Ikoyi N43.4m: FG may seize Osborne Towers apartment
By: Yusuf Alli
•Lobbyists storm Villa for SGF, NIA DG
•Anxiety over Osinbajo panel’s report
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is considering pushing for the seizure of apartment 7B at Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos, from where it made the famous haul of $43million cash.
That will be in addition to its Friday application to the Federal High Court in Lagos for the final forfeiture of the money to the Federal Government.
The commission said that no one has come forward to claim the $43,449,947 (about N13 billion), N23, 218,000 and £27,800 (about N10.6milion) cash found in the apartment.
Already, lobbyists are finding their way to the Presidential Villa to plead for soft landing for the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal and the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Amb. Ayo Oke.
Some heads of security agencies are said to be canvassing a second opinion on the probe of Oke.
Ahead of the submission of the report of the Presidential Investigative Committee headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo tomorrow, there was anxiety last night among government officials who were implicated in the $43.4million haul.
Lawal is being probed over alleged N200million contract awarded to a company, Global Vision Limited, linked with him by the Presidential Initiative for the North East (PINE) for the clearing of ‘invasive plant species’ (weeds) in Yobe State.
Oke, on the other hand, is being investigated in connection with the $43.4million cash haul.
Investigation however revealed that apart from seeking the forfeiture of the $43.4million, EFCC might take over apartment 7B.
A reliable source in EFCC said: “The anti-graft commission will soon initiate moves to seize the apartment 7B in Osborne Towers in line with its mandate.
“The circumstances surrounding the purchase of the apartment have been faulted by this commission at a Federal High Court in Lagos.
“Therefore, we are set to invoke sections 26 and 28 of the EFCC (Establishment) Act 2004.”
“So, we are not only interested in the cash, we want to take over the apartment. But we are awaiting the decision of the committee bring led by the Vice President.”
Section 26 reads in part: (1) “Any property subject to forfeiture under this Act may be seized by the Commission in the following circumstances – (a) the seizure incidental to an arrest or search; or (b) in the case of property liable to forfeiture upon process issued by the Court following an application made by the Commission in accordance with the prescribed rules.(2) Whenever property is seized under any of the provisions of this Act, the Commission may – (a) place the property under seal; or(b) remove the property to a place designed by the Commission.
“(3) Properties taken or detained under this section shall be deemed to be in the custody of the Commission, subject only to an order of a Court.
Section 28 reads: “Where a person is arrested for an offence under this Act, the commission shall immediately trace and attach all the assets and properties of the person acquired as a result of such economic or financial crime and shall thereafter cause to be obtained an interim attachment order from the Court.”
Sections 28 and 34 of the EFCC (Establishment Act) 2004 and Section 13(1) of the Federal High Court Act, 2004.”
It was also gathered that lobbyists have been mounting pressure on Presidency officials for soft landing for Lawal and Oke.
It was also learnt that the ongoing probe of the two officials has divided members of the kitchen cabinet of the President.
A source in the presidency said: “Even there is a split among the kitchen cabinet members on Lawal and Oke. The sympathy is more for Oke in view of his high rating in the intelligence community. He is considered a first class diplomat.
“As a matter of fact, Oke was the first to initiate the recovery of Abacha loot during the tenure of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo as a desk officer at the Nigerian High Commission in London. All attempts to make him compromise on Abacha loot failed.
“Of all the security chiefs, he was the only one who wrote an accurate report to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan that he would lose the 2015 presidential election to President Muhammadu Buhari at the risk of his job.
“This is why he was baffled when the $43.4million was linked to the campaign funds for Jonathan.
“Oke has also travelled with the President with his initiatives making the foreign trips of Buhari attracting investments.
“What the lobbyists, including some security chiefs, are saying is that Oke should not be humiliated out of office. They said he should either be allowed to go on voluntary retirement or compulsorily retired.
“Some security chiefs are of the opinion that Oke’s trial might set a dangerous precedent.”
Asked to be forthcoming, the presidency source said: “The whole thing is messy and complicated.”
But a source close to the panel said: “Oke has not satisfactorily answered three questions:
where he got the $43.4m from;
why was Apartment 7B bought in the name of his wife instead of NIA
how the cash got to Apartment 7B in Osborne Towers, Ikoyi instead of bank
“Oke actually admitted that NIA got $289million Special Intervention Funds for nine projects. He also said the $43.4million was part of the Special Intervention Funds.
“The NIA on Friday said it is normal to use proxy for classified actions whether the covert front is a relation or not is immaterial.”
But it could not be immediately ascertained what will be the fate of the SGF.
A third source said:”As for the SGF, the Senate report has made his fate more complicated. But these lobbyists are still reading political meanings into the report of the Senate.
“It is left to Buhari to take a final decision based on the findings of Osinbajo’s panel”
As the committee submits its report tomorrow, there was anxiety among some top government officials implicated in the $43.4m haul and PINE contracts.
“You seem to focus on the SGF and Oke but some officials were also implicated in all these.
“There is a system failure and all those involved might be sanctioned in one way or the other.
“This is why there is disquiet in some parastatals whose officers were implicated,” the source added.
Source: The Nation