Arms Contract Scandal: Senator Saraki Blackmailed CBN Officials To Pay N250 Million Hush Funds
SaharaReporters has learned that Senate President Bukola Saraki blackmailed officials of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to hand him N250 million as “hush” funds after the senator had found out that ex-President Goodluck Jonathan had illicitly approved N60 billion for the former National Security Advisor (NSA), Sambo Dasuki, to purchase “arms.” A source, who is a senior CBN official, disclosed that bank officials paid the sum to Mr. Saraki, who was not the Senate President at the time, to ensure that he and other senators kept silent about the irregular withdrawals by the NSA and the Jonathan administration.
Our source also revealed that some officials of the Central Bank of Nigeria had quietly resisted several attempts by officials of the Jonathan administration to carry out large-scale theft of funds from the national treasury in the name of fighting Islamist insurgent group, Boko Haram insurgents.
A CBN whistleblower made available to our correspondent a hurriedly typewritten document that detailed how ex-NSA, Mr. Dasuki, requested tranches of dollars from the bank after obtaining approval from former President Jonathan between February and March this year.
According to the document, in third week of February 2015 the former NSA requested for $250 million from the CBN, but got $200 million. In the fourth week of February, the NSA put in a request for $150 million but received $125 million.
In the first week of March 2015, with Nigeria’s postponed elections a few weeks away, the NSA made a request for another $250 million, but only got $204 million. In the second week of March, Mr. Dasuki again called for $250 million, but the CBN provided $104 million and N3 billion.
According to the whistleblower, Abbas Umar Masanawa who was appointed as the Executive Director in charge of Finance and Strategy at the Nigerian Minting Company by the Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele as soon as he resumed as CBN governor in 2014 played a major role. Our source said Mr. Abbas then oversaw “the printing of an unprecedented amount of naira by the Mint,” adding “the printed cash was passed on to President Jonathan.” Masanawa was key aide of Mr. Emefiele while he was the MD of Zenith Bank before he got appointed to the Mint.
The source told SaharaReporters that Mr. Jonathan and former NSA Dasuki withdrew close to $600 million from the Central Bank of Nigeria within a period of three to four weeks. He said the funds were mostly used for election purposes.
Yesterday, a news website, TheCable, published details of the illegal withdrawal of N60 billion from the CBN as well as the theft of public funds from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). TheCable alleged that a Nigerian senator, on learning about the illegal withdrawals, threatened CBN officials that he would reveal the questionable payments unless they gave him N5 billion. The site, which did not name the senator in question, stated that he was now a principal officer of the Senate.
But a source at the Nigerian Presidency told SaharaReporters that the person in question was then Senator Bukola Saraki, who is now Senate President. Although TheCable did not disclose if the senator got paid the hush funds or not, SaharaReporters learned that, as recently as May 2015, Mr. Saraki received N250 million from CBN officials. The cash transfer was deemed part of the hush payment to ensure that Mr. Saraki keep quiet about the questionable withdrawals ostensibly meant for arms purchases.
Our Presidency source suggested that Mr. Saraki got wind of the illegal transactions through a CBN staff loyal to the ousted CBN Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. Mr. Sanusi, who is now the Emir of Kano, is a close friend of Senator Saraki with whom he attended school. During the period in question Saraki had become a fierce opponents of President Jonathan haven dumped the PDP and with attempts made by the regime to kick him out of the Senate.
Our source also stated that Mr. Saraki’s blackmail of CBN officials also included a demand that the CBN approve Heritage Bank’s takeover of Enterprise Bank as recently as August 2015. Senator Saraki has significant equity stake in Heritage Bank.
Apparently basking in his ability to compel the CBN to do his bidding, Mr. Saraki urged the bank’s top officials to remove the National Assembly from the Treasury Single Account policy, even after President Muhammadu Buhari had explicitly refused to allow that exclusion. In an apparent attempt to force the hand both of the CBN and President Buhari, one of Mr. Saraki’s closest allies, Senator Dino Melaye, raised an alarm accusing the government of stealing N25 billion from the TSA via a remittance fee charged by a third party company that had been hired by President Jonathan’s administration.
But when the Senate set up a probe committee to look into the alleged fraud, it could not find proof that any money was missing.