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$1.2m NNPC ‘bribe’ used to finance 2015, 2019 presidential elections – Report

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Lawsuits in London and New York have shed light on how fees trading firms paid agents to win oil contracts from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) may have been used to fund the country’s past two general elections, Bloomberg reports.

Quoting filings in a suit filed by an ex-employee of British oil giant, BP Plc, Bloomberg reported that $300,000 and $900,000 were paid to intermediaries in 2014 and 2018 as part of lobby for lucrative contracts, with the funds said to be funneled into electioneering activities.

Pro-democracy campaigners have at different times expressed worry over campaign funding and failure of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to monitor source of campaign funds and spending limit by candidates.

According to Bloomberg, a former Glencore Plc employee in July admitted paying a middleman $300,000 to secure a crude shipment from the NNPC, understanding the money would be spent on the nationwide vote that took place four years earlier.

Jonathan Zarembok, who left BP’s West Africa desk last year, said in the suit that he suspected fees paid by the United Kingdom energy giant to obtain NNPC contracts would go toward the 2019 elections. He filed an employment claim against the BP, alleging he was fired for raising concerns about the large sums being transferred to intermediaries to win business in Nigeria.

Zarembok said in a witness statement made public this month that emails sent in 2017 by a BP executive in Nigeria were a “clear red flag” and implied “there would be pressure to pay bribes.” The emails discussed how preparations for elections would get under way in 2018. “We understand what that means,” the executive wrote.

The company then wired $900,000 in fees to a local agent after securing two oil cargoes from the NNPC, he said.

“BP is defending in full and denies all allegations made by the claimant,” the company noted in a statement.

It declined further comment while Zarembok’s case at a London employment tribunal continues.

Bloomberg reports that similar details emerged two months ago when Anthony Stimler, who left Glencore in 2019, pleaded guilty to corruption and money-laundering charges.

Stimler was notified in September 2014 that “Foreign Official 1” was asking all NNPC clients to pay an advance on each cargo “in connection with a then-upcoming political election,” according to U.S court filings. He then had Glencore wire $300,000 to an intermediary company, which prosecutors said was used “to pay bribes to Nigerian officials.”

US prosecutors outlined how Stimler and others paid bribes worth millions of dollars in several countries, including to NNPC officials, between 2007 and 2018. A Glencore spokesman didn’t respond to a request for comment.

“The conduct described in the plea is unacceptable and has no place in Glencore,” the company said in a statement on July 26.

Bloomberg had previously reported that the unnamed “Foreign Official 1” refers to Diezani Alison-Madueke, who served as Nigeria’s oil minister and oversaw the NNPC between 2010 and 2015. Her party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), lost the elections in March 2015 to Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC).

It’s not true – NNPC

The NNPC Group General Manager, Public Affairs Division, Garbadeen Muhammad, said the allegation was “not true”.

When contacted, the APC deputy national publicity secretary, Yekini Nabena, simply said, “The story is inconsequential for now until they come up with specifics.”

Efforts to get the reaction of the PDP were also not successful as the national publicity secretary of the party, Kola Ologbondiyan, did not respond to phone calls. He was also yet to react to the SMS and WhatsApp messages sent to him.

CSOs demand probe

Speaking on the allegations, the executive director of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, lamented the failure of the government to block leakages and take measures to control the use of dirty money in politics.

Rafsanjani, who is also the coordinator, Transparency International (TI) in Nigeria, said the CISLAC had been calling for stronger sanctions against those corrupting and commercialising the country’s electoral process.

“The last election in 2019 showed gross impunity and open use of public funds to finance some individual’s elections without being sanctioned.

“There have been credible allegations that show how some officials in the NNPC were involved in financing individual’s elections and nothing was done to even stop the continuation of such abuses of public funds.

“Again, with the 2023 elections approaching, such abuses will continue since there is no political will to sanitise our electoral process,” Rafsanjani said.

Also, the executive director, Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED), Dr Ibrahim M. Zikirullahi said, “This is another scandal in which Nigeria’s oil company has been fingered.”

He lamented that this particular case is even more worrisome because the electoral process itself was targeted.

“The CHRICED believes these allegations should be comprehensively investigated. Who collected the bribes in question, and how were the monies used in the electoral process? These questions demand urgent answers, and those found culpable should be held accountable,” Zikirullahi said.

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Man puts self up for sale in Kano

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Aliyu Na Idris, a 26-year-old man from Kaduna State, has become a social media sensation for putting himself up for sale in Kano.

Idris, who claimed to be a tailor, has been roaming the streets of Kano State carrying a placard that reads “This man is for sale for N20 million.”

It was gathered that the young man has been on the streets for five days looking for who will buy him.

He said he had decided to sell himself due to hardship.

He said his family was aware that he had offered himself for sale, adding that he had initially presented himself for sale in Kaduna but when he could not get a serious buyer, he decided to try Kano State with the hope that someone will pay the required price.

“Even though many people have offered me various prices of N10m, N5m and N300,000 in Kano, I refused because the amount is less than what I expected,” he said.

The young man said he was operating a tailoring business which failed due to the financial crisis and as such, he lost his customers and became financially handicapped.

He explained that he had no money to survive, not to talk of investing in another business, hence, he decided to present himself for sale at N20m only.

When asked what he intends to do with the money, he said, “I will give my parents N10m; I will give N5m as tax to the state where I was bought, the person who helped in advertising me will be rewarded with N2m while the remaining N3m will be kept for me under the care of the person who buys me for my daily upkeep.”

He further stated that he knows that he would lose his freedom after being purchased but he’s not worried as he has made up his mind to do the bidding of his master.

He said if nobody buys him in Kano, he would move to another state to sell himself.

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NCC alerts Nigerians to deadly FluBot malware targeting bank accounts

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The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) yesterday raised the alarm about what it described as an extremely damaging malware called “FluBot” which attacks Android mobile banking applications.

According to the NCC, Flubot “impersonates Android mobile banking applications to draw fake web view on targeted applications and its goal transcends stealing personal data and essentially targets stealing of credit card details or online banking credentials.”

Malware is a generic word used to describe a virus or software designed specifically to disrupt, damage, or gain unauthorised access to a computer system.

“According to the information received today (Thursday), October 21, 2021, from the Nigeria Computer Emergency Response Team (ngCERT), Flubot targets Androids with fake security updates and App installations,” NCC’s Director of Public Affairs, Ikechukwu Adinde, said in a statement issued yesterday.

NCC explained that FluBot “is circulated through SMS and can snoop on incoming notifications, initiate calls, read or write SMSes, and transmit the victim’s contact list to its control centre.”
NCC said the malware “attacks Android devices by pretending to be FedEx, DHL, Correos, and Chrome applications,” and compels unsuspecting users to alter the accessibility configurations on their devices to maintain continuous presence on devices.

The statement adds: “The new malware undermines the security of devices by copying fake login screens of prominent banks, and the moment the users enter their login details on the fake pages, their data is harvested and transmitted to the malware operators’ control point from where the data is exploited by intercepting banking-related One Time Passwords (OTPs) and replacing the default SMS app on the targeted Android device.

“Consequently, it secures admittance into the device through SMS and proceeds to transmit similar messages to other contacts that may be on the device it has attacked enticing them into downloading the fake app.
“It suffices to say that, when Flubot infects a device, it can result in incalculable financial losses.
“Additionally, the malware creates a backdoor which grants access to the user’s device, thus enabling the invader or attacker to perform other criminal actions, including launching other variants of malware.”
The NCC subsequently issued an advisory to protect telecoms consumers from falling victim.

The guidelines listed by the commission are: “Do not click on the link if you receive a suspicious text message, and do not install any app or security update the page asks you to install; use updated antivirus software that detects and prevents malware infections; apply critical patches to the system and application; use strong passwords and enable Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) over logins and back up your data regularly.”
Others are: “If you have been affected by this campaign, you should reset your device to factory mode as soon as possible. This will delete any data on your phone, including personal data; do not restore from backups created after installing the app; you will also need to change the passwords to all of your online accounts, with urgency, around your online bank accounts; If you have concerns that your accounts may have been accessed by unauthorised people, contact your bank immediately.”

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Gunmen attack Abolongo correctional facility in Oyo, set prisoners free

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Suspected gunmen have attacked one of the facilities of the Nigeria Correctional Service (NCS), in Oyo State.

It was gathered that the facility, christened Abolongo correctional facility was attacked by the gunmen Friday evening.

It was further gathered that the gunmen set all the prisoners at the facility free during the attack.

The attackers were said to have stormed the facility at about 10pm on Friday.

The attackers used grenades to gain access and set prisoners free.

Spokesman for the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCS) in the state, Olanrewaju Anjorin confirmed the attack on Saturday.

Anjorin said that the senior officers of the agency were on their way to assess the level of damage.

He said, “Yes. It has been confirmed that the attack actually happened.

“And right now, the comptroller of Nigerian Correctional Service (NCS) and other top officers are assessing the situation.

“But, I can confirm to you that the incident actually happened”.

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