By Olusola Sanni and Emma-Enyinnaya Appolos:
• $40 million in governor’s offshore account
• N75 billion bank loan disappears
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has allegedly uncovered a fraud of over N150 billion in Bayelsa State.
According to information made available to the Nigerian Compass on Sunday over the weekend, several top government functionaries, including the state Governor, Mr. Timi Silva, were indicted in the EFCC’s report.
The report has reportedly been submitted to the Chairman of the commission, Mrs. Farida Waziri, a retired Assistant Inspector General of Police, by the EFCC operatives who carried out the investigation.
Indicted by the report also are Silva’s Chief of Staff, Samuel Ogbuku; the Chairman of the Bayelsa State Environmental Protection Agency, Reginald Ebede; one Habibu Sani, who runs a Bureau De Change in Kano, Kano State; the state Commissioner for Finance, Charles Ogbuala; one Yakubu Mohammed; and a not clearly defined John Daukoru.
It was learnt that an alert last year from a concerned Nigerian over alleged fraudulent activities in Bayelsa State led to the commencement of the investigation.
The alert began with an allegation that Silva transferred $40 million into an offshore account.
He reportedly did so using a dormant company, the Bayelsa Oil Company, as the conduit pipe.
According to the report, the $40 million was not used for any project that could be accounted for by the state government.
Silva was also accused in the report of having released N1.8 billion without the approval of the state House of Assembly.
He was said to have used it to pay the consultancy fee for a feasibility study for a micro finance bank for the state.
The bank never took off.
Silva was also reported to have borrowed N75 billion from a consortium of banks.
The EFCC report said it was still very difficult to account for and trace how the money was spent.
Another N1.5 billion was equally said to have been taken out of the government’s purse suspiciously.
The money, said to have been tagged “Security vote” was allegedly taken out through the Office of the COS, Ogbuku.
The N36 billion approved for the state House of Assembly for constituency project is also not traceable, according to the EFCC.
A source in the commission alleged that nothing could be seen on ground to justify the huge amount voted for constituency project for the House of Assembly.
The EFCC also last year commenced investigation into the activities of Ebede.
The state government allegedly paid N150 million into his private account.
Of recent, the state had the EFCC to contend with over the handling of N2.4 billion.
A N26 billion facility the state government obtained from Union Bank of Nigeria Plc. is another source of worry to the EFCC operatives who scrutinised the state government’s books.
The money was reportedly meant for the augmentation of workers’ salary.
It, however, allegedly went into private pockets.
On January 22, 2010, N380 million was reportedly transferred to the account of Sani, who runs a Bureau De Change in Kano, Kano State.
Sani was allegedly asked to convert the N380 million to Dollars.
The Dollar equivalent of the N380 million was allegedly handed over on the instruction of Ogbuala to one Mohammed, whom the EFCC described as an agent for money laundering.
On February 6, 2010, N50 million was allegedly transferred the same was through the account of Enxon Benmer Limited’s account with First Bank of Nigeria Plc.
That same day, N20 million was allegedly transferred to the account of one Daukoru, who also has account with First Bank of Nigeria Plc.
The last batch of payment, according to the EFCC, was the disbursement of N2.5 billion that led to the arrest of some officials of the state government.
Ogbuala and Ogbuku have been declared wanted in connection with the transactions.
When contacted, spokesman of the EFCC, Femi Babafemi, said the commission was working diligently on the Bayelsa State cases.
Silva’s Chief Press Secretary, Doife Ola, on Saturday told the Nigerian Compass on Sunday that he could not comment on the allegations because they needed accurate responses.
Ola said that the allegations were new and different from the ones over which the EFCC is in court against the state government.
He said he needed to consult those who could give him accurate data on the allegations, apologising that he could not do so over the weekend.
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