10 September 2006

Nigeria: How Jefferson Reported PTDF Deal to Obasanjo

Lagos — United States Congressman, William Jefferson, who is now at the centre of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for alleged corrupt practices, was the one who gave the first hint to President Olusegun Obasanjo on the alleged illegal use of Petroleum Trust Development Fund (PTDF) by some Nigerian businessmen. The businessmen were believed to be associates of Vice President Atiku Abubakar.

In a letter on his congressional office letterhead dated May 28, 22004 and addressed to Obasanjo, Jefferson who was reacting to allegations raised against him in a petition by Otunba Oyewole Fasawe explained that he learnt through Mr. Vernon Jackson, the Chief Exe-cutive Officer of iGate Inc that PTDF funds were to be used to pay for private business transactions bet-ween iGate and Fasawe's Network Digital Television (NDTV).

Jefferson stated in the letter that "Mr Jackson reported to me that he was deeply troubled by comments made to him by the managing director of NDTV that the funds were delayed on the contract because they were expecting funds allegedly related to Petroleum trust development Fund (PTDF) fixed deposits to pay for the rest of the project. Mr. Jackson worried that this course of payment might be improper or perhaps even illegal.

"A final concern that Mr. Jackson reported to me, unrelated to the contract violations, nonetheless disturbing, was that he feared he would become involved in Nigerian politics. This is because two of the principals of NDTV continued to press him to agree to have their partnership provide funds out of upcoming operations for the 2007 elections for the current Vice President of Nigeria to become President," he stated.

In the letter, the congressman presented himself as a man who merely helped to draw investment into Nigeria by facilitating a business relationship between an American company and a Nigerian partner.

"I have known you and have worked for the benefit of Nigeria and Africa in the United States for many years. I have vouched for Nigeria as a place for US investment, through my work as Chairman of the Nigerian Caucaus and brought investment to Nigeria... I have been careful to avoid conflicts and shady dealings," he said.

Obasanjo in his reply to Jefferson's dated June 9, 2004, promised to investigate the story of the use of PTDF funds for private transactions.

"On the aspect of your letter touching on a government agency, the Petroleum Development Trust Fund, I have taken immediate steps to ensure full investigation of its activities in order to establish the veracity of the allegation made on the use of its resources to settle the obligations of NDTV, a private company. I shall, of course, keep you informed of any findings from this investigation, as it is necessary for you to know that our anti-corruption strategy is focussed and without reservations," he stated.

"Otunba Fasawe is someone I know but my Vice President with whom he has been associated for a longer time knows him better.

"I also have no knowledge of his business interests, including any that he may jointly pursue with any of his friends.

"I would have advised that you continue to encourage iGate and NDTV including Otunba Fasawe to take every step possible toward an amicable resolution of their current business dispute," Obasanjo added.

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