By Henry Umoru
ABUJA—SENATOR George Sekibo (PDP, Rivers East) yesterday, told the senators during plenary that the $43 million recovered 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 the former governor of Rivers State, adding that if the apartment belonged to the National Intelligence Agency, NIA, the EFCC would not have gone there because they are interrelated. Senator Sekibo raised doubt over the credibility of Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo -led panel set up by President Muhammadu Buhari to probe the circumstances surrounding the huge amount of monies found in the apartment, just as he called for the inclusion of Rivers State Government in the investigation of the said monies.
Speaking, yesterday, during plenary, Sekibo, who came under Order 43, argued that Rivers State Government should be invited to submit its claims to the panel if it was the objective of the probe to get to the root of who owns the monies, just as he said that Osinbajo was the only credible member of the committee, adding that the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, had already taken side when he disclosed that he knew the source of the money.
Responding, the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, asked the River State Government to send some people to present their case at the panel, adding, “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 the matter and set up a committee to look into it. So, I believe that the River State Government should send some people to present their case. Since we have one National Assembly, 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.”
Earlier, 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 got missing in Rivers State, but they politicized it. That apartment belongs to the former governor because if that apartment belonged to NIA, EFCC will not go there because they are interrelated. Only the vice president may be genuine in the probe panel because the others have already taken positions. 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 “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 he 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 monies belong to the NIA and that it was put in that apartment in 2015 for covet operations.
“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 of Nigeria. That was not done, we have suspicion and our suspicion is coming through this direction.
“In October or November, River State Government forwarded a petition claiming of the loss of over $300m that was taken by the former governor of the state and 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 monies that were found at flat 7b of the Ikoyi apartment. We have done our independent investigation, it belongs to River State Government, we are 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 team. We believe that to be able to find out the ownership of that house and all the relevant questions that have come from the Nigerian public.”