In the wake of escalating money laundering activities in Nigeria which has seen public officials especially political office holders moving large chunks of money to safe havens outside the shores of the country with help from top banks in the country, the then President, Chief Olusegun Obansajo established the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) after the Africa’s most populous nation in the world was listed as one of the non-corporative countries by the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering due to its negligence and lukewarm attitude in combating the crime.
With its anti-corruption sledgehammer dropping down on both individuals and cooperate organizations, few months after the EFCC began investigating Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello who was not just a serving senator but also the daughter of Nigeria’s Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, one of the most influential MDs of a top Nigerian bank was also listed to go down so as to serve as an example especially to those in the banking sector.
According to information sourced by SecretReporters and collaborated by a book titled ‘The Godfather of Banking’ authored by a journalist, Andy Briggs gotten from the United Kingdom, in December 2008, twenty-four (24) hours after the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission threatened to declare Jim Ovia wanted over an alleged case of money laundering involving the Chief of Staff of an oil-rich state in Nigeria, Jim Ovia allegedly in a bid to avoid the embarrassment of a public arrest made himself available for interrogation at the EFCC head office in company of top officials of his bank.
Faced with indicting evidence and the possibility of spending the night in an EFCC cell, Jim Ovia like a hardened piece of metal claimed and maintained that he was unaware of the Port-Harcourt money laundering transactions which ran into billions. A single phone call to the then EFCC chairman, Mrs Farida Waziri by the Attorney-General was all that was needed to force the EFCC to let Jim Ovia off their hook despite the overwhelming fact that the billions involved in the case could not have been moved out through any known Nigerian bank without the consent of the bank’s Managing Director.
According to our source, it was evident that the Zenith Bank boss came prepared as he had allegedly spent ample time a day before with the then-controversial Attorney-General of the Federation Michael Aondoakaa whom it was speculated owed his position in President Yar’Adua’s cabinet to the second executive governor of Delta State James Ibori who was also arrested a year earlier by the EFCC and undoubtedly revered as one of the most powerful political leaders in the South-South as at then.
Aondoakaa was later stripped of the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) by Nigeria’s Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee owing to multiple petitions written against him while he served as the Attorney-General of the federation after he was expelled by President Goodluck Jonathan in 2010.
Unfortunately three Zenith Bank staffs from Port-Harcourt, Kanu Chimezie, Olakunle Orupe, and Patrick Okagwu SecretReporters learned were not so lucky as they were presented as the sacrificial lambs in the case since they were directly involved in the illegal transactions involving their boss, Jim Ovia who was able to narrowly escape from the dreaded EFCC by using his influence and connection with power brokers in Nigeria.
To be continued…
Additional information from the book, ‘The Godfather of Banking’.