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90 Ships Seized By EFCC Rot Away In Lagos, Others

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Some of the ships seized by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission have begun to sink in waters across the country, while many of those temporarily and permanently forfeited by suspected corrupt persons are being damaged due to lack of maintenance.

According to Punch, sources in the know of the development at the House of Representatives said that the Nigerian Navy, which was mandated to oversee the seized, recovered or forfeited assets, had no budgetary provision to maintain them, leaving them damaged and submerged eventually.

According to the lawmakers, most of the vessels are in Lagos State and they are the worst hit by the abandonment.

The House of Representatives Ad Hoc Committee on Assessment and Status of All Recovered Loots Movable and Immovable Assets from 2002 to 2020 by Agencies of the Federal Government of Nigeria for Effective, Efficient Management and Utilisation had recently embarked on oversight visits to the locations of such assets for an on-the-sight assessment.

Some members of the committee, who spoke to our correspondent on the condition of anonymity as the investigation was still ongoing, expressed their displeasure at what they found out during the tour.

A member said, “There are some of these assets that are still being managed by third parties. But a lot of them are just totally sealed up. Like business premises, they allow the people operating on the premises to continue, while they pay (rent) into the Recovery Account…they are paying rent to the EFCC. But for the ones that are not like that, they are sealed up and those ones are depreciating.

“Now, let me tell you the worst-case and where you will feel bad about depreciation (of recovered/seized assets): houses depreciate but not as bad as the vessels in the waters. Most of the ships that were supposedly seized, a number of them sunk – three or four of them have submerged because nobody can take care of them.

“In fact, most of the ones in the Lagos waters have badly depreciated…they are like just holding the shell when the snail is dead. That is what has happened to most of the vessels. About 10 percent have been submerged, while the other ones are just in a terrible state that they cannot attract much value again.”

When asked for the number of ships and vessels on the waters across the country, the lawmaker disclosed that over 30 were in Port Harcourt, about 10 in Warri, and about 10 in Bayelsa, adding, “They (Navy) have quite a lot and they are really in a bad shape.”

The source noted that while the “ones with the most value are in Port Harcourt,” they are all in the custody of the Nigerian Navy.

“Even though they were forfeited to the EFCC, the EFCC cannot protect them; it is the Navy that is protecting them,” he said.

The lawmaker noted that ships that were supposed to be powered regularly had been abandoned for close to seven years “and because of that, they have started to take in water.”

“I initially doubted the submerging story. We went to the water. I actually did not believe that they were submerged. But we actually saw ships inside the water,” the lawmaker added.

Another member of the committee was asked how the panel felt about recovered assets wasting away when the Federal Government was crying about revenue shortage and had embarked on a borrowing spree locally and internationally.

The lawmaker said, “The problem is that there is a wide gap between forfeiture and sale (auction). Most of the ships and vessels were forfeited over five years ago; the minimum is two years ago. And they are all still there. And these are assets that cannot be abandoned for long; they are depreciating assets.

“The waters in Nigeria have a lot of corrosion due to the high salt content (salinity). So, they are corroded from the base and as long as they get corroded, they will end up damaged.”

Responding to a question on plea bargaining being an alternative, the lawmaker said the government and its anti-graft agencies should have made the offer before approaching the courts to secure orders of interim and permanent forfeiture of the vessels.

The lawmaker added, “Part of the problem is that keeping custody of and maintaining them is gulping a lot of funds from the Navy and nobody is refunding the money being spent by the Navy. So, if we have like 100 vessels and six naval ratings working on each ship, it means that every day, the naval men will be patrolling the waters, so you have about 600 of them tied down to these assets

“Also, they are to be provided fuel and fed at that location. Yet, the EFCC does not refund the Navy for the expenditure on the assets. So, because of that, it is becoming a burden on the Navy and the level of maintenance is dropping gradually.

“And because the Navy was part of the process of seizing the assets, seeing what is now becoming of them, the Navy is not encouraged to carry out more seizures. When you seize something and you find out that it eventually becomes a burden on you, you may compromise and allow some (of the vessels) to go.”

The Chairman of the committee, Adejoro Adeogun, however, declined to comment on the revelations. When contacted to confirm the findings, he said, “You don’t expect me to speak on a probe that we have not concluded. All the details you need will be provided in our report to the House.”

The spokesman for the Attorney-General of the Federation, Umar Gwandu, could not be reached for comments on Sunday ditto for the spokesman for the EFCC, Wilson Uwujaren.

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UK Imposes Travel Restrictions On Six African Countries As New COVID-19 Variant Emerges

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The UK government has imposed temporary travel restrictions on six African countries following the emergence of a new COVID-19 variant in South Africa.

A new variant of the coronavirus, B.1.1.529, was discovered in South Africa three days ago and 59 cases have been confirmed in South Africa, Hong Kong, and Botswana.

Although the variant is yet to be detected in the UK, it has gone ahead to announce that travelers from South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, and Eswatini, will not be allowed into their shores from 12:00 GMT Friday (1 p.m. Nigerian time).

According to Sajid Javid, the UK health secretary, “the UK Health Security Agency is investigating a new variant. More data is needed but we’re taking precautions now.”

“From noon tomorrow, November 26, six African countries will be added to the red list, flights will be temporarily banned, and UK travellers must quarantine.”

Experts have said that the B.1.1.529 variant could be the most lethal and worrying yet. This is because of its “awful spike mutation profile”, which scientists fear could help it evade immunity. Early reports suggest it is capable of reducing vaccine efficiency to just 30 percent.

“The first indications we have of this variant are that it may be more transmissible than the Delta variant and that the vaccines we currently have may be less effective,” Mr Javid said.

According to him, British scientists are “very concerned” by this variant.

“We will ask anyone arriving from these countries from 4 a.m. on Sunday to quarantine themselves in hotels,” Mr Javid said, adding that those arriving before that date will have to self-isolate and do two PCR tests on the second and eighth day of their confinement.

“And if someone has arrived from these countries in the last ten days, we will ask them to do PCR tests,” he added.

The WHO will hold a special meeting following the emergence of this new variant.

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Chidinma Sold Ataga’s Laptop To Me For N495,000 —– Computer Village Businessman

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A businessman, Mr Ifeoluwa Oluwo, has narrated how the laptop of the murdered Chief Executive Officer of Super TV, Michael Ataga, was sold to him for N495,000 by Chidinma Ojukwu two days after Ataga’s body was found.

Chidinma, a 300-level Mass Communication student of the University of Lagos, was accused of killing Ataga.

The undergraduate and two others, Adedapo Quadri and Chioma Egbuchu, are undergoing trial before Justice Yetunde Adesanya of the Lagos State High Court sitting at the Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos State.

At the resumed hearing on Thursday, Oluwo, the third prosecution witness, was led in evidence by the Lagos State prosecuting counsel, Mr Yusuf Sule.

Oluwo said he sells phones, laptops, and accessories at Computer Village, Ikeja, Lagos, and has been in the business for five years.

According to him, after seeing Chidinma on social media after the sale of the laptop, he immediately ensured that all her documents were kept handy.

The witness identified Chidinma as a customer who had purchased a phone on April 30 and also sold a laptop on June 18, at the same office.

Oluwo said, “On June 18, Chidinma sold me a MacBook Pro laptop for N495,000 after negotiations and market value comparison. In order to make a sale, you have to submit some documents and fill a form with your government identification card, driving license, international passport, voters’ card, and National Identification Number.

“You also have to fill a form which includes email, phone number, house address, and full name. It will also contain the full value of the item for that day, the name of the item, and the serial number of the item.

“This is what we do to contact a customer if there are any issues.

“I asked Chidinma to unlock the laptop and she did. So, I conducted my internal observation which included speed performance, the circle count of the battery, and general functionality.

“After that, I proceeded to ask questions, ‘Do you have a receipt for this laptop?’

“She stated that it was a gift from her boyfriend and that she had two laptops and needed to sell one to pay some bills.

“I conducted a check on a website for my market evaluation. I confirmed the value of the laptop. It was $1,000 to $1,200. The exchange rate of dollars at that time was N400 to N450 and she wanted to sell for N600,000. We were able to negotiate for N495,000, which I initiated from my UBA bank account to her Sterling bank account.”

When asked if Chidinma had produced the receipt of the laptop, Oluwo stated that she was not able to provide the receipt as she had insisted that it was a gift from her boyfriend.

“After the sale of the laptop, we saw her face on social media regarding a murder case. A few days later, the police from the State Criminal Investigation Department, Panti, invited my manager, Olutayo Abayomi.

“When I got to the police station, I discovered that it was in connection to the laptop we bought from Chidinma on June 18.

“We both made a statement detailing how we came about the laptop and how we made the purchase.

“We gave the police the documents of the former owner, which included a copy of her voters’ card, a copy of our form, and all receipts which already have her information regarding the laptop.

“There is no way we can detect that a phone or laptop was a stolen one,” Oluwo said.

During cross-examination, Chidinma’s counsel, Onwuka Egbu, asked if he was shown any documents, receipts, or proof of ownership to show that the laptop was not for the first defendant at Panti but the witness said he was not shown any.

Justice Adesanya adjourned the case till November 29, for the continuation of trial.

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New COVID Variant Of ‘Serious Concern’ Detected In South Africa

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A new variant of the coronavirus has been detected in South Africa.

The variant, B.1.1.529, is said to have a high number of mutations, which may be a source of concern in relation to immunity and transmissibility.

Confirming the discovery in a statement on Thursday, the NICD said 22 positive cases of the new variant have so far been detected in the country.

“The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), a division of the National Health Laboratory Service, confirms that through collaborative efforts with private laboratories and the NGS-SA members, a new COVID-19 variant, B.1.1.529, has been detected in South Africa,” the statement reads.

“Twenty-two positive cases of variant B.1.1.529 have been recorded in the country following genomic sequencing collaborations between the NICD and private laboratories. In addition, other NGS-SA laboratories are confirming more cases as sequencing results come out.”

According to the statement, Adrian Puren, NICD acting executive director, said it is “not surprising” that a new variant has been detected in South Africa.

“Although the data are limited, our experts are working overtime with all the established surveillance systems to understand the new variant and what the potential implications could be. Developments are occurring at a rapid pace and the public has our assurance that we will keep them up to date,” Puren said.

The institute said Joe Phaahla, the country’s health minister, confirmed that the new variant has also been detected in Botswana and in Hong Kong.

He said the variant was of “serious concern” and behind an “exponential” increase in reported cases, making it “a major threat”.

Michelle Groome, head of the division of public health surveillance and response at the NICD, also said provincial health authorities remain on high alert and are prioritizing the sequencing of COVID-19 positive samples.

“This means that individuals should get vaccinated, wear masks, practice healthy hand hygiene, maintain social distancing, and gather in well-ventilated spaces. Individual compliance to preventative measures can have a great collective impact in limiting the spread of the new variant,” she added.

As of September 2021, the World Health Organisation (WHO) had identified five COVID variants — Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and Mu.

While it is not unexpected that there will be more variants of the coronavirus, prior to the detection of the B.1.1. 529, the Delta variant had been linked to a high infection rate.

The Delta COVID variant was confirmed in Nigeria in July 2021, and is currently the most dominant strain in the country.

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