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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

Dead! Barkindo, OPEC Sec-Gen, Hours After Meeting President Buhari

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Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo, secretary-general of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), is dead.

Mele Kyari, group managing director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited, announced his demise in a tweet in the early hours of Wednesday.

Kyari said he died at about 11p.m on Tuesday few hours after delivering a speech to oil and gas stakeholders at the ongoing 2022 Nigerian oil and gas conference and exhibition in Abuja.

After the event, he met with President Muhammadu Buhari at the statehouse alongside a delegation from the OPEC secretariat.

He was aged 63.

He described his departure as a great loss to his immediate family, NNPC Nigeria, OPEC and the global energy community.

“We lost our esteemed Dr Muhammad Sanusi Barkindo. He died at about 11 pm yesterday 5th July 2022. Certainly a great loss to his immediate family, the NNPC, our country Nigeria, the OPEC and the global energy community,” Kyari tweeted.

“Burial arrangements will be announced shortly.”

Barkindo is the third ex-NNPC GMD to have passed on in two years — Maikanti Baru died in May 2020 and Joseph Dawha in August 2020.

His second term at OPEC ends on July 31, 2022.

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Economy

Emefiele Not Sacked – CBN Spokesman

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Contrary to viral reports to the effect that the federal government has sacked the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele,  Head of corporate communications of the Bank, Osita Nwanisiobi has said that rumours of a purported sack are not true.

Osita denied the rumours in a phone conversation with Nairametrics stating that “he is not aware of any sack of the CBN Governor”. Nairametrics also understands the CBN Governor is in Davos on official assignment.

Several online media blogs have published reports of a purported sack of the Governor of the Central Bank of Africa’s largest economy with some mentioning that “it was unconfirmed” even though they went ahead to publish.

Nairametrics also contacted other sources close to the presidency and the CBN Governor to confirm if the rumours are true. All our sources claim no knowledge of a purported sack.

Meanwhile,the CBN Governor has been under pressure since he declared interest in running for president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

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NPA : Panel Clears Hadiza Bala Usman of Fraud

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Hadiza Bala Usman, the former managing director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), has been cleared of allegations of failing to remit N165 billion operating surplus to the coffers of the federal government, according to a report by TheCable.

However, the 11-member committee set up by the ministry of transportation to probe the alleged fraud decided to shift its attention to allegations of insubordination to Rotimi Amaechi, the minister.

She was accused of ignoring ministerial directives and communicating directly with President Muhammadu Buhari.

Usman was originally suspended in May 2021 by the minister over an allegedly missing N165 billion but the committee did not find any evidence in its account reconciliation.

TheCable understands that when Amaechi presented the report to Buhari and asked for permission to remove Usman based on to “insubordination”, the president refused to give approval but instead directed the minister to issue a query to the former NPA MD.

Amaechi, presidency sources told TheCable, said Usman had already defended herself before the committee, but Buhari insisted that she be allowed to respond to the report before any further action is taken.

“A visibly disappointed Amaechi then directed Magdalene Ajani, the permanent secretary, to issue the query,” the source said, adding that Buhari refused to be presented with a “fait accompli”.

Conspicuously missing in the 10 items of query is the original reason for her suspension — the allegation that N165 billion was not remitted to the treasure single account (TSA) which made the headlines.

QUERY AND REPLY

An official of the ministry of transportation, who spoke to TheCable but pleaded to be “shielded” for fear of victimisation, said Usman responded to the query within one week as stipulated.

“She said that she did not have access to some important documents because she was on suspension but I would say she did justice to the query,” the official said.

Mohammed Bello-Koko, who acted as NPA MD during her suspension, was a bank’s accounts officer to the Rivers states government when Amaechi was governor.

Bello-Koko was on Tuesday officially appointed the MD.

In the query dated January 26, 2022, Ajani said the committee accused Usman of the following acts of insubordination.

  • Disregard for ministerial directive in respect of the Bonny/Port Harcourt and Lagos port channel management contract
  • Unlawful procurement of the operation of truck transit park for port bound trucks (e-callup) with the non-payment into TSA
  • Unilateral execution of a supplemental agreement in respect of the Lekki Deep Seaport concession project
  • Breach of the channels of the communication in the public service
  • Unilateral and improper use of the emergency procurement mode to procure vehicles
  • Waiver, rebates and tariffs granted by NPA without requisite approval
  • disobedience of court order in respect of pilotage contract between NPA and Intels
  • Disregard of court order in the matter between NPA and BUA ports and terminal limited in respect of the concession of Terminal B Rivers ports complex.
  • Breach of presidential/ministerial directive in the matter of the LADOL/Samsung dispute
  • Lease of Koko Port to Messers Creek Shore Jetty and Terminal Ltd

In her response, she denied all the allegations.

On the renewal of the Bonny/Port Harcourt and Lagos port channel management contract for which she was said to have disregarded ministerial directive, she said she conveyed the directive to the Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP) which it clarified that it was an extension of an existing contract and such extensions do not require the attention of either the ministerial tenders board or the federal executive council.

Usman said, with regards to the operations of the e-callup system, that “it is practically impossible to have the e-Wallet account domiciled with the TSA as the amount standing to the credit of the transporters’ wallets still belong to the customers. In addition, the owners of the satellite parks and pre-gates used for gating trucks before their callup into the ports need to be paid weekly from the wallet account based on how many bookings were made for their parks”.

She denied unilaterally executing a supplemental agreement in respect of the Lekki Deep Seaport concession project, stating that it was operational in nature and does not alter any major aspect of the concession agreement “as it only rescheduled construction timeframe for a berth and allowed other players to partake in the development of dry bulk since the company was constrained to embark on the construction”.

The former NPA MD said presidency communicated directly with her seeking information and clarifications on the activities of the authority and she responded and she was not at any informed that her responses should have gone through the ministry since presidency did not communicate with her through the ministry.

Usman denied “unilateral and improper use of the emergency procurement” to procure vehicles to replace the ones burnt by the End SARS rioters, quoting public procurement laws to back her decision and pointing out that NPA got a provisional “no objection” certificate for the purchases.

She insisted that she did not disobey court orders on Intels and BUA, and that no presidential or ministerial directive was breached in the LADOL/Samsung dispute.

On the lease of Koko Port to Messrs Creek Shore Jetty and Terminal Ltd, she said she acted the legal limits of NPA as provided by the enabling laws.

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