Group Calls for Audit of SEC Finances Under Gwarzo
** Accuses FG, Anti-Graft Agencies of Stalling Probe
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
An alarm has been raised by a human right, good governance and non-government organization known as Campaign Against Impunity in Nigeria over alleged attempts to surreptitiously close investigations against the suspended Director General of Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Mr Mournir Haliru Gwarzo.
Speaking on Thursday in Lagos at a media briefing, the group said it found it curious that weeks after its sister organisation sent a formal petition to President Muhammadu Buhari, the leadership of the National Assembly and the anti-corruption agencies, not a single arrest has been made so far.
The group also urged the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, to order a thorough audit of the finances of the commission.
Recall that the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL) had petitioned the President, National Assembly and security agencies, accusing the embattled SEC boss of paying himself N104.8 million as severance package.
While addressing newsmen yesterday at the Rights House, CDHR Secretariat, Ikeja, Lagos, popular human rights activist and leader of the Campaign Against Impunity in Nigeria team, Comrade Shina Loremikan, noted that his group had followed with keen interest issues revolving around allegations of gross abuse of office and official recklessness levelled against Mr Gwarzo.
Comrade Loremikan said, “We find it disturbing that apart from the initial invitation and questioning of Mr Mounir Gwarzo for just a few hours by the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), nothing has been heard by the public on the status of the investigation.
“Indeed, we must ask, how come no arrest has been made by any of the anti-corruption agencies on this matter?”
According to Comrade Loremikan, It is in view of the lukewarm attitude of the government and the anti-corruption agencies to this issue that “we hereby urge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to quickly make public the outcome of its ongoing investigation into the activities of Mr Mournir Haliru Gwarzo’s as the Director General of the Securities and Exchange Commission.
“The EFCC is in possession of all supporting documents on the allegations which are also at our disposal. Why is it taking the anti-corruption agencies this long to determine the ownership of the following companies?”
On January 2, 2013, Mr Gwarzo was appointed an Executive Commissioner in SEC for a four-year tenure by the then administration of President Goodluck Jonathan.
Before the end of his four-year term, Mr Gwarzo was promoted by same government as the Director General of the commission on May 22, 2015.
Mr Gwarzo allegedly ordered the payment of a severance package of the sum N104,851,154.94 to himself.
Mr Loremikan said the standing rule in the civil service provides that severance benefits can only be paid to an employee who has concluded his or her service and has completely disengaged from service and not to an employee who was promoted within the commission as is in the case of Mr Gwarzo.
The Comrade, at the briefing, asked Mr Gwarzo to tell the anti-corruption agencies if he paid himself a severance package or not? If he awarded contracts to his own companies and others with links to himself his wife and some of his cronies using the privilege of his office or not?
He further asked it Mr Gwarzo can deny the veracity of the incorporation records with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) that the companies said to belong to him and his cronies indeed belong to them?
“Why is it taking the anti-corruption agencies this long to determine the ownership of the following companies?” he queried also.
Comrade Loremikan said Campaign Against Impunity in Nigeria and Nigerians also want to know if Mr Gwarzo, his wife and some directors of SEC are owners of the following companies: (1.) Outbound Investment Ltd, RC NO. 807317 (2.) Medusa Investments Limited, RC NO. 326829 (3.) Northwind Environmental Services. REG NO BN2389176 (4.) Micro-Technologies LTD RC NO. 173805 (5.) Tida International Ltd RC NO. 26414 (6.) Outlook Communications (7.) Acromac Nig. Ltd RC NO. 10687864 (8.) Balfort International Investment Ltd RC NO. 109153 (9.) Interactiven Worldwide Nigeria Ltd RC NO. 779442.
Recall further that a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and leading human rights activist, Mr Festus Keyamo, had earlier warned against recent attempts to sweep the Mr Gwarzo investigation under the carpet by powerful individuals.
Mr Loremikan said at the conference on Thursday that Nigerians want the probe to ascertain whether or not Mr Gwarzo paid himself severance benefits of N104.8 million after his elevation to from Executive Commissioner to DG despite not having completed his tenure on his previous position.
Concluding, Comrade Loremikan said, “Considering the likelihood that a lot more acts of impunity may have been committed unchecked under the arrangement in which Mr Gwarzo functioned as the DG of SEC without checks from a Board, the Campaign Against Impunity in Nigeria calls on the Finance Minister, Mrs Kemi Adeosun to order a thorough audit of the finances of the commission.
“We also urge the Minister to stand firm and not buckle under any pressure by the campaign of impunity being sponsored by Mr Gwarzo against her person.
“The entire process smells of an attempt to cover impunity with blackmail. We therefore demand that Mrs Kemi Adeosun should make public the report of the Administrative Panel put in place to investigate the allegations against Mr Gwarzo.
“She should also direct her office to forward the report to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC),” Mr Loremikan told journalists.
Subsidy Removal: CNG at N130 Per Litre Cheaper Than Petrol—IPMAN
By Adedapo Adesanya
The Independent Petroleum Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) has advised Nigerians to begin to look into the direction of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) as an alternative energy source to cushion the effect of subsidy removal.
The National President of IPMAN, Mr Chinedu Okorokwo, made this known in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Wednesday, as the federal government continues its dialogue with the organised labour over the hike in the price of premium motor spirit (PMS), otherwise known as petrol.
On May 29, 2023, during his inaugural speech, President Bola Tinubu said the payment of subsidy for fuel had ended because there was no provision for it in the 2023 budget beyond June 30.
His announcement triggered the hoarding of fuel by marketers, and when the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited increased the price of the product across its retail outlets, prices of food, transportation and services went up, forcing the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to threaten a nationwide strike, which was supposed to start today but was stopped by the National Industrial Court.
At a meeting on Monday night between the government and the labour unions, it was agreed that the adoption of CNG as an alternative fuel would be the best option, and it was agreed that the CNG conversion programme earlier planned in 2021 should be revived.
CNG, which is a gas mainly composed of methane and produces less emission, is the cleanest burning fuel operating today with less vehicle maintenance and longer engine life.
In the interview with NAN, Mr Okoronkwo said bringing CNG, which was cheaper than even firewood, as an alternative energy, would create relief for the government and its citizens.
“We have also discovered that bringing an alternative that is cheaper than even firewood which is CNG, will not only create relief for the government and its citizens but it is environmentally friendly.
“The CNG is abundantly available in Nigeria than anywhere in Africa.
“In the Niger Delta region, you see billions of tonnes of gas flare being wasted daily, these are huge amounts that should be accruing to our GDP, but we are wasting it because there is no market for it.
“So, we are asking the government to create the market. How do you create the market?
“What Egypt and India did was to give soft loans to be paid back within stipulated periods; from there, you can get vehicles to use gas instead of fuel,” he said.
“There’s a franchise for the bottling of CNG so that an average woman in the kitchen can use it,’’ he added, noting that the introduction of CNG would cushion the effect occasioned by the high price of fuel currently as a litre of CNG would not cost more than N130.
He advised that repairing the local refineries as well would reduce the impact of the removal as it would eliminate the cost of importation and exportation.
Nigeria Upgrades Tax-to-GDP Ratio to 10.86% From 6%
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has disclosed that Nigeria’s tax to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio has been upwardly reviewed to 10.86 per cent from the 6 per cent earlier reported to reflect better data sources and improved estimation using the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) manual.
The OECD manual is an improvement over the System of National Accounts (SNA 2008) classification of taxes.
Although the System of National Accounts conceptual framework and its definitions of the various sectors of the economy are reflected in the OECD’s classification of taxes, the OECD classifications provide the maximum disaggregation of statistical data on what is generally regarded as taxes by tax administrations.
In a disclosure, the statistics office said the country’s total tax revenue compared with its GDP was at that level in 2021, higher than 8.40 per cent in 2020, which was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the previous year, the ratio was 10.20 per cent, marginally lower than the 10.36 per cent recorded in 2018 but higher than the 9.02 per cent in 2017.
The NBS said the revised computation considered more comprehensive coverage of data at the federal, state, and local government levels and revenue items not previously included in the computations, particularly relevant revenue collected by other government agencies.
The review of the tax-to-GDP ratio was initiated by the Federal Inland Revenue Service, which collaborated with the Federal Ministry of Finance and the NBS for better measurement of the ratio.
The data used were sourced from the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF), FIRS, NBS, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), the Joint Tax Board (JTB), and other relevant agencies of government that collect revenue.
VFD Group Intends to Join Nigerian Exchange
By Adedapo Adesanya
VFD Group Plc has announced its intention to list its shares on the Nigerian Exchange Group (NGX) to allow it to gain access to public equity markets, increase its visibility, and strengthen its financial position.
VFD Group Plc is a leading proprietary investment company with a proven track record of generating attractive returns for its investors through a variety of investment strategies.
The company has a diverse portfolio of investments in various sectors, including banking, technology, media, energy, and real estate. The group has been listed on the NASD OTC Securities Exchange since 2020.
Speaking on this big step, Mr Nonso Okpala, Group Managing Director of VFD Group, stated, “We are excited to take this next step in the evolution of our company.”
“Listing on a major stock exchange will give us access to a larger pool of investors, enhance our profile, and provide superior returns to our investors,” he added.
However, its listing on the NGX is subject to regulatory approvals and market conditions.
VFD Group noted that it would provide additional updates as the listing process progresses.
At the close of business on Tuesday, the securities of the organisation closed on the NASD OTC exchange at N244.88 per unit, the same rate they finished in the preceding trading session.
Business Post reports that the NASD was created to provide an avenue for public companies to transition smoothly into the country’s main stock exchange.
However, it has witnessed the movement of firms from the NGX to the NASD, especially due to the very strict regulatory requirements of the former.
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