- Money Laundering: Go After CBN, NNPC, Senate Panel Tells EFCC
The Senate, on Monday, asked the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to investigate officials of the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation over alleged racketeering in foreign exchange transactions.
The lawmakers also urged the EFCC to identify owners of mansions in highbrow areas of Abuja, alleging that several senior officials in Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government had become billionaires through corrupt enrichment.
Members of the Senate Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes made the call when the Acting Chairman, EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, led the commission’s leadership before the lawmakers for 2017 budget defence.
The lawmakers, while criticising the EFCC for usually going after former public officials, said the anti-graft agency should focus on financial crimes prevention.
A member of the committee, Senator Isa Misau, said since the EFCC was now encouraging whistle-blowers, he wished to blow the whistle on the CBN and the NNPC.
He cited the recent recovery $9,772,000 and £74,000 from Mr. Yakubu Andrew, who was the Group Managing Director of the NNPC between 2012 and 2014.
Operatives of the commission had, on February 3, 2017, raided a building in Sabon Tasha, Kaduna, belonging to the former NNPC boss, and recovered the staggering cash stashed away in a huge fireproof safe.
Misau stated, “I can’t imagine the over $9m recovered from a former GMD (of NNPC). If somebody who left (public) office has such money stashed somewhere, then, you can just make a guess about the other people who have been on the seat.
“Therefore, today, I am giving it as a challenge to the EFCC to go and see what the NNPC or CBN or the finance ministry is doing.
“Look at (the case of) somebody, who left office about five years ago. This is an era of whistle-blowing. I am blowing my whistle: go and check CBN. That is the reason why, today, we have (this) recession. Today, dollar, at the parallel market, is N520. And there are allegations against the CBN; the way they give these dollars.
“This committee is challenging the EFCC to go and look at these records: what is our revenue in dollars? Who are the people collecting these dollars?”
The lawmaker added that Nigerians were no longer using forex for international transactions, stressing that rather than use the dollar for importation, people now took advantage of the forex crisis in the country.
He said, “People now buy these dollars and keep them in their houses. The amount of dollars in Nigeria in cash is more than the amount of dollars in the whole of the USA. If you (EFCC) tell us, we can cooperate with you and tell you (about) the people hiding these monies.
“Go and see unoccupied buildings in Asokoro, Maitama and Wuse 2 (all in Abuja). For over five years, nobody will be there (in the buildings). And EFCC is not looking at these houses. A lot of transactions are taking place with ill-gotten money to the tune of N2bn or N3bn, and somebody will bring the money in cash to buy a house.
“Without digging into these landed properties and knowing their owners, you may end up being only after somebody who just left office, and arresting and detaining them for one week, and they will get bailed. And the business continues.”
Misau lamented that the anti-graft war was being threatened by the aspect of the law which enabled suspected looters to enjoy their freedom while under EFCC probe.
He said if he could steal N10bn from public funds and all he had to suffer was being in EFCC custody for a few days, “I will do it.”
According to him, a lot of looters are encouraged by such provision in the law.
Misau added, “We want a situation whereby you will get the cooperation of judges. I see no reason why somebody will take (steal) billions and after two days with the EFCC, they will be granted bail.
“If we need another law that once it has to do with government money, we can keep such person with EFCC for one year; if there are certain laws you want, where you can detain somebody for one year, we are ready.
“Go and check the houses in Maitama, Wuse 2 and Asokoro. How did they (the owners) get the money? Check the directors, who are still serving; they are all billionaires. I can mention more than 30 directors; they are still serving and they are billionaires.
“These are the kinds of things that make up institutional corruption that we have to check. Go and see the procurement officers and permanent secretaries; they give contracts to themselves and inflate contracts.
“If we have to wait for somebody to blow whistle, it will be business as usual and nobody is afraid of it now. I am blowing this whistle about CBN so that any recovery from the CBN, I am the one who blew the whistle; and any recovery from the NNPC, I blew the whistle.”
The Chairman of the committee, Senator Chukwuka Utazi, stated that going by the mandate of the EFCC, 60 per cent of its task should be on preventive measures, while 40 per cent should be for all other issues combined.
He, however, noted that the commission did not focus on preventive measures in its budget defence.
Utazi said, “Looking at your core mandate, the essence is to curb corruption to a large extent but in the budget you have provided, I have not seen the issue raised in the prayers here. There is no prayer that is talking about enlightenment, which is the money thing you are expected to do.
“All we hear from the press is negative publicity; chasing people who have been caught; that is what we hear all the time. We want to change the narration to ‘what are we doing to ensure that instead of chasing after people, who are giving us a headache, why can’t we stop other people from joining the gang?’ There is nothing like that here in this budget.”
SERAP Urges FG to Slash Politicians’ Allowances
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.”
COVAX Delivered 38m Vaccine Doses To Over 100 Countries, Says WHO
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.”
Approved Ibom Deep Sea Port, Proposed $1.4B Fertilizer Plant Will Change Akwa Ibom’s Economic Status – Gov. Udom
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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