- Probe CBN Over Alleged Missing N500bn, PDP, Others Tell Buhari
The Peoples Democratic Party, the Social Democratic Party, and Human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), have called on President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure that the allegation of missing N500bn in the Central Bank of Nigeria is thoroughly investigated.
Also, the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, in a statement, has requested an independent probe into claims of financial fraud.
These calls followed a leaked audio tape wherein the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, claimed N500bn was missing.
In the leaked tape, which was published by Sahara Reporters, Emefiele, his Deputy, Edward Adamu; and the Director for Finance, Dayo Arowosegbe; including one of the Special Advisers to the CBN Governor, Emmanuel Ukeje, were caught on tape discussing how to cover up the loss of over N500bn stolen from the CBN in a private investment that failed.
In one of the clips, the CBN governor was heard saying the Ministry of Finance, as well as the National Assembly, must not know about the development.
In another part of the audio clip, N2bn was said to have been earmarked for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for no clear reason.
However, the CBN had claimed that no N500bn was missing in its accounts.
Speaking with one of our correspondents on the development, Falana said the rebuttal by the CBN was not sufficient enough to exonerate the CBN governor.
He said, “Having carefully listened to the recorded telephone conversation of the governor and top management staff of the CBN, it is indubitably clear that the sum of N500bn is missing from the CBN.
“The discussions clearly centred on how to cover up the monumental fraud including cooking up the books. It was even suggested that N2bn be set aside to compromise the EFCC. In view of the confirmation of the missing N500bn and the desperate moves to cover it up, President Buhari should set up a panel of enquiry to probe the scandal.
“The press statement of the CBN management denying the fraud should be treated with disdain as it is a dubious attempt to play on the collective intelligence of the Nigerian people.”
The anti-corruption crusader said this was not the first time that monies would go missing from the CBN.
He recalled how a former CBN Governor, Prof Chukwuma Soludo, questionably invested $7bn in 14 unnamed banks with no consequence, an allegation which Soludo denied.
Falana added, “The CBN has a penchant for covering up the criminal diversion of huge public funds. The bank covered up the sum of $12.4bn in the dedicated accounts withdrawn from 1988-1993 by military President, Gen Ibrahim Babangida.
“In the same vein, CBN covered up the $7bn withdrawn by Ex-Gov of CBN, Prof Charles Soludo, and purportedly placed as deposit in some unnamed banks. The Buhari regime which claims to be fighting corruption must not allow the CBN to cover up the missing N500bn.”
The Peoples Democratic Party and the Social Democratic Party on their own part said the allegation was too weighty to be ignored by the Federal Government and the National Assembly.
The National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, who spoke with one of our correspondents, said, “The allegation is too weighty to be ignored. I think I understand why the Federal Government is foot-dragging. The money could have been used for election and all that.
“But I want to appeal to the National Assembly to rise to the occasion and do something about it. We cannot just close our eyes and allow that to go under the carpet.”
Also, the SDP National Publicity, Secretary, Alfa Mohammed said, “It is unfortunate that this kind of allegation about corruption is coming up under an administration that claims to be fighting corruption.
“Some whistleblowers have come up, suggesting that there is corruption in the CBN. This suggests that there is something negative fishing in the apex bank.
“What one will expect in a system that works is for the President to initiate a thorough investigation into the allegation. This is the minimum required of him.
“We are, therefore, demanding that President Muhammadu Buhari should constitute a probe panel on this matter without further delay.”
The Executive Chairman, CACOL, Mr Debo Adeniran, in a statement by the group’s Coordinator, Media and Publications, Adegboyega Otunuga, said, “Though, the CBN, through one Issac Okorafor, its Director, Corporate Communications, confirmed the authenticity of the ‘selective conversation,’ which it claimed was just a routine ‘conversations among senior management of many agencies and should not be misconstrued as anything but that’, there are threads of conversation in the tape that simply do not tally with such a ‘hand waive ’ of the CBN management.”
It stated further, “Hence, CACOL calls on the two anti-graft agencies, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission, to immediately wade into the matter.
The agencies should thoroughly investigate all allegations surrounding this story and bring culprits (if any) to justice, so as to save this nation from further embarrassment and arrest the drift into financial chaos which the alleged heist was capable of throwing the country into.”
In the same vein, a former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress, Timi Frank, equally asked the Senate to withhold the confirmation of Emefiele for the second term over the leaked audio exposing the missing N500bn under his watch.
Frank said it would amount to a disservice to the nation if the Red Chamber went ahead on Emefiele’s confirmation without the public knowing how such a huge of amount of money disappeared from the treasury.
However, the African Democratic Congress described the allegation as a distraction.
The party’s National Publicity Secretary, Yemi Kolapo, said while the initial report on the alleged missing money appeared damning, she did not feel much energy should be dissipated on it.
She said, “Though initial reports on the alleged missing money seemed damning, I do not think we should linger too much on that.
Meanwhile, the Lead Director, Centre for Social Justice, Eze Onyekpere, said that the leaked audio of the conversation among the CBN Governor and some senior officials might not provide a sufficient ground for the matter to be investigated.
Onyekpere said in an interview with one of our correspondents that there was a need for more evidence to be provided that the money was missing before a prima facie case could be established on the issue.
He also said that the timing of the release of the audio conversation to the public was suspicious as it was coming at a time when the announcement of the renewal of the appointment of Emefiele was made by President Buhari.
India, Spain, the Netherlands, USA, Nigeria’s Major Export Markets -NBS
India, Spain and the Netherland top Nigeria’s export markets in the final quarter of 2020, according to the latest data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
The Commodity Price Indices and Terms of Trade Q4 2020 report showed that the United States and China trailed the three.
However, the NBS revealed Nigeria exports mainly crude oil and natural gas during the period under review.
It, “The major export and import market of Nigeria in Q4 2020 were India, Spain, the Netherlands, United States and China.
“The major export to these countries were crude petroleum and natural gas. The major imports from the countries were motor spirits, used vehicles, motorcycles and antibiotics.”
The bureau stated that the all-commodity group import index increased by 0.13 per cent between October and December 2020.
“This was driven mainly by an increase in the prices of base metals and articles of base metals (one per cent), boilers, machinery and appliances; parts thereof (1.03 per cent), and products of the chemical and allied industries (0.75 per cent),” it stated.
The NBS, however, noted that the index was negatively affected by animal and vegetable fats and oils and other cleavage products.
Onyeama: Qatar To Invest $5bn In Nigeria’s Economy
The oil-rich state of Qatar is to invest a total of $5 billion in Nigeria’s economy, the Foreign Affairs Minister, Godfrey Onyeama, has disclosed.
Onyeama, who spoke Sunday at a send forth dinner in honour of Nigeria’s Ambassador-designate to the State of Qatar, who is also the outgoing Director of Protocol (DOP) at the State House, Ambassador Yakubu Ahmed, also stated that recent career ambassadorial appointments made by the gederal government was based on merit, experience and professionalism.
The minister further said there had been discussions with Qatar on partnership with Nigeria’s Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF), for significant investments in the region of $5 billion in the Nigerian economy.
According to him, ‘‘Qatar is a weighty and strategic country and very strategic in that part of the world and we are putting our best feet forward to advance the interest of our country economically and in other areas.”
He recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari had visited the State of Qatar in 2016 and the Emir of Qatar, Tamim Bin Hammad Al-Thani, reciprocated with a State visit in 2019.
Onyeama also explained that only trusted hands with a track record of diligence, experience and professionalism in the Foreign Service were recently appointed career ambassadors by the federal government.
The minister said the appointment of Ahmed and other career ambassadors were predicated on posting dedicated and keen Foreign Service practitioners to serve as image makers of the country.
He said: ‘‘Ambassador Yakubu Ahmed is a dedicated professional with a penchant for rigour and detail. He is very capable and one of the best in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He is personable, affable, extremely friendly, dispassionate and objective.
‘‘He is going to head a very important mission, a very important country, reckoned to be one of the richest countries in the world, per capita, and there’s a lot we will be doing with the State of Qatar.”
Also speaking, the Deputy Chief of Staff, Adeola Rahman Ipaye, described the honoree as a ‘‘perfect gentleman, very even-natured and always well turned out’’.
Ipaye said he had no doubt that the newly appointed ambassador would serve the country well in Qatar, adding that: ‘‘We are further encouraged that when he completes this assignment, he would return to serve Nigeria in a higher capacity.’’
In his remarks, the Permanent Secretary, State House, Tijjani Umar, while congratulating the outgoing DOP on his appointment, lauded Ahmed for excellent service to the State House and the nation.
‘‘He served this institution and the nation with the deepest sense of responsibility and it is very important that we establish a tradition where the system appreciates those who have served it well and those who will continue to serve it well,’’ he said.
Umar urged the new envoy to keep very fond memories of his time at the Presidential Villa, assuring him of the prayers and goodwill of all the staff.
Responding, Ahmed thanked President Buhari for the great honour and privilege of making him his principal representative in Doha, Qatar.
The Ambassador-designate pledged to deplore his energy and skill to the promotion of the existing cordial relationship between Nigeria and Qatar, particularly in the areas of economic, political, cultural and consular affairs as well as other key areas.
Ahmed, who joined Nigeria’s Foreign Service in 1993, said during his years in public service he had learnt that ‘‘patriotism, selfless service, diligence, determination and perseverance will always result in the achievement of the desired objective’’.
According to him, these virtues would be his ‘‘watchword’’ in the pursuit of Nigeria’s foreign policy objectives and the attainment of national interests.
The Ambassador-designate singled out for appreciation the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, and the state Chief of Protocol, Ambassador Lawal Kazaure, saying he had learnt a lot working under their mentorship.
He expressed gratitude to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Permanent Secretary, State House for giving him the opportunity of a memorable work experience in the State House.
France, Nigeria to Build New Partnership
France is currently aiming at building a new partnership with Nigeria, with the dispatching of its Minister in charge of Foreign Trade and Attractiveness, Franck Riester, to Nigeria.
Riester, who was expected at the time of filing this report on Monday, is scheduled to visit Nigeria from 12-14 April, 2021.
A statement from the French Embassy in Nigeria said: “Franck Riester is visiting Nigeria from 12 to 14 April, a visit that follows up on the priorities set by French President Emmanuel Macron during his official visit to Nigeria in July 2018 and his desire to build a new partnership between Africa and France.
“As the largest economy in Africa and the economic engine of West Africa, Nigeria is indeed a major partner for France, the first in sub-Saharan Africa with bilateral trade amounting to a total of 4.5 billion USD in 2019 (2.3 billion USD in 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic).”
It disclosed that the minister will have several official meetings in Abuja and Lagos, in order to underline the importance of the bilateral economic relationship and to prepare the summit on the financing of African economies in Paris on 18 May.
It revealed that the objective of the mission is also to further strengthen the links between the French and Nigerian private sectors, and “in this regard, the minister will have in-depth discussions with the main Nigerian economic actors to strengthen bilateral cooperation and investments, both in Nigeria and in France, particularly in the logistics sector”.
It said while in the country, the minister would meet with young Nigerian entrepreneurs in the cultural and creative industries sector, to discuss the major role of their country in African creativity and the development of the African entrepreneurial ecosystem, with the support of France.
It further said: “The minister will also open the ‘Choose Africa’ conference, a €3.5 billion initiative by President Emmanuel Macron dedicated to supporting the development of start-ups and SMEs in Africa to enable the continent to benefit fully from the opportunities of the digital revolution.”
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