Ex-President Goodluck Jonathan’s name once again came up on Saturday during investigations into the seized N13bn ($43.4m, N23m and £27,000) by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission at the Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos.
Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State and the National Intelligence Agency had claimed ownership of the money which was recovered on Thursday.
A source familiar with the case told one of our correspondents that documents belonging to the Goodluck/Sambo Presidential Campaign Organisation were recovered from the scene.
The organization was responsible for the failed re-election campaign of Jonathan and his deputy, Namadi Sambo.
A former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Dr. Ahmadu Ali, was the Director General of the organization.
But a source familiar with the case told one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity on Saturday that the huge sum was not the only item recovered from the seventh floor of the building.
The source said, “The huge sum of money was not the only thing recovered from that building, although that is what has remained in public domain since that EFCC operation.
READ: Nigerians differ over recovered $43m, £27,000, N23m during house raid by EFCC
“I can confirm to you that some documents and campaign materials belonging to the Goodluck/Sambo Presidential Campaign Organisation were also recovered alongside that money. This is being investigated.
“A Ghana-must-go bag full of those documents was taken from that building.”
When asked if anybody had been arrested or questioned as regards the documents, the source said he was not aware of any such development.
Wike is confused — Amaechi
Meanwhile, the Minister of Transportation, who is a former governor of Rivers State, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, has threatened to sue those linking him with the property located in the Ikoyi area of Lagos.
Amaechi, who spoke with one of our correspondents on the telephone on Saturday night, also denied knowledge of the money allegedly discovered in the building.
He said those linking him to the property were lazy, and challenged them to find out details about the owners of the house from the Lagos State Land Registry.
He said, “I have no property anywhere in Lagos State. That’s the truth.
“Those making the unfounded allegation should go and find out from those living in the building, the landlord that sold the flats or the land registry about those who own the flats.
“I have asked my lawyer to sue those who are making such unfounded allegations against me.
“The Federal Government has come out to say the money belongs to it. Why the noise again?”
One of our correspondents gathered that a former governor from the South-East owned a flat in the building.
Wike had alleged at a press conference on Friday night that the money in question belonged to Amaechi, his predecessor.”
He also insinuated that the houses in Ikoyi equally belonged to the former governor.
But in a statement released by his media office in Abuja earlier on Saturday, Amaechi described the claims as malicious, frivolous and another failed attempt by Wike to divert attention from the mess he had created in Rivers State.
The statement read, “Wike has stolen Rivers State dry. Wike and his gang have frittered billions of naira of Rivers people away.
“Rivers State is perpetually in crisis. The state is in a mess as Wike has made a total mess of governance in the state. That child who sits there as governor is confused, he doesn’t know what to do. Wike’s only solution is to attack Amaechi.
“At this rate, if Wike is unable to perform his spousal duties, he will blame it on Amaechi. Yes, that’s how despicably low he can go in his consuming fixation to throw mud at Amaechi.”
The former governor challenged Wike to charge him to court if he has any shred of evidence that the money belongs to Rivers State and was kept in the Ikoyi apartment by him.
When contacted on Saturday to react to the claim by Wike that the seized fund was part of the money used to rig President Muhammadu Buhari to power, his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, directed one of our correspondents to the ruling All Progressives Congress leadership.
“That is not a matter for the Presidency. You can get across to the APC spokesman for a reaction,” Adesina said.
Repeated calls to the mobile telephone numbers of the APC National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun; National Secretary, Mai Bala Buni; and National Publicity Secretary, Bolaji Abdullahi, did not elicit a response.
While calls made to the mobile numbers of Odigie-Oyegun and Abdullahi were neither picked nor returned, the mobile of Buni was switched off. None of them replied the text messages sent to their mobiles on the subject as of the time of filling this report at 4:57 pm.
I’m ready for battle — Wike
But Wike vowed on Saturday that his administration was ready for a “lengthy battle” with the Federal Government over the Ikoyi billions, alleging that the nation’s leadership was covering up corruption because its principal sponsor was involved.
Wike had on Friday insisted that the huge sum stashed in an Ikoyi house belonged to Rivers and should be returned to the state, alleging that the money was proceeds from the sale of a state-owned gas turbine by Amaechi.
Briefing Rivers Christian leaders on the development at the Government House, Port Harcourt, on Saturday, Wike stated that the state government was not interested in the prosecution of Amaechi, but simply seeking the return of funds belonging to the state.
He said, should the Federal Government return the “stolen resources,” the said funds would be deployed for the completion of Amaechi’s abandoned monorail.
Wike explained that the promotion of insults and needless propaganda would not stop the Rivers State Government from recovering its stolen resources.
“The Federal Government wants us to believe that a security agency will keep a whopping N16bn in a private residence in cash. They think that Nigerians don’t have brains,” he said.
Open up on ownership, groups tell EFCC
Civil rights groups, including the Nigerian Voters’ Assembly and Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education, on Saturday, urged the EFCC to open up on the ownership of the recovered money.
The groups stated this in separate interviews with SUNDAY PUNCH on Saturday in Abuja.
The Manager (Media and Events) of the CHRICED, Armsfree Ajanaku, said the two claimants to the money had a lot of explanations to make.
He said, “There is more to it than meets the eye for the Rivers State Government to be laying claims to the recovered cash. The two stories clearly do not add up.
“The two claimants have a lot of explanations to give. We find it extremely strange that an intelligence agency like the NIA would be lending the weight of its institution to the warehousing of millions of dollars in some private apartment. The NIA’s story is reminiscent of the botched $9m arms deal, which was clearly shady and specious.
“On the other hand, the story of the Rivers Government does not add up either. It is not enough to make wild claims; those claims must be backed up with evidence and a clear paper trail.”
Also, the Sociö-Economic Rights and Accountability Project said a court of law should decide the controversies surrounding the ownership of the $43m recovered by the EFCC.
The SERAP Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, said this in an interview on Saturday, adding that in the interest of democracy, a decision that would favour both sides has to be taken.
He said, “The money was not found in Rivers State. But whatever resolution we arrive at must be in the interest of the two parties and endearing to the fight against corruption.”
On his part, the President of the Nigerian Voters Assembly, Mashood Erubami, said the claims by the NIA and the Rivers State Government were fraudulent.
He said, “The fight between NIA and Rivers is neither here nor there, how can NIA claim it has monies outside its official quarters till in its office? Such a claim is not only fraudulent but equally unexplainably dubious. Same goes to Rivers State governor’s claim.”
According to him, the Federal Government should ask the EFCC to be more serious in handling its investigations and be more transparent and accountable.
“The EFCC should complete its work circle before announcing the success. Issues must be investigated and fixed before the announcement,” he stated.
EFCC must tell Nigerians owners of recovered billions — PDP
The national leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party has said the EFCC must tell Nigerians, the owners of the billions of naira it has recovered so far.
It said this was necessary in order not to jeopardize the credibility of the anti-graft war of the Federal Government.
The Deputy National Chairman of the party, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, in an interview with one of our correspondents in Abuja, said, “Nigerians have the right to know those who owned the billions of naira that had been recovered so far. This will definitely help in the war against corruption, which the Federal Government has been emphasizing.
“However, we need to be patient and allow the EFCC to carry out its investigations very well. The commission may be holding back on the identities in order to safeguard national security.”