Confusion over ownership of recovered $43 million
• Wike, Amaechi Bicker
• NIA Yet To Officially Confirm Proprietorship
Hot potato best describes the situation regarding ownership of the $43.4m unveiled last Wednesday by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), at the Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, with the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi taking up the gauntlet against Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike.
Wike had alleged that the money belonged to Rivers State government, claiming it was part of the proceeds from the sale of a gas turbine by the immediate past administration of Amaechi in the state. He insisted that the money should be returned to the state government.
But Amaechi, yesterday, dared Wike to go to court if he has any shred of evidence that the $43 million recovered from the luxury apartment in Lagos, belongs to Rivers State government.
Also, associates of the Minister, including the All Progressives Congress (APC) spokesperson in the state, Chris Finebone and Director General of NIMASA, Dakuku Peterside, have urged the Federal Government to investigate the veracity of Wike’s claim and let the public know the truth of the matter.
There have been unverified reports in the dailies and social media of the Nigeria Intelligence Agency (NIA) claiming the money actually belonged to the agency and was kept at the apartment for covert operations.
The NIA has however kept sealed lip on the matter, prompting reactions from critics of the government that the NIA was being used as cover up.
Essentially, media reports claim sources within NIA said the money was approved by the last administration of President Goodluck Jonathan and that EFCC was duly briefed by the NIA that the house where the money was recovered was a safe apartment for its discreet operations.
Attempt to speak to NIA’s Director Public Affairs; Ambassador Anka failed yesterday, as he did not pick calls. It was however gathered that an official statement by the agency would be issued on Tuesday, at the end of the Easter holiday.
Amaechi, in a statement yesterday, denied that the $43m and the luxury apartment in Lagos, belong to him, asking Wike to substantiate his allegation.
The Minister, who governed Rivers State between 2007 and 2015, said the claim that he stashed the $43m was not only malicious, frivolous, but purely diversionary.
A statement issued by the minister’s media office and made available to The Guardian, reads: “For clarity and emphasis, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi is not the owner of the $43m and the Ikoyi apartment in which the money was recovered from. Amaechi has no business, link or connection to the money or property. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi does not know who owns the money or Ikoyi apartment.
“Wike’s malicious allegation of corruption against Amaechi in the sale of the Gas Turbines is not new. This false claim has been punctured repeatedly with facts and evidence of the transfer payments for the power plants into Rivers State government accounts by Sahara Energy. The records of how the funds were spent and what it was spent on are in the records of the state government. Amaechi has absolutely no business or any interest whatsoever in Sahara Energy.
The company was already a thriving business concern before Amaechi’s emergence as governor of Rivers State in 2007.
“This Wike’s recent tale like his previous ones is a big sham, a disgraceful political drama, and a campaign of calumny to defame and destroy the sterling reputation of Rotimi Amaechi. This is now Wike’s sole life ambition.”
Wike told Christian leaders in Port Harcourt, yesterday, that Rivers State Government was not interested in the prosecution of the immediate past Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, but simply seeking the return of funds, which belong to the state.
According to him, he has informed and briefed the legal team of the state and they are ready to commence action against the Federal Government to recover the money
Finebone, said the Inspector-General of Police and other relevant federal agencies should as a matter of urgency diligently investigate accusations by Wike, to establish the veracity of his claim or otherwise.
Peterside, who was commissioner for works under Amaechi, said the money realized from sale of the gas turbines were paid into the account of Rivers State and the money used for projects.