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FG Uncovers N1.2bn Fraud At FUTO, UNIABUJA; Vice-Chancellors In Trouble

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The Federal Government’s audit report has revealed irregularities of more than N1.2bn in 2015, 2016 and 2017 finances of the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, Imo State, and the University of Abuja.

The 2017 report from the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation titled, ‘Auditor General’s Annual Report on the Accounts of the Federation of Nigeria 2017,’ showed that FUTO had more than N611m irregularities in its expenses between 2016 and 2017, while UNIABUJA had over N560m for 2015.

The report noted that the vice-chancellors of the universities during the years under review must be made to answer for the money unaccounted for.

For FUTO, the report highlighted about 10 areas where there were financial infractions between 2016 and 2017. These ranged from “payments without raising payment vouchers put at N43,543,129; payment of unapproved allowances put at N244,325,021, and payment to the contractor for jobs not done at N34,252,304.”

The report partly read, “During the periodic checks conducted at the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, for the period January 1, 2016, to December 31, 2017, the following were observed; payments without raising payment vouchers – N43,543,129.34. Payments totalling N43,543,129.34 were made without raising payment vouchers, in violation of Financial Regulation 601 which provides that payment vouchers must be raised before any payment is made.

“Response from the university on the above issue failed to address the issue.

“The recommendation is that the vice-chancellor has been requested to account for the sum of N43,543,129. Also, sanctions stated in financial regulation 3106 should be imposed on the vice-chancellor.

“Also, the payment of unapproved allowances put at N244,325,021.26. It was observed from sampled payment vouchers that a total of N244,325,021.26 was paid to staff as allowances for recharge cards, council incentives, security shift, contract addition allowances, etc., from personnel cost between 2016 and 2017. Documents conveying approval for such payments from the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission could not be made available during the periodic check.”

For the University of Abuja, the report noted that the institution had unaccounted payments put at N17,924,585; payment of unapproved allowances at N84,748,382, among other infractions.

The report added, “During the periodic checks of the University of Abuja, for the 2015 financial year, the following observations were made. One, unaccounted payments – N17, 924,585; 27 payment vouchers totalling N17,924,585 were paid to a staff of the university for printing services and jobs. The amount should have been made directly to the University Bookshop or University Printing Press rather than the personal account of the officer.

“However, there was no record of the utilisation of the various amounts collected by the payee in order to ascertain transparency, probity, and accountability of the transactions. Our recommendation is that the vice-chancellor is required to account for the sum of 17,924,585 and forward evidence to me for confirmation.

“Also, the payment of unapproved allowances is put at N84,748,382. Furthermore, there is a diversion of funds through a fictitious contract which is put at N23,921,250.”

A civil society, Paradigm Leadership Support Initiative, while reacting to the report, asked the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offenses Commission and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to investigate the universities and recover allegedly misused funds.

The PLSI Executive Director, Olusegun Elemo, said in a statement, “Anti-corruption agencies, particularly the ICPC and the EFCC, should investigate the transactions and recover the money and return it to the federal treasury.

“The university authorities should also ensure strict compliance with relevant fiscal provisions and procurement laws in the implementation of new contracts.”

When asked for comment, spokeswoman for FUTO, Mrs Uche Nwaelue, asked our correspondent to forward to her a copy of the report, while promising to get back to our correspondent.

However, she had yet to get back to our correspondent as of the time of filing this report.

 

Punch

BIG STORY

FG Slashes Year 2020 Budget From N8.41tn To N5.08tn, Benchmark Oil Price At $30 Per Barrel, Sends To National Assembly For Review

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The Federal Government has revised downward the revenue projection for the 2020 budget by N3.3tn from the initial approved amount of N8.41tn to N5.08tn.

The revised revenue projection is contained in a proposal sent to the National Assembly by the executive.

The reduction became imperative in view of the negative impact of the coronavirus pandemic, which had led to disruptions to global supply chains, a sharp drop in global crude oil prices, turmoil in global stock and financial markets.

These outcomes have had severe consequences on households’ livelihoods and business activities, resulting from a drop in global demand, declined consumer confidence and slowdown in production.

Based on the revenue parameters underlying the revised proposal, the Federal Government revised downwards the oil price benchmark from $57 per barrel to $30 per barrel.

Similarly, the oil production volume was reduced from 2.18 million barrels per day to 1.7 million barrels per day.

The exchange rate was however raised from N305 to a dollar to N360 to a dollar based on the devaluation of the naira by the Central Bank of Nigeria.

An analysis of the revenue items showed that oil revenue suffered the highest reduction of N2.38tn from the initial approved amount of N2.63tn to N254.25bn.

Based on the proposal, the dividend from the NLNG was reduced from N124.26bn to N80.37bn while non-oil revenue would witness a decline of N269bn from N1.8tn to N1.53tn.

In the same vein, revenue projection from the signature bonus was revised downward from N939.3bn to N568.68bn, while revenue from stamp duty was reduced from N463.94bn to N200bn.

However, independent revenue from agencies of government was increased by N66.88bn from N849.96bn to N916.84bn.

On the expenditure side, the executive is proposing a reduction of about N321bn in spending from the initial estimate of N10.59tn to N10.27tn.

Based on the revised proposal, statutory transfers were cut by N152.67bn from N560.47bn to N407.8bn, capital expenditure was revised downward by N155bn from N2.78tn to N2.62tn while recurrent expenditure was reduced by N25bn from N4.49bn to N4.46bn.

A breakdown of some of the Nigerian expenditure items showed that anniversaries/celebrations were reduced by N3.08bn; computer software, N3.14bn; office buildings, N24.86bn; residential buildings, N479.6m; monitoring and evaluation, N10.8bn; land acquisition, N1.45bn; computers, N1.9bn; purchase of motor vehicles, N5.25bn and office furniture, N3.94bn.

Others are rehabilitation of office building, N49.52bn; repair of residential buildings, N1.07bn; research and development, N45.6bn; provisions of roads, N1.96bn; provision of water facilities, N650m; provision of waterways, N650m; repairs of public schools, N330.85m and purchase of power generating set, N555.96m.

There is also a reduction of N176.5m on purchase of motorcycle; computer printers, N151.48m; photocopying machines, N131.46m; purchase of trucks, N134.46m; purchase of buses, N485.78m and purchaser of scanners, N193.74m, among others.

A further analysis of the proposal showed that the drop in revenue has widened the fiscal deficit by N3.01tn from the initial approved about of N2.17tn or 1.29 per cent to N5.18tn or 3.43 per cent.

According to the proposal, the fiscal deficit is expected to be financed through fresh borrowing of N4.43tn as against the initial borrowing plan of N1.59tn.

Also, the executive is proposing to raise N126.04bn from privatisation proceeds as against the initial projection of N252.08bn.

In the same vein, about N424.95bn is being projected to be raised from multilateral/bilateral project loans. This is about N96.83bn higher than the N328.12bn which had earlier been approved when the budget was signed by the President.

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Chinese Doctors Who Brought Medical Equipment To Help Fight COVID-19 In Nigeria Sent On 14 Days Isolation

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Amid a wave of opposition, 15 Chinese medical experts arrived in Nigeria on Wednesday, to join the battle against COVID-19.

The Federal Government received some medical equipment and supplies brought by the medical team which arrived at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja in a chartered Air Peace flight.

China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), the sponsor of the trip, said they brought about 16-tons of test kits, ventilators, disinfection machine, disposable medical masks, N95 masks, medications, rubber gloves, protective gowns, goggles, face shields, infra-red thermometers, and others.

Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, who was at the airport to receive the Chinese and their supplies, said the team will be quarantined for two weeks.

“They knew that before they came and have undergone tests before they left their country.

“Nevertheless, they will be in quarantine for 14 days. The Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has gone to see where they will be quarantined.”

Ehanire added: “The equipment (they brought) will assist a lot to fill some existing gaps.

“We now have 50 more ventilators.”

Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Zhou Pingjian, said the equipment and medical supplies are valued at about $1.5million. Added to the cost of the flight, everything is worth about $2million.

Our reporter learnt that 12 of the 15-man team are doctors. The rest are specialists in infectious diseases, respiratory illnesses, intensive care, cardiology, neurology, general surgery, and anesthesiology.

CCECC Nigeria Managing Director, Michael Jiang, said in a statement: “The primary purpose of the working team is to escort the medical supply and provide guidance for their usage and distribution.

“They will also provide CCECC employees with critical and necessary healthcare assistance where necessary. They are also coming with adequate Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and medical items for the employees.

“In addition, under the directive of the Chinese Embassy and in response to the Nigeria Government’s request, the working team may also share with Nigerian medical teams effective methods on how to contain the COVID-19 and provide advice on the use of relevant medical equipment.

“The team is not coming to treat COVID-19 patients in Nigeria.

“In keeping with its corporate value, ‘Stride with Nigeria’, CCECC is participating in the construction of two COVID-19 response facilities in the FCT for free as part of its Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR).

“The facilities are a 196-bed at ‘ThisDay Dome Treatment Centre,’ in collaboration with Sahara Group and Arise News; and the 150-bed ‘Idu Depot Treatment Centre’.”

The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and the National Association of Resident Doctors of Nigeria (NARD) re-iterated that the Chinese experts must not directly treat any Nigerian patient.

They described any attempt by the Chinese medical team to manage any Nigerian patient as unethical and illegal.

NMA President Dr Francis Faduyile told our reporter: “Our stand has not changed and we still insist that there is nothing that they (Chinese) want to offer that can improve what we have on the ground.

“There are so many things that we need to put into consideration because it is a war affecting ordinary Nigerians, and sometimes, you look at the risk and benefits.

“Our members will look at what is on the ground; if we are doing what we are doing and they (Chinese) do not interfere with us, we will continue doing what we are doing for Nigerians.

“We cannot now precipitously make a decision. We are an association that is bounded by ethics, and rules. In a very short while, you will hear our decision”

NARD President, Dr Sokomba Aliyu, said while the association was not against donations, the experts cannot attend to any Nigerian patient because they do not have the license to practice in Nigeria.

“We do not need their hands as we are not overwhelmed and can take care of our patients.

“So far, they have also stated that they are not coming to attend to patients, so we cannot say categorically if their words are anything to go by.

“While they (officials) have gone ahead to welcome the Chinese, we are hopeful that the Chinese will have nothing to do with our patients because if they proceed to involve the Chinese in the management of our patients, we will just leave the patients for the Chinese to continue.

“As it is now, we are going to be watchful and wait for them to see how far they are engaging the Chinese, and to what extent they are going to be managing our patients,” Aliyu said.

Also yesterday, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) asked Nigerians to hold President Muhammadu Buhari responsible should there be an upsurge in the rate of COVID-19 infection and death following the arrival of the Chinese.

The party said it was alarmed that the President ignored the protests by Nigerians and professional bodies, including the NMA and allowed the Chinese doctors to be brought in “from the hotbed of the plague”.

PDP, through its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, questioned the safety of kits and equipment from China, adding that it was concerned about “scary reports of escalation of the scourge in certain countries reportedly after the arrival of Chinese medical personnel”.

“Our doctors and nurses have been on top of the situation with records of recoveries and fewer casualties, thus raising questions about the real intentions of bringing in doctors from China.

”Nigerians are aware that since the index case was reported till date, our nation’s COVID-19 data stands at 254 confirmed cases, out of which 44 have been successfully treated by our doctors with six deaths, which reportedly had other underlining ailments”, the party noted.

The figure rose to 276 last night.

The party charged Nigerians to be extra vigilant and asked the Presidential Task Force to outline the states and local government areas the Chinese doctors are expected to operate in for monitoring .

Also, the United Labour Congress (ULC) said while there is nothing wrong with seeking help, stakeholders should have been carried along.

Its President Comrade Joe Ajaero said in a statement: “We are surprised that the decision to bring in the Chinese medical experts was not fully discussed and agreed among the top medical practitioners and stakeholders in the nation… This is worrying.

“Why would such a crucial decision be taken in secret without coordinate input from the critical stakeholders in the nation?

“This sector is a highly specialized area which requires that at all times the input of the professionals in this sector to process the offer and agree on its mechanics and modalities.

“As we battle against COVID-19, we strongly believe that the nation’s medical experts must be involved if not allowed to be at the forefront of taking such crucial decisions.”

ULC urged the Federal Government to address Nigerians’ fears, especially as it relates coronavirus.

The Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) said it would resist any move to deploy the Chinese medical team in Southeast and Southsouth.

Its leader Uchenna Madu said in a statement: “We shall resist any medical assistance from China…Medical doctors and other health workers in Southeast and Southsouth are capable and trained to handle every medical challenge professionally in those areas.”

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COVID-19: Nigerians To Get 2-Month Free Electricity — DisCos

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The Electricity Distribution Companies (DisCos) have given assurance of its support for the plan to supply free electricity to all consumers, as one of the palliative measures to bring succor to Nigerians in the face COVID-19 induced period.

Mr Sunday Oduntan, Executive Director, Research and Advocacy Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors (ANED), confirmed their support for the move on Wednesday in Abuja.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the House of Representatives is to consider a fresh Stimulus Bill that will allow Nigerians to enjoy electricity supply for two months without any charge.

According to Oduntan, details of the implementation of plans for the free electricity supply will come soon.

“We are completely aligned with the plans to ensure palliative measures, including free electricity supply to all Nigerians for two months, to make life easier, during the lockdown period.

“We recognize the challenging effects of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) on the economic and daily lives of our customers.

“In fulfillment of our commitments to the nation, we hereby align ourselves with the efforts of the National Assembly and the Federal Executive Council to mitigate the hardships that are currently faced by our customers and other citizens all over the country,” he said in a statement.

Oduntan said that DisCos also commended the Federal Legislators, the Executive arm and the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) for the initiative.

He said that the DisCos were committed to working with them to ensure a more efficient power supply within this difficult period, as the nation battles with the ravages of COVID-19.

“Again, as a key utility player in the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI), we hereby reiterate our commitment to improving service delivery to the nation during this pandemic period and thereafter,” Oduntan said.

 

(NAN)

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