Nigeria: $16bn Power Probe Records First Casualties

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29 August 2019

Abuja — Top officials of the Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC) have been arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for alleged N50billion fraud.

The detained officials are Mr. Marvel Emefiele, head Finance of NDPHC and Mr. Eze Odigbo, head Compensation of the power company.

Their arrest followed President Muhammadu Buhari's resolve to probe the $16billion the federal government under the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, his successor, the late Musa Umar Yar'Adua and ex-President Goodluck Jonathan spent on some power projects.

Emefiele and Odigbo were alleged to be involved in bogus payment and diversion of about N850million compensation to communities where the components of the power projects were sited.

The detained officials were said to have failed to honour previous invitations by the EFCC.

LEADERSHIP gathered that about $8.5 billion cash was drawn from Excess Crude Account and disbursed to the NPDHC for the power projects in 2006.

EFCC sources said yesterday that investigation revealed that approval was granted for the payment of N84 billion to the communities where transmission lines were meant to be laid.

However, the investigators discovered that there were serious issues arising from the payment of the compensation to the communities.

"Though about N50 billion compensation was said to have been paid to the communities, the contractors were said to have been prevented from doing their jobs by the communities over non- payment of the same compensation which the NPDHC records claimed to have been paid.

"Emefiele was said to have okayed the payment of N850 million as NPDHC head of finance while Odigbo, reportedly effected the compensation to the communities.

They are being quizzed over the propriety of the matter," the sources said.

The officials are among the first set of persons to be arrested in connection with the power spending probe.

Meanwhile, the managing director of Pivot Engineering, Mr. Richard Ayibiowu, is also being detained by the EFCC over alleged payment of N350million to the communities.

Part of LOT 8 of the power project, Iheala Olu Transmission Line, was purportedly not executed by Pivot Engineering due to the alleged claim of hostility by the communities while about N350 million was recorded as paid to the same communities.

Also, the managing director of Chris Ejik Nigeria Limited, Mr. Christain Ejik Imoka, has been detained over controversial payment of a N500 million contract.

LOT 14, which ought to include Lekki Ajah Transmission Line was not executed while the money was paid to that effect.

... Commission Gathering Intelligence On Indicted Nigerians

Meanwhile, the acting chairman of EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, has said that the commission was gathering information on the Nigerians indicted in the recently busted money laundering and cybercrime offences in the United States.

Eighty suspects, mostly Nigerians were allegedly involved in the crimes investigated by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Magu, who spoke through the head of the EFCC's Ibadan zonal office, Friday Ebelo, at a press conference in Ibadan, Oyo State, announced that the massive data collection was part of the collaborative activities between the EFCC and FBI to ensure that criminal elements were exposed and made to pay for their crimes.

The spokesman of the EFCC, Wilson Uwujaren, explained that Ebelo said there is intricate connections between the local "Yahoo Yahoo Boys" and their offshore criminal collaborators.

According to him, the essence of the data gathering exercise was to establishe any form of relationship the indicted individuals may have with Nigeria-based suspects, and how this could help in furthering the fight against economic and financial crimes in the country.

He said that the information earlier collected had led to the arrest of many internet fraudsters, adding that one of the kingpins was nabbed during a recent raid in Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State.

The kingpin, Ajayi Gbenga Festus, he said, was found to be deeply involved in many internet-related frauds from which he had benefited up to N75 million in the last eight months.

"We were able to establish a number of illicit transactions through his Nigerian bank account amounting to over N223 million. Ajayi serves as conduit pipe through which proceeds of crime reach members of the syndicate," he stated.

Ebelo also disclosed that in the course of the year, the zone arrested 263 suspects for cybercrimes, of which, 111 were convicted.

Apart from landed properties, vehicles, laptops and other valuables forfeited on the order of court, huge sums of money in local and foreign currencies traced to internet fraudsters were also recovered.

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