By Idris Akinbajo
The Nigerian Government transferred N120billion ($801million) to a company, Malabu Oil and Gas, with a fake address and which has been involved in illegality right from its inception, an ongoing PREMIUM TIMES investigation has shown.
The company subsequently transferred the money to other phony companies with falsified addresses in what the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission described as a “cloudy scene associated with fraudulent dealings.”
PREMIUM TIMES had reported how Mohammed Adoke, the Attorney General of the Federation; and Yerima Ngama, the Minister of State for Finance, on August 16, 201,1 hurriedly and secretly authorised the transfer of the money from a Nigerian government account with JP Morgan International Bank, into Malabu accounts, a day before the resumption of the Finance Minister and former World bank Managing Director, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
Further investigations by this newspaper has however shown that as at the time the FG was transferring such a huge sum to Malabu, the company was engaged in criminality as it had not only registered using a fictitious character, it also maintains a fake address with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
The illegal registration
By creating a fictional character, Kweku Amafegha, and making him one of the directors and shareholders of Malabu at inception, Dan Etete and other promoters of Malabu violated section 563 of the companies and allied matters act (CAMA).
Earlier reports by PREMIUM TIMES had shown how and why Mr. Etete, a former Minister of Petroleum, created, and sustained the character.
Mr. Etete, who had been convicted of money laundering in France, is also liable, by that action, to at least 7yeras in prison by virtue of sections 190 and 436 of the criminal code act, lawyers say.
“Section 190 and Section 436 (b) of the Criminal Code Act is applicable to the conduct of the promoter of Malabu, in that a false representation or declaration was made to induce the Corporate Affairs Commission to issue an incorporation certificate,” said Jiti Ogunye, a Lagos based lawyer.
Mr. Ogunye, who compared the Malabu case to that of companies used as fronts by Tafa Balogun, convicted former Inspector General of Police, urged the CAC to de-register Malabu.
“Owing to the false representation, the Corporate Affairs Commission can approach the Federal High Court under Section 563 of CAMA to seek the withdrawal and cancellation of the Certificate of Incorporation of Malabu. It should be recalled in this regard, that in the Tafa Balogun’s case, the Court ordered that the companies that were incorporated as the vehicles and facilitators of fraud be de-registered by the CAC,” the lawyer said.
It is not only in its shareholding structure that Malabu committed fraud. Even the address it maintains with the CAC are false.
The CAC Malabu registration
Malabu Oil and Gas, in its registration papers, maintained with the CAC, has 35 Kingsway Road, Ikoyi, as its address. It is this address that the company used in several correspondences with the Ministry of petroleum Resources.
A check at the address however shows that there is no company by that name there. Dredging International Services, a marine and waterway contractor, occupies the address.
“We’ve been here for 10 years. If they were here, they did not leave a forwarding address when they left. You can go and check on the internet,” the secretary of Dredging International Services, who did not want her name in print, said.
Another address, 43 Kingsway Road, Ikoyi, which Malabu used in a 2006 correspondence with the petroleum ministry, also does not exist. No. 41 Kingsway Road is a residential home. The next three buildings are a 15 storey service flats operated by Fieldco Limited; Southern Sun hotel; and Golden Gates restaurant in that order.
However, it is to this company with falsified directors and addresses and whose promoters should spend at least 7 years in jail by Nigerian law that the Federal Government under President Jonathan, transferred N120bn ($801mn) to, with a view to making the whole transfer $1.1bn
In what federal investigators described as “curious,” Malabu is not only a phony company; it also transferred the money it got from the FG to other equally dubious companies.
The phony companies
PREMIUM TIMES had reported how companies co-owned by Abubakar Aliyu, a man who has been enmeshed in several controversial deals with government officials and agencies, and whom anti-corruption investigators described as “Mr. Corruption,” got about half of the $1.1bn. A total of $523million was transferred by Mr. Etete, from the FG transferred funds, into companies co-owned by Mr. Aliyu.
A-Group Construction Company, a firm co-owned by Mr. Aliyu, has its address at Plot J165A Harold Shodipo Crescent, Ikeja G.R.A, Lagos, in CAC records. The company got N23.6billion ($157mn) from Malabu from the transfer.
A visit to the address revealed that it is a residential home, the initial occupants having relocated and not leaving behind a contact address.
“They moved to Abuja since 2010 and they didn’t drop any address with which they can be reached,” said a security man at the gate.
PREMIUM TIMES could not confirm if it was A-Group that was in the address before. However, as at the time Malabu transferred the money to A-Group, its registered address with the CAC was and is still false.
Another company, Imperial Union Limited, received N5.1billion ($34million).
The company’s address in its official papers with the CAC is Plot 14 Wempco Road, Ikeja, Lagos. The address is non-existent according to checks by PREMIUM TIMES.
“I’ve been here for about three years and I’ve never heard of such a company,” said a security officer at a Guinness warehouse on Wempco Road.
Perhaps, the most intriguing of all the companies is Novel Properties and Development Company Limited -which got N4.5billion ($30mn) from the transfers.
The Novel fraud
Novel Properties and Development Company Limited is co-owned by Mr. Aliyu, who is listed as one of the four directors of the company in CAC records. The company’s registered address is at 22 Capitol Road, Agege, Lagos.
PREMIUM TIMES findings show that two buildings stand at No. 22 Capitol Road, Agege – a large residential home owned by a man known as Alhaji Surusu and a small office run by Jide Ismail, a property consultant.
“My company has been here for more than 10 years and we have not received such money from anybody,” said a visibly alarmed Mr. Ismail.
“We’ve never heard of anything like Novel (Properties). There are only three of us in property development along this road,” he added.
While the claimed (false) address of Novel is on the Lagos mainland, further investigations reveal another company bearing a similar name at 8/10 Broad Street, Western House, Marina, Lagos, on the Lagos Island.
At the Marina address, Souki-Novel Limited, the parent company of Novel Properties, along with some law firms, occupies the noiseless offices on the 15th floor.
The owners of Souki-Novel however say their company only bears a similar name with Mr. Aliyu’s
“I’d feared something like this would happen when I discovered there were two of us bearing the same name,” said S.A Agidee, a partner at Souki-Novel.
“I complained to the CAC about this and they told me there was nothing wrong with it,” he added.
In other to clear the air on the retainer-ship of its name, Mr. Agidee wrote to Mr. Aliyu’s Novel.
In a letter addressed to Novel Properties and Development Company Limited, Agege, dated 3rd June, 2004; Mr. Agidee brought the attention of Moses Adesegha and Tunji Adeyemi, two of the company’s directors, to the similarity in the name of their firm and his; which he had registered at the CAC since 1993. The false Novel which got a share of the Malabu funds was registered in October 2004.
“We believed we should meet with our goodselves to discuss the issue of similarity and possibly mistaken identities,” wrote Mr. Agidee, in the letter which he also copied to the CAC.
“We do hope you appreciate the full implication of this especially in relation to financial issues,” he added. Just like Mr. Aliyu’s Novel properties, it is not clear whether Messrs Adesegha and Adeyemi are real persons.
After a three week wait without a response from either of the two directors or their company, Mr. Agidee wrote to the CAC objecting to the registration of Novel Properties and Development Company stating that the similarity could mislead the public.
“Our attempt to reach the promoters of the company was unsuccessful as the address provided turned out to be a residential one with a guard claiming he knows no such company.”
Mr. Agidee said that he received a tersely worded reply from the CAC telling him “there was nothing wrong with the similarity”.
Novel properties, A- group construction, Imperial Union, and Malabu oil and gas, may be phony companies with falsified addresses, they are however the beneficiaries of N155bn ($1.1bn), courtesy of the President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration; a situation which puzzled Mr. Ogunye, the Lagos lawyer.
“Registering a company under false name is illegal under CAMA. That alone if pursued by a responsible government is enough to cancel the whole (Malabu) transaction as the recipient was an illegal entity,” said Jiti Ogunye.
“But you and I know that this present Government cannot do something like that,” he added.
The ministers in the centre of this transaction – Messrs Adoke and Ngama – could not be reached for comments. So also are presidential spokesperson, Reuben Abati and the man who owns the phony companies, Mr. Aliyu.