by Samuel Ogundipe,
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has furnished President Muhammadu Buhari with details of how the President of the Nigerian Senate, Bukola Saraki, and his aides allegedly laundered up to N3.5 billion from the Paris Club loan refund, PREMIUM TIMES can report.
The report, compiled by detectives in the anti-graft agency, followed months of investigation, and was submitted to the president on March 10, 2017, insiders at the presidency told this medium.
In the report, seen by PREMIUM TIMES, the EFCC narrated how Mr. Saraki, using his deputy chief of staff and other aides, laundered N3.5 billion that he allegedly received from the Paris Club loan refund to state governors.
The manner the Paris Club loan refund was spent by public officials has been a subject of nationwide controversy for several weeks, with EFCC hinting at some point that an investigation was underway.
But the governors pushed back against the allegations, describing the EFCC’s probe of the fund as “unwarranted attack on the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, its officials and associated entities.”
But in its report to the president, the EFCC detailed how Mr. Saraki, in 2016, introduced Gbenga Makanjuola, a former lawmaker who now serves as his deputy chief of staff, to Kathleen Erhimu, an Access Bank staff.
The EFCC identified Ms. Erhimu as Mr. Saraki’s relationship manager at Access Bank.
Mr. Makanjuola would later work with Robert Mbonu, a former managing director of Heritage Bank, whose firm, Melrose General Services Limited, was said to have served as consultant to the Nigerian Governors’ Forum.
In its March 10 correspondence, our sources said, the EFCC informed President Buhari that Mr. Mbonu received N3.5 billion in mid-December 2016, part of which was later transferred to accounts and persons linked to the senate president.
“A prima facie case of conspiracy to retain the proceeds of unlawful activities and money laundering contrary to Sections 15(3) and 18(9) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2004 can be established against the aforementioned suspects,” the EFCC told Mr. Buhari in the report.
“Additionally, investigation into their personal accounts is ongoing.”
The report could further complicate things for Mr. Saraki, who is already standing trial on separate charges of false declaration of assets since 2015.
Yusuf Olaniyonu, a spokesman for Mr. Saraki, in his response said the allegations were false and were Mr. Magu’s way of fighting back after he was denied confirmation by the Senate.
- Related: SaharaReporters had reported on the Senate president’s involvement in the theft of Paris club funds from March 2nd, two weeks before the senate rejected Magu as EFCC chair –NewsRescue, See: Theft Of Paris Club Refund: Saraki Claimed He Borrowed N5b From Dangote To Fund Buhari’s Election
Mr. Makanjuola, did not respond to requests for comments.
The EFCC spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, did not respond to requests for comments either.
Read Mr. Saraki’s response
It is Mere Mudslinging Campaign, Says Saraki’s Aide
Our attention has been drawn to the circulation of a report I the media said to have been leaked by the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu to some journalists where he made several allegations against Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, as it concerns the payment of the Paris Club Fund refund to the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF).
Let us first state that these allegations are not new. The EFCC had from the onset of its investigation into the Paris Club refund made attempts to drag in the name of Dr. Saraki and we have promptly denied any such involvement of the Senate President. In fact, the EFCC itself came out to deny the report as it then said it had nothing to indict the Senate President. The anti-graft agency said the investigation was still on-going then. Yet, as at that time it had all these information it is now dishing out.
It is obvious that at this point when Mr. Magu believes the Senate President should be blamed for his failure to secure confirmation as Chairman of EFCC by the Senate, he would want to fight back by cooking up reports and masterminding its leakage. We maintain our stand that Dr. Saraki has no direct or indirect link to the distribution of the NGF money. No money from the Paris Club refund was paid to Dr. Saraki.
In addressing the specifics of the allegation in the reports as we gathered from the press, EFCC believe that since the Senate President has worked in the same organisation with Mr. Robert Mbonu before, whatever transaction he is involved in should be linked to the Senate President in this era of mud-slinging and much-raking. We would like to say that Mr. Mbonu is not representing Mr. Saraki in any transaction he does with the NGF and no money from his company, Melrose, in his dealing with Nigeria Governors Forum came to Dr. Saraki either directly or indirectly. And if the EFCC has any information to the contrary, we challenge them to make it public.
We state categorically that no aide of the Senate President acted on Saraki’s behalf in whatever they do with Mr. Mbonu.
Again, If Melrose paid any money to a jeweler or any shop, that has nothing to do with the Senate President. We believe Melrose must have the necessary documentation in support of their transaction and we are sure the EFCC is aware of all these.
In the same vein, if Melrose chose to invest in another company, that decision has nothing to do with the Senate President and the act of drawing a link between Mbonu and Saraki can at best be only pure mischief.
At this point, it should be noted that Xtract Energy Services Limited is a well known foreign exchange dealer with almost 15 years of existence in the market and the company is widely known to do business with many organisations in the country. The last time the Senate President patronised the company was on December 19, 2014 and we challenge Mr. Magu and the EFCC to prove that the Senate President transacted any form of business with the foreign exchange dealer in the period of the payment of the Paris Club refund.
“We call on members of the public to view this concocted and leaked report as Mr. Magu’s form of fighting back. The report has no truth in it. It should be noted that the Senate President was not behind Magu’s failure to get confirmation from the Senate. That was democracy in action. Dr. Saraki is merely a presiding officer and first among equals. Dr. Saraki did not in any way interfere with the confirmation process.