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Transparency International knocks Buhari’s anti-corruption war

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Transparency International (TI), has declared that efforts by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to checkmate corruption in Nigeria have yielded no improvement so far.

Nigeria occupies the 144th position out of 180 countries polled in the latest (2018) global Corruption Perception Index (CPI), released yesterday. In 2017, the world anti-corruption watchdog ranked Nigeria 148.

TI linked the country’s unenviable rating to over-bloated contract costs, abuse of security votes, and the recalcitrance of the government to try certain persons found culpable in corruption-related charges, among others.

The report noted that in spite of a number of positive steps by the administration in the past three years, including the establishment of a presidential advisory committee against corruption, improvement of the anti-corruption legal and policy framework in areas like public procurement and asset declaration, and the development of a national anti-corruption strategy, among others, these efforts have clearly not yet yielded the desired results.

TI’s CPI stated that although Buhari campaigned in 2015 to tackle corrupt practices in government’s businesses, and won the presidential election by defeating an incumbent president for the first time in Nigeria’s political history, his subsequent anti-corruption policies and strategies have clearly not yielded any results.

In the newly-released CPI published in Nigeria exclusively by the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), TI revealed that Nigeria scored 27 out of 100 points in 2018, maintaining the same score as in 2017.

In the new report, TI said Nigeria was one of the five African countries under its close watch with regards to political developments in them.

Others on the watchlist are South Africa, Angola, Botswana and Kenya.

“With a score of 27, Nigeria remained unchanged on the CPI since 2017. Corruption was one of the biggest topics leading up to the 2015 election and it is expected to remain high on the agenda as the country prepares for this year’s presidential election taking place in February.

“Nigeria’s Buhari administration took a number of positive steps in the past three years, including the establishment of a presidential advisory committee against corruption, the improvement of the anti-corruption legal and policy framework in areas like public procurement and asset declaration, and the development of a national anti-corruption strategy, among others. However, these efforts have clearly not yielded the desired results. At least, not yet,” said the TI report.

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EFCC

Fraud: 9 FIRS senior official detained by EFCC

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Nine senior officials of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) are currently in detention over alleged multi-billion naira fraud.

The officials, who are being detained by the anti-graft agency (EFCC) in Abuja, include the Director of Finance and Accounts (DFA) of the FIRS, Mohammed Auta.

Apart from Auta, another director of the agency, Peter Hena, is also alleged to be involved in the scandal.

Hena, the Coordinating Director, Support Services Group of the FIRS, is currently out of Nigeria and will be arrested as soon as he returns to the country, EFCC sources told this newspaper.

A top official of the FIRS, however, said Hena is on official medical leave outside the country and did not flee.

Hena is believed to be one of the closest officials to the FIRS chairman, Babatunde Fowler.

It is still unclear to EFCC officials, whether or not Fowler is involved in the scandal.

Details of the scandal are still sketchy as at the time of this report. However, Auta and Hena are being investigated for allegedly diverting about N6 billion tax funds that should have gone to the Nigerian government, anti-corruption officials said.

Our reporter learnt that most of the other affected officials are from the finance and account department of the FIRS.

All the officials have been in the EFCC detention since April 1.

It was learnt the EFCC is closing in on several other senior officials of the revenue collection service in a widening investigation to uncover other fraudulent activities involving several billions of government tax revenues.

When contacted on the detention, the EFCC spokesperson, Orilade Tony, promised to get back with more information. He was yet to do so at the time of this report.

The FIRS is saddled with collecting taxes and revenues of the federal government.

The agency under Mr Fowler has seen its revenue generation improve, setting new records. The agency said it collected about N5.32 trillion as revenue in 2018, the highest in Nigeria’s history.

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EFCC

Magu gives update on stolen funds

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N1.3 trillion public funds were stolen by 32 entities (human and corporate) between 2011 and 2015, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Acting Chairman Ibrahim Magu has said.

Magu made the revelation yesterday in his keynote remarks at the opening of the 2019 First Batch Conversion Training Programme to Procurement Cadre for Federal Parastatal and Agencies.

The event was organised by the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) in Lagos.

The EFCC chair, whose paper was delivered by the Commission’s Secretary, Ola Olukoyede, decried the impact of the huge financial loss on the country.

He said: “One third of this money, using World Bank rates and cost, could have comfortably been used to construct well over 500km of roads; build close to 200 schools; educate about 4000 children from primary to tertiary levels at N25 million per child; build 20,000 units of two-bedroom houses across the country and do even more.

“The cost of this grand theft, therefore, is that these roads, schools and houses will never be built and these children will never have access to quality education because a few rapacious individuals had cornered for themselves what would have helped secure the lives of the future generations, thereby depriving them of quality education and healthcare, among others.”

He identified the poor state of procurement process as one of the major reasons corruption continued to thrive in government agencies and parastatals.

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EFCC araigns Ecobank

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Lagos Zonal office, on Tuesday, March 12, 2019, arraigned Ecobank Plc before Justice Saliu Seidu of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos on a five-count charge bordering on conversion of funds to the tune of $50,000 and N9.2million.

Ecobank is facing trial alongside one of its employees, Anieka Udoh.

One of the counts reads: “That you, Ecobank Plc and one Anieka Udoh, whilst being an employee of Eco Bank Plc sometime in 2009, at Lagos within the jurisdiction of the Honourable court, negligently failed to exercise due diligence in relation to conduct of financial transactions with Major General Umaru Mohammed and fraudulently converted Major General Umaru Mohammed’s Ecobank MasterCard Account No. 0015052989 from debit card to credit card and consequently debited Major General Umaru Mohammed’s account in the sum of over USD 50,000 (Fifty Thousand United States Dollars) without the knowledge and authority of Major General Umaru Mohammed.”

At the scheduled arraignment on March 7, 2019, the first defendant, Ecobank, had no legal representative.

However, at today’s sitting, the first defendant, Ecobank Plc represented by E. Majemite, pleaded not guilty to the charge preferred against it.

Counsel to the second defendant, Udoh O.J. Owoh, informed the court about a pending application for bail on behalf of his client, who pleaded not guilty to the charge when he was arraigned.

In her response, counsel to the prosecution, Bilkisu Buhari, objected to the bail application, stating that “the defendant is a flight risk if granted bail.”

Justice Seidu, after listening to both parties, admitted the second defendant to bail in the sum of N20million and two sureties in like sum.

One of the sureties must be a relation to the second defendant, resident in Lagos and have landed property in Lagos, whose title documents must be verified by the court.

The second surety must be a civil servant on grade level 16 in Lagos.

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EFCC

EFCC detains finance commissioner

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has detained the Kwara state Commissioner of Finance and the Accountant General of the State, over investigations into alleged slush funds for 2019 elections.

A top EFCC source told Daily Trust that the duo are being held at the Ilorin, Kwara state Zonal head office of the anti-graft agency to explain the utilization of over N1 billion fund received from a commercial bank a few days to the election.

It was learnt that the Commissioner of Finance, Nurudeen Banu and the Accountant General of the state, Sulaiman Ishola, are being held to explain why the money was received and how it was disbursed.

The EFCC had been asked by the Kwara Coalition for Good Governance and Accountability (KWARA-CGGA) to probe the over N1billion loan the State Government secured from a bank a few days before the general elections.

The secretary general of the group, Hassan Omoiya said it had intelligence that the state government obtained the loan on 13th February from a first generation bank using the remittance of Kwara State VAT allocation due in February and March 2019 as collateral.

He said, “We urge the EFCC and indeed the Federal Ministry of Finance to determine the appropriateness of utilization of credit facility of N1 billion by Kwara State Government at the twilight of general election.”

Also, “The status of VAT Account as collateral for the credit facility in the absence of prior approval and authorization from Debt Management Office and Federal Ministry of Finance in tandem with extant laws and regulation on granting of loan to State Governments.

“It is our expectation that your investigation will extend to individuals and corporate institutions that participated in the unwholesome act with a view of prosecuting the affected individuals and institutions with attendant cost and penalty.”

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