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Leatherback CEO Ibrahim Ibitade Denies Hiding from EFCC After Wanted Notice

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Ibrahim Ibitade, the CEO of Leatherback, a fintech startup that provides cross-border payments to customers in seven countries, has said he is not hiding after Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) declared him wanted on Thursday afternoon. According to an Instagram post from the commission, 31-year-old Ibitade is wanted in connection with allegations of conspiracy and obtaining money under pretense. A source at the EFCC, a law enforcement agency that investigates financial crime, confirmed the authenticity of the notice but did not provide further details.

“Since this investigation began, Leatherback has supported the EFCC with multiple resources and documentary evidence that has aided this investigation,” said Ibrahim Ibitade on a phone call with TechCabal. “We have done as much as required to ensure the authorities have all the necessary information. My team has spent 35 of the last 60 days at the EFCC offices in Lagos and Abuja. We are not hiding from the EFCC.”

Leatherback, SDQ Financials and a complex EFCC case

Three sources with direct knowledge of the matter told TechCabal that the EFCC is investigating fraud involving a company called SDQ Financials, an incident first reported by TechCabal in September. According to the Corporate Affairs Commission website, SDQ Financials is incorporated in Nigeria, and only one individual, Lawal Mohammed Kazeem, is listed as having significant control of the company. SDQ did not respond to TechCabal’s request for comments.

However, six people with knowledge of the matter said SDQ Financials, a merchant on Leatherback, promised several companies and individuals better FX rates than what was obtainable on Nigeria’s black market. Those sources said several prominent companies, including a publicly listed company, gave billions of Naira to SDQ Financials, an unregulated entity with very little publicly available information, for FX deals. Sources described deals similar to those done by Float, a company that lost at least ₦5 billion in customer deposits.

Leatherback said the statement and facts of the issue it shared with this publication in September remain unchanged. According to Leatherback, SDQ Financials is a merchant that uses Leatherback’s Naira and USD wallets. The company said it completed a Know Your Customer (KYC) onboarding process for SDQ Financials and kept records of its transactions, as mandated by law. It denies any direct involvement with SDQ Financials and says it did not know about the fraud allegedly perpetrated by SDQ Financials.

A financial services expert told this publication that the EFCC began investigating Leatherack because some of the Naira funds reportedly received by SDQ Financials were traced to Leatherback’s wallets. It is unclear how much the EFCC is trying to actively recover, but two sources say at least ₦3 billion remains unaccounted for. The EFCC has not shared any information on the specifics of its investigation.

Nonetheless, Leatherback says it is unfazed and believes it is being bullied. “If a commercial bank in Nigeria issues an account to an individual or a business and that business goes to defraud other people, will you declare the CEO of the commercial bank wanted?” Ibitade asked.

Zedcrest Capital, Leatherback’s lead investor in its 2022 $10 million raise, declined to comment on any part of this story.

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INTERNATIONAL DAY OF MENSTRUAL HYGIENE – ELEGUSHI FOUNDATION DONATES SANITARY PADS TO 2000 SCHOOLGIRLS

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International Day of Menstrual Hygiene, observed annually on May 28th, is dedicated to breaking taboos and raising awareness about the importance of good menstrual hygiene management (MHM).

The day provides an opportunity for all stakeholders to highlight the importance of menstrual care, and raise awareness about the issues faced by those who don’t have access to menstrual products, safe, hygienic spaces in which to use them, and the right to manage menstruation without shame or stigma.

In celebration of this year menstrual hygiene day and in continuation of its tradition of donating sanitary pads to young girls, the Oba Saheed Elegushi Foundation donated sanitary pads to 2000 secondary schoolgirls in Lagos State.

The distribution, which was done in collaboration with the Lagos Island Maternity Hospital, underscores the importance of community collaboration in addressing menstrual hygiene challenges and demonstrates the power of joint efforts in creating lasting change in young girls.

Speaking at an event to mark this day, Executive Director of the foundation, Aiki Odiawa said the collaborative effort with Island Maternity Hospital is essential to extend the reach of the program, ensuring that every girl in need receives adequate menstrual hygiene products. By pooling resources and expertise, we can also develop comprehensive educational campaigns that address menstrual health and advocate for policies that support this critical aspect of women’s health.

She added that in the last one year, more than 200,000 girls have benefitted from the sanitary donation, which the Elegush i foundation embarks on a monthly basis to young schoolgirls within Ikate-Elegushi kingdom.

The Apex Nurse of Island Maternity Hospital, Mrs Oluwatoyin Champion thanked the foundation for the donation of the sanitary pads, saying that every girl of adolescent age have access to hygienic menstrual cycle.

Over 2000 schoolgirls from Eko Akete Junior Secondary School, Lagos Island, Ilasan Secondary School, Eti-Osa, Gbara Secondary School, Jakande, Eti-Osa and Girls Academy, Lagos Island, benefited from the initiative.

 

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Emefiele didn’t get approval to redesign naira – Ex-CBN director

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The trial of the immediate-past Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, continued on Tuesday with a former Director of Operations at the apex bank, Ahmed Umar, telling the court that the naira redesign embarked upon by Emefiele late 2022 did not have the approval of the Committee of Governors.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had on May 15 arraigned Emefiele before Justice Maryanne Anenih of the Federal Capital Territory High Court on charges bordering on alleged unlawful redesign and printing of the new naira notes.

In the charge marked CR/264/2024, the EFCC alleged that Emefiele carried out the naira redesign policy without the approval of the CBN Board and President, Buhari.

The anti-graft agency said without the approval of the CBN Board and the President Muhammadu Buhari, Emefiele spent N18.96bn for the printing and swapping of new naira notes worth N684.5m

It alleged that Emefiele, “knowingly disobeying the direction of Section 19 of the CBN Act, 2007” approved “the printing of N375,520,000.00 pieces of colour swapped N1,000 notes, at the total cost of N11,052, 068,062 without the recommendation of the Board of Central Bank and the strict approval of the President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, among other things.”

At the trial opening on Tuesday, the EFCC fielded ex-CBN Director of Operations, Umar, as its first witness.

Led in evidence by the EFCC prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo (SAN), Umar told the court that his department in 2022 was directed to come up with the new design for the naira.

“The management of CBN directed my department to come up with a memo on the design of the naira note sometime in August 2022.

“We prepared the bill with the Committee of Governors and passed it through the line Deputy Governor Operations, which he forwarded to the Governor and it was listed for consideration by the Committee of Governors.”

The ex-director, who told the court that he joined CBN 35 years ago and retired in July 2023, explained that the Committee of Governors comprised five members, including the CBN Governor as chairman.

The witness told the court that the naira redesign memo was presented to the Committee of Governors for their consideration/ review on October 26, 2022, but the committee did not approve it.

Umar said, “We humbly requested the implementation of the amendment. (But) the extract from the COG did not approve item one and item three. While item two was modified to include N200 denomination, the proposal for the exercise in 2023 wasn’t approved by the COG.

“The procedure requires the Board of Directors to recommend to the President for design and form.

“The design shall be contained in the currency after the approval of the President then the production of the currency will commence.”

Justice Anenih, admitted in evidence, the Certified True Copy of the memorandum filed by the Operations Department and marked it as Exhibit A.

The EFCC, in the charges, accused Emefiele of spending N4.4bn to print “coloured swapped N500 notes.”

According to the EFCC, Emefiele spent N3.4bn to print “137,070 pieces of coloured N200 notes.”

The EFCC said Emefiele carried out the alleged actions between October 2022 and March 2023 in Abuja in clear violation of Section 19 of the CBN Act.

The EFCC alleged that Emefiele disobeyed the direction of the law with the intent to cause injury to the public with the manner in which he implemented the naira swap policy.

Emefiele was also accused of unlawfully approving the withdrawal of N124.8bn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation.

The ex-apex bank chief, however, denied all the allegations, pleading not guilty.

 

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TROUBLE LOOMS FOR CULTURE MINISTER, HANATU MUSAWA, OVER N290M STREET LIGHT PROJECT

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The Minister of Art, Culture and the Creative Economy, Hannatu Musawa is at the center of yet another scandal.

This time, she was accused of voting 290 million naira for street lights to be located in her local government and if not properly handled might culminate into a major crisis.

According to an article published by Daily Trust Newspapers on
May 22, 2024, the Ministry of Culture voted 290 million naira for street lights to be located in Minister Hanatu Musa Musawa’s local government.

While reacting to Daily Trust article, the permanent secretary of the ministry, Mr James Sule, said the project was a strategic one but industry watchers are peeved that the Perm Sec did not disclose the cultural jobs, culture attractions and the emerging innovations that the project will contribute to gross Domestic productivity of the nation.

The minister was also alleged to have budgeted a whopping sum of three billion naira for culture research and development in her 2024 budget.

Sources squealed that prior to this current scandal rocking the ministry, Musawa had used her appointees to falsely lay claim to culture projects done by the immediate past administration and now have resorted to deploy a tested technocrat like her permanent secretary to accuse Daily Trust of alleged misinformation on the budgeted solar lights to be domiciled her local government.

A staff of the ministry who spoke on the condition of anonymity said “If all our ministers, agency heads, and legislators now compete to domicile constituency projects exclusively in their local governments, other areas in Nigeria that did not produce ministers will end up with nothing, no roads, lights, railway, hospitals, airports and etc. What a clever way to practice nepotism and misappropriation in the name of budgeting for constituency projects”

It would be recalled that Musawa was embroiled in NYSC status scandal.

This started about three years ago when Musawa could not provide evidence of national service to senators during the screening for an appointment she was nominated for by former President Muhammadu Buhari.

But the controversy resurfaced when following the confirmation by the management of the NYSC that Ms Musawa, who was inaugurated as Minister by President Bola Tinubu, was still undergoing her national youth service.

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