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Reps Probe Budget Office Over Alleged Double Payment of N46.5b

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House of representatives
  • Reps Probe Budget Office Over Alleged Double Payment of N46.5b

The House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts has resumed investigations into an alleged double payment of N46.5 billion for the Airport Road and Kubwa Expressway contracts in Abuja by the Budget Office of the Federation.

At the sitting of the committee in Abuja at the weekend, where the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation (OAGF) read out 10 queries against the Budget Office for 2010, 2011 and 2013, the lawmakers’ panel presided over by its deputy chairman, Ibrahim Baba queried the office for its inability to clarify the alleged duplication of the payment for the contracts six years after the accusation was made.

The Budget Office is supposed to set the tone for transparency in financial matters in government. But since this transparency is lacking, it is not surprising that successive governments in the country have been dogged by the mismanagement of public funds.

According to the committee’s records, officials of the Budget Office had appeared before the lawmakers on the matter on June 1, 2016, and were asked to furnish the committee with their defence in writing and supporting documents. The lawmakers lamented that the matter had not been satisfactorily dealt with.

Baba requested that the ministries and agencies of government, as well as consultants involved in the contract be summoned to appear before the committee within the next two weeks to explain their roles in the alleged duplication of the payment.

The Budget Office was, on its part, expected to turn in all bank statements and documents relating to the contract in its next appearance.

In his defence, the Director-General, Budget Office, Ben Akabueze, had informed the committee that he was new in the agency, but had made several unsuccessful efforts to meet with the relevant ministries, agencies and consultants of the contract when he was confronted with the allegation upon his resumption of office last year.

He said he had written to invite them for a meeting on July 2 last year, barely a month after he resumed, but only a few of them honoured the invitation. He pleaded with the committee to compel them to explain their various roles in the contracts.

“Mr. chairman, we appeared last before you on June 1 last year when we were invited to explain this issue of N46, 500,000,000 said to have been paid double for the rehabilitation and expansion of Airport Road and Kubwa Expressway in Abuja.

“As at the time of the contract and payments for it, I had not been appointed as DG. I resumed on 9th June last year.

“But I am aware that when the matter came up, the Budget Office appeared before you last year on June 1, 2016 and had provided all documents relating to the contract to you as required.

“Upon resumption, I planned a meeting with all ministries, agencies and consultants that have something to do with the contract on 2nd July, 2016, but some of them refused to attend the meeting, and so the meeting didn’t hold.

“As I speak, none of them is with me here to state their positions. Therefore, I will beg that you reschedule this investigative hearing and invite them to appear before you to respond to some of the issues relating to this contract,” Akabueze said.

He also attempted to defend another query by the auditor general’s office involving 10 transactions of contingency fund amounting to N3.971 billion used to finance unbudgeted expenditures that were not contingent.

But the committee was not satisfied with his defence and sought detailed explanations from the office as well as beneficiaries of the fund.

The committee also expressed worry, based on the query by the auditor-general’s office, that the budget office recorded expenses of N1.136 billion used for Agricultural Development International Fund for 2010 and 2012 as N2. 272 billion in its register.

The lawmakers said the action negated the principles of probity and accountability, and advised that the office resubmit to the committee the original AIE, vote book for 2010 and the original register where the entry was made, for confirmation.

The committee also sought to have the evidence of remittance to the fund.

 

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.

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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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US Intelligence Says ISIS and Al-Qaeda Are Planning to Attack Southern Nigeria

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The United States has warned the Federal Government of Nigeria that Al-Qaeda and ISIS are planning to attack Southern Nigeria.

This was disclosed by Dagvin Anderson, the Commander of the US special operations command, Africa.

According to Dagvin Anderson, AlQaeda is planning to expand into the Southern part of Nigeria and other parts of West Africa.

He, however, said the US will continue to share intelligence with Nigeria.

We have engaged with Nigeria and continue to engage with them in intel sharing and in understanding what these violent extremists are doing,” he said.

And that has been absolutely critical to their engagements up in the Borno state and into an emerging area of northwest Nigeria that we’re seeing al-Qaeda starting to make some inroads in. 

“So, this intelligence sharing is absolutely vital and we stay fully engaged with the government of Nigeria to provide them with an understanding of what these terrorists are doing, what Boko Haram is doing, what ISIS-West Africa is doing, and how ISIS and al-Qaeda are looking to expand further south into the littoral areas. 

Anderson regretted that despite successes recorded in previous years, there has been a setback, adding: “We as a community of international nations, keep thinking we have defeated them or we have put them on their back foot and that they’re just moments from disintegration.” Anderson said for international efforts to yield desired results in the fight against terrorism in Nigeria, the government must take the lead. 

“When it comes to Nigeria in general, Nigeria, obviously, is a critical nation to West Africa. It is a critical nation and we realise that Nigeria is a lynchpin,” he said.

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