Rivers: Court today hears alleged $130 million fraud case against Saipem

Ibunge Blessing in Port Harcourt

The Rivers State High Court sitting in Port Harcourt has adjourned until today the start of the hearing into the alleged $130 million fraud filed against Saipem Nigeria Contracting Limited by the State Government of Rivers.

The parties to the case registered in lawsuit No.: PHC/3106/CR/2021, include Rivers State Government (lawsuit), Saipem SPA (1st defendant), Saipem Contracting Nigeria Limited (2nd defendant), Mr. Walter Peviana (3rd defendant), Kelechi Sinteh Chinakwe (4th defendant), Giandomenico Zingali (5th defendant), Vitto Testaguzza (6th defendant) and Davide Anelli (7th defendant).

The state government had dragged the defendants to court for an alleged conspiracy to cheat and with intent to defraud the state government of $130 million, an advance payment for the construction of the OCGT power station in Port Harcourt.

At yesterday’s resume hearing, after the last adjournment, January 18, 2022, court set today and tomorrow (Friday) for the hearing of the case.

During the hearing, the lawyer for the first, second, third and sixth defendants, Odein Ajumogobia, told the court that he had a preliminary objection to the continuation of the trial.

Ajumogobia told the court that an objection was filed on January 31, 2022 and served on Tuesday, February 1.

Earlier, State Counsel (prosecuting), Godwin Obla, argued that the first and second defendants (Saipem SPA and Saipem Nigeria Contracting Limited respectively) were not represented by anyone in any capacity.

The Prosecution wanted the court to record that, not having been represented by their representatives, but being represented by a lawyer, placed them (first and second defendants) in the category of persons to be tried by absentia, pointing out that this is the position of the law.

Among the others to be tried in absentia alongside the first and second defendants were the fifth, sixth and seventh defendants.

Obla told the court that practice dictates that the prosecution has around seven days to respond.

However, the defendants’ attorney, Ajumogobia, argued at length over the court’s jurisdiction to hear the case.

Earlier, Judge Okogbule Gbasam admitted the state prosecutor’s submission and ruled that the first and second defendants will be tried in absentia.

The judge adjourned the case until today to hear the objection and possibly continue the trial.

Speaking to reporters outside the courtroom, Obla explained: “However, in the interests of justice, even the rules allow the judge to proceed. But, faced with the objection relating to the jurisdiction of the court, the judge decided to shorten the time limit for examining the applications, granting less than 24 hours to respond and for the defense to respond orally on points of law.

Buhari plans end to insurgency, Senate wants president to deploy fighter jets to hunt terrorists

•Abdulsalami Abubakar deplores the worsening insecurity

• Boko Haram’s killing of 32 farmers and 11 security guards in Niger is heartbreaking, says senator

Deji Elumoye, Adedayo Akinwale, Sunday Aborisade in Abuja and Laleye Dipo in Minna

As Nigerians continue to lament the killings by bandits and terrorist groups in the north of the country, President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday assured people in the northeast of the country that in the coming months they would witness a change compared to the protracted insurgency. to peace and development in their respective communities.

The President made the pledge at State House, Abuja, during the inauguration of the Presidential Committee on the Repatriation, Return and Resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the North East, shortly before the start of the virtual weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) Meeting.

However, the former head of state, General Abdulsalami Abubakar (retired) lamented the deteriorating security situation in the country, calling it “frightening”.

It was just as the Senate urged the federal government to urgently send in fighter jets to flush out the terrorists behind the country’s killings and kidnappings from their hiding places.

According to Buhari, when he took office in 2015, he promised Nigerians that he would restore peace to the northeast and put it back on a path of development and growth.

“I remain committed to this promise. To the people of the northeast, especially the children and the future of the northeast, we will never forget you and your courage, sacrifice and endurance were exemplary.

“I promise you that in the months to come, you will begin to witness a shift from protracted insurgency to peacebuilding, stabilization and ultimately development in your respective communities as we engage in a revised approach to resolving this conflict. A return to normality,” he added.

Underlining the seriousness of the task assigned to the committee, the president warned its members that not delivering on its specific mandate was not an option.

He announced that his administration was embarking on a revised approach to dealing with the 13-year-long conflict and insurgency in the region and would not relent in its efforts to return to peace and normalcy. .

Regarding the mandate of the Committee, the Chair emphasized that it involved moving from managing the situation to activating a permanent solution for an effective and feasible restoration.

He said the Committee, among others, should develop a concise three-year plan of action by the end of March 2022, which integrates national and state plans, providing a clear path for the restoration of peace and development in the northeast. .

The Committee, he said, would also develop and implement a phased plan for the repatriation, returns, resettlement of displaced persons and restoration of livelihoods, incorporating global best practices that dignify to affected populations.

According to the president, they would also be responsible for developing and implementing a coordinated, culturally appropriate and community-driven peacebuilding and reconciliation program.

The Committee is also responsible for strengthening collaboration with key donors, development partners and private sector organizations that are essential for resource mobilization and program implementation.

Buhari instructed the Committee members to adopt the guiding principles of accountability, delineation of duties and community methods to solve problems.

He said, “Members will dedicate more time to conducting field visits to engage regularly with the state government, communities and key stakeholders.

“Due to prevailing budget constraints, ministries, departments and agencies will utilize existing budget resources and reallocate funds to approved programs under this initiative.”

Buhari asked the committee to submit a monthly progress report while the first progress review meeting would be held in the first week of March 2022.

Underscoring the enormous task ahead of the Committee, the Chairman said, “History beckons and Nigeria calls on you to be the team that finally charts this new course towards restoring lasting progress in the North East. and I firmly believe that this could lead to the birth of a model for dealing with insurgency and instability in other parts of our country and around the world.” Failure to execute this task entrusted to you is not an option.”

Buhari also congratulated Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State, who was present at the inauguration along with his counterpart from Gombe State, Inuwa Yahaya, for his unprecedented commitment to his people and exemplary leadership.

The President further thanked the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) for its support in the area of ​​coordination of humanitarian actors and the UNDP Regional Stabilization Facility, which provides support in the area of security and the rule of law.

Members of the Presidential Committee on the Repatriation, Return and Resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the North East included the Ministers of Finance, Budget and National Planning; Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice; humanitarian affairs, disaster management and social development; Interior; Foreign Affairs and Defence.

The others are the National Security Advisor, Inspector General of Police, Chief of the Defense Staff, Director General of State Security, Director General of the National Intelligence Agency , the Director General of the North East Development Commission, the Federal Commissioner of the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons, Director General, National Emergency Management Agency and Chief of Defense Intelligence.

Speaking after the inauguration of the committee, Zulum said that the states of the North East region would provide the necessary support to the committee in order to achieve the desired outcome.

According to him: “Indeed, we are so happy, especially those of us who are in the northeast because thousands of people have been displaced, some have taken refuge in the Republic of Chad, in the Republic of Niger, in Cameroon and this is when the Federal Government of Nigeria, in collaboration with the North Eastern State Government, will facilitate the repatriation of internally displaced persons who live in our neighboring countries to Nigeria.

“The committee must also look into the management of repentant members of Boko Haram. So indeed, we are very grateful and the whole government of the Northeast will give its maximum support to this committee.

“We will provide the necessary support to the Federal Government under the distinguished leadership of Mr. President, we will provide the support and the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and others and the military to ensure that this process delivers the desired outcome.”

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