An investigation by SaharaReporters has revealed that embattled Senate President, Bukola Saraki, engineered a petition to the Senate by a convicted criminal, George Uboh, alleging that the leadership of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had embezzled more than N1 trillion in assets seized in corruption cases.
Sources at the EFCC, Senate and in the UK claimed that Mr. Saraki encouraged Mr. Uboh to submit a petition to the Senate blackmailing the anti-corruption agency after the senator learned on a recent trip to the United Kingdom that the EFCC had contacted the London Metropolitan police to assist in a widened money laundering investigation targeting the senator.
A US court once convicted Mr. Uboh, an older brother of a former member of the House of Representatives, Doris Uboh, for engaging in credit card fraud. US authorities had also indicted him for dealing in narcotics, but the narcotics charges were later dropped.
In 1992, U.S. law enforcement agents carried out a major raid on a credit card and bank fraud ring led by George Uboh in Georgia. US prosecutors identified Mr. Uboh as the ringleader of the syndicate. Doris Uboh’s names appeared as number 7 on the indictment list, and she was charged on four counts of felony charges. She fled the US to Nigeria, later manipulating her way into the House of Reps.
The case against the Ubohs and their co-conspirers was assigned docket number 92-cr-00041-GET-JRS and was listed as USA v. Uboh et al. The Uboh siblings and 27 others were charged with varying degrees of felonious fraud.
The case wound through US courts from 1992 to 1998. Though the U.S. government issued a motion to dismiss the charges with regard to Doris and others in 1998, the case was re-opened in 1999. However, by that time Ms. Uboh had fled the U.S. Her flight led U.S. prosecutors to declare her a “fugitive.”
Mr. Saraki, who in June became the Senate president after striking a deal with the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has long been a suspect in money laundering crimes dating to the infamous looting of funds from Societe Generale Bank, a bank in which his family had controlling shares. EFCC agents had also accused Mr. Saraki of engaging in a systematic embezzlement of public funds during the two terms he was governor of Kwara State.
After the end of his governorship tenure, the Senate president was accused by the Nigerian police Anti-Fraud unit of defrauding banks of billions of naira through fraudulent loans and other schemes involving his business interests.
The EFCC recently quizzed Mr. Saraki’s wife, Toyin Saraki, for two days. Following the extensive interrogation, the EFCC sought the cooperation of the London Metropolitan police to widen its investigation.
“The bulk of money involved in our investigation [of Mrs. Saraki] was laundered using credit cards and with the purchase of properties in the UK,” an EFCC agent said.
In 2007, as Mr. Saraki and a host of former governors faced investigation by the then Nuhu Ribadu-led EFCC, Mr. Saraki and former Governor James Ibori of Delta State connived with then Inspector General of Police, Mike Okiro, to remove Mr. Ribadu from his post. With their nemesis, Ribadu, elbowed out, Mr. Saraki and Mr. Ibori prevailed then President Umaru Yar’Adua to hire their lackey, Farida Waziri, to head the anti-corruption agency. An EFCC source told SaharaReporters that Mr. Saraki also persuaded Mrs. Waziri to employ several police officers close to him at the EFCC. The officers pushed by the senator included, Abdulkadiri Jimoh, a police officer very close to him.
A Senate source told SaharaReporters that Mr. Saraki was furious when the EFCC leadership refused to honor a summons he sent out to various agencies. The EFCC had declined to attend the questionable meeting on the strength of advice by their lawyers that Mr. Saraki did not have the constitutional right to summon the agency in the guise of a “courtesy call.”
Shortly after the EFCC publicly spurned Mr. Saraki’s summons, the agency invited his wife for what one agent described as “two days of grueling interrogation.” Mrs. Saraki had arrived at the EFCC with a horde of serving lawmakers and other backers led by Dino Melaye who claimed that he was present as a “private investigator”.
SaharaReporters learned that Mr. Uboh’s so-called petition against the EFCC was routed through Peter Nwaoboshi, a first-term senator from Delta State. “It was sent through Senator Nwaoboshi in order to give the impression that the Senate president had no hand in it,” a source at the Senate told SaharaReporters.
Our sources said Mr. Uboh’s spurious petition was part of Senator Saraki’s broad agenda to undermine the EFCC and bring the agency to its knees. “The whole plan is to checkmate us so that we won’t be able to finish the investigation of his wife and to possibly charge her,” said an EFCC source.
One senator told SaharaReporters that Mr. Uboh’s petition, already scheduled for hearing, was not routed through the normal channels at the Senate. “They just sneaked the thing in the petition through the backdoor when the entire Senate was on vacation,” the senator said.
Saraki’s plan to probe the EFCC is being tested for the second time in the last two months as an earlier attempt failed during a plenary session recently. The EFCC as a statutory agency of the Nigerian government is due to present an annual report to the Senate in September 2015.