The Senate has mandated its committees on public accounts and gas to investigate the alleged $784,265,947.54 fraud and other activities of Brass Liquefied Natural Gas (BLNG), including an illegal account in the name of the Federal Government.
Drawing the attention of senators to the issue, last Wednesday, Dino Melaye (Kogi-APC) accused the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) of operating a fraudulent account in the name of the government.
Presenting a motion titled “Monumental Corruption at the NNPC”, Melaye noted that the Brass LNG was incorporated by the Corporate Affairs Commission on December 9, 2003, and limited by shares of $1million.
He said: “The Senate observes that the shareholders of this company are: the Federal Government (NNPC) represented by Mr Funsho Kupolokun with $490, 000 shares, Philip Brass Limited whose address is in Cayman Island, British West Indies represented by Mr R.L. Smith with a share capital of $170, 000, Eni International B.V. with address in Amsterdam, Netherlands represented by Mr A. Forzoli with share of S170, 000, while the fourth shareholder – Chevron Texaco Brass LNG Limited with address in Bermuda is represented by Mr J.R. Pryor with a share of $170, 000.”
Melaye said the board of directors of the company was composed of foreigners and five Nigerians, all NNPC staff or ex-staff members.
He listed them to include former Group Managing Directors of NNPC, Gauis Obaseki-Jackson and Yakubu Andrew; Ibogomo Gbeyansa, Dawa Joseph Thlama, Ige David, and Buba Mohamman, all staff of NNPC.
Melaye added: “The Senate observes that from the Memorandum of Understanding, Brass LNG is supposed to be a Joint Venture Company with NNPC having the controlling shares and their account domiciled with the CBN.
“The Senate is surprised that the account of this company is with Keystone Bank opened on August 1, 2012, with account number 1005825168; a USA domiciliary account with a closing balance of $137, 086, 462:54 currently, while $648, 179, 487 was recorded as the account’s last inflow on September 19, 2016, and a withdrawal of $4million was effected on the 18th November, 2016, without BVN.”
He stated that there was an urgent need to define the position of the company, its operation, management and mandate in order to halt the seeming corruption.
The Senate in its resolution mandated its committees on public accounts and gas to carry out a ‘holistic investigation into the activities of the Brass LNG and the complicity therein as well as the level of corruption that has taken place, and report back within four weeks.’
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the House of Representatives Ad-Hoc Committee on the Treasury Single Account (TSA), Abubakar Danburam Nuhu has indicted the Federal Government for poor ownership and implementation of the TSA policy, even though it is frequently highlighted by the Presidency as one of its greatest achievements.
He said that the TSA lacks a coordinated office in charge of its implementation and monitoring.
“Issues are being raised by so many people and they do not have answers to them. Who should be responsible for implementation and monitoring?” he asks.
Nuhu, therefore, called for the establishment of a TSA agency to be headed by a director.
He made this point, yesterday, as a guest on Channels Television Business Morning Show, where he was joined by an Economic Analyst from Proshare Nigeria, Babalola Tope, to discuss some of the unfinished businesses surrounding the TSA policy.
The lawmaker said although TSA has been of great benefit to the government, curtailing corruption, blocking leakages and cutting off arbitrary charges previously collected by commercial banks, “The unfortunate thing with the TSA is that there are so many issues that are lingering and affecting the smooth implementation of the account.
“My committee has been doing a lot of work in terms of trying to investigate the TSA for quite some time now but the challenges that are there need to be resolved.”
Stating some of the challenges, he said “For the last two years, the TSA has not been audited and when we called the Auditor General (AuGF), it seems that he has not been part of the TSA implementation. He had to confess to us that there hasn’t been any audit in the last two years.
“Also, there has been no reconciliation between the office of the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).”
Nuhu also revealed that the foreign currency component of the TSA has yet to be activated for unknown reasons.
“Therefore no one knows exactly how Federal Government funds collected in the Diaspora are administered.
“This means all accounts which are foreign denominated are not yet part of the TSA. They are still sitting in banks, which are probably out of the country or even in Nigeria,” he emphasised.
As at March, 2017, the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, had revealed that the TSA has processed over N7trillion.
It was also revealed that over 20,000 commercial bank accounts where government revenue where previously stashed had been closed, saving the government about N4.7billion monthly in bank charges.
Although the TSA policy was partially implemented during the Dr Goodluck Jonathan era, the current administration led by President Muhammadu Buhari holds it up as its biggest economic reform strategy.
However, details emerging clearly show that the policy faces serious risks bothering on non-compliance by some agencies and failure to consolidate the policy – giving it a proper legislative backing such that its sustainability beyond the current administration is guaranteed.
Also, it was revealed that the service providers who are responsible for facilitating payments into the Treasury Single Account are being owed by the government.
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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