Allegation is false – Onyema
The United States Department of Justice had charged the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Air Peace , Mr . Allen Onyema , with bank fraud and money laundering for moving more than $20m from Nigeria through United States bank accounts in a scheme involving false documents based on the purchase of airplanes .
The American government in a statement said the airline’ s Chief of Administration and Finance, Ejiroghene Eghagha , has also been charged with bank fraud and “aggravated identity theft ” in connection with the scheme.
US Attorney Byung Pak , was quoted to have said “Onyema allegedly leveraged his status as a prominent business leader and airline executive while using falsified documents to commit fraud.
“We will diligently protect the integrity of our banking system from being corrupted by criminals , even when they disguise themselves in a cloak of international business , ” he added .
According to Pak , the indictment , and other information presented in court , beginning in 2010 , Onyema began travelling frequently to Atlanta , where he opened several personal and business bank accounts. Between 2010 and 2018 , over $44 . 9m was allegedly transferred into his Atlanta -based accounts from foreign sources.
the statement reads in part, “Beginning in approximately May 2016 , Onyema, together with Eghagha , allegedly used a series of export letters of credit to cause banks to transfer more than $ 20 m into Atlanta – based bank accounts controlled by Onyema .
“The letters of credit were purportedly to fund the purchase of five separate Boeing 737 passenger planes by Air Peace . The letters were supported by documents such as purchase agreements , bills of sale , and appraisals proving that Air Peace was purchasing the aircraft from Springfield Aviation Company LLC, a business registered in Georgia.”
It stated that , however , the supporting documents were fake as Springfield Aviation Company LLC, which is owned by Onyema and managed by a person with no connection to the aviation business , never owned the aircraft , and the company that allegedly drafted the appraisals did not exist .
“ Eghagha allegedly participated in this scheme as well, directing the Springfield Aviation manager to sign and send false documents to banks and even using the manager ’ s identity to further the fraud.
“ After Onyema received the money in the United States , he allegedly laundered over $ 16 m of the proceeds of the fraud by transferring it to other accounts, ” it added .
The Chairman and CEO of Air Peace has however denied the allegation, describing it as false, saying it has “no way in line with my character as a person and as a business man whose only aim has been to build Nigeria and improve wellbeing.”
He said he “has never laundered any money whatsoever as every aircraft bought was transacted through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
“As the press statement clearly stated, these are indictment that only contains charges. I am innocent of all charges and the US government will find NO dirt on me because I have never conducted business with any illegalities.
“Be rest assured that I also have my lawyers on this and these mere allegations will be refuted.
“I never laundered money in my life, neither have I committed bank fraud anywhere in the world. Every Kobo I transferred to the US for aircraft purchase went through the Central Bank of Nigeria LC regime and all were used for the same purpose. The American companies that received the funds are still in business. I never took a penny from any US bank or Nigerian bank. I am willing to defend my innocence in the US courts,” he added
NNPCL Appoints 3 Executive Vice Presidents
The Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) announced the appointments of three new Executive Vice Presidents.
It named Oritsemeyiwa Eyesan as the new Executive Vice President, Upstream; Olalekan Ogunleye, Executive Vice President, Gas, Power, and New Energy; and Adedapo Segun, Executive Vice President, Downstream.
The announcement, which was posted on the company’s X (formerly Twitter) handle early Sunday, stated that the appointment of the new EVPs was with immediate effect.
This leads to the compulsory retirement of the company’s three former Executive Vice Presidents, including Abdulkabir Ahmed, Gas, Power and New Energies; Adokiye Tombomieye, Upstream; and Adeyemi Adetunji, Downstream.
In July last year, the national oil firm, formerly known as Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, transited fully into a commercial entity, becoming the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited.
Marketers Eye Fresh Fuel Price Hike As Crude Hits $94
The rise in the cost of crude oil, coupled with the depreciation of the naira against the United States dollar, might lead to a hike in the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit, popularly called petrol, oil marketers stated on Sunday.
It was also gathered that the sharp rise in crude oil price to about $94/barrel and the crisis around forex, had warranted a gradual increase in the amount being quietly spent as subsidy on petrol by the Federal Government.
Dealers in the downstream oil sector explained that the cost of crude oil and the exchange rate of the dollar accounted for over 80 per cent of the cost of PMS.
Brent crude, the global benchmark for oil, rose to $94/barrel on Sunday, the highest figure in 2023. Oil had started the year at about $82/barrel, dipped to $70/barrel in June, but traded above $92/barrel in the past week.
Also, The PUNCH reported on Thursday that the naira weakened to N950/dollar as forex scarcity worsened.
The report stated that the naira fell further against the dollar the preceding day (Wednesday), after closing at 950/$ at the parallel market.
Bureau de Change operators had told The PUNCH that the naira, which earlier closed at 930/$ at the close of operations on Tuesday, was bought and sold at 935/$ and 950/$ on Wednesday.
Although the Federal Government and its Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited had insisted that subsidy on petrol had ended, following the deregulation of the downstream oil sector, operators insisted on Sunday that the government was implementing quasi-subsidy.
They explained that with the latest rise in crude oil price, the cost of petrol was meant to increase, stressing that if the government insists on leaving the commodity at N617/litre, then subsidy on PMS had been returned quietly.
The marketers explained that in July when the cost of petrol was raised to N617/litre, crude oil traded around $82/barrel, while the the exchange rate was not as high as N950/$ at the parallel market.
The Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners corroborated the concerns of marketers, as it stated that the price cap on petrol had made it tough for marketers to comply with the demands of NARTO with respect to increasing the cost of transportation for petrol.
“The Group Chief Executive Officer of NNPC, in one of his statements, had pointed out that as long as the dollar continues to rise, Nigerians should not expect petroleum products prices to be pegged. The cost of crude oil is also on the rise and it impacts on petrol price, because PMS is derived from crude.
“So in this price deregulation regime, once the dollar increases, automatically it means that the cost of importing petroleum products will also increase. And the cost of every other related service will rise,” the National Public Relations Officer, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Chief Chinedu Ukadike, stated.
He added, “So the fuel we are buying today at N617 or N596 depending on where you buy it and based on the nearness to depots, is actually below what the price should really be, going by the rise in dollar and crude oil price.”
Ukadike stated that though the rise in crude oil price would increase Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings, the forex was being used to import refined products.
“I said earlier that what we are experiencing now is quasi-deregulation. The rise in crude oil price has both positive and negative effects on Nigeria. It is positive because it increases our generation of dollars when we sell the crude.
“But it is negative in the sense that we still use that dollar that we have got to import the finished products of crude. That is the problem. For if Nigeria is refining products, then there will be a windfall, but since we import with the dollar that we make, then it makes no sense.”
On whether the rise in oil prices would warrant further hike in the cost of PMS and other finished products, thereby increasing subsidy on petrol particularly, Ukadike replied, “Yes, of course.
“The gap is becoming too much. Also, the exchange rate gap between the official and parallel markets is widening. And these gaps have to be filled by the government through quasi-subsidy on petrol.
“You also know that most of the investors who tried to import products when it was announced that the subsidy on petrol had been removed, are now finding it very difficult to do so.
“This is because after buying the dollar in the parallel market, they cannot recoup what they have invested. So the government must be transparent with this subsidy removal thing. It should apply it to the fullest, so that competition can set it.”
On his part, the President, Petroleum Products Retail Outlets Owners Association of Nigeria, Billy Gillis-Harry, said though the cost of crude had been rising lately, the NNPCL should be able to manage it for the benefit of Nigerians, with respect to petroleum products prices.
“Crude oil is selling at a higher price and that price should impact positively, because the major importer of petroleum products is the NNPC and they do that on a swap basis, unless they are telling us that the swap is not efficient.
“For if it is efficient, they should have more money for the size of crude oil they sell, which should impact on the price they pass on to Nigerians. Yes, today it is a commercial company, but it is still owned by Nigerians and is a sovereign company.
“And the fact that Nigerians must benefit from their natural endowment by God should be reflected in the pricing of products by NNPC. That is all I’ll say about this issue,” he stated.
READ ALSO: Global Oil Price Drops To $0.01/Barrel
Earlier, the National Secretary, IPMAN, Chief John Kekeocha, had asked the Federal Government to come out clean with respect to fuel subsidy, instead of mandating oil marketers not to dispense the product above a stipulated band.
In August, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale, had told State House correspondents that President Bola Tinubu had instructed that the cost of petrol should not increase.
“Mr. President, wishes to assure Nigerians following the announcement by the NNPC limited just yesterday (Monday) that there will be no increase in the pump price of PMS anywhere in the country. We repeat, the President affirms that there will be no increase in the pump price of PMS.”
NNPCL had also in August stated that it was not raising petrol price.
“Dear esteemed customers, we at NNPC Retail value your patronage, and we do not have the intention to increase our PMS pump prices as widely speculated. Please buy the best quality products at the most affordable prices at our NNPC Retail stations nationwide,” the company had stated.
NNPC Retail is the downstream subsidiary of NNPCL that retails refined petroleum products for the group.
Kekeocha had said that the decision of the Federal Government to put a cap on petrol price meant that subsidy on petrol had been reinstated.
He said, “The government is not being very transparent with this issue. When you say you have removed fuel subsidy, you don’t come again and moderate prices. Is like speaking with the two sides of the mouth.
“Removal of subsidy means you have removed your hands and the prices have to follow demand and supply. So if the NNPC says it is getting forex (foreign exchange) to import products and reduce prices for marketers, are they going to do the same for other importers? Remember the government gave import licenses to about seven marketers?
“Are they still going to moderate prices for those people when they bring in the products? No! You don’t blow hot and cold at the same time. There is no way they can bring in products and reduce the price and peg it for marketers to sell at a certain level, it means they are indirectly bringing back subsidy.
“If they want to bring back subsidy, let them say it openly, that ‘we are going to come back to subsidy because of the pains the country generally is going through.’ This is because the initial things they are supposed to do they did not do it. We have always been clamouring, let the refineries work.”
NARTO raises concern
The National President, Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners, Yusuf Othman, said despite the high cost of operations in the downstream arm of the oil sector, the government had stopped increasing the pump price of PMS.
He noted that since marketers could not raise their pump prices for petrol, it had been impossible for them to increase their costs for the transportation of PMS, stressing that this had made the cost of doing the business unbearable for transporters.
“NARTO is complaining that the high cost of diesel is unbearable. Even if you discuss it with the oil marketers, all they tell you is that government has fixed the pump price (of petrol) at N617/litre, that since they cannot increase pump price, they cannot increase the fare for us. So we are in trouble,” Othman stated.
He said the government should look into the pump price of PMS in order to enable marketers consider raising the transportation price for transporters.
“This is because without looking at the pump price, marketers cannot increase transportation price. And if they do not do that we have no choice than to continue to park. And if we continue to park it will create unwanted disruption of supply and we don’t want that,” Othman stated.
Relief As Cement Price Set To Crash From N5,500 To N3,500
BUA Cement Plc. has revealed plans to reduce the price of cement in Nigeria from the current N5,500 to between N3,000 and N3,500.
The company’s Chairman, Abdul Samad Rabiu, disclosed this to Journalists after an audience with President Bola Tinubu at the State House, Abuja.
Rabiu said the price crash is part of his company’s contribution to supporting the efforts of the Federal Government to stabilise the prices of essential commodities.
However, this would only follow the opening of two new plants of 3 million tons operating capacity each to be commissioned at the end of the year.
READ ALSO: Court Convicts Ten ‘Yahoo Boys’ For Fraud
Rabiu said “Let me thank his excellency Mr. President for graciously receiving me today, I came to intimate his excellency on the affairs of our cement business.
“We have two new lines of 3 million tons each that we will be commissioning by the end of the year.
“So I explained to him that we want to support the efforts of the government in bringing down the cost of cement, by the time these lines are commissioned BUA Cement will be producing about 17 million tons per annum and with that, we intend to bring down the cost of cement from its current level of N5,000 or N5,500 per bag to maybe N3,000 to N3,500 per bag.”
He said the company could only do this because it is producing cement locally.
“Eighty per cent of the raw materials that we are using to produce cement in Nigeria are mainly limestone and gypsum and of course, energy is part of it. Of course, we have gas in Nigeria.
“So we want to support the government, we want to support their efforts in ensuring that the prices of these commodities are brought down incidentally.’’
Thr PUNCH reports that he Revealed that the two new plants to be inaugurated by Tinubu later in 2023 would increase production capacity to 17 million metric tons.
FOIA: Community Leaders Trained, Challenged To Hold Govt Accountable
Gunmen Invade Edo Community, Kill 3 Vigilant Members
Cultism, Terrorism: CLEEN Foundation Advocates Community-oriented Policing
Communal Clash Claims Seven, Injures Scores In Delta
BREAKING: COVID-19 Heath Workers Block Hospital Management Board’s Entrance, Demand Payment Of Allowances In Edo
Edo Guber: ‘Oshiomhole’s Triumphant Entry Has Left You In Trauma, Demoralised,’ APC Mocks PDP
News1 week ago
Why FG Should Scrap Law School – Ex-NERC Boss
News6 days ago
NIMC Unveils Self-service NIN Registration App
News1 week ago
Dispute Erupts Over Mohbad’s Inheritance As Family Victimises Wife At Burial [VIDEO]
News6 days ago
BREAKING: Tinubu Appoints New Ministers
Politics6 days ago
Edo 2024: Esan Enigies Endorse Imuse For Governor
News1 week ago
JUST IN: Power Restored After Nationwide Blackout In Nigeria
News1 week ago
BREAKING: Tinubu Approved Nomination Of New CBN Governor, Names Four Deputies
News1 week ago
Why I Want To Be Asake’s Backup Singer — DJ Cuppy Reveals
News1 week ago
CAF Confederation Cup Qualifier: Obaseki Confident Of Victory As Bendel Insurance Host RS Berkane
News1 week ago
JUST IN: Supreme Court Delivers Judgement On Gov Mbah’s Election