…As Okonjo-Iweala set to explain $500m Abacha loot withdrawal***
Policemen attached to the State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department, Imo State Police Command, have been accused of collecting a N10,000 bribe from some journalists.
The operatives, led by one Inspector Uche, reportedly collected the money under duress, threatening to frame the journalists if they failed to give the bribe.
A photo of the alleged bribe, which had gone viral on the social media, revealed a policeman at the back seat of a vehicle collecting what appeared like wads of N1,000 notes from one of the victims.
PUNCH Metro gathered that the victims were members of the Online Media Practitioners Association of Nigeria and had attended the association’s convention at the Trade and Investment Centre, Owerri, between March 30 and 31.
It was gathered that one of them, George Williams, was driving three other participants in the convention to a motor park from where they would board a vehicle to Lagos State, when the policemen accosted them.
Williams said, “They were heavily armed. The inscription, Anti-Cultist Unit, was written on the black shirts they wore. They requested my driving licence and other vehicle particulars, which I gave them. They asked us to enter the vehicle and follow them to their office at the SCIID claiming that we were still under investigation. I asked them investigation for what, but they did not respond.
“When we got to their office, they searched us and my vehicle. Nothing incriminating was found. They left us for about 15 minutes. I met with one of them and told him I was a journalist and that my colleagues were returning to Lagos.
“Their team leader, Inspector Uche, said I should let the police do their job. He said my number plate’s papers were not original and I told him that the documents were issued by the government. He then said, ‘When you come to the police, you bring kola; when the police come to you, you give kola.’
“Eventually, they said if we did not want to go to jail, we should bring N10,000. They said they can level any criminal allegation against us. I told them that I didn’t have cash. They said I should use an Automated Teller Machine or transfer the money to their account. I said I did not do transfers.”
Williams stated that the policemen asked one of them to stay behind while he went with other colleagues to withdraw the money from the ATM, adding that it was while the money was being given to one of them that the viral photo was taken.
“This morning (Monday), I got a call from a man who claimed to be calling from a police station in Aba, Abia State. He asked me if I was okay with what my colleague did. I told him I didn’t understand what he meant. He said I should be expecting more calls from him and his colleagues. I was trying to ask him what he meant by that when he cut the call,” he added.
One of Williams’ colleagues, Juachi Ochu, corroborated the story in an interview with PUNCH Metro.
“We pleaded with them to let us go as we are law-abiding citizens, but all our pleas fell on deaf ears. The inspector threatened to put us in detention and indict us for a criminal offence if we didn’t give them the money. I was held at the station while my colleagues went to the ATM to make a withdrawal,” he said.
OMPAN President, James Anyenakwa, said the association would take up the matter to ensure that the bribe-taking policemen were brought to book.
Meanwhile, Former Minister of Finance Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is to explain how about $250million of the $500million recovered from the family of the late Head of State, Gen.Sani Abacha, was withdrawn, The Nation learnt yesterday.
The cash was released to the Office of National Security Adviser( ONSA) without appropriation.
About $36,155,000 (N13,015,800 billion) out of the $250million was also withdrawn in cash “without any purpose” on March 2nd, 9th, 16th and 18th of 2015.
The Acting Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu, has approved Mrs Okonjo-Iweala’s invitation. A letter of invitation has been sent to her.
According to a fact-sheet obtained by The Nation last night, detectives probing the whereabouts of the $500million have recommended that the ex-minister be interrogated.
A top source said: “Following preliminary findings, a strong recommendation was made to the Acting EFCC chairman for an interactive session with Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
“Magu has approved the invitation of the ex-minister. We have dispatched a letter of invitation to her. We are hopeful that she will respond.
“Her presence is necessary because there were issues about the $250million released especially why $36,155,000(N13,015,800billion) was withdrawn in cash.
“She needs to assist the EFCC team on what became of the balance of $250million which was yet to be traced.
“She has to explain why some of the funds were diverted to extraneous matters including media services, opinion polls and personal matters.”
In another position of the fact-sheet, the Office of the National Security Adviser in a memo on January 12, 2015, requested the former Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to transfer $300million.
The memo said: “Please refer to our meeting on recovered funds. You are please requested to remit the sum of $300m and £5.5m to the following account being ONSA share as agreed.
In response, Okonjo-Iweala via a memo to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan requested for the release of $300m from Abacha loot to the former National Security Adviser(NSA).
But only $250million was released to the ex-NSA.
The memo explained that this is to enable the NSA’s office to purchase ammunition, security and other intelligence equipment for the security agencies in order to enable them confront the ongoing Boko Haram threat.
“This request is sequel to the meeting you chaired with the committee on use of recovered funds where decision was made that recovered Abacha funds would be split 50-50 between urgent security needs to confront Boko Haram and development needs (including a portion for the Future Generations window of Sovereign Wealth Fund).
“This letter is to seek your approval to borrow these funds, for now, to disburse to the NSA. These funds form part of projected FG Independent Revenue to be appropriated.
“In light of this and for accountability, given the peculiar nature of security and intelligence transactions, we would expect the NSA to account to your Excellency for the utilization of the funds.”
On January 29, 2015, the ex-President responded to the ex-Minister as follows: “CME/HMF, approved.”
But Okonjo-Iweala had in 2015 insisted that she had no case to answer.
She said: Former President Jonathan set up a Committee comprising of the former Minister of Justice, former NSA and the former Minister of Finance to determine how best to use both the returned and expected funds for development.
Punch with additional report from Nation