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EFCC releases ex-Aviation Minister, Fani-Kayode after over 6 hours of grilling

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has released a former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode after grilling him for hours.

Fani-Kayode was said to have been questioned over alleged forgery and manipulation of documents.

The former minister, who recently defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), was invited to answer questions relating to the forgery of a medical report which he allegedly procured to evade his trial before a Federal High Court in Lagos, it was learnt.

However, it was gathered that the former minister arrived at the Lagos office of the commission in company with his lawyer around 2 pm and left at 8.30 pm.

He said, “Just arrived at the George Hotel for dinner. I was never arrested by the EFCC. I was invited & I flew down to Lagos to see them. I arrived in their office at 2.00pm & left at 8.30pm. I was granted bail on self recognition. They were very polite & professional. Thanks be to God.”

Fani-Kayode is also standing trial over an alleged N4.6 billion fraud before Justice Daniel Osiagor of the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos.

The EFCC had charged him alongside a former Minister of Finance, Nenadi Usman, and two others on 17 counts of conspiracy, money laundering, and fraud.

At the last sitting of the court on October 13, the judge had imposed a cost of N200,000 on him due to his failure to appear before the court for his re-arraignment following the transfer of the former trial judge, Justice Rilwan Aikawa.

He was ordered to pay the fine or stand the risk of having his bail revoked after he failed to appear before the court for his re-arraignment.

Instead of showing up in court for his re-arraignment, the former minister had sent a letter to the court, claiming that his doctors had placed him on bed rest.

Counsel for the EFCC, Mrs Bilikisu Buhari had informed the court that the letters by the second defendant had become numerous and had also become an excuse for him to evade trial.

“This is the third time he will be writing this type of letter from the same hospital. Whenever he doesn’t want to attend court, this is the type of letter we get,” she said.

But Fani-Kayode’s counsel, Bobo Fred-Ajudua, interrupted and informed the judge that although his client’s illness was a recurring one, he had attended court regularly, and this could be shown from the court’s records.

He, thereafter, asked the court to grant an adjournment in favour of his client. At that point, the trial judge decided to go through the court’s file and after searching, he discovered that the second defendant had actually sought a similar medical excuse five times.

The court then asked the defence counsel to take one of two options which were to either revoke the bail of the second defendant or to impose a fine of N200,000 to be paid before the next trial date.

“From my records, the second defendant had written the court five times excusing his trial on medical grounds. February 1, 2018; May 30, 2019; November 24, 2020; March 21, 2021, and today’s letter dated October 9, 2021.

“The second defendant is to pay a cost of N200,000 before the next adjourned date, as the recurring medical excuses have been a pattern that slows down this trial,” the judge held.

The defence counsel chose the latter option.

Justice Osaigor then adjourned the case until November 30 for re-arraignment of all the defendants.

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Fuel Subsidy Removal: Don’t paralyse Nigeria’s economy – PFN warns Buhari government

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President of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), Bishop Francis Wale Oke has cautioned the Nigerian Government against further aggravating the suffering of Nigerians through the proposed fuel subsidy removal.

He said the removal of fuel subsidy will lead to hikes in the prices of petroleum products.

In a release issued on Sunday by his Media Office, Oke warned that the implementation of such a policy could increase the hardship currently being experienced by the people of the country.

He lamented that prices of consumables and other items were increasingly getting out of reach of the people, noting that if the proposed subsidy removal is done, it would worsen the hardship of the people of the nation.

“Everybody will feel it, particularly the underprivileged. The negative effects will surely outweigh the positive. The cost of transportation for humans and goods across the country will skyrocket and other things connected which will have a spiral effect on the general living standard of the populace; the suffering will be multi-dimensional. Please, let all stakeholders be sensitive to this avoidable path and do the needful,” he said.

Oke said the situation has become worrisome due to the reduction in the purchasing power of Nigerians caused by the continuous fall in the value of the nation’s currency at the exchange market.

The PFN president, therefore, admonished the government to do all it could to revive the four ailing refineries in the country, with a view to ensuring they operate at an optimal level for a lasting benefit for the country and its people.

“By whatever means, let the Federal Government put its heart into ensuring that our refineries are back to life. In addition, in order to stem the rising cost of living, farmers and others connected to them should be encouraged. This is what can help our economy,” the cleric said.

While maintaining that the Christian body would always support policies that would enhance good governance, he urged the government to put in place tangible palliative measures that could ameliorate the hardship being experienced.

“Without begging the issue, there should be well-defined palliative measures in place that can cushion the effect of the hardship being experienced by Nigerians, especially the commoners. One is not talking about political palliatives that never last. We have seen enough of such,” he said.

Continuing, the bishop pointed out that “an increase in the price of petroleum from its present N165 to N340 per litre can trigger tension and crises in the country which in turn can paralyse our economy if not handled with utmost care”.

On the proposed N5,000 to be paid to about 40 million poor Nigerians by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government to ameliorate the effects of the planned fuel subsidy removal, Oke asserted that “Again, the planned introduction of N5,000 for 40 million poor Nigerians is to create a cesspool of corruption. How do you define ‘the poor’? They, mostly, don’t use telephones. They, mostly, don’t have bank accounts. How will the money get to them?”

The renowned cleric advised the government to be wary of policies that could jeopardise the conduct of the 2023 general elections, insisting that all hands must be geared towards steering the wheel of the country to a better place.

As a panacea to the rising cost of food items, the PFN President advised that farmers and relevant stakeholders should be empowered with relevant tools and funds through loans with little interest.

Meanwhile, Oke who is also the presiding Bishop of The Sword of the Spirit Ministries implored the government not to relent in its efforts at ensuring that security challenges in the country become a thing of the past.

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New COVID-19 strain: Planned visit of Ramaphosa to Nigeria raises concern

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Following the outbreak of a new strain of COVID-19 in South Africa and the travel restrictions imposed on Southern African countries by several countries, concerns have been raised over the proposed visit of the South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, to Nigeria.

Barring any last-minute change, President Muhammadu Buhari is expected to receive Ramaphosa and other top government functionaries of his administration, who are scheduled to undertake a three-day visit to Nigeria between November 29 and December 1.

South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases had revealed that there were 22 positive cases linked to the new strain of COVID-19, adding that the percentage testing positive was “increasing quickly”.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) had declared the strain identified as B.1.1.529 as a “variant of concern” and named it “Omicron.”
The heavily-mutated new variant has so far been detected in South Africa, Botswana, and Hong Kong.

This development has prompted the ban of travellers from Southern African countries by the 27-member European Union (EU), and the United States, Britain, Canada, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and UAE.

The EU’s executive “will propose, in close coordination with member states, to activate the emergency brake to stop air travel from the southern African region due to the variant of concern B.1.1.529,” EU chief, Ursula Von der Leyen, had tweeted on Friday.

The EU countries are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden.

The US announced on Friday that it would be restricting travel from eight southern African countries over fears of the new variant, which some had expected to be named Nu but which has now been dubbed Omicron.

Travel would be mostly banned starting Monday (tomorrow) from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawi, a senior official in President Joe Biden’s administration, had reportedly said
However, only US citizens and permanent residents will still be able to travel from the eight countries.

Canada also banned travellers from seven African countries – Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe – over concerns about the variant.
The United Kingdom had also placed South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini, and Zimbabwe on its red list, which means that direct flights from the six countries were banned from Friday until Sunday (today) at 4 am.

Passengers arriving from these countries from today, at 4 am, would have to book and pay for a government-approved hotel quarantine facility for 10 days.

Ramaphosa’s planned visit has raised concerns in Nigeria following the new strain of COVID-19.
“What is the federal government’s dilemma over the visit? Is Nigeria going to receive the South African President and other officials when other countries are banning travellers from South Africa? Is the federal government going to tell them not to come? Under what structure are they going to come?” a top official of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) queried.

The visit will be President Ramaphosa’s first visit to Nigeria in his official capacity as the substantive president since he was elected some three years ago.

He had visited Nigeria in 2018, as the acting president, following the exit of former President Jacob Zuma from office.
There are about 120 South African firms in Nigeria, including the telecommunication giant, MTN, DSTV whose parent company, Multichoice, remains the number one leading player in the cable TV ecosystem in the country.
However, only a few Nigerian firms are operating in South Africa.

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COVID-19: FG directs all civil servants to resume, get vaccinated

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The Federal government has directed civil servants from Grade Level 12 and below to resume work effective Wednesday, December 1, 2021.

Recall that federal civil service workers from Grade Level 12 and below had been working from home following a spike in COVID-19 cases across the country.

In the now-viral circular , the directive, signed by the Head of Service of the Federation, Folasade Yemi-Esan, noted that beginning December 1, all Federal Government workers are requested “to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or present a negative COVID-19 PCR test result done within 72 hours.”

“It will be recalled that as part of the measures to curtail the spread of COVID-19 pandemic, Officers on GL 12 and below were directed to work from home. Following the advice of the PSC on COVID-19, this category of officers are expected to resume duties on Wednesday, 1st December 2021,” the circular reads in part

Recall that the chairman of the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, had earlier announced that beginning December 1, 2021 all Federal Government employees will be required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or present a negative PCR result to gain access to their offices.

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