The Forum of Commissioners of Finance from the 36 states of the federation yesterday, in Abuja, passed a resolution for the removal of fuel subsidy.
The Chairman of the forum, Mr. Timothy Odah, told journalists shortly after this month’s Federation Account Allocation Committee’s meeting, that the resolution was passed following irregularities observed in the fuel subsidy regime.
The forum passed the resolution just as fuel scarcity that started two weeks ago across the nation, persisted in the Federal Capital Territory and in most state capitals, with many motorists queuing at filling stations.
The FAAC meeting, which was chaired by the Accountant -General of the Federation, Mr. Jonah Otunla, was convened to consider and approve statutory allocations for February.
Odah, who is also the commissioner of finance representing Ebonyi State at FAAC, said the resolution would be sent to the Nigerian Governors’ Forum for transmission to President Goodluck Jonathan.
He described the payment of fuel subsidy as a scam against some states, especially the less industrialised ones as it had made “the rich to becoming richer while the poor are become poorer.”
He argued that if Nigerians had not protested against the removal of fuel subsidy in January 2012, most states would have experienced significant level of development.
The Federal Government has a budget of N971.1billion for fuel subsidy payment for the 2014 fiscal year, same as in 2013.
Odah, said, “We looked at subsidy on oil as more or less a solution worse than the problem it is meant to solve.
“Looking at it presently, you will discover that it is not solving the problem which it is meant to solve. In the first place, the NLC (Nigeria Labour Congress) and the majority of the Nigerian populace appear to have been deceived into clamouring for subsidy.
“It’s a system that robs Peter to pay Paul by making the rich to grow richer and the poor to go poorer.
However, the Senate Committee on Finance has given the Petroleum Product Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) two weeks to submit certification details of subsidy for kerosene and petrol from July 2013 to December 2013.
The committee is investigating the alleged non-remittance of $20billion to the Federation Account by the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
The PPPRA management had earlier requested for three weeks to enable it collate all details on the certification of subsidy for kerosene and fuel for six months.
The committee, however, turned down the request and granted the agency only two weeks to furnish it with the necessary documents to enhance its probe into the allegations.
The Chairman of the committee, Sen. Ahmed Makarfi, said the committee was expecting the report of the independent consultants it appointed to conduct forensic examination and audit of expenses incurred by NNPC.
Makarfi said that the Auditor-General of the Federation had written to the committee confirming he had commenced forensic checks on the alleged unremitted funds.
He said the Auditor-General had also assured the committee that the result of the forensic check, expected to cover all areas of concerns, would be made available to the committee.
Makarfi said the auditor-general had also written to the committee confirming that he would conduct forensic checks.
He added that the auditor-general assured the committee that the forensic check would be comprehensive and would cover all the areas of concern.
The chairman quoted the auditor-general as saying that the report of the forensic check would be sent to the committee.
He said that the committee would conclude its work and present its report to the Senate after it received the reports of the independent forensic auditors and the final certification from PPPRA.
The chairman said that the committee would not hesitate to invite any of the agencies for clarification during the course of the technical session to consider the submissions before arriving on specific decision.
But NNPC Group Managing Director, Mr Andrew Yakubu, insisted that there were no missing funds.
Yakubu said that it was wrong for anybody to claim that funds were not remitted to the Federation Account.
Yakubu told the committee that the ongoing investigations would enable the NNPC to give explanations that would help to clear the negative perception about the oil and gas industry.
He added that in the course of the investigations, the corporation was able to present a detailed breakdown of all the remittances it made to the Federation Account.
The NNPC boss said that the corporation was determined to present to the Senate a detailed analysis of the various streams of funds that belonged to all the key players in the petroleum business arrangement.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government, states and local governments yesterday shared N641.2billion from the Federation Account for February.
The Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF), Mr Jonah Otunla, made the disclosure in Abuja when he addressed newsmen on the outcome of the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) meeting.
“The distributable statutory revenue for the month is N531.332billion, which is N27.647billion more than the N503.685billion that was shared for the month of January.
“Also distributed is the sum of N7.617billion refunded by the NNPC to be shared to states and local governments. In addition, the sum of N35.549billion is proposed for distribution under the SURE-P Programme.
“So the total revenue distributable for the current month, including Value Added Tax (VAT) of N66.801billion is N641.299billion,’’ he said.
A breakdown of the distribution showed that the Federal Government received N247.533billion, representing 52.68 per cent; states, N125.552billion, representing 26.72 per cent, while local governments received N96.795billion, amounting to 20.60 per cent.
Otunla added that N56.384billion, representing 13 per cent derivation revenue was shared among the oil producing states.
On VAT, the AGF said that the gross revenue collected in February was N66.801billion as against N82.277billion distributed in January representing a decrease of N15.476billion.
He said that the mineral revenue collected for February was N569.136billion, more than the N439.562billion realised in January making a different of N129.574billion.
He stated that non-mineral revenue collected during the period under review was N97.609billion.
The figure he added showed reduction of N3.699billion from the N101.308billion that was collected in January.
Otunla said that N135.413billion was transferred to the nation’s Excess Crude Account (ECA), thereby bringing the total in the account of ECA to $3.456billion.
Again, RSG Begins Unveiling, Flag-Off Of Nine Key Projects, ’Morrow
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.
Wike Justifies N7bn Libel Suit Against THISDAY
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.
$130m Fraud: Rivers Sues Saipem SPA, Saipem Contracting Firm, Others
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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