EXCLUSIVE: Osinbajo wades into N170 million Zinox contract scandal

Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami
PHOTO: Daily Trust
Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami PHOTO: Daily Trust

The Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, has waded into allegations that a top Federal Ministry of Justice official is trying to prevent the prosecution of some Zinox Computers management staff over an alleged N170.3 million contract fraud.

The Managing Director, Citadel Oracle Concept Limited, Joseph Benjamin, had petitioned the acting president on April 11 to demand the investigation of the ministry’s director, International and Comparative Law, Stella Anukam, over allegations that she abused her office by using her position to obstruct justice against the Zinox staff.

The petition had also called for the probe of a law firm, Integrity Law Firm, which acted as legal counsel to Zinox Computers and its accused top staff.

The law firm had always paraded Mrs. Anukam as its lead partner until recently when her name was yanked off from the company website and other official documents after PREMIUM TIMES report blew the lead on the illegality of her involvement in private practice while remaining as a public official.

Mr. Osinbajo in a letter No. SH/OVP/DCOS/LGR&C/Misc./ of July 10, 2017 acknowledged the receipt of the petition by Mr. Benjamin’s counsel, Onyemaechi Bob James Esq., saying he had since forwarded it to the “appropriate authority for necessary action.”

The letter signed on his behalf by a deputy Chief of Staff to the President, Office of the Vice-President, Ade Ipaye, did not, however, state which “appropriate authority” the acting President referred to.

The acting president’s response is coming months after a similar petition was sent to the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, Abubakar Malami; Solicitor General of the Federation, Taiwo Abidogun, and Director of Public Prosecution, Mohammed Umar.

Mr. Abidogun did not acknowledge receipt of the petition, PREMIUM TIMES learnt. But, Mr. Umar, who did verbally, later refused to entertain further enquiries on the issue.

When PREMIUM TIMES contacted Mr. Malami on May 4, 2017 to get an update on the petition, he responded with a terse text message: “Investigation is ongoing, but not concluded.”

On June 21, he confirmed that the report was ready and asked the reporter to contact him later for details of the findings.

Since then, Mr. Malami has neither picked several calls to his phone nor responded to text messages sent to him on the issue.

After a long wait without response to his clients’ petition, Mr. Benjamin’s lawyers, Udah, Bala, James & Partners told PREMIUM TIMES, that a letter, dated August 2, 2017, was sent to the minister, to remind him about petitions sent on April 11 and May 9, 2017.

The petitions had drawn the minister’s attention to alleged attempts by Mrs. Anukam and her younger brother, Innocent Eremionkhale, a lawyer, to destroy key investigation evidence in the case against them.

Afraid the Justice Ministry may be shielding their staff from prosecution, the law firm said it also wrote to the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation and the Chairman, Federal Civil Service Commission, FCSC on July 26 requesting them to investigate Mrs. Anukam for alleged gross abuse of office.

More than a week later, none of the offices has so far acknowledged receipt of the petitions.

Mr. Benjamin had accused Mrs. Anukam of using her position to obstruct the prosecution of Zinox Group Chairman, Leonard Ekeh, and wife, Chioma, over alleged impersonation and illegally taking over of a N170.3 million contract awarded his company.

The Zinox owners have denied any wrongdoing.

The contract was awarded by the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS in 2012 to Citadel Oracle Concept Limited, an Ibadan-based ICT firm,

Other officials named in the scandal included the Company Secretary/Legal Adviser, Zinox Group and Technology Distribution, TD, Chris Ozims, and a director of TD, Folashade Oyebode.

They were accused of committing the crime along with their allies, namely the chief executive of Ad’mas Digital Technologies Limited and Pirovics Engineering Services Limited, Onny Igbokwe, one Princess O. Kama and two staff of Access Bank Plc, Obilo Onuoha and Deborah Ijeabu.

Although investigations into the fraud by the Special Fraud Unit, SFU, of the Nigerian Police Force were concluded in 2014 and a case established against the suspects, prosecution stalled, as the police refused to release the case file to the director of public prosecution, DPP.

On June 16, 2016, Mr. Benjamin, the complainant, was charged to court by the police, on the orders of the former Inspector General of Police, IGP, Solomon Arase. He was accused of providing false information in his petition to the police against the suspects.

In a dramatic twist, the accused persons were now listed by the police as witnesses against him.

Mr. Benjamin later petitioned Mr. Malami, who directed Mr. Umar to take over the prosecution of the case by the police to avoid a miscarriage of justice.

On December 7, 2016, the DPP took over the case and asked the police to hands off the prosecution and transfer the case file to it, as directed by the AGF.

Surprisingly, on February 28, 2017, at the resumed hearing of the case, the police presented a letter purportedly signed by Mr. Umar, upturning the AGF’s earlier directive, reinstating the police to continue the trial.

Mr. Umar later confirmed he wrote the controversial letter reinstating the police, but on AGF’s instructions, following a petition by Integrity Law Firm, which claimed its client, the police, had a case pending against Mr. Benjamin.

On April 11, 2017, Mr. Benjamin, in a petition to the AGF, through his lawyers, accused Mrs. Anukam of working with the brother, Mr. Eremionkhale, to “truncate” the case.

A background check by PREMIUM TIMES revealed that Mrs. Anukam was listed as a lead partner and management team member on Integrity Law Firm’s website, a development that violates public service rules barring government officials from private practice.

Curiously, shortly after this newspaper published its findings about Mrs. Anukam, her profile on the law firm’s website was edited. Her previous status as ‘lead partner’ in the company had been changed to “an external consultant.”

Again, when the alterations were highlighted in a subsequent report, the profile was completely removed from the website, along with that of a FCT Customary Court Judge, Femi Odeahan.

Since then, all data on the law firm’s website linking Mrs. Anukam to the ownership of the law firm have been removed.

Mrs. Anukam’s brother, Innocent, has since joined Zinox to sue PREMIUM TIMES, claiming defamation.


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  • marcos avelino

    Mr malami you seem to be to complicated or is it …? Whats happening. A justice minister should be as straight as an arrow

  • Dawood

    And this Malami guy is the one asking Magu to give him the files of Saraki and all the other criminals Magu is investigating. The quicker Malami is removed, the quicker Nigeria can defeat corruption.

    • Izedomi Ohirein

      Osinanjo could sack Malami, but in his position, i wouldn’t. I will rather make a case for his removal to the president.
      The Director of SSS and SGF are in the same position.
      The Ag President should let the sleeping dog alone until the President returns ETC.

      • Gary

        And you presume that Buhari is unaware of the antecedents and proclivities of those he chose for these critical posts in his government? And will heed the advice of his Christian Yoruba VP to remove trusted Arewa Moslems?

        Keep playing the ostrich.

        • Sanssouci

          Most intelligent comment I’ve read today. I could never understand how die hard Buharists delude themselves that Buhari is a perfect saint, but never question how their demi-god ended up carefully brooding over and hand picking incompetent, corrupt and treacherous fellows.

          • Izedomi Ohirein

            Assumption based on no facts is not evidence of intelligence. People do things for other people.

        • Izedomi Ohirein

          Buhari might have been constrained to accommodate Malalami, we don’t know that.
          Nothing stops him from getting rid of Malami, when he returns.

          • Daniel

            What constraints?

            For a man who spent six months in search of angels, what constraints?

            You people should look beyond this Fuji house of commotion and look forward to 2019.

          • Izedomi Ohirein

            Not appointing ministers when Oil prices fell to $28pb and ijaw pipelines vandals reduced oil export by 60% can not be mistaken as looking for angels.
            He was conserving money.
            Appointed ministers would have been paid for doing nothing as there was no money. You forget that blown up oil pipelines had to be fixed too, with money, when fighting boko haram ETC. I am sure i have answer this point to you before.

          • Daniel

            The same period saw over 200 million Naira being used to cut grass.

            You cannot defend an incompetent president any longer.

            Buhari has to quit!

          • Izedomi Ohirein

            Buhari has a mandate to fight corruption. Not perfect, he is doing a good job.
            I endorse him for 2019 and Osinbajo to succeed him in 2023.
            God bless Nigeria.

          • Daniel

            Buhari’s mandate was not conceived in honesty.

            Now , whatever was his plan has been overtaken by events beyond his control.

            In addition to his incompetence, he is now incapacitated in a London hospital.

            So quit the daydreaming of 2023 when in 2017 his government and the entire country are in disarray.

            You have a right to be optimistic, however you have to stop the daydreaming.

            This government is an air plane whose crash landing we are trying to avoid.

            Having sowed the seed of discord, where is Buhari?

          • Izedomi Ohirein

            Nigeria made their democratic choice and you are yet to come to terms with it 2yrs after.
            That is your problem.
            Nigeria will not have been in these mess, but for people like you sabotaging this government as suppers of looters, pipelines vandals, criminals and miscreants.

          • Daniel

            Which mess?

            And even if there were a mess, is it an INCAPACITATED and incompetent president, who ought be in an old people’s home, that will sort it out?

            Forcing him to continue in office is even an unfair punishment.

          • Izedomi Ohirein

            We need Buhari to fight corruption. Osinbajo is doing a good job.

          • Daniel

            Buhari is an INCAPACITATED president.

            Osibanjo does not need him breathing over his shoulders through the cabals in Aso Rock.

            That is the point.

          • Izedomi Ohirein

            Thank God Osinbajo is not an igbo who stab friends in the back.
            He is vp to work with the president not against him.

          • Daniel

            You have missed the point.

            I cannot help any longer.

            Do some refresher courses on comprehension. And note I am not Igbo.

            So quit hiding behind ethnicity when you lose an argument.

      • Abex229

        I don’t get it. The AG should be sacked because of an unsubstantiated story published in Premium Times. Your argument and thinking can only proceed from a weak mind. You did not even care to listen and weigh the other mans side of the story. Nawa oooo for some Naija people and skewed thinking

        • Izedomi Ohirein

          I understand that it will be inappropriate for for Osinbajo to sack Malami in the absence of the president.
          Your lack of understanding of protocols which demands that does not add to the quality of your humanity.
          It only exposed your ignorance. Could I say, that you are talking like a child.

          • Abex229

            I am not question the propriety of the VP firing the Attorney General. The Acting President has the full power of the president and can do that if he wants. I am only questioning your reason for demanding for his removal. You seems to base your demand this solely on this one-sided and unsubstantiated story. That is wrong and that is what I am against

          • Izedomi Ohirein

            Having the power to fire and the right to do it are two different things.
            Only fools us their powers at the first opportunity.
            The right to do is for the Acting President to put his thoughts about Malami or any minister in his report to the President when he returns.

          • Izedomi Ohirein

            I have never demanded for Malamis removal in the absence of the president.

    • Abex229

      You just heard one side of the story and you started insult the AG and drawing conclusions. People like you is one of the major challenges we have in Nigeria. This forum is not a law court. Mr. Benjamin said the matter is already in court, why the media wailing. Only the naive will believe the story of a sinking man trying to drag other people down with him.

  • bola

    There is high level of injustice and corruption in the country and its getting worse.

    • princegab

      That’s right but clean up has started, thanks to Ag President and the opportunity afforded by pmb’s illness.

  • donald,the russian stooge

    unduly complex naija ………………..simple case of straightforward theft and fraud can deliberately be twisted to become complex beyond imagination ………… the accuser becoming the accused …………….the crap ………………

  • Dazmillion

    A poor man can never get justice in Nigeria

  • thusspokez

    The Managing Director, Citadel Oracle Concept Limited, Benjamin Benjamin, had petitioned the acting president on April 11 to demand the investigation of the ministry’s director, International and Comparative Law, Stella Anukam, over allegations that she abused her office by using her position to obstruct justice against the Zinox staff.

    I greatly admire Mr Benjamin for his courage, tenacity and resilience.

    Unlike some you-know-who, he had neither blamed his ordeal on his ethnicity nor marginalisation. Further, he didn’t demand that Nigeria be restructured or call for secession or threaten to breakup Nigeria or issued ultimatum to the Acting President. No he did none of the above, instead, as one door is closed to his face, he simply went one floor higher to find another until he reached the Acting President’s office.

    Mr Benjamin deserves an award even for coming this far, and I hope that with the AG’s help, he gets justice.

    • Daniel

      For your education, the whole confusion and stagnancy we have in Nigeria stem from the system of government we run.

      So, I am amazed at your trying to insult the intelligence of those wanting a structural change to a complicated and unwieldy Nigeria system.

      I will advise you speak to this particular issue, instead of dabbling into fundamental ones .

      • thusspokez

        For your education

        Piss off! Go and education yourself — not me!

  • Daniel

    These are the characters Buhari spent six months to select and appoint.

    This singular case of administrative incompetence and poor judgement, coupled with ethnic and religious parochialism makes the Daura man a joke in leadership.

    Where is he now to fix his mess? On a colonial hospital bed.

    What a sad story to tell.

  • tsunami1earthquake

    A convolution of the entire case as the dramatis personae take a ride on the tortuous and devious vehicle of corruption. Nigeria has reinvented corruption and carried it to a completely different height and direction. Kudos to Nigeria in fast driving the vehicle of progress in the reverse gear.

    • thusspokez

      …quote David Cameron

      David Cameron? (Don’t get me started with him and this is nothing to do with patriotism or even his comment, but just seeing the name, David Cameron on this page) He is indisputably the worst British Prime Minister in history for largely the Brexit mess and confusion he had left the UK and done a runner — to use the British vernacular.

      For a politician to say that his greatest achievement in politics was the introduction of same-sex marriage in the UK, should tell all you want to know about the stúpid David Cameron.

    • Abex229

      I have been following this story for a while. A lot of things don’t just seems to be adding up. Mr. Benjamin keep contradicting himself. Thought the case is already before the court. Why all this Media wailing and nuisance? If all his allegations are true, let him proof them in court and stop disturbing us this his disjointed and “conspiracy” allegation story.