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EZFarming: How farmer’s son went from Osun village to elite startup accelerator programme in San Francisco

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A Nigerian farmer’s son, Wale Oparinde, who grew up in Ede, Osun State, defied the odds of his lowly upbringing to attend Cambridge University, United Kingdom, for a doctoral degree and has now been selected to participate in an elite startup accelerator programme in San Francisco, California, for EZFarming (EZ-Farming.com), an agricultural micro-lending platform he developed to improve farmers’ livelihood and drive investment in agriculture.   

As a young boy, Wale was a dependable hand on his father’s farm in Ede, Osun State, Southern Nigeria. As a farmer’s son, he would go through the rigours of tilling the soil, bent over, day after day, toiling for his father to have sufficient produce to sell at the market and make enough money to feed the family. Life, in its barest essence, was tough, challenging and without much meaning to him and many others in the village and other surrounding towns, a situation that is common in many African countries.

EZFarming is an agricultural crowdfunding startup that allows users to lend to smallholder farmers to help them increase productivity and revenues, and earn returns in the process.

As Wale grew older and attended the village primary school, his father wanted him to become a medical doctor, a profession many in Ede believed could put an end to the family’s misery and set them up for survival and prosperity.

But as young Wale went through secondary school to the university, he bore in mind the gruelling condition on the farm and often wondered what he could do to change the fortune of farmers like his father and how farming could be made more attractive for young people.

“I was often amazed at how many farmers like my father survived in Nigeria and wanted to help them make farming easier and at the same time improve their livelihood by mobilising resources to enable them to grow bigger farms without worrying about finance and market access,” Wale, who now holds a Doctorate Degree from the Department of Land Economy at Cambridge University, United Kingdom, said from San Francisco, California, United States, where he is participating in the 4-month accelerator programme.

EZFarming: How farmer

Dr. Wale got into the 500 Startups Accelerator Programme, for his startup, EZFarming (EZFarming.com), an innovative platform that is transforming agriculture  in Africa through micro-lending. It enables farmers access funds and connect with produce buyers across the world from their base in African countries. 

After his undergraduate degree at the University of Ilorin, his interest in agriculture eventually led him Cambridge University, where he specialized in Agriculture and Resource Economics, allowing him greater insight into the economics of agriculture and methodologies to better manage farmers for optimal results.

According to him, “We are excited to be in the 500 Accelerator Programme as it provides us with a platform to leverage a wide network for support and investment. It brings me closer to meeting the childhood dream that came to me on that small farm in Osun years ago.”

He said EZFarming is a novel innovation in the agribusiness space in Africa that provides support to farmers through micro-lending and at the same time accommodates investors who are able to invest in different farm packages that yield one of the highest Return on Investment (RoI) among agritech startups on the continent.

The 500 Startups programme provides startups with $150,000 in funding as well as mentorship and hands-on training, with participants selected from countries around the world.

The investment in EZFarming, as well as other participants in the programme, is structured as convertible security. “The companies receive an investment of $150,000 for around 6% of their company (subject to dilution at the time of conversion of our convertible security),” according to 500 Startups.

“The convertible security has certain special rights for 500 Startups, including the right to make a follow-on investment of an additional $500,000 or 20% of your next priced round of $1,000,000 or more, whichever is lower, which expires after the conversion of our convertible security,” they added.

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Malabu Oil Deal Fraud: Adoke Hit With Fresh 42-Count Charge

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The Federal Government, on Monday, filed fresh charges against former Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke.

He is being charged with 42-count of alleged fraud in the $1.1 billion Malabu oil deal, alongside Rasky Gbinigie, A. Abubakar, Malabu Oil and Gas Limited, Nigeria Agip Exploration Limited, Shell Ultra Deep Limited and Shell Nigeria Exploration Production Limited.

According to the suit which was signed by Bala Sanga on behalf of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Chairman, Mr Ibrahim Magu, one of the accused persons, Rasky Gbinigie conspired with Munamuna Seidougha (at large), Amaran Joseph (at large) and Dauzia Loya Etete (at large), sometime in 2013, in Abuja, dishonestly used as genuine the forged form CAC 7 and Board Resolution of Malabu Oil and Gas Limited and the letter of resignation of one Mohammed Sani to open a Bank Account No. 2018288005 with First Bank of Nigeria Plc to receive the sum of $401. 5 million.

The suit read further: “The accused persons committed an offence contrary to section 366 of the Penal Code and punishable under the same section of the Penal Code.

“That you, Mohammed Bello Adoke, being a public servant at the material time, the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice of the Government of Nigeria, sometime in August 2013, in Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court was in possession and custody of the sum of N300m reasonably suspected to have been unlawfully obtained and thereby committed an offence an offence under section 319A of the Penal Code and punishable under the same section of the Penal Code.

“That you, Mohammed Bello Adoke, being a public servant at the material time, the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice of the Government of Nigeria, sometime in 2013, in Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, accepted for yourself without consideration, the sum of N300m to broker the negotiation and signing of the Block 245 Resolution Agreement with Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep Limited, Nigeria Agip Exploration Limited, Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Limited and thereby committed an offence under section 119 of the Penal Code and Punishable under the same section of the Penal Code.”

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Crime

Ex professor charged for allegedly blowing $200K grant on strippers, bars

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A former Philadelphia professor who allegedly blew grant money on strippers has now been charged with theft in connection to the nearly $200,000 used for adult entertainment and other personal expenses, prosecutors said.

Chikaodinaka Nwankpa — the one-time head of Drexel University’s electrical engineering department — was charged last week on felony counts of unlawful taking and theft by deception, according to the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office.

The 57-year-old former professor allegedly abused grant money from the Navy, the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation over a period of 10 years, prosecutors said.

He squandered around $96,000 in federal grant funds at adult entertainment venues and sports bars between 2010 and 2017, officials allege. He also blew threw another $89,000 on iTunes purchases and meals.

The university revealed the alleged fraud last October, claiming it had only discovered the spending spree during a 2017 audit.

Nwankpa allegedly admitted to the unauthorized expenses when confronted by school officials and resigned from the college. He also gave around $53,00 to the university, which paid $189,000 to resolve potential civil liability in the case.

He was arrested by university police last week and released on $25,000 bail. If convicted, he faces up to 14 years in prison.

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Kwara Matters

EFCC Forfieture: Saraki Urges Court To Vacate Order

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Former Senate President and two-term Kwara State Governor, Dr Bukola Saraki, has urged the Federal High Court in Lagos to dismiss a suit filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) praying for the permanent forfeiture of his Ilorin houses.

Saraki described the suit as an abuse of court processes and a move to scandalise him.

He argued that it was a ploy by the EFCC to review the July 6, 2018 decision of the Supreme Court “discharging the applicant from culpability arising from the same money and houses which are the subject matter of this action.”

The EFCC had, in the suit filed before Justice Rilwan Aikawa, claimed that the houses – Plots No. 10 and No. 11 Abdulkadir Road, GRA, Ilorin, Kwara State – were acquired with proceeds of unlawful activities allegedly perpetrated by Saraki, while he was Kwara State Governor between 2003 and 2011.

Justice Aikawa had on December 2, 2019 ordered the temporary forfeiture of the houses to the Federal Government.

The judge adjourned for Saraki to appear before him to give reasons the houses should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.

In response, Saraki, through his lawyer, Kehinde Ogunwumiju (SAN), filed a preliminary objection, challenging the territorial jurisdiction of the court to entertain the suit.

Ogunwumiju said that the new suit by the EFCC was an abuse of court processes because it was filed at a time when a suit on the same subject matter was still pending at the Federal High Court in Abuja.

According to him, in the Abuja suit, Justice Taiwo Taiwo had on May 14, 2019 made an order for parties to stay action on the subject matter pending the determination of an originating motion on notice.

“Despite the pendency of the above-captioned suit, service of the originating processes and the subsistence of the aforesaid order of this court, the respondent surreptitiously commenced Suit No. FHC/L/CS/1867/2019 between the EFCC v Dr Bukola Saraki on 14th October 2019 in this court where it seeks orders aimed at neutralising the order of the Abuja Division of this court,” he said.

The ex-Kwara governor said that the new EFCC’s suit was meant to “irritate, annoy and scandalise” him and urged Justice Aikawa to dismiss it.

The judge, on Tuesday, adjourned the matter till February 5 to take arguments on Saraki’s objection.

The EFCC, in the suit, told the court that it received “a damning intelligence report, showing monumental fraud perpetrated in the treasury of the Kwara State Government between 2003 and 2011,” when Saraki was the governor of the state.

An operative of the EFCC, Olamide Sadiq said, “Whilst investigation was ongoing several fraudulent transactions were discovered.

“I know for a fact and verily believe that our investigation has revealed the following mind-boggling findings, among others:

“That between 2003 and 2011, Dr Olubukola Abubakar Saraki was the Executive Governor of Kwara State.

“That whilst he held the aforementioned position, the common pattern was that after payment of monthly allocation by the Federal Government to the Kwara State Government, a cumulative sum of not less than N100m will be deposited into the Kwara Government House account.

“That upon the payment of the said N100m, same will, in turn, be withdrawn in cash by one Mr Afeez Yusuf from the Kwara State Government House, Ilorin’s account in bits and brought to the Government House.”

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