Economy Politics

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

Written by Maritime First

…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

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Maritime First