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Minister Of Niger Delta, Pastor Uguru Usani Indicted For Fraud In Cross River

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The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Uguru Usani, was indicted for fraud and abuse of office during his tenure as a commissioner in Cross River State, WE learned on Monday.

Usani was the Commissioner for Agriculture, Water Resources, and Rural Development during the last military administration in the state, which was headed by Col. U. F Ahmed (Rtd). It was Military Administrator Ahmed who handed over to the elected governor of the state, Mr. Donald Duke, at the beginning of the Fourth Republic on May 29, 1999.

Our correspondent on Monday obtained a document published in 2000 by the Cross River State Government indicting Mr. Usani for fraud and abuse of office.
In its gazette, the state government concluded in its findings that Usani along with a firm, Gersh Henshaw & Company, defrauded the government of about N16m through a contract for the valuation of the assets of an agency under his ministry.

It recommended that the former commissioner be prosecuted and that details of the transaction be forwarded to the Code of Conduct Tribunal.

On June 21, 1999 Governor Duke inaugurated the Financial Impropriety/Verification Standing Committee to, among others: ascertain the assets and liabilities of the ministries and institutions, all forms of financial impropriety (if any) in government ministries and establishments, the perpetrators of such financial improprieties; and recommend appropriate disciplinary actions to be taken against the culprits including recovery of all such sums.

The committee, which was led by Chief Orok Oyo, included Chief Andy Ikpeme, Ekpe Essien Ita, Otu Oka, Mr. Akomaye Adie and Okoi-Obono Obla (who was later replaced by Mr. Stephen Asuquo).

The recommendations of the committee and approval of the state government were published as Cross River Gazette titled, ‘Views of the Cross Rivers State Government on the Report of the Financial Impropriety/Verification Standing Committee.’

The 37th contract involving Usani and which was investigated by the committee is titled in the Gazette as ‘The Case of Gersh Henshaw & Company.’ It involved “the contract for the valuation of vehicles, workshops/equipment of the Cross River State Water Board”, awarded by Usani as the then Commissioner for Water Resources and Rural Development to Gersh Henshaw & Company, Estate Surveyors, and Valuers.
Usani was said to have paid about N20,750,000 to the company for the execution of the contract. The Head of Practice of the firm, Mr. Gersh Henshaw, was said to have testified before the committee, giving the impression that the firm did the state government a favour by accepting the lump sum of N20,750,000 from the then commissioner for the execution of the job.

But the committee stated that in line with the approved scale of fees for the valuation work done, Gersh Henshaw & Company ought to have been paid only N4,426,850.

The committee recommended that the sum of N16,323,150, being the excess of the payment, be recovered from Usani.

“The then Commissioner, Mr. Usani U. Usani, expressly refused to pay in accordance with the approved scales or fees although that would have meant a lot of savings on the part of government. He rather ended up paying an amount which was N16,323,150.00 higher than the approved scale or fees,” the gazette read in part.

The committee had recommended to the government that a total sum of N17,031,446 comprising N16,323,150 being excess payment on the contract sum and N708,296 as tax deduction should be recovered from Usani.

But the government stated that the N708,296 tax deduction had been waved.

The government approved the recommendation that the particulars of the transaction should be forwarded to the Code of Conduct Tribunal with a complaint of “financial impropriety and abuse of office” against Usani.
According to the document: “The committee found that Mr. Usani and Mr. Gersh Henshaw deliberately failed to apply the approved scale of fees and in order to defraud the government.

“The Government of Cross River State should recover the total sum of N17,031,446.00 made up of N16,323,150 being excess payment on the contract sum for the valuation of the assets of Cross River State Water Board and N708,296.00 being total tax deduction.”

In the comment section, it said: “Government accepts this recommendation and directs that the sum of N16,323,150 only should be recovered from Mr. Usani U. Usani, the then Commissioner for Agriculture, Water Resources and Rural Development being excess payment on the contract sum for the valuation of the assets of the Cross River State Water Board. He should also be prosecuted.

“Government however, waives the payment of N708,296.00 being total tax deduction in view of its comment expressed in paragraph 38 (viii) above. Government shall forward particulars of this transaction to the Code of Conduct Tribunal with a complaint against Mr. Usani Uguru Usani for financial impropriety and abuse of office.”

On the issue that the firm be allowed the sum of N4,426,850 as total Consultancy fee (gross of total), the government accepted the recommendation, saying: “The Government of Cross River State should make a formal complaint against Gersh Henshaw & Company to his professional body, the Nigerian Institute of Estate Surveyors and Valuers for unprofessional conduct.”

Noting that recommendation, the government said: “The firm of Gersh Henshaw & Company should be blacklisted from further patronage by the Government of Cross River State.”

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Wonderland Responds To Complaint And Reiterates Safety For Its Customers…..

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A video of a parent’s complaint has come to the attention of the Management team of Wonderland Lagos at Eko Energy City, regarding a supposed open wire incident and other safety concerns.
Wonderland Lagos is a city built for the entertainment for children, families, adults as well as businesses and one of our major responsibilities is the safety of everyone who visit or work at our entertainment city.
Before Wonderland Lagos opened its doors, a risk assessment was conducted by Lagos State after which the entertainment city began to function.
While we provide spaces for various vendors, regular safety checks are conducted periodically to ensure that our vendors are adhering to our rules, regulations, and safety policies.
The supposed unfortunate incident was never reported to Wonderland Lagos Officials and was brought to our attention via social media, after which we jumped into action immediately to review our procedures and conduct our own investigations which are still ongoing.
We can assure the public that no lives have been lost at Wonderland Lagos, our safety policies are intact, the safety and leisure of our customers is our topmost priority, and we are working with all of our vendors as well as Lagos State, to ensure that Wonderland Lagos is a safe space for all of our children and families.
Children have a right to leisure, play and culture; safe parks and playgrounds are essential, and we do understand this at Wonderland Lagos. We have now requested another risk assessment to be conducted by Lagos State and after a successful approval, we will re-open.
We have unfortunately been unable to identify the child in the video. If anyone can provide us with a lead or if the parent can contact us urgently on ask@wonderlandlagos.com we would be most grateful.
Wonderland Lagos will continue to strive to ensure “safe and high quality” service to all of its customers.
Thank you for your concern and patronage.
Mr. Ezekiel Adamu
Co-Founder
Wonderland Lagos
Wonderland Management

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Standard Chartered Bank In N890.9million Tax Liabilities Saga …the EFCC and RMAFC Connection

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Standard Chartered Bank Nigeria Limited has approached a federal high court in Lagos urging the court to declare that Value Added Tax VAT and withholding Tax WHT liabilities by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), as illegal, and of no effect whatsoever.

The Bank is also urging the court to  declare that the Federal Inland Revenue Service is the sole agency of the Federal Government statutorily empowered to administer, assess, collect and enforce the payment of, Federal taxes (including VAT and WHT due to the Federal Government) pursuant to the Value Added Tax Act, Companies Income Tax Act and other tax statutes enumerated in the First Schedule to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (Establishment) Act.

The Bank in amended Statement of Claim filed before the court by its lawyer, Chukwuka Ikwuazom, SAN, is contending that the Federal Inland Revenue Service cannot abdicate these statutory functions to the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission RMAFC and Economic and financial commission EFCC who are 1st and 2nd defendants respectively in this suit

The Bank stated that, sometime in 2016, the RMAFC, in the purported exercise of it’s powers allegedly donated to it by the Federal Inland Revenue Service, commenced what it described as “verification and reconciliation of revenue collections and remittances” by banks (including the Plaintiff) on behalf of the Federal Inland Revenue Service and the Nigeria Customs Service for the period between 2008 and June 2012.

It stated that the Defendant, without any factual or legal basis, issued a demand notice demanding from the Bank a whooping sum of N20,701,648,351.40 (Twenty billion, seven hundred and one million six hundred and forty-eight thousand three hundred and fifty-one Naira and forty kobo) which the RMAFC claimed to be unremitted Value Added Tax (“VAT”), and Withholding Tax (“WHT”) due to the Federal Government from the bank for 2008 to June 2012 financial years.

The bank objected to the RMAFC authority to issue the demand notice, it not being the agency of the Federal Government statutorily empowered to administer, collect and enforce tax obligations on behalf of the Federal Government.

The bank further objected to the demand notice on the ground that the bank did not owe the alleged tax liability contained in it.

The Bank maintained that, at the time of the issuance of the said demand notice, it has fully discharged its tax obligations to the Federal Inland Revenue Service for the relevant years (2008 to June 2012) and the Federal Inland Revenue Service, which had concluded a tax audit of the bank, had not \ issued any additional assessment of tax to the bank

But, the RMAFC allegedly acting through its agents, Messrs. Dele Olaniyan & Co. and Aikosi Festus & Co., disregarded the bank’s objections and continued to pursue the recovery of the purported VAT and WHT liabilities.

Following several invitations of employees of the bank to the offices of the EFCC at No. 154 Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos and threats of arrest and detention of its senior employees, the bank reluctantly agreed to engage with the RAMFC consultants on the alleged unremitted VAT and WHT.

Following several invitations of employees of the bank to the offices of the EFCC at No. 154 Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos and threats of arrest and detention of its senior employees, the bank reluctantly agreed to engage with the RAMFC consultants on the alleged unremitted VAT and WHT.

It stated that as a result of the 1st Defendant’s illegal verification exercise and unlawful and baseless demand for unremitted VAT  and WHT, the bank has suffered and continues to suffer inconvenience and incur costs by its engagement of tax consultant and legal counsel as well as trips made by its officers to the 1st and 2nd Defendants’ offices.

The bank further stated it has suffered untold hardship and intimidation by the  Defendants in respect of the repeated demands for payment of WHT and VAT, which is clearly outside the statutory powers of the Defendants

Consequently, the Bank is praying the court for a declaration that it is unlawful for the RMAFC and EFCC to usurp the statutory functions of administration, assessment, collection, and enforcement of payment of federal taxes (including VAT and WHT due to the Federal Government) which functions are vested upon the Federal inland Revenue Service pursuant to the Value Added Tax Act, Companies Income Tax Act and other tax Statutes enumerated in the First Schedule to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (Establishment)

The bank is seeking the following declarative orders.

A declaration that it is unlawful for the 1st Defendant to bypass the statutory powers under the Companies Income Tax Act, Value Added Tax Act, and the Federal inland Revenue Service (Establishment) Act for resolving a tax dispute and to procure the EFCC to harass, threaten, intimidate and coerce the bank into paying VAT, WHT, or indeed any other tax liability which the bank. genuinely disputes.

‘’A declaration that the conduct of the defendants has deprived the bank of the statutory procedure for challenging tax assessments as provided under the Companies Income Tax Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, the Federal inland Revenue Services Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, and the Value Added Tax Act.

‘’A Declaration that the 1st Defendant’s demand of the sum of N890,931,432.00 (Eight Hundred and Ninety Million, Nine Hundred and Thirty-One Thousand Four Hundred and ThirtyTwo Naira) as VAT and WHT liabilities from the bank in furtherance of its purported “Verification and Reconciliation of Revenue Collections and Remittances” exercise, is premised on an illegal process and therefore invalid, illegal, null, void and of no effect whatsoever.

An Order of this Honourable Court setting aside the 1st Defendant’s demand on the bank for the sum of N890,931,432.00  as VAT and WHT allegedly collected on behalf of, but not remitted to the Federal Government for the period from July 2012 to December 2015 as communicated vide the 1st  Defendant’s letter dated 29″ April 2019.

However RAMFC it’s statement of defence and counter claim filed before the court by its counsel Chief Godwin Obla SAN denies

almost all the claims of  Standard Chartered bank and states that the bank’s averments thereof are self-serving, half-truths and therefore puts the bank to the strict proofs of the averments thereof.

In further reaction to the foregoing paragraphs thereof. RAMFC states that prior to the commencement of the its Defendant’s verification exercise, it invited all banks to its headquarters on the 29th of November, 2016 to sensitize and educate them of its constitutional mandate thereof to pursue the exercise.

In specific reaction to  the Statement of Claim, RAMFC states that the consultants, before the commencement of the verification exercise held a commencement meeting with the bank at the bank’s head office in Lagos, wherein RAMFC’s consultants further apprised the bank of it’s letter requesting to provide all relevant documents required for the verification exercise.

The bank requested to sight any letter of authorisation and introduction by the Federal Inland Revenue Service’s as a precondition to releasing any of the documents requested for verification.

Despite the Federal Inland Revenue Service’s letter, as aforesaid, requesting the bank to release all relevant documents to enable it’s consultants to carry out their verification exercise, the bank was adamant and refused to provide the required documents as requested. It became obvious that consequent on the bank’s refusal to release the required relevant documents for the verification exercise, RAMFC subsequently resorted to the alternative approach through the bank’s own published audited Financial Statements, and bank’s Pay Direct Platform, to form best of judgment opinion and to come up with a report on the 18th of April, 2018 indicating a liability of unpaid remittances in the sum of N6, 069, 844, 000.00.

Rather than furnishing the RAMFC’s  consultants with documents to show evidence of any transaction as proof of payment of remittances within the accounting period verified against them by the  RAMFCs consultant, to establish the basis of their objection, the bank became evasive and rather requested to know how the RAMFC arrived at its computation.

By a letter dated the 22nd of May 2017, the bank came up with technical objection that all that the RAMFC’s consultant findings were not unremitted collectables but were tax avoidance and requested a discharge from the liabilities for payment of the sum of N6, 069, 844, 00. 000. on the basis of a claim that  its books for the period  had been audited and found no such outstanding liabilities.

The bank  pressed for further reconciliation meeting, and whereupon, on the 29th of August, 2017, both the RAMFC consultant and the bank agreed on a few things but could not reach a consensus on several others as the bank failed to produce relevant documents.

Further reconciliation was held at the instances of the bank on the 11th of April 2018, on request that it be granted another opportunity to review fees, commissions and Work in progress to satisfy itself that non-Vatable items are not included,

Despite all of the efforts by the RAMFC  to accommodate the bank’s hecklings and volte-faces after every reconciliation, RAMFC yet obliged the bank another reconciliation after the bank had objected to the outstanding collectable liabilities of N3, 718, 106, 000.00

Consequently, RAMFC issued the  bank a demand notice reflecting the outcome of the reconciliation in the liabilities of N1, 073, 718, 663.74. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) swooped in as a stakeholder when the bank became recalcitrant on meeting these liabilities after infractions had been established.

However, in a strange twist, the bank, by a letter dated the 27th of December 2018 agreed to the liabilities of tax evasion in the sum of N43, 689, 000 in respect of Value-Added Tax (VAT) and additional sum of N141, 012, 000 for Withholding Tax (WHT), totalling N184, 701, 000. 00, and proceeded to pay the total amount into the Recovery Account, leaving a total outstanding balance of N889, 017, 663. 74 unpaid.

Rather than paying up the outstanding balance, bank continued in its antics of unending objections thereafter, objecting even to the outstanding balance.

Afters, considering the sum of N184,701,000 already paid by the plaintiff the sum of N 752,414,250.23 was left as the outstanding liabilities against the bank.

RAMFC avers that the Plaintiff suit is an attempt to use the machinery of justice to avoid its mandatory statutory obligation to the Nigeria state.

However in it’s counter claim RAMFC relying on it’s statement of defence and it’s witness deposition prays the court for the following reliefs:

A declaration that by the reconciliation meeting held in Abuja between RAMFC and the bank on the 4th of October 2018, pursuant to its review exercise on accruals, to and disbursement from, the Federation Account, the liabilities of the bank is in the sum of N1, 073, 713, 718, 663. 74 (One Billion, Seventy-Three Million, Seven Hundred and Eighteen Thousand, Six Hundred and Sixty Three Naira Seventy-Four Kobo) being the unpaid remittances to the Federation Account as unearthed in the Reconciliation Meeting remains valid, true and represents the true state of the bank’s liabilities to the Federation Account.

A declaration that by the earlier initial part-payment of the sum of N184, 701, 000. 00 made by the bank pursuant to the RAMFC review exercise, the bank still has balance of liabilities of unpaid remittances from taxes, penalty and interests due for payment to Federation Account of the Federal Government of Nigeria in the sum of N889, 017, 663. 74 (Eight Hundred and Eighty-Eight

Million, Seventeen Thousand, Six Hundred and Sixty-Six Hundred, Seventy-Four Kobo)

An order of the Court directing the Plaintiff to pay the sum of N889, 017,663. 74 (Eight Hundred and Eighty-Eight Million, Seventeen Thousand, Six Hundred and sixty six thousand seventy-four Kobo being the balance of liabilities of unpaid remittances from taxes due for payment to Federation Account of the Federal Government of Nigeria.

Interest on the said sum at prevailing interest rates fixed by the Central Bank of Nigeria from the time payment was due and 10% interest until the sum is liquidated.

Meanwhile, the presiding Judge, Lewis Allagoa has adjourned till next year for hearing to commence.

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Senator Albert Bassey Jailed 42Years for Money Laundering

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Albert Bassey, senator representing Akwa Ibom North East at the National Assembly, was on December 1, 2022 convicted and sentenced to 42 years imprisonment by Justice Agatha Okeke of the Federal High Court sitting in Uyo, Akwa Ibom state. The court found him guilty of six-count of money laundering preferred against him by the EFCC.

Senator Bassey was prosecuted by the anti-graft agency on allegation of receiving vehicle valued at N204 million as bribe from companies linked to one Olajide Omokore, a contractor who executed a N3billion contract for the Government of Akwa Ibom State whilst Senator Bassey was Commissioner for finance and Chairman of the Inter-Ministerial Direct Labour Coordinating Committee

The offence contravenes Section 15 (2) (d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended) and is punishable under Section 15 (3) of the same Act.

One of the charges against the senator reads, “That you, Albert Bassey, whilst being the Commissioner for Finance, Akwa Ibom State and Chairman of Akwa Ibom State Inter-Ministerial Direct Labour Coordinating Committee, IMDLCC sometime in December 2012, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, indirectly took possession of a vehicle (Infinity QX 56 BP) valued at N45,000,000.00 at the instance of one Olajide Jones Omokore (whose companies had contracts with Akwa Ibom State Government at that material time), when you reasonably ought to have known that the said vehicle formed part of proceed of unlawful activity (to wit: corruption) and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15 (2) (d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended) and punishable under Section 15 (3) of the same Act”.

Upon arraignment, the senator pleaded not guilty to the charges setting the stage for his full trial.

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