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Missing Oil Money: Finance Minister Puts Pressure On Jonathan; NGF Lends Support For Forensic Audit Of NNPC …Tambuwal Vows To Probe Revenue Losses

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The Finance Minister has released a statement calling for an urgent independent probe of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation.
The statement said,” the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has asked for urgent action with regard to an independent forensic audit of conflicting claims of unaccounted funds made by the NNPC and suspended governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mallan Sanusi Lamido Sanusi.
Dr Okonjo-Iweala added, ‘my position on this has been clear from the start. The ministry of Finance’s reconciliation showed a shortfall of $10.8billion in NNPC remittances to the federation account. After this, the conflicting claims continued with new figures such as $20billion being mentioned.
‘So since 13th February I have called for an independent forensic audit.
President Goodluck indeed announced on last (Monday) night that there will be an investigation into whether there are any funds missing from NNPC.
He also indicated that the correct process needs to be followed in this investigation and I understand that the entity that has the proper authority to initiate such an investigation is the Auditor-General of the  Federation.
“I therefore want to see the truth from an investigation  under the auspices of the Auditor General, which in my view should be undertaken as a matter of extreme urgency by independent external auditor”, the state concluded.
Similarly, the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) yesterday expressed support for the call by the Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and the Senate, for a forensic audit of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) account.
Chairman of the NGF and Governor of Rivers State, Rt Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, said this in a statement shortly after an emergency meeting of the forum, which ended at the early hours of yesterday in Abuja.
The NGF said that an independent forensic audit of the NNPC would put paid to the issue of missing oil revenue from the Federation Account.
Amaechi commended the Federal Government efforts at curbing Boko Haram insurgents in the North.
While condemning the current spate of killings in the North- East, it applauded the effort of the Nigerian military and other security agencies, which were tackling the insurgents.
Amaechi, who read the communiqué to newsmen, called on the Federal Government to be more responsive to the people.
“We expect that the Federal Government should wake up to its responsibility of protecting lives and property in the country, especially in the North-East,” he said.
Amaechi reiterated the forum concern on the non-conveyance of the National Economic Council (NEC) meeting by the Federal Government.
According to him, the NEC meeting has not been held for seven months, this he said, has hindered the constitutional opportunity to discuss the state of the nation’s economy.
He appealed to the judiciary, particularly the Supreme Court, to accelerate hearing on constitutional cases such as the case of the Excess Crude Account and illegal deduction of oil subsidy.
He described the impeachment move against Governor Tanko Al-Makura of Nasarawa, as a renewed assault on constitutional democracy.
The NGF is an umbrella association of the 36 elected state governors of the federation, irrespective of party affiliation.
Sen. Bukola Saraki, a former governor of Kwara, also made a brief appearance at the meeting.
However, the Speaker, House of Representatives, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal, has reiterated the parliament’s resolve to continue on the path of “truth” while addressing issues of revenue losses.
Tambuwal said this yesterday in Abuja at the investigative hearing on the alleged connivance of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) with Swiss oil dealers to rob Nigeria of billions of dollars.
The hearing was organised by the Joint committees on petroleum resources (upstream), petroleum resources (downstream) and Justice.
The Speaker, who was represented by the Chairman, Committee on Justice, Rep. Ali Ahmad, said that the importance of the investigation could not be over- emphasised.
Tambuwal said that it was based on this conviction that the House of Representatives, in its wisdom, referred the allegation to the joint committees to investigate.
He urged the committees to carry out the investigation with an “open mind”.
Earlier, the lead Chairman of the joint committees, Rep. Muraina Ajibola (PDP-Oyo), said that the hearing was not aimed at witch-hunting anybody.
He assured that the investigation would be carried out with a sense of “seriousness” to get to the root of the matter.

L-R:NNPC Group Managing Director, Mr Andrew Yakubu (right), with members of the House Joint Committee on Petroleum Resources Downstream, Upstream and Justice, investigating the alleged connivance of NNPC with Swiss Oil dealers to rob Nigeria in Abuja, yesterday

L-R:NNPC Group Managing Director, Mr Andrew Yakubu (right), with members of the House Joint Committee on Petroleum Resources Downstream, Upstream and Justice, investigating the alleged connivance of NNPC with Swiss Oil dealers to rob Nigeria in Abuja, yesterday

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Again, RSG Begins Unveiling, Flag-Off Of Nine Key Projects, ’Morrow

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The Rivers State Government has rolled out the drums to herald another phase of official commissioning of key projects embarked upon by the Governor Nyesom Wike-led administration in the state.
A statement by the state government said that the process is in continuation of the commissioning and flag-off of projects by Governor Nyesom Wike.
It indicated that Rumuola flyover would be commissioned tomorrow, while the GRA flyover would be commissioned on Saturday.
The also stated that the government would commission the Ezimgbu Road on Monday, December 13, 2021; with another commissioning of Tombia Road Extension scheduled for Tuesday, December 14, 2021.
The statement said that the governor would commission the Safe Home, Borikiri, Port Harcourt on Wednesday, December 15; while on Thursday, December 16, 2021, the governor would commission the Odokwu internal roads.
Also, the governor would continue the flag-off of key infrastructure projects with Chokocho-Igbodo Road slated for Monday, December 20, 2021; Oyigbo-Okoloma Road on Wednesday, December 22, 2021; and Magistrates’ Court Complex, Port Harcourt on Thursday, December 23, 2021.

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Wike Justifies N7bn Libel Suit Against THISDAY

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Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, yesterday, appeared before the state High Court in Port Harcourt, to testify as a witness in an N7billion libel suit against THISDAY Newspaper.
Wike said he was in court to seek justice and clear his name as a person from the malicious publication by THISDAY Newspaper, which portrayed him as deceitful, untrustworthy person, who exerts subterranean influences on judicial matters and over court sittings in Port Harcourt.
It would be recalled that Wike had in August, 2020, slammed a N7billion suit being damages for libel written and published in THISDAY’s Tuesday, June 23, 2020 edition captioned, “With Wike, Obaseki Meets His PDP’s Waterloo; Almost.”
The defendants in the suit are THISDAY Newspapers Limited, Leaders and Company Limited, Davidson Iriekpan, Chuks Okocha and Adibe Emenyonu.
Wike, while testifying as witness in suit No. PHC/1505/CS/2020 before the court presided over by Justice A. Enebeli, asserted that the defendants maliciously and falsely portrayed him as an unreliable friend/person.
“When you say somebody cannot be trusted; that cannot be a fair comment. When you say somebody is influencing the Judiciary, that cannot be a fair comment”, the governor said.
In his written statement on oath, Wike had stated that the defendants had accused him of influencing the decision of the court sitting in Port Harcourt that granted an injunction restraining Godwin Obaseki from participating in the primaries of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo State in 2020.
He stated that the defendants maliciously accused him of undemocratically exerting influence on the primaries process of PDP in Edo State in aid of his ally, Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama, who was the beneficiary of the court order restraining Obaseki from participating in the PDP primaries.
The governor, who told the court that he was not even aware of the aforementioned suit by Ogbeide-Ihama against Obaseki, said the publication was reckless, false and without regards for the truth.
According to him, contrary to well-known journalistic tradition and practices, the defendants did not investigate properly to ensure the information they relied on was accurate.
“They did not seek to verify the facts from me or in any manner oblige me with the opportunity to state my own side of the story before proceeding to make the false publication” the governor argued.
Wike stated that the defendants further denigrated him before the entire world as a fake democrat, who engages in meddling in the internal affairs of All Progressives Congress (APC) in order to get at his political foe, Chibuike Amaechi.
The governor explained that he was not a member of the APC and has had no hand in the internal crisis which has bedevilled the party both in Rivers State and all over Nigeria.
“By the letter of Messrs E.C. Ukala and Co., Solicitors, under the hand of Emmanuel C. Ukala, SAN, dated 23rd June, 2020, the defendants were given opportunity to retract, and recant the publication as well as to offer apology for the false publication but the defendants spurned the opportunity and ignored the letter completely.”
The governor, while responding to claim by lawyer to the defendants, Turudu Ede, SAN, that the essence of the lawsuit was to intimidate and harass his clients, said the whole essence of the suit was to get justice and clear his name as a man of substantial character, honour and repute.
“The essence of the suit is to get justice since they (defendants) refused to retract the publication or apologise. So, I sued them to clear my name.”
Speaking to journalists outside the court, one of the lawyers to Wike, Mr. Mark Agwu said his client was in court to seek legal redress.
“To challenge him as a person, it means you have made him untrustworthy, a deceit, a cheat, an influencer of the court, because the publication they made was that he had a role to play in influencing the outcome of that Federal High Court case. Nobody will take that lightly, and especially for a man who believes in the rule of law”, Agwu added.
The court adjourned the matter for further hearing to 12th, 13th and 14th of January, 2022.

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$130m Fraud: Rivers Sues Saipem SPA, Saipem Contracting Firm, Others

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The Rivers State Government has charged two construction firms, Saipem SPA and Saipem Contracting Nigeria Ltd, to court over an alleged conspiracy to cheat and with intent to defraud the state of the sum of $130million, being advanced payment for the construction of the OCGT power plant in Port Harcourt.
In a 16-count criminal charge filed by the Director of Public Prosecution, C.F. Amadi for the Rivers State Attorney General, the state alleged that after collecting the said sum as advanced payment between 2011 and 2018, the defendants have not kept their obligation under the contract.
Others charged alongside the companies were Walter Peviana; Kelechi Sinteh Chinakwe; Giandomenico Zingali; Vitto Testaguzza and Davide Anelli, who are directors and officers of the companies.
The defendants are charged with various offences ranging from conspiracy, cheating and obtaining credit by false pretence, contrary to Section 518 (6) and (7) and punishable under Section 518 of the Criminal Code, Cap 37 Vol. 2 Laws of Rivers State of Nigeria, 1999, section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b) of the Criminal Code, Cap 37 Vol. 2 Laws of Rivers State, amongst others.
Already, the Rivers State Government has issued a fiat to the law firm of Godwin Obla (SAN) to prosecute the matter before the state High court.
The defendants are equally charged for the offence of false Statements by Officials of Companies contrary to and punishable under Section 436 (b).
The prosecution specifically accused the defendants of obtaining credit of $130million by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b); obtaining credit of $20,467,942.00 by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b), obtaining credit of N7,000,000,000.00 only by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b).
They are charged for obtaining credit of N318,640,173.54, by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b); attempt to cheat $97million contrary to Section 508 and punishable under Section 509; attempt to cheat $15million contrary to Section 508 and punishable under Section 509; conspiracy to receive a credit of $97million by false pretences contrary to Section 518 (6) and punishable under Section 518; cheating $11million contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421; cheating contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421; cheating N110, 097, 416.51 contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421; cheating by collecting sums attributable to shared facilities already paid for in AFAM Phase I in AFAM Phase II contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421.
Obtaining N20, 467, 942 contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421; obtaining credit of $60,168,936.00 by false pretences or other fraud, contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b); obtaining credit of $1,512,034.00 by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b) all of the Criminal Code Law of Rivers State, Cap 37 Vol. 2 Laws of Rivers State of Nigeria 1999.
According to the Proof of Evidence attached to the charge and the statement made by the Head, Power Generation/Mechanical of the Rivers State Ministry of Power, one Mr Temple Azunda M., the facts constituting the case in hand are as follows:
Saipem SPA and Saipem Contracting Nigeria Limited and other officers of the duo, herein the Defendants, are Italian companies which services have been retained by the Rivers State Government, herein RSG, in several projects, prominent amongst which is the AFAM Phase II Power Plant Project.
By an initial tripartite agreement made on the January 20, 2010, the RSG under the auspices of the Rivers State Ministry of Power entered a contract with Saipem Contracting Nigeria Limited, Saipem SPA for the construction of the OGCT power plant in Port Harcourt at a total cost of $119million consequent upon which the Rivers State Government made advance payments, in instalments, to Saipem Contracting Nigeria Ltd and Saipem SPA amounting in total to a sum of $130million in all which the Defendants have acknowledged receipt of.
The Defendants were to be given an initial mobilization of 20per cent of the total contract sum which the RSG paid.
It was part of the initial agreement – and indeed a condition sine qua non – that, to access the 2nd tranche of payment of 25per cent from the Rivers State Government, the Defendants would mandatorily have installed the Gas Turbine into the foundations as referenced in ATTACHMENT 1 to VO 007 which states that:
CONTRACTOR shall be entitled to a payment corresponding to 20per cent of the VO No. 007 LS PRICE upon mobilisation to site and commencement of bush clearing activities at SITE.
Upon commencement of bush clearing activities at the site, the contractor shall issue the invoice relevant to the above payment and the owner shall pay such invoice within 14 days from its issuance.
The parties agree that no deduction for recovery of advance payment shall apply on the payment due to the contractor for invoices issued by the contractor in accordance with this paragraph.

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