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BIG STORY

$1bn Govt Funds Hidden In Unity Bank: Whistle-blower Writes Buhari Over Unpaid Reward, Accuses Justice Minister Malami

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The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, has been accused by a whistleblower, John Okupurhe, of refusing to pay him to reward after exposing over $1billion government money hidden in Unity Bank Plc.

Consequently, Okupurhe has reported Mr. Malami to President Muhammadu Buhari, via a letter written by his lawyer, Aliyu Lemu, dated June 22, 2020, The PUNCH reports.

According to the whistleblower, the account was secretly being operated by the Nigerian Ports Authority to illegally collect revenue from vessels.

He said upon discovery, he informed the Office of the AGF in line with the whistleblower policy of the secret account, and an agreement was signed.

The agreement stated that Okpurhe would be entitled to a reward if the information provided turned out credible.

The whistleblower said after playing his own part, the AGF’s office began to play games.

The letter read in part, “Pursuant to the whistleblower policy of the Federal Government, our client approached the Office of the AGF with confidential information in respect of hidden public funds concealed within a commercial bank in Lagos contrary to the Treasury Single Account policy which requires all public revenue or funds to be domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria.

“Our client presented the Office of the AGF with qualifying information on a cloned account with the Nigerian Ports Authority which was being used to illegally collect revenue from vessels by the signatories who are no longer in the service of the NPA.

“Upon establishing that our client’s information qualified under the whistleblower policy, the Office of the AGF signed a whistleblower agreement with our client through his appointed counsel – Mamman, Maiyaki & CO.

“The information provided by our client eventually led to the exposure of the hidden/concealed funds in Unity Bank Plc to the tune of $1, 034, 515, 000 (One billion, thirty-four million, five hundred and fifteen thousand dollars only).”

The whistleblower said the Office of the AGF had been making flimsy excuses as to why the reward was not paid.

He said the Head of Asset Management and Recovery Unit, Mrs. Ladidi Mohammed, informed him that the matter was in court and the plans had changed.

Okuprhe said when asked who filed the suit, she (Mohammed) could not come up with the answer. Also, she could not disclose which court the matter was pending.

He added, “On the next day, one Ms. Bunmi who deputizes for Mrs. Mohammed, called our client and asked him to come alone without a lawyer. Upon arrival, she informed our client that there was no pending matter in court on the account.”

The whistleblower said he was told that because the money involved was huge, the Office of the AGF recommended a private firm with which he should enter into a contract to help him get the funds.

The whistleblower said upon the insistence of the AGF’s office, he was made to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the company to forfeit 60 percent of his reward.

He said in a dramatic twist, his lawyer was attacked by armed policemen in his office who robbed him and made away with the original copy of the agreement signed with the AGF.

Okpurhe called on the President to quickly intervene as failure to pay him could compromise the whistleblower policy and affect public trust in the government.

The AGF’s Spokesman, Umar Gwandu, did not respond to calls on Saturday.

However, a top source at the AGF’s office said the matter was being investigated by the Department of State Services.

She said, “The AGF has ordered that the case be investigated by the DSS so we cannot speak on the matter for now. The truth is that the whistleblower’s information was not accurate. He is just going about trying to intimidate us.”

BIG STORY

Diezani Removed $70m From NNPC In 12 Bags —– Ex-NNPC GMD

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A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos heard on Thursday that in 2015, a former Petroleum Resources Minister Diezani Alison-Madueke ordered the removal of $70 million from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in 12 padlocked bags.

A former NNPC Group General Manager told Justice Muslim Hassan that he delivered the bags to an Abuja-based banker on Mrs. Alison-Madueke’s instructions.

He testified that he and others “had a command-and-obey relationship and also took an oath of office to obey directives and authority”.

The former GGM appeared as a prosecution witness in the trial of a former Executive Director of a top commercial bank, Dauda Lawal.

Lawal is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for alleged money laundering of N928,000,000

The commission accused him of handling $25 million out of $153 million, which the former minister allegedly doled out to influence the 2015 general elections.

The trial opened on Thursday with the ex-NNPC GGM appearing as the first prosecution witness.

Led in evidence by EFCC Prosecutor Rotimi Oyedepo, the witness narrated how he delivered the cash-laden bags to the Abuja banker, identified simply as Charles, in the front of Dume Supermarket in Abuja.

The witness said: “My lord, as I can remember, shortly before the 2015 elections, it was the norm for heads of subsidiaries (of the NNPC) to be invited for an undisclosed briefing of activities of their departments to the minister.

“At the end of such briefings, the then Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Alison-Madueke, gave me a GSM number in respect of one Charles, whom I had never met, with a clear instruction that I should convey 12 padlocked bags to the said Charles.

“My lord, the source, the content, and the purpose of the bags were not disclosed to me.

“Thereafter, I called the said Charles, who equally confirmed to me that he had been briefed about the message. I delivered the bags to Charles.

“Much later, my lord, the EFCC invited me for interrogation on the issue and I made a statement to that effect.

“Charles equally confirmed at the EFCC that he received the 12 padlocked bags and the bags contained $70 million.”

Under cross-examination by the defense counsel, Patrick Ikwueto (SAN), the witness said he had never met Lawal before.

Justice Hassan adjourned till July 21, 22, and 23 for the continuation of trial.

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BIG STORY

Afenifere Demands Sack Of Education Minister For Stopping School Resumption

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The pan-Yoruba socio-political organization, Afenifere has condemned the decision of the Federal Government that schools should remain closed in the country until further notice.

The group called on the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (red.), to sack the minister of education for planning to ground education for a year.

The Secretary-General of the association, Bashorun Sehinde Arogbofa, said the Federal Government should have allowed pupils to resume and find means of protecting them against coronavirus disease.

He said, “Adamu Adamu should be sacked, he cannot bring our school system back to the stone age. They had about six months to plan for these children what did the Federal Government do?

“It means the two of them (Adamu and the Minister of State for Education) don’t know what they are doing, so they should go. I think the two ministers in the ministry should go. Why would one say the pupils should resume taking their paper in August and the other minister would come and reverse the order?”

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BIG STORY

Magu Quizzed Over 380 Houses, 7 Crude Oil-Laden Ships, N37bn Assets

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The embattled Acting Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, was on Wednesday confronted with more allegations.

The Justice Ayo Salami-led Presidential panel asked him to account for 380 houses and seven vessels loaded with crude oil.

The probe panel also grilled on him on the disposal of assets worth N37 billion.

Magu is being grilled, following allegations raised against him by Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami(SAN).

The panel started quizzing Magu on Monday after his arrest by detectives in Abuja. On Tuesday, he was grilled on cash discrepancies said to be N539 billion realized from the sale of seized assets and N504 billion declared by the commission.

Both issues are part of the over 20 allegations leveled against the anti-graft agency chairman by the AGF.

It was also gathered, on Wednesday, that on the ground floor of the Federal Criminal Investigation Department, FCID, Area 10, Abuja, where the EFCC boss is being held, his family members are allowed to visit him.

A Presidency source had said, on Tuesday, that the probe was an affirmation that nobody under the present administration was above scrutiny.

The source had also explained that the interrogation of the anti-graft boss was being done to give him the opportunity to clear himself of the weighty allegations.

It was gathered that Magu was brought to the venue at about 11:14 am from the Force Criminal Investigation Department, FCID, building where he had been held since Monday. He was also joined by his lawyer at the panel for interrogation.

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