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Probe missing $3.4 billion IMF loan, SERAP tells Tinubu

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Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Bola Tinubu “to direct the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Mr Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, and appropriate anti-corruption agencies to promptly probe the allegations that $3.4 billion loan obtained from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is missing, diverted or unaccounted for.”

The 2020 annual audited report published last week by the Auditor-General of the Federation documents damning revelations including that there was no document to show the movement and spending of the IMF loan.

SERAP also urged him to ensure that, “anyone suspected to be responsible should face prosecution as appropriate, if there is sufficient admissible evidence, and any missing IMF loan should be fully recovered and returned to the public treasury.”

In the letter dated 3 February 2024 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “There is a legitimate public interest in ensuring justice and accountability for these serious allegations. Taking these important measures would end the impunity of perpetrators.”

SERAP said, “Servicing IMF loan that is allegedly missing, diverted or unaccounted for is double jeopardy for Nigerians—they can neither see nor benefit from the projects for which the loan was approved; yet, they are made to pay both the loan and accrued interests.”

According to SERAP, “Any failure to investigate these grave allegations, bring suspected perpetrators to justice and recover any missing IMF loan would have serious resource allocation and exacerbate the country’s debt burden.”

The letter, read in part: “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 your government to comply with our request in the public interest.”

“The Auditor-General recommends that the money be fully recovered and remitted to the public treasury and those suspected to be involved ‘sanctioned and handed over to anticorruption agencies’.”

“The allegations of corruption in the spending of IMF loan documented by the Auditor-General undermine economic development of the country, trap the majority of Nigerians in poverty and deprive them of opportunities.”

“The allegations suggest a grave violation of the public trust, the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended), the country’s anticorruption legislation and international anticorruption obligations including under the UN Convention against Corruption.”

“According to the 2020 annual audited report by the Auditor-General of the Federation published last week, the US$3.4 billion emergency financial assistance obtained from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to finance the budget and manage the health crisis stemming from the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic may have been missing, diverted or unaccounted for.”

“According to the Auditor-General, no information or document was provided to justify the movement and spending of Fund.”

“The Auditor-General wants the money recovered and remitted to the public treasury and for the evidence of remittance to be forwarded to the Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly.”

“The Auditor-General also recommends that anyone suspected to be involved should be ‘sanctioned and handed over to the EFCC and ICPC for investigation and prosecution, as provided for in paragraph 3112 of the Financial Regulations’.”

“According to reports, Nigeria is expected to spread the payment of the IMF loan from 2023 to 2027. The first instalment, due in 2023, is worth $497.17 million. The second instalment, due in 2024, will be worth $1.76 billion. The third instalment, due in 2025, will be worth $865.27 million.”

“The final two instalments, due in 2026 and 2027, will each be worth $33.99 million. These instalments will only be interest payments.”

“Investigating the allegations and naming and shaming and prosecuting those suspected to be responsible for the missing IMF would serve the public interest and end the impunity of perpetrators.”

“Impunity for corruption in the management of loans obtained by Nigeria will continue as long as high-ranking public officials go largely unpunished for their alleged crimes. It is by pursuing these allegations and taking the evidence before the court that the truth will be revealed and justice best served.”

“SERAP notes that the consequences of corruption are felt by citizens on a daily basis. Corruption exposes them to additional costs to pay for health, education and administrative services.”

“SERAP notes that your government has a sacred duty to ensure that the country’s loans including those obtained from the IMF are transparently and accountably used solely for the purposes for which the loans are obtained, and for the effective development of public goods and services as well as the general public interests.”

“This implies providing strong leadership in the efforts to curb public sector corruption, and to refer to appropriate anticorruption agencies any allegations of corruption in which any officials and agencies of government may be involved or complicit.”

“Section 13 of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended] imposes clear responsibility on your government to conform to, observe and apply the provisions of Chapter 2 of the constitution. Section 15(5) imposes the responsibility on your government to ‘abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power’ in the country.”

“Under Section 16(1) of the Constitution, your government has a responsibility to ‘secure the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice and equality of status and opportunity.’”

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

“Similarly, articles 5 and 9 of the UN Convention against Corruption also impose legal obligations on your government to ensure proper management of public affairs and public funds including loans obtained by the country, and to promote sound and transparent administration of public affairs.”

“The UN Convention against Corruption and the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party obligate your government to effectively prevent and investigate allegations of corruption and mismanagement of public funds including loans obtained by the country.”

“Specifically, article 26 of the UN convention requires your government to ensure ‘effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions’ including criminal and non-criminal sanctions, in cases of grand corruption.”

“Article 26 complements the more general requirement of article 30, paragraph 1, that sanctions must take into account the gravity of the corruption allegations.”

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Emirate crisis: FG will be held responsible for violence in Kano – Atiku

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Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, the 2023 presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has said that the President Bola Tinubu-led Federal Government would be held responsible if violence breaks out in Kano State over the emirate crisis.

Atiku said Tinubu’s government was inviting anarchy to Kano State by providing security for the deposed Emir of Kano, Aminu Ado-Bayero.

On Friday, Governor Abba Yusuf had deposed Bayero while reinstating Lamido Sanusi as the 15th Emir of Kano.

Posting on X, Atiku cautioned the federal government against destabilising Kano State.

According to Atiku: “The action of the Federal Government in deploying soldiers in Kano in the tussle over the throne of the ancient city is an upset to the peace and security of the state, and also in breach of the 1999 Constitution as Amended.

“The foregoing circumstances happened within the confines of the law and in compliance with the powers conferred on the governor as provided by Section 5(2) of the 1999 Constitution as amended; and also in consultation with the kingmakers of Kano, reappointed Sanusi Lamido Sanusi (also known as Muhammadu Sanusi II) as the 16th Emir of Kano State and accordingly handed him a letter of appointment.

“It is surprising that in the early hours of today, exactly at about 5:30 am the former Emir of Kano, His Majesty Aminu Ado Bayero, backed by Federal might made their way into the Nasarawa Palace of the Kano Emirate while the reappointed Emir, Muhammadu Sanusi II was at the Gidan Dabo, which is the main residence of the Emir of Kano.

“In this wise, the former Emir could not have made his way into the Nasarawa Palace without the support of the Federal Government having done so with the support of the army and other security personnel in his company. The deployment of soldiers in extra constitutional matters such as this undermines the integrity of the Nigerian military.

“We need to remind the Tinubu administration that Kano State is known for peace and harmony spanning thousands of years and any attempt to destablise the peace of the Land of Commerce shall be resisted. Recall that Muhammadu Sanusi II was dethroned on 9th March, 2020: dethroned, Kano forged on in peace without any fracas.

“We wish to state unequivocally that if for any reason, law and order breaks down in Kano State, particularly Kano Municipal, the Federal Government should be held responsible as the act of providing security cover to the former Emir, Aminu Ado Bayero to come back to Kano is an invitation to anarchy.”

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Justice’ll prevail – Deposed Kano Emir Bayero breaks silence

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The deposed Emir of Kano, Aminu Ado-Bayero, has said justice will prevail over the issue surrounding the emirates in the state.

Bayero urged relevant authorities to ensure justice because nobody is above the law.

Governor Abba Yusuf of Kano State had dethroned Bayero as the 15th Emir of the state.

Speaking on Saturday, the deposed Emir urged residents to maintain law and order. He spoke at the mini-palace where he has since returned to after his dethronement.

According to Ado-Bayero: “I call on the people to remain law-abiding while awaiting the outcome of the legal process in this tussle.

“We call on the authority to do justice in this matter. Kano is a very influential state in Nigeria. Whatever affects Kano affects Nigeria. May peace reign in Kano. We pray for Allah to bless Kano with responsible and just leaders.

“Justice is the way to go on every issue. There will be justice. Nobody is above the law. We will accept whatever the law says. I appreciate all the people who have shown concern. As I said, justice will take its course. We will keep on praying for peace in Kano State. May Allah the Almighty protect us.”

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Nigerian airports most expensive globally – NAHCO

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Nigerian Aviation Handling Company Plc has set an N100 billion revenue target within the next five years.

The projection was made known by the Group chairman of the company, Dr Seinde Fadeni, at the sideline of its Annual General Meeting held in Lagos on Saturday.

In achieving this, the company noted that it had concluded plans to diversify its investment portfolio to create new jobs and contribute significantly to resolving the country’s foreign exchange crisis.

NAHCO which was established in 1979, provides aviation cargo, aircraft handling, passenger facilitation, crew transportation, refuelling and aviation training services from its base at Murtala Muhammed International Airport.

According to Fadeni, the company is convinced that the food export holds significant potential for foreign exchange earnings because of its impact on the livelihoods and prosperity of Nigerians.

He said though the company is navigating safely around the myriad of challenges confronting the air transport space, he urged the government to look at ways to improve airport infrastructure and reduce the financial burden for airlines and passengers to keep pace with the future growth plan.

He said ” NAHCO believes that the government at the centre should work towards reducing the financial burden for airlines and passengers by reviewing applicable taxes. This way, more payees would be brought into the tax net. Not too long ago, the International Air Transport Association declared that Nigerian airports charge foreign airlines about 27 levies.

“This makes Nigerian airports the most expensive in the world, discouraging airlines from flying into the country. This is not the kind of laurel Nigeria should be proud of. It is a disincentive to investment for both active and prospective investors. The government should address this situation. Government should also heed the industry’s calls for the harmonisation of the regulatory environment, particularly at the ports in a way that aligns with global best practices. The nation’s Ease of Doing Business mantra should be in practice and not in theory only.”

He further said that though multiple cost-related challenges characterised 2023, the increased cost of handling an aircraft cannot be easily passed on to the airline by ground handling companies because any proposed rate hike would require the approval of the industry regulator – Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority.

He said, “The very act of getting new rates approved has its challenges as well. It is therefore not uncommon to see ticket prices rising geometrically while ground handling rates charged by service providers to airlines remain solidly stagnant.

“Our push towards birthing a global integrated logistic giant is taking good shape with the coming into operations of new subsidiaries.”

Also speaking, its Group Managing Director/ Chief Executive Officer, Indranil Gupta said the company intends to diversify investment into other sectors of the economy to grow.

“We will continue to leverage our strength and market insights to pursue organic and strategic growth initiatives to expand our market presence and revenue streams

“We plan to comprehensively refresh our fleet of ground support equipment to replace ageing equipment and increase the numbers in our fleet to meet the ever-increasing customer needs and expectations.

“We are already embracing digitalisation and innovation, investing in cutting-edge technologies and solutions to enhance our service offerings, operational efficiency and competitiveness. By harnessing the power of data analytics, automation and predictive maintenance, we aim to stay ahead of the industry trends and deliver superior value to our clients ”

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