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BIG STORY

Panel Probes Magu Over Alleged Ownership Of Dubai Properties, As Fresh Allegations Emerge

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The suspended acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu’s problems worsened on Wednesday as the presidential panel investigating corruption allegations against him shifted its focus to properties he allegedly acquired in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates.

The suspended EFCC boss, who has been in the police custody since his arrest on Monday, was interrogated for the third time on Wednesday.

It was also gathered that fresh allegations emerged against Magu as the panel continued its sitting just as he was again detained after Wednesday’s interrogation.

Magu was accosted by security agents in plain clothes in front of the old EFCC headquarters on Fomella Street, Wuse 2, Abuja, at noon on Monday and compelled to appear before the panel.

He has been in police custody at the Force Criminal Investigation Department, Garki, since Monday from where he has been appearing before the panel to respond to questions on the allegations raised against him by the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN).

Like what happened on Monday and Tuesday when the panel quizzed Magu for several hours, journalists were again on Wednesday not allowed access to the Old Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, venue of the interrogation.

Some State House reporters who attempted to enter the press gallery located inside the building were politely turned back.

Even those who attempted to park their vehicles in the car park of the facility were asked to make use of other parks within the Presidential Villa.

It was gathered that the Justice Ayo Salami-led panel was interested in establishing if indeed Magu bought properties abroad, particularly in Dubai, where he was said to have travelled to several times on official and private visits.

It was further learnt that the panel also was preoccupied with allegations that N39bn had been diverted from the recovered loot.

Sources said the panel would carry out forensics on documents recovered from Magu’s house as well as an analysis of his earnings and bank records.

A source stated, “The panel is working to verify allegations that Magu has properties in Dubai and other parts of the world. It is also probing an allegation that funds were diverted from recovered loot.

“I don’t know how far the panel has gone in exploring these interesting angles, but real estate titles and bank records would leave a trail that cannot be hidden. The panel planned to subject documents recovered from Magu’s residence and office to forensic analysis.”

After being questioned for eight hours on Wednesday, Magu was taken back in police custody, where he spent Monday and Tuesday nights.

Magu faces fresh allegations

It was also learnt that fresh allegations have continued to emerge in the course of the investigation which had caused the investigation to linger.

For instance, Magu was alleged to have sold off or mysteriously released about 157 oil tankers without following due process.

The vehicles were alleged to have been seized by the Port Harcourt zonal office of the EFCC.

The money was said not to have been remitted to the government’s coffers while those released were said to have been done after bribes were given to senior EFCC officials loyal to Magu.

A report by the Auditor-General of the Federation last year also noted that about N13.96bn reported as salaries and wages in the consolidated financial statement of the EFCC were not in the anti-graft agency’s trial balance submitted for reconciliation.

Besides, the EFCC was listed as one of the agencies with “doubtful cash balance” of over N315m. These allegations are also being looked into.

A top government official said, “Magu is not just the chairman but the chief accounting officer of the EFCC. So, every allegation regarding diversion or misplaced funds must be directed at him.

“There are allegations that about 157 oil tankers seized by the Port Harcourt disappeared. Some were sold while some were returned to the owners after massive bribes were given through operatives we believe to be Magu’s proxies.

“We are also working on some reports from the Office of the Auditor-General and the Federal Inland Revenue Service regarding some financial lapses in the EFCC. For some of the allegations, Magu was not able to explain while for some, he offered explanations.

“Whenever he gives explanations, we investigate and cross-check and based on the outcome of the investigation, more questions are asked.”

When asked if it was not against the law to hold Magu beyond 48 hours in line with the constitutional provision, the source said Magu was being held by the police and he remains a member of that organisation.

He said, “Magu is a senior policeman. The police are also represented on the panel in the person of DIG Ogbezi. Magu is being kept in police custody in line with police rules just like the way other senior officers are detained during a probe. This is not illegal detention.”

Besides Salami other members of the presidential panel investigating Magu are a Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Mike Ogbizi representing the Nigeria Police Force; Hassan Abdullahi representing the Department of State Services and Douglas Ekwueme who is an official of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit.

Others include Mallam Shamsudeen representing the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, Mohammed Abubakar from the Federal Ministry of Justice and Mr. Kazeem Atilebi representing Civil Society Organisations.

The six geopolitical zones in the country are also represented on the panel.

BIG STORY

Financial Recklessness: Pondei, Other NDDC Staff Spent N5bn As Medical Allowances During Lockdown —- Senate Report [Full Breakdown]

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The Senate report on the alleged financial recklessness in the Niger Delta Development Commission has revealed how the top management of the agency shared N4.9bn among themselves in the guise of medical checkup.

The document also showed that the management paid N114.9m as a supplementary medical allowance to 26 staff members during the same period.

It stated that both disbursements were made when the nation was under lockdown to check COVID-19 spread.

The report was adopted and approved by the Senate shortly before it proceeded on its annual recess penultimate week.

A copy of the document obtained by our correspondent in Abuja on Monday indicated that the monies were paid to the individual accounts in March and April this year.

The document indicated that the acting Managing Director, Daniel Pondei, and the two executive directors got N14.2m each.

The report noted that no such payment took place during the first Interim Management Committee led by Joi Nunieh.

It nonetheless, stated that available data showed that the allowance had been in existence even though it appeared to have no specific policy underpinning it.

The report stated, “The three members of the Interim Management Committee received the highest amount of N142m each.

“Two other people, namely Evan Caroline Nagbo and Ms Cecilia Akintomide, took N12,387,500 each, while Peter Uwa Edieya was paid N10,340,000.

The report further added that four other members of staff collected about N8m each while 140 others collected an average of N7m each.

The NDDC management also paid 75 others N6m each while 153 staff members were paid N5.5m.

Four other categories of staff were paid between N4.1m and N4.8m while seven others got about N3m each.

The document further indicated that 804 staff members collected between N2.4m and N2.9m each.

Apart from these, the document showed that the management paid N114.9m as a supplementary medical allowance to 26 staff members.

No fewer than 15 of them got N7m while one of them collected N5.2m.

The rest however collected between N375, 000 and N550, 000 each.

The report indicated that “payment to all the 1,401 staff who received the allowance was made on 16 March 2020.”

It added that the distribution of the payment category and the number of staff did not suggest a regular hierarchical pattern and an absence of clear policy, which raised suspicion of arbitrariness.

The report also stated that the NDDC management used staff members for the distribution of Lassa Fever kits.

It explained that Personal Protective Kits were given to the 185 LGAs of the Niger Delta states through the NDDC staff.

The staff members, according to the document, were paid various amounts, ranging from N300,000 to N6,845,000, on April 15, 2020, for the distribution of the kits.

The report stated, “The total amount used for the distribution is N55,090,000.

“Twenty-nine employees were engaged in ‘Monitoring of the Emergency Response Programme on Lassa Fever Outbreak at a cost of N5,972,500’.

“NDDC did not provide any returns on the end-user beneficiaries which would have helped in evaluating the accountability and transparency of the programme. There was also no mention of the original target beneficiaries.

“NDDC management did not provide details of allocation of the Lassa fever Protective Kits per each state and LGA and how the distributors were assigned as well as the collated report on the distribution exercise.

“They should have justified the huge amount of money allocated for the exercise.”

The report further added that by its own record. NDDC spent N808.9m as imprest between October 29 2019 and May 23. 2020.

It stated that “this covers a period of seven months during most of which the nation was on lockdown.

“Given that significant amount was also expended on travels, duty tour allowance during this period, payment of bills, it is difficult to justify this huge amount as imprest necessary for the services of the commission.”

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BIG STORY

mediaReach OMD Employs Data On Media Consumption To Aid Businesses In Navigating The New Normal

Peter Okunoren

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mediaReach OMD, a frontline marketing and media agency, had during this period of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, guided media planners, buyers, and businesses in their investment bid with data-driven newsletters on media consumption habit to maximize profits and increase productivity and to navigate the new normal.

Published in ThisDay Newspapers and titled “COVID-19 and Media Consumption Habit, What has Changed?,” the newsletters are a culmination of the sequence of information aimed at examining the potential impact of the pandemic on audience behaviour and media consumption in Nigeria.

It also contains thought starters and needed actions regarding adaptation of the definition of the new normal posed by the pandemic.

Against this backdrop, the Managing Director of the Agency, Nitinchandra Nandekar, said the firm has been monitoring changes in media consumption and adapting to innovative ways of connecting with the target audience, through data-led approaches to guide clients’ investments during the COVID-19 lockdown/post lockdown.

Nandekar avowed that while businesses, especially the marketing and media ecosystem waits for an end to this deadly disease which has dealt a hard blow on world economies, the journey to success will continue to be guided with key principles, including being ready for the day after.

The foremost media agency with presence in Nigeria, West, and Central Africa, posits that media consumption which is in favour of the TV continues to be stable with much attention on genres like news and entertainment, while businesses are now adopting a more creative and innovative form of operations with adaptation to the new normal.

Commending the media agency for these initiatives, the Chairman and Managing Director of Expand Global Industries Limited, Rajat Kapur, said as a global partner of Henkel for Media Investment Solutions, MediaReach OMD helps not only in the normal ways but regularly releases data-driven media intelligence information newsletters which ensure that Henkel is prepared to deal with the new normal characterised by the pandemic.

This, he said, contains the changing consumer habits, the higher need for hygiene-based products and the changing media landscape, all highlighted for a better clearer and stronger media investment leading to best in class equity development of Henkel’s brands.

In his remark, the President of the National Institute of Marketing of Nigeria (NIMN), Tony Agenmonmen, said the breakout of the pandemic has been a defining moment for the world.

He affirmed that the deadly disease came with uncertainty and fear because no one knows exactly what was going on, not even the experts, including the World Health Organization (WHO) which has been struggling a bit.

“A bewildered world therefore became anxious and hungry for news. And with the lockdowns in almost all parts of the world, consumers were hungry for information. They tried to stay connected to all the news about the pandemic and social media was the greatest beneficiary,” he said.

Agenmonmen continued “It helped that some brands understood this and were able to help in providing the information in ways that were not seen as exploiting the fears and worries of consumers. Six months down the line, it appears that the world has come to accept that we will have to live with it for an indeterminate while. The fears remain.”

On the importance of data to investment, the NIMN President remarked that without it, organisations cannot plan their daily activities properly. “Data is life, it is very critical in running your day-to-day investment. If you have the right data, then you are on the right path to success,” he avowed.

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BIG STORY

COVID-19: Air Peace Sacks 70 Pilots, Cuts Salaries By 40%

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A Nigerian airline, Air Peace, has sacked over 70 pilots across its fleet.

It also reduced staff salaries by up to 40 percent.

A member of the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers disclosed this to one of our correspondents, craving anonymity.

The source said the number of sacked pilots was between 70 and 75 in total.

The management of the airline, however, linked the pilots’ disengagement to the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pilots had, on July 22, protested a major pay cut after negotiations with the management over their remuneration broke down.

A statement issued on Monday by Mr. Stanley Olise, spokesperson of the airline, described the sacking of the pilots as “painful but rightful decision.”

Part of the statement read, “The airline cannot afford to toe the path of being unable to continue to fulfill its financial obligations to its staff, external vendors, aviation agencies, maintenance organizations, insurance companies, banks, and other creditors, hence the decision to restructure its entire operations with a view to surviving the times.

“The pandemic has hit every airline worldwide, so badly that it has become very impossible for airlines to remain afloat without carrying out an internal restructuring of their costs.

“Anything short of what we have done may lead to the collapse of an airline as could be seen in some places worldwide during this period. Therefore, we decided to review the salaries being paid to all staff.

“The new salaries reflect a zero per cent-40 percent cut of the former salary, depending on the salary grades of every staff. Even after the cuts, it was obvious that for us to be able to sustain our operations and survive the times, some jobs must inevitably have to go.

“Air Peace has never, for one day, ever owed salaries to its workers in its almost six years of existence, pilots inclusive. Rather, the management of Air Peace has always been known to be increasing salaries of its employees periodically, without being prompted by staff.

“In fact, in one fell swoop, Air Peace increased the salaries of pilots by over 100 percent in one day. Our salaries have always been paid even before the end of the month in the last five years.

“The decision is a reflection of the negative impact of the pandemic on airlines and aviation worldwide.

“We are in trying times. Even the biggest airlines in Europe, America, Middle East, Asia, Australia, and, indeed, Africa, are all either slashing jobs and cutting salaries in order to remain afloat or are shutting down.

“Air Peace is not immune from these challenges.”

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