Sunday, 24 April 2016

Campaign Funds: Jonathan’s Minister Returns N23m to FG After Allegedly Receiving N2.5bn

The Director of Finance of the Goodluck Jonathan Campaign Organisation, Senator Nenadi Usman, has returned N23m to the Federal Government, SUNDAY PUNCH has learnt.

Usman was last Thursday arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for allegedly receiving N2.5bn which emanated from the Central Bank of Nigeria.

A reliable source at the EFCC told our correspondent on condition of anonymity that she had promised to return more funds.

“Nenadi Usman has been cooperating with us. In fact, she has returned N23m to the Federal Government,” he said.

Usman, who is being quizzed by the EFCC, told investigators that all she did was based on the instructions of Jonathan, adding that she did not know that the funds belonged to taxpayers.

According to the source, Usman told investigators that as the Director of Finance of the Peoples Democratic Party Presidential Campaign Organisation, she was asked to set up a bank account during the build-up to the election, which she did.

She allegedly said all donations were made to Jonathan’s campaign through Joint Trust Dimensions Nigeria Limited and it was through the said account that funds were released to all campaign directors, zonal coordinators and other related parties and groups which campaigned for the PDP.

It was through the same account that the Director of Publicity, Femi Fani-Kayode, was paid N840m. It was also through the same account that the Chairman of the Social Democratic Party, Chief Olu Falae, and Rashidi Ladoja, allegedly received N100m each.

Ex-political adviser to Jonathan, Prof. Rufai Alkali, who was the Coordinator of the Goodluck Support Group, allegedly collected N320m on behalf of the group while several governorship candidates of the PDP equally received money from the account.

However, the EFCC source said, “She told us that she did not know the funds belonged to the Federal Government. However, we asked her why she didn’t verify and also why didn’t she set up an account bearing the name of the PDP. Why did she use her company account if not that she wanted to keep things secret.”

Meanwhile, one of the campaign managers of Jonathan’s re-election campaign said the National Intelligence Agency was aware of the alleged diversion of funds from the CBN.

It was reported that N4bn was transferred from the account of the CBN into a mysterious account known as the Ministry of External Affairs Library before it was moved to an account known as Joint Trust Dimensions Nigeria Limited which is controlled by Usman.

However, the source said the account was set up by the NIA, which is under the Office of the National Security Adviser.

It was learnt that some officials of the NIA had been quizzed by the EFCC to explain why the account was set up.

A reliable source said, “During the build-up to the last elections, when monies were going to be diverted from the account of the CBN, the Ministry of External Affairs Library was set up with the connivance of officials of the NIA. It was done so that the transaction would seem as if the money was being transferred to a Federal Government account and it would not raise any red flags. The Permanent Secretary at the Villa then drew up a memo on the instructions of the President and the CBN deposited the funds into the account of the Ministry of External Affairs.

“From there, the money was paid into Joint Trust Dimensions Nigeria Limited, from where monies were sent to all stakeholders during the electioneering. Preliminary investigations however suggest that the Ministry of External Affairs Library does not even exist.”

From the Ministry of External Affairs Library, N2.5bn was transferred to Joint Trust Dimensions Nigeria Limited while N140m cash was allegedly paid into her Zenith Bank Account with number, 1000158311, domiciled on 7, Kachia Road, Kaduna.

In a related development, security experts have called for investigation into the alleged diversion of N4bn through the NIA.

A former Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav, said if it was true that the agency was used for money laundering, this means it had lost credibility.

“If they are using NIA for money laundering, it means it has lost credibility. If it was being used for money laundering, a crime against the nation, this means that NIA has totally lost credibility.”

Another security analyst, Max Gbanite, said it was unlawful for politicians to use an intelligence agency to divert public funds, adding that officers involved in the alleged crime should be interrogated and made to explain what transpired. “Politicians have been embezzling money before now, but if politicians used the NIA to divert money, it is criminal and the officers in the agency need to be interrogated,” Gbanite said.

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