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Buhari Orders Speedy Investigation Into NDDC Corruption Scandal

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President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered a speedy and coordinated investigation into the corruption scandal in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, disclosed this in a statement on Thursday.

He explained that the President gave the directive for better coordination among security and investigating agencies with the National Assembly.

Shehu believes this will ensure that the effort of the present administration to bring sanity, transparency, and accountability to the management of the large amount of resources dedicated to the development of the Niger Delta sub-region is not derailed.

He stated that the President has noted the unfolding drama, including attacks and counterattacks between and around persons, institutions, and the NDDC.

“President Buhari expressed his strong determination to get to the root of the problem undermining the development of the Niger Delta and its peoples in spite of enormous national resources voted year after year for this singular purpose,” the statement said.

It added, “According to the directive, auditing firms and investigative agencies working in collaboration with National Assembly Committees to resolve the challenges in the NDDC must initiate actions in a time-bound manner and duly inform the Presidency of the actions being taken.”

A Chain Of Drama

President Buhari also directed the timely sharing of information and knowledge in a way that would speedily assist the administration to identify what had gone wrong in the past and what should be done to make corrections in order to return the NDDC to its original mandate of making life better for people in Niger Delta.

He said the administration would bring about “rapid, even, and sustainable development to the region.”

The President also gave a firm assurance that his administration would put in place a transparent and accountable governance framework, not only in the NDDC but in all other institutions of government.

Prior to the directive for a speedy and coordinated investigation, the corruption scandal in the NDDC had triggered a series of drama, blames, and counter-accusations among others.

Amid the controversy, the National Assembly probed the allegation of fraud said to have been perpetrated by the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the agency.

This led to another round of exchange of blame between the former IMC led by Dr Joy Nunieh and Professor Kemebradikumo Pondei over the discrepancies in the NDDC’s 2019 budget.

The controversy took a new twist on Thursday when a team of security operatives stormed Nunieh’s residence in Port Harcourt in an attempt to arrest her.

Nunieh, however, reached out to the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, who swiftly responded to her distress call and came with his aides to challenge and stop the attempted arrest.

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Investigation

EFCC Arrests Ex-Kwara Governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed

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The immediate past governor of Kwara State, Abdulfatah Ahmed, has been arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Sources at the anti-graft agency disclosed that the former governor is being questioned by a crack team of operatives at the EFCC headquarters in the Jabi area of Abuja, the nation’s capital.

He was said to have arrived at the EFCC headquarters at about 10am on Monday, in response to the invitation extended to him by the agency.

Following his arrival at the anti-graft agency’s office, Ahmed was in the interrogation room for about seven hours, writing statements.

While details of the case were still sketchy as of press time, sources revealed that his arrest was in connection with how funds to the tune of about N9 billion were allegedly diverted from the coffers of the Kwara State government.

The money was alleged to have been diverted during Ahmed’s tenure as governor of the state, and when he served as the Commissioner for Finance in the administration of former Governor Bukola Saraki.

A spokesman for the EFCC, Wilson Uwujaren, confirmed that the former governor responded to the commission’s invitation. He, however, declined further comments.

Ahmed was appointed as the Commissioner for Finance in Kwara after Saraki assumed office as governor in 2003.

He also served as the treasurer of the Forum of Commissioners of Finance in Nigeria, as well as the Chairman of Budget Formulation Committee and Economic Team of Kwara State.

In the build-up to the 2011 general elections, Ahmed contested and won the primary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

He won the Kwara governorship seat and re-election after succeeding Saraki who also won the election to represent Kwara Central senatorial district in the National Assembly after completing two terms as governor.

Ahmed left office in 2019 and was succeeded by the incumbent governor, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, who won on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

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EXPOSED: How BUA Shortchanges FG Billions In Sugar Imports

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One of the three investors in Nigeria’s Backward Integration Plan on sugar, BUA Sugar Refinery has allegedly been shortchanging the Federal Government to the tune of billions of naira, which the company enjoys as concessions on import duty and levy for raw imported sugar, by not producing an ounce of sugar since the BIP was initiated, findings have revealed.

BUA’s performance in the BIP already rated as poor and unacceptable by the National Sugar Development Council after the initial 4 years of BIP implementation continues to dip by the day, but its import quota on the other hand is rising, as the company appears more focused on importing raw sugar for its refinery which has been expanded recently.

In 2020 BUA got a 360,000mt presidential quota allocation, out of which it utilized 313,700mt and has now applied for 600,000mt import quota for 2021, without a complementary investment in backward integration, which is a pre-condition for enjoying increased import quota under the concessionary tariff.

At the end of the First Phase of the NSMP (2013-2016), BUA reportedly raked in N66.5billion profit from accrued tariff concessions and ploughed back only N9.3billion out of that into the BIP, a far cry from other investors who channeled a minimum of 50% back into the BIP.

Despite a 2017 radical review of the entire BIP strategy as well as the entire reward and sanction regime of the National Sugar Master Plan, which has placed emphasis on cultivation, jobs creation and local manufacture as a pre-requisite for quota allocation, BUA is yet to produce sugar locally like other stakeholders in the industry.

Cumulative Satellite monitoring data obtained from an anonymous source in the NSDC shows gross discrepancies between the self-reported performance figures (amount of land cultivated for sugar cane) by BUA’s Lafarge Sugar Mill with what is actually on the ground verified by the satellite imagery.

BUA claims to have developed 6,500ha of land by May 2020 with 2,220 ha cultivated with sugar cane, however satellite images show that since 2016 only 473ha were developed and cultivated, despite enjoying billions in concessionary rights Nigerians are yet to see or have a taste of BUA sugar. A sugar factory without sugar cane represents a smoking gun for the Federal Government to investigate.

A 2015 dated letter from the NSDC shows that BUA was slammed a suspension from enjoying the privileges of tariff concessions for failing to follow the examples of productive backward integration programs under the Nigeria Sugar Master Plan. Where other stakeholders were in re-investing profits from the tariff concessions into local sugar factories, BUA sugar rather was investing in the building of a new import-driven refinery in Port-Harcourt in flagrant disregard of the suspension of further sugar refinery development in the country.

What the country clearly needed at that time according to NSDC was an investment in sugarcane to sugar production to move the country out of its dependence on sugar imports, save foreign exchange and create jobs for Nigerians.

In another letter BUA was also denied an additional quota for raw sugar imports to service the new Port-Harcourt refinery by the NSDC, citing the need to protect the policy that was put in place to halt import dependency while stimulating investments, such as would harness the nation’s natural endowments for production of sugar from sugarcane.

The council also chided BUA for failing to demonstrate the level of commitment expected of him to justify the incentive being enjoyed from the federal government.

How the suspension after 2015 was lifted is still shrouded in mystery, as there has been no demonstrable commitment from BUA to drive the BIP, aside from projections and future dates of production, while it currently continues to enjoy tariff concessions on imports and has requested a quota increase from 313,700mt in 2020 to 600,000mt in 2021.

Given the gravity of infractions from BUA and seemingly no penalty from regulators, would-be investors would be right to assume that there is no level playing ground in the BIP initiative.

The policy still has room to accommodate more private sector players that can ultimately turn the table from importation of raw sugar to local production, to self-sufficiency and net exporter of sugar if the government can show that it is carrying out its regulatory oversight function without fear or favor.

See Documents: NSDC Letter to BUA_Refinery Project

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Funds Meant For Arms Purchase ‘Missing’ Under Buratai, Other Service Chiefs – NSA

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Babagana Monguno, National Security Adviser (NSA) has revealed that funds given to former service chiefs for arms purchase not be traced.

On January 26, President Muhammadu Buhari removed the service chiefs in persons of  the Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Olonisakin; Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai; Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ekwe Ibas; and Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar.

The president had immediately appointed their replacements in persons of Major-General Leo Irabor, Chief of Defence Staff; Major-General I. Attahiru, Chief of Army Staff; Rear Admiral A. Z. Gambo, Chief of Naval Staff; and Air-Vice Marshal I.O Amao, Chief of Air Staff.

But in an interview with the BBC Hausa on Friday morning, the NSA said neither the money approved by Mr Buhari for arm purchase nor arms was met on ground when the new service chiefs assumed office.

Asked why the government is foot-dragging on fight against banditry, Mr Monguno said the president had done his best by approving huge amount of money for arm purchase but the equipment was not forthcoming.

“Now that he (President Buhari) has brought new people (service chiefs), hopely they will device some ways… I’m not saying the former service chiefs diverted the money, but the money is missing. We don’t know how, and nobody knows for now,” he said.

Asked whether the matter is investigated to trace the funds or the military hardwares, the NSA said the president would investigate the matter.

“The President will surely probe this matter. As we speak, the Nigerian Governors’ Forum too is also wondering where all the money went. I can assure you the president takes issues of this nature seriously.

“The fact is that preliminary investigation showed the funds are missing and the equipment is nowhere to be found.

“When the new service chiefs assumed office, they also said they did see anything on ground,” said the NSA.

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