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Alleged N6.5bn fraud: Governor, Bank Chair, 6 others in trouble

Isola Moses

A serving governor in Nigeria is topping the list of suspects being investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for an alleged N6, 549,942, 637.14 fraud in an arms deal.

Under the EFCC scrutiny also, The Nation reports, are the immediate past Governor of Kogi State, Captain Idris Wada, a former Chairman of Skye Bank Plc (now Polaris Bank), Mr. Tunde Ayeni, Air Vice-Marshal Salihu Atawodi (Rtd.), and four others.

The source said the defunct Presidential Implementation Committee on Maritime Safety and Security (PICOMSS), headed by Atawodi, perpetrated the alleged fraud against the Nigerian state.

PICOMMS was set up between 2008 and 2012, and disbanded in 2013. The Prsidential Committee was mandated to guarantee safety on the seas and waterways.

In the arms deal, about N4.9billion cash was said to have been withdrawn from PICOMSS accounts without any specific project in mind.

The serving governor was alleged to have received   N1, 475, 144,199.15 cash for the purpose of lobbying members of the House of Representatives to convert PICOMSS into an agency. The name proposed was Maritime Security Agency.

Hitherto, the said governor was the Chairman, House Committee on National Security, Intelligence and Public Safety.

The state chief executive purportedly convinced Atawodi’s PICOMSS to part with the cash.

The sum received was such a top secret that a former Speaker was given a “ridiculous N1million” as his share.

Meanwhile, it was gathered, Saturday, January 25 that the EFCC might invite some former members of the House of Representatives, who benefitted from the bribe-for-bill cash from the governor, for questioning.

Sources further revealed initially, the governor was cooperating with the EFCC on the investigation, but declined to honour further invitation of the anti-graft agency two days before he was declared elected by the Supreme Court.

Currently, he is believed to be enjoying immunity from prosecution by virtue of his office, but he may still face trial after his tenure, stated a source.

The remaining seven key suspects are expected to be arraigned in court soon.

These include Mrs. Winifred Atawodi; Aeroconsult Limited, Xanatos Limited and a daughter of the ex-PICOMSS Chairman, Eleojo, who is under investigation.

Thus far, the EFCC has already blocked the following amounts in Mrs. Winifred Atawodi’s accounts: N141, 611, 736.8 and $228, 428.16 respectively.

Another N200million has been placed on Post No Debit (PND) in First Mutual Micro-Finance Bank traced to Purple Pepper Farms Limited allegedly owned by Atawodi’s daughter (Eleojo).

Also, about five hectares of land worth N245million have been seized from the Atawodis. The EFCC has also uncovered how $6.12million was invested by the Atawodis in Midland Corporate Investment Limited account with Sun Trust Savings and Loans Real Estate Limited.

From the cash, AVM Atawodi allegedly transferred $408,000 transferred to an auto firm in the United States called Hennessy Cadillac for exotic vehicles including a Rolls Royce.

About $808, 851 was located in Wells Fargo Bank 2 in the name of United International Enterprises.

Detectives have identified a house allegedly owned by Atawodi in Lot of the 17th District of Fulton County, in Georgia, at 3266 Ferncliff Lane, Atlanta, Georgia 30324, United States.

Despite the seizure of the passports of the Atawodis, one of the daughters has applied to travel abroad for medical treatment in order to sell the house in Atlanta.

The EFCC has also been alerted by some foreign collaborating anti-fraud agencies of plot by the daughter to sell the house.

Findings by detectives revealed that AVM Atawodi, his friends and immediate family feasted on the resources allocated to PICOMSS including donor agencies funds, the source revealed.

Others funding PICOMMS were the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), NIMASA, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and Ministry of Defence (MOD).

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