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BIG STORY

Refineries Gulped N81.41b In Eight Months, Refined Zero Crude —– NNPC

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A total of N81.41 billion was expended on Nigeria’s refineries between January and August this year, but the facilities refined no drop of crude oil all through this period, latest data obtained from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation showed.

Kaduna Refining and Petrochemical Company, Port Harcourt Refining Company, and Warri Refining and Petrochemical Company posted a cumulative revenue of N6.54 billion during the eight-month period.

With revenue of N6.54 billion and a total expense of N81.41 billion, the facilities ended up with a deficit of N78.87 billion, according to figures contained in the just-released August 2020 report of the NNPC.

Further analysis of figures from the latest report, as well as those earlier released by the corporation, showed that the revenue, expense, and deficit of KRPC during the period under review were N6.22 billion, N33.61 billion, and N27.39 billion respectively.

PHRC posted a revenue, expense, and deficit of N61 million, N25.57 billion, and N25.51 billion respectively from January to August 2020.

Similarly, WRPC earned revenue of N257 million, incurred an expense of N22.23 billion, and posted a deficit of N21.98 billion during the same period.

It was further gathered that for 13 straight months, the facilities had been running without refining any volume of crude oil.

Data from the consolidated refineries operations put the volume of crude processed by the facilities from August 2019 to August 2020 at zero metric tonnes.

With a cumulative plant capacity of 445,000 barrels per day, the facilities posted a capacity utilization of zero percent all through the 13-month period.

However, the volume of crude they recorded as closing stock between August 2019 and August this year was 3.78 million metric tonnes.

For several years, Nigeria has been importing the bulk of its refined petroleum products as a result of the inability of its refineries to refine crude oil produced within the country.

On Thursday, the Federal Government revealed that Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer, was set to resume the importation of petroleum products from a neighbouring country, Niger Republic.

The Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources said in a statement that the two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding for petroleum products transportation and storage.

It said following bilateral agreements between the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), and his Nigerien counterpart, Mahamadou Issoufou, talks had been ongoing between the two countries for over four months – through the NNPC and Niger’s Societe Nigerienne De Petrole.

According to the statement, Niger Republic’s Soraz Refinery in Zinder, some 260km from the Nigerian border, had an installed refining capacity of 20,000 barrels per day.

“Niger’s total domestic requirement is about 5,000bpd, thus leaving a huge surplus of about 15,000bpd, mostly for export,” it said.

The national oil firm again explained in its latest monthly report that the declining operational performance of Nigeria’s refineries was attributable to the ongoing revamping of the facilities.

It said the revamping of the facilities was expected to further enhance their capacity utilization once completed.

Operators in the downstream oil sector as well as economists have repeatedly called for a fast revamp of Nigeria’s refineries in order to halt the continued importation of refined petroleum products.

The National President, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Chinedu Okonkwo, said: “Getting our refineries working optimally is so vital now to save us the continued depletion of our foreign exchange.

“I know the NNPC is working towards that and we hope the refineries will come on board as soon as possible because this might also help in reducing the cost of refined petroleum products.”

The Director-General, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dr. Muda Yusuf, noted that pronouncements by NNPC on the future involvement of the private sector in the operation of the country’s moribund refineries were commendable.

“This is another laudable initiative which will ensure that these national assets are put to use for the growth and development of our economy,” Yusuf said.

He, however, noted that one of the critical elements of the oil and gas sector reform, particularly the downstream sector, was the complete deregulation of the sector.

The LCCI boss explained that the reform of the downstream oil and gas sector would not only impact positively on local refining of crude but also create a number of advantages for the economy.

Yusuf said: “It will unlock the huge private investment potential in the downstream oil sector, especially in petroleum product refining.

“This will ultimately reduce the importation of petroleum products and ease the pressure on the foreign exchange market as well as the burden on our foreign reserves.”

He stressed that the investment opportunities in Nigeria’s oil and gas sector were huge, considering the country’s crude oil reserves and the even bigger prospects in respect of its gas reserves.

According to him, Nigeria has been in the business of oil for over 50 years but still does not have any private refinery operating on a commercial scale.

“This is a big issue. No oil-producing country imports refined petroleum products on a scale that we do in Nigeria. It is inexcusable,” the LCCI DG stated.

Yusuf added: “Pipelines are very critical infrastructure for refineries and for the sector, but the current ones are aging and have deteriorated due to poor investment and maintenance.

“Again, this is because the pipelines are in the public sector space.

“The story of the petrochemicals and fertilizer plants are not different, although the latter has witnessed some measure of privatization.”

Yusuf noted that the dominance of the public sector in this space had significantly slowed down the progress and development of the oil and gas sector.

He stated that the sector was so strategic that it could easily have provided the lever to accelerate the diversification of the Nigerian economy.

BIG STORY

Joe Biden Revokes Trump’s Visa Ban On Green Card Applicants, Says US Businesses Harmed

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In a huge relief for those seeking a green card, US President Joe Biden on Wednesday revealed an order from his predecessor that blocked many green card applicants from entering the United States.

Biden has revoked former President Donald Trump’s order that limited the number of new work visas for temporary foreign workers in the United States amid the coronavirus pandemic.“The suspension of entry imposed in Proclamation 10014… does not advance the interests of the United States.

“To the contrary, it harms the United States, including by preventing certain family members of United States citizens and lawful permanent residents from joining their families here,” Biden said in the order provided by the White House on Wednesday.

In June 2020, Trump signed a proclamation that suspended certain categories of non-immigrant work visas as part of an effort to revive the U.S. economy amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The list includes H-1B visas for work in high-tech industries and a range of others for low-skill workers, interns, teachers, and company transfers.

 

(India/NAN)

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BIG STORY

Police Funding: Senate Approves N1.3bn For Teargas, N1bn For Arms and Ammunitions, N9bn For Others [Full Breakdown]

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The Senate on Wednesday approved N11.3 billion (11,352,457,101.70) as the budget of the Nigeria Police Trust Fund (NPTF) for the 2020 fiscal year.

About N1.3 billion (1,362,814,243) of the amount was allocated for the procurement of teargas. About N1 billion was allocated for the procurement of arms and ammunition.

The approval was a sequel to the consideration and adoption of the harmonized report of the Senate and House of Representatives Committee on Police Affairs. The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Police Affairs, Haliru Jika, presented the report.

A breakdown of the NPTF’s budget was contained in the report which was made available to the media.

Breakdown of the budget

Below is the breakdown of the N11.3 billion budget as contained in the document:

*Provision of specialised/operational vehicle double cabinet-pick-up van for patrol – N7,600,000,000

* Procurement of arms and ammunitions – N1,000,000,000

* Procurement of personnel protective gear (bulletproof vest and helmet) – N469,338,550

* Procurement of riot control equipment (teargas) – N1,362,814,243

* Provision of COVID-19 protection kit for police personnel – N358,379,191

* Supply of drugs and medical equipment for police hospitals – N533,894,117

* Office furniture and equipment – N29,031,000

Mr Jika in his presentation said it is the first budget of the NPTF since the establishment Act came into being in 2019.

Only 0.5 percent of the total revenue that accrued to the Federation Account and 0.5 percent of the total Value Added Tax were remitted to the NPTF account; the other sources of revenue as prescribed in the NPTF Establishment Act have not made any remittance, he explained.

Giving a breakdown of the budget component, the lawmaker said projected income was put at N35 billion (N34,984,314,243) while N11.3 billion (N11,354,457,101.70) was budgeted for capital expenditure.

He explained that the balance of N23.6 billion (N23,631,857,141.30) will be carried over to the 2021 budget of the NPTF.

He, therefore, called on the NPTF to expedite action on the implementation of the 2020 budget in order to meet up the April 30 deadline.

In his remarks, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, said the approval of the NPTF budget would “help the police to increase their capacities and of course, provide better and improved services across the country.”

“This is one of the benefits of what we have passed here – the Police Trust Fund – and I’m sure that the National Assembly will continue to support our security agencies for optimal performance,” he added.

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BIG STORY

Invictus Obi To Restitute $10.7million, Forfeits Wedding Ring, Two Cars In Nigeria, N280m To U.S

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* To undergo three years of “supervised release” after serving his complete jail term

Obinwanne Okeke, also known as Obi Invictus has been ordered to restitute about $10.7million which he fraudulently obtained from identified victims of his at least five years of wire fraud in the U.S and other places.

According to Premium Times, a judge of the Eastern District of Virginia, Rebecca Smith, while sentencing him to 10 years in jail on February 16, also ordered the forfeiture of his identified assets to the U.S government.

The assets include his “white gold emerald cut engagement ring with small accent diamonds.”

The other forfeited assets are two cars back home in Nigeria, and N280,555,010 translating into about $700,000 which the Nigerian government had seized from him.

The judge, Rebecca Smith, ordered Mr Okeke to restitute $10.7million as proceeds of his fraud to the U.S. government in addition to the jail term.

Mr Okeke, who had already spent 19 months in detention as of the time of his sentencing, was also ordered to undergo three years of “supervised release” after serving his complete jail term.

On completing his jail term, Mr Okeke will be presented before a duly-authorized immigration official of the Department of Homeland Security Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement “for deportation review,” said the judge.

The office will determine whether to immediately deport him or make him undergo the three years “supervised release” in the U.S.

The fraud

U.S authorities said Mr Okeke and his co-conspirators, who remain at large, “through subterfuge and impersonation,“ engaged in a multi-year global business email and computer hacking scheme that caused a staggering $11 million in losses to his victims.”

Mr Okeke, 31, also known as Invictus Obi, had in June last year pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud.

His guilty plea which helped him to have one of the two counts initially filed against him dropped conceded to making restitution and forfeiture of his seized assets.

Sentencing

PREMIUM TIMES on Thursday exclusively obtained the court’s Restitution Order’ and ‘Consent Order of Forfeiture’ which are part of the sentencing documents signed by the judge and the parties to the case.

Apart from the judge, others who signed the two documents are, the Acting United States Attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia, Raj Parekh, Mr Okeke, and his defense lawyer, John Iweanoge.

“Pursuant to 18 U.S.C § 3663A(a)(1), the defendant is ordered to pay restitution in the total amount of $10,679,166.54 jointly and severally with any other defendants who are ordered to pay restitution for the same losses,” the restitution order read in part.

Attached to the document is a list of three victims of Mr Okeke’s fraud.

They are Unatrac Holdings LLC in Washington DC, which was duped $5,429,166.54; Orient Insurance PJSC, duped $5million, and QBE European Operations which lost $250,000 to the fraudsters.

The court ordered that all the payments for the restitution which “shall be made to the Clerk of Court” “shall distribute the funds to Unatrac first and to the remaining victims on a pro-rata basis.”

The court waived interest on the amount to be restituted by the convict and ordered that “no delinquent or default penalties will be imposed except upon Order of the Court.”

Forfeiture order
In the consent forfeiture order, the judge gave a monetary judgment capturing the total of $10,679,166.54 to be restituted by Mr Okeke.

This implies that the U.S authorities will be able to execute the order as the court’s final judgment for the forfeiture of any assets in which Mr Okeke has interests to raise the money for restitution.

According to the court, the sum “shall constitute a monetary judgment against the defendant in favour of the United States,” and “shall be offset” after final forfeiture and liquidation of all of the assets seized from Mr Okeke.

Some of Mr Okeke’s assets already ordered in the document for forfeiture is “18kt white gold emerald cut engagement ring with small accent diamonds and containing GIA number 2287567161.”

“This ring was seized from the defendant at the time of his arrest,” the document explained.

The court also ordered the forfeiture of the U.S government, “Approximately 280,555,010Nigerian Naira (approximately $700,000 U.S.) seized from the defendant by the Nigerian authorities in light of his arrest on the charges in this case.

“Proceeds from the sale of the defendant’s 2018 Toyota Camry and 2017 Toyota Hilux.”

It added, “The defendant agrees to sell these two vehicles, located in Nigeria, and send the proceeds to the U.S. Marshals Service.

“The defendant shall remit these proceeds to the U.S. Marshals Service within six months of the date of this order unless the defendant obtains an extension by written agreement with the government.

“The United States shall seize all forfeited property and shall take full and exclusive custody and control of same.”

U.S. assets also forfeited
The document also gave an indication without giving details that Mr Okeke may have assets in the U.S. that could be taken over by the government authorities in executing the monetary judgment of the court.

“With respect to the monetary judgment described in paragraph (1)(a) above, the United States may collect this monetary judgment by all lawfully available means, including but not limited to forfeiture of direct proceeds and substitute assets.

“Insofar as the United States seeks forfeiture of substitute assets, the defendant agrees and the court finds that one or more of the criteria set forth in 21 U.S.C. §853(p)(1) are present here and the United States may therefore seek forfeiture of substitute assets pursuant to § 853(p).”

But the court directed that in executing the forfeiture order on such assets in the U.S, the authorities “shall to the extent practicable, provide direct written notice to any persons known to have alleged an interest in the seized property, and shall publish notice of this order in accordance with Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 32.2(b)(6).”

The court added that any person, other than Mr Okeke, asserting any legal interest in the property “may, within 30 days of the publication of the notice or the receipt of the notice, whichever is earlier, petition the court for a hearing to adjudicate the validity of their alleged interest in the property.”

It also ordered: “Following the Court’s disposition of all timely petitions filed, a final order of forfeiture shall be entered. If no third party files a timely petition, this order shall become the final order of forfeiture, as provided by Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 32.2(c)(2), and the

The United States shall have clear title to the property, and shall dispose of the property in accordance with the law.”

Profile
Mr Okeke is the founder of Invictus Group, which he claimed to have a business interest in oil and gas, agriculture, and real estate, among others.

He is said to have a degree in International Studies and Forensic Criminology and Masters of International Relations and Counter-Terrorism Studies from Monash University in Australia

Mr Okeke, a businessman with international fame, was featured on the Forbes Africa Magazine in June 2016 cover.

Arrest

He was arrested on August 6, 2019, on a criminal complaint for computer and wire fraud to defraud Unatrac Holding Limited which is headquartered in United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Operatives of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) nabbed him at Dulles International Airport, Virginia, as he prepared to depart the U.S after a visit to witness the birth of his 19-month-old daughter born on July 15, 2019.

Charged

On September 9, 2019, he was charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit computer fraud.

Mr Okeke, who initially denied the charges, later entered into a plea bargain agreement with the U.S authorities and pleaded guilty to Count 1 on June 18, 2020.

The guilty plea helped Mr Okeke to secure the withdrawal of the second charge that carries a lesser sentence and fines.

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