N23bn Diezani bribe: EFCC quizzes ex-gov Chime over N450m

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Wednesday grilled the immediate past Governor of Enugu State, Sullivan Chime, for allegedly receiving N450m out of the $115m (N23bn) disbursed by a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, during the build-up to the 2015 presidential election.

According to report in Punchng, That Chime reported at the Enugu zonal office of the EFCC in response to an invitation to explain his role in the disbursement of N450m allegedly received out of the Diezani cash for the Peoples Democratic Party’s campaign organisation in the state.

The ex-governor was said to have told detectives that he handed over the money to the Secretary of the campaign office, Mrs. Rita Mba, who was also the state’s Commissioner for Special Duties and Inter-Government Affairs.

“According to Chime, the money was brought by two of his former commissioners, Joe Nmamnel and Mrs Rita Mba, in company with the Chairman of the PDP, Enugu State, Ikeji Asogwa, and Prof. Osita Ogbu.

“He further stated that he gave the money to his orderly for safe keep and that only Rita Mba should have access to it to facilitate her work as secretary of the campaign secretariat. He denied personally disbursing the fund,” the source added.

Chime, the source said, was expected to report on Monday, June 13, 2016, for further interrogation.

The ex-Enugu State governor is the second governor in the South-East to be grilled by the EFCC in connection with the Diezani bribe money.

The South-East zonal office of the anti-graft agency had, on May 4, 2016, invited and quizzed a former Governor of Imo State, Achike Udenwa; Senator Chris Anyanwu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mike Ahamba; and a former Minister of Power, Prof Chinedu Nebo, for their alleged role in the handling of N700m from the Diezani fund.

Meanwhile, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission, has arraigned one Michael Okpo and Dasel Nanjwan before the High Court in Calabar, Cross River State, for an alleged fraud of N575m.

The ICPC said in a statement by its spokesperson, Mrs. Rasheedat Okoduwa, that the accused persons were employees of the Calabar Free Trade Zone, a subsidiary of the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority.

Both Okpo and Nanjwan were brought before Justice Michael Edem on 10 counts bordering on “knowingly holding private interest in contracts connected with the CFTZ.”

Counsel for the ICPC, Enosa Omoghibo, argued that the action of the accused persons contravened Section 12 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000, and punishable under the same section.

The statement read in part, “Further investigations also revealed that Michael Okpo, who is the Senior Manager, Engineering Services, NEPZA in the CFTZ, and his colleague Dasel Nanjwan, are the owners of the above-mentioned companies, having themselves and their spouses as directors.

“Having taken their pleas separately, the accused persons pleaded not guilty to all the charges preferred against them. The case has been adjourned for further hearing.”

Meanwhile, the EFCC has stated its readiness to accept plea bargain in the corruption cases against a former National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh, and a former Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal, Mohammed Umar (retd.).

Metuh, who is currently being prosecuted by the EFCC for allegedly receiving N400m from the Office of the National Security Adviser under Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.), had said last week that he had written to the anti-graft agency that he was ready to return the money so that he could be allowed to travel out of the country for medical treatment.

On his part, Umar, who is standing trial for criminal breach of trust and corruption, involving alleged diversion of N7.382bn belonging to the Nigerian Air Force, had told a Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday that he had commenced talks with the EFCC to settle the money laundering charges preferred against him out of court.

A top source at the commission told our correspondent on condition of anonymity that the commission was open to plea bargain.

He said the charges preferred against the accused persons would be amended provided they returned money and pleaded guilty to the charges.

The detective described the turn of events as a positive development in the fight against corruption, noting, however, that the plea bargain would not be allowed to be bastardised as it was in the past.

He added, “It is true that we have been having talks with the parties involved. The truth is that many people have returned money and have been spared the embarrassment and rigours of trial. However, you will recall that Metuh was not cooperating with us at the beginning and even tore his statement.

“So, we decided to charge him to court. He is now willing to return money but unfortunately that is no longer enough. We have spent a lot on investigation and legal fees and so the best we can do for him is after returning the money, he pleads guilty to an amended charge and the minimum punishment obtainable.

“In the case of Umar also, he refused to cooperate with us and we have now lined up credible witnesses against him, including the Director of Finance at the Air Force, who had claimed that N558m was deducted monthly from staff salaries.

“We have also traced about five properties to him worth about N2.5bn. He will have a hard time explaining where he got the money to buy the properties. So, we cannot drop the charges but we can bargain. It is done in every country including the United States.”

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