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BIG STORY

BREAKING: Court Orders Forfeiture Of Saraki’s Houses In Ikoyi

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A federal high court sitting in Lagos has ordered the temporary forfeiture of two properties of Bukola Saraki, former senate president, in the Ikoyi area of Lagos state.

Nnaemeka Omewa, a counsel of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission ( EFCC), had approached the court, seeking an order of interim forfeiture of the properties located at 17A McDonald Road, Ikoyi, Eti Osa local government area of Lagos.

He had told the court that they were acquired through “proceeds of unlawful activities”.

Part of the reliefs sought by the EFCC included “An order of this honourable Court forfeiting to the Federal Government of Nigeria landed property with appurtenances situate, lying and known as No. 17A McDonald Road, Ikoyi, Eti Osa Local Government Area of Lagos State found and recovered from the respondent which property is reasonably suspected to have been acquired with proceeds of unlawful activity”.

The commission alleged that while serving as governor of Kwara state, Saraki withdrew over N12 billion cash from the account of the Kwara government and paid the same into his accounts domiciled in Access and Zenith Banks through one of his personal assistant, Abdul Adama.

Delivering ruling on the application, Mohammed Liman, the presiding judge, ordered interim forfeiture of the two properties.

He also instructed that the EFCC should publish the order in a national newspaper within 14 days, for anyone with interest in the properties to show cause, why they should not be finally forfeited to the federal government.

The federal government had arraigned Saraki at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) while he was the nation’s number three citizen.

He was accused of failing to declare his assets, an allegation he denied, alleging that he was being witch-hunted.

The supreme court subsequently dismissed the false assets declaration trial.

BIG STORY

President Buhari’s Daughter, Hanan Set To Wed Fashola’s Special Adviser

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Hanan Buhari, one of the daughters of President Muhammadu Buhari, is set to tie the knot with her lover, Mohammed Turad.

Hanan Buhari with her father, President Mohammadu Buhari

According to reports, Hanan’s soon-to-be-husband, Mohammed Turad is a special adviser to former Lagos State governor and current Minister of Works, Babatunde Fashola.

The marriage is scheduled to take place on September 4, 2020.

While Hanan is a graduate of photography from Ravensbourne University in England, Turad is the son of a former lawmaker, Alhaji Mahmud Sani Sha’aban, who represented Zaria in the House of Representatives from May 2003 to May 2007.

Sha’aban is also a former governorship candidate in Kaduna State under the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria.

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BIG STORY

Ireland, Nigerian Government Sign MoU To Return Another €5.5m Abacha Loot

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Ireland has signed a memorandum of understanding with the federal government of Nigeria to return €5.5 million looted by Sani Abacha, the late head of state, to Nigeria.

Helen McEntee, Ireland minister of justice and equality, said the MoU followed an order recently issued by a court in Ireland regarding the funds.

The Ireland Criminal Assets Bureau was said to have frozen the loot in 2014 where it was kept in an Ireland bank account.

“I am very pleased to sign this Memorandum of Understanding between Ireland and Nigeria. This represents the culmination of a long process which began with an internationally led investigation,” McEntee said in a statement on Thursday.

“The Criminal Assets Bureau took part in this international operation which led to the freezing of over $1 billion in funds worldwide, of which approximately €5.5 million was identified in a Dublin based bank account.

“The return of these assets will be the first time that Ireland has taken such action and will be a concrete demonstration of Ireland’s commitment to international cooperation in the fight against corruption and to assisting countries which have been adversely affected by corruption in the past, and is in line with our international obligations as a signatory to the UN Convention Against Corruption.”

She said the MoU to return the loot was achieved by significant multi-agency collaboration in Ireland, adding: “It demonstrates the intent of both States to uphold our shared values and our international obligations to eliminate corruption.”

Transparency International estimates Abacha might have looted as much as $5 billion during his regime from 1993 to 1998.

About $3.6 billion has so far been recovered out of that money.

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BIG STORY

Nigeria May Slide Into Another Recession Soon — Finance Minister

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Zainab Ahmed, minister of finance, says unless Nigeria achieves a very strong third quarter 2020 economic performance, the country may slide into recession.

Ahmed disclosed this at the opening of a five-day interactive session on the 2021-2023 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF), and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP), held on Thursday in Abuja.

The interactive session was organized by the house of representatives committee on finance, chaired by James Faleke, the lawmaker representing Ikeja federal constituency.

Ahmed, who was represented by Clement Agba, the minister of state for finance, said the COVID-19 pandemic had put further pressure on Nigeria’s foreign exchange.

He said the COVID-19 pandemic resulting in the crash of global oil prices among other economic factors had adversely affected the nation’s economy, with the Gross Domestic Product growth for Q2 most likely to be negative.

The World Bank had in July warned that the collapse in oil prices resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic was expected to plunge the Nigerian economy into a severe economic recession, the worst since the 1980s.

The global bank had stated this in its latest Nigeria Development Update.

Agba had read out a written presentation by the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, titled ‘Draft 2021-2023 MTEF/FSP: Presentation to the House Finance Committee.’

The minister said the Nigerian economy faced serious challenges in the first half of 2020 with the microeconomic environment significantly disrupted by the pandemic.

The document partly read, “The impact of these developments is about 65 percent decline in projected net 2020 government revenues from the oil and gas sector, with adverse consequences for foreign exchange inflows into the economy.

“Nigeria is exposed to spikes in risk aversion in the global capital markets, which will put further pressure on the foreign exchange market as foreign portfolio investors exit the Nigerian market.

“Nigeria’s Q2 GDP growth is in all likelihood negative, and unless we achieve a very strong Q3 2020 economic performance, the Nigerian economy is likely to lapse into the second recession in four years, with significant adverse consequences.

“In response to the developments affecting the supply of foreign exchange to the economy, the Central Bank of Nigeria adjusted the official exchange rate to N360/USD1, and more recently to N379/USD.

“The disruptions in global trade and logistics would negatively affect Customs duty collections in 2020.

“The COVID-19 containment measures, though necessary, have inhibited domestic economic activities, with a consequential negative impact on taxation and other government revenues.

“Consequently, the projections for Customs duty, stamp duty, Value Added Tax, and Company Income Tax revenues were recently reviewed downwards in the revised 2020 budget.

“Customs revenue has generally performed close to target over the last few years, exceeding the target in 2019.”

While noting that there had been some improvement in Company Income Tax and VAT remittances, the minister said the Federal Government expected significant improvements in VAT collections with the new VAT rate of 7.5 percent.

The minister said, “Over the past five years, actual revenue performance averaged 61.4 percent.

“Some of our reforms are yielding positive results, with significant improvements between 2018 and 2019. We believe we can do more to improve revenues, especially remittances from GOEs, possibly up to N1tn per annum.”

Speaking on the key assumptions of the MTEF/FSP, the minister, among others, said, “Inflation, however, is expected to remain above single-digit over the medium term, given the structural issues impacting on the cost of doing business, including the high cost of distribution.”

On the management of the fiscal crisis, the minister noted that fiscal measures were being instituted to improve government revenue and entrench a regime of prudence, with emphasis on achieving value for money.

“The goal of fiscal interventions will be to keep the economy active through carefully calibrated regulatory/policy measures designed to boost domestic value addition, de-risk the enterprise environment, attract external investment and sources of funding, etc.,” the minister stated.

The minister noted that the draft 2021-2023 MTEF/FSP was prepared against the backdrop of a global recession and heightened global economic uncertainty.

The document further read, “The medium-term outlook for Nigeria suggests that fiscal risks are somewhat elevated, largely due to COVID-19 related disruptions, which have exacerbated structural weaknesses in the economy.

“Nigeria faces significant medium-term fiscal challenges, especially with respect to its revenues, which, if not addressed, could snowball into a debt sustainability crisis.”

Already, Nigerians are becoming agitated by the rising debt profile of the country, with the National Assembly raising concerns over external loan agreements between Nigeria and global bodies, especially the China Export-Import Bank.

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