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N17b Bond: EFCC Probes Saraki, Kwara Gov, AG

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  • N17b Bond: EFCC Probes Saraki, Kwara Gov, AG

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is probing Senate President Bukola Saraki, Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara State and the Accountant-General of the state over how a N17billion bond secured by the State Government was spent.

The anti-graft agency suspects that part of the funds may have been diverted into private use.

The bond was intended to cover 13 projects and loan refinancing package during the tenures of Saraki as governor and Ahmed,his successor.

The investigation is digging into what has become of the N2billion Asa Dam Mixed Use Development Project and the Ilorin Water Distribution Project which has gulped N3.736billion but without water to drink by residents.

The EFCC has already interrogated the Secretary to the State Government, two Permanent Secretaries, the Accountant-General of the state, and about three contractors.

All those invited were said to have made “voluntary statements.”

Two ex-commissioners and two members of the House of Representatives may be arrested by the anti-graft agency in connection with the affected projects.

But a source in government in Kwara State claimed that EFCC is on a “wild goose chase because the bond has been fully repaid since 2014 without any outstanding liability for the people of Kwara State.

“We suspect sheer politics and a plot to intimidate Saraki and Ahmed because 2019 polls are around the corner.”

The fact-sheet sighted by our correspondent listed the affected projects as Aviation College –(N1.5b budgeted, N2.448, 663, 386.56b spent); Asa Dam Mixed Use Development Project (N2b); Kwara State University (N1b); Ilorin Water Distribution Project (N2b allocated, N3.736b spent); Shonga Irrigation Project (N2.9b allocated, N882.9 million paid to contractor); Kwara Advanced Diagnostic Centre( N750m allocated, N1.861b spent); Urban roads (N1.5b allocated but N1.609b spent); Rural and Feeder roads(N200m); Ilorin Metropolitan Street Lights Project(N250m); Kwara Vocational Centre (N650m); Loan refinancing (No evidence of payment of N2.4b to AFDB); Ilorin Township Stadium Project—N1b allocated but N1, 117 430, 700.54 spent; Electrification Project—N462, 144, 291.10; Kwara Mall Project—N500m allocated, $2m deposit in another account

The fact-sheet said: “We are investigating a petition forwarded by the Code of Conduct Bureau, Abuja. It was alleged that the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed and the incumbent Accountant-General of Kwara State allegedly conspired and misappropriated N17billion raised through bond in 2009.

“Letters of invitation were sent to the Secretary to the State Government, the Accountant-General of the state as well as Permanent Secretaries for ministries that handled the projects.

Some snippets of the investigation include the following:

“Asa Dam Mixed Use Development project: The project had N2billion allocated from the bond. However the sum of N83.688 431.68 was spent on consultancy by ECAD Designs Limited and nothing else was done.

“Ilorin Water Distribution Project was allocated N2, 000,000,000. However, N3, 736,505,126.49 was spent on the project. The only contractor for the project was C.G.C Nigeria Limited. An analysis of the Kwara state Government’s First Bank of Nigeria Plc account revealed that the sum of N1billion was paid to C.G.C apparently for the project. Investigation is still ongoing.

“Another project which benefitted from the bond was Kwara State University with a N1billion vote. But a total of N1, 675 607.905 23 was spent. The project had the following contractors: Charvet Nigeria Limited, Akit technology Limited, Integrated Concept Limited, Golden Consult and the University Itself.

“The project was handled by the Ministry of Works and the Commissioner as at the time was one Kolawole Abdulrauf Shitttu. Investigation revealed that Mr. Shittu and one Engr. Akintola Taiwo are both directors and the accounts signatories to a company called PTL Consult Limited. “Shittu is also a signatory to another company called Strudev Consultancy Services. Analysis of the companies’ accounts and the Mr. Shittu’s personal account revealed that transfers were made by Charvet Nigeria Limited and Archon Nigeria Limited; the two companies were among the contractors of the University Project.

“The Managing Director at Archon was invited and he stated that he was the project manager for the construction of the Kwara State University and that he was informed by the State Government that PTL Consult is the consultant on the project and that he worked with Engr. Taiwo during the period which was why they made payments to PTL Consults’ account. Efforts are being made to arrest Mr. Shittu.”

Concerning Kwara Mall, the fact-sheet claimed that the project was allocated N500million and the entire sum was utilized by the Ministry of Commerce.

It added: “The Permanent Secretary was unable to provide us with details of how the money was spent but did state that they were in partnership with a private company; Persians Investments Limited and that the Kwara Mall was constructed and is being fully utilized. A search of the company showed that they were into real estate and property management; parts of their properties included Kwara Mall, Viva cinema, Polo Park Enugu among others. Analysis of the company bank statement showed N500million paid to the company by the Kwara State Government on the 10th of June 2010. While the investigation is ongoing, the sum of two million USD $2,000,000 deposit was traced to one of the company’s account. The depositor is being tracked by detectives and all relevant agencies.”

Regarding the irrigation project, the EFCC detectives alleged that the “document recovered from the Accountant-General did not show this project but the Permanent Secretary stated that the project also known as Shonga Irrigation Project was handled by the Ministry and the contract was awarded to C.G.C Nigeria Limited for N2,998,966,827. However, only N882, 944,215 was paid to the company. He further stated that the project was later taken over by the Federal Government.

On the International Aviation College, whose licence was suspended recently, the detectives in their report said it was allocated N1.5billion from the bond but N2,448.663.386.56 was spent in on the construction and purchase of equipment.

“Contractors that handled the project were: Godab Nigeria Limited. Henry George Nigeria Limited, ECAD Design (Consultants) and the college itself. The College is alleged to be fully owned by the Kwara State Government and registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) R C; 746511. Its board included the current State Governor, Ministry of Finance, Mr. Razak Atunwa (a former commissioner in the state) Popoola Captain Shadrack Taiwo and Yusuf Tunde. The registrar of the college was invited for an interview and questioned on the finances of the college as well as aspects in which the college handled during the construction of the college. He stated that the bursar of the school died recently but most contracts were handled by one Harlequin Aviation Information Service Limited (HAIS).

“A search at the company found that one Yusuf Tunde is a Director as well as signatory to the accounts of the company: he is also a Board member of the Aviation College. Based on this the accounts of HAIS were placed on caution and the company’s representative is to report for an interview on the 30th of August 2018.

The report clarified the status of loan refinancing by the state government.

It said: “The prospectus of the bond stated that Kwara state had indebtedness of N4, 980,000 in external loans out of which N3.3billion amounted to legacy obligations preceding the then administration They proposed utilizing N2, 400,000,000 from the bond proceeds of the bond to service part of the legacy obligations which were (a) African Development Bank(AFDB)- construction of four specialist hospitals in Jebba, Offa, Oke-Ode and Sobi at a cost of N1,440, 828, 000; (b) AFDB-equipment procurements to the four specialist hospitals; ( C) World Bank Essential Drug Projects.

“The total debt was N3, 301, 162, 42. Only Documents obtained from the Accountant-General of the State did not show any indication that monies were paid to AfDB or the World Bank instead another list with heading ‘OTHER PAYMENT’ showed the names of Government Agencies and private companies being paid a total of N974, 896,343.47.

“The companies were invited. One of the companies, Lolada Investment Limited reported and stated that they were awarded a contract valued at N285, 652, 200 by the Kwara state Government to install CCTV system for Ilorin metropolitan.

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

COVID-19 Vaccine: African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim) to Purchase 270 Million Doses for Nigeria, Other African Nations

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African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim) Approves $2 Billion for the Purchase of 270 million Doses for African Nations

African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim) said it has approved $2 billion for the purchase of 270 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines for African nations, including Nigeria.

Prof. Benedict Oramah, the President of the Bank, disclosed this at a virtual Africa Soft Power Series held on Tuesday.

He, however, stated that the lender is looking to raise more funds for the COVID-19 vaccines’ acquisition.

He said: “The African Union knows that unless you put the virus away, your economy can’t come back. If Africa didn’t do anything, it would become a COVID-19 continent when other parts of the world have already moved on.
“Recall that it took seven years during the heat of HIV for them to come to Africa after 12 million people had died.

“With the assistance of the AU, we were able to get 270 million vaccines and financing need of about $2 billion. Afreximbank then went ahead to secure the $2 billion. But that money for the 270 million doses could only add 15 per cent to the 20 per cent that Covax was bringing.

He added that this is not the time to wait for handouts or free vaccines as other countries will naturally sort themselves out before African nations.

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China Calls for Better China-U.S. Relations

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China Calls for China-U.S. Relations

Senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi said on Monday the United States and China could work together on issues like climate change and the coronavirus pandemic if they repaired their damaged bilateral relationship.

Wang, a Chinese state councillor and foreign minister, said Beijing stood ready to reopen constructive dialogue with Washington after relations between the two countries sank to their lowest in decades under former president Donald Trump.

Wang called on Washington to remove tariffs on Chinese goods and abandon what he said was an irrational suppression of the Chinese tech sector, steps he said would create the “necessary conditions” for cooperation.

Before Wang spoke at a forum sponsored by the foreign ministry, officials played footage of the “ping-pong diplomacy” of 1972 when an exchange of table tennis players cleared the way for then U.S. President Richard Nixon to visit China.

Wang, a Chinese state councillor and foreign minister, said Beijing stood ready to reopen constructive dialogue with Washington after relations between the two countries sank to their lowest in decades under former president Donald Trump.

Wang called on Washington to remove tariffs on Chinese goods and abandon what he said was an irrational suppression of the Chinese tech sector, steps he said would create the “necessary conditions” for cooperation.

Before Wang spoke at a forum sponsored by the foreign ministry, officials played footage of the “ping-pong diplomacy” of 1972 when an exchange of table tennis players cleared the way for then U.S. President Richard Nixon to visit China.

Wang urged Washington to respect China’s core interests, stop “smearing” the ruling Communist Party, stop interfering in Beijing’s internal affairs and stop “conniving” with separatist forces for Taiwan’s independence.

“Over the past few years, the United States basically cut off bilateral dialogue at all levels,” Wang said in prepared remarks translated into English.

“We stand ready to have candid communication with the U.S. side, and engage in dialogues aimed at solving problems.”

Wang pointed to a recent call between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden as a positive step.

Washington and Beijing have clashed on multiple fronts including trade, accusations of human rights crimes against the Uighur Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region and Beijing’s territorial claims in the resources-rich South China Sea.

The Biden administration has, however, signalled it will maintain pressure on Beijing. Biden has voiced concern about Beijing’s “coercive and unfair” trade practices and endorsed of a Trump administration determination that China has committed genocide in Xinjiang.

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U.S. Supreme Court Allows Release of Trump Tax Returns

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President Trump Signs Executive Order In Oval Office Of The White House

U.S. Supreme Court Allows Release of Trump Tax Returns

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday paved the way for a New York City prosecutor to obtain former President Donald Trump’s tax returns and other financial records as part of a criminal investigation, a blow to his quest to conceal details of his finances.

The justices without comment rebuffed Trump’s request to put on hold an Oct. 7 lower court ruling directing the former Republican president’s longtime accounting firm, Mazars USA, to comply with a subpoena to turn over the materials to a grand jury convened by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, a Democrat.

“The work continues,” Vance said in a statement issued after the court’s action.

Vance had previously said in a letter to Trump’s lawyers that his office would be free to immediately enforce the subpoena if the justices rejected Trump’s request.

A lawyer for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority included three Trump appointees, had already ruled once in the dispute, last July rejecting Trump’s broad argument that he was immune from criminal probes as a sitting president.

Unlike all other recent U.S. presidents, Trump refused during his four years in office to make his tax returns public. The data could provide details on his wealth and the activities of his family real-estate company, the Trump Organization.

Trump, who left office on Jan. 20 after being defeated in his Nov. 3 re-election bid by Democrat Joe Biden, continues to face an array of legal issues concerning his personal and business conduct.

Vance issued a subpoena to Mazars in August 2019 seeking Trump’s corporate and personal tax returns from 2011 to 2018. Trump’s lawyers sued to block the subpoena, arguing that as a sitting president, Trump had absolute immunity from state criminal investigations.

The Supreme Court in its July ruling rejected those arguments but said Trump could raise other objections to the subpoena. Trump’s lawyers then argued before lower courts that the subpoena was overly broad and amounted to political harassment, but U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in August and the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in October rejected those claims.

Vance’s investigation, which began more than two years ago, had focused on hush money payments that the president’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen made before the 2016 election to two women – adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal – who said they had sexual encounters with Trump.

In recent court filings, Vance has suggested that the probe is now broader and could focus on potential bank, tax and insurance fraud, as well as falsification of business records.

In separate litigation, the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives was seeking to subpoena similar records. The Supreme Court in July sent that matter back to lower courts for further review.

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