.Security agencies probe purchase of mobile stages
•How NNPC secret account was used
Security agencies are now probing how the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan allegedly withdrew $6.9million (N1.460b) from a secret account of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation(NNPC) to buy three 12 meter (40 feet) mobile stages for use at public events.
The cash was said to be part of the unremitted funds into the Federation Account by NNPC.
The purported purchase, according to investigation, did not pass through due process and was known only to Dr. Jonathan, his then Chief Security Officer, Mr. O.J. Obuah and former Petroleum Minister Diezani Alison-Madueke.
Obuah, it was gathered, raised a memo to his boss for the purchase and the release of the money to that effect.
Jonathan allegedly gave his approval and authorized the former minister to disburse the fund.
Shedding light on how the deal was struck on October 17, 2011 through a curious memo from Obuah, a source familiar with the development said preliminary investigation suggested that there was no record of purchase of the said stages.
It was learnt that the $6.9million was paid into a company’s account after NNPC directed that the money be taken from one of its accounts in New York CITIBANK with sort code CITIUS 33, and Routing number 021000089.
The affected company, J. Marine Logistics Limited, Abuja, was purportedly registered by Obuah.
The source said: “Between himself, his Chief Security Officer and the former Petroleum Minister, former President Goodluck Jonathan spent in just one shot deal a whopping $6.9 million dollars to buy three 40-feet mobile stages for use at public speaking events.”
Federal government investigators and security agencies, sources added, believe this is just one of the tons of alleged corrupt practices frequently engaged in and condoned under the last president.
“Besides the fact that the sum for the stages was incredibly inflated, according to mobile stage industry experts, government investigators say there is no evidence yet that any stage was purchased at all,” one source said, citing several documents.
One of the documents says: “At the centre of the fraudulent financial ring was the former Chief Security Officer (CSO) to President Goodluck Jonathan, Mr. O.J. Obuah who initiated a memo to the former president on October 17, 2011 asking for the purchase of three mobile stages.
“He said in that memo to the former president that this is regarding “my earlier discussion with Your Excellency on the security implication of your public appearances and your subsequent directive on the need to procure a secured presidential platform.”
“And on the same day without any financial advice or purchase order reviews, the former president minuted his approval of the request to buy the three stages to the then Minister for Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke.
“In his minute, the president said ‘we have discussed this, please deal.”
“Right after that okay from the president, on the same October 17, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Administrative Matters, Matt Aikhionbere did another letter on the strength of the president’s approval requesting the Petroleum Minister to take action on the request to purchase the stages for $6.9m.
“By the next month, an NNPC payment voucher number 3840336 was already in place revealing that the money was released. NNPC directed that the money be taken from one of its accounts in New York CITIBANK with sort code CITIUS 33, and Routing number 021000089.
“It was first routed from the US bank to an NNPC account in Zenith Bank account number 5000026593, Maitama branch in Abuja, from where the money was sent to a private account. The sum of $6.9m was then credited to a Sterling Bank account of one J. Marine Logistics Limited, Abuja, a company investigators say was registered by Obuah.”
Responding to a question, the source said: “The $6.9miilion in question was promptly paid on November 29, 2011 into a private account belonging to the former CSO.
“The former president approved the procurement of the mobile platforms without due process and bye-passing the Procurement Act neither was there an appropriation in the 2011 budget for such facility.
“Neither the minister of Finance nor the Director-General of the Budget Office was aware of the deal.
“There are no records of this purchase which was carried out late 2011.”
The preliminary findings also indicated that the cost of the stages might have been inflated.
The source said: “According to the investigators, the cost of mobile stages depends on size and designs; only outlandish rock star musicians in Europe and the US spend hundreds of thousands on their huge stages way bigger than the 40-feet stages.
“Even then, those musicians and super stars would not pay over $2m per stage, according to industry sources.
“The process of procurement of the three mobile stages was not known to extant Nigerian laws and due process regulations, nor were the offices of the Auditor-General and the Accountant-General in the know.”
It was learnt that the deal was one of the issues for which the ex-CSO was grilled quizzed by the Department of State Security(DSS) during his recent arrest and detention.
One of the officials handling the investigation added: “ The CSO himself according to investigators has not been able to show proof of the purchase and his memo irked his bosses at the SSS that he took the initiative to request for the stages, an action which officials say was way above his pay grade.
“It is not the duty or responsibility of the CSO to make the determination on that purchase. He was meant to have informed the service, which will then review the situation and act accordingly.
“What has happened here is that the former president and the former minister with the collusion of the CSO decided to use public funds for other purposes since no one has found the stages as we speak.”
“This is just one of the several instances where the Jonathan administration used secret NNPC accounts to fund questionable projects and for alleged personal financial aggrandizements.”
It was gathered that some of these embarrassing issues were part of the matters raised by Jonathan with the National Peace Committee headed by the former Head of State, General Abdusalami Abubakar.
The committee later facilitated a secret parley between President Muhammadu Buhari and ex-President Jonathan.
But at the session, Buhari insisted that the law must take its course with anyone found guilty of corruption.
At the June 29th meeting of the National Economic Council at the State House, the council had raised questions over the non- remittance of the finances generated by the NNPC into the Federation Account.