The knotty question remained unanswered yesterday, but the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) moved the cash to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). Besides, it:
obtained a court order for the temporary seizure of the $43million, N23million and £27,000;
quizzed a former Managing Director of the Petroleum Products Marketing Company (PPMC), who was suspected of being the owner of the cash; and
planned to review the Close Circuit Television (CCTV) of the building to determine the identity of a “haggard-looking” woman who is said to have been bringing in sacks (suspected to be holding the cash) into the apartment.
The apartment on 6, Osborne Road, Ikoyi is under surveillance by EFCC operatives.
Although three highly-placed Nigerians have been linked with the seized cash, they have all denied having anything to do with the money.
They are a former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alh. Adamu Mua’zu; former PPMC boss, Esther Nnamdi-Ogbue, and the Senator representing Lagos West Senatorial District, Solomon Adeola.
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) yesterday sacked Nnamdi-Ogbue as part of the organisation’s ongoing reforms. But there were speculations that she may have been fired over the “missing” 130 million litres of fuel kept with Capital Oil and Gas Limited.
The EFCC, after a tip-off, recovered the money from an apartment in House 16, Osborne Road in Ikoyi on Lagos Island.
The anti-graft commission yesterday secured a court order of interim forfeiture of the cash.
The EFCC quizzed Nnamdi-Ogbue yesterday in Abuja over the cash.
Prior to her grilling, EFCC operatives raided her Maitama District home in Abuja.
She denied owning the $43.4million.
It was gathered that the invitation of the ex-NNPC director followed a report that she is a tenant in House 16.
According to EFCC, it sought for an interim forfeiture pursuant to Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and other related offences Act 2006.
A statement by the Head of Media and Publicity of EFCC, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, said: “Barely 24 hours after the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) uncovered the sums of $43,449,947, £27,800 and N23, 218,000 at an apartment in the Ikoyi area of Lagos, a Federal High Court in Lagos has ordered an interim forfeiture of the funds to the Federal Government.
“In his ruling on Thursday, Justice Muslim Hassan ordered anyone interested in the money to appear before him at the next adjourned date to show reason why the money should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
“The commission was also directed to publish in any National Daily for anyone to show cause within 14 days why the order of final forfeiture should not be granted. The Interim Forfeiture was obtained pursuant to Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and other related offences Act 2006.
“Operatives of the Commission on Wednesday, April 12, 2017, stormed a residential building on the seventh floor of a four-bedroom apartment on Osborne Towers located on 16,Osborne Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, where the large sums of money was uncovered
“The operation followed a whistle-blower confidential alert received by the Commission office in Lagos in the early hours of yesterday.
“The case was adjourned to May 5, 2017.”
As at press time, the EFCC was still searching for the owner of the cash.
The anti-graft commission quoted a witness as saying that the sacks were always brought by a haggard-looking woman.
Apart from the court order, the EFCC released the details of the recovery of the cash.
A separate statement added: “The operation followed confidential information received by the Commission’s Lagos office regarding some suspicious movement of bags in and out of a particular apartment in the building.
“Another source who is conversant with the apartment of interest indicated that a woman usually appeared on different occasion with Ghana Must Go bags. She comes looking haggard, with dirty clothes but her skin didn’t quite match her outward appearance, perhaps a disguise,” the source said.
“On getting to the building, operatives who were armed with a search warrant, met the entrance door locked. The guards at the gate explained that nobody resides in the apartment, but some persons come in and out once in a while. The EFCC operatives used minimum force to enter the apartment.
“Monies were found in two of the four-bedroom apartment. Further probe of the wardrobe by operatives in one of the rooms yielded three fire proof cabinets hidden behind wooden panels of the wardrobe.
“Upon assessing the content of the cabinets, neatly arranged US dollars, Pound Sterling and some Naira notes in sealed wrappers were found.”
There were indications that the EFCC might review the CCTVs in House 16 and nearby houses on Osborne Road to determine how the cash was brought into the house.
“We may also interact with the guards at the house and some neighbours with useful information on those behind the ferrying of the cash,” an EFCC source said.
Although three prominent people were allegedly linked with the money, they have all denied having anything to do with it.
They are a former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP), Alh. Adamu Mua’zu; a former Director of Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Esther Nnamdi-Ogbue, and the Senator representing Lagos West Senatorial District, Solomon Adeola.
Nnamdi-Ogbue, who spoke through her lawyer, Emeka Etiaba(SAN), frowned at the allegation.
She said there was no need for “conjecture”.
A statement by Etiaba said the former NNPC Director expressed hope that the anti-graft agency will in due course uncover the owner of the property and the huge sum.
The statement said: “By this Press Release, we inform the public (especially the News Media) that the said sums of money and/or the apartment where the sums of money were found do not belong to our client.
“Our client is as shocked as many other Nigerians at the uncovering and recovery of the said sums of money and wishes to salute the courage and efforts of the EFCC in the war against corruption.
“She also wishes to commend the whistle blowing policy introduced by the Federal Government in the fight against corruption which policy has resulted in large scale uncovering and recovery of monies and assets.
“It is our client’s belief that the source and ownership of the said uncovered sums of money is known or eventually will be known by the EFCC in due course. There is therefore no need for conjecture or speculation.
“May we finally implore the news media to be more circumspect in their publications.”
The Senator representing Lagos West Senatorial District, Mr. Solomon Adeola, yesterday expressed dismay over an online publication alleging his ownership of N15 billion in foreign and local currencies discovered by the EFCC.
The medium alleged that Adeola stashed the huge cash in anticipation of using the money to finance his gubernatorial ambition in one of the states of the Southwest.
His reaction was contained in a statement by his Media Adviser, Chief Kayode Odunaro.
He said the media report was “absolute lies and calculated blackmail to dent the image of the lawmaker”.
The statement said: “We are aware that the satanic report is conscious antics by some politicians, who are having sleepless nights in the rising profile of Senator Adeola, and his impeccable records as a grassroots democrat.
“These elements are hell bent on eliminating him in their paranoid political equation towards 2019.
“Senator Adeola does not own any house or apartment on Osborne Towers at Osborne Road, Ikoyi and could not have been the owner of the discovered cash in the apartment.
“The senator will in due course not hesitate to take legal action against anyone unjustly tarnishing his hard earned reputation and image pursuant of his fundamental rights under the constitution.
“ The EFCC as a credible anti-corruption organisation is doing its statutory duty and I am sure it will soon come out with details of the ownership of the discovered humongous cash.
“Senator Adeola as an APC Senator is fully committed to the anti-corruption agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari and APC.”
Mua’zu, who is overseas, was not willing to talk about the money.
An associate of his said: “The ex-PDP chairman was shocked by the revelation because he has nothing to do with the recovered cash.
“He said he will not talk to the media on it on the seized cash.”
As at press time, EFCC was grilling Mrs Nnamdi-Ogbue over the cash.
A source in the commission said: “Our operatives stormed her residence in Maitama in Abuja for a search and she was invited for interrogation.
“While quizzing her, she insisted that she had nothing to do with the cash.”