The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, on Saturday denied links to the more than N13 billion recovered from an apartment in Ikoyi, Lagos.
Operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, acting on a tip-off on Wednesday, found $43,449,947, £27,800 and N23,218,000 hidden inside an apartment at Osborne Towers, Ikoyi.
The recoveries were valued at N13 billion based on prevailing exchange rate set by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Mr. Amaechi, who is the immediate past governor of Rivers State, slammed his successor, Nyesom Wike, for linking him to the money.
Mr. Wike accused Mr. Amaechi of being the owner of the N13 billion, which was recovered in different currencies by the anti-graft EFCC on Wednesday, saying the money should be returned to Rivers State coffers.
“We have facts to prove that the said money belongs to the Rivers State Government,” Mr. Wike told reporters in Port-Harcourt Friday, and gave the Buhari administration “seven days to return or money” or face “legal action.”
“We need that money for projects,” Mr. Wike said.
The governor made the claims after the National Intelligence Agency, NIA, claimed ownership of the funds.
The presidency and security sources told this newspaper on Friday that former President Goodluck Jonathan approved the funds for the 30-year old secret service agency after its immediate past Director General, Olaniyi Oladeji, alerted him to the need for some “crucial and covert security projects”.
The Director General of the NIA, Ayodele Oke, confirmed to PREMIUM TIMES on Friday that the money belonged to his agency.
But Mr. Wike said the NIA’s claim was false and suggested that it was designed by the All Progressives Congress-controlled federal government as a cover-up or face-saving mechanism.
“If you recollect in 2015, we said that gas turbines built by Former Governor Peter Odili were sold to Sahara Energy, business partners of Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi at $319 million.
“That money was used to sponsor the All Progressives Congress for the 2015 general elections. From the date of sale of the gas turbines to May 29, 2015, the money depleted from $319 million to $204,000. What was stashed at the Ikoyi residence was part of that fund.
“As I speak to you, the Federal Government is so embarrassed that this has happened. All the stories that the money belongs to the NIA are fake,” the governor said.
Mr. Wike’s comments prompted Mr. Amaechi to issue another press statement on the controversy.
The minister first denied any connection to the recovered money after speculation in the social media that the money belonged to him.
His spokesman, David Iyofor, described Mr. Wike’s claims as “malicious, frivolous and another failed attempt to divert attention from the mess he has created in Rivers State.”
“For clarity and emphasis, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi is not the owner of the $43million and the Ikoyi apartment in which the money was recovered from. Amaechi has no business, link or connection to the money or property. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi does not know who owns the money or Ikoyi apartment.”
“Wike’s malicious allegation of corruption against Amaechi in the sale of the Gas Turbines is not new.
“This false claim has been punctured repeatedly with facts and evidence of the transfer payments for the power plants into Rivers State government accounts by Sahara Energy.
“The records of how the funds were spent and what it was spent on are in the records of the State government. Amaechi has absolutely no business or any interest whatsoever in Sahara Energy.
“The company was already a thriving business concern before Amaechi’s emergence as governor of Rivers State in 2007.
“We urge all right-thinking members of the public to completely disregard all the false, politically motivated no-proof claims by Nyesom Wike and his minions as it concerns Amaechi and the $43million and Ikoyi property,” he said.
Mr. Amaechi challenged Mr. Wike to proceed to court and present any evidence that could prove his ownership of the funds.
“Yet again, we challenge Wike to charge Amaechi to court if he has any shred of evidence that the money belongs to Rivers State and was kept in the Ikoyi apartment by Amaechi.
“But like his numerous frivolous accusations in the past, we know he won’t go to court. He has nothing to substantiate his blatant lies. This Wike’s recent tale like his previous ones is a big sham, a disgraceful political drama, and a campaign of calumny to defame and destroy the sterling reputation of Rotimi Amaechi. This is now Wike’s sole life ambition.”
When contacted, Rivers State Commissioner for Information, Austin Tam-George, said the state does not have anything new to say about the controversies.
“What we have for now is what the governor has said yesterday,” Mr. Tam-George told PREMIUM TIMES Saturday evening.