Vanguard (Lagos)

29 December 2012

Nigeria: 2012 - Scams, Fraud, Money Laundering, Bribe Scandals Galore

analysis

Reports of financial scams, fraudulent activities involving highly placed private and public officials, children of powerful politicians, money laundering, abuse, misuse, waste of public funds and bribe scandals were rife in the media in 2012, pointing inevitably to a leaking national treasury; which had been recklessly looted over the years. Funds misappropriated, stolen or missing, worsened by profligate spending habit of government could amount to trillions of naira.

The House of Representatives ad hoc committee on the administration of fuel subsidy found out that the subsidy administration was compromised, recommended that N1.7 trillion be refunded to the Federal Government. It asked the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPRA), the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation and 17 oil marketing companies to refund the amount - N1.7 trillion, blaming the PPRA board for opening the floodgate of the subsidy bazaar.

Some top officials in the office of the Head of Civil Service were charged in court for alleged complicity in the illegal diversion of N32.8 billion from the Nigeria Police Pension Funds. The Special Fraud Unit of the Nigeria Police Force was on the trail of former Governor of Kwara State for alleged involvement in a N21 billion loan scam.

A former Director of the Pensions Department, Office of the Head of Service of the Federation was accused of stealing N439 million and charged in a Federal High Court Abuja, but later granted bail in the sum of N50 million.

The National Assembly probed the N6.1 billion given by the Federal Government to the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, for SIM card registration, as Nigerians were anxious to know how the money was disbursed to the telecoms operators, because they were scored low and have not performed up to expectations.

The Save Nigeria Group sought judicial interpretation on the appropriation and spending from the Federal Account in the wake of the subsidy probe. SNG had wanted to know the extent of the National Assembly's oversight functions, or whether they are merely responsible for fact finding exercises as many probe reports have been dumped like the power probe which exposed $16 billion expenditure with no power infrastructure or projects anywhere. Another was the probe of unspent N4.3 trillion budget fund which was not remitted to the Federation Account by ministries, departments and agencies of the Federal Government.

The House of Representatives probed the withdrawal of N114 billion from the Stabilisation Account by the President within the period of eight months on certain expenditures not budgeted for.

Both Hon. Herma Hembe, Chairman House of Representatives Committee on Capital Market and his deputy Hon. Chris Azubuogu, were arraigned in court by EFCC for allegedly collecting $4,095 each as estacode to attend a training in the Dominican Republic, but failed to attend and did not return the money.

Director General of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Arunma Oteh, had alleged that Hembe asked SEC to contribute N44 million to finance a public hearing on the commission which she turned down, causing hostility between herself and Hembe. About N42 million was traced to the account of a former Minister of Works in a contract scam.

There was confusion over the location of $26.5 million plea bargain money returned by construction giant, Julius Berger over the $180 million bribe Halliburton scam.

Controversy was generated by the alleged $15 million bribe money in custody of CBN offered to the former Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Mallam Nuhu Ribadu in 2007 by former Governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori.

The Delta State Government claimed to be the rightful owner, while a businessman, Chibuike Achigbu also came forward as the authentic owner.

Over N5 billions out of the N7 billions released by the Federal Government in 2010 to pay contractors for Police Baracks projects were fraudulently diverted causing the Inspector-General of Police to set up a Special Task Force to unearth those behind the fraud. It was believed that some senior police officers in connivance with contractors in the Works Department masterminded the fraud.

Controversy still surrounds the $620,000 subsidy bribe scam involving Hon. Lawan Farouk, erstwhile Chairman, House of Representatives ad hoc committee which probed the petroleum subsidy regime.

The EFCC preferred multiple criminal charges against an oil marketer and others including the son of a former PDP chairman who were arraigned in an Ikeja High Court standing trial for a N4.46 billion subsidy fraud.

Chairman of Bi-Courtney Limited, Dr. Wale Babalakin, SAN and four others were charged before a Lagos High Court in a matter instituted by EFCC for fraudulently transferring various amounts of money to the sum of N4.7 billion on behalf of former governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori.

Mr. Adeyemi Ikuforiji, Speaker, Lagos State House of Assembly and his personal assistant, Mr. Alade Atoyebi are facing a 20-count charge of alleged money laundering in a Federal High Court, Lagos slammed on the duo by EFCC. They were alleged to have conspired to accept cash payment sof N273.3 million from the Lagos State house of Assembly without going through a financial institution.

The speaker was alleged to have misappropriated about N500 million of the House's funds, an offence contravening Section 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011.

Son of Jigawa State Governor, Aminu Lamido was arrested by EFCC operatives having been found with $40,000 (N7.5m), an amount in excess of authorised $10,000 allowed for travelers on a trip overseas. It was an alleged case of money laundering.

There was a running battle between Chairman of Pension Reform Task Team, Alhaji Abdulrasheed Maina who claimed his team uncovered N3.3 trillion pension fund fraud by cabals in various ministries, departments and agencies and the Senate Committee on Establishment, public service and local governments investigating pension fund which believed that the cabals in the management of pension funds were worse than those in the oil sector.

The Senate had summoned Maina over theft of N195 million by the pension office and he refused to appear just as the Senate said Maina is being protected by powerful people and top government officials he cannot be touched. So the Senate leadership says it has left the matter to God.

EFCC Chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde, on the other hand, blamed private sector operators, especially financial services institutions, like banks, accounting and audit firms many of who are not only involved in corruption cases but were covering up and conniving with individuals and firms implicated in cases of corrupt practices.

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