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Audit report exposes Customs, NNPC under- remittance to Federation account.

Aghughu Adolphus, Auditor-General of Federation

 

Eyewitness reporter

The 2019 Auditor- General’s Federation Annual Report has shown that the country may have been shortchanged to the tune of N666.15 billion due to the discrepancies observed in the financial books of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).

Section 85(5) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, (as amended), states that “the Auditor-General shall, within ninety days of receipt of the Accountant-General’s financial statement, submit his reports under this section to each House of the National Assembly and each House shall cause the reports to be considered by a committee of the House of the National Assembly responsible for public accounts”.

In compliance with the provisions of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, on August 18, 2021, the Auditor-General for the Federation, Aghughu Adolphus, submitted to the Clerk of the National Assembly the Annual Report on the Federal Government of Nigeria Consolidated Financial Statements (CFS) for the year ended 31st December 2019.

A review of the Audit report revealed that some of the figures, particularly those of the NNPC and NCS did not tally.

Thus, it may have led to a huge loss of revenue to the government.

On page 50 of its 2019 Annual Reports and Financial Statements, the NNPC-National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS) reported that it transferred the sum of N1.27 trillion to the Federation Account

However, in the 2019 Audit report, the Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF) who is the Chief Accounting Officer for the receipts and payments of account of the federation,  noted in his records submitted for audit that only N608.71 billion was received as a remittance by NNPC into the Federation Account for 2019.

This shows a difference of N663.90 billion, between the figure NNPC-NAPIMS reported in its audited financial statements and the amount the AGF claimed the NNPC transferred into the Federation Account as remittance for 2019.

Similar discrepancies were noted in the financial books of the Nigeria Customs Service.

As noted in the Auditor’s report, the NCS generated revenue of N841.27 billion in 2019. This exact amount was supposed to be remitted by NCS to the Federation Account.

However, only the sum of N839.02 was remitted to the Federation Account through the Nigerian Integrated Customs Information System II (NICIS II), indicating that the total money remitted fell short by N2.26 billion.

If the NCS’s N2.26 billion variance is added up with the N663.90 billion shortfall observed in the financial statements of NNPC and AGF’s record, it brings the total figure to N666.15 billion.

As the Auditor General noted in the report, these discrepancies mean a loss of revenue to the government and could lead to difficulty in funding the (2019) budget.

True to the worries expressed by the Auditor-General in the 2019 Audit report, it was actually difficult for the government to fund its 2019 budget as the government resorted to borrowing.

In December 2018, President Buhari presented to a joint session of the National Assembly a proposed budget of N8.83 trillion for the 2019 fiscal year.

In his budget presentation, the President noted that the 2019 budget had a projected deficit of N1.86 trillion which was to be financed by borrowing.

The country’s Finance Minister, Zainab Ahmed stated clearly that, “we (the government) intend to fund the 2019 budget through borrowing locally and internationally with a spread of 50:50”, indicating that the government lacked the necessary revenue to fund its budget for that year.

The 2019 budget was not the first the government-financed through borrowed funds.

Prior to this, the government has borrowed both home and abroad to help to finance its budgets and to fund infrastructure projects, the trend which continues till today.

However, if the N666.15 billion arising from the differences in the financial records provided by the NNPC and AGF, as well as that of the NCS had been fully remitted to the Federation Account as the Audit report showed, it could have potentially reduced the amount the government borrowed to fund the 2019 budget by 35.71%.

This could have also reduced the country’s debt burden which currently stands at N35 trillion and is projected to rise to the tune of at least N41 trillion before the end of 2022.

While the government continues to devise ways to tackle the problem of revenue shortages that have made it difficult to fund its annual budgets, economic experts advised that the Federal Government should follow the recommendations of the Auditor General by ensuring that the management of the NNPC provide reasons for the discrepancy between what it reported in its NNPC-NAPIMS audited financial statements and the figure reported by the AGF as NNPC-NAPIMS remittance into the Federation Account for 2019.

The same should apply to the management of the NCS.

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I was never in charge of maritime industry —Saraki

Senator Gbemisola Saraki, Minister of State for Transportation in a hearty discussion with Amaechi when the going was good

 

Eyewitness reporter

For three years after she was named the Minister of State for Transportation in 2019, Senator Gbemisola Saraki said she was never in charge of the maritime sector.
Her assertion contradicted the gentleman’s agreement between her and Rotimi Amaechi, who until his resignation from Mohammed Buhari’s cabinet to pursue his failed presidential ambition, was the Minister of transportation.
Amaechi,  as the then supervising Minister, in 2019, had delineated the duties of the two heads of the ministry to avoid any possible clash of interests.
At one of the public functions held in Lagos in 2019 at the beginning of his second term in office as the Minister of Transportation, Amaechi publicly declared that while he would focus his attention on railways due to the enormity of the project and its importance to the national economy, Saraki will be in charge of the maritime industry with his occasional supervision, especially as it concerns maritime security.
Ameachi had then acknowledged that he had abandoned the maritime industry for the rail sector when he first served as transportation minister from 2015 to 2019 but said his minister of state, Senator Gbemisola Saraki,  will fill the gap during his second term in office.
“In my first term as minister, I completely abandoned the maritime sector to the heads of agencies.
“This time around, that won’t be happening again as I have instructed that the Hon. Minister of Transportation for State should personally supervise the maritime agencies, while I just oversee what is happening” Ameachi had declared.
However, Senator Saraki subtly debunked the claim three years after when she said that she was never in charge of the sector.
The minister was reacting to an inquiry from the curious journalists last week Friday why it took her one year to the end of her four-year tenure to come on a familiarisation tour of the sector she was supposed to be superintending.
“I was never in charge of the maritime sector. I was asked to supervise road transport”  the Kwara State-born politician declared.
Her revelation confirmed the widely held belief among the stakeholders that there was a repressed and smouldering animosity between the two Ministers.
Though Saraki tried to downplay the cat and mouse relationship with her former boss, stakeholders however believed that the two Ministers never got along well with each other.
Sources pointed to instances when the two Ministers were tactically avoiding joint attendance at maritime events.
Impeccable sources whispered to our reporter that the festering feud became noticeable when Saraki began to boycott events in the industry with her former boss.
It was further learnt that the boycott of events in the industry by the Minister of state may be a subtle protest against the apparent arrogation by Amaechi of official duties of the junior Minister which has led to the redundancy of Saraki.
It was gathered that throughout 2019 and the better part of 2021, Amaechi allowed Saraki to take charge of events in the maritime industry.
Sources claimed that towards the end of last year and since the beginning of 2022 up till his resignation as the Minister, Amaechi may have reneged on the gentleman’s agreement between him and his minister of state.
“During this period, the Minister took over the functions hitherto reserved for the Minister of state.
”This development seems to have irked Saraki who felt the Minister was trying to make her reductant.
“That was when she started to boycott functions at the maritime industry where she and her principal were likely to meet” a source who was in the know confided in our reporter.The absence of the minister of State at major maritime events became noticeable during landmark events such as  NIMASA’s unveiling of wreck removal in 2021,  the World Maritime Day, 2021,  and the inspection of the Lekki deep seaport by President Muhammadu Buhari.

It could also be recalled that Amaechi had made a couple of visits to the Lekki deep seaport, even on a Sunday, before the presidential visit, none of which Saraki attended.

Concerned maritime stakeholders claimed that the recent action of Ameachi, who is widely regarded as the ”Lion of the Niger Delta” may appear bossy to Gbemisola Saraki, who is also a strong-willed woman.
“The two Ministers are of strong-willed personalities who don’t brood nonsense.
“We all know the political antecedents of Amaechi who has a domineering posture.

” Gbemi is also made of sterner stuff given her role in the “Otoge” political tsunami in Kwara which eventually swept off  Bukola Saraki, her blood brother, from the political dominance in Kwara politics, a role which earned her the present position in the present dispensation.
“So, I don’t see how Amaechi, who has domineering posture could lord it over Gbemi, who is equally a woman of strong character, without skirmishes” a knowledgeable analyst declared.
However, stakeholders were skeptical if Senator Saraki could achieve much of the promises she made during her week-long tours of Lagos ports last week given barely one year she has as a member of the Buhari Administration before it is wound up.
The Minister came on the tour in the company of some Directors in the ministry.

“Today is my fifth week of assuming the leadership of the Ministry of Transportation”, she declared last week Friday in Lagos.

“We came to take stock of the sector. We had taken the stock of the Road sector,” she said.

Giving her summation of her findings at the end of the tour, she declared” Apapa and Tin Can ports are in terrible need of repairs.

“We will go and come back for repairs.

“We have the short, medium, and long-term plans for this. We need to start with rehabilitation here. Another problem here is power”

The  Minister met various groups who are stakeholders in the industry.

Among them are women groups in maritime, terminal operators, stevedores, maritime workers union groups, haulage, and transport operators, maritime lawyers, freight forwarders, and maritime press.

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We have political will to ensure CVFF is disbursed—-Saraki

Senator Gbemosola Saraki, Minister of State for Transportation
—- expresses sadness over unending delay
Eyewitness reporter

The Minister of State for Transportation, Senator Rukayyat Gbemisola Saraki has expressed willingness to muster the necessary political will to ensure the controversial Cabotage Vessels Financing Funds (CVFF) are disbursed before she leaves office.

She expressed sadness over the delay in the disbursement of the interventionist funds, 19 years after it was set up which she said was critical to the empowerment of the struggling indigenous ship owners.
The Minister made this commitment Friday during the interactive media parley she held in Lagos to round up her week-long tours of Lagos ports.
The Minister, who was fielding questions from journalists, declared that her ministry would work with the National Assembly to expedite action of the disbursement process.
She disclosed that she was part of the senators who passed the Cabotage Act in 2003 which gave birth to the CVFF and it was disheartening that 19 years later the funds are yet to be disbursed.
 “It is really very disheartening that the fund has not been disbursed but we will work with the National Assembly to ensure its disbursement.
“Just watch, it has to be disbursed, especially with the coming on stream of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

“In the course of this visit, I have also interacted with so many stakeholders, including the indigenous ship owners.

“I know the number of vessels that Nigerians had 10 years ago and I know how many they have now.
“The funds is very critical for the empowerment of indigenous ship owners and we know many of them have gone under”

“It is really a shame that this fund has not been disbursed, I learnt the value is $350 million now and I am not sure any part of it is missing.

” We will work with the National Assembly to pass the guidelines. It is not really about the Federal Ministry of Finance but I think it is more of the political will to disburse it and I think we have the political will to do so.”
The Minister disclosed that the guidelines for the disbursement of the fund have been formulated and awaiting the approval of the  National Assembly.

She added that the disbursement would follow the approval by the National Assembly after beneficiaries must have been shortlisted.

According to her, the approval would soon be secured and the fund disbursed in no distant time.
She regarded the non-disbursement of the CVFF as a national shame and embarrassment.
CVFF is a two percent contribution by indigenous ship owners on every Cabotage contract executed and is meant for fleet expansion and empowerment of the shipping capacity of indigenous ship owners.
Since 2003 when the Cabotage Act was enacted and 2006 when the CVFF guidelines were enacted, no disbursement was made as the funds have become a subject of controversy and subject to serial abuse.
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P&ID fraud : Court convicts, winds up Marqott Nigeria Limited.

Owolola Adebola

Justice D.U Okorowo of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has convicted and wound up Marqott Nigeria Limited,  one of the 30 companies associated with the  Process and Industrial Development Limited, P & ID,  for money laundering.

The company was convicted on Thursday,  June 16, 2022, after being found guilty of four-count charges bordering on money laundering preferred against it by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

Count one of the charges read: “That you, Marqott Nigeria Limited, being a designated Non-financial Institution; and Giovanni Beccarelli, Valentina Fantoli, and Dimitri Duca, being directors of and signatories to the bank account of Marqott Nigeria Limited, sometime in September 2014, in Abuja, within the Abuja Judicial Division of the Federal High Court, failed to comply with the requirements of submitting to the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, a declaration of activities of Marqott Nigeria Limited contrary to Section 16(1) (f) read together with Section 5(1)(a)(ii) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011(as amended and you thereby committed an offence punishable under section 16(2)(b) of the same Act.”

Count two read:  “That you, Marqott Nigeria Limited, being a designated Non-financial Institution; and Giovanni Beccarelli, Valentina Fantoli, and Dimitri Duca, being directors of and signatories to the bank account of Marqott Nigeria Limited, sometime in September 2014, in Abuja, within the Abuja Judicial Division of the Federal High Court, failed to develop programs to combat money laundering and other illegal acts, to wit: failure to designate at management level a compliance officer within any strata of Marqott Nigeria Limited, contrary to Section 16(1)(f) read together with Section 9(1)(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended) and you thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 16 (2)(b) of the same Act”.

At the point of the first arraignment on February 7, 2022,  the defendant pleaded “not guilty” to the charges, setting the stage for a full trial.

In the course of the trial, the EFCC presented many witnesses and tendered many documents as exhibits.

In his judgment,  Justice Okorowo found Marqott Nigeria Limited guilty of all the four-count charges and convicted it accordingly.   He also ordered that the company be wound up  and its entire assets forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.

Marqott was first arraigned on Monday,  February 7, 2022, for being an accomplice in the $9.6bn Gas Supply and Processing Agreement between the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and  P&ID.

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