A former minister has sneaked out of the country as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) closes in on the suspected architects of an alleged N3.145b fraud, The Nation learnt yesterday.
Six chieftains of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Goodluck Support Group (GSG) have been named in the investigations.
The cash, meant for the funding of the campaign of former President Goodluck Jonathan was drawn on the orders of the Presidential Villa and paid into a coded account tagged Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Library.
The account was said to have been deployed by the Presidential Villa (allegedly on Dr. Jonathan’s instructions) and the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) for “strategic assignments”.
Some of the key suspects, including some bureaucrats, have offered to return the funds, even as the EFCC plans to invite some of those implicated for interrogation “any moment from now”.
According to sources, the former minister left the country on Sunday, her destination unknown – as at press time.
A source, who spoke in confidence “in order not to jeaopardise the investigation”, said: “The EFCC has been on the case for some time and one or two of the suspects at a point came to make statements. But one of the former ministers who was also connected with the matter has jetted out.
“The ex-minister left the country quietly on Sunday. No one can say her actual destination and whether or not it was a routine trip abroad or a self-imposed exile.
“The reality is that there is no hiding place for any former public officer. Wherever a suspect is, the EFCC will repatriate such a person.”
It was confirmed last night that the N3.145billion was drawn from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) following directives from the Presidential Villa.
The cash was wired into the coded account.
It was learnt that after the withdrawal of the cash from CBN, an account was provided by the Director of Finance of the PDP Presidential Campaign, former Minister Nenadi Usman, for disbursement to beneficiaries.
Another source added: “The CBN released the funds based on orders from the Presidential Villa. Some documents on the withdrawal have been obtained by the EFCC.
“From the preliminary investigation, MEA was a coded account used by the Presidential Villa and the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) for strategic assignments, including funding of the re-election campaign of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan.
“After the cash was moved to MEA account, it was moved into the account of Joint Trust Dimension Nigeria Limited, which was allegedly provided by ex-Minister Nenadi Usman.
“In fact, some of the bureaucrats connected with the withdrawal of the funds from the CBN have not been comfortable. Some suspects have actually offered to return the cash quietly to EFCC.
“I am aware that some persons have made statement to the EFCC on what they knew about the deal. But most of the beneficiaries have not been quizzed. They will soon be invited by the EFCC for interrogation and how to return the money.”
The beneficiaries include a former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode (N840m); a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation and leader of the Social Democratic Party, Chief Olu Falae (N100m); a former Minister of Finance, Nenadi Usman(N36.9m); a former Imo State Governor, Chief Achike Udenwa and a former Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Mrs. Viola Onwuliri(N350m) and Okey Ezenwa(N100m).
One of the beneficiaries, who spoke in strict confidence, said: “The cash was actually N2billion as reported to the campaign directorate.
“When ex-Minister Nenadi Usman briefed us, some of us insisted on knowing the source(s) of the funds. In fact, somebody asked repeatedly whether or not the cash was from public funds but she told us that the money came from some private individuals. She disclosed some names behind the so-called “donation.”
“Having heard that the cash was donated to the campaign, we decided to use it for that purpose. None of us knew that the money came from the CBN and it was also disbursed through a company’s account which Nenadi Usman said she had been using for her campaign.
“Now, we are just realizing that the N3.145billion was drawn from the CBN. It is just unfortunate. Some of us would have rejected the cash if we knew it came from the apex bank.”
The Nation Newspaper
The Nation Newspaper