Wednesday, 31 July 2013

INEC registers APC, issues registration certificate

All Progressives Alliance
 INEC confirmed the registration on Wednesday.
This was stated by the Secretary to INEC, Abdullahi Kaugama, in a statement on Wednesday.
The statement said: “The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has approved the application by three political parties – the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) – to merge into one, to be known as the All Progressives Congress.
“On considering the application, the Commission found that the applicant-parties have met all statutory requirements for the merger, and has accordingly granted their request.
“Consequently, the Commission has approved the withdrawal of the individual certificates of the applicant-parties, and the issuance of a single certificate to the All Progressives Congress.”


The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has approved the application by three political parties – the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) – to merge into one, to be known as the All Progressives Congress.
On considering the application, the Commission found that the applicant-parties have met all statutory requirements for the merger, and has accordingly granted their request.
Consequently, the Commission has approved the withdrawal of the individual certificates of the applicant-parties, and the issuance of a single certificate to the All Progressives Congress.
INEC inec

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

FG May Dump Bayelsa, Kogi Greenfield Refinery Projects as Only Lagos Viable

080712F1.Allison-Madueke.jpg - 080712F1.Allison-Madueke.jpg

Dizeani Allison Madueke
Chika Amanze-Nwachuku
There are indications that the federal government may jettison two of its three Greenfield refinery projects, following the recommendations of the National Refineries Special Task Force (NRST).
The 22-member task force headed by former Minister of Finance, Dr. Kalu Idika Kalu, had in a report submitted on August 2, 2012 found that of the three joint venture Greenfield refineries option under consideration by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), the economics strongly favours only Lagos.
Based on its finding, the committee had advised that only the proposed 350,000 barrels per day (bpd) Lagos Greenfield refinery should be pursued vigorously as a priority project to ensure it comes on stream by 2016, while the proposed Bayelsa and Kogi refineries should be explored later.
The NNPC and China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) in 2010 signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the construction of three Greenfield refineries in Lagos, Bayelsa and Kogi, as well as a gas refining/petrochemical plant.
Under the terms of the agreement, 80 per cent of the estimated cost of all four projects, put at $28.5 billion was meant to be funded with a term loan provided by China Export Credit Insurance Corporation (SINOSURE) and a consortium of Chinese banks led by the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the world’s largest bank, while the NNPC was to foot only 20 per cent of the cost as equity contribution.
The project was envisaged to add 750,000 barrels per day of extra refining capacity to Nigeria’s current 445,000 barrel per day refining capacity as well as stem the flood of imported refined products into Nigeria.
However, the project had suffered series of setbacks, as the NNPC was said to have failed to fulfill the conditions stated in the MoU.
A source at the NNPC told THISDAY weekend that although the Final Investment Decision (FID) on the Greenfield refinery projects had been completed and soil analysis showed that the project was viable, the project might not take off soon as government was determined to implement the recommendations by the refinery task force.
He explained the construction work did not commence as planned because the NNPC was awaiting the report of the refinery task force, which, would determine the next line of action.
The source said, for now, the government was interested in revitalising the old refineries and also planned to divest its equity from them in line with the recommendations of Idika Kalu task force.
“No meaningful development has taken place as regards the Greenfield Refineries project. We are still considering the refinery committee’s report to see areas that will be fully adopted. And if the NNPC decides to follow the recommendations of the task force, it will definitely affect the Greenfield Refinery projects one way or the other”, the source said. 
He also noted that based on the recommendations, the partners may have to amend the MoU, a development, which he said will further delay the project.
The Idika Kalu committee had been mandated to among others, conduct a diagnostic review of the nation’s existing four refineries and advise on the best approach to turn them around; review as well as advise government on private refinery licensing and partnership models for Greenfield refineries.
The committee had also in its report, observed that the old refineries with combined capacities of 445,000 bpd, could meet Nigeria’s domestic needs only if the root causes of their poor performances were vigorously resolved. It also identified years of maintenance neglect as the major cause of the refineries’ poor performances.
“In the early 1990’s, Nigerian refineries produced enough petroleum products to satisfy national demand and exported the excess, but discovered the refineries have not been efficiently and safely operated and maintained for more than 15 years”, the committee noted, even as it advised that government should divest its equity from the refineries and allow private entities to manage them.

South Africa ripping Nigeria off

South Africa ripping Nigeria off

By: Christian Maurice

I had the misfortune of walking through a South African owned shop in Lagos recently. Mr. Price to be precise. I had just returned from a trip to Johannesburg and looking for cheap gifts i had forgotten to pick up for my hangers on when i returned. There was a piece of sweat shirt I had made a mental note to purchase at Mr. Price and decided to get it at the Nigerian store.
This was a piece of item placed at their “priced to go” racks at N1,800 (R114.74) per piece. I have a long, retentive memory and i could still recall that this same piece of sweatshirt sells for N784.24 (R49.99) in South Africa. And if you factored in my 14% tax rebates, that sweat shirt did in fact come to me at N669.34 (R42.99). That’s some 269% increase over and above the marked prices inside South Africa. 
This huge price differential is typical across board on most south african owned consumer products in Nigeria. From Shoprite to Chicken Republic to Massmart (Game), Mr. Price, Woolworth and Truworths. It is a tale of undue exploitation of Nigerians by South African Businesses.
Before i am crucified for being xenophobic, it is important to understand that the criticism of South African companies have persisted as a consequence of their approach to business in Nigeria, which has often been characterised as predatory and mercantilist. South Africa’s foreign policy towards Nigeria and indeed, towards all of Africa is not based on any Pan-Africanism or anti-imperialism; it is rather based on promoting South Africa’s expanding business interests on the continent. 
It is an expansionist agenda that South African corporations and parastatals have successfully implemented in a one-sided hegemonic relationship. As echoed by Foluso Phillips, the chairman of Lagos-based Phillips Consulting, a business consultancy of branding advisors, “There is much that South Africa can offer Nigeria, but there has been a problem of attitude and lack of trust as well as divergent objectives by both parties,… however, there must be a strong spirit of win-win, as the track record and perception makes it all look one-sided in South Africa’s favour.”
Believe me, I am a fan of South African business in Nigeria. Rightly or wrongly, the economic boosts our country has experienced in various sectors of the economy, in particular, retail and telecommunication, through the interventions of South African businesses have helped to redefine the consumer experience here. They have brought healthy competitions and quality alternatives to other product offerings. They have been open about their desire to conquer the consumer market and have in turn created employment opportunities for thousands of Nigerians. They saw the potential of the middle income groups in Nigeria and positioned themselves to tap into it.
My grouse however, is that this competitive positioning cannot and should not be exploitative in nature, which is exactly what is happening today. It shouldn’t happen in a market of 170 million people in which, 40% of the population describe themselves as middle income earners. 
This target group alone represent a market that’s still larger than the entire population of South Africa! Worse still, this should not be happening in a country that allows businesses to repatriate 100% of entire profits back to home. And it definitely shouldn’t be happening in a country that has massive disparities in incomes with it. Some comparative economic data will suffice here:
                                         Nigeria                  South Africa
Population                         170 million              52 million
Gross Domestic Product    $268.7 billion          $375.9 billion
GDP per Capita                 $1,657                    $7,257
Exports (1st Quarter, 2012) $750 million           $150 million
How does it happen that the earning power of the average south african is more than 4 times that of his Nigerian counterpart and yet, Nigerians are made to pay almost 3 times for the same quality of goods. The reality is, South African companies are making a dangerous killing in Nigeria and we are helpless to do anything about it. There is evidence that South African companies have been involved in blatant profiteering and looting in Nigeria. 
For a very long time, MTN charges in Nigeria were the highest rates in the world for cellular phone calls. And despite its massive profits, MTN has really only created about 500 permanent jobs. Most of its employees are casual or temporary workers, and just like other South African corporations, denies all of its workers the right to join a trade union. Something that would be most unheard of in their own country.
And do not be deceived by the trade surplus in Nigeria’s favour. Of the 750 million dollars worth of Nigerian exports to South Africa reported in the first three months of 2012 by The South African Revenue Service, 740 million dollars worth are made up of mineral products, mainly oil. That means, other than oil, Nigeria have absolutely no stake in South Africa’s economy. 
Compare that with MTN owning 52% of Nigeria’s mobile telecommunications market; franchises like Nandos, Chicken Republic and St. Elmos, etc owning 50% of the international fast food market worth US$2.5 million per annum; DSTV accounting for 90% of the viewers that watch satellite TV in Nigeria; SASOL playing major roles in Escravos with Chevron; and Entech and Broll managing prime estates and properties including the development of the Bar Beach (Eko Atlantic) and management of over 600 fuel stations and malls across Nigeria respectively. This can’t healthy.
There is a reason why such unequal trade relations exist between Nigeria and South Africa. The bilateral agreements signed by both governments since 1999 allows this to happen without hinderance to operations. South African companies’ investments in Nigeria are heavily protected from any interference at any level by the Nigerian government. It is a license to grow as they please without consequence. Added to this, there are substantial tax rebates for companies operating here through agreements on eradicating double taxation. 
South African companies that paid tax in Nigeria are protected from paying taxes back home and can repatriate the entire profits. Now, imagine the US$5.3 billion MTN had earned after tax in the 10 years of operation from 2001 – 2011 finding its way back to the South African economy tax free! Why wouldn’t the Rand be stronger than the Naira at any level?
When the foundations of this country was laid in the fight against imperialism, it was not envisioned to have it substituted with another form of neo-colonialism. The activities of South African businesses in Nigeria have been abrasive to Nigerians and the Nigerian economy. 
There is a siege mentality they have on this country that needs to be addressed. They have created opportunities not to develop the Nigerian economy but to exploit its resources. We experienced that with the British, endured it with the Chinese and now, it’s the South Africans that are our new colonialists. This is not the sort of relationship we should be aspiring to at this time. The sooner our government addresses these imbalances the better.

Tukur Blast Governors Over Visit To Former Heads of States

Tukur Blast Governors Over Visit To Former Heads of States
The national chairman of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Bamanga Tukur has described the visit of the four northern governors to some former heads of state as lacking in decorum, wisdom and disrespectful to party hierarchy.
Following a visit by the governors Musa Kwankwaso (Kano), Magartakada Wammako (Sokoto), Babangida Aliyu (Niger) and Sule Lamido (Jigawa) to some president Goodluck Jonathan, former President Obansanjo and 2 former Military Heads of State, media reports surfaced that they demanded  the removal of Alhaji Dr. Bamanga Tukur as the National Chairman of the PDP as a way out of the crisis in the party.
But a stern statement from the media aide to Tukur, Oliver Okpala, said while  the veracity of this claim is not known, he said the governors have the fundamental right to meet and discuss with each other and whomsoever they like and may also have the fundamental right to freedom of speech and to air their views on any issue of National importance.
Tukur said “however, in so doing one would expect them to make comments with decorum, humility and caution. As Leaders whom the general public look upon as a role model, they are expected to show respect to constituted authority and the elders which includes Alhaji Dr. Bamanga Tukur who have contributed immensely to the peace progress, development and advancement of this country.
“Much as the Constitution guarantees certain fundamental freedom, such as freedom of speech and assembly. There are Constitutional limitations to this freedom and the Leaders should show wisdom, caution, prudence and good counsel in their comments on National issues as their unguided utterances and calls can cause unnecessary political tension.
“It is also important to emphasize that the PDP, as a  political platform upon which the Governors were elected have avenues and internal mechanism for resolution of conflicts and grievances, the Governors are therefore advised as Party -men to avail themselves of these avenues before seeking audience or making public utterances capable of overheating the polity.
“More importantly, the PDP has a reconciliation Committee entrusted with the task of conflict resolution in the Party.
“The Governors by their action and utterances have shown contempt to this committee by not deeming it necessary or worthy to take their grievances to the reconciliation Committee.
“One would have expected the Governors to express their grievances privately to the Party Leadership or the reconciliation Committee instead of going public with their grievances before seeking audience with other Nigerian Leaders.
“There is no doubt that the Governors peripatetic vision have contributed in no small measure to overheating the polity.
The National Chairman of the PDP, Alhaji Dr. Bamanga Tukur has tried all in his power to bring peace, tranquility and love in the PDP. His 3 cardinal policies of Reconciliation, Reformation and Rebuilding are aimed at giving all members of the Party a sense of belonging.
“The National Chairman also has an open door policy and accommodation for all shades of opinion within the Party. It is unfortunate   that these Governors are demanding Tukur’s removal when Tukur has made immense sacrifices for the peace and progress of the PDP and had extended his peculiar kind of brotherly love to all Party men and women.
“The Governors are hereby advised to embrace peace and desist from dramatizing the few problems within our democracy as these can send a wrong signal to Nigerians and the international Community.
“The Governors as Party faithfuls and responsible citizens of this Country holding exalted positions should desist from any action that tend to overheat the polity and truncate our nascent democratic structure.
“Be it known that Alhaji Bamanga Tukur is a true and committed democratic, patriotic Nigerian, a first-class Nationalist and an Elder Statesman of International repute whose cardinal aim is to protect our nascent democracy, protect the indivisibility of our Country and ensure the progress of our great Party the PDP.”

Are you better off with PDP in power?

Are you better off with PDP in power?
THE headline of this column is like the ringing question Ronald Reagan asked American voters in 1980 when he was seeking their mandate to succeed the then incumbent President, Jimmy Carter. Carter, of the Democratic Party was elected in 1976.It was a time despair seemed to have supplanted hope in America.
The country was reeling from the Watergate scandal that consumed Richard Nixon presidency. Carter knew the enormity of the challenge when he decided to run for the presidency.
He summed up the despondency among Americans as the “malaise of the spirit”. But once he took the mantle of leadership, he lost grip, or perhaps, he was overwhelmed by the problems. Reagan, a Republican (may God bless his soul), a master communicator looked the average voter in the eye and asked a provoking question: Are you better off now than you were four years ago? American voters agreed with him that indeed their country was drifting, dangerously.
He won by a landslide. Carter was gone. Similar question is asked in every democracy when the leadership has failed to provide solutions to the manifold problems facing the country and its citizens.
That’s because disillusionment has set in. It is apt to reframe the question that Reagan asked his compatriots 33 years ago: Nigerians, are better off now 14 years since the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) came to power at the centre? Certainly, many will answer in the affirmative, particularly those that have benefited from the policies of PDP. So also will millions of Nigerians answer in the negative, especially those who are at the receiving end of what they might call the “flip-flop policies” of the ruling party.
Expectations differ, so is perception of any government in power. But one thing is clear: politics in Nigeria can be a cruel and fun. It has a flavour of the good, the bad and the ugly. The politicians provide us with the drama that soothes our frayed and tired nerves.
PDP is the arena that provides the fun and the follies that characterize Nigerian politics. PDP without crisis is like a doughnut without a hole.
Party members are not ashamed of dancing naked at the market square. Washing dirty linens in public has become a regular occurrence .The rank -and- file of the party resembles a broken family whose members would prefer to destroy their inheritance rather than share it. Yet, the party deludes itself as “largest party in Africa” and some of its members have boasted several times that the party will remain in power for sixty years.
Does the voter matter to them?. May be, not. It is not as if opposition parties have proved to be a realistic better alternative, but often, assessment of performance is based on the party that has been given the mandate to turn things around. The truth is that PDP is fast losing grip of present realities in Nigeria. Anger is eating deep like acid among the people.
And in the face of that, the ruling party has come far short on leadership, competence and effectiveness in the handling of critical issues in the country today.
I believe, it is in that context that five northern governors, Aliyu Babangida (Niger), Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano), Sule Lamido (Jigawa), Murtala Nyako (Adamawa) and Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto) issued red-alert on the state of the nation, in particular, the ugly state of affairs within the PDP to which all of them belong. They are not ordinary members of the party.
They are strong voices that we should listen to, not ignored. In the past two weeks, the five governors, already labeled by the party as “renegades” have held consultations with three former heads of state, Olusegun Obasanjo, Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar. Nyako said something instructive after their visit to Minna, hometown of IBB and Abubakar: “we will continue to make efforts to save the party(PDP).
But if our efforts did not work out, we have no alternative than to fold our arms and see PDP dead and help in burying it”. The presidency has since dismissed such comments as “grandstanding”. Similar dismissive comments by the presidency followed their solidarity visit to Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State who is currently under siege by the party and members loyal to the President.
This is a party that has repeatedly shown contempt for the laws of the land and liberty of individuals. No doubt, the rot that PDP has made of itself is like a virus that has now infected many facets of the country, with the exception of a few, including members of the National Assembly. This is evident from their jumbo pay that become folders of groundbreaking wastage. It reflects how Nigeria has faired under PDP.
A recent report by The Economist magazine says it all. Quoting data from the International Monetary Fund(IMF),The Economist reports that with an annual basic salary of N30.6m,(equivalent of $189,500),a legislator at the National Assembly is the highest paid in the world, while President Jonathan could be earning much higher than the United States President. That officially makes our democracy the costliest in the world and our lawmakers perhaps the least productive, in comparison.
Some years ago, the same magazine had described our national parliament as the “filthiest arena of politics” in the world. That may be an exaggeration. But may not be far from the truth. This report could be inciting, but the fact is a bazaar of sort that we knew before The Economist hugged the headlines with it. Expectedly, spokesman for the Senate, Enyinnaya Abaribe has described the report as “misleading and incorrect”.
Nevertheless. we know that to be the case, that our lawmakers across the states and local governments are paid so much and work too little to justify the amount being lashed on them as salary and other pecks of office.
About two years ago, Governor of the Central Bank, Lamido Sanusi raised a genuine alarm over the amount spent on the federal lawmakers, which he said was taking a big chunk of the budget.
They called for his head. He was forced to adjust his comment, but not the gritty truth of what this obscene jumbo salary means to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product(GDP). For months ago, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS)released an astonishing data showing that the Federal Government in the last 12 years spent N18trn to service national “lifestyles”. Contrastingly, within the same period,N6.6trn was spent on infrastructure.
That is one of the reasons why our roads have become death-traps. Recently, a report by French wire service, AFP quoted Euro Monitor, a financial market derivative, that the rich in Nigeria spent N9.4bn on champagne in 2012.
This amount is equivalent of 849,000 litres of champagne. Recall that the presidency allocated N2bn for “entertainment” in this year’s budget. Why is all of this happening in our country? Why are politics and politicians different in Nigeria? Is it in our genes or in our stars or both? Please, answer.
Perhaps it will do our politicians and our polity good to heed the advice of the Catholic pontiff, Pope Francis, during his visit to Brazil last week. He looked at the rich in the midst of poorest poor and said:’ Don’t let money and greed steal your soul.
Money and greed bring the illusion of being happy’. Our politics has become staid and out of touch. Something needs to be done. And urgently.

Nigeria is falling apart – Kukah

Nigeria is falling apart – Kukah
The Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Rev. Mathew Hassan Kukah has alerted leaders and politicians in the country to take proactive measures in addressing the lingering crisis and insecurity bedevilling the nation.
Kukah said: “Time is not on our side and the country is falling apart if care is not taken.”
Speaking in an interview at Kizara village while commiserating with the people over the killing of 58 people recently by gunmen in Zamfara State, he said sooner the leaders and politicians put their heads and acts together, the better.
Rev. Kukah attributed the lingering crisis to the failure of the political class to continuously engage in dialogue with one another, saying the politicians must imbibe the spirit of negotiations always.
He stressed that leaders must also acquaint themselves with the fact that since the constitution had bestowed on them the onus of managing ‘our natural resources’, they should know that they ought to manage the human resources well.
Kukah maintained that their presence in the village was intended to tell the government and the politicians that Nigerians irrespective of their religions, believed in the unity of the country.
“Kizara is a predominantly Muslim community, there is not a single Christian in the community but as Christians, we are here as part of solidarity and to strengthen our brothers’ faith not to shirk from believing in God because we all serve one God.”
Meanwhile, Christian communities under the Diocese of Sokoto Catholic Church has donated food and clothes worth over N2 million to the victims of Kizara killings in the state.
Presenting the items through the emir of Tsafe, Alhaji Habibu Aliyu Yandoto, Rev. Kukah said Christian communities within and outside the state were shocked when they heard about the massacre in the area.
Kukah lamented that they believed that the killing was not political, religious or ethnicity but a calamity and prayed it does not happen again.
According to him, Christians in the state would continue to pray for the peace of the village, state and the country at large.
In his remarks, the Chairman Gusau Catholic Church Welfare, Sir Joseph Maihulla said items donated included bags of rice, maize, sugar, indomie, detergent and assorted clothes, among others.

Edo did not shut down Benin Airport – Oshiomhole

Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo
The governor accused the Nigerian Police of partisanship.
The Tuesday shut down of the Benin Airport was not orchestrated by the Edo State Government, the governor, Adams Oshiomhole, has said.
Mr. Oshiomhole was responding to the disruption of services at the airport which led to a shut down as the Edo State Government and the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) engaged in a tussle over tax debts.
At the centre of the tussle are debts allegedly owed the state government by FAAN and the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), totalling N39.7 million. FAAN was accused of owing N15 million while NAMA was alleged to owe N24.7 million.
Mr. Oshiomhole, while narrating Edo State’s role in the airport controversy, denied that the state government shut down the airport; saying the state lacked such power under Nigerian law.
He said the state government served an administrative order on FAAN after duly obtaining an order from a court, informing the airport manager of the tax debts. Instead of dialoguing with the tax officials, the manager allegedly took the law into his hands, descending on the officials of Edo State Board of Internal Revenue, who served the notice on him; and thereafter, shut down the airport so as to turn the heat against the state government.
“When the airport manager was served the notice, he in turn, shut down the lounge and other offices. He shut it down so that nobody will go in or come out of the airport,” Mr. Oshiomhole said in an impromptu address at the Government House, Benin.
“Just to put it on record, the Edo State government did not shut down the airport. It was done by the manager who wanted to use it as a shield against the tax of his workers that he has not paid. The logic of the rule of law is that everybody is under the law. Nobody is above the law.
“The airport manager assaulted the revenue board officials. He also assaulted a cameraman. I am obliged to pay my tax and I am liable if I don’t pay. The fact of being a governor does not preclude me from paying my tax,” the governor said.
Mr. Oshiomhole also accused the Nigeria Police Force of unfair treatment in the crisis.
He said the Inspector-General of Police ordered the State Commissioner of Police to arrest the Chairman .of Edo State Board of Internal Revenue, Oseni Elamah, over the disagreement. He wondered why the police would choose to arrest a law abiding citizen in place of another who commits a criminal offence of not paying his tax and not remitting the duly paid taxes of others.
Several flights that were scheduled to take off from the airport could not as passengers remained stranded outside.
The Airport Manager, Sunday Ayodele, could not be reached on the airport’s next line of action as he did not respond to calls on his phone.
Tuesday’s incident occurred about two months after a private helicopter flying Mr. Oshiomhole to Anambra was recalled midair by the authorities of FAAN, who alleged that the governor’s pilot did not file the necessary flight details before taking-off from the Benin Airport. Mr. Oshiomhole later abandoned the trip after the helicopter was delayed at the airport.

Nigerian fraudsters dupe British Council of millions of Naira

British Council Lagos Photo
The suspects have been dismissed and would soon be prosecuted.
The United Kingdom’s cultural organisation, British Council, has lost at least N43.75 million (£175,000) to fraudsters working in cohort with some its Nigerian employees, PREMIUM TIMES has learnt.
A British Council spokesperson told PREMIUM TIMES that two of its examination staff colluded with fraudsters from outside the organisation to falsify invoices for the hire of venues, furniture and cleaning services.
The serial fraudulent acts were undetected for seven years and the total bill presented could be as high as N93.75 million (£375,000), according to the U.K.’s Telegraph newspaper which first published details of the scam in a terse report on its online blog.
The Communication Manager of the British Council, Desmond Omovie, said the organisation has “strict management procedures in place” to guard against fraud but “the staff colluded to bypass our checks and abused the trust placed on them and therefore were able to perpetrate their fraud without being found out.”
In another case, an exam staff was caught charging fee for services that should have been offered for free and keeping the money for himself or herself.
“We are working to reimburse the victims, and will seek to recover any cost from our insurance,” Mr. Omovie wrote in the email.
The fraud is so entrenched that the British Council has budgeted N50 million (£200,000) this year alone to cover loses accrued from it. Though the total cost for the year may not be more than N7.5 million (£30,000).
Mr. Omovie said the fraud is at no loss to British taxpayers.
“The fraudulent activity took place in our financial commercial exams operation, which is separated by a financial firewall from our work funded by our government grant. Therefore no UK taxpayers’ money was lost through this fraud,” he said.
He said measures were already being taken to prevent future occurrence.
“We have consequently introduced further procedures to ensure that our fraud detection mechanisms are even more robust, and are carrying out further reviews of our financial controls,” he said.
PREMIUM TIMES learnt that the members of staff involved in the fraud have been dismissed and may soon be prosecuted.
Budget Cuts
Though huge amount may not have been lost in this particular scam, in view of recent budget cuts to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), its operations may come under severe pressure if the British Council continues to fall victim of fraud of this nature.
The FCO is the U.K. ministerial department in-charge of the British government’s foreign relations and the umbrella body for the British Council, the BBC and nine other agencies and public bodies.
According to the 2013 spending review, funding for the FCO dropped by £26 million from what was anticipated from the 2010 spending review. This year, £0.6 million was cut from British Council’s funding.
U.K. Foreign Secretary, William Hague, has ordered the British Council to become less reliant of taxpayers funding and direct its attention more towards funding generated from its commercial operations such as the teaching of English Language.
According to a report in the U.K.’s Daily Mail newspaper, except it gets its hands on additional funding, “cuts will damage the British Council and lead to the closure of historic embassy buildings around the world.”


 by Joshua Odeyemi, with agency report

Sunday Mba in action during the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup Group B match between Nigeria and Spain at Castelao on June 23, 2013 in Fortaleza, Brazil
Nigeria’s Sunday Mba has been ranked as the best Player from the African continent in the Goal 50 list of world’s best footballers for the 2012/2013 season that was released today.
The midfielder who became the first Nigerian to grace the elite list, made the cut on the strength of his immense contribution to Nigeria’s victory at the Africa Cup of Nations, creating an immense legacy for the country’s home-based players.
The Warri Wolves player on loan to Enugu Rangers is ranked 24th best in the world ahead of PSG’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Bayern Munich’s Mario Gotze, £50m rated Luis Suarez and Chelse’s duo of Juan Mata and Frank Lampard.
The other Africans on the list are; Egypt’s Mohamed Aboutrika ranked 29th, Kenya’s Victor Wanyama ranked 44th and 45th ranked Itumeleng Khune of South Africa.
On the global scene, Lionel Messi was picked the world’s best footballer after another record-breaking season.
It is also in recognition of an incredible campaign during which he beat Gerd Muller’s 40-year-old record of 85 goals scored in a calendar year.
The 26-year-old scored 91 goals in 2012 and increased his total as Barcelona’s all-time top scorer to 313 goals in all competitions by the end of the season.

“It is our turn” — Salisu Suleiman


I do not like the allure of power. I am not carried away by the limitless reach of the presidency. My head does not swell when traditional rulers whose palaces I dared not enter without removing my shoes now stumble over themselves to pledge allegiance.
So what, if former presidents scramble to their feet when I enter a room? It does not touch me in the least. And there is nothing special about presiding over federal executive council meetings where we enrich new sets of friends weekly. It is our turn.
It is not my fault that governors tremble when I glare at them and are fighting in their own forum. That they all have to wait for me to arrive for meetings and stand up to greet me as soon as I enter does not make me haughty. The long list of diplomats, special envoys and CEOs of multinationals waiting to see me every day to curry favours in one form or another has not gone into my head, nor the fact that every news begins with me and ends with madam. It is our turn.
That every mouth rings out with raucous laughter when I tell dry jokes is only to be expected. I never had much sense of humour anyway. That some of the most powerful politicians in the land line up to croon my praises to high heavens is nothing exceptional. I know that what they really want is that juicy ministerial appointment; that powerful commission; that coveted ambassadorial posting or that much sought-after oil block.
That I can wake up one day and direct that a multi-billion naira airport be constructed in my state does not bother me in the least. It does not matter if I am the only passenger that will use the airport, nor does it trouble me that without even asking for it, a federal university is being built in my tiny hometown. How many villages have produced presidents before mine? It is our turn.
Oh yes, that by simply nodding, I can send the attack dogs called EFCC, ICPC and CCB after practically anyone I chose does not make me smile secretly with pervert pleasure. That I know the secret bank accounts and supposedly hidden properties and estates of many of all governors, ministers, law makers and judges does not give me any sadistic satisfaction, nor the fact that I can use the information when I need to – election time or not.
It is not my fault that entire neighbourhoods are cordoned off whenever I visit. That my presidential fleet of aircraft is among the largest in the world is only befitting. That madam has a jet or two at her disposal is her right. That I have no knowledge of the intricacies of economics and the fundamentals of management is not an issue. It is our turn.
Good thing I managed to kill off that fuel subsidy palaver quietly. Incidentally, who told them that the entire N2.6 trillion simply vanished into thin air? How did they suppose we oiled the campaign machinery that ensured such resounding success at the polls?
Now those noise-makers are making trouble about oil theft. They do not understand that making our turn worthwhile requires a less complicated route to the treasury without those meddlesome lawmakers. By that way, who told them it is theft? Can you steal what is essentially yours?
Meanwhile, Nigerians completely misunderstand my wife. The truth is, just like me, she has absolutely no interest in power. Did she not train to be a teacher? Was she a politician before the call to duty came? Come to think about it, what is it that she has done wrong? That she disliked the disrespectful governor of my state and recommended a more pliable candidate who promptly rewarded her with the position of permanent secretary? It is our turn.
And just when I thought the dust was settling, those busybody journalists are beginning to focus on her again, some even calling her Madam President. What effrontery! Is she not supposed to enjoy the fruits of our labour? Was she supposed to fold her arms while that pretender to the throne in the Garden City pours sand-sand in our garri? My wife loves serving the country so much that she will use anything and everything in her considerable armoury to ensure that Nigerians have the pleasure of our service until 2019, perhaps longer.
Can you imagine? They are saying I have no clues about solving insecurity, unemployment, decaying infrastructure, falling education and growing poverty and are asking what I have achieved since becoming president? What has that go to do with why I want to remain in office? Did I create unemployment? I am the inventor of corruption? What is my concern with poverty – was I not born poor? How can I solve Boko Haram when I didn’t create it?
They are all missing the point. I want to remain president for one reason: It is our turn.

NEITI: N175.9bn subsidy funds missing between PPPRA, Accountant General

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There is disparity of about N175.9 billion in the figure provided between the office of the Accountant General of the Federation and that of Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency on subsidy payments for 2009 to 2011, the Nigerian Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (NEITI) said in a report released yesterday.
The report, which covers oil and gas industry for the period 2009-2011, says the country has recorded a total crude oil production of over 2.5billion barrels, and Federation earned a total revenue of $143.5 billion (about N21.5 trillion )from equity crude sales, royalty, signature bonuses and taxes, an increase of 4.8 percent over 2006 – 2008 period.
Presenting the report to stakeholders yesterday, the chairman of the NEITI Stakeholders Working Group, Mr. Ledum Mitee, said in 2009, the country produced 780.9 million barrels, the figure rose to 894.5 in 2010 and slightly declined to 866.2 million barrels in 2011.
The report said there was total subsidy payments of N3 trillion to importers of refined petroleum products. This is made up of N1.4 trillion fuel subsidy claims by the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) for the period 2009-2011 and a total of N1.60 trillion paid to other marketers during the same period.
The report observed that the disparity between subsidy claims paid from the Federation Account and that made by the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) was N175.9 billion during the same period.
For example, the Office of Accountant General of the Federation reported to NEITI auditors a total subsidy payment of N2.825 trillion while the PPPRA disbursed N3 trillion to marketers during the same period.
Other important highlights of the report, according to Mitee were the huge loss recorded due to crude oil theft, deliberate sabotage and vandalism. According to the report, over 136million barrels which are estimated at $10.9 billion (N1.6 trillion) were lost to crude oil theft and sabotage within the period under review.
In his reaction, the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Engineer Andrew Yakubu said now that the report is ready, they will study it and ensure that issues within the capacity of the company are addressed.
Yakubu said the current NNPC management is reviewing all its practices to ensure that they are in line with international best practices.


Al-Mustapha: Waiting For ‘The Accidental Military Politician’ By Chidi Oguamanam

Nigeria’s democracy is growing; but painfully and slowly. Since 1999 we have organized three national elections, no matter how flawed those elections were, we did not take up arms against ourselves; at least on a national scale. We stopped the bid for life presidency by Obasanjo and, by so doing, gave notice to would-be life presidents. We also resisted attempts to scuttled constitutional succession at the presidency following the death of an elected president, and secured a precedent through Goodluck Jonathan.  But regrettably, that transition did not happen as a matter of course.  At sub-national levels, we have seen governors who were rigged out of flawed elections reclaim their mandates through the judiciary. Even an abducted governor was ‘rescued’ by public outcry and willingness of Nigerians and segment of the press to remain steadfast for justice and the rule of law. Incumbent governors have been voted out of office. We have seen a fair dose of legislative indiscretions contained. But sadly our war on corruption has yet to start.  
As part of the frustratingly slow baby steps in our democratic advancement, we are currently involved in constitutional amendment. Through the so-called peoples’ representatives, we are tweaking a false constitution authored by the military and handed down to Nigerians as if it emanated from “We the People”. That process, no matter how flawed and how much it reveals of the structurally defective federation we are operating, provides a learning and “teachable moment” for a healthy national conversation, now and perhaps, more importantly, later.
Conceivably, more than all these, we have seen a few isolated signs of intellectual awakening to our experience with democracy. For example, once in a while, we have seen politicians or actors in the political or public arena write a treatise on their experience in service or in power. I am not talking about governors who rent pliable journalists to scribble their praises and recklessly and corruptibly lavish public funds ‘launching’ tissues of self-glorification in the disguise of books. I have in mind publications like Nasir El Rufai’s “The Accidental Public Servant” and Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala’s “Reforming the Unreformable”. These two I have read. I suspect that there may be a few others of some intellectual merit that I have yet to read. This opinion is not another review of El Rufai’s book.  I am interested in the significance of such initiative for Nigeria’s democratic progress. But a bit about the book may be helpful.
El Rufai, the self-styled “ruffler of feathers”, needs no introduction. He was an important but a silent actor in Gen. Abdusallam Abubakar care-taker regime that emerged following the sudden death of Gen. Sani Abacha. He was to later become a key, visible and vocal actor in the immediate-following Obasanjo’s administration where he held the powerful position of the Director General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises that supervised large-scale privatization of Nigerian public corporations. He was a core member of Obasanjo’s economic team. Later,   he served as the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, a position that made him akin to a State Governor in what is Nigeria’s 37th state in disguise. El Rufai had a love-hate relationship with Obasanjo and he was, in my view, a thorn in the General’s flesh in positive and negative ways depending from which lens one viewed their intensely active and incredibly unusual relationship.
The Accidental Public Servant is an unfiltered account of the anatomy and overall inner workings of the Obasanjo administration. It provides a close-range mirror of the Obasanjo persona like no other.  El Rufai’s book offers a “Because-I- am-Involved” account of the forces behind the privatization of Nigeria’s prime public corporations and the role of politicians and their agents in a process that was highly contentious as it was controversial for the most part. Perhaps only a few politicians or public servants (even private sector actors) of note in the Obasanjo administration whose paths crossed with El Rufai’s in his various official engagements escaped some mention for good or bad in the book. For example, the book provides a sexy representation of aspects of the role of folks like Nuhu Ribadu, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Oby Ezekwesili, Chukwuma Soludo, Mike Adenuga, etc. in specific contexts of the Obasanjo government.
Beyond all the press speculation on the long-drawn war between Obasanjo and Atiku, The Accidental Public Servant gives in-depth background and key highlights of the war of attrition between the two gladiators. It sheds light on    Atiku’s modus operandi and his general mindset about public service.  Perhaps more importantly, the book highlights the intrigues, horse-trading as well as the key actors that master-minded as well as those that collectively sabotaged Obasanjo’s third term bid, a venture that El Rufai is proud to be associated with. El Rufai justifies his steadfast role in sabotaging Obasanjo’s third term project on the premise that his loyalty as a Public servant was first and foremost to the constitution and the national interest rather than to an ephemeral godfather. Another major contribution of the El Rufai’s Accidental Public Servant is the insight it provides on the person of Umaru Musa Yar’Adua; the circumstances that led to his presidency and his subsequent role in driving El Rufai and his “brother”, Nuhu Ribadu to exile.
Truly, The Accidental Public servant ruffled feathers as evident in responses from a number of people, including Atiku, Ribadu and Soludo.
Interestingly, to the best of my knowledge Obasanjo seem to have maintained a dignified or dismissive, even admissive silence over his portrayal in the book. On his part, El Rufai insists that he did his best to ensure accurate representation of everyone mentioned in the book, and if anyone desired they should write their own account of events or prove their allegations of the “integrity deficit” in his accounts. We are still waiting for anyone to take that challenge. El Rufai has made a significant contribution to Nigeria’s political history by illuminating on the hidden intrigues and cross-currents of Obasanjo’s second coming. His courage and initiative is worthy of commendation. Such projects help grow our democracy.
And that is the challenge which Major Hamza Al-Mustapha and all other crucial actors in Nigeria’s public sphere may like to embrace. Like El Rufai, for those who were adults at the time of the Abacha regime, Al-Mustapha needs no introduction. He was the dreaded Chief Security Officer to Gen. Abacha. He was one of Abacha’s closest confidants. He was so powerful that not many doubted that he was the de facto next-in-command to the shy and reclusive General. Al-Mustapha was dreaded by even Generals. Anyone that came by his approval to the Abacha power chambers had their wish granted. More important than his influence in the Abacha junta, Al-Mustapha was said to be in charge of a security outfit called the Strike Force, used to suppress the restive opposition, especially in the South West, as symbolized by the NADECO and its allies for insisting on the sanctity of the 1993 June 12 elections.
During the Abacha era, there was massive crackdown on the opposition including through targeted assassinations of prominent opposition and prodemocracy leaders, including journalists. It was that period of terror that Alfred Rewane, Kudirat Abiola and others were assassinated. Michael Ibru, the affable publisher of The Guardian Newspaper, was a target of a failed assassination attempt at that eon. Most of these attacks happened in broad day lights conceivably by persons believed to be agents of the government of the day and allegedly under the security directive of Al-Mustapha.  There was also an allegation of a phantom coup that resulted in the trial and convictions of several people, notably, Generals Obasanjo, Diya, Abdulkarim Adisa, etc.
Abacha’s sudden death turned the tide dramatically for all prominent actors in his government, including, you guessed it, Al-Mustapha. For almost 15 years, he was a guest of our criminal justice system, defending himself from various charges including conspiracies to commit murder.  A star witness (Sgt. Rogers) testified that Al-Mustapha provided the weapons and gave the directives for the assassination of Kudirat Abiola, the pro-democracy wife of the Late M.K.O. Abiola – the arrow head of the June 12 presidential election.  In 2012, Al-Mustapha was convicted (with another) for Mrs.  Abiola’s murder. Until his recent release, Al-Mustapha existed at the intersection freedom and the hangman.   But recently, the court of appeal spared him from the hangman and declared him free. Expectedly, his release by the judiciary has elicited mixed reactions across the country. He has made a heroic and triumphant return to his native Kano, and he seems to have hit the ground running into limelight; and even appears ready to rattle the polity by the suggestive steps he has taken so far.
Since Al-Mustapha’s release, the ‘media sphere’ has turned into a beehive of speculation. Some have suggested or insinuated that political intervention from the highest quarters and a sense of political expediency as reasons for his release. Others have even waxed spiritual and have given Pastor T.B. Joshua some unusual ‘positive press’ and credit for Mustapha’s release. I believe in the rule of law. I am not at ease with the death penalty because violence begets voice in an unending chain. When the hangman is debriefed, it calls for a relief than when he is commissioned. The justice system all over the world is not a popularity context. The court is not necessarily in the business of playing to the gallery of the public opinion and sentiments. Even though ignoring those does not augur well for any judicial system.  That is partly why the legendary queen of justice is blind folded and she is always determined to do justice even if the heavens fall. Others suggest that she is blind-folded because she is ashamed of the injustice that is done in the name of justice. Go figure.
Take the recent release by a six-woman jury of the infamous George Zimmerman, the admitted killer of the innocent African-American teenager, Trayvon Benjamin Martin. That is justice according to the law — as unjust as it really and actually is. But there is no alternative to the rule of law. So, Al-Mustapha should enjoy his freedom and deal with his conscience however he deems fit. Anything outside the rule of law is the rule of anarchy. That in itself has potential for greater injustice than is possible through isolated cases of miscarriage of justice under the rule of law.
 If the story ended there, perhaps it would be consoling to the Abiolas and some constituents who have since expressed dismay over the acquittal of Al-Mustapha. Recently, a segment of northern elders and youths paid a solidarity visit to the PDP national Chairman, Bamanga Tukur, essentially to thank the party and the administration for the release of Al-Mustapha. They claimed that they believed that such a release did not happen without some extra judicial intervention from above and they gave credit to Jonathan and PDP leader for Al-Mustapha’s release. Consequently, they pledged their support for Jonathan to stand for re-election in 2015.  But for the calibre of leaders that paid the solidarity visit, one could have said that their position reflected lay persons’ way of processing information. After all, gossip and beer parlour speculations have ways of creeping into public discourse and assuming a life of their own.
According to the media report, the PDP Chairman responded in a nutshell by expressing satisfaction over the groups’ open solidarity which he described as democracy in action. He pointed said that “when we see good things we should celebrate like these groups are doing now, celebrate good things, celebrate democracy and celebrate justice ….”  An elated Tukur thoroughly relished the representation made by the delegation. Nowhere did he disabuse the claims over Al-Mustapha’s release. The same is true of the federal government. Left un-disclaimed at an opportune moment such as the crowd presented to the highest level of the ruling party, one is left with a limited number of conclusions, graciously speaking. The first is that perhaps the PDP Chairman is not aware of the veracity of the claims over Al-Mustapha’s release and therefore not in a position to confirm or deny. The second is that the crowd was right and there is nothing to disclaim.
I will graciously settle for the first potential conclusion and hope that Tukur will check his facts and get back to the crowd and the Nigerian people. In his recent biography of Nigeria’s 12th Chief Justice (Dahiru Musdapher) titled To Do Justly, Prof. Ikechi Mgeboji bewails the tendency by politicians to drag the judiciary into the political mud. Nigerian politicians, he charges, have succeeded in the “juducialisation of politics”. Nowhere is this truer than in the electoral process and the management of political parties’ internal affairs. Politicians have proven incapable of being good actors in their own game and hence unduly burdening the judiciary to settle even the simplest political matters. And each time the judiciary is lured into the murky waters of politics, it is forced to sip a dose of poison that compromises its independent health as a crucial pillar of our constitutional democracy pursuant to the doctrine of separation of powers. A judiciary that is amenable to entering into bed with the executive behind closed doors is one that digs its grave and lacks the capacity to safeguard itself; let alone the citizens.
Unfortunately, judges do not speak in their own defence; only their judgments speak for them. Often judges and their judgments are at the mercy of the media, politicians and the public. Sure, our constitution provides for prerogative of mercy and there are times when the executive may ‘rest’ criminal convictions or even halt criminal trials on grounds that do not create doubts about the integrity of the judiciary. Recently, the former Governor of Bayelsa State was a beneficiary of that process via state pardon. Even though Nigerians were outraged, there was no basis to drag the judiciary into it. But the present context in which Al-Mustapha’s release is being portrayed outside the traditional constitutional channel of state intervention is an ill-wind that does no good to anyone interested in our democratic experiment.
Political interference, real or speculative in the release of Al-Mustapha, does not hold well for the government or for Al-Mustapha himself. Not only would it set a wrong precedent and further erode the independence of the judiciary, such a possibility would undermine any claim of innocence or unjust incarceration/ conviction by Al-Mustapha. For all involved in the circumstances of Al-Mustapha’s nearly 15-year encounter with the criminal justice system, it would delay the healing and the much-needed closure which Al-Mustapha’s release could bring. But no one should blame Al-Mustapha for his release. And he has every reason to savour his freedom because he appealed his conviction and the court agreed with him and gave him back his life. I do not know of anybody who was waiting for the hangman but instead heard the toll of a freedom bell that would not be happy.
But how best could Al-Mustapha make his freedom count? Not many that walked Al-Mustapha’s kind of ‘long walk to freedom’ get an opportunity for redemption that is now his pleasure and his burden.  He was a prominent figure in Nigeria’s political transition from Ibrahim Babangida to the second coming of Obasanjo. That point in our political history where he became a visible actor was one of the most critical to our national survival. Al-Mustapha co-presided (even if in a de facto form) over one of the darkest periods in Nigeria’s political history. He has a lot to share. He knows all the actors at a time when Nigeria was on the edge of the precipice. He can make his freedom count by assisting us to unravel what actually happened to M.K.O. and to shed light on all the post June 12 political engineering and manipulations.
He could assist us to truly understand the anatomy and the overall psychology of the Abacha administration and the Abacha enigma. Al-Mustapha could help put in context all the actors that bestrode Nigeria’s political firmament during the Abacha days. If he feels a personal burden to make a case for his innocence before the Nigerian people, he surely has the chance. Truly his countrymen would like to hear from him now that he has the chance. Could it be possible that he had all along been misunderstood as he often insinuates? If only he could shun all the evident political pressures following his release. Before he gets things all mangled by the crooked ways of politics to which his is being dragged, Al-Mustapha should write us a treatise that would help illuminate the darkest tunnels of our political journey. As Achebe said, if we do not know where and when the rain started falling on us, it is hard to realise where and when and it stopped. Al-Mustapha, please write for us: “The Accidental Military Politician” with as much courage if not more than El Rufai’s The Accidental Public Servant. You can make a difference.  By so doing you contribute to the growth of our democracy, cultivate the rule of law, help heal wounds and bring closure to many and contribute to nation-building. These are the kinds of stuff patriots do. For you, they could be redemptive.