By Emmanuel Aziken, Abdulwahab Abdulah and Charles Kumolu
…FG, NASS not protecting whistle blowers—Falana, SAN
CLAIMS for the estimated N850 million reward for the discovery of the Nigeria Intelligence Agency, NIA, cash haul deepened yesterday after the whistle-blower who unearthed the cash alleged a plot to dilute the money he was entitled to.
Speaking for the first time in an exclusive interview with Vanguard, the principal whistle blower, Stephen Sunday, also opened up on how he let two of his friends into the discovery.
Sunday’s lawyer, Yakubu Galadima, who also spoke to Vanguard, said he was giving the authorities a deadline of the end of the month to pay the reward, failing which he would head to the court.
He also fumed against what he claimed as the emotional trauma the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, had subjected his client to, including administration of psychotic drugs. Galadima alleged the drugs cost the EFCC a quarter of a million naira.
The controversy even deepened yesterday when it emerged that a legal firm which claims to be representing Sunday, and two others, Abdulmumin Musa and Bala Usman had petitioned Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, Abubakar Malami to pay the money to the three men.
Sunday’s lawyer, however, disowned the firm, saying that he was not party to the petition, adding that he is the one representing Sunday and Usman. He disowned Musa but acknowledged a third person who he said yesterday he would not name.
The EFCC on its part said that it knows the real whistle blowers and that they would be paid in due course.
The controversy follows the recovery of $43.4 million, N23.3 million and 27,800 Euros stashed in an apartment at the Osborne Towers in Ikoyi, Lagos on April 22, 2017.
Speaking to Vanguard in an exclusive interview, Sunday’s lawyer, Galadima told Vanguard that his client first got to know of the cash haul sometime in 2016 following which he revealed it to one of his friends (names withheld), who he said wanted to organise a robbery on the property, a suggestion that Sunday firmly refused, leading to a fight in Obalende, Lagos.
Debunking claims of an additional six names to the three names he is representing, he said:
“There is nothing like additional six names. It is just the imagination of some people. Since this issue started some people have called me to include their names. I didn’t know where they got my number from. Even there was a man that met me at the airport who said I should add his name. As far as I am concerned, if my client wants me to add the names of all Nigerians I will do so. But if he did not, I will not do that.
“My client was privy to the existence of the money. He informed his friend, (names withheld) who proposed that they should go and burgle the place. He even said that he would arrange a group of robbers that would assist in burgling the place, adding that no organisation can trace them. This man even fought my client in Obalende and injured him. There is nothing like additional six people, all those things are sham. Everything happened in my presence. So, no one can contradict what I know.
“In fact, I spoke with CNN this afternoon (yesterday) on the matter. Forget about the stories they are carrying about, if at the end of the month, they don’t pay my client, I will take the next action. If they had burgled the place, would they have seen the money? It is wrong to make a promise that will not be fulfilled. You can imagine the trauma that my client has gone through since April. I have relocated him to different states because his life is in danger.
“I am doing all these just to protect him. When they approached me that they wanted to burgle the place, I advised them against it, saying that there is a window which is the Whistle-blower Policy that could be explored. If the boy was mad, would he have had the sense to tell the first person about it? He was not mad when he took them to the place where the money is. It is wrong for them to say that he is mad now after he has helped in unravelling the money.
“The EFCC told me that they spent N250,000 on the purchase of drugs for my client. They kept him in the hospital and were giving him injections. Who would experience that and will not feel traumatised? In this country, anyone that does not have anybody is in trouble. That is what is happening.”
Also speaking yesterday to Vanguard, Sunday, the principal whistleblower who sounded articulate said: “What happened is that there is a guy (name withheld) who I told but he gave me a wrong advice. He said we should break (into) the place. I told Bala, after which we went to the EFCC.”
The lawyer said that he is pressing for the payment of the reward to Sunday, Bala and a third person he said he would not disclose on the basis of confidentiality.
Another legal firm
Meanwhile, the fight for the money is also being pressed through another legal firm, No Limit Legal Partners, which according to PR Nigeria petitioned the AGF on behalf of Sunday, Usman and a third claimant Abdulmumin Musa. Musa was, however, disowned by Galadima, when Vanguard spoke to him.
In the petition dated August 24th, 2017 addressed to the AGF and received on September 8th, 2017, solicitors to the claimants, No Limit Legal Partners, on behalf of Musa, Sunday and Usman told the AGF that his clients by the workings of EFCC have short-changed the whistle-blowers by bringing others who were not the arrowhead of the whistle blowing.
The solicitors noted that “Our clients informed us sometime in December 2016 that three (3) of them voluntarily walked into the office of the EFCC at 15A Awolowo Road Ikoyi, Lagos and gave vital information that led to the recovery of over N13 billion at the Ikoyi Towers, Lagos.”
The Legal Practitioners further told the AGF that “upon subsequent visit to give a detailed information as required by the commission to raid the Tower, they were told if the operation was successful, 5% of the amount recovered will be their take-home within 72 hours of recovery, they were also cautioned that if the information happened to be false, then they will definitely be in trouble which the three mentioned above accepted because they were sure of their facts”.
The petition continues: “That when the operation was carried out, it was successful but since then they have not received any commendation by the commission, let alone give any reward as stated even though the EFCC have their names and phone numbers”.
The Petitioners said rather than to do the needful, some of the EFCC staff gave them further information that they were not the only people who gave them information on the Ikoyi Tower as others were also involved without mentioning them.
Upon various meetings by the three persons, they agreed to go back and meet the Head of EFCC operations, Alhaji Samaila Muhammed and were told on their visit that the numbers have increased to nine(9) who made the report urging them to bring the remaining persons.
‘Finance Ministry’ll pay right persons’
Special Adviser to the Minister of Finance on Media and Communications, Mr. Yinka Akintunde told PR Nigeria that the issue was best handled by the EFCC saying that the ministry would come in when it is time for payment and that payment would be made to the right persons.
Head of Media and Publicity of the EFCC, Mr Wilsom Uwujaren also told PR Nigeria that several persons have in the past besieged the commission to say that they were part of the whistle blowing. He confirmed that that the commission has records of the original whistleblowers of the Ikoyi Towers stressing that all will be done to make sure that the right persons are paid accordingly.
The issue of the payment of the whistleblower or whistleblowers last week became an issue after it was reported in some media that payment for the discovery had been made. Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, however, last Sunday explained that proper procedure was being followed to pay the whistleblower.
The minister further said “the Federal Government has not withheld any fund due to any whistle-blower. The Ministry has in place detailed procedures for processing payments due under the Whistle-blower Policy. The procedures were designed to prevent abuse and legal disputes and to ensure protection of the information providers.
“These procedures include an application by the agency who recovered the funds including evidence of the recovery, confirmation that there are no pending legal issues on the recovery, verification of the identity of the information provider, calculation of the amount payable and computation of relevant taxes,” she said in a Press statement.
FG, NASS not protecting whistle-blowers — Falana
Meanwhile, rights lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN, has accused both the Federal Government and the National Assembly of not doing enough to protect whistle-blowers from harassment and other forms of attacks and violence.
Falana spoke yesterday at a National Stakeholders Summit on the Fight Against Corruption: Harnessing The Whistleblower Opportunity, convened by the African Centre for Media & Information Literacy, ACMIL
Commending President Muhammadu Buhari for embracing the whistle blowing policy in the war against corruption, Falana said not much had been done to protect whistle blowers. According to him, no fewer than 10 public officers have been victimized for daring to expose corruption, saying most of the victimised whistle blowers were auditors who refused to collude with unpatriotic public officers to cover up mismanagement of public funds.
His words: “While some funds have been recovered through the whistle blowing policy, it is sad to note that the Buhari administration has not been forthcoming in the recovery of hundreds of billions of dollars from the NNPC and a number of multinational corporations operating in the country.”
“Since it is not certain that the National Assembly will pass the Whistleblowers Protection Bill into law, the Federal Government should continue to review the Whistle Blowing Policy designed by the FMF.
“In addition, the Federal Government should pluck up the courage to commence investigations into allegations of the nation’s wealth worth billions of dollars which have been stolen by certain individuals and organisations.
‘’Furthermore, the sundry allegations of murder and other violent crimes which have been reported by whistle blowers should be investigated with a view to prosecuting any person who is indicted, no matter how highly placed.
“The whistle blowing policy of the federal government cannot succeed without a holistic overhaul of the entire anti corruption agencies.’’