Infamous Nigerian fraudster, Ramon Abbas popularly known as Hushpuppi, has received fresh charges as US prosecutors submitted court documents showing that he committed fraud and laundered over $400,000 while in prison.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation through its agent, Andrew John Innocenti, presented documents before the United States District Court of California on Wednesday with fresh evidence indicting HushPuppi of committing fraud and money laundering in the U.S. Federal correctional facility.
According to the court documents, Hushpuppi defrauded his victim through Economic Impact Payments debit cards fraudulently obtained from stolen data of U.S citizens and residents.
Economic Impact Payments which are also known as Stimulus Checks are financial support offered by the US government to U.S residents according to the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. One of the ways eligible US residents receive their Economic Impact Payments is by debit cards.
The document read in part, “Ramon Olorunwa Abbas is a Nigerian national previously living in the United Arab Emirates (the ‘U.A.E.’) but currently incarcerated in the US Federal correctional facility, Central District of California, on charges of money laundering.
“The FBI’s investigation has revealed that Abbas, while in a US Federal correctional facility, participated in the purchase of Economic Impact Payment debit cards fraudulently obtained from compromised data of US citizens.
“Economic Impact Payments —commonly referred to as “stimulus checks” or “recovery rebates”— are a key provision of the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act legislation that Congress passed to help reduce the financial burden on citizens and residents across the United States. Economic Impact Payments are non-taxable income that does not need to be paid back. Economic Impact Payments debit cards are a means of disbursement of payments. Economic Impact Payments debit cards, commonly called EIP cards, are issued on the VISA network by Meta Bank, South Dakota, US.
“This affidavit presents new information involving Abbas which supports Affidavit 1 of Case No 2:20-mj-02992. Recorded internet activities (reviewed pursuant to a federal search warrant issued in this District) of Abbas in the US Federal correctional facility, Central District of California, reflect that Abbas purchased Economic Impact Payments debit cards and laundered the proceeds totaling over $400,000.
“Payments debit cards daily for the period we recorded him. He purchased a total of 58 Economic Impact Payments debit cards in this period, with a total value of $429,800.
“19 Of the 58 Economic Impact Payments debit cards, Abbas chose the virtual card option for 36 EIP cards and he selected the plastic physical card option for 22 EIP cards.”
The documents noted that Hushpuppi was able to perpetrate the fraud through his partner identified simply as AJ.
“Abbas was in constant communication with one AJ. Abbas sent all the cards he bought from stimuluscard.com to AJ. Abbas gave instructions to AJ on what to shop online. He gave instructions on what to do with the purchased items. Abbas also gave instructions on cash withdrawal from ATMs with the plastic cards,” the document read.
Abike Dabiri-Erewa: A woman of timber and caliber
Dr. Abike Dabiri-Erewa can be described as a strong woman in the midst of millions of active men. She always comes up with creative solutions, stays positive even during hard times, and looks so impressive that little girls want to be like her when they grow up.
She is successively taking on the challenges of her motherland, pushing the boundaries of activism and representation, and being an all-round Amazon. When some Nigerians hear ‘number one tough cookie’ as a nickname for this ever-solid woman, they nod their heads and agree that she is indeed tough to crack but can be relied on to be nothing other than herself.
The war in Ukraine has taught Nigerians many things, including the need to appreciate their peaceful—if leisurely developing—nation. However, while some Nigerians feel sorry for their fellow citizens trapped in Ukrainian soil, others are having a good time stoking schadenfreude in their hearts. But not Dabiri-Erewa or the Nigerians in Diaspora (NiDCOM) team that she leads.
Thanks to the timely intervention by Dabiri-Erewa and company, most Nigerians in Ukraine, especially the students, are back on Nigeria’s shores. Along with gratitude at the prayers that the more compassionate Nigerians back home offered to God on their behalf, these students are beset with joy. After all, as long as there is life, the possibilities for change are endless.
This is something that Dabiri-Erewa has shown time and again: a determined heart will accomplish great things regardless of opposition. It is consequently no surprise she has managed to exceed expectations over and over again. And just when you think a particular challenge will topple her, Dabiri-Erewa turns it into a victory song and the international community is reminded of a force in Nigeria called NiDCOM and a controller surnamed Dabiri-Erewa.
There are women and there are women, some of whom are metallic in their disposition, cold to the touch, and inclined to smite others. Then there are those with a wooden personality, gentle, reliable, but also seemingly uninteresting. Then there are the precious stones like Dabiri-Erewa who have gone through more fire and pressure than their peers. Any wonder that Dabiri-Erewa is still on top of her game?
She knows what she wants, can get her shit together and put the amount of hard work into project in order to get the desired results. She doesn’t pretend to be weak to make others do her job for her, but she delegates tasks when necessary.
An indigene of Ikorodu from the famous Erogbogbo family in Lagos State, she has, right from her childhood till date, been a front-liner, a go-getter, an ice breaker, a workaholic, a detribalised Nigerian, a patriotic citizen and a devoted servant of Allah.
There are not enough words to fully describe this ebullient woman of substance who has consistently demonstrated her efficiency and diligence right from her eventful years at NTA till her sojourn in politics, which made her a three-time parliamentarian in the House of Representatives from 2003 to 2015, representing her people in Ikorodu Federal Constituency, where she played an active and impactful role in all the national assignments she was given.
Her trademark diligence and dynamism were further brought to bear when she was appointed as the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Diaspora Affairs from 2016 to 2019. This office later metamorphosed into the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) where she is currently serving as the pioneer Chairman/Chief Executive Officer and where she has continued to play her role diligently, effectively and inspirational.
On March 24, 2022, the authorities of Lagos State University bestowed on her a Honorary Doctorate Degree during its 25th Convocation ceremony, an award that award changed her nomenclature to Dr. Abike Dabiri-Erewa. It was one honour too distinctive so truly well-deserved and so uncommonly well-appreciated.
For those who have been following the selfless, proactive, exemplarily motivational life of Dr Abike Dabiri-Erewa, would have seen that it has been rewarded and appreciated with too many awards, honours and recognition of excellence which are, in fact, too numerous to list.
Of all of the awards she has been honoured with over the years, undoubtedly, this latest one, OON, inspires a high sense of fulfillment and elation that comes to one when one’s nation honours a person. This is what Dr Abike Dabiri-Erewa must have felt when she got the surprise nomination letter on October 8, 2022. Of all the awards, honours and recognitions since she has received from 2003 till date, none has changed her status and her nomenclature more profoundly than this latest one; hence, its uniqueness.
An admirer of Abike Dabiri-Erewa said this of the harvest of awards and honours: “It is indeed an honour well-deserved. She has come a long way. She has paid her dues. She has breasted the inclement weather of the media profession, especially in this clime. I still remember her days with NTA. Confident reporter. She made reporting look easy. Congratulations sister. Barakalah fihi.”
Even more remarkably, in his congratulatory message, President Buhari believes Dabiri-Erewa’s sincerity of purpose, meticulous handling of sensitive issues, and capacity to share her vision and others along easily pedestal her for leadership positions, extolling her skillful handling of the Diaspora family and building a mutually beneficial relationship with the government and citizens at home.
CAMEROON: LAND OF LEGENDARY HOSPITALITY
A European visitor once described Cameroon and its marvels as a place where God might have chosen as His own abode to dwell. Others have described the country simply as “Africa in miniature.”
There’s no gainsaying that anything that can be found in any part of Africa can also be found in Cameroon. These bountiful resources and beautiful geographical features of Cameroon are found in its four geographical zones: the beautiful savanna grass fields, through the three Northern Sahel regions, down to the coastal or littoral regions, and back to the Fang-Beti centre/south regions.
This blend brings out the beauty—not only in the country’s geography but, more importantly, in the hospitable nature of the people.
A Cameroonian from the Centre/South may disagree with his brother from the Western Savanna plateau or regions of the West and North West regions. Yet, both cannot afford to disagree with a visitor from a different country or continent.
This is because of the rich cultural and linguistic diversity of the people who inhabit the geographical expression referred to as Cameroon. It couldn’t have been different, given the rich gastronomic delights from the various geographical spheres of the country.
In Chinua Achebe’s book, The Trouble with Nigeria, the renowned African writer argues that the trouble with Nigeria is not about the climate, given that Nigeria has two seasons─the rainy and the dry seasons. The trouble is not about geography, as Nigeria has good topography. It’s not with the people either, as Nigeria has nice and welcoming people. He argues that the trouble with Nigeria is about the leadership not living up to the demands and dictates of its job. The same could be said with the rectitude of Cameroon.
The beauty in Cameroon, and by extension, Africa, is the exceptional welcoming nature of the majority of its local population. This is not only towards Europeans, Chinese and Americans but, more importantly, towards fellow Africans.
Unlike citizens in Maghrebian countries that would have to remind you each time you are visiting any of the northern African countries that “we are brothers,” Cameroonians, in their legendary hospitality, show it in deeds, not just in words.
One of the things that also make Cameroon stand out from others is its rich and diverse hospitality industry. From mouth-watering dishes from the beautiful sandy beaches and eco-friendly forests to the Sahel-Savannah carpet grass fields, hospitality does not come in short supply.
To try to capture Cameroon’s legendary hospitality in one write-up would be to behave like the house owner who thought he could market the beauty of his house by carrying around a bloc specimen rather than just presenting the whole edifice.
So, if you want to feel the hospitality of Cameroon, take Cameroon as your next touristic destination.
See you soon!
GRILLED FISH: A REASON TO VISIT CAMEROON
It is almost impossible to visit Cameroon’s coastal cities, like Kribi, Limbe, and Douala, without making a stop at a grilled fish spot. Each time a visiting tourist or expatriate is asked to recount memorable stories about their stay in the Cameroon, grilled fish is one of their most talked-about delicacies.
This delicious street food can be enjoyed with roasted or fried plantain, fried Irish potato, miondo, bobolo, boiled cassava, or even on alone. Interestingly, grilled fish is low in calories—thus, very suitable for a healthy meal.
The roasting of seafood for commercial purposes has gained considerable ground with time. The activity grew widely and gained more exposure with the influx of visitors into the country during the 33rd edition of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON).
Hundreds of fans from different countries, including Nigeria, who visited Limbe and Douala, employed the services of local grilled fish makers. Fans could be spotted at joints with a plate of beautifully-spiced grilled fish, accompanied by Cameroon’s spicy sauce.
On the shores of Down Beach in the Fako Division of the South West Region is a modest spot called “Bucareaux,” which has become popular owing to its supply of tasty grilled fish and other seafood.
Fish prices at Bucareaux range from 2500frs to 25,000frs, depending on the size and species, and it’s usually overcrowded during the weekend. Tilapia, crabs, lobsters, and shrimp are the most patronized seafood.
Bucareaux also has a pan-African setting, given that many arts and crafts dealers sell their artifacts around the spot. This distinguishes Bucareaux from Rue de la Joie, the legendary neighborhood of Deido Douala, where grilled fish—Poisson braissée, as it is called in French—is sold on a large scale.
Rue De La Joie is known across Cameroon and beyond for its merry traits. It is usually crowded with customers who go there to eat, drink and have fun. Life always seems to be going on happily there. Indeed, it is “the street of joy,” as it is popularly called.
Daily, as the sun sets, vendors prepare charcoal ovens, set to grill different species of fish to their customers’ delight. Music from the snack bars calls customers’ attention.
For the purpose of this write-up, our team visited a local joint called Avenida Fish at the East Entrance of Rue de La Joie, intending to know the secret behind the enticing taste of grilled fish, which has left many returning for more.
We spoke with 23-year-old Mbah Princewill, who manages the place. He assured us that the first secret lies in the deliciousness of the pepper sauce and the freshness of the fish. Mbah’s pepper sauce is prepared with a composition of local Cameroonian spices.
“This delicious and spicy roasted fish recipe is a typical Cameroonian Style. It has got a very flavorful and delicious taste. Cameroonian Roasted fish has many variations, and we try to make it as tasty as possible. We have many quality tropical African ingredients for our Cameroonian roasted fish,” Mbah explained.
The fish sold at Avenida and other joints around Rue de la Joie are gotten directly from local fishermen. Mbah is responsible for selecting the fish and giving directions for their different prices. Some are stored in a 360cm deep freezer to minimize shortages and keep them fresh.
Once a customer places an order, the fish is cleaned, seasoned, and grilled. The grilling process also depends on the quality of fish. Mbah and his team put in the necessary expertise to ensure their clients enjoy their orders while maintaining a friendly relationship with them. This relationship, he says, is important for the business.
Aside from being the economic hub of Cameroon, Douala is also a metropolitan city where business-friendly potentials attract thousands of business people year-round.
It is not unlikely to see business partners striking deals over a bottle of beer and a plate of grilled fish at famous spots such as the Naval base, the Marina Complex in Youpwe, and Petit terrain in Bonamoussadi, amongst others.
The scenario in Douala is not different from that of the seaside town of Kribi in the South region.
Kribi Beach, also known as the Cameroon Riviera, is the best beach in Cameroon. It is located on the Gulf of Guinea shore, in Kribi, 150 km South-West of the capital city Douala. The spacious beach is covered with gray sand and surrounded by a tropical forest
The beach is perfect for swimming, sunbathing, walking in the tropical forest, riding in a canoe, playing beach volleyball and football, diving, and other kinds of water sports
Recreation on Kribi Beach is a perfect opportunity for tourists to get to know the Baka people, enjoy grilled barbecue fish on the beach in Copacabana, and take beautiful photos with the sea as background.
Among the attractions at Kribi Beach are the Kribi lighthouse, the Lobe waterfall flowing directly into the Atlantic Ocean, and the Campo Faunal nature reserve.
Moreso, it’s worth visiting Ebodjé to watch sea turtles, see the Nkolandom caves, and the village of pygmies.
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