Monday, 31 August 2015

EFCC sets up four-man panel on Diezani

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has commenced a full investigation into the activities of the immediate past Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.

It was learnt on Sunday that the commission constituted a four-member committee of crack detectives to probe all the NNPC accounts which were supervised by the former minister.

It was learnt that the committee was led by a Superintendent of Police, who was seconded to the commission.

Investigations revealed that the other three members of the committee were pioneer civilian operatives of the commission with high capacity for investigation.

Sunday PUNCH had on Sunday reported that the ongoing probe of the immediate-past administration by President Muhammadu Buhari was to beam its searchlight on the alleged purchase of three mobile stages, costing $6.9m, by former President Goodluck Jonathan and two of his officials.

According to a document, which was obtained from the Presidency on Saturday, the deal, which is now a subject of investigation, was allegedly carried out by Jonathan; his Chief Security Officer, Mr. Gordon Obuah; and Alison-Madueke.

The fund was said to have been withdrawn from one of the numerous accounts of the NNPC.

The $6.9m (about N1.37bn) was said to have been withdrawn for the purpose of buying three pieces of 40-feet mobile stages for use by Jonathan during the campaign.

Besides the latest allegation, it will be recalled that a group, Crusader for Good Governance, had petitioned the EFCC accusing the former minister of squandering million of dollars of public funds to charter private jets.

The petitioners also accused her of spending $300,000 on an average international trip.

The group also alleged that the NNPC, a government agency she oversaw, maintained a Challenger 850 Visa jet which serves the former minister’s needs as well as those of her family. The cost of running the jet is $500,000 per month.

She was also accused of going to a meeting of the Oil Producing and Exporting Countries in Austria in a private jet.

It was gathered on Sunday that the committee set up by the EFCC had since commenced probing the NNPC accounts and activities of the former minister.

A top operative of the EFCC, who confided in The PUNCH, said, “I think the commission has commenced investigation into this Diezani issue. It is not just about inviting her, the commission has set up a four-man team of crack detectives to investigate her operations in the NNPC.

“The terms of reference of the committee include to look into all the NNPC accounts which were under the supervision of Mrs. Alison-Madueke.

“The committee has since commenced work; they are still working. I think a very senior police officer, a Police Superintendent, is leading the other operatives in the probe of Diezani and multiple accounts of the NNPC.” The source said.

When our correspondent contacted the Head of Media and Publicity of the EFCC, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, on the activities of the EFCC Special Committee on the NNPC, the calls to his mobile telephone line did not connect.

But Uwujaren had earlier said that he was not aware if the commission had commenced a probe into the allegation that $6.9m was spent on campaign stages.

Uwujaren said that he had not been briefed on any such investigation.

“I am not aware of such a probe; I have not been briefed on such a probe,” he said.

Meanwhile, Obuah has denied the allegation of purchase of three mobile stages, costing $6.9m, for public appearance of the then President.

Obuah, who spoke through his lawyer, Mr. Andrew Tsekiri, in a telephone conversation with one of our correspondents on Sunday, said the allegation was false and challenged the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government to produce evidence instead of putting him on trial in the media.

Tsekiri said his client had been confronted with the allegation while in the detention of the Department of State Services, which he said investigated it and found it to be untrue.

The lawyer said, “Let me tell you, nothing like that exists. Obuah did not make demand for that money for any stage. Let them show to Nigerians evidence that he took the money. When Obuah was in their (DSS) detention, they investigated this particular matter and found out that it was false.

“He was confronted with the allegation. Mr. Obuah told them that he knew nothing about it, and they found that the allegation was false. They released him, why are they bringing it up again?”

He said since the release of the former President’s CSO from the DSS detention in July, he had not been contacted over the allegation by any government agency since then.

He said, “They have investigated the allegation and they found out it was false, since then no government agency had contacted or invited Mr. Obuah.

“They should show how Diezani authorised the payment of the money and how it left Citibank to Zenith Bank, to Access Bank to Sterling Bank and they should show how it ended in Obuah’s account.”

Tsekiri said the outcome of the allegation would soon show that the Buhari Administration was not interested in governance but to frame up allegations against people.

“They are just lying against Diezani and Mr. Jonathan. That is what they are doing. Let me tell you what they want to do. They will charge Obuah to court, make all the noise about the allegation that has been published, knowing full well that the matter will not be decided in about a year or two, and by then, the public would have forgotten about it but they would have spoilt your name.”