Image

Probe Uncovers Massive Fraud In YouWin Programme

Kemi-Adeosun-Ogun

An ongoing probe, ordered by the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, has uncovered a massive fraud in the Federal Government Youth Enterprise With Innovation In Nigeria programme.

A reliable source in the ministry of finance told The PUNCH that investigators had already discovered that some senior civil servants gave out or facilitated slots worth between N7m and N10m each to their spouses, children and friends.

Some of these awardees, the source said, would not have qualified for the grants if they were not aided by their “connections” within and outside the ministry.

An original initiative of the ministry which began during the former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, YouWin was conceived to help youth entrepreneurs grow existing businesses and create employment.

The source, who insisted that the probe had not been concluded by the investigators, added that their initial findings were so worrisome that the minister had decided that the entire programme should be restructured.

“The fraud uncovered in the programme made the minister to restructure the programme and turn its focus into enterprise education,” the source added.

The source did not, however, state whether any of the country’s anti-graft agencies had joined the investigators whom our correspondent was made to understand were ministry of finance officials.

At different times, the YouWin project had been dogged by allegations of nepotism and underhand dealings by top civil servants for years.

The source in the finance ministry stated, “Actually, allegations were persistent that there was racketeering.  Some of the applicants, especially those who lost out, claimed that some of the winners simply copied and pasted the plans of other applicants in order to win.

“Some of them also said they were asked by some civil servants to use specific consultants in order to be considered.

“Contrary to the rules of the game, awards were also given to some entrepreneurs that were operating outside Nigeria. In fact, some of these people simply took the cash and migrated to foreign countries.”

The source added that the investigators found out that the ministry under Jonathan awarded a “disproportionate” number of awards to people from a particular part of the country.

The source said, “Some of the members of the team used it to set up friends and family as awardees. In one case, a husband and his wife used the same address and pocketed N10m each. In another instance, a son of one of the directors in the ministry was given N10m.

“When the (current) administration got into power, one of the first things that the ministry did was to ask for the BVN of awardees. It was an attempt to find out if some of the awardees got more than a single slot and whether senior civil servants awarded slots to their family members.”

It was learnt that the BVN verification, which exposed the fraud in the programme and initiated the probe, might lead to the indictment of some senior civil servants.

Some of the documents sighted by The PUNCH showed the rot in the system.

One of the documents indicated that a former director in the ministry of finance might have awarded a slot to his son.

Investigators are said to be probing whether the son’s company met all the requirements.

Another document sighted showed that two awardees shared the same surname and the same address.

One of the documents also indicated that two grants were given to a couple running two different companies.

The husband’s company is said to be involved in building and construction projects while the wife’s business, stated on the form, is ‘food and catering’ services.

Sources in the ministry explained that the ongoing probe would see investigators thoroughly combing through the information supplied by the 1,491 awardees.

It was learnt that the investigators would check for alleged duplication of business places, duplication of BVNs, criminal entries and other culpabilities of some civil servants and whether the companies awarded grants existed.

Last year, some YOUWIN awardees had protested against the Muhammadu Buhari administration, alleging neglect.

After the protest, a Director of Information at the Ministry of Information and Culture, Na’inna Dambatta, said a total of 18,000 young entrepreneurs were trained in management and business skills under the YouWin programme.

Dambatta added that 3,900 of the trainees, including 1,200 women, got non-repayable grants ranging from N1m to N10m.

“The third edition of the programme, which is still running with 1,500 beneficiaries, has received the sum of N11.2bn in funding. So far, grants totalling N7.4bn have been disbursed to the awardees,” he had said.

Efforts to get the reaction of the Special Adviser on Media to the Minister of Finance, Mr. Festus Akanbi, failed to yield result on Monday.

Akanbi requested 10 minutes to get appropriate reaction when The PUNCH reached out to him for comments but did not get back to our correspondent as of the time of filing this report.  (Punchng.com)

http://www.twitter.com/RNNetwork1

Continue reading

Image

SGF, Babachir Lawal Makes U-turn Begs Senate |The Republican News

 Ghost companies awarded contracts, says Sani

From Fred Itua,  Abuja

Twenty four hours after the Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), David Babachir Lawal, told senators  he would not honour an invitation extended to him by the Senate ad-hoc Committee on Mounting Humanitarian Crisis in the North East, he has made a U-turn.

Instead of standing by his earlier position not to honour the invitation, the SGF has begged the Senator Shehu Sani-led committee members to reschedule the meeting for a latter date, claiming that there was “a pressing engagement of government, which clashed with the date and time of the hearing.”

Lawal had, in a letter, dated March 22, 2017 and addressed to the committee, through its chairman, Senator Sani, said he would not appear before the committee.

In the letter, he explained that he had already gone to court to challenge the committee’s invitation.

According to the earlier letter from the committee inviting the SGF, he was expected to appear, as part of the ongoing investigation into claims that funds earmarked for humanitarian crisis in the North-East were mismanaged.

The letter from the adhoc committee read: “The Senate, at its sitting on 4th October, 2016, debated on a motion, “Mounting Humanitarian Crisis in the North East” after which an ad-hoc committee was constituted.

“The committee was to conduct a public hearing in order to ascertain how much has been released to the Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE) and also to ascertain how these funds have been utilised from inception to date.

“The committee was also expected to investigate the diversion of grains and other food items from the Strategic Grain Reserves, NEMA and other sources for the IDPs. “Consequently, the committee held a three-day public hearing between December 6th and 8th 2016, even though some of the invited stakeholders refused to attend.”

Lawal, in the new letter, did not make any reference to the suit he claimed to have filed in a law court.

Part of the new letter reads: “I wish to kindly request that you (Sani) draw the attention of the other members of the committee that l will not be able to appear before the committee. I kindly request a rescheduling of the hearing, please.”

Senator Sani, while reacting to the issue, yesterday, told journalists that more than half of the 20 companies, which were awarded contracts by the office of the SGF, have no verifiable addresses. He said they were ghost companies.

According to him, the adhoc committee will fix a new date, which will be convenient for every party involved in the ongoing investigation, saying the public hearing cannot be concluded without the appearance of the SGF, since his office awarded the said contracts. (The Sun)

http://www.twitter.com/RNNetwork1

Continue reading

Image

Grass-cutting Probe: Contracts Awarded To 20 ‘Ghost’ Firms, Says Senate Panel

senate

The Senate

Eniola Akinkuotu and  Leke Baiyewu, Abuja

The Senate, on Thursday, said it had not been able to trace the addresses of about 20 contractors engaged for the execution of various projects in the rehabilitation of the North-East.

An investigative hearing by the Senate on the alleged management of funds meant for the rehabilitation of the North-East, billed to hold on Thursday, had been botched by the non-appearance of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Babachir Lawal.

The Chairman, Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Mounting Humanitarian Crisis in the North-East, Senator Shehu Sani, said the probe was not a witch-hunt against the SGF, whose office oversees the Presidential Initiative on the North-East.

He said this while addressing journalists after the plenary on Thursday, following a meeting with the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang.

Sani said, “Now, we are set to invite all those persons. It was supposed to be today but, unfortunately, it could not happen.

“Meanwhile, you should understand that we are not investigating the SGF alone; we are investigating contracts that were awarded under the PINE. And over 20 companies were involved, but something very strange is the fact that some of these companies involved in these contracts, we cannot actually trace their addresses.

“We went there but they were not there. The option before us is to either report that they are ghost companies or we keep on searching until we find them. But it is most likely that it will be easier for the camel to pass through the eye of the needle than for us to find some of these names here.”

Enang, who also spoke to journalists, said there was no rift between the legislature and the executive.

He stated, “Let me also state that the executive has great respect for the institution of the Senate and the distinguished senators themselves.

“That is why the secretary to the government personally wrote and signed, and he is requesting rescheduling of the meeting and not saying he will not come. He is requesting rescheduling and the letter has been delivered to the committee.”

When asked about the recent frosty relationship between the two arms of government, Enang said the relationship had remained cordial.

Sani had earlier at the plenary, on Thursday, stated that the panel would pursue its mandate to a conclusion, insisting that Lawal and others summoned must appear before it.

He added that the panel received a letter from Lawal in which the SGF said he had an official engagement with clashed with the date and time of his appearance on Thursday.

Sani said the letter was different from the one in which Lawal said he would not appear before the lawmakers as he had instituted a legal action against the legislature.

He said, “We were scheduled to hold a public hearing today to give a second opportunity to those persons who were either deliberately or conspicuously absent in the first sitting (hearing) we had last year.

“Today, the newspapers were awash with reports that the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Babachir Lawal, has taken us to court to restrain our committee from doing its work.

“We have yet to receive any court order (originating summons) in that respect, perhaps later. But what we did receive is a letter from the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.”

The letter was dated March 22, 2017, and was addressed to Sani.

It read, “Your letter of invitation to appear before the above committee refers.

“I wish to kindly request that you draw the attention of the other members of the committee that l will not be able to appear before the committee primarily because of a pressing engagement of government which clash with the date and time of the hearing.

“I kindly request (a) rescheduling of the hearing, please.”

After reading the letter, Sani added, “There are people who believe in the quote of Shakespeare which says, ‘The hell is empty, all the devils are here’, but I will say it in another word. The same Shakespeare says, ‘There is a tide in the affairs of men’. I believe we should take this as a challenge.

“The Senate committee will give a new date for hearing and we assure this Senate and the people of the North-East that the committee will deworm, disinfect and fumigate the north eastern part of Nigeria with the job which we are going to do.”

Lawal had, in the first letter to the committee, said he would not appear before it on Thursday as he had filed processes in a court.

The letter, which was sighted on Wednesday, read, “Your letter of invitation to appear before the above committee refers.

“I wish to kindly request that you draw the attention of the other members of the committee (to the fact) that I will not be able to appear before the committee primarily because I have gone to court to challenge the invitation, among others.

“Please, find attached the court documents.”

The committee had re-invited Lawal to appear before it on Thursday in a letter signed by Sani, dated March 15, 2017, and addressed to Lawal’s Kaduna address.

Sani had told our correspondent that the panel intended to give the SGF a second chance.

Based on the interim report of the committee, the Senate had, on December 14, 2016, called for the resignation, probe and prosecution of the SGF for alleged mismanagement of funds meant for the North-East rehabilitation under his watch.

The lawmakers specifically called on security and anti-graft agencies to arrest and prosecute Lawal for allegedly owning one of the companies awarded contracts in the rehabilitation of the North-East.

Lawal was alleged to have resigned his directorship of the company after becoming the SGF and after the company had executed the contract.

One of the companies linked to the SGF was said to have been awarded the contract for the removal of invasive plants along river channels and 115 hectares of simplified village irrigation operation in Yobe State for the sum of N272,524,356.

But Lawal claimed that the panel did not invite him to hear from him, saying the lawmakers were out to malign him.

The companies include Rholavision Engineering Limited, Josmond Technology Limited, Medina International Global Limited, Muby Ventures Nigeria Limited and JMT.

Trend, end of democracy in Nigeria –Senate

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, told our correspondent he was not aware of the letter.

He, however, posited that the trend of public officials refusing to answer legislative summons was becoming a threat to Nigeria’s democracy.

Abdullahi said, “I am not aware of that. But we are waiting to see what happens. That is exactly what we are saying; that if this continues to happen, then, bye-bye to democracy. It means I can even go to court to stop you (our correspondent) from doing your work.”

Senate empowered to order SGF’s arrest if he fails to appear –Falana

Meanwhile, sources within the Office of the SGF told one of our correspondents on Thursday that the Senate’s actions were prejudicial.

A senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “The Senate is on a witch-hunt because the SGF had questioned the practice of lawmakers receiving constituency allowances. It seems they are just bent on tarnishing his image despite the fact that the President has cleared him of any wrongdoing.

“These senators have failed to go to the North-East to do a proper investigation of the work that was done. Why can’t they visit the place? Let them go there and see for themselves if the money spent on the place was exaggerated instead of casting aspersions on the SGF.

“The SGF’s former company did not execute any contract but merely supervised the work done by contractors. The company never received any N200m.”

However, human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), advised Lawal to appear before the Senate without delay.

Falana said no court in Nigeria could stop the Senate from doing its job as the case was different from that of the Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (retd.).

He said, “The investigation being conducted by the Shehu Sani committee into the grass-cutting contract is backed by Section 88(2) of the constitution. So the SGF is constitutionally required to appear and cooperate fully with the committee.

“If he fails to appear, the committee is competent to order his arrest pursuant to Section 89 of the constitution. This case is materially distinguishable from that of the CGC of Customs, who was invited to justify a policy on import duty.”  (Punchng.com)

http://www.twitter.com/RNNetwork1

Continue reading

Image

Democracy Under Threat As SGF Shuns Invitation, Says Senate

5d187-senate-1024x683

The Senate

Leke Baiyewu, Abuja

The Senate on Wednesday raised the alarm that the failure of the executive to answer legislative summons would end democracy in the country.

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, stated this in an interview with The PUNCH, while reacting to a letter written by the Secretary to the Government of the  Federation, Mr. Babachir Lawal.

The SGF, in the letter to the upper chamber on Wednesday, said he had dragged the Senate to court over a probe into the alleged management of funds meant for the rehabilitation of the North-East.

Lawal, in  the letter to the Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Mounting Humanitarian Crisis in the North-East, said he would not appear before the probe panel on Thursday (today) as he had filed processes in court. The letter was sighted on Wednesday by our correspondent.

The SGF’s letter came the same day the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ali (retd.), failed to honour the Senate invitation.

The upper chamber had ordered Ali to appear before it on Wednesday (yesterday), in the NCS uniform.

But the Customs boss shunned the invitation, citing a suit filed by a lawyer, Mohammed Ibrahim and advice of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, as reasons.

The PUNCH learnt that the some senators were irked on Wednesday when the Senate received a letter from another member of the executive (the SGF).

When contacted, the Senate spokesman told our correspondent he was not aware of the letter written by the SGF.

He, however, stated that  the trend of public officials refusing to answer legislative summons was becoming a threat to Nigeria’s democracy.

Abdullahi said, “I am not aware of that. But we are waiting to see what happens. That is exactly what we are saying; that if this continues to happen, then, bye bye to democracy. It means I can even go to court to stop you (our correspondent) from doing your work.

“We will see how that will continue to play out and I think this is the end of democracy in Nigeria if that continues to play out. We are performing our constitutional mandate and if anybody is going to court to stop us, then, what it means is that we should all go to court and stop the entire government from working.”

The letter written by the SGF read, “Your letter of invitation to appear before the above committee refers.

“I wish to kindly request that you draw the attention of the other members of the committee (to the fact) that I will not be able to appear before the committee primarily because I have gone to court to challenge the invitation, among others.

“Please, find attached the court documents.”

The Chairman of the committee, Senator Shehu Sani, while confirming the receipt of the letter, declined to disclose what the lawmakers would do to the SGF.

When asked if he had received the letter, he said, “Yes. If you have the letter, that is it. Go and write your story.”

When also asked how he felt about the development, Sani replied, “As far as I am concerned, we are going ahead with the sitting (investigative hearing).”

When further asked if the Senate would react to Lawal’s move as it did to the Comptroller General of Nigeria Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ali (retd.), Sani said the decision would be taken after the hearing.

“I don’t want to comment on that for now. Report what he has done and wait to see what we will do tomorrow (today),” he said.

The committee had invited Lawal to appear before it on Thursday in a letter signed by Sani, dated March 15, 2017, and addressed to Lawal’s Kaduna address.

It read, “The Senate at its sitting on 4th October, 2016, debated on a motion on “mounting humanitarian crisis in the North-East” after which an ad hoc committee was constituted to, among other things, conduct a public hearing in order to ascertain how much has been released to the Presidential Initiative on the North-East; ascertain how these funds have been utilised from inception to date; and investigate the diversion of grains and other food items from the Strategic Grain Reserves, NEMA and other sources for the IDPs.

“Consequently, the committee held a three-day public hearing between 6th and 8th December, 2016, even though some of the invited stakeholders refused to attend. In order to give them a fair hearing, the committee has resolved to conduct another public hearing.

“You are hereby invited once more to the public hearing.”

Sani had told our correspondent that the panel intended to give the SGF a second chance.

Based on the interim report of the committee, the Senate had on December 14, 2016, called for the resignation, probe and prosecution of the SGF over alleged mismanagement of funds meant for the North-East rehabilitation under his watch.

The lawmakers specifically called on security and anti-graft agencies to arrest and prosecute Lawal, who is overseeing the Presidential Initiative on North-East, for allegedly owning one of the companies awarded contracts in the rehabilitation of the North-East.

Lawal was alleged to have resigned his directorship of the company after becoming the SGF and after the company had executed the contract.

One of the companies linked to the SGF was said to have been awarded the contract for the removal of invasive plants along river channels and 115 hectares of simplified village irrigation operation in Yobe State for the sum of N272,524,356.

But Lawal claimed that the panel did not invite him for his defence, saying that the lawmakers were out to malign him.

The PUNCH had exclusively reported that the committee on February 1, 2017, had requested  the Bank Verification Numbers of some companies linked to the SGF, who were contracted for various projects on the rehabilitation of the Internally Displaced Persons.

It was also reported that the lawmakers might re-invite Lawal for questioning. ‘Punchgn.com)

http://www.twitter.com/RNNetwork1

Continue reading

Image

EFCC Hands Over Amosu’s $2.15m Hospital To Nigerian Air Force

Amosu

 

Eniola Akinkuotu, Abuja

A hospital with medical equipment worth about $2.15m which was seized from a former Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Adesola Amosu (retd.), has been handed over to the Nigerian Air Force, The PUNCH has learnt.

The hospital, St. Solomon Hospital, which is located on Adeniyi Jones Avenue, Ikeja, Lagos, is said to have state-of-the-art equipment including a Magnetic Resonance Imaging machine which costs well over $1m.

A reliable source at the EFCC told our correspondent that the EFCC could not manage the property and therefore decided to hand it over to the Nigerian Air Force medical unit.

He said, “The hospital has very expensive equipment including an MRI machine which is very rare. However, we could not manage the hospital so we handed it over to the air force pending the outcome of Amosu’s trial. It is assumed that the money used in buying the hospital was stolen from the air force.”

Other properties seized from Amosu included a house on Adeyemo Alakija Street, GRA Ikeja worth N250m; a duplex at House 11, Peace Court Estate, GRA Ikeja worth N110m; a N40m property located at NAF Harmony Estate, Asokoro base; a five-bedroomed house at Valley NAF Estate, Port Harcourt, worth N33m and a N95m house on Umaru Dikko Street, Jabi.

The Federal Government has also commenced moves to seize Amosu’s house at 50 Tenterden Grove, NW41TH, London worth about £2m.

Amosu as well as a former Chief of Accounts and Budgeting in NAF, Air Vice Marshal Jacob Adigun (retd.); and a former Director of Finance and Budget, Air Commodore Olugbenga Gbadebo (retd.), are currently standing trial before a Federal High Court for allegedly stealing N22.8bn from the coffers of the Nigerian Air Force between 2014 and 2015.

The commission has seized 33 properties they allegedly bought with stolen funds.

Documents made available to our correspondent showed that besides the hospital, the EFCC had seized plazas, schools, mansions, farms and a quarry from Amosun, Adigun and Gbadebo.

While almost N2.835bn cash has been recovered from Amosu alone, Gbadebo has returned N190m. Adigun’s wife, returned some money as well.

The document further stated that properties recovered from Adigun were worth N9.6bn.

Calculations by our correspondent showed that the cash and assets which the air force men might forfeit permanently, add up to about N15bn which is more than three quarters of what they allegedly stole.

They have, however, pleaded not guilty to the charges.   (Punchng.com)

http://www.twitter.com/RNNetwork1

Continue reading

Image

Buhari’s Anti-corruption War Empty Without Amaechi’s Trial-PFN Leader

rotimi-amaechi1

Ovie Okpare, Warri

The Vice President, Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, Bishop Simeon Okah, has called for the trial of a former Rivers State Governor and current Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, for his alleged involvement in corruption while serving as governor of the state.

Okah said the ongoing anti-corruption fight of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration would not be taken seriously if “the likes of Amaechi and other cabinet members alleged to have stolen billions of naira belonging to their states for the 2015 general elections were not being tried.”

The cleric stated this on Thursday while addressing journalists at a press conference ahead of the 2017 Flock of Christ Mission World Convention taking place in Enerhen, Delta State.

Okah, who is also the South-South PFN Chairman, said Nigeria had remained underdeveloped because of corruption.

He warned that the youths would soon rise against their leaders if economic hardship and corruption were not thoroughly tackled by President Buhari.

He said, “Nothing has changed in the anti-corruption fight since President Buhari took over. The system which the Federal Government is using to fight corruption is not thorough. If it was, Rotimi Amaechi would not be walking as a free man in the streets. He (Amaechi) should be tried. He’s from the South-South; I’m also from the South-South.

“He was a governor who operated Rivers State as if it was his father’s personal business. He operated without a Chief Judge. He operated without the court for about four years. He’s the one the All Progressives Congress is parading as a saint. Is this not one of the things that destroyed this country?”    (Punchng.com)

http://www.twitter.com/RNNetwork1

Continue reading