There seems to be more trouble for embattled former Petroleum Resources Minister Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is probing her involvement in a $115m (N23, 299,705,000billion) 2015 election bribery scandal.
The anti-graft agency has detained two bankers in connection with the scandal.
The agency has launched a manhunt for Ugonna Madueke, the former minister’s son.
Besides, four companies implicated in the bribe-for-results scandal during the 2015 general elections are under probe.
The companies are: Northern Belt Gas Company Limited; Auctus Integrated; Midwestern Oil and Gas; and Leno Laitan Adesanya.
The Resident Electoral Commissioner for Cross River State, Gesil Khan and four others are undergoing interrogation over the N681million the allegedly got from the bribe.
She allegedly got N185, 842,000 from the deal.
The other suspects and the alleged bribe against their names are Fidelia Omoile (Electoral Officer in Isoko-South Local Government Area of Delta State)—N112,480,000; Uluochi Obi Brown( INEC’s Administrative Secretary in Delta State)—N111,500,000; a former Deputy Director of INEC in Cross River State, Edem Okon Effanga—N241,127,000 and the Head of Voter Education in INEC in Akwa Ibom, Immaculata Asuquo—N214,127,000.
During its preliminary investigations, the EFCC discovered that the N23.29billion was shared to INEC officials in all the 36 states, some individuals and Non-Governmental Organisations(NGOs), which deployed election monitors.
Arrested by the EFCC are Fidelity Bank Managing Director Mr. Nnamdi Okonkwo and the bank’s Head of Operations, Mr. Martin Izuogbe.
The list of all beneficiaries, who received funds through Fidelity Bank branches nationwide, was being compiled last night.
A source in EFCC, who spoke in confidence with our correspondent, said: “We are looking at a case of conspiracy between Fidelity Bank and the former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, to bribe INEC officials to rig the 2015 presidential election nationwide.
“There was a time Diezani invited the MD of Fidelity Bank Nnamdi Okonkwo and told him that the owners of the four companies will come and drop some money and the MD should keep the money separately and await instructions on what to do.
“The companies gave these amounts to the MD of Fidelity Bank as follows: Northern Belt Gas Company Limited ($60m); Auctus Integrated ($17,884,000); Midwestern Oil and Gas ($9.5m); and Leno Laitan Adesanya ($1.85m).
“On her part, Diezani sent $25.77million(approximately $26m) to the MD with all the funds totaling $115million (N23, 299,705,000billion).
“A day or two before the presidential election, she gave a distribution list to the Fidelity Bank Plc MD and instructed that the $115million be changed into Naira and shared to INEC officials in the 36 states, some individuals and NGOs.
“The MD said there was no way the bank could meet up with the conversion of the $115million into Naira and distribute at the same time. Diezani pleaded with the MD to use the Naira in the bank’s vault. She said if the bank changed the dollars later, it could make Naira replacement. That was how the money was distributed to INEC officials in 36 states, some individuals and NGOs.
“The MD instructed the bank’s Head of Operations, Martin Izuogbe, to communicate with all Fidelity Bank branches to effect the distribution of the cash to alter the presidential election poll results.”
The source added: “We have arrested and detained the MD of Fidelity Bank since Monday. But we picked up the Head of Operations on Wednesday.
“They are undergoing intense grilling and we may not release them until we have completed investigations.
“About N681million out of the funds was disbursed to the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Cross River State and four others.
“It is obvious that more Resident Electoral Commissioners and INEC officials will soon be invited for interrogation.”
On the manhunt for the son of the ex-Minister, the top source added: “Ugonna Madueke was at the meeting in her mother’s house when everything was perfected with the MD of the bank. He allegedly gave some instructions too.
“We are looking for him for interaction.”
The EFCC shocked the embattled Resident Electoral Commissioner for Cross River State, Gesil Khan, with the video evidence which was retrieved from the CCTV tape showing how the transactions were carried out in a bank.
She allegedly got about N185,842,000 from the deal, which she denied.
The development has set the stage for the grilling of the REC and four others, The Nation learnt.
About a fortnight ago, the EFCC arrested some top INEC officials in connection with massive bribery during last year’s elections.
The other suspects and the bribe against their names are Fidelia Omoile( Electoral Officer in Isoko-South Local Government Area of Delta State)—N112,480,000 ;
Uluochi Obi Brown( INEC’s Administrative Secretary in Delta State)—N111,500,000; a former Deputy Director of INEC in Cross River State, Edem Okon Effanga—N241,127,000 and the Head of Voter Education in INEC, Akwa Ibom, Immaculata Asuquo—N214,127,000.
Besides, some sensitive election materials meant for the 2015 presidential and senatorial polls were retrieved from the homes of some of the suspects.
EFCC operatives also recovered also many documents on financial and landed properties from the homes of the embattled INEC officials .
Some of the documents include receipts of payments made into their accounts.
The suspects allegedly got the bribe in Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross River states.
There are indications that many INEC officials and ad hoc workers benefitted from the bribe.
A top EFCC source, who spoke in confidence with our correspondent, said: “The actual amount involved in the deal was N681million. When we began investigation, the REC denied involvement in any transaction relating to the scandal.
“Each time we questioned her, she refused to own up. We had no choice but to confront her with a CCTV clip of how she went to a bank to identify one Peter Popnen (who is on the run) to collect N185, 842,000.
“At this stage, she had no choice but to admit. She is still in detention pending the conclusion of the ongoing investigation. If she hadn’t wasted time in owning up, the investigation would have reached a convenient bend to admit her to bail.
“The truth is that with modern technology, there is no hiding place for anybody again.”
The EFCC yesterday released a former Minister of Finance Mrs. Nenadi Usman on health grounds.
Her movement is, however, restricted to the country ahead of her appearance for more grilling next week on the over N4billion in her company’s accounts for the 2015 campaign.
But she has signed an undertaking to refund about N140million credited to her personally out of the slush funds, which were transferred to an account titled “Joint Trust Dimension Nigeria Limited”.
Also, the EFCC yesterday invited some aides of former Minister of Aviation Femi Fani-Kayode, and coordinators who worked with him at the Presidential Campaign Organisation.
Fani-Kayode allegedly got about N840million from the cash which was withdrawn from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) but wired through Mrs Usman’s company.
Details of how the cash was shared are: Fani-Kayode (N840million); Goodluck Support Group (N320million); Achike Udenwa and Viola Onwuliri (N350million); Nenadi Usman (N140million); and Okey Ezenwa (N100million).
Another EFCC source added: “Nenadi was released on health grounds but she has to come back next week for another round of interrogation. Her passport has been seized and her movement restricted to the country.
“Already, she has signed an undertaking to pay back N140million, being the personal sum credited to her out of the cash under investigation.
“She has made two houses available in Abuja in respect of the remaining sums being probed in her company’s account.
“We have, however, not concluded investigation. For instance, some aides and coordinators who worked with one of those implicated, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, were summoned to Lagos for interaction.
“Some of these suspects are undergoing grilling, which involves funds remitted into their accounts and disbursement.
“We will recover every kobo from the beneficiaries of these slush funds.”
Culled from The Nation Newspaper