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Green Card Scam: EFCC arraigns American for allegedly defrauding Nigerians

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Illegal mining: Group drums support for EFCC

…Describes Marco Ramirez as alleged Serial fraudster***

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Monday arraigned an American, Marco Ramirez, in an Ikeja Special Offences Court for allegedly defrauding two Nigerians in a bogus green card scam.

EFCC posited Ramirez as a serial fraudster who was previously arraigned on June 22, 2017, before Justice Josephine Oyefeso, on 16-counts charge of conspiracy and obtaining under false pretences.

He was alleged to have defrauded three Nigerians- Amb. Godson Echejue, Mr Abubakar Umar and Mr Olukayode Sodimu of 545,000 dollars from February 2013 to August 2013 in Lagos.

He had pleaded not guilty to the alleged offences and was admitted to bail in the sum of $250,000.

However, midway to the defendant’s trial, the case file was transferred from Justice Oyefeso’s court to Justice Mojisola Dada of the Special Offences Court for speedy conclusion of the case.

On June 20, he was re-arraigned before Justice Mojisola Dada on an amended 12-count charge of conspiracy and obtaining under false pretences for defrauding Echejue, Umar and Sodimu of $1.2million.

He is standing trial in all the criminal suits alongside his companies – U.S.A Now LLC, Eagle Ford Instalodge Group LP and U.S.A Now Capital Group.

Ramirez and his companies had however been arraigned on Monday by the EFCC on a fresh nine-count charge of obtaining money by false pretences, allegedly for defrauding two more Nigerians – Gabriel Edeoghon and Oludare Talabi of $388,838.

Also read:  Court okays ex-Unity Bank Manager’s dismissal over N72m fraud

According to Mrs Vera Aigboje, the prosecuting counsel for the EFCC, Ramirez committed the alleged offences in 2013 and 2014 in Lagos.

“From May 22 to July 26, 2013, Ramirez on three occasions received a total of 291,290 dollars from Edeoghon.

“From Feb. 28, 2014 to April 17, 2014 Ramirez on six occasions received $97,549 from Talabi.

“He falsely represented to the defendants that the funds were investments into his companies in the Employment-Based Fifth Preference (EB-5) United States of America Investor Programme.

“Ramirez also falsely informed the complainants that their investments will qualify them to be eligible for a USA Green Card.

“The offences contravenes Section 1(3) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act,” Aigboje said.

Following the arraignment, the defence counsel, Mr Gboyega Oyewole, SAN, requested that the American enjoy the bail he had been granted by Justice Josephine Oyefeso in 2017.

“He has been on administrative bail in the earlier matter since 2017 on conditions which we feel are enough to guarantee his presence before this honourable court.

“The condition given by Justice Oyefeso is that he be admitted to bail in the sum of $250,000 which was complied with and he was never absent in court,” Oyewole said.

Justice Dada obliged the SAN’s request and ordered that Certified True Copy (CTC) of Justice Oyefeso’s bail ruling be properly presented before the court.

She adjourned the case until Oct. 10 for trial.

Immediately after the arraignment, the EFCC’s “sister case” against Ramirez for defrauding three Nigerians commenced.

Mr Usman Aliyu, an EFCC investigator testified as the first prosecution witness.

Usman an investigator with the Economic Governance Unit of the anti-graft agency, while being led in evidence by Mr M.F. Owele, the prosecuting counsel for the EFCC, described how Ramirez defrauded the complainants.

He said that in November 2015 while he was working at the Intelligence and Special Operations Section (ISOS) of the EFCC, the anti-graft agency received a petition from the law chambers of Festus Keyamo, SAN, about Ramirez’s alleged fraudulent activities.

“The petition was written on behalf of Echejue, Umar and Sodimu. It was alleged that sometime in 2013, the first defendant (Ramirez) organized a seminar in Eko Hotel and Suites in Lagos.

“At the seminar, he made a representation that whoever is desirous to have an American green card should invest 500,000 dollars and a 45,000 dollars processing fee into the American economy in a programme known as the EB-5 programme.

“My Lord the EB-5 programme is actually a US citizenship and immigration service.

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“It states that any eligible immigrant that wants to invest in the American economy in areas that have low employment rate will be entitled to a two-year stay after which a green card is provided,” he said.

Aliyu stated that as part of the EFCC’s investigation into the scam, the complainants were contacted and they provided documents and evidence of payment of the funds they were scammed of.

The EFCC investigator noted that frantic efforts were also made to apprehend Ramirez by the anti-graft agency and that the American Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) revealed to the EFCC that Ramirez was serial conman.

“After frantic efforts to locate the first defendant, he was eventually arrested at the Transcorp Hotel in Abuja.

“An FBI agent was invited, he came, had a discussion with the team and he informed us that the first defendant and his companies are facing similar cases in the United States of America,” Aliyu said.

The prosecution tendered 36 documents including Ramirez’s statement, statements of the complainants, proof of payment from the complainants, documents from the FBI and EFCC as exhibits.

Justice Dada adjourned the case until Oct. 8 and Oct. 10 for continuation of trial.

 

Health and Safety

NAFDAC NATIONAL STRATEGIC ACTION PLAN: Partners With Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Stakeholders

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…On Prevention, Detection, And Response To Substandard And Falsified Medicine

The NAFDAC has Vowed to close down the sale and distribution outlets Facilitating the Spread of Fake Drugs, as It stresses it’s determination to combat the incidence of Substandard and Falsified (SF) medicines in the country,

The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control NAFDAC has subsequently engaged stakeholders in the pharmaceutical products supply chain in its resolve to put an end to the menace and effectively safeguard the health of Nigerians.

The Director General, Prof Mojisola Adeyeye, at a stakeholders meeting organized by NAFDAC on Thursday, emphasized the need to explore how to combat the sale and distribution of Substandard and Falsified Medical Products within the supply chain, insisting that the Agency would not hesitate to clamp down on wholesale and retail outlets where fake drugs are dispensed for public use.

According to her, the engagement with Pharma supply chain stakeholders in Nigeria serves as a means of thinking together and putting in place a position that will represent or guide collective efforts and strategy to prevent, detect, and respond to substandard and falsified medicinal products, adding that the goal is to ensure that medical products in circulation are of the quality standard required and safe for public use. 

The NAFDAC boss noted that the high prevalence of SF in Africa is a major threat to public health, attributing this to the fact that regulation in the region is limited with about 10% of African National Regulatory Agencies NRAs having achieved ML3. 

L-R: Director, Laboratory Services (Drugs) National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Mr. Victor Abiola, Director General, NAFDAC, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, Director Post-Marketing Surveillance, NAFDAC, Dr. Fraden Bitrus Dasniyam, and Director Narcotics and Controlled Substances, Mrs Yedunni Adenuga, during the Agency’s engagement with the pharma supply chain stakeholders for input on the National Strategic Document on Substandard and Falsified Products in Lagos…on Thursday

Prof Adeyeye noted with dismay that this allows for poorly regulated manufacturers to supply their products in Africa where technologies to detect SF and track/trace are limited. 

She added that the menace of substandard and falsified medical products threatens access to safe, efficacious, and affordable medicines, undermining health systems and the achievement of Universal Health Coverage globally.

With the mandate to regulate and control the manufacture, importation, exportation, distribution, advertisement, sale, and use of drugs, cosmetics, chemicals, detergents, medical devices, and packaged water generally referred to as Regulated Products, she noted that this puts a burden on the Agency to lead the fight against SF medical products in Nigeria and support efforts that will see a reduction in the prevalence of SF medical products both locally manufactured and imported. 

The DG explained that NAFDAC is not the only regulatory agency in terms of substandard falsified medicines, adding that the Pharmacy Council of Nigeria (PCN) probably has more to do in the fight against fake drugs. 

She, however, relished a cordial relationship that exists between the two sister agencies, insisting that we must do this fight together. 

Prof Adeyeye explained that currently, NAFDAC is doing its best to fight this issue of Substandard and Falsified products, stating that the fight against Substandard/Falsified medical products is based on three broad thematic areas Prevent, Detect, and Respond (PDR). 

She said that NAFDAC operatives are not just going on the streets to look for substandard falsified medicines but also going after products that have been approved in Southeast Asia en route to Nigeria. 

She reiterated that 70 percent of medicines used in Nigeria come from outside which necessitated the establishment of a Pre-shipment testing scheme that has stopped over 124 products that were approved from coming into the Nigerian market. 

According to her, some of the SF medicines do not have content, some will not disintegrate, and some will not dissolve. In contrast, some of them have wrong labelling and all sorts of non-compliance, adding that the Agency is dealing with that now with the World Health Organisation (WHO). 

Prof Adeyeye further disclosed that most of the products stopped from coming into the Nigerian market have fake certificates of pharmaceutical products. Noting that it takes two to tango, Prof. Adeyeye opined that its not just India bringing substandard falsified medicines to us, it is us; Nigerians that connive with them to bring in cheap products at the detriment of lives in Nigeria. 

Furthermore, She disclosed that over 124 shipments have been stopped, adding that these are products that had been approved, that could have been in circulation in Nigeria for five years. 

So, if ten containers per year for one particular product or two containers per year should find their way into Nigeria, you can figure out what the consequences might be.

The NAFDAC boss, however, announced the berth of a new regulatory directive with emphasis on the source of raw materials used in the production process. For those that are registering new products, she said they must procure raw materials from approved sources like WHO Prequalified sources, FDA, or other stringent Regulatory Authorities. 

If you don’t source from a prequalified source, we will not register the product, she said. 

She, however, dispelled the news going around, over the alleged proliferation of fake drugs in the country, saying the proliferation news that has been going on is false. 

There is no proliferation of substandard medicines. We do a national survey, sampling of products using scientific methods from different parts of the country., she said, adding that the survey was done in 

2021 and 2022 for ant-malaria with a 10 percent prevalence level. 

We couldn’t do it in 2020 due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. She explained further, If you live very close to the border where people come in and out the prevalence may be higher there. Thats statistics. 

The average is about 10%, she said, insisting that proliferation is not synonymous with shortage because the two words are now used together. The fact that we have a shortage of medicines does not mean there is a proliferation of substandard falsified medicines.

 The survey for 2023 is not ready yet. We will publish 2021 and 2022.

She noted that the Pharmaceutical Supply chain plays a vital role in ensuring that safe, quality, and efficacious medicines reach the end users, adding that there is therefore a need to foster complementary partnerships that will seek to identify lapses in the supply chain system to improve the chances of winning the war on substandard and falsified medical products in Nigeria. 

We have formal and informal markets. Do not buy medicines from the informal market. We do a lot of raids in Oke- Arin, Idumota markets Lagos, Onitsha head bridge where you can buy a product maybe 50 per cent or 80 per cent cheaper because of low quality, she added, the state of the economy shouldn’t be an excuse for people to buy poison under the guise of cheap products.

I enjoin you to sustain your support to NAFDAC to ensure that only safe, efficacious, and quality medicines are used in Nigeria. NAFDAC, as the regulatory agency is seeking the support of all stakeholders in the pharma industry and supply chain system to improve our chances of winning the war on SF medical products.

The Supply chain stakeholders made very useful contributions for input into the National Strategic document to guide our collective efforts towards combating the menace of the SF in the country.

The stakeholders present at the supply chain engagements include the World Health Organization (WHO), United States Pharmacopeia (USP), Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Group of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria ( PMG-MAN), Association of Community Pharmacist of Nigeria (ACPN), Pharmaceutical Wholesalers Association of Nigeria (PWDAN), Nigerian Representatives of Overseas Pharmaceutical Manufacturers (NIROPHARM), Association of Pharmaceutical Importers of Nigeria (APIN), Association of Hospital and Administrative Pharmacist of Nigeria (AHAPN), Nigeria Army Medical corps, Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), National of Veterinary Medical Association(NVMA). Others are different companies represented under PMG-MAN, APIN, PWDAN, and Niropharm.

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Health and Safety

Clean Naija Campaign: Showcasing The Impact Of Dr Moyinoluwa Oladoye

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…In collaboration with Reckitt, Slum and Rural Health Initiative (SRHIN) and the Wellbeing Foundation Africa (WBFA)

Dr. Moyinoluwa Oladoye, a young visionary leader and healthcare social entrepreneur has radically influenced sanitation and hygiene practices in Nigeria.

 In collaboration with Reckitt, Slum and Rural Health Initiative (SRHIN), and the Wellbeing Foundation Africa (WBFA), he plays a leadership role as the Senior Programme Officer at SRHIN in a transformative initiative to improve the practice of handwashing, hygiene, and sanitation, to about 6 million Nigerians between 2019 and 2025. 

*Dr. Oladoye with representatives from Reckitt Nigeria and the Wellbeing Foundation Africa (WBFA).

With over 5 years of experience as a public health professional, Dr Oladoye has played a pivotal role in the Dettol Quest Hygiene Program that has reached hundreds of schools, health facilities and communities across 3 states in Nigeria since 2019. 

The Dettol Quest Hygiene Program, provides hygiene kits, materials, and structured education, which has led to a notable improvement in knowledge, attitudes, and behaviours associated with sanitation and hygiene practices in Nigeria.

*Group photo with some of the project beneficiaries (students) at the Dettol Quest Hygiene Program closeout event in Lagos, Nigeria. 

The most recent rigorous impact assessment conducted in 2023 led by Dr Oladoye spanned through students, community members, and mothers/ pregnant women via pre-implementation (baseline) and post-implementation (endline) surveys. The results showed remarkable improvement in the knowledge, attitude and practice of the project’s beneficiaries.

Following former President Muhammadu Buhari’s declaration for the Open Defecation-Free Nigeria by 2025 Order, Dr Oladoye is one of Nigeria’s leading Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) advocates whose projects on WASH have been presented at several state and national stakeholders meetings on WASH.

*Dr. Oladoye during the impact assessment presentation at the closeout event in Lagos, Nigeria. 

This includes the recent closeout event that held in Lagos, drawing a distinguished gathering of stakeholders, including Reckitt Nigeria, The Wellbeing Foundation Africa (WBFA), Slum and Rural Health Initiative (SRHIN), the Federal Ministry of Education, State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON), and other pivotal figures in the fields of public health and education.

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Health and Safety

NDLEA Arrests 92 Suspects, Seizes 217kg Illicit Substances In Kaduna

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NDLEA arrests India-bound businessman with 9.40kg heroin in Lagos

The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Kaduna State Command, has arrested 92 suspects and seized 217.02kg of illicit substances since the beginning of 2024.

The state Commander of NDLEA, Mr Samaila Danmalam, disclosed in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Friday in Kaduna.

According to him,  the suspects comprise 88 males and four females.

He added that the seized substances included Indian hemp, cocaine, heroin, tramadol and methamphetamine.

The commander said that NDLEA operatives raided 19 illicit drugs in the state during the period.

He said that the command secured the conviction of 24 suspects and charged  25 to court during the period.

“ln its drug demand reduction efforts, 29 drug users were counselled while seven drug addicts were successfully rehabilitated.

“In a bid to dissuade members of the public from illicit drug use and trafficking, enlightenment campaigns were carried out at various locations targeting 6,956 participants.

The commander called on members of the public to provide useful and timely information to the command, saying the fight against drug abuse and trafficking requires the support of all Nigerians.

  • NAN
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