An Italian Judge has ordered Alhaji Aliyu Abubakar, a Nigerian businessman involved in the controversial Eni and Shell OPL-245 offshore oilfield deal, to stand trial over alleged international corruption charges.
Abubakar was said to have played a major role in the deal where he handed out more than $500 million in cash to powerful Nigerian government officials. The money he handed out was reportedly part of the $1.3 billion license fee paid by Eni and Shell for access to the OPL-245 offshore oilfield.
However, Abubakar has denied any wrongdoing as his lawyer Davide Pozzi said that he would clarify his position at the appropriate place.
On the other hand, Eni and Shell have been accused by the Italian prosecutors of knowing that most of the purchase price of the oil field would be siphoned off to middlemen and local politicians as a bribe. Nevertheless, Eni has also denied any wrongdoing as stated by its Chief Executive, Claudio Descalzi.
What you should know: Prior to this, Abubakar had been under investigation but the prosecutors were unable to locate him to put him on trial until when he appeared on the case as a witness via a video linkup in February 2019.
His lawyer made known that his trial has been scheduled for May 14 before a court in Milan. Meanwhile, prosecutors are due to begin work, summing up and setting out sentencing requests for Descalzi and other defendants from March 25.
ENI and Shell’s denial: Recall that in 2011, ENI and Shell jointly acquired the OPL 245 oilfield for $1.3 billion. Since the acquisition happened, the deal has been shrouded in controversies, with many allegations of corruption levelled against the companies. Shell and ENI have been accused of paying bribes to Nigerian officials to the tune of $1.1 billion.
These accusations surrounding the deal have always been denied by the companies, which is why the latest denial by Descalzi comes as no surprise.
Novavax secures $1.6 billion funding for COVID-19 vaccine production
The fund is expected to help Novavax start a final-stage study of its vaccine candidate.
An American Vaccine Development Firm, Novavax Inc, one of the front runners in the race to develop a vaccine for COVID-19 treatment, will receive $1.6 billion funding from the United State government to support large scale manufacturing of coronavirus vaccine.
This represents the biggest contribution to the ‘Operations Warp Speed Program’, a public-private partnership initiative by the US government, to facilitate and accelerate the development, manufacturing and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics.
Novavax in a statement said that the funds will allow the biotech firm to conduct advanced human studies and engage in manufacturing to deliver 100 million doses as soon as late 2020.
Novavax is among the companies trying to develop a vaccine against the novel coronavirus that has developed into a pandemic and spreading rapidly in countries like US, India and Mexico. The Operation Warp Speed Program has supported efforts of firms like Pfizer Inc, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna Inc, AstraZeneca Plc and Merck & Co, to get doses of the vaccine as early as possible.
READ MORE: New Covid-19 Cases reach all-time high – WHO
The fund is expected to help Novavax start a final-stage study of its vaccine candidate before the winter period, with as many as 30,000 people.
Novavax, had earlier secured as much as $388 million in May from the coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, the single largest contributions from the organization at that time. The biotech company’s vaccine candidate is to provoke the production of antibodies that prevent the spike protein which the coronavirus uses to infect host cells.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), drug manufacturing firms and university researchers are investigating more than 140 experimental vaccines. Moderna, Pfizer and the University of Oxford, in collaboration with AstraZeneca, are among the companies and institutions that have started studies of their vaccines in healthy patients.
Lagos Ferry Company targets 480,000 commuting passengers daily – MD
The administration is seeking ways to decongest the heavy Lagos traffic and using inland water transport.
The Managing Director of the Lagos Ferry Services Company (LAGFERRY) Mr AbdoulBaq Balogun says the company has a target of transporting 480,000 people daily on the waterways of Lagos State.
He made the comment in an online show called ”Covinspiration”.
He said, “As at June 30, we had operated for 77 days on inland waterways and moved 60,000 passengers”. Revealing that the company had 14 boats and was making efforts to expand operations with bigger ferries with the involvement of private investors.
Adding that the administration is seeking ways to decongest the heavy Lagos traffic and tapping into the potential of inland water transport.
“With about 1.6 million people moving on Lagos roads every day, we are being tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that we move at least 30 percent of these motorists off the roads through the waterways.
“That gives us about 480,000 passengers. So, moving 480,000 passengers is our daily target on the waterways of Lagos State.
“Mr Governor is focusing his energy on ensuring a multi-modal transport system with the abundance of water bodies we have. We are moving people and goods on pleasant experience through the inland waterways,” he said.
He said the company operates in all the 40 inland waterway routes, and expanded operations will decongest traffic from in the on Lekki Epe Expressway, Ikorodu road, the Third Mainland Bridge and Lagos-Badagry Expressway
The managing director said that traffic congestion on Lekki Epe Expressway, Ikorodu road, the Third Mainland Bridge, Lagos-Badagry Expressway would be minimized with LAGFERRY operations in those six routes.
“We are just coming on board, we are still testing the water, passengers are just coming to know us and we are still creating awareness.
“We have not reached our peak and we are yet to get to the optimum operational level. We want to expand the services of LAGFERRY to other routes and enhance productivity,” he said.
Just in: Buhari suspends EFCC boss, Ibrahim Magu from office
The suspension follows the investigation of allegations of gross misconduct against him on Monday.
President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the suspension of the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, from office. The suspension follows the investigation of allegations of gross misconduct against him on Monday.
According to available information, Magu was suspended to allow for probe into allegations against him.
The EFCC boss appeared before a presidential probe panel headed by retired Justice Ayo Salami, who is investigating the allegations against him.