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N20bn Fraud: Atiku’s Ally, Turaki, Under EFCC Probe

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A former Minister of Special Duties and Inter-governmental Affairs, Kabiru Turaki (SAN), is under probe for alleged N20bn fraud, a court document filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission before the Federal High Court in Abuja and seen on Tuesday, says.

Turaki, who presided over the ministry from 2013 to 2015 in former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, is a political ally of the Peoples Democratic Party’s presidential candidate in the February 2019 presidential election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.

The former minister is the second most senior member of Atiku’s legal team in their case challenging the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress in the last presidential poll.

The court document obtained by The PUNCH was used by the EFCC to seek and obtain the final order of forfeiture of some funds linked to the alleged scam said to have taken place with Turaki’s involvement as a minister.

An investigator officer with the EFCC, Bello Adama, who deposed to the affidavit filed in support of the application for forfeiture order, said the commission, in January 2018, received intelligence about an alleged criminal misappropriation of over N20bn by Turaki while in office.

The investigator stated that the money was meant for constituency projects and funds for the Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of Conflicts and Security Challenges in the North-East.

He added that the ministry entered an agreement with companies for the supply of several items including tricycles, fertilizer and motorcycles, but the contract was used by the former minister and his allies to siphon public funds.

The document read in part, “That sometime in January 2018, the applicant received intelligence in respect of a case against the former minister in charge of the now defunct Federal Ministry of Special Duties and Inter-governmental Affairs, Mr Kabiru Taminu Turaki (SAN), alleging conspiracy and criminal misappropriation of public funds involving the sum of over N20bn meant for constituency projects and funds for the Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of Conflicts and Security Challenges in the North-East.

“That preliminary investigation conducted by the commission revealed that the former minister of the FMSDIGA conspired with some contractors and some members of staff of the ministry’s Procurement and Accounts Departments to divert public funds.

“That preliminary investigation further revealed that contrary to contract documentation on the agreement entered into by companies for the supply of several items included tricycles, fertilizer and motorcycles; contractors were made to pay out part of the funds released to them to some members of staff of the ministry or business associates of the former minister.

“That further to the deposition in the foregoing paragraphs, the trio of Titus Okunrinboye, Vincent Odafen and Muara Muhammed Gambo maintained and operated companies which were used to siphon public funds in the name of contracts or consultancy.

“That our investigation into the case further revealed that a larger part of the amount stated in paragraphs 4 and 6 above was fraudulently disbursed by the Central Bank of Nigeria at the instance of the FMSDIGA to individuals and corporate entities that did not carry out and did not intend to carry out any job as specified in the alleged contract documentation.”

On September 26, Justice Folashade Ogunbanjo-Giwa before whom the EFCC filed its application made the order of final forfeiture of about N600m found in two accounts belonging to Okunrinboye, one of the accountants in the ministry.

The judge had earlier on June 28, 2019 granted the EFCC’s ex parte application ordering the interim forfeiture of the assets.

In compliance with the court’s directive, the order of interim forfeiture was published in a newspaper on July 8, 2019, inviting whoever had an interest in the assets to appear in court to challenge it.

The judge made an order of final forfeiture of the funds on September 26 when no one came up to lay claim to the money which was said to have been voluntarily returned to the EFCC and subsequently paid into an account with the Central Bank of Nigeria.

The EFCC investigator said, Okunrinboye operated five accounts with Zenith Bank Plc, three of which were individual accounts and two corporate accounts, “and so far over N600m has been found standing to the credit of the accounts”.

He added, “That in the course of investigation, Mr Titus was found to have fraudulently received money from the Central Bank of Nigeria titled group life insurance which was debunked and tagged fraudulent by the Accountant General of the Federation upon enquiry by the commission.

“That investigation has also established that the officer has formed the habit of stealing money from government’s account where he is made a signatory and pay same to his personal accounts.

“That one of his accounts with number 100470202420 was linked to proceeds of criminal activities with a total credit turnover of the sum of N1,285,036,436.88 and a closing balance of N51,612,185.32

That the second account bearing his name with account number 2083812581 has total credit of N1,080,642,118.05 with a closing balance of N539,707,331.10 which forms part of his criminal activities.”

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Investigation

Reps Ask Committee On Police Affairs To Investigate Invasion Of Joy Nunieh’s Home

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The House of Representatives has mandated its committee on Police Affairs to investigate the circumstances surrounding the invasion of the home of the former acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Joy Nunieh.

The resolution was reached during plenary on Thursday following a matter of urgent public importance raised by the Deputy Majority Whip, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, who queried the motive behind the invasion.

The lawmaker believes the action was done to prevent her from giving her testimony before the House committee on the NDDC.

Armed security operatives surrounded the home of Joy Nunieh, in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital at about 4 a.m on July 16, 2020, in an attempt to break into her apartment for hours without success.

Ms. Nunieh reached out to the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike who swiftly responded to her distress call and came with his aides to challenge and stop the attempted arrest.

Wike eventually asked the operatives to leave the former NDDC MD’s premise, an order which was grudgingly complied with.

Afterwards, the governor asked Ms. Nunieh to get into a vehicle in which she was transported back to the State House where she is currently taking refuge.

Narrating her ordeal to newsmen, the ex-NDDC boss thanked the governor for his intervention, saying Wike is a man of his word.

According to Ms. Nunnieh, the security operatives stormed her residence at about 4 a.m that day with the intent to whisk her away but she refused because they did not have a warrant.

Terrified, she then reached out to Governor Wike but was not able to get through the first time because his number was switched off.

“I tried to reach him but the phones were switched off, so I called some people and they said these people might not be real policemen.

“They said they (security operatives) came to take me away, I said for what? Do they have a warrant for arrest? They said no warrant of arrest, so I left it.

“About 6 a.m they broke the gate and later Senator Magnus Abe now called me that he had reached the Commissioner of Police who said he didn’t know anything about it (the arrest).

“So the CP called, I sent him my address, they told me the CP was downstairs but the CP was not downstairs, it was the Deputy Commissioner who was around; so I opened the door, they wanted to grab me, I now pushed back the door and locked it.

“I got through to my governor, they tried to break the back door, its a security door so they kept hitting for over one hour and they couldn’t get access.

“So my governor came, asked them for their warrant of arrest and why they did not invite me to the police, that I will come, instead of going to take a woman like a criminal.

“So, the governor took me in his car and here I am refuging in the Government House.

“I want to thank his excellency for keeping to his word that nothing should happen to the daughter of Rivers State,” Ms. Nunieh narrated.

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NDDC Spent 1.3trn Between 2015 And 2019 – Senate Report

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The Senate ad hoc committee investigating financial recklessness in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) on Thursday said the agency had spent N1.3 trillion within four years, with some of the spending unlawful.

The committee revealed the figure during the presentation of its investigative report before the Senate days after the acting NDDC Managing Director, Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei, slumped at a public hearing.

In the report read by the Senate Committee Chairman, Senator Olubunmi Adetunmbi, the NDDC spent the N1.3 trillion between 2015 and May 31, 2019.

Many of the expenses, Adetunmbu said, were extra-budgetary.

He added that the Committee observed process errors and infractions, as well as substantial payments, were made to staff in the form of unjustifiable allowances.

He said the committee observed process errors and infractions, as well as substantial payments, were made to staff in the form of unjustifiable allowances.

The investigation further revealed that the NDDC paid 4.9 billion Naira to staff for numerous allowances including COVID-19 relief, tour duty allowances, overseas travel, and international scholarships.

Curiously, the payment for overseas travel and scholarship was during the lockdown and cessation of flights abroad.

The committee also observed that the ministry of Niger delta is culpable if negligent supervision of the NDDC.

It further noted that the performance of the interim management committee IMC is a major issue as the record of the IMC has not shown any record of prudence and it should be dissolved.

The committee also raised an alarm over the forensic audit called for by President Buhari, stating that it is at a rudimentary level with the recruitment of the auditors still underway even after eight months.

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Buhari Orders Speedy Investigation Into NDDC Corruption Scandal

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President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered a speedy and coordinated investigation into the corruption scandal in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, disclosed this in a statement on Thursday.

He explained that the President gave the directive for better coordination among security and investigating agencies with the National Assembly.

Shehu believes this will ensure that the effort of the present administration to bring sanity, transparency, and accountability to the management of the large amount of resources dedicated to the development of the Niger Delta sub-region is not derailed.

He stated that the President has noted the unfolding drama, including attacks and counterattacks between and around persons, institutions, and the NDDC.

“President Buhari expressed his strong determination to get to the root of the problem undermining the development of the Niger Delta and its peoples in spite of enormous national resources voted year after year for this singular purpose,” the statement said.

It added, “According to the directive, auditing firms and investigative agencies working in collaboration with National Assembly Committees to resolve the challenges in the NDDC must initiate actions in a time-bound manner and duly inform the Presidency of the actions being taken.”

A Chain Of Drama

President Buhari also directed the timely sharing of information and knowledge in a way that would speedily assist the administration to identify what had gone wrong in the past and what should be done to make corrections in order to return the NDDC to its original mandate of making life better for people in Niger Delta.

He said the administration would bring about “rapid, even, and sustainable development to the region.”

The President also gave a firm assurance that his administration would put in place a transparent and accountable governance framework, not only in the NDDC but in all other institutions of government.

Prior to the directive for a speedy and coordinated investigation, the corruption scandal in the NDDC had triggered a series of drama, blames, and counter-accusations among others.

Amid the controversy, the National Assembly probed the allegation of fraud said to have been perpetrated by the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the agency.

This led to another round of exchange of blame between the former IMC led by Dr Joy Nunieh and Professor Kemebradikumo Pondei over the discrepancies in the NDDC’s 2019 budget.

The controversy took a new twist on Thursday when a team of security operatives stormed Nunieh’s residence in Port Harcourt in an attempt to arrest her.

Nunieh, however, reached out to the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, who swiftly responded to her distress call and came with his aides to challenge and stop the attempted arrest.

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