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BIG STORY

Federal Government Has Begun Social Media Sanitisation —- Lai Mohammed

Peter Okunoren

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The Federal Government has said it had begun the process of sanitizing the social media space to prevent it from setting the nation on fire.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, stated this yesterday in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja. “As a matter of fact, we have already put in motion the machinery for this.

“We have written letters to the major stakeholders who would nominate representatives and we are going to sit down together to decide on how best to confront this menace,” he said.

Mohammed said the government had the responsibility to keep the country together, adding that social media would not be left alone to destabilise the nation.

The minister said the government welcomed the debate that had followed the decision and announcement to sanitise the social media space and the airwaves.

“We are glad about the criticism because what we set out to achieve is to bring the matter to the front burner of discourse.

“We are not under any illusion that the people will take this hook line and sinker.

“We are, however, glad that there are more people who believe that the social media poses imminent danger to the unity of Nigeria, especially as they have become merchants of fake news and hate speech,” he said.

Mohammed stressed that those who opposed the regulation of the social media had not denied the fact that the platform was being used by purveyors of fake news and hate speech with grave consequences.

“Their concern, largely, which is unfounded, is that it might lead to the stifling of the freedom of press or gaggling the media. However, we want to make it clear that it is not our intention to do this.

“The only people who are afraid of the decision to sanitise the social media and the airwaves are the purveyors of hate speech and fake news.

“It must be put on record that Nigeria is not the only country that is doing something about this. Germany, Egypt, Russia, India and the United Kingdom (UK) are all doing something about regulating the social media platform,” he said.

Mohammed expressed concern that the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) and other media professional bodies, which were supposed to support the regulation, were kicking against it.

“This is amusing, because they should be glad as they are the ones we are protecting.

“The honest truth is that the established, well trained professional journalists do not indulge in fake news and hate speech because they have regulatory bodies already.

“The NUJ has a regulatory body and Code of Conduct and they are largely not the one responsible for the dissemination of fake news and hate speech.

“I am, therefore, really surprised that such criticism is coming from them because they are the people we are protecting and they are the ones that will benefit the more from the government action,” he said.

The minister reiterated that no amount of criticism and opposition would stop the regulation of social media and the airwaves.

“We heard all kinds of threat; some even went as far as calling for the removal of the minister.

“Let me assure them that the minister is not perturbed by this and we are focused.

“No amount of intimidation, sponsored articles in any form is going to stop us from regulating social media.

“This is not just a menace to the government; many people have committed suicide because their reputation had been destroyed by the social media,” he said.

Mohammed reiterated that the Federal Government would neither gag the media nor stifle the freedom of speech in regulating social media platforms.

On the regulation of the media space, the minister said he would receive recommendations on the implementation process, in a few days, from the committee he recently inaugurated.

He said the committee had also received a lot of attacks from some critics that the intention was nothing but an attempt to gag the media and stifle free speech.

“Again, our answer to this is simple. Under our watch, hate speech will not become free speech.

“Let me say once again that only those who are purveyors of fake news and hate speech have things to fear from these recommendations,” Mohammed said.

According to the minister, the regulation of social media and the airwaves is in the national interest.

BIG STORY

Police Disband IRT, STS State Offices

Peter Okunoren

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The Police at the weekend disbanded all satellite offices and bases of the Intelligence Response Squad (IRT) and Special Tactical Squad (STS).

The directive followed moves by the Force Headquarters to reposition the police and ensure accountability as well as due process.

The IRT and STS were recently integrated into the Force Intelligence Bureau (FIB) headed by Ibrahim Lamorde to improve efficiency and ensure operational discipline.

According to a signal sighted by our Correspondent, the Deputy Commissioners of Police (DCPs) in charge of IRT (Abba Kyari) and Yusuf Kolo (STS) are to ensure that all bases and offices outside Abuja were shut with immediate effect.

It was learnt that the disbanded offices were ordered to submit all firearms in their possession to the central armory, all suspects in their custody transferred to the state command’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) while cases already charged to court but investigation not concluded be moved to State Criminal investigation Departments (SCID).

Commissioners of Police were also directed to monitor strict compliance of the directive.

Already, DCP Kolo in compliance with the directive has asked his sector commanders to “fall-in” with their men, exhibits, suspects arms, and ammunition on July 16 at the unit’s Abuja office to be inspected by the DIG.

“You are further directed to warn all your operatives to remove the IGP inscription on their operational kits. The correspondences should bear FIB STS,” Kolo said in a signal to the sector commanders.

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BIG STORY

Magu Didn’t Account For N47.8b, Linked With BDC With 158 Accounts, Gave Falana N28m — Probe Panel

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The suspended acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu, may be facing fresh cases of alleged re-looting of funds recovered by the commission as well as bribery.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Magu is currently being interrogated by a presidential probe panel headed by retired Justice Ayo Salami over allegations of mismanagement and lack of transparency in managing recovered assets by the EFCC.

A final report of the Presidential Investigation Committee on the EFCC Federal Government Recovered Assets and Finances from May 2015 to May 2020, obtained by NAN, had seriously indicted and implicated Magu on various allegations levelled against him.

The investigative committee terms of reference were to:

Investigate, verify, and review the recommendations of the Presidential Committee on Audit of Recovered Assets as it relates to the EFCC, with a view to ascertaining the complicity or otherwise of the Ag. Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, in the mismanagement of the assets recovered by the Commission;
Identify Avenues through which the recovered assets are dissipated and seized, recovered, forfeited (Interim and Final) assets are valued, managed, disposed, and/or mismanaged with a view to ascertaining compliance or otherwise with extant laws, regulations, processes and procedures.

Review the existing procedures on the Management of the seized, recovered, and Forfeited assets (interim and final) and proffer Standard Operational Procedures for the management of seized, recovered and forfeited assets.

Determine whether assets recovered during his tenure, whether locally in Nigeria or abroad, are being kept safely in a manner as to preserve their original value and determine:-

Whether all the assets could be properly accounted for by the Ag. Chairman.

To confirm if any of the assets have been diverted to the benefit of the Ag. Chairman, his family, relation, friends, or favoured staff.

To recover any such diverted assets and return back to the EFCC or appropriate government agency.

The committee was also to investigate and report on corruption and money laundering allegations involving Magu and Bureau De Change operators, as well as some of his associates; as per the intelligence reports and petitions.

It was to audit the Assets and Finances of the EFCC as a legal entity from 2015 to 2020, with a view to establishing compliance or otherwise with procurement procedures of the EFCC in line with the provisions of the Procurement Act.

However, new facts have emerged on how interest rates accruing from N550 billion recovered by the EFCC in the period under review were allegedly re-looted.

Magu is now expected to disclose the whereabouts of the missing interest funds running into millions of naira.

NAN also observed that the Final Report of Presidential Committee on Audit of Recovered Assets that covered the period of May 29, 2015, to November 22, 2018, had also confirmed the concerns of the public about contradictory recovery figures emanating from Magu.

The report said: “It is quite disturbing that conflicting figures are being circulated in the public space by EFCC as the amount of recovered funds

“For Foreign currency recoveries, EFCC reported a total naira equivalent of N46,038,882,509.87, while the naira equivalent of the foreign currency lodgements were N37,533,764,195.66, representing a shortfall of N8,505,118,314.21.

“These inconsistencies cast serious doubt on the accuracy of figures submitted by the EFCC. It is the committee’s view that the EFCC cannot be said to have fully accounted for cash recoveries made by it.

“While EFCC reported total Naira recoveries of N504,154,184,744.04, the actual bank lodgements were N543,511,792,863.47. These discrepancies mean that EFCC’s actual lodgement exceeded its reported recoveries by N39,357,608,119.43.

“It must be pointed out that the discrepancy of more than thirty-nine billion naira does not include interest accrued in this account since it was opened.

“It, therefore, cast serious doubt on the credibility of the figures and means that a substantial amount of money has not been accurately accounted for.

“Failure to report on the interest on actual lodgements clearly establishes that interest element of over N550 billion has been re-looted relating to the period under review.

“This is an apparent case of manipulation of data in a very brazen and unprofessional manner and this has greatly eroded the public confidence in the anti-corruption efforts.”

NAN also reports that the PCARA revealed how the investigative reports on EFCC’s activities by the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit exposed acts of corruption and money laundering against some EFCC officials, including Magu.

The report added: “The NFIU reports established that the Acting Chairman has been using different sources to siphon money from the EFCC, and in some cases collecting bribes from suspects.

“The report has shown that a particular Bureau de Change, owned by Ahmed Ibrahim Shanono linked to the Acting Chairman based in Kaduna has more than 158 accounts and has been receiving huge sums of funds.

“The link to Magu was also established by the payment of N28 million to FALANA who is a close associate and ally of the Acting Chairman.”

NAN reports that the Salami probe panel is expected to continue sitting on Monday while Magu’s lawyer, Oluwatosin Ojaomo, had on Friday applied for an administrative bail for his client, who is facing corruption and other charges before the panel.

NAN.

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BIG STORY

Manhunt Launched For Pastor Allegedly Used By Magu To Buy N573m Land In Dubai —Probe Panel

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A report by the Presidential Probe Panel has revealed details of how the suspended acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu, allegedly used a cleric to launder funds abroad.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Magu is currently being interrogated by the panel headed by retired Justice Ayo Salami over allegations of mismanagement and lack of transparency in managing recovered assets by the commission.

A copy of the report made available to NAN on Saturday in Abuja said one Pastor Emmanuel Omale of Hand of God Prophetic Ministry was used by Magu in laundering the funds.

Omale’s name was uncovered through an investigative report on EFCC’s activities by the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit and mentioned in the final report of the Presidential Committee on Audit of Recovered Assets.

According to the report, the unknown clergy is alleged to have bought a landed property on behalf of Magu worth N573 million in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

The report added: “Another individual who is helping in laundering funds for the Acting Chairman and who has been referred to in several petitions is one Pastor Emmanuel Omale (Hand of God Prophetic Ministry).

“He is reported to have travelled to Dubai with Mr Magu and his name was used in purchasing a property in Dubai for Mr Magu.

“As an unknown pastor, the NFIU’s report showed the huge movement of funds ranging from N573,228,040.41.”

NAN also gathered that efforts had been intensified to expose the real identity of the Pastor with a view to arraigning him for prosecution if found culpable.

On the Diezani Alison-Madueke case, the PCARA report accused Magu of failure to cooperate with authorities in the United Kingdom to facilitate effective prosecution of the case.

The report said: “In the Diezani Alison Madueke case, the Acting Chairman is failing to further cooperate with the UK NCA to enable them to charge the Former Minister to court in the UK.

“The Acting Chairman despite his knowledge that Mrs Madueke will not be extradited to Nigeria until after her trial in the UK has consistently been accusing the UK government on the pages of print and electronic media of not wanting to extradite her to Nigeria.”

Magu was also accused of deliberately refusing to provide documentary evidence that would make the office of the nation’s Attorney-General to commence the extradition process of Alison-Madueke.

“This has strained the EFCC relationship with Europe most strategic partner,” the report further observed.

NAN reports that Magu, who is being held at the Police Headquarters in Abuja, is expected to reappear before the Salami probe panel on Monday to defend himself against several allegations.

NAN.

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