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N33bn IDP Fund: Presidency’s Plot To Cover Up Fraud Exposed … Senate May Probe Osinbajo, NEMA DG

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Indications emerged yesterday that the presidency had queried the embattled and indicted Director General of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Mustpha Maihaja, over fraud, corruption and embezzlement of billions of Naira illegally expended by the agency last year.
However, the query and the report of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offenses Commission (ICPC) were not made public as some powerful forces within the presidency covered it up ostensibly to protect Maihaja.
Similarly, the Department of State Services (DSS) did investigate Maihaja over same allegations and indicted him of fraud and misappropriation during the tenure of the disgraced former Director General Lawal Daura.
But some influential persons intervened and Daura was said to have allegedly “reached a deal” with Maihaja and only asked him to refund the monies he collected as travel allowances for official trips he didn’t embark on.
The query letter dated January 15, 2018, with reference number SH/OVP/DCOS/LG&R/NEMA/367 was addressed to Maihaja and signed by Ade Ipaye, Deputy Chief it Staff to the President, office of the Vice President.
The House of Representatives had adopted the report of its Committee on Emergency and Disaster Preparedness chaired by Hon Ali Isa J. C, had indicted Maihaja for fraud, diversion and embezzlement of N33 billion.
Documents show that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo acting on a directive from President Muhammadu Buhari directed that Maihaja be issued the query following a petition over several fraud allegations against the DG, by one Abba Kyari Modu Gana in a petition dated 11 November, 2017.
Gana, in the petition reportedly copied the Presidency, especially office of the Vice President, who doubles as the Chairman, Governing Council of NEMA, the nation’s anti-graft agencies, leadership of the two houses of of the National Assembly and others, made allegations of fraudulent practices against the NEMA DG.
Gana said prior to Maihaja in April 2017, activities of NEMA were on smooth sail, but on his assumption as DG of the agency, he grounded the Mobile Ambulance Intensive Care Unit of the body, the emergency response vehicles, as well as the Air Ambulance and the Helicopter, which cost the nation about $100 million to put in place
“Upon resumption, he (Maihaja) ground the Mobile Intensive Care Unit, Emergency Response Vehicles, Air Ambulance and the Helicopters that cost the Federal Government about $100 million tax payers money to acquire, Anne dire 1 is a letter written to the Agency by the NCAA”,
On the 2017 devastating floods that affected 16 states of the federation, the petitioner alleged that upon the directive for the immediate release of N1.6 billion for the supply of relief support for victims, he said “these might interest you that no item was procured and delivered to the states” affected by flood.
“The DG awarded a contract of N2.4 billion without following due process even though it’s strictly above his approval limit and that of the Chairman governing council of the agency.
“Annexure II are copies of draft letters written to the Federal Executive Council and the BPP seeking certificate of no objection after an award letter was issued to the supplying company. Even though they are just draft documents, the DG went ahead to pay the company the sum of Three Hundred and Sixty Million (N360,000,000) and another sum of Nine Hundred and Nineteen Million (N919,000,000) with just invoices.
“He has been involved in the illegal approval of contracts that are constitutionally and according to the Agency’s Act exceeds his approval limit and that of the Chairman of the governing council.
“The contract award letters signed by the acting director Department of Relief Services and Rehabilitation, a department that happens to be the consuming department of the items, annexure iii is the approval threshold of the Director General, annexure IV is a copy of NEMA Act, annexure v are copies of the contract award letters, payment vouchers and others illegal documents used for payment.
“The NEMA Abuja operations office was located at Wuye District before his resumption in office, on the expiration of the rent, the DG (Maihaja) said the amount paid (N7,000,000) seven million for two years was on the high side so he relocated the office to his brother’s house at Wuse Zone 2, Mombolo street at the cost of N16,758,000 (Sixteen Million Seven Hundred & Fifty Eight Thousand Naira)for the same period of two years.”
“He (Maihaja) travelled to the United Kingdom for training in Bournemouth with all his travel entitlements paid for two weeks but he only spent five days and bought an apple ipad, upon return to the country he pulled out the amount from the agency’s account, see annexure vi).”
“He was scheduled to travel to Mexico for two weeks but he did not embark on the trip and he did not make refunds.
“He was scheduled for trip to Canada for two weeks, he collected the travel entitlement and spent two days, see his international passport for further details”.
Meanwhile, the Senate says it may set up an ad-hoc committee, on resumption from its one-week recess, to probe the alleged mismanagement of N33bn currently rocking the Presidential Intervention Programme for the North-East.
The Vice-Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Ben Murray-Bruce, told newsmen that the upper legislative chamber would commence the probe as soon as the House of Representatives ad-hoc committee concluded its own investigation.
Already, the House of Representatives ad-hoc committee, probing the alleged scam, had said Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, in his capacity as the chairman of the programme, and the Director-General of the National Emergency Management Agency, Mr Mustapha Maihaja, were culpable.
The Senate spokesman spoke just as NEMA stated that the probe by the House into the N5.8bn Presidential intervention funds, approved by the vice president for the North-East, was shocking and should not be directed at NEMA alone.
The Chairman of the Reps panel, Mr Ali Isa (APC, Gombe), had told journalists last Tuesday that Osinbajo, as chairman of the programme, issued directives leading to the release of the funds, while the NEMA DG supervised the execution of the directives.
The Reps panel also specifically indicted Osinbajo for allegedly approving N5.8bn North-East Intervention Fund, which it claimed was illegal.
Osinbajo had dismissed the allegation, stating that the government was obliged to make an emergency response to the humanitarian crisis in the geopolitical zone.
The senate spokesman, in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents in Abuja, said the Senate would carry out an independent investigation into the issue considering the weight of the allegations.
Murray-Bruce said, “It is very likely that the Senate will institute a probe into the issue but you will get the details on Tuesday. We will allow the Reps committee to finish its probe before we start our own.
“The allegations against those in charge of the programme (Osinbajo and Maihaja) are very serious and we will not allow it to go like that. We will take the decision on Tuesday.”
But a senior official of NEMA, in an interview with newsmen, stated that all necessary documents detailing how the funds NEMA got were spent had been submitted to the lawmakers.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the procurement process for some of the intervention programmes started from the Federal Ministry of Budget and National Planning and not from NEMA.
Asked why NEMA failed to follow due process, as alleged by the lawmakers, the official replied, “Do you believe them? The procurement process did not start from NEMA; it started from the Ministry of Budget and National Planning. All that was given to NEMA was money for the distribution of the relief materials. Aside from that money, no other funds came to NEMA. So, some of the questions should be channelled to that ministry.
“Our role at NEMA is just the distribution and this is going on in the North-East.”
The agency, in a document made available to newsmen in Abuja on Friday, stated that it was “astonished to hear some of the findings and conclusions presented by the House ad-hoc committee on the issue, which did not reflect the facts and documents placed before it by NEMA.”
Reacting to some of the issues of port clearance and transportation of emergency food assistance donated by the Chinese government, NEMA stated that the Federal Government received a total of 6,779 metric tonnes of rice for the IDP in the North-East as donation from China.
“This amounted to 271 containers, which arrived at Apapa ports between June and October 2017. The correct total value of the rice is N2.25bn and the amount spent on demurrage and storage was about N450m, not N800m, as alleged by the committee,” it stated.
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party has urged Osinbajo to seek forgiveness over the alleged intervention fund scandal even as it asked the VP to make refund to the government.
National Publicity Secretary, PDP, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement on Saturday, said the alleged indictment of Osinbajo in the matter by the House of Representatives was sad, given the VP’s perceived transparent and pious posture.
He said, “The Peoples Democratic Party says Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, as a preacher, should search his soul, seek forgiveness and make restitution for entangling himself in corruption and sharp practices instead of his lame effort at concealment in the N5.8bn North-East Intervention Fund scandal.
“It is heartrending that Osinbajo, despite his sanctimonious posturing, is being fingered in the frittering of the N5.8bn meant for the purchase of food and the general welfare of the suffering Internally Displaced Persons in the North-East.”

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RSG, Not FIRS, Entitled To Collect VAT, Related Taxes In Rivers -Court

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The Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt has declared that it is the Rivers State Government, not the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS), should collect Valued Added Tax (VAT) and Personal Income Tax (PIT) in the state.
The court, presided over by Justice Stephen Dalyop Pam, also issued an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Federal Inland Revenue Service and the Attorney General of the Federation, both first and second defendants in the suit, from collecting, demanding, threatening and intimidating residents of Rivers State to pay to FIRS, PIT and VAT.
Pam made the assertion while delivering judgement in Suit No. FHC/PH/CS/149/2020, filed by the Attorney General for Rivers State (plaintiff), against the Federal Inland Revenue Service (first defendant) and the Attorney General of the Federation (second defendant).
The court, which granted all the 11 reliefs sought by the Rivers State Government, stated that there was no constitutional basis for the FIRS to demand for and collect VAT, Withholding Tax (WHT), Education Tax and Technology Levy in Rivers State or any other state of the federation, being that the constitutional powers and competence of the Federal Government was limited to taxation of incomes, profits and capital gains, which do not include VAT or any other species of sales, or levy other than those specifically mentioned in Items 58 and 59 of the Exclusive Legislative List of the Constitution.
The judge dismissed the preliminary objections filed by the defendants that the court lacks jurisdiction to hear the suit and that the case should be transferred to Court of Appeal for interpretation.
Pam, who also dismissed objection raised by the defendants that the National Assembly ought to have been made a party in the suit, declared that the issues of taxes raised by the state government were issues of law that the court was constitutionally empowered to entertain.
He declared that after a diligent review of the issues raised by bothplaintiff and the defendants, the plaintiff had proven beyond doubt that it was entitled to all the 11 reliefs sought in the suit.
The court agreed with the Rivers State Government that it was the state and not FIRS that was constitutionally entitled to impose taxes enforceable or collectable in its territory of the nature of consumption or sales tax, VAT, education and other taxes or levies, other than the taxes and duties specifically reserved for the Federal Government by Items 58 and 59 of Part 1 of the Second Schedule of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
Also, the court declared that the defendants were not constitutionally entitled to charge or impose levies, charges or rates (under any guise or by whatever name called) on the residents of Rivers State, and indeed, any state of the federation.
Among the reliefs sought by the Rivers State Government, was a declaration that the constitutional power of the Federal Government to impose taxes and duties was only limited to the items listed in Items 58 and 59 of Part 1 of the Second Schedule of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
The Rivers State Government had also urged the court to declare that, by virtue of the provisions of Items 7 and 8 of the Part II (Concurrent Legislative List) of the Second Schedule of the Constitution, the power of the Federal Government to delegate the collection of taxes can only be exercised by the state government or other authority of the state, and no other person.
The state government had further asked the court to declare that all statutory provisions made or purportedly made in the exercise of the legislative powers of the Federal Government, which contains provisions which are inconsistent with or in excess of the powers to impose tax and duties, as prescribed by Items 58 and 59 of the Part I of the Second Schedule of the 1999 Constitution, or inconsistent with the power to delegate the duty of collection of taxes, as contained in Items 7 and 8 of Part II of the Second Schedule of the Constitution, were unconstitutional, null and void.
Lead counsel for the Rivers State Government, Donald Chika Denwigwe (SAN), who spoke to journalists after the court session, explained that the case was all about the interpretation of the Constitution as regards the authority of the government at the state and federal levels to collect certain revenues, particularly, VAT.
“So, during the determination of the matter, some issues of law were thrown up like, whether or not the case should be referred to the Court of Appeal for the determination of some issues.
“The court noted that the application is like asking the Federal High Court to transfer the entire case to the Court of Appeal. In which case, if the court so decides, there will be nothing left to refer back to the Federal High Court as required by the Constitution.”
According to Denwigwe, the court refused that prayer, and decided that the case was in its proper place before the Federal High Court, and was, therefore, competent to determine it.
Speaking on the implications of the judgement, Denwigwe said it was now, unlawful for such taxes as VAT in Rivers State to be collected by any agency of the Federal Government.
“In a summary, it is a determination that it is wrong for the Federal Government to be collecting taxes which are constitutionally reserved for the state governments to collect. The implication of the judgement is that the government (federal and state) as an authority under the constitution,should be advised by the judgement that it is the duty of all government authorities to comply with and obey the law so long as the court has interpreted it and said what that law is.
“So, in other words, the issue of Value Added Tax (VAT) in the territory of Rivers State and Personal Income Tax should be reserved for the government of Rivers State.”
Counsel to FIRS, O.C. Eyibo said he will study the judgment and advise his client.

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90% Of Money Laundered Via Real Estate, EFCC Reveals

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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.”

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We’ve Spent N9bn To Upgrade RSUTH, Wike Confirms

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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.

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