It has become a striking reality that the Federal Government is broke following the dwindling prices of crude oil, which is the nation’s major source of income. But, in order to generate funds to smoothly pilot the affairs of the country, President Muhammadu Buhari decided to improvise by taking drastic measures.
Buhari orders disposal of nine presidential aircraft to cut cost, DSS grills refineries MDs in multi-million dollar oil deals, Ohakim arrested, APC, federal lawmakers in fresh face-off as well as fresh crisis brews in APC over Senate posts, makes the leading headlines of the national dailies for Friday, June 19, 2015.
THISDAY reports that President Muhammadu Buhari, on Thursday, June 18, ordered that nine of the VIP transport aircraft under the presidential fleet should be sold. Industry sources informed that the presidential fleet, registered as Nigerian Air Force aircraft, is one of the largest in Africa and the third largest in Nigeria after Arik Air and Aerocontractors.
An aviation source also informed that the presidency has a number of serviceable and unserviceable aircraft that need to be sold in order for FG to reduce the money spent yearly for maintenance. He said the aircraft still have market value, adding that over N12 billion was spent yearly by the FG for maintaining the presidential fleet.
Aviation sources hinted that the fleet comprises about 16 aircraft, chief of which is the Boeing 738 BBJ, NAF 001 or Eagle One, used by the president for traveling. The source said the plane contains a master bedroom, washrooms and showers, a conference and dining area, as well as a living area, adding that it seats 25 to 50 passengers and would cost at least $100 million to replace today.
Eagle One can spend 12 hours in the air, covering 11,489 kilomtres or 6,200 nautical miles. Also, the fleet has two Gulfstream 550 jets, which can seat eight to 18 passengers, depending on the configuration, and has a cruiser range of 12,501 kilometres or 6,750 nautical miles. A new luxury Gulfstream 550 would cost an estimated $53.5 million. Others also have a market value that would run into millions of dollars when sold.
As the federal government intensify its efforts to generate income, those who were involved in exploiting the country through mischievous oil deals with the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, officials of the DSS have swung into action to recover stolen money from some managing directors.
THE NATION reports that investigation has commenced into the multi-billion dollar crude swap that cost Nigeria so much money, but delivered little fuel in some cases. It is reported that the probe of the NNPC contracts has gotten to the MDs of four troubled refineries. The MDs are being questioned in Abuja by DSS agents, who demanded to know the allocation of crude to the refineries and how crude was swapped.
The MDs currently getting the heat are; Warri Refinery managing director Paul Obelley, Port Harcourt Refinery managing director Fred Enjugu and Kaduna Refinery chief Saidu Mohammed.
The EFCC and DSS started the investigation last month to ascertain how the value of the crude and products was computed, and also to curb huge cash lost through opaque contracts in which crude oil worth billions of dollars is given to traders in exchange for refined imports, mainly gasoline.
The contracts, known as offshore processing agreements (OPAs) are between Pipelines and Product Marketing Co (PPMC), a subsidiary of NNPC and companies, but a security source said it looks like the value of the crude oil was more than the value of the refined imported.
Recall that last week; the NNPC accepted that some of its officials were invited by security agencies to explain the contracts, after the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative had hinted there was revenue loss of at least $600 million due to a discrepancy between the value of the crude and the products delivered. The figure comprised the audit of the oil and gas industry for 2009-2011 and 2012. The latest was released this year. However, some contract-holders have said that the differences in value were reconciled.
Moving away from the oil sector, but still on the recovery of the nation’s stolen funds by public office holders, especially politicians, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has arrested a former governor.
DAILY SUN reports that on Thursday, June 18, the former governor of Imo State, Ikedi Ohakim, was arrested by the anti-graft agency at his Asokoro home in Abuja, after tracing some properties to him.
Wilson Uwujaren, the commission’s spokesman, who confirmed the arrest, said an invitation had been sent to him to show up for interrogation but he declined to honour it. It was gathered that the EFCC has been on the trail of Ohakim for days now, before they busted and took him their headquarters in Abuja.
Ohakim, who was the state governor between 2007 and 2011, was driven away in an unmarked car. He has been granted administrative bail by the commission.
The former governor of Jigawa state, Sule Lamido, also on Thursday, June 18, gave himself up to the agency for questioning. Lamido is being questioned for alleged bribery and money laundering offences.
Despite the financial crisis threatening the smooth operation of government both at the federal and state levels, APC and the federal lawmakers have started a new face-off.
VANGUARD reports that another crisis may be in the offing as lawmakers take up battle with national leaders of the APC over the appointment of principal officers of the legislature. It was gathered on Thursday, June 18, that, prior to next week’s resumption of the Senate and the House, pressures have started emanating from the party, requesting the privilege to appoint principal officers of the two chambers as well as some key committee positions.
The development, however, made supporters of Senator Bukola Saraki and Speaker Yakubu Dogara to hold an emergency meeting yesterday evening, in one of Abuja’s five-star hotels to brainstorm on how to resist the demand. House members also disturbed by the request were also threatening to defy the party’s desire.
A highly placed lawmaker in the Senate and the House yesterday, disclosed that informal contacts have been made with the new leaderships in a bid to restore peace between the party and the leadership after the ‘rebellion’ that enthroned Saraki and Dogara last week. He said these pressures were another attempt by the party’s National Working Committee to undermine the power of the Senate President and the Speaker.
Other ranking Senators are also fighting back as strong indications have emerged that some APC Senate caucus have already met with some members of NWC that are familiar with the parliamentary tradition and rules, telling them to ignore the move.
As the crisis in the ruling APC lingers on, THE PUNCH also reported that sharing of principal offices in the Senate might be creating a fresh crisis in the APC. The principal offices comprised that of the Senate Leader; the Deputy Senate Leader; the Chief Whip and the Deputy Chief Whip.
Though the Senate president, Bukola Saraki, is said to have recommended to the NWC that the positions should be zoned, some leaders from the South-West, want them to be occupied by the party’s hierarchy. This new twist is believed to have caused a deadlock at the NWC meeting held on Thursday, as the members couldn’t comprise on the modalities for brokering peace among aggrieved members.
A top senator, who spoke on condition of anonymity, warned that if the issue was not quickly resolved, the Senate and the APC might just face another round of crisis bigger than the one that ushered in Saraki as the Senate president. The lawmaker said: “the Senate President, had after wide consultations, suggested how the officers to occupy these posts could be appointed. He suggested the allocation of the four principal offices to some of the geopolitical zones.
Meanwhile, a correspondent, who visited the APC’s secretariat during the NWC meeting yesterday, reported that the posters and banners of former Lagos state governor, and national leader of the APC, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu, had disappeared from the secretariat. He said the banners which were put up by individuals and groups supporting the party, were initially pasted side by side those of President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo. It is, however, not clear what led to the disappearance of the posters and banners.
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