Diverted PHCN Funds: EFCC Seizes N6.8bn From Jonathan’s Cousin, Firm
This is not the best of time for Roberts Azibaola, a cousin to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has frozen N6, 811, 846,443.05 found in the accounts of some companies belonging to him and Bestworth Insurance Brokers Ltd.
The frozen cash was part of the N27, 188,232,208.20 benefits of the deceased staff of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), which were diverted.
This is coming a week after soldiers sealed off the construction site of Kakarta Civil Engineering Limited owned by him for alleged security threat.
The army authorities said the site shares boundary with the Lungui Barracks of the army on the Kubwa/Asokoro Expressway, Abuja.
Of the N27, 188,232,208.20, the sum of N951,637,223 was deducted as Value Added Tax (VAT) and Wihtholding Tax and paid through Diamond Bank and UBA Plc for direct credit to the Federal Inland Revenue Service(FIRS).
About N26, 236,594,986 was allegedly looted by some top officials of the Jonathan administration, while N1.8billion was spent on the purchase of vehicles for the Goodluck Jonathan Campaign Organisation.
The commission also confirmed yesterday the seizure of a N585million property which the Chief of Staff to the ex-President, Brig. Gen. Jones Oladehinde Arogbofa (rtd) allegedly bought with his share of the diverted cash.
Another N1billion from the N26.236b cash was allegedly paid to Kebna Studios and Communication Nigeria Ltd controlled by a former Director-General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Mr. Benjamin Ezra Dikki.
These highlights were contained in the findings of the EFCC in its ongoing probe of the alleged looting of the terminal benefits of the defunct PHCN.
Those under probe are Arogbofa; Dikki; Kebna Studio and Communication Limited; a former Accountant-General of the Federation, Otunla Dapo; the Managing Director of Kakatar Group, Azibaola Roberts; Director of Funds in the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, Mohammed K. Dikwa; Innovative Alternative Limited and a top official of Bestworth Insurance Brokers Limited who was said to be on the run as at press time.
The EFCC said in part: “Sometimes in 2014, the above named conspired amongst themselves and used Bestworth Insurance Brokers Ltd to divert N27,188,232,208.20 from the Federal Government of Nigeria through the BPE.
“The said account was originally approved to be released to Great Nigeria Insurance Plc (GNIP) as Group Premium Insurance (death and accident) claim to the next- of- kin of ex-PHCN staff who died in service and those that suffered incapacitation to accidents.
“Both covert and overt investigations aimed at determining the veracity of the information were discretely carried out into the Insurance Brokers Ltd domiciled with Skye Bank, Unity Bank and Keystone Bank.
“Efforts were also made to locate, identify and profile the operation of the company at both their Kaduna and Lagos offices.
“Consequent upon this, Benjamin Ezra Dikki (former DG of BPE) and Brig. Gen. Jones Oladehinde Arogbofa (rtd), erstwhile Chief of Staff to the President, Federal Republic of Nigeria were indicted in connection with N1.5b traced to their benefit. The totality of these efforts led to the following findings:
“That the FGN decided to privatize the PHCN through BPE. The proceeds from sales were remitted to the OAGF.
“That the Federal Ministry of Power and the Federal Ministry of Labour in a bid to resolve a dispute emanating from the staff of the PHCN over unpaid insurance claims diverted the matter to BPE which advised that the claim be paid from the proceeds of the privatized PHCN.”
The EFCC gave the details of how the fraud was perpetrated by convincing the National Council on Privatization (NCP) to approve the disbursement of the funds.
The report added: “The National Council on Privatization (NCP) during its 3rd meeting held on 4th August 2014, amongst others, recommended the release of N27,188,232,208.20 to Great Nigeria Insurance Plc as settlement of insurance claim which the President approved.
“Based on the above, on the 10th December 2014, the sum of N26,236,594,986 was released to Bestworth Insurance Brokers Ltd of J415 Ibadan Street, Kabba Road, Kaduna.
“The principal proprietor of the company is yet to be arrested and the sum of N951,637,223 only deducted FIRS VAT and WHY was paid through Diamond Bank and UBA Plc for direct credit to FIRS.”
The EFCC said it has frozen about N6.8billion in more than nine accounts and seized a N585million property from the ex-Chief of Staff.
It said: “Bestworth Insurance Brokers Limited maintains a corporate standard current Ac No. 1771645118 with Skye Bank Plc; Ac No. 0025251085; 0025860162; 0025872242 with Unity Bank and Ac. No 1040199787, 10052599665, 05102001142, 107102000361; 10440359482 with Keystone Bank Plc. An order has been obtained from a court of competent jurisdiction to freeze these accounts to aid recovery.
“Further investigation disclosed that the insurance broker distributed these funds to various companies including Kakatar Group controlled by Azibaola Roberts, a cousin to former President Goodluck Jonathan into whose account the sum of N2.5bn was paid.
“This commission has traced and frozen the sum of N2bn in the accounts at S/No (f) above in a related cased being investigated involving Kakatar Group while suspect charged to court.
“Additionally, the sum of N150m was traced to a property purchased by Brig. Gen. Jones Oladehinde Arogbofa (rtd), Chief of Staff to the former President Goodluck Jonathan.
“The said property was bought at N585m. Investigation has established money laundering offences against the suspect as more than half of the payments were cash-based transaction. Property has been sealed pending conclusion of investigation.
“Similarly, the sum of N1bn paid in four installments was traced to Kebna Studios and Communication Nigeria Ltd controlled by Benjamin Ezra Dikki, former DG of BPE.
“The sum of N300million was equally traced to Dilly Motors Ltd who produced documents that indicated delivery of vehicles to the Goodluck Jonathan Campaign Organisation worth N1.8b and that part of these included the said money traced to the company.
“This commission has recovered 36 brand new vehicles and more than 100 motorcycles parked at a facility in Mabushi Area of Abuja. Investigation has established a direct link between the recovered vehicles and the N300m paid to Dilly Motors Ltd.
“Meanwhile, a credit balance of N2,004,846,443.05 traced to Bestworth Insurance Brokers Ltd. Skye Bank Acct No: 17711645118 has been frozen. Forfeiture proceedings shall be initiated for the purpose of full recovery.
“Other transfers made to accounts of Bestworth Insurance Brokers Ltd domiciled with Unity Bank Plc were also traced and the sum of N2,507,000,00 found in the accounts were frozen for possible recovery.
“The investigation is yet to be concluded. The development is however worrisome as persons entrusted with the keys to the nation’s treasury conspired amongst themselves to loot hapless citizens and the families of the deceased employees of PHCN of their much-needed benefit”.