There seems to be no end to the alleged mind-boggling financial misappropriation in the former President Goodluck Jonathan administration.
In the centre of it all is, according to records unearthed by investigators, former Minister of Petroleum Resources Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke.
Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) detectives have just uncovered the withdrawal of $1.3billion from the accounts of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), ostensibly to fight kidnapping and other security threats in the Niger Delta.
The withdrawal was neither authorised by the National Assembly nor the Federal Executive Council (FEC).
The former Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, is also believed to be unaware of the deductions from the NNPC accounts.
The ex-Minister only relied on a memo from ex-President Goodluck Jonathan without recourse to the board of the NNPC.
A former Group Executive Director, Finance and Accounts of NNPC, Mr. Bernard Otti, has been quizzed by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) detectives.
Otti is said to have also made available to the EFCC some documents, including approvals to withdraw the $1.3billion by Mrs Alison-Madueke.
In two other instances, Jonathan wrote on two other requests mandating the former minister to take part of the cash from either NNPC Security Vote Account or from the “Gas Fund”.
According to sources, EFCC operatives were almost closing up the probe of the ex-Minister when the withdrawal of the $1.3billion was uncovered.
About $1.4billion was requested by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) via three memos, for “Intervention for Urgent National Security Projects.”
About $1.3billion was released from NNPC accounts but it was unclear what became of the $100million balance as at press time.
ONSA had requested for $1.4billion between March 27, 2014 and May 5, 2014 when approval was given and cash backed.
About three memos were sent to ex-President Jonathan on March 27, 2014, 31st March 2014 and May 5, 2014.
In the first memo, of March 27th, 2014, the former National Security Adviser, Mr. Sambo Dasuki, requested for $1billion to fight kidnapping, crude oil theft and petroleum pipeline vandalism.
The memo to Jonathan, which was titled “Request for intervention for urgent National Security Projects”, said: “Your Excellency, apart from the insurgency in the Northeast, the country is also contending with some other security challenges, such as crude oil theft, sea piracy, kidnapping as well as petroleum pipeline vandalism.
“These challenges have greatly affected revenue profile of the nation and our international image.
“Our gas pipeline network has also come under serious threat as the scourge of vandalism has spread to the gas sector. Apart from the volatility of gas and its potential for collateral damage, especially environmental degradation, shortage of gas will constitute a serious setback to Government’s power generation efforts.
“Additionally, Mr. President had promised during the 30th meeting of NEPAD Heads of State and Governments Orientation Committee that the Trans-Saharan Pipeline Project from Nigeria to Algeria will be completed in 2015. The security of the Nigerian end of this pipeline network is critical to the success and smooth running of this gas project.
“Further to Mr. President’s support so far in our fight against terrorism, there is urgent need to raise our intelligence gathering efforts to more strategic levels.
“It is therefore pertinent that a holistic approach is applied to solving these challenges highlighted above. To ameliorate the above mentioned challenges, some reputable companies have been identified to provide the following:
(a) An integrated maritime domain awareness platform that can be integrated into enforcement platform of the Navy and other agencies to help check crude oil theft, sea piracy and kidnapping as well as Offshore pipeline vandalism.
(b) An Onshore petroleum and gas pipeline surveillance and monitoring solution.
(c) Unmanned aerial platforms for strategic intelligence gathering.
(d) Mobile radars for aerial coverage by the Nigerian Air Force
(5) In view of the foregoing, Mr. President is kindly requested to approve the provision of $1billion intervention funds to enable the urgent provision of the above-mentioned services. Please accept, Your Excellency, the assurances of my highest esteem.”
Commenting on the ONSA memo, ex-President Jonathan on March 31, 2014 approved the release of $1billion. He said: “HMPR, NSA, Paragraph approved.”
A follow-up memo on March 31, 2014 to Mrs. Alison-Madueke and the ex-NSA conveyed the approval.
The memo, signed by a former Senior Special Assistant (Admin) Matt Aikhionbare, said: “RE: Request for intervention projects for urgent National Security Projects.” Reference: (A) Letter NSA/SH/600/A dated 27th March 2014 on the above subject matter. I am directed to forward Reference A to you and to convey to you Mr. President’s approval of Paragraph (5). Humbly submitted for your further action sir.”
In spite of the initial approval, ONSA on April 9, 2014, via a memo NSA/SH/600/A asked for a fresh $200million.
The second memo said: “Your Excellency, please refer to your letter PRES/88-3/MPR/716/149/NSA/ 634 of 31st March 2014 on the above subject. During our review of the process, we realised a few gaps in the assessment of the protection of the gas pipelines, which will likely render the entire protection plan incomplete as the inland gas network was not considered.
“In view of this, I crave the indulgence of Mr. President to please approve an additional $200million only to enable a thorough security of the pipelines. Please, accept, Your Excellency, the assurances of my highest esteem.”
Following the receipt of a second memo, the ex-President wrote: “Approved. Honourable Minister of Petroleum Resources to release funds from the “Gas Fund”.
In a third memo of May 5,2014(NSA/SH/ 600/A), the ex-NSA applied for additional $250million to be sourced from the account of the National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS), which is a subsidiary of NNPC.
The memo states: “Your Excellency, in our efforts to continue building capacity for our counter-terrorism efforts, it is pertinent we appropriately and speedily respond to challenges thrown up by the insurgents. This is in addition to several proactive measures already in place by government through the security forces. In view of the above, there is need for urgent intervention in the following areas:
(a) Provision of at least 15,000 ballistic vests and helmets to be issued to all troops in the operations
(b) Provision of 15 mobile scanners to cover entrances to Abuja and strategic cities in the North.
(c) Purchase of urgently needed ammunition for the Nigerian Air Force.
(d) Purchase of ammunition for the Nigeria Police
(e) Purchase of Night Vision Goggles for both the Army and the Air Force.
“To achieve the above-listed objectives, it is estimated that the sum of $250million only will be required. The money could be released from the security funds held by the National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS).
“In view of the above, Mr. President is kindly requested to direct the release of $250million only for the above-mentioned subject. Please accept the assurances of my highest esteem.”
In his response, the ex-President directed as follows: “Please, release US$200m only from NNPC Security Vote.”
A highly-placed source in EFCC, who spoke in confidence, said: “Investigation so far confirmed the withdrawal of the $1.3billion from some accounts of the NNPC abroad. But there are sufficient clues of suspected money laundering by the ex-Ministers of Petroleum Resources and some government agencies who used ONSA as a platform.
“There is no evidence of projects executed with the cash. Instead, some of the cash were wired into a few banks by these individuals.
“We have also grilled a former Group Executive Director, Finance and Accounts of NNPC, Mr. Bernard Otti who has cooperated with our investigators by making necessary documents available. We will keep you posted on this case.”
‘I Paid 42k Twice For COVID-19 Test’ — Sweden Returnee Laments Extortion In Abuja
Ndubuisi Ekwulonu, a Nigerian who came into the country from Sweden, says he was extorted in Abuja, as he paid twice for the mandatory COVID-19 test for passengers on international flights.
It is compulsory for all passengers coming into the country to provide negative COVID-19 test results prior to boarding; passengers are also expected to pay for a repeat test, which will be done after arrival.
Speaking with Brekete Family, a reality programme focused on human rights, in a viral video, Ekwulonu said despite paying twice for the COVID-19 test, his name was not found on the list of people who were to be tested.
“At the airport, there is a form the federal government said we would fill online before we leave where we are coming from. So after I filled the form, there are two options; either I pay with card or on arrival. Because of the bad network in Nigeria, I chose the option of paying on arrival,” he said.
“So, on getting to Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport in Abuja, I used my ATM card and I showed them a picture that I have filled the form and they saw the ‘capture’. They requested my passport number which I gave them and they filled it in on their computer and brought out their POS. I paid and was debited N42,750.
“I was given two options; one laboratory in Jabi, the other in Maitama. Because I live close to Maitama, I chose that. But if you put the address of the laboratory in Google, it will take you to Emab Plaza, one laboratory there.”
He said on getting there, the people at the lab said they were unaware of what he was asking for and told him to leave.
“So, I came out, met a gateman to direct me to the place. He said I should go to THISDAY Dome. I went there; they said I should go to the ministry of health in the secretariat. At the ministry, I was directed to MM, one conference center. So, I took the taxi there and found the lab.
“I told the guy that they will ban me from the country if I don’t do the test and he said he will forward my information to Lagos which he did.”
Ekwulonu said he waited at the laboratory the whole day for a response from Lagos, but unfortunately, none came.
“I went home, came back. He checked the system and said my name is not on the list they gave him. Luckily for me, two people on the same flight with me came and couldn’t find their names. Even my friend from Sweden couldn’t find his name,” he said.
“Then they said I will have to pay another money if I want to do the test. I paid another N42,750 and did the test.
“This morning… I am supposed to leave Nigeria on Saturday, they sent me a message that I have to pay again for another test.”
Ndubuisi, who was in tears, lamented the difficulty in securing a job as a Nigerian in Sweden. He said there are about 5,700 employees where he works, but 5,000 were sacked.
“And I was among those retained. It took me time to get this job because I am a Nigerian. Even a Rwandan will get a job before you and these are people you know, in every aspect of life, you are better than them. Just because you are carrying a Nigerian passport, to get a job will be hard, so how can I lose my job because I came into Nigeria?” he lamented as he burst into tears.
However, later on, Tuesday, the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), in a tweet, said Ndubuisi had been refunded.
The Story Was Twisted Fundamentally Out Of Context, My Client Never Begged Salami Panel For Mercy —– Magu’s Lawyer
Wahab Shittu, counsel to Ibrahim Magu, suspended chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), says his client never admitted to the allegations against him.
Magu is being investigated by a presidential panel over allegations of abuse of office and mismanagement of recovered assets under his watch as acting chairman of the EFCC.
Magu appeared before the panel last Friday to defend himself.
Shittu, in a statement on Tuesday, said the report that Magu confessed to the panel that he was overzealous as EFCC chairman and begged for mercy was misleading.
“We wish to state that this story was twisted fundamentally out of context by my client’s accusers who want to hit back at my client without justification,” he said.
“It is true that Magu and my humble self addressed the panel at the conclusion of his defense while Magu clarified that he threw himself to the job of acting chair because of his passion for the anti-corruption war, a situation that may be alleged overzealousness in some quarters.
“He however pleaded for justice and fair-play by the panel members in the context of his overall achievements and his fledgling career which hitherto remain unblemished and will terminate in two years’ time.
“Counsel to Magu also urged the panel members in the interest of fear of God and loyalty to their conscience to ensure justice in the matter and concluded by thanking them for patience and understanding throughout the proceedings.
“At no time did Magu admit to guilt to the allegations, the subject matter of the inquiry. Indeed the only thing going for Magu is the conviction of his innocence.
“A member of the panel had cause to inquire from me whether I am convinced that the panel will do justice to my client? I responded in the affirmative and I hope my optimism of the justice of the process at the end will not be illusory.”
He said as Nigerians wait on the Ayo Salami-led panel to do justice in this matter, commentators in the public space should comment based on facts and law.
According to the lawyer, the preoccupation of the inquiry is to reveal the truth without grandstanding, sensationalism, dramatization, or any attempt at the coloration of the truth.
“The danger is that these orchestrated stories in the public space may have the effect of shifting the real focus from the quest for facts and truth which is the real focus of the inquiry to sensationalism, half-truths, propaganda which will neither benefit either Nigerians who are interested in the real facts and truth nor the panel members who have toiled for days to execute the assignment including the subject of inquiry whose proclamation of guilt or innocence will define his future career and his perception in the public space,” he said.
Nigerian Govt Orders DisCos To Suspend Electricity Tariff Hike
The Federal Government has ordered the Electricity Distribution Companies in the country to suspend the recent hike in tariff.
The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission issued the order on Tuesday night.
This followed an agreement reached by the Federal Government and Organised Labour for the suspension of the hike in tariff for 14 days.
According to the NERC, the tariff suspension will be from September 28, 2020, to October 2, 2020.
The Order, No. NERC/209/2020, with the title: “NERC Order on the suspension of the Multi-Year Tariff Order 2020 for the electricity distribution licensees,” was signed by the NERC Chairman, James Momoh; and the Commissioner, Legal, Licensing and Compliance, Dafe Akpeneye, and addressed to the country’s DisCos.
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