By Elias Osaghae
All efforts to fight this anti-social monster failed because the corrupt were put in positions of fighting corruption. Can a house divided stand? How else can we explain a recent report that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) summoned the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Justice Danladi Yakubu Umar to answer questions bordering on allegations made against him by some members of staff of the Tribunal. Justice Danladi Yakubu Umar is accused of awarding huge contracts without following due process, and also to have collected millions of naira to drop a case against some former government officials. This situation makes yours sincerely to not see any working antidote to corruption in this generation, even may be in the next, because the sick cannot heal the afflicted, neither can the blind lead the impaired sight. Nigerians are not yet committed to fighting the anti-developmental and anti-social scourge, effectively. All boasts on roof top about fighting corruption by politicians are mere lips services. Corruption is deeply embedded in politics or vice versa.
And this brings us to the boasting of those 'saints' in the supercilious All Progressives Congress (APC), a desperate and over-zealous political Party jostling to take over Aso Villa in 2015. The leaders of this "great" Party are telling some credulous Nigerians that they will fight corruption to a standstill when they win Aso Villa. The boasting is so provocative that this writer finds it necessary to open the Pandora's box of the profiles of each of these leaders to see how credible they are for the onerous task of fighting corruption effectively. So for the next few weeks, this write-up will serialize and x-ray lights will be beamed on the 'saints' in APC, starting this week with the latest big fish caught by the net of this party, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku.
The former Vice-President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku commenced his public office career in 1966 as a Tax Officer in the regional Ministry of Finance before joining the Nigeria Customs Services in 1969.His first posting was to Idi-Iroko, a border town between Nigeria and Benin Republic. Between 1974 and 1988 his postings and assignments included the Lagos Airport, Apapa Ports (1974), Ibadan Customs Command (1975), Kano Command (1976), Maiduguri (Area Comptroller (1977), Kaduna (1980) and the Apapa Ports in 1982. In April 1984, Atiku's name was associated with a scandal that made headlines in Nigeria, involving the Lagos Airport Customs Command where he was serving as Area Administrator. An influential Northern Emir had flown into Nigeria from Saudi Arabia with 53 suitcases of unknown contents. The Buhari/Idiagbon military government had recently phased out the old naira currency and replaced it with new notes, as part of efforts to cripple corrupt politicians who had stashes of stolen cash in their possessions. Orders had been given to ensure that all luggage entering the country was properly screened to prevent smuggling of the old notes. The Emir had refused to submit himself for Customs Clearance and by the orders "from above" at the airport, the Emir was chauffeured away with his 53 suitcases. A Customs Officer leaked the story to a newspaper, setting off a scandal. As the Customs Officer in charge of the airport, Atiku was inevitably named in the story. News from grapevine had it that he would have seriously tasted the bitter dosage of "war against indiscipline" had IBB's coup not taken place. In 1987 Atiku was promoted Deputy Director of Customs and Excise in charge of Enforcement and Drugs, one of six deputies to the Head of the Nigeria Customs Service. In April 1989, aged 43, Atiku voluntarily retired from Customs to manage the near-business-empire he built while still in public service.
Against government rule that banned civil servants to engage in business, Alhaji Atiku broke the rule and built a sizable portfolio of property in Yola. In 1981 he moved into agriculture, acquiring 2,500 hectares of land near Yola to start a maize and cotton farm. The business fell on hard times and closed in 1986. Atiku also ventured into trading, buying and selling truckloads of rice, flour and sugar. His most important business move came while he was a Customs Officer at the Apapa Ports. Gabrielle Volpi, an Italian businessman in Nigeria, invited him to set up Nigeria Container Services (NICOTES), a logistics company operating within the Ports. NICOTES would go on to provide immense wealth to Atiku because NICOTES had field day in all its transactions at the port. Even when NICOTES attracted some synosures and the senior customs officer was questioned, he was able to rigmarole himself out of the net by claiming he was a mere shareholder and not in supervisory participation (which government rules permitted). NICOTES would later be rebranded INTELS, and the company featured prominently in accusation of money laundering levelled against it by the US government even when he was Vice-President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
During his tenure as Vice-President, Alhaji Abubakar was made chairman of the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) and there were series of very serious allegations of corruption leveled against him. Some of them were:
1. Approving the transfer of $145 million of the PTDF project funds to private accounts in Equatorial Trust Bank and International Bank at different interest rates over a period - reference: EFCC/EC/VP/02/10 dated August 18, 2006.
2. Another US50 million transferred from PTDF' UBA New York account to a private account operated by the VP.
3. The unauthorized N30 million initial payment for the purchase of No 555 Adetokunbo Ademola Crescent used as NDTV, a private Nigerian company that had no relationship with the Petroleum Technology Development Fund.
4. Involvements in businesses of Globacom and the Netlink Digital Television (NDTV) project with a US based Technology vendor called iGate.
5. Corrupt involvement in the sale of National Oil and Chemical Marketing to frontal and close associates.
6. United States Senate report accused Atiku Abubakar and his wife Jennifer Douglas of laundering over $40 million in suspicious funds into the United States between 2000 and 2008. The report further stated that most of the funds were through wire transfers sent by offshore corporations to U.S. bank accounts. Of the $40 million identified in the US investigation, $25 million was reportedly wire-transferred by offshore corporations into more than 30 U.S. bank accounts opened by Atiku's wife (Ms. Douglas).
7. Atiku's corrupt practices was also stated in a 2008 civil complaint, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission alleged that the Atikus received over $2 million in bribe payments in 2001 and 2002, from Siemens AG, a major German corporation. The report stated, "While Ms. Douglas denies wrongdoing, Siemens has already pleaded guilty to U.S. criminal charges and settled civil charges related to bribery and told the Subcommittee that it sent the payments to one of her U.S. accounts."
8. One and a half years after becoming vice president, Atiku violated our laws by purchasing a mansion in Potomac, Maryland United States for one million, seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars ($1,750,000). This two storey building was purchased in the name of Jennifer E. Douglas, Atiku's wife. Part One of the fifth schedule to the 1999 constitution prohibited, in part, public officers from having bank account and owning assets abroad. This is a clear reflection of who Alhaji Atiku is all about.
9. In early 2006, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) raided Atiku's home in Washington, USA, over allegation of involvement with Mr. William Jefferson, a US Congressman, in a US $500,000 bribe over a telecommunications deal in Nigeria. The FBI alleges in a US court to have found US $90,000, of the bribe money concealed in a freezer in the office of Mr. Jefferson. The disgraced US Congressman is presently doing time in one of US jailhouses in connection of the deal with our man. When accosted with these serious allegations, Vice President Atiku said that the allegations are unworthy of considerations. The New York Times of June 7, 2006 entitled (Documents Point to Bribes of a Nigerian by Congressman) states, "...The documents included an affidavit signed by FBI agent who said that the Nigerian vice president, Atiku Abubakar, now a candidate for president of that oil-rich West African nation, asked for at least half of the profit of a technology company controlled by Mr. Jefferson that was seeking to do business in Nigeria...." The article further stated that, "In the affidavit an FBI agent Edward S. Cooper, said cell phone records suggested that Mr. Jefferson visited a home owned by Mr. Abubakar and his wife in Potomac, MD an affluent suburb of Washington, around midnight last July 31 with the intention of delivering money to the Nigerian leader while he was on visit to the United States...."
10. The Halliburton Scandal and the present United States Senate's Report among others also named Alhaji Abubakar Atiku as palpable actor in the scandal which almost destroyed the then Vice President Dick Cheney of the United States of America.
Alhaji Abubakar Atiku has a great record of "suspicion" as a leading foreign government money launderer to extent the US investigators were collaborating with their Nigerian counterparts in efforts to nail him. Read this document from the archives of US Justice Department: "The United State Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Fraud Section, and the Federal Bureau of investigation (FBI) are investigating possible violations of federal law, including offences involving bribery of public officials, wire fraud (depravation of honest services and scheme to defraud), bribery of a foreign public official and conspiracy. The US Central Authority request that Nigerian Authority locates and provides the documents and information on some government officials/institutions, private companies and individuals in relation to the official acts of the congressman in promoting US business ventures in Africa as its relate to IGate/ NDTV business venture, iGate/Rosecom among others. The request of information revolves around the following individuals and companies.
S/N Full Name
1 Atiku Abubakar
2 Otunba Fashawe
3 Vernon Jackson
4 Maureen Scurry aka MaureenEdu
7 Life Energy Technology Holdings (LETH)
8 TDC Oversees
9 Arkel Sugar
10 Arkel International
12 ANJ Group
13 W2-IBBS Limited
14 Diverse Communication
15 Global Energy & Environmental Services
16 Jefferson InterestInc
17IBILE Holdings Limited
18 International Broadband Services Limited
28 Mose Jefferson
31 Coy related to the above
This is 2014 and Alhaji Abubakar Atiku is still nursing the ambition to rule Nigeria. He is now a celebrated “saint” of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and perhaps one of the top runners for the presidential slot of the party, “to fight and eradicate corruption.” Does this add up? Do Nigerians believe that such a man as former Vice President Abubakar Atiku, would truly fight corruption? It may be if he repents and pays restitution of all he had corruptly acquired from the Nigerian purse - from the tax office to the exalted office of Vice President- then nemesis may acquit him to have the keys to Aso Villa. But as typical Nigerians, we can forget the latter, Nigerian corrupt politicians never repent nor pay restitution! We must shine our eyes well! well!!
But as a typical Nigerian, we can forget the latter but Nigerians should shine their eyes well! Well!!
Watch out next week for another of them!
Elias Osaghae writes from Toronto, Canada.
via email@example.com +1 647 717-9914