Femi Falana, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), says the loot recovered from James Ibori, former governor of Delta, should be returned to the source, which is the state.
Falana stated this when he featured on a Channels Television programme on Wednesday.
Commenting on the position of Abubakar Malami, attorney-general of the federation, who had said the recovered loot will be channelled into federal projects, Falana said the money should go to Delta, since it was meant for the development of the state.
On Tuesday, the United Kingdom made a commitment to return £4.2 million loot recovered from Ibori to the federal government.
Catriona Laing, British high commissioner to Nigeria, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to that effect with Malami.
But speaking on Wednesday, Falana argued that since the Ibori loot in question left the coffers of Delta state, the federal government has no locus standi to decide how the recovered money is spent.
“Having acknowledged the role of the federal government, the fund has to return to the source. Factually, between 1999 and 2003, the Delta state government like other state governments in Nigeria received its statutory allocation on a monthly basis and paid same into the account of the government. From that account, some amount was alleged to have been diverted and taken to the United Kingdom,” he said.
“As the honourable attorney-general had said, the money is over £100 million. What has been released now is the first tranche of £4.2 million. Since the money left the coffers of the Delta state government, it has to be returned once this fund is recovered.
“The federal government has no locus standi with respect to how the money is spent. That is left for the people of Delta state to monitor the government of that state to ensure that the fund is not relooted.
“In fact, the memorandum of understanding referred to by the attorney-general signed in London, smacks of colonialism. Britain cannot decide on how recovered loot should be spent.
“What I expect the attorney-general or the federal government — in the circumstance — is to collaborate with the Delta state government to ensure that the banks that housed the looted wealth of Delta state or the banks involved, are made to pay collosal damages and interests for denying the people of Delta state the opportunity to use the money for development.”
The new EFCC Chief appointed by Buhari, Abdulrasheed Bawa was arrested for theft of confiscated assets and selling of these assets and pocketing the money accruing from such assets, while the cases of the ceased assets were still in Court.
In a publication by People’s Gazette which were seen by The Republican News, it detaied the scale of money made by him through relooting looted assets.
Below is details of that case publish in 2020 before he was appointed the Head of EFCC office in Lagos.
Abdulrasheed Bawa’s transfer to the agency’s most prestigious bureau came amidst probe of his untidy involvement in depletion of confiscated assets.
Abdulrasheed Bawa, head of EFCC field office in Lagos now under investigation for alleged loot of recovered assets The management board of the EFCC confirmed a controversial senior detective to a prestigious appointment despite a slate of unsettled corruption allegations and a cacophony of colleagues who cried foul over the potential damage the agency could suffer if it continues to reward questionable conduct within its ranks.
The anti-graft office asked Abdulrasheed Bawa to lead its field office in Lagos with effect from August 8, despite an active probe of his alleged theft of confiscated proceeds of ill-gotten loot at his previous appointment in Port-Harcourt, multiple sources briefed on the matter told Peoples Gazette.
Mr. Bawa was in-charge of the Port-Harcourt zonal office last year when dozens of petrol-bearing trucks that were confiscated from suspected looters were abruptly auctioned off to his proxies at “ridiculous prices,” sources said.
Three of his junior colleagues who were alarmed by the sheer mismanagement of priced public assets and other suspicious acts of Mr. Bawa’s took immediate steps to curb his excesses by filing anonymous complaints to the headquarters in Abuja, the Gazette understands.
He was subsequently arrested and detained for several days in Port-Harcourt before Ibrahim Magu, erstwhile head of the agency, ordered his transfer to the agency’s training school in Abuja pending conclusion of investigation.
The months-long investigation into Mr Bawa’s alleged corruption and a jarring crackdown on Mr Magu and other ex-senior officials of the EFCC were yet to be concluded when he was tapped for the top job in Lagos, a development that underscores how arbitrary power, unmoored to a transparent standard, can propel individual careers in a frightening miscarriage of justice.
“The government said Magu and others were arrested and flushed out to save the EFCC from institutional damage,” an official said. “But how can you secure people’s confidence if you only trade one crooked officer for another?”
Five anti-graft officials who spoke with the Gazette for this story wished to remain anonymous, citing their active engagement status and a lack of clearance to speak to journalists on a matter that was still under investigation. The Gazette agreed not to identify them in accordance with its policy on anonymous sources.
Mr. Bawa was accused of selling at least 244 trucks worth between N20-30 million each to his proxies at N100,000, or slightly more, per unit.
A proxy sold one of the tankers to a businessman in Ibadan for N14.8 million, officials said, lamenting that the businessman has been evading invitation and the agency is reluctant to declare him wanted in order not to draw public attention to the investigation.
Officials said Mr. Bawa’s handling of the trucks had deprived the Nigerian people of at least N4.88 billion in potential loot recovery.
“If you take a conservative approach and multiply the trucks by N20 million each, even though some were far above that price, you will arrive at N4.88 billion for the 244 trucks he sold out,” a senior EFCC official said. “So Bawa is being compensated for ensuring that nearly N5 billion did not go into the public treasury.”
EFCC’s overhead for 2019 was N3.6 billion, which was also enough to cover its staff strength of 4,962, officials said.
Procedurally, recovered cash and assets are returned to the public coffers upon conclusion of forfeiture proceedings in court. While some of the 244 trucks have been declared as proceeds of corruption by the Federal High Court, the Gazette learnt that forfeiture proceedings on most of them have yet to be concluded before Mr. Bawa sold them off.
For nearly two weeks, Mr. Bawa declined multiple requests for comment from the Gazette for this story.
Wilson Uwujaren, chief spokesman for the EFCC, said he could not provide information on the status of the probe and the decision of moving a subject of an active investigation to Lagos.
“Since the issues of assets are already before the presidential panel, for now we cannot comment on those things,” Mr. Uwujaren told the Gazette on Thursday afternoon.
But in January, Mr. Uwujaren defended Mr. Bawa’s action publicly, saying there was no wrongdoing in the sale of the trucks. Nonetheless, he said in the same statement that a probe had been ordered into the suspicious auction.
Mr. Bawa, a deputy chief detective superintendent, was first confronted by Ola Olukoyede, then EFCC secretary, about the whereabouts of petrol tankers that were under forfeiture by Port-Harcourt zonal office in late 2019, multiple sources, including one official who was present, told the Gazette.
Ola Olukoyede, EFCC secretary on suspension from office. He investigated the controversial sale of recovered assets [Photo Credit: EFCC Twitter Account] Mr. Olukoyede had received complaints that Mr. Bawa was tampering with seized assets that were still undergoing forfeiture proceedings in court. It is illegal to take possession of a citizen’s assets without a due process, which involves getting a federal judge to declare such assets as proceeds of public loot.
“He was asked to explain what happened to over 240 trucks that the zonal office was trying to secure their forfeitures,” a source said. “But he was unable to explain.”
The source said Mr. Bawa initially told Mr. Olukoyede that he got the directives to sell the trucks from Mr. Magu, but he declined to write that claim in his statement.
“It turned out that he was just dropping names, or he was trying to protect Magu,” a source said. “He refused to write it in his statement that it was Magu who sent him.”
The source said Mr. Olukoyede immediately called Mr. Magu, who was away on an official trip at the time, with details of what transpired in Port-Harcourt. After concluding his findings, Mr. Olukoyede returned to Abuja, expecting Mr. Magu to take action upon his return from the trip.
Mr Olukoyede, who has since been suspended from office as part of the raging presidential probe, declined comments for this story.
When he returned, Mr. Magu made an urgent trip to Port-Harcourt, and Mr. Bawa was removed as the zonal head the next day.
“He was ordered to be detained in Port-Harcourt for several days,” another source familiar with the matter said. “He was then asked to report at the training school in Abuja, which we thought would be the end of his career.”
Mr. Magu did not return a request for comment. But in its January statement, the EFCC said Mr. Magu did not benefit from the controversial sale of the trucks, but instead allowed a transparent process to play out.
‘Unmerited and highly political’
Anti-graft detectives, mostly deputy chief detective superintendents, said they thought posting Mr. Bawa to the training school, known as ‘Siberia’ amongst personnel, would take him out of circulation.
They were, however, “disappointed” when a posting circular on August 8 said he had been transferred to Lagos.
An internal memo confirms Mr. Bawa’s transfer to Lagos on August 8, 2020. “We saw him on the list as the new head of Lagos office, and everyone revolted,” the source said. “But our revolt was a quiet one.”
As a member of the elite ‘Course 1’, EFCC’s first set of cadets now mostly at grade-level 13, Mr. Bawa has flaunted his association with Mr Magu, and once acclaimed himself ‘anointed leader’ of the so-called ‘Magu Boys’, sources said.
Mr. Magu led the EFCC from November 2015 until his disgraceful ouster on July 7. He was accused of grossly enriching himself while arresting and prosecuting other Nigerians for graft.
Although a government panel that was raised to hear the charges has yet to return its recommendations, Mr. Magu strongly denied all corruption and abuse of power allegations and asked his lawyers to file court processes aimed at clearing his name.
Still, serving EFCC officials who believe Mr. Magu deserved his inglorious exit said his collaborators within the anti-graft office should have equally suffered a similar fate.
But rather than being affected by his ties to Mr. Magu, Mr. Bawa has instead been propelled to the very job he had deemed beyond reach, his colleagues said.
“He was a don of Magu Boys,” one of his colleagues said. “But he thought his career had finished when he was caught in Port-Harcourt, detained for days and later transferred to the EFCC training school in Karu.”
The EFCC’s zonal office in Lagos is seen as the agency’s main hub of operations, earning a long-standing dread as the nemesis of advanced-fee crooks, corporate racketeers, money launderers and other economic criminals in the commercial capital.
Mr. Bawa’s elevation as the head of Lagos zone, ‘de-facto vice-chairman’ as officers described it to the Gazette, stemmed from his foamy political ties than fortitude, sources said.
Despite being a close associate of Mr. Magu’s, Mr. Bawa managed to maintain a working relationship with Abubakar Malami, Nigeria’s controversial attorney-general who spent years waging supremacy war against the former head of EFCC, according to two EFCC officials familiar with his dealings.
Nigeria’s Attorney General, Abubakar Malami Nigeria’s Attorney General, Abubakar Malami [Photo Credit: The Guardian Nigeria] “He was friends with both enemies,” an official said. “It is now clear that his transfer to Lagos is unmerited and highly political.”
Mr. Malami, himself a subject of multiple corruption claims he has denied, finally realised his plans to remove Mr. Magu from office after years of confrontation. He has since taken over the activities of the anti-graft agency and is believed to be behind a slate of policy changes aimed at undoing Mr. Magu’s legacy.
Both Mr. Malami and a spokesperson for his office did not return requests seeking comments about the attorney-general’s relationship with Mr. Bawa.
‘Joke of the year’
The EFCC has been Nigeria’s most prominent bulwark against endemic corruption since it was introduced by President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2003.
EFCC Head Office, Abuja. Head Office Complex of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) inaugurated by President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja on Tuesday (15/5/18) 02538/15/5/2018/Callistus Ewelike/NAN Since inauguration, its successive heads have been dogged by the spectre of being disgraced out of office, often on allegations of corruption they were detailed to combat.
From Nuhu Ribadu and Farida Waziri to Ibrahim Lamorde and Mr. Magu, every leadership has been mired in controversies. Shortly before his removal from office in 2015, the Nigerian Senate said Mr. Lamorde had mismanaged over $5 billion in public funds. He denied the allegations as a smear campaign.
Fatima Ibrahim, an anti-corruption activist, said the EFCC cannot be taken seriously if its leadership cannot stay above temptation.
“It is now very important that they focus on fighting corruption within their ranks,” Ms. Ibrahim said, decrying Mr. Bawa’s appointment as “an insult to Nigerians.”
“They have promoted someone who has been under investigation for corrupt practices to lead an anti-corruption drive,” Ms. Ibrahim said. “This would be the joke of the year but for its serious ramifications for the country.”
Muhammadu Buhari became Nigeria’s president in 2015 on the back of a promise to check corruption, but his government has continued to wither from one corruption scandal to another.
President Buhari -2 President Buhari has faced calls to do more to check corruption in his government (Photo Credit: Twitter) Other than Messrs. Malami, Magu and Bawa, Mr. Buhari’s top administration secretary, Babachir Lawal, was disgraced out of office in October 2017 after being exposed for stealing funds earmarked for displaced victims of Boko Haram.
Mr. Lawal’s dismissal came months after Mr. Buhari had spent months exonerating the then-secretary to the government against federal lawmakers who wanted him fired and prosecuted for the theft, later widely dubbed as the grass-cutting scandal.
“For a government that keep repeating its unproven bona fides on corruption, there have been too many corruption scandals under this government for anyone to take it seriously,” Ms. Ibrahim said.
Senior aides regularly dismiss criticism that Mr. Buhari’s anti-corruption strategy is a ruse, saying the president does not hesitate to remove, and sometimes recommend for prosecution, any official found with tangible claims of theft or abuse of power.
It was not immediately clear whether or not the presidential panel probing alleged corruption and abuses at the EFCC was aware of Mr. Bawa’s ongoing probe. A spokesperson for the panel did not return a request seeking comments.
The last may not have been heard about the curious appointment of Effiong Okon Akwa as Sole Administrator for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), as Pointblanknews.com just uncovered some dark deals that made such possible.
According to our investigations, the players behind this deal are Niger Delta Affairs minister, Godswill Akpabio, Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, the powerful Personal Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari, Sabiu ‘Tunde’ Yusuf and First Lady Aisha Buhari’s brother, Mahmud Halilu Ahmad.
Despite the Tsunami of opposition to the appointment by stakeholders including the Senate, they pulled the appointment through, granting Akpabio an unfettered hold on the NDDC.
Reliable sources within the presidency told Pointblanknews.com that in the desperation to get the Sole Administrator for the NDDC approved, Akpabio promised to support Attorney General with N25billion from the N453billion 2020 budget of the NDDC towards his governorship ambition.
Malami, a notoriously corrupt Attorney General, is desperately mobilizing resources to run for the Governorship of Kebbi State in 2023
According to our sources, Akpabio also allegedly paid $5million to Malami to secure legal note backing the appointment of a Sole Administrator NDDC and another $5million to Sabiu “Tunde” Yusuf to push the file and have Buhari sign off on the appointment of Akwa, even though a Board had been constituted.
Some stakeholders have consistently contended that the decision to appoint Akwa as Sole Administrator to ‘oversee the ongoing forensic audit of the Commission to its completion’ is alien, illegal, void and seriously offends the fine provisions of Sections 2, 3 and 4 of the NDDC (Establishment) Act, 2000.
One of the stakeholders, Timi Frank had queried “Why is Akpabio and his cohorts in the presidency refusing to appoint a substantive Board for the NDDC, but instead, they have moved from an Interim Management Committee to a Sole Administrator that is not known by the Act establishing the NDDC? “If Akpabio is honest, transparent and has no skeleton or ulterior notions, why appoint a Sole Administrator from Akwa Ibom state that is against the extant Act which clearly states that the Managing Director of the NDDC must come from either Delta or Bayelsa states?”
Sources at the Presidency and Akpabio’s office hinted further that, Part of the loot Tunde collected, was used to purchase a property in Palm Spring Estate for over N1billion. Ambassador Lawan kazaure, the State Chief of protocol also owns a property in the same estate. The estate is regarded as one of the most expensive in Abuja.
Tunde is said to be the defacto president. Sources said “anyone within the government who wants approval for anything from the president, pays Tunde. Without paying, memos are killed, appointments withheld”
Sources told Pointblanknews.com that Akpabio also paid an undisclosed sum to Mahmud Halilu Ahmad, a brother to First lady Aisha Buhari to help to lobby the first lady to ensure the idea of a Sole Administrator for NDDC scaled through.
According to our source “Malami argued that he was misled into approving the Sole Administrator for NDDC, but he has not withdrawn the approval or advised the President to sack the Sole Administrator. The money he collected to do the dirty job is reason he cannot go back to the President to ask for the removal of the NDDC Sole Administrator”.
Sources also said Akpabio’s payments to the trio is to ensure he gets complete control of the NDDC and the Niger Delta Ministry.
Frank, a Political activist and former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressive Congress, had instituted a case against Akpabio led cartel in the NDDC following its refusal to rescind its appointment of a Sole Administrator to pilot the affairs of the Commission. A former Governor of Bayelsa State, Senator Henry Seriake Dickson, had also condemned the appointment of a Sole Administrator for the NDDC describing it as an illegality which should be corrected immediately. Dickson also suggested that the capital budget of the Niger Delta Development Commission shouldn’t be implemented by the sole administrator who is unknown to the law. As a fallout of his observation, the Senate rejected the appointment of a sole administrator for the commission and resolved to prevail on the Federal Government to ensure immediate constitution of the board of the NDDC.The Senate agreed that the appointment of a sole administrator for the NDDC was illegal and indeed an aberration and should be corrected immediately.
The National Coordinator of People’s Democratic Party Coalition, Chief Dr Emeka Kalu, had described as worrisome, the total silence of all the Governors from the NDDC States over the plot by Akpabio and the Presidency to sabotage the role of NDDC Agency to the oil producing region by appointing a sole Administrator that will make it expressly possible to embezzle the N453.2B 2020 budget of the Agency without recourse to the suffering masses of the area. (Pointblanknews.com)