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BIG STORY

Power Sector Has Broken Down Completely, Govt Wasted N1.7 Trillion In Three Years — El-Rufai Drops Bombshell

Peter Okunoren

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The power sector has broken down completely, the government declared on Thursday after its activities were reviewed by the National Economic Council (NEC)

The government said there is no result to show for the N1.7 trillion financial support it gave to the sector in the last three years.

It added that Nigerians must now be involved in finding solutions to the ‘broken’ sector.

Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai made the government’s position known at the end of NEC’s January meeting at the State House in Abuja.

E-Rufai, who is the Chairman of a committee set up by NEC to harmonize the Power Sector Reform, told reporters that the government was desirous of ending the challenges hindering the sector.

He said the committee’s request to throw the process of finding a solution to the national power crisis open was approved.

According to him, beyond experts and other critical players in the sector, ordinary Nigerians, who have ideas and experience the power would be invited to bring in memoranda, as part of the plan to solve the intractable national power problem.

He said: “On the status of the ownership of the distribution companies, the committee met five times since its inauguration on the 5th of December, we’ve made significant progress in getting presentations from all the stakeholders in the electricity supply industry and we all agreed that the electricity supply industry is broken and the situation of the power sector is a national emergency that requires all hands to be on the deck, to interrogate why the sector is not working for the overall progress and benefit of Nigeria and Nigerians.

“We’ve received presentations from virtually all the stakeholders. We came to NEC to ask that we co-opt the Association of the Electricity Distribution Companies in Nigeria and the Association of Electricity Generating Companies in Nigeria as members of the committee and NEC approved that.

“We updated NEC on what we have found so far and promised that work on this will continue and we’ll submit our report in the shortest possible time.

“But the electricity industry is quite complex and technical and even those of us that have been asked to be members of the committee are learning a lot from the various presentations, sometimes conflicting presentations from various stakeholders in the power sector.

“However, I think there is the will on the part of all the members to really go to the root of all the problems and speak to ourselves in an honest national conversation and find a way to fix this sector because this country will never make progress, will never create jobs or industrialize without a functioning electricity industry and that’s the goal that NEC has given us beyond just establishing the status of ownership of the distribution companies.

“Everyone in Nigeria is affected by electricity and we want to hear your views; what you think is wrong with the sector, what your experiences are, dealing with the distribution companies, what you think are solutions to these problems. “Sometimes, solutions are not technical, but commonsensical. So, while we have all the technical experts on the table, we also want to hear from the Nigerian public

“We hope that when we receive these memoranda, we will curate them and analyze them. We’ll summarise them and various suggestions and solutions will be published as part of our report to NEC. After that, we can go to the government of the federation for decisions.

“The objective is how do we fix the power sector. This is the question we want to ask every Nigerian and we want suggestions. We want experiences, we want everything out there and we’ll protect the confidentiality of anyone that chooses to give us confidential information, but we need everyone on deck.”

On the power sector reforms and the required steps to take, El-Rufai said: “There are other issues. The entire sector is broken, the tariff is an issue, the way the privatization was done is an issue to many.

“So, there are many issues. What we have agreed on is that there is a fundamental problem in the electronic supply industry. And that you cannot privatize an industry and then over three years since privatization, you pump in N1.7 trillion of government fund into it, that is not privatization.

“The Federal Government has supported the electricity sector with N1.7 trillion in the last three years and this is not sustainable. So, solutions must be found.

“Today, there are 80 million Nigerians that do not have access to electricity. We cannot continue like this.

“We want to listen to Nigerians and get their own views and incorporate those views in every solution that we proposed.”

On the plan to leverage on pension funds to grow the nation’s key infrastructure, including power, the governor said the system is not peculiar to Nigeria, adding that it is about the best way to develop at a leap.

“On the question on pension funds, I think there is a bit of misunderstanding about this. First of all, it is not true that this money is people’s money. The people contribute and the government also matches their contributions, so it’s part government money, is part workers contribution.

“Every month when you contribute, there is also employer’s contribution. Secondly, you have to ask yourself the question, if this money is there what is the best use for the money.

BIG STORY

Court Orders Seizure Of 46 Houses, Land Linked With Ex-NSITF Boss Olejeme

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A Federal High Court in Abuja has granted an order of interim forfeiture in relation to 46 property including houses and parcels of land suspected to be owned by former Chairperson of the Board of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), Mrs. Ngozi Juliet Olejeme.

Justice Taiwo granted the order in a ruling on a motion ex-parte, marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/538/2020, argued on Tuesday by Ekele Iheanacho, a lawyer with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Justice Taiwo ordered the EFCC to publish the order in a national daily to enable anyone who is interested in the affected property to show cause within 14 days why the assets should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.

The judge fixed July 27 this ‎year as the return date.

The 46 property, listed in documents filed in court, is said to be located in Abuja, Bayelsa and Delta states.
The EFCC claimed, in a supporting affidavit, that Olejeme acquired the said property with public funds she allegedly diverted while serving in the NSITF between 2009and 2015.

One of the properties is identified as N0: 2 Kainji Crescent, Off Lake Chad Crescent, Maitama, Abuja (also known as Plot 738 Cadastral Zone AO5, Maitama, Abuja, the which the EFCC claimed she acquired in 2012 at N1.3billion.

The EFCC alleged that Olejeme acquired the property using funds received as kickbacks from contractors, through third parties.

It stated that “During Mrs. Olejeme’s tenure as aforestated, she collected a cumulative sum of USD $48, 485,127.00 from Chuka Eze (her Account Officer in First Bank Plc), Henry Sambo Ekhasomi (the Director of Finance of NSITF), Aliyu Zubairu (Director of Corporate Affairs -NSITF), Adebayo Aderibigbe and Abubakar Umar.

“The said sum of USD $48, 485,127.00 represents the dollar equivalent of kickbacks paid to BDC (bureau de change) by contractors/consultants of NSITF on Mrs. Olejeme’s instructions as well as payments to the BDC operators directly from NSITF account.

“The personal account of Mrs. Olejeme in First Bank Plc also received a total in-flow of N22, 200,000.00 from Hybrid Investment Advisors Ltd, a contractor to NSITF.

“Excellent Solicitors & Consultants is one of the firms engaged by the NSITF as a consultant.

“In the course of time, the firm received over N1,000, 000, 000.00 from the NSITF under the guise of rendering consultancy services, its proprietor Max Ozoaka withdrew the monies and either gave same in cash to Mrs. Olejeme or did transfer to her proxies under her instructions.

“Within the same period, the sum of N5, 984,059,110 was paid by NSITF under the guise of consultancy services to Fountain Legal Services and Fountain Media Consults being the firms owned by Adebayo Adebowale Aderibigbe (a staff of NSITF).
“As the said payments were made by the NSITF to his firms’ accounts, Mr. Adebayo Adebowale Aderibigbe gave Mrs. Olejeme a total cash sum of N505,000,000.00 and US$11,488,550.00 in dollars.

“Mrs. Olejeme procured the services of bureau de change operators through Mr. Chuka, who provided the bank accounts of the BDC operators to her.

“Several consultants/contractors to NSITF transferred money to the bank accounts of these BDC operators in naira for Mrs. Olejeme while the dollar equivalent of each naira lodgment would be collected by Mr. Chuka and handed over to Mrs. Olejeme in her house or through bank transfers.

“Mr; Chuka was interviewed on various dates including 23rd August 2016, 19th December 2016, 4th April 2017, 2nd May 2017, 17th July 2017 19th December 2017, 27th December 2017 and 17th May 2018 and he consistently narrated the details of the numerous United States dollars he couriered to Mrs. Olejeme as well as other financial dealings he carried out for her.

“The BDC Operators which provided the currency exchange services for Mrs. Olejeme through Mr. Chuka include Majia BDC, Alim BDC, and Ashanbrak.BDC.

“In addition to giving the currencies to Mr. Chuka for Mrs. Olejeme, there were occasions where the BDC Operators transferred some of the funds directly to Mrs. Olejeme’s controlled bank accounts.

“For instance, Mrs. Olejeme received the sum of N350,000,000.00 from the BDCs into her private company Able Jes Nigeria Ltd’s account in GTBank Plc in two days i.e (29th and 30th April 2013).

“In fact on 29th April 2013, only Adamu Musa of Majia BDC made cash deposits into the same account totaling N236,350, 000.00. She (Mrs. Olejeme) is the sole signatory to the said account.

“Mrs. Olejeme used the huge funds referred to in the foregoing paragraphs, which funds did not form part of her lawful income, to acquire property referred to.

“She used third parties in making payments for all the property so as to conceal and or avoid the properties/funds from being easily traced directly to her.

“Mrs. Olejeme hired the services of one Mr. Ifeanyi Njokanma, who is a property manager to purchase and acquire, on her behalf, most of the property,” the EFCC said.

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BIG STORY

BREAKING: Lagos, Abuja Airports To Resume Operations July 8

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The Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, are to resume domestic operations on Wednesday, July 8.

Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, announced this on his twitter handle on Wednesday night.

He said the date for commencement of international flights would be announced in due course.

The minister said Lagos and Abuja airports would resume operations on July 8, while Kano, Port Harcourt, Owerri, and Maiduguri airports are to resume operations on July 11 and other airports would start operations on July 15.

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BIG STORY

BREAKING: FG Increases Petrol Pump Price To N143.8/litre

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The Federal Government through the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) has announced a new retail price band for oil marketers across the country.

In a circular dated July 1st, the downstream regulator said oil marketers are now expected to sell petrol within the price range of N140.80 and N143.80.

The circular reads in part;

“Please recall the provision for the establishment of a monthly price band within which Petroleum Marketers are expected to sell PMS at the retail stations, based on the existing price regime.”

“After a review of the prevailing market fundamentals in the month of June and considering Marketers’ realistic operating costs, as much as practicable, we wish to advise a new PMS pump price of N140.80 to 143.80/Litre for the month of July 2020.”

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