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Day: April 15, 2019

Issues surrounding some money and the persons involved with it came up for hearing at the Federal High Court in Lagos Monday. The court heard how the N1.2billion allegedly given to former Ekiti State Governor Ayo Fayose from the Office of National Security Adviser (ONSA) was moved to the state.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is trying Fayose for allegedly receiving and keeping N1.2billion and $5million allegedly stolen from the ONSA.

Testifying before Justice Mojisola Olatoregun, the 11th prosecution witness, Mr. Sunday Alade, said he was the Zenith Bank Plc Akure Branch Manager in 2014 when the money was moved to his branch.

Led in evidence by prosecuting counsel Mr Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), the witness said he got a call from his head of operations asking him to prepare to head for Akure Airport to receive cash from a customer.

“On the 17th of June 2014, I was in my office in Zenith Bank, Akure. I received a call from my head of operations Abiodun Oshodi that a customer would be coming to make deposit into his account with the bank.

“He said in order to provide security, we should arrange for a van bullion to go to the airport to pick the cash.

“After an hour, my head of operations Abiodun Oshodi came and said the customer had arrived. He introduced Abiodun Agbele as the customer.

“He said we should prepare to go to the airport. I asked for time to arrange for security, but they said that won’t be necessary as they had sufficient security. They came with MOPOL and some soldiers in a Hilux van,” Alade said.

The witness said he joined Oshodi and Agbele to the airport, along with the bullion van and the security men.

Alade said: “At the airport, we waited for a few minutes before the arrival of the aircraft. Three individuals came out of the aircraft.
Read Also: Obanikoro ends evidence against Fayose

“Two of them walked away. The remaining person introduced himself as O. Adewale. The cash was offloaded into the bullion van and we drove to Zenith Bank Akure,” Alade said.

He said when they arrived at the bank; the money was counted in his presence.

He said Oshodi, Adewale and Agbele were also present.

“The money was counted in our presence. It was N724million. We were informed that there was a balance. We went back to the airport and picked N494million.

“The total cash amounted to N1.219billion. Another aircraft brought the N494million.

“I gathered that the cash was lodged in three bank accounts – those of De-Privateer, Spotless Investment and Ayodele Fayose.

“I also understand some cash was taken away that day by Mr Agbele.”

Asked who Adewale was, he said: “Adewale O. introduced himself as Obanikoro’s ADC (aide-de-camp).”

Asked if he knew those who walked away from the aircraft after it landed, the witness said: “One of them resembled Obanikoro. I never met him in person. But he resembled the person I saw on television and newspapers.”

Under cross examination by defence counsel Ola Olanipekun (SAN) and Olalekan Ojo (SAN) (for Spoless Ltd, Fayose’s co-accused), the witness said he did not know where the money came from.

Asked if he knew what the money was meant for, he said: “Not at all.”

The witness said it took 10 days to process the cash.

In response to a question by Ojo as to whether he submitted a bulk cash register to EFCC on the transaction, the witness said “No.”

Ojo showed the witness a statement of account belonging to Spotless Investment.

He was asked to identify entries for October 6, 2014, September 5, 2014 and December 6, 2014.

Alade said the entries showed the transfer of N11.173million each described as “mortgage repayment” and “mortgage loan liquidation”.

He added: “But I didn’t know anything about the transactions.” Ojo said: “Don’t worry.”

Before the trial began, Jacobs said he was involved in an accident and had to come to court in crutches.

He asked the court to allow him take only one witness, but he did not disclose when or where he had the accident.

He was seen wearing a heavy bandage brace on his right foot with no footwear on.

There was also no indication that the case would be transferred to another judge.

EFCC Acting Chairman Ibrahim Magu reportedly wrote to the Chief Judge, asking that the case be withdrawn from Justice Olatoregun and re-assigned to another judge.

Magu was said to have expressed lack of confidence in the judge.

But no reference was made to the purported letter to the CJ by Magu.

Fayose had pleaded not guilty when he was arraigned on an 11-count charge on October 22 last year.

EFCC said he and Agbele, facing a different charge, allegedly took possession of N1, 219,000, 000 on June 17, 2014 to fund the former governor’s 2014 gubernatorial campaign.

The commission said Fayose “reasonably ought to have known” that the money “formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful act, to wit: criminal breach of trust/stealing.”

EFCC said Fayose, on the same day, received cash payment of $5million from former Minister of State for State for Defence Musiliu Obanikoro, without going through a financial institution.

The commission said the sum exceeded the amount authorised by law, thereby violating the Money Laundering Act.

Justice Olatoregun adjourned until May 10 and 14 for continuation of trial.

When the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Limited was incorporated by the Federal Government on May 17, 1989, with an initial investment of $6 billion, little did it know that, that step of faith and courage taken would later translate to fortunes for the country.

Thirty years post incorporation, the company has more than doubled its asset base now, currently at $15.4 billion, according to the company’s latest data contained in its 2018 facts and figures.

It was the NLNG, for instance, that paid $2.1 billion dividend in 2015, with which the Federal Government bailed out states and local governments with financial challenges to enable them pay their workers.

But despite these far reaching achievements, some threats capable of eroding its gains have continued to be a stumbling block to the existence of this all important national asset, which if not urgently addressed, could cause its doom.

Before now, the NLNG has confronted and surmounted some political rift and litigations which experts have described as counter-productive and a mere distraction to the core operations of the company.

The latest of such cases is the rift with the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) which the Court of Appeal has remitted to the Federal High Court for retrial.

Act amendment

Efforts by the National Assembly to surreptitiously amend the NLNG Act primarily to compel NLNG to remit 3 per cent of its annual budget as funding to the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) was without success.

Having exhausted all the legal options to collect the three per cent levy without success, the NDDC apparently took the battle to the National Assembly with the proposed amendment of the NLNG Act to ensure the remittance of the levy.

But the move, however, met stiff resistance from Nigerians, public commentators, stakeholders, and especially oil workers who maintained that, the amendment was uncalled for because it will go against Bilateral Investment Treaties (BIT).

One of the industry unions, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) had opposed the proposed amendment, describing it as unnecessary and saying, “the amendment can cause imminent losses that will far outweigh any doubtful gains.”

President of PENGASSAN, Mr. Francis Johnson, had in an interview with Daily Sun, said oil workers are opposed to the amendment of the NLNG Act because it will impact negatively on the image of Nigeria.

Johnson said it remained worrisome that legislators that are elected by Nigerians, who should be at the vanguard of protecting national interest are the ones championing the cause to mortgage the future of generation yet unborn.

Also, former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Prof. Tam David-West, equally faulted a similar move that suggested the sale of NLNG.

David-West, in chat with Daily Sun, had said the clamour showed lack of understanding of the current economic quagmire, describing the oil and gas sector as the blood of the nation, warning that, the clamour for outright sale of the country’s shares in the company was a wrong way to tackle economic recession.

But, former Chairman of the Senate Committee on Niger Delta, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, had in February 2016 alleged that the amount due for payment to the NDDC from the NLNG, which the company refused to pay since the last 16 years, was colossal and insisted that by the action, NLNG disobeyed the country’s laws.

NLNG Vs NIMASA

On May 3, 2013, at about 4.20pm, a tug boat blockaded an NLNG chartered vessel, LNG Adamawa at the instance of NIMASA acting through Global West Vessel Specialists Limited. The blockade, according to industry watchers was a self-help effort to extract levies purportedly owed NIMASA by NLNG. According to NIMASA, these include shipping levies based on gross freight on exports and imports.

Ironically, the NLNG Act exempts Nigeria LNG from payment of the Sea Protection Levy, the 3 percent freight levies on cargo exports shipped by NLNG, and the 2 per cent Cabotage Levy.

NIMASA eventually lifted the blockade on May 5, 2013 after a meeting between the management of NLNG and NIMASA, in which it was resolved for lasting solutions to be sought under the rule of law.

Again, on June 21, 2013, and despite a subsisting court order barring it from further blockade of the Bonny Channel, NIMASA effected another illegal blockade of the Bonny Channel, , preventing NLNG vessels and vessels belonging to its buyers from accessing or leaving the NLNG terminal.

After a three week illegal blockade, during which NLNG was compelled to start making the disputed payments “under protest”, NIMASA ended the blockade.

According to NLNG, the illegal blockade which persisted in spite of court orders, led to lost revenues of over $355 million.

Litigation

In June 2013, NLNG filed a case at the Federal High Court, Lagos, seeking judicial clarity and interpretation on the legality or otherwise of the various levies imposed on NLNG by NIMASA.

By October 2017, the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, delivered judgment in favour of NLNG against NIMASA, over applicability of the NIMASA levies.

According to the court, NLNG was not liable to make the said payments to NIMASA, and all such payments already made by NLNG to NIMASA “under protest”should be refunded to NLNG forthwith. The court further held that NIMASA was wrong in blockading the Bonny Channel for the purpose of enforcing the payments against NLNG and went further to restrain NIMASA from taking or continuing any steps to block, restrain, seize, detain or restrict NLNG (or its shareholders or subsidiary vessels or chartered vessels).

The said Judgment of the Federal High Court was however, reversed on March 29, 2019, following an appeal filed against the same by NIMASA, with the Court of Appeal directing that the case between the two parties be remitted to the Federal High Court for a re-hearing.

This decision gives the parties right to either go back to the Federal High Court for a re-hearing or appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

Where the case is to be heard afresh, the position of the parties would revert to what it was as at the time the case was filed, in which case no payments of the levies in dispute would be made by NLNG to NIMASA pending the re-hearing and determination of the suit. Where, on the other hand, the right of appeal to the Supreme Court is exercised, the status quo as of the date of the Court of Appeal judgment will be maintained, which is to the same effect.

Contributions NLNG has monetised over 6.37 trillion cubic feet of Associated Gas to Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and Natural Gas Liquids (NGLs), thus helping to reduce gas flaring by upstream companies from over 60 percent to well under 20 percent.

From the monetisation of gas hitherto being flared, NLNG has generated over $100 billion revenue since inception; paid over $36 billion to shareholders as dividends, of which 49 per cent of that figure has gone to the Federal Government by virtue of its shareholding stake; $28 billion paid to Joint Ventures (JVs) feedgas suppliers while 55 per cent to 60 per cent of that amount has gone to the Federal Government courtesy of its stake in the JVs

According to the company’s latest edition of its facts and figures, NLNG is by far the highest individual payer of Companies Income Tax in Nigeria. In 2018, the company’s corporate income tax paid to the Federal Government amounted to about $864 million, over 40 percent of what was paid in 2017.

‘‘World Class Operations at NLNG, ranked number one in Plant Reliability in 2018 with the achievement of 98.4 per cent Plant Reliability, projecting Nigeria’s image positively and ranked fourth LNG Company worldwide by market share.

“NLNG is arguably number one in CSR in Nigeria. It has spent over N25 billion on community projects over the years; spent over N2 billion on building world-class engineering laboratories in six Nigerian universities through the University Support Programme; spending N120 billion on the construction of Bonny-Bodo Road in Rivers State. Furthermore, the company signed an MoU with the Bonny Island community to provide N3 billion each year for 25 years for the overall development of the Kingdom,” the 2018 facts and figures reports.

NLNG’s planned expansion with the construction of Train 7 will increase plant production by 35 per cent, attracting huge Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)- $2 billion in upstream investment; some $5 billion in construction; and creating over 10, 000 jobs during construction. The 35 per cent increase is expected to significantly impact on revenue, dividends, taxes and CSR contribution in Nigeria.

Palm Sunday commemorates the triumphant entry of Jesus into the city of Jerusalem. The focus is on Christ’s selflessness, love and humility to save mankind from destruction.

Yesterday Priests urged Christians to emulate Jesus Christ by showing love to one another and living in unity.

Rev. Cannon Okey Obodozie of the Saint Mary’s Anglican Church, Lagos, said Jesus lived a life of love to mankind.

In a chat with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) yesterday in Lagos, Obodozie urged Nigerians to reconcile themselves with God and their neighbours during and after Lent.

According to him, Palm Sunday marks the beginning of the Holy Week, adding that Jesus Christ’s display of humility and selfless service when he died on the cross is for the salvation of mankind.

“Palm Sunday is the beginning of the most holy of the sublime week of the Christendom, because it contains the three most important days in the life of the church.

“Palm Sunday introduces Holy Thursday, institution of priesthood; institution of the Eucharist the body of Christ, Good Friday is the suffering; Jesus Christ died and resurrected on Easter Sunday.

“During the Lenten period, we have been emphasising intensive prayers and if any nation needs prayers, Nigeria should be one of them.

“We are going through stress, hence prayers against bribery, corruption, inordinate ambition, and so many things bedeviling the nation.

“So, lent is not just to pray, but to fast, fasting is not just to punish ourselves from not eating, but the things you saved from fasting, should be given to the poor.

“Unfortunately, I don’t think that many know the true meaning of fasting, when you give, your right hand should not know what your left hand is doing.’’

Elder Edward Onyejiuba of the Cherubim and Seraphim Movement, said that when Nigerians allowed Christ to reign in their lives, the challenges facing the country would be a thing of the past.

He said: “Palm Sunday is used to mark the triumphant entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem as a king; Jesus Christ should reign in the lives of everybody even in our nation.

“If we honour Him and allow Him to ride on us as asses, surely, the will of God will be done in our lives.”

Rev. Fr Stephen Akinsowon, Parish Priest, Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Ikeja, Lagos, said that Nigeria would be greater if Nigerians renewed their relationship with God.

“Nigeria is a great country with great people, but Nigeria will be greater if we reconnect and renew our relationship with our God and our neighbours.

“It is important for us to use this period to reflect on our past and see how we can be better engaged for the future.

“God loves Nigerians and we cannot afford to misuse the opportunity he has given to us to be transformers of our own society.”

Palm Sunday was celebrated in many Churches yesterday in remembrance of Jesus Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem.

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