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Retirees Pay N465bn Premiums On Annuity Plan To Insurance Firms

No fewer than 83,568 retirees, at the point of retirement, opted for Retiree Life Annuity (RLA) plan, hence, paying a cumulative N464.53 billion premium to life insurance companies in the country, LEADERSHIP learnt.

Life annuity plan is an income purchased from an approved life insurance company which provides monthly or quarterly income to the retiree during his/her lifetime.

To this end, investigation shows that, from 2004 when the Contributory Pension Scheme(CPS) became operational, till December 31sr, 2020, the total premium transferred by Pension Fund Administrators(PFAs) on behalf of their customers, amounted to 464.53billion.

In a recent report from the National Pension Commission(PenCom) and made available to LEADERSHIP, the total number of retirees who opted for annuity plan increased from 74,805 in 2019 to 83,568 in 2020.

Further breakdown shows that federal government retirees accounted for 49,368 (59.07 per cent), the States retirees accounted for 10,494 (12.56 per cent) while the private sector retirees accounted for 23,706 (28.3 per cent) of the retirees who opted for annuity at the expense of programmed withdrawal plan.

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Stating that the cumulative monthly annuity being received by retirees from inception to December 31, 2020 was N4.62 billion, after the receipt of cumulative lump sum of N127.62 billion, PenCom said, in 2020, 8,763 retirees who opted for Life Annuity received N25.92 billion as lump sum while N57.22 billion was paid as premium to insurance companies in exchange for monthly Annuity receipts of N540 million.

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In the second quarter of 2021, however, the regulator granted approval to 1,708 retirees under the Retiree Life Annuity, adding that, the total lump sum of N4,586.16 million was approved for payment to the retirees.

Speaking on annuity, the managing director/CEO, Cecilia O. Osipitan, said that life annuity is a stream of periodic payments that commences at a specified date, which is either the normal retirement age or at 50 in the case of early retirement. The payment, she added, could either be monthly or quarterly depending on the retiree’s preference.

Osipitan explained that the benefits to include; the continuous flow of regular income for the retiree, insulation from the risks associated with the investment of lump-sum benefits, structured management of resources and the transference of the risk of diminution in assets and possible failure of investments of retirees to insurance companies that are better equipped to manage such risks.

“Insurance remains the most reliable bedrock of our existence and cultivating the culture of insurance can never be over emphasised. There is a need to call for a paradigm shift through effective sensitisation of the insuring public as it is very important to imbibe the culture of getting appropriate insurance cover to protect our assets and lives in case of any eventuality,” she pointed out.

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Earlier, the commissioner for Insurance, Sunday Thomas, expressed optimism that a substantial part of the N13 trillion pension assets will find its way into the insurance portfolio.

NAICOM, he said, is working assiduously to put in place measures to protect the expected funds, which informed the move to train and breed actuarial analysts, who will help measure and manage insurance associated risks.

“Annuity requires day-to-day measurement and management of its activities. As I speak with you right now, annuity accounts for about 40 per cent of our portfolio. That actually requires our attention,” he pointed out.

The Retiree Life Annuity (RLA) is an insurance product and one of the available retirement benefit options for retirees. The product can be purchased from a Life Insurance Company licensed by the NAICOM and authorised to sell RLA under the regulation of retiree life annuity.

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NNPC, TotalEnergies OML 130 Partnership Complete 11 SDG Projects In 2021

Energy giant TotalEnergies, in line with its corporate social responsibility, CSR, and in fulfillment of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, has commissioned 11 projects across the six geo-political zones of Nigeria in 2021.

The projects were initiated, executed and commissioned under Batch 3 projects to mitigate the gaps in qualitative and technical education, maternal and child health, access to clean water and women and youth empowerment.

The projects executed with its OML130 partners range from Information Communications Technology, ICT centres, to borehole and water treatment plants, mammography centres, state-of-the-art secondary school structures, solar-powered water projects, and solar hybrid power plants.TotalEnergies’ OML130 partners include state oil firm, the NNPC, CNOOC, Prime 130 formerly Petrobras and Sapetro.

While the Esan Model Boys Grammar School, at Uromi, Edo state, and the Comprehensive High School, Aiyetoro, Ogun state each got an Information and Communications Technology, ICT centre, the Federal Medical Centre, FMC, Yenogoa, Bayelsa, and the Niger Delta University Teaching Hospital, Okolobiri, Bayelsa State became beneficiaries of mammography centres.

Also, Community Secondary School, Ufuma, Orumba North LGA, Anambra state, and Government Girls Secondary School, Maiduguri, Borno also benefitted from the infrastructure projects.

Solar-powered water projects made up of two borehole units and water treatment plants were commissioned at Ndibe community, Afikpo, Ebonyi State, the Hassan Usman Katsina Polytechnic, Katsina State, and at the Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, Tundun Wada Zaria, Kaduna respectively, thus ending perennial outbreak of waterborne diseases in the communities who mostly depended on streams and rain as sources of water.

Also completed and commissioned is a 60KW solar hybrid power plant was delivered to the Faculty of Science, University of Maiduguri, UNIMAID on the 24th of November.

The partners also completed the design, supply and installation of solar power system at the University of Nigeria Nsukka, Enugu state.

Speaking during handing over ceremonies of the projects, Managing Director, TotalEnergies Upstream Companies in Nigeria, Mike Sangster said the completion and commissioning of the project were in furtherance of the Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives of its deepwater operations.

“On behalf of the Management and Staff of TotalEnergies Upstream Nigeria Limited, our senior Partners, NNPC, and our OML 130 Partners: PRIME 130, SAPETRO & CNOOC, I warmly welcome you all to the commissioning and handover of this project. The completion and commissioning of this project is in furtherance of the Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives of our Deepwater Operations.

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These projects were borne out of the need to mitigate the gaps in Qualitative and Technical Education, Maternal & Child Health, Access to Clean Water, and Women & Youth Empowerment. They are in congruence with the related United Nations Sustainable Development Goals”, adding that locations of these projects were carefully chosen for maximum impact, coming from needs assessment carried out before the deployment.

In 2016, TotalEnergies commenced its robust plan to deploy CSR Infrastructure developments across the country. In its 1 Phase, a total of 33 projects were launched in 2017 in the areas of Education, Health, Capacity Building and Access to Water across the country. Twenty-Eight projects have since been completed. In its 2nd Phase another 24 projects were launched in 2018 and yet another 27 projects were launched in 2019 in the 3rd purchase. By CHIKA IZUORA, Lagos

Energy giant TotalEnergies, in line with its corporate social responsibility, CSR, and in fulfillment of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, has commissioned 11 projects across the six geo-political zones of Nigeria in 2021.

The projects were initiated, executed and commissioned under Batch 3 projects to mitigate the gaps in qualitative and technical education, maternal and child health, access to clean water and women and youth empowerment.

The projects executed with its OML130 partners range from Information Communications Technology, ICT centres, to borehole and water treatment plants, mammography centres, state-of-the-art secondary school structures, solar-powered water projects, and solar hybrid power plants.TotalEnergies’ OML130 partners include state oil firm, the NNPC, CNOOC, Prime 130 formerly Petrobras and Sapetro.

While the Esan Model Boys Grammar School, at Uromi, Edo state, and the Comprehensive High School, Aiyetoro, Ogun state each got an Information and Communications Technology, ICT centre, the Federal Medical Centre, FMC, Yenogoa, Bayelsa, and the Niger Delta University Teaching Hospital, Okolobiri, Bayelsa State became beneficiaries of mammography centres.

Also, Community Secondary School, Ufuma, Orumba North LGA, Anambra state, and Government Girls Secondary School, Maiduguri, Borno also benefitted from the infrastructure projects.

Solar-powered water projects made up of two borehole units and water treatment plants were commissioned at Ndibe community, Afikpo, Ebonyi State, the Hassan Usman Katsina Polytechnic, Katsina State, and at the Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, Tundun Wada Zaria, Kaduna respectively, thus ending perennial outbreak of waterborne diseases in the communities who mostly depended on streams and rain as sources of water.

Also completed and commissioned is a 60KW solar hybrid power plant was delivered to the Faculty of Science, University of Maiduguri, UNIMAID on the 24th of November.

The partners also completed the design, supply and installation of solar power system at the University of Nigeria Nsukka, Enugu state.

Speaking during handing over ceremonies of the projects, Managing Director, TotalEnergies Upstream Companies in Nigeria, Mike Sangster said the completion and commissioning of the project were in furtherance of the Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives of its deepwater operations.

“On behalf of the Management and Staff of TotalEnergies Upstream Nigeria Limited, our senior Partners, NNPC, and our OML 130 Partners: PRIME 130, SAPETRO & CNOOC, I warmly welcome you all to the commissioning and handover of this project. The completion and commissioning of this project is in furtherance of the Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives of our Deepwater Operations.

These projects were borne out of the need to mitigate the gaps in Qualitative and Technical Education, Maternal & Child Health, Access to Clean Water, and Women & Youth Empowerment. They are in congruence with the related United Nations Sustainable Development Goals”, adding that locations of these projects were carefully chosen for maximum impact, coming from needs assessment carried out before the deployment.

In 2016, TotalEnergies commenced its robust plan to deploy CSR Infrastructure developments across the country. In its 1 Phase, a total of 33 projects were launched in 2017 in the areas of Education, Health, Capacity Building and Access to Water across the country. Twenty-Eight projects have since been completed. In its 2nd Phase another 24 projects were launched in 2018 and yet another 27 projects were launched in 2019 in the 3rd purchase.

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Relocation, Resettlement Will Decongest Abuja – FCTA

Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) has said that developing resettlement and relocation sites which have been allocated to residents and natives of the FCT, will help to decongest the city centre.

The director of FCT Resettlement and Compensation Department, Mrs. Perpetua Ohammah, who made this known during an inspection of road projects at Orozo relocation, Karshi, and Gidandaya resettlement sites, explained that the administration is very keen to develop the sites so that people can be moved there as soon as possible.

The director who commended the road infrastructure job done in the sites, say that in 2022, most of the infrastructure in the site would be completed, that the reason to expedite works at the site is to decongest the city center.

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According to Ohammah, although the sites were allocated many years ago, the but development of the area has not been possible because the of lack of access roads to the communities, that is why the FCTA has commenced developing the sites by first putting the access roads in place.

“The minister has tasked all the directors to think of ways they can improve the development to the city, that is why we decided to bring development to these areas through creating access roads. You can imagine how many people will leave the city and come here when it is completed.

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“We have the determination that with or without budgetary provision, we will do what we can to make the lives of people put under our purview easier, all those who are relocating and have been relocated a long time ago.

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“The relocation sites will drastically decongest the city centre, because once we open the access roads in these sites, those who have plots here will come and develop them, while those people in town squatting and living in illegal places, will move down to this place,” she said.

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Senate Begins Move To Amend Own Rules

President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, has disclosed that the red chamber would next week Tuesday amend the 2015 Senate Standing Orders.

Lawan made the disclosure on Wednesday at plenary.

According to the Senate President, the decision to amend the Senate Rules was to ensure an improvement to enable the chamber run itself better.

He explained that the amendment exercise would allow the Senate to accommodate Committees created under the Eighth Assembly and not captured in the standing orders.

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He said, “The copies of the proposal will be distributed today (Wednesday), and the idea of for all of us to study between now and Monday, and on Tuesday we will look into the amendments proposed.

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“So, if any of us have any idea of an additional thing or suggestion on what has been introduced, by Tuesday we should be able to have our position.

“It is inevitable that the standing orders as they are today have to be amended for us to be up-to-date with everything that we do here.”

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New National Development Plan Will Cost N381trn – ITF DG

Director-general of the Industrial Training Fund (ITF) Sir Joseph Ari has disclosed that Nigeria has unveiled the 5-year National Development Plan (2021-2025) to replace the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (EGRP). He said the new development plan would cost N381 trillion.

According to him, the plan also includes affordable housing for Nigerians and an export-led economy among others that is expected to cost N381trillion to implement. He said the six focal areas are  economic growth and development, infrastructure, public administration, human capital development, social development and regional development.

Ari made the disclosure at a media forum organised by the Correspondents Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Plateau State Council in Jos, yesterday.

He said they have come to the realisation that “we are in a world of innovation and ideation and, therefore, must appropriately respond rather than rest on their oars.” He stressed that the decision was further informed by the fact that they are on the cusp of the fourth industrial revolution, which among other things will lead to greater automation substitutes for labour across the globe.

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Ari argued that beyond job losses, this new reality has come with a new world that is popularly referred to as the VUCA world that is Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous, saying already, across the country today, they are contending with elements of the VUCA world in varying degrees.

The DG also noted that daily there are reports of acts of criminality that could only have been imagined some few years back.

He said that to overcome the challenges of VUCA, nations are devising strategies to reduce unemployment and poverty.

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“It was perhaps in response to these threats and other considerations that the Federal Government has unveiled the 5-year National Development Plan (2021-2025) to replace the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (EGRP) which projects the creation of 21 million jobs, with 35 million Nigerians lifted out of poverty.”

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He said, “As the leading human capital development institution in Nigeria, we have commenced the process of repositioning our programmes and activities to effectively prepare the nation’s workforce in line with our mandate of developing a pool of qualified Nigerians to man the public and private sectors of the national economy.

“Our initiatives then particularly the emphasis on skills intervention programmes was borne out of the need to drive the actualisation of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (EGRP), which we achieved to an appreciable degree by training hundreds of thousands of Nigerians that are today gainfully employed or even employers of labour.”

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2 NFIU Directors Contest Dismissal In Court

Two directors of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) sacked for alleged insubordination for responding to an international request on financial transactions involving former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar have dragged the agency before the National Industrial Court sitting in Abuja.

The directors, Mohammed Mustapha Abdulrahman and Fehintola Salisu who served as associate directors in charge of intelligence and investigation, and compliance and analysis, respectively before they were dismissed from service in June, 2021 said their dismissal was unlawful. They prayed the court to reverse the same.

In the suit marked NICN/ABJ/253/2021, the plaintiffs prayed the court to set aside their dismissal from public service, which they said was done in contravention of the law.

The plaintiffs’ ordeal began last year after they acted on an EGMONT group request from Malta, requesting details of transactions linked to the former vice president and his business partner, Gabrielle Volphi.

As the most senior person in the organisation, in the absence of the director of NFIU, Modibbo Hamman-Tukur, Ms Salisu initiated action to respond to the request for information as expected by the partner organisation in Malta.

Abdulrahman also wrote to investigative authorities in Nigeria requesting for details about the subjects.

But NFIU’ director, in separate queries served the two officials later, accused them of bypassing his authorisation before acting on the EGMONT Group request.

The two officials were indefinitely suspended after they were queried in August 2020.

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Six months after they were placed on suspension and invited to appear before Appointments, Promotions and Disciplinary Committee in February, 2021.

After submission of the committee’s report the two were issued with dismissal letters, though the committee did not out rightly recommend their dismissal.

In its report the committee indicted the two of “negligence and insubordination” which it said could attract “maximum punishment of dismissal” but recommended that Mr Hamman-Tukur used his discretion in view of the long years of service of the two persons.

The NFIU’s director opted to dismiss the two staff who were first employed in 2004 by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

In the suit filed by their counsel, P.T. Akan, the plaintiffs prayed for an order setting aside the findings and recommendations of the committee on appointments, promotions and discipline constituted by the director, upon which the NFIU, the 2nd defendants in the matter  relied upon to dismiss the claimants.

They prayed the court to determine the following: “Whether in the light of Rules 030102 of Chapter 3 of the federal government public service rules, 2008, the defendants are vested with the power to dismiss the claimants from its services without such power expressly delegated to them by the Federal Civil Service Commission.

“Whether within the meaning and definition of Section 1 of Chapter 16, Rules 160101 and 060102 of the Federal Government Public Service Rules, 2008, the 1st defendant NFIU does not qualify as parastatal. And if it is, whether the defendants are not bound to comply strictly with the provisions of the Public Service Rules, 2008 before dismissing the claimants from its service.”

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They also prayed the court to declare the following: A declaration that the purported dismissal of the claimants from the service of the 1st defendant by the defendants is arbitrary and unlawful and consequently null and void and of no effect whatsoever.

“An order of this Honourable Court directing the defendants to issue a letter recalling and reinstating the claimants into the public service of the 1st defendant and restoring all the privileges, entitlements and positions held by the claimants before their purported dismissal by the defendants.

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“An order of this Honourable Court directing the defendants to pay to the claimants’ salaries, allowances and all their entitlements from the period of their purported dismissal to the period of reinstatement.”

In the affidavit in support of the originating summons, the plaintiffs said the probe by the disciplinary committee was not transparent as it was shrouded in secrecy and in clear violations of public service rules.

They said the director of NFIU has no justification to dismiss them from service because they were subject to disciplinary action for up to nine months from when they were issued with a letter of query to when they were issued with a letter of dismissal.

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Covid: Vaccines Should Work Against Omicron Variant, WHO Says

Existing vaccines should still protect people who contract the Omicron variant from severe Covid cases, a World Health Organization (WHO) official says.

It comes as the first lab tests of the new variant in South Africa suggest it can partially evade the Pfizer jab.

Researchers say there was a “very large drop” in how well the vaccine’s antibodies neutralised the new strain.

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But the WHO’s Dr Mike Ryan said there was no sign Omicron would be better at evading vaccines than other variants.

“We have highly effective vaccines that have proved effective against all the variants so far, in terms of severe disease and hospitalisation, and there’s no reason to expect that it wouldn’t be so” for Omicron, Dr Ryan, the WHO’s emergencies director, told AFP news agency.

He said initial data suggested Omicron did not make people sicker than the Delta and other strains. “If anything, the direction is towards less severity,” he said.

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UNIMED Ondo State: Students, Parents Cry Out On Increase In Tuition Fees

BY TOPE FAYEHUN, Akure T he Ondo State-owned University of Medical Sciences, Ondo, has increased tuition payable in the institution by 120 per cent. The development has continued to raise dust among stakeholders in the state. The University in the new schedule released by its management, requires non-indigenes and indigenes studying Dentistry in the institution […] EXIT READER MODE

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$418m Paris Club Refund: Court Refuses To Vacate Order Against Federal Govt

A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja headed by Justice Inyang Ekwo has refused to vacate a restraining order against the federal government stopping the deduction of $418 million Paris Club refund from bank accounts of the 36 states of the federation.

The court fixed December 13 for continuation of hearing in a suit instituted by the states against the federal government to challenge the bid to deduct the sum of $418 million from their bank accounts.

Justice Ekwo held that the order subsists until the motion for interlocutory injunction filed by the states against the federal government is heard and determined.

The sum is planned to be deducted by the federal government through the office of the attorney general of the federation (AGF) and minister of justice to pay contractors who worked for the state governments in the Paris Club refund.

The judge, during proceedings yesterday, permitted the plaintiffs (36 states) to regularise processes that were filled out of time.

The court also granted permission for substituted service on some of the defendants who allegedly refused to accept court processes.

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The motion for regularisation and substituted service, granted by the judge, were argued by Mr Jibrin Okutepa SAN on behalf of the states.

Before adjourning the matter, the judge counseled the parties to thread softly, adding that the matter will be diligently determined.

He thereafter fixed December 13 for the court to attend to all pending applications and ordered that fresh hearing notice should be served on the parties.

Justice Ekwo had on November 5 stopped the federal government from going ahead to deduct the $418million dollars from the bank account of the 36 states governments.

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The Judge had issued a restraining order against the federal government following an ex parte application argued by counsel to the 36 states Messrs Jibrin Otukepa and Ahmed Raji both Senior Advocates of Nigeria.

While moving the application, Otukepa, who led the states’ legal team, told the judge that his clients would be completely crippled if the federal government deducts the huge amount from the states’ bank accounts.

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The senior lawyers told the Judge that the federal government predicated the $418million deduction from the state account on service a debt for contracts allegedly executed for the states.

However, Otukepa said that the 36 states attorneys general have scrutinised the purported contract and judgment and found that the states were not parties to court action that resulted in the judgment debt.

He had further submitted that the purported contract claimed to have been executed for the states is not known to any of the 36 state governments and is therefore a phony contract.

The senior lawyer further told the court that the federal government was the only party to the case that brought about the judgment which, according to him, is not binding on the state government.

Defendants in the suit are the attorney general of the federation (AGF), finance minister, accountant general of the federation, all banks in Nigeria, among others.

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Secondus: S/Court Orders Substituted Service On PDP, Others

Supreme Court has ordered that all processes relating to and emanating from the appeal filed by the former national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Prince Uche Secondus, challenging his removal from office, be served on all the defendants through substituted means.

The apex court ordered that the process should be pasted on the walls of the head office of the party at Wadata House, Abuja.

The order of the court followed an ex-parte moved by counsel to Secondus, Chief Oba Maduabuchi (SAN).

He specifically sought the leave of the court to serve the notice of appeal filed on November 8, 2021;  record of appeal transmitted on November 11, 2021; Appellant brief of argument filed on October 18, 2021 and all other processes in the appeal on the walls of the respondents by substituted means to wit: “by pasting the processes at the 6th respondents (PDP) head office at Wadata Plaza, plot 1970, Micheal Okpara Street, Wuse Zone 5, Abuja.”

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After listening to Maduabuchi’s argument, Justice Mohammed Musa Dattijo, who led a five-member panel of Justices of the court granted the ex-parte application as prayed.

Justice Dattijo had fixed December 7 for hearing of all pending applicants in respect of the matter

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Apart from Dan Orbhi, other defendants in the appeal are Ibeawuchi Ernest Alex, Dennis Nna Amadi, Emmanuel Stephen, Umezurike Onuoha, Godwin Pepple Manfred, PDP, Senator Suleiman Nazif, Hon Solomon Ejike Ogbonna, Hon Uche Emmanuel Minukwa and Senator Samuel Nnaemeka Anyawu.

The Court of Appeal sitting in Port Harcourt, had on October 26 dismissed an application challenging the suspension of Secondus from the (PDP.

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A panel of three justices led by Justice Haruna Tsammani struck out the suit during its sitting in the Rivers State capital.

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N19.3bn Imbroglio And The Kogi, EFCC Faceoff

In August this year, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said it discovered about N19.3 billion belonging to the Kogi State Government in a fixed deposit account with Sterling Bank.

The money, according to the commission, was to be a bailout fund meant for the payment of workers’ salaries and arrears.

Later, the EFCC said it got an order from the Federal High Court, Lagos, to freeze the account. Shortly after, the commission went back to the court to say it would like to discontinue the case because the bank had returned the said N19.3 billion to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

In a statement by the commission’s spokesperson, Mr Wilson Uwajaren,EFCC said the refund aborts dissipation of the funds and puts an end to further controversies relating to the source and ownership of the funds.

However, the EFCC is yet to made public it’s investigations on the controversial money as of the time of this report.

But the Kogi State government, through the commissioner for Information, Kingsley Fanwo, denied any knowledge of the money, saying the state does not have any account bearing such amount of money with the said bank. The bank also released a statement, saying the Kogi government had no such account with it.

Later, the Kogi State government, challenged the anti-graft agency to publish its findings on the money.

Pundits have wondered that since the bank said, on September 1, 2021, that it never warehoused any money belonging to Kogi State in its treasury nor opened a fixed deposit account yielding interest on behalf of Kogi State Government but that it only opened a mirror account only for administrative purposes, the EFCC is yet to comment on the matter.

President Olusegun Obasanjo signed the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Establishment bill 2002 in 2004.

The Act mandates the EFCC to combat financial and economic crimes. The commission is empowered to prevent, investigate, prosecute and penalise economic and financial crimes and is charged with the responsibility of enforcing the provisions of other laws and regulations relating to economic and financial crimes, including:

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Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Establishment Act (2004); The Money Laundering Act 1995; The Money Laundering (Prohibition) act 2004; The Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act 1995; the Failed Banks (Recovery of Debts) and Financial Malpractices in Banks Act 1994; the Banks and other Financial Institutions Act 1991; and Miscellaneous Offences Act.

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However, as sensitive as the commission is, it has been operating within the ambiance of controversy. And for pundits, like Gbenga Adebanjo, a rights activist, it is not unusual, what with “the intense and complicated climate of corruption the commission has to function in vis-a-vis the expectation that the anti-graft agency will function above parochial and partisan political interests.”

However, the impasse between Kogi State and the EFCC is a recent case in point.

Miffed by the situation, speaker of the Kogi State House of Assembly, Mathew Kolawole, threatened to issue a warrant of arrest against the managing director of the new generation bank if he fails to appear before them concerning the N19.3billion which the EFCC has been making an issue about.

According to the lawmakers, the story of the N19.3 billion was a concoction of lies and undignifying of the status of the anti-graft agency.

Still, the questions some pundits ask are: What kind of investigation the EFCC has carried out in the raging bailout controversy; and what prosecution it intends to pursue?

Already there are insinuations, by other pundits that the commission might be influenced from certain quarters to serve as a spoiler to the presidential ambition of the Kogi State governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello.

“If you discover a fraud has been committed, then the onus is on you to prosecute whoever is behind the fraudulent scheme,” said an analyst, Zabrang Simon.

He said the actions of the EFCC in the controversy so far further lend credence to the insinuations by some Nigerians that the commission could be used for personal vendetta and to take out or gag politically exposed persons who have political ambitions some are not comfortable with.

“And there is no overemphasising the fact that once the public loses confidence in the impartiality of the anti-graft agency based on its meddlesomeness in the activities of political operators that have nothing to do with financial or economic crimes, the anti-corruptioncrusade of President Muhammadu Buhari, which is a cardinal focus of his administration, will lose steam and that will be a great dent on the President’s reputation as an avowed graft fighter,” another commentator, Alex Kwasu, told LEADERSHIP.

On his part, Haruna Bala said, “Kogi State Government said it received a budget facility of N19 billion from the CBN in 2019 for the payment of workers salaries and arrears, which the government had since used for the purpose it was intended as of October 2019. On this loan facility alone, information in the public shows that the government pays a certain interest on it running into millions of naira monthly to the creditor.”

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According to him, “If the EFCC keeps insisting the controversial

account – 0073572696 – belongs to the Kogi State government, then it is safe to ask the anti-graft agency to furnish the public to establish the truth who gave the mandate to the bank to open the account, the account package, the phone number and Bank VerificationNumber of those who allegedly opened and operated the Kogi State Salary Bailout Fixed Deposit Account.

“These are not too much to ask, for ultimately, unraveling the truth, based on the answers EFCC will provide to the questions asked, will put pay to the issue being dished out daily.”

Supporters of Governor Yahaya Bello (who has already declared his interest to contest for the 2023 presidential election) believe that the controversy is aimed at tarnishing the reputation of their candidate.

Although the Kogi State government has threatened legal action against the commission over the matter, some Nigerians believe that the ball is in the court of the EFCC to prove it’s case. Even though the state is demanding an apology from the EFCC, thcommission is yet to make public its findings.

“We just want the EFCC Chairman, Abdurasheed Bawa to learn from the mistakes of his predecessors in office. History is there to guide him so that he does not end up the way others before him have gone. There are political operators who can’t compete on a level-playing field and will always want to use the backdoor through underhand dealings to get an undue advantage over their competitors. They would not mind going to any length to achieve that, including desecrating a place that’s supposed to be a haven for fighting corruption,” a political commentator, Bashir Umar said while reacting to the issue.

With Governor Bello’s 2023 presidential ambition already at the center of the matter, the spotlight will remain on the EFCC as to how it manages the situation without appearing partisan.

For an agency that has repeatedly been accused of embarking more on media trails, the task before the EFCC will be to ensure robust and proper investigation into petitions submitted to it before they go to the media.

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Prof. Gwarzo Appointed Wazirin Hausawan Turai

His Royal Highness of Hausawan Turai, Alhaji Sirajo Jan Kado, ha elevated the rank of Prof. Adamu Abubakar Gwarzo from Sardaunan Hausawa to Wazirin Hausawan Turai (Europe).

The inauguration ceremony was held at the Emirate council of Hausawan Turai in Paris, France on Saturday, December 4, 2021.

Addressing the gathering on behalf of the Sarkin Hausawa, Santurakin Turai, Alhaji Aminu Fanda, said the emirate had decided to elevate the rank of Prof. Gwarzo because of his commitment to the emirate, its members and the masses all over the world.

Santuraki further stated to the participants that, Professor Adamu Gwarzo, is a renowned journalist who has twice served as President of the African Union for the Protection of Journalists, and he is now the founder and President of Maryam Abacha American University in Niger and Nigeria and Franco-British University in Kaduna, Nigeria. He also doubled as the President of the Association of African Private Universities (AAPU).

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In his remark, Wazirin Hausawan Turai, Prof. Adamu Abubakar Gwarzo, thanked Almighty Allah for giving him life, health and the ability to help the masses tirelessly and also thanked the Emirate of Hausawan Turai and the members of the Royal Council for uplifting his rank in the emirate from Sardauna to Waziri.

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The President of Maryam Abacha American University in Niger and Nigeria conglomerate, also thanked those who attended the ceremony, saying: “I would also like to extend my special thanks to many people that texted me via my GSM, and those who have been calling us to congratulate me and also to those who sent their congratulatory messages on social media. Thank you! Thank you! I thank almighty God! May Almighty Allah bestows His grace and blessing upon you and strengthen the bond between me and you people.”

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Reps To Ensure Speedy Completion Of Port Harcourt Refinery Rehabilitation

Members of the House of Representatives Committee on Petroleum (Downstream) have vowed to religiously monitor progress of work at the Port Harcourt Refinery, to ensure timely completion of the ongoing rehabilitation work.

Chairman of the committee, Dr. Abdullahi Gaya, made the vow when he led members of his committee to the refinery as part of their oversight duties.

Gaya said it behoves on the legislative committee to ensure that funds allocated and released  by the federal government for the rehabilitation work were judiciously used, stressing that Nigerians were desperate to see the refinery return to life.

While April 2022 has been fixed for the completion of the project, the  chairman has assured further that his committee would stop at nothing to track the project in other to keep to the timeline for the resumption of crude oil refining in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

He said, “We are here to see what they have done, even though they said within 24 months (2022) they will be able to complete the work. We hope within that stated period they will be able to finish the project. However,  we have told ourselves that in the next three months, we shall come back to see the progress attained for ourselves.”

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According to Gaya, “When we came here in 2020, there was nothing and we promised that we were going to do something (towards returning the refinery back to life),  and we have kept to our promise.”

Gaya expressed the hope that as it won’t be business as usual in the running and management of the refinery, giving reasons that once it comes back to life, especially under the Petroleum Industry Act regime, Nigerians would see tangible impact.

He said with the PIA, he was satisfied and excited that the petroleum industry was going to be run in a much better way.

“We are happy that the PIB has been passed and the PIA as well. As you are already aware, the president has already instructed  agencies that are concerned to make sure that it is implemented within a year.

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“Without the PIA, we are sure even if the rehabilitation is done, things can go back the way they were. But now with this PIA, a lot of things are going to change and everything will be sustainable by the grace of God,” he added.

For his part, the managing director of the Port Harcourt Refinery, Ahmed Dikko, who took the lawmakers round the facility, told journalists that the April 2022 timeline for completion of the rehabilitation was realistic.

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“The project has just started and we are putting our energy around all the refinery which we promised we will complete within 24 months.

“And we have covered a lot of grounds to reach where we are today. So, basically that is our main intent at this point. We have done enough and we are still doing enough to make sure we meet that obligation of completing the whole refinery project within 24 months, while we are still working on other parts of the refinery,” Dikko stated.

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Omicron: Governors, Lawmakers Want UK Travel Ban Reversed

BY JONATHAN NDA-ISAIAH, SUNDAY ISUWA, ADEBIYI ADEDAPO, EJIKE EJIKE, INNOCENT ODOH PATIENCE IHEJIRIKA, Abuja and ROYAL IBEH, Lagos

Nigerian governors and federal lawmakers have called for a reversal of the travel ban slammed on the country by Britain over the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, describing it as discriminatory.

The governors, under the aegis of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), yesterday complained to the World Health Organisation (WHO) about what they described as the arbitrary stigmatisation of Nigeria and other African nations based on Omicron spread.

According to a statement by the Ekiti State governor and chairman of NGF, Kayode Fayemi, the three cases of the Omicron variant of the Coronavirus were detected in Nigeria less than a week ago, precisely on December 1, 2021.

He said Canada and the United Kingdom hastily included Nigeria among the Omicron endemic countries which must stay away from their shores, an action viewed by the NGF as precipitate, unfair and discriminatory.

Fayemi further stated that Omicron remains relatively unknown globally as it is not yet clear whether it is more transmissible from person to person compared to other variants, including Delta.

He said, “It is very discouraging to note that there are several countries that have reported cases of Omicron similar to or higher than Nigeria’s that have not been banned from entry to the UK and Canada.

“Confirmed Omicron cases as of December 3 across some countries are: Nigeria (3), Australia (7), Brazil (3), Germany (9) Israel (4), Italy (9) and Netherlands (16). There is no evidence that harsh, blanket travel bans will protect the countries that impose them.

“It is ironical that this ban comes at a time when the DG of the WHO, Tedros Ghebreyesus, has advised that “rational proportional risk reduction measures” be taken by countries such as screening passengers prior to departure and/or upon arrival in a country, or enforcing a quarantine period.

The NGF therefore urged the WHO to intervene in this matter by setting uniform standards that are acceptable to all for banning countries across the globe.

“As we know, vaccine hesitancy is quite high and for many reasons, including disruptive announcements like this, which could exacerbate distrust of the vaccine and heighten hesitancy.

“World leaders and stakeholders in the West need to remember that with the COVID-19 pandemic, until everyone is free, no one is free. Variants will continue to appear and spread across the globe as long as global herd immunity has not been achieved.”

The governors called on countries to be guided by science and fairness in setting the criteria for updating their red list.

“We encourage both public and private stakeholders to continue to support vaccination efforts and address hesitancy. We encourage Nigerians not to be discouraged and to get vaccinated as soon as possible.”

Also, the Senate yesterday condemned the United Kingdom’s inclusion of Nigeria in their COVID-19 red list.

The Senate, which said there is no justification naming Nigeria among countries that have severe threat of COVID-19, urged the UK to remove Nigeria’s name from its red list.

It, accordingly, called on the British authorities to consider removing Nigeria from the red list and government to be sensitive to the diplomatic relationship between both countries when taking decisions that affect Nigerian citizens.

The Senate urged the federal government to engage the British authorities to reverse Nigeria’s inclusion on the red list.

It also urged the administration to remain firm in the enforcement of necessary protocols in the containment of every COVID-19 variant in Nigeria.

It further called on major vaccine powers, namely Britain, Canada, America, and the European Union, among others, to take urgent and bold steps to ensure vaccine equity in the interest of the entire human race.

These were resolutions reached by the senators following the consideration of a motion on the “Need for Government of the United Kingdom to remove Nigeria from COVID-19 Red List.”

The motion was sponsored by Senator Ike Ekweremadu (Enugu West).

Coming under order 42 and 52 of the Senate Rules, Ekweremadu commended the efforts of the government of Nigeria in the containment and treatment of COVID-19 cases.

He said, “Nigeria is among the countries with the lowest cases of COVID-19. The decision by the British Government to include Nigeria in their COVID-19 red list, with its concomitant implications, will affect many citizens of Nigeria who had planned to spend their Christmas and New Year holiday with their families.

Also, he pointed out, other Nigerians with genuine needs to visit the U.K. within this period will be denied visa and those with visa will not be allowed to enter the U.K.

The lawmaker said Nigerians had consistently complied with all the COVID-19 protocols required by the WHO and U.K Government for travellers prior to the ban.

He emphasized that “targeting African countries, especially in the COVID-19 travel ban, amounts to profiling and discrimination as well as an attack on our cordial diplomatic relationship with the U.K.”

Ekweremadu drew the attention of the chamber to global concerns over vaccines hoarding and inequity and the resulting consequences on low-income nations in the fight against COVID-19.

In his remarks, the Senate President Ahmad Lawan said that the decision to include Nigeria on the UK COVID-19 red list posed a strain on the diplomatic relationship between both countries.

He bemoaned the poor treatment of Nigeria by the UK government.

Lawan, therefore, called on the British Parliament to intervene with a view to having Nigeria removed from the country’s COVID-19 red list.

“Let there be justification for it. We are not saying that they cannot put any country on the red list, including Nigeria, but there must be reasons for doing that.

“[And] of course, Nigeria has done so well to the admiration of many countries in the area of containment of COVID-19.

“Therefore, we don’t see any reason why Nigeria will be on that so-called red list. I believe that Nigerians deserve better treatment from the British government.

“I’m using this opportunity to ask the British Parliament to mount pressure on their government to remove Nigeria from the so-called red list.”

In the same vein, the House of Representatives yesterday condemned the decision of the United Kingdom government to place a travel ban on Nigerians amid the outbreak of Omicron.

The House said that the decision was hasty and embarrassing to Nigeria.

To this end, the lawmakers resolved to interface with the federal ministries of Health, Foreign Affairs and the Presidential Task Force on COVID 19 on ways to resolve the suspension of issuance of visitor visas to Nigerians by the United Kingdom.

The House also resolved to ask the federal government to embark on diplomatic moves to address the issue to ensure that Nigerians with educational and health dealings in the United Kingdom are not negatively affected.

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Minority leader of the House, Hon. Ndidu Elumelu, in a motion of urgent national importance, expressed concern that though the ban is for Nigerians bound for the UK, it does not exempt over eight thousand Nigerian travellers that had bought air tickets to visit Nigeria during this festive period.

Elumelu explained that if the Nigerian government does not urgently engage the authorities of the United Kingdom, the decision would have a significant impact on businesses and travellers as well as revenue generation.

He expressed worry that the UK government chose to announce the ban without discussing the data in its possession with the Nigerian government but instead gave an hour’s notice to the Nigeria authorities before its inclusion on the red list, contrary to known international convention.

He noted that Omicron variant had been found in over 40 countries around the world, including many from the European Union but only Nigeria and a few African countries have been banned by the UK government.

Elumelu said this decision, if left unchallenged, will stop thousands of Nigerians that normally come back home at this time of the year to boost the social and economic activities of the country from coming into the country, thereby causing the nation serious revenue loss.

On his part, the minister of foreign affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, has faulted the travel ban imposed on Nigeria and other African countries by the United Kingdom and other Western countries over the Omicron variant of COVID-19, saying the move will not work.

Onyeama said this in Dakar, Senegal, at the International Forum on Peace and Security in Africa where African leaders reacted to the recent travel ban on some African countries by the United Kingdom following the outbreak of the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 in South Africa.

The UK government had, in a statement on Sunday, banned flights from Nigeria, stopping citizens of the country and nine other African countries from entry into the UK. It said that cases of Omicron in the UK were linked to travellers from Nigeria.

This year’s edition of the International Forum focused on the impact COVID-19 pandemic on peace and security, and post-COVID recovery.

The Minister said: “We follow the World Health Organisation’s advice, and what they consider not to be the best practice on COVID-19, which is travel restrictions, don’t achieve anything as such.

“Our position aligns with the World Health Organisation’s position. The director-general of WHO, Tedros Adhanom, is saying that these travel bans are not the solution and that your standard protocols should suffice to address the situation.

“Wearing masks, testing, contact tracing, distancing and other measures are more than enough to address that.

“Travel bans will not work because some countries putting up these bans already have the Omicron variant in their countries and it doesn’t make a difference.

“We should rather be coming together to look at ways we could solve this issue as a global community rather than segmenting.

“The United Kingdom said the increasing number they got was what drove their decision on the travel ban on Nigerians.

“We have to also check our numbers because they don’t tally, they are talking of 21 cases that originated from Nigeria and our people are saying we don’t have anywhere near the number of cases.

“We are working with the UK government so that Nigeria will be removed from the red list.

“They have told us that they are very keen to remove Nigeria as quickly as possible from the red list and we are going to continue to work with them and encourage them to do that.”

On vaccine production, he said: “Having spoken to our medical people, Nigeria has the basic architecture in place to produce her own vaccine. All we need is cooperation from experts.”

 Omicron: NCDC Confirms 3 Additional Cases

Meanwhile, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has confirmed three additional cases of Omicron variant (B.1.1.529 SARS-CoV-2) in the country.

NCDC director-general, Dr Ifedayo Adetifa, in a statement yesterday said the three additional cases and the initial cases were detected in persons with recent travel history to South Africa in November.

He said the centre, through the National Reference Laboratory (NRL) , continues to coordinate genomic surveillance activities across the country to sequence all positive COVID-19 samples from international travellers arriving in the country.

This, he said, includes sequencing of positive samples from international travellers from October 2021 to date.

According to him, “The Delta variant remains the dominant variant and so far, we have not seen the replacement of this variant by the new Omicron variant as observed elsewhere.”

Adetifa said the Omicron variant is a source of global concern because of its increased risk of transmissibility and its potential to escape protective immune responses induced by natural infection and/or vaccination.

According to him, the Omicron variant can significantly change the current global COVID-19 epidemiology.

“There is currently no evidence of generalised or community transmission of this variant in Nigeria. However, the NCDC will continue coordinating and implementing genomic surveillance activities in the country to keep Nigerians reliably informed about existing variants, the Omicron and indeed other variants that may arise based on national data and emerging global evidence.

“In line with Article 44 of the International Health Regulations 2005 (IHR) reporting framework, the Federal Government of Nigeria through the NCDC has also been notified

by the UK Government of seven cases of travellers from Nigeria with the Omicron variant. Given the reports of increasing numbers of Omicron cases in the UK, the NCDC is also prioritising the sequencing of COVID-19 positive samples in travellers with history of travel to the UK,” he said.

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He urged Nigerians to take personal and collective responsibility to ensure the safety of all Nigerians.

ICPC Begins Probe Of COVID-19 Funds

In the meantime, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) has commenced an investigation into the utilisation of the N950 million COVID-19 intervention fund by the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital and all other health institutions that benefited from the fund released by the federal government.

ICPC spokesperson, Azuka Ogugua, said the investigation followed an alleged violation of the provisions of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000, by the beneficiaries of the Fund.

She also confirmed that an immediate investigation by the Commission into the utilisation of the N950 million intervention fund by the teaching hospital in Port Harcourt has been initiated.

According to the ICPC, “the commission has obtained documents from the Federal Ministry of Health, Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, and the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital that would assist in its investigation of the utilisation of the COVID-19 fund by the health institutions.

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The federal government had approved and released the sum of N950 million each to 52 federal teaching hospitals and medical centres under its economic sustainability plan for the building and furnishing of molecular laboratories, isolation centres, 10 bedded Intensive Care Units (ICU) and procurement of Personnel Protective Equipment.

Health Challenges Require Collective Action – PMB

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday in Abuja said stronger partnership with the private sector will help in improving health facilities and access in the country, adding that a nation needs a healthy population to prosper.

Speaking at the virtual groundbreaking ceremony of African Medical Centre of Excellence, a landmark hospital project that will significantly transform the healthcare sector in West African sub-region, the President in a statement by presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, said the challenges faced in the health sector require collective will, partnership and more resources, especially in tackling brain drain.

The health project is being implemented by African Export–Import Bank (Afreximbank) in partnership with the Federal Government, Kings College Hospital, London, University of Winsconsin Teaching Hospital, USA and Christies Hospital, Manchester.

“It is my pleasure to preside over the groundbreaking ceremony of the Africa Medical Centre of Excellence, Abuja, Nigeria.  Today represents more than just the groundbreaking ceremony for a landmark hospital project that will significantly transform the healthcare sector in West Africa.

“Today also demonstrates the commitment of the Nigerian government and Afreximbank to the wellbeing of the African people, and the recognition that the wealth of a nation rests squarely on the health of its population,” he said.

According to the president, in addition to providing comprehensive care across the three critical care areas, the AMCE will offer educational services to develop talent and establish itself as a world-class research centre, in partnership with global institutions such as Kings College Hospital and Christies Hospital in the United Kingdom.

“The success of the AMCE will pave the way for future investments and partnerships in the sector while raising the local standard of healthcare and providing a blueprint for quality of services required to address Nigeria’s and Africa’s healthcare and economic challenges.

“The AMCE represents a return to fundamentals, and the understanding that there is no African development agenda without able-bodied Africans to execute our vision of transformation,” he said.

President Buhari thanked the management of Afreximbank, a Pan-African multilateral trade finance institution created in 1993 under the auspices of the African Development Bank, and all the partners for their commitment to Africa, and for the action-oriented approach to resolving the challenges that the continent faces on its path to development.

President Buhari said the AMCE will provide world class medical services at par with the world’s best hospitals.

“The AMCE, a 500-bed specialist facility, will provide services in the areas of oncology, cardiology, and haematology and will seek to address the significant shortage of clinical care options in the West African sub-region.

“The AMCE demonstrates that Afreximbank is not only Africa’s trade finance partner, but its development partner.

“I also would like to commend the Ministers of Industry, Trade and Investment, Foreign Affairs, Federal Capital Territory and Health for their tireless support to ensure this project comes to life. This was truly a team effort,’’ the president added.

In his remarks, the minister of health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire said all hands are on deck, with the Inter-ministerial Committee working to ensure that the project is actualized in a way that is beneficial to all parties.

The minister said a strong emphasis will be placed on maintenance and sustainability of the AMCE.

The president of Afreximbank, Prof. Benedict Oramah said the ceremony was “one step towards self-reliance for Africa’s health care delivery,” as the project will pool world-class technology and global talents, particularly the African diaspora, to provide a full spectrum of quality medical services in oncology, haematology, cardiology, and general healthcare services.

APRA Condemns Travel Ban On African Countries

African Public Relations Association (APRA) has decried the travel ban on Nigeria, saying since the dismantling of apartheid in South Africa, nothing has evoked a throwback to that dark era in history as the current discriminatory travel ban against Africa by Europe and Canada at the outbreak of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 virus.

In a statement issued by the president (Nigeria) of APRA, Yomi Badejo-Okusanya, the association said it was curiously that of all the continents, Africa has the lowest infection and mortality rates.

He said the current ban, which started with South Africa and now extended to 13 other countries, is completely illogical, considering that China, the United States and Germany are the leading Covid territories.

Badejo-Okusanya said the association aligns with the position of president of the African Development Bank, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, on the unfair, unjust and ridiculous tarring of Africa.

He said, “What is happening is nothing short of travel apartheid which will hurt African economies, further endanger lives and threaten livelihoods. If the world is looking for a Covid scapegoat, Africa is the least qualified candidate because, as scientific findings show, the continent is still the safest place to be. That may not be pleasing to the more developed economies of the world, but it is the truth.

“At a time that Europe and America are entering the winter season when there are fears that COVID-19 casualties will increase significantly, it is laughable that Africa is being singled out for a ban.

“The African Union should speak up now. African leaders must rise up in defence of the continent.”

He called on the World Health Organisation (WHO) to prevail on those countries which have imposed unjust travel bans on African countries to lift such discriminatory restrictions immediately.

“Covid-19 should not be an excuse for a reintroduction of apartheid in world affairs,” he said.

Lagos Alerts On 4th Wave Of COVID-19:

Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu yesterday alerted the residents of the state  about the impending fourth wave of COVID -19 pandemic.

The governor, who stated this in a statement he personally signed, blamed the development on the non-adherence to preventive measures by Nigerians.

According to Sanwo-Olu, the positivity rate has indicated that Nigeria may soon be faced with a surge in infections.

According to the governor, as of December 5, the state had recorded a total of 78,564 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with a total of, 71,977 certified to have recovered in community while 612 are still being managed actively in community.

He said: ‘’Most of the continents of the world – including Africa – are now experiencing a fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, Lagos State is not left out as we are also experiencing the beginnings of a fourth wave with the current positivity rate at 6 per cent.”

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That Discovery By ICPC

The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), stunned the nation, recently, when it claimed to have discovered 257 duplicated projects amounting to N20.138 billion in the 2021 budget.

Chairman of the commission, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, made this claim at the 3rd National Summit on Diminishing Corruption in Public Sector, with the theme: Corruption and Cost of Government New Imperatives for Fiscal Transparency, held in Abuja.

According to him, the commission also uncovered what he alleged as a syndicate of corrupt individuals within the service who corruptly employ unsuspecting Nigerians, issue them fake letters of employment, fraudulently enroll them on IPPIS and post them to equally unsuspecting MDAs to commence work.

We also recall that the ICPC disclosed, some months ago, that the Agency had successfully recovered 301 houses from two public officers in the nation’s Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. Not many Nigerians were surprised by the ongoing corruption in the civil service and the budgeting process in the country.

However, this newspaper feels obliged to raise the following posers as to what the commission will do next to apprehend the officials involved in this scam that has been going on for a long time, what happens to the Nigerians who were so swindled and even more importantly, why is it now that the commission is waking up from its self-induced slumber? It is cogent to point out that the matter must not end with the fanfare it was disclosed. The commission must go further to take steps to expose the rot and sanitise the system by bringing the culprits to justice. It must also endeavour to assuage the hurt felt by parents of the applicants who had to cough out, in some cases, as much as N3 million for a non-existent job slot. The money so fraudulently taken from the applicants, we insist, must be recovered from the employment thieves and returned to the applicants.

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In our opinion, it may be convenient to blame the applicants so swindled for throwing caution to the wind. But when a parent has three or four graduates and years after graduation, no job is forthcoming, the inclination to yield to such criminal offers is high indeed. This sad development, in our considered opinion, calls to mind the level of unemployment in the country and the urgent need to check it, if for nothing else, to bring under control the fallouts that have corruptive influence on the populace.

Also recently, YIAGA Africa, a civil society organisation (CSO), disclosed that Nigeria had lost at least $582 billion since independence due to endemic corruption. YIAGA Programme Manager, Cynthia Mbamalu, who disclosed this in Abuja during the National Debate Competition on Anti-Corruption further said that about N1.3 trillion of public funds were reportedly laundered between 2011 and 2015 alone.

Similarly, the Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA) Resource Centre revealed that Nigeria has been losing about $15 billion to $18 billion annually as a result of illicit financial flow (IFF).

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It’s no surprise, then, that in the corruption perception index published by Transparency International last year, the country ranks 146 out of the 180 countries assessed. Of the 15 countries that form the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Nigeria was the second perceived most corrupt country in the region.

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For Nigeria to make any progress, it is our view that the monster of corruption must be reduced to the barest minimum. Unfortunately, we keep hearing tales of massive discoveries with insignificant successful prosecutions.

It is, therefore, our conjecture that, for the war against corruption to be successful, it has to start from the civil service. Recruitment scams and budget padding and duplication cannot be successful without the active connivance of civil servants.

It is also gratifying to note that President Muhammadu Buhari has warned that his administration would not hesitate to punish Heads of Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) who fraudulently present new projects as ongoing projects in the budget. It is in this regard that we urge the commission to match words with actions. The civil servants involved in the duplication of projects, recruitment scams, and other illegal practices should be fished out, prosecuted and if found guilty, punished to serve as deterrent. Crimes continue to persist when appropriate punishments are not meted to culprits.

We call on lawmakers to strengthen their oversight functions even as it is public knowledge that such legislative duties are fast turning into opportunities for sleaze.

Regardless, it is our considered opinion that for the war against corruption to be won, the three arms of government need to be on the same page. It is only when that happens that the country will possibly defeat the monster.

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Pinnick To Represent FIFA President At Special Event In Ukraine

Pinnick, who is also a Member of both the CAF Executive and Emergency Committees, and is presently in Doha, Qatar for the ongoing FIFA Arab Cup tournament, will fly into Kyiv on Wednesday afternoon.

“Personally and on behalf of the whole UAF team, I have the honour to inform you that on 09 December 2021, a significant event for Ukrainian football will take place – 30 years since the founding of the Ukrainian Association of Football.

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“In this respect, I kindly invite you to participate in the respective activities dedicated to celebration of this event in Kyiv, Ukraine,” Andrii Pavelko, President of the Ukrainian Association of Football wrote, inter alia.

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President of world football –governing body, Gianni Infantino has now delegated Pinnick, a former CAF 1st Vice President, to represent him at the landmark occasion.

Pavelko and the UAF General Secretary, Yuriy Zapisotskiy will receive the FIFA Council Member on arrival in Kyiv on Wednesday.

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