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David Mark's Really Dirty Past-TheNEWS

June 19, 2007
When they were in power, riding the nation like a mustang, Nigerian Army Generals, most of whom never fired a shot in offence or self-defence, liked life on the fast lane. With their potbellies and bullnecks, they were targets of snide remarks at the officers’ mess. Of course, that is where, as Alozie Ogugbuaja, a former police spokesman, once said, booze and peppersoup were never in short supply. So also were gossips.

Even among the Generals, jokes, ranging from the ribald to the serious, were exchanged freely with no more effort than wagging their swagger sticks. The butt of one of such jokes was David Alechenu Bonaventure Mark, a retired General and now the Nigerian Senate President. At the height of his rule as Communications Minister in the regime of General Ibrahim Babangida (retd), the talk then was that whenever Mark complained that he was broke, he had at least N5 million in his bank account!
That such stories did not emanate from brains made ultra-creative by peppersoup and beer at the officers’ watering holes has been confirmed by facts release by a British court about Senator Mark’s past. This is made worse by his other acquisitive tendencies in the areas of slush funds, real estate and breaches of immigration laws, disdain for the masses as demonstrated by his arrogant utterances and his propensity to bend due process.

The cat was let out of the bag on Mark’s unenviable past by a British Appeal Court Judge, Johnson J, who ruled on a divorce case between the Senate President and his estranged wife, Mrs. Victoria Preye Mark. This is contained in one of the Appeal Court documents, Mark vs. Mark (2006) EWCA CIV 1164, where the judge is quoted as giving an order, freezing £6 million belonging to Mark.

In a petition written to Mallam Umar Yar’Adua, entitled “Why Senator David Mark Is Unfit For The Presidency of the Senate,” and dated 4 June 2007, Omoyele Sowore of Saharareporters, an international investigative outfit, complained that Mark is one of the retired Generals who stole the country blind under the Babangida regime.
Sowore wrote: “Out of the hundreds of millions of pounds stolen by Senator Mark in the 1990s, the sum of £6 million was fixed in four foreign banks for the education of his children at the time he was boasting that telephone is not for the poor people of Nigeria.”

Conflict over this money emanated from two fronts. One, when Mark’s wife saw that her husband was misbehaving, she submitted a divorce petition at a Family Division Court in London. On 17 July 2000, she obtained an injunction preventing Mark from tampering with the family’s assets (real estate and funds). In other words, she got the judge to freeze Mark’s accounts.

Two, the Northern Bank in the Isles of Man, where Mark operated an account, informed its customers that it was closing for business on 30 September 2004.  It, therefore, invited its customers, including Mark, to make arrangements for the relocation of their deposits.

The bank approached Mrs. Mark that the family funds with it and others at Allied Irish Bank, Jersey, be transferred to designated accounts at the Bristol and West International Bank, Guernsey.

The North Bank, aware of the freezing order issued in 2000, agreed that this should also apply to the funds where they were being newly transferred (at Bristol and West).
She and her solicitors disagreed. But she agreed to the variation of the freezing order only if the funds in all the accounts were placed in an account or accounts in relation to which the firm of her solicitors was a mandatory signatory, the court document revealed. She also wanted the funds brought from those islands to the UK. Her application that her solicitors be allowed joint control of the accounts to make sure the freezing order remained until “the determination of her ancillary relief,” was granted.
Ancillary relief, according to English law, is part of the three separate legal issues involved in any divorce process. These are the divorce itself, questions affecting the children of the marriage, and financial matters (ancillary relief) involved in the marriage about to be dissolved.

In the process of her application, the Court of Appeal (Civil Division), Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, London WC2, disclosed on 16 June 2006 as follows.
“The freezing order was not only in general terms but attached to specific assets, including sums held in four bank accounts at the Northern Bank, Isle of Man and one account at the Allied Irish Bank, Jersey. A total fund of about £6 million in those four accounts was frozen by an order dated 4 October 2000.”
 

Mark, like other African public office holders with light fingers, devised a way of keeping his loot through offshore banking in countries which the uninitiated may find difficult to locate on the map. Areas notorious for such practice are the Cayman Islands, Belize (where Mark naturalized), Isles of Man, Jersey and others.
The advantage of offshore banking is that it is operated outside the country of its owner, and deposits attract low or no taxation and, above all, it is protected against local or financial instability.

Experts argue that offshore banking is “often associated with underground economy and organised crime, through tax evasion, money laundering” and others.
To those who understand covert international financial transactions, Mark’s preference for the Isles of Man and Jersey was a smart move.

The Isles of Man, a self-governing British crown dependency, is located at the centre of the British Isles. Though not part of the United Kingdom, Britain is in charge of its external affairs, defence and security. Its booming economy is, according to financial experts, largely due to the success of the financial services industry. This is the largest sector in the island, which involves deposit taking, asset protection and management, packaged investments like unit trusts, life assurance and corporate management.
Jersey, where Mark keeps another offshore account, is located between the northern coast of France in Normandy and the southern coast of England. It is part of the grouping called Channel Islands. Like the Isles of Man, Jersey is not within the UK, but is a crown dependency.

The country once boasted that few nations could compete with its record for depositor, investor and policy holder protection. “Institutions currently hold more than £95 billion on deposit and £32 billion under management,” the country added.
There is also a trick to the offshore banking business which Mark effectively adopted. An offshore bank account owner protects himself and his accounts by setting up an International Business Company (IBC), designed to give him secrecy and protection. Thus, Mark set up Lincoln Trust Company Jersey Limited for that purpose. The British Appeal Court revealed that it served its order on Mark and Lincoln Trust “as being ostensibly nominally or arguably in control of the four accounts…”
History of the divorce case, Mark’s international financial deals, and immigration hanky-panky are revealed in another British Court of Appeal document with reference number EWCA CIV 168 (2004).

Mark had, according to the papers, married six women by customary marriage, but subsequently separated from the third by customary divorce. Victoria Preye Mark, the wife in conflict, is a 52-year-old Nigerian. On 12 February 1979, when they married, Mark, was an army major, while the wife was a practising lawyer, with her own firm in Port Harcourt. The Appeal Court said that Mark amassed a great fortune in the 1980s and was able to arrange for the four children of his marriage to Victoria to be born in London and educated in England. Mark was also reported to have provided a London home for the family, located in Kingston-upon-Thames and valued at £2 million.

Apart from a business in Northern Ireland, Mark had a personal assistant in London who, as the British court disclosed, manages his fortune. From 1990, the wife lived in London and her husband joined her when he fled from General Sani Abacha’s dictatorship.
During his exile days, the two lived in opulence.

In 1995, however, Mark took his sixth wife while on a business trip to Ghana. According to TheNEWS findings, when Abacha, who  wanted Mark by all means, asked former President Rawlings of Ghana to deport him to Nigeria, he refused, stating that his exit would affect the Ghanaian economy. This magazine gathered that Mark, like Mansa Musa of Mali whose gold-laden, Mecca-bound caravans forced down the value of gold along his routes, entered Ghana with £3 million pounds, forcing the value of the Cedis, the country’s currency, to fall.

With the death of Abacha, on 8 June 1998, however, Mark returned to Nigeria without bringing Victoria, along. It was when the Senator started communicating with Victoria through his solicitors that she knew the marriage was in trouble. Mark later won election into the Senate and chaired the Committee on Banking and Commerce. He also served as a member of the committees for Internal Affairs, African Cooperation and National Security and Police.

The immigration history of Mark is akin to that of a Nazi general, finding refuge in South America, the Caribbean and other remote outposts, where the international war tribunals could not reach them, under false names and different national identities.
Before Abacha’s coup in 1993, the British Appeal Court papers revealed, Mark and his wife had entered the UK on visitor’s visas, obtaining leave to remain for periods of six months at a time. But once in exile, the husband obtained, on 2 April 1994, a work permit that enabled him to live in the UK. The relevant authorities granted this on the premise that he was employed “by the construction company controlled by his man of business,” the court revealed, adding that Mark’s “salary of £40,000 per annum was subject to PAYE (Pay As You Earn) deductions.”

This permit, however, expired on 30 April 1998. The wife and children were not covered by the work permit because the wife’s request that she be included was rejected by the Home Office, which demanded a marriage certificate. With her status, she could not enter Nigeria to arrange for a customary marriage certificate.
To get around the problem, she and her husband, as the documents revealed, went through a ceremony of marriage at the Merton Register Office on 28 May 1996. The court said: “Given that the prior polygamous marriage was recognised in this jurisdiction as a valid marriage, the Merton ceremony was a nullity. However, it was effective to obtain on 6 June 1996 for the wife and the two younger children leave to remain until 30 April 1998.”

On 8 November 1996, Mark, as the court document shows, procured Belizean citizenship for himself and his family. This, as the court reasoned, “may be an indication of his insecurity and of his anxieties for the future.” All the family members were issued Belizean passports.

Why did Mark procure the nationality of an obscure nation?
A National Assembly source told, TheNEWS that since “Belize is one of the countries that specialise in offshore banking, then Mark’s preference is for his money laundering purpose.”

Where is Belize on the world map? Formerly known as British Honduras, Belize is popularly referred to as a tax haven, perfect for offshore banking, offshore accounts, IBCs, offshore incorporation, asset protection, offshore investment and tax elimination.

The country advises all investors: “To protect yourself, the accounts should be set up in the name of an International Business Company which is designed to give you secrecy and protection.”

During the period of the family’s procurement of new passports, Mrs. Mark was between October 1997 and April 1998, away for Bible studies and conferences in Florida, USA.

It was at this point that Mark played a fast one on his wife. During her absence, Mark, according to the document, instructed a specialist solicitor to apply for indefinite leave (to remain in the UK) for himself and his two children, leaving out Mrs. Mark, who, technically, could not even be granted if she was included, because she was away in Florida. Mark received the extension on 24 April 1998.
The court papers puts the situation this way: “It seems reasonably clear that the  husband was

abandoning her since he did not inform her of the instruction he had given to his solicitor, nor did he warn her of the urgent need to apply when she returned from Florida  on 29 April 1998.”

According to J Hughes, one of the judges who ruled in the divorce case, after 30 April 1998, she had no leave to remain and her status, unlike all the rest of the family, was that of an “overstayer.”

To avoid the embarrassment, she gave her passport to her husband (who came to London on one of his regular visits) to instruct his lawyers to regularize her position. Mark gave her a cold shoulder. She, therefore, went to one of Mark’s solicitors, who said he could “not advice any positive outcome and would need confirmation and help from (your husband) to proceed.”

But a window of opportunity opened when Britain launched a scheme to extend the stay of overstayers. Although she was advised by the relevant authorities not to leave the UK, she surreptitiously did on three occasions, using her Belizean passport, the existence of which she did not disclose to both her solicitors and the relevant authorities. Her subterfuge was that, on each occasion she re-entered the UK, she secured six-month visitors’ visa on her Belizean passport. But she managed to secure a regularization of her status on 9 March 2002.
 

Mark, say those who know him, is adept at fending for himself while doing the bidding of others. According to saharareporters, David Mark “made a fortune during his military career, mostly ferrying cash money on behalf of General Ibrahim Babangida before and during the Gulf Oil Windfall era.” His main duty was to set up fictitious companies and offshore bank accounts in Cayman Islands and Jersey on behalf of IBB and himself.

That was before IBB was forced out of power in 1993 after he annulled the 1993 presidential election, won by the late Chief MKO Abiola.
Mark underlined his anti-democracy credentials three days before the 1993 presidential election when he and other military top brass held a meeting with IBB in Minna. Others at the conclave were Colonel Abdulmumini Aminu, Commandant, National Guard; Colonel Abubakar Umar, Commandant, Army Armoured Corps Centre and School (ACES), Bauchi; Colonels Chris Abutu Garba, John Madaki and Brigadier General John Inienger. TheNEWS gathered that they conducted a pre-election survey, which hinted that Abiola would win. While some of the officers favoured the conduct of the election, Mark, who had noticed that MKO Abiola might win, argued trenchantly that the election should not hold. But Humphrey Nwosu, Chairman, National Electoral Commission (NEC) went ahead with the election.
But Mark and his colleagues were minded to stop Abiola and went to pressure Babangida into annulling the results of the election. Mark was once quoted as saying that Abiola would only become president over his (Mark’s) dead body.
Mark’s anger towards Abiola was partly informed by a personal injury that the politician had inflicted on him. When he was Communications Minister, Abiola, according to a report by TEMPO of 21 April 1994, got hold of certain incriminating documents sent to him by some NITEL (Nigerian  Telecommunications Limited) foreign contractors “showing Mark’s reckless award of telecommunication contracts, compiled with evidences of his having received some monetary gratification in return.” Abiola reportedly turned the document over to IBB who, in a show of betrayal, leaked Abiola’s action to Mark. IBB reportedly told Mark that he should beware of Abiola.

The magazine also reported that there was a $6.4 billion World Bank loan package which, under Mark, had certain unfavourable terms. It was meant to rehabilitate NITEL lines and service its five-year digitalisation scheme. Unfortunately, that led to the termination of the $700 million loan contract arrangement with Abiola’s ITT.
On the eve of his departure from the Communications Ministry, TEMPO reported that he bought two jets and one helicopter for N80 million. He replied his critics that his action was necessary in order to effectively monitor NITEL cables and other facilities.

During the period, Mark allegedly had a multi-billion naira deal on the NITEL cellular project. But when he knew he was to be removed, he cancelled the contract so as “to avoid his successor midwifing the project,” TEMPO reported.

The deal, before its cancellation, went thus: Mark influenced the appointment of three official vendors–Yosco, Galactic and Multi-links. They were given the authority to sell the terminals to subscribers. Worse still, Mark appointed Ladi Anne Ugar, his wife’s sister, as one of the big sole vendors. Her company, Yosco, which supplied Motorola cellular phones, was alleged to be one of Mark’s business proxies.

The Senator’s plan then was that cellular phones be sold by Galactic Communication and Yosco, companies where he had substantial interests. However, when experts within NITEL insisted that Nokia cell phones be introduced to Nigeria by Multi-Links, its agent, Mark’s dream  of a  duopoly crumbled.
But before this, his business arrangement made cell phones to sell for a minimum cost of the equivalent of $3,000 each. This was regarded as the highest in the world and fifteen times the global market price. It was during this period that Mark said telephone was not meant for the poor.

As Communications Minister, it was Mark who facilitated the deal between NITEL and Digital Communication Limited of Atlanta, owned by Babangida’s friend, Richmond Aggrey. Aggrey, an American of Ghanaian descent, reportedly made NITEL to agree to the setting up of a joint company (MTS) as a parallel cellular switch in Nigeria. MTS took over the operation of the existing cellular project, ripping Nigerians off with its high charges. It made use of existing NITEL facilities, while at the same time, claiming that there was congestion within the NITEL Ericsson switch system.

Mark was, according to TheNEWS findings, the one who introduced Aggrey to IBB. Aggrey’s company, Digital Communication, was never incorporated in Nigeria but chartered under the laws of the Isles of Man, the  nation where one of Mark’s frozen accounts is domiciled.

That company smoothly secured the NITEL deal without any competitive tender. That was when Augustine Otiji was Managing Director of NITEL. Mark and Otiji were allegedly behind Galactic Communication and Yosco, mentioned earlier.
Mark, as communication minister, signed a contract for Aggrey’s Digital Communication for the supply and installation of Motorola Analogue ETACS equipment in Abuja for 2,500 subscribers. This was at a cost of $15.5 million ($6,194 per head), a price that experts considered as 10 times any other on the planet.
Another illegality in the deal was that Digital Communication, given the fact that it was not registered in Nigeria, had no right to secure such contract unless it was financed by the World Bank or other Bretton Wood institutions or given exemption by the Federal Executive Council in accordance with Part X of the 1968 Companies Act. Mark did not even raise the matter at the Federal Executive Council, a source told TheNEWS. Moreover, experts argued that the company had no record of dealing in cellular business anywhere in the world.

After Mark had retired, his substantial interests in MTS made him to control the cellular business from his home at 5 Lady Oyinkan Abayomi Street, Ikoyi, Lagos. The property was given to him by his friend, Okhai Mike Akhigbe, a naval top brass and former governor of Lagos State.

He, however, moved out of the NITEL official quarters to another residence in Ikoyi to, said sources close to him, get close to the Ikoyi Golf Club.
Golf is a pastime close to Mark’s heart. Apart from owning two of the best world golf courses in Ireland, Mark, has another at Otukpo in Benue State.
His obsession for golf also brought out the ethnic jingoist in Mark. At the Ikoyi Golf Club, “he was notorious for making contemptuous remarks against southerners,” a source told TheNEWS.

He demonstrated this trait when he was the military governor of Niger State. His indigenisation policy had it that a settler would only be admitted a “Nigerite” after spending 25 years and being able to speak at least one local language.
Throughout his stay in government, both as governor and minister, Mark was notorious for making controversial propositions.

In one breath, he advocated that armed robbers should be made to die gradually by having them shot in the leg, a process which would make them bleed to death. He later added that prisoners should be made to feed themselves in order to reduce crime rate.

When the Political Bureau members visited him in 1986, Mark advised that they recommend democratic socialism and the scrapping of the traditional institution.
Besides his disdain for university graduates who, according to him, were less intelligent than a sergeant in the army, Mark has contempt for the Nigerian media. He once claimed that communications reporters were ill-trained.

He added: “It is because of your wrong reports that I was on certain occasions summoned to Dodan Barracks. Can you imagine a reporter writing stories that earned a whole minister queries?”

Mark fired another broadside at the media for failing to go down to the grassroots and look at the inherent problems and give it deserving publicity. “I must also add here that if you fail to read some papers in this country today, one may not be missing anything at all,” he rubbed it in.

Born on 8 April 8 1948, in Otukpo, Benue State, Mark attended St. Francis Practising School, Otukpo from 1955 to 1961. He proceeded to the Nigerian Military School, Zaria in 1962 and in 1970, he attended the Nigerian Defence Academy. Mark was commissioned into the Nigerian Army Corps of Signals as a Second Lieutenant when General Murtala Mohammed was head of state. He was promoted to the rank of Major in 1974 before he proceeded to the College of Military Engineering in India, where he earned a degree in electronics engineering.
That Abacha made him scamper to exile gave Mark an opportunity to enjoy his loot, analysts explained. He allegedly has palatial homes in Paris, Northern Virginia in the US; Harare, Zimbabwe and in Stanmore, Middlesex, a shouting distance from Chief Richard Akinjide’s London home. Mark also has a radio station, called Joy FM, 99.7 KHz, at Kokomlele, Accra, Ghana.

The Senator admitted this fact in an interview with TEMPO of 4 July 2002.  “I have an interest in radio station there and also, I wish to build one here. Joy Radio Station, which I just got a licence to operate. As you know, my degree is in telecommunications. Above that, news dissemination is an important aspect of our lives today. You can only ignore the media at your own expense. The Joy FM Station will soon come up in Makurdi.” Mark, however, denied having any golf course in the UK. “But you do not need to own to play. I hope to build one in Otukpo. It would soon be completed,” he added. Mark also has a sprawling home at Otukpo GRA.
The recent re-election of Mark as a senator remains controversial. He is reckoned to have lost the election to Alhaji Usman Abubakar Dan Maishanu of the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP).

However, his victory was upturned by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) which announced Mark. Angrily, Abubakar filed a petition at the election petitions tribunal.  His team of 55 lawyers is led by Chief Wole Olanipekun, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).

When attempt to persuade Abubakar to allow Mark carry the trophy of victory failed, the conflict was given a savage twist. Not long after Abubakar’s lawyers inspected electoral materials at the tribunal’s office in Makurdi, some hoodlums visited the Otukpo home of Abubakar and, possibly mistaking his brother Danjuma for him, rained machete blows on him. Danjuma was rushed to the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Utuku, Ozalla in Enugu State.

Mark reportedly lost the April 21 polls to Alhaji Usman Abubakar Danmaishanu, the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) candidate. At the end of the election, according to sources, results were brought to the collation centre in Otukpo and the results for two local governments out of the nine were cancelled by the Benue South INEC Returning Officer, Mr. Lawrence Osungurua over widespread rigging. The affected local governments are Agatu and Okpokwu. Consequently, Osungurua told newsmen in Otukpo that a date for a by-election would be announced for two local councils after due consultation with the Benue State Resident Officer, Mr. Steven Ada. The results of the remaining seven local governments were, however, collated and announced by Osungurua in Otukpo. The Action Congress (AC) candidate, Dr. Enyantu Ifene, scored 7, 435 votes. ANPP had the highest votes of 172,636, while Mark of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) came second with 98,029. As the stakeholders were waiting for INEC to release the details of the by-election, Philip Umeadi, INEC Commissioner for Information and Publicity, announced Mark winner from Abuja.
Three days after the election, Ada addressed a press conference in Makurdi and upheld the decision of INEC headquarters. Abubakar believes INEC decision was in contravention of section 69 C of the Electoral Act 2006. “I defeated David Mark hands down. In 2003, I defeated him and even swept the polls in Otukpo, Mark’s local government of origin. But the PDP used government machinery to upturn my victory. But the last election cannot stand because I will explore all legal means to prove that Mark’s so-called victory is on a quicksand. Come to think of it, the Benue State Resident Electoral Officer of INEC Commissioner by virtue of section 69 C of the Electoral Act is barred from declaring a candidate winner. Only the returning officer is empowered under the Act to return a candidate. So this is why I said Mark’s declaration is a nullity, because it was built on  quicksand,” Abubakar told TheNEWS.

Aside this, the youthful politician said Mark’s penchant for primitive accumulation of wealth cannot make him a leader.
“The people don’t like Mark because of his greed and nepotism. As Senator for eight years, all the people he influenced their appointments are either his siblings or children,” he alleged.

Helen Mark, the senator’s sister, is INEC’s legal adviser. Ada Mark, another sister, is a commissioner  with INEC in Benue State. Igoche Mark is his Personal Assistant.
But to Mark, Abubakar’s protest is being funded by George Akume, former governor of Benue State and Mark’s chief opponent for the  Senate Presidency. While insisting that he actually won election, the Senate President told newsmen that Akume was behind the move to cancel Okpokwu and Agatu elections, having realised he had landslide victory from the two council areas. Akume’s plot, according to Mark, was conceived to oil his ride to the Senate Presidency.

“Akume knew as it has turned out to be that if I am re-elected, he can’t be Senate president. I don’t begrudge him. He funded the campaigns of my rival. Until Gabriel Suswam became governor, my rival was staying with Akume in Makurdi Government House,” Mark said after the election.

Mark’s emergence as Senate President is widely considered as a compensation by former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, whose considerable influence still shapes things in the PDP. Mark was a staunch supporter of Obasanjo when the former president made a coy effort to extend his tenure.

Attempts to get Mark’s reaction proved abortive. But Kola Ologbodiyan, his Senior Special Assistant on Media, dismissed allegations against Mark. He claimed that the negative reports are the handiwork of an estranged wife. Ologbodiyan maintained that Mark never acquired the citizenship of Belize or any other country. At the peak of the Abacha dictatorship, Ologbodiyan said, Mark fled the country for asylum in Europe and subsequently obtained a resident permit in the country which was done to make his entry into the UK easy. Ologbodiyan also dismissed the allegations that his boss has foreign accounts with fat deposits and that he made money through the inflation of contract for the purchase of an aircraft.

Can Nigeria afford a Senate President with a hefty morality baggage or even one with anti-people predilections? No.
While Mark has not been available to explain how he amassed his controversial wealth, he once admitted the harshness of his actions which he claimed were necessary evils.

In an interview with a national daily some years back, Mark said: “I acknowledge that my views were controversial, my policies were radical, my tactics and strategies were unorthodox, my executional approach was total, harsh and merciless, my pronouncements provocative. But they were necessary surgical operations dictated by the situation as we were in haste for positive results.”


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