Probe Missing Chibok Safe School Funds, SERAP Tells EFCC

SERAP Drags Senate To UN Over Magu's RejectionThe Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked Nigeria’s anti-graft body to investigate allegations that the  Safe School funds for Chibok girls is missing and cannot be accounted for.

The group’s request was contained in a petition SERAP sent to the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr Ibrahim Magu, requesting him to urgently begin a thorough, transparent and effective investigation into the issue.

The said fund of 500 million Naira was commissioned by former Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to rebuild the Government Girls School in Chibok community in Borno State, northeast Nigeria.

SERAP, in a statement on Wednesday, urged the EFCC to “invite for questioning, and name and shame anyone suspected to be involved in the alleged diversion, including the contractors allegedly handling the project”.

In the petition dated December 27, 2016 and signed by SERAP’s senior staff attorney, Timothy Adewale, the organisation said: “The allegation that 500 million Naira has been lost to corruption has resulted in denying the girls access to education, and shows the failure of the former President Goodluck Jonathan government to live up to Nigeria’s commitments under the global Safe School Declaration”.

Chibok Community Celebrates Homecoming For 21 Rescued Girls
Some of the rescued Chibok girls

Monitor Government’s Spending

It further read: “SERAP believes that the diversion of the funds will expose the school to attacks in the future. This is a fundamental breach of the country’s obligations including guarantees of non-repetition, which contributes to prevention and deterrence of future attacks.

“SERAP urges the EFCC to work with the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to set up a mechanism to monitor government’s spending of the safe school funds in order to ensure that the funds are spent exactly to prevent and deter future attacks, and to allow the girls to go back to school as soon as possible.

EFCC
Some EFCC officials

“SERAP is seriously concerned that the school has remained in a state of disrepair since the abduction of the girls, and students have remained at home.

“SERAP is concerned that the alleged diversion of 500 million naira meant for reconstruction of Government Girls School in Chibok has directly violated the right to education of the girls, as guaranteed under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to which Nigeria is a state party.

Breach Of Anti-corruption Legislation

“The diversion has undermined the obligation of the government to take step to the maximum of its available resources to achieve the right to education. The alleged diversion also shows a serious breach of anti-corruption legislation including the EFCC Act, and Nigeria’s international obligations under the UN Convention against Corruption, and the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption both of which the country has ratified.

“The EFCC should ensure full accountability and bring to justice anyone found to be responsible for corruption and diversion of safe school funds. The EFCC should also ensure that all proceeds of corruption are recovered and returned back to the treasury.

“This request is based on allegation by Governor Kashim Shettima that 500 million Naira set aside by the government of former President Goodluck Jonathan, is missing and cannot be accounted for.

Kashim Shettima, Sambisa, Borno, Military
Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima

“The funds were released for rebuilding of the Government Girls School in Chibok under the Safe School Initiative programme, which was commissioned former Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala”.

Okonjo-Iweala Gets Two Key International Positions

Dr-Ngozi-Okonjo-Iweala-2Former Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has accepted two key international positions.

The first is to serve as Chair of the 28-member Board of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI), an international public-private partnership committed to saving the lives of children and protecting people’s health by improving access to immunization in developing countries, including Nigeria.

Dr Okonjo-Iweala was elected to the position after a competitive international search process.

In the second appointment, the former Managing Director of the World Bank has also joined the highly respected 167-year-old global investment firm, Lazard as Senior Advisor.

Her focus will be sovereign advisory.

“We are proud to welcome Dr. Okonjo-Iweala as a Senior Advisor to our world-leading sovereign advisory group,” said Matthieu Pigasse, Global Head of M&A and Sovereign Advisory of Lazard.

“She will bring a unique international expertise and experience that will benefit both our sovereign and corporate clients.”

At Lazard, Dr Okonjo-Iweala will work alongside colleagues including former Prime Minister of Australia, Paul Keating; former Special adviser to President Bill Clinton, Vernon Jordan; former Spanish Economy Minister and current Snr. Managing Director at Lazard, Rodrigo de Rato; former chair of NASDAQ, Frank Zarb; former Finance Minister of Chile, Andres Velasco; and former British Minister of Parliament/Secretary of State for International Development, Andrew Mitchell.

In her reaction to the two appointments, Dr Okonjo-Iweala, who would be working out of Paris, Geneva and London said,”I am excited to be embarking on this fresh journey. The two appointments will enable me to continue doing what I know best; rendering public service and using my financial and economist skills.

“I thank the international community for the recognition and continued support. I am also grateful for the prayers and support of many Nigerians.”

GAVI is a $12 billion multilateral partnership which disburses grants of upwards of $1.8 billion annually to developing countries for immunization programmes.

GAVI brings together developing countries and donor governments, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the World Bank, the vaccine industry in both industrialized and developing countries, research and technical agencies, civil society, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other private philanthropists.

GAVI is funded by governments of Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, the People’s Republic of China, Republic of Korea, Russia, South Africa, Spain, the State of Qatar, the Sultanate of Oman, Sweden, United Kingdom, and the United States as well as the European Commission, the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) and other institutional and corporate partners.

It would be recalled that, from 2000-2015, GAVI disbursed $425m in grants to Nigeria, an average of about $30m per annum for vaccination and immunization of children, including polio vaccines.

Dr Okonjo-Iweala succeeds Dagfinn Høybråten, a former Norwegian Minister of Health and current Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers as Chair of GAVI.

Previous Chairs include Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and respected education activist and former First Lady of South Africa, Graca Machel.

Okonjo-Iweala Replies Oshiomhole On Allegations Of $1bn Misappropriation

Okonjo-IwealaThe former Minister of Finance has again faulted claims by the Edo State Governor that she spent billions from the Excess Crude Account as lacking credibility.

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, in a statement on Tuesday accused Governor Adams Oshiomhole of repeatedly trying to damage her reputation within the last few months by seeking explanations to how monies related to the Excess Crude Account were spent.

According to the former minister, Governor Oshiomhole’s publications contain falsehoods which include statements that the she and state finance commissioners approved the spending of 2.1 billion dollars out of the excess crude account , adding that the commissioners had disowned the statement.

She said that her ministry regularly published details of revenue allocations from the ECA in national media, so Governor Oshiomhole’s calculations are mere political numbers conjured to achieve a political purpose

Commenting on Oshiomhole’s latest statement, Dr. Okonjo Iweala said that an impression is being created that the Federal Account Allocation Committee (FAAC), which involves the federal government and the 36 states is a personal monopoly of Dr. Okonjo-Iweala.

She says, “FAAC is a long standing national platform for allocating revenues chaired by the Minister of State for Finance and the governors insistence on pushing this fictional narrative underscores his desperation.”

The Edo State Governor accused the former Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, of misappropriating a sum of $1 billion from Nigeria’s Federation Account.

Governor Adams Oshiomhole alleged that the money was illegally taken to fund the March 28 re-election bid of former President Goodluck Jonathan.

He made the allegation at a seminar held in Benin City, the capital of Edo State and organised by the Edo State government for Permanent Secretaries, Directors and Deputy Directors, with the theme “Enhancing IGR In Edo, Issues, Prospects And Challenges”.

 

Oshiomhole Accuses Okonjo-Iweala Of $1bn Misappropriation

Oshiomhole Accuses Okonjo-Iweala Of $1bn MisappropriationThe Edo State Governor has accused the former Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, of misappropriating a sum of $1 billion from Nigeria’s Federation Account.

Governor Adams Oshiomhole alleged that the money was illegally taken to fund the March 28 re-election bid of former President Goodluck Jonathan.

He made the allegation at a seminar held in Benin City, the capital of Edo State and organised by the Edo State government for Permanent Secretaries, Directors and Deputy Directors, with the theme “Enhancing IGR In Edo, Issues, Prospects And Challenges”.

Oshiomhole asked the former Minister to publicly explain how the Excess Crude Account was drawn down to $4.1 billion from the peak of $10 billion, when no approval was given by the National Economic Council for any withdrawals.

He said that Dr. Okonjo-Iweala would have been declared a pathological liar if she were a witness in court due to the inconsistencies in her statements.

The Governor opined that a forensic audit would truly determine how much was illegally spent from the Federation Account under her watch as minister.

He warned that the Edo State government would now hold Permanent Secretaries, Directors and Deputy Directors responsible for any fraud detected in their departments.

Oshiomhole also revealed that his administration had trimmed down the cost of running government.

Okonjo-Iweala Refutes $63b Debt Claim By APC

Dr Ngozi Okonjo-IwealaNigeria’s Minister of Finance has refuted claims that the President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration is leaving behind a backlog of debt to the tune of $63 billion.

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who spoke at a forum organised by finance correspondents in Abuja, the nation’s capital, noted that the explained that the amount was the total debt profile the nation owed between 1960 to date.

While noting that President Jonathan’s administration has the lowest debt profile in the nation’s history, she added that borrowed funds were used to stimulate growth in critical sectors which include the rail, ‎agriculture and power sectors.

The APC National Chairman, Chief John Oyegun, had lamented during a retreat organised for newly elected senators of the APC, that it would take over 228 years to repay Nigeria’s debt, which they said was accumulated by the outgoing administration.

But Dr. Okonjo-Iweala pointed out that the outgoing administration has done measurably well in ‎maintaining low inflation rate, building road networks and improving agricultural productivity, among other accomplishments.

Okonjo-Iweala Tasks Incoming Government On Job Creation

Okonjo-IwealaNigeria’s Minister of Finance has tasked the incoming administration of the President-elect, General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), on job creation and infrastructural development.

During a session on Sunday with reporters in Abuja, the nation’s capital, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said that over 1.4 million jobs had been created annually in the past four years, by the Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.

She also noted that over 3,000 youths in the country had benefited from the Youth Enterprise With Innovation in Nigerian Scheme, popularly called “YouWIN”.

“That they are 3,900 young people called YouWinners today. You cannot take it away that the mortgage institution was created. The new enterprise bank will provide needed funds for SMEs,” she said, listing the achievements of the administration in the area of job creation.

However, Dr Okonjo-Iweala advised the incoming administration to focus on how to create jobs through the newly established development bank, as well as continue with other policies put in place by President Jonathan’s administration.

The Minister had weeks ago urged the incoming government to look at the economic policies that the current administration had put in place, as foundation and put more policies in place that would further ensure further economic growth.

FG’s Annual Budget For Fuel Subsidy Is Not Sustainable – Budget Historian

Fuel subsidyA Budget Historian, Tunji Ogunyemi, believes that the amount of money budgeted for fuel subsidy annually is not sustainable as the Nigerian economy is being stressed.

The Finance Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, had said that the Federal Government had made a provision of 100billion Naira for the subsidy of PMS and 45.2billion Naira for kerosene subsidy in the 2015 budget.

Mr Ogunyemi, on the Thursday edition of Sunrise Daily, said that the continued budgeting of monies for regulating the pump prices of petroleum products has only enriched few Nigerians.

While admitting that removing the subsidy would cause end users some pains, he noted that the real beneficiaries of the subsidy have never been the masses but the middlemen.

He believes the Nigerian Government needs to “permit a situation in which importers face the full risk of the oscillating (oil) prices mechanism in the world” such that their prices are also dependent on happenings in the global oil market.

“This zero-risk system in which importers will be pressuring the Federal Government to pay subsidies and they do not just take any risk should be eliminated,” he said.

Speaking on the need to control the influence of middlemen in Nigeria’s oil sector, Mr Ogunyemi advised that government needs to permit some conglomerates or states to build and operate their own refineries in Nigeria, in order to cut off the need to import fuel.

“Establishing refineries need not be rocket science. It can be done by groups of states within Nigeria and it can be done perfectly in such a way that it will cut the need for importing fuel.”

He said that the reason Nigeria seemed to find it hard to manage the building of its refineries and regulate the issuance of licences to operate them is the lack of political will to sanction those who try to sabotage the Nigerian system.

Mr Ogunyemi also provided recommendations on the revitalisation of Nigeria’s power sector. The best solution, according to him is to ensure transparency.

He also said that there was a need to develop a legal framework to liberalise the sector and remove the total control of Government.

Rice Importation: Reps Summon Finance, Agric Ministers Over Waiver

Reps summon finance and agric ministersThe House of Representatives in Nigeria has summoned the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and the Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr Akinwumi Adesina, over the alleged 21 billion Naira waivers granted some rice importers.

Chairman of an ad-hoc committee of the House, Honourable Leo Ogor, said the investigative hearing on ‘rice import quota and duty payments’ was geared towards uncovering “fraud and exposing the endemic corruption in the importation of rice, with a view to stemming the tide and boosting employment generation.

He said the investigation would  further help in strengthening the nation’s depleting foreign reserves and local production of rice.

Nigeria is the second largest importer of rice globally with an annual consumption requirement of about six million metric tons, while its domestic supply is estimated at three million metric tons yearly, with a shortfall of three million metric tons of milled rice per year.

To reduce the importation of rice, the Nigerian government through its agriculture transformation agenda is encouraging rice farming to boost local production and meet the demand.

On Tuesday, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development said that the alleged rice import duty scam that was widely reported to be 21 billion Naira was actually 36 billion Naira, which needed to be paid into federal coffers.

At a public hearing of the ad-hoc Committee on Rice Quota and Duty Payments on Rice Imports Quota and Duty Payments, the minister denied granting any waiver to a rice importing company, contrary to allegations that certain foreign rice investors enjoyed the minister’s relief in duty payment liabilities.

Adesina said he was the one that first raised the issue of monies owed the Federal Government by the importers, which is to the tune of 36 billion Naira even though he was not in a position to receive the monies.

Petroleum Marketers Warn Of Impending Petrol Scarcity

 petrol marketers'on fuel scarcityMajor petroleum marketers in Nigeria have warned of an impending scarcity of petrol if the Federal Government fails to pay their outstanding subsidy.

Their warning came prior to the Finance Minister’s announcement that the government will pay the marketers their outstanding in 24 hours.

According to the marketers, the Federal Government was owing them in excess of 200 billion Naira and they could no longer afford to continue importing the product.

Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who spoke with reporters in Abuja, on Wednesday, said that all outstanding payments to the marketers will be resolved.

“On the issue of oil marketers, we have really been working with them and we have been dialoguing with them all along. We’ve paid 350 billion Naira in December, we paid them 31 billion Naira in foreign exchange differentials and by tomorrow (Thursday) we will be paying them 100 Naira billion for which we had earlier given them IOUs for as well as their interest rate differentials of 56 billion Naira.

“So, I am about to go and sign, to get that paid and I think that Nigerians can see that the government is making maximum effort to accommodate the oil marketers. They are also Nigerians, and they need to also cooperate with us,” the Finance Minister said.

Dr. Okonjo-Iweala appealed to them to bear with the Federal Government, as it tries to prioritise its policies in the face of dwindling revenues.

She further explained that the government had in December 2014 paid the sum of 350 billion Naira to oil marketers, affirming that an additional 31 billion Naira in foreign exchange differentials had already been released.