EFCC denies payment claims
Yemi Adebowale in Lagos and Paul Obi in Abuja
The lawyer to the three friends who blew the whistle on the sums of $43,449,947, £27,800 and N23,218,000 recovered from an apartment in Ikoyi, Lagos, last April, has written a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, demanding that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) should immediately pay the commission due to the whistle blowers.
On the same day, the EFCC clarified that it never said that the whistle blowers in the Ikoyi flat saga had been paid as reported in the media.
The acting chairman of the commission, Ibrahim Magu had on Thursday remarked that the “young man who blew the whistle is now a millionaire.” Magu spoke in Vienna, Austria.
Surprisingly, the lawyer to the whistle blowers, Yakubu Galadima, also alleged that those who facilitated the recovery of the monies were three and not one as claimed by the EFCC.
Galadima, in his letter titled, “Request for payment of reward/commission due to whistle blowers who facilitated the recovery of sums of monies at No. 7B, Osborne Tower, Ikoyi, Lagos by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission” and dated October 10, 2017, said: “My clients, being aware that the aforesaid sums were discretely warehoused and concealed in the Ikoyi address approached me with a view to informing the Federal Government of Nigeria through the EFCC of the existence and location of the monies.
“Consequently, I facilitated a meeting between my clients and an official of the EFCC (Ahmed Ghali to be precise) which led to the monies being discovered and ultimately forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria pursuant to a final forfeiture order of the Federal High Court made on 6th June 2017 and 24th July 2017 respectively.
“Enclosed herewith are duly acknowledged copies of the said letters for ease of reference. Please note that the discovery was as a direct result of my clients’ efforts and consequently, I respectfully urge Your Excellency to use your good offices to facilitate the prompt payment of the reward/commission due to my clients.
“This will go a long way in gaining the confidence of the citizens over the laudable whistle blowing policy. While counting on your avowed commitment to fighting corruption in Nigeria, please remain assured of my professional regards.”
Magu, who spoke at the 7th Session of the Conference of States Parties to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption in Vienna, was quoted as saying that the whistle blower was already a millionaire by virtue of the percentage he was officially entitled to.
“We are currently working with the young man because this is a man who had never seen N1 million of his own before.
“So he is now undergoing counseling on how to make good use of the money and also the security implications.
“We don’t want anything bad to happen to him after taking delivery of his entitlement. He is a national pride,” the EFCC boss said.
Magu called on Nigerians who want positive change in the country to take advantage of the whistle blowing policy announced by the government early this year.
He noted that aside from contributing to the eradication of corruption, potential whistle blowers also stood to “benefit from the illicit acquisition by the looters”.
“So we encourage more whistle blowers to come forward with genuine information that will lead to recoveries from looters of the public treasury.
“These are part of the ways that we can bring an end to the madness of looting in the public sector.
“When they know that they have no place to keep their loot, as all eyes will be on them, they will find looting of the public treasury unattractive,” Magu added.
But the EFCC in its statement yesterday denied that its Acting Chairman said the whistle blower had been paid, based on the statement quoted by the media.
The EFCC Head of Media and Publicity, Wilson Uwujaren, said there was no iota of truth in the report.
He said: “What Magu said at the 7th Session of the Council of State Parties to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption in Vienna, Austria, was that citizens should be encouraged to embrace whistle blowing because of the incentives attached.
“To illustrate this, he stated that the gentleman who provided the information that triggered the huge recovery at Osborne Towers in Ikoyi was already a millionaire based on the incentive in the whistle blower policy where information providers are entitled to between 2.5 and 5 % of the recovered sum.
“Magu never said that the young man had been paid. The Commission is not even directly responsible for the payment of rewards to whistle blowers. There is also no controversy about the exact amount recovered in the operation which was streamed live, the first of its kind, and witnessed by the whistle blower, security at the Towers and representative of the Agency which claimed ownership of the money.”
The controversy over the fortunes of the whistle blower is coming just as the Federal High Court in Lagos ordered the temporary forfeiture of Flat 7B, Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, where the cash was discovered.
Justice Saliu Saidu ordered the forfeiture of the flat to the federal government Thursday, following an ex parte application by the EFCC.
Upon making the interim forfeiture order, the judge gave anyone interested in the property 14 days to appear before him to show cause why it should not be permanently forfeited to the federal government.
He ordered the EFCC to publish the forfeiture order in a national newspaper, to serve as notice to any interested party.
The EFCC had earlier named Mrs. Oke as the owner of the flat.
The EFCC said it found out that Mrs. Oke made cash payment of $1,658,000 for the purchase of the flat between August 25 and September 3, 2015.
She was said to have purchased the property in the name of a company, Chobe Ventures Limited, to which she and her son, Master Ayodele Oke Junior, are directors.
Payment for the purchase of the flat was said to have been made to Fine & Country Realty International, which handled the sale.
The EFCC stated that Mrs. Oke made the cash payment in tranches of $700,000, $650,000 and $353,700 to a bureau de change company, Sulah Petroleum and Gas Limited, which later converted the sums to N360,000,000 and subsequently paid it to Fine & Country for the purchase of the property.