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2015 Slush Funds Nightmare For PDP Chieftains As EFCC Comes After Them

By FELIX NWANERI

 

It is not the best of time for some chieftains of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over allegations of receiving various sums of money from the N23 billion allegedly shared by former Minister of Petroleum, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, for them to influence the outcome of the 2015 presidential election. FELIX NWANERI reports

 

Many Nigerians were shocked when pictures of former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, were published by an online medium in November 2015. The charming lady, who called the shots in the nation’s oil and gas sector, when his kinsman and immediate past president, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, held sway, looked her old self in the pictures. She was said to have been diagnosed with cancer and undergoing chemotherapy in a British hospital.

Before then, the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration, which succeeded Jonathan had accused Alison-Madueke of an illegal withdrawal of $6.9 million from the account of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to fund a “bogus purchase of three stages for Jonathan’s public appearances” when she superintended over the affairs of the Petroleum ministry. Despite her pitiable state, there were divided opinions among Nigerians over the pictures.

While many described the images as a sympathy stunt, others opined that the new look of the former Petroleum minister was saddening. Amidst the doubts, the Madueke family opened up on the former minister’s health and money laundering allegations against her.

The family described reports on the latter as a “smear campaign.” Confirming that the former minister is down with cancer, it urged Nigerians to pray for her recovery. Perhaps, the recovery prayers for the minister were answered, but shocking revelations about her activities, when she presided over the nation’s cash cow – the oil and gas sector paints a picture of one who conducted public affairs for private advantage.

For instance, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said its investigations revealed that the former minister purchased a sky-scrapper on the highbrow Banana Island of Lagos State sometime in 2013 at a cost of $37.5 million for which she paid in cash. Shortly after that was another shocker.

This time, the EFCC revealed that it has so far traced N47.2 billion and $487.5 million in cash and property to the former minister. The anti-graft agency further revealed that a search of one of Alison-Madueke’s palatial residences in Abuja also turned up boxes of gold, silver and diamond jewellery, worth several million pounds. The most numbing record-shattering acquisitions of Alison-Madueke, the EFCC added, were also found in the ritzy Banana Island, Lagos.

It said they consist of two apartments at the Bella Vista Court. The apartments, which have penthouses, are located on Block C-5, Flat 21, Plot 1, Zone N. For them, the commission said a $350 million hole was dug in the Nigerian treasury on November 22, 2011, by Alison-Madueke. Also in Lagos, the former minister was alleged to have bought a block of six units’ serviced apartments at number 135, Awolowo Road, Ikoyi.

The apartment has a standby power generating set, sporting facilities, playground and a water treatment plant and was bought at the rate of N800 million on January 6, 2012. Other properties, the commission said it discovered are located at number 7, Thurnburn Street and 5, Raymond Street. Both properties, worth N1 billion were paid for on May 30, 2012, the same day Alison-Madueke also allegedly splashed N900 million for an estate in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

The EFCC further said it traced to the former minister in Lagos is a twin four-bedroom duplex on Plot 33, Block 112, Lekki Peninsula Residential Scheme Phase 1, with an estimated value of over N200 million; a large expanse of land at Oniru, Victoria Island, bought on February 16, 2012, for N135 million; plot 8, Gerard Road Ikoyi; a penthouse on the 11th Floor in the Block B Wing of the building bought for N12 Million on December 20, 2011.

In Abuja are a duplex on plot 10, Frederick Chiluba Close, Asokoro District acquired in December 2009 at the cost of N400 million; a mini estate located on Plot 1205, Cadastral Zone B06, Mabushi Gardens Estate, purchased on April 2, 2012 at N650 million; a 6-bedroom en-suite apartment in Aso Drive, Maitama bought on July 20, 2011, for N80 million, while in her native Bayelsa State, was an apartment with two blocks of flats on Goodluck Jonathan Road, Yenagoa.

The anti-graft commission added that Alison-Madueke has N23.4 billion and $5 million (about N1.5 billion) in various Nigerian banks. While the former minister, who is still recuperating in London, has persistently claimed that she is a victim of EFCC’s persecution, the claim that she received $115.01million (N23 billion) from three oil marketers ahead of the 2015 general elections and distributed the money to some chieftains of the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for them to influence the outcome of the 2015 presidential election, has perhaps, dwarfed other allegations against her. Among those presently being tried for allegedly benefiting from the slush fund are former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Jumoke Akinjide; former senator representing Oyo Central Senatorial District, Ayo Adeseun; a PDP leader in Oyo State, Chief Olarenwaju Otiti.

Others are former governor of Kano State, Ibrahim Shekarau; a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Aminu Wali; former deputy governor of Sokoto State, Mukhtar Shagari; former governorship candidate of the party in Edo State, Osagie Ize-Iyamu and chairman of the party in the state, Dan Orbih.

Akinjide, Adeseun and Otiti alleged to have received N650m

An EFCC investigator, Usman Zakari, who testified before a Federal High Court in Lagos, presided by Justice Muslim Hassan, in the trial of former Minister of the FCT, Jumoke Akinjide, charged alongside Senator Adeseun and Chief Otiti, said the accused allegedly received N650 million cash in March 2015 at the Dugbe branch of a bank in Ibadan on Alison-Madueke’s instructions, and that the money was part of N23 billion which the former oil minister kept in the bank.

Led in evidence by prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, Zakari said the commission received a “Category A intelligence” about a meeting at Alison-Madueke’s house in December 2014 with the bank’s Managing Director and some oil marketers. According to him, the former minister told the bank chief that the oil marketers would bring hard currencies to the bank and that he should keep the money until further directives.

Giving a breakdown of how the money was raised, Zakari said Autus Integrated Ltd took $17.8 million to the bank, Northern Belt Oil and Gas lodged $60 million, while Mid-Western Oil Services Ltd paid $9.5 million. “An individual, Lano Adesanya, brought the sum of $1.8 million.

Our findings further revealed that the three oil marketers made payment of the sum of $89 million and some fractions. Investigations further revealed that the then petroleum minister’s aides made available $25 million and some fractions in suitcases,” the witness said, adding that Alison-Madueke later directed the bank to convert the dollars to naira, which was complied with, after which she allegedly directed that the defendants be paid.

They accused had pleaded not guilty to the charge and were granted bail. At the commencement of trial, the defence counsel had objected to the admissibility of the statement of the first accused on the grounds that same was not voluntarily obtained. Consequently, the court ordered a trial within- trial to test the voluntariness of the statement obtained by the EFCC.

Shekarau, Wali and Ahmad accused of collecting N950m

Malam Ibrahim Shekarau, a former governor of Kano State and ex-minister of Education was last week Tuesday quizzed by the EFCC alongside former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Aminu Wali and Engr Mansur Ahmad for laundering N950 million, funds earmarked for 2015 general elections logistics.

The anti-graft agency had invited the trio in preparation for their arraignment last Thursday. Counsel to Shekarau, Abdul Fage, who briefed newsmen shortly after the arrival of the former minister at the EFCC’s office, said: “Shekarau is being accused of collecting N25 million as a person from the total sum N950 million.

We are here to honour their invitation after we received their letter about a week ago demanding that our clients should be available today for further questioning in preparation for Thursday arraignment.”

The former governor in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Malam Sule Ya’u Sule, said: “the EFCC despite lack of evidence is insisting on prosecuting the former Minister of Education Mal Ibrahim Shekarau over the N25 million 2015 election logistics fund allegedly given to him.

Since 2016, when the issue of election fund came up, Shekarau was invited by the EFCC to explain the amount given to him along with other stakeholders of the party in Kano to prosecute the election, but he denied ever receiving such amount and challenged EFCC to produce anyone who has given him the money or any evidence to prove that he actually collected the money.

“Based on this, the former minister was asked to go, however, surprisingly, for reason best known to EFCC, we received communication from the agency that the former minister is to be arraigned before a Federal High Court in Kano on Thursday this week over the same alleged N25 million election fund.”

But the EFCC was not swayed by political meanings read about its invitation to the former governor given that he has declared an intention to contest the 2019 presidential election as it went ahead to arraign him alongside Wali and Ahmad as scheduled on a six-count charge bordering on conspiracy and money laundering to the tune of N950 million.

Counsel to the EFCC, Johnson Ojoghame, told the court that the defendants had between March 26 and 27, 2015 in Kano, conspired between themselves and received various sums of money without going through financial institutions.

He told the court that the money was issued out to the defendants by the PDP and Alison- Madueke. The prosecutor said that the offences contravened sections 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (prohibition) Act 2011 as amended and punishable under section 16 (2)(b) of the same Act and Section 15(1) of money laundering Act.

The trio pleaded not guilty to the charges and their counsel, Mr Ologunolisa Sam (SAN), made a written bail application in respect of the defendants under Section 163 of the Criminal Justice Act 2015. He said: “The defendants were, early in May 2016, invited by the EFCC and at no time were they found wanting when they were granted bail. If granted bail, the defendants would not jump bail, nor commit any offence and would not tamper with a police investigation.”

The Judge, Justice Zainab Abubakar- Bage granted the defendants bail in the sum of N100 million each with two reliable sureties in like sum. She said that the first surety should have landed property within the jurisdiction of the court while the second surety should not be below the rank of a director.

The judge ordered the defendants to surrender their international passports and two recent passport size photographs to the Deputy Chief Registrar of the court while adjourning to June 26, for trial.

Ize-Iyamu, Orbih, three orders remanded over alleged complicity in N700m

In Edo State, the PDP’s candidate in the 2016 governorship election, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, the state chairman of the party, Chief Dan Orbih; former Deputy Governor of the state, who is now a chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Lucky Imasuen; a former member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Tony Azegbemi and one Efe Anthony, were also last Thursday arraigned before Federal High Court sitting in Benin over their alleged complicity in N700 million campaign funds.

The accused had been in the custody of EFCC for 11 days before their arraignment before Justice P. I. Adjokwu on an eight-count charge of money laundering. According to the EFCC charge sheet, Ize-Iyamu and others were accused of taking possession and control of the sum of N700 million without any contract award, which they ought to have known to form part of proceeds of an unlawful act, to wit; fraud and corruption; and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 15(2)(d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 as amended in 2012, and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act.

However, they pleaded not guilty when the charges were read to them by counsel to the EFCC, Larry Peters Aso. Justice Adjokwu later granted them bail in the sum of N10 million each and a surety in like sum, who must be Grade Level 16 public servants or above, and should deposit the Certificate of Occupancy of their building with the Deputy Chief Registrar of the court.

Earlier in their arguments for bail applications, counsels to the accused, Charles Edosomwan (for Ize-Iyamu); Dr O.G Izevbuwa (Mr Imasuen); Kehinde Ogunsumi (Azegbemi); Ferdinand Orbih (for Chief Dan Orbih) and Prof. Jim Akhere Akhere, pleaded that their clients be granted bail on self-recognizance. On his part, counsel to the EFCC, Aso, noted that the bio-data of the suspects had not been captured and requested the court to order stringent bail conditions and money to ensure the defendants are in court.

But, Justice Adjokwu, in her ruling, said she only exercised her discretion in granting the accused person bail. The judge, however, ordered that they should be remanded in prison custody pending when they would have met the bail conditions, while adjourning sitting on the matter to July 4, 2018.

Shagari, four others were tried for N500m

Mukhtar Shagari, a deputy governor of Sokoto State and ex-Minister of Water Resources, was arraigned last week Tuesday before Justice Idrissa Kolo of the Federal High Court Sokoto on a five-count charge of conspiracy and money laundering to the tune of N500 million. Charged alongside the former minister was Senator Abdallah Wali, a PDP governorship candidate in 2015; Alhaji Ibrahim Gidado, a former commissioner of information; Alhaji Ibrahim Milgoma, PDP State Chairman and Treasurer of the party, Alhaji Nasiru Dalhatu Bafarawa. According to the anti-graft agency, the defendants allegedly benefited from the slush cash to senior members of the PDP to influence the outcome of the 2015 presidential election, which was not distributed through any financial institution in flagrant violation of provisions of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act.

One of the charges preferred against Shagari read:“You Mukhtar Shehu Shagari, Ibrahim Gidado and Ibrahim Milgoma sometime in March 2015, within the justification of this honourable court did conspire among yourselves to receive cash payment of the sum of N500 million from one Abdulrahaman Ibrahim without transacting through a financial institution and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18(a) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011 as amended and punishable under section 16(2) of the same Act.”

The defendants, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge when it was read to them. Prosecution counsel Johnson Ojogbane requested a date for trial in view of the plea of the defendants and also asked that the defendants be remanded in prison custody. Counsel representing the 1st, 3rd and 4th defendants, Ibrahim Abdulaziz, as well as counsel for the 2nd and 5th defendants Ibrahim Idris, and L.A Abdulkadir, respectively applied for bail of their clients pending the determination of the case.

Responding, Ojogbane confirmed that he was served with the various bail applications by the applicants but also reminded the court that he was only served on May 21 and therefore needed time to respond. Justice Idrissa after listening to the arguments of both parties remanded the defendants in police custody till Thursday, May 24 for the hearing and determination of bail, which they were granted in the tune of N25 million each. In his ruling on the bail applications, Justice Idrissa Sale Kogo said they should equally provide two sureties who must be civil servants of grade level 13 and residing within the jurisdiction of the court.

The judge further directed that the five defendants deposit their international passports in the court, while their sureties must have properties worth the amount of bail and must depose to an affidavit before the court.   (New Telegraph)

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