Fresh tension has gripped the Niger Delta following the revelation that a former senator from Bayelsa State and ex-militant leader have absconded with N2.2bn meant for pipeline surveillance contract.
The money released by the Presidency was to pay some ex-fighters in Rivers State for oil pipeline security services.
Findings by National Mirror revealed that the ex-senator and the former militant leader (names withheld) fled the country shortly after the Presidency released the fund.
The duo allegedly took possession of the money in collaboration with some officials of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, and a second generation bank where the money was lodged.
The Presidency, which was said to be rattled by the development, had paid the money to the bank account of a company controlled by ex-militant fighters in the bank through the NNPC ostensibly to stem the escalating tempo of crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism in the region.
Just recently, the Anglo- Dutch energy giant, Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, threatened to suspend operations in the region due to unabated activities of the oil thieves.
National Mirror gathered that the controversial N2.2bn was a part payment to the ex-fighters to monitor oil pipelines in Rivers State. The Presidency has also released varying sums amounting to billions of naira to ex-fighters in Bayelsa, Delta and other oil producing states to safeguard oil pipelines in the areas.
National Mirror learnt yesterday that the former federal lawmaker had fled to Accra, Ghana, where his mother hails from while the whereabouts of the former militant commander could not be ascertained by his colleagues, who have initiated a manhunt for him.
The fugitive senator was expected at the burial of his late father in Bayelsa State on February 7 but he refused to turn up for the event for fear of dire consequences from his aggrieved colleagues.
This prompted members of his family to return the remains of his father to the morgue and rescheduled the event. Findings by our correspondent showed that the beneficiaries of the fund include ex-militant commander in Rivers State, Chief Tom Ateke, the Leader of the Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force, NDPVF, Alhaji Mujarhedeen Asari- Dokubo, Mr. Farah Dagogo and Egberi Papa.
Ateke, who was supposed to benefit to the tune of N500m from the missing money was said to be bemoaning his fate and threatening “fire and brimstone.” National Mirror investigations revealed that the development had sparked off frequent violent confrontations between Tom’s lieutenants and those of fleeing ex-militant leader in the creeks of Rivers State, which have resulted in an unspecified number of deaths.
It was gathered that the former senator and the exmilitant commander as well as their collaborators in NNPC and the bank manipulated relevant bank records and circumvented banking procedures to move the money out of the account National Mirror investigations showed that the money was paid into the account of Adef Energy Resources Limited, a company registered in 2010 which has Tom, Asari-Dokubo, Dagogo and Papa, as directors.The company was registered with initial share capital of N40m with Tom, Asari-Dokubo and Dagogo owning nine million shares each while Papa was allotted five million shares. The balance of eight million shares was allotted to those described as “critical beneficiaries and stakeholders.” Tom emerged as chairman while Dagogo was made the managing director/ chief executive officer of the company.
The exlawmaker was appointed “management consultant” with a monthly package of N110m, including a N40m consultancy fee and N70m exigency allowance.
The company had secured surveillance and monitoring contracts for oil pipelines running through Rivers State for an undisclosed sum and the stolen money was meant for wages of staff.
The board of the company resolved and decided that the salaries and allowances of the workers be paid as and when due on a monthly basis while the remaining money be kept for payment of dividends of the directors at the end of each financial year in line with their shareholding.
National Mirror, however, gathered that trouble started when the management of the company in collaboration with the ex-senator claimed that the Presidency was not honouring its obligation to the firm. One of our sources said Papa was the first to smell a rat.
The source said Papa was emphatic that the consultant and the management of the company were lying.
Consequently, it was learnt that an infuriated Tom, Asari-Dokubo and Papa personally investigated the claim and discovered that another account was secretly opened in the name of the company where N2.2bn was lodged by NNPC and evacuated by the former senator and the ex-militant leader who are involved in the management of the company.
At this point, the ex-lawmaker and the ex-militant disappeared as the directors of the company embarked on their manhunt. The matter was later reported to the National Security Officer, NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd.), by the aggrieved ex-militants, who intimated President Goodluck Jonathan. Jonathan was said to have expressed concern over the development.
Findings further revealed that Jonathan, who was greatly embarrassed pleaded with Tom, Asari- Dokubo and others to remain calm.
He assured them that he would facilitate the arrest of the senator and the exfighter by the International Police, Interpol. However, further enquiries showed that the senator and his collaborator used the money to acquire a 13-seater private jet, Embraer Legacy 600, which reliable sources revealed has been impounded and parked at the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja, on the orders of the Presidency.
It was revealed that the senator and his co-traveller had made an initial deposit of N2bn for the plane valued at about N4bn before the lid was blown on the illicit deal.
One of the aggrieved ex-militants narrated the ordeal: “We signed the contract to safeguard the oil pipelines in Rivers State and signed relevant documents and opened an account in the name of the company, Adef Energy Resources Limited.
“All the directors agreed that we should settle the boys as and when due but we should leave the balance in the account for the payment of our dividends at the end of every financial year. But we continue to wait as dividends were not being sent to us.
“We continued to mount pressure on the management consultant (ex-senator) and our colleague, who are representing the company in NNPC, who continued to claim that the Federal Government was not paying the money.
They continued to lie to us that NNPC has not paid the money. “The directors, especially Tom, Egberi Papa and Asari-Dokubo met again and resolved to get to the root of the matter. That was when we knew we have been paid.
Consequently, it was discovered that the consultant and the ex-militant leader, who managed the company and liaised with the Presidency and NNPC had opened a secret account in a bank, where they diverted and stole N2.21bn in collaboration with the bank and NNPC officials. “The consultant thereafter fled to Accra, Ghana, where his mother hails from and where he has substantial business interests.
The ex-militant leader has also gone underground but we don’t know his whereabouts. We have gone to Accra but we could not trace the former senator. We also laid an ambush for him in his village in Bayelsa State on February 7, when we got information that his father was to be buried on that date but he did not show up. “We eventually stumbled on the information that they used the stolen money as part payment for the plane they acquired.
They paid N2bn, which is half of the value of the aircraft, which is about N4bn. It is a 13-seater private jet, Legacy 600. They thought they could meet up with the payment of the balance but it did not work according to their plan. “The plane is one of the biggest and one of the most beautiful aircraft. We learnt they intended to hire it to one of the oil companies if the plan had worked.
“We thereafter reported the matter to the NSA, who drew the attention of President Jonathan to it. It was Mr. President who advised that the story was messy and embarrassing and that we should not take it to the press. Mr. President pleaded with us to be patient and assured us that he would get him (ex-senator) with the help of the Interpol.
“But let me be frank with you that we have exhausted our patience and Mr. President has failed to act in our interest as he promised. We may be forced to take our destiny in our own hands in due course,” added the source, who craved anonymity.
Tom and Asari-Dokubo, could not be reached for their reaction. They ignored calls and text messages to their cell phones on the matter.