SERAP Seeks Details Of Spending On Failed $460m CCTV, Other Chinese Loans

SERAP Threatens To Sue UI, AAUA Over Increased Fees

 

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has requested for details of the total amount of money paid to contractors from the $460 million loan obtained in 2010 from China to fund the ‘failed’ Abuja Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) contract.

According to a statement signed by SERAP’s Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the FoI request was sent to the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed.

SERAP also sought: “disclosure of details of repayment for other Chinese loans for allegedly failed projects between 1999-2015, the status of any such projects, and details of local and Chinese contractors involved in the projects.

The group further stated that it would take legal action if the requested information is not provided within the next 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of the letter.

Read the full statement below.

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent a Freedom of Information (FoI) request to Mrs Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, asking her to “urgently provide information on the total amount of money paid to contractors from the $460 million loan obtained in 2010 from China to fund the apparently failed Abuja Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) contract, the loan which the Federal Government has continued to re-pay.”

SERAP urged Mrs Ahmed to “disclose specific details of local contractors, if any, that have received funds from the loan for the CCTV contract, reportedly awarded to China’s ZTE Corporation, as well as the implementation status of the project.”

SERAP also sought: “disclosure of details of repayment for other Chinese loans for allegedly failed projects between 1999–2015, the status of any such projects, and details of local and Chinese contractors involved in the projects.

We urge you to clarify if the N1.5 billion paid in 2010 for another apparently failed contract to construct the headquarters of the Code of Conduct Bureau is part of another Chinese loan.”

In the FoI request dated 25 October 2019 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “We are concerned that Nigerians are being made to pay for the Chinese loans for apparently failed projects, and for which they have not benefited in any way, shape or form.

Transparency in the spending of Chinese loans is good for everyone, as this would help to increase the effectiveness, legitimacy, and contribution of the loans to the development of public goods and services, and the general public interests.”

SERAP said it would take legal action “if the requested information is not provided to us within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter.”

SERAP said: “Servicing Chinese loans for failed projects is double jeopardy for Nigerians—they can neither see nor benefit from the projects; yet, they are made to pay both the loans and the accrued interests.

The loans should never have been obtained in the first place, as successive governments should have drawn funds from the over $670 million (N241.2 billion) budgeted annually as security votes, but which remain synonymous with official corruption and unaccounted for.”

The organization expressed “concern that the $460 million loan got for the failed Abuja CCTV project and the N1.5 billion for the construction of CCB headquarters, which may be part of another Chinese loan, may have been mismanaged or stolen, and in any case, remain unaccounted for.”

The FoI request read in part: “SERAP is concerned that the allegations of corruption involving the use of the funds and other similar Chinese loans may be responsible for the security challenges confronting Abuja, and the limited capacity of the CCB to discharge its constitutional and statutory mandates to prevent corruption in asset declarations of presidents, vice-presidents, governors, and other public officers, as prescribed by the Nigerian constitution of 1999 (as amended).”

“As trustee of public funds, SERAP contends that your Ministry has a legal duty to disclose details of spending on the $460 million Abuja CCTV project and N1.5 billion for the construction of CCB headquarters, to the beneficiaries (Nigerians) of the trust, if and when called upon to do so. Any failure or refusal to provide the information will also be clearly inconsistent with the letter and spirit of the FoI Act.”

“If the allegations of mismanagement and corruption in the execution of projects for which loans have been obtained from China are true, such allegations will clearly amount to a fundamental breach of national anticorruption laws and the country’s international anticorruption obligations including under the UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party. The facts relating to these serious allegations require your immediate and urgent disclosure and clarifications.”

“As a key agency of government, the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning has a sacred duty to ensure that the country’s loans including those obtained from China are transparently and accountably used solely for the purposes for which the loans are obtained, and for the effective development of public goods and services as well as the general public interests.”

“This implies providing strong leadership in the efforts to curb public sector corruption, and to refer to appropriate anticorruption agencies any allegations of corruption in which any agencies of government and/or contractors may be involved. This leadership is important if the Ministry is to enjoy the public trust and confidence essential for its effectiveness and impact.”

“We would like you to clarify if the N1.5 billion mobilisation fee reportedly paid in September 2010 to contractors for the construction of the headquarters of the CCB in Abuja is part of another loan obtained from China.”

“We are concerned that the CCB building project is still in foundation level several years after payment of N1.5 billion of the total contract fee of N3.5billion. However, the contract was reportedly reviewed in October 2012 from N3.5 billion to N8.7 billion, with the contract agreement signed on February 5, 2013.”

“SERAP notes that the consequences of corruption are felt by citizens on a daily basis. Corruption exposes them to additional costs to pay for health, education and administrative services. Another consequence of corruption is the growing inequality in the country, where the privileged few have access to all public resources, while the vast majority of citizens are deprived of access to public goods and services.”

“Also, corruption undermines economic development of the country, trapping the majority of Nigerians in poverty and depriving them of employment opportunities.”

SERAP, therefore, urged Mrs Ahmed to:

1. Disclose the total amounts of money, if any, that have been paid/released for the execution of projects for which loans have been obtained from China;

2. Compel the contractors and companies including Chinese companies that have been paid from the loans to go back to sites and urgently complete the projects;

3. Suspend repayment of any Chinese loans until there are specific guarantees by local and Chinese contractors and companies that transparency and accountability will be ensured in the execution of the affected projects;

4. Disclose the amount of interests so far paid on the loans obtained for the project which have allegedly not been fully, properly or satisfactorily executed;

5. Refer any allegations of corruption involving the execution of projects for which loans have been obtained from China to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) for investigation;

6. Ensure that anyone involved in alleged corruption in projects supported by China is brought to justice if there is relevant and sufficient admissible evidence;

7. Set up processes and procedures to safeguard Chinese loans and mitigate corruption risks in the spending of the loans and to promote fair and free competition, consistent with Nigeria’s anti-corruption legal frameworks and international standards.

Nigeria Does Not Have A Debt Crisis – Finance Minister

 

The Minister of Finance, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, says Nigeria is not in any debt crisis as being speculated in many quarters.

Ahmed gave the assurance while speaking at a public hearing on the budget organised by the National Assembly on Wednesday.

She insists that the country’s debt profile is still within a reasonable limit.

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“Nigeria does not have a debt crisis”, she said.

“Our total borrowing today is just under 20% of our GDP while the multilateral institutions project for an economy our size to borrow up to 50-55% of our GDP. What we have is a revenue problem”.

Nigeria-US Investment Summit Was Not Included In Our Schedule, Says Adeosun, Emefiele

 

The Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun and the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, have explained the reasons why they were absent at the Nigeria-Us Investors Summit which was held in Washington, DC on Saturday.

The summit is organised by the Embassy of Nigeria in the United State and the absence of the Ministers had sparked criticism from the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi who described the absence of government officials at the event as carefree attitude to investment opportunities.

The Minister of Finance and CBN Governor, on Sunday, however said they never confirmed attendance at the summit. They said the meeting was not included in their schedule.

“I attend the IMFC which is the highest decision-making body of the IMF. My primary role here as well as having the Nigerian hat on is to represent 23 African countries. So one of the things I have to do is to issue a statement on behalf of those 23 which includes most of the Anglophone countries: South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania,” Adeosun said on Sunday.

“So, my primary role here, as well as having a Nigerian hat on is to represent the 23 African countries. There has been some controversy about the scheduling I wasn’t due at any event. I was here as a governor of the IMF and member of IMFC to represent those 23 African countries and that schedule is what I must adhere to,” she added.

On his part, Emefiele said a plenary session of IMF finance ministers and Central Bank Governors was holding at the same time of the event.

Emefiele said the meetings in the IMF as well as the meeting at the World Bank takes pre-eminence over the investment summit. He added that he wasn’t consulted when the programme was organised.

“Being the governor of the CBN what takes preeminence is the meetings in the IMF as well as the meeting at the World Bank. I think it is important for me to say this when I arrived in Washington, the officials of the embassy spoke with me that there was going to be a US-Nigeria summit and I said will check my schedule because I wasn’t consulted when this summit was being organised.

“What one would have expected is that they would have checked my schedule and that of the finance minister if they thought that our presence at the summit was very necessary,” he said.

Emefiele apologised to the investors and noted that himself and the Minister of Fianace are not irresponsible people.

“The US Nigeria summit was meant to hold between 2:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. whereas the World Bank development committe plenary session which is an assembly of ministers and governors of central banks was to hold between 2:15 p.m. and 5p.m. There was no way how the minister of finance and myself could have been at those meetings.

“We are not irresponsible people and please we apologise to those investors who had gathered at the Nigerian embassy for the summit. My apologies but I know we also held some side meetings with some investors and there will always be lots of opportunities to meet with them.”

Adeosun Explains Why She Wrote Magu Over Recovered Loots

 

Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun has explained why she wrote a letter to the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, seeking clarification on loots recovered by the agency.

Adeosun had earlier in a letter dated February 9 asked Magu to provide more information on recovered loot, noting that there were conflicting figures in the figures.

Explaining further why the letter was sent, the Minister said the contents of the letter were misrepresented by media reports noting that it was a “standard letter aimed at improving controls over the recovered funds.”

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Adeosun in a statement signed by her Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Oluyinka Akintunde, on Sunday said there was no ulterior motive behind the letter.

“There is no ulterior motive behind the letter as alleged in some media reports but to enable the reconciliation and harmonisation of the figures on recovered funds by the Government.

“For the avoidance of doubt, the EFCC has subsequently provided the requested information and reconciliation is ongoing,” the statement read in part.

Adeosun in the letter in the February 9 letter addressed to Magu notified him of the records of cash asset recoveries in the custody of the EFCC from May 2015 till date based on information available to the office of the Accountant General of the Federation (attached).

She said the use of recovery figures in media reports by the EFCC do not reconcile with the records of the ministry.

Thousands March In South Africa Against Zuma

Thousands Expected To March In South Africa Against Jacob ZumaThousands of protesters are staging a multi-city protest against President Jacob Zuma’s leadership in South Africa.

They are calling on President Zuma once again, to step down following a string of scandals.

The recent sacking of respected Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan, last Thursday has outraged allies and opponents.

The reshuffle also caused rifts in the ruling African National Congress (ANC), which has governed South Africa since the end of the ‘white-minority rule’ in 1994.

Similarly, S&P Global Ratings cited Gordhan’s dismissal as one reason for its downgrade of South Africa to “junk” in an unscheduled review on Monday.

The Rand has tumbled more than 11 per cent since March 27, when President Zuma ordered Mr Gordhan to return home from overseas talks with investors, days before firing him from the cabinet.

Federal Government Pledges To Clear Pension Arrears

Federal Government Pledges To Clear Pension ArrearsNigeria’s Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udo Udoma, says the government is committed to ensuring that every pensioner is paid their entitlement.

The minister gave this assurance while appearing before the House of Representatives accompanied by the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun and other heads of agencies in the country’s pension sector.

The ministers said salaries and pensions are the government’s number one priority, adding that the administration would look for creative ways to raise the funds needed to settle the arrears.

Adeosun, who touched on some of the steps taken so far, noted that the sum of 42 billion Naira to clear all the arrears. “Everything that has been appropriated up to date has now been paid,” she said.

The National President of the Nigerian Union of Pensioners, Abel Afolayan, on his part, expressed appreciation over the efforts of the Federal Government.

The ministers are expected to complete their work on the total figures needed to pay the pension arrears as soon as possible after which they would work with the National Assembly to ensure that the 2017 budget captures the figures.

South Africa’s Zuma Gets Backing From ANC

South Africa's Zuma Gets Backing From ANCEmbattled South Africa’s President, Jacob Zuma, has survived another attempt to force him out of office for the umpteenth time.

This time, the President received the backing of a major decision-making body within the ruling African National Congress (ANC).

The committee was reviewing a complaint by some of the ANC top executives that President Zuma had failed to consult them over reshuffling his cabinet.

After considering the complaint, the ANC body said it has decided not to press for the President’s resignation.

Mr Zuma has been under growing pressure since sacking respected South Africa’s Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan.

Mr Gordhan was sacked alongside 14 other members of the cabinet, following an urgent meeting of the ANC .

The former Finance Minister described an intelligence report used by President Zuma as justification as ‘absolute nonsense‘.

South African Speaker Aborts Trip To Discuss Urgent Motion

South African Speaker Aborts Trip To Discuss Urgent MotionSpeaker of the South African Parliament, Baleka Mbete, has cut short her participation at the International Parliamentary Union in Bangladesh, to address pressing political developments in the country.

Foremost among the issues are opposition parties’ request for a motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma to be tabled before the Assembly this week.

This follows a controversial cabinet reshuffle carried out by the President, where a well-loved Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan was removed.

Although the parliament is on recess, but the opposition parties want an urgent sitting to debate the motion.

Ms Mbete, who is also the Chairperson of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), told reporters at the OR Tambo Airport on Sunday that there will be consultations from Tuesday before a date can be set.

Mr Gordhan was sacked alongside 14 other members of the cabinet, following an urgent meeting of the ANC on Thursday night.

Reacting to his sack, the former Finance Minister described an intelligence report used by President Zuma as justification as ‘absolute nonsense’.

South African Leaders Divided Over Gordhan’s Sack

South African Leaders Divided Over Gordhan's SackThere was a delay to the swearing-in of new ministers selected by President Jacob Zuma in South Africa, as the programme had to be rescheduled for Friday evening.

The President’s sacking of the country’s Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan, has drawn mixed reactions from South African leaders, with some praising Mr Gordhan’s virtues.

They believed he is victim of a witch-hunt, because he had been digging up dirt on the President.

Reacting to his sack, the former Finance Minister said an intelligence report used by President Zuma as justification was ‘absolute nonsense’.

Gordhan was sacked alongside 14 other members of the cabinet, following an urgent meeting of the African National Congress (ANC) convened by the South African President on Thursday night.

South Africa: Zuma Sacks Finance Minister, 14 Others

Jacob Zuma, South AfricaThere are strong indications that 15 ministers of the South African cabinet might have been sacked.

This comes as part of the fall out of an urgent meeting of the African National Congress (ANC) convened on Thursday night by President Jacob Zuma.

According to report, no names have been released, although it is said that nine ministers and six deputies have been fired.

At an earlier news briefing, it was gathered that President Zuma had hinted on his intention to remove the Minister of Finance, based on an intelligence report which stated that the Minister had set up meetings with people who could push for a change in government.

Meanwhile, a party source said that the President is considering to step down in 2018, at least 12 months before his term ends as South African President.

Mr Zuma is due to be replaced as leader of the African National Congress (ANC) at a party conference in December, after serving his allocated two terms.

FG Asks CBN To Extend BVN To Microfinance Banks

FG Asks CBN To Extend BVN To Microfinance BanksThe Federal Government has asked the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to extend the requirement for the Bank Verification Number (BVN) to account holders in microfinance banks.

The Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, stated this in a letter to the CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele.

She explained that this would help to identify bank accounts which might have been opened and operated for ghost workers by fraudulent syndicates.

The use of BVN for bank transactions is only limited to account holders in the deposit money banks.

The CBN had in September 2016 announced plans to extend the BVN exercise to the microfinance banking sector.

However, the apex bank is yet to implement the extension.

Finance Minister Says N5.1trn Released From 2016 Budget

Finance Minister Says N5.1trn Released From 2016 BudgetThe Federal Government has so far released ‎the sum of 5.1 trillion Naira out of 6.06 trillion Naira passed by the National Assembly in the 2016 budget.

The Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, said this on Wednesday at a meeting organised by the Joint National Assembly Committee on Appropriation in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.

Mrs Adeosun told the committee members that despite the shortfall in revenue in 2016, the Federal Government has so far released 870 billion Naira for capital expenditure, excluding the proceeds from the Eurobond.

However, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Danjuma Goje, sought to know if the Ministry of Finance diverted funds from loans to finance personnel expenditure rather than capital expenditure.

He also expressed dissatisfaction with the absence of the ‎Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) at the stakeholders meeting on implementation of the 2016 budget.

Senator Goje noted that the Acting Director from CBN, Mohammed Yakubu, was not competent to speak before the Joint committee, insisting that the CBN governor must appear before the committee latest Friday morning.

“We have left serious business of processing 2017 budget to ensure the level of implementation of the 2016 budget. It is Nigerians’ right to know the level of implementation.

“The CBN governor could not call us, he only sent an Acting Director in the CBN to appear before the committee,” he said.

Giving details of releases for 2016 budget before the committee, the Accountant-General of the Federation, Hammed Idris, informed the lawmakers that 870 billion Naira was released for capital projects which constituted 55%, while 2.3 trillion Naira was released for personnel cost and 351 billion Naira for statutory transfer.

Mr Idris added that 1.3 trillion Naira was meant for debit servicing, service wide votes for 285 billion Naira while overhead was 138 billion Naira.

He explained that personnel cost and debit service were achieved 100%, overhead cost achieved 85% while capital was achieved 55%.

On his part the Director-General of Budget Office, Ben Akabueze, said there was a shortfall of 1.1 trillion Naira in targeted Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) for 2016, explaining that only 398 billion Naira was realised in 2016 IGR out of targeted 1.5 trillion Naira.

He‎ attributed poor capital funding in 2016 to revenue shortfall, stressing that projection oil revenue only accounted for 20% of the total 2016 budget.

Mr Akabueze said “the reason we are unable to implement capital budget fully is as a result of shortfall in the IGR”.

He, however, failed to give a clear picture of how the loan borrowed was utilised, but promised the lawmakers for details before the end of implementation of 2016 budget.