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Subsidy: Reps Uncover How Oil Companies Defraud Nigeria

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By Mathew Dadiya, Abuja

The House of Representatives has uncovered how oil companies in Nigeria  export crude oil for refined petroleum products but fail to account for the by-products.

At the resumption of the hearing of the House special adhoc committee on petroleum products subsidy regime in Nigeria from 2017 to 2021, the lawmakers were shocked upon discovery that operating companies don’t account for by-products.

The lawmakers lamented that despite the cost of the by-products which they noted was higher than crude itself, oil companies were shortchanging Nigeria by failing to give account of what becomes of the products.

The head, business development of Hyde Energy, an oil company, Abdulwahab Useni who appeared before the committee stood his ground as he refused to disclose to the lawmakers how the company makes profit from crude export and import of refined products.

Despite pressure from members of the committee, Useni who stood in for the managing director of the company, also refused to explain to the lawmakers what happens to the profit of the crude oil by-products.

This compelled Hon, Isiaka Ibrahim to call for a closed-door investigation when invitees failed to make open, relevant information concerning financial transactions.

The committee members as a way of ascertaining both the export and import value of crude and refined products sought to know from Hyde Energy, the countries it exports its crude to.

According to the lawmakers, this will enable the committee to write to embassies of the countries in question to uncover details of such transactions.

In another development, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, has said state governors have no basis to complain about the $418 million deductions from the Paris Club refund paid to consultants they hired.

The minister said that the complaints arising from the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) was not only unjustified but “a clear case of absence of defence.”

He spoke when he featured on the Ministerial Media Briefing organized by the Presidential Communications Team on Thursday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The AGF also disclosed that a total of 648 cases instituted against the president, federal government and its agencies, before states, federal and ECOWAS Court were served on the Ministry, adding diligent defences of these cases in the year 2022 alone has saved the government from huge judgment debt liability to the tune of N54,888,343,888.52.

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The Ministry has made appreciable progress in the actions being taken to challenge the $10 billion case between Nigeria and the Process & Industrial Development(P&ID) and was able to convince the court to set aside the case which he said may soon commence. 

The AGF noted that the governors created the liability whose payment they have also indemnified.

Fielding question on why despite a presidential directive to suspend the deduction from the Paris Club Refund, he has not deemed it fit to enforce the directive as some deductions were said to  have been made, he stated that when the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) requested the refund, one of the component was the settlement of the consultants who were engaged by the Forum.

The Minister recalled that when the refund was initially paid to the states, part payment was also made to the consultants.

Malami further disclosed that the governors later decided to stop the payment and asked for an out-of-court settlement.

He said this resulted in a request to the President to make the payment, a request he said, was then passed on to the Office of the AGF for a legal opinion.

The minister noted that after being subjected to necessary checks, it was found that there was no element of fraud involved.

The indemnity of the governors was also sought and received, he disclosed.

“On the issue of Paris Club that is raised. You mentioned that there exists a presidential directive that payments should not be made and then in breach of that position directives payments were perhaps made, may be arising from the conspiracy between the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice payments have been made. 

“I think you need to be informed first, as to the antecedents, prevailing circumstances and how the liability arose but one thing I’m happy to state, which I want to reiterate having stated the same earlier, is the fact that the Office of the Attorney General and the government of President Muhammadu Buhari has not indeed incurred any major judgment debt for seven years it has been on. 

“Now, coming to the antecedents background of the Paris Club. The liability or judgement debts related to Paris Club was indeed a liability created by the Governor’s Forum in their own right.”

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“The Governor’s Forum comprising of all the governors sat down and commonly agreed on the engagement of a consultant to provide certain services for them relating to the recovery of the Paris Club. So, it was the Governor’s Forum under the federal government in the first place that engaged the consultant.

“Two, when eventually, successes were recorded, associated with Paris Club, the governors collectively and individually presented a request to the federal government for the fund. And among the components of the claim presented for the consideration of the federal government was a component related to the payment of these consultants that are now constituting the subject of contention. So the implication of that is that the governors in their own right recognized the consultant, recognized their claim and presented a such claim to the federal government.

“Three, when the claims were eventually processed and paid to the Governor’s Forum. They indeed on their own, without the intervention of the federal government took steps to make part payments to the consultants, acknowledging their liability over the same.

“And then four, when eventually they made such payments at a point they decided to stop the payment. The consultants instituted an action in court against the Governors Forum.  They submitted to consent judgment. They asked and urged the court to allow them to settle out of court. 

“The court granted them an opportunity to settle. They committed the terms of settlement in writing, they signed  the terms of settlement, agreeing and conceding that such payments be made to the consultant.

“And then five, thereafter, the federal government under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari was requested to comply with the judgment and effect payment. 

“The President passed all the requests of the governors to the Office of the Attorney General for consideration. I suggested to the President the face value of the judgment and the undertones associated with the consultancy services. 

“It was my opinion, the same treatment we meted to P&ID, that let us subject this claim, the consent judgment to an investigation by the agencies of the government. Mr President approved, I directed the EFCC and DSS to look into these claims and report back to the office of the Attorney General. 

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“And these agencies reported and concluded that there is no problem undertone associated with it. The government may continue to sanction the payment dependent. Now, that was the background.

“Even at that, we took further steps after receiving these reports from the EFCC among others, to demand indemnity from the governors. You, as a forum, incurred  this liability, as a forum you submitted to consent judgment. We have subjected these claims to investigation and we have a report, but even at that, we need independent indemnity from you, establishing that it is with your consent and understanding that these payments should be made, in writing. 

“And I’m happy to report to you that the governors individually and collectively provided the desired indemnity to the Office of the Attorney General, conceding, agreeing and submitting, that the payment should be made.

“Yes, and that was the ground and the basis on which we eventually decided by advising the president that the payment should be made. And then along the line, there was a change of leadership of the Governors Forum. And all the noise-making that is now being generated arising from the Governors Forum is not only unjustified but indeed, a clear case of absence of defence.

“But one other point of interest you may wish to note is the fact that the new leadership of the Governors Forum instituted an action, even when the federal government was indeed acting based on the judgment of the Supreme Court. They now embarked on a fresh legal suit, challenging the payment, challenging the previous agreement, challenging the indemnity and the court dismissed the application. Their case was dismissed by the Federal High Court.

“So that is the foundation and I’m happy to report one, that the judgment and contention was a judgment that was obtained long before the Attorney General, Abubakar Malami came into office, long before the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari came into office. 

“It was a product of their own doing and they had it submitted to judicial proceeding, judgment was entered against them. They have committed to the payment of the money, they have on their own indeed effected part payment. I closed my case and I will not like to answer any further questions on that,” the minister explained. 

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2023: INEC Rolls out Guidelines for Campaigns

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By Jude Opara, Abuja

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has cautioned political parties against abusive language and acts likely to provoke violence or emotions in their campaigns for 2023 general election.


The INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu stated at the opening of a two-day capacity workshop for members of INEC Press Corps on critical issues in the Electoral Act, 2022 in preparations for the 2023 General Election in Lagos on Monday.


Mahmood, represented by Festus Okoye, INEC National Commissioner, Information and Voter Education Committee, urged all registered political parties to critically study and pay attention to the provisions of laws for proper and peaceful conduct of political campaigns, rallies and processions.


The laws according to Mahmood included the Constitution, the Electoral Act, the Police Act and the Public Order Act.


“A political campaign or slogan shall not be tainted with abusive language directly or indirectly likely to injure religious, ethnic, tribal or sectional feelings.
“Abusive, intemperate, slanderous or base language or innuendoes designed or likely to provoke violent reaction or emotions shall not be employed or used in political campaigns,” Yakubu said.


Regarding activities toward 2023 general election, Yakubu said that eight out of the 14 items on INEC calendar and schedule of activities including the release of the final list of candidates nominated for national election have been implemented.

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He said that on October 4, INEC would release the final list of candidates nominated in relation to state elections.
“On September 28 presidential and National Assembly campaigns will start, while that of governorship and State Assembly candidates will start on October 12.
“The commission will continue to adhere to set timelines in carrying out its activities,” he said.
Yakubu said that INEC has devoted time and energy to the cleaning up of the voter register using the Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS).


“This process is almost finalised and the commission will engage with stakeholders relating to its findings before displaying the register for claims and objections as required by law.
“Furthermore, the commission is working out a protocol for seamless collection of Permanent Voters Cards by valid registrants, ” he said.


Yakubu assured that INEC would deploy and continue to deploy appropriate technology for conduct of elections.
“The Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and INEC Result Viewing Portal (IreV) will be deployed for the conduct of the 2023 general election.


“We will continue to use technology to improve and enhance the credibility of elections in Nigeria.
“Our goal is electoral justice where every Nigerian will experience electoral fulfilment,” he said.
Yakubu described the workshop as timely as preparations for the 2023 general election have reached advantage stage with only 152 days away.
He said that it was important for the media especially the INEC Press Corp to have a good knowledge and understanding of the workings and operations of the commission.
He said that was necessary for an informed and balanced coverage of the commission’s activities and the dissemination of information to the general public.

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Mahmood described INEC Press Corp as an indispensable partner in electoral process that provide a veritable platform and pathway for the dissemination of electoral information to the Nigerian public.


“The commission will continue to collaborate with the Press Corp in providing the requisite information that enables them to engage the electoral process and educate citizens to make informed choices,” Yakubu said.


He appreciated the European Union which has through the European Union Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria (EUSDGN) Programme implemented by DAI for consistently supporting the work of the commission.


The Lagos INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC),Mr Olusegun Agbaje, said that the event presented a unique opportunity for participants to be well equipped with adequate knowledge of the processes of INEC, the Electoral Act 2022 and activities towards 2023 general election.
Agbaje advised the media to play its role in ensuring free and fair elections in 2023 by ensuring that the rule of law prevailed.
“As the clock gradually clicks towards the 2023 General Election, the media have a supreme call and duty to: mobilise, sensitis and enlighten the electorate on all electoral processes by educating them on their responsibilities to perform their civic roles to vote for any candidate of their choice in all elective posts.
“Address the issue of voter apathy and poor voter turnout in elections in Nigeria by rallying the electorate to perform their civic responsibilities.
“Educate voters to vote appropriately to avoid incidence of high records of invalid ballots at election; ensure that the game of politics is played in accordance with the enabling laws, rules and guidelines,” he said.
Abgbaje also called for robust engagement with parties and candidates to assist voters to make informed choices at the election; checkmate the current trend of fake news and sensational reportage of events.
“Educate the citizens on the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022, as well as the rules and regulations guiding the election.
“Collaborate with INEC and other election stakeholders to checkmate vote buying through sensitization, effective monitoring and enforcement of the laws.
“Also give a level playing ground to all parties/candidates by allocating to them equal media time and coverage; help to reduce electoral violence to the bearest minimum,” Agbaje said.

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Nationwide Power Outage as Grid Crashes 7 Times in 2022

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By Evelyn Terseer, Abuja

The national grid crashed to zero megawatts (MW) at 10:51am on Monday, causing a nationwide power outage. The national grid collapsed twice, in July and in August but was quickly restored and power supply improvement was sustained before the latest system collapse on Monday.
Yesterday’s collapse was the seventh this year.

Three was recorded last year.

The national electricity grid as of 10am on Monday had 3,712MW generated from 21 Generation Companies (GenCos) before it dropped to 0MW one hour after.


According to the information from the System Operations, only a section of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), Afam IV, was on the grid but with zero supply as of 12noon, yesterday.
As of Sunday, the highest generation was 4,100MW while the lowest was 3,652MW with the frequency hovering between 49.04 Hertz (Hz) and 50.
34Hz.

Announcing the development, Monday, the Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company, in a statement via its verified Twitter handle, said, “This is to inform you that the outage you are currently experiencing is due to the system collapse of the national grid, which occurred earlier today at 10:50hrs. This has affected the Transmission Stations within our network and resulted in the loss of power supply to our customers. Kindly bear with us as we await the restoration of the grid.”
The Enugu Electricity Distribution Company Plc also announced system collapse, adding that the current blackout being currently experienced had affected the entire South-East.

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The announcement contained in a statement by the power distribution company issued in Enugu on Monday was signed by its Head, Corporate Communications, Mr Emeka Ezeh.

Eze disclosed that the system collapsed at 10:51 am on Monday, September 26, 2022.
He said, “This has resulted in the loss of supply currently being experienced across the network.
“Due to this development, all our interface TCN stations are out of supply, and we are unable to provide service to our customers in Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, and Imo States.
“We are on standby awaiting detailed information of the collapse and restoration of supply from the National Control Centre, Osogbo.”
 
Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) also confirmed that the outage within its franchise was due to system failure from the national grid.
 
The company’s management, in a statement issued on Monday, said that the system collapsed at about 10.55 a.m. on Monday.
 
”Please be informed that the current power outage is due to system failure from the national grid.
 
“The system collapsed at about 10.55 a.m. today (Monday), causing the outage being experienced.
 
”We appeal for your understanding, as all stakeholders are working hard to restore normal power supply,” the statement said.

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The development occurred few days after electricity consumers said they had enjoyed improved supply. Since July 1 this year, consumers said power supply had increased in their various areas.
For instance, the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) recently confirmed increment in its daily allocation to over 500MW from the actual 300MW it had distributed before then. The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) had attributed the improvement in power supply nationwide to the partial activation of contracts that seeks to hold sector operators liable for deliberate incompetence.

Although TCN, the national grid manager did not disclose the cause of the crash, it claimed latter in the night that partial repairs had been effected and normalcy to be expected.

Mrs Ndidi Mbah, TCN’s General Manager, Public Affairs made this known in a statement in Abuja.

Mbah said that the national grid experienced partial system disturbance at about 10.51am, as result of sudden drop in system frequency, which created system instability.

She said that the restoration of the affected grid commenced immediately at 11.55am with Osogbo/Ihovbor, followed by Jebba/Osogbo, Kainji/Jebba, Benin/Onitsha, Shiroro/Kaduna, Shiroro/Katampe and Alaoji/Ikot-Ekpene.

Others are Lokoja/Gwagwalada, Odukpani/Ikot Ekpene, Benin/Omotosho, Oke-Aro/Ikeja west, Egbin/Oke-Aro and Kaduna/Kano.

She said the grid restoration has almost been completed, adding that the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI) regrets any inconveniences caused.

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Mbah said NESI appreciated the understanding of electricity customers within and outside the country.

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FCTA Raises Flood Alert over  Lagdo Dam

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By Laide Akinboade, Abuja 

The Federal Capital Territory Administration, FCTA, has has warned Abuja residents against ignoring early  flood warnings from the weather forecast agencies.

The Federal Capital Territory Emergency Management Agency (FEMA),Director-General of FEMA, Alhaji Abba Idriss, issued the warning at the 2022 FEMA Annual Review and Preparedness Meeting with over 250 local divers, community vanguards, flood rescue teams and 50 town criers.

In a statement issued by FEMA and made available to journalists in Abuja, he said   the meeting came at a time when flood warnings from the weather forecast agencies, especially Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) and the Nigerian Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA), are coming almost on a daily basis.

Idriss said the rising water levels in the  Nigeria’s major rivers  especially River Niger and River Benue, couple with the threats coming from the Lagdo Dam in Cameroon are issues of great concern.

Idriss emphasised the need for residents to abide and obey the early warning and would be issued out to them from time to time through the conventional and social media.

According to him, as soon as the agency get flood early warning it will disseminate the information so that people will take advantage of that.

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He therefore urged residents to ensure that they get information about the way they will pass through before leaving their homes, offices and markets.

“The reason why we call for this meeting is first to alert our local divers, volunteers, vanguards and town criers on the likelihood of flooding.

“Secondly, is to call on the residents of the Federal Capital Territory to be on their alert as well that all is not well yet. We have to be watchful, we have to keep observing those environmental laws and we also have to abide by the building code.

“FCT residents must also ensure that they don’t block drainages, avoid building on the waterways and also avoid driving on a running water. People shouldn’t undermine water they see on the road to think that they have high capacity vehicle that move on running water.”

Mrs Florence Wenegieme, the Director, Forecasting Response Mitigation of FEMA, explained that the event was organised to review with stakeholders especially the local divers, volunteers, vanguards, local emergency committee and town criers.

Wenegieme expressed optimism that the meeting would help the agency to save lives and properties in the nation’s capital.

“We call them three or four times annually to review all the activities; to reactivate them, to know that they should always be on standby because we want all hands to be on deck to mitigate flood and other disasters in the territory.

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“We have almost 600 volunteers, local divers, town criers. We are doing the meeting by representation, we call over 200 today and next meeting we will call another set of 200 persons again to make sure that we create the needed awareness in them.

“We are training them on how to use use modern rescue equipment when somebody get drown in the river or in the wall,” she said.

Also, the Director-General, Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA), Mr Clement Nze, reiterated the resolve of the agency to deepen partnership with FEMA in coordinating issues around water and flooding.

“I will say that we are aware of most of the activities of State Emergency Management Agency and out of all of them FEMA is on top in terms of being relevant on community development

“We are delighted to associate ourselves with FEMA based on what we see on ground being done by the DG.

“I want to urge the divers and vanguards, local emergency committee, town criers and flood rescue team to see their role as very important in tackling flood in FCT.”

Similarly, the Director-General, NiMet, Prof. Mansur Matazu, also expressed willingness of the agency to deepen partnership with FEMA, adding that the agency has been very cooperative in emergency management.

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Represented by Mr Kamorudeen Alao, the Assistant General Manager, Hydro, Matazu said the partnership which was beyond the issue of downscaling would continue to grow stronger.

On his part, the Director-General, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Mr Mustapha Ahmed, said the meeting was very critical to mitigating flood and other disasters in the FCT.

Represented by Mr Agbor Etim, NEMA’s Principal Search and Rescue Officer, Ahmed said disaster management was all encompassing, adding that everybody need to be on board to help ensure effective disaster management.

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