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Three Women Linked to N84.1bn Fraud in Barely Five-Year-old Humanitarian Ministry

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By David Torough, Abuja

Ministry for Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation may be described as a cesspool of corruption if allegations of corrupt practices leveled against three women who superintended affairs in the beleaguered ministry can be proved.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) may have to investigate diversion of about N84.

1 billion from the ministry designed to give succour to suffering Nigerians.

The ministry founded in August 2019 by former President Muhammadu Buhari was headed by Sadiya Umar-Farouq until the end of the Buhari-led administration in May 2023.

The second minister appointed by President Bola Tinubu is equally a woman, Betta Edu.

The ministry has been in the news following allegations of huge financial impropriety leveled against the former and the sitting ministers.

Umar-Farouq is linked to the diversion of N37.1bn while Edu is linked to a fresh N3 billion.

Also, the National Coordinator and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Social Investment Programme Agency (NSIPA), Halima Shehu, was picked up this week in connection with the movement of N44 billion from NSIPA account to some suspicious accounts within the last four days in Dec. 2023.

The Minister for Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Edu has denied the alleged diversion of N3 billion from the account of NSIPA, describing it as spurious.

Daily Asset recalls that NSIPA was created in 2016 under the administration of former President Muhammadu to address socio-economic inequalities and alleviate poverty among Nigerians.

The programme was founded on four pillars namely the N-POWER Programme, the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme, the National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme and the Conditional Cash Transfer Programme.

Each of the pillars was designed to empower the poorest and most vulnerable Nigerians to attain an acceptable standard of living irrespective of their locations nationwide.

However, the essence of the programme seems to be defeated as corruption allegations have continued to rock the ministry incharge of the programme.

Edu in a statement entitled, Re-Betta Edu Fingered In N3bn NSIPA Fraud Scandal; A Tissue of Lies, Spurious Allegation to Divert Anti-Graft Agency’s Attention, signed by Rasheed Olanrewaju Zubair, Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the minister, stated that the allegation is false.

“The attention of the Honourable Minister for Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Dr. Betta Edu has been drawn to spurious allegations suspected to have been sponsored by some fifth columnists aimed at dragging the hard-earned reputation and integrity of the Honourable Minister into the ongoing investigations of NSIPA scandal by the anti- graft agency.

“Ordinarily, there is no substance in the said publication currently in some online media and does not deserve a response, but there is need to set the record straight for Nigerians and followers of the current development in NSIPA under the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation to be properly informed.

“This is necessary because social media, in recent times, has been riddled with lots of fake and unsubstantiated news.

“There was no time the minister, Dr. Betta Edu requested for any fund, needless to mention withdrawal of such amount of money to the tune of N3 billion since her assumption of office…in the last four months, albeit one month was quoted in the sponsored Fake News.

“The Verification of the National Social Register (NSR) as quoted in the said publication online, was approved not only by Mr. President but also by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in line with the Renewed Hope Mandate to expand the NSR as well as imbue it with integrity.

“The conclusion of the well publicised Verification Exercise led to the expansion of the National Social Register and commencement of payment sequentially and directly from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to various beneficiaries.

“For the records, all the Programmes embarked by the ministry under the current Minister, Dr. Betta Edu, thus far, including Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP), Grants for Vulnerable Groups (GVG) and others secured the approval of Mr President.

“The Honourable Minister wishes to inform the general public that she has no hand in the current travails of the leadership of the NSIPA, therefore her good name should not be dragged into the ongoing suspension and investigations as approved by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” the statement read.

Similarly, the former minister Umar-Farouq is undergoing investigation following an a probe into the N37,170,855,753.44 allegedly laundered during her tenure in office, through a contractor, James Okwete.

The former minister who was invited by EFCC interrogators failed to show up on Wednesday.

She sought an extension of time to appear before EFCC saying she was indisposed.

EFCC Head of Public Relations, Dele Oyewale confirmed that Umar had sent a legal representative to the commission asking it to give her more time to honour the invitation.

He said the commission had mandated her to submit herself without further delay.

At the moment, the suspended National Coordinator and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of NSIPA, Halima Shehu is under EFCC investigation.

Shehu, who initially resisted arrest on Tuesday was finally picked up by EFCC.

She was linked to the diversion of N44 billion from NSIPA account to some suspicious accounts within four days in Dec. 2023.

The interception and recovery of the cash followed some alleged payments of billions of naira by the agency without presidential approval.

EFCC operatives who were drafted to the National Coordinator’s private office and home arrested her at about 8:00pm on Tuesday.

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Afreximbank Dominates Bonds, Loans, ESG Capital Markets Awards 2024

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By Tony Obiechina, Abuja
 The African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) swept the stage at the recently concluded Bonds, Loans and ESG Capital Markets Africa Awards 2024 ceremony, taking home six of the awards handed out at the event held in South Africa.
Delivered on the sidelines of the conference on 6 March, the awards recognised Afreximbank’s outstanding achievements in financing, promoting and facilitating trade and for its broadening work to facilitate sustainable economic growth and development in Africa.


Afreximbank was recognised with ‘Financial Institutions Bond Deal of the Year’ for acting as Joint Lead Manager on the debut USD 300 million senior Eurobond issuance by Mauritius Commercial Bank (MCB), in April 2023, marking the first Investment Grade-rated commercial bank senior bond out of Africa as well as the first international Eurobond out of Mauritius.
 
The Bank also won the ‘Infrastructure Finance Deal of the Year’ award for its US$1.76 billion loan to the Government of Tanzania, issued on 30 June 2023.
The award for the Export Credit Agency, Development Finance Institution and International Finance Institution Deal of the Year was presented to the Bank for its US$640-million Samurai loan issued in July 2023 while the Renewable Energy Finance Deal of the Year award went to the Bank for its EUR147-million loan to the Government of Cameroon which was issued on 7 October 2023.
For the Oil and Gas Deal of the Year award, the organisers recognised Afreximbank for its US$1.3-billion loan to Sonangol Finance Limited, issued in August 2023. The final award to the Bank was for being the Financial Institution Debt House of the Year.
Reacting to the awards, Chandi Mwenebungu, Director and Group Treasurer of Afreximbank, said: “These awards represent a recognition of our Bank’s strategic work in Africa’s financial markets and present an opportunity for Afreximbank to recognize and celebrate the outstanding achievements of its clients and partners working to advance the economic development of Africa.”
Mr. Mwenebungu noted that the Bank had been playing a leading debt arranging role across Africa’s main industry sectors and had been instrumental in promoting the inclusion of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) standards in financing structures, thereby furthering their application on the continent and attracting capital.
The Bonds, Loans and ESG Capital Markets Africa Conference is the only pan-African debt event bringing together local and international bonds issuers, investors and financial institutions and financial services providers from across the continent.
With participation by more than 1,060 senior borrowers, issuers, regulators, bankers, investors, advisors and government officials from 383 companies and 46 countries, the conference is recognised as the number one business meetings facilitator for Africa’s capital markets and is Africa’s largest corporate and investment banking event.

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How Revised Teachers Retirement Age Policy Impacts FCT Schools

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By Ben Atonko

Every May Day, the government is forced to make a pronouncement on workers welfare.  Over the decades, the government has promulgated numerous policies to enhance workers welfare so workers always look up to May 1 as an avenue to exert pressure on the government to do as they would like.

In commemorating the historic struggles and gains made by workers and the labour movement, we ask, are the labour policies for the good of workers alone? Has the government adequate consideration for the public good when passing labour laws?

As May Day approaches, we take a look at the impact of one of the labour policies on the public as enunciated by the immediate past administration of Muhammadu Buhari.

Maimuna was employed as a school teacher by the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA). She taught and rose to the rank of Assistant Director, Grade Level 15.

At his level, Maimuna is posted to the Quality Assurance Department. She looks frail yet she says she is still within the lawful service years. She no longer goes to teach. Her job now is to supervise school teachers to ensure that they follow laid down rules and standards in the teaching profession. But hardly does she go do the supervision work.

Maimuna is one among many teachers in FCT who have been taken out of the classroom, thereby shortening the number of classroom teachers.

While Maimuna is among those who leave the classroom due to job progression, many more leave on account of retirement, death and other reasons. There are those who are down with health conditions. Even as the classroom gets depleted of teachers, FCTA hardly employs.

Since 2016, FCTA has not done massive recruitment of teachers. It has continually done what it calls Replacement where few persons “connected” to top government officials are clandestinely slotted into the service.

The revised retirement policy

Following pressure from the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), the Federal Government in 2022 extended the retirement age for teachers in public schools to 65 from 60.

Former President Muhammadu Buhari signed the Harmonised Retirement Age for Teachers in Nigeria Act passed by the National Assembly.

Section 1 of the Act clearly states that teachers in Nigeria shall compulsorily retire on attainment of 65 years of age or 40 years of pensionable service, whichever is earlier.

Section 3 of the Act provides that the Public Service Rule or any Legislation that requires a person to retire from the Public Service at 60 years of age or after 35 years of service shall not apply to teachers in Nigeria.

This increase in the retirement age and service years is pursuant to Section 58(2) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.

The FCT situation

FCTA accepted this policy with a caveat that teachers will prove to be medically fit and would return to the classroom to teach at that age.

However, it has been observed that this ended on paper as these teachers do not go to the classroom. Not one has been asked to tender their medical report as a condition to be retained. Some can hardly walk, not to talk of doing any work.

While this is happening, many children in public schools in FCT are suffering badly due to shortage of teachers. Meet the head teacher of any school and ask them about the staff strength in their school and they will narrate a pathetic story.

There are 205 junior schools covered by the FCT Universal Basic Education (UBE) programme and 88 senior schools under the FCT Secondary Education Board.

Records show that there are about 4,000 FCTA teaching staff in junior secondary schools for the UBE programme. This translates to 20 teachers per school, i.e. 20 teachers to take 18 subjects for JSS 1, JSS 2 and JSS 3. It must be noted that there are subjects to be compulsorily taught every day. With an average of six arms per class and each arm having Mathematics and English Language taught in five sessions of 40 minutes per week, and other subjects taught in two sessions of 40 minutes per week, it means each arm has 42 hours of teaching per week.

It should be noted that each year (e.g JSS 1) has 42 hours by six arms equalling 252 hours of teaching every week. This further translates to a total of 756 teaching sessions for JSS 1, JSS 2 and JSS 3. This invariably means 20 teachers having a total of 37.8 sessions of 40 minutes each for Years 1, 2 and 3 respectively.

This is definitely too much work load for anyone to handle hence the engagement of PTA teachers who are paid less than peanuts.

In 2001 a report produced by FCTA tagged “Teacher (Manpower) Requirement for Junior Secondary Schools” showed that there was a shortfall of 5,001 teachers across the 126 junior secondary schools in FCT at the time.

The statistics showed that JSS Sabon Gari, Gwagwalada alone lacked 150 teachers. JSS Jikwoyi in the municipal council needed 132 teachers while JSS Kubwa 1 was without 101 teachers. ADJSS was minus 96 teachers, JSS Kubwa 2 was minus 89, JSS Zuba 77 teachers and JSS Peyi 71 teachers. The school with the least problem was JSS Mamagi with a shortfall of six teachers.

What this means is that all FCT schools could not offer or partially offered many subjects on the curriculum. The picture has not changed since then. Efforts to lay hands on current data were unsuccessful but the situation might be worse due to population surge.

Out of the 4,000 teachers said to be under UBEB, a large number are out of the classroom because they are to do quality assurance and their retirement age has increased. The salary of one of such staff can employ as many as five fresh teachers.

A school manager in FCT was heard lamenting that while the government has failed to recruit young and willing hands into the classroom, it has come up with a policy that makes old, weak, sickly and tired hands idle while energetic, ambitious and job seeking youths are abandoned.

Another head teacher who did not want to be named here said the Education Secretariat of FCTA is aware of the problems because every month, school heads send reports to management, giving the situation in their schools, yet no action is taken.

She painted a gloomy picture: “In UBEB, very few teachers are young. Many are old. In a whole term, a child pays N3, 500. From this, we pay PTA teachers.

“Last employment was in 2016. Only 300 teachers were employed. There are 17 subjects taught by different teachers in my school.  Many subjects have no teachers. Classes are without seats. Children sit on the floor.”

She said sometimes authorities hide under employing teachers, slot in names of associates or friends or relatives. Some may have no business coming in the education sector. Once they are employed, they are deployed to the Education Secretariat, Area 11 (head office) – they do not teach at all.

According to her, every year, many teachers leave, yet no employment to fill up vacancies.

Parents’ burden

Nearly every school in FCT lacks teachers. More than half of those teaching are in the employ of the Parent-Teacher-Association (PTA), passing a huge burden to parents and guardians.

To be able to pay the PTA Teachers, as they called, school heads come up with different levies for parents to pay. A parent in FCT may pay a PTA levy of N3,500 or N5000 and other levies besides other numerous demands from the school authorities.

A parent must buy detergent, disinfectant, electric bulbs, brooms every term, apart from paying for feeding of children in the boarding house.

A parent who declined to be named lamented that the problem in public schools in FCT is not limited to shortage of teachers. School facilities like classrooms, furniture, audio-visual aids are grossly inadequate. In some communities, children sit under trees to receive instructions. The children are highly vulnerable to the elements.

“Where classrooms are available, they are dilapidated. These problems cut across both urban and rural schools. Different FCT ministers gave contracts for projects that were not executed or uncompleted.

“Go to the Kubwa, Nyanya, Bwari, Kwali, Abaji, you’ll see the same problem of old and outdated structures. For a long time, the FCT administration has ignored its schools. We are tired of paying levies,” he stated.

Recently, the administration began renovation of school structures. Parents are optimistic that the FCT Minister, Nyesom Wike will equally give serious consideration to the problem of inadequate teachers in the classroom.

“Without delay, he should tackle this thing about teachers massively leaving classrooms to become quality controllers whereas there is nothing to control. If there are no teachers in the classroom, what can they control?” said a school teacher.

As another May Day approaches, the government is expected to review labour policies and make amends where need be. The Harmonised Retirement Age for Teachers in Nigeria Act is one of such.

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Why I Quit PDP, Says Former Imo Governor, Ihedioha

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By David Torough, Abuja

Former Imo State governor and ex-Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives Emeka Ihedioha yesterday gave reason for his resignation from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Ihedioha announced this in a letter addressed to the Ward Chairman of the party at Mbutu in Aboh Mbaise Local Government Area of the state.

The ex-governor cited the inability of the party to carry out internal reforms as his reason for quitting.

“Since 1998, I have contributed my quota to the development and transformation of the PDP as one of the founding members.

“All these years, I have taken pride in the fact that the PDP is a party that will always look inward for internal reforms and provide credible leadership for the people, whether in power or outside power.

“I have had the benefit of serving and benefiting from the party at various levels.

“Regrettably, in recent times, the party has been on a path that is at variance with my personal belief,” he said.

Ihedioha added, “In spite of my attempt to offer counsel, the party is, sadly, no longer able to carry out internal reforms, enforce its own rules or offer credible opposition to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

“It is in the light of the foregoing that I am compelled to offer my resignation from the PDP effective immediately.”

He said although quitting the party was a difficult decision, he believed that it was the right thing to do.

“In spite of this resignation, I will always be available to offer my services towards the deepening of democracy and good governance in Nigeria,” he said.

Ihedioha, who served as the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives also served as Imo governor from May 29, 2019 to Jan. 14, 2020.Emeka Ihedioha’s tenure as governor was cut short by a Supreme Court judgment in favour of Sen. Hope Uzodimma of the APC.

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