By Henry Umoru
ABUJA- SENATOR George Sekibo, PDP, Rivers East yesterday told the Senators at the Senate Chambers that the $43million uncovered at a luxury apartment building in Osborne, Ikoyi, Lagos by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) belongs to the Rivers State Government.
Sekibo alleged that the said apartment belongs to a former governor of Rivers State and Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, adding that if the apartment belongs to National Intelligence Agency, NIA, the EFCC will not go there because they are interrelated.
Senator Sekibo however raises doubt over the credibility of Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo -led panel set up by President Muhammadu Buhari to probe the circumstances that led to the huge amount of money to the tune of 43 million dollars Osborne fund found in that apartment, just as he called for the inclusion of Rivera State Government in the investigation of the said money.
Speaking yesterday during plenary, Sekibo who came under other 43, argued that Rivers state government should be invited to submit its claims to the panel if it is the objective in its probe, just as he said that Osinbajo is the only credible member of the committee, adding that the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami had already taken side when he disclosed that, he knew the source of the money.
In a dramatic manner, Sekibo brought out a whistle from his pocket, blew it to the hearing of other Senators three times.
Sekibo said, “We told the FG and the EFCC and even senate in 2015 when we were screening ministers that over 300 million dollars got missing in rivers state, but they politicized it. That apartment belongs to Amaechi if that apartment belongs to NIA, EFCC will not go there because they are interrelated. Only the vice president may be genuine because the others have already taken position. We have made a claim, Rivers state government should be invited to submit their claims.”
But in a swift reaction, Senator Magnus Abe, APC, Rivers South East took a swipe at Senator Sekibo, asking him to approach the probe panel with all the documents and information at his disposal to prove his allegations, just as he warned that Whistle blowing policing must not be abused, adding that there should be consequence for whistle blowers who cannot substantiate their whistle blowing with facts.
Senator Abe who spoke to Journalists after plenary session said that we should all be appreciative of whistle blowers who have brought facts that have led to recoveries of money that may have been stolen, just as he said that the only problem is that we risk politicizing what should be a serious exercise to a political witch hunt, adding, “My advice to Senator Sekibo and others who may have such information that would lead to recoveries, is that such should be forwarded to security agencies.
“With the information that Senator Sekibo said he has now, it would be appropriate for the panel headed by the Vice President to invite him to come and present his facts. I urge Sekibo having blown the whistle in the Senate, he should take the whistle to the panel and blow it there, just as he did in the Senate. There must be consequences for false whistle blowing, when you do not have facts, because falsely blowing whistle leads to trauma for the families of those involved. when your political opponents blow whistle in your direction, then you deal with trauma
“As a consequence of false whistle blowing, budget documents are said to have disappeared and the committee has come out to say it was affected by the raid in Senator Goje’s property.”
Senator Sekibo had continued saying, “We appreciate the effort of the president and immediately they set up a committee to look into it. We also appreciate the fact that Nigerians are worried that money that does not belong to anyone was lodged in a private apartment. We are worried of the claims of the DG NIA and even the attorney general of the federation that the money belong to teh NIA and that it was put in that apartment in 2015 for covet operations” He said.
“We are worried because at the end of every budget year, every such fund that was not used by any agency are usually returned to the coffer of the federation which is the central bank. That was not done we have suspicion. And our suspicion is coming through this direction”
“In October, November, River state government forwarded a petition claiming of the loss of over 300 million dollars that he felt was taken by the former governor of the state and that we prayed the senate to do something about that. It became political, the issues were not known but political aspects were known, that was a whistle the state government blew at that time”
“We are coming back to say that that money that was found at flat 7b, we have done our independent investigation, it belongs to river state government,we blowing the whistle for the second time”
“We are praying the senate to put eye on the investigation, we trust in the capacity of the vice president as the chairman of the investigative teem. We believe that to be able to find out the ownership of that house and all the variable questions that have come from the Nigerian public.”
He disclosed that, the Rivers state government feels that it is a wrong direction they have taken because EFFC through a whistle blower discovered the money and EFCC under their functions section 6 of the EFCC Act. Section 6B, H, O clearly defines their roles.
“They are the only institution that is saddled with the responsibility of unravelling such things as it concerns financial crimes. Why will you take it form the people that have the expertise and give it to people that don’t have the expertise. It means they don’t want to do a thorough job.
“The attorney general of the federation has before the constitution of the committee claimed that the money belonged to the NIA. It means that he had taken side. They will not come out with a laudable report”
“The money does not belong to the NIA. At the end of every year, we know that any unspent fund that is domicile with any agency is returned to the CBN. Why didn they transfer te money to the CBN. We by our own private investigation that amount may belong to former governor Amaechi”
Responding, the deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu who asked the River state government to send some people to the panel and present their own case, said, “This is the first time we are seeing a whistle blower coming to acknowledge that he is blowing a whistle in respect of a matter.
“Yesterday, the House of Representatives took up that matter and set up a committee to look into it. So I believe that the River state government should send some people to go there and present their own case. Since we have one National Assembly, so it is absolutely necessary that we allow the House of Representatives to do the job with respect to the matter. We believe that at the end of day the truth will prevail”