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Liberian Supreme Court orders govt to return $113,000 to defendants acquitted in $100m cocaine trial

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The Liberian Supreme Court had ordered the federal government to return the sum of $113,000 to defendants who were standing trial in a $100M cocaine case but were discharged and acquitted.

The defendants, Malam Conte, Adulai Djibril Djalo, Makki Ahmad Issam and Oliver A. Zayzay, were accused by the government of shipping cocaine worth $100 million into the country last year.

The verdict was given by the President of the court, Associate Justice Yamie Quiqui Gbeisay, who also denied a writ of prohibition filed by the government through the Ministry of Justice, challenging the return of the money to the men.

The government had argued that the money in question was confiscated from one Gustavo Henrique who was tried in absentia and was not among those acquitted by the lower court.

The Justice Ministry insisted that the money was confiscated during the arrest of one of the four defendants, Malam Conte, at the premises of TRH Trading, the company that shipped the cocaine into the country.

The 520kg haul of cocaine substance was seized by authorities in 2022 among containers that TRH Trading had imported from Brazil where the drug worth over $100 million was discovered, making it one of the largest drug-related cases in the country’s history.

According to TRH Trading, a subsidiary of AJA Group Holdings, the accused allegedly offered to pay $200,000 for a single container of frozen foods on which the cocaine was smuggled, which at the time cost less than $30,000.

The government also argued that Henrique absconded from Liberia upon learning of the arrest of Malam Conte on October 1, 2022, and was never brought under the jurisdiction of the court.

“For the State to return any money, it has to be based upon a process initiated by Gustavo Henrique, and not any of the four individuals,” the government argued.

They were arraigned on charges bordering on “commission of money laundering, unlicensed possession of controlled drugs and unlicensed importation of controlled drugs.”

After months of trial, the accused were exonerated and acquitted of all the charges by an empaneled jury.

According to the jury, the accused had no knowledge of the cocaine smuggling operation as claimed by the government, and that the money seized from the men should be returned to them.

Metro

Zambian opposition party LM demands sack of Agric Minister

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One of Zambia’s opposition parties, Leadership Movement (LM), has called for the immediate dismissal of the country’s Minister of Agriculture, Mtolo Phiri, over alleged incompetence and for misleading President Hakainde Hichilema.

LM Secretary-General, Jairos Ngoma, who addressed a press conference in Lusaka,
said Phiri had been lying to Hichilema over the status of the agriculture sector in the face of climate change.

Ngoma alleged that the minister lied to the president, claiming that farming inputs had been distributed on time countrywide when no such items had been distributed.

Ngoma stated that farmers had been sharing fertilizer distributed to them in various parts of the country and that the commodity was not distributed on time as promised.

“Mr. President, you are a farmer and people in Eastern Province who have been sharing fertilizer voted for you in numbers knowing that you understand them as you a farmer yourself,” Ngoma stated.

He went on to accuse the United Capital Fertiliser claiming that the company was exporting the commodity to Botswana instead of distributing it to farmers in line with an agreement it had with government.

He said as a result, farmers have resorted to sharing the fertilizer in “medas” across the country because what was meant for them was being sold.

“This company is a subsidiary of China; it’s taking fertiliser to Botswana, 15,000 metric tonnes and later it is taking it to Dar es Salaam,” he alleged.

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Metro

Fuel subsidy removal, a blessing to Nigeria, govt insists

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Despite the excruciating hardship and hunger resulting from the unplanned removal of fuel subsidy by President Bola Tinubu as well as other policies, the Nigerian government says the decision is a blessing to the country as it has started yielding dividends.

Government mouthpiece, the Minister of information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, who made the assertion while interacting with journalists in Lagos, said that fuel subsidy removal had started delivering dividends as over $30 billion Foreign Direct Investments (FDI), had been attracted into the country so far.

Idris says though the people are feeling the pangs, the ultimate goal is that the country is reaping the benefits of the “bold reforms” carried out by President Tinubu.

“Because of subsidy removal, Nigeria has attracted over $30billion foreign direct investment in various sectors especially in manufacturing, telecommunications, healthcare, oil and gas among others,” the Minister said.

“These investments are already being realized. From the data provided by the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, the Nigerian economy had grown by 3.46 per cent in the third quarter of 2023 against 2.4 in the preceding quarter. It was a better performance that was actually anticipated.

“There is something happening in the economy, it is gradual and it takes time before tangible results are seen by all.

“Only those who know how the financial system works will be able to see some of these things already happening. In January this year, the Nigeria stock exchange all share index recorded 100.000 point mark,” he said.

The Minister however, berated the Nigerian media over what he calls unbalanced reports, and challenging journalists to always balance their reportage with the positive things that the government had done in order not to scare potential investors, noting the various interventions by the federal government to cushion the effects of subsidy removal.

“To begin with, the monies that were given to the sub-nationals increased significantly. Governors that were earning less, finding it difficult to pay salaries now have more money at their disposal as a result of fuel subsidy removal.

“We are aware of the N35,000 that Labour has been clamouring for, the emphasis would be that by October 1, the President said he is going to give N25,000 wage award to every worker pending the new wage being negotiated with labour,” he added.

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