- Lambasts EFCC for blowing cover, undermining operations
In a bizarre twist of events, the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) is claiming ownership of the $43,449,947, £27,800 and N23, 218,000 seized Wednesday by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission from Osborne Towers, a luxury residential complex in Ikoyi, Lagos, owned by Mr. Adamu Muazu, a former governor of Bauchi state and ex-National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)
The NIA is the government security agency tasked with overseeing foreign intelligence and counterintelligence operations in Nigeria.
A ranking government official with knowledge of the latest twist to the seizure confirmed that NIA Director General, Ambassador Ayodele Oke, has been in touch in EFCC’s boss, Ibrahim Magu, to express his displeasure over the raid at the apartment used as one of NIA’s safe houses in Lagos for its clandestine operations.
The official said Magu, whose confirmation as substantive chairman of the agency has been frustrated by the DSS and the Senate, has been under pressure to show President Muhammadu Buhari the billions of naira he told the president during a meeting that the EFCC had recovered under his leadership. “So he is on a reckless search for monies hence all these strings of raids and seizures within the last one week,” the source who asked not be identified said.
“I can authoritatively tell you that money belongs to the NIA. The DG has come forward to claim it and has informed my office of the development. He is furious with Magu for his agency’s recklessness and for compromising their operations,” the official said.
With the forfeiture order on the cash recovered by the commission from an apartment in the Ikoyi area of Lagos State on Wednesday, EFCC got the court to temporarily seize monies that were meant for an ongoing covert operation and had been hidden in a safe house back to the government coffers.
The court order also came on the heels of the raid by EFCC operatives on the Abuja residence of the former Managing Director of NNPC Retail, Mrs. Esther Ogbue, and her invitation to the commission’s office for interrogation over the expropriation of NNPC’s petroleum products stored in Capital Oil and Gas Limited and MRS Oil Plc’s facilities in Lagos.
As of press time, it was uncertain if Nnamdi-Ogbue who went to the commission in the company of her lawyer, Mr. Emeka Etiaba (SAN), had been released.
On Thursday, it was erroneously reported that the cash haul discovered in Apartment 7B, No. 16 Osborne Road, Ikoyi, belonged to her.
However, her lawyer and a member of her family who spoke strenuously, denied that she owns the apartment and cash found in it, disclosing that she and her family reside in Apartment 2B in the same luxury sky-rise complex, known as Osborne Towers, where the cash was discovered.
It was learnt that the cash had been stashed away in the apartment by NIA for a covert operation but was shocked on Wednesday when news broke that its operation had been compromised by the acting Chairman of the EFCC Ibrahim Magu and his personnel.
Opening up on how the raid of the apartment occurred and what transpired subsequently, a security official revealed that when the EFCC officials got to Osborne Towers, they were confronted by three or four NIA operatives who showed them their ID cards and confirmed that “property” in the said apartment belonged to the NIA.
“However, they were ignored and excitable Magu and his operatives went ahead to move the cash found in the apartment and made a great show of the discovery of another cash haul.
“When the Director General of the NIA, Ambassador Ayodele Oke, got wind of what had happened, he immediately got in touch with Magu and informed him that the money belonged to his agency and their cover had been blown by the action of the EFCC.
“All Magu said to him was ‘okay I have heard’, and took no action to correct his mistake.
“When Magu remained unyielding, the DG asked him to inform Mr. President that the funds belong to the NIA and was meant for an ongoing covert operation.
“We don’t know if Magu eventually reported the incident to the president, but we know that Mr. President has instructed that the funds should be returned to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN),” the security source revealed.
He said that President Muhammadu Buhari also instructed that the NIA should reapply for the funds, which shall now have to go through appropriation at the National Assembly.
“Right now, the intelligence community is shocked at Magu’s blunder, which he made worse by trying to ascribe the funds to that NNPC woman who knew nothing about it,” the source added
EFCC Raids Nnamdi-Ogbue’s House
But before the judge granted the interim forfeiture order, officials of the EFCC at about noon on Thursday raided the Abuja residence of Nnamdi-Ogbue who was retired last week.
According to sources, when the operatives arrived her home with a cameraman who filmed the entire exercise, she was at home and co-operated with the commission’s officials some of whom were armed.
They were said to have searched her home thoroughly and found no cash or incriminating documents.
A source, however, revealed that they carted away her computer hard drive and copies of all official memos relating to the lifting of petroleum products stored in the depots of Capital Oil and MRS.
After the search, which lasted for hours, she was invited to the commission for interrogation.
The source expressed confidence that she would be released on Thursday, but it was impossible to ascertain if she went home last night.
Also when contacted, a member of her family on Thursday, he vehemently denied that Nnamdi-Ogbue owns the Ikoyi apartment and cash found in it.
The family member, who preferred not to be named, said that Nnamdi-Ogbue and her family occupy Flat 2B in the building and that her husband and son were in the apartment complex at the time of the EFCC raid on Wednesday.
“They were actually at home yesterday (Wednesday), when they heard that EFCC officials were in the building. Tony, her husband, had a slight fever and was at home with his son.
“No one ever came to their apartment at the time of the raid and I can confirm that Esther is in Abuja as we speak,” the family source said.
Another source close to her linked her travails to the fact that she had reported the unathorised sale of petroleum products belonging to NNPC by Capital Oil and MRS, to the EFCC and Department of State Services (DSS).
The source said she had obviously stepped on some “very big toes”, hence the attempt to “deal with her”.
Nnamdi-Ogbue was appointed MD of the Petroleum Products Marketing Company (PPMC) in September 2015 and was redeployed a year later to head NNPC Retail by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, when he was still the Group Managing Director (GMD) of the state-run oil firm.
It was reported on Tuesday that she and three other officials of NNPC Retail had been recommended for retirement by a committee set up by the current GMD of NNPC, Dr. Maikanti Baru, to investigate the expropriation of NNPC’s products.
In line with the recommendation, she was given her letter of compulsory retirement on Tuesday.
Similarly, her lawyer, in a statement on Thursday denied the allegations that the huge cash found in Ikoyi and the apartment belonged to her, saying that she was just as shocked as the rest of the public when news broke on the cash haul.
Who Owns What in Osborne Towers
Meanwhile, Osborne Towers which was developed by the former governor of Bauchi State and ex-National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu, is known to have high profile occupants, including two other former governors of South-east and South-south states, who bought the flats from Mu’azu and the developer off-plan when it was still under construction.
Other high profile occupants of the building include Mr. Damien Dodo (SAN), a former presidential aide in the Goodluck Jonathan administration, a media owner, and the son of a technology business mogul.
During the construction of the 12-storey building by the construction firm Cappa D’Alberto a few years ago, the apartments were marketed by Mrs. Udo Maryanne Okonjo, the Chief Executive of Fine & Country West Africa, a real estate firm that specialises in the sale and lease of high-end properties in Lagos and Abuja.
A source with knowledge of the ownership of Apartment 7B, in which the money was kept, said it was initially bought by Bishop Dale Investment Limited, but later sold to Chobe Ventures Limited, the current owner of the flat. At the time the cash discovery was made, the flat was unoccupied.
Another source close to Mu’azu further confirmed that about 90 per cent of the apartments have long been sold, while the former PDP chieftain retains the penthouse on the 12th floor in the building.
The latest cash haul is reminiscent of a similar discovery, last February, of $9.7 million in the Kaduna home of the former GMD of NNPC, Dr. Andrew Yakubu.
NNPC Confirms Sack of Officials
In a related development, NNPC on Thursday confirmed the sack and deployment of its officials over the unauthorised sale of 82 million litres of petrol valued at N11 billion by Capital Oil.
The corporation said in a statement from its spokesman, Mr. Ndu Ughamadu, that the sack and deployment were in line with the ongoing reforms it initiated to cleanse it of corruption.
Ughamadu explained that those affected included Nnamdi-Ogbue, who was the Managing Director of NNPC Retail before her dismissal from the corporation’s services; Mr. Alpha Mamza, who was Executive Director, Operations of NNPC Retail; and Mr. Oluwa Kayode Erinoso, who was Manager, Distribution of NNPC Retail.
He said the trio of Mr. Adeyemi Adetunji, Mr. Lawal Bello and Mrs. Affiong Akpasubi had also been appointed to replace the sacked staff as Managing Director of NNPC Retail, Executive Director, Operations NNPC Retail, and Executive Director, Services NNPC Retail, respectively.
Also appointed was Mr. Agwandas Andrawus to head the distribution department of NNPC Retail.
Ughamadu stated that the sacks and appointments would take immediate effect.
He said until his new assignment as the MD of NNPC Retail, Adetunji was the General Manager, Strategy and Planning, Gas and Power and also former General Manager, Transformation Office in the corporation.
He quoted the GMD of NNPC to have charged the deployed staff to remain committed to their duties in line with the transformation aspirations of NNPC.
NNPC recently uncovered a breach in its throughput transactions with MRS and Capital Oil. It disclosed that it lost about 130 million litres of petrol it kept in the storage facilities of the firms as strategic reserves, adding that they sold the products without its approval.
While it launched an investigation into the development, NNPC subsequently announced that MRS had returned the products it sold from its stock, but Capital Oil was yet to refund its 82 million litres of petrol valued at N11 billion.
Insisting that it would recover the products despite counter claims by Capital Oil that the corporation owed it for past business transactions, Baru had pledged that NNPC would in addition to investigating the breach, set up new modalities to guide its engagement of throughput partners, as well as take punitive actions against parties involved in the anomaly.
Credits/ THISDAY, The Will