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Fresh Abacha N3.2TRILLION LOOT…Baby Thieves, Looming Power and Fuel Scarcity

Fresh Abacha loot, discovered by the government, two baby thieves arrested by the police, demand for compensation by Boko Haram victims, looming power and fuel scarcity, and corruption in the civil service were some of the stories reported in one of the leading Nigeria newspaper last week.

The SUN newspaper on its Saturday front page headline screamed “FG uncovers fresh N3.2trillion Abacha loot”, reporting that the billions of dollars stashed away in foreign bank accounts by the late military dictator, Gen. Sani Abacha, may far exceed the already established US$ 5 billion, as a Special Investigation Panel (SIP), tracing what has now become ‘Abacha loot’, stumbled on fresh clues indicating that the stolen funds still trapped in offshore accounts stand at over 3.2 trillion Naira.

Quoting a competent source close to the panel, Saturday Sun said that about four different meetings between the SIP team, headed by a retired senior military officer, and a Switzerland-based lawyer, Enrico Monfrini, hired by the Federal Government to assist in the recovery of the Abacha loot in foreign jurisdictions, had taken place outside the country in the last eight months.

 

Monfrini is an Attorney-at-Law and head of the Monfrini Grettol & Associés in Geneva, Switzerland. According to the paper, “In the course of the recent meetings between the Nigerian team and authorities in about four other jurisdictions as well as the team from the foreign legal firm, it was discovered that a lot of underhand dealings must have taken place in the recovery of the Abacha loot.

“This was largely responsible for the under-declaration of what has been recovered so far by three successive governments and worse still what is still trapped in offshore accounts, which, in our estimation, in our last meeting with our foreign team, stands at US$ 210 billion.”

Some of the foreign jurisdictions, where the stolen funds had been traced are Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. One of the latest discoveries included a US$ 550 million in a coded account in France.

“It has been very difficult to get details out into the public domain so far because the latest process is being secretly coordinated by the retired senior military officer heading the SIP in the presidency and the Attorney General of the federation, who is providing legal advice for the team,” the paper quoted the source as saying.

The Federal Government was said to have been encouraged to dig deeper into the Abacha loot because of a recent statement credited to the Swiss lawyer, Monfrini, handling the case. While giving further insight into previous efforts to recover the stolen money, the lawyer was quoted to have said: “Civil action was initiated by the Federal Republic of Nigeria before the High Court of London in May 1999. It resulted in the seizing of only US$ 60 million in the United Kingdom. The ‘full account’ given by the members of Abacha family was notoriously incomplete, notably in respect of their Swiss, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg assets, totalling US$ 1.5 billion, which were entirely omitted.” “Less than US$ 10 million of frozen assets being forfeited and recovered in the United Kingdom, none of which was through civil proceedings.”

Only the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo has been able to record the highest amount of US$ 1.25 billion from the Abacha loot. The preceding regime of General Abdulsalami Abubakar and the succeeding government of the late President Umar Musa Yar’Adua could not do much in this regard notwithstanding the efforts also made.

On the baby thieves, the INDEPENDENT headlined its story “Police smash gang of child traffickers in Imo”, reporting that barely two weeks after it warned members of the public to desist from the ungodly and shameful act of stealing and selling children, the Imo State Police Command  last Thursday announced the arrest of another gang of child traffickers. According to the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Mohammed Musa Katsina, the babies were abducted or stolen only 72 hours after delivery. Katsina, who briefed newsmen in Owerri on the latest success of his command in crime control and prevention, said the suspects are not indigenes of Imo State and that the original scene of the crime was not in the state but at Uzoma village in South- South Rivers State.

According to him, the two women suspects who are indigenes of Oredo and Azagba in Edo State but were domiciled at no 14, Densan Ikorodu, Lagos, took off from their abode in Lagos on Wednesday, 27 March, 2013, to Port Harcourt with a sinister motive to steal or abduct the two babies for reasons best known to them.

The police boss said that it was while they were transiting the state that they were caught by his command’s ambush squad, saying that the driver of the vehicle in which they were caught knew that the consignment he was carrying was illegal.

The Commissioner of Police gave the identities of the suspects as Patience Abangbe (55), Felicia Edegbe Mrs. (59) of Ihude Egonebo village, Edo State, Jacob Ademuyiwa (41) from Ado-Ekiti in Ekiti State, adding that they all would soon be charged to court. The SUN simply headlined the same story “Baby thieves”, saying that one of the suspects said that a woman she identified as Mrs. Okoro had brought her some herbs from Port Harcourt last June to enable her conceive.

According to her, the woman told her not to go to any hospital for ante-natal care except in Port Harcourt, where she would be delivered of her baby and had promised that she will deliver on 10th March, 2013.

She said that she gave birth to the babies on 28 March, a few weeks after she was booked for delivery, adding that the same woman came while she was in labour and gave her herbs which appeared to be drugs that forced her to dose off and after she woke up, she saw in-between her legs blood and the babies.

The suspect said that she had been married for many years without any child, adding that she had spent 1.8 million Naira (US$ 12,000) from the time she was pregnant till when the babies came.“Boko Haram victims seek compensation” was the headline in the NATION on Wednesday with the story saying that Christians in the North have set a precondition for amnesty for Boko Haram members.

“Victims of the sect’s violence must be compensated,” the Northern Christians Forum (NCF) said last Tuesday. Also demanding compensation is the pan-Igbo socio-political organization, Ohaneze Ndigbo, which lost many of its members.

According to the NCF, Christians became targets of the sect’s mayhem for supporting the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, describing the amnesty offer as “wickedness”, if “nobody is talking about compensation for the innocent people who have been affected”.

It said: “The Northern Christians Forum has been marginalized; deliberately underdeveloped; treated like vassals; seriously brutalized; and slaughtered under the watchful eyes of this regime more than in any other regime before.”A statement issued in Abuja by the NCF Chairman, Evangelist Matthew Owojaiye, said: “Government spent billions of naira on nomadic education; 5 billion Naira on almajiri schools, which is specifically for Muslims, while Christian schools and hospitals taken over by the government without compensation are still being held tight by the government.

“Boko Haram has tried to annihilate us and our Igbo Christian brothers and now the government is talking about granting the sect amnesty without saying a word about the people they bombed, slaughtered and traumatized.”

The INDEPENDENT, with the headline “Boko Haram: Amnesty International wants compensation for victims”, reported that Global watchdog, Amnesty International (AI), on Wednesday added its voice to the growing debate over anticipated amnesty for the insurgent Islamic sect, Boko Haram, calling on government to pay reparation to families of the victims of killings by the sect.

The current debate is coming on the heels of the recent setting up, by President Goodluck Jonathan of a panel to look into the possibility of working out amnesty packages for the sect members.

Addressing the on-going 53rd Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in Banjul, The Gambia, a spokesperson for AI, Lucy Freeman, said “it is only by clarifying the truth about events and bringing to justice those responsible and ensuring that victims obtain full reparation will have confidence in the justice system be restored and human rights guaranteed.”

She added: “Amnesty International calls on Boko Haram to immediately cease and refrain from all acts that are inconsistent with respect for human rights, including particularly the targeting of civilians for attack, a practice that can never be justified in any circumstances.

On power, the PUNCH headlined its story “Power generation drops by 1,074MW”, saying that the poor supply of electricity being witnessed across the country currently is as a result of a significant drop in power generation from a peak of 4,517 megawatts attained on 21st December, 2012 to 3,443MW on Tuesday. The 1,074MW drop is, however, a slight improvement over the 2,987.6MW peak generation recorded on 6th April, 2013, when a whopping 1,529.4MW was lost.

The drop in power generation, the PUNCH reported, was as a result of low gas supply to thermal power plants. The power generation report provided by the Ministry of Power revealed that peak generation as of Saturday was 2,987.6 MW, while the peak demand forecast was 10,200MW. Energy generation was put at 68,953.24 megawatts hours, while the actual energy sent out was 67,360.24MWH.

This is considered by power industry analysts as a huge break from the highest peak generation of 4,517 MW on December 21, 2012 and 98,580MWH energy on December 19, 2012, one of the highest ever sent out in the country. The Executive Operations Summary issued by the General Manager, National Control Centre, Osogbo, Mr. A. Alade, on December 4th, 2012, revealed that the previous energy peak was 96,768.53MWH recorded on August 31st, 2012.

The PUNCH had on 16th February, 2013, reported that the Minister of Power, Prof. Chinedu Nebo, had condemned the frequent rate of system failures in the power sector. Nebo, who spoke at the opening of a retreat organized by the Presidential Task Force on Power in Abuja, described the development as embarrassing and warned system owners and managers to sit up because such would no longer be tolerated.

In its second story on power, the PUNCH headline was “Expect more power cuts, minister tell Nigerians”. According to the paper, the Minister of Power, Prof. Chinedu Nebo, on Wednesday said there would be more power cuts in the days ahead due to ongoing maintenance work on installations across the country.

Nebo, explaining why there was a sharp drop in power supply at a briefing in Abuja, said the country lost 1,112 megawatts of generated electricity in two days due to the shutdown of the Chevron gas plant. The SUN ran the same story under the headline “Nationwide blackout looms”.

On fuel scarcity, the TRIBUNE Friday screamed “Fuel scarcity looms”, saying that there are strong indications that fuel scarcity may be looming as fuel supply to System 2B pipelines is on hold due to a system break down at Atlas Cove jetty, Lagos.

Quoting a marketer who preferred anonymity, the paper said that loading from NNPC depots in the South-Western states, including Kwara state, has stopped due to non-availability of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) otherwise known as petrol.

He said depots in Ogun, Oyo, Kwara and Ondo states are not getting fuel supply.

System 2B pipelines transport over 15 million liters of petroleum products daily from Atlas Cove to depots in Ejigbo, Mosinmi, Ibadan, Ilorin and Ore.

However, the Manager, Public Affairs, Pipeline Products Marketing Company (PPMC), Mr. Nasir Imodagbe, said on Thursday that although there was system breakdown at Atlas Cove, it won’t affect distribution because PPMC engineers are on site working round the clock to fix the problem. However, THISDAY reported the same story from a different angle, headlining its story “NNPC Debunks Alleged Scarcity of Petrol”. It reported that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and its downstream and marketing subsidiary, the Pipelines and Products Marketing Company (PPMC), have said that reports of imminent scarcity of petrol in some parts of the country were false. In a statement last Friday in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, the NNPC specifically urged members of the public to discountenance reports of imminent fuel scarcity in the South-West, adding that there was no iota of truth in such reports. According to the acting Group General Manager Public Affairs of NNPC, Tumini Green, the corporation had temporarily shut down its depot at Atlas Cove for the maintenance of its power generator in line with standard industry practice. Green explained that it was not true that loading of petrol from depots in the South-West stopped since Monday, adding that the Atlas Cove depot was not a loading but a storage depot and that loading could not have been affected.

With the following headlines — “Bakassi: FG promises to respond to attacks on Nigerians by Camerounian gendarmes” by the VANGUARD, and “FG Vows to Halt Further Attacks on Nigerians in Bakassi”, the papers reported that the Federal Government has promised to take appropriate action against attacks on Nigerians resident in Bakassi by the Camerounian gendarmes. Speaking with State House correspondents, in Abuja, after the meeting of the Presidential Committee on the plight of the Displaced Bakassi People, the Minister of Interior, Comrade Abba Moro, said government was studying reports on the attack and would take appropriate action.

The VANGUARD quoted Moro as saying”As a good player on the international scene, Nigeria has subscribed to the Green Tree Agreement and on our own part we will continue to abide by the provisions of the agreement. For one reason or the other, resulting from skirmishes here and there, the Camerounian Gendarmes have attacked some innocent Nigerians. That report is being presented to government and the Nigerian government will take appropriate action to redress the situation.”

Moro called on the people of Bakassi to remain calm as government was determined to ensure that they are not left to their fate as government was taking every step to ensure their safety in the peninsula.

THISDAY reported that “The federal government Thursday condemned the attack on Nigerians living in Bakassi Peninsula, which is under Cameroonian sovereignty, and assured the people that it was taking measures to protect them from further attacks by that country’s gendarmes.”

On Corruption, the PUNCH, reporting under the headline “FG worried about corruption in civil service”, said the Federal Government has expressed worry over the rate of corruption in the civil service, adding “To address the problem, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has tasked the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Alhaji Bukar Goni Aji, to put in place an internal mechanism to check the negative trend.” According to a statement by the EFCC spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, on Friday, the EFCC boss, Ibrahim Lamorde, who cited the involvement of civil servants in the ongoing pension fraud investigations and prosecution, lamented the rising incidences of economic and financial crimes committed by civil servants.

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