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Ecobank aided AMCON to steal my N5b worth Hotel, Suru Group boss laments

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Chairman of Suru Group traces the origin of his problem with AMCON to when Ecobank without notice, sold their performing loan to AMCON.

A leading real estate developer in Lagos State and Chairman, Suru Group of Companies, Edward Akinlade, has sent a Save our Soul (So) call to the Federal and Lagos State governments to intervene in a dispute between his company and the Asset Management Company of Nigeria, AMCON.

The duo has for several years locked horns over ownership of Best Western Hotel, located on Allen Avenue, Ikeja, Lagos.

Addressing a press conference in Lagos, Akinlade accused AMCON of impunity and for distorting the structure of the hotel, which it forcefully seized and still in its possession, against the law.

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Akinlade traced the protracted crisis to 2010 when his company was banking with Ecobank.

He said: “Our N13 billion fund was canceled after we had drawn N10 billion. About this time, we had already bought our properties in GRA, Opebi and Best Western Hotel.

“We were servicing our loan until our performing loan was sold to AMCON. AMCON was not supposed to buy servicing loans.

“So, we sued Ecobank for selling our loan, and this case is still at the Federal High Court

“AMCON counterclaimed our case and said we had owed N26 million. It was later discovered that Ecobank had sold our loan to AMCON for N8.3 billion without notifying us.

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“We want it to be on record that we have never taken AMCON to court. This is because we believe we have no business with AMCON but the bank which sold our active loan to the agency.

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“As we speak, all the cases we had and won, were filed by AMCON and the three different suits were all won by Suru Group.”

According to the businessman: “We are particularly dissatisfied with the blatant disregard for the rule of law being displayed by a highly revered agency, such as AMCON, and Ahmed Kuru being a mechanism in the temple of justice that ought to respect and uphold the tenets of law rather than disrespect the court.”

He said Suru Group had won all the cases instituted against it by AMCON, which has also appealed its losses at the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court but wondered why it is in a hurry and not waiting for the apex court to rule on the matter it brought before it.

“While the case is at the Supreme Court, you can see what they are doing; illegality upon illegality. They cannot sell the property; they cannot renovate it because it is against the law.”

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Akinlade, who is not averse to amicable resolution of the matter, lamented that apart from flouting court rulings, the government agency has also ignored interventions, even by the Attorney general of the country and the House of Representatives and gone ahead to reconstruct the hotel edifice.

“In the last one year, the Attorney General was involved, Public Hearing of the House of Representatives has been involved, AMCON ignored all of them. They didn’t come. And when a resolution was reached through the Attorney General’s Office, AMCON said no,” the Suru Group boss said.

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“This hotel is supposed to be sealed. No work is expected to be taking place there but AMCON is in its possession. So, I came here to state our position. Our position is very clear. AMCON said we owed them money and we claimed we didn’t owe them anything.

“They sued us in the Federal High Court before Justice Hassan. We won the case. They appealed to the court of appeal; we also won at the appeal court. They have further appealed at the Supreme Court. The case is coming up in September.

“No work is expected to be taking place there. But AMCON seems to have demolished a substantial part of the hotel, the windows, the floors, and everything. Also, the Lagos State said the building is in danger of falling.”

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Akinlade accused AMCON of killing businesses and impoverishing the people.

“They have distorted the hotel; a hotel that was worth over N6 billion. What this hotel is worth now is about N500 million. So, you can see how AMCON kills businesses. Over 500 people were working in this hotel up till December 2017 when AMCON invaded it with guns without a court order.

Akinlade stated that he is confused as regards what is ongoing in his hotel and pleaded with both the Federal and Lagos State governments to intervene in the matter and lamented how AMCON has proved to be above the law and continued to act with impunity.

“Are they the ones working at the hotel? The question now is who owns the hotel? Have they sold the hotel? Who is working there? For what purpose? If we have gotten the Court of Appeal’s ruling in our favour, why are they here? AMCON needs to provide answers to all these.

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“I am appealing again to the Attorney General of Nigeria, I am appealing to President Muhammadu Buhari to call Ahmed Kuru to order because if this hotel falls and people die, I would not be held responsible.”

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Crime

Army uncovers 40 wells where oil thieves ‘fetch’ crude oil

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The war against illegal oil bunkering and oil theft received a huge boost on Wednesday as troops of the 6 Division, Nigerian Army, Port Harcourt uncovered over 40 dugout crude oil wells in Rumuekpe community, Emohua Local Government Area of Rivers State.

The troops uncovered the site during a sweep-and-clear operation on the Trans Niger Delta Pipeline.

The operation was led by the General Officer Commanding 6 Division, Maj. Gen. Jamal Abdussalam.

Speaking to journalists after the operation, Abdussalam said the oil wells, which were about 40 feet deep, were the latest technique employed by criminals in stealing crude oil from underground.

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The GOC described the discovery as an eye-opener for the army in the war against oil theft in the Niger Delta region.

He explained that the miscreants had invented a technique of digging deep into the ground until they reached the crude oil deposits.

Abdussalam stated, “We have been conducting in the past two days and the aim of the operation was to clear the trans-Niger Delta pipeline because we have been receiving complaints from the SPDC of breaches on the TNP and based on that we decided to conduct an operation to sweep and clear the pipeline.

“It was in the course of that operation that we came to this particular location and you (journalists) have seen what we have seen.

“If you are not here, you may not believe what we are seeing. In this area, our troops have discovered more than 40 dugouts and these dugouts are not meant to access pipelines, they are dug out directly into the ground like well and surprisingly have access to crude oil.

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“This is the first time I’m seeing this type of thing. You can see all around us are pits and very deep, you will need ladders to have access to them and at the bottom is crude oil. So, they are just fetching crude just like water from a well.”

The COG described the discovery as saddening.

“It is entirely a new dimension. This is not an issue of pipeline vandalism, this one is digging directly into the ground and having access to these resources,” he remarked.

Abdussalam said he would notify the authorities of the development, pointing out that troops would be permanently stationed at the site to halt the illegal operations at the site.

“I will bring the attention of the relevant authorities to this site so that they can come and see what can be done.

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“But in the meantime, our men would be deployed so that we can stop people from accessing the area because it is even dangerous to the people involved in this because a little fire will kill everyone conducting this dastardly act.

“It is also not good for the system. See how the whole place has been dug out. It is also very dangerous for people who are not even aware of this because they can come blindly at night and fall inside this pit and that is the end.

“We would do the needful; we would not get tired until we rid this area of these criminals.”

He further said some suspects arrested at the scene were still in the custody of the army as investigation continues.

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“Few people have been arrested, they are in our custody, we hope they will give us useful information that would lead to the arrest of others that are involved in this act.”

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Answering questions from newsmen, one of the suspects confessed to the crime, saying the wells belonged to different families in the community.

He revealed that sometimes diggers die in the process of digging the wells when they inhale the smell of the gas, saying they were usually paid about N40, 000 to excavate a well of about 15 feet.

The suspects, whose name was not revealed as of the time of filing this report, stated, “It is owned by the community and not by one person.

“To get oil, sometimes if the place is like here, we dig like 10 to 15 feet. When we dig it and notice that the gas is rising, if you do not run out on time people might suffocate and we bring them out half-dead, but the unlucky ones die.

“When we bring them out, we pour water on them and give them coke. After the gas the oil will come out and another set will come to fetch it after we have finished digging it.”

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NDLEA intercepts ‘single largest’ heroin consignment at Lagos airport

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The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency has intercepted what it described as the single largest heroin consignment at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos State.

The agency also said it had arrested members of an organised criminal organisation that specialises in trafficking heroin across Nigeria, South Africa, Mozambique, Europe, and America in an operation leading to the seizure of the consignment, which weighed 51.90 kilograms on February 12, 2024.

Meanwhile, checks by Press revealed that the seized drugs have an estimated worth of £5,190,000 (N10,365,987,000 at the N1,997.3/£ exchange rate) in street value of £100,000 per kilogram.

The Chairman of the NDLEA, Buba Marwa (retd.), while briefing journalists on Tuesday in Lagos, said the operation was the single largest seizure of heroin at the airport.

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The NDLEA boss said the consignment was concealed in 15 cartons of 2300-watt metal cutting machines and set to be delivered at a warehouse in the Ipaja area.

He noted that there was a parallel between the seizure and the September 18, 2022, seizure of 2,139.5 kg of cocaine in a warehouse in the Ikorodu area of the state, which he described as the biggest singular cocaine seizure in the history of NDLEA.

He said, “NDLEA operatives of the Murtala Mohammed International Airport Command intercepted a suspicious package at the SAHCO Import Shed of the airport’s cargo terminal.

“The consignment was concealed in 15 cartons of 2300-watt metal cutting machines. Each carton was stocked with three blocks of high-grade heroin. In total, we recovered 45 blocks of the illicit substance with a total weight of 49.70kg.”

Marwa added after the discovery, the agency arrested a freight agent, Olowolagba Wasiu Babatunde, hired for clearing services by one Mr. Kola resident in South Africa.

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While chronicling the sequence of the operation, the NDLEA boss said, “Next, we conducted a follow-up operation at the company’s warehouse in the Shogunle area of Oshodi, Lagos, and arrested the warehouse manager, whose name is Ajayi Lmole Moses.

“Thereafter, we set up an ambush for the expected receiver of the consignment, who was duly arrested when he showed up for collection. This receiver, whose name is Adinnu Felix Chinedu, confessed during interrogation that he is the main distributor for a drug syndicate whose membership is spread across Nigeria.

“He admitted that he usually conveyed the consignment to a dedicated warehouse located in Ayobo. That place served as a workshop where he would dismantle the consignment and remove the drugs from the machines. Thereafter, he would wait for a list of various recipients to be forwarded to him from South Africa by the head of the criminal group.

“Our operatives did due diligence by conducting a thorough search of the warehouse, which led to the recovery of 56 similar cartons of the cutting machines that were used previously as modes of concealment to ferry heroin into Nigeria. At this point, it was clear that we were dealing with a syndicate that operates in other countries. By the time we were done exploring the various leads we had, we had unraveled an organized criminal network that operates in South Africa, Mozambique, Nigeria, and parts of Europe and America.

He said the syndicate had a wide network in Nigeria because the consignments seized were marked with several codenames, showing that they belonged to different members of the organised criminal group.

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He explained that the agency, during a follow-up operation, uncovered from the suspect a long list of receivers of illicit drugs and was able to identify the kingpin of the syndicate, Reginald Peter Chidiebere, who owned the Golden Platinum Hotel and Suite, located at 16 Reginald Peter Chidiebere Street, Hope Estate, Ago Palace.

The NDLEA boss said several days of surveillance on the hotel culminated in a raid operation on Monday, February 19, in which another drug mule, Igboanugo Thankgod, was found in possession of two parcels of 2.2 kg of heroin with codes similar to the ones found on the seized drug shipment, bringing the total seizure to 51.90 kilograms.

“He readily confessed that he was invited by Mr. Reginald Peter Chidiebere to the hotel on Sunday, February 18, 2024. He was lodged in one of the rooms and was later summoned by the receptionist to meet a guest, from whom Reginald Peter Chidiebere had informed him over the phone to receive a package. This sequence of action was confirmed by a review of the CCTV at the hotel,” he stated.

He said the pre-emptive actions taken against members of the syndicate include freezing a total of 107 bank accounts associated with 14 members of the cartel as well as N119,582,928.31 found in some of the already traced bank accounts.

He added that the hotel and a mansion linked to the head of the syndicate in Nigeria, Reginald Chidiebere, and another mansion linked to the head of the syndicate in Mozambique, Festus Ibewuike, located in the Ago Palace area, had already been marked for forfeiture to the Federal Government.

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He noted the measure yielded further fruit on Thursday, February 22, when a female member of the syndicate and wife of Festus Ibewuike, Mrs Confidence Ibewuike, who is one of those to collect part of the consignment from Adinnu Felix Chinedu, was arrested at the Ago Palace area on Thursday.

He said a search was promptly conducted in their residence located in the Ago Palace area of Festac Town, where a Toyota Venza car was recovered, as well as several documents, including bank and property documents belonging to Festus lbewuike, adding that their mansion in the Ago Palace area had also been marked for forfeiture to the Federal Government.

“NDLEA has shared comprehensive intelligence with our South African counterparts for necessary action regarding the other members of the group living in that country,” Marwa stressed.

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Crime

I’m back to chase killer herdsmen out – Sunday Igboho

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Yoruba nation activist, Sunday Adeyemo, popularly known as Sunday Igboho has said that he is ready to face and chase out killer herdsmen from Yorubaland.

Adeyemo said this in a video that went viral on Tuesday where he was seen addressing some people who were cheering him following the burial of his mother in his hometown, Igboho area of Oyo State.

According to the activist who spoke in Yoruba, the Federal Government and the soldiers deployed to Yorubaland, especially to Ekiti where monarchs were killed in broad daylight cannot combat the supposed killers.

He said, “I want you all to stand with me so that we can liberate ourselves from the herders encroaching on our lands. Let us mount security in all the Yoruba lands ourselves, if not, they will take our lands.

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“We don’t have to wait for the government or anyone. Let’s just work in unison. We cannot farm on our lands because of these herders. And our people are going hungry and angry. We don’t need the soldiers the government claims to have deployed to Ekiti State. We work in accordance with our elders and mount the places ourselves.

“It was my mother that was my fear before but now she’s gone, I have nothing to be scared of again. I am now back to take back our land.”

While faulting the rumour about him working for politicians, the Ibadan-based activist queried if he could be working for politicians and if they would still want him dead.

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“I am not working for any politician. In fact, if I incidentally slapped someone, the government would be ready to arrest me and put me behind bars. I know they are watching me closely now to know my next action but I’m ready to take a step to stop these marauders’ activities in our lands,” he maintained.

Theheute reported in 2021 that Adeyemo escaped from a deadly night raid on his Ibadan residence by the operatives of the Department of State Service.

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He was subsequently arrested in Benin Republic on his way to Germany on July 19 together with his wife, Ropo. Although, he was released in October 2023.

Recently, the freedom fighter returned to Nigeria, ahead of his mother’s burial.

Igboho said the raid on his Ibadan residence was an attempt to assassinate him.

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