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How ex-governors, others acquired 800 Dubai, London assets

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Many past and current state governors, not less than 35, and about 300 former political office holders in Nigeria have been linked with multi-billion choice properties in London and Dubai, it was learnt on Tuesday.

Over $400m was said to have been spent by these prominent Nigerians to acquire 800 properties in the eyebrow areas of the two countries.

Some of those named include a North-West governor, two former deputy presidents of the Senate and a former national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Others are 15 former ministers; one judge; 14 police chiefs, security and military chiefs; lawmakers; five staff members in the Presidency; 11 officers of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC); and 16 heads of departments and agencies.

Also on the list are 50 businessmen serving as fronts for Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs); 158 suspected PEP proxies; and 13 known Nigerian law enforcement agency suspects.

According to a report by The Nation, the facts and figures, including names, revealed on Tuesday by an Associate Fellow, Chatham House, Mr Mathew Page, in a presentation at a training session by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).

The Zoom session was tagged “Capacity building for investigators on investigating Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs)”.

Page’s paper focused on “IFFs through the Real Estate and Education sectors: Implications for investigators.”

He listed the Real Estate sector and payment of school fees abroad as means being used by High-Risk PEPs to launder stolen funds abroad, especially in Dubai, the United Kingdom and the United States.

He said PEPs and public officers in Nigeria used to engage in Illicit Financial Flows in the Real Estate sector “both as a means to launder money and as something to spend launder money on.”

On laundering in Dubai, Page said it has been possible for high-profile Nigerians because of “global nexus of IFFs, accessibility, permeability, reliability and affordability.”

He said the UAE had also been “reluctant to cooperate and share information.”

Page said, “There are 800 plus properties linked to Nigerian PEPs. They are worth $400million plus.

He said while a serving governor in the Northwest has eight Dubai properties ($5million), a former PDP national chairman acquired 11 Dubai and two London homes at $18million.

He said a former Deputy Senate President secured 14 Dubai properties at $12million and one of his successors bought eight Dubai assets and three UK properties at $15million.

Page said it has been easy to transfer large sums out of Nigeria by PEPs and public officers because of “permissive environment, techniques used to avoid detection, the role of professional enablers, commercial banks, Bureau De Change and cash couriers.

He said Nigerian PEPs have also been using proxies, families, shell companies and links to trade-based money laundering.

He asked anti-corruption investigators in Nigeria to “examine bank transfers to Dubai, verify asset declarations, investigate middlemen and property marketers.”

On the IFFs to the United Kingdom, he gave six examples of how top Nigerians allegedly used payment of school fees to launder money.

Page said, “Former Plateau State Governor  Joshua Dariye was charged with corruption in 2007 and convicted in 2018. Despite facing corruption charges, he was able to send his children to UK boarding schools and universities. His children have not been implicated in any wrongdoing.) Estimated Fees Paid: £240,000+

“A senior Nigerian legislator who has been a career politician for the last 25 years had children attending independent British schools and universities. The politician also owns several high-end properties in United Kingdom. Estimated Fees paid: £665,000+

“In 2012, a British court convicted former Delta Sate governor James Ibori of fraud and money laundering. Despite this conviction, he continued to send his children to UK schools and universities. (Note: His children have not been implicated in any wrongdoing.) Estimated Fees paid: £286,000+

“A prominent career politician from Northern Nigeria with minimal income outside official earnings sent several children to UK private schools and universities. The politician’s spouse allegedly owns high-end property in the United Kingdom. Estimated Fees paid: £861,000+”

“A career Nigerian politician who has served in various government positions over two decades sent children to top British boarding schools and universities .The politician also owns high-end property in the United Kingdom. Estimated Fees paid: £447000+

“A prominent career politician from Southern Nigeria sent multiple children to top British boarding schools and universities. The politician also owns luxury property in the United Kingdom. Estimated Fees paid: £343,000+”

The Chairman of ICPC, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye (SAN), said the commission had dragged about 2,000 corporate entities into the country’s tax net.

He made the disclosure in Abuja while responding to questions from reporters at the end of the capacity building training for investigators

He said the 2,000 corporate entities were discovered during investigations carried out by the commission, adding that their names have been forwarded to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) for profiling.

He said: “Some of these entities are not registered and do not pay tax while others are registered, but still do not pay tax. The ICPC has been able to recover significant amount in taxes for the government.”

Owasanoye added: “The loss of revenue is a major challenge to developing countries, particularly Nigeria. The meeting is therefore, designed to build the capacity of our investigators to enable them trace the areas in which the government is losing money, look for the likely places people hide money, stop the illicit financial flows, and recover the funds.

“We are already working with the FIRS and getting a lot of tax evaders and defaulters into the nation’s tax net. One of the takeaways from here is the kind of question an investigator needs to ask in tracking IFFs and money laundering.”

The ICPC boss said it was necessary to “widen the revenue base, improve tax collection, combat tax evasion and illicit financial flows as well as asset recovery to improve the country’s finances.”

 

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Naira redesign hardships: We’ll reconvene before elections if… – Gbajabiamila

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Speaker of the House of Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila
The speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has said that the House would have no option but to reconvene before the February 25 elections if the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, failed to address the hardships Nigerians face due to the currency swap policy.
A statement by the spokesman for the speaker, Lanre Lasisi, Mr Gbajabiamila said the House would continue to monitor the CBN’s implementation of the policy closely following the Green Chamber’s meeting with the CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, on the issue.
Speaking during a town hall meeting with some ethnic groups in Surulere, Lagos, on Sunday, Mr Gbajabiamila said he was on the verge of signing an arrest warrant against Emefiele following his initial failure to appear before an ad hoc panel of the House.
“The House of Representatives intervened on several occasions. We summoned the CBN governor the first time and again, but he refused to answer, because we had many hard questions for him.
“It was until I issued the threat of warrant of arrest before he came, and I would’ve signed that warrant; it would’ve been the first time in the history of National Assembly that a CBN governor would be arrested. I would’ve done it.
“Many have argued on the independence of CBN, the autonomy of CBN. That does not make CBN above the law. The constitution gives the House the power to issue an arrest warrant against anyone, we can summon anybody, and that was exactly what the House was going to do until the CBN governor came.
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“So, we are watching, and we are monitoring very closely. If need be, we will reconvene the House, even though we’ve all been away for our elections. I will call the House back, if need be.”
Mr Gbajabiamila also said that amidst the ongoing hardship, the presidential candidate of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has identified with Nigerians and faulted the implementation of the policy at this time, which necessitated the extension of the deadline for the collection of the old currency.
“On the currency swap, let me explain something to you. We are all very intelligent people. Many are suffering, we have paid your salary, and you cannot withdraw it; people cannot eat, what kind of thing is that?
“But I have news for you. There’s one man who is running for president of this country, and that man has courage and audacity. This man came out boldly and identified the problem, that the fifth columnists, in cooperation with the PDP are the ones trying to sabotage this election.
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“Many have said he’s talking about Buhari, but he told them ‘no, I’m not talking about Buhari; I’m talking about fifth columnists.’ If you don’t know the meaning of fifth columnists, go and check your dictionary. Fifth columnists infiltrate people, they even infiltrate families, otherwise how do you explain this type of policy?
“The president, being a compassionate person that he is, has asked for a few more days to look at everything that is going on and see if anything could change. We pray that things will change. If nothing changes, we will intervene again, but be sure of one thing: that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu stands with you and stands with Nigerians in their suffering.
“He was the first to shout that what is going on? He has cried, he has begged, he has screamed that people are suffering, what did the PDP candidate say? He said, ‘no, CBN don’t listen to them; you must not extend this thing; let people continue to suffer.’ That is what the PDP candidate said. He said it publicly.
“So, you have the tale of two presidential candidates: one who stands with the people and says this currency swap must stop; the second one says,’ no, it cannot stop, it’s a good policy. CBN, don’t listen to him. Let the people continue to suffer.’ I leave the rest to you to determine who is with you and who is against you.”
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Osinbajo picks holes in naira redesign policy, says scarcity of notes ‘is disturbing’

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Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo

Osinbajo on Friday urged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to engage financial technology companies (fintechs) as well as mobile money agents to address the issue of getting new naira notes across the country.

Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo, the second man in the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, has described as “disturbing” the inability of Nigerians to have access to the new naira notes and the ongoing naira scarcity which has caused protest nationwide.

Osinbajo on Friday urged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to engage financial technology companies (fintechs) as well as mobile money agents to address the issue of getting new naira notes across the country.

Osibanjo, in a meeting with some fintech stakeholders, expressed worries over the difficulty in getting new naira notes and advised the CBN and commercial banks to address the situation immediately.

“You need cash to pay for transport. For instance, in Abuja, how do you take ‘drop or along’ or use a Keke NAPEP without cash, or buy foodstuff on the road or in canteens, or even buy recharge cards?” Osinbajo said, according to a release by Laolu Akande, his spokesperson.

“Parents with kids in public schools give money daily to their children for lunch, most commerce is informal, so you need cash for most things.

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“It seems to me that banks must engage their mobile money operators. Fintechs with mobile money licenses and many of them have micro-finance bank licenses now and already have a network of mobile money agents or human banks or human ATMs (as they are sometimes called) who are responsible for them and they can supervise themselves. They can do currency swaps and open bank accounts.”

Speaking further on the redesign of the naira notes, Osinbajo lamented the scarcity of the new notes.

“More disturbing is the fact that after depositing your old notes, there are no new notes, so people everywhere in the urban areas and rural areas simply have no money,” he said.

“There are logistical challenges that have to be addressed by the CBN and the banks, especially from the point of view of the average Nigerian and those in the hinterland who hardly use any electronic platforms.”

Osinbajo also said while there has always been a certain failure rate in online banking and money transactions, they have become even more difficult now with the increase in the number of transactions congesting the system.

 “So where in the past you used POS or any of the electronic platforms, you had maybe 20 percent to 30 percent failure rate, now because everyone is trying to get on those platforms, obviously, the failure rate is much more and the problems are much more pronounced,” the Vice President noted.

“We really need to make progress even as we make efforts to deal with some of these issues confronting us today,” he said. SR

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Senate gives Aregbesola 24hrs to defend N700m collected to monitor Edo, Ondo elections

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Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola

THE Senate has given the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola twenty- four hours ultimatum to appear before it and defend the N700 million the ministry  collected from Service Wide Votes, SWV for the monitoring of Ondo and Edo Governorship elections.

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Senator Matthew Urhoghide gave the directive to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry , Dr Shuaib  Belgore due to excuse by the Ministry that the N700 million would  be accounted for by the Nigerian Civil Defence Corps (NSDC).

According to the Committee, from the record, the money was released in two batches, N400 million for Ondo Governorship election and N300 million for Edo Governorship Election.

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This is contained in the Authority to Incur Expenditure (AIE), a document produced by the office of the Accountant General of the Federation which shows that  N400 million was released  to the Ministry of Interior for logistics and operational support in respect of forthcoming Ondo state gubernatorial election.

The second release read that N300 million was released to the Ministry of Interior for logistics and operational support in respect of forthcoming Edo state gubernatorial election.

According to the Permanent Secretary, it is the NSDC that will account for the money, we only make request on behalf of the NSDC.

Not satisfied with the defence of the Permanent Secretary, the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Urhoghide  said that the excuse was  not tenable because the NSDC did not collect the money , it was the Ministry that collected the money.

Urhoghide who noted that the NSDC will only come before the Committee to account for the money requested personally from Service Wide Votes, said, ” NSDC has their own queries , they are coming before the Panel to respond to the one that bears their names, they have the money given to them directly.

“From our records, it is your ministry that will defend the expenditures not NSDC.”

The Chairman who  thereafter gave the Ministry 24 hours to defend the N700 million for the Edo and Ondo governorship elections, said, ” You have 24 hours to make your report available to us, we must get explanation from you.”

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