Abuja CCTV Project: Court Orders FG to Account for $460m Chinese Loan
A Federal High Court, sitting in Abuja, has ordered the outgoing government of President Muhammadu Buhari to “account for the spending of $460 million Chinese loan to fund the failed Abuja Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) project.”
The court also ordered the government to “publish the total amount of money paid to Chinese and local companies and contractors and specific details of the names of the companies and contractors and status of the implementation of the project.”
The judge, Emeka Nwite, made the order in a judgement on Monday, 15 May, in a Freedom of Information suit filed by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).
SERAP made available, details of the judgement, in a statement yesterday.
The CCTV contract was awarded to a Chinese firm in 2010 by the Goodluck Jonathan administration after then Minister of Finance Olusegun Aganga led a delegation to sign a Memorandum of Understanding in Beijing, China.
The project was to be funded from a $600 million financing portfolio secured as a soft credit loan. The loan had interest repayable in 10 years, after an initial ten years of grace, according to a report by Punch.
While the project has failed to materialise, insecurity, which the CCTV project was meant to address, has worsened over the years.
Amidst that, Nigeria continues to service the loan while the Buhari government that inherited the liability refused to provide any information on the project.
“We are servicing the loan, but on the project, we will have to ask the FCT Authority because the project was deployed in the FCTA. I have no information on the status of the CCTV,” the current finance minister, Zainab Ahmed, said while fielding questions from lawmakers during a budget defence hearing at the House of Representatives in October 2019.
“The conditions of the loans that we take from China always will be that a Chinese company will provide infrastructural services. These are loans of 3 per cent (interest rate),” she added.
Following Ms Ahmed’s failure to provide information on the project status during the legislative hearing, SERAP sent a letter dated 25 October 2019 requesting detailed information about the project.
Its letter, anchored on the provision of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011, asked the minister to provide details, including the amount paid to contractors and which companies, concerning the project.
Suspecting that the sum of N1.5 billion, earmarked for the construction of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) headquarters, might be another Chinese loan and could also have been mismanaged or stolen, SERAP also asked the Minister of Finance to clarify it.
The letter was ignored, prompting the organisation to file its suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1447/2019 in 2019 to seek an order of the court compelling the minister to release the information requested.
In its defence, the minister claimed that SERAP’s letter dated 25 September 2019 was not brought to her attention and that all efforts to trace the letter were futile.
SERAP provided evidence of the delivery of its letter through Universal Parcel Services.
The minister also maintained that she knew nothing about the contract, its award and its execution, adding that the role of her office was limited to the signing of the loan agreement on 20 December 2010 under the broad project of the government’s security communication system.
She said the project was executed by the Ministry of Police Affairs, which, she said, was responsible for negotiating and awarding the contracts for the implementation of the project.
They also said they had no information concerning the contract for the construction of the CCB headquarters.
Minister of Police Affairs was joined as the second respondent but refused to file any response or send a lawyer to court.
Mr Nwite, in his judgement, agreed with SERAP that “there is a reasonable cause of action against the government. Accounting for the spending of the $460 million Chinese loan is in the public’s interest. It will be inimical for the court to refuse SERAP’s application for judicial review of the government’s action.”
“The Minister of Finance is in charge of the finance of the country and cannot by any stretch of the imagination be oblivious of the amount of money paid to the contractors for the Abuja CCTV contract and the money meant for the construction of the headquarters of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB),” he added.
The judgement, therefore, ordered the government “to provide the details clarifying whether the sum of N1.5 billion Naira paid for the failed contract meant to construct the headquarters of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) was part of another loan obtained from China.
“SERAP’s core objectives are to promote human rights, transparency and accountability and anti-corruption in Nigeria.
“I am of the humble view that there is a reasonable cause of action against the government [through the Minister of Finance], and I so hold that SERAP has made out a case to be entitled to the reliefs sought.
“The law is well settled that where a document or letter is sent by post, it is the law that same is taken or presumed to have been delivered.
“Following this principle of law and relying on exhibit OS2, SERAP’s Freedom of Information request sent to Ms Ahmed is deemed to have been delivered. Therefore, the averment by the government [through her] that they were not served with the letter is hereby discountenance. I so hold.”
The court held that the government’s refusal to release the details of the contract to SERAP was a breach of its right to access under section 39 of the Nigerian constitution and the FOI Act.
It also ordered the government to provide SERAP with the information on the total amount of money paid to contractors, with specific details of names of companies and local contractors involved, from the $460 million loan obtained in 2010 from China by the Federal Government of Nigeria to fund the failed Abuja CCTV contract.
Specifically, the court ordered the government to provide the details of the local companies and Chinese contractors that have received funds from the $460 million loan to finance the Abuja CCTV contract and details of the project’s implementation status.
It also ordered the government to provide the details clarifying whether the sum of N1.5 billion Naira mobilisation fee reportedly paid to the contractors for the construction of the Headquarters of the Code of Conduct Bureau in Abuja was part of another loan from China. This is the judgement of the court.
Reacting to the judgement in a statement yesterday, SERAP, through its deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, hailed the judge “for his courage and wisdom,” describing the verdict as “a victory for justice, the rule of law, transparency and accountability.”
The organisation said President Buhari, who has about eight days left in office, has the responsibility “to immediately comply with the court’s orders.”
It urged President Buhari and Abubakar Malami, Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, to immediately obey the court orders.”
“The judgment shows the way forward in the fight against corruption and impunity of perpetrators. We will do everything within the law to ensure full compliance by President Buhari with this ground-breaking judgment on Chinese loans.”
“We call on President Buhari to use the judgment as the basis for publishing details of spending of all Chinese loans and other loans obtained by his government since May 2015.”
The organisation recalled that Nigeria’s total borrowing from China climbed from $1.39 billion to $4.29 billion between June 2015 and December 2022, citing data from Debt Management Office (DMO).
Nigeria’s 2023-2025 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) revealed earlier in the year that the federal government would spend N6.31 trillion on debt servicing in 2023, which amounts to about 74.6% of the government’s projected revenue of 8.46 trillion for the year.
Nigeria risks losing vital national assets to China if it defaults in paying back loans obtained from China.
According to a report, Nigeria may have defaulted on Chinese loan repayment and stands the risk of paying a penalty amounting to N41.31 billion. The report quoted the Debt Management Office (DMO), which said Nigeria has failed to fully service its debt to China, which has accumulated to N110.31 billion in the last two years.
“Transparency in the spending of Chinese loans is good for everyone, as this would help to increase the effectiveness, legitimacy, and contribution of the loans to the development of public goods and services and the general public interests,” SERAP said.
South-West Governors Task Tinubu on Federalism
The South-west Governors’ Forum has urged President Bola Tinubu to institute a new constitutional order that would ensure true federalism in Nigeria.
Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, who is the chairperson of the regional group, stated this in a statement on Tuesday, on behalf of the governors .
He said this should be one of the first steps to be taken by the new Tinubu administration.
Akeredolu also admonished the president to hire men and women with the required expertise in governance to serve in his government
“The new Administration has its jobs well defined, the very first being the urgent need to assist in birthing a new constitutional order which takes into account, keenly, the principles of federalism,” a statement by its Chairman and governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, said.
“The success recorded at fixing the basic defects in the 1999 Constitution, As Amended, will determine, largely, the pattern and the depth of the deliberative governance designed to achieve development.
“All existential issues will be addressed realistically. We must encourage the new Government to tread this honorable path. The new thinking should anticipate active participation by the constituent units of the Federation as coordinate partners in revenue generation and the security of lives and property of the citizenry.
“I do not doubt that Mr President is ready to deliver on this mandate of rectitude. His record of service in Lagos State leaves no room for any doubt concerning his capacity to turn things around positively.”
According to the governor, only those with proven capacity to deliver should be brought on board.
“This is not the time to gloat on the electoral victories recorded in the last general elections. It is not a season for recriminations,” Mr Akeredolu said.
He said the divisive rhetoric of “we against them” should cease with the declaration of the winners by the electoral body, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
“We admonish ourselves on the need to remain focused on the socio-economic programmes for the emancipation of our people,” he said.
The governors urged all the new leaders to cast aside all tendencies which promote and deepen cleavages of different hues, adding, “All hands must be deployed on deck.
“There must be conscious attempts to bring on board only those with proven capacity about expertise,” he said.
“The President must ensure that all those who are bent on setting Nigerians on one another are neutralized.
“As Nigeria takes yet another momentous step on her journey towards greatness, it behooves us to join all good people in the country and our friends and well-wishers from all over the world to celebrate this seamless transfer of power to a new set of elected leaders, at both the national and state levels.
“Most importantly, all decent people must pay glowing tributes to the commitment of the immediate past President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, General Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, for this phenomenal leap towards political stability and economic prosperity.
“On this occasion, I felicitate the new President, Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu, GCFR, most heartily, for his resilience, equanimity, doggedness, and uncommon tenacity to achieve set objectives. I congratulate the Vice President, Senator Kashim Shettima, GCON, for being a part of the team who will steer the affairs of the country for the next four years.
“I rejoice with the All Progressives Congress for working assiduously and sustaining the momentum until the final victory was won. I congratulate Nigerians for being witnesses to history.”
Mr Tinubu had severally advocated “true federalism” prior and during the electioneering campaigns of the last general elections.
However, politicians in the geopolitical divide are not quite agreed on the extent of devolution of powers to states.
Group Asks President to Declare Assets Publicly
A group, African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL) has called on President Bola Tinubu to declare his assets in accordance with Paragraph 11 of Part I of the Fifth Schedule to the Constitution and make it public as a way of committing to the genuine fresh beginning he promised Nigerians.
AFRICMIL said it believes that declaring his assets and making it public would place Tinubu on a much higher moral pedestal than his predecessors who were not on record to have taken any significant action regarding this constitutional obligation.
It said besides the moral capital that accompanies such a rare gesture, the president would be seen to have reinforced belief in the “Renewed Hope” agenda on which his governance plan is anchored, and which was the mantra at every turn in his campaign trail.
The group stated this in a statement by its coordinator, Chido Onumah.
Tinubu was inaugurated on Monday as Nigeria’s 16th leader.
AFROCMIL said the anti-corruption agenda of the new administration remains vague even though in his inaugural speech Mr Tinubu said his administration would “take proactive steps such as championing a credit culture to discourage corruption while strengthening the effectiveness and efficiency of the various anti-corruption agencies.”
The group said it looks forward to a more detailed and unambiguous anti-corruption programme and is ready to work with the Tinubu administration to tame the vicious monster of corruption currently ravaging the country.
“Before we get a full understanding of the new administration’s trajectory on fighting corruption, we would like to propose to President Tinubu that an important tool for enhancing transparency and accountability and reducing corruption is whistleblowing.
“We are disappointed at the failure of the immediate past government to enact a whistleblowing and whistleblower protection law, even though it introduced the whistleblowing policy as one of its anti-corruption strategies in December 2016 and approved a draft whistleblower protection bill in December 2022.
“To address this disabling lapse, we are using this opportunity to call on this administration to take steps to sign the whistleblowing and whistleblower protection bill into law without further delay. A whistleblowing law would boost the confidence of citizens to report fraud, block leakages and increase the revenue which the new administration badly needs to sustain effective governance at this time,” the statement said.
AFRICMIL also called on former president, Muhammadu Buhari, to declare his assets and make it public as a token gesture of redemption for his severely diminished integrity.
“This is not the first time AFRICMIL would be requesting elected officers to publicize their assets records as a mark of upholding transparency and accountability in governance through personal example.
“In 2011, AFRICMIL dragged the Code of Conduct Bureau to court seeking an order compelling the CCB, within the ambit of the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act, to make available to the public the asset declaration form of President Goodluck Jonathan.
“In 2017, AFRICMIL again sued the CCB for refusal to make available the asset details of principal officers of the National Assembly since 2011. Following the unfavorable judgment of Justice Adamu Abdu-Kafarati of the Federal High Court, AFRICMIL took the matter to the Appeal Court. The case has yet to be heard,” the group stated.
AFRICMIL said it will not relent in its advocacy for good governance through activities that are targeted at holding public officers accountable.
Subsidy Removal: PMS Price Jumps to N537 Per Litre
Following Monday’s removal of fuel subsidy by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL), yesterday jerked up pump prices of petrol, also known as Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) from N195 per litre to 537 per litre at its fuel stations nationwdie.
According to a statement signed by the NNPC Ltd’s Chief Corporate Communications Officer, Garba Deen Muhammad, the increment is part of measures to provide the public with quality service.
The statement also said that the NNPC Limited is committed to ensuring a ceaseless supply of products.
“NNPC Limited wishes to inform our esteemed customers that we have adjusted our pump prices of PMS across our retail outlets, in line with current market realities.
“As we strive to provide you with the quality service for which we are known, it is pertinent to note that prices will continue to fluctuate to reflect market dynamics.
“We assure you that NNPC Limited is committed to ensuring a ceaseless supply of products.
“The company sincerely regrets any inconvenience this development may have caused.
“We greatly appreciate your continued patronage, support, and understanding during this time of change and growth,” the statement read.
According to a new price template disclosed by NNPLC yesterday, Lagos State has the least price of N488 per litre, while Maiduguri and Damaturu have the highest pump prices of N577 per litre.
Yesterday, most filling stations in the nation’s capital, Abuja, had adjusted to the new pump price.
Similarly, pump prices had been adjusted across the states.
For instance, in Benue State, the fuel price had been adjusted to N537 per litre.
The price adjustment represents an over 200 per cent increase.
The implication is that nearly all prices of goods and services would drastically increase.
The development is coming barely two days after President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s inaugural speech, where he said fuel subsidy would be removed.
In the first half of 2023, Nigeria spent N3.6 trillion on fuel subsidy alone.
The country will save close to N6.7 trillion if fuel subsidies payment is discontinued.
Nigeria has spent N13.7 trillion on fuel subsidy in the last 13 years, according to Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.
NLC Kicks over Price Increase
The umbrella body of labour unions in the country, the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), yesterday fumed over the adjustment of pump prices by the Nigerian National Petrol Company Limited (NNPCL).
Barely 48 hours after President Bola Tinubu announced an end to the subsidy era during his inaugural speech at Eagle Square, Abuja on Monday, the NNPCL confirmed the hike in the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit also known as petrol.
Since the presidential pronouncement, fuel queues have resurfaced across the country as Nigerians forage for the premium product which was rose from around N185 per litre to between N400 and N600 per litre.
Worried by the situation, the NLC President, Joe Ajaero, issued a statement expressing worry that the national oil company would announce an increment.
Describing the development as unfortunate, Ajaero said the NNPCL’s action was coming on the heels of an ongoing meeting with stakeholders in the oil and gas sector to manage the unilateral but unfortunate announcement by the President.
“It is therefore unacceptable and we seriously condemn it. Good faith negotiation is key to reaching agreement. What the government has done is like holding a gun to the head of Nigerian people and bringing undue pressure on the leaders thus undermine the dialogue,” the NLC President said.
“We call on the federal government to immediately instruct the NNPC to withdraw this vexatious Pricing template to allow free flow of discussions by the parties. Nigerians would not accept any manipulations of any kind from any of the parties especially from the representatives of the Government.
“Our commitment to this process is buoyed on the fact that all the parties would be committed to ensuring that it is carried out within the ambits of liberty without undue pressure. The release of that Template may not allow us to continue if nothing is done to withdraw it so that the dialogue can continue unhindered. It is clear that Government is actually trying to scuttle the process.”
IPMAN Sanctions over 100 Petrol Stations for Price Violation
The Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), has said that over 100 petrol stations have been sanctioned for increasing pump prices.
National Spokesperson of the Association, Yakubu Suleiman, disclosed this yesterday.
Briefly after President Bola Tinubu’s speech on May 29 that the petrol subsidy has been cancelled, panic buying erupted in some parts of the country as some marketers closed shops, leading to large queues in filling stations across the country.
In Lagos, Abuja, and other parts of the country, it was observed that since May 29, some filling stations ceased operations; while those that dispensed petrol increased prices.
Speaking in an interview with Channels Television yesterday, Suleiman said there is a penalty for filling stations increasing pump prices, adding that over 100 sanctions have been placed on defaulters.
“We have a task force that goes around all the filling stations in the country and I want to assure you that they are there, working right from yesterday,” he said.
“Any filling station caught increasing the price just because of this announcement, there has to be a penalty against such stations. We sanction those who default. We close the stations. Our task force is there doing its job.
“As of yesterday, more than 100 filling stations have been sanctioned. Some of them, when we go through their reports, are not real petroleum marketers. Real ones cannot go against the rule of their administration.”
Mike Osatuyi, the national operations controller of IPMAN, had earlier told TheCable that the reflexive action of customers who wanted to stock up on cheap petrol before the price of the product increased, was to be blamed for the unprecedented level of queues.
He advised that, although there is currently enough petroleum stock to supply the nation, there would be a price increase eventually.
Meanwhile, the representatives of the federal government are expected to meet with the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) today, over the planned removal of the petrol subsidy – the root cause.
NMDPRA: We’re Ready to Issue New Petrol Import Licences
The Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) said it is ready to issue licences to companies interested in petrol importation.
Speaking to newsmen on Tuesday, Farouk Ahmed, chief executive officer of NMDPRA, said the criteria for importing kerosene and diesel will be applicable for the importation of the product.
However, Ahmed said several conditions have to be met before the applicants are granted licences.
“There are a lot of conditions to be met before you are given a licence to import petrol,” he said.
“I cannot give you all the rundown now but I can tell you that just the way marketers import diesel or jet kero, there are conditions for all that and the same condition will apply to those who want to import premium motor spirit (PMS).”
Only companies that are lessees producing crude oil and/or condensates or who are holders of crude oil refining licences are eligible to supply wholesale petroleum liquids (including petrol importation), according to section 197 (2) of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) 2021.
While the PIA empowers the NMDPRA to issue licences to refiners or producers of crude oil, the regulation, in sections 73 (3) and 111 (1), provides that the minister of petroleum must approve such licences.
Currently, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) is the last-resort supplier, tasked with importing refined petrol to ensure adequate supply and distribution in the country.
Through the direct sale, direct purchase (DSDP) scheme, the country exports crude oil and exchanges it for refined petroleum products.
Senate Uncovers N3.8trn Service Wide Vote Abuse by MDAs
By Eze Okechukwu, Abuja
The Senate has uncovered how about N3.8 trillion was abused by Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government between 2017- 2021. The revelation comes on the heels of the Senate investigation by its Standing Committee.
The report advised The Executive to use Supplementary Budget approach to meet emergencies or shortfall, rather than the current Service Wide Vote mechanism, which amounts to affront /erosion of the approval powers of the National Assembly.
The Chairman, Senate Public Accounts Committee chaired by Senator Matthew Uhroghide which conducted the investigation into disbursement of Service Wide Votes had invited 207 government agencies for the investigation, but only 119 agencies appeared before the committee while 85 agencies shunned the invitations of the Committee.
Among the agencies that shunned the Committee investigation were State House, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Petroleum Resources, , Nigeria Defence Academy, Federal Ministry of Health, Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria.
In the report submitted by the Committee which was upheld by the Senate, some agencies did not make formal request for the money that was sent to them by the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation.
It was also discovered that hundreds of billions were claimed to have been used for the purpose of paying salaries shortfalls whereas such agencies had already collected appropriate for personnel emoluments and were IPPIS platform.
The Senate further discovered that MDAs have not been disclosing Service Wide Votes transaction documents such as payment vouchers, vote book.
Senate therefore urged the Executive should limit the release of Service Wide Vote to recurrent emergencies or shortfall genuinely desired with satisfactory proof.
They also recommended in-depth investigation into depth the operations of IPPIS to stern the rising cases of irregularities in the system.
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