Fresh $6.9m Fraud Uncovered Against Jonathan, Diezani, Obuah

imageOne of the investigative panels constituted by President Muhammadu Buhari- to trace and recover stolen funds has uncovered a fraud of $6.9 million, allegedly perpetrated by key officials of the administration of president Goodluck Jonathan.

Findings by the panel revealed that at a point in the life of the Jonathan administration, the alleged $6.9 million was purportedly spent on the purchase of three 40-feet mobile stages for use during mass public speaking events.

Findings by those saddled with the job of unearthing cases of sleaze in the country, revealed former President Goodluck Jonathan, his Chief Security Officer (CSO), O.J. Obuah and former Petroleum Minister, Deziani Allison Madueke, were allegedly involved in the mobile stages deal.

A reliable source revealed that Obuah initiated a memo dated October 17, 2011, to the former president, seeking his approval for the purchase of three mobile stages.

The source who is one of the investigators, noted that apart from the sum for the stages being incredibly inflated as confirmed by experts in the industry, there was no evidence yet that any of such stages was purchased.

He said the industry experts confirmed that while the cost of mobile stages is determined by the size and designs, “only outlandish rock star musicians in Europe and the US spend hundreds of thousands on their huge stages that are bigger than the 40-feet stages.

“Even then, those musicians and super stars would not pay over $2m per stage, according to industry sources.”

Besides, the source said the offices of the Auditor-general and the Accountant-general were not informed about the process of procurement of the three mobile stages, which is not known to extant Nigerian laws and due process regulations.

“There are no records of this purchase which was carried out late 2011,” the source hinted, adding that this purchase was carried out just few months after Jonathan won the 2011 presidential election for a full term after completing the late President Umaru Yar’adua’s tenure.

He quoted Jonathan’s CSO as telling the former president in the memo that this is regarding “my earlier discussion with Your Excellency on the security implication of your public appearances and your subsequent directive on the need to procure a secured presidential platform.”

“And on the same day, without any financial advice or purchase order reviews, the former president minuted an approval of the request to buy the three stages to the then minister of petroleum resources, Mrs Diezani Alison-Maduekwe,” the source noted.

He also quoted Jonathan as stating in his minute that, “we have discussed this, please deal,” after which he initiated the memo. He added that after the former president had approved the deal on the same October 17, the senior special assistant to the president on administrative matters, Matt Aikhionbare, wrote another letter on the strength of the president’s approval, requesting the petroleum minister to take action on the request to purchase the stages for $6.9m.

The source further stated that it became obvious that the money was released by the next month when the NNPC raised a payment voucher with number 3840336, in which it directed that the money be taken from one of its accounts in New York, United States of America.

Findings further revealed that the money was first routed from the US bank to an NNPC account in one of the branches of a commercial bank in Maitama, Abuja, from where the money was sent to a private account.

It was gathered that the sum of $6.9m was then credited to another account in another commercial bank, belonging to an Abuja-based logistics firm, and linked to one of those allegedly involved in the deal.

The source said specifically that the $6.9miilion in question was promptly paid on November 29, 2011, into a private account belonging to the former CSO.

Investigators said that while the CSO himself was yet to show proof of the purchase, his bosses at the SSS were angry that he took the initiative to write such a memo requesting for the mobile stages, an action officials say was way above his pay grade.

“It is not the duty or responsibility of the CSO to make the determination on that purchase. He was meant to have informed the service, which will then review the situation and act accordingly,” an official of one of the security agencies conducting the investigation said.

The source added, “what has happened here is that the former president and the former minister with the collusion of the CSO decided to dip their hands into the public till and steal public funds for other purposes since no one has found the stages as we speak.

“The former president approved the procurement of the mobile platforms without due process and bye-passing the Procurement Act, neither was there appropriation in the 2011 budget for such facility.”

According to the source, it is even quite curious that that neither the minister of finance nor the Director-general of the Budget Office was aware of the deal.

This, he alleged, is just one of the several instances where the Jonathan administration used secret NNPC accounts to fund many questionable projects and for alleged personal financial aggrandisements.

The federal government investigators and security agencies say this is just one of the tons of allegedly corrupt practices that were frequently engaged and condoned under the presidency of the immediate past president.

It will be recalled that the CSO was recently questioned over his role and activities in the Jonathan presidency when he was arrested, detained, questioned and later released.

The Buhari government has been under pressure to make real its determination to probe allegations of corruption perpetrated by past administration.

Following this, the National Economic Council (NEC) at its meeting on June 29, in Aso Rock, queried the non-remittance of some of the finances generated by the NNPC into the federation account.

The council made stunning revelations including that while the NNPC claimed it earned about N8.1trillion in the last two years, what it paid into the federation account in the same period was about N4.3 trillion.

The balance was said to have been kept in several secret accounts operated by the corporation, allowing the former president and his cronies access to such unknown accounts to do with money kept there as they pleased.

Determined to unravel the shady deals, NEC set up a four man committee made up of Governors of Edo, Kaduna, Akwa Ibom and Gombe to investigate the alleged missing money.

Apart from submitting an interim report to NEC, the committee also appointed financial experts to conduct forensic audit of the accruals into the federation account and the withdrawals from the excess crude account.

In a bid to plug some of the procedural loopholes that aid and abet corruption, President Buhari had also directed that all revenue-generating agencies of government including the NNPC should now pay all revenues to a Treasury Single Account (TSA).

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