Barely two weeks after the Senate rejected the approval of Ibrahim Magu as substantive chairman for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) the commission’s report has indicted Senate President Bukola Saraki in the diversion of about N19billion Paris Club refund.
The EFCC report submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari, associated Saraki, some of his aides and Mr. Robert Mbonu of Melrose Generale Services Limited, with the diversion of about N19billion from the N522billion Paris Club refund.
But Saraki says that Magu is merely swinging mud because he is aggrieved that the Senate rejected his nomination to head the anti-graft agency.
Saraki in a statement by Yusuph Olaniyonu, his Special Adviser (Media and Publicity) said “it is obvious that at this point when Mr. Magu believes the Senate President should be blamed for his failure to secure confirmation as Chairman of EFCC by the Senate, he would want to fight back by cooking up reports and masterminding its leakage”.
Mbonu, who was indicted along with Saraki and aides, used to be the managing director of Societe Generale Bank of Nigeria, the commercial bank owned by the Saraki family that later got liquidated.
In December 2016, the sum of N522.74billion was approved by the Federal Government to be disbursed to the 36 states of the country as part of the reimbursement of the over-deduction on the Paris Club loan from 1995 to 2002.
However, the EFCC claimed it had in January found out that the loan refunds were illegally moved using the account of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
The commission alleged that the NGF had as soon as it received the funds, connived with Saraki and sent huge sums of the funds to private consultants who then assisted them in laundering about N19billion.
The EFCC as learnt is investigating aside the NGF, the Relationship Manager to the Senate President in Access Bank, Kathleen Erhimu and some of his aides including Obiora Amobi, Gbenga Makanjuola, Kolawole Shittu and Oladapo Idowu.
In the report, Saraki is said to have at a certain time in December, introduced the ex-bank MD, Mbonu, to Erhimu in a meeting with the above named aides.
The commission claimed that following the meeting that the sum of N3.5billion was lodged into Melrose General Services Company account number 0005892453, domiciled in Access Bank from the Nigeria Governors Forum on December 14.
The report went further to say that Saraki’s two aides, Obiora Amobi and Gbenga Makanjuola, were introduced to Access Bank as representatives of Melrose General Services Limited by Mbonu so that they could withdraw from the account.
It then revealed that the two aides to the Senate President, Amobi and Makanjuola withdrew from the account in various tranches of N5million and N10million.
“Based on the foregoing findings, it is clear that Robert Mbonu, the Managing Director of Melrose General Services Company and his company were used to help divert proceeds of unlawful activities under the guise of payment for contractual obligations with the Nigeria Governors Forum.
“Suffice to apprise that all payments received by Melrose General Services Company from the NGF have hitherto been diverted directly via cash withdrawals and indirectly through transfers by Gbenga Peter Makanjuola, Kolawole Shittu and Oladapo Joseph Idowu, who are principal aides to the Senate President.
“Furthermore, other payments from Melrose General Services Company have also been linked to companies that Dr. Bukola Saraki has interest in and carries out transactions with. This includes the sum of $183,000, which was transferred to Bhaska Devji Jewellers, Dubai, a company Dr. Bukola Saraki had repeatedly made payments to.
“Also, the sum of N200million was transferred to Wasp Networks Limited that subsequently transferred the sum of N170million to Xtract Energy Services Limited, a company that routinely made deposits into Dr. Saraki’s Access Bank US Dollar Domiciliary account,” the report read in part.
It then said that a prima facie case of conspiracy to retain the proceeds of unlawful activities and money laundering, contrary to sections 15(3) and 18(9) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2004, could be opened against the suspects.
In his response to the accusations, Saraki through Olaniyonu, said such allegations coming from the EFCC are not new.
He continued, “We maintain our stand that Dr. Saraki has no direct or indirect link to the distribution of the NGF money. No money from the Paris Club refund was paid to Dr. Saraki.
“In addressing the specifics of the allegation in the reports as we gathered from the press, EFCC believe that since the Senate President has worked in the same organisation with Mr. Robert Mbonu before, whatever transaction he is involved in should be linked to the Senate President in this era of mud-slinging and much-raking.
“We would like to say that Mr. Mbonu is not representing Mr. Saraki in any transaction he does with the NGF and no money from his company, Melrose, in his dealing with Nigeria Governors Forum came to Dr. Saraki either directly or indirectly. And if the EFCC has any information to the contrary, we challenge them to make it public.
“We state categorically that no aide of the Senate President acted on Saraki’s behalf in whatever they do with Mr. Mbonu.
“Again, If Melrose paid any money to a jeweller or any shop that has nothing to do with the Senate President. We believe Melrose must have the necessary documentation in support of their transaction and we are sure the EFCC is aware of all these.
“In the same vein, if Melrose chose to invest in another company, that decision has nothing to do with the Senate President and the act of drawing a link between Mbonu and Saraki can at best be only pure mischief.
“At this point, it should be noted that Xtract Energy Services Limited is a well-known foreign exchange dealer with almost 15 years of existence in the market and the company is widely known to do business with many organisations in the country. The last time the Senate President patronised the company was on December 19, 2014 and we challenge Mr. Magu and the EFCC to prove that the Senate President transacted any form of business with the foreign exchange dealer in the period of the payment of the Paris Club refund.
“We call on members of the public to view this concocted and leaked report as Mr. Magu’s form of fighting back. The report has no truth in it. It should be noted that the Senate President was not behind Magu’s failure to get confirmation from the Senate. That was democracy in action. Dr. Saraki is merely a presiding officer and first among equals. Dr. Saraki did not in any way interfere with the confirmation process”, he stated.