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Senate unearths defunct PHCN’s  N14.7bn stashed in banks 

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From Fred Itua, Abuja 

A Senate panel has unearthed N14.7 billion proceeds of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) hidden in commercial banks by the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE).

The Senate Public Accounts Committee, relied on the report of 2017 auditor general’s report to unravel the hidden proceed in commercial banks as at December 31, 2016, whereas, the privatisation on PHCN had been concluded since 2013.

But, the BPE in its written submission said: “Two separate sums of N3.231,984.73 (allegedly held in Fidelity Bank PLC) and N18.199,520.87 (held in Stanbic Bank PLC) are unaudited bank balances that were actually no longer in existence as at the date of the audited financial statements or asked questions, the matter would have been clarified.

“With respect to the two other bank balances N4.4 billion (Access Bank PLC) and N10.2 billon in First City Monument Bank (FCMB). The correct balance in Access Bank as at December 31, 2016 was NIL as the bank had transferred a swelled balance of $34.1 million to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) domiciliary account.

“The bank had initially been unable to make the transfer as at September 2015 as required under TSA policy, owing to the non-existence of designated USD Treasury Single Account for dollar balances 

“The balance in the FCMB Bank as at December 31, 2016 was only $36,053.55 following a transfer of $65,088,198.53.

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“The residual balance balance remained until May 18, 2017 due to inability of the bank to remit as required under the TSA policy owing to initial unavailability of designated TSA for USD balances as required under the then newly introduced policy.”

The query reads: “Audit verification and reconciliation revealed that the sum of 14,720,396,432.43 being proceeds from the privatisation exercise of Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) was reported in the Bureau’s Trial Balance to be in commercial bank accounts as at December 31, 2016. 

“Whereas, the privatisation of PHCN was concluded in 2013, the proceeds are yet to be remitted to CBN Privatisation Proceeds Accounts. 

“The issue has been communicated to the Bureau via letter reference No. OAuGF/RESAD/05/2016/07 dated April 19, 2018 and no response has been received.  

“Unauthorised funds kept in commercial banks may be diverted for other purposes, thereby leading to loss of revenue available for government programmes.  

“The director general is required to recover the sum of 14,720,396,432.43 being proceeds of PHCN and remit same to CRF and forward evidence of remittance to my office for audit confirmation.”

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Obasanjo rules out return to PDP, meets party leaders

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Fresh moves to drag former President Olusegun Obasanjo back to the Peoples Democratic Party failed on Saturday as he declared that no amount of persuasion from Nigerians, especially from the founding fathers of the party would bring him back into partisan politics.

Obasanjo held a closed-door meeting with the national leadership of the PDP led by the National Chairman of the party, Iyorchia Ayu, at his Abeokuta, Ogun State residence.

Emerging from the meeting, Obasanjo insisted that he had left party politics for good, but he would continue to play the role of an elder statesman for the development of Nigeria.

The team arrived at the Penthouse residence of Obasanjo, located within his Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, Oke Mosan, Abeokuta, around 12.25pm and went into the meeting with the former President, which lasted over two hours.

In the team were the PDP vice-presidential candidate in the 2019 election, Peter Obi; and former governors Sule Lamido (Jigawa), Olusegun Mimiko (Ondo), Liyel Imoke (Cross River) and Donald Duke (Cross River).

The Deputy National Chairman of the PDP (South), Taofeek Arapaja, and other party officials were part of the entourage.

The former President quit partisan politics when some leaders of the PDP, led by the Chairman of his ward in Abeokuta North, Surajudeen Oladunjoye, visited him at his Presidential Hilltop mansion in 2015.

Speaking on Saturday, Obasanjo admitted that the PDP played an important role in his life, but he had since ceased being a member of the party the day he directed his ward chairman to tear his membership card.

The former President said, “I have been with the party right from inception. Whatever I do in my own life, because I became President on the platform of the PDP, the PDP will continue to be part of the history of my life, but having said that, the day that my ward decided to tear my PDP card was the day I ceased to be a member of the PDP and that day I vowed that I would not be a member of any political party again, but I will remain a statesman in Nigeria, in West Africa, in Africa and indeed in the world.

“I retired 14 years ago and I will remain retired by the grace of God.

“Bear in mind and I want to emphasise that, I’m no longer in partisan politics and there is nothing that will bring me back to partisan politics, but I will always be interested in what is good for Nigeria and anybody who wants to have my advice, I will distinctively give it in the best interest of Nigeria and in the best interest of Africa.

“But if I retired from partisan politics, if politics is welfare of the people, I must not retire from the welfare and well-being of people, whether in my own community, in my own state, in my own country, anywhere in Africa or indeed anywhere in the world, and that is why I have the type of responsibility that I now have in the Horn of Africa, which is not an easy responsibility, but it has to be done; but I will say that your (Ayu) own responsibility is not an easy one either. It has to be done.”

While charging Ayu, Obasanjo said the responsibility of the PDP and that of Nigeria rested on his shoulders and he would continue to make himself available for counsel.

He said, “Iyorchia, you have the PDP load with Nigeria load and it is only God that can help you to carry this load, which of course, I believe if God gives you a responsibility, he will also give you the wherewithal to be able to carry that responsibility.”

In his remarks, Ayu described Obasanjo’s administration as the golden era of the PDP and Nigeria, lamenting that the country ‘‘has now fallen short of leadership that Nigeria deserves.”

Speaking on Obasanjo’s retirement from politics, Ayu said, “Even though you (Obasanjo) retired from partisan politics, partisan politics will never retire from your blood, because you want the right thing done; and since you want the right thing done, for life you will remain an emeritus member of the PDP.

“You cannot build a house and leave it to collapse. You throw a challenge to me that if I have been there from the beginning, why have I not done anything, maybe I was doing something, but it was not good enough. We will continue to contribute our own quota; we will continue to come to you; so, I want to plead with you, please don’t be tired of us as we come knocking asking for your advice, asking for  wisdom, because the words of elders are words of wisdom and there is no leader here in this country (bigger) than President Olusegun Obasanjo.”

On the readiness of the PDP for the 2023 elections, Ayu said, “We want to assure you that the new leadership of the PDP with the rest of the PDP family will do everything possible from ward to ward, local government by local government across the country to restore the lost glory of Nigeria in which your era was a shining example.

“Anytime we talk about the history of the PDP, there is no way we talk about the PDP without mentioning between 1999 and 2007.”

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New Zealand PM Ardern cancels her wedding as Omicron rages

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Agency Reports

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has cancelled her wedding as the nation imposes new restrictions to slow the community spread of the COVID-19 Omicron variant, she told reporters.

New Zealand will impose mask rules and limit gathering from midnight on Sunday after a cluster of nine cases of the COVID-19 Omicron variant showed community transmission from the North to South islands after a wedding.

A family travelled by plane from the North Island capital of Auckland to a wedding in the South Island attended by 100 people.

The family and a flight attendant tested positive.

New Zealand would move to a red setting under its COVID-19 protection framework, with more mask wearing, and a cap of 100 customers indoors in hospitality settings and events such as weddings, or 25 people if venues are not using vaccine passes, Arden said.

“My wedding will not be going ahead,” she told reporters, adding she was sorry for anyone caught up in a similar scenario.

Asked by reporters how she felt about her wedding cancellation, Ardern replied: “Such is life.”

She added, “I am no different to, dare I say it, thousands of other New Zealanders who have had much more devastating impacts felt by the pandemic, the most gutting of which is the inability to be with a loved one sometimes when they are gravely ill.

“That will far, far outstrip any sadness I experience.”

Jacinda’s wedding to Clarke Gayford this summer was rumoured to be fast approaching. Some reports said it was fixed for this month.

But no specific date has actually been announced.

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Kalu meets Abdulsalami Abubakar

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Chief Whip of the Senate, Orji Uzor Kalu, on Saturday night paid a private visit to former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar.

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Kalu who made the announcement through his verified Facebook page, revealed that his discussion with the former president centered on national issues and peaceful coexistence of Nigeria.
He wrote: “ Tonight, I paid a visit to the former President of Nigeria, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, to greet him for the new year. We also discussed major national affairs and peaceful coexistence of our nation.”

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