Politics Nigeria has learnt that there are strong indications that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) would this week make a pronouncement on the actual owner and the details of $43.4 million, 27,800 and N23.2 million recovered from an apartment at Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos.
Operatives of the EFCC had on Wednesday found the staggering cash hidden inside the Osborne Towers. The development was a sequel to a tip-off by the whistleblowers who reportedly alerted the agency about the strange discovery at the Ikoyi home.
But a top-ranking official has confided in Politics Nigeria that the commission would soon disclose the actual owners of the humongous cash that was kept in a private home. The source, who sought anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the matter, stated that ongoing investigation on the recovered amount is almost concluded, saying that the details of the discovery would be made public this week.
He said: “The commission is about to complete investigation on the recovered cash. I can also tell you that the operatives and top officials of the agency are in Lagos over matter. “The operatives and the top officials are tidying up all the loose ends on certain issues. They are also trying to ensure that necessary details are not muddled up while trying to unravel the actual owners of the cash and the circumstances leading to the discovery of the money.
“Don’t forget that we have approached the court and secured interim forfeiture on the cash. The commission will soon tell Nigerians what actually happened on the matter. I believe that certain pronouncement on the issue will be made known this week.” Controversy has continued to trail the actual owner of the about N13 billion cash as various parties have reportedly laid claim to the money. The Director General of the NIA, Ayodele Oke, was said to have claimed that the money belonged to his agency. But the Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike has faulted the NIA’s claim, saying that the claim was false and insisted that the action was designed by the ruling APC -led Federal Government to cover-up on the grounds that the money belongs to Rivers State.
Wike also alleged that his immediate predecessor and Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, kept the money in the said Ikoyi home. Addressing a press conference in Port Harcourt, Wike alleged that, “If you recollect in 2015, we said that gas turbines built by former Governor Peter Odili were sold to Sahara Energy, business partners of Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi at $319 million. “That money was used to sponsor the APC for the 2015 general elections. From the date of sale of the gas turbines to May 29, 2015, the money depleted from $319 million to $204,000. What was stashed at the Ikoyi residence was part of that fund. All the stories that the money belongs to the NIA are fake”. But Amaechi has denied the allegation, saying that the apartment and the money did not belong to him.
Amaechi further challenged Wike to proceed to court and present any evidence that could prove his ownership of the funds. Speaking through his spokesman, Mr David Iyofor, Amaechi described Wike’s claims as “malicious, frivolous and another failed attempt to divert attention from the mess he has created in Rivers State.” Meanwhile, Governor Nyesom Wike has taken his campaign for the Federal Government to release the $43 million dollars found in a luxury apartment in Ikoyi to the church, urging Christians in Rivers State to aggressively pray to God on the matter.
Speaking during an Easter Church Service at Saint Peter’s Anglican Church in Rumuepirikom, Gov. Wike said that the church had a responsibility to pray that God would touch the Federal Government to return the money to the coffers of Rivers State, because, according to him, the money belonged to Rivers State Government. “We need the prayer of the Church because there is nothing that prayer cannot do. Pray that God should touch the Government of Nigeria, so that they will return the money to us. What we are interested in is for the money to come back to us.”
The governor stated that contrary to the “false propaganda being peddled by the embattled Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, he has not declared war on the Federal Government, but the Rivers State Government was simply requesting the return of funds belonging to the state.” Governor Wike continued: “I cannot declare war on the Federal Government. Anybody bringing Buhari’s name, should leave Buhari and face his own problems.
The issue is who kept the money at the Ikoyi Residence. The money was kept there by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi.” He emphasised: “No amount of blackmail, no amount of distraction will stop us from getting our money,” alleging that between 70 and 80 percent of the APC campaigns in 2015 were sponsored using funds sourced by the Rivers State Government under the leadership of Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, Minister of Transportation.
Speaking further, the Rivers State Governor said that the idea of the alleged selective war of corruption would not help development in the country and wondered why security intelligence allegedly worked on opponents of the Federal Government, but that when “glaring corruption issues pop up like the Ikoyi case, where Billions of Dollars belonging to Rivers State have been found, the war on corruption is suspended and diversionary tactics adopted.” In a related development, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has disclosed that looters of public funds are now burying money in their backyards, cemeteries and in deep forests.
The minister also stated that the whistle-blower policy has led to the recovery of looted funds, saying that it is remarkable that the policy is an effective tool in the war against corruption Mohammed stated this in a statement made available on Sunday by his spokesman, Mr Segun Adeyemi.
The minister also commended Nigerians for their enthusiasm on the whistle-blower policy. He added that their commitment has helped the government to tackle corruption through the useful leads which they made available to appropriate government agencies.
The minister said, “Since we launched the whistle-blower policy, we have received immeasurable support from Nigerians. Yes, there is a monetary reward for any information that leads to recovery of looted funds, but from what we have seen, most of the Nigerians who have come forward with useful leads were driven by patriotism rather than reward. “Nigerians, fired by a fervid resolve to help banish corruption from their country, have daily inundated the offices of the appropriate government agencies with valuable information. We have been told how looters have resorted to burying stolen funds in their backyards, in deep forests and even in burial grounds. “Thanks to whistle-blowers, it is now clear that a rapacious few have pillaged the nation’s wealth through a vicious orgy of corrupt practices. Thanks to the useful information provided by Nigerians, it is now obvious that more funds are in the possession of looters than are available to the government at all levels to meets its obligations, including paying workers’ salaries, providing social amenities, upgrading infrastructure and ensuring the security of lives and property”.
The minister also stated looters have continued to run helter-skelter, saying that many of them are even abandoning their loots at unusual places, including airports. He further informed Nigerians that the federal government would not abandon the whistle-blower policy, saying that the policy would be rejigged to make it more effective as a tool for fighting corruption. According to the minister, the recovered looted funds are safe, adding that as soon as the necessary reconciliation process and the ongoing litigations in some of the cases are concluded, the government will give a full account of the funds to Nigerians.