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FG Orders Probe of $9.6bn UK Judgment Debt

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*Nigeria’s Assets Not Under Threat-Lai Mohammed

By Justus Nwakanma, Abuja

The Federal Government yesterday ordered the probe of the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan over what it alleged as international conspiracy in the purported gas contract leading to award of 9. 6 billion dollars judgment debt against Nigeria.

National Intelligence Agency and the Inspector General of Police (IGP) have been directed to conduct a thorough investigation into Process and Industrial Developments Ltd which was recently asked by a UK court to seize $9.6 bn dollars in Nigerian assets.

 Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, disclosed this at a press conference in Abuja on Tuesday.

Mohammed said the decision was based on the fact that the Federal Government suspected foul play in the contract which was negotiated and signed in 2010.

He said, “We want to place on record that the Federal Government views with serious concerns the underhanded manner in which the contract was negotiated and signed.

“Indications are that the whole process was carried out by some vested interests in the past administration, which apparently colluded with their local and international conspirators to inflict grave economic injury on Nigeria and its people.

“In view of the above, and in an attempt to unravel the circumstances surrounding the entire transaction, the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation, with the approval of Mr President, has requested the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the National Intelligence Agency and the Inspector General of Police to conduct a thorough investigation into the company, the circumstances surrounding the agreement and the subsequent event, which includes commencing a full-scale criminal investigation.”

Mohammed, however, said despite the court judgement, Nigeria was not about to lose any of its assets.

He added, “Despite the recent recognition of the award by a UK court, and contrary to some reports, Nigeria is not about to lose any of its assets to P&ID. There is no imminent threat to Nigeria’s assets!

“In the first instance, the enforcement of the award cannot even commence now because the judge in the UK court ordered that the P&ID cannot enforce the judgment against Nigeria until after the court resumes from its current vacation.

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“What this means is that enforcement action cannot begin until a further hearing on the matter, which will take place on a date to be determined by the court upon its resumption.

“The Federal Government, therefore, wishes to use this opportunity to assure Nigerians that there is no immediate threat to Nigeria’s assets as has been wrongly interpreted by a section of the media.

“Nigerians should be assured that the Federal Government is taking all necessary steps to appeal the decision of the UK Court, to seek for a Stay of Execution of the decision, to defend its rights and to protect the assets of the people of the Federal Republic ofNigeria.”

Mohammed was joined at the press conference by the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN); Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed; and the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele.

Malami said preliminary investigations have revealed local and international conspiracy in the purported gas contract.

He said that the preliminary investigations revealed that the contract from conception was bound to fail because of deliberate inherent elements designed into it.

“I want to draw attention first to the composition of parties in the agreements which are the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources (FMPR) and the company, Process and Industrial Developments Ltd. (P&ID).

“As you rightly know, the federal ministry of petroleum resources is not a producer of gas.

“Gas products are produced by International Oil Companies (IOC) and NNPC.

“When you conceive, sign and execute a contract for the supply of gas products without involving the IOC and NNPC as parties to the agreement, you know very well that there are lot of questions to answer rising from the conception of the contract.

“This, among others, gave rise to the insinuation of fraudulent conspiracies right from the conception of the agreement.

“The fact remains that you cannot sign an agreement to provide a product that you do not have.

“The ministry does not have oil field and gas products but it went ahead to sign the agreement without involving those that are producers of gas products,’’ he said.

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Malami said President Muhammadu Buhari had directed that a full scale investigation be carried out on the circumstances that led to the award.

He said the country, through the contract, was subjected to unnecessary economic sabotage and investigation would unravel those involved in the deal.

Corroborating Malami’s position, the CBN Governor said the claim by P&ID that it spent 40 million dollars on the botched contract was not correct.

“We have heard that the contractors in this case claimed that they spent 40 million dollars in the project.

“On our part in CBN, we know that as a foreign company, if you are investing in a contract or project in Nigeria, there are various options that you adopt.

“If you are bringing in machines into the country to execute a contract, you must fill certain forms and pay some money through the CBN.

Emefiele said: “We have gone through our records but we do not have any information to show that the company brought in one cent into the country for the purported project.

“We have accordingly written to the EFCC and other agencies investigating the case.

“Time has come that Nigerians should rise against those who claim to do business in Nigeria without investing a penny in the country but all with an intention to defraud the country.

“The money they are plotting to take belongs to all of us,’’ he said

The Finance minister on her part said the case was weighty considering the fact that the awarded 9.6 billion dollar is equivalent to N3.5 trillion.

“N3.5 trillion in our national budget will be covering for us recurrent votes if not more.

“Apart from being exorbitant, it is unfair and an assault to every Nigerian,’’ she said

According to Ahmed, every Nigerian must come together to ensure that the judgment is set aside because the consequences will affect everyone.

It will be recalled that in January 2010, the FMPR entered into a 20-year gas and supply processing agreement (GSPA) with P&ID to build a gas processing facility.

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P&ID was to refine associated natural gas into non-associated gas to power the national electric grid.

Dr Rilwanu Lukman, who died in 2014, was the minister of petroleum at the time while late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua was on a medical trip to Saudi Arabia.

Narrating the issues that led to the judgment, the information and culture minister said the 20-year Gas Supply Processing Agreement (GSPA) purportedly entered into with the P&ID in 2010, the company never performed as agreed.

“With the contract having suffered a setback, the case went to arbitration. P&ID’s claim in the arbitration proceedings was mainly for the loss of profit for the 20-year term of the GSPA.

“In an interim award, the Arbitration Tribunal ruled that Nigeria has breached the contract.

“Though Nigeria successfully applied to have that award set aside by the Federal High Court in Lagos, the Tribunal ignored this decision.

“Consequently, on January 31, 2017, the Tribunal rendered its final award against the Ministry of Petroleum Resources in the sum of 6.597 billion dollars.

“This was in addition to pre-award interest at the rate of seven per cent per annum, effective from March 20, 2013 and post-award interest at the same rate from the date of the award

“This interest increased the size of the award to 9.6 billion dollars,’’ he said.

Mohammed said that after the arbitration award in 2017, Nigeria made several attempts to negotiate the award and resolve the whole issue amicably with P&ID but to no avail.

He said following an enforcement proceedings instituted simultaneously by the company in the UK and the U.S., the government engaged the services of the U.S. law firm of Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle LLP.

The minister also reiterated government’s position on the underhanded manner in which the contract was negotiated and signed.

He said indications were that the whole process was carried out by some vested interests in the past administration.

Mohammed, however, assured Nigerians that contrary to reports in certain quarters, the country was not about to lose any of its assets to P&ID as a result of the judgment.

Business News

IGP Orders Full Enforcement Against Naira Note Hawking

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The Inspector-General of Police (I-G), Mr Usman Baba, has ordered full enforcement of the CBN Act, 2007 that criminalises the hawking and selling of naira notes.

The Force Public Relations Officer, CSP Olumuyiwa Adejobi, said this in a statement on Friday in Abuja.

He ordered the arrest and prosecution of all individuals engaged in the sale or abuse of the Naira notes issued by the CBN.

Baba said the order was in line with the provisions of Sections 20 and 21 of the CBN Act, 2007 that criminalises amongst others, the hawking, selling or otherwise trading on the naira notes.

He directed all supervisory Assistant Inspectors-General of Police and Commissioners of Police in charge of Commands and Formations to carry out the full enforcement.

The I-G also ordered the placement of officers and men of the Force Criminal Investigations Department and the Force Intelligence Bureau on high alert.

He directed the Deputy Inspector-General of Police in charge of the Force Criminal Investigations Department and the Assistant Inspector-General of Police in charge of Force Intelligence Bureau to effect the order.

According to him, the order is in furtherance of the Federal Government’s policy and drive to uphold the provisions of the CBN Act, 2007 and dignify Nigeria’s currency.

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He reiterated the mandate of the Nigeria Police Force to enforce all laws and regulations without prejudice to the enabling Acts of other security agencies.

Baba called on the public to cooperate with the Nigeria Police Force in the enforcement of the CBN Act against violators. (NAN)

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Aviation

NANTA Records $500m Revenue Loss in 2022

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The National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA) on Friday said it  recorded a loss of 500 million as revenue in 2022, due to drop in ticket sales.

Mrs Susan Akporiaye, NANTA’s National President, disclosed this during a media briefing held in Lagos on Friday.

Akporiaye said that there had been an appreciable decrease in ticket sales among its members as Nigerian travellers groan over exorbitant ticket fares.

She said foreign airlines operating in Nigeria had blocked all low ticket inventories on their websites and had continued to sell the highest inventories as passengers find it difficult to buy affordable tickets.

According to her, airfares has risen to over 400 per cent to all international destinations and this is as a result of the $550million trapped funds.

“The situation at hand has made Nigerian travellers to patronise agents in other African countries.

“Only less than 30 per cent tickets sold in Nigeria were done by local agents, with this, the Nigerian government is losing a lot of tax.

“To reduce the amount of money that would be trapped in Nigeria, the foreign airlines have also stopped local travel agents from issuing tickets emanating from other countries into Nigeria,” she said.

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Akporiaye noted that the association was  pained, anxious, and worried, considering the consequences of the job losses recorded.

She said the security risks to Nigerians travelling across borders to connect cheaper flghts was also worrisome.

“Also, the shame of a parallel dollar monetary policy in the travel sector

against established national naira monetary policy.

” We are also worried that none of our poitical parties have deemed it necessary to look at aviation economics, particularly, its homogeneous socio-economic and security opportunities.

“We advise the new government to followup keenly on Bilateral Air services Agreement (BASA) and other extant aviation laws which will open our economy to serious local and foreign investors, we are also remain available for consultation,” she said.

Earlier, Mr Yinka Olapade, NANTA’s National Auditor said that developments in the travel sector had gone so bad that over 720,000 job losses  had also been recorded due to the irregularities in the system.

He said that the travel sector contributed over 3.6 per cent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the nation in 2021 but this dropped drastically in 2022.

He however, urged the federal government to look into the problems in the industry to guide against monumental effect.

“This industry should be taken seriously, it is a goldmine that is capable of repositioning the nation in different capacities,” he said. (NAN) 

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Progressives Govs Meet Buhari Seek Another Extension for Naira Swap

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By Mathew Dadiya, Abuja

President Muhammadu Buhari has met with the Progressives Governors Forum of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as they pleaded for the review of the redesigned currency notes to run concurrently with the old notes and gradually phased out due to the scarcity of cash in the country.

The President also urged citizens to give him seven days to resolve the cash crunch that has become a problem across the country from the policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria to change high value Naira notes with new ones.

Buhari in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu said the currency re-design will give a boost to the economy and provide long-term benefits while expressing doubts about the commitment of banks in particular to the success of the policy. 

According to the Progressive Governors, the cash crunch was threatening the good records of the administration in transforming the economy.

The President also indicted some bank Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) on the scarcity of the naira notes in circulation, accusing them of selfishness and inefficiency.

“Some banks are inefficient and only concerned about themselves. Even if a year is added, problems associated with selfishness and greed won’t go away,” the President said.

He said he had seen television reports about cash shortages and hardship to local businesses and ordinary people and gave assurances that the balance of seven of the 10-day extension will be used to crackdown on whatever stood in the way of successful implementation.

“I will revert to the CBN and the Minting Company. There will be a decision one way or the other in the remaining seven days of the 10-day extension,” Buhari assured.

The Governors told the President that, while they agreed that his decision on the renewal of currency was good and they are fully in support, its execution had been botched and their constituents were becoming increasingly upset.

They told the President that, as leaders of the government and party in their different states, they were becoming anxious about a slump in the economy and the series of elections that are coming. They requested the President to use his powers to direct the concurrent flourish of the new and old notes till the end of the year. 

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The President said when he considered giving the approval to the policy, he demanded an undertaking from the CBN that no new notes will be printed in a foreign country and they in turn gave him assurances that there was enough capacity, manpower, and equipment to print the currency for local needs. He said he needed to go back to find out what was happening.

President Buhari told the Governors that, being closer to the people, he had heard their cries and will act in a way that there will be a solution.

An unconfirmed report has it that some bank CEOs had taken a huge chunk of the new naira notes to the house of some politicians.

It was gathered that the APC Governors had expected to get a direct response from the President to allow both the old and new naira notes to circulate concurrently to ease the suffering of Nigerians.

The Governors met with President Buhari over the hardship Nigerians are facing as a result of the naira swap introduced by the CBN.

Briefing some journalists in the Hausa language, Governor Nasir el-Rufai, of Kaduna State, alleged that the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, mopped up over N2 trillion of the old note but printed only N300 billion, which he said was not enough and has contributed to the hardship the masses are facing.

el-Rufai, flanked by his Kano State counterpart, Abdullahi Ganduje, said even if the CBN had wanted to implement the cashless policy, they should have printed at least half of what they mopped up, which is N1 trillion. 

The governor said the Progressive governors had informed President Buhari that the masses are suffering and traders are losing their goods due to lack of patronage. 

He gave the example of a tomato seller that travelled to Lagos with their goods but all got wasted because people have no money to buy, so they appealed to the president to reconsider his stance. 

He said, “We the governors of the All Progressives Congress under the aegis of Progressive Governors Forum have met with the President and informed him about the issue that is bothering us and the problems the people are going through because of the currency redesign policy. 

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“The President explained to us what they have told him and we have seen that the Central Bank Governor (CBN) and the Minting and Printing did not tell Mr. President the truth about the things that are happening in the country. 

“What’s the truth? Firstly, we are told that they have mopped up over N2 trillion of the old notes and printed only N300 billion of the new notes. Why will you retrieve such an amount of money and then print only N300 billion? That is why there are problems, the money is not enough. 

“If you also look at some state and local governments that don’t have banks and the problems they are facing from POS.  People don’t have money to buy things in the market, but they can’t go shopping, tomatoes sellers took their products to Lagos and could not sale till they spoiled. 

“We have narrated all these issues to Mr. President and he said he will meet with CBN, other stakeholders, and even the deposit money banks. He will see what they will tell him before he takes a decision. But he didn’t indicate to us that this issue has ended, there will be no extension and he did not tell us that he will extend it. 

“He only told us that until he gets certain about what is going on. We have told him about things that are happening in our states and the trouble people are encountering. 

“Our fear is that, if there is no solution to this, it may cause a crisis and affect the general elections and the election may not even hold completely. The President said he will look into it.”

Asked what precisely the APC governors want the president to do, he said, “What we the governors want is to give an extension on this policy so that everyone can exchange his money. Because of N300 billion, there is no how it will be equal to N2 trillion. N1 trillion should be printed not N300 billion. The money is not enough that is the problem. 

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“Our advice is that both the old and new notes should be used until the old notes are gradually faced out. They should print new notes that will be enough, for now, they are not enough for circulation. Those who say the printed new notes are enough are telling lies to the President.”

Further asked on what he will tell those accusing him of looking for a godfather that is why he is criticizing the President, he said, “I don’t criticize President Buhari. I have never criticized President Buhari, it’s only those working with him who are telling him lies, they don’t tell him the truth, and they don’t tell him what the people are going through on these policies or decisions that are taken. 

“What President Buhari brought, we support it. We know the reason he wants to do something but this thing they are not doing it right and they don’t tell him the right thing. We the true followers of Buhari are not using him to get money for shopping, we are mandated to tell him the truth, and that’s what we’ve done. 

“President Buhari himself knows me, he knows how we have been together. All these allegations I’m used to hearing them. Which godfather am I looking for? 

“Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is our Presidential Candidate we want him to win the election. I have told Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu ten times I don’t want government work, I don’t want to work with him. He is the one saying he wants to work with them at all costs. I swear, I’m bigger than saying he is my godfather, I’m not seeking work, I’m not seeking shopping money, what I am seeking is from God and not man.”

el-Rufai said the president did not tell them yes or no, adding that the chairman of Progressive Governors Forum, and governor of Kebbi state, Atiku Bagudu, had gone back to meet the President privately with the hope to convince him.

However, the Kebbi state governor did not brief members of the State House Press Corps that had waited for him on the outcome of his meeting with the President.

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