28 April 2016, Abuja — The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has arrested the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Fidelity Bank Plc, Mr. Nnamdi Okonkwo, and some officials for allegedly receiving $115m from a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke.
The EFCC also arrested the bank’s Head of Operations, Mr. Martins Izuogbe, for his role in the alleged scam, which the anti-graft agency described as unprecedented.
A reliable source in the commission on Wednesday told our correspondent on condition of anonymity that during the build-up to the 2015 presidential election, Diezani invited Okonkwo to help her handle some cash, which would be disbursed to electoral officials and groups.
The source disclosed that the fraud was uncovered when the EFCC began investigations into how officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission in Rivers, Delta and Akwa Ibom states received N675.1m.
The detective said, “The MD of Fidelity Bank has been arrested and is currently in our custody. During investigations into the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioners, we got a major breakthrough as funds disbursed were traced to Fidelity Bank.
“We invited the MD, who then confessed to us that during the build-up to the presidential election, Diezani invited him to a meeting in Abuja. Diezani told him that some companies would deposit some funds in his bank and that she would give him further instructions on how the funds would be disbursed.
“The first company, Auctus Integrated, deposited $17,884,000 into the bank. The second company, Northern Belt Gas Company, deposited $60m while another company, Midwestern Oil, and Gas, deposited $9.5m. A fourth company, Leno Laitan Adesanya, deposited $1.85m while the MD himself received $26m in cash.”
The source alleged that Diezani’s son, Ugonna Madueke, later served as a middleman between the former minister and the MD of the bank.
He said it was Diezani’s son who forwarded the names of the beneficiaries of the funds, which included INEC officials and several interest groups as well as election monitors, who were expected to compromise the electoral process.
He said, “The MD said it was Diezani’s son that sent him a list of beneficiaries which included several INEC officials and election monitors across the 36 states. Diezani specifically instructed that the funds be disbursed at least a day or two before the elections. The total amount of money was $115m and Diezani told the bank to convert the funds into naira, which was about N23.3bn at the time.
“However, the suspects told us that the volume of money was too big and they had problems converting the funds. So, Diezani told the bank MD to use the bank’s funds and hold on to the dollars as collateral and that after elections, the bank could use the dollars to replace the bank funds.”
The source stated that Diezani did not operate any account with the bank and wondered why Okonkwo would allow himself to be used in such a manner.
“He may be charged with conspiracy once we are done with investigations,” the source said. The PUNCH had reported that a wristwatch worth £600,000 was seized from Diezani during a raid on one of her houses.
The ex-minister, who is currently battling cancer, was last year arrested by the National Crimes Agency in the United Kingdom for sundry allegations.
Under her watch as one of the former President Goodluck Jonathan’s most powerful ministers, dubious oil marketers stole trillions of naira of oil subsidy money.
The then Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi (now the Emir of Kano), alleged that $20bn was missing from the account of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, an allegation which led to his suspension and replacement.
She had, however, denied all allegations of corruption leveled against her. The family lawyer, Oscar Onwudiwe, who had, in a statement, denied allegations against the former minister, said, “The Madueke family, like most other families, has its own challenges. For instance, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke has been receiving treatment for cancer in the UK.”
All attempts to speak with the spokesperson for Fidelity Bank, Mr. Ejike Ndiulo, proved abortive as his telephone indicated that it was switched off.
However, a senior official of the bank, who spoke with our correspondent on condition of anonymity, said the bank would issue a statement on Thursday (today).
“We don’t have all the facts of the case yet. However, we will issue a statement on the matter on Thursday,” he said.
*Eniola Akinkuotu – Punch