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N1.9bn recovered from ex-IG Balogun, SSS seizes wife’s passports

Posted by By Uchenna Awom, Chris Agbambu (Abuja), Sunny Igboanugo, Wisdom Patrick and Alex Oni (Lagos) on 2005/01/19 | Views: 1833 |

N1.9bn recovered from ex-IG Balogun, SSS seizes wife’s passports


Opinion within police ranks as well as among the public was united on Tuesday over the exit of Tafa Balogun from the office of number one crime buster – he was at best seen by his former officers as divisive, and at worst regarded by ordinary Nigerians as the man who failed to do his job.

Opinion within police ranks as well as among the public was united on Tuesday over the exit of Tafa Balogun from the office of number one crime buster – he was at best seen by his former officers as divisive, and at worst regarded by ordinary Nigerians as the man who failed to do his job.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) alleged that he was a rich cop who stashed away billions of naira in personal bank accounts at home and abroad. The commission has begun investigating his alleged financial misappropriations.

A source at the EFCC on Tuesday confirmed that about N1.9 billion has so far been recovered from him.

The financial crime watchdog claimed to have in its possession evidence that the former Inspector General (IG) has $150 million in Swiss bank accounts, $200 million (London) and N500 million in various denominations in Nigeria.

Three of his aides who allegedly fronted for him have been arrested.

Police officers in Abuja banged doors, tables, windows and every available object to hail the arrival of new IG Sunday Ehindero at Force Headquarters, and recounted how Balogun’s tenure was riddled with unbecoming activities.

The same mood of disdain and relief permeated the Force Headquarters annex in Lagos.

Politicians summed their feelings with the words “good riddance”.

Barely 48 hours after he was asked to retire, his passport may have been confiscated by security operatives.

A source at the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) confirmed that his passport is “with us. We have document indicating that Tafa Balogun’s passport has been deposited with State Security Service (SSS) operatives in Abuja, apart from being placed under surveillance for 24 hours.

“Even the passport of the wife has also been confiscated”.

It was learnt that the travail of Balogun began on Sunday night when EFCC operatives presented dossiers on him to President Olusegun Obasanjo.

And his wife is allegedly involved in foreign deals which the EFCC considers anti-economic growth.

Another source alleged that N500 million worth of money in foreign currency was recovered from his office.

Detectives were said to have gained access into the place when he went to answer an invitation from the President.

It was learnt Balogun may be the first IG who may be subjected to security investigation, “and if care is not taken he may be prosecuted”.

Additional facts emerged in Abuja on Tuesday on how the Presidency forced him to turn in his retirement letter.

A Presidency source disclosed that EFCC Chairman Nuhu Ribadu had complained to Obasanjo on the deluge of petitions of alleged illegal financial dealings against Balogun and sought permission to investigate him.

Ribadu was said to be particular on the one filed by one Tolu Jinadu who was “detained by Balogun for one-month on allegations of collecting N5 million on his behalf from the owners of one missing vessel”.

The President succumbed to the pressure to investigate the former IG, and by Sunday afternoon, Ribadu had handed in his interim report on 12 bank accounts with different names which he allegedly operated. One was said to have a balance of N1.5 billion.

An infuriated Obasanjo, the source added, immediately invited key members of his cabinet and presented the findings to them. It was resolved to invite Balogun to answer to the allegations. The former IG was summoned to the Villa at about 3:00 p.m.

The President reportedly confronted him with the documents and asked him to defend himself. “When he could not, he was asked to put in his retirement letter immediately or be fired”.

He went back to his office and started packing his belongings.

A gale of reactions has trailed his exit.

Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) Secretary General Maxi Okwu said the news was received with mixed feelings.

“The retirement of Balogun was received with mixed feelings. We at CNPP celebrate that a key actor in the infamy of the 2003 election has hit the dust. But we are not happy that he was not sacked”, he said.

All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) National Chairman Chekwas Okorie painted the same picture regarding the way his party feels about the development. “It is one that should make every sane and patriotic Nigerian happy, he stressed, “because of the many atrocities, the erstwhile police boss committed in office”.

A member of the House of Representatives Committee on Police Affairs, Damian Ozurumba, hailed the decision by Aso Rock to accept his retirement.

He said the man’s sudden exit is a sign that well-articulated and authentic information presented to the President can spur him to take a decisive action that can quell any crisis.

Ozurumba stressed that it is usual for a public officer who has served for almost three decades to retire, however, “the moral burden that seems to be associated with Balogun’s tenure has been a source of concern to many Nigerians”.

The joy of officers and men of Force Headquarters, Abuja knew no bounds on Tuesday. Jubilation rent the air when Ehindero drove in a convoy at about 10.45 a.m. to take charge.

Officers and men hit doors, windows and tables to herald his arrival without any sign of regret over the retirement of Balogun.

He immediately held a meeting with his deputy inspectors general. In attendance were Ogbonna Onovo, Mike Okiro, Abdulkadir Musa, Abdulkadir Mohammed and Bello Labaran.

The handing over ceremony which was supposed to take place at 12 noon did not hold. Balogun failed to turn up. But at about 1.45 p.m., Ehindero addressed all senior officers on his “six-point agenda”.

He disclosed that he is at the helm of affairs to put smiles on the faces of his officers and men and all Nigerians, as “policing is all about caring”. Police investigative apparatus would be functional, he added, since crime is now committed scientifically.

Ehindero warned that taking suspects to court on holden charge “is moribund so, we are not embarking on this new trend. I am going to the Supreme Court next month after filing my briefs on some issues on Criminal Justice”.

The feeling in several police formations and in Force Headquarters annex, Kam Salem House, Obalende, Lagos was that of great relief.

An Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG), who asked for anonymity, said Balogun got what he deserved and that the action was “long overdue”.

He accused him of “high profile corruption” and that he has not given a satisfactory account of the N1.4 billion he collected on behalf of the police to conduct of the 2003 elections.

“He was an epitome of corruption. His fall will be followed by disgrace”, he added.

Officers and men had little pity for Balogun. They accused him of “compromising professionalism to please the government”.

He was accused of polarising the police into pro- and anti-Balogun elements. They said those who fell into his camp enjoyed special privileges and lucrative posting while antagonists were sidelined.

However, a police commissioner, who also pleaded for anonymity, described Balogun as “a very brilliant officer, easily the most brilliant IG we ever had, but he was a disgrace. He allowed himself to be used recklessly by Obasanjo who dumped him like used toilet paper. What has happened to him is a lesson for future IGs”.

EFCC operatives on Tuesday visited the headquarters of Fountain Trust Bank (FTB) on Adeola Hopewell Road, Victoria Island, Lagos to examine its customers’ accounts.

Sources said the operatives are trying to verify the amount lodged in the account bank by Balogun, following allegation that he has between N1 billion and N4 billion in his account at the bank.

The commission is said to be interested in interrogating former FTB Managing Director Segun Aina who allegedly handled the transaction.

Sources indicated that the operatives may have stumbled on an account which held about N1.5 billion.

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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.