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EFCC Uncovers N37B Fraud In Humanitarian Ministry, Indicts Sadiya Umar-Farouk

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has uncovered a total sum of N37,170,855,753.44 allegedly laundered in the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs under former minister Sadiya Umar-Farouk.

Details of the ongoing probe exclusively obtained by Sunday PUNCH revealed that the money was transferred from the Federal Government’s coffers and sent to 38 different bank accounts domiciled in five legacy commercial banks belonging to or connected with a contractor, James Okwete.

Following receipt of the funds, Okwete allegedly transferred N6,746,034,000.00 to Bureau De Change Operators, withdrew N540,000,000.00 in cash, purchased luxury cars with N288,348,600.00, and bought luxury houses in Abuja and Enugu State with N2,195,115,000.00.

Fifty-three companies were allegedly traced to Okwete, who was also said to have used 47 of the companies to lift Federal Government contracts amounting to N27,423,824,339.86. He is also linked with 143 bank accounts in 12 commercial banks in which 134 accounts are corporate accounts linked to different companies.

Checks by our correspondent with the Corporate Affairs Commission revealed that Okwete is a director in only 11 of the 53 companies, while the remaining 42 companies’ accounts are only linked to his Bank Verification Number as a signatory to the accounts.

Sunday PUNCH reports that the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs currently serves as the parent ministry to eight agencies, including the National Social Investment Office, the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals, and the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants, and Internationally Displaced Persons, among others.

Umar-Farouq was the pioneer Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development. She was appointed by former President Muhammadu Buhari in July 2019 as the youngest cabinet member.

Her work with Buhari dates back to his days as the leader and presidential candidate of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change when she was the national treasurer of the party and later the national treasurer of the All Progressives Congress.

She was later appointed minister in 2019 by President Buhari.

The EFCC document revealed, “Between 2018 and 2023, the subject (Okwete) received the sum of N37,170,855,753.44 from the coffers of the Federal Government linked to the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.

“The monies were sent to 38 bank accounts domiciled in five legacy commercial banks. The suspect transferred N6,746,034,000.00 to Bureau De Change Operators, N540,000,000.00 withdrawn in cash, N288,348,600.00 used to purchase cars, and used N2,195,115,000.00 to purchase choice properties within Abuja and Enugu State.

“Fifty-three companies were traced to the suspect. He used 47 of the companies to lift Federal Government contracts amounting to N27,423,824,339.86. Okwete is associated with 143 bank accounts in 12 commercial banks in which 134 of the 143 accounts are corporate accounts linked to different companies.”

In 2020, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission said it uncovered N2.67bn meant for the ministry’s school feeding programme in private bank accounts.

The former ICPC Chairman, Prof Bolaji Owasanoye, disclosed that the commission unravelled N2.67bn in personal accounts, being payment made to some federal colleges for school feeding during the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020.

Other discoveries by the ICPC include 18 buildings, 12 business premises and 25 plots of land. Owasanoye said under the Open Treasury Portal review carried out between January and August 15, 2020, of the 268 Ministries, Departments and Agendas, 72 had cumulative infractions of N90m.

The former ICPC chairman argued that the money was paid when children were not in school.

Despite requests by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project to Umar-Farouq to publish details and names of the suspects, the former minister failed to reveal their names.

Reacting to this, SERAP had written on its official Facebook page, “Following the disclosure by the ICPC that N2.67bn meant for school feeding during the COVID-19 lockdown ended up in private bank accounts, we’re calling on the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development of Nigeria, Sadiya Umar-Farouq, to immediately publish details of those suspected to be responsible, or face legal action.

“If the names are not immediately published, we’ll issue a freedom of information request to ensure that those involved are named and shamed.

“We’ll also pursue appropriate legal actions to hold suspected perpetrators to account, in the public interest.

“Diverting funds meant to feed school children (who are already disproportionately affected by corruption), especially during COVID-19, is a blatant violation of the rights to education, health, and dignity, as well as the government’s own COVID-19 transparency frameworks.

Corruption in school feeding increases distrust in the government. The Federal Government must ensure that transparency and accountability measures are fundamental to all school feeding and other initiatives in the context of COVID-19, to ensure the children receive the support they need.”

When contacted over the development, the spokesperson for the EFCC, Dele Oyewale, neither confirmed nor denied the story.

Oyewale simply said, “No comments on that.”

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Order CBN to honour Letters of Credit– SINET to Tinubu, NASS

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Amidst several hardships facing the Nigerian populace, the Social Integrity Network, (SINET) has urged President Ahmed Bola Tinubu and the leadership of national assembly to compel the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Mr. Olayemi Cardoso, to order and reconsider honouring the forward contracts that are genuinely backed up with proper compliant documents for utilisation against each Letters of Credit (LCs) opened by the commercial banks using the forwards as a hedge.

The group also urged the Federal Government to make further clarification concerning a statement credited to the CBN Governor on issues regarding the alleged and well-publicized revelations of a $2.4 billion forex trading fraud.

SINET recalled that “On February 5, 2024, the governor of CBN made this declaration in both his interactions with Senate committees and his interview on a national television, following the engagement of Deloitte Management Consultant to conduct a forensic investigation where he claimed that the said amount was uncovered.

A statement issued on Monday by SINET national coordinator, Ibrahim Issah, disclosed that “On the contrary, we wish to unequivocally state that these claims lack merit and do not take into account the consequences they will have on businesses, public perception, or the economy of our cherished nation and its implication on forex both at home and abroad.”

According to him, “Without sentiment, the claim is completely falsehood and unacceptable as he, the CBN governor, failed to consider its economic implications. It is pertinent to state that genuine businessmen and women across the country, borrowed Funds from commercial banks, some with interest rates as high as 30% to secure forex from the CBN through their respective commercial banks since CBN does not sell the dollars to individuals directly.

“The same funds have been deposited with CBN for the past one and half years for forwards allocated for which the Apex Bank is now claiming were fraudulent transactions. May we remind Mr. Governor that while the CBN allocated the forwards after collecting the naira for each forward allocated, the commercial banks used these same forward contracts as a hedge and issued Letters of Credit (LCs) to their various customers against their offshore credit lines and also as a sovereign guarantee to their offshore banks which stand unpaid till today as a result of the failure of CBN to honour the various forward contracts.

“May we also remind our CBN Governor that as a result of their failure to honour these contracts, the outstanding foreign loans continue to accrue interest (post-negotiation charges), which the commercial Banks are passing to their customers: the same customers you say do not have a genuine claim.”

The statement further stressed that, “The public would like to ask Mr. Governor the following questions: What will happen to the foreign bank that is expecting their payment to be paid back? What will happen to the businessmen and women who had borrowed Naira from commercial Banks and paid the same into the CBN account for the purchase of forex for over eighteen months? Who will bear the interest charged on borrowed funds locally? Who will bear the charges running against the offshore lines used in establishing Letters of Credit? What will happen to the businesses? What will happen to the employees that are dependent on the survival of the businesses that CBN is trying to kill?

“We call upon the senate president and, in fact, the president and Commander In-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to call the CBN governor to order and reconsider honouring the forward contracts that are genuinely backed up with proper compliant documents for utilisation against each Letters of Credit (LCs) opened by the commercial banks using the forwards as a hedge.

“Let us state categorically that the CBN is killing businesses by cancelling the forward contracts that were sold to them about 18 months ago at the rate of N450/dollar and now selling the same funds to the commercial banks and directing the bank to sell the money at the rate of 1,500/dollar to the same businesses who initially had a forward contract at the rate of N450/dollar.

“May we also remind Mr. Governor, that failure to honour these forward contracts is taking commercial banks longer time to clean the offshore lines already used for establishing Letters of Credit against which shipments have been done and payment made to LC beneficiaries by the offshore banks. The delays of the commercial banks to settle their Forex obligations to their offshore banks is making our country risk to be very high.

“Lastly, the public will like to call on the coordinating minister for the economy, Mr. Wale Edun to engage the CBN regarding this issue of undelivered forward contracts because at present in Nigeria, almost 60% of companies in the manufacturing sector have been closed due to the volatility of Forex in Nigeria in order to avoid the other 40% from also closing down.

“This will go a long way to help the few remaining manufacturing companies still in operation in Nigeria and also encourage the new investors that the president and commander in-chief of the federal republic is trying woo to bring their investments to Nigeria.”

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APC To Yahaya Bello: Stop Confusing The Party, No Vacancy For National Chairman

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Yahaya Bello Kogi state

The leadership of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has told the immediate-past governor of Kogi state, Yahaya Bello that there is no vacancy in the office of the national chairman of the party.

The national publicity secretary of the party, Felix Morka warned the former Kogi governor to stop confusing the party, saying the position of the national chairman is currently occupied.

Morka handed down the warning while addressing newsmen at the national secretariat of the party.

The posters of the former governor were seen on major streets in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), especially around the federal secretariat and on walls and fences of structures around the APC national secretariat along Blantyre Street, Wuse 2, Abuja.

The bold picture of the former Kogi state governor is adorned with the inscription, “APC Next Level. Alhaji Yahaya Bello as APC National Chairman. Leading the Change, Building a Stronger APC.”

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