• Want minister to stop payment of N860m
By Chukwudi Nweje
Three men who said they were part of the whistleblowers that provided information that helped the Economic and Financial crimes commission (EFCC) to discover the sums of $43.4 million. N23.3 million and 27,800 Euros stashed in a wardrobe at a flat in Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos State have approached to the Federal High Court, Abuja Division to seek an order to be included in the beneficiaries of the 2.5-5 percent compensation.
In a suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/1158/2017 dated November 22, the plaintiff through their lawyers Hammart & Co is asking the court to compel the Federal Government represented by the Attorney General of the Federation, the Ministry of Finance, the EFCC, Bala Usman Maina, Stephen Sunday and Mr. Sherriff, who were named as first to sixth defendants respectively to pay them the 2.5-5 percent of the recovered money as provided for in the whistleblowers Executive Policy or whistleblowers Executive Order.
The lawyers are also seeking a “declaration that the plaintiffs, fourth, fifth and sixth defendants actively participated and are instrumental to the whistle-blowing or disclosure of information to the first defendant staff or officers, which resulted to the first defendant’s recovery of the sums of $43.4 million, N23.3 million and 27,800 Euros at Flat 7 Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos state.”
The plaintiffs are also seeking a mandatory injunction restraining the second defendant by themselves, their agents, staff or officers from excluding or denying the plaintiff from payment of the 2.5-5 percent of the whistle-blowing fees or percentage of the amount of the money recovered as a result of the whistle-blowing or information disclosed by the plaintiff to the first defendant.
In a letter to the Minister of Finance dated November 15, Hammart and Co also urged Adeosun to stop the proposed payment to allow reasons prevail on the petition and ensure their clients were not shortchanged.
The lawyers had earlier sent a letter to the AGF since September, 2017, but regretted that no action was taken, noting that the silence of top government officials ran counter to the administration’s stance on corruption.
“It is, therefore, the brief of our clients that we request you to hold on payment of the whistleblowers’ fee/entitlement until our clients’ complaints is sorted out. That considering the vital role our client played in exposing the whereabouts of the recovered money, our client cannot be sidelined or denied his entitlement, doing so will amount to injustice to our client.”
In a petition dated August 24 addressed to the AGF and received on September 8, solicitors to the claimants, on behalf of Abdulmumin Musa, Stephen Sunday and Bala Usman had told the AGF that the EFCC had shortchanged the whistleblowers by bringing others who were not the arrowhead of the whistle-blowing.
“Our clients informed us sometime in December 2016 that three of them voluntarily walked into the office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(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 lawyer 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, five percent 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 would definitely be in trouble, which the three mentioned above accepted because they were sure of their facts.”
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 information on the Ikoyi Tower.
Recall that acting Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu had while speaking in Vienna, Austria, early November said the whistleblower had been officially compensated and was a millionaire courtesy of the whistleblower compensation.
However, a man who said he was the whistleblower said through his lawyer, Yakubu Galadima, that he did not receive the compensation even as he also disputed the N13 billion official figure declared by the EFCC, claiming that the actual recovered sum was N17 billion.
The EFCC discovered the money in April in a wardrobe at a four-bedroom apartment on Osborne Towers.
The money was later said to belong to the Nigeria Intelligence Agency (NIA).
President Muhammadu Buhari suspended the NIA boss, Ayo Oke and set up a three-man panel headed by Vice President Yemi Osibanjo to investigate the matter. Oke was eventually sacked in October.