Irregularities in the procurement process of rice by the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA for Internally Displaced People, IDP once again is on the front burner.
The House of Representatives concerned over the process adopted by NEMA has queried the Agency to explain why it rejected an offer by the World Food Programme (WFP) to donate rice to internally displaced persons but proceeded to use public funds to purchase 5000 metric tonnes of rice for the same purpose and handed over them to WFP.
The legislators maintained that it is questionable that rather than convince the international agency to patronise local rice processors in the country in order to generate income for the country and boost agriculture, NEMA decided to provide the requested rice to WFP for free.
But Mr Kayode Fagbemi, acting director, Relief and Rehabilitation of NEMA, who represented the director general, Engr Mustapha Maihaja, informed the lawmakers that the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, gave approval to the agency to split the 10, 000 metric tonnes of rice for internally displaced persons into two and give WFP one part in order to aid faster food distribution.
Tempers flared at the hearing when Mr Kayode refused to answer the lawmakers, including Hon Mohammed Nur Sheriff, who represents the worst hit areas of Bama/Ngala/Kalabalge of Borno State, on the rationale behind that decision and his failure to state where the items were supplied to since there were allegations that the IDPs have not received them.
Governments of the five (5) out of the six (6) states which were supposed to have received the rice had, in an earlier hearing by the committee, stated that they have not received any rice from the food intervention programme.
The committee members also sought to know where a quotation allegedly made by Olam Nigeria Ltd for supply of eight metric tonnes of rice which was presented by NEMA to the committee emanated from since Olam duly informed the committee that it did not give any quote to NEMA prior to his engagement for the contract.
Representative of Olam, Vice president, Rice, Reggie George, had earlier, while making a presentation before the committee, explained that his company got to know about the contract through the ministry of Agricultural during a meeting of Rice Processors Associations of Nigeria and though he did not bid or send a quote for the contract, he received an award letter from NEMA to supply rice worth N2.4 billion.
In his submission to the committee, representative of APM Terminal, Mr Daniel Odigbe, said as a terminal operator, 271 containers of rice were received and stored but all the containers have left the port after being cleared by the agency.
He said the rice shipment which was received between June (50 containers), August (120 containers), September (40 containers) and October 2017 (61 containers) incurred a total demurrage of N389, 781 million for storage and delivery.
APT granted waivers to the tune of N183 million based on request by NEMA and the fact that the containers were meant for IDPs and received N 206 million as total payment for storage, delivery and handling cost.
Representative of MAX Nigeria Ltd, the local branch of Maxline, China, Ms Blessing Ebri, said while making a presentation before the committee that a total of N200 million was paid for demurrage for the rice which landed in the port of Lagos in June, 2017, along with a standard import charge of N17 million, after several negotiations with NEMA for waivers which the company agreed on.
Also at the hearing, Dangote Company explained to the committee that it was not involved in rice distribution to IDPs, neither were they engaged by NEMA. The representative of the company said it was engaged in June 2016 by the CBN and given N2 billion for mop up of maize from farmers for off season use, which they did and later released to NEMA on directive by CBN.
$8.1 billion MTN Sanction: Secret plans to reduce fine to $800 million
While the country is still outraged over the unlawful repatriation of $14 billion dollars by South African telecoms giant, MTN, development unfolding has revealed that there are behind the scenes arrangements to slash a fine placed on its Nigerian subsidiary from $8.1 billion to $800 million.
The new report drew the attention of the Nigerian Senate who resolved to seek explanations on the planned reduction by the federal government from a mammoth $8.1 billion to the new figures.
Senator Rafiu Ibrahim, Senate Committee Chairman on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions, while addressing journalists on Tuesday said it became pertinent for the Senate to wade into the ‘back door’ arrangement between MTN and the Nigerian government.
“It was gathered that the federal government, working through the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, may have concluded arrangements to cut the $8.1 billion fine to $800 million through the back door. The Senate said it was interested in knowing the percentage of reduction from $8.1 billion to $800,” he was quoted as saying, by Vanguard.
Mr. Ibrahim also called for detailed report to enable the Senate fully understand what transpired between MTN and CBN that led to the sanction.
The CBN ordered MTN to refund the $8.1 billion to its coffers as sanctions for repatriating $14 billion using fraudulent Certificates of Capital Imports (CCIs). For their roles in the illicit transfer, MTN’s bankers were sanctioned by CBN with Standard Chartered attracting a fine of N2.4 billion, Stanbic IBTC N1.8 billion, Citibank N1.2 billion and Diamond Bank N250 million respectively.
While a Lagos court adjourned the hearing on the $8.1 billion dispute between Nigeria’s apex bank and MTN until December 4, THISDAY newspaper reports that both parties have reached a tentative agreement on the fines imposed on the Nigerian subsidiary.
Concerned about the negative impact the refund would have on the South African economy, MTN Group CEO and President, Mr. Rob Shuter, was in Abuja to discuss the risks the sledgehammer hit on South Africa’s cash cow would cause the South African Reserve Bank (SARB).
In February 2018, SATELLITE TIMES brought to public attention secret documents of MTN’s financial dealings found so outrageous it was tagged a national security issue, forcing the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) to request the Department of Security Services (DSS) to step in.
In July, President Cyril Ramaphosa, in a disguised visit to Nigeria however came with dual interests in MTN.
As President of South Africa, his intervention was needed to save one of South Africa’s biggest cash cows in foreign land. The other is that as a businessman, Ramaphosa has substantial interest in MTN.
In September, SATELLITE TIMES also exclusively reported how there were plans by some ultra-powerful lobbyists recruited from within and outside Nigeria, and from a few foreign governments including those of South Africa, UK and The United Arab Emirate (UAE) to stop the fine that threatened the existence of MTN’s operation in Nigeria.
Corruption: Emir Sanusi Lamido was under secret probe by govt. – Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
Almost all through his 5-year tenure as governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Sanusi Lamido did his best to uphold a squeaky-clean image as a public servant. He even put on a new toga, assuming the role of the country’s anti-corruption czar, speaking out against public and private sector corruption as well as supporting policies towards strengthening best practices.
A startling revelation however, in a new book, paints a diametrically-opposing picture of Sanusi with strong suggestions of sleaze and brigandage at the apex bank where he held sway from 2009 to 2014.
The level of corruption was ostensibly on a large scale; so much so that the Financial Reporting Council (FRC), a financial oversight body located in the Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Investment initiated a probe.
The book, released 2018 and titled “Fighting Corruption is Dangerous: The Story Behind the Headlines,” was written by Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a World Bank economist who herself was a cabinet insider at the time Sanusi was the CBN governor.
Ngozi was Finance Minister, first in the Olusegun Obasanjo administration and returned to serve a second time in the same position but with an expanded portfolio as the Coordinating Minister for the Economy under the President Goodluck Jonathan administration.
For political expediency and also not to send the wrong signal to international investors, the Jonathan administration chose to keep the probe quiet.According to Ngozi, the President said “if the situation became public, it could reflect badly on the Central Bank Governor.”
While the outcome of the probe was being given official consideration at the highest level, Sanusi sprung a surprise. He wrote a letter on September 2013 to President Jonathan, alerting him that there was $49.8 billion missing from the country’s oil accounts between January 2012 and July 2013.
The new development spurred efforts towards reconciling the accounts by a joint task force comprising the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, The Finance Ministry and the CBN; but was hit by a major setback when Ngozi got a call from a Financial Times of London African correspondent, William Walis, of a leaked letter to the President (Jonathan) which alleged that $50 billion was missing from the country’s oil accounts.
Before she could act accordingly, the story of the alleged missing funds had spread like wildfire, leading to widespread outrage all over the country.
In December 2013, reports by the task force were ready and after professional consideration, the parties involved agreed that the unaccounted funds were between the ranges of $10.8 billion to $12 billion.
Though this reconciliation had been made, the country was already thrown in an uproar over the initial report of the missing $50 billion which led the National Assembly to call for a hearing.
To water down the attendant reactions that embraced the initial report, a press conference was organized where Sanusi admitted that his staff had erroneously tampered with the figures but after proper investigations by the task force, the CBN came to a resolution that only about $12 billion of the funds were unaccounted for.
Efforts to exonerate all wrongdoings by the parties involved were short-lived a day after the press conference following a television advert by the NNPC distancing itself from the controversy which further complicated the already dicey situation.
In February 2014 during their appearance before the Senate ad-hoc committee chaired by Senator Ahmed Makarfi, Sanusi in his defense when asked to speak, made a surprise u-turn and countered the initially agreed figure of $12 billion, Ngozi said.
In his defense, Sanusi said that while the unaccounted funds were not $50 billion, he argued that the money could not have been $12 billion either, tendering new exhibits alleging the figures to be $20 billion.
Sanusi fingered a subsidiary of the NNPC, the Nigeria Petroleum Development Corporation (NPDC), for the non-disbursement of $6 billion to the Federal Account.
Thrown off balance by the new revelations, Ngozi called for an independent forensic audit, a move she opined was the last resort to regaining lost public trust.
Though Sanusi was suspended for ‘financial recklessness’, his act was interpreted as punishment for whistle blowing, Ngozi added.
In June 2014, embattled Sanusi was eventually crowned the Emir of Kano after the death of his grand uncle, Ado Bayero.
On assumption into office in 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari vowed that his administration will probe the missing $20 billion allegedly unaccounted for from the country’s oil accounts. Buhari said that though the former governor of the apex bank had already assumed the position as the new Emir of Kano, the probe for the missing monies fraudulently unaccounted for became expedient, adding that the figure was too huge to ignore.
CSO calls for action as Nigeria ranks among 14 countries where killers of journalists go unpunished
A civil society organisation (CSO), Safer-Media Initiative, has called on the federal government of Nigeria to take stringent actions to end impunity for crimes against journalists as Nigeria ranks among 14 countries where killers of journalists go unpunished.
The charge was made on November 2 in Abuja by the Executive Director of the organisation, Peter Iorter during a press conference with the theme “Impunity for Crime against Journalists, a Threat to Democracy”. The event was held as part of its activities to mark this year’s International Day to end Impunity for Crimes against Journalists.
Participants at the event comprised representatives of the media, other civil society organisations, and the private sector.
In his opening remark, Iorter cited a UNESCO report which revealed that between 2016 and 2017, 182 Journalists lost their lives in the line of professional duty while in 2018; 86 of them were killed between January and October.
In a press release made available to SATELLITE TIMES, Iorter said that “shocking and infuriating is that in nine out of ten cases, the killers go unpunished. Even more disturbing is that Nigeria has consistently remained a contributor to those stunning global figures.”
In 2017, data collected by the International Press Centre (IPC) showed that at least two Nigerian journalists were killed while 12 journalists and media organizations in the country suffered various forms of assault.
The slain journalists are Famous Giobaro of Bayelsa State-owned radio station, Glory FM 97.1, who was shot dead on April 16; and Lawrence Okojie of Nigerian Television Authority, Benin, who was shot dead while returning from work on July 8.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) in an annual global impunity index published few days ago said Nigeria ranked 13 out of 14 countries in the world where journalists are slain and the killers circumvent justice.
According to Iorter, the alarming global reports propelled his organisation to raise concern that the Nigerian press is under “grave threat”.
“It is unfortunate, worrisome, and unacceptable that violations and assaults on journalists have continued unabated under a supposedly democratic system of governance,” he said.
He further condemned the incessant harassment, physical violence, arrest and detention of journalists by agents of government including the Department of State Service (DSS), the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), among others.
“Their salaries are paid with tax payers’ money to protect citizens; any action of theirs to the contrary amounts to breach of the social contract,” he added.
Furthermore, Ioter also insisted that the rights of journalists must be protected at all times.
He called on the National Assembly to recognize the urgent need to strengthen the laws that promote media freedom and provide protection for journalists.
While fielding questions from journalists at the event, Iorter said his organization is poised toward press freedom, safety of journalists and advancement of responsible media.
Mr. Peter Iorter is also an Editor at SATELLITE TIMES newspaper.
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