Posted by By Jide Ajani, Omoh Gabriel & Rotimi Ajayi on
Vice President Atiku Abubakar alleged yesterday that over $500 million of the money realised during the 2002/2003 oil licensing bids cannot be accounted for by the authorities.
*He is blackmailing, says Ribadu as Obasanjo calls for ceasefire
ABUJA—Vice President Atiku Abubakar alleged yesterday that over $500 million of the money realised during the 2002/2003 oil licensing bids cannot be accounted for by the authorities.
Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, speaking on the VP said he (Atiku) was engaging in cheap blackmail to win public sympathy while the President of the World Bank, Mr Paul Wolfowitz, yesterday gave President Obasanjo a clean bill of health in his crusade against corruption when he said “you can go around the world, the President of Nigeria is making a strong effort to deal with corruption and taking on corrupt officials at a level that was unheard of in his country."
Meanwhile, President Obasanjo has ordered his camp to cease-fire in the face-off with the vice president.
$500 million allegation
Vice President Atiku in a statement yesterday by his chief spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu had said: “The position of the law on PTDF is that all money collected in respect of licensing rounds (bidding proceeds) of oil blocks and their licensing is to be paid into the PTDF account for the purposes of training Nigerians in specified fields.
“About $700m was realised during the 2002/2003 bidding rounds but only the sum of about $145m was released to the PTDF. At this point, the pertinent question to ask is: where is the balance and who used it and under what law or which appropriation sub-head.
“The law also provides that any disbursed amount should be invested in accordance with the guidelines approved by the Accountant General of the Federation(AGF).
“The AGF approved about 14 banks to hold PTDF deposits after certifying them to be healthy and suitable. These include the Equatorial Trust Bank (ETB) and the Trans-International Bank (TIB).
“It is very important to state that the approval granted by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) was for programmes and projects to be embarked upon after the project conception, design and implementation after meeting due process requirements.
“The approval was not for the award of contracts to be implemented immediately, nor was it an approval for the investment of the funds as the kangaroo panel set up by the President tried to impute.
“This is clearly so, as the president had earlier in 2001 approved a similar programme of action, which guided the operations of the PTDF. The established operational procedure for the PTDF did not provide for FEC approval before funds are deposited with any bank.
“It was a routine exercise which was normally done by the management of PTDF under the direction of the Special Adviser on Petroleum Resources or the Vice President as the case maybe.
“Over $100m was deposited with First Bank and similar large sums with UBA at one time or the other without any such approval. Similarly, the other 12 banks or so had amounts deposited with them without the approval of FEC.
“In short, no government department or PTDF required any approval from the FEC to invest their funds. The procedure in the case of ETB and TIB were fully complied with as the banks were approved by the AG to hold PTDF funds.
“The Executive Secretary recommended them on the basis of sound business judgment which the Vice President approved and the signatories to the PTDF accounts comprising officers in the AGF’s office and Ministry of Petroleum Resources released the funds to the banks as deposits on clearly defined tenor and interest rates to be paid.”
Atiku is playing cheap blackmail —RIBADU
Mallam Ribadu yesterday in Singapore said the Vice President was blackmailing the commission to win public sympathy. The EFCC chairman, who featured as a panellist at a seminar organised by the World Bank in Singapore, said the accusation of selective justice levelled at the commission was the handiwork of the political class who felt they were above the law. He declared that the Vice President’s cry was cheap blackmail.
“He is from my village, my town. If I am after him, for whose benefit? When the EFCC started its work, we went after those involved in 419 deals, many were arrested and prosecuted, there was no cry of selective justice,
“When we went after the oil pipeline vandals and crude oil thieves and arrested and prosecuted them, we were not accused. When we went after the bank loan defaulters, we were not accused of selective justice. But now that we are after the most corrupt group in the Nigerian society which feels they are sacred cows, we are being accused of selective justice,” he said.
Ribadu said in this war that the EFCC had declared on corruption, naturally those affected would fight back by all means. According to him, "the job of the EFCC is the most difficult for anybody to do. It is a job of going after people, that is depriving them of their ill-gotten wealth. Such people will go after you." He said in the near future those who stole money from Africa would be treated the way the Americans treated Osama bin Laden.
He said developed countries could not have double standards and urged them not to make their countries the abode of stolen money. He said over 80 per cent of looted funds from Africa were treasured in the vaults of developed nations, and that even when the funds were traced, they imposed conditions for the release of the funds.
Ribadu expressed the Federal Government’s displeasure over the condition imposed by the Swiss authorities before the release of the looted Abacha funds, stating that such conditions should not have arisen as the money was that of Nigeria.
World Bank on Obasanjo
Meanwhile, at a crowded press interview yesterday, in Singapore, the Word Bank President declared: “You can go around the world, the President of Nigeria is making a strong effort to deal with corruption and taking on corrupt officials at a level that was unheard of in his country.
“If we are going to get out of poverty, the money has to go where it is supposed to go and not to line the bank accounts of rich and corrupt individuals or officials. Governance is really at the forefront of people’s minds.
“In fact, when the Blair commission, the UK Commission on Africa, reported last year— a commission that included, by the way, two African heads of government —they identified weak governance as the biggest obstacle to development in Africa.
“Third, we simply cannot afford to turn a blind eye when we do encounter corruption in our projects. It not only means the money that should be going to build clinics and build schools and provide adequate housing for the poor instead is going to enrich corrupt individuals, and it is syphoned off from where it ought to go.
“The World Bank and four of the largest regional development banks have also agreed to share evidence and use common methods to probe corruption, but not all of them plan to publish companies’ names.”
Obasanjo orders cease-fire
The order was said to have been issued in far away Japan. Presidential sources told Vanguard that he was insisting that his deputy should prove his innocence.
Vanguard was told by a source that “the hot air being blown now would not do any good. The issues at stake should be addressed. “The only thing for the Vice President to do is to address the issues, prove his innocence or show proof that President Obasanjo instructed him to divert funds,” the source said.
EFCC probes SAN
Also, fresh facts emerged yesterday that the EFCC is still investigating a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr Rikky Tafa, in connection with some Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) request letters to the Federal Government of Nigeria, relating to the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF).
The investigation centres around the alleged presence of the request letter in his office.
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