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Author Name: Staff
Number of articles: 8
This piece is intended as a sequel to two essays on Professor Maurice Iwu by one Aloy Ejimakor, writing... (0) Comment

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President Obasanjo'S Statement On Atiku'S Corruption Defence
Author: Staff | September 14, 2006

Statement by Mrs. Remi Oyo [Senior Special Assistant, Media, to the President Obasanjo] Refuting Vice-President Atiku Abubakar's Defence
On Tuesday, September 6, 2006, President Olusegun Obasanjo forwarded two reports to the National Assembly: report of the investigation of the funds of the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC); the findings of the Administrative Panel on the investigation of the PTDF by the EFCC. Since the reports were received by the National Assembly, attempts have been made to read political meanings into a purely administrative and constitutional issue. That, really is to be expected, especially as the matter concerns high political office holders. However, we observe that most of the commentaries, to be modest, ignore the facts of the case. Why the investigation Following a dispute between NDTV and iGate chaired by Vernon J. Jackson, Congressman William J. Jefferson, representing Second Congressional District of Louisiana on May 28, 2004, wrote to President Obasanjo alleging corruption in the PTDF. To understand the origin and motive of the investigation of the PTDF in the first instance, it will be necessary to copiously quote Mr. Jefferson: ''One of the principals of NDTV demanded a kick-back of one million dollars of the $6.5 million. Additionally, Mr. Jackson reported to me that he was deeply troubled by comments made to him by the managing director of NDTV that the funds were delayed on the contract because they were expecting funds allegedly related to Petroleum Trust Development Fund (PTDF) fixed deposits to pay for the rest of the project. Mr. Jackson worried that this source of payment might be improper or perhaps even illegal. After hearing this from Mr. Jackson, I, therefore, refused to be of further help to NDTV to continue its contract with iGate as I did not want a smudge on my reputation, nor that of iGate or Mr. Jackson in dealings in Nigeria. A final concern that Mr. Jackson reported to me, unrelated to the contract violations, nonetheless disturbing, was that he feared he would become involved in Nigerian politics. This is because two of the principals of NDTV continued to press him to agree to have their partnership provide funds out of upcoming operations for the 2007 elections for the current Vice President of Nigeria to become President. At bottom, this is all there is to the matter â a business dispute that is left to be settled between the parties through good-faith negotiations â not through outrageous claims of wrongdoing.'' On receipt of the letter, containing allegations which clearly put question marks on the anti-corruption credentials of his governments, the President in a letter of June 9, 2004, thanked Mr. Jefferson. Additionally, he said he 'had taken immediate steps to ensure full investigations of its (PTDF) activities in order to establish the veracity of the allegations made on the use of its resources to settle the obligations of the NDTV, a private company.' Preliminary investigations indicated that Mr. Jefferson was right about the PTDF. As a result, Alhaji Hamisu Mirago, the Fund's executive secretary was removed. To get to the bottom of the matter, the President directed the police to continue the investigations. These are on-going. By coincidence, Jefferson became entangled in another case, which involved Vice President Atiku Abubakar. The case was about allegations that Jefferson had asked and received bribes on behalf of the Vice President on a transaction involving the Nigeria Telecommunications Company Limited (NITEL). That case led to the well-published raid on the US home of Vice President Atiku Abubakar. Because the matter involved a high-ranking US citizen, the FBI wrote to the EFCC to investigate the case and share information on the findings. Based on this, the EFCC took over the investigation of the PDTF. It is interesting to know that it was Mr. Jefferson, who has very obvious and deep business links with Vice President Abubakar, and his associates, who blew the whistle that informed the investigation of the PTDF. After the investigations, a copy of the report was forwarded to the FBI and another to the President apparently because it was found out that the Vice President was directly involved in certain transactions and received cheques in his name. Funds from the PTDF have also been used to fund private projects of the Vice President. Taking great care not to be perceived as operating double standards on the matter of corruption, the President set up an administrative panel to study the EFCC report and advise the Federal Executive Council (FEC). The recourse to administrative panel of inquiry was informed by the fact that government was so embarrassed that it could not trust any other mechanism to advise the findings of the EFCC. Again, the nature of the persons involved required that the report be treated with utmost confidentiality and secrecy. The panel's report, presented to the FEC, concluded the Vice President abused his office, violated oath of office and the constitution. Since the President has no powers to sanction his deputy, he decided to forward the report to the National Assembly for the information of all members. Less than 90 days after the first deposit on October 10, 2003, TIB advanced a loan of N400 million to NDTV and two days later gave a loan of N420 million to MOFAS. Chief Fasawe has interests in NDTV and MOFAS and serves as Chairman of both companies. A second loan of N30 million was given again to NDTV by TIB barely two months later on Jan 1 2004. Some eight months before its first TIB loan, February 18, 2003, MOFAS gave N250 million to Marine Float, a company owned by Vice President Atiku Abubakar and incorporated in 1992. The Vice President's company, Marine Float, had in the preceeding month paid N30 million as deposit for the purchase of the headquarters of NDTV, confirming the Vice President's interests in NDTV. From October 2003, MOFAS paid more than N500 million to Umar Pariya, the Personal Assistant of Vice President Atiku Abubakar. On one occasion, the sum of N61 million was paid by MOFAS directly to the Vice President on Jan. 29, 2001. MOFAS also paid N60 million directly to Musa Garba on May 22 2002. Garba is, among other things, a contractor who works for the ABTI establishment comprising the Academy and University owned by the Vice President. Musa Garba had said, among other things in his statement during investigation, that he had cashed cheques in the past for the Vice President. 'I remember around 2002-2005, Alhaji Atiku brought some drafts on different occasion(s) in favour of my name. He said it is not for ABTI, one of his friends donated to PDP North-East, then I gave him cash for the drafts. He did not tell me the name of the donors since I am not a politician.' (excerpts from statement of Musa Garba). Following the receipt of the loans from TIB in October 2003 and Jan 2004, NDTV concluded the payment for the headquarters of the organisation to the tune of N170 million. NDTV also paid $6.5 million to iGate in two installments. In his letter of May 28, 2004, to President Olusegun Obasanjo, Representative William J. Jefferson of the United States complained that 'One of the principals of NDTV demanded a kick back of one million dollars of the $6.5 million.' (Vernon L) Jackson, Chairman and CEO of iGate Inc. had, according to Jefferson's letter, 'reported to me that he was deeply troubled by comments made to him by the Managing Director of NDTV that the funds were delayed on the contract because they were expecting funds allegedly related to â¦PTDF fixed deposits to pay for the rest of the project.' (Note that Vice President Atiku Abubakar authorised that fixed deposits be paid by PTDF under his supervision into ETB and TIB without authorisation of Federal Executive Council). The left bottom of the chart shows three deposits made to Equitorial Trust Bank (ETB) between June 2002 and July 2003 by PTDF then headed by Yusuf Hamisu Abubakar (aka Mairago). The first deposit of 50 million US dollars was made on June 25, 2002 from the UBA New York account of PTDF to the Bank. (Less than two months after this on August 6 2002, ETB paid 20 million dollars in support of the bid by Globacom). The second deposit of 52.9 million dollars was made by PTDF on July 14 2003 to ETB, while the third deposit of 62.1 million dollars was made on July 17 2003. Hamisu Abubakar (aka Mairago), former Executive Secretary of PDTF benefitted from loans in excess of 200 million naira from PDTF. A three-million dollar contract with Univision of United Kingdom for the provision of consultancy services for the upgrade of Petroleum Training Institute, Warri and PDTF scholarships was inflated by two million dollars and the fund diverted to four companies owned by Hamisu under the pretext of the companies offering services. The companies are FDZ Nigeria Limited, 19 Wharf Road, Apapa with corresponding bank in Bankers Trust Company in New York; Edginton Limited, 15, Osborne Road, Ikoyi, Lagos with corresponding bank as Habibsons Bank Limited, London and Biosynthesis Nigeria Limited 18, Enugu Crescent and corresponding bank as American Express Bank, New York and Remington Limited, Abuja, BTC, NYC, Brussels. Hamisu Abubakar remains a dealer and transporter for Conoil owned by Otunba Mike Adenuga. It is now known that Jeffrey Tesler facilitated a loan of 700 million US dollars for Conoil. Tesler is known as an associate of former President Ibrahim Babangida. Mohammed Babangida owns 10 per cent shares in Conpetro which owns 30 per cent shareholding in Conoil. On August 30, 2002, Conoil paid 180 million dollars to support the Globacom bid. The chart, annextures and explanations clearly show that President Obasanjo's submission to the National Assembly was in keeping with his constitutional responsibilities as an elected President who swore to uphold the Constitution. The transactions had nothing to do with the President. Vice President Atiku Abubakar has alleged political persecution and all sorts of things. That is far- fetched, by all standards. Neither the President nor anybody had an inkling of the dealings in PDTF until he was tipped off by Jefferson, whose links to Vice President Atiku Abubakar is well-known. Secondly, the country would not have known that a public trust like the PTDF has been used to further private interests had NDTV and iGate not disagreed on a deal and petitioned the President. Thirdly, allegations that the funds used for campaigns are, to say the least, false. The payments were not made in relation to campaign expenses. For instance, past payment for the NDTV headquarters by Marine Float owned by Vice President Atiku Abubakar cannot be said to be a campaign related expenditure. Monies in excess of 400 million naira paid by MOFAS in October 2003 cannot be said to be campaign expenditure. What campaign, we dare ask, was on in October 2003, four months after the President and the Vice President had been sworn into office? So much has been said about the donation of N100 million to the PDP by Plateau State Governor, Chief Joshua Dariye. The truth is that no such money was donated. The Plateau State Governor wrote a N100 million cheque in the name of Marine Float, owned by Vice President Atiku Abubakar. The date on the All States Trust Bank cheque is August 15, 2001, two clear years before the Presidential elections in 2003. Following the insistence of the EFCC that the money be refunded, the Vice President begged the President to help him as he had no money. The President agreed to give fifty million naira. (There are witnesses. This is not the only time that the President has had to come to the aid of the Vice President when he so requested.) Concerning Mr. Bodunde Adeyanju, the Special Assistant to the President who was mentioned as a beneficiary of PTDF fund, Otunba Fasawe or any campaign fund on behalf of the President, we repeat that nothing can be further from the truth. Otunba Fasawe is well-known to Adeyanju and has given him cash gifts since their relationship began more than eight years ago long before the election of the President. Facts which can be checked at the EFCC show that not more than five million had been given him over several years. Could that be campaign fund or to bribe President Obasanjo? There is another issue. It is important to note that efforts are being made to divert attention from the real issues in this case. Beyond the calculations for future office, what we need to establish is whether the allegation raise a hint of gross misconduct, abuse of office, corruption, accountability and violation of the constitution to which the Vice President swore to protect. We need to establish whether the allegations relate to a violation of public morality and ethics which strike forcefully at the foundations of the anti-corruption policy of this government. The matter, thankfully, is before the National Assembly which under the constitution has oversight responsibility. It is instructive to note that all actions on the matter by the relevant agencies, have followed the due process. Rather than engage in misrepresentation of facts, we would like to advise indicted parties to address pertinent issues at hand.

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