… Address delivered at University of Nigeria at the Conferment on Mr. Ben Etiaba on 20th September, 2023 [PART I]
By Bashorun J.K. Randle
Let me start by acknowledging the presence in our midst of his Excellency Dr. Peter Mbah the Governor of the Enugu. Before I proceed further, I must commend the Matriach of the Etiaba family and her late husband Barrister B.M.C. Etiaba for the excellent children they have brought up with sterling qualities. Our host Ben is only one of them but they all share the same attributes of integrity, diligence, trustworthiness and humility.
Let me pause for a while and reflect on the accountancy profession which is what brought Ben and I together.
Unfortunately, accountancy has its own dark side. A case in point has been provided by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC).
“PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) director Tonderai Luwisi has been sentenced to 20 years simple imprisonment for the murder of his wife. Luwisi, who pleaded not guilty, murdered his wife Palegia Muregwi, on December 10, 2022. In his defence, Luwisi narrated to the court how he stabbed his wife with a knife several times. Luwisi said on the material day, he had a heated argument with his wife after she told him that their two children were not his and that she was in love with another person who was better than him. When the matter came up for judgement yesterday, Justice Mbewe said Luwisi had a chance to walk away when his wife became angry and confrontational…….”
“Deloitte is planning to cut more than 800 jobs in the United Kingdom, a source told Reuters on Wednesday.
The company is proposing some targeted restructuring that would result in the reduction of 3% of its workforce of 27,000 in the UK, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters.
The move comes as Deloitte, one of the “Big Four” accounting firms, plans to focus on cost-cutting due to the slowdown in the second half of the current financial year as clients are being more cautious in their spending, the person said.”
We also have the front page of “The Nation” newspaper of September 16, 2023.
“Nine people, including six former KPMG LLP partners and the former deputy chairman of the firm, face criminal charges in the largest criminal tax case ever filed in the United States. In addition, the company has admitted wrongdoing and has reached a deal to pay US$456 million in fines, restitution and penalties to defer prosecution in the multi-billion-dollar tax fraud case.
Details of the settlement were released today by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. According to a series of charging documents unsealed today, the fraud relates to the design, marketing, and implementation of fraudulent tax shelters.
KPMG admitted it engaged in a fraud that generated at least US$11 billion dollars in phony tax losses which, according to court papers, cost the U.S. at least US$2.5 billion dollars in evaded taxes. In addition to KPMG’s former deputy chairman, the individuals indicted include two former heads of KPMG’s tax practice and a former tax partner in the New York, N.Y., office of a prominent national law firm.
The criminal information and indictment together allege that from 1996 through 2003, KPMG, the nine indicted defendants and others conspired to defraud the IRS by designing, marketing and implementing illegal tax shelters.
According to the charges, KPMG, the indicted individuals, and their co-conspirators concocted tax shelter transactions, together with false and fraudulent factual scenarios to support them. These were targeted to wealthy individuals who needed a minimum of $10 million or $20 million in tax losses so they would pay fees that were a percentage of the desired tax loss to KPMG, certain law firms and others instead of paying billions of dollars in taxes owed to the government. To further the scheme, KPMG, the individual defendants, and their co-conspirators allegedly filed and caused to be filed false and fraudulent tax returns that claimed phony tax losses. KPMG also admitted that its personnel took specific deliberate steps to conceal the existence of the shelters from the IRS by, among other things, failing to register the shelters with the IRS as required by law; fraudulently concealing the shelter losses and income on tax returns; and attempting to hide the shelters using sham attorney-client privilege claims.”
“ALLEGED N1.07 BILLION, $975K FRAUD:
COURT REFUSES LADY ACCOUNTANT BAIL”
“The Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday declined to grant bail to an accountant, Omafume Augustina Ayinuola, who is standing trial on an alleged fraud involving N1.07 billion and $975,102.58.
Justice Akintayo Aluko turned down Omafume’s bail application on the grounds that she was a flight risk.
Omafume, alongside her mother, Lydia Abosede Ehrievuyere, and their firm, Patridia Resources Limited, are standing trial before the judge on a 15-count charge of alleged conspiracy, obtaining by false pretence, forgery and fraud.
The charge was brought against them by the Force Criminal Investigation Department (Force CID) Annex Alagbon-Ikoyi Lagos.
Mother and daughter were arraigned on August 16. Prosecution counsel Morufu Animashaun told the court that they perfected the alleged offences between 2017 and 2021 at Trailer Park, Agbara, Lagos.
The court heard that the defendants committed the alleged fraud against several firms, including Oritsetimeyin Logistics Limited, Pine Petosan Limited, Grace Capital Limited, RsL International Limited, RsL Ventures Capital Limited, Grace & Mercy Capital Limited and Grace Assets Limited.
The funds were said to be meant for the purchase and supply of consumables for the office of the firms listed above.
The prosecutor alleged that first defendant, Omafume, while working with the firms, used her position to illegally convert to her personal purse various sums of money amounting to N1,072,254,411 billion and $975,102.58.
He alleged that the second defendant Ehrievuyere and her firm, Patricia Resouces Limited, concealed the origin of the funds that they received from Omafume.
The court heard further that Ehrievuyere used part of the alleged illicit funds to purchase and develop her family house located at 14, Irawodidia Street, Obadore, off LASU Road, Igando, Lagos.
He told the court that the defendants’ alleged illegal acts contravened Sections 8(a); 7(1) (b)(i); 1 (3) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act 2006 and were punishable under Sections 1(3) and 7 (2)(b) of the same Act.
Both defendants pleaded not guilty.
Their counsel, J.O. Oladeji, applied for their bail. But Animasaun opposed him, arguing that they could flee.
He alleged in his counter0affidavit to the bail application that the Accountant committed perjury (to lie on oath) in securing another international passport in order to escape prosecution.
According to him, the accountant told the Nigeria Immigration Services (NIS) that she lost her travel passport whereas the passport was the police as part of her administrative bail conditions.
When the case came up for ruling yesterday, Justice Aluko agreed with the prosecutor’s submission. He held that there was a high possibility that first defendant, Omafume, if granted bail, would flee.
The judge granted bail to the second defendant in the sum of N500 million with two sureties in like sum, among other terms.
Justice Aluko ordered that the case file be returned to the Administrative Judge for reassignment.
He remanded the accountant in Nigerian Correctional Services (NCoS) custody till the determination of the charges.
He also remanded her mother in correctional services custody till the perfection of the bail terms.
We also have the front page of “ThisDay” newspaper of September 15, 2023.
Headline: “UMAHI: I INHERITED 18,000 KM OF ROAD CONTRACTS
WORTH N14.1 TRILLION.
Says N431 billion currently available for immediate
“The Minister of Works, David Umahi, yesterday said that the Bola Tinubu-led administration inherited about 18,000 kilometres of roads, with a contract sum of about N14.1 trillion.
The minister who disclosed that out of the N14.1 trillion, N4 trillion had been paid, made the remarks while meeting with all contractors handling road ‘dualisation’ projects and all zonal directors of the ministry at its headquarters in Abuja.
“Umahi told the contractors and stakeholders that the current administration has 18,000 kilometre of roads and inherited a contract sum of about N14.1 trillion and out of which N4 trillion is being paid in all those projects,” a statement signed by the Director of Information, Press and Public Relations Unit, Blessing Lere-Adams, stated.
Stressing that some of the projects had lasted between 10 to 20 years, the minister noted that some contractors had jerked up the contract sums by up to 100 percent, explaining that it accounts for why some of them had not been paid.
We are going back to the original concept of the projects and the necessity of any additional works and also see how we get a fair deal. Expecting an endorsement from the ministry for what is not acceptable to the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) is not possible,” the minister said.
Umahi also said that President Bola Tinubu understands how road infrastructure works. “If I come before him with a contract of N44 billion contract sum, I must be able to provide details of how the cost came about,” he maintained.
The minister further announced the ministry’s intention to focus on most of the “dualised” roads across the country. “Why we are here now is to announce our intention to face most of the dualised roads in the country,” he declared.
He added, “I want to remind you that the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC) is funding 50 percent of the contract sums and that funding goes up to 2025.
“We have N431 billion of money that is ready for contractors to clear but there are no certificates for it. If you are doing a job under Phase I, make effort to make claims.
If your job involves augmentation, go back to your regional director for understanding before I sign the certificate. Any certificate I sign now, I have to take account for it, even when I have left office,” he maintained.
The minister tasked the contractors to move to one lace if their job had not gone up to 50 percent completion, stressing that he had also come up with performance bond, meaning that all new projects must be guaranteed for 10 years.
He urged all contractors that had built roads that he said cannot last up to 10 years to write to the ministry to either stop work or rebuild the road to last a decade.
He warned contractors that he would not listen to stories of failures on the roads due to overloading, enjoining them to cooperate with him to build roads with concrete technology as it is done in India and Singapore.”
However, there are many who would argue that darkness is not the exclusive prerogative of the accountancy profession. There is darkness everywhere !! Here are a few examples:
Front page of “Saturday Vanguard” newspaper of September 16, 2023.
Headline: “FEAR GRIPS CALABAR RESIDENTS OVER
‘DISAPPEARANCE’ OF MALE GENITALS”
“There have been several reports of the disappearance of male reproductive organs in parts of Calabar and this is causing apprehension and anxiety in the city.
In the past two weeks, there have been several cases of male organs disappearing by some male residents at handshake or body contact with strangers.
Over ten cases are said to have taken place with some organs being returned to the victims by perpetrators while some are said not to have been restored.
“An organ was said to be sold for six hundred thousand naira last week but owing to market forces and high demand the price has gone up to one million per organ” Chibuike, a spare parts dealer told Vanguard.
He said the organs are used for ritual purposes to make money and more people will fall victim if nothing drastic is not done by the authorities to stop the ugly state of events in the city.
“People now put bitter kola in their pockets or hold their private organs tightly while walking on the street or inside commercial vehicles”.
Cases of organ disappearance are said to have occured at Atimbo, Ekpo Abasi, 8 Miles, Watt Market, Atakpa street and some other places in the city.
“It happened in my area, State Avenue by Afokang this morning. Someone lost his penis and it took severe beating of the snatcher before he returned the organ” Blessing Ngi, a resident of Calabar South said.
The Cross River Police Command Spokesman, Ms Irene Ugbo said there is nothing as such thing as stealing of private parts in the city.
“Have you seen anyone whose private part was stolen? Bring him here for medical examination. People should discountenance the rumours and go about their normal businesses” She stressed.
* Bashorun J.K. Randle is a former President of the Institute of the Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) and former Chairman of KPMG Nigeria and Africa Region. He is currently the Chairman, J.K. Randle Professional Services.