Monday, 24 July 2017

NEWS AND STORIES

Professor Patrick Utomi has berated former Delta state governor, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan, for allegedly wasting countless opportunities the state had to develop, saying a good elected Councillor  would have done better.

In response to Dr Uduaghan’s recent negative shot at him in the media, Professor Utomi, who is also a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC), narrated how he contributed to make the Uduaghan administration take certain open advantages of available opportunities to develop the state, which he state the former governor wasted.

Utomi said he had thought that the former governor would have been sorry and sober for wasting several opportunities the state had under his watch, adding that his (Uduaghan’s) attempt at spinning the story of how the state was misruled around would not sell as the people of the state had not forgotten what his era looked like.

He, however, added that he had been at the vanguard of a new leadership focus for the state because he believed that the people deserve better than what the past and current leadership had given to them.

“A good Councillor would have done much better for the people than Uduaghan did as Governor. There is extreme misuse of the opportunities available to Delta State. It will take a serious and truly capable government to vigorously tap its potentials and create jobs for our teeming youths.

“This is one of the many reasons why I believe Delta State needs new political leadership in 2019. Deltans are not meant to suffer from the jeopardy of a clueless administration, especially at this critical phase of our existence.

“I would have imagined that Uduaghan will be very sober and saddened by his legacy of mismanagement and gross wastage that he left behind in Delta State. Trying to spin his poor record in the hope that Deltans would have forgotten so soon is a failed attempt to rewrite history. Undoubtedly, he knows that only few Deltans speak well of him and it is his pain to struggle with that reality.

“As he grapples with history, what is more important to Deltans today is how we can rectify the wrong policies, decisions and actions of the past, so that we can create a government that would not only meet the needs of our people today but guarantee a better life for successive generations.

“This is the task that I have offered to commit myself to between now and 2023. We are looking forward to 2019 with hope and renewed zeal for the beginning of a ‘New Delta’ teeming with opportunities and alive with possibilities,” Utomi said.

Published in News & Stories

Earlier in the month, in what could best be described as the African gods of peace and harmony coming together to have a laugh, arch-rivals Wizkid and Davido performed for crowds abroad on the same night, in the same city and in venues just 15 minutes apart from each other.

As part of his promo tour to support the Sounds From The Other Side EP, Wizkid performed at the Bloody Louis nightclub, while Davido’s 30 Billion World Tour made a stopover at Birmingham Palace, both in Brussels, Belgium. A few weeks prior to their shows, the two men had reignited their five-year-old on-again off-again rivalry, so no one truly knew what that night had in store. But July 8th, 2017 came and went without any drama, so if Brussels – a city a fraction of the size of Lekki alone – could contain two of Nigeria’s biggest pop stars, the world is more than enough.

If Cristiano Ronaldo was born in a different generation, Lionel Messi would have been undisputedly the best football player of this generation, but the presence of Ronaldo will always make that conversation a debate and vice-versa. It’s a similar thing with Wizkid and Davido, even though the two of them started competing for the number one spot in the minds of their fans, their crews and in the media, before they started competing for it in real life. Wizzy was already doing music at a high level for two to three years before Davido’s career took off, but being the two young pop stars of their era with the most promise, the two of them were constantly getting compared. 

Wizkid and Davido’s relationship initially started on a friendly note. As far back as 2012, Davido even complained about outsiders constantly pitting them against each other: “I don’t know why people weigh us… I see him as a colleague, maybe if I didn’t know him personally (there’d have been issues) but I do.” Ominously, trouble began to manifest in the two’s relationship that same year. At the Nigerian Entertainment Awards (NEA) in the US, in a show of disrespect, Davido and his HKN crew reportedly walked out of the venue in the middle of Wizkid’s performance with EME, his crew at the time, and made sure their exit was noticed. Almost immediately after that incident, the two singers started getting more and more questions from the press about the status of their relationship.

Davido

There are as many conspiracies about what actually started the beef as there are on how Gen. Sani Abacha went home to meet his Maker. Some of the more intriguing stories range from Wizkid snubbing Davido by rejecting a record he sent to him to collaborate on, to both artists taking subliminal shots at each other on songs, even to their relationship being collaterally damaged by the collapse of Mo’ Hits Records. However, whatever was the real reason for their initial falling out, the two artists haven’t let on to this day. Towards the end of 2012 though, Davido joined Wizkid on stage as a surprise guest at the EME’s Baddest concert in Lagos in a move that was positioned as a reconciliation at the time.

Between then and now, Davido and Wizkid have formed a duopoly at the top of Nigerian pop music by amassing more affluence, more hits, more fame and more awards than any of their contemporaries. Coincidentally, the two men also signed international record deals with the same parent company, Sony Music. As they ascended to the top, there was a fragile peace between the two men that has been shattered and repaired repeatedly through the years. That peace was shattered once again last month when Davido seemingly took a jab at Wizkid on Snapchat by referring to his new music as ‘pon pon sound’.

Wizkid’s new EP Sounds From the Other Side was released last week and has divided fans. The singer brought together a combination of American artists and Caribbean sounds to what, some felt, ought to have been a Naija-only party. So even though SFOS wasn’t released at the time Davido took his latest shots, the singer behind recent domestic smash hits like “If” and “Fall” was actually echoing a popular sentiment about Wizkid’s new artistic direction. But the “Come Closer” singer didn’t take the criticism lightly – he fired right back, calling Davido a ‘local’ artist and mocking his own international experiment; last year’s “Son Of Mercy” EP, which, according to many reports, was a commercial flop.

Their battle for supremacy has now gone global, Nigeria is no longer enough. When two rival artists successfully make it out of their home country, their rivalry often evolves into a fight for the right to the crown back home. We’ve seen it before with dancehall, in the feud between Vybz Kartel and Mavado, and in reggaetón; in the beef between two of Puerto Rico’s finest exports – Daddy Yankee and Don Omar. The on-again off-again rivalry between Wizkid and Davido makes for an equally engaging story but just like dancehall and reggaeton music was bigger than those who fought for the crowns, so also is Nigerian pop music.

The world is ready to listen to our sound, whether it’s from a talented singer with humble beginnings in Ojuelegba or in the form of the husky voice of the hardworking son of a billionaire – or, better still, from someone else entirely.

By Chiagoziem Onyekwena, Contributor

Published in Entertainment

The Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, has has directed Maj.-Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru, the Theatre Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole, Maiduguri, to capture Abubakar Shekau, self-styled leader of the Boko Haram sect, “dead or alive”.

Buratai further directed the Theatre commander to do so within 40 days.

A statement issued by the Director, Army Public Relations, Brig.-Gen. Sani Usman, on Friday night, said that Attahiru should “employ all arsenal at the disposal of the Theatre Command to smoke out Shekau wherever he is hiding in Nigeria.”

“The general public is please requested to also assist and volunteer information that would lead to the accomplishment of this task,” Usman said.

Published in Headliners

More than 20% of the Democratic Republic of Congo's mining revenue is being lost due to corruption and mismanagement, a campaign group says.

According to a Global Witness report, the money is being distributed through corrupt networks linked to President Joseph Kabila.

At least $750m (£580m) has gone missing over the past three years, it says.

The government has not commented but has previously denied allegations of corruption in its mining sector. 

DR Congo is Africa's biggest producer of copper and the world's largest supplier of cobalt used in batteries for electric cars.

It is also rich in gold, diamonds and coltan, used in mobile phones, but its people remain among the poorest in the world following years of conflict and mismanagement.

"Congo's mining revenues should be helping to lift its people out of poverty," says Pete Jones, a Global Witness senior campaigner.

According to the report, much of DR Congo's mining revenue goes missing after being paid to the state-owned mining company, Gécamines.

The head of Gécamines, a close ally of President Kabila, has denied allegations of corruption and insisted the company is transparent.

Published in Business and Economy

Let me welcome you all to the seat of the Presidency for this 1st media encounter since I came here. I must, at the outset, thank members of the media, particularly the presidential press corps, for the extent and depth of the coverage they have given to the activities of the Presidency these last six months. I cannot complain about the lack of exposure of my thoughts, statements or policies since I became President. And for that, I am grateful to the media and, as I say, particularly to members of the presidential press corps, whose duty it is to cover the President. They should know that their work is appreciated.

In so saying, I think it necessary also to record my delight at the vibrancy of the Ghanaian media. I know there are some who take issue with the media on several fronts, and even go so far as to criticise me for my part in the repeal of the Criminal Libel Law, for it made the media “too free”. Even though I have been one of the greatest victims of the irresponsible section of the media, i.e. those who have created an industry from spewing calumnies, falsehoods and outright fabrications against my person, I do not regret one bit my role in repealing that old, discredited law. The repeal has inspired the Ghanaian media to be one of the freest and most vibrant on the entire continent of Africa, if not in the world. I may not go as far as Thomas Jefferson when he said that “were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter”, but I will say that I much prefer the noisy, boisterous, sometimes scurrilous media of today to the monotonous, praise-singing, sycophantic one of yesteryear. The Ghanaian media has, in fact, enriched the nation’s governance by its persistence, curiosity and investigative skills.

Eleven days ago, 7th July, was exactly six months since I swore the oath of office as the 5th President of the 4th Republic. Needless to say, it has been an eventful six months. But, apart from one or two brief encounters, I have not had a sustained, direct engagement with the media. I believe that, symbolically, this is a good time to do so. Hence my invitation for this occasion. It will enable me to share some of my thoughts on what has gone on, and allow you, members of the media, to express your concerns and questions, if any, for my response. It is my intention to have such encounters twice a year.  

On 7th December, 2016, Ghanaians went to the polls, and voted decisively for change. A change to advance the economic fortunes of this country and bring about improvements in their livelihoods. A change to eradicate the perception of widespread corruption in public life and enhance the quality of governance in our nation. A change to banish the spectre of national demoralisation and renew the spirit of confidence of the Ghanaian people. 

I said in my first Message on the State of the Nation that the times in which we live demand that all of us be in a conscious hurry to deal with the problems we face. This was what has motivated my actions till now. Half-way into my first year in office, it is good to take stock of what has happened and the way forward. This forum is not intended to give another Message on the State of the Nation, neither is it to announce my achievements. It is guided, rather, by the principle of accountability.

We, and I mean we, in government, and you, in the media, together, have a responsibility to bring the details of the governing process to the people of Ghana. They deserve to know what we are doing and why we are doing it, and how that would lead to the betterment of their lives. If the people are not kept informed or do not understand the activities of the government, then, we in government, and you in the media, are failing in our duties.

My first important task was to assemble a team of quality, capable of working to overcome my government’s poor legacy, and setting Ghana on the path of progress and prosperity. By 12th April, the full central government was in place, in the fastest period of time in the history of the 4th Republic. By common consent, so as not to be seen to be blowing my own trumpet, it is regarded as being composed of some of the best persons in public life today, men and women of achievement, experience, integrity and knowledge, together with youthful elements who are full of promise. By that date, the regional government was also in place, again, a strong representation of competence and integrity. I must, once more, thank the Legislature, the Parliament, for the expeditious, but responsible manner in which it exercised its constitutional power of approval of my nominees, notwithstanding the bizarre, incomprehensible episode of the non-existent bribery of members of Parliament’s Appointments Committee. The process of constituting local government is also now almost complete, with the nomination and approval of 208 out of 216 Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives. The remaining 8, hopefully, will soon be in office. Let me use this medium to thank the relevant Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies for their vote of confidence in my nominees. I am confident that, on their part, they will work harmoniously with their Assemblies. It is worth stressing that these MMDCEs will be the last batch to take office under the current system, if the constitutional proposals for reform are accepted and passed. We have to expand full democracy to local government.

I knew that the biggest problem we would face on coming into office would be the economy, but I can safely say that I was still shocked at the state of affairs we found. A very competent Economic Management Team, with the brilliant Vice President, Aljahi Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, in the chair, has initiated, with my support, measures to deal with the mess. Our desperate economic situation has meant that we have had to take some unorthodox, but brave measures. There was never any chance that this government, voted into office with a mandate for change, would dare to do things in the business as usual manner.

The Asempa Budget that the highly respected Minister for Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, presented in March set the tone for the new ways of doing things that will transform our economy. It also provided the opportunity to deliver on some of the promises we made during the election campaign.

Nurses and teacher training allowances have been restored to take effect at the start of the new school year. Nuisance taxes have been abolished, and other measures have been taken to shift the focus of our economy from taxation to production. 

The macroeconomic indices are beginning to show a turn for the better. The monetary policy rate (MPR) of the Bank of Ghana has been cut from 25.5 percent to 22.5 percent in the first half of the year. Inflation has gone down from 15.4% in December 2016 to 12.1% in June 2017, i.e. a period of six months, the lowest in four years. The benchmark 91-day Treasury Bill (T-bill) rate was 22.8 percent in January last year, and has narrowed to 11.9 percent in June 2017, the lowest in 5 years.

We are encouraged by the gradual decline in the cost of borrowing and the increase in banks’ credit to the private sector by nearly 6 percent in the first quarter of 2017, compared to a decline of about 7 percent in the same period in 2016. But we have to continue to work to bring down the cost of borrowing to enable businesses to have access to much needed credit. It is my hope and expectation that these statistics will soon translate into tangible benefits in the lives of Ghanaians.

We have also introduced a number of innovative interim packages to help, particularly, new entrepreneurs. I do not need to repeat that the greatest challenge we face is the creation of jobs. Young people are very anxious about not finding jobs, and their parents are even more anxious about the future of their children after seeing them through school. I am well aware that the success or otherwise of my administration will be judged largely on job creation. Last Thursday, I launched the National Entrepreneurship and Innovations Plan (NEIP) which is an innovative scheme, under the Business Development Ministry, to help startups, and the difficult early stages of setting up businesses. We have committed $10 million of public funds, which we hope to leverage into $100 million from private sources to back the plan.

The Asempa Budget has allocated an amount of $100 million dollars as Government contribution either as equity or in kind support for the establishment of the district enterprises, 1-District-1-Factory. An additional amount of $340 million has been leveraged from local financial institutions for the programme. Government, in collaboration with the Association of Ghana Industries, has also arranged a Suppliers Credit Facility for $2 billion from China to provide equipment, machinery and other facilities in support of the programme. It is now clear that this programme is destined to succeed. 

The Asempa Budget also provided a $50 million stimulus package for the revival of distressed companies. At the end of June 2017, 285 applications had been received. So far, 118 of these applications have been screened, of which 80 have been adjudged eligible for various stimulus packages. In addition to Government’s contribution, an amount of $20 million has been earmarked by local financial institutions as part of the stimulus package. This will definitely help in the revival of our industrial sector under the dynamic leadership of the Minister for Trade and Industry, Alan Kyerematen.

At this stage of our development, agriculture will necessarily have to provide the majority of the jobs, and that is why we have to pay urgent attention to the modernisation of our agricultural practices. Extension officers are being employed, for the first time in many years, to provide hands-on support to farmers, and we are generally paying extra attention to every stage of farming.

The one-village-one-dam scheme is taking off in the three northern regions with the rehabilitation of the existing ones that are in sad states of disrepair. Planting for Food and Jobs, one of our flagship initiatives, has also started with increasing enthusiasm. The Programme has registered 185,000 farmers out of the 200,000 targeted; government is bearing 50% of the cost of fertiliser for farmers; and to date eighty thousand and thirty seven (80,037) tonnes of fertiliser have been distributed to farmers enrolled on the programme. Thirty five thousand seven hundred and forty seven (35,747) metric tonnes of seedlings have also been supplied to farmers. It is noteworthy that many of the suggestions for the 1-district-1-factory initiative are agriculture based, and that tells me that my many sermons on agriculture and food processing as the basis for our industrial take-off are finding many converts.

Over the years, several diseases such as the swollen shoot, black pod and mealy bugs have attacked our agriculture. The latest in the series is the fall army worm invasion, which is ravaging farmlands across Africa. Government is fully aware of the infestation. Our statistics indicate that it has affected one hundred and twelve thousand eight hundred and twelve (112,812) hectares of land. So far, fourteen thousand four hundred and twenty (14,420) hectares of land have been destroyed. In dealing with this menace, Government has mobilised support for farmers by supplying them with seventy two thousand seven hundred and seventy four (72,774) litres of insecticide. More are in the pipeline to confront effectively this scourge. 

In the six months of our being in office, easily the headline subject has been the fight against galamsey. I am glad that the majority of our compatriots have recognised the danger posed to the existence of our nation by the practice of galamsey.

As I have said before, since the Almighty has blessed our land with mineral resources, we cannot do without mining, and we have the right to exploit the minerals in our land. But we cannot and should not destroy our lands and water bodies and our environment in the search for gold and other minerals.

I am grateful that the majority of people and you, the media, have lent their support to the campaign against galamsey. I am hoping that the programme to restore the degraded lands will attract the same enthusiasm. For my part, I will not relent in this struggle, nor will the Cabinet Committee, headed by that eminent Ghanaian, the Minister for Environment, Prof. Kwabena Frimpong Boateng, which is spearheading government’s efforts in this fight.

Government’s plan to find funds to deal with the dramatic deficit in our infrastructure needs, has at its heart, the exploitation of our mineral wealth. The Vice President went to China, with a plan to leverage some of our bauxite deposits to raise money to tackle the programme for industrialisation and the building of roads and other infrastructure.

If proof were needed, this must surely be it, that this government is neither against mining nor against Chinese. But we certainly are against the degradation of our lands and water bodies by whoever.

I suspect it is not a surprise to anyone that we have spent a lot of time these past six months on the vexed subject of the ease of doing business in our country. By the end of the year, we intend to have our ports functioning properly and those who require the services of the ports should not feel oppressed by unnecessary and repetitive paperwork and corrupt practices. I expect to hear an announcement shortly from the Attorney General about the prosecution of the customs officials and clearing agents who have been allegedly responsible for the unlawful loss of GH¢1.2 billion to the central treasury. 

As we have already stated, all internal customs barriers will be dismantled by the beginning of October. Moving around the country should be easier not just for business people, but for the ordinary citizen as well.

The National Identification Scheme will be working by the end of the year as promised, and the digital address system will be functioning.

If I had been having this function back in January, I suspect I would have had to start with DUMSOR. Today, things have improved quite a bit. We are not yet where we should be, particularly with regard to the cost of energy. This is a great threat to the operations of business and the cost of living in the country. The Minister for Finance, in collaboration with the Minister for Energy, is at an advanced stage of floating the $2.5 billion energy bond to retire the $2.4 billion debt overhang on the energy sector. This development will attract more investment into the sector, and reduce the cost of energy.  

I am much relieved, however, that the supply and distribution have improved and we are working to bring costs down and make energy supply generally more reliable.

One of the tenets of my government is the commitment to inclusive and accountable governance. Inclusivity requires wider participation of the mass of our citizens by broadening our democratic base. This explains our desire to reorganise our system of regional governance.

We have signalled our intention to honour the petitions that have been received for the creation of potentially six new regions; two each out of the Northern and Brong Ahafo Regions, and one each out of the Western and Volta Regions. The Ministry of Regional Reorganisation and Development has worked well, under the skillful guidance of the Minister, Hon. Dan Kwaku Botwe, aka, The General, to oversee the demands of all groups and communities that will be affected. I have initiated the formal process for the consideration of these petitions by seeking by letter, dated 26th June, 2017, the advice of the Council of State on them, in accordance with Article 5(2) of the Constitution. If the consultation is positive, the Constitution requires the President to set up a Commission of Inquiry to inquire into the demands and make recommendations on all the factors involved in the creation of these new regions. The President is further required to act in accordance with the recommendations of the Commission, which will involve a Referendum being organised by the Electoral Commission in the affected areas to solicit the views of the affected people.

A fundamental part of our strategy for growth has been to associate Ghana strongly with the process of regional and continental integration. The transformation of our economy, through the measures we have begun to put in place these past six months, should make Ghanaian businesses more competitive in West Africa, Africa and beyond. As the empowered Ghanaian businesses become stronger and more successful, they will need bigger markets. West Africa has a market of 350 million, which will expand to 500 million people in 20 years. Africa’s population will also increase to 2 billion, up from its current 1.2 billion, within the same time frame. This means that establishment of genuine regional and continental markets in West Africa and Africa should be in our economic interest, for these markets will present immense opportunities to bring prosperity to our nation with hard work, creativity and enterprise. The principal reasons for my journeys across West Africa since May, are to renew friendships with our fellow ECOWAS member states, explore areas of co-operation, and reaffirm Ghana’s commitment to the important process of regional and continental integration.

Let me address a few words on the matter of BOST, and the sale of the five million litres of off-spec products. I want to reiterate that, even though investigations have been concluded by the security agencies and the National Petroleum Authority (NPA), a 9 member Committee, under the chairmanship of Dr. Lawrence Darkwah, Head of the Petroleum Engineering Department, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, has been setup by the Minister for Energy. Amongst others, the Committee is tasked with making recommendations to ensure that we put the era of contaminated and off-spec products behind us, by tackling issues such as: the integrity of the pipeline infrastructure; improving pipeline operations and maintenance; continuous training and skills upgrade of pipeline operators; and implementing improved Standard Operating Procedures, including the controlled evacuation and disposal of products under the direct supervision of NPA.

I want to stress the importance I attach to ICT development, because its potential is enormous, both at the macro and micro levels. The sector’s link to GDP is well proven. Key initiatives such as the automation of tax and business registration systems are already beginning to yield dividends. Upcoming digital platforms for procurement, immigration, parliamentary and judicial services will transform the way government conducts its business, including the business of Cabinet. Also, we want every Ghanaian to have access to good and affordable connectivity. Every Ghanaian everywhere must have access to voice and data connectivity. This is the imperative of our times. The energetic and knowledgeable Minister, Hon. Ursula Owusu Ekuful, is another Minister providing strong leadership to her sector.

It would be remiss of me not to say anything about sanitation. In the short-term, it is important to recognize that there are huge debts owed to the service providers which are hampering their ability to deliver the needed services in a timely and regular manner. Government has, however, taken measures to begin to settle these obligations to facilitate the evacuation and disposal of the heaps of refuse in our cities. It is my understanding that meetings have been held between the Ministry, led by an experienced Minister, Hon. Kofi Adda, and the service providers on this matter, and the evacuation of the refuse, which has already started on a modest scale, would be aggressively pursued to rid the cities of filth. Additionally, provision has been made to augment the sanitation infrastructure by constructing waste transfer stations at strategic locations to facilitate rapid waste collection to final disposal sites, beginning in the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area. As you know, I have committed to making Accra the cleanest city in Africa, and the new Metropolitan Chief Executive of Accra, Mohammed Adjei Sowah, is working assiduously to meet this commitment.

When I came to this job, I knew there would be difficulties and I knew there might be some mistakes. For instance, I wish that voluntary groups within my party, the NPP, who had worked so hard with us during the campaign, had not overstepped the mark, and had not got into the news for all the wrong reasons. I refer to some of the Invincible and Delta Forces, who got into trouble and gave the party and the government bad publicity.

My often stated view, which I have communicated clearly to the law enforcement agencies, is that the best way of dealing with such incidents is to let the law take its course without any political interference. The young men have shown remorse and the legal process is working. I hope that we all learn the required lessons from these unfortunate incidents.

Then there was the horrendous murder of Major Mahama. I trust and pray that the trauma suffered by the whole nation as a result of the incident will cure us of the barbaric practice of mob justice. It is absolutely essential that we leave the prosecution and punishment of suspected criminals to the Police and the Judiciary.

And when it comes to wrongdoers of the kind that, indeed, cause our nation the greatest harm, corrupt public officials, I am glad to say that the Office of Special Prosecutor will be with us shortly. The bill has currently been gazetted and will be in Parliament during this meeting. We all, in and out of Parliament, should take an interest and help with the rapid passage of a law that will serve us well.

In responding to the concerns not just of Ghanaians at home, but of overseas Ghanaians as well, Government facilitated this year’s Ghana Diaspora Homecoming Summit. It afforded Government the opportunity to listen, at first-hand, to the concerns, suggestions and opinions of overseas Ghanaians on the development of our country. We know from the examples of several countries what fruitful collaboration between their overseas nationals and their governments has brought to their national development and prosperity, and my government intends to emulate them. And to our overseas Ghanaians, let me again apologise for the whining.

I declared my assets within two weeks of my inauguration, and so has the Vice President. The Ministers have declared their assets, and I am insisting that all those required to do so, under the law, should comply. I suspect this has not happened before, and I intend to make sure we keep to the intentions behind this requirement of the law. In other words, I am sticking to my word that those who would serve in my government must protect, and not abuse the public purse, and must at all times recognise that they are in public service, not for private gain.

Thank you very much for your attention, and may God bless us all and our homeland Ghana, and make her great and strong.  

Published in Parliament

Last year an in-depth investigation by Bloomberg business news revealed that Congolese President Joseph Kabila’s family have a network of business interests in the country including stakes in Congo’s biggest mobile-phone company and one of its largest banks.

“The sprawling network may help explain why the president is ignoring pleas” to hand over power, the site said at the time.

Seven months on and Mr Kabila has still not relinquished power even though his constitutionally-limited time in office has come to an end.

This time Bloomberg has turned its attention to the president's brother, Zoe, who is a member of parliament.

It has found that over the past seven years, the Canadian company Ivanhoe Mines has sold five mining licenses to Zoe’s companies.

Bloomberg points out that none of the companies have been accused of wrongdoing and it is not illegal to do business with a sitting member of parliament.

Still, it says, the Kabilas’ commercial interests extend across the economy making it difficult for corporations to operate without coming into contact with a company that has ties to a member of the ruling family.

Published in Business and Economy
Wednesday, 19 July 2017 01:08

Zimbabwe's election 'to cost $270m'

Zimbabwe will need $274m to fund next year's presidential and parliamentary elections, the Reuters news agency reports.

It says the head of the electoral commission, Rita Makarau, gave the figure while addressing a parliamentary committee.

The country is currently suffering a cash shortage but Ms Makarau said that she was confident that the money would be found, Reuters adds.

President Robert Mugabe has been in power since 1980 and is set to run for another five-year term in 2018.

Published in Headliners

…Arraigned on 32 count over alleged N36b fraud. 

A Federal High Court in Abuja Tuesday ordered that former Governor of Jigawa State, Ibrahim Saminu Turaki be remanded in Kuje prison in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.

By the order given by Justice Nnamdi Dimba, Turaki is to remain in prison pending when he is able to meet the conditions attached to the bail granted him after he was arraigned, with three companies, on a 32-count charge, in which they were accused of laundering about N36billion

Turaki, who was earlier granted bail on liberal terms on July 14 by the vacation judge of the High Court of the FCT, Justice Yusuf Halilu, was arraigned before the Federal High Court on Tuesday on a charge filed in 2007 by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The charge is marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/86/2007.

The ex-Governor, who was rearrested by the EFCC on July 4 at a social function in Abuja, after jumping bail and allegedly evading arrest for about six years, was arraigned on Tuesday with three companies -INC Natural Resources Ltd, Arkel Construction Nigeria Ltd and Wildcat Construction Ltd.

After the arraignment and the argument on the bail application made by defence lawyer, Ahmed Raji (SAN), Justice Dimgba noted that in view of the bail earlier granted Turaki by the High Court of the FCT, he was minded to grant bail.

He directed lawyers for the parties: Mohammed Abubakar for the EFCC and Raji for the defence, to agree on terms on which the Turaki could be granted bail.

After a meeting between the lawyers, the reported the agreed terms to the court, which the judge partially adopted and granted Turaki bail at N500million, with two sureties at N250,000 each, who must either be businessmen or civil servants not below the level of a director and must own properties in FCT, including the satellite towns.

The judge ordered to submit his travel documents to the court, and is to seek the court’s permission before travelling abroad. He is to report to the EFCC one in a month.

Justice Dimgba directed the EFCC to liaise with the registrar of the court to verify whether or not Turaki meets the bail conditions, following which the EFCC is to send a letter to the court confirming verification.

The judge said, should the EFCC fails to do that within 24 hours of the defence meeting bail, the defence can write to the court informing it that the EFCC did not write to verify.

Justice Dimgba, who is the court’s current vacation judge in Abuja, adjourned further proceedings in the case to September 19, the date earlier chosen by the trial judge at the Federal High Court, Dutse, Jigawa State, where Turaki reportedly jumped bail about six years ago, following which a bench warrant was issued by the court for his arrest.

The judge also said further proceedings in the case shall resume at the court’s Dutse division.

Dressed in a white native attire (agbada and a cap), Turaki wore long face as he stepped off the dock, shortly after the judge’s pronouncement.

Some of the counts in the charge read: “That you Ibrahim Saminu Turaki, INC Natural Resources Ltd, Arkel Construction Nigeria Ltd, Wildcat Construction Ltd and Ahmed Ibrahim Mohammed (now at large) on or about May 3, 2006 at Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this court did collaborate in concealing the genuine nature of the sum of N8,004,000,000, which sum was diverted from an illegal act and you thereby committed  an offence punishable under section 14(1)(b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2004.

“That you Ibrahim Saminu Turaki on or about 15th July 2006 at Abuja, did conspire with INC Natural Resources Ltd, Arkel Construction Nigeria Ltd, Wildcat Construction Ltd and Ahmed Ibrahim Mohammed (now at large) to launder the sum of N5.200,000,000 and you thereby committed an offence contrary to section 17(a) of the Monet laundering (Prohibition) Act 2004 and punishable under section 14(1) of the same Act.

“That you Ibrahim Saminu Turaki, INC Natural Resources Ltd, Arkel Construction Nigeria Ltd, Wildcat Construction Ltd and Ahmed Ibrahim Mohammed (now at large) on or about 3rd May 2006, did collaborate in concealing the genuine nature of the sum of $20,000,000 which sum was derived from an illegal act and you thereby committed an offence punishable under section 14(1)(b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2004.”

Published in Headliners

Seven lawmakers on trial for ‘money laundering’

Eighteen senators are under investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for alleged N367.5billion fraud, it was learnt yesterday.

Seven are on trial. Some of the cases date back to 10 years.

A senator is being investigated for alleged stamp duty infractions.

One or two Senators (outside the list) are under investigation for their alleged involvement in the N19billion and $86million London-Paris Club refund in which seven governors have been implicated.

The Nation stumbled on a fact-sheet which indicates that 11 of the senators under investigation are from the North. The others are from the South.

Those facing trial include two from Northcentral, three from Northwest, one from Northeast and one from Southeast.

Those being investigated cut across the six-geopolitical zones.

Most of the N367.5billion alleged fraud border on money laundering, misappropriation, unexecuted contracts, diversion of public funds to campaigns, and others.

In one of the cases, a senator is being probed for alleged diversion of about N108billion while he was a governor in one of the states in the South-South.

A senator allegedly embezzled about N47billion when he was a governor. Investigators believe he was aided by his wife and son.

A senator is standing trial for alleged mismanagement of N1.2billion ecological funds; another allegedly diverted to other uses N1billion meant for the repair of a collapsed dam.

The other strands of the fraud include laundering of N40billion by a senator from the North-East; diversion of N3billion to the campaign by a North-West Senator; 149-count charge of mismanagement of N15billion by a senator from the North-Central and the arraignment of a North-West senator for allegedly N52billion fraud.

There are N9billion case involving a senator from the South-East; N2.1billion contract fraud by a member of the Upper Chamber from the South-South; N10.2billion fraud traced to a senator from the North-West and N2billion diverted funds credited to a senator from the North-Central.

Two aides of a senator, who is being probed for alleged illegal deduction of N3.5billion from the London-Paris Club refund have been quizzed.

Three new senators from the North-Central, South-East and South-West have been under investigation for some infractions, including alleged Stamp Duty collection fraud.

An EFCC source, who spoke in confidence, said: “The case files of all these 18 senators are already with us. Seven of them are already on trial.

“But, certainly, 11 others will be prosecuted at the appropriate time. It may interest you that some agencies in a few international jurisdictions are interested in some of the cases against some of these senators.

“It might also interest you that some of these cases predated the appointment of the present Acting Chairman of EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu. But since continuity is a cardinal principle of the EFCC, Magu has decided to ensure that the matters in court are pursued to logical conclusion. There is also no waiver for all cases undergoing investigation.”

In response to a question, the source added: “Magu has no personal problem with any senator. He inherited most of these cases.”

Meanwhile, it was learnt that some of the senators have also made a “strong case for the discontinuation of either their investigation or prosecution by the EFCC as part of the conditions for supporting  Magu.

“In one of the lobbying sessions, a senator from the North-East said he committed no crime to have been subjected to trial by the EFCC.

“Although a Senator from the North-Central was aggrieved, he was reported to have said: ‘I won’t block the nomination of Magu because he is probing me. I have forgiven him. But I know I did not commit any fraud and I will be vindicated in the end.”

Published in Business and Economy

THE West African Examinations Council (WAEC) on Monday announced the release of the results of the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) for school candidates (May/ June 2017).

Addressing journalists at the Council’s National Office in Lagos on Monday, the Head of the National Office (HNO), Mr Olu Adenipekun, noted that a significant improvement was recorded this year, with nearly sixty per cent of the total candidates obtaining credit in six subjects including English and Mathematics.

He said, “A total of 923,486 (nine hundred and twenty three thousand four hundred and eighty six) candidates, representing 59.22%, obtained minimum of credits in five (5) subjects and above, including English Language and Mathematics. The percentage of candidates in this category in the WASSCE for School Candidates in 2015 and 2016 was 38.68% and 52.97%, respectively.”

Also, according to the breakdown, a total of 1,567,016 candidates registered for the examination, out of which 1,559,162 sat the examination.

Out of this figure, 1,471,151 (94.36%) results were released in full, while 95,734 candidates (5.64%) have some of their subjects still being processed “due to errors” committed by candidates in the course of registration or during examination.

However, a total of 214,952 results (13.79%) were withheld “in connection with various reported cases of examination malpractice.”

A further breakdown of the results showed that 1,490,356 candidates (95.59%) obtained credit and above in two subjects, while 1,436,024 candidates (92.44%) obtained credit and above in three subjects.

Also, 1,357,193 candidates (87.05%) obtained credit and above in four subjects; 1,243,772 (79.77%) in five subjects; and 1,084,214 (69.54%) in six subjects.

Adenipekun further disclosed that the Council had concluded plans to conduct its first ever January/February examination for private candidates in 2018, in line with the decision of WAEC’s Annual Council Meeting which “granted approval to member countries to conduct WASSCE for Private Candidates twice a year.”

Published in Headliners
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