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Senate Threatens to Withhold 2023 Capital Budget of State House, Others

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State House 2023 capital budget

By Adedapo Adesanya

The Senate has threatened to withhold the 2023 capital budget of 100 federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) until they answer the queries raised against them by the Auditor General for the Federation.

Senate President, Mr Ahmad Lawan, issued this threat on the floor of the upper chamber of the National Assembly on Wednesday while ruling on a point of order.

The threat followed a point of order raised by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Mr Matthew Urhoghide, who informed his colleagues that some agencies refused to appear before the team despite invitations sent to them.

Some of the MDAs include the State House, Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, Ministries of Interior, Transportation, Mines and Solid Mineral Development, Information, Communication, Petroleum, Defence, Police Affairs, and Sports.

Others are Works and Housing, Women Affairs, the State House, Presidential Fleet, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Independent National Electoral Commission, North East Development Commission, Nigerian Intelligence Agency, and the Nigerian Air Force, among others.

The queries covered in the auditor general’s report are from 2015-2018.

Speaking, Mr Lawan upheld Mr Urhoghide’s point of order and insisted that the public officers who utilised funds appropriated to their MDAs must give account.

He said, “Your point of order is sustained fully and completely, totally sustained; you are right on the dot to bring to the plenary your grievances.

“Secondly, I once served as Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee for eight years. My only problem is when you write agencies, and they refuse to honour the invite, you’d many times be forced to bring them through a warrant of arrest.

“Reading this list at plenary gives the agencies the opportunity to know now if they were not aware before for those that may claim ignorance.”

The Senate then gave the agencies a one-week deadline to communicate with the committee and set a date to appear before them or have their capital budgets withheld.

“I am taking the opportunity here to advise that in the next one week, if the name of any agency is here, that agency should reach the Committee on Public Accounts of the Senate to sort out when the agency would appear before the committee.

“If there is no communication whatsoever and no cogent and verifiable reason are given, we will slash the agencies’ budget.”

Adedapo Adesanya is a journalist, polymath, and connoisseur of everything art. When he is not writing, he has his nose buried in one of the many books or articles he has bookmarked or simply listening to good music with a bottle of beer or wine. He supports the greatest club in the world, Manchester United F.C.

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Court Acquits Jide Omokore of $1.6bn Fraud, Convict Two Others

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Jide Omokore

By Aduragbemi Omiyale

Mr Jide Omokore, an ally of former Minister of Petroleum, Ms Diezani Alison-Madueke, has been acquitted by Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja.

Mr Omokore was accused by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of laundering funds to the tune of $1.6 billion.

However, at the ruling on Tuesday, February 7, 2023, Justice Dimgba held that the anti-money laundering organisation could not prove its case against Mr Omokore and two companies linked to him, Atlantic Energy Brass Limited and Atlantic Energy Drilling Concept Limited.

But two other persons linked to the matter, Victor Briggs and Abiye Membere, both former top officials of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), were convicted by the court today.

They were found guilty of “unethically collecting car gifts as public officials,” in contravention of section 98 of the Criminal Code Act.

According to the trial judge, public officials must act at arm’s length with private individuals, especially those that have business relations with their departments or agencies. They would be kept in the custody of the EFCC pending their sentencing on Wednesday.

In a statement issued after the ruling, the EFCC expressed shock over the acquittal of Mr Omokore, vowing to challenge it at the appeal court.

The agency dragged Mr Omokore and others to court, alleging that he used the Strategic Alliance Agreement signed between the NPDC and Atlantic Energy Drilling Concept Limited to swindle the NPDC and the Nigerian government of monies running into billions of dollars through the lifting of crude oil from some oil wells between March 2013 and May 2014.

The other defendants, who were senior management staff of the NNPC, were accused of conspiracy in inducing the NPDC to facilitate the lifting of crude by Mr Omokore, Atlantic Energy Brass Development Limited and Atlantic Energy Drilling Concept Limited; and receiving car gifts from Omokore, Atlantic Energy Brass Development Limited and Atlantic Energy Drilling Concept Limited.

“That you, Olajide Jones Omokore, Atlantic Energy Brass Development Ltd, Atlantic Energy Drilling Concept Ltd and Kolawole Akanni Aluko (now at large) between May 2013 and March 2014 within the jurisdiction of this court obtained by false pretence and with intent to defraud, 7,551,867 barrels of crude oil (Brass blend) valued at the sum of $823,75,189.95 from Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Federal Government of Nigeria on the false pretence that you had funds (both local and foreign) necessary to support the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company Limited in petroleum operation for the OML 60,61, 62 and 63 and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 1(a) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act Cap. A6, 2010, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria and punishable under Section 1(3) of the same Act,” one of the charges read.

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Supreme Court Affirms Ahmad Lawan as APC Yobe North Senatorial Candidate

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Ahmad Lawan Bashir Machina

By Dipo Olowookere

The president of the senate, Mr Ahmad Lawan, has been affirmed as the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) for the Yobe North Senatorial District.

At a ruling delivered on Monday, February 6, 2023, the Supreme Court nullified the candidacy of Mr Bashir Machina.

Mr Machina and Mr Lawan had been at loggerhead over the party’s ticket for the slot.

The Senate President had contested the APC presidential primary along with the eventual winner of the exercise, Mr Bola Tinubu, and was said to have pushed forward Mr Machina as a placeholder.

However, after he lost in his bid to become the presidential candidate of the party, he turned to Mr Machina, who refused to back down, stressing that it was his turn to represent the senatorial district at the National Assembly and that the Senate President never participated in the party’s primary.

The number three citizen of the country had earlier accepted his fate, but his party took the matter up until today’s judgement, which has restored his hopes of remaining in the upper chamber of the parliament.

Justice Centus Nweze, in the lead judgement, faulted the approach of Mr Machina in commencing the suit at the Federal High Court Damaturu division by way of originating summons and without oral evidence to prove allegations of fraud.

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Boss Mustapha Not Working Against Tinubu—APC Group

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Boss Mustapha

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

A support group of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) known as the APC Mandate Defenders (AMD) has denied claims that the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, was working against the presidential candidate of the party, Mr Bola Tinubu.

In a statement signed by the National Publicity Secretary of APC Mandate Defenders, Mr Ifeanyi Emeka, the organisation said Mr Mustapha supports the candidacy of the former Governor of Lagos.

He stated that the allegations made against the SGF by another support group of the ruling party, Concerned APC Stakeholders (CAS), were false, describing Mr Mustapha as a well-respected party leader who has great respect and close relationship with Mr Tinubu right from when he was the Deputy National Chairman of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) for Northern Region and would not engage in any real or imaginary plot to sabotage the electoral chances of the APC and its candidate.

According to him, the SGF is preoccupied with the task of meeting the demands of the transitional period, which mostly rests on his office as a frontline secretariat for the presidency as the administration gradually winds down and does not have the time to work against Mr Tinubu.

AMD asked CAS to tell Nigerians how following due process in board appointments for federal government agencies amounts to sabotaging the electoral chances of the party and its candidate in the forthcoming presidential election.

Recall that the SGF had advised Nigerians to be wary of scammers who use his name and office to dupe people while promising them non-existing government appointments.

“Therefore, we urge Nigerians and party members across the federation to ignore the allegation against Boss Mustapha as he cannot be forced into providing appointments to people by threats of blackmails as such responsibility rests squarely on the desk of Mr President and Commander-in-Chief.

“Associating such frustration with the campaigns of the presidential candidate of our great party, Senator Bola Tinubu, by CAS is a diversionary tactic against the overall interest of our party and Nigeria as a nation,” a part of the statement said.

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