The Debt Management Office, DMO is currently enmeshed in corruption scandal, Saturday Vanguard can report. Money amounting to N1.08 billion is alleged to be lost from 2017 till date, thereby raising corruption cases the country is battling.
It was learnt that the large-scale financial wrongdoings in the office would likely draw the attention of anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
The corruption is allegedly being perpetrated through various means ranging from awards of contracts, operating on temporary files, unauthorized overseas trips, organization of fictitious events, production of fake transport receipts and destruction of official documents.
Chronicle of frauds
In December, 2017, the office requested the then Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun to approve the sum of N90 million to cover travel expenses to states for eight DMO Staff to carry out reconciliation of the Paris Club Refunds. Adeosun approved N60 million for the exercise.
The money was released to the DMO via AIE No. CMD/SW/REC/008/2018 dated 12th January, 2018 but the members of staff nicknamed ‘the Task Force’, we gathered, never travelled to any states.
They rather worked in-house to conclude the assignment, using the records already in the possession of the DMO.
It was gathered that the money was subsequently withdrawn in tranches, brought to the office and distributed to the staff contrary to extant regulations
The first tranche of the money, it was learnt, was N4.8 million, the 2nd, 3rd & 4th tranches were released in the sum of N20 million each and N15.2 million respectively totaling N60 million.
It was gathered that the eight staff of DMO who did the work were only given about N2,500,000 each on the average, making a total of about N20 million with the balance of N40 million allegedly diverted.
Incidentally, the money which was an advance payment from the Ministry of Finance to DMO has not been retired till date.
In November, 2019, the office also approved money to be paid for events which included sensitization workshops on “various products recently introduced” by DMO in four commercial cities of Ibadan, Kaduna, Port Harcourt and Owerri. The events and trips, for which a total of N130 million was expended, it was gathered, never existed or took place.
N401.3million paid on contract splitting, media consultancy, using temporary file (T1- T1 million)
Between 2018 and June, 2020, the office had approved the payment of about N401,348,818.00 for an unknown media consultancy firm believed to be fake without due process.
Contracts were said to have been split and awarded to the vendor on monthly basis for each project, exceeding the monetary thresholds of the office, depending on the nature of the project.
By the act establishing the office, the DMO’s approval power, it was learnt, is not expected to cross the threshold of N2.5m million. Figures outside this amount pass through the DMO’s tenders board to be discussed by other accounting officers who will determine the viability and the propriety or otherwise of the project.
Where it exceeds the approval powers of the boards, it is then taken to the ministerial tenders board for approval and or the Federal Executive Council, FEC as the case may be.
This, however was done without an active file to establish the history of the transactions but in a Temporary File (T-File) ranging from T1 to T1million.
It was gathered that payments were however made.
Interestingly, in a transaction of N10 million for instance, the invoice would be broken into smaller amounts and paid to the same vendor on the same date and on the same project in a bid to make them fall within the office threshold.
Reckless approval of projects totaling N350 million above threshold
There is also an approval for projects whose amounts were beyond the power of the office. These projects which the aggregate is estimated to the tune of over N350 million were supposed to pass through the DMO’s tenders board or Ministerial tenders board. But that was not the case as due process was not adhered to, an offence which contravenes Section 17 (ai-ii) of the Public Procurement Act, 2007 and Section 2906 and 2916 of the Financial Regulations and other relevant sections of the Act and extant laws.
False claims of funds with fake receipts for events totaling about N29.9 million
The office also operates on fake receipts and invoices in the guise of weekend work refreshment and other activities. It was alleged that so far, claims of funds amounting to N29,929,900 had been made.
Approval and receipt of estacode for N56m unauthorized foreign trips
Similarly, the office enriches itself with payments of estacode and air tickets for foreign trips totaling about N56 million without the approval of relevant authorities as required by extant circular HSCF/CSO/HRM/POL. 1402/1 of 2015 and 2016.
Collection of N3 million duty tour allowance for trips never embarked upon
The office also has the penchant of collecting money for trips not embarked upon and such refunds were not being paid back to the treasury.
Payment of N50 million Business class flights for trips
Contrary to the circular No. SGF/OP/1/S.3/1753 of November 2016 of the Federal Government, members of the top management team used business class tickets for foreign trips for which about N50million may have been expended even on trips not approved by the ministry of finance.
Suppression, falsification and destruction of official records
On September 12, 2019, there was a request by a top official for the approval of the Minister of Finance, Budget & National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed to embark on a trip to the United States for the 2019 Annual Meeting of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund in Washington DC scheduled to hold from October 14 – 20, 2019 at Washington DC.
A Travel File with No. DMO/DG/042/725 was sent to the Finance & Account Unit of DMO for payment with no approval of the minister for payment.
The payment was however not processed owing to the intervention and query of the Internal Audit & Control Unit which stopped the payment.
The file with the query of the Internal Audit Unit was later to disappear. However it later resurfaced for payment of the same trip, same amount, same date and venue with a new File No. DMO/DG/005/T2 where an approval for travel was purported to have been directed by the Ministry of Finance, Budget & National Planning.
Inflation of FG’s floatation cost budget
This paper learnt that there had been requests for funds not needed into the Federal Government of Nigeria, FGN Bond floatation Cost Account, thereby increasing the cost of issuance of Bonds and by extension increasing the total debt burden and debt stock in a bid to siphon the funds.
But this has always met the resistance of some department of the Office.
For instance, in 2018, the office closed Account with a balance of about N2.68 billion and in 2019, without minding the huge balance, it also requested for extra funds without refunding the balance of that of 2018 leading to a huge balance of about N4.3billion at the close of 2019 Account.
Following the excess money in the account, the Office went on expenditure spree.
For example, a certain communication outfit was paid the sum of N22 million through a Department called Market Development Department but was stopped by Internal Audit & Control.
The infractions, as gathered had set the management on a collusion course and affected the efficiency of the Debt Management Office which may be inimical to the overall agenda of the President Buhari led government.
Lagos State Governor Hosts Barcelona Star , Asisat Oshoala
Today, @AsisatOshoala paid me a courtesy visit. She is a worthy ambassador of Lagos from Ikorodu & we are proud of her. She spoke about her plans for the Asisat Oshoala Foundation and I promised to support her.
We kicked the ball for a bit and I think I still have my skills.
FG Collaborating With Investors To Improve Nigeria ’ s Digital Sector – Osinbajo
*OFFICE OF THE VICE PRESIDENT*
*FG COLLABORATING WITH INVESTORS TO IMPROVE NIGERIA’S DIGITAL SECTOR, SAYS OSINBAJO*
*VP engages Facebook VP and former UK Deputy PM, Nick Clegg, in fireside chat
*Tech giant announces new office in Lagos, outcome of 2018 VP-led FG delegation’s visit to Silicon Valley
Just as global Social Media and technology giant, Facebook was informing the Federal Government about its decision to open a Nigerian office in Lagos, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN has restated the determination of the Buhari administration to keep boosting the nation’s technology sector and digital economy.
Prof. Osinbajo stated this on Friday during a fireside chat with Facebook’s Vice President on Global Affairs and Communications, former UK Deputy Prime Minister, Sir Nick Clegg. The chat focused on the digital economic pillar of the Nigerian Economic Sustainability Plan, NESP.
Clegg and other Facebook officials, including Ebele Okobi, Facebook’s Head of Public Policy, Africa, had informed the Vice President about the decision to open its second African office in Lagos possibly by the end of this year or next year.
It would be recalled that a delegation of the Federal Government led by the VP and including the Communications & Digital Economy Minister, Dr. Isa Ali Pantami, had visited Silicon Valley in 2018 and one of the issues on the table then was how such global tech giants like Facebook could have full representation in the country, including a Nigerian office.
According to the Vice President during the fireside chat on Friday, the focus of the Nigerian government on the digital sector is crucial in various socio-economic aspect of national life, from education, e-commerce, social investments programmes to the activities of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government.
He said, “The NESP is our response to the economic crisis caused by the (COVID-19) pandemic. Our focus on the digital sector is really because practically everything we are doing centres around expanding our reach in the digital sector.
“For example, financial inclusion is critical for us because we are spreading and extending our social services, payment of cash transfers to the poorest and most vulnerable and other manners of such payment; and sometimes to the farthest flung places in Nigeria. So, we certainly need to expand our reach in order to do so. Of course, technology is critical to that.”
The VP also noted that the Federal Government is collaborating with the private sector to fund, establish and expand e-learning and education platforms, and other areas of digital technology growth.
“Practically everything is now being done remotely. Earlier on today, I did a virtual commissioning of the MSME clinic in Lagos, sitting in my office in Abuja. So, for us, the digital space is very important, which is why the focus was on the digital economy in the Economic Sustainability Plan.
“We are led by the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, which is the ministry fully devoted to all of what we do in the digital space. We have NITDA, an agency responsible for Information technology (policy implementation); as well as the private sector.”
Recalling the trip to Silicon Valley and Facebook campus in the US in 2018, the VP stated that the tours helped to boost government’s digital drive, while leading to significant improvement in the country’s digital sector.
“The tours were extremely successful. In Silicon Valley, Nigerian start-ups got a chance to pitch their products to tech sector investors, that was very good. In fact, before we left Silicon Valley, one of our venture platforms was able to sign a deal worth about $10m with the Nigeria-US Council. Since then, we’ve seen tremendous activity post-trip. The visit helped in showing our seriousness about the technology sector, and also the entertainment industry. We held a few meetings also with the entertainment industry.
“As of 2018/19, we’ve gotten about $377m in investments in the tech sector. Although, it still scratches the surface if one considers the size of our economy and country. But there were very significant gains, and I’m very happy to do that. I think we’ve started off a series of interactions that have been very useful and we will continue to engage.”
On the issue of regulations to ensure smooth collaboration between government and the private sector, the Vice President stated that the Federal Government will continue to engage with the private sector to boost development of the tech and creative sector.
“With regulation, we are dealing with uncharted territory, because quite a few of what we are seeing are entirely new. And I must say that the regulatory authorities have done quite a decent work, trying to grapple with the newness of some of what they are seeing… So, what has happened is that the collaborative efforts of govt and the tech sector, even the entertainment sector, worked on this. We had set up a technology and creativity advisory group; these are young entrepreneurs, innovators etc, who worked with us in the Industrial and Competitiveness Council to craft some of these regulations and to think through some of the problems,” Prof. Osinbajo said.
According to him, “we are trying to work with practically everyone who is interested in the Nigerian digital sector. By way of preparation, one of the critical issues for us is improving our broadband infrastructure. We’ve heard the exciting stuff that Facebook is doing, especially by way of subsea cable that is being launched.
“But we also have a Nigerian National Broadband Plan 2020-2025 recently launched by the Hon. Minister of Communication & Digital Economy. There is a presidential committee which has just been inaugurated to work on this. These are broad objectives, and for us, creating that infrastructure is crucial, and we are happy to see the partnerships from Facebook and from some of the other tech companies.”
The Vice President further said government is also working to ensure access to credit for innovators.
“We’ve talked a bit about foreign investments in innovation in Nigeria, but more importantly, the work that the Bank of Industry is doing. The Bank of Industry has a technology fund. The Central Bank of Nigeria has also recently established a technology fund. Also, we are working with the African Development Bank (AfDB), which has a $500m fund; at the moment we are at the final stages, trying to bring that into existence.
“So, there is quite a bit of activity to ensure that there is access to funding, while we are improving the business environment and the environment for technology companies to operate,” he said.
On his part, Sir Clegg noted that he was impressed with Nigeria’s broadband goals and what Government is doing to improve the digital sector.
He said “Let me say how excited I am, on behalf of the whole of Facebook and all of our teams, of the emerging ambitions that we see in the broadband space in Nigeria, particularly with the Economic Sustainability Plan led by His Excellency, the Vice President. What a huge pleasure for me to hear directly form the Vice President about these ambitions.”
At the chat also attended by the Communications and Digital Economy Minister, Facebook announced that it will be opening an office in Lagos, Nigeria. This would be its second office on the African continent as the tech giant officials explained that the opening is part of its continued commitment and ongoing investment in Africa.
According to Facebook officials, this is aimed at supporting the entire Sub-Saharan Africa, adding that the office is expected to become fully operational in 2021. The Facebook Nigeria office will be the first on the continent to house a team of expert engineers building for the future of Africa and beyond.
According to Facebook, the “office will be home to various teams servicing the continent from across the business, including Sales, Partnerships, Policy, Communications as well as Engineers.”
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media & Publicity
Office of the Vice President
19th September, 2020
Kogi Government Writes US Over Electoral Fraud Allegation
16 September 2020
The Ambassador Of The United States of America
Embassy of The United States of America
1075 Diplomatic Drive
Central Business District
RE: VISA RESTRICTIONS ON INDIVIDUALS AND INCLUSION OF THE 2019 KOGI STATE GUBERNATORIAL ELECTIONS IN US STATE DEPARTMENT LIST OF ALLEGEDLY COMPROMISED ELECTIONS – A LETTER OF PROTEST
1. I have been so directed by His Excellency, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State and I hereby make and forward this Letter of Protest to you in respect of the matters contained in it.
2. The Kogi State Government became aware of a United States Government list of individuals who received US visa restrictions for alleged electoral malpractices via a Press Statement to that effect posted on your Embassy website at https:///32vD96M. In your own words, the still unnamed individuals are cited as guilty of ‘acts of violence, intimidation, or corruption that harmed Nigerians and undermined the democratic process.’ They are also alleged to ‘have operated with impunity at the expense of the Nigerian people and undermined democratic principles and human rights.’
3. You also noted in the Statement that the sanctions are derived from unspecified misconducts by the said individuals which extend from the February/March 2019 General Elections in Nigeria through the off-cycle November 2019 gubernatorial elections in Kogi and Bayelsa to the as yet unheld governorship contests in Edo and Ondo States. Please note that for the purposes of this protest letter we are only interested in the citations to the extent that they are referable to Kogi State and her citizens.
4. For the most part, we concede that elections in Nigeria are complex affairs which will continue to require improvements for the foreseeable future. The 2019 Kogi State Gubernatorial Election was also not without its challenges. However, it is also crystal clear from critical and composite analyses of the records (official, media, observers, etc) of the November 16, 2020 polls that regrettable incidents were limited to a few polling units, while the overwhelmingly larger portions of the ballot were free, fair and credible.
5. Further, and in line with Nigerian law, the few political parties and individuals who alleged widespread electoral malpractices had free rein to contest the outcome in court. They vigorously litigated their claims over a grueling 9-month period, through a 3-step hierarchy of courts, to the inescapable conclusion at the Supreme Court of Nigeria that the said elections satisfactorily complied with the Nigerian Constitution and the Electoral Act.
6. Our concern right now is not the prerogative of the United States of America to impose entry restrictions on anyone, for any or no reason at all, which prerogative remains unfettered, but the room for atrocious misinformation which the timing of your Press Statement and the mention of the Kogi elections therein has created in our state.
7. For the February and March 2019 General elections, your advisory came out in July 2019, long before the Supreme Court delivered her judgments in the petitions against those elections, including challenges to President Muhammadu Buhari’s reelection. The presumption is that in spite of your intervention, the Supreme Court still discovered no merit in the petitions and dismissed them accordingly.
8. In our case, ie, Kogi State, you made the tactical decision to release the update shortly after the Supreme Court delivered judgments in the 4 petitions which made it before her. Amongst a plethora of well-reasoned pronouncements the Apex Court dismissed the said petitions for failing to prove their allegations and for having no ‘scintilla of merit’. The inference from your timing is that the judgment is somehow tainted and did not meet the justice of the case, thereby casting aspersions, not only on the Nigerian Judiciary, but on the second term mandate freely bestowed on His Excellency, Governor Yahaya Bello by the good people of Kogi State.
9. We find this unacceptable, and we protest your presumption. The least you could have done, if indeed this is about democracy and human rights as claimed, is create room, no matter how slim, for fair hearing. As it is now, partisan speculation as to who is indicted, who is not and for what, has become cudgels, furiously swung in the media space by all comers. Your action has therefore added abundant grist to the rumour mills and electrified the merchants of fake news.
10. For instance, a United States based blog, saharareporters.com, has made inflammatory publications in which they named His Excellency, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, among others, as a definite recipient of your visa restriction. Though you have named no names, accuracy is of no moment to them, just base political expediency, and they quote unnamed US State Department sources to give credibility to what is otherwise unproven.
11. Also, other players in the Kogi political space, including candidates and officials of opposition political parties which lost the elections and could not prove their allegations in court as aforesaid have now latched onto this action, holding media conferences and making press releases, claiming that the United States has justified their wild allegations and conspiracy theories where the courts and the administrative quarters failed. This is utterly regrettable.
12. Let it be noted that we are not challenging your visa bans in any way, whoever they may affect and for how long, but we do register the strongest protest possible as a State to the collateral and unwarranted interference in our political and social processes which it represents. You have reignited already dying embers of discord around the February/March General Elections and the November 16 Kogi State Gubernatorial Elections of 2019. This has invariably made our usual post-election duty of reconciliation with fair-minded political opponents all the more harder. We are hurt and disappointed.
13. Digressing a little beyond Kogi State to our contiguous states of Edo and Ondo, we wish to advice generally that by so preemptively interfering in their elections, both of which are yet to hold, events on ground since your publication indicate that the United States has foisted on our political process, not the expected caution or good behaviour by politicians which may have been your intent, but further calcification of hardened attitudes, more violent polemics, and increased sabre-rattling.
14. Even now every camp is trying to spin your action as evidence of US support for themselves and hostility to their opponents. Everyone involved in those elections is now stoked with an aura of invincibility and hellbent on displaying all manners of outrageousness on election day to prove their opponents the aggressors. After all, with sanctions looming over everyone like the Sword of Damocles, every stakeholder, including the security agencies are on tenterhooks and less likely to be lively. We fear you may have done our democracy more harm than good with this action, and we consider it most unfortunate indeed.
15. In conclusion, we believe that if the United States of America, despite her commanding heights and much longer experience as the acclaimed Bastion of Democracy in the world, is still locked in a fight to defend the integrity of her own electoral processes to this very day, then she ought to accord greater empathy, more civility and much less disruption, to nascent democracies.
16. Please be assured of our high regards always.
MRS FOLASHADE ARIKE AYOADE, Ph.D
Secretary to the Government of Kogi State
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