Category Archives: Business and Economics

Nigeria – N19bn Paris Club scam: EFCC report indicts Saraki, aides, ex-bank MD

Punch

 

Senate President Bukola Saraki

Eniola Akinkuotu and Leke Baiyewu

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has submitted a report to President Muhammadu Buhari linking Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and some of his aides to the diversion of about N19bn from the N522bn Paris Club refund.

The report also fingered Mr. Robert Mbonu of Melrose General Services Limited.

Mbonu is a former Managing Director of Societe Generale Bank of Nigeria, the commercial bank owned by the Saraki family which was later liquidated.

The Federal Government had, in December 2016, approved the sum of N522.74bn to be paid to the 36 states of the federation as part of the reimbursement of the over-deduction on the Paris Club loan from 1995 to 2002.

The EFCC had sometimes in January discovered that the loan refunds were illegally routed through the account of the Nigeria Governors Forum by the Central Bank of Nigeria.

Upon receiving the funds, the NGF, in an alleged connivance with Saraki, began remitting huge sums to private consultants who then laundered about N19bn.

According to the report, apart from the NGF, others under investigation include the Relationship Manager to the Senate President in Access Bank, Kathleen Erhimu.

Some others under probe and identified as Saraki’s aides include Obiora Amobi, Gbenga Makanjuola, Kolawole Shittu and Oladapo Idowu.

The report alleges that sometimes in December, Saraki introduced the ex-bank MD, Mbonu, to Erhimu.

Others at the meeting were Saraki’s aforementioned aides.

It added that sequel to the meeting, the sum of N3.5bn was lodged into Melrose General Services Company account number 0005892453, domiciled in Access Bank from the Nigeria Governors Forum on December 14.

The report stated that two of Saraki’s aides, Obiora Amobi and Gbenga Makanjuola, were introduced to Access Bank as representatives of Melrose General Services Limited by Mbonu to enable them to make cash withdrawals from the account.

It added that Amobi and Makanjuola made cash withdrawals in various tranches of N5m and N10m.

The report reads in part, “Based on the foregoing findings, it is clear that Robert Mbonu, the Managing Director of Melrose General Services Company and his company were used to help divert proceeds of unlawful activities under the guise of payment for contractual obligations with the Nigeria Governors Forum.

“Suffice to apprise that all payments received by Melrose General Services Company from the NGF have hitherto been diverted directly via cash withdrawals and indirectly through transfers by Gbenga Peter Makanjuola, Kolawole Shittu and Oladapo Joseph Idowu, who are principal aides to the Senate President.

“Furthermore, other payments from Melrose General Services Company have also been linked to companies that Dr. Bukola Saraki has interest in and carries out transactions with.

“This includes the sum of $183,000, which was transferred to Bhaska Devji Jewellers, Dubai, a company Dr. Bukola Saraki had repeatedly made payments to.

“Also, the sum of N200m was transferred to Wasp Networks Limited that subsequently transferred the sum of N170m to Xtract Energy Services Limited, a company that routinely made deposits into Dr. Saraki’s Access Bank US Dollar Domiciliary account.”

The report concludes that a prima facie case of conspiracy to retain the proceeds of unlawful activities  and money laundering, contrary to sections 15(3) and 18(9) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2004, could be established against the aforementioned suspects.

“Additionally, investigation into their personal accounts is ongoing,” it adds.

When contacted, the Special Adviser to the Senate President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Yusuph Olaniyonu, who spoke on behalf of Saraki, said he would not react except he sighted the report.

“Send the report to me and I will be able to read it and contact the necessary people. If I don’t see the report, I cannot react to it in abstract. Send me the report if you want our reaction,” he said.

The spokesman for the EFCC, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, confirmed that investigations were ongoing into the Paris Club scam.

He, however, said he did not know the specifics of the investigations.

“I can only confirm that there are investigations but I don’t have details,” Uwujaren said.

Copyright PUNCH.              

South Africa – Zuma comes out fighting at ANC NEC on land expropriation

The land move by Zuma smacks of Mugabe-style tactics when he resorted to land seizures to gain popularity in the face of growing threat of MDC. This is blatant populism and use of the land issue, which has been unresolved by the ANC for 23 years. Why now? Because a supposedly radical policy of seizures could boost Zuma’s flagging support. KS

City Press

2017-03-26

President Jacob Zuma. (GCIS)

President Jacob Zuma. (GCIS)

President Jacob Zuma took a strong stand at this weekend’s national executive committee (NEC) meeting in Irene in Gauteng, defending his position on the issue of land expropriation without compensation, and challenging his critics to read the ANC’s 2012 conference resolutions if they disagreed with his views.

City Press heard that Zuma had “set the record straight” by “explaining where the policy comes from and calling those who have been criticising him in the media to order”.

ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe, Treasurer-General Zweli Mkhize and head of the economic transformation subcommittee Enoch Godongwana were among those who had described recent talk of land expropriation without compensation as “populist” and “playing to the gallery”.

An NEC member sympathetic to Zuma said the president detailed the historical background of the land question, dating back to the time of the late ANC president, Oliver Tambo, “who said the core of our struggle was about land”.

Zuma concluded that “talk of populism was an indicator that the people do not read [ANC] conference resolutions, and that is why they do not implement them”.

A meeting of the ANC’s national working committee on Monday had also debated the land question, resulting in a decision that a special NEC gathering be called before the national policy conference, set to take place from June 30 to July 5, to thoroughly discuss the ANC’s position.

Those with knowledge of the Monday meeting described it as “tense and hot”.

The NEC this weekend agreed with the working committee on the importance of holding a special meeting to discuss land policy.

The NEC member who spoke to City Press said Zuma was “reminding people that the ANC’s own resolutions could not be called populist statements”.

“[Zuma] said he did not want to talk to people through the media. That is why he kept quiet and waited for the NEC platform to explain his position.

“He was asserting his authority, challenging those who say the policy does not belong to the ANC to explain its origin,” City Press heard.

“It cannot be that we spoke about this thing in 2012, and when we point out that we failed to implement it, you talk about rhetoric. Are you saying the branches of the ANC did not apply their minds correctly?” he quoted the president as saying.

There had also been a push for the NEC to discuss the validity of Andile Lungisa’s election as the party’s regional chairperson in Nelson Mandela Bay – which was expected to set up another showdown between Zuma and Mantashe.

“There is no crisis”

Mantashe insisted on Friday that the case of Lungisa was not on the NEC’s agenda, but those close to Lungisa said it would be discussed as part of the national working committee’s report.

Mantashe had objected to Lungisa’s decision to stand for the post, on the grounds that he was still a member of the ANC provincial executive in the Eastern Cape, and this prohibited him from contesting a seat in the regional structure.

Mantashe added that the ANC’s top six had nullified Lungisa’s election.

Zuma’s close allies told City Press that he had a mandate to go to the weekend meeting and “confirm that [Lungisa] is properly elected and is not going to resign”.

“There is no crisis. That guy has been elected by a constitutional structure of the ANC. He is the chairperson of the region. The bigger agenda is that we need young leaders in the ANC and [Lungisa] gave us an opportunity for the ANC to be reinvigorated.”

However, others inside the ANC said a decision in favour of Lungisa would mean that other instances where members had been stopped from contesting in regional structures, while they served in upper structures, would also have to be reviewed.

For instance, this would mean the eThekwini regional conference would have to be reopened to allow Deputy Agriculture Minister Bheki Cele, also a member of the ANC’s NEC, to stand after he was blocked by Mantashe in 2014.

Nullifying eThekwini would also mean dissolving the follow-up KwaZulu-Natal ANC provincial conference, which saw Zuma’s supporters make a clean sweep by taking the top five positions in the province. The provincial conference was also the subject of an ongoing court case over allegations of election-rigging.

“It would also mean that the ANC in the Western Cape should be dissolved so that Rural Development and Land Reform Deputy Minister Mcebisi Skwatsha could contest for a position in the provincial executive, since he was also stopped,” said the insider.

Marius Fransman, a close Zuma ally, had won the position of chairperson at the Western Cape provincial conference, but he was later suspended on charges of bringing the ANC into disrepute following sexual harassment allegations.

Former ANC treasurer-general

said he expected that there should be consequences when ANC rules were not being followed.

“We have reached a critical point in the history of our country and movement, where the people of our country are fast losing confidence in us as we suffocate from one scandal to another. We have to restore the trust of our people as we reclaim our space,” said Phosa.

“We cannot continue to be seen as promoting a culture of immunity, with no consequences for wrongdoing. It is not going to be an easy road ahead.”

 

Nigeria – Shell to start clearing up 2008 oil spill

Reuters

Global Energy News | Fri Mar 24, 2017

LONDON The head of a group helping organise Shell’s (RDSa.L) clean-up efforts in an oil Delta community in Nigeria said on Friday he was hopeful clean-up work after two spills in 2008 could start in April.

Royal Dutch Shell agreed in 2015 on a 55 million pound settlement with the Bodo community after accepting liability for two pipeline leaks due to corrosion that contaminated their land. [reut.rs/2hTxctf]

But progress to clean up the spill has been slow after Shell said members of the community had denied it access in August 2015 when work was set to begin. A community

After months of wrangling, the parties have reached agreement and clean-up work is set to start in April, said the chairman of the Bodo Mediation Initiative (BMI), a programme started in 2013 by the Dutch ambassador to Nigeria.

“Hopefully we should be able to go to site and start the clean-up next month,” BMI Chairman Inemo Samiama told Reuters.

The BMI is mediating between Shell’s Nigeria subsidiary Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) and the Bodo community. It also includes representatives from the United Nations Environmental Programme, the local government, the Dutch embassy and several non-governmental organisations.

“SPDC remains fully committed to ensuring clean-up takes place and will continue to work with the BMI to implement a remediation plan for Bodo area,” said a spokesman for SPDC.

Samiama said Shell had appointed international contractors to carry out the clean-up work. Once it commences, the first step would be to remove oil from the water surfaces before restoring landscapes that were damaged by the spill, he said.

“We are hoping this time around we are going to start this clean-up once and for all and get this job done,” Samiama said, adding the entire clean-up process will take several years.

(Reporting by Karolin Schaps; Editing by Edmund Blair)

Kenya – hacker stole nearly $40m from tax authorities

Al Jazeera

IT expert Alex Mutuku charged with hacking into the country’s tax authority, Kenyan media reports say.

23 Mar 2017 07:01 GMT

Mutuku is accused of electronic fraud but denies any wrongdoing [File: Reuters]
Mutuku is accused of electronic fraud but denies any wrongdoing [File: Reuters]

Kenyan authorities have charged an IT expert with hacking into the country’s tax authority and stealing almost $40m, according to local media.

Alex Mutunga Mutuku, 28, is accused of belonging to a syndicate of electronic fraudsters who steal money from various institutions and companies in the East African nation, The Standard newspaper reported.

“The information we have is just a tip of the iceberg. The racket is big and involves people outside the country,” Edwin Okello, the state prosecutor, was quoted as saying on Wednesday.

Mutuku, who pleaded not guilty, allegedly hacked into the Kenya Revenue Authority’s computer systems over the past two years.

The suspect, who routinely posted his lavish lifestyle on social media, was known to authorities and was arrested in 2015 on suspicion of hacking into the country’s biggest telephone network provider, Safaricom, and stealing airtime worth $150, according to The Daily Nation newspaper.

Mutuku was accused in 2014 of hacking into the system of a local bank, the paper said.

The trial is scheduled to continue on March 28.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

 

BBC

Alex Mutunga Mutuku, Kenya's IT expert accused of massive electronic fraudDaily Nation   Alex Mutuku’s lawyers want him to be released on bail

An IT expert has been charged with hacking into Kenya’s Revenue Authority and stealing $39m (£31m).

Alex Mutungi Mutuku, 28, is accused of electronic fraud but he denies any wrongdoing.

The prosecution says he is part of an international network stealing money from several state bodies.

The government says there is a ring involving expatriates from the United States and other countries, along with police officers and civil servants.

A thorough background check on state employees is now being conducted, government spokesperson Eric Kiraithe told the BBC.

Other state agencies affected by the alleged hacking include the e-citizen online payment portal where users pay for government services.

Mr Mutuku was arrested after police conducted an operation following a tip-off that institutions were losing money.

A lawyer for Mr Mutuku, Tacey Makori, has asked for him to be released, arguing that police had failed to show enough evidence to warrant an extended detention.

‘Tip of the iceberg’

He is being held while anti-cybercrime officers dig deeper into what they believe is an elaborate fraud scheme with international connections.

It allegedly involves hackers with access to high-tech equipment and software which enabled them to steal from corporations, Kenya’s Standard newspaper reports.

“It is a case of remote control hacking where the suspects operate smoothly with their machines and the next minute you realise you have no money in your account,” state prosecutor Edwin Okello is quoted by the newspaper as saying.

“The information we have is just a tip of the iceberg. The racket is big and involves people outside the country.”

The cybercrime unit says Kenya lost $165m (£132m) through hacking in 2016.

Earlier this month, several people including foreign nationals were arrested in Nairobi over their involvement in theft of funds through hacking.

Ten suspects have so far been charged in court.

Kenya – Kenyatta says he has done all to fight corruption and will seek second term

Daily News

Tuesday March 21 2017
President Uhuru Kenyatta

President Uhuru Kenyatta being interviewed by Citizen TV news anchors Kanze Dena and Lulu Hassan at State House, Nairobi, on March 20, 2017. He said he has done a lot to develop the country. PHOTO | PSCU  

By NJERI RUGENE

By PATRICK LANG’AT

As he gets to the end of his first term, President Uhuru Kenyatta says he has no regrets for the job he sought in 2013 but admits it has not been an easy one.

In a 45-minute interview with Citizen TV’s Nipashe at State House, Nairobi, President Kenyatta addressed issues ranging from corruption, the state of the economy, unemployment, the just-concluded doctors’ strike, insecurity in Laikipia and Baringo, and trips he made abroad that were criticised by the opposition, a ballooning wage bill, the performance of his government, his recent trip to Somalia, and the upcoming Jubilee Party nominations.

“I have no regrets, but I admit it is not an easy job. It has no Sunday, it has no day or night. It is a full time job. Things happen all the time and they all require your attention,” he said during the interview with journalists Lulu Hassan and Kanze Dena.

“It is not an easy thing to carry 40 million Kenyans on your shoulders,” he said with a broad smile.

But at the end of the day, Mr Kenyatta said, it is a joy for him to see the progress of the projects his administration has initiated.

NO PRIVACY

He said he no longer has time off or privacy, saying he is constantly on the public eye.

He spends his evenings with his wife Margaret since his three children Jomo, Jaba and Ngina are now adults, whom he said had moved out of the family home and were living on their own.

Sasa ni mimi na mama tu. (Now it is only me and my wife),” he said with a hearty laugh.

On his relationship with his political rivals, the President said he does not hate any one, saying that his differences with Opposition leader Raila Odinga is only political.

“I do not hate anyone. I refer to him as ndugu yangu (my brother) each time we meet. Political differences is not enmity,” he responded in reference to the ODM leader.

“We are friends. I consider him my friend, unless he wants to say he is not.”

WAR ON GRAFT
On the foreign trips he made, which the Opposition criticised him for saying they were a waste of public resources, President Kenyatta defended them, saying they were for the benefit of the country and he could enumerate them.

For instance, in India, he said his visit had borne a deal to build a cancer treatment facility in the country, which he said would save lives.

In France, he said he had inked a deal for the return of the famous Peugeot vehicle’s assembly plant.

“You called me a tourist. But no man is an island. If you want to succeed, you must go out there,” he said of the trips, which had by end of 2015 surpassed President Mwai Kibaki’s 10-year reign by 10 trips.

When asked why Kenyans should re-elect him in August, he said they had initiated lots of development projects more than any other government since independence.

“We started a journey, but we are yet to reach our destination,” he said.

He singled out provision of electricity under the Last Mile project, the building of roads and expansion of the Port of Mombasa as some of his signature projects that are changing lives.

President Kenyatta insisted that he had done all within his constitutional mandate to fight corruption in government.

“We have done all we need to do under the Constitution. We have prosecuted the highest number of corruption cases including ministers and PSs and whenever anyone is mentioned (in graft), I have said step aside,” he said.

He argued that after doing his bit, he expects the independent offices such as the Judiciary, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, and the Director of Public Prosecutions to do its part, saying he had funded them and had no influence on them.

“I wish we had the old Constitution, you would have seen the difference. But I swore to defend and protect the current Constitution,” he said.

DOCTORS’ STRIKE
On the independent agencies, he said: “My relationship with these institutions is to ensure all the support they need and a conducive working environment. If they fail, what else should I do? I have done my bit.”

On Jubilee nominations, he said he had no preferred candidate with the primaries.

However, he said he will be available as an “honest broker” in case any of the aspirants reach out to him.

In Nairobi, the President said he wants a Jubilee member as governor.

“What we are looking for is for our party to win and get a Nairobi governor, and I respectfully ask wananchi to please give us a Jubilee governor in Nairobi. Whoever it will be, wananchi will decide,” he said.

In responding to a question on how, on a personal level, he was affected by doctors’ strike that ended after 100 days, he said it made him “feel very bad”.

“I was very unhappy as a human being and decided around Christmas to talk to these young people, and pleaded with them to go back to work, only for them to turn back and continue with their strike.

“I knew they have problems. But they have a bigger task, and have taken the Hippocratic Oath to save Kenyan lives,” he said.

 

On why the government took too long to act on the insecurity in Baringo and Laikipia counties, he said the government had decided to give negotiations a chance.

“As a leader, you start by seeking consensus, holding peace rallies and bringing people together. That is how we started because we did not want to use force, given that there was a drought,” he argued.

“But now, we have reached a point where you cannot allow people to kill innocent women and children. We have been a patient and listening government, but we are also a government that cannot take that kind of madness. They have crossed the red line.”

Somali – Puntland regional anti-piracy chief says sacked over illegal fishing comments  

Reuters

By Abdiqani Hassan | BOSASSO, Somalia

BOSASSO, Somalia The head of anti-piracy operations in the semi-autonomous Puntland region of Somalia said he had been fired for speaking out about illegal fishing, which he claims could trigger a new outbreak of piracy in the Indian Ocean.

Pirates hijacked an oil tanker off Somalia last week, the first such attack in the region since 2012 after shipping firms hired private security and international warships started patrolling nearby waters.

Abdirizak Mohamed Dirir, director of anti-piracy operations in Puntland, said the province’s president sacked him after he told journalists that permits had been handed to illegal fishing vessels.

“The problem with Puntland is that if you talk about illegal fishing, you are seen as a criminal,” Dirir told Reuters. “But I will not stop talking about illegal fishing because if this is not stopped, piracy will restart again.”

In last week’s hijacking, unlike previous attacks, the ship was freed swiftly and with no ransom paid after the Puntland Maritime Police Force intervened.

Puntland officials blamed local anger over illegal fishing by foreign vessels for the attack. They warned that more hijackings might happen unless the problem was tackled.

President Abdiweli Mohamed Ali fired Dirir in a decree dated Sunday, saying he had taken into account the “need for a change and redoubling efforts to fight Puntland’s piracy”.

Dirir said the president “violated the constitution” as consultations were not made with other officials.

Somali officials say the decline in piracy in recent years has emboldened foreign-flagged illegal fishing vessels to plunder Somalia’s fish stocks closer to shore, bringing them within reach of pirate gangs.

In a report published in October, the U.N. Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group said it was “concerned that illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing by foreign vessels may re-establish the conflict dynamic with local fishing communities that contributed to the rise of piracy a decade ago”.

The last outbreak of Somali piracy cost the world’s shipping industry billions of dollars as pirates paralysed shipping lanes, kidnapped hundreds of seafarers and seized vessels more than 1,000 miles from Somalia’s coastline.

(Writing by Aaron Maasho and Duncan Miriri; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Nigeria – presidency says agriculture pulling the county out of recession

Premium Times

Rice Farmers
Photo Credit: Agro Nigeria

Rice Farmers
Photo Credit: Agro Nigeria

The presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu, says efforts to get the nation out of its present economic challenges are beginning to yield positive results, especially in agriculture.

The presidential aide said this in Abuja on Sunday.

According to him, an increase in the volume of rice production and processing across the country is already saving the country a lot of foreign exchange.

Mr. Shehu, who is the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the President, said that Nigeria only imported 58,000 tons of rice from Thailand in 2015 as against 1.2 million tons in 2014.

He revealed that due to the country’s growing rice production occasioned by the Central Bank of Nigeria’s decision to deny foreign exchange for the importation of rice “parboiled rice mills’’ in some Asian countries were shutting down production.

According to him, this is because Nigeria, which is one of the world’s largest importers of rice no longer, buys rice from them.

“Five of such mills in Thailand servicing Nigeria have stopped production due to the withdrawal of our patronage,” he added.

According to him, government is watching with keen interest the growing investment in rice milling by the private sector.

He said government would continue to encourage the Ministry of Agriculture on such efforts through BUA Industries in Jigawa and Dangote in Kano.

He said such encouragement would also be extended to OLAM and WACOTT in Nasarawa and Kebbi as well as a consortium of businessmen led by a former governor in Anambra.

The presidential aide noted with delight that the price of a bag of fertilizer had been reduced from over N9,000 per bag to 5,500.

“This country has about 32 fertilizer blending plants that have remained idle for many years, but that about half of that number is now in production with many of them running three shifts a day.”

He said some of the blending plants have now provided direct employment to hundreds of workers and indirect employment opportunities to thousands of others.

Mr. Shehu said that the Buhari administration’s agricultural revolution was bringing about other socio-economic changes in the country.

He said that a recent survey carried out in two urban areas of Jigawa and Kiyawa showed that jobless young men were migrating from commercial motorcycle business known as, `achaba’, to farming.

“In Kiyawa, it takes a long wait to catch a commercial motor cycle because they are rapidly disappearing.

“The young men are moving to the farms. These are development issues in the country that our media should pay attention,” he added.

The presidential spokesman frowned at the way and manner some elites have continued to attack some government policies and programmes in spite of their positive impact on the ordinary Nigerians.

“Because the elite don’t care for ordinary people, they are saying that government is doing nothing but we are doing a lot for ordinary people.

“They don’t want us to talk about the 14 solar power projects that have been licensed to boost electricity supply in the country; the Mambila power project which will soon leave the drawing board and the many Chinese projects including the standard gauge railway.

“This country has more important things to talk about instead of dwelling on trivialities,” Mr. Shehu said.