The former Governor of Rivers State, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, Chairman of Sahara Energy Resources, Tonye Cole, ex-military administrator, Brigadier Anthony Ukpo (rtd) and six former commissioners for Health, Power, Transport, Commerce, Finance and Agriculture, are to face prosecution for the sales and buying of state-owned assets, a White Paper on the Justice George Omeregi Commission report has recommended.
The White Paper on the panel report released over the weekend by the State Executive Council after a meeting on Thursday, directed the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Emmanuel Aguma, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) to immediately commence judicial process of recovering the assets.
Briefing newsmen on the details of the report, Commissioner for Housing, Barrister Emma Okah, stated that the sales of the 70 per cent equity share of the four gas power turbines at Omoku, Eleme, Trans-Amadi and Afam, totalling 621 megawatts at the cost of $800,000 per unit to Sahara NG HPS Limited was unjustifiable and against the interest of the state.
It also said the transaction was not transparent as NG Power HPS Ltd was yet to pay an outstanding balance of $28.4 million, after it acquired the power plants below market price of $432 million, even though actual balance was $146.5 million.
On the sale of Olympia Hotel, the report also picked holes in the concessioning agreement leasing the property for 40 years to one Centro Sarotem Hotel Limited for a fee of $1miilion equivalent to about N55.7million. While the actual sum of $2.4 million was to be paid, the cumulative concession value of the property and land was put at $3.450 million.
In the words of Okah, “the commission called for the review of the concession agreement covering the value of land, deduction of concession and for non-employment of Rivers State indigenes”.
Okah revealed that the commission further uncovered an illegal account opened by the Ministry of Commerce where about $155.7 million from the hotel concession was lodged.
“The account was opened by the ministry without the requisite authorization of the Accountant–General of the State,”Okah stated.
On the Monorail Project, the white paper indicted former military administrator of old Rivers State, Brigadier Anthony Ukpo, whose company, TSI Ltd had entered into a partnership agreement with Rivers State Government on the project.
While the state government was to contribute 20 per cent and TSI 80 per cent, yet the private partner never contributed as the state invested over N35 billion, which N11 billion was paid to Rivers State Monorail Company Limited managed by TSI Ltd.
The white paper called for the recovery of the fund from the company, Amaechi and former Transport Commissioner, George Tolofari, who were the masterminds of the failed project, as it frowned at the huge sum paid to Argus Gibbs a consultancy firm on the project at the tune of N696million since it contravened Section 52 of the State Procurement Law No4 of 2008.
The White Paper also directed the Attorney–General and Commissioner for Justice to commence legal proceedings to recover funds meant for the planned Adolphus Karibi Whyte Mega Hospital which never saw the light of the day.
The hospital initially conceived under private partnership deal shared funding between the state and one Clinotech Ltd 40 to 60 per cent.
While the state government contributed its own funding of $39 million, Clinotech failed in its obligation.
As if that was not enough, the report revealed that the state government went further to release a new Clinotech Turnkey project to the tune of N150 million as mobilization fee.
“The commission found that Clinotech Turnkey Management Ltd got N200 million paid in excess with nothing to show”, the report further revealed.
The report picked holes in the disbursement of the N2billion agric loan. The panel found that in June 2014 the past administration had accessed the loan from the Central Bank with plans to disburse to qualified agric cooperatives societies, but rather than do so, it gave the loans to politicians and cronies.
“About 282 cooperatives societies were hurriedly registered in 2014, while 38 were never registered at all,” according to the report.
The commission also found that the various local government chairmen were made managers of the fund, and therefore, called on former Governor Amaechi, the Agric Commissioner and those who disbursed the fund against the loan guidelines to be prosecuted and made to refund the monies.
On the State Reserve Fund, the panel found that over N38billion was saved in the account set up in 2008.
The fund grew to about N55billion in 2014 through investments. But in March 2014, the Rivers State House of Assembly passed a bill to remove the emergency clause to withdraw monies from the fund.
The amendment gave room for the withdrawal of N53billion between February 2014 to March 2015.
According to the panel, “the attempt by Governor Amaechi to withdraw the last N1.2 billion was prevented by some government institutions.”
The White Paper recommended that the ex-governor and principal officers of the House be prosecuted, while the former Secretary to the State Government be made to refund sum of N400million withdrawn in March and another N170 million withdrawn on 25th March.
The report also directed the owner of Orosi House to be made to account for about N300million for the lease of the property in 2012, even after the building had been gutted by fire some years before.
Minister Blames Judiciary For Prisons’ Congestion
The Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, has blamed the congestion in Nigeria’s correctional facilities on the country’s Judiciary, explaining that the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCOS) was not allowed by law to reject inmates sentenced to correctional centres or to release them.
Aregbesola, represented by Special Adviser on Nigerian Correctional Service, Suleiman Tala, stated this while delivering a paper at a policy advocacy conference entitled, “Decongestion of Correctional Centres: Status Quo”, organised as part of the 60th-anniversary celebration of the Order of The Knights of St Mulumba, Nigeria, Lagos Metropolitan Council, which was held in Lagos, adding that the primary responsibility of NCOS is to hold offenders pending the adjudication of their cases before a law court.
“It is important for the public to be aware that the NCOS and the Ministry of Interior are trying their best to tackle the issue from different angles as the length of time the inmates stay at the custodian centre is not determined by NCOS but by the justice system. I may not be able to reiterate exactly what the challenges are with the judiciary, however, as it affects the NCOS we are doing all we can not to compromise the traditional responsibility of the NCOS,” he stated.
Representing the Inspector General of Police, Baba Usman, Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, accepted that the police contribute to the congestion but gave his reasons.
“Inconsistence of the appearance of police officers to give evidence at trials has been identified as one of the alleged causes of prolonging trial but the IGP has mandated officers must attend court cases as at when due. The police are being hampered by a high level of distrust between the citizens and their police institution,” he stated.
Also at the conference, Lagos State Catholic Archbishop, Alfred Adewale Martins, who was represented by Rev. Paschal Uwaezeapu, stated that decongestion of the prisons would continue to be a matter as long as the government has refused to fix the country.
“The prison would continue to be congested if we don’t fix the society. As long as our society is a place where everybody takes for himself without considering the neighbour then our prison would continue to be congested. If we need to fix the prison we need to fix the family. These prisoners come from a family. We need to fix the education system also. We need to promote justice, without all these, the prison will soon overflow,” he stated.
Meanwhile, the Lagos Metropolitan Grand Knight, KSM William Adebisi, urged the government to declare a state of emergency on the congestion of prisons.
“The government needs to take the matter seriously as it affects the health of the inmates, economy of the company and behavioural change of the inmates,” he stated.
FG Seeks $3bn With Eurobond Offer
The Federal Government has announced plans for a Eurobond issuance in the International Capital Market (ICM) to raise $3billion.
The Debt Management Office (DMO) said, yesterday, that Virtual meetings with investors have been scheduled for today, and September 20, 2021.
It said, “In order to avail local investors the opportunity to invest in the Eurobonds, meetings will also be held with local investors.
“This is the first time local investors will be included in the Roadshows, and this is one of the reasons why a Nigerian Bookrunner (Chapel Hill Denham Advisory Services Ltd) was appointed as one of the Transaction Advisers.
“Through the Eurobond issuance, Nigeria is expected to raise up to $3billion but no more than $6.2billion.”
According to the DMO, the issuance for which all statutory approvals have been received, would be to implement the New External Borrowing in the 2021 Appropriation Act and that “Proceeds are for the financing of various projects in the Act.”
The agency gave further insight, saying, “In addition to providing funding to part-finance the deficit in the 2021 Appropriation Act, the issuance of Eurobonds by Nigeria benefits the country in many other strategic ways; amongst which are: 1. It is an inflow of foreign exchange, leading to an increase in External Reserves.
“External Reserves help support the Naira Exchange Rate, and Nigeria’s sovereign rating.
“When Nigeria raises funds externally, through Eurobonds, it frees up space in the domestic market for private sector and sub-national borrowers. In effect, it helps the sovereign not to crowd out other borrowers in the domestic market.
“The issuance of Eurobonds by Nigeria has opened up opportunities for Nigeria’s corporate sector notably banks, to issue Eurobonds to raise capital in the ICM.
“By so doing, their capital base has been strengthened to provide banking services whilst also meeting regulatory requirements. Nigeria has a sovereign yield curve in the ICM, extending up to 30 years.
“The local listing of Nigeria’s Eurobonds on the Nigerian Exchange Ltd. and the FMDQ Securities Exchange Ltd., have increased the range of products on these two (2) exchanges and their respective market capitalization.
“Overall, Eurobond issuances by Nigeria and the investor meetings that precede the pricing have provided a strong global platform for Nigeria to tell its own story and opportunities available in Nigeria for investors.”
The Transaction Advisers appointed by Nigeria for the issuance were: International Bookrunners – JP Morgan, Citigroup Global Markets Limited; Joint Lead Managers -Standard Chartered Bank and Goldman Sachs; Nigerian Bookrunner – Chapel Hill Denham Advisory Services Ltd; Financial Adviser – FSDH Merchant Bank Ltd; while White & Case LLP, was appointed International Legal Adviser; and Banwo&Ighodalo would serve as Nigerian Legal Adviser.
The last time Nigeria accessed the ICM was November 2018.
Insecurity: Put Nigeria First, FG Tells Media
The Federal Government has tasked the media to put Nigeria first in the reportage of the country’s activities, particularly the fight against insecurity.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, made the call in Abuja during the ceremony of the renaming of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Headquarters Building after the former Managing Director and Board Chairman of NAN, late Wada Maida.
Mohammed said it may seem obvious and trite, but for any professional, including a journalist in Nigeria to be able to carry out his or her responsibility at all, the nation must first exist, in peace.
“In other words, if the country goes down, all professionals and everybody go down. It is that stark, and this is why I want to use this platform to appeal to our media to put Nigeria first”, Mohammed said.
Speaking further, the minister said if one picked up most newspapers, watched most television stations or listened to most radio stations in the country, one will be right to think Nigeria is a country at war.
While acknowledging that there were challenges in the country, especially in the area of security, Mohammed, however, said the Buhari administration had not only acknowledged the challenges, it is earnestly tackling the challenges.
“A good example is the decisive manner in which our gallant troops are tackling the banditry in the North-West or the way they are combating the terrorists in the North-East. Our security agencies have also successfully tackled the separatists in the South-East and South-West and the militants in the South-South. Unfortunately, these efforts have only been perfunctorily reflected in the reportage of the security challenges that we face. This is not only unfair, especially to those who are sacrificing their lives to keep us safe, it is unpatriotic.
“To illustrate the damage this non-acknowledgement of the efforts of the security agencies pose to the country, let me tell you what transpired when I recently hosted some members of the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO) UK Chapter, who visited me in my office here in Abuja. They said some of their colleagues who would have come to Nigeria for their programme tagged,‘A Week in and For Nigeria’ during the month of July, did not come out of fear of the security situation in Nigeria. However, those who made the trip said they travelled to their hometowns across the country and returned to Abuja safely. If Nigerians in the diaspora can be afraid to come to their country, imagine how foreigners, including investors and tourists, will feel about coming to the country.
“Whatever image problem Nigeria is suffering from today is mostly due to the unflattering portrayal of the country by the country’s media.
“Even when some media organisations report fake news, they never have the decency to retract such stories and apologise. They simply move on as if nothing has happened.
“We are not saying the media should not report on the security challenges we face. All we are saying is: Be fair and report accurately the efforts being made by the state and federal governments to tackle the challenges. Even if you don’t want to encourage the men and women in uniform fighting to keep us safe, please don’t discourage them with negative reporting. The security challenges we face today will be successfully tackled and Nigeria will not cease to exist, despite the antics of naysayers”, Mohammed added.
Mohammed congratulated the family, friends and associates of the late Maida for the great and much-deserved honour done to him.
He commended the management and staff of the NAN for coming up with the idea to immortalise the late Maida.
“The Federal Government’s decision to approve the proposal was not difficult, upon realising the role played by Alhaji Wada in making NAN the respectable agency that it is today. A man who was everything from Zonal Editor to Foreign Correspondent to Editor-in-Chief to Managing Director to Board Chairman, a man who built this glistening NAN headquarters edifice deserves to be immortalised by the organisation he served so well in his lifetime”, Mohammed stated.
Mohammed prayed that God will continue to comfort and strengthen the family of Maida, even as he prayed that the soul of the departed continues to rest in peace.
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