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Mass food poisoning in Nigeria: Lebanese floods markets with toxic buffalo meat

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THE IMPORTED BUFFALO HIDES IN A WAREHOUSE

Many Nigerians may be in serious health complications already, following unwitting consumption of highly salted buffalo skin, disguised and sold as cow hides known in local parlance as “ponmo” or “kanda”. The buffalo ponmo, as thick as bicycle tyres, are imported into Nigeria by a cartel of Lebanese businessmen and sold mainly in Lagos and Ibadan markets. The unwholesome meats have reportedly been on sale in Agbor in Delta State, Benin and Ilorin. In Abuja, a SATELLITE TIMES reporter recalled seeing the unusually thick ponmo on a customer’s plate in a restaurant inside Trade More Estate, just behind Voice Of Nigeria (VON) radio transmission station.

Import documents obtained by SATELLITE TIMES reveal that the buffalo consignments are brought in from Sudan and Dominican Republic. The ponmo with offensive odour are imported as an industrial product, specifically as raw material for manufacturing of leather products but are instead sold to Nigerians as consumable meat. That way the Lebanese not only pay a very low import duty of 5%, their consignments escape hygiene and disease-control checks from the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, (NAFDAC). Similarly, the unscrupulous businessmen are able to fool the Ministry of Health whose vet doctors must certify meats safe for public consumption by first conducting due diligence on livestock before they are slaughtered in abattoirs.

To cover their tracks, the Lebanese use several Nigerians as fronts. For one of the imports, No. 72b Marine Road Apapa Lagos was quoted on the Bill of Lading as the importer’s address. However, checks by SATELLITE TIMES showed that the land address was fake. No. 72b Marine Road Apapa does not exist. Further investigations led this reporter to a dingy factory converted into a warehouse on Koseman Street, off Iju Water Works, Iju, a Lagos suburb bordering Ogun State.

Keke napep tricycles used to transport purchased hides

Keke napep tricycles used to transport purchased hides

Outside the warehouse, a group of market women could be found waiting for their turn to be called in to make their purchase. Yellow-painted tricycles were stationed outside by their operators who obviously were making brisk business transporting the buffalo meat from the warehouse to various markets where on arrival are deposited in drums of water to soften, before iron sponges are used to scrub off grits.

Customers waiting in the premises of the warehouse

Customers waiting in the premises of the warehouse

Inside the factory, the buffalo meats were seen deposited on bare floors, A certain Mr. Ahmed and four other Nigerian men were supervising sales with industrial scales while two Lebanese bosses looked on from different corners. The factory appeared to have been used in the past to handle scrap metals and related businesses. There was no meat processing, packaging, freezing nor cold storage facilities.

This reporter was eventually able to obtain a sales receipt issued to one of the market women. The receipt has the name of a company by name Rainbow Hide & Skin Nigeria Limited. A check at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) however showed that Rainbow Hide & Skin Nigeria Limited was not a registered company.

Sales receipts issued by Rainbow Network Limited

Sales receipt issued by Rainbow Hide & Skin Nigeria Limited

On one of the shipping documents obtained by SATELLITE TIMES, it showed that the contaminated buffalo meat consignment was brought into Nigeria by a vessel called Rio Grande Express. The shipper’s address was given as Max Henriquez Urea Suite 202, Los Prados, Republica Dominicana while the consignee was given as Dayspring Junction Nigeria Limited, 8 Joe Best Crescent, Junction Bus Stop, Ajao Estate, Lagos. A telephone number assigned to a Mr. Dare Kolawale was also given.

Shipping manifest used in importation of the buffalo hides

Shipping manifest used in importation of the buffalo hides

Shipping manifest used in importation of the buffalo hides

Shipping manifest used in importation of the buffalo hides

When SATELLITE TIMES called the number, a male voice confirmed that he was the consignee but curiously added he did not know the identity of the importer. He said that Dayspring Junction Nigeria Limited was only “the clearing agent”.

Posing as a buyer, this newspaper contacted Rainbow Hide & Skin Nigeria Limited on telephone. A sales representative gleefully announced that the company had sales outlets in Lagos, Ibadan, Ilorin, Benin, Kano and Abeokuta.

Another company used by the Lebanese in the buffalo hide import is Sharafeldin Trading Company with address as Payne Crescent, Apapa – Lagos. Sources within the Nigeria Customs Service told SATELLITE TIMES that as many as 30 containers a month are brought into the country by the Lebanese cartel with protection from senior Customs and police officials. All the imports were found to have breached the standards Operation Procedure (SOP) as none has End-User Certificate indicating the shoe-manufacturing companies that would use the buffalo hides some of which are disguised on import documents as cow hides.

It was further gathered that a shopper at Agege-Lagos market, disturbed by the unsightly heaps of buffalo hides and the implication for public health, tipped off the police but that arrest and prosecution of the dealers was allegedly scuttled by the Inspector General of Police in charge of Zone 2, Lagos, Adamu Ibrahim.

Mr. Anikwe Adigwe, who told SATELLITE TIMES he saw on sale what fitted the description of the abnormally thick ponmo in Agbor market, expressed grave concern about the damage the buffalo meat must have done to the health of unsuspecting Nigerians.

“We’ve had outbreaks of ebola virus and recently monkey pox attributed to the eating of bush animals. Now, we are talking about buffalo meat. As we speak, ebola is ravaging DR Congo and I am sure Nigeria is up and doing at our international airports inspecting visitors; but is anybody paying attention to what is coming in through the seaports?” Anikwe inquired.

In response to a telephone inquiry, Abubakar Jimoh, Director in charge of media and public relations at the National Agency for Food Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) said his agency deals only with processed foods, thereby suggesting that the import of unwholesome buffalo meat and its consumption by unsuspecting Nigerians falls outside the NAFDAC purview.

Jimoh failed to respond to a detailed email enquiry where this newspaper sought to know if NAFDAC was aware of the imports by the Lebanese. He failed too to say if NAFDAC was sufficiently disturbed by the fact that a cartel has cleverly circumvented the agency’s check mechanism, considering that the animals were slaughtered and packaged without checks for diseases, hygiene and other health measures thus making the consignments objects of mass food poisoning with grave risk to national health.

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Investigations

N128 billion World Bank fund traced to Dieziani’s ally, Kola Aluko

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Kola Aluko
Kola Aluko

A total sum of N128 billion ($355 million) World Bank Fund has been traced to controversial international businessman Kola Aluko; an ally of Nigeria’s erstwhile Minister of Petroleum, Mrs. Dieziani Allison-Madueke.

Until recently when most of his known assets across the globe were seized, Nigerian-born Kola Aluko was the owner of over two dozen companies, multi-million dollars private jets, mansions in celebrity neighbourhoods as well as being the owner of one of the world’s most fascinating luxury yachts – the MY Galactica Star.

The $355 million World Bank money was shockingly found to have been invested in Seven Energy, a company owned by Kola Aluko. Seven Energy at the time was described as a company that might be involved in pillaging billions of dollars belonging to the Nigerian state. A due diligence investigation conducted by Nicholas Hildyard of the UK-based Corner House threw up some unbelievable findings on decisions made by financial investment experts within the World Bank.

Hildyard’s report, made available to SATELLITE TIMES, shows that on 1st May 2014, the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) bought $75 million worth of shares in a Mauritius-registered oil and gas company, Seven Energy International Limited, which at the time operated and traded in Nigeria as “Septa Energy” . The company is now known as Seven Exploration.

A further investment of $30 million was made at the same time through the IFC African, Latin American and Caribbean Fund which is managed by the IFC’s secrecy jurisdiction-registered Asset Management Company. And a few months later, in October 2014, the IFC provided further funds through an anchor investment of up to $50 million in the company’s inaugural bond issue. At the time, the investments constituted the “IFC’s largest equity financing in the oil and gas sector in Africa”.

Another World Bank subsidiary, Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) later provided a $200 million guarantee to the Kola Aluko company in September 2015. While IFC is the World bank’s private sector investment arm, MIGA is the political risk insurance and credit enhancement arm of the World Bank Group.

Beginning from November 2010 when it ventured into Nigeria’s oil industry, Septa Energy – a wholly owned Nigerian subsidiary of Seven Energy International Limited – had never been short of controversies. It began life by entering into Strategic Alliance Agreements (SAA) with the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and its subsidiary the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC). Aluko and his partners were alleged to have used Seven Energy as a vehicle for laundering stolen oil funds.

In July 2017, the US Department of Justice sought to seize $144 million in assets said to have been bought with monies due to the Federal Government of Nigeria but diverted for the benefit of Aluko and his partners. The court papers are explicit that the assets are “derived from an international conspiracy to obtain lucrative business opportunities in the Nigerian oil and gas sector in return for corruptly offering and giving millions of dollars’ worth of gifts and benefits to the former Nigerian Oil Minister for Petroleum, Diezani Alison-Madueke; and to subsequently launder the proceeds of the illicit business opportunities into and through the United States”.

Loud as the pronouncements from the US court room were, the World Bank investment fund executives gave no hint they heard anything. The IFC is housed at 2121 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20433 USA while the MIGA is domiciled at the World Bank Group, 1818 H Street, NW, Washington, DC 20433 USA.

The court papers stated that Kola Aluko had “acquired the luxury yacht, Galactica Star, at the cost of $80 million. He bought 58 exotic cars, expensive watches, private jets, Global Express S5-GMG and a Bombardier Global 6000 9H-OPE.”

The court papers further noted that Aluko still had a bank balance of “$25 million in LDT Switzerland, $1million at Corner Bank, Lugano, Switzerland; $40million at Deutsche Bank, Geneva; and 175,000 at HSBC, London.”

Meanwhile, the US government had earlier filed a suit to recover the sum of $144 million in assets said to be proceeds from the oil contracts.

In June 2016, the Nigerian government sought and later obtained a worldwide freezing order directing 19 Nigerian banks, eight foreign banks and eight local and international firms to freeze the funds and assets they hold on behalf of Aluko, his business partner Jide Omokore and two companies owned by the Atlantic Energy Group.

The attraction of a World Bank arm to Kola Aluko’s Seven Energy remains a puzzle. IFC’s rules require it to assess “integrity risk issues” related to “the institutions and persons” involved in a given investment and that these risks are to be monitored “throughout the life of the project or engagement”

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New Immigration Recruitment: Kano 355, Lagos 43, Niger 196, Bayelsa 27

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Nigeria Immigration Service
Nigeria Immigration Service [Photo credit: Premium Times]

Recently concluded recruitment exercise into the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) is spinning a new web of scandal in the Interior Ministry as the exercise, conducted with glaring disregard to the principle of federal character, adds to the lop-sidedness in Nigeria’s quirky geopolitics.

Documents exclusively obtained by SATELLITE TIMES shows that a total of 3,460 persons were recruited. A breakdown of the recruitment, based on states of origin, shows that Kano State has 355 recruits while Lagos has only 43. Niger State has 196 while Bayelsa has 27.

The list of the new recruits further shows that Katsina has 153 slots, Nassarawa 130, Kaduna 143, Kogi 196, Bauchi 101, Borno 94, Benue 94 and Adamawa 94 while Ebonyi has 45, Abia 50, Imo 78, Rivers 54, Akwa Ibom 59 and Cross River 86.

Others are Yobe 81, Ondo 63, Enugu 64, Kwara 91, Edo 86, Plateau 83 and Kebbi 75. Jigawa State has 160 slots, Taraba 68, Anambra 77, Delta 59, FCT 91 and Sokoto 74 while Oyo has 53, Ogun 75, Ekiti 48, Osun 56, Gombe 59 and Zamfara 99.

Out of the 3,460 persons recruited, the 19 Northern States got 2,278 slots, while the 17 Southern States were given almost half of their northern counterparts with only 1,182 slots.

The plan for the latest recruitment was laid by the Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazzau who is recalled to have said that “there were two aborted Immigration recruitments that were done. The first one led to fatality and casualties. The second one was dispersed following discovery of so many abnormalities which 2,000 of them were sent home.

“When we came in November 2015, we looked at the whole thing and we discovered for the second one that it was not all the fault of the candidates as such, but it was the process that was followed.

“So we wrote a memo to Mr. president that we should recall those candidates, 2000 of them, so that we can reassess them and the President graciously approved that and we advertised in papers and I think about 1,500 or so reported and out of this number 888 qualified for that recruitments.

“Now the balance of 1, 112 is what we are working on now, that is the reason for the recent advertisement by the Nigerian Immigration Service to recruit that balance of 1,112 and this is the process we are in now.”

Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau [Photo Credit: Guardian Nigeria]

Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau [Photo Credit: Guardian Nigeria]

Contrary to the minister’s position that 1,112 will be recruited and added to the already existing 888 candidates from the previous exercise that will make up 2000 in total, the latest immigration exercise recruited 3460 in total.

Sources close to the NIS headquarters suggested that nepotism, tribalism, religion, cronyism, and influence peddling characterised the recruitment exercise.

Several attempts to get additional information from the Comptroller-General of Immigration (CGI) Mr Muhammed Babandede regarding the exercise was not successful. The CGI also failed to respond to inquiries via SMS and email.

The NIS Public Relations, John James, responding to SATELLITE TIMES’s telephone enquiry said: “If you have to write your story, write your story. I can’t hold back your story but I have opened a file for your enquiry and my men are working on it. I have to reconcile the file.”

On federal character, Section 14)3) and (4) of the 1999 Constitution14(3) says: “The Composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to effect the federal Character of Nigeria and the need to promote National unity, and also command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies.’

This section of the Constitution enhances the Federal Character Act of 1999 which seeks to promote equitable representation of all Nigerians in all national institutions, public enterprises and organisation.

According to the Act, the Federal Character Commission set up to implement the Act shall have power to take such legal action including the prosecution of any person, whether corporate or unincorporated which being obliged to comply with the provisions of the Act, fails to do so.

The law provides that any person who is found guilty of abuse of office in the observance of any matter under this Act is guilty of an offence. Section 15 imposes terms of fine ranging from N50,000 to N100,000 or term of imprisonment for six months or both.

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12 Years and N12 billion after, National Library Project in limbo

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Uncompleted National Library project
Uncompleted National Library project

Twelve years and N12 billion after, the National Library of Nigeria (NLN) project has joined the long list of abandoned projects that can only characterise a failed state.

Sited in the nation’s capital Abuja, contract for the project conceived to be a national monument was awarded in 2006 at a cost of N8.6 billion to Reynolds Construction Company (Nigeria) Limited (RCC). The company, a subsidiary of SBI International Holdings of Switzerland started work on the project in April 2006 and was billed to complete it in 22 months.

Against all expectations, the 22 months ended with a twist. The project was scaled down from eight to five floors but its budget ironically was scaled up to N17 billion from the initial N8.6billion. Following a compliance certificate issued by the Bureau of Public Procurement, the Federal Executive Council approved the adjusted contract figure. The completion period was also adjusted to 21 months beginning from July 2010.

At the fifth floor, construction work finally reached its peak with only the roofing to go. But just as the roofing engineers were about to move in, a directive from the presidency vide a letter dated October 11, 2012 was sent to the consultant to instruct RCC to revert to the original design of eight floors. In February 2013, RCC requested for extension of time, and again sought an upward review of the contract to N48 billion.

Uncompleted National Library project

Uncompleted National Library project

Again in 2014 a presidential ad-hoc committee was set up to resolve the lingering issues. The Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA)’s department of building was called in. The committee recommended N38.764 billion upwards reviews as against the N48 billion demanded by the contractor. The committee also reviewed completion period to 30 months.

Budgetary allocation documents sighted by SATELLITE TIMES show the yearly allocation and the actual sum released, beginning from 2007. There was no allocation in 2006.

The sum of N213 million was put into the project out of the N500 million budgeted in 2007. In 2008, N2, 269,197,198.00 (N2.2 billion) was appropriated but only N1, 217,401,308.05 (1.2 billion) was released.

The following year, the sum of N2.4 billion was budgeted and N2.4 billion was released. In 2010 the budgeted sum was N1.8 billion but N708 million was released. In 2011, N7589 million was the figure allocated but N491.2 million was released. The sum of N2 billion was budgeted in 2012 but what was released was N1.08 billion. In 2013, N4 billion was budgeted, N3.2 billion was released.

In 2014, N2.2 billion was the budget but only N555, 697,923.52 was released. N1.4 billion was budgeted in 2015 but a paltry N7 million was released. The total capital budget for the ministry of Education in 2016 was N35.4 billion but the National Library project that year received no budgetary allocation.

In 2017, the government appropriated only N1.8 billion as capital budget for the library project but only N900 million was released. In the 2018 budget only N566.9million was proposed for the NLN project.

No work was on going when SATELLITE TIMES visited the project site. A security guard told this newspaper that occasionally some cleaners are brought in to tidy up the uncompleted building. The resident architect of RCC declined comment.

Meanwhile, the National Library department is presently serving the nation from a rented building with leaky roof, cracked walls, broken-down toilets and water pipes. The property belongs to Dantata Group of Companies of Plot 274, Sanusi Dantata House Way, Central Business District Abuja.

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A staff of the National Library told SATELLITE TIMES that their days in Dantata House were numbered as the landlord has issued quit notice. The NLN is owing rent arrears of N508 million.

The Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, while speaking at a conference of Directors and Chairmen of State Public Library Boards in Nigeria organized by the NLN on 27th February 2018 said President Muhammadu Buhari, had directed that all necessary arrangements be made to ensure speedy completion of the multi-billion-naira NLN headquarters.

Books lying on the floor in National Library

However, that was not the first time that government was making such promises. The then Supervising Minister for Education, Nyesom Wike, had equally mouthed similar government promises in 2013.

SATELLITE TIMES sought official response from the Ministry of Education. Mr. Sam Azu, the Deputy Director, Library Services in the ministry denied that the project has been abandoned. “The idea that it is abandoned or that it is not being continued is just not there.”

Azu refused to elaborate, adding however that the little he had said were his personal opinion.

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