Tuesday 28 March 2017

Coca-Cola calls in police after human waste is found in cans

Coca-Cola has called in police to investigate how human waste turned up in a consignment of its drink cans at one of the company’s factories in Northern Ireland.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland confirmed on Tuesday it hadopened an inquiry into how faeces ended up in the cans at the Helllenic Bottling Company factory in Lisburn, Co Antrim.
Coca-Cola suspended night-time processing last week at the plant when machines became clogged.
The soft drinks giant said it impounded all the affected cans and that the contamination did not affect any products that were on sale. The cans arrive at the factory without tops, to be filled with the fizzy drink before they are sealed and sold across Northern Ireland.
A PSNI spokesman said: “Detectives are investigating an incident at commercial premises in the Lisburn area following reports that a consignment of containers delivered to the premises had been contaminated. The investigation is at an early stage and there are no further details available at this time.”
In a statement, the company told the Belfast Telegraph: “Coca-Cola takes the safety and quality of our products extremely seriously.
“We are aware of an incident involving empty cans at our plant in Knockmore Hill, Lisburn. We are treating this matter extremely seriously and are conducting a thorough investigation in co-operation with the PSNI.
“The problem was identified immediately through our robust quality procedures and all of the product from the affected production was immediately impounded and will not be sold. This is an isolated incident and does not affect any products currently on sale.”
The Food Standards Agency said none of the cans contaminated with faeces had reached the market in Northern Ireland. It added: “The incident is subject to an investigation by the PSNI and the environmental health unit of Lisburn and Castlereagh city council.”

Scottish parliament votes for second independence referendum

The Scottish parliament has voted in favour of holding a second referendum on independence.
MSPs voted 69 to 59 to give the first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, the authority to negotiate with the Westminster government on holding another vote.
Sturgeon’s minority government won the vote with support from the Scottish Greens after an extended debate.
The prime minister, Theresa May, has said she will prevent another referendum taking place during the Brexit process, stating “now is not the time”.
The two-day debate started last week but was suspended on Wednesday after the terrorist attack at Westminster. The vote was held the day after Sturgeon met May in Glasgow, and the day before the process for leaving the European Union will be formally triggered by the prime minister.
Sturgeon has insisted her referendum timetable will allow Scottish people to vote when the terms of the UK’s exit deal are clear but before it is “too late to choose our own course”.
A UK government spokeswoman said: “The prime minister has been clear that now is not the time for an independence referendum, and we will not be entering into negotiations on the Scottish government’s proposal.
“At this point, all our focus should be on our negotiations with the European Union, making sure we get the right deal for the whole of the UK.
“It would be unfair to the people of Scotland to ask them to make a crucial decision without the necessary information about our future relationship with Europe, or what an independent Scotland would look like. 
“We have been joined together as one country for more than 300 years. We’ve worked together, we’ve prospered together, we’ve fought wars together, and we have a bright future. At this crucial time we should be working together, not pulling apart.”
Scottish people voted against independence in a referendum in 2014, by 55% to 44%.

Nigeria pension office sacks five deputy directors for employment fraud

Five deputy directors of the Pensions Transitional Arrangement Directorate, PTAD, have been fired for alleged employment fraud.
The officials were sacked after a staff verification exercise revealed they breached established regulations prior to their employment.
PTAD is a Federal Government agency established in August 2013 under the Pension Reforms Act of 2004 to take over the functions of the defunct pension offices of the police, paramilitary services, civil service and government agencies.
The agency is responsible for the administration of pension for about 223,000 retirees who left federal government service on or before June 30, 2007.
The Executive Secretary of PTAD, Sharon Ikeazor, who was reviewing the operations of the agency since her assumption of office in September 2016, said the five directors had to be compelled to disengage from service at the end of the staff verification exercise, which commenced in 2014.
They affected directors were Godson Ukpevo, who until his disengagement was in charge of Civil Service Pension department; Uloma Uruakpa (Customs, Immigrations and Prisons Pension department); Taiwo Ogundipe (Parastatals Pension department); Atiku Saleh (Police Pension department), and Roz Ben-Okagbue (Pension Support Service department).
In line with public service regulations, prospective employees into the service must meet the minimum entry qualification of not being below 18 years, or not more than 50 years of age on the date of first appointment.
Mrs. Ikeazor said the verification exercise uncovered that at the time the five directors were employed, they were already above the mandatory age limit of 50. Also, some of them were already retired from public service elsewhere.
The Executive Secretary said the affected officials may be prosecuted and made to refund all government monies they earned illegally during the period they occupied their positions.
Mrs. Ikeazor said although PTAD inherited about 160,000 pensioners at inception, the directorate is now saddled with the responsibility of administering the pensions of about 223,000.
She attributed the increase in the population of pensioners to the rapid consolidation of 253 parastatals and agencies under PTAD, saying in spite of this the monthly pension obligations have been met since inception.
“PTAD did not inherit a credible database from any of the pension offices it took over from,” Mrs. Ikeazor lamented. “There were nominal rolls, but no complete database. The lack of database and information on pensioners in general makes it very difficult to resolve complaints.”
On the ongoing verification exercise, Mrs. Ikeazor said apart from the police and paramilitary pensions that have since been completed in 2015, the verification of next of kins from North Eastern part of the country has so far been completed, with a capture rate of 70 per cent, or 6,445 pensioners covered.
This, she said, was in line with her commitment to prioritise the verification of the nationwide civil service pensioners, particularly in the North East, to meet President Muhammadu Buhari’s goal to end the insurgency in the region.
Besides, she said about 55,400 pensioners have been verified under the civil service nationwide, with those in the South-south geopolitical zone being about 21,123. Verification of pensioners in Lagos and other South West and North central regions would follow.
In addition, the Executive Secretary said about 4,000 new pensioners were brought unto the payroll in late 2016 following the field verification conducted in 2015.
“During the verification, about 15,000 unverified names from the payroll, mostly those who were not able to provide their bank verification numbers, BVN, linked to their bank accounts, were removed. Those who were able to provide their BVNs later were reinstated,” Mrs. Ikeazor said.
On the recovery of legacy assets, following the takeover of all pension assets, funds and liabilities of the former pension offices and Boards of Parastatals, Mrs. Ikeazor said legacy pension funds of about N19.14 billion belonging to Parastatals, Universities and colleges of Education has remained in the custody insurance companies.
Despites several requests, she said only Leadway Assurance has so far paid funds in PTAD’s custody.
“We are working with the Minister of Finance to ensure that all outstanding legacy funds are transferred to us to enable us defray some of government’s liabilities arising from the non-payment of pensions,” she said.
- PremiumTimes

Suspicious package’ causes road closures near White House

Authorities temporarily closed roads Tuesday near the White House after the discovery of a “suspicious package” outside the grounds of the presidential residence.
The U.S. Secret Service, which protects the president, his family and other top officials and visiting
dignitaries said that officers had established a perimeter, and moved pedestrians outside the White House a safe distance away, as a precaution.
The package appeared to have been found on the north side of the grounds, with some television crews moved off the White House north lawn.
NAN recalls that on March 11, Jonathan Tran, 26, scaled an outer-perimeter fence on the White House complex on Friday night.
Tran climbed a White House fence on Friday night and gained access to the complex’s south grounds before being arrested by the Secret Service.
The service said the incident occurred at about 11:38 p.m.
The intruder was carrying a backpack and purportedly got close to the White House’s south portico residence entrance, near the Washington Monument.
No hazardous material was found inside the backpack, and a subsequent search of the complex grounds resulted in “nothing of concern to security operations,” the Secret Service said.
The agency also said that the suspect had no “previous history” with the agency.
Tran, who reportedly had a California driver’s license, told Secret Service officers that he was at the White House to see Trump.
“No, I am a friend of the President. I have an appointment,” the suspect said when approached by an officer, according to a report released on Saturday by the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department.
Asked how he got there, the suspect told officers: “I jumped the fence”.

Senate admits buying bullet proof SUV N62m

The Senate on Tuesday admitted that it bought a bullet proof Range Rover Sports Utility Vehicle ( SUV ) as had been reported in the media. Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Publicity Sen. Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi told newsmen in Abuja that indeed the senate procured the said vehicle but not at the price that was being reported.

Sabi said that the vehicle cost was procured at $298,000 (N49.1 million) and not N298, million as was being reported in the media. According to the spokesperson of the Senate, the vehicle was procured in 2015 for $298 at an exchange rate of N165 to a dollar. 

“Our attention has been drawn to the various false and mischievous reports in the media about the price of the vehicle which the Senate was said to have bought as part of its convoy but was later abandoned when it got impounded by the Customs over controversy surrounding import duty payment. 

“The correct price of the vehicle when it was imported in 2015 is $298,000 which at the prevailing rate of N165 to a dollar is about N49, 170. “The Senate paid N62.5m for the vehicle in November 2015. This is contrary to the mischief by those who decided to turn the $298,000 to N298 million as the price of the vehicle. “For the avoidance of doubt, the price the Senate paid for that vehicle is N62.5m and not N298 million. 

“The Senate will appreciate it if all reports relating to the legislative institution, particularly on this vehicle matter, are reported with accuracy and all facts put in proper perspective. “We urge journalists to avoid sensationalism. The Senate is a responsible institution and those who believe that when they have issues to explain before it, the next thing to do is to resort to falsehood, blackmail, muck-raking and mud-slinging, should know that they are just overheating the polity and undermining our democratic institution. 

“Finally, the Senate wish to reiterate our total commitment to upholding the rule of law and to work for Nigerians, in accordance with our constitution,” he said. The Senate had been in the eye of the storm over its probe of the activities of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) with media reports alleging that the upper legislative chamber was on a revenge mission. 

Media reports alleged that attention of the Senate on the NSC was due to the fact that the service impounded an SUV allegedly procured by the President of the Senate Bukola Saraki. The report said that the service refused to bulge in spite of the intervention of the Senate to release the SUV. Meanwhile, at an investigative hearing by the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, the importer of the vehicle absolved Saraki of any complicity in the importation. 

The President of the Senate who also appeared before the committee stressed that he did not import any vehicle and does not own the vehicle that was purportedly seized. He urged that the Senate as an institution must be strengthened so as to save the nation’s democracy.

Customs seal Kano senator’s house, seize 13 vehicles

The Comptroller-General of Customs Compliance Task Force, says it has impounded 223 vehicles 13 of which belong to a senator in Kano State.
The task force also said that it seized other items, including foodstuffs worth N269.5m in Kano and Jigawa states within eight months.
The Task Force Zonal Commander, Mr. Bala Dole, made this known in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Kano on Monday.
He said the vehicles, belonging to the said senator were; 12 new Toyota Hilux and one Land Cruiser Jeep.
Dole, who declined to name the senator, said the 13 vehicles were trailed from Maigatari in Jigawa State following an intelligence report.
“Based on the intelligence report, the vehicles were 30 in number but we were able to trail 13 of them 12 of which were hidden in the senator’s compound.
“We sealed the house and retrieved the vehicles and they are now in our custody,” Dole said.
He said the other items the task force confiscated during special operations included  9,757 bags of rice, 2,916 of foreign spaghetti, 2,770 cartons of foreign vegetable oil and 999 cartons of macaroni.
He said others were; 889 veils of second-hand clothes, 50 used school bags, 110 cartons of new foreign shoes, 956 bags of mosquito coil and six fairly used cars.
“The total value of the seizure made by the task force since it was established in July 2016, excluding the 13 senator’s vehicles, is N269.5m.
“We have yet to determine the cost of the 13 vehicles belonging to the senator,” he said.

Foul-mouthed Messi banned for four Argentina games

Barcelona star Lionel Messi was suspended for four Argentina matches by FIFA on Tuesday for swearing at an assistant referee.
Messi was found guilty of “having directed insulting words at an assistant referee” in the World Cup qualifier against Chile last Thursday which Argentina won 1-0 thanks to a penalty from the Barcelona hitman.
Messi will miss Argentina’s next South American qualifying game against Bolivia, scheduled for later Tuesday, with the remainder of the suspension served over his country’s subsequent World Cup qualifiers.

Probe uncovers massive fraud in YouWin programme

An ongoing probe, ordered by the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, has uncovered a massive fraud in the Federal Government Youth Enterprise With Innovation In Nigeria programme.
A reliable source in the ministry of finance told The PUNCH that investigators had already discovered that some senior civil servants gave out or facilitated slots worth between N7m and N10m each to their spouses, children and friends.
Some of these awardees, the source said, would not have qualified for the grants if they were not aided by their “connections” within and outside the ministry.
An original initiative of the ministry which began during the former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, YouWin was conceived to help youth entrepreneurs grow existing businesses and create employment.
The source, who insisted that the probe had not been concluded by the investigators, added that their initial findings were so worrisome that the minister had decided that the entire programme should be restructured.
“The fraud uncovered in the programme made the minister to restructure the programme and turn its focus into enterprise education,” the source added.
The source did not, however, state whether any of the country’s anti-graft agencies had joined the investigators whom our correspondent was made to understand were ministry of finance officials.
At different times, the YouWin project had been dogged by allegations of nepotism and underhand dealings by top civil servants for years.
The source in the finance ministry stated, “Actually, allegations were persistent that there was racketeering.  Some of the applicants, especially those who lost out, claimed that some of the winners simply copied and pasted the plans of other applicants in order to win.
“Some of them also said they were asked by some civil servants to use specific consultants in order to be considered.
“Contrary to the rules of the game, awards were also given to some entrepreneurs that were operating outside Nigeria. In fact, some of these people simply took the cash and migrated to foreign countries.”
The source added that the investigators found out that the ministry under Jonathan awarded a “disproportionate” number of awards to people from a particular part of the country.
The source said, “Some of the members of the team used it to set up friends and family as awardees. In one case, a husband and his wife used the same address and pocketed N10m each. In another instance, a son of one of the directors in the ministry was given N10m.
“When the (current) administration got into power, one of the first things that the ministry did was to ask for the BVN of awardees. It was an attempt to find out if some of the awardees got more than a single slot and whether senior civil servants awarded slots to their family members.”
It was learnt that the BVN verification, which exposed the fraud in the programme and initiated the probe, might lead to the indictment of some senior civil servants.
Some of the documents sighted by The PUNCH showed the rot in the system.
One of the documents indicated that a former director in the ministry of finance might have awarded a slot to his son.
Investigators are said to be probing whether the son’s company met all the requirements.
Another document sighted showed that two awardees shared the same surname and the same address.
One of the documents also indicated that two grants were given to a couple running two different companies.
The husband’s company is said to be involved in building and construction projects while the wife’s business, stated on the form, is ‘food and catering’ services.
Sources in the ministry explained that the ongoing probe would see investigators thoroughly combing through the information supplied by the 1,491 awardees.
It was learnt that the investigators would check for alleged duplication of business places, duplication of BVNs, criminal entries and other culpabilities of some civil servants and whether the companies awarded grants existed.
Last year, some YOUWIN awardees had protested against the Muhammadu Buhari administration, alleging neglect.
After the protest, a Director of Information at the Ministry of Information and Culture, Na’inna Dambatta, said a total of 18,000 young entrepreneurs were trained in management and business skills under the YouWin programme.
Dambatta added that 3,900 of the trainees, including 1,200 women, got non-repayable grants ranging from N1m to N10m.
“The third edition of the programme, which is still running with 1,500 beneficiaries, has received the sum of N11.2bn in funding. So far, grants totalling N7.4bn have been disbursed to the awardees,” he had said.
Efforts to get the reaction of the Special Adviser on Media to the Minister of Finance, Mr. Festus Akanbi, failed to yield result on Monday.
Akanbi requested 10 minutes to get appropriate reaction when The PUNCH reached out to him for comments but did not get back to our correspondent as of the time of filing this report.

Zamfara State Governor Yari Diverts N500m Paris Club Refund To Repay His Loan

Governor Abdul’aziz Abubakar Yari of Zamfara State and Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum diverted N500 million from the recent Paris Club refund to pay off his loan, an Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) source revealed to SaharaReporters on Tuesday.
According to the source, Mr. Yari withdrew N500m from the N19 billion Paris Club refund allegedly diverted to a special account of the Nigeria Governors Forum from the N522b allocated to the 36 states and deposited the sum into a mortgage bank account.
Nigeria's anti-graft agency, EFCC, also told The Nation, “Of the N19 billion, we discovered that a consultant brought by the North-West governor was paid N2.2 billion. From the N2.2 billion, the governor got N500 million.”
Mr. Yari then transferred the sum to the mortgage bank from which he had borrowed N800m to purchase to properties in 2013. According to the source, the governor was able to renegotiate his debt from N800m to N500m.
The EFCC, however, traced the sum, knowing it was connected to Mr. Yari and the Paris Club loan. The mortgage bank then forfeited the N500m to the EFCC.

News of the Zamfara State governor’s embezzlement comes just one day after SaharaReporters revealed that Senate President Bukola Saraki was being investigated by the EFCC for his role in the embezzlement of N3.5b from the Paris Club loan through the slush fund placed at the Access Bank by the Nigeria Governors Forum, who claimed it was meant for consultants.

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