EFCC Arrests Jonathan’s Cousin Over $40m ONSA Contract Scam
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has arrested the cousin of former President Goodluck Jonathan, Mr. Azibaola Robert over a $40m pipeline contract.
Roberts, who was arrested alongside his colleague Dakoru Atukpa, is the Managing Director of Kakatar Construction and Engineering Company Limited and One-Plus Holdings.
The EFCC arrested Roberts and Dakoru on March 23 as part of the ongoing probe of 300 companies involved in phantom contracts at the ONSA.
The contract, it was learnt on Wednesday, was awarded by the Office of the National Security Adviser under the leadership of Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.).
It was gathered that the EFCC arrested Roberts and Dakoru on March 23on the allegation of diversion of $40m public funds through Oneplus Holdings, a sister company of Kakatar Construction and Engineering Company Limited.
Robert has, however, described his arrest as a witch-hunt, insisting that the contract was transparent.
His lawyer, Gordy Uche (SAN), accused the EFCC of embarking on a vendetta mission against the ex-President.
He said Roberts is being persecuted because of his blood link with Jonathan.
It was gathered that as at last night, the suspects, who could not meet their bail terms, were still with the EFCC.
A source in the commission said: “The suspects were arrested in respect of payment of $40million by ONSA for a contract which was tagged as purchase of tactical equipment for Special Forces.
“When they interacted with our investigators, they could not explain what the contract was meant for. They said they used the money to pacify militants in the Niger Delta.
“Even though we wanted to accept their claim, there is no documentary evidence to show how the $40m contract was awarded, how it was disbursed and the list of beneficiaries.
“The case is not about being a blood relation of a former President or not. Is he the only relation of the ex-President?
“We are looking into payments made by ONSA and $40miilion was advanced without any record of how the contract or how it was awarded or done.”
The Head of Media and Publicity at the EFCC, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, who confirmed the investigation of Jonathan’s cousin and Dakoru, said the agency had been fair in investigating the $40million.
He said: “It is true that they are being held and investigation is still ongoing.
“But two days after their arrest, they were offered administrative bail with two sureties who must be of the rank of director in the civil service. The sureties were expected to provide evidence of tax payment and N250million bank guarantee.
“ But the suspects failed to produce any surety, which made the commission to legally approach a court for an order to detain them.”
The suspects’ lawyer, Gordy Uche (SAN), in a statement in Abuja, accused the EFCC of embarking on a vendetta mission against former President Goodluck Jonathan.
He said the Federal Government is still owing his client $4million being balance of the contract sum for “successfully securing oil pipelines which saw Nigeria reap billions of US dollars from increased oil production”.
He asked the commission to “either charge my clients to court or release them on bail.”
Uche said: “My client(Roberts) is being persecuted and punished because of his DNA, as a relative of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.
“My clients(Roberts and Dakoru) are innocent until proven guilty, according to the laws of Nigeria. So, their continuous detention is a breach of their fundamental human rights as free citizens of Nigeria. The appropriate thing for the EFCC to do in this circumstance is to release them now or charge them to court.”
Uche accused the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) of shirking its responsibility for the payment of the outstanding $4m due to his client as honorarium for an assignment which he said his client helped the Federal Government execute and for which the government reaped billions of dollars in return.
“It is impunity and breach of their fundamental human rights. We have a civil dispute and then you turn around to lock up the party with whom you have a dispute. Then, you go ahead to give him impossible bail conditions.
“Two federal serving directors each with properties in Maitama or Asokoro and the original of their Certificate of Occupancy; the four directors are also required to present bail bonds of N250m each from reputable banks. Robert and Atukpa are also required to deposit their international passports.
“Which serving director in Nigeria today has property in Asokoro or Maitama district, and can boast of N250million? It’s like saying bring the bones of your grandmother alive before we grant you bail.
“The annoying thing is that while we were working to fulfill the bail conditions, the EFCC went to court and obtained a remand order, which means that the commission never intended to grant them bail in the first place.
”If the NSA has a civil complaint against our client for ‘breach of contract’ and wants refund of money, the best thing to do is to file a civil complaint and allow an impartial judge to determine the case on merit.
“The EFCC is insisting that Oneplus Holdings should show proof of work done, including receipts of payments made to third parties from the proceeds of the said contract, or in the alternative refund the $40m to government coffers. It is for this reason that Robert and Atukpa have been held captive and locked up incommunicado by the EFCC for over two weeks.
“On assumption of office, President Muhammadu Buhari set up a presidential panel to investigate all contracts awarded by the Jonathan administration from 2011 to 2015.
“ The committee investigated contracts of 300 firms and individuals and made far-reaching recommendations, which include refund of money, further investigation, etc.
“Oneplus Holdings was recommended for further investigation, which meant the committee had reservations on the execution of the contract, even when it was clear the company appeared before the presidential committee and provided all the information it requested.
“However, of great concern is why Oneplus Holdings was singled out of the 300 companies and individuals for its immediate action.
“ “If you look at that list (of the presidential committee), Oneplus is neither number one nor the last on it. So, why pick on Oneplus Holdings first?”