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BIG STORY

Whistle-Blower Accusation: FG Pays Reward For Only Recovered Funds —- AGF Malami Speaks

Peter Okunoren

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Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, has said the Federal Government would pay whistleblowers after a successful recovery, not for mere tracing or exposure of suspected illegitimate funds.

The Special Assistant to the Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, on Media and Public Relations, Dr Umar Gwandu, said this in a statement in Abuja.

The PUNCH had reported that a whistle-blower, John Okupurhe, wrote a letter to the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), accusing the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation of refusing to pay him commission after exposing over $1 billion (N420 billion) hidden in Unity Bank Plc.

Okpurhe said this in a letter written by his lawyer, Aliyu Lemu, dated June 22, 2020.

The whistle-blower said 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 of the secret account in line with the whistle-blower policy, and that an agreement was signed.

Reacting, the minister said the funds which were exposed have not been recovered.

“The Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice wants to make it categorically clear that one does not get paid on account of exposing looted assets, but on successful recovery and lodgment of same into the designated assets recovery account at the Central Bank of Nigeria,” he said.

He said the procedure for engagement of a whistleblower or recovery agent as it relates to the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation is as follows:

“A Proposal is submitted to the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, a Letter of Engagement is issued to a whistleblower or recovery agent where the disclosure is assessed to have some prospects of success.

“The recovery agent or whistleblower is expected to notify in writing the acceptance of the engagement.

“The recovery agent or whistleblower is expected, upon acceptance, to not only trace the assets but recover the same and have it deposited in a designated asset recovery account maintained by the federal government in the Central Bank which is usually provided to the recovery agent in writing.”

He added that where these funds are eventually claimed to have been lodged by a whistleblower or recovery agent, the Central Bank issues acknowledgment of receipt of the fund to the Office of Attorney-General on demand.

“It is the satisfaction of the above elements that entitles the whistleblower or a recovery agent to a claim of the success fee and the payment is usually effected by the Federal Ministry of Finance and not the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation.

“The role of the Office of the Attorney-General, in essence, is simply that of processing the above-listed documents to the Ministry of Finance which is the ministry saddled with the responsibility of effecting payment.”

Malami explained further that recovery is not about exposing the existence of certain assets in an account purported to have belonged to an agency of the government.

“It is about establishing that the funds in the account are looted assets or illegitimately warehoused and following that up with actual recovery and lodgment of the funds in the designated Asset recovery account through judicial and extrajudicial means.

“Entitlement to recovery fees is for all intent and purposes contingent on lodgment of the purported/exposed assets constituting the subject of recovery into the Federal Government Recovery designated Account.

“This account is maintained at the instance of the President at the Central Bank of Nigeria and the details of the account are contained in the engagement letter.

“The agreed remuneration shall become due and payable to the whistle-blower within thirty (30) days of the receipt of the recovered/looted funds by the Federal Government of Nigeria and payment shall be made to the designated/nominated account provided in writing by the whistle-blower.”

Malami advised that “if the whistleblower in the circumstances of this case feels strongly that there is any claim of wrongdoing associated with the alleged claim relating to the recovery process, the whistle-blower should consider lodging a complaint with the relevant institutions of his choice for the matter to be properly investigated and or consider a judicial redress in the alternative”.

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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