Ex-Accountant General, Customs boss refund N8b into FG coffer to escape prosecution
The duo of top retired civil servants, Accountant-General of the Federation, Jonah Ogunniyi Otunla, and Comptroller-General of Customs, Abdullahi Inde Dikko have disclosed how they refunded N8.2billion loot to the treasury.
It was reported that the government officials refunded the monies to avoid prosecution by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offenses Commission (ICPC).
Details of the refunds were revealed in court documents filed by the two former public officials. In the suits, the former public officers queried the decision of the anti-graft agencies to insist on prosecuting them on corruption charges after they were told to make refunds in lieu of prosecution.
Otunla claimed that the now-suspended acting Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, promised him that he would not be prosecuted should he return funds traced to him, companies linked to him, and his associates.
The companies are Gold Reef Industries Limited, Lambster Nigeria Limited, G.C. Electronic Limited, Sinmilak Nigeria Limited, Wehsac Farms Limited, Shepherded Field Global Resources Limited, and Stellavera Development Company Limited.
In the court papers, Otunla stated that sometime in 2015, he was invited by a team of EFCC investigators, probing alleged diversion of funds from the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) and the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) pension funds. He said he met with Magu in the course of the investigation when the then acting EFCC chair told him to “refund the monies linked to your companies and nobody will prosecute you.”
Otunla stated that based on Magu’s promise, he had a reconciliatory meeting with the investigator, where he immediately undertook to make available some funds as refunds.
In line with the agreement, Otunla said one of the companies linked to him – Stellar Vera Development Ltd refunded N750m; another company Damaris Mode Coolture Ltd refunded N550m, while the two firms later made an additional joint refund of N2,150,000,000.00. He added that, at a point, he raised several bank cheques for N10m in favour of the EFCC which he handed to its Economic Governance Section.
Otunla said in all he made a refund of N6,392,000,000.00 to the Federation Account through the EFCC.
In the court papers, Otunla is asking the court to, among others, hold that in view of the assurance given to him by Magu, which informed his refund of the money, he could no longer be prosecuted for his actions while in office.
On his part, former Customs boss, Dikko said he entered an agreement with the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami “to return $8m or its equivalent in naira atN197 to a dollar.” He explained, in one of the court documents, that shortly after he retired, he entered in an agreement on May 25, 2016 with the AGF and the Director General of the State Security Service.
The ex-Customs boss said he met with the two Federal Government’s representatives at the International Hotel, Park lane, Mayfair, London, during which Malami directed him “to return $8m or its equivalent in naira, at N197 to a dollar so as to prevent the Federal Government of Nigeria from prosecuting me.” He said he fully complied with the directive of the AGF by paying the money in its naira equivalent.
In a recent judgment, Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Federal High Court in Abuja, agreed with Dikko that he could no longer be prosecuted by the ICPC in view of the agreement with the AGF.