By Jimitota Onogume & Gbenga Oke
Fayose faults NIA’s ownership claim, raises fresh posers
The controversy dogging the ownership of the estimated N13 billion recovered by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, from a luxury apartment in Ikoyi area of Lagos deepened, yesterday.
Minister of Transportation and a former Governor of Rivers, State, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, disputed the claim by his successor in Port-Harcourt Government House, Mr Nyesom Wike, that the money was part of the proceeds from the sale of the gas turbines belonging to the state government, before Amaechi left office, and kept in the Lagos apartment by the former governor.
Separately, the Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Safety Agency, NIMASA, Dr Dakuku Peterside, faulted Wike’s statement, saying it was laughable.
Meanwhile, Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State, dismissed the alleged claim of ownership of the cash by the National Intelligence Agency, NIA, describing it as a cover-up and that the development had succeeded in rubbishing the Federal Government’s anti-graft war.
The EFCC had, on Thursday, stormed the Lagos apartment where $43,449,947, £27,800, and N23,218,000, estimated at about N13 billion, were recovered.
The recovery was attributed to the success of the whistle-blowing efforts of the anti-graft agency.
But the NIA reportedly claimed ownership of the cash, describing the apartment from which it was recovered as a safe house.
Wike entered the controversy when he alleged that the cash belonged to Rivers State Government as it was part of the proceeds of the sale of the state government’s gas turbines, and kept in the Lagos apartment, allegedly, by Amaechi.
The Rivers governor alleged that the NIA claiming ownership of the cash was an attempt to cover up for Amaechi.
He asked the Federal Government to constitute a panel to investigate the cash if it was not convinced of the state government’s ownership, saying he was ready to appear before the panel to testify.
Amaechi, in a response, yesterday, described Wike’s claims as malicious, frivolous “and another failed attempt by the governor to divert attention from the mess he has created in Rivers State.”
In a statement by his Media Office, yesterday, the Minister of Transportation said he was not the owner of the cash and the Lagos apartment from which the money was recovered.
“Amaechi has no business, link or connection to the money or property. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi does not know who owns the money or Ikoyi apartment”, the statement said.
“Wike’s malicious allegation of corruption against Amaechi in the sale of the gas turbines is not new. This false claim has been punctured repeatedly with facts and evidence of the transfer payments for the power plants into Rivers State government accounts by Sahara Energy. The records of how the funds were spent and what it was spent on are in the records of the state government. Amaechi has absolutely no business or any interest whatsoever in Sahara Energy. The company was already a thriving business concern before Amaechi’s emergence as governor of Rivers State in 2007.
“We urge all right-thinking members of the public to completely disregard all the false, politically motivated no-proof claims by Nyesom Wike and his minions as it concerns Amaechi and the $43million and Ikoyi property.
“The false accusations by Wike is purely diversionary, a political smear campaign against Amaechi by Wike. The fake claims is a figment of the imagination of Nyesom Wike.
“Yet again, we challenge Wike to charge Amaechi to court if he has any shred of evidence that the money belongs to Rivers State and was kept in the Ikoyi apartment by Amaechi.
“This latest outburst by Wike is typical of him. We are aware that Wike first tried to float the fake news of Amaechi’s ownership of the recovered $43million and the Ikoyi house in the social media.”
Cash belongs to us – Wike
Wike had, while briefing journalists, in Port-Harcourt, on Friday night, called on the Federal Government to conduct a probe if it was in doubt that the cash found in Lagos luxury apartment belonged to the Rivers State government.
The governor said the state was ready to appear before any panel constituted by the Federal Government to investigate the issue, adding that he was sure the Federal Government would not heed his call for a probe because it would unmask the rot in government.
“The Federal Government should set up a panel of enquiry to answer questions. How did they keep government money in a residential house? Who owns the flat?”
Continuing, the governor dismissed as a huge joke the claim that the money belonged to NIA, wondering why the NIA would keep such huge sums of money in a private residence.
Wike said the drama that had played around the money since it was discovered had made it clear that the Federal Government lacked moral right to continue to hold on to former NSA, Sambo Dasuki, for alleged graft.
Insisting that the N13 million belonged to Rivers State government, Wike said it was part of the proceeds from the sale of the gas turbines belonging to the state by Amaechi before he left office.
The governor alleged that part of the money was used to fund the presidential election of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Wike’s statement laughable – Dakuku
Also reacting to the Wike accusation against Amaechi, yesterday, Dakuku, NIMASA boss, said it was laughable that the Rivers governor will descend so low to allege that the money was “proceeds Rivers State government realised from the sale of gas turbines by the Amaechi administration.”
Peterside, in a statement, said it was unfortunate that Wike was turning governance to a circus show by constantly being in the news for wrong reasons.
He said, “Not too long ago, Wike, apparently suffering from overdose of self-delusion, said he had awarded road projects in far away Benue State and had mobilised contractors to site. The same Wike has also accused the Inspector General of Police of plotting to assassinate him through the new CP in Rivers State. We thought these were jokes taken too far. But the governor has surprised himself with another tales by moonlight in trying to link his former boss and benefactor to the unclaimed money.
Peterside, who was Commissioner for Works under Amaechi, however, noted that the money realised from sale of gas turbines were paid into the account of Rivers State and the money used for projects.
Ekiti State governor, Fayose, said, yesterday, the claim that the cash recovered by the EFCC belonged to NIA was nothing but a cover-up and that the development had rubbished the Federal Government’s anti-graft war.
“ Yesterday, it was made public that the National Intelligence Agency, NIA, claimed ownership of the $43,449,947, £27,800 and N23, 218,000 seized on Wednesday by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, from Osborne Towers, a luxury residential complex in Ikoyi, Lagos,”Fayose said in a statement.
“ This, to my mind is one cover-up too many and this federal government’s seeming plot to protect the original owner of both the money and the apartment where it was found has further shown that the anti-corruption fight is political, selective and, therefore, a ruse.
“ Nigerians should recall that I have consistently maintained that the APC-led federal government was not fighting any corruption. Rather, the government is using the anti-corruption fight as a major political tool to cripple the opposition and turn the country to a one-party state”.
Saying the federal government should operate with the mind-set that Nigerians are no fools, the governor said they were capable of asking questions “and they are already doing that”.
The questions being asked include, ‘Who is the owner of the apartment in which the money was found?’. ‘Does the apartment also belong to the NIA?’. ‘If the apartment belongs to the NIA, when was it bought and from whom?’. ‘If the apartment does not belong to the NIA, from whom and when was it rented?’ ‘How could a whistle-blower be aware of movement of money into one out of many apartments in a building without knowing the owner of the apartment?’ ‘If truly the NIA was carrying out a ‘covert operation’ as claimed, was President Muhammadu Buhari not briefed of the so-called ‘covert operation’ when he took over power?’ ‘Was the National Security Adviser (NSA), whose office controls all intelligence agencies, including the EFCC and DSS not aware of the ‘covert operation?’ ‘Was there any security presence at the vicinity of the apartment to suggest that it was being used as warehouse for over N13 billion cash belonging to the NIA?’. ‘Does NIA need an unprotected apartment to keep such huge sum of money purportedly meant for ‘covert operation?’ ‘How much was released for the so-called ‘covert operation? ‘ ‘How much has been spent and to who was account rendered up to date?’
According to him, the script being acted on this discovered cash is a cover-up that will mar the EFCC and the federal government.