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CBN links #EndSARS campaigners to terrorism

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The Central Bank of Nigeria got a Federal High Court in Abuja to freeze the accounts of 20 #EndSARS campaigners after saying money in their accounts could be linked to terrorist activities.

This is contained in a written address in support of a motion ex parte filed by the CBN.

The CBN last month secured an ex parte order to freeze the accounts.

In the case with suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/1384/2020, filed before Justice A. R. Mohammed, the CBN, however, made no mention of the fact that the 20 accounts were owned by persons involved in the #EndSARS protests, but told the court that the funds might have emanated from terrorist activities.

The written address read in part, “My lord, the nature of the transactions undertaken through the defendants’ accounts are of suspected terrorism financing in contravention of Section 13(1)(a)and(b) of the Terrorism (Prevention)(Amendment) Act, 2013 and Regulation 31(2)(a)and (3)(b) of the Central Bank of Nigeria Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism Regulations, 2013.”

In a supporting affidavit deposed to by one Aondowase Jacob on behalf of the CBN, it was stated that the Head of the Economic Intelligence Unit of the Governor’s Department, CBN, Joseph Omayuku, had conducted an investigation on the accounts of the defendants and other individuals and entities held with certain banks in Nigeria.

According to the affidavit, the investigation showed that the owners of the accounts may have been involved in terrorist activities.

It added, “There is a grave allegation that the defendants are involved in suspected terrorism financing via their bank accounts in contravention of the provisions of extant laws and regulations. The aforesaid transactions undertaken by the defendants, using their bank accounts, can cause significant economic and security harm to the public and the Federal Republic of Nigeria if left unchecked.

“The applicant (CBN governor) is thus desirous to have the court empower him to direct the freezing of the 20 accounts listed on the annexure to this application and all other bank accounts held by the defendants.

“A freezing order of this honourable court in respect of the defendants’ accounts would also enable the investigation of the activities of the defendants to a logical conclusion with a view to reporting same to the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit.”

The apex bank said unless the order was granted, it would not be able to ensure that the money remained intact, while investigations were ongoing.

The 20 accounts frozen by the CBN are domiciled in Access Bank, Guaranty Trust Bank, Fidelity Bank, United Bank for Africa and Zenith Bank.

The accounts were said to have been flagged after they received money with the narration #EndSARS.

One of the frozen accounts, marked 0056412470 and domiciled in Access Bank, belongs to Bolatito Olorunrinu Oduala, an #EndSARS campaigner, who was appointed into the Lagos State judicial panel set up by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu.

Another frozen account marked 0033974485 and domiciled in Access Bank belongs to Bassey Israel, the medical team coordinator for the #EndSARS protests in Port Harcourt.

Similarly, an account marked 0054676984 domiciled in Access Bank belongs to Gatefield Nigeria Limited, which paid freelance journalists to cover the protests.

Justice Mohammed froze the accounts for 180 days subject to renewal, but said anyone who was not satisfied with the ruling was free to challenge it.

Freezing protesters’ accounts illegal – Yesufu

A leading member of the #EndSARS protesters, Aisha Yesufu, described the freezing of the #EndSARS protesters’ accounts as illegal, noting that the government “is behaving like a terrorist.”

She questioned the freezing of the accounts ahead of the court injunction ordering the banks to block the accounts.

Yesufu stated, “The question is, why did they freeze the accounts before obtaining a court injunction? Why the illegality? Our judiciary should know that it is an independent arm of government and there is separation of power.

“The government should be ashamed of itself. The United Arab Emirates just convicted some Nigerians, who were accused of terrorism, and we are hearing that the government would appeal on their behalf. That is where the problem is.”

The activist accused the Federal Government of pampering insurgents, while bearing down on peaceful and harmless protesters.

She added, “#EndSARS campaigners are protesters and they protested the way the Constitution allows, so all these are shenanigans. They had better focus on the terrorists.

“Bandits are laying down their arms and they are taking them to Government Houses, while Boko Haram members are being given preferential treatment, but Nigerians, who were protesting, were being killed by the government. The government is the one behaving like a terrorist right now.”

-The Punch

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Auto finance: CBN, NADDC discuss new options for vehicle buyers

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The Director General of the National Auotomotive Design and Development Council, Jelani Aliyu, says the agency has commenced discussions with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to design workable solutions for auto financing to make vehicle purchase affordable for Nigerians.

He stated this in a presentation made at the 9th Annual Transport Lecture organized by Transport Day Newspapers, with the theme, ‘Nigeria’s Transportation For Development: Sectoral Achievements, Prospects and Challenges’, held in Abuja.

“We had a meeting with the CBN yesterday on auto financing. We want to work out a solution that would enable Nigerians to buy new vehicles and pay over a period of six years,” he said.

The NADDC boss said the move was part of the agency’s efforts geared towards promoting and enhancing value addition in the transport cum automotive sector of the economy by creating a conducive business climate to further enhance investment inflow and industrialization.

Aliyu also said the NADDC was rapidly shifting attention to carbonless transport system in Nigeria in a bid to develop and promote advanced transport technology in the automotive industry.

He said, “This is because, vehicle electrification is inevitable, it is the future of automotive industry worldwide and we are working assiduously towards achieving its comprehensive and sustainable adoption in Nigeria.

“There is no gainsaying the fact that poor maintenance culture of vehicles in the transport sector contributes immensely to environmental pollution. The use of EVs that have advanced technology will not only curb these excesses but will also lead to more productivity in the industry.

“Currently, one of our top focus areas is scaling up production of applicable electric vehicles locally, to enable Nigeria meet its target for the Paris Accord and 2060 net zero commitment, both on reducing harmful gas emissions from vehicles” he said.

He further stated the NADDC recently set up a technical committee on electric vehicle development plan aimed at drawing up a comprehensive development programme for vehicle electrification in Nigeria.

According to the NADDC boss, this plan will also ensure that made-in Nigeria EVs are of world standards and compete favourably in the global market.

“As a pilot scheme project, the NADDC has established 100% Solar Powered EV Charging Stations at Usman Danfodio University Sokoto, University of Lagos and University of Nigeria Nsukka and also discussing with other stakeholders for collaboration in establishing more charging infrastructure all over the country.

“In conclusion, NADDC is committed to establishing and giving support to development programmes that will aid the Nigerian transport sector.

“I therefore urge all stakeholders to begin to think of a paradigm shift from the conventional vehicles to carbonless transportation system and key into the vehicle electrification projects of the Council with a view to achieving cleaner air in Nigeria.”

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Subscribers kick as FG slams N90.49bn new tax on phone calls

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…telcos meet govt this week over new tax, others

Telecommunication subscribers are kicking against a new Federal Government directive to impose a tax on telephone calls in the nation to fund free healthcare for the vulnerable.

The telecom tax in the equivalent of a minimum of one kobo per second for phone calls is a part of the sources of funds required to finance free healthcare for the Vulnerable Group in Nigeria, according to the National Health Insurance Authority Bill 2021 signed by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), last week.

According to the Nigerian Communications Commission, Nigerians made 150.83 billion minutes of calls in 2020. This translates to 9.05 trillion seconds of calls, meaning the new tax will generate 9.05 trillion kobo, which converts to N90.49bn, yearly.

This new tax is coming despite moves by telecom companies to increase the price of calls, SMS, and data by 40 per cent as a result of an unfavourable operating environment.

According to the Health Insurance Act, the Vulnerable Group Fund is money budgeted to pay for healthcare services for vulnerable Nigerians who cannot pay for health insurance in a bid to subsidise the cost of provision of health care services to vulnerable people in the country.

It added that the Vulnerable Group Fund will subsidise the provision of healthcare to children under five, pregnant women, the aged, physically and mentally challenged, and the indigent as may be defined from time to time.

The Act includes a provision under Section 26 subsection 1c which states that one of the sources of money for the Vulnerable Group Fund shall include a telecommunications tax, not less than one kobo per second of GSM calls.

Other sources of funding outlined in the Act includes a basic healthcare provision fund to the authority; health insurance levy; telecommunications tax, not less than one kobo per second of GSM calls; money that may be allocated to the Vulnerable Group Fund by the government; motley that accrues to the Vulnerable Group Fund from investments made by the Council: and grants, donations, gifts, and any other voluntary contributions made to the Vulnerable Group Fund.

According to the new Act, every resident in Nigeria is expected to obtain health insurance.

However, telecom subscribers under the aegis of National Association of Telecoms Subscribers, have said they will reject this new move by the government.

The President of the association, Adeolu Ogunbanjo, said, “It is quite unfortunate that the government is viewing telecoms as a cash cow. We are saying. There is a lot of corruption in the system, and rather than curb that they want to focus on the telecoms sector.

“What do they mean by vulnerable? Vulnerable people in the nation are probably about 80 per cent of the population, we are all vulnerable. What has happened to the health budget? Why should it touch telecoms again? The government should look elsewhere for money. This new action is only likely to impoverish more Nigerians and they are masquerading as helping the vulnerable. This is not right.”

Recently, telecom companies wrote to the Federal Government, through the Nigerian Communications Commission, on the worsening conditions of the industry.

According to a source at the Association of Licensed Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria, telecom companies cannot reject a directive of the government. The source said subscribers would pay more for calls once the tax is implemented.

He added that the NCC and ALTON would meet this week in order to discuss the issues disturbing the industry.

He said, “We are aware of the tax. We had been told before. It is the subscribers that would have to pay for this. This means subscribers will pay more for this service. Telcos cannot say no to this. It is a government directive; we can’t resist the government. I can’t say more about it.

“We are having a leadership summit with the NCC this week and we would discuss some of these issues with the NCC. Presently, telcos are paying more than 36 taxes. This is a law; we cannot reverse it. The president has signed it and before it can be changed, it must go back to the National Assembly.

“Also, we cannot give an implementation date, the government is to tell us that.”

Commenting on the act on his LinkedIn page, the Fiscal Policy Partner, and Africa Tax Leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Taiwo Oyedele, said this new law would translate to a nine per cent tax on GSM calls.

Punch

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No Plan to Withdraw Naira Notes from Circulation, Says CBN

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The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Saturday dispelled rumours that it planned to replace the Naira notes in circulation with digital currency, otherwise known as the eNaira, in due course.
CBN Director, Corporate Communications Department, Mr. Osita Nwanisobi, said the statement purportedly made at  stakeholders’ engagement on eNaira adoption in Asaba, Delta was misconstrued and therefore called on the public to completely disregard it.

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