The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), has said he has no record of the amount of money stolen by the late military dictator, Gen. Sani Abacha.
The AGF added that he wouldn’t also know about $5bn Abacha loot allegedly recovered between 1999 and 2015 and how the money was spent.
Malami said this in response to a Freedom of Information request sent to his office by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, demanding accountability on recovered $5bn Abacha loot.
SERAP had asked the Federal Government to make known to Nigerians “details of projects executed with the Abacha loot and their locations; details of companies and contractors involved in the execution of any such projects; details of all the agreements on the loot, the roles played by the World Bank and other actors, as well as the implementation status of all projects since 1999.”
In a statement on Sunday, SERAP’s Deputy Director, Kolawole Oludare, said the AGF had responded to the group’s request via a February 26 letter.
Oludare quoted Malami to have said, “We have searched our records and the information on the exact amount of public funds stolen by Abacha and how recovered loot was spent from 1999 to 2015 is not held by the ministry.”
The AGF stressed that he was not in possession of “records of the exact amount of public funds stolen by a former military head of state, Sani Abacha, and no records of the spending of about $5bn recovered loot for the period between 1999 and 2015.
“However, a total of $322m was recovered from Switzerland in January 2018 and the funds were used for the Social Investment Project. Also, $308m was recovered from the Island of Jersey in collaboration with the USA. While awaiting the transfer of the money to Nigeria, it has been designated for the following projects: Lagos-Ibadan Expressway; Abuja-Kano Expressway, and the Second Niger Bridge.”
But Oludare said SERAP was dissatisfied with the AGF’s response.
Oluwadare said, “The failure to provide information on the exact amount stolen by Abacha and on spending of recovered loot for the period between 1999 and 2015 implicitly amounts to a refusal by the government.
“The government also failed to provide sufficient details on the spending and planned spending of the $630m it said it recovered since 2018.
“In the circumstances and given that Mrs Zainab Ahmed has failed and/or refused to respond to our FoI request, we are finalising the papers for legal actions under the FoI Act to compel the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to fully and effectively comply with our requests.”
SERAP recalled that “a special panel set up on July 23, 1998 by the former head of state, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, to probe the late military dictator General Sani Abacha stated that he stole over $5bn between 1993 and 1998 when he was in power. Much of the stolen public funds have been returned to Nigeria.
“The report by the panel shows that the government recovered some $635m, £75m, DM 30m and N9bn as well as several vehicles and properties in Abuja, Lagos and Kano together with 40 per cent interests in West African Refinery in Sierra Leone. Other assets were recovered from the Abacha family and associates.
“Furthermore, former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration also reportedly recovered over $2bn of Abacha loot. Mr Obasanjo would seem to confirm this fact when he stated in the second volume of his book titled My Watch that: ‘by the time I left office in May 2007, over $2bn and £100m had been recovered from the Abacha family abroad, and N10bn in cash and properties locally.’
“Similarly, former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration reportedly recovered $226.3m and €7.5m from Liechtenstein. Some £22.5m was also recovered from the Island of Jersey while $322m and £5.5m from the Abacha loot were reportedly returned to the government.
“The government of President Muhammadu Buhari has also recovered several millions of dollars of Abacha loot since assuming office in May 2015, including $321m from Switzerland, and $300m from the US and Jersey.”
FCCPC: Electricity Topped Consumers’ Complaints In 2020
The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) says it received the highest consumer related complaints from the electricity sector in 2020.
Speaking in Abuja on Sunday, Babatunde Irukera (pictured), chief executive officer of FCCPC, said the banking and telecommunication sectors ranked second and third respectively on the complaints chart.
He added that the aviation sector was ranked fourth.
“Our complaints resolution team is still a very small team of people and they are dealing with thousands of complaints,” Irukera said.
“We are looking at expanding capacity to have more hands handling the complaints but the real game changer in handling complaints better and faster is for companies to start doing it.
“The person who has the least open complaint in our resolution team has about 800 complaints across sectors and that is one person. If you multiply it by 12 to 15 persons, you will imagine the number of complaints.
“Being able to expand to a point where we are able to operate more efficiently, we will keep training, leveraging technology, the more we leverage technology, the more efficiently we can do our work.”
The commission was established by the 2018 Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act (FCCPA) to promote fair, efficient and competitive markets in the Nigerian economy, facilitate access by all citizens to safe products, and protect the rights of all consumers in Nigeria.
FEC Approves CBN’s Request To Renovate National Theatre For N21b
Lai Mohammed, minister of information and culture, said on Wednesday that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) has approved a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), and the ministry of information and culture for the renovation of the National Theatre in Iganmu, Lagos.
He spoke at the end the weekly FEC meeting in Abuja.
The federal government, on July 12, 2020, handed over the national theatre to CBN and the bankers’ committee to signify the kick-start of the renovation process.
“This is a landmark approval because, it has paved the way for investment in the creative industry as part of the resolve of this government to create at least one million jobs in the next three years in the creative industry,” Mohammed said.
“The CBN and banker’s committee are willing to invest N21.894 billion to renovate, refurbish and commercialization (run it profitably) of the national theatre complex. The MoU has a life span of 21 years after which it will revert back to government.”
The minister assured that no job will be lost after the national theatre is renovated, adding that the “brand new national theatre, an event centre” will instead create more jobs.
Asides from this, FEC approved about N9.43 billion to complete the digital switch over (DSO) in broadcasting; N8.98 billion for a new national ICT park in the federal capital territory (FCT) to coordinate public and private ICT hubs in Nigeria.
The council also approved a new national policy on aging which would take care of the needs of the aged people across Nigeria; approved the ministry of water resources memo to construct Damaturu water supply project in Yobe state worth N8.43 billion.
Adesina identifies Debt Service As Greatest Risk To Nigeria
The President of African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, has warned that debt service is Nigeria’s greatest risk, even as he urged the federal government to take steps to increase tax revenue in the face of dwindling oil income.
The Director of Communications and Liaison of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mr. Abdullahi Ahmad, stated that he spoke virtually at the recently held First Annual National Tax Dialogue .
Dr. Adesina was quoted as saying that due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nigeria’s economy shrank “by 3% in 2020 on account of falling oil prices and the effects of the lockdowns on economic activities,” adding, “with shrinkage in oil revenues, debt service payments pose the greatest risk to Nigeria.”
He stressed further that for Nigeria to overcome the pandemic, “taxes must form a significant percentage of government revenue. Digitalization of tax collection and tax administration is critical to ensure greater transparency of the tax system, widening of the tax base, while mitigating compliance risks and encouraging voluntary tax compliance.”
Tax experts and stakeholders at the event called for the automation of tax collection by the FIRS through data and intelligence in order to ease tax collection, as well as, improve revenue.
Executive Secretary, African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF), Mr. Logan Wort, harped on the place of technology in generating revenue for the country in a post-Covid economy.
Mr. Wort, who joined the dialogue virtually from South Africa, stated, “Domestic Resource Mobilisation (DRM) is expected to contribute at least 75% to 90% on average per country” in the post-Covid era, adding that Nigeria and other African countries should note, “improved tax revenue will have to take prime position” in the scheme of things.
He urged Nigeria to pay serious attention to e-commerce and the digital economy sector where big, trans-national digital conglomerates like Google, Netflix and Uber operate and make huge, tax-free profits as a possible way of increasing tax revenue generation.
He said Nigeria should borrow a leaf from Ghana in e-commerce taxation, projected to fetch Ghana $450 million in annual tax revenue.
Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who was chairman of the Dialogue, was quoted as lauding the FIRS “for its performance in the 2020 fiscal year, despite operating in the most challenging period. The Service not only collected N4.9 trillion in taxes, achieving 98% of its target; only 30.6% of this was attributed to Petroleum Profits Tax, from what used to be over 50%”.
He urged participants to, “interrogate how Nigeria can further deepen the use of technology to improve tax compliance nationally and across sub-nationals.”