Stolen N1.5bn pension funds found in Maina’s Account, says witness – Newstrends
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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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Naira stays above N1600 bandwidth at unofficial market as MPC meeting kicks off

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Naira stays above N1600 bandwidth at unofficial market as MPC meeting kicks off

The naira, week on week, posted some recovery against the haven currency at the unofficial market as the Central Bank of Nigeria set in motion its first Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting under Mr. Yemi Cardoso, with many analysts expecting a significant increase in the benchmark interest rate, also known as the monetary policy rate.

The naira initially traded around N1600 to the USDT early Monday morning at the time of drafting this report, posting a weekly gain of more than 25% for the week, although this has moved above the N1600 mark as at the time of this report.

Binance and Cryptocurrency Usage

A significant number of young Nigerians have become increasingly dependent on Binance to buy digital assets as a hedge against rising inflation and currency devaluation.

Notably, for Nigerian foreign exchange traders, the Binance P2P platform has emerged as a key location for price discovery.

Although Nigeria has not officially stated that it has blocked access to Binance and other cryptocurrency platforms, some Nigerian users of these sites have complained about not being able to access the platform on their X accounts.

These digital service providers have been major players (reference points) in the FX market of the nation, frequently acting as standards for regional FX rates.

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The government wants to take control of the naira’s value and maintain its place in the financial system, so it’s restricting access to these platforms.

Monetary Policy Expectations

Following a few missed monetary policy sessions, Nigeria is expected to implement two aggressive interest rate hikes in less than two months to control inflation and strengthen the naira, according to a Reuters poll released on Friday.

Nigeria’s monetary policy rate is expected to increase by 225 basis points to 21.00% on February 27 during Governor Olayemi Cardoso’s first monetary policy meeting, according to a survey conducted last week.

With the local currency still trading near its record low on the black market and January inflation increasing to 29.9 percent year over year, market pundits anticipate considerable policy tightening and the announcement of de facto system-wide tightening measures.

Dollar Index and Federal Reserve Outlook

Meanwhile, the dollar index used to gauge the dollar’s strength against major currencies posted decent gains in London trade on Monday, following its first weekly loss since 2024.

Though Federal Reserve officials cautioned that the bank was not in a rush to start lowering interest rates early, particularly given the persistently high inflation rate, the dollar managed to hold onto its three-month highs.

This week, the Fed’s main inflation indicator, the PCE price index data, is anticipated to provide additional hints about inflation.

Some additional Fed speakers are anticipated this week, most of whom will probably restate the view of higher interest rates for longer.

Naira stays above N1600 bandwidth at unofficial market as MPC meeting kicks off

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CBN plans to bar BDCs from street trading, limits cash forex purchase to $500

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CBN Governor, Olayemi Cardoso

CBN plans to bar BDCs from street trading, limits cash forex purchase to $500

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is considering banning Bureau De Change (BDC) operators from street trading and limiting the cash payment for selling FX to a maximum of $500.  

The apex bank disclosed this in its proposed revised regulatory guidelines for BDC operators in Nigeria published by the bank.  

However, the proposed ban on street trading by BDCs is not new as the bank in its revised operational guidelines for BDCs in 2015 prevented street trading by BDCs. 

According to the bank, permissible activities by BDCs include; the acquisition of forex from approved sources, sales of FX in line with its guidelines, serving as cashout points for IMTOs etc.  

On the other hand, the apex bank prevented BDC from engaging in street trading, account maintenance, accepting deposits and granting of loans, facilitating international outward transfers, dealing in precious stones and metals, establishing subsidiaries and others.  

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Forex sellers above $10,000 to declare their source 

Furthermore, the bank noted that sellers of forex above $10,000 are mandated to disclose the source of the forex and proposed to ban cash payment to customers for forex above $500. It also proposed to ensure digital transfer purchases of foreign currencies by customers are made to the BDCs naira account.  

  • It stated, “Sellers of the equivalent of USD10,000 and above to a BDC are required to declare the source of the foreign exchange and comply with all AML/CFT/CPF regulations and foreign exchange laws and regulations.
  • “Payments to customers for cash purchases of foreign currency, the equivalent of above USD500, shall be by transfer to the customer’s Naira bank account. If the customer is a non-resident (whether Nigerian or not), a BDC shall issue the customer a prepaid NGN card. Where such a card is issued, relevant maximum credit and cumulative limits, in line with relevant Know Your Customer requirements, shall apply.” 

What you should know  

The CBN in recent times have blamed the whopping depreciation of the naira to speculation with the Governor stating the naira is “undervalued” and with time returns to its true value.

The apex bank in the past few months has introduced a slew of initiatives aimed at boosting liquidity in the forex market and shoring up the value of the naira.  

  • The proposed regulation aims to sanitise the operations of BDCs across the country, limit the proliferation of BDC operators and enable the CBN to weigh in on their activities. The regulations although a proposal and subject to review over time. 
  • In the past weeks, security agencies such as the EFCC and DSS have begun a crackdown on street traders of foreign currencies in a bid to formalise the industry. Also, there have been reports of restrictions of Nigerian traders from accessing the Binance forex trading platform in what many adjudge to be a crackdown on the platform for Nigerians. 
  • One of the spokespersons to President Tinubu, Bayo Onanuga confirmed the report of the blockade of access of Nigerians to forex and crypto trading platforms Binance and Coinbase. 

CBN plans to bar BDCs from street trading, limits cash forex purchase to $500

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CBN introduces stricter measures for BDCs, imposes N2bn licence fee

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CBN introduces stricter measures for BDCs, imposes N2bn licence fee

Amidst the ongoing forex crisis in Nigeria, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has implemented stringent measures targeting Bureau De Change (BDC) operators to address the deteriorating economic situation.

The country faces severe economic challenges, with the naira plunging to an all-time low of N2,000 against the dollar. In response, the National Security Adviser, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, has directed law enforcement agencies, including the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Department of State Services (DSS), to clamp down on currency speculators operating in the forex market. This directive has led to nationwide raids on BDCs and the arrest of illegal operators.

On Friday, the CBN’s Financial Policy and Regulation Department issued a new set of guidelines for BDC operators and stakeholders in the financial sector. Among the key provisions are:

  • License Requirements: BDCs in Tier 1 must have a capital base of N2 billion, while Tier 2 BDCs must maintain a capital base of N500 million.
  • Ownership Restrictions: Entities such as banks, government agencies, and NGOs are prohibited from holding ownership stakes in BDCs.
  • Permissible Activities: BDCs are authorized to buy and sell foreign currencies, issue prepaid cards, and serve as cash points for money transfer operators. However, they are prohibited from accepting deposits, granting loans, dealing in gold, or engaging in capital market activities.

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  • Foreign Currency Sourcing: BDCs can source forex from authorized dealers, travellers, hotels, embassies, etc. Transactions exceeding $10,000 require a declaration of the source.
  • Sale of Foreign Currencies: BDCs can sell forex for travel, medical bills, school fees, etc., within specified limits per customer annually. At least 75% of sales must be via transfer, with the remaining 25% allowed in cash.
  • Operational Standards: BDCs must adhere to customer verification procedures, maintain transaction records, connect to CBN systems, and display exchange rates clearly, among other requirements.
  • Supervision and Compliance: BDCs are mandated to submit specified regulatory returns, maintain accessible records for inspection, and ensure compliance with the established guidelines.
  • Franchising and Prudential Requirements: Tier 1 BDCs appointing franchises must adhere to specified standards regarding policy, monitoring, and branding, while all BDCs must comply with prudential requirements on open positions, fixed assets, borrowings, dividend payments, etc.
  • AML/CFT Compliance: BDCs must comply with Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Counter Financing of Terrorism (CFT) regulations, including implementing policies, monitoring activities, and reporting suspicious transactions.

These measures represent a concerted effort by the CBN to regulate and stabilize the forex market while ensuring transparency and accountability among BDC operators.

CBN introduces stricter measures for BDCs, imposes N2bn licence fee

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