Sunday, April 13, 2008

Another One Bites The Dust

President's Aide In $200,000 Bribe Scandal
From Martins Oloja (Abuja Bureau Chief)

THE lingering crisis at Wema Bank Plc has spread its deadly tentacles to Abuja's seat of power where a presidential aide, who works directly with the President, has been detained for allegedly collecting $200,000 from one of the suspended chiefs in the bank.

A suspended top official in the bank reportedly implicated the aide, a personal assistant to the President.

Though it is still a closely guarded secret inside the State House, The Guardian has confirmed that the aide has responsibility for receiving, sending and filing mails for and on behalf of the President. He took over from Mr. Taiwo Ojo, who was in similar position for former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

The officer has responsibility, too, for responding to and forwarding memoranda to ministers, chief executives, etc., on behalf of the president.

Security agencies called in last week to investigate the allegation against the presidential aide were said to have been told that intelligence had it that he had leaked a document he received on behalf of the President on the Wema Bank issue to the bank chief (name withheld).

Trouble started for the suspect when the bank executive, a former deputy governor, who has been quizzed by top security chiefs, confessed that he paid $200,000 to the presidential aide for the leakage of the document.

At press time, it was not clear whether the presidential assistant, who has remained incommunicado to even his family, had corroborated the bank chief's claim.

It was learnt from insiders that the President was shell-shocked when he was told about the deal.

When contacted on the telephone yesterday, presidential spokesperson, Mr. Segun Adeniyi said he was not aware of the development.

Saying he was in Ijebu-Ode for the 80th birthday bash of Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Adeniyi promised to contact The Guardian on his return to Abuja.

But another State House insider, who cannot be named, confirmed the development, as corroborated by security sources last night.

The first presidential aide who ran into trouble was Mr. Foluseke Somolu, another inheritance from Chief Obasanjo. He was senior special assistant on Power Sector Reform and coordinator on National Integrated Power Projects (NIPP).

Trouble knocked on his door early this year when the power sector conflicting-figures issue cropped up in Abuja and his attempt to straighten records cost him his job.

In a memo of January 14, 2004 to the Economic Adviser to the President, Dr. Tanimu Yakubu, Somolu reportedly argued that the total amount released to NEPA/PHCN during the period being probed was $2.2 billion while a total of $2.96 billion was released to the NIPP, bringing the grand total to $5.16.

His action was predicated on the need to correct the impression that the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, had created when FRSC chiefs visited him. He had claimed that $16 billion had been spent on the power projects.

Based on submission by the Economic Adviser to the President, Yar'Adua had previously quoted $10 billion to the World Bank chiefs, who visited him.

However, Somolu did not copy the memo to the President, according to reports: he only copied the Minister of State for Energy (Power) and Special Adviser to the President (Power) and Coordinator PHCN Liaison Unit.

He was promptly sacked for his "bad verses," which was perceived as an affront to the President, who had quoted the same figure to the visiting World Bank officials.

Nonetheless, at the House of Representatives Public Hearing on NIPP, both the Accountant General of the Federation and the CBN Governor had confirmed Mr. Somolu's informed submission. But the dice had been cast, as he had been cashiered.

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