WHISTLE-BLOWER! Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed, AGF Malami In Fresh Dilemma, As Whistle-blower Gives FG Ultimatum To Pay His Reward Money

The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, in a press briefing last week disclosed that Whistleblowing policy initiated by the Buhari-led federal government has repatriated over N605 billion to the treasury.

Whistleblowing policy initiated in 2016 has opened many can of worms within Nigerian elites and public administrators with the #Ikoyigate scandals involving former NIA Director and the one involving NNPC GMD.

However, new reports have shown that the federal government are still owing a whistle-blower, who assisted the government in repatriating over N80 billion.

THE PUNCH revealed that the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) is currently enmeshed in a scandal after refusing to pay a whistle-blower (name withheld) his N1.8bn commission for exposing an account with $223m (N80.2bn).

Recall that a whistle-blower is entitled to between 5 – 10% of the money recovered by the government.

Several documents made available to The PUNCH by a source in the AGF’s office, showed that the whistle-blower approached the AGF, Abubakar Malami (SAN), in June 2018 and informed him of an account named, ‘NNPC Brass LNG INV. Fund’ with number 1750027157 domiciled in Skye Bank (now Polaris Bank).

The bank was said to have failed to remit the money to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in contravention of the Treasury Single Account policy of the Federal Government.

Bank documents showed that the account was opened with the sum of $328, 998, 818.24 on May 31, 2014, at the Asokoro branch of the bank

According to statement of account obtained by The PUNCH, about $50m was transferred from the account to the account of the National Security Adviser domiciled in the account of the Central Bank of Nigeria on May 8, 2014 while Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.) was still the NSA.

Investigations by THE PUNCH  further revealed that after the Muhammadu Buhari-led government began the full implementation of the TSA and ordered that all government funds in commercial banks be transferred to the CBN, the aforementioned account continued to operate.

It was learnt that when the Bank Verification Number initiative was introduced and Maikanti Baru was appointed as the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, 14 persons (all NNPC officials) were listed as signatories to the account in contravention of banking practices.

Some of the names of signatories include: NNPC GMD, Maikanti Baru, with BVN 22169280709; NNPC Group General Manager, Babatunde Victor Adeniran, with BVN 22144631650; Head of Marketing, Mele Kolo Kyari, with BVN 22206528997; and Group General Manager, Research and Development, Surajudeen Bolanle Afolabi with BVN 22215178271.

Others include, Managing Director, Nigerian Petroleum Development Company, Yusuf Shimingah Matashi with BVN 22272006629; NNPC Secretary, Chukwudi Ogonna Momah, with BVN 22144111468; Group General Manager, CSR, Ohi Alegbe with BVN 22232395310; and Group General Manager, Group Insurance, NNPC, Modupe Bammeke with BVN 22190602006.

Upon reporting the matter to the AGF, the whistle-blower was said to have been referred to the Special Investigation Panel and briefed them on his findings.

He subsequently accompanied officials of the panel to the bank where top officials were arrested and made statements.

Members of the bank’s board were also invited by the panel where they were said to have complained that transferring all the money to the CBN in one fell swoop would affect the bank negatively and pleaded for the option of paying in instalments.

After playing his part, the whistle-blower signed a bond along with the AGF which was witnessed by Ladidi Mohammed, the Head, Asset Recovery and Management Unit at the AGF’s office.

A copy of the bond dated June 14, 2018 which was obtained by The PUNCH stated in part that, “any recovered amount from N5bn and above attracts a flat/definite reward of two and a half per cent of the recovered sum.”

It further stated the commission shall become due and payable to the whistle-blower ‘within 30 days’ of the receipt of the recovered/looted funds by the Federal Government and payment shall be made to the designated/nominated account provided in writing by the whistle-blower.

Checks by The PUNCH revealed that $30m was transferred from the said account to the CBN in three tranches on March 1, 2019, March 6, 2019 and April 25.

It was, however, learnt that 11 months after the agreement was signed, the Federal Government had failed to give the whistle-blower any money.

In a letter signed by the whistle-blower’s lawyer, Aliyu Lemu, which was addressed to the AGF, the whistle-blower lamented the failure of the government to honour the agreement.

He threatened to sue the Federal Government if he was not paid his commission within seven days.

In retrospect, it has been the culture of the government to delay payment to whistle-blowers, considering the scandal that trailed the whistle-blower that exposed the #IkoyiGate scandal.

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