12 Feb

The week ahead – Tompolo steals the show

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has declared a former Niger Delta militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, wanted. The anti-graft agency in an advertorial signed by its spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, said it declared Tompolo wanted following two bench warrants issued against him by a Federal High Court in Lagos, where he has been charged with N45.9bn fraud. In the said advertorial which carried a photograph of Tompolo, the EFCC described him as a 47-year-old, dark-complexioned man from Okerenkoko, Gbaramotu Kingdom in the Warri South-West Local Government Area of Delta State. The wanted Tompolo, whose address was given as No. 1, Chief Agbanu Street, DDPA Extension, Warri, Delta State, is said to speak both Izon and English languages.

The Nigerian Army wants to add 100,000 new officers and enlisted men to its ranks, doubling its size to 200,000 soldiers, Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Yusuf Buratai announced in a lecture at the National Defence College in Abuja. The expansion, which is meant to happen over an eight year period, was announced in a week where it was alleged that the Presidential Villa’s security operatives are unhappy over unpaid allowances, claiming that they have not been paid since the inception of this government.

This week, the Department of State Services (DSS) announced the arrest of fraudsters, working in collaboration with an employee of the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF), to steal N4.5 billion from the Treasury Single Account (TSA).

In a busy week for the DSS, they also announced the arrest of a student of the Federal University of Technology, Minna, Abdussalam Yunusa, who was recruiting for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, in Kano. According to the DSS, the arrest of Yunusa was because of available intelligence, which indicated his covert drive to indoctrinate and recruit susceptible youths in the country. Yunusa had completed arrangements to embark on a journey to join an ISIS terrorist training camp in Libya, with other Nigerians whom he recruited for the group.

Two female suicide bombers Tuesday detonated bombs at the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp in Dikwa, Borno State, leaving 58 people dead and over 78 others injured. According to the National Emergency Management Agency, the incidents occurred when the IDPs queued up to collect their breakfast at the camp which accommodates over 50, 000 people displaced by Boko Haram terrorism. Three girls had disguised as displaced persons to enter the camp where people from Dikwa, Ngala, Marte, Kala Balge, Bama and Mafa LGAs are being kept. While two saw their plan through, one of them submitted herself to the authorities in the camp when she realized that her parents and siblings were among the IDPs. She was heard telling soldiers in the camp that more suicide bombers and insurgents had been assigned to attack the camp.

The two arms of the National Assembly have declared that the 2016 budget is full of errors, and as a result, the document can no longer be passed on February 25 as earlier promised. This is coming on the heels of the confusion that began when the 2016 budget document was declared “missing” at the National Assembly four weeks ago. Doubts still remain over the figures allocated to subheads in various ministries, departments and agencies. Legislators had begun questioning the integrity of the document before them and suddenly announced the indefinite suspension of the deadline they had earlier fixed for passing the budget. The two houses had fixed February 25, 2015 as the deadline for passing the document.

Eight years after the Federal Government took steps to rescue airlines and save them from bankruptcy by disbursing over N200 billion out of the N300 billion-intervention fund for the aviation and power sectors, the carriers are again in a trouble. Out of the intervention fund, N87.6 billion actually went to the operators. There are indications that the Federal Government is investigating how the N87.6 billion intervention fund for players in the aviation industry was actually spent by the beneficiaries. It is said that virtually all the airlines received the funds to rescue their operations, but since then, four of them, Chanchangi, Air Nigeria, Kabo Air and IRS Airlines have ceased operations, leaving a backlog of unpaid debts.

The Chairman, Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association of Nigeria has warned Nigerians to prepare for the scarcity of medicines in the country. This, he claimed is because of the lingering shortage of foreign exchange, which has prevented drug manufacturers from importing raw materials and chemicals needed to produce most essential medicines into the country. Similarly, reports have suggested that a lot of Nigerian businessmen are beginning to lose credibility and the trust of their international partners and suppliers over their inability remit forex after goods have shipped for several months.

Official figures from the NNPC suggest that Nigeria lost N103.6 billion as a result of gas flaring in 2015, the report shows that a total of 271.38 billion standard cubic feet of gas was flared last year despite the target of zero flaring of associated gas. The report indicated that, the amount was arrived at using $1.91 per 1,000 standard cubic feet and exchange rate of N200 to a dollar, the 271.38 billion standard cubic feet of gas flared last year amounted to $518.33 million, which is N103.6 billion.

COUNSEL

  • Tompolo is due in court exactly a week from today. While we hope he will come to his senses and save everyone the aggravation of unnecessary drama, we doubt it. We hope that the authorities have the will to see this through to its proper conclusion.
  • We certainly see the rational behind such a radical expansion of the Nigerian Army based purely on the numbers. But given the security challenges in the region, especially the radicalisation of young people by all sorts of Islamist groups, such a move should be very carefully considered. Another, key question is simply, can Nigeria afford it?
  • It is a matter of urgent national security that the operatives at the Villa be paid. The personal security of the President himself, and his immediate family depends on this, and it is the height of carelessness for this to have happened.
  • The Nigerian government has to take the issue of cyber-crime seriously. The attempt by a government official to hack a government agency’s database with the intention of stealing billions in public funds should be taken as a matter of urgent national security. We believe this is not the first time such attempt has been made, and it might not be the last. We commend the DSS for their vigilance.
  • We also salute the DSS for intercepting Abdussalam Yunusa, and urge them to intensify their efforts to annihilate the sleeper cells of Islamist groups, especially the coordination of the group which uses the porous route that links Southern Libya with Nigeria via the Republic of Niger.
  • Exactly one year ago, intelligence went out on the infiltration of IDP camps by Boko Haram. Nigeria’s security and intelligence services appear to have slept on the information, and this has allowed more than a dozen attacks on IDP camps since February 2015. This is likely to continue until a comprehensive counter intelligence operation to stop the suicide attacks is worked out. The attack on Dikwa is something that ought not to have occurred.
  • Action has to be taken regarding this budget scandal which has turned into a major dilemma for this government. The embarrassing comments coming from ministers of the government as regards to the budget and their ignorance of the figures in the budget document is most unfortunate. We recommend that the budget be withdrawn in its entirety, a supplementary passed to keep the nation running, and the entire process has to be done from scratch, working closely with private sector auditors, using more realistic figures.
  • We call on the National Assembly and the EFCC to investigate the bailout to the aviation sector. This is a public fund that was disbursed to private businesses with the hope they will become profitable and repay same. Unfortunately, it appears that the funds have been fraudulently diverted.
  • The inability of genuine importers to access forex via the CBN official window is worrisome and does not augur well for the image of Nigerian business men who are owing their suppliers for several months. We urge a review of the current forex regime and task CBN with tinkering the monetary policy in order to resuscitate the moribund economy. We also repeat our call for a free float of the naira in order to end the cases of arbitrage and artificial scarcity of foreign currency.
  • We urge the NNPC, the sole oil and gas regulatory institution, to go tough with the zero gas flaring policy. The nation stands to benefit immensely from the potentials arising from the enforcement of zero gas flaring policy.