For about six hours yesterday, crack investigators of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) grilled Mrs. Oluwatoyin Saraki, wife of the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki.
The team also quizzed the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party, Alhaji Haliru Bello Mohammed and ex-First Lady of Kebbi State, Hajiya Zainab Dakingari (the daughter of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua) over alleged N2 billion contracts in the state.
But Hajiya Zainab had a brief interaction with the EFCC team because of her ill-health.
Moved by her condition, the EFCC allowed a director to stand as surety for her, pending her being fit for questioning.
Her condition affected the planned interaction with the Chairman of the BOT of PDP, who will be re-invited by the anti-graft commission.
Mohammed’s invitation is said to be for alleged “unexecuted” contracts in Kebbi State.
The star attraction was Mrs. Saraki, whose invitation by the EFCC generated mixed reactions in the media.
According to a source, Mrs. Saraki arrived at the headquarters of the anti-graft agency at about noon.
She was accompanied by senators, members of the House of Representatives, wives of Kwara State commissioners and others.
Her supporters milled around the EFCC headquarters.
The source said: “For about five hours, our investigators interacted with her on some issues having to do with her tenure as the First Lady of Kwara State.
“She was calm and she responded to questions from the EFCC team. It was the first time she got to know why she was invited.
“We will not give you the details in order not to prejudice ongoing investigation.”
Responding to a question, the source added: “I cannot say whether she will be detained or not because we are still talking with her.”
The source said Mrs. Dakingari, “appeared briefly, but she looked frail and we had to give her time to take care of her health.”
“She is expected back after recovering from the ill-health. Actually, we were to interrogate her alongside the Chairman of the BOT of the PDP, but we could not.
“The two people have questions to respond to on the award of some contracts in Kebbi State.”
Contacted, the Head of Media and Publicity of EFCC, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, said: “The three people came and met with our team.”
After her release, Mrs. Saraki released a statement, in which she said she has nothing to hide.
She promised to cooperate with the EFCC and she asked the anti-graft commission to adopt global best practices.
The statement said: “As a citizen with utmost respect for higher standard of democratic accountability, Mrs. Saraki visited the EFCC at their invitation.
“Mrs. Saraki made herself available to assist the commission wholeheartedly with any lawful enquiries they may have.
“Mrs. Saraki will continue to cooperate with EFCC and she hopes for a prompt and positive resolution in the satisfaction of this enquiry.
“Having placed emphasis on the importance of accountability, transparency and diligent reporting, Mrs. Saraki maintained that she has always operated within the law and to the highest standard of global compliance in all her activities.
“Mrs. Saraki affirmed her willingness to assist the EFCC and expect that the spirit of this enquiry will follow global standard and principles of open democracy, transparency and impartiality that the EFCC and other similar organisations around the world are founded upon.
“Mrs. Saraki looks forward to drawing a line under this matter and will continue to focus on her global advocacy on maternal, newborn baby and child health.”
Governors, Labour kick as NNPC presents N3tr subsidy bill to FEC
The controversies surrounding continued payment of fuel subsidy may not have ended as the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Limited, yesterday, presented a bill of N3 trillion for deliberations at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari.
According to the Minister of Finance Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, N3 trillion is the amount required to continue to subsidise petroleum products for the 18 months extension recently approved by the Presidency.
Ahmed, who broke the news to State House correspondents, explained that FEC considered the request so as to make additional funding provisions that will enable government meet incremental fuel subsidy payment in the 2022 budget.
According to her, only N443 billion is currently available in the 2022 budget meant to accommodate subsidy from January to June.
Buttressing the position of the government, she said with current realities on ground, especially the poverty rate on the part of Nigerians, the NNPC presented a request for N3 trillion to the Ministry of Finance for 2022.
“What this means is that we have to make incremental provision of N2.557 trillion to be able to meet subsidy requirement, which is averaging about N270 billion per month.
“In 2021, the actual under-recovery that has been charged to the Federation was N1.2 trillion, which means an average of N100 billion, but in 2022, because of the increased crude oil price per barrel in the global market, now at $80 per barrel, and also because an NNPC’s assessment shows that the country is consuming 65.7 million litres per day, we will end up with an incremental cost of N3 trillion in 2022.
“Having taken into account the current realities; increased hardship in the population, heightened inflation and also that measures needed to be taken to enable a smoother exit from the fuel subsidy regime are not yet in place, it was agreed by Council that it is desirable to exit fuel subsidy at a conducive time.”
She revealed that the Council directed the ministry to approach the National Assembly for an amendment to the fiscal framework, including the budget.
BUT the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) have blamed the NNPC for the mismanagement of the proceeds accruing from oil.
They have also resolved to enter into working partnership to investigate consumption and distribution figures released by NNPC regarding petroleum products. The NGF disclosed this, yesterday, at its meeting with labour leaders, led by NLC President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, to deliberate on the fuel subsidy removal issue.
A statement by NGF’s media adviser, AbdulRazaque Bello Barkindo, disclosed that “both parties agreed that the lacuna in the subsidy removal agenda was hidden in the untruths bandied by the administrators of the subsidy, particularly the NNPC, which both groups identify to be at the forefront of the mismanagement of the proceeds that accrued therein.”
Delivering his opening remarks at the meeting, which was also attended by the Trade Union Congress (TUC) president and a host of other leaders of organised labour in the country, NGF chairman and governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, argued that the nation’s economy is at the precipice and that it has become necessary for the two groups to carefully verify all NNPC’s estimates, to ensure that whatever action is taken on subsidy will be to the benefit of the people and not a few wealthy individuals and their cronies.
The NGF chairman, who led a delegation of governors Simon Bako Lalong of Plateau State and Godwin Obaseki of Edo State, to the meeting, stressed that governors cannot ignore the economics of petroleum, arguing that all the countries surrounding Nigeria, including Niger, Mali, Cameroun and Ghana have their fuel pump price at the equivalent of a U.S. dollar.
“Nigeria has a pump price that is far less than a dollar and is uncomfortable with the removal of subsidy until the challenge of what the NNPC is telling the country is confronted frontally.
“We need a partnership with the NLC to confront the challenges of what the NNPC is about, because there is a lot of fraud in the consumption and distribution figures that the country is getting and we can only move forward if the NLC engages all those who are knowledgeable in the field like PENGASSAN to conduct a thorough research into the sector before any further action is taken on subsidy,” Fayemi said.
He added that only about eight states are benefitting directly from the subsidy while all the others have to contend with the situation on their own.
Commenting, Obaseki warned that the country has a choice of continuing to behave “like Father Christmas (Santa Claus) or take concrete actions on a problem that is permanently with us rather than throwing away N3 trillion on subsidy.”
The Plateau governor, who like Obaseki, joined the meeting virtually, recalled that the NGF had spent three years on this matter. He stated: “We must find options and create opportunities that address the hardships that stare our people in the face.”
The unionists, according to the statement, argued that the conflicting figures that always came from managers of the petroleum sector had always tended towards inefficiency, which have remained, and to organised labour, completely objectionable.
Wabba and TUC president, Quadri Olaleye, wondered why the subsidy issue had always been shrouded in secrecy on the part of government.
Also, NLC National Deputy President, Comrade Bello Ismail, has advised the Federal Government against any attempt to increase the pump price of petroleum products during the tenure of this administration that would terminate in 2023.
Ismail, who addressed Kaduna State workers on the outcome of the suspension by the Federal Government of its initial plan to hike the pump price of petrol, said labour would continue to watch any action of the Buhari administration and ensure it did not increase pump price of fuel in future.
MEANWHILE, the Presidency, yesterday, reiterated the concerns of the Organised Private Sector (OPS) that Nigeria would have to pay a price to continue subsidising petrol, adding that the country may be left with no other choice than to continue borrowing to shoulder its fiscal overhead.
The President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, said this when he featured on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily programme yesterday. He said petrol is not deregulated by the Federal Government, as the price is sold at between N162 and N165/litre at filling stations, far lower than the actual cost of the commodity.
In June 2021, the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Mele Kyari, stated that petrol price should be more than N280/litre, while the commodity had been subsidised and sold at N162/litre since last year.
Gunmen kidnap Ex-President Jonathan’s cousin in Bayelsa
Former President Goodluck Jonathan’s cousin, Jephthah Robert, has been abducted by gunmen at his residence in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State capital.
It was learnt that the abductors had yet to contact the family since his kidnap on Monday.
The police spokesman in Bayelsa State, SP Asinim Butswat, who confirmed the abduction, said they were intensifying efforts to rescue the victim and arrest the abductors.
Though the detail of the abduction was sketchy, the rate of kidnappings in Bayelsa State has been on the increase recently.
Just last Monday, the state Commissioner for Trade and Investment, Federal Otokito, regained freedom after spending five days in the kidnappers’ den.
He was said to have been kidnapped by the cartel operating illegal refineries in his community for trying to obstruct their operations.
FEC okays proposed amendments to 2022 budget
The Federal Executive Council has approved a proposed amendment to the 2022 budget following the initial adjustments made by the National Assembly to the proposal submitted by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2021.
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, said the approved amendments to be transmitted to the National Assembly would request to repeal clauses 10 and 11 concerning the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit operations in the 2022 budget and as well restore what the lawmakers had deleted amounting to N103bn.
She said: “Clause 10 is referring to a provision that has been made that will enable the EFCC and NFIU be able to take 10% of whatever collections that they recover.
“We’re asking for that to be repealed because this is in direct contrast to the Acts of these two agencies and also it is in contravention of the Fiscal Responsibility Act and the Finance Act 2021.
“Clause 11, on the other hand, is a provision that has been made that says that the Nigeria embassies and missions are now authorized by this Appropriation Act to expend funds allocated to them under Capital Components without the need to seek approval of the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
She said FEC also ratified an instrument on diplomatic relations between Nigeria and South Africa with the coming of Africa’s Continental Free Trade Agreement.
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