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Presidency provides details on N89trn stamp duty, counters Kazaure on missing funds

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The presidency says there is now evidence that the claims of a missing N89.09 trillion from stamp duty “appears to be false”.

Garba Shehu, senior special assistant to the president, said this while providing details on the stamp duty controversy in a statement on Tuesday.

Gudaji Kazaure, member of the house of representatives on mismanagement or embezzlement of stamp duty funds, had accused administration officials of “cover-ups” in the investigation of the funds.

In a recent interview, Kazaure, who said he is also the secretary of the presidential committee on the reconciliation and recovery of all stamp duties, alleged that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the office of the secretary to the government of the federation (OSGF), and the protocol department of the state house, conspired to prevent him from briefing President Muhammadu Buhari on the findings so far made.

The lawmaker alleged that he was blocked from meeting Buhari in order to brief him on progress reports on efforts to trace trapped N89.09 trillion.

HOW THE COMMITTEE WAS FORMED AND DISSOLVED

But providing details on the issue, Shehu explained that President Muhammadu Buhari came into office in 2015 to find that a law, which stipulated for the collection of a “token on banking transactions existed but was not being correctly implemented”.

He said this anomaly arose because certain characters apparently formed a cartel with collaborators in the Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST) and were allegedly “collecting and pocketing this money”.

Soon after, according to Shehu, a non-government organisation posited to the administration that the Nigerian government had lost the sum of over N20 trillion to the Nigerian Inter-bank Settlement System ((NIBSS) between 2013-2016 in this regard, claiming that the said sum could be recovered and paid back into the government coffers.

“The consultants asked to be paid a professional fee of 7.5 percent and were placed under the supervision of the secretary to the government of the federation (SGF),” he said.

“Following the lack of progress in the promised recovery, the late chief of staff to the president, Abba Kyari, wrote on March 8, 2018 to the SGF conveying a presidential directive that following the lack of progress and several expressed concerns received, the activities of the consultants be discontinued.

“In the aftermath of this dismissal, the consultants sued the government.

“A court of competent jurisdiction subsequently ruled in favour of the government.”

Arising from the outcome of the litigation and the well-known controversy on the legally responsible agent for collecting this levy, Shehu said the administration went to the national assembly and caused an amendment to the law and removed NIPOST from the duty of its collection.

He said having lost a potentially “lucrative” line of “business,” the sacked “characters returned to the drawing board to formulate one form of trick or another to intimidate the government but the vigilant teams of the administration kept them at bay”.

Shehu further explained that they returned lately to the government through “honourable Muhammadu Gudaji Kazaure with a plan to track the so-called lost stamp duties with the erstwhile consultant as chairman and honourable Gudaji as secretary”.

“When it emerged that the petitioner and lead consultant of the committee the President had dissolved via the late Abba Kyari’s letter of March 28 had masqueraded himself and re-emerged as the chairman of the new recovery committee championed by the Hon. Gudaji, the President rescinded the approval he gave and asked that it be stopped from operating under the seal of his office,” Shehu further explained.

“In addition to this committee being chaired by a petitioner, there were also other concerns relating to natural justice and fair hearing in having the chief justice of the federation as a committee member and a serving member of the house of representatives as secretary, which are not in line with section 5(1),(a)&(b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).

“Once the president rescinded his approval to constitute this committee, [it] lost all legitimacy.

“Arguments have in recent days been flying left and right over the rightfulness of a committee being dissolved.

“People are entitled to hold opinions. But these opinions do not change the fact that under our constitution, the power of the president to appoint and remove persons or groups is duly entrenched and unless such powers are shared with the parliament, the President can hire and fire literally at will, and in line with the law.”

KAZUARE’S MISSING N89 TRILLION CLAIM FALSE

Therefore, the president’s special assistant said there is evidence to debunk claims Kazaure’s claims on the missing funds.

He said the same set of consultants claimed in 2016 that there was N20 trillion to be collected, but “it was found to be false”.

“To go back to the main issue though, it is now evident that the consultants and petitioners’ claims of a missing N89 trillion from stamp duty appears false and a figment of their malicious imaginations,” Shehu said.

“The entire banking sector deposit is not even up to half of N89 trillion.

“Indeed, if the federal government can find N89 trillion, it can pay off all its debt, both foreign and local currency and all state government debts and still have over N10 trillion left.

“So, the claim by these so-called consultants and the disbanded committee is totally ridiculous and a complete mockery.”

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Lawyer sues CBN, seeks extension of deadline for old naira notes

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Joshua Alobo, a professor of law, has asked a federal high court in Abuja to restrain the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) from terminating the use of old naira notes on January 31.

In the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/114/2023, Alobo asked the court to issue a mandatory order, “extending the duration where the old notes cease to become legal tender to the period of three weeks when the redesign notes will be sufficiently dispensed by the commercial banks”.

The CBN, its governor, Godwin Emefiele, and Abubakar Malami, the attorney-general of the federation, were joined in the suit.

CBN had in October, announced that it would introduce a redesign of N200, N500, and N1,000 banknotes.

On November 23, the redesigned notes were unveiled by President Muhammadu Buhari.

In his 21-paragraph affidavit, Alobo said although the CBN’s decision was meant to reduce inflation and entrench a cashless society to curb money laundering and corruption, the majority of Nigerians, especially the less privileged, were yet to have access to the new notes.

He accused the commercial banks of failing to make the new notes available to their customers.

The lawyer said he was still handed the old notes on January 25 at the counter and through the automatic teller machine (ATM).

Alobo also submitted that the January 31 deadline for the usage of the old notes “is discriminatory against the rural dwellers, poor and less privileged persons in the society, as politically exposed persons are paid with the redesigned notes”.

“We concede that the policy of redesigning the currency is within the powers of the CBN, especially with the approval and endorsement of the president of the federal republic of Nigeria.

“However, the lack of necessary publicity due to the absence of the governor of CBN should be a Catholic and pentecostal factor to save the country from implosive corruption as commercial banks through various WhatsApp messages are soliciting for huge cash deposits of over N20billion at twenty percent commission.

“We respectfully submit that the dateline January 31, 2023, for phasing old Naira notes is of grave constitutional importance for the economic survival of the vast population that constitutes the entity called Nigeria.

“The percentage of persons with lower educational background and economic realities of rural dwellers and some Local Governments in Nigeria without a single bank is high,” the plaintiff added.”

The court has not fixed a date to hear the matter.

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JUST IN: INEC announces date to conduct mock accreditation of voters

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says it will carry out mock accreditation of voters on February 4.

The commission said the exercise will take place at 436 polling units across the country.

Mahmood Yakubu, INEC chairman, spoke on Friday at a meeting with the resident electoral commissioners (RECs) at the INEC headquarters, Abuja.

Yakubu said INEC is ready to conduct field tests with actual voters, having delivered and tested the bimodal voter accreditation system (BVAS) machines.

“For this reason, and in readiness for nationwide deployment, the commission is conducting a mock accreditation of voters similar to what was done ahead of the recent Ekiti and Osun State governorship elections,” he said.

“The mock accreditation will hold on Saturday 4th February 2023 in 436 polling units nationwide. Twelve polling units have been designated in each state of the federation and four in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on the equality of the country’s 109 Senatorial Districts for the exercise.

“A comprehensive list of the polling units, including their names and PU Code numbers, as well as their distribution by state, senatorial district, local government and registration area (Ward) will be uploaded to the commission’s website shortly.”

Yakubu, therefore, appealed to registered voters in the affected polling units to appear on the scheduled date with their PVCs for the mock exercise.

“Doing so will help to reassure the public of the robustness of our system and to strengthen our processes ahead of the general election,” he said.

“Civil society organisations, the media and the general public are welcome to observe the process. At the end of the exercise, the 436 BVAS machines involved will be reconfigured before they are deployed for the general election.”

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Court sacks Umo Eno, affirms Michael Enyong as Akwa Ibom PDP guber candidate

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A federal high court in Abuja has sacked Umo Eno as the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Akwa Ibom state.

In a judgment delivered on January 20, Fadima Aminu ordered the PDP to submit Michael Enyong’s name to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as its candidate.

In the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1295/2022 filed in August, Enyong had submitted that he won the party’s primaries conducted on May 25, 2022.

Enyong had referred the court to an order by Obiora Egwuatu, judge of a federal high court, on May 18 in suit FHC/ABJ/CS/606/2022 which restrained the PDP from utilising its list of ad-hoc delegates to conduct its gubernatorial primary election in Akwa Ibom, pending the determination of the substantive suit.

The plaintiff said he emerged winner of the indirect primary election scoring 2,448 out of the 2,776 total accredited votes.

But he said the party refused to submit his name to INEC as the governorship flagbearer which informed his decision to seek legal redress.

While INEC maintained a neutral stance in the matter, the 2nd defendant (PDP) never put in an appearance despite the proof of being served with the originating summons and all other processes.

Delivering the judgment, the judge held that Enyong has been able to prove his case beyond a reasonable doubt.

“In the final analysis, this court holds that the plaintiff has successfully proved his case on the preponderance of evidence. Consequently, the plaintiff is hereby declared the validly nominated gubernatorial candidate of the 2nd Defendant having emerged winner of the conducted primary election in Akwa Ibom state for the forthcoming 2023 general elections held on 25th day of May 2022,” the judge said.

“In the same vein, any other governorship primary election held after the valid election of 25th day of May, 2022, that election having no basis in law, is hereby declared null, void, and of no effect together with its outcome.

“The 2nd defendant (PDP) is hereby ordered to submit and present the name and details of the plaintiff to the 1st defendant as its rightful candidate.

“The 1st defendant (INEC) is to accord the plaintiff recognition, issue him a nomination form or publish his name as the 2nd defendant’s Akwa Ibom state gubernatorial candidate for the forthcoming 2023 general elections.

“The activities of a political party cannot be operated arbitrarily or at the whims or caprices of select individuals, no matter how highly placed.

“Political parties are creations of the constitution and statute. Therefore, the affairs of registered political parties in Nigeria must be run in conformity and in obedience to the law creating them.”

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