid ventilating patients, we’ll rather go down that route. But that depends on getting the patient early enough.”

Abayomi said it was important for people in communities to go for testing early if they noticed COVID-19 symptoms so their conditions wouldn’t escalate to the critical stage.

“If they are feeling unwell, they should not automatically think it is malaria or typhoid or anything else. If they are feeling unwell and there is a fever, body pains, cough and signs of breathlessness or exhaustion, then it’s important to get tested for COVID-19 and assess their respiratory function so they can be admitted to an isolation centre early enough to prevent getting into a severe or critical state,” he said.

Furthermore, Abayomi said the state was now testing about 1,000 people a day and hoped to attain 4,000 tests per day.

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Due to the increasing number of patients (10,823 cases as of Thursday, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control), the health commissioner said the state would soon exceed its isolation capacity, hence the adoption of home-based care.

He said,

“This (home care) is not new. It is recommended by the World Health Organisation. Home isolation is a normal progression of an outbreak and we have reached that stage in Lagos.

“For the patients receiving home care, we will send them a package which contains the basic items we give patients at the isolation centres. The kit includes a mask, hand sanitiser, thermometer and some drugs. So, we are evolving into home-based care and we’ll be reserving our centres for more complicated cases.”

Meanwhile, the webinar’s moderator and IIRSMN Chairman, Itua, said civil society organisations had a major role to play regarding home-based care for COVID-19 patients. He said they must support the various stakeholders and communities on how to manage the pandemic.

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Covid-19: Ortom’s wife, son, aides test positive

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Covid-19: Ortom’s wife, son, aides test positive

The wife of the Governor of Benue State, Mrs Eunice Ortom, her son, and some of her aides have tested positive for Covid-19.

Mrs Ortom disclosed this in a statement she personally signed around 11:30 pm on Friday.

“Few moments ago this evening, I received my result from the tests earlier carried out on me by NCDC personnel on routine screening at Government House, Makurdi which returned that I and my son, and some staff are Covid-19 positive.

“We have from this moment, gone into total isolation as required by the protocols and would immediately begin the management treatment as advised by medical experts.

“While I have taken the responsibility to personally call everyone I can recall to have had recent contact with to go for testing, I advise anyone who has had close contact with me in the last 2 weeks and the public to go for screening and testing.

“I wish to reiterate that being Covid-19 positive is not a death sentence as evident by the many recoveries recorded thus far. So there is no need to panic, but we should continue to be responsible in our actions so as to keep others safe,” she said.

The governor’s wife, therefore, encouraged people to take preventive measures and be safe by observing the primary protocols such as wearing of masks, constant washing of hands, maintaining social distancing and staying indoors if not necessary to go out.

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The Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Terver Akase, had last Tuesday confirmed that his principal, Governor Samuel Ortom, had taken a second Covid-19 test and that the result was being awaited.

It is not immediately clear if Orton’s result had been released and what the test result read.

Since the relaxed lockdown in the state, the coronavirus infection rate has increased and there are palpable fear that if something is not done, it will go out of hand.

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Only recently, the Vice-Chancellor of the Benue State University tested positive to the virus.

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Atiku reacts as Wike, Fintiri gets new appointment

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Former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has reacted to Governor Nyesome Wike’s new appointment as the Chairman of Edo State Governorship Election National Campaign Council.

Recall that the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP had appointed Governor Nyesome Wike as the Chairman of the Edo State Governorship Election National Campaign Council.

The party in a tweet via its official Twitter account also said it appointed Governor Ahmadu Fintiri as the Deputy Chairman of the election campaign.

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Reacting, the Former Vice President in a tweet via his official Twitter account on Saturday morning expressed his good wishes to the two candidates stating that he was confident that they would carry out their responsibilities well

He said

“Congratulations, Governor Wike on your appointment as Chairman of Edo State Governorship Election National Campaign Council of our great party, OfficialPDPNig.

“I am confident that your leadership, supported by Governor Ahmadu Fintiri, the Vice-Chairman, and other members of the PDP Edo 2020 Council will work assiduously for the victory of Governor Obaseki, and set Edo State on the path of even greater development.”

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