“Unfounded and proofless accusations against Russia of some kind of interference keep appearing with a manic stubbornness,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
“Russia does not interfere in others’ internal affairs and is also categorically against anyone interfering in Russian affairs,” Peskov said.
Last week, at a briefing to lawmakers, U.S. intelligence community’s election threats executive Shelby Pierson said the community believes Russia is taking steps to interfere in the election with the goal of helping President Donald Trump win.
The briefers, quoted by Western media, said the intelligence community assessed that Russia views Trump as a leader it can work with.
On Monday, the Russian Embassy in Washington issued a statement, urging U.S. politicians to end the allegations.
“The anti-Russian component in the inter-party struggle in the United States has already led to an unprecedented degradation of bilateral relations,” the statement said.
The embassy recalled that Russia and the United States, as permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, bear special responsibility for international peace and security, so a constructive and pragmatic dialogue between them is crucial for the entire world.
“We reaffirm our readiness for a substantive discussion with the U.S. side on information security and other issues,” the statement added.
The bank’s exemplary role came to light in a court filing by the EFCC asking a Federal High Court in Lagos to order the permanent forfeiture of the money to the Federal Government.
Ruling has been fixed for 27 March 2020.
The $54,000 was found in the domiciliary account of a firm, Asej Global Services, operated by one Ojo Temitope Francis.
The anti-graft agency told Justice Muslim Hassan that the funds were reasonably suspected to be proceeds of cyber fraud.
In a 20-paragraph affidavit filed in support of the motion on notice, an investigative officer with the EFCC, Peter Chimdinma, said the anti-graft agency commenced action against Asej Global Services following a petition against the firm and Francis by First City Monument Bank.
FCMB, according to the investigator, reported the firm and Francis to the EFCC following an inflow of $54,000 into the firm’s account with number, 4445389020, domiciled in FCMB.
“The petitioner, First City Monument Bank, enquired about the nature of the funds and the account holder (Francis) claimed that they were from his friend and associate, George Edwards Cook, residing in the United States and that the funds were for the purchase of properties on behalf of the said friend and business associate.
“That upon further enquiry, the suspect provided a copy of the driver’s licence of a white man, purporting that it belonged to the said friend and business associate residing in the United States and could not provide information on the nature of their business.
“That in the course of investigation, a letter of request for assistance was sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation to assist in locating and interviewing the said business associate, Mr George Edward Cook.
“That in response to the letter of request for assistance sent to the FBI, it was revealed that the said George Edward Cook had been flagged by the US Department of Treasury and US Banking Financial Security Network as a known fraudster.
“Investigation further revealed that as of December 2017, George Edward Cook utilised counterfeit cheques to deposit $44,480 but was denied and is currently unable to secure any new US-based bank account under his name due to his ban by FINCEN.
“That so far, the team has been able to establish that one Ojo Temitope Francis, hiding under the cover of the suspect, Asej Global Services, operated a domiciliary account in FCMB and received funds from George Edward Cook, who has been identified as a US-based fraudster.
“That the whereabouts of the said Mr George Edward Cook is unknown and he is likely trying to transfer his ill-gotten funds from the US to Nigeria through the domiciliary account of the suspect.”
Following an ex parte application by the EFCC, Justice Hassan had earlier made an order for the temporary forfeiture of the $54,000 to the Federal Government.
On Monday, counsel for the EFCC, S.I. Suleiman, said the anti-graft agency had last year August published the interim forfeiture order in The Nation newspaper, for anyone interested to come to court.
Suleiman said as no one had come forward to oppose the application for the permanent forfeiture of the funds, the judge should order same forfeited to the Federal Government.
After hearing the lawyer out, Justice Hassan fixed March 27 for judgment.
Executing the project through its subsidiary, Caraway Africa Nigeria Ltd, it acquired 20 hectares of land for this purpose and set up farms in Karfi, Kano State, as well as Masama and Guri, both located in Jigawa State. The farms are solely dedicated to the production of tomatoes.
While the tomatoes were transplanted in October 2019, harvest commenced in February 2020. Reji George, Olam Nigeria’s Vice President in charge of Farming Initiatives, said preliminary results point to a bountiful harvest.
He stated that each of the farms were on course to produce 30 metrics tons of tomato per hectare, as against the 7.5 metric tons per hectare which is Nigeria’s average yield for tomato.
Reji added that the commercial pilot farming initiative which Olam Nigeria is embarking upon through Caraway Africa Nigeria is a precursor to a backward integration project for tomato paste production which will commence in March 2021.
A major challenge confronting the production of tomatoes in Nigeria is a lack of good variety seeds to buy. Another problem is extremely poor yields as low tomato production lead to higher prices, thereby making it unattractive for processors to purchase.
These challenges are also linked to the unwillingness of farmers to produce tomatoes in large quantity because they want to avoid product decay and losses because of lack of proper storage and preservation facilities.
Addressing the challenge of poor tomato seeds, Reji said Olam has signed an MOU with the World Vegetable Centre, a globally renowned research institute and prominent seed producer and developer, for the supply of 18 varieties of seeds, exclusively for Caraway Africa Nigeria.
He added: “We have also decided to go for an additional eight varieties of hybrid tomato seeds already existing in Nigeria which have a higher yield potential, but which the farmers are not using because of the cost. We have selected tomato seed varieties which produce fresh tomatoes as well as the variants which are good for tomato processing.”
The tomatoes which are being currently harvested at the Caraway Africa Nigeria Kano and Jigawa farms are considered to be of a higher quality than what is currently being produced by other farmers in terms of size, quality and weight. The tomatoes are products of the Nigerian hybrid seeds and the World Vegetable Centre seeds which were planted on a trial basis.
Alhaji Uba Idris Dogara, owner of Dogara Farms, who has been farming for 35 years, attested to the quality of the recently harvested tomatoes. He said: “I’m an old-time tomato farmer but the method Olam brought to this place is looking better than the previous method we were using. I have seen a lot of changes in their yields than what we have been getting before. There is a big improvement. This method is better than what we have seen.”
Emmanuel Agbo, Farm Manager of the Masama Farm and Mohammed Saulawa, Farm Manager, Abur Farm, both owned by Olam Nigeria and located in Jigawa State, said the quality of the tomatoes have attracted farmers who have visited their farms, curious to know about the farming methods that have produced such yields.
Speaking on the attraction, Saulawa said: “They have seen the difference in terms of the fruit size and the agronomic practices that we have employed here which are not the conventional farming practices that they are used to. You can keep the tomato variety for a week without it getting spoilt, unlike what the farmers take to the market which decays by the second day. They have seen how we apply fertilizer and how we are consistent with our spray regime. They are visiting the farm to understudy and see how they can replicate these methods in their own farms.”
Reji George added that Olam, through Caraway Africa Nigeria Ltd., would soon commence a farmer’s outgrower programme as a means of supporting the farmers and also boosting tomato production in Nigeria. According to him, 1,000 farmers will be engaged in the first year, while Olam plans to acquire about 500 hectares of land for the purpose which would kick off by September 2020. The first set of tomatoes from its farmer outgrower initiative would be ready for harvest by February 2021. He added that the firm was in discussions with developmental organisations to build the capacities of the outgrower farmers in the areas of tomato planting and cultivation.
According to him, the farmer outgrower programme would be modelled after the Olam Rice Outgrower initiative, which he described as the best outgrower scheme in Nigeria.
He further added that the tomatoes for the processing plant would be sourced through yields from its own commercial farms, yields from the farmers under its outgrower initiative and buying through agents in the open market.
Speaking on how to stem post-harvest losses, Reji stated that the tomatoes would be taken to the
firm’s processing facility on the same day of harvest.
She was nominated by the Fund’s Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva on Tuesday.
“Antoinette demonstrates a rare combination of institutional leadership, deep analytical capacity, and an unwavering commitment to fairness,” Georgieva said in a statement.
She then tweeted the news: “I am delighted to announce Antoinette Sayeh’s appointment as IMF Deputy Managing Director—our first IMF African DMD since 1999. Antoinette’s stellar career speaks for itself—including her time as an outstanding Director of our Africa Dept. Welcome to my senior management team!”
Sayeh, a Liberian national, was director of the IMF’s African Department between 2008 and 2016. She since has been at the Center for Global Development think tank in Washington, and previously served as Liberia’s finance minister and spent 17 years at the World Bank.
Georgieva’s move to appoint her, which is subject to approval by the IMF board, comes after Geoffrey Okamoto, a 35-year-old U.S. Treasury acting assistant secretary had emerged as a leading candidate to replace David Lipton as the Fund’s first deputy managing director, backed by U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
Lipton will leave the IMF at the end of February after serving nearly nine years as the Fund’s No. 2 official, a role that has a strong influence over the organization’s policies.
The IMF’s No. 2 official has traditionally been an American, while the Fund’s managing directors have been from Europe.
The United States is the largest shareholder in the IMF, with 16.5% of the Fund’s voting power.
“All four candidates have stipulated their desire to obtain one of the four blocks of 50 MHz that will be awarded in exchange for the commitments set forth in the procedure,” Arcep said in a statement.
Arcep added it was hoping to award the 5G licenses by June at the latest. In November, a government minister said that Frances’s 5G spectrum would be sold at a floor price of 2.17 billion euros ($2.4 billion).
International soccer star Didier Drogba has helped his birthplace, Côte d’Ivoire, strike gold by helping to collect MOUs for a total of $15 billion in commitments to back tourism projects in the west African country.
The breakthrough comes ahead of the UNWTO Forum for Africa, which will take place in Abidjan next week (February 20-22) and the influential Forum de l’Investissement Hotelier Africain (FIHA), which takes place in Abidjan next month (March 23 – 25). FIHA is known for its ability to link up the new investors with developers, consultants, contractors, hoteliers and political leaders.
The former Chelsea striker – and now UN world tourism ambassador – was part of a successful global push to promote the rising success and attractiveness of Côte d’Ivoire’s tourist economy. The country boasts a GDP growth rate of about 8% in 2019 and, as a destination, it’s in third place in Sub-Saharan Africa, with 2 million international visitors, behind South Africa and Zimbabwe, ahead of Uganda, Botswana, Kenya or Mauritius (according to UNWTO 2018 data).
Matthew Weihs, Managing Director, Bench Events, which organises FIHA, said: “This is an extraordinary and impressive effort by Côte d’Ivoire; and it makes this year’s Forum particularly interesting because the funding commitments are in place and the task now is to make projects happen.” Last year’s successful FIHA in Marrakech attracted 300 delegates from 28 countries.
Under the banner, Sublime Côte d’Ivoire, Didier Drogba was a key player in a team of top Ivorian business and political leaders, as well as showbusiness figures, who took a roadshow to Dubai and Hamburg. They returned with more than 15 billion dollars of funding commitments for a variety of tourism projects, from hotels, to resorts and coastline development. All the backers have been invited to attend FIHA.
Philippe Doizelet, Managing Partner of Horwath HTL, the world’s largest and most experienced hospitality consultants, has been guiding Côte d’Ivoire’s efforts. He said: “It’s a blank page that the industry can write on in the most exciting way. Much has to be built – hotels alongside cultural centres and conference facilities, among other things. The amazing coastline offers great ‘bleisure’ (a mix of business and leisure) opportunities. Beyond Abidjan; Boulay island, Bassam and Jacqueville are currently the most promising locations.” He sees the greatest potential in ‘mixed-use’ projects, combining leisure, office and retail units with hospitality, in particular, branded 2-star & 3-star hotels and extended stay apartments.
Leading the country’s ambition to make tourism one of the main pillars of the economy, is Tourism Minister Siandou Fofana. Described by Philippe Doizelet as “visionary and deeply committed. He works hard to bring people together and attracts the best experts.”
Bench Events, Managing Director, Matthew Weihs concluded: “FIHA and its affiliated event, the Africa Hotel Investment Forum, are central to driving investments in regional hotel and mixed-use projects. The events connect key international and regional stakeholders, private and institutional investors to the hotel developers and operators that are fuelling the growth of the hotel industry across the continent. The projects that are promoted and funded at FIHA drive investments in tourism, stimulate economic growth in regional markets, create jobs and encourage much needed infrastructure.”
This was even as it urged banks and Central Security and Clearing System (CSCS) to work with various government agencies and stakeholders in ensuring that collection and remittance of withholding tax to the Federal Government are done using modern automated tax solutions and information technology solutions.
These were resolutions reached on Tuesday by the upper chamber during plenary, and after consideration of a motion sponsored by Uche Ekwunife (PDP – Anambra Central).
Ekwunife, in her presentation, disclosed that “Central Security and Clearing System (CSCS) and Banks in Nigeria do not remit Withholding Tax on Deposit and Dividend to State Governments as and when due.”
According to the lawmaker, most State Government are unable to pay salaries and meet their financial obligations as a result of poor and dwindling revenue.
She raised concerns that “billions of Naira are being held by banks in Nigeria either in form of under remittance or non-remittance of Withholding Tax due to government.”
Ekwunife added, “The need for states to increase their Internally Generated Revenue has become imperative given the dwindling revenue from the federation account which has left various State Governments in Nigeria with the task of formulating strategies to improve the revenue base of their states.”
The lawmaker further expressed concern that one of the major sources of revenue for state governments is the Withholding Tax on bank deposits and dividends which has been difficult for States to track.
She stated that “the current practice is that both the banks and Central Security Clearing System remit to state governments any amount they desire as it is difficult for the states to reconcile what amounts should be credited to them.”
Ekwunife, however, opined that the leakages with respect to remittance of Withholding Tax can be addressed using modern tax solutions and information technology.
Meanwhile, the Senate also on Tuesday urged the Nigeria Police Force, the Federal Road Safety Commission and Vehicle Inspection Officers to immediately clamp down on truck and lorries plying federal highways without the minimum prescribed levels of lighting or road safety requirements.
The resolution was reached sequel to the consideration of a motion sponsored by Senator Teslim Folarin (APC – Oyo Central).
According to the lawmaker, in 2017, there were 779 recorded Road Traffic Collisions involving trailers and tankers, which resulted in 737 fatalities and 2,622 serious injuries.
He added, “In 2018, over one thousand lives and an estimated N39 billion were lost directly due to accidents involving trucks and articulated lorries.”
The Chamber, accordingly, mandated its Committee on Federal Character and Inter-Governmental Affairs to investigate the level of compliance to road safety legislations among haulage operators, owners and drivers, as well as the implementation of the recommendations from the 2018 haulage Operators Stakeholders’ summit.