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News In Nigeria, Tuesday, December 1st, 2020

N554m grass-cutting scandal: EFCC re-arraigns ex-SGF, Babachir Lawal.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, yesterday re-arraigned former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, before an Abuja High Court at Maitama, over alleged complicity in grass cutting contract fraud to the tune of about N554 million.

Lawal, who served as SGF under President Muhammadu Buhari between August 27, 2015, and October 30, 2017, entered fresh plea of not guilty to an amended 10-count charge the EFCC preferred against him and six others.

The other six Defendants that were also re-arraigned by the anti-graft agency, are; younger brother to the former SGF,  Hamidu Lawal, Suleiman Abubakar, Apeh Monday and two companies – Rholavision Engineering Ltd and Josmon Technologies Ltd.

The ex-SGF was among other things, alleged to have connived with the other Defendants and illegally diverted a contract the Presidential Initiative for North East, PINE, awarded for the removal of grasses in Internally Displaced Persons, IDP, camps, to his own company.

Meanwhile, the Defendants, who pleaded innocent to the amended charge read to them before trial Justice Charles Agbaza, persuaded the court to retain the bail conditions it earlier handed them.

The defendants were initially docked before the court on February 12, 2019.

Their re-arraignment yesterday followed the demise of the former trial judge in the matter, Justice Jude Okeke.

The trial had already proceeded with EFCC calling its witnesses, before Justice Okeke’s death on August 4, 2020.

Following the development, the case-file was re-assigned to Justice Agbaza for the trial to commence de-novo (afresh).

Late Justice Okeke had on February 13, 2019, granted the Defendants bail to the tune of N50 million each, with one surety in like sum.

The court equally seized their international passports, even as it barred them from travelling out of the country without permission.

Justice Agbaza slated January 20, 2021, to restart their trial.

Christmas: FG warns churches against holding carol services - Daily Post Nigeria.

The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 has urged Nigerians not to conduct usual Christmas festivities such as carol services this year.

Chikwe Ihekweazu, the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), stated this during the weekly briefing of the task force in Abuja on Monday.

According to Ihekweazu, Christmas carols, travels and other gatherings during the festive season, could turn out to be “super spreaders” of the coronavirus.

He said, “This is really to re-emphasise the call by the PTF that many of the traditional meetings that we engage in at this time of the year, whether they are Christmas carols or festivals, trips, family gatherings, each of those could end up being a super spreader event.

“So, we must take this into consideration as we make our choices.”

NCDC on Monday night announced 145 new cases of COVID-19 in the country.

The new infections take the number of cases in the country to 67,557.

N-Power: Buhari orders increase of beneficiaries from 500,000 to 1m - Daily Post Nigeria.

President Muhammadu Buhari has directed an increase in the number of N-Power beneficiaries.

Buhari ordered the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development to increase N-Power beneficiaries from 500, 000 to 1,000,000.

Disclosing this on Monday, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Farouq, said the order was part of Buhari’s promise to lift 100m Nigerians from poverty in the next 10 years.

She said Buhari also directed an increase in the number of beneficiaries of the Home-Grown School Feeding by 5,000,000.

The Minister disclosed this at a ministerial press briefing to give account of her ministry in the last one year in Abuja.

She said: “In a bid to realise Mr. President’s commitment to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years, the ministry places significant emphasis on youth empowerment by strategically ascertaining youth engagement as a foundational objective in implementing the following strategies: double the scope of the National Social Investment Programmes.

“Mr. President has graciously approved the expansion of all NSIP programmes, such as increase of N-Power beneficiaries from 500,000 to 1,000,000, increase GEEP beneficiaries by 1,000,000 and increase of beneficiaries of Home-Grown School Feeding by 5,000,000.”

Lies used against IPOB to justify Obigbo massacre — Kanu.

Meantime, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, yesterday, alleged that outlandish concoctions and outright lies were used against IPOB to justify the Obigbo massacre.

Mazi Kanu also alleged that the Nigerian Army Defense Headquarters is obstructing independent investigations into the #ObigboMassacre, adding that the Federal Government of Nigeria, Rivers State Government and the Nigerian Army have always used lies to vilify IPOB, while using kid gloves for terror franchise groups like Boko Haram, ISWAP and herdsmen who have continued killing innocent people.

Mazi Kanu, in a statement through IPOB’s Media and Publicity Secretary Emma Powerful, said that he has challenged the Nigerian Army Defense Headquarters to allow independent investigation into the #ObigboMassacre if they know that Army is not lying against IPOB.

His statement read: “If all the outlandish concoctions and outright lies against IPOB used to justify ObigboMassacre were true, why is the Nigerian Army Defense Headquarters obstructing independent investigations? Governor Nyesom Wike demonized Obigbo people just to kill them and sadly, the killings are still ongoing but no action was taken by International Criminal Court – ICC, US Ambassador to Nigeria, UK High Commissioner to Nigeria, EU Mission to Nigeria, etc.

“It is now clear the international community no longer cares about victims of state orchestrated mass murder like what obtained in Obigbo. Appealing to the moral sense of responsibility of conscientious civilised nations no longer work. Perhaps, they want survivors of these brutal massacres all over Nigeria to go into armed resistance.

“Meanwhile, the much ‘respected’ terror franchise like Boko Haram, ISWAP, herdsmen and bandits are busy chopping off the heads of rice farmers in Borno. The cowardly bunch of murderers in uniform only have power over unarmed citizens.

“Countries like the United States of America, especially those apologists for impunity in Nigeria at the US State Department, United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Turkey and European Union that supply arms to Nigeria are equally culpable in the murder of innocent people at Obigbo in Rivers State and Lekki toll gate in Lagos State.”

FG plans debt restructuring - Vanguard News FG plans debt restructuring.

Faced with mounting debt servicing obligations, the federal government is planning to push for debt restructuring.

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, who gave the indication while featuring on a  Nigerian Television Authority, NTA, programme, yesterday, said the current debt servicing obligations were taking too much of the nation’s resources, especially at a time of low revenue generation.

“We are looking forward to restructuring our debts to reduce our debt servicing obligations, especially now that our revenues are low,” she said.

Mrs. Ahmed did not give details of the restructuring but noted that going forward, the government would focus more on local borrowing and concessionary loans.

In order to improve federal government revenues, the minister disclosed that the administration would sell some public assets that had been lying dormant.

She said the government would strengthen its Public Private Partnership, PPP, policy with a view to giving private investors more opportunities to play greater roles in the provision of infrastructure in the country.

‘’The proposed Infrastructure Company (Infraco) would be very useful in that regard,’’ she added.

Infraco, she said, would provide a platform for private investors to invest in infrastructure facilities such as roads and rail lines.

According to the minister, the federal government is working to make it easier for mass transit buses to be imported into the country to reduce the cost of transportation which impacts heavily on the rate of inflation.

Mrs. Ahmed also stressed the  need for peace and harmony across the country to enable the economy exit recession quickly.

She said: “We must have peace and harmony.    Insecurity has the potential of slowing down growth.”

The minister said government’s policy on Ease-of-Doing Business would be sustained, listing the items to include reduction of taxes, duties and levies to enable businesses expand and hire more workers, rather than close down or sack workers, as would otherwise, be the case.

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Abuja EFCC Maitama Muhammadu Buhari Nigeria


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