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Yemi Osinbajo 600x400

Acting President Professor Yemi Osinbajo

 

This is my first time of attending a conference that talks about recovering assets and the issue of what to do with the stolen assets.


Even though we have been able to convince ourselves that the proceeds from drug trafficking were dirty money but proceeds of corruption are not dirty money.

Many countries have signed treaties that proceed from drugs, illegal traffic in persons proceeds of money.

Somehow proceeds from political corruption have not attracted the same outrage that proceeds from narcotics and trafficking in persons have attracted.

It took years for some people to agree that when somebody loots money where people make a decent living that is more criminal than a crime against humanity, more dangerous than trafficking in drugs.

Is a good thing that we are here with our partners who agree that not only are these stolen assets criminalise but that they are returned to their appropriate owners.

There is no way this the transfer of this assets can happen without a handshake between the countries that they are transferred and the international banking institutions in the countries in which they are transferred, there is no way it will happen without some form of connivance.

We have to look at somehow delegitimizing those kinds of Financial Institutions and criminalising them so that banks and financial institutions that actually engage in this are being called out and made to face the consequences of engaging in criminal practices. If that isn’t done we are not likely to go very far.

For there to be a collaboration there must first be connivance, in the agreement and conventions we will be signing we must find away and ensure that financial institutions are not given a free run and hold them accountable.

Another point is that African countries and developing countries must realise that is our responsibility to ensure not only find get these monies and make sure that there is return. It is not enough to talk about it. Some countries are somehow reluctant about it, many have civil processes that make it difficult, they say our courts are handling this matter and it is very little we can do about.

We must make it a national call, a call for other developing countries to have the same outrage for drugs, terrorist financing for illicit financial flows. We must emphasise at every point and call out institutions that are not cooperating and ensuring that they recognise that this for us a serious issue.

Like President Buhari has said repeatedly that if we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill it. When corrupt monies find safe havens, it will begin to fight back and if the government is not careful it can fight back.

In Nigeria for instance where corruption fights back so eloquently that government itself if not careful can be overwhelmed.

If you look at the anticorruption fight in Nigeria there is a major fight back in the media. There is a media war, between people fighting corruption and those behind the stolen funds.

It is called media trial, I don’t know what that means. If you discover for instance large sums of money in an air condition room there is nowhere it will not make news anywhere in the world.

So, this whole idea of trying to legitimise corruption is definitely being fuelled and sponsored by those who have these resources, who have stolen funds. Unless we see it as a problem that can bring down our system then we will never be able to fight. I hope we will be able to advance this with other African countries.

The Mbeki report shows that most of the illicit funds' flow that comes out of Africa are from Nigeria and that shows us very clearly especially the security agencies that we simply have to do more. It is evident that so much money is leaving our shores.

I was arguing with somebody about the fact that they were stopping certain funding, and he kept telling me Nigeria is no longer a poor country but now a mid-income earning country so they shouldn’t be giving us those kinds of aids. It was barely a week after that a large sum of money was found at the Kaduna airport and it was roughly about half of the money we were looking for. So, he sent me a text telling me that the money has been discovered at Kaduna. Of course, I didn’t reply him but when he persisted, I called him, and asked if this was his own form of a joke.

But clearly it is sometimes absurd that when we are asking for aid, so much money is being stolen. So, we ourselves must take responsibility and ensure we keep talking about this.



PREMIUM TIMES

British High commission

 

The British High Commission has announced that email enquiries by Visa customers applying from outside the UK would attract a fee as from June 1.

The high commission made this known in a brief report on changes to UK Visas & Immigration customer care operations made available by the Media Officer, Joseph Abuku, in Abuja on Monday.

According to the report, the changes would help the government reduce costs and ensure those who benefit directly from the UK immigration system make an appropriate contribution.

“Effective today (June 1), email enquiries by Visa customers from overseas will attract a fee.

“How you contact UK Visas and Immigration is changing.

“From 1 June, all customer enquiries will be handled by a new commercial partner Sitel UK. The new contract will see a number of changes for customers,” he said.

The high commission stated that changes were made in all phone numbers and opening hours.

Other changes made were a reduction in the number of languages offered to eight including English, and a fee of £5.48 for customers who contacted the UK Visas and Immigration by email.

“You will need to pay using a credit or debit card for contacting us by email.

“The charge includes the first email enquiry you send and any follow-up emails to and from the contact centre relating to the same enquiry.

“The way you pay to use the telephone service will remain the same using a credit or debit card.

“If you do not have access to a credit or debit card, you may choose to use a trusted 3rd party such as an agent or sponsor.”

The UK mission, however, stated that there were no changes to services for customers contacting from inside the UK.

(NAN)

Yemi Osinbajo 600x400

 

Nigeria’s Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo says under the N100 billion social housing scheme of the present administration, anyone who can afford N30,000 will be able to own a house.

The Acting President said this at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa in Abuja on Monday at an event tagged “A Smile for Every Nigerian” organised to commemorate the administration’s second anniversary.

Prof. Osinbajo further explained that the housing scheme was part of the administration’s social intervention programme that had not been mentioned.

Osinbajo said, “This is 100bn set aside for the Family Home Fund our Social Housing Project. The 100b is a yearly contribution to our N1trn Social Housing Fund, the largest in the history of the country.

“The World Bank and the African Development Bank are contributors to the Fund. From this Fund, developers will borrow 80% of the cost of project and counter fund with their 

“The same fund will enable us to provide inexpensive mortgages for hundreds of thousands across the country who want to own homes.

“Anyone who can afford N30,000 will be able to buy a home under our new social housing fund scheme.

“Already, the project has started in 11 states. We expect that this family housing fund will jumpstart and expand construction exponentially across the country.”

Osinbajo further insisted that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth should translate into jobs.

“First the trickle down model has proved far too slow to stem the tide of poverty in one of the fastest growing populations in the world.

“Secondly, most of the growth was on account of the oil sector which is capital intensive but not labour intensive.

“So, while we were recording growth levels of 7% because of the high oil prices, unemployment figures grew, the acting president stated.”

Source - Daily Post 

Senate nigeria

The upper legislative chamber passed the bill after the senators considered clauses in the bill.

The bill was broken into four parts to allow easier passage.

While considering clauses of the bill, the senators disagreed on who would have the responsibility to guard against environmental degradation.

Some senators had wanted the ministry of petroleum resources to be responsible for taking care of oil spills and other forms of environmental degradation.

Hope Uzodinma, the senator representing Imo West, said the ministry of the environment should be allowed to take care environmental conditions to ensure that the standard is maintained.

He said this would be in line with the new world order in cognisance to climate change.

Also speaking, Magnus Abe, Senator representing Rivers South-east, said the matter should not be left in the hands of the oil industry because they were after profits

“I think our recent experiences in this country, we all know the situation of the Niger Delta as a result of the lack of regulation in the oil industry,” he said.

“If we leave this matter in the hands of the oil industry, we will end up in a situation where we will spend our time fighting over issues that we should not be concerned with.

“I want to align myself with those who have suggested that environmental issue should take precedence over the bottom line so our people are safe.”

However, the senators agreed that the proposed Nigerian Petroleum Regulatory Commission should work with the ministry of environment to protect the oil producing communities.

The senators also agreed that the chairman, Nigerian Petroleum Regulatory Commission should be appointed by the president and not the minister.

Speaking after the bill was passed, Senate President Bukola Saraki said it would ensure transparency and accountability and create and an enabling environment for the petroleum sector.
Dr Joe Abah, the Director-General, Bureau of Public Service Reforms has reiterated Nigeria’s  commitment to the Open Government Partnership, (OGP) and the need to address the corruption in the extractive sector. In this interview with Mr Emeka Ononamadu, National Coordinator PWYP-Nigeria and Mr Audu Liberty Oseni, editor Extracting Accountability, at the National Steering Committee and donors meeting for OGP, he speaks of the government commitment to OGP and the importance of addressing the huge corruption in the extractive sector, particularly in the oil and gas.

 

 

Below are the extracts of the interview:


Q: Within your reform agenda do you have any specific focus for the extractive sector?

R: The specific attention is our work in strengthening Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI). The World Bank is talking to us about working with the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the agencies under it, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and a few of them. But they are still talking with the Minister for state first, and when they are ready they will let us know. We have done some work with the ministry of solid minerals particularly with regards to the solid minerals development fund that is supposed to be set up and run. We will help them to sort out how that fund is best managed.

Q: There are specific NGOs that are so interested in what your agency is doing, like Publish What You Pay that is focusing on the extractive sector, how do we connect with your agency in terms of promoting the ideas to the grass roots?

R: We partner with a number of NGOs on different issues, we worked with Right to Know Initiative, for instance, to put in place the country’s first Freedom of Information (FOI) portal which we also exported to NEIT. We are trying to make sure it goes into the Open Government Partnership (OGP) national action plan as a standard practice.

We have worked with PPDC on procurement transparency; in fact, they rated us as the best in the country in terms of procurement. Our scope is so wide, we can work with anybody on any issue, anything that draws monies from the Federal Government, it doesn’t matter what it is.

I think, if we are able to identify areas of mutual interest, there is no reason why we can’t partner on specific things. Another thing that we do quite well is to facilitate joint work among the government. Assuming you want to do something, we could work with you to bring NEITI with other people in government together. We have that convening power.

We work across government, we are doing some work with NNDC, we need to go and sort out that place so the agency can deliver for the people of the Niger Delta. Again, we bring support from the World Bank, FOSTER, DFID and EU as well. We are not territorial; our work is on anything that improves governance.

Q: There have been series of reforms in the past to sanitise the oil and gas sector, yet the corruption in the sector has continued unabated, What measures do we have in place to make sure that this one is the final nail in curbing corruption in the extractive sector?

R: There is no such thing like final nail on corruption anywhere in the world; I think that is raising the threshold to an unrealistic level. I think what we need to do is to make sure the processes are in place to avoid abuse and impunity.

We have had in the past, NNPC operating as almost an extra-legal entity; it is bizarre that NNPC could have a recurrent budget higher than that of the Federal Government. If you are running NNPC, you are running an alternative government, and those are the sort of things we need to address and make sure they don’t happen anymore.

We have had issues where it is difficult to state with confidence the exact number of barrels of crude we are producing per a day, we don’t know how many we are losing to bunkering, we don’t know where the monies that oil companies pay go to, whether they even pay what they are supposed to pay. All of those things are not just the way they should be.

People will tell you, it is highly political, yes, everything is highly political, but the important thing in my view is, do we have the system in place such that if there is abuse you can easily trace the source of the abuse? If you look at a number of these agencies, the government has not yet taken the decision to rationalise some agencies and parastatal, some of those agencies such as Petroleum Price Regulating Agency (PPRA) I don’t know what they are regulating and what they are there for. The Petroleum Equalization Fund, I don’t know what they are equalising, and even the PTDF.

There are a number of these agencies that are just an overhead, and the more of these agencies we have, the more difficult it is to nail down where exactly the problem is. Those are some of the things we are hoping that if we put in place a streamed lined extractive industry sector where responsibilities are clear, we strengthen NEITI to be able to monitor, report independently and clearly, we ensure that the National Assembly takes NEITI report seriously and also equip NEITI to be able to go to the citizens. Even if the National Assembly doesn’t because the greatest friends of the reformer are the member of the public, if you are getting blockages in the National Assembly,  you go to the people, the people will demand and back you up. That is what we are trying to do.

Q: Within the 2016 budget framework, the government has not allocated any money to support the OGP in addition to other support they are going to be getting. How do you take away the fears of the people that government needs to match its words with action?

R: I think it is important that government does that, but does it in a decent way. And that’s why if you look at the Minister of state and my intervention this morning, we wanted to make sure the project is realistic. A lot of what is in the project is what we call civil service costing. People putting more activities that they can’t do physically if you were to count all the monies and give to them, they just cannot physically do all of them.

In a lot of cases, the activities are not contributing to the commitment, I don’t know what people think, you designed activities and there is no clear link to what you want to achieve. I think it would have been a bit difficult for a government to just say here are a hundred million funds for OGP when it does know how the project is going to be run.

That is going to be a bit difficult, however, the government usually puts aside N1.5billion every year for public service reform under the service wide vote, and if you look at passionately, everything we have talked about here is all about public service reform. Although there is no label that says OGP N200million or N500million, we are confidence that within the service wide vote, it is possible to fund some of the activities if they are clearly defined.

And that is why, it is important that we look through the activities one after the other, see which ones are already budgeted for in the 2017 budget, see which ones donors have already pledged to support and then see the gaps. I think the way we are trying to do it is more honest, than government coming out to announce, it is putting N5billion to OGP and the money never comes out, that will be unfortunate.

That’s why some of our people may feel that we have been harsh on them this morning, but we have to be, this is something we are exposing ourselves to the international community to see. It will not be good if by December when the evaluation will be done and we are at 25% or 30% implementation. A lot of the activities in the OGP are cost free, the more useful and urgent ones are the ones that do not require financial resources. For example, the head of the service issuing a circular of a new rule being put in place does not need additional funding.

I think it is important that government continues to show commitment, the Attorney General of the federation was here, there were about four other ministers here today, and that is a clear sign of government commitment to OGP. I was in Paris when we launched the national action plan, we held few meetings, and the international OGP secretariat is keen to supporting Nigeria, even with peer learning (capacity building).

I think the sceptics is normal for anything new, particularly giving the track records the government has had in this kind of initiative, but, with the OPG being co-chaired with the national action plan been co-created, it is unlikely that government will simply not do anything. You could see the commitment of the donors here today. One of them said, the money is in the room, but, we just need to make sure the plan is clear. So I am very optimistic.

Q: You talked about Peer learning, for us at the CSO, what is the plan to get key government agencies particularly those within the extractive sector into this peer learning mechanism

R: We have designed a tool on how to successfully run a government agency, many people are appointed to this position without knowledge on how to run a government. We have designed a guide to help them, we have also produced a tool with which people can actually access themselves and improve their performance.

We have piloted that with NEITI, Nigeria Communication Commission, Federal Road Safety Corps, and Universal Basic Education Commission. We are trying it with the Niger Delta Development Commission, and later on Investment Promotion Council, Economic and Financial Crime Commission, and Export Promotion Council. There are about 12 to 15 agencies that we want to pilot the designed tool with and refine it.

Ones the tool is refined and finalised, we will be able to use that to spread good practice across the board. Using this, we will start to create pressure on the MDAs to do the appropriate thing. And no Director in any of the MDAs will like to be ranked low.

 

DR joe abah

 

Q: Within the FOI Implementation, what do you think are the reasons why the extractive sector is not complying?

R: For a number of reasons, first of all, they have a lot of money and with that, they can dare anybody. Secondly, there is an inbuilt attitude not to be open and transparent, and that has been in the interests of both the government and oil companies.

If they are not transparent, government officials and oil companies get more illicit funds, pay less tax, and destroy more of the environment. It has been beneficial to everybody for not being transparent in their operations.

I think that is why, and like as I said earlier, if you are in NNPC and you are running overhead budget bigger than the Federal Government who would you listen to, that is just the way it is.

Q: There is a general belief that the beneficial ownership will bring sanity in the extractive sector, do you believe, key players in the oil and gas will support this initiative

R: I don’t actually think they need to key in, we are government, we need to say this is what we need to be done, and if you don’t do it, we will revoke your license.

What are they supporting, the government should simply say, if you are going to prospect for minerals in this country, this is what you need to do. Is either you do it or you don’t get the license to operate.

With regards to the beneficial ownership, Nigeria has a beneficial ownership register and you will need to comply. We will give the people time to comply and set a date after which we will start to take action.

People will simply be told, we need to know exactly who are the real owners of the companies, not necessarily the legal owners, it has to do with, is government sufficiently committed, and if the government is sufficiently committed they will comply. Is like gas flaring, the day government needs the flaring to stop it will stop.
 
END
The Acting Secretary of Federal Capital Territory’s Transport Secretariat, AbdulHamid Suleiman, says Abuja Light Rail is 84.33 per cent complete.

Mr. Suleiman made this known in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, in Abuja on Tuesday.

“The total length of the completed double track as at today is 45.245 kilometres.’ ’He said the project was awarded on May 25, 2007 to China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation for the final construction of Lots 1 and 3.

He said the cost of the project was $841. 645 million with completion period of 48 months.

“This consisted of approximately 60.67 kilometres of standard gauge double railway track and associated permanent way within FCT.

“In Aug. 2012, due to deficiencies noticed in the estimations, the scope of the contract was varied to $823, 540 million for the final design and construction of Lots A1 and 3. “The project has attained about 84.33 per cent completion as at Dec. 2016,” he said.

The acting secretary stressed that the total length of double tracks of 45.245 kilometres has reached 98 per cent completion.

Mr. Suleiman said 12 stations had reached 75 per cent completion, 50 culverts 100 per cent completion, nine pedestrian overpasses had also reached 85 per cent completion.

He said 13 railway bridges were 100 per cent completed, 15 flyover bridges 80 per cent completed, locomotive and rolling stone stock depot also reached 85 per cent completion, communication 67 per cent and signalling at 87 per cent completion.

Mr. Suleiman said “the projected date of the completion of the project is Dec. 2017.

“The feasibility study and conceptual design for the remaining lots 4, 5 and 6 are under procurement.

“These lots are available for concession under a Design, Build and Operate (DBO) basis,” he said.

(Premium Times)

Despite the impact of recession on the Nigerian economy, the total funds under the Contributory Pension Scheme rose to N6.02tn at the end of November 2016.

This was disclosed in the update on the assets under management obtained by our correspondent from the National Pension Commission on Wednesday.

According to the commission, the funds rose from N4.6tn at the end of the 2014 financial period to N5.3tn in 2015.

The Director-General, PenCom, Mrs. Chinelo Anohu-Amazu, said the funds were being well managed, adding that no fraud had been recorded under the scheme.

She explained that the Pension Reform Act, 2004, which was the governing legislation of the CPS, was repealed and re-enacted in July 2014.

She said the new law re-enacted the copious provisions of the repealed 2004 Act, which included the establishment of the CPS as well as PenCom as the sole regulator and supervisor of pension matters in the country.

“Among other significant revisions, the PRA 2014 introduced some innovations in the pension system, instituted a stiffer regime of sanctions and penalties for infringements, ensured the upward review of the minimum rate of pension contribution in order to enhance the value of pension pay-outs, and expanded the coverage of private sector employees under the CPS,” Anohu-Amazu said.

The Chairman, Pension Fund Operators Association of Nigeria, Mr. Eguarehide Longe, said the pension funds were active in different investment portfolios. According to him, the bulk of the funds is invested in government bonds, which the government has invested some in infrastructure.

Ideally, he explained that money that had been borrowed for reasonably long-term should be used for reasonable long-term assets and not to fund recurrent expenditure.

(PUNCH)

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