September 14, 2009

N6.1bn V-mobile shares scam: FG orders probe of ex-govs’ clearance - Tinubu, Ibori, Attah stand cleared - AGF insists

AS controversy rages over the alleged clearance of three former governors fingered in an alleged $38 million (about N6.1 billion) V-mobile shares scam, a new twist has crept into it with the Presidency said to have ordered investigation into the issues in contention between the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Michael Aondoakaa (SAN).

The former governors are Senator Bola Tinubu of Lagos State, Chief Victor Attah of Akwa Ibom State and Chief James Ibori of Delta State. Aondoakaa stirred up the hornet’s nest when he said in Abuja, on Thursday, that the trio had been cleared by the anti-graft commission over alleged money laundering in the sale of their states’ shares in V-mobile through a private firm, African Development Funds Inc.

He also stated that he refused to cooperate with Britain, which was also probing the former governors over the matter, because the anti-graft commission had cleared them.

But the commission, in a swift reaction 24 hours later, put a lie to the minister’s claim, disclosing that the three former governors were still being probed over the alleged scam.

Aondoakaa is the commission’s supervising minister. The institutional crisis between the commission and the minister, according to a highly-placed source, could not be ignored by the Presidency, which reportedly ordered the anti-graft agency to get to the root of the controversy surrounding the alleged clearance.

Nigerian Tribune further gathered that the presidential directive had seen the commission swing into action with its intelligence unit after a purported letter said to have been written in the name of the commission to the Metropolitan Police in London clearing the former governors.

The letter, according to the Nigerian Tribune source, was said to have been made available to some media houses for publication by a certain top government official with the source, adding that the person that released the letter might have told those who had it for publication not to go ahead yet, due to the presidential intervention in the matter.

It was learnt that the commission had resolved to arrest and prosecute whoever signed the purported letter once it could lay its hands on it, describing the letter as forgery.

Nigerian Tribune source reasoned that since the commission could not exchange any correspondence with any country that has Mutual Legal Agreement Treaty (MLAT) with Nigeria without going through the office of the AGF, it stands to reason that the purported letter of clearance to the Metropolitan Police could not have been issued by the commission.

Investigation is also said to have been intensified on the alleged scam. However, the embattled minister has insisted that the former governors stand cleared on the shares saga, despite the commission’s protestation.

In a statement made available to journalists in Abuja on Sunday and signed by his spokesperson, Mr. Taye Akinyemi, the minister stated that “If EFCC says that the ex-governors have not been cleared on the issue of the professional fee paid to the ADFI, we won’t join issues with the commission.

“But I want to think that the EFCC chairman was misquoted. “What I believe the EFCC Chairman could have said was the fact that they have been cleared on this issue of the professional fees paid to the ADFI does not mean that other investigations on other issues are not ongoing.

“Nevertheless, I can’t see any conflict in what the AGF has said and what EFCC is saying. “The issue in question is the professional fee and brokerage paid by these ex-governors to ADFI with respect to the sale of the shares owned by their respective states in V-mobile.

“The press statement issued by my boss on the case relates to the issue of the professional fees paid by them to the ADFI which is the subject-matter of criminal litigation before the London court.

“He has said that the Federal Government would refuse prosecution of any Nigerian before a London court on offences which ingredients are domiciled in Nigeria.

“In this case, the Metropolitan Police are before the London Court against ADFI on the grounds that the professional fees paid by the three ex-governors to it are proceeds of crime (money-laundering).

“And the fact of this case is that the issue of the professional fees paid to ADFI has been investigated in Nigeria by EFCC and those involved have been cleared.

“The court case by EFCC started in Nigeria against the ADFI itself has been withdrawn by EFCC upon its discovery that no prima facie case stood against the incorporation.

“The Attorney-General has no problem with EFCC, even on this issue. They have a cordial working relationship,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP) has described Aondoakaa as a man of doubtful integrity and stated that no amount of campaign of rebranding can clean the odious image of Nigeria in the comity of nations with men as the minister still holding public office.

Calling for his immediate sack, the group recalled in a statement signed by its national publicity secretary, Osita Okechukwu, that for the first time, the EFCC had unveiled and exposed the serial role of the minister as a chief law officer whom it alleged blatantly obstructed justice, perverted the law and dampened the anti-graft war and exposed his comments to the effect that EFCC has exonerated three corrupt ex-governors when the matter is still pending in court.

It noted that it was a paradox that the chief law officer who requested the US Justice Department to invoke the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty in the Halliburton matter is today obstructing and rejecting the request from the British to invoke the same treaty.

The CNPP was of the view that Aondoakaa never served the cause of justice nor the collective interest of Nigeria in the discharge of his assignment to coordinate Siemens, Wilbros, Halliburton and other scams he was mandated to oversee.

The group went further to allege that when the Federal Executive Council (FEC) mandated Aondoakaa to review the Uwais Electoral Reform Committee Report, he not only bastardised and mutilated the report but rejected the core ingredients which can guarantee a truly independent election commission and violence free and fair elections among others.

Also, the Monitoring Group (TMG) has condemned the statement credited to Aondoakaa that the EFCC had cleared the former Delta State governor, Chief James Ibori and called for his resignation.

The TMG chairman, Mr. Moshood Erubami, in a statement in Ibadan on Sunday said that the statement credited to the minister but later proved to be untrue had reopened the doubt of Nigerians on whether the minister was not a big threat to the war against corruption by the Yar’Adua administration.

According to TMG, the statement was least expected from a number one law officer of the country and capable of tarnishing that image of Nigeria and Nigerians in the eyes of the international community.

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