Please, keep this as “top secret” as I am still in service and intend to retire after I conclude this deal with you. Please get back to me if you are interested and capable to handle this project while I shall intimate you on what to do when I hear your confirmation and acceptance…
Before I introduce myself, I know you may be surprised that I chose you but I believe it is only a day that people meet and become great friends and business partners. I am Chief Onyeoshi Barawo Gbajue, Special Assistant to the late Deputy General Manager in Charge of Loot Custody at the Central Bank of Nigeria. With due respect I have decided to contact you on a business transaction that will be very beneficial to both of us.
In April 2007, I was working in my office when I overheard the CBN Governor whispering to my boss to take custody of some sacks of money which turned out to be $15 million in cash. He said the money was from a State Governor who was trying to bribe the chairman of the anti-corruption agency. To confirm that this letter is genuine, you can just google the name James Ibori and $15 million. If you change the name to Nuhu Ribadu or Andy Uba or Chibuike Achigbu and add $15 million after it, you will understand that I am telling the truth and you can trust me. My boss subsequently put the money in a secret account in a commercial bank but unknown to him, I was able to photocopy the document so I also know the account details.
In June this year, my boss died in a plane crash on his way to Lagos (please google Dana Airlines) and since he did not reveal the details of the account to anybody, the bank has searched in vain for the money. To avoid another scandal like the fuel subsidy payment (you can google that one too), the federal government decided that since Nigerians might not believe if they say the $15 million is missing, an idea was struck for the EFCC to file an application in court for forfeiture of the money. That way, it would just be a matter of book keeping at the CBN.
Meanwhile, I know where the $15 million is deposited. The plan now is to transfer this money to a foreign account as soon as you indicate your interest and willingness to assist me and also benefit yourself to this great business opportunity. But this is urgent as our banking law and guideline in this country stipulates that if any money that is above $10 million remained unclaimed after six years, the money will be forfeited to the federal government and transferred to the treasury as unclaimed fund. So by next year April, it would be six years that my late boss put the money there.
I will not fail to inform you that this transaction is 100% risk free. On smooth conclusion, you will be entitled to 40 percent of the total sum while 10 percent will be set aside to take care of expenses that may arise during the time of transfer and also telephone bills. Another 10 percent will be set aside to bribe government officials who will stamp some papers while 40 percent will also be for me. Please, keep this as “top secret” as I am still in service and intend to retire after I conclude this deal with you. Please get back to me if you are interested and capable to handle this project while I shall intimate you on what to do when I hear your confirmation and acceptance…
The foregoing of course is a product of my imagination on what is now globally known as “Nigerian scams” to our collective shame as a nation. But I have never ceased to wonder why some people still fall prey to those badly written letters which any sensible reader should be able to discern could only have been a hoax. The reason of course is simple: greed, pure greed. Beyond greed, however, is also the fact that as outlandish as most of the stories may sound, when it comes to corruption, stranger-than-fiction things do happen here. And that is the only way to explain the controversy over the $15 Million that is now a subject of litigation with Delta State Government and some other parties laying claims.
The story began, at least in the public domain, following the arrest of the ex-Delta state governor, Chief James Ibori, in December 2007 by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Then Chairman of the commission, Mr. Nuhu Ribadu, disclosed at the time that he was offered a bribe of $15 million by the suspect to compromise the investigation. To buttress his point, he said he had deposited the said money at staffers of the apex bank has since confirmed that the loot is indeed with them.
Meanwhile, on a personal note, I started to hear stories concerning the $15 million as far back as July 2007, just about six weeks after I became Spokesman to the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. It was the former Chief of Staff, Major General Abdullahi Mohammed, who first drew my attention to it in a rather interesting circumstance, which compelled me to inform my boss. The latter said he was hearing the story for the first time and I, thereafter, asked General Mohammed to relate the matter to the late Yar’Adua since the name of former President Olusegun Obasanjo was involved in the narrative.
While I still find it very difficult to know what to believe about what the money was meant for, (having spoken with several of the principal characters), the only constant is that the $15Million indeed originated from Ibori. I wager that it could only have been from the Delta State Government treasury since he was, at least as at then, not known to be a fuel subsidy merchant! So if we surmise that the money was from the Delta State treasury (as the government in Asaba is now claiming), then it must have been stolen by Ibori. But the moral is: If a man was ready to surrender such a humongous amount of money either for “restitution” or as “bribe”, then only God (and the London Metropolitan Police) knows how much such a person would have hidden elsewhere.
Unfortunately, we seem to have moved from one level of greed to another. Just about three weeks ago, ten lawyers, including among them three Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN), filed an affidavit on behalf of Chief Chibuike Achigbu. The man claimed in the affidavit that the $15Million was in fact the N2 billion he “donated” to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the 2007 elections. The money was allegedly changed to United States dollars and given to Chief Andy Uba, then President Obasanjo’s Senior Special Assistant on Domestic Affairs but now a senator. It was Uba, according to the tale, who gave the money to EFCC for vetting!
You wonder why someone would so cynically criminalise himself but then this is Nigeria. To compound the issue, the patently corrupt affidavit was signed by lawyers, ten lawyers! Yet within 24 hours of filing the application, it was discontinued by the claimant through the same lawyers. No reason was adduced for the volte face. Senator Uba, after keeping quiet for a few days (apparently to test public opinion on the issue) also distanced himself from the suit, although he admitted that the $15 million transaction between Ibori and Ribadu took place in his house and he didn’t bother to ask questions as to what the deal was all about. Instructively, Achigbu would also dissociate himself from the controversial bribe case and by so doing disowned the lawyers who filed the affidavit. Unfortunately, these eminent lawyers cannot even defend their own integrity.
And then we have the Delta State Government that has unwittingly exposed Ibori by laying claim to the $15Million that the former Governor has consistently washed his hands off. Since the current Governor was the Secretary to the State Government at the material time, does it mean that he knows something about the transaction and if he did, how does that help Ibori’s claim and cause? This kind of desperation, also festered by greed, says so much about the judgement of Justice Mercel Awokulehin whose kangaroo court in Asaba was specially created to clear Ibori of the 170-count charges preferred against him by EFCC.
From whichever way one looks at this $15Million controversy, what one sees is how greed is fast becoming a way of life in our country. It is sad that we are increasingly building a society where many believe it is right and normal to make wealth without work. Everybody wants to buy a private jet without sweat. There are government officials who would abuse public trust without compunction; lawyers who would file frivolous affidavits while swearing to what they know to be lies and businessmen who would cook up any story in the bid to secure what does not belong to them. With so many people now on the take, it is no wonder that the world looks at Nigeria as the global headquarters of 419.
Yet majority of Nigerians are actually decent, hard working people who are being negatively stigmatized by a notorious minority that has taken over the critical institutions of state; and who are using same to give us a bad name on virtually all fronts.
PPD and Piracy
It was Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, who first drew my attention to the fact that my book, “Power Politics and Death: A front-row account of Nigeria under the late President Yar’Adua” had been pirated when he bought some copies on the streets of Lagos at ridiculous prices. That was about three months ago. Since then, in Abuja and several major towns across the country, you can get the book from vendors at any price if you can haggle. The problem is that what you are buying is not the original copy.
Incidentally, when I decided to write the book, I never anticipated that it would generate as much interest or that it would be as commercially rewarding as it has become. To that extent, I am really not bothered about pirates who have capitalized on the demand for the book to make money. But I believe I must warn that neither me nor the publisher is responsible for the copies some people buy on the streets. Right now, there are no more copies available but the publishers have made more orders and when they arrive I will announce for the benefit of readers who still write me for copies of the book.
This piece was first published in ThisDay.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.