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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

Currency Speculators in Trouble as Naira’s Resurgence Continues

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Currency speculators are in trouble as the Naira has continued to gather strength in the market in recent times.

It would be recalled that the US Dollar exchanged for nearly N2,000 in February this year, same with the Pounds, Euro and other foreign currencies.

However, the Naira has continued to gather strength and is currently hovering around N1,480 and N1,520 for a Dollar.

To that end, the Presidency has warned forex speculators to discard their Dollars, saying that the Naira will soon appreciate more and may depreciate their savings.

President Bola Tinubu’s Special Adviser on Information and Strategy, Bayo Onanuga, made this call in a statement via his X handle on Thursday.

The presidential aide urged speculators to quickly dump their dollars to avoid “tears.”

He stated, “With backlog FX settled, Naira is set to appreciate further, faster. Currency speculators should quickly dump their stock of dollars to avoid sorrows and tears.”

Onanuga was reacting to the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, disclosure that it had cleared the $7 billion foreign exchange backlog inherited by Governor Yemi Cardoso.

Yemi Cardoso, CBN Governor

In a statement on Wednesday, CBN’s Acting Director of Corporate Communications, Mrs Hakama Sidi Ali, confirmed the settlement of all valid FX backlog claims.

Ali said the apex bank employed Deloitte Consulting, an independent auditing firm, to meticulously assess the transactions, ensuring that only legitimate claims were honoured.

“Any invalid transactions were referred to the relevant authorities for further investigation,” she stated.

The CBN’s commitment to tackling the FX backlog appears to be paying off, with the external reserves seeing a significant rise, reaching $34.11 billion as of March 7, 2024, the highest level in eight months.

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Economy

CBN Uncovers $2.4b Invalid FOREX Claims

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CBN Governor Yemi Cardoso

Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Yemi Cardoso said the apex bank has discovered $2.4 billion invalid forex outstanding claims pressuring the naira and causing anxiety in the currency market.

Cardoso disclosed this in an interview with Arise Television on Monday.

According to Cardoso, this was uncovered during an audit by the consultant the CBN hired, which exposed a number of dubious transactions.

The CBN Governor stated that the apex bank commissioned Deloitte to look into the FX allegations to provide a true picture of the situation.

Cardoso said, according to the Deloitte assessment, up to $2.4 billion of the backlog consists of fictitious claims, with claimants in certain cases being unable to provide import documentation.

“We had had reasons to believe we needed to take a harder look at these obligations. So we contracted Deloitte management consultants to do a forensics of all these obligations and to actually tell us what was valid and what was not,” Mr Cardoso said.

“The result that came out of this was startling in a great respect. It was startling. We discovered that of the roughly $7 billion, about $2.4 billion had issues, which we believe had no business being there and the infractions on that ranged from so many things, for example not having valid import documents and in some cases entities that do not exist,” he said.

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Economy

We are Determined to Stabilise Forex and Boost Economic Growth. -FG

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By Christopher Sunday

Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, has said the Tinubu administration is committed to implementing macroeconomic reforms.
aimed at curbing inflation, easing the cost of living, and stabilising the foreign exchange as part of the broader objective of boosting economic growth.

The Minister stated this on Saturday in Minna, Niger State, at the 2024 Press Week of the Niger State Chapter of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ).

Represented by the Director General of the Voice of Nigeria, Mallam Jibrin Baba Ndace, the Minister said the year 2024 holds a lot of prospects for Nigerians as some of the promising initiatives of the administration begin to bear fruit.

“Permit me, distinguished invited guests, as chief spokesperson of the Federal
Government of Nigeria, to use this hallowed platform to tell Nigerians, at this early and auspicious time of the year, that 2024 would be a great year for Nigeria as thepolicies of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu under the Renewed Hope Agenda takefirmer roots for the growth of our nation’s economic development, our invaluablehuman assets, and national security.

“The Tinubu administration will continue to implement macroeconomic reforms.
to achieve broad economic objectives of sustained economic growth aimed at
bringing down inflation, easing the cost of living, and stabilising foreign exchange
and job creation, among others,” he said.

Idris said, against the backdrop of the withdrawal of fuel subsidies, liberalising the foreign exchange regime, and the fight against corruption, the Tinubu government is showing fidelity to the rule of law and the independence of institutions, as demonstrated in the recent judgements of the courts.

The Minister explained that the recent Federal Government decision to relocate certain departments of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the headquarters of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to Lagos is part of a broader strategy to enhance operational efficiency, streamline processes, ensure a responsive financial system for Nigeria, and cut operations costs. He emphasised that the government’s directive aligns with global best practices and has no political motivation, however wrongly propagated.

The minister assured that no policy of the present administration would put any part of the country in a disadvantageous position. “President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s commitment to fairness and equitable development, as outlined in his oath of office, ensures that no policy under his administration will disadvantage any region. His dedication to fostering national unity and inclusivity is reflected in policies guided by principles of fairness and equality,” he said.

The Minister, who also used the occasion to enlist the support of the media in the fight against fake news, said the hydra-headed menace of fake news is ravaging the media space. “My dear colleagues, we need to rise against the elements of fake news that are deliberately designed to misinform Nigerians,” he said.

Idris also announced to the gathering that the Federal Government would soon unveil comprehensive details of the National Values Charter, which are aimed at inculcating values in the citizenry.

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