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INVESTIGATION

How LG, Samsung, Fouani, SIMS defrauded Nigeria of over N25bn

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Four companies, two with foreign ownership, that deal in importation of electronic and household appliances have exploited a defective import tariff waiver policy of Nigerian government and special forex allocation to manufacturers by Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to make billions of naira through fraudulent claims.

One of the companies, Somotex Nigeria Limited, is a shadow business of an offshore company registered in British Virgin Islands, a well-known tax heaven. The other three companies are Sims Nigeria Limited, Fouani Nigeria Limited and Dee Kay Nigeria limited. These companies have exclusive dealership into the importation of global brands, such as LG and Samsung electronics.

A joint investigation by OrderPaperNG and The ICIR shows that while these companies enjoy the status and privilege accorded to manufacturers that import raw materials, they are mere traders. Nevertheless, they are given forex concessions at CBN rate for manufacturers. They also get duty waivers, normally given to manufacturers that import raw materials.

The import duty waivers involve Completely Knocked Down (CKD) and Semi Knocked Down (SKD) goods, a controversial policy that gives tax concessions to importers who are willing to import products in parts to be assembled locally in Nigeria. By this policy, government aims to create jobs through manufacturing as well as accelerate transfer of technologies. An initial investigation by OrderPaperNG published in July 2018 had exposed this import waiver fraud involving same companies which have continued according to impeccable sources, to engage in the scheme.

Those who import goods in CKD/SKD obtain tax waivers from the ministry of finance and pay lesser import tariff. Instead of the usual 20-35 per cent duty on such products, they pay just 5 per cent with the belief that the importers have assembling plants where they couple the items, and employ Nigerians and create opportunity for transfer of technology.

The federal government justifies these waivers based on the provisions of the Customs and Excise Tariff Act and the Finance Miscellaneous Act 39 of 1990, among other legal and administrative instruments. Import waivers are issued by the Ministry of Finance and implemented by the Customs Service.

But investigations show that the four companies import fully built products and still claim duty waivers as if they brought in CKD/SKD. Customs documents obtained by OrderPaperNg and also analysed with The ICIR revealed that the four electronic dealers defrauded Nigeria of over N25 billion in CKD/SKD waiver claims between 2010 and 2018.

THE PANAMA PAPERS LINK

Curiously, Somotex Nigeria Limited is owned by an offshore company, Conifer Holdings Limited, a company registered in British Virgin Islands with Mossack Fonseca as the agent.

A trove of papers leak from Mossack Fonseca, a Panama-based law firm, revealed astonishing web of individuals and businesses that hide their wealth in tax haven through shell companies. The gigantic leak obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, ICIJ, became known as Panama Papers.

Conifer Holdings Limited was registered in British Virgin Islands in 1995. Two years later, the company incorporated Somotex in Nigeria with 99.9 per cent shares belonging to the offshore company. The individuals behind the offshore company – Ram Udharam Mohiani, Ramchand Mohinani Ashok, and Anil Ramchand Mohinani – are also three of the four directors of Somotex Nigeria Limited.

The fourth director, Nkiru Nzegwu-Danjuma, not associated with the offshore company, was not a shareholder in Somotex. Findings showed that Nkiru was the wife of Musa Danjuma, younger brother to Theophilus Danguma, former Nigerian Army chief of staff and Minister of Defense. Nkiru, a lawyer, died in 2016 at the age of 57 after protracted illness.

Last year, when OrderPaperNG contacted Somotex to respond to the official documents that revealed how the company’s false declaration of its imported products deprived Nigeria of hundreds of millions in revenue, the company threatened that it would take retaliatory action if the story was published.

But further digging into the company by The ICIR uncovered a mischief in its incorporation in Nigeria. While it appeared that Somotex had not broken Nigerian laws by being incorporated by an offshore company, the owners used the discredited Mossack Fonseca to register the parent company in British Virgin Islands, two years before incorporating Somotex in Nigeria.

Such obscure parent company in a tax heaven is usually used to engage in money laundering. However, Peter Ubani, a lawyer, said Somotex has to still operate under the Nigeria’s financial regulations despite being owned by an offshore company.

“Irrespective of the status of one of the offshore companies, the one in Nigeria is subject to the laws of the country. It is subject to the company income tax law, even if the majority ownership belongs to the offshore company. As long as it does business here, it will pay tax. It has to pay company income tax,” he explained.

But the problem, Ubani said, is that such offshore company can be used to hide the real owners of the company in Nigeria and launder money. “They shield their owners, and they can repatriate the profit offshore. The profit will not be subject to Nigeria laws. Sometimes they use it for slush fund, such as laundering.”

Frank TieTie, another lawyer, activist and executive director of Citizens Advocacy for Social and Economic Rights (CASER), said even the repatriation of profit by foreign company must be within the Nigerian regulations. “Section 54 of the company allied matters act makes it mandatory for any company, whether it’s a Nigeria company or not, to be registered in Nigeria before it commences business in Nigeria,” TieTie said, adding: “Repatriation of profit is subject to Nigeria law. Such law as Foreign Exchange Monitoring Act, and other financial laws are applicable to foreign ownership and other repatriation of legitimate proceeds.”

TieTie added that “cash inflow and outflow, must be monitored by the institutions such as EFCC, which oversees the Money Laundering Act. At that point, the concern to anyone who is worried about tax evasion should be in regard to illicit financial flow.”

TOP SECRETS ON ASSEMBLY PLANTS 

Uzodinma

On March 15, 2018, the chairman of the senate committee on customs and excise, Hope Uzodima, accused the importers of defrauding the government billions of naira through false declarations on CKD/SKD, adding that the companies had no assembling plants, a major criterion to qualify for the import duty waivers.

Uzodima said that during oversight visit to the supposed assembling plant of Somotex, his committee discovered that the so-called plant was just a warehouse.

When a reporter was first sent to the head office of Somotex in Lagos last October, he could not immediately ascertain whether the company had an assembling plant or warehouse as claimed by the senator. While there appeared to be lots of activities around the complex, the organisation refused to allow him entrance into the premises.

The receptionist claimed that everyone in the department that ought to give approval to receive a visitor into the purported assembling plant were on leave. After lengthy persuasion, a call was placed to the head of the legal team, Erhuanga Odion Erabai, who said that the company was not given enough notice before visiting. He said that the company could only welcome the visit the following week.

“This is not how things are done,” Erbai said. “You cannot just come in to our organization without informing us and be demanding for answers. This is a private firm. You have to give us enough advance notice and we will decide if we want to give you information or not.”

Yet on follow up visit to the company, the reporter was again denied access into the premises. Somotex imports brands such as Midea home appliances, Havells electricals, Bruhm home appliances, and Su Kam inverters and batteries.

The brands declined to respond to inquiries on whether their products are exported to Nigeria on CKD/SKD.

Although two staff of Somotex who spoke to the reporter said the company assembled television and other electronics. But there was no evidence of such activities during the two-time visit to the company.

Official documents show that Somotex had been importing fully built products and still claimed CKD. On January 6, 2014, the company imported twelve 40 feet containers of fully built television sets as CKD with Customs Reference C674 through the Apapa Port. It paid 5 per cent import tax of N17, 757,486.00, instead of 20 per cent for the consignment valued at N146.12 million. By claiming CKD on fully built television sets, Somotex made N24.6 million on that particular transaction.

Again on September 9, 2013, Somotex imported fully built television sets as CKD and paid 5 per cent import tariff, instead of 20 per cent, depriving Nigeria of N3, 614,809.27 in revenue.

The fraud of underpaying import duty for fully built products under the guise of CKD/SKD is dubbed “wrong classification” within Customs. Wrong or false classification occurs when the nature of the goods indicated in the manifest before shipment is different from what arrives in the country.

Billions in waivers to generate N15, 200 a month menial jobs 

Fouani Assembly Plant

Along the untarred road leading to Irede community in Amuwo Odo, lies the LG assembling plant managed by Fouani Nigeria limited. Fouani is a major beneficiary of CKD/SKD duty waivers and the teenagers assemble electronic parts imported by the company. Most of the workers in the plant are secondary school leavers without requite knowledge to acquire technology transfer through the process of assembling as envisaged in the import tariff waiver policy.

They work from 7:30am to 5pm Monday to Saturday on monthly salary of N15, 200 for new entrants and N17, 500 for line supervisor. They do not have any insurance and they do not run shifts.

LG and Hisence are the two major brands that are purportedly being assembled at the plant. Products such as television, refrigerator, gas cooker and washing machine are the major products that were claimed to be assembled at the plant.

Fouani workers said the core staff are foreigners (Lebanese), with few Nigerians to complement their work. Munirat, a former worker in Fouani said, “in terms of pay, it’s not that great. If you resume by 7:40am, you are late, and you close by 5pm, Monday to Friday. I cannot really tell on the number of persons working in the plant, but maybe like 300 or so.”

The reporter was prevented from entering the premises, but from outside, some of the workers could be seen playing during the lunch period. A Fouani staff took extra measures in checking the credential of the journalist. His picture and ID card were taken and sent to an unknown person for verification, and he was asked to wait. After two hours, the Lebanese man in-charge came out to ask the journalist to leave.

In June 2018, Fouani, the sole distributor of LG products in Nigeria imported goods worth billions of naira, including refrigerators, air conditioners, LCD TVs and washing machines. These goods which normally should attract import tariff of between 20-35 per cent, the company paid just 5 per cent tariff on the fully built products through false classification.

With its Form M application MF20180041207 to import air conditions worth $2,204,132 (N674,464,392), Fouani’s goods with Container Tracking Number MAEU576853985 were conveyed through MAERSK COPENHAGEN shipping line and cleared at the Apapa Seaport. While the air conditioning machines were fully built units, the company got import duty waivers for CKD.

Fouani also imported $1,512,000 worth of fully built LCD television sets from China with Form M number MF2018004142 and falsely classified them as CKD. Instead of paying 20 per cent import duty, the company paid just five per cent.

On the same Vessel Maersk Copenhagen Voyage 1805, Fouani claimed CKD for importing 910 fully built sets of refrigerators with tracking number MAEU964879324 and Form M number MF20180041306. The company also claimed CKD for another 3870 sets of fully built refrigerators with Form M number MF20180041299. The products had combined value of $891,750 (N272, 875,500).

Under the same shady importations were 324 sets of refrigerators, 1150 sets of fully built refrigerators and 1100 sets of washing machines at the value of $229,680, $227,090 and $65,850 respectively that the company claimed CKD.

DELIBERATE WRONG CLASSIFICATION

Sims Nigeria Limited, on May 5, 2018, got forest under the CBN rate to import air conditioning machines valued at $308,471 and paid through Fidelity Bank with Form M number MF20180030886.

According to Costco Shipping Lines’ manifest, the cargo arrived Tin Can Island Port from China filled with air-conditioning machines. Sims claimed that the goods were CKD, but the merchandise was fully built products. Nevertheless, Sims paid 5 per cent import tariff instead of 35 per cent for the refrigerators.

With its head office in Victoria Island, Lagos, Sims declined to respond to email inquiries. On the day that the reporter visited the company, the person in charge of public relations who might have been receiving previous emails from the reporter was said to have been sacked a week earlier. The person that spoke to the reporter claimed that no one else was in charge of public relations at the company.

The reporter was later introduced to a man, who said he was responsible for logistics at Sims. He claimed that the company has an assembling plant.

“For me in my own capacity, I only liaise with agents who deliver products. But if you want to see our factory, we have a big factory at Amuwo Odofin industrial estate. That is where they manufacture all these items you are seeing,” he said.

He insisted that Sims has an assembling plant. “Customs should know the people they are referring to. Most of the times, they make those wild allegations. They should improve. We have our factory at Amuwo Odofin. You can go there; we couple TV there. We do refrigerators, and ACs. You people should work from there and see who are those who have factories, and those who do not.”

When the reporter asked to see the factory, the man said: “they just want me to find out what you want.”

Another staff of Sims who works at the human resource department of the company and who introduced himself as Chuka declined to answer questions. “You cannot just come and tell us something and expect us to act on it, even if you are journalist,” he said. “You cannot just bring your ID card, and expect us to just give information. Bring valid paper work.”

SECRETIVE ASSEMBLING PLANTS

Posing as a prospective customer could not get the reporter into the purported assembling plant of Dee Kay Nigeria Limited. All conversations around having access to the building was quickly turned down.

A marketing representative of Dee Kay told the reporter that the company’s assembling plant is located within the premises, but there was little or no significant activities to suggest that the work of such magnitude was going on.

With head office in Ikeja, Lagos, Dee Kay described itself as a “leading importer of all types of finished goods into Nigeria”. Yet, the company made over 153 importations under wrong classification between 2015 and 2018. By importing fully-built fridges, freezers and other electronic products, the company claimed CKD for these importations and shortchanged Nigeria of over N800 million in revenue.

In 2010, Customs issued a circular that ordered all units at the ports to charge full tariff for any import that fails to meet the CKD/SKD standard, regardless of import tariff waivers from the Ministry of Finance. Despite the directive, the importers have continued to underpay import tax on fully built products under the pretense of CKD/SKD.

Terminal operators at the Lagos port said that the importers could only have succeeded in defrauding Nigeria with the connivance of Customs officials. A terminal operator who preferred anonymity pointed out that certificate of waiver is not a ground for false declaration, adding that it is impossible to get away with false declaration if there are no connivance with Customs.

“Look, the Customs is under the Ministry of finance, so the chances of collusion on waiver certificate and under declaration is very slim,” he said. “If there are any form of under declaration going on, it’s either they have collected bribe or some powerful people are involved.”


*This investigation was made possible with financial support from the Ford Foundation and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting 9(ICIR). The report first appeared on Order Paper and ICIR

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INVESTIGATION

How Abuja-based society woman allegedly killed man, terrorize community in Abia

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Residents of Umuchiakuma in Arochukwu Local Government Area of Abia were treated to an unusual tragic spectacle on January 4, 2018 when an Abuja-based society lady stormed the village with policemen and allegedly ordered the Policemen to open fire on youths who blocked her way.

Monica Ota Uche, an indigene of Umuchiakuma based in Abuja, is notorious for acts of criminality, including assaults and unlawful use of police escorts, whenever she visited the community.

On that day she ordered her police escorts to shoot Chimezie Anyaoha, a 35-year old engineer who had come home for a family wedding, for blocking her way.

Engineer Chimezie Anyaoha

More than one year after, she has used her connections at the nation’s capital to stop the police from filing murder charges against her. Now the family of the deceased are crying for justice.

THE WHISTLER traced Pastor Simon Anyaoha, father of the deceased engineer, to his residence at Umuchiakuma, Arochukwu local government where he expressed the family’s frustrations and their cries for justice.

 Pastor-Simon-Anyaoha
Pastor Simon Anyaoha

Recounting the tragedy, Pastor Anyaoha who is of the Watchman Catholic Charismatic Renewal Movement in Arochukwu, said Ms. Uche ordered the police to kill his son in cold blood and in the glare of other youths in the community.

It all started when youths of the community blocked Ms. Uche from using her police escorts to abduct a patient at the Mercy Catholic Hospital. The patient was earlier shot by the police at the community primary school playground on the orders of Ms. Uche for allegedly destroying one of the canopies she used for rentage in the village.

According to Pastor Anyaoha, the deceased had rushed to the hospital when he heard that a boy had been shot in the leg by some policemen brought into the village by Ms. Uche for allegedly destroying a canopy that belonged to her.

“My son had come to the village for the wedding of the youngest sister of his mother which was to take place on January 4, 2018. Around 9 on that day, he prepared and went to the primary school where the wedding was to take place. On getting there, he discovered that a boy that used to work with him was shot by mobile policemen brought into the village by Monica Ota,

“The youths of the community rushed the boy to Mercy Hospital. My son then joined others to visit the hospital to see how the boy was faring. But on getting there, the story was that this woman took mobile policemen to the hospital to forcefully whisk the boy away,

“But the youths of the community who have heard what happened and that Monica was planning to take the boy away to an unknown destination, they mobilized themselves to prevent the policemen from taking the boy out of the village. They blocked road leading out of the village. My son also joined them,

“This woman ordered the police to open fire on the boys again. Even when the boys started running after police started shooting, they were still pursued. The police pursued my son into the bush where he tried to take behind a house and shot him dead. The bullet fired at him came in from one side of his stomach and came out through the other side. He was dead before they got him to the hospital.”

After Pastor Anyaoha confirmed the death of his son at the hospital mortuary, he reported the incident to the Arochukwu Police Station where they took his statement and a police officer was asked to confirm the death at the hospital.

The Arochukwu police reported the matter to the Abia State Command in Umuahia and three officials of the State Criminal Investigation Department came to Umuchiakuma village for further investigations. The father of the deceased was also asked to accompany them back to the state command to make further statements.

Officials of the C.I.D came back to the village a second time to speak with eyewitnesses, including the traditional ruler of the village, Eze Henry O. Umachi, all of who confirmed how the deceased was shot by the police escort of Ms. Uche.

The family of the deceased rightly expected the police to file homicide charges in court against Ms. Uche and the policemen who did her bidding.

But two weeks after the C.I.D came to the village, Pastor Anyaoha went back to the state command at Umuahia to find out how the investigation was proceeding. But he and community leaders who accompanied him got the shock of their lives.

“Those handling the case told us that Monica Uche had come and taken the case file to Abuja,” Pastor Anyaoha stated, meaning the case had been transferred to Abuja.

But as if to confirm their suspicion that Ms. Uche had used her connections again to kill the case against her, she came to the village two days after with policemen around 1 a.m to ‘arrest’ about nine youths and whisked them to Abuja.

It was in Abuja that the story changed. Ms. Uche allegedly used her influence to turn the case against the deceased and other youths in the village who had protested her criminality.

By the time the police charged the case to court, the deceased and the nine youths arrested by Ms. Uche were charged with terrorism! Ms. Uche claimed the youths were shot because they were members of the proscribed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), a claim disputed by residents of Umuchiakuma.

A youth leader in the village, Kalu Agwu, who spoke to THE WHISTLER corroborated the account of the incident given by the father of the deceased and denied as false claims that those shot were members of IPOB.

“I was working at a building site when some youths in the village ran to me saying Engineer Chimezie had been shot by four policemen attached to Monica Ota Uche,” he said, adding that the youths were so enraged that they went and burnt down her house in the village.

Peter Kalu, another eyewitness who spoke to the reporter, claimed Ms. Uche ordered her police escort to shoot the youths who tried to block her from taking away a patient from the village hospital, stressing any story about IPOB is diversionary.

“Everyone knew what happened in our village, how policemen were ordered to shoot by Monica Uche, and they shot him dead for nothing. The story about IPOB is all lies,” he told THE WHISTLER.

When contacted, the Abia State Police Command said the case file had been transferred to Abuja and the Command would not make any comment. Ogbonna Geoffrey, spokesman of the Command said: “That case is no longer with us, it has been taken to Abuja so I cannot say anything on it,” he told THE WHISTLER on phone.

Some other eyewitnesses in the village who did not wish to be mentioned confirmed the murder, saying Ms. Uche is notorious for terrorizing residents of the community anytime she visited the village.

They claimed she is well-known in the community and beyond for audacious acts of criminality against people who cross her path and has often used her connections in Abuja to escape justice.

When contacted, the Abia State Police Command said the case was no longer in its custody. Spokesman of the Command, Ogbonna Geoffrey, “the case has been taken away from us so I cannot tell you anything about it.”

When THE WHISTLER reached out to Frank Mba, the Force Public Relations Officer, he also claimed ignorance of the case.

“The case happened before my appointment, so I don’t have any information to give you. But if I can get the details of the IPO and may be able to get the information you want,” Mba stated.

But when he was given the details of the case and the IPO, he stopped picking his calls and refused to respond to text messages.

Although the Umuchiakuma community has moved on with life since the incidence, the parents of the deceased are yet to recover from the shock of seeing the corpse of their eldest child riddled with bullets on a day they were supposed to celebrate.

“My wife now suffers from high blood pressure and we are always in and out of hospital while all family responsibilities have fallen on me because the boy that used to take care of us has been killed. I am retired and do only pastoral work now,” said Pastor Anyaoha.

“All we are asking is that justice be done. This is a country with a government and laws. We want those who killed our son to be brought to justice.”

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INVESTIGATION

Audit report indicts NPA MD, Hadiza Bala-Usman of N20bn contract fraud

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NPA MD, Hadiza Bala-Usman

These are not the best of times for the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, Hadiza Bala-Usman, as an audit report conducted by the Auditor-General’s office has allegedly indicted the her for various questionable transactions.

Part of the recommendations include that the Bala-Usman-led NPA should refund about N5.18 billion to the Federation Account for various unreconciled transactions.

Investigation shows how spending under Hadiza Usman keeps rising even as the NPA flunks its audit.

The fraud which runs into billions of naira was uncovered by an ‘audit query’ of activities of the NPA between 2016 and 2018, Per Second News gathered.

The Auditor General’s Office concluded, however, that the NPA’s financial records were riddled with so many bookkeeping deficiencies, irregularities, and errors that a reliable audit was simply impossible.

The office of the Auditor General of the Federation also came hard on the NPA boss for gross “betrayal of public trust” as demonstrated by her flagrant abuse for due process in the way and manner she runs the agency, citing documents obtained by this newspaper.

Highlights of the damning report from the office of the Auditor General of the Federation include her refusal to remit VAT deductions running into billions of naira and in foreign currency denomination to the Federal Inland Revenue Service.

For instance, the query highlighted unremitted deduction to Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) to include N3,667,750,470. $148,845,745.04, Euro 4,891,449.50 and £252,682.14.

The NPA under Hadiza Bala Usman was also accused of” excessive increase in administrative operational expenses” extra budgetary expenditures on hotel accommodation and under disclosure of expenditures on hotel expenses”, Corporate social Responsibility Projects, diversion of funds through the Nigerian Port Today, to the sponsorship of National Assembly Programmes, amongst other.

The queries which covered over 100 issues, also asked Hadiza Bala Usman to make various refunds to government, especially in instances where such expenditures could not be justified.

Investigation also uncovers that the Audit team reviewed NPA’s policy on implementation of Corporate Social Responsibility Projects/ Programmes and discovered that records relating to CSR fell short of the level of compliance with the Public procurement Act 2007.

In 2016, the NPA spent N286,412,628.00 on CSR while in 2017, the figure rose to N2,496,248,775.00 and N5billion in 2018. The Audit team found out that “beneficiary needs were not properly assessed or identified before the implementation of CSR projects/ programmes.

The Audit team observed to its chagrin that there was no evidence of compliance with public procurement Act and that most of the CSR projects/ programmes were inflated and accordingly ordered that the “sum of N5.18 billion should be recovered from the Managing Director of NPA, being the value of, inflated amount under her watch.

The committee also observed that delivery of CSR items were not accompanied with delivery letters and that in most cases, there was no evidence of actual items delivered and who signed for them.

Per Second News gathered that the NPA boss and accountants have been perpetrating a gigantic, unconstitutional accounting fraud, deliberately cooking the books to mislead the government and drive the NPA’s budgets ever higher, regardless of port necessity.

The NPA has literally been making up numbers in its annual financial reports to the National Assembly—representing billions of dollars’ worth of seemingly nonexistent transactions—knowing that the National Assembly would rely on those misleading reports when deciding how much money to give the Authority.

The fraud works like this, for instance while a contract with Ref. HQ/GM/PROC/CON/C.11/PBT/16/322 dated 16/10/17 was awarded in favour of Messrs Ecomaxx Engineering Projects Ltd for the supply of items to the old people’s Home Yaba, Lagos to the tune of N19,760,460.00 which was paid vide invoice no HQ/CS/0711 dated 01/06/17 there was no documentary evidence that the items were indeed delivered to the Home.

In the same vein, the contract for supply of items to Yaba children’s orphanage followed the same pattern.

For instance, whilst a contract awarded in favour of Trans-secure Ltd was N19,467,000.00 the survey conducted by the audit team found out that N6,520,500.00 was the actual market price. This NPA expenditure fraud is déjà vu all over again for Spinney, prompting the office of the AGuF to demand an explanation from Hadiza Bala Usman reasons for the sharp excessive increase in the Authority’s expenditure profile between 2016 and 2018. “It was observed that total expenditure by the Authority increased astronomically by 128% from N87.47 billion in 2016 to N198.98 billion in 2017. Of particular concern was the administrative expenses which increased by 72% from N26.126 billion in 2016 to N44.93 billion in 2017.

Among the laundering tactics uncovered by the Audit Query revealed that whereas in 2016 N22.16 billion was expended on revenue monitoring, the amount rose to a whopping N1.06 billion in 2017, an increase of over 4,689%. Similarly, overseas training rose from N20.48 million in 2016 to N470 million, an increase of over 2194%.

Also, whereas N15.31 million was spent on vessels / craft in 2016, the amount rose to N117.4 million in 2017, an increase of 666%.

The excessive expenditure of pollution control also attracted the scrutiny of the auditors who insisted that Hadiza Bala Usman must tell Nigerians why and how N4.2 billion was spent in 2017 as against N29 million in 2016, an increase of 14,310 %. Other over bloated increase in expenditure include local and foreign medical expenses, legal fees, Corporate souvenirs and expenditure on other government agencies which rose from N50.29 million in 2016 to N338.59 million in 2017, a 573 per cent rise.

The Audit also raised its yellow flag on an alleged “diversion of N369.71 million through the Nigerian Ports Today” the official in-house magazine of the NPA. “Payments to Nigerian Ports Today were reviewed to confirm whether they were properly initiated, authorised processed, documented and paid in line with the Public procurement Act 2007,”the report said.

However “findings revealed the sum of N369,718,130.82 was paid to Nigerian Ports Today, a Limited liability company that is fully owned and controlled by NPA during the period under review. There was no evidence of contractual relationship in the form of award of contract to the company nor was there anything to show the company rendered services to the Authority to justify these payments and concludes that the Authority paid the company without a contract and thereby contravening the Public procurement Act 2007, and that this was viewed as a means to divert public funds,” the report alleged.

The Audit query also took serious exceptions to various expenditure incurred by the NPA on behalf of the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi for which a whopping $604,598.95 was paid without supporting documents .

Hadiza Bala Usman was asked to refund the said sum into government treasury. Usually dependable source at the office of the Audit General of the Federation told Shipping World that the Audit queries cuts across all units and departments of the agency and that massive over invoicing and flagrant disregard for due process were uncovered. In all, at least a mind-boggling N20 billion of NPA’s financial transactions between 2016 and 2018 could not be traced, documented, or explained.

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INVESTIGATION

Delta Gov. Okowa’s commissioner in alleged multi-million naira fraud scandal

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Barely two weeks to the expiration of the first term and inauguration of the second term of Delta state governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, the information commissioner, Patrick Ukah has been enmeshed in series of frauds and corrupt practices running into several millions of naira belonging to his ministry.

Our correspondent reliably gathered that the embattled information commissioner, used the state owned Delta Broadcasting Service, Asaba and Warri as well as the state owned Newspapers, The Pointer to loot millions of naira from the coffers of the ministry through frivolous contracts he was said to have awarded to some of his cronies without any traceable addresses of such contractors.

HardReporters crime correspondent in Lagos, who just returned from Delta state capital, Asaba, Monday, on a fact finding mission to the state owned media houses, gathered that the state information commissioner, had lied in some official documents in his hand over note presented to the state transition committee.

In the documents, according to an impeccable source close to the transition committee, Ukah, lied that he purchased eight cameras at the cost of N18,721,738.00 for Delta Broadcasting Service, Asaba and Warri, purchased some equipment for Delta Broadcasting Service, Asaba and Warri at the cost of N9,654,750.00, repaired the FM coxial feeder line at Delta Broadcasting Service, Warri at the cost of N16,620,000.00, purchased some equipment for Delta Broadcasting Service at N11,553,750.00.

In the documents, Ukah, also lied to have carried out the repairs of the back-up transmitters at Delta Broadcasting Service, Asaba, Ubulu-Uku and Warri at the cost of N43,000,000.00, Mast tensioning, painting and repairs of Delta Broadcasting Service, Asaba at the cost of N11,150,000.00, installation of antenna and repairs of TV transmitters at the cost of N57,240,000.00, brief to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa on the 2017 flood disaster in Delta Broadcasting Service, Asaba and restoration of the station back to air at the cost of N17,000,000.00, repairs of faulty back up transmitters at Delta Broadcasting Service, Asaba, Ubulu-Uku and Warri at the cost of N68,380,000.00.

According to reliable sources at the state ministry of information, the documents which is full of discrepancies and fraudulent are currently generating controversy as there are nothing is on ground to show that actually such huge amount running into several millions of naira was expended on the state owned media houses as been claimed by the information commissioner.

A senior director at the Ministry of Information who pleaded for anonymity confided in our correspondent that the information commissioner is currently been investigated by the transition committee.

“As we talk the Delta state transition committee has commenced investigation of the state information commissioner, Patrick Ukah, over his bogus claims made. The documents show that a huge fraud, corruption and sharp practices was carried out by the information commissioner. How can you purchase eight camera for N18.7 million.?

“Our check revealed that each camera, Sony Digital HXR-NX 100 camera, the commissioner claimed to have bought at over N2 million is actually sold for less that N600,000.00. How can you say you repaired FM coxial feeder line at N16,620,000.00, back-up transmitters at N43,000,000.00, mast tensioning, painting and repairs at N11,150,000.00.

“How can you say provision and installation of antenna and repairs of TV transmitters cost you N57,240,000.00, to brief governor Ifeanyi Okowa alone on the 2017 flood disaster in Delta Broadcasting Service, Asaba and restoration of the station back to air cost you N17,000,000.00, repairs of faulty back up transmitters cost you N68,380,000.00.

“The question is how much will it cost to purchase a new transmitter that Ukah has used all these millions of naira to carry out only repairs on these transmitters. The stations can not boast of Outside Broadcast Vans, the staff are not working in a conducive environment, no good equipment and tools to work with, yet Ukah, was lavishing all this millions of naira on frivolous things that have no positive impact on the stations.”, the director said.

Some of the staff of the two state owned media houses in Asaba and Warri who spoke with our correspondent under the condition of anonymity, lamented the current state of the two stations, which they described as a state of “comatose” saying that four years have gone, yet no succour for the near moribund Delta Broadcasting Service (DBS), Asaba, (DRTV), Warri and the Pointer Newspapers, Asaba.

“It is a big shame to an oil rich state like Delta that has always topped the lists of highest receipt of federal monthly allocations running into hundreds of billions of naira with nothing to show.
Times without number we have demands for a more better working environment and equipment, but the state governor, Ifeanyi Okowa and the state commissioner for information, Patrick Ukah, have vehemently refused to pay attention to our demands.

“The way and manner governor Ifeanyi Okowa and the information commissioner, Patrick Ukah have neglected and abandoned the state owned media houses is so worrisome and you will be shocked how the governor and the commissioner waste millions of naira on private owned media houses for live coverage of events while leaving the two state owned media houses to go into extinction.

“The two stations can not boast of Outside Broadcast Vans (O.B Vans) used for live events, but rather will spend millions to hire private owned media houses for live coverage of events in the state. After four years, the government media houses are still in comatose, still in shambles, still in slumber and horrible working condition, you see us staff complaining here and there, suffering from bad working environment, what a big shame and disgrace to an oil rich state like Delta.

“Is this not shocking to hear that a whole DBS, Asaba and Warri still go out to hire cameras to carry out their official duties. In the News department, a full broadcasting outfit like DBS, Asaba, and Warri, there are no vehicles, studios in a very terrible and disarray state where cut and nail jobs are carried out and the governor and the commissioner are not bothered. The state government can not beat its chest and tell Deltans that actually they really mean well for these media houses.” one of the staff lamented.

Another senior staff of the station in Warri who does not want her name mentioned stated that “The equipment been used in DRTV in Warri are now obsolete compared to the current modern standard of broadcasting. A visit to AIT, Channels, and Silver Bird Television Stations in Lagos , you will agree with me that Deltans deserve more than a befitting media houses looking at the monthly federal allocation accruing to the oil rich Delta state. The Pointer Newspapers, DBS Asaba and DRTV Warri are gradually going into extinction.

“It is a big shame that for a state like Delta blessed with enormous human and material resources, cut and nail works are still been carried out in its TV and Radio stations even the Pointer Newspapers and the workers work in a very terrible environment, what about the several days the radio station will go off the air and upon all of these, Okowa and Ukah feel unconcerned.

“It beats ones imagination if actually the Okowa government really knows all what dissemination of information is all about or the vital roles of government owned media. On August 27, 2018, Delta state clocked 27 years and in this digital and computer age, the state cannot boast of standard media houses to showcase its activities, what a big shame and disgrace.

“What a disgrace and big shame to Ukah, when Deltans were expecting that his appointment would at least bring succour and face lift to the state owned media houses, after four years in office the state of the POINTER Newspapers, DBS, Asaba and DRTV Warri have become worst. Every year millions of naira is budgeted for the three media houses, yet the failed and inexperienced commissioner, Ukah, cannot give the stations a life line.”

When our correspondent visited the state information commissioner, Patrick Ukah, in his office along Summit road, Asaba before departure to Lagos, Ukah, was not on seat as he was said to have traveled to Port Harcourt, the Rivers state capital for an AGM meeting and when calls and test messages were sent to the information commissioner, there was response as at press time.

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