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N2.8tn Probe: Reps Threaten Absentee Bank CEOs, Others With Bench Warrant

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  • N2.8tn Probe: Reps Threaten Absentee Bank CEOs, Others With Bench Warrant

The House of Representatives has threatened to issue a bench warrant against the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami; Accountant-General of the Federation, Mr Ahmed Idris; and managing directors/chief executive officers of Deposit Money Banks.

An ad hoc committee set up by the House to investigate the alleged non-remittance of stamp duty deductions sat in Abuja on Wednesday, where Malami, Idris and the CEOs were either absent or represented.

The House had on April 25, 2019, resolved to “mandate the set up of an ad hoc committee to urgently investigate the non-remittance of trillions into the Federation Account of TSA and report back to the House within four weeks.”

This was after the lawmakers adopted a motion that condemned the stamp duty charges imposed on Nigerians for their banking transactions.

The lawmakers had especially accused banks who made the deductions of non-remittance of about N2.8tn to Federal Government coffers, contravening the Treasury Single Account policy.

At the sitting on Wednesday, the panel, however, dismissed the representatives as not eligible to speak for their respective organisations and bosses.

The Chairman of the committee, Mr Ahmad Abubakar, said, “We can see that the Office of the Accountant-General and the Office of Attorney-General are conspicuously not here.”

He stated that those absent from the hearing had critical roles to play in the deliberations and final decisions to be taken by the lawmakers.

Abubakar added, “The chief executive officers of all agencies are supposed to be here. If by any reason they cannot attend, we expected their written authority, authorising somebody, not below the executive management level; even that is with the authority from the CEO. Otherwise, the organisation will be deemed not to have been here, and it is a serious matter.

“After this hearing, if it needs issuing a bench warrant, we are going to do that; This is a very serious issue. My colleagues are here and this will be our resolve. I don’t know whether most of the people that are here are below these two categories — either the CEO or executive director. We want people who can take critical decisions on behalf of their organisations. I don’t want you to come here and something is resolved, later the CEO would say ‘I am not here and I cannot…’ Whatever is the decision here is binding.”

Also, a member of the committee, Mr Danburam Nuhu, also criticised those who failed to attend the hearing.

“I can see from the roll call that only three banks are represented by somebody from their executive management. Those banks are Polaris, GTBank and Sterling Bank. All other banks don’t have somebody from their executive management.

“As clearly stated by you, Mr Chairman, it is the position of the committee to assume that they are not present at this hearing. It is clear that if the committee chooses to give another date, at the end of the day, they are still not present. I think the next thing as you clearly stated is that we go ahead and issue a bench warrant against the CEOs of the banks. That means that we will arrest them and compel them to be here,” he said.

Another member of the panel, Mr Adekunle Akinlade, consequently moved a motion that any agency or organisation without the CEO in attendance and without an executive director with a written mandate to represent them should be considered absent from the hearing.

The motion was seconded and unanimously adopted by other members of the panel.

In his ruling, Nuhu said the representatives in attendance, most of whom did not meet the criteria set by the lawmakers, would be allowed to remain as spectators without their submissions taken.

Meanwhile, the Postmaster-General, Mr Bisi Adegbuyi, told the committee that a plethora of cases at the Supreme Court and inter-agency rivalry between the Nigerian Postal Service and the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Allocation Commission were frustrating the remittance of an estimated N2.8tn stamp duty funds.

According to Adegbuyi, banks are hiding behind the various conflicting court cases on the issue of stamp duty by not remitting the amounts collected to the Federal Government accounts.

In his submission, the acting Chairman of the RMFAC, Mr Casmir Anyanwu, said that it was the commission’s mandate to recover the stamp duties.

“The role of the commission in the collection of stamp duties is to ensure that the fund is remitted by the banks and that the circular of the Central Bank of Nigeria on the collection of stamp duties on every electronic transaction above N1, 000 be complied with; that the N50 deducted by the banks be promptly remitted to the Federation Account, verify and remit any outstanding amount from the banks. That is what we are doing at the moment.”

However, the acting Director, Banking Services, CBN, Mr Abubakar Kure, said remittances to the apex bank stood at N35bn.

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

No Plans To Relocate AFRICOM HQ To Nigeria Or Any Part Of Africa- U.S. Replies Buhari

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AFRICOM HQ

The United States has said there is no plan to relocate its Africa Command from its current base in Germany to Nigeria or any other part of Africa despite the worsening state of insecurity in the region.

The US gave the response barely two weeks after President Muhammadu Buhari appealed to the US government to consider relocating AFRICOM to Africa to assist Nigeria and other adjoining countries to combat worsening terrorism, banditry and other security crises.

The President made the plea in a virtual meeting with the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, on April 27.

Germany-based Africa Command (AFRICOM) is the US military headquarters that oversees its operations in Africa.

Buhari’s request followed a series of recent military casualties in Nigeria’s decade-long fight against Boko Haram terrorists, fresh expansion of the insurgents’ bases to Niger and Nasarawa States, and heavy waves of abductions and killings by bandits in the North.

Buhari said, “The security challenges in Nigeria remain of great concern to us and impacted more negatively, by existing complex negative pressures in the Sahel, Central and West Africa, as well as the Lake Chad Region.

“Compounded as the situation remains, Nigeria and her security forces remain resolutely committed to containing them and addressing their root causes.

“The support of important and strategic partners like the United States cannot be overstated as the consequences of insecurity will affect all nations, hence the imperative for concerted cooperation and collaboration of all nations to overcome these challenges.

“In this connection, and considering the growing security challenges in West and Central Africa, Gulf of Guinea, Lake Chad region and the Sahel, weighing heavily on Africa, it underscores the need for the United States to consider relocating AFRICOM headquarters from Stuttgart, Germany to Africa and near the Theatre of Operation.”

However, the US government on Thursday ruled out any plan to relocate AFRICOM from its current base in Germany to Nigeria or any part of Africa.

According to the United States Department of Defence’ Pentagon, previous studies have shown that the cost of relocating AFRICOM from Germany to Africa is very huge.

In an emailed response to The PUNCH, the Pentagon said although it would continue to value Nigeria and other countries in Africa as important partners, the American government would not consider relocating AFRICOM to any part of the African continent at the moment.

This newspaper had asked if the US would consider Nigeria’s request to relocate AFRICOM to the continent.

“It would be inappropriate to speculate on any future actions. However, at this time, moving this headquarters (AFRICOM HQ) to Africa is not part of any plans, but USAFRICOM’s commitment to their mission, our African and other partners, remains as strong today as when we launched this command more than a decade ago,” US Pentagon spokesperson, Ms. Cindi King, said.

King also ruled out any plan to consider Buhari’s request in an ongoing global US defence review.

She said, “Although there is an ongoing Global Posture Review, the relocation of Combatant Command headquarters is outside the scope of its assessment. In the case of AFRICOM, previous studies have concluded that the cost associated with the relocation of this headquarters is significant and likely to incur the expense of other engagement opportunities and activities that more directly benefit our valued African partners.

“We greatly value the partnership with Nigeria and appreciate President Buhari’s recognition of the United States’ positive contribution to African peace and security, as well as other regional partners that have made similar past pronouncements. The United States remains committed to continuing our close partnership with African countries and organisations to promote security and stability.”

It’s ‘near impossible’ for America to accept Buhari’s invitation –Campbell, ex-US ambassador

Meanwhile, a former United States Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, has listed reasons why it is “unlikely or near impossible” for the US government to relocate AFRICOM from Stuttgart in Germany to Nigeria or any part of the continent.

He said aside from the fact that the cost of doing so is very huge, the Nigerian military had proved to be a difficult partner for the US over the years.

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China Urges U.N. States Not to Attend Xinjiang Event Next Week

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China - Investors King

China has urged United Nations member states not to attend an event planned next week by Germany, the United States and Britain on the repression of Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in Xinjiang, according to a note seen by Reuters on Friday.

“It is a politically-motivated event,” China’s U.N. mission wrote in the note, dated Thursday. “We request your mission NOT to participate in this anti-China event.”

China charged that the organizers of the event, which also include several other European states along with Australia and Canada, use “human rights issues as a political tool to interfere in China’s internal affairs like Xinjiang, to create division and turbulence and disrupt China’s development.”

“They are obsessed with provoking confrontation with China,” the note said, adding that “the provocative event can only lead to more confrontation.”

The Chinese mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The ambassadors of the United States, Germany and Britain are due to address the virtual U.N. event on Wednesday, along with Human Rights Watch Executive Director Ken Roth and Amnesty International Secretary General Agnes Callamard.

The aim of the event is to “discuss how the U.N. system, member states and civil society can support and advocate for the human rights of members of ethnic Turkic communities in Xinjiang,” according to an invitation.

Western states and rights groups have accused authorities in Xinjiang of detaining and torturing Uyghurs in camps, which the United States has described as genocide. In January, Washington banned the import of cotton and tomato products from Xinjiang over allegations of forced labor.

Beijing denies the accusations and describes the camps as vocational training centers to combat religious extremism.

“Beijing has been trying for years to bully governments into silence but that strategy has failed miserably, as more and states step forward to voice horror and revulsion at China’s crimes against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims,” Human Rights Watch U.N. director Louis Charbonneau said on Friday.

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Lawmakers Tensed Over Possible Boko Haram Attack On National Assembly

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Lawmakers have been notified of a possible attack by Boko Haram insurgents on the National Assembly complex and other public buildings in Abuja, The media gathered.

Several members of the House of Representatives, on Wednesday, confirmed to Punch correspondent that they had been notified of the imminent attack by the terrorist group.

One of them, who is from a state in the South-West, said his presence would henceforth be limited on the premises.

“That is the security alert I saw today. I’m already moving out of here. I’ll only be around when there is a major reason to do so. Nowhere is safe in the country anymore,” he said.

Already the notice of the impending attack has been made available to the lawmakers.

The notice, a copy of which our correspondent obtained, was sent to the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, other principal officers and all members of the House.

The ‘security alert’, dated May 4, 2021, was issued by the Chairman of the House Committee on Internal Security, National Assembly, Mr. Usman Shiddi.

It was titled ‘Re: planned insurgent attacks on VIP locations, government facilities and assets in Abuja.’

The alert read, “I refer to the above subject of which a copy of the intelligence report from the Force Intelligence Bureau of the Nigeria Police Force in the National Assembly Complex has been made available to my office.

“The report indicates planned insurgent attacks by some elements of Boko Haram on some VIP locations, government facilities and assets in Abuja, including the National Assembly complex.

“In view of the above intelligence, I have considered it paramount to advise that all members should, henceforth, use the presidential gate for ingress and egress.

“This is to avoid the unforeseen congestions that are sometimes encountered at the main gates since such congestions could easily be the targets for these insurgent elements.

“Security agencies are, however, actively on top of the issue to unravel and to contain the intended menace. Accept the assurances of my highest regards, please.”

Security has been beefed up in and around the complex since Thursday last week.

For the first time, security operatives on that day checked vehicles entering the premises, causing traffic congestion especially at the third (and last) gate, a process that has continued to date.

Before now, the security operatives were only after the identities of drivers and passengers to confirm that they were staff members, legislative aides, journalists, or persons working in private businesses in the complex.

The media correspondent observed that soldiers joined the regular sergeants-at-arms and men of the Nigeria Police Force, Department of State Services, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps and the Federal Road Safety Corps that manned the gates.

Recall that the Governor of Niger State, Sani Bello, had on April 26, 2021, raised the alarm over Boko Haram terrorists taking over a part of the state, hoisting their flag in Kaure village from where they had made incursions into more than 50 villages.

Bello said Abuja was not safe, with Boko Haram’s presence in Kaure – a two-hour journey from the Federal Capital Territory.

He said, “I am confirming that there are Boko Haram elements here in Niger State. Here in Kaure, I am confirming that they have hoisted their flags here.”

The same day, Gbajabiamila had met with the President, Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, in company with the Majority Leader, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa.

On the next day, the House held a long executive (closed-door) session to discuss the rising spate of insecurity across Nigeria, calling on Buhari to declare a state of emergency on security.

At the secret session that lasted over three hours, the lawmakers unanimously adopted a series of resolutions, one of which was that “the Federal Government should ensure the protection of national infrastructure and assets, particularly the Shiroro and Kainji Dams in Niger State.”

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