$44.9m Wire Deals: Probe of links with Amnesty cash begins

$44.9m Wire Deals: Probe of links with Amnesty cash begins

by Joseph Anthony
Air Peace chair Allen Onyema

A probe of Presidential Amnesty Office’s involvement in the $44.9 million wire deal linked to Air Peace chair Allen Onyema in the United States has opened; it was learnt at the weekend.

Following the bursting of alleged deals, a former top officer of the Amnesty Programme has sneaked out of the United States to evade arrest.

The U.S. Government on Saturday released indictment charges against Mr. Onyema and the airline’s Chief Finance Officer Ejiroghene Eghagha.

Also, two banks have been implicated in some of the transactions which added up to the $44.9million under investigation.

Preliminary findings by investigators revealed that the wire deals had the imprints of some former political office holders.

It was also discovered that some of the four firms/Non-Governmental Organisations in the indictment charges had links with the Amnesty Programme Office and the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

One of them is the Foundation for Ethnic Harmony (FEHN). Investigation by the Economic and FInancial Crimes Commission (EFCC) team revealed that FEHN handled the training and transformation of some former Niger Delta militants for both the Amnesty Programme Office and the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

Although FEHN, on its website, claimed that it assisted the Amnesty Programme Office to transform 30,000 ex-militants, the EFCC’s team is looking into its records, including offshore transactions by the agency.

A source, who spoke in confidence,  said: “Detectives have been able to establish that some of the firms/groups/NGOs were engaged in humongous contracts by NDDC and the Amnesty Programme Office for the training of some ex-militants abroad.

“Such contracts were spread for over 10 years covering some foreign jurisdictions and some administrations in Amnesty Programme Office and NDDC.

“We are probing links between the amnesty cash and the $44.9 million in the indictment charges.

“Our team will interact with relevant desks and analyse the financial records of the affected agencies.

“Some few persons have claimed that more than of the contracts for the training of ex-militants were awarded to groups/ firms allegedly owned by Onyema. Our comprehensive investigation will determine the veracity or otherwise of this.

“Depending on our findings, we are likely to invite some past coordinators and top officers of the Amnesty Programme Office and NDDC.”

The source added: “We are strongly suspecting that some amnesty funds might have been laundered. But when we go into the books, we will be able to establish the truth or otherwise.

“There is a nexus between the timelines in the indictment charges and the years some contracts were awarded to Onyema. Our job is not to prejudge, we will do a thorough assignment.

“Detectives are retrieving all banking records of the firms/ groups and NGOs.

“We will be fair and firm. And we will release details of our findings soon. We will invite all the key actors, including Onyema, and officers of relevant banks.”

The source also said a former top officer of the Amnesty Programme Office is wanted by the EFCC in connection with the ongoing investigation.

“We got report that the said former officer has relocated from his hiding place in the United States since the US inquiry intensified in the last six months,” the source said.

According to a research document, “between 2009 and 2011, the amnesty  programme was allocated N127 billion (US$819 million) in the national budget.

“Of this amount, N3 billion was the ‘take-off’ grant, N30 billion was spent on militants’ stipends and N96 billion on feeding the militants. In 2012, N74 billion (US$477 million) was allocated to the amnesty programme.

“When this is juxtaposed with fiscal transfers to the Niger Delta region between 2009 and 2012—for the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, N241 billion (US$1.55 billion), and for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) N246.6 billion (US$1.6 billion)—the scale of state largesse is astonishing.

“These fiscal transfers are separate from the sub-national budgets of the six core oil-producing states in the Niger Delta, which totalled N1.74 trillion (US$11.2 billion) just for the fiscal year 2012.”

The figures from 2013 to date were being awaited last night.

But on its website, FEHN admitted peace and transformation interventions for ex-militants in the Niger Delta.

It said apart from training 600 ex-militants for NDDC, it has helped to transform over 30,000 others.

It said: “Onyema’s relentless thirst for the promotion of broad based nationalism as against ethnic nationalism, found bearing in the first Nigeria Forever Project between 2004 and 2005. This programme which he single-handedly funded from start to finish was executed in the 36 states of the federation, recording not only a huge degree of success but also unbelievable impact.

“He waded into the Niger Delta region at a time when nobody dared, using his funds to sponsor youths to the non-violence training and transformational programme long before the oil companies, government and international community began to partner with him and invest in his training programmes.

“The impact of success which FEHN had with the transformation of restive youths drew the attention of SPDC. Prior to their encounter with FEHN, they had constantly experienced shutdowns of their operations due to the violent activities of restive youths. These endless disruptions came to an end when FEHN trained and transformed several youths, thus other oil companies like Chevron, Afren Oil etc, joined in the sponsorship of youths to the FEHN training.

“Onyema’s forays into the Niger Delta region caught the attention of not only the International communities, but also the Federal Government of Nigeria under the Presidency of late President Musa Yar’Adua, who through the NDDC… got Barrister Allen Onyema and his organisation – The Foundation for Ethnic Harmony in Nigeria (FEHN), to train and transform over 600 youths of the Niger Delta.

“It was said that it was the success of this programme that finally convinced the President to declare the Presidential Amnesty, which was granted to Niger Delta militants and clearly it was also stated that only Barr. Allen Onyema and his team could transform the militants and this he did – training and transforming over 30,000 ex-militants.

“FEHN has continued to encourage peaceful coexistence amongst Nigeria’s diverse ethnic beliefs, cultures and Value system. This is evident in the recently concluded training of Leaders of various ethnic youth groups, to wit; Arewa, Ohaneze, Massob, IPOB, OPC, MBYF Youth Leaders, thereby, fostering the culture of one Nigeria besides fully embracing nonviolence as the most effective tool for social change.”

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