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NDLEA Closes In On Sanwoolu’s Aide, Funke Phillips

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A popular social and political commentator, Ms Olufunke Phillips may be in for troubles in the coming days.

Phillips was the digital manager of Lagos State Governor-elect, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, and she has been alleged to be a fugitive after being charged for cocaine possession.

It will be recalled that Phillips was recently exposed by a Nigerian journalist, Ruona Meyer.

The dirty disclosure was said to have attracted the attention of the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who reportedly ordered Sanwoolu to disband his campaign team immediately.

It was gathered that the scandal got to the leaders of the APC as a rude shock and that they have warned the incoming governor that such an element must not be found around him after his swearing in on May 29, 2019.

Ms Phillips (full name: Philip Esther Olufunke) was allegedly charged by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) with illegal possession of 3.14 kilogrammes of cocaine in 2007.

It was alleged that she was arraigned before Justice P.I Ajoku of the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court in 2007 but she, alongside 25 others absconded after being granted bail by the judge.

The case seemed to have been forgotten until she publicly fell out with Ms Meyer, who holds a dual Nigerian-German citizenship, brought it back to the fore.

Ms Meyer is accusing Ms Phillips of intellectual property theft.

According to Ms Meyer, the two former associates had teamed up to establish ‘The Beverage Space,’ a website that focuses on alcohol consumption, years ago.

She said she brought Ms. Phillips onboard because she needed a face for the brand since she wasn’t based in Nigeria at the time, adding that she solely funded the project.

Ms Meyer, however, said she pulled the plug on the venture after her background checks revealed her partner as a fugitive.

But years later, Ms Phillips began her own website which she renamed ‘The Beverage Room’ based on the same ideas.

The website is currently being run by Ms Phillips and commands a large following on social media. The group currently boasts over 82,000 followers on Facebook alone.

In a Facebook post, Ms Meyer explained that she was making a public disclaimer to fully dissociate herself from any from business dealings she had with Ms Phillips in 2015 and 2016.

“I terminated our business dealings in 2016 after I found out @FunkePhillips is facing cocaine smuggling charges (with a 2009 court case); and on 4 July 2011, @ndlea_nigeria listed her as skipping bail,” Ms Meyer’s Facebook post read.

Ms Meyer, an ex- BBC Pidgin journalist, also challenged her erstwhile business partner to take down the website or face her in court.

To back her claims, Ms Meyer also shared receipts of her payments for logo design, website hosting. She also expressed her disapproval of Ms Phillips’s continued claims to be the owner of the business.

She explained, “I handled the blog, edited written copy, tapped my contacts in Corporate Communications, PR & media in general, to boost our networks. Funke Phillips had no money, so I handled practically all costs…including domain hosting, calls to contacts, sending proposals for sponsored events planning hangouts, generating content ideas and even doing interviews from Germany with my Nigerian contacts.

“Soon, we were about to get into signing partnerships, when my manager in Germany reminded me to do a character check on Funke Phillips. I remembered I’d heard some absurd rumours and went online to check.

Drug traffickers on the run.

“The report stated that the information that Funke and other alleged drug barons were on the loose was corroborated by then @ndlea_nigeria spokesperson Mitchell Ofoyeju (@mitchelljnr) cc @dg_ndlea.”

Ms Meyer also shared Ms Phillip’s case file number and photo on Facebook on Friday.

Ms Meyer reportedly explained the reason why she decided to publicly dissociate herself from her one-time business partner.

“So I am not asking for money, or care what Nigeria does to her or not. After all, she has skipped bail for years and is not exactly hiding.

Drug traffickers on the run.

“I care because I am held to a higher standard, personally, family-wise, and as a citizen of Germany. I would be a pariah, unworthy of any semblance of public life if I were ever associated with a drug-smuggling criminal, who also skipped bail. So I have to disclaim it. Publicly too.”

Ms Phillips, who is also a popular social and political commentator on Facebook, has however kept mum on the issue. Efforts by this newspaper to get her own side of the story have been unsuccessful as phone calls and text messages to her have been unanswered.

Screen Shot 2019-03-15 at 10.41.09

READ THE FULL POST BY MRS MEYER BELOW.

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I’m making this PUBLIC disclaimer to FULLY dissociate myself from business dealings I had with Olufunke Phillips in 2015/2016, which I terminated in 2016, after I found out @FunkePhillips is facing COCAINE smuggling charges (with a 2009 court case); and on 4 July 2011, @ndlea_nigeria listed her as skipping bail. Link here, full screenshots in comments.

In 2015, I originated and conceptualised a blog and event portal on the business of drinking, from a female perspective. I needed a face for it, as I was not based in Nigeria. This is where Funke Phillips came in. I later called it The Beverage Space.

I set up all email, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook accounts, paid a designer to make a logo (seen here for August 2015 – mail of her choosing logo), everything. All Funke Phillips had to do was go to events/bars, send in little notes, writings.

I handled the blog, edited written copy, tapped my contacts in Corporate Communications, PR & media in general, to boost our networks. Funke Phillips had no money, so I handled practically all costs…including domain hosting, calls to contacts, sending proposals for sponsored events planning hangouts, generating content ideas and even doing interviews from Germany with my Nigerian contacts.

We started to make progress in a very short time; I flew into Nigeria, arranged meetings with my contacts, I will not mention them here, as they are private people and I may need their private testimony for court.

But each time I told them I’d be working underground, as I was based outside, working on my day job anyway, and so Funke Phillips would be TBS’ face. She attended some meetings, and was aware.

Soon, we were about to get into signing partnerships, when my manager in Germany reminded me to do a character check on Funke Phillips. I remembered I’d heard some absurd rumours, and went online to check…

I discovered Funke Phillips was arrested in a Lagos airport with 3.14kgs of cocaine, and skipped bail, prompting then @ndlea_nigeria chairman Ahmadu to list her among wanted “drug barons” in July 2011. Pics attached as comments

The report states that the information that Funke Phillips and other drug barons were on the loose was corroborated by then @ndlea_nigeria spokesperson Mitchell Ofoyeju (@mitchelljnr) cc @dg_ndlea

I next used my contacts in the courts and prisons to legally crosscheck these facts, and presented the situation to @FunkePhillips, asking her to explain. See her case file number photo also in comments.

In private chats I will reserve for the court, Funke Phillips said she “went through a lot to settle the case.” I replied that the only way the case could be settled was if she was ACQUITTED, or SERVED TIME, but not so, according to @ndlea_nigeria

In comments are screenshots that show that weeks after @ndlea_nigeria noted her as a “drug baron” on the lam, Funke Phillips was online, on social media.

I, therefore, asked Funke Phillips for her documents of acquittal. She responded that this was the work of her enemies. With such answers, I told her I could NEVER work with her on any basis; we needed to cut all ties immediately.

Specifically, I told Funke Phillips I would pay off those I had contracted to work for us, handle all the bills, take down everything to do with TBS– I wanted NOTHING more to do with a fugitive…even if Nigeria is mediocre enough to allow people like Funke Phillips with a pending drug case walk the streets freely. This absurdity was not going to be my norm.

I told Funke Phillips that in fact, I did not care what happened in Nigeria. I cared about my career and life in Europe, where even the whiff of an association with criminality is just as bad as criminality.

Therefore, over subsequent communications, particularly through mutual friends, I asked her to make sure she never referred to me as someone she worked with, never referred to or made similarities to TBS…to ensure she never used any similar idea or contacts made, so that people would not subconsciously associate me with her, as we had gone far. Funke Phillips agreed. I added she was a fraud and must do right by the law.

HOWEVER I thereafter had major surgery, job moves, and JUST discovered that in fact, shortly after this, Funke Phillips set up THE BEVERAGE ROOM (TBR), using many ideas, & in some instances, even same contacts.

Worse still, when I raised the issue 72 hours ago, contacts have since come to tell me they thought I was still a silent partner at TBR, and that is why they joined online groups, bought t-shirts, went to and had events, etc.

To be clear: I publicly (via social media) tagged Funke Phillips, asking her to pull down TBR, because it is a rip-off of TBS, and she knows why she has to: Intellectual property theft, and the matter of GROSS criminality.

Rather, Funke Phillips and her “associate” have since said I am doing it because I am “jealous” and I want to pull her down because I heard she is an aide to Lagos state governor-elect Jide Sanwoolu. FOR THE RECORD: I ALSO JUST HEARD ABOUT THIS LESS THAN 72 HOURS AGO.

So, Funke Phillips, to reiterate what I told you 3 years ago: I DO NOT CARE what Nigeria does to you, or whether this country ignores your criminality and rewards you – after all, you will not be the first fugitive to pop up in government circles in Nigeria.

Because unlike you, I operate under a far different code of integrity and ethics – filial-wise, professionally, and by virtue of being a German citizen.

Based on my dealings in Germany, I cannot be seen to have ever had any associations with someone linked to drugs, even more with someone like you, Funke Phillips, cited as skipping bail and being a fugitive.

THIS is the reason for this public disclaimer, Funke Phillips. This is not about money, so, when I head to court to force a pull-down of TBR, I am more concerned about DISSOCIATION and intellectual property theft.

Because Funke Phillips you simply cannot afford what I would term requisite compensation for my intellectual property. Even if you could, I would never prioritise collecting money from a fraudulent character like you.

Simply because again, I operate under a different set of personal and locational principles. On that note, Funke Phillips should you still refuse to do the needful, and pull down TBR, I will see you in court. Please, try to show up this time.

But a short bio on thebeverageroom.co claimed Phillips launched The Beverage Room, which Meyer said was founded based on her original ideas, in 2015 to “chronicle her love for Coffee, Wine and Spirits. She started an Instagram, Facebook page and a blog sharing tips, tricks, findings and other things.”

Olusesan Daini, who headed Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s media team during the campaign said, Phillips was diligent when she worked with him and that he was surprised to hear about Meyer’s allegations.

When asked if he recruited her for the campaign, Daini said she was contracted to consult “for the purpose of election”.

He absolved the campaign team of any blame concerning Phillips. He insisted that the campaign team expected its consultants to hire people with credible backgrounds to work with them.

An anonymous source in All Progressives Congress’s media circle said Meyer’s allegations were meant to paint Phillips black.

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Exams postponed in Ekiti University after students protest

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A protest by students of Ekiti State University, (EKSU), Ado Ekiti, has forced management to postpone the first semester examinations which were originally scheduled to begin on Monday, June 17.

In a news release issued on Sunday night and signed by the Registrar of the institution, Akin Arogundade, the new date for the examinations is now Monday, July 1.

The postponement according to the statement is to ensure security of lives and property on campus and its environs.

It failed to dwell on the effect of an earlier protest by students as a possible cause of the shift.

“Consequently, all academic activities on campus has been postponed until Monday, July 1, 2019, while students are expected back on campus on Sunday, June 30, 2019,” the statement said.

It directed all students preparing for exams to ensure payment of all necessary fees, as evidence of payment would be used for clearance and examination permit.

“The University community, parents, and guardians are assured of adequate security on campus as well as the safety of staff and students,” it said.

NAN recalls that the students held a peaceful protest early on Sunday to criticise the sudden fixing of the examinations without adequate lectures.

The protesters were also worried that many students might be denied participation as the data system had yet to capture all who had cleared their tuition. (NAN)

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Presidency reacts to EU report on Nigeria’s 2019 elections

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The presidency has welcomed the report of the European Union (EU) on the 2019 general elections in Nigeria, promising to analyse it fully and act on the recommendations in the best interest of the country.

Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, made this position known in a statement in Abuja on Saturday.

Mr Shehu noted that the EU observers were invited to the country by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and welcomed by the government of President Muhammadu Buhari.

He stated that this action was a clear indication of the administration’s good intentions, commitment to a purely democratic process and desire to improve on the next elections.

The EU noted in their report that there were marked improvements from previous elections, although stating that more work needed to be done.

”The administration of President Buhari will work with all Nigerian citizens, state institutions, parties, civil society, the media and other experts to make sure that the improvements recommended by the EU are implemented, and that these areas of concern are addressed.

”It is noteworthy that INEC is in receipt of a number of recommendations that form a part of the EU report.

”The Presidency assures that the Commission is in safe hands and happy that they are currently engaged in root and branch reviews of the 2019 general elections and will input lessons learned into its recommendations for electoral and constitutional reforms.

”We believe that the commission conducted a good election and will continue to improve on its processes and procedures,” he said.

While it is regretted that the elections in a few parts of the country witnessed some violence, among other shortcomings highlighted by the EU, Mr Shehu said none of these hitches affected the overall outcome of the elections.

He said: ”Thankfully, EU did not question the results of the presidential election.

”For instance, on page 3 in its Executive Summary, the EU said: ‘positively, the elections were competitive, parties were overall able to campaign and civil society enhanced accountability’.’’

He said that the report also acknowledged that INEC made a number of improvements, including making electoral participation more accessible through simplified voting procedures.

According to the report, INEC made efforts to strengthen electoral integrity by issuing regulations making smart card readers mandatory.

Mr Shehu observed that on page 4 of the report, the EU noted that the elections were competitive with a large number of candidates for all seats although the competition was primarily between the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party.

He said the report further noted that ”parties and candidates were overall able to campaign, with freedoms of assembly, expression and movement broadly respected.

”On Page 5, the report noted that the EU EOM media monitoring over 46 days showed federal government-owned media’s commitment to balanced election coverage.

”It said that positively in almost all observations party agents received copies of the results forms, adding that the National Collation Centre for the presidential election was open to party agents and observers, and was continuously televised.

”Again on page 37, the report said the national collation centre for the presidential results was open to party agents, observers and the media with each state’s results projected on a large screen.”

The presidential aide added that the report acknowledged that there was continuous live television coverage and the media published the results as announced by INEC, thereby increasing access to results information.

He further noted that Page 41 under section ‘RESULTS AND STAKEHOLDER REACTION’, EU said: ‘‘YIAGA Africa announced that the results were consistent with its parallel vote tabulation that INDEPENDENTLY projected the results based on a sample of 1,515 polling units.

”The two leading parties won 96.8% of the valid votes between them.’’

According to him, this is further proof that the polls reflected the overall will of Nigerians, and that the world is solidly behind the election of President Buhari for a second term.

The European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) in Nigeria had on Saturday briefed newsmen on the EU EOM’s report.

The Deputy Chief Observer for the EU, Hannah Roberts, addressed the news conference in Abuja, while Maria Arena, EU Chief Observer had earlier presented a final report with recommendations for electoral reforms.

The EU report prioritised seven recommendations of the 30, one of which was that Nigeria should Strengthen INEC procedures for the collation of results to improve integrity and confidence in electoral outcomes.

Another recommendation was that electoral tribunals cover pre-election cases in order to improve access to remedy and to avoid petitions being taken to different courts at the same time.

During the news conference, Hannah Roberts had said the EU EOM knew nothing about the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) server that was allegedly used to transmit results of the 2019 general elections.

The main opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), had claimed that an INEC server was used to transmit results of the election.

(NAN)

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Suicide: NAFDAC announces plan to further regulate Sniper

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The Nigerian government may direct a change in the package of ‘Sniper’, an agro-chemical that has increasingly become a choice killer for persons contemplating suicide, an official said.

The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) said it is partnering with other relevant bodies on this as part of plans to discourage the use of Sniper as a tool for suicide.

This is in response to calls for a check on the proliferation and ease of access to Sniper in markets and streets across the nation.

According to Vanguard Newspaper, the Director General of NAFDAC, Christiana Adeyeye, said Sniper containers “could now be made very difficult to open, or may be turned into a spray rather than the liquid contents it is known for.”

The suicide rate has increased in Nigeria with Sniper among the agents popularly used.

Notable among the reported incidents is that of a 400-level student of the Department of English and Literary Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Chukwuemeka Akachi.

There was another case of a pastor in a popular Pentecostal church who recently committed suicide after consuming the deadly substance.

That was before Ayomide and Ajani Damilola of the University of Lagos were reported to have killed themselves using the insecticide following the accusations that they stole clothes in their hostel.

Another 32-year-old banker and mother of two, identified as Peace, of Ughelli, Delta State, committed suicide over her husband’s alleged infidelity. She also took Sniper.

Sniper: An easy killer?

The ease of access to Sniper despite its wrong use has become a worry for many Nigerians.

Bottles of Sniper can be picked up easily on the streets as they are sold openly in the market.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that the method used for 20 per cent of global suicides was through pesticide self-poisoning and they mostly occur in developing countries.

Suicide victims appear to find gulping the liquid content of the agro-chemical inside a white container an easier route out.

But experts argue that it is easier to die by a bullet on the forehead than to face the agony that follows after drinking sniper.

NAFDAC’s warning

Mrs Adeyeye also discouraged the use of Sniper and other agro-chemicals for the preservation of food as they contain substances harmful to the human body.

“We also decry poor handling of foods in Nigeria by producers and sellers, because the populace and consumers are being exposed unduly to health risks from contaminants.

“The use of unapproved insecticides such as Sniper for the preservation of grains by unauthorised persons, the use of containers contaminated with hazardous chemicals such as fertilizer bags for grains or chemical drums and jerry cans for food storage are classic examples of a common practice among the market men and women due to ignorance,” the NAFDAC chief said.

Why Nigerians use Sniper indoors

Sniper is a DDVP, 2,2-Dichlorovinyl dimethyl phosphate compound, marketed in Nigeria by Swiss-Nigerian Chemical Company, as a synthetic organophosphorus. Many Nigerians have, however, converted it to an indoor insecticide.

Sniper is predominantly used as an insecticide because of its effectiveness in killing insects better than well-established brands of insecticide.

The demand is also fuelled by its affordability. A 100ml of sniper goes for between N200 and N300 while its competitors cost as much as N750 for 100ml.

“However, Nigerians may be paying a heavier price with their health in the long term, if the trend is left unchecked”, a microbiologist, Fatima Ahmed, explained.

“The instruction on Sniper says apply diluted portions to crops and there’s a ‘withdrawal’ time in which the crop should not be consumed so the active ingredient degrades to minimal level before consumption. Now compare this minute concentration to drinking from the original sniper bottle,” she noted in the report.

According to her, health experts have raised concerns over the indiscriminate use of Sniper pesticide in the control of mosquitoes, cockroaches and other household insects.

“They warned on its dangerous effects, especially to respiratory organs and even carcinogenic risks. A person may be exposed to the associated risk of Sniper through inhalation, absorption via the skin, ingestion, and eye contact.”

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