Monday , 14 October 2019
Latest
Home » 2019 » October » 03

Daily Archives: October 3, 2019

JAMB official who claimed snake swallowed money tried to bribe auditor – Witness

Fresh details have emerged as to how the duo of Samuel Umoru, chief accounting officer of the Makurdi Zonal Office of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, JAMB, and Philomina Chieshe, a clerical officer in the same office, conspired to stop the board’s auditor, Ibrahim Oba, from carrying out a financial audit of the zonal office with a bribe of N50,000.

This was revealed by the first prosecution witness, Patrick Obilo, who is also an auditor with the board, as he appeared before Justice Peter Affen of the FCT High Court, Maitama, Abuja on September 30, 2019.

Mr Umoru and Ms Chieshe are first and second defendants respectively in a charge brought against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), over the disappearance of JAMB’s N35 million in its Makurdi Zonal Office, where both work.

During Mr Obilo’s cross-examination by prosecution counsel, Ekele Iheanacho, he disclosed that Mr Oba was sent to the Makurdi Office of JAMB in 2016 for a routine examination of the account books and consignment notes, which show quantities of items supplied such as e-facility cards-used to check and print results, change of course card, scratch cards, question and answer cards, receipts or tellers.

He revealed that during this procedure, Ms Chieshe visited Mr Oba’s hotel room with an envelope containing a sum of N50,000 as “gift” from her boss, Mr Umoru, and urged him to return to Abuja.

The auditor according to Mr Obilo, sensed danger and returned to Abuja and reported the situation to the head of JAMB’s Audit Unit, James Ochijele, who ordered that the N50,000 “gift” be paid into the board’s account.

Mr Ochijele had to replace Mr Oba with the witness (Obilo) for the same assignment in the Makurdi office. While examining the books of accounts in the Makurdi Office, Mr Obilo said he discovered a shortfall in the proceeds from the sales of e-facility cards and change of course forms to the tune of N35,480,000, which were not remitted to the board’s account.

Asked for an explanation, Ms Chieshe began to cry as she gave all manners of justifications for the disappearance of the money, including a tale that a mystery snake had been swallowing the money in Umoru’s office, even as it was kept in a safe.

In another incredible story, she claimed that a mermaid appeared to her in her bedroom to attack her at various times and that her housemaid is a witch.

The real trouble started for Mr Umoru and Ms Chieshe with the coming on board of Ishaq Oloyede as JAMB’s registrar, who set up a reconciliation committee to look into the accounts of all the state offices. This committee unearthed monumental stealing.

With no objections from counsel to the defendants, the prosecution tendered the report of the reconciliation committee and its summary, which Justice Affen admitted in evidence.

Under cross-examination by Mark Fees, counsel to Ms Chieshe, Mr Obilo said each of the e-facility cards, change of course forms and other cards are sold at N1000 per unit, disclosing that Mr Umoru was the coordinator of the sales at that time in his capacity as the chief accounting officer of the Board’s Makurdi Office and had the record of all cards that were delivered to the office and the proceeds realised from the sales.

Responding to Ms Chieshe’s claim that she made some payments into the board’s account but has lost the tellers, the witness revealed that the bank statements which were traced for confirmation of the said payments did not establish any of such payments as claimed by the second defendant.

The trial judge adjourned the matter to January 21, 2020, for continuation trial.

12 banks fined N499bn for inability to meet loan/deposit ratio requirements

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) says 12 banks have been debited N499 billion for failing to give out 60% of their deposits as loans.

The cash reserve of the banks held by the CBN has been debited.

The CRR is a portion of the banks’ deposits kept with the CBN for regulatory reasons.

In July, the CBN had increased the loan to deposit ratio to 60% saying: “Failure to meet the above minimum LDR by the specified date shall result in a levy of additional Cash Reserve Requirement equal to 50% of the lending shortfall of the target LDR”.

The affected banks are:

  • Citibank – N100,743,055,321
  • First Bank of Nigeria – N74,668,880,480
  • FBNQuest Merchant Bank – N2,697,456,144
  • First City Monument Bank (FCMB) – N14,371,064,742
  • Guaranty Trust Bank – N25,147,933, 628
  • Jaiz Bank – N7,525,165,552
  • Keystone Bank – N4,162,938, 879
  • Rand Merchant Bank – N2,823,177,399
  • Standard Chartered Bank – N30,027,137,984
  • SunTrust Bank – N1,703,205,427
  • United Bank for Africa – N99,676,181,916
  • Zenith Bank – N135,629,337,625

On Tuesday, the CBN again raised the LDR to 65% and set a December deadline for banks.

The CBN said the newly revised LDR is informed by the noticeable growth in the level of the industry gross credit.

According to data provided by the CBN, the credit provided to businesses increased by N829.40 billion between the end of May and September 26.

The LDR policy is expected to encourage lending to small businesses and reduce banks’ appetite for investing in government securities like treasury bills.

 

Heritage Bank MD: Credible identity management will foster access to credit

The Managing Director of Heritage Bank, Mr Ifie Sekibo, has stressed the need for the Federal Government to work towards creating a credible and strong identity management towards expanding access to credit in the country.

Sekibo noting that while the Bank Verification Number (BVN) has been able to create a form of identification in the country, it has not been able to address some of the issues around identity management in the country. Speaking at the 2019 Annual Conference of Finance Correspondents Association of Nigeria (FICAN) at the weekend, the Heritage Bank MD noted that the ability of individuals to relocate from one place to another without notifying anyone was a major issue in access to credit.

Represented by divisional head, Strategy and Business Solutions, Mr Segun Akanji, Sekibo said the dearth of effective and standard identity management infrastructure made access to credit for the SMEs in Nigeria tough as banks only see unmitigated risks.

“I am talking about identity management challenge. That is the biggest collateral to lending and that is what is missing in this economy. The day banks can verify where you live, everybody will get loan with ease, because you cannot run away,” he stated. He explained that “the problem is this, I don’t know where you live. The address of the company is not where you live. And you can wake up in FESTAC today, but tomorrow, you move to Ajangbadi or Victoria Island. You don’t have to tell me. And that is a huge problem for banks.

“People take a loan from banks and change accommodation, run away to Ibadan and you cannot find them. That must change. But how do you do that? It is very simple. You lose all the benefits that is allocated to you as a person, the day you relocate like that, you are as good as dead.

“Like when you live abroad, once you misbehave with your identity, you cannot bank, your credit goes bad, you cannot go to hospital and everything else goes bad and you cannot do anything. So, you have a responsibility to yourself and the country that supports you to report yourself.

“There is no value in our identity management as we have it. So, it is not just about banks, it is about the holistic structure where there is no value to the person that each of us will represent”.

He gave instances about developed economies such as the U.S. where if one changes accommodation, they must notify all relevant institutions that they deal with because of the inherent value in the system.

“Just like they do abroad, when you are changing accommodation, you will be the one going to your bank, hospital, everywhere, you will dedicate a day in a week until you go around to everyone and inform them of the address change,” he said.

“Why? There is value to where you live. That’s where your mail, pension, cheque comes. Everything attached to you comes to that address. So, there is value. We need to get to that and then no one will be needing collateral to get some minimum amount to do business”.

Sekibo also observed that although the banks had pushed the government to some form of identity management system through the Bank Verification Number (BVN), it has not been enough to solve the problem of the identity constraining lending in the country.

“You can argue that the banks have driven the government to some identity management system through the BVN, but the problem is that the infrastructure that will keep everybody in the homes where they live and not just change is non-existent,” he said.

Nigeria@59: Access Bank unveils DiamondXtra Independence Splash

Access Bank Plc has unveiled a cash incentive campaign tagged: “DiamondXtra Independence Splash” in commemoration of the country’s 59 years independence.

Mr Victor Etuokwu, the bank’s Executive Director, Retail Banking, said in Lagos on Thursday that the daily rewards promo was introduced to help Nigerians to gain financial freedom.

Etuokwu said the campaign would also help in empowering Nigerians to fulfill their day to day needs as they celebrate the nation at 59.

The campaign is set to run from Oct. 2 to October 31, and will reward more than 600 customers during the campaign period.

“The DiamondXtra Independence Splash which is going to run from Oct. 2 to Oct. 30, is a testimony to our commitment to empower Nigerians financially, irrespective of their educational, religious and social status.

“For 30 days of celebrating Nigeria at 59, we will be rewarding more than 30 lucky customers daily with cash prizes ranging from, N10,000, N20,000 and N50,000 respectively.

“This is our own little way of giving back to our loyal customers,” he said.

Etuokwu noted that the promo was open to both new and existing customers.

According to him, new customers are required to open a DiamondXtra savings account with just N5,000 by dialing *901# or walking into one of its branches to open an account.

According to him, the more multiples of N5,000 both new and old customers save, the higher their chances of winning at the daily draw.

DiamondXtra is an interest yielding hybrid account which allows deposits of both cash and third party cheque.

Hybrid means a combination of both savings and current account features.

The DiamondXtra reward scheme has given away more than five billion naira cash and household items to over 15,000 loyal customers in the last 11 years.

Minimum wage: Labour threatens nationwide strike from Oct 16

Labour unions in the country have threatened to embark on a nationwide strike from October 16 if deliberations on minimum wage adjustments do not resume.

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) made this known at a meeting with the trade union arm of the Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council (JNPSNC) in Abuja, on Wednesday.

In a statement jointly signed by Ayuba Wabba, NLC president, Quadri Olaleye, TUC president, and Simon Anchaver, acting chairman of JNPSNC, the unionists said they have demonstrated restraint and patience with the government.

They warned that labour would “not guarantee industrial harmony” if their demands are not met.

They noted that labour had to moderate its initial position of having 66.6% upward salary adjustment for workers on salary grade level 07-17 by accepting downward adjustment of 29% for officers on salary levels 07-14 and 24% adjustment for officers on salary grade levels 15-17.

The unionists said workers had been forced to suffer “huge inflation and astronomical hike” in the prices since the last minimum wage adjustment.

“Despite this patriotic gesture, the government has kept insisting that it can only pay 11% for officers on grade levels 07-14 and 6.5%consequential wage increase to public workers for officers on levels 15-17, ” the statement said.

“Of recent, the Value Added Tax (VAT) has been reviewed from 5 per cent to 7.2%.

“The nonchalant attitude of the government negotiating side has dragged negotiations for consequential wages adjustment unduly.

“The offer by the government for salary adjustment of 11% for public workers on salary grade levels 07–14 and 6.5% consequential increase for public workers on grade levels 15–17 is not acceptable to Nigerian workers.

“We view the position of government as a show of insensitivity to the general plight of workers and an attempt to collect with the left hand what government has offered with the right hand.

“We demand the reconvening of the meeting of the committee negotiating the consequential adjustment with a view to concluding the process that started on May 28 within one week.

“We demand immediate implementation of the signed agreement on consequential adjustment of public workers’ salaries with effect from April 18 when the new national minimum wage of N30,000 per month was signed into law. ”

The new minimum wage bill was signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari on April 18.

However, the minimum wage has not been implemented because FG and labour unions have failed to reach an agreement on the adjustment of salaries.

Internet remembers how Lai Mohammed kicked against reintroduction of toll gates

 

The Internet never forgets.

That’s been proved true in the case of Information minister, Lai Mohammed as remarks lambasting former President Goodluck Jonathan’s government to reintroduce toll plazas on federal roads surfaced on social media after the Buhari administration announced similar plans on Wednesday.

At the end of the federal executive council meeting of Wednesday, Babatunde Fashola, Minister of works and Housing, briefed reporters on the plan of the Buhari administration to reintroduce toll gates scrapped by ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2004.

Fashola, who was joined by Lai Mohammed, his information counterpart, said there is no law against toll plazas in the country.

He added that some of the logistics being worked out before the reintroduction include acquiring more lands that will provide up to 10-lane plazas.

“Where are we in PPP and toll gate, let me just clarify this impression about toll gates. There is no reason why we cannot toll, there is no reason. There was a policy of government to abolish tolls or as it were, dismantle toll plazas but there is no law that prohibits tolling in Nigeria today,” he had said.

“We expect to return toll plazas, we have concluded their designs of what they will look like, what material they will be rebuilt with, what new considerations must go into them. What we are looking out now and trying to conclude is how the backend runs. And that is important because we want to limit significantly if not totally eliminate cash at the plazas while ensuring that electronic devices that are being used do not impede rapid movement.”

When the government of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan made a similar move in 2011, Mohammed kicked against it vehemently, referring Jonathan to his inaugural speech.

As the then spokesman of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Mohammed issued a statement where he described the move as a “string of obnoxious policies” of Jonathan’s government.

“President Goodluck Jonathan, in his inaugural speech, said ‘the urgent task of my Administration is to provide a suitable environment for productive activities to flourish’. How can that happen now that his administration is emasculating Nigerians with a series of anti-people policies?” he had asked.

“Perhaps the President needs to read his own inaugural speech again so he can redirect his energy toward making life more abundant for the people, instead of inflicting sufferings of Biblical proportion on them.

“Is the federal government aware of the deplorable state of the roads across the country before contemplating the re-introduction of toll gates? No one should ever be made to pay for services not rendered.

“It is a cruel irony that the toll gates that were removed seven years ago when the roads in the country were still fairly motorable are to be reinstated now that the roads have virtually disappeared. Nigerians daily die on the traps that the roads have become, and all a government can say is that it will impose tolls on the same people. What style of governance is this?

“The ideal thing would have been for the government to begin a massive rehabilitation of the roads across the country, then allow Nigerians to ride freely on these roads for some time, if only to make up for the years they have suffered on the roads, before any contemplation of reinstating toll gates.”

NFF shocked by death of former U23 skipper, Isaac Promise

The Nigeria Football Federation has described as ‘shocking’, reports on the evening of Thursday that former Nigeria U20 and U23 captain Isaac Promise had died.

NFF General Secretary, Dr. Mohammed Sanusi, said the Federation and indeed the entire Nigerian Football was greatly saddened by the report, coming less than 48 hours after two women footballers of Nigeria Women Professional League side, Police Female Machine FC of Uyo were crushed to death by a hit-and-run Jeep driver after a training session in the Akwa Ibom State capital.

“This has been a tragic week for Nigerian Football. Isaac Promise was a very disciplined, energetic, committed and patriotic player who gave his all everytime he put on the green-and-white.

“We do not know yet the cause of death, but we mourn his untimely passing at such a young age. Our prayer is that Almighty God will grant his soul eternal rest and also grant those he has left behind the fortitude to bear the big loss.”

Promise was captain of the Nigeria U20 squad that won the 2005 African Youth Championship (later renamed U20 Cup of Nations) in Benin Republic with a flourish and finished as runner-up at the FIFA U20 World Cup in The Netherlands the same year, losing narrowly to Argentina (complete with Lionel Messi) in the final.

He also captained the Nigeria U23 team that won silver medals at the men’s football tournament of the Beijing 2008 Olympics, again finishing second behind Lionel Messi-led Argentina.

Six Nollywood movies nominated for 2019 UK film festival award

Six movies have been selected for honours at the final of the 2019 UK Nollywood Film Festival (UKNFF), organised by the UK Nollywood Producers Guild.

The festival, scheduled to hold between Oct. 4 and Oct. 5 in London, is aimed at empowering and showcasing the work of independent filmmakers, especially those from the African descent.

Marc Adebesin, Publicity Director of UK Nollywood Producers Guild,in a statement listed the films by different directors as “Dear Bayo by Inoh Umoren”, “Nimbe by Seun Dania”, “The Birth by Abbey Lanre” and “Last Request by James Abinibi“, “A date with my husband by Okey Zubelu” and “Kissing Shadow by Chinedu Omorie”.

Adebesin quoted President of the Guild, Mr Malcolm Benson as saying that the festival, in its 2nd edition, was to appreciate and highlight the resilience shown by Nollywood filmmakers and other stakeholders in the industry.

“As a community, we need to remember where we come from, how we started and look forward to where we are going.

“It will take discipline, courage, consistency and enthusiasm amongst other things to build an industry.Though it may seem far fetched, rough and rugged, it is by no means inevitable,” he said.

According to Adebesin, awards will be presented in four categories – best African Feature Film, Best African Indigenous (Native Language), Best African Documentary and Best African Short Film.

Benson said CEO of Benalex Media, a film production company based in the United Kingdom would also be honoured at the event.

Benson has produced a number of films such as “Phantom of Fury“, “Forget The Pact“, “Ortega and His Enemies“, “Gold Dust Ikenna“, “Shenanigans“, “Return of The Don“ and “Lads in The City.“

“His most recent film, “Return of The Don”, was screened at Cannes (Mache Du Film) and also hit no. 23 on UK Box Office chart,“ he said.

According to him, the film has also won five Film Festival Awards, including the Hollywood International Moving Pictures Film Festival Award of Recognition, Canada International Film Festival Award of Excellence.

Others are, “Depth of Field International Film Festival Award of Exceptional Merit“, and“ Accolade International Film Festival Award“.

He further disclosed that “Return of The Don“ received over 40 Film Award nominations so far, including “the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards“ and “Festival International De Film du Cannes.“

Others are; “London Independent Film Festival“, “NAFCA Awards“, “ZAFAA Global Awards“, “CA Awards, BEFFTA Awards“, “Cameron Film Awards“ and “African Film Awards“.

Benson had also been nominated for many individual awards such as “Best Producer“ by the Los Angeles based NAFCA Awards, “BEFFTA Awards, ZAFAA Global Awards and African Film Awards in 2016 Awards seasons.

He has won “Best Producer at the African Film Awards“in 2016 and 2017 consecutively.

“The 2019 UKNFF“would screen multiple selected films from across the world over two days with special workshops at different venues. (NAN)

N729bn added to 2020 budget as NASS passes MTEF

The National Assembly has approved N10.73 trillion as the federal government’s total estimated expenditure for 2020.

Both the senate and house of representatives approved the budget after considering the 2020-2020 medium-term expenditure framework (MTEF) report submitted by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The president had pegged the expenditure for 2020 at N10 trillion.

But while considering the reports of the respective committees on finance and appropriations, both legislative chambers approved an additional N729 billion for the expenditure.

They also approved N1.5 trillion as the amount for new borrowing in 2020. They said this is as a result of reduction of N200 billion which was sourced from the increase of revenue target of the Nigeria Custom Service.

Other resolutions passed by both chambers include:

  • The adoption of 2.18 million barrels as daily production output in 2020 which the committee said was realisable “in view of concerted effort by NNPC and security agencies to combat the menaces of oil theft and vandalisation.”
  • Debt Management office (DMO) should put more efforts and strategies in managing the foreign and local debts.
  • Total estimated expenditure of the federal government should be increased from N10.002 trillion to N10,729.4 trillion.
  • The adoption of $57/barrel as crude oil benchmark price for the fiscal ear 2020.
  • Increase of the revenue target of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) for 2020 from N942.6 billion to N1.5 trillion.
  • Use of N557.4 billion from the revenue increment of customs to reduce borrowing by N200 billion and increase capital expenditure. The committee said this would in turn decrease the size of the budget deficit from N1.7 trillion to N1.5 trillion and also increase the total capital available to MDAs by N357 billion, from N1.01 trillion to N1.367 triilion.
  • The exchange rate of N305/$ should be maintained for economic stability.
  • Earmarking 1% of the consolidated revenue fund to finance the basic healthcare provision fund to be classified as statutory transfer.

The lawmakers also asked Zainab Ahmed, minister of finance, to improve the economic growth “by increasing the GDP and reducing the inflation rate to single digit.”

Vatican suspends senior employees, clergy over police raid

Five Vatican employees, including the number two at the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority and a senior member of clergy, have been suspended following a police raid, the Italian magazine L’Espresso reports.

The scandal, affecting two departments at the heart of the Vatican, was the first after several years of relative calm in which reforms enacted by Pope Francis appeared to be taking root.

A Vatican spokesman said he had no immediate comment on the report.

On its website, L’Espresso published a picture of a police notice to guards at Vatican gates telling them not to allow in the five employees because they had been suspended.

The notice included photographs of the five, one of whom is a woman.

The people whose pictures were on the notice included Tommaso Di Ruzza, the director of the Financial Information Authority (AIF), and Monsignor Mauro Carlino, the head of documentation at the Secretariat of State.

The other three held minor roles in the Secretariat of State, the key department in the Vatican’s central administration.

Calls to Di Ruzza’s cell phone went unanswered. Reuters was not immediately able to contact the other officials.

A senior Vatican source said he was aware of the suspension of four employees from the Secretariat of State but not of Di Ruzza’s suspension.

Vatican police raided both offices on Tuesday and seized documents and electronic devices as part of an investigation of suspected financial irregularities.

Tuesday’s raid is believed to be the first time the two departments were searched for evidence involving alleged financial crimes.

The Secretariat of State, the most powerful department in the Vatican, is the nerve centre of its bureaucracy and diplomacy and the administrative heart of the worldwide Catholic Church.

The AIF, headed by Swiss lawyer Rene Bruelhart, Di Ruzza’s boss, is the financial controller, with authority over all Vatican departments.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Vatican said the operation was a follow-up to complaints filed in the summer by the Vatican bank and the Office of the Auditor General and were related to “financial operations carried out over the course of time”.

 

Keep borders closed until neighbours comply with ECOWAS protocols —Oshiomhole

The National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Adams Oshiomole, has said that Nigerian borders with neighbouring countries should remain closed until they comply with ECOWAS protocols.

Oshiomole stated this when he paid a solidarity visit to the office of the Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs Service, retired Col. Hameed Ali on Thursday in Abuja.

He explained that his party is strongly in support of the border closure and all other reforms being carried out by the service.

He added that such action should be sustained for the economic growth of the country.

He said the APC under his leadership is impressed and has resolved to identify with the NCS on the feat recorded so far.

“The state must have control over the economy and Nigeria is absolutely right in taking the decision having been victims of expired rice brought in through the porous borders.

“It is a shame that after spending much to reposition agriculture, we still allow people to import expired rice into our country.

“We are lucky to have a president who told us to consume what we produce in the country in order to grow our economy.

“People are complaining that the prices of food commodities have gone up. Our farmers should make money from their sweat.

“Over the years, farmers got a good harvest, sometimes with right prices but smugglers often crash the prices,” he said.

The chairman urged Nigerians to go into farming and take advantage of the current good price of food produce.

He said the policy of the Buhari-led government would eradicate poverty and take prosperity to the rural people.

According to him, Nigeria as a country comes first, second and third before any other thing, there are rules of the game and the rules must be followed.

“NCS is a critical organisation to ensure we do not export prosperity abroad and import poverty to the country.

“Yes, Nigeria is a big brother to other African countries, but the big brother should not be poisoned through the importation of expired rice to the country.

“Buhari’s support base is the masses, the commoners and this policy is for them, that is why we are supporting it,” he added.

Ali while responding thanked the APC chairman for identifying with the service in the step taken to boost the economy of the country.

He said the border closure had boosted the nation’s revenue and also reduced the rate of insecurity in the country.

Ali stated that the borders would remain closed until neighbouring countries comply with the ECOWAS protocols on the transit of goods and services, which they have all signed

(NAN)

Six female students, two teachers kidnapped at Kaduna school

At least six female students and two teachers have been abducted at the Engraver’s College in Kakau Daji, Chikun local government area of Kaduna state.

One of the parents whose daughter was abducted said that he received a call from the abductors on Thursday morning.

“They told my daughter to give them a number to call, and that was when they called me, but I could’t understand if they were asking for ransom because they spoke in a language I could barely hear,” he said.

“I spoke with my daughter and then they collected the phone from her and terminated the call.”

Yakubu Sabo, police spokesman in the state, confirmed the abduction, saying the gunmen invaded the school through a porous fence.

He said immediately they entered the school, they went straight to the female hostel where the students were abducted.

He said the two teachers residing inside the school were also kidnapped and their whereabouts yet unknown.

“A combined team of police mobile force and anti-kidnapping squad have launched a manhunt of the kidnappers with a view to rescuing the victims and apprehending the culprits,” he said.

Sabo advised proprietors of private schools to beef up their premises with adequate security personnel in order not to expose their students to any form of attack.

Over the months, there have been a series of kidnap cases in the state, mostly on the Abuja-Kaduna expressway.

Senate proposes bill to tax SMS, data, voice calls…instead of VAT increase

The senate has introduced a bill which seeks to impose a tax on all communication services including electronic messaging and data usage.

The ‘Bill for an act to establish the communication service tax’ introduced for first reading during Wednesday’s plenary session, recommended a 9% charge for using the service

It specifically provides that such tax shall be levied on electronic communication services such as voice calls, SMS, MMS and internet data usage both from telecommunication services providers and internet service.

Ali Ndume who sponsored the bill said if passed, the levy will replace the 2.2% increase in value-added tax which the federal government recently proposed.

The federal executive council (FEC) had approved an increase in value-added tax (VAT) rate from 5% to 7.2%.

However, this is subject to an amendment of the VAT act of 1994 by the national assembly.

Briefing journalists after the plenary session, Ndume said rather than increasing VAT, the communication tax would distribute wealth more equitably.

“There shall be imposed, charged payable and collected, a monthly communication service tax to be levied on charges payable by a user of an electronic communication service other than private electronic communication services,” Guardian quoted Ndume as saying.

“The tax shall be levied on electronic communication services supplied by service providers.

“For the purpose of this clause, the supply of any form of recharges shall be considered as a charge for usage of electronic communication service.”

Nigeria does not need 109 senators and 360 reps, says Okorocha

Rochas Okorocha, senator representing Imo west, says Nigeria does not need 109 senators and 360 members of the house of representatives.

Speaking during senate plenary session on Thursday, Okorocha said the number of lawmakers from each state should be reduced to cut cost of governance.

He said the number of senators from each state should be reduced from three to one while each state will have only three members in the house of representatives.

“What (are) three senators doing that one senator cannot do?” Okorocha asked.

“Here, we have three senators per state. Over there,(house of representatives) over there, we have 360 eligible human beings. This country must begin to make sacrifices and cut down the cost of governance.”

Okorocha said he does not know what the current senate is doing different from the eight senate and previous ones.

“And if what we are doing today is similar to what we did in the 8th senate be rest assured the product will be the same,” he added.

He also told Senate President Ahmad Lawan that he pleaded with him “just two days ago to change your style”, adding: “If you change your style, you will get a new result.”

“Let’s proffer solutions and not create more problems for the executives. They are waiting for us. What do we have different to show?” the senator asked.

“The summary of what we have been talking about is money, we don’t have enough funds to support the needs of Nigerians, to create jobs and put food on the table of the common man.

“This problem arises from the fact that we depend on only one source of income which is crude oil, which consists of over 50% of our revenue and 90% of our foreign reserves, ad this oil is static.

“We should look inwards. Let us cut our clothes according our materials not our sizes. The budget of Nigeria is cut according to our size not the material available, and according to the solution.”

Customs lay seige to five-star hotel in Abuja, seize smuggled cars

Officers of the Nigeria Customs Service laid siege to Fraser Suites, a five-star hotel in Abuja, on Wednesday night in search of cars smuggled into the country.

It was gathered from various sources including two customs officials that some cars were seized during the operation which lasted for hours around midnight.

Eyewitnesses said some of those lodged at the hotel were asked to leave their room and present relevant documents for their vehicles.

“The customs officials asked people to come out of their rooms and identify their cars. They were checking duty papers and other documents,” a source privy to the operation told TheCable.

When TheCable visited the hotel on Thursday morning, three customs officials were seen standing by the agency’s vehicle parked at the hotel premises.

Custom officers in front of the hotel

Joseph Attah, spokesman for the service, said a total of ten smuggled cars were identified during the operation.

He said four of the cars have been seized while six were still parked at the hotel premises.

“Our men got wind that some cars were smuggled in and they were being taken to the hotel, in their car pack,” he told TheCable in a phone interview.

“So we went to the place and invited their managers. We left with four of the cars and six are still there.

“This morning the manager followed us to our office and he wrote an undertaken that if he can provide the papers, we will release the cars to them.

“There are smuggled vehicles still there. I told you that four were picked and six are still there. So it is not a raid and please disregard the rumours on social media.”

Both the hotel management and staff on ground denied the operation occurred.

”Nothing happened here; there was no such thing,” an official said when contacted.

Kidnap victim overpowers gunman, frees others

A brave motorist, Usamn Yusuf-Abubakar, reportedly engaged his abductor in fisticuffs, setting dozens of other captives free along Kaduna-Birnin Gwari road.

Narrating the incident, one of the freed victims, name withheld, said Mr Yusuf-Abubakar fought the kidnapper to a pulp and disarmed him using a stone

According to the victim, Mr Yusuf-Abubakar, after freeing the victims from the kidnappers, took away their gun and moved out of the forest.

The victim narrated: “We were blocked, robbed and kidnapped along Kaduna-Birnin Gwari road.

“We were led into the forest by one kidnapper holding AK47 riffle while others stayed back to cart away our properties.

“In my car alone, the kidnappers took over N400,000, laptop, handsets, etc.

“On our way into the forest, Usman attacked the kidnapper, disarmed him and set us free.

“He left the kidnapper down after he had beaten and injured him seriously with stone.

“He is later reported dead when negotiations were on to release a Pastor in their hand.

“They demanded that Usman should be handed over to them

“Usman took away the kidnapper’s gun and moved out of the forest.

“But on his way out, he dropped the gun somewhere in the forest for fear or been presumed kidnapper by the police or anybody.

“He met a police patrol vehicle immediately after coming out of the forest.

“He was taken to Kaduna and debriefed. He later led the police team to recover the gun he dropped, but I was nowhere to be found.

“In his bravery, Usman freed himself and many others. Sometimes, we need to display a little courage to set ourselves free from captivity since nobody would go to save anyone once taken.

“Some of these bandits and kidnappers are weak and malnourished. Their only power is the gun they are holding. May Allah continue to protect us. Amin,” the victim said.