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90 Ships Seized By EFCC Rot Away In Lagos, Others

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Some of the ships seized by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission have begun to sink in waters across the country, while many of those temporarily and permanently forfeited by suspected corrupt persons are being damaged due to lack of maintenance.

According to Punch, sources in the know of the development at the House of Representatives said that the Nigerian Navy, which was mandated to oversee the seized, recovered or forfeited assets, had no budgetary provision to maintain them, leaving them damaged and submerged eventually.

According to the lawmakers, most of the vessels are in Lagos State and they are the worst hit by the abandonment.

The House of Representatives Ad Hoc Committee on Assessment and Status of All Recovered Loots Movable and Immovable Assets from 2002 to 2020 by Agencies of the Federal Government of Nigeria for Effective, Efficient Management and Utilisation had recently embarked on oversight visits to the locations of such assets for an on-the-sight assessment.

Some members of the committee, who spoke to our correspondent on the condition of anonymity as the investigation was still ongoing, expressed their displeasure at what they found out during the tour.

A member said, “There are some of these assets that are still being managed by third parties. But a lot of them are just totally sealed up. Like business premises, they allow the people operating on the premises to continue, while they pay (rent) into the Recovery Account…they are paying rent to the EFCC. But for the ones that are not like that, they are sealed up and those ones are depreciating.

“Now, let me tell you the worst-case and where you will feel bad about depreciation (of recovered/seized assets): houses depreciate but not as bad as the vessels in the waters. Most of the ships that were supposedly seized, a number of them sunk – three or four of them have submerged because nobody can take care of them.

“In fact, most of the ones in the Lagos waters have badly depreciated…they are like just holding the shell when the snail is dead. That is what has happened to most of the vessels. About 10 percent have been submerged, while the other ones are just in a terrible state that they cannot attract much value again.”

When asked for the number of ships and vessels on the waters across the country, the lawmaker disclosed that over 30 were in Port Harcourt, about 10 in Warri, and about 10 in Bayelsa, adding, “They (Navy) have quite a lot and they are really in a bad shape.”

The source noted that while the “ones with the most value are in Port Harcourt,” they are all in the custody of the Nigerian Navy.

“Even though they were forfeited to the EFCC, the EFCC cannot protect them; it is the Navy that is protecting them,” he said.

The lawmaker noted that ships that were supposed to be powered regularly had been abandoned for close to seven years “and because of that, they have started to take in water.”

“I initially doubted the submerging story. We went to the water. I actually did not believe that they were submerged. But we actually saw ships inside the water,” the lawmaker added.

Another member of the committee was asked how the panel felt about recovered assets wasting away when the Federal Government was crying about revenue shortage and had embarked on a borrowing spree locally and internationally.

The lawmaker said, “The problem is that there is a wide gap between forfeiture and sale (auction). Most of the ships and vessels were forfeited over five years ago; the minimum is two years ago. And they are all still there. And these are assets that cannot be abandoned for long; they are depreciating assets.

“The waters in Nigeria have a lot of corrosion due to the high salt content (salinity). So, they are corroded from the base and as long as they get corroded, they will end up damaged.”

Responding to a question on plea bargaining being an alternative, the lawmaker said the government and its anti-graft agencies should have made the offer before approaching the courts to secure orders of interim and permanent forfeiture of the vessels.

The lawmaker added, “Part of the problem is that keeping custody of and maintaining them is gulping a lot of funds from the Navy and nobody is refunding the money being spent by the Navy. So, if we have like 100 vessels and six naval ratings working on each ship, it means that every day, the naval men will be patrolling the waters, so you have about 600 of them tied down to these assets

“Also, they are to be provided fuel and fed at that location. Yet, the EFCC does not refund the Navy for the expenditure on the assets. So, because of that, it is becoming a burden on the Navy and the level of maintenance is dropping gradually.

“And because the Navy was part of the process of seizing the assets, seeing what is now becoming of them, the Navy is not encouraged to carry out more seizures. When you seize something and you find out that it eventually becomes a burden on you, you may compromise and allow some (of the vessels) to go.”

The Chairman of the committee, Adejoro Adeogun, however, declined to comment on the revelations. When contacted to confirm the findings, he said, “You don’t expect me to speak on a probe that we have not concluded. All the details you need will be provided in our report to the House.”

The spokesman for the Attorney-General of the Federation, Umar Gwandu, could not be reached for comments on Sunday ditto for the spokesman for the EFCC, Wilson Uwujaren.

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BIG STORY

2024 BUDGET: N3Trn For Security Sector, Health Gets N1Trn [SEE BREAKDOWN]

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The federal government says it will prioritise the health, defence, and education sectors in its spending in the 2024 fiscal year.

A summary of the 2024 budget was released on Thursday by Atiku Bagudu, the minister of national planning and budget.

The national parliament heard President Bola Tinubu’s N27.5 trillion budget plan for the fiscal year 2024 on Wednesday.

Tinubu said the budget would cement macroeconomic stability, reduce the deficit, and increase capital spending and allocation to reflect the eight priority areas of this administration.

Providing a breakdown of the budget, Bagudu said the allocations include provisions for various ministries and agencies within each sector.

He said the projected national revenue in 2024 is estimated at N18.32 trillion, marking a substantial 66 percent increase compared to the previous year’s budget.

The minister also said oil-related sources are expected to contribute N7.94 trillion (43.3 percent), while non-oil revenue is projected to contribute N10.39 trillion.

“The government aims to address fiscal challenges and the revenue inflows are influenced by various factors such as the exchange rate, higher oil

production projections, and the removal of subsidies,” Bagudu said.

“Recognising the global and domestic challenges faced by Nigeria, as well as increased fiscal risks resulting from weaker-than-expected economic performance and structural issues, the draft 2024 budget aims to address these challenges.

“The government intends to improve revenue generation by reviewing tax and fiscal policies, to increase the revenue-to-GDP ratio.

“Key strategies include enhancing tax administration and collection efficiency, implementing significant public finance management reforms, and stimulating the economy through regulatory and policy measures to boost domestic value-addition and attract external investment.

“The government also emphasizes prioritizing safety nets to protect vulnerable segments of the population.”

Bagudu said the early passage of the budget for implementation from January 1, 2024, is paramount and expected to contribute significantly to achieving macro-fiscal and sectoral objectives.

  • Health, Education, Defence Sectors Get Bigger Share

With a crude oil benchmark price of $77.96 per barrel and an output of 1.8 million barrels per day, Bagudu said the budget focuses on critical sectors such as defense, healthcare, education, and infrastructure.

Speaking on sectoral allocations, the minister said N3.25 trillion has been allocated to the defence and security sector, representing 11.8 percent of the national budget.

Out of the N27.5 trillion, N1.32 trillion was earmarked for infrastructure projects, accounting for 4.83 percent of the budget.

Bagudu said the health sector got N1.33 trillion, equivalent to 4.8 percent of the federal government’s budget, while N2.18 trillion (7.9 percent) was given to the education sector.

A further breakdown of the budget for education showed that N1.27 trillion was allocated to the federal ministry of education, the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) received N251.47 billion, while the Tertiary Education Trust fund (TETFUND) got N700 billion.

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BIG STORY

Governor Sanwo-Olu Hails Morayo Afolabi-Brown’s Appointment As MD Of TVCe

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Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has congratulated popular television presenter, Dr. Morayo Afolabi-Brown, on her appointment as the Managing Director of TVCe, the Entertainment Channel of TVC Communications.

He said the new role given to Afolabi-Brown, the host of the TVC’s breakfast programme, ‘Your View’ is well deserved.

Governor Sanwo-Olu in a statement issued on Thursday by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Gboyega Akosile, said Afolabi-Brown’s appointment as Managing Director of TVCe is inspirational to young media practitioners that they can get to the top position of their career with hardwork, commitment and discipline.

He said: “The appointment of Dr. Morayo Afolabi-Brown as the Managing Director of TVCe, the Entertainment Channel of TVC Communications, is deserving having distinguished herself at TVC Communications and the media industry for almost two decades.

“Morayo Afolabi-Brown is one of the most influential women presenters not only in Nigeria but Africa. She has been recognised as one of the top 25 most influential women in Journalism Africa (WIJA) 2020 where she ranked 18th on the list.

“I believe strongly that Morayo Afolabi-Brown’s new appointment is an inspiration to young media practitioners, particularly members of staff of TVC Communications, that they can get to the top of their career in the company if they put in a little more than is expected from them by their employers.

“Morayo Afolabi-Brown’s new role attests to her exceptional track record of achievements in TVC Communications as a former Deputy Director of Programmes TVC News, where she created content on three independent channels for broadcast. She has also made a lot of impact as a host in addressing basic issues in society through the TVC’s breakfast show ‘Your View,’ programme.

 

SIGNED

GBOYEGA AKOSILE

CHIEF PRESS SECRETARY

30 NOVEMBER 2023

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BIG STORY

NDLEA Chairman Marwa Warns New Cadets Against Fraternising With Drug Traffickers

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The chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Buba Marwa, has asked new cadets not to “fraternise” with illicit drug offenders.

Marwa spoke on Thursday during the passing out ceremony of 2,500 cadets of senior officers basic course 16 at NDLEA academy, Jos, Plateau state.

The NDLEA boss said the agency will not tolerate “internal sabotage” in the war against substance abuse and illicit drug trafficking in the country.

Marwa, who was represented by Victoria Egbase, director, planning, research and statistics of NDLEA, said the agency cannot “decelerate” its efforts on the war against illicit drugs.

“We are currently on the verge of expanding our presence to all 774 local government areas in the country,” Marwa was quoted as saying in a statement by Femi Babafemi, NDLEA spokesperson.

“What that should tell our new officers is that there is work to do, and you cannot afford to be complacent or compromise the high standards we have set.

“On that note, let me also inform you that you must not fraternise with offenders of drug trafficking laws.

“Doing so is dangerous to your safety; it is catastrophic to your career; it sabotages organisational goals; and it is inimical to society’s wellbeing.

“Remembering this nugget of advice and abiding by it will ensure you a colourful and gratifying career.

“I must prepare your minds for the task ahead of you. The duties are such that there is no room for compromising the ethics of your profession or subverting the goals of the organisation.

“In our renewed campaign against illicit drugs, we are at a stage of ramped-up interdiction against cannabis, opioids, and other psychoactive substances.

“We cannot afford to decelerate our effort and we will not tolerate sabotage from within.”

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