A new plot has been hatched aimed at tarnishing the image of the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and Coordinator, Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), Prof. Charles Dokubo.
The plot, which is already in its advanced stage, is orchestrated by individuals who have failed in their bids to force Dokubo to award contracts to them.
This newspaper gathered that Prof. Dokubo has severally turned down overtures by those behind the plot, and now to get at him, they have resorted to blackmailing him.
In one of the campaigns of calumny, an online portal had reported award of fictitious contracts to the tune of N3.2 billion within a period of one month to two companies allegedly fronting for the Amnesty Programme coordinator.
But in a statement signed by special assistant on Media to the office, Murphy Ganagana, urged members of the public to ignore the alleged N3.2 billion contract scam report.
The statement however noted that it was not the wish of the agency to ‘dissipate valuable time and energy in recapping the “wholesomely fallacious report’’.
According to him, the online portal from which the story emanated had become notorious in purveying fake news and promoting blackmail to nauseating level, adding that the attempt to drag the image of the highly revered wife of the president, Mrs Aisha Buhari and the National Security Adviser, General Babagana Monguno, to the mud to score a point was appalling.
The statement read in part: “To put the records straight, we wish to state as follows: It is true that a contract for empowerment of 300 Niger Delta youths in oil and gas instrumentation was awarded to Messrs Glassfa Continental Ltd, and another contract for training and empowerment of 400 delegates in coastal fishing was awarded to Innotek Royal Services Limited.
“However, the two contracts in question were beyond the threshold of the Special Adviser to the President and Coordinator, Amnesty Programme. Therefore, in line with statutory guidelines and regulations, a Due Process No Objection was sought and obtained from the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) vides a letter OSAPND/GCL/VT/2018/11010 dated 19th October, 2018. Consequently, approval for award of contracts to the two companies was granted by the BPP.”
It added that contrary to the allegation that payment had been made to the two companies even though work has not commenced, “we wish to state with emphasis that no dime has been paid to any of the two companies. It is pertinent to state that processes leading to payment of 15 per cent of contract sum are yet to be completed for the two companies which have not been handed delegates for training. Files of the two companies on the contracts have not reached the Prof. Dokubo’s table.
“On the allegation of 30 companies discovered to have been perpetrating contract fraud worth billions of Naira by an external auditing committee said to have been inaugurated by Prof. Dokubo, it existed only in the imagination of the publishers of Pointblanknews as NO such committee was inaugurated at the Amnesty Office under Prof. Dokubo, and no contract fraud was unearthed at any time.”
The office of the Presidential Amnesty Programme under Professor Dokubo has witnessed substantial achievements in the last one year. On assumption of office on March 13, 2018, Charles Quaker Dokubo, an erudite professor and nuclear scientist had a clear mandate: to retool the programme to make it more robust and impactful for the enlisted ex-agitators in the Niger Delta with the ultimate goal of achieving sustainable peace and development in all facets of the region.
Barely three months on, precisely in 100 days, leaders and stakeholders in the Niger Delta, are convinced of President Muhammadu Buhari’s quest to transform the region through the instrumentality of the amnesty programme with the appointment of Prof. Dokubo who they describe as a messiah that has come to chart a new path for the programme. Their conviction is apparently based on his sterling performance and achievements within a short period.
NDLEA Confiscates N75bn Drugs in Three Months
By Adedapo Adesanya
Illicit drugs worth N75 billion have been seized within the first three months of the year by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA).
Chairman of the agency, Mr Buba Marwa, made this disclosure when he paid a courtesy visit to the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, at the Radio House in Abuja, on Thursday.
In a statement signed by the Minister’s aide, Mr Segun Adeyemi, the NDLEA chief explained that more than 2,000 suspected drug traffickers have been arrested in various parts of the country in the period under review with over 300 convictions secured during the same time frame.
Mr Marwa decried that drug abuse has assumed an alarming proportion in Nigeria, saying there were about 15 million drug users between the age bracket of 15 and 64 – 25 per cent of whom were females.
He noted that NDLEA operatives arrested two traffickers from the Niger Republic and Chad, who confessed to supplying illicit drugs to bandits.
The NDLEA boss sought the collaboration of the information ministry and its agencies to launch a nationwide public sensitisation on drug demand reduction drive, through advocacy programmes in the media in order to curb drug abuse in the country.
On his part, the Minister gave an assurance that his ministry would collaborate with the NDLEA to launch a national campaign against drug trafficking and illicit use of drugs in the country.
“The Federal Ministry of Information and Culture will work with you to give maximum publicity to your activities, especially in the area of advocacy,” he assured.
Mr Mohammed added, “To date, we have launched a number of national campaigns. It will not be a bad idea for the ministry, working with the NDLEA, to launch a national campaign against drug trafficking and the use of illicit drugs.
“I will also encourage the NDLEA to work with the National Orientation Agency (NOA), which has set up Integrity Clubs in secondary schools nationwide, to reach the young ones with its campaign against drug use.”
According to him, the war against illicit drugs and tackling drug trafficking is one of the most important tasks in Nigeria, considering that drug trafficking, money laundering by traffickers, and the use of illicit drugs are closely linked to the nation’s security, the well-being of the citizens, the moral fabric of the society, and even governance.
“It is common knowledge that drug money can be used to finance insurgency and terrorism. A successful fight against drug trafficking will, therefore, help to deny or reduce funding for the insurgency.
“The kind of vicious banditry and kidnapping for ransom that our country has witnessed in recent times cannot be totally separated from illicit drug use and their effects on users who take to crime,” said the Minister.
He commended the NDLEA Chairman for recording impressive achievements in less than three months of his appointment, particularly in restoring the visibility of the agency for local and international partnerships.
FG Apologises to Nigerians over Poor Electricity Supply
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
The federal government has apologised to Nigerians over the poor electricity supply being experienced by them at the moment.
The Minister of Power, Mr Mamma Sale, in a statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Communications, Mr Aaron Artimas, said efforts are being made to improve the supply.
He explained that the situation was caused by the breakdown in 13 power generation plants across the country, but assured that engineers were doing everything possible to rectify the issue.
Mr Sale said the faulty power plants affected some National Integrated Power Plants (NIPP) supplying electricity to the national grid.
It was gathered that the Geregu, Sepele, Omotosho, Gbarain, Omuku, Paras and Alaoji integrated power plants are experiencing gas constraints, while the Shiroro plant is experiencing water management issues.
According to reports, the Egbin, Afam, Ibom, Sapele, Ihovbor, Olonrunsogo, Alaoji and Omotosho power plants are down, while the Jebba power plant is currently undergoing annual maintenance.
But Mr Mamman assured that the national grid would be restored to its previous historic distribution peak of about 5,600MW of electricity achieved early this year, so as to relief Nigerians from the current harsh climatic conditions and restore full economic activities.
“The Ministry of Power is not unaware of the current power outages/shortages bedevilling many parts of the country. This unfortunate development has drastically affected Power generation, thus effectively minimizing the national grid.
“In view of this, the Hon Minister of Power, Mr Sale Mamman, regrets this unfortunate situation and offers his sincere apology to all affected Nigerians on the inconveniences the power shortages are causing.
“He assures that the ministry through the appropriate agencies is working assiduously to rectify the technical problems affecting the plants as well as resolving the gas issues to the others,” the statement from Mr Artimas said.
The power situation in the country has been horrible lately, especially in a period the weather has been hot, forcing some residents to run power generating sets.
ITF Signs MoU to Improve Air Force Research
By Adedapo Adesanya
The Industrial Training Fund (ITF) has signed a tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) and the Equipment and Protective Application International Limited to boost research and development.
The pact, which will ensure parties work together in an effort to nurture a cooperative relationship among the institutions, is geared towards optimal performance and improved productivity.
Speaking at the NAF headquarters in Abuja, the Director-General of ITF, Mr Joseph Ari, said the MoU will be pursued with vigour and all the seriousness it deserves so that greater success would be the catalyst that will drive their intentions.
He explained that over the years, ITF had redirected its focus on technical, vocational training and education, adding that developed nations are where they are today because of such initiative.
“Even here in Abuja, we have a model of a skills training centre and the model was brought in from the Singaporean experience of the institute for technical education and services of Singapore.
“We brought a semblance of it here to experience with five trade areas, Mechatronics and Autotronics, Computer Networking, ICT, Facility Technology as well as culinary in both African and Western cuisine is right there in the heart of Abuja in the ITF house, it is like a University.
“The ITF is well-positioned to work hand in hand with the Nigerian Air Force,” he said
The ITF boss added that “I must say that the Chief of Air Staff has a lot of foresight with his men to think of this Memorandum of Understanding because indeed, ITF is where you should be.
“The ITF came into contact with the Nigerian Air Force even though a lot of the officers of the Air Force might have participated in its programmes in the past and I have noticed that NAF has not relented in its efforts to equipped its workforce and also upgrade and retrain its people,” the ITF boss added.
He, however, commended men and officers of the NAF for their sacrifice in keeping the nation safe.
On his part, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal, Mr Oladayo Amao, said the Nigerian Air Force is a highly technical service that places technology as the bedrock of all its operations.
Represented by the Chief of Standards and Evaluation, Air Vice Marshal Olusegun Philip, the air chief noted that in line with the focus of the federal government in promoting indigenous technology, the Nigerian Air Force has been looking inwards to gradually wean itself of overdependence on foreign technology and to become more innovative and resourceful.
“Therefore, in order to advance the Nigerian Air Force’s Research and Development efforts, we have deemed it necessary to formally collaborate with indigenous organizations through the signing of Memorandum of Understanding.
“These collaborative efforts provide pedestals to leapfrog capability as well as a repertoire of capabilities that can be harnessed”.
“The collaborative efforts also provide platforms to synergise ideas for innovations that are key to achieving meaningful results to solve the technological challenges we currently face in a cost-effective manner,” he said.
Also speaking, the Managing Director, Equipment and Protective Application International Limited, Mr Kola Balogun, assured that the deal entered into would be for the overall economic benefit and development of the nation.
FEC Approves N20.1bn to Equip Customs
By Adedapo Adesanya
The Federal Executive Council (FEC) has approved a total of N20.1 billion for the procurement of various operating equipment for the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS).
Mrs Zainab Ahmed, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, disclosed this on Wednesday to State House Correspondents at the end of the weekly FEC meeting held at the Presidential Villa in Abuja and presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
The council also approved N539.3 million for the construction of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) building at the Ilupeju Medium and Small Taxpayers’ office, according to the Minister.
The Minister further said that a total of 427 operating vehicles worth N14.55 billion and nine assorted gunboats worth N5.6 billion were all approved for Customs contracts.
“The ministry also presented, on behalf of the Nigerian Customs Service, a memo that was seeking for Council’s approval for the design, construction and supply of two NC36M patrol boats, in favour of Messrs of Boat Plus Limited, in the sum of N5,062,530,400, inclusive of 7.5 per cent Value Added Tax (VAT) with a delivery period of 12 months and council approved our request.
“We also presented a memo, again on behalf of the Nigerian Customs Service, for the approval of council for the design, construction and supply of seven fast assault patrol boats and seven regular patrol boats, in favour of Messrs Siwa West Africa Limited, in the sum of N501,472,471.08, inclusive of 7.5 per cent VAT with a delivery period of eight weeks.
“The purpose of the purchase of these two types of patrol boats is to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of operations of the Nigerian Customs Service in its bid to control smuggling and also ensure enhanced efficiency in all customs duty operations in the Marine Unit of the Nigerian Customs Service.
“We also presented, again on behalf of the Nigeria Customs Service, a request for Council’s approval and council approved the procurement of 427 operational vehicles for the Nigerian Customs Service operations in favour of various contractors in the combined sum of N14.55 billion, inclusive of 7.5 per cent VAT with a delivery period of four weeks,” she said.
On his part, the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, speaking on behalf of Minister of State for Education, Mr Emeka Nwajiuba, also revealed that council approved a project for the extension of the University of Ibadan’s library worth N532 million.
“The Minister of Education also presented a memo for the award of contract for the construction and furnishing of the extension of the library of the University of Ibadan. The memo, which was approved, is at the cost of N532,609,000 and with a completion period of 48 weeks.
“It was a memo that was very well received because of the need to actually extend the library facility in the University. For many years, the library of the University of Ibadan had needed real extension, given a surge of the student population,” he said.
Lagos Charges N1.37m for 2021 Umrah
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
Muslims who wish to observe the 2021 Umrah (lesser Hajj) in Saudi Arabia through the Lagos State government will have to pay N1.37 million.
A statement issued by the Lagos State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board disclosed that the amount is the least package fees.
“The first package at a cost of N1.37 million includes stay at a 3-star hotel; Sahur (morning meal) and Iftar (evening meal) in Nigerian delicacies; economy class ticket with a reputable airline; executive and convenient local transportation; five days stay in Madinah, including three days isolation period; COVID-19 tests in Makkah and Madinah; visitation to historical sites and two-to-a-room accommodation,” the Executive Secretary of the board, Mr Rahman Ishola, explained.
Mr Ishola further said the Umrah exercise comes up during the last 10 days of the Holy month of Ramadan and has two different packages that the intending pilgrims can choose from.
For the second package, he said pilgrims would be required to pay N2.7 million and comprises accommodation at the 5-star Ajyad Makareem Hotel in Makkah and Coral Hotel in Madinah.
“This is in addition to other benefits contained in the first package like Sahur and Iftar among others,” he added.
The board scribe explained that the increase in fare was due to the strict implementation of the COVID-19 protocols by Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health, emphasising that the Umrah exercise will hold between April 27 and May 15, 2021, and urged interested Muslims to seize the opportunity provided by the agency to make their payment as soon as possible.
He also encouraged those who had already made initial deposits to endeavour to pay up the balance for the package of their choice and forward evidence of payment (teller/bank receipt) and international passport to the board on or before April 18, 2021, for further necessary action.
Mr Ishola stated that it is mandatory for all the intending pilgrims to get the COVID-19 vaccine before embarking on the pilgrimage, stressing that without the vaccination, they would be denied entry into Saudi Arabia.
FG to Use Gas to Lift Nigerians Out of Poverty
By Adedapo Adesanya
The federal government has revealed that it plans to use the implementation of the National Gas Expansion Programme (NGEP) to lift no fewer than 100 million Nigerians out of poverty.
The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Mr Timipre Sylva, was quoted as saying in a statement issued on Monday that this would be achieved by creating jobs for millions of young Nigerians.
“Counting the impacts of the programme on our socioeconomic space within the first year of its launching, the administration further stepped up its commitment to industrialising Nigeria through gas utilisation by declaring the year 2021 to 2030 as the Decade of Gas.
“With proven gas reserves of over 200 million cubic feet and natural gas presents an opportunity for the nation to use gas as the catalyst for its socio-economic renaissance,” the Minister stated.
The federal government rolled out the NGEP last year and it involves the conversion of fuel-powered cars and generators from petrol to gas.
Aimed at deepening domestic usage of natural gas in its various forms, the programme aligns with the federal government’s plan to make gas the first-choice source for cheaper and cleaner energy and is expected to deliver at least one million vehicle conversions by the end of 2021.
The Minister oversaw the physical launch of the policy as President Muhammadu Buhari virtually conducted the rollout.
The NGEP seeks to deepen the penetration of gas as a cheaper alternative to petrol for powering automobiles.
The Minister stated that the induction of gas to power automobiles and other engines represented a step in the right direction, as the NGEP is set to create two million jobs annually for the country.
It was revealed that under the directives of the President, Nigeria will continue to strengthen the gas value chain, as a vital tool for transforming the economy.
Gas products to be widely pushed for adoption include Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG).
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) also pledged support to the effort of the NGEP, the national oil corporation has established designated NNPC retail filling stations offering free petrol-to-gas conversion services for some cars to enable vehicles to run on LPG or CNG.
There are currently 80 locations in the country capable of fueling the vehicles, and the price of CNG is expected to cost N97 per litre.
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