The Federal Government yesterday pleaded with the 36 state governors for out of court settlement in a lawsuit instituted by them, challenging the legality of the Excess Crude Account and the decision to transfer $1billion from the account to the Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWF).
Yesterday’s request contradicted the Federal Government’s earlier stance on the matter.
The Supreme Court panel headed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Dahiru Musdapher, could not hide its anger at the inconsistent positions of the Federal Government in the case three years after it started.
It would be recalled that the Federal Government had earlier admitted that it had been handling the Federation Account since 2004 in breach of Section 162 of the Constitution and that the Excess Crude Account was illegal.
The government had also posited that there was no need to litigate on issues of law that were clear and unambiguous, stressing that out of court settlement was the best option.
The position triggered a long discussion only for the Federal Government to later turn around and insisted on going ahead with the trial of the case.
A long list of time-bound political cases had halted hearing in the case.
Justice Musdapher had convoked a fresh panel headed by him to look at the merit of the suit.
But as soon as the apex court decided to go into the matter, the Federal Government came with a fresh application for more time to settle out of court.
But the states, which were poised for a showdown, accused the Federal Government of insincerity in its promise to settle out of court.
Counsel to the states, Yusuf Alli, SAN, said that his clients wanted the issue resolved “once and for all.”
But the counsel to the Federal Government, Austine Alegeh, SAN, pleaded with the court to allow a short adjournment to enable the parties hold further discussion and resolve the dispute amicably.
He said that almost all the issues had been resolved and that outstanding ones could still be resolved out of court by the parties.
Although Justice Musdapher was reluctant to grant an adjournment, he conceded to the request.
The CJN expressed concern at the inability of both parties to reach a compromise even as he rhetorically asked, “if states and the Federal Government are not ready to uphold the sanctity of the constitution, who else will?”
He consequently adjourned the case to May 21, 2012 for the parties to report back to the court how far they had gone with the out of court settlement arrangement.
Governors of the 36 states had gone to court to seek an order compelling the Federal Government to pay into the Federation Account N5.51trn being the balance of the money that accrued to the central purse between 2004 and 2007 from the proceeds of crude oil sales, petroleum profits tax and oil royalties.
The Federal Government had classified such earnings as “excess crude proceeds” and “excess PPT and royalties”, which were paid into an account, termed the “Excess Crude Account.”
The governors also asked the court to order the Federal Government to transfer to the Federation Account all sums standing to the credit of the Excess Crude Account.
However, in a counter affidavit filed last week on behalf of the Federal Government by the law firm of Alegeh and Co., it said efforts to find a common ground did not succeed.
In an affidavit deposed to by a lawyer in the firm, Mr. Uchena Njoku, he said: “I know as a fact that subsequent to the institution of the substantive case, the parties explored the possibility of an amicable settlement of the issues discernible in the case and mutually sought several adjournments of the case to enable them to conclude the settlement option and report same to the court.
“That when it became clear the plaintiffs/applicants were not amenable to the settlement options, discussions in this regard were called off and parties accordingly informed the court.”
The Federal Government also accused the states of mischief because they took part in the deliberation of the National Economic Council where the decision to transfer the $1billion from the Excess Crude Account to the SWF was taken.
It added that the states had also been receiving their shares from the money and accused them of insincerity.
In response, the states insisted that they had shared only the legitimate funds deposited in the Federation Account and not from the funds illegally deposited in the Excess Crude Account.
While asking the Supreme Court to refuse the application by the states to stop the transfer of the $1billion to the SWF, the Federal Government’s counsel said his client would run into problem if the application was granted.
He said the day-to-day running of the nation’s economy would be put in danger if the application was granted.
The governors, through their lawyer, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, had applied to the Supreme Court to restrain the Federal Government from making any withdrawals from the account pending the hearing and determination of the suit filed in 2008.
90% Of Money Laundered Via Real Estate, EFCC Reveals
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) says about 90 per cent of money laundering is done through the real estate sector.
The commission’s Chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa, stated this while featuring on Channels TV’s Sunrise Daily, yesterday,
According to him, although the sector is monitored via the special control unit, more needed to be done.
According to Bawa, “One of the problems we have now is the real estate. 90 to 100 per cent of the resources are being laundered through the real estate.”
He said there are so many issues involved, but that they were working with the National Assembly to stop what he called “the gate keepers” as there would be reduction in looting if there is no one to launder the money.
Bawa, the EFCC boss, gave an example of a minister who expressed interest in a $37.5million property a bank manager put up for sale.
He said, “The bank sent a vehicle to her house and in the first instance $20million was evacuated from her house.
“They paid a developer and a lawyer set up a special purpose vehicle, where the title documents were transferred into.
“And he (the lawyer) is posing as the owner of the property. You see the problem. This is just one of many; it is happening daily.”
The EFCC chairman also revealed that he receives death threats often.
Asked to respond to President Muhammadu Buhari’s frequent “Corruption is fighting back” expression, Bawa said he was in New York, USA, last week, when someone called to threaten him.
“Last week, I was in New York when a senior citizen received a phone call from somebody that is not even under investigation.
“The young man said, ‘I am going to kill him (Bawa), I am going to kill him’.
“I get death threats. So, it is real. Corruption can fight back,” he said.
On corruption in the civil service, he said there were a lot of gaps, especially in contracts processing, naming “emergency contracts” as one.
Bawa said, “A particular agency is notorious for that. They have turned all their contracts to emergency contracts.”
However, he said, EFCC has strategies in place to check corruptions, one of which is “corruption risk assessments of MDAs”.
According to him, “I have written to the minister and would soon commence the process of corruption risk assessments of all the parastatals and agencies under the Ministry of Petroleum Resources to look at their vulnerability to fraud and advise them accordingly.”
Asked if the scope of corruption in the country overwhelms him, Bawa, the EFCC boss said, “Yes, and no.”
We’ve Spent N9bn To Upgrade RSUTH, Wike Confirms
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, says his administration has spent N9billion in upgrading structures and installation of new equipment at the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital (RSUTH).
He said the fact that 40 per cent of the 2021 budget of the state is dedicated to provision of quality healthcare delivery was a further demonstration of the priority placed on the sector.
Wike made the explanation at the foundation laying ceremony for the construction of a Renal Centre at RSUTH, last Friday.
The governor said he made promise to Rivers people that the best would be provided to them in all sectors of the society within his capability because of the mandate they gave to him.
“As we came on here, I just looked around and I see the changes in this teaching hospital. I can say that we have put not less than N9billion in this teaching hospital.
“If you look at the budget, the health sector alone, what it’s taking from the Rivers State Government is not less than 40 percent of the 2021 budget.”
Speaking further, Wike said the state government cannot afford to implement free medical service programme in the present economic circumstance.
While dismissing the request for a subvention for RSUTH, Wike, however, commended the chief medical director and his team for their commitment to turnaround the fortunes of RSUTH.
“I have never seen anywhere that health services can be totally free. They’re telling me that people who come here can’t pay. I have never declared that this state is going to take over the health fees of anybody.”
Also speaking, the former Minister of Transport, Dr. Abiye Sekibo, who performed the flag-off, noted that Wike’s achievements in the health sector in particular, surpass what former governors of the state had done.
Sekibo said that the governor has given equal attention to every section of the health sector by providing complete health infrastructure that was positioning the state as a medical tourism destination in Nigeria.
Earlier, the Rivers State Commissioner for Health, Prof Princewill Chike, lauded Governor Nyesom Wike for his interest in the health of Rivers people.
He noted that the renal centre, when completed, would become another landmark development project in the health sector that would handle and manage all kidney-related ailments.
In his remarks, the Chief Medical Director of the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital, Dr. Friday Aaron, commended Wike for approving the renal centre.
Aaron explained that chronic kidney disease was a major burden globally with estimated 14 million cases in Nigeria.
According to him, over 240,000 of these cases require renal replacement therapy in the form of dialysis and renal transplant.
The CMD said the building that would house the centre was expected to be completed in six months and consists of two floors.
The ground floor, according to him, would house the haemodialysis unit with eight haemodialysis machines.
He further explained that the first floor of the centre would house the surgical component where most of the sophisticated equipment for kidney transplant would be installed.
Aaron said Wike has released the funds required to build, equip the centre as well as for the training of personnel locally and internationally.
Power Generation Falls 23% To 3,172MW
Power supply in Nigeria has failed to improve on last week’s performance, as it fell by 22.9 per cent from peak generation of 4,115Megawatts on Saturday to 3,172.20MW as at 5pm, yesterday, latest data from the System Operator has shown.
According to the data, most power plants were operating far below capacity due to gas shortage with Olorunsogo Power Plant 335MW capacity; and Sapele Power Plant, 450MW capacity; completely out.
Egbin was generating at 746MW; Omoku 37.20; Omotosho (NIPP) at 105MW; while Afam was generating at 80MW.
The data showed that on the average power generation in the past seven days were 4,120.9MW on Sunday, June 6; 4,249.4 on Monday, June 7; 4,000.9MW on Tuesday, June 8; 3,720.7 on Wednesday, June 9; 3,517 on Thursday, June 10; 3,765MW on Friday, June 11; and 4,115MW on Saturday, June 12.
The International Oil Companies (IOCs), had last warned that despite Nigeria’s huge gas reserves a lot needs to be done to attract investment to the sector to develop gas reserves to boost power generation in the country.
Speaking at the just concluded Nigeria International Petroleum Summit, the Chair, Shell Companies in Nigeria/MD SPDC, Osagie Okunbor, said with 203trillion Cubic Feet of gas reserves, what was needed in the country is to deliver projects that would produce the gas.
“The challenge is not just growing the reserves but in producing these reserves for the benefits of our country. Essentially growing the reserves and delivering on the production is a function of two or three elements.
“I like to see infrastructure that is required for the development of these resources at two levels. Soft infrastructure is often the one that is more important than and that is the one that is actually drives most of what you see at site.”
“Soft infrastructure refers to the enabling environment and nothing pleases me as much seeing both the Senate President and the speaker of the house give very firm commitments about trying to pass the PIB this month.
“That is probably the big one of the enabling environment to provide the kind of stability we also need all sorts of other issues we need to that we have discussed severally in terms of sanctity of contract, stable policies and collaboration and I think we are well on our way there”, he added.
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