The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, on Monday, arraigned a former minister of state for power, Muhammed Wakil, before Justice S.B. Belgore of the Federal Capital Territory High Court, Apo, Abuja, on two-count of corruption and abuse of office. Mr Wakil was arraigned along with two companies, Corozzeria and Pikat Properties, for allegedly receiving ₦148 million in gratifications from Bestworth Insurance Brokers out of the ₦27.1 billion approved as outstanding insurance premiums and claims of deceased and incapacitated staff of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria. EFCC spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren, said the defendant pleaded not guilty to the charges. The prosecutor, Benjamin Manji asked the court to set a date for commencement of trial and to remand the defendant at a correctional centre, pending trial. However, the defendants’ lawyer, B.C Igwilo (SAN), prayed the court to grant bail to Mr Wakil. “But the prosecution counsel opposed the oral application while urging the court to order the defendant to file the application formally,” Mr Uwujaren added. Justice Belgore adjourned the matter till 31 March 2021, for determination of bail application and remanded Mr Wakil in the custody of the EFCC.

No fewer than 30 villagers were Monday kidnapped in Kutunku village in Wushishi Local Government Area of Niger State when heavily armed bandits stormed the village on foot and rounded up the villagers. The bandits hid their motorcycles in an orchard close to the village and from there trekked to their target, a development that did not arouse the suspicion of the villagers until it was late. They then forced them to trek along with them to their camp. The bandits are yet to contact families of those kidnapped. Those kidnapped included 20 Gbagyis, made up of 11 men and nine females, nine Fulanis and one person of another ethnic group. One of the women abducted is billed to be married this weekend. A senior local government official in the area said a report was made to the Divisional Police Officer in Zungeru “but we are yet to hear from him”. The Chairman of Rafi Local Government, Ismaila Modibo Kagara, confirmed the incident. Mr Modibo said the bandits also went to Adidi village, where they kidnapped one Ibrahim Gamaagi before moving to the next village where they abducted an unspecified number of people. Last week, 18 persons travelling in three commercial vehicles were waylaid and abducted at Kundu in the same local government area. Since the abduction of the travellers, nothing has been heard from their kidnappers though the vehicles in which they were travelling and abandoned by the roadside, have been taken to the Zungeru police station.

The National Pension Commission has said it recovered ₦553.03 million from defaulting employers who deducted their workers monthly emoluments but failed to remit to their Retirement Savings Accounts with their respective pension fund administrators. PenCom disclosed this in its monthly report for the fourth quarter of 2020 obtained on Sunday. Out of this amount, the principal contribution of the workers was  ₦382.46 million, while penalties of  ₦170.57 million were recovered through recovery agents. Part of the report read, “Following the issuance of demand notices to defaulting employers whose pension liabilities had been established by the recovery agents, the sum of ₦553.03 million representing a principal contribution of ₦382.46 million and penalties of ₦170.57 million were recovered from 19 defaulting employers during the quarter under review.” The commission stated that during the period under review, the pension industry recorded a net marginal growth of 0.72 percent (66,704) in schemes membership during the quarter under review, rising from 9.20 million contributors as at the end of the preceding quarter to 9.27 million as at Q4 2020. The growth in the industry membership was driven by the RSA Scheme, which had an increase of 68,749 registered contributors. However, it added, membership of the Closed Pension Fund Administrator Schemes declined by 2,045 to 14,926 while the Approved Existing Schemes membership remained unchanged at 40,951 as of Q4 2020. It stated that the cumulative RSA registrations grew from the 9,147,039 recorded in Q3 2020 to 9,215,788 as at Q4 2020, representing a 0.75 percent growth, which was mainly attributed to increased level of compliance by the public and private sectors.

Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou, who’s due to step down next month after serving two terms, was named the 2020 winner of the world’s largest leadership prize — a $5 million award made by Sudanese billionaire Mo Ibrahim’s foundation. Issoufou is the sixth winner of the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership since it was introduced in 2006 to promote good governance in the world’s poorest continent. Previous recipients include former presidents Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique, Festus Mogae of Botswana and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia. “In the face of the most severe political and economic issues, including violent extremism and increasing desertification,” President Mahamadou Issoufou has led his people on a path of progress,” Mogae, who chairs the Mo Ibrahim Foundation’s prize committee, said in a statement on Monday. “Today, the number of Nigeriens living below the poverty line has fallen to 40%, from 48% a decade ago.” Issoufou, 69, first took office in 2011 after years of political instability in the West African nation, including four coups since independence from France in 1960, and won re-election in 2016. He’s set to be succeeded by his close ally Mohamed Bazoum, 61, a former interior and foreign minister, who won a run-off vote against ex-president Mahamane Ousmane on 21 February. The election paved the way for Niger’s first transfer of power by the ballot box. The vote was followed by widespread protests and Internet shutdowns. Opposition leader Hama Amadou, who was barred from running and backed Ousmane in the run-off, was arrested and charged with trying to overthrow the government. Niger, the world’s fifth-biggest uranium exporter, ranks as the world’s least-developed country among 189 in the United Nations’ Human Development Index. Ibrahim started Celtel International BV. in 1998 and built it up to be Africa’s third-largest mobile phone company. Kuwaiti mobile-phone operator Zain bought 85% of Celtel for $3.4 billion in 2005.