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Senate President Saraki Pocketed Billions Of Naira From Paris Loan Refund

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  • Senate President Saraki Pocketed Billions Of Naira From Paris Loan Refund

In one of the largest financial scandals in recent years, Nigeria’s 36 state governors and Senate President Bukola Saraki pocketed large slices of funds approved by the Federal Government to reimburse states for the excessive deductions charged to them on account of the Paris Club and other international loans.

SaharaReporters learned that the Governors’ Forum received a hefty sum of the funds. Our team of investigators discovered that some of the governors got as much as N400 million, while Mr. Saraki carted away N2.5 billion out of the first batch of payments made to the states.

Our investigation showed that the Nigerian Governors’ Forum decided to use phony consultants, who then illegally deducted five per cent of the funds paid to the states. Our team found that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) paid the consultants without informing the Accountant-General of the Federation. Once paid, the consultants forwarded a part of their payment to the individual accounts of the governors, with some governors individually receiving as much as N400 million. Former officials of the Federal Ministry of Finance registered and floated two of the companies, GSCL Limited and Biztrust Limited, that masqueraded as consultants.

One of the sources on the investigation disclosed that Mr. Saraki was paid N2.5 billion through a finance consultancy run by one Mr. Okey Mbonu, a former managing director of Society Generale Bank, a family bank the Sarakis robbed into bankruptcy, the bank later morphed into Heritage Bank. Documents exclusively obtained by SaharaReporters’ investigative team showed that the Nigerian Governors’ Forum received a total of N11,550billion from the sum of N231billion that the Federal Government directed to be paid to states last December.

Last week, agents of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) investigating the illegal payments and subsequent transfer to governors’ personal accounts arrested Ashishana Okauru, Director-General of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum. An EFCC source told our team that, during interrogation, Mr. Okauru admitted that money was funneled through the Nigerian Governors’ Forum to individual governors. He, however, refused to write a statement.

Two EFCC operatives said Mr. Okauru, a former Director of the Nigerian Finance Intelligence Unit (NFIU), an arm of the EFCC, was treated with great leniency and released. The sources also disclosed that Mr. Okauru’s former colleagues at the EFCC helped to keep news of his arrest secret.

The misappropriated funds arose after an accounting reconciliation indicating that the 36 states were overcharged for payments to the Paris Club. Late last year, all the state governments asked the Federal Government to repay what they were overcharged as external debt service payments between 1995 and 2002. The said funds were paid as first line charge deductions from states’ share of federal allocations. The debt service deductions were in respect of loans taken from the Paris Club, London Club as well as other multilateral loans obtained by the Federal Government and the states.

By the time Nigeria reached a final agreement for debt relief with the Paris Club in October 2005, some states had been overcharged. This led to a request by state governments for a refund of the amounts owed by the Federal Government. Based on the requests, President Muhammadu Buhari directed the Debt Management Office (DMO) to raise a team to scrutinize claims by state governments and reconcile them with available records.

For instance, Abia State submitted a claim of $95,437,810.59, Adamawa filed a claim of $92,255,322.54, while Akwa Ibom sought a refund of $255,713, 552.80. Anambra State asked for a refund of $92,374,232.23, Bauchi, $104,092,295.20, Bayelsa, $299,432,862.33, and Benue, $99,542,766.38. After the scrutiny of claims by the DMO, President Muhammadu Buhari approved payment of the sums of $23,859,452.65 (N7.2 billion) to Abia State, $23,063,830.64 (N7.034 billion) to Adamawa State, $63.928,388.20 (N19.4 billion) to Akwa Ibom, $23,093,558.06 (N7.043 billion) to Anambra State and $26,023,073.80 (N7.9 billion) to Bauchi State. Mr. Buhari also approved $24,885,691.60 (N7.6 billion) for Benue State and $74,858,215.58 (N22.8 billion) for Bayelsa.

The Federal Government and the states reached an agreement under which the Federal Government would immediately pay 25 percent of the amounts claimed by each state government. It was agreed that the balance due to each state would be revisited when the country’s financial conditions improve. However, SaharaReporters learnt that President Muhammad Buhari has approved the next tranche of payments to be delivered to the states in February.

In a statement, the Federal Ministry of Finance disclosed that President Buhari had urged the states to invest a minimum of 50 percent of the amount disbursed to them in people’s welfare, especially for the payment of salaries and pensions.

In order “to ensure compliance with the directive that a minimum of 50 percent of any amount disbursed is dedicated to this, funds will be credited to an auditable account from which payments to individual creditors will be made. Where possible, such payments will be made to Bank Verification Number-linked accounts and verified,” said the Federal Ministry of Finance. The total amount approved by the President, for payment in batches, was N522.74 billion.

Last December, Abia State was paid N5.093 billion, Adamawa N4.9 billion, Akwa Ibom N13.6 billion, Anambra N4.9 billion, Bauchi N5.5 billion, Bayelsa N15.9 billion, and Benue N5.3 billion. However, owing to the illegal deductions engineered by the respective governors, Abia State got N4.8 billion, Adamawa N4.6 billion, Akwa Ibom N12.9 billion, Anambra N4.6 billion, Bauchi N5.2 billion, Bayelsa N15.1 billion and Benue N5.3 billion.

Our investigation revealed that all the other states also had amounts paid to them chiseled off by the shenanigans of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum and its members through consultants. A source familiar with the process told SaharaReporters that the scam perpetrated by the governors was by far the largest he had ever seen.

This month, N99,003,694, 086.75 is slated to be paid to all the states. Documents obtained by our investigative team revealed that the members of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum were expecting to scoop a total sum of N4,950,184,704.34 from the payments.

A state like Zamfara, which expects to be paid N2,045,885,255.78, will receive N1,943,590,992.99, with the sum of N102,294,262 to be funneled to the coffers of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum and a part of it destined for the personal account of the state governor. A similar situation is bound to play out in Yobe State, due to be paid N1,974,027, 914.66. After the Nigerian Governors’ Forum has done its tricks, the state would be left with N1,875,326,518. Taraba, which is entitled to N2,031, 388,337.99, will receive N1,929, 818, 921.09 after illegal deductions made by consultants arranged by the Nigerian Governors’ Forum.

SaharaReporters

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

Government

SERAP Urges FG to Slash Politicians’ Allowances

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The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the Chairman of Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), Elias Mbam, to urgently review upward the remuneration, allowances, and conditions of service for Nigerian Judges, and reduce the remuneration of President Muhammadu Buhari and other political office-holders in order to address the persistent poor treatment of Judges, and improve access of victims of corruption to justice.

The appeal came on the heels of a nationwide industrial action by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) to press home their demand for financial autonomy for the judicial arm of government, and the federal government silence on the judiciary workers’ strike that has grounded court activities across the country.

In a letter dated April 10, 2021, which was signed by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said Judges should get all they are reasonably entitled to, and that it is unfair, illegal, unconstitutional, and discriminatory to continue to treat Judges as second-class people, while high-ranking political office holders enjoy lavish salaries and allowances.

SERAP expressed concern that the remuneration and allowances of Judges have fallen substantially behind the average salaries and allowances of political office-holders such as president, vice-president, governors and their deputies, as well as members of the National Assembly.

The letter read in part: “According to our information, the last review of the remuneration, allowances, and conditions of service for political, public and judicial office holders carried out by RMAFC in 2009 shows huge disparity between the remuneration and allowances of judges and those of political office holders.

“Judges’ work is very considerable but they cannot give their entire time to their judicial duties without the RMAFC reviewing upward their remuneration and allowances, and closing the gap and disparity between the salaries of judges and those of political office holders such as the president, vice-president, governors and their deputies, as well as lawmakers.

“We would therefore be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, the Incorporated Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel the RMAFC to comply with our requests.”

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COVAX Delivered 38m Vaccine Doses To Over 100 Countries, Says WHO

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) yesterday announced that more than 100 countries have received life-saving COVID-19 vaccines from COVAX, the global mechanism for equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.

It said the milestone comes 42 days after the first COVAX doses were shipped and delivered internationally, to Ghana on February 24th.

In a statement, the United Nations’ Agency revealed that COVAX has now delivered more than 38 million doses across six continents, supplied by three manufacturers – AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech and the Serum Institute of India (SII).

Of the over 100 economies reached, 61 are among the 92 lower-income economies receiving vaccines funded through the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC).

It, however, said despite reduced supply availability in March and April – the result of vaccine manufacturers scaling and optimising their production processes in the early phase of the rollout, as well as increased demand for COVID-19 vaccines in India – COVAX expects to deliver doses to all participating economies that have requested vaccines in the first half of the year.

According to the CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, Dr. Seth Berkley, “In under four months since the very first mass vaccination outside a clinical setting anywhere in the world, it is tremendously gratifying that the roll-out of COVAX doses has already reached 100 countries.

“COVAX may be on track to deliver to all participating economies in the first half of the year yet we still face a daunting challenge as we seek to end the acute stage of the pandemic: we will only be safe when everybody is safe and our efforts to rapidly accelerate the volume of doses depend on the continued support of governments and vaccine manufacturers. As we continue with the largest and most rapid global vaccine rollout in history, this is no time for complacency.”

The WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said: “COVAX has given the world the best way to ensure the fastest, most equitable rollout of safe and effective vaccines to all at-risk people in every country on the planet.

“If we are going to realise this great opportunity, countries, producers and the international system must come together to prioritise vaccine supply through COVAX. Our collective future, literally, depends on it.”

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Approved Ibom Deep Sea Port, Proposed $1.4B Fertilizer Plant Will Change Akwa Ibom’s Economic Status – Gov. Udom

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Akwa Ibom State Government has said the approved Ibom Deep Seaport and the proposed $1.4 billion Fertilizer and Ammonia Plant are expected to change the economic status of the state.

The State Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, made the assertion in an Easter message to the people of the state.

He maintained that with the recent approval and take off of the federal government’s approved Oil and Gas Free Zone and the ongoing construction of the Sterling Petrochemical Plant at Eastern Obolo, the state would be ready to dump its status as a civil service state.

The governor said the fertilizer and ammonia plants should be supported by all indegenes and residents irrespective of political affiliation because of its capacity to change the economic fortunes of the state.

The governor who commended President Muhammadu Buhari for approving the industrial projects in the state said construction work on the Ibom Deep Seaport would commence very soon.

“In recent past, we have been blessed with life-changing projects such as Sterling Petrochemical Plant in Eastern Obolo, where construction is in an advanced stage.

“Two months ago, the Federal Executive Council, (FEC) approved the license for us to commence the construction of our long desired Ibom Deep Seaport. Work would soon commence on this gigantic project. These are huge achievements for our State and our people.

“Ibom Deep Seaport will open up our economic fortunes; create employment and wealth opportunities for our people and throw open our State as a major maritime hub in our nation.

“We thank the President and the Commander in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR) for this kind approval,” he said.

Continuing, Emmanuel said: “About three weeks ago, we signed a $1.4 billion Fertilizer and Ammonia plant with our Moroccan counterparts. The plant will again create huge employment and other supply chain activities for our people, which will transform us from a civil service oriented state to a fast industrialising one.

“These are huge achievements that should gladden the hearts of every Akwa Ibomite irrespective of political affiliations.”

He reminded the people of the state that the essence of Easter would be lost if the resurrection of Christ is not allowed to illuminate their souls through love and sacrifice to one another.

“Let the fishermen in the ocean fronts of Mbo, Okobo, Eastern Obolo and Ibeno love one another. Let the farmers in the rice plantations at Ini, Ikono, Ika, Onna and Nsit Ibom love one another.

“Let the civil servants and public servants, politicians in all political parties, members of all denominations, preachers of all faiths, love one another.

“When we let love drive our every action and every thought, when we let it drip from our lips and from our hands, then shall the joy of Easter be complete, and our State shall surely attain the lofty height set for it by our ancestors when they named it Akwa Abasi Ibom State.” the Governor stated.

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