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Stolen N1.5bn pension funds found in Maina’s Account, says witness

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The trial in absentia of Abdulrasheed Maina, former Chairman, Pension Reform Task Force Team, continued on Wednesday, with a startling revelation by a witness that N1.5bn of the pension funds was found in the account of the ex-PRTFT boss.

The witness also told Justice Okong Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja during the trial how N14 billion pension money was pilfered under Maina.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC is prosecuting Maina, alongside his firm, Common Input Property and Investment Ltd.

Both are facing a 12-count charge of operating fictitious bank accounts, corruption, and money laundering to the tune of N2 billion.

At the trial, counsel to Common Input Property and Investment Ltd (the second defendant), Adeola Adedipe told the court of his intention to disengage as the company’s counsel.

Though Prosecution counsel, M.S. Abubakar, acknowledged the receipt of the defence counsel’s disengagement application, dated November 25, 2020, and made no objection to it, Justice Abang, ruled that Adedipe should remain counsel to the second defendant by the court records.

The testimonies against Maina continued with that of the ninth prosecution witness, (PW9), Rouqayyah Ibrahim, a principal investigation officer with the EFCC in Anti Money Laundering and Combating Terrorism Financing (AML CFT) unit of the Commission and member, Pension Fraud Team.

He stated that he knew Maina and Input Property Investment Ltd, following the invitation of the EFCC in 2010, to join in the pension verification exercise.

According to him, a payment mandate, bearing the names of several individuals, totalling N94 million was discovered during the course of the verification.

He said some of the pensioners’ names on the list were fake, for which a report was made to the EFCC by the team, leading eventually to the creation of the Pension Fraud Team.

The Pension Fraud Team, he said, wrote to about 30 banks, requesting the bank accounts of Mr. Steven Oransanye as the Head of Service.

It turned out that Oransanye at that time, operated 66 illegal bank accounts, unknown to the Accountant General.

“Our investigation revealed that there were five modus operandi that the suspect whom we were investigating at that time was using to steal money from the pension account.

“In total, we were able to deduce that N14 billion was stolen from the pension account.

“The five modus operandi were payment to fake pensioners, non-existing contracts, illegal payment to National Union of Pension NUP and illegal payment to another association called Association of Retired Federal Civil Servants.

“We discovered that the suspect will often pay companies for non-existing biometric contract and once the payment is made, they withdraw cash and hand it over and likewise payment to the two associations of NUP and Association of Retired Federal Civil Servants.

“They will withdraw the money cash and hand it over to the person who asked them to supply the account.

“Once we concluded the investigation of those who were indicted, they were charged to court, and some have been convicted,” the witness said.

He said Abdulrasheed Maina was part of those indicted and charged before Justice I. Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, but that he ran away for six years. And was arrested and charged before the present court.

The PW9 revealed that Maina as chairman, PRTT was deeply involved in stealing pension funds. One of the things discovered was the payment of N133 million for a non-existing contract to Xanjhi Technology, a company he appointed to computerize the pension payroll.

The money was withdrawn in cash, converted to dollars and handed over to Khalid Biu (PW5), a staff of Fidelity Bank and handed over to Maina’s secretary, Ann Igwe Oluchi, who is now standing trial at FCT High Court Gwagwalada.

Xanjhi Technology and its owner, Ahmed Mazangari are also standing trial for inserting about 15 fake persons into the pension payroll which they were engaged to computerize.

Said the witness, “We also discovered that Frederick Hamilton Ltd, owned by Osa Afe, presently standing trial with Steven Oransanye who received payment for a non-existing biometric contract handed over about N250 million to Maina.

“Our investigation further revealed the existence of six accounts with Fidelity Bank. Out of the six, five were linked to Abdurrasheed Maina.

“We discovered that there was nowhere in the accounts opening packages of these accounts where the name, birthday or signatures of Abdurrasheed Maina appeared.

“These account are: Nafisatu Aliyu Yeldu (PW4) Drew Construction, also an account Kangolo Dynamic Cleaning Services Ltd, Cluster Logistics Ltd, Fatima Aliyu. He also had a personal account in his own name with Fidelity Bank, and also in the name of Dr. Abdullahi Faizal.

“For example Nafisatu Aliyu Yeldu’s account bears the name of Abdurrasheed Maina’s sister. It also bears her passport photograph.

“On the face of it, it appears the account belonged to her, but when we invited her for investigation, we discovered she didn’t know anything about the account, even though it contains her name and children but it was not her signature.

“She informed us that she remembers at one point that Toyin Meseke (PW2), who is a Fidelity Bank staff requested for her PHCN (power utility) bill but she wasn’t sure what he wanted it for and that was one of the documents that was used in opening the account.

“She also informed us that when she started receiving alerts, she contacted Toyin Meseke and he promised to deal with the issue.”

“The turnover in Yeldu’s account, the witness said, was over N300m.

“The analysis of the identity used in the opening of Abdullahi Faizal’s account, (one of the many variants of the name Maina used for his son and himself) showed that it was forged, even as Meseke, the account officer, confirmed that Maina had complete control over the account, though his name, signature and photograph did not appear anywhere in the account opening packages. The account had a turnover of about N1.5 billion within nine months from mostly cash deposits from unknown sources.

“We called for the statement of Drew Construction and of his Fidelity Bank, and discovered the same modus by Maina, concealing and stealing the identity of his family members, registering companies in their names, opening corporate bank account without their knowledge.

“In the case of Drew Construction, it was the name of his other sister, Fatima Abdullahi Aliyu. When she was confronted, it showed that she had no knowledge of the account, even though it bore her name and other similar information that belonged to her. The turnover was about N55 million all from cash deposits within a few months.

“We also discovered from Common Input, a company registered by Maina and his wife, using the details of his sister (PW2), taking advantage of his sister-in-law, Mairo Bashir (PW1), who deliberately allowed Maina to conceal his identity without doing the ‘Know Your Customer’ and allowing him to operate the accounts as Fatima Abdullahi. When Fatima was invited, we confronted her that her BVN was linked to Common Input and Kongolo Dynamic Cleaning Services Ltd and she confirmed that she did not know about the existence of the company and that Maina requested her to give her BVN so that she will be removed as a signatory from the company and she wasn’t aware of being a signatory of any company but innocently gave them the BVN, believing that will make her stop being a signatory of the said company.

Justice Abang adjourned the trial till December 3, 2020.

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More Boost for Nigeria as Oil Production Rises to 1.6mbpd

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•NNPC shops for new American IOC for Bonga South-west Aparo FID in 2024

•NCDMB to get first dividend payment from Waltersmith Refinery by year end

•Security, cost optimisation, others at front burner as NLNG, IOCs seek solutions

Nigeria is speedily recovering from the months of under-production with oil production at 1.59 million barrels per day as of yesterday, according to the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC).

The Chief Investment Officer, NNPC Upstream Investments Management Services (NUIMS), Mr. Bala Wunti, who represented the company’s Executive Vice President, Upstream, Mr. Adokiye Tombomieye, disclosed this during a panel session at the ongoing 11th Practical Nigerian Content Forum (PNC) in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.

Wunti, also said the NNPC and its partners were making significant efforts with corresponding outcomes in the upstream oil sector, revealing that the company was bringing another American oil major to take part in the Bonga Southwest/Aparo Final Investment Decision (FID) billed to take place in 2024.

Also at the forum entitled, “Deepening Nigerian Content Opportunities in the Decade of Gas”, Waltersmith Petroman Oil Limited announced that the NCDMB would get its first dividend payment from its 5000 barrels per day modular refinery in Imo State by the end of the current financial year.

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However, issues bothering on challenges of the nation’s oil and gas industry including insecurity, high operational costs, enabling fiscal policies and other such bottlenecks were at front burner as the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Limited, Shell, TotalEnergies and Chevron unanimously canvassed the need to address those problems to drive investments in the gas sector.

Speaking during the panel, which was on “Defining the Requisite Roadmap for Increased Gas Production,” Wunti said the achievement of the 1.59bpd production yesterday was resulted from the collaboration between the NNPC, its partners, the private security contractors and other stakeholders in the industry.

He said that meant that a significant quantity of the lost production volume had been recovered, adding that it represented an average of about 250,000 barrels over the last six months.

Wunti said, “I like talking about outcome and matching the outcomes with the efforts. We do know that in January, our budget is 1.8 million barrels per day.

“I’m sure His Excellency has not been getting the money that he should get from the treasury because the budget was anchored on 1.8 million barrels.

“It degenerated somewhere in July, August to about one million barrels. I’m glad to say, with the collaboration of every one of us and the private security contractor that we put in place, our production today is about 1.59 million barrels this morning. That means we have recovered significant quantity.

“On the average, about 250,000 barrels over the last six months, but on a snapshot, we have seen the 400,000 barrels increase that was deferred earlier as a result of significantly either stealing or as a result of our inability to produce as a result of environmental reasons and some other reasons.”

He, however, revealed that the company was bringing another American oil major to take part in the Bonga Southwest/Aparo Final Investment Decision (FID) billed to take place in 2024.

Bonga Southwest/Aparo is a conventional oil development located in deepwater in Nigeria and is operated by Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Limited.

Discovered in 2001, Bonga Southwest/Aparo lies in block Oil Mining Licence (OMLs 118, 140 and 132, with water depth of around 4,395 feet.

The project is currently in approval stage and was expected to start commercial production in 2026. The FID of the project was to be approved in 2022 and the development of the asset would involve the drilling of approximately 24 wells and includes Floating Production, Storage and Offloading (FPSO) and subsea trees.

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Production from the project was expected to begin in 2026 and was forecast to peak in 2027, to approximately 146,765 bpd of crude oil and condensate and 157 Mmcfd of natural gas. Based on economic assumptions, the production would continue until the field reaches its economic limit in 2059.

Also, the field was expected to recover 759.56 million barrels of oil equivalent (Mmboe), comprised of 644.86mbbl of crude oil and condensate and 688.17bcf of natural gas reserves.

The field is owned by Shell, Eni, TotalEnergies, Chevron, Exxon Mobil and Luke Oil.

“I did mention that we’re going for FID on Bonga North either last quarter of this year or first quarter next year. I did mention that Bonga South-west is going to sleep, we’re going to focus on 2024. We’re aligning with all our partners to focus on doing Bonga South-west/Aparo.

“We’re bringing one American more to make it for Aparo. So we’re targeting the FID in 2024. Several other projects with Chevron, we hope to do the FID before the end of first quarter of 2023 – the Agbami Gas Project. All these are coming with significant gaseous hydrocarbon,” he noted.

He said the current improvement in electricity supply was a result of the security architecture, which has enabled the generation of additional 500 million standard cubic feet (scuf) of gas, assuring that the NNPC would be sending additional 250 million scuf to NLNG and 250 million scuf to the domestic market.

“That increase is making Egbin and all the other power plants around Lagos very stable. And we’re making sure that all the efforts we make we can measure them. I was very excited when I saw Simbi putting the outcome versus the input. So in upstream today, we don’t look at only the input and the output, but we go all along to capture and commend the outcome”, Wunti added.

Delivering the sponsor’s keynote address, the Chairman of the Independent Petroleum Producers Group (IPPG) and Waltersmith Petroman Oil Limited, Mr. Abdulrazaq Isa, announced that the NCDMB, which is an investor in the 5000 barrels per day Waltersmith modular refinery would be receiving its first dividend by the end of the 2022 financial year.

According to Isa, “After just 27 months of operations, NCDMB will receive its first dividend payment from the refinery for this financial year. We also forecast that by Q2 2023, the refinery will have paid off all its debt and commenced installation of another module of 5000 bpd.

“The Waltersmith Refinery which was enabled by NCDMB has been phenomenally successful.”

Isa also stated that the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, had been instrumental in driving the Decade of Gas policy, which aims to unlock over three billion cubic feet of gas per day.

He added that this would create significant benefits for Nigeria by attracting Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) in excess of $10 billion in addition to creation of millions of jobs across the gas value chain.

He posited that unlocking this gas potential within the decade would certainly involve big gas development projects, where the local content successes recorded on similar projects could be replicated.

He said the commitment of funds under the NCDMB’s commercial ventures partnership programme continues to stimulate investment and promote in-country capacity, adding that it was imperative that the role NCDMB had played through strategic investments and as a business catalyst on impactful projects were highlighted.

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Isa maintained that the Waltersmith refinery was a notable example of efforts of the NCDMB to promote local content through active financial participation in businesses that have huge local values.

He disclosed that the refinery has enhanced value-add from the industry by increasing local refining capacity, creating employment opportunities, and delivering diesel, kerosene, naphtha and High Fuel Oil (HFO) into the domestic market.

In his remarks, the Executive Secretary of NCDMB, Mr. Simbi Wabote, revealed that the board has achieved 54 per cent local content retention level in the Nigerian oil and gas industry in 2022.

According to him, the push for Nigerian Content as envisaged in the agency’s 10-year Strategic Roadmap has continued to yield results in the last five years, pointing out that out of the 96 initiatives under the strategic roadmap, NCDMB has completed 77.

“It is my pleasure to announce that the 2022 Nigerian Content level in the Nigerian oil and gas industry is 54 per cent based on our monitoring and evaluation of industry activities which bring the average in the last five years to 44 per cent Nigerian Content level.

“Once again, this performance is well above the minimum target of 42 per cent NC set for 2022 by the Board’s Project Management Office (PMO) just like we outperformed the 38 per cent NC target set for 2021 by achieving 42 per cent Nigerian Content.”

He listed the top-three performers of in-country spend in 2022 as Fabrication and Construction at 99 per cent NC, Manpower at 81 per cent NC, and Project Management at 80 per cent NC, while the bottom-3 performers were Procurement at 34 per cent NC, Engineering at 46 per cent NC, and Services at 50 per cent NC.

He noted that the Practical Nigerian Content Forum was a flagship event of the Board which attracts major stakeholders in the oil and gas industry from across Nigeria.

“The event serves as an opportunity to showcase the practical investment opportunities and achievements by NCDMB in the Nigerian oil and gas industry and its linkage sectors.

“It also hosts senior government officials, heads of International and Indigenous Oil Companies, and exhibitions of industry products and services in the upcoming event.”

However, in their separate interventions during the panel session moderated by the pioneer Executive Secretary of NCDMB, Dr. Ernest Nwapa, the Chairman of Shell Companies in Nigeria and Managing Director of Shell Petroleum Development Company Limited (SPDC), Mr. Osagie Okunbor; Managing Director of TotalEnergies Upstream Nigeria Limited, Mr. Mike Sangster; Managing Director of Chevron Nigeria Limited, Mr. Rick Kennedy; and Deputy Managing Director of NLNG, Mr. Olalekan Ogunleye, harped on the need to address the challenges confronting operators in the nation’s oil and gas industry.

They listed such issues as insecurity, high operational costs, unfavourable fiscal policies and other such bottlenecks that make Investments in the industry especially achieving the Decade of Gad agenda difficult.

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Used car market booms as Nigeria’s imports rise by 100%

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As automakers and dealers of new vehicles in Nigeria are lamenting poor sales, used car market is experiencing a boom as the latest report from the National Bureau of Statistics has revealed.

The report covering the third quarter of this year showed that Nigerians spent about N195bn on fairly used cars, motorcycles and auxiliary cycles between July and August this year.

Specifically, it states that a total of N194.8bn was spent on the imports of fairly used vehicles, motorcycles and cycles fitted with an auxiliary motor.

This shows an increase of over 100 per cent compared to N83bn spent on used cars sourced from the United States (N79.66bn) and Italy (N4.33bn) in the previous quarter.

The revelation came amid calls for patronage of Nigeria-assembled vehicles in line with a presidential directive to all government’s ministries, departments and agencies.

The country has indigenous car makers with notable names such as Innoson Motors, Nord Automobile and Stallion Motors.

The NBS said, “Manufactured goods mainly imported were ‘used vehicles, with diesel or semidiesel engine, of cylinder capacity 2500cc’ from the United States of America and Italy worth N75.15 billion and N3.27 billion, followed by ‘Filters’ from China and United Arab Emirates valued at N56.66 billion, N0.99 billion respectively

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Updated: CBN limits ATM withdrawals to N20,000 daily, N100,000 weekly

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The Central Bank of Nigeria has restricted cash withdrawals through the automated teller machine (ATM) to N20,000 per day or N100,000 weekly as part of measures to promote its cashless policy.

The CBN also imposed a limit of N100,000 weekly and N500,000 weekly on over-the-counter cash withdrawals for individuals and corporates respectively.

It announced this in a circular with reference number, BSD/DIR/PUB/LAB/015/069 directed to banks and other financial institutions dated December 6, 2022.

It also imposed a withdrawal limit of N100,000 and N500,000 per week over the counter for an individual and corporate organisation respectively.

According to the apex bank, withdrawals above the limits attract five per cent processing fee for individuals and 10 per cent for corporate organisations.

The development is coming two weeks after the bank unveiled its newly redesigned notes of N1,000, N500 and N200 note on November 23, 2022.

The bank had in October lamented that 85 per cent of the money in circulation are not in the bank vaults and is hoarded by the public.

The CBN circular stated, “Further to the launch of the redesigned naira notes by President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday, November 23, 2022, and in line with the cashless policy of CBN, all deposit money banks and other financial institutions are hereby directed to note and comply with the following: the maximum cash withdrawal over the counter by individuals and corporate organisations per week shall henceforth be N100,000 and N500,000 respectively.

“Withdrawals above these limits shall attract processing fees of 5.0 per cent and 10 per cent, respectively; third-party cheques above N50,000 shall not be eligible for payment over the counter, while extant limits of N10 million on clearing cheques still subsist; the maximum cash withdrawal per week via Automated Teller Machine shall be N100,000 subject to a maximum of N20,000 cash withdrawal per day.

“Only denominations of N200 and below shall be loaded into the ATMs; the maximum cash withdrawal via the point of sales terminals shall be N20,000 daily.
“In compelling circumstances, not exceeding once a month, where cash withdrawals above the prescribed limits are required for legitimate purposes, such cash withdrawals shall not exceed N5 million and N10 million for individuals and corporate organisations, respectively, and shall be subject to the referenced processing fees in (1) above, in addition to enhanced due diligence and further information requirements.

“Further to (6) above, you are required to obtain the following information at the minimum and upload same on the CBN portal created for the purpose.”

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