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Ebonyi indigenes want EFCC, others to probe state over alleged N2billion loan fraud

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Association of Ebonyi State Indigenes in Diaspora (AESID) has asked the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and other anti-graft agencies to embark on a comprehensive probe of the state financial records in the last 16 years.

The association specifically called on the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) the Directorate of State Services (DSS) and the Police to bring to book all those who have caused the state economic doldrums and future dooms beginning from the Sam Egwu-led administration to Elechi and now, the Dave Umahi-led government.

In a statement signed on Sunday by the President worldwide of the association, Ambassador Pascal Oluchukwu, said the probe become necessary over alleged mismanagement of a N2 Billion loan given by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to the state government under the leadership of Engr. David Nweze Umahi, for the 2016 farming season.

“We are aware that it all started with the courage and boldness of one of the enlightened citizens of the state and former Secretary to the Ebonyi State Government, Professor Benard Odoh to hold the Umahi-led administration accountable especially with regards to the disturbing statistics of the National Bureau of Statistics which recently named our State as the 3rd poorest in the federation and information from the Debt Management Office, DMO which indicates that the present government has increased the State’s domestic and external borrowings.

“Already, Prof. Odoh had in his response to the allegations maintained that he had no hands in the disbursements of the said fund as his role was merely limited to providing strategic leadership for the supervising Ministry of Agriculture as then headed by Barr. Uchenna Orji as a Commissioner.

“After making startling disclosures to the effect that only a little over N900m out of the total sum were released to the committee for disbursements and purchase of tractors, a seemingly confident Odoh has filed a petition to the anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) inviting it to probe all persons involved in the matter while also stunningly offering himself to be investigated.

“AESID as a non-governmental organization whose mandate is to protect and safeguard the interests and welfare of the common Ebonyian, we laud the steps taken so far by the former SSG, Prof. Odoh in reporting this matter to the EFCC which is indeed the appropriate body to investigate financial crimes and prosecute offenders as being in the right direction. This is because it is only reasonable that the accuser whose present and former appointees are also being questioned cannot be the judge in their own case.”

While condemning what it called witch-hunting, intimidations and harassments of the former SSG Prof. Odoh, the group said: “We strongly believe that the state would be saved from an impending economic doom if its financial records are holistically ascertained and offenders who have plundered its resources made to face the wraths of the law.

“There exist in our beloved state, many phony contracts and projects which have remained uncompleted several years after they were awarded till date while the contractors obviously live large on public funds meant for their executions. Also, many funds, grants and loans given the State which is still being repaid from the allocations as debts have remained largely unaccounted for. This has severely hampered developments on all fronts in critical sectors in the State such as; Education, Health, Agriculture, Economic and Human capacity developments and Empowerment, Youths and Sports development among several others.

“In specific terms, we were reliably informed that the Engr. David Umahi-led government for instance has accessed many grants such as N6bn UBEB funds which could not be secured by the previous Elechi administration. Also, information at our disposal indicates that the same government has in the last 5 years accessed a total of over N9bn so far as Agric loans for farmers from the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN. Despite these humongous sums and the fact that the government prides itself as investing heavily in the Agricultural sector, we are terribly disappointed that our dear State only boasts of getting most of its rice from some northern and neighbouring States for milling and packaging as the ‘Abakaliki’ brand of local rice.

“Like the rest of Ebonyi people who have been made to believe that this step was meant to save cost for the government and the people, we demand to know: How much exactly have been saved by the government through this use of direct labours by the Umahi-led administration?

“To this end therefore, we also call on other anti-graft agencies such as the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) including the Directorate of State Services (DSS) the Police and indeed, any agency that is responsible for law enforcement and justice implementation in Nigeria to wade in and ensure that fairness and justice is not only seen to be done but actually done and the state’s looted resources recovered.
“It is our strong believe that this probe would be in the overall interest of the Ebonyi masses,” the statement said.

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Economy

FG to spend $4.9bn fresh loans on Kano-Niger Republic rail line, others

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President Muhammadu Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari

A standard gauge rail being planned from Kano State in Nigeria to Maradi in Niger Republic is one of the projects the President Muhammadu Buhari plans to fund with the fresh external loans he is asking the National Assembly to approve for his regime, The PUNCH reports.

Buhari had asked the National Assembly to approve fresh external loans of $4.054bn and €710m ($839m) for his regime.

He also sought the  legislature’s approval for grant components of $125m in the 2018-2020 external rolling borrowing plan.

These were contained in a letter addressed to both chambers of the National Assembly and read on the floor at the resumption of plenary by the presiding officers Messrs Ahmad Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila (Senate President and Speaker of House of Representatives respectively) on Tuesday.

Lagos-Ibadan-rail

Buhari,  in the letter, dated August 24, 2021, explained that the projects listed in the 2018-2021 Federal Government Borrowing Plan would be financed through sovereign loans from the World Bank, French Development Agency, EXIM Bank International Fund for Agricultural Development, Credit Suisse Group and Standard Chattered/China Export and Credit in the total sum of $4,054,476,863 and €710m (839m) and grant components of $125m

According to the President, summary of some key projects in each of the six geopolitical zones that will be funded by the loans and a summary on the expected impacts on the socioeconomic development of each of the six geopolitical zones were attached to the letter.

According to the breakdown obtained exclusively by one of our correspondents from the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, five international bodies will jointly provide the $4,054,476,863 component of the loan.

They include the World Bank -$3,250,000,000; China Exim Bank -$225,120,000; IFAD- $50,000,000; European ECA/KfW/IPEX/APC -$190,255,276; Bank of China -$276,981,587; and Standard Chartered Bank/China Export and Credit (SINOSURE) -$62,120,000.

The Euro component of €710m will be provided by AFD -€210,000,00 and Credit Sussie Group €500,000,000 while the World Bank will provide the grant components of $125m.

According to the document, the $190,255,276 to be provided by European ECA/KfW/IPEX/APC will be spent on the Nigeria to Niger Republic rail line.

The document gave the project title as “Kano-Maradi SGR with branch to Dutse” and identified the implementing MDA as the Federal Ministry of Transportation.

“Financing cost which the lender requested to be capitalised” was written under the column for multilateral institution.

On the expected impact of the project on the geo-political development, the Federal Government wrote, “The project is to link Nigeria with Niger Republic from Kano-Katsina-Daura-Jibiya-Maradi with branch to Dutse.

“It is part of the Trans-Africa Railway System and it is expected to improve the international trade between Nigeria, Niger and other North-Africa countries.”

Also, the $225,120,000 to be provided by China Exim Bank is expected to be spent on the Lagos-Ibadan Railway Modernisation Project.

It is meant to cater for the construction of the branch line (Apapa-Tin Can Island Port) project.

On the impact of the project, the Federal Government said, “The project is to provide an alignment of routes from the Apapa Port Terminal to Tin Can Island Port and to enhance the economic activities at the Apapa and tin Can Island Ports.”

The $50,000,000 to be provided by IFAD will be spent on what the government called Value Chain Development Programme -Additional Financing II.

It identified the implementing states as Anambra, Benue, Ebonyi, Niger, Ogun, Taraba, Nasarawa, Enugu and Kogi while the geo-political zones were listed as North Central, North East, South West and South East.

The expected impact, according to the government, is “to support a measurable increase in the programme’s outreach to 100,000 farmers, including over 6,000 and 3,000 processors and traders respectively.

“It will also support the mainstreaming of issues that were not considered at the stage of programme design.”

The €210,000,000 to be provided by AFD will be spent on two projects -National Digital Identity Management Project (co-financed with the World Bank, AFD and EIB) -€100,000,000; and the Kaduna Bus Rapid Transport Project –€110,000,000.

The Bank of China’s $276,981,587 will be spent on the establishment of three power renewable energy projects; Credit Sussie Group’s €500,000,000 will be spent on sovereign guarantee for the issuance of Euro bond as collateral to enable Bank of Industry fund its projects; while the -$62,120,000 to be provided by Standard Chartered Bank/China Export and Credit (SINOSURE) will be used to provide 17MW hybrid solar power infrastructure for the National Assembly complex.

World Bank’s $3,250,000,000 will be spent on seven projects.

Part of Buhari’s letter to the National Assembly had read, “I write on the above subject and submit the attached addendum to the proposed 2018-2020 external rolling borrowing plan for the consideration and concurrent approval of the senate for the same to become effective.

“The distinguished Senate President may recall that I submitted a request on 2018-2020 borrowing plan for the approval of the senate in May 2021.

“However, in view of other emerging needs and to ensure that all critical projects approved by Federal Executive Council as of June 2021 are incorporated, I hereby forward an addendum to the proposed borrowing plan.

“The projects listed in the external borrowing plan are to be financed through sovereign loans from the World Bank, French Development Agency, EXIM Bank and IFAD in the total sum of $4,054,476,863 and €710m and grant components of $125m.

“A summary of some key projects in each of the six geopolitical zones and a summary on the expected impacts on the socioeconomic development of each of the six geopolitical zones are attached herewith as Annex II and III.”

 

Source The PUNCH via The Advocate

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Economy

Breaking: Appeal Court Stops Rivers, Lagos From collecting VAT…For Now

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The Court of Appeal in Abuja has halted the Rivers State government from collecting Value Added Taxes (VAT) until all legal disputes relating to the matter are resolved.

The court ordered that the judgment of the Federal High Court from which the State drew its power to collect the tax must not be implemented.

Justice Haruna Simon Tsanami who issued the order in Abuja on Friday also directed that the law passed by Rivers State House of Assembly and assented to by governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike must not be implemented.

The appellate court held that since parties have submitted themselves to the authorities of the court for adjudication of the matter, they must not do anything that will affect the subject matter of the appeal

In specific term, Justice Tsanami granted status quo ante below in favour of the Federal Inland Revenue Services FIRS and against the respondents.

The matter has been slated for September 16 for hearing of motion for joinder by Lagos State.

FIRS, in an appeal marked CA/PH/282/2021, is praying the court to set aside the judgment of a Federal High Court in Port Harcourt which granted power to the state to collect VAT.

The tax collection agency is also asking the appellate court to stay the execution of judgment.

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Economy

President Buhari Signs Petroleum Industry Bill into Law

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President Muhammadu Buhari has signed the Petroleum Industry Bill 2021 into law.

Working from home in five days quarantine as required by the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 after returning from London on Friday August 13, the President assented to the Bill Monday August 16, in his determination to fulfill his constitutional duty, said a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity Femi Adesina.

According to the statement, the ceremonial part of the new legislation will be done on Wednesday, after the days of mandatory isolation would have been completed.

The Petroleum Industry Act provides legal, governance, regulatory and fiscal framework for the Nigerian petroleum industry, the development of host communities, and related matters.

The Senate had passed the Bill on July 15, 2021, while the House of Representatives did same on July 16, thus ending a long wait since early 2000s, and notching another high for the Buhari administration.

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