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SERAP Asks Court to Compel Fashola to Name Contractors Who Disappeared With Project Money

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Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sued the Minister of Power, Works and Housing Mr Babatunde Fashola SAN over “failure to disclose specific names and details of contractors and companies that allegedly collected money for electricity projects but failed to execute any projects, starting from the return of democracy in 1999 to 2018.”

In the suit number FHC/L/CS/105/19 filed last week at the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos, SERAP is seeking “an order for leave to apply for judicial review and an order of mandamus directing and/or compelling Mr Fashola to provide specific details on the names and whereabouts of the contractors who collected public funds meant for electricity projects but disappeared with the money without executing any projects.”

The suit followed SERAP’s Freedom of Information request dated 4 January, 2019 giving Mr Fashola 14 days to publish “the names of all contractors and companies that have been engaged in the power sector since the return of democracy in 1999 to date, details of specific projects and the amounts that have been paid to the contractors and companies, details on the level of implementation of electricity projects and their specific locations across the country.”

The organization said: “publishing the names will make it hard for contractors and companies to get away with complicity in grand corruption. The citizens have the right to see that the Freedom of Information Act is enforced where there is an infraction of the right to information or a threat of its being violated, in matters of public interests.”

The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its counsel, Adelanke Aremo read in part:“by compelling Mr Fashola to name the contractors and their registration details, if any, Nigerians will be better able to hold them to account for allegedly absconding with public funds meant for electricity projects, thereby throwing the country into perpetual darkness and socio-economic stagnation as well as denying people their human rights.”

“Granting the order as prayed would ensure that allegations of complicity in grand corruption by contractors and companies in the power sector do not go unpunished. Unless the names of the contractors and companies are disclosed and widely published, alleged corrupt contractors and companies executing electricity projects will not be deterred and the victims of corruption that they committed will continue to be denied justice and effective remedies.”

“To date no contractors or companies who allegedly collected money for electricity projects not executed or poorly executed have been investigated for corruption let alone prosecuted and fined. Senior public officials who apparently served as intermediaries for these contractors and companies continue to escape justice.”

“The allegations of corruption involving many contractors and companies in the power sector have continued to impair, obstruct and undermine the ability of successive governments to provide Nigerians with access to regular and uninterrupted electricity supply. Contractors and companies that allegedly disappeared with public funds meant for electricity projects may also be liable for aiding and abetting the commission of acts of grand corruption.”

The suit is seeking the following reliefs:

  1. AN ORDER directing and/or compelling the Respondent to compile and make available to the Applicant documents containing the specific names and details of contractors and companies that have been engaged in the power sector since the return of democracy in 1999 to date, details, of specific projects and the amounts that have been paid to the contracts and companies, details on the level of implementation of electricity projects and their specific locations across the country and to publish widely including on a dedicated website, any such information
  2. AN ORDER directing and/or compelling the Respondent to compile and make available to the Applicant documents and information containing the specific names and details of contractors and companies that allegedly collected money for electricity projects but failed to execute any projects, starting from the return of democracy in 1999 to 2018 and to publish widely including on a dedicated website, any such information
  3. AN ORDER directing and/or compelling the Respondent to disclose if there is any ongoing investigation or prosecution of allegedly corrupt contractors and companies in the electricity sector
  4. A DECLARATION that the failure of the Respondent to provide the Applicant with information containing the specific names and details of contractors and companies that have been engaged in the power sector since the return of democracy in 1999 to date, details, of specific projects and the amounts that have been paid to the contractors and companies, details on the level of implementation of electricity projects and their specific locations across the country, and failure to widely publish it on a dedicated website, any such information amounts to a fundamental breach of the Freedom of Information Act 2011
  5. A DECLARATION that the failure of the Respondent to provide the Applicant with specific documents and information containing the names and details of contractors and companies that allegedly collected money for electricity projects but failed to execute any of such projects, starting from the return of democracy in 1999 to 2018 and failure to widely publish it on a dedicated website, any of such information amounts to a breach of the Freedom of Information Act 2011
  6. A DECLARATION that the failure of the Respondent to disclose if there is any ongoing investigation or prosecution of allegedly corrupts contractors and companies in the electricity sector amounts to a breach of the Freedom of Information Act 2011
  7. AND for such further order or orders as the Honourable Court may deem fit to make in the circumstance.

“Publishing the names of contractors will contribute to ending a pattern of corruption in the power sector and improve access of Nigerians to regular and uninterrupted electricity supply. It will also allow citizens to track the level of execution of electricity projects by contractors and companies and reduce impunity for corrupt acts in the sector.”

“Granting the reliefs sought will ensure that punitive and dissuasive measures are taken against corrupt contractors and companies, shareholders and others that might have any ownership interests in companies responsible for failed execution of power projects in the country.”

“Former Nigeria’s Vice President and Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar blew the whistle on Channels TV when he said, “We collected money from local, state and federal governments and others. Contractors were given some contracts and were paid hundred percent upfront. Up till now, we are not holding the contractors responsible. People have collected money upfront one hundred percent and have disappeared; and have not even done any work.”

No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.

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Zainab Ahmed: States Put Pressure on us to Spend all the Money Instead of Saving in ECA

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Zainab Ahmed, the minister of finance, says representatives of states often put pressure on the federal government to spend all the income realised when some could be set aside in the excess crude account.

The minister made this known on Friday while speaking to journalists on the sidelines of the ongoing spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank Group.

“The ECA is an account where we put our savings from excess crude sales,” she said.

“We are supposed to be making these savings as a matter of routine but over the years we have not been able to do that.

“But we will try to start saving in the ECA routinely.

“The NSIA is supposed to be funded from the ECA but unfortunately because the build-up is very slow, we have only increased our investment in the NSIA periodically.

“So we want to change that to make it as a matter of routine that every FAAC once we pass a certain threshold, we save.

“We need the cooperation of the states as well because often times we see the states putting pressure, that they want all the funds to be used for the running of their states.”

The excess crude account is supposed to hold funds when oil prices are sold above the budget benchmark.

Abebe Selassie, head of the African department at IMF, had described Nigeria’s excess crude account as one of the worst managed sovereign wealth funds in the world.

In 2016, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former minister of finance, had said that there was no political will to save during her second term as finance minister.

“In my second time as a finance minister, from 2011 to 2015, we had the instrument, we had the means, we had done it before, but zero political will,” she said.

“So we were not able to save when we should have. That is why you find that Nigeria is now in the situation it is in. Along with so many other countries.”

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We Are Recruiting, NNPC Confirms

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The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) says it has opened its portal for recruitment of fresh graduates and experienced professionals into the system.

Mr Ndu Ughamadu, its Group General Manager, (Public Affairs Division), confirmed this to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Wednesday.

He said that the portal for the recruitment was opened on Wednesday.

The recruitment portal address is https:/careers.nnpcgroup.com.

“The portal was opened today and I have received hundreds of inquiries weather it is correct or not.

“We are going to recruit people from different engineering fields , especially fresh graduates and equally in the administrative areas,” he said

Ughamadu said that recruitment would be in three categories of fresh graduates, senior officers/ supervisory cadre and managerial cadre.

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Huawei Goes On A Charm Offensive

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Chinese telecom giant Huawei insisted on Wednesday its products feature no security “backdoors” for the government, as the normally secretive company gave foreign media a peek inside its state-of-the-art facilities.

Huawei has kicked off the year with an aggressive PR campaign to counter US warnings that it could be used by Beijing for espionage and sabotage, with reclusive founder Ren Zhengfei denying the fears in a series of foreign media interviews.

The charm offensive went into another gear Wednesday as Huawei welcomed news organisations to its facilities in southern Guangdong province.

That included a stop at Huawei’s Independent Cyber Security Laboratory, whose director Wang Jin waved off the US fears.

Huawei’s mobile phone production line in Dongguan

“Our most basic red line is that our products cannot have any backdoors,” Wang said.

Journalists also toured a huge factory floor with 35 highly automated assembly lines in the city of Dongguan, where an array of robotic arms put together a Huawei P20 smartphone every 28.5 seconds.

Foreign journalist visits are hardly routine at Huawei’s facilities in Guangdong, where high-tech labs and manufacturing facilities employ more than 60,000 people, but these are unusual times for the company.

Meng Wanzhou of Huawei: faces extradition to US from Canada

The United States says Huawei equipment could be manipulated by China’s Communist government to spy on other countries and disrupt critical communications.

Washington is urging governments to shun the company just as the world readies for the advent of ultra-fast 5G telecommunications, an advancement that Huawei was expected to lead and which will allow wide adoption of next-generation technologies like artificial intelligence.

Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, Ren’s daughter, also faces a court hearing on Wednesday in Vancouver on a US extradition request. Two Canadians have been detained in China in suspected retaliation over her arrest.

During the tour, journalists were served coffee in cups featuring an image of a lighthouse and the words: “Lighting a beacon for Wanzhou’s early return.”

The US Justice Department accuses Huawei and Meng of circumventing US sanctions against Iran. Two affiliates also have been charged with stealing trade secrets from telecommunications group T-Mobile.

Christopher Balding, a China expert at Fulbright University in Ho Chi Minh City, said Huawei’s sudden PR outreach shows its concern over the US stance, but that the company shouldn’t suffer too much damage.

“They should be able to ride this out,” Balding told AFP.

“It’s not realistic to expect the entire world to shun Huawei and that probably wouldn’t be good anyway.”

Founded by Ren in 1987, Huawei has espoused a relentless “wolf” ethos that executives say fuelled its rise to become the world leader in telecom network hardware.

It remains to be seen how the new charm offensive will play out, but the wolf may already smell blood.

After intense recent lobbying by Huawei, reports have suggested Britain and New Zealand may walk back earlier indications that the company would be frozen out of their telecom plans.

At the world’s top mobile industry fair in Spain last week, Huawei bagged 5G commercial contracts or partnership agreements with 10 telecom operators — including Switzerland’s Sunrise, Iceland’s Nova, Saudi Arabia’s STC and Turkey’s Turkcell.

On Thursday, Huawei Chairman Guo Ping will hold a news conference at the Shenzhen headquarters that may be the real reason for the media tour’s timing.

The New York Times on Monday cited anonymous sources saying Huawei this week will announce plans to sue the US government for barring American federal agencies from using the company’s products.

The topic of the news conference has not been disclosed, but a big announcement would allow Huawei to seize back the narrative from Meng’s extradition hearing.

Huawei declined to comment publicly on the Times report.

Opening its sprawling grounds also is a chance for Huawei to show that it is a global player not to be trifled with.

Its Shenzhen headquarters — near Dongguan — has cutting-edge laboratories, hotels, swimming pools and fitness centres, a dozen cafeterias, and a Huawei University where it trains staff as well as foreign customers and partners.

Huawei strenuously denies any connections to China’s government.

Sceptics, however, say it is highly unlikely that Ren, a former Chinese army engineer, could have steered his company to such heights in such a strategic sector without the support of Beijing, which has clearly stated its goal of becoming the world’s high-tech leader.

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