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Court okays forfeiture order of N2.4bn properties linked to ex-PPMC boss

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The Federal government has secured an interim forfeiture order from the Federal High Court in Abuja to seize N2.4 billion and properties allegedly linked to a former Managing Director of the Pipelines and Product Marketing Company (PPMC), Haruna Momoh.

In a statement signed by its spokesperson, Rasheedat Okoduwa, on Monday, the ICPC alleged Momoh illegally acquired the said monies and properties.

The ICPC said the properties to be forfeited are Plot 199, Ebitu Ukiwe Street, Utako, Nos. 21, 22, 23 and 26 Olympia Estate, Kaura District, Plot 1824, Cadastral Zone, BO7, Katampe, plot 1827, Cadastral Zone, BO7, Katampe and No. 6 Casamance street, Wuse Zone 3, all in Federal Capital, Abuja.

The commission said its investigations had also revealed that the former PPMC boss allegedly abused his position by using cronies and shell companies to divert government funds.

It added that the accused had unlawfully used different companies to secure contracts from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) without any corresponding evidence of execution.

”The ICPC had secured an interim forfeiture order from a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, to seize the N2, 417, 037, 404 billion comprising of foreign and local currencies, stashed in multiple accounts in four different banks as well as five landed properties located in different parts of Abuja metropolis.

”He allegedly used Multi-Functions Nigeria Limited, Blaid Property limited and Blaid Construction Limited to carry out several unlawful activities running into billions of naira. Contracts were secured for the companies from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) without any corresponding evidence of execution.”

Further, the commission said it traced four bank accounts with the United Bank for Africa (UBA) to Mr Momoh’s wife – in them was stashed the sum of N469.2 million in foreign and local currencies.

Also $1.7 million and N496.2 million respectively were found in an account with Union Bank.

”The wife has four bank accounts with the United Bank for Africa (UBA) where the combined sum of N469.2 million in foreign and local currencies was stashed and two other accounts with Union Bank, where the Commission found $1, 678, 975 million and N496, 137, 895 million respectively.

”ICPC further discovered Euro 173, 601.55, $5, 563.21 and N876, 209, 744 million three Stanbic IBTC bank accounts traced to Multi-functions Nigeria Limited and the sum of N800, 663.43 in Citibank also belonging to the same company.”

Justice Adeniyi, while granting the interim forfeiture, ruled that the money be placed in an interest-yielding escrow account in the name of ICPC.

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Akwa Ibom: DPR seals 13 illegal petrol stations

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The Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Eket Field Office, in Akwa Ibom has sealed 13 filling stations for acts of illegality and non-renewal of licenses in the state.

The DPR Operations Controller in the state, Tamunoiminabo Kingsley-Sundaye, disclosed this on Wednesday in Uyo during a routine surveillance on petrol stations.

Kingsley-Sundaye said the filling stations were sealed in Uyo, Essien Udim, Ikot Ekpene, Abak, Etim, Ika Local Government Areas of the state.

He explained that out of the 13 stations sealed, seven were sealed for non-approval to build or operate the stations while six did not renew their licenses.

“Seven of them do not have approval to build filling stations.

“The team of DPR on routine surveillance went out to some areas in Akwa Ibom to ensure compliance in terms of standard, safety engineering standard and operating standard,” he said.

The operations controller said the department had given prior warning to defaulting stations but they were recalcitrant and refused to comply with guidelines and standard of operations.

“There are some people who are adamant and they feel the system is weak or the government is weak to make them to obey the law. We will continue to do what is right,” Mr Kingsley-Sundaye said.

He said the department collaborated with the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) to arrest defaulters of oil and gas in the state in October.

He noted that after the arrest, a good number of the defaulters came back to do the right thing while two petroleum marketers, who were arrested, refused to do the right thing.

Kingsley-Sundaye added that those petroleum marketers who built filling stations without approved licenses would be sanctioned and prosecuted in the court of law.

“The department will approach court of law to prosecute the defaulters in the state.

“If your license expires, the law states, you don’t have the authority to continue doing such business.

“When you continue to operate illegally, it is a criminal matter but not a civil matter and the law enforcement agency will assist us to do what is right.

“It is cheaper for you to obey the law than to break it,” the operation controller said.

He advised some of the petroleum marketers to approach DPR if they wanted to build filling stations or site oil and gas facilities in the state.

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FG lists conditions to reopen borders

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The Federal government on Monday gave a list of conditions that must be met for it to reopen its borders.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, alongside members of the Inter-ministerial committee on the temporary partial closure of land borders, held a press briefing in Abuja to discuss the issues.

The nation’s borders have been closed for several weeks in a move the government said was to grow the local economy and reduce illegal importation.

The issue has generated controversy in the economy with many condemning the government for not providing palliatives to curb the expected rise in basic goods for families. Some also argue that the border closure violates Nigeria’s agreements within ECOWAS and the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.

Other Nigerians have, however, commended the initiative saying it would help increase local production and use of made-in-Nigerian goods.

It was also reported how officials of the federal government said the closure has led to increased revenue for the Nigeria Customs Service and a reduction in the volume of petrol smuggled outside Nigeria. Mr Buhari has since extended the border closure to January next year.

However, some conditions were agreed upon by members of the Nigerian side of the tripartite committee set up to review the policy.

The conditions as stated by Mr Onyeama are as follows:

– Any import coming from outside an ECOWAS region and imported into an ECOWAS member state must maintain its original packaging. They must be escorted from the port directly to the designated entry point in the Nigerian border, presented to the Nigerian customs with their original packaging. Compromises will not be tolerated.

– Goods produced predominantly in ECOWAS member states must satisfy the ECOWAS rules of origin to avoid any possibility of downplay. Goods must be majorly produced in ECOWAS countries.

If the goods are coming from outside ECOWAS, the value addition must be over 30 per cent for it to be accepted within the framework of the Economic Trade Liberalisation Scheme that ECOWAS countries have to promote trade among them.

This is to avoid countries outside member states from exporting their goods into ECOWAS region repackaged, as though they are coming from an ECOWAS region.4

– All warehouses along the shared borders of Nigeria must be dismantled.

– Goods being transported must be put in proper recognized packaging. No longer will we have goods of all shapes and sizes going through the borders. To maintain the best practices of those goods, an accepted condition for packaging will be established.

– In regards to free movements of persons, all persons moving through Nigerian borders must present themselves through recognized entry points and must have recognized travel documents (country passport).

In two weeks Nigeria will be hosting a tripartite meeting (Niger, Benin, and Nigeria) to further review the policy.

Heads of ministries of foreign affairs, interior, finance, customs, immigration, NIA and other security segments will form the committees of each country represented.

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₦1.2bn may be lost in 2020 to overpricing by MDAs

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The Federal government may lose over ₦1.2 billion next year to overpricing in the proposed 2020 budget currently before the National Assembly.

This is because federal ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) are trying to avoid the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) to fix bogus prices for items they proposed to procure.

Section 4 (b) of the Public Procurement Act saddles the BPP with the function of the “establishment of pricing standards and benchmarks”.

However, the Bureau’s price checking portal is not functioning at the moment. Worse still, the agency said it does not involve itself in determining the prices of items listed for procurement.

The 2020 budget proposal is before the National Assembly but past experiences gave no assurance that the lawmakers will check the infractions.

This N1.2 billion figure is an estimate of a series of overpriced items and what is proposed for an unnamed project in the 2020 appropriation billpresented by President Muhammadu Buhari to the National Assembly in October.

A recurring feature of the bill is the existence of sketchy details about the proposed projects.

Culpable in this anomaly are virtually all MDAs, including the Office of the Presidency and the anti-corruption agencies like the EFCC and ICPC.

Certain MDAs that gave the details of their intended projects have been caught to have overpriced some of them, perhaps as a result of deliberate fraud or failure to carry out a market survey before fixing the prices.

Earlier, at the budget defence session by MDAs, Senate President Ahmed Lawan specifically named overpricing as an underbelly in the budget proposals.

It, however, reported how the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) priced “one 500KVA soundproof generators for Lagos office” at ₦26,930,992. The product sells for ₦19 million in an online sales shop, Jumia.

Further scrutiny by this newspaper of the budget proposal has revealed that not less than 23 of such price disparities exist in the budget.

Some projects are newly proposed while others are ongoing, indicating that the latter were uncompleted and brought forward from previous years.

These 23 items have a cumulative proposed amount of ₦1,645,839,108. However, price estimates obtained from Jumia, Konga — both online stores — and BudgIT show that with ₦403,772,497, all 23 projects would be implemented.

This could save the country from piping ₦1,242,066,611 down the drain.

Of the 23 projects randomly selected from the budget, an unnamed project with code “ERGP28145325” stands out. Tagged as an ongoing project, and named as “ERGP28145263″, the project is priced at ₦30 million.

Also, the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) proposes to purchase seven colour laserjet PRO M252DW” printer for ₦2.75 million. The same product sells for ₦190,500 each, meaning that the Nigerian football house is proposing to spend ₦1.42 million of taxpayers money than necessary.

The presidency is not left out either in the wastage. The Presidential Air Fleet proposes to purchase three units of “2 horsepower panasonic air conditioner” at ₦1.05 million. But with ₦489,000 all three can be bought. This is another ₦561,000 to be wasted from the nation’s purse. No further details was given of the required air conditioner to enable a check if there would be a need for a price increase.

In the same vein, Michael Okpara University of Agriculture plans to procure a hilux jeep for ₦40 million, but with ₦25 million, the vehicle can be theirs.

The construction of blocks of classrooms provides the largest chunk of projects whose prices are inflated. Costs of completed 2015 constituency projects as published by BudgIT show that instead of the proposed sum of ₦870 million, constructing these classrooms should cost ₦229 million, leaving an excess of ₦641 million.

With only three projects sampled in this category, the Lower Benue River Basin Development Area (RBDA) with one of the projects and the Universal Basic Education (UBE) Commission with the remaining two are parties involved in the above infraction.

Trailing construction of classrooms is the drilling of both solar and motorised boreholes. The same report by BudgIT was used to estimate the cost of drilling boreholes. Going by the prices quoted in the report, rather than the proposed ₦495 million, ₦75 million can do the same job, leaving a saving of ₦420 million.

The four projects under this category were proposed by the headquarters of the quartet of Border Communities Development Agency (BCDA), Federal Ministry of Environment, Federal Ministry of Water Resources and Benin/Owena River Basin Development Area (RBDA).

There is also a high proposition for generators and solar panel of various capacity. Specifically, the taste for 5KVA of solar inverter, and 30KVA, 50KVA, 60KVA, 100KVA, 200KVA, 250KVA generators rank top.

These appliances are to cost the country a little above ₦207 million. But with prices sourced from Jumia and Konga, about ₦73 million is all that is needed to purchase them — yet again another saving of ₦134 million.

MDAs caught in this web are Regional Centre for Technology Management (NACETEM—Lagos), Technology Business Incubator Centre, Yola, National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Kamuku National Park, Federal Road Management Agency (FERMA), National Park, Federal Teaching Hospital, Ido-Ekiti, FGC in each of Azare, Sagamu, Kwali, Gboko, and the Mass Literacy Council.

Samuel Atiku, a policy and development economist, explained that budgeting in Nigeria is done at the MDAs, using the bottom-to-top approach. By this, he means that agencies prepare their budgets and submit to their head ministries who consolidate the proposals before they get to the National Assembly.

“Most of the MDAs that prepare the budget have a copy of the price list of items, as provided by the Bureau of Public Procurement,” Mr Atiku says.

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