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Tarfa bribed judge with N225,000, EFCC alleges

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  • As Metuh gets nod to respond to amended charges on -Arms deal

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday alleged that a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Rickey Tarfa, bribed Justice Mohammed Yunusa of the Federal High Court with N225,000.

It alleged that Tarfa, last January 7, transferred the money to Justice Yunusa, and that the judge acknowledged the “bribe” with the words: “Thank you my senior advocate”.

This allegation is contained in a counter-affidavit filed yesterday in opposition to Tarfa’s fundamental rights suit against EFCC and others.

The counter affidavit, along with exhibits, including telephone call logs, were filed by EFCC’s lawyer Mr Wahab Shittu.

Tarfa filed a N2.5billion suit against the EFCC on February 9 following his arrest by the commission.

EFCC arraigned Tarfa on Tuesday on a two-count charge bordering on obstruction of justice and attempting to pervert the course of justice by communicating with a Federal High Court judge handling a suit filed by him against the commission.

The commission alleged that on February 5,  Tarfa hid two suspects, Nazaire Sorou Gnanhoue and Modeste Finagnon, both Beninoise, in his Mercedes Benz Sport Utility (SUV) vehicle.

The Beninoise were alleged to have fraudulently converted assets belonging to Rana Prestige Nigeria Limited to their use. They were also accused of tax evasion running into millions of naira.

Following his arrest, Tarfa sued EFCC, its Chairman Ibrahim Magu, the operative who arrested him, Moses Awolusi and Deputy Director (Operations), EFCC, Lagos office, Iliyasu Kwarbai, demanding N2.5billion.

Tarfa asked the court to compel the respondents to release his two mobile telephone handsets, which he said were “deceitfully collected”  from him, as well as his vehicle.

The Senior Advocate demanded an apology from the respondents, to be published in at least two widely circulated national newspapers, social media and two television stations with national reach 24 hours from judgment day.

Besides, he asked for an order of perpetual injunction restraining EFCC and its agents from further violating his rights; as well as N20 million as cost of the suit.

But, EFCC, in the counter-affidavit sworn to by Awolusi, denied violating Tarfa’s rights.

The operative said EFCC received an intelligence report of fresh criminal allegations against Nazaire and Modeste not covered by the pending criminal proceedings.

Based on the report, Kwarbai directed him and his fellow operative to invite Nazaire and Modeste for further interrogation and to make an undertaking that they would not escape from justice.

Awolusi said they were asked to wait outside the court premises for the suspects and to brief Tarfa on the new developments.

He said they sighted the suspects outside the court at about 11.30am and explained their mission “politely and courteously”.

“The applicant (Tarfa) deliberately kept the suspects locked up in his black Mercedes Benz jeep and prevented the EFCC operatives, including myself from gaining access to the suspects and also prevented the suspects from honouring the invitation,” Awolusi said.

According to him, Tarfa kept the suspects in his vehicle between noon and 5pm.

He said they were forced out of the vehicle when the engine had to be turned off as the car ran out of fuel.

It was when they disembarked that the suspects along with Tarfa were arrested, Awolusi said.

Among items taken from Tarfa were his phones, which Awolusi said were seized due to intelligence report that the SAN communicated with Justice Yunusa “in a desperate bid to pervert the cause of justice in an earlier proceedings involving the suspects”.

The operative said when data on Tarfa’s mobile phones were analysed, “startling revelations about secret, unhealthy communications between the applicant and judicial officers emerged”.

Awolusi said EFCC’s investigation of Tarfa’s Access Bank account number 0000964760 “shows that before the institution of the above proceeding, particularly on 7th January 2014, the applicant bribed His Lordship, Honourable Justice M. N. Yunusa with the sum of N225,000; a copy of the applicant’s firm’s account details showing the transfer of the sum of N225,000 from the applicant’s firm to Honourable Justice M. N. Yunusa is hereby shown to me and marked Exhibit ‘O’.”

The operative added: “I know from facts revealed during investigation that the said bribe of N225,000 was accepted and acknowledged by Justice Yunusa in a text message to the applicant wherein he said ‘Thank you my senior advocate’.

“I also know that investigation has revealed that the applicant’s law firm was in the habit of asking the Chief Registrar of the Lagos Judicial Division of the Federal High Court to assign his cases before His Lordship Honourable M. N. Yunusa in furtherance of the understanding between the applicant and the particular judge.”

The EFCC operative alleged that even a junior lawyer in Tarfa’s law firm “also engaged in the corrupt practices of their boss” by manipulating the court’s registry to fix and assign cases by them to particular judges.

According to Awolusi, there is evidence that Tarfa instructed bank officials through his mobile phone to transfer funds to other public officers.

The operative said details of such instructions “are being kept to prevent the applicant from tampering with evidence concerning allegation of corrupt practices against the applicant.”

The EFCC alleged that sometime in 2005, Tarfa collected $500,000 from one of his clients “under the pretext that he was going to bribe some officials of EFCC”.

The commission recalled that on April 29, 2015, Tarfa’s law firm represented Michael Igbinedion, who was standing trial for laundering N25billion.

EFCC said Tarfa, on April 30, attended a book launch in honour of the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, in company of Chief Gabriel Igbinedion, who was the chief launcher, and who donated N8million.

EFCC said Tarfa did not advise Igbinedion not to donate the money since Igbinedion’s son, who was later convicted, was standing trial before the court.

The commission said Tarfa and his brother silks donated N7million on the occasion despite having cases before the Chief Judge.

According to the agency, Tarfa obtained $500,000 from one Prince Akinruntan in 2006, who later stated that it was by “false pretence”.

EFCC quoted Akinruntan as saying: “He (Tarfa) told me that the money is not for him alone, that he is going to settle the court, EFCC and many other people.”

According to the commission, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has refused to discipline Tarfa as recommended by a former judge of the Lagos State High Court, Justice Joseph Oyewole.

“This is not the first time the applicant will be accused of attempting to pervert the course of justice. I know that the respondents would be highly prejudiced if this application is granted,” the commission argued.

EFCC said Tarfa’s prayer for aggravated damages in the sum of N2.5billion “is provocative, annoying, self-serving and groundless in the circumstances”.

It said it cannot release Tarfa’s phones and vehicle to him yet because they are “necessary and vital” evidence against him.

“It would be in the interest of justice and equity that the reliefs as contained in the motion paper are not granted,” EFCC said.

The case comes up today for hearing.

In the meantime, Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja yesterday granted leave to the embattled National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Olisa Metuh, to file a no-case submission in the seven-count amended charge preferred against him by the Federal Government.

Metuh and his company, Destra Investment Limited, are standing trial for allegedly receiving N400 million, part of the money meant for the procurement of arms from the Office of the National Security Adviser, ONSA, in November 2014.

Abang in his ruling on Metuh’s application for the no-case submission, filed through his counsel, Onyeachi Ikpeazu (SAN) held that, “I have considered the application by the defendant that he wants to argue a nocase application.

“It is my view that counsel to the defendant is in control of his brief. He is at liberty to make any decision in the interest of his client. He is also at liberty to argue the no-case application,” the judge held. He ordered the defence counsel to file and exchange his no-case application before close of work yesterday and directed parties in the matter to file and exchange their written addresses for and against the no-case application. Upon receipt of the prosecution’s address, the judge gave the defendant 24 hours to reply on point of law and adjourned the matter till February 25, by 12 noon for the adoption of written addresses for and against the no-case application of the defendant.

Meanwhile, the prosecution counsel, Sylvanus Tahir, said the amended charge is harmless as it was to only take care of some elements of the offences for which Metuh was charged. The EFCC, in its charge against Metuh, who was arraigned alongside his firm, alleged that he received N400 million, part of the money meant for procurement of arms, from the Office of the NSA in November 2014.

Nation with additional report from National Mirror

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WAIVER CESSATION: Igbokwe urges NIMASA to evolve stronger collaboration with Ships owners

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…Stresses the need for timely disbursement of N44.6billion CVFF***

Highly revered Nigerian Maritime Lawyer, and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mike Igbokwe has urged the Nigeria Maritime Administration and safety Agency (NIMASA) to partner with ship owners and relevant association in the industry to evolving a more vibrant merchant shipping and cabotage trade regime.

Igbokwe gave the counsel during his paper presentation at the just concluded two-day stakeholders’ meeting on Cabotage waiver restrictions, organized by NIMASA.

“NIMASA and shipowners should develop merchant shipping including cabotage trade. A good start is to partner with the relevant associations in this field, such as the Nigeria Indigenous Shipowners Association (NISA), Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Oil Trade Group & Maritime Trade Group of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA).

“A cursory look at their vision, mission and objectives, show that they are willing to improve the maritime sector, not just for their members but for stakeholders in the maritime economy and the country”.

Adding that it is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a through briefing and regular consultation with ships owners, in other to have insight on the challenges facing the ship owners.

“It is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a thorough briefing and regular consultations with shipowners, to receive insight on the challenges they face, and how the Agency can assist in solving them and encouraging them to invest and participate in the maritime sector, for its development. 

“NIMASA should see them as partners in progress because, if they do not invest in buying ships and registering them in Nigeria, there would be no Nigerian-owned ships in its Register and NIMASA would be unable to discharge its main objective.

The Maritime lawyer also urged NIMASA  to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF)that currently stands at about N44.6 billion.

“Lest it be forgotten, what is on the lips of almost every shipowner, is the need to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (the CVFF’), which was established by the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act, 2003. It was established to promote the development of indigenous ship acquisition capacity, by providing financial assistance to Nigerian citizens and shipping companies wholly owned by Nigerian operating in the domestic coastal shipping, to purchase and maintain vessels and build shipping capacity. 

“Research shows that this fund has grown to about N44.6billion; and that due to its non-disbursement, financial institutions have repossessed some vessels, resulting in a 43% reduction of the number of operational indigenous shipping companies in Nigeria, in the past few years. 

“Without beating around the bush, to promote indigenous maritime development, prompt action must be taken by NIMASA to commence the disbursement of this Fund to qualified shipowners pursuant to the extant Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (“CVFF”) Regulations.

Mike Igbokwe (SAN)

“Indeed, as part of its statutory functions, NIMASA is to enforce and administer the provisions of the Cabotage Act 2003 and develop and implement policies and programmes which will facilitate the growth of local capacity in ownership, manning and construction of ships and other maritime infrastructure. Disbursing the CVFF is one of the ways NIMASA can fulfill this mandate.

“To assist in this task, there must be collaboration between NIMASA, financial institutions, the Minister of Transportation, as contained in the CVFF Regulations that are yet to be implemented”, the legal guru highlighted further. 

He urged the agency to create the right environment for its stakeholders to build on and engender the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders.

“Lastly, which is the main reason why we are all here, cessation of ministerial waivers on some cabotage requirements, which I believe is worth applause in favour of NIMASA. 

“This is because it appears that the readiness to obtain/grant waivers had made some of the vessels and their owners engaged in cabotage trade, to become complacent and indifferent in quickly ensuring that they updated their capacities, so as not to require the waivers. 

“The cessation of waivers is a way of forcing the relevant stakeholders of the maritime sector, to find workable solutions within, for maritime development and fill the gaps in the local capacities in 100% Nigerian crewing, ship ownership, and ship building, that had necessitated the existence of the waivers since about 15 years ago, when the Cabotage Act came into being. 

“However, NIMASA must ensure that the right environment is provided for its stakeholders to build and possess the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders. Or better still, that they are solved within the next 5 years of its intention to stop granting waivers”, he further explained. 

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Breaking News: The Funeral Rites of Matriarch C. Ogbeifun is Live

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The Burial Ceremony of Engr. Greg Ogbeifun’s mother is live. Watch on the website: www.maritimefirstnewspaper.com and on Youtube: Maritimefirst Newspaper.

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Wind Farm Vessel Collision Leaves 15 Injured

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…As Valles Steamship Orders 112,000 dwt Tanker from South Korea***

A wind farm supply vessel and a cargo ship collided in the Baltic Sea on Tuesday leaving 15 injured.

The Cyprus-flagged 80-meter general cargo ship Raba collided with Denmark-flagged 31-meter wind farm supply vessel World Bora near Rügen Island, about three nautical miles off the coast of Hamburg. 

Many of those injured were service engineers on the wind farm vessel, and 10 were seriously hurt. 

They were headed to Iberdrola’s 350MW Wikinger wind farm. Nine of the people on board the World Bora were employees of Siemens Gamesa, two were employees of Iberdrola and four were crew.

The cause of the incident is not yet known, and no pollution has been reported.

After the collision, the two ships were able to proceed to Rügen under their own power, and the injured were then taken to hospital. 

Lifeboat crews from the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service tended to them prior to their transport to hospital via ambulance and helicopter.

“Iberdrola wishes to thank the rescue services for their diligence and professionalism,” the company said in a statement.

In the meantime, the Hong Kong-based shipowner Valles Steamship has ordered a new 112,000 dwt crude oil tanker from South Korea’s Sumitomo Heavy Industries Marine & Engineering.

Sumitomo is to deliver the Aframax to Valles Steamship by the end of 2020, according to data provided by Asiasis.

The newbuild Aframax will join seven other Aframaxes in Valles Steamship’s fleet. Other ships operated by the company include Panamax bulkers and medium and long range product tankers.

The company’s most-recently delivered unit is the 114,426 dwt Aframax tanker Seagalaxy. The naming and delivery of the tanker took place in February 2019, at Namura Shipbuilding’s yard in Japan.

Maritime Executive with additional report from World Maritime News

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