Investigations by SaharaReporters have uncovered a scheme by Andy Uba, a former aide on domestic matters to ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, to lay claims to the controversial $15 million that was part of former Governor James Ibori's corruption trial. Former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Nuhu Ribadu, had disclosed that, at the height of the EFCC’s investigation of Mr. Ibori, the former governor met with him at Mr. Uba’s Abuja home and tried to persuade him to accept the $15 million as a bribe.
The cash, which Mr. Ribadu subsequently deposited at the Central Bank of Nigeria to be used as evidence during Mr. Ibori’s corruption trial, has recently become the focus of conflicting claims.
Nigeria’s Attorney General Mohammed Adoke and the Delta State government have filed separate claims over the cash. Whilst Mr. Adoke argues that the funds belong to the Federal Government, the Delta State government contends that the cash should be refunded to the state formerly governed by Mr. Ibori, now serving a 13-year sentence in a UK maximum security prison.
But in a curious twist, a little known businessman named Chibuike Achibu filed an affidavit claiming that the EFCC should be made to refund the $15 million to him. Several sources in Abuja told SaharaReporters that Andy Uba, now a senator, was using Mr. Achibu as a proxy to claim the controversial bribe money.
However, Mr. Achibu’s lawyers today withdrew the affidavit which one legal source described as “absurd, spurious and laughable.”
An EFCC source stated that Mr. Uba might have prevailed on Achibu to withdraw the affidavit as soon as EFCC operatives stormed the senate to arrest him over the matter.
An EFCC source disclosed that Mr. Uba had earlier contacted senior officials of the anti-corruption agency asking their assistance to facilitate his claim to the cash. The source insisted that Mr. Achibogu was fronting for Mr. Uba. Another source, a lawyer, confirmed the scheme, adding that Mr. Uba tried to use a stooge “in order to increase his deniability once the case fails in court.”
Mr. Achibogu entered appearance at an Abuja court where the Federal Government and Delta State are contending for ownership of the money. SaharaReporters learnt that his bizarre affidavit was filed before Justice Gladys Olotu who had earlier been ordered to hands off the case on the strength of an EFCC petition on the matter. The case, which was re-assigned to Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court in Abuja, had already being adjourned to September 17, 2012. However, in a surprise move, Justice Olotu set today as a date to hear the questionable affidavit filed by Mr. Uba’s proxy.
In the affidavit, filed on Mr. Achibu's behalf by three Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Niyi Akintola, Okey Amaechi, and Biodun Owonikoko, the claimant asserted that the $15 million was campaign funds raised by “several business people” for candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party in the 2007.
The affidavit further claimed that the sum of $15 million was handed over to Mr. Uba on April 26, 2007 at his house in Abuja. Mr. Achibogu’s asserted that Mr. Uba subsequently gave the money to the EFCC because the former presidential aide on domestic matters wanted the anti-corruption agency to ascertain whether the cash came from legitimate means or was the proceeds of a crime.
Speaking to SaharaReporters by telephone, Mr. Akintola (SAN) said the affidavit was filed to compel Andy Uba to fully disclose the handling of the funds. He added that the current chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Lamorde, had sworn to an affidavit to the effect that Mr. Uba invited officials of the anti-corruption agency to pick up the $15 million from his house.
SaharaReporters learnt that the case file on the ownership of the bribe funds has been transferred from Justice Olotu following a petition by the EFCC. A source disclosed that Justice Olotu has accordingly withdrawn from the case