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FG stunned by Atiku’s alleged frustration to sell shares in Intels

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Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has expressed surprise at the allegation by former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar that the Federal Government’s frustration of his businesses prompted his divestment from Integrated Logistic Services (INTELS) Nigeria Limited, the country’s largest logistics company providing comprehensive services for the nation’s oil and gas industry.

Atiku, the presidential candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the last general election, explained that he sold off his shares in the company, which in 2015 he described as his most lucrative business, because of the alleged plots by the FG to destroy his business.

Reacting to the allegation, the minister asked for more time to make consultations and find out which policies of the Federal Government adversely affected Atiku’s business and forced him to sell off his shares in INTELS.

He said, “I will not be able to make any comment for now. I need to make consultations so that I will know which area of the Federal Government’s policies has impacted on his businesses; give me some time.”

Atiku, in a statement by his media aide, Paul Ibe, said the former vice president was forced to sell his shares in Intels to Orlean-Invest Group, Intels’ parent company, for various amounts totalling over $100 million in the deal that spanned two years.

Intels has had a running battle with the federal government, culminating in the cancellation of its 17-year-old contract with the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) for pilotage monitoring.

The Federal Government had in October 2017 directed the NPA to terminate the boats pilotage monitoring and supervision agreement that the agency has with Intels, saying that the contract was void ab initio.

The NPA had also accused Intels of refusing to remit to the federal government service boat pilotage revenue in the firm’s custody, which amounted to $207.646 million (N78.905 billion) as at September 30, 2019.

NPA said the money was aside from service boat pilotage revenue for January 1, 2020 to July 31, 2020 amounting to $97.029 million, which adds up to $307.675 million (N115.775 billion) in the custody of Intels.

However, Intels had denied owing NPA to the tune of $145.8 million, insisting that NPA owes it over $750 million, giving to a possible recourse to litigation to resolve the dispute.

It was learnt that Atiku was paid $60 million, $29 million, $24.1 million in three instalments.

Intels also confirmed the deal, saying it had severed ties with Atiku and his family.

Atiku, in the statement, said he was redirecting his businesses through reinvestments.

He accused the government of destroying businesses meant to create jobs for Nigerians.

He said there should be a difference between politics and business.

The statement said, “Co-founder of Integrated Logistics Services Nigeria Limited (Intels), Atiku Abubakar, has been selling his shares in Intels over the years.

“It assumed greater urgency in the last five years, because this government has been preoccupied with destroying a legitimate business that was employing thousands of Nigerians because of politics.

“There should be a marked difference between politics and business. Yes, he has sold his shares in Intels and redirected his investment to other sectors of the economy for returns and creation of jobs.”

Also reacting, Intels said it had severed ties with Atiku, a major shareholder, and his family after the former vice president, through the family trust, Guernsey Trust International, sold his shares to Orlean-Invest Group, Intels’ parent company, between December 2018 and January 2019.

In a statement entitled: ‘Intels severs ties with Atiku,’ its spokesman, Mr. Tommaso Ruffinoni, the company, however, stated, “In the period between April and May 2020, Mr. Atiku Abubakar converted his remaining shares into a convertible bond that he subsequently monetised up to a residual sum of approximately $29m.

“When he requested to cash in the above-mentioned sum, our group contested to Mr. Atiku Abubakar a debt, towards our group, of $24.1m. Without having received any answer regarding the matter, on 30th of November 2020, Mr. Atiku Abubakar was informed about the set-off of such sum while we made available the remaining sum of $5.4m.

“With the completion of the above-mentioned transactions, the era of Mr. Atiku Abubakar family’s involvement with the Group Orlean-Intels is over.

“On 1st December 2020, our group terminated also the working relationship with Mr. Abubakar’s sons, Mr. Adamu Atiku-Abubakar and Mr. Aminu Atiku-Abubakar, and since that date, our group does not have any contacts, neither direct nor indirect, with members of Mr. Atiku Abubakar’s family.”

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Tesla driverless car explodes after crashing into tree

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Two men have died after a Tesla vehicle, which was believed to be operating without anyone in the driver’s seat, crashed into a tree on Saturday night north of Houston, authorities said.

After the fire was extinguished, authorities located two occupants in the vehicle, with one in the front passenger seat and the other in the back seat of the Tesla

The accident came amid growing scrutiny over Tesla’s semi-automated driving system following recent accidents.

The US auto safety agency said in March it had opened 27 investigations into crashes of Tesla vehicles.

“There was no-one in the driver’s seat,” Sergeant Cinthya Umanzor of the Harris County Constable Precinct 4 said.

The 2019 Tesla Model S was travelling at high speed when it failed to negotiate a curve and went off the road, crashing into a tree and bursting into flames, local television station KHOU-TV said.

Tesla and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said in January that he expected huge profits from the company’s full self-driving software, saying he was “highly confident the car will be able to drive itself with reliability in excess of human this year”.

Experts say the self-driving technology must overcome safety and regulatory hurdles to achieve commercial success.

-Reuters

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We resisted governors’ pressure to borrow for March shortfall – Zainab Ahmed

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Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, has said the Federal Government rejection a suggestion by state governors to borrow from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to augment the N50 billion federation account allocation committee (FAAC) shortfall in March.

She stated this on Monday while featuring on the Good Morning Nigeria programme, a daily breakfast show on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA).

Recall that Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki had alleged that the FG printed N60 billion to support March federal allocation to states.

But the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, dismissed Obaseki’s claim describing it as “unfortunate and totally inappropriate.”

Ahmed said that whenever there was a reduction in federal allocation, the Federal Government would take money from some reserve accounts, adding however that in the case of March allocation which fell short by N50 billion, all state governments were asked to manage their resources.

“It is a difficult time, I can explain to you how difficult it is not just for the Federal Government but also for the states, we see increasing reduction in our FAAC revenue,” she said.

The minister also said, “In the month of March, we had a shortfall of FAAC that is almost about N50 billion and we did not have enough accrued in any of those accounts, the states to be honest wanted us to borrow from the Central Bank, but we resisted, we just told everybody to go back to live within what they had.

“So it was very surprising for us when we heard a sitting governor saying that the CBN had printed money for FAAC; that was very unfortunate because it is not true.”

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Mercedes-Benz stuns with another seven-seater crossover SUV

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A few days after Mercedes-Benz revealed what it calls the mother of all electric vehicles in the form of the sophisticated EQS luxury sedan, it has added another stunning product to the Mercedes-EQ family of cars, the EQB.

This is a seven-seater, crossover sport utility vehicle that is to the GLB-class what the EQA is to the GLA.

Car and Driver in a report quotes the premium German automaker as saying the EQB is based on the GLB crossover.

Mercedes-Benz EQ is a series of battery electric vehicles manufactured by Mercedes-Benz. The first model was previewed at the Paris Motor Show in 2016 with the Generation EQ concept vehicle.

The EQB will be launched first in China, where it debuts in a luxuriously equipped all-wheel-drive version with AMG Line styling.

Europe is to have it next in three versions: front- and all-wheel-drive models and a range-optimizing mid-level EQB.

The new vehicle will however not be released to the US market until next year.

While the sheet metal and glass are identical, the styling department under Gorden Wagener has cleaned up the exterior for a more contemporary and sophisticated look.

The front is graced by the trademark EQ headlight/fascia assembly, with a horizontal light bar stretching over the entire width.

This element is reflected on the tail end, which boasts a horizontal light strip as well.

There are EQ-specific colours and wheels, and there will be a choice of regular or AMG-Line front and rear bumpers.

The interior is carried over from the GLB as well, but it comes with EQ-exclusive color and trim options, including rose gold (pictured here), one of Wagener’s favorite colors.

Due to the battery packs in the floor, interior space suffers a bit: Daimler cautions that the third row will only work for people up to 5’5″ and the trunk shrinks considerably.

That said, the EQB is still a crossover SUV that offers more space than usual for its exterior dimensions.

The EQB was unveiled in China, and it will be launched there first as a fully loaded model with a standard AMG Line look, all-wheel drive, and two motors that make a combined 288 horsepower.

Europe will get both the EQB350 4Matic with around 268 horsepower and the front-wheel-drive EQB250 with 221 horsepower; there will also be a mid-level version designed as a long-range model. Both China and Europe will see the EQB at dealers within the 2021 calendar year.

The US will have to wait until 2022, and the company is mum about the possible powertrain options.

Car and Driver says, “What we can deduce from our experience with the EQA is that even the least powerful versions of the EQB will come in at around 4500 pounds, which we hope won’t translate into plodding, cumbersome handling characteristics, even if that would feel a bit less out of place in a people hauler like the EQB than in a compact hatch like the EQA.

“There will be no true AMG version, unlike on the EQS and the EQE. However, we’ll suspend judgment until we can drive it.”

 

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