EFCC quizzes ex-ministers, Anyanwu, SAN, party chair over campaign funds
• Ex-senator denies allegation
• ‘North West PDP got N5b’
A former senator, Chris Anyanwu and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Michael Ahamba, have been interrogated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over their alleged involvement in the disbursement of $115 million by Fidelity Bank on the instruction of erstwhile Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke.
The chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Cross River State, Ntufam John Okon, was also yesterday arrested in Calabar for allegedly receiving N500 million of the $115 million.
“The money was placed in the transit account at the corporate headquarters of the bank but cash was made available to Okon in the Calabar branch of the bank,” an EFCC operative told The Guardian.
On the phone last night, Anyanwu said she was not a beneficiary of money from the PDP because she was considered an outsider and she came into the party towards the election.
In a text message later, she wrote: “I didn’t see. I didn’t touch. I did not even inhale their money. You got to know that certain things are unthinkable. This is one, it was a devil’s idea.”
Also, two former ministers from the Northwest are in the custody of the EFCC for allegedly receiving part of the N23.3 billion from Alison-Madueke through the bank.
They are a former Minister of Foreign Affairs and an erswtwhile junior minister. The former is alleged to have received N950 million of the N1.3 billion sent to a Northwest state prior to the 2015 elections. The balance of N406.2 million is alleged to have been received on behalf of a deceased State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) by a retiree of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
It was gathered that the Anyanwu and Ahamba were questioned by the commission’s investigators over the N700 million they allegedly got from a branch of the bank in Owerri. They are alleged to have got N700 million of the funds together with a former governor of Imo State, Chief Achike Udenwa. They were allegedly invited to the EFCC office in Enugu and released on bail.
Anyanwu further told The Guardian: “They are questioning everybody, they are hitting their head everywhere.People were asking questions, to all sorts of people asking what do you know, this and that, and you tell them, everybody has to explain himself, that is all. It was not possible to share the money. Looks like they are looking for bad guys, everybody has to be smeared and messed up.
“I had just joined PDP before the elections; I was like an outsider, so what is my role…I assure you that I, Chris Anyanwu will not be involved in sharing money because I was not even in a position to. That was not my assignment, I was not high up in the party, I did not belong to the campaign team. I did not see their money, I did not touch their money, I was not there when they shared their money, that is all
I can assure you. I was not even seen as a full member of the party. When I entered into a room where they were meeting, they went cold, because we were new from another party, like an invader, invading their party, it is not possible that I will be the one sharing their money.”
She advised journalists to go and talk to the people who owned the party. “If you are looking for money, that is where you should go. I can’t be caught being part of that nonsense,” she added.
One of the representatives from Jigawa who was a Minister of State for Foreign Affairs allegedly received N500 million of the N750 million disbursed to his state. The commission is still investigating the other beneficiary of N250 million from the state.
In all, over N5 billion was allegedly distributed to individuals in the north west. A top source said “N 5,097,064,000 was disbursed and received by representatives from seven states in the Northwest zone.”
Meanwhile, a pro-democracy and non-governmental organization (NGO), Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has called on President Muhammadu Buhari and the leadership of the National Assembly to rein in the “rampaging hierarchy of the EFCC to be methodical and carry out professionally competent forensic investigation in the banking sector.”
It said that the prosecution should initiate court actions without media razzmatazz on matters involving major banking institutions so as not to destroy the stability of that sensitive sector.
A statement jointly signed by the National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Affairs Director, Miss Zainab Yusuf, decried the sensational media trial of Managing Directors of two leading banks, namely the Fidelity Bank Plc and Skye Bank Plc.
HURIWA said: “The commission must stop sending bank depositors on panic withdrawals capable of collapsing the banking institutions and causing mass unemployment”, adding that this has also raised the alarm of a sinister regional agenda by EFCC in all of these mass arrests bonanza in the banks which has necessitated the sudden rush by banks to appoint Managing Directors (MDs) of Northern extraction.
“There is now a general atmosphere of panic and fear in the minds of hundreds of thousands of bank depositors not only in these banks now targeted by the current acting Chairman of EFCC in the probe of the use to which the immediate past administration expended the so-called Security Votes but generally most Nigerians now think the ferocious attacks on the banks by the anti-graft agency and the avalanche of sponsored but extensively damaging media stories dished out from top insiders within EFCC concerning alleged high profile money laundering offences could mean that their deposits aren’t secure.”
It recalled that media report stated that the EFCC arrested Fidelity Bank’s MD and Head of Operations, Mr. Martins Izuogbe, for the latter’s role in the alleged scam, which the anti-graft agency described as unprecedented and that the funds were distributed to the former ruling PDP for the last presidential election. The EFCC in another development invited the Managing Director of Skye Bank Plc, Mr. Timothy Oduntayo, and the bank’s chief compliance officer over the bank’s refusal to transfer N6.3 billion lodged in two separate accounts with it to the Treasury Single Account (TSA) with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
HURIWA, however, tasked EFCC to probe the ways the ruling All Progressives Ccongress (APC) presidential election campaign was funded and not focus exclusively on the opposition party as if it is on a mission to erect a one-party state, while calling on Nigerians to stop any attempt to foist a totalitarian regime on the country.
“These sensational and legally unproven and untested cases being celebrated only on the pages of newspapers by EFCC through a suspected well funded public relation channel if unchecked will inevitably affect the health of the banking sector.
“EFCC is targeting only banks with large concentration of Southern shareholders thereby sending out a signal that the only way to survive and escape EFCC witch-hunt is to appoint Northern-born bankers as Managing Directors”.
HURIWA also questioned the integrity of the current recruitment process in EFCC which is reportedly skewed to favour the North.