Three Witnesses Testify Against Akpobolokemi, Others

AkpobolokemiThe Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has presented three new prosecution witnesses against a former Director- General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Patrick Akpobolokemi.

Akpobolokemi is standing trial alongside five others, before Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court in Lagos in a 2.3billion Naira money laundering charge preferred against them by the EFCC.

At the resumed hearing of the matter on Thursday, two of the witnesses, Yahaya Yusuf and Wakili Dauda, who are both Bureau De Change operators, told the court how they received and changed into dollars, various sums of money on behalf of the second accused person, Captain Ezekiel Agaba.

The monies: 230.9 million Naira, 145.3 million Naira and another 85.5 million Naira were paid between November 7 and 14, 2014 from a company ‘Extreme Vertex Nigeria Limited’ into an account: Kofar Fada Nigeria Limited, belonging to the Bureau De Change operators.

Extreme Vertex Nigeria Limited was one of the companies alleged to have benefited from the disbursement of over two billion Naira from the Committee on International Shipping and Port Security (ISPS) in NIMASA.

The witnesses confirmed that after the money was credited into the account, the dollar equivalent of the entire sum was taken to the second accused person’s office in NIMASA and handed to him.

A 9th prosecution witness, Olamide Ogunsanya, an Assistant Director with NIMASA, also told the court that her department is in charge of revenue collection, processing and payment of contracts and that all payments in the agency were approved by Mr Akpobolokemi.

Affirming that no payment could be made in NIMASA without the approval of the former Director- General, she identified the second accused person, Captain Ezekiel Agaba, as the Chairman of the Committee on International Shipping and Port Security (ISPS), disclosing to the court that he was reporting directly to Akpobolokemi.

She confirmed that the approval for constituting the Committee was obtained from the Presidency through the office of the National Security Adviser, stressing that it was Akpobolokemi that obtained the approval.

The witness explained that the instruction for payments through the Committee, normally emanates from Akpobolokemi to Agaba, who will then issue a memo to the Director of Financial Services to make payments to any beneficiary stated in the memo.

She told the court that on four occasions between June 2013 and August 2014, the ISPS account received monies in the sum of 2 billion Naira; 1.1 billion Naira; 795 million Naira and 447 million Naira respectively.

Ogunsanya identified the account opening packages of the Committee domiciled at Access Bank and Zenith Bank. The documents were then admitted into evidence as exhibits.

According to the witness, all approvals for the release of the above sums were obtained from the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation by Akpobolokemi.

She was subsequently shown the approval for the release of the sum of 1.1 billion Naira which she identified and same was also admitted as exhibit.

Justice Buba has adjourned the matter to March 1, for continuation of trial.

Economist Says Monetary Policy Inconsistency Unsettles People, Business

petrolAn economist, Austin Nweze, has criticised the recent decision of the Federal Government of Nigeria on the monetary policy of the nation.

This follows the recent decision of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to discontinue its sales of foreign exchange to the Bureau de Change operators and allowing banks to accept foreign currency cash deposits from their customers.

Mr Nweze said the inconsistency of the monetary policy had unsettled people and businesses.

“Companies are waiting, hoping that the CBN will reverse itself. Some companies I know have left the country because of this kind of policy,” he said.

The economist urged policy makers to make policies that will forecast future complications from the start.

“They should be far thinking to know the implication from the beginning; to know the implication to the economy, to the people before you engage yourself in this kind of policy.”

Mr Nweze, however, believes that the Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, wants to develop the manufacturing sector, but expresses worries that the capacity to take risk is not there.

“His comments shows that he wants the manufacturing sector to thrive in this country but doesn’t want to take a risk or maybe he doesn’t have the peril to take that kind of risk.”

The economist suggested that the CBN should meet with other stakeholders to deliberate on the type of economy on ground and what they want to achieve.

He also criticised the method being used in the anti-corruption fight, saying the government should focus on other things.

“All we see is expose. The institutions should be allowed to fight this thing and the government should focus on other things,” Nweze said.

He added that ‘all problem is not really corruption, all corruption lies in education’.

CBN Restates Stance On BVN For Forex Transactions

BVNThe Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has reiterated that the provision of Bank Verification Numbers (BVN) to Bureau De Change operators for forex transactions, is targeted at promoting transparency within the market and does not attract any security risk.

In a statement released by the regulator, it explained that this became necessary owing to the fact that some customers are reluctant in disclosing their BVN to authorised dealers and buyers because of claims that there are risks to the disclosure.

The CBN assured customers that this move is expected to reduce the incidence of multiple purchases, round tripping and illicit transfer of funds and sanitize the retail segment of the market.

The apex bank added that the BVN is neither a payment instrument nor an account number, and therefore cannot be used to access any account by unauthorized users.

CBN revokes licences of 236 Bureau de Change Operators

The Central Bank of Nigeria has revoked the operating licences of 236 Bureau de Change (BDCs) operators, for not meeting the mandatory deposits despite warnings from the apex bank.

The list of the affected BDCs has been published on the central bank’s website and distributed to appropriate quarters.

All authorised dealers and the general public are advised that any foreign exchange transactions, including sale to and purchases from these BDCS as well as transfer of funds through or on behalf of the affected BDCS is illegal.