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N16.5bn Fraud: AGF Takes Over Prosecution of Polaris Bank, Staff

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The Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi, has taken over the prosecution of Polaris Bank and a staff member, Chinenye Duru, for alleged N16.5 billion fraud.

The office of the Inspector General of Police, which filed the case in December 2023, accused Polaris Bank and Mr Duru of fraudulently diverting over N16.5 billion from a customer’s various accounts within nearly eight years.

The police identified the bank customer and the victim of the alleged crime as Onukogu Victor Hezekiah, the spiritual head of the Living Christ Mission Church, Onitsha, Anambra State, South-east Nigeria.

According to the prosecution, the defendants diverted the money from Mr Hezekiah’s accounts between 2017 and 2023, while Mr Duru served as the customer’s account officer. Mr Hezekiah is fondly called Daddy Hezkiah by his followers.

A lawyer from the AGF office, V.J. Alma, informed the trial judge, Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, that Mr Fagbemi directed the takeover of the case from the police in the exercise of his powers as the AGF under Section 174(1)(b) of the Nigerian constitution.

Mr Alma did not give any reason for the AGF office’s decision to take over the case.

“We have written a letter to the Nigerian police notifying them of this position and requesting the original case file in a letter dated 29 May 2024,” the lawyer said. “We are still waiting for the original case file.”

Mr Ekwo asked Mr Alma if the AGF office had written to the court about the development, and the lawyer responded in affirmative.

Mr Alma urged the court to fix the matter for trial on a date after the about-to-commence annual vacation of judges.

The judge then told Mr Duru’s lawyer, Chidi Ezenwafor, to advise Polaris Bank, the 1st defendant in the case, to engage a lawyer to represent it in the case.

Mr Ekwo postponed the hearing in the case till 18 and 19 November for trial.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Inspector-General of Police arraigned Mr Duru on 11 counts on 19 January.

He pleaded not guilty to the counts.

The judge remanded Mr Duru in a correctional facility pending the hearing of his bail application.

Polaris Bank Plc and Mr Duru are the first and the 2nd defendants in the case marked FHC/ABJ/CR/603/2023.

Charges
In the charges, the prosecution accused Polaris Bank and Mr Duru of fraudulently withdrawing N16.5 billion from Mr Hezekiah’s account numbers 1040495455 and 1060104735 between 17 November 2017 and 14 August 2023.

Within the same period, the prosecution alleged that the defendants also fraudulently withdrew N75.534 million from the customer’s other account, 4010023601.

According to the prosecution, the defendants also fraudulently withdrew N13.3 million from the customer’s account number 40910106770 and N16.3 million from his other account number 411054152 within the same period.

The charges said the defendants withdrew the money without authorisation from the owner of the accounts with the intent of converting it for their personal use.

The police charged the offences under sections 18 (2) and 21 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition Act, 2022. Some of the offences are punishable under section 18(3) of the money laundering law, the police said.

(NAN)

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Just In: President Tinubu approves N70,000 minimum wage

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President Bola Tinubu has approved N70,000 as the new minimum wage for Nigerian workers with a promise to review the national minimum wage law every three years.

 

More details later…

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Gov. Zulum Clarifies Son’s Purported Killing Of Chinese National At Indian Nightclub

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The Borno State Governor, Babagana Zulum, has denied reports alleging that one of the sons has been arrested and sentenced to prison for the murder of some Indian citizens.

Reports has it that there were unverified rumours, especially on social media platforms, alleging that the first son of the governor, Umar Zulum Umara, killed the Chinese national during a fight at an Indian nightclub.

However, the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on New Media, Abdurrahman Ahmed Bundi, dismissed the reports in a statement on Wednesday.

According to him, no son of the governor was arrested or charged with any crime.

The statement read, “attention of the Borno State Governor’s Media Unit has been drawn to rumours circulating that the son of the Borno State Governor has been arrested for the alleged murder of some Indian citizens.

“This misinformation was published in an online blog, Nairaland, titled “Son of Borno State Governor Murders Someone In India—Politics.” The blog claimed that the Governor also travelled to India, attempting to use diplomatic status to resolve the matter.

“It is on record that Governor Babagana Zulum was on a one-month vacation in Saudi Arabia for the 2024 Hajj and later travelled to Egypt to attend the annual ASUWAN forum conference in Cairo.

“The Media Unit would like to clarify and set the record straight that Nairaland and other online blogs have mischievously spread defamatory content without any speck of truth.

“We hereby warned Nairaland and all those who have spread the false information to pull down this misinformation from its website and platforms within the next 24 hours and offer an unreserved apology to Governor Zulum, his son, and the entire family, or risk legal action. The Governor shall also not hesitate to take legal action against any media outlet that continues to publicise this defamatory information on its platform.

“We would like to inform the public that none of Governor’s Zulum’s son was either arrested or charged with any crime, or involved in any unlawful activities anywhere.

“We urge the public to exercise caution when consuming and sharing information, particularly when it comes from unverified sources and blogs instead of credible media outlets.

“We enjoin all media organisations to engage in responsible journalism of truth and factual verification while recognising the potential harm and psychological trauma the spread of false information might have caused to the Governor’s family.”

 

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Over 600,000 Nigerians sought asylum abroad under Buhari – Report

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Over 600,000 Nigerians filed for asylum in other countries between 2016 and 2023, which were years under the administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari.

Buhari was President from 2015 to 2023 and handed over to President Bola Tinubu who was sworn in on May 29, 2023, after winning in the general elections the same year.

According to a report released on Wednesday, July 17, 2024, by Statisense, a data collection organisation, of a total of 664,384 in eight years, 355,792 persons sought asylum between 2016 and 2019 while 308,592 sought asylum between 2020 and 2023.

On a year-by-year basis, 66,862 sought asylum in 2016, 91,924 in 2017, 84,624 (2018), 112,382 (2019), 73,233 (2020), 83,105 (2021), 83,402 (2022), and 68,852 in 2023.

The figures indicate a surge from the past years, as Statisense noted that within 12 years – 2004 to 2015 – only 204,791 Nigerians filed for asylum in other countries.

In total, 869,175 Nigerians filed for asylum in the last 20 years, notably from 2004 to 2023.

The report was posted on the organisation’s X.com handle @StatiSense, citing the United Nations Refugee Agency.

In another report shared by the organisation on Wednesday, it was stated that the Republic of Niger topped countries with the most Nigerian refugees in 2023 with about 200,497 Nigerians and a total of 1,268,464 Nigerian refugees between 2015 and 2023.

Niger, a border country, shares proximity with Nigeria’s north, where residents battle a spate of insecurity in the region ranging from banditry, terrorism and herdsmen-farmers crisis.

Another report also revealed that Nigerians topped the list of African countries who sought asylum in Canada in 2023 with about 10,111 asylum seekers followed by Kenya with 1,345.  It stated that 1,345 Nigerians however sought asylum in the United Kingdom and 5,136 in the United States of America.

Source: The Punch

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