Documents obtained by SaharaReporters reveal that Senate President Bukola Saraki, along with other members of his family, played a role in bankrupting Societe Generale Bank of Nigeria (SGBN), in one of the most compelling failed bank dramas in Nigeria’s economic history.
Mr. Saraki, a former governor of Kwara State who has been making headlines in recent weeks after snatching the seat of the Senate President by cobbling together a coalition of loyal Senators from the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), joined his late father, Olusola Saraki, and his sister, Gbemi Saraki, in a stealing spree that led to the collapse of SGBN, a Nigerian affiliate of the multinational bank.
The most revealing documents, which originated from the Office of the Inspector General of Police, detailed a scheme by the siblings Bukola and Gbemi Saraki, along with Tokunbo Salami, Jude Iluyomade, and Mohammed Bashir. From 1990 to 2000, according to the Inspector General’s report dated August 21st 1990, Ms. Gbemi Saraki worked in the Treasury Department of Societe Generale Bank Nigeria while now-Senate President Bukola Saraki was a director of the bank. The Saraki family owned the largest shares of any Nigerian in the bank, a fact they exploited to obtain unsecured loans and engage in several other illicit transactions that saw to the bank’s demise.
In one letter to Nigeria’s Inspector General of Police, Societe Generale Paris, which owned a majority stake of Societe Generale Nigeria, accused the Sarakis and their cohorts of defrauding the bank out of 510,000 Naira through illegal and “unauthorized withdrawals of money.”
Part of the letter read, “the amount, in this particular case, N510, 000, was cashed by Miss Gbemi Saraki—the daughter of Dr. Olusola Saraki [Senator Saraki’s father]. Miss. Gbemi Saraki works in the Treasury Department of Societe Generale Bank (Nigeria) Limited where the alleged thefts constantly take place…Miss Saraki signed for the collection of the cash.”
The letter also accused their father, Olusola Saraki, who died on November 14, 2012, of involvement in “stealing N8.5 million out of N10 million illegally withdrawn from the account of the Bank to purchase a house in Ikoyi.”
The IGP investigation resulted in charges against Senator Saraki and Ms. Gbemi Saraki for forgery and conspiracy to commit a felony. The charges stated that the two accused, with “intent to defraud did forge one SGBN [Societe Generale Bank of Nigeria] Inter branch Voucher No LA 005016053-7 for N510, 000 in favor of Trademore International Ltd knowing same to be false and thereby committed an offence.” The charges also stated that the accused “unlawfully committed felony” by stealing the bank’s funds.
Senator Saraki, his sister and the other accused persons were slammed with a total of five felony theft and felony conspiracy charges with police file No. AR-1360/X/F/Vol. 12 filed on December 7th 1990.
Among the indicting documents is a letter was dispatched on December 7th 1990 from the IGP Office demanding that SGBN produce Senator Saraki, Gbemi Saraki, and also Tokunbo Salami, Jude Iluyomade, and Mohammed Bashir. The letter said, “Please be informed that investigation into the above mentioned case has been completed. You are therefore requested to produce the above-mentioned suspects at the FIIB premises at 0800hrs, that is 8 a.m. on 10/12/90, unfailingly. They are to be arraigned before the Magistrate Court on said date, please.”
In an investigative report published July 6, 2008, SaharaReporters exposed how the now deceased Olusola Saraki used his extensive political influence to block a 30-count indictment against him and members of his family, including then Mr. Bukola Saraki, over their financial scams at Societe Generale. The full report of that investigation is here
The Senator has since losing his governorship immunity resorted to a variety of schemes to keep out of jail.
On April 26, 2012, Inspector-General of Police Mohammed Dikko Abubakar, filed a counter-affidavit at the Federal High Court in Abuja to a motion by Senator Saraki, pointing out that the Senator was asking the court to grant him the permanent immunity he had already informed the whole world the court has given him.
Days earlier, Saraki had tried to dupe a Federal High Court judge into granting a temporary court injunction, filing an exparte motion to prevent the police from arresting him to answer to charges that he had directly benefited from a N21 billion bank loan fraud.
“The application for injunction is dangerous as it is designed to confer permanent immunity on [Senator Saraki] and thereby shield him from arrest, investigation and prosecution,” the IGP said. No court in Nigeria has the power to grant the illegal injunction.”
Mr. Abubakar noted in his affidavit that in a letter earlier that month, he had invited Saraki to come and assist in the investigation of a case of conspiracy, forgery and stealing of the sum of N21 billion belonging to Joy Petroleum Ltd, following a petition from that company on the refusal of access to their account at Intercontinental Bank.
On August 29, 2012, the police in Lagos told PM News they were getting ready to prosecute Senator Saraki for an N11 billion fraud.
Ayotunde Ogunsakin, the Commissioner of Police, Special Fraud Unit (SFU), told the newspaper the police was “doing a very extensive and painstaking investigation” because the matter involved Saraki and some other important persons, and that the force did not want the case to be overturned on a technicality.
On August 12, 2013, after being declared wanted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Senator Saraki turned himself in, but was released on administrative bail.
EFCC sources told SaharaReporters Saraki faced inquiries concerning how he had handled funds belonging to SGBN, as well as how he had allegedly laundered billions of Naira belonging to the former InterContinental Bank of Nigeria Plc (now Access Bank).
Mahmoud Lai Alabi, a protégé of Senator Saraki and former Managing Director of that bank, was alleged to have assisted the former governor in laundering several billions of Naira using as many as 30 different companies. The loans they obtained were subsequently written off as bad debts.
It is to be noted that since the Yar’Adua years, almost nothing has been done on the Saraki file. Analysts say that is because Saraki inserted former EFCC chieftain Farida Waziri into the equation in 2008.
In a story on May 17, 2008, SaharaReporters reported how Mr. Saraki brokered the appointment of Waziri as the new EFCC boss, saying it reflected his emergence “as the single most powerful individual within Umar Yar’adua’s tight circle of power brokers.”
SaharaReporters stated that the appointment of Mrs. Waziri was aimed at paralyzing the EFCC, and that Saraki and several corrupt former governors who were subjects of intense investigation and prosecution by the EFCC were behind the plot. They influenced Yar’Adua, through corrupt former police IGP, M.D. Yusuf, who was the one who presented her resume to Yar’adua. Yusuf was enmeshed in the Halliburton corruption scandal, and embattled US corporate executive, Jeffrey Tesler, who worked for a subsidiary of Halliburton, had told American investigators he “made payments to Nigerian officials, including two $75,000 transfers to M.D. Yusuf, chairman of the company that awarded the original contract to the consortium and operated the natural gas complex.”
In our story at the time, we said, sources in the EFCC and within the Yar’Adua regime told us that, after her retirement in 1999, Mrs. Waziri lobbied the EFCC hierarchy to stop the investigation of the Saraki dynasty. EFCC investigators were at the time digging into how the Sarakis looted the Societe Generale Bank of Nigeria.”
Despite corruption rising to such unprecedented heights that Mrs. Waziri was fired from the EFCC by no less than the stealing-is-not-corruption president, Mr. Goodluck Jonathan, the former EFCC chief was last weekend singing Buhari’s praises to the high heavens, describing him as a man of “destiny”.
Speaking to journalists at Uga-Mbagwa in Oshongo Local Government Area of Benue State, Mrs. Waziri declared that she has been pleading with everyone she meets to “support” the Buhari administration.
“When the right leadership is provided and in place, a lot of things will naturally fall in place,” she said, adding: “A lot of good things will come in place under the Buhari government as long as we are ready to play our role as patriotic citizens.”
Mrs. Waziri’s re-insertion of herself into the conversation, knowing that Buhari intends to fight corruption, an effort she betrayed on behalf of such people as Bukola Saraki, introduces a new wrinkle into the equation.