‘Lagos-Onitsha by road has 60 security checkpoints’

Nigeria’s East-bound passengers travelling this December have been warned to take note and prepare to endure heavy security checkpoints mounted along the roads between Lagos and Onitsha as they journey home for Christmas 2019.

Chief Tony Onyima, a veteran journalist who passed through the route on Wednesday, 27 November 2019, reported that he was able to count 75 detachments of security personnel deployed at 60 different points on these routes before he got to Onitsha.

The security stop points are manned by men of the Nigerian Army, Customs Service, Federal Road Safety Commission, and the Nigeria Police (including regular police, mobile, and special armed robbery squads), each spot independently created or jointly managed by the agencies’ personnel, he said.

The account by Chief Onyima, which he shared on his Facebook page, showed a total of nine (9) detachments from the Army, 11 from Customs, six from FRSC, and a lion share of 49 roadblocks mounted by the Police along the routes.

The implication is that travelers on these routes (Lagos – Shagamu, Shagamu – Benin, and Benin – Onitsha) are likely to encounter the Army every 50 kilometers, Customs every 41 kilometers, Road Safety every 75 kilometers and the Police every nine kilometers.

“You can imagine what will happen in the next two weeks when my brothers and sisters begin their Christmas migration,” Chief Onyima lamented.

Analysts said that passengers travelling to Ondo, Edo, and Delta States are equally affected, but that the greater pressure will be on east-bound passengers taking this route who are wont to travel to their villages for the Christmas holidays each year.

In addition, VIP travelers to Enugu and Ebonyi States will experience what the common people go through on these routes as they can no longer fly to their destinations following the closure for repairs of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu.

A few will, however, elect to overfly the heavy security zone to Asaba and Owerri airports from where they will continue the rest of the journey to their villages.

Nigerians React

On the Facebook Page where Chief Onyima shared the account of his Lagos to Onitsha journey, the following comments by concerned Nigerians were noted:

Areh Sunday This is serious. Militarized route.

Mary Kanu That route is a siege zone.

Primus Igboaka We need these first-hand evidences to decipher the truth from propaganda in making informed criticisms or approval… This is the way to go to sidetrack people playing politics with everything.

Jefferson Uwoghiren The annoying and horrible part, is the fact that the other opposite lane is empty as if criminals don’t head West!

Agbonsuremi Augustine Okhiria This is a bold step. Many who can afford it will never hit the roads. My boss, you forgot to tell us how long the journey took. That’s the fearful part of it; the longer the trip, the bigger the risk.

Emeka Ani ….And yet kidnappers and armed robbers operate freely as if these security posts do not exist.

Dozie Kaidi Obiaku I counted 62 roadblocks on this same route on October 24 this year. Traveling to Eastern Nigeria from Lagos by road at this time is an unmitigated pain which is better avoided where possible. Check out the number of roadblocks on any route in Northern Nigeria and let’s compare notes.

Matthew Ogagavworia It is a sad reminder of our helplessness. The checkpoints or number of begging/extortion points are just too numerous. You can see the next “roadblock” 100-200 metres away. You are subjected to the same checks/tolls to pass freely or be delayed unjustly.

John Ononose Great journalistic work. It would have been very convenient to have taken a flight to your destination, and just rely on “rumors “, but you chose to undergo the rigors, the authentic fact-finding way. Kudos, sir. If our govt officials would toe this line, move around their constituencies, and have first-hand assessment of things playing out, we certainly would have better governance and result-producing policies and actions.

Egbueh Ezeani Thank you for taking time to point out those check points. The check points are targeted against the Igbos. It’s another way of marginalising the South Easterners. Before two weeks the check points will be doubled to frustrate and extort money from those going home for the Christmas. I pity this country called Nigeria

Kene Okafor So sad. The concentration of these agencies says so much: It’s either there’s an inefficiency in the deployment of officers and men by the agencies or the security situation is far worse than we imagine.

Charles Mbachu It’s a terrible experience to travel by road.

Your View?

What do you think of this situation? Drop your comments below.

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Lagos to Onitsha with ease

By Tony Onyima

Concerned by the increasing complaints about the pains of Nigerians plying the Lagos-Onitsha route, I decided to seize an opportunity on Wednesday, November 27, 2019 to find out the real situation.

For complete experience, I traveled with one of the transporters at Jibowu. After an excruciating traffic snarl along Redeemed Church corridor, we finally commenced the journey to Onitsha at 10:30am.

By the time we arrived at the Asaba end of the River Niger Bridge, I had counted 60 checkpoints. I was painstakingly taking notes and few shots. The checkpoints were manned at various points by soldiers, police, customs, SARS, FRSC or a combination.

Below are the locations of the checkpoints to guide your next trip from Lagos to Onitsha.

LAGOS TO ORE:

  1. Ilisan – Police checkpoint just in front of Babcock University
  2. Ilisan 2 – Another police check less than 300 meters after Babcock
  3. Ijebu Ode toll gate – Customs
  4. Ijebu Ife – Police
  5. Ijebu Itele – Customs, FRSC and Army
  6. Ijebu Itele 2 – Police and FRSC
  7. Ijebu Itele 3 – Police
  8. Ajebandele – Police
  9. Ajebandele 2 – Police
  10. Ajebandele 3 – Police and FRSC
  11. Ajebandele 4 – Army, Police
  12. Ajebandele 5; less than 100 meters – Police
  13. Ajebandele 6; less than 40 meters – Police
  14. Ajebandele 7 – Police
  15. Ajebandele 8 – Police
  16. Ajebandele 9 – Police
  17. Akinfosile – Police
  18. Omotosho – Army
  19. Omotosho 2 – Police
  20. Obatedo – Police
  21. Orilewo – Police
  22. Orilewo 2 – Customs
  23. Orilewo 3 – Police
  24. Orilewo 4 – Police
    ORE TO BENIN:
  25. Ore 1 – Police
  26. Ore 2 – Customs and Police
  27. Ofosu – Army
  28. Ofosu 2 – Police
  29. Ofosu 3 – FRSC and Police
  30. Ugbogui Town – Police
  31. Okada – Customs and Police
  32. Okada 2 – Police
  33. Okada 3 – SARS
  34. Okada 4 – Police
  35. Okada 5 – Police
  36. Okada 6 – SARS
  37. Okada 7 – Army
  38. Okada 8 – SARS
  39. Okada 9 – SARS
  40. Okada 10 – Police
  41. Okada 11 – Police
  42. Okada 12 – Police
  43. Iwinosa – SARS
  44. Benin toll gate – Customs, FRSC, SARS
  45. Benin By-Pass – Police
  46. Benin By-Pass 2 – SARS
  47. Benin By-Pass 3 – Army
  48. Ugoneki – Police
  49. Ugoneki 2 – Police
  50. Abudu – Customs
  51. Abudu 2 – Army
  52. Omumu-Agbor – Army, FRSC, Police and Customs
  53. Agbor – Police
  54. Ekwuoma – Police
  55. Issele Uku – SARS
  56. Issele Uku 2 – Police
  57. Akwa Ukwu – Customs and Army
  58. Ogwashi – Customs
  59. Okpanam – Customs and Police
  60. Onitsha Bridge head – Mopol

You can imagine what will happen in the next two weeks when my brothers and sisters begin their Christmas migration.

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Even In Witchcraft, Nigeria Can’t Lead Africa?

By Ikeddy ISIGUZO

WHAT is it about witchcraft that a university’s decision to host a conference on it could draw so much umbrage? Since the announcement the proposed conference at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, the exaggerated interest in stopping the conference would make anyone think that UNN was planning the unthinkable.

Three years ago, South African Minister of Higher Education and Training, Blade Nzimande, disclosed plans to include witchcraft studies in tertiary institutions from 2018. The minister told student leaders that witchcraft, as a course, would be available to future university entrees.

“There is a lot we can learn from witchcraft, like how they fly in that winnowing basket. Imagine if we learn that skill. It will eradicate traffic jams and everyone will just get in their basket and fly. It also means we will not be importing fuel anymore,” he was quoted as saying.

“I spoke to Gibs (Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba) and he agreed to issue witches from outside South Africa with permanent residence permits. I heard Malawi and Zimbabwe have an impressive collection of witches. We are hoping they will heed the call.

“Applications is said to be closing on the 30th of September at midnight, after which an appointed panel will conduct interviews. There currently is an opening for 109 witches,” he said.

It appeared to be a ruse as there are no details of South African universities offering such courses.

Only last year, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO, granted the University of Zambia $340,000 (N122.4m) to develop a degree programme on witchcraft. When the matter became controversial, the university denied it.

Zambia’s National Commission for UNESCO had explained that the course was on Intangible Heritage such as witchcraft and social practices as expression through music, knowledge, skills as well as the instruments, objects, artifacts and rituals. The Commission’s Secretary General, Dr. Charles Ndakala, lamented the destruction of priceless culture heritage in certain countries which threatens traditions and customs. Dr. Ndakala was speaking to journalists at a five-day workshop for the orientation of the university’s lecturers on Intangible Culture Heritage.

Higher Education Minister, Professor Nkandu Luo, announced that Zambia should consider research and the study of witchcraft as a science that can be used productively for the benefit of the country. Zambian scientists, he said, could learn from the South African counterparts who have commenced studies in witchcraft in some universities.

“I could not help but think of witchcraft when I saw a mobile phone put into a box and it turned into a lady’s pant!” she said during the commemoration of the World Science Day for Peace and Development dubbed: ‘Recreating interest in science, technology and innovation’.

Like in the Nigerian case, conflicting positions ensued. Zambian government spokesperson Kampamba Mulenga said government was disappointed with media reports suggesting that it will consider research on witchcraft as a science that can be used productively for the benefit of the country.

What could be wrong in studying witchcraft, a part of the befuddling mysteries of life that leave many Africans petrified?

Why would Nigeria not provide leadership in this direction?

University of Oslo, UiO, is Norway’s oldest institution for research and higher education, with 28,000 students and 7,000 employees. The 208-year-old university has eight faculties, two museums and several centres. In addition, UiO has 10 Norwegian Centres of Excellence, proud of its programmes in Magic and Witchcraft which are are studied up to Master’s levels.

Mind you, four scientists affiliated with the University of Oslo have been awarded Nobel Prizes for their research, and one for his efforts to promote peace. They are:

  • Fridjof Nansen – Nobel Peace Prize Winner 1922. Fridtjof Nansen was a Professor of Zoology and later oceanography at the University of Oslo. Nansen was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1922 for his humanitarian efforts to help refugees and victims of World War I.
  • Ragnar Frisch – Nobel Prize Winner in Economics 1969. Beginning his economic career because the subject was quick and easy, Ragnar Frisch gradually developed a passion for the field that led to a Nobel Prize in Economics in 1969 for groundbreaking research and innovative economic thinking.
  • Odd Hassel – Nobel Prize Winner in Chemistry 1969. One of the University of Oslo’s most lauded Professors, Odd Hassel was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1969 for his study of organic compounds.
  • Ivar Giæver – Nobel Prize Winner in Physics 1973. Awarded a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1973 for his work in Electrical Engineering, Ivar Giæver returned to Norway years later to take a professorship at the University of Oslo and address biophysical questions.
  • Trygve Haavelmo – Nobel Prize Winner in Economics 1989. Trygve Magnus Haavelmo was born 13 December 1911 in Skedsmo, Norway. Haavelmo earned his economics degree in 1933 and PhD in 1946.

A university with such pedigree studies witchcraft. It is not the only one.

Witchcraft, Magic and Occult Traditions are taught at the 171-year-old University of Ottawa, Canada. “This course looks at the historical, psychological and cross-cultural exploration of the traditions and practices of witchcraft,” the school, known as the world’s largest bi-lingual university – English and French are used in instructions – explains: “The course also looks at paranormal phenomena, magic, the occult, and related experiences, as well as its relation to traditional notions of religious behaviour.”

If Nigeria cannot lead Africa in witchcraft, if her scholars cannot be global authorities on witchcraft, where would they lead? It was disappointing to see extraneous influence decide what a university cannot do.

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Govt shuts Golf Estate Road

Enugu State Ministry of Works will immediately shut the road linking Sir Mike Omeje and Golf Estate Roads in a short while.

Works and Infrastructure Commissioner, Engr. Greg Nnaji, said in a statement that the closure is to allow the Ministry reconstruct the road which is being eaten away by erosion.

Motorists going to Golf Estate are therefore advised to make a detour from Ekulu Primary School, through New Market to the SARS/De Angelo Hotel, in order to access the Estate until the rehabilitation work is completed.

“We regret any inconvenience this closure will cause the general public,” Nnaji said.

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Salisu Yusuf is Rangers New Coach

Salisu Yusuf is Rangers New Coach

The Nigerian Football Federation has drafted the assistant coach of the national team, Salisu Yusuf, to Enugu to assist Enugu Rangers International FC overcome its technical challenges in both local and continental campaigns.

Rangers Management Corporation on Monday 25 November wrote to the Federation to ask for technical assistance to help the Flying Antelopes as an interim measure as the team gets set to be overhauled.

The Federation responded promptly the following day to approve the request and recommend Yusuf for the task, through its letter addressed to Rangers Management Corporation General Manager, Prince Davidson Owumi, and dated 26 November.

The NFF letter was signed for the General Secretary by NFF Technical Director,  Bitrus Bewarang.

“NFF wishes Rangers well as she begins her group stage of the CAF Confederation Cup Competition this Sunday with Pyramids of Egypt,” Bewarang wrote.

Coach Yusuf arrived Enugu today and was received by both the team manager and the commissioner for Youth and Sports at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Stadium where he watched the boys at a practice session.  

Addressing the players and officials at the  Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium Enugu after watching the training session, Coach Salisu promised to work with everybody.

He said he feels at home already because he has worked with many of the players before now, both at the national team and in the club sides where he coached before the national job.

Coach Salisu Yusuf is a former Nigeria player and professional football manager. Born in Zaria, Kaduna State, he played for both junior and senior Nigeria teams as a midfielder for ABU FC, Ranchers Bees and El-Kanemi Warriors.

He began his coaching career with Nassarawa United before joining Lobi Star as assistant Coach where he helped to lift FA Cup in 2003.

Salisu also coached Dolphins, Kano Pillars and finally with Enyimba where he also lifted FA Cup in 2013 before joining the national team as Assistant coach. In national team, he worked under Sampson Siasia and Stephen Keshi before he was appointed officially as national team coach on 24 October, 2016.

Mbwas Mangut

On 12 September 2019 he returned to the Super Eagles after serving one year ban over bribery allegations by a Ghanaian investigative journalist.

Coach Salisu will be assisted by Coach Mbwas Mangut on the Rangers job. Mangut was before now the Chief Coach of Delta Force football club of Asaba.

Rangers General Manager Owumi and Commissioner for Youth and Sports, Vitus Okechi, recieved the Coaches on behalf of the Enugu State Government.

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Enugu cancels Nov 2019 Sanitation Day

Enugu Waste Management Authority (ESWAMA) has cancelled the monthly environmental exercise in the state for the sake of students writing the external National Examination Council (NECO) Examination, which is currently ongoing nationwide.

Agency’s chief executive, Amaka Anajemba announced the cancellation today 28 November 2019 in a statement..

She however said the agency’s taskforce that enforces collection of sanitation rates will this time around extend their assignment to Saturdays.

The monthly sanitation exercise is observed nationwide on the last Saturday of each month.

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I saw modern ‘witchcraft’

Writer and publisher, ANIEBO NWAMU, attended the rebranded conference on witchcraft at the UNN and here presents a delicious menu of the many intellectual courses served on opening day.

By ANIEBO NWAMU

Across many cultures, a witch is often a poor old widow who turns into a bird or other dangerous creature in search of innocent people to harm in the dead of night. Nobody would associate with a known witch or wizard!

When, therefore, the Prof. B.I.C Ijomah Centre for Policy Studies and Research advertised a conference on “Witchcraft: meanings, factors and practices,”  to be held at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), all hell was let loose especially on social media. Witches meet in their covens, usually after midnight, but here were ones boldly inviting people to their meeting in an academic environment! Pressure mounted on the UNN authorities to cancel the conference. The lobbyists succeeded only in making the centre change the theme to “Dimensions of human behaviours.”

From the many brickbats thrown by friends proclaiming the “blood of Jesus” over their households to “bishops” calling for the cancellation of the conference slated for November 26—27, the interest generated was global. Denials by the organisers failed to persuade those who were sure some academic witches were handing UNN and its occupants over to the devil. The director of the centre, Prof. Egodi Uchendu, wondered how an ordinary academic conference was twisted to cause confusion in the media, admitting that a major casualty of the hysteria was the withdrawal of its keynote speaker Professor David Ker.

I took the “risk” of attending the conference. And the content of this piece is the fruit of my trip.

Indeed I saw many “witches and wizards” – professors and other academic giants from almost every discipline, researchers, two or three clerics including a Catholic priest, journalists, undergraduate and postgraduate students, jobseekers and entrepreneurs – who occupied every space at the ultra-large Princess Alexandra Auditorium.

There is little doubt the English once recognised “witchcraft” – if they didn’t, the word wouldn’t be found in any dictionary. But its definition varies. Not all witches are malevolent, and no two societies conceptualise witchcraft the same way. A witch is not “amosu” in Igbo, nor is it the equivalent of a sorcerer. Even “wizardry” refers to skills: we have computer wizards and mathematics wizards. The witches mentioned in Shakespeare’s Macbeth were perhaps different from the witch consulted by biblical Saul in the Book of Kings. Or is the witch the same as the bugbear?

 The problem has to do with occultism. The occultist always claims he’s a mystic but he’s not. Occultism is not a religion or a science. What is common among these variations of witchcraft is an element of magic. You know, it takes magic for a human to turn into a bird or to foretell a future event or do anything else beyond the realm of the physical.

There were unseen witches at the UNN conference. The magic behind the streaming of the event live on Facebook, enabling people across the globe to watch what we were watching at the same time, was witchcraft too. If the organisers had paid NTA or Channels TV, the audience at home would have watched the witchcraft conference in the comfort of their homes. Couldn’t a witch have inspired the invention of the internet and the worldwide web? Or the cellphone everyone at UNN had in their pocket this Tuesday? Who understands Einstein’s Theory of Relativity expressed in E = MC2? The line between witchcraft and science has become blurry — science or technology is witchcraft in practice.

So, witchcraft is not exclusively African. In ancient Europe and America, “witches’ were tortured and killed. Even a pope in the 14th century decreed death for “witches”. The Witchcraft Act enacted in Europe in the 18th century wasn’t repealed until the 19th century.

Studies showed that witchcraft existed in societies plagued by conflicts; that’s why people described it according to the conflicts they battled. In Nupe land of Nigeria, for instance, women are witches and their victims are almost always male. But among the Gwari, women and men could be witches. The Korongo of South Sudan recognize no witchcraft.

But why is witchcraft always associated with the poor? Nobody accuses a president or governor or senator of practising witchcraft. It’s often a helpless old woman. Or a childless old man who has no one to care for him.

Belief in witchcraft waned with the Industrial Revolution in Europe. One of the earliest authorities then said it’s paranoia: people thought to be witches had brain disturbances – psychological, psychiatric or neurotic diseases nobody had a cure for.

Some Nigerians of today are even more primitive than people who lived in medieval Europe. Occasionally, ignorant Nigerians have tortured and even killed “witches” intercepted by “Holy Ghost fire” as the former flew past a holy zone. Children in Cross River and Akwa Ibom states have been branded witches and their fingers cut off by uncles or foster parents. Unfortunately for the victims, Nigeria offers no job to psychologists and psychotherapists. Only churches now perform the tasks.

All archaic societies believed there was witchcraft. Not anymore, thanks to more knowledge — science and technology have been found to be more practical and verifiable. The finest anthropological studies done on witchcraft show that witchcraft itself doesn’t exist; what does exist is belief in witchcraft. Only in Africa have people not grown above this belief up until this time. When does Africa hope to drop this belief as other parts of the world have?

I’ve been paraphrasing mainly the words of two lead speakers at the conference: Professor Damian U. Opata and Professor Peter J. Ezeh.

Ezeh, who presented the second paper, advised that the continent should “make knowledge production robust”.  If it did, in 50 years’ time there would be no witchcraft in Africa. His paper: “Which Witch? What Anthropology Knows about the Adult Bugbear”.

For his part, Professor Opata never misses any opportunity to clear misconceptions about the devil and the Christian God. He alluded to the penchant of some churches to exploit the fears of their hapless followers: “Some people have killed the initiative for creative indigenous thinking because of mere belief in witchcraft…Pastors, prophets, seers in the foreign religions and charismatic priests of variegated persuasions very frequently use perceived attacks by witches and wizards to put fear in the minds and hearts of their various congregations,” he said. “Remove the devil and almost all these churches would be gone.”

Opata’s lead paper is entitled “The Wealthy Are No Witches: Towards an Epistemology and Ideology of Witchcraft”. At least 36 other papers on witchcraft are listed in the conference’s brochure. The Ijomah centre welcomes, and promises to publish, more researched papers on the subject.

Enthusiastic members of the audience asked the duo presenters questions, some testifying to the existence of witches or narrating their encounters with them. Opata and Ezeh went to their rescue with superior facts and logic.

I hereby testify that, contrary to the fears expressed in several quarters ahead of the conference, the Ijomah centre didn’t invite witches to perform at UNN. It was a mere academic exercise. Actually, I knew it’s meant to interrogate the concept of witchcraft and provoke research on the subject. There were no initiations into witchcraft, because the stakeholders were yet to gather in their coven.

Connect with Aniebo:+234-8054100220 (SMS/WhatsApp only) Need his writing or editing service? Click below.

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Conference on witchcraft kicks off, rebranded

The planned 2-day international academic interrogation on witchcraft took off yesterday at the Nsukka Main Campus of the University of Nigeria with two major changes – renaming of the Conference theme and a change in venue.

Organisers quickly changed the theme of the Conference from First International and Interdisciplinary Conference on Witchcraft: Meaning, Factors and Practices, to Dimensions of Human Behaviour, and also moved its venue from the Energy Centre to Princess Alexandria Hall.

These changes, however, did not affect the thrust of the papers presented nor alter any other aspect of the carefully packaged academic exercise.

The host of the conference, Prof. Egodi Uchendu, said in her opening speech that a major casualty of the Conference was the absence of the keynote speech to have been given by Prof. David Kerr, former Vice Chancellor of Benue State University.

Kerr withdrew from the conference at the last minute following needless controversy that trailed the choice of subject, mainly promoted by religious zealots.

Two lead papers were presented at the conference yesterday by Professors Damian Opata and Peter Eze.

Click here to enjoy an impressionistic report on the opening day of the Conference by the brilliant journalist and publisher, Aniebo Nwamu.

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Insight: Airpeace boss’ indictment is overreaching

By Prof. Emmanuel Emenyonu

The Nigerian media space went agog when the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia Atlanta Division on November 19, 2019, filed Case 1:19-cr-00464, A “True Bill”, otherwise known as Grand Jury Criminal Indictment against the persons of Allen Ifechukwu Athan Onyema, a Nigerian Citizen, the Chairman and CEO of Air Peace; and Ejiroghene Eghagha, a Nigerian citizen and the Chief of Administration and Finance of Air Peace.

Commentators have speculated on the guilt or innocence of the accused. Others have offered some theories relating to the motivations and hidden hands behind the Indictment. Some ‘experts’ have pontificated on the seriousness of the charges especially money laundering. Some commentators have even likened the Indictment to some recent high profile indictments involving some Nigerians alleged to have engaged in sundry cybercrimes and advanced fee fraud schemes.

Nothing could be furthest from the truth as there are hardly any facts in the November 19, 2019 Grand Jury Indictment supporting any such comparison. Let me make it clear that the purpose of this article is not to hold brief for the accused persons. It is my understanding that they accused persons as should be expected, have retained competent counsels for that purpose.

I have not seen anything in the Grand Jury indictment … to warrant the US DOJ to rank this issue higher in their priority than even crimes involving terrorism and national security of the United States. Except there are aspects to this case that the US DOJ has not mentioned yet, the Nigerian EFCC should resist the temptation to be used as a pliant tool for bringing down a thriving Nigerian company that is providing jobs directly and indirectly for thousands of people all across Nigeria and beyond

Prof. Emenyonu

My purpose is to shade some light on the issues using the tools of my professional training and exposure, given that this is of national importance to Nigeria and Nigerians both home and abroad.

In all, the indictment alleges in its 36 pages and 88 paragraphs 35 counts of diverse criminal offences. Count One alleges Conspiracy to Commit Bank Fraud an offence covered by title 18 of U.S. Code (U.S.C.)§ 1349. Counts Two to Four allege Bank Fraud contrary to 18 U.S. C. § 1344. Counts Five to Eight allege Conspiracy to Commit Credit Application Fraud, covered under 18 U.S. C. § 371. Counts Nine through Thirty-Five allege Money Laundering, covered under 18 U.S.C § 1957. Finally, Count Thirty-Six, Aggravated Identity Theft, 18 U.S.C. § 1028A(a)(1). Counts One to Eight, name both Allen Onyema and Ejiroghene Eghagha as defendants. Counts Nine to Thirty-Five, specifically name only Allen Onyema as defendant. Count Thirty-Six names Ejiroghene Eghagha as the sole defendant. If convicted of any of the charges, the Indictment is seeking for forfeiture to the United States of any property derived from proceeds traceable to such offenses, including Money Judgment and Banks Funds held in JP Morgan Chase Account ending in 5512 ($4,017,852.51), Bank of Montreal Canada account number ending 7523 ($4,593,842.05) and Bank of Montreal Canada account number ending in 7515 ($5,634,842.04), totaling $14,246,536.60.

Count One, paragraph 1 alleges that the defendants conspired to, “knowingly devise and execute and attempt to execute a scheme and artifice (i) to defraud financial institutions the deposits of which were insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, that is, Wells Fargo Bank and JPMorgan Chase
Bank, NA, and (ii) to obtain and attempt to obtain moneys, funds and assets owned by and under the custody and control of those financial institutions by means of materially false and fraudulent pretenses, representations, and promises, as well as by omission of material facts, in violations of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1344.”

The charges continue from paragraph 2 to give the profile of Mr. Onyema, his trips to Atlanta, opening of US Bank Accounts, transference of funds from Nigerian bank accounts to US bank accounts, ownership of Air Peace, personal expenses at Atlanta area stores and even eating at restaurants and sundry immaterial issues.

May be, these were aimed at the emotions of the members of
the grand jury. No where did the indictment actually convey how the defendants harmed US depositors and their funds.

Counts Nine to Thirty-Five give a list of routine transfers from one Wells Fargo Account ending 8621 to two other Wells Fargo Accounts ending in 0125 and 8020, all belonging to and under the control of the accused persons ranging in amounts from $150,000.00 to $1,000,000.00.

The charges either expressly or impliedly cover a wide array of complex topics dealing with international letters of credit, such as: international aviation business; structuring of operations between a foreign parent company and its subsidiary(ies); international banking and financial flows; international transfer pricing and taxation; and Anti Money Laundering (AML) regulations enforcement.

Any one of these topics is complex enough all by itself and a case that has combinations of these topics is bound to be very difficult to untangle.

It is important to always bear in mind that this is a Grand Jury Indictment, usually secured ex parte, that is, in the absence of the accused. In Grand Jury proceedings the accused is not entitled to Sixth Amendment rights to defense counsel in the grand jury room, nor the right to examine and cross examine witnesses.

From its historical intentions of protecting innocent citizens against overzealous prosecutors, some experts opine that the American Grand Jury system is broken.

For instance, the American Bar Association, has criticized the GJ system for “being a mere rubber stamp for the prosecution without adequate procedural safeguards”.

William J. Campbell, a former federal district judge in Chicago, noted in 1973 that: “[T]oday, the grand jury is the total captive of the prosecutor who, if he is candid, will concede that he can indict anybody, at any time, for almost anything, before any grand jury.”

Not much has changed since Judge Campbell made those observations. In an Editorial on Sunday, April 16, 2012, the New York Sun reminded readers that, the Chief Judge of New York State’s highest court, Sol Wachtler, “once said that grand juries were so pliable that a prosecutor could get a grand jury to “indict a ham sandwich.”

It is therefore important for people especially in the court of public opinion to withhold judgement based on a one-sided narrative presented by the prosecutors, who have been known to be overzealous. It is not unheard off to have Grand Jury indictments dismissed.

For instance according to the 2018 Annual Statistical Report of the US Attorneys Office, out of the 151 non narcotics related Money Laundering indictments that were determined, 18, representing about 12 percent were dismissed.

As at last count, it has been reported that the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has entered the fray. The EFCC will need to bear in mind that the overriding interest in the US Department of Justice Grand Jury Indictment against the named officials of Air Peace is the interest of the United States, not natural justice per se.

The US DOJ in the Indictment is asking that funds which clearly originated from Nigeria should be forfeited to the United States if the accused are found guilty.

This is against natural justice and biased towards US interests. In the Fiscal Year 2018 Annual Statistical Report of the US Attorneys Report, the US Department of Justice declined to press ahead with the prosecution of a total of 2,573 alleged criminal matters on account of “Prioritization of Federal Resources and Interests (emphasis mine)”

Overzealous US DOJ prosecutions can lead to incalculable harm to individuals and companies even when they are finally exonerated. The economic interest of Nigeria should weigh heavily on the minds of the leaders of EFCC as they proceed on this issue.

A partial breakdown of some of these offenses the US DOJ declined to prosecute for the above stated reasons: violent crimes (452), Terrorism/National Security (171), Drugs (414), Official Corruption (67), white collar crimes (623), government regulatory offenses
(99) and organized crime (13). These are very serious offenses for the US DOJ to decline prosecution citing prioritization of Federal Resources and Interests.

I have not seen anything in the Grand Jury indictment of the CEO of Air Peace Chief Allen Onyema and the Chief Administrative and Financial Officer of the same company Mr. Eghagha to warrant the US DOJ to rank this issue higher in their priority than even crimes involving terrorism and national security of the United States. Except there are aspects to this case that the US DOJ has not mentioned yet, the Nigerian EFCC should resist the temptation to be used as a pliant tool for bringing down a thriving Nigerian company that is providing jobs directly and indirectly for thousands of people all across Nigeria and beyond.

The EFCC should remember the case of Arthur Andersen LLP which was charged by the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas on May 6, 2002, in connection with the ENRON scandal, convicted on June 15, 2002; the conviction affirmed by the 5th Circuit (the relevant US Federal Appeal Court) in 2004, only for the US Supreme Court to overturn the rulings of these lower courts in favor of Arthur Andersen in 2005.

Unfortunately, for the Arthur Andersen, it was unable to recover from these legal setbacks and had to shut its doors notwithstanding the ruling of the highest court in the land.

Overzealous US DOJ prosecutions can lead to incalculable harm to individuals and companies even when they are finally exonerated. The economic interest of Nigeria should weigh heavily on the minds of the leaders of EFCC as they proceed on this issue.

It is therefore important for people especially in the court of public opinion to withhold judgement based on a one-sided narrative presented by the prosecutors, who have been known to be overzealous. It is not unheard off to have Grand Jury indictments dismissed.

In conclusion, with respect to Money Laundering cases, banks and financial institutions who are the gatekeepers of the financial system have a high degree of responsibility in combating the crime by adhering to AML due process procedures especially, knowing their customers (KYC).

This is a major plank of Anti Money Laundering (AML) laws and regulations in many jurisdictions.

For instance, in September 2019, ING, the big Dutch bank was fined the sum of $900 million for lapses in the bank’s KYC implementation. If as alleged, Air Peace and the leaders of the company engaged in serial AML offenses using wells Fargo, why is Wells Fargo Bank not included in the Indictment or in any separate indictment for that matter for Counts Nine to Thirty-Five?

It appears here that the US DOJ is primarily concerned with protecting Wells Fargo and the two other systemically important banks named in the Indictment.

The connotation of sinister criminal activities on the part of the accused which has been suggested by the Indictment and various headlines is not supported by a careful reading of the Indictment.

Usually in major financial crime cases such as this, the indicting US Federal agency will identify the victims and the
magnitude in US dollar terms of losses suffered by the victims. No victims were specifically mentioned not to talk of the monetary amount of the losses incurred by the victims.

The US companies that sold airplanes and the banks that profited from facilitating those transactions have not asked to disgorge the profits arising from those transactions. Air Peace and the accused persons should put up a robust
defense to clear their names from what looks to be an overreach by zealous prosecutors.

Emmanuel N. Emenyonu, Ph.D (Glasgow), LLB (London), CPA (Massachusetts), FCA (Nigeria) is Professor of Fraud and Forensic Accounting at Southern Connecticut State University. He has at various times taught International Accounting, Financial Accounting, Taxation, Finance and Accounting Information Systems at leading universities such as University of Nigeria, Yale University, Covenant University, Howard University and Quinnipiac University

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VC shoots down UNN Conference on Witchcraft

The vice chancellor of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Prof. Charles Igwe, last night ordered the BIC Ijomah Centre to drop the topic of Witchcraft from its proposed Interdisciplinary conference that was to take off this morning at the university.

A statement from Dr. Okwun Omeaku, acting PRO of the institution, said the directive to the organizers to stick to other topics during the conference is “in response to the yearnings of the public that have erroneously misconstrued the ideas behind the choice of topic.”

The statement put the decision squarely as a reaction to the actions of “religious activists and fanatics protesting ignorantly on the word witchcraft in a proposed seminar topic.”

He described the late-minute cancellation of the topic as “a true demonstration of a management with a listening ear.”

Dr. Omeaku however fired at the religious hecklers, accusing them of shallow thinking.

He wrote: “A conference on cultism is not a gathering of cultists as a conference on corruption is not a gathering of corrupt persons, in as much as a conference on terrorism is not a gathering of terrorists. Let’s not allow sentiments becloud our sense of reasoning.”

He regretted the cancellation of the topic because, according to him, the theme of discussion – interdisciplinary and international workshop on Witchcraft – had attracted keen interest from scholars and interest groups locally and internationally, many of who had booked seats to participate and contribute at the conference and workshop.

The 2-day conference tagged “First International and Interdisciplinary Conference on Witchcraft: Meaning, Factors and Practices,” was to begin today on this sole subject at the Energy Centre of the University.

The Conference host is Prof. Egodi Uchendu, director of the Prof. BIC Ijomah Centre of Policy and Research in the University, and a fine scholar with interests in diverse fields such as Islam in Igboland, gender and masculinity, and survival in conflict situations.

eMetro News had earlier reported that Christian zealots were fearful of the gathering and had promised to launch a series of prayer offensives to ward off what they see as its evil potent.

They had apparently gone beyond prayers to successfully apply pressure on the university authorities to withdraw the topic of discussion.

Many academics looked forward to the theme of this conference as it promised a full intellectual excursion where the participants will fly above the mundane concerns of religious zealots to land at a safe zone where they will interrogate issues around witchcraft, its philosophy, how it began, what literature and folklore explains, whether it is a science or an art, its gender and politics, and how it meets with religion.

Contemporary issues around witchcraft were also to be examined, such as its implication for security, social work, and aspects of development.

Social media commentators who work up early this morning to the news are expressing great disappointment with the people who caused the topic to be dropped through executive fiat in the university.

“Religion has dealt a heavy blow to our intellect, bemoaned one lecturer.

“What is the problem with this conference? I thought our Christian leaders would have used this opportunity to demystify witchcraft if at all it exists?”

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