President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered a criminal investigation into an approximated six trillion naira given to the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) since 2001.
Recall that the President had ordered for a holistic forensic audit of the activities of the Commission from inception to August 2019 in response to the yearnings of the people of the Niger Delta region to reposition it for the effective service delivery.
Buhari gave this order Thursday in Abuja after receiving the final forensic audit report from the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Sen. Godswill Akpabio.
Represented by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) Abubakar Malami, Buhari stated: “The Federal Government will, in consequence, apply the law to remedy the deficiencies outlined in the audit report as appropriate.
“This will include but not be limited to the initiation of criminal investigations, prosecution, recovery of funds not properly utilized for the public purposes for which they were meant for amongst others.
“In all these instances of actions, legal due processes will strictly be complied with.”
According to the President, the forensic audit report will be forwarded to the Federal Ministry of Justice for a legal review and relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government will be engaged in doing justice to the findings accordingly.
Buhari disclosed that It is on record that between 2001 and 2019, the federal government has approved three trillion, three Hundred and Seventy-five billion, seven hundred and seventy-six thousand, seven hundred and
ninety ninety-four naira, ninety-three kobo as budgetary and two trillion, four hundred and twenty billion, nine hundred and forty million, and, eight hundred and ninety-four thousand, one hundred and ninety-one naira as income from Statutory and non Statutory Sources, which brings the total sum to six trillion naira given to the Niger Delta Development Commission.
He said it was also on record that the execution of over 13, 777 projects in the oil-rich region was substantially compromised.
Buhari noted that the Federal government is also concerned about multitudes of Niger Delta development commission’s bank accounts amounting to 362 and lack of proper reconciliation of accounts.
He stated that the call for the audit by the people of the Niger Delta Region arose from the huge gaps between resources invested in the region vis a vis the huge gap in infrastructural, human and economic development.
Buhari said he was not oblivious of the interest generated by Stakeholders towards the forensic audit exercise and the agitation for the constitution of the Board of the NDDC.
He went on: “However, this Administration is determined to address challenges militating against the delivery of the mandate of the NDDC to the people of the Niger Delta
“It is in the broader context of the foregoing developments that I recently signed into law the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) which has been a contentious issue over the years for successive governments, to bring about the prudence and accountability in the Petroleum Sector and to give a sense of participation and ownership to the host communities.”
According to him, the report on the forensic audit of the NNDC and recommendations will be critically analysed for necessary action and implementation.
“We owe it a duty to the people of the Niger Delta Region to improve their standard of living through the provision of adequate infrastructural and socio-economic development.
“The welfare and socio-economic inclusion of the Niger Delta Region is paramount to the development and security of the Region and by extension the country.
“Funds spent on development activities should as a consequence promote political and socio-economic stability in the Region,” Buhari added.
Earlier in his remarks, Akpabio disclosed that the auditors have concluded the examination and documentation of a total of 13,777 contracts for projects and programmes awarded to Contractors and consultants in all Niger Delta States from 2001-August 2019, at a total final contract value of N 3,274.206,032,213.24.
According to Akpabio, the name and identity of a vast number of beneficiary companies were also captured as well.
His words: “Via Field Verification, the Forensic Auditors established the exact status of all contracts for projects and programmes in all constituent states during the period under review classified into completed, ongoing, abandoned, terminated, taken-over and non-existence.”
The Minister disclosed that the auditors also focused on funding gaps, Irregularities, mismanagements and Due Proces Violations/Conflicts of interest.
He went on: “A Personnel Audit and Review of the governance and organisational structure of NDDC was also carried out. An operational guideline/Manual and a fit-for-purpose organogram that would aid the transformation of NDDC to a globally competitive development agency has been developed as well.
“Available financial records of the commission were analysed with the aim of establishing the total amount of funds received by the Commission from all sources, both statutory and non-statutory and the total funds and other resources paid to contractors as well as the total amount outstanding as debts with regards to such projects within the period under reference.
“The Auditors have also provided policy recommendations, in terms of measures that should be taken to ensure the prevention of such irregularities and mismanagement, going forward.
“With utmost respect Sir, I crave the indulgence of Your Excellency that after my speech, the Lead Forensic Auditors will present to you a quick summary of their Findings and Recommendations.”
Lagos Assembly moves to end open grazing, considers VAT bill
The Lagos State House of Assembly says the Prohibition of Open Cattle Grazing Bill, when passed will ensure harmonious relationships between herders and farmers in the state.
The assembly made this known after the bill was read on the floor of the house for the second time, by the Acting Clerk, Olalekan Onafeko, at plenary on Monday.
It said the bill would also protect the environment of the state and the South-west zone.
The House also read for the first and second time, the state’s Value Added Tax (VAT) bill, and asked the Committee on Finance, which was handling it to report back on Thursday.
The Speaker of the House, Mudashiru Obasa, who described the Prohibition of Open Cattle Grazing Bill’ as timely, thereafter, committed the bill to the committee on agriculture for public hearing.
The speaker also suggested that the bill should make provision for the registration of herders, and prepare them for ranching.
“Allocating parcel of land is not enough, but there should also be training for those who will go into ranching, as ranching is expensive and requires adequate preparation,” he added.
Concerning the VAT bill, the speaker said it would further lead to an increase in revenue and infrastructural development.
”This is in line with fiscal federalism that we have been talking about,” he said.
Mr Obasa said the VAT law, when passed, would help the state meet challenges in its various sectors.
He also urged the Lagos State government to do everything legally possible, to ensure the judgment of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, was sustained even up to the Supreme Court.
The speaker lamented a situation where about N500 billion would be generated from the state, while N300 billion was generated from other South-west states, but paltry amounts would be disbursed to Lagos State in return.
Mr Obasa said it was an opportunity for the state to emphasise again, the need for the consideration of true federalism.
Speaking earlier on the bill on open grazing, Bisi Yusuff (Alimosho 1) lamented that farmers had continuously become afraid to visit their farms, thus causing shortage of food.
Mr Yusuff also said many farmers had become indebted, as they now found it difficult to pay back loans they secured.
His position was supported by Kehinde Joseph (Alimosho 2) who noted that the bill would ensure peaceful coexistence, reduce crime and help to guide the activities of herders.
Olumoh Lukeman (Ajeromi-Ifelodun 1) suggested that the high court should be made to handle cases from enforcement of the bill when passed, or that the state should establish special courts for such purpose.
Also, Gbolahan Yishawu (Eti-Osa 1) expressed support for the bill, noting that it would give a level of security to the state and help reduce economic losses.
He added that Lagos had 250 hectares of land in Ikorodu and another 750 hectares in Epe for ranching.
David Setonji (Badagry II), said: “There was a time we went on oversight function in a school here in Lagos. We were embarrassed by cattle. We had to wait for the herder to move the cattle before we embarked on our oversight function.”
Mr Setonji suggested a collaboration between the Neighbourhood Safety Corps and the police, in the implementation of the law when passed and assented to.
Other lawmakers who contributed during the plenary were Adedamola Kasunmu (Ikeja II), Rasheed Makinde Ifako Ijaiye II), and Sanni Okanlawon (Kosofe I).
Ngige: FG to recover millions wrongly paid to 588 doctors
The federal government says it is planning to recover “millions of naira wrongly paid to 588 medical doctors” across the country.
While fielding questions from state house correspondents, Chris Ngige, minister of labour and employment, said the affected doctors wrongly benefitted from the medical residency training fund meant for a particular category of doctors.
The minister said the names of the doctors were uncovered after a scrutinisation of the 8000 names submitted by chief medical directors of federal government health institutions for the training programme.
Ngige said a substantial amount of the money has been refunded by some of the affected doctors while efforts are being intensified to recover the remaining balance.
He said the delay in making the refund by the affected doctors is holding back the residency fund payment by the government.
“Ministry of health has gotten the list of doctors who supposedly are to benefit from the medical residency training fund,” he said.
“Total submission of about 8000 names were gotten and the ministry of health is scrutinising them.
“We have done the first round of scrutinisation and they will now compare what they have with the Post-Graduate Medical College and the chief medical directors who submitted the names.
“The Association of Resident Doctors, in each of the tertiary centres, worked with the CMDs to produce those names, but now that the names are being verified.
“We discovered that about 2000 names shouldn’t be there because they don’t have what is called Postgraduate Reference Numbers of National Postgraduate Medical College and (or) that of the West African Postgraduate Medical College.
“So, this is it and that is the only thing holding back the residency fund payment because it is there already for incurred expenditure has been done by the finance minister and it’s in the accountant-general’s office.”
“So, once they verify the authenticity of those they are submitting, the Accountant-General will pay.
“We are doing that verification because we do not want what happened last time in 2020 to reoccur.
“In 2020, the submitted names didn’t come through the appropriate source, which is the Postgraduate Medical College and payment was affected and it was discovered that about 588 persons, who were not resident doctors benefited from such money.
“They are now finding it difficult to make the full refund. But they have to refund that money. Some are refunding, but there is no full consideration of the account.
“That account has to be reconciled to enable the accountants pay the next round of funding for 2021.”
The National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) has been on strike for a month over “irregular payment of salaries”, among other issues.
Efforts by stakeholders, including the national assembly, to mediate between the federal government and the resident doctors have not yielded results.
Insecurity: Kaduna suspends weekly market, bans livestock transportation
The Kaduna State government has suspended trading at the popular weekly Kawo market.
The order on Thursday came days after the government suspended similar markets in five other local government areas of the state.
Kawo market is one of the largest weekly markets in Kaduna North.
It is located in the same area as the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), the Hassan Usman Katsina House popularly know as State House and the Legislative Quarters.
According to a statement by the state commissioner of Internal Security and Homeland Affairs, Samuel Aruwan, on Thursday, “the Kawo weekly market which usually holds every Tuesday in Kaduna North LGA has been suspended with immediate effect”.
“The Government of Kaduna State wishes to highlight that the previous directives suspending weekly markets, and selling of petrol in jerrycans in Birnin Gwari, Giwa, Chikun, Igabi and Kajuru LGAs, as well as banning the felling of trees for timber, firewood and charcoal and other commercial purposes in Birnin Gwari, Kachia, Kajuru, Giwa, Chikun, Igabi and Kauru LGAs, are still in force.
“Citizens are hereby informed that all these directives will be vigorously enforced by security agencies.”
Also, the statement said the state government banned the transportation of livestock.
“The ban also prohibits the transportation of livestock into Kaduna state from other states. Both bans take effect immediately, from today 2nd September 2021.
“The government also wishes to reiterate that the transportation of donkeys into the state is a criminal offence and anyone found engaging in this will be prosecuted accordingly.”
Kawo Market ban
Many traders who spoke with news men in Kaduna welcomed the suspension of the weekly Kawo market.
Apart from the larger weekly trading, trading also takes place daily among residents of the neighbourhood.
Danladi Bala, a grain transporter, said the state government’s decision to suspend weekly trading in the market is right.
“Yes, we are traders here, but the recent suspension of weekly markets in other local government areas will make the Kawo market the target for criminal activities. They will all come here. It is a wise decision from the government,” he said.
Hajiya Mama, a trader, also said she was not suprised by the announcement.
“I trade in the market, but in the last two weeks we have been witnessing the influx of traders with large commodities.
“With the closure of weekly markets in Zamfara and other part of the state, this market will be an option for good or bad traders,” she said.
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