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APC, PDP clash over planned ‘trafficking’ of illicit funds

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…As NCC queries Falana’s claims on N600bn yearly Telecoms loss***

The Buhari Media Organisation (BMO) and the Atiku Media Office clashed yesterday over an allegation that the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Atiku Abubakar was planning to bring into the country illicit funds.

In a statement, the BMO alleged the former vice president Atiku Abubakar plans to flood the country with what it described as illicit funds in the run-up to the 2019 elections.

Its Chairman, Niyi Akinsiju, and Secretary, Cassidy Madueke, urged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Nigerian Customs Service NCS) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to watch out for illegal funds’ transfer across the borders.

But Atiku’s Media Adviser Paul Ibe dismissed the allegation as “another infantile outburst that tells more about the accuser than the accused.”

Ibe said the PDP standard bearer has no looted funds anywhere.

In its statement, the BMO accused the former vice of being desperate to bring money stashed abroad into the country with a view to outspending the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

It reads: “We have it on good authority that the PDP and its Presidential candidate are making strenuous efforts to bring in public funds stashed abroad including those from recent sales of assets in Angola which were acquired with illicit funds.

“We also know that the former vice president has made promissory transaction commitments on a number of strategic national assets including the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and a percentage holding in the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) to a foreign syndicate.

“All these are out of desperation and as a result of his inability to raise funds from governors elected on PDP platform, many of whom are themselves locked in stiff battles for their seats.”

According to Akinsiju and Madueke, the decision to bring in funds by the PDP candidate followed stringent measures put in place by the CBN and EFCC to ensure sanity in the banking sector.

It alleged that said top officials of the last PDP government used some third generation banks to funnel public funds to party officials in all states of the federation before the last election.

The statement added: “It is clear to Atiku Abubakar and PDP elements that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration has put in place a system that has made it difficult for the type of situation in 2015 where a former minister could warehouse $115,000,000 (One hundred and fifteen million dollars) which was then shared among party officials to influence electoral officials.

“They also know that even the EFCC is very much on the alert at local airports as seen in the manner its operatives have twice in recent times intercepted undeclared sums of money running into millions of dollars.

“So these opposition elements are now working out a more crooked way of bringing in money through the borders in order to circumvent the system before and during the February 2019 elections”.

The group urged all relevant agencies to double their efforts to enforce provisions of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011 (as amended).

Reacting, Atiku’s spokesman said the former vice president has a reputation of blocking the transfer of illicit funds.

Ibe said: “For the avoidance of doubt, history shows that rather than smuggle in looted cash, Waziri Atiku Abubakar has a record of preventing looted funds from being smuggled into Nigeria.

In 1984, it was Atiku Abubakar, as head of the Murtala Mohammed International Airport Command of the Nigerian Customs and Excise Department, that stopped the ADC of the then Military Head of State, Muhammadu Buhari, from smuggling in 53 suitcases of looted money into the country.

“Young Nigerians and millennials, who may not be aware of this incident, will do well to Google it. Only the guilty are afraid.”

Ibe quoted what Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai said of the controversial suitcases, adding that Atiku had survived all the traps set for him because he had nothing to hide.

He said: “Atiku Abubakar’s plane was searched, his accounts have been perused and his businesses have been thoroughly investigated with a fine tooth and nothing remotely corrupt or illegal has been found.

“And while they are at it, we urge them to tell Nigerians those behind Etisalat and Keystone Bank and how they suddenly possessed such wealth overnight.”

The Buhari campaign office had defended the President’s integrity and accused the opposition party of deliberately planning to drag the name of President Buhari in the mud.

In the meantime, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) yesterday faulted Lagos lawyer Mr. Femi Falana’s (SAN) claim that the country was losing about N600 billion due to the failure of the commission to issue “contract award letter” to a firm that allegedly won the contract for the implementation of “Revenue Assurance Software”.

Falana had threatened to sue the NCC within two weeks, if it fails to issue the letter.

The NCC, however, faulted Falana’s claim, assuring stakeholders in the telecoms industry that it would remain committed to due process and high integrity in its regulatory roles.

Its Executive Commissioner, Stakeholders Management Mr. Sunday Dare, in a statement, asserted that there was no iota of truth in the allegation of revenue losses to the tune of N600 billion in the telecom industry.

Dare said: “Our attention has been drawn to sponsored  reports alleging that the Federal Government of Nigeria is losing up to ‘N600 billion yearly’, ostensibly because of the alleged failure of the NCC to issue a ‘contract award letter’ to a firm, which supposedly won a contract to implement a ‘Revenue Assurance Software’.

“Ideally, the commission would not join issues in the media, on what is essentially an ongoing procurement exercise of a very sensitive nature. We are, however, obliged to make this clarification so as to set the records straight, and to reassure stakeholders of the commission’s commitment to due process, as well as the integrity of its regulatory and other processes, which were unfairly called into question by the said media publications.

“For the records, there is no iota of truth whatsoever in the allegation of revenue losses to the tune of N600 billion from the telecoms industry.

“The NCC’s initiative of implementing a Revenue Assurance System for the industry was motivated by the commission’s firm belief that although the telecoms industry currently contributes a significant portion of the national GDP and government revenues, the industry has the potentials to generate more revenue for government along its value chain than is currently the case.

“Also, although the commission has deployed remarkably stringent processes with which it monitors the industry and collects all due revenues, we considered it necessary to enhance the effectiveness of these processes by proactively blocking any potential gaps, through the use of available and proven cutting-edge technology solutions.

“The Revenue Assurance System is, therefore, to provide an additional layer of assurance that our licensees continue to meet their obligations without fail. The wildly exaggerated ‘loss of N600 billion annually’ to non-implementation of a particular system by a particular vendor as alleged in the said publications is therefore simply not true.

“The proposed figure is the projected revenue that consultants claim can be gotten.  Until a proof of concept POC is done, this figure is in the realm of imagination.

“We also wish to clarify that having made the decision to implement a Revenue Assurance System, the NCC has been painstakingly following all mandated due process in its procurement, including engagement with the Bureau of Public Process, the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC).”

The Nation with additional report from The Citizen

Economy

MAN Warns: Cash-strapping may lead to 25% Drop in Sale of locally-made goods

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MAN Warns: Cash-strapping may lead to 25% Drop in Sale of locally-made goods

 The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) on Friday in Lagos, warned that Cash-strapping may unwittingly lead, to a 25 percent drop, in the sale of locally-made goods.

The Director General, MAN, Mr. Segun Ajayi-Kadir, stated this, emphasizing the need for the CBN to intensify efforts at ensuring a seamless transition from old naira to new naira notes, as anything to the contrary would be inimical to manufacturing.

He said if the current hardships being experienced in accessing money persisted for the next three weeks, there would be a possible drop of 25 percent in monthly sales of made-in-Nigeria goods.

He noted that as purchases from the retail end, mostly transacted in cash dry up; there would be a sharp drop in wholesale purchases leading to a glut of unsold inventories in factories.

He added that the situation which was no good for manufacturing, for the government and for the ordinary citizen would lead to compounded crippling lack of patronage for the domestic manufacturer.

Ajayi-Kadir also stressed that the development would also deny government the revenue that would have accrued from consumption taxes and result in the disruption of the daily life and need of the average Nigerian.

“To be clear, there is no doubt that the currency redesign is desirable; there are socioeconomic and political imperatives for the change.

“It is a critical element of the CBN cashless economy policy that should have far-reaching positive results for the economy.

“However, the continued scarcity of the newly redesigned naira notes is quite worrisome.

“With our growth prospects heading further south, we can ill afford a downturn in our Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

“The negative impact it portends for local producers, the agricultural and distributive segments of our economy is huge.

“It may worsen the bashing our economy has received from both external and internal shocks in recent times,’’ he stressed.

Ajayi-Kadir cautioned that adequate measures should be put in place to ensure a smooth currency transition, particularly in the unbanked areas of Nigeria.

He charged the CBN and Bureaux de Changes to be most engaging at the highest level at this time.

According to him, there is a need for strategic communication and joint operations to ensure widespread and sustained availability and circulation of the redesigned naira notes.

“It is baffling to approach a bank only to be told that there are neither the old nor the new naira notes.

“We hope that the resumption of payment across the counter in the banks and the intensification of the CBN special cash swap arrangement in remote areas will yield positive results.

“I hope that what the country is experiencing is temporary pain and that government will do well to bring the hardship to an end immediately.

“We must make haste to ensure that the price to be paid for this otherwise laudable policy does not outpace the gains,’’ he also cautioned.

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Disdain Towards Nigerian Passport: My regret as Foreign Affairs Minister – Onyema

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Disdain Towards Nigerian Passport: My regret as Foreign Affairs Minister – OnyemaDisdain Towards Nigerian Passport: My regret as Foreign Affairs Minister – Onyema

…Shed tears, when he saw Nigerian girls forced into prostitution in Libya***

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyema, says his regret as minister is the disdain with which Nigerians are being treated outside the shores of the country and upon siting their international passports.

The Minister disclosed this in Abuja at the 22nd edition of the President Muhammadu Buhari Administration Scorecard Series (2015-2023) organised to project the achievements of the government.

Onyema was responding to a comment by a journalist who expressed displeasure about how Nigerians travelling abroad were being subjected to harassment upon sitting on their green passports.

The Minister agreed with the position of the newsman and attributed the challenge to the desperation of many Nigerians who took desperate and illegal measures to travel out of the country.

“If there is one thing that I look back to with the greatest regrets in my seven and half years in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it is the situation of Nigerians in foreign countries,” he said.

The minister gave some of the instances he had witnessed and had to wade in to rescue trapped victims in the middle of the desert.

“I went to Libya and I actually shed tears when we went to this camp where they were holding Nigerians.

“There is that whole issue of slavery and of course, all the exploitations that go with it and they told us that there were only a hundred or two hundred Nigerians there,”

“So, we went to the yard and it was one of the most touching things I ever experienced.

“We have all these young boys, 13, 14, 15 years old and they all came out, over a hundred of them and they all stood up to attention,” he narrated.

The minister continued: “As soon as they saw us, they started reciting the Nigerian national anthem and tears came to my eyes.

 “We were told that the girls were used as prostitutes at night.

“When we saw them, the girls told us there were more Nigerians and we insisted they should bring them out.

“Lo and behold, twenty minutes after, they brought out another set which was about 200 Nigerians.

“The President gave directives, that we should charter planes in order to get them out and we did.”

Onyema attributed the despicable situation to the push factor leading a lot of young Nigerians to take desperate and ridiculous risks through the deserts and the high seas.

He said when they even finally got to their so-called dream countries, they got involved in drugs and all sort of crimes which made it difficult for Nigeria’s passport to be respected.

“Those of us in government have to blame ourselves, particularly in the immigration and even in foreign affairs,” he said.

Onyema narrated another scenario where the U.S., Ambassador to Nigeria came to show him the list of Nigerians that were issued visas through Note Verbal to go to the U.S. but they never attended the events they were scheduled for, but absconded.

He said he was also shown the list of those who were not respecting their visa deadlines and requirements, including top Nigerians.

The minister said all the illegal acts and sharp practices contributed to the manner Nigerians were being treated with disdain abroad when they cited their passports.

“In order to reverse the situation and ensure Nigerian passport is given the due respect it deserves, we all have to work hard and behave ourselves.

“We are all suffering from this because we have people with genuine missions seeking to travel abroad looking for visas and they are denied.

“It is a challenge for each and every single one of us and it is impacting negatively on our country.

“We all have the responsibility to salvage the situation,” he said.

Onyema said President Buhari had never rested on his oars on the issue because whichever country he travelled to, he stressed to Nigerians in Diaspora to be good ambassadors of their country.

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Digital Economy Crucial to Nigeria’s Dev’t — Pantami

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Digital Economy Crucial to Nigeria’s Dev't — Pantami

The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Pantami on Thursday said the sector was crucial to the realisation of Nigeria’s full potential.

Pantami said this in Abuja at a two-day workshop on Satellite-Based Augmentation System (SBAS), a flight demonstration within the Nigerian Airspace by Nigerian Communications Satellite (NIGCOMSAT) Ltd using the NigComSat-1R payload, the L-Band.

The NigComSat-1R navigation (L-Band) payload provides Navigational overlay Services, which have disruptive applications in the aviation and non-aviation sectors.

The event was organised by the SatNav Africa Joint Programme Office (JPO), in collaboration with the ANGA programme and NIGCOMSAT and the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA).

The overall aim was to provide a knowledge-sharing platform to support stakeholders’ decision-making in the creation of synergies.

This is to enable the collective reaping of benefits provided by SBAS in the continent, including safety, efficiency and environmental protection benefits.

The minister said communication and digital technology was the key enabler of other sectors like security, defence, health, agriculture, education and aviation.

“The satellite covers part of the Atlantic Ocean and Indian Ocean, it covers parts of Asia and Europe.

”Our satellite here in Nigeria has the capacity to provide the navigation overlay services.

The Nigerian Communications Satellite has the capacity to support the implementation of the SBAS not only in Nigeria but in the whole of Africa with 54 countries,” Pantami said.

He, however, urged African nations to consider the Nigerian Communication Satellite when the need arises.

Pantami also said the deployment of SBAS by using the navigation overlay services would significantly improve accuracy of signal, its availability and integrity.

“I have directed NIGCOMSAT to collaborate and reach out to the aviation sector to ensure successful implementation of SBAS in Africa,” he said.

The Managing Director of NIGCOMSAT Ltd, Mr Tukur Lawal said the success of the flight demonstration underscored the need for collaborative efforts by the relevant agencies.

He said that this would facilitate the efforts of the Federal Government in meeting the desired goals of a digital Nigeria, which he said would bring unprecedented results.

”For NIGCOMSAT Ltd to contribute its own quota in digital economy and industrial revolution, we cannot remain in the comfort zone, but rather look for areas of exploring the market both local and international.

”We will give all the support needed and innovations that will meet and convert all weaknesses to successes,” Lawal said.

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