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UK to open money laundering trial of ex-Nigerian oil minister in June

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The trial of a former Petroleum Minister of Nigeria, Diezani Alison-Madueke, has been scheduled for June this year, local media portals are reporting. The Minister is expected to be tried along with four other accomplices for alleged corrupt practices.

Mrs Alison-Madueke was arrested in October 2015, in London, as part of a UK investigation into suspicions of corruption and large-scale laundering. At the time, she was undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

Two weeks ago, a Federal High Court in Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos, issued an order allowing the country’s anti-graft body to confiscate over $150m belonging to her. According to Judge Muslim Hassan, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had proven beyond reasonable doubt that the monies were proceeds from illegal activity.

Ms Alison-Madueke, 56, has already been implicated on several occasions in corruption cases. Under her watch, the former Central Bank governor, Lamido Sanusi – now the emir of Kano, had revealed that there was a shortage of $20 billion in oil revenues in the state coffers.

A reporter with the Nation quoted an anonymous source at the EFCC as saying, they were ready with overwhelming evidence to support the trial, he also dismissed reports that they were negotiating a settlement with the ex-Minister.

“The ex-minister has forfeited $153m; we have had a far-reaching investigation on her involvement in the $115m poll bribery scandal; we have seized some of her choice properties and she has consistently maintained that she is ready for trial,” the source said.

She is said to have diverted funds from the state oil firm, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and placed in three banks.

The former minister, appointed by former President Goodluck Jonathan, has consistently denied that she diverted these public funds, claiming that she did not have access to the NNPC’s treasury.

The Central Bank of Nigeria announced in May 2016 that it was participating in the investigation into corruption targeting the former oil minister.

Goodluck Jonathan lost the election to his opponent Muhammadu Buhari, who has promised since his coming to power to wage a fierce fight against corruption that is plaguing the most populous country on the continent.

The UK only recently released a former governor of Nigeria’s oil-rich Delta State, James Ibori was jailed on charges of corruption and money laundering on April 17, 2012, after five years of trial.

The Southwark Crown Court, UK, sentenced him to 13 years in prison while his houses, luxury cars and other property items were confiscated.

The judge, however, ruled that Ibori would spend half of the jail term, which is six and half years. He was released in December last year but returned home in February 2017.

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24 Hours Across Africa

World food prices hike for first time in five months: U.N. FAO

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World food prices rose for the first time in five months in October, boosted by jumps in quotations for sugar and cereals, the United Nations food agency said on Thursday.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) food price index, which measures monthly changes for a basket of cereals, oilseeds, dairy products, meat and sugar, averaged 172.7 points in October, up 1.7% on the previous month and 6.0% year-on-year.

FAO also predicted that cereal production would be 2.704 billion tonnes in 2019, slightly lower than its last forecast.

The FAO sugar price index jumped 5.8% from September levels, largely because of expectations of lower supplies in the year ahead following forecasts of large reductions in sugar output in India and Thailand.

The cereal price index rose 4.2%, with wheat and maize export prices climbing on the back of reduced crop prospects in several major producing countries and “robust trade activity”. By contrast, rice prices fell, hit by subdued demand and expectations of an abundant basmati harvest.

The vegetable oil price index increased 0.5% to reach its highest level in more than a year, while the meat price index rose 0.9%, driven by higher import demand especially from China.

By contrast, the dairy price index dropped 0.7% in October, as lower quotations for cheese offset increases in those for skimmed and whole milk powders, FAO said.

FAO lowered its forecast for global cereal production in 2019 by some 2 million tonnes, pegging world cereal output at 2.704 billion tonnes, but still up 1.8% from 2018 levels.

The U.N. agency said worldwide coarse grain production in 2019 was seen at 1.425 billion tonnes, down 1.3 million on the previous forecast.

Wheat output was seen at 765 million tonnes, down nearly 1 million tonnes on the last outlook, but still on course to set a new record and up 4.5% on 2018 levels.

The forecast for global rice production was put at 513.4 million tonnes, little changed on the previous forecast and slightly below 2018 levels.

Source: Reuters

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24 Hours Across Africa

Director Genevieve Nnaji reacts over Oscar snub.

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Nigeria’s first-ever Oscar submission for best international feature film has been disqualified by award organisers, sparking criticism from its director.

Films in this category, formerly best foreign language film, must have “a predominantly non-English dialogue track”.

However, the 95-minute film Lionheart is largely in English, with an 11-minute section in the Igbo language.

Director Genevieve Nnaji  said the film represented how Nigerians communicate.

The disqualification of the film by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was announced to voters in an email on Monday, according to The Wrap.

Ava DuVernay, director of Selma and A Wrinkle in Time, questioned the decision on Twitter, pointing out that English is Nigeria’s official language.

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Ms DuVernay became the first black woman to direct a live-action film with a budget of more than $100m in 2016.

Ms Nnaji, who directed and starred in Lionheart, thanked Ms DuVernay for speaking out, saying the film “represents the way we speak as Nigerians”.

She added: “This includes English which acts as a bridge between the 500+ languages spoken in our country.”

In another tweet, she said: “We did not choose who colonized us. As ever, this film and many like it, is proudly Nigerian”.

English is still the official language of Nigeria because of British colonisation, which lasted for nearly a century until independence in 1960.

Lionheart, which is currently streaming on Netflix, is about a Nigerian woman trying to keep her father’s company together in a society dominated by men.

Media captionThe Tanzanian making ‘pure African’ film costumes

The best foreign language film category was changed ahead of the 2020 awards to best international feature film, with the Academy saying that the reference to “foreign” was “outdated within the global filmmaking community”.

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