$28.2 Billion Rip-off: Falana Renews Push for IBB, Obasanjo Probe

With the Hurricane Corruption still hitting the All Progressives Congress (APC) administration under the watch of President Muhammadu Buhari hard, a renowned human rights activist and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, has again started to press for a probe of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and former Military President Ibrahim Babangida for allegedly ripping-off Nigeria of $ 28.2 billion.

Falana who is also a constitutional lawyer is asking for an immediate and comprehensive probe of the disappearance of the $12.2 billion under the military regime of Babangida, popularly known as IBB, and of the $16 billion allegedly spent on generating electricity in the country, under the Obasanjo administration, as promised by President Buhari.

The rights activist who claimed that President Buhari promised to probe the two past leaders, is equally demanding the president to tender an unreserved apology to Nigerians over his claim that the late military dictator, General Sani Abacha did not steal monies belonging to the Nigerian state.

The renewed agitation for IBB and Obasanjo probe is coming as the Federal Government has begun interrogation of those implicated in the alleged fraud that left over 65,000 Nigerian shareholders losing $2.00 billion worth of shares.

Those allegedly being drilled are former Budget and National Planning Minister, Udo Udoma and his Trade and Investment counterpart, Okechukwu Enelamah.

In Abuja, the country’s capital on Wednesday, a legal representative of the whistle-blower Chukwuemeka Obasi , said that the General Managing Director of Union Bank Nig Plc, Emeka Emuwa was also questioned.

According to him, the various representatives of all private and public institutions linked with the alleged fraud were also invited and quizzed, pointing out that the establishments mentioned in a petition on the matter included the Chapel Hill, National Security Exchange (NSE), Security Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

Their interrogation hinged on a petition dated April 3, 2019 reporting the alleged fraud to the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN.

Titled, Official Corruption, Misuse of FGN $2 billion, Fraud and Unjust Enrichment of Persons who Dispossessed More than 65,000 Nigerians and Conferred Ownership of the Bank on few Nigerians and their Foreign Accomplices, the petition fingered former CBN Governor, the embattled Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi II, under whose watch the fraud was allegedly perpetuated.

Also accused of complexities in the transactions were the two former ministers. Enelamah was particularly fingered as the mastermind of the transaction by allegedly leading Africa Capital Alliance to form the Mauritius shell company to house Nigerians pretending to be foreign investors.

The transactions allegedly dispossessed Nigerian shareholders and investors in order to transfer ownership of the bank to a few persons including insiders, chieftains of competitor banks and others who would not pass CBN’s ‘’fit and proper’’ test for bank ownership.

According to the petition, Enelamah allegedly organised the registration of the offshore shell company in Mauritius called Union Global Partners Limited for the purpose of disguising the true majority ownership of Union Bank shares concealed in the offshore company.

The transactions allegedly commenced under Udoma’s supervision as Chairman of Security and Exchange Commission and sealed up when he became the Chairman of Union Bank of Nigeria Plc. ‘’The circumstances can best be described as official corruption and insider trading’’, the petition alleged.

Continuing, the petition claimed that Udoma and other officials illicitly granted a renewable five year waiver to Union Bank of Nigeria to remain listed on the exchange in spite of being owned by a few private equity firms till today.

The alleged unlawful action was to ensure the more than 65,000 Nigeria former shareholders whose shares were diluted from 85 per cent to less than 15 per cent of public float to still be listed on Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE).

The rest of the petition reads: ‘’It is to be recalled that 49% shares of Union Bank of Nigeria plc is now majority owned and controlled by London listed Atlas Mara, the investment company led by Robert Diamond Jr.

‘’Diamond is a former Chief Executive Officer of Barclays Bank who was sacked for his involvement in manipulating Libor. Not only is Diamond not a fit and proper person to own a bank according to the rules of Nigeria, he had also been blacklisted by the Bank of England as a result of the Libor manipulation.

‘’One wonders how the former CBN Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi authorized the Union Bank change of ownership transaction and bridged it with USD two billion national patrimony,  in spite of glaring evidence of fraud and the nature of the ultimate foreign owner who was already known and waiting in the wings.

‘’There are evidence that Atlas Mara has visions of owning 100% of Union Bank of Nigeria plc which they can only achieve by buying shares warehoused by the few privileged Nigerians that acquired the bank in apparently unwholesome circumstances. Those few privileged Nigerians are now cashing in on their loot in transactions with Atlas Mara, at the expense of dispossessed Nigerians.’’

Official record however, has it that Atlas Mara controls 49 per cent control share of the bank which is in turn controlled by Fairfax Africa based in Canada and United States. Mauritius equally has a significant control right, because the offshore   shell company called Union Global Partners Limited (UGPL) is another significant owner that has sold and continues to offload its shares to Atlas Mara.

While Nigerians who were former shareholders of Union Bank of Nigeria are eagerly awaiting the outcome of this investigation, UGPL allegedly acquired 65 per cent of the bank in the odious transaction that dispossessed them.

The Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) was also allegedly compelled to divest its 20 per cent shares to Atlas Mara which the UGPL consortium was unable to pay for.

Falana however, renewed the call for the probe in Abuja at a one-day international conference on Agenda Setting for Citizens’ Interaction with Stolen Assets Recovery: Abacha Loot Recovery and Utilisation as Case study, organised by the Human Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA), in collaboration with ActionAid and Centre for Communication and Social Impact.

According to him, President Buhari had no reason to absolve late General Abacha, having recovered part of his looted funds. ‘’The President should apologize to Nigerians now that his government has been receiving part of the funds from countries where the funds were stashed’’, and accordingly urged the government to probe the former leaders who allegedly looted public funds.

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