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House probes ‘N10 billion building project’ by Nigerian Air Force

The House of Representatives joint committees on the Air Force and Justice on Thursday began an investigative hearing to probe the Nigerian Air Force over a controversial N10 billion building project owned by Blue Boulevard Limited.

The company had petitioned the House accusing the military of breach of an agreement they had over a land NAF leased to the company.

Following the short brief on the hearing, the chairman of the committee on air force, Shehu Mohammed (APC, Kebbi), said the hearing would resume after both parties might have tendered necessary documents to back their cases.

Mohammed said “to ensure fair hearing”, the company should serve copies of its petition and the necessary documents with the committee while sharing an acknowledgement copy with the air force.

He added that copies of their petition should also be sent to the Chief of Air Staff, NAF Holdings, NAF Properties on or before February 27 with acknowledgement copies sent to the committee’s secretariat.


Russia, OPEC Will Not Move Forward Their Next Meeting

Despite the uncertainty on the oil market amid the coronavirus outbreak, there is a common understanding among the OPEC+ coalition that ministers do not need to move forward their meeting planned for the first week of March, Russia’s Energy Minister Alexander Novak told reporters in Moscow on Thursday.

Faced with a slump in global oil demand due to the coronavirus outbreak, the producers of the OPEC+ production cut pact were considering moving the March 5-6 meeting to some date in February, in order to react to the depressed demand and the slide in oil prices.

The OPEC+ group’s joint technical committee (JTC) issued a proposal on February 8 that the producers extend the cuts as-is until the end of 2020 and deepen those cuts in the second quarter in response to the fact that the coronavirus “has had a negative impact on oil demand and oil markets.”

Russia, however, has taken time to review the proposal and has been avoiding for weeks now a direct reply to the proposal.

On Thursday, minister Novak dodged again a specific reply and reiterated that Russia hasn’t made a decision yet and continues to hold discussions with its partners, as carried by Russian news agency TASS.

Excess Crude Account slides to $70m as fiscal buffers disappear

A 78 percent decline in savings from oil sales created to stabilise the Nigerian economy in case of a shock is the latest crack in the country’s line of defence amid rising global uncertainties.

The Excess Crude Account (ECA) declined by $254.98m to a record low of $70m between January and February, latest data from the accountant-general of the federation show.

The ECA is the proceeds from oil sales in excess of budgeted benchmark price kept aside to supply funds for the country whenever oil price downturn leads to shortfall in government revenue.

Considering Nigeria’s reliance on the oil and gas industry, one would expect that the Federal Government would do everything to ensure better productivity in the sector. However, the reverse has been the case, with the situation getting worse with each passing year.

Experts blamed it on profound revenue challenges and lack of rules governing deposits and withdrawals from the special account.


 US opposes Nigeria’s plan to hand over looted funds to Gov Bagudu

The U.S. is opposing plans by Nigeria’s government to hand about $100 million the American authorities say was stolen by deceased former dictator Sani Abacha to a top ruling party official.

The disagreement may hamper future cooperation between the two nations to recover state money moved offshore by Abacha, who Transparency International estimates may have looted as much as $5 billion during his 1993-98 rule.

A commitment by Nigeria to transfer the funds to Kebbi state Governor Abubakar Bagudu appears to undermine Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s pledge to quell rampant graft in Africa’s top oil producer.

The U.S. Department of Justice says Bagudu was involved in corruption with Abacha. The DoJ also contends that the Nigerian government is hindering U.S. efforts to recover allegedly laundered money it says it’s traced to Bagudu.

Buhari’s administration says a 17-year-old agreement entitles Bagudu to the funds and prevents Nigeria from assisting the U.S., according to recent filings from the District Court for the District of Columbia in Washington.

 “This case illustrates how complex and contentious repatriating stolen assets to Nigeria can be,” said Matthew Page, an associate fellow at London-based Chatham House and former Nigeria expert for U.S. intelligence agencies.

Italian judge puts Nigerian businessman on trial in oil graft case

An Italian judge has ordered a Nigerian businessman to stand trial for alleged international corruption relating to a Nigeria oil graft case involving Eni and Shell, a judicial source and his lawyer said on Wednesday. Milan prosecutors allege that Alhai Aliyu Abubakar played a central role in one of the oil industry’s biggest scandals in years, handing out more than $500 million in cash to powerful Nigerian government officials.

The money is alleged to come out of the $1.3 billion licence fee paid by Eni and Shell for access to the OPL-245 offshore oilfield located in the southern Niger Delta.

Abubakar’s Italian lawyer, Davide Pozzi, said his client, who lives in Nigeria, denies any wrongdoing in the case.

“Mr Abubakar will clarify his position in the appropriate place,” he said.

Italian prosecutors allege that Eni and Shell bought the oilfield in 2011 knowing that most of the purchase price would be siphoned off to middlemen and local politicians.

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