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Reps summon Emefiele over foreign exchange sale to oil marketers

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The House of Representatives on Monday summoned Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, over alleged sale of foreign exchange to International Oil Companies (IOCs).

Emefiele’s invitation by the House’s Ad hoc Committee on the Review of Pump Price of Petrol followed the committee’s rejection of the records of the foreign exchange transactions presented to it.

The committee, which continued its public hearing on the issue in Abuja, ordered that the CBN governor should appear with details of all beneficiaries of the foreign exchange deals.

He is also expected to give insight into the banks used by the apex bank in the transaction with the oil marketers.

In the rejected record presented on behalf of Emefiele by Dr Alvan Ikoku, Director, Financial Market Department of CBN, he told the committee why the bank acted as third party to oil companies and importers of petroleum products.

He said that the CBN took over the purchase of dollars from the IOCs and began to sell directly to petroleum marketers seeking foreign exchange to import products.

It was, however, not revealed in the records how much the apex bank sold the currencies to the companies even when it stated that Emefiele determined the rate the currencies were sold to oil marketers.

The committee Chairman, Rep Raphael Igbokwe, directed that the CBN boss should prepare explanations on the legal grounds or provisions that allowed IOCs to operate as financial institutions selling foreign exchange to Nigerians.

According him, by so doing the IOCs acted as parallel financial clearing houses.

The committee demanded explanation on the criteria for the allocation of foreign exchange to dealers as well as necessary documents to show such allocations to the marketers.

It also ordered the appearance of Managing Director of Duke Oil and other oil marketers, who were invited.

Igbokwe explained that the order was important as the representatives of the oil marketers were not in the capacity to respond to some allegations levelled against the companies.

Commodore P.A. Efedue who represented the Nigerian Navy, explained that multiple charges by government agencies operating at the ports were responsible for most oil importers avoiding Nigerian ports.

Efedue said that the charges were part of the reasons why some of the oil marketers preferred to deliver their products through ports in neighbouring countries.

He said that the development was in spite of security which had improved tremendously at Nigerian ports.

“The oil marketers come to my office every day and I ask why Lome, not Lagos port. They said the reason is that charges in Lagos are higher,’’ Efedue said.

He, therefore, advised that the charges at the ports should be addressed to attract oil vessels to Nigeria’s ports, saying that the rate of insecurity in the country’s waterways had reduced.

“Cases of piracy have reduced, so it is the charges that are the issue with the marketers.”

He also said that the navy did not charge any money to grant approval to marketers, adding that the collaboration between navy and NIMASA was helping in securing the water ways.

On his part, Commodore A.O. Bamidele of the Operations Directorate, Naval Headquarters, also reiterated that insecurity was not the reason for marketers preferring neighbouring countries’ ports.

“It is not security; look at Lagos harbour and anchorage, we don’t have security challenges.

“It is only in Bayelsa and Rivers area but we are making efforts to put it in check,” Bamidele said.

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Army withholds salaries of 45 soldiers in Borno

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Authorities of the 7 Division Nigerian Army, Maiduguri, have withheld the salaries of 45 soldiers, according to sources.

The soldiers, who were among the 149 troops of the 153 Task Force Battalion withdrawn from Marte, Borno State, after spending three years in counterinsurgency operations, were accused of for abandoning their duty posts.

The battalion came under attack on three occasions during which several soldiers were killed while a range of weapons, equipment and vehicles were either carted away or destroyed.

The battalion was overhauled after the last attack in February.

A source said necessary changes were made and troops who served with the battalion were moved to different formations in Maiduguri before a new deployment was made.

“Some of the soldiers who were not seen at their new units were believed to have gone on AWOL (Absence Without Leave). Their salaries accounts were not credited in April,” he said.

But one of the affected soldiers said the allegation of desertion against them was untrue.

“We were not given our salaries and when we asked our supervisors in the 7 Division, we were shocked to hear that we had forfeited all our entitlements over desertion.”

Attempts to get the response of army authorities were not successful.

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EFCC goes after top officials of PDP over N10bn scandal

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The Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) has invited officials of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) for questioning over alleged criminal conspiracy, abuse of office, diversion of funds and fraud.

This is coming barely a month after a chieftain in the PDP, Kazeem Afegbua, petitioned the anti-graft agency to scrutinise the Secondus-led National Working Committee on financial misappropriation.

In the letter of invitation dated May 17, 2021, and addressed to the Prince Uche Secondus, the EFCC said the need to obtain certain clarification from the party has become imperative.

The agency, however, requested the party’s National chairman to release the National Auditor, National Organising Secretary and Director of Finance to report at the EFCC headquarters from May 19th to 21st 2021.

The agency also requested the national officers to honor the invitation with relevant documents relating to sole of forms into the party’s elective positions from January 2017 to date.

Kazeem had in his petition alleged that much of the financial transactions of the PDP under Prince Uche Secondus has been shrouded in mystery, accusing the leadership of deliberate attempt to shortchange the party in the build up to the 2023 general elections.

However, Secondus had since denied the allegation and filed a N1 billion suit against the petitioner, Kazeem Afegbua.

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Nigeria’s drug control agency approves new COVID-19 vaccine

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The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), has granted approval for the conditional emergency use of Janssen COVID-19 vaccine in Nigeria.

Janssen COVID-19 vaccine is the third vaccine recommended for administration in the country.

The director-general of NAFDAC, Prof. Mojiola Adeyeye, in a statement on Tuesday, said information on the vaccine shows it met the criteria for efficacy, safety and quality.

She said, “The Janssen COVID-19 vaccine is administered as a single dose. Results from a clinical trial involving people in the United States, South Africa and Latin American countries found that Janssen COVID-19 vaccine was effective at preventing COVID-19 in people from 18 years of age.

“The Phase III clinical trial involved over 44,000 people. Half received a single dose of the vaccine and half were given placebo (a dummy injection). People did not know if they had been given Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine or placebo.

According to her, the trial showed a 67 per cent reduction in the number of symptomatic COVID-19 cases after two weeks in people who received Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine.

The most commonly reported side effects were pain at the injection site, headache, fatigue, muscle aches and nausea. Most of these side effects were mild to moderate in severity and lasted 1-2 days.

On the vaccine safety, Adeyeye said NAFDAC, in line with its pharmacovigilance and safety monitoring plan for COVID-19 vaccines, will closely monitor and subject the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine to several activities that apply specifically to COVID-19 vaccines.

The AstraZeneca vaccine which Nigeria has been giving out has garnered many sceptics internationally after some recipients of the vaccine died.

At least 16 countries including Germany, France and Sweden have suspended the use of AstraZeneca, which put on the Nigerian government to suspend it.

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