Category Archives: Insight

Expert opinions and analyses on issues and developments in the region, nation and the world as they impart our primary audience

Can Britain Help Nnamdi Kanu? Yes, but not by much

Can Britain Help Nnamdi Kanu? Enugu Metro findings suggest there’s little that Britain can do to help Mr. Kanu during his trial.

However, what little there are could become significant if full details of his “extraordinary rendition” become exposed as facts.

So far, all are in the realm of speculations as Kenya and Nigeria frantically struggle to downplay their roles.

Kanu, the Biafran separatist leader, is facing a charge of treason in Nigeria, in addition to 10 other serious allegations.

He holds Nigerian and British citizenships.

Officials have suggested that they could file additional charges, resulting from his recent actions in the outlawed IPOB organization.

However, a handbook on how to treat UK citizens incarcerated in Nigeria offers little hope, Enugu Metro has found.

For instance, Consular officers are forbidden from attempting to get out of prison detention a British national incarcerated in Nigeria.

The Consul won’t also pay fines, stand bail and “interfere with local judicial procedures” to help incarcerated nationals.

In fact, Consuls won’t help someone “get special treatment, give legal advice,” and investigate crime for which one is accused.

Citizens like Kanu who hold double nationality also face a double jeopardy as well.

“If you are a citizen of Nigeria as well as a British national and you are imprisoned in Nigeria, the British High Commission cannot assist you except in exceptional circumstances”.

There’s one way Britain can help Kanu

Can Britain Help Nnamdi Kanu? The British High Commission appears to be keen to interrogate one such “exceptional circumstance” in Nnamdi Kanu saga – his arrest.

This is following the rule that the British consulate can help a dual national with a valid British passport on one condition.

The condition is that “they’re arrested in a country other than the one they hold dual nationality with.”

Kanu was arrested in Kenya and bundled into Nigeria under circumstances that Nigerian officials are frantically working hard to downplay.

If Kanu was arrested in Nigeria, British authorities will do nothing, “unless there’s a special humanitarian reason to do so.”

This is because of the policy that Britain does not get involved “if someone’s arrested in a country for which they hold a valid passport.”

Kanu’s legal team is exploiting this loophole, while Nigeria and Kenya sweat profusely as they explain or deny that they acted like brigands.

The British High Commission announced last week that Britain wants to know about the circumstances of Kanu’s arrest in Kenya.

“The … Commission in Abuja is currently in the process of seeking clarification from the Nigerian government about the circumstances of the arrest.”

High Commission spokesperson, Mr. Dean Hurlock, specifically stated that the questions will bother on the legality of his arrest.

WTO Job: Africa Repeats the Mistake of 2013?

Mexico the 2013 runner-up, is still fielding a candidate, regardless of rotatory nature of the appointment and in spite of protestations from Africa. She may be counting on the sentiment of a gentlemanly withdrawal seven years ago, the same way that Kenya could be banking on a candidate that occupied all three positions that her successors are now holding as they interview them for the job.

Is history about to repeat itself with respect to African aspiration to head the World Trade Organisation? In 2013, nine candidates from around the world lined up to be anointed as head of the world body. Among them were two very highly qualified Africans.

Africa had made a strong case that the rotation of the position among the North and South somehow skipped the continent and it was time to redress the lapse – the same argument being put up today. Among members of the WTO Council, it was generally believed that Africa stood a chance, if only they could unite around a single candidate.

The nine candidates, including eventual winner Roberto Carvalho de Azevêdo of Brazil, came from Republic of Korea, Mexico, Jordan, New Zealand, Indonesia, Costa Rica, Ghana and Kenya.

In terms of qualifications, no one could fault the two candidates that Africa paraded.

From West Africa came the Ghanaian, Mr. Alan John Kwadwo Kyerematen, with formidable record in international trade, international public policy, enterprise development, politics and diplomacy. He was a cabinet member and former presidential candidate, an ambassador with an unblemished international public service record. At the time of his nomination, he was Ghana’s Minister of Trade and Industry and was appreciated continent-wide for helping Africa streamline her Trade Policy agenda in the WTO Multilateral Negotiations and the EU-ACP Economic Partnership Agreement Negotiations.

From East Africa came Ms. Amina Mohamed, a lawyer and career diplomat who had seen it all. She rose through the ranks in her country’s diplomatic service to the highest level of Ambassador/Permanent Representative Kenya Mission to the UN at Geneva. In addition to other positions she held, Mohamed served as United Nations Assistant Secretary General and Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) based in Nairobi. In her duty tour in Geneva, she became a strong fixture in the WTO and eventually chaired three key WTO bodies: The Dispute Settlement Body, the Trade Policy Review Body, and the General Council during her tenure. The current occupants of these three positions have been selected to interview her and the other candidates for the job!

At the close of nominations on 31 December 2012, the world waited for an African move to unite around a single candidate, Ghana or Kenya. By the time the formal General Council meeting opened on 29 January 2013 to meet with the candidates, both Ghana and Kenya presented themselves for screening. The world and Africa watched helplessly as the Continent’s two representative successfully snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, handing an easy ride to the Brazilian, Roberto Carvalho de Azevêdo, the candidate whose early departure has triggered this early selection process. The Mexican nominee, one of the two shortlisted candidates yielded to Azevêdo, his South American colleague from Brazil who was then serving as his country’s Permanent Representative to the WTO and the deal was sealed.

Today, there are eight candidates queuing for the position, one less than the field that was presented in 2013. While the WTO is seeing one candidate less, Africa is fielding one candidate more than in 2013. It also does not appear as if any of the three sponsoring countries will be in a hurry to yield to a candidate of any other country from the continent.

Seven years later, Kenya has again sprung a new surprise by pushing forward the same candidate a day before close of nominations. Meanwhile, Egypt has done everything possible to show the world that Africa is again quarreling over who to present for the job.

Interestingly, Mexico which was the runner-up, is still fielding a candidate, regardless of the hitherto conventional rotatory nature of the appointments and in spite of the protestations from Africa. The country probably counts on the sentiment that it quietly yielded the position seven years ago, the same way that Kenya would be banking on a candidate that has occupied all three positions that her successors are now holding to interview them for the job.

African Christianity and Personality Cult Worship

By Benjamin ACHI

Read full PDF article here

Religious charlatans keep multiplying by the day and are now synergising with politicians to run African societies aground. People may for any reason fall into error of personality cult worship; it behoves those who stand as leaders in the Christian community to put them aright rather than encourage the anomaly for selfish interests and personal aggrandizement, at the expense of the gospel they are charged to preach

Ego-Massaging Christianity

Of all the religious confessions existent in today’s world, Christianity has overtime enjoyed more adherence and acceptance than any other religious persuasion. Since the apostolic times, in spite of the terrible persecution that characterized some epochs, throngs of people of all races and tongues, have continued to embrace the Christian faith, not only because of the ideals it holds and teaches, but also because of the life it promises: the grace-filled life that helps us confront the pains and challenges of this present life and most importantly, the greater life that knows no end in eternal bliss.

As the faith is held at a very high esteem by its adherents, so are its leaders also held with much reverence and even in some extreme cases, deified, since they are generally considered the human representatives of the divine. In recent times especially in our own clime, there seems to be a thin line between authentic Christian worship that is truly Christocentric, and a brand of Christianity that basically serves the ego and personal aggrandizement and selfish cravings of the minister. Many in the name of practicing Christianity in our time, have inadvertently resorted to personality cult worship and are unfortunately so tenaciously holding to that error, that it is becoming increasingly difficult to get them to see through that aberration and get back to the right track of authentic Christianity.

What exactly is personality cult?  How does it affect our practice of the Christian Faith and what impact does it have on our societal life in general? These are some of the questions that these brief piece has set out to address.

Adolf Hitler
NEXT: Understanding Personality Cult

Click here to download full essay

Nigeria buys dozen fighter planes for N180Bn

Nigeria has awarded a N180Bn contract to a US defence company, Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), to customize and deliver a dozen light attack aircraft and weapons to the Nigerian Airforce (NAF).

SNC said in a statement last week that it is working with plane manufacturers, Embraer Defence & Security, to supply the 12 aircraft as requested by the government of Nigeria.

Negotiations for the supply of the aircraft was concluded as far back as August 2017 when the US Department of State approved the sale.

The aircraft are being made to order to assist the country deal with its domestic security issues that have got out of hand, including insurgency in the North East and highway banditry and kidnapping everywhere else in the country.

According to SNC, the NAF contract includes ground training devices, mission planning and debriefing systems, spares, ground support equipment, alternate mission equipment, and contractor support outside the US.

Although the company did not disclose the contract sum – which was valued at $595million in 2017 – the United States Secretary of State, Mike Pompey, said in a recent media briefing that the planes would cost Nigeria $500million.

Mr. Pompey made the disclosure on 4 February  2020 when he addressed a joint press briefing with his Nigerian counterpart, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, in the wake of the immigration blow dealt on Nigeria and five other countries by the Trump Administration.

He told journalists at the briefing that the purchase package will include special training for air force military personnel on the law of armed conflict and human rights, as well as air-to-ground integration to minimize civilian harm in air operations.

Watch the (edited) exchange between Pompeo and Onyeama on the 12 planes below:

SNC issued a public statement on the purchase two days after the joint briefing, on 6 February.

Mr. Pompeo had said at the event that the purchase is part of the effort of the Trump Administration to support President Buhari’s “stated goal of creating a security force with the best training and modern weaponry.”

As the purchase had not been publicly disclosed by the Nigerian Government prior to the meeting between the two secretaries, Mr. Onyeama attempted to downplay the announcement, saying instead that “there are some fighter planes – A29 super Tucanos – that we hope to be able to procure.”

SNC Vice President, Taco Gilbert, said in his company’s statement that the aircraft are being customized to assist Nigerian Airforce with flight and combat training, close air support operations, surveillance and reconnaissance, counterinsurgency and irregular warfare operations.

Jackson Schneider who is President and CEO of Embraer Defence & Security – the joint contractor and aircraft manufacturer – said Nigeria’s purchase of the aircraft has admitted her into the club of “an international coalition that have purchased the A29 Tucano that is helping to bring peace to the world.”

Defence analysts say that the purchase represents one of the best concrete efforts being made by the Buhari administration to address the Boko Haram threat in particular.

Watch the exchange between Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Onyeama on whether Nigeria is about to purchase or has already purchased the fighter planes.

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Nigerian-Americans hardest hit by US Travel Ban

By @oanikwe

Although the direct targets of the ban are Nigerians who overstay their visa periods or disappear altogether when they enter the US, these figures suggest that close relatives of American citizens in Nigeria will suffer the most from the restriction.

Relatives of Nigerian-Americans are the hardest hit by yesterday’s United States’ immigration ban on Nigeria and five other countries.

Of the four countries affected by the sweeping immigration ban, Nigeria topped the list of immigrant visas granted in 2018, accounting for nearly 75 percent of the 10,686 successful visas issued by the US.

Nigeria led with 7,922 successful immigrant visa applications, followed a distant second by Myanmar (1,283), Eritrea (894), and Kyrgyzstan (587).

Records also show that more than 60 percent of the successful immigrant visa applications (4,525) went to immediate relatives of Nigerian-Americans.

Quite a significant number (2,822) were given for “family preferences,” while the rest were reserved for those who secured employment in the United States (495) and for “special cases” (82) which included those seeking refugee status.

ALSO READ: How the US Travel Ban Affects You as a Nigerian

Although the direct targets of the ban are Nigerians who overstay their visa periods or disappear altogether when they enter the US, these figures suggest that close relatives of American citizens with deep roots in Nigeria will suffer the most from the restriction.

In addition to the hundreds of billions of Naira that this group yearly repatriate to Nigeria to take care of their suffering folks, many have intensified efforts to ferry their relatives out of Nigeria altogether by filing immigration applications on their behalf.

A Wall Street journal report last night announced that President Trump signed a proclamation, same day, that disallows citizens from Nigeria, Eritrea, Myanmar and Kyrgyzstan from applying for visas to immigrate to the U.S.”

The four new countries will join other countries that President Trump had banned before including Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Venezuela, and North Korea.

The difference however is that citizens of the countries under the latest ban will not be stopped from applying to visit the US for business or pleasure.

According to the acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Mr. Chad Wolf, the four countries are being punished because they are not cooperating with the United States to deal with the issue of illegal immigrants.

He gave specific examples with Eritrea which does accept her citizens that the US wanted to deport to their home country as well as Myanmar which shows reluctance to share information regarding citizens movements and potential terrorist activity.

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10 things to know about US travel ban

The United States Government yesterday included Nigeria among six new countries that it slammed with an immigration ban. Expectedly, the reactions from Nigerians of all persuasions have been swift and angrily expressed. Unfortunately, many of the commentaries do not reflect adequate knowledge of what is contained in the ban.

According to administration officials, US embassies in Abuja and Lagos will continue to process student visas, temporary visitor visas, and travel documents for refugee asylum seekers.

Here are the 10 major things you need to know about the Friday 31 January 2020 travel ban:

  1. The six countries affected by the ban include Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania.
  2. Administration officials say the ban is aimed at tightening security for countries that “don’t comply with the US minimum security standards or cooperate to prevent illegal immigration.”  
  3. The ban will take effect from 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, 22 February 2020.
  4. The ban will affect immigrant visa applicants from Nigeria, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, and Myanmar;
  5. In the case of Sudan and Tanzania, their citizens have been barred from participating in the diversity visa lottery, a programme under which 50,000 immigrants are allowed to emigrate to the United States each year.
  6. US embassies in Abuja and Lagos will continue to process student visas, temporary visitor visas, and travel documents for refugee asylum seekers.
  7. Anyone who already has a valid immigrant visa or is on their way to the United States with an immigrant visa will not be affected – or denied entry as a result of the ban;
  8. In spite of all of the above, it is good for immigrant visa bearers to err on the part of caution; US officials believe that there may be “gaps and vulnerabilities” in the ban that could impact on all travelers from the affected countries, as was the case when the first travel ban was imposed by the Trump Administration.
  9. According to US administration officials, the affected countries have shown lack of capacity in addressing US security concerns in the way they (a) track their own citizens who emigrate, (b) share information with the U.S. and (c) cooperate on immigration matters.”
  10. The ban is a security measure; there is no apparent political coloration to the restriction, and it does not appear as if this will lead to any major negative economic impact on Nigeria.

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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.


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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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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