Between himself, his Chief Security Officer and the former Petroluem Minister, former President Goodluck Jonathan spent, in just one deal, a princely $6.9 million dollars to buy three 40-feet mobile stages for use during mass public speaking events, investigations have now revealed.
Federal government investigators and security agencies say this is just one of the tons of allegedly corrupt practices frequently engaged and condoned under the presidency of the immediate past president.
Besides the fact that the sum for the stages have been incredibly inflated according to mobile stages industry experts, government investigators say there is no evidence as yet that any stage was purchased at all.
While the cost of mobile stages range in size and designs, only outlandish rock star musicians in Europe and the U.S. spend hundreds of thousands on their huge stages way bigger than the 40-feet stages. Even then, those musicians and super stars would not pay over $2m per stage, according to industry sources.
The process of procurement of the three mobile stages was neither known to extant Nigerian laws and due process regulations, nor were the offices of the Auditor-General and the Accountant-General in the know, according to investigators.
“There are no records of this purchase which was carried out in late 2011,” says an authoritative source.
This purchase was carried out only few months after Mr. Jonathan won a general election for a full term after having completed the term of late President Umaru Yar’adua.
A competent source said that at the centre of the fraudulent financial ring was the former Chief Security Officer (CSO) to President Jonathan, Gordon Obuah, who initiated a memo to the former president on October 17, 2011 asking for the purchase of three mobile stages.
He said in that memo to the former president that this is regarding “my earlier discussion with Your Excellency on the security implication of your public appearances and your subsequent directive on the need to procure a secured presidential platform”.
And on the same day, without any financial advise or purchase order reviews, the former president minuted an approval of the request to buy the three stages to the then Minister for Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke.
In his minute, the president said “we have discussed this, please deal.”
Right after that okay from the president, on the same October 17, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Administrative Matters, Matt Aikhionbere did another letter on the strength of the president’s approval requesting the Petroluem Minister to take action on the request to purchase the stages for $6.9m.
By the next month, an NNPC payment voucher number 3840336 was already in place revealing that the money was released.
The NNPC directed that the money be taken from one of its accounts in New York CITIBANK with sort code CITIUS 33, and Routing number 021000089.
It was first routed from the US bank to an NNPC account in Zenith Bank account number 5000026593, Maitama branch in Abuja, from where the money was sent to a private account.
The sum of $6.9m was then credited to a Sterling Bank account of one J. Marine Logistics Limited, Abuja, a company investigators say was registered by Obuah.
The CSO himself according to investigators have not been able to show proof of the purchase and his memo irked his bosses at the SSS that he took the initiative to write requesting for the stages, an action officials say was way above his pay grade.
Said an official of one of the security agencies conducting the investigation, “it is not the duty or responsibility of the CSO to make the determination on that purchase. He was meant to have informed the service, which will then review the situation and act accordingly.”
The source continued: “What has happened here is that the former president and the former minister with the collusion of the CSO decided to dip their hands into the public till and steal public funds for other purposes since no one has found the stages as we speak.”
The source said specifically that the $6.9miilion in question was promptly paid on November 29, 2011 into a private account belonging to the former CSO.
“The former president approved the procurement of the mobile platforms without due process, bypassing the Procurement Act.
“There was also no appropriation in the 2011 budget for such facility,” investigators said.
The source added that neither the minister of Finance nor the Director-General of the Budget Office was aware of the deal.
Investigators say this is just one of the several instances where the Jonathan administration used secret NNPC accounts to fund many questionable projects and for alleged personal financial aggrandizement.
Already the CSO has been questioned over his role and activities in the Jonathan presidency. It would be recalled that he was arrested, detained, questioned and later released.
Former President Jonathan and Mrs. Alison-Madueke could not be reached for comments.
But when contacted by PREMIUM TIMES, Mr. Obuah denied initiating or engaging in any such transaction.
“The allegation is totally false and baseless,” the former CSO said through his lawyer, Andrew Itsekiri.
“There was nothing like that. No such memo was initiated and no such money was released to him. They are just levying allegations they cannot substantiate against him.
“It is one of the allegations he was confronted with by the SSS, and it was found that they were pack of lies. Let NNPC come out with the records that any such funds were released to him.”
There has been considerable pressure mounted on the Buhari administration regarding its determination to probe allegations of corruption in the past, including from the National Peace Committee headed by the former Head of State, General Abdusalami Abubakar.
A member of that committee, Bishop Mathew Kukah, is also known alongside Mr. Abubakar and others in the Committee to have been involved in attempts to mellow-out the resolve of President Buhari in his determination to probe and deal decisively with tremendous corrupt practices especially during the last six to eight years.
Reecall that at the June 29 meeting of the National Economic Council at the state House, the council raised questions over the non- remittance of the finances generated by the NNPC into the federation account.
NEC found that whereas the NNPC claimed to have earned about N8.1trillion in the last two years, what NNPC paid into the Federation Account during the same period was about N4.3 trillion, keeping the balance in its several secret accounts, allowing the former president and his cronies access to such unknown accounts to do as they please.
Consequently, NEC set up a four-man committee to investigate the missing money.
The committee, made up of Governors of Edo, Kaduna, Akwa Ibom and Gombe, submitted an interim report to NEC but in addition appointed financial experts to conduct forensic audit of the accruals into the federation account and the withdrawals from the excess crude account.
Also President Buhari, in an attempt to plug some of the procedural loopholes that facilitate and encourage corruption, directed that all revenue-generating agencies of goverment, including NNPC should now pay all revenues to a Treasury Single Account, TSA.
TSA makes it rather difficult to hide government revenues from any agency, and procedurally discourages a situation where the president can be accessing a secret slush account without the knowledge of the entire public finance process as was the case in this bogus $6.9m purchase of mobile stages.