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Kwara: EFCC partners Customs, others to tackle corruption

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The Ilorin Zonal Command of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has called on stakeholders particularly law enforcement agencies, to support the anti-graft crusade of the Commission.

The EFCC Zonal Commander, Mr Michael Nzekwe, made the appeal during a familiarisation visit to the Customs Area Comptroller in Kwara, Aliyu Bello in Ilorin on Monday.

Nzekwe said the visit was to seek a buy-in of sister agencies to work together and free the country from the shackles of corruption.

He highlighted the importance of collaboration in order to fulfill the mandate of the Commission, as stated in Section 6 of the EFCC Act.

“The EFCC alone cannot win the anti corruption war without the support of key stakeholders,” he added.

According to him, the Act requires the Commission to enforce responsibilities and take measures to prevent economic crimes through aggressive public enlightenment and education.

“If the collaboration between the two agencies is strengthened, economic saboteurs and other sundry criminals wreaking underserved havoc on the nation’s economy will have no hiding place,” Nzekwe said.

Responding, the Customs Comptroller, Bello, commended the EFCC for its giant strides and promised to cooperate and support the Commission in forging a united stand against corruption.

He said that both the Customs and EFCC had worked closely in special joint operations, investigations and training.

“In the past, Customs and EFCC collaborations have been a reference point for best practices and we are glad to say that the relationship has extended to frontiers of our collaboration to fight corruption.

“In synergy, we are sending strong signals to all economic saboteurs that they now face a more difficult task to evade payment of customs duty or illegal movement of cash through our borders,” the customs boss said.

While on a similar visit to the Sector Commander, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), the EFCC Zonal Commander said that bonding among security agencies was the only way to guarantee safety and development in Nigeria.

He said that the visit was more of strengthening the bond between the FRSC and EFCC.

“We will be seeking your support in the area of verification of some information in terms of anti-corruption issues, money laundering and other related offences on your portals that can be of assistance to our work,” he said.

The FRSC Sector Commander, Fredrick Ogidan described the EFCC as the foremost anti-graft agency in Nigeria.

Ogidan said it was important for agencies of government to work together to make Nigeria a better place for all.

The Sector Commander assured that the corps was open to partnership and was prepared to provide the needed support which the anti-graft agency needed.

In a similar visit to the Kwara Coordinator, National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Mrs Francisca Olaleye, she commended the EFCC for always making its men available to give sensitisation talks at the NYSC Orientation Camps.

Olaleye said that there was need for the anti-corruption messages to be far reaching, so as to make wider impact.

She therefore advised the commission to organise more elaborate anti-corruption campaign that would bring together corps members and NYSC Officials from all the Local Government Areas in the state.

“We already have a working relationship, and I am assuring you that the relationship is going to get better by the grace of God,” Olaleye said.

Earlier the EFCC Zonal Commander, solicited the support of NYSC in curbing the rising trend of cybercrime, also known as ‘Yahoo-Yahoo,’ among the youths.

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The Naira abuse palaver

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By Dakuku Peterside

There is no dispute that Naira abuse or more specifically the act of spraying money at social events has become an acceptable norm or cultural practice in Nigeria. Nigerians have a cultural affinity for lavish social gatherings. Many people regard these occasions as a means of displaying social status  and wealth. Spraying Naira notes, and other currency notes, at events progressively appear to be the ultimate way to flaunt your social standing. Even burials that are supposed to be sober moments have been turned into considerable fanfare. This has created a new industry of mint note trading and events management. All of these constitute the social infrastructure of Naira abuse. A new dimension of the social infrastructure of Naira abuse is the arrival to the scene of the nouveau rich. Society has labelled them with all sorts of nomenclature: Yahoo Boys, Yahoo Plus, and 419.

Nigeria has since recognised the dangers of Naira abuse but  that is not the focus of this piece. The government has made rules and laws to check it and provided enlightenment campaigns to educate people. The Central Bank of Nigeria( CBN) gave Naira abuse as one of the reasons why it is pushing for digital-based financial transactions. Naira abuse, like its ancestor-mother social epidemic of corruption, has remained stubborn and refused to go away.

There is ambiguity about what constitutes Naira abuse. The Central Bank of Nigeria Act of 2007 in Section 21 of the CBN Act 2007 clearly defines Naira abuse and prescribes various punishments to deter citizens from abusing the Naira. They include – spraying banknotes at events; writing on banknotes; stapling banknotes; tearing banknotes; dancing or stamping on Naira; defacing the bank notes with substances or ink, oil; selling currency banknotes; mutilation of the Naira note; money bouquets. However, law enforcement has been lax. It is commonly believed that the laws against Naira abuse are either symbolic or desuetude because no one is held accountable, everyone gets away with it, and things have normalised.

The social phenomena of Naira abuse, especially the spraying of money, have become an epidemic in Nigeria. Lately, it is of significant concern. We have exported this to many parts of the world, and social media is replete with evidence of this in weddings and other social events attended by Nigerians in different parts of the world.

Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference” explores the idea that social phenomena, like trends and epidemics, often reach a tipping point where they suddenly become widespread. He identifies three key factors that contribute to this tipping point: the Law of the Few (the idea that a small number of people have a disproportionate influence), the Stickiness Factor (how messages or ideas stick in the minds of people), and the Power of Context (how the environment influences behaviour).

Through engaging anecdotes and research, Gladwell illustrates how understanding these factors can help individuals and organisations create or manipulate trends and epidemics. The book emphasises the importance of paying attention to small details and understanding the social dynamics behind spreading ideas and behaviours. The fundamental concepts of the book about Naira Abuse are twofold. First, the cultural context or external environment provides the soil for bad or good behaviour to grow and spread. Second, key people with remarkable personalities can cause or stop social epidemics because of their social profile or social network.

There is a link between the recommendation of Malcolm Gladwell and the arrest and prosecution of  Idris Okuneye better known as Bobrisky, a cross-dresser and social influencer, for Naira abuse, and the arrest and ongoing prosecution of Cubana Chief priest Pascal Okechukwu in connection with Naira abuse. Why selectively arrest the duo when everybody is involved in some form of Naira abuse either by trampling, spraying, mutilation or rumpling? Truth is that it is nearly impossible for any law enforcement organisation to find and apprehend every perpetrator. Resources exist in limited supply. It is simple wisdom to begin with people who have disproportionate influence. This is perhaps what EFCC has done.  First common ground is that both of them enjoy considerable social media influence whether for positive or negative reasons depending on your own value system. These two cases, though similar, are following different paths. Bobrisky, in court, pleaded guilty and has since been handed six months imprisonment. Cubana Chief Priest did not plead guilty, so his case will go to full trial, putting the law to the test. This court case will assist us in providing answers to some critical questions: what are the societal ramifications of Naira spraying, and how can Naira misuse be proven? Is there a need to amend the existing law and make it more relevant to the challenge? Will this fresh wave of enforcement stop the epidemic of Naira abuse ? Regardless of how the legal proceedings turn out, they have highlighted how important it is to take the triplet societal plague of poor social behaviour, Naira abuse, and their ancestor-mother corruption very seriously.

I have identified six pillars to control or stop Naira abuse: Fight corruption because it is an enabler for abuse of the Naira. The incestuous relationship  between corruption, illicit financial transactions and Naira abuse is well established . Second,the government should deepen knowledge and change people’s orientation by embarking on mass enlightenment, people must understand clearly what constitutes Naira abuse and what the punishment is for such offence. Third, address cultural issues relating to Naira abuse through community engagement. People gifting money to celebrants at occasions is no crime but the manner of gifting is the issue. Fourth, government should renew the push for digital transactions. Fifth, government must strengthen the structures of law enforcement. It is not just police and EFCC matter . The judiciary must upend its knowledge on the subject matter. Sixth, government must be impartial and objectively enforce the law to change cultural norms and public behaviour that defaces the Naira. This may entail revisiting and improving the law.

CBN, Police and the EFCC should study different models of changing public behaviour in the past and draw up a model and strategy to deal with the issue of Naira abuse, especially since it has become embedded in some cultures. Good examples abound abroad and in Nigeria. The British government employed various strategies to change public behaviour regarding spitting and other personal vices. Spitting in public places was prohibited by local bylaws or municipal regulations but it is social persuasion that gave the result. These laws serve as deterrents and can result in fines or other penalties for offenders. They launched public awareness campaigns, collaborated with community stakeholders, and monitored and enforced the law. However, most of all, they leveraged social norms and peer pressure to influence behaviour and encourage individuals to conform to accepted standards of behaviour by highlighting the societal consensus against spitting and certain destructive behaviours and showcasing positive role models who embody desirable conduct. Today, the practice of spitting publicly, urinating on the road corners, and other public nuisances are controlled to the barest minimum.

In Nigeria, good examples of efforts to change public behaviour can be seen around us. Most were successful to a greater degree. The government should revisit some of these campaigns and learn from them.

A model that seems to be working in Akwa Ibom State is the State Ethical and Attitudinal Reorientation initiative. Before 1999, the Akwa Ibom people experienced a severe social epidemic, “The Pervasive and prevalent Househelp Syndrome,” which gained widespread notoriety and led to the dubbed moniker “Ekaette” for nearly every female domestic helper. The administration of Obong Attah took up the task of reorienting the Akwa Ibom people’s mindset. He established the Ethical and Attitudinal Reorientation Commission (EARCOM) in Akwa Ibom and gave them the responsibility of raising public awareness about the importance of “minoring” vices and “majoring” in moral principles.

The struggle has persisted throughout the regimes, and Pastor Umo Eno’s present administration appears to be taking it to newer, more profound heights by hiring assistants for each ward and unit and charging them to carry out the Commission’s work of value reorientation in remote areas. As bait, he is using the incentivisation  and social support model, drawing on the country’s current food and hunger crisis to reach out with the message of value reorientation. Today, a negligible number of Akwa Ibom daughters are house helps , and the majority are highflyers in the professions and business.

The success story of Akwa Ibom is a model that the federal government can replicate. Changing public behaviour requires a multifaceted approach that combines legislation, education, community engagement, social support  and enforcement efforts. By addressing the underlying factors contributing to undesirable behaviours and promoting positive alternatives, governments can effectively shape public attitudes and foster a more socially responsible society.

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NIPOST apprehends 33 illegal operators during clampdown in Lagos, set to visit more states

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By Omolola Adeyanju

The courier and logistics regulatory department (CLRD) NIPOST has held its clampdown for the first quarter of the year in Lagos with thirty three unlicensed/ illegal courier and logistics operators apprehended during the exercise carried out in Ikeja LGA and Falomo, Lagos State on Thursday last week.

According to the General manager, Courier and Logistics and Regulatory Department (CLRD), NIPOST, Shonde G. Dotun, “the clampdown has been carried out in 11 States already which include Abia, Rivers, Edo, Ekiti, Ogun, Oyo, Lagos, Katsina, Ondo, Kwara and Delta states respectively and the regulatory department are in the process of visiting more states to ensure adherence to the statutory provisions.”

In an official statement, the organisation said: “The postal, express, Courier and logistics industry in Nigeria has been proliferated and infiltrated with so many unlicensed and illegal courier and logistic operators with reckless abandonment for ethical standard and professional conduct.

“There exist unethical sharp practices such as price undercutting, pilfering, broaching, damages, loss and dumping of customers’ items, poaching and subletting of operating licenses with mountain of public complaints about customers being duped or obtaining money from them under false pretense, no traceable office address nor registered brand name. As well as overloading and carriage of items above the stipulated 50 kg.”

The statement further stated that provision has been made for a flexible payment plan for those who cannot afford to pay for the operating license at a stretch.

He said that a special consideration has been given to the Independent/Soldiers Scheme now.

He added that over eight regional operating licenses have been granted, over two hundred national operating licenses approved and over ten international operating licenses have also been granted as well.

However, the GM advised, “Every interested private investor in the Courier and Logistics business should follow the due process by obtaining a grant of operating licenses from the federal government. (NIPOST).”

Meanwhile, one of the alleged culprits Monday Ajobiewe, speaking to Newsdirect explained that he got his motorcycle through a hire-purchase hence wasn’t aware of the cycle being unregistered.

He confessed to being helpless knowing that NIPOST officials are only doing their job as he cannot fight the government

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Account for trillions of FAAC allocations or face legal action — SERAP tells 36 governors, Wike

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…As FG, States, LGs share N1.1trn in March

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged Nigeria’s 36 state governors and the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Mr Nyesom Wike to “provide our organization with documents on the spending of trillions of FAAC allocations received by your state and the FCT since 1999, and to widely publish any such documents.”

SERAP also urged them “to invite Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to jointly track and monitor the spending of FAAC allocations by your state and the FCT and to probe any allegations of corruption linked the allocations.”

SERAP’s requests followed reports that the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) disbursed N1.123 trillion to the federal, state, and local governments for March 2024 alone. States collected N398.689 billion.

In the Freedom of Information (FoI) requests dated 20 April 2024 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “Nigerians ought to know in what manner public funds including FAAC allocations, are spent.”

SERAP said, “Without this information, Nigerians cannot follow the actions of their states and the FCT and they cannot properly fulfill their responsibilities as citizens.”

According to SERAP, “trillions of FAAC allocations received by Nigeria’s 36 states and the FCT have allegedly gone down the drain. The resulting human costs directly threaten the human rights of socially and economically vulnerable Nigerians.”

The FoI requests, read in part: “ensuring that the FAAC allocations received by your state and the FCT are spent to achieve the security and welfare of Nigerians are serious and legitimate public interests.”

“Secrecy in the spending of FAAC allocations received by your state and the FCT is entirely inconsistent and incompatible with the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended] and the country’s international anti-corruption obligations.

“Secrecy in the spending of FAAC allocations received by your state and the FCT also denies Nigerians the right to know how public funds are spent. Transparency in the spending would allow them to retain control over their government.

“The documents should include the evidence and list of specific projects completed with the FAAC allocations collected, the locations of any such projects and completion reports of the projects.

“The documents should also include details of the salaries and pensions paid from the FAAC allocations collected, as well as the details of projects executed on hospitals and schools with the FAAC allocations.

“Despite the increased FAAC allocations to states and FCT, millions of residents in your state and the FCT continue to face extreme poverty and lack access to basic public goods and services.

“The reported removal of petrol subsidy and the floating of the exchange rate by the Federal Government has translated into increased FAAC allocations to states and the FCT. However, there is no corresponding improvement in the security and welfare of millions of Nigerians.

“FAAC allocations received by your state and the FCT are reportedly characterised by mismanagement, diversion of funds, and abandoned projects. FAAC allocations have also been allegedly spent for other purposes such as election campaigns and political patronage.

“Publishing the documents on the spending of FAAC allocations by your state and the FCT would promote transparency, accountability, and reduce the risks of corruption in the spending of the funds.

“Publishing the documents would enable Nigerians to meaningfully engage in the implementation of projects executed with the FAAC allocations collected.

“The report that some 140 million Nigerians are poor suggests corruption and mismanagement in the spending of trillions of naira in FAAC allocations collected by your state and the FCT.

“We would be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within 7 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall consider appropriate legal actions to compel you and your state and the FCT to comply with our requests in the public interest.

“According to our information, the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) last week disbursed N1.123 trillion to the federal, state and local governments for March 2024.

“State governments got N398.689 billion while local government councils got N288.688 billion. The mineral-producing states received an additional N90.124 billion (13% of mineral revenue). In February, states collected N336 billion.

“According to the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), the federal, states and local governments shared N10.143 trillion from the Federation Account as statutory revenue allocations in 2023, with states collecting N3.585 trillion.

“SERAP also urges you to provide details of the transparency and accountability mechanisms that have been put in place to ensure that the trillions of naira of FAAC allocations that have been received by your state and the FCT are not embezzled, misappropriated or diverted into private pockets.

“SERAP is concerned about the persistent lack of transparency and accountability in the spending of FAAC allocations by your state and the FCT.

“SERAP notes that Section 15(5) of the Nigerian Constitution requires public institutions to abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power.

“Section 16(2) of the Nigerian Constitution further provides that, ‘the material resources of the nation are harnessed and distributed as best as possible to serve the common good.’

“Section 13 of the Nigerian Constitution imposes clear responsibility on your state to conform to, observe and apply the provisions of Chapter 2 of the constitution.

“Nigeria has made legally binding commitments under the UN Convention against Corruption to ensure accountability in the management of public resources.

“Nigerians are entitled to the right to receive information without any interference or distortion, and the enjoyment of this right should be based on the principle of maximum disclosure, and a presumption that all information is accessible subject only to a narrow system of exceptions.

“The Freedom of Information Act, Section 39 of the Nigerian Constitution, article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights guarantee to everyone the right to information, including the documents on the spending of FAAC allocations by your state.

“The Nigerian Constitution, Freedom of Information Act, and the country’s anti-corruption and human rights obligations rest on the principle that citizens should have access to information regarding their public institutions’ activities.”

Meanwhile, the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC), at its April 2024 meeting chaired by the Accountant General of the Federation, Mrs. Oluwatoyin S. Madein, shared a total sum of N1,123.391 trillion to the three tiers of government as Federation Allocation for the month of March, 2024 from a gross total of N1,867.808 trillion.

From the stated amount inclusive of Gross Statutory Revenue, Value Added Tax (VAT), Electronic Money Transfer Levy (EMTL), and Exchange Difference (ED), the Federal Government received N345.890 Billion, the States received N398.689 Billion, the Local Government Councils got N288.688 Billion, while the Oil Producing States received N90.124 Billion as Derivation, (13% of Mineral Revenue).

The sum of N69.537 Billion was given for the cost of collection, while N674.880 Billion was allocated for Transfers Intervention and Refunds.

The Communique issued by the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) at the end of the meeting indicated that the Gross Revenue available from the Value Added Tax (VAT) for March 2024, was N549.698 Billion, which was an increase from the N460.488 Billion distributed in the preceding month, resulting in an increase of N89.210 Billion.

From that amount, the sum of N21.988 Billion was allocated for the cost of collection and the sum of N15.831 Billion given for transfers, intervention and refunds.

The remaining sum of N511.879 Billion was distributed to the three tiers of government, of which the Federal Government got N76.782 Billion, the States received N255.940 Billion, Local Government Councils got N179.158 Billion.

Accordingly, the Gross Statutory Revenue of N1,017.216 Trillion received in the month was lower than the sum of N1,192.428 Trillion received in the previous month of February 2024 by N175.212 Billion.

From that amount, the sum of N46.934 Billion was allocated for the cost of collection and a total sum of N659.049 billion for Transfers, Intervention and Refunds.

The remaining balance of N311.233 Billion was distributed as follows to the three tiers of government: Federal Government got the sum of N133.960 Billion, States received N67.946 Billion, the sum of N52.384 Billion was allocated to LGCs and N56.943 was given to Derivation Revenue (13% Mineral producing States).

Also, the sum of N15.369 Billion from Electronic Money Transfer Levy (EMTL) was distributed to the three (3) tiers of government as follows: the Federal Government received N2.213 Billion, States got N7.377 Billion, Local Government Councils received N5.164 Billion, while N0.615 Billion was allocated for Cost of Collection.

The Communique also disclosed N285.525 Billion from Exchange Difference, which was shared as follows: Federal Government received N132.935 Billion, States got N67.426 Billion, the sum of N51.983 Billion was allocated to Local Government Councils, while N33.181 Billion was given for Derivation (13% of Mineral Revenue) Value Added Tax (VAT), Import Duty, Gas Royalty, Companies Income Tax (CIT) and others increased considerably while Excise Duty, Oil Royalty, Petroleum Profit Tax (PPT), Customs External Tariff levies (CET) and Electronic Money Transfer Lev (EMTL) recorded decreases.

According to the Communique, the total revenue distributable for the current month of March 2024, was drawn from Statutory Revenue of N311.233 Billion, Value Added Tax (VAT) of N511.879 Billion, N14.754 Billion from Electronic Money Transfer Levy (EMTL), and N285.525 Billion from Exchange Difference, bringing the total distributable amount for the month to N1,123.391 trillion.

The balance in the Excess Crude Account (ECA) as at April 2024 stands at $473,754.57.

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