Sunday, 15 December 2019
Business and Economy

Business and Economy (962)

Nigeria's Punch newspaper says it will henceforth prefix President Muhammadu Buhari’s name with "Major General", his rank when he led a coup in the 1980s, because he is acting like a "military dictator".

The paper also said it would refer to his administration as a "regime", until members of his government purged "themselves of their insufferable contempt for the rule of law”.

In a scathing editorial, published both online and its print version, the newspaper said the government's "actions and assaults on the courts, disobedience of court orders and arbitrary detention of citizens reflect its true character of the martial culture".

Last Friday's dramatic arrest in court of Omoyele Sowore, the publisher of online newspaper Sahara Reporters - a day after his bail was upheld by a high court - was cited by the paper in a long list of alleged "violations of rights".

The president was also accused of failing to release the leader of a banned Shia Muslim group, Ibrahim el-Zakzakky, and his wife, and the country's former security adviser Sambo Dasuki - all have been granted bail by different courts but remain in detention.

Mr Buhari is serving his second term in office as a civilian president - having won elections in 2015 and 2019.

One of his spokesperson, Femi Adesina, has taken to Twitter to make light of the editorial, saying the president had earned that rank while serving in the military.

But the editorial has struck a nerve at Aso Rock, as the official presidential complex is known.

Another presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu, denied the allegations of human rights violations and described the newspaper's decision to label Mr Buhari a "dictator" as politically motivated.

After his election in 2015, Mr Buhari announced that he was dropping the title of "general" to reflect his new role as an elected president.

Many Nigerians saw it as a bid to whitewash his image as he faced criticism for his 20-month stint as a military leader - a time marked by a brutal clampdown on press freedom and human rights abuses.

The Punch is one of Nigeria's oldest and most respected newspapers and has been known for its hard-hitting editorials.

Many are watching to see what effect its stance will have on other Nigerian news outlets, especially newspapers, which have been known to bond together when challenging the authorities.

Twenty-six male cross-dressers have been arrested at a birthday party in Kano state, northern Nigeria, the Islamic police say.

Deputy commander Tasiu Ishaq said the young men, who were dressed as women, were detained on Sunday.

“It is a shame that men and good citizens can put up such a behaviour and act like women,” he said.

Commander Ishaq said the men had been “preached to” about the spiritual consequences of their actions and would be released to their parents.

One of the accused men told the BBC that a friend had invited him to the party and that the person whose party it was escaped when the Islamic police arrived.

“They have preached to us and we have prayed since they arrested us. I regret what happened and I will stop this behaviour by God’s grace,” he said.

Kano is one of the states in northern Nigeria that enforces Sharia, Islamic religious law, which has been in place since 2001.

The Islamic police have the power to arrest people they believe are carrying actions that are contrary to Islamic laws.

Posted On Thursday, 12 December 2019 04:09 Written by

The United States authorities have frozen about $14.2 million in bank accounts linked to companies registered by Allen Onyema, the chairman of Air Peace Limited.

Mr Onyema and Ejiroghene Eghagha, Air Peace’s head of finance and administration, were indicted 19 November for alleged money laundering and bank fraud in the United States.

Both suspects strongly denied the allegations and said they looked forward to proving their innocence in court.

The charges were first made public by the United States Department of Justice on Friday night.

The charges said Mr Onyema used several companies he set up in the U.S. to launder funds and commit bank fraud through issuance of counterfeit letters of credit.

Some of the companies’ bank accounts in the U.S. and Canada had been frozen with their substantial balances as part of the investigation, court documents showed.

The documents showed that $4,017,852.51 was seized from JP Morgan Chase Bank account number ending in 5512 held in the name of Springfield Aviation Company, LLC.

Another $4,593,842.05 held in Bank of Montreal with account number ending 7523 in the name of Springfield Aviation Inc. was also seized.

The American government also traced and seized $5,634,842.04 held in Bank of Montreal with account number ending in 515 in the name of Bluestream Aero Services, Inc.

American law enforcement authorities indicated in the charge document that efforts had commenced to secure final forfeitures of the funds.

In an earlier statement Saturday, Mr Onyema said he was innocent.

“As the press statement clearly stated, these are indictment (sic) that only contain charges,” the statement said.

“I am innocent of all charges and the US government will find no dirt on me because I have never conducted business with any illegalities.

“Be rest assured that I also have my lawyers on this and these mere allegations will be refuted. I never laundered money in my life, neither have I committed bank fraud anywhere in the world. Every Kobo I transferred to the US for aircraft purchase went through the Central Bank of Nigeria LC regime and all were used for the same purpose.

“The American companies that received the funds are still in business. I never took a penny from any US bank or Nigerian bank. I am willing to defend my innocence in the US courts,” the AirPeace CEO stated.

Posted On Monday, 25 November 2019 04:33 Written by

Renowned professor of virology, activist and former minister of petroleum, Tamuno David-West is dead.

He died Monday at the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan at the age of 83 years.

David-West was born in Buguma, Kalabari, Rivers State.

He worked as lecturer and became a professor at the University of Ibadan where he lived and died. He joined the university in 1969 and became professor of virology in 1975.

David-West served in Nigerian government as commissioner for education and a member of the Executive Council of Rivers State from 1975 to 1979.

He was a member of the 50-person Constitution Drafting Committee for the Federal Military Government in 1979.

He served as federal minister of petroleum and energy under General Muhammadu Buhari from 1984 to 1985 and as minister of mines, power, and steel under General Ibrahim Babangida in 1986.

He was eventually removed as minister and arrested by the Babangida regime for allegedly contributing to the economic adversity of the country. He was discharged and acquitted of these charges by Nigeria’s Special Appeal Court on 8 August 1991.

A strong supporter of President Muhammadu Buhari, David-West will be remembered for his strong views on national issues and how he brought historical perspectives to proffer solutions to national crises.

Posted On Monday, 11 November 2019 17:47 Written by

A university don has raised alarm that the country loses over $100 billion annually to exposure of lead, which occurs as a result of unregulated and indiscriminate use of lead substances by faceless producers in manufacturing of paints and other domestic and industrial products as well as smuggled substandard paints and printers’ inks.

Babajide Alao, a professor of Chemistry, University of Lagos, who disclosed this in Lagos recently at the 2019 Coating s Show of the Paint Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (PMA), a sub-sector of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), with theme “Future Trends in Coatings Technology” noted that West Africa paint market losses between $100 – $237 billion annually on consumption of poisonous lead paints.

He pointed out that Nigeria being the largest market in the region consumes more than half of the total worth of the market as it losses over $100 billion, adding that the global lead paints would be faced out by 2020 as agreed by the United Nations.

Alao explained that lead affects the intellect of children and adults, stressing that cancer, high blood pressure and other related health challenges are caused by the inhalation of lead substance from the air as it is emitted from walls and every item coated with the lead paints in the environment.

“The Nigerian coating industry is at a cross-road to adopt innovative global technologies. Eliminate lead compounds in paints and coatings are now imperative. Alternatives are now widely available as global raw material manufacturers are gradually phasing out leaded ingredients. Examples in some other developing country – Philippines shows that it is feasible and indeed increases the net-worth and profits of manufacturers, as it leads to environmental sustainability, it also increases the manufacturers CSR and image with consumers,” he stressed.

Earlier in in welcome address, the Chairman, PMA Mr. Sunday Babatunde, regretted that the Mandatory Conformity Assessment Programme (MANCAP) has not been able to tackle adulteration and faking of its members premium brands of paints, stressing that it remains a big challenge to them.

Babatunde said; “Adulteration and faking of our members premium brands of paints is still a big challenge to us. This has negatively affected the volumes/profitability and of course returns on investments of the companies whose products are prune to the menace. Even with the introduction of Mandatory Conformity Assessment Programme (MANCAP) the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) has not been able to tackle the problem due to inadequate monitoring and enforcement. The paint industry is a peculiar industry because of the low entry barrier.”

Posted On Saturday, 02 November 2019 23:31 Written by

US Federal prosecutors said an Atlanta, Georgia-based Nigerian, Olufolajimi Abegunde has been sentenced to more than six years in prison for his role in an internet fraud scheme that stole an estimated $15m through computer and wire fraud.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Memphis, Tennessee, said on Thursday that the 32-year-old Abegunde was sentenced Tuesday for wire fraud, the second Nigerian to be sentenced in less than a week. Last week in Missouri, another Nigeria, Segun Prosper Otaru was also jailed for cyber fraud.

After his arrest last year, Abegunde lied to Nigerian officials that his arrest was based on mistaken identity and asked for help to get him out of the FBI jaws.

But court documents showed otherwise.

Prosecutors said the Atlanta resident and several other people created fake business emails and profiles on dating websites to trick victims into sending money to bogus bank accounts. Funds were laundered and wired to destinations in Nigeria, Ghana and some other West African countries.

The scams caused about $15 million in losses for victims.

Abegunde’s role was that he helped launder money through a compromised business email of a land title company located in Bellingham, Washington, and a real estate company in Memphis, Tennessee.

The case against Abegunde by US Department of Justice:
A citizen of Nigeria residing in Atlanta, Georgia, was sentenced to 78 months in prison yesterday for his role in an international cyber fraud scheme, announced Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney D. Michael Dunavant of the Western District of Tennessee.

Olufolajimi Abegunde, 32, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Sheryl L. Lipman of the Western District of Tennessee who also ordered Abegunde to pay $57,911.62 in restitution to the victims of his offense. Abegunde and Javier Luis Ramos-Alonso, 29, were convicted in March after a seven-day trial in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. Ramos-Alonso previously received a 31-month sentence for his role in the scheme.

Abegunde and Ramos-Alonso participated in a criminal organization in which members “spoofed” emails and created fake profiles on dating websites in order to fool victims into sending money to bogus bank accounts under the control of members of the conspiracy. The proceeds would be laundered and subsequently wired out of the United States to destinations including West Africa. The organization as a whole is believed to have caused more than $10,000,000 in damage to U.S. citizens and businesses.

The evidence presented at trial showed that Abegunde, who received an MBA from Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, engaged in black-market currency exchanges over the life of the conspiracy. Purporting to hold himself out as a legitimate businessman, Abegunde claimed association with a business entity that was not yet operational in late 2017, so for his primary source of income he relied on his off-the-book currency exchanges. Through this network, Abegeunde played a key role, along with Ramos-Alonso, in laundering fraud funds from an Oct. 3, 2016, business email compromise (BEC) of a land title company located in Bellingham, Washington. The proceeds of another BEC perpetrated in July 2016 upon a real estate company in Memphis, Tennessee, also moved through parts of the same criminal organization.

Abegunde, who faced numerous account closures from banks in the United States, used a complicated network of third-party bank accounts to disguise his illicit activity. The proof at trial established that Abegunde told people that he could not receive payments into accounts that could be “tracked,” and that he preferred to engage in cash transactions because they were easier to clean and “eliminated the risk.”

In addition to his financial activities, Abegunde also engaged in a conspiracy to commit marriage fraud. Abegunde was married during his studies at Texas A&M, but divorced his wife in 2016 to marry a U.S. service member through whom he could obtain immigration and health care benefits and also open new bank accounts. He continued to live with his first wife in Atlanta while his U.S. service member wife was deployed to South Korea. While incarcerated and awaiting trial in the Western District of Tennessee, Abegunde continued his conspiratorial activities, trying to convince his fake spouse, who has since filed for divorce, to refuse to testify against him. Abegunde also engaged in witness tampering by sending a self-written Motion to Dismiss bearing his former attorney’s name and professional attestation. The evidence at trial established that Abegunde drafted and sent the motion, which his attorney expressly did not authorize, to his faux spouse in an effort to deceive her into not testifying against him.

Five other individuals have pleaded guilty to being involved in the scheme. Additionally, several foreign nationals are awaiting extradition to the United States to face trial. Others are still at large.

Accomplices of Abegunde:

Alexander Duimont
Andrew “Andy” Jackson
Ayodeji Olumide Ojo
Babatunde Martins
Benard Okorhi
Brianna Lee
Brianna Morrison
Carolina Nkomo
Christian Hinds
Dana Brady
Daniel Elya
Daniel Roberts
Dennis Miah
Dr. Dennis Brown
James Dean
James “Jim” Roy
James Yorke
Javier Luis Ramos Alonso
Joey Hammond
Jon Bunyan
Marc Richards
Maxwell Peter
Olufolajimi (FJ) Abegunde
Peter Maxwell
Rob Phantom
Sandra Lin
Sherry Jupiter Martinez
Sual Derrell
Sumaila Hardi Wumpini
Tammy Dollan
Tammy Henry
Victor Daniel Fortune Okorhi

Posted On Friday, 25 October 2019 00:30 Written by

Aisha Muhammadu Buhari has now returned to the country from the UK, closing a chapter of rumour mongering and speculations.

The First Lady, beaming with smiles, arrived at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport at 4.30am on a British Airways flight.

Aisha said she was happy to be home after a well-deserved rest.

Spokesman, Suleiman Haruna said she was away since August on a long holiday in the UK.

Aisha speaks with journalists at the airport. L-R are (l-r) Barrister Mary Eta, Joy Nunieh and Dr. Mairo Almakura

She said she was fully rejuvenated to continue the work of improving the health and well-being of women, children and other vulnerable Nigerians.

She thanked her husband, family and well-wishers for their support and encouragement.

On hand to receive her were wives of present and former governors and many associates.

Posted On Monday, 14 October 2019 19:41 Written by

An Australian couple lost AUD $900,000 after “investing” in an elaborate cryptocurrency scam. Mike Taylor, 70, and his wife Karen told local station 7News that the losses represented the couple’s lifetime savings:

“That was the whole of our superannuation – that’s now gone.”

They did not explain in detail how the scheme worked; however, Taylor commented that it was a cryptocurrency trading website that promised high returns. He added that they decided to invest because the site “looked legitimate.”

The couple made that decision while enjoying a trip around the country in a camper van. Within months, the money practically disappeared, reportedly leaving the couple – and many other Australians – in bankruptcy.

Taylor told 7news that he had to go back to work, adding that he sold his 1965 Pontiac “to make ends meet.”

There are other incidents of crypto scams stemming from Australia:

Crypto Scams Have Increased in Recent Years

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case. Contrary to what many people think, crypto scams have increased considerably since 2017. A report issued by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) revealed that in 2018, losses generated by crypto scams amounted to AUD $6.1 million (USD $4.3 million). This number represents a 190 percent increase over 2017.

With this pair’s AUD $900,000 already gone, 2019 seems set to follow this trend; the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) is aware of this. A 32 percent increase in fraud over last year has so far been reported, with more than 2,300 documented cases.

The Australian securities watchdog has announced in its corporate action plan for 2018-2019 that the crypto sector and ICOs are a priority. Should Australia’s policies become a success, the country should be able to reduce the accelerated phenomenon of crypto scams.

One strategy that has gained popularity among Australian scammers is to usurp the identity of celebrities to deceive users. The most famous case was that of Hugh Jackman (who played the Wolverine on the “X-Men” movie series). That scam was reportedly guaranteeing returns of more than 10,000 percent.

Regulations Matter… Even in Crypto

Because of their nature, cryptocurrencies have three characteristics that complicate the protection of users in times of fraud:

  1. The transactions are irreversible, which makes it impossible for any entity to forcibly return funds to a scam victim.
  2. The network is decentralized, which removes control from the bank and any government institution over the ongoing transactions.
  3. There is a certain level of anonymity that makes it difficult to know with confidence and speed who owns a particular wallet.

For this reason, the Reserve Bank of Australia explained that a scenario in which bitcoin is globally accepted —or even nationally adopted— is “difficult to envisage.”

Posted On Saturday, 20 July 2019 02:37 Written by

Bitcoin has lost more than 10 per cent of its value over the last 24 hours, causing a flash crash across the cryptocurrency market.

Ethereum, ripple, litecoin and bitcoin cash suffered even heavier losses than bitcoin, seeing between 10 and 20 per cent wiped from their values.

The latest price crash follows several weeks of extraordinary gains for bitcoin, which have seen its value rise by around $5,000 since mid June.

Cryptocurrency experts say some investors may be confused by the extreme volatility of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

“The real story is not that bitcoin fell by 10 per cent but that people are still finding it difficult to understand why this is happening,” Nicholas Gregory, founder of the blockchain firm CommerceBlock, told The Independent.

“Exaggerated volatility will remain hard-baked in cryptocurrency for many years yet. At any point, if bitcoin takes three steps forward, it cake take two, four or maybe more steps back.

“The important thing is that, long-term, the growing consensus is that people who keep the faith with bitcoin will be rewarded when it finally does break into the mainstream.”

Bitcoin has experienced extreme price volatility over the last week, trading between $11,000 and $13,000 (CoinMarketCap)

This is a view shared by Marcus Swanepoel, CEO of cryptocurrency firm Luno, who said extreme market movements for bitcoin, ethereum and other major cryptocurrencies is only to be expected, considering the industry is still only a decade old.

“At this stage in the development of altcoins, with many purely speculative buyers and sellers, there will always be a high level of volatility,” he said.

“However, it is important to recognise that over the last few months the underlying trend, as the future utility value of the coins becomes clear, is positive.”

Posted On Thursday, 11 July 2019 22:28 Written by

Zimbabwe’s woes continue as the cash-strapped southern African nation is now so poor it cannot even issue its own passports.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa told reporters that the issuing company is refusing to do any further business with the government until it has settled its debts.

According to Reuters, however, the passport office is running short of specialized ink and paper and the necessary foreign currency reserves to purchase it with. Elsewhere, shortages for everyday items like bread and fuel continue to push more Zimbabweans to apply for international travel documents.

Inflation Rapidly Approaching 100% in Zimbabwe

Higher prices are spiraling out of control in the country, with Zimbabwe easily being the worst performing nation in the African block.

Inflation is once again spiraling out of control. | Source: TradingEconomics.

Only last week, authorities outlawed the use of other currencies as legal tender. In their place, the government installed a new Zim currency, temporarily referred to as the RTGS dollar.

Obvious Lack of Faith in the Local Currency

Zimbabwe was once lovingly referred to as the breadbasket of Africa. That label is now long gone thanks to the insane monetary policies of prior dictator Robert Mugabe. In 2008, Zimbabweans hoarded US dollars and South African rands in the aftermath of a local and global financial crisis.

The local currency became practically worthless overnight. The move to a multi-currency approach largely stabilized the country, but now citizens are fearing déjà vu as a new government takes the helm.

Ten years is not enough time to forget the effects of hyperinflation. Those days are still fresh in the memory of most citizens who became accustomed to carrying around million-dollar wads of cash.

Zimbabwean million dollar note. Zimbabwe passports
Zimbabwe’s bank notes have become the stuff of legend. | Source: Wikimedia Commons

Citizens Allegedly Offering Massive Premiums for Bitcoin

Amid the frenzy, local traders began offering massive premiums for Bitcoin on peer-to-peer exchange LocalBitcoins. Despite this massive deviation from the norm, Bitcoin still commands a premium in most southern African nations. Cross-border crypto-fiat arbitrage is difficult, even if cryptocurrency flaunts international borders.

With runaway inflation and untrustworthy authorities, wealth preservation appears to be front-and-center on the minds of many Africans. Zimbabwean finance minister Mthuli Ncube even hinted last year that cryptocurrency could play a part in solving the country’s cash shortages.

Nothing has come of that suggestion, though, and the crowding at the passport office is proof of it.

One applicant interviewed by Reuters, Bothwell Mhashu, is intent on escaping Zimbabwe’s economic troubles by joining his elder brother in Namibia. Passport or not, he’ll first have to navigate his country’s bureaucracy.

Posted On Friday, 05 July 2019 00:43 Written by

Both East African nations lost their last Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) group games on Monday night

Senegal beat Kenya 3-0, and Algeria beat Tanzania 3-0 in Afcon action as two of Africa’s favourites turned on the style.

First we take a look at how the continent’s football fans celebrated the performance of one of their most famous players, Sadio Mane at 30 June Stadium.

The Liverpool star got social media buzzing early for the wrong reasons after his penalty was saved by Kenya’s Patrick Matasi in the first half.

Then in the second half his pace was just too much for Kenya’s players in a counter attack. Mane used his physical power to win the ball and then outran Harambee Stars backline.

Late on he got another opportunity from the spot to make amends for the earlier miss. Mane struck his shot to the right this time as it crept low into the goal past Matasi.

Algeria were just too good for Tanzania at Al-Salam Stadium. In this game Adam Ounas impressed fans after scoring a brace of his own.

Islam Slimani had earlier opened the scoring for Algeria who topped the group ahead of second placed Senegal.

Posted On Tuesday, 02 July 2019 03:41 Written by
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