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Buhari to Launch New Inquiry into Missing $20bn Oil Money

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President-elect Muhammadu Buhari has said that his administration will revisit the $20 billion money alleged to have been unremitted by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to the Federation Account.

Buhari’s statement deviates from the one made by the All Progressives Congress (APC) Campaign Organisation’s Director in charge of Policy and Strategy, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who told Bloomberg last week that the incoming administration would publish the forensic audit report of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), which was contracted by the Jonathan administration to investigate the finances of NNPC when the issue of the missing $20 billion was made public over a year ago.

The allegation on the missing $20 billion was first made in January 2014 by the ousted Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), now Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi II, who claimed at a Senate public probe that, among other allegations, NNPC’s exploration and production subsidiary – Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) – failed to remit $6 billion; while another $3.8 billion was tied to the kerosene subsidy regime.

Prior to that, he had alleged that the sum of $49.8 billion had not been remitted by NNPC to the Federation Account from crude oil sales between January 2012 and July 2013, but later revised the sum to $12 billion and/or $10.8 billion, before settling for $20 billion which was premised on unrelated allegations not tied to revenue arising from crude oil sales over a 17-month period.

Although the federal government responded by contracting PwC to undertake a forensic audit of NNPC, only highlights of the report, chief of which was the recommendation that NPDC must refund $1.48 billion to the treasury, were made public.

Buhari, who spoke in Hausa when he met a delegation of APC leaders from Adamawa State, led by the governor-elect, Mohammed Jibrilla Umar Bindow, said he had information that indicated that some looted funds had been returned to the nation’s treasury, adding that he would not sweep the matter under the carpet once he takes over on May 29.
“Imagine a situation where the former CBN governor, who by God ‘s grace would later become the Emir of Kano, raised the issue of missing billions, not in naira but in dollars, $20 billion.

“What happened? Instead of investigating whether it was true that the money was missing or not, they simply found a reason to remove him. So these are the issues we are talking about.

“This issue is not over yet; once we assume office, we would order a fresh probe on the matter. We would not allow people to steal money meant for Nigerians to buy shares and stash away in foreign lands,” he said.

He said he had already started writing reports on it, adding that the incoming government would not ignore it.

“Even though we had promised to draw a line, but $20 billion is too big to ignore. This is Nigerian money and it must be investigated.
“I heard that some people have started refunding money, but I will not believe until I see it. His Royal Highness, the Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, was removed from the central bank because he said about $20 billion was missing.

“But instead of the government to investigate the matter, they refused; instead they sacked him. As God will have it, he is now the Emir of Kano and that is exactly what he wanted to be,” he said.

Buhari said the mere fact that the former governor of the central bank was ignominiously sacked after blowing the whistle on the alleged missing monies meant that there was something fishy about the matter which needs closer scrutiny to unearth.

According to Buhari, going by the quantum of money involved, there was no way an APC-led administration that has the fight against corrupt practices as a cardinal objective would sit by and watch some highly placed Nigerians loot the treasury and go scot-free.

Buhari, who recalled his experience while on the campaign stomp across the country, especially when he encountered hundreds of jobless youths, said he would not relent in redressing the problems of insecurity, unemployment and infrastructure decay in the country.

The president-elect blamed the rot in the country on the 16 years of misrule by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-led administration.
He said it was unfortunate that young Nigerians who constitute 60 per cent of the country’s population were jobless due to years of bad governance.

He also wondered what must have gone wrong with the Nigerian Armed Forces known for its exploits in peace-keeping operations in countries like Burma, Liberia and Sierra Leone over the years.

While responding to the concerns raised by the Adamawa delegation, Buhari said he would “fix the infrastructure decay in schools, roads and hospitals”.

He promised the people of Adamawa that the enabling environment would be put in place for them to exploit the natural resources that abound in the state.

“The three things we in the APC will give priority to are the issues of security, the economy and the war against corruption. These are three things that affect all the states in Nigeria.

“We hope that like I have been hearing over the radio that we have regained most of the territories captured by Boko Haram and we thank God.

“But among the worst atrocities committed against Nigeria by the PDP is what it has done to our military. It is our military that went to Bama – the same army when I was commissioned second lieutenant – I did not spend three weeks before I found myself in Kinshasha (in Congo), then (the civil war) in Nigeria, Sierra Leone; then to say that Nigerian soldiers failed to retake 14 local government areas out of 774.

“For me who served in the military, I find it incomprehensible except if I go there to find out what the reason was for this. The kind of leadership brought upon us by the PDP, whether it is documented or not, it can never be forgotten in our history,” he said.

Earlier, the delegation from Adamawa said they were using the opportunity of the visit to present the governor-elect to Buhari and to solicit for his special support and attention to the plight of the people of the state who had suffered untold losses due to the Boko Haram insurgency.

In another development, the APC has warned against last minute looting of the nation’s resources, hurried recruitment into the public service and rushed privatisation of key financial institutions by the Jonathan administration, stating that such egregious actions will have serious repercussions.

In a statement issued on Sunday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said apart from instances of such cases that had been reported by the local media, it had been inundated with calls and messages by concerned Nigerians alerting it on the unscrupulous actions of some officials of the outgoing government.

It said while the Jonathan administration would remain in office till midnight of May 28th, governance would  not stop because a new president had been elected, “thus it is incumbent on the outgoing administration not to create any more problems for the incoming government than it had already done, or to tie the new government’s hands through some suspicious actions”.

APC said while it is true that the Buhari administration would not get itself bogged down by endless probes of the Jonathan administration, all actions taken since the result of the March 28th presidential election was announced might come under the searchlight.

“For example, the National Council on Privatisation, which is headed by the vice-president (Namadi Sambo), has just approved the financial bid opening for transaction advisers for the privatisation of the three development finance institutions in the country – the Bank of Agriculture, Bank of Industry and Nigeria Commodity Exchange.

“The question is: What is the rationale for rushing this exercise with just weeks left for this administration?

“Also, there have been reports, yet unrefuted of a planned hurried recruitment into the Nigeria Immigration Service, after a previous attempt ended in a national tragedy and the fleecing of innocent job seekers by mindless federal government officials.

“Apart from the fact that this last minute recruitment is suspect, it is irregular. The Civil Defence, Fire, Immigration and Prisons Services Board (CDFIPSB) is only empowered to recruit, promote and discipline only senior officers (levels 8 and above).

“The power to recruit, promote and discipline junior officers is vested in the different services, in this case the Nigeria Immigration Service.

“Therefore, the recruitment exercise now being conducted by the Federal Civil Service under the auspices of the Presidential Committee to Assist on immigration recruitment usurps the functions of the board as it relates to recruitment of senior officers (level 08) and that of the immigration service as it relates to junior officers (levels 07 and below),” the party said.

It also drew attention to a published report that the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Senator Bala Mohammed, planned to use the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) to carry out the surreptitious employment of no fewer than 500 workers before the end of April 2015.

“We do not know if this report, as well as others, is true. But if indeed these rushed privatisations and hurried recruitment exercises – in the twilight of the Jonathan administration – are true, they raise serious questions concerning the reasons behind such actions.

“We are therefore compelled to call on President (Goodluck) Jonathan to call his officials to order, lest they engage in actions that can later embarrass his administration.

“This is against the backdrop of the precarious situation into which the Jonathan administration has plunged the nation’s economy, no thanks to years of ceaseless and unprecedented profligacy by the outgoing administration, as well as mind-boggling acts of corruption and looting of the public treasury by some administration officials and their collaborators,” APC said.

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WAIVER CESSATION: Igbokwe urges NIMASA to evolve stronger collaboration with Ships owners

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…Stresses the need for timely disbursement of N44.6billion CVFF***

Highly revered Nigerian Maritime Lawyer, and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mike Igbokwe has urged the Nigeria Maritime Administration and safety Agency (NIMASA) to partner with ship owners and relevant association in the industry to evolving a more vibrant merchant shipping and cabotage trade regime.

Igbokwe gave the counsel during his paper presentation at the just concluded two-day stakeholders’ meeting on Cabotage waiver restrictions, organized by NIMASA.

“NIMASA and shipowners should develop merchant shipping including cabotage trade. A good start is to partner with the relevant associations in this field, such as the Nigeria Indigenous Shipowners Association (NISA), Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Oil Trade Group & Maritime Trade Group of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA).

“A cursory look at their vision, mission and objectives, show that they are willing to improve the maritime sector, not just for their members but for stakeholders in the maritime economy and the country”.

Adding that it is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a through briefing and regular consultation with ships owners, in other to have insight on the challenges facing the ship owners.

“It is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a thorough briefing and regular consultations with shipowners, to receive insight on the challenges they face, and how the Agency can assist in solving them and encouraging them to invest and participate in the maritime sector, for its development. 

“NIMASA should see them as partners in progress because, if they do not invest in buying ships and registering them in Nigeria, there would be no Nigerian-owned ships in its Register and NIMASA would be unable to discharge its main objective.

The Maritime lawyer also urged NIMASA  to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF)that currently stands at about N44.6 billion.

“Lest it be forgotten, what is on the lips of almost every shipowner, is the need to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (the CVFF’), which was established by the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act, 2003. It was established to promote the development of indigenous ship acquisition capacity, by providing financial assistance to Nigerian citizens and shipping companies wholly owned by Nigerian operating in the domestic coastal shipping, to purchase and maintain vessels and build shipping capacity. 

“Research shows that this fund has grown to about N44.6billion; and that due to its non-disbursement, financial institutions have repossessed some vessels, resulting in a 43% reduction of the number of operational indigenous shipping companies in Nigeria, in the past few years. 

“Without beating around the bush, to promote indigenous maritime development, prompt action must be taken by NIMASA to commence the disbursement of this Fund to qualified shipowners pursuant to the extant Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (“CVFF”) Regulations.

Mike Igbokwe (SAN)

“Indeed, as part of its statutory functions, NIMASA is to enforce and administer the provisions of the Cabotage Act 2003 and develop and implement policies and programmes which will facilitate the growth of local capacity in ownership, manning and construction of ships and other maritime infrastructure. Disbursing the CVFF is one of the ways NIMASA can fulfill this mandate.

“To assist in this task, there must be collaboration between NIMASA, financial institutions, the Minister of Transportation, as contained in the CVFF Regulations that are yet to be implemented”, the legal guru highlighted further. 

He urged the agency to create the right environment for its stakeholders to build on and engender the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders.

“Lastly, which is the main reason why we are all here, cessation of ministerial waivers on some cabotage requirements, which I believe is worth applause in favour of NIMASA. 

“This is because it appears that the readiness to obtain/grant waivers had made some of the vessels and their owners engaged in cabotage trade, to become complacent and indifferent in quickly ensuring that they updated their capacities, so as not to require the waivers. 

“The cessation of waivers is a way of forcing the relevant stakeholders of the maritime sector, to find workable solutions within, for maritime development and fill the gaps in the local capacities in 100% Nigerian crewing, ship ownership, and ship building, that had necessitated the existence of the waivers since about 15 years ago, when the Cabotage Act came into being. 

“However, NIMASA must ensure that the right environment is provided for its stakeholders to build and possess the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders. Or better still, that they are solved within the next 5 years of its intention to stop granting waivers”, he further explained. 

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Breaking News: The Funeral Rites of Matriarch C. Ogbeifun is Live

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The Burial Ceremony of Engr. Greg Ogbeifun’s mother is live. Watch on the website: www.maritimefirstnewspaper.com and on Youtube: Maritimefirst Newspaper.

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Wind Farm Vessel Collision Leaves 15 Injured

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…As Valles Steamship Orders 112,000 dwt Tanker from South Korea***

A wind farm supply vessel and a cargo ship collided in the Baltic Sea on Tuesday leaving 15 injured.

The Cyprus-flagged 80-meter general cargo ship Raba collided with Denmark-flagged 31-meter wind farm supply vessel World Bora near Rügen Island, about three nautical miles off the coast of Hamburg. 

Many of those injured were service engineers on the wind farm vessel, and 10 were seriously hurt. 

They were headed to Iberdrola’s 350MW Wikinger wind farm. Nine of the people on board the World Bora were employees of Siemens Gamesa, two were employees of Iberdrola and four were crew.

The cause of the incident is not yet known, and no pollution has been reported.

After the collision, the two ships were able to proceed to Rügen under their own power, and the injured were then taken to hospital. 

Lifeboat crews from the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service tended to them prior to their transport to hospital via ambulance and helicopter.

“Iberdrola wishes to thank the rescue services for their diligence and professionalism,” the company said in a statement.

In the meantime, the Hong Kong-based shipowner Valles Steamship has ordered a new 112,000 dwt crude oil tanker from South Korea’s Sumitomo Heavy Industries Marine & Engineering.

Sumitomo is to deliver the Aframax to Valles Steamship by the end of 2020, according to data provided by Asiasis.

The newbuild Aframax will join seven other Aframaxes in Valles Steamship’s fleet. Other ships operated by the company include Panamax bulkers and medium and long range product tankers.

The company’s most-recently delivered unit is the 114,426 dwt Aframax tanker Seagalaxy. The naming and delivery of the tanker took place in February 2019, at Namura Shipbuilding’s yard in Japan.

Maritime Executive with additional report from World Maritime News

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