The suspended Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, has described the allegation of financial recklessness leveled against him by the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria as a “malicious” and calculated attempt meant to mislead the President into believing that the management of the apex bank was guilty of misconduct and recklessness.
In what could be described as his first official response to the allegations, Sanusi, in a letter to President Goodluck Jonathan said contrary to claims by the Presidency that he was asked to respond to issues raised in the FRCN report, he only saw the “Briefing Note” of the council for the first time when it was attached to his suspension letter.
In the letter, submitted to the president on March 10, a copy of which was made available to our correspondent yesterday, the suspended governor said at no time were the allegations in the report sent to the CBN either by the president or the FRCN for comments or explanations.
He said, “On Wednesday, 10th March, 2014, I submitted a Memorandum to His Excellency, Mr President, with supporting documentation, effectively addressing all the allegations contained in the FRCN Briefing Note, the letter of suspension and the Akingbola Petition.
“Having submitted my response to the President, I am further compelled, following the recent press briefing and comments by the Senior Special Adviser to the President on Media, as well as numerous other references to the allegations in both local, international and online media, to put to the public my responses, in the interest of transparency, accountability and my responsibility to the Nigerian people.
“Let me also state that I saw the FRCN ‘Briefing Note’ for the first time when it was attached to the suspension letter. At no time was this report sent to the CBN either by the President or the FRCN for comments or explanations.
“A careful examination of the allegations contained in the FRCN Briefing Note to Mr President, will show that each of the allegations could easily have been resolved by a simple request for clarification or more careful review.
“There is no doubt that if the CBN had received the Briefing Note, which was prepared in June 2013, all the misconceptions, misrepresentations and erroneous inferences contained therein would have been cleared.
“ I am publishing these responses to enable the general public see that each and every allegation levelled against the CBN under my leadership is false and unfounded, and that many of the allegations were malicious and fabricated, having been designed to mislead the President into believing that the Management of the Central Bank was guilty of misconduct and recklessness.”
On the allegations by former Managing Director of the defunct Intercontinental Bank, Mr Erastus Akingbola of fraudulent takeover of the bank, Sanusi described them as baseless.
He said, “As for the Akingbola petition, it is a rehash of baseless allegations he has been making since 2010 which apparently he must have been asked to reproduce on February 9, 10 days before the suspension.
“It is indeed strange that the CBN Governor can be suspended based on allegations written by a man who ran his bank into the ground and against whom judgement has been obtained in a London court, and who furthermore is facing criminal prosecution at home for offences including criminal theft.”
The governor, in providing specific responses to all the allegations raised against the apex bank faulted all the claims by the FRCN report.
For instance, on allegation of weak corporate governance at the CBN on account of the fact that the office of the Governor is fused with that of the Chairman of CBN’s Board of Directors, Sanusi said the allegation ignores the fact that global best practice is that the Governor of the central bank is the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the central bank.
This, according to him, is currently the practice in about 55 countries.
On allegation that the CBN’s breakdown of “Currency Issue Expenses” for 2011 and 2012 indicated that it paid the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Plc N38.233bn in 2011 for printing of banknotes, whereas the entire turnover of NSPMP was N 29.370bn, the suspended governor said the expense item of N38.233bn to NSPMP comprises N28.738bn payment to NSPMP in 2011; N6.587bn accrued liability in 2011 but paid in 2012 when deliveries were received; and N2.829bn audit adjustment journal entry into the account at the end of 2011 in respect of prepayments to NSPMP.
“ Evidently, the difference between the numbers in the financial statements of CBN and NSPMP is a simple reflection of timing differences between recognition of expenses by the CBN and income recognition by the NSPMP, with both entities applying conservative accounting policies,” he added.
On FRCN’s claims that the CBN made fictitious payments of N511m to Emirate Airlines which allegedly does not fly local charter in Nigeria; N425m to Wing Airline which allegedly is not registered with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority and N1.025bn to Associated Airline which allegedly did not have a turnover of up to a billion naira in 2011, Sanusi replied “The CBN neither engaged, paid nor claimed to have paid Emirates Airlines.”
Continuing, he added, “Rather, the CBN engaged and entered into an Air Charter Services Agreement with Emirate Touch Aviation Services Limited, which is a local Nigerian charter service company.
“ A simple enquiry by FRCN would have clarified and avoided this misrepresentation. With respect to Wings Aviation Limited, the CBN contracted Wings Aviation Limited, which changed its name to Jedidiah Air Limited on 21 August 2009 but only notified the CBN of the change on 28 February 2012.
“With respect to Associated Air Limited, the CBN did in fact pay a total of N1.025bn to Associated Airline Limited. It is worth stating that the CBN is not responsible for how the company reports its turnover.”
Responding to allegation that the CBN’s expenses on Private Guards and Lunch for Policemen went up from N0.919bn in 2011 to N1.257bn in 2012, he said that in 2007 before his tenure, the CBN adopted a policy to outsource non-core functions, including security services.
This decision, he added, enabled the bank to focus on its statutory mandate and to reduce its overheads.
He said, “Accordingly, the CBN retained the services of about 13 private security companies to provide access control and security check services.
“In 2012, the CBN budgeted N600m for security services but spent N582.2m on private guards.
“To complement the efforts of private guards, the CBN also requested the services of security agencies, in light of the increased security challenges, especially the activities of the Boko Haram terrorist group.
“These security personnel were engaged on a daily basis; and were attached to senior CBN officials; special assignments such as security coverage for currency movements; static guard duties at the bank’s premises nationwide, and other sundry engagements.
“About 2,406 Policemen are currently deployed on a daily basis to various branches and other locations of the CBN.
“These security personnel were paid a daily lunch and transport allowances totalling N675.02m in the year under review.”
In replying the allegation that the CBN paid excessive legal and professional fees of N20.202 Billion in 2011, Sanusi said the apex bank, like any other public entity, is not immune from liabilities that arise from judgments and orders of the Nigerian courts.
“The referenced N20.202bn spent under this head covered the CBN’s judgment debt liabilities in the year under review.
“Of particular reference is the judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of Amao v the Central Bank of Nigeria, [SC 168/2007] delivered on 21 May, 2010, wherein the apex Court directed that the CBN pay employees of the Bank who had retired prior to 2000, pension under the harmonised structure introduced by the FG.
“ Note that the negotiated litigation liability that arose from the above-specified matter was approximately N19.8bn.”
The suspended governor in his submission in the letter urged the president to “revisit and redress the issue of my suspension.”
He also called on the president to apply the same rationale and rigour to other agencies of the Federal Government that have had serious allegations and queries levied against them, and presume upon them to provide responses and explanations with the same level of clarity and transparency
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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