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Parliament (513)

ON March 22 this year, the Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission  (NDDC), Mr. Nsima Ekere, revealed the Federal Government’s plan to establish a Niger Delta Development Bank, ostensibly to speed up the development of the region. Addressing representatives of youth groups and ex-agitators at the NDDC headquarters in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Ekere expressed optimism that the proposed bank would assist people from the region, especially youths, in establishing modular refineries.

He said: “Instead of doing the small illegal refineries, government wants to help us with the technology to do this in a big manner so that we will be involved in refining, in such a way that the environment will not be destroyed. The challenge will be how the youth of the region will get enough money to buy into these modular refineries. The Federal Government has mandated the NDDC to work out the modalities with the Ministry of Petroleum Resources. We want to ensure that whether the youth have money or not, they can key into this.  So,  we are going to set up a Niger Delta Development Bank to drive the development of the region. An inter-ministerial committee has also been set up in the Presidency to look into all the issues raised during the visit of the vice president to the region. The NDDC has been mandated by the Federal Government to work out the framework with the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources, so that youths of communities in the Niger Delta will be empowered through the establishment of modular refineries.”

No doubt, the Niger Delta remains a sore point in Nigeria’s history. Despite being the pillar of the nation’s economy, the region has suffered criminal neglect resulting in restiveness and other crises over the years. In this connection, we salute the resolve of the NDDC to facilitate the economic empowerment and development of the region. However, while we  do not dispute the claim that the NDDC was set up by the Federal Government to address the problem of underdevelopment in the Niger Delta, we frankly do not think that establishing an NDD Bank is the right thing to do. This is because there is nothing in the government’s proposal that cannot be conviniently executed using the instrumentality of the existing banks. The NDD Bank, as currently proposed, can only add to the long list of failed or failing government institutions in the Niger Delta. There are extant institutions with mandates that are very similar to that of the proposed NDD Bank. To a large extent, those institutions have only empowered the political class. More fundamentally, a regional bank for the Niger Delta region has to be the handiwork of the states making up the zone, not a bank established by the Federal Government.

Indeed, implicated in the current issue is Nigeria’s convoluted federalism whose dire consequences   manifest almost on a daily basis. The weird and unfathomable federal arrangement resulted in the abysmal neglect of the constituent units of the country with the attendant razor-sharp tension and conflicts that continuously dog the country’s steps. The proposal for an NDD Bank is just one of the frantic attempts to defuse tension in the region. But that is a short-sighted goal.  What really are the inadequacies of the existing banks that constitute encumberances to the quest to fast-track the peace, progress and development in the Niger Delta?

With the prevalence of specialised banks in the country, most of which have failed to engender the anticipated effects on critical sectors of the economy, it is unwise to embark on another project that would only constitute a drain on a national economy that continues to gasp for breath. We urge the Federal Government to shelve the idea of establishing an NDD Bank. Instead, it should ensure that the existing federal institutions in the zone deliver on their core mandates.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017 11:05

BY RAY EKPU: A couple and three widows

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It was an eclectic collection of young Nigerians, 23-36 years, making a pitch for fame and fortune. They spent all of 11 weeks in an enclosure they had no control over, no phones, no radio, no television, no internet. They lived largely without interaction with the outside world except what was permitted in the tightly structured Big Brother Naija reality show.

On the last day of the show one man and four women were the only ones standing out of an initial pool of 14. I call the five finalists one couple and three widows. The couple: Efe and Marvis. The “widows”: Bisola sans TTTony; TBoss sans Miyonse and Debie-Rise sans Bassey. It was a show that drew the highest viewership in Africa in recent years, viewership that ran into many millions. The success of the show derived its root from the careful choice of the contestants and the loading of the game with interesting features that tended to grab the consciousness of many young people in Africa.

The ultimate winner of the show, Efe, a 24 year-old graduate of Economics is from Warri, the headquarters of Pidgin English. He exhibited the Warri-ness in him by the excellent pidginisation of his conversation in the House. He also revealed in a Truth or Dare game that he had slept with two sisters. Is that what they voted for – his readiness to tell the truth even if it was unflattering of him? His favourite expression “based on logistics” seems to have endured beyond the show as many young people now preface their conversation with it. A few years ago, Uti Nwachuku who won the Big Brother Africa show donated the Nigerian slang, “a beg a beg” to the continent. It has gained continent-wide currency. Does it mean therefore that the sexy-ness of the underclass idiom called pidgin is a major fascination for African youths? Did the fact that Efe is a pidgin English rapper contribute to the attractiveness of his brand as he cornered more than 60 per cent of the votes to win the prize?

Who else stood out of the pack? Bisola, unmarried mother of a seven-year old-girl, was born in the UK, bred in Nigeria, brilliant actor, singer with the temper of a wasp. She was the runner up. There was also TBoss whose face would launch a thousand ships. She flaunted her flawless body including her boobs as a sign of her entitlement to the fame or notoriety that can come from the exhibition of obscenity. She has six tattoos on her body in places seen and unseen. She also pierces her skin at seven places, seen and unseen. Because of her unique self-consciousness of her physical endowments she is ready to flash her oh la la figure by limiting what is not seen by the public to the minimalist’s minimum. On the show she said she could blow the 25 million naira prize within one week.  

This Romanian-Nigerian girl also let it out that she could act nude if the price was right. Not a dancer, not a singer, not an excellent conversationalist but the voters kept her in the house till the last day, apparently because of her readiness to push the envelope. Were they wondering what she would do next, whether she would drop her G-string? Many viewers wonder why she allowed Kemen on her bed, put her head on his shoulder and got him to give her a massage if she was not leading him on to paradise. Kemen got punished for crossing the invisible line as TBoss unspooled her anger for being violated by the body building, big bicep flaunting guy. She seems to guard the boundary of decency ruthlessly and when Miyonse, her friend, was flirting around with Gifty she promptly nominated him for eviction. The public seemed to approve of her action. They evicted him from the show that week.

There was also the powerfully built Uriel who liked cooking – and eating – who was apparently infatuated with the sexy baritone of Big Brother. She loved the Diary Room Session and made it her playground. She had made this important announcement on being fired from the house that she has not had any relationship with a man for one year. She added either as an admonition, a warning or a revelation: man no be wood. That is an indication that she was open to the business of love.

Debie-Rise, the Kogi State guitar-wielding girl, apparently thought her guitar twanging skills would take her into the SUV. She was genuinely in love with Bassey. When he was evicted she was a fountain of tears. While in the House both of them wore their “Love” like a heavy perfume but Bassey, on exit from the House, confirmed that he had a girl friend and described Debie-Rise as just a friend that he would like to work with.

Thin Tall Tony, 36, the oldest contestant hid his marriage status from his fellow housemates because his wife preferred it that way. Tony, lean as a rake, handsome as a peacock, and tall as a masquerade tree was smooth in dance, speech and manners. But Bisola feels hurt that Tony did not tell her he was married when they got entangled in the delicate threads of romance, real or rigged. Now out of the house Bisola is busy airing her grievances like jewels, but Tony has moved on.

This is one indication that whatever romance was going on in the House had nothing to do with love. The entanglement was based purely on existentialism. In the outside world there are millions of eligible persons fit for romance so the contestants were not searching for romance in the House but fame and fortune. If romance or the appearance of it would lead to the 25 million naira then it was worth exploiting. Besides, if men and women are locked up in an enclosure day and night and they are involved in joint everyday activities – cooking, eating, cleaning and drinking – bonding and networking inevitably become a part of their routine.

The fact that all the contestants were pushing for the ultimate prize nullifies the very notion of self-less love and brings to the fore the artificiality of the romance. It also nullifies the reality-ness of the show because each contestant comes with pictures in their heads of what they think the voters want to see. In that case, they must then act in a manner as to secure their admiration not only in their task execution but also in hiding their character flaws and wearing their best mannerisms. How different is that from the movies, from being what you are not?

By the laws of the Big Brother Universe, the show is entertainment-based. But it managed to deliver information and education as well even though the content of the latter was somewhat negligible. If the show did not provide a huge dose of entertainment it would have lost the bulk of its followership who are largely young Africans. But they could be reached when education and information were packaged as or with entertainment. That is a lesson for content providers in the mainstream media.

The show has been a confidence booster for all the participants. Each of them talks of being able to use the platform as a jump-off point to something great. They were also able to pick up some new skills and knowledge, learn new ways of dispute resolution and how to develop the spirit of tolerance. The campaign on the girl-child’s education and the seminar on “consent is sexy” were some of the important issues that Africans must pay attention to. I wish they added drama sketches on corruption, religious and ethnic tolerance, tenets of democracy and self-reliance.

Some moral purists were against the airing of the show because they said it was a celebration of nudity, alcoholism and erotic dancing. However, the show was meant for adults aged 18 and above and is not vastly different from what adults experience at parties and night clubs or what they see in the movies. In this case, it was even easier to control what anyone wanted to see. If you did not want to see adults kissing you could change the dial, or shut the television or shut your eyes. Democracy provides for heterogeneity. We cannot have a world designed and dictated by the Talibanic apostles of religious and moral extremism. People must have choices. People must make their choices with the full appreciation of the consequences of their choices without some moral godfather’s cane on their backs. 

For me the most valid criticism was its airing from South Africa. The organisers explained that they have a fully fitted studio in South Africa. But Big Brother Nigeria one was aired in Victoria Island, Nigeria, 10 years ago. If it was possible to do it 10 years ago why is it not possible to do it 10 years later? The second excuse is that the power situation in Nigeria is appalling. It is hereby agreed that that is so. But any company that runs its business in Nigeria must be ready and willing to enjoy the benefits and bear the burdens too. Benefits and burdens are in one pack. They are not separate or separable. MTN is a telecommunications company of South African origin. It operates in Nigeria and provides power for its operations because it knows that the Nigerian market is huge. It committed an offence and it was hit with a huge fine. It is still here, operating and paying the fine. Why hasn’t it thrown in the towel? Because this market is huge.

If the organisers of the Big Brother Naija show want to stage another one, Nigeria must be the hosting place. We need the direct benefits and gilt-edged opportunities for suppliers, hairdressers, artisans, etc. They can reap the bountiful fruits of the show to which Nigerians have committed many millions for its success. Why should we kiss the maid if we can kiss the mistress?

 

 
Tuesday, 21 February 2017 12:35

By Sanya Oni: Naira: Chasing the wind

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Eight months into Godwin Emefiele’s ‘’Managed Float Exchange Rate System” – the verdict, at least so it appears, is that all is far from being well. If anything, things have gone much worse, not better, with the forex policy introduced in June last year. As predicted (or prophesied?), the naira has finally crossed the N500 line to the United States dollar; indeed, in the last two weeks, it has oscillated between N506 to N516. And so, the debate on whether the system can claim to have served the country well in the last eight months has ceased to be academic: it is the reality we now live with.

Little wonder, the governors at the National Economic Council, (NEC) on Thursday last week demanded an immediate review of the policy by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). What they had in mind, they wouldn’t say. Be that as it may, the surprise is that it took them eight months to come to that conclusion.
Talk about the CBN being on the spot, weeks before, the cyber-sphere had been awash with all manners of theories – ranging from the outlandish to the harebrained –alleging serious economic crimes against the monetary authorities. Part of the frenzy of finding who to blame for the naira’s one-way trip to the Golgotha was to cast the Central Bank of Nigeria governor, Godwin Emefiele, in the lead of Project Kill the Naira! And as if determined to pour fuel into the raging inferno, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), reportedly issued the apex bank governor a query ostensibly to explain the charges – which I consider too base to list here – charges that may well have been dredged up from the vacuous rumour mill!
Of course, these are interesting times. Soon enough, there would be enough blames to go round for everyone.

For now, where do we go from here? From managed to the floating exchange rate regime, what next? We have turned full cycle. The former, despised for its rigidity – never mind that we had some semblance of stability – was blamed for sundry ills plaguing the economy. The latter, for all its pretences to the allocative power of the market has been a disaster (if it worked, we probably would not be talking of landing in the cesspit of recession).
Trust the manufacturer who could not access forex; the parent who could not remit wards’ fees to the college in a foreign university, the sundry importer whose 41-odd items were declared ineligible for official forex by Emefiele’s CBN, there is no telling the difference between the old and the new. Not even a good word from our hordes of analysts for whom the thriving black market is sufficient proof of the blind alley that the two policies have left us! Eight months on, we may have just realised how badly the Nigerian ailment has been misdiagnosed.

Here is what I wrote eight months ago when I first observed our obsession with forex management. The quest, I had reasoned, “stems from a fundamental misdiagnosis of the problem”. The problem, I had argued, being “more fundamental, touches on the ability of the economy to renew itself… the problem comes down to the tragedy of a nation that relies on a single commodity for all its forex; one that spends a disproportionate chunk of its forex on imports”.
Needless to state that I have been proven right. Few weeks later I had also warned on this page: “Had the economy’s minders spent as much time on how to get the economy on its feet as they have done on figuring out the arithmetic of sharing the shrinking piggy bank, we would probably be well on the way to developing the concrete policies to get some our critical industries revving back to life and to boost our forex stock”.

Today, we seem set for the same old prescriptions that brought us here in the first place. Never mind that the CBN has shouted itself hoarse; it appears that nobody is listening. The problem, says the apex bank, is that it does not have enough forex to go round! Unfortunately, unlike the naira which it has the liberty to print, the dollar is a no-go area.

Yet, we expect the naira to rebound by throwing it to the market hounds. And while we can do nothing about increasing the stock of forex in the piggy bank, we are also not prepared to give up our love for those exotic items that consume a huge chunk of our forex! And while Emefiele fails to play the magician, we demand that his head be served on the platter!

Just imagine the club of whiners. As it was in the very beginning, so it is even now: manufacturers, traders, contractors, portfolio investors to shady operators; name them; all them permanently on queue for forex. The range of demands is such that makes it tempting to assume that dollar has suddenly become the local medium of exchange. How could anyone not have foreseen the current unidirectional move of the naira more so at a time the supply of forex had severely contracted?

Merely by the amount of pressure brought to bear on Emefiele’s CBN in the last few days, expect to see some hastily packaged policies to ameliorate what is essentially a structural problem – something that requires deep thought as against superficial obsession with forex management. But then, that is the way of a people that would rather treat symptoms than tackle the disease.

 

Finally, I need to highlight another fundamental problem that the minders of the economy continue to ignore. Today, Nigerians worry that segment of that so-called parallel market has grown wings to the extent that it now plays the reference rate while the official inter-bank rate acts the adjunct. The question is: what are the monetary authorities doing about it? We are talking here of the club of unscrupulous actors known not only to prey on the system but have since become an atavistic force. What would it require to take them on? Why does the federal government prefer to feign helplessness in the face of their brutal assault on the nation’s currency? And where in the world, save Nigeria, are foreign currencies hawked on the highways as you would ‘pure water’?
What is the role of the Bureau de Change in the equation? By rule, they are supposed to serve the lower end of the market. Do they? Given that the latter operate strictly by its own opaque codes, what is the chance in a million that the CBN will ever be able to bring this segment within the loop of its forex management?

Is anyone still talking about respite for the naira?

SPONSORED BY 234NAIRA.COM: 

SPONSORED BY 234NAIRA.COM: Former governor of Delta state, Chief James Ibori, has said he had been wrongly accused and maligned by those who said he stole, saying “I am not a thief, I cannot be a thief”.

Chief Ibori also said the biggest pain he felt over his travails was the suffering his people had to go through on account of his absence.

Speaking at a special thanksgiving service organised in his honour by his immediate community; the Oghara Kingdom, and held at the First Baptist
Church, Oghara, Chief Ibori also said his only testimony and joy now is the fact that he is alive and back to be with his people.

According to the former governor, who exhibited his overwhelming joy by dazzling the huge crowd of politicians, clergy, traditional rulers and
other enthusiasts who had graced the event, with dances, he had deduced that the intents of those who were behind his travails was to
separate him from his people.

He, however said he had no doubt that he would return home as he had put everything on God and believed that the God he trusted would stand by him.

“Today I have decided to speak for myself, I am not a thief, I cannot be a thief. Today is the day they say I should give testimony to God, for those

that know me, you know that my entire life is a testimony itself and I have said it over and over again that my life is fashioned by God, directed by
God, sealed, acknowledged, blessed by God and I believe that since the day I was born.

“Like the Arch Bishop said, when this whole commotion started, what was most painful to me was the pain and suffering that my people were going
through.

“It has nothing to do with me as a person because for some reasons like I said to you, I drew my strength from God and somehow, I knew that God would
stand by me, I knew that one day, and this day would come. I am indeed very please that I can now stand before you and look at your faces, faces that I
have missed and those of you that have indeed suffered the pains of my absence. It has nothing to do with me.

“So, when I reflect, it gives me joy that all your prayers, God has answered, all your supports and solidarity with me all through this period,
it is indeed not what I can begin to say. Like what our former chief of staff, Francis Agboroh said it is “ungbikuable”. If I am to give testimony
of my journey you will not leave here. The only testimony that I have is the fact that I am back and alive in your midst. And again I say that I
never had any doubt in my mind that I would get back home.

“When I looked at how things were going, I discovered that they want to separate me from you people. They want me to go to the corner where I won’t
be seen. That’s how I see it. At a point I called my elder brother (Former Governor Uduaghan) it is how I can get home is what I am about to do now.
It was a pragmatic decision.

“I am happy to be home with my people. There is nobody that can battle with the Lord. Urhobo adage says there is time for everything (okemutie). A day
will come when I will tell my story and every one of you will hear me. Today is to thank God”, Ibori said.

 

SPONSORED BY X365TV.COM: A Nigerian, Babs Rasaki,  based in Brazil, has appeared before Magistrate Judy Latchman in Guyana to answer to fraud related charges. The man was remanded to prison.  

Rasaki denied the charge which alleged that on January 9 and 13, at Georgetown and with intent to defraud, he obtained from the Lucky Dollar store one washing machine, a television set and other articles valued at Guyanese $582,495( $2794 US), by virtue of an American Express credit card, in the name of Ann Clara Angelino, knowing same to be forged. ADVERTISING Babs Rasaki: remanded in prison for fraud.

The second charge read that the accused, on January 10 at Wellington Street, Georgetown, and with intent to defraud, obtained from Gizmos and Gadgets two iPhones, valued $550,000, ($2638 US)by virtue of an American Express credit card in the name of Ann Clara Angelino, knowing same to be forged. Rasaki, who was unrepresented, told the court that on the days in question, he had accompanied Angelino, who is of Brazilian descent and does not speak English, to the business enterprises and made the purchases on her behalf.

Bail was refused on the grounds that he does not have family in Guyana or a local address in the jurisdiction. Police are also currently conducting an investigation with regards to the other documents found in his possession. The man will face Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan on February 16.


The story of Onyebuchi Emecheta whom the world knew as Buchi, is at the same time that of a personal and communal triumph; the triumph of the personal will and communal efforts over the vicissitudes of life. Much has been said about her deprivations at childhood. Without meaning to water that down in any way, I would wish to place it in its truest perspective.

She grew up in the 1940s; a time of widespread social change in Nigeria. Primary school education was still sipping into many parts of the Nigerian hinterland, starting from the litoral areas such as Lagos and Calabar where the first white Christian evangelists first established their schools. By the 1940s, poverty was still widespread in Nigeria and the urban centres were still few and far between. While primary school education was within the reach of any child whose parents were forward looking, or who had embraced Christianity, the Christian missionary schools that were coming up even in the villages, secondary school education were open only for the most fortunate few. Buchi Emecheta, who by this time was already living in Nigeria’s greatest metropolis, Lagos, was among the fortunate few. Her father, a veteran who had fought in Burma during the Second World War on the side of Britain, had an uncommon exposure that opened up several doors. No wonder, he was working in the then elite work force of Nigeria; the railways.

So, Buchi had a life of promise before her. Then tragedy struck! Her father died. She was barely eight years old by then. Despite all the promise of the life of the intellect ahead of her, despite her visible intelligence due to the top-flight results she must have earned in the primary school classes she may have attended. That her father died would have spelt the end of the road for Buchi Emechete but for something that has remained a major plank of the progress, the remarkable progress, the unstoppable progress, the celebratory progress that has set Ibusa apart as a domain of progress and development. That thing is communal effort.

In Ibusa town, the saying that “it takes a village to train a child”, is still coming true today as it did when Buchi Emechieta was a girl child in need of financial help in the 1940s. When words reached Mr. Hallim, a then senior civil service staff of the old Western Region Civil Service at Ibadan, that there was a prodigiously gifted girl who has exhibited a splash of brilliance in her short stint at school, like a meteor streaking through the night sky, he reacted like the average Ibusa man or woman; that the young Buchi must return to school. We may never know how Mr. Halim came about that fateful knowledge; was it discussed at a meeting attended by Ibusa people? Or was the issue raised by friends of Buchi’s late father? Well, what is important is the result; Buchi returned to school because an Ibusa man who was not her real father treated her as though she were his own real daughter. From there, Onyebuchi opened up her wings and soared like the eagle. From there, she studied voraciously. From there she became the Buchi that was known and celebrated across the globe. From there, she became the Buchi that the world has joined Ibusa town to mourn today.

There is the other Buchi, the product of hard work; the single mother who raised five children and still found the time to author 21 books. The challenges she faced and overcame were fully reflected in Buchi’s often-autobiographical literary harvest. Somebody wrote about her that: “The main source of inspiration for her writing, however, was Africa, and in particular the villages of Ibusa in (Delta State) Nigeria where her family came from. Even though she had spent a relatively brief period of her childhood there, the villages and the stories she heard on her visits with her mother left an indelible mark on the impressionable young girl and became the lodestone for all she wrote. In The Slave Girl (1977, for which she won the New Statesman’s jock Campbell award), The Bride Price (1976), and the ironically titled The Joys of Motherhood (1979), she poignantly captured, in a manner reminiscent of her male contemporary Chinua Achebe, a vanishing Igbo culture in the process of transition to modernity”.

Mr. Sylvester Onwordi, the man who wrote those words should know Buchi intimately because he is her very own son. And not surprisingly, he is a writer too! So, even though Buchi Emecheta left Ibusa very early in life, Ibusa never left her for a minute. She remained a true Ibusa daughter, giving her literary creativity sustenance from Ibusa.

She not only identified with the Ibusa, she flew the Ibusa flag to the farthest corners of Planet Earth for wherever her books were ever read, the blog on the book covers always announced the name of her home town as though she always felt the duty to pay homage to the place of her birth. Her son wrote: “A constant refrain throughout my childhood was that she would one day return to Ibusa – a place that took on an almost mythical significance for us within the family. She made many plans to return over many years, even building a house in the village while working as professor at the University of Calabar – an experience that formed the basis for her novel Double Yoke (1983). But having lived in the UK for so many years, she found it increasingly difficult to adapt to life in modern Nigeria. And Ibusa, in her long absence, was transforming itself into a town and a conurbation that she barely recognized any more”.

Just like Buchi the girl that left Ibusa in her childhood changed, so too did her dear town also change for change is the only constant in life. None can begrudge her not returning to live fully in Ibusa, no that would be asking for too much. That she knew and cherished where she came from, is enough for us. What has never been in doubt is her love for Ibusa. Although the first reaction, upon hearing of her death, is to mourn, this is not dirge. Instead, I hereby raise a hymn of celebration to thank God for sending to Ibusa such a wonderfully gifted writer. Instead of mourning, I hereby celebrate her focus in life and the hard work behind all she achieved.

Yes, I celebrate Onyebuchi Emecheta, the Ibusa girl who conquered the world. She lived a life of great productivity that she lifted herself to the pantheon of the immortals with the Chinua Achebes; for as long as her books continue to be read, for that long is she alive. Buchi Emecheta, we can never forget you for you have given us so much to remember you by. Rest in perfect peace our daughter, our mother, our aunt. Rest in perfect peace dear true success story that will continue to serve as a role model to every girl child all over the world. Rest in perfect peace dear daughter of Ibusa, “Ezigbo ada Igbuzo nodu nma”

Dr. Austin Izagbo President – General Ibusa Community Development Union (ICDU) Worldwide


SPONSORED BY KODUGA.COM...THE CLASSIFIEDS ADS WEBSITE: Tosin Owobo, a witness of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), testifying in the trial of Air Marshall Adesola Amosu Nanayon (retired), a former Nigeria’s Chief of Air Staff (COAS), on Wednesday, narrated before a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos how Amosu diverted the sum of N3 billion meant for NIMASA to his personal oil and gas companies.

Owobo, an Assistant Detective Superintendent with the EFCC, gave detailed summary of 
how the former Air force Chief, received the money from Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) under the leadership of Patrick Akpolobokemi.

Amosu is standing trial alongside Air vice Marshal Jacob Bola Adigun, Air Commodore Gbadebo Owodunni Olugbenga and eight companies over the alleged N22.8 billion fraud.

The companies are: Delfina Oil and Gas Ltd, Mcallan Oil And Gas Limited, Hebron Housing and Properties Company Limited, Trapezites BDC, Fonds and Pricey Ltd, Deegee Oil and Gas Limited, Timsegg Investment Limited and Solomon Health Care.

At the resumed hearing of the case on Wednesday, Owobo informed the court that the anti-graft agency during investigation discovered that there was a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Nigerian Air force (NAF) and NIMASA while Air Marshall Alex Badeh was the nation’s Chief of Air Staff, and that a sum of N1. 480 billion was paid to NAF in 2014, from Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), for securing the nation’s Maritime.

He said the money was paid in two tranches of N1.480 million, into an account with Skye Bank.

Awobo also informed the court that on resumption in by Air Marshall Amosu as the nation’s COAS, he made a proposal of N4 billion to NIMASA which he claimed was needed to manage the Maritime security, but stated that the former Director-General of NIMASA, Akpolobokemi only released the sum of N3 billion, which was paid in three tranches of N1 billion each into Special Emergency Operation of NAF.

Furthermore, the witness who is the third witness in the criminal trial stated that upon investigation on how the money was spent, it was discovered that the monies were diverted into the Amosu’s Oil and Gas firms.

The oil and gas firms which the monies were diverted are: Right Option Oil and Gas Limited, Delfina Oil and Gas Limited, Mcallan Oil and Gas Limited, and Deegee Oil and Gas Limited.

However, an attempt by the witness to give details on the documents was opposed by the lawyers representing the accused persons.

The accused persons’ lawyers led by Chief Bolaji Ayorinde, Kemi Balogun, Norrison Quakers, all Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), argued that the witness is not the maker of the exhibits tendered, neither did he confirm the authentication of the documents from the maker, therefore, he cannot give evidence on the exhibits.

However, the EFCC prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo, while urging the court to discountenance the objection raised by the defence, told the court that the witness is an Investigating Officer, who investigated the alleged crime, so he can give evidence on the exhibits (documents) tendered.

The matter has been adjourned till Thursday for ruling on whether the witness can give evidence on the documents tendered or not, and for continuation of trial of accused persons.

It would be recalled that the accused persons were first arraigned before the court on June 29, on 23 counts charge bordering on Fraud, money laundering, and stealing.

 

SPONSORED BY 234NAIRA.COM: ABUJA – The Federal Government through the Office of the Inspector General of Police, has entered two separate criminal charges against the former Governor of Benue State, Mr. Gabriel Suswam. Suswam who piloted affairs of Benue State from 2007 to 2015, was accused of fraudulently diverting over N3.1billion from coffers of the state.

Suswam In the two sets of charges marked FHC/ABJ/CR/255/ 2016 and FHC/ABJ/CR/256/2016, containing six and two counts respectively, FG also cited former Commissioner of Finance in Benue state, Mr. Omodachi Okolobia and one Janet Aluga as co-defendants in the matter. Meantime, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, has directed Police to transfer the case-files to his office.

Police prosecutor, Mr. David Igbodo made the revelation when the cases were called-up for mention before trial Justice Gabriel Kolawole on Wednesday. Igbodo said the cases were sent to the AGF owing to “the quantum of evidence” uncovered by the Police. Sequel to his application, Justice Kolawole adjourned the matter sine-die (indefinitely). Suswam and Okolobia were previously docked before Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the same high court on a nine-count money laundering charge. ‎

The defendants who were arraigned on November 10, 2015, were accused of diverting proceeds of shares owned by the Benue State government and Benue Investment & Property Company Ltd. Though they pleaded not guilty to the charge, the EFCC however maintained that it has sufficient evidence to prove that they committed an offence punishable under section 15(3) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 as amended in 2012.


SPONSORED BY CHIQUEMAGAZINE.COM: THE Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Wednesday re-arraigned the former Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Mohammed Dikko Umar before Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of a Federal High Court in Abuja over alleged N4.8billion.

The anti-graft agency has accused Umar of using the funds he siphoned from accounts of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF), between September 2010 and December 2012, and purchased six choice properties in Abuja, Kano and Kaduna State.

In the charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/92/ 2016, EFCC alleged that the former Air Force boss transferred N66million into the Stanbic IBTC account No. 9202077424 belonging to Capital Law office, from NAF operations account domiciled at UBA Plc, for the renovation/improvement of a house at No 1853 Deng Xiao Ping Street, Off Mahathir Mohammed Street, Asokoro Extension Abuja.

It told the court that Umar had between September and December 2012 in Abuja, used the Dollar equivalent of N500million removed from NAF account to purchase a four Bedroom Duplex with Boys Quarters at Road 3B Street 2, Mabushi Ministers Hill, Abuja.

That the defendant also used the US Dollar equivalent of N250million to purchase a property situated at No 14, Audu Bako Way, G.R.A. Kano State, in 2011.

Meanwhile, the defendant who was earlier docked before the high court on May 11, 2016, pleaded not guilty to the charge before Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, even as his lawyer, Mr. Hassan Liman (SAN), applied for his release on bail.

Liman prayed the court to allow his client to go home on self-recognition as he was previously allowed to do by Justice Binta Nyako who was hitherto in charge of the case.

Though EFCC lawyer, Mr. Tahir Sylvanus did not oppose Umar’s bail request, he however urged the court to impose some conditions.

In a bench ruling, Justice Dimgba directed the defendant to surrender his international passports to the deputy registrar of the court, as well as to produce two sureties who must not only own landed properties in Abuja, but must also depose to an affidavit of means before the court.

The court fixed February 13 and 16, 2017 for the commencement of hearing. 

One of the charges against Umar read: “That you, Air Marshal Mohammed Dikko Umar, whilst being the Chief  of Air Staff, Nigerian Air Force between September 2010 to September 2012 in Abuja, within the jurisdiction of the court directly converted the United States Dollars equivalent of the aggregate sum of N4846000 only removed from the accounts of the Nigerian Air Force, when you reasonably ought to have known that the said funds formed part of the proceeds of your unlawful activity, to wit, criminal breach of trust and corruption, and you thereby committed an offence contrary section 15(2)(b) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011 as amended and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act”.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017 02:30

How to turn economy around, by Atedo Peterside

Written by

Rather than exerting energy on what brought about the parlous state of the Nigerian economy and how the country fell into recession, the Federal Government should initiate reforms to revamp the economy. Stanbic IBTC Holdings Plc Chairman ATEDO PETERSIDE, in this article entitled: “Eleven actions required for speedy economic turnaround”, gives 11 nuggets that can lift the economy. 

The Federal Government is doing some things right, such as the effort to curb overhead expenditures and to be more frugal than past administrations, but then, they are also doing many things wrong. There is a reluctance to completely break from the past and embrace significant economic reforms, even when our present predicament clearly warrants same.

We are now facing an economic crisis. A crisis is an inflection point. It is that point when multiple outcomes become possible. 2017 represents the last full calendar year that this administration has within which it must embrace major economic reforms, if it expects to still attain many of the more palatable economic outcomes. It is no use arguing over who, or what caused the economic recession (-2 per cent growth) and high inflation rate (over 18.5 per cent p.a.) that we are currently facing; far better to focus on what we need to do to get us out of this sorry state.

There are several units within the Federal Government that appear to be working hard. Sadly, most of them are working in “silos” and solving fringe problems. What appears to be still missing is a bold, holistic and audacious effort to harmonize fiscal, monetary, exchange rate, trade and macro-prudential policies in a concerted manner. Very few people want to take on the “big gorilla” in the room. That is why the impact of the Federal Government’s Economic Management Team (EMT) is not being felt.

Because many fear for their jobs, they are not interested in tackling their colleagues whose actions are negating and/or eliminating the most positive outcomes that the government owes the electorate.

I know that there are those who will criticize me for saying that the Federal Government’s economic policy direction remains unclear. My response to them is that the most significant economic reforms embraced so far by Federal Government came about rather reluctantly, for instance by Federal Government hanging on to an untenable position until it eventually disentangled itself or got overpowered by its own internal contradictions.

We saw this with petrol prices and also the devaluation of the naira. When these “reforms” came, they arrived in the form of half-measures. Thus, we stopped short of full petrol price deregulation and introduced an unsustainable price fix instead. We equally stopped short of adopting truly market-determined exchange rates and instead embraced a “fudge” that spewed widely divergent multiple exchange rates. Half measures typically bring some pain, but often fail (as in this case) to yield any lasting gain.

The rest of this article will discuss 11 major policy actions which the Federal Government should consider. We must shake off the indolent mindset that leads us to believe that all constitutional changes are taboo. Accordingly, I seek to draw attention to the following 11 important items on which major action is still required.

• The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) should accept that its foreign exchange and demand management policies have failed. The more restrictions they have placed on forex repatriation, the less likely it has become that badly needed forex inflows from portfolio investors, foreign direct investors and Nigerians will pick up. Privileged access to CBN’s forex allocations has become the best investment game in town for the politically well-connected. Furthermore, the directive to banks to allocate 60 per cent of forex to manufacturers, who account for only 10 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (including owners of zombie industries which are horribly import-dependent), has exacerbated an already bad supply situation. Forty per cent is much too small to accommodate the rest of the economy and so all other sectors (90 per cent of GDP) have been crippled.

This has unleashed panic, thereby sending the parallel market to the high heavens. Forex inflows disappeared partly because of the uncertainty surrounding the ability to repatriate interest/dividends through an overly restrictive 40 per cent window. There is no scientific basis for this 60 per cent /40 per cent rule. Meanwhile it has huge adverse distortionary implications on the supply side. The end-result has been our mind-boggling and widely divergent multiple exchange rates which have spooked investors who have taken fright and also taken flight. Sadly, we have effectively “shot ourselves in the foot” by taking ill-advised actions that crippled both forex inflows and the Service sector in particular (over 50 per cent of GDP).

· Three preceding administrations ended up brokering peace deals with Niger Delta militants. The Federal Government should urgently pursue high-powered negotiations which should be brokered by persons with a healthy track record in this activity and the ancillary pipeline protection business – it can net Federal Government $6 billion a year. In the longer term, I favour a constitutional amendment that reserves a one per cent royalty payment to immediate host communities on all mining and mineral producing activity (including limestone, oil and precious stones among others).

Communities will then be well-incentivised to keep production activity going. This is preferable to a long-term reliance on amnesty payments which constitute a moral hazard. A 13 per cent derivation payment to a possibly “unaccountable and distant” state governor does not filter down to host communities.

• We should simultaneously embark upon some asset sales which improve long-term efficiency and will yield foreign currency. I argued in my ‘LETTER TO MY COUNTRYMEN’ published on October 1, 2016, that the Federal Government share of the major Oil Joint Ventures of International Oil Companies (IOCs) should be sold down to 40 per cent or no more than 49 per cent. This would represent a replica of the highly successful Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) model that provides a healthy dividend stream for the government. If it is good for NLNG, then it should be good for the IOCs too. Asset sales can yield $15-$20 billion over the course of the next two years if planned carefully.

•We urgently need to deregulate the entire downstream petroleum sector and also privatise Nigerian National Petroleum Company’s (NNPC’s) three refineries, depots and pipelines and domestic gas.

• Our civil/public service is still bloated, corrupt and inefficient and has become the excuse for a privileged two per cent of the population to consume close to 60-70 per cent of the annual budget via the recurrent expenditure vote. Methinks mass redundancies are now inevitable because the nation is stuck with a public service and legislators that we could only afford at $100 per barrel oil prices.

• Less than 25 per cent of our 36 states are economically viable. The obvious answer is political restructuring, as unpalatable as it may sound to some. In terms of overhead spending, we have to rejig our political structure so that significant overheads are transferred from 36 states to 6 zonal centres. We should keep an open mind towards this political restructuring argument because it is not even true that homogeneity within a state or zone necessarily guarantees peace. Somalia is homogenous and yet, it is probably the closest thing there is today globally to a failed state. Conversely, there are communities, states and nations around the world which are heterogeneous, but which are living peacefully together.

• To help overcome, the social and physical infrastructure deficit, we must embrace the private sector as the engine of growth and a capable partner/financier of infrastructural development. The power and transportation sectors are crying for more and not less privatisation. The logic of the power sector reforms was built around the adoption of cost-reflective tariffs, which we have since thrown out of the window. The transmission sector and gas supply difficulties are some of the other weak links in the power value chain.

• A dysfunctional legal system is an impediment to the rapid growth of a modern economy. The Chief Justice of the Federation must “buy into” and spearhead radical reform of our legal system.

· The anti-corruption crusade will only complement the positive changes envisaged above if the government itself respects the rule of law and obeys the courts. We should err on the side of extending the “benefit of the doubt” to accused persons whenever allegations cannot be proven beyond reasonable doubt. It is better to let four people who might be guilty go free than to convict one innocent man. The latter drains all the energy out of the anticorruption crusade and also destroys business confidence.

· Restoring business confidence should be the primary preoccupation guiding virtually every statement by public officers. This calls for a paradigm shift because the current preoccupation is for every Minister, Governor, Regulator or overzealous official to threaten investors with closure, bankruptcy, fines or seizure of their goods. Frightened businessmen (local or foreign) will not invest. We should be wooing investors instead of threatening them.

· The Federal Government should immediately appoint directors to the boards of every regulatory agency. The important lesson from the recent Financial Reporting Council (FRC) of Nigeria imbroglio is that a single rogue regulator can hold the entire system to ransom, help destroy business confidence and hamper economic growth. This only becomes possible when the checks and balances which our laws envisaged, through the appointment of boards, council members or commissioners, are not in place.

CONCLUSION

Our economy is underperforming because, amongst other things, it is caught up in a low foreign exchange trap. Borrowing forex without instituting necessary and badly-needed economic and structural reforms is akin to suicide. Those who are canvassing for more foreign debt simply because our debt/GDP ratio is low are overlooking the fact that our debt service ratios are already high. Our debt service ratios are high because our Tax/GDP ratio at six per cent is exceedingly poor and so, it will require a few years of concerted action to raise it significantly. Relying on debt alone to ease the forex trap is therefore a high risk strategy. That is why I also emphasise two) and three) above.

Nigerians take pride in arguing that the Lord loves us and so, he always intervenes by bringing us back from the precipice in the nick of time. I do not doubt that. What I truly believe is that the Lord intervenes through people. After the unbridled insults that were heaped on the Emir of Kano (Alhaji Muhammad Sanusi II) and a few others who dared to tell the government the truth about the parlous state of our economy, the easiest path for me would have been to keep quiet or to simply blame speculators, detractors or past regimes. If I did that then the attack dogs would have won. No, I am not about to abandon my right to free speech on account of some insincere sycophants.
I speak because I want my country to improve.

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