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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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Obasanjo donates former residence as isolation centre

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Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has offered his former residence at the Presidential Hilltop, Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, to be used as an isolation centre for victims of the ongoing coronavirus disease.

An aide said Mr Obasanjo made the offer on Friday, and has since handed over the 32-room facility to the Ogun government for immediate use. Ogun State has recorded three cases of the coronavirus, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). A total of 70 cases have been recorded in Nigeria as at 8:00 p.m. Nigerian times.

Mr Obasanjo’s special assistant media, Kehinde Akinyemi, who confirmed the development said the former president was concerned about the pandemic. “And I think those who can in one way or another assist in this situation should do so,” Mr Obasanjo was quoted as having said.

The facility located off the Presidential Boulevard, Oke Sari, Abeokuta has each of the 32 rooms ensuite, with a standby generator

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Coronavirus: Google commits $800 million to support small businesses, health workers, others

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The CEO of Google and Alphabet, Sundar Pichai, has announced a new $800 million commitment to support small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), health organisations and governments, and health workers “on the frontline of coronavirus”.

Mr Pichai made this known in a statement published on Google’s blog on Friday.

According to him, the commitment is necessitated as the coronavirus outbreak continues to worsen around the world.

He said the pandemic is taking a devastating toll on lives and communities.

The Google boss said the commitment includes, “$250 million in ad grants to help the World Health Organisation (WHO) and more than 100 government agencies globally provide critical information on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other measures to help local communities.

“This is an increase from our initial $25 million announced last month. In addition, we’re providing $20 million in ad grants to community financial institutions and NGOs specifically to run public service announcements on relief funds and other resources for SMBs.

“A $200 million investment fund that will support NGOs and financial institutions around the world to help provide small businesses with access to capital.

“As one example, we’re working with the Opportunity Finance Network in the U.S. to help fill gaps in financing for people and communities underserved by mainstream financial institutions. This is in addition to the $15 million in cash grants Google.org is already providing to nonprofits to help bridge these gaps for SMBs,” he added.

Mr Pichai also said that “$340 million in Google Ads credits available to all SMBs with active accounts over the past year. Credit notifications will appear in their Google Ads accounts and can be used at any point until the end of 2020 across our advertising platforms. We hope it will help to alleviate some of the cost of staying in touch with their customers.

“A pool of $20 million in Google Cloud credits for academic institutions and researchers to leverage our computing capabilities and infrastructure as they study potential therapies and vaccines, track critical data, and identify new ways to combat COVID-19. Learn how to apply for credits on the Google for Education site.

“Direct financial support and expertise to help increase the production capacity for personal protective equipment (PPE) and lifesaving medical devices. We’re working with our longtime supplier and partner Magid Glove & Safety, with the goal of ramping up production of 2-3 million face masks in the coming weeks that will be provided to the CDC Foundation.

“Additionally, employees from across Alphabet, including Google, Verily and X, are bringing engineering, supply chain and healthcare expertise to facilitate increased production of ventilators, working with equipment manufacturers, distributors and the government in this effort.”

In addition to these commitments, the CEO increased the gift match Google offers every employee annually to $10,000 from $7,500

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IG orders investigation into destruction of beer bottles by police officers

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The Inspector General of Police, Muhammad Adamu, has directed the police in Lagos to immediately investigate some police officers captured in a video destroying beer bottles at a drinking spot.

The one-minute video, which has been trending on Twitter since Thursday, showed uniformed police officers kicking and pulling down stacks of crates, and breaking several beer bottles.

The incident reportedly happened in Lagos, and the officers were apparently enforcing the restriction order in the state occasioned by the outbreak of the coronavirus.

Nigerians have been expressing outrage over the action of the officers.

A tweet from the police Twitter handle (@PoliceNG) on Friday said the police chief “condemned the apparent unprofessionalism and highhandedness exhibited by the Police officers”.

Mr Adamu is said to have directed the commissioner of police in Lagos State “to immediately investigate and commence disciplinary actions against the officers involved”.

The police chief said officers involved in enforcement of restriction orders and other law enforcement functions “must exercise discretionary powers with the utmost sense of professionalism, compassion and respect for the citizens.”

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