- EFCC probes Wada, Ayeni, AVM Atawodi over arms deal
- Funds traced to foreign car dealership, offshore accounts
A serving governor is topping the list of suspects being investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for an alleged N6,549,942, 637.14 fraud in an arms deal. Also under scrutiny are the immediate past governor of Kogi State, Captain Idris Wada, a former Chairman of Skye Bank, Mr. Tunde Ayeni, retired Air Vice Marshal Salihu Atawodi and four others.
The alleged fraud was perpetrated by the defunct Presidential Implementation Committee on Maritime Security (PICOMSS), which was headed by Atawodi. About N4.9billion cash was said to have from PICOMMS accounts without any specific project in mind.
The serving governor was alleged to have received N1, 475, 144,199.15 of the withdrawn cash for the purpose of lobbying members of the House of Representatives to convert PICOMS into an agency. The name proposed was Maritime Security Agency. The governor was chairman of the House Committee on National Security, Intelligence and Public Safety at the time and he was said to have convinced Atawodi’s PICOMS to part with the cash. The sum received was such a top secret that a former Speaker was given a “ridiculous N1million” as his share.
Some former members of the House of Representatives who benefitted from the bribe-for-bill cash from the governor might be invited for questioning,the Nation gathered last night. Sources said the governor was initially cooperating with the EFCC on the investigation, only to stop honouring the invitation of the anti-graft agency two days before he was declared elected by the Supreme Court. He currently enjoys immunity from prosecution by virtue of his office, but he may still face trial after his tenure. The remaining seven key suspects are expected to be arraigned in court soon.
They include Mrs. Winifred Atawodi; Aeroconsult Limited, Xanatos Limited and a daughter of the ex-PICOMMS chairman, Eleojo who is under investigation. The EFCC has already blocked the following amounts in Mrs. Winifred Atawodi’s accounts: N141, 611, 736.8 and $228, 428.16. Another N200million has been placed on Post No Debit (PND) in First Mutual Micro-Finance Bank traced to Purple Pepper Farms Limited allegedly owned by Atawodi’s daughter (Eleojo). About five hectares of land worth N245million have been seized from the Atawodis. The EFCC has also uncovered how $6.12million was invested by the Atawodis in Midland Corporate Investment Limited account with Sun Trust Savings and Loans Real Estate Limited.
From the cash, AVM Atawodi allegedly transferred $408,000 transferred to an auto firm in the United States called Hennessy Cadillac for exotic vehicles including a Rolls Royce. About $808, 851 was located in Wells Fargo Bank 2 in the name of United International Enterprises. Detectives have identified a house allegedly owned by Atawodi in Lot of the 17th District of Fulton County in Georgia at 3266 Ferncliff Lane, Atlanta Georgia 30324. Despite the seizure of the passports of the Atawodis, one of the daughters has applied to travel abroad for medical treatment in order to sell the house in Atlanta.
The EFCC has also been alerted by some foreign collaborating anti-fraud agencies of plot by the daughter to sell the house. Investigation revealed that PICOMMS was set up between 2008 and 2012. It was disbanded in 2013. The committee was expected to guarantee safety on the sea and waterways. Findings by detectives revealed that AVM Atawodi, his friends and immediate family feasted on the resources allocated to PICOMMS including donor agencies funds. Others funding PICOMMS were the Office of National Security Adviser (ONSA), NIMASA, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and Ministry of Defence (MOD).
A document obtained by The Nation indicated that on 12th November, 2010, AVM Atawodi made PICOMMS to issue out contracts for Maritime Domain Monitoring System for Maritime Surveillance at a cost of $32,337,163.00 to Xanatos Company Limited linked with a former Chairman of Skye Bank, Mr. Tunde Ayeni. “The fraud was detected in the course of reviewing how funds were disbursed from PICOMS to Xanatos Company Limited and other beneficiary companies. Xanatos Company Limited made a lot of questionable payments obviously from the contract sum.
“One of the companies was AUSWEE Investment Limited where Atawodi, his wife and children are directors. Checks on AUSWEE acronym revealed as follows A(Amana); U(Uneku-the daughter); S(Salihu); W(Winifred Abiodun Atawodi-wife); E(Eleojo-another daughter); E(Ebi-another daughter). But one Roland Uhuago, who is an associate of AVM Atawodi, was used as a front for AUSWEE. From the statements of accounts of PICOMS in Polaris Bank, Union Bank and ECOBANK, there were many cash withdrawals and cash movement lodged in Sun Trust Savings and Loans through a former director of the finance firm, Mr. Mohammed Jibril. About $5million was invested on behalf of the Atawodis by Jibril.
“During that period, about N4.9billion was withdrawn in cash in 2011 which they claimed they used for an unclear purpose. We have seized the passports of AVM Atawodi and some members of his family to restrict their movement to the country pending the commencement of their trial. Based on the depth of investigation, EFCC has blocked the accounts of Mrs. Winifred Atawodi’s with N141, 611, 736.8 and $228, 428.16. Another N200million has been placed on Post No Debit (PND) in First Mutual Micro-Finance Bank traced to Purple Pepper Farms Limited allegedly owned by Atawodi’s daughter (Eleojo).
About five hectares of land worth N245million have been seized from the Atawodis. The land was bought from Hilton Hotel and the relevant agency in the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) has confirmed it.” On the involvement of ex-Governor Idris Wada of Kogi State, the brief on the case indicated that his company Aeroconsult Limited was awarded a contract for the construction of a hanger in Benin Airport for the sum of N2, 780, 649, 450.00 described as an inflated rate.
“Aeroconsult also sublet their contract to Olutoyi Estate Development and Services Limited in which N700million was given to the company. From the inflated total cost of the hangar, about N550million was given to AUSWEE. And from the N500million, about N484, 000,000 was transferred to Vector Integrated Services Limited owned by Atawodi. This company has an account with Union Bank where Mrs. Winifred Atawodi was a manager before she retired. The withdrawal from AUSWEE to Vector Integrated Services was from Atawodi. And from Union Bank, some of the cash were moved into the account of Vector Integrated Services Limited in Fidelity Bank.”
A top source in EFCC said: “When we invited the former Governor of Kogi State, Capt. Idris Wada for interrogation, he insisted that the contract was well-executed. But we detected evidence of transfers to AUSWEE which suggested that the hangar contract was inflated. The ex-governor and Aeroconsult have more questions to answer, especially when fresh transfers were made in 2018 and 2019 to AVM Atawodi.”
Regarding the serving governor, the source added: “The N1, 475, 144,199.15 was converted to dollars and handed over to the governor when he was a member of the House of Representatives. The owner of the Bureau De Change used by PICOMMs, Sharif Shanono has been quizzed and he has provided evidence of transactions. We also observed that on 21/12/2011, about N250million was transferred from PICOMMS account to Saab Global Links Limited account 1012330930 belonging to Shanono.
“We were on the case before the governor’s election was validated by the Supreme Court. In fact, he was to appear before our detectives two days to the Supreme Court judgment but he stayed away to await the verdict and avoid being detained.
“While going through records, detectives were able to confirm how a paltry N1million was given to a former Speaker of the House of Representatives. Now that the governor has immunity, we have to wait till 2023 when he completes his tenure before resuming his investigation and trial. We are likely to invite some former members of the house who benefitted from the bribe-for-bill cash. The bill was titled, “Maritime Security Agency Establishment Bill (MASECA) 2010 to change PICOMMS into an agency. So far, seven out of the eight suspects implicated in this fraud may face trial.” (The Nation)
Muhammad Sanusi II, emir of Kano, says the predominant culture of marrying more than one wife by Nigerians in the north is a major cause of poverty in the region.
The emir, who was represented by Usman Bugaji, said this while moderating a paper presentation session on ‘the role of universities in nation building’ at the maiden convocation of the Federal University, Gusau, in Zamfara state, on Friday.
According to the Punch, Sanusi said unless northerners desist from marrying more wives and bearing more children than they can take care of, they will continue to live in poverty.
He said the culture of polygamy is what makes the north a major area of poverty in the country, unlike in the south where the poverty level has reduced.
“There are people who cannot afford to feed one wife but are ready to marry three wives and have more children than they can feed, talk less of paying for their school fees,” he said.
“The poverty level of the north is 80 percent, while in the south, the percentage is 20 percent, simply because of the culture of marrying many wives and producing many children who, at the end, are left on the streets to beg for what to eat.”
Sanusi said some women get divorced by their husbands, which often makes matters worse, as they find it difficult to raise the children alone.
He said such cases have led to the bearing of more criminals in society and victims of drug abuse.
The emir asked northern universities to look into ways by which such a challenge can be tackled.
“The issues we have today such as drug abuse, Boko Haram, banditry and unemployment would be nothing compared to what we will be dealing with in the next 20 or 30,” he said.
Where is former Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode? This is the question bombarding the mind of many. Ever since he left office in an unceremonial manner, the former governor has chosen to retire to a quiet life. The last time his voice was heard was when the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, raided his house in Epe and Ikoyi on learning that he just arrived from abroad around June last year.
All through the period when the Lagos State House of Assembly was probing into his acquisition of 820 buses, running into billions of naira, Ambode was only responding through his aides as he kept silent. He only sued the House when it was glaring that the lawmakers were about to issue an arrest warrant and invite him to appear before the House to explain his role in the bus purchase. But through these, he spoke through his lawyers. The Assembly had accused the former governor of going ahead to purchase the vehicles without budgetary approval from the House.
The former governor had gone through a thorny road in 2019. He was deprived of being a Minister by political warlords. He was rudely shaken by the EFCC in a N9.9 billion traced to a staff in his office. The Federal High Court in Lagos ordered the freezing of three bank accounts domiciled in First City Monument Bank, Access Bank and Zenith Bank, with account number 5617984012, 0060949275 and 1011691254, respectively. But nothing has been heard of the case since then.
Recently, PM News was able to scoop that Ambode had not been in the country. He went back to school. Source close to the former governor said he was in Harvard University, undergoing another leadership course. He was said to have begun the course around late 2019.
The leadership course in Harvard University is said to be taken his time which kept him away from friends and public glare. He only issued out press releases through his Chief Press Secretary, Habib Aruna, but he has kept to himself since.
The former governor breezed into the country a day before the New Year quietly and refused that a press release be released in his name, preferring to remain unnoticed. He was in his Epe home to celebrate the New Year.
Information reaching us is that Ambode has breezed out of the country again to Harvard University to continue his leadership programme. No one knows why he decided to embark on another course in Harvard after he had been there several years ago. (PM News)
Aminu Ahmed, a principal procurement officer in the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation has told the court how the former SGF, Babachir Lawal awarded contracts to Josmon Technologies and Rholavision, which are linked to him.
The two companies, the witness said were among 108 companies in 2016 that bid for projects in the office of the SGF.
The witness, the fourth, gave the testimony today at the resumed trial of Lawal and five others before Justice Jude Okeke of Federal Capital Territory High Court, Maitama.
Lawal and his younger brother, Hamidu David Lawal, Suleiman Abubakar, Apeh John alongside Rholavision Engineering and Josmon Technologies are on trial by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on an amended 10-count charge, bordering on fraud, diversion of funds and criminal conspiracy to the tune of over N500 million (Five Hundred Million Naira).
One of the counts reads: “That you, Engineer Babachir David Lawal while being the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and a director of Rholavision Engineering Ltd on or about the 22nd August, 2016 at Abuja in the Abuja Judicial Division of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory did knowingly hold indirect private interest in the contract awarded to Josmon Technological Ltd but executed by Rholavision Engineering Ltd for the removal of invasive plant species and simplified irrigation to the tune of N258,132,735.99(Two Hundred and Fifty Eight Million, One Hundred and Thirty Two Thousand, Seven Hundred and Thirty Five Naira only) by the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF) through the Presidential Initiative for North East (PINE) and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 12 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.”
Ahmed highlighted the steps taken before the contract was granted, adding that the companies submitted proposal and that a technical evaluation committee was constituted which was made up of six members with the Head of Administration, Dahiru Mohammed, who was a representative from account section and procurement.
“The committee invited the contractors to witness the opening of the bids and thereafter the committee evaluated the bid submitted and we wrote a report which was sent to the secretary of Presidential Initiative for North East PINE, Mr Musa Gulani who then forwarded the report and bid to the tenders board for approval.
“There were requirements for bid application, which they must satisfy and be evaluated which included current tax clearance, certificate of incorporation, PENCOM, ITF and BPP and sent to ministerial tenders board.”
Ahmed further added that the report was sent to Bureau for Public Procurement, BPP, and a reply of no-objection was received and that it was the committee that sent the report to Ministerial Tenders Board before it was sent to SGF for approval.
Prosecution counsel, Offem Uket applied for an adjournment to allow him produce some documents to the court and with the agreement of the defence counsel, the trial was adjourned until March 10, 2020.
The Federal Government has reached an agreement with South-West governors on Western Nigerian Security Outfit code-named Operation Amotekun.
Senior Special Assistant to the Vice-President, Laolu Akande, disclosed this on his Twitter handle on Thursday. However, he did not give details of the agreement reached.
Osinbajo and the governors of the South-West states have been met at the Presidential Villa in Abuja on Thursday.
It was gathered top on the agenda was Amotekun, which the federal government has declared as illegal.
Despite revealing his position on the much talked about Operation Amotekun, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has come under fire and serious flaying from the Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, for his alleged indecision on the initiative.
The spokesperson of the southwest organisation, Yinka Odumakin, said that much of what Tinubu gave as his views on the controversial security scheme was double-speaking, Daily Trust reports.
The group claimed that it did not really understand what the All Progressives Congress (APC) national leader was saying, claiming that he failed to take a firm stand in full backing to the established outfit.
In fact, speaking on Wednesday, January 22, Odumakin said that even former vice president Abubakar Atiku was bold enough to declare that he is in favour of the move.
Odumakin, in his allegation, wondered if Tinubu is sitting on the fence because he is afraid of President Buhari.
Going further, the Afenifere mouthpiece said that the former governor of Lagos spoke as if he was the Supreme Court himself by allegedly dishing out judgements.
He said that at such a critical time when there is perceived tension between the federal government and the southwest, the Yoruba populace expects Tinubu to be direct and clear about his take on the issue.
￼He said Tinubu should have saved the group, southwesterners and other well-meaning Nigeria much trouble by remaining silent instead of double-speaking.
He said: “But we chose to ignore all those tantrums, less, people say we’re fighting ourselves. But he cannot be a judge in this matter, he should state his position.
“At a time there is a test of will between the west and the federal government, he should not be speaking in four tongues.”
A former commissioner for women affairs in Delta State, Queen Betty Efekodha has raised an alarm over the plan to convert the Mariam Babaginda Women Development Center that was built during the tenure of former governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of the state to Appeal Court premises.
According to Efekodha, the building has been roofed and painted, while what remained is for it to be furnished.
“I have been looking forward to the day it will be commissioned by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of the state.
“This would have gone a long way in improving the lot of women all round as the edifice housed a very big hall plus smaller adjoining halls and different offices for meetings, trainings, seminars, hall of fame and skills acquisitions,” she said.
The former commissioner said in a statement she wrote on the issue that the centre also plays host to national and international women programs and events.
She added that the importance of the women center could not be over emphasized.
“More so, it was named after an illustrious daughter of Delta State, who made women to be seen and also heard through her Better Life Programme.
“It is definitely a big plus to women development. I have deliberately brought it to this platform so that we women of Delta State can appeal to the governor to let our centre be.
“In as much as the Court of Appeal is necessary and I appreciate the Governor for it, robbing Peter to pay Paul is not the best.
“I therefore appeal to my National President and State Chairman to please look into it. If possible, a delegation can see our Governor,” she said.
Nine lawmakers of the Imo House of Assembly have defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) from the Peoples Democratic Party, All Progressives Grand Alliance, and Action Action.
The defectors include: Authur Egwim (Ideato North) from AA to APC; Chyna Iwuanyanwu (Nwangele), PDP; Chidiebere Ogbunikpa(Okigwe), PDP; Obinna Okwara(Nkwerre), AA; and Paul Emeziem (Onuimo) also from PDP to APC.
Others are Ekene Nnodimele (Orsu) from APGA to APC, Johnson Duru(Ideato South), AA; Ngozi Obiefule (Isu) AA; and Heclus Okorocha (Ohaji/Egbema) from PDP to APC.
Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka on Tuesday condemned remark by Balarabe Musa, former governor of Old Kaduna State on the establishment of Amotekun by Southwest governors.
Musa had over the weekend alleged that Southwest establishment of Amotekun was a ploy by Yorubas to create Oduduwa Republic.
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However, Soyinka said Musa was wrong about his assertion on the reason Amotekun was established by the Southwest region.
In a statement, the Nobel Laureate said: “Balarabe is sadly, but I hope not tragically wrong. I invoke the tragic dimension here because the making of a tragedy, especially for nations, often begins when fears are mistaken or promoted as facts, and governments either by themselves, or together with interest groups, are enticed by fears into embarking on precipitate, irrational, and irreversible acts.
“Such acts turn out in the end to be based on nothing but fears, sometimes generated by guilt over past injustices, such as inequitable dealing.
“That is the basis of tragedy, towards which nations are propelled by a partial, or wrongful reading of socio-political realities and – history. I would like to see this nation avoid such a blunder. So, I am certain, would Balarabe Musa.
“Raising the specter of secession was a facile approach to the dangerous, self-evident lapses in governance which Balarabe himself acknowledged in his response to the Amotekun principle made flesh.
“He said the midwives of Amotekun had repeatedly acknowledged that theirs is only a contribution towards a crisis of escalating proportions and that other states should be encouraged to emulate, not misread such initiatives, then demonize them by false attributions, saying “that is the certain recipe for tragedy.”
The supreme court has upheld the elections of Samuel Ortom, governor of Benue state, and Ahmadu Fintiri, his Adamawa state counterpart.
The apex court dismissed the appeal of Emmanuel Jime, candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the March gubernatorial election in Benue, for lacking in merit.
Jime had challenged Ortom’s reelection on the grounds of substantial noncompliance with the provisions of Electoral Act, 2010 as amended.
Jime and the APC relied heavily on the smart card readers used in the conduct of the election which they said proved over voting.
However, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Ortom and the PDP urged the court to dismiss the appellant’s prayers.
Sebastine Hon, counsel to Ortom, submitted that the appellants have no evidence to support their case as the tribunal already struck out the evidence PW59 through whom the smart card reader report was tendered.
“The appeal is overwhelmingly dependent on the card reader. The appellants’ case swims and sinks with the card reader” he said.
“However, the tribunal struck out the evidence of P59 through whom they tendered the card reader report.
“Appellants appealed to the court of appeal against that ruling but they willingly withdrew it and it was dismissed.”
Reading the Judgment, Sylvester Nwuta, a judge, said: “I have considered all the issues in this appeal and I agree with learned counsel for the respondents that the cocurrent judgment of the tribunal and the court of appeal should not be disturbed.”
The court also struck out the appeal Jibrilla Bindow, APC candidate in the Adamawa gubernatorial election, filed against the victory of Fintiri. (The Cable)