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How Nigeria’s Finance Minister was forced to resign over forged certificate

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How Nigeria’s Finance Minister was forced to resign over forged certificate

Nigeria’s Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun, on Friday resigned her appointment from President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. The journey into resignation started on Wednesday, with an order for her to resign.

Impeccable sources told PREMIUM TIMES the minister was barred from the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting and told to submit her resignation to the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari.

The verbal instruction, which was relayed to her by Mr Kyari on behalf of the president, rattled Mrs Adeosun who went home downcast from the villa.

“She has been downcast and at home since she was given the order,” a source close to her told PREMIUM TIMES on Thursday.

The option of resignation was handed the minister as a way of giving her an opportunity to salvage whatever remained of her integrity.

A leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, also reportedly advised President Buhari to ask the minister to resign.

That was, however, not done before the president left for London on vacation in July.

At least two officials who met with Mr Buhari around the time confided in PREMIUM TIMES that the president assured them that he was consulting before taking action.

“He said he spoke to about seven persons, including the Ogun State governor who brought her, to seek advise on the way out,” a chief executive of one federal agency told PREMIUM TIMES at the time.

After the communication of the presidential decision to her on Wednesday, Mrs Adeosun knew the game was up. But she soon activated an intense lobby to reverse the order hours after overcoming the initial shock.

Governors sympathetic to her cause made spirited attempts to change her fate on Wednesday, but met brick walls.

Seeing that her fate was sealed, Mrs Adeosun reluctantly called a meeting of senior finance ministry officials on Thursday.

A senior ministry official who requested that his name should not be revealed, as he was not authorised to speak on the issue, said the minister turned in her resignation letter late Friday.

At the brief meeting Thursday afternoon, Mrs Adeosun directed her staff to commence the process of tidying the books and preparing her hand-over note.
The meeting was attended by the permanent secretary and the ministry’s departmental heads.

Two senior finance ministry officials said there was directive to all the departments to immediately begin work on the hand over notes.

The official said the directive to officials to delay the formal announcement of Mrs Adeosun’s departure from the Executive Council of the Federation was given by the presidency to allow the minister sufficient time to complete her hand-over note.

After spending the entire day in her office working to clean up her table and pack her personal belongings, the minister handed over to the ministry’s permanent secretary, Mahmoud Dutse, Friday evening.

But in its statement late Friday, the presidency directed the minister of state for budget and planning, Zainab Ahmed, to oversee the finance ministry.

Mrs Adeosun graduated from the Polytechnic of East London in 1989, at the age of 22, having been born in March 1967.

Having graduated at 22, the Nigerian law made it obligatory for Mrs Adeosun to submit herself for mobilisation to participate in the one-year mandatory national service, for her to qualify for any job in Nigeria.

Following the report, the NYSC in its initial reaction disowned the purported exemption certificate the minister claimed she had.

Read also: Mauritania polls: Opposition alleges ‘serious signs of possible fraud’

Days later, the NYSC asked for time to investigate and carry out verification of the minister’s certificate.

The result of that verification was never made public but PREMIUM TIMES learnt it played a key role in Mrs Adeosun’s exit.

In resigning her appointment, the disgraced Minister, in her letter to Buhari, wrote as follows:

“Dear Excellency,

Let me commence by thanking you profusely for the honour and privilege of serving under your inspirational leadership. It has been a truly rewarding experience to learn from you and to observe at close quarters your integrity and sense of duty.

“I have, today, become privy to the findings of the investigation into the allegation made in an online medium that the Certificate of Exemption from National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) that I had presented was not genuine. This has come as a shock to me and I believe that in line with this administration’s focus on integrity, I must do the honourable thing and resign.

“Your Excellency, kindly permit me to outline some of the background to this matter. I was born and raised in the United Kingdom, indeed my parental family home remains in London. My visits to Nigeria up until the age of thirty-four (34) were holidays, with visas obtained in my UK passport. I obtained my first Nigerian passport at the age of thirty-four (34) and when I relocated there was debate as to whether NYSC Law applied to me. Upon enquiry as to my status relating to NYSC, I was informed that due to my residency history and having exceeded the age of thirty (30), I was exempted from the requirement to serve. Until recent events, that remained my understanding.

“On the basis of that advice and with the guidance and assistance of those, I thought were trusted associates, NYSC were approached for documentary proof of status. I then received the certificate in question. Having never worked in NYSC, visited the premises, been privy to nor familiar with their operations, I had no reason to suspect that the certificate was anything but genuine. Indeed, I presented that certificate at the 2011 Ogun State House of Assembly and in 2015 for Directorate of State Services (DSS) Clearance as well as to the National Assembly for screening. Be that as it may, as someone totally committed to a culture of probity and accountability I have decided to resign with effect from Friday, 14th September, 2018.

“Your Excellency, It has been an exceptional privilege to have served our nation under your leadership and to have played a role in steering our economy at a very challenging time. I am proud that Nigeria has brought discipline into its finances, has identified and is pursuing a path to long term sustainable growth that will unlock the potential in this great economy. Under your leadership, Nigeria was able to exit recession and has now started to lay the foundations for lasting growth and wealth creation. Repositioning this huge economy is not a short term task and there are no short cuts, indeed there are tough decisions still to be made but I have no doubt that your focus on infrastructural investment, revenue mobilisation and value for money in public expenditure will deliver growth, wealth and opportunity for all Nigerians.

“I thank His Excellency, the Vice President and my colleagues in the Federal Executive Council for the huge pleasure and honour of working with them. I also thank most specially, the team in the ‘Finance Family’ of advisers and heads of agencies under the Ministry of Finance. Your Excellency, this group of committed Nigerians represent a range of backgrounds, ethnicities and ages. They have worked well above and beyond the call of duty to support me in the tasks assigned. The diversity in my team and their ability to work cohesively to deliver reforms, convinces me that Nigeria has the human capital required to succeed.

“Your Excellency, let me conclude by commending your patience and support, during the long search for the truth in this matter. I thank you again for giving me the honour of serving under your leadership, it is a rare privilege, which I do not take for granted. As a Nigerian and committed progressive, I appreciate you for your dogged commitment to improving this nation.

Please be assured, as always, of my highest regards and best wishes.”

Kemi Adeosun (Mrs)

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Nigerian government chases tax dodgers abroad. New policy targets foreign assets

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Nigerian government chases tax dodgers abroad. New policy targets foreign assets

The President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration has unveiled a new system to ensure that all taxes on foreign assets of Nigerians due the federal government are remitted to the government’s coffers.

The move, the government believes, will strengthen efforts against money laundering and tax evasion.

The new system is captured in a new Executive Order tagged, ‘Voluntary Offshore Assets Regularisation Scheme (VOARS).’

The Executive Order (008) takes effect from October 8, the day it was signed by President Muhammadu Buhari.

According to Buhari’s media aide, Garba Shehu, by the new order, Nigerian taxpayers who hold offshore assets and income are expected to, within a period of 12 months, declare voluntarily those assets and pay taxes on them.

“When they do this, they should expect to derive certain specified benefits,” Shehu said in a statement Wednesday.

He also said that according to the order, “any taxpayer who truthfully and voluntarily complies with the conditions of the scheme, pays a one-time levy of 35 percent on the total offshore assets or pays all outstanding taxes, penalties and interest after forensic audit of their offshore assets and income shall obtain immunity from prosecution for tax offenses and offences related to offshore assets, among others.

“Equally, failure of any defaulting taxpayer to take advantage of this scheme shall, at the expiration of the scheme result in investigation and enforcement procedures concerning offshore assets anywhere in the world pursuant to information now readily available through automatic exchange of information between Nigeria and foreign countries.”

Read also: Trump tags Nigeria’s Buhari “lifeless.” What will he say of Uhuru Kenyatta?

He said in accordance with the new order, the federal government, through the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, will set up a VOARS in Switzerland for all categories of taxpayers who have defaulted in the declaration of their offshore assets, payment of taxes due and collectible subject to the fulfillment of the terms and conditions as stipulated in the order, or any other subsequent complementary regulations that follow.

To avoid the abuse of this process, he said, the federal government makes clear that the “scheme is open to all persons, entities, and their intermediaries holding offshore assets and are in default of their tax obligations in any way, including those who are not already under investigation by law enforcement agencies in Nigeria or any other country and have not been charged with any crimes including theft of public funds or obtaining offshore assets through corrupt practices.”

In signing the order, Shehu said Buhari noted that under Nigerian law, every citizen has the duty to declare his or her income and assets and pay taxes on them but regretted that this, in most instances, had not been the case.

“The sad reality is that efforts to recover these taxes from defaulters through litigation are often frustrated by the complications caused by the change in the character and nature of such assets, insufficient financial intelligence, long delays in courts, among several other reasons,” the presidential aide said.

President Buhari is optimistic that the new scheme will help to facilitate the expedient regularisation of offshore assets connected to Nigeria and lead to “a new expanded tax base for the federal government, and also fund the Nigeria Infrastructure Fund in Switzerland,” he said.

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Stealing victory. Cameroon inches toward long-drawn post-election crisis. Who cares?

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Cameroon appears headed for a long-drawn crisis with President Paul Biya’s government dismissing an opposition victory claim in the latest presidential elections.

Biya’s governing Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM) has termed the opposition acts as a manoeuvre to compromise peace and tranquillity in the country.

The Cameroon Renaissance Movement’s (CRM) candidate, Prof Maurice Kamto, Monday said he had won the vote, sending his supporters into street celebrations.

“I have received a clear mandate from the Cameroonian people which I will firmly defend right to the end and I want the national and international community to bear witness to this historic event that has ushered in a democratic political change in our country,” Prof Kamto said.

However, CPDM Secretary-General Jean Nkuete told a press conference in Yaoundé late Monday that the party was surprised and worried by the declaration which showed disregard for the rules of democracy and institutions.

Read also: Ethiopia tops global list of highest internal displacement in 2018

“We express our surprise, our indignation and worry in the face of such irresponsible declaration that has no foundation. They are doing this in a bid to cause an uprising of the population to defend an imaginary victory,” he said.

No official results have been released yet from the election, in which eight candidates challenged longtime President Paul Biya.

Nkuete accused Kamto of breaking the law by announcing that he won the election.

Kamto is not the only candidate claiming victory. Cabral Libii of the opposition Universe Party announced he is leading the vote count.

Opposition candidate Garga Haman of the Alliance for Democracy and Development says two candidates want to create social unrest to oust President Paul Biya, who has led Cameroon for 36 years.

“Those two candidates are in a hurry to go to Etoudi [to be president]. Not yet my dear friends, not yet. Let us wait for the decision of the constitutional council. There is no reason to go on to the streets. Do not exploit the mentality of the youths,” he said.

Despite the turmoil, Biya, one of Africa’s longest serving leaders, is expected to win in the face of a deeply divided opposition.

In the midst of the crisis, Cameroon’s long time allies and former colonial master, France, seems comfortable observing from the stands. Many believe the latter’s interests, especially security of the country’s international business concerns, are at the centre of its diplomatic posturing on the matter of the Cameroons.

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Another Rwandan opposition party leader ‘disappears’. Why it matters

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Another Rwandan opposition party leader ‘disappears’. Why it matters

The jailed vice president of Rwanda’s opposition FDU-Inkingi party escaped from prison on Sunday, according to the country’s correctional service.

Boniface Twagirimana was missing from a routine headcount at the prison Monday, local media reported, quoting a Rwanda Correctional Service spokesperson. The spokesperson said that Twagirimana and another prisoner had managed to escape by jumping over the complex’s fence and said that an investigation had been launched.

But members of the FDU — an unregistered political party — are calling “foul play” and fear that Twagirimana’s life could be in danger.

In a statement released Monday, the FDU party questioned how Twagirimana could have escaped out of a high security prison he had been transferred to only five days prior and called on the Rwandan government for answers.
“This information…leaves us to believe that there could be foul play by Rwandan security services,” the statement said.

“We call on the Rwandan government to inform the family, the party FDU-Inkingi and the general prison about the circumstances of the disappearance of Twagirimana. Mr Twagirimana was in the custody of the state which is accountable for his safety,” it added.

In September 2017, Twagirimana and eight other FDU party members were arrested on charges of forming an armed group and seeking to overthrow the government, charges Twagirimana denies.

The FDU members were placed in a Kigali jail where their party leader, Victoire Ingabire, was serving out a sentence for charges related to comments she made about the country’s 1994 genocide and collaborating with a “terrorist organization.”

Ingabire has long said her sentence was a result of her work as a prominent government critic and that the charges effectively criminalized her freedom of expression. International organizations such as Amnesty International and a 2017 African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights ruling have supported those views.

Read also: Rwanda frees jailed opposition leader Ingabire

Last month, Ingabire was granted a presidential pardon by Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame and was released from jail after serving eight years of her 15-year sentence.

Immediately after she was freed, she called on the Rwandan government to open the country’s political landscape to the opposition and asked them to free all other political prisoners, including Twagirimana and other members of her political party.

On October 3, Twagirimana was moved from Kigali’s Mageragere prison to Mpanga prison, in the country’s southern Nyanza District. The authorities did not inform Twagirimana’s family that he was being transferred or give any explanation for the move, according to Twagirimana’s wife.

Rwanda’s National Police and Rwanda’s Correctional Service have not immediately responded to CNN’s request for comment.

Twagirimana is not the first FDU member to go missing.

In May 2017, party member Jean Damascene Habarugira disappeared after he was called to meet an official responsible for the security of his locality. A few days later, Habarugira’s family were called to collect his body from a local hospital.

Twagirimana denounced Habarugira’s murder as an assassination. In a statement, the FDU said that Habarugira was “assassinated in cold blood” because of his opposition to the local authority’s agricultural policies and concerns over police brutality.

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