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N544m Grass-Cutting Fraud: EFCC Re-Arraigns Buhari’s Former SGF Babachir Lawal Today

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission will today (Monday) re-arraign a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, and six others, for an alleged fraudulent N544m grass-cutting contract.

This will be the second re-arraignment of the defendants, who were first arraigned before the late Justice Jude Okeke of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Maitama, Abuja on February 13, 2019.

Lawal, along with his younger brother, Hamidu Lawal, Suleiman Abubakar, Apeh Monday, and two companies – Rholavision Engineering Ltd and Josmon Technologies Ltd – had pleaded not guilty to the charges when read to them before Justice Okeke.

The prosecution was to open its case on March 18, 2019, when they announced that they had amended the 10 counts, bordering on fraud, diversion of over N544m, and criminal conspiracy.

The development necessitated a re-arraignment of the defendants, who again pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The trial had proceeded before Justice Okeke with the EFCC still calling its witnesses, when the judge died on August 4, 2020.

Justice Okeke, aged 64, died after a brief illness at the National Hospital, Abuja.

Following the judge’s demise, the case was re-assigned to Justice Charles Agbaza of the Jabi Division of the FCT High Court, where the trial will have to start afresh.

Our correspondent gathered that the judge fixed today for the re-arraignment.

The EFCC alleged, in the 10 counts, that the defendants fraudulently converted cumulative proceeds of grass-cutting contracts worth over N500m which Lawal, as then SGF, allegedly awarded to companies in which he had interests.

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Nigeria Lacks Space To Store Pfizer’s COVID-19 Vaccine —- NIMR

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The Nigerian Institute of Medical Research says there is not enough space at the moment to store the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccines which are expected to arrive next week.

The Director-General of NIMR, Prof. Babatunde Salako, said this during an interview with The PUNCH on Saturday.

Salako revealed that Nigeria had freezers in different parts of the country to store the Pfizer vaccines at -70 degrees centigrade.

He, however, said most of these freezers were occupied and were storing medical supplies which also need to be stored at a low temperature.

Responding to a question, Salako said, “Our facilities can hold Pfizer vaccines at -70 degrees but we don’t have enough of such freezers, and the ones we have are even full at the moment. We even just got one that we have yet to install but how many samples can it even hold?

“Even if we rearrange things, I doubt if we can store more than a few hundred or thousands.”

When asked if other facilities besides NIMR could hold such vaccines, he said, “There are many -80 freezers around in the research institutes and universities but the point is that many of them have samples inside them. So, even if we evacuate, I don’t think we will all be able to do more than a few thousands.”

Salako said storage was the minor problem, adding that the major challenge would be how to transport the vaccines at the temperature of -70 to rural areas.

The NIMR boss argued that in the future, Nigeria may need to buy other brands that do not require such low temperatures like Pfizer.

Salako noted that other brands like Oxford/AstraZeneca could be stored at normal freezer temperature while the Russian vaccine could also be stored at a temperature not as low as Pfizer.

He said, “The problem is not just about storing vaccines but moving it to the rural areas and maintaining that same temperature. For example, if you land in Lagos and you store it at -70 and it has to be transported over the creek somewhere, how do you move them? There are other ways but they will be very costly. They can store them with liquid nitrogen or even dry ice but it will cost a lot of money.

“AstraZeneca would have been better because it would stay at normal freeze temperature and I think even Russian vaccines can be stored at the same temperature but I think the government is going with Pfizer because the World Health Organisation has given it an emergency approval.

“But I think all the vaccines are now being deployed in many countries. So, we can do all of them rather than do just one considering the storage capacity for Pfizer. Even the government knows that we don’t have enough space but we can be taken in batches.”

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Only God Can Give Victory Over Insecurity —– Femi Adesina

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The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, says Nigerians who fail to commit the security situation into the hands of God could be guilty of indirectly prolonging the war against insurgency.

Adesina said this in an article on Thursday titled, ‘The Decent for the Indecent, the Just for the Unjust’.

The President’s aide noted that a short viral video showed a soldier and four others singing that victory is from God alone.

Adesina, however, said many Nigerians had failed to understand that only God gives victory.

He wrote, “But victory is from God alone. That is what we must realize as Nigerians. Do we ever pray for our troops in the frontlines? Do we remember those youths, our pride, and strength, faced by death daily, as we sleep in the comfort of our homes, ensconced in the tender bosom of our wives?

“As we pray; God give me money. Give me a car. Give me a promotion. Kill my enemies. Do it now. Do we ever remember our soldiers? Ere you left your room this morning, did you think to pray…did you pray for our soldiers? Victory comes from God alone. If you don’t pray, you may be guilty of prolonging the war in North-East, North-west, North-central, and all over Nigeria.”

The President’s spokesman said rather than understand the fact that only God can give victory, some Nigerians had become wailers.

“Yes, victory is from God alone. But do some people know? Does it ever enter into their consciousness? They only wail: ‘this insurgency war has lasted too long. The banditry has demystified our military. They are cowards. The top guns don’t even want the battle to end.

“They are making money in billions.’ Okay. Making money in billions and wasting our soldiers, our youths, our future, and hope, in their hundreds and thousands because of blood money. That is all some people see; permanent cynics and sceptics, who know nothing of altruism, and whose God is their belly. They think only of pecuniary gain, nothing else,” Adesina said.

He said as the nation marks this year’s Armed Forces Remembrance Day, Nigerians should seize the opportunity to pray for the military and encourage them and not run them down.

 

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JUST IN: Lagos Okays School Reopening January 18

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The Lagos State Government has affirmed its earlier pronouncement that all public and private schools in Lagos State below tertiary level should resume on Monday, January 18, 2021, for the second term 2020/2021 academic session.

This affirmation was made today by the Honourable Commissioner for Education, Mrs Folasade Adefisayo while noting that this is in line with the Federal Government’s resolution after reaching a consensus with relevant stakeholders.

Details later…

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