Lawmaker Andy Uba firmly denied on Friday having any knowledge of the controversial $15m bribe burning a hole through the Federal Government. The amount is believed to be the bribe offered up by former Delta State governor, James Ibori, to the Economics and Financial Crimes Commission.
Uba now claims that he had only allowed his home to be used as a meeting point for Ibori and then EFCC boss, Nuhu Ribadu.
Last week, oil and gas business mogul, Chibuike Achigbu, joined the tug-of-war for Ibori’s $15m loot already being claimed by the Federal Government and the Delta State government. Achigbu told a Federal High Court in Abuja that he and a group of like-minded businessmen had raised the funds to aid the ruling People’s Democratic Party.
He says he invited Senator Uba, then a Domestic Affairs special assistant to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, to hand the money in to the EFCC in order for them to ascertain that it was not ill-gotten.
According to reports, a Chike Okeke, aid to the the special assistant, then sent in an email response saying he gave the money to Ibrahim Lamorde, the current EFCC boss who was at the time its Director of Operations.
Achigbu believes that the money handed over to the EFCC was the same $15m raised by him and his business associates to aid the PDP.
However Uba says he had nothing to do with the funds, contrary to Achigbu’s claims. He says he just provided a warm atmosphere for the dealings.
Mr Uba said, “When I was in the Presidency, my house in the Villa was a convenient place for many top people in Nigeria to come.
“Probably, Chief Ibori didn’t want to go to the EFCC office to hand over the money and so decided to use my house.
“All I know about this matter is that Chief James Ibori brought some money to the then EFCC chairman, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu.
“The details of the transaction were undisclosed to me at the time. The money was handed to Mallam Nuhu Ribadu who invited his then Director of Operations, Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde, to fetch it.
“I was never a party to the transaction between Ibori and Ribadu. That my house was used as the venue for the transaction is not in question as an affidavit to that effect has been sworn to by the current EFCC chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde, which is probably the point of confusion.
“I hereby state unequivocally that I have no involvement in this matter beyond that stated above.
“So, I’m not involved and will not be involved in this matter. Nobody should drag me into it please.”
The controversial $15m, which Ibori was said to have offered the EFCC as a bribe has been locked away at the Central Bank of Nigeria since August 2007. It was only recently when the EFCC filed an ex parte motion that led an Abuja Federal High Court to grant an interim order forfeiting the $15 million to the Federal Government on July 25 2012.
The court, presided by Justice Gabriel Kolawole, ordered that if nobody steps forward to claim the money within 14 days, it would be finally forfeited to the Federal Government when the motion on notice for final forfeiture comes up for hearing on September 17, 2012, Channels Television reported.
However since then, stakeholders from Delta State, which Ibori governed and robbed between 1999 and 2007, have stepped forward to lay claim to the money. They claim that the money rightfully belongs to the state and should be returned to its treasury.
Furthermore lawyers and activists are calling for the arrest of Uba, Ribadu and Achigbu. Festus Keyamo released a statement demanding that the trio be charged for money laundering, conspiracy and bribery. He claims that Ribadu, who did in fact decline Ibori’s bribery attempt, is either lying about the situation or Uba and Achigbu are guilty of trying to hide it.
He called for a thorough investigation saying, “both versions cannot be correct and any version that is false amounts to a crime under our laws”.