Tuesday , February 7 2023

$43.4million: EFCC searches Ex- Governor Obi, Muazu flats

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EFCC agents have searched all the apartments in Osborne Towers, the Ikoyi, Lagos building where $43.4million was found last Wednesday.

Among the VIP tenants of the luxurious apartments is former Anambra State Governor Peter Obi, who confirmed the search yesterday.

Former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) National Chairman Adamu Mua’zu and a former Petroleum Product Marketing Company (PPMC) Managing Director, Mrs Esther Nnamdi-Ogbue also own apartments in the Towers.

With a lease rate of N20million per annum, Osborne Towers “is one of the best residential property in Africa”.

Obi’s is flat 1. His media aide Val Obienyem confirmed that it was searched by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) officials.

Obienyem, who stressed that the former governor lives in Onitsha, said that the apartment was rented by Obi’s wife. He usually stays there whenever he is in Lagos.

Obienyem, who cautioned against “mischief makers seeking fault in Obi”, said all the tenants in the building were also searched.

“Even though Mr. and Mrs Obi had travelled to the USA and the U.K. for speaking engagements, when we relayed the message of the search to him, he quickly sent the keys to the 4-bedroom apartment to the EFCC via courier. He even left instructions that we should allow them to also search his Onitsha residence should there be need for that. After the thorough search, nothing was found in the apartment”, Obienyem said.

Obienyem added that during the search one of the operatives of the EFCC was overheard doubting if the apartment had anything to do with Obi because it was the simplest in terms of furnishing.

As part of the probe of the controversial cash haul, EFCC Acting Chairman Ibrahim Magu has shifted his base to Lagos.

The anti-graft agency on Tuesday insisted that the cash would be forfeited to the Federal Government.

It said whoever has reasons that the money should not be forfeited should come to the court on May 5.

It was learnt that Magu’s relocation to Lagos was to tidy up the probe of how the $43.4million found its way to Apartment 7B.

A source, who spoke in confidence, said: “We are still digging; we are working round the clock on the cash recovered from Osborne Towers. There are some clues that there could be more hidden cash; this is why we are combing some places based on intelligence.

“We are still interacting with occupants of the Towers. Some of them have made useful statements.

“This investigation is highly sensitive; this is why the EFCC has not addressed the press on this matter. This explains why the Acting EFCC chairman has shifted base from Abuja to Lagos to drive the process. I think in the next 48 hours, we should be through with this stage of investigation.”

On the fate of the $43.4million, the EFCC in a tweet on Tuesday said there is no going back on the forfeiture of the cash to the Federal Government.

It said whoever has any reason that the cash should not be forfeited should approach the Federal High Court in Lagos on May 5.

“The court has ruled that whoever has reasons why the money should not be forfeited to the Federal Government should stand before it on May 5,” the EFCC said.

The $43.4million has been placed under Interim Forfeiture by the High Court.

A statement last week by the Head of Media and Publicity of EFCC, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, reads: “Barely 24 hours after the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) uncovered the sums of $43,449,947, £27,800 and N23, 218,000 at an apartment in the Ikoyi area of Lagos, a Federal High Court in Lagos has ordered an interim forfeiture of the funds to the Federal Government.

“In his ruling on Thursday, Justice Muslim Hassan ordered anyone interested in the money to appear before him at the next adjourned date to show reason why the money should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.

“The commission was also directed to publish in any national daily for anyone to show cause within 14 days why the order of final forfeiture should not be granted. The Interim Forfeiture was obtained pursuant to Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and other related offences Act 2006.

“Operatives of the Commission on Wednesday, April 12, 2017, stormed a residential building on the seventh floor of a four-bedroom apartment on Osborne Towers located on 16, Osborne Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, where the large sums of money was uncovered

“The operation followed a whistle-blower confidential alert received by the Commission office in Lagos in the early hours of yesterday.

As at press time, a government source said: “The whistle-blowing is being embraced by Nigerians. On the average, we get 10 alerts daily which we send to the relevant anti-corruption agencies.

“It is left to these agencies to investigate the clues. One of the alerts was the purported burying of looted public funds in cemeteries.”

EFCC pioneer Chairman Nuhu Ribadu has said he is in support of Magu and those spearheading the anti-corruption campaign.

He said he has never at any time condemned Magu under any guise or dissociated himself from the war against corruption.

Ribadu said: “Some agents of retrogression have concocted words against the current leadership of the EFCC and its anti-corruption efforts and wickedly attributed same to me.

“I hereby dissociate myself from that manufactured mischief in its entirety. It is nothing but fake news that doesn’t represent my view.

“I have nothing but respect for those spearheading the current anti-corruption efforts. My support for EFCC and Mr. Ibrahim Magu is 100 per cent. Kindly disregard the concoction as a handiwork of agents of doom who wish this country no good.”

About Charles Igbinidu

Charles Igbinidu is a Public Relations practitioner in Lagos, Nigeria

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