The Federal High Court in Lagos on Thursday convicted a former acting director-general of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, Calistus Obi, who was charged with N136m fraud.
Justice Mojisola Olatoregun convicted Obi alongside Dismal Alu, who was the second defendant in the case.
The duo had been standing trial alongside two firms, Grand Pact Limited and Global Sea Investment.
The judge held that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission proved the charges against them beyond reasonable doubt.
In the eight counts filed against them, the EFCC said they conspired among themselves on August 5, 2015 to convert N136m belonging to NIMASA to their own.
The prosecution said they acted contrary to Sections 15 and 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012.
Upon being arraigned, Obi and Alu and the firms pleaded not guilty.
To prove the allegations, the EFCC called eight witnesses and tendered 32 exhibits.
At the close of the prosecution’s case on November 11, 2016, the convicts filed a no-case submission, insisting there was no prima facie case against them.
But in a ruling on February 21, 2017, Justice Olatoregun dismissed the no-case submission and ordered them to enter their defence.
After convicting them on Thursday, Justice Olatoregun adjourned till May 28 to pronounce her sentence.
She ordered that the convicts be remanded in prison until then.
Consumers Condemn Power Sector Privatisation As FG Hikes Electricity Tariff
The Federal Government through its Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission on Thursday officially released different documents indicating the approved power tariff increase payable by consumers to various electricity distribution companies in Nigeria.
In different orders to the 11 Discos operating in Nigeria, the commission stated that the tariff hike was based on the extraordinary review of the Multi-Year Tariff Order, as it explained that the order took effect from January 1, 2022.
It further noted that the order shall only be subordinated to a new tariff review order as might be issued periodically by the NERC, but this hike in tariff by NERC was kicked against by different power consumer groups, as they called for the complete reversal of the sector’s privatisation.
The NERC provided myriads of reasons why it had to effect an upward review of the tariff payable to Discos, as figures from the individual approvals for each Disco showed that the commission hiked the amount to be paid by consumers for electricity beginning from February 2022.
In the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company, for instance, non-Maximum Demand power users in Band A had their tariff increased from N51.75/kWh in January this year to N56.28/kWh from February to December 2022.
Also, non-MD consumers in Band B had their tariff increased from N49.72/kWh to N54.13kWh, while the non-MD power users in Bands C and D had their tariff raised from N45.65/kWh to N50.65/kWh, and N29.70/kWh to N33.20/kWh respectively, under Abuja Disco.
For non-MD customers of AEDC in Band E, their tariff was raised from N29.38/kWh to N32.88/kWh.
In the service bands, the NERC explained that customers in Band A were those receiving a minimum of 20 hours of electricity daily, while those in Bands B, C, D and E include power users receiving 16 hours, 12 hours, eight hours, and four hours of power supply daily, respectively.
The documents for each Disco also showed that aside from non-MD customers, there were other categories of maximum demand power users classified as MD1 and MD2, but most of the tariffs of these categories of power users were also raised.
It was observed that aside from the AEDC, the tariff hike played out in other Discos, as the regulator raised the tariffs payable by consumers in the various franchise areas of the power distribution companies.
For Eko Electricity Distribution Company, it was observed that there was a marginal decrease in the amount payable by non-MD consumers in Band A, those in Band B had their tariff unchanged, while others in Bands C, D and E had their tariffs hiked.
Under Eko Disco, non-MD customers in Band A had their tariff reduced from N56.08/kWh in January to N55.55/kWh from February to December, while non-MD customers in Band B had theirs unchanged at N51.81/kWh.
For non-MD customers in Band C, D and E, their tariffs were raised from N42.44/kWh to N47.44/kWh, N28.63/kWh to N31.75/kWh, and N28.63/kWh to N31.71/kWh, respectively.
Taking the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company as another example, it was observed that the approved end-user tariffs for all the bands for non-MD customers from A to E were hiked by the NERC.
Non-MD Band A customers of PHED had their tariff raised from N57.16/kWh in January to N60.67/kWh from February to December 2022, while the tariff of non-MD Band B customers was increased from N56.79/kWh to N59.64/kWh.
Non-MD customers in Bands C, D and E had their tariffs raised from N50.15/kWh to N55.15/kWh, N35.31/kWh to N38.81/kWh, and N35.08/kWh to N38.58/kWh, respectively.
It was also observed that customers in MD1 and MD2 in the various bands under the PHED had their tariffs also raised by the NERC, as similar scenarios played out in other Discos.
This came as power consumer groups condemned the hike in tariff by the NERC, describing it as unfortunate considering the fact that power supply had failed to improve across the country amidst the hardship nationwide.
An industry expert and legal practitioner, who doubles as President of the Nigeria Consumer Protection Network, Kunle Olubiyo, stated that the increase should be resisted and the privatisation of the sector reversed.
He said, “They did it in January and gave the licensees permission to surreptitiously increase the tariff and do mechanical configurations such that we are being shortchanged.
“The key performance indicators that they put forward which have to do with supply being contractual and service-based have not been met, they have failed on that. Yes, if they say inflation is high, do we get commensurate service as per what we pay?
“I was at Aso Drive on Monday here in the capital city of Abuja, they get supply for just three hours in a day. The supply to areas outside the city centre has been bad too. So if we can’t get power and there is a lot of blame game, what is the justification for tariff increase?”
Olubiyo stated that many customers on estimated billing had received up to 300 per cent hike in their electricity bills, as the capping methodology approved by the NERC had not been effective.
He wondered why the commission would be bold enough to release documents showing the approved tariff hike payable by customers to the Discos, as he called for the complete reversal of the power sector privatisation.
He said, “The NERC we have today is NERC for the Discos. We’ve reached a crossroads now and the next thing we expect from the Federal Government is to go for all the credit lines and clean up their books, those who are owing Nigerian banks or so, and make sure that this privatisation exercise is reversed.
“This is because this is not the end of it. Their new MYTO under the service-based tariff has given the Discos an open cheque to continue to increase tariffs without the basic principles of equity. We have two parties to this contract, the demand, and the supply sides.
“But NERC that we have is on the side of the market. They are not taking the demand side, but you must have demand for you to maintain supply. So for us what we want is an outright reversal of the privatisation, we are not saying review.”
Also speaking on the development, the National Secretary, Network of Electricity Consumers Advocacy of Nigeria, Uket Obonga, regretted that the tariff hike was approved by NERC despite the hardship in Nigeria.
“We are going to bombard them. It is official now that they have increased the electricity tariff even in this hardship. This is unacceptable. We cannot continue like this,” he stated.
Meanwhile, the NERC explained that pursuant to the Extraordinary Tariff Review Application and Performance Improvement Plan filed by Discos, the commission approved the MYTO 2020 Serviced Based Tariff effective from September 1, 2020.
It said this was to ensure that rates paid by customers were in alignment with the quality of service to customer clusters as measured by the daily average availability of power supply.
It said the objectives of the latest order on tariff hike were to reflect the impact of changes in the projected minor review variables for the period January to December 2021 for the determination of Cost-Reflective Tariffs, adjust the Discos’ capital expenditure for the years 2021 to 2026 in consideration of the approved PIP.
The commission said it was to ensure sustained improvement in reliability and quality of supply in line with Discos’ capital expenditures proposal and PIP commitment.
It said the order would ensure that tariffs payable by customers were commensurate and aligned with the quality and availability of power supply committed to customer clusters by Discos.
The NERC said the tariff order would ensure that prices charged by Discos were fair to customers and were sufficient to allow Discos to fully recover the efficient cost of operation, including a reasonable return on the capital invested in the business, pursuant to the provisions of sections 32(d) and 76 2(a) of Electric Power Sector Reform Act.
It further said the order would provide appropriate incentives to ensure continuous improvement in the performance of the Transmission Company of Nigeria Plc in reducing its network technical losses, among others.
Access Bank Promotes 800 Employees, Transitions to Holdco Structure
Access Bank PLC has announced the promotion of 800 employees following a transparent and robust performance management review in line with global best practices.
This announcement comes as the financial giant shores up its transition to a Holding Company (Holdco) starting May 1, 2022.
The Bank’s consistent growth over the years has been due to the immeasurable effort and sacrifice of its employees.
The beneficiaries of this whole scale performance review exercise spanned the Bank’s senior, middle, and junior management levels even as the management strives to continuously put employees in the best position to grow and be successful in today’s highly competitive work environment.
Over the years, Access Bank has demonstrated that employee performance and rewards remain a critical pillar of the Bank’s business operations. The Bank has consistently provided adequate resources to deepen core job skills while entrenching a culture of high performance amongst employees.
The Bank’s penchant for rewarding high performance is particularly highlighted by the annual CEO Awards, one of the programs under it’s ‘We Clap Initiative’ which is designed to support the development of a culture of excellence as well as motivate employees and teams for superior performance.
Recently, Access Bank was named the best institution to work in Nigeria by global professional network company, LinkedIn, having assessed data across seven pillars that serve as identifiers of career progression, namely: the ability to advance, skills growth, company stability, external opportunity, company affinity, gender diversity and spread of educational backgrounds.
World Earth Day: Unity Bank, RESWAYE Clean Lagos Beach, Plant Trees
In commemoration of this year’s World Earth Day, Unity Bank Plc in partnership with 3 non-government organisations – Recycling Scheme for Women and Youth Empowerment, RESWAYE, MEDIC and KBG – has conducted a beach cleaning exercise as part of its commitments to promoting environmental sustainability.
No fewer than 200 members of staff, as well as over 100 members of RESWAYE thronged the venue of the cleaning exercise – the Lagos Kids Beach Garden within the Oba Elegushi beach environs – where they picked and removed over 100,000 plastic bottles from the beach to make the beach safer and reduce ocean pollution.
The Bank also carried out a tree planting exercise across the country, as the Staff of the Bank across the bank’s branches nationwide planted at least one tree.
Speaking at the event, the Group Head, Risk Management, Unity Bank Plc, Mr. Chris Nwambu said that the World Earth Day initiatives are part of the Bank’s corporate social responsibility aimed at leading major collaborative initiatives for climate action.
Citing recent reports on ocean pollution, he decried that “of the over 300 million tons of plastic waste ends up in ocean’s yearly, an estimated 8 million tons of plastic enters our oceans. There are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic waste estimated to be in our oceans. While 70% of our debris sinks into the ocean’s ecosystem, 15% floats, and 15% lands on our beaches.”
He added that such activity as the collaboration and partnership by organizations would play a vital role in reducing the threats of ocean plastics and thereby reduce the climate risks they pose to the earth.
He reiterated that Unity Bank will continue to be very aggressive in terms of environmental protection and sustainability commitments, adding that “in line with the Bank’s agribusiness strategic focus over the past couple of years, the Bank has granted access to credit to businesses in greenhouse farming and metal recycling to the tune of 3.25 billion naira”.
He said, “But beyond supporting sustainability-related business, the operations of the Bank have adopted sustainable practices in the way we carry out daily activities as a matter of corporate culture. As of today, thirty-one branches of the bank are running on Hybrid Solar Solution while 70% of our 416 ATMs Bank-wide are powered by hybrid solar solutions with a projection to migrate an additional 15% to hybrid solar solutions before the end of 2022.
“The reduction of carbon emissions by the bank since migrating branches and ATMs locations to Hybrid Solar Energy in 2018 now totals 21,631kg of Carbon Dioxide, saved monthly.”
Unity Bank has over time promoted corporate and business philosophy that encourages low paper usage, recycling and adoption of renewable energy through increased investment in solar-powered branches and ATMs.