Feb. 11, 2013
* Investigation by Abdullahi Bello &Akin Akindele, Whistleblowers Monitors
(Barely two years after serving a jail term handed over by a Lagos High court presided over by Justice Bunmi Oyewole, fresh facts have emerged on how a web of intrigues and political maneuvering at the highest levels conspired in turning one of Nigerians mercurial politicians-Chief Olabode George into an ex convict!.)
The Background …….
Not a stranger to intrigues with fatal consequences,Bode George popularly referred to as BG was a retired Commodore in the navy. During the Sanni Abacha regime he had as Principal Staff Officer (equivalent of Chief of Staff) to the then Chief of General Staff Gen Oladipo Diya rtd,escaped by whiskers from the torment of his boss who was enmeshed in a coup saga that led to his sentencing to death.Diya is only alive today by divine providence, following the strange death of Gen Abacha himself,the supposed executioner.BG ran into exile in London and was only able to return during the preparation for the return to Democracy and he became one the frontline supporters of the Obasanjo Presidency.
His rise within the People’s Democratic party PDP saw him as the National Vice Chairman (SW) of the party and later the National Deputy Chairman in quick succession.He was a notable political engine room for Obasanjo which saw him playing a key role in the sweeping of the votes of the South West for the PDP and Obasanjo in the 2003 elections thus displacing the Alliance for Democracy(AD)
Governors who held sway in the region.Thus Ogun, Osun, Oyo, Ondo, Ekiti came under the PDP governance leaving only Lagos under the stranglehold of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu (a.k.a BAT)
BG was made the Chairman of the Nigerian Ports Authority(NPA) ,one of the cash cows of the Federal Government, giving him a huge empowerment platform with which the PDP hoped to wrestle Lagos from the Tinubu political behemoth. Meanwhile,the creation of New local governments by Tinubu brought him in collision course with the Presidency which was insisting on the unconstitutionality of the creation. This led to the withholding of local government funds of Lagos by Obasanjo.The whole matter was later settled at the Supreme court which held that the local councils were inchoate and was not Constititional but also held that it was unconstitutional to withhold the state funds.The political backlash was dumped on BG who was seen as the arrowhead of the attempt to strangle Tinubu’s financial power as a ploy for a final onslaught to win Lagos state for the PDP.Also the gruesome murder of Engr Funso Williams, a well respected politician from whom Tinubu snatched the Governorship of Lagos, by yet unknown assassins, brought some hues and cry from the Lagos PDP family led by BG with fingers pointed to the Lagos Political warlord.The insinuations did not go down well with BAT who secretly hatched a revenge.
ENTER NUHU RIBADU……. the anti corruption czar.
As part of his fight against corruption and financial crime ,and to meet up with international convention on economic crimes, Obasanjo set up the EFCC and appointed a young Deputy Commissioner of Police Nuhu Ribadu as the Executive Chairman.Ribadu knew early his war could only be fought with the support of the Media and pro democracy activists whose penchant for rushing to court to challenge any infringement on fundamental rights had become notorious .The fraudsters and 419ers,awash with cash and loot of their crimes were able to procure the media and lawyer activists to fight their battle and sway public opinion against a seeming iron fist Organisation that EFCC was growing into. Ribadu went after activist lawyers like Femi Falana,( now a senior advocate,) Keyamo and the likes and swiftly made them prosecution Counsel for EFCC with irresistible financial largesse to the tow. He also sought the comfort of the media.Sources within the organisation hinted that the initial funding received from the NNPC support fund running into millions of naira was splashed on the media and human rights activists.One of the media organisation’s wooed early by Ribadu was a Lagos based magazine The News. A key staff of EFCC had introduced a top Managing editor of the magazine (who is currently a top politician with the ACN), to Ribadu and the magazine benefited from several exclusive news leaks of anti corruption cases. This led to a series of other collaborative efforts.
……Ribadu and the Corrupt Governors
At some point between 2001-2002, Foreign governments and agencies were alarmed at the rate of the siphoning of funds out of the country by Governors and key public officials. Obasanjo was thus derided at international fora over his weak anti corruption programme.A visibly angry Obasanjo who was also looking for opportunities to keep the governors under political control tasked EFCC and ICPC to beam its searchlight on Governors whose penchant for Foreing tours after receiving their federation allocation had become legendary. Afterall, the governors were not immuned against prosecution, the courts have held.,neither their accomplices who could be tried while waiting for the Governors to end their tenure.Ribadu’s dragnet caught a large haul of governors. In an address to the National Assembly,Ribadu reeled out
names of 19 Governors who have been enmeshed in high level corruption. Listed In the ignoble club was Bola Tinubu (BAT)) of Lagos whose case, Ribadu said,had international dimension.others included James Ibori (now convicted in London), Lucky Igbinedion,Orji Kalu,Ayo Fayose, Ladoja, Joshua Dariye,Nnamani etc. The nation was jolted.However the likes of Tinubu and Ibori hatched a plan to cage Ribadu, a move that later paid off under the Yar Adua regime.
Ever a political strategist, Tinubu moved to plant an insider in the EFCC who would perform a twin assignment of steamrolling any move against Tinubu while also turning the tide on Obasanjo loyalists.An unsuspecting Ribadu who was having his image ballooned in the media, appointed one of The News founding editors,Dapo Olorunyomi as his Chief of Staff,who then had access to the inner workings of the EFCC. Perhaps unknown then to Obasanjo ,Ribadu and the general public, Tinubu was the major financier
of The News Magazine, and this accounted for why despite all the corruption in Lagos, The magazine had not had the temerity to publish any single exposé on it,with it’s focus mainly on the Federal Government, National assembly, PDP chieftains and Obasanjo.Anyone close to ACN or Tinubu has immunity against negative publication from the stable while Nigerians read voraciously, scandals upon scandals concocted and salaciously promoted weeks after weeks of other public officials.
With this strategic move of appointing an insider, it was not strange that Tinubu escaped any further onslaught from EFCC even after leaving office. Ribadu later benefited out of office as he became the Presidential candidate of ACN led by the same man he had accused of humongous corruption.Sources inside EFCC confirmed that Tinubu”s files had disappeared from the Organisation and that the current helmsman Ibrahim Lamorde was one of the beneficiaries of the Ribadu -the
News-Tinubu alliance,hence the larger than live image of TINUBU Inspite of the corruption dossier in the public domain.
…..How BG’s trouble began
The trouble for BG was thus hatched when one petition surfaced on EFCC and Obasanjo’s table drawing attention to billions of naira contracts being awarded by the NPA and that the Organisation had become a cesspool of corruption under the him.Before the petition could settle on the Presidents table,The NEWS came out with an exclusive story on the petition which jolted the President who in an attempt to play the even handed leader without bias for friend or foe directed Ribadu to conduct an investigation on NPA.The initial report submitted by Ribadu though confirmed some rot in the management of NPA didnot indict BG and the board members of any financial sleaze but drew attention to some administrative lapses in not following some Federal Government circular on limits of the Board
approving authority. The Minister then, Ojo Madueke was tasked to reorganize the management of the Ports Authority. The report was kept in the cooler until Obasanjo left. However, BG eager to clear his name then sued The News for libel and the case before Lagos High Court dragged on which perhaps was his undoing.
…..Enter Yar’ Adua, Ibori, Aodoankaa and Tinubu
With Obasanjo’s exit and the election of President Yar adua, a new power play emerged with different actors jostling for control of the Presidential space.James Ibori who had emerged as a major financier of the Yar Adua campaign moved quickly to stamp his feet in the Presidential villa.Also despite being an opposition leader to PDP it was common knowledge that Tinubu was a close ally of President Musa Yar adua whose relationship dated back to the PDM era under the senior Sheu Yar adua .On another side were some Obasanjo loyalists who played key roles in the emergence of Yaradua. For instance the duo of Ribadu and El Rufai had participated in screening of some Governors who Obasanjo wanted as successor.Their rating of Yar Adua above others paved the way for his emergence,hence they expected to be power brokers in the regime.Also was Bode George who was the Director General of the Yar adua Campaign.There was also former Education Minister Prof Babalola Borisade,who was an ally of the Yar adua family dating back several years,who the President had also been consulting to play a major role.
An Inside source who was privy to the high wire politics in the Villa said that Ibori quickly hatched a plan with Tinubu and Igbinedion,that Obasanjo’s men must be prevented from having any leverage in the Yar Adua regime. Ibori worked fast on the Yar adua boys from Katsina (Tanimu Yakubu ‘TY’ etc..) in concert with the voluble Attorney General Emmanuel Aodonakaa SAN, to remove Ribadu and replaced him with Mrs Farida Waziri a retired police officer from Benue state,the same state of the Attorney General .While Ribadu was hounded into NIPSS from where he had to run into exile, El Rufai also was frustrated out. With Andoakaa /Waziri in charge, Tinubu and Ibori’s case went into the cooler.But for Ribadu’s proactive step of giving information to the British authorities which later resurfaced,Ibori’s case was as good as dead!
As information got to the grapevine of the intention of President Yar adua to appoint BG as Chief of staff, Ibori moved against it having also eyed the position. A web of intrigues was at play which sources said united, the former Cos Gen Mohammed Abdullahi with Tanimu Yakubu,Ibori,Muktar (NSA)and Kingibe. Tinubu also saw an opportunity to pounce on BG. The plot was hatched for EFCC to dust up the earlier investigation against the Bode George led NPA and for his arrest and trial,to checkmate the President’s plan.
On Borisade ,it was also decided that he should be framed up on a phoney Aviation contract deal and arrested by EFCC to scutlle his relationship with Yar adua.Despite pushing a 6 billion naira allegation in the media,Borisade was charged to court by Farida for collecting air ticket and hotel accomodation from Avstel,a contractor for the Aviation Trackon, a project that was cleared by Due Process and successfully executed!
Our sources stated :”Frustrated by the “orchestrated” scandal on all his potential appointees,the President decided to scrap the position of COS and downgraded it as Principal Private Secretary.Ibori still had his way as he plugged in,his former Finance Commissioner,David Edevbie”
Why BG was charged before Lagos Court…….
Meanwhile,knowing that it may be difficult to get the Federal High Court to nail BG in view of the tardy investigation and the administrative lapses which was not a criminal offence,the plot was to take
them for trial under the Lagos High court where Tinubu had control of the judiciary.He could get any judgement against anyone with a snap of the finger.Sources close to the inner workings of the Lion of Bourdillon indicated that a coterie of senior lawyers on his beck and call who ensured that Tinubu got all he wanted at any level of the judiciary included,Prof Yemi Osibajo (his former AG),Rotimi Akeredolu, Femi Falana,Prof itse Sagay,Dele Adesina, Niyi Akintola and Dapo Sasore .Also a former Justice of the supreme Court and wife of a former Chief Justice of Nigeria,also run errands for him.
Another hurdle for Aodoakaa /Farida was lack of jurisdiction of Lagos Court since NPA was a Federal institution for which only Federal High Court could adjudicate, But the wheeler dealer Aodoakaa,was to obtain a fiat of the Attorney General of Lagos state to try the offence in Lagos,in what legal pundits see as a judicial aberration with sinister
motive.To compound Bode George’s woes, Lagos law was applied which made disobedience of government circular a criminal offence.When the investigation pointed to the management of the NPA as the culprit, the prosecution stated that Bode George and other members should be held “vicariously” liable for the offence of the Management.In a curious trial, the Executive Director Engineering of the NPA who was accused of making the recommendation said to have resulted in contract splitting ,was not tried along with them despite being a director.
The case was tried by Justice Bunmi Oyewole, one of the known judicial allies of Tinubu.Several objections by the Defence team was over ruled by the judge in a trial that lasted over 6 months.While delivering his over 2 hours judgement, Oyewole held that although Bode George and the 5 other directors “did not benefit financially from the contracts, they were held vicariously liable for the breach of
administrative procedure and disobedience of Government circulars”. He sentenced them each to 2 year jail term without option of fine.
The propaganda machinery of Tinubu and the ACN was unleashed on the public space befuddling the real issues of the convicts’ fall under a heavy veil of political intrigues. Little consideration was given to the technical judicial pronouncement which sends a citizen to prison, even when it is shown that he had not benefited from the alleged crime.
The Court of Appeal to which BG took his case was not better being a haven of influence of the Tinubu political machine,under Justice Isa Salami,who is presently under suspension .The court presided over by Justice Clara Ogunbiyi ruled that Bode George having not raised the issue of jurisdiction early in the lower court, his appeal on the issue of lack of Jurisdiction of the court that tried him was too late in the day and it was dismissed prompting the present Appeal pending before the Supreme court.
Legal experts claimed that Ogunbiyi”s judgement does not represent the position of the law which is that complaint on Jurisdiction of a court can be raised at any time ,even after judgement has been given. A judicial activist, Nduka Nwosu said it was obvious BG was railroaded into prison to prevent the PDP onslaught in Lagos and stop him from entrenching his political career.
Commenting on whether the issue of Jurisdiction was raised late ,Nduka stated ” no this is not the position of law .The law is settled in the case Okereke v Yar adua (2008 )that ” A party s right to raise the issue of jurisdiction is available to him at all times and that gives credence to the immutable principle that the issue of Jurisdiction can be raised at any stage of the proceedings at the court of trial or in the Appelate court ”
He said even though Bode George is a member of the
political class who must also share the blame of the corruption infested polity, his trial does not accord with proper judicial process being vindictive and politically motivated, saying that “the danger of supporting such maltreatment is that other innocent people could also be subjected to the same maltreatment in future including those who today may be unconcerned or gloating on the fall of their perceived enemy”. He said the judiciary has been a willing tool and has become polluted saying : ” Can you imagine a recent situation where the Pension Director who had confessed to stealing 23 Billion naira was jailed for two years and given option of fine of N750,000, and here was BG who the court said didnot benefit financially and was only liable vicariously,and he was sentenced to 2 years without option of fine. is that justice in the same country?”
Meawhile Bode George had already served his full term and had become a free citizen however
with a tag of ex convict for an offence which should at best earn him a sack from the board as a part time Chairman.Whether his conviction would be quashed or not at the Supreme Court is in the womb of time!
Speaking on his travails in a recent interview with Vanguard Newspapers, Bode George lamented his travails as part of a grand plot to silence him politically:
“What were we charged for? What were the charges? One, that we disobeyed Federal Government circular. There is no criminal law against that at the federal level. Our enemies provided their own law in Lagos State that we disobeyed Federal Government circular and so a law made by Lagos State House of Assembly was now applied against us; federal officers, part-time chairman of NPA. I disobeyed Federal Government circular? Isn’t that a joke? Even the state attorney-general, Dapo Sasore, who is married to my cousin, now gave the then Federal Attorney-General, Andoakaa, fiat to try Bode George.
The second charge was that we split contract. In his judgment, he said, yes, he agreed that we didn’t do it directly but vicariously that we gave the people the plan of what we wanted, that they did it in a department and to the Board. The man who presented the memo to the board was not even arrested. The contractors were not brought. Nobody was brought to say, yes, we benefited from the contract or any of the members who owned the company. But in their judicial wisdom, we were sent to jail. Let Nigerians judge.
I was in civil service for over a quarter of a century, over 25 years. I served at a high level and retired as a general (commodore in the Navy). I have been in public service all my years. I had a lot of exposure, thanks to this beautiful country that gave me the opportunity to have been to so many colleges; internationally renowned colleges, to know what formulation and execution of policies are all
about. I had managed a state at that level to understand the legislative arm of a federated system. The state assembly made a law for their public officers. But Lagos State judiciary, Oyewole in particular, now expanded that public officers to mean federal public officers. Is NPA under Lagos State government? So, tomorrow, this same Oyewole can be arraigned in Sokoto on the laws made by Sokoto State and be put in prison. Let them think. And as long as there is injustice in the land, there would never be peace.
“The circular “was about the expenditure level. There was a law; 1991 Decree where the managing director of NPA, barring all other process in his office, can award up to N10 million; the executive directors can award up to N5 million; all of them sitting together as management can award up to N20 million or N25 million and then the Board N50 million. They now said there was a circular in 2001 which never came to us because it bore the stamp of the Federal Ministry of Water Resources. If it was meant for NPA, it would bear the stamp of the Federal Ministry of Transport and the Minister of Transport by the Act of NPA is the legitimate minister who can direct the NPA because the NPA is not just an organ, it is like transient parastatal. After NNPC, NPA is next.
This is the same parastatal we put in place, conceptualised and recommended the new operational scheme; where there is a concession, given to established companies to manage the operations of the terminals on behalf of the NPA. The amount of money the NPA makes from that operation from little inputs is almost one thousand percent of what they were making before we did it; the same Board. Today, we are being vilified. Today we are culprits because they said we split contract. Which contract?The Board’s minutes are so clear: Some firms were recommended to be awarded the contract but we gave the job to the company that
quoted the lowest. We didn’t cut it into two. So he (Oyewole) said ‘vicariously’. There was no proof of any benefit. He just pronounced us guilty because we must be sent to prison. Yes, they think they achieved their aim but they are not God. And God is God of vengeance.
They wanted to drown Bode George. The political achievement that I have garnered which they are envying me for is as a result of a mission, not my personal mission. We will liberate our people from the hands of these people.
But I, personally, because when they criminalise your name, they label you, they want to sink you. They didn’t create me. They didn’t create my family. They should go into record and find out ‘Who is Bode George?’ ‘Where does he come from?’ Both from my father and mother in this Lagos, let them find out their names.”
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?: the losers ..the gainers
During our investigation we attempted to reach out to many of the dramatist personae who were fingered in this intricate web of politics and intrigue ,solely devoted to entrenching political interest of “Lagos owner” a. k.a Tinubu and the Presidency of Yar adua which had frittered away by divine providence!.all attempts have proved futile. for instance we reached out to Tinubu”s phone line 08034240000 and despite answering the call he suddenly dropped the line when we introduced the topic muttering some lines like “which BG pls ….”.Also Chief Aodoakaa now a low profile lawyer refused to be drawn into discussion on the matter when contacted.
Tinubu: still waxing strong as the número uno of Lagos state and with 4 states added to the kitty for plundering and personal enrichment.His corruption profile has however been on the rise despite growing resentment. He has been able to eswhich any arrest or possible trial through
a political and financial “bully”strategy and a purported secret alliance with Jonathan Government on the political control of the South West.
Ribadu: He has been able to achieve a rise in political profile with the pay back from Tinubu and the News.His alliance with the media and pro democracy groups has paid off.
Ibori: despite having his way as a power broker in the Yar adua regime, Ibori is presently languishing in jail in London for corruption related offence and many of his proprties are being confiscated.It was a twist of fate of a kind,as the hunter now became the hunted.
Aodonakaa : The voluble and discredited Attorney General who went to great length to desecrate the office is presently enjoying the lowest ebb of his career having been under watch in America as a corrupt person.His SAN privileges has also been suspended.Despite insiders acknowledgement of his stupendous wealth, he is
however no longer in public glare and suffers poor reckoning in the polity.
Farida Waziri: Removed under unclear circumstances ,the EFCC under her suffered serious image crisis which discredited the efforts of the anti corruption agency .At the height of it, the American Secretary of State, Mrs Clinton gave a poor rating of the organisation and indications that it was a corrupt organisation was rife. She is currently enjoying her illgotten wealth in a low profile.
Justice Bunmi Oyewole: is also now on the spot on account of the move to transfer him to Osun state as Chief Judge to jump over almost 8 seniors above him,in a compensatory move by the ACN leadership on account of perceived loyalty to Tinubu.He has been fingered in the property sale scandal allegation being investigated by the NJC over petition by chief Emman Nwude.A Senior Advocate of Nigeria is currently under trial by EFCC in the case JD/102C/2006 FRN vs Ricky Tarfa
The News Magazine: the public acceptance of the magazine has waned considerably with more realisation of its status as a megaphone of the Tinubu political machine.Most of its founding editors though have become wealthy pursuing their personal interests in politics and business.One of them Babafemi Ojudu is a senator under the banner of ACN.
* Investigation by Ibrahim Abdullahi and Akin Akindele for Whistleblowers Monitors Inc.