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Liberia’s Former Defence Chief Samukai to Be Jailed for Embezzlement

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The Supreme Court of Liberia handed down two-year prison sentences to former defence chief Brownie Samukai along with deputies Joseph Johnson and James Nyuman Ndokor after they failed to return one million euros worth of stolen money from a government pension account.

Samukai, who was in court as the ruling was being read on Thursday, fled the building before he was taken to jail.

Accroding to Marvin Sackor, Liberian Deputy Inspector General for Operations: “We are working with our counterparts, the National Security Agency, to get a clear understanding about the whereabouts of Samukai.”

The funds were stolen from the Armed Forces of Liberia pension account during the mandate of former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, when Samukai headed the defense ministry.

The three men were ordered by the court to pay a total of €500,000 within six months, but failed to do so.

Gross violation

The Supreme Court’s Associate Justice Sie-A-Nyene G. Yuoh said the convicts will remain in prison until the balance amount is paid in full, with an interest rate of €20 per month, for what she termed a ‘gross violation’.

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The three were found guilty of theft of property, criminal conspiracy, and misuse of public money among others for embezzlement from the Army’s compulsory savings account.

The ruling means Samukai will not be allowed to serve as Senator of Lofa County.

Brownie Samukai, a staunch critic of incumbent President George Weah and a stalwart of the former ruling Unity Party, was elected during the 2020 midterm Senate election but was barred from taking his seat after he was found guilty of raiding the Army coffers.

Positive ruling for soldiers

Soldiers whose money was stolen by the three former officials have welcomed the court ruling.

“The money was forcefully deducted from us monthly; surprisingly we heard the account was empty,” says soldier James Wilson*.

“I am happy, but I think their properties should be seized. We need the money,” Wilson told RFI via telephone from the Edward Binyan Kessely Military Barracks in Monrovia.

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Samukai supporters say ruling politcally motivated

Supporters of Samukai have described the court’s ruling as a plot against the senator-elect.

“This is purely political! The people of Lofa are under-represented because our senator-elect has been prevented from taking his seat even though he’s already paid some of the money,” exclaimed Lofa resident Yanquoi Flomuku.

This refers to a payment made on Thursday of €170,000 in three separate checks, prior to the judgement.

But the court maintains as the three were convicted together, they must return the funds together.

Others insist that President George Weah and his Congress for Democratic Change party influenced the court’s ruling. They maintain he also has plans for political opponents such as politician Alexander Cummings of Alternative National Congress (ANC).

“Just as they used the court to keep Brownie Samukai out of the Liberian Senate, the Congress for Democratic Change intends to use the slanderous but baseless case of fraud to keep Alexander B. Cummings off the ballot paper,” says Menipakei Dumoe, an ANC political activist.

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However, Adolphus N.S. Weah, an independent political analyst who doubles as Chairman of the Center for the Exchange of Intellectual Opinions (CEIO) disagrees.

He says the case is purely legal, describing the ruling as a boost against corruption.

“I don’t see any witch hunt here,” says Weah.

“It sends out a bad picture for someone to illegally take away resources belonging to servicemen so we should all support the court clampdown on corruption,” he told RFI in Monrovia.

While court’s search for the three culprits took two years, many see the ruling as a new day in Liberia’s fight against corruption.

*names have been changed for protection

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AFRICA

AICC: Egyptian Grandmasters Dominate Tourney

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With just two rounds left to play, top Nigerian chess players have dropped out in the ranking at the on-going African Individual Chess Championship holding at the Orchid Hotel in Lekki, Lagos.

Although Nigerian players showed shade of genius in the battle field as the tournament reached its climax on Sunday night, the Egyptian who are higher rated players dominate play with Adly Ahmed (African number 2) and Woman Grandmaster Wafa Shahenda leading the pack of other players in both Open and Women sections.

Both have consolidated their lead in the competition, as every win counts to games 4 and 5.

WGM Wafa trounced her Angolan opponent, Woman International Master Esperanca Caxita, in a Sicilian opening with black mostly dominating the game right from the middle play.

The Egyptian WGM is all but a massive one point ahead of the pack leading into the final rounds starting this morning.

While the Egyptian masters are dominating play, credit also goes to some Nigerians raising their heads to be countedNigeria Youth Games product, Onoja Iyefu Joy continues to show resilience and determination to earn her first chess title and create a record while at it.

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She had on Saturday continued her fine run of form by scoring an entire point against Paulo Jemima to register the second position on the ranking table with 9 points. A win in the 7th round will help Joy secure a Woman International Master Title.

WIM (elect) Ofowino Toritsemuwa bettered her AICC Tunisia 2019 record, and she is bound to create a new one as she takes on WGM Wafa in the seventh round.

Toritsemuwa currently shares second place with her compatriot, Iyefu Onoja, both holding 4.5 points, hence making the 7th game point as crucial for the player.

In the Open section, 20-year-old Eyetonghan Denyefa Callistus is pulling his weight. He scored an outstanding 4.5 points after six games, but it is not about the score, somewhat the opponents; defeating 1 GM, 2 IMs, and three draws against two IMs and FM, the youngster will get his chance at GM Adly in the seventh round.

With a half point behind the tournament leader, African Number 1–GM AminBassem landed his second consecutive win after the drawn game with compatriot GM Ahmed Adly, demonstrating he still stands a chance to catch up and maybe win the tournament.

Bassem faces IM David Silva of Angola in the seventh round, who had to offer a draw to his opponent in the sixth round due to health issues. We hope he’s gotten his strength back for this crucial game.

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The tournament ends tomorrow with Maltina and Gulder are among the top sponsor of the event.

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Don’t vote for ‘killers’ in 2023 elections – ex-President Jonathan urges Nigerian youths

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A former President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, has urged Nigerians not to elect “killers” in the 2023 general elections.

Mr Johnathan stated this on Sunday in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State during a thanksgiving service to mark the 35th anniversary of the state.

Mr Johnathn and his wife, Patience, were the special guests of honour at the service which was also attended by the governor of his home state — Bayelsa — Douye Diri.

“In 2023, you must not make the mistake to vote killers. Those who carry knives, guns, and all kinds of gadgets to go and kill people because of politics, are the enemies of society.

“If you kill to become a leader, you will continue to kill to remain a leader and the people will continue to suffer.”

The former president said he has monitored the growth of Akwa Ibom, adding that he has been visiting the state at least once a year since he joined the defunct Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission, now Niger Delta Development Commission, in 1994 as an assistant director.

While thanking the youth of the state for not vandalising infrastructure, the former president recalled how some people sabotaged his development efforts in the power sector by using arc saws to fell towers because they wanted Nigeria to remain in darkness.

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Mr Johnathan said the election of the State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, should teach politicians a good lesson, especially those who doubted Mr Emmanuel’s ability to manage “human beings”.

Governor Emmanuel was an executive director at Zenith Bank before he was appointed Secretary to Akwa Ibom State Government, a position he later resigned from to vie for the governorship of the state which he won in 2015.

Akwa Ibom is ‘strong national story’ – Gov Emmanuel

Earlier in his speech, Mr Emmanuel thanked the people of the state for their support and described this year’s state anniversary as his last as the state governor.

The governor said Akwa Ibom has become a state with a “strong national story and a sparkling destination of choice for Nigerians and others around the world”.

He appreciated the people for the choice of “Moving Forward,” as the theme of the celebrations but also reminded them that in “moving forward we have to also look back.”

He referenced Joseph, a Biblical figure who later became the Prime Minister of Egypt and added that the children of Israel suffered because of Joseph’s mistake.

“Joseph made a mistake in Egypt when he was about to go, he did not look at the issue of who succeeded him and that is why the children of Israel suffered.

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“If you are a God-sent man you must also learn. I’ve learnt from what Joseph did and today we went back to God and I want to appreciate all Akwa Ibomites because a man after God’s heart will come after another man after God’s heart,” Mr Emmanuel said.

He promised to complete before leaving office next year, the international worship centre that his administration is building in the state.

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AFRICA

Knocks, Kudos as Peter Obi promises 100m poor Nigerians ‘access to free medical care’

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Mixed reactions have trailed the promise by the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi, stating that his administration will prioritise the welfare of the poor Nigerians if elected.

Obi said youths would be the proponent of his agenda to transform the economy.

“If elected the next president of Nigeria, youths would be the main proponents of my main agenda to transform Nigeria from a consuming nation to a producing nation. The two main components of this agenda are human capital development and finance.”

Obi further said health and education are vital to the development of the country, promising to ensure “at least 100 million poor Nigerians have access to free medical care”.

“Given the role of health in reinforcing education in the measure of productivity, my leadership will pay serious attention to the health system by ensuring that at least 100 million poor Nigerians have access to free medical services through an integrated health insurance scheme.”

Obi’s promise which has gone viral, generated divergent reactions on social media platforms.

While some supporters of Obi believed the promise made by their candidate is possible, they argued in support that the country is buoyant enough to take care of citizens’ medical care.

Reacting, a Twitter user; @el_bonga posited: “Peter Obi governed Anambra State for 8 years and he couldn’t provide the state— probably less than 10 million— with free healthcare but he wants to give free medical care to 100 million Nigerians. Interestingly, under his watch, Doctors went on a 13-month strike in Anambra in 2013.”

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Favour Abdalla Destiny said: “The problem is not to vote; the problem is that they know how to promise and after election they will forget all.”

kingharzyz1 argued: “How is this possible? Can you even do free medical care for carcinoma patients alone? Aspirants need to start telling us “How”.

Another user @tha_niel said: “Affordable healthcare is different from free healthcare. Affordable is realistic because the beneficiaries wld contribute an amount. We cannot have a subsidised economy yet. Except when we begin to efficiently recognise all revenues and apply subsidies where it’s needed.”

Oluwashola @Sholexx_ said: “Health is very expensive. Even in the US, you can’t get free medical healthcare due to the cost. What you can get anywhere in the world is subsidised healthcare via health insurance. He should be realistic with his electoral promises.”

Defending Obi’s promise, @drpenking stated that: “Peter Obi said that 100m Nigerians will have access to free medical care and you people think it’s not possible. In Akwa Ibom State there has been free medical care for elderly, children and pregnant women. Our country is rich enough to do these things. Politicians just refuse it”

@urchilla01 said: “This is why I’ve always said that this election should be about antecedents. There’s nothing Peter Obi says he’ll do that he didn’t do as Governor. This is the famous “Anambra ANIDS card” with which students, disabled, & elderly accessed free health care in govt hospitals. ‘

“Under Peter Obi’s Government. When we say #GoAndVerify verify, it is because we fear not for what you will find. Our principal na talk & do. A comprehensive integrated health insurance scheme made this possible, just the same way he said he’ll do it.”

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ASUU: Seven months after, FG orders VC’s to reopen schools

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The Academic Staff Union of Universities has been on strike for about seven months now.

The association is demanding from FG the funding of the Revitalisation of Public Universities, Earned Academic Allowances, University Transparency Accountability Solution (UTAS) and promotion arrears.

Others are the renegotiation of the 2009 ASUU-FG Agreement and the inconsistency in Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System.

Recall that the federal government went to court to challenge the action of the association. Last week the national industrial court through Polycarp Hamman, the judge in the NIC, granted the federal government’s application for an interlocutory injunction to restrain ASUU from continuing with the strike.

The outcome of the judgement was questioned by Femi Falana, human rights lawyer and senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), who stated that the national industrial court does not have jurisdiction to rule on the case between the federal government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).

However, tired of the lingering strike the Federal Government through the National Universities Commission ordered vice-chancellors to re-open schools and allow students resume lectures.

In a letter disclosed to journalists on Monday, signed by the Director, Finance and Accounts of the NUC, Sam Onazi, on behalf of the Executive Secretary of the commission, Professor Abubakar Rasheed, FG instructed all vice-chancellors; Pro-Chancellors and chairmen of governing councils of federal universities to re-open schools.

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“Ensure that ASUU members immediately resume/commence lectures; Restore the daily activities and routines of the various University campuses”, part of the letter read.

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