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$151m Deposits: Bankers, Civil Servants to Face Trial

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By Dipo Olowookere

A list of suspects who will face trial over the $151 million and N8 billion found in fictitious bank accounts is in the works, The Nation learnt yesterday.

On the “long” list are bankers and civil servants, Attorney-General of the Federation Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN) said.

He declined to name the suspects but stressed that the government is interested in knowing how the funds were sourced and lodged in the accounts.

Mr Malami, who spoke with our correspondent from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, said: “But investigation is in top gear and I will not want to jeopardise it by giving out names of those affected.”

Pressed for more comments, Mr Malami said: “I am not certain of the number now but it is huge because it involved a syndicate.

“The culprits include civil servants and bank officials who all connived to stash away these recovered monies.”

He stressed that “no businessman was implicated but the suspects, who are many, are mostly civil servants and bank officials”.

Another government source said the suspects would be named in court when charges are preferred against them.

But there were strong indications yesterday that a commercial bank had written the Federal Government, owning up to the lodgment of $136,676,600.51 in a fictitious account with it.

The bank has promised to remit the slush funds into a dedicated account provided by the government.

The government official, who pleaded not to be named because of “the sensitivity of the matter”, said: “Before the government released the fact-sheet on the recovery of $136,676,600.51, it got a letter of from a commercial bank owning up that the cash was wired into a fictitious account in one of its branches.

“The bank also made a commitment to remit the seized cash to a dedicated account which has been provided by the Federal Government. We are expecting the refund from the bank any moment from now.

“We have the required evidence from the bank with the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation (OAGF).”

The government source spoke on the investigation, saying “it is almost completed”.

He agreed that Nigerians were eager to know the suspects, but insisted that “we will release their names only after charges have been preferred against them in court”.

Also yesterday, a Federal High Court sitting in Kano, presided over by Justice Zainab B. Abubakar, ordered the forfeiture of the $9,772,00 and £74,000 by a former Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr. Andrew Yakubu, to the Federal Government.

The order was sequel to an ex-parte application by the EFCC seeking an interim forfeiture of the recovered money to the Federal Government.

A statement by the Head of Media and Publicity of EFCC, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, said the ex parte application was moved by Salihu Sani, counsel to the applicant.

The statement said: “In her ruling, Justice Zainab held that the sum of $9,772,000 and £74,000 which are now in the custody of the applicant (EFCC) are in the interim forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.”

“On the 3rd day of February, 2017, operatives of the Commission had stormed a building belonging to the former NNPC boss and recovered a staggering sum of $9,772,000 and £74,000 stashed in a huge fire proof safe. On February 8, 2017, Yakubu reported to the Commission’s Kano Zonal Office where he admitted being the owner of both the house and the money recovered.

“Yakubu is still in custody assisting the investigation.”

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, on Sunday said the “whistle-blower policy has started yielding fruit as it has so far led to the recovery of US$151 million and N8billion in looted funds”.

He said: “The looted funds, which do not include the $9.772 million in cash allegedly owned by a former Group Managing Director of the NNPC (which was also a dividend of the whistle-blower policy), were recovered from just three sources through whistle-blowers who were recovered from just three sources through whistle-blowers who gave actionable information to the office of the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation.

“The biggest amount of $136,676,600.51 was recovered from an account in a commercial bank, where the money was kept under an apparently fake account name, followed by N7 billion and $15 million from another person and N1 billion from yet another.

“When we told Nigerians that there was a primitive and mindless looting of the national treasury under the last Administration, some people called us liars.

“Well, the whistle-blower policy is barely two months old and Nigerians have started feeling its impact, seeing how a few people squirreled away public funds.

“It is doubtful if any economy in the world will not feel the impact of such mind-boggling looting of the treasury as was experienced in Nigeria.

“Yet whatever has been recovered so far, including the $9.8 million by the EFCC, is just a tip of the iceberg.”

The Nation

Dipo Olowookere is a journalist based in Nigeria that has passion for reporting business news stories. At his leisure time, he watches football and supports 3SC of Ibadan. Mr Olowookere can be reached via dipo.olowookere@businesspost.ng

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Economy

MTN Nigeria Makes N205bn Profit, to Pay Investors N5.90 Dividend

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MTN Nigeria AGM

By Dipo Olowookere

Africa’s leading telecommunication company, MTN Nigeria Plc, had a good year in 2020 despite the disruption caused to businesses across the globe.

In the year, according to the financial statements of the firm released to the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) and analysed by Business Post, the sum of N1.4 trillion was generated in the year, higher than the N1.2 trillion achieved in 2019.

A significant part of the revenue was contributed by voice revenue, N766.4 billion versus N725.5 billion, while data revenue contributed N332.4 billion in contrast to N219.4 billion in 2019.

However, the direct network operating costs increased to N310.3 billion from N246.6 billion as a result of a rise in BTS leases to N225.6 billion from N170.1 billion, a jump in the regulatory fees to N34.8 billion from N30.3 billion and a rise in the network maintenance to N48.6 billion from N45.2 billion.

In the period under review, the telco reduced its roaming costs to N3.0 billion from N4.0 billion. It also cut is advertisements, sponsorships and sales promotions to N15.1 billion from N19.9 billion, while the other operating expenses moved higher to N66.6 billion from N51.0 billion due to the N2.0 billion expended on COVID-19, including the N1 billion donation to the Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) in April 2020 and costs of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

As of December 31, 2020, MTN Nigeria was left with an operating profit of N426.7 billion, higher than N393.2 billion a year earlier.

With a finance income of N15.9 billion versus N20.1 billion and N143.7 billion finance costs in contrast to N122.1 billion a year earlier, the GSM network provider was left with a profit before tax of N298.9 billion compared with N291.3 billion in 2019, while the profit after tax stood at N205.2 billion, slightly higher than N203.3 billion as at December 31, 2019, with the earnings per share closing at N10.08 as against N9.99 in 2019.

Meanwhile, the board of directors of MTN Nigeria has recommended the payment of a final dividend of N5.90 per ordinary share of 2 kobo each subject to shareholders’ approval at the forthcoming Annual General Meeting (AGM).

If the proposed final dividend is approved, the total dividend for the financial year ended December 31, 2020, will be N9.40 per share of 2 kobo each.

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Economy

CBN, NAICOM to Determine Dividend, Bonus Shares for FCMB, AIICO Shareholders

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FCMB Shareholders AGM

By Dipo Olowookere

It is almost certain that shareholders of First City Monument Bank (FCMB) and AIICO Insurance will get cash reward and bonus shares from the respective company this year for the 2020 financial year.

However, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the National Insurance Commission (NAICOM) will have to first authorise this.

Already, the boards of FCMB and AIICO Insurance have done their parts by recommending the payment of the dividend and issuance of bonus shares, but their respective regulator will have to check their performance to see if what is being recommended is reasonable.

Last Friday, the board of FCMB held a meeting to look into the audited results of the group and after being satisfied, the payment of the dividend was recommended.

“At the board of directors meeting of FCMB group Plc held on Friday, February 26, 2021, the board approved the group’s audited financial statements for the year ended December 31, 2020, as well as payment of dividend, subject to the approval of the CBN.

“The board also considered and approved the appointment of an independent non-executive director, subject to the CBN approval.

“The retirement of Mr Peter Obaseki from the board of the company effective March 1, 2021, was also accepted by the board.

“Details of the results and the dividend payments, as well as related corporate actions, shall be made to the exchange upon obtaining approval of the CBN,” a notice signed by the company’s scribe, Mrs Olufunmilayo Adedibu, said.

On its part, AIICO Insurance said its board met on Thursday, February 25, 2021, to look into the results and the issuance of bonus stocks was recommended.

“We refer to our February 8, 2021, announcement wherein we informed the investing public and the NSE of the board meeting scheduled for February 25, 2021.

“We are pleased to inform the investing public and the exchange that the board of directors of AIICO Insurance Plc met as announced and considered and approved the group’s audited consolidated financial statements for the year ended December 31, 2020, and bonus issue subject to the approval of NAICOM and the company’s shareholders.

“The company will release the audited results to the investing public upon the approval of NAICOM.

“In view of the above, all directors, persons discharging managerial responsibility, adviser(s) of the company, or their connected persons are reminded that as announced on February 8, 2021, the closed period declared by the company is still on until 24 hours after the accounts are filed with the exchange,” its disclosure said.

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Economy

Unilever Nigeria to Conclude Unbundling of Tea Business Soon

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lipton tea unilever

By Dipo Olowookere

The unbundling of the tea business of Unilever Nigeria Plc is expected to be completed before the end of this year, the board has confirmed.

Unilever Nigeria produces the popular Lipton Tea and a few others, but this arm of the company is being proposed to operate as a standalone organisation.

In a notice to the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) last week, Unilever Nigeria said the process was ongoing and at the end of it, the tea firm will operate as a separate legal entity.

Business Post recalls that in 2020, the global parent company of Unilever Nigeria announced its intention to restructure its tea arm, which is believed to generate over €3 billion annually.

It had also hinted that the new entity could be listed separately on the stock exchange, partially or totally sold to a new investor.

“You could easily see the Unilever Tea Co becoming a standalone business on a listed stock exchange with its own IPO, that is a highly likely outcome, which would have been very difficult under our old structure,” the CEO of Unilever, Mr Alan Jope, had informed Bloomberg in an interview.

In the latest update, the Nigerian subsidiary of the organisation disclosed that steps were already being taken to complete the divorce very soon.

“Further to the announcement made on August 5, 2020, about Unilever’s global announcement on the strategic review and planned separation of its tea business, this is to notify the Nigerian Stock Exchange and our esteemed shareholders of the plan to separate the Unilever Nigeria Plc tea business into a separate legal entity.

“The planned separation will go through the normal approval process and is expected to be concluded by the end of 2021.

“We shall keep the Nigerian Stock Exchange and stakeholders informed of subsequent developments on this matter,” the notice disclosed.

Share of Unilever Nigeria closed flat last Friday at the local stock exchange at N13.60 per unit. The equities dropped to that level last Monday and remained at that rate throughout the week.

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Economy

Dangote Refinery to be Ready Q1 2022, to Get Crude Oil in Naira

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Dangote Refinery returnee graduate engineers

**Gets N100bn from CBN

By Adedapo Adesanya

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has supported projects undertaken by Nigerian and Africa’s richest person, Mr Alike Dangote, with N100 billion.

The Governor of the CBN, Mr Godwin Emefiele, disclosed this on Saturday when he inspected the sites of Dangote Refinery, Petrochemicals Complex Fertiliser Plant and Subsea Gas Pipeline at Ibeju Lekki, Lagos.

He explained that the intervention was to support Nigerian business. He further said that the first shipment of Urea from the Dangote Fertiliser Plant would begin in March to help boost agriculture in the country.

In addition, the nation’s chief bank disclosed that arrangements have been made to enable the Dangote Refinery to sell refined crude to Nigeria in Naira when it commences production.

The CBN Governor noted that the $15 billion projects being constructed by the Dangote Group would save Nigeria from expending about 41 per cent of its foreign exchange on the importation of petroleum products.

Mr Emefiele said, ”Based on agreement and discussions with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the oil companies, the Dangote Refinery can buy its crude in Naira, refine it, and produce it for Nigerians’ use in Naira.

“That is the element where foreign exchange is saved for the country becomes very clear.

“We are also very optimistic that by refining this product here in Nigeria, all those costs associated with either demurrage from import, costs associated with freight will be totally eliminated.

“This will make the price of our petroleum products cheaper in Naira.

“If we are lucky that what the refinery produces is more than we need locally you will see Nigerian businessmen buying small vessels to take them to our West African neighbours to sell to them in Naira.

“This will increase our volume in Naira and help to push it into the Economic Community of West African States as a currency,” Mr Emefiele added.

The head of the banking sector regulator expressed optimism that the refinery would be completed by the first quarter of 2022, adding that this would put an end to the issue of petrol subsidy in the country.

“I am saying that by this time next year, our cost of import of petroleum products for petrochemicals or fertiliser will be able to save that which will save Nigeria’s reserve.

“It will help us so that we can begin to focus on more important items that we cannot produce in Nigeria today,” Mr Emefiele noted.

On his part, Mr Dangote said that the fertiliser and petrochemicals plants were capable of generating $2.5 billion annually while the refinery would serve Nigeria and other countries across the world.

He said the projects would create jobs for Nigerians and build their capacity in critical areas of the oil and gas industry.

Mr Dangote thanked President Muhammadu Buhari and the CBN governor for their support toward the completion of the projects.

He said: “I will like to thank the president personally for helping us and assisting us in making sure that we are now back on track.

“Mr President personally wrote a letter to the president of China and asked them to bring the expatriates that we don’t have so that we can continue work.

“During the coronavirus, you will remember that we had one or two cases when it started and everybody ran away from the site but right now we are beginning to bring people back and we have about 30,000 people now.

“The good part of it is that we have learnt a lot also and there are a lot of Nigerians that just need small training and they are doing extremely well.

”So now we only need a small number of people coming from abroad just to give that training.”

He used the opportunity to call for the speedy passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) currently before the National Assembly to maximise the opportunities in the Nigerian oil and gas sector.

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Economy

FX inflow into Nigerian Oil Sector Plunges 72.6% in 2020

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nigerian crude oil

By Adedapo Adesanya

The foreign capital inflow into the Nigerian oil and gas industry dipped by 72.6 per cent to $53.51 million in 2020 from $195.61 million in 2019.

According to data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in its Nigerian Capital Importation Report for the fourth quarter and full-year 2020, the oil and gas sector accounted for 0.55 per cent of total capital imported into the country in 2020, compared to 0.85 per cent in 2019.

The NBS disclosed that total capital imported into all sectors of the Nigerian economy in 2020 stood at $9.68 billion, 57.8 per cent lower than the $22.941 billion recorded in 2019.

Giving a breakdown of the inflow, the NBS noted that $10.09 million; $6.55 million; $25.03 million and $11.83 million were recorded in the oil and gas sector in the first, second, third and fourth quarters of 2020 respectively; compared to $17.22 million; $139.73 million and $38.66 million recorded in the first, second and third quarters of 2019 respectively.

In general, total foreign capital inflow into the Nigerian economy in the first, second, third and fourth quarter of 2020 stood at $5.85 billion, $1.29 billion, $1.46 billion and $1.07 billion respectively; compared to $8.508 billion, $6.052 billion, $5.627 billion and $2.753 billion in the first, second, third and fourth quarters of 2019, respectively.

The decline was attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced many countries worldwide to shut down significant sectors of their economies, while movement was curtailed globally for the most part of the year.

COVID-19 began in China at the end of 2019 and spread to other countries gradually, until it was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO), with nations commencing lockdown measures from February 2020.

As a result of the pandemic, the price of crude oil price fell below zero Dollar to a barrel for the first on record in April 2020, as oil producers ran out of space to store the oversupply of crude oil.

The price of the global benchmark crude futures, Brent, went down to $16 per barrel.

For the price of US crude oil, West Texas Intermediate, it crashed from $18 a barrel to -$38 in a matter of hours, as rising stockpiles of crude threatened to overwhelm storage facilities and forced oil producers to pay buyers to take the barrels they could not store.

It took additional interventions by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and the gradual reopening of the global economy for the price of crude oil to rebound slowly as oil demand edges up.

The only positive for Nigeria during the pandemic was that major investment decisions were made, especially with the signing of the Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) contract of the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Train 7 project, among others.

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Economy

Your Investments Safe in Lagos—Sanwo-Olu Assures Investors

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Investments in Lagos

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has assured investors to bring their funds to Lagos State as their investments would be safeguarded.

The Governor gave this assurance on Friday at a one-day economic summit organised by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Bankers Committee and the Vanguard Newspapers in Lagos.

He said his administration has a big vision for the state, imploring local and foreign investors to quickly key into the agenda, which will expand to the southern part of the country.

According to him, efforts are being made daily to improve infrastructure, encourage innovation, agriculture as well as improve on the digital economy through smart city initiatives.

“Compared to other African countries, Lagos occupies a leading position in the country and across the continent. To seize these opportunities, and achieve our vision to become Africa’s economic capital, we are working on Lagos Vision 2050, which presents an opportunity to build upon the ongoing work and define a journey towards the megacity Lagos aspires to become over the next 30 years.

“We will also encourage other Southern states to do the same so as to align our regional aspiration to forge cooperation. Working together, Lagos and other Southern states can collaborate to build symbiotic partnerships beneficial to one another.

“Lagos is excited to share best practices across Southern states while continuing to collaborate with public and private partners to bring benefits to the state and to the region.

“When we achieve our big ambitions, Lagos will grow as well as Southern Nigeria and the entire country,” Mr Sanwo-Olu stated.

He noted that with Vision 2050 in mind, investments focus across key areas should be on human capital, infrastructure, public system and services, innovation and knowledge, as well as environmental sustainability.

“We will take a structural approach to Vision 2050; we will also share best practices with others,” he said, adding that security and good governance, which is the last pillar of his administration’s THEMES agenda, has enjoyed considerable attention because of its critical role in stimulating development in the state.

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