By returning home and turning himself in to answer to alleged financial impropriety by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, former Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Olatunde Obanikoro has walked the path of honour, writes Shola Oyeyipo
At the tail end of former President Goodluck Jonathan’s first tenure, certain individuals assumed the face of his campaign for re-election. In the South-west, for instance, Governors Olusegun Mimiko, Ayodele Fayose and a former Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro were the faces for Jonathan’s re-election.
Given the intensity that characterised the rivalry between the former ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) that fielded President Muhammadu Buhari as well as the roles played by some of the major actors on both sides, not a few of Obanikoro’s supporters had feared that if the APC won the election, the former junior minister and erstwhile High Commissioner to Ghana was going to be under the search light of the APC government.
The general belief was that Obanikoro smartly fled the shores of Nigeria for America the moment Buhari won the election to quietly enjoy the loots garnered during the electioneering period.
This is more so when the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has said through a couple of its media platforms that it has evidence to establish how money was siphoned from the account of the office of the embattled National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd) and expended for the purpose of prosecuting the Ekiti State election for the PDP.
The anti-graft body had alleged that the scam took place between April 4 and December 15, 2014, when a total of N4.745bn was paid into the Diamond Bank account of a company linked to Obanikoro’s sons, Gbolahan and Babajide. The company’s name was given as Sylvan McNamara.
A detective with the EFCC alleged that out of the N4.745bn, “$1m was delivered to Obanikoro and he acknowledged receipt of the cash and we have recovered evidence. Also, about N2bn from the money was withdrawn by the Obanikoro sons and then flown to Ekiti State”.
There was also the allegation that on June 12, 2014, barely 10 days to the Ekiti State governorship election, Obanikoro and his ADC, A. O. Adewale, chartered a private jet belonging to OAS Helicopters. About N724.5m was allegedly conveyed on the plane with tail number N638MA. The plane was a HS125 jet, operated by Okin Travellers, a subsidiary of Elizade.
Not only did the EFCC give an account of how the money was allegedly transacted between Fayose, Obanikoro and his sons, the commission had even gone ahead to interrogate his wife, Alhaja Moroophat Onikoro who was arrested by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) on Thursday, July 14 in front of their house located on Layi Ajayi-Bembe Street, Parkview Estate, Ikoyii, Lagos, in connection with funds believed to have been diverted from the office of the former NSA. About the same time, his first daughter, Monisola was also invited for questioning.
Earlier, in June, the EFCC had sealed houses belonging to Obanikoro’s sons, Babajide and Gbolahan, in Banana Island and sources in the EFCC had hinted that the body was processing the extradition of Obanikoro and other politicians, who shared from the Dasukigate loot to force them to return home to face questioning for money laundering and other related offenses.
That same June, the anti-graft agency also raided Obanikoro’s house, where it said it retrieved some documents purported to have linked Obanikoro to the alleged N4.7bn. Obanikoro’s wife, who was at home during the raid later accused the EFCC of abusing her rights and she sued the body for N100m.
Also denying the allegation of his involvement in how the money in question was disbursed, one of Obanikoro’s sons, Gbolahan, claimed that he was not part of how the money was shared, stating that he has never been a director at Sylvan McNamara and neither was he a signatory to its account or any other account related to the entity.
“My involvement with this company ended as far back as 2013 before all these incidents and before my father was even appointed as a minister, so any dealings that transpired after that is of absolutely no concern or business of mine.
“The bank is available to confirm who the signatories to the account are and the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) is also available to confirm, who the directors of the company are. I am positive that the authorities, if at all they are investigating this matter, will discover this.
“I built my home in Nigeria in 2010, and I opted to buy a town home in the United States in 2014 during which period my wife had our third child. My focus for almost a decade has always been on business and the private sector and not politics. I have been working hard and fortunate to run a successful business. So, it is definitely not out of place for me, and it is most certainly not a crime to buy a house,” Gbolahan narrated.