The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has initiated a legal process for the final forfeiture of alleged slush cash of N1.9 billion by a business woman, Hajiya Bola Shagaya.
The cash is in respect of a perceived deal allegedly linked with ex-First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan.
Shagaya, a close friend of the ex-First Lady, is being accused of illegally profiting from a dual purpose kerosene (DPK) deal in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
Out of the N3,305,150,000 she is accused of receiving a ‘founder’s fee’ from the deal. About N1, 212,000,999 was allegedly paid into the account of Women for Change Initiative, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) founded by Mrs. Jonathan.
The ex-First Lady is said to be the sole signatory to the account of Women for Change Initiative where the DPK cash was deposited between February 28, 2012 and February 20, 2015.
The EFCC was also said to have uncovered how Shagaya allegedly retained the balance of N2,093,150,000.
About N1,902,673,399.33 out of her share of N2,093,150,000 was allegedly found by detectives to have been kept in Shagaya’s account domiciled in Unity Bank Plc.
But the Executive Director (Commercial) of the Nigerian Petroleum Marketing Company (a subsidiary of NNPC), Mr. Billy Okoye, said he has never heard of ‘founder’s fee’ which fetched Shagaya the N3.3 billion.
Investigation revealed that EFCC’s moves to seize the N1.9 billion began on December 29, 2016 when Justice M. S. Hassan of the Federal High Court Lagos granted an interim forfeiture order.
But instead of proceeding to an appellate court, Shagaya on October 23, 2017 filed an application before Justice O.O. Oguntoyinbo of the Federal High Court Lagos, seeking invalidation of the interim forfeiture order made by Justice M. S. Hassan.
In a judgment on May 17, 2018, Justice Oguntoyinbo said Shagaya “did not inform the court about the sources of the funds in her accounts.”
The judge also dismissed Shagaya’s application as a “flagrant abuse of court process.”
Following the judgment, the EFCC on November 23, 2018 initiated fresh moves for the final forfeiture of the N1.9 billion.
A document obtained by THE NATION gave an insight into the DPK deal and the alleged payment of N3.3 billion.
The document said: “The commission investigated the unlawful activities of Bola Shagaya and former First Lady Dame Patience Jonathan in relation to Dual Purpose Kerosene (DPK) in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in which investigation revealed unlawful proceeds of N3,305,150,000 received by Bola Shagaya, in which she made payments totalling N1,212,000,999 to a proxy of Dame Patience Jonathan and retained the sum of N2,093,150,000.
“Investigation further revealed that a part of the funds amounting to N1,902,673,399.93 was warehoused in her account domiciled in Unity Bank Plc.
“The team via Suit No: FHC/L/OS/1973/16 obtained an order attaching the sum of N1,902,673, 399.93 warehoused in the account of the bank.
“That Hajiya Bola Shagaya subsequently via Suit: FHC/L/CS/1004/2017 approached the court, seeking an order of court to set aside the interim attachment order in Suit No: FHC/ L/OS/1973/16, which the judge dismissed on the ground of lack of merit.
“From the foregoing, the team seeks approval to forfeit the said funds in the account to the Federal Government under forfeiture without conviction.”
In a deposition before the Federal High Court in Lagos, an official of the EFCC, Musbahu Yahaya Abubakar, revealed how the anti-graft agency uncovered the DPK deal.
The deponent said: “That the EFCC received a cogent, direct and positive intelligence of case of conspiracy, unlawful enrichment and money laundering against Bola Shagaya.
“That the said intelligence was analysed and found worthy of investigation. That I know as a fact that Shagaya (herein referred to as the applicant) was making suspicious deposits into the accounts subject of investigation.
“That the applicant’s funds of unlawful activities were paid into a front organization account called “Women for Change Initiative” for the benefit of the former First Lady, Mrs. Dame Patience Jonathan.
“That the applicant through her fraudulent activities in NNPC influenced the fraudulent allocation of Dual Purpose Kerosene (DPK) to Index Petrolube Africa Limited with the aid of former First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan.
“That as a result of these fraudulent activities, the applicant was paid ‘founder fees’ in the sum of N3,305,150,000 by Index Petrolube Africa Limited and its sister company, Autodex Nigeria Limited, both owned by Hon. Ezeani Thankgod for the fraudulent facilitation of DPK to his company, Index Petrolube Africa Limited.
“That Shagaya paid a cumulative sum of N1,212,000,000 to the ex-First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, through her account, ‘Women for Change Initiative, domiciled in Diamond Bank in which the Former First Lady is the sole signatory.
“That the sum of N1,902,673,399.33 remaining balance from the aforementioned proceeds of unlawful activities was warehoused in the personal accounts of Shagaya in Unity Bank.”
The EFCC said it invited Billy Okoye, the Executive Director (Commercial) of the Nigerian Petroleum Marketing Company (a subsidiary of NNPC) to “ascertain the genuineness or otherwise of the founder’s fee.”
“That I know as a fact and I verily believe that Billy Okoye volunteered his statement to the EFCC and stated that he does not know anything about ‘founder’s fee’ and he has never heard of it until confronted by EFCC,” he added.