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Fresh Crisis Hits Atiku As Firm Tackles PDP Presidential Candidate Over Unpaid $5.9m US Visa Procurement

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A firm, Legacy Logistics LLC Limited, has tacked Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) over alleged non-payment of a $5.9million fee to secure a visa to visit the United States in 2018.

The firm alleges that Atiku was yet to pay the princely sum for the visa.

According to the firm, while Atiku’s trip was applauded by his teeming supporters, he did not pay for the services rendered.

It alleged that Atiku intentionally refused to honour his part of the service agreement despite repeated demands.

But Atiku’s legal adviser, Prof. Maxwell Gidado (SAN), who was named by the firm to be in the know of the agreement, said the company did not procure any visa for the PDP candidate.

He also said no agreement was signed with the company to pay $5.9million for the visa.

He said Legacy Logistics LLC Limited outsourced the service to retired Ambassador Kumba in Dallas in the United States, who admitted that what he did was not up to half a million dollars.

He said upon return from his shuttles to the United States in 2018, Atiku paid the aggrieved company some money for its “troubles.”

He said the protest letter was an attempt to “extort money from Atiku.”

After a 13-year break, it was difficult for Atiku to secure entry to the US in 2018.

The development made him hire some legal firms and lobby groups to be able to get a visa to prove that he was not banned from America.

In spite of the fact that the efforts paid off, the PDP candidate did not claim that a price was allegedly attached to the visa procurement.

But Legacy Logistics LLC Limited has come out to claim that it was one of those who made Atiku’s visa processing possible at $5.9million, which it claimed, remains unpaid.

The company has, however, indicated its preparedness for a legal battle, unless Atiku fulfills his obligation to it.

It made its position known in a letter, which was dated September 19, 2022, by a legal firm, Jurisperitus Associates.

The letter was titled: “Demand for payment of the sum of $5,900,000 Legacy Logistics LLC for processing and procurements of United States of American visa on your behalf.”

The excerpts of the letter, originally published by Saharareporters, read in part: “We are solicitors to Legacy Logistics LLC Ltd (hereinafter referred to as our client and on its behalf and instructions) we write you:

“Our client briefed us thus:

“That you instructed your legal representative Prof. Maxwell Gidado, SAN, and your advisor, Dr. Samuel Cornelius to seek the services of our client to process and procure United States of America visa on your behalf.

“Consequent upon your instruction, a scope of service agreement was entered into dated 15th October 2018. The service our client was to provide base on the agreement were specified in the addendum I to the scope of the service agreement.

“Our client diligently executed the agreement and you were successfully issued the United States of America visa which same was delivered to you.

“You subsequently used the said visa and traveled to the United States of America whereby your teeming supporters and admirers in Nigeria and the world over applauded you.

“Your Excellency sir, you have intentionally refused and neglected to honour your part of the service agreement despite repeated demands from our client.”

When contacted last night, Prof. Maxwell Gidado (SAN) said the firm did not do the job.

But he said the promoters of the aggrieved company were paid for their “troubles” to get Atiku a visa to the United States.

He said the drama about the $5.9m was about an alleged attempt to “extort money” from the PDP presidential candidate.

He said: “No. These people are just trying to extort money from Atiku Abubakar (AA). I agreed that they came in 2018 and wanted to offer their services to assist Atiku Abubakar (AA) procure a visa to America.

“They started and engaged the services of one Ambassador Kumba. And Amb. Kumba did try and got to a particular stage. But due to non-payment of money for the financing, he backed out. They were the ones that promised to pay the money but they didn’t pay him.

Samuel and Joseph promised to pay Amb. Kumba to procure the visa, also write a book, and also do an image of Atiku (a very, very good image of Atiku) in the international community. These were the three things they asked him (Kumba) to do.

“And they promised to pay him by creating an escrow account which Kumba will be working with. Amb. But when Kumba started work, these people didn’t put a dime in that account. So, the man stopped working.

“And then another firm continued with the process of getting a visa for Atiku and they got it for him. And even when he went and came back, they came and brought their bill.

“Atiku settled them (Joseph and Samuel). He paid them money for their troubles. And I was a witness when he was paying them this money. And they didn’t give Kumba a dime.

“And this matter was a 2018 case. If you knew you had a matter that involved $5.9million, you will sleep over it in 2019, 2020, and 2021. Haba! Haba! Rubbish.

“To me, they are just trying to extort money. And don’t worry Amb. Kumba has been contacted. He is going to do a disclaimer and his lawyer is even going to write.

“I did not play any role. They are just dropping my name because I am the Legal Adviser. And we went along with them to the United States where I went and met Amb. Kumba. And that was the complaint Kumba was giving to me.

“As I tell you, no agreement was signed by either Atiku Abubakar or me with them for this $5.9million. That is what I want to tell you as a lawyer and a senior Advocate. There was no agreement whatsoever. Ask them to bring any agreement where there was a signature and that agreement says process and procure a visa for AA and we will pay you $5.9million. Signed by AA and signed by them.

“Secondly, let them also prove that they were the ones that procured the visa (they did the visa procurement). They never did it, so it is just a scam. They just want to extort money from Atiku. So, Atiku’s lawyers are going to get at them.”

Responding to a question, Gidado said the petitioners were not the ones that processed the visa.

He added: “No, they were not the ones. First, the law firm and the people who assisted are going to talk. “The law firm is from Washington D.C. They are going to take it up too. In fact, they want to even sue them for passing off.

“That was when they came to inform AA that they had one Amb. Kumba and as one of the legal advisers, I wanted to go and meet Amb. Kumba to see the veracity or otherwise of what they were doing. That was why they were mentioning my name.

“As far as I am concerned, we never signed any agreement with them, nor was there any written agreement.

“The only thing was that Amb. Kumba was to be given some money for his troubles if he is able to.

“And there is no way the procurement can cost $5.9million. Are you going to give them a new heart, a new head? Even you journalists, if you are writing anything, do some investigation.

“The man (Kumba ) is even claiming $300,000. He said all he did up to the time he stopped this work was $300,000. And he said if Atiku gives him or he doesn’t pay him, he doesn’t give a damn. That was why the matter died like that. Otherwise, Kumba would have taken Atiku to court. He also knows that he didn’t sign any agreement with Atiku.

“Kumba was a retired Ambassador at that time but very influential in the United States. He is based in Dallas.

“They were not to procure the visa. They didn’t get one paper. I want you to quote me, Samuel and Joseph never touched one paper to procure a visa. All they did was to go through Kumba. Kumba was the one that was to do the job. And Kumba is saying what he did was not up to half a million dollars. Where did they get $5.9million claim from?”

When contacted, the spokesman for the Atiku campaign organization, Paul Ibe, told The Nation that, “They are fraudsters. Their objective is to extort money.”

BIG STORY

President Tinubu Shrugs Off Slip, Says I “Dobale” For Democracy Because It’s Worth Falling For

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Nigeria’s President, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has reacted to the trending video of him tripping at Eagle Square in Abuja on Wednesday, saying democracy is worth falling for.

Recall that Tinubu missed a step while climbing the vehicle for a parade at Eagle Square in Abuja during an event for the 2024 Democracy Day. But he quickly regained his balance and continued with the activities for the day.

When speaking about the incident during a day to mark the day, Tinubu joked about the incident and said that he had only “dobale” – paid homage to democracy in the Yoruba style.

According to him, while celebrating Democracy, “I ‘dobale’ for democracy,” (meaning I bowed for Democracy).

President Tinubu also used the dinner event to call for the unity of Nigeria irrespective of tribe, religion, or political affiliations.

He said the unity of Nigeria cannot be traded.

Reactions have continued to pour in from several Nigerians including members of the opposition since the incident.

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BIG STORY

NDIC Puts Heritage Bank’s Head Office, Vehicles, Other Assets On Sale

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In its capacity as the bank’s liquidator, the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) has put the collapsed Heritage Bank’s head office in Lagos and its branches around the nation up for sale.

In an editorial published on Thursday, NDIC announced the sale of 48 bank premises as well as its chattel, which includes automobiles, office equipment, plant, and machinery in 62 other locations across the nation.

“The Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation in the exercise of its right as Liquidator of failed Deposit Money Banks hereby invites interested members of the general public to buy the assets (landed property and chattels) of defunct Heritage Banks through public competitive bidding,” part of the advertorial read.

The head office of the bank and its annex located at 143 Ahmadu Bello Way and 130 Ahmadu Bello Way, Victoria Island, Lagos was listed for sale (buildings, chattels, generator, and motor vehicle). Also listed for sale were six other branches in Lagos, four branches in Abuja, four in Rivers States, and the others spread across the country.

Interested parties are invited to come for an inspection and subsequently put in bids on the assets to be submitted to the NDIC office in Lagos.

Bids are expected to come in with 10 per cent of the bid amount in Certified Bank Draft. Successful bidders will be required to pay the balance of the bid price within two weeks of notification.

Earlier, the corporation announced the commencement of the verification and payment of the depositors of the bank with N5m or less in their accounts. This category of customers makes up about 99 per cent of the bank customers.

The Managing Director of the NDIC, Bello Hassan, at a media briefing on the liquidation of Heritage Bank in Abuja last Wednesday, put the total depositors at Heritage Bank at 2.3 million.

Hassan noted that the total bank deposits at Heritage Bank stood at N650bn while its loan portfolio was about N700bn.

In announcing the revocation of the licence of Heritage Bank, the apex bank in a statement signed by the Acting Director of Corporate Communication, Sidi Ali, said, “This action has become necessary due to the bank’s breach of Section 12 (1) of BOFIA, 2020. The board and management of the bank have not been able to improve the bank’s financial performance, a situation which constitutes a threat to financial stability.

“This follows a period during which the CBN engaged with the bank and prescribed various supervisory steps intended to stem the decline. Regrettably, the bank has continued to suffer and has no reasonable prospects of recovery, thereby, making the revocation of the licence the next necessary step.”

Stakeholders in the sector have gone on to express confidence in the decision of the CBN in the overall interest of the sector.

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BIG STORY

Minimum Wage: Mass Sacking Imminent, FG Warns As Labour Disowns Agreement

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The Federal Government on Wednesday chastised organised labour to consider the broader economic implications of its push for an unrealistic higher national minimum wage.

The admonition was delivered by Mohammed Idris, Minister of Information and National Orientation. Idris warned that the N250,000 minimum salary proposed by labour may damage the economy, cause a mass layoff of workers, and endanger the wellbeing of Nigerians.

The labour unions, on the other hand, denied President Bola Tinubu’s assertions that a deal had been reached on the new national minimum wage during his Democracy Day speech on Wednesday.

Acting President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Prince Adewale Adeyanju, said as of the time negotiations ended on June 7, no agreement had been reached by the Tripartite Committee on the National Minimum Wage.

Adeyanju is acting on behalf of the NLC president, Joe Ajaero,  who is attending an International Labour Organisation conference in Geneva, Switzerland.

Tinubu drew the ire of the unions after stating that his administration would soon submit an executive bill to the National Assembly to codify the agreements reached in the minimum wage negotiations between Labour, the private sector, the states and the Federal Government.

The parties had engaged in prolonged talks for weeks with the unions insisting on N250,000 minimum wage while the Federal Government and the Organised Private Sector offered N62,000.

However, the state governors said they would not be able to sustain any minimum wage higher than N60,000.

Dismissing the offers made by the Federal Government and the OPS, the labour unions said they would not negotiate what they described as ‘starvation wage.’

  • N62,000 not acceptable

The Assistant General Secretary of the NLC, Chris Onyeka, said Labour would not accept the latest offer of N62,000 and the N100,000 proposal made by some individuals and economists.

This was as the NLC President, Joe Ajaero, said the unionists were waiting on the President to consider Labour’s proposal.

But speaking at the opening of the 2024 Synod of the Charismatic Bishops Conference of Nigeria in Abuja on Wednesday, the information minister emphasised the imperative of a realistic wage system that safeguards against mass retrenchment while addressing workers’ needs.

Idris restated the government’s dedication to reassessing the minimum wage but cautioned against demands that could disrupt the economy.

He stated, “As I have repeatedly said, the Federal Government is not opposed to the increase of wages for Nigerian workers but we keep on advocating for a realistic and sustainable wage system for the workers – a wage system that will not undermine the economy, lead to mass retrenchment of workers and jeopardise the welfare of about 200 million Nigerians.

“We want the labour unions to understand that the relief that Nigerians are expecting, and that they fully deserve, will not come only in the form of an increase in wages.”

He highlighted the ongoing efforts to alleviate the cost of living, citing initiatives like the Presidential Compressed Natural Gas programme aimed at reducing transportation expenses by 50 per cent.

While advocating wage increases, Idris stressed the importance of holistic relief measures beyond salary adjustments, urging Labour to recognise the significance of programmes like the CNG initiative in enhancing citizens’ purchasing power.

“It will also come as an effort to reduce the cost of living and to ensure that more money stays in the pockets of Nigerians. And this is where programmes like the Presidential CNG initiative come in.

“By replacing or complementing petrol usage with CNG, that programme alone will cut transportation costs by as much as 50 per cent,” he claimed.

The minister called on religious leaders to assist in raising public awareness about government initiatives and efforts.

  • Religious leaders

He stressed the crucial role of the clergy in disseminating information about available opportunities and the government’s ongoing efforts.

“As a government, we need your support, advice, and feedback,” Idris stated.

“Very importantly, we need you to be aware of the efforts being made and the challenges being faced so that you can help us communicate these to your congregations and the general public,” he added.

The minister highlighted the influential platforms of religious leaders, noting their potential to enlighten Nigerians on their rights, responsibilities, and the economic opportunities provided by the policies under the President’s Renewed Hope Agenda.

The agenda, he noted, aimed to promote economic rebirth, strengthen national security, boost agriculture and food security, and transform infrastructure and transportation.

“Information and awareness are critical, and this is where our religious leaders come in. You have very influential platforms that can enlighten Nigerians on their rights, responsibilities, and the abundance of economic opportunities being thrown up by the policies and programmes being implemented under the Renewed Hope Agenda of President Bola Tinubu,” he explained.

In his remarks, the National President of the Charismatic Bishop Conference, Archbishop Leonard Kawas, reaffirmed the organisation’s unwavering support for Tinubu’s administration, emphasising their commitment to collaborative efforts to realise the nation’s collective aspirations.

  • ‘No agreement yet’

In their reaction to the President’s national broadcast, Adeyanju disagreed with Tinubu’s statement that his administration negotiated in good faith and with open arms with Organised Labour on the new national minimum wage.

Tinubu during his broadcast stated, “In this spirit, we have negotiated in good faith and with open arms with organised Labour on a new national minimum wage. We shall soon send an executive bill to the National Assembly to enshrine what has been agreed upon as part of our law for the next five years or less.

“In the face of labour’s call for a national strike, we did not seek to oppress or crack down on the workers as a dictatorial government would have done. We chose the path of cooperation over conflict.

“No one was arrested or threatened. Instead, the labour leadership was invited to break bread and negotiate toward a good-faith resolution.

“Reasoned discussion and principled compromise are hallmarks of democracy. These themes shall continue to animate my policies and interaction with the constituent parts of our political economy.”

But Adeyanju in a statement dismissed the President’s assertion, insisting that he might have been misled by his advisers, noting that two figures- N250,000 from Organised Labour and N62,000 from the government and the OPS- were arrived at and ought to have been submitted to Tinubu.

According to the NLC official, anything to the contrary is not only doctored but won’t be accepted by Labour.

The congress maintained its stance on the N250,000 minimum wage, rejecting the government’s offer of N62,000 as grossly inadequate.

The statement read in part, “The NLC would have expected that the advisers of the President would have told him that we neither reached any agreement with the Federal Government and the employers on the base figure for a National Minimum Wage nor on its other components.

“Our demand still remains N250,000 only and we have not been given any compelling reasons to change this position which we consider a great concession by Nigerian workers during the tripartite negotiation process.

“We are therefore surprised at the submission of Mr President over a supposed agreement. We believe that he may have been misled into believing that there was an agreement with the NLC and TUC.

“There was none and it is important that we let the President, Nigerians and other national stakeholders understand this immediately to avoid a mix-up in the ongoing conversation around the national minimum wage.”

Adeyanju alleged that the labour leaders were intimidated by security agencies during the minimum wage talks.

“Fully armed soldiers surrounded us while we were in a negotiation with the government and despite denials; recent statements by senior officials of the government reaffirmed our fears contrary to the assurances by the government.

“However, we remain assured that the President’s democratic credentials will come to the fore in favour of Nigerian workers and masses,’’ he expressed optimism.

According to the union, the Democracy Day celebration was an opportunity for the President to demonstrate his love for Nigerian workers and the masses by shunning the advice that may be coming from ‘’those whose intentions were continuously focused on hurting Nigeria’s poor and struggling workers.’’

He appealed,  “Mr President should not allow these individuals and groups to sabotage his promise of lifting Nigerian workers out of poverty.

“The President’s advisers obviously did not tell him the truth that the leaders of the trade unions were intimidated and harassed. It is therefore important that Mr President understands that we were threatened severally by his operatives perhaps without his consent.

“Series of media propaganda calculated to intimidate and harass us were, and, are still being waged against the trade unions by senior officials of this government. “

The NLC noted that there was no agreement as regards the duration of the Minimum Wage Act.

“It is also important that Mr President should know that most of his officers are working round-the-clock to set up the leadership of congress and the trade unions.

“We never agreed on a five-year duration of the Minimum Wage Act, though we acknowledge that the President mentioned five years or less.

“We also agreed that inflation should be pegged at a level for a certain amount to be agreed as minimum wage. This is to bring clarity to what the report should contain.

“Once again, we reiterate that it will be extremely difficult for Nigerian workers to accept any national minimum wage figure that approximates a starvation wage. We cannot be working and yet remain in abject poverty.

“We seek justice, equity, and fairness for all Nigerians, and this we hope would also drive the actions of Mr President who promised a Living Wage to Nigerian workers. This is an opportunity to show that he listens to Nigerians as he promised,” the labour movement said.

  • OPS speaks

Also commenting on the presidential broadcast, the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines, and Agriculture, stated that no consensus had been reached on the national minimum wage.

The NACCIMA President, Dele Oye, who is part of the 37-member tripartite committee, said the panel was still in the middle of negotiation, faulting the contradictory statements being made on the talks.

“No agreement has been reached with Labour; however, it is wrong to make a press statement in the middle of negotiations apart from appealing to all parties involved to work harder to resolve outstanding issues, as the impasse is already creating uncertainty in the ability of businesses to make decisions,” he admonished.

In January, the government inaugurated the tripartite committee on the national minimum wage.

The committee was tasked with the responsibility of recommending a new national minimum wage for Nigerian workers.

Over the past few months, the federal and state governments, organised labour, and representatives of the private sector have been deliberating on a new minimum wage for workers.

However, the demand by organised labour regarding the minimum wage has yet to be met.

On June 3, the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress embarked on an indefinite nationwide strike to protest against the government’s inability to meet their minimum wage demand.

Twenty-four hours later, the labour unions “relaxed” the strike by one week.

 

Credit: The Punch

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