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NOMINATION FORMS: EFCC WRITES INEC, DEMANDS APC, PDP, OTHER ASPIRANTS’ BANK DETAILS

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EFCC Chairman-Abdulraheed Bawa

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has launched a discreet investigation into the finances of the 18 political parties in the country and their presidential aspirants. This followed the humongous fees paid for expression of interest and nomination forms by aspirants vying for various elective offices in the parties.

The anti-graft agency has, therefore, asked the Independent National Electoral Commission to furnish it with the bank accounts and other financial details of the political parties.

It also asked the managing directors of Access Bank and Polaris Bank to provide the details of the 14 accounts operated by the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party and another organisation believed to be connected to the opposition party.

While the ruling APC sold its presidential forms for N100m, the main opposition party pegged its forms at N40m.In addition, the APC governorship aspirants paid N50m, while persons who declared for the Senate, House of Representatives and state Houses of Assembly paid N20m, N10m and N2m, respectively for their nomination and expression of interest forms.

On the other hand, the PDP sold its governorship forms for N21m; Senate, N3.5m; House of Representatives, N2.5m; and state Houses of Assembly, N600,000.

While the other parties charged lesser amounts for their forms, the exorbitant nomination fees charged by the two dominant parties angered many Nigerians with Transparency International describing the development as a form of money laundering.

The EFCC Chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa, last week hinted on a Channels Television’s programme, Politics Today, that the commission would monitor campaign finances, including the legitimacy of the funds used to purchase nomination forms ahead of the 2023 general elections.

Bawa said the commission would be working with INEC and other election-related organisations to track the sources of the money spent on the purchase of nomination forms.

He noted, “When it comes to the issue of monitoring election funds as well as candidates’ funds that has to do with the work of INEC in this regard. But, of course, we are working hand in glove with INEC and other related agencies in that field to ensure that we follow the money.

“We want to know the source, whether it is legitimate or illegitimate, because that is what concerns us.”

Findings by Saturday PUNCH, however, indicated that the agency had begun a forensic investigation and tracking of the finances of the political organisations and interest groups.

The EFCC, in a letter to the INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, dated May 9, 2022, signed by its Director of Operations, Michael Wetkas, on behalf of the chairman, demanded a list of all political parties, their designated bank accounts and any other information that could aid its investigation.

The letter, with reference number CB.3383/EFCC/HOPS/HQ/VOL.1/28, titled, ‘Investigation activities’, read, “The commission is conducting an inquiry in which the need to obtain certain information from your commission is imperative. In view of the foregoing, you are requested to kindly avail the following information: list of all registered political parties; list of designated accounts submitted by the political parties to your commission; any other information that may assist the commission in its investigation.

“This request is made pursuant to sections 38(1) and (2) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, 2004. While thanking you immensely for your continuous cooperation and collaboration, please accept the assurances of the chairman’s esteemed regards.”

The EFCC in another letter, also signed by the Head of Operations, informed the managing directors of Access Bank and Polaris Bank in Abuja that it was investigating 14 accounts of the two dominant parties.

According to the letters, the investigation involves accounts 0692988080, 0035644896 and 0044183689 in Access Bank belonging to the APC; an account with number 0054586830 owned by the National Secretariat of the PDP, and three other accounts by Umbrella Trust Limited – 0076600091, 0066988655 and 0068595990.

In Polaris Bank, one of the accounts belongs to the APC (1771444115), while two are operated by the PDP – 1140060876 and 1770319690 – and four by the ‘PDP Fund Raising Dinner’ – 1771643176, 177647521, 177164514 and 1771647507.

Wetkas wrote, “The commission is investigating a case in which the above-mentioned account names and numbers featured.

“In view of the above, you are kindly requested to forward the certified true copies of the following: Account opening packages/mandate cards; statement of account from January 2021 to date (hard and soft copies). The soft copy should be copied to excel format and forwarded to cagomuo@effc.gov.ng.”

The letter also requested the certificate of identification pursuant to Section 84(4) of the Evidence Act, 2011. (The certifying officer should include his full name, designation, signature and date on each page). The commission also requested the banks to furnish it with any other relevant information that could assist the investigation.

Support groups may be probed for money laundering

Saturday PUNCH also gathered that the probe might also extend to the various support groups, which bought nomination forms for aspirants.

Our correspondent learnt that the EFCC was working on signals that the interest groups were being used to carry out money laundering activities.

For instance, a group known as the Association of Fulani-Almajiri, which is a northern group comprising nomadic pastoralists and Almajiri communities, on Monday obtained the N100m APC presidential forms for former President Goodluck Jonathan.

The group said it paid the exorbitant price of the forms with funds raised from the sale of cows to ensure that Jonathan, whom it described as the best President for Nigeria, returns to Aso Rock in 2023.

Similarly, three interest groups, the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria, Emefiele Support Group and Friends of Godwin, purchased the presidential nomination forms for the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr Godwin Emefiele.

Also, a coalition of 28 groups, including the Youth Arise Movement, Nigerians in Diaspora, One Nigeria Group, Prudent Youth Association of Nigeria, as well as women groups and farmers reportedly procured the APC presidential forms for the President of the African Development Bank, Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, last Saturday in Abuja.

Similarly, the Tinubu Support Organisation procured the N100m forms for a national leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. The leadership of the South-West Agenda for Asiwaju led the groups that picked the forms for Tinubu, who was at the time in Saudi Arabia for the lesser hajj.

The Director-General, TSO, Aminu Suleiman, said the groups paid for the forms because they were sure that Tinubu would win. “I, Hon. Aminu Suleiman would like to officially state that I have signed a cheque to the tune of 100 million naira for the purchase of nomination and expression of interest forms for our leader @officialABAT. God bless,” he tweeted.

No fewer than 28 aspirants bought the APC presidential forms, which closed on Friday.

The trend of groups purchasing forms for aspirants did not start this year. In 2018, the Nigeria Consolidation Ambassadors Network purchased the N45m presidential form of the APC for the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), when he was gunning for a second term.

In the PDP, no fewer than 17 aspirants purchased the party’s N40m forms, two of whom were screened out.

They are governors Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State; Nyesom Wike of Rivers State; Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State; and Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State; investment banker and economist, Mohammed Hayatu-Deen; and a former Anambra State governor, Peter Obi.

Others are a former Senate President, Pius Anyim; ex-President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Sam Ohuabunwa; a United States-based medical doctor, Nwachukwu Anakwenze; the Publisher of Ovation Magazine, Dele Momodu; former Speaker of the Abia State House of Assembly, Cosmos Ndukwe; Charles Ugwu and Chikwendu Kalu.

Also in the race are former Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar; a former Senate President, Bukola Saraki; a former Ekiti State governor, Ayo Fayose, and the only female presidential aspirant in the party, Teriela Oliver.

When asked to respond to the ongoing probe, the spokesman for the APC, Felix Morka, said he was in a meeting and promised to speak later. He had yet to respond to a text message sent to him on the issue as of the time of filing this report.

The PDP National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, declined comment, saying he was not aware of the EFCC investigation. “I’m not aware of it and I don’t want to comment on it,” he said on the telephone on Friday.

Tracking of campaign finances not a witch-hunt, says REC

The INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner in Osun State, Prof Abdulganiyu Raji, has said tracking the campaign finances of political parties by the commission is not a witch-hunt against any individual or group.

Speaking in Osogbo on Friday during a sensitisation workshop for political parties on campaign finance tracking ahead of the governorship election on July 16, Raji stated, “One of the mandates of INEC, apart from the conduct of elections, is to track the finances of political parties with a view to knowing how good they are faring as far as their finances are concerned, in addition to being able to assist them in planning their activities.

“Tracking the finances of political parties is not a witch-hunt. It is for better understanding of the financial activities of the parties. What we do is to track the campaign finances (inflow and outflow) and report to the appropriate quarters in INEC.”

The REC said the commission had earlier organised a similar training for some of its senior staff members in the state, adding, “Today, we are not tracking the finances of these political parties; we are actually taking them through the processes and procedures, and all the necessary techniques that they will need to track their own finances.

“While they are doing it on their own, we will also be doing our own independently. We at INEC submit our reports to the appropriate quarters, but for political parties, in addition to submitting their reports to us, they will also be able to use them for planning their activities. I believe that if they pay attention at the workshop, it will be of benefit to them.”

Raji added that the workshop was usually organised for political parties and candidates before every election.

PUNCH

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GDP SOFTENS AT 3.11%, NON-OIL SECTOR REMAINS GROWTH DRIVER

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GDP Statistics

THE National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, has said that the nation’s economy as measured by the   Gross Domestic Product, GDP, grew   by 3.11%, year on year, YoY, in the first quarter of the year (Q1’22), from 0.51% recorded in the corresponding period in 2021 (Q1’21).

The Q1’22 growth rate was, however, 0.87 percentage points lower than the 3.98 per cent recorded in the previous Q4’21. 

The growth in Q1’22 was driven by the Non Oil sector which expanded by 6.08 per cent YoY in Q1’22, as against the 26.04 per cent YoY contraction recorded by the Oil Sector in the same quarter. 

In its   Nigerian Gross Domestic Product Report (Q1 2022) report released yesterday, NBS stated: “The Q1 2022 growth rate was higher than the 0.51% growth rate recorded in Q1 2021 by 2.60% points and lower than 3.98% recorded in Q4 2021 by 0.88% points.

“In the quarter under review, aggregate GDP stood at N45,317,823.33 million in nominal terms. This performance is higher when compared to the first quarter of 2021 which recorded aggregate GDP of N40,014,482.74 million, indicating a year-on-year nominal growth rate of 13.25%”. 

Oil sector contraction persists

NBS further stated: “Real growth of the oil sector was –26.04% (year-on-year) in Q1 2022 indicating a decrease of 23.83% points relative to the rate recorded in the corresponding quarter of 2021. Growth decreased by 17.99% points when compared to Q4 2021 which was –8.06%.

“Quarter-on-Quarter, the oil sector recorded a growth rate of 9.11% in Q1 2022. The Oil sector contributed 6.63% to the total real GDP in Q1 2022, down from the figures recorded in the corresponding period of 2021 and up compared to the preceding quarter, where it contributed 9.25% and 5.19% respectively.”

Non-Oil strengthens further

On non-oil sector, NBS said, “The non-oil sector grew by 6.08% in real terms during the reference quarter (Q1 2022). This rate was higher by 5.28% points compared to the rate recorded in the same quarter of 2021 and 1.34% points higher than the fourth quarter of 2021. “This sector was driven in the first quarter 2022 mainly by Information and Communication (Telecommunication); Trade; Financial and Insurance (Financial Institutions); Agriculture (Crop Production); and Manufacturing (Food, Beverage & Tobacco), accounting for positive GDP growth.”

VANGUARD

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FG TO COMPLETE GAS, REFINERY INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS BEFORE 2023

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The Federal Government, through the Ministry of State for Petroleum Resources, says it is working hard to complete various gas refinery projects on the back of the decade of gas initiative before the end of this year.

This was even as the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) revealed that it will sign another agreement this month to build another LPG vessel that will transport products within Nigeria given the expansion that is currently going on in the NLNG.

Speaking to Daily Sun on the sidelines of the Nigerian Content Midstream-Downstream Oil and Gas 2022 summit which held in Lagos on Monday, the Honourable Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, said the theme of the summit tagged “Maximizing potentials in the Mid and Downstream Oil and Gas sector – a local content perspective” is timely and apt and comes at a time the Nigerian Oil and Gas industry is exploring the opportunities and potentials associated with the mid and downstream sectors. While commending the NCDMB for taking the driving seat in articulating an agenda for actualizing the full potential and prospects of the massive investments in the industry, Sylva noted that the under the decade of gas initiative, gas has been declared a transition fuel towards our actualization of a net zero carbon emission target and the country must find way to unlock the natural gas and domestic production potential of Nigeria and drag millions of its people out of energy poverty.

He also revealed that the implementation of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) is progressing very nicely, adding that this has brought a lot more appetite for investment in Nigeria.

When quizzed on the timeline of the projects the government is working on, Sylva said, “We are working on the Trans-Saharan gas pipeline, the AKK Gas pipeline project is also advanced and there are a lot of projects that are actually scheduled to be completed by the end of this year. 

Walter Smith refinery has already been completed while the DuPont refinery and Atlantic refineries are billed to be completed this year.The brass petroleum product depot also should be completed this year as well as a lot of other projects that are designed to be completed this year”.

Corroborating Sylva, the Executive Secretary, NCDMB, Engr Simbi Wabote, said that with the World gas conference holding this week in South Korea, one of the key highlights of the event will be a signing of an agreement to construct second LPG vessels.

SUN

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N23.3BN FRAUD: DASUKI’S CASE BEGINS AFRESH AFTER SEVEN YEARS

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Sambo Dasuki

The N23.3bn fraud case involving a former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, on Monday started afresh nearly seven years after he was first arraigned.

Dasuki was first arraigned on December 14, 2015 before Justice Peter Affen of the Federal Capital Territory High Court but he was later elevated to the Court of Appeal, forcing the trial to begin afresh.

The case was subsequently re-assigned to Justice Baba Yusuf.

However, it was learnt that after Justice Yusuf was appointed as the Chief Judge of the FCT, he again assigned the case to Justice Yusuf Halilu.

On Monday, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission arraigned Dasuki along with a former Sokoto State Governor, Attahiru Bafarawa; his son Sagir Bafarawa; their company, Dalhatu Investment Limited; and a former Minister of State for Finance, Bashir Yuguda, on corruption charges.

They were re-arraigned on allegations of breach of trust and criminal misappropriation of public funds amounting to N23.3bn

The EFCC, which slammed 25 counts against Dasuki, Bafarawa and Yuguda, accused them of diverting various sums in various currencies to different bank accounts under the false pretence of using the funds for the procurement of security equipment.

When the charges were read to them, all the accused persons pleaded not guilty.

The trial of Dasuki follows an investigation by the EFCC into allegations that he diverted $2.1bn meant from the purchase of arms.

The former NSA, however, applied for permission from the court to travel overseas for medical reasons, a move which was opposed by the Prosecution lawyer, Leke Atolagbe.

Justice Halilu subsequently adjourned the matter till June 7.

PUNCH

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