Connect with us

Uncategorized

President Tinubu to arrive in Lagos for Sallah on Tuesday

Published

on

Tinubu

There are strong indications that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu will return to the country on Tuesday, a day before the commencement of the Sallah festivities.

The source revealed that the President intends to spend the Sallah holiday in Lagos, the commercial capital of the country.

As preparations for his return are underway, an advance team has already been dispatched ahead of President Tinubu’s arrival, Channels Television reports.

This newspaper reported earlier that on Friday, Tinubu concluded his official visit to Paris, where he actively participated in the summit for ‘A New Global Financing Pact,’ hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron. During the summit, the President took advantage of the platform to engage in high-profile sideline meetings with fellow heads of state, global business leaders, and notable executives from renowned multilateral and development finance institutions worldwide.

Initially, President Tinubu was expected to return to Abuja on Saturday. However, he proceeded to London, United Kingdom, for a brief private visit.

In a statement released on Saturday by his media aide, Dele Alake, it was announced that Tinubu would be back in the country in time for the Eid-el-Kabir festival, which is scheduled for Wednesday.

“Tinubu, who was initially scheduled to be back in Abuja on Saturday, will now proceed to London, United Kingdom, for a short private visit,” a statement signed by the Special Adviser on Special Duties, Communication and Strategy, read.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Uncategorized

NPA seeks to become Africa’s leading port

Published

on

NPA seeks to become Africa’s leading port

The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) says it is committed to becoming the leading port in Africa.

The commitment was reiterated by NPA managing director Mohammed Koko at the ongoing Enugu International Trade Fair.

He called for the collective commitment of trade development partners to achieve this target.

“We will strive to be the leading Port in Africa, a dream we can all realise with the collective commitment of trade development partners to which the Enugu Chamber of Commerce belongs.

“The Nigerian Maritime Industry is a prime economic driver, bearing in mind that 85 per cent of the volume of economic activities is delivered through the ports worldwide.

“Maritime transport remains the gateway to the global marketplace. Ports are catalysts for economic development as they enable trade and support supply chains,” he said.

The NPA boss said the Onne Port Complex and Rivers Port Terminal provide exporters with adequate infrastructure to carry out their transactions within a given time frame.

He added that this was done to encourage the exportation of more made-in-Nigeria goods and non-oil exports.

“We will continually give priority to exportation of agricultural produce and solid mineral resources and goods that will in turn enhance export and foreign exchange earnings.

“Furthermore, it should be mentioned also that rail lines into the Ports are being constructed and rehabilitated to ensure ease in the logistic chain,” Mr Koko said.

Continue Reading

Uncategorized

Oil theft-induced violence responsible

Published

on

Oil theft-induced violence responsible

HRM, King Bubaraye Dakolo, Ibenanaowei of Ekpetiama Kingdom and chairman, Bayelsa State Traditional Rulers Council, an alumnus of the Nigerian Defence Academy and United Kingdom-trained security expert in this interview bared his mind on the Okuama tragic incident, crude oil theft in the Niger Delta and failed institutions fuelling insecurity in the region. Excerpts.

Okuama debacle
First and foremost, Nigerians are not being told the truth about what happened between Okuama and Okoloba which is said to be over land. You know back here in the Niger Delta, a mere boundary dispute will not lead to soldiers coming in. What has happened is what is called oil-induced violence. And if you look very well you will see that there are some oil wells around there, oil pipelines, oil routes, so that is what has happened. And this bit has to be told. Once you know that it is oil-induced violence then you know what the real ticks are.

So, lets’ look at it from the military end, unfortunately about 17 gallant military officers were killed and some guns are taken away by some persons. If you want to ask what has been going on behind the scenes? For the Joint Military Task Force, JTF, has been here for more than two decades. The JTF is supposed to come out against kidnapping, pipeline vandalism, oil theft and you will agree with me that all these have not been successfully dealt with. If you go to Port Harcourt prison, Yenagoa prison, Kirikiri prison or Kogi Prison, you won’t find any oil thief there, which means after more than two decades of national operation to stamp out crude oil theft it has not been a success story. As a matter of fact, early last year the production came down so low but right now they are trying to raise it up.

Oil thieves
The real oil thieves must be properly defined again. A real thief is someone who does not sleep in the Niger Delta of Nigeria, particularly whether in the creek or swamp. And if they have to they will come with law enforcement of all type, soldiers and police so that their lives will be secured. An oil thief more often than not will have a private jet, yachts, and will have properties in Banana Island and in choice places like Abuja, England, America and other parts of Europe. That is a typical oil thief. Unfortunately, Nigeria has mis-defined an oil thief. Everyone else who is entangled in oil pipeline vandalism and kpofire related are victims of oil thievery. The real oil thief steals the oil, of course, with vessels and the rest of them. What happened is there isn’t the right atmosphere for the education of the youths, no proper job opportunity or living opportunity and of course with the pollution and everything and even alternative means of livelihood for the people of the Niger Delta are not there anyone.

So, they become hands to be used in the business of the actual oil thievery. There is nobody in any kingdom or in the kingdoms in Bayelsa State and environs that has ocean going vessels that is used in stealing oil. About 95,000 barrels in one ship early this year and also last year about the same quantity stolen. The real stealing is going on. And usually, it is in connivance with the international oil and gas industry operators.

Attacks on military personnel
Now you want to ask me, ordinarily, is there a Nigerian that ever seizes and kills military personnel? The answer is no. So, what will provoke somebody or embolden somebody to that point where he sees the military as a rival in a cut throat illegality? That question has to be asked; I won’t answer that but let it be asked.
The other one is, is anyone other than law enforcement supposed to be in possession of assault weapons of any type? Do you know of any weapons producing factory in Bayelsa State, Delta, and Rivers or anywhere in the Niger Delta? Even in Nigeria, the Nigerian military imports weapons from America, Israel to mentioned a few, so what are weapons doing in the hands of civilians and how do they come in?

Failed institutions
So, if they are in their possession it means they were smuggled in. you have all the Customs executives in Tincan Island, nobody talked about them. So they allowed these weapons to come in without been sanctioned. No Nigerian is talking about them. The press is not even talking about them. That is where to start because; it is because these young people are having these weapons. And about weapons handling, it is the first to pull the trigger. If I shoot you first and it touches your heart or any vital organ good bye, it is not because I went to the NDA. So, Nigerians must look at it. Now if the weapons get to civilians’ custody, it means that the Customs and Excise has failed woefully and I can tell you for free that the Customs is more interested in what you know. Recently, some are being probed for stealing so much from bribes, that is how these weapons come into the country.

So, if we want to prevent this kind of things from happening, then they also have to pay attention to Customs. But beyond the Customs, if the weapons come in then the Nigeria Police is supposed to find them somehow and dispossess the civilians of these weapons. This can be done either with the military because it is an illegality for a civilian to have an unlicensed weapon and the authorities that give license is the police. So, if someone is in possession of illegal weapon it is the duty of the police to ensure that they comb that town and ensure nobody is having unlicensed weapon. The next one is will someone who is ordinarily normal take a gun and shoot at a military person, which ordinarily is supposed to be suicidal? The answer again is no. something must be wrong with him. He may be high on one substance or the other. If he is high on one substance or the other, assuming the substance is cocaine is there a cocaine factory in Bayelsa State. Even if it is tramadol, is tramadol not a banned substance? How did it come in? Again Customs and Excise and then of course, National Drug and Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, should be blamed. So, when institutions of Federal Government fail woefully you have this kind of problem. Most of these things are supposed to ordinarily be handled by the police.

Militarisation
If you read the book “Riddle of the Oil Thief” chapter 22 titled ‘Militarization’, the whole story is there. What happened in Okuama is predicted there, it is as if we are telling the Okuama story. This particular outcome is predicted in that book verbatim. It happened because some young people around see the military that has come as a rival group. In that book it is clear that the Nigeria police was emasculated in 1967 during the civil war and they have remained emasculated. The simple phrase to use is that the Niger Delta is militarised and as a matter of fact, the Nigerian nation is militarised with close to a dozen coup over the years and civil war, and because the exploitation of oil requires that type of brute force with a completely compromised regulator.

Brute force is what is being used instead of developing the Niger Delta and being fair to the region. So, in every oil installation in this country there are military persons and there is law enforcement. Most of those people who are making comments on what have just happened have never quite been to the Niger Delta. Be they television analysts and university professors, they should come to the Niger Delta and whether the squalor in which we live is where we should live. So, if the police were not emasculated, if the Niger Delta were not militarised, if the country were not militarised we won’t be in this mess.

So, in a militarised environment where agencies are not living up to their expectations, there are lots of loopholes. In fact, the Niger Delta has to be demilitarized but before you demilitarized the region, the police has to be up and doing. Again, if the JTF is doing what they call internal security, should internal security be forever? The answer is no, but it’s been done for twenty something years. As matter of fact, the military has been overstretched.

Difficulties in disarmament
If we must move forward then of course like I said before the environment has to be disarmed. The guns have to be retrieved and the fear is retrieving the one from community A and leaving the one from community B. Or you retrieve the one from ethnic group A and leave the one from ethnic group B. Once people fear, that is what will happen. They will not bring their guns so disarmament has been difficult. But it is so bad because there is no state police. In terms of curbing violence it is essentially in the hands of the federal institutions.

Maybe we should ask the police, how many policemen are there in Nigeria. I can tell you that it is about 500,000, less than a million police. Why is the police not recruiting enough men and you know very well that in most cases even the federal police, it is the state that will buy them cars, and everything. So they are not well equipped. The personnel are not enough for the job, so you have these cases. They should recruit more personnel and it must be done honestly so that every state has fair presence.

How do we avert another Okuama type of incident?
The warring communities should understand that they are fighting over crumbs. Their communities are all parts of someone else personal business concern, the communities and kingdoms are either OML something or the other which is a big shame though. But that is what it is and so they must know. And like I said, the Federal Government has to be professional; the military also has to be professional. The Federal Government has to be honest. So, I will advise that President Tinubu now that he is in charge he must properly understand what the issues are and consciously work assiduously towards that outcome.

Kinetic alone can’t solve the problem; they will need those who have the expertise to properly advice. Before President Tinubu there already weapons in the Niger Delta and so what is the direction towards ensuring that these weapons are not there. What is the way forward in terms of enlightenment of the people of the Niger Delta? What is the action plan towards ensuring that the Niger Delta is developed? What is the action plan towards assuring and reassuring that you can have a better lease of life, better education? If you ask me, would you want to come as low as what has just happened? The answer is no. and the difference is just because you have a source of livelihood and the light of education.

So, this has to be done. The underdevelopment of the Niger Delta is too sickening for you not to expect this type of stories now and then. So something deliberate has to be done. Above all I will advice Nigerians to go and read “Riddle of the Oil Thief” and they do they will understand this issue much better. Rather than the way it is been portrayed. As much as possible the military should ensure that no young person, child no woman that is not directly involved is victim of their effort towards arresting the perpetrators.

Continue Reading

Uncategorized

Excitement as Air Peace lands in London

Published

on

As Air Peace lands in London

For the first time in seven years, a Nigerian airline has reactivated the famous Lagos to London route, bringing succour to Nigerians.

With Air Peace’s maiden trip to Gatwick Airport, it has joined a couple of indigenous carriers that operated in the busy route for commercial activities.

Before Air Peace, some local airlines had operated to London, recording varying degrees of success. Notably, the defunct Virgin Nigeria, with an Airbus A340-300 aircraft, started the lucrative route on June 28, 2005, but terminated operations four years after. On December 15, 2008, Arik Air also began international operations to London-Heathrow, using an Airbus A340-500 aircraft wet-leased from Hi Fly.

Despite initial promise, Arik Air faced financial difficulties and discontinued its London services while under the receivership of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria, AMCON.

In 2017, Med-View Airline became the last indigenous carrier to operate on the route.

It is against this background that stakeholders, who voiced their confidence in the capacity of Air Peace to sustain the route for years to come, identified crucial operational measures that the airline must put in place to record long-term success.

Long overdue

Speaking to Saturday Vanguard Aviation, principal managing partner at Avaero Capital Partners, Sindy Foster, who expressed excitement over the development, said it was long overdue for a Nigerian airline to operate in the London route. She said: “The Bilateral Air Service Agreement, BASA, between UK and Nigeria has been lopsided for too long. This isn’t just beneficial to the aviation industry, the reduction in fares, by increased capacity and competition, is beneficial for passengers. A Nigerian airline flying this route will also be beneficial for the Nigerian economy.”

Very costly

Foster, however, warned that international routes are very costly and there is no room for financial errors, stressing that all costs and revenues need to be optimised. She added: “Service is a product differentiator, and a high level of service, both inflight service and across operational services, are highly regarded by passengers. Air Peace has entered into a very competitive market and it would need to operate to an international standard in every aspect of its operations, it requires an elevation of standards.”

Unequal treatment

While expressing unhappiness that passengers complain about unfair and unequal treatment when they travel by foreign airlines, she said: “Now, they get a chance to experience true Nigerian hospitality. The expectation is that it will be better than they have experienced before. Unfortunately, we all know Air Peace will not be given the same latitude as is given to other airlines. Other airlines around the world delay, cancel and reschedule flights, but when a Nigerian airline does the same thing, people complain louder. Any new route has teething problems, but my belief is that Air Peace is prepared to maintain this route and deliver exceptional service to all of their customers.”

Broadening of management

An aviation management consultant, Mr Babatunde Adeniji, on his part, urged Air Peace to broaden its management to enable it succeed on the route. Adeniji said: “Air Peace needs to broaden and deepen its management, staffing and organisation and excel at its local operations as a do or die first step. This should be the bedrock of its international foray.” According to him, Nigeria, in terms of aviation, should be leading in Africa. “I can imagine if Virgin Nigeria and Arik Air were still operating as initially envisioned by their promoters. Anything less than to be leaders in Africa in the medium to long term is, to me, beneath our huge potential. We, however, need to put our house in order in the Nigeria ecosystem first,” he told Saturday Vanguard Aviation.

Operational costs

Adeniji, who stressed that he doesn’t know the terms of Air Peace’s wet lease deal, said: “When added to the other operational costs it will incur, it may become increasingly difficult to sustain except if it is able to configure its pricing and cost position so unusually creative that it maintains enough margin for profit. It is extremely difficult, but who am I to think it is impossible?”

Dependence on foreign airlines

Meanwhile, President of the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies, Susan Akporiaye, called for consistency from Air Peace, saying the citizenry cannot continue to depend on foreign airlines for their travels to London. She said: “It keeps the money in Nigeria. The money stays here and we are able to use it for our development. It is different from foreign airlines that don’t keep the money here, but send it to their headquarters. And that is why we have this issue of trapped funds due to FX shortage. However, Air Peace is a Nigerian carrier. With this new route, I am very sure they will have more employment for Nigerians. For us travel agencies, it is also another opportunity to sell. This time, there won’t be any issue like restriction of inventory or exchange rate. With the scarcity of dollars that we have, we cannot continue to depend on foreign businesses and products. The high dependence on these products is one of the reasons the Naira is falling against the dollar. By the time there is an awareness campaign on patronising made in Nigeria goods and businesses, there will be low demand for dollars.

Consistency

“However, what we want Air Peace to do is to be consistent. And on our part, we will keep telling Nigerians to please give Air Peace a chance. If there are little issues here and there, they are just teething problems. Nigerians need to understand that new things experience teething problems. Let us give Air Peace a chance. Let us not use the opportunity of a mistake they make to crucify them because it won’t help matters. If we notice a mistake, let us send them an email. As we tell them about their mistakes, we should also encourage them. Again, let us give them a chance because it is one of the ways by which we can strengthen our local economy and make the Naira gain over the dollar,” she explained.

Continue Reading

Uncategorized

Court orders Binance to release data of Nigerian users to EFCC

Published

on

A Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered Binance Holdings Limited to provide the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission with comprehensive information on all persons from Nigeria trading on its platform.

The court handed down the order in an ex-parte motion filed by the EFCC demanding information about Nigerians trading on Binance.

The suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/259/2024 and dated February 29 according to the anti-graft agency was brought pursuant to Sections 6(b), (h), (I), 7(1), (a)(2), and 38 of the Economic and Financial Crimes Establishment Act, 2004 and Section 15 of the Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Act, 2022 (as amended).

In the affidavit in support of the motion deposed to by an operative of the EFCC, Hamma Bello, he stated that the Special Investigation Team of the commission domiciled in the Office of the National Security Adviser received intelligence that money laundering and terrorism financing was carried out on Binance.

He said, “The Special Investigation Team of the commission domiciled in the Office of the National Security Adviser received an intelligence stating the nefarious activities (money laundering and terrorism financing) on Binance, a cryptocurrency exchange platform.

“That on receipt of the intelligence, the team began an investigation by conducting surveillance of the activities of the platform.

“The team uncovered users who have been using the platform for price discovery, confirmation, and market manipulation, which has caused tremendous distortions in the market, resulting in the Naira losing its value against other currencies”

Bello also said the team uncovered some users whose activities on Binance resulted in the country’s currency losing its value against other currencies.

He said, “That the team uncovered users who have been using the platform for price discovery, confirmation and market manipulation which has caused tremendous distortions in the market, resulting in the Naira losing its values against other currencies.

“That the damage the platform has caused was clearly explained to the operators of the platform, and they were requested to delist the Naira and avail the ONSA on the activities of the Nigerians on their platform.

“That from the information afforded to the team by Binance shows trading volume from Nigeria in 2023 alone stood at $21.6bn.

“Attached and marked as Exhibit EFCC 1 is a copy of the document from Binance to the ONSA stating this fact amongst others.
“That the commission will ensure that investigation is conducted within such reasonable time,”
Bello stated that the requested data would help the commission complete its investigation.

According to a certified true copy of the ruling, which was delivered on February 29 but sighted by journalists on Monday, Justice Emeka Nwite granted the interim order.

Nwite said, “The applicant’s application dated and filed 29th February 2024 is hereby granted as prayed.

“That an order of this honourable court is hereby made directing the operators of Binance to provide the commission with comprehensive data/information relating to all persons from Nigeria trading on its platform.”

Binance is an online exchange where users can trade cryptocurrencies.

The Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Olayemi Cardoso, at a press briefing after the 293rd meeting of the Monetary Policy Committee in Abuja on February, disclosed that more than $26bn was channelled through Binance without traces in the last one year.

Financial Times had on February 28 reported that two executives of the company were arrested and detained after they flew into the country as a result of a ban on their website.

On March 12, 2024, the FT reported that the EFCC asked Binance to share data on its 100 top users in Nigeria as well as all transaction history for the past six months.
According to the report, the request is at the centre of negotiations between Binance and Nigeria.

Continue Reading

Uncategorized

Budget padding controversy: ACF knocks Senate for suspending Ningi

Published

on

According to him, while there is no specific instruction on what the fund should be used for, lawmakers must provide receipts to back up their expenses from the running cost.

He added that the running cost is in addition to funds earmarked for each senator for constituency project.
“But what I am saying is that the money (N13.5 million per month) must be receipted for what you do with it. But what you are given to go and spend without accountability is N750, 000”, the senator said.

“The constituency project itself is given on a zonal basis and almost every senator will go with a constituency fund of about N200 million, but it is not the cash that is given to you.

“You will be told that you have N200 million with an agency of government for which you will now submit projects equivalent to that amount. And it is that agency of government that will go and do those projects for you.

“Now, corruption comes when the projects are not done and the money is taken. But right now, it is difficult to do that because NGOs and transparency groups have come into it. They track every allocation made to you and where they are being used.

“So, it’s becoming difficult for what used to happen in the past to happen now. But I can tell you that I would love a situation where we do away with running cost, constituency projects and leave senators and members of House of Reps with salaries”.

Obasanjo, Buhari, Jonathan take positions
Obasanjo himself who started constituency project in 2023 once described it as nothing but corruption, saying, “You and I know what constituency project means, it is simply corruption.”

Former President Muhammadu Buhari echoed similar claim in 2019 when he said the impact of the trillions of Naira voted for constituency projects could hardly be seen in the lives of ordinary Nigerians.

On his part, former President Goodluck Jonathan had said “don’t put the goat where yam is because the goat will eat the yam” in apparent reference to corrupt acts dogging constituency projects.

N500m vs. N75m

On Tuesday on the floor of the Senate, Senator Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe (PDP, Cross River North) alleged that senior senators got N500 million each in the 2024 Budget for constituency projects while other senators got only N75 million.

Jarigbe’s claim was made during a session on the allegation made by another senator, Abubakar Ningi, that the 2024 Budget had been padded to the tune of N3.7 trillion.

Speaking during the rowdy session, Jarigbe said, “I thought that when the Chairman of Appropriations spoke, it was as clear as crystals that there was a misunderstanding of the figures.

“When he came up with the GOEs and all the agencies on first line charge, there is no difference between the figure he reeled out and the figure purported to be padded.

“I thought with that, the allegation would have been rested by Senator Ningi saying that this N3.7 trillion was not part of the budgetary provisions printed out for us. That would have settled this matter.

“We are going forth and back on these issues and coming up with the issues of budget and individual issues concerning what came to our various constituencies.

“If we want to go into those issues, all of us are culpable. Some senators here, so-called senior senators, got N500 million each. I am a ranking senator, I didn’t get. Did I go to the press? Most of you got.”

Report

To buttress the claim that constituency projects for lawmakers were enmeshed in corruption, the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC, in April 2022, issued a report on how National Assembly members were diverting funds for constituency projects.

The ICPC alleged that senators diverted money meant for their senatorial districts to non-existing projects, thereby denying their constituents from reaping dividends of democracy.

The anti-graft agency said it uncovered how the National Assembly illegally added N20 billion to N100 billion annual constituency projects.

The ICPC, in its ‘interim constituency and executive projects tracking report’, revealed how the National Assembly embedded additional projects into the 2021 mandate budget of MDAs, which, in a long way, affected budget performance, as well as distorted developmental planning and implementation of the 2021 fiscal year.

In the report, the ICPC cited other areas of infractions where lawmakers allegedly awarded contracts to themselves, children or to proxy companies.

The report read: “Budget insertion remains one of the egregious, yet illegally acceptable phenomenon that has distorted the nation’s developmental planning and implementation of developmental programmes.

“In addition to the N100 billion appropriated annually for constituency projects, the National Assembly embedded additional projects into mandate budgets of MDAs. This is done to increase the project portfolios of concerned legislators and their influence on MDAs. The value of the insertion was in billions.

Duplication
“Analysing the 2021 National Budget alone across key sectors of education, water resources, health, power, science and technology, environment, works and agriculture, we found duplication to the tune of over N20 billion.”
The report pointed out that the “contract for the construction and renovation of blocks of the classroom at a University Staff School in Taraba executed by a company owned and operated directly by a lawmaker”, a project ICPC alleged was “haphazardly nominated, appropriated and executed in locations that have no need for such projects.”
In another development, ICPC alleged another contract infraction in the supplies of water rigs by a particular company to be executed in Taraba.

The commission alleged that “just two days after the award of the contract, ‘the said company’, wrote to the executing agency, Lower Benue River Basin Development Authority, informing it that it was involved in some sort of arrangements with its sister company in respect of the execution and requested that the contract sum should be paid into the bank account of the company owned by the sponsoring legislator.

“Funding was, therefore, made to the said company owned by the sponsoring legislator.”

Children
In the report, the ICPC revealed that it was able to track a contract for the supplies of 686 water pumping machines to Kebbi awarded to a particular company owned by the children of a lawmaker.

The report read: “Various other projects were awarded and executed in Kebbi by three other companies owned and operated by the biological children of the sponsor.”

Similarly, the ICPC said that it was able to track the project for the supplies of 19 units of 500KVA transformer to Delta State, two of which “were stolen and sold by an aide of the sponsoring lawmaker, while one was found kept in a private house since 2018.

ICPC stated: “While the culprit is on the run, the lawmaker has agreed to an undertaking to purchase and deliver to the commission the two transformers”.

The commission also cited the project valued at N149m for the training and empowerment of women and youths in Abaji allegedly awarded to a relative of the sponsoring legislator.

It was also replicated in Katsina where the sponsor single-handedly executed the contract after which the project said to have been valued at N49m was changed from its form and devalued by the lawmaker.

In another case, the supply of tricycles to Rivers State was an empowerment project where the sponsor allegedly used one of her cronies as the contractor.

ICPC alleged that “while the contract was never performed, the sum (N30m) was fully paid and shared”.

Projects cited on personal properties
The agency also revealed that some sponsoring legislators sometimes site projects on personal properties, which technically vests legal possession and ownership to them.

An example was cited of the diversion of funds for an agricultural empowerment project in Osun State to a training programme on cattle rearing and the actual supply of cattle.

The Bill of Quantities, BOQ, according to the ICPC report, indicated procurement and distribution of 250 cattle to beneficiaries.

The report said: “While the intended beneficiaries were trained, no cattle were given to them; instead the lawmaker established a private ranch using the cattle procured with government’s fund.”

In Bayelsa, the commission alleged that the investigation led it to another youth empowerment scam carried out by the sponsoring lawmaker.

It alleged that some of the beneficiaries found in the list were randomly contacted, even as none of them acknowledged ever receiving any grant.

Rumble in the Senate over ‘N3. 7 trillion budget padding’
John Alechenu takes a look at what transpired during Tuesday’s plenary following the allegation that N3 trillion was inserted into the 2024 Appropriation Act.

“Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it” – George Santayana.

In the eye of the storm

The 10th Senate under the leadership of Senator Godswill Akpabio was in the eye of the storm last week following allegation of impropriety surrounding the passage of the 2024 Appropriation Act.

The allegation was made by the erstwhile Chairman of the Northern Senators Forum (NSF), Senator Abdul Ningi (PDP, Bauchi South).

In an interview with the Hausa Service of the BBC, Ningi, among other things, alleged that two versions of the 2024 Budget were in operation and that a whopping N3.7 trillion could not be traced to any line item.

As is to be expected, the media and the general public feasted on the interview and fingers pointed in the direction of Senate President Godswill Akpabio.

Senators who felt the integrity of the Senate in particular and the National Assembly in general had been called to question plotted their revenge and prepared for a collective response.

Many Nigerians were expecting Ningi to produce evidence to pull the plug on Akpabio and his fellow principal officers when plenary resumed on Tuesday.

The Senate President and his backers equally waited for the opportunity to put Ningi in his place after establishing the previous night that he acted alone.

This is not the first time allegations of budget padding were leveled against the leadership of the National Assembly.

Recall, in 2006, during the 8thNational Assembly, then-Chairman of the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee, Abdulmumuni Jibrin, after falling out with then-Speaker Yakubu Dogara, accused the House leadership of padding then-budget to the tune of N40billion.

Jibrin was referred to the House Committee on Ethics and Privileges; he refused to make an appearance. He was tried and convicted in absentia.

He was subsequently suspended from legislative duties for 180 days but was later pardoned and recalled before the expiration of 180 days.

Interest
Ningi’s allegation is the first of its kind in the Senate.

This, perhaps, partly explains the interest it generated.

The lawmaker, who is a ranking member as well as a leading member of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), spiced his allegation with regional flavour when he also alleged that the 2024 Budget was skewed against the North.

Undeterred by a rebuttal issued by a presidential spokesperson, Bayo Onanuga, Ningi addressed the Senate Press Corps and insisted he had facts and figures to back his claim, adding for effect that threats of suspension do not scare him.

The stage was thus set for what many considered a testy moment for the Akpabio Senate presidency.

Session
Despite pressures from some of his colleagues for an executive session, convinced that he had nothing to hide, the Senate President opted for an open session which was beamed live on television.

One thing was missing, Akpabio’s trademark banter with colleagues. It was no time for jibes, a lot was at stake. Tuesday’s proceedings were watched across the globe.

The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation, Solomon Olamilekan, was recognised to present his motion under matters of privilege, and the motion was duly seconded, several senators were given room to speak for and against.

The provocateur, Ningi, was given ample opportunity to defend himself, substantiate his claims, and even level more if he had.

It was an anti-climax when he stood and recanted some of the things he was quoted to have said in the contentious interview.

He went on to say only he had details of the findings of the consultants hired by the Northern Senators Forum to review the budget.

After dramatizing and displaying a horde of files and documents, Ningi could not substantiate his allegation of padding or infraction in the budget; instead, he digressed and started talking about the number of aides appointed by the Senate President and his take-home pay. However, another matter stirred public debate.

Senator Agom Jaribe (PDP, Cross River), while contributing during the debate, alleged that some ranking senators received N500 million each for constituency projects while others were discriminated against.

The Senate descended into near chaos for almost 30 minutes before calm was restored.

Sentiments

One thing was however clear: Different sentiments were whipped into the debate on the allegations but the Senate was united in doing what it felt was the right thing in accordance with its Standing Order.

Hence, the prayers of Olamilekan’s motion were amended and subsequently passed.

Ningi was suspended for three months.
The emptiness of Ningi’s allegations and the prompt response of the Senate to tame the misinformation have spared Akpabio from public ridicule because, since the National Assembly is becoming synonymous with budget padding, many people were expecting the Senate President’s political career to be nailed based on his colleague’s allegations.
But Akpabio scaled the hurdle and this has once more amplified the confidence of his colleagues in his ability to paddle the canoe of leadership in the Red Chamber.The submission by the Senate that Ningi had no case and was clearly on another mission was enunciated by the Senate Leader, Senator Michael Bamidele, who was blunt in his presentation.

Coup
Bamidele likened Ningi’s allegations to a failed civilian equivalent of a military coup.
He expressed the view that some senators were yet to put behind their electoral defeat in the race for top leadership positions hence the scheming to truncate Akpabio’s tenure.

To his credit, the Senate President didn’t betray emotions as he allowed his colleagues express themselves during the session. Even when the session temporarily became rowdy, a practice which is common with democracies across the globe especially in the developing world, Akpabio stood up, cited Order 6. 3 of ‘The Senate Standing Orders 2015 (As Amended)’, which reads: “Whenever the President of the Senate or the Chairman rises during a debate, any Senator then speaking or offering to speak shall sit down, and the Senate or the Committee shall be silent so that the President of the Senate or the Chairman may be heard without interruption.”

The rule also empowers the Senate President to order the Sergeant-at-Arms to escort a senator out of the chamber if he/she chooses to be disruptive after this intervention.

It is worthy of note that Senator David Mark, as Senate President, invoked this rule only once in his eight years on the exalted chair.

Akpabio’s handling of the allegations of budget padding sent a message to watchers of the Senate that the era of using trumped-up charges to commence impeachment proceedings against presiding officers better known as the era of the infamous “banana peels” has been confined to the dustbin of history.

As a trained lawyer and firm believer in the rule of law, Akpabio allowed the Senate Rules to take their course in attending to Ningi’s allegations, which were ab initio dead on arrival.

A former senator who represented Kaduna Central, Shehu Sani, recalled how he was almost suspended during the 8th Senate for revealing his earnings and that of his fellow senators.

While reacting to Ningi’s suspension, he said all senators are equal in the eyes of the law but that this was not the case in reality. He told Sunday Vanguard there are written and unwritten laws and conventions senators are expected to abide by. He described suspension as a not too pleasant experience because it literally means “being shut out of the National Assembly and your legislative functions and denied your emoluments, rights and privileges for the period of the suspension”. He noted that, as a nation, we need to set out priorities right in order to move forward.

Akpabio as presiding officer of the 10th Senate didn’t mince words when he described the incalculable damage being done to the National Assembly as an institution each time allegations, which lack basis in fact, are made especially by fellow lawmakers whom he believes ought to know better. Nigerians are hoping that the 10thNational Assembly will grow beyond petty politics and settle down to making laws that will improve the security and welfare of citizens.

Continue Reading

Uncategorized

Herbert Wigwe, wife, son’s bodies arrive for burial

Published

on

The bodies of late Chief Executive Officer of Access Bank, Herbert Wigwe, his wife, and son have arrived in Nigeria for burial.

The bodies of the Wigwes arrived at the Port Harcourt International Airport, Rivers State, from the United States America, US, today, Friday, the Daily Post reported.

Wigwe, 57, died in a helicopter crash in the United States on February 9. His wife, Chizoba, and son, Chizi, also died in the crash.

Also, the former President of Nigeria Exchange Group, Mr. Abimbola Ogunbanjo, was in the fatal crash.

Since their death, tributes have continued to pour in for Wigwe as sympathizers recalled his deeds while alive.

The funeral of the trio will be held on Saturday at Isiokpo, his hometown, in Ikwerre LGA of Rivers State.

The pictures from the airport are courtesy of Daily Post:

Personalities have not stopped paying tribute to late Wigwe.

President Bola Tinubu described the death of Mr Herbert Wigwe, Mr Abimbola Ogunbanjo, and members of the Wigwe family as a rude shock.

The President prayed for the peaceful repose of the departed and asked “God Almighty to comfort the multitude of Nigerians who are grieving and the families of the deceased at this deeply agonizing moment.”

Aliko Dangote said that he would name the biggest road at the Dangote Refinery after the late co-founder of Access Bank.

Dangote, who described Wigwe as one of his mentees, said the late banker played a key role in ensuring that the Refinery project was successfully completed.

 

Continue Reading

Top Stories