For 12 days, a resident of Kaduna (names withheld) abducted by bandits along Kaduna-Birnin Gwari highway received beatings and watched as those with no means of reaching their relatives were killed. He speaks on coming in contact with ABU Professor Ibrahim Bako abducted a month ago (reportedly released, too) following the weekend’s killing of one Kachalla, or Nakachalla, the leader of the bandits. Excerpts:
Q:Briefly narrate how you were abducted?
A: I will first say Innalillahi wa ina ilaihi rajiun (from Allah we come and to Him we shall return). I was travelling alone in my car along Kaduna-Birnin Gwari road and just after Buruku, near a junction called Rumanan Gwari, armed men opened fire on my car forcing me to stop. They immediately surrounded the car; they were well-armed. As I came out, they started beating me. I went on my knees, they dragged me into the forest along with other abducted travellers. We walked for about three kilometres then spotted their motorcycles. We moved for over one hour on motorcycles and arrived at a hilly area which is their camp and they kept us there chained.
They beat us mercilessly during interrogation; they wanted to know what properties we possessed. I did my best to explain who I was and what I had. They told us the beating was not because we had offended them but because they wanted us to know they were desperate to get money.
Q: How many bandits were in the camp
A: There were many of them, over 20; some old and some young. They have an administration and there is a hierarchy. I introduced myself; told them where I lived and what I owned and they told me that it was important for me to tell my relatives to sell my properties and bring N50 million to them. They assured me that I would be released the very day the money was paid to them. So, I did my best to tell my relatives to sell my properties and negotiation started. The ransom was reduced to N20 million and reduced again. But because the money was not raised immediately, we were beaten daily.
I stayed for 12 days before I was freed. What puzzled me was the fact that during my stay, the bandits told us that they wanted better lives and did not choose to be bandits. They told us that many of their members have been killed and their properties destroyed and they have dependents, so they decided to join banditry. They said if the government wanted peace, it must realize that they are also Nigerians and the government and security agents should negotiate with them. They said as long as government continued to call them bandits and viewed them with contempt, they would also act like bandits.
Q:Was anyone killed while you were in captivity
A: Of course, they killed people to show us they meant business. The first person they killed when we arrived at the camp was an elderly man who didn’t have a phone and because of that, there was no means of contacting his relatives, therefore, they said he was useless to them and couldn’t feed him for free. Their leader asked that he be killed. They shot him dead.
They asked three of us to move the corpse afar and dump it for animals to feed on. A few days later, they couldn’t locate another man’s phone even though he said they took it from him during the abduction. He was not able to speak with his relatives but he later produced the number of a relative who offered N100,000 to the bandits. They rejected it and said it was insulting, so he was killed.
A few days later some of us were led into the forest to get firewood. We noticed the remains of the people killed had been devoured by animals. The bandits also told us that anyone who attempted anything stupid will meet the same fate.
Q:How were you eventually released
A:From N50 million, the negotiations came down to N4 million which my relatives were able to raise. On the day I was to be released, the bandits told me they were going to collect the ransom money and that if it was complete, I would be released. Hours later, I was told to remove one of my clothes because I was wearing two. They tore it with a sword and used one part to cover my face. They started two motorcycles and I was sandwiched between two of the bandits on one of them. We rode through the forest for hours. There were times we got to rivers and I will come down and one of the bandits would guide me across the river. While passing through villages, they would make sure I did not alert the villagers.
We moved like that for hours until we arrived at our destination where they removed the covering on my face and asked if I recognized the person who brought the ransom. I said I did, so they asked me to follow him and wished us a safe journey.
Q:Did you recognise where they dropped you off
A: It was around Sabon Birni, in the forest around Rigachikun area of Kaduna. It was along the road that will take you to Dogon Dawa.
Q: Did your relatives sell your properties to raise the ransom money
A:I didn’t have the money the bandits demanded but I had two houses in the village and so one of them was sold. The villagers were reluctant to buy it because they didn’t want to be looked upon as benefiting from another person’s misfortune. The house was sold for less than N1 million, most of the money for the ransom came from contributions from relatives.
Q:How long have you been home
A:I came back home on Saturday, December 19, 2020.
Q:What happened to the car you abandoned along Kaduna-Birnin Gwari road
A: At the time I was abducted, I asked them whether to go with my keys and they said whichever I wanted, but already, I had stepped out of the car with the keys so I left with them. The leader of the bandits, called Nakachalla later took the keys from me and asked me where the car was and I told him it was where we had left it.
On the day I was to be released, I asked them for the keys but they told me that they were in Nakachalla’s possession and he had travelled. I was later shown the car parked at Buruku police station along Kaduna-Birnin Gwari Highway.
Q:How many other victims did you leave in the camp
A: I left three people but I’m not sure if two of them will survive. They said they were from a village called Badarawa around Shinkafi in Zamfara State. There is no network in their village and so they would call a relative in Kano or Lagos who will then call someone close to their village and ask them to get a relative to a reception area to speak with them.
Initially, the bandits had negotiated N300,000 for the two of them and later agreed they could pay N200,000 but in the end, the relatives said they could only pay N100,000. At the time I was released, the murmuring among the bandits was that they were waiting for Nakachalla to return and kill them.
Q:This Nakachalla, how would you describe him
A:He was a young man, not more than 35 years and the leader there. That is all I can say.
Q:What were you fed during your captivity
A:For the 12 days, we ate spaghetti twice a day. There was nothing other than that. We were given little water to drink but not enough for ablution. We were not allowed to say our five daily prayers, we only prayed in our hearts.
Q:Were there women bandits among them
A:We found two female victims and we were abducted with one female but they didn’t beat the women, they did the cooking. There were no women among the bandits but there were armed kids between 10 and 15 years who would look at us with disgust.
Q:Did you recognize anyone among the other victims
A:The ABU professor that was abducted was there. They had requested N10 million as ransom but N2 million was paid. They insisted that the N2 million paid was for the food they fed him and for the bullets they wasted while exchanging fire with security agents during his abduction. They are still waiting for N8 million to release him. He told me he had no means of getting that money and asked me to go to the institution and beg them to get a loan even if its salary advance.
Q:What was his condition like
A:Not too good, he was there before me and so you can imagine the condition of a man who had not taken his bath for a month, and slept on the ground. He was beaten often and had dried blood all over him. I noticed his left hand was not fully functional and this is someone who is more than 60 years old. I hope government will do something about him. They should get him out of that place.
Q:What advice would you want to give to government
A:Based on my observation, I don’t think government has any wisdom or strategy to end this thing and so for me, the best way is to reach out to these people and negotiate so that people in the remote villages can have peace. The bandits around Birnin Gwari have made it clear that they will not leave the area, anyone who is travelling to Birnin Gwari from Kaduna or going to Kaduna from Birnin Gwari is in danger. Some people may find an alternative route but we don’t have any.
© Daily Trust
Stop Tinubu From Controlling Alpha Beta, Ex-MD Begs Court
A former Managing Director of Alpha Beta LLP, Mr. Dapo Apara, has filed a suit before a Lagos State High Court asking it to stop a former Governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu, from controlling the finances of Alpha Beta.
In the suit filed by Mr Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN) on behalf of Apara on Wednesday, the former MD alleged that Tinubu controls Alpha Beta, a tax consulting firm that monitors and generates revenue on behalf of the Lagos State Government.
The ex-Alpha Beta boss had in 2020 filed a suit before the court but withdrew it before filing it a second time after making amendments.
Apara, who had in 2018, written a petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission accusing Alpha Beta of tax fraud, asked the court to compel the firm to pay him his entitlements even as he alleged that Tinubu was the one that got him removed from his position as MD for investigating the firm’s finances.
Apart from Tinubu, others named as defendants in the suit included Alpha Beta and the current Managing Director, Mr Akin Doherty, who is also a former Commissioner for Finance in Lagos State.
The claimant is seeking eight reliefs including “A declaration that the 2nd defendant (Tinubu), not being a named partner of the 1st defendant (Alpha Beta), is not entitled to direct or influence the affairs of the 1st defendant in such a way that will deprive the claimant (Apara) of his profits and entitlements from the 1st defendant.
“An order directing the defendants herein, to render an account of all sums due to the claimant from the defendants, from 2010 to date (and) an order tracing all funds and assets due to the claimant from the defendants herein from the inception of the 1st defendant till date.
“An order of specific performance of Clause 8 and 11.0 of the partnership agreement that created the 1st defendant by extant partners; an order for payment to the claimant by the 1st and 3rd defendants, of all sums adjudged to be due to the claimant from the said 1st and 3rd defendants on the submission of the accounts.
“A perpetual injunction restraining the 2nd defendant (Tinubu), from directing, influencing or in any other manner running the affairs of the 1st defendant (Alpha Beta) in such a way that will deprive the claimant of his profit and entitlements from the 1st defendant (Alpha Beta), the 2nd defendant not being a partner of the 1st defendant.
“Ten per cent interest in ruling (5) above; and cost of this suit of N10m.”
In the statement of claim, Apara also narrated how Alpha Beta was allegedly formed in 2002 when Tinubu was still the governor of Lagos State.
The claimant said he was the one who came up with the idea of a consulting firm to help the state government to track and reconcile taxes.
“The claimant (Apara) avers that sometime in about the year 2000, he solely conceived, prepared and presented a proposal to the Lagos State Government on providing consultancy services using his registered firm, Infiniti Systems Enterprises, with respect to using computer technology to track and reconcile the Internally Generated Revenue of the state.
“The claimant avers that following the presentation of his proposal to the Lagos State Government, the second defendant (Bola Ahmed Tinubu) who was at the time the governor of Lagos State, demanded that 70 per cent equity interest in the project be assigned to a certain Olumide Ogunmola on his (Tinubu’s) behalf before he, the second defendat, would approve the project,” Apara said in his statement.
The former Alpha Beta boss claimed Tinubu nominated Adegboyega Oyetola and one Olumide Ogunmola.
He said due to the technological innovation that was deployed by him, the IGR of the state grew from N10bn per annum in 2002 to N300bn in 2019.
The claimant stated that in 2010 or thereabout, Tinubu directed that the incorporation structure of the Alpha-Beta Consulting Ltd be changed from a limited liability company to a limited liability partnership under a newly promulgated law in Lagos State.
He said the aim of the move was to shield Tinubu’s involvement from public scrutiny.
Apara said as the head of the company, he began looking into its finances and he made many startling discoveries such as mysterious transfers of over N20bn in different currencies to several companies.
The former Alpha Beta boss said he realised that all the payments were sanctioned by the partners nominated by Tinubu and they were done without his knowledge, contrary to the terms of their partnership.
Apara stated that Tinubu was furious that he was looking into the company’s finances and ordered that he be demoted to deputy managing partner.
He said he refused to obey this order and this led to a feud between the both of them.
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.
Both Tinubu and Alpha Beta had last year described Apara’s allegations as spurious.
The company had alleged that Apara was relieved of his position because he was involved in fraud.
A statement by the firm read in part, “The fact is that Dapo Apara began making his untrue allegations in the aftermath of his removal as Managing Director of Alpha Beta for fraud and unethical practices.
“While he was MD, Apara used his position to siphon huge sums of money from the company including but not limited to fraudulently converting $5m; money allegedly used to pay for cloud-based services that were eventually discovered to be worth less than $300,000.
“In July 2018, further evidence of his fraudulent and unethical practices was uncovered, including the revelation that he converted approximately N6bn belonging to Alpha Beta to his personal use.”
Asset Declaration: EFCC Issues Final Warning, Targets Over 120 Bank MDs, Top Executives
• Deadline extended to June 30, bank chiefs blame court closure for delay
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has issued a final warning to over 120 managing directors and top executives of banks to submit their asset declaration forms.
The anti-graft agency gave the top bankers till June ending to obey the order even as the initial deadline of June 14 has passed.
The EFCC Chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa, had initially in March given top bankers, among others, till June 1, 2021, to declare their assets in line with the Bank Employees, ETC (Declaration of Assets) Act 1986, with defaulters said to risk 10 years in jail if found guilty by any Federal High Court.
But the anti-graft agency extended the deadline till June 14 to allow bankers to comply with the order effectively.
However, PUNCH learnt that the EFCC chairman had sent a final reminder to all the affected banks executives and given them till the end of June to declare their assets.
“The truth is that this law has been in place for over 35 years, but it was hardly ever enforced and so these bankers would just declare anything or not declare at all. However, the EFCC is now demanding the declaration forms as part of moves to sanitise the system.
“To this effect, the chairman has written a reminder to the banks, asking all top executives to comply latest by the end of June,” an investigator told PUNCH.
Findings showed that well over 120 managing directors, deputy managing directors and executive directors of 19 deposit money banks are affected by the EFCC’s order.
Checks by PUNCH showed that Access Bank has 16 board members, United Bank of Africa has 15, Sterling Bank and EcoBank have 13 members each, while First Bank, Guaranty Trust Bank and Fidelity Bank have 12 members each as contained on their official websites.
Others are Zenith Bank, 11; Wema Bank, 11; Union Bank 11; First City Monument Bank, 9; and Unity Bank, 8.
According to the Bank Employees, ETC (Declaration of Assets) Act 1986, bankers should declare their assets through the appropriate authority like the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation. But the forms were hardly ever scrutinised, a trend which the EFCC seeks to change.
Section 1 of the Act states, “Every employee of a bank shall, within fourteen days of the commencement of this Act, make a full disclosure of all his assets.
“In the case of a new employee, he shall within 14 days of assuming duty with the bank make a full disclosure of all his assets at the time of his assuming duty; and for the purpose of this subsection, a transfer or secondment from one bank to another shall be treated as a new employment.”
Section 2 of the Act reads, “The full disclosure of assets required under Section 1 of this Act shall be made in the manner prescribed in the Declaration of Assets Form contained in Form A of the Schedule to this Act and shall be executed before and attested to by the Registrar of a High Court, the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court.
“The President or the appropriate authority may from time to time prescribe such other forms as may be necessary to achieve the purpose and intendment of this Act.”
The Act in Section 5 states that the Chief Executive of every bank “shall twice in every year, but not later than 7 January, or 7 July, as the case may be, submit to the appropriate authority a list of all employees who joined or left the employment of the bank in the immediately preceding six months expiring respectively on 31 December of the previous year and 30 June of that year respectively.”
The Act explained that “Chief Executive” meant the chairman, the managing director or other similar officer of a bank, including the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Likewise, the Act defined “employee” or “employee of a bank” to include the governor (of the CBN), the chairman and members of the board, managing director, director, general manager, manager, examiner, inspector, controller, agent, supervisor, officer, clerk, cashier, messenger, cleaner, driver, and any other category of workers of the Central Bank, a bank or other financial institutions.
Speaking in March, EFCC chairman, Bawa, noted that the anti-corruption agency was worried about the role that financial institutions and bankers played in corruption.
He said, “We understood that at the tail end of every financial crime, it is for the criminal to have access to the funds that he or she has illegitimately acquired and we are worried about the roles of financial institutions.
“We have discussed, but we hope that all financial institutions, particularly the bankers, will declare their assets as provided for by the law, in accordance with the Bank Employees Declaration of Assets Act.
“The EFCC, come June 1, 2021, will be demanding the asset declaration forms filled by the bankers so that the line that we have drawn from June 1 is really complied with by bankers in particular.”
In an action backing the EFCC’s move, the House of Representatives recently passed for second reading a bill to make it compulsory for workers in the banking, insurance and pension industries to declare their assets.
The proposed law will also bar staff members of banks and other financial institutions from operating accounts outside the shores of Nigeria. Their spouses and children may also be mandated to declare their assets when a bill presently at the House becomes law.
Also, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation would also be stripped of the responsibility to keep records of declared assets by Nigeria Customs Service and bank workers, and transfer it to the relevant regulator of each industry.
In an earlier move, the Central Bank of Nigeria in 2016 ordered workers in all the 19 Deposit Money Banks in the country to declare their assets in an anti-corruption crusade in the banking industry.
However, some bank directors who spoke to one of our correspondents on Friday said they had yet to meet the deadline because court workers were on strike for two months and they thus could not notarise the declaration forms.
“We would have met the EFCC deadline, but courts were shut for two months and we could not notarise our forms. We will submit this week unfailingly,” a bank director who spoke on condition of anonymity said.
“I have received the letter from the EFCC. I will comply latest by Tuesday,” said another bank executive who preferred to remain anonymous.
The EFCC has in recent times investigated, detained and prosecuted several bank executives for allegedly mismanaging customers’ funds.
On Wednesday, a Lagos State High Court convicted a former Managing Director of the defunct Bank PHB, Francis Atuche, for defrauding the bank of N25.7bn.
A former Managing Director of the defunct Oceanic Bank, Cecilia Ibru, was also convicted and ordered to repay $1.2bn.
Also, a former Chairman of Skye Bank (now Polaris Bank), Tunde Ayeni; as well as a former Managing Director of the defunct Intercontinental Bank, Erastus Akingbola, are facing corruption charges.
EFCC chairman, Bawa, had said earlier in the week that bankers usually aid corrupt officials in laundering public funds even as he alleged that a former Minister of Petroleum Resources delivered $20m in cash to a bank executive.
However, the Bank Employees, ETC (Declaration of Assets) Act 1986 which ought to check the criminal actions of bankers has hardly ever been enforced.
Section 8 of the Act says any bank employee who “knowingly fails to make full disclosure of the assets and liabilities required to be made under this Act; or knowingly makes a declaration that is false, knowing same to be false in part or in whole; or fails to answer any question contained in the appropriate form under this Act; or fails, neglects or refuses to make a declaration or furnish information as required by the provisions of this Act, commits an offence under this Act and shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of 10 years.”
When asked what would happen if the bank executives don’t make their asset declaration form available, the investigator said, “We will cross the bridge when we get to that point. But this is a matter of law. Anyone who makes false declarations actually risks 10 years in prison.”
When contacted on the telephone, the EFCC spokesperson, Mr Wilson Uwujaren, simply said, “We are still in the process of collation.”
Bankers’ union calls for time extension
However, as the deadline to submit their asset declaration forms approaches, the National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions has called on the EFCC to extend the recent deadline given to bank executives.
The union had earlier said its members were not afraid to declare their assets as being required by the EFCC, stating that workers in the banking sector were guided by the principles of integrity, transparency, and honesty.
Speaking with one of our correspondents via telephone on Saturday, the union’s president, Anthony Abakpa, stated that in view of the fact that court activities had yet to commence fully, top bank officials should be given more time to declare their assets.
Abakpa reiterated that an extension would enable the officials to meet the demands effectively.
He said, “As I told you earlier, basically, before someone attains a managerial position in a banking institution, it is mandatory that they must declare their assets at a point of entry.
“So, all of them have declared their assets through the EFCC, NBIC (Nigerian Bank for Commerce and Industry), and DSS (Department of State Services) before they came into the position.
“So I don’t think that it is a new thing. They have not been able to keep up with the deadline because the judiciary was on strike. I think they need more time to do it accurately.”
Banks will comply with EFCC order as with CBN –Sterling Bank MD
Asked his position on the declaration of assets, Sterling Bank Managing Director, Abubakar Suleiman, said bank MDs would comply with the EFCC’s order as they had done with the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Suleiman noted that the EFCC’s directive was not a new thing for bank MDs.
He said, “It has actually been a part of the requirements for bankers to submit asset declaration forms. When one is appointed on the board of a bank, one of the important documents that one has to submit to the CBN is one’s asset declaration form. It is not a new requirement for bankers.
“The requirement to submit to the EFCC would also not make a difference. We will simply update those asset declaration forms and submit them.”
I Wont Reverse Minimum Wage Payment, But Heads Will Roll – El-Rufai
The Governor of Kaduna state, Nasir El-Rufai has disclosed that his government has no intention to reverse the recommend minimum wage being paid civil servants in the state, he mentioned however, that workers would be sacked in view of the limited recourses available to the state.
The Governor made disclosure while informing newsmen in Kaduna, of the sack of 99 political appointees in his government.
He said the disengaged appointees constitute 30 percent of political office holders.
He said the state has started implementing its rightsizing policy but is yet to disengage any state civil servant.
The governor disclosed that only agencies connected to the local government system have disengaged staff and these include the 23 local government councils, SUBEB and the Primary Health Care Board.
“So far, 99 political appointees have lost their jobs but we have not commenced rightsizing civil servants. We want to be fair with regards to civil servants. We had earlier promised that before we reduce the size of the civil service, we will start with political appointees and we have done that,’’ he said.
The governor, who spoke in Hausa, said the rightsizing of civil servants will still go on as planned because of dwindling revenues that is accruing to the state government from the federation account.
‘’However, civil servants with question marks on the veracity of their data have to be given a chance to clear the doubts before any action is taken on them,’’ he clarified.
The governor said his government has employed 11,000 more workers in the health sector, Kaduna State University as well as primary and secondary schools across the state.
The governor disclosed that it is a fallacy to allege that the salaries of political appointees account for the bloated personnel cost of the State Government.
‘’In March 2021, the salaries of these political appointees amounted to N259 million , while civil servants were paid N3.13 billion, aside from costs related to state contributions to pension, accrued rights and other personnel costs. So, it is false to insinuate that political appointees are the ones that guzzle most of the state’s resources,’’ he said.
Justifying the rightsizing of the public service, he said that all states and the federal government are affected by the shortfall of revenue and some states have even reverted to paying the old monthly minimum wage of N18,000.
The governor, however, promised that Kaduna state will not reverse the N30,000 minimum wage that it has started paying.
“We are the first government, federal or state, to pay the minimum wage. We will retain the minimum wage of N30,000 and the consequential adjustments that gave most of our civil servants a 66% salary increase. We will also retain the minimum pension of N30,000 monthly.
“The unified Local Government Service continues to pay the minimum wage, even though they varied the consequential adjustments for their workers below the level for state civil servants,’’ he added.
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