Saturday , May 21 2022

Recap: The True Story of Tinubu’s Wealth-State Capture, Shady Procurements & Cover-Up – Part Two

When the former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Nuhu Ribadu, appeared before the Nigerian Senate in September 2006, he revealed that Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, then governor of Lagos State was a subject of investigation for “an international” crime.

While Ribadu did not disclose details of the alleged crime in order not to jeopardize investigations, he emphasized that the alleged crime had a huge international dimension.

Naturally, the crime which was exposed in the Part 1 of this series, was drug dealing and continued through the 90s while he warmed his feet in the United States supposedly on exile. Even though the money was not enough for the notorious spendthrift because he also has a serious drug use problem.

In 1998, subsequent upon the death of Abacha, Mr. Tinubu signaled he was heading back home. He was reportedly not financially buoyant on his arrival back in Nigeria after long sojourn away from his center of locus in the prior decade where he made unexplainable wealth while holding a basic day job in Mobil of less than thirty thousand dollars a year. It is curious that just eight years after his governorship of Lagos, and today some 24 years after he returned home, he is easily one of the richest men in Nigeria.

Aside from ownership of two private jets – one through his younger relative – Wale Tinubu – and a Falcon 900X with registration number T7-JAT to his name, he owns palatial homes in Bourdillon (hence his nickname, Lion of Bourdillon) and is said to be building a palatial home on Queens Drive, just at the berth of the Lagoon.

The question many ask is, how much is enough to satisfy the insatiable appetite of the Lagos kingpin, whose early start in the criminal world has been laundered into political influence?

First Term, False Attempts

The story of Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s state capture of Lagos resources and transition to becoming a billionaire (in dollar terms, estimates) started with eliminating political opponents in Lagos politics.

It reached a new crescendo when he was freed from influence of the old guard in 2003, after the Alliance of Democracy (of which he was member) lost five states and Lagos state remained the only AD state after Olusegun Obasanjo Tsunami election of 2003.

That result allowed him to get rid of the old Action Group men – some of whom had passed away, including the likes of Ayo Adebanjo who were the only voice of modulation in his ears prior to this period.

The story of his sudden wealth, after this first term which was still largely dominated by illegal small forex transactions in eight foreign bank accounts itemized in the code of conduct trial he beat (more on that, later) is yet to be told. But we will try.

During his first term, according to the Code of Conduct Bureau, “ Bola Ahmed Tinubu, former Governor of Lagos State, being a public officer as listed in the part II of fifth Schedule to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and having subscribed to the Oath of Office as contained in the fifth schedule to the 1999 Constitution on assumption of office between 1999 and 2007 and while in office as such engaged yourself and did maintain several foreign bank accounts contrary to Section 15(2) of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal; Act, Cap C15 LFN, 2004 as amended and punishable under paragraph 18, fifth Schedule to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria ( as amended).”. The CCB listed the accounts and tracked several millions flowing through them while he was Governor, which meant he was taking from the till.

The Gubernatorial Rackets

This wealth were acquired via dubious procurement deals when he was governor and further concretized when he seized treasury. He engaged in various foreign currency conversion transactions to hide his trail which was the crux of the CBT investigations.

One of such deals was reported in 2005. It was said that Tinubu purchased 60 fire-fighting engines from the UK. The engines, known as the “Green Goddess” were described as “hopelessly outdated” and cost “several billions of Naira.” Tinubu purchased them in 2005 in a deal that ran into several billions of Naira It is however, ironic that the fire engines were no where to be found in several fire incidents and pipeline explosions that incinerated thousands of people, including school children in the state.”

Furthermore, In 2007, media reports alleged Tinubu engaged in illegal trading of V-Mobile Shares. Media investigations reported that an EFCC investigation team found “overwhelming evidence incriminating Tinubu.”

According to sources Tinubu was the rallying point for other colleagues like Victor Attah, formerly of Akwa Ibom State and James Ibori of Delta State. He was said to have rallied others into acquiring shares on behalf of their various states at the then V-Mobile, formerly known as Econet. He convinced the two colleagues to acquire stakes running into several Billions as well.

But their ingenuity at converting public funds into private use was what led them into ridicule before the EFCC. Tinubu was said to have perfected an agenda which saw the initial N14 Billion purportedly acquired on behalf of the people and Government of Lagos State into personal holding investment. The purchased shares suddenly changed to Tinubu’s shares. Likewise, the shares purchased by Akwa Ibom State Government and Delta State Government at V-Mobile started reading Victor Attah’s shares and James Ibori’s Shares respectively.

A news platform (Pointblanknews) investigations revealed that EFCC’s three man investigation team led by Magu, Bello and Illiasu, signed overwhelming evidence of incriminating Tinubu, Attah and Ibori.

“All three were told to return the money misappropriated. They all did.”

With an estimated net worth of $32.7 billion, University Don Dr. Dele Raham once said that Tinubu is “one of the richest Lagosians” due to “shady deals,” not hard work. His wealth was sudden, right after he had laundered his drug wealth into politics and used politics to seize the most prized treasury among Nigeria’s subnationals. According to other sources, Tinubu “is rich, very rich, he even boasts of his massive wealth, owns two brand new private jets…”.

Tinubu reportedly controls two private jets – one is a Falcon 900X with registration number T7-JAT to his name. The aircraft was registered in the Cayman Islands with the Registered Owner, Clumber Consultancy S.A, on March 29, 2019.

How a man who never employed anyone in Nigeria prior to his retirement as a public officer in 2007 and had only held job as an accountant at Mobil with salary less than thirty thousand US dollars a year is up for anyone to guess.

State Capture

In fact, this was an open secret- almost as an accepted norm, that a Sun Newspaper profile of his wealth written in this period claimed that, “Lagos being a highly industrialised commercial capital and with traders from all parts of the federation, the revenue potential proved to be huge. Tinubu reinvented taxation and amassed more wealth for Lagos State than Nigeria offered from the Federal Account. His success thoroughly disgraced Obasanjo. Tinubu also struck a personal goldmine. He kept the secrets of his amazing fundraising for Lagos State. He formed a company called Alpha Beta and entered into a deal with the subsequent Lagos State Government to tax for them. The deal was simple. They either had to rely on the Federal Allocation or let his company raise massive resources for them through taxation. The Lagos State Government agreed and the rest was history. Bola Tinubu became a multi-billionaire almost overnight”

It will be tough to find a more ethically dirty and conflict of interest conundrum than the Alpha Beta deal which still underpins the main source of Bola Ahmed Tinubu since 1999.

The lid of that wealth however almost got blown recently by greed and miscalculation. A former Managing Director of Alpha Beta Consulting, Mr. Dapo Apara, had written petitions to the EFCC petitions since 2018, accusing the firm of tax evasion and being run by Tinubu albeit by proxy.

According to Punch Newspaper, “In his statement of claim, he stated that Tinubu controlled the company which was receiving 10 per cent of the taxes collected on behalf of the state. The former MD said as the head of the company, he began looking into its finances and he made many startling discoveries such as mysterious transfers of over N20bn to various companies.

He stated, “N550million payment to Ocean Trust Ltd vide payment instruction dated the 15/5/18 N850million payment to Ocean Trust Ltd vide payment instruction dated the 14/3/15.” All these firms were registered to Bola Tinubu, and continue to deliver cash to him many years after he left office.

The claimant (who was the MD) also said N960 million was spent on purchasing HITV’s 300,000,000 shares. Which will be one in many interests he acquired in businesses that he felt he could leverage for influence or undue wealth.

It is well known in Lagos contracting circles that Bola Tinubu demands as much as eighty percent of contracts to influence their award- usually inflated- or demands twenty percent unpaid (carried) interest in projects developed by orders to ensure their approval.

Cover-Up- The Code of Conduct Affair

The set of Nigeria’s dubious 1999 governors were known to be openly corrupt and very few of them were ever brought to Justice. The dean of that set has to be the Uber corrupt Tinubu, but because he was just the biggest thief but because he also managed to beat the crime and make it disappear in public consciousness mafioso style.

In 2007, Tinubu was charged with failing to declare foreign bank accounts on his assets declaration form CCB-1 when he was elected Governor. A trial was commenced, but was reportedly “stalled for reasons not made public but believed to be political.”

In 2010, the Code of Conduct Bureau announced it re-opened the case regarding the 16 foreign accounts associated with Tinubu that he allegedly operated while in office.

In September 2011, Tinubu received a summons from the Code of Conduct Bureau to appear before the Bureau under allegations he operated several foreign bank accounts between 1999 and 2007.

Media reports identified that Tinubu allegedly operated 8 to 10 foreign bank accounts in the US and United Kingdom while in office. The accounts, mostly held with HSBC in London, totaled a little over £30,000 (about N7.5 million).

The Government amended their charge against Tinubu to a three-count charge to include perjury in September 2011.

In October 2011, Tinubu filed a preliminary objection challenging the competence of the charge and that the jurisdiction of the Tribunal lacked territorial jurisdiction.

Details of the Three-Count Charge filed against Tinubu detailed that he allegedly operated bank accounts in Illinois, New York, and London.

One of the accounts, a Citibank account in New York, was under the account name “Bola Tinubu & Compass Finance and Investment Company Ltd.”, and associated with prior illegal drug revenue seizures by the US government.

The Code of Conduct Tribunal cleared Tinubu by quashing all three counts for “want of merits.” The Tribunal also stated that the charges failed to show that Tinubu operated the said foreign accounts, as names traced to the accounts were not his but those of his close relatives. Also, the Tribunal declared that the Code of Conduct Board did not follow the correct due process when amending the charges.

Almost immediately after the trial, Tinubu’s false asset declaration “fizzled into thin air.” In fact, a recent attempt by the EFCC to investigate him revealed the files are no where to be found as the Al Capone of Lagos politics had seized the documents by compromising staff of the CCB and CCT.

According to the People Gazette, while some officials believed the document might have been stolen by an intruder, others blamed “an inside job” for the development, citing its security.“Tinubu’s file is one of the VVIP files that is kept with either the chairman or someone he trusts immensely,” an official said. “So claiming that it was stolen from an outsider at the time the EFCC is requesting for it is just so convenient.”

Indeed in 2016, Code of Conduct lawyer, Rotimi Jacobs, said that Tinubu “was erroneously discharged by the CCT in the trial of holding 10 foreign accounts.” And in 2016, Justice Abdul Aboki said the Court erred when it discharged Tinibu on the grounds he was not invited to make a written statement before he was charged in court.

By 2016, The Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Danladi Umar, said that “he came under external pressure during the trial of former Lagos State governor, Senator Bola Tinubu.” He also stated in open hearing during the Saraki trial in 2016 that, “On the discharge of the former Lagos State governor by the tribunal some years ago simply because the CCB failed to fulfill the condition precedent, we have since realised that we acted in error in discharging Mr. Tinubu on that ground and we have since departed from that error.”

So clearly Mr. Tinubu is not innocent by that discharge, he just technically beat the charge. No doubt, the Al Capone of Lagos politics was swimming in enough money to buy conscience at both the tribunal and subsequently the bureau to ensure he never faces future judicial jeopardy.

The AlphaBeta Heist

If the outright brigandry of state corruption that saw Bola Ahmed Tinubu emerge a multi billionaire was anything to go by, it was his mega self deal of awarding ten percent of Lagos state revenue to himself via a state law that made him easily the second richest man in Africa. This heist was orchestrated on his way out of the round house in 2007.

The details of the heist was recently let out of the bag, in a lawsuit filed by one of the fronts he used to establish the Alpha Beta entity through which he loots Lagos.

According to international business platform, Bloomberg, a lawsuit was instituted by Oladapo Apara, a co-founder of Alpha Beta Consulting (ABC) LLP, which alleges that Bola Tinubu concealed his control of the firm. In the early 2000s, as governor of Lagos state, Tinubu awarded the newly established ABC a contract to collect taxes in Nigeria’s commercial hub that it still holds today.

In fact, the finality of a private company that became the epicenter of state revenue collections was bizarre that the state legislature passed a law in 2018, and wrote them into law as the only sole collector on the insistence of the former Governor who controls the entire apparatus of Lagos state government like a mafia overlord.

A clause in the 2018 Law includes the name Alpha Beta, which if you did not know has been helping Lagos State collect taxes since the days of former Governor and Leader of the ruling APC Government, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

The clause reads “Alpha Beta or any other designated person(s) or corporate body who has the responsibility of monitoring the incoming revenue of the State through the collecting banks, shall provide a report to the Accountant-General of the State.”

The saga of ABC, was however going to get more interesting after this initial self inflicted injury when his business fronts filed lawsuits against him in 2021. The suit was instituted by one Mr. Apara who appeared in the original CAC documents of ABC as the founder.

A 2014 bank records also showed that Mr. Apara received at least two transactions of nearly N1 billion from Alpha-Beta. The funds came in two tranches of N593.25 million on October 2 and N500 million on December 23 into Mr. Apara’s Infiniti Systems firm. He clarified the transactions as his share of Alpha-Beta profit.

Mr. Apara fell out with Alpha-Beta and Mr. Tinubu in 2018, after years of being strong commercial allies. Mr. Apara hoped Nigerians will learn details of their fallout in ongoing lawsuits he initiated against Mr. Tinubu and Alpha-Beta.

Alpha-Beta also paid N30 million in two transactions of N15 million each on the same day to Adeola Awofisayo, who was a director of The Bola Ahmed Tinubu Institute. Clearly, these were fronts for the politician to steal from Lagos.

When they fell out, Apara filed his suit against ABC and Tinubu in June, 2020 with details leaking just two weeks before EndSars protest when the court filing was complete.

An accountant who says he “solely conceived” of ABC, Apara alleges that Tinubu directed him to transfer 70% of the company’s shares to two individuals of the then-governor’s choosing, according to the plaintiff’s statement of claim.

Apara said he did this as a “pre-condition” for Tinubu’s approval of a project to improve the tracking and management of Lagos state’s revenue.

Since becoming the state’s tax collector, ABC helped Lagos’ government to increase its annual revenue to more than 300 billion naira ($718 million) in 2019 from about 10 billion naira in 2002, according to the lawsuit that Apara submitted to the state’s high court. The company is entitled to a commission of 10% of the total sum collected, the complaint said.

According to the lawsuit filed by the co-founder, from 2018, Tinubu and Doherty “have assumed firm control of the financial management” of ABC and excluded Apara from its affairs, the company’s founder alleged.

At Tinubu’s direction, ABC has denied Apara his 30% share of profits since 2010, according to the complaint, which estimated the firm’s earnings from its commission at about 150 billion naira over the same period.

ABC has also paid millions of dollars out of the company in “suspicious monetary transfers” that “erode” the dividend due to Apara, the complaint said. Doherty served as a senior Lagos state financial official when Tinubu was governor.

Naturally, as soon as Asiwaju Tinubu declared he wanted to be President, the exiled co-founder of Alpha Beta who ran away for his life once he filed the lawsuit not only started to recant that he was going to settle out of court through his lawyer, it was also widely circulated that the original documents of his lawsuits went missing during the court vandalism incidents that occurred during the EndSars Protests. This was according to Tade Ipadeola, the counsel to Mr. Apata .

Speaking with another news platform (PUNCH) who reported this in 2021, Ipadeola said they would have to re-file their case again, adding that the registry has now been moved to Ikeja. “Everything in Igbosere high court got burnt including the registrar’s copy of our application,” the lawyer said. “In fact, the whole building was burnt to ashes. So, we will have to file again. The registry has been moved to Ikeja.”

Not a few folks asked question as to why the court was attacked in that protest, mostly by thugs associated with Tinubu’s political machinery when other buildings so spontaneously attacked were more associated with his power including the toll gate, his TV station and Oba of Lagos’ palace.

No doubt, the entire attack may have been orchestrated by him to elicit sympathy while covering up the grand larceny that he orchestrated as Governor of Lagos that still accounts for the greatest proportion of his wealth which he now plans to use to buy Nigeria’s presidency.

Per recent developments, ahead of a court hearing scheduled for March 24, 2022 Apara and ABC are discussing a possible out-of-court resolution to the dispute, the plaintiff’s lawyer, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, said by email. The settlement talks still require Tinubu’s “input” to be “meaningful and conclusive,” according to Adegboruwa.

Indeed, the billionaire that Tinubu is today is at the expense of Lagos state, that have sent the bulk of its wealth to a man that served long ago and retired richly.

The details of his greed and racket after leaving office is however even more intrinsic than his crimes in office. Watch out for more details…

To be continued…

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