Monthly Archives: December 2007

House May Indict El-Rufai Over Abuja Land Scam!

The report of an administrative panel set up by the administration of Aliyu Modibo, minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Aliyu Modibo to probe allocation of lands under the tenure of his predecessor Nasir El-Rufai has locked both in battle of wit.

The panel, according to sources was set up by Modibbo to investigate allegations of funds diversion, revocation of lands without due process, underpayment and possible diversion of land funds from the purse of the FCT administration to private hands.

Sources said that the report turned in some damning findings against the past administration of El-Rufai.

The camp of El-Rufai was reported to have responded and claimed that the former minister was not invited to appear before the panel to defend himself.

Sources claimed that the probe investigated allegations that former minister consolidated Plot 132 Wuye(B03), said to have been consolidated and allegedly diverted to some other persons on further allegation that it was transverse by a sewer.

Another plot, according to the report and for which the former minister was investigated was Plot 123, Central Business District (A00), said to have been revoked from the National Eye Hospital.

The allegation against the former minister, according to sources was that he revoked the land without taking due cognizance of the humanitarian use the hospital was meant to serve.

Other land allocations the former minister was investigated included Plot 28, Kukbawa and Plot 388 in the Central Business District. Both lands were alleged to have been revoked without due process and allegedly allocated them to some other persons under questionable circumstances.

Sources close to the El-Rufai however claimed that the former minister had prepared his defense to the allegations even though he was not confronted by the panel.

Sources said that the controversial plots were revoked and awarded under the Accelerated Development Programme of his administration as FCT minister.

The plots in the central area were specifically mentioned as falling under the Accelerated Development Programme.

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Transcorp: House May Ask NSE DG to Step Aside

In an effort to allow proper investigation into the affairs of Transnational Corporation of Nigeria (Transcorp), members of the House of Representatives have revealed that the Director General of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), who also doubles as the Chairman of Transcorp, Dr. Ndi Okereke-Onyiuke, may be asked to step aside in either of the two bodies.
Members of the House Committee on Capital Market confirmed to THISDAY in Abuja yesterday that, “the National Assembly wants to conduct a proper investigation on ‘the real people behind the Transcorp, the number of shares held and the cause of lack of performance in the system,’ which explains Onyiuke-Okereke’s invitation to appear before the lawmakers in Abuja.”
They explained that the “committee will likely invite the DG of NSE and ask her to either resign as the DG of the NSE or the chairmanship of Transcorp. With her sitting as the DG and chairman it will not be proper. She is the engine room of both organisations and this points to a big problem. We feel the right thing is for her to resign so that she handles the issues very well. It is even illegal.”
The committee said the House would find out how much was expected to be realised from the private placements and public offer done by Transcorp and how much was actually realised.
They told THISDAY that they had discovered that the money might have been diverted to other areas, which was not what it set out to do in the first place.
“We have received several petitions from investors who spent so much money buying the shares of Transcorp. But they have not declared how much they made, and why they have also refused to issue share certificates to so many of the investors who bought both the private placements and the public offers when the company did it.
“Nigerians deserve to know all these facts and figures so that we can move forward. We cannot use people to get what you want. We want to know the shareholding of the investors and how they came about it,” a member who craved anonymity said.
The investigative hearing is coming up after the House said last week that it would no longer allow fresh public offers on the NSE and private placements by financial institutions pending the conclusion of an investigative hearing on the banking consolidation slated for the second week of January 2008.
Some members however told THIDAY that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) should not have allowed Transcorp to go into the market to seek funds if the regulatory body was carrying out its functions effectively.
“It was wrong for SEC to have allowed Transcorp to float the public offer. It was too early in the life of the company. But the shares of Transcorp were undersubscribed when they came to the market. And it was simply a response to the market forces. Investors don’t have confidence in the company and simply shut it out from the portfolios,” said the member.
The Chairman of the Committee, Honourable Ahmed Wadada, and some other lawmakers had shortly before the House went on vacation raised a motion on the floor of the House for a thorough check on the NSE.
The motion sailed through following which the Capital Markets Committee decided to summon the chiefs of the 25 consolidated banks, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), NSE and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to explain certain irregularities found after the exercise. Wadada and his members invited SEC officials thrice and even wrote to find out some issues.
After the meeting, the Committee decided that “until after the investigative hearing, all the new public offers will be put aside. The House is not satisfied with the roles of the SEC and will after the hearing find ways of strengthening the institutions.
“We have deliberated several times with the officials of SEC and we frown on them for shirking their responsibilities. They have to do their jobs and if they say that they cannot or have the power to stop these banks from carrying out all these offers, then we have to find a way of making them do it.”

– Thisday

Agabi writes Yar’Adua on Nuhu Ribadu

FORMER Justice Minister and Attorney-General of the Federation, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN), has pointed out anomalies in the purported removal of Malam Nuhu Ribadu as the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

In a protest letter to President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Agabi described the timing of the action on Ribadu as wrong, though Nuhu Ribadu, like any human being, he admitted, is not indispensable.

In a tone dripping with emotion, Agabi. who is known to have recommended Ribadu for the EFCC job, said that if the action was not reviewed, Nigeria could become a laughing stock in the international community and its anti-corruption crusade condemned.

The former minister, during whose tenure Ribadu was appointed, told President Yar’Adua that he received the news of the Federal Government’s action with sadness, lamenting that Ribadu’s transfer from the anti-graft body could spell doom for the nation.

He told the President not to waste the goodwill he enjoys from Nigerians over his much publicized zero tolerance for corruption.

Agabi said that God favoured President Yar’Adua for the office because of his sterling qualities and urged him not to squander that mandate.

He remarked that Nigeria would survive Ribadu, adding that the government has the right to send him on course, except that it came at a time speculations were rife in the media about the plan.

In the letter made available to The Guardian yesterday, Agabi wrote: “I congratulated you shortly after your election as President of our great nation. I do so again. I will never cease to thank God by whose grace you have become our leader. And I will never cease to thank you whose life of merit and sacrifice God has rewarded by your elevation to this highest of all offices.

“God has blessed you eminently, but may He bless you a thousand times even more as you labour to lift our country out of this valley of shame and corruption. By His grace, you will shield us from all the evils that now menace us on every side.

“I was sad, and so I think, were many Nigerians, when it was first rumoured that the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission would have to leave office for nine months to attend a course at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS). I have great respect for that institution and I have often wished that I had the opportunity and the privilege to benefit from the courses offered there. And I have no doubt whatsoever that the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission will come away from that course a much better man than he is now. At the same time, I am firmly convinced that to move him away now will give the impression to well meaning Nigerians and foreigners that your government is indifferent to the fight against corruption. The more reckless of our critics will even say that we now support corruption.

“We had hoped and we continue to hope that you are the President whose every thought, word and deed will pave for the nation, indeed the African continent and the black race a new path of righteousness without which we will continue to be stigmatised by the rest of the world as a backward, corrupt and primitive people.

“What you are called upon to decide now, therefore, is not just the fate of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission but the fate of our country, our continent and the black race. That is not to say that the Chairman of the Commission is indispensable. No, he is not. The country will survive him. And so will the Commission. I dare say that there are many Nigerians who can do as well or even better than he is doing. It is the timing that we are worried about. It comes shortly after justifiable suspicion that some attempts have been made to remove him from office and at a time when our newspapers are rife with comments casting aspersions on our sincerity.

“To move the Chairman of the EFCC away now will undermine the good work that you are doing. So effective have you been in the short time that you have been in office that even your mere silence achieves results. It will also undermine the good work that the Inspector General of Police is doing to rebuild the Police Force after the reputation of that institution was damaged by the fate that befell the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice has championed so eloquently and so consistently. Saddest of all, those whose activities led to the establishment of the Commission will see this as a triumph and a victory for themselves.”

Agabi continued: “I concede that mistakes have been made in our fight against corruption. So it is all over the world. Corruption can never be fought perfectly. If ever we are able to attain that level it will be at a time when there is no more corruption to be fought. So I am of the respectful view that whatever mistakes that are being made or have been made in our fight against corruption should be corrected while the fight goes on. As Williams Shakespeare said; ‘men, rather their broken swords, use than their bare hands.’ Let us not throw away single weapon that we have. Let us make the best use that we can of it. Let us correct ourselves and move forward.”

In conclusion, he wrote: “I write this letter to you with a prayer to God that you will see fit to grant my request made in good faith in what I perceive to be the interest of our country. I appeal to you to stay action on the move to send the Chairman of the EFCC on a course of studies. There will always be time for that. The love and respect which I bear you do not permit that I should be silent at this time. At the same time, I approach this matter with a prayer for forgiveness in case you should think that I ought not to have written as I have done.

It is a privilege, my beloved President to write to you but I shall feel even more highly honoured if you give some thought to my appeal. Amen,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole has said that the House would look into the law on the appointment of the chairman of the EFCC and other directors to ensure that it follows due process.

He stated this yesterday at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos on his return from Kenya while reacting to the Inspector General of Police, Mike Okiro’s action of sending Ribadu on course to the NIPSS, Kuru, Jos.

Dimeji, however, frowned at the furore the issue had caused, stressing that “it is normal for superior officers to ask junior officers to go on course” but noted that the House would definitely look into the method used in carrying out such decisions and ensure that it follows due process.

His words: “The House will look into the laws concerning the appointment of the EFCC chairman and other directors there and if the law was followed no problems. But if the rule of law was not followed, then we will ask questions.”

 – The Guardian

Furor Over Ribadu’s N250 Million Abuja Residence

The removal of Mallam Nuhu Ribadu as chairman of Nigeria’s anti corruption agency, Economic and Financial crimes Commission (EFCC), is getting messier by the day as those opposed to him continue to churn out allegations of misconduct and financial impropriety against him.

Now the battle against Ribadu has shifted to the purchase of his private residence said to be valued at two hundred and fifty million naira (N250m). The house located at Aso Drive in the upscale area of Abuja right in the same neighborhood with the Presidential Villa was the official residence of former Inspector General of Police Mr. Sunday Ehindero. Ehindero used the house when he was still a Deputy Inspector General of police.

According a petition before the Presidency, though Ribadu bought the house and uses it as his private residence, it was purchase through his father in law Professor Iya Abubakar. The Presidency source insists that the potential for damage to government’s anticorruption drive and the need to prevent same also contributed to Ribadu’s removal as head of the agency.

Another source at the Presidency told The Times of Nigeria that there are many forces that worked against Ribadu because of the way he carried out his responsibilities during the tenure of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

“The way he disrespected former Vice President Abubarkar Atiku has not endeared him to many people. I hope you do realize that the former VP and Yar’Adua have been having discussions on how to move the country forward. Part of the discussion may be that Ribadu be dropped for the obvious ways he was used to wage war against Atiku.”The source said.

Additionally, the source said that Ribadu’s second term in office is still in doubt as his reappointment by former President Obasanjo in the dying  days of his administration was never received the blessing of the Senate as stipulated by the EFCC Act.

“The EfCC act requires that the president appoints the Chairman of the Commission with the clearance and approval of the Senate of the Federal Republic. This was fulfilled in his first tenure of four years but for his reappointment for a second tenure, which reappointment was surreptitiously done in the twilight days of the Obansanjo administration, no reference was made to the Senate.

“This has left a legal loophole for the collapse of all the cases the agency has filed against those the agency has charged to court, as defense lawyers are set to rubbish the cases on the legal competence of Ribadu to operate in the capacity of chairman of the agency, having not been presented to and cleared by the Senate for appointment to a second term of office as required by law” according to the Presidency source.

However, Nuhu Ribadu is not taking his removal kindly. His sympathizers, mostly members of the media and the Human Rights community are pushing for a reversal of his removal.

Our investigations revealed that a few days ago, Ribadu in the company of business mogul Aliko Dangote and Andy Uba, former special assistant to and hatchet man of Obasanjo regime, visited the former President in his Ota farm residence and pleaded for his intervention with President Yar’Adua for Ribadu’s reinstatement, arguing before Obasanjo that Ribadu’s removal was to pave way for the appointment of an  EFCC chairman who will subsequently be used to investigate the numerous petitions against him and his family members and business associates and possibly prosecute them.  They succeeded and Obasanjo has quickly secured an appointment to see Yar’Adua on New Year ’s Day to plead for the reversal of Nuhu Ribadu’s removal as head of EFCC.

 

FG Bars Ibori’s Visitors

The Federal Government has banned further visits to the former Delta State governor, Chief James Ibori, currently in Kaduna Prison over money laundering.

A Federal High Court sitting in Kaduna remanded him in prison custody following his arraignment for more than 100 corrupt charges.

Our correspondents learnt that the ban became necessary so as not to compromise the security of the prisons.

The government issued the directive banning visitors to the former governor on Friday to the Comptroller of the Prison, Alhaji Momoh Momodu.

It was discovered that the prison officials swiftly moved to enforce the directive as they rebuffed desperate attempts by some prospective visitors to have access to the politician.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on December 13 arraigned Ibori for allegedly defrauding the state of more than N9bn.

He and four others were arraigned on a 103-count charge of money laundering and abuse of office.

The commission, in one of the charges, alleged that on April 26, 2007, the former governor made a cash payment of N1.8bn ($15m) to EFCC investigators in order to influence their investigation.

Ibori is due to appear on January 11 at the Federal High Court in Kaduna over corruption charges.

However, some members of the Delta State House of Assembly were lucky on Friday as they were able to visit him before the directive took effect.

But another team, led by the Majority Leader in the House, Chief Efe Afe, were turned back because of the ban.

Momodu confirmed the new security measures when he received eight members of the House in his office on Friday morning

He told them that he had just received very strict orders from Abuja to stop such visits.

The Majority Leader was said to have made spirited efforts to persuade Momoh to allow the team to see Ibori since some legislators from the House had the opportunity to do so a few hours before the team arrived.

But the comptroller said he could not flout the directive from Abuja, banning further visits to the former governor.

When our correspondent contacted him in his office Friday, Momoh confirmed the ban. However, he declined to expatiate on the reasons for the ban.

“I am sorry about the development. I have just received orders from Abuja, and there are very firm text messages on my phone to that effect. The order is that there should be no more visits until further notice,” Momoh stressed.

But Dr. Festus Okubor, who served as the Commissioner of Health and Information under Ibori, told our correspondent that some of the expected visitors to Ibori included members of his legal team. “Chief Ibori himself has said that he will like to see his legal team,” Okubor said.

“But because of his health condition, it is necessary for him to have enough rest. You will also understand that the Kaduna Prison only has limited manpower to monitor visitors. So, they had a deliberate decision to bring down the number of visitors, but it is not a matter of state policy. But in the meantime, like every detainee, he is entitled to see visitors he wants to see. So, the issue of restrictions will not arise,” he said.

However, in a contradiction, Okubor said the associates of the former governor had advised him to reduce the number of his visitors because of his bad health.

He said, “Because of his health condition, and the fear that it may deteriorate, we have advised that the number of visitors be controlled. Ibori has been sick for a very long time; he has been hypertensive for a very long time. When he was in office, in 2005 or 2006, there was a time we almost lost him; he had to be flown abroad. Those symptoms are recurring.

– The Punch

The Sins Of Ribadu According To Aso Rock!

As more facts have emerged over why Aso Rock eased Mallam Nuhu Ribadu out of his former job at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), there are indications that sending him on a course at Kuru was actually a safe landing for him. This is even as the Villa was agog with the story on Friday that there were moves to doctor documents to cover contracts of over N50 million at the EFCC headquarters. The contracts were said to have been used to acquire arms for EFCC operatives, but was not presented for due process test. Contracts of over a million Naira must be presented to the Federal Executive council meeting, but instead, the contracts were farmed out in smaller amounts.

This may be final cause for Ribadu’s redeployment. Presidency sources said the course option was adopted within the past few days instead of some harsher ones that were being considered. The Police Force was not ready to receive him now as his unprecedented three promotions in three years which alienated him from much of the officer corps. Also, the President had actually made up his mind that he would not work with him, even before the May 29th inauguration.

Before Yar’Adua’s emergence as the ruling party’s official flag bearer, he had reportedly sought a meeting with the EFCC chairman but was rebuffed. Though all that changed after he won the party’s primaries and eventually the disputed election, Yar’Adua never forgave Ribadu for the slight. He was one of those penciled down for replacement when Yar’Adua was sworn-in as President but somehow survived the purge as former President Obasanjo came to his rescue.

The source said President Umaru Yar’Adua  had decided to change all the heads of the security outfits in the coming year, removing Ribadu from the EFCC was urgent to him as it was widely felt that Ribadu was too attached to the Obasanjo Administration and too politicized to fit into the Unity Government that was being planned. Sources said that the Unity Government idea came from the security services, especially the State Security Service (SSS), and in the memo to Yar’Adua proposing it, changing people’s perception of the SSS, EFCC and even the Independent National Electoral Commission as the President’s instruments of coercion as they were under Obasanjo was stressed. Yar’Adua bought the idea, and that explains why he started electoral reforms early in the day.

About Ribadu, the source said that Yar’Adua told him that he had to go, for he had over-politicized his office for Obasanjo’s sake, but that he would seek out a good posting for him. Yar’Adua actually made moves, as has been reported in the media to get Ribadu a United Nation’s job.  Apart from the listed issues, there is the case of Ribadu’s file. The source said: “what to do about Ribadu’s file became a dilemma for President Yar’Adua. Almost on weekly basis, petitions about him kept pouring in. The more the President looked into petitions, the more he became convinced that there was the need to ease him out and get another person to lead the anti-corruption fight”.

It was gathered that one of the petitions that sealed Ribadu’s fate was the well-publicized one that came from the former Plateau State Governor, Joshua Dariye. Even now, despite explanations from him and the British authorities, the Federal Government is still unconvinced and is proceeding with its investigations into the weighty allegations over the missing money and who benefited. Issues of landed properties, using names of under-aged children, friends, relations and companies, when his friend Mallam Nasir el’Rufai headed Abuja administration, were also included.

Other allegations boarder on under-selling of confiscated properties to relations and cronies of EFCC officials, seizure of properties for personal use, and outright blackmail and extortion by operatives, whose lifestyles is said to be too flamboyant for anti-corruption agency staff. In fact the President was said to have been shocked when he learnt that EFCC had raised a team of undercover agents to acquire information regarding ownership of landed property in Abuja ; and that the information so acquired was routinely being used to blackmail people.

One of the last things that forced the President’s hand against Ribadu was the report he got of EFCC’s attempt to set up the Attorney – General of the Federation and Justice Minister, Michael Aondoakaa. According to the plan, the AGF was to be roped into a drug scandal by the EFCC using ex-National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) staff now working for EFCC.

When this came the same week with another damaging report that Ribadu was plotting with Dr. Andy Uba, and others close to the last administration to divide the Presidency, prop up Vice President Goodluck Jonathan to replace his boss if the election petition tribunal eventually annuls the last presidential election, he decided he had had enough of Ribadu. This, said a close aide to Yar’Adua, made the President to issue a statement recently that he was not about to abandon his mandate. It was a reply to Uba (who was angry that Yar’Adua had ordered the re-opening of the double assassination of Igwe and his wife in Onitsha in 2002) and the group backing the Vice President.   

After this what remains was to work out the details; that was where Okiro was brought in. The Police I.G. refused to re-absorb Ribadu right away, arguing that any action he took would be misconstrued by Ribadu’s friends in the media. The government has since been worried that the EFCC boss was engineering the media, NGOs, and even some officials of certain political parties to be churning out anti-Yar’Adua press statements.

The source said that Ribadu, while still a Commissioner of Police, bought the Mambilla Street, Aso Drive, residence of Okiro, who was a Deputy Inspector General of Police, for N300 million. The Times of Nigeria was unable to independently verify this assertion.

Now, there are indications that the Presidency will pass on the petitions to Ribadu’s successor for thorough investigation. Aso Rock wants to know why Ribadu refused to act when the money laundering case, using the Presidential jet, was reported  against Uba. So too with the bribery allegation scandal against daughter of the former President, Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, reported to the EFCC in 2006. Other allegations and petitions are already being dusted up by Aondoakaa for legal actions, and the legal fire works will begin within the next few weeks.

Ribadu: Scared Obasanjo Set To Lobby Yar’Adua Over Removal!

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo is set to meet with President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua over the removal of Malam Nuhu Ribadu as the head of anti corruption agency, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Since the removal of Ribadu was first announced by The Times of Nigeria two days ago, loyalists of former President Olusegun Obasanjo have been holding frantic meetings both in Lagos and Abuja on how to convince President Yar’Adua to reverse the decision.

The Times of Nigeria can reveal that the arrowhead of the move to reverse Ribadu’s removal are the former personal assistant to President Obasanjo, Dr. Andy Uba and business mogul, Aliko Dangote whose business empire benefited tremendously from Obasanjo 8 years administration in the form of preferential treatments in key areas of country industry.

Uba and Dangote have already convinced Obasanjo on the need to meet with Yar’Adua and a New Year ’s Day meeting has already been scheduled with President Yar’Adua at the Presidential Villa.

Obasanjo himself is said to be uneasy with the direction things are going in Presidency especially with the removal of Ribadu. There have been several petitions for the former President and some members of his families to be probed by EFCC. The source said that Obasanjo is concerned that those petitions maybe acted upon with the removal of Ribadu.

“This will probably lead to a probe of Obasanjo’s business empire including his handling of affairs of the Petroleum ministry and the NNPC during his administration. The Nigeria/Sao Tome Joint Development Zone (JDZ) is another area that Obasanjo is scared that any investigation into it may result is either jail term of total embarrassment that tarnish whatever is left of his legacy.”

Uba and Dangote have been accused of using Ribadu to protect their business interest and the Presidency was said to have been briefed on it in the past. Though Dangote contributed heavily to Yar’Adua’s presidential campaign, he has not been able to exert the same amount of influence he had during Obasanjo’s presidency. The source said Dangote has “retreated to the business world away from politics” after President Yar’Adua made some policy reversal that affected his business especially as relate to his cement and oil and gas business.

On the other hand, Uba is said to be angry with Yar’Adua for not doing enough to stop his removal from office as the governor of Anambra State.

“Has anyone bothered to ask why Uba is still walking as a free man after all the atrocities he committed? Who is protecting him?” The source queried.

Smarting from these grievances, both individuals according to Presidency sources resorted to “using their common friendship with Ribadu to blackmail Mr. President.”

The President eventually decided it was time to act. Last week, the Inspector General of Police ordered the withdrawal of Andy Uba’s security details.

The Presidency source who briefed The Times of Nigeria on the development said that President Yar’Adua is unlikely to accede to Obasanjo’s request as his mind was already made up on Ribadu’s removal.

“There cannot be a reversal of policy regarding the removal of Ribadu. Government does not operate like that.” The source said.

The source said rather than contemplating on a reversal, the Presidency is working to ensure on a swift transition to ensure that the agency remains relevant and is reinvigorated.

President Yar’Adua is expected to tell Obasanjo that the issue is a police issue since Ribadu was reassigned by the police. This, according to the source is the diplomatic way of rebuffing the former President’s demand.

“We have received a lot of petitions against the EFCC and some of the petitions are against high ranking personnel of EFCC – not necessarily Ribadu himself. We have to safeguard those documents and ensure that the documents are not destroyed or tampered with. We have received reports that there are attempts to destroy some documents and case files in the custody of EFCC.”

The Times of Nigeria has learnt that one of the petitions that are being investigated by the Presidency is that by convicted fraudster, Chief Emmanuel Nwude.

Nwude had petitioned the Presidency and the police claiming that his properties were “looted by EFCC.” The petition by Nwude listed in very clear details how some of his properties were sold to people connected to EFCC and how some of his properties in the agency’s custody “disappeared.”