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Missing N500bn: Probe CBN, Falana, Others Tell PMB

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Missing N500bn: Probe CBN, Falana, Others Tell PMB
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The human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN),  Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) have called on PMB to ensure that the allegation of missing N500bn in the Central Bank of Nigeria is thoroughly investigated.
Also, the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership in a separate statement, has requested an independent probe into claims of financial fraud.
These calls followed a leaked audio tape wherein the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, claimed N500bn was missing.
In the leaked tape, which was published by Sahara Reporters, Emefiele, his Deputy, Edward Adamu; and the Director for Finance, Dayo Arowosegbe; including one of the Special Advisers to the CBN Governor, Emmanuel Ukeje,  were caught on tape discussing how to cover up the loss of over N500bn stolen from the CBN in a private investment that failed.
In one of the clips, the CBN governor was heard saying the Ministry of Finance, as well as the National Assembly, must not know about the development.
In another part of the audio clip, N2bn was said to have been earmarked for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for no clear reason.
However, the CBN had claimed that no N500bn was missing in its accounts.
Speaking with one of our correspondents on the development, Falana said the rebuttal by the CBN was not sufficient enough to exonerate the CBN governor.
He said, “Having carefully listened to the recorded telephone conversation of the governor and top management staff of the CBN, it is indubitably clear that the sum of N500bn is missing from the CBN.
“The discussions clearly centred on how to cover up the monumental fraud including cooking up the books. It was even suggested that N2bn be set aside to compromise the EFCC. In view of the confirmation of the missing N500bn and the desperate moves to cover it up, President Buhari should set up a panel of enquiry to probe the scandal.
“The press statement of the CBN management denying the fraud should be treated with disdain as it is a dubious attempt to play on the collective intelligence of the Nigerian people.”
The anti-corruption crusader said this was not the first time that monies would go missing from the CBN.
He recalled how a former CBN Governor, Prof Chukwuma Soludo, questionably invested $7bn in 14 unnamed banks with no consequence, an allegation which Soludo denied.
Falana added, “The CBN has a penchant for covering up the criminal diversion of huge public funds. The bank covered up the sum of $12.4bn in the dedicated accounts withdrawn from 1988-1993 by military President, Gen Ibrahim Babangida.
“In the same vein, CBN covered up the $7bn withdrawn by Ex-Gov of CBN, Prof Charles Soludo, and purportedly placed as deposit in some unnamed banks. The Buhari regime which claims to be fighting corruption must not allow the CBN to cover up the missing N500bn.”
The Peoples Democratic Party and the Social Democratic Party on their own part said the allegation was too weighty to be ignored by the Federal Government and the National Assembly.
The National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, who spoke with one of our correspondents, said, “The allegation is too weighty to be ignored. I think I understand why the Federal Government is foot-dragging. The money could have been used for election and all that.
“But I want to appeal to the National Assembly to rise to the occasion and do something about it. We cannot just close our eyes and allow that to go under the carpet.”
Also, the SDP National Publicity, Secretary, Alfa Mohammed said, “It is unfortunate that this kind of allegation about corruption is coming up under an administration that claims to be fighting corruption.
“Some whistleblowers have come up, suggesting that there is corruption in the CBN. This suggests that there is something negative fishing in the apex bank.
“We are, therefore, demanding that President Muhammadu Buhari should constitute a probe panel on this matter without further delay.”
The Executive Chairman, CACOL, Mr Debo Adeniran, in a statement by the group’s Coordinator, Media and Publications, Adegboyega Otunuga, said, “Though, the CBN, through one Issac Okorafor, its Director, Corporate Communications, confirmed the authenticity of the ‘selective conversation,’ which it claimed was just a routine ‘conversations among senior management of many agencies and should not be misconstrued as anything but that’, there are threads of conversation in the tape that simply do not tally with such a ‘hand waive ’ of the CBN management.”
In the same vein, a former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress, Timi Frank, equally asked the Senate to withhold the confirmation of Emefiele for the second term over the leaked audio exposing the missing N500bn under his watch.
Frank said it would amount to a disservice to the nation if the Red Chamber went ahead on Emefiele’s confirmation without the public knowing how such a huge of amount of money disappeared from the treasury.
However, the African Democratic Congress described the allegation as a distraction.
The party’s National Publicity Secretary, Yemi Kolapo, said while the initial report on the alleged missing money appeared damning, she did not feel much energy should be dissipated on it.
Meanwhile, the Lead Director, Centre for Social Justice, Eze Onyekpere, said that the leaked audio of the conversation among the CBN Governor and some senior officials might not provide a sufficient ground for the matter to be investigated.

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Reps Reject Disengagement of Local Contractor from $100m Loan to Fight Malaria

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By Ubong Ukpong, Abuja 

The House of Representatives Committee on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has lampooned the Ministry of Health over the disengagement of a local contractor in a $100 million loan agreement between Nigeria and the Islamic Development Bank meant to address the challenge of malaria in the country.

Chairman of the Committee, Hon Amobi Ogah in a stakeholders meeting to address the matter was displeased that succour that was expected through the intervention was yet to materialize even after signing the agreement in 2022.

In his ruling at the meeting, Amobi directed that Minister of Health, Prof Ali Muhammad Pate, who was in attendance to provide a comprehensive report of the transactions pertaining to the agreement to the committee within two weeks.

The report is expected to explain in detail why the local vendors approved for the agreement were disqualified and not given access to the job.

Amobi said the meeting was to resolve the logjam that seemed to have crippled the implementation of the Islamic Bank Loan to support malaria elimination in Nigeria under the Lives and Livelihood Project.

He said the project aims to reduce under-five mortality in Nigeria from 132 to 79 per 1,000 births by 2030.

“We are aware that Malaria continues to exert a huge burden on majority of Nigerians, with the greatest toll affecting children under 5 and pregnant women. Nigeria contributes 27% of the global malaria cases, (World Malaria Report, 2021) and 31% of global Malaria deaths. In view of this sad story every effort must be made to support any initiative that attempts to reduce or eliminate malaria burden in Nigeria. 

“However we are at a loss as to the reason why the Loan agreement between Nigeria and the Islamic Bank which is expected to last for 3 years, that is terminating by end of this year, has suffered monumental setback and we as the Parliament, representing the people of Nigeria who are affected and ravaged daily by malaria epidemic cannot fold our hands and watch matters degenerate so badly, hence our intervention in this matter.

“The Committee on ATM under my leadership has set a clear vision that it will no longer be business as usual, that Nigeria and Nigerians should be the focus of Government policies and programs. It is said that when two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers and, in this case, we know the grass; the grass is Nigerians ravaged and battered by malaria and the opportunity to receive succour through the intervention of the Islamic Bank loan is yet to materialise after the signing of agreement in 2022. We however, don’t know whether the Elephants fighting here is the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare? Or is it the Local Manufacturers of Insecticidal Nets? Or is it UNOPS?

“While the Committee is eager to hear from all the parties involved in this saga, we will make it categorically clear that as a Parliament we will not tolerate any entity that will toy with the lives of our people, we must think locally and grow our local capacity to ensure that malaria is eradicated from our Country. 

“There is nowhere in the world that sovereign laws of a State are not respected and obeyed and the Parliament will guard jealously the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as it relates to Executive Orders and no entity or non state actors should go contrary to these Laws.

“We must put our House in order if we must win the fight against malaria, we cannot continue to pursue shadows and keep running in cycles while leaving out the substance and our people are worst for it. We must say enough is enough and be genuinely ready to do something meaningful for Nigeria and Nigerians. Therefore this contractual logjam must be resolved today one way or the other,” he said.

The Health Minister, Pate, said the agreement was reversed because there were issues with the local producer.

He said according to the design of the loan, there was an agreement by the government to utilise a United Nations procurement agent, UNOPS, and a Memorandum of Understanding was signed.

“The provisions for all commodities, drugs test kits would be channelled through UNOPS in particular, those that are going to be produced here should be bought here. For bed nets in specific terms, the original MOU was for the bed nets to be procured using national competitive bidding on the assumption that they were three local producers who are prequalified.

“Of the three only one was prequalified and that is the company in the country that was to be involved. The tender process started in early 2023. The process ran into procedural difficulty and it was suspended by UNOPS in an open and transparent manner and investigated. Consequently the MOU was reversed because there were issues with this sole producer. Amendment was made to go for international competitive bidding and that revised MOU was signed by a member of the government,” he said.

He acknowledged that the country still has a malaria challenge and the Islamic Development Loan is a major effort that started four years ago as part of Nigeria’s effort to achieve malaria elimination.

He said, “It is a $100 million loan that was meant for five states, Bayelsa, Edo, Enugu, Kogi and FCT. The Federal Government signed and negotiated the loan and also state level legal agreements with those five entities were constructed by the Islamic Development Bank though and the Ministry of Finance so that they are borrowing that money to implement the malaria programme.”

According to him, the $100 million dollars consisted of a $90 million loan that is repayable and a $10 million grant.

He said, “This was done in 2020 and the implementation activity started. Since that loan was signed and became effective, a total of $62 million was disbursed through the UNOPS in two tranches. For the Ministry of Health only $201, 000 dollars has been spent from the proceeds at the federal level.

“Of what has been disbursed to UNOPS as the procurement agent as per the agreement that was designed and signed by the federal government on behalf of those states for this loan, there is a balance of $54 million that is still with UNOPS. So only about $8 million dollars has been utilised in buying drugs, kits, and commodities necessary as part of the programme and on their way to be delivered because UNOPS was agreed to be the procurement agents.

“So the $54 million that is at hand is what we are looking at how it can be executed. There is another part of the loan that has not yet been disbursed to UNOPS. So if you look at it almost 90 percent of this resource is yet to be activated and 98 percent of it all is yet to be activated and utilised.”

Director and Representative of the UNOPS, Ghana Multi Country Office, Ifeoma Charles-Monwuba, said there was an anomaly with local contractor lacked capacity hence the need to terminate their agreement.

She said, “The agreement with UNOPS was signed in September 2022, however there was a clause inserted that meant that that if it did not become effective until December 2022 and by January 2023 we did a training for local vendors that were supposed to participate, we did a training for them and by February 2023 the tender launched. 

“Like the Minister said in evaluating particularly the bed nets, they were issues. For the antimalarial drugs, all the anti medicines have been procured and all locally procured. All have undergone quality control testing and we have written to the national malaria programme to bring the distribution list so the local manufacturer can distribute that. 

“So local manufacturing and procurement of medicine has been done. For the medicine not manufactured locally, it was agreed to be procured internationally. Shipments have started arriving. All the other products are already on track and it’s the bed nets that is the issue.”

The Committee said according to a submission by UNOPS, a United Nations agent, employed as the procurement agent for the project the reasons for dropping the local contractor were unclear.

It said according to the submission there were conflicting reasons given for the action including that it was due to an anomaly, that the local contractor lacked capacity, that they needed to change specifications and that they had information from a whistleblower on why the agreement should be discontinued.

Responding, the Committee Chairman, Ogah, said, “With due respect, what UNOPS has done in this transaction is so bad because if they can tell us as a country that they cannot tell us what the local manufacturer has done that made them disqualify this local manufacturer. The reason why we are all here is because of Nigeria. If it is a grant or aid it would be different. We are here because it is a loan that we are going to pay back with interest. We demand a report from the Ministry

“Anything that would undermine our quest to encourage local producers and manufacturers we seriously frown on it. All of a sudden the whole intent and purpose were changed in favour of foreign bid to supply the materials whereas as we have one which you earlier pre-qualified and all of a sudden it was set aside to encourage foreigners to supply the net in Nigeria,” he said.

The Speaker, Rt Hon Tajudeen Abbas, who was represented by the House Leader, Prof Julius Ihonvbare, hoped the matter would be resolved amicably.

“With the calibre of members of the committee, I have no doubt that whatever is causing the challenge would be resolved.

“We have a commitment to protect the local market and producers and encourage local production to prevent capital flight and encourage the development of skills and capacity to do better.

“We are shocked the matter has lasted this long. Many of us come from rural constituencies with poor access to medical services and we know now our people are suffering, so for an Mou to be signed and it has taken over four years is an embarrassment and hope we can resolve the matter and find the way forward,” he said 

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Construction of 50,000 housing units to  create 1.2m jobs – FG

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The Federal Government has said that the construction of 50,000 housing units under phase one of the Renewed Hope Housing Cities and Estates will create over 1.2 million direct and indirect jobs.

The Minister of Housing and Urban Development, Ahmed Dangiwa, made this known on Friday in Abuja, at the ministerial  briefing on the performance of President Bola Tinubu’s administration in the last one year.

Dangiwa said that the job creation was in addition to the value chain effects of the purchase and supply of building materials, as well as businesses around the construction sites among others.

He explained that the ministry’s vision was to create an efficient housing market where all Nigerians would have the right to a secured, decent, and affordable home as a platform for active participation in economic development.

Dangiwa added that the ministry’s overall strategic action plan was centred on the three core pillars of the Tinubu Renewed Hope Agenda.

He said that the ministry had achieved some major milestone in housing in the last one year like the planning and actualisation of the Renewed Hope Cities and Estates Development Programme inaugurated by President Bola Tinubu earlier this year.

According to him, the Renewed Hope Housing Programme is designed to be a catalyst for economic growth, adding that the construction and development of the new areas will generate employment opportunities, stimulate local businesses, and attract investments.

”From the ministry’s 2024 approved budget, we are also rolling out another batch of Renewed Hope Estates of semi-detached bungalows.

”To enhance affordability and ease of off take, we used organic designs where one bedroom can be expanded to two-bedrooms and three-bedrooms as the income of beneficiaries increase over time,’’ he added.

Dangiwa further said that the programme aimed to address social inequality by providing a broad range of affordable ownership options.

He said this included single digit and up to 30 years mortgage loans to be provided by the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria.

He said that the other programme included rent-to-own options where beneficiaries could move in and pay towards homeownership in monthly, quarterly, or annual instalments and outright purchase for high income earners.

He disclosed that the government approved the total sum of N126.5 billion from the 2023 supplementary and 2024 budget for the projects including slum upgrade and urban renewal.

The minister explained that the ministry currently had estates in 12 states and three cities nationwide namely Katsina, Yobe, Gombe, Abia, Nasarawa, Benue, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Sokoto, Oyo, Osun, Abuja, Yobe and Lagos..

He revealed that contractors had been mobilised and commenced work to deliver 3,500 units, adding that an MoU had been signed with reputable developers to build  100,000 housing units nationwide.

”Work has commenced for 3,112 housing units under this public-private-partnership bringing the total number of housing units currently under construction to 6,612”, he said. (NAN) (nannews.com.ng)

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NAICOM, RMAFC Collaborate on Economic Diversification 

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By Tony Obiechina, Abuja 

The Commissioner for Insurance and CEO, Mr. Olusegun Ayo Omosehin, and his management team have met with the members of the Constitutional Committee on “Mobilisation and Diversification” of the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission ( RMAFC) led by Engr.

Sani Mohammed Baba, to explore ways of diversifying the Nigerian economy.
 

During their working visit to NAICOM Headquarters, Mr.

Olusegun Ayo Omosehin, in his opening remarks, reaffirmed the critical role of the insurance sector regulator in supervising, regulating, and safeguarding the interests of insurance policyholders. 

He highlighted insurance’s pivotal role in mobilising savings for long-term developmental projects and enabling businesses to thrive while managing risks effectively.

 

He also stressed the Commission’s commitment to ensuring insurance companies meet their obligations, thus contributing to the sustainability of the economy.

Speaking, Mohammed Baba emphasised the importance of revenue generation, institutional expansion, and employment creation for Nigerians through collaborative efforts.

The Commissioner for Insurance also acknowledged President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s ambitious goal of growing the Nigerian economy to One Trillion United States Dollars ($1 trillion) by 2026. 

He expressed the insurance sector’s intent to significantly contribute to this objective. Additionally, he mentioned ongoing efforts to embed insurance within the National Credit Scheme to ensure its sustainability.

Omosehin stressed the need for continuous advocacy and sensitization of government institutions about the vital role of insurance in national economic development.

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