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Monday, July 22, 2024

Nigerian newspapers headlines Saturday morning

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Ghana to review $1m levy on Nigerian traders [Nation]

GHANA may have soft-pedaled on the imposition of $1million capital base for foreigners, including Nigerians, doing business in that country.

The change of heart came at a peace meeting in Accra between President Nana Akufo-Addo and Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila of the House of Representatives.

At the meeting was the Speaker of Ghanaian Parliament, Mike Oquaye, who led Gbajabiamila to Akufo-Addo.

Oquaye and Gbajabiamila had earlier met on the issue with both sides agreeing on a review of the contentious policy.

Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Benjamin Kalu, who confirmed the development in a statement on Friday quoted Akufo-Addo as saying: “I think the way forward, which is really what matters in situations like this, that is being suggested, one that I find very acceptable, the idea of legislation, a Nigeria-Ghana Business Council that will superintendent trade matters and investment matters between our two countries maybe long overdue.

“The time has come for us to take these worthwhile steps. I suggested to Mr President (Buhari) that it will be a good idea to set up a joint ministerial committee of ministers from both sides who will be responsible for shepherding Ghana and Nigeria issues, reporting to both presidents at any one time, and that is how they should be resolved.

“I am hoping when I see him on Monday for the ECOWAS Summit, we can advance these discussions and come to a final conclusion.

“The way you yourselves have come about this matter is very satisfactory and it requires our support.

“The review that you are asking for, why not? If it works in our mutual perspectives, we can take it for granted that your request will be taken seriously. We will have a look at it. So, the request for the review makes a lot of sense.”

Gbajabiamila, at the meeting with Akufo-Addo, said: “We have appealed to the (Ghanaian) Parliament that if it is possible at all, to look again at the issues, as far as the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre Act is concerned, they should please do so. If it is not possible, then let us look at ways the pain can be reduced, like those expectations required in the law.

“We have proffered a few suggestions one of which is the establishment of Ghana-Nigeria Business Council backed by legislation on both sides.”

 

$9.6b judgment: UK court spots $700,000 bribes in P&ID contract [Nation]

  • Grants Nigeria extension to challenge fine
  • Ex-minister, directors collected N301m from firm
  • Malami admitted EFCC did excellent investigation
  • AGF: Judgment victory aganst vulture-fund-backed company
  • Presidency hails ‘right, just vierdict’

A United Kingdom Commercial Court said on Friday there was evidence of $700,000 (N301 million) bribe in the purported Gas Supply and Processing Agreement between the Federal Government and the Irish firm, Process and Industrial Developments (P & ID).

The court granted the federal government more time to appeal against the $9.6 billion arbitral award delivered in favour of P&ID over the controversial agreement.

In granting Nigeria’s prayer, Justice Ross Cranston of the Business and Property Courts of England and Wales declared: “Nigeria’s case in brief is that it has established a prima facie case of fraud against P&ID, which justifies the extension of time and will give it the opportunity to establish at trial its full ramifications for the arbitration.”

Nigeria had requested an extension of the time to appeal against the award after missing the initial 28 days deadline.

The Presidency on Friday hailed the ruling as right and just while Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), called it a victory against “vulture-fund-backed P&ID.”

The Irish firm had sought the amount as compensation for a project it claimed it invested about $40 million in.

The agreement was negotiated between 2010 and 2012.

Justice Ross Cranston also took notice of the fact that Malami and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) did an excellent job in investigating P&ID.

The minister had criticised the suspended Acting Chairman of the agency, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, for alleged poor handling of the probe of P&ID, and it was one of the reasons Magu was suspended and subsequently investigated.

In the judgment made available to THE NATION, Sir Ross Cranston identified those involved in the bribery scandal as a former minister, some top officials of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, a legal director with the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and two members of the Technical Committee which recommended the agreement with P$ID.

Although the names of Nigerians linked with the bribe scandal were listed in the judgment, some of them are still standing trial.

A former top official of NNPC admitted receipt of $100,000 for his expenses while a female director confirmed a favour of $100,000.

Others include a member of the Technical Committee (periodic cash deposits totaling US$69,300 until 2015); a former female director (US$10,400, US$6,500 and N4m); a former female Legal Adviser ($21,000); another member of the Technical Committee (£30,000, N3.440m (approximately £15,310) N4, 350m and N4m (approximately £13,375).

The judge said: “There was the spike in cash withdrawals from ICIL’s bank account around the time the GSPA was signed in 2010, totaling US$770,000 and NGN 15,000,000 (approximately £122,000).

“Mr. Nolan’s explanation for this in his statement did not bear scrutiny; there was expert evidence that quite apart from money-lending considerations, the oil and gas sector did not operate in the informal sector.

“Mr. Howard’s case was that it could be inferred, against the background of strong evidence of bribery and corruption by P&ID, that this cash was used to pay bribes to Nigerian officials…

“Mr. Mill’s response to this was that following the entry into the GSPA, in the two years until the commencement of the arbitration, P&ID was pressing the government to implement its side of the bargain in forums which made it highly unlikely that all the participants were a party to the alleged fraud.

“For the reasons already given, Nigeria has to my mind a strong prima facie case in fraud in its serious irregularity challenge.

“On closer investigation, this is not the type of case Butcher J rightly warned about in his judgment ordering the present hearing, where a party who has been unsuccessful in the arbitration alleges fraud in relation to the procurement of the underlying contract or in relation to the conduct of the arbitration, when that was not properly investigated at the time of the arbitration: The Federal Republic of Nigeria v Process & Industrial Developments Limited [2020] EWHC 129 (Comm), [31].

“With that as background, I find persuasive Mr. Howard’s submission that the fairness factor does have an impact in challenges where there is strong prima facie evidence of fraud, certainly of the through-going character alleged in this case.

“Not only is the integrity of the arbitration system threatened, but that of the court as well, since to enforce an award in such circumstances would implicate it in the fraudulent scheme.

“The delay in this case is extraordinary and weighs heavily on the side of the balance against an extension. In my view, however, other factors bring it down in favour of an extension.”

The judge insisted that Nigeria had acted reasonably in asking for extension of time to make its case against P&ID.

He also declined imposition of sanctions on Nigeria as argued by P&ID’s counsel.

He added: “As I have explained, the delay is not in my view the result of a deliberate decision made because of some perceived advantage, and in all the circumstances, Nigeria has acted reasonably.

“Given the strong prima facie case of fraud which I have concluded Nigeria has established, the position is along the lines of that identified in Terna, where Popplewell J identified the substantial injustice an applicant would suffer in respect of the underlying dispute if deprived of the opportunity of making a challenge should an extension of time be refused: Terna Bahrain Holding Company WLL v Bin Kamil Al Shamsi [2012] EWHC 3283 (Comm), [2013] 1 Lloyd’s Rep 86, [33].

“For the reasons I have given, P&ID has contributed to the delay, and it will not by reason of the delay suffer irremediable prejudice in addition to the mere loss of time if the application is permitted to proceed. Although not a primary factor, fairness in the broadest sense favours an extension in this case.

“For the reasons given, I grant Nigeria’s applications for an extension of time and relief from sanctions.

On alleged bungling of investigation of P&ID by the suspended Acting Chairman of EFCC, the judge said AGF Malami admitted in his statement that “despite his criticisms of Magu’s personal handling of the EFCC investigations into P&ID, the investigation itself made excellent progress.”

He said: “After the hearing, I received written submissions relating to the role of acting chairman of EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu. On 5 June 2020, the Attorney General, Mr. Malami, had sent a letter to President Buhari headed “Flagrant abuse of public office and other infractions committed by Mr. Ibrahim Magu, acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

“In the course of the letter the Attorney General stated that as regards the investigation of P&ID, although he had passed on the President’s direction in June 2018, the EFCC ‘did not accord this presidential directive with any serious attention until a year after around July/August when the scale had already tilted dangerously against Nigeria.’

“In view of the delay, the Attorney General continued, he had involved the police. That had prompted Mr. Magu to prosecute charges against P&ID, but without recourse to the wider team.

“Mr. Magu was detained on 6 July, 2020 and a panel is investigating matters. On 31 July, 2020, after the hearing before me, a Nigerian news outlet, The Cable, published what purported to be a copy of the Attorney General’s letter of 5 June 2020 and the reply of Mr. Magu. In Mr. Magu’s reply, he says that the EFCC investigation was conducted expeditiously in 2018-2019, and that a staggering and unprecedented volume of work was done in less than a year.

“After The Cable report, on 4 August, 2020, the Attorney General wrote again to the President under the same heading. He sought to clarify that his complaint was against Mr. Magu and his lack of support within the EFCC for the P&ID investigation.

“The EFCC had begun the investigation, he said, but it had taken a lot of coercion from his office to have the investigation progress. Under Mr. Magu, said the letter, the EFCC did not share information with the Attorney-General’s office or the police.

“In a further statement for the court, Mr. Malami states that he has never seen what is reported as Mr. Magu’s letter and his understanding is that the President has never received it. He states that despite his criticisms of Mr. Magu’s personal handling of the EFCC investigations into P&ID, the investigation itself made excellent progress.”

Presidency hails ‘right, just judgment’

The Presidency yesterday described the judgment as right and just.

Reacting to the judgment in a statement issued by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, the Presidency said the ruling had clearly shown that earlier $10 billion judgment debt was an attempt to defraud Nigeria.

His words: “The Presidency welcomes the judgment by the UK Court granting Nigeria’s application for an extension of time and relief from sanctions in a $10 billion arbitration case with Process and Industrious Development Limited (P&ID) in Nigeria.

“In our view, the judgment is right, just and provides a strong prima facie case that the fraudulent gas deal with P&ID and the subsequent judgment debt of $10 billion against Nigeria was a clear attempt to cheat the country of billions of dollars by a company that had not invested one Naira in our country.”

The Presidency drew attention to  the following quotes by the judge: ”Nigeria has established a strong prima facie case that the Gas Supply and Processing (GSPA) was procured by bribes paid to insiders as part of a larger scheme to defraud Nigeria.

“There is also a strong prima facie case that that (P&ID) main witness in the arbitration, Mr Quinn, gave a perjured evidence to the Tribunal, and that contrary to that evidence, P&ID was not in the position to perform the contract.”

The Presidency, however, expressed delight with the processes that led to the outcome in the English Court, noting that it has given relief to the Nigerian government to further protect Nigeria’s national assets from criminally-minded organisations and individuals.

“The views of the UK court thus provide sufficient grounds for the Federal Government to go ahead and challenge the frauds perpetrated by the company and overturn the arbitration award.

“President Muhammadu Buhari therefore commends the team of lawyers who represented Nigeria in the matter with P&ID, and reassures all well-meaning Nigerians and the international community of his unwavering commitment to fight corruption in all its forms and manifestation.”

It’s an ‘unprecedented judgment’, says Malami

In a statement last night, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami said the judgment was a victory against the vulture-fund-backed P&ID.

The AGF commented on the judgment through a statement by his Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations, Dr. Umar Jibrilu Gwandu.

He said the Court has allowed the Federal Republic of Nigeria (FRN) to bring this challenge well outside the normal time limits, due to the exceptional circumstances where the FRN has uncovered evidence of a massive fraud in procuring the award.

“The Court heard evidence from the FRN and the offshore shell company P&ID in relation to the gas supply and processing agreement (GSPA), which the parties entered into 10 years ago and which was never performed.

“The Buhari Administration, having inherited this dispute from the previous administration, only recently uncovered evidence that the GSPA was a sham commercial deal designed to fail from the start, and that its subsequent arbitral award was based on fraud and corruption.

“The FRN relied on a number of ongoing investigations across multiple jurisdictions, including the US, to build its case. During the hearing, new evidence was presented to further support Nigeria’s challenge.

“The FRN will now proceed to a full trial of the issues, where the FRN’s substantive application to finally set aside the award will be heard, thereby recording a major success considering the fact that the Federal Government exceptional circumstances application to have its challenge taken well outside the normal time limits is upheld on account of uncovered evidence of massive fraud in procuring the award.

“The Federal Republic of Nigeria is pleased with the outcome from the High Court hearing today. This is a major victory in our ongoing fight against the vulture-fund-backed P&ID, to overturn the injustice of the multi-billion dollar arbitral award.

“In the light of the new and substantive evidence presented regarding P&ID’s fraudulent and corrupt activities, the Court has granted our application for an extension of time to hear our challenge out of normal time limits.

“The Federal Government will now proceed to a full hearing of our fraud challenge in the coming months. Investigations into the GSPA are ongoing, and we are firmly committed to overturning the award – no matter how long it takes – to ensure that this money goes towards Nigeria’s future, not into the pockets of millionaires trying to exploit our country.”

 

Doctors begin nationwide strike on Monday [Nation]

RESIDENT doctors across the country are set to commence an indefinite strike beginning on Monday, 7th of September 2020, as the government has failed to fulfil its sundry promises pertaining to the overall welfare of healthcare workers in the country.

Apart from citing the non-payment of the outstanding salary shortfall of 2014, 2015, 2016, the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) said the government was insincere in its promise concerning the revised hazard allowance for all health workers, which was supposed to commence in September 2020.

The President of NARD, Dr. Aliyu Sokomba, made this known in a statement on Friday in Abuja.

He said, “The National Executive Council meeting of the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) held virtually on the 2nd of September 2020, to review the 21-day ultimatum issued to government which elapsed 17th of August 2020, observed the insincerity of the government in determining the revised hazard allowance for all health workers, which was supposed to commence in September 2020.

“NEC noted that in spite of the inclusion, the residency funding in the revised 2020 budget, the government has not made a plan to implement the payment despite several promises by several stakeholders.

“NEC noted the failure of the Federal Government to procure group life insurance and death in service benefits for all health workers.

He added, “NEC resolved to proceed on an indefinite nationwide strike action from Monday 7th of September 2020 by 8am until the following conditions are met: Provision of genuine group life insurance and death in service benefits for all health workers; Immediate payment of the Medial Residency Training funding to all her members as approved in the revised 2020 budget, among others.

“Payment of the outstanding April/May and June COVlD-19 inducement allowance to all health workers; Determination of the revised hazard allowance for all health workers as agreed in previous meetings with relevant stakeholders; Immediate payment of the salary shortfalls of 2014, 2015 and 2016.

“Doctors working under the various tertiary health institutions to be placed on appropriate salary grade level and universal implementation of the Medical Residency Training Act of 2017 in all State tertiary health institutions.

“Payment of all arrears owed our members in federal and state tertiary health institutions, arising from the consequential adjustment of the National Minimum Wage.”

 

TUC, 79 others plan protests, strike over fuel price, electricity tariff hikes [Punch]

The Trade Union Congress and 79 other civil society organisations and labour unions under the aegis of the Alliance on Surviving COVID-19 and Beyond codenamed ASCAB, are set to hold nationwide protests and strike action next week over the increment of the fuel price and electricity tariff.

It was learnt that the Nigeria Labour Congress, which is part of ASCAB, was still holding a meeting as of Friday evening to determine its next line of action.

Apart from NLC and TUC, some other affiliate members of ASCAB include: United Action for Democracy, Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre, Journalists for Democratic Rights, Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, Amalgamated Union of Public Corporation, Civil Services Technical and Recreational Services Employees, Civil Liberties Organisation (Bayelsa), and COPEAIDS Foundation, Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, among many others.

Confirming the development to one of our correspondents on the telephone on Friday, Human Rights Lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), said it was evil of the government to increase the prices of essential commodities during a pandemic.

He said while other countries were making life easier for their citizens through tax cuts and palliatives, the Nigerian government was doing the exact opposite.

The activist said, “There is going to be a general strike and protest. We will fix a date after a meeting this evening. ASCAB is meeting today (Friday) with TUC leadership and about 79 others have indicated that they will take part in the national day of action against these anti-people developments. It will be next week but the date has not been picked yet.

“Other nations are giving cash to their citizens, cancelling rents but Nigeria is imposing taxes and all other levies on its citizens. We will fight against it.”

Falana said the Pipelines and Product Marketing Company, which announced the fuel price increase, had no power to do so.

He also faulted claims by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, that there was nothing the government could do to intervene in the new petrol price

The senior advocate said Section 6 of the Petroleum Act gives the Minister of Petroleum the powers to determine the price of petroleum products and this had been affirmed by the courts.

Falana said, “The PPMC has no powers under the law to fix fuel price. Section 6 of the Petroleum Act makes it clear that it is the minister that can determine the price of petroleum products and the courts have affirmed this.”

Meanwhile, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria says the recent hike in fuel price was not caused by the global price of crude oil but a deliberate devaluation of the naira by the Federal Government.

The President of PENGASSAN, Festus Osifo, said this on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily programme which was monitored by one of our correspondents on Friday.

Sylva had stated that the recent rise in fuel price was caused by the increase in global crude oil prices.

However, the PENGASSAN President said the recent hikes were caused by the Federal Government.

He said, “What are the drivers of the pump price? The driver of the pump price is the currency exchange. What has necessitated this today is not actually because of the fact that the product pricing is increasing internationally. The crude oil price relatively in the last six months has been hovering between $40 and $45 per barrel.

“But what has necessitated this is actually the devaluation. Today, we observe that in the last three months, we have had a 25 per cent devaluation of our currency. The government did it deliberately to have more money.

“They now have more money having done the devaluation and are now passing the burden to us because petroleum is not refined in Nigeria but abroad and everything is priced in dollars. The cost of crude oil, labour cost and all other costs that go into it are priced in dollars.

“So, by the time you bring it to Nigeria and ask us to pay in naira which has been devalued, by the time you factor in the 25 per cent devaluation of the naira, you will have to pay more.”

The PENGASSAN boss further stated that the landing cost which had increased was solely determined by the Federal Government and was paid in naira; hence it ought not to have been reviewed upwards.

“For us, this is not the best time. If as a government you have devalued your currency and you are making 25 per cent excess on top of your currency, which is fine, (then) you have more money to pay workers and meet your naira need, it is fine.

“But again, you are telling us that the landing cost has increased in naira. Not necessarily in dollars, and you are also passing that unto the majority of the Nigerian citizens; I think this is double jeopardy and all stakeholders need to engage with the government,” Osifo said.

Jonathan’s subsidy removal better than Buhari’s – PENGASSAN

The PENGASSAN president said the fuel price hike executed by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), was worse than that of former President Goodluck Jonathan.

Jonathan had in January 2012 removed fuel subsidy which caused nationwide protests, especially in Lagos where thousands of people took to the streets to express their displeasure.

Responding to a question on Friday, however, the PENGASSAN President said removing the subsidy in 2012 was actually a better decision because it would have had less effect on the people.

He said increasing fuel price in 2020 in the middle of the global COVID-19 pandemic and a worsening economy would exacerbate the suffering of Nigerians.

Osifo said, “I think the timing today is even more problematic compared to 2012 because we are battling a pandemic. I can tell you that for a lot of households, their income has diminished; a lot of businesses have been shut down since March.

“I can tell you that today, Nigerians are facing hardship. I believe that 2012 was a bit better than it is today because the pandemic has ravaged the average household in Nigeria. You have seen the recent figures from the National Bureau of Statistics. We are actually in negative Gross Domestic Product. By the next quarter, we could be in recession. This is not the right time to have done this.”

Osun rights’ group gives FG five-day ultimatum to reverse increment

Members of Coalition for Civil Societies in Osun State on Friday stormed streets in protest against the hike in electricity tariff and pump price.

They subsequently gave a five-day ultimatum to the Federal Government to reverse the increment or face mass street protests.

The protest, which started from Freedom Park, Osogbo around 8:30am, moved to Oke Fia area, and later terminated at Olaiya Junction, where the conveners spoke with journalists.

Members of the civil society groups, leadership of students’ movements in South-West, and some members of the opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party, were joined by some artisans in the protest that lasted some hours.

As the protesters, accompanied by the men of the Department of State Services in mufti and policemen, moved through major streets in Osun State capital, traffic flow was disrupted, leading to gridlock.

The participants, who carried placards with the inscriptions such as “Buhari, enough is enough,” “PMB, people are hungry,” chanted anti-government slogans as they moved from street to street.

Speaking with Saturday PUNCH during the protest, one of the conveners, Waheed Saka, said Nigerians were experiencing untold hardship under the current regime.

He said, “We are here because Nigerians are angry. Buhari has betrayed the trust of Nigerians. We are here because Buhari has failed Nigerians.

“His decision is putting more pressure on the already pauperised Nigerians. We say no to increase in electricity tariff, we say no to incessant increase in pump price. We say no to the illegal Water Resources Bill that is before the National Assembly.”

Also speaking during the protest, Olatunji Ishola, the Public Relations Officer of the National Association of Nigerian Students, South West Zone, said the students rejected the hike in electricity tariff and pump price.

10 #RevolutionNow members arrested in Osun

Ten members of #RevolutionNow Movement were on Friday reportedly arrested in Iree, Osun State for distributing awareness fliers in the community.

One of those arrested, Omolola Pedro, gave the names of others as Owoeye Olaoluwa, Osungbaro Adeoti, Oguntola Sunday, Abraham Omowunmi, Akande Michael, Sunmbade Tunde, Akinbobola Jumoke Vivian, Luke Tega and Emmanuel Samuel.

Omolola also accused the police of brutalising one of those arrested, saying they were apprehended around 2:00pm in Iree but were later moved to the State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department at Osun State Command headquarters, Osogbo.

According to her, the group of ten member of #RevolutionNow Movement was in the town to sensitise the people to the need to speak against some policies of government.

Omolola said, “We addressed people in the market, telling them they needed to speak up against misgovernance. We also distributed fliers.”

“Divisional Police Officer, Iree Division ordered our arrest and we were later moved to Osogbo where we were made to write statements at SCIID. Two of our members were assaulted for not wearing face masks but we were later released on bail  around 7:00pm.

“Three people stood sureties for us. Olawale Bakare, Agbogunlori Michael, who is NANS Chairman, Osun Axis, and Akinyemi Morakinyo were our sureties. Our lawyer, Mr. Alfred Adegoke, later secured our release on bail. We were told to come back next Tuesday. Our banner was confiscated.”

Also confirming the development, Adegoke said all the 10 persons arrested had been released.

When contacted, Police Public Relations Officer for Osun Command, Yemisi Opalola, said she had not be briefed.

Don’t take Nigerians for granted, northern groups warn Buhari

The Coalition of Northern Groups has warned Buhari against taking Nigerians for granted following the government’s announcement of the recent hikes in electricity tariff and fuel price.

The CNGs demanded the immediate and unconditional reversal of the multiple increments or risk mass resistance.

The group said it was in touch with other regional groups such as Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, and PANDEF to ground activities in the country.

They described the government’s action as insensitive and unjustifiable in the face of sundry challenges in the country, warning that its demand must not be taken lightly.

They called on Nigerians to brace for mass resistance against the Buhari-led government, saying that Buhari had yet to learn lessons after being booted out as head of state for something similar in 1985 by the military.

The mass resistance, the group said, was the first phase of its planned protest against the Buhari- led government. The second phase, according to the CNGs, was to force Buhari to resign from office.

These were the positions of the northern group at a press conference in Kaduna on Friday.

CNG’s spokesperson, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, anchored the press conference titled: ‘Our stand on the rise on cost of essential services and survival in Nigeria’.

While directing all its branches across the region to brace in case the government failed to heed their calls, Suleiman said the hikes in electricity tariff and pump price of fuel were a recipe for anarchy.

“We have reached out to all segments of society. We have liaised with Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, PANDEF, except the Indigenous People of Biafra for necessary action,” he said.

Suleiman added, “Despite the administration’s claims of fighting a war against corruption, the entrenchment of mediocrity has left the country worse than it was five years ago in the global corruption perception index.

“The present administration had been tolerated for too long even with its level of impunity in the dispatch of goods and services which gravely endanger the peace, unity and development of the country.”

Meanwhile, Benue State Chairman of the NLC, Godwin Anya, who condemned the hikes in both fuel pump price and electricity tariff, said that the present administration was inflicting pains on the masses.

He said, “The hikes in electricity tariff and fuel pump price are to make the masses suffer; this government has consistently inflicted pains on the ordinary citizens.”

NURTW, NGO condemn fuel, electricity tariff increments

The Executive Director, Community Outreach for Development and Welfare Advocacy, Mr Taiwo Otitolaye, has urged the Federal Government to reverse the current increment in the price of petrol and electricity.

Otitolaye said the hikes were condemnable, adding that the Federal Government was dancing to the dictate of the International Monetary Fund to deregulate the economy of Nigeria.

He said, “The price increase in fuel and electricity is meant to cause hardship for ordinary Nigerians who are already impoverished. The price increase will affect everyone including those in the rural areas.”

Kwara State Chairman of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, Alhaji Abdulrazaq Ariwoola, while condemning the increase in fuel price, said it would cause hardship for the people.

Ariwoola lamented that those in the transportation business had yet to get out of the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, before the government added “insult to injury of transport workers by increasing the pump price of fuel.”

He said that the government had previously assured the transport workers that it would reduce the fuel price, adding that the reverse is now the case.

“Government should immediately reverse the price of fuel if it does not want the transport workers to jerk up the transport fare. If the government insists on going with this policy, we in the transport business will have no alternative but to increase the transport fare for the passengers,” he said.”

 

Drama as Obaseki, Ize-Iyamu, others attend BBC debate [Punch]

There was a mild drama on Friday evening during a debate organised by BBC News Pidgin for candidates in the September 19 Edo State governorship election as Governor Godwin Obaseki excused himself from the debate just at the beginning.

Obaseki, who is seeking reelection on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, had featured briefly in the virtual debate but excused himself to attend another meeting.

The governor also asked the moderator to allow his deputy, Philip Shaibu, to continue the debate in his stead.

This development drew the ire of the All Progressives Congress candidate, Osagie Ize-Iyamu, who objected to the idea, insisting that he would not debate with Shaibu.

Obaseki said, “First, I wan’ thank una say una invite me come this programme, make we debate among ourselves, make we fit talk wetin we wan do for the people of Edo State.

“But make I first start by apologising. You see, as I dey now, I no dey Benin. I had to travel on emergency this evening come somewhere, and the meeting dey very important. But abi tell una, so my deputy dey on ground. E no get anything wey I dey do wey im no know.

“So, I say out of respect, make I first do this opening round, I will rush go the meeting, and hopefully my deputy go continue.”

Reacting, Ize-Iyamu said, “Abeg make I talk small for wetin Governor Obaseki talk. This debate na for governorship candidates, no be wetin den dey delegate. If he no go fit stay, he no go fit stay.

“But say he wan’ comot make im deputy go come dey follow us debate, I no get hand for that one. If he no get ready, make im no say he no wan’ debate with us.

“But if he wants to debate, he has to stay but me no go sit down with im deputy. If na deputy own, I go call my deputy make im come talk with im deputy. No be me and im deputy dey debate, na governorship debate.”

Obaseki later left Ize-Iyamu and the other candidates to continue. His deputy, Shaibu, did not also feature but the governor came back after about an hour, towards the end of the debate.

The two major candidates in the election had on Sunday shunned a governorship debate organisation by the Esan Development and Transformation Initiative which was moderated by the Senior Pastor of Trinity House, Ituah Ighodalo.

 

Police stop Kano man from committing suicide as Buhari’s daughter weds in Aso Rock [Punch]

Following the prompt intervention of the Kano State Police Command, a 22-year-old man, Abba Ahmed, who earlier threatened to commit suicide if Hanan, the daughter of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), did not marry him, has shelved the plan.

Briefing one of our correspondents on Friday at the command headquarters at Bompai, police spokesperson, DSP Abdullahi Haruna, said the police counselled Ahmed against the plan and he had rescinded the decision.

Haruna said, “We were able to invite Abba Ahmed to the police command. He was counselled by the Force PRO, DCP Frank Mba, as well as Kano CP, Habu Sani, and the command’s imam, SP Abdullkadir Haruna, via a virtual session, at the end of which he rescinded his earlier decision to hang himself. He regretted his comments that if he did not marry the President’s daughter, Hanan, he would hang himself.”

Ahmed was quoted by Haruna as saying, “I realised that my intention is not healthy. Henceforth, I will never again attempt to find myself in such a situation.”

Meanwhile, Hanan on Friday got married to Turad Sha’aban.

The ceremony, which was held inside the Presidential Villa, Abuja, was said to be “strictly private.”

The President’s wife, Aisha, took to her Instagram page, @aishambuhari, to thank God for the success of the ceremony.

Hanan is a graduate of Photography from Ravensbourne University, England while the groom, Sha’aban, is a Special Adviser to the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola.

He is the son of a former lawmaker, Mahmud Sani Sha’aban, who represented Zaria in the House of Representatives from 2003 to 2007.

 

Return fuel price to N121 or face Nigerians’ wrath, NLC warns FG [Sun]

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) yesterday called for the immediate reversal of litre price of Premium Motor Spirit popularly known as petrol to the old price of N121, failure which the Federal Government may incur the wrath of workers and other Nigerians.

The NLC President, Ayuba Wabba insisted that the new increase was unacceptable and will be challenged by the organised labour and other allies in the civil society soon. “We demand that the Federal Government reverts to the old price of N121 given during the lockdown associated with COVID-19 pandemic which Nigerians who were mainly confined in their houses hardly enjoyed,” he said.

He lamented that just as Nigerians are dealing with the recent hike in electricity tariff, the Federal Government on Wednesday released a new upwardly reviewed pricing band for the PMS, noting that this is the third increase in a space of about three months.

According to Wabba, the latest increase will be the last straw that would break the camel’s back.

He said, “As we have always maintained, the Nigeria Labour Congress will never accept the transfer of government incompetence on Nigerians through hike in the pump price of petrol. The incompetence of government in this regard is particularly manifest by the rundown of our public refineries and resort to the unscrupulous economics of fuel importation.

“At the risk of shouting ourselves hoarse, we reiterate that the increase in the pump price of  petrol is simply the cost of profits made by countries that have enough sense to maintain refineries that refine our crude oil, the cost of sea freight of refined petrol, the cost of demurrage at our seaports when the refined products arrive, the cost of frequent devaluation of our national currency, and the cost of official corruption by gatekeepers managing the downstream petroleum sub-sector. Nigerians have groaned to pay these unjust costs for years.”

He said Nigerians are shocked and bewildered at this latest increase, adding that it is disheartening that despite the gale of opposition by labour and Nigerians to the previous hike in the price of petrol, government went ahead to add scorpion to the scourges on the back of Nigerians.

He stated, “This is indeed a whole new level of government insincerity and insensitivity. This latest increase in the price of petrol is indeed a crass display of complete apathy to the sufferings Nigerians are going through at this time. “While other countries also going through the blues of the COVID-19 pandemic are reducing taxes, increasing welfare benefits and providing palliatives to their citizens, our own government is reducing interest rates on savings by the poor, increasing taxes and hiking tariffs on essential goods and services. Nigerians have never had it so bad.”

He reasoned that it is sad that while poor Nigerians are being pilloried by the government of the day with obscene fiscal burdens, those connected to the highest echelons of political power are daily amassing public wealth and rubbing their illicit loot on the faces of the people.

“Hobbesian state of living appears to be the perfect metaphor for the state of affair today in Nigeria,” he said.

He however said labour is renewing  call for a national conversation on the management of the country’s oil assets  which must be in tandem with the provisions of the constitution which clearly mandate that the commanding heights of the national economy must be held by the government in the interest of the citizens of Nigeria.

He added, “We also demanded that our four national petroleum refineries must be fixed without any further delay. Nigerian workers want to be appraised of the timeline set by government to ensure that this is effectively done.

“Nigeria belongs to all of us. Workers are major stakeholders in the Nigerian project. Nigerian workers and people must not only be treated fairly, but must be seen to have been so treated by their government.”

 

N712Billion looted by 3 amnesty coordinators –Presidential Panel [Sun]

■Indicts Kuku, Gen. Boroh, Prof Dokubo for alleged massive stealing

The presidential panel, which investigated alleged corruption in the amnesty programme for Niger Delta militants has turned in a damning report indicting three former coordinators of the federal government initiative for allegedly looting and misappropriating a whopping N712 billion allocated to rehabilitate and reintegrate members of the armed group into the society.

A copy of the report exclusively sighted by Saturday Sun accused three former coordinators of the presidential amnesty programme, PAP, namely; Kingsley Kuku, (January 2011 – May 2015); Gen. Paul Boroh (retd) (28 July 2015 – 13 March 2018); and Prof. Charles Dokubo (28 July 2015 – 13 March 2018) of massive looting and contract frauds, plunging the programme into a debt of over N73 billion. “Successive Coordinators have mismanaged funds of PAP and consequently deprived the beneficiaries of the programme the needed skill acquisition and training required for sustainable livelihood”, the report stated. In fact, in one instance, the report noted that Nine Million Dollars ($9million) cash was recovered from the residence of one of the former coordinators of PAP, Gen. Boroh.

According to the probe panel headed by the National Security Adviser, Gen. Babagana Monguno, despite the huge funds yearly allocated to PAP, “there are still a total number of 29,755 ex-militants who still rely on monthly stipends of N65,000.00 as means of livelihood. This suggests a failure of the programme to realise its set objectives and contradicts the claims by past Coordinators of the PAP that as at 2018 a total number of twenty-one thousand one hundred and seventy nine (21,179) ex-militants has graduated from Nigerian and foreign universities out of the thirty thousand (30,000) ex-militants captured in the original database during the disarmament phase.”

Coming to the specifics, the panel said “Contracts under PAP were issued without recourse to public procurement regulations and PAP financial position thereby leaving the programme in debt. For example, in 2018 alone, the suspended Coordinator Professor Charles Dokubo awarded a total of 774 contracts amounting to N66, 687, 570, 000.00. This is more than the annual budget of N65 billion for the office. Additionally, most of the contracts awarded add no value to the programme, rather it serves as an avenue to siphon public funds.”

In 2018 alone, the report said Professor Dokubo awarded the contracts worth over N66 billion “to businessmen, political cronies and friends thereby placing the programme in its current indebtedness of N73 billion. Most of the contractors collected 15% mobilsation fee and vanished with no evidence of performance.”

According to the report, Prof Dokubo “employed the services of a private company Menzon Limited to outsource human resources for PAP at an inflated sum of  N1billion per annum for about 250 staff employed by the company to work in the office. The Committee verification revealed that the staff actually working at the office are about 106. Hence, he receives kickbacks from the company for payment of 144 ghost workers.

“His carelessness and lack of foresight led to the looting of equipment and stores at Kaiama Vocation Center in February 2019. The looting took place in broad day light with goods worth N6 billion carted away. No investigation into the circumstances that led to the looting was conducted to a conclusion and the matter has been allowed to wither away. Thus, creating a cover for suspicious contracts that were never executed claiming goods were supplied to Kaiama Vocation Training Center. There are 58 of these types of contracts with a contract sum of N95 million each which could not be verified by the Committee.

“He also introduced names of individuals who are not part of the amnesty beneficiaries into the data base for sponsorship in foreign institution claiming he had discretionary powers. He awarded contract to a company CDN Limited for surveillance and information tracking in the Niger Delta for over N4 billion. These contractors were to employ 150 people to be paid N170,000.00 each to  allegedly provide covert information to the Coordinator. It is instructive to note that this project falls outside the mandate of PAP. In addition, most of the would-be beneficiaries of this project are not even from the Niger Delta region.”

Apart from the $9million cash recovered from the residence of Gen. Boroh, the panel report also notes that “The sum of N645 million was frozen from the account of Mr. Erepade Fidelis Beggi, who was an aide to General Boroh. However, Brig Gen Boroh and Mr. Beggi claimed that the money was meant to pay members of the Niger Delta Avengers. Mr. Beggi was said to have returned N40million found in a separate bank account.”

“Brig Gen Boroh and his aides allegedly replaced the names of actual beneficiaries of the Presidential Amnesty Programme with over 4000 ghost names through which he collected N260 million monthly since 2015. The Director of Finance and Accounts (DFA) of the Amnesty Office, Mr. Aliyu Kareem, frequently paid millions of naira into the accounts of selected contractors from which the contractors collect between 10 and 20 percent commission before returning the remaining to accounts operated by Amnesty Programme’s DFA and Brig Gen Paul Boroh”, the panel further submitted in its report to President Buhari.

On the tenure of Kingsley Kuku, the panel noted that he was “appointed as the second Coordinator of PAP by President Goodluck Jonathan and the longest serving Coordinator of the programme spanning over 4 years. He laid the foundation for pervasive corruption in PAP and absconded from the country following investigations instituted by EFCC into his corrupt tenure at PAP. He was charged to court for conspiracy, stealing, diversion of public funds and abuse of office by EFCC in June, 2015.  Mr Kuku was also charged of criminal conspiracy, false declaration of assets and fraudulent acquisition of property. Some of the ways he mismanaged funds allocated to the office are as follows.

“In 2012, Kingsley Kuku illegally expanded the amnesty programme to include children of political cronies and girlfriends as beneficiaries of the scholarship training programme meant for ex-militants. These individuals who are not part of the amnesty programme were fraudulently awarded scholarships to study in tertiary institutions abroad amounting to millions of dollars at the detriment of genuine beneficiaries of the programme.

“Under his tenure, the entire data base of the amnesty beneficiaries for payment of monthly stipends was altered and mismanaged. Hence about 3000 names of some legitimate beneficiaries of stipends were removed and replaced with fictitious names in connivance with banks. Hence, he illegally stole about One Hundred and Ninety-Five Million Naira (N195,000,000.00) monthly from monies meant for ex-militants for 4 years.

“Kingsley Kuku awarded contracts to Foundation for Ethnic Harmony in Nigeria (FEHN) an NGO belonging to Allen Onyema, CEO of Air Peace Airlines. FEHN was awarded contract to train a total of Three Hundred (300) delegates as pilots and aircraft maintenance technicians. These trainings were to be conducted in reputable flight training schools around the globe. Consequently, a total of One Billion, One Hundred and Seventeen Million, Five Hundred and Forty-Seven Thousand Two Hundred and Eighty Naira (N1,117,547,280.00) was paid to the contractor in December 2011 without observation of due process. However, as at 20 May 2020, only 112 delegates out of 300 delegates have been trained. Kuku has not accounted for the funds meant to train the rest of Eighty-Eight (88) pilots.

“Kingsley Kuku also awarded contract to an NGO, Foundation for Youth Development to provide Maritime, Electrical, Mechanical, Welding and ICI training for a total of 660 delegates of the Presidential Amnesty Programme in 2011. Subsequently, a total of Three Billion, Eight Hundred and Twelve Million, Six Hundred and Ninety Thousand Two Hundred Naira (N3,812,690,200.00) was paid to the contractor in December 2011 without observation of public procurement regulations. As at 20 May 2020, only Seventy Two (72) delegates out of 660 have been trained despite the amount and duration of payment.

“In February 2016, Mr Kingsley Kuku was alleged to have been involved in award of contract fraud of about N6.2 billion which led to investigations by the EFCC.

“Kingsley Kuku connived with Vice Chancellors of Igbinedion University, Novena University and University of Leads to increase tuition fees for amnesty beneficiaries in order to receive kickbacks. About 1456 beneficiaries in these universities pay almost double the normal tuition fees paid by ordinary students. These abnormalities have been extended to other local universities in order to receive kickbacks.”

Meanwhile, all efforts to speak with the indicted former public officials failed. Prof Dokubo did not answer calls to his mobile phone number but a source close to him said: “Dokubo was removed because of some administrative issues and not because of any financial infraction. I can tell you that while he was in office, some contractors put him under pressure to pay for some projects.

“He wasn’t removed because any money got lost in the Amnesty Programme. If that were the case, he would have been prosecuted by now. He didn’t loot or steal any money.”

On the alleged looting of public funds at the Amnesty Programme Office, another source countered that “All the money government has put into the programme from 2009, is it even up to N700 billion?”

Yet, another source, when asked about the whereabouts of Kuku, replied: “Kuku isn’t even in Nigeria. He left the country when this government came into power.”

 

Enugu killings: Police arrest wounded IPOB member, grandfather in hospital [Sun]

The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) has claimed that one of its members , Ofonaedu Okafor wounded during the recent Enugu clash with security agents was yesterday arrested alongside his grandfather at the University Teaching Hospital (UNTH) Enugu.

Media and Publicity Secretary of IPOB, Emma Powerful who disclosed this in a statement  in Owerri yesterday explained that Okafor was being treated for a bullet wound in the hospital before he was whisked away. Powerful, also alleged that the reason for his arrest was to waste him and add him to the number of casualties of the Enugu massacre.

According to him, “This situation report from Enugu is meant for the attention of the British High Commissioner in Abuja. It is to make them aware of what their favorite lapdogs in uniform are doing to innocent Biafrans that survived their terror attacks two Sundays ago in Enugu.

“The same terror mastermind, the same murderous Enugu Police Commissioner this morning went to the hospital  in Enugu where the injured are receiving treatment for the bullet wounds he inflicted upon them to abduct the young man.

“This callous terrorists in uniform also abducted the boy’s grandfather who was with him at the time the terrorists in uniform arrived. We understand this young victim of  police terrorism and his grandfather were taken away as part of Enugu Police Command’s evidence tampering and cleansing. They now want to finish the job to bring the number of murdered unarmed Biafrans to 23.”

“We know foreign supporters of state terrorism like the United Kingdom High Commissioner in Abuja will do nothing about this but I do hope they will note it because should anything happen to this young man Ofornedu Okafor, the consequences will be too disastrous to contemplate.”

Powerful however warned the police over the arrest of Okafor, maintaining that same brutality being applied on their members was the genesis of Boko Haram in the country.

“Let us not forget that it was the same mindless Nigerian Police brutality and savagery that gave birth to the Boko Haram we see today”, he stated.

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