Minister to Buhari: Why I didn’t support recovery of N300b stashed in banks by Nigerians
Minister to Buhari: Why I didn’t support recovery of N300b stashed in banks by Nigerians
The Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), has explained his role in the allegation levelled against him by one George Uboh over the recovery of some alleged funds stashed away by individuals in different Nigerian banks as well as some Ministries, Departments and Agencies.
This is contained in a letter Malami wrote to President Muhammadu Buhari through the office of the Chief of Staff, Alhaji Abba Kyari, and dated 4th April, 2016 with Reference Number HAGF/SH/2016/Vol.1/20 refuting the spurious allegations.
In a press release made available by his spokesman, Comrade Salihu Othman Isah, over the weekend, the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice described as false the claims by Dr. George Uboh that he deliberately frustrated him in his effort to recover the over N300 billion his company, Panic Alert Security Systems (“PASS”), traced to some Nigerian banks.
The Minister also stated as untrue the insinuations that he made an unholy alliance with the banking sector mafia not to cooperate with PASS, and/or that he promised Access Bank that he would call Dr. Uboh to soft pedal on the bank.
Malami had this to say: “I must state that the above allegations are untrue, incorrect, false, a figment of the imagination of the author and a smear campaign by Dr. Uboh to tarnish my name. I did not make, never made and will never make any alliance with anyone in and outside of the banking industry to frustrate PASS or any firm from recovering any FGN’s funds stashed/trapped in the listed banks or any bank or company in Nigeria or elsewhere.
“In demonstration of my firm commitment to the recovery efforts of the FGN, I gave PASS a letter titled: TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN dated 17th February, 2016, introducing PASS to the aforesaid banks/financial institutions.
“The aforesaid Letter of Engagement dated 9th February, 2016 and the subsequent Letter of Introduction dated 17th February, 2016 (“HAGF Letters”) were given to PASS on the firm understanding that PASS had already identified and/or traced specific FGN funds stashed/trapped in the aforementioned banks and that PASS would promptly embark on processes that would lead to actual recovery and remittance of the traced funds into the designated account of the FGN in line with the proposals submitted, presentations made and the terms contained in its letter of 9th February, 2016.”
On why he had to revoke the letter of engagement given to PASS, Malami said he took the action when he discovered that it was on window-shopping mission upon receipt of the letter by going beyond his brief, embarking on subtle threats to all Nigerian banks, some private individuals and entities solely to shop for data and information to execute the brief contrary to the representations made to the minister.
Malami’s averred: “In a manner that clearly demonstrated that PASS was merely on a voyage of information and window-shopping, PASS, upon receipt of the letters hereinabove mentioned, went to town and unilaterally expanded the scope of its brief far beyond the Thirteen (13) banks covered by his brief and embarked on subtle threats to all Nigerian banks, some private individuals and entities solely to shop for data and information to execute the brief contrary to the representations made to me.
“Its only defence for the ultra vires were the fraudulent, baseless, unsubstantiated and illogical inferences that my letter of introduction dated 17th February, 2016 has endlessly expanded/enlarged the scope of its instructions while in actual sense, the said letter was expressly issued ‘pursuant to a February 9, 2016’s letter of engagement’ earlier given to PASS.
“In support of the claims contained in paragraph 9 above, I was inundated with the excesses of Dr. George Uboh of PASS and later found out that PASS actually wrote several banks (more than Thirteen (13) banks), private individuals, corporate entities (national and multinationals), government agencies and virtually all FGN’s Ministries soliciting for data, information, official records, remittances (funds and stocks) and records of whereabouts of all forfeited assets not yet disposed by some of the FGN agencies, amongst other things.
“For the record, the entities, agencies and private individuals written by PASS in addition to the Thirteen (13) banks specifically/actually covered by its mandate include but not limited to the followings:
i. All Ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
ii. ALL Managing Directors of 25 Money Deposit Banks (MDBs) in Nigeria
iii. Managing Director, FSDH Merchant Bank Limited
vii. Managing Director, CitiBank Nigeria Limited
viii. Managing Director, FBN Holdings Plc
ix. Managing Director, Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON)
x. Immediate Past M.D, AMCON
xi. Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS)
xii. Former Chairman, Presidential Amnesty Committee
xiii. ALGON and some of its past and serving Executives
xiv. DG/CEO, National Identity Management Commission (NIMC)
xv. Chairman, Independent Corrupt Practices & Other Offences Commission
xvi. Inspector General of the Police (IGP)
xvii. Ag Managing Director, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC)
xviii. Managing Director, Petroleum Products Marketing Company (PPMC)
xix Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority, (NPA)
xxi. Ag Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)
xxii Immediate Past Comptroller General of Customs, Alhaji A. Dikko Inde
xxiii Immediate Past AGF & Minister of Justice, Mr. Bello Adoke, SAN
xxiv Ex Minister of State for Finance/Minister of Finance, Mrs Nenadi Usman
xxv. Immediate Past Governor of Akwa Ibom State,Senator Godswill Akpabio
xxvi Mr. Tony Chukwu (who allegedly executed contracts on behalf of NDDC)
xxvii Managing Director, Technip Offshore Nigeria Ltd.
xxviii Managing Director, Halliburton Energy Services Ltd.
Xxix Managing Director, Intels Nigeria Ltd.
xxx Managing Director, TransOcean
xxxi Managing Director, Marubeni Nigeria Ltd
xxxii Managing Director, Nobles Drilling Nigeria Ltd.
xxxiii Managing Director, Japanese Gas Corporation Nig. Ltd.
xxxiv Managing Director, Snamprogetti
xxxv Managing Director, SIEMEMS
xxxvi Managing Director, Julius Berger Nig. Ltd.
xxxvii Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria
xxxviii Accountant General of the Federation
xxxiv Immediate Past Executive Secretary, TETFUND, Prof. Sulaiman Bagoro and other individuals not covered by PASS’ letter of engagement.”
Comrade Salihu Othman Isah further added that, the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice also disclosed other excesses of Dr. George Uboh to include soliciting and/or requesting banks’ officials to allow him access to certain encrypted systems in order to enable him extract relevant information to execute the brief without appreciation of the security implications of such a delicate venture on Nigeria’s financial sector and without any prior discussions with and approval from me.
In addition, Malami hinted that the PASS boss was also going about the execution of the brief in such a manner that would clearly embarrass the Federal Government, hence his decision to revoke the letter of engagement in order to avert any likelihood of security breach of high magnitude in the banking sector.
He said: “I also gathered that Dr. George Uboh was soliciting and/or requesting banks’ officials to allow him access to certain encrypted systems in order to enable him extract relevant information to execute the brief without appreciation of the security implications of such a delicate venture on Nigeria’s financial sector and without any prior discussions with and approval from me.
“In view of acting outside the scope of its brief and given the ways and manners Dr. Uboh was going about the execution of the brief which was clear to me would embarrass the FGN, and in order to avert any likelihood of security breach of high magnitude in the banking sector, I exercised my power under the letter of engagement dated 9th February, 2017 by revoking the letter of engagement I earlier gave PASS vide my letter dated 24th March, 2016.
“My decision to revoke the instructions was further re-enforced by the startling revelations, which were not disclosed to me by the personality (Dr. Uboh) that was requesting for those sensitive materials from the banks that he was indeed an ex-convict prosecuted after US law enforcement agents carried out a major raid on a credit card and bank fraud ring led by George Uboh in Georgia in 1992. He reportedly came out of jail on 16th January, 2001.
“Your Excellency, permit me to state emphatically that I did not fail to recover the above captioned sum allegedly traced by PASS as alleged. The fact is that the terms of letter of engagement I gave to PASS on 9th February, 2016 did not only place a duty on PASS to trace funds trapped in the listed banks (which to all intents and purposes PASS did not do prior to my revocation of the letter of engagement of PASS for acting outside its brief), the said letter of engagement imposed on PASS duties to trace, recover and remit FGN’s funds trapped in the Thirteen (13) banks listed in paragraph 2 of the letter.
“I find it strange to read from PASS that I failed to recover the funds when it was clear that PASS had a duty to trace, recover and remit the funds with me providing requisite instructions and authority for PASS to do so which I did. To demonstrate my willingness, readiness and fidelity to the recovery exercise, I did not only give PASS a letter of engagement on the 9th February, 2016, I went further to give a letter introducing PASS to the Thirteen (13) banks covered by its brief on the 17th February, 2016, wherein I solicited the requisite cooperation, information and support of the banks to enable it carry out the recovery task on behalf of the FGN.
“Apart from the above, it is worthy of note that PASS did not submit any report to my office showing the tracing of the captioned sum or any sum at all upon which one could ascertain if PASS validly/actually traced the sum until after revocation of the engagement. Assuming without conceding that it traced, it was incumbent on it to recover and ensure remittance to the coffers of the FGN which never occurred during the subsistence of the engagement.
“Specifically, the allegation that Access Bank met with me and extracted words of promise to the effect that I would talk to Dr. Uboh to soft pedal on the bank is unfounded and baseless. I state it with all sense of responsibility that no official of any Bank or anyone acting for the Access Bank or any other bank met with me in connection with PASS’ brief or any other recovery briefs. To allege that he sent a warning to me through my Personal Assistant that I should not call him on Access Bank and that I revoked his engagement because I could not talk to him is outright falsehood and the fact remains that I have never ever made an attempt to call him in life at any time prior to the engagement or thereafter and the idea of passing a warning on account of my purported call does not arise.”
To respond to the allegation that he refused to actualize the Presidential Committee on Asset Verification to be set up to probe the EFCC, the Attorney General of the Federation replied this way in his letter to the President: “Your Excellency would recall that we discussed the need to probe/verify the assets of the EFCC, ICPC and PENCOM following which your Excellency gave a directive on the setting up of Three (3) separate committees to verify the assets of the above mentioned agencies.
“It is clearly outside the scope of the engagement of Dr. Uboh to demand or raise issues that borders on the assignment in respect of which I am answerable and accountable to the Presidency. My opinion over this issue has been a subject of periodic report to the Presidency and my case is put to rest on that basis over this issue.
“On the PASS’ claim that it engaged experts/contractors both in Nigeria and in the UK who purportedly worked with it to achieve ‘tracing’ of N300 Billion within 27 days, I state that PASS first laid claim to the purported engagement of experts/consultants through its letters to my office after I had revoked its engagement for acting outside its mandate.
“As a matter of fact, PASS just forwarded a preliminary report fraudulently backdated 23rd March, 2016 and served same on my office on the 29th March, 2016 after my revocation of its mandate in order for PASS to create an impression that the report had come in before the revocation. The claims of Dr. Uboh to the effect that he had indicated his readiness to submit a preliminary finding on some banks but for my official trip to Dubai is an afterthought and untrue as submission of reports, letters or documents are carried out in my Registry without my involvement before onward delivery to me by the designated officials.
“Assuming without conceding that PASS had intended to submit a report to my office before the revocation, its claim can hold no water given the fact that the same PASS which claimed it had a report to submit could not promptly furnish my office with the documents I demanded for within 48 hours of receipt of my revocation letter pursuant to paragraph 5 of the revocation letter dated 24th March, 2016.
“On Dr. Uboh’s claim that he worked under me at the Federal Ministry of Justice, I state that he had never and is not working under me at the Ministry or elsewhere. My decision to revoke PASS’ engagement is in the best interest of Nigeria and it is worthy of note that the issue of Five (5%) percent fee does not arise as conditions for earning such is not fulfilled in any manner whatsoever by PASS.”
In his letter to President Buhari, the HAGF/MOJ concluded: “Your Excellency, the above are my comments on the three petitions forwarded to your Excellency by Dr. George Uboh dated 4th April, 2016. I did confirm I gave his firm, PASS an instruction to trace, recover and remit FGN’s funds tapped in Thirteen (13) banks contained in the Letter of Engagement I gave him on the 9th February, 2016.
“I further gave him a letter of introduction to the stated banks dated 17th February, 2016 when he asked for it so that he would get the required cooperation and support of the banks. However, I revoked the letter of engagement vide my letter dated 24th April, 2016 due to the fact that he acted outside of his brief by unilaterally expanding/extending the scope of the brief as evidenced in paragraph 10 of this Reply letter. The allegations against me forwarded by Dr. Uboh are baseless and I urge your Excellency to discountenance them as they are designed to disparage my office.”