Below are the headlines found on The Guardian Online Newspaper for today, Friday, 23 February, 2018.

Fri, 23 Feb 2018
Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) may have begun beaming its searchlight on how the National Working Committee (NWC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) led by Chief John Odigie-Oyegun has been spending party funds.The move comes barely four days to the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the ruling party.

It followed a strongly worded letter said to have been written by the National Leader and former Lagos State governor, Bola Tinubu, accusing Odigie-Oyegun of frustrating his efforts at reconciling aggrieved members of the party.

The EFCC’s action was said to have been prompted by members of the Buhari/APC Anti-Corruption Support Group. Sources told The Guardian that officials of the anti-graft agency stormed the party’s secretariat at about 12:00 p.m. yesterday in a black SUV and headed straight to the office of the national chairman.Last week, the group, led by one Ishola Adeshina, was at the EFCC’s headquarters in Abuja, calling for the immediate probe of the NWC.

Efforts via telephone to get the National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, to comment on the visit by EFCC operatives faied.Tinubu’s letter, dated February 21, copied to the President, Vice President, Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives, accused Odigie-Oyegun of taking unilateral decisions on the APC crises in Kogi, Kaduna and Adamawa States.

In the letter entitled, ‘Actions and Conduct Weakening the Party from Within’, Tinubu said: “In Kogi, you (Odigie-Oyegun) rushed to the state, to unilaterally inaugurate a new set of state officials, parallel to the officials already heading the state chapter of the party.“While this may place you in significant affinity with those parallel officials you had picked, this machinations suggests no improvement in the welfare of the party in Kogi state or at the national level.

“This usurpation of authority exacerbates the confusion. It doesn’t resolve it. It is my understanding that the dissolution of the duly constituted state executive and the hurried naming of the above mentioned group wasn’t approved by the NWC. “This arrogation of power sets you at variance with members of the NWC as evidenced by the National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi statement condemning your improper and usual action.

“You had let this situation fester for months on end. Only when I was appointed to help resolve internal disputes and when you realised I might focus early on Kogi did you stir from your indifference and inaction.“You could have wisely and prudently treated this matter before hand. By waiting to the last moment, your unilateral action was implemented in haste and unbalanced in thought.

“By creating a parallel body, you not only acted improperly, you grew a second problem from the stem where previously there had sprouted but one.“Drawing from your behaviour in Kogi, Kaduna and with regard to the state chapter assessment requested, I am led to the inference that you have no intention of actually supporting my assignment.”

Odigie-Oyegun nevertheless received the endorsement of members of the Adamawa State House of Assembly who were at the national secretariat of the party, yesterday.The lawmakers, led by Speaker Kabiru Mijinyawa, passed a vote of confidence on Odigie-Oyegun and the NWC.

“We have to commend your style of leadership. When the President was inaugurated, he said that we were going to face some challenges, turbulences and encumbrances in the government and the party is not excluded. For the past three years, we have seen how you have handled the party at national, state, local government and ward levels. With all these turbulences and encumbrances, we are still the great party that we are.”Buhari was expected to meet with APC governors at the Presidential Villa, Abuja yesterday.

Fri, 23 Feb 2018
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), yesterday, criticised the Federal Government for “misleading Nigerians” with information suggesting security operatives had rescued some of the schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram in Yobe State.

The terrorist group had attacked Government Girls Secondary School Dapchi, Monday evening.“We have authentic information that the girls have not been rescued,” said the PDP, insisting: “as we speak, reports say about 94 students are still missing.”The party condemned the Federal Government’s handling of national challenges, saying: “Nigeria, today, is at the crossroads. The economy is in tatters. The security situation has become a nightmare. Killer herdsmen are competing with Boko Haram and kidnappers on who would inflict the most pain on hapless Nigerians. The nation is in crisis and is sliding towards a terrible direction.”

Also reacting to the girls’ abduction, Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose advised the Federal Government to stop “lying concerning the fight against Boko Haram insurgents because it has now become the tradition that whenever the government boasts of defeating the insurgents, greater havoc is wreaked on the country.”He expressed regret that despite repeated claims by the Federal Government that it had “technically” and “completely defeated” Boko Haram, the sect still staged the abduction of 94 students in one day.

In a statement by his spokesman, Lere Olayinka, in Ado Ekiti yesterday, Fayose said his heart “goes out to those 46 students that are yet to be found,” urging the Federal and Yobe State Government to do “all within their powers” to rescue the girls.The European Union (EU) meanwhile described the abduction as an attack on humanity, expressing solidarity with the affected families and the entire country.

“The EU remains committed to supporting the government of Nigeria in its fight against terrorism and all forms of criminality. We stand resolute to continue our humanitarian and development work, including the rights and protection of girls,” the organisation said in a statement yesterday by Catherine Ray, spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

Apart from the abduction, Fayose knocked the anti-corruption campaign of the current administration, saying: “Transparency International (TI) only confirmed what I have said before that President Buhari is only hiding under the anti-corruption fight to harass his perceived political foes while protecting corrupt people in his government.”

A fresh report by TI, ranked Nigeria 148th out of 180 countries on its Corruption Perception Index (CPI). Nigeria was rated 136th in 2017. “Transparency International has placed a question mark on the president’s claim to integrity. The fact is that President Buhari is presiding over the worst form of corruption in the history of Nigeria. And the good thing is that despite their propaganda, they have not been able to hide the rot in their government from the eagle eyes of international organisations like Transparency International,” said Fayose.

The governor noted that Nigerians have been confronted with “messy revelations like the fraudulent reinstatement of Abdullahi Maina, alleged award of $25 billion contracts without following due process, Attorney-General of the Federation’s declaration that the EFCC lacked evidence to prove its allegations of sharp practices against prominent players in the Malabu Oil deal; and alleged re-looting of exotic properties recovered from alleged looters of pension funds; even the Acting Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu, was indicted by the Department of State Services for corruption.”

He concluded: “The reality, as revealed by Transparency International, is that the Federal Government under President Buhari is using APC’s broom to sweep corruption involving top functionaries of the government under the carpet, while setting lions on opposition figures, even on a mere rumour of corruption.”

Fri, 23 Feb 2018
Shareholders in the nation’s capital market have condemned recent directive by the Central bank of Nigeria (CBN), to Deposit Money Banks (DMB), not to pay dividend on its shares until all its expenses have been completely written off, saying the decision is a disincentive to investors; promising to challenge this in court if necessary.

The shareholders, who argued that the market is information-driven, said with the little signs of recovery and capital appreciation witnessed recently, government at all levels must be cautious, and avoid any actions and decisions that could send wrong signals, and erode investors’ confidence in the market.

According to them, expectations are that the relatively low interest rates in the money market, and sell-off in the bond market will boost inflow into the stock market, as fund managers play earnings season for quick returns in high dividend paying stocks.The shareholders however argued that the decision by the apex regulator on dividend payout would definitely erode the optimism and confidence on huge investment inflow into the equity market, which has trailed it since the beginning of the year.

Furthermore, they added that there are possibilities of some hasty sell-off reactions by investors especially in stocks that are affected by the dividend payment restrictions.

Specifically, the President, Proactive Shareholders Association of Nigeria, Taiwo Oderinde, in an interview with The Guardian, said: “CBN is only interested in protecting the banks’ depositors at the expense of the shareholders. Every bank has its own board that has the prerogative to decide to pay dividend.

“It is not CBN’s responsibility to decide when or when not to pay dividend to their investors. It is an anti-investors policy and directive, and we will challenge it in court,” he said.

Also speaking, the Publicity Secretary of Independence Shareholder Association, Moses Igbrude, described the CBN directive to banks with huge non-performing loans not to pay dividend to shareholders as most unfortunate, noting that the decision would have negative effects on the market. 

“Why would CBN wait until the loans go bad before issuing now, who are these borrowers, what has CBN done to those serials borrowers, who take loans from one bank to the other with out paying? What sanctions or punishment have they imposed on them, why are they afraid of them?

“We, shareholders, are not happy about this directive, and it is going to affect us seriously in this harsh economic period. Though we are going to question and ask bank managements at the AGMs who are these people owing the banks, the regulator should address the issue of non-performing loan in all its form by sanctioning the borrowers, and the givers of the loans before punishing the shareholders.”

The President, Progressive Shareholders Association, Boniface Okezie, said the CBN has failed to do what is expected of it as an apex financial regulator abnitio.
”Where was the CBN when the banks’ non-performing loans hit the roofs? CBN should not pass the buck to the investing public, my advice to CBN is that they must reverse this policy; it is not going to help the Investors at all.

Fri, 23 Feb 2018
The Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC), disbursed a total sum of N6.418trillion in 2017, representing an increase of 25.8 per cent, and 6.8 per cent when compared to the N5.1trillion and N6.011trillion disbursed in 2016, and 2015 respectively.
NEITI attributed this slight increase in FAAC disbursement to the recent rise in crude oil prices, which peaked as high as $70 per barrels in January.A breakdown of the amount disbursed in 2017 showed that the Federal Government received N2.564trillion; the 36 States got N1.859trillion, while the 774 local governments shared N1.502 trillion.
The information is contained in the latest edition of the Quarterly Review of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), entitled: “Analysis of FAAC Disbursements in 2017 and Projections for 2018.”However, the review noted that despite the increases in FAAC disbursements in 2017, they were still 34.1 per cent and 25.3 per cent lower than the N9.742trillion and N8.595 trillion in 2013, and 2014, respectively due to the uncertainty in oil prices.

According to NEITI, declining oil revenue led to a situation where FAAC disbursements to states were a mere fraction of their budgets and range from 7.6 per cent (Osun), to 57 per cent (Yobe).It noted that states received additional N760billion from the Paris Club loan refunds, which were expected to help alleviate the difficulty in budget execution from dwindling disbursements.    
NEITI specifically attributed the slight revenue increase in 2017, to rising oil prices, improved oil production, and greater attention towards the development of the non-oil revenue sectors.It projected brighter prospects in 2018, as a result of the rise in oil prices, and upsurge in oil production.
State-by-state breakdown of the FAAC allocations in 2017, showed Akwa Ibom State received the highest share of N143.6billion, followed by Rivers State with N119.6billion. Delta State came third with N111.2billion, while Bayelsa State got N105.3billion.On the other hand, Osun State received N10.4billion to occupy the lowest position during the year under review.  
The NEITI review also revealed a steady rise in revenue disbursements from Value Added Tax (VAT) since 2015. The increase is an indication of a positive signal in the recognition of the government’s policy towards the development of the non-oil sectors through sustained revenue generation from services.  
The publication remarked: “VAT disbursements in 2017 were N967.7billion and N811billion in 2016. This represented an increase of 19.3 per cent in 2017 over the figures for 2016. Also, total VAT disbursements in 2015 were N778.7billion.
This represented an increase of N188.9billion (24.3 per cent) over the 2015 figures”From the review, the 36 states received the highest share of VAT revenues of N464.5billion in 2017, followed by N325.1billion shared among the 774 local governments, while the Federal Government received the lowest share from VAT proceeds with N139.3billion. This is on the account of the fact that states take 50 per cent of VAT, while LGAs and the Federal government take 35 per cent and 15 per cent respectively.
The transparency watchdog linked the improved FAAC disbursements and Nigeria’s exit from recession in 2017 to increased revenues from the oil and gas sector as a result of rising oil prices and improved crude oil production due to stability in the Niger Delta.

Fri, 23 Feb 2018
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday told a Federal High Court, Lagos, that it had rejected the ‘out-of-court settlement’ proposed by the former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Jumoke Akinjide, and others, who are standing trial over alleged N650 million fraud, not minding that they have refunded the money.
Akinjide, alongside Senator Ayo Adeseun and Chief (Mrs.) Olanrewaju Otiti, are standing trial before Justice Muslim Hassan on charges bordering on the said allegation.

At the resumed trial of the accused persons, counsel to the EFCC, Nnaemeka Omewa, who told the court that his agency received a proposal for out-of-court settlement from the accused persons’ counsel, however, said that he had the instruction of the management of his agency to reject the said proposal, as it was not in line with the provisions of Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015.He added that based on the rejection of the said proposed settlement, his agency is prepared for the trial of the accused persons.

But Akinjide’s counsel, Chief Bolaji Ayorinde (SAN), said that the three accused persons made the proposal to the EFCC in line with Section 14 of the agency’s Act.
He stated that for the court record and because of public interest, the case against his client and others seemed unnecessary, adding that the case would be defended vigorously as it is political, unnecessary and waste of resources.

Also, Adeseun’s counsel, Mr. Michael Lana, described the refusal of the proposed settlement as a betrayal of trust.Counsel to the third defendant, Akinola Oladeun, who expressed readiness to go ahead with trial, said there was no time his client wanted to enter into any plea-bargaining.

Oladehun also filed an application for bail variation for his client, saying that his client is due for medical check-up overseas which she has been postponing. He, therefore, urged the court to hear the application.But the court could not hear the application, as the prosecution needed time to respond to the application.

However, the EFCC thereafter called its first prosecution witness, Mrs. Kehinde Adeniyi, a banker with a new generation bank, who testified that she gave N650 million to Akinjide, Adeseun and Yinka Taiwo on the instruction of one Martins Ozuogbe from the bank’s head office.Trial continues on March 8 and 9, 2018.

Fri, 23 Feb 2018
The leadership of the various pro-Biafra groups has proposed the recognition of the six geo-political regions of South-East, South-South, South-West, North-Central, North-East and the North-West as the federating units in the restructuring of Nigeria using the 1963 Constitution as the template.
They rejected the proposal being clamoured by many for the 36 states as federating units of Nigeria as a part of the nation’s restructuring.The pro-Biafra groups stressed that using the 36-state structure was totally against the wish and desire of the people of Biafra.

The groups, at one-of-a-kind meeting held on Wednesday in Nnewi, the home-town of the late Leader of Biafra, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, which was attended by no fewer than 16 pro-Biafra groups, including MASSOB, Eastern Peoples Congress (EPC), Biafra United Liberation Council (BULCO), Joint Revolutionary Council of Biafra (JRCB) and Igbo Hebrew Cultural Restoration, among others, discussed, deliberated and decided on many issues affecting the struggle for Biafra actualisation and restoration and issued a five-point communique which was signed and endorsed by all.

In the communique, jointly signed by Uchenna Madu (MASSOB), Felix Obioha (EPC) and Amadi Innocent on behalf of the various groups, a copy of which was made available to journalists yesterday, the groups said that without unity of purpose and one accord, no individual pro-Biafra group can actualise Biafra alone irrespective of the propaganda of such group.

They also reiterated having realised that “our internal and external oppressors are always happy and comfortable that pro-Biafra groups are not working together. We have also resolved to shame our critics with our unshakable decision to work together as one body for Biafra actualisation and restoration.

They agreed to work together for the purpose of Biafra actualisation, restoration and unity of purpose for Biafra.The communiqué stated, among others: “All pro Biafra groups shall maintain their individual status, name and internal running of their affairs. But that all pro Biafra groups shall jointly as one body execute all national and international engagements, programmes and commitments of the Biafra government.”including diplomatic affairs.

“All the groups’ members at home have resolved to always liaise and work with all pro Biafra groups in Diaspora for the common interest of Biafra actualization and restoration for effective and successful referendum that will determine the possibility of Biafra independence from Nigeria.

Fri, 23 Feb 2018
The remark made the other day by the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, to the effect that the inadequate supply of electricity is not the only reason for economic stagnation may be a valid argument, but it is also patronising. 

Fri, 23 Feb 2018
The Lagos State police command has launched a manhunt for the killers of an officer of the Lagos State Neighbourhood Safety Corp, Mr. Moshood Bolaji. The officer was killed on Wednesday at about 9:30p.m. at Umunede Bar in Mallam Isah close, Aguda, Surulere by a suspected gang of cultists. 

Fri, 23 Feb 2018
In a bid to rid the nation of the illicit activities of ponzi scheme, popularly known as wonder banks, the Ibadan Zonal Office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has arrested 27 suspected operators of the illegal financial institutions. 

Fri, 23 Feb 2018
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has said that Nigeria will address challenges in the oil and gas sector to boost investor's confidence with plans to add over $100 billion investments in the next five years. 

Fri, 23 Feb 2018
Laterite and wet sand miners have cried out to the Supreme Court for a speedy resolution of the pending case between the federal and the Lagos governments over the right and control of mining resources in the state. 

Fri, 23 Feb 2018
The Area Two Command of Nigerian Customs Service, Onne, Rivers State, yesterday said it impounded N395, 125, 912.00 worth of banned pharmaceuticals.The Controller of the Command, Abubakar Bashir, who made this known while briefing newsmen on the achievement of the command .... 

Fri, 23 Feb 2018
The new Jaguar E-PACE will offer all of the latest Jaguar technologies, as it goes on sale later this month in the sub Saharan region. Along with the intuitive in-car technologies, E-PACE will also be available with Jaguar Land Rover's range of powerful, efficient Ingenium engines..... 

Fri, 23 Feb 2018
The fund is meant to acquire three helicopters, three aircrafts, three big battle-ready ships, 12 vessels and 20 amphibious cars to combat the menace of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. The contract had been approved to an Israeli security firm,but it has rather become a mirage. 
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