A lawyer to the whistle-blower that helped in the recovery of $43.5 million, £27,800 and N23.2 million at No. 16 Osborne Road, Flat 7B Osborne Towers in Ikoyi, Lagos, has said his client is yet to be paid his due reward five months after a court ordered a final forfeiture of the money.
Reacting to a claim by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission that his client is now a millionaire, the lawyer, Yakubu Galadima, told PREMIUM TIMES on Friday that several efforts to get the money have been unsuccessful.
“The truth is that this guy has not been paid a penny,” Mr. Galadima said.
“In fact, from April till date, the guy has been living under my meagre resources, his security was just zero. I’ve had to relocate this guy from one place to another so nobody knows his whereabouts.”
The Nigerian government in December 2016 adopted a policy on whistleblowing to encourage citizens to report financial and other related crimes to relevant authorities.
According to the policy, whistleblowers whose revelations lead to the recovery of money are entitled to as much as five percent of the recovered sum.
Since the introduction of the policy, the government has recovered about N17 billion, according to the EFCC.
Some of those monies had been recovered from LEGICO Plaza in Victoria Island, Lagos; the luxury apartment in Ikoyi; a building in Kaduna belonging to Andrew Yakubu, a former Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation; among others.
Last June, the Nigerian government announced it had released about N375.8 million for payment of 20 whistleblowers who provided information for the recovery of over N11.6 billion.
On Wednesday, while speaking at the 7th session of the Conference of State Parties to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, Ibrahim Magu, the EFCC acting chairman, said the individual who helped uncover the Ikoyi apartment money had become a millionaire.
“We are currently working on the young man because this is just a man who has not seen one million Naira of his own before.
“So he is under counseling on how to make use of the money and also the security implication. We don’t want anything bad to happen to him after taking delivery of his entitlement. He is a national pride.”
‘The true position’
Mr. Galadima said the EFCC boss’s “position is not correct.”
According to the lawyer, the Ikoyi whistle-blower accompanied by friends had approached him in early April this year to inform him about their suspicion of a huge amount of money stashed away in one of the apartments at the Osborne Towers.
“In fact, what came to their mind was to go and burgle the place since they know the security network of the house,” said Mr. Galadima.
“I was the one that advised them that, you don’t do that because that will amount to crime. That since there is a policy of the federal government, let us exploit that avenue.
“I took them, we went to the Commission, discussed with them, they said they were going to give the boy a form to fill and that if the story turns out to be false that the guy will go to jail. We said no problem, we undertook and we signed.
“The next day, we went to the house, all of us were all shivering thinking there was nothing inside. And then we started to discover all sorts of money in different denominations, pounds, dollars, naira. These monies were all recovered and taken to the Commission. It was counted. They brought a staff of CBN and he came and counted the money.”
In April, the EFCC headed to a federal court in Lagos seeking for the forfeiture of the money to the Nigerian government and, in June, Justice Muslim Hassan ordered a permanent forfeiture of the money to the government.
The judge had earlier granted an interim forfeiture giving 14 days for anyone interested in the funds to appear before it and show reason why the money should not be permanently forfeited to the federal government.
Nobody appeared before the court to claim the money.
“The moment the final forfeiture was made, I wrote a comprehensive letter to Magu, attaching the judgement, and said court has made a final forfeiture, where is the reward and commission of the whistleblowers?” Mr. Galadima continued.
“In fact, the letter was addressed to the Acting President then through the Office of the Acting Chairman since the money was recovered by the EFCC. That was the first letter.
“A month later, I wrote a reminder. It was after that reminder that they said we should bring the boy to Abuja. We took the boy to Abuja, he had one on one interface for the first time with the acting president. We went together with the acting chairman.
“The acting president congratulated him for a job well done and that with the money they’ll pay him, he’s now a millionaire. We all laughed.”
Mr. Galadima said while he was out of country on vacation, his client contacted him on the phone and told him about receiving threats to his life.
“The day we went to the office of the acting president, they gave him a number that he can reach them at any time. So he has been communicating with the acting president. Following the threats, they detailed some SSS to be working around him,” the lawyer said.
The whistle-blower was later taken to the SSS facility at Shangisha, Lagos, and given an apartment.
“Because the guy had always been looking forward to see(ing) this money and it wasn’t forthcoming, he started shouting. When he started shouting, they said he’s mad, that he’s having a mental problem.
“The SSS people called me and said I should come and carry my luggage. They brought him to the EFCC and abandoned him there. The EFCC people called me that I should come and carry my client.”
On getting to the Commission’s office, Mr. Galadima said he was informed of his client’s mental illness and plans to take him to the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital in Yaba.
“I said he’s not mad, that it’s because you people are holding his money that’s why he’s reacting this way. They insisted the guy is mad, that they have to take him to a psychiatric hospital, they bundled this man. I said ok, if that’s how to prove that he’s not mad, no problem, we went to the psychiatric hospital in Yaba.
“They injected him and said they have to monitor him for a month. They monitored him for a month. The day they were going to release him, the EFCC called me again to come and carry my “critical asset.” This was a boy I never knew from Adam….. I said ok, I went to the EFCC the guy said he’s ok there’s no problem anymore, they handed him over to me three weeks ago. Ever since then, I pay money into his account on a weekly basis for his upkeep.”
Phone calls and text messages to Wilson Uwujaren, the EFCC spokesperson, were not answered.
The phone lines of Laolu Akande, the Senior Special Assistant to the vice president, Yemi Osinbajo, did not go through.
On October 12, Mr. Galadima wrote to President Muhammadu Buhari seeking the prompt payment of the commission due to his client.
“I have written twice while you are away receiving treatment to the Acting President through the office of the Acting Chairman of the EFCC on 7th June 2017 and 24th July 2017 respectively,” Mr. Galadima stated in a copy of the letter he made available to PREMIUM TIMES.
“Please note that the discovery (of the money) was a result of my client’s efforts and consequently, I respectfully urge Your Excellency to use your good offices to facilitate the prompt payment of the reward/commission due to my clients.”
Mr. Galadima said that contrary to media reports that his client’s commission is N350 million, the correct figure is N850 million.
“Because the money discovered was about N17 billion and not N13 billion that is being declared. It was calculated as at the time the money was recovered.”
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