On Sunday, Nigerians learnt of an explosive report the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission forwarded to President Muhammadu Buhari about alleged corrupt practices by the Senate President, Bukola Saraki.
In the March 10 correspondence to the president, the anti-graft agency detailed how Mr. Saraki — in connivance with his aides and associates – allegedly laundered N3.5 billion traced to the Paris Club loan refund to states.
Investigators say Mr. Saraki enlisted the service of a consultant, Robert Mbonu of Melrose General Services Limited, and Kathleen Erhimu, a staff of Access Bank to liaise with his aides and associates to launder the fund.
The accused persons are: Mr. Saraki’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Gbenga Makanjuola, and Obiora Amobi, Kolawole Shittu and Oladapo Idowu. (Are these guys named in the letter sent by Magu to Buhari?)
When allegations of diversion of parts of the over half a trillion naira Paris Club refund money emerged in February, sparking nationwide controversy, state governors denied misusing the money, and slammed the EFCC’s reported probe as “unwarranted attack on the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, its officials and associated entities”.
Mr. Saraki swiftly dismissed reports linking him to the money as “concocted”, and accused the EFCC acting head, Ibrahim Magu, of being the source of its leak.
But the report to President Buhari, seen by PREMIUM TIMES, provides details of a complex web of questionable money transfers, which investigators say ended with the Senate president.
The report, as well as interviews with officials, also offers some response to the widely-asked question of how Mr. Saraki allegedly became linked to the funds, despite not being a governor. State governor were the direct recipients of the money on behalf of their states.
Paris Club Loan Refund
The Nigerian government reached a debt relief deal with Paris Club in 2005, and paid $6.2 billion to guarantee a debt relief of up to $18 billion, according to the to Debt Management Office.
But not long after the deal was reached, some states and local governments began raising questions about possible over-deductions of their share of the loan repayment. They argued that the deducted amount did not reflect their actual borrowings from Paris Club between 1995 and 2002.
Many states initially hired consultants to help pursue a refund, but later resolved to engage a consortium of consultants for coordination.
Reconciliation of accounts and negotiations established that over-deductions took place, but states were unsure of how much each state or local government was overcharged.
The complex account reconciliation reportedly made it difficult for the previous governments of Olusegun Obasanjo, Umar Yar’Adua, and Goodluck Jonathan, to settle the matter.
However, the current Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, said records showed some states received some refund under previous administrations.
To help states pay workers and retirees, Mr. Buhari, who took office two years ago, continued the reconciliations.
As the reconciliation process was still ongoing, the government pegged initial payments at 50 percent of the estimated excess to the claimants, Mrs. Adeosun said.
The payments were surprisingly not budgeted for by the f
State governors were the direct recipients of the money on behalf of their states.
ederal government, meaning they did not receive the constitutionally-required authorization of the National Assembly. PREMIUMTIMES.M