Key suspect flees, Okiro gets Monday deadline
By Kingsley Omonobi
ABUJA – Indications emerged, yesterday, inÂ Abuja that the five-man inter-agency panel headed by the Inspector General of Police, Mike Okiro, investigatingÂ the $190million Halliburton scandal has been ordered by President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua to submit an interim report on or before Monday.
Meanwhile the panel is set to travel to Switzerland and other European countries to investigate the involvement of some former heads of state.
The order by Yarâ€™Adua that an interim report be submitted according to sources, was aimed at ensuring that it was not compromised or influenced during the visit abroad.
This is coming on the heels of a discovery that a cousin to former Head of state, Alhaji Abdukadir Abacha who was invited by the panel for interrogation, may have been on the run.
Abdukadir Abacha (cousin of Maximum ruler General Sani Abacha ) is alleged to have represented the interest of the former head of state at the disbursement of the Halliburton bribe shortly after the death of his brother.
All attempts to locate his whereabouts within the country has failed, forcing the panel to direct all border and airports security operatives to be on the alert for him.
A reliable source, however, said it was unlikely that Abdukadir would be in the country.
Sources further hinted Vanguard, based on the findings of the panel, a former Chief of Air Staff, whose account was used to move about $150million, brother to a governor, in whose account the sum of $11. 5million of the alleged Halliburton money was found, a former Group Managing Director of NNPC, Gaius Obaseki who allegedly facilitated the distribution of about $11million to various persons and concerns including a leading political party, a former Board of Trustees Chairman, and a Deputy Senate President among others, as well as a former Managing Director of defunct Metropolitan Bank, M.G. Bakare and the construction giant, Julius Berger, were among those indicted in the interim report.
Abdukadir Abacha, the source said had already been indicted even though he is allegedly on the run since the roles he was said to have played were the most glaring, especially how he benefitted from the scam.
On how investigation into the role of Abdukadir Abacha in the Halliburton scam opened the eyes of the panel to shocking discoveries of looting during the Abacha administration, the source said “our investigations took us to the records of the Central Bank of Nigeria and what was discovered was shocking.”
“The panel discovered that the signatures of Abdukadir Abacha and Abachaâ€™s, son, Mohammed Abacha, were in the Central Bank records and there were many instances where both of them signed for the transfer of hundreds of millions of dollars, pounds sterlings to foreign banks, in the sum ranging from $400million and Â£300million without questions during the rule ofÂ the late maximum ruler, General Abacha.”
When Vanguard sought to know how it was possible for members of late Abachaâ€™s family to sign cheques or order the movement of hundreds of foreign currencies out of the Nigerian Central Bank to other countries particularly when they were neither Governor of the CBN or Accountant General of the Federation, the source said the panel members themselves were dumbfounded over the discovery.
Concerning the proposed trip of the panel to Switzerland, the source told Vanguard that they would probably proceed next week as visas and other travel documents were yet to be procurred
â€œYes the trip is still on. The fact that we have not gone does not mean it has been shelved. The panel is still working while we are here because it is a lot of work.
With the work we have even done while the arrangements for the trip are being made, we will be in a better position to get what we want when we eventually get there,â€ the source said.
On the fate of the former heads of state who are yet to be interrogated, the source said, the submission of the interim report would not affect investigations into the roles they played or the extent towhichÂ they benefitted, noting that the panel would be in a better position to tackle them if really they were involved.
Reminded that the panel was given eight weeks to submit its report which end this weekend, the source said, that is why Mr. President requested for the interim report but that the president himself wants all loopholes in the investigations to be covered hence his approval that the panel proceeds to Europe for further investigations.
The source added that there wouldnâ€™t have been need for the panel to travel to Europe for investigation if the American authorities who had earlier carried out there own investigations into the Halliburton scam obliged the Okiro panel certain vital information in their possession which would have helped to determine the extent to which former haeds of states were allegedly involved.