Fresh details have emerged on how members of the National Assembly Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution withdrew N7.75 billion purportedly to amend Nigerian constitution.
PREMIUM TIMES had last week exposed how the federal lawmakers collected the money in tranches to purportedly alter the document between 2011 and 2015, but which former President Goodluck Jonathan refused to sign into law.
While the 49-member Senate Committee on Constitution Review led by the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, withdrew a total N4,500,000.00 for the exercise, the 53-member House of Representatives Committee headed by the former Deputy Speaker, Emeka Ihedioha, spent N3,250,000,000.00.
The documents, exclusively obtained by this newspaper, also showed that the Committee withdrew money from its account few days before the 2015 general elections. The presidential and National Assembly elections held on March 28.
While on March 2, it withdrew N83.33m, it withdrew the same amount 21 days later, precisely on March 23. Yet, on April 13, two days after the governorship election, it withdrew another N83.33m.
The fresh documents exclusively obtained by this newspaper which exposed bank transactions showed that the two committees transferred various sums of money from two National Assembly accounts – 321/212/606/1/1/0 and 321/212/606/1/1/3 domiciled in Guarantee Trust Bank to their own accounts in different banks.
While the House Committee transferred funds to its account in Zenith Bank, its counterpart in the Senate transferred monies to its three accounts domiciled in Bank PHB (now Keystone Bank), Oceanic Bank (now EcoBank) and United Bank for Africa.
According to the documents, the House Committee transferred to its Zenith Bank account N500m on December 16, 2011; N500m on May 17, 2012; N250m on August 6, 2013; and N250m on November 11, 2013; N250m on February 20, 2014; N250m on May 27, 2014; N250m on August 21, 2014; N166.5m on a date not specified; N83.5m on December 5, 2014; and N83.33 on March 2, 2015.
The committee, on different occasions, also withdrew huge amounts in cash, serially violating Nigerian money laundering law.
Part 1, Subsection 1 of the Money Laundering Act 2011 provides that “No person or body corporate shall, except in a transaction through a financial institution, make or accept cash payment of a sum exceeding- (a) N5,000,000.00 or its equivalent, in the case of an individual; or (b)N10,000,000.00 or its equivalent in the case of a body corporate.”
It withdrew N250m on October 29, 2012; N250m on May 8, 2013; N83.33m on March 23, 2015 and another N83.33m on April 13, 2015.
The Senate Committee, the documents revealed, transferred the sum of N125m on April 21, 2010 to Bank PHB; N250m on June 10, 2010 to Oceanic Bank; N125m on a date not specified; to Oceanic Bank and N250m on October 13, 2010 to Bank PHB. The transactions were made before the Committee was inaugurated in the 7th Assembly in 2011
It also transferred N250m on a date not specified to Oceanic Bank; N250m on February 9, 2011to Bank PHB; N500m on December 16, 2011 to Bank PHB; N250m on May 17, 2012 to Bank PHB; N250m on July 23, 2013 to Keystone Bank, N250m on November 5, 2013 to Keystone Bank; N250m on February 5, 2014 to Keystone; N250m on May 22, 2014 to Keystone; N250m on August 18, 2014 to Keystone; N166.6m on November 25, 2014 to Keystone; N83.4 on December 5, 2014 to Keystone; and N83.33m on February 27, 2015 to Keystone.
It further withdrew N250m on April 20, 2012; N250m on February 27, 2013; N250m on May 8, 2013; N83.33m on March 17, 2015; and N83.33 on a date not specified, in cash.
This again was a clear violation of Nigeria’s money laundering law.
PREMIUM TIMES could not reach Mr. Ekweremadu to speak on this story last week. He did not respond to calls to his mobile telephone nor replied a text message sent to him.
Mr. Ihedioha directed this newspaper to the Clerk of the House, Sani Omolori, who did not respond to our enquiries by phone.
The management staff of the National Assembly, including its Clerk, Salisu Maikasuwa, did not also respond to our enquiries.
Uche Anichukwu, the media aide to Mr. Ekweremadu, however issued in a statement on Saturday, denying that members of the two committees judiciously spent the huge sum on the fourth alteration of the Constitution.
“The Office wishes to state categorically that there was no “pocketing” of N8 billion by members of the Committee on Constitution Review in the 7th Senate chaired by Senator Ekweremadu,” the statement said.
The statement also claimed members of the 7th National Assembly and the 36 state assemblies did not fail in their legislative duties towards the realization of the fourth amendment of the 1999 Constitution.
Mr. Anichukwu said, “Members diligently and successfully piloted the most elaborate amendments to the 1999 Constitution through all the legislative due process. They were indeed amendments that held great promises for the nation’s democracy”.
The statement did not attempt to explain how the several billions withdrawn by committee members were spent or why committee members were withdrawing as much as N250million in cash, serially committing money laundering.