Money trail traced to bank accounts belonging to Najib Razak, the Prime Minister of Malaysia is being investigated by Malaysian task force.
According to a Wall Street report, close to $700 million could have been transferred through banks, government agencies and companies which have a link to the Malaysian investment company before allegedly getting into Najib’s accounts.
On Saturday, the Attorney General of the federation said the task force got documents relating to the ostensible funds transfer while probing a state investment company, and will commerce investigation as soon as possible. The prime minister claimed its political sabotage by the opposition to slander his name, while his supporters have voiced their dissatisfaction at the way media is going about the situation.
The home minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said attempts made in undermining the government posed threats to the security of the nation, while the defense minister Hishammuddin Hussein said criticizing Najib is of no use as they have not yet established the truth.
On Saturday, authorities were called upon by Muhyiddin Yassim, the deputy Prime Minister to investigate the allegation made against Prime Minister, Najib. The special task force members comprising of the police, central bank and Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission raids the premises of three corporations that were linked to the transferred funds.
In a Facebook post, posted by Muhyiddin, “I am very concerned about the latest expose made by the Wall Street Journal, the allegation is a very serious one and could undermine the integrity and credibility of Najib as the head of government.” According to Muhyiddin, Najib needs to give a convincing denial or explanation so that the Malaysian people can continue to trust and support the government.
Calls to step down by Mahathir Mohamad, the former Premier has been met with resistance by Najib. The prime minister said he has mandate in governance and will remain being a leader as long as he continues receiving support from the citizens and Malaysia National Organization Party.
Due to these allegations, the approval rating of Najib fell from 48 % in October to 44 % in January, a survey conducted by the Merdeka Center for Opinion Research shows.
On Sunday, Najib told reporters that he is not a thief, neither is he a traitor and cannot betray the Malaysian government and its people through funds misappropriation.
The prime minister said the allegations made against him are not only wild, but also malicious and he will file a suit against the Wall Street Journal.
The scandal of the alleged embezzled funds is so far the biggest crisis facing Najib’s administration since 2009 when he came into power. His ability in implementing economic reforms like the new consumption tax and cuts in fuel subsidy may be threatened.
Scarcity of Day-Old-Chicks Cripple Poultry Farmers in Akwa Ibom
Despite billions of Naira spent on Akwa Prime Hatchery and Poultry Limited by the Executive Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Udom Emmanuel, poultry farmers in the state said they had to order day-old-chicks from outside the state as the 200,000 capacity poultry farm developed specifically to make day-old-chicks and other poultry products available at affordable prices is almost empty at the moment.
The farmers expressed frustration over many challenges they face in the course of bringing day-old-chicks from outside the state. Usually, Ibadan, Enugu and sometimes as far as Kaduna, while the hatchery built and inaugurated in 2016 remains idle.
Mr Ekot Akpan, one of the poultry farmers who spoke with the pressmen said the state had not had it this bad.
Akpan said: “For the 12 years that I have been in poultry farming, this is the first time that poultry farmers have been so harshly affected by both economic and non-economic factors. And, quite unfortunately, nobody is available to offer any explanation.
“Farmers have been left at the whims and caprice of owners of the means of production.
“There seems to be no government regulation of the poultry industry. How, do you explain a situation where you wake up suddenly and the price of a day old chick is selling for N600, a bag of feed goes as high as N6,000.
“And, in a state that government claims to be pursuing agriculture as one of his cardinal programmes.
“For instance, in 2016, the state government said it has constructed an hatchery, and the intention according the government was to ensure availability of day old chicks at affordable price to farmers, but, quite, unfortunately, that effort has not yielded any tangible result.
“Farmers are still getting their day old chicks from Ibadan, Kaduna, and Enugu. So, the question now is where is the hatchery?
“One would have expected that farmers would be buying old chicks at humane prices, but, from all indications they acclaimed hatchery is a ruse. So, which one is the Akwa Prime Hatchery producing,” he said.
CBN Predicts 2 Percent Growth for Nigeria in 2021
Despite the economic recession and numerous uncertainties encompassing Nigeria in recent months, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has said the nation will grow by 2 percent in 2021.
Speaking at the 2020 bankers’ dinner organised by the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN), Godwin Emefiele, the Governor, CBN, said implemented government intervention programmes will aid the nation’s recovery by next year.
Emefiele further stated that the intervention efforts represent around 3.5 percent of Nigeria’s current Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
He said, “Our actions in 2021 would be guided by the considerations that emerged from the Monetary Policy Committee meeting of November 23 & 24, 2020, which sought to address the major headwinds exerting downward pressure on output growth and upward pressure on domestic prices.”
On fast declining foreign reserves, the Governor said the institution has adopted a demand management framework designed to boost the production of items that can be produced locally and aid conservation of external reserves.
“Due to the unprecedented nature of the shock, we continued to favour a gradual liberalisation of the foreign exchange market in order to smoothen exchange rate volatility and mitigate the impact which rapid changes in the exchange rate could have on key macro-economic variables,” Emefiele stated.
The CBN projection came few weeks after the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS)’s report showed Africa’s largest economy contracted by 3.62 percent in the third quarter following a 6.10 percent decline posted in the second quarter. Nigeria officially slid into the worse economic recession in almost 30 years and the second economic recession under the current administration.
While, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, has projected that Nigeria would rebound from the recession in this final quarter or the very first quarter of 2021, falling revenue generation, rising capital flight amid weak demand due to the negative impact of coronavirus on earnings, household incomes and lack of jobs remain a concern.
COVID-19 Vaccine: Crude Oil Extends Gain to $48 Per Barrel on Wednesday
Oil prices rose further on Wednesday as hope for an effective COVID-19 vaccine and the news that the United States of America’s President-elect, Joe Biden has begun transition to the White House bolstered crude oil demand.
Brent crude oil, a Nigerian type of oil, gained 1.63 percent or 78 cents to $48.64 per barrel at 11:50 am Nigerian time on Wednesday.
The United States West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil rose by 1.36 percent or 61 cents to $45.52 per barrel.
OPEC Basket surged the most in terms of gain, adding 3.16 percent or $1.37 to $44.75 per barrel.
This was after AstraZeneca, Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech announced the positive results of their trials.
Moderna and Pfizer had claimed over 90 percent effective rate in trials while AstraZeneca said its COVID-19 vaccine was 70 percent effective in trials but could hit 90 percent going forward.
“The possibility of having a vaccine next year increases the odds that we’re going to see demand return in the new year,” said Phil Flynn, senior analyst at Price Futures Group in Chicago.
Also, the decision of President-elect Joe Biden to bring Janet Yellen, the former Chair of Federal Reserve, back as a Treasury Secretary of the United States is fueling demand and strong confidence across global financial markets.
“President-elect Biden’s cabinet choices, particularly Janet Yellen’s Treasury Secretary position, are adding to upside momentum across a broad space of asset classes,” said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates.
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