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Maina: HoS, Kyari in verbal tango at FEC

 Headlines By: adekunle    Thursday, November 2, 2017

  • Buhari swears in Mustapha as SGF

  • FG authorises AGF to recover $321m Abacha loot from Switzerland

  • FEC approves N226m to tackle birds, pests from Niger Republic

  • Raises alarm over continuous smuggling

By Johnbosco Agbakwuru

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ABUJA - THE weekly Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting which started after the swearing-in of Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, and the launch of the 2018 Armed Forces Remembrance Day Emblem witnessed a mild drama as Head of Service, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita, and Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, were involved in a shouting match.

Before the arrival of President Muhammadu Buhari at about10:40am for the three assignments, including the swearing in, the Emblem launch and the FEC, the Head of Service of the Federation, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita was seen in a very unusual mood.

The Council Chamber, which was filled to the brim, had in attendance the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo; the Senate President, Bukola Saraki; the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Service Chiefs and Ministers, among others.

As the dignitaries waited for the President to arrive, the HoS and Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, were engaged in an animated discussion, with the Vice President listening.

Although the reason for the seemingly gloomy mood of the Head of Service was not known, it might not be unconnected with the leak of a memo she had recently sent to President Buhari in respect of the controversial recall of sacked chairman of Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms, Abdulrasheed Maina.

HoS, Kyari in verbal tango

However, sources at the meeting said the HoS, on arriving the chamber, greeted the Chief of Staff to the President who, reportedly said he would query her for saying she met with the President over Maina and that she must answer the query with photographic evidence of her meeting with the President.

Kyari said he would query her today (yesterday) and that she must reply the query with photographic evidence of her meeting with the President over the Maina issue.

The source said: "When the HoS entered the chamber, venue of the FEC meeting, she greeted the Chief of Staff to the President where he was seated. But he said he would query her today (yesterday) and that she must reply the query with photographic evidence of her meeting with the President over the Maina issue that same yesterday.

"At this point, the HoS asked the Chief of Staff if he sees the President with a photographer to take pictures, so she could have photo evidence and write so that memos would be flying everywhere. In a fit of anger, the HoS wanted to know why the Chief of Staff was always picking on her, asking him what she did to him.

"She angrily proceeded to where the Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo, was seated, to complain to him about what the Chief of Staff was doing to her."

The National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, later joined the conversation after which the new Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, was seen calming down the Head of Service.

She was later asked to return to her seat by the Deputy Chief of Staff, Femi Ipaye, when it was now obvious all eyes were fixed on them.

Oyo-Ita's leaked memo

Recall that a national daily had recently quoted Oyo-Ita, in the leaked memo, as saying that Buhari was aware of the reinstatement of the former chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms, Abdulrasheed Maina.

Oyo-Ita was also quoted to have stated that she had warned the President against the controversial recall of the embattled former pension boss.

Oyo-Ita proceeded to where the Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo, was seated, to complain to him about what the Chief of Staff was doing to her.

In the wake of the condemnation that trailed the recall and double promotion of Maina, President Buhari had ordered his immediate disengagement 24 hours after Minister of Interior, Lt Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau (retd), admitted that Maina, was posted to the Ministry of Interior by the Office of the Head of Service in acting capacity to fill a vacancy created by the retirement of the Director heading the Human Resources Department in the Ministry.

Maina was in 2013 recommended for dismissal by the Federal Civil Service Commission, based on recommendation by the Office of the Head of Service.

In 2012, Maina was accused of leading a massive pension fraud scheme amounting to more than N100 billion.

He was drafted by the Goodluck Jonathan's administration in 2010 to sanitize a corrupt pension system.

Based on the allegation of corruption, Mr. Maina was invited by the Senate Joint Committee on Public Service and Establishment and State and Local Government Administration.

Press Secretary to the Minister of Interior, Ehisienmen Osaigbovo, in a statement, exonerated the minister from the controversies that surrounded Maina's reinstatement, saying Maina was posted to the Ministry of Interior by the Office of the Head of Service in acting capacity to fill a vacancy created as a result of the retirement of the Director heading the Human Resources Department in the Ministry.

Oyo-Ita, in compliance with President Buhari's directive, had submitted a report on the recall of Maina.

Buhari had in a memo, demanded a full report of the circumstances of Maina's recall and posting to the Ministry of Interior before the end of the day's work.

Buhari swears-in Boss Mustapha

Meanwhile, President Buhari has sworn-in Boss Mustapha as the new SGF.

Also, the Federal Government, yesterday, gave authority to the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, to sign an agreement between Nigeria and Switzerland, for repatriation of $321 million at the forthcoming global forum on repatriation of stolen funds in the United States in December.

This came as the Federal Executive Council, FEC, approved the sum of N226 million to procure chemicals for tackling squealer birds from Niger Republic eating up crops in 11 Northern states of the federation.

The government also lamented that intense smuggling of rice was going on in the country, despite efforts of the government to block smuggling and improve rice production.

Loot recovery progressing - Malami

Briefing State House correspondents at the end of yesterday's weekly Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting in the Presidential Villa, Malami said federal government's efforts to recover stolen assets have started yielding fruits, recalling the recent recovery of 85 million from the United Kingdom on Malabu scandal.

According to him, signing the agreement will empower him to recover the fund on behalf of Nigeria, explaining that representatives of both countries would sign a Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, for repatriation of the fund at the Global Forum on Asset Recovery scheduled to take place in the United States in December.

He said: "As you are aware, the federal government has been making efforts to recover stolen funds, loot, assets and the efforts have indeed been yielding fruits particularly as it relates to local recoveries.

"A memo had been presented to council this afternoon (yesterday) by the Office of the Attorney General which is intended to shift focus to international recovery.

"Before going into the memo, I think it is important to bring to your attention that about a week ago, we succeeded in recovering $85 million dollars relating to Malabu issues from the UK. Now, there exists a forum, that is, Global Assets Recovery Forum taking place in December, in the US and we are looking towards that.

"We are in agreement substantially with Swiss [government] for the recovery of additional sum of $321 million. That memorandum of understanding has been substantially agreed on between Nigeria and Swiss.

"We intend to now execute or sign off the agreement during the global forum on assets' recovery coming up in December. The intention of the memo is, first, to seek the approval of the council to allow the Attorney General to sign the agreement on behalf of the Government of the Federation of Nigeria.

"Secondly, it is to develop an instrument of ratification which will now give the Attorney General, the powers to ensure the repatriation of the funds.

"It is collectively agreed upon between Nigeria and Swiss [government] that we on our own part should seek the approval of council to ratify the MoU as agreed, and they, on their part too, should procure the instrument of ratification that will now give the respective officers of the two countries the desired power to sign off the agreement.

"The memo has accordingly been agreed on and approved by the council; the implication of which is that the MoU as negotiated between Nigeria and Swiss [government] has been agreed on and ratified by council and then the Attorney General has been mandated to execute the agreement that will see to the repatriation of the $321 million and added to it, to develop the instrument of ratification that will be expected from both sides of the divide which will constitute the basis for the signing of the agreement in December in US."

Also briefing, the Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, said FEC approved N226 million to procure chemicals to tackle birds from Niger Republic eating up crops in the country and that government will use aircraft and drones to tackle the pests.

He also said that council frowned on the level of massive smuggling of rice from neighboring countries.

He said: "This afternoon we submitted a memo to Council for the control of pests in 11 frontline states to the North of Nigeria because rainfall has been good, harvests are coming on but we have a treat of birds, locusts and grasshoppers. This is a recurring event.

"In this part of our country, this happens all the time. These birds can destroy an entire farmland in hours.

"So, they are going to be sprayed at the total cost of N226 million using aircraft and chemicals in states such as Zamfara, Kebbi, Kano, Sokoto, Jigawa, Katsina, Borno and Yobe. This happens quite often but when we attack them, then of course we save the farms.

"The birds coming mainly from Niger Republic where they lay eggs along the banks of the river in what they call tailer glasses, then they invade the place and eat up crops, that is what we did this afternoon.

"But we also had advice from the Ministry of Aviation that there are new drones that can carry out the missions cheaper.

"The Minister of Science and Technology has also suggested he will be going to Kaduna sometime next week to inspect the operations of the drones. They are cheaper and they fly more slowly, so they can be used to tackle this problem.

"The other thing we mentioned is that of snuggling. While we are making tremendous progress in rice production, the smuggling of rice into Nigeria is getting very intense across the borders of our neighbors to the West. The quantum of rice entering the country from there is very huge.

"Don't forget that one of the reasons Nigeria is broke today is because of the quantum of money we spend on imported food; we are trying to achieve self sufficiency at home."

Trade and Investment Minister, Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah, said FEC celebrated Tuesday's ranking of Nigeria in the World Bank Doing Business report which saw Nigeria moving 24 places up from its last ranking on ease of doing business.

Okechukwu said the ranking was significant because it exceeded the target of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council, PEBEC, which only sought to move Nigeria 20 places up.

Describing the feat as a turning point for Nigeria, in view of the persistent decline in Nigeria's ranking on ease of doing business in the last 10 years, Enelamah said the ranking showed that the government was moving in the right direction.

He said, however, what was paramount to FEC would be to see the ranking translate to practical ease of doing business in the country.

He also said FEC commended the National Assembly for passing some bills which enabled owners of small and medium enterprises, SMEs, to obtain loans for their business transactions. He commended states which partnered with the council in the pursuit.

Enelamah said the National Action Plans one and two which were recently launched were yet another round of reforms being pursued by the government to enhance Nigeria's business environment.

In his own briefing, the Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu, said the council approved N40.2 billion for the completion of an irrigation dam in Kotangora in Niger State.

He said the project which had been under execution since 1985, witnessed the upward review of the initial N18 billion required to complete the project to N40.2billion after rigorous analysis.

Disclosing that the duration of the project was 36 months, Adamu said the National Irrigation Master Plan launched in 2016 would guarantee the provision of irrigation for 100,000 hectares of land.